Behrend THON Club Breaks Fundraising Record

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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From left, Behrend THON dancers Tyler Malush, Morgan Shaw, and Matt Hammel.

Long before he was a college student, Jack Walker, executive director of the Behrend THON club, was committed to Penn State’s largest student-run philanthropic event, a dance marathon event benefitting children and families impacted by childhood cancer.

“I became involved with THON in my sophomore year of high school when I became the head of my high school’s ‘mini THON,’” said the Pittsburgh native and junior dual major in Political Science and Psychology. “It was really life changing. When I came to Behrend, I made a promise to myself to give everything I have to THON and make Behrend one of the best supporters of the event.”

He succeeded. Under Walker’s leadership, this year the club raised the highest amount—$57,155.67—in Behrend’s THON history.

“It truly reflects the commitment and dedication of the students involved in helping to fight pediatric cancer,” said Dr. Ken Miller, senior director of administration and student affairs.

THON is held annually at Bryce Jordan Center at University Park; this year’s event was February 15-17. Behrend’s dancers were Morgan Shaw, Matt Hammel, and Tyler Malush. Forty fellow Behrend students, including Walker, attended the event to support and cheer the dancers.

The Behrend Blog caught up with Walker to learn more about THON:

How do you choose who dances at THON?

Ultimately, the decision is based on a students’ participation in THON over their entire time at Behrend as well as money raised. We have made strides in making the process more competitive in order to push our members to be the very best they can be.

Do you have a goal?

We always have a fundraising goal, but in a larger sense, our goal is to make Behrend one of the top Commonwealth Campuses. Earning a top slot comes with advantages that include the ability to have more dancers on the floor, which, in turn, motivates members to get more involved.

How long is the dance marathon?

Dancers must keep moving for forty-six hours straight. This means no sleeping and no standing still. It takes a toll on the human body, but the dancers say it helps them to connect with the families of pediatric cancer patients who truly know the definition of marathon suffering.

What about those who aren’t dancing?

My role and the role of other Behrend students who attended are to be in the stands to support our dancers. We created a banner and made giant photos of our dancers’ faces to cheer them when they were losing steam.

What is the atmosphere like there?

THON is a transcendent experience. I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world. The energy is electric and you can feel the love in the air when dancers look to the stands to see their supporters. The entire Bryce Jordan Center feels like a big huge family. THON dancers are paired with a family that they are dancing to support. We were fortunate that all three of our families were able to attend the event this year.

What’s the most memorable part of the event?

I would say the family hour. During this hour, we hear from families who are currently going through treatment or have lost a child to pediatric cancer. Then, they have a presentation that pays tribute to every THON child who has passed away. It’s moving and motivational because you want to do whatever you can to prevent more children from being added to that list.

What would people be surprised to know about THON?

It is 100 percent student-run, from the event planning to the finances. The entire organization is filled with likeminded passionate students who are committed to ending pediatric cancer.

How did the Behrend THON club raise so much this year?

Families, sponsors, and new members were generous. Our online giving platform and going door-to-door in the Erie community to collect donations are our two most successful fundraising strategies.

Why should people get involved with the Behrend THON club?

This past year, it feels as though our club has grown into a family. Choosing to spend your free time raising money for kids who are suffering from cancer speaks volumes about the type of person you are and we accept and truly appreciate any student who makes a decision to join the club. We value every participant and volunteer in our organization. In addition, it feels really great to do good things for other people.

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Behrend Faculty Members Collaborate on Book about Technological Innovation

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Three faculty members from Penn State Behrend’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences contributed to a new book about the ways scientific research and technological innovation shape society, politics and culture.

Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology, conceived of and was associate editor of the book, “Critical Issues Impacting Science, Technology, Society (STS), and Our Future.” She also wrote the preface, which references RFI implants, robotic exoskeletons and the 153 hours of television the average American watches every month.

“It is clear that we are fundamentally altering what is important to us as well as how we interact with each other,” Lum writes. “For centuries, face-to-face communication was the only way to interact and learn about each other and the world. But now we can talk to each other over the phone or online and gain access to any information we want.”

The book, which was published by IGI Global, assesses the impact of artificial intelligence, automated vehicles, Blockchain and wearable technology, among other topics. Dr. Ahmed Yousof, assistant teaching professor of game studies, co-wrote a chapter about digital game-based learning. Dr. Lisa Jo Elliott, assistant teaching professor of psychology, contributed a chapter about the digital divide – the disconnect between those who regularly use technology and those who do not.

To learn more about the book, visit the IGI Global website.

