Nursing students greeted with ‘surprise’ patient

Brenna Lanager, Hunter Olsen, Nerissa Rich (2)
Brenna Lanager played the role of an elderly patient this past fall in a NURS 112 class. Students Hunter Olsen and Nerissa Rich were tasked with trying to prepare Lanager for surgery as part of the simulation.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

When Margaret Kertis, a lecturer in nursing at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, pulled back the curtain that hung over the bed where a mannequin would normally lie, students in her NURS 112 course were quickly taken aback. The mannequin that they had grown accustomed to was no longer there.

In its place laid a young woman, but if not for her soft complexion and inherent youth, you might think otherwise. Her clothing looked to be something straight out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel. Her hair was dabbled in talcum powder. Her hands clenched a rosary.

“Their faces were priceless when they pulled the curtain back and saw that there was a person there,” said Brenna Lanager, a sophomore psychology major who happened to be the woman lying in the bed.

Lanager’s role that day was as a patient actor.

“The first-year nursing students had gotten so accustomed to performing skills on the low-fidelity mannequins that do not communicate, so I wanted them to focus on interacting and communicating with a ‘real’ person,” said Kertis, who taught the NURS 112 course this past fall. “The scenario involved preparing an elderly patient for surgery.”

As the students soon learned, preparing an elderly patient for surgery is easier said than done.

Lanager, who has previous acting experience from a theater course she took at Behrend, was not exactly the model patient.

“I was playing the role of Brenna Brake, an old woman who had fallen down the stairs while doing laundry. I was supposed to have a hearing aid, but I left it at home, so I kept asking the nursing to repeat what they were saying. I was also very religious and refused to give up my rosary.” Lanager said. “I could tell everyone was nervous, but they did a great job of putting on that nurse face, and getting the job done.”

For the students, the interaction with Lanager was invaluable.

“You get real emotions. Yes, they’re acting, but they’re still a real person, and it’s still person-to-person contact,” said Hunter Olsen, a sophomore nursing major who was part of the NURS 112 class.

For her part in the course, Lanager earned extra credit points as part of her THEATER 102 course. It also was an eye-opener for the Hawk Run native: her mother works as a nurse.

In the future, Kertis said she hopes to again utilize patient actors. Lanager is also eager to volunteer her services one more time.

“It was really cool to see what the nursing students were going through from that perspective,” Lanager said. “I would definitely do it again. It was so much fun.”

Career Roundtable educates School of Science students on available opportunities

Todd Thorniley, a 2014 Penn State Behrend biology graduate, now works as a quality control technician at Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York. On Wednesday, March 25, he was one of the alumni who returned to Behrend to educate current School of Science students on the opportunities available to them during the Career Roundtable for Biology and Chemistry Majors.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

For a biology or chemistry graduate, there’s no shortage of opportunities. Environmental consultant, genetic counselor — even a quality control technician for a brewery.

“Students have no idea how much they can do with their degree,” said Todd Thorniley, a 2014 biology graduate of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, who now works as a quality control technician for Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York. “It’s not just medical. It’s not just research. You can go work with beer, too.”

Emphasizing the diverse career paths available to students was one of the purposes of the Career Roundtable for Biology and Chemistry Majors, a networking event hosted by the School of Science at Penn State Behrend on Wednesday, March 25.

Designed like a round of speed dating, professionals who work in science-related fields were seated at tables in McGarvey Commons. A group of six to eight students was also seated at the table.

For ten minutes, professionals discussed the tasks, challenges and requirements of the jobs they perform every day. At the end of ten minutes, the professionals moved on to the next table, and the process repeated.

“The structure of the event really allows students to hear about a number of career paths in a relatively short amount of time and begin networking,” said Beth Potter, assistant professor of biology who coordinated the event. “The event is great for freshman as well as seniors, who still may not know what they want to do.”

During the two-hour event, more than 100 students interacted with 10 professionals, many of whom were Penn State Behrend alumni, representing companies that included Michael Baker International, the Pennsylvania State Crime Lab, PerkinElmer Genetics, Southern Tier and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

One of the alumni in attendance was 2013 graduate Leah Wolfe, who attended the same event while she was a student.

“When I attended, I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be, what I wanted to be or where I wanted to go,” said Wolfe, who is now pursing a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics from the University of Pittsburgh. “But actually hearing from these professionals was so helpful.”

Denise DeVore, a sophomore biology major, was one of the students in attendance at the Career Roundtable. She hoped the event would have the same effect on her that it had on Wolfe years earlier.

