Posts filed under ‘College of the Liberal Arts’
When I tell you that I’ll be leaving in less than a week for Bhutan, I’m guessing you’ll have one of two reactions: either “Where the heck is that?” or “I am sooooo jealous.”
Those have consistently been the responses I’ve gotten when I’ve told people that the Alumni Association has asked me to accompany a group of Penn State travelers on a tour called Bhutan: The Hidden Kingdom. Some people, understandably, have barely ever heard of the place—it’s a small, landlocked Asian country, bounded on the north by Tibet and on all other sides by India. Others, though, know that its location in the Himalayas makes it a place of stunning beauty, and that its Buddhist history and culture make it a fascinating place to visit.
Bhutan has added interest to Penn Staters because its prime minister, Jigme Thinley ’76g, earned his master’s in public administration from Penn State. Thinley was featured in a 60 Minutes segment five years ago on Bhutan and its vision of “Gross National Happiness,” a concept puts such qualities as sustainability and cultural values ahead of economic development.
My colleagues in the Alumni Association who put this trip together (it’s one of about 30 or 40 trips they’re offering this year) had hopes that perhaps our group would be able to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Thinley. But as it turns out, he’ll be in the thick of campaigning for reelection at the time we’re over there, so we’re not holding out a huge amount of hope for a get-together. Interestingly, Bhutan’s chief election commissioner is also a Penn Stater: Kunzang Wangdi ’80g, who also has his MPA from our College of the Liberal Arts. We have possibly a better chance of meeting him, which would be pretty cool.
The trip involves visiting some of the country’s historic sites, including a lot of dzongs, or Buddhist monasteries. There’s also a rafting trip on the Mo Chu River near Punakha (that’s OK—I never heard of it either), a visit to a place where paper is made by hand, a visit to a center honoring the sacred and endangered black-necked crane, and a trip over the Dochula Pass, described this way on our tour itinerary:
Then we embark on the three-hour drive to the former capital of Punakha via the Dochula pass (alt. 10,000 feet), which affords stunning views of the Himalayas. We stop to follow the sacred tradition of raising prayer flags for peace and wisdom at Dochula, where the bracing winds will help spread the prayers’ spiritual power to all sentient beings.
The big finale of the trip is a hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also called the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. That’s the building clinging to the side of the mountain in the photo at the top of this page. It’s a two-hour hike with a nearly 2,000-foot elevation gain, from about 7,500 feet to more than 10,200 feet. I’m currently trying to tame a bout of plantar fasciitis (heel pain), so between that and the altitude, this oughta be interesting. But I’m determined to hike to the top.
I may try to blog a bit from over there, as our schedule permits. I’ll be curious to see what kind of Internet access we have. There’s one place, for example, about which the itinerary says: “Phobjikha is slowly being electrified, though service can be highly inconsistent. Please be aware that the availability of both electricity and hot water may be limited during our stay.” Hmmm, what do you think are the chances they’ll have wi-fi?
Tina Hay, editor
We got an interesting email recently from Elisabeth Whyte, who’s a post-doc working in the Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience (part of Penn State’s psychology department) on what seems like a cool project: developing a game that would help children with autism get better at identifying faces and making eye contact, two things that can make it difficult for people with autism to connect with others. Whyte, who plays and blogs about World of Warcraft, is trying to use elements of video games to make the intervention more fun and more effective for the participants. She’s working with faculty member Suzanne Scherf.
The problem: Getting enough money. Whyte is between grants right now, so she’s organized a crowd-funding project as part of the #SciFund Challenge. You can click here to watch a video about the research, get some more information on how crowd-funding works, and get details on what the money will be used for. In this case, the money will help pay for MRIs of the brains of people participating in the first phrase of the project—the MRIs cost $500 each—and prepare for the second phase. She’s looking to raise $10,000 by Dec. 14; the project is more than a third of the way there.
The project has a blog, as well, which has some information about the project and some general information about autism, too. And you can read an in-depth interview with Whyte, in which she talks about both the project and the possibilities (and limitations) of crowd-funding, by clicking here.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
How exactly do you pronounce Yossarian?
This was my big concern Thursday night, in the moments before I stepped to the lectern to read five minutes’ worth of Catch-22. I was one of hundreds of people taking my turn in a marathon public reading of the classic novel, which Joseph Heller started writing while he taught at Penn State in the early 1950s. The event kicked off at 1 p.m. Thursday—Sue Paterno ’62 opened the reading—and was scheduled to end sometime Friday afternoon.
