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.

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The Show Must Go On(line)

By Heather Cass,

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

There are few things that singers look forward to more than a chance to get on stage and share their talent with an audience. When the COVID-19 crisis put an end to in-person gathering and, in turn, the culminating event for Behrend choral students this spring, Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich, director of Choral Ensembles and associate teaching professor of music, decided the show much go on. She came up with a plan to allow each student to step in the spotlight – a virtual cabaret performance.

We talked with Dietrich to learn more and get links to some of the students’ performances:

Behrend Blog: What were students tasked with doing?

Gabrielle Dietrich: In a typical semester, the big project we work towards in Music 103 Concert Choir) and 104 Chamber Singers is a full-length concert. We were busily working toward that goal right up to spring break. When it was announced that we would be learning remotely for the rest of the semester, I knew we needed a new project. I knew the students enjoyed a variety of musical styles and might like the chance to work on individual vocal development and a piece of music that spoke to them personally. So, we decided to do a video cabaret, featuring music, song, dance, or drama. Each student chose their own song, which I then purchased for them to use, and they had several individual coaching sessions with me to prepare for the performance.

You discovered early on that live performances on Zoom would not work well, so you asked students to record their performances?

Yes, any music-making on Zoom is impacted both by delay, which is impossible to compensate for in real time (Try singing “Happy Birthday” to someone with a group of friends on Zoom and quickly see what I mean), and sound quality because you’re dealing with both Zoom’s noise filter, which can be turned off on computers, but not on tablets or phones, and also the noise filter of the devices themselves, plus wide variations in equipment quality and sensitivity, not to mention connection speed. Making videos gave students more control over the quality of their performance and the ability to do multiple takes, experiment with microphone placement, the volume of the recorded accompaniment, etc. Once they were happy with their work, they uploaded a video to YouTube and sent me an unlisted link.

Then you gathered at a certain time to watch all the performances at once?

Yes. We kept the date and time of the original ceremony and gave friends and family members the chance to attend virtually, too, as many of them would’ve come to a typical concert. We used a different video sharing system called watch2gether. It turned out to not be ideal, but it was a learning experience. If I were to do it over, I would have requested the videos be done sooner so that I could have had time to assemble a slick playlist in YouTube or even a single video in iMovie.

How many attended/participated the cabaret? 

There were twenty performers, and probably fifty or more audience members in attendance, though that number may be higher as there were likely multiple viewers at some screens.

What was your overall impression of the event?

I was very impressed with the creativity, and I think the students had a lot of fun hearing one other. One of the things I love about Behrend choristers is how quick they are to appreciate and cheer each other on. Singers can be a competitive bunch, but our students are very supportive of one another, and I am really proud of that.

How was the transition to remote learning challenged you?

The hardest thing for all of us seems to be the visceral absence of singing together. If you haven’t had that experience, it’s hard to describe. The full-brain, full-body experience of singing in a choir pulls you out of yourself and connects you with others in an immediate and strangely intimate way, and there’s just no substitute for it. I know we are all incredibly eager for the days when we can get together and sing again.

Have there been any silver linings? Any techniques you plan to keep when you return to in-person classes? 

I like that my students had the challenging experience of being confronted by the honesty of a recording. When we’re in rehearsal, they rely on me for feedback. I work hard to focus on the positives and play to our strengths. Recording devices have no tact. I know that has been really hard for some of them. Hearing a recording of one’s own voice is challenging for most human beings. A big part of my job in the last few weeks has been to help students hear the good rather than focusing on what could have been better. I think I might do more videotaping in the future, simply because it’s a valuable check on our perceptions.

I truly enjoyed the light-heartedness some of my students brought to the table in their interpretations and their staging, and also the deep feeling and musical sensitivity and instinct they demonstrated.

Here are links to some of the students’ cabaret performances. Turn up your speakers and enjoy!

