By Heather Cass Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend
Flavors, customs, and tastes may differ from country to country, but food is a universal language of human beings. Sharing a meal, whether an elaborate holiday feast or a simple dinner, can unite and create community among people.
For thirty-two years, Penn State Behrend’s Multi-Cultural Council, a student club comprising of cultural student organizations, sets the table for connection among the campus community at the club’s annual Harambee dinner.
This year’s dinner is scheduled for October 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in McGarvey Commons.
“Harambee is a word in Swahili that means ‘Let’s pull together’ and originated in the country of Kenya as a slogan for national unity,” said Andy Herrera, Director of Educational Equity and Diversity Programs and adviser for MCC. “We use this event as a way of uniting our campus community and celebrating the diversity of cultures here at Behrend.”
The annual event offers students, faculty and staff members a chance to get to know one another while enjoying an international buffet dinner and an evening of entertainment. This year’s guest speaker is Shinjini Das, a young entrepreneur, industrial engineer, global millennial influencer, and media personality. She is the founder and CEO of The Das Media Group, a boutique digital strategy consulting firm, and has been recognized for her global efforts to empower women.
The event will also feature a cultural performance with a professional touring group performing Afro-Brazilian music and the Brazilian dance art of capoeira.
“It’s really nice to see the diversity of students and community members who attend the event every year,” Herrera said. “Some students from MCC wear traditional dress from their various cultures, and group members emcee the event and speak about the importance and meaning of Harambee.”
The timing of the event is deliberate, Herrera said.
“Harambee is held in early fall every year to set a tone of cultural awareness and appreciation for the year. Like the name of the dinner suggests, it’s meant to pull us all together.”
Lilley Library art exhibit invites remarkable women to the table
By Heather Cass Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
This quote by author Virginia Woolf sums up the invisibility of women in the collective history of the world. Overshadowed by the accomplishments of men, few females have made it into the history books. And, yet, women have made their presence known in every aspect of human existence from art to banking to the military to the board room and beyond.
In 1979, feminist artist Judy Chicago gave thirty-nine women a seat at the table in her masterwork “The Dinner Party,” a giant sculpture that imagines famous women from myth and history engaged in conversation.
The installation art, which took more than five years to produce, is composed of thirty-nine ornate place settings on a triangular table with thirteen plates on each side. An additional 999 women’s names are written in gold on the floor. The piece toured the world, gaining an audience of millions; it is now on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum.
Closer to home, you’ll find another dinner party happening in the John M. Lilley Library.
Students in last spring’s WMNST 106 Representations of Women in Literature, Art, and Culture taught by Dr. Sarah Whitney, assistant teaching professor of English and women’s studies, painted plates to honor a women from a wide variety of backgrounds. The students’ work is on display in the gallery space near the entrance to the library.
“For this project, students researched a woman of their choice who made significant contributions,” Whitney said. “They designed and painted on china as Judy Chicago did, using color and shape creatively to demonstrate the chosen figure’s importance. Students also wrote a reflection paper exploring their figure’s historical, and personal, impact on the artist.”
“The purpose of ‘The Dinner Party’ was to recognize women who history had forgotten and I wanted someone who was unconventional, even by today’s standards,” Boniger said. “Pavlichenko has an incredible story. She is a young woman from a Ukrainian village who became the Soviet Union’s greatest sniper during World War II. She showed that woman can be hard and strong, and they don’t have to be the delicate, soft things that society would prefer we be.”
Boniger is an aspiring screenwriter who took WMNST 106 to learn what she suspected she was missing.
“The class was amazing,” Boniger said. “I could not believe the amount of exposure I received and just how much women’s contributions to art and culture have been excluded from the narrative we’ve all been taught.”
Whitney was pleased with the range of women and topics that students picked.
“The plates reflect a diversity of choices, which is wonderful,” Whitney said. “I especially enjoyed learning about new women from our international students whose choices spanned the globe. Furthermore, some students chose mythical or fictional figures, such as Shakti, which were also quite enlightening.”
Junior biology major Caitlin Kent, chose to celebrate the essence of womanhood and give a nod to her future career as an obstetrician/gynecologist.
“I painted a uterus as the center of the universe to represent a feminine divine force or a female creator,” Kent said. “All life stems from women. On my plate, one ovary is painted as the sun and one as the Earth to center the uterus as the birthplace of the universe.”
The plates are simple porcelain and students used a china paint, just like Judy Chicago, to adorn them.
“Using hands-on materials to make historical events come alive is a key part of my teaching practice in general,” Whitney said. “I think using manipulatives is particularly important in studying ‘Dinner Party’ both because it is a visceral, intense piece, and because Chicago was intentional about using traditional women’s art practices, like china painting and embroidery, to honor forgotten female artists. By doing it, you sort of experience Chicago’s process.”
Kent and Boniger gave the project, and the entire course, high marks.
“I think WMNST 106 is a class that all people can benefit from,” Boniger said. “These women’s histories are all of our histories. The class covers such a range of subjects, I can guarantee that any student taking it will learn something new, and enjoy doing so. It’s about time we start bringing women into the conversation and including them in the history they have helped create.”
“My Dinner Party” will be on exhibit in the Lilley Library until October 26. Whitney would like to acknowledge the help of the Lilley librarians, and Scott Rispin, assistant teaching professor of art, who helped to assemble the display.
Obstacle races are all the rage lately, including inflatable obstacle races, but Penn State Behrend Athletics is taking it one step further and hosting an inflatable obstacle course race in the pool!
The event—called SwimJitsu—is open to swimmers of any age, including adults. The $20 advance registration price gets you two-hours of swimming/sliding/jumping fun.
