Nine Graduate First in Class in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2021
Faculty connections, strong sense of community at Stevens a common key to success
This year, nine students have earned a perfect 4.0 GPA and attained the highest academic honors among this year’s graduates. Sarah Bertussi, Ivana Bozinovska, Michael Di Pentima, Alexis Fryc, Kevin Gmelin, Ian Kruithof, Ryan Ludemann, Stephen Lysak and Ian Mauser share the distinction of being first in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2021.
Bertussi, Gmelin, Kruithof, Ludemann, and Mauser will graduate from the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science, while Lysak graduates from the College of Arts and Letters. Bozinovska, Di Pentima and Fryc will graduate from the School of Business.
These nine seniors, whose Stevens experiences represent a diverse set of academic and extracurricular pursuits, will receive their degrees at the 149th Commencement ceremonies on May 26, 2021.
Sarah Bertussi, of Pearl River, New York, will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering, a minor in computer engineering, and a master’s in mechanical engineering with a concentration in robotics and control.
A Pinnacle Scholar, she has been inducted into the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering honor society, and Gear and Triangle honor society. She has also served as editor in chief of the yearbook, The Link.
As a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), she served as K-12 co-chair from 2017 to 2019, and founded Stevens STARTS, an annual STEM outreach initiative that hosts campus organizations to demonstrate various aspects of STEM activities and careers. “My favorite memory of that day was this one little boy happily running around with his parents, playing with a paper airplane he’d gotten from one of the booths,” Bertussi recalls. She managed to run the event for $200 and consequently won the SWE WOW! Innovation Award for innovative use of limited resources.
Bertussi participated in the Disney College Program, completing two internships that helped her understand how behind-the-scenes work affects people’s experiences with the attractions.
Bertussi credits Dean of Students Kenneth Nilsen for his support and encouragement, and for connecting her with an alumna who works on one of the teams she was interested in at Disney.
“That desire to support one another is something I see constantly, and is one of the things that made my time at Stevens special to me — someone always had your back and wanted to see you make it just as much as you wanted to.”
After graduation, Bertussi will join Barry-Wehmiller Design Group, Inc., in Nanuet, New York, as a controls engineer. She would like to return to working at Walt Disney World at some point in her career.
Ivana Bozinovska, of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in business and technology, concentrating on finance and information systems.
A Pinnacle Scholar, Bozinovska is a member of Gear and Triangle and Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society. She is expected to complete her master’s in finance at Stevens in 2022.
She has immersed herself at Stevens as secretary of the Pinnacle Planning Committee, organizing scholar trips to Washington, D.C., to see Broadway shows, and to watch professional sports games.
She has also served on the executive board of Stevens Women in Business, and joined the Entertainment Committee and the Glamour Gals, a group that visits residents at retirement homes. In the Summer of 2019, she studied in Rome thanks to the Pinnacle Scholarship’s study abroad component.
Bozinovska says that when she began at Stevens, she felt hesitant to speak up in class, but she found teaching professor Kevin Ryan to be so welcoming and enthusiastic that she began to step out of her comfort zone and realized that she could succeed at Stevens thanks to support from people all over campus. “The support from the business school is astounding, and the Career Center is very helpful, too. No matter your major, Stevens prepares you for a versatile career. I feel like you can apply your degree to anything you set your mind to.”
In the summer 2021 Bozinovska will intern at Panasonic Corporation of North America in the finance division before returning to Stevens to complete her master’s degree.
Michael Di Pentima
Michael Di Pentima, of Oakland, New Jersey, will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in quantitative finance with a minor in computer science. He is also a Pinnacle Scholar and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma business honors society.
His most memorable experiences at Stevens came out of the two semesters he worked with the Stevens Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF). De Pentima worked on the quantitative investment solutions team, which created the fund's current factor model, and served as the fund's first head of factor model development in his second semester with the group.
Internships and classroom experiences have solidified his belief in the value of hands-on experience. “Some of the best professors are those who don't give you all of the answers right away, because I've always found it more rewarding to be able to realize the answer on my own using the tools I've been taught.” He has put this theory to work through such projects as looking into high-frequency options pricing and creating new sectors for the market, exploring small-cap compensation effects, and independent research on first-year IPO performance. In the summer of 2020, he took an internship with J.P. Morgan Multi-Asset Solutions. After he celebrates his graduation on the Jersey Shore with friends this summer, he will return to J.P. Morgan Multi-Asset Solutions to work as an analyst on the Global Tactical Asset Team.
Di Pentima says it’s the people at Stevens that make the difference: “Stevens seems to attract really talented people who all have something unique to bring to the table and are willing to help others by sharing their knowledge. Everyone is always willing to give back to our school community.”
Alexis Fryc, of Jackson, New Jersey, will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in quantitative finance and will remain at Stevens to complete an advanced degree in data science through the accelerated master’s program.
Throughout her time at Stevens, she has been involved in the Sigma Delta Tau sorority, serving as vice president of scholarship in her junior year. She is also involved in Stevens Women in Business and the club volleyball team. As a Pinnacle Scholar, Fryc had the opportunity to study in Poland in the summer of 2019. “My father immigrated from Poland when he was a teenager, and I had never traveled to see where he had grown up. The program truly broadened my cultural understanding of my father's roots, and was an enlightening addition and contrast to my STEM courses.”
Reflecting on a year of online learning, she says the Stevens community has done a great deal to give students the best online experience possible. “I greatly miss spending time with friends and classmates, but the members of Sigma Delta Tau have stayed connected and supported our philanthropies despite the restrictions. We have been hosting events and checking in on members throughout the pandemic, which speaks to the character of Stevens students.”
