Excellence runs in Schupp family, twice chosen to Marshal

By Christine Palattella
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Kelsey Schupp (3)

Student Marshal Kelsey Schupp

On Friday night, Student Marshal Kelsey Schupp ’16 will lead her fellow Black School of Business commencement candidates into Erie Insurance Arena just as her sister, Brooke ʼ14, did two years ago.

Only five Student Marshals are chosen for a commencement ceremony, one representing each of Penn State Behrend’s four academic schools plus an Honors candidate to lead the college’s Schreyer Scholars. To recognize their outstanding academic achievements, Student Marshals are given the honor of carrying the banners that precede each of the five candidate groups onto the arena floor.

Kelsey will receive concurrent degrees in Accounting and Finance and soon will begin working as a proposal analyst associate at Lockheed Martin’s Missile and Fire Control division in Orlando. Brooke joined GE Transportation after graduating with a degree in Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies; this fall she completes her fourth and final rotation in GE’s Operations Management Leadership Program.

Was being named Marshal a goal for you, Kelsey?

I wouldn’t necessarily say being Marshal was a specific goal I made, but I knew there was a good chance of it happening because my personal goal was graduating with a cumulative 4.0 GPA.

Was Brooke an inspiration? Are you two competitive?

Brooke graduated with a 4.0 GPA too. I’ve always wanted to do my very best in school purely for my own satisfaction, but Brooke’s performance at Behrend pushed me to try even harder. She definitely left me some big shoes to fill.

In my junior year I started a game with myself –I decided to see how much more I could take on while maintaining my GPA. This is when I started working at internships during the school year and participating in academic competitions like the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge. I was captain of the team that reached the global semi-finals, ending as the 21st team out of over 1,000 competing.

I think Brooke and I are more competitive with ourselves than each other. But we do sometimes push each other, to make each other a better person, of course.

Looking back, Brooke, what did the Marshal experience mean to you?

Kelsey summarized it right when she said we are more competitive with ourselves than we are with each other. Being a Marshal allowed me to see that my parents had done an amazing job creating self-motivating adults capable of anything we put our minds to – even a 4.0 in college – a trait I hope I can someday pass on to those around me.

Brooke Schupp (2)

Brooke Schupp, Kelsey’s sister and a 2014 Marshal

How do you feel about Kelsey following in your footsteps?

In college I mainly focused on my coursework, working to prove to myself that a 4.0 wasn’t impossible. Kelsey took that to the next level by being extremely active in other groups and competitions, for example taking her team to Nationals for the CFA Institute Research Challenge competition! The dedication, time management, and leadership she was able to muster over her senior year is beyond incredible to me and proof that my little sister isn’t so little anymore.

Penn State Behrend’s 2016 spring commencement will be held on Friday, May 6, in Erie Insurance Arena, 809 French St. The ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed live at behrend.psu.edu.

Marketing alum finds calling with Make-A-Wish Foundation

Penn State Behrend alumna Melissa Lichtinger works as online communication manager for Make-A-Wish International but also volunteers for the organization. The first wish she granted was for Lucas, who suffers from lung disease, cerebral palsy and can only communicate through non-verbal expression. A splash pad was installed in his backyard, so he would be able to play safely in water.
Penn State Behrend alumna Melissa Lichtinger works as online communication manager for Make-A-Wish International but also volunteers for the organization. The first wish she granted was for Lucas, who suffers from lung disease, cerebral palsy and can only communicate through non-verbal expression. A splash pad was installed in his backyard, so he would be able to play safely in water.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Melissa-Lichtinger_1Melissa Lichtinger no longer worries about life’s everyday stresses. Those concerns went away after she started to work for Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Whenever life gets tough, I’ll just watch a wish story. It always instills positivity, and you realize that your day-to-day struggles are nothing compared to what these kids go through,” the 2013 Penn State Behrend graduate said.

Lichtinger, who earned degrees in marketing and international business, works as online communications manager for Make-A-Wish International, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Every day, the Erie native works to manage the organization’s social media and website presence while being attentive to the needs of the 50 different countries in which Make-A-Wish operates.

Her commitment to the nonprofit’s mission is nothing new. While in college, Lichtinger got involved with Make-A-Wish thanks to the urging of her aunt, who was a volunteer, and interned in the organization’s Erie office.

“At my internship, I did a lot of the wish story writing, so it really connected me to the mission, and I had the chance to meet a lot of wish kids. It really changed my life and made me realize I wanted to work in this sector,” she said.

