Standout Seniors: Meet Jasmine Lewis (Psychology)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 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 several weeks, 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 Jasmine Lewis: 

Jasmine Lewis1

Major: Psychology

Certificates: Trauma Studies and Behavioral Health and Counseling Psychology

Hometown: Fairview, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Behrend Excellence Scholarship.

On choosing her major: I initially chose Psychology because I wanted to become a therapist.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: You might expect me to say something related to academics, but I would say that I am most proud about meeting so many wonderful people and taking advantage of experiences that have helped me grow exponentially as a person from when I arrived here four years ago.

Campus involvement: I was a member of the Student Government Association where I served as Secretary of Commuter Affairs and as an upper-class Senator. I was also a Welcome Week Guide for three years and a peer mentor in Belonging@Behrend and the college’s Behrend Excellent Student Transition Mentor Program.

What makes her unique: I love volunteering and am especially adept at being a “people-mover” and getting things organized for events. Also, I have my purple belt in Goju-Ryu karate.

Singing in the rain (and sun and clouds and…): I love to sing. If I could sing my way through life, I’d be the happiest woman on Earth.

Her definition of the good life: To me, living the good life means looking at every opportunity, setback, or hurdle in a positive light. There is always something good to be found in every situation, and I live my life looking for positive notes in the things I do.

What she’s passionate about: I am incredibly passionate about educating people on mental health and reducing the stigmas associated with it.

Advice for first-year students: The best thing I ever did was to look at the degree requirements for my major in my first year. I highly recommend working closely with your academic adviser and the amazing staff in the Academic and Career Planning Center to make sure you’re on track. Your “What If?” report is quite literally your best friend (aside from the schedule builder) when it comes to scheduling classes. Some classes I took ended up counting for two or three categories in my degree path. This tool saved me a lot of time and stress.

Jasmine has accepted a job with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Erie County, after her graduation in May. She also was accepted into the Disney College Program, which she will participate in from mid-July through February 2023.

Standout Seniors: Meet Chantel Rodriguez (Communication)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 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 several weeks, 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 Chantel Rodriguez. 

Chantel Rodriquez

Major: Communication

Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania

 Scholarships: Petersen Family Trustee Scholarship

On choosing Behrend: I had heard great things from alumni. My friends said Behrend changed their lives and gave them the option to do whatever they were genuinely passionate about in life. It took me awhile to be able to go to college as an adult, but choosing Behrend was the best decision I could have made. I’ve made lifelong relationships and connections.

On choosing her major: Originally, I was a Psychology major, but then I met Dr. Carrie Payne, assistant teaching professor of English, who thought I would be a perfect fit for the Communication program. Years later, I am grateful I switched because of the many opportunities I’ve had in that field, such as community involvement and creating inclusivity.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment at Behrend is that I still got involved with student clubs and organizations. With a family and a job and academics, it hasn’t been easy, but I make it a priority to involve myself on campus to connect with other students.

Campus involvement: I am a staff writer for the campus student newspaper, The Behrend Beacon, I participated in the Academic Integrity Committee as a student representative, and I earned the Dean’s List honor several times.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: When people meet me, they are always surprised to learn that I’m 27 years old, that I’m a mother of three girls, and that I’ve been married for nearly ten years now.

Advice for first-year students: My advice for the first-year and adult students would be to use the school resources as much as possible and make it a point to reach out for help when things feel like they are crashing down on you. There are lots of people who want to help you succeed.

She loves Erie: I plan to stay in Erie after I graduate. Erie is growing and changing every day, and I want to become more involved in the community and contribute to its revitalization.

Proud to be the first: I am proud to say that I am a Latina first-generation college graduate.

After her graduation in December, Chantel wants to work in public relations as an outreach coordinator for a nonprofit organization in Erie.

Standout Seniors: Meet Sierra Wells (Psychology)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 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 several weeks, 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 Sierra C. Wells: 

wells2

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Jamestown, New York

On choosing Behrend: A few of my friends went to Behrend before me, and they had all positive things to say about the faculty and staff and the Psychology program. I am also a huge Penn State fan and knew I wanted to be a part of the Penn State community.