Stephen Humphries – Everything by Michael Bublé

Maribeth Miller – I’ve Got Somebody Waiting by Cole Porter

Jack Golec – Be Prepared (from The Lion King) by Alan Menken

Claire Nicholson – Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me by Irving Berlin

Victoria Ma – In my Own Little Corner (from Cinderella) by Rodgers & Hammerstein

Emily Green – With Every Breath I Take by Cy Coleman

 

Take Notes: History is Happening

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

When Penn State Behrend faculty members were asked to record video messages that could be shared with students and the wider Behrend community on social media, Dr. Joe Beilein, associate professor of history, took the opportunity to remind us that the COVID-19 crisis will be a monumental moment in world history.

“We are living through a significant time in history right now,” Beilein said. “These days and months will be written about, taught, and reflected on decades from now.”

It’s a valuable reminder that someday the fear, inconvenience, aggravation, and disruption that we are living with will be history and that you may want to take some time during this pandemic to document what’s happening.

“Documenting what you’re thinking, doing, and feeling would be a treasure trove for future historians, as well as social scientists, especially psychologists and sociologists,” said Dr. Amy Carney, associate professor of history.

Penn State Behrend’s history professors strongly encourage others to take the time to record these monumental moments as they happen. Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Handwritten journaling is one of the most basic and accessible forms of recording history.
  • Start a blog. You can start an online blog in minutes on WordPress.com. You can share it with others or make it private and keep it for yourself.
  • Start a vlog. A vlog is a video blog (hence vlog). You can record an entry regularly and upload to YouTube. Again, you can make these private or share them.
  • Record snippets. If you don’t have a lot of time or inclination to write, download the 1 Second Video application for your smartphone and record a one-second video or photo memory every day. When you’re done, you can “mash” your seconds into a video that is just a few minutes long.
  • Download a smartphone diary app. There are several smartphone apps to aid you in daily journal keeping. Explore them to find one that works best for you.
  • Record an oral history. Record your own thoughts using the voice recorder on your phone. You might also consider including family members, too. By the way, this might be a great time to do a phone interview and oral history with elderly relatives who may be eager for interaction.

What should you record? Just document your daily experiences living in this era. Even the most mundane details about how you are living through this time will be interesting to look back on some day.

“Historians are able to find value in just about every piece of documentation or evidence we come across,” Carney said.

“It’s the absence of records that drives us nuts much more so than the quality of what the record describes,” Beilein added. “Who knows what will be important to human beings in fifty years anyway? So, the best way to get a picture of what is going on in a collective sense is through the honest observation and recording of whatever it is that a person thinks is significant.”

Need help getting started? Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, offers great writing prompts that will inspire you to record your thoughts and experiences before this pandemic becomes a distant memory.

Submit your memories

The Penn State University Libraries’ University Archives is documenting this significant and unique period for preservation and future research use. Its official curatorial program, the Penn State COVID-19 Experience Project, invites Penn State students, staff, faculty and alumni to document and share their personal experiences for submission toward a new special collection for the University Archives. Participants are encouraged to submit written journals or diaries, photo essays, video or audio recordings, zines or any other creative means of documentation. Learn more about the project and how you can contribute here.

 

Crossing Disciplines Pays Off

First-year business student and senior engineering major win short story contest

Short-Edition-4CCLs-story-dispensers_0

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Look, $100 is $100, OK? So when Senior Mechanical Engineering student Sam Cabot saw the opportunity to earn some cold hard cash (er, Visa card) by whipping up a little story about brunch for Penn State’s University Libraries Short Edition short story dispensers, he was on it like, well, syrup on French toast, if we’re going to stick with the brunch theme here.

It was that delicious hybrid morning meal that students, faculty, and staff were invited to write about for a chance to win money, bragging rights, and a spot in the Libraries’ short story dispensers. There are ten of them spread out among seven University locations, including Behrend’s Lilley Library. With the press of a button, the dispenser prints out a short story that users can take with them to enjoy when they have one to five minutes to spare.

Four “Brunchin’ Around” contest winners were chosen recently by the Short Stories all-student editorial team and two of the authors—Cabot and Isaac Barringer—are Penn State Behrend students.

