In need of a new read? Check out these titles recommended by Behrend faculty and staff members – Part I


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator,
Penn State Behrend

Ah…summer. Time to kick back with a good book. We asked some of the faculty and staff members at Penn State Behrend to share their suggestions for summer reading.

If, like me, you always forget which books you want to read in the future, try one of these strategies.

1. Make a list using the “note” feature on your smart phone or tablet, and you’ll always have your list with you when you’re browsing at the Lilley Library or out shopping.


2. Create a wish list at an online bookseller (I use Amazon) and add titles to your “to read” list when friends recommend them. It’s a convenient and easily-accessible way to keep track of books you want to read. (Tip: See if you can borrow the book through the Lilley Library before you purchase. I’m linking the books below to Amazon just so you can see the covers and read customer reviews, if you wish.)

OK….get your pencil/mouse/smartphone ready because you’re going to want to add a lot of these books to your list. I’m going to give you half the list today & the other half next Thursday, July 3).

I am finishing Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. A bit too much description of the sometimes drug-addled state of the protagonist, but a good summer read. Also discovered a very talented Sardinian writer, Michela Murgia. Her best known work, Accabadora, is translated into an excellent English version and is just haunting. — Dr. Sharon Dale, associate professor of art history

Life, Animated:  A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism by Ron Suskind is on my summer reading list. I’ve heard that it is a wonderful story that provides a unique perspective into the growing population of people diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Oh, and it includes Disney references, so I’m happy. — Dr. Carrie Payne, coordinator for strategic proposal development.

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham is an interesting look at what might possibly have led to humans being who we are today. Much evidence is given through prior anthropological work and cases. There’s not too much jargon and it’s easy to read. Also, Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. It’s a very sarcastic and witty tale of a typical nature-loving protagonist versus an environmental destructive antagonist. — Dr. Mike Naber, lecturer in geosciences

I am reading The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by social psychologist W. Pennebaker this summer.  This is a very insightful book on how “words… are like fingerprints… windows into people’s personalities.” — Dr. Carol Wilson, assistant professor of psychology

As one of Behrend’s resident sport fanatics, I’ll recommend Play Their Hearts Out by Sports Illustrated writer and Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann. The non-fiction title chronicles Dohrmann’s eight years spent covering the grassroots AAU Basketball scene and the seedy nature of the sport. In the book, he details how coaches almost view their players as investments and reveals the questionable role that sneaker companies play in youth basketball. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, this tale of corruption, greed, and power makes for a must-read. — Steve Orbanek, marketing communications specialist.

Anything by Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers). He is one of the most popular storytellers who brings a different flavor to social trends. Drive and A Whole New Mind are two of my favorites by author, Daniel Pink. I’d also recommend Emotional Intelligence and Focus by Daniel Goleman, who is a psychologist who has an amazing talent for explaining today’s wicked issues with psychological theories. Creativity, Inc., written by Pixar CEO Ed Catmull is an amazing book. And, finally, The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane is a must-read for everyone. — Dr. Pelin Bicen, assistant professor of marketing

Redeployment by Phil Klay has received great reviews. It’s is a book of short stories by a former Marine who served in Iraq. Each story is written from the point of view of a different narrator – foot soldier, chaplain, foreign service officer, to name a few. The stories are compelling as they provide insight into the challenges and suffering of war from different perspectives. — Dr. Rick Hart, director, Lilley Library, who reminds us to “Think of the Lilley Library’s ‘Browsing Collection’ for your summer reading needs!”

I just finished The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book about a 13-year-old boy who miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother and is abandoned by his father, only to be taken in by the family of a wealthy friend.  Don’t let the book’s bulk (2.1 pounds in hardcover) scare you off – The plot flies. — Chris Palattella, marketing communications coordinator

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman.  This is a non-fiction book about Huguette Clark, an heiress to a huge fortune amassed by her father. Of course, all this money led to lots of family drama. Huguette lived the last twenty years of her life in a hospital while her two New York City luxury apartments, her mansion on the coast of California, and her country home in Connecticut sat empty, except for the property caretakers. Interestingly, I just read an NPR story that said many of Huguette’s belongings will soon be going to auction. — Dr. Mary-Ellen Madigan, senior director of enrollment management

That should get you through the week. 😉 I’ll post more next week — Thursday, July 3!


10 things I learned about survival at College for Kids


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

My daughter, Lauren, 10, spent last week making rope out of bark, building a fire with one match, foraging for edible plants, and creating a shelter with leaves, mud, sticks, and phragmites.

