Secret Lives of Staff: Dave Lesher—Beekeeper (and much more)

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.

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Give me a half hour with anyone and I’ll come away with a story. Every person has one. Some have more than a few. Take Dave Lesher, for example.

This piece was supposed to be about Lesher’s beekeeping hobby, but his activities, interests and talents—his “secret lives”—are many.

In addition to being a police services officer at Penn State Behrend and a beekeeper, Lesher is also a professional photographer, distance trail runner, cyclist, gardener, home brewer, clean-eater, and a website programmer/designer. Oh, and he’s also a veteran, husband, and father.

Clearly, when Lesher is interested in something, he goes all in. But serendipity plays a role in most of his ventures, too.

Twenty-five years ago, when he was working at a grocery store after having completed basic training in the U.S. Army Reserves, a coworker mentioned she was attending a municipal police training academy. Lesher enrolled a week later.

After graduation, he was hired at Behrend. It’s a job he said he has enjoyed since day one.

“I really like the people here,” he said. “In my role, I come in contact with a wide variety of people and I enjoy interacting with everyone from the janitorial staff to the Chancellor.”

He even likes educating students who have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble.

“Often, the student has just been misguided or made a mistake and the incident can be turned into a learning experience,” he said. “I’d say we can do that 95 percent of the time.”

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Honey habit leads to hobby

A serious health scare a decade ago inspired Lesher to begin exercising and taking a closer look at the foods he was putting into his body. He eats clean now, avoiding processed foods, meat, caffeine, artificial dyes and additives, and most forms of sugar, with one sweet and all-natural exception—honey.

“It’s expensive, though, and I was eating a lot of it,” he said. “So I started doing some research on beekeeping and got some bee boxes.”

He found his first set of bees on Craigslist.

“This guy was tearing a house down and found the walls were full of honey-bees, so he offered them up to anyone who would come take them,” Lesher said.

“Cut-outs,” as such bee acquisitions are called, are tougher than simply scooping up a homeless swarm and encouraging them into a new home.

“With a cut-out, you’re invading their territory and they will defend it,” Lesher said. “Swarming bees are actually safer to collect. They swarm when they are looking for a new home, so they have nothing to protect and are usually happy to climb right into a bee box.”

Lesher is pleased to offer them a home, and the college’s maintenance and operations staff are just as thrilled to have someone nearby to call when swarms are found on campus.

Except for the occasional replacement queen, Lesher doesn’t buy bees. He prefers to collect native bees since they are used to Erie’s climate.

Lesher has a beekeeper’s hat, but doesn’t wear a full suit because honey-bees are rarely aggressive. He’s been stung only twice.

The average hive makes sixty to eighty pounds of honey a year, which is harvested in the fall. Only a portion of the honey is taken, however, as the bees have to have food for the winter.

“My hives are new this year, so I won’t take any honey,” he said. “I want to keep them happy so they’ll stay and produce more next year and then I can take some.”

From programming to photography to political science 101

A different kind of buzz—talk about the then-new World Wide Web—caught Lesher’s attention twenty-plus years ago. He began reading about, then dabbling in, website programming and design. He soon had paying clients (he still has some today) and a concern about finding adequate photography for their sites.

So he began reading about photography. You see where this is going, right? Today Lesher also works as a professional photographer. He shoots family portraits, senior pictures, and weddings.

Another hat he wears? College student. This fall he’ll complete his degree in General Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in Political Science.

Man in motion

You may wonder where Lesher gets the stamina to keep up all of his hobbies, jobs, and activities. It’s a strength that is, no doubt, hard earned on the trails and roads around Penn State Behrend where he’s logged thousands of miles.

Last summer, he did his first ultra run, the Megatransect, a formidable thirty-mile race up, on, and around Bald Eagle Mountain, just south of Lock Haven—with former Behrend engineering professor and trail-runner Dr. Chris Colston.

