Class of 2017: Meet Christa Schonthaler (Communication)

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Christa Schonthaler:

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Major: Communication

Hometown: Erie

On choosing to major in Communication: I originally came in as a Nursing major, but quickly realized it wasn’t for me. At that point, I had to seriously consider my interests as well as my strengths and weaknesses. I’m very passionate about music and want to work in the music industry. I’m also very comfortable talking with people and realized that Communication fit my personality, my desires, and my future career plans. I love my major.

Happy at Happi 92.7: I’m currently an intern at Happi 92.7, an Erie “Top 40” radio station, where I do a little bit of everything, but am mainly focused on promotions and social media. I’ve learned a lot and had a great time at Happi.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I’m proud of being on the Dean’s List for the past six semesters. It’s not easy to do that while balancing classes, work, and extracurricular activities.

(The only) girl in a band: I’m a singer in an eight-member band called The Romantic Era. I’m the only woman in the group, so it’s like I have seven big brothers. We sing all-original pop-EDM music and have performed all over Erie and beyond. We did shows at Stadium Red in Manhattan, and Fenway Park in Boston, and we have a show coming up in Beverly Hills, California! I’ve been in the band for four years and it’s my life right now.

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Beyond the band: Outside of the band, in my free time, I love to play my guitar and ukulele, read mystery novels, and do yoga. I also have three sisters and a family that means the world to me.

Inspirational sister in song: There are a few female artists who inspire me. Ariana Grande is number one because she’s an incredible vocalist and she is also a huge advocate for female empowerment and equal rights for all. I also look up to Hayley Williams from Paramore, Jessie J. and Demi Lovato because they are all strong women in the music industry.

Scholarships: I received the Anonymous Friend Trustee Scholarship in my first year and the Michael Jude Woods and Tracy Kimes Woods Family Trustee Scholarship last year.

Advice for current students: Don’t stress! College is a huge adjustment and you’ll figure it out eventually. Once you master time management and study skills, everything gets much easier.

After her graduation in May, Christa hopes to find a position at a radio station in promotions/social media.

Rachel Cotton finds niche with BVZ: Behrend’s Voice

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

If Penn State Behrend’s students have not seen their classmate Rachel Cotton on campus, there’s a good chance they’ve heard her.

For listeners of BVZ: Behrend’s Voice, the college’s online student radio station, Cotton’s voice is a hard one to miss.

The junior communication major serves as station manager of BVZ and can be regularly heard across the cyber waves hosting her current show, “Next in Line,” where she previews upcoming artists. She also is happy to jump in and deejay whenever there’s a lull in programming.

She knows that professional radio jobs may not be easy to attain, but that has not stopped Cotton from positioning herself to be an ideal candidate for a future opening in the field.

“If I could ever make it in radio, that would be the best thing ever,” said Cotton, who is originally from the Philadelphia area. “Having a great personality in radio is so important, and you get to create an emotional appeal. I love it.”

Cotton’s love of radio is nothing new. In high school, she actually won a contest where she got to be a deejay on a local station for a day.

She brought her love for the medium to Behrend as she got involved with BVZ, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in November, early in her freshman year. As a sophomore, she served as PR and events manager for the station before becoming its manager this past fall.

In the past, students could not join BVZ or host a show on the station before first completing the Radio Practicum course, but Cotton saw limitations with this formula.

“There are people who necessarily cannot take the class or might be in a different major where they can’t have it as an elective,” Cotton said. “I wanted to find a way around the class, so folks in any major can find a way to participate.”

This past fall, Cotton developed a BVZ Fast Track program for students who want to host a radio show but cannot take the course. Cotton meets with interested students separately and runs them through the basics of operating a live station in just a few weeks. So far, four students have participated in the program. Cotton said she eventually hopes to have 10 to 20 students going through it at once.

BVZ continues to build its presence on campus as the station hosts weekly “Hump Day” broadcasts from Bruno’s Café. The station is also always willing to collaborate with student groups if the organization would like BVZ at an event it’s hosting.

The station has already worked with some student groups, which Cotton said has helped BVZ spread its reach.

“People love when we come out to events,” she said. “We have been at more events this year than I can ever remember. It’s stellar to see that people are noticing us more and not just for giveaways or concert tickets, either. They’re actually listening to hear us. I love it.”

