Recreating history: One tiny soldier at a time

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Today, when most of us in the United States are focused on the pandemic and political warfare, Jerry App, a senior History major, need only walk down his basement stairs to escape current affairs and lose himself in the drama of 1500s Italy.

Jerry App
Jerry App, senior History major at Penn State Behrend

App is a kriegsmodelle enthusiast. He paints tiny figures and scenery and then stages elaborate and historically accurate battle scenes in miniature. Lately, he’s been working on the Italian Wars, depicting battles between the Holy Roman Empire and France for control of Italy.

He has plenty to work with. Between 1494 to 1559, the Italian peninsula became the main battleground for European supremacy. Everybody wanted a piece of Italy’s “boot,” which was economically advanced but politically divided among several states, making it an attractive target.

“I’ve had to do a lot of research before I could actually begin building and painting the models, but it’s worth the effort,” App said.

Delving deep into history is a labor of love for App who can trace his fascination with the past to a classic fantasy game he played as a child.

“My dad taught me to play Dungeons and Dragons when I turned 10,” he said. “I got really interested in the medieval ages, specifically the realistic and historical sides to fantasy tropes. We bought some old pewter Grenadier models and painted them together. Later, I discovered a game called Warhammer Fantasy, and that is what really kicked off my interest in miniature painting and wargaming.”

It’s a pastime that he and his father still share today, and one that is particularly suited for a pandemic.

It’s been a great hobby to have during the lockdown,” App said. “Earlier this year, I was home from college and my parents were off work for a while, too, which gave us a lot of time to catch up on painting and playing. A typical wargame takes an hour or two to play out, so we had plenty of time to play. You could start a wargame on Sunday and play it all week.”

We caught up with App to learn more about his hobby, his personal history, and how both influenced his academic and career choices.

Your dad introduced you to both fantasy gaming (Dungeons and Dragons) and modeling?  

Yes. He started modeling when he was a kid, putting together World War II kits. He actually still has some of those kits, and he’s assembled a few WWII models recently. He was inspired by our recent visit to Gettysburg, and he recently bought some Civil War models. So, we’ve been working on those, too.

What do you enjoy about Kriegsmodelle?

I enjoy being able to take gray, flat plastic sprues (generic figures) and turn them into fully built and painted pieces. It’s very calming and helps me relieve stress after a long day. When I build and paint models, my mind is completely focused on what I am doing at that moment. It’s almost like meditation.

Metal unpainted 1
Unpainted sprues.

Where do you buy the figures?

It depends on the genre. Historical models can be difficult to find, depending on the period. For example, you can easily find Napoleonic or Late Imperial Romans, but you’ll really have to scrounge for Wars of Lombardy or Russian Civil War. I’d recommend Perry Miniatures or Warlord Games. Science fiction and fantasy models are easier to find, and you can find them on Ebay or Amazon for a decent price. Local stores or hobby shops that carry models are especially nice to work with, if you have one nearby.

The figures arrive in need of a paint job?

Yes, that’s the best part! I try to sit down for an hour or two every day to work on a squad of models. It can take a while to paint them up (a few hours per model), but I paint them in groups which speeds up the process a lot; this is referred to as “batch painting.”

How many models have you done?

I have around 2,250 models, but only about 1,000 of them are painted with 100 still needing assembly. My dad has a comparable amount. We work on the models in our basement, which is affectionately named the “Nerd Bunker” by friends and family. I’ve been painting for ten years this month.

What are you working on now?

The Italian Wars, as well as some medieval levies (militia units raised by conscription), a couple of Warhammer 40,000 armies and the Civil War models my dad picked up.  It’s a lot of different projects, but I’m never without something new to paint.

You also study German?

Yes, I’m working toward a certificate in German. My grandmother, Omi, is from southern Prussia, and she inspired me to take up German. I’m hoping I will become proficient enough to be able to speak with her in Deutsche.

What are your career goals?

Originally, I wanted to become a civil servant and work for a government agency. However, I’ve also looked into museum work and law school. Right now, I’m considering using my degree as a launch pad into Naval Officer Candidate School. I’m not committed to one plan yet, but I’m starting to narrow it down.

What advice do you have for those who might want to try modeling?  

I’m the Vice President for the Behrend Game Club, and I’m also the club’s strategy committee head. If any students are interested in pursuing the kriegsmodelle hobby, join the club on Behrend Sync and get involved. I’m happy to answer any questions and share resources to help another start their own collection.

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Cook with Chef Kyle at Virtual Cooking Party

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

chef kyle coverdale

Penn State Behrend Managing Chef Kyle Coverdale

Ever wish you could have a professional chef next to you, walking you through a new recipe? Thursday night, you can. Penn State Behrend’s culinary king, a.k.a. Managing Chef Kyle Coverdale will be offering a virtual cooking tutorial via Zoom.