Barringer, a first-year Finance and Accounting dual major, wrote “The Daffodil House,” about a couple found in their yellow house covered in flies and bellied up to what turned out to be their last meal—brunch, of course, “for the Connors were of a practical stock and believed that breakfast was more efficient if it included lunch as well.”

Cabot, who writes under the pen name Johann Lecker for no particular reason other than the fact that he likes the name (“Lecker” means delicious in German), wrote “To Brunch?” in which the main character finds himself on a mountain in Brasher State Forest in upstate New York trying to make it to Sunday brunch at his grandmother’s house.

“Basically, it’s about someone who tries to remedy an uncomfortable situation, then abandons it altogether, for better or worse,” Cabot said.

sam cabot

Sam Cabot

Cabot said he entered the contest not only for the potential prize money but for fun and the chance to challenge himself.

“From what I have noticed, engineering students enjoy creative activities as much as any other students, but internships and course load limit the amount of time they can devote to other things,” Cabot said. “Most of the writing that engineers must make time to do is formal and impersonal, so that may be why there’s a stereotype that they are not creative writers.”

Like most authors, Cabot didn’t have a story outlined in his head. Rather, he had a few ideas to start with and the story emerged from there. It’s purely fictional. Cabot has never been anywhere near Brasher State Park, and his grandma didn’t host monthly family brunches.

Asked if it’s unusual that a business major and an engineering major would win a writing contest, Cabot cites the value and of cross-disciplinary learning, which can be beneficial to students in any major.

“It’s easy to grow absorbed in disciplines, like engineering, that are extremely career-focused and require huge amounts of time spent on very specific tasks,” he said. “Adding courses in history or psychology or any of the humanities can provide a healthy balance. The knowledge gained from an occasional hour spent studying the humanities can be as relevant in the real world as the knowledge gained during any of the last eight or ten hours spent sizing a planetary gear train or debugging a C++ program. They both have value.”

But, Cabot said, the ultimate reward for him in exploring the humanities is finding something new and interesting to scratch his creative itch and expand his skills beyond the lab.

You can find links to Cabot and Barringer’s stories as well as the other winners and honorable mention entries here.

Alumna honored for professional achievements

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager at Penn State Behrend

PSB-Ainsle_006

Ainslie Brosig, a 2001 Communication graduate, was recently chosen to receive the Behrend Commission for Women’s 2019 Woman of Impact Award.  The award honors women who are significantly involved with Penn State Behrend and have served as a positive force in their community.

As Brosig, executive director of the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, accepted the award at a luncheon at Behrend on Wednesday, the first thing she did was share the spotlight.

“I feel like I get all the credit, but it’s because of all the awesome work that they do,” she said, gesturing to members of her museum team seated at a nearby table. “They make me look good.”

Also in attendance at the luncheon were several of her former professors including Dr. Rod Troester, Dr. Miriam McMullen-Pastrick, Dr. Colleen Kelley, and Cathy Mester, who Brosig remembered had given her a “B” in her class.

“I’d like a retest,” Brosig joked.

She would surely get an “A” today. Brosig is credited with breathing new life into the children’s museum, which was struggling to stay open when she took the helm five years ago.  Brosig and her staff made slow and steady improvements as well as developing corporate and community partnerships that ultimately helped the museum double attendance and triple memberships.  The increased activity has led to even bigger things: Brosig just announced plans for a $15.1 million expansion and renovation of the children’s museum.

A mother of three, Brosig said the most rewarding part of her job is providing opportunities for families to have fun together.

“Children remember their mom going down the slide or their dad helping them build a dam in the water table,” she said. “Those types of interactions are precious and few for many families today.”

This year, Brosig worked with Melanie Ford, director of the college’s Youth Education Outreach program, on a partnership that allowed Behrend’s College for Kids program to offer week-long STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) camps for youngsters at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum.

“Up until this summer, College for Kids had not been able to offer a lot of programming for very young kids,” Brosig said. “Of course, that’s what we specialize in, so we were happy to fill that need.”

Ford spoke highly of Brosig’s leadership skills at the luncheon: “You’ve heard the adage that it takes a village to raise a child,” Ford said. “Ainslie is making a huge impact on the children in our village through her work at the museum.”

