Students Save a Seat for Women in History

Lilley Library art exhibit invites remarkable women to the table

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

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“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

This quote by author Virginia Woolf sums up the invisibility of women in the collective history of the world. Overshadowed by the accomplishments of men, few females have made it into the history books. And, yet, women have made their presence known in every aspect of human existence from art to banking to the military to the board room and beyond.

In 1979, feminist artist Judy Chicago gave thirty-nine women a seat at the table in her masterwork “The Dinner Party,” a giant sculpture that imagines famous women from myth and history engaged in conversation.

The installation art, which took more than five years to produce, is composed of thirty-nine ornate place settings on a triangular table with thirteen plates on each side. An additional 999 women’s names are written in gold on the floor. The piece toured the world, gaining an audience of millions; it is now on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum.

Closer to home, you’ll find another dinner party happening in the John M. Lilley Library.

Students in last spring’s WMNST 106 Representations of Women in Literature, Art, and Culture taught by Dr. Sarah Whitney, assistant teaching professor of English and women’s studies, painted plates to honor a women from a wide variety of backgrounds. The students’ work is on display in the gallery space near the entrance to the library.

“For this project, students researched a woman of their choice who made significant contributions,” Whitney said. “They designed and painted on china as Judy Chicago did, using color and shape creatively to demonstrate the chosen figure’s importance. Students also wrote a reflection paper exploring their figure’s historical, and personal, impact on the artist.”

Some of the plates honor women you might expect, such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, author Maya Angelou, and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony.

Others are more surprising.

Molly Boniger, a junior English major, chose to honor Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

“The purpose of ‘The Dinner Party’ was to recognize women who history had forgotten and I wanted someone who was unconventional, even by today’s standards,” Boniger said. “Pavlichenko has an incredible story. She is a young woman from a Ukrainian village who became the Soviet Union’s greatest sniper during World War II. She showed that woman can be hard and strong, and they don’t have to be the delicate, soft things that society would prefer we be.”

Boniger is an aspiring screenwriter who took WMNST 106 to learn what she suspected she was missing.

“The class was amazing,” Boniger said. “I could not believe the amount of exposure I received and just how much women’s contributions to art and culture have been excluded from the narrative we’ve all been taught.”

Whitney was pleased with the range of women and topics that students picked.

“The plates reflect a diversity of choices, which is wonderful,” Whitney said. “I especially enjoyed learning about new women from our international students whose choices spanned the globe. Furthermore, some students chose mythical or fictional figures, such as Shakti, which were also quite enlightening.”

Among the women represented are: Coco Chanel, Cleopatra, Julie Andrews, Lynsey Addario, Ellen DeGeneres, Chihiro Ogino, Miley Cyrus, Emma Watson, Pasang Lhamu, Athena, Amy Winehouse, Billie Jean King, Marilyn Monroe, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, and Janis Joplin.

Not all of the plates honor people.

Junior biology major Caitlin Kent, chose to celebrate the essence of womanhood and give a nod to her future career as an obstetrician/gynecologist.

“I painted a uterus as the center of the universe to represent a feminine divine force or a female creator,” Kent said. “All life stems from women. On my plate, one ovary is painted as the sun and one as the Earth to center the uterus as the birthplace of the universe.”

The plates are simple porcelain and students used a china paint, just like Judy Chicago, to adorn them.

“Using hands-on materials to make historical events come alive is a key part of my teaching practice in general,” Whitney said. “I think using manipulatives is particularly important in studying ‘Dinner Party’ both because it is a visceral, intense piece, and because Chicago was intentional about using traditional women’s art practices, like china painting and embroidery, to honor forgotten female artists. By doing it, you sort of experience Chicago’s process.”

Kent and Boniger gave the project, and the entire course, high marks.

“I think WMNST 106 is a class that all people can benefit from,” Boniger said. “These women’s histories are all of our histories. The class covers such a range of subjects, I can guarantee that any student taking it will learn something new, and enjoy doing so. It’s about time we start bringing women into the conversation and including them in the history they have helped create.”

“My Dinner Party” will be on exhibit in the Lilley Library until October 26. Whitney would like to acknowledge the help of the Lilley librarians, and Scott Rispin, assistant teaching professor of art, who helped to assemble the display.

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Standout Seniors: Meet Jenessa Islas-Parker

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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:  Jenessa Islas-Parker:

Jenessa Isla-Parker

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Palatine, Illinois

Scholarships: I received the Penn State Behrend Academic Excellence Award last year.

On choosing Behrend: I visited Penn State Behrend at the invitation of Joe Tristan, the head coach of the water polo team. After visiting the campus, I fell in love. I realized Behrend was the perfect school for me because of the small class sizes, an amazing psychology program, and the ability to play water polo at the collegiate level.