On choosing her major: I have always been intrigued by the psyche of others around me and am fascinated by human behavior. I wanted to study and learn much more about it.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Completing a research study on my own and presenting my findings at two conferences. I studied and examined how crime news in the media can affect college students’ fear of crime. This project helped me understand advanced research methods and apply psychology to my work.

Can’t stop her: I think that my passion and drive for the subject of psychology make me stand out. I am very motivated to achieve my goals and believe that nothing can stop me. I aspire to learn as much as I can and be as educated as possible so that I can set an example for those around me.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: My dream job is to work alongside the criminal justice system or the FBI to do in-depth research studies on incarcerated criminals.

Her definition of the good life: Being a part of something you love, whether it is a job, a sport, or a hobby.

On second loves: In addition to my passion for psychology, I am also an avid volleyball player and will always love the sport.

Advice for first-year students: Don’t get discouraged when you are having a bad week or feel overwhelmed with homework.  Keep your eye on your end goal. It will be worth it!

Parting gratitude: I’m thankful for Behrend and the staff and my peers who have helped me along the way. I’m especially grateful for Dr. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, professor of psychology, for being one of my biggest supporters and a role model, as both a teacher and a woman.

After her graduation, Sierra plans to attend graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Standout Seniors: Meet Matt Mathias (Communication)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 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 of 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 Matt Mathias: 

mathias4

Major: Communication with a certificate in Public Relations

Hometown: Jamestown, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I have received the Joseph and Isabel Prischak Trustee Scholarship and the Irvin Kochel Leadership Scholarship.

Why he chose Behrend: It was an hour from home and offered a wide variety of majors. I was unsure of what I wanted to do in college, so I liked having a lot of options. Also, who can deny the pedigree of a Penn State degree?

On choosing his major and changing plans: I changed my major a few times before deciding on Communication. It fits my skillset well and I have been able to continue with camera and video work that I’ve always enjoyed.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment at Behrend has been making the Dean’s List in back-to-back semesters in 2021. The start of my college career was rough. I hit a wall early on when I was unsure what direction to pursue. I was unmotivated and struggled mentally, and then COVID happened and that didn’t help. In the end, support at home and here at Behrend helped me get back on my feet, and I’m incredibly proud of where I am now.

Awards and recognition: Myron Jones Broadcasting Award.

Campus Involvement: I’ve written for the Behrend Beacon since the spring of 2021 and am currently the sports editor. I also am involved in BVZ Radio.

On leadership: During the summer of 2018, I was selected to attend the Penn State Summer Leadership Conference at University Park. It was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had at Penn State.

On conversation and music: I can talk to anyone. I think this may stem from the fact that I played piano for a local church from the time I was 12 years old. I was constantly surrounded by adults and expected to hold conversations with them at a young age. It helped me become confident in my speaking abilities and taught me how to make friends and how to listen to and learn from other people. I developed compassion and empathy for others that I think has served me well as a communicator.

What you’d be surprised to know about him: I worked as a page for the Pennsylvania State Senate in Harrisburg in 2011 and 2012. I am highly interested in government and how state and national government functions, not necessarily the politics behind it all, but everything else that goes into it.

Passion for service: I love helping people. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and validates the work that I do. Not only that, but I learn a lot about myself when helping others. I’m always trying to grow and be the best version of myself.

Advice for first-year students: It’s OK to not to know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. I’m graduating in a few months, and I still have no idea where life might take me. Just have confidence in yourself and listen to your gut. Never doubt that the hard work you put in will pay off.

Parting thoughts: I’m thankful for all the Behrend faculty members who have guided me throughout my college career as well as the advisers who paved the way for me. I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.

Matt will graduate in June and plans to find a job in media production or in the communications/public relations field.

Parlez-vous Français?

 By Heather Cass, Publications Manger at Penn State Behrend

foreign language1

Do you speak French? You could learn how at Penn State Behrend, where you’ll find courses in French, German, and Spanish, as well as a class on Italian culture. Behrend’s academic offerings in global languages include a minor in Spanish and a German Studies certificate.

