Behrend Competitive Cheer Team Places Second in National Competition

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend


Penn State Behrend’s competitive cheer team recently made history, earning the college’s first nationally ranked cheerleading trophy. The team, led by coach Kelli Carpinello, took second place in the 2023 NCA Collegiate Cheer National Championships, the highest-ranking competition for collegiate cheerleading, which was held in Daytona Beach, Florida, earlier this month.

Cheerleading is a club sport at Behrend, but Carpinello and students involved take it as seriously as a competitive sport.

“Sometimes students hear the word ‘club’ and feel their attendance isn’t mandatory, however, I make it clear in the beginning that I treat this much like a varsity sport, where they are expected to attend practices, workouts, and everything that goes along with being a student athlete,” Carpinello said.

Practices are typically three times a week, and team members are required to work out at least twice a week on their own. Tumblers are asked to attend open gym weekly to keep their skills fresh.

Carpinello, who also works as a financial aid coordinator at Behrend, coaches two cheer teams – Game Day Cheer and Competitive Cheer – and the college’s Dance Team, too.  All three clubs have grown considerably under her guidance, with more than thirty-five students participating in the 2022-23 academic year.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the past couple of years,” Carpinello said. “I believe that, post-COVID, people wanted to get out and do more. Most of these students missed out on memorable events at the end of their high school years and beginning of their college years. This past fall, we had a record number of people, nearly sixty, try out for cheer.”

Behrend Blog talked with Carpinello and Competitive Cheer club member Lauren Hanke, a junior Nursing major, to learn more about cheering at Behrend and the club’s big win.

What is your background with the sport, Kelli?

Kelli: I was a cheerleader and dancer in my younger years. I danced in my youth, cheered in middle school and high school, was on a dance team at IUP for one year, and then cheered and danced for the Erie Invaders Football team in 2000. I was the assistant cheer coach at Edinboro University (now PennWest Edinboro) between 1997 and 1999, and the dance coach at Edinboro in 1998. I took some time off and began coaching cheer again in 2015 at Behrend. I assumed the dance team coach position in 2021. I am both adviser and coach for Behrend’s Cheer and Dance Teams.

They are all separate clubs?

Kelli: Yes. Game Day cheerleaders perform at men’s and women’s basketball games. The Competitive cheerleaders participate in local, regional, and national competitions (such as the NCA Collegiate Cheer National Championship). The Dance Team is another club.

We’ve seen you perform at games and events, and it’s obvious the team is inclusive and having a lot of fun. Is that something you try to cultivate or is it just organic?

Kelli: It is a little bit of both. At the beginning of each season, we embrace the “team is family” mindset. I grew up as an athlete in various sports with various coaches and different styles, so I knew what kind of a coach I wanted to be.

Often the tone of a team reflects the leaders. Who are the leaders that stand out in cheer?

Kelli: Leadership begins with the coaches and trickles down to executive board members and ultimately the rest of the team. How I conduct myself as a coach has an impact on the team’s mood and attitude. I have been blessed with an amazing assistant coach, Karle Cortes, who is very talented and brings amazing energy to our teams. The executive board members have been instrumental in maintaining club business, organizing team bonding events, and keeping team morale high.

What is the key to being a good cheerleader?

Kelli: Experience and skill is easy to spot, but I look for someone who also has a good attitude, is coachable, will take constructive criticism, and is a good teammate. I’d rather coach a student with a great attitude who is open to improvement in their skills than someone who is very skilled but has a not-so-great attitude. Ideally, a winning attitude and excellent skill is a cheer coach’s dream.

Tell me about the Florida competition. How did you fund the travel?  

Lauren: We held several fundraisers during the year to help cover the cost of travel. The Student Activity Fee and Student Government Association were generous enough to pay for the registration fees to enter the competition. We are grateful that the school invested in us and gave our team the opportunity to represent Penn State Behrend at a national level.

How long were you there and how did the competition work?

