Behrend student Zach Knight strives to leave mark in music industry


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Zach Knight is a year away from graduation, but the Penn State Behrend student and aspiring musician is already putting his college education to good use.

Early last year, Knight, who previously majored in General Business and Project and Supply Chain Management, decided to make a change.

“I asked myself, ‘What applies to my life now? What relates to what I’m doing?’ Marketing just made sense,” says the Erie native, who began to seriously pursue a music career in 2011. “I feel as though the (marketing) program has helped me learn a lot about how to develop my career and further market myself.”

By all indications, Knight is doing a stellar job. His Twitter profile has over 7,100 followers while his Facebook profile has over 1,500 likes. He also was a nominee in the “Acoustics” genre at the 2014 Rock Erie Music Awards, and his first music video, “Christmas Without You,” was released last December.

Knight’s recent success is quite the juxtaposition from when he first began to record music. In early high school, he would use a microphone from the Rock Band video game to upload covers to YouTube. The method was unconventional but successful — YouTube users started requesting covers from Knight.

It continued to grow until Knight, whose style is combination of acoustic and R&B, decided to start writing his own music.

“I sat down and said, ‘I don’t want to be known for just doing covers,’” he says.

From there, Knight started working with producer Alan Dingfelder, lead vocalist of Erie-based band At That Moment, to record music. His first original song, “Out of This World,” was released in 2012 and had considerable success.

In fact, Abercrombie & Fitch signed a deal with him to have the song included in its November 2013 in-store playlist.

Though his parents, Barry and Kristen Knight, do not have musical backgrounds, they’ve been supportive and encouraging. His mother also helped spark Knight’s musical interest at seven years old when she purchased him a CD titled “The Promise” from the Christian boy band Plus One.

“I would just always sing that CD,” he recalls. “I would always try to make myself sound just like them.”

Knight says he hopes to be signed to a major label, so he will have the opportunity to spread his art and also make a living doing what he loves. If not, he says he would like to use his marketing degree to continue to work in the music industry.

“I’d really like to work for a record label in some capacity,” Knight says. “If I can’t be the music, I’d like to be the guy behind the music.”

Catching up with Zach Knight

Hometown: Erie, Pa.

Family: Barry and Kristen (parents); Xavier (19-year-old brother); Mallory (15-year-old sister); Maddy (13-year-old sister)

Biggest musical influences: “I would say Nate Cole, Justin Timberlake and Cody Simpson. Justin Bieber is also an influence, but for his musical ability, not his lifestyle.”

Musical background: “Believe it or not, I actually cannot read music. It has not been a problem though because I know all of my chords, and I can read chords. I’m a self-taught guitar player, which I learned in sixth grade. I’m a self-taught drummer, too.”

Immediate goals: “My goal, right now, is to produce as much music as possible and grow. When I do that, I know good things will come out of it.”

Audience for music at Behrend: “The Behrend student body has been great. I notice that more and more Behrend students are following me on Twitter. I’ve also performed some concerts here, which has helped get the word out.”

Hobbies outside of music: “I really like hanging out with my friends. I also like longboarding and steelhead fishing.”

What it would mean to be signed: “It would mean the world to me. It’s something that I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember.”

Zach Knight’s first EP, titled “Out of This World,” is available on his official website.

Here is the video for “Christmas Without You,” which was released in December 2013.

Behrend Reacts: What is your favorite thing about fall?


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Famous for our foliage, Erie has become a mecca for autumn leaf lovers, as well as those in favor of cooler weather.

With greens quickly becoming golds, reds, and oranges, we asked Behrend students what their favorite part of the fall season is.


Lakyn Hauptman, first-year student, Liberal Arts, from Titusville: “I like the colors of the leaves and the overall feeling of change. To me, fall is about happiness, being thankful, and spending time with your family.”


Shkurte Latifi, senior, Communication, from Kosovo: “Boots! You can wear anything with them.”


Rachel Frye, first-year student, Communication, from Pittsburgh: “Definitely the clothing. It’s cold enough to wear longer sleeves but warm enough that you don’t have to bundle up completely.”


