With the Spring 2021 semester starting a week later than normal, Penn State Berend students have the luxury of an extra-long holiday rest.
Just kidding, students. You’ve heard the phrase, “No rest for the weary,” and that definitely applies to college students, particularly, juniors and seniors. You have some recommended winter work to prepare for your future.
None of these “assignments” are difficult or required, or will be graded, but if you complete these tasks suggested by Christina Moreschi, career counselor in Behrend’s Academic and Career Planning Center, you will be setting yourself up for future career success.
Here are suggestions for making the most of your extra time over winter break:
Log into Nittany Lion Careers (NLC), Penn State’s job and internship search platform. Once you log in, take a few minutes to fill in the required information under “My Account,” so you will be ready for Penn State Behrend’s Virtual Spring 2021 Career and Internship Fair, which will take place on the NLC platform Wednesday, February 24.
Create/update your LinkedIn profile. Watch LinkedIn Like A Pro to learn how to leverage your profile and make LinkedIn work for you.
Practice interviewing by scheduling a mock interview session with an ACPC career counselor via Zoom. A mock interview is one of the best ways to refine your interviewing skills, and the counselors are available during the extended winter break to help you!
Build/check-in with your network virtually. Consider sending a card or email to reconnect with friends and former colleagues and let them know what you are doing. The main idea is to have an annual check-in with people who might be helpful to you, personally or professionally, in developing your plan for the future.
In a normal year, most of us would have a December calendar bulging with holiday events, activities, and to-dos. But, this year, of course, the majority of community events have been canceled, big holiday parties prohibited, and travel anywhere discouraged.
Add to this the fact that most schools are extending holiday break or going remote to control the spread of COVID and parents are working from home or working reduced hours.
All of this means that many of us will have a lot of family time on our hands in the next several weeks. As any parent will tell you, that is both wonderful and terrifying.
But Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach (YEO) program, the folks who work to engage thousands of kids on campus for weeks every summer in College for Kids, aren’t scared. They know a thing or two about educating young people with activities that are so much fun they don’t even realize they are learning important concepts in STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
We asked the members of the YEO team to put together a little holiday/winter toolkit for parents, and they came through with lots of websites where you can find activities to while away many a winter day.
Sites to explore
We have provided a link to a specific activity or list of ideas, but each of these sites offers a wide variety of experiments, crafts, and fun. Just click around.
Join Behrend’s Winter Wonderland GooseChase game, which runs through March. GooseChase is a free application for your smartphone. Create an account, join the game (code is JW1DB1), and start checking off the “missions” posted. Tasks include building a Nittany Lion snowman, er…snowlion; constructing a LEGO winter scene; making an ice lantern, and much more. As your family completes the missions, post a photo or video and then check that mission off as completed. More missions will be added throughout the duration of the game. You can find step-by-step instruction for joining and playing GooseChase here.
By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend
In this tumultuous year when nothing is normal, we can take comfort in one thing that hasn’t changed: Christmas carols. Everyone has their favorites and most of us have more than a few.
We asked the music experts on campus to share with us their favorite holiday tunes and also to suggest some new songs/artists or albums to expand our holiday music playlist.
Here’s what they had to say:
Emily Cassano, assistant teaching professor of theatre, music, and arts
My all-time favorite Christmas tune is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” because I love the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. I don’t necessarily have a favorite version; there are a lot of great renditions.
For more modern music, I typically turn on any of the Pentatonix Christmas Albums, and their song “White Winter Hymnal” is a favorite of mine.
In November, the three Fates from Hadestown (last year’s Tony Award Winner for Best Musical) released a Christmas album called If the Fates Allow. It’s really great, and very non-traditional, like Hadestown itself. One of the three Fates is played by an Erie native and Penn State alumnus Mike Karns’ wife, Kay Trinidad.
Gabrielle Dietrich, director of choral ensembles and associate teaching professor of music
I have to admit my holiday music tastes are eclectic, and also more modern in their conception.
As for classics, I have a real soft spot for “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” because what says “Happy Holidays” better than some good old-fashioned insult comedy!
Gary Viebranz, teaching professor of music
The first classic that comes to my mind is an oldie, but a goodie: “Mary’s Boy Child” by Harry Belafonte. In a most traditional sense, I love “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” especially the rendition by the King’s Singers.
If you want to expand your horizons, I’d encourage you try some instrumental collections. My favorites include “A Canadian Brass Christmas” and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “A Christmas Festival,” which is an amazing album recorded in 1964.