Lauren: The competition was three days long with routines starting at 8:00 a.m. and going until 9:00 p.m. We competed in the Spirit Rally Division. After our Day 1 performance, we were in second place, only 1 point behind first place. Our Day 2 performance scores were then combined with Day 1 performance, which ultimately resulted in our team claiming second place. We were very proud!

Did you have time to enjoy the beaches/city?

Lauren: We did have a day off where we were able to spend time on the beach with our friends and family who came to support us. NCA hosted a glow party with a DJ, games, and multiple activities where we were able to make friends from other teams and celebrate our last days in Daytona.

Any special moments or memories, from the competition or from this season, that you want to share?

Kelli: There are many moments that are memorable, but for me as the coach, one of the most memorable was a photo that one of the students’ parents took of our team clapping and cheering for Thiel, which had won first place. Their support was genuine and indicative of good sportsmanship. It made me very proud.

Lauren: The tradition at the NCA competition after winning a title is to run into the ocean with the trophy to celebrate everyone’s hard work over the past eight months. I think the team would agree that this was the most memorable experience for us. There were a lot of tears, hugs and, of course cheers!

Do you have a lot of seniors? Will you lose a lot of your team?

Kelli: We have just two seniors on our Competitive Cheer team this season. We are a young team, so there is plenty of potential for continued growth.

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You can follow the team on Facebook and Instagram at “PSBCheer.”



Students Spend Spring Break in Washington, D.C.

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager

Office of Strategic Communication, Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend students with U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. at the Capitol Building in Washinton, D.C.

Political Science class gets a first-hand look at how U.S. government works

It’s one thing to study the U.S. government and how it operates in Washington, D.C. It’s another to experience it, walking the same halls that senators and congresspersons do, sitting in the same courtrooms where federal judges preside, and meeting with foreign ambassadors and lobbyists.

“After being taught in the classroom, actually seeing the historical locations in person gave me a whole new perspective,” said Justin Lopez-Beltran, a second-year student dual majoring in Political Science and Economics.

More than a dozen Penn State Behrend students enrolled in Dr. Robert Speel’s PLSC 177N Politics and Government of Washington, D.C., spent their spring break in our nation’s capital where they squeezed a lot into one week.

The group met with members of Congress and leaders of federal government agencies; received briefings from foreign embassies and international organizations; participated in seminars led by interest groups, political party officials, and consultants; and toured government offices and facilities. They visited monuments, memorials, museums, and Arlington National Cemetery, and met with many Penn State Behrend alumni who live and work in D.C.

Among the alumni in D.C. is U.S. Representative Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a 2004 Political Science graduate, who serves on the House Rules Committee and invited the students to sit in on a committee meeting.

with Guy Reschenthaler
Penn State Behrend students with U.S. Representative Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a 2004 Political Science graduate (center in striped tie) in Washinton, D.C.

“This is not something the average person can do,” said Casey Mitolo, a fourth-year Political Science major. “He even gave a shout out to the class and Dr. Speel during the meeting. It was special.”

“My favorite part was visiting Capitol Hill and seeing all the politicians you admire and even some you might disagree with,” Lopez-Beltran said. “After taking multiple political science courses, it was fascinating to see politicians we have discussed and even argued about in the classroom.”

Classmate Nicklas Richar, a second-year Political Science major, agreed. “It was really cool to be inside the Capitol building and to see all the senators and representatives I’ve watched on TV and realize that they are real people doing an actual job.”

Mason Milliard, a third-year Political Science major, said he especially enjoyed meeting with Behrend alumnae Yuri Unno, director for international trade policy for Toyota, and Elizabeth Buck, deputy assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Service. “It was also really interesting to watch votes from the Senate and House galleries and sit in for a lecture at the Supreme Court,” he said.

Mitolo was surprised by the number of Behrend alumni in the capital. “It was extremely eye-opening to see all the doors that a Behrend Political Science degree can open,” he said. “We met alumni who work as political consultants, representatives, union leaders, and much more.”