Danielle Lee, first-year student, Childhood and Early Adolescent Education, from Erie: “My favorite thing about fall is the crisp air and my birthday in October.”


Molly Beth Black, Communication, Junior, from Oil City: “The weather is typically comfortable and the leaves are gorgeous, especially here at Behrend.”


Reagan Campbell, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Washington, D.C: “Bigger fashion catalogs! It’s not too hot or too cold so you can get away with wearing whatever you’d like. And the changing leaves, of course.”


Brian Boyd, sophomore, Sports Medicine, from Pittsburgh: “My favorite part about fall is the trees, especially around here. The scenery is really nice.”


Dan Kozubal, sophomore, Chemical Engineering, from Saegertown: “Definitely archery season. It’s a stress relief at the end of the week to go home, get up in a stand, and shoot my bow.


Lauren Blachowski, sophomore, Biology, from Philadelphia: “I love everything about fall! My favorite part is probably pumpkin picking and just being with my family.”


Burhaan Farah, sophomore, Electrical Engineering, from the Dominican Republic: “Where I come from, the weather is always very humid and hot. It cools down a lot in fall though, from early September to late November is perfect.”

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 Nicole Krahe at

Like Us:

Follow Us:

Tweet Us:

Watch Us:

Secret Lives of Staff Members: Sandi Matts – Prison Ministry

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.


sandi matts - prison2

Sandi Matts was terrified the first time the prison doors rumbled shut behind her. As she stood in the secured holding area between freedom and hundreds of men incarcerated for who-knows-what, she tried to quell her rising fear by calling on the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love…

Matts was at the Erie County prison with a group of volunteers who were leading a four-day spiritual retreat called Metanoia (a Greek word that means “change of heart”).

She’ll tell you now, 15 years later, that her presence there at that time was not entirely voluntary. It was more out of a sense of obligation—a favor returned to a kind-hearted priest who gently reminded her of a promise she had made in a hospital bed a few months prior.


As Matts, a mother of two, lay in a hospital bed weak and suffering from a 104-degree temperature that doctors could not explain, she was visited by Monsignor James Peterson, an Erie-area Catholic priest. Matts knew of Father Pete, as he was affectionately known, but she was puzzled as to why he was visiting her. He was not the priest at Matts’ church. (She learned later that a friend had sent him.)

“He said, ‘I hear you need a healing,’ and he laid his hands on my head and asked my family to join hands and pray with him,” Matts said.

When he was done, he had a private talk with Matts and her husband, John, and asked them a question.

“He said ‘When you are healed, do you promise to dedicate your life to God?’”

Matts said she would.

The next morning, her fever broke, and she was able to have the surgery she needed. The cysts removed were benign.

She spent six weeks at home recovering. On the last day, there was a knock at her door. Father Pete announced that he’d come to remind her of her promise.

“He said, ‘I come to invite you to join us in prison ministry,’” Matts said. “I said, ‘No, Father, anything but that’ and he said: ‘No is not an acceptable answer.’”

Father Pete had a passion for helping the poor and marginalized, especially men struggling to recover from addiction, mental illness and criminal pasts. He founded the Maria House Project, a 90-day program that helps men in recovery make a smooth transition back into society. Metanoia was his way of reaching those still imprisoned.

At the time, Matts didn’t share fondness for the men most fear, but it wasn’t long before she did.


One of the first prisoners she encountered was Ronnie, a large African-American man with a rugged and threatening outward appearance.

But Matts soon discovered a “teddy bear” under Ronnie’s tough exterior. He was jovial, cheerful by nature, and fun to be around.

“At one point in the retreat, the men are given letters of support written by members of local churches,” Matts said. “When Ronnie received his letter, I saw him tuck it away without opening it.”

When she asked him why, he confessed that he couldn’t read.

“He said, ‘Would you read it to me?’ and my heart was transformed,” Matts said. “Imagine having the courage to admit that you can’t read and the humbleness to ask a virtual stranger for help?”

Matts said all her fear of prison ministry was gone after that.

