Posts filed under ‘Penn State students’
Support a local business. Share an inspiring quote. Tell someone a joke to brighten his/her day. Penn State students performed these small, yet meaningful, random acts of kindness Wednesday on what would have been John William McKenzie Brady’s ninth birthday. John, more commonly known as Mack, was Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady’s son, who died on New Year’s Eve from a rare blood infection.
Brady released a statement on New Year’s to inform others of the tragic event: “Words cannot begin to express the deep, wrenching sorrow that our family feels at the sudden and unexpected death of our boy. He contracted a blood infection on Sunday and by last night had returned to God. He was a special treasure, a true blessing sent from God.”
Following the release of the statement, the Schreyer Honors College Student Council organized “Mack’s Day of Kindness” for his birthday. “We had a lot of students come forward saying they wanted to do something and help,” said Erin Platz, president of the student council. “Even though the students did not know Mack at all—I did not know him either—we are very close to Dean Brady. He really makes an effort to get to know all of the students in the Honors College.”
Random acts of kindness were written on slips of paper and tacked on boards in Atherton and Simmons halls. Students were encouraged to pass by either hall and take a slip of paper to complete throughout the day. (Click on the photos for a closer look.)
At 5:30, students and faculty were invited back to the Atherton Hall lobby to write a message for the Brady family on luminaria bags, which were lit up by fake candles and placed in the Atherton courtyard. The Schreyer Honors College Student Council hopes to make “Mack’s Day of Kindness” an annual event to help the Brady family through what will be a difficult day.
The Schreyer Honors College Student Council created a Facebook event and the hashtag #MacksDayofKindness, which was used on Twitter throughout the day. One example from Twitter user Anthony Shelton: “Just thanked anonymously a great member of our @penn_state faculty for all that she’s done for our community. #WeAre #MacksDayofKindness.”
Mack was a huge soccer fan, which led the Brady family to establish a scholarship in Mack’s honor. The scholarship will benefit a member of the Penn State men’s soccer team.
Brady, his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Isabel, stopped by Atherton Hall during the event. They were grateful to all of the students in remembering their son and were touched by what the students made possible.
Kimberly Valarezo, intern
It’s a new semester, so that means we’ve got a new intern. And, as usual, we’re giving her some space to introduce herself. Meet Kimberly Valarezo.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I packed about 80 percent of my closet, gave my dog a tight squeeze, and said goodbye to the town I had called home my entire life, Union City, N.J. As my dad drove me out of New Jersey and into the heart of Pennsylvania, the familiar tall buildings and crammed houses slowly started to disappear and in their place came farms, fields, and cows.
Unlike so many of my other friends, I had visited State College only twice before move-in day; one of those visits was FTCAP. I didn’t have any memories of attending Saturday football games in Beaver Stadium or getting a scoop, or three, of ice cream at the Creamery. To be honest, I’d never really heard of Penn State until my junior year of high school, yet there I was, ready to move into what would be my home for the next four years of my life.
I chose Penn State because of its wide selection of majors, perfect for someone who was undecided like I was. It wasn’t until the fall semester of my sophomore year that I found my perfect niche in print journalism. Writing became an outlet, and after I enrolled in the College of Communications, everything fell into place.
Before I knew it, I began applying to internships all over New York City. During spring break of my sophomore year, I received an email from the assistant fashion editor at Marie Claire magazine asking me to go in for an interview. Before I knew it, I was at my first day at Marie Claire. My summer there was amazing. I made great contacts and connections, I was sent on two photo shoots, and I was also sent on these two TV segments, the first for QVC and the second for NBC’s New York Live.
My connections at Marie Claire led me to my second internship during this past Christmas break at O, The Oprah Magazine. Although my time there was short, I still learned a great deal about magazines and made even more connections, some with Penn State alumni.
I think the first time I truly understood what it means to “bleed blue and white” was when I was ferociously defending my school against anyone who tried to make it seem like it was anything less than what it is. I was proud to be a Nittany Lion, and still am, but I now understand the love that so many people have for this school. I now see the countless reasons why so many people love to stay connected to Penn State long after their graduation.
Even though I don’t have long-standing ties to this school, my love for it continues to grow each day that I am here. I don’t know what will happen a year, five years, or 10 years from now, but I know that one day in the future, I will be opening my very own issue of The Penn Stater magazine as an alumna, and I’ll be proud to know that I had the responsibility and privilege to contribute to one of many traditions here in Happy Valley.
Kimberly Valarezo, intern
On a sparse stage with only a few folding chairs as props, students in Charles Dumas’ Theatre 208 class set out to tell their sides of the story. In “We Are… A Student Perspective of The Sandusky Scandal,” Thursday at the Pavilion Theatre, students performed monologues, which they wrote, depicting student reactions to the events of the past year. Some scenes enacted portions of the grand jury testimony and public statements from Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, and Sandusky himself.
