LATROBE, PA – Pittsburgh Business Times has selected three Saint Vincent College Communication Department graduates to its 2021 “30 Under 30” list, released on Friday, April 30.
Taleesha Johnson, C’13, Greta Edgar, C’14, and Abigail Geisel, C’14, were among 30 honorees named to the 2021 list, which recognizes young business and community leaders from across various industries throughout the western Pennsylvania region who have demonstrated outstanding professional successes while also contributing to the broader Pittsburgh community.
TALEESHA JOHNSON, C’13
A Pittsburgh native, Johnson transferred to Saint Vincent College prior to her junior year, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication before receiving her M.B.A. from Point Park University and a master’s in exercise science/health promotion from California University of Pennsylvania. Currently, she works as a staff accountant for the Pittsburgh Foundation, while she also owns and operates T.L.J. Wellness and Fitness, conducting dance and fitness classes.
She transferred to SVC after making a number of visits to her friends on campus during her early college days, and, after enrolling in journalism and video production courses at her original college, she fell in love with the Communication Department at her new institution. She excelled academically, earning induction into the Lambda Pi Eta honor society, while she was also president of Visionaries of H.O.P.E. and a member of the Bearcat cheerleading team, Women in Business Club and Young Entrepreneur Club.
“I thought communication was a great major to choose because you learn skills that you will use in any field,” she said. “My experience at SVC was great. I felt like the professors were enthusiastic about what they were teaching, which made me fall in love with the major even more.”
Following her graduation from Saint Vincent, Johnson entered the M.B.A. program at Point Park University, thanks to some prodding from her brother.
“He had hopes of becoming a professional baseball player,” she said, “and wanted me to be his agent. So, I agreed and decided to pursue my M.B.A. I felt like it would be a win-win situation for me. I knew that I eventually wanted to start my own business, so the degree would help me to gain the skillset to do so. Plus, if all else failed, I would have this degree to enter into the corporate world with.”
Her schooling did not stop with her M.B.A., as her love of fitness and exercise led her to pursue an additional master’s degree at California University of Pennsylvania.
“In college,” she recounted, “I started gaining a love for fitness and helping others achieve their fitness and wellness goals. After I received my M.B.A., I started teaching Zumba, and it hit me that this is what I want my business and career to be. I started looking into programs that would help me gain more knowledge in exercise science and found the exercise science and health promotion graduate program at Cal.”
Though it may not appear to be a traditional career path for someone who holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and master’s degrees in business administration and exercise science, Johnson has carved out a solid career in accounting in addition to her burgeoning wellness and fitness business.
“While I was getting my master’s degree at Cal,” she said, “I started working for an organization that told me, ‘hey, you have an M.B.A., so you can do payroll for us.’ I’ve always liked numbers, but never really considered going into accounting. I started to enjoy what I did and continued to get different job positions in accounting, each one allowing me to gain knowledge and learn new tasks.
“What I like the most about accounting,” she continued, “is that if you mess up, it can always be fixed, and even though we are behind the scenes, we play a huge role in how an organization runs.”
Johnson’s love of fitness and dancing prompted her to start T.L.J. Wellness and Fitness in 2019, where she has primarily taught dance fitness classes but is planning to expand class offerings.
“I have always been a dancer,” she said, “and I decided to combine that with my love of fitness to bring fitness options to those who do not like the typical workout. Dancing doesn’t feel like working out, so a lot of people enjoy that aspect.”
On top of her work and dance/fitness schedule, Johnson also volunteers with the Pittsburgh Promise as its communication chair and events co-chair, all while raising a 7-month-old daughter. She still tries to take advantage of whatever free time she may be afforded.
“It seems like I am always working or on the go,” she said. “But my favorite activity is binge watching TV shows. It’s the relaxation that I need. Though, with a 7-month-old, it’s been kind of hard to do lately!”
Surprised and humbled to be named to this year’s “30 Under 30” list, Johnson said that her selection is motivation to continue her tireless work.
“There were hundreds of well-deserving applicants,” she said, “and to be recognized out of such a great pool of individuals is overwhelming - in a good way! I always feel like I am not doing enough, so to be nominated for what I am doing is such a great feeling of accomplishment.
“But, there is always more to do!”
GRETA EDGAR, C’14
The communications manager for PPG, Greta Edgar graduated from Saint Vincent College with a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2014. Though it wasn’t her first college choice – or her first major choice – she quickly fell in love with SVC after transferring for her sophomore year.
“When I graduated from high school,” Edgar recalled, “I was dead-set on attending the University of Cincinnati because my brother went there and they have a world-renowned design school. Originally, I thought I would pursue visual merchandising.