“The funny thing is that when I was in the Army, I hated running,” he said. “I never thought I’d start doing it competitively. But then I got interested in it and ended up buying the gear and doing some races and… you know, how it goes.”

Yes, with Lesher, we do know how it goes now—all the way.

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8 fun honey-bee facts

  1. Honey-bees are not native to the United States. They were imported by European settlers.
  2. Honey-bees, while instinctual, aren’t very smart. “I have to have different landing strips on my hives or the bees will go in the wrong hive and be killed as invaders,” Lesher said.
  3. Honey-bees use dances to communicate. For example, when honey-bees find food, they do a choreographed “waggle” dance that instructs the rest of the hive where to find a food source.
  4. Honey-bees keep each other warm and fed over winter. Honey-bees keep the hive at about 92 degrees in winter, feasting on the honey they have collected all summer.
  5. Honey is harvested in the fall. Hives typically contain about sixty to eighty pounds of honey; some must be left for the bees to eat.
  6. Unhappy honey-bees will leave. If conditions in the hive are not suitable, the queen will call for a swarm and they’ll swarm and depart.
  7. The honey-bee queen is the sole reproductive female in the colony. She lays 1,000-to-3,000 eggs per day. Female worker bees perform all other colony duties. Male drones exist only to mate with a virgin queen.
  8. Drones are dead before winter. Drones are a liability to the wintering hive and are not allowed in after fall, so they die outside.

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Collecting a swarm

Lesher provided this video of a swarm he collected:

 

Behrend Reacts: What are you thankful for?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Studies have shown that being grateful has a significant impact on lives; it reduces stress levels and can even increase our life expectancy. In honor of the upcoming holiday, we asked Behrend students, faculty, and staff:  What are you most thankful for?

 

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Casey LaBuda, sophomore, Nursing, from Pittsburgh: “My mom. I always call her in the middle of the night when I’m having a breakdown about nursing.”

 

Nancy Study

Dr. Nancy Study, lecturer in engineering: “In answer to the question about what I’m thankful for this year, I would say it’s the same things I’m thankful for every day: my family and friends, and the privilege of having a job I enjoy. Of course I’m also thankful for the creature comforts in my life like a nice house to live in, an all-wheel drive vehicle to get around in the snow, a steady supply of caffeine via coffee and Twining’s English Breakfast Tea, and sturdy snow boots, but I’ve learned over the years that material things and money mean very little if you don’t have your loved ones and/or spend 40+ hours a week in a job that makes you miserable.”

 

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Morgan Corle, first-year student, Communication, from Avella: “I’m thankful for all the people that I’ve met here and become close with.”

 

Dorothy Kurylo

Dorothy Kurylo, campus coordinator for nursing programs and lecturer in nursing: “I am thankful especially for my family and friends. I am also thankful to be a faculty member of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. As a newcomer to Erie, I have become very thankful for my boots and my snowbrush. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!”

 

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Amy Neal, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “The cold, so I’m able to appreciate the weather when it’s warm!”

 

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Mallory Carson, first-year student, Political Science, from Erie: “I’m thankful for black lipstick.”

 

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Kristen Comstock, assistant director of alumni relations: “I am thankful to work for my lovely alma mater. Every day I get to interact with many of our fantastic 35,000 alumni. Plus working at Behrend means I get to enjoy, more often than most alumni, the delicious Bruno’s chicken wraps! And I cannot forget I am grateful for friends, family, health, happiness, and shoes!”

 

Mary-Ellen Madigan

Dr. Mary-Ellen Madigan, senior director of enrollment management: “I am thankful for my kids—now grown.  They both have good jobs and live independently.  Along with them, I am thankful for my three beautiful and fun granddaughters.  I’m especially thankful that they live nearby and I get to spend time with them.”

 

Don Birx's first Behrend portrait. Taken May 2010 by John Fontecchio

Dr. Don Birx, Chancellor:

“Thankful – Yes; for being in Erie and especially at Behrend.

Yes it is cold,

but I have found hearts here are warm and friendships deep.

