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People of Point Park

Telling personal stories of our University community

Welcome to People of Point Park, a series of profiles that aims to capture the University's unique personality by telling the stories of our students, faculty, alumni, friends, staff and neighbors who collectively make up this diverse and dynamic community. Through each personal story, we learn more about what it means to be a Pioneer.

We welcome recommendations for the series. To suggest yourself or someone else for a profile, please contact Jen Moritz, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, at jmoritz@pointpark.edu or 412-392-4204.

Meet the People of Point Park

people of point park photo of Southerlin family

Keith', 11 and Alyssa, '11 (Zagorac) Southerlin

Theatre Arts Majors, turned teacher and hotel general manager
First Impressions Can Change
Finding Love at Point Park

Alyssa and Kyle Southerlin met as freshmen in 2008, and dated throughout the rest of their time at Point Park.  Following their graduation in 2011, they moved to New York City for a year to pursue their performing arts dreams.  Married in 2013, Alyssa and Kyle welcomed their first child, Grace Everly (Point Park class of 2038!) in June, 2016.

Kim Payne, '79

Communications Director People of Point Park photo of Kim Payne
Knowing Sweetness
A Person of Many Talents

Kim grew up in the 'Sweetest Place on Earth' and says “I grew up in Hershey, Pa. I always tell people I grew up with the aroma of chocolate in my nostrils and syrup in my veins. It truly was an idyllic existence growing up there with everything at our disposal and within walking distance."

By day, Payne is a director of communications for the Florida Hospital Center Ice, and by night he is a National Hockey League off-ice official for the Tampa Bay Lightning. “I played hockey through high school, but we didn’t have college hockey at Point Park.” 

Keith Paylo

Dean of Students PPP 2016 Paylo
Soccer Enthusiast
Agent of Change

Keith's first brush with higher education came when he started as an undergraduate at Robert Morris University. He dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player, but soon learned that his passion was in higher education. Point Park gave Keith the opportunity to shape the student experience, something that brings him tremendous energy, saying "I'm a middle-aged man, but this work makes me feel young. Every year, a new group of young people come to Point Park full of excitement and energy. Interacting with those students through student affairs, you can't help but get involved in all that energy. So I say that keeps me young and it really does."

2016 PPP LandonHersh Casey Landon, '16 and Cassandra Hershberger, '17

Dance Major and Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management Major
Youth Mentors
Inspirational Leaders

Cassandra and Casey are volunteers with the Point Park chapter of Strong Women, Strong Girls, a Pittsburgh-based group that works to empower girls to imagine a broader future through a curriculum grounded on female role models. Casey and Cassandra volunteer as mentors to girls in low-income communities. They hope to inspire these young girls to greatness and show them how to overcome any obstacle in their way.

Despite their different dreams and different academic paths at Point Park, both women want to be sure that other girls have the same opportunity to pursue their passions. 

2016 PPP Nemeth Matt Nemeth, '16

Photography Major
Podcast Host
Amateur Historian

Senior photography major Matt Nemeth, '16 defines himself as a visual learner. He is interested in the different ways communication can happen through images rather than words.

"I have an interest in history and the environment and I think there is plenty of material regarding those subjects in the Pittsburgh area. If the opportunity presents itself, I would never rule out traveling to a foreign place to photograph a story or freelancing for National Geographic and other great magazines. That is still something I would love to do in the future, it is just no longer my lone goal. Perhaps, I have expanded my horizons."

2016 PPP Trueblood Jonathan Trueblood

Assistant Professor of Animation and Visual Effects
Old School Style
Inspiring the Next Generation

Jonathan has created animation effects for large companies like BP, American Express and the NFL Network. However, of all the exciting projects he has been a part of, the project that stands out in Jonathan's memory is one he and his former Point Park students made for TED Talks that received a lot of positive feedback.

"The work that you did, the hours that we spent in my office, the critiques and discussions we had, when that stuff pays off, that's the best feeling."

2016 PPP Dennis Becki Dennis, '06

Actor, Producer, Director, Writer
Breaking the Mold
Following Her Heart

“I thought you had to have a certain look or a certain body type to be in the movies or on television, so I decided to focus on theatre in my early training and career. I’ve recently discovered that I am actually a better fit for film and television rather than the stage.”

Prior to coming to L.A., she played the lead role in the independent film Spin the Plate, Amy Adams’ nanny friend in American Hustle, and a receptionist in Ted 2. Since moving to Los Angeles, she has been the assistant director of the short film, The Leftovers, acted in a commercial for Just Dance, and now she is focusing on co-creating and co-starring in a comedy web series.

2016 PPP Yanko April Yanko, '16

Aspiring Voice Actor
Transfer Student

Senior April Yanko dreams of one day becoming a voice actor. Since childhood, she has had a very special connection to the world of animation. Today, when you meet April, this connection is not hard to spot since her daily apparel usually includes a beloved character from one of many animated TV or film creations.

"I like being able to create things that hopefully have the same effect as they had on me when I was younger." April has said that whenever a film or any film project is finished, there is a great "magical essence" that appears. She plans to continue to chase that magic after graduation.

2016 PPP Salem Carmella Salem, '93

Maverick Mixologist

Carmella Salem, '93 graduated from Point Park University poised to take the stage in any theater in the world. Instead, she created her own stage behind the bar of her restaurant, Carmella’s Plates and Pints located in Pittsburgh’s South Side, where she emphasizes fine dining with creative cocktails.

After several years of working for other establishments, Salem felt the itch to strike out on her own. "I was at a point in my life where the last couple of years there I felt like I needed to do more. I wanted to own something.

2016 PPP Harrell Lance Harrell, '14

Youth mentor
Believer in second chances

For Lance, Point Park was the beginning of his second time around. "When you're an older adult and you go back to school, everything makes more sense. You value your education more than when you're younger."

