Secret Lives of Faculty — Dr. Chris Harben, musical/stage star

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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

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Photo courtesy of Erie Playhouse (Credit: Julie Lokahi/ DV8 Photography)

Lecturing can be viewed as form of performance art. Faculty members take center stage, staring in their own daily productions to keep students engaged in the subject matter.

“Performing is what I do in front of the classroom all the time,” said Dr. Chris Harben, assistant teaching professor of management.

It’s also what he does in his free time.

Shortly after accepting a teaching position at Behrend this summer, Harben landed a lead role in the Erie Playhouse’s production of Annie: Harben plays Daddy Warbucks, orphan Annie’s wealthy savior, in the show which is onstage at the playhouse this month.

Harben as Daddy Warbucks

Photo courtesy of Erie Playhouse (Credit: Julie Lokahi/ DV8 Photography)

“During the interview process at Behrend, I learned that Dr. Greg Filbeck (director of the Black School of Business) was a board member at the Erie Playhouse,” Harben said. “I looked at the playhouse’s website and saw they were going to be doing Annie. This was around June when I was currently in rehearsals as Daddy Warbucks at a theater in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, so I thought it was fortuitous!”

Harben, who was a faculty member at Bowling Green State University, nailed both of his “auditions,” and was offered a position at the Black School of Business and a starring role at the Erie Playhouse.

We caught up with Harben to learn more about his love of musicals, his role as Daddy Warbucks, his unusual part-time job, and why he’s been making it a priority to start hitting the gym again.

Why did you choose Behrend?

It was really because it had a small school feel with all the benefits of a big state school, such as research opportunities.

How long have you been acting or singing on stage?

I was in a couple of shows in high school, but then didn’t do any stage work until I completed my doctorate a few years ago. I met an actor who had played Valjean from Les Misérables on Broadway and was inspired to get back into it. My first show as an adult was three years ago.

Do you prefer musicals?

Yes. I don’t consider myself a great actor, so I prefer to audition for roles that require a lot of singing.

What has your experience been like so far at the Erie Playhouse?

The playhouse is an incredible Erie asset. I have never performed any place like it. It is closer to professional theater than it is to a community theater. The experience of rehearsing and getting ready has been fairly typical with ups and downs—especially “tech week,” which is always the hardest week as all the technical aspects and bugs are worked out. But, to work on such a great stage with wonderful sets, a full experienced crew, a full-time professional costumer (who is also in the show, starring as Rooster), a director as professional as Kate Neubert-Lechner, and an incredibly talented orchestra, is an amazing thing that makes me smile every time I walk into the theatre.

There are a couple of Penn State Behrend students in Annie, too?

Yes. Anthony Ventura, a senior Political Science major, has multiple roles but I interact with him the most in his role as “Drake” my butler. Jacqueline Dumont, a junior Communication major, is also in the cast and plays several roles as part of the ensemble.

What do you enjoy most about musicals/stage performance?

I love being able to transform into someone else. Many of my roles have been similar in terms of their character, though, so I’d like to try something different soon, perhaps a comedic role. But the very best part of participating in stage shows are the relationships I’ve been able to build with other cast members. I can honestly say that I keep in touch with people from every show I’ve ever been in. Theater really is a small world.

What’s the most challenging aspect of theatre?

Well, there is drama in drama. Also, things happen that force actors out of our comfort zones. For Annie, we didn’t have the rehearsal time we might have liked because the playhouse’s stage was undergoing renovations, which threw the schedule off a bit. But you just have to roll with it. It is part of being in theater. Stuff happens. Sometimes it happens live on stage.

There are real dogs in Annie?

Yes. Two shelters dogs. One is a sweet, docile pitbull from the Northwestern PA Humane Society and the other, Romeo, is a younger mixed breed dog from the A.N.N.A. Shelter. Romeo is a little hyper, but that’s probably to be expected with all the commotion, lights, audience, and cast members on stage.

What’s your favorite musical?