Yes there is lots of snow,

but it makes the days so much brighter – with a glint from the winter sun.

Sunsets are stunning, the hills full of grapes,

and the land slopes down to a great and beautiful lake.

Thankful – Yes, and for so much more……for all of you.”

 

Dawn Blasko (2)

Dr. Dawn Blasko, interim associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of psychology:

“What am I thankful for this year?  Like everyone else I’ve seen today I’m supposed to be thankful that three feet of snow did not fall on Erie today, but went north instead. But, to be honest, a little part of me is disappointed. I’m invigorated by this crazy cold, slap in the face, start to winter. I had to buy new warmer clothes-even find some gloves and boots. My office is always freezing, so my family bought me an alpaca sweater-no wonder alpacas can hang out in the Andes-much better than polar fleece.

The first snow to me is always exciting. I know it sounds crazy to you snow haters, but to me growing up in the Poconos, the first snow was pure gold. It opened up a wealth of new fun activities. Best of all, was the ultimate prize- THE SNOW DAY!

Even though we don’t have snow days at Behrend, (I guess we’re too tough for that), as a kid I clearly remember being snowed in with the whole family for days at a time. Mom, in her fox-furred hood, riding the toboggan, and Dad wobbly on his snow shoes walking the yard to measuring the snow in the deepest drift with his yard stick. There was no work, and no school. Time stopped, we pitched in to shovel the driveway then we were off into the untouched whiteness.  A soft fluffy blanket of white erasing all the ugly reality underneath.

Kids made trails around the neighborhood as we called all our friends out to play. We built snow forts to defend our territories and stored up snowballs for battle. We dug out the sleds from the basements and garages and went sleigh riding down the middle of the street. We held toboggan races—that were our own Olympic games.  Then there were the accidents, tremendous rolling crashes into banks of snow and sometimes into each other.

Who could forget the feeling of dragging yourself home, bruised, exhausted and soaking wet with numb feet and hands? We’d have some warm soup, put on dry gloves and go out again until the lack of light and parents calling us for supper ended the fun. The perfect snow was short-lived, in a few days the plow trucks and cinders would ruin our hill, school and work would start again, and we would be back to the usual routine.

This might be a long winter, and by February, if not before, even us diehard northerners will be tired of it. But, In the meantime, if the snow is just right, break the routine and make a new memory. The yard behind my office in Glenhill Farmhouse sure looks like some prime territory to defend.”

 

 

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: Students Take On Homelessness

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

If you’ve been on campus this week, chances are you’ve noticed the cardboard structures scattered throughout.  The creators and inhabitants of these structures are members of organizations and clubs, aiming to create awareness and raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania.

Despite the warm weather, Behrend students felt the cold reality of homelessness this week. We asked them about their takeaways from this unique experience.

Christina Ayres, senior, Psychology: “People don’t realize how poverty affects children too, so I brought my son out here to show that.”

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Tyler Raco, sophomore, Engineering, member of Kappa Delta Rho: “It’s not easy asking for money; it definitely takes a different mentality. It’s hard for people who haven’t been exposed to this to relate, but this project has given us a different insight.”

Ian Connell, senior, Marketing, member of Kappa Delta Rho: “Poverty is a bigger issue than we realize. Many people think they can ignore it, and it will go away.”

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Kyra Gregoroff, Rachel Simoni, and Samantha Gaton, members of Gamma Sigma Sigma: “I’m definitely more appreciative of what I have now. We can go to the bathroom in Bruno’s and we get to go back to our own beds tonight. People actually have to live this way and without access to many of the supplies we had to make this shelter.”

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Abby Postlewaite, sophomore, Business, Christina Pendice, senior, Mechanical Engineering, members of Omicron Delta Kappa and Lambda Sigma: “It’s definitely been hard. Being out here offers a different perspective and allows students to feel what it’s like to be homeless for a day. We definitely urge people to donate to The Second Harvest Food Bank.”

