‘Looks Like We Made It’: Behrend choristers perform alongside Barry Manilow

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It was not until the lights came on that Elizabeth Seng fully realized the significance of the moment.

Behind her was a jumbotron. In front stood a multi-platinum singer-songwriter. Beyond him was a crowd of thousands of people.

Seng, a senior psychology major at Penn State Behrend, has made many memories in her four years at the college, but performing alongside Barry Manilow as part of the Choirs of Penn State Behrend might take the cake.

“We were out on the stage, and then they shined the lights on us,” said Seng, a Seattle native who has been a regular member of the choir during her time at the college. “There were all these people there, and it was just really exhilarating. It was probably my most memorable experience I’ve had here at Behrend.”

Manilow invited the Behrend Choirs to perform alongside him at his April 25 concert at Erie Insurance Arena. Tone-Acious, Penn State Behrend’s student a cappella club, joined the choir for the performance, which was part of Manilow’s “One Last Time!” tour.

“This was a really unique opportunity, and it highlighted Behrend’s arts offerings in front of a huge audience,” said Gabrielle Dietrich, director of choral ensembles at the college. “It also provided a fun and highly motivating year-end experience for our students.”

“When I found out, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you serious?’” Seng said. “It just felt so special to think that Barry Manilow thought we were good enough to be a part of his concert.”

The choirs’ performance was especially meaningful because they joined him for the three final songs of the concert, which were amongst his greatest hits: “Copacabana,” “Miracle” and “I Write the Songs.”

The day of the concert, the choirs arrived at the arena at 3:30 p.m. and practiced before going on stage at 9:30 p.m.

“We were sent to holding rooms in which they had us practice a lot and learn the choreography,” said Taylor May, a junior software engineering major and member of both the Behrend Choirs and Tone-Acious. “We even ran through it once on the stage with the soundtrack, but thankfully we got to relax a bit before the concert.”

To honor the occasion, choristers created “Behrend Hearts Barry” t-shirts which they wore under their gowns during the concert. They even gave an extra t-shirt to Manilow as a memento.

The shirts are a reminder of what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the choristers.

“Before you knew it, you could see the streamers (coming down from the ceiling), and that was it. It just went by so fast,” Seng said. “To be part of one of his final tours was just really, really cool. I’ll remember it forever.”

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Students escape to Madagascar via Washington, D.C.

Reem Elhafiz Abdalla, Jillian Dunn, Lillie Gabreski, Dalia Tenda Batuuka

Reem Elhafiz Abdalla, Jillian Dunn, Lillie Gabreski and Dalia Tenda Batuuka represented Penn State Behrend at Howard University’s 14th Annual National Model African Union Summit last month.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Dalia Tenda Batuuka, Jillian Dunn, Lillie Gabreski and Reem Elhafiz Abdalla are not natives of Madagascar. None of them has ever stepped foot in the country.

Talk to any of these four Penn State Behrend students for even a few minutes though, and you might just think they were native-born Malagasy.

Last month, the students attended and participated in Howard University’s 14th Annual National Model African Union Summit. Sponsored by the African Union Mission and Member State Embassies in Washington, D.C., the four-day summit is a simulation of the proceedings of the African Union, requiring participants to research their assigned countries in-depth before attending the conference.

This marked the first time that Penn State Behrend was represented at the summit, held in February with more than 45 colleges and universities participating. The Behrend students’ assigned country was, of course, Madagascar. The group represented the college well, winning the Michelle Tooley Outstanding Delegation in Committee Award in recognition of their performance on the Social Matters Committee.

“Students really do have to act as delegates and adopt the stance of the country they’re representing,” said Naaborle Sackeyfio, a lecturer in comparative politics who also attended the summit.

The students chose to participate after taking Sackeyfio’s Introduction to Contemporary Africa course during the fall semester.

“We were in the course together, and Dr. Sackeyfio mentioned this summit. It just seemed like such a great opportunity,” said Batuuka, a first-year psychology major.

Each student was assigned a different committee for the summit, in this case Economics (Gabreski), Peace and Security (Batuuka), Social Matters (Abdalla) and Regional Economic Matters (Dunn). This meant that the group had plenty of studying to do beforehand.

“The whole point was to go there and play the role of actual delegates from Madagascar, so you had to be very familiar with the country in advance,” Batuuka said.

The group met several times a week and spent long hours preparing for the event. There were times during the summit where other countries’ delegates would call their expertise into question, but the students held their ground.

“People would contest things over even the smallest words. There were times where you definitely had to stand up and make your case heard,” said Gabreski, a senior political science major.