By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend
Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics, began his career in a remote area of Borneo where the only “technology” he had access to was in the form of painted plywood chalk boards and a hand-cranked, mimeograph-like machine. He taught in a language he had learned just three months earlier.
This month, he will finish his career in education from home, where he has been teaching dozens of Penn State Behrend students remotely using online videoconferencing software and a host of other high-tech tools that would’ve been inconceivable at the start of his career three decades ago.
Yet, Hall, who has been teaching at Behrend for thirty-two years, says not much has changed.
“Though the technology available today for education is very different, the key ingredient for student success has not changed; the desire to learn is the most important part,” Hall said.
Sometimes that desire can be stamped out quickly in physics class, a subject many students find intimidating. Hall learned to build students’ confidence first.
“In my general education physics course, I found that if I started with a topic, such as color and light, that students enjoyed, their confidence in their ability to learn physics enabled them to achieve greater success in the course,” he said. “We still did the more challenging topics, but students did better when I would ease them into it later in the course.”
Over the course of his teaching career, Hall said he has learned as much as he has taught, and we couldn’t let him retire without collecting some of his wisdom on topics big and small.
What brought you to Behrend?
A 1988 Mazda hatchback. And a job teaching at a college!
What types of classes have you taught over the years?
Physics, Astronomy, Civic and Community Engagement.
Which classes have been your favorites and why?
Of course, I enjoyed teaching physics, but the advantage of teaching astronomy is that it’s not called what it actually is, which is “the physics of the universe.” Because it doesn’t include the word “physics,” students relax, and enjoy learning… physics!
What I enjoyed about Civic and Community Engagement is that it was team-taught with faculty from other disciplines, including communication, psychology, and sustainability. It was truly inter-disciplinary, which was great, and I learned a lot from my colleagues. With the service projects, students were able to put into practice what they learned in their majors.
What do you remember most about your first year of teaching?
I had been a high school teacher for five years before coming to Behrend. I enjoyed getting to know students in my classes from teaching them 180 school days, but when I started teaching college, I didn’t miss at all the “supervisory” duties of a high school teacher such as monitoring homerooms, study halls, etc. At the college level, I could focus on teaching students, not monitoring them. Also, though I wasn’t any smarter or more qualified than I had been before, the respect people (especially the parents of students) give college faculty compared to high school faculty was eye-opening.
What have you learned the hard way?
I started my career as a Peace Corps volunteer, and it truly was the toughest job I’ve ever loved. I had twenty-five class preps every week in a language that I had only started learning three months before. Speaking a foreign language is not one of my strengths. During the first three months, I wondered if I had made a mistake; about a third of the volunteers in my training group quit during this time. But I toughed it out. Things got better, and I enjoyed my second year so much that I extended my assignment and served three years. In order to survive those early months, one thing I learned to do was to listen intently; to pay attention to and catch both the verbal and non-verbal cues; to listen to everything the person was saying, not just the words. That skill has carried over to make me a better teacher and I hope more understanding of others.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
How our children go out of their way to keep my wife, Katherine, and me informed of world and national events. Our daughter, Maria, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar when a coup overthrew the democratically elected government there. At the same time, our daughter, Liz, who is a Marine, was in Iraq. Liz has also been deployed to Afghanistan (twice), South Korea, Chad, Australia, and Germany, and is presently at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Our son, David, lives in Portland and kept us up to date on the fires and protests in Oregon. Someday, we hope to be less well-informed.
What have you enjoyed most in your career?
I have always enjoyed teaching young people and helping them to achieve their potential, and that has not changed during my career.
Do you have a different perspective on the profession now?
When people ask me what I teach, I tell them I teach young people, not a subject. As teachers, we have the task of preparing our students for the future; content knowledge is often a means by which we teach more important lessons about life.
What will you miss the most?
I have been fortunate in my life and career to work for organizations with a noble purpose, whether the Peace Corps, or Penn State University, whose mission as a land grant institution is teaching, research, and service. Working with everyone at Behrend who share in striving for the common good is what I will miss the most.
What’s the secret of life?
Since, in Malaysia, I was a “guru,” I’ll recommend as a starting point in your quest — the “Galaxy Song” from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life.” (Please note that I didn’t say I was a good guru…)
Any other parting wisdom for us?
In Asian culture, keeping harmonious relationships within the community is often the top priority. In America, we emphasize individualism. I think that in a healthy community, there is a balance of both; freedom of individual expression, along with concern for others.