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Featured Faculty

Panel Content

Jason Zapka is a lifelong Penguin.He began his journey as a Penguin in his undergraduate career, where he was in the University Scholars Program. Then, he came back as a grad student. Now he’s a full-time faculty member, using the knowledge he learned as a Penguin to teach first year engineering students and serving as an adviser for Tau Beta Pi.

“The material is pretty much the same [as when I was an undergrad,]” Zapka said. “But once you work [in the field] you learn a totally different way to learn and analyze things.”

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Jason Zapka is a lifelong Penguin. He began his journey as a Penguin in his undergraduate career, where he was in the University Scholars Program. Then, he came back as a grad student. Now he’s a full-time faculty member, using the knowledge he learned as a Penguin to teach first year engineering students and serving as an adviser for Tau Beta Pi.

“The material is pretty much the same [as when I was an undergrad,]” Jason said. “But once you work [in the field] you learn a totally different way to learn and analyze things.”

After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Jason went on earn his master’s degree and to gain 15 years of experience working in heavy industry steel mills working on process automation and project management. In 2006, he started his own consulting company, but was asked to help out with a few classes at YSU. In 2007, Jason became a part-time faculty member.

“I liked interacting with the kids, and I think I add something to them because I had practical experience, and I have been out in the field,” he said. “They have questions like, ‘Well, what was the job really like? What did you do? What did you learn?’ I kind of enjoy that aspect of it.”

Jason wants to use his years of experience as a tool to aid his teaching. He referred to gaining experience in the field as an evolution process.

“[It’s] unlike the university environment where you have this book that you’re following, and you’re stuck to a curriculum of one thing that is a layer on a layer that is building this foundation of knowledge,” he said. “[In the work world,] you have to take the way that you were taught to understand things and then turn that into some way of making good decisions. … Once you have to work, you realize the world is bigger than just the material you’re training with.”

Jason said that he hopes he helps other students realize the big picture, saying that engineering is not just “that one problem in your area,” but that the problem is something that everyone is experiencing.

As for his goals, Jason said that he hopes he just helps students learn.

“I look forward to those days five or six years from now when a student comes back to me and says, ‘You know, you really helped me make a good decision,’ or ‘I think you’ve made a positive impact.’ That would be the best thing to have.”

Featured Alumni

Panel Content

There are some students who leave their college right after graduation, happy to never have to take another exam again or even have to walk on campus again. And then you have the alumni that keep the university going, and who wear their Penguin pride for all to see. Pete Walsh is one of those alumni.

Pete came to YSU in the fall of 1966, when YSU was referred to as Youngstown University, and only two years after the first Penguin mascot started showing up at football games.

He was an industrial engineering major with a math minor, and said that he always thought he was in the right field.

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There are some students who leave their college right after graduation, happy to never have to take another exam again or even have to walk on campus again. And then you have the alumni that keep the university going, and who wear their Penguin pride for all to see. Pete Walsh is one of those alumni.

Pete came to YSU in the fall of 1966, when YSU was referred to as Youngstown University, and only two years after the first Penguin mascot started showing up at football games.

He was an industrial engineering major with a math minor, and said that he always thought he was in the right field.

“The year I graduated, the economy was bad, but then I started at Sharon Steel where I started a management program where they put us in many stages of the operations, and I learned there that all this industrial engineering background that I had fit everywhere,” he said.

Even though Sharon Steel changed owners and names, Pete remained at the same company his entire career. He retired in April.

“I worked for four different companies at the same facility, and it started out with a small locally-owned Sharon Steel that had been there for 90 or 100 years. It eventually became associated with a British company, and then with a Swiss trading company that had world-wide interests in all sorts of places, and then to a big Russian steelmaking company that is one of the largest in the world, if not the largest in the world.”

Since his retirement, Pete said he played a lot of golf, but recently joined Pete’s Pride to help out the university. He’s taken part in a majors fair, as well as a letter writing campaign, where he penned person letters to students admitted to the university.

Pete said that he hopes through Pete’s Pride that he’s able to help new students. He said his biggest piece of advice would be to take different classes before declaring a major.

“Don’t try to, in your first year, say, ‘I’m going to be an electrical engineer.’ You might have to take an electrical engineering course; see what that is,” he said. “Talk to some people. Go out and find some people to talk to, because you never know for sure what an electrical engineer or an industrial engineer does on a daily basis. You got to get a broad base and then look for some places to get some experience.”

Pete also said that it’s important to have a well-rounded background, and credited the diverse classes he had to take — much like general education courses now — as a main key to his success, but still maintained that being in the sciences was the best choice.

“There is no question that there is a revolution in manufacturing in this country, and not downgrading anything else that goes on at YSU, but that engineering and science and all of that, that’s where the action is.”

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