Commission for women 2019 - ainslie brosig and comm professors

Communication alumna Ainslie Brosig ’01, executive director of the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, center, was awarded the Behrend Commission for Women’s 2019 Woman of Impact Award at a luncheon in November. Brosig, center, was joined by some of her former professors, from left, Cathy Mester, Dr. Rod Troester, Dr. Miriam McMullen-Pastrick, and Dr. Colleen Kelley.

Students witness history in the making in Europe

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

The United States is not the only nation going through a politically tumultuous time. Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (Brexit) has implications politically and globally.

On the other hand, Brexit has not diminished the EU’s attractiveness and importance for other countries that want membership or a closer relationship with the organization. Among these countries are Ukraine, which has been adopting constitutional changes, reforming trade, energy, and fiscal policy; and obtaining visa-free travel rights to Europe at large.

It is an interesting juxtaposition that eleven Penn State Behrend students enrolled in PLSC 499 Foreign Study Government are experiencing firsthand on a fifteen-day study abroad experience in London and in Kyiv, Ukraine. The students, led by Dr. Chris Harben, assistant teaching professor of management, and Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned, assistant teaching professor of political science, left for London on May 12 and will travel until May 27.

While there, the group will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of transnational companies, lawmakers, members of the press, and more.

Students will meet with three members of Parliament: Lord David Hunt of the House of Lords, and the Honorable Luke Graham and Honorable Nick Boles who are both members of the House of Commons.

“Boles will be very interesting to meet with because he’s been outspoken on the matter of Brexit and, in fact, recently resigned from the Conservative Party,” Harben said. “He is a widely recognizable personality in Parliament and will provide unique insight to our students.”

Harben said that it is a particularly opportune time to visit London.

“On Thursday, May 16, students will attend the Debates in the House of Commons,” he said. “The timing is wonderful as Brexit is likely to be a topic of debate on that day given the elections for the European Parliament coming up less than two weeks later.”

Surzhko-Harned, a Ukraine native, described the course as an incredible chance for students to understand the interworking of the EU and the trading block’s economic and political power in Europe and globally.

“They will be witnessing history in the making and hearing about it directly from politicians and other leaders in Great Britain and Ukraine,” she said. “They will also be able to experience the atmosphere and culture in which these events are taking place. That’s not something they could gain by observing events from across the pond.”

For updates on the trip, you can follow Harben’s YouTube channel or follow Suzhko-Harned on Instagram or Twitter.

London and Ukraine trip.

Students met with Lord David Hunt, center, of the House of Lords on Monday, May 13. Dr. Chris Harben, far right, said the meeting far exceeded their expectations. “Lord Hunt met with us for a private question-and-answer session in the robing room at Westminster Place where the Queen will prepare when she opens the session of the House of Lords,” Harben reported. “Hunt then invited us to watch the House of Lords in action as they discussed regulations regarding agriculture in anticipation of Brexit, and then gave us access to watch the House of Commons from a special viewing area that is not open to the public.”

 

Behrend Faculty Members Collaborate on Book about Technological Innovation

Heather Lum's book

Three faculty members from Penn State Behrend’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences contributed to a new book about the ways scientific research and technological innovation shape society, politics and culture.

Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology, conceived of and was associate editor of the book, “Critical Issues Impacting Science, Technology, Society (STS), and Our Future.” She also wrote the preface, which references RFI implants, robotic exoskeletons and the 153 hours of television the average American watches every month.

“It is clear that we are fundamentally altering what is important to us as well as how we interact with each other,” Lum writes. “For centuries, face-to-face communication was the only way to interact and learn about each other and the world. But now we can talk to each other over the phone or online and gain access to any information we want.”

The book, which was published by IGI Global, assesses the impact of artificial intelligence, automated vehicles, Blockchain and wearable technology, among other topics. Dr. Ahmed Yousof, assistant teaching professor of game studies, co-wrote a chapter about digital game-based learning. Dr. Lisa Jo Elliott, assistant teaching professor of psychology, contributed a chapter about the digital divide – the disconnect between those who regularly use technology and those who do not.