On choosing psychology: I was 15 years old when my older sister was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She is the reason that I decided to study psychology. I became very interested in people, especially in how we function and why we struggle sometimes.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I was on one of the nine research teams that was selected to represent Penn State at the Undergraduate Research at the Capitol event in Harrisburg. My research team looked at the effects of gender on blame attributions in violent crime scenarios. We will be presenting our research at three conferences this semester.

On earning a degree in half the time: It was always my plan to graduate from Behrend in two years. I came to college with 47 credits from AP exams I took in high school. My plan still required taking more than the average amount of credits in order to reach my goal. I took six or seven classes each semester and took two courses over the summer to reach the required number of credits necessary for my degree.

On playing water polo, too: At one point, I was taking 20 credits while in water polo season. This meant I had two- to three-hour practices each day and was traveling each weekend to compete in tournaments. I often did projects on the airplane or went back to a computer lab after a late practice to finish a paper. It was certainly challenging, but it was also very rewarding.

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Campus involvement: I am a member of the Behrend S.A.V.E. club, which tries to bring awareness to domestic or relational violence. I was also a mentor at the Autism Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania where I was able to spend time with the young clients, while helping them build interpersonal skills.

Tri-lingual: I am fluent in Spanish and intermediate in French. I learned Spanish growing up in a Mexican household and picked up French in school. I have a passion for languages, which I must get from my family because we all speak Spanish and my mother and sister speak German, too.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college. My parents worked very hard to give me opportunities that were not available to them. I am very grateful to have hard-working, motivating parents who did everything in their power to get me through college.

Who inspires her: My family is my biggest inspiration. My dad came from Mexico when he was 18 years old with nothing but the clothes on his back. He made a living as a seasonal worker, and now he is supporting my dream of going to college. My mom began working at 18 years old, and now she runs a very successful company. My sister has battled depression and anxiety for the past five years, but still continues to be successful in her work and social life. My family is the sole reason I am at college and graduating this year.

Advice for new students: Take advantage of the resources available to Penn State students! Resources such as the Academic and Career Planning Center and faculty members are here to help you. Also, be aware of the classes and course sequences required in your major. I almost had to stay an extra semester because of the sequencing.

After her graduation in May, Jenessa hopes to secure an entry-level job at the Federal Bureau of Investigations where she has been doing an internship for the past year. She plans to work toward being a Special Agent.

 

Standout Seniors: Meet Kyle Lambing

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 Kyle A. Lambing:

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Major: Communication

Minor: Sustainability Leadership

Certificate: Public Relations

Hometown: Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I received the Joseph and Isabel Prischak Trustee Scholarship, the John K. Henne Scholarship for International Study, and the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship.

On choosing Behrend: I liked the faculty-to-student ratio and the location, with Erie being two hours from Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.

On choosing his major: I wanted to do more than research environmental, political, or cultural issues. I wanted to learn how to promote, publicize, and educate.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Meeting and becoming friends with students from across the globe. I’m also proud of getting involved and connected with the Behrend community and the Erie community, in particular the Erie Community Foundation, Erie County United, and PA Student Power Network.

Campus involvement: I was a member of Greener Behrend, the Multi-Cultural Council, Trigon, Veg Club, College Dems, the Political Science Society, and Weed Warriors.

How he recharges: I have a classic case of wanderlust. Music and the outdoors are my cure for all that ails me.

A good life, defined: Follow your passions, not just your wallet.

Advice for new students: Don’t just come to Behrend to earn a degree. Apply that degree to the community and use the power of your education to effect positive change.

After his graduation in May, Kyle is going on a study abroad trip to Spain. In July, he will be moving to Yangzhou, China, where he will teach English at Shane English School.

Standout Seniors: Meet Chantel Drake

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 Chantel Sade Drake:

Chantel Drake

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Glendale, Wisconsin

On choosing Behrend: I wanted to attend a school that challenged me but also made me feel at home. I found what I was looking for at Behrend. I met some great friends that I now consider family. My professors helped me gain the knowledge I needed, not just in the field of political science but in life, too.

On choosing her major: I knew that I wanted to work within the government, but I could not define what I wanted my career to be and who I wanted to be. Now that I’m graduating, I know I found the right field for me.

Campus involvement: I was a member of International Model African Union in 2017. I am now a member of Harvard Model United Nations and Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I’m a contemporary dancer. I’ve been working up the guts to try out for So You Think You Can Dance. Maybe one day I will.

Avid bookworm: I love to read. I used to go to the library at home and check out about thirty books and read them in a week. James Patterson is one of my favorite authors.

Puzzling hobby: I work on 1,000-piece puzzles with my boyfriend, who is also a Penn State Behrend student. It’s a great stress reliever.

Who inspires her: I’m inspired by every person who has believed in me. My family has had to make a lot of sacrifices for me. I am the first person in my household to go to college and I could not have done it without the love and support of my family.

Advice for new students: Believe in yourself. The hardest thing you will go through will not just be exams, homework, or difficult classes, but the growth of oneself. The only person who can push you forward is you. The only person who can push you back is you.