Before an audience of students and community members, the actors, none of them theatre majors, talked about the “heartbreak” upon learning Joe Paterno was fired, dealing with the onslaught of opinions on social media, and feeling both “ashamed and empowered by our pride” at public gatherings like the Nov. 11 candlelight vigil.
In one powerful scene, actors wore white masks to portray Sandusky’s victims. The audience was silent as actors read graphic details from victims’ real testimonies as other masked actors tossed a football in the background. Slowly, a masked man in a Penn State windbreaker lead each actor backstage, throwing his arm around their shoulders and patting their backs as they walked.
A major theme in all of the monologues: the media’s unfair portrayal of Penn State students, especially after the Nov. 9 riot, in which a news van was tipped. A few scenes depicted students having to defend themselves after being labeled as supporters of Sandusky and child sexual abuse.
“We had to bear the burden of some of the most heinous acts in human history,” explained one actor. “But it made us become more of a family, and we’re moving closer to closure.”
Mary Murphy, associate editor
During grad school, I had a gig as a restaurant reviewer for a local paper. While I loved every second of it (hello, free food), I sometimes felt a bit like a fraud. Why should my personal taste be the standard bearer? I happen to like slightly overcooked pasta, and I think anything hotter than mild salsa should come with a warning label. So who am I to judge?
Our food preferences, and the science behind them, was the subject of a Research Unplugged talk I attended Thursday afternoon. The series of discussions is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of University Relations and Schlow Centre Region Library. Yesterday’s presentation featured the research of Nadia Byrnes, a Penn State graduate student in nutrition and food science. Her faculty advisor, food science professor John Hayes, joined her.
In the hour-long talk, I learned a lot that would have helped me back in my food-writing days. Some highlights:
—It’s a myth that parts of your tongue detect different tastes. Recent research shows that you can sense all tastes on your entire tongue.
—MSG, or monosodium glutamate, isn’t bad for you at all. It’s a naturally occurring amino acid that adds an earthy, savory flavor to foods. There’s no medical evidence that people can be hypersensitive to MSG, or that it causes headaches.
—Ever heard that taste is 80 percent smell? Smell does play a huge role in how we taste food, but most people don’t realize that touch is an important third component. The thermal sensations we get from things like mint or black pepper, or the distinct burn from alcohol, affect the way we perceive a food’s taste.
—A person’s sense of taste is hugely affected by his or her—ready for this one?— saliva flow. “High-flow” individuals tend to favor drier wines, for example, because the extra saliva’s lubrication offers more protection from that astringent mouthfeel.
One of the coolest revelations was the result of Nadia’s research on personality and food preferences. As part of her study, Nadia quizzed test subjects about their habits and personalities, then asked the participants to rate their enjoyment of increasingly spicy dishes. People who are more “sensation seeking”— they enjoy things like loud music and performing in front of crowds—favor spicy food far more than their calmer, more introverted counterparts. Novelty seekers, people who like to try new things, are especially fond of the hot stuff.
One of the personality quiz questions, explained Professor Hayes, turned out to be an incredibly accurate predictor of a person’s taste for spice: Subjects who said they “loved to drive fast on twisty roads” got the most enjoyment from fiery foods. Go figure.
Research Unplugged continues every Thursday until Nov. 15 at the Schlow Centre Region Library and is open to the public. Check out the schedule of upcoming talks here.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
A documentary screening doesn’t sound like the first thing a college student would do at 10 p.m. on a Friday. So when I saw a plethora of THON student volunteers pour into the State Theatre on Friday night––many sporting dresses, high heels, ties, and slacks, no less––you could say I was surprised.
But the featured documentary,Why We Dance: The Story of THON, helps to explain what 15,000 Penn State students devote themselves to every year––the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, Penn State’s Interfraternity / Panhellenic Dance Marathon (otherwise known as THON). That’s a reason to dress up.
Why We Dance chronicles the year-round efforts put toward Four Diamonds families and the 46-hour dance marathon, which, since 1977, has raised about $88 million dollars for pediatric cancer.
THON is a culture of its own. If you walk down College Avenue and see dozens of people sporting Penn State shirts and sweatpants, you’ll see that many people wearing THON gear, too. I recently noticed that almost 200 of my Facebook friends posted the THON 2013 promo video, especially when THON “captains” were selected. The energy of these students involved is palpable; Kevin O’Connor, a Rules and Regulations captain sitting next to me in the State Theatre on Friday night, agreed with a laugh that THON volunteers are “a different breed” of people––it’s like they’re perpetually over-caffeinated and just excited about life.
Right before the film began, I heard a student volunteer blurt out that (more…)
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
Tim Vitullo loved his engineering classes. He wanted a job in the field. But when it came time to write his honors thesis, he just didn’t want to do one about civil engineering. That seemed, to him, like a step on the path to a master’s degree, which was not in his plans.
But he had something to fall back on—his music. And thanks to the Schreyer Honors College policy that allows students who enroll as freshmen to choose any field for their thesis topic (if they get permission from their department and can find an adviser), Vitullo ’12 Eng created a unique thesis.