To learn more about the book, visit the IGI Global website.

Conferences offer opportunities for students

Industry conferences and annual meetings are a vital resource for professionals, allowing them to come together and learn about the latest research and innovation in their fields of study.

They are a valuable learning experience for students, too, offering them the chance to present their research work and to make connections with industry professionals.

Three Penn State Behrend Psychology students—Mason McGuire, Tiffany Eichler, and Mitchell Weber—recently attended the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s conference in Philadelphia with Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology.

While there, the students presented posters reflecting their research work about virtual reality in gaming and whether playing Pokeman can improve spatial recognition.

“Participating in poster sessions really helps them develop the softer skills of psychology, like talking about their research and explaining the methods and findings,” Lum said. “It’s important that they be able to communicate what they have learned.”

During the three-day event, students attended a variety of seminars and talks, including a panel discussion with Lum and recent psychology alumna, Grace Waldfogle, who is a graduate student at the University of Central Florida.

Two other Behrend Psychology alumni—Richard Greatbatch and Jacob Benedict—also graduate students, were at the conference, too.

The alumni and students met up after the conference for an informal Penn State Behrend reunion of sorts.

“The interesting thing is that all of three of the alums made their first contact with their chosen graduate school at this conference when they attended the conference as undergraduate Behrend students,” Lum said.

“That’s why I like to bring students to professional conferences,” she said. “Not only does it expose them to the world of psychology and the jobs available in the field, but it also gets their name out there.”

The students travel was funded by grants from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Penn State University.

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Secret Lives of Faculty – Elizabeth Fogle, Roller Derby athlete

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see 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

fogle - don't crop credit

Elizabeth Fogle, center. Photo credit: Raymond F. Durkin, http://www.DurmaxPhoto.com

PowerTower. Meanhatten. Big Red. Stitches. Miss United Skates. Lord of the Rink. Lady Liberty. Rusty Razor Blades. Jammin’ & Rammin’. Blockingjay.

Skater nicknames, which are typically creative puns that many skaters see as an opportunity to adopt an on-track persona, are only half the fun in the sport of roller derby. The names are what initially hooked Elizabeth Fogle, associate teaching professor of English, on the sport.

“I saw the movie Whip It in 2010 and became obsessed with coming up with derby names for fun,” Fogle said.

Of course, the English professor in Fogle would enjoy the wordplay, but she went all in on roller derby after learning there was a team in Erie.

“When a friend and I found out about Eerie Roller Girls, we went and observed a few practices and the rest is history,” Fogle said.

Though she had not been on roller skates since middle school, Fogle dug up some wheels, laced up and joined the team. She has been skating with the Eerie Roller Girls, part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), for seven years now.

We caught up with Fogle to find out more about roller derby, what she loves about the sport, and the story behind her skater name.

What is roller derby?

It’s sort of a mash up of a bunch of sports—hockey, rugby, NASCAR, and demolition derby—only there are no cars, balls, or pucks and it’s all executed on roller skates. Roller derby is all about helping our jammer (usually our fastest skaters) do laps and keeping the other team’s jammer from getting through. There are three positions on the team—pivot, blocker, and jammer. You can learn more about the rules and technique behind the sport at the WFTDA’s web page.

What’s the goal? How do you win?

From the WFTDA website: “The skaters wearing a helmet cover with a star on it are the jammers. After making it through the pack of blockers once, the jammer begins scoring points for each opposing blocker she passes legally and in bounds. She can also score points on opponents who are in the penalty box and can get a fifth point if she laps the opposing jammer. Blockers are trying to stop the opposing team’s jammer while helping their own jammer get through.”

What is your position on the team?

I mostly block. I’ve been jamming a little more this season and I enjoy it, but I’m really more at home blocking and keeping everyone together. I like blocking. It’s not just about big hits, but also about empowering your teammates and communicating strategy in real time. We play defense and offense simultaneously.

What’s your nickname?

I go by “Strong Female Protagonist.” It makes people laugh because it’s both specific and generic. My teammates call me Fogle or “Tag” for short.