The Phantom of the Opera! It was the first musical I learned to sing. I’d love to play the Phantom some day.

What has been your favorite show/role, so far?

Daddy Warbucks has been my favorite role and Annie my favorite show, but playing Javert in Les Misérables is a very close second.

What’s your dream role?

I already mentioned the Phantom, but on a more realistic note, I’d love to play Dr. Jekyll in Jekyll and Hyde. I have sung “The Confrontation” from that show at a cabaret in Ohio. It is an incredible song in which both Jekyll and Hyde are singing, and it’s the same actor!

What’s next for you on stage?

I’ll be playing King Triton in The LIttle Mermaid at the Academy Theatre in Meadville. We start rehearsing in February and open in April. The director asked me how comfortable I was going shirtless for that role. So, suffice to say, I’m working on getting in shape for that role now.

Switching topics, let’s talk about your work as an Emergency Medical Technician?

Yes. I’ve been an EMT for five years now. I was a volunteer EMT in Ohio while I was working on my doctorate. I’m still trying to get my certification in Pennsylvania, but I hope to do some volunteer work here, too.

Being an EMT is quite a change from the corporate world. What appeals to you about it?

I became an EMT for a couple of reasons. First, my family is full of medical professionals. My dad was an EMT when I was very young. My mom is a nurse. My sister is a cardiovascular perfusionist, and my brother is a physical therapy assistant/athletic trainer. So I grew up around the language and culture of medicine. But, for me, becoming an EMT was more about giving back. I tried joining service clubs like Optimist and the Rotary Club, but I never felt the impact I feel when I show up at someone’s house who really needs help.

It’s also a summer job for you, right?

It is. For the past few years, I’ve been working as an EMT at Cedar Point, which is a large amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. One of the benefits of that job is that I’ve developed a great relationship with the leadership team there. I actually just had the park’s vice president and general manager come to Behrend to speak to one of my classes. I do hope to work there this summer, too. It’s only a couple of hours away from Erie.

Any other hidden talents?

I can play the drums, trumpet, and French horn. I also love photography and owned a photography business for several years. All the art in my office in Burke are photos that I’ve taken.

What words do you live by?

When I was finishing my doctorate, I had the Chinese symbol for perseverance tattooed on my arm. That is a word that I live by.

Annie is on stage at the Erie Playhouse, 13 W. 10th St., through December 31, 2017. Visit erieplayhouse.org for show dates and ticket information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Lives of Faculty — Ashley Weber, tiny terrarium artist

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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

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When Ashley Weber, lecturer in English language learners (ELL) composition, wants to relax, she reaches for her glue gun and escapes into a world of itty-bitty terrariums. Using a mixture of miniature materials, she creates scenes in a variety of containers, including those as unique as Altoid boxes and gum ball machines.

“I started making my ‘Wild World Terrariums’ when I was in graduate school and needed a creative outlet,” she said. “I stumbled across Twig Terrariums and was inspired to make my own.”

It is a hobby that harkens back to her youth.

“As a child, I loved to make little houses for squirrels out of sticks, rocks, and other materials I found in the woods, so it’s no surprise that I would be attracted to creating small-scale worlds as an adult.”

Her first terrarium was a scene of a bear chasing a woman through the forest. “Dark, I know,” she said with a laugh.

She found early on that making her terrariums living pieces was not feasible.

“When I first started, I tried to keep them alive like traditional terrariums by watering them,” she said. “It was disaster. They grew mold, and the moss died. I quickly learned that I should consider them mixed-media pieces of art that do not have to be kept alive. The moss dries out a bit, but it still maintains a green shade without watering.”

She started out making them for herself, but now custom-designs them for friends and family and other customers.

Her most unique creation so far?

“I made a series of seven terrariums that, when placed next to each other in sequence, look like one long, winding, connected path,” she said. “They followed a couple through dating, marriage, buying a house, having children, and growing old together. I displayed them at my wedding.”

ashley at wedding

Weber said her miniature masterpieces provide a much-needed mental break.