“While I liked the idea of charting my own path and the experience of being away from my hometown of Pittsburgh,” she continued, “I quickly felt like I was just a number there and was looking for a smaller classroom experience. Saint Vincent was so accommodating with my transfer and I knew I had made the right choice.”
Upon enrolling at Saint Vincent, Edgar declared her major in communication, a decision that has since shaped her life.
“I’ve always been a strong writer and consider myself a pretty curious person,” she said, “traits that make for a well-rounded communicator – though I don’t think I knew this at the time I chose the communication path. After graduating, when I got my first taste of media relations as an intern at PPG, it was so exhilarating. When you identify a new storyline, draft a pitch that gets your foot in the door with a new contact or finally land a huge piece, it feels like Christmas morning every time!”
Edgar’s interest in the media and public relations field continued to grow during her time at Saint Vincent. She completed a thorough 17-month research project assessing whether media consumption can be linked to traditional occupational roles, while prior to her senior year, she completed an internship at A to Z Communications, where she was exposed to a wide range of communication and PR tasks, including compiling media lists, generating social media plans and composing and disseminating press releases.
Seven years after graduating, Edgar remains grateful to her alma mater for preparing her for a successful career – and more.
“The Communication program, and SVC’s focus in developing students’ soft skills, really prepared me for my career,” she said. “I’ve met some amazing friends through the Communication program at SVC, and I even met my fiancé, Tyler, in our Interpersonal Communications class, too!”
Upon walking across the Robert S. Carey Student Center stage at the May 2014 commencement, Edgar was determined to quickly land a job in her field of study.
“I knew that I wanted to work in communications upon graduating,” she said, “even if that meant pursuing internships. After all, it was what I earned my degree in! I was initially attracted to PPG because it’s a global company that has strong roots in Pittsburgh and a solid reputation. After my first interview, I clicked with so many people that I met. They were all so intelligent, welcoming and genuine.
“And the rest is history!”
Seven years – and several promotions – later, Edgar remains at PPG, a Fortune 500 global giant and the third-largest public company in Pittsburgh. She oversees external communications for PPG’s architectural and coating business in the U.S. and Canada and leads media engagement for a number of other company initiatives in her role on the corporate and government affairs team.
“One of my favorite annual projects at PPG is our ‘Color of the Year’ announcement,” she explained. “It all starts with PPG’s annual Global Color Forecasting Workshop, which brings together more than 30 PPG global color stylists from the automotive, consumer electronics, aerospace and home paint and stain industries. Over the course of several days, the stylists analyze the runway, lifestyles, demographics, geographies, global events and cross-cultural societal inspirations to determine what colors will resonate with customers and represent the PPG global color forecast, including the PPG Color of the Year.
“From there, my team crafts and executes a communication strategy both internally and externally that positions PPG as an industry leader in color. It’s the best kept secret each year.”
Edgar is also active in a number of PPG’s community initiatives, including its Colorful Communities program, which brings together employee volunteers, PPG paint products and financial contributions to spaces in need of a bright refresh.
“I’ve had the opportunity to lead and participate in multiple projects,” she said, “including the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum in Ohio and two in Puerto Rico, where we revitalized the second-most photographed landmark on the island, as well as a local food bank.”
In her role as a communications manager, one of Edgar’s frequent duties is assembling nominations and promotional materials for her colleagues for various awards and honors. This time, as a ’30 Under 30’ honoree, the shoe was on the other foot.
“Because of my role in media relations,” she said, “I work with a number of reporters at the Pittsburgh Business Times on a weekly basis. One day, I received an email from an associate editor and assumed it was for a story they were working on. Instead, he asked to confirm my age and title for consideration for the ’30 Under 30’ listing, which was such a surprise! Normally, I’m the one compiling nominations for colleagues within PPG, so it’s strange to be the subject instead of being behind the scenes like I normally am!”
Edgar has remained closely connected to Saint Vincent College, frequently serving as a guest presenter in Communication courses taught by Dr. Jessica Harvey and Dr. Melinda Farrington. As someone who sat in the same Prep Hall classroom seats as the students to whom she now presents, she is always happy to give them advice on embarking on a career in the field.
“I tell them to network with people you admire in the industry,” she said, “especially when you don’t need anything. Those genuine connections will lead to a strong network and support system, which truly makes all the difference!”
ABIGAIL GEISEL, C’14
Abby Geisel graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in marketing in 2014. Since 2015, she has worked for FedEx, presently serving as a senior communication specialist, while she volunteers in wish-granting and special events for Make-A-Wish America.
Despite hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania, nearly 250 miles east of Latrobe, Geisel had no reservations about making the trek west to attend college.
