Behrend Reacts: What would you like to see win Best Picture at the Oscars and why?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Gather your snacks, pop some corn, and find a comfy seat on the couch for the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Best Picture category looks to be a three-horse race between Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle. Other nominees include: Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

We asked students which movie they thought should win:

Kara Drapcho

Kara Drapcho, sophomore, Nutrition: “I would say American Hustle because it was funny, action-packed, and had a little bit of everything.”

Jim Shaver

Jim Shaver, freshman, Math Education: “American Hustle because out of all the nominees, that’s the one I’ve heard the most about.”

Charissa Ford

Charissa Ford, freshman, Finance: “Out of all of the nominees, I’ve heard the most about Gravity, but if I could choose one to watch, I’d probably choose 12 Years a Slave.”

Tina Rexhepi

Tina Rexhepi, freshman, Nursing: “I haven’t seen Wolf of Wall Street, but I’ve heard people comment on how good it is.”

Jeffrey Memnon

Jeffrey Memnon, junior, Finance: “Wolf of Wall Street because it’s based on a true story and based on financial stuff, which is fun and interesting.”

Rebekah Protulipac

Rebekah Protulipac, freshman, Biology: “Wolf of Wall Street because it depicted Wall Street pretty accurately.”

Rayna Ganabathi

Rayna Ganabathi, sophomore, Communication: “It’s really tough because I really loved 12 Years a Slave and Wolf of Wall Street. I would be happy with anything but American Hustle. I just was not impressed with it.”

Mina Mikar

Mina Makar, senior, Mechanical Engineering: “I would say Her because it’s so genuine.”

Tyler Marweg

Tyler Marweg, sophomore, International Business and Economics: “Wolf of Wall Street because it always had me on the edge of my seat, and it provided insight on what Wall Street is really like.”

Austin Martini

Austin Martini, sophomore, History: “Wolf of Wall Street because it was the best bro-Bible movie ever.”

Casey Labuda

Casey Labuda, freshman, Nursing: “Wolf of Wall Street because Leonardo DiCaprio is hot.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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Cross country ski trail emerges on Behrend campus


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year, so it looks like there are a few more weeks of winter left.

But why waste time complaining about it? Dr. Chris Coulston certainly isn’t.

Coulston, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Penn State Behrend, has always been an avid runner and cyclist but he decided to try his hand at cross country skiing this winter. He had the perfect training grounds: the campus of Penn State Behrend.

Coulston decided to make use of the wooded area and fields that stretch from the Erie parking lot to Logan House. He developed a one-mile, looped ski trail, which he now frequents on snowy afternoons.

I caught up with Coulston to ask him a few questions:

Steve: When did you start skiing?

Chris: The impetus for taking up cross country skiing was being a member of Team Behrend for the Highmark Quad Games.  In mid-December, I realized that I’m going to have to ski the Quad, and the original date was the second week of January. I thought, “I have to pick this up and figure this out.” That was an important consideration for where this loop came from because I needed something flat and easy to practice on. I put the skis on for the first time in the parking lot down by the tennis courts, and I fell over a lot. It was pretty awkward the first couple of times, but you just watch YouTube videos to see what other people are doing.

Steve: How was the Quad Ski?

Chris: It was my first time competing, and I would say that I didn’t embarrass myself. There were some very talented skiers out there who obviously mastered the technique much better than I have, so I still have a long way to go. Aerobically, it was very challenging. There’s a skill level to it that running doesn’t really require.

Steve: Why do you enjoy skiing?

Chris: When I look at training, I see it in two parts: the engine and the drive train. Cross country skiing is very good for my engine training. It’s not going to hurt the drive train portion of my training, but it’s not exercising muscles that I’ll use in running or biking. That’s actually a good thing because I won’t beat them up in the early part of the season. I enjoy skiing as a form of healthy living and as a thing that helps me to embrace the winter months. It’s lemonade out of lemons. It’s nice to take the weather that you have and do something that you can’t do in Texas or Utah.

Steve: How did you come up with this one-mile course?

Chris: I do a lot of training, which I define as exercise with a goal in mind. Right now, I’m training for a 50-mile run in June, so I exercise every day, and I need to make it convenient. I need low overhead, and that means a location that’s easy to get to. For cross country skiing, it’s nice to have wide-open, flat spaces to learn, and our playing field fit the bill perfectly. I have a GPS watch to measure performance, including distance, and I used that to measure the course.