The event, cohosted by two student clubs, Leaders in Education and Action in Food Systems (LEAFS) and Greener Behrend, is not a watch-and-learn, but an interactive cook-along. Sign up and you’ll get a list of ingredients along with your Zoom meeting link. Then, get your shopping done, do the recipe prep work and log on Thursday, November 19, at 6:30 p.m. from your kitchen to cook with Kyle and dozens of other members of the Penn State community.

“As periods of isolation and quarantine continue, we wanted to create a sense of community by coming together, virtually, to learn, cook, and share a meal and conversation,” said Pearl Patterson, a senior Psychology major and co-president of the LEAFS club.

Coverdale said the Food Services staff, including Behrend’s five chefs, have been looking for ways to bring students and the college community together and, traditionally, those events on campus revolve around food.

“Last week, we did a cooking class with students in-person at Bruno’s (with all COVID safety measures and distancing in place) and we made and enjoyed classic Ukrainian dishes,” Coverdale said. “Doing it virtually allows us to include a lot more people because we’re all in our own kitchens.”

We caught up with Chef Kyle to find out what attendees will be making and what he loves about cooking for Penn State Behrend students, faculty, staff, and guests.

What’s on the menu for the Fall Cooking Party?  We’ll be making a Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Kale, Dried Cranberries and Feta bowl, and Beet Carpaccio with Roasted Carrots and Goat Cheese Mousse.

How long have you been a chef?  I have been cooking for more than fifteen years. I attended culinary school at Mercyhurst University.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef? Being able to bring people together with my work. When I travel and get to cook with other chefs from all over the world, it is amazing how we can “talk” through food. Also, it is an ever-changing artform. There is always something new to learn.

What do you enjoy about cooking at Penn State Behrend? We have so many great events and a diverse population. It gives me a lot of opportunities to cook different things, learn new dishes, and get ideas from our students.

What is the most popular meal/food you make at Behrend?  This is a hard one. From a catering perspective, I have a surf-and-turf meal that is quite popular. It includes a fillet and crab cake over garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus topped with bearnaise sauce. In the dining hall, we just offered a Katsu sandwich, which is an amazing Japanese street food sandwich, that was very popular.

What makes or breaks a recipe? Bad ingredients. If you start with low-quality ingredients, the outcome of the dish will likely be subpar.

What would you say to people who say they hate to cook?  Anyone can cook and if you don’t believe me, watch the Disney movie Ratatouille. Cooking doesn’t need to be hard, and it’s okay to use items that are already prepped to help make the task less daunting. If you do eat out, please do support local restaurants.

Join us!

Want to cook with Chef Kyle? Email pbp5102@psu.edu to receive a list of ingredients and a link to attend the Zoom event!

Home Work – Virtual lab leads to hands-on experience for DIGIT students

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Digital media, arts, and technology students Kurt Brautigam, left, and Zak Teyssier

A quick switch to remote learning this spring forced many of us to rethink the ways that we meet, collaborate, and maintain a community when we have to be physically distant. Tommy Hartung, assistant professor of digital media, arts, and technology (DIGIT), started a virtual DIGIT Lab and invited students to get together with him once a week.

“It was completely voluntary,” Hartung said. “We met up once a week to talk about ideas, and I’d demonstrate some techniques,” Hartung said. “It was a casual way to keep students thinking positively about the future. I viewed it as more of a research group than a class.”

It went so well that Hartung continued the lab over the summer, which is where DIGIT majors Zak Teyssier and Kurt Brautigam learned about an opportunity to get hands-on experience creating a video for UPMC Hamot Hospital in Erie.

“UPMC Hamot reached out to Behrend, looking for help making recruiting videos,” Hartung said.  

Brautigam, who wants to work in video production and editing one day, was happy to jump on board. He and Teyssier worked with Annmarie Kutz, Otolaryngology residency program manager and medical student coordinator at UPMC Hamot, to put together a video for the hospital’s otolaryngology head and neck surgery residency.

Brautigam said it was valuable experience working for a real client.

“Annmarie provided us with the assets we needed to use (since we couldn’t do the filming ourselves due to COVID restrictions) as well as guidelines on logos, fonts, and color schemes to be used,” he said. “I learned how important it is that brands be consistent in their messaging and visuals.”

Brautigam spent most of his time working on the basic structure of the video and color correcting photo and video assets, while Teyssier worked on the audio, including the background music.

“UPMC Hamot standards required us to replace the music Zak had composed with music that was already owned by the company,” Brautigam said. “That was one thing we learned the hard way.”  

After some back-and-forth between the students and their client to smooth transitions and audio, the video was posted to UPMC Hamot’s website where it will used to answer questions and provide information for doctors interested in the otolaryngology residency program.

Kutz told the students that when UPMC marketing professionals in Pittsburgh signed off on the video, they said, “It was very nicely put together and has lots of great content.”

The students hope it might lead to more projects with the hospital.

“We gained valuable experience working with UPMC Hamot on this particular project,” Teyssier said. “We hope to create more multimedia content for them in the near future.”

“We are currently talking about ways we might be able to assist them in creating content for their social media pages,” Brautigam added.