What do you enjoy about the sport?

I love how demanding it is. It’s also scary and I try to do something every day that scares me a little bit. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, but I really like to challenge myself, physically, mentally, and creatively. Roller derby gives me that. Also, there’s always something new to learn—footwork, strategy, etc.

What does it give you?

It gives me an outlet where I can just be a person moving through space with a goal. So often women are discouraged from contact sports or using their bodies in physical, athletic ways. Roller derby provides a safe place for women to be tough and brutal, as well as confident and unapologetic. It’s also a community. My teammates are my friends.

Is it only women?

On our team, yes. Men play roller derby, too, but it definitely attracts more female players. We have some male referees and coaches, though.

Why do you think it appeals to women?

It’s a place where things like size and age don’t matter very much. At 5 foot 3 inches and 44 years old, I can be just as effective as someone who is 6 foot tall and half my age. I just have to figure out the best way to use my particular body and skill set to achieve a goal—be that a block, a brace, a screen, or even points.

What is the roller derby season and where do you skate?

Our season runs from late spring to early fall, but we practice nine months out of the year at Presque Isle Skating and Event Center in Erie. Our home games, or bouts, are at the Bayfront Convention Center. We’re just wrapping up this year’s season, but you can like/follow Eerie Roller Girls on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with the team.

What do people say when you tell them this is your hobby?

The usually ask if it’s like the old roller derby that used to be on television. I clarify that we are not scripted, there are established rules, we play on a flat track (not a banked), and throwing elbows is not legal.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I lift weights and do cross-fit training, which I enjoy almost as much as roller derby. I also like to knit and read when I have the time.

What do you enjoy about teaching English at Behrend?

I love winning over science majors and teaching them how to express themselves thoughtfully and purposely. For many of them, writing is a challenge. I really enjoy demystifying it for them and empowering them to be better, more rounded scientists. I also enjoy teaching graphic novels. I love hybrid forms that engage readers in new and interesting ways. All human beings are storytellers, so I think it’s important to study the variety of ways we tell stories.

Ready for some fun? What would your roller derby name be? Try this online roller derby name generator from Buzzfeed.

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United Way Internship Offers Communication Major Experience, Career Confidence

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

United Way

Carlie Bright, far right, a senior communication major, did a summer internship at United Way of Erie County.  Also in the photo are, from left, Jana Ranus of Wegmans, Donald Snyder of Curtze Food Service, and Lisa Fischer, United Way campaign accounts manager. The three women were awarding Synder, a United Way donor, with a “prize surprise” Wegmans shopping spree.

Carlie Bright, who was born and raised in Erie, thought she knew her hometown. Then she did a summer internship at United Way of Erie County.

“I developed a whole new understanding for the community I grew up in,” Bright said. “It was very eye-opening for me. There are a lot more people struggling than I ever knew.”

Bright, a senior communication major at Penn State Behrend, worked as a marketing and communications intern for the nonprofit agency, which serves as a coalition of charitable organizations. Bright won a stipend from Behrend’s Academic and Career Planning Center, which made the three-credit experience free for her.

“Unpaid internships, like the one that I did at United Way, can be difficult for students to manage, so the stipend really helped,” she said.

Bright worked three days a week from May to August and said every day was different.

“There was no typical day because nonprofit communications departments are usually run by a few people who are faced with a wide variety and number of tasks,” she said. “But no matter what I had on my plate on a given day, I was almost always involved with website updates, scheduling social media posts, and clipping or collecting any media mentions United Way had received.”

She got to try her hand at designing flyers and creating content for electronic newsletters. She also assisted in the planning and preparation of many community events, including National Night Out, an anti-violence community initiative that took place in twenty locations on one night.

“Many of the events and activities that I was involved with were moving and inspiring,” Bright said.

The experience was also enlightening.

“Overall, the internship tied in very well with my career goals and objectives, as well as with my degree and coursework,” Bright said. “I was able to see firsthand how communications and marketing tie into every department in any business or organization. I also learned that communications professionals wear a lot of hats. Personally, I loved constantly having so many things to do.”