“The margin for error was very small,” added Dunn, a sophomore political science major.

While the students were happy to receive an award for how they represented Madagascar, it was not the only thing they took away from the summit.

“After this experience, I have such a newfound appreciation for politicians,” Batuuka said. “You always hear, ‘What’s wrong with Congress? Why aren’t they passing this?’ but you realize that it’s not that easy.”

Sophomore creates Behrend’s first Model United Nations chapter

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Delegate-Ivan Pan, Moustafa

Ivan Pan, left, and Moustafa Elhadary were two of the student delegates who represented Penn State Behrend at the 62nd annual Harvard National Model United Nations.

Weibin “Ivan” Pan was optimistic prior to attending the Penn State Behrend Student Leadership Conference in February 2015. The Xiamen, China native had just started his second college semester and was looking to get more involved on campus.

But he did more than just get involved. He paved the way for others to get involved, too.

“I came out of that conference knowing that I wanted to create a Model United Nations at Penn State Behrend. I was very involved in Model UN in high school, and I knew that a lot of students at Behrend would be interested in the group,” says Pan, a sophomore Finance major.

Within a month, he had found a faculty adviser and plenty of interested students. Today, the group, now an official Model UN chapter, has more than 30 members.

Pan said a key reason he wanted to start a chapter was to provide opportunities for the college’s growing international student population. Last year, Penn State Behrend welcomed 186 new international students, the largest international class in its history.

“Model UN is a great place for international students to practice their public speaking skills, English skills and to learn to negotiate with others,” Pan said.

In February, Pan and an additional seven Penn State Behrend student delegates attended the 62nd annual Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN). More than 3,000 student delegates from more than 70 countries and 100 universities attended the four-day international relations simulation in downtown Boston. Founded in 1955, the conference is the largest and oldest of its kind, and this year was the first time that Penn State had ever been represented.

For the simulation, Pan and the other student delegates (Stephanie Zhao, Naman Tanwar, Tyagadipta Biswal, Deniz Himmetoglu, Hank Pinge, Moustafa Elhadary, and Keshav Prabhu) were assigned the country of Poland. They spent nearly a year researching the country and its policies to prepare for the event.

“We prepared and met regularly before the event,” Pan said. “It was a great honor to be invited to the conference. Everyone wants to be invited, but there was only a limited number who went.”

While they did not take home any of the major awards at HNMUN, the team plans to apply to attend the conference next year. The group has also applied to attend the eleventh annual Los Angeles Model United Nations (LAMUN) in April at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“There are so many great opportunities for students here at Behrend,” Pan said. “The fact that I was able to start a Model UN chapter just shows that Behrend really does provide great opportunities for its international students.”

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Makers Engineer Ornaments, Fun

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By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

The upcoming holiday season offers the perfect distraction for stressed-out students. In this last week of classes, we found plenty of holiday cramming going on with every area from Housing and Food Services to Student Activities to the School of Engineering fitting in some festive merrymaking before things get serious with Finals Week next week.

Wednesday evening, a dozen students gathered in an electrical lab in Burke 145 to munch holiday treats and craft acrylic LED ornaments with Dr. Chris Coulston, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Students first drew snowflakes on computers using CorelDraw and added any text they wanted before sending their creations to the laser printer to be cut out of acrylic. Then, they used soldering irons, wire, LED lights, and batteries to make their snowflakes glow.

Though the Makers group meets fairly regularly, Coulston refrains from calling it a club.

“It’s more like a gathering of like-minded makers,” he says. “I just invite students to show up and make something. It gives them an opportunity to try some of the tools we have, like the laser cutter and soldering equipment.”

Ultimately, though, it’s about encouraging critical thinking and creativity, which are key concepts for engineering students to grasp.

“We try to come up with things that challenge them or make them look at things in a slightly different way,” Coulston said. “For instance, before Thanksgiving, we made LED hot dogs. Who’d have thought you could light up a hot dog?”

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While there may be no practical application for glowing frankfurters, there is certainly a demand for people with the creativity, technological skills, and theoretical knowledge to use ordinary objects in a truly unique way.

While the majority of those who attend Coulston’s Maker gatherings are engineering students, he welcomes all students and faculty members.

“I’d love to have some artists and scientists join us, too,” he said. “The more, the merrier. They’d probably have some really cool ideas.”

Coulston brought a special guest to Wednesday’s gathering, his pug, Shiloh, dressed in her holiday best.

“Anyone can get a picture with Santa, but where else can you get a photo with Santa Pug?” he says with a smile.

