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Soon-to-be graduate Luke Marsiglia was part of the $14 million renovation to the Student Community Center. John A. Pavoncello, York Dispatch

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As graduates of Penn State York take the stage on Friday, Dec. 14, they will be looking back at their years at the university.

But Luke Marsiglia will also be looking back at part of his legacy.

The 22-year-old had a rare opportunity to work on the renovation and addition to the campus's Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center — a $13.5 million project completed October 2016.

Not many students can say they had a hand in creating their own student center, and Marsiglia said he knew the project would be "something that I can come back and see as I'm older."

Now, two years later, Marsiglia reflects on the experience as he prepares to graduate.

Zero to hero:  The opportunity came about through an internship at the school's Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies — a program designed to foster workplace leadership skills. 

More: Penn State York opens new student center

Though Marsiglia was studying electromechanical engineering technology, he had little construction experience, but the project's contractor, Alexander Construction Co., knew he was right for the job.

“I was extremely impressed with his ‘portfolio’ of projects and hobbies that he presented,” said senior project manager Daniel J. Flickinger in a Penn State article following the renovation.

"I think it showed a genuine interest in the communication of his problem-solving skills and how he felt he could apply them to an internship with Alexander," he continued.

The work: Some things Marsiglia handled on his own, such as getting quotes, working with contractors, dealing with the customer and technical work, including integration into campus networks and power grids, he said.

And he was able to shadow others to learn more specialized electrical work.

"It taught me a lot about how a professional business worked," he said. "Some of those skills you can't learn unless you're in the field."

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The internship was also invaluable in providing him with interpersonal skills, networking advice, emotional intelligence and how to connect with people, he said.

By the time the work was complete, the team had demolished outdated locker rooms and unneeded storage space and added a basketball gym, fitness center, classroom, a couple of offices, a game room and modern updates such as lighting and HVAC. 

Technically minded: Growing up in Fawn Grove, Marsiglia knew he was interested in doing something tech-related one day because it runs in his family.

His father works for a power company in Maryland, and he and his grandfather — who owned his own construction company — would work on lots of home projects together.

They did "a little bit of everything," Marsiglia said, including restoring antique cars, remote-controlled cars and model trains.

Looking ahead in his career, he hopes he'll have the opportunity to influence others in choosing a technical field — even if they think they might not be good at it.

Marsiglia said some miss out on the opportunity because they think they need to be good at math, science, engineering or technology.

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But math was not his strong suit. Instead, he said he worked really hard for it, taking an extra semester to complete school in four and a half years.

“Luke represents all the positives a Penn State York experience can provide," said Amy Harmon-Krtanjek, an engineering lecturer who taught Marsiglia as a freshman and is also very involved in the Graham Center, in a statement.

"He has embraced the opportunities in the classroom to learn and pushed himself beyond his comfort zone," she added. 

Upon graduation, Marsiglia will start as an associate engineer at Graham Engineering, in Springettsbury Township, where he will be designing machines, writing software, troubleshooting and working with a team that improves project efficiencies, he said.

More: Penn State York chancellor retires, sends students off with graduation speech

Ceremony: Marsiglia will walk with his fellow graduates at the 6 p.m. ceremony at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, where students will also engage in the school's open mic tradition when they receive their diplomas.

The commencement speaker will be state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, a Penn State York alum who earned an associate of science degree in business administration and a bachelor of science in business as an adult learner and credits the university with leading her to a career in public service. 

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