“I no longer identified these men by their crime,” she said. “Instead I recognized them as men of God. They are people, just like you and me. The mistakes they made may have been bigger, or perhaps they just got caught. Nonetheless, they all want and need what we all want or need—someone to care about them and believe in them, someone to talk to, someone to listen to their stories without judgment.”

Matts’ personal Metanoia led to decades more.


Though Matts wouldn’t call herself religious (“I’d say that I’m more spiritual than religious,” she said), she and her husband became part of the team of spiritual leaders — originally organized by the now deceased Father Pete—who have been guiding prisoners through four-day retreats at area correctional institutions for the past fifteen years.

I sat down to talk with Matts, an administrative assistant in the Office of Student Affairs, about her experiences with prison ministry and the book she is writing about her spiritual journey.

Tell me about the prison ministry work you do.

It’s a four-day spiritual retreat. There’s a team of twelve volunteer presenters who lead the retreats twice a year at SCI Albion. It runs from Thursday to Sunday evening and about forty men participate in it each time. My husband, John, and I have been part of the team for about 15 years now.

Were you frightened the first time you went?

Definitely. I was very intimidated, but soon you realize the inmates are just people who made a mistake. Who among us hasn’t made a bad choice? Not that it’s an excuse, but some of these men really are a victim of their upbringing. One man, Ronnie, grew up in a dirt-floor shack with multiple siblings. He never got past the third grade. From a very young age, his mother would wake them up in the middle of the night and send them out to steal food and other supplies. What chance did Ronnie ever really have?

How do you get prisoners to participate?

Well, we are there as mentors and to help guide the talks, but a handful of long-term inmates pretty much run the retreat and do all the recruiting. For the “lifers,” Metanoia is like their family. They (the inmates) meet weekly after the retreat.

When they are recruiting other inmates to attend Metanoia, they tell them to come and surround themselves with positive people. Also, participants get cookies and other desserts they otherwise never get. A lot of them come for the cookies (laughs), but as the retreat goes on, they are moved and they end up inspired by the experience.

What do they learn?

Every message, every activity, everything we do is focused on the messages of love and forgiveness. We tell them that peace can only be found through forgiveness – of themselves, of others who have hurt them. Many of them grew up without love and they are amazed that strangers can show them this kind of unconditional love.

Has your experience with prison ministry changed how you feel about crime and punishment?

Well, you learn there are two sides to every story, and things are never as black and white, or right and wrong, as they might seem. I’d like to see more of a focus on rehabilitation than punishment.

Why do you enjoy prison ministry?

Its life giving. It’s the community that keeps me going. Where do I get nourished and uplifted? At SCI Albion. It’s very rewarding “work,” and it gives me hope.

Has the experience changed you in any way? How so?

It’s helped me to recognize the good in every person. It’s there if you look for it.

At one of our Metanoias, I mentioned that I could use some prayers for my daughter who was going through a difficult time. A year later, I returned to that prison and one of the men asked about my daughter. I said she was fine and, honestly, I’d forgotten I even asked them to pray for her. But, he didn’t forget. He told me that every day that year – 365 days — he knelt on the concrete floor of his cell for 45 minutes and prayed for my daughter – someone he didn’t even know. That just blew me away.

Are there any other inmates who have stood out to you over the years?

Ed, who is in for life, for a murder he committed 30 years ago. It was so hard to believe he took a life because I know him to be very gentle, kind and happy. He was a model inmate. He had never once been reprimanded or been in “the hole.” He was up for commutation and everyone from the prison warden to the prison guards recommended him for commutation.

While his recommendation sat on the Governor’s desk, a law was passed prohibiting commutation for those sentenced to life in prison.

The next time I visited the prison, I expected Ed to be sad, but he was as happy and upbeat as ever. I said, “Ed, how can you be so happy?” He looked at me and smiled and said, “Sandi, how can I not? Obviously God needs me here, more than he needs me on the outside.”

Tell me about your book.

It’s titled Listen to the Whisper and it’s about my spiritual journey. Life is relational, so it’s full of stories about the people who have come in and out of my life and the influence they had on my journey.

