Holiday gift ideas from Behrend faculty and staff members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s crunch time. The holidays are nearly here and there’s only so much time left to grab the perfect gift.

Still need some help? No worries, Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members are here for you.

Here are some suggestions for gifts that are both fun and educational:

Idea provided by Tom Noyes, professor of English and Creative Writing

2018 Pushcart Prize XLII. The annual Pushcart Prize anthology gathers the best fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in America’s literary magazines and small presses over the course of the previous year, making it an ideal gift for any book lover on your list. The newest edition, 2018 Pushcart Prize XLII, contains a special treat. The poem “Praying Mantis in My Husband’s Salad” by Laura Kasischke was chosen from the pages of Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s award-winning literary journal. $13

Idea provided by Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management

BRIXO. Enjoy LEGOs? Then you’ll love BRIXO, which is similar but with even more customization. Some of the things that young people can create include vehicles, wacky lamps, remote-controlled lighthouses and motorized quadcopters. If someone on your list has a big imagination, this gift is for them. Prices vary.

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, assistant teaching professor of chemistry

Bath Bombs. It’s a chance to bring chemistry to the tub. Bath bombs are hard-packed mixtures of dry ingredients and give off bubbles when wet. They can be purchased from the web, or young chemists can use this Bath Bombs guide to make their own. $19

Amigurumi Chemistry Set Pattern. This crochet chemistry set pattern is perfect for the person on your list who is crafty but loves science, too. $14

Organic Compounds Cutting Board. Know someone who likes to cook with spices? This cutting board displays all the molecules that add the fragrance to spices. $38.50

Reactions: An Illustrated Exploration of Elements, Molecules, and Change in the Universe. The third and final installment in the trilogy of visual books developed by Theodore Gray, this book details chemical reactions with a set of stunning pictures and stories. $30

Ideas provided by Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering

Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini. Who wouldn’t want a personal assistant that can tell the weather, order pizza, play music, control home appliances and more? These home automation gadgets from Amazon or Google are also on sale this holiday season. $30

Themed Night Lights. While this makes a nice holiday gift, the lights can actually be used as a home decoration all year round. Prices vary.

Catan. Able to be played by up to four players, this popular board game can be enjoyed by both family members and friends. It’s also easy to learn and fun to play. $49

A Maryland State of Mind: Transitioning to Erie

By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff. This is Brandon Moten, and I’m back with another post in my new blog series, “A Maryland State of Mind,” where I share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student from Bowie, Maryland.

Today’s post is about my transition from living in Bowie to moving to Erie to begin my journey at Penn State Behrend. Since I was a child, I had always wanted to go to Penn State, something just drew me to this school. I never thought that dream would come to fruition, but in 2013, it became a reality. I accepted my opportunity to attend Penn State Behrend on the same day I received my acceptance letter. However, in the back of my mind, I knew this would be a big change for me, and there were many days where I wondered if I was ready for such a change.

I had lived in Bowie my whole life. I love everything there: my friends, family, environments, and just the general lifestyle, too. I never had been to Erie before, so knowing that I would be moving away for four or five years was hard to comprehend. It was hard to imagine living on my own, doing things on my own, balancing schoolwork, maintaining a new social life, and other numerous changes. The whole situation created a lot of nerves and doubts for me.

Thankfully, I put my nerves and doubts behind me after visiting the campus in July. I immediately felt like the Behrend campus was the place for me to succeed, grow, and enjoy life. The campus gave me a home-style feel, and my nerves and doubts turned into excitement and determination. Also, having amazing support from my family and friends gave me the motivation to continue my transition to Penn State Behrend.

That August, it was time to move into Senat Hall and leaving Maryland was not as difficult as I felt it would be. Based on my July visit, I knew my transition would be a good one. There were definitely rough times throughout my freshman year. I often missed home, family, friends, and even Maryland food. In the end, I got through all of it because  of what Behrend had to offer. I quickly made new friends and found Senat Hall to be a wonderful place to live. It was amazing to go to a college I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid.

Leaving your hometown is never easy, but Penn State Behrend made it a lot easier for me. I’m happy that I can say today that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have grown as a person, met amazing people, and the learning experiences here are really something special.