“Making terrariums calms my mind in a meditative way,” she said. “I like to have complete silence and be alone in my basement workshop while I’m making them. This gives my mind a chance to quiet down, take a break from screens, and exercise the creative part of my brain.”

They also provide her with a little extra income. She sells her artwork for anywhere from $25 to $300 depending on the size and materials involved. Her terrariums have also been exhibited and sold at Erie art galleries, including Glass Growers and Kada Gallery.

She has no pieces at the galleries now, however, as she’s working on her next big masterpiece.

“I’m pregnant with my first child, a daughter, due January 20,” she said.

At Penn State Behrend, you can see Weber’s terrariums on display in the Humanities and Social Sciences Office and in Otto Behrend Annex II. Online, you can see her work on Instagram or at her online shop.   

 

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Secret Lives of Faculty: Inspired by patients, nursing instructor runs long-distance race in all 50 states

By Heather Cass

Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

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

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Inspired to start running to help her patients suffering from cancer, Alison Walsh, 34, lecturer in nursing, recently finished a 50-state running challenge—completing a marathon (26.2 miles) or half marathon (13.1 miles) in each state from Alabama to Wyoming.

We recently got Walsh to stop moving for a few minutes (no easy task, we’ll have you know) and tell us about her all-American feat:

How long have you been at Penn State Behrend? I was an adjunct instructor in 2010 and became full-time instructor in 2011.

Do you still work as a nurse? I work per diem at Saint Vincent Hospital in the float pool, which means I work in whatever unit needs me that day.

When did you start running? I have been terribly un-athletic my whole life! I really did not run seriously until 2009.

Why did you start running? In 2008, I was working on an oncology unit and I was quite connected to my cancer patients. A fellow nurse on that unit asked if I wanted to run a half marathon with her to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and I agreed. I severely underestimated how hard it would be to run 13.1 miles! That first race was rough. During the race, I remember thinking that I was quite sure I would never put myself through it again!

And, yet, you ended up deciding to do a distance race in all 50 states. How did that happen? There was just no feeling like crossing that finish line. Runner’s high is a real thing and I became an addict. I did my first full marathon in 2010.

How long did it take you to accomplish a race in all 50 states? It took about seven years. Last year, I ran the most races—thirteen half marathons.

What was your last state and when did you finish? I checked the last state off my list on October 9 in Wichita, Kansas. I know what you’re thinking: Why wasn’t it Hawaii or someplace more amazing? Poor planning on my part. But Kansas was actually a great race which is part of the fun of doing a 50-state challenge. You never know what nook-or-cranny in this country will surprise you with an awesome experience.

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Which was your favorite race/state? Surprisingly, one of my favorite races was the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2010. It’s a hilly course and it poured rain the entire time, and I remember halfway through the 26.2 miles that maybe I needed to reevaluate my life choices. But the crowd support was phenomenal. Despite the rain, every inch of that course was covered with people cheering and screaming no matter how fast or slow anyone was running. Their energy, as well as a beautiful course, made that race unforgettable.

What was your most unique race? In July, I went on an Alaskan running cruise! Instead of excursions and the usual activities you do on a cruise, every place we docked, there was a race. The scenery was phenomenal, the locals at each port were very supportive of our races, and it was really cool to hang out with a couple hundred people that were just like me and would sign up for something like that!

Were there any races that you thought were overrated? I have to say the Disney World races. I’d suggest anyone try it once because there’s nothing quite running through the parks and having Disney characters cheer you on! But, when I ran it a second time, I was annoyed by the insanely steep registration price, the early start (you have to be at the start line at 3:30 a.m. because of road closures), and the large number of participants. This is definitely not a race you run to get a good finish time because there are just too many people.

Were there any you didn’t think you’d finish? Why? I injured my knee at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., around mile 15. The pain was terrible. I called my sister mid-race, bawling because it was going to be my first DNF (did not finish). I was inconsolable. I kept saying to myself: ‘OK, just get to the next medical tent and then you can stop.’ But when I got there, I realized I could go a little further, and that happened at each opportunity to stop. When I got to mile 21, I knew I was going to finish. It was my worst time ever, but I finished, despite running on a bad knee for 11.2 miles.