“I’m interested in pediatrics, but I’m not entirely sure that’s for me,” DeVore said. “I feel like this is going to help me narrow it down to what I want to do because there are so many options out there for a science major.”

Alumnus, MIS Professional earns Maryland State Guard Association’s Soldier of the Year Award

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Jeremy O'Mard

Jeremy O’Mard ’13 was just ten years old when the planes flew into the twin towers in his hometown of New York City on 9/11. Like millions of other Americans, the event altered the course of his life.

“It really hit home because my brother was a police officer, and we were attacked on our home soil,” O’Mard said. “I knew then that I wanted to find a way to help others and give back to my country when I got older.”

He participated in JROTC and Civil Air Patrol while in high school, but after graduation he chose to go to college instead of entering the military.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and, honestly, I’d gotten used to the comforts of civilian life.”

A fortuitous misunderstanding

He ended up at Penn State Behrend by accident.

“I was accepted at University Park, but was confused by how the campuses were set up, so I chose Erie, thinking it was an area of U.P.,” he said with a laugh. “When I visited Behrend, I fell in love with the campus and decided to stay.”

O’Mard majored in Management Information Systems, because the blend of technology and business appealed to him.

“I liked computers and technology, but I’d always had a business mindset, so MIS really captivated me,” he said.

Mixing business and service

Today, O’Mard, who also earned a minor in Operations and Supply Chain Management, works full time as an Oracle business intelligence developer at IBM in Washington, D.C.

He has also found a way to give back.

Since his freshman year in college, O’Mard has been a volunteer in the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF), a uniformed military agency established by the state of Maryland to provide professional, technical, and military support to the state’s National Guard and Emergency Management Agency.

“When I returned home to Maryland after my first year at Behrend, I was looking around online to see if I could find anything I might do that summer to supplement my MIS major and I stumbled upon the MDDF’s Information Technology unit and saw they needed volunteers,” he said.

After initial training, he began helping the MDDF by providing tech support, troubleshooting hardware and software problems, and working on ad hoc problems.

Quick climb up the ranks

His role in the MDDF steadily increased. He was a visible member of the MDDF Information Technology team, participated in training sessions and headquarter drills, and served on the honor guard for military funerals.

In just four years, O’Mard rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and is now the Commanding General’s aide-de-camp (personal assistant to a person of high rank). He estimates he volunteers about twenty hours a month.

His peers and superiors speak highly of him, complimenting his leadership skills, positivity, professionalism, and dedication to the MDDF.

Soldier of the Year

In December, they backed up those words with an official award. O’Mard was chosen to receive the Maryland State Guard Association’s Soldier of the Year award for his “exceptional leadership, motivation, military bearing, dependability, and loyalty to the mission of the MDDF, the Maryland Military Department, and citizens of the State of Maryland.”

O’Mard, who was surprised by the honor, said it was both humbling and inspiring.

“I know I do a lot for the MDDF, but I know many others who do, too, so I was very humbled to be chosen,” he said. “It definitely puts things in perspective and makes me want to have an even stronger year this year.”

Best of both worlds

If O’Mard likes the military life, why not make it his career?

He said he enjoys his job at IBM, which offers him myriad opportunities to challenge himself, learn, and advance at the company.

“I feel like this is perfect for me,” he said. “I can maintain the civilian life I want and still be in the military. It’s the best of both worlds.”

jeremy o'mard award

THON proposal reflects couple’s commitment


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It was hour 32 of THON, and Taylor Hennon ’13 had hit the wall.

She was exhausted and sleepy. Her emotions bordered delirium. This is all par for the course with THON, Penn State’s 46-hour dance marathon designed to raise money to support children and families as they combat pediatric cancer.

But then came Mail Call, an event during THON weekend in which dancers receive letters and packages from friends, family and supporters to inspire and motivate them to continue dancing. Hennon had no idea she was about to receive the biggest pick-me-up imaginable.

The final letter she read came from Timmy Donovan ’13, her boyfriend, whom she first met five years earlier during a trip to Germany while they were both students at Penn State Behrend.

“There were a lot of references to the future. In his letter, he wrote of how proud my grandma would be of me,” says Hennon, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at University Park. “Then, right after, he asked me (to marry him). I just remember hugging him, and he said, ‘I have something of your grandma’s that I really want to give to you.’”