"You can teach students and adults anything, but one thing you can’t teach is the drive, and I have that drive. There aren’t too many adults in their mid-40s that can say they are thinking about going back to school to reinvent themselves."

2015 PPP Wilson Brenton Wilson

Point Park University Librarian
Problem Solver

While earning his master’s degree in history at Duquesne University, Brenton Wilson planned to pursue a Ph.D. in the field and become a professor. After a careful review of the job market, Wilson decided to reevaluate his career options, which drew him to the field of library science. 

"It interested me – the environment, the research. I’m not a typical librarian, so the organization of it also allowed me to do some information technology stuff."

2016 Anthony and Nikki Anthony Costulas, '12, and Nikki Williams, '13

Resident Educators
Student Leaders
Real World Rookies

Recent grads and newly engaged college sweethearts Anthony Costulas, '12, and Nikki Williams, '13, first met while serving the Point Park campus community as community facilitators (resident educators) and United Student Government members. At first glance, these young alumni exhibit all the signs of early career success, but they also have first-hand knowledge of what it means to be a recent graduate and the struggle that is often involved with that transition.

2016 PPP Tokarski Couple John, '79, and Lizann, '80, Tokarski

College Sweethearts
Point Park Family
Relationship Wisdom

John and Lizann dated through the rest of their college years. Two years after Lizann graduated, the couple got married on May 8, 1982. "We have been at each other’s side non-stop for 39 years and married for 33 years of them. We've had our ups and downs as all married couples have, but I wouldn't give her up for anything in the world. To date, she has been the best thing that Point Park has given me."

2016 PPP Lawrence and Stacy Ally Stacy, '18, and Shaniece Lawrence, '18

Annual Fund Student Callers
Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management and Biological Sciences Majors
Future Alumni

"Point Park does a good job of training you in your chosen career path, but also showing you that you can do so much more than just that one thing. Point Park enables me to dream big. I feel like I can do anything really. I am not boxed in anywhere. Everything is open."  — Ally Stacy

2015 PPP Chaney 2 Christal Chaney

Professor of Education
Philosophical Journeywoman
Keeper of Chickens

“Every day when students come to class, I try to create an experience for them, whether it’s a discussion or a problem we are solving, (or) an observation when I take them to outside schools with other students.” 

2015 PPP Langley Chereese Langley, '18

Accounting Major
National Guardswoman

For one weekend each month and two weeks in the summer, Chereese sheds her role as a typical college student and assumes her duties as an active member of the Army National Guard. While her classmates are worrying about academics, spending time with friends and filling their evenings with extracurricular activities, Chereese is serving her state and her nation in this vital role.

2015 PPP Kaufmann Kevin Kauffman, '09

B.A. in Cinema and Digital Arts
Producer for Experiment Media
Admitted Workaholic

"I really just eat, sleep and work. I spend my days working for a company called Experiment Media producing, editing, and directing — pretty much making movies or trying to make movies.” 

2015 PPP Mendez Shayna Mendez, '16

Photojournalism Major
President Pro Tempore for United Student Government
International Explorer

“I am studying photojournalism because I want to be able to connect people through the universal language of photography and tell their stories through a lens. I plan on taking my degree, traveling and exploring different cultures, gaining an understanding of their people and sharing their stories through a photojournalistic eye.”

Conte 2 Andrew Conte

Part-Time Professor of Journalism
Founder/Director of Point Park News Service
Investigative Reporter for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Sports Writer

Andrew recognizes that his students at Point Park have a hunger for knowledge and opportunity and are eager to go out and learn the craft. He loves how the setting of Point Park allows student to be engaged in the city of Pittsburgh and tell real stories about people with real issues.

2015 PPP Zellmer Sierra Zellmer, '18

Musical Theatre Major
California Native
Future Broadway Star

“I am studying musical theatre because there's nothing else in the world that makes me happier. With this major, working hard in school is a blast rather than a pain. My biggest surprise since starting school here is how easily my body can adjust to the workload at Point Park, when I push myself."

RosannaPerotti Rosanna Perotti, '82

B.A. in Journalism and Communication
Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Pennsylvania
Chair Associate Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University
True Believer in Political Participation

“I always tell students the way to benefit the most from their education, especially if you are going to a small, private school, is to take advantage of every single opportunity. You do not have to go to an Ivy League school in order to get a first-rate education. You simply have to create that yourself.”

AnnamarieLang2 Annamarie Lang, '89

Senior Vice President of Employee Engagement
Varsity Basketball Player
Diversity Seeker

“Pay attention to difference. Embrace difference. Go and seek difference. My Dad used to say something that I didn’t understand at the time, but as I grew older I understood more and more. He said, ‘Normal is what you grow up with.’ Sometimes it’s good to go out and find that new normal. Your normal is not THE normal."

2015 PPP Croup Josh Croup, '18

Broadcast Reporting Major
Reporter for U-View, WPPJ, Point Park Athletics
Future Professional Sports Announcer

"When I was playing Little League baseball, I did my own play-by-play of the game in the outfield. When I played sports video games at home as a kid, I muted the TV and did my own play-by-play of the games. When my friends played sports outside, I was the announcer. I have always loved playing sports and I love covering sports."

PeterWentzel Peter Wentzel, '81

B.A. in Dance
Senior Vice President of Production Finance at MRC Studios
Career Trailblazer

While Peter’s career trajectory was not obvious on graduation day in 1982, he has found a connective thread between his beginnings in performance and his career behind the scenes. “I moved away from dance, but remained in fields that are creative and unpredictable, and at the same time offering the security and stability of a regular paycheck. The transition was a good fit for me and my personality.”