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Photo of Thorne J. McFarlaneThorne J. McFarlane, 2014

The communication arts and sciences (CAS) faculty celebrate Thorne J. McFarlane, outstanding CAS graduate and a member of our national honor society, Lambda Pi Eta. Read Thorne’s story below.

Although adjusting to college life was not easy, the environment at Penn State York helped me to grow into a stronger student. Growing up with sickle-cell disease, I struggled to find motivation amidst chronic pain and constant health complications. However, I found it easy to adapt to Penn State York’s smaller class sizes and focused curriculum. This structured lifestyle provided me with a rigid sense of direction. The cerebral world of academia also offered an escape from my physical limitations.

I would like to recognize the dedicated faculty and staff on this campus who guided my progress throughout my four-year journey. As a CAS student, I gained unexpected insight about how communication can be used to influence different facets of the world around me. I have learned to sharpen my research skills and apply my knowledge to the fields of rhetoric, public relations, and crisis management. Throughout the summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to gain practical experience in an internship with the Crispus Attucks organization. At Crispus Attucks, I worked in the communication department and was part of a planning committee that organized a summer festival called “Wingstock.” During this time, I also assisted Dr. Downing with his research on the effectiveness of communication strategies used by call center sales agents. I appreciate the mentorship I received from Dr. Downing, who helped me during this time of professional development.

Outside of the classroom, I also found fulfillment tutoring my peers in the Nittany Success Center. During my five semesters tutoring courses in CAS and English, I came to identify with the unique life challenges facing the students I tutored. I worked with students from various cultural backgrounds as well as those who had physical and cognitive disabilities. The rigors of college life add another layer of complexity to what many students may already be dealing with in their personal lives. As a tutor, I wanted to help others in my school community develop the skills necessary to succeed, regardless of where their personal journeys take them.

Finally, I am eternally thankful to have such a supportive family. My parents, Anna and Jameson McFarlane, remain my biggest source of inspiration and encouragement. My mother has an MBA in finance and accounting and is a CPA, while my father is a computer science college professor and holds an MBA in computer information systems and technology and is completing his doctorate in computer information systems. From an early age, my parents emphasized the value of education, set high standards for excellence, and taught my younger brother and me the importance of being diligent in the face of adversity. Despite the unpredictability of my debilitating disease, their nurturance has kept me grounded.

After just four years in college, I hope to continue to graduate school to grow as a scholar and as a person. I feel that CAS, as expansive as it is, will translate well to my desired field of study. I am looking to pursue a career in Health Law, where I will work as an advocate for those neglected within the health care system. Regardless of my personal hurdles, I am determined to improve the lives of those who continue to struggle from painful diseases. The most important advice I can give to incoming students is to treasure each and every day. Embrace each obstacle – use it as an opportunity to define yourself.

“Whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.” – From Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata (1927)