Steve: How many loops do you usually do?

Chris: As an athlete, I typically measure workouts in terms of time and intensity more than distance. It usually takes me fifteen minutes for a loop, and I typically do an hour. That’s at a moderate effort level. Twelve minutes is fast while twenty minutes is pretty casual.

Steve: Has the course caught on at all around campus?

Chris: I met a staff member down there from the School of Science, and we did the loop together. I’ve advertised it on Facebook, and I’ve seen other local athletes going out there and using the trails. The nice thing with cross country skiing is that the course gets better after frequent use. I say the more people that join the party, the better.

Steve: Why would you encourage students and staff to take advantage of this opportunity?

Chris: It’s pretty unique. People typically ski on golf courses or go to Wilderness Lodge. But you have this really nice resource right here, and it’s just cool to get outside because we’re stuck inside all day. It’s an interesting terrain. You get to see the lake at one point, you get to see trees, fields, and it’s quiet. It’s a quick, smallish loop, and I’m pretty pleased with it.

Thinking of cross country skiing? Here are some videos that can help you get started:

“Hip-hop violinist” Damien Escobar impresses audience at Behrend


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

The pairing of a violin and hip-hop music may seem unconventional, but not for Damien Escobar. After all, it’s all he knows.

“As a kid, I was married to (Johann Sebastian) Bach and Dr. Dre,” Escobar said with a smile.

Escobar, who is appropriately known as the “hip-hop violinist,” put his talents on display Wednesday, February 19, as he played a lunchtime concert at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, as part of the college’s Rhythms of Life series. The series, which began in September 2002 and is sponsored by the college’s Office of Educational Equity and Diversity Programs, promotes cultural awareness on campus.

“I have always felt that the series is very important for the college, not only in regard to promoting diversity, but it enhances the atmosphere and livens up things,” said Andy Herrera, director of the Office of Educational Equity and Diversity Programs.

Escobar certainly did his part to help liven up things Wednesday. Spectators quickly took notice of the austere sounds of a bow on strings combined with the booming volume of hip-hop beats.

One female student turned to her friend and said, “I really like this,” and they both then proceeded to take a seat at Bruno’s Café, where the concert was being held. Other students and staff members quickly followed suit.


According to Escobar, this ability to draw listeners in is not by accident. Escobar, who was the youngest student at The Juilliard School in New York City when he was accepted at age 9, said he’s always been able to create great music.

Even as a young child, the Jamaica Queens, NY, native could seamlessly merge musical styles in a way that was enjoyable to the ears.

“This is just what would come out,” said Escobar. “I just have a deep understanding of how to put the two genres together in a way that makes sense.”

Escobar is not the only one in his family with musical talent. His brother, Tourie, also specializes in combining the sounds of the violin and hip-hop.

The two blended the styles together from 2004 to 2012 as the musical duo Nuttin’ But Strings. Since then, Escobar has decided to pursue a solo career. His first solo album, “I Am Me,” is scheduled to be released sometime in 2014.

Escobar promises to have an album ranked in the Top 40 within the next year. He said he knows his sound is unique compared to everything else that’s currently popular, but he believes that’s what makes it so strong.

His sound is different by design, and that’s also the advice that he gives to anyone else who might be interested in getting into the music industry.

“I can’t give people advice on how I did it, but I can say that they should identify what’s trending and do the exact opposite. It’s going to take a lot longer, but you’ll find your niche,” Escobar said.

He’s confident that he’s found his.

“There are a million rappers out there, but there’s only one Jay-Z,” Escobar said. “There are a million violinists out there, but there’s only one Damien Escobar.”

Behrend Reacts: What would you like to see happen under new Penn State president Dr. Eric Barron?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

President’s Day is meant to remember and acknowledge past presidents, but why not a new one?

That’s exactly what Penn State did Monday as the university announced Dr. Eric J. Barron as the 18th president in school history. Pretty apropos, don’t you think?

Barron boasts an impressive résumé. He comes to Happy Valley from Florida State University where he served as president for four years. Prior to that, he served as dean of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 2002 to 2006.

Barron is set to take office on or before May 12, 2014. So, with that in mind, we asked Penn State Behrend students what they would like to see happen under Barron’s leadership. Here’s what they had to say:

Jenna Klemm

Jenna Klemm, sophomore, Early Childhood Education: “I’d like another fitness center because ours is always so crowded.”