Brandon Moten’s Maryland State of Mind

By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff, my name is Brandon Moten. I’m a senior from Bowie, Maryland, majoring in Communication with certificates in Advertising & Social Media. I have been attending Penn State Behrend since August of 2013 and have loved every minute of it. From the people to the class experiences, it’s been an awesome time.

Over the course of the semester, I’ll be writing a new series of blog posts called “A Maryland State of Mind” where I’ll share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student. I will discuss my transition from moving from a place I lived my whole life to a new state, differences between where I’m from and Erie, how I balance school and daily life, and how I handled the challenges I faced along the way.

Penn State Behrend is an amazing school, and I have grown in many ways and experienced so many new things. When I first came to college in 2013, I had no idea of what to expect. I have been living in Bowie, Maryland, my whole life and leaving home was not easy. In the beginning, I had nerves about experiencing new cultures, being six hours away from home, leaving my friends and family, and so much more.

I’m sure there are many current and future out-of-state students who are or will be experiencing the same emotions. I hope this blog series helps those students who have these same thoughts and emotions as I once did. Ultimately, I hope to give everyone a better idea on the life of an out-of-state Penn State Behrend student.

Stay tuned for more… WE ARE PENN STATE!

Student finds niche playing Smith Carillon

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Penn State Behrend sophomore James Lisi began playing the campus’ Smith Carillon this fall. He plays regularly throughout the week on the campus’ practice carillon (pictured) and played a concert during finals week for the campus community. While he’s been a musician since he was a child, mastering the carillon has been a new kind of challenge. “Instead of having the keys right next to you, you have to branch out,” Lisi said. “This wears your hands out a lot faster because you have to move them all over, but there are pedals too, so some of the notes you can play with your feet, which makes it easier.”

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Walk into Penn State Behrend’s Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel on a weekday morning and chances are you’ll hear James Lisi before you see him.

He’ll be playing one of the building’s many pianos. Or pedaling away on the practice carillon.

“I start every day by playing music here,” said Lisi, a sophomore psychology major. “When I play the piano or the carillon, it gets me going and sets the tone for the day.”

Lisi, a Cleveland native, has always appreciated music. He started singing in third grade and began playing the piano two years later. He is also a member of the Choirs of Penn State Behrend.

While he has experience playing several other instruments, Lisi said he was taken aback to learn about the college’s carillon.

“I had never heard of one before. There are only 200 or so in the country,” he said. “It’s just a really, really rare instrument.”

The 48-bell carillon, along with the chapel’s bell tower, was installed at Penn State Behrend in 2002 as a gift of the late Floyd and Juanita Smith, parents of Larry Smith, president and owner of Automation Devices in Fairview, Pa., and a longtime supporter of the college.

The carillon is an unconventional instrument, to say the least, according to Lisi.

“Instead of having the keys right next to you, you have to branch out,” he said. “This wears your hands out a lot faster because you have to move them all over, but there are pedals too, so some of the notes you can play with your feet, which makes it easier.”

Lisi’s past musical experience is serving him well, as is regular practice and lessons with Daniel Frankforter, professor emeritus of history and the college’s carillonneur.

Lisi is now playing the carillon on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. He spends hours in Smith Chapel, both studying and playing the pianos and carillon.

“I just love this whole building,” Lisi said. “I get to come here and play three different instruments. It’s a nice way for me to relieve stress. It’s definitely my favorite thing about Behrend.”

During finals week, Lisi played several holiday songs as part of a half-hour carillon concert for the campus community. Students, faculty and staff members were encouraged to gather at Ben Lane Plaza to enjoy hot chocolate as they listened to the bells chime from atop the carillon tower.

“I made some mistakes,” Lisi said with a smile, “but I knew I was not going to be perfect the first time I played publicly. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone noticed.”

He will get another chance to impress this spring at a second carillon concert to be held during finals week.

And if things go his way, Lisi will not be the only one performing. He is currently introducing the carillon to several of his friends.

“I’m really working to persuade some of my friends to play it as well,” he said. “It’s just a totally different kind of instrument. I love the high notes on it, and it’s great that we have one of these right here at Behrend.”

No age limit on Penn State pigskin pride

Dick Koeck ’47 and his wife, Susan ’49 fell in love at University Park—with each other and with Penn State football. Throughout the next few decades, the couple periodically traveled to Happy Valley to attend games, tailgating with friends and cheering on their alma mater’s team.