The students interviewed for this story all agreed that the experience solidified their career choices.

“It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life,” Richar said. “Every single place that we visited had a rich history and important part in how our government functions. It really inspired me to continue in my career path, and I learned that the potential for jobs in this field is endless.”

“This trip 100 percent solidified my career decision,” Lopez-Beltran said. “I learned that there are countless opportunities in D.C. and a wide variety of options from campaign work to legislative work to lobbying.”

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4 Takeaways

Things are not always what they seem: “I learned that, occasionally, lobbyists are the ones who have to rein in the legislators,” Milliard said. “It was surprising to hear that, from a lobbyist’s perspective, they sometimes must remind politicians that the ideas they are pushing are unrealistic. This contradicted a belief I had that politicians were the ones who had to curtail persistent ‘radical’ lobbyists.”

It’s more complicated than it seems. “I learned how many outside influences affect how lawmakers make legislation,” Richar said. “We learn in class about the types of legislation they create but not always about the work that goes into it or what causes lawmakers to think the way they do. Now, after meeting them, I have a much better understanding.”

Prepare for a workout.  “The trip was exhausting!” Mitolo said. “We walked more than ten miles one day, according to my Apple watch. But it was totally worth it.”

D.C. runs on youth. “One of the staff members that I spoke to privately made a joke about how the government is really run by a bunch of 20-year-olds, and it made me laugh because it was clear that there was an element of truth to it,” Lopez-Beltran said. “They were the ones rushing around delivering mail, moving legislation, setting up tours, and more.”

Penn State Behrend students meet with some Behrend alumni who live and work in Washington, D.C.

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Penn State announces Peace Corps Prep certificate program

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

Did you know that the Peace Corps, the international volunteer service organization, would not have come into being without college students?

“During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy made a late-night stop at the campus of the University of Michigan,” said Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics at Penn State Behrend. “He made an off-hand remark inquiring whether the college students there would be willing to serve in a developing country. It would have been a forgotten campaign speech, except that the students organized and sent a petition with hundreds of signatures asking for the opportunity to serve others and their country.”

Hall served after his undergraduate years, and his time in the corps remains a transformative life experience, so much so that forty years later, he regularly encourages Behrend students to consider joining, helps raise awareness of the organization on campus, and staffs a recruiting table at Behrend’s twice-yearly Career and Internship Fair.

“The Peace Corps is a great opportunity to learn about another culture, to develop one’s talents, and to be of service to people in a developing nation,” Hall said. “An example of the impact possible is Alejando Toledo, the former President of Peru, who said ‘I am one of sixteen brothers and sisters. Born in extreme, extreme poverty… I’m the first president of indigenous descent who had been democratically elected in 500 years in South America. To a large extent thanks to the Peace Corps.’”

“While none of my former students in Malaysia became a president,” Hall said, “I did help the children of subsistence farmers and fishermen become teachers and nurses who in turn contributed to education and health care in places where it was scarce.”

Hall is proof that the Peace Corps stays with you. A few years ago, he even returned to Borneo to catch up with some of his former students.

That’s why he’s excited about a new partnership between the Peace Corp and Penn State to offer a preparatory program for students interested in volunteering.

Peace Corps Prep is a certificate program for undergraduate students of any major. Students who participate in the program gain skills and experiences that make them attractive candidates for the corps or any form of international or service work. The inaugural cohort will begin this fall semester.

Accepted students will build their coursework around one of six strategic competencies that the Peace Corps seeks in its volunteers. The program requires students to complete a set number of field hours in their chosen competency area, take globally minded classes, show language competency, and engage in career-related activities.

Interested students are required to complete an online interest form by October 16, 2020 to be considered for the inaugural cohort. Program requirements, application information, and more can be found at

While the certificate program does not guarantee acceptance in the Peace Corps, it will help to provide participants with a competitive advantage.