Derek Durso

Derek Durso, sophomore, Accounting and Finance: “I’d like a better scheduling program. I followed the guidelines, and it didn’t work.”

Madison Barone

Madison Barone, sophomore, Psychology: “I think everything’s pretty good, but it would be nice if he lowered tuition.”

Natasha Todd

Natasha Todd, freshman, Communication: “I’d like more minority networking opportunities. It also would be nice for freshman to have internships in their field, so we can know if we’re in the right major.”

Hunter Olsen

Hunter Olsen, freshman, Nursing: “I’d like to see more parking and some new food options.”

Neil Szoszorek

Neil Szoszorek, freshman, Supply Chain Management: “Another gym or a bigger gym would be nice because the one at Junker is always crowded.”

Sonya Kokus

Sonya Kokus, sophomore, History and Political Science: “I think they should have more funding for the arts programs at Behrend.”

Elizabeth Panko

Elizabeth Panko, senior, English Literature: “I just think we need to put more money into the academics.”

Luigi Damasceno

Luigi Damasceno, junior, Project and Supply Chain Management: “Maybe they could lower the cost of books. Books are pretty expensive, and you can always buy them cheaper online than here.”

Mara Villalongo

Mara Villalongo, freshman, Biology: “I’d like to see more scholarships for minorities at all of the Penn State campuses.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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Behrend Reacts: What’s your idea of a perfect romance?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s that time of year again. As the old saying goes, “Love is in the air.”

Valentine’s Day is this Friday, which means that plenty of flowers will be delivered, chocolates will be purchased, and five-star restaurants will be frequented. All of this is done for one thing: romance.

We asked Behrend students to explain their idea of a perfect romance. Here are the responses that we received:

Erica Nowak (2)

Erica Nowak, sophomore, Communications: “Just spending time with another person you love.”

Patrick Nowak

Patrick Nowak, senior, Accounting: “A nice dinner where you get to spend good, quality time together.”

Kalli Oberlander

Kalli Oberlander, junior, Creative Writing: “Finding a partner who complements you.”

Adam Correll

Adam Correll, sophomore, Electrical Engineering: “Spending an evening with a loved one at home. Just cuddling means the world to me.”

Ronald Cox

Ronald Cox, freshman, Physics: “A faith-based relationship with mutual respect.”

Nicole King

Nicole King, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering: “A perfect romance would be someone who is very kind and considerate of others, funny, athletic, easy on the eyes, and creative.”

Danielle Hardy

Danielle Hardy, freshman, Biology: “The person definitely has to be creative.”

Mike Rahe

Mike Rahe, freshman, Mechanical Engineering: “Getting together with someone you’ve been friends with for a long time.”

Summer Maas

Summer Maas, freshman, Science: “Somebody who can make you laugh.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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10 Ways to Make the Most of an Erie Winter

not everyone hates winter.

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

To date, Erie has received 108.5 inches of the white stuff this winter and our fair frozen city stands atop the snowfall derby race with a commanding 13 inch lead over Buffalo. (WE are the champions, my friends….)

Suffice to say this is a tough place to live if you hate winter.

Look, I get it. It’s cold. It’s wet. You have to drive slower. You break your credit cards scraping the ice off your windshield (Whaa? Is it just me that can’t hang onto an ice scraper/snow brush?). Blah, blah, blah.

But, here’s how I—a reformed winter-hater— see it:  You can sit around inside your room for months, grumbling, whining about the weather and trading germs with one another while you wait for the Earth to turn, or you can find ways to have fun and learn to love winter.

Trust me, if I could learn to embrace the winter season, you can, too.

Here are eight ways to get started:


1. Go sled riding. Behrend offers no shortage of hills to choose from. You could try the big hill behind the Otto Behrend science building (Years ago students skied on this hill. There are still remnants of the tow rope pulley system up there). It’s aweseome. If you’re not up for climbing the monster hill, try the shorter and less steep (but no less fun!) hill from Niagara Hall to Kochel Center. No sled? No problem! Stop by the RUB desk and sign one out. Or, you can buy one at Valu Home Center on Buffalo Road for less than $10.