Guest Post: Alternative Spring Break in Puerto Rico

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Last week, two dozen students and four advisers from Penn State Behrend participated in an Alternative Spring Break service trip to Puerto Rico. The group helped residents recover from the catastrophic flooding that occurred as a result of Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane which devastated the area in 2017, causing billions of dollars in damages and claiming nearly 3,000 lives in Puerto Rico. Here is a reflection on the week’s activities from one of the participants.

By Alex Siernerth

Junior Marketing major, ASB board member and ASB trip participant

On our first day in Puerto Rico, we stopped at a local BBQ for lunch and had our first taste of Puerto Rican cuisine, which was wonderful! We stopped at a local Walmart for some supplies, then headed to the camp to get settled. We stayed at Campamento Yuquibo which was in the El Yunque National Forest.

On the second day of the trip, we began our service. We headed to a part of the El Yunque where Hurricane Maria had stripped the natural canopy from parts of the forest. Strong grasses and vines took over the hiking trails. We worked to remove the excess brush to expand the trails.

On the third day, we split into teams to paint houses that had suffered external damage from the hurricane. One team rolled a fresh coat of orange onto a home, while another worked to paint a new house, which was built after the hurricane destroyed the original home.

The fourth day was spent finishing up the painting of the orange house and cleaning up. Another team painted the kitchen of a nearby home where the walls had been re-plastered due to water damage. The final group spent the day working on landscaping.

Our last day of service was spent at the Natural Reserve Cabezas de San Juan. We learned lot about the post-hurricane reforestation efforts that are being undertaken to revitalize the plant and wildlife in the area. We helped to tag young trees and tend to the newly planted ones by spreading mulch and watering them.

On our cultural day, we were able to explore coral reefs and learn about the ecosystem that they exist in. Snorkeling in the beautiful Puerto Rican waters allowed us to get an up-close-and-personal feel for the sea creatures and other wildlife. A friendly dolphin even paid us a visit.

We had a few hours before leaving for the airport, so we explored Old San Juan.

It was such an amazing experience being able to meet and interact with the kind, resilient people of Puerto Rico. The Behrend students took every opportunity with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.

We are grateful to all the donors and others who made this service trip possible.

 

Jonathon Scales Fourchestra: A Story on Steel Drums

Final (1 of 5)By Jaret Kelly
Student marketing communications assistant, Penn State Behrend

The Jonathon Scales Fourchestra graced the stage at Bruno’s Café Wednesday, Feb. 13, as part of the Penn State Behrend Rhythm of Life series, which brings diverse cultural performances to campus.

The Fourchestra also includes bassist E’lon JD and drummer Maison Guidry. Blending melodic bass riffs, hard drum beats and the fluctuating tones of the tinny steel drum, they capture a sound that is unexpected. The range of the instruments is astonishing. What may seem more akin to Caribbean beats also presents a deep and mellow tone that tells its own personal story. The band, on tour outside of their regular stomping grounds of North Carolina, provided insights into music, life and the trials and tribulations of living life while producing your art.

Scales’ first introduction to music was the saxophone which he played throughout high school. He then proceeded to join the drumline. In 2002, after leaving for Appalachia State, he begrudgingly agreed to audition for the Steel band after much convincing from his friends. This would lead him on a path towards passion for the steel drum. That path however, didn’t come easily.

“I had a period of time during November 2006 where I told myself I’d write a song every day ,” said Scales. “I only booked two shows in that period, and I needed something to keep me sane during my ‘starving artist’ phase of my life. Well, that only lasted about six days, but I did get something out of it: This song.” Scales followed with his piece, “The Longest November.”

With somber undertones and light, jazzy beats, it encapsulates the feeling of being alone and the burden that comes with performing your passions and art at times. This song, along with the rest that were played were purely instrumentals. However, the audience could immediately feel the weight of his story as the tempo of the music grew from a light plucking of the bass to a strong upbeat blend of all three performers with the steel drum taking lead. Scales said, “No matter what, I never felt like I was drifting away from my art. I had rough times. At one point I worked in a factory for five years, but it was a means to pursuing what I really wanted to do.”

One moment stood out: As E’Lon JD plucked a light bass riff, a hush fell over the room.

“I call this musical prayer,” Scales said, “I’m not a very religious man, but I do believe we all have something inside ourselves that wants to do well and feel well. I wanted to write a melody that I could come back to anytime I was feeling lost.” The melody blended into his song “Fake Buddha’s Inner Child”.