I initially walked up to the reading—held under a tent on the grass in front of the Pattee and Paterno Libraries—on Thursday afternoon, hoping to get a photo of Lady Lion basketball coach Coquese Washington, one of many coaches and athletes who were signed up to take part. I missed Coquese, but when I saw how many open spots remained on the sign-up sheet, I decided I’d put my name in. (Catch-22 has long been one of my favorite novels, I have plenty of practice reading aloud every night to my kids, and everyone who read got a T-shirt.)
I signed up for two spots, the first at 10:05 Thursday night. There were maybe 20 people there, including three students in pajamas who had sleeping bags already set up on the grass. I checked in with Cindy Lee, a sophomore who serves as treasurer of Unabridged, the student organization for English majors. I waited a few minutes and took my turn, reading through the section of chapter 22 in which Milo Minderbinder explains “the syndicate” to Yossarian. I forgot how much fun this book is.
I was back Friday morning at 7. There were about a dozen people there, including a woman reading with her dog standing attentively behind her, and a couple of students (not the ones from the night before, as far as I could tell) still dozing in sleeping bags. There, too, was Cindy, who hadn’t left since 6 p.m. Thursday. In addition to manning the sign-in desk, she said she handled about “an hour and a half, maybe two hours” of reading during the sparsely attended overnight shift, when the audience dwindled to as few as four.
I read the last couple pages of chapter 28, and was followed by English professor Debra Hawhee ’00g, who read with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Nora in her arms. The reading continued as I headed home to get ready for work. There’s talk of this being an annual thing. I hope so.
Oh, and it’s yo-SAIR-ian, not yo-SORRY-an. Either way, a classic.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Going in to Wednesday’s livestream conversation with Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey ’94g, there were only a few things we at The Penn Stater knew for sure: Whether the viewer count hit 3 or 300, the people who joined in would care deeply about the issues and want their voices heard. And that the door would be open—for an honest, emotional, and sometimes controversial discussion.
We were right on both counts.
Around 200 people from Facebook, Twitter, and the livestream chat spent one and a half hours talking about the big issues along with Sam and Laurie. Viewers brought up questions about identity, personal responsibility, loyalty, lack of trust in our leaders, and the biggest question of all: Where do we go from here?
Some (very abridged) highlights:
Viewer question: Why should alumni and students take responsibility for the scandal? We did nothing wrong.
Laurie: This was handed to the Penn State community by fate, the same way a hurricane is handed to a particular town. This isn’t a Penn State problem, but it was given to us to say, ‘OK, how can we deal with this?’
Sam: Penn State has been given this burden. Maybe the honorable approach is to accept a certain amount of punishment. That’s a big thing to say, but what if we stepped outside the box? We if we said, “Let me see if there’s a higher road here.” It’s really easy to beat the drums and yell and scream, but what might be an alternative path? Fighting the sanctions—what does that look like? Is that an honorable approach?
How can we move forward when we feel the truth isn’t out yet?
Laurie: We all want the truth, and the reality is, we as human beings don’t often get to live in the truth. We don’t get the opportunity where other people see us for who we are. The intention here is to seek the truth, and follow it out as long as it takes, but in the meantime, recognize that we don’t have the privilege of being seen how Penn State wants to be seen. We join humanity in that, and we, as people of Penn State, aren’t unique in that. It’s humbling.
Sam: Penn State has been judged very harshly by the court of public opinion, and when the court of public opinion comes down in such a powerful way, that becomes the truth for millions and millions of people. So what do we do with the fact that that is now the truth? We may say, wait a minute, that’s not the truth. But we have to find a way to live within that, because that’s the truth to many people. I can sit here and be angry about that, and sometimes I am. But is there another way around that? How might I grow? How might I expand?
I hate that Penn State has adopted the blue ribbons for child-abuse awareness, because it feels like an admission of guilt—like a scarlet letter.
Sam: I understand that, especially when things like this are done for political reasons. But here’s the other side: What if every time you see a blue ribbon, you think about the fact that 1 in 8 of your female friends, sisters, aunts, neighbors, etc. has experienced child sexual abuse in some way? And 1 in 10 of your male friends? What if the blue ribbons meant that, and what if I really took the time to think about that and let that influence my life? What might happen? Because when you sit together at a Thanksgiving meal, and you’ve got 10 or 12 people, somebody has had that experience. And very likely, the abuser is somebody who may also be sitting at that table. So, when we take the blue ribbons, what if we used that as a lens? Put the blue-ribbon lens on and look at the world?