2. Walk on water. Presque Isle Bay (at the foot of State Street) currently has a layer of 8 to 12 inches of solid ice. Drive down to the bayfront and take this rare chance to hike across the bay. It’s about a two-mile walk (four miles round trip) If you start behind the Bayfront Convention Center (lots of parking, easy access to the water) and walk over to Presque Isle State Park’s Cookhouse area.


3. Hit the links, er…lake. Love to golf? Gather up your friends and form a team for the Frostbite Open on February 16 and play 9 holes of golf on the frozen bay (now that’s something that none of your golfing buddies have ever done!).


4. Take a hike. There is nothing more peaceful than walking through Wintergreen gorge after a fresh snowfall. You’ll be surprised at how different things look in winter and the complete silence (no birds singing or insects buzzing) is serene. Dress warmly and wear winter boots – the trails aren’t plowed, of course. Enter the main trail in the lower right hand corner of the parking lot to the right of the Witkowski Building.


5. Go snow tubing. Hate lugging your sled back uphill after each run? Then, tubing is for you. You just sit your rump on the tube and hitch a ride to the top on the resort’s pulley system. It’s all “weee” and no “ugh.” Both Peek ‘n Peak Ski Resort, in nearby Clymer, N.Y., and Mount Pleasant of Edinboro, offer tubing for about $10 an hour. (Tubing passes are BOGO on Mondays & Thursdays the Peak!)


6.  Spread winter cheer. Build a snowman. Or build an army of 100 tiny snowmen outside of your residence hall to amuse everyone else on campus. Give those outdoor seating areas outside of Bruno’s and/or Burke some life and build a snow family having a winter picnic.


7. Pretend you’re Big Foot. Snowshoes will really let you get off-trail and explore in winter. You can rent snowshoes at all of the following place (which also offer trails on which to use them): Asbury Woods Nature Center, Presque Isle Ski Center (Cabin No. 2 near the Waterworks area at Presque Isle State Park) and Wilderness Lodge. If you check their websites, you’ll see that all three of these places offer group classes/lessons, too, but…you don’t really need a lesson to snowshoe…unless you haven’t figured out the walking thing. 😉


8. Document it. Winter offers dramatic lighting for nature photography. Grab your camera (OK, fine, your phone will do)  and look for the exquisite beauty that this season offers. Post your photos to Instagram with #behrend so we can see and share them, too.


9. Brag about it. When all your friends in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia or Washington D.C. whine about the three inches of fresh powder they got overnight or the black ice that shut down their campus, send them the photo above of the patio outside the cafe at the Burke Building and tell them to shut it because, clearly, you win this one.


10. Hit the pool. Had enough of the cold? Take advantage of open swim times at the Junker Center pool and pretend it is late August when we’ll all be complaining about how hot and humid it is.

Behrend Beatlemania (Faculty and Staff share their favorites from the Fab Four)


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show this Sunday, February 9, we thought it would be fun to ask faculty and staff members to tell us which Beatles tune is their favorite.  Seems we’ve got a lot of Fab Four fans on campus.  Here are their top choices:

“I’m torn between ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and ‘In My Life.’” — Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich, lecturer in music/director of choral ensembles/artistic director of YPC of Erie (fit all that on a business card!)

“’Blackbird,’ hands-down! Hope springs eternal.” — Kelly Shrout, associate director of student affairs

“I have always loved the Beatles. It is hard to pick just one song as my favorite but if forced to I would have to say ‘All You Need is Love.’ I think the meaning behind the song held true in ’67 and is just as applicable today. It also happens to be the song my husband and I walked down the aisle to for the recessional after we took our vows.  I’m also very partial to ‘Blackbird,’ ‘Across the Universe,’ and ‘I am the Walrus.’ — Dr. Heather Lum, research associate in psychology

In My Life.” — Chris Fox, assistant director, clubs and organizations

“My favorite Beatles song is ‘Eleanor Rigby.’  I have always loved the lyrics line by line.  However, if you piece them together the song can be depressing.  I also love the intensity of the strings.  Fun Fact: The Beatles don’t play any instruments on this song, as it is all strings.” — Mike Rutter, associate professor of statistics

“My favorites are ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Hey Jude.’ — Dr. Bruce Wittmershaus, associate professor of physics

“’Revolution.’ It’s an awesome message overall.  Anytime a friends is feeling down, I’ll sing to the line, ‘Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?’ — Kristen Comstock, assistant director of alumni relations

“’Let it Be.’ It reminds me of good times in high school.” — Dr. Robert Light, senior associate dean for research, and outreach & COO

‘I Will’ is my favorite.  It was our house lullaby for both of my sons.” — Mary Beth McCarthy, director, academic and career planning center.

