International internship leads to amazing experiences for Behrend student

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

nico at bull running

Nico Carbo’s heart beat wildly as he stood on a cobblestone street in Pamplona, Spain, waiting for the sound of hooves and the roar of the crowd gathered behind the barricades. Dressed in the traditional garb—white pants and shirt, red bandanna and a red scarf tied around his waist—Carbo’s primary concern was staying on his feet.

“All I could think was: Don’t fall or you’re done for,” he said.

A 1,500-pound running bull doesn’t care what is in its path. It’s tempting fate, then, to step out and run in front of it. But that’s sort of the point at the annual running of the bulls in Spain, which began as a way to move bulls from Pamplona’s corral to its bullfighting arena and became an annual show of bravado by daredevil young men.

Today, thousands of participants from all over the world dash through the streets trailed by charging bulls each morning of the St. Fermin Festival, which is held annually July 7-14.

Among the runners this year was Carbo, a junior International Business and Marketing major, who is interning as the community manager at EME Catedral Hotel, a five-star boutique hotel in Seville, Spain.

Carbo ran with the bulls not just once, but twice – taking a jog with the snorting half-ton animals on July 7 and 8.

I met Carbo in late April when I interviewed him about a research project he is working on (coming in the next issue of Behrend magazine) and that’s when he told me he had an internship in Spain and he intended to run with the bulls while he was there. Well, I couldn’t let that story go untold, so I emailed Carbo last week to find out how it went.

Where did you run?

I ran with the bulls in Pamplona. We started on calle Santo Domingo.

Is it just men that run? Are women allowed to run?

It is mostly young men, but women are allowed. On the two days I ran, I only saw two women.

How far is the run?

It is 820 meters (roughly a half mile), and the entire thing lasts less than five minutes. I wanted to wait until I saw the bulls before I started running.

How many bulls are there?

They say there are six, but there are actually ten. They initially let out eight bulls first and then there are two that are sent after them to push through any bulls that might have gotten separated from the pack.

How fast was the pace of the run?

The bulls are very fast. It is impossible to run with them the entire time. I ran in front of them for about 20 meters before I had to get out of the way. The bulls get to the arena in about three minutes.

What was the experience like?

I would describe it as beautiful insanity, if that makes sense. I hardly slept the night before because everyone was partying in the streets until daylight.

Were you ever frightened?

Yes, and anxious. The runners do a traditional chant to an image of San Fermin three times before they release the bulls at 8 a.m. By then, my heart was beating very fast. But once I heard the rocket go off (signaling that the bulls have been released), my sole goal was to run and stay alive.

Did you worry about falling?

Yes. There are a lot of people who run and a lot of them are drunk. There are also people who trip and end up pushing you, so I was concerned about that, too. The first day two people fell right in front of me. I was able to jump over the first one and go around the second one. On the second day, a guy in front of me was recording on his phone, and he dropped it. He bent over to pick it up and almost got gored in the head by a bull.

What has your internship experience been like so far?

My colleagues are very friendly and it’s a great experience to work with people internationally. Even though I work in Spain, I work with many French people.

What’s next on your bucket list of things to do in Spain?

I want to go to La Tomatina, which is a tomato festival in Valencia, Spain. It’s basically a giant tomato fight.

Sounds messy, but much safer than trying to outrun a pack of angry bulls.

Here’s a video Carbo sent of the end of the run, shortly after entering the stadium:

Behrend alumna reaches milestone with release of first book


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Author Heather A. Slomski ‘03, a Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, alumna, always knew that she wanted to write.

She’s been drawn to stories—both reading and writing them—ever since she was a child, and so it makes sense that her son, 19-month-old Oscar, is turning out to be a voracious reader himself.

Slomski, who earned her B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing in 2003, and her husband, Vincent Reusch, spend most of Oscar’s waking hours engrossed in children’s books.

“It’s one of the best parts about being a parent,” Slomski says.

Publishing a book herself was a goal that was always driving Slomski, who has had stories published in TriQuarterly, American Letters & Commentary, Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art, The Normal School, and other journals.

Mission accomplished.

Her crowning achievement comes this fall. That’s when her first book, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons, will be released from the University of Iowa Press. The book, is a collection of fifteen short stories, was a labor of love for Slomski.

LoversShe worked on it while pursuing her M.F.A. at Western Michigan University and then afterward when she held the Axton Fellowship in Fiction at the University of Louisville.

