Secret Lives of Staff: Meet Teri DeAngelo, grape farmer

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

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

Most Penn Staters say they bleed blue-and-white. In the case of Teri DeAngelo, records specialist in the Registrar’s office, the colors might be just a shade off.

Grapes are in DeAngelo’s blood, and come September every year, the fourth-generation farmer bleeds purple and white as she helps her husband, Paul, harvest more than 150 acres of Concord and Niagara grapes from their vineyards.

A year’s worth of work comes down to this: six weeks of harvest, typically beginning in late September when the grapes have reached a certain ripeness and have the minimum sugar content required by the processor. The DeAngelos sell most of their crops to Welch Foods in North East, which presses them into juice, jelly, and more.

There is science (sugar testing) involved in determining the right time to harvest, but anyone with any sense of smell who drives through eastern Erie County along Lake Erie this time of year can tell you that it’s picking time. The aroma of ripening grapes hangs in the air along the 60-mile Concord grape belt that stretches from Erie County in Pennsylvania to Chautauqua County in New York.

A Family Affair

The DeAngelo’s farm, which sits on 99 acres in Harborcreek with an additional 82 leased acres, has been in Teri DeAngelo’s family for more than 100 years.

“My great-grandparents purchased the farm in 1911 and it’s been passed down through the family since then. We bought it from my parents in 2005.”

By day, Teri works in the Registrar’s office at Behrend, supporting all of the work involved in scheduling classes, rooms, and final exams and assisting students with schedule changes. At home, she pitches in on the farm wherever she is needed.

Teri and Paul’s teenage children—Paul III, 18, and Molly, 15—help too.

“Paul III helps with some tractor work and sugar testing during harvest, and both kids help with baling hay,” she said. “My role on the farm is managing the bookkeeping/tax records. I tie grapes, drive a tractor, and sugar test. And, of course, I help with the baling in the summer. Everybody bales hay.”

baling hay

The hay is for the beef cows, which the DeAngelos raise for themselves and their families.

We caught up with Teri to learn more about her life off campus:

What do you like about grape farming? I enjoy the history, the heritage, and the traditions. I enjoy having roots. I love that we have acres of land with creeks and woods for the kids to roam.

What’s the hardest thing about farming? Being dependent on the weather.

What’s a hidden benefit of farming? Being close to God and nature. Your work is right outside your door.

How many people work on the farm? Our employees are seasonal, but we have between 12-15 people each year.

What is your biggest worry about the farm? Spring frosts and invasive pests. We’re especially worried about the spotted lantern fly. It’s making its way to our area and it could, potentially, wipe out acres of grapes at a time. PSA: If you spot one (this is what they look like), please report it right away.

How large is your harvest? Last year, we picked more than 1,200 tons of Concord grapes and more than 120 tons of Niagara grapes.

What would people be surprised to know about farming? It is not easy. My father always said, “if farming were easy, everyone would do it.” My husband has such vast knowledge on everything from weather patterns to chemicals to machinery – it’s a higher education earned through experience!

What is your favorite way to eat grapes? Do you make wine or jelly? My family likes them right off the vine. Sadly, we have failed miserably at making wine in the past, and I leave the processing to Welch’s—their jelly, jam, juice, and fruit snacks are the best!

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Penn State announces Peace Corps Prep certificate program

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

Did you know that the Peace Corps, the international volunteer service organization, would not have come into being without college students?

“During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy made a late-night stop at the campus of the University of Michigan,” said Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics at Penn State Behrend. “He made an off-hand remark inquiring whether the college students there would be willing to serve in a developing country. It would have been a forgotten campaign speech, except that the students organized and sent a petition with hundreds of signatures asking for the opportunity to serve others and their country.”

Hall served after his undergraduate years, and his time in the corps remains a transformative life experience, so much so that forty years later, he regularly encourages Behrend students to consider joining, helps raise awareness of the organization on campus, and staffs a recruiting table at Behrend’s twice-yearly Career and Internship Fair.

