Class of 2017: Meet Josh Sitter (Marketing and PSCM)

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

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

Today, we’d like you to meet Josh Sitter:

josh sitter - first choice

Josh Sitter

Majors: Marketing and Project and Supply Chain Management

Hometown: Erie

On choosing Behrend: When I was in high school, I took dual enrollment classes at Behrend and fell in love with the campus. Also, the faculty and staff members I came in contact with were always very kind and helpful.

Campus involvement: I’ve been involved with multiple organizations, including the Student Government Association, Lion Ambassadors, the National Society of Leadership and Success, Commuter Council, Beta Gamma Sigma, and Phi Alpha Theta.

Scholarships/support: When I was a sophomore, I received the Erie Insurance Group Leadership Scholarship and a the Kurt and Janet Cavano Award. This year, I received a Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship. I never realized that donors saw my campus involvement as having a positive impact on others; I was just doing things I enjoyed. Their support, however, inspired me to get even more involved and try things I otherwise might not have.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Being involved in the creation of the SGA Leadership Scholarship. In the SGA, I worked with a great group of students, many of whom had received scholarship funds, and we realized that we had an opportunity to give back to others through the SGA. It’s nice to be able to leave a legacy like that.

Advice for current students: Don’t be afraid to fail. The things I learned most from during my time at Behrend were things that I failed at. Go out and do the things that are new to you or hard for you. Challenge yourself. Go outside your comfort zone and meet new people, and you’ll get a lot more out of your college experience.

Josh has accepted a position as an associate I.T. analyst at Erie Insurance following his graduation in May.


Class of 2017: Meet Christa Schonthaler (Communication)

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

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

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

christa schonthaler (2)

Major: Communication

Hometown: Erie

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

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

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

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

christa schonthaler - the romantic era1

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

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

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

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

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

Secret lives of staff members – Nate Magee, yoga instructor in training

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, 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.


Nate Magee, research technologist at the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research, and Evaluation (CORE), was stressed out and nursing a mild back injury when he stumbled upon an ancient Indian remedy for what ailed him—yoga.

“Penn State Behrend offers free yoga and Pilates classes for faculty and staff twice a week at lunchtime and I had heard that yoga was good for recovering from injuries and decided to give it a try,” Magee said.

Bearded and a little burly, Magee doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a yoga enthusiast. But he said he was sold from the first downward dog.

“From the very beginning, I enjoyed the peacefulness of the practice,” Magee said. “I learned that I held a lot of stress in my chest and many yoga poses help to open your chest and release it. I also gained flexibility and strength fairly quickly while also noticing a reduction in back pain. It just made me feel great, both physically and mentally.”

Magee found yoga to be so rewarding that he is now studying to be an instructor.

“Practicing yoga is the best thing that I have ever done for myself and I want to be able to share that with others,” he said.


Becoming a certified yoga teacher is not an easy process. Magee has been training through Soma Movement Arts, an Erie yoga studio, twice a week for a year and has attended several intensive training weekends. In addition to putting in plenty of time on the mat, he has had to hit the books, too, studying the philosophy and language of yoga.

“Even though everything has been translated into English, some Sanskrit terms do not have precise translations, so it’s helpful to know more about the original language.” Magee said. “Also, while yoga poses may have several English names depending on the style of yoga or who is teaching, there is usually only one Sanskrit name for each pose so it’s a more consistent language. It is a hard language to learn though.”

He will have a chance to practice his Sanskrit with other yoga devotees at the end of March when he travels to Canada for the Toronto Yoga Show, a conference and expo that draws participants from around the world.

“I’m registered for thirty hours of workshops over the four days I’ll be there,” he said. “I’ll be learning from some of the best and well-known yoga instructors in the world.”

When asked to name his favorite yoga pose, Magee names most of them.


“I enjoy inversions, twists, headstands, and backbends…I guess I like them all,” he said with a laugh. “I’m currently trying to master handstands. Even though many poses look relatively simple, there are a lot of details in each one and it takes every part of your body working together with your mind to master the pose.”

Magee is currently teaching portions of classes at Soma and will be required to teach some full classes before he can be certified through Yoga Alliance, the professional organization for yoga teachers in the United States.