No, I didn’t drop her off in the woods, cackling “fend for yourself, baby girl.” (We’re only two weeks into summer break so I’m not that sick of my kids yet. Talk to me in mid-August, and I may sing a different tune). She attended “Surviving the Outback” class at Penn State Behrend’s College For Kids.

On the last day of class, the instructor, Tim Lucas, a survivalist and owner of Premier Martial Arts in Erie, invited parents to see what their kids (ages 8-12) had been learning and doing all week.


If you ever find yourself lost in the woods or otherwise living the primitive life, here are ten things I learned during my one-hour survivalist lesson with Lucas:

  1. When it comes to survival in the wilderness, your four priorities in order of importance are: shelter, water, fire, and food.
  2. You can live for two weeks with just shelter and water. “Shelter is most important,” Lucas said. “You’ve got a couple days to find water and weeks to find food, but exposure can kill you quickly.” According to this site, you can live without shelter for three hours, without water for three days and without food for three weeks.
  3. Jewelweed, a common Pennsylvania weed, is a great poison ivy cure. If you’re exposed to poison ivy, crush the jewelweed in your fingers to make a pulpy mash and cover the poison-ivy exposed skin with it. More on that here.
  4. Cattails are one of the most valuable plants for survival. They provide not only food, but also tinder, insulation, and shelter material.
  5. Aside from a sharp knife, one of the most useful tools for wilderness survival is an arm-length, wrist-thick throwing stick. Properly thrown sticks can be used to take down a small animal (raccoon, rabbit, etc.).
  6. You can make twine/rope/cordage using the bark from dead trees and using your fingers to shred and twist it. “Look for trees with dead bark, and strip off long sections of the softer layer between the wood and the outer bark,” Lucas said.
  7. Phragmites, cut and bundled, make great sleeping mats, blankets, chairs, and shelter cover.
  8. When building shelter, be sure to put down a thick (several inches) layer of leaves (or phragmites) to separate your body from the ground, which can get very cold.
  9. Build a fire ring with an opening toward you/your shelter to conserve and aim the heat. The stones should be nose high when sitting in front of it.
  10. Daisies and clover are edible not just for rabbits and deer, but for humans, too. In fact, many wild plants are edible.

So what are your kids doing this summer? There are still openings in many exciting, fun, and educational (don’t tell the kids that though) classes at College for Kids (Click on the registration link to see which classes still have openings) Who knew summer school could be so much fun?


Demonstrating their throwing stick skills.


My daughter, Lauren, in the phragmites chair outside the shelter.


Mud, grass, leaves, phragmites and more were used to build the shelter. Notice the stone fire ring with the opening pointed toward the chair/shelter, too.






Secret Lives of Staff: Doug Lee

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, 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.


If you’ve ever played or watched sports, you know how emotionally charged the singing of the National Anthem can be. It’s not uncommon to see players and fans moved to tears by The Star Spangled Banner.

Doug Lee, a groundskeeper at Penn State Behrend, is one of those vocalists who can make big, strong ballplayers weep. Lee, who has a bass voice, has sung the National Anthem before several Erie SeaWolves games over the last few years. And, after his Penn State Behrend colleagues found out about his hidden talent, he was asked to sing at a few events on campus, too, including a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association softball tournament.

Lee grew up in a musical household. In fact, his father graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music as a classical pianist.

“There was always music playing at the house,” Lee said. “I was in the church choir and youth choirs from the time I was a boy.”

Lee’s father never pursued music as a career though, choosing instead to work at the family business — a golf course in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.

It was at that course that Lee’s landscaping career took root. He enjoys working outside and has been known to sing a little on the job at Behrend.

“I sing to my headphones a lot,” he says with a laugh.

He also sings to the congregation at Fairview Presbyterian church every Sunday as a member of the church choir.

Asked to recall the first record he ever owned (and, yes, it was all vinyl back then, kids), Lee smiles and says that it was a Grand Funk Railroad 45 rpm record, given to him by his grandparents, who had bought him a “fold-down record player.”

“I think the song was ‘American Band,’” he said. “They had no idea what they were buying. The guy at the record store told them it was popular.”

Today, Lee, who is a husband and father of three (24, 19 and 14), says he likes nearly all genres of music, but prefers alternative or new-age rock. He has an affinity for Matthew Good, a Canadian rock musician, and Mike Oldfield, an English musician who blends progressive rock with world, folk, classical, electronic, ambient, new-age sounds.

But, when he sings, Lee said he sticks to folk music, hymns and, of course, the Star Spangled Banner. “I don’t have a very contemporary voice,” he explains.

