WYOMISSING, Pa. – As a Reading native, Amy Lista always felt right at home with Penn State Berks, literally and figuratively. When her older sister was a student on campus, she would wander through the aisles of the Thun Library, amazed by all the books and displays. On May 6, Lista will conclude her time at Penn State Berks as she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a minor in psychological sciences.
Besides the fact that her older sister is an alumna, Lista said that she wanted to come to Penn State Berks because it was close to home and due to the small campus atmosphere.
Originally a biology major, she made the switch to kinesiology after developing more of an interest in learning about anatomy. Lista’s curiosity in occupational therapy grew after learning how it has an impact on individuals’ daily lives.
“Once I went into the science field, I knew I wanted to be the reason why someone woke up feeling better the next day,” she said. “As I went on, I learned about occupational therapy and how occupational therapists help individuals. I really liked to see people be happy with just the small progress.”
Lista has also spent a considerable amount of time dedicated to conducting research. As part of the first cohort of Cohen-Hammel Fellows, which was established in 2019 by Penn State alumni couples Victor and Dena Hammel and the late Irvin and Lois Cohen, she was awarded a scholarship for all four years that she studied at Penn State Berks. The goal of the program is “to prepare students to become engaged and ethical leaders in the 21st century.” One of the requirements for Fellows is to complete a project related to their studies with the help of a faculty supervisor.
“It pushed me to my limits in many ways," Lista said. "I feel like every student should conduct research during their undergrad experience because it really sets them up for success in the future. I feel like it’s the main reason why I’m confident going into the next phase of my life."
For her project, she served as a biomechanics lab research assistant alongside Allison Altman Singles, associate professor of kinesiology and mechanical engineering. Their research is titled “Tibial Acceleration while Running with and without a Stroller.” In August, Lista will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, with Altman Singles to present their research at the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB) annual conference.
“Amy has led by example, showing other students the value of focus and hard work on academic performance,” Altman Singles said. “She has been so central to my lab's research in the past year that she often surpasses me as the expert. I rely on Amy to summarize the literature for me or teach me a lab procedure, despite the fact that I have been in the field for 16 years.”
Lista has taken her love for biomechanics outside of the classroom as a volunteer for the kinesiology department’s National Biomechanics Day event, which provides local high school students who have an interest in science and engineering the chance to explore various workshops and activities related to both subjects.
"When talking to the high school students, I was able to put theory into practice. This reassured my comprehension of the material and allowed me to apply it outside of the classroom."
Lista will start her next chapter in Alvernia University’s master of occupational therapy program. As her time at Penn State Berks ends, her advice to current and future students is this: “Don’t let opportunity pass you. If you see an opportunity, take it even if you know nothing about it.”
A new class of nearly 230 Penn State Berks students will receive their baccalaureate and associate degrees at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, at the Santander Arena in downtown Reading, when Berks hosts its spring 2023 commencement ceremony.