I finished writing a couple weeks ago and now I’m working with an editor at Balboa Press, which is the self-publishing arm of Hay House. I hope to have it out by February, but I am actually entering a contest run by Hay House for a traditional publishing package. I have to turn in my proposal by December 15. That’s part of why I’m retiring at the end of the month. I need time to complete the proposal and to build a platform.

Did you always want to write a book? Do you have writing experience?

No and no! I never planned to write a book, but I had all these great stories in my head and one day I sat down and my hands just flew over the keyboard. You know it’s something you were meant to do when it comes out that easily.

You’re retiring at the end of September. What will you miss about Behrend?

The students. There are 47 Resident Assistants who come in every day to check their mailboxes. I love talking with them! We end up building relationships; they are such great young people. I am still in touch with some students I met the first year I worked here.

Do you ever think about how students who get in trouble could learn from the men you interact with in the prisons?

Sometimes. When students repeatedly end up in the Office of Student Conduct, I wish I could take them to SCI Albion so they could see where breaking rules can eventually lead them.

What do you wish people knew about inmates?

That they are just people who made mistakes. But, ultimately, they are all searching for the same things that we all are – love, peace, and happiness.

What one thing could everyone do to make the world a better place?

Find out what your spiritual DNA is. Who are you? What are your gifts? Share them with the world.

Sandi matts

Sandi Matts, administrative support assistant, Office of Student Affairs

Vital statistics

Position at Behrend: Administrative Assistant, Office of Student Affairs

Years at Behrend: Three

Family: Husband, John; children, Jeff and Kelly, and three grandchildren

Home: Millcreek

Church: Our Lady of Mercy, Harborcreek

Volunteer work: Maria House Project, Prison Ministry, Discover the Woman Within, Healing Ministry

Book: Listen to the Whisper, to be self-published in 2015


Behrend alumnus Chad Zurat fulfills dream in Colorado Rockies organization

Zurat, Chad (Dust Devils)By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Chad Zurat ’14 sat nervously, his eyes and ears glued to the television. The former Penn State Behrend standout pitcher waited anxiously with hopes of hearing his name called in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft.

Day one went by, and nothing.

Day two followed.

Then came day three.

A total of 1,215 baseball players were selected in the 2014 MLB Draft from June 5 to 7.

Zurat was not one of them.

After waiting helplessly for three days, he would now have to wait some more.

“I was hanging on a limb, I guess you could say. After a month, your hopes kind of waver a bit, and it’s hard to keep thinking it’s definitely going to happen,” says Zurat, of Clearfield, Pa., who compiled a 2.54 earned-run average while going 8-2 in his senior season with the Lions.

When the call came, Zurat says he was shocked and speechless.

He was at his accounting internship at Little Pine Resources in Clearfield on July 11 when he received a phone call. He was surprised to get a phone call during work but was even more surprised when he heard the voice on the other end of the line — Colorado Rockies scout Ed Santa.

“He introduces himself and says, ‘Well, we have an opening on our team, are you still interested?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course I am,’” Zurat recalls. “After five minutes, he calls back, and says, ‘Congratulations Chad, you’re a member of the Colorado Rockies organization.’”

It couldn’t have been a better home for Zurat, who says he became a fan while watching the team win 21 of 22 games in September 2007 en route to their first World Series appearance.

Within 12 hours, Zurat was on a flight to Pasco, Washington, where he would join the Tri City Dust Devils, the Short-Season Single-A farm team of the Rockies. He moved in with a host family, Dan and Chrissy Charron and their two sons, 12-year-old Daniel and 10-year-old Andrew.

Some might find the experience overwhelming, but Zurat was on cloud nine.

“I was so excited that I didn’t care at all. I was just ready to get on that plane and get out there on the baseball field,” he says.

He got his wish soon.

On July 13, just two days after that initial phone call from Santa, Zurat made his professional baseball debut against the Spokane Indians. In three innings of work, he allowed four runs (three earned), seven hits and struck out three batters.