“The Peace Corps is a great opportunity to learn about another culture, to develop one’s talents, and to be of service to people in a developing nation,” Hall said. “An example of the impact possible is Alejando Toledo, the former President of Peru, who said ‘I am one of sixteen brothers and sisters. Born in extreme, extreme poverty… I’m the first president of indigenous descent who had been democratically elected in 500 years in South America. To a large extent thanks to the Peace Corps.’”

“While none of my former students in Malaysia became a president,” Hall said, “I did help the children of subsistence farmers and fishermen become teachers and nurses who in turn contributed to education and health care in places where it was scarce.”

Hall is proof that the Peace Corps stays with you. A few years ago, he even returned to Borneo to catch up with some of his former students.

That’s why he’s excited about a new partnership between the Peace Corp and Penn State to offer a preparatory program for students interested in volunteering.

Peace Corps Prep is a certificate program for undergraduate students of any major. Students who participate in the program gain skills and experiences that make them attractive candidates for the corps or any form of international or service work. The inaugural cohort will begin this fall semester.

Accepted students will build their coursework around one of six strategic competencies that the Peace Corps seeks in its volunteers. The program requires students to complete a set number of field hours in their chosen competency area, take globally minded classes, show language competency, and engage in career-related activities.

Interested students are required to complete an online interest form by October 16, 2020 to be considered for the inaugural cohort. Program requirements, application information, and more can be found at https://studentsaffairs.psu.edu/career/peace-corps-prep.

While the certificate program does not guarantee acceptance in the Peace Corps, it will help to provide participants with a competitive advantage.

ABOUT THE PEACE CORPS

Peace Corps mission: to promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Volunteers serve for twenty-seven months in areas such as health, education, environment, agriculture, community economic development, and youth in development.

Jonathan Hall and Wan Masa
Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics at Penn State Behrend, and a former colleague, Wan Masa, who taught with Hall in North Borneo forty years ago.

Secret Lives of Staff: Meet Steven Miller, history buff

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

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

Some people make it a goal to visit every state or capitol, but Steven Miller ’06, associate director of Housing and Food Services at Penn State Behrend, is a World War II reenactor and Penn State Behrend history alumnus who is working on a more unique challenge: He has a goal of visiting the private residences of every U.S. president. He’s already been to twenty.

“Visiting presidential homes offers an insight into the private life of individuals who had a profound impact on the formation and development of our country,” Miller said. “The homes and grounds themselves show a progression of architecture and lifestyle through history, from the vast agricultural farmlands of the Founding Fathers to the urban presidents of today.”

It all started with a trip to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s home in Gettysburg, a stop on Miller’s itinerary while visiting Gettysburg National Military Park.

“It evolved into an annual summer trip with my brother, a challenge to visit the private residences of past presidents, with the goal of visiting all forty-five of them,” Miller said.

We chatted with Miller to learn more about his adventures and the homes he’s been most impressed with.

Are presidents’ residences public?

Yes, most presidential private residences belong to the National Park Service and are open to the public for tours. Information on their locations and visiting information can be found on the National Park website at nps.gov/findapark.

Do you plan vacations around visiting presidential homes?

I typically plan our itinerary around visiting both presidential sites and museums. Some of the most extensive collections of historical military artifacts are in museums located at the service academies, such as West Point or the United States Naval Academy, and often I will add these into our itineraries. Thirteen presidents have homes in New York, Ohio or Virginia, so from here where we live, creating a travel itinerary that takes you by a president’s home is fairly easy. One of the things we enjoy on these visits is eating at local establishments as much as possible; we try to avoid chain restaurants.

Who is your favorite (or most admired) president and why?

My favorite modern president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). He was elected at the height of the Great Depression, and through various public programs, he got the country back on its feet. He then led the nation through four years of World War II and was the only president elected to four terms in office. He also founded the March of Dimes with the goal of finding a vaccine for polio.

What are some of the more famous homes you’ve seen so far?

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home; Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home; Montpelier, James Monroe’s home; and Springwood, FDR’s home.

Have any the homes surprised you in any way?

It is impressive to see how some of these homes are incredibly preserved with original furnishings and furniture.

What does history mean to you? Why is it important to study and learn about history?