You can learn much more about Behrend’s language offerings during the college’s celebration of National Foreign Language Week, Monday, February 28, to Thursday, March 3.

The week’s events will include a variety of Zoom presentations on language and culture topics, making it easy to pop in from wherever you are on or off campus. See the complete schedule and get Zoom links here.

The line-up will even feature in-person events that involve food. Yum!

  • Monday, February 28, from noon to 1:00 p.m., you can sample food from different countries at World Catering Day in McGarvey Commons.
  • Wednesday, March 2, from 11:00 a.m. to noon, you can Join the Global Ambassadors in Bruno’s Café for a free taste of French cuisine and a chance to win delicious macarons.

The Behrend Blog chatted with Dr. Laurie Urraro, assistant teaching professor of Spanish, to learn more about the event and why everyone should consider learning a foreign language.

How many languages do you speak?

I am a native English speaker who is also fluent in Spanish. I speak some Portuguese and can read some French. I also understand a little Italian.

What language should students learn?

It depends on the field one enters, of course, but any foreign language is useful and will help you stand out in a job interview!

We know that it’s easiest to learn a second language as a child, but how about as a college student? College students’ minds are still developing, too, so it is not too late to learn! In fact, I would encourage anyone at any age to try to pick up another language. Just because it’s “easier” at a young age doesn’t mean it’s impossible at an older age.

Why should a student learn another language?

Here are just a few great reasons:

  • It will boost your resume. No matter what field you go into, learning a foreign language will be an “added bonus” that makes you a more attractive employee.
  • In an increasingly global world, being bilingual makes you more versatile. It also makes you more mobile as it’s easier for you to travel and explore new places.
  • It helps your English. Many languages are derived from Latin (French, Spanish, Italian), including many words in English. English is a Germanic tongue. Learning a foreign language will boost your vocabulary by familiarizing you with words that have common equivalents in other languages.
  • It makes you smarter. Research has shown that being bilingual improves cognitive skills unrelated to language.
  • It increases your cultural IQ. Studying a foreign language exposes the learner to diverse customs, ideas, and perspectives. Of course, you can still learn about other cultures without speaking the native tongue, but language learning allows for a more immersive experience.
  • It can increase your brain power: Learning a foreign language can improve your multitasking, attention, and problem-solving skills. It can also help improve your memory, which comes in handy when trying to remember the names of new contacts or clients.

Learn more about Foreign Languages Week at Behrend here.

Virtual Concert Commemorates Unusual Year

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

virtual concert commemmorates unusual year

Penn State Behrend choir students weren’t able to gather in person at all this academic year, but they were still able to raise their voices to make beautiful music, culminating in  a year-end virtual concert, now on YouTube at https://bit.ly/3xP0UEG.  

Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich, director of choral ensembles and associate teaching professor of music, said that about twenty choir students continued singing through the pandemic, which meant learning how to use the online recording platform, Soundtrap, to record their parts.

“We used group Zooms during our normal rehearsal times to learn sections of each piece, then used one-person breakout rooms (we called them ‘recording booths’) to individually record what we’d learned in rehearsal,” Dietrich said. “Then, the next time we met for class, we’d listen to the edited recordings to talk about what went well and what we’d like to improve for next time.”

“It was slow going” she said, “but students reported that they liked getting feedback on their performance and having the recordings to reflect on as they worked to improve.” 

COVID-19 safety precautions made in-person sessions impractical, since everyone would have to have been masked and spaced nine feet apart and in a single line. Additional requirements would have made gathering to sing together nearly impossible, so the choir worked together virtually.

“It was hard not to be together in person, but it was a relief to know we were keeping one another safe and still making music,” Dietrich said.

The virtual concert represents the final project for choir students, just as an in-person concert would in a normal year.

“The nice thing about having it on YouTube is that anyone can watch it from anywhere whenever they have time, so students can ‘invite’ family and friends from around the world,” Dietrich said.

Another benefit? Guest performers.