Peace Corps mission: to promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Volunteers serve for twenty-seven months in areas such as health, education, environment, agriculture, community economic development, and youth in development.

Jonathan Hall and Wan Musa
Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics at Penn State Behrend, and a former colleague, Wan Musa, who taught with Hall in North Borneo forty years ago. Wan Musa

PLET student travel to Germany — final report

Guest Post by Lauren Hampton, Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 17th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Germany. We asked student Lauren Hampton to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her final report on the experience: 

Day 9 — Friday

Today, we visited Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences. They have a plastics engineering program similar to the one we have at Penn State. Additionally, students from both Penn State Plastics Engineering Technology and Rosenheim Plastics Engineering can participate in a semester study abroad program at the respective school. During our visit, we had a wonderful tour of their labs and got lots of information about the different research projects they are currently working on.

After our tour at Rosenheim, students had a free afternoon in Munich. Some toured the Allianz Arena where FC Bayern Munich plays. Others explored the city.

Group Photo at RosenheimStudents at Allianz ArenaStudents at Allianz Arena

Day 10 — Saturday

Today, we had a free day in Munich and it was our last (non-travel) day of the trip. Students did a variety of activities during the day. A couple of students visited Eagle’s Nest. Others went to some museums and went shopping in Marienplatz. In the evening, we had a group dinner at Schneider Bräuhaus.

Students at Eagle’s Nest

Students at Eagle’s Nest.

Glockenspiel at Marienplatz

Glockenspiel at Marienplatz.

Parting thoughts

I would like to give a special thanks to all of the faculty members—Jon Meckley, Dr. Gary F. Smith, Lucy Lenhardt, and Dr. Israd Jaafar—who took us on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I can say on behalf of all of the students, we had a wonderful time and this is an experience that we will remember and cherish for many years to come.

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland!


PLET Students travel to Germany — Travel Log #2

Guest Post by Lauren Hampton, Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 17th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Germany. We asked student Lauren Hampton to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report latest report from Germany:

Day 6 — Tuesday

Today, we toured the Mercedes Benz engine plant in Stuttgart. We learned about the company’s history in the Neckar Valley. The afternoon was spent doing various activities. Students toured museums, visited landmarks, and explored the town.

at Mercedes

Students at the Mercedes engine plant in Stuttgart.


Students at Birkenkopf.

Dr. Smith and Cake

Dr. Smith likes cake. 

Day 7 — Wednesday

Today we toured Arburg, a prominent injection molding machine manufacturer. Following the tour, we traveled to Füssen. In Füssen, students went out for dinner and explored the town afterwards. Throughout the day, we rode on a total of seven trains – which is a lot of trains, if you ask me.

Group Photo at Arburg

Group photo at Arburg.

Happy Train Travelers featuring Dr. Smith, Dr. Jaafar, and Ryan Malatesta (Rye Bread)

Happy train travelers — Dr. Smith, Dr. Jaafar, and Ryan Malatesta.

Mr. Meckley

The lonely traveler: Mr. Meckley.

students at dinner

Students at dinner.

Day 8 — Thursday

Today we hiked up to Neuschwanstein Castle. We had a private tour inside the castle and then explored the surrounding area. Some went shopping while others hiked up Säuling Mountain.  Then, we travelled to Munich – our final destination.

neuschwanstein castle

Group photo at Neuschwanstein Castle.

Dr. Jaafar at the top of Säuling Mountain

Dr. Jaafar at the top of Säuling Mountain.