Whether you agree or disagree with Sam and Laurie—and with one another—the most encouraging part of all this is that the conversation continues. Since the stream ended at 9:30 p.m. last night, viewers are still posting opinions and ideas on this blog, to Twitter (with the hash tag #pennstater), to our Facebook page, and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, we welcome your questions, comments, and feedback.
If you missed last night’s livestream, you can watch the video in its entirety here. (Unfortunately, the conversation in the chat box to the right of the screen is no longer available.)
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Over the summer, I got a chance to ask questions of Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey ’94g, the husband-and-wife sociology instructors who have made it a point to address the Sandusky scandal and its aftermath in class. Their SOC 119 class, Race and Ethnic Relations, is all about exploring assumptions and considering a variety of perspectives, and they brought that sensibility to the interview we published in our September/October issue. (If you missed it, click here for a downloadable PDF.)
Now it’s your turn to ask questions.
Sam and Laurie will be facilitating a discussion from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and you can participate in the event at this website: livestream.com/pennstater. We want you to be a part of “Emerging from the Storm: Continuing the Conversation.” You’ll be able to watch Sam and Laurie at the website, and you can ask questions, make comments and chat with other participants simply by typing into the text box in the upper right-hand corner. You don’t need to register or do anything fancy. You can also log in there with your Facebook or Twitter accounts, if you’d prefer. Our hashtag: #pennstater.
I’ll be in the room with Sam and Laurie, asking your questions and summarizing your comments. I’m there as your representative, so I need your questions and ideas.
If you’d like to get the conversation started early, you can post in the comments here or on Facebook; I’ll make sure Sam and Laurie see what you write.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
I’m probably understating when I say that being a Penn Stater hasn’t been easy for the past nine months. So much sadness, so much anger, so much confusion. I haven’t spoken with anyone who doesn’t want things here to be better, but what “better” looks like—and how to make that happen—is still up in the air.
One of the things we’ve got to do is talk. Which is why we’re calling on sociology instructors Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey ’94g, whose SOC 119 (Race and Ethnic Relations) class is among the most popular on campus and whose World in Conversation program is devoted to fostering dialogue about difficult topics, to guide us.
We’d like you to join us for a live online event—Emerging from the Storm: Continuing the Conversation—from 8 to 9:30 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Sept. 12. You’ll be able to watch and hear Sam and Laurie as they grapple with the issues and questions, and you’ll be able to participate, too, by logging in with your Facebook or Twitter accounts, or simply by typing in the text box you’ll find at the website. No need to register.
What we want to do is build off our conversation with Sam and Laurie that’s in our September/October issue. (If you’ve not received it, you can download a PDF of the interview by clicking here.) Your participation is vital.
I’ve spent a lot of time around Sam and Laurie in the past year, first showing up unannounced to Sam’s SOC 119 class on Nov. 10, when he tweeted that he’d be talking about the scandal, then showing up invited a few times, then reporting on a story about World in Conversation for an upcoming issue of the magazine.
As anyone who’s taken the class knows, Sam and Laurie aren’t big on providing answers. They are big on asking questions, and doing so in such a way that you’re able to see other perspectives, other points of view. With all of the complexities in the Sandusky scandal, it was natural to call on them to be a part of our latest issue, in which we continue to try to make sense of and pull lessons from everything that’s happened in the past nine months.
We’re confident they’ll make the online event a safe place to talk with other Penn Staters who are still hurting for the victims, yet angry at how our community has been portrayed nationally. We’re confident the conversation will make you think, too. We know there’s a lot of anger out there, but we want very much to keep this conversation calm and civil.
So here’s an opportunity for Penn Staters to talk together, among ourselves. Save this website, livestream.com/pennstater, and join us anytime between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday the 12th, and submit your questions and comments live and in real time to participate. You can also submit your questions or comments here, and we’ll take them to Sam and Laurie next Wednesday.
We’re looking forward to talking with you.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Exactly six months after the grand jury presentment was leaked—it was late afternoon, Nov. 4, when the charges made against Jerry Sandusky ’66, ’71g became known—the most contested Board of Trustees election in Penn State’s history ended. Adam Taliaferro ’05, Anthony Lubrano ’82, and Ryan McCombie ’70 will begin their three-year terms in July.
Everything about the election was unprecedented—the 86 candidates, the 37,579 votes cast, the hiring of KMPG to audit the results, which were announced in Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting. The university assigned PINs, allowing alumni to vote electronically, to 197,517 people, meaning that 19 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots.
