Behrend Reacts: Students Take On Homelessness


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

If you’ve been on campus this week, chances are you’ve noticed the cardboard structures scattered throughout.  The creators and inhabitants of these structures are members of organizations and clubs, aiming to create awareness and raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania.

Despite the warm weather, Behrend students felt the cold reality of homelessness this week. We asked them about their takeaways from this unique experience.

Christina Ayres, senior, Psychology: “People don’t realize how poverty affects children too, so I brought my son out here to show that.”


Tyler Raco, sophomore, Engineering, member of Kappa Delta Rho: “It’s not easy asking for money; it definitely takes a different mentality. It’s hard for people who haven’t been exposed to this to relate, but this project has given us a different insight.”

Ian Connell, senior, Marketing, member of Kappa Delta Rho: “Poverty is a bigger issue than we realize. Many people think they can ignore it, and it will go away.”


Kyra Gregoroff, Rachel Simoni, and Samantha Gaton, members of Gamma Sigma Sigma: “I’m definitely more appreciative of what I have now. We can go to the bathroom in Bruno’s and we get to go back to our own beds tonight. People actually have to live this way and without access to many of the supplies we had to make this shelter.”


Abby Postlewaite, sophomore, Business, Christina Pendice, senior, Mechanical Engineering, members of Omicron Delta Kappa and Lambda Sigma: “It’s definitely been hard. Being out here offers a different perspective and allows students to feel what it’s like to be homeless for a day. We definitely urge people to donate to The Second Harvest Food Bank.”

More photos of Cardboard City:

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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

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Far from Home: Craig Miranda finds culture shock to be not all bad


Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

For some, it takes days, even weeks, before culture shock sets in. For Craig Miranda, it took seconds.

The Kuwait native, who is half Indian and half British, arrived in the United States this past summer for the first time. Disparities were everywhere.

Green grass. Trees. Leaves. Blonde hair. Couples holding hands.

Nothing was similar to what Miranda was accustomed to in Kuwait, which had been his home for all 18 years of his life.

“It’s a big culture shock coming from Kuwait, which is closed off from the rest of the world, to America, which is wide open,” Miranda says.

Miranda noticed these differences when he and his family vacationed in California in July and again when he arrived at Penn State Behrend in August.

But for Miranda, the culture shock wasn’t all bad.

“I love the changes,” he says. “Everything here is so pleasing to the eyes. I love that.”

Miranda, a first-year Computer Science major, says leaving his family was difficult.

“During my first week, I was missing my family and longing to go home,” he says. “It was a challenge knowing that I was not going to be home for a year.”

Miranda has found plenty of distractions to ease the transition.

He’s quickly made friends and has enjoyed his coursework. He has been working on his tennis game, and plans to try out for Behrend’s team this spring.

Miranda regularly calls his parents, Colin and Sandra, and he plans to visit his brother, Clive, during the winter break. Clive is pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“I thought it would be difficult, but the people here have made the transition so easy,” he says.

Miranda has also been proactive in making the most of his new environment. He’s taking advantage of the opportunities that Penn State Behrend provides and is already leaving his mark on the campus community.

Miranda, a self-described Adam Levine fanatic who likes to sing and play the bass guitar, has an affinity for pop music, and he wants to find a way to experience that music alongside fellow students. He’s currently in the process of getting approval for a new club that would accomplish just that.

“We have the Behrend musicians, we have the Acapella group (Tonacious), but there’s nothing where people can just come together to sing their hearts out. I want to have this club collaborate with the dance club and the engineering club, and I want it to be called the Penn State Behrend Performance Band,” Miranda says. “Even though I’m just a freshman, I want to start big. I want to make an impact.”

Miranda is in the process of getting approval for the new club, and he’s looking forward to performing alongside fellow students.

That’s not the only thing he’s looking forward to though. In Kuwait, summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. Even in winter, average daytime temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees.

“I’ve never seen snow, and I can’t wait,” Miranda says. “Everyone says I’ll hate it after two weeks, but I know I’ll love it.”

Considering the fact that Erie had 138.4 inches of snow last year and earned the honor of America’s snowiest city, it probably won’t be long until Miranda is up to his ankles (okay, shins) in the white stuff.


Behrend Reacts: How should we react to the Ebola Epidemic?


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend


The Ebola epidemic currently sweeping through West African countries has proven to be the most devastating single outbreak of the disease in history.  Medical professionals say that the virus is unlikely to spread in countries with more advanced medical systems such as the United States, but authorities are still taking precautionary measures such as special training for health care workers and airport screenings.

With all of the current hype in the media, sometimes it is hard to decipher fact from fiction. We asked Behrend students how they think we should react to the Ebola epidemic.



