Penn State Behrend’s Highlights of 2014

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Where did the year go?

Can you believe we are less than ten days away from saying goodbye to 2014?

At Penn State Behrend, the year was an eventful one. We welcomed our largest freshman class ever, introduced a number of new academic programs, and began construction on a new Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center.

Please join us to revisit some of these highlights in the video above.

Happy New Year, and here’s to a great 2015!

Meet Standout Senior Kelly English-James

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

kelly english-james dec. 14 2

Kelly English-James

Major: Management Information Systems

Minors: Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain Management

On choosing her major: “Originally, I was a Marketing major. I was always a creative person and enjoyed making things that would be visually appealing to others. I was introduced to coding, web design, and data bases in an introductory level MIS course and immediately fell in love. I learned that I’d rather be the person working on the system than in the system. Choosing MIS has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life thus far.”

Involved to the nth degree: English-James certainly made the most of her time at Behrend. She was a Lion Ambassador, president of the Human Relations Programming Council, member of the Management Information Systems Club, member of the National Society of Black Engineers, member of the Association for Black collegians, Member of the Multicultural Council, member of the Organization of African and Caribbean students, member of the Organization of Latin American students, member of Women Today, and member of the International Student Organization. Pheww….

On motivation and drive: “I have an outstanding drive and motivation. When I set my mind to things I’m truly unstoppable.”

Embracing differences: “I am most engaged and attracted to people who are intelligent and have unique mindsets. I am very excited when I discover that someone thinks completely different from others. It truly inspires me.”

Advice for new students: “Be open minded and always plan ahead. Plan your next two semesters of courses in advance. If you don’t plan, you may find yourself in a difficult academic situation!”

English-James will graduate on Friday, December 19. She has accepted an MIS position in Rhode Island.

Meet Standout Senior Kristina Peszel

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

kristina peszel

Kristina Peszel

Major: English, with Professional Writing option

Minors: Management Information Systems

Certificate: Social Media

On choosing Behrend: “It has the resources and prestige that come with being Penn State, but with smaller classes. I was able to not only really get to know my professors—and to have them know me—but also to have the kind of intense discussions in small classes that turn an average learning experience into a profound one.”

On English as a versatile degree: “I always had a knack for writing and I like helping people. With English, specifically with the professional writing option, I can help businesses communicate more effectively. I like solving problems, and ineffective communication is essentially a problem of words; every word we use is a choice, so how can we use words in the most effective way to get our point of view across? English is an exciting major because it’s a major of possibilities!”

On minoring in MIS: “I decided to minor in MIS without any prior technical background. There were times I questioned my ability to do something so different than what I was used to, but I stuck it out and eventually got two MIS-related internships.”

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: “Any time I help another student succeed. Whether that’s through tutoring (Peszel was the lead writing tutor at the college’s Learning Resource Center) or just giving someone advice, nothing makes me more proud than knowing I helped someone in a positive way.”

Words to live by: “Someone once told me that there is no comfort in the growth zone, but there’s no growth in the comfort zone. I try to remember that when I’m doing something new. If you never get out of your comfort zone and try new things, you don’t give yourself the chance to grow.”

Advice for new students: “People will tell you not to take your electives right away and to ‘save’ them, but if you aren’t sure what you want to major in, take some electives! You won’t know if something is right for you until you try it.”

During her time at Behrend Peszel was a member and officer of Alpha Sigma Tau, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Reality Check. She participated in Alternative Spring Break in 2014, wrote for the Behrend Beacon, and was involved with the Lion Entertainment Board for two years. She also served as the lead writing Tutor of the Learning Resource Center where she honed her skills in technical writing.

Peszel will graduate on Friday, Dec. 19. She has accepted an MIS position at Erie Insurance.

Meet Standout Senior Sha’Rayne “Ray” Smith

Sha'Rayne Smith

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Sha’Rayne “Ray” Smith

Hometown: Newark, N.J.

Majors: International Business and Marketing

Minors: Management and International Studies

A true leader: While earning two majors and two minors, Sha’Rayne “Ray” Smith also served as president of the Multi-Cultural Council, overseeing twelve smaller minority organizations. She was the only student chair on the Institutional Equity and Diversity Committee and is a former president of the Human Relations Programming Council. As if all of that weren’t enough, she is also a reservist in the United States Army.

On her duties as a soldier: “I’ve been a reservist for the past five years. I specialize in heavy equipment operations and can operate more than fifteen heavy equipment machines.”