“In my very first outing, I could tell that the talent was a decent step up from what I was used to,” Zurat says. “They take advantage of mistakes at this level. If you leave a curveball up in the zone or leave a fastball in the middle of the plate, you’re going to be snapping your head back and watching the ball go to the fence.”

Zurat would make adjustments and his performances improved. In his last three outings, he compiled a 3.60 earned-run average, walked zero batters and struck out six.

Penn State Behrend baseball coach Paul Benim coached Zurat for four years and believes the best is yet to come.

“Chad’s a great kid and a tremendous teammate. He never let his own head get in the way,” Benim says. “He just kept working, and he kept getting better. I think he’s only going to get better as he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his arm and never threw a lot of innings.”

Zurat’s next chance to impress the Rockies organization will come in February when he heads to Scottsdale, Arizona, for spring training. It will be the first time that he will have an opportunity to meet and play with some of the Rockies current stars, including shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

Zurat is going to try to remain professional, but says it will be a challenge.

“I haven’t met them yet, and the day I do, I will speechless right off the bat,” he says. “The fan is going to come out at first just because I’ve watched these guys play for the last seven years and they’re my favorite players. I have to work with them though, so there does still have to be a little bit of professionalism.”

In preparation for spring training, Zurat will begin a new lifting and running program this week. He will then start throwing again in December.

Until then, Zurat will be back working for Little Pine Resources doing contracted work. As an accounting graduate, Zurat has a nice Plan B should a professional baseball career not pan out.

He’s going to relish this opportunity while it lasts though.

“When I go to work, I look at a baseball field. I’m not looking at a cubicle all day. I get to come and play baseball. That’s all I need. It’s so much fun,” Zurat says.

Quick Hits with Chad Zurat

Family: Tom and Kristen Zurat (parents); Chelsea Brincka (sister)

Pitch repertoire: “Fastball, curve, change. I added the changeup this summer. I had been working on one, but I couldn’t get it to work. Our pitching coach worked with us a bit, and I finally found a grip that I could feel comfortable with, and it was a good pitch for me at the end of year.”

Thoughts on living with a host family: “They were just excellent people. I really enjoyed hanging out with their sons too. They were always fun to be around during the day when we didn’t have to be at the field.”

Why did you come to Behrend: “I didn’t even look at baseball for college. I was actually a basketball player. I came to Behrend because I initially wanted to pursue engineering, and I knew a lot of people from my high school were coming to Behrend. I emailed Coach Benim and asked if I could walk on. ”

Thoughts on Penn State Behrend baseball program: “It played a huge role in getting me to where I am now. Coach Benim did everything in his power to help me out, and he does everything in his power to help out any player he’s ever coached. I wasn’t even going to play baseball in college, but he gave me a chance. I can’t credit him enough.”

Coach Benim on the Rockies signing Zurat: “He was evaluated by 12 clubs, and I’m really happy that the Rockies gave him a chance. (Rockies scout) Ed Santa was here the day that Chad struck out 15 of the 21 batters he faced against Pitt-Bradford. His fastball sat at 93 miles per hour and touched 94 miles per hour, so he made quite the impression.”

Behrend Reacts: What is the last photo on your phone?


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

World-renowned photographer Sally Mann once said, “Photographs open doors to the past, but also allow a look into the future.”

Keeping this in mind, we asked Behrend students what the most recent photo in their phone was, and what it meant to them.

Ben Katsarsky

Ben Katsarsky, first-year student, Plastics Engineering Technology, from Syracuse, N.Y.: “The last photo in my phone is a screenshot of an Instagram post I made 98 weeks ago. I was missing home, so I was scrolling through my old posts and found this one of a duffel bag full of shirts. I used to have a clothing line and it was the first time I took the shirts to school to sell them to my friends.”

Braedon Blasic

Brandon Blasic, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “My last photo is of my friends and I hanging out before we all went our separate ways to different colleges.”

Tyler Dunlap

Tyler Dunlap, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “My most recent photo is a screenshot of Untitled Finale by Atreyu, on Pandora.”