How do you get through a tough race? Are there any mantras you repeat or mind-games you play with yourself? During Grandma’s Marathon someone was holding a sign that said ‘Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever.’ I think that random stranger holding that sign was the thing that inspired me to finish that race.

Why do you like distance racing? The coolest thing about a marathon is seeing so many different people of all ages, fitness levels, sizes, and ethnicities coming together and sharing an experience. In those few hours, we are all one big family, supporting each other.

Have you had to deal with any injuries? Thankfully, that knee injury resolved quickly and was never an issue again. My first major injury happened in March, when I got bursitis in my hip. It was terrible. I had to stop running for a few months to let it heal, and that was when I really saw how much running meant to me and how much I rely on it as a stress reliever.

What is your training schedule like? I run about four days a week, anywhere from four to eight miles, depending on what race I’m training for and when it is.

What do you enjoy most about running? Why do you do it? It took me years to actually enjoy running. For quite a while, I hated training and only did it for the medal at the finish line. It was only in the past few years, that I realized how much I enjoy running just for the sake of it. It’s a great stress reliever. It also helps me stay in shape and has given me a great excuse to travel to places I never would have otherwise.

What’s your next big goal? I’m not quite sure! I have not run a full marathon in a few years, so I would like to do that in 2017. In January, I’m running the Louisiana half marathon in Baton Rouge. Running and traveling have become a huge part of my life, and I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.

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At the Las Vegas Rock ‘N Roll 1/2 marathon, Alison, left, stopped for a photo with “Elvis.”

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Alison’s 50 States jacket. States are colored in as they are completed. Alison’s is fully colored now!

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Another by-product of distance racing—lots of “bling,” I.e. finisher’s medals.

 

Secret Lives of Faculty: Dr. Pam Silver

By Heather Cass

Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

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

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NAME: Dr. Pam Silver

DAY JOB: Distinguished professor of biology, Penn State Behrend

SIDE GIG: Pipe Major, 96th Highlanders Pipes & Drums Corp

If Dr. Pam Silver’s childhood had a soundtrack, it would be the humming drone and romantic skirl of the bagpipes.

“My earliest memories are of following my mother around the yard as she walked back and forth playing bagpipes,” she said.

It wasn’t long before Silver was squeezing her own set of pipes under her tiny arm.

“I started taking lessons when I was 7 and got my first pipes when I was 9,” Silver said. “I’ve been playing ever since.”

Today, she is the Pipe Major of the 96th Highlanders Pipes & Drums, a pipe and drum corps that represents Jamestown and Chautauqua County, New York, at parades, festivals, and special events throughout the year.

96th Highlanders 2011 Color shot

Silver said her favorite music to play on the pipes is a trio of songs: Mrs. Joy Cairns, Rebecca’s Air, and Shoshanna’s LullabyEach of the songs is a tribute to women—wives, mothers, daughters.

“To me, that set is just one giant love song,” she said.

Speaking of love songs, Silver’s husband, Doug Clark, shares her passion for music. He is the drum sergeant in the 96th Highlanders (that’s how they met). He runs a large Celtic festival every August in Mayville, New York. To coin a trite, but wholly appropriate phrase, they make beautiful music together.

In addition to her performances and practices with the 96th Highlanders, Silver offers bagpipe lessons and takes on the occasional private gig, playing at weddings, parties, funerals, and, once, a bat mitzvah.

She’s also been known to liven things up in the School of Science with impromptu performances.

“When it’s been a long week, or when the students have been working really hard, I like to bring in my pipes and play a little,” she said. “It lifts spirits and makes a lot of noise.”

 

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ON THE CREATIVITY OF SCIENTISTS:

“People sometimes think science is about memorizing facts, but it’s really about discovering facts and wringing answers out of nature,” she said. “When you have a scientific question, it takes a lot of creativity to find the answer to it.”