Lichtinger happened to be in luck. Following her college graduation, she was hired as a digital production coordinator for Make-A-Wish America before being promoted to digital production specialist. She was promoted to her current position last June.

However, while she enjoyed her work, something was missing. At the corporate office, Lichtinger often helps with managing the global brand, sponsorships and high-level tasks. It was time to get back to basics.

“I reached out to the local office here in Arizona, so I could start the process of (volunteering) and granting wishes. It was important to get back to the mission, and remind myself of why I wanted to get involved to begin with,” she said.

Her first wish granted was for Lucas, who suffers from lung disease, cerebral palsy and can only communicate through non-verbal expression. After speaking with his mother, Lichtinger learned that Lucas loves playing in the water, but it’s difficult for him to do so because he cannot be in the water without someone holding his head up.

His family and Lichtinger ultimately decided to install a splash pad in the family’s backyard for Lucas. Commonly seen in public parks, splash pads eliminate the risks of pools while still providing plenty of water fun as ground nozzles spray water upwards.

When he was introduced to the pad, Lucas immediately started to laugh and giggle, and Lichtinger was reminded why the Make-A-Wish cause resonates with her so much.

“You get to take a kid who doesn’t get to be a kid right now, and you get to help them imagine something that they never thought was possible. You get to see the transformation where they become a little kid again,” she said.

Lichtinger is currently in the process of planning an additional two wishes. She knows her career path may one day change, but she wants to continue to make a difference in the nonprofit sector.

She also remains very thankful for all the knowledge she gained from her time at Behrend.

“I am a driven person, but Behrend instilled all of the steps of how to get there while giving me an opportunity to work with professors who really care about your success. My international business degree and the projects I worked on is what really helped me get this job,” she said. “I still talk to my marketing professors today, and they still help me if I have questions or need advice. They’re my mentors, not just for those four years, but they’re my mentors through life.”

Behrend alumni lead textbook company’s transition to digital age

Totzke, Dauber Berlin (32)
Behrend alumni Erika Dauber Berlin and Matthew Totzke are challenged with running a textbook company, Larson Texts, in the 21st century.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In an age dominated by tablets and tweets, the prospect of running a textbook company might seem daunting. There’s nothing “textbook” about the operations of Larson Texts, however.

Technology has changed the game, but the Erie-based company has continued to adapt.

“The physical book is still valuable, but the way you get your hands on it is much different,” says Matthew Totzke, CEO of Larson Texts and a Penn State Behrend mathematics alumnus. “The technology now allows us to do a much better job of enhancing the learning experience.”

Larson Texts was founded more than 30 years ago by Ron Larson, then a professor of mathematics, now emeritus at Penn State Behrend. At the time, Larson was responding to what he saw as the need for more student-friendly math textbooks.

Today, the company produces math textbooks for sixth grade through college-level calculus classes that are used by more than five million students each year. Larson has also published textbooks for such well-known educational publishers as Cengage Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and W. H. Freeman and also publishes its own textbooks through Big Ideas Learning and AndYou.com.

Publishing a book, involves more than producing a physical textbook. With every college-level textbook that Larson Texts creates, the company also develops a fully-responsive companion website for all platforms: desktops, tablets and smartphones.

“We’re able to access so much more information than ever before. Now, we can really blend a great print book with strong digital content,” Totzke says.

That type of digital content featured on the companion sites includes worked-out proofs, instructional videos, rotatable graphs and downloadable data. All of these tools are great reference materials for students.

“There’s a lot of modeling in mathematics that you just can’t show on a print page,” Totzke says. “We put together interactive explorations that bring three-dimensional concepts to a workable medium.”

Being ahead of the digital curve is no new development for Larson. In 2001, the company created the website CalcChat as a tool that students could use to double check answers to questions posed in textbook exercises.

The site has since been supplemented by a tutor component and corresponding Twitter and Facebook accounts where students can talk with an actual tutor if they are struggling with a particular problem. Larson Texts monitors the tutor conversations as a way to gain feedback and develop solutions in areas in which students are continually struggling. According to Totzke, an estimated six million upper-level high school and college students have used the CalcChat service since 2010.

Through Big Ideas Learning, Larson publishes its own primary-school level books, a market segment the company expects to see expand as schools catch up to colleges and universities in terms of technology.