“Not everything I wrote fit together,” says Slomski, who also is an adjunct professor at Concordia College. “It actually took me a long time to feel as if I had a finished manuscript.”

Yet, when it was finished, Slomski says she had a strong sense of accomplishment. The book has already made waves, receiving the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award, a national award given to a first collection of fiction in English and administered through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“It’s really rewarding because I feel good about the individual stories and the collection, but I feel validated for it to be recognized and win this award,” Slomski says.

Slomski says her two favorite stories are the title story and the last story in the collection, “Before the Story Ends.”

“I like the title story a lot because it takes the structure of a play and kind of exists on the border of drama and fiction,” Slomski says. “The last story has some magic to it, and it’s also an exploration of loss, and I felt I achieved something with that story. The two stories almost don’t fit in the same book, but they do. They have totally different tones but both deal with loss in a very different way. The title story actually ends up being about gaining something, which is, of course, the opposite of loss.”

Slomski has already begun work on her next project, The Starlight Ballroom, a novel that tells the fictional story of the lives and deaths of her paternal grandparents.

The Lovers Set Their Spoons is currently available for preorder at and can be purchased at this link.

About Heather A. Slomski

High School: McDowell High School, Erie

Education: Earned B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Penn State Behrend; earned M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University.

Fellowships and Awards: From 2008-2010, Slomski held the Axton Fellowship in Fiction at the University of Louisville, where she taught fiction and organized a two-day literary festival titled “The Story of Form.” She was awarded a 2013 Minnesota State Artist Initiative Grant, which afforded her travel money to spend six weeks in Krakow and take a course release from teaching. While there, she conducted research for her novel-in-progress, The Starlight Ballroom. She also was awarded the 2013 Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant, which allowed her to take a course release, so she could continue working on the novel.

Influences: Steven Millhauser, Lydia Davis, Charles Simic, Anne Carson, Angela Carter, Bruno Schulz

Favorite book as a child: “I would say the book I kept turning to was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe because it has that mix of reality and the fantastic. As a child, and even as an adult, you just don’t question it and say ‘This could never happen,’ or ‘This is not how the world works.’”

Advice for aspiring writers: “Find a writing schedule—a time and a place where you can write, every day, if possible—and stick to it. Also read a lot. Continually seek out new authors to read, and take care not to overlook literature in translation, literary journals, or writers who publish with small presses.”

For more information, visit Slomski’s website at



Behrend faculty and staff recommended reading – Part II

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator,
Penn State Behrend


Did you get through all those titles I gave you last week? No? Slacker! (Just kidding, of course). Break out your to-read list because I’ve got some more suggestions for you straight from lips, er, keyboards of the book-loving faculty and staff members at Penn State Behrend.

Without further ado, recommended summer reading part two:

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is one of the shortest and most powerful books I’ve ever read.  It was published fifty years ago, and I read it as a teenager and reread it five years ago.  It is nonfiction and tells how the author, through medication and dye, transformed himself into a black man to experience what it was like to be black in the south in the 1950s. It’s hard to believe how recent this history is.” — Dr. Eric Corty, associate director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of psychology

“I’ll second Black Like Me. I read it several years ago and it really sticks with you. I use Ann Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down in class, and every time I read it I’m stuck by how well she captures both the culture clash of the new Hmong refugee and the western medical model’s failing. For fun, I’m reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It consists of eight historical novels written about the Scottish Jacobite upraising and those who eventually immigrated to America. I’ve heard there is a TV series about it being filmed in Scotland now.” — Dr. Dawn Blasko, interim associate dean for Academic Affairs and associate professor of psychology

I recommend House of Breath , Come, The Restorer and Arcadio, all by William Goyen, who is considered in Europe to be one of the greatest writers America has ever produced. Ironically, he’s little known here. All his stories and novels are wonderful, but the books recommended are, in my opinion, his best three novels. The House of Breath was his first novel and Arcadio was his last (published posthumously). Enjoy. — George Looney, professor of English and creative writing

I would recommend The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. Not only is he one of the best science fiction writers ever and not only did he receive his fourth Hugo Award for this novel, but this book is really imaginative and captivating. Heinlein depicts an entire society on the moon (and its rebellion against Earth) several years before we had even step foot there. This novel is science fiction at its best. — Dr. Amy Carney, assistant professor of history