To listen to BVZ, visit behrendbvz.org.

Students interested in joining BVZ and taking part in the Fast Track program should contact Cotton at ryc5136@psu.edu.

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.”

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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Students create blankets for NICU babies

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

When Ashley Sullivan, assistant professor of early childhood education at Penn State Behrend, suggested that students in two of her spring 2016 classes plan a community service project, one idea was top of mind for Karlie Aschenbrenner.

Aschenbrenner, a sophomore Elementary and Early Childhood Education major from Pittsburgh, thought of the concept behind Brady’s Blankets, a program of the Fairfield, CT, children’s non-profit Brady’s Smile, which provides homemade fleece blankets to babies and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

“This was the one idea that really made so much sense,” Aschenbrenner said. “If we all donated $5, we would be able to purchase fabric to make tie blankets. We could then donate the blankets to babies in the NICU.”

The students voted on the service project ideas, and Aschenbrenner’s suggestion was the clear winner.

Every student in both Sullivan’s Instruction in Early Childhood Education Derived from Development Theories and Competing Rights: Issues in American Education courses donated $5 each to participate in the project. They spent their last day of class cutting and tying to create 75 blankets, which were donated to Brady’s Smile and then sent to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Aschenbrenner was not the only student with whom the cause resonated.

“The children that we’re donating these blankets to could eventually become the kids that we’re going to teach, so just giving them a better chance to thrive and survive can mean a lot,” said Madison McFeely, a first-year Elementary and Early Childhood Education major from North East.

In addition to creating the blankets, Sullivan’s students volunteered at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania where they packed more than 200 food boxes to distribute to local seniors.

“As future teachers, I think all of us really appreciate these causes,” said Gionna Fonseca, a sophomore Elementary and Early Childhood Education major from Pittsburgh. “It was really nice to see that big pile of blankets sitting there.”

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

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Class of 2016: Meet Lexie Pelchen (Communication)

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2016 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend.  We sat down to talk to some remarkable seniors before they left school and we’d like to a few of our students who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Lexie Pelchen:

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Major: Communication

Minor: English

Certificates: Public Relations, Social Media

Hometown: Latrobe, Pennsylvania

On choosing Behrend: When I was looking at colleges, I decided I would not visit any campus until I got an acceptance letter. I had a fear of going to visit a school and loving it and then finding out I did not get in. The first acceptance letter I received was from Behrend, so it was the first – and turned out to be the only – school I toured. When I visited, I felt so comfortable at Behrend; it felt like home. It was a very easy decision for me to make.

On finding the perfect major (for her): I started as a Creative Writing major, but quickly realized it wasn’t for me. My roommate was a Communication major and I always thought her homework and projects were interesting and fun. I met with Dr. Rod Troester, associate professor of speech communication, and ended up switching to Communication. My time in the writing program actually paid off as I was able to earn an English minor with just a couple more classes. It all turned out well and I’m happy with the decisions I made.

Proudest accomplishment: Chartering our Her Campus chapter. I’m so proud that I was able to start a club at Behrend, especially one that I’m so passionate about. I’m happy to know that when I graduate, I will be able to leave a part of myself at Behrend.

Campus involvement: I am a sister in Alpha Sigma Alpha and once served as the president of the Panhellenic Council. I’m currently the social media director for the Behrend Beacon, a member of Lambda Pi Eta honor society, and president of Her Campus.

Social media maven: I think I have a knack for social media communication. I joke that I’m getting my major in Instagram and my minor in Twitter, but it’s more than a hobby for me. I’ve devoted a lot of time into figuring out how social media works and how I can use it to reach mass audiences.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: For most of my life I was a pretty big homebody. My mindset now is the polar opposite!

Have degree, will travel I have a six-year plan that involves living in a new place every two years. First, I plan to move to New York City, then Boston, then Los Angeles. I don’t see myself settling in any town for a long time.

Advice for current students: Don’t sell yourself short in any aspect of your life; you’re capable of more than you could ever imagine. Also, it’s OK to not know what you want and to figure that out by ruling out the things you don’t want.

With gratitude: I have changed so much during my four short years here at Behrend. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I have had here and happy with the direction my life is taking now.

After graduation, Lexie plans to move to New York City and find work at a fashion magazine or media company.