Taliaferro, a lawyer and New Jersey selectman who’s best known as the football player who was paralyzed in a game against Ohio State, but beat the odds and learned to walk again, received 15,629 votes. Lubrano, a businessman who donated money for the baseball stadium, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, received 10,096. McCombie, a businessman and retired Navy SEAL, received 4,806 votes.
Karen Peetz ’77, chair of the board, said she doesn’t anticipate any problems integrating the new alumni trustees, although emotions have run high since the Sandusky scandal, especially over Joe Paterno. She said Penn State is “extremely fortunate” that so many alums cared enough about the university to run.
The agricultural societies that elect six trustees also voted this week, with incumbent Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and Donald Cotner ’71, president of an egg company, winning with 112 and 100 votes, respectively. Current business and industry trustees Kenneth Frazier ’75 and Edward Hintz ’59, whose terms expired in 2012, were re-elected to the board; business trustees are voted on by the board members. Gov. Tom Corbett has not yet decided on his appointees; the terms of two of his six appointees expire this year, as well.
During the meeting, Peetz noted that the board is considering changes in its structure, citing the reorganization of its standing committees in March. James Broadhurst ’65, who is chairing the governance and long-range planning committee, said the board is looking into term limits and how to better use the experience of the emeriti trustees, among other suggestions.
At this point, one of the spectators in the room asked if the board were taking questions from the public. Told that was not the case, he then said he just wanted to make a statement—that the trustees consider making it possible for students and faculty to interact directly with them.
But no aspect of the trustees has received more attention recently than the alumni vote; the Associated Press reported that it drew more attention that the Pennsylvania primary election. Eighteen other candidates received more than 1,000 votes:
Barbara L. Doran ’75: 4,040
Mark S. Connolly ’84g: 2,967
Ben Novak ’65, ’99g: 2,957
Vincent J. Tedesco Jr. ’74: 2,385
Anne Riley ’64, ’75g: 1,883
O. Richard Bundy ’93, ’96g: 1,864
John W. Diercks ’63, ’67g, ’75g: 1,761
Jayne E. Miller ’76: 1,653
Jonathan L. Wesner ’65: 1,530
George T. Henning Jr. ’63: 1,503
Joanne C. DiRinaldo ’78: 1,455
Thomas J. Sharbaugh ’73: 1,410
Darlene R. Baker ’80: 1,212
Patty Marrero ’88: 1,172
Matthew J. Lisk ’95: 1,060
Amy L. Williams ’80: 1,048
Marta Pepe Forney ’00: 1,047
William F. Oldsey ’76: 1,007
Three more alumni seats will come open next year. I’m sure I’m not alone in suspecting next year’s election will be hotly contested, too.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Twice a year, I find myself staring at my computer screen feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed.
When it comes time to schedule classes, I’m always intimidated by eLion’s lists and lists of courses. That’s what happens when you go to a school with 40,000 students and more than 160 majors. I’m usually fine with classes in my areas of study (journalism and English), but general education courses are a different story. There simply are too many. Some seem intriguing; some, not so much.
Gen-ed requirements have changed a lot over the years: Now, all baccalaureate degree programs include a 45-credit gen-ed component, including three credits in health and physical activity, nine credits in natural science, six credits in art, six credits in humanities, and six credits in social and behavioral sciences.
So as students begin to schedule for fall 2012, I took a look at some of Penn State’s more interesting gen-ed courses. I begin with a class I took last year—a class where SpongeBob appears on the syllabus.
Course: Geosci 040: The Sea Around Us
Requirement satisfied: GN (Natural Science)
Why I took it: I’m not a science person at all. I had to late drop meteorology my freshman year (who knew predicting weather included calculus?) and needed an easier science class to take.
Interesting assignment: Once, we reported to the HUB-Robeson Center for class. Our lab that day consisted of analyzing the aquarium on the bottom floor. I had no idea there was such an intricate ecosystem living just 100 feet away from Sbarro’s. The most interesting aspect, to me, was that the 500-gallon tank has a self-regulated lighting system, which gets dark at night to mimic the real ocean.
What I got out of it: A new appreciation for beaches and environmentalism. When I visited Cape Cod last summer, I had a hard time looking at the dunes without thinking about how big they once were, and how they got there.
Course: CMLIT 120: The Literature of the Occult
Requirement satisfied: GH (Humanities)
Interesting assignment: Read the third installment of the Harry Potter series.