FROM BLOOD TO BIO:

“I worked as a medical technologist at a blood bank in Florida for ten years while I raised my sons. When they got older, I decided to go back to grad school to be an ecologist, but I never could learn to like the Florida heat. I grew up in rural New Jersey, so I was happy to move back to the Northeast to work at Penn State Behrend.”

ON TEACHING:

“If we want to save the world, or at least slow the destruction of our ecosystem, we have to communicate effectively with non-scientists. Scientists tend to be introspective and many of them struggle to explain things to those outside their field. I’m really good at explaining things, so the most useful place for me to be to help fix our ecosystem is in the classroom. By teaching students to respect and appreciate our natural resources and insisting they take action to preserve it, I can have a much larger impact than I could if I worked only in the lab or in the field.”

ON ECOLOGY (AND HER SPECIALTY – AQUATIC ECOLOGY):

“I love ecology because it pulls everything together. I get to talk about all kinds of subjects from history to politics to engineering because it all influences our ecosystem. Also, I really love to play in the water.”

WHAT SHE WANTS THE WORLD TO KNOW:

“Water is our most precious natural resource, and it should never be wasted or deliberately contaminated. Drinkable water is not abundant and is, in fact, one of our most scarce natural resources. People don’t realize that yet, but they will. And it will happen in our lifetime. Every living thing needs clean water. We can’t survive without it.”

ON EDITING FRESHWATER SCIENCE:

Silver is Editor-in-Chief of Freshwater Science, a highly-rated international scientific journal that has doubled in size and tripled in submissions since Silver took over in 2005.

“It’s a ton of work,” she said. “I spend probably sixteen hours on every paper in that journal. But, it’s really satisfying work. I like making sure the science is well-written and understandable. And I’ve amassed a huge network of scientific colleagues from across the world. I have learned something from each of them.”

A DISTINGUISHING HONOR:

Silver was recently named a University distinguished professor, an honor bestowed on fewer than 120 faculty members University-wide. She was nominated by Dr. Martin Kociolek, director of the School of Science.

“I’m still not sure if I’m worthy of the title, but there are people who I have tremendous respect for who think that I am, so I guess I can trust their opinion,” she said with a laugh.

Pam Silver 2010 JF

SILVER STATS:

Time at Behrend: 22 years

Favorite aquatic insect: Midges. “They are very interesting and ecologically important to the health of a lake.”

Hobby No. 2: Making small, decorative quilts. “I created one as a memorial to a famous aquatic ecologist and donated to the Society of Freshwater Science for their annual auction to benefit graduate students and it fetched a donation of $2,600!”

Hobby No. 3: Gardening. “It’s therapeutic to have your hands in the soil.”

Favorite TV show: Madam Secretary.

Favorite sweet treat: Coffee-flavored ice cream.

Dream vacation: Hiking in the Swiss Alps. “I’ve done it before, but I’d like to go back.”

Book she’d recommend everyone read: Lord of the Rings. “I inherited the book from my grandfather and didn’t think I’d like it, but I reread it every year.”

Person she admires most: Her mother. “We drive to New Jersey once a month to visit her. She is 85 and still plays the bagpipes. We play together every chance we get.”

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Dr. Silver, right, and her mother, Edith

 

Secret Lives of Faculty Members: Dr. Paul Becker

By Heather Cass

Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

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

Paul Becker Blueberry Farm

NAME: Dr. Paul Becker

DAY JOB: Associate professor of mathematics, Penn State Behrend

HOBBY/SECOND JOB: Blueberry farmer

FARM: Blue Confusion blueberry farm, 8911 Old French Road

Three seasons of the year, Dr. Paul Becker teaches calculus and algebra and other mathematics courses at Penn State Behrend. Come summer, however, he’s in the blueberry business.

He didn’t mean to be. The job sort of came with the property that he and his wife, Sharon, bought eight years ago on Old French Road in Summit Township.