I am always searching for a connection to the past, and visiting historical sites, whether presidential homes or museums, let us see the tangible items that create those links. Visiting these homes is like stepping into the past. It’s amazing to think about walking in the footsteps of some of the most influential people in our country’s history.

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Get Lost in Space with Yahn Planetarium

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager at Penn State Behrend

In an uncertain world, it helps to keep your chin up. Way up. Tipped to the sky, in fact. There’s nothing like the vastness of the heavens above to inspire awe and put one’s existence on planet Earth in perspective: Just one tiny human on one small planet contemplating millions of planets and solar systems spinning tens of thousands of lightyears away.

When you really delve into it, space science is mind-blowing and, frankly, who among us couldn’t use a distraction these days? Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend has just what you need, and you can find it online, for free.

“It’s been difficult for the planetarium during this time as we normally thrive on school groups and the public coming in to experience the immersive planetarium,” said Jim Gavio, planetarium director. “But, like many educational facilities, we have adapted to remotely teaching astronomy and space science.”

Gavio has been recording presentations and posting them online at behrend.psu.edu/yahnplanetarium. He is also doing monthly star talks, in which he guides viewers in looking at the current night sky in the Erie area, as well as occasional special presentations, such as one on SpaceX’s recent Demo-2 launch and one on the basics of using a telescope.

The planetarium is also offering virtual field trips, interactive group presentations led by offered by Gavio via Zoom.

“During the bulk of the group programming, I try to simulate what they would see in the planetarium,” he said. “I use an astronomy program that simulates the night sky here in Erie so that I can point out specific constellations and stars and planets that they would see in the sky that night.”

His largest virtual group so far was 130 middle school students this spring.

“The teacher sent me questions from the students in advance, which made for a smooth presentation, in which I could focus on some things they were learning at that time. The teacher told me that she, the parents, and the kids were thrilled to have the experience as it gave them a break from schoolwork and an event to look forward to.”

Speaking of looking forward, Gavio has been using the downtime at the planetarium to develop new programming and to do minor maintenance work on the facility.

“The planetarium has been going nonstop for six years, and we’ve had more than 46,000 visitors in that time, so the space is showing some wear,” Gavio said. “While we’d much rather have Yahn Planetarium open, closing it to visitors has given us time to do some repairs and improvements.”

If you need a good reason to get lost in the stars, Gavio has one for you: NASA will be launching another rover to Mars sometime during the launch window of July 20 to August 11.

“The rover will be looking for signs of microbial life on Mars,” he said. “Another really exciting aspect of the rover will be the small helicopter drone that it carries that will fly around on Mars. This is a first and will be very exciting to watch.”

Not into rovers? How about comets?

“During July and August, we also have Comet NEOWISE which looks like it will be pretty visible to people if they choose to look for it,” Gavio said.

He warns, though, that comets can be tricky.

“Sometimes we think they may be easy to see, then they fizzle out,” he said. “Comet NEOWISE won’t be as noticeable as Comet Hale-Bop was back in the late 1990s, but you should be able to see it with the naked-eye or better yet, with a simple pair of binoculars. In mid- to late-July, it can be seen low in the northwest after sunset. As we head into August, it will climb higher and further from sunset so that it will be in a darker sky. If you’ve never seen a comet, this is one of the best chances we’ve had in long time.”

So, get that chin waaaay up because there’s always something exciting going on in the skies above you. Get lost in space for a little while with Yahn Planetarium.

See Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend videos and schedule a virtual tour at behrend.psu.edu/yahnplanetarium. For more information, contact Jim Gavio, planetarium director, at 814-898-7268 or jvg10@psu.edu.

Resilience Pays Off for Engineering Students

Plans change but summer learning experiences continue

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States, it disrupted not only the last few weeks of the academic semester for Penn State Behrend students, but also summer plans, too. With activity across the country and most of the world at a standstill, job offers, internships, and research opportunities were suddenly vanishing or being put on hold.

Even in a time as tumultuous as this, though, persistence and ingenuity pay off, and many Behrend students have been able to find ways to continue learning and getting hands-on experience from home this summer.