After her graduation in May, Chantel plans to attend graduate school to earn a master of arts degree in international relations.

 

 

 

 

 

Game on: Students Make Connections at Conference

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

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For the past five years, students enrolled in GAME 495: Senior Internship have had the opportunity to attend the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Eight Penn State Behrend students and two faculty members recently returned from this year’s conference which was held in late March.

GDC is the world’s largest professional game industry event. There, students join game designers, programmers, artists, producers, and business professionals for five days of education, inspiration, and networking in the global game development community.

“Students are exposed to the game industry from the inside, get a chance to talk to professionals, and make connections that are invaluable as they set course for their own career in the game industry,” said Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology.

Students who attended the GDC were not only from the School of Engineering, but also Psychology majors from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences who are in the human factors track, which focuses on user interface and user experience.

Lum was a GDC trip leader along with Dr. Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering.

“The students who went to the GDC are enrolled in the interdisciplinary minor in Game Development,” Zhao said. “While we can teach students the technical and artistic skills needed to design and develop games in other classes, GAME 495 provides students the opportunity to showcase their product and interact with the world in a way that a traditional classroom is never able to.”

One good example: face-to-face networking with industry insiders at the GDC.

“I met a user experience analyst, which is my chosen field, from my favorite gaming company, Blizzard,” said Tiffany Eichler, a senior Psychology major. “We have been e-mailing since the conference and it has been so enlightening. I have learned a lot about the industry and why psychology has a place in it. He shared with me the best time to apply for an internship with Blizzard, so I am biding my time until I can get my name in there.”

“Students who have attended GDC in previous years have gotten internships and job offers from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others,” Lum said.

Prior to the trip, students in GAME 495 write and practice their elevator pitches, create resumes and business cards, and learn how to get noticed and have a meaningful conversation with professional contacts, including alumni.

“We had a chance to meet up with some Penn State Behrend graduates who are now working on the west coast,” Lum said.

Students who attended the GDC trip included, Computer Science majors: Cole Trexler, Matt Benkart, Jordon Torunian, and Morgan Farabaugh; Software Engineering majors, Frank Corso, Joe Craig, and Richard Shultz; and Psychology majors, Tiffany Eichler and Donald Fromknecht.

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Standout Seniors: Demetrius Green

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 Demetrius Green:
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Demetrius Green

Major: Digital Media, Arts, and Technology

Minor: Management Information Systems

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship

On choosing Behrend: I liked the location because it wasn’t too far or too close to home. I also love big bodies of water, and Lake Erie is beautiful.

On choosing his major: I wanted to bridge the gap between creativity and technology. I have a background in communications, so I wanted to continue that, while adding technology to my expertise.

Campus involvement: I am historian for the Behrend chapter of the Association of Black Collegians. I’m also a member of the Organization of African and Caribbean Students, and the Multi-Cultural Council.

What you’d be surprised to know about him: I love to sing, all day. It starts to annoy people after a while.

Confidence counts: My definition of living a good life is being so confident and carefree that if you wanted to, you could walk into Walmart singing your favorite song at the top of your lungs, and not care who is watching or who can hear you.

On a life of service: I’m passionate about helping others. My motto is: If I can, I will. I love to put a smile on another person’s face.

What inspires him: My future inspires me. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years, and I’m excited to start seeing things come to fruition. I know there are great things waiting for me, and I just have to keep working and be diligent in pursuing those things.

Advice for new students: Check in with your adviser. Get involved. Leave the campus and explore Erie and Presque Isle. Ask questions.

After his graduation in May, Demetrius plans to start his career as an MIS technology professional.

 

Standout Seniors: Meet Brittni Merenick

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 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 Brittni Merenick:

brittani merenick1

Major: Elementary and Early Childhood Education

Hometown: Warren, Pennsylvania

On choosing Behrend: When I was growing up, I often came to Behrend for basketball camps and fell in love with the campus. Once I did an official college tour, I knew I wanted to attend Behrend.

On choosing her major: I love working with children. It may sound cliché, but I really want to make an impact on my students’ lives. I like that I get to teach my students something new every day. The great thing is that while I’m teaching them, I am also learning and growing professionally.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Earning a 4.0 GPA two semesters in a row while taking 15 credits and working sixteen-hour weeks. This was on top of field placements, trying to have a social life, and sleeping!

Campus involvement: I was a member of the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and served as president of the club last year and as a representative on the regional Political Action Committee for Education. I also participated in the PennLake National Writing Project.

What you would be surprised to know about her: I have a fraternal twin sister, but most people say my younger sister and I look more like twins.

Advice for new students: Enjoy your college experience while you can because it is over quicker than you can imagine. Make new friends, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

After her graduation in May, Brittni hopes to find a teaching position in Pennsylvania. She plans to begin working on a graduate degree in the fall as well.