“Schools are beginning to have the infrastructure to embrace some of this technology,” says Erika Dauber Berlin, vice president of technology at Larson Texts and a Penn State Behrend communication & media alumna. “We have to draw inspiration from a lot of different areas and then anticipate how we’ll meet teachers’ needs into the future.”

It may not be the “textbook” method for creating educational publications, but Totzke would not have it any other way.

“We consider this to be an opportunity,” he says. “We’re able to deliver high-quality educational materials like we’ve never done before.”

Love of writing defines O’Neill’s time at Behrend

Katherine O'Neill

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

As a child, Katie O’Neill always had a keen interest in writing and creative expression. This affinity continued when she got to grade school, and it was not long before others started to notice.

“I had a teacher when I was in first grade who told my mom to get me a journal,” O’Neill recalls.

That would seem to have been excellent advice. As O’Neill has grown up, her passion for writing has become a defining characteristic.

“I’ve always been a writer before anything else,” the Lake Winola, Pa., native says.

That passion is what brought her to Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. The college’s BFA in Creative Writing piqued her interest as the only such program in the Penn State system and one of only a few in the country.

“That was definitely the number one draw,” she says.

Through the inventive program, O’Neill, who graduated this past May, says she was able to focus intently on improving her inventive writing skills. She also improved her editing abilities serving on the staff of Lake Effect, an international literary journal published by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Penn State Behrend.

Along the way, O’Neill garnered accolades. This past year alone, her non-fiction story, “Achill Strikes Again,” won Behrend’s Farrell Nonfiction Award while her fiction piece “Juneau” was the college’s Smith Fiction Award winner. Her short fiction piece, “Tony and Rebecca” was also named an honorable mention in the Annual Creative Writing Awards, sponsored by Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, New York.

O’Neill says her inspiration comes from “the weirdest things,” but also a more traditional source. Thanks to the college’s Creative Writers Reading Series and professional conferences, O’Neill met and networked with numerous professional authors throughout her college career. With every interaction, she says she would pick up a tip or two that she put to good use.

During her time at Penn State Behrend, O’Neill was involved beyond creative writing activities. She was the captain of the college’s dance team, a member of the Behrend Choir and a writing tutor in the Learning Resource Center.

This past spring, O’Neill’s efforts were recognized with two awards: Behrend’s Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award and a university-wide Eclipse Award. The Walker Award recognizes a student whose character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship have been directed into student programs and services. The Eclipse Award recognizes Penn State students for service and volunteerism to their campus and local communities.

This fall, O’Neill will start pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. She reflects fondly on her time at Penn State Behrend and hopes new students will choose to follow a similar path.

“My advice is to get involved from the start. I’m so glad I got involved right away. It can be overwhelming, but it’s (worth it),” she says. “I’ve made some amazing friends. I’m going to miss everything about this place.”

A Textbook Case of Win-Win: Student filmmakers, professors, textbook company team up to create educational videos


Dr. Papiya Bhattacharjee

By Christine Palattella
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Associate professor of mathematics Dr. Papiya Bhattacharjee’s daily summer lectures have an audience of just one unblinking video camera, but the potential to reach millions of math students.

Bhattacharjee is one of four calculus teachers chosen by regional audition to act as talent in supplemental video content to be distributed by Erie-based Larson Texts. The video series is being produced using equipment provided by Greater Erie Arts Rental (GEAR), a new outreach services of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and with the assistance of Behrend students working as production interns for Larson.

“I think the videos are going to be extremely helpful for any student, but especially the visual learners,” says Bhattacharjee, who spends four hours each morning in the Kochel Center television studio, working aloud while illustrating her commentary in grease marker on a large pane of glass. (The glass will be flipped in post-production to make the pane readable.)

Years of teaching have left Bhattacharjee comfortable speaking in public. It’s the addition of technology that’s the challenge. “I need to remember to always look at the camera while speaking, move away from my writing so it can be seen clearly in the camera, and so on,” she says. “I am trying to have fun. All I have to remember is that the camera is my student, and I am tutoring my student.”

But this is no average student: The camera is an Epic-M Red Dragon Pro, the same model used to film Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, and Avenger: Age of Ultron. This camera is just one piece of equipment in GEAR’s inventory, which includes high-end cameras, lighting kits, and other hardware and software. The equipment is available to professional and student filmmakers and regional artists. GEAR’s equipment inventory, purchased using a $500,000 gift commitment from the Samuel P. Black Family Fund of the Erie Community Foundation, also includes lenses, tripods and stage legs; six-channel sound mixers; shotgun and wireless mics; Fresnal, LED, and HMI lighting systems; and Mac Pro, Adobe and DaVinci Resolve editing and rendering software.