For Donovan and Hennon, THON, which was held February 20-22 this year at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, was the perfect venue for a proposal. For the past four years, it’s been a staple in their relationship. For the proposal, Donovan used Hennon’s grandmother’s ring, which made the moment even more meaningful.

“I knew THON would be the right way to (propose) because it has been such a big part of our relationship,” says Donovan, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education at University Park. “It’s always been the mainstay in our relationship.”

Following the proposal, it was not long before the entire Bryce Jordan Center caught on to what was happening.

“There was this moment where I opened my eyes and looked around, and the entire Bryce Jordan Center is watching us and applauding. It was surreal,” Donovan says.

The timing of the proposal also helped reenergized Hennon, who danced independently in this year’s THON. From that point on, she was excited to share the news with her mother, who joined her on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

According to Donovan and Hennon, the significance of THON in their relationship cannot be understated. While at Behrend, the two both became involved during junior year and as seniors, Hennon was Behrend’s THON chair, and Donovan was a dancer.

Throughout their involvement, the two endured a breakup, but their connection to THON kept them close.

“Our whole senior year, we were broken up, but we were still working together. No matter what, we realized that us working toward finding the cure for pediatric cancer was more important than any fight or any awkward moment we could have,” Donovan says. “Sure, there were awkward moments, but we always said THON was bigger than both of us, and that actually made us stay friends.”

Shortly after graduating from Behrend, the two got back together.

Regardless of what journey awaits the two, THON is certain to remain a crucial part of their lives and relationship. They have already planned to include members of their THON family, Rylee and Dalaney Dorer, in their wedding.

“It’s just that important to us,” Hennon says. “It’s amazing now that every year, I get to have a constant reminder of how all this came to be.”

Alumnus to star in HGTV show – Nashville Flipped

By Heather Cass Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend Troy Dean Shafer

Though we humans put a lot of thought and care into planning our future, the simple fact is that life can change on a dime. Single moments, simple choices, and chance meetings can lead us down a different path to a whole new life.

Such has been the case for Penn State Behrend alumnus, Troy Dean Shafer ’04, founder and owner of Nashville Flipped, a historical home restoration business in Nashville, Tennessee, who is the subject of a new HGTV show created by American Pickers star Mike Wolfe. The pilot episode of Nashville Flipped is scheduled to air on HGTV this Thursday, March 19, at 11 p.m., eastern standard time

Walmart detour leads to HGTV show

Wolfe and Shafer became friends after a fortuitous meeting at a Tennessee Walmart.

“I was picking something up for my wife when I heard an overhead announcement that Mike was there signing autographs,” he said. “I was a fan of the show, so I wandered over to meet him. We talked and I gave him a copy of my business card. To my surprise, he said he’d heard about my business. He said he was buying a historical building in downtown Nashville and asked if I’d come take a look at it for him.”

Shafer happily agreed and even did some work to help stabilize the building, which Wolfe converted to retail space.

The two became fast friends as they share a passion for preserving history—Wolfe through artifacts, Shafer through architecture.

Building on a Black School of Business Degree

You may remember Shafer from a story in the January 2013 Behrend Magazine, or you may remember him from the early 2000s when he spent four years at the Black School of Business earning a degree in Business Management.

Here’s the foundation of Shafer’s story: The son of custom-home contractor, Shafer grew up around the construction industry and planned to be an architect. Fearing an architecture degree would be too limiting, he went the business route at Behrend, a decision that would serve him well later. He moved to Nashville after graduation to try his hand at a singing career. While his music career blossomed (he served as a backup signer on some impressive concert tours), his business acumen and life-long love for old houses and architecture, led him to begin “rescuing” historic homes in his spare time and he founded Nashville Flipped, a home renovation business.

“I’m saving historic homes that other people would just raze,” he said. “I gut the house and rebuild it with all the latest amenities, while preserving the architecture and character of the house.”

nash flipped logo

Bucking the trend

He renovates about a dozen houses a year with the help of a handful of employees and a variety of subcontractors. He does a lot of the work himself, as you’ll see on the pilot episode of Nashville Flipped, where he works with interior designer Alexandra Cirimelli to renovate a 1932 craftsman-style bungalow in East Nashville.

“It’s in a historic part of Nashville called Cleveland Park. I bought it at an auction and actually got into a bit of a bidding war over it,” he said with a laugh. “I loved the style and feel of it. It had original moldings and door handles and built-in bookshelves. It had so much character and it needed to be saved.”

Shafer bucks the trend of many developers in East Nashville who buy old properties, tear down the house and build three more in its place.

