Student Profile: Steven Tessier

Playing professional hockey for his hometown Montreal Canadians was a possibility.

But 18-year-old Steven Tessier had a different calling, one that had him going to college “for the right reason.”

The second-semester freshman at Harrisburg University has no regrets about his choice.

“My dad’s all about education,” says Steven. “He puts a lot of value in it.”

And so does Steven, who moved with his family to Lancaster, Pa., from Montreal, Canada, when he was 6.

“I only knew French, so I took English reading courses instead of going to recess,” says Steven. “My mom made me read every morning. “It came together in the fifth grade, and I didn’t need to take any more reading courses.”

But there was still that hockey dream. Steven was very interested in playing his favorite sport at the collegiate level and pursuing a professional career. But his high school astronomy teacher who had “a big passion for the sciences” encouraged Steven to further his education.

So he put hockey on ice and applied to numerous colleges. Steven’s first choice was West Chester University in Pennsylvania, but a phone call from Harrisburg University just two days after applying there made Steven “feel wanted.”

Steven did well on the placement test and felt comfortable interviewing with what he calls “very important people” at the university.

“In the end I felt I was going to be more successful academically at Harrisburg University than at other schools,” recalls Steven. Steven’s previous academic achievements paved the way for him to win the Fellowship Scholarship. It pays for Steven’s first year, then provides an award of $6,000 per year for the next three years.

The scholarship put Steven’s ambition in high gear. He is taking the maximum number of courses, including calculus, chemistry, and biology, as he prepares for his career as a pharmacologist. Steven, on track to graduate in 2016 with a B.S. degree in Pharmaceutical Design with a concentration in Organic Chemistry, wants to be heavily involved in research and development. “I want to be a leader in the laboratory, making sure things are done correctly. I want to invent new medicine and new drugs . . . I want to help people.”

Steven’s been helping people for awhile now, going all the way back to when he was a caddie at Lancaster Country Club, starting when he was 13 years old. At 15 he started working at a local grocery store, first as a bagger and then as a cashier.

This strong work ethic carries over to his work with other Fellowship Scholarship recipients. There are thirteen “Fellows,” as they’re known, who are divided to complete two separate year-long projects. For Steven’s project, along with five other fellows, water quality at storage drain sites throughout Harrisburg is chemically measured. The group will present its findings to the community at year’s end.

In addition, Steven took a “leadership class,” a course in which students learn about leadership, college life, and the importance of goal-setting. Derek Newcomer, who taught the course, “knows a lot about leadership. He’s very respected and I really learned a lot,” says Steven.

It’s said that college freshmen can experience “information overload.” In his case, though, Steven only wants to continue to absorb as much as possible. Harrisburg University’s faculty plays a key part in Steven’s drive.

“I love all my professors,” says Steven. “They really care about you both as a student and as a person. They know you by name. You’re not just a number. This is important to the whole learning process.”

Steven cites Dr. Samuel Benigni, professor of Introductory Physics and Mathematics, as someone who spends time outside the class to provide extra help.

Chemistry professor Christina Dryden, who helps Steven with the field work in the water quality project, “is caring, kind, and sweet. She takes the time to explain anything,” says Steven.

It’d be difficult to explain how Steven’s first semester has been anything but a success. Even with a 3.8 GPA, which fell short of his goal of a 4.0, Steven acknowledges, “Failure can be good. It only makes me work harder.”

And Steven is working hard at making Harrisburg University the place to go. “I would recommend this school to anyone,” he says. “Harrisburg University constructed me. You don’t find yourself, you create yourself. Harrisburg University gives me the tools to do this.”