“We had help from a Behrend Choir alumnus, Taylor May, and two guest performers from my own musical community: flutist Emma Shubin, who teaches music in the Denver area, and guest bass Dr. Edward Cetto, who was my college choir director and musical mentor,” Dietrich said.  

Among the pieces performed is a rendition of the theme song for the 2014 film Selma, recorded by Common and Legend, Make Them Hear You from the musical “Ragtime,” and Halloran/Bolk’s arrangement of Witness.

“This concert has been quite the labor of love, which is reflected in the themes of the pieces in the concert, Dietrich said. “It’s about love between individuals, love for a world that is learning hard truths, love for what we have lost, and love for what we still have and for what is possible in our future.”

Watch the entire concert here

 

 

Broaden your holiday tune horizons

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

canstockphoto2812679

In this tumultuous year when nothing is normal, we can take comfort in one thing that hasn’t changed: Christmas carols. Everyone has their favorites and most of us have more than a few.

We asked the music experts on campus to share with us their favorite holiday tunes and also to suggest some new songs/artists or albums to expand our holiday music playlist.

Here’s what they had to say:

Emily Cassano, assistant teaching professor of theatre, music, and arts

My all-time favorite Christmas tune is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” because I love the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. I don’t necessarily have a favorite version; there are a lot of great renditions.

For more modern music, I typically turn on any of the Pentatonix Christmas Albums, and their song “White Winter Hymnal” is a favorite of mine.

In November, the three Fates from Hadestown (last year’s Tony Award Winner for Best Musical) released a Christmas album called If the Fates Allow.  It’s really great, and very non-traditional, like Hadestown itself.  One of the three Fates is played by an Erie native and Penn State alumnus Mike Karns’ wife, Kay Trinidad.

Gabrielle Dietrich, director of choral ensembles and associate teaching professor of music

I have to admit my holiday music tastes are eclectic, and also more modern in their conception.

I really enjoy Dar Williams’ “The Christians and the Pagans,” the Goo Dolls’ “Better Days,” and Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles’ “Winter Song.”

As for classics, I have a real soft spot for “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” because what says “Happy Holidays” better than some good old-fashioned insult comedy!

Gary Viebranz, teaching professor of music

The first classic that comes to my mind is an oldie, but a goodie: “Mary’s Boy Child” by Harry Belafonte. In a most traditional sense, I love “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” especially the rendition by the King’s Singers.

For some nostalgia, I grew up with the Harry Simeone Chorale recording “Sing We Now of Christmas” and still listen to it. My silly side likes “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and I appreciate “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from the original soundtrack of the animation, which is sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger. Heeeeee’s Grrrrreat!

If you want to expand your horizons, I’d encourage you try some instrumental collections. My favorites include “A Canadian Brass Christmas” and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “A Christmas Festival,” which is an amazing album recorded in 1964.

Recreating history: One tiny soldier at a time

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

Today, when most of us in the United States are focused on the pandemic and political warfare, Jerry App, a junior History major, need only walk down his basement stairs to escape current affairs and lose himself in the drama of 1500s Italy.

Jerry App
Jerry App, junior History major at Penn State Behrend

App is a kriegsmodelle enthusiast. He paints tiny figures and scenery and then stages elaborate and historically accurate battle scenes in miniature. Lately, he’s been working on the Italian Wars, depicting battles between the Holy Roman Empire and France for control of Italy.

He has plenty to work with. Between 1494 to 1559, the Italian peninsula became the main battleground for European supremacy. Everybody wanted a piece of Italy’s “boot,” which was economically advanced but politically divided among several states, making it an attractive target.

“I’ve had to do a lot of research before I could actually begin building and painting the models, but it’s worth the effort,” App said.

Delving deep into history is a labor of love for App who can trace his fascination with the past to a classic fantasy game he played as a child.

“My dad taught me to play Dungeons and Dragons when I turned 10,” he said. “I got really interested in the medieval ages, specifically the realistic and historical sides to fantasy tropes. We bought some old pewter Grenadier models and painted them together. Later, I discovered a game called Warhammer Fantasy, and that is what really kicked off my interest in miniature painting and wargaming.”