Just like an engineer, always looking to improve the original product.

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9-hole disc golf course open at Behrend

By Heather Cass

Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

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Have you noticed the medieval-looking baskets with chains on metal poles around campus and wondered what they are for?

They’re for your entertainment.

The baskets are targets for a new nine-hole disc golf course that snakes around the perimeter of campus. Disc golf is played much like traditional golf but with flying discs instead of balls and clubs. Players stand near the tee and try to get their disc into the basket in the fewest number of throws.

Student-driven fun

The project was initiated by Kyle Stephan ’14, a former SGA president, who got the ball rolling discs flying, by approaching the Student Activities and Athletics departments to obtain approval, advice, and, eventually, funding to establish a course on campus.

Stephan was joined by Mechanical Engineering majors Trey Neveux and Mark Malecky, and Psychology major Tyler Ferraino, who worked together to design the course, locate equipment, and secure funds.

The students did the majority of the work on the course themselves, with assistance from the Erie Disc Golf Club, the college’s Maintenance and Operations department, and with instruction from Dr. Mike Naber, lecturer in geosciences, on using Geographic Information System (GIS) to layout and measure the course.

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Tyler Ferraino, right, and Trey Neveux.

The course

Though the graphics for the tee markers are still under production, all of the targets/baskets are set and the tee markers (plain white signs) are in place.

The course starts in front of the tennis court/baseball fields near the Jordan road entrance to the college. From there, it snakes around to the old soccer field and then up and around the new track complex before finishing up in the woods across from the track near the bridge to Erie parking lot.

An online map that you can use on your Smartphone while you play can be found here.

Equipment

A basic disc golf set contains three discs—a driver, a mid-range disc, and a putter. Just like in golf, the driver is used for long drives from tee, the mid-range disc is used for shorter distances, and the putter is used when you’re close to the target.

There are at least ten sets of discs available for students to borrow for free at the RUB desk (and Neveux says there are more to come), or you can pick up your own set at a mass retailer or online for less than $30.

How to play/rules

Standing at the tee (currently marked with plain white signs…graphics are in production!), throw your driver disc toward the basket. Players — typically two to four, but more is OK, too — take turns throwing their discs with the one whose disc lands the farthest from the basket going first (like golf).

One point (stroke) is counted each time the disc is thrown and when a penalty is incurred. The goal is to play each hole in the fewest strokes possible. A disc that comes to rest in the basket or chains constitutes a successful completion of that hole.

Most of the holes on Behrend’s course are a par 3, but there are also two par 4s and a par 5. Map here.

The player with the lowest total strokes for the entire course wins.

Learn more about how to play disc golf here.

First-timers take

Neveux and Ferraino spent some time introducing me to the sport on a recent weekday morning.

It was a lot of fun and it wasn’t hard to figure out how to throw the discs to my advantage (most drivers arc left) and when to switch discs to make use of the mid-range and putter discs.

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By the third hole, I had a pretty solid grasp on the sport and enough skill to get the disc in the area I wanted it to be.

Learn more at YouTube, where you can find plenty of videos with tips on disc throwing technique.

Future expansion

Neveux, who serves as president of the Disc Golf club at Behrend, says they are already thinking of expanding.

“We’d like to add another nine holes, so we have an eighteen-hole course,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of space for it on campus.”

And, with the club’s dedication and promotion of the sport, they’re sure to have plenty of players, too.

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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.”

Athletics to host cool 5K fun run (ice cream is involved!)

Ice Cream Run TV

By Heather Cass

Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Some people run for fun. Some people run for fitness. Some people run to spend time with friends.

What would you run for?

How about free Berkey Creamery ice cream (and a cool T-shirt, too)?

Ah…now there’s a tempting reason and sweet reward for running (or walking) the Penn State Behrend Athletics first Ice Cream Run on Friday, August 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Not up for 3.1 miles? There’s also a Family Fun 1-Mile Walk.

The races start and finish in the Junker Center parking lot, near the new soccer complex. The course is on all paved paths through campus and Coach Greg Cooper (cross-country and track) was merciful when he designed the course as it goes up first, then is mostly flat or downhill. Course map here (also posted below).

Race registration is $25 and includes a long-sleeve shirt and free Berkey’s Creamery ice cream when you finish the race. Register here (online registration only). By the way, this is a family-friendly event – there’s a $5 discount for every additional family member you register.

Four legged friends are even welcome to run with you, too, but they must be leashed and under control at all times.

This is a fun run, so there will not be a timer or awards.

All proceeds benefit Behrend Athletics! For more information call 814-898-6240.

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