“I’ve built a bit of a fan base because I do the exact opposite,” Shafer said. “I save the old houses when nobody else wants to put that kind of work into them.”

Labor of love

Shafer isn’t afraid of the work. It’s safe to say he loves it. He has a genuine affection for the homes he restores.

“I think about the future of that house—the newborn baby that might be brought home to it, the Christmas tree that will fit perfectly in that front window, the driveway where a kid may learn to ride a two-wheel bike. . .,” he trails off, then adding, “It’s cool to be a hidden part of those future memories.”

Shafer is the real deal. He says Wolfe is, too.

“He is absolutely the same guy you see on television,” Shafer said. “He’s one of the most intelligent, passionate people I’ve ever met.”

Together, the two are sure to build a show HGTV viewers will flip for.

Home History 101

Nashville Flipped will be unlike any other home renovation show because there will be a heavy emphasis on the history of the house, the surrounding neighborhood, and even interviews with past residents.

Shafer won’t know until late this summer if the network will order more episodes of Nashville Flipped.

“They will air several different pilots over the next few months to see what sticks,” Shafer said, “so the more people who watch the show and watch the reruns or talk about the show, the better chance it has of being picked up.”

Tune in on Thursday at 11 p.m. (EST) on HGTV.

More info

Read more about Shafer in a 2013 Behrend Magazine story and an online Q&A here.

For more information about Nashville Flipped or to see some of the company’s latest work, visit or follow Troy at 2015-03-13 10.59.11

Plastics Engineering Technology student produces video that finishes third in national competition


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

“There’s a great future in plastics.” It’s one of the most iconic lines from the 1967 classic The Graduate.

But it’s more than just a movie line for Stephen Levy. It’s one of the prime reasons the Pittsburgh native chose to enroll at Penn State Behrend.

Levy, a senior plastics engineering technology major, has a passion for the plastics industry and his potential in it. This past fall, he displayed that passion by producing a video that ultimately took third place in The Society of the Plastics Industry’s Student Video Contest. The video was produced independently by Levy, outside of the classroom.

The contest, which featured an “Innovating in the 21st Century” theme, tasked students with creating a two-to-four minute video that explored the future of the plastics industry in the 21st century in the areas of innovation, design freedom and the economics of plastics.

Levy’s video, titled “Impact of Plastics on Society,” covered the benefits of plastics, touching on how plastic is more environmentally friendly than many people think while also offering a glimpse at what the future of the industry may look like.

“There is just so much that can be done with plastics, especially when you think about the future and 3-D printing. That’s one of the main reasons that I wanted to pursue a degree in PLET because I see the applications for the future,” Levy says.

Levy received a $3,500 gift for his third-place finish. He estimates he spent at least 10 hours working on the video, and he was satisfied with the final result. However, even he was a tad surprised when he received notification in late January that his video has been selected as one of three winners.

“I was so excited,” Levy says. “I spent a lot of time on the video, and I thought it was good, but I really didn’t think it could win.”

Watch Levy’s video here.

Pi Day = Pie Day at Behrend!


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Saturday, March 14 is Pi Day – a day in which we celebrate one of the most well-known principles in mathematics.

This year’s Pi Day is especially cool because, written numerically, the date—3/14/15— is the first five digits of pi~3.1415… in order, which is something that only happens once a century.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re a student or faculty member), Behrend will be out on spring break on Pi Day, so the Math Club is subtracting a week and a day and celebrating Pi Day on this Friday, March 6 with

….wait for it….

Free PIE for everyone!

apple pie

Math Club members will be outside of Bruno’s on Friday, March 6 from noon to 2 p.m. handing out pie to satisfy your sweet tooth. And, don’t worry fellow right-brainers, I checked and they are not even making you solve a math problem or anything to get it. Phewww…..

I talked with Adam Combs, lecturer in mathematics, and Math Club adviser to find out a little more about Pi Day, mathematics, and what kind of pie they’ll be serving up.

What is Pi and why is it significant in math?

We all learn the number Pi ~ 3.1415… is significant in math when it comes to circles in geometry. It is related to both the area and circumference of a circle. From this, and something called the “unit circle,” it also is very prevalent in trigonometry, and hence Calculus, and hence Differential Equations, and hence…the list goes on. So, there is so much importance from just one shape, the circle.