PLET students travel to Germany – Travel Log #1

Guest Post by Lauren Hampton, Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 17th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Germany. We asked student Lauren Hampton to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report from the first five days:

DAY 1 — Thursday, Oct. 17

Day One… Here we go! All the professors showed up to the airport bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (specifically Mr. Meckley rocking his flip-flops and plaid cargo shorts). However, the students were slightly less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Some would say they looked like zombies. Nevertheless, everyone was excited and raring to go!

first flight

First Flight

The first flight went very well. Most slept, some listened to music. Then… DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN…. THE. EIGHT. HOUR. LAYOVER. Below are some of the activities students chose to participate in to pass the time, including: homework, card games, chit-chat, and of-course some sleep.

layover homework

Homework! Of course!

 card games

Card games

Days 2 & 3 — Friday & Saturday

We arrived in Cologne (Köln), Germany early Friday morning. We had two free days in the city. During that time, we explored the city, ate lots of good German food, and took in all the beautiful views.


Cologne Cathedral and the Rhein River (Awesome Photo Taken by Dr. Jaafar!)


Jon Meckley, associate professor of engineering, with gelato. 


Cologne Cathedral

jaafar and pretzel

Dr. Israd Jaafar, assistant teaching professor of engineering, and a giant pretzel. 

Day 4 – Sunday

We attended the K Show in Düsseldorf – the world’s number one tradeshow for plastics and rubber. We visited a number of companies and learned many new things!

smith and meckley with race car

Dr. Gary F. Smith, assistant professor of engineer, and Mr. Meckley with a Race Car at the K Show

interacting with lifting machine

Interacting with Lifting Machine


stduents at K show

Students at the K Show

Day 5 — Monday

We attended our second day at the K Show.  We met with companies and got to see the new generation of molding machines!  Then, we hopped on a two-and-one-half-hour train ride to Stuttgart.  We arrived in Stuttgart around dinner time and spent the evening relaxing and getting ready for our next tour.

virtual reality of the K show

Virtual Reality at the K Show  (Inside of a Blow Molding Machine)

group pix at the train station

Group Photo at the train station. 

NEXT: The PLET students will tour the Mercedes Benz engine assembly plant followed by tours of the Mercedes Benz and Porche Museums. Then, they’ll visit several other cities in Germany before ending in Munich where they will tour the University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim.  We’ll post updates from Lauren as they arrive.



Students witness history in the making in Europe

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

The United States is not the only nation going through a politically tumultuous time. Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (Brexit) has implications politically and globally.

On the other hand, Brexit has not diminished the EU’s attractiveness and importance for other countries that want membership or a closer relationship with the organization. Among these countries are Ukraine, which has been adopting constitutional changes, reforming trade, energy, and fiscal policy; and obtaining visa-free travel rights to Europe at large.

It is an interesting juxtaposition that eleven Penn State Behrend students enrolled in PLSC 499 Foreign Study Government are experiencing firsthand on a fifteen-day study abroad experience in London and in Kyiv, Ukraine. The students, led by Dr. Chris Harben, assistant teaching professor of management, and Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned, assistant teaching professor of political science, left for London on May 12 and will travel until May 27.

While there, the group will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of transnational companies, lawmakers, members of the press, and more.

Students will meet with three members of Parliament: Lord David Hunt of the House of Lords, and the Honorable Luke Graham and Honorable Nick Boles who are both members of the House of Commons.

“Boles will be very interesting to meet with because he’s been outspoken on the matter of Brexit and, in fact, recently resigned from the Conservative Party,” Harben said. “He is a widely recognizable personality in Parliament and will provide unique insight to our students.”

Harben said that it is a particularly opportune time to visit London.

“On Thursday, May 16, students will attend the Debates in the House of Commons,” he said. “The timing is wonderful as Brexit is likely to be a topic of debate on that day given the elections for the European Parliament coming up less than two weeks later.”

Surzhko-Harned, a Ukraine native, described the course as an incredible chance for students to understand the interworking of the EU and the trading block’s economic and political power in Europe and globally.

“They will be witnessing history in the making and hearing about it directly from politicians and other leaders in Great Britain and Ukraine,” she said. “They will also be able to experience the atmosphere and culture in which these events are taking place. That’s not something they could gain by observing events from across the pond.”

For updates on the trip, you can follow Harben’s YouTube channel or follow Suzhko-Harned on Instagram or Twitter.