Trey Loomis, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering, from Warren: “I’d say that people are overreacting.  We’ve been able to contain it so far and have dealt with similar things before. I don’t think that we should ban travel.”


Melissa Gess, first-year student, Chemical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I think the general population should be calmer about the situation. We are a wealthier country and should be able to handle it.”


Katelyn Pegher, junior, Psychology, from Dubois: “I feel like America has done a good job of containing it, or at least it seems like we have. I’m not concerned.”


Alex Herzing, sophomore, Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies, from Saint Mary’s: “I don’t think we should be worried. Our medical system can handle it.”


Josh Holbert, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I don’t think we have much to worry about. I think that it’s mostly media hype. There have only been a few cases in the U.S and we seem to be containing it well.”


Trisha Hall, sophomore, Psychology, from Ohio: “I don’t think we should be too concerned. I do think the cases in the United States could have been prevented, but I’m sure our medical system will be able to control the virus.”


Will Cole, junior, Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies, from Russel: “Given how great our country is and the amount of research done, it’s probably not that big of a deal. I think it’s just another thing for the media to exploit.”


Daniel Gross, first-year student, Biomedical Engineering, from Erie: “I don’t think that people should be panicking, running wild in the streets. It is something we should take seriously though.”


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

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Far from Home: Yara Elsaied transitions from New York to Erie


Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of an international student at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

An unfamiliar setting. New faces. New sights. New scents.

It doesn’t scare Yara Elsaied. She’s done this before.

Elsaied is in her first year as a student at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. While Erie, Pennsylvania and Behrend are entirely new for Elsaied, the United States is not. The Cairo native has grown quite fond of the country over the past couple years.

Yara Elsaied walks to class on a fall afternoon.

Yara Elsaied walks to class on a fall afternoon.

In 2013, Elsaied, who had been studying at The American University in Cairo, went to the United States to study at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, as an exchange student.

She didn’t come back.

For one-and-a-half years, Elsaied attended Stony Brook and learned about American culture. She saw the sights of New York and forged many great relationships. Still, something was missing.

“I always wanted to come here (to Penn State Behrend),” says the senior accounting major, who transferred to Penn State Behrend this fall.

Stony Brook did not have an accounting program, which is what made Behrend so attractive to Elsaied, who one day hopes to work at one of the Big Four audit firms.

The skyscrapers and busy streets that were constants in Elsaied’s life have been replaced by green fields and colorful leaves. She says that she has enjoyed Erie and Behrend in the time she has spent here so far, but she does get homesick.

She misses her family—mother Noha, father Ahmed, sister Mayar (17) and brother Zediad (6)—but now she also misses her New York “family.”

“It was very hard to leave New York, especially one of my best friends, Gabriella.” says Elsaied. “I actually didn’t know how to tell her I was coming here. Thankfully, she totally understood.”

Food has been another challenge for Elsaied. In New York, she was able to get the ingredients needed to cook Egyptian food, but that’s not been the case in Erie. She said she longs for a nice plate of Dolma Mahshi, her favorite Egyptian dish.

But Behrend does have other advantages that help keep her in touch with her heritage.

This fall, the college welcomed 186 new international students, the largest international class ever.

“Compared to New York, there are actually a lot more Egyptians here. The community is much larger here,” Elsaied says.

So far, Elsaied says she enjoys the new friends she has made and also enjoys her coursework. While she misses Cairo and New York, she’ll get a taste of both of them over the holiday break. Her sister will be visiting at that time and the two of them have planned quite the excursion with visits to New York, Florida, Las Vegas, and California all on the to-do list.

A trip to the west coast during an Erie winter sounds like an ideal getaway for Elsaied, who has quickly caught on to one of her new home’s most notable traits.

“Erie weather is so different one day to the next,” Elsaied says. “I always check the weather whenever I leave my apartment.”


Behrend’s rain gardens enjoy successful summer growth period

Jonathan and Bridget Thompson

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

You’ve probably heard of rain gardens, but do you know what they are?

At Penn State Behrend, they are a significant part of the college’s best management practices for storm water efforts.

The college’s two rain gardens — one between Fasenmyer and Hammermill buildings, and one to the east of Nick, near College Drive — sit lower than the surrounding lawn and act as basins to catch and slowly absorb rain water, helping reduce potential flooding during storms and filtering pollutants from storm water runoff that would otherwise enter Four Mile Creek and, eventually, Lake Erie. Storm water runoff is considered one of the nation’s main sources of water pollution.

The rain gardens were planted in 2012 with a $36,495 Growing Greener grant from the Department of Environmental Protection awarded to Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology.

According to Quinn, the gardens have been cut back for the fall, but they grew well this past season. She attributed the successful growth in part to the compost, which is mixture of food waste from Dobbins Dining Hall and leaf matter from the wooded areas on campus, added to the gardens.