“My favorite is ‘Let it Be.’ Why? It’s moving and offers timeless wisdom for navigating the complexities of life.” — Dr. Ralph Ford, director school of engineering, professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean for industry and external relations

“If I had to choose, it would be between two songs:  ‘Let it Be,’ and the combination ‘Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.’  Both songs resonate with me in their musical quality and their ability to make me introspective.  I feel like I’m in a better state after listening to their music.” — Dr. Robert Weissbach, associate professor of engineering

“My favorite is ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flow),’ for no particular reason other than I like the way it sounds.” — Kris Motta Torok, director of student activities and Reed Union Building.

“’Here, There and Everywhere’ gets my vote!” — Dr. Sharon Dale, associate professor of art history

“My favorite Beatles song is ‘Let it Be.’  It reminds me of the value of being a support to those in need so they have less to worry about. Also, it reminds me to be grateful for all my blessings. — Dr. Kathleen Noce, senior lecturer in management information systems

“’Come Together.’ Very strange tune, but it sticks in the head.” — Dr. Al Warner, associate professor of management

‘All my Lovin’’ and ‘Michelle.’ Why do I love ‘em? Memories of a time gone by!” — Dr. Carl Kallgren, director of CORE and associate professor of psychology

“I’m not a huge Beatles fan, but I’d have to say that my favorite tune of theirs is the ‘Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/TheEnd’ medley.” — Dr. Joseph Beilein, assistant professor of history

‘Paperback Writer.’ It has one of the best guitar riffs of all-time.” — David Vegh, lecturer in theatre

“I think their songs are so timeless.  As for my favorite, it depends on my mood and activity.  When I’m feeling nostalgic, ‘In My Life’ and ‘Penny Lane’ are excellent choices.  For an impromptu sing-a-long, you can’t get much better than ‘Hey Jude,’ which is why it has been covered so many times.  I also really enjoy ‘Across the Universe.’” — Ian McGinnity, assistant director, civic engagement and The Smith Chapel

Your turn …

What’s your favorite Beatles tune? Post a comment below.

Behrend students hone interview skills at Business Blitz event


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Jen Powell remembers the stress that goes hand-in-hand with the job interview process. The sweaty palms, the increased heart rate, the inability to concentrate—these symptoms are par for the course when preparing for a job interview.

“You never know what to expect in a job interview. Preparing for an interview can be very challenging,” said Powell, a 2008 Penn State Erie, The Behrend College graduate who now works as a financial analyst at FMC Technologies.

Powell hoped to help students better prepare for job interviews by volunteering her time Feb. 5 at Business Blitz, a speed networking event at Penn State Behrend.

The event, which was co-sponsored by Behrend’s Financial Management Association (FMA) and the Society of Undergraduate Economists (SUE), was held in McGarvey Commons and used a combination of Behrend students and alumni to simulate the job interview process. More than twenty alumni and sixty-five students registered for the event.

A Behrend alumnus sat at every table in the room, and students rotated from table to table every eight minutes. For the first ninety seconds of each session, the student would offer his or her elevator speech to the alumnus. The alumnus then offered feedback during the remaining time.

The event’s goal was to help students become more acclimated to the interview process and professional interaction.

“It’s important for students to know how to talk to professionals,” said FMA treasurer and junior finance major Brooke Landram. “Communication is so important.”

Artur Szastak has had difficulty in his job search, so he decided to participate in the Business Blitz to hone his interviewing skills.

“I feel you either make it or lose it in the first 60 seconds of talking to someone, and this can be good practice for that,” the senior finance major said. “When you come into an interview, it’s almost as if you’re being judged, and it takes you out of your comfort zone. That initial shock starts to wear away with the more experience you get.”

The trial interviews were just one part of the Business Blitz event.

Following the speed networking sessions, students stayed to network with the alumni in attendance. Alumni were also given a book that included the résumés of every student who participated in the event.

“You can make some great connections here in Erie,” said SUE president and senior business, economics, and marketing major Brittany Martinelli. “Hopefully this event continues for a long time.”

For more information on the Business Blitz event, please email Professor of Finance Dr. Greg Filbeck at