IUP Winter Commencement Features Student Speakers, Distinguished University Professor

Posted on 12/11/2014 4:03:17 PM

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s graduate and undergraduate winter commencement ceremonies will take place Saturday, December 13, with nearly 800 students eligible to receive degrees.

The ceremony for graduate students will be at 9:30 a.m. in the IUP Performing Arts Center’s Fisher Auditorium. The undergraduate ceremony will be at 1:00 p.m. in the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

This December, the university will award two associate degrees, 616 bachelor’s degrees, 126 master’s degrees and 46 doctorates. Students who completed their master’s or doctoral work in August or who are completing it this month are invited to participate in the December ceremony.

A total of 262 of the undergraduate degree recipients are graduating with honors.

Morgan Chase, a theater major in the Robert E. Cook Honors College from Dalton, will be the student speaker for the undergraduate ceremony. Chase has won awards for film directing and choreography, and recently completed in the Rumshpringe International Short Film Festival. He is a member of Alpha Psi Omega Honors Theater Fraternity and the Sketch Comedy Group and is a founding member of the Factors Improv Troupe. He served as a member of the student advisory committee to the IUP theater department.

Michael Paff, a doctoral degree recipient in the School Psychology program, will be the graduate ceremony student speaker. A native of Newburgh, N.Y., he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from Grove City College in 2004. He earned his master’s degree in educational psychology at IUP in 2005, and completed the certification program in school psychology in 2007. While at IUP, he was a graduate assistant and a teaching assistant.  He has worked as a school psychologist for Penncrest School District in Saegertown and was recently appointed as a visiting instructor of psychology at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. 

A total of 13 students will be recognized for achieving a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Krzysztof (Krys) Kaniasty, professor of psychology and IUP’s 2014–15 Distinguished University Professor, will serve as the keynote speaker for both the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies. The Distinguished University Professorship is an annual award presented to an IUP faculty member based on outstanding teaching, research, and scholarly activity. Recipients retain the title for life.

Kaniasty is perhaps the foremost authority on post-disaster social support, having written or co-written numerous empirical and theoretical articles, chapters, and reports on the topic.

A member of the Institute of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, he has studied psychology both in Poland and the United States. He conducted and collaborated on several large-scale longitudinal studies investigating social support exchanges, individual and communal coping, and psychological well-being following natural disasters and other major stressors in several countries, including the United States, Mexico, Poland, and China.

He is president of the Stress and Anxiety Research Society, and his scholarship has been recognized with several prestigious honors, including STAR’s Lifetime Career Award in 2011.

Early in his career, Kaniasty was recognized by the American Psychological Association with the Community Psychology Dissertation of the Year award (1993). In 2006, he was honored with the Individual Award by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education for his book about the 1997 Polish flood and its psychosocial consequences.

A member of the IUP faculty since 1990, he has been honored with the Outstanding Researcher Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the Sponsored Program Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research, and the University Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Research. He also serves on many national and international boards and associations, as well as many university committees.

Kaniasty has been an author or co-editor of several books and has written or co-written many highly cited social support and trauma chapters and articles in professional journals. He also has served as chief editor of Anxiety, Stress and Coping: An International Journal, and as associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Psychological Trauma.

He regularly presents his research at national and international conferences and seminars, including serving as keynote speaker at the Australian Psychological Society Conference; the annual conference of the Stress and Anxiety Research Society in Munster, Germany; and the International Conference—Contemporary Quality of Life at the University of Opole, Poland.

He has been successful in securing research grants totaling more than $500,000, including several projects funded through the National Institute of Mental Health.