Tim Larson ’87 is a partner in Grant Larson Productions, creator of the calculus video series. He anticipates filming 700 individual videos averaging seven minutes in length by the time the shoot wraps in August. Larson calls GEAR “a wonderful resource. It’s so nice to have this kind of equipment in Erie. On previous shoots we’ve had to rent cameras and equipment from Columbus and Buffalo, so this is an astounding benefit to us.”

An additional GEAR benefit is a ready-made film crew, since a rental discount is available to GEAR clients who hire Penn State Behrend students. “I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to work on this project,” says Erik Brown, a spring Communication graduate and one of six Behrend students and young alumni working for Grant Larson as paid production interns. “The great thing about working here is not only learning about the film industry itself, but also being exposed to high-quality equipment. We’re not using just a couple house lights and DSLR cameras, but industry-standard gear for lighting, sound recording, and cameras. I’ve always wanted to work in the film industry and, now, working on this shoot, I feel like I have a realistic chance of doing that.”

Erik Brown, left, Josh Lapping

Erik Brown, left, and Josh Lapping, (above) are two of six Behrend students and recent alumni working on the videos for Grant Larson Productions using equipment from the Greater Erie Arts Rental, or GEAR, a new outreach service of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences that provides professional and student filmmakers and regional artists access to high-end cameras, lighting kits, and other hardware and software. 

Josh Lapping, Ciara Smith

Penn State students, Josh Lapping, left, and Ciara Smith, work on a series of videos for Grant Larson Productions.

Shelby Dailey

Shelby Dailey, Penn State Behrend Communication major and intern for Grant Larson Productions.

Intern Shelby Dailey, pictured above, a Communication major starting her senior year at the college, appreciates that Grant Larson rotates its student workers. “We’re given the chance to experience all the moving parts of film, such as camera operating, producing, directing, and script supervising. I’ve learned things that textbooks can’t adequately prepare students for, such as (crew) dos and don’ts, set etiquette, and (the importance) of networking.”

“We want to offer an educational experience that is at the same time a close facsimile of what students will experience once they enter the professional environment of producing film and television,” says GEAR coordinator Michael Berlin, whose previous professional experiences include managing crew and equipment for New York City’s Fashion Week and the E! and Pop television networks and production management for ABC World News, CNBC, and ESPN. “The students working on these calculus videos are gaining technical know-how and a type of muscle memory that characterizes this industry, plus they are learning the responsibility that comes with arriving on-set day in and day out. They also are enjoying the benefit of getting paid for their hard work—believe me when I tell you that this type of arrangement is a very rare and very special as a teaching tool that is fair to all parties involved.”

For additional information about GEAR, email Michael Berlin at mbb21@psu.eduLarson Texts and Grant Larson Productions online.

For adult student, degree is ‘one of those lifetime badges you get’

By Robb Frederick
Public Information Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Michael Linhart (3) (682x1024)Michael Linhart took his time getting to Erie Insurance Arena, where he received a bachelor’s degree in general arts and sciences. He crossed the stage in May, 24 years after he first enrolled at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

“It’s hard to describe how that felt,” Linhart, 42, said. “To be honest, I just tried to soak it all in.”

The Fairview resident first arrived at Penn State Behrend in 1991. The Kochel and Burke centers had not yet been built. Ohio and Almy halls were still woodlots.

Linhart had trouble adjusting to college life. After three semesters, his GPA had flat-lined at 1.5.

“I wasn’t ready for college,” he said. “I didn’t have the focus or the determination to stay with it. I needed to grow up.”

So he left. He worked the cash register at a grocery store and helped manage a Taco Bell. He watched his friends go on to better things.

“All my friends were getting these great 9-to-5 jobs,” he said. “They were getting married, having kids, and I was stuck, still living hand-to-mouth.”

In 1998, after five years away, he came back to campus. He tried to be more active: He joined the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and the Returning Adult Student Organization. He volunteered as an orientation leader.

“He had a renewed sense of what he needed to do to be successful here,” said Biddy Brooks, director of the Office of Adult Learner Services. “He was committed to putting in the work. So it was hard to see him leave again.”

After two years of study, Linhart was offered an internship at a property management company. He worked as a leasing consultant, matching renters to apartments in a 132-unit complex. When his boss offered him a full-time position – good pay, and a path up the organizational ladder – he accepted, leaving college for a second time.

