PAC program graduates raise bar at awards dinner

December 09, 2021 / by / 0 Comment
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Jessica Landes reacts at her first-place win during the GCU Honors College PAC Awards Dinner.

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

It was an emotional night for senior Jessica Landes at the annual Professional, Academic and Career award ceremony — a record-setting night for the event, as well.

She had joked with Honors College Director of Operations Dennis Williams that she would win the award someday, but that didn’t take away the shock she felt when she saw her name appear on the awards screen as this year’s PAC champion.

“I’m, like, crying a little bit, so just a moment,” she said at the start of her toast after walking to the podium to receive her certificate. “This really means so much to me.”

PAC award winners (from left) are Daniel Duong, third place; Riley Ramcke, second; and Jessica Landes, first place.

About 50 attendees from the Honors College gathered on the patio at Canyon 49 Grill on Wednesday night to celebrate their completion of the PAC Professional Development Program, which debuted in 2016 and offers participants opportunities to network and practice essential professional and leadership skills. (Slideshow here.)

Sophomore Riley Ramcke was named the platinum finalist (second place), and freshman Daniel Duong was the gold finalist (third place) at the event, where students were treated to dinner and the chance to be inspired by their peers.

But Landes’ story can be inspirational to more than just the Honors College community.

During her first few years at Grand Canyon University, the PAC Professional Development Program was something Landes wanted to complete, but she always would run into scheduling conflicts.

As her April 2022 graduation date drew closer, she knew that if she was ever going to cross completing the professional development program off her bucket list, it would have to be now.

Yet despite all that drive, she still had her doubts.

Honors Program Manager Anya Cofrancesco and Director of Operations Dennis Williams handed out awards.

“I honestly went into this thinking that there was no way I was going to do it,” she said. “I really wanted to, but I was like, ‘I’m probably going to end up giving up halfway through and calling it too much work.’ I’m a senior, I’ve got a lot going on.”

There are a million excuses she could have found to slow down and take the final year of her undergraduate program easy, but instead she made PAC history – she’s the first senior to claim the title of PAC champion.

“I’m just so grateful that it got done,” she said with a smile. “I’m so, so happy.”

As the runner-up, Ramcke felt honored to stand alongside Landes to represent what could be possible within the program.

“It’s been a really cool experience,” he said of his time in the program. “I just learned a lot, especially with LinkedIn and just putting myself out there and learning how to be a professional.”

Now that he’s garnered some experience building connections and marketing himself in the professional world, Ramcke hopes to use his newly acquired knowledge to help him get a job or an internship with the Sports and Entertainment Business Club.

For Duong, his third-place ranking was a product of all the hard work he put into the program.

Daniel Duong (right) used his time management skills to win the third-place spot.

“I think it all comes down to time management and just knowing how to organize things,” he said.

Throughout the program, he organized his tasks on a spreadsheet to keep on track. He learned the ins and outs of being a professional and even learned about himself and what he wants to do with his future.

“I actually changed my major because of one of the assignments,” he said.

The former business information systems student would develop an interest and appreciation for supply chain and logistics management after talking to a faculty member.

“The lesson that I learned – just to get out of your comfort zone,” he said.

Much like Landes, Duong was caught off guard when his name was called, but he couldn’t be more grateful.

“It was definitely unexpected,” he said. “I kind of feel proud, and I did put a lot of work into it, but I enjoyed it.”

The results may have come as a surprise to the finalists, but Honors College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli said there was no shock among the Honors College staff.

Landes, Ramcke and Duong all maxed out the number of points they could earn in the program, each totaling 10,000 points.

Students received certificates signifying the completion of their time in the PAC program.

The 10,000-point cap on the scorecards was a goal that was previously believed to be impossible to reach. But after this semester’s banquet, Naegeli and her staff will have to return to the drawing board to develop a new maximum.

“It just makes us feel so grateful that the work that we’re putting in is not only being matched but exceeded by the students that are coming into the program,” Naegeli said. “With PAC, it’s something that continues to challenge us in return because they leave the program wanting more and they want to know what’s next and how they can grow and develop even further, so we’re trying to keep the pace and roll out new programs and new advanced offerings.”

Of those new offerings, Williams hopes to continue to evolve the program to further emphasize the importance of building connections.

“What I’d like to do for next year is to attribute even more of the points for students who are looking to get that relevant work experience,” he said. “If you go out and you’re seeking an internship, you’re seeking a job opportunity and you can prove that you’re taking what you’re learning and already applying that as you get out there and challenge yourself to make these industry connections. … I think we’re going to put a little more emphasis on that.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].

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Related content:

GCU Today: Variety of research on full display at fall symposium

GCU Today: Honors College expands service to community


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