London and Ukraine trip.

Students met with Lord David Hunt, center, of the House of Lords on Monday, May 13. Dr. Chris Harben, far right, said the meeting far exceeded their expectations. “Lord Hunt met with us for a private question-and-answer session in the robing room at Westminster Place where the Queen will prepare when she opens the session of the House of Lords,” Harben reported. “Hunt then invited us to watch the House of Lords in action as they discussed regulations regarding agriculture in anticipation of Brexit, and then gave us access to watch the House of Commons from a special viewing area that is not open to the public.”


Guest Post: Alternative Spring Break in Puerto Rico

pix 5

Last week, two dozen students and four advisers from Penn State Behrend participated in an Alternative Spring Break service trip to Puerto Rico. The group helped residents recover from the catastrophic flooding that occurred as a result of Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane which devastated the area in 2017, causing billions of dollars in damages and claiming nearly 3,000 lives in Puerto Rico. Here is a reflection on the week’s activities from one of the participants.

By Alex Siernerth

Junior Marketing major, ASB board member and ASB trip participant

On our first day in Puerto Rico, we stopped at a local BBQ for lunch and had our first taste of Puerto Rican cuisine, which was wonderful! We stopped at a local Walmart for some supplies, then headed to the camp to get settled. We stayed at Campamento Yuquibo which was in the El Yunque National Forest.

On the second day of the trip, we began our service. We headed to a part of the El Yunque where Hurricane Maria had stripped the natural canopy from parts of the forest. Strong grasses and vines took over the hiking trails. We worked to remove the excess brush to expand the trails.

On the third day, we split into teams to paint houses that had suffered external damage from the hurricane. One team rolled a fresh coat of orange onto a home, while another worked to paint a new house, which was built after the hurricane destroyed the original home.

The fourth day was spent finishing up the painting of the orange house and cleaning up. Another team painted the kitchen of a nearby home where the walls had been re-plastered due to water damage. The final group spent the day working on landscaping.

Our last day of service was spent at the Natural Reserve Cabezas de San Juan. We learned lot about the post-hurricane reforestation efforts that are being undertaken to revitalize the plant and wildlife in the area. We helped to tag young trees and tend to the newly planted ones by spreading mulch and watering them.

On our cultural day, we were able to explore coral reefs and learn about the ecosystem that they exist in. Snorkeling in the beautiful Puerto Rican waters allowed us to get an up-close-and-personal feel for the sea creatures and other wildlife. A friendly dolphin even paid us a visit.

We had a few hours before leaving for the airport, so we explored Old San Juan.

It was such an amazing experience being able to meet and interact with the kind, resilient people of Puerto Rico. The Behrend students took every opportunity with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.

We are grateful to all the donors and others who made this service trip possible.


Conferences offer opportunities for students

Industry conferences and annual meetings are a vital resource for professionals, allowing them to come together and learn about the latest research and innovation in their fields of study.

They are a valuable learning experience for students, too, offering them the chance to present their research work and to make connections with industry professionals.

Three Penn State Behrend Psychology students—Mason McGuire, Tiffany Eichler, and Mitchell Weber—recently attended the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s conference in Philadelphia with Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology.

While there, the students presented posters reflecting their research work about virtual reality in gaming and whether playing Pokeman can improve spatial recognition.

“Participating in poster sessions really helps them develop the softer skills of psychology, like talking about their research and explaining the methods and findings,” Lum said. “It’s important that they be able to communicate what they have learned.”

During the three-day event, students attended a variety of seminars and talks, including a panel discussion with Lum and recent psychology alumna, Grace Waldfogle, who is a graduate student at the University of Central Florida.

Two other Behrend Psychology alumni—Richard Greatbatch and Jacob Benedict—also graduate students, were at the conference, too.

The alumni and students met up after the conference for an informal Penn State Behrend reunion of sorts.