Ryan Kepner

Ryan Kepner, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering, from Williamsport, Pa.: “This is a photo of a tattoo I’m about to get. I enlisted in the army a year ago because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and to support this country. I feel like this tattoo will represent that.”

Dan Kozubal

Dan Kozubal, sophomore, Chemical Engineering, from Saegertown, Pa.: “This is just a photo of chemistry notes. I’m working really hard this year to get good grades.

Julia Gabreys

Julia Gabreys, first-year student, Psychology, from Franklin, Pa.: “My most recent photo is actually a screenshot of a Snapchat my boyfriend sent me. It says, ‘Marry me.’”

Rob Strain

Rob Strain, sophomore, Management Information Systems, from Erie:  “My last photo is of my work schedule at the Sara Reed Retirement Center. I love working there because I feel like I am making a difference in the residents’ lives.”

Monique Lebrun

Monique Lebrun, Junior, Communication, from New York, N.Y.: “This is a photo of my friend and I at Aoyama for her birthday dinner. We went to three different restaurants before deciding to go there.”

Sydney Sample

Sydney Sample, sophomore, English, from Corry, Pa.: “This is a screenshot of a quote by Jim Elliott that I found on Tumblr. It says, ‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot lose.’ I just like the message.”

Julie Pace

Julie Pace, sophomore, Nursing, from Erie: “My most recent photo is of my sister and I at our birthday dinner. We are really close, so it’s always good to see her.”

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 Nicole Krahe at

Like Us:

Follow Us:

Tweet Us:

Watch Us:

The predator above us (Wings over Behrend)

By Christine Palattella
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Red-Tailed Hawk cropped

Photo by Andy Colwell ’11 COMM

The secret to optimizing your Behrend bird watching experience? Have a great photographer with you, and hope that he or she owns a lens the size of a dinner plate.

I was lucky to be in the company of Andy Colwell ’11 COMM two Saturdays ago when a pair of large raptors started circling high above Junker Center. Andy used his Nikon Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 manual telephoto lens to capture this image of a red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis.

Any lens with its own handle is a serious piece of business, but Andy’s also has an interesting provenance: Before finding its way to him, the Nikkor spent twenty years on the sidelines at Beaver Stadium, shooting Nittany Lion football games. Andy learned the patience and finesse needed to coax crisp images from his mega-manual lens while earning his two undergraduate photography degrees, in visual journalism and in art photography.

As for Buteo jamaicensis, they are year-round residents of the region and common sight over campus. Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. John Steffen told me that the males are indistinguishable from the females, to humans at least. Red-tails themselves clearly have it worked out, because they are monogamous and somewhat infamous in the bird world for their elaborate mating display: After a series of aerial swoops and dives, the pair will rest in a tree. The male will stoop down in front of the female, and if she’s into him, she rolls over so that their cloacas can meet. They’ll build a stick nest in the crotch of a tree to incubate their clutch of two or three eggs; Steffen says it’s not unusual for these nests to reach four feet in diameter. He added that in many places, red-tails are the top-dog predator; their diet of songbirds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians keeps the population of smaller vertebrates regulated.

Learn more about the red tailed-hawk and hear its call here (it will be a familiar sound to you if you’ve been at Behrend for a while).

Learn more about photographer Andy Colwell (below) and see more of his work here.

Behrend Reacts: What advice would you give to a new Behrend student?


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

The first couple weeks of college are filled with exhilaration and eagerness as new students flood campus and attend classes for the first time.

We asked returning students what advice they would offer first-year students for taking on the rest of the school year as exam dates draw nearer and weather turns colder.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson, junior, Environmental Studies, from Kane, Pa: “Practice solid study skills. You have to put the work in to learn the material.”

Tara Campbell

Tara Campbell, sophomore, Business Management, from Cranesville, Pa: “College is a lot different from high school; you have to be disciplined and responsible for yourself.  No one is going to hold your hand through it.”

Isaac Howard

Isaac Howard, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering, from East Springfield, Pa: “Don’t procrastinate. Time management is a crucial part of being successful.”

