As president of the American Sign Language club, General Education Mentor (GEM) and recruit for the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, Jianna Pisa has a lot of responsibilities on her plate. However, she makes it look like a piece of cake. Diligent and focused, Pisa masterfully juggles all of her duties in addition to her academic obligations. She aims to carry this work ethic and determination forward into her future.
Pisa, a junior psychology major with a minor in American Sign Language, advocates for student involvement. From her own experiences, Pisa knows that being a part of the organizations on campus can truly make one's college experience even better. Not only will involvement assist in the personal development of students, it will open up many doors — doors that lead to one's future.
"The organizations I am a part of have taught me responsibility, time management skills, networking skills and leadership skills. I have met so many people through these organizations that have opened so many doors of opportunity for me," Pisa said. "As I got more and more involved here, I found myself growing not only as a student but as a person."
Her academic, professional and personal growth has definitely been bolstered by her role as president of the American Sign Language club. This club is committed to spreading awareness for the Deaf community. Moreover, the group is involved in many ASL events and seeks to develop each member's ASL skills. Inexperienced signers and interested students are most certainly welcome to join.
"We have so much fun at our meetings! We learn different signs, talk about Deaf culture and go to Deaf events. We also hold our own Deaf events. I think it is really cool to learn about a group of people who are not exactly like yourself. It is very interesting to learn about the history of Deaf culture and learn about the lives of Deaf people," Pisa said.
"The club makes it so the students who are interested in the language and the culture, but don’t have any experience, can learn just the same as the students who are in the classes or the minor," Pisa said. "Learning makes the world a more accepting and more equal place. This is why we do what we do in the club."
Pisa also enjoys her time as a GEM, an upper-class student who aids freshmen in their transition from high school to Kean University. GEMs guide students via the following interactions: one-on-one peer mentoring to students in Transition to Kean (T2K), year-round campus workshops and events, New Student Orientation (NSO) and more.
"We were all there once. We were all scared freshmen who wanted to succeed but had question upon question about everything [concerning] college," Pisa said. "[Such questions were] 'What is this class going to be like?', 'How do I make more friends here?', 'How do I balance my time?', 'How do I register for classes?' [and so on]."
Recalling her vulnerable, inquisitive moments as a first-year student, Pisa continually strives to be an exceptional GEM.
"My job as a GEM is to enlighten and help the freshmen with any of their first year problems...I love being there for students when they need me. I really enjoy working alongside T2K professors," Pisa said. "I feel that a student’s perspective in a course like T2K is very crucial. Giving my personal experience and being real to students in T2K creates comfort and trust, enhancing the first-year students' experiences."
In moments when she is not focusing on her duties as the American Sign Language Club president or GEM, Pisa has offered her efforts at the Community FoodBank of NJ in Hillside, NJ. Last semester, she helped put together Thanksgiving baskets for those in need.
"Volunteering has taught me to be thankful, helpful, and more understanding. I would love to continue volunteering this year, it is my new year’s resolution to volunteer more!" Pisa said.
Pisa's time at Kean has certainly impacted her for the better. Her goal is to become a clinical psychologist and do research in her field. Pisa envisions herself with her license to practice and perhaps her own practice.
"Kean has given me the opportunity to complete research in my field. This is a very big plus for my career," Pisa said. "I also have worked closely with faculty, giving me the professionalism and experience I need to get into a graduate school. Also, some of my professors have pushed me to thoroughly learn about my subject of study and I love that. I feel as if the academic opportunities I’ve had here at Kean have pushed me to be the best version of myself."
Dr. Verneda Hamm Baugh, the executive director of the School of Psychology, spoke highly of Pisa.
"I first met Jianna when she served as Dean for a Day in the College of Liberal Arts and have since had her as a student in two courses," Hamm Baugh said. "Jianna is what I call a 'star student'. She is highly motivated to succeed and is dedicated to doing so. She is very personable and friendly and a natural leader. She will be a star wherever her career choices take her."
Dr. Richard Conti, the coordinator of the Forensic Psychology Programs at Kean, also can attest to Pisa's ability to succeed.
"Jianna is an intelligent and perceptive individual who has the unique ability to inspire others. She is able to develop complex ideas and present the complexities of the concept in terms that are not only comprehended but also appreciated. She will undoubtedly be a future leader in her field as both a scientist and practitioner," Conti said.
Whether it is as president of the American Sign Language Club, GEM or simply a student, Pisa has proven that she is more than capable to play a crucial role in the development of her peers as well as herself. Pisa is set to leave a mark on the the world, and her time at Kean continues to gradually set the stepping stones toward her future goals.