“The interesting thing is that all of three of the alums made their first contact with their chosen graduate school at this conference when they attended the conference as undergraduate Behrend students,” Lum said.

“That’s why I like to bring students to professional conferences,” she said. “Not only does it expose them to the world of psychology and the jobs available in the field, but it also gets their name out there.”

The students travel was funded by grants from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Penn State University.

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PLET students’ final days in Denmark, Sweden

Guest Post by Molly Joyce, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 18th, a group of PLET majors embarked on an 11-day trip to Denmark and Sweden. We asked student Molly Joyce to keep a travel log and tell us about the trip. Here is her report from the group’s final days:

Day 7 — Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Today was the ScanPack Trade show, which was just a few blocks away from our hostel. ScanPack is Scandinavia’s biggest trade fair for the packaging industry. As PLET students, we enjoyed free admission and we were quickly off in small groups to talk to some companies and learn about different career options.

My group made an effort to talk to some companies that were not plastics companies so that we could learn about other industries and see the logic or their reasoning for using other materials. For example, we talked to a company that manufactures motors for machines used in packaging or secondary operations and it was really neat to learn about the mechanics and the different types available.

It was also interesting to note that many companies are trying to go green and make their packaging more environmentally friendly. This is something that we have noticed is a large part of the culture over here. They have a lot of recycling bins for different materials and separate them, as opposed to the single stream recycling that we are used to in the United States.


Students at ScanPack show

Day 8 — Thursday, October 25, 2018

We traveled from Gothenburg to Stockholm today. It was about a three-hour train ride. This transportation was nice because it was the fast track and had few stops and reserved seating. We did not, however, know that you had to reserve the seating so Mr. Meckley was running around 15 minutes before the train left to get us seats. It worked out and he ended up with 5 minutes to spare, but it was a little hectic. Good thing there were only nine of us because I imagine that would have been a lot more difficult with thirty people. When we got there, we checked into our hostel and set about roaming the new city and had a late lunch. I had Swedish meatballs because it only made sense. Then we explored the medieval museum.

Day 9 — Friday, October 26, 2018

Today, we were supposed to visit SSAB steel but they were closed due to maintenance issues. So we had a free day in Stockholm, which was nice because there is a lot to explore in this city and two-and-one-half days still wasn’t enough.

We toured the Vasa museum which was absolutely incredible. It had the world’s only rescued 17th century ship. We were doing well in Copenhagen using public transportation, but today….not so much. Luck was not in our favor and we may have gone the wrong way a few times and gotten off at the wrong location a time or two.  However, in the end, we ended up where we needed to be.


Day 10 — Saturday, October 27, 2018

Today was our last day. We tried to pack in as much as we could. Both groups visited Skyview, which takes you in a globe on top of the world’s largest spherical building to get a view of the city. Then we went to Vikingaliv to see Viking culture and what life was like. It was really neat to see what they ate, how they built their houses, and just overall what life was like. Today was the final supper as well; all nine of us went to eat together. It was absolutely delicious!


Day 11 — Sunday, October 28, 2018

Today was a very long travel day. After breakfast, we made a trek to the airport—walking, then a train, then another train. We got through security pretty easily, then we had a three-hour flight to Iceland with a short layover. Then we had another six-hour flight plane ride to Toronto. Once we landed, we spent about an hour getting through customs and such until we got to our final leg — a three-hour car ride from Toronto to Erie. We arrived home around midnight.

Final thoughts

Overall, this was an excellent experience that I think every student who has the opportunity should take. Plastics are a global thing, and different countries have different priorities or systems that we can use to further advance our industry in the United States. Getting the chance to experience different cultures and to learn from them is an excellent way to broaden your knowledge as an engineer.

I would like to give a special thank you, despite all the sass, to Mr. Jon Meckley, associate professor of engineering, and Dr. Gary Smith, lecturer in engineering, for all the hard work they put in to make this a memorable experience for us.

~ Molly