“It’s just more fun to watch with friends,” Dick Koeck said.

That’s why, when he and Susan moved to an Erie retirement community, Dick decided to bring the spirit of Beaver Stadium to Springhill Senior Living on game days, offering to organize PSU pigskin parties in the common room.

“I knew there were a few Penn Staters at Springhill and I just thought ‘Why not try and get them all together to watch games?’” he said.

Anywhere from twenty to thirty enthusiastic residents, including many alumni and former Penn State Behrend faculty members and administrators, gather for each game.

Among the attendees Penn State Behrend alums may recognize are: Dr. Ed Masteller, professor of biology emeritus; Virginia McGarvey, who along with her late husband, Ray, was a great supporter of Behrend; and Ethel Kochel, wife of Behrend’s first leader, Irv Kochel, and an honorary alumna of the college.

“Oh, yes, Ethel is always there with her cowbell,” Koeck said with a chuckle.

Another resident brings a stuffed Nittany Lion mascot that sings a Penn State tune, blue and white flags are hung. The Springhill tailgaters sing the school Alma Mater and Fight Song and they do Penn State cheers, complete with pom-poms. Penn State apparel is practically required.

“Except for white-out games, of course,” Koeck said.

And what would a football party be without food?

Springhill does it right, serving up traditional tailgate favorites, such as hamburgers and hot dogs, sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions, pizza, wings, etc.

One benefit of tailgating at Springhill? It’s not an alcohol-free zone.

“Oh, sure, we might have a few beers,” Koeck said. “Gotta have that at a tailgate party.”

Plans are already underway for Penn State’s next big game – the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017.

“It has been amazing to watch the team rise to the challenge and win each week and make Penn State proud,” Kochel said. “It is always fun to have Penn Staters together to watch the game, and we are all so excited that we are going to the Rose Bowl again!”

Koeck can hardly wait to see his team in the “Granddaddy of Them All.” He already knows what he’s wearing.

“The last time Penn State played in the Rose Bowl was in January of 1995, and I’ll be wearing my sweatshirt from that game,” he said.

Penn State won that game, defeating the Oregon Ducks 38-20, so Koeck has good reason to don his lucky shirt when the Nittany Lions take on the University of Southern California Trojans at the 2017 Rose Bowl on Monday, January 2.

Koeck’s parting thoughts?

In typical Penn State football fan fashion: “WE ARE…!”

Rose Bowl Trivia: Why Monday?

The Tournament of Roses has had a “Never on Sunday” tradition since 1893, the first year since the beginning of the Tournament, that New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. The Tournament wanted to avoid frightening horses that would be hitched outside churches and thus interfering with worship services so the events were moved to the next day, January 2. Though horses are no longer outside local churches, the tradition remains to this day. —tournamentofroses.com

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Still have some holiday shopping to do? Behrend faculty and staff members have you covered

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

The mad dash is almost here. It’s time to get those final holiday gifts before it’s too late.

Still scrambling for ideas? Don’t worry, Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members have you covered. Here are some of their top suggestions for gifts that are both fun and educational.

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Ideas provided by Melanie Ford, director of Youth Education Outreach

Jewelbots. Look pretty while you learn about programming? That’s exactly what girls can accomplish with Jewelbots, the friendship bracelet that teaches kids to code. $69

Robot Turtles. Designed for children ages four and up, this interactive board game helps teach young people how to program. $15

Pokemon. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Pokemon are once again hotter than ever.  Whether it’s the cards or the video games, there are plenty of ways to “catch ‘em all” this holiday season. Prices vary

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, senior lecturer in chemistry

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything. Quite literally, molecules make up everything. How exactly does one visualize that, though? Theodore Gray does that for you in this book, which features stunning photography of the chemical structures that make up every material in the world. $20

Instant Snow. Even as one of America’s snowiest cities, the white stuff has been mostly absent from the region so far. We cannot make snow fall from the sky, but this gift allows a person to actually make snow (and learn about chemistry while he or she is at it.) $18

Minecraft Cookie Cutters. Every child seems to love Minecraft. Every child definitely loves cookies. This is a no-brainer. $10

Ideas provided by Dr. Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering

Merge VR Goggles. 2016 is the year that virtual reality headsets hit the mainstream. The Merge VR Googles turn a person’s smartphone into a virtual reality headset. You’re then able to enjoy fully-immersive virtual environments and games right from the comfort of your living room. $60