“When we bought the house they told us there was a blueberry farm in back,” he said. “But it was March and there was three feet of snow on the ground. We had no idea it was as large as it was.”

When all the snow melted, they discovered 866 blueberry bushes.

Customers begged them to keep the farm open.

“Some families have been picking here for almost 40 years,” he said. “We have one family that drives from Cleveland every summer to carry on the blueberry picking tradition.”

Becker and his wife consulted with the Penn State Extension Center who taught them how to prune, fertilize, and care for the five-acre farm, which they named Blue Confusion.

When the berries ripen in late July, the public is invited to pick their own baskets of berries. Becker, his wife, and their five-year-old son, Logan, work in a small shed out back, weighing the berries and collecting money.

Becker says selling is the easy part. The pruning, fertilizing, and mowing require more physical work.

“Pruning begins in early spring and goes until early summer,” he said. “And the mowing takes eight hours. I use the tractor between rows, but I have to use the push mower to get under each bush.”

Lest you think he might trade his faculty ID for barn boots and overalls, you should know it’s not a very lucrative business. Becker says they typically break even, but he’s not in it for the money.

“It’s a hobby, really,” he says.

HOW HE LIKES HIS BERRIES: “I like them fresh on top of a bowl of cornflakes,” Becker said. “And we make a lot of blueberry pancakes and muffins here, too.”

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Becker with his son, Logan, and dog, Bo.

*** Do you have a suggestion for a candidate for a future Secret Lives of Faculty/Staff feature? Email hjc13 at psu.edu.  

 

 

Training + concentration = Impressive Boston Time for Math Prof

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By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Divide three hours, four minutes and thirty seconds by 26.2 and you’ll get the pace of the fastest mathematics professor at Penn State Behrend.

Dr. Antonio Mastroberardino, assistant professor of mathematics, completed the 2014 Boston Marathon last Monday with an impressive average 7.02 minute per mile pace.

But, that wasn’t even his best! Mastroberardino, 39, qualified for the 2014 Boston marathon at the Rochester marathon in September of 2012 with a finish time of 2:58:34, a full 12 minutes under the 3:10 qualifying time he needed.

We caught up with Mastroberardino (which wasn’t easy…he’s quite fast, you know) and talked him into answering a few question about his race through bean town.

What was your finish time at Boston?

3:04:30. The Erie Times-News had an incorrect time of 3:06:24.

Were you happy with that?

I was pleased with the result.

Have you run Boston before?

No, this was my 3rd marathon. Rochester 2012 was my first. Erie 2013 was my second. I hit the proverbial wall in Erie and ran a disappointing 3:14:07.

What was it like to be/run Boston in this emotional year?

It was an amazing day for the city of Boston. From the start in Hopkinton to the finish in Back Bay and through all of the towns in between, the atmosphere was electric. The most amazing part was turning onto Boylston St. with the finish line in sight and having a roaring crowd carry you to the end.

Was your family there?

No, but my mom mentioned that my aunt in Italy was very happy for me.

Were you worried about anything happening?

No, not at all.

What is going through your mind as you run a marathon? What do you think about?

The first thing to do is to establish the right pace in the first 5-6 miles. People often go out too fast, and this could cost you several minutes in the end if you have to slow down to a walking pace in the last part of the race. This happened to me in Erie in 2013. For the miles in between, a friend of mine with a lot of experience told me: You need to be bored at mile 15; otherwise, you are working too hard and are in danger of hitting the wall later in the race.

What is your strategy for dealing with the tough miles (a mantra, doing math problems to distract yourself, etc.)?

The last 5-6 miles require total concentration. At that point, your legs are crying for you to stop, but you have to simply fight the strong desire to give in to your body’s demand of slowing down. In a race like Boston, the crowd support definitely makes a difference.

Where do you train?