From the race organizer:
“SwimJitsu participants, also known as ‘swimjas,’ aim to complete entertaining obstacles such as balancing across beams, swimming through trenches, and cannonballing off the top of Mt. Swimja. Once participants conquer the course and the three sacred traits of speed, agility, and wisdom, they can claim the title of Grand Master Swimja.”
Penn State Behrend’s event will be held on Sunday, October 8. Participants can register for one of three two-hour sessions: 9:00-11:00 a.m.; 11:30-1:30 p.m.; or 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Swimjas are separated into age groups and they get two hours to attempt unlimited runs on the course. Awards will be given at the end of each session for the best times per age group. There will also be four ninja-themed swimming games for competitors to practice their newfound abilities.
Penn State Behrend Athletics and Behrend Swimming and Diving are hosting the event, which has never been presented in the Erie area before.
“We’re excited to bring SwimJitsu to our facility as a fun activity for the Erie community to enjoy,” said Jen Wallace, head swimming and diving coach.
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).
Penn State Behrend’s Spring Art Show brings color and beauty to campus. The show presents works by twenty-five artists from the college community through May 8. It is the first time that it will be displayed in the college’s John M. Lilley Library gallery.
Heather Cole, lecturer in digital arts, and Scott Rispin, lecturer in art, collaborated on the show, which received support from the Mary Behrend Cultural Fund. Together, they expanded it from a straightforward student photography show to a professional exhibition in the gallery located on the main floor of the library.
“In the past, we exhibited unframed works in the hallway of a classroom building,” Cole explained. “We were looking for a more professional viewing space. The Lilley Library gallery gave us the opportunity to exhibit the art in a framed, professional manner.”
Rispin had been talking to Dr. Rick Hart, library director, for a few years about using space on the lower level and in the gallery for exhibits. Things came together last fall, when the Faculty Art Show made its debut in the gallery space.
The Spring Art Show promotes the diverse talents and interests of the Penn State Behrend community. Submissions include student works in a variety of media, as well as pieces by faculty and staff. In addition to photography, the show features paintings, drawings, and digital art such as collages, scanograms (scanner art), 3D graphics, and 3D-printed sculptures. Many of the student works were created for photography, digital arts, and painting classes.
The artwork is not arranged by format or artist. “It’s always best to hang a show in a way that creates a better experience for the gallery patron,” Rispin said.
Students demonstrate diverse artistic talents
Hayden Seibert, a sophomore Mechanical Engineering major from Erie, Pa., submitted two paintings to the show. “One was displayed last year in the Erie Art Museum Spring Show and the other is being shown for the first time,” he said. “I’m an artist, and I like to share my work.”
Krystal Elliott, a sophomore Software Engineering major from New York City, created her watercolor painting Spring is Near, which depicts a bird on a tree branch, specifically for the show. She said she submitted it to challenge herself to do something new, and she wanted to paint something others could identify with.
“I finally saw a bird outside and it reminded me that winter was nearly over,” she said.
Nick Ranayhossaini, a senior majoring in General Arts and Sciences from Harmony, Pa., had started his charcoal drawing of a skull before learning about the show but finished it for the submission deadline.
“I often draw skeletal figures, largely because I enjoy dark themes and just think that skeletons look cool, but also because they don’t represent anyone specific,” Ranayhossaini said. “Seeing the piece in the gallery makes me extremely happy. When I get to watch someone walk in and start examining my work I am extremely proud.”
Digital Arts step into the spotlight
The exhibition includes a display case with 3D objects designed by students in Cole’s ART168 The Digital Medium course. They hadn’t even seen their creations until they went on display. The students created the models with Autodesk Mudbox, a 3D painting and sculpting program, and Cole printed them with a 3D printer recently purchased by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“These are their first projects,” Cole said. “They wanted to get down to the library to see them right away.”
Peter Kalmar, a junior Computer Science major from Cabot, Pa., created a 3D-printed turtle and also drew concept art for a sword design and implemented it in Blender, a 3D modelling program. He said doing the project was a great way to learn the computer program.
Art at Penn State Behrend will continue to grow
Cole and Rispin say that there are ample opportunities to further expand the show, which would give Arts Administration majors experience in planning, executing, and promoting gallery exhibitions.
Both instructors hope more artists will participate as they become aware of the blossoming art scene on campus. Cole and Rispin often find that fear or inexperience holds back new artists, who may think their work isn’t good enough or might not know how to frame or display artwork.
“All they really need to do is talk to us and we’ll help them,” Cole said. Rispin has even loaned or built frames for students’ work.
Don’t expect all of the art to disappear from the Lilley Library—or campus—after the show is over. Rispin says additional wall space on the lower level of the library will be used as “ongoing exhibition space.”
The show also was highlighted at a recent Community Arts Walk that took place during the college’s Spring Open House. The event included temporary art displays on bulletin boards and mobile frames around campus, a display in the windows of a residence hall, and performances at Bruno’s Cafe.
“The walk went well,” said Cole, who may “look to inviting clubs to participate next year.” She has lots of other creative projects in the works, too.
Students say that’s good news. “I have high hopes that the college will continue to provide opportunities like this on campus,” Seibert said.
About the Spring Art Show
Admission to the show is free and open to the public during library hours.
Parking is available at the adjacent Reed Union Building or in any campus visitor parking lot. Visitor Parking Permits may be obtained from Police Services in Erie Hall.
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.”
Can you believe we are less than ten days away from saying goodbye to 2014?
At Penn State Behrend, the year was an eventful one. We welcomed our largest freshman class ever, introduced a number of new academic programs, and began construction on a new Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center.
Please join us to revisit some of these highlights in the video above.