It’s a pastime that he and his father still share today, and one that is particularly suited for a pandemic.

It’s been a great hobby to have during the lockdown,” App said. “Earlier this year, I was home from college and my parents were off work for a while, too, which gave us a lot of time to catch up on painting and playing. A typical wargame takes an hour or two to play out, so we had plenty of time to play. You could start a wargame on Sunday and play it all week.”

We caught up with App to learn more about his hobby, his personal history, and how both influenced his academic and career choices.

Your dad introduced you to both fantasy gaming (Dungeons and Dragons) and modeling?  

Yes. He started modeling when he was a kid, putting together World War II kits. He actually still has some of those kits, and he’s assembled a few WWII models recently. He was inspired by our recent visit to Gettysburg, and he recently bought some Civil War models. So, we’ve been working on those, too.

What do you enjoy about Kriegsmodelle?

I enjoy being able to take gray, flat plastic sprues (generic figures) and turn them into fully built and painted pieces. It’s very calming and helps me relieve stress after a long day. When I build and paint models, my mind is completely focused on what I am doing at that moment. It’s almost like meditation.

Metal unpainted 1
Unpainted sprues.

Where do you buy the figures?

It depends on the genre. Historical models can be difficult to find, depending on the period. For example, you can easily find Napoleonic or Late Imperial Romans, but you’ll really have to scrounge for Wars of Lombardy or Russian Civil War. I’d recommend Perry Miniatures or Warlord Games. Science fiction and fantasy models are easier to find, and you can find them on Ebay or Amazon for a decent price. Local stores or hobby shops that carry models are especially nice to work with, if you have one nearby.

The figures arrive in need of a paint job?

Yes, that’s the best part! I try to sit down for an hour or two every day to work on a squad of models. It can take a while to paint them up (a few hours per model), but I paint them in groups which speeds up the process a lot; this is referred to as “batch painting.”

How many models have you done?

I have around 2,250 models, but only about 1,000 of them are painted with 100 still needing assembly. My dad has a comparable amount. We work on the models in our basement, which is affectionately named the “Nerd Bunker” by friends and family. I’ve been painting for ten years this month.

What are you working on now?

The Italian Wars, as well as some medieval levies (militia units raised by conscription), a couple of Warhammer 40,000 armies and the Civil War models my dad picked up.  It’s a lot of different projects, but I’m never without something new to paint.

You also study German?

Yes, I’m working toward a certificate in German. My grandmother, Omi, is from southern Prussia, and she inspired me to take up German. I’m hoping I will become proficient enough to be able to speak with her in Deutsche.

What are your career goals?

Originally, I wanted to become a civil servant and work for a government agency. However, I’ve also looked into museum work and law school. Right now, I’m considering using my degree as a launch pad into Naval Officer Candidate School. I’m not committed to one plan yet, but I’m starting to narrow it down.

What advice do you have for those who might want to try modeling?  

I’m the Vice President for the Behrend Game Club, and I’m also the club’s strategy committee head. If any students are interested in pursuing the kriegsmodelle hobby, join the club on Behrend Sync and get involved. I’m happy to answer any questions and share resources to help another start their own collection.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Home Work – Virtual lab leads to hands-on experience for DIGIT students

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

Digital media, arts, and technology students Kurt Brautigam, left, and Zak Teyssier

A quick switch to remote learning this spring forced many of us to rethink the ways that we meet, collaborate, and maintain a community when we have to be physically distant. Tommy Hartung, assistant professor of digital media, arts, and technology (DIGIT), started a virtual DIGIT Lab and invited students to get together with him once a week.

“It was completely voluntary,” Hartung said. “We met up once a week to talk about ideas, and I’d demonstrate some techniques,” Hartung said. “It was a casual way to keep students thinking positively about the future. I viewed it as more of a research group than a class.”

It went so well that Hartung continued the lab over the summer, which is where DIGIT majors Zak Teyssier and Kurt Brautigam learned about an opportunity to get hands-on experience creating a video for UPMC Hamot Hospital in Erie.