Bridget Heller

Bridget Heller, sophomore, Nursing, from Erie, Pa: “Focus on your school work, but do not forget about the social aspect of college. This time is about learning, but also discovering who you are.”

Gracie Wiles

Gracie Wiles, sophomore, Nursing, from Clarion, Pa: “Try not to freak out and stress about all of the changes. College is a big adjustment, but remember that everything is temporary and it will all be worth it in the end. You have to keep a positive attitude.”

Nick Spurgeon

Nick Spurgeon, junior, Marketing and Psychology, from Erie, Pa: “Make as many friends as possible. It will make your time more enjoyable here, and those people will become connections later in life.”

Miko Breski

Miko Breski, sophomore, General Arts and Sciences, from Erie, Pa: “Get involved in everything you can. If you don’t, you are not taking full advantage of this time and freedom.”

Vee Butler

Vee Butler, senior, Arts Administration, from Bethel Park, Pa: “Try not to be shy, and meet everyone. When you come to college, you are a blank slate and free to be whoever you want. Use it to your benefit.”

Dalton Beatty

Dalton Beatty, junior, Accounting and Finance, from Conneaut Lake, Pa: “Get to know your professors and the faculty. They are here to help you no matter what and can help you find jobs and internships in the future.”

Mackenzie Yoho

Mackenzie Yoho, sophomore, Labor and Employment Relations, from Ellwood, Pa: “Get involved, even if it is with only one club. I’ve met some of my best friends through the clubs and organizations offered here.”

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 Nicole Krahe at

Like Us:

Follow Us:

Tweet Us:

Watch Us:

Student earns wings

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Miranda Boatman took a deep breath as she boarded the Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. After two-plus weeks of training, the time had finally come.

Within minutes, the Penn State Behrend junior childhood and early adolescent education major would be more than 1,200 feet above ground. Then she would jump from the aircarft and fall at speeds exceeding 130 miles an hour.

“Once we’re in that plane, and they open that door, that’s when it gets real,” said Boatman. “There’s only one way down.”

The Bellefonte, Pennsylvania native spent three weeks this summer completing the Army’s Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. The course is better recognized by its nickname — Jump School.

“They teach you how to do a PLF — parachute landing fall,” said Boatman, a member of The Pride of Pennsylvania ROTC Battalion (which includes students from Penn State Behrend, Gannon University, and Mercyhurst University). “For me, it wasn’t as bad because I’m smaller, so I hit the grounder lighter.”

The training schedule that leads to the completion of an airborne jump is significant. It’s broken down into three weeklong intervals: ground week, tower week, and jump week.

Once the training has been completed, participants are expected to be able to execute jumps, deploy parachutes, land safely, pack swiftly, and move to a designated rally point.

Boatman said the training could be tedious at times, especially during ground week, but it’s a tried-and-true process.

“With ground week, you start on a (34-foot) platform and start swinging back and forth. They say they’ve been teaching these same methods for over twenty years, and it obviously works,” Boatman said.

During week two, participants practice jumps from 250-foot towers. The week is devoted to teaching all of the different phases of parachute flight.

The training process is far from easy. According to Boatman, more than 150 participants in her training group were dropped from the training because their jumps were not proficient during weeks one and two.

Those who made it to week three were in for some real, high-flying fun.

Boatman made a total of five jumps from the aircraft, including a night jump that proved to be the highlight of her experience.

“After you hit the ground on that jump, you knew you were getting your wings, so that was pretty great,” she said. “Everyone’s adrenaline was going after that jump, and everyone had their own little story about it.”

Boatman’s success in jumping should not come as a surprise. It’s in her blood.

Her father, John Boatman, completed the same training years earlier before serving in the National Guard. He was on hand for his daughter’s jumps and presented her with her airborne jump wings on the final day of the training.

Boatman plans to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the National Guard after her graduation in 2015. She’s thankful for the experiences ROTC has given her, especially her unique “summer school” venture.

“I just had such a great summer,” she said. “ROTC has provided me with so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I wouldn’t have been able to jump out of a plane. That’s just not something a normal college kid gets to do.”