He composed and performed a jazz album titled This is the Thing! You can listen to it here.
“I had the best of both worlds,” Vitullo said. “I dig Schreyer for letting me do this.”
Vitullo grew up doodling and wanting to build things. But he also began taking piano lessons—or, as he put it, “started down the rabbit hole”—in the second grade. He moved on to various band instruments and, by junior high, he’d added the guitar.
He’s played in various bands—mostly rock, at first—back home in suburban Pittsburgh and around State College. He’s currently in Pittsburgh, looking for a full-time civil engineering job and “trying to find the right balance between engineering and music for me,” and playing rock, country, jazz, and blues … whatever he can find. He’s starting to think about another album, too.
I’ve been listening to This is the Thing! on and off since early May, when Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, tweeted out a link to it with this introduction: “Man, I cannot tell you how much better my day just got thanks to this EP.”
So I clicked, and the music saved me during a long day of copy editing. Vitullo composed in a a variety of jazz styles—the first track,”Cold Coffee,” is hard bop, and it’s followed by “Too Flat for Five” (modal), “Bossa Nueva” (Latin), “Minor Incident” (fusion), and “Plus Two Leslie” (ballad).
Vitullo had to turn in a written component, too, so you can click here to read a summary of the thesis and download a PDF. (All of the honors theses are open and available to the public; they’ve been online since 2010.) He discusses the artists who influenced his composition, his thoughts on American jazz and why today’s most popular albums were recorded decades ago, and a little bit about his process.
I figured the hardest part of the thesis would be, you know, actually composing the music. Turns out that while that wasn’t easy, Vitullo had a harder time actually getting the album recorded. He had to line up musicians and secure a studio and time to record—and that costs money. He eventually found musicians to play without pay, but of course that cut into practice time.
Vitullo noted in his thesis, “the sense of personal pride that these recordings and compositions instill in me is overwhelming. However, it would be interesting to hear the hypothetical recordings if a longer preparation and a larger budget were possible before the recording sessions occurred.”
I’m certainly no expert, but I think the album turned out great. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Penn State student journalists have had quite a year, learning on the fly as they’ve covered an ongoing scandal that has emerged as one of the biggest stories in the country—and maybe the biggest story ever in higher education. Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
On Thursday, college journalism scholar Dan Reimold, author of the College Media Matters blog, named The Daily Collegian its College Newspaper of the Year. Reimold praises the paper’s staff for “producing quality work and simply surviving a story that prior to fall semester’s start no one but Pennsylvania’s state attorney general could have imagined unfolding.” As a Collegian alum, I’ve closely followed the paper’s coverage (as well as that of Onward State, and of a number of students who freelanced for big-time papers during the scandal) over the past eight months. None of it has been perfect, but then neither has much of the work of the established pros who’ve dropped in to cover this story. Stumbles aside, the vast majority of Penn State student journalists have done impressive work throughout. It’s good to see others have noticed.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
On April 20, about 150 volunteers—including five faculty members and 15 students from the environmental studies and honors programs at Penn State Altoona—planted 3450 trees over five acres. These trees will help lessen the impact of strong winds for visitors at the Flight 93 National Memorial, parts of which are still under construction. Organizers plan to reforest the 120 surrounding acres with more than 150,000 donated saplings over the next six years.
The effort also had an educational component: Joe Pizarchik ’79, director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSMRE), spoke to the students about the challenges of minewater-drainage–-including the drainage problem Pizarchik helped resolve in 2003 to make way for the Memorial’s construction.
Check out this cool video of Pizarchik and the students in action.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
When news of the Sandusky scandal broke in November, student Matt Bodenschatz felt an immediate connection with the alleged victims. A survivor of sexual abuse himself, Bodenschatz knows the courage it takes to come forward — and wanted to thank the young men for their bravery.
“Even though they’re anonymous, they’re real people,” he says. “They need our compassion and support.”
This spring, with 12 fellow students, Bodenschatz conceived Voices for Victims, a project that allows supporters to send messages of thanks and comfort to Sandusky’s alleged victims. The letters will be delivered directly to the individuals through their lawyers to maintain anonymity.
“It’s a tangible sign that we’re thankful they came forward,” says Bodenschatz. “And despite all the other issues, we remember that they’re at the heart of this thing.”
Starting Monday, April 23, through Friday, April 27, messages for the alleged victims can be placed in designated dropboxes on campus and throughout downtown State College at the following locations:
—Student Bookstore, 330 E. College Avenue
—Campus Candy, 346 E. College Avenue
—McLanahan’s Downtown Market, 116 Allen Street
—Hintz Family Alumni Center
—Health Services building lobby
—Penn State Learning Lab, Room 7, Sparks building
Letters can also be mailed to:
Voices for Victims
1637-B N. Atherton Street
PO Box 181
State College, PA 16803
Or emailed to:
Mary Murphy, associate editor