This song is Scales’ psychological concept (Which he believes will be in psychology books someday, and told any psychology students to write about it someday). This idea assumes that we all live with an outer shell, much like Buddha, that is large and unburdened by the outside world acting upon it, whether it be stress, harsh words or anything that causes discomfort. But when that outer shell dissolves, it reveals the fake Buddha’s vulnerable inner child. We don’t like for it to be seen, but it’s always there below that outer layer.

The Fourchestra’s sound and Scales’ philosophical and meaningful stories were met with applause by attendees. The stories Scales told were mirrored by the sound of steel drums that somehow were just as understandable without a single word spoken throughout the song.

The Rythym of Life Series’ next performance will be on March 12, at noon in Bruno’s Cafe where we will be hosting the Barleyjuice Irish Band; a pan celtic acoustic rock band from Philadelphia PA.

Jaret Kelly is a sophomore marketing major and marketing communications assistant in the Office of Strategic Communications at Penn State Behrend.

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Secret Lives of Staff — Talia Smock, French and Indian War Reenactor

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.

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Most weekdays, you can find Talia Smock at her desk in the School of Science office, where she is an administrative support assistant. However, on some weekends, she steps back in time and becomes a completely different kind of working woman. As a French and Indian War reenactor, she portrays a working class woman in the mid-1700s. Dressed in layers of historical clothing, Smock maintains camp, prepares meal, and shops at settler tents while her husband, Mike, is off fighting the British.

“The simplest way to describe the French and Indian War, which is also known as the Seven Years’ War, is that it was an imperial war between Great Britain and France over who would be the stronger controlling power in North America,” Smock said. “Because the French and Indians were fighting against the British in North America, it became known as the French and Indian War. In fact, though, Indians also fought on the side of the British.”

Smock, her husband and his family portray people on the French side. Behrend Blog talked with Smock about reenactments and what life was like for women in the mid-1750s.

How did you get involved in reenactments?

My husband’s family introduced me to it. Back when we were dating, I went over to his house one day and there were wool garments and petticoats all over their living room. They were leaving for a reenactment—the 250th anniversary at Fort Niagara. I was immediately intrigued by the idea. His family noticed my interest and asked if I wanted to join the troupe.

Why the French and Indian War as opposed to, say, the Civil War?

Many reenactors feel that Civil War events are just too crowded. The French and Indian War is often overlooked and so not as popular with reenactors.

What troupe do you belong to?

I belong to Compagnie LeBouef. Mike is a part of the Dauphine Batterie Artillerie de Niagara (Cannon Crew of the Niagara Artillery).  He portrays a soldier in the battery.

What does reenacting entail? What are your days like?

Compared to the schedule and rigor my husband, Mike, has, my day is quite leisurely. I help prep the meals for the day, clean up after meals, and shop at the different settler’s tents. The shops are mostly period accurate, so they are a great place to pick up fabric or other items I need for my reenactment outfits. I have time to walk about and enjoy the battles. My favorite is the Battle of La Belle Famille in which the British ambushed a French relief force just outside of Fort Niagara. There are children in our troupe and I really enjoy playing common period games with them like Shut the Box.

Where do you do reenactments?

We really enjoy going to the Fort Niagara reenactment, near Youngstown, New York. It feels like home for us. We also like the event in Cook Forest. We hope to make it to some other events, too, such as Fort Ligonier in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

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Fort Niagara encampment

Where do you get the outfits you wear?

I make them with help from Mike’s family as they are much more knowledgeable about sewing 1750s-era clothing then I am. You can certainly purchase period accurate clothing, but it is not cheap. Sometimes, when it comes to elaborate clothing, the idea of sewing it myself is daunting, but the hand-sewing part is cathartic to me.  If I ever run into trouble, there are many women I can turn to who are involved with reenacting and have plenty of experience making their own outfits.

What do you enjoy about reenacting?

I would say it is a tie between being disconnected from technology and the complexity of modern life and the joy of being immersed in living history. I love turning off my phone and forgetting about the real world for a weekend, and I love watching history happen around me.  I remember the first time I watched a battle by myself, I cried because then I understood the true impact of conflict. You can never really get that from reading a history book. Being a part of living history makes you appreciate history in a completely new way.

Is there anything unpleasant or uncomfortable about the experiences?  

Stays and layers of clothing. Stays are like corsets; they are stiff and become quite hot when you wear them in warm weather. In addition, they are constricting. It is a running joke among reenacting women that we often have second dinner because as soon as the stays come off, we are all starving. As for the layering, here’s the lineup: First, there is a shift/chemise (an under dress), long wool socks, stays, jacket, kerchief, petticoat (skirt), cap, and apron. As you can imagine, it gets very warm.