He encourages people of all ages, body types, and physical ability to try yoga.

“It’s very accessible and there are always modifications for those who need them,” he said. “Yoga will make you feel better physically and mentally. It is great for stress relief, improving focus, and boosting confidence. I really can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the practice.”

Want to give yoga a try? Penn State Behrend offers free yoga classes for faculty and staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Erie Hall at 12:10 p.m. The college also offers yoga as a physical education credit for students. Or check out a class at Magee’s fav studio, Soma Movement Arts, or any one of a dozen other studios in the Erie area. Not in the Erie area? Search online for studios in your area.


Circle K Club Members Carve Out Time for Community Service

By Heather Cass

Publications manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Rare is the college student with spare time on their hands. After attending classes, studying, completing assignments, and working at a job or internship, students have precious few hours and little energy left.

Yet some Penn State Behrend students still make helping others a priority. They say service work is not draining, but inspiring and rejuvenating.

“I always tell people that they don’t know what an amazing feeling community service is until they try it,” said Nicole Overby, president of Circle K, a service club at the college affiliated with Kiwanis International. “The drive home after a volunteer event is the best feeling in the world. Knowing that you helped someone and did something to better the world around you gives you a feeling that cannot be explained, only felt.”

There are at nearly a dozen service-focused clubs at Behrend, and many more student groups and organizations that include service projects as part of their regular activities.

Overby first became involved with Kiwanis in high school.

“I was in Key Club, which is the high school branch of the Kiwanis Club,” Overby said. “Circle K is the name given to clubs at the college level.”

Behrend’s Circle K club includes twenty members from a variety of backgrounds.

“It brings together students from all majors, races, and genders,” Overby said. “It is such a diverse group, which is awesome because it means that we come up with lots of different volunteer ideas and activities.”

Among the group’s endeavors this academic year: cleaning wheelchairs and gurneys at Saint Vincent Hospital; participating in Relay for Life; helping at the Kiwanis’ antique show and bowling night; volunteering at Holy Trinity soup kitchen; taking the Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge; raising funds through the college’s Cardboard City event; cleaning up several local highways; and assisting at Meals on Wheels.

“I think the soup kitchen was one of my favorite events,” Overby said. “Besides prepping the meals, we were also able to distribute them and sit and interact with the clients. It is important to open our eyes and have compassion for the hardships others face. It also makes me much more grateful for my own life and the opportunities that I’ve had.”

Most recently, Behrend’s club hosted the Circle K Club’s spring officer training, drawing newly elected club officers from several colleges in the area including Mercyhurst and Edinboro Universities and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

There was, of course, a service project embedded in the day’s activities. Attendees assembled and prepared coloring books to give to Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Erie.

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Overby, who is majoring in Accounting will be doing an internship at Bank of America in New York City this summer. She expects to graduate in December and sit for the CPA exam before returning to Behrend to earn her M.B.A.

While Overby is still pondering the area of accounting she wants to focus on, she’s sure of one thing: She will continue her service work in the future.

“I will definitely seek out the local Kiwanis Club in whatever city I end up working,” she said. “I love interacting with different people and having volunteer events to look forward to. I feel like community service helps me as much as it helps others.”

If nothing else, Overby’s service work has taught her to find the good in others. When asked who inspires her, she said: “Every person. Every day.”

She further explained: “I have met coworkers who have three jobs to provide for their families. I have met peers in my classes who are taking crazy amounts of classes so they can graduate early and save money. I have met faculty members who go out of their way to help students because they truly care about them. These people inspire me every single day. I hope that I can inspire others someday.”

Did she inspire you?

Circle K meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in Burke 105. To get involved, come to the next meeting on February 28 or email Overby at









Building the STEM Workforce of the Future

By Heather Cass

Publications manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

As the number of jobs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields continues to grow, industry leaders and educators are recognizing the need to start “recruiting” early. Very early, as in, elementary-school early.

In the early years, however, “recruiting” looks nothing like people in ties and suits sitting at desks. It looks more like an engineer in a sweatshirt and jeans overseeing a noisy and boisterous game of life-size Jenga, or a high-school robotics team member encouraging kids to pilot a LEGO robot through a maze, or a chemistry major helping kids concoct a bubble they can hold in their hands.