Caralyn Harben

Caralyn Harben, intern at Northrop Grumman

Caralyn Harben, a junior majoring in Software Engineering, had been looking forward to spending her summer in sunny California working at Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach location before the coronavirus conspired to keep her at home.

While she laments the location change, she is thankful to still have the opportunity to support the company’s Space Systems division as a software engineering intern. 

“I was lucky that Northrop Grumman decided to continue their internship program with many of us, including me, working remotely,” Harben said. “They shipped my work computer and additional hardware to me.”

In addition to her internship duties, Harben is an active member of the company’s intern council where she helps plan various virtual social events to keep her peers connected.

“I’m having a lot of fun with the work and the council, and it’s been a blast learning more about the company as a whole,” she said.

Micahel Magnotti

Michael Magnotti, paid research assistant

Industrial Engineering sophomore Michael Magnotti wants to get as much hands-on experience as he can before he graduates from Behrend. “Research is all about learning and I love to learn,” said Magnotti, who is also a Schreyer Honors scholar.

So when he learned about a summer research opportunity with Dr. Faisal Aqlan, associate professor of industrial engineering, and Carol Putman, assistant teaching professor of management, Magnotti teamed up with two other classmates, Samantha Melnik and Cameron Butts, to work on the project that focuses on applying an abstract concept to everyday business processes.

“Our team is working on developing a concept relationship map and an implementation plan for Industry 4.0 in manufacturing and the service industry,” Magnotti said. “First, we identified the main pillars of Industry 4.0 and how they are relate to one other and then we developed a visual representation of this relationship and created a simulation model for a small-scale implementation of Industry 4.0.”

It’s a paid position, which Magnotti said he appreciates in light of the time it requires, and it’s one that was easily adapted to an at-home work format. The Penn State Behrend Undergraduate Student Summer Remote Research Fellowship he received requires the research work be completed with software and tools that are free and available to the public on the Internet.

“You would think a virtual research experience like this would be mostly writing, but we have many different physical deliverables as well as simulation programs that allow us to be more physically creative instead of solely reading and writing every day,” Magnotti said. “The experience is incredibly exciting, even with the reading and writing, and I am so grateful to Penn State Behrend for giving students opportunities throughout these uncertain and stressful times.”

Rebecca Grey

Rebecca Grey, intern turned researcher

Rebecca Grey, a senior Mechanical Engineering major, had a summer internship lined up, but it was rescinded due to the pandemic.

“When my internship was canceled, I figured that I would probably spend my summer doing research since I am a member of the Schreyer Honors College and was beginning to transition research into work for my honors thesis,” Grey said.

But then, Dr. Charlotte de Vries, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, told her about the Multi-Campus Research Experience for Undergraduates (MCREU) organized by University Park.

Grey had worked with de Vries on a research project investigating the use of 3D printers to produce accessibility aids to support aging in place. Aging in place is an initiative largely centered on improving home accessibility to allow older adults to live in their homes longer. 

Grey submitted a last-minute application and was accepted as the program was approved to go fully virtual for the summer. 

“I am still doing research with Dr. de Vries and was also given another mentor for the MCREU program, Swapnil Sinha, who is a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at University Park,” Grey said. “My research has now transitioned from what is being printed on a 3D printer to focusing on improving the overall usability of the physical 3D printer.”

To that end, Grey is working on developing guidelines for 3D printers governed by the principles of universal design, a concept that focuses on product and building design that is accessible and user-friendly for individuals of varying ages and physical abilities 

Grey said the project is going well and she has benefitted from having a second mentor.  

“I am reviewing a lot of literature, analyzing various aspects of 3D printers that cause issues, looking for areas of improvement, and designing a survey for future use to gain more perspective on usability issues that others have dealt with,” she said. “In a remote research environment, it has been great working with a professor I know and have previously conducted research with. Having an additional mentor as well has been helpful in bringing a new perspective to my project and extra tips on conducting effective research.” 

Behrend’s Youth Outreach Wants to Send You on a Wild GooseChase this Summer

By Heather Cass, 

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

goosechase

With many camps and activities canceled this summer, it can be challenging to keep the kids entertained, but Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach program came up with a fun and family-friendly idea: an all-ages digital scavenger hunt utilizing a free smartphone application called GooseChase.