The number pi is also given so much importance because it tends to pop up so unexpectedly in other areas of mathematics. For example, you can prove that if you randomly pick two positive whole numbers the probability they have no divisors in common is 6/pi^2. Also, if I add the numbers 1+1/4+1/9+1/16+… to infinity it equals pi^2/6. Now, what does that have to do with circles? 🙂

This year’s actual Pi day (3.14.15) is particularly significant, right? Mathematicians must love that!

People who love math always get excited when something uniquely mathematical happens in daily life. This occurrence of having the date read 3/14/15 which is the first 5 digits of pi~3.1415… in order, happens once in a century.

Why do you love math?

Not to wax philosophic, but I think Galileo said it best when he said, “Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” The belief in a higher being aside, everything in the way our physical world works has some kind of relationship to math. The sense of wonder this inspires is why I love math.

Why do you think some people hate math?

Some people unfortunately do not get to see how interesting, and useful, math can really be. Some people who may have struggled with math in the past may also be a little afraid of math. This is natural, but I think the faculty members here at Behrend are really great at helping with that.

Do you believe that anyone can learn to be good at math?

Do you want to know what my worst subject was in high school? MATH! I hated it because I was afraid of it. I thought I couldn’t do it, and waited until my sophomore year in college to actually take my first college math class.

Then, I found that the teachers I had were willing to take the extra time to help me understand it. Once I started to understand it, the fear went away. Of course, I also worked very hard at it, too. Believe it or not, I am not one of those people who was born with an inherently mathematical brain. So, if I can do it with some help and hard work, I believe that anyone can.

What do you suggest for people who have trouble understanding math? What can they do?

Talk to your professor! Faculty members at Behrend are very happy and willing to help students who need it. There is also FREE math tutoring available to the students.

Favorite math joke?

This is so hard, because there are so many.

Q: What did one math book say to the other?

A: Don’t bother me I’ve got my own problems!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with my wife and two wonderful boys, Gabriel and Addison. My oldest son Gabriel, at the age of 5, is even showing promising signs of being a mathematician. On an almost daily basis, he tests the hypothesis that my patience is infinite.

OK…let’s talk about the good stuff. What kinds of pie are you going to be giving away?

We have both apple and pumpkin pie from Wegmans.


Far from Home: List of goals serve as motivation for Moustafa Elhadary


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

“Make something big,” “A in all classes,” “Freshman of the year.” Every day, Moustafa Elhadary reads these words a multitude of times.

Moustafa phone
Moustafa Elhadary has programmed a list of goals for the spring semester in his iPod that he will refer to as the year goes on.

Elhadary, a first-year computer engineering major at Penn State Behrend, has programmed a list of goals into his iPod. Placed on a radiant yellow background, the list was created by Elhadary as he sat inside a plane on his way back from his home country of Dubai for the start of the spring semester in January.

He reached many of his goals during the fall semester. He compiled a 3.88 GPA and served as a senator for the Student Government Association, chairman of the International Student Organization and promotional coordinator for the Muslim Student Association.

However, he says he hopes this is only the beginning for him. That’s where his list comes into play.

“I always put my homework assignments into my iPod, so when I look at my homework, I see these goals, and because they’re vibrant yellow, they grab my attention every time,” Elhadary says. “It reminds me that I came here for a reason. Sometimes you get caught up in the everyday things, and this list reminds me, ‘Hey Moustafa, your parents spent a lot of money for you to come here, and you need to make them proud.’”

This is one of the main reasons Elhadary has set out to make the most of his time at Penn State Behrend. While he has been active in many clubs, he has been mindful of his academics. Last semester, he had an epiphany.

“I thought, ‘What if I can stay here for four years and get two degrees instead of one?’” Elhadary recalls. “So, in the middle of the semester, I said, ‘Why not?’”

At the moment, Elhadary is taking 22 credits and considering second major options. Industrial engineering or software engineering are possibilities, but he also might consider a business major.

With so many credits this semester combined with his extracurricular activities, time has proven to be a limited resource for Elhadary. At times, he’s even struggled to find time to connect with his family.

“I’ve barely called them because of my schedule,” he says. “I’ve really been trying to, but it’s hard.”

Fortunately, thanks to his iPod, he gets frequent reminders. It’s right there in bright yellow: “Call Zazo, Many and Papy more often.”

Moustafa Elhadary, left, has made a list of goals for the spring semester, one of which is to make more friends. He’s already made a number of friends at the college though, including fellow international students Hansel Lobo, center, and Tyagadipta Biswal. The trio made a trip to Pittsburgh during the fall semester.