Ray’s definition of a good life: “Albert Einstein said, ‘It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world, at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it,’ I believe that a good life is not one that concentrates on the happiness and success of oneself. A good life is one that positively contributes to the lives of others.”

How she plans to contribute: “I’m passionate about making the world more sustainable.”

Sha’Rayne Smith is the Farewell Speaker at Penn State Behrend’s Winter Commencement this Friday, December 19.

Far from Home: Craig Miranda experiences first finals week


Editor’s note: Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Craig Miranda has experienced plenty of things during his first semester in America. He’s seen snow for the first time, traveled to New York City and even started his own musical performing club at Penn State Behrend.

Last week, the first-year computer science major experienced something new: the dreaded all-nighter.

For Miranda, it was not exactly a bad thing though.

“I usually leave a few things to the last minute,” the Kuwait native says. “I like the adrenaline rush that comes from it. You’re so stressed, but you’re also able to absorb so much information because of that.”

Miranda has not been pulling the all-nighters in vain. This week marks finals week at the college, and he has high expectations.

“I want to make the dean’s list,” he says. “I know my freshman year is so important when it comes to getting internships.”

Thankfully, Miranda has had plenty of help when it comes to staying motivated. In Niagara Hall, he and his friends get together to study each night. These study sessions usually go until 4 a.m., but that doesn’t mean they don’t sprinkle some fun into each session.

“We’ve been taking over the study room each night. Then at 2 a.m., just for a half hour, we will blast music. The music pumps us all up, so then we’re ready to study again,” he says.

With all of the late-night study sessions, Miranda estimates that he is now averaging just over four hours of sleep per night. That’s OK because he says that’s all he needs. After all, he already has the perfect recovery plan.

“I can hibernate during winter break,” he says with a smile.

Miranda’s last final exam for the fall semester will be this Friday, Dec. 19. He will leave on Saturday for Washington D.C. where he will spend the winter break with his brother, Clive, who is pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University.

Before he leaves though, he already has a personal celebration planned in honor of completing his first round of final exams.

“Since no one will be around, I plan on taking over the (Niagara Hall) lounge and watching movies and eating,” he says. “I also plan on going sledding. I still love the snow. The only problem is the wind.”

Craig Miranda, a first-year computer science major, is in the midst of his first finals week. To help prepare himself, he’s been studying heavily, even if it means pulling an all-nighter.


Far from Home: Moustafa Elhadary longs to return home to Dubai this winter break


Editor’s note: Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Six cities. Five connecting flights. Thirty-five hours of travel. That’s what’s ahead for Moustafa Elhadary on Sunday.

He couldn’t be more excited.

The first-year mechanical engineering major will leave on Dec. 21 to return to Dubai after completing his first semester at Penn State Behrend. It’s his first time traveling alone, and he knows he may be in for some long, uncomfortable and boring plane rides.

But his thoughts are on being reunited with his family and friends, and that’s all that matters right now.

“Recently, I’ve been really homesick. I want to see my friends, speak my native language and eat my mom’s food,” Elhadary says. “I thought I’d be stronger than this, but I just want to go back and do the things that I would normally do.”

That’s not to suggest that he has not enjoyed his first semester at Penn State Behrend. It’s actually the contrary as Elhadary has quickly developed into a campus leader at the college. He serves as a SGA senator, chairperson for the International Student Organization, promotional coordinator for the Muslim Student Association, and he is active in club soccer.

“I can’t wait to tell my friends about my experience,” Elhadary says. “When I came here, I didn’t know what to expect. I only saw America in movies and television, but it’s been amazing. Maybe I can even encourage my friends to come here next year.”

Elhadary is excited to return home for other reasons as well. For starters, he’s never had a greater appreciation for the homemade food his mother, Maha, makes than he does now.

“I miss my mom’s food so much. The taste, ingredients, spice — all of it is so good,” he says.

His father, Mahmoud, recently purchased a new Ford Expedition, and Elhadary longs to take the new wheels for a spin.

He also knows he’s not the only one who has been busy these last four months. He’s excited to catch up with his 16-year-old sister, Safinaz, and hear about the new things in her life.

“I’m very close with her, and I’m sure she has a ton of things to tell me,” Elhadary says.

Elhadary will be in Dubai until he leaves to return to Erie on Jan. 9. He says the three-week break will just what he needs to recharge his batteries before the start of the spring semester.