Google Cardboard. While Google Cardboard might not look as cool as the Merge Goggles, it offers a similar experience and at a great price. $15

Idea provided by Tom Noyes, professor of English and creative writing

“Best American” book series. For bibliophiles on your list, you might check out the annual “Best American” series. Each year, 2016 included, editors compile the best examples of writing from magazines around the country. The three standards, “Best American Short Stories,” “Best American Poetry,” and “Best American Essays” are great, as are some of the other volumes, including “Best American Mystery Stories,” “Best American Sports Writing,” “Best American Science and Nature Writing,” and “Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy.” $10-$15

Idea provided by Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management

Tile Mate. Is there someone on your list who is notorious for losing his or her keys? They won’t be anymore. This Bluetooth tracking device is small, durable and water resistant, and it can easily be attached to keys, luggage, backpacks, or anything else you carry. $25

Trip to Japan becomes ‘defining memory’ for Behrend students

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Fifteen Penn State Behrend students visited Japan this summer as part of the PSYCH 232 Cross-Cultural Psychology and PSYCH 499 Foreign Studies in Psychology embedded courses. While there, they attended the International Congress of Psychology (ICP 2016), a premiere psychology conference held once every four years.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Grace Waldfogle expected Aug. 6 to be a somber day. Not only was it the last day of her trip to Japan as part of a Penn State Behrend embedded course, but it also marked the 71st anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

It turned out to be the opposite.

Fireworks engulfed the sky. The sadness she had expected was not present. Rather, there was a tone of optimism.

“We asked people about it, and they said, ‘It’s not something we dwell on,’” said Waldfogle, a senior psychology major. “It was just so different from how we approach that type of thing here in the United States.”

Cultural differences like this were one of the biggest takeaways for Waldfogle and the 14 other students who visited Japan for 18 days in July and August. The students visited the country as part of the PSYCH 232 Cross-Cultural Psychology and PSYCH 499 Foreign Studies in Psychology embedded courses, which were taught by faculty members Dawn Blasko, associate professor of psychology; Heather Lum, assistant professor of experimental psychology; and Victoria Kazmerski, associate professor of psychology.

Their trip began with a visit to Yokohama to attend the International Congress of Psychology (ICP 2016), a premiere psychology conference held once every four years. Several of the students presented research poster presentations during the five-day conference.

ICP 2016 also offered networking opportunities for the students, who heard from a number of prominent speakers, including famed animal rights activist Jane Goodall.

“The whole conference itself was a total blast,” said Emily Galeza, a senior Psychology major who presented research on the effectiveness of a dog therapy program with students with autism. “The size of (the conference) was just incredible, and we had the freedom to go to any session we liked.”

Stephen Dartnell, a general business student who will graduate in December, agreed.

“I got to interact with people from all over the world,” Dartnell said. “It was kind of the icing on the cake on my educational experience, and I definitely would love to attend a psychology conference like this again.”

Beyond the conference, the students also spent time in Kamakura and visited several temples across the country. To help prepare for the cultural changes, students met with MBA student Yuki Takahashi, a native of Japan, for language and culture lessons prior to the trip.

Even with the advance lessons, the language barrier was a challenge. However, the students were impressed at how easily it could be overcome with some patience (and Google Translate, of course).

“Everyone was just so friendly and willing to help,” Dartnell said. “There was one instance where I needed a trash bag for my camera because it was raining. I just kind of explained it, and a woman at the hotel helped me. You just constantly saw language barriers being broken down.”

The numerous public art displays and eastern-style architecture were also a point of culture shock for students.

Perhaps the most significant cultural difference for students, however, was the food.

“I thought I liked fish, but then I got there, and I realized I did not. They’d give you the entire fish, and you’d have to just use chopsticks,” Waldfogle said. “Every meal was a workout.”

Not all of the food differences were negative, though.

“They had so many different items that they called ‘sweets.’ They were really, really good,” Dartnell said.

From attending the conference to visiting temples across the country, the trip provided students with a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience. It might have only been an 18-day visit, but the memories will last.

“This will be one of my defining memories of Behrend,” Galeza said. “I could never have planned all of these activities by myself.”

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