“It starts with getting young children interested in and excited about STEM concepts,” said Melanie Ford, director of Penn State Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach efforts and a lecturer in computer science and software engineering.

That’s why, for the last three years, GE Transportation and Penn State Behrend have teamed up to host a STEM Fair that is open to the public and geared toward students of all ages. This year’s fair is Monday, February 20, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Junker Center.

In addition to at least a half dozen GE divisions and nearly twenty Penn State Behrend clubs and organizations, a variety of other Erie STEM companies and organizations, including Erie Insurance, the Erie Maritime Museum, Acutec, and Cummins, will also join in the fun.

“Every table will have some sort of hands-on component or activity,” Ford said. “The funny thing is when younger kids are doing these activities, they don’t even realize that they are experimenting and exploring in chemistry, physics, math, and engineering. They’re just learning that STEM can be fun and challenging.”

They are not the only ones having fun. The business and industry professionals, faculty members, and Behrend students who volunteer at the event are having a blast, too.

“Our students really step-up for our outreach events, and they clearly enjoy sharing their knowledge with the younger generation,” Ford said. “They think what they do is cool and they pass that passion on. The added bonus is the college students end up with a better understanding of these concepts as well.”

Join in the STEM fun – Monday, February 20, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Junker Center

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Marketing students to explore buyer behavior for Sprint

By Heather Cass
Publications and Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

This semester, students in Dr. Mary Beth Pinto’s MKTG 344 Buyer Behavior class will have a unique opportunity to work on a collaborative research project with a leading wireless telecommunications company, and it is all thanks to one of the first classes that Pinto ever taught three decades ago at the University of Maine.

Pinto made a strong impression on student Mark Nachman who recalls that Pinto was a “highly engaged” professor who kept her classes fun and relevant. “The things she taught were applicable, not just theory,” he said.

So when Nachman, who is now a regional president for Sprint, covering Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, was looking for a new regional marketing director, he thought of Pinto, professor of marketing, and connected with her on LinkedIn.

“I was looking for a young person with fresh perspectives and cutting-edge ideas who would not be afraid to take risks,” he said. “I thought: ‘What better way to get an inside track on recent marketing graduates than to reach out to a few professors?’”


Mark Nachman, regional president for Sprint

Pinto happily supplied Nachman with several leads, and then opened the door on other ways Sprint could get involved at Behrend, including offering internships, participating in a “Corporate Day” at the Black School of Business (where representatives can meet directly with students about internship and career opportunities), and engaging students in doing research work for the company.

“I suggested he think about any ways he could put upper-level marketing students to work doing a hands-on project for Sprint,” she said.

Nachman didn’t have to think about it for long. He knew that, despite substantial investment in technology and cell towers in the Erie region, Sprint had been struggling to gain market share in the area among its key demographic (18 to 25 year olds), but he didn’t know why.

This spring, he’ll have forty-plus MKTG 344 Buyer Behavior students on the case.

Students will work in small teams using a variety of marketing strategies, including market analysis, focus groups, personal interviews, and more, to learn more about the perceptions, attitudes, and cell-phone provider preferences among Sprint’s target demographic in the Erie area.

“This is real market research for an actual client,” Pinto said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity for these students to get hands-on experience and put some of the things they’ve been learning into practice.”


Dr. Mary Beth Pinto, professor of marketing

Students will also assess current Sprint promotions in the Erie area and, based on the team’s research findings, offer recommendations and develop “guerrilla” marketing plans that can be used to boost Sprint’s profile and users in the region.

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results. The original term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book Guerrilla Advertising.

The top six teams will present their work to a team of executives from Sprint in April.

Nachman can’t wait to learn what they discover.

“I’m super fired up about this collaboration,” he said. “I love the whole concept and the grass-roots initiative of this project. I anticipate the students will come up with ideas that could be implemented nationwide at Sprint.”

Nachman has invested both time and money in the project. He and other Sprint executives will be on campus for the kickoff and final presentations and Sprint will be providing each student with Sprint T-shirts and demo phones so that they can be familiar with the company’s products and services.