“I actually only applied to one other school in addition to Saint Vincent,” she recalled. “I chose Saint Vincent for a few reasons. First, I was dead-set on going into sports media, specifically with the Steelers. SVC has amazing connections with the sports community in Pittsburgh. Second, I wanted a personalized education. Relationship-building was, and still is, very important to me, and I knew I wasn’t going to get that at a larger, public school. My first class at SVC ended up being with nine students. It was perfect for me.
“And lastly, my cousin had played basketball at SVC, so I was familiar with campus. In many ways, it had already felt like home.”
During her four years at SVC, along with excelling in her coursework, Geisel took an active role in a number of clubs and organizations, including the Women in Business Club (holding the posts of both president and vice-president), the Orientation Committee (serving as director for two years), Communication Club, Colleges Against Cancer, Alpha Phi Omega, Sports Friendship Day and as a student worker in the sports information office.
“I loved being a part of the Communication Department,” she said. “I was afforded many opportunities, including internships with TribLIVE, the Steelers, the Penguins and Make-A-Wish.”
Having attended SVC in part due to its longstanding relationship with the Steelers, Geisel was thrilled to have the opportunity to intern with her favorite team early in her college career. This internship ended up blossoming into a six-year affiliation with the team as a game day public relations assistant.
“Following my sophomore year,” she said, “I inquired with my adviser about how to apply for an internship during training camp. Several SVC students before me had held the position, so I wanted to proactively get my foot in the door. I received an interview with the Steelers through the contact my adviser provided and shortly thereafter was offered the role.
“After training camp ended,” Geisel continued, “my supervisor asked me to stay on as a game day public relations assistant, doing work similar to what I had done during my internship. I said, ‘Of course!’ I ended up staying with the team for six seasons before I decided it was time to hang it up. I also received my Penguins internship in a similar fashion, interning with the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation during the 2013 season.”
Since December 2015, Geisel has been employed by FedEx, though it wasn’t the company that she initially applied to.
“FedEx wasn’t even on my radar,” she said. “I had a recruiter contact me via LinkedIn about a position with GENCO, a local, family-owned, third-party logistics company in Pittsburgh. When I interviewed, my future manager told me that GENCO had recently been acquired by FedEx and I would get to support the transition from a branding and communications standpoint. I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t looked back.”
Currently, Geisel manages the integrated marketing plan for FedEx’s e-commerce portfolio, working with its product marketing team to translate product features and benefits into campaigns and promotions.
“My main priority is to be a champion for our customers, advocating for them and providing them the best experience possible. My favorite part of the job is interacting with our customers. They have fascinating stories to tell and we love incorporating them into our marketing materials whenever possible.”
Along with her work at FedEx and volunteering for Make-A-Wish, Geisel is also pursuing an M.B.A. at the University of Pittsburgh. Though it has added to her already busy schedule, she has embraced this new challenge head on.
“I knew I wanted to continue my education at some point,” she said, “but wanted to have about five years of work experience before doing so. That’s my biggest piece of advice to anyone thinking about graduate school – take some time and figure out what aspects of your job you like and dislike. So far, I have been balancing work, school, volunteering and my personal life pretty well. Some weeks are more challenging than others, but I have a great team at FedEx that pitches in when I need them to. It probably doesn’t help that I am also a part-time wedding planner with bumble burgh Events Co.! I like keeping a full schedule and that role engages my creative side.”
Since graduating, Geisel has remained in regular contact with her college friends and professors and recently, she joined the SVC Alumni Council as a way to give back to the place that she still fondly calls home.
“Joining the Alumni Council, I felt, was a way to share my experiences and hopefully encourage others to come to SVC. The pandemic halted our plans slightly, but we have lots of great experiences planned for both alumni and prospective students in the coming year. Stay tuned!”
In what little spare time she has, Geisel enjoys bicycling, kayaking, trying new restaurants and attending Pittsburgh sporting events, but says that she feels most fulfilled by her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish.
“There are so many incredible children and families in our region managing life-threatening illnesses,” she said. “To meet them, hear their stories and help give them a break what whatever they may be experiencing makes me very happy.”
Geisel said that she was certainly surprised when she learned of her inclusion on the “30 Under 30” list, and that being included alongside two of her former classmates - Taleesha Johnson, C’13, and Greta Edgar, C’14 - has made the experience all the more gratifying.
“I was over the moon to see two other SVC alumni receive the award as well! I think it speaks volumes about the type of education and opportunities you will receive by attending Saint Vincent College.”
PHOTO 1: Taleesha Johnson
PHOTO 2 (by Jim Harris): Greta Edgar
PHOTO 3: Abigail Geisel