After she graduates, Fryc will spend the summer at Merck in the IT Emerging Talent Program. She hopes to continue her career in the pharmaceutical industry, applying data science to research and development.
Kevin Gmelin, of Center Moriches, New York, is first in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2021. He graduates with a Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering.
Gmelin’s involvement with robotics began in high school. He joined the Baja SAE project when he arrived at Stevens, knowing it would allow him to explore his interest in robotics, learn leadership skills and get experience working on larger projects. In his first year he worked on brake pedal assembly and became treasurer when a spot opened up that spring. He became president in 2020, working to make it more welcoming to people without previous experience. “The Baja SAE project can be intimidating, and I wanted to make it easier to join in, through workshops that teach different design and manufacturing techniques. I wanted to give people the tools to feel more confident about getting involved.”
A Pinnacle Scholar, Gmelin is also a member of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and worked as a research assistant with assistant professor Long Wang in Stevens‘ Advanced Robot Manipulators Lab.
“It’s very easy to talk to professors and advisors,” he says, when asked about the most important aspect of the Stevens community. “It’s easy to connect with people, and professors are always ready to accommodate you.”
After he graduates, Gmelin will head to Carnegie Mellon University to pursue a Master of Science in robotics development systems.
Ian Kruithof, of West Deptford, New Jersey, will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in engineering physics with a concentration in applied optics. He also anticipates completing his master’s in engineering from Stevens in the same field in December 2021.
Kruithof has been an active member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, serving as risk reduction chairman, chaplain, and as a member of the Judicial Board. He is especially proud that his chapter won the “Rock Chapter Award” from Sigma Nu National while he was still at Stevens.
His hard work has paid off with membership in Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, and internships at Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, New Jersey, first performing software integration and testing on digital signal processing equipment, and later working on systems integration on a laser weapon system. He will return to Lockheed in the summer of 2021 for an internship with the Advanced Combat Systems Group, feeding into his career plans: “My goal is to work in the defense industry on the combat systems and technology that help contribute to our country’s safety. I credit my interest in this technology to my parents, who have each worked in the defense industry for over 30 years, and my brother, who is a Senior Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.”
While being away from friends and studying from home was challenging last year, he was thankful that Stevens faculty were so understanding. "Stevens has been such a great home over the last four years for giving me lifelong friends and a rigorous curriculum that has helped prepare me for my professional career.”
Ryan Ludemann, of Sauquoit, New York, will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering and is on track to receive a Master of Engineering degree with a concentration in manufacturing from Stevens next year.
A Pinnacle Scholar, he is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, in which he serves as initiation chair, and Pi Tau Sigma, the mechanical engineering honor society, in which he serves as president. He is also the grand master of Kappa Sigma fraternity and an academic advisor for the varsity swim team.
With internships at Utica Metal Products and H.J. Brandeles Corporation, Ludemann is well-positioned for an upcoming internship at Stryker, after which he will return for the last semester of his master's program. He intends to seek employment in pharmaceutical manufacturing and hopes to volunteer as an assistant alumnus advisor for the Rho-Omega chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
He also credits his success at Stevens to his connections with his professors, mentioning teaching associate professor Kevin Connington and Modeling and Simulation classes with professor Frank Fisher and teaching associate professor Elsayed Aziz Ramadan.
“The highlights that stand out in my mind are the people I met along the way and the time I spent with them both in and out of the classroom. This is especially true of my brothers in Kappa Sigma, who were major factors in shaping me into who I am today.”
Stephen Lysak, of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in music and technology, with a double minor in mathematics and film studies.
As a Pinnacle Scholar, Lysak was able to intern at a radio station in Galway, Ireland between his first and second years. A commuter student, he has been active at Stevens as a member of the Audio Engineering Club and serving as vice president of the Philosophy Club. He also sang with the a cappella group, the Flocktaves, and was a member of the Commuter Student Union. Lysak also twice won first prize for poetry in the Stevens Creative Writing Contest, first in 2019 and again in 2020.
One constant throughout Lysak’s time at Stevens has been his commitment to tutoring, both through the Writing and Communications Center as well as private tutoring. He also shared his love for music by teaching piano and working sound for events for the town of Hoboken.
Lysak finished his degree a semester early, and has continued tutoring while seeking work scoring for media or doing sound work for films.
“Being exposed to the variety of musical perspectives from peers and professors was fascinating, rewarding and invaluable,” Lysak notes. He believes his experiences at Stevens changed the way he approaches making music, both technically and creatively. But it was the community that meant the most to him:
“I would play the grand piano in the piano lab during free periods, so professors or friends would hear the music and stop by to chat. Professors Carlos Alomar and Robert Harari in particular would frequently visit, probably to warn me that I was overusing the sustain pedal. The music and technology community really listened, in more ways than one. I will always cherish that aspect of the community at Stevens.”
Ian Mauser, of Morris Township, New Jersey, will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering. He is also pursuing a master’s degree from Stevens in the same subject area.
Mauser’s commitment to academic excellence has been recognized by Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering honor society. He also serves on the Executive Board for the Society of Automotive Engineers, working on the Baja SAE competition.
His interest in the defense industry led him to internships at Booz Allen Hamilton, and he plans to continue to work in the industry after he completes his graduate degree.
Mauser values the connections he has made with both students and faculty at Stevens, especially how they have kept him motivated to work hard throughout his academic career.
His roommates, too, have helped to create truly special memories: before the coronavirus pandemic, they had built a tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving together, which grew into many dinners at his apartment. He drew on his memories of family meals to create that sense of community: “I like to think I was able to bring that to my friends at Stevens, whether it was just for one or two people to do homework, or 15 for a Super Bowl watch party.”
Stevens' 149th Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies will be held on May 26, 2021. For more information, visit the Commencement 2021 website.