“When I was a college student, I remember sometimes feeling disappointed and empty as I jumped through hoops and did research that was all theory,” he said. “This exercise will be entirely tangible and executable. If I were still a student, I’d find that inspiring and motivating.”

It bears noting that the college-age researchers are themselves in Sprint’s target demographic. Who better to find out what 18-24 year olds think about a company and product than their own friends and peers?

“Young adults are influencers, especially when it comes to technology decisions,” Nachman said. “They are intentionally and unintentionally steering their parents and friends on products and services daily.”

The same could be said for Pinto, whose influence on Nachman thirty years ago has clearly led to opportunities for Penn State Behrend students today.


Sprint executives will be on campus on January 12 for the class project kickoff and will participate in a “Corporate Day” at the Black School of Business. Sprint representatives will be in the Clark Café to talk with students about internship and job opportunities and, at 4:00 p.m., Nachman will be giving a talk about “Warrior Leadership” in the Black Conference Room at Burke Center. Nachman’s presentation is free and open to all.



No age limit on Penn State pigskin pride

Dick Koeck ’47 and his wife, Susan ’49 fell in love at University Park—with each other and with Penn State football. Throughout the next few decades, the couple periodically traveled to Happy Valley to attend games, tailgating with friends and cheering on their alma mater’s team.

“It’s just more fun to watch with friends,” Dick Koeck said.

That’s why, when he and Susan moved to an Erie retirement community, Dick decided to bring the spirit of Beaver Stadium to Springhill Senior Living on game days, offering to organize PSU pigskin parties in the common room.

“I knew there were a few Penn Staters at Springhill and I just thought ‘Why not try and get them all together to watch games?’” he said.

Anywhere from twenty to thirty enthusiastic residents, including many alumni and former Penn State Behrend faculty members and administrators, gather for each game.

Among the attendees Penn State Behrend alums may recognize are: Dr. Ed Masteller, professor of biology emeritus; Virginia McGarvey, who along with her late husband, Ray, was a great supporter of Behrend; and Ethel Kochel, wife of Behrend’s first leader, Irv Kochel, and an honorary alumna of the college.

“Oh, yes, Ethel is always there with her cowbell,” Koeck said with a chuckle.

Another resident brings a stuffed Nittany Lion mascot that sings a Penn State tune, blue and white flags are hung. The Springhill tailgaters sing the school Alma Mater and Fight Song and they do Penn State cheers, complete with pom-poms. Penn State apparel is practically required.

“Except for white-out games, of course,” Koeck said.

And what would a football party be without food?

Springhill does it right, serving up traditional tailgate favorites, such as hamburgers and hot dogs, sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions, pizza, wings, etc.

One benefit of tailgating at Springhill? It’s not an alcohol-free zone.

“Oh, sure, we might have a few beers,” Koeck said. “Gotta have that at a tailgate party.”

Plans are already underway for Penn State’s next big game – the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017.

“It has been amazing to watch the team rise to the challenge and win each week and make Penn State proud,” Kochel said. “It is always fun to have Penn Staters together to watch the game, and we are all so excited that we are going to the Rose Bowl again!”

Koeck can hardly wait to see his team in the “Granddaddy of Them All.” He already knows what he’s wearing.

“The last time Penn State played in the Rose Bowl was in January of 1995, and I’ll be wearing my sweatshirt from that game,” he said.

Penn State won that game, defeating the Oregon Ducks 38-20, so Koeck has good reason to don his lucky shirt when the Nittany Lions take on the University of Southern California Trojans at the 2017 Rose Bowl on Monday, January 2.

Koeck’s parting thoughts?

In typical Penn State football fan fashion: “WE ARE…!”

Rose Bowl Trivia: Why Monday?

The Tournament of Roses has had a “Never on Sunday” tradition since 1893, the first year since the beginning of the Tournament, that New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. The Tournament wanted to avoid frightening horses that would be hitched outside churches and thus interfering with worship services so the events were moved to the next day, January 2. Though horses are no longer outside local churches, the tradition remains to this day. —

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