While Lee’s voice may not be contemporary, it sure is impressive. Have a listen for yourself – check out his 2011 Erie SeaWolves National Anthem performance:



Behrend has been the perfect fit for T. Reed Ferguson Award winner

Paul Lukasik

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

As a Buffalo, N.Y., native and avid Bills and Sabres fan, Paul Lukasik seemed destined to attend college in his home state. In fact, he didn’t even plan to look at colleges outside of New York.

He’s glad he did, though.

“Penn State Behrend was the only out-of-state school I applied to,” Lukasik says. “Once I came here, I knew this was the place for me.”

Lukasik, who recently finished his junior year as a Project and Supply Chain Management major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, says he found college daunting when he first arrived. He knew no one, and the entire area was unfamiliar to him.

So, he devised a plan.

“My strategy was to get as involved as I possibly could,” Lukasik says.

In his three-plus years at the college, Lukasik has been a member of Kappa Delta Rho, Reality Check, and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. He’s also served as a resident assistant and on the budget committee for the Student Government Association.

Lukasik’s contributions to the college were recognized April 27 at Penn State Behrend’s sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation when he was named the recipient of the T. Reed Ferguson Award. The award recognizes a junior who has demonstrated scholarship, leadership, and citizenship through his or her academic and out-of-class involvement and gives promise of further achievement in the senior year.

Lukasik’s success has carried over outside of the classroom. This past year, he began working as a sourcing intern at GE Transportation. He continues to work in that position over the summer

Lukasik says he learned the need to be active and involved as a young child. His grandparents founded the Fair Haven’s Church in North Tonawanda, N.Y., and he was always helping out.

“It’s been instilled in me,” Lukasik says. “I really just try to make the most of my time, and I just like to help people.”

Lukasik will have the opportunity to help more people this fall when he takes over as president of Reality Check, a community service organization on campus. Every year, the group goes on an Alternative Spring Break, a week-long service trip. The group went to New Orleans this past year and worked on rebuilding houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Lukasik says he has enjoyed the opportunities to help others that Penn State Behrend has given him. He also recognizes how the college has helped him.

“Behrend is the perfect size, has a great group of students, and I can’t say enough good things about the Sam and Irene Black School of Business. Looking back, to when I was a freshman, I’ve just really evolved,” Lukasik says. “I had every intention of eventually transferring to University Park, but after my freshman year, I just knew that wouldn’t be possible.”


Connecting Behrend to the Bayfront and beyond – Hit the trail!

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

I’m an avid runner and I live just a few miles from Penn State Behrend. Several years ago, when the Commonwealth was clearing land to make way for the Bayfront Connector, they ruined some of my best running routes. I harbored a grudge against the Bayfront Connector for a while because of that. But then, persuaded by the convenience of traveling to downtown Erie in 10 minutes, I reluctantly began using the road and noticed there was a meandering blacktopped path to the right of the road.

What’s this? Could they have thought of the runners and walkers and bikers? Could it actually run the entire length of the road? No, they wouldn’t have thought of us.

(Yes, I do tend to be skeptical, but in my defense, I worked for the newspaper for fifteen years and you just kinda end up that way when you’re a journalist).

I’m happy to tell you that I was dead wrong.

Trail history

Indeed, there is a wide paved recreational path (similar to the Multipurpose trail at Presque Isle State Park) that runs continuously alongside the Bayfront Connector from Penn State Behrend to Frontier Park on Erie’s west side.

The idea for a landscaped trail alongside the road took root during PennDOT’s public hearings about the planned connector.

“The trail really was a whole community effort,” said Ray Schreckengost, executive director of the Erie Western Pennsylvania Port Authority. “Bill Petit was the district engineer who incorporated it into the design.”

“There was a rallying cry from the community to ‘humanize the connector,'” Petit said. “We started to rethink the project, knowing that we needed to do something special.”

A committee of various interested community members formed and presented ideas to PennDOT. Soon, the meandering trail featured landscaping, decorative noise walls and stonemasonry dividers along the connector, was part of the plan Petit said.

How to get on the trail from Behrend

The Bayfront Connector trail entrance is in the back left corner of the Erie Lot, by the sign that says “Behrend Fields.”

You can also get on the trail from the Logan House on Station Road. Trailhead is to the left of the parking lot.

Where you can go (and mileage)

Distance via the Bayfront Connector Trail from Behrend (Erie lot entrance) to….