What you can get out of it: “In all honesty, an appreciation for the Harry Potter series,” says Alexa Agugliaro, who says she wasn’t on the J.K. Rowling bandwagon before enrolling in the course. “There are a lot of major drabby classes that people have to take while they’re here, so why not, if you have the room, take a cool class about like vampires and monsters.” It’s not all Harry Potter and Twilight, though. Agugliaro wrote her final term paper on the witches in Macbeth.
Side note: Agugliaro says the teacher wore a wizard hat and a robe every day and had a magic wand.
Course: KINES 028: Fencing
Requirement satisfied: GHA (Health and Physical Activity)
Interesting assignment: Just fence. Senior Matt Giacometti said there’s not much variety to the course, but he doesn’t mind. Students participate in basic drills, then fence each other. “It’s fun,” Giacometti says. “Exactly what you want from the class.”
What you can get out of it: “A ton,” Giacometti says. “I’m learning from coaches that have succeeded at the highest level. These guys have coached Olympians.” Giacometti’s professors for the course? Assistant coaches with the Penn State varsity fencing team—a program with 12 national championships and more than 170 All-Americans in the last 28 years. Did you know that Suzie Paxton ’93, a former Nittany Lion fencer and 1996 Olympian, started fencing in this gym class?
Course: Applied Linguistics 100
Requirement satisfied: GS (Social and Behavioral Sciences)
Interesting assignment: During one class, the students were asked to think of as many examples of semantic word as they could. As junior Jackie Giraldo recalls, “That was the first time I ever heard the word yinz,” Giraldo says.
What you can get out of it: Says Giraldo: “I learned how language has evolved over time, but also got a deeper look at how words have evolved, how syntax has evolved, and why things are said different ways in different places. I definitely have a new appreciation of communication of different cultures.”
Course: INART 115: Popular Music in America
Requirement satisfied: GA (Arts)
Interesting assignment: Students were required to participate in online discussions. One debate revolved around who is the most influential musician today, with one student making a good case that the answer was definitively Lady Gaga.
What you can get out of it: “I now understand the hardships that a lot of musicians had to endure in the past in great music from that, era like the jazz and blues,” junior Jared Cruz says. “And it also influenced the development of music nowadays.”
Emily Kaplan, intern
Father Matthew Laffey of the Penn State Catholic Center set the tone—and provided a broad outline of Joe Paterno’s life—in his opening prayer. “Thank you for this man. … How fortunate this corner of your kingdom has been.”
The details came slowly over the next two hours Thursday afternoon, as speakers at A Memorial for Joe painted pictures of the man who helped to build—and became largely synonymous with—Penn State.
We met the competitive Joe. “The bigger the game, the quieter he was in practice,” said Todd Blackledge, quarterback of the 1982 national championship team. “But the gleam in his eyes told the story.”
The literary Joe, who never called Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, anything other than “Dean,” who donated millions of dollars to the library, and who clearly passed that love of literature on to his son. Here’s who Jay Paterno quoted in his closing eulogy: Sophocles, William Blatty, U2, John Adams, John Ruskin, Tennessee Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., and Arthur Ashe.
The funny Joe, so quick with a one-liner, who told Jimmy Cefalo’s mother on a recruiting visit, “Your pasta is better than Mrs. Cappelletti’s.” (more…)
He had a degree in English Lit from an Ivy League institution. He sometimes quoted Shakespeare to his football team. Plus, he and his wife donated millions of dollars to Penn State’s library, as well as an undergraduate fellows program.
Joe Paterno always valued a liberal arts education, and here’s a look at how Paterno expressed that over the years. Many thanks to Vicki Fong ’81 — a manager of publications and public relations for Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts — for sharing.
First, Paterno addressing a group of Paterno Fellows. “We don’t need anything else. We can lick the world with just the liberal arts,” he said, prompting chuckles from the crowd. As Vicki wrote in an email: “It always makes me smile.”
Here’s another video on what it means to be a “Paterno Professor.” Michael Berube, the Paterno Family professor in literature, says, “Wherever I go, people of course ask, ‘Is that the Paterno family?’ I say, ‘Yes, there’s only one.’ And they’re just massively impressed.”
And lastly, in case anyone’s interested, here’s a PDF that you can download of Paterno’s iconic 1973 commencement speech. My favorite part about having Paterno as the keynote speaker? Looking at who he succeeded.
There were no speakers from 1960-69. In 1970, Charles Conrad Jr,. a NASA astronaut, spoke. In 1971, it was the Earl Warren, the retired Chief Justice of the United States. In 1972, it was James A. Michener, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author. And in 1973: Joe Paterno, Nittany Lion head football coach.
Emily Kaplan, intern