And just as he now misses Dubai, he says he is sure to miss Erie while he’s gone as well.

“I have so many friends here (at Penn State Behrend), and I’m still making friends too. It’s just been awesome,” Elhadary says.

Elhadary family
Moustafa Elhadary, a first-year mechanical engineering major, is excited to return home to Dubai this winter break, so he can be reunited with his mother, Maha (right), sister Safinaz (behind) and father Mahmoud (far back).


Recommended gift ideas from faculty members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In need of some last-minute holiday gift ideas for the young ones in your life? How about something that’s fun and educational at the same time?

We asked Penn State Behrend faculty members to give us a few suggestions.


School of Science

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, senior lecturer in chemistry

  • Science of the Month Club. Inspire the next generation of scientists by having hands-on science delivered to your door each month! For just $24.99 a month, you get everything you need to conduct exciting experiments.
  • Sunlight, Skyscrapers, and Soda Pop: The Wherever-You-Look Science Book. This fun book helps children learn the science behind simple, everyday activities. $9.95
  • Yahn Planetarium Gift Certificates. Have you heard? Penn State Behrend now has its very own planetarium. Help someone see worlds beyond their reach by purchasing a gift certificate, available in any denomination. For more information, contact planetarium director Jim Gavio ( or 814-898-7268).
  • Star Wars Lightsaber Thumb Wrestling. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a new Star Wars film is hitting theaters next year. Celebrate by picking up this fun game. May the thumb be with you… $12.99


School of Business

Ideas provided by Eric Robbins, lecturer in finance

  • Board games. Life and Monopoly are two timeless classics. The fast-paced, rummy-like game Five Crowns is another great option. $9.99 to $24.99
  • Go Venture. This is a series of business simulation and financial literacy computer games that are good for kids of all ages. $495
  • Kano. This is the perfect gift for those with really innovative minds. Kano provides a kit kids can use to build their own computers, in a form similar to LEGOs, then play games on what they just built. $149.99


School of Humanities and Social Science

Ideas provided by Dr. Tom Noyes, associate professor of English and creative writing

  • Books! Some gift ideas never get old, and that’s the case here. In particular, Tom suggests using NPR’s Book Concierge app to find the perfect book for those on your shopping list.
  • Art supply sets. Participation in the visual arts helps children develop an imagination and sharpen their eye for detail. $13.99 and up


School of Engineering

Ideas provided by Dr. Matthew White, assistant professor of game development

  • Amiibos. Action figures + video games = tons of fun. $12.99
  • Pokémon. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pokémon video games have been one of the hottest-selling video games for years, and that’s true in 2014 as well. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire qualify as two of the most popular games this season. $39.99
  • Xbox One. It’s one of the top game systems in the world, and for a limited time, it can be had at a lower price ($349) than normal.

Wednesdays at Bruno’s Café have never been so fun thanks to Hump Day

DJs from BVZ Radio entertain the Behrend community through their weekly Hump Day broadcasts. Students (left to right) Anna Waterson, Zach California, Rayna Ganabathi, Monique Lebrun, Ethan Buckley, and Joseph Rock are some of the DJs who broadcast.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In need of a midweek pick-me-up? BVZ Radio has just the thing for you.

Every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., DJs from Penn State Behrend’s student-run radio station broadcast from the stage in Bruno’s Café. They take requests during the broadcasts, which have been appropriately named “Hump Day” in honor of the day they fall on.

“This all started back on College Radio Day on October 1, 2013,” says Monique Lebrun, a junior Communication major and marketing and promotions director at BVZ Radio. “We wanted to do something to get the students to notice us.”

The first broadcast proved to be a success; by the final hour, students were requesting songs via text message and Twitter.

Housing and Food Services was pleased with the response as well. They invited BVZ Radio back to do weekly broadcasts, and Wednesdays are now one of the busiest days at Bruno’s each week.

It’s also helped with recruiting for the station.

“It’s built brand awareness,” Lebrun says. “We now have students asking us how they can get involved, which then pushes them to take the class (COMM 003: Radio Practicum).”

With finals week right around the corner, Hump Day has now ended for the semester, but it will be back again next year. There are even talks of expanding the live broadcasts to other days as well.

“We hope that BVZ Radio continues to expand. That’s what will ultimately get more students involved,” Lebrun says.

To send in a Hump Day request, tweet BVZ Radio at @BVZradio. To learn more about the station, visit their website.