Shannon Road — 1 mile

38th Street — 1.5 miles

McClelland Ave. – 2 miles

Broad Street – 3.5 miles

12th Street – 4.5 miles

6th Street – 5 miles

Bayfront Parkway – 5.5 miles

Dobbin’s Landing (foot of State St.) – 6.5 miles

Frontier Park – 8 miles

The paved path ends at Frontier Park, but you can ride/run/walk down to Sixth Street and use the bikeway lane all the way to Presque Isle State Park for an 11-mile (one-way) trip from Behrend.

Here’s a map of the entire Bayfront Connector Trail  (with mileage markers) from Behrend to Sara’s restaurant at the foot of Presque Isle State Park.


It’s about 5.5 miles from Behrend to this sign at the foot of the bayfront where the Bayfront Connector meets the Bayfront Parkway (trail continues along Parkway).

It’s about 6.5 miles from Behrend to Dobbin’s Landing (above) at the foot of State Street.

It’s about 11 miles if you go all the way to Sara’s at the foot of Presque Isle State Park. Bring some money so you can refuel with a foot-long Smith’s hot dog, curly fries, and ice cream!

What you’ll see

There’s much more to be seen than grass and trees. It changes from the manicured green lawns of Penn State Behrend to an inner-city setting with factories and 6-lane intersections to a bustling bayfront with gorgeous lake views.

The Bayfront Connector has been designated a National Scenic Byway and is part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, owing to the scenic vistas and intrinsic qualities that make it different from your run-of-the-mill ribbon of concrete slicing the landscape.


Good News: It’s all downhill from Behrend. Bad News: It’s all up on the way back (you know, when you’re good and tired). So, you may want to get a family member or friend to pick you up. (This map includes an elevation chart).

What you need to know

The path may appear to end at various roads/places along the way. It doesn’t. Just look ahead and you’ll see where it starts again.

One place that the trail pickup is not obvious is at State Street. To get on the trail again, cross State Street and enter the parking lot for the bait shop/miniature golf course. Run/walk/bike to the back of the lot and turn right and you’ll run into the path again just past the Bayfront Convention Center.


I’ve run/biked/walked this entire trail countless times myself, with friends, and with my kids and have never once felt unsafe on the trail, but it does go through the woods in some spots and it goes through areas of the city that some people avoid.

My advice: Take a friend and a cell phone. Also, I would not recommend using the trail after dark. The only portion of it that is lit is the part on Behrend property from the college to Logan House on Station Road.

Trail surface

Most of the trail is blacktop, which is kinder to a runners’ knees than cement and is great for biking/roller blading.

Winter use

The trail is not maintained (read: shoveled) in winter. Bad for runners/walkers/bikers — great for cross country skiers.


I’ve covered every inch of this trail/road by car, foot, and bike, and I’m happy to take your questions at hjc13 @ psu. edu.

So….what are you waiting for? Go explore!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.






Behrend award winner seeks to spread college students’ stories

Stacy Rabat

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

When Stacy Rabat was a junior in high school, her father, Khalil Rabat, abruptly suffered a heart attack, went into a coma, and died.

The experience was devastating for Rabat, but she says it’s taught her how precious life can be and to think before judging others. Because of her experience, she yearns to connect with other people and hear their stories.

That’s why Rabat, a sophomore marketing major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and this year’s winner of the Irvin H. Kochel Award, and another Penn State student, Rachael Hazen, have entered into a venture titled Scream Your Story. The two are working to create a blog or website that provides an outlet for people to share their personal stories and experiences.

“You can be sitting in a room with someone and have no idea what that person has gone through,” says Rabat, who received the award at the sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27. “It’s good to take a step back and realize that not everyone is going through the same things you are, and you don’t want to be judgmental.”

The website is still in its infancy, but Rabat hopes to work on it extensively this summer and into the fall semester. Hazen, who spent the previous two years at Penn State Behrend, plans to work on it from University Park, where she’s enrolled for the fall.

“We want to ask people what hardships they’ve been through, and we want them to send in their stories,” Rabat says.

With one contributor in Erie and another in University Park, Rabat says she expects the blog to grow significantly. She also plans to start including videos, too.

Rabat’s drive is indicative of the Irvin H. Kochel Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding student who demonstrates qualities of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship through their involvement in programs and services that positively influence fellow students and the college community.

Rabat has been very involved in her time at Penn State Behrend. She served as the THON chair and is a member of the Student Government Association, the Lambda Sigma national honor society, and formerly a member of the Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority. Rabat attributes much of her success to her own unique story.

Her father also remains a motivating force in her life.

“He was my best friend. I think of him every day,” Rabat says.