Just download the application and join the “Behrend Summer Fun” game to get a list of weekly tasks. Behrend will add new “missions” every week until the end of August.

The missions might be indoors or out and will include things like photo challenges, family games, hands-on activities, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) challenges, and more. Trying new things will be encouraged!

This week’s missions are themed around the Fourth of July. A few sample tasks (each worth 100 points): Take a photo of yourself dressed in red, white, and blue; build something using only red, white, and blue LEGOS; take a photo with an American flag; design and enjoy a home-made slip-n-slide, and more.

“The tasks are designed to get kids out and about having fun while also sneaking in some educational activities and lessons,” said Melanie Ford, director of Youth Education Outreach at Penn State Behrend.

Need more incentive? Prizes will be awarded to the top three players and other randomly-drawn players, too.

Download the GooseChase application at your favorite app store and search for “Behrend Summer Fun” or use the code: JW9WLZ to join the game.

For more information and the latest news on the “Behrend Summer Fun” scavenger hunt, follow Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach program on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PSBOutreach/.

Student’s discovery is measure of success

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

ethan fontana

Some of the world’s greatest scientific discoveries have been happy accidents. An experiment goes not quite as expected, and the scientist says something like, “Huh, that’s weird.”

For many, that moment comes after years, even a full lifetime, of work. For some, like Mechanical Engineering senior Ethan Fontana it came in the first year of college in a class outside of his major. (Huh, that’s weird.)

Fontana, a native of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, had passed college-level physics in high school thanks to a dual-enrollment AP course, but he needed a lab credit for the course to be accepted as a replacement for PHYS 211: Mechanics at Penn State.

He talked to Dr. Chuck Yeung, professor of physics, who helped Fontana craft an individual study course that would meet the college’s requirements. While working in the lab independently on an assignment involving a ticker tape timer, an apparatus used in introductory physics courses, Fontana noticed something odd.

“I was obtaining inaccurate and inconsistent values of gravity,” he said. “I approached Dr. Yeung about it. He was unable to find anything about the issue online, so he suggested we do a research study on it.”

“After rigorous hours in the lab, performing trial after trial, we finally concluded that an external friction force was present in the apparatus,” Fontana said. “Better yet, we were even able to calculate it with minimal uncertainty.”

Conclusion reached, Fontana worked with Yeung to produce a poster for the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Conference where they tied for first place in the Physics/Chemistry division.

“We were both sort of amazed because I was only a first-year student at that time,” Fontana said.

Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics, said the ticker tape timer has been used in introductory physics classes in high schools and college for decades.

“It is a useful pedagogical tool to introduce important concepts of motion, such as velocity and acceleration, to students,” he said. “I was astounded to find no articles in physics education journals about the results to expect or suggested best practices when using a ticker tape timer to measure motion.”

 

 

 

 

 

So the three collaborated on a paper, with Fontana as the lead author. It was published in the May issue of The Physics Teacher.

 

“I think the paper fills a gap in physics education literature, and will be a helpful resource, especially to new physics teachers,” Hall said. “Ethan is a remarkable student. It’s quite unusual for a student to take their first college physics lab and end up as the lead author of a peer-reviewed scientific paper.”

 

Fontana is looking forward to getting his Professional Engineering license and a job as a mechanical engineer in the Pittsburgh area after his graduation in May of 2021.

 

 

 

Summer School for the Preschool Set

Science Story Time continues remotely

By Heather Cass,

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s School of Science began offering free Science Story Time events to the Erie-area community a few years ago, pairing a storybook reading with a hands-on science lesson for preschool-age children.

The outreach program not only offered young children, accompanied by a parent or caregiver, the chance to visit campus and learn that science can be fun, but it also gave Behrend student volunteers the opportunity to share their passion with a new generation of learners.

The program, which was started by Tracy Halmi, associate teaching professor in chemistry, was instantly popular. Sessions have often filled in a matter of hours or a single day after registration opens.