More photos of Cardboard City:

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Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: How should we react to the Ebola Epidemic?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

 

The Ebola epidemic currently sweeping through West African countries has proven to be the most devastating single outbreak of the disease in history.  Medical professionals say that the virus is unlikely to spread in countries with more advanced medical systems such as the United States, but authorities are still taking precautionary measures such as special training for health care workers and airport screenings.

With all of the current hype in the media, sometimes it is hard to decipher fact from fiction. We asked Behrend students how they think we should react to the Ebola epidemic.

 

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Trey Loomis, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering, from Warren: “I’d say that people are overreacting.  We’ve been able to contain it so far and have dealt with similar things before. I don’t think that we should ban travel.”

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Melissa Gess, first-year student, Chemical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I think the general population should be calmer about the situation. We are a wealthier country and should be able to handle it.”

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Katelyn Pegher, junior, Psychology, from Dubois: “I feel like America has done a good job of containing it, or at least it seems like we have. I’m not concerned.”

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Alex Herzing, sophomore, Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies, from Saint Mary’s: “I don’t think we should be worried. Our medical system can handle it.”

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Josh Holbert, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I don’t think we have much to worry about. I think that it’s mostly media hype. There have only been a few cases in the U.S and we seem to be containing it well.”

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Trisha Hall, sophomore, Psychology, from Ohio: “I don’t think we should be too concerned. I do think the cases in the United States could have been prevented, but I’m sure our medical system will be able to control the virus.”

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Will Cole, junior, Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies, from Russel: “Given how great our country is and the amount of research done, it’s probably not that big of a deal. I think it’s just another thing for the media to exploit.”

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Daniel Gross, first-year student, Biomedical Engineering, from Erie: “I don’t think that people should be panicking, running wild in the streets. It is something we should take seriously though.”

 

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: What’s making you happy this week?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

 

Whether it’s a free t-shirt from Health and Wellness, a hard-earned A on an exam or simply the change in seasons, there’s plenty to smile about on campus this week.

So we asked Behrend students: What makes you happy?

 

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Jian Riccadonna, first-year student, Plastics Engineering Technology, from Cranberry: “I would have to say that I’m looking forward to the Penguin’s game this Saturday.”

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Rachel Frye, first-year student, Communication, from Pittsburgh: “Going home this weekend and spending time with my boyfriend.”

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Patryk Sperka, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “The weather. My brother and I climbed out onto my roof last night to hangout and it was perfect. There was a warm breeze. It was just blissful.”

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Julie Guidry, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I like the smell of the pine needles that have fallen off the trees. Just fall, in general, is making me happy.”

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Alexa Latshaw, sophomore, Biology, from Franklin: “I would have to say the weather. It’s been really nice and warm this week.”

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Kristen Collins, junior, Communication, from Wattsburgh: “The thing that makes me the happiest is just being able to spend time with my husband.”

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Robbi Kitelinger, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Tidioute: “The weather, hanging out with my boyfriend, and going home to see my sister soon.”

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Brittany Thomas, sophomore, Wildlife and Fisheries Science, from Bethel Park: “My Theta Phi Alpha sisters, especially my “Big”, Chelsea. I’ve had a rough couple of weeks and my sisters are always there to help.”

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Corey Flesik, sophomore, Industrial Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “Not having exams to study for this week makes me really happy.”

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Darliny Rivera, first-year student, Nursing, from New York: “Getting my nursing final over with, and just being here. I love Behrend.”

 

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: Who is your favorite professor?

BehrendReactslogolargeBy Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Author William A. Ward once said; “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

With so many dedicated professors on our campus, we asked Behrend students, who is their favorite and why?

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Samantha Raible, senior, Biology, from Pittsburgh: “I would have to say my favorite professor is Dr. Pam Silver, Professor of Biology. She was tough but always took the time to help students. She made things interesting enough to keep us awake at an 8:00 A.M class.”