Before long, however, the work bored him. He joined the U.S. Navy Reserve, training as an aviation supply worker. He completed basic training on Sept. 5, 2001.

Six days later, the nation went to war.

“I ended up in the Persian Gulf, on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, thinking, ‘Yeah, this was a great plan,’” Linhart said.

When his tour ended, he returned to Erie, wanting to be close to family again. He met a woman and had two children. He’d raise them on his own, tending bar and working as a massage therapist.

He married again in 2012. When his new wife, Amy, encouraged him to complete his degree, Linhart once more found himself in Biddy Brooks’ office.

“He just persevered,” Brooks said. “He was so positive and outgoing, and always willing to talk with other adult students. He wanted to help them through situations he’d already had to work through.”

He kept his own doubts to himself. “I was a lot more apprehensive, coming back that third time,” Linhart said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ But I stayed with it. I saw it as one of those lifetime badges you get: the ‘turn 40 and go back to college’ badge.”

It worked. He earned his final credits and was honored as the college’s top adult learner. The day of his last exam, he lingered on campus.

“This school has given me so much,” he said. “So many friends, so many experiences, so many nuggets of wisdom I can take with me anywhere. I just walked around and took it all in one more time.”

Before the commencement ceremony, he drove to the cemetery where his grandparents are buried. He placed an invitation in a zip-lock bag and tucked it between their headstones. Then he went home and taped a message to the top of his mortarboard: “I MADE IT.”

Alumnus returns to inspire, encourage at Relay for Life

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Brooks Family

The Brooks family – Amy, Glenn, Haley, and Lindsay

Glenn Brooks ’86 never expected to be invited back to Penn State Behrend to speak to students.

“I changed my major several times and it took me awhile to determine where I was headed as an adult. And, let’s just say that I may have been working on my ‘social skills’ a little too much back then,” he said with a laugh.

But there are lots of surprises in life. Some good. Some not so good, like cancer.

“In September of 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Head and Neck Cancer, originating in the ligual tonsil,” he said. “My treatment included chemotherapy, radiation, hydration therapy, tonsillectomy, a feeding tube, extended stays in the hospital, and nearly three months of not being able to eat, drink, or speak.”

Fortunately, the aggressive treatment plan worked. He’s been cancer-free for two years now and he says he is filled with gratitude and an internal drive to give back.

“Given the choice, I wouldn’t choose to get cancer, of course,” he said. “But it has inspired me to use my experience to help others. I genuinely believe that my calling is to seize as many opportunities as possible to reach out to others as they endure treatments and recovery, as well as to those that have been fighting for the cancer patient, too.”

That’s why he said “yes” when two Penn State Behrend students asked him to return to campus on April 10 to deliver messages of hope to hundreds of participants in the college’s Relay for Life, a 24-hour walk that is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Brooks was the Opening Ceremony speaker.

More than 250 participated in the Behrend Relay for Life with twenty-one teams who raised 19,683 for the American Cancer Society! The highest fundraising team was Behrend’s own Housing and Food Service Team Tie Dye who raised $3,817.

relay for life

Brooks, who participated in the Survivors Lap, was recently named a Global Hero of Hope by the American Cancer Society, one of only thirty-one such people in the world.

We talked with Brooks to learn more about his days at Behrend, his journey since, and how he reaches out to help others.

Why did you choose Behrend? Well, because initially I wanted to pursue Civil Engineering. But Calculus 162 said I wasn’t right for that career. In hindsight, I have to agree.

Degree earned: Management, with a Human Resources option.

Where do you work now? I’m the Manager of Organization Development for Student Transportation, Inc., the world’s third largest provider of school transportation services with more than 14,000 employees throughout the United States and Canada.

Family: Wife, Amy, and two daughters, Lindsay, 20, and Haley, 17, who is currently a Penn State Behrend student, but is soon transferring to the University of Hawaii, where she will be joining her fiancé who is serving in the U.S. Navy. They are getting married in June.

You speak regularly about your cancer fight, correct? I do. In the past couple of years, I’ve given more than fifty talks to various groups. I also lead a Cancer Support Network initiative at work and I’ve written several articles about cancer that have been published in various publications and magazines.

What do you say? My typical story describes my cancer journey, from diagnosis to current. I remind the audience that cancer is no longer a death sentence, due in part to the efforts of the American Cancer Society. I always, on behalf of all cancer survivors and their caregivers, thank those who are engaged in the fight against cancer. I encourage them to remain involved so that we can rid the world of cancer in hopes our children and grandchildren never have to hear that terrible diagnosis.