So when the COVID-19 crisis forced the cancelation of all gatherings on campus this spring, Halmi and her student volunteers decided to take Science Story Time online.

“We have such a great turnout for our on-campus Science Story Time program that we did not want the kids to stop learning at home,” Halmi said. “We decided to use the storybooks previously used during our on-campus events as inspiration to find hands-on activities that can be easily completed at home.”

Kennedy Wittman, a senior majoring in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, has been hosting Science Story Time videos and posting to them online at behrend.psu.edu/storytime. A half dozen videos are already posted presenting fun experiments such as “lava lamp in a glass,” “baloon rocket,” and “three-ingredient slime!”

Wittman was referred to Halmi by Jodie Styers, associate teaching professor of mathematics education, who thought Wittman would be a good candidate to help Halmi facilitate the program.

Under Halmi’s guidance, Wittman takes the lead on lesson planning, which gives her valuable experience for her future career as an elementary school teacher.

“Every week, I look for ideas online or adapt experiments we have done at past preschool events and choose ones that can be done simply in the home without having to buy many, if any, materials,” said Wittman, who always tries the experiment in advance to be sure that it works and that she can easily demonstrate it on video.

“I have really enjoyed being involved in Science Story Time because it’s fun to interact with the kids,” Wittman said. “It is amazing to see their excitement and joy when they try an experiment or learn something new. While we can’t see that right now, I’m confident it’s still happening at home.”

Wittman said the experience has help build her confidence and boost her science knowledge.

“I have learned so much more about science myself, and I feel that I will be much more confident in teaching science to my future students.”

Halmi and Wittman plan to continue offering Science Story Time online throughout the summer, posting a new video about once a week.

Check out all the current Science Story Time videos here.

 

 

 

How (and Why) to Conduct an Oral History

Penn State Behrend archivist offers tips to help you record a little history

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

With nearly all extracurricular activities, sporting events, parties and concerts canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you may have a little free time on your hands. One pandemic-safe activity you can do is conduct oral histories with family members, many of whom may be eager to chat with you on the phone and answer all the questions you can come up with.

For Jane Ingold, a reference and instruction librarian and archivist atPenn State Behrend’s John M. Lilley Library, one of the hardest things about doing an oral history is not turning it into a conversation.

“The job of the interviewer is to ask a question and then be quiet,” Ingold said. “This can be hard for me because I get excited about what they are saying and interrupt. I really have to avoid that temptation and let them do the talking.”

Ingold is passionate about the college’s history and has worked hard to preserve a variety of items, including nearly sixty oral histories that she has recorded with Penn State Behrend community members, from first-generation faculty members and alumni to members of the Behrend family who donated Glenhill Farm for the establishment of the college.

We talked with Ingold to learn more about oral histories, why they are important, how she records them and who some of her favorite interview subjects have been so far.

Why are oral histories important?

History books give you the big-picture events. Oral histories give you access to the daily lives of people and often they uncover small pieces of information that bring the past to life. When I interviewed Dick and Bill Sayre, the grandsons of Ernst and Mary Behrend (who donated their farmland to develop Penn State Behrend), they told me that the reason that their grandparents relocated from their mansion on the grounds of Hammermill (the paper plant they owned in east Erie) to Harborcreek Township was that Mary was tired of her house being filled with sawdust. That detail really allows you to imagine the sight and smell of that grittiness in the air near the mill and why Mary wanted to be miles away from it.

Who should people interview?

Though you could start with the oldest person for obvious reasons, you might ask yourself who in your family tells the best stories, the old ones you’ve heard over and over. Interviewing someone who you know will talk comfortably and openly will help you get your feet wet and ease into the process.

How should people prepare for an interview?

You’ll need something to record with and that can be as simple as your phone, tablet, or computer, or a digital recorder. When you start working on family genealogy, experts advise that you write down everything you already know about the person you are interviewing, and that advice works with oral history, too. Write down some of the stories that you have heard, names of people you want to ask them about, places the person has lived, jobs they’ve had, pets, hobbies, etc. This will help you come up with questions.

What types of questions should they ask?