Cat

Cat Hensley, first-year student, Geography, from Michigan: “Dr. Michael Naber, lecturer in geosciences. He’s easygoing, funny, and has Harry Potter glasses.”

Cassie

Cassie Peters, sophomore, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, from Erie: “I would say Ms. Luciana Aronne,  lecturer in chemistry. She is supportive, motivational and keeps class interesting.”

Ronnie

Ronnie Cox, sophomore, Physics, from Erie: “My favorite professor would have to be Mr. Adam Combs, lecturer in mathematics. He is not going to take it easy on you but will take the time to go over things you don’t understand.”

Lindsey

Lindsey Chase, first-year student, Kinesiology, from Randolph, N.Y: “Mr. Scott Rispin, lecturer in art. He makes things fun and interesting, and is very personable. You can tell he cares about his students.”

Pat

Pat Kress, sophomore, Finance, from Erie: “I would say my management professor, Dr. Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management. He is enthusiastic and relates concepts to college students well. He makes an 8:00 A.M class bearable.”

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Matthew Moreau, senior, Biology, from Massachusetts: “Dr. Michael Campbell, a professor of biology. He engages you and makes things interesting. If you pay attention in class, it’s really rewarding.”

Katie

Katie Powers, first-year student, Biology, from Clearfield: “I would say Mr. Scott Simpson, lecturer in chemistry. He’s young and you can tell he’s excited about teaching. He also does experiments every day which is really cool.”

Mary

Mary Bradley, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “My favorite professor is Dr. Angela Rood, lecturer in psychology.  She breaks the class down to make it easier to understand and does activities every day to keep things fun and interesting.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: What makes you stand out?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

 

Junker Center was teeming with anticipation yesterday as over a thousand Behrend students flooded the athletic facility in hopes of meeting future employers.

Amidst the fervor and preparation, we asked Behrend students: What makes you stand out?

 

Joshua Fox

Joshua Fox, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Port Allegany: “I’m part of a Physics three plus two program, which means I’ll be earning a degree in Physics as well as Mechanical Engineering.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Domtar and Keystone Powdered Metal Company.”

 

MIchael Diana

Michael Diana, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Zelienople: “I’ve been working since I was 14 years old, so probably my experience and work ethic.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Keystone Powdered Metal Company and Cummins, Inc.”

 

Mia chies

Mia Chies, sophomore, Electrical Engineering, from Zelienople: “I think I stand out because I am a woman in engineering and there are few of us.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Aerotech and LORD Corporation.”

 

 Benn Baxter

Benn Baxter, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Port Allegany “I’ve been a contractor for about five years, I think it gives me a little more experience than others might have.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “LORD Corporation and John Deere.”

 

 Kayla Cochran

Kayla Cochran, senior, Psychology, from Meadville: “I’ve been really involved on campus. I’m a part of the Pennsylvania Aggression Reduction Center (P.A.R.C) where I work with Dr. Charisse Nixon, to train people in the community to become mentors for school-age children.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the Perseus House, and the Barber National Institute.”

 

Mitchell MIles

Mitchell Miles, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “My experience with software programs and the relationships I have with some of the business representatives.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “GE and LORD Corporation.”

 

Ryan Koch

Ryan Koch, sophomore, Project and Supply Chain Management and Management Information Systems, from Pittsburgh: “My commitment and experience. Also, I’ve job shadowed at a few of the companies.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “UPMC, U.S. Steel and Northrop Grumman.”

 

 Bret Henchar

Daniel Grim, senior, Software Engineering, from Greenville: “I’ve had three prior internships in the field and I’ve done a lot of research.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “U.S. Steel and Erie Insurance.”

 

Daniel Grim

Bret Henchar, senior, Software Engineering, from Zelienople: “I have experience with the software some of the companies use.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Northrop Grumman and Progressive Corporation.”

 

Andrew Link

Andrew Link, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “My prior experience and the amount of research I’ve done on the companies I’m planning to talk to.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Aerotech, Parker Aerospace, and US Endoscopy.”

 

 

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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