I found The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy to be inspiring. It’s about how current and former presidents have cooperated through time to accomplish great things.  For fiction, I recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It’s a great story about “life, death, and hope in the Mumbai undercity.” — Dr. Greg Filbeck, professor of finance

I’ll recommend One Summer: America in 1927 by Bill Bryson. Bryson is a classic storyteller known for his bestsellers such as A Walk in the Woods and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, but One Summer is the book we all should have all read in some high school or college history class. It consists of juicy and amazingly true stories of Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge (who seems to have been the worst President ever), and many others of that era. It’s fun and kind of makes you feel intellectually thin for not knowing more history. — Dr. Darren Williams, professor of physics and astronomy

I recently discovered that British author Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave, among many others) died this year at age 97. Her suspense and romance novels featured independent females in exotic locales and they enthralled me as a teenager. I’ve been picking them up at yard sales for years and want to re-read them this summer. She also wrote several Arthurian novels that were very popular. — Jane Ingold, associate librarian at Lilley Library

I just finished Delivering Happiness a Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh who is the CEO of Zappos. I had heard that Zappos was a tremendous company, and I like inspirational books. It was good for me to read something out of my field, too. It caused me to do a lot thinking outside of the (shoe) box. — Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology

Mr. Spaceman by Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler is an intensely clever, funny, and poignant book.  The prose is spare and lovely.  The plot weaves historical events from the flight of the Kitty Hawk through the Vietnam War into a larger, compelling story about Desi, the spaceman of the title, his wife, Edna Bradshaw, their cat, and a bus of twelve people he abducts. — Ruth Pflueger, director of the Learning Resource Center and lecturer in English

The Atomic Chef by Steven Casey contains true stories of human error and things that go really wrong and why, from switching embryos to getting locked in an ATM room. I actually use this as a textbook in my upper-level human factors psychology classes. The Zen of Zombie Better Living Through the Undead by Scott Kenemore is a fun and easy read. It is kind of like Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff but from a zombie’s point of view. The Sword of Truth is the first in a large fantasy series by Terry Goodkind. And, finally, 1408 by Stephen King is an interesting, shorter horror-type story. They made it into a movie a few years ago, but it didn’t do the book justice. — Dr. Heather Lum, research associate in psychology




Secret Lives of Faculty Members: Dr. Paul Becker

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.

Paul Becker Blueberry Farm

NAME: Dr. Paul Becker

DAY JOB: Associate professor of mathematics, Penn State Behrend

HOBBY/SECOND JOB: Blueberry farmer

FARM: Blue Confusion blueberry farm, 8911 Old French Road

Three seasons of the year, Dr. Paul Becker teaches calculus and algebra and other mathematics courses at Penn State Behrend. Come summer, however, he’s in the blueberry business.

He didn’t mean to be. The job sort of came with the property that he and his wife, Sharon, bought eight years ago on Old French Road in Summit Township.

“When we bought the house they told us there was a blueberry farm in back,” he said. “But it was March and there was three feet of snow on the ground. We had no idea it was as large as it was.”

When all the snow melted, they discovered 866 blueberry bushes.

Customers begged them to keep the farm open.

“Some families have been picking here for almost 40 years,” he said. “We have one family that drives from Cleveland every summer to carry on the blueberry picking tradition.”

Becker and his wife consulted with the Penn State Extension Center who taught them how to prune, fertilize, and care for the five-acre farm, which they named Blue Confusion.

When the berries ripen in late July, the public is invited to pick their own baskets of berries. Becker, his wife, and their five-year-old son, Logan, work in a small shed out back, weighing the berries and collecting money.

Becker says selling is the easy part. The pruning, fertilizing, and mowing require more physical work.

“Pruning begins in early spring and goes until early summer,” he said. “And the mowing takes eight hours. I use the tractor between rows, but I have to use the push mower to get under each bush.”

Lest you think he might trade his faculty ID for barn boots and overalls, you should know it’s not a very lucrative business. Becker says they typically break even, but he’s not in it for the money.

“It’s a hobby, really,” he says.

HOW HE LIKES HIS BERRIES: “I like them fresh on top of a bowl of cornflakes,” Becker said. “And we make a lot of blueberry pancakes and muffins here, too.”

Paul Becker with son logan and dog bo

Becker with his son, Logan, and dog, Bo.

*** Do you have a suggestion for a candidate for a future Secret Lives of Faculty/Staff feature? Email hjc13 at