As for Mike, his entire outfit is wool, so keeping him hydrated and cool is extremely important. I provide him with a lot of cooling towels and water throughout the day.

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Student puts marketing claims to the test

Are “eco-friendly” ice-melting products really better for the environment?

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Dr. Sam Nutile, assistant professor of biology, left, and Megan Solan, a senior Biology major.

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Most consumers want to do the right thing. Marketers know this, which is why they use words like “eco-friendly,” “organic,” and “all-natural” on packaging and in advertisements for the products they are selling. But, unless there are government standards attached to those labels—and, in many cases, there are not—these claims can be misleading at best, flagrantly false at worst.

Case in point: Megan Solan, a senior Biology major, recently completed a study of the effects of road salt products on aquatic insects. Solan compared the toxicity of traditional road salt to three other products that are marketed as being more “eco-friendly.” Her research produced some surprising results.

“We conducted a series of ten-day tests with midges, an invertebrate that spends its larval stages in freshwater ecosystems,” Solan said. “Midges are commonly used when testing chemicals that have the potential to contaminate freshwater habitats because they are generally pollution-tolerant. So, if something affects midges, it will likely affect all of the more sensitive species as well.”

Solan worked on the project under the guidance of Dr. Sam Nutile, assistant professor of biology.

“Interestingly, Megan found that the eco-friendly formulations as harmful or worse for the aquatic insects than traditional salt were,” Nutile said. “Megan’s research is interesting because it represents a disconnect between scientific study and application of the results in society, demonstrating the need for scientists to learn how to bridge this gap.”

Solan recently presented her work at the 39th Annual National Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Conference. She along with Nutile, and Dr. Adam Simpson, assistant professor of biology, and two other students attended the gathering in Sacramento, California, where Solan’s poster presentation won first place in the undergraduate division.

Not only did Solan return to Behrend with the top poster award for her work, but she also made several new professional contacts in her field.

“I met many wonderful scientists and spoke with some of them about the graduate programs at their schools,” she said.

Solan plans to pursue a Ph. D. in environmental toxicology, which represents a slight curve from her original career plan.

“I initially chose biology because I was going to go to medical school, but after getting involved in this project, I realized that I am passionate about researching environmental issues.”

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Dr. Sam Nutile, assistant professor of biology, left, and Megan Solan, a senior Biology major. 

Networking 101: 12 Tips for Good Connections

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  
Penn State Behrend

Student enrolled in the Black School of Business’ new C3W Leadership Program, recently spent an evening learning about networking, then practicing it with some of the Erie area’s most prominent female business and government leaders, including Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper.

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The C3W Leadership Program is a co-curricular certificate that female students can complete over one to two years to prepare for leadership in academic, business, and social situations. Students focus on developing these skills through three pillars (the 3Cs): capability, confidence, and connections.

The program is spearheaded by Ann Scott ’82, ’99 M.B.A., community outreach manager at Erie Insurance and one of the Black school’s Executives in Residence, who worked with faculty members Dr. Diane Parente, Breene professor of management, and Dr. Mary Beth Pinto, professor of marketing, to plan the event and give students a great opportunity to make important connections.

Before they began rubbing elbows, Pinto gave the students some tips for successful networking. Here are a dozen of her most helpful hints that would be useful for any young professional:

  1. Make eye contact, but not too much.
  2. Have a firm handshake, but not a death grip.
  3. Authenticity is everything. Be professional, but be you.
  4. Deal with the person in front of you, not the title. Don’t be intimidated by a contact who is high on the corporate ladder, just think of them as another person to connect with.
  5. If you’re wearing a nametag, put it on your right side so that when you shake hands, the person your shaking hands with can easily read your name.
  6. Be aware of your nonverbal communication and the messages your body stance and facial expressions are sending.
  7. Listen! Don’t just talk or think about what to say next, but truly listen to the person your speaking with. Allow them to do more of the talking.
  8. When you leave the conversation, find a way to show that you were listening. Something like, “It was nice to meet you and I’ll be sure to check out some of those concerts on the Bayfront.”
  9. Have a positive attitude. When you meet people, they hear your words, but they pay attention to your attitude. Never talk badly about anyone or anything and refrain from complaining.
  10. Work the room. Don’t just stand in one area or talk to one person all night. Force yourself out of your comfort zone and have conversations with as many people as you can.
  11. Send a thank you note. A personalized email is generally accepted today, but a handwritten note really stands out.
  12. Mind your manners. Hold the door for people, show gratitude for servers, smile at everyone from the coat check clerk to the CEO. Manners matter and they are noticed.

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