Why go so public? I know that some cancer patients wish to keep their experiences private, but I choose to be an activist for cancer research, recovery, and response. As a cancer survivor, I’ve been given a gift—authentic understanding. It’s something that doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who haven’t had cancer, don’t have. I understand the financial, spiritual, practical, relational, philosophical, emotional, and physical changes that occur when a person has cancer because I’ve experienced it first-hand.

Do you find sharing to be rewarding or fulfilling in some way? I’ve met some rather incredible folks along the way. The energy and passion that I’ve felt is nothing short of amazing. I can tell you this with full confidence—we are loved. We are all loved by people that don’t even know us. Also, my involvement has given me the opportunity to give back and show appreciation for all the people—family, friends, coworkers, and perfect strangers—who were so good to my wife and my daughters when I was sick.

Your wife was recently diagnosed with cancer? Yes, in March of 2014, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. And, when someone tells you that if you have to pick a type of cancer, that’s a good one to get, don’t believe them. Any cancer is horrible.

Did you join in the Relay at Behrend? I did the Survivors Lap and also the Caregiver Lap. I did my best to thank every team member along the way, handing out high-fives all the way.

What is a Global Hero of Hope? I was submitted an application and was selected to represent the cancer survivors/caregivers internationally. There are only thirty-one Global Heroes of Hope in the world with seventeen countries represented. There are just four of us from the United States.

What do you want people with cancer to know? You are not alone. You can win the fight. And, love will beat cancer.

Can people contact you if they have questions or would like you to talk to a group? Sure, they can e-mail me at gabrooks@yahoo.com.

Behrend alumna specializes in OCD research

Jessica Schubert (2)

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Jessica Schubert has heard it all too many times.

“I’m so OCD.” “Oh, that’s my OCD acting up.” They’re the explanations many people offer to explain their little quirks.

The problem is that a quirk — a peculiar behavioral habit — is much different from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) — a potentially severe mental illness that affects more than three million Americans in the United States.

“People don’t mean harm when they make generalizations like that, but I do think it perpetuates this mindset that mental illness is not a big deal,” says Schubert, who graduated from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, in 2009 with a degree in psychology. “OCD is a real, chronic and disabling condition. It’s a broader disorder than a lot of people think.”

Bringing awareness to OCD and its complications is one of the Harborcreek native’s goals. Now a Ph.D. candidate at Binghamton University – SUNY, Schubert has developed an interest in OCD, partially because treatment of the disorder remains a relatively new concept.

“It’s only in the last 30 years where we’ve had any  effective treatment for OCD. Before that, the field was very psychodynamic, but over time, the theoretical focus changed to behaviorism. That small change in focus has really led to the treatment of OCD,” she says.

According to Schubert, treatment can take many forms. Medications may be used, but Schubert says they’re often not a long-term fix.

Instead, she proposes exposure-and-ritual prevention, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The idea is to encourage the person suffering from OCD to face his or her fears.

“The problem with someone who has OCD is that they’re avoiding what they’re afraid of. Having them stay with their anxiety will allow them to see it go down over time,” she says.

Schubert’s doctoral research specializes in sleep patterns and how they potentially affect OCD. This was also her topic of discussion when she returned to Behrend this semester to speak as part of the college’s Colloquium Series in Psychological Sciences and Human Behavior.

Schubert estimates that at least half of those diagnosed with OCD are unable to maintain regular sleep schedules. In fact, OCD sufferers tend to stay awake through the night time hours, only to sleep throughout the day. Schubert’s research examines the role that disrupted circadian timing of sleep plays in the severity of obsessions and compulsions. Often referred to as the “body clock”, the circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep and regulates many other physiological processes.

“It’s not that people with OCD are not sleeping enough, but that they’re sleeping at the wrong time,” she says. “My research looks at whether we can normalize sleep, so they can engage in normal treatment.”

Although Schubert is still conducting more research on the topic, she says she’s encouraged by her findings, which suggest that sleep patterns do play a role in the severity and effectiveness of treating OCD symptoms.

Schubert plans to dive further into the topic in the years to come, but she is also excited about the other potential paths her professional future could take.

“There’s this huge array of opportunities available to someone in this field,” she says. “You can teach, you can see patients, you can do research or you can do a combination of all three. It’s a field you can never get bored in.”

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