“UPMC Hamot reached out to Behrend, looking for help making recruiting videos,” Hartung said.  

Brautigam, who wants to work in video production and editing one day, was happy to jump on board. He and Teyssier worked with Annmarie Kutz, Otolaryngology residency program manager and medical student coordinator at UPMC Hamot, to put together a video for the hospital’s otolaryngology head and neck surgery residency.

Brautigam said it was valuable experience working for a real client.

“Annmarie provided us with the assets we needed to use (since we couldn’t do the filming ourselves due to COVID restrictions) as well as guidelines on logos, fonts, and color schemes to be used,” he said. “I learned how important it is that brands be consistent in their messaging and visuals.”

Brautigam spent most of his time working on the basic structure of the video and color correcting photo and video assets, while Teyssier worked on the audio, including the background music.

“UPMC Hamot standards required us to replace the music Zak had composed with music that was already owned by the company,” Brautigam said. “That was one thing we learned the hard way.”  

After some back-and-forth between the students and their client to smooth transitions and audio, the video was posted to UPMC Hamot’s website where it will used to answer questions and provide information for doctors interested in the otolaryngology residency program.

Kutz told the students that when UPMC marketing professionals in Pittsburgh signed off on the video, they said, “It was very nicely put together and has lots of great content.”

The students hope it might lead to more projects with the hospital.

“We gained valuable experience working with UPMC Hamot on this particular project,” Teyssier said. “We hope to create more multimedia content for them in the near future.”

“We are currently talking about ways we might be able to assist them in creating content for their social media pages,” Brautigam added.

Secret Lives of Staff: Meet Steven Miller, history buff

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

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

Some people make it a goal to visit every state or capitol, but Steven Miller ’06, associate director of Housing and Food Services at Penn State Behrend, is a World War II reenactor and Penn State Behrend history alumnus who is working on a more unique challenge: He has a goal of visiting the private residences of every U.S. president. He’s already been to twenty.

“Visiting presidential homes offers an insight into the private life of individuals who had a profound impact on the formation and development of our country,” Miller said. “The homes and grounds themselves show a progression of architecture and lifestyle through history, from the vast agricultural farmlands of the Founding Fathers to the urban presidents of today.”

It all started with a trip to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s home in Gettysburg, a stop on Miller’s itinerary while visiting Gettysburg National Military Park.

“It evolved into an annual summer trip with my brother, a challenge to visit the private residences of past presidents, with the goal of visiting all forty-five of them,” Miller said.

We chatted with Miller to learn more about his adventures and the homes he’s been most impressed with.

Are presidents’ residences public?

Yes, most presidential private residences belong to the National Park Service and are open to the public for tours. Information on their locations and visiting information can be found on the National Park website at nps.gov/findapark.

Do you plan vacations around visiting presidential homes?

I typically plan our itinerary around visiting both presidential sites and museums. Some of the most extensive collections of historical military artifacts are in museums located at the service academies, such as West Point or the United States Naval Academy, and often I will add these into our itineraries. Thirteen presidents have homes in New York, Ohio or Virginia, so from here where we live, creating a travel itinerary that takes you by a president’s home is fairly easy. One of the things we enjoy on these visits is eating at local establishments as much as possible; we try to avoid chain restaurants.

Who is your favorite (or most admired) president and why?

My favorite modern president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). He was elected at the height of the Great Depression, and through various public programs, he got the country back on its feet. He then led the nation through four years of World War II and was the only president elected to four terms in office. He also founded the March of Dimes with the goal of finding a vaccine for polio.

What are some of the more famous homes you’ve seen so far?

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home; Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home; Montpelier, James Monroe’s home; and Springwood, FDR’s home.

Have any the homes surprised you in any way?

It is impressive to see how some of these homes are incredibly preserved with original furnishings and furniture.

What does history mean to you? Why is it important to study and learn about history?

I am always searching for a connection to the past, and visiting historical sites, whether presidential homes or museums, let us see the tangible items that create those links. Visiting these homes is like stepping into the past. It’s amazing to think about walking in the footsteps of some of the most influential people in our country’s history.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.