I start all my interviews by stating my name and the name of the person I am interviewing as well as the date and the location of the interview. Since I do some of my interviews over the phone, we may be in two different locations. I ask them to state their full name, and date and place of birth. I have several lists of questions, depending on who I’m interviewing. These questions revolve around the interviewee’s relationship to Behrend, i.e., alumni, faculty and staff, Hammermill employees, and folks who knew the Behrend family. I also ask questions based on stories I’ve heard about the particular person. For instance, I asked retired math professor Bill Patterson about all the photographs he took. He was at Behrend from 1953 to 1989 and he enjoyed photography. He took most of the photos that we have in our oldest archives. There is a nice list of questions here and here.

What question always garners you an interesting response?

“Is there anything you hoped that I would ask that I haven’t?” Sometimes when I ask that question, I learn about events or people that I didn’t know that I should ask them about.

What method do you use to record?

I started doing them over the phone when necessary, though I prefer to do them in person, if possible. I use a Tascam DR-40 Linear PCM Recorder, but you can just as easily record them with an app on your computer or cell phone.

Any tips for recording oral histories? What have you learned the hard way?

Make sure that you have extra batteries, that any cords are plugged in securely, and that you have enough space (memory or tape) to record the interview. Also, I try to control the ambient sound as much as possible, which is more difficult if you are doing the interview in someone’s home. This is especially important if they are on the phone and you can’t see their environment. Don’t be shy about asking them to find a quiet room and close the door while you do the interview. Also, I’ve learned to ask before I start recording if there is something they would prefer not to talk about, such as a loved one’s death or a traumatic event.

Do you then transcribe all of your oral histories?

I have had some students work on transcription in the past. We have now subscribed to a service called Trint that makes an electronic transcription, but it still has to be edited. Over time, the software learns the words that you commonly use. For instance, it always thinks Behrend is baron and makes Hammermill two words, hammer mill. The next time I upload new recordings, however, it should translate those properly. Most of the editing is being done by the library staff and it’s something we’ve been able to get caught up on while working remotely this spring.

Who has been your favorite or most surprising interview?

I can’t pick one favorite, but I’ve talked to a lot of wonderful people like Harry Hahn, a Hammermill retiree who died at 107 a few years ago. He was a champion of our archives and brought us lots of goodies. I also spoke with Marie Hatie Taylor, a woman the Behrend family practically adopted after her father died in the influenza epidemic.

Can people hear or read the oral histories you’ve completed anywhere?

We haven’t put them on the website yet, but we hope to in the future! I also plan pan to use some of them in future exhibits at Lilley Library.

 

Behrend Student Researchers Awarded for Excellence in Information Literacy

By Heather Cass, 

Publications Manger, Penn State Behrend

The libraries across Penn State have a common goal: to ensure students have the information literacy skills they need to enter a scholarly conversation and create new knowledge. In support of this goal, each spring, the libraries reward outstanding student work with undergraduate research awards.

The awards recognize research that showcases exemplary information literacy skills. Students demonstrate these skills in a variety of ways, for example, in a bibliography that captures the scholarly conversation in a field of study; in a literature review that contextualizes the student’s work within their discipline; or in the use of manuscript, archival, or other primary sources to conduct original research.

The librarians in Penn State Behrend’s John M. Lilley Library recently awarded The University Libraries’ Undergraduate Research: Excellence in Information Literacy Award to three Behrend students:

  • Anabella Lassiter, a senior majoring in English, won first place and $300 for her research work with Dr. Amy Carney, associate professor of history. “The Men Behind the Swastika: German POWs in Northwestern Pennsylvania,” which focused on researching German prisoners of war in North East, Pennsylvania.
  • Anny Lin is a sophomore Nursing major who received $100 for her research work “Optimizing Sexual Identity Development Among Asian Americans Adolescents” with Dr. Charisse Nixon, professor of psychology.
  • Marissa Litzenberg is a senior dual majoring in History and Political Science. She won $100 for her research work “Richard Strauss’s Role in the Aryanization and Censorship of Music in Nazi Germany” with Dr. Amy Carney, associate professor of history.

Visit libraries.psu.edu for more information about the award.

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