The gardens do more than just help with storm water runoff. They are also butterfly way stations and certified pollinator gardens. When choosing what to plant in the garden, Quinn said students researched native plants that fit the three zones — wet, moist, and dry — of a rain garden and also filled the criteria for pollinator and butterfly certifications.

Plants in the college’s rain gardens that are tolerant of standing water include cardinal flower, New England aster, several varieties of Joe Pye weed, swamp milkweed, and cinnamon fern.

Some plants in the garden thrive in areas that hold several inches of water during and immediately after a rain event, but is otherwise dry. Plants in these areas need to be draught tolerant, but also handle water well, too. Plants in the garden that fall into this category include black-eyed Susan, false sunflower, kobold, and summer sweet.

Quinn said that every plant in the garden grew beyond expectations.

“The Joe Pye weed spread well, and there are plans to transplant some of it to other wetland areas on campus,” she said. “The milkweed was a beautiful addition and a very important plant to include for Monarch butterflies, who migrate to the Erie area annually.”

If you missed the gardens this summer, don’t worry, they’ll be abloom again in the spring. And the bees and butterflies will be there to greet you!

Until then, here are some photos to enjoy:

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Behrend Reacts: What’s making you happy this week?


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend


Whether it’s a free t-shirt from Health and Wellness, a hard-earned A on an exam or simply the change in seasons, there’s plenty to smile about on campus this week.

So we asked Behrend students: What makes you happy?



Jian Riccadonna, first-year student, Plastics Engineering Technology, from Cranberry: “I would have to say that I’m looking forward to the Penguin’s game this Saturday.”


Rachel Frye, first-year student, Communication, from Pittsburgh: “Going home this weekend and spending time with my boyfriend.”


Patryk Sperka, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “The weather. My brother and I climbed out onto my roof last night to hangout and it was perfect. There was a warm breeze. It was just blissful.”


Julie Guidry, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I like the smell of the pine needles that have fallen off the trees. Just fall, in general, is making me happy.”


Alexa Latshaw, sophomore, Biology, from Franklin: “I would have to say the weather. It’s been really nice and warm this week.”


Kristen Collins, junior, Communication, from Wattsburgh: “The thing that makes me the happiest is just being able to spend time with my husband.”


Robbi Kitelinger, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Tidioute: “The weather, hanging out with my boyfriend, and going home to see my sister soon.”


Brittany Thomas, sophomore, Wildlife and Fisheries Science, from Bethel Park: “My Theta Phi Alpha sisters, especially my “Big”, Chelsea. I’ve had a rough couple of weeks and my sisters are always there to help.”


Corey Flesik, sophomore, Industrial Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “Not having exams to study for this week makes me really happy.”


Darliny Rivera, first-year student, Nursing, from New York: “Getting my nursing final over with, and just being here. I love Behrend.”


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

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Behrend Reacts: Who is your favorite professor?

BehrendReactslogolargeBy Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Author William A. Ward once said; “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

With so many dedicated professors on our campus, we asked Behrend students, who is their favorite and why?


Samantha Raible, senior, Biology, from Pittsburgh: “I would have to say my favorite professor is Dr. Pam Silver, Professor of Biology. She was tough but always took the time to help students. She made things interesting enough to keep us awake at an 8:00 A.M class.”


Cat Hensley, first-year student, Geography, from Michigan: “Dr. Michael Naber, lecturer in geosciences. He’s easygoing, funny, and has Harry Potter glasses.”


Cassie Peters, sophomore, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, from Erie: “I would say Ms. Luciana Aronne,  lecturer in chemistry. She is supportive, motivational and keeps class interesting.”


Ronnie Cox, sophomore, Physics, from Erie: “My favorite professor would have to be Mr. Adam Combs, lecturer in mathematics. He is not going to take it easy on you but will take the time to go over things you don’t understand.”


Lindsey Chase, first-year student, Kinesiology, from Randolph, N.Y: “Mr. Scott Rispin, lecturer in art. He makes things fun and interesting, and is very personable. You can tell he cares about his students.”


Pat Kress, sophomore, Finance, from Erie: “I would say my management professor, Dr. Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management. He is enthusiastic and relates concepts to college students well. He makes an 8:00 A.M class bearable.”


Matthew Moreau, senior, Biology, from Massachusetts: “Dr. Michael Campbell, a professor of biology. He engages you and makes things interesting. If you pay attention in class, it’s really rewarding.”


Katie Powers, first-year student, Biology, from Clearfield: “I would say Mr. Scott Simpson, lecturer in chemistry. He’s young and you can tell he’s excited about teaching. He also does experiments every day which is really cool.”


Mary Bradley, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “My favorite professor is Dr. Angela Rood, lecturer in psychology.  She breaks the class down to make it easier to understand and does activities every day to keep things fun and interesting.”

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

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