This winter, I trained everywhere. I used the treadmill at my apartment complex, the treadmill and the indoor track at LECOM, the treadmill and the indoor track at Junker, the Behrend outdoor track, Veteran’s Stadium, Mercyhurst soccer field, the streets around the Gannon campus, Presque Isle trail, and various other places whenever I traveled out of town.

How many days/miles a week do you run?

I started from 30/week back in December and got up to the low 50’s during the last week of March.

Where is your favorite place to run locally?

I like running at Presque Isle, although I don’t go there that often to run. I actually prefer to ride the bike if I go to the peninsula.

Do you train alone or with friends?

I train alone.

Do you listen to music?

No music. Just the sound of nature.

Favorite running shoes?

I choose shoes that fit the best. I wore Adidas for this marathon and had a pair of Saucony before that. I purchased both pairs from Achille’s Running Shop in Erie.

Why do you enjoy running marathons?

It is a great challenge not only to complete one but also to train for one. And I guess I enjoy the challenge.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I played football in high school and in college. In college I played Sprint Football—a varsity sport with a weight limit that has ranged from 150 lbs. in the early years of the league to the current limit of 175 lbs. There are currently eight teams in the Collegiate Sprint Football League, including the Army and Navy teams.

What do you like to do (besides run) in your free time?

I play the violin, although I am not very good. I play in a community orchestra called YADO (Young Artist Debut Orchestra) conducted by Frank Collura. We have a performance in December and one in May every year.

Next race? What are you training for now?

I will run a half marathon in Buffalo at the end of May.

Any other memories from Boston you want to share?

As we walked from the Athletes’ village to the start (just over a kilometer) in Hopkinton, a man standing outside his home was offering everyone donuts, beer, and cigarettes. I passed on the offer.

 

 

Secret Lives of Faculty: Dr. Mary Beth Pinto

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

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

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Dr. Pinto with her certified therapy dog, Jessie.

Name: Dr. Mary Beth Pinto

Day job: Professor of marketing, Sam and Irene Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend

Personal passion: Pet therapy

One morning a week, Pinto and her dog Jessie, a certified therapy dog, visit physically and mentally challenged students at the Elizabeth Lee Black School at the Barber National Institute in Erie.

The students in the classrooms that Pinto and Jessie visit have a range of physical and mental challenges, but many are diagnosed with Austism Spectrum Disorder.

Pinto said Jessie is used to reinforce, teach, or reward positive behaviors – for instance, making eye contact, waiting patiently for their turn, or using a language card to point to the activity they’d like to do with Jessie.

“Children on the autism spectrum often don’t like traditional means of reward—a hug, touch, or personal attention—but they love to throw the ball for Jessie or take her for a walk around the classroom,” Pinto said.

For some, just petting Jessie is an important lesson.

“Many children with autism don’t like physical touch, but they like to pet Jessie and that can help them bridge that gap,” Pinto said.

“One young boy, Brandon, made remarkable progress with Jessie. When I first met Brandon he wouldn’t make eye contact and he was doing a lot of hand-flapping (a common self-stimulatory behavior in autism). You should see him now. He’s come so far that he’s now walks Jessie down the hall with me to the next class. He makes eye contact and he doesn’t hand-flap when Jessie is there.”

Jessie revels in the attention, though his eyes are firmly locked on Pinto at all times. She’s a well-trained dog. And, she’s in big demand at the Elizabeth Lee Black School.

“She’s gotten to be a little celebrity down there,” Pinto said. “Everyone wants us to come to their room.”

Benefits:

“I asked one of the teachers one time, ‘Long term, what does pet therapy really do for the kids here?,’” Pinto said. “She said, ‘Mary Beth, we live for the moment here. If we lived for the long-range view, we could never do our job because it would be too overwhelming. If, for one moment, Jessie brings them happiness and joy, then we’ve succeeded.’”

Why she volunteers:

“Social service is in my DNA. Gertrude Barber (the woman who started the Barber National Institute) was my aunt and I grew up with kids who had physical and mental challenges. I realize some may think the Barber Institute is a sad place, but it’s not. They celebrate every child. It is a really happy place.”

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