Posts filed under ‘Undergraduate education’
Where’s the only place at Penn State you can study for finals and snag free refills of sweet iced tea?
McDonald’s—an unlikely study spot, for sure. On the Sunday afternoon before spring finals week, I took a quick walking tour of campus to check out where students were studying. Some of the locations are obvious—all rooms in the library were packed, as was the HUB—but others might surprise you.
My favorite was the three students, studying for a biology exam, who picked the basement of Mickie D’s (which has free WiFi, by the way). They said they actually go there a lot.
Two students, who said they walked around the library and it was simply too packed, ended up in an empty room on the first floor of Willard. Panera and Irvings were also popular, as students filled up on coffee and carbs. It was a nice day—probably the first one all week—so I found a few students laying out picnic blankets outside Old Main. What surprised me the most was that Alumni Hall, on the bottom floor of the HUB-Robeson Center, was wide open with rows of long tables and chairs for students to stop by and study at as they please.
Check out the slideshow below, and comment: Where was your favorite place to study at Penn State?
-Emily Kaplan, intern
Six months after the Sandusky scandal broke, there are still questions. Lots of them. And, as Penn State president Rodney Erickson told Alumni Council, “There may be some questions we’ll never have answers for.”
That said, Erickson and Karen Peetz, chair of the Board of Trustees, answered as many as they could Friday afternoon from members of Alumni Council. They touched on everything from the relationship between the trustees and the president (something they agreed is not well enough understood) to what Peetz called “the super-positive of the enduring spirit of Penn Staters.” And they fielded several questions about Joe Paterno, including one that’s been asked at just about every opportunity: When and how will Penn State honor its late football coach?
Peetz said, as she has previously, that Penn State must wait until the Freeh report, more formally known as the findings of the trustees’ special investigations task force, before moving forward on plans to honor Paterno. She called the upcoming report “the ultimate in transparency.”
Former FBI director Louis Freeh was hired by the trustees just weeks after the scandal and charged with looking into all of the issues surrounding the scandal since. His findings—which Peetz said will not be edited by the board—are expected in August or September.
The task force does not have subpoena power. But Peetz said she spoke with Freeh’s investigators for three hours, that more than 200 people have been interviewed, and that Freeh is working with the state attorney general. “These people are not kidding around,” she said. “This is the FBI incarnate, and I don’t think anyone’s lying, I’ll tell you that.” (more…)
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
From our intern, Emily Kaplan:
Over the weekend, a friend of mine tweeted: Boy, what I would do to sit in on a journalism ethics class at Penn State this week.
I am fortunate to be enrolled in that course this semester—COMM 409: News Media Ethics, a section taught by Malcolm Moran, a veteran journalist and head of Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.
My friend was right—Tuesday’s lesson was never more relevant. When I walked in, I had pretty good feeling we wouldn’t be discussing the assigned reading on the syllabus. Not after a weekend where dubious reporting and social media gone wild resulted in an announcement that the most recognizable face of this university had died—when in fact, he was still alive.
“There’s nothing more important to be right about than if an important figure is alive or not,” Moran said. “Nothing.”
So who better to be a guest lecturer than Mark Viera ’09? He’s the New York Times reporter who dispelled reports that Joe Paterno had passed away Saturday night by simply asking a family spokesman whether the rumors were true.
The class had a meta feel. Moran asked Viera what lessons from the course he has applied to his reporting—and what lessons couldn’t be taught in the classroom. Moran also pointed out the seat that Viera occupied just a few semesters ago. The girl sitting there now has some big shoes to fill. Viera, 24, has been one of the Times’ lead journalists in Penn State coverage over the past two months because of his familiarity with the school and dogged reporting.
But Tuesday, he stood in front of about 50 of us. Everyone seemed attentive as he spoke. I don’t know whether it was respect for Moran, respect for Viera or simply respect for the subject matter, but I didn’t see one person texting under their desk or day dreaming blankly at the wall. (more…)
Class started with a moment of silence. Someone dimmed the lights, and the standing-room only crowd—700-plus strong—in 100 Thomas Building for Sam Richards’ SOC 119 class paid tribute to victims of sexual abuse. And not only the alleged victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“We want to honor what they’ve been through and how they are a part of this and how they have been forgotten,” said sociologist Laurie Mulvey ’94g, Richards’ wife, who teaches the class with him. “And we also want to recognize the people in this room who are victims. There are plenty of you in here.”
So began another afternoon in the classroom of one of Penn State’s more outspoken faculty members. The title of the course is Race and Ethnic Relations, but that’s just a jumping off point sometimes. Richards had tweeted the day before that he couldn’t see sticking to the syllabus during such a momentous week on campus.
“We really thought a lot about whether we were going to do this class,” Richards said Thursday afternoon, introducing the discussion. “We decided the value of speaking today was greater than the value of staying silent.”
Added Mulvey, “We want to let you know from the outset that we are definitely not here to give answers. At best, we’re here to give you guidance about how to walk through this difficult moment and think through this difficult moment. “
Richards started by asking the students to complete this sentence: “I feel …”
Here’s a list of the answers:
I had a chance yesterday to stop by the Playhouse Theatre on campus to meet some of the MFA acting students who will be appearing in The Beaux’ Stratagem later this month, and to hear the director, Di Trevis, talk a bit about the play. (And to shoot a few advance photos, as shown here.)
The Beaux’ Stratagem is kind of the 18th-century version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels—it’s a comedy focusing on two con men trying to swindle young heiresses in the British town of Lichfield. One of the two ends up falling in love with one of the women, which was not supposed to be part of the plan, and things get comically complicated from there.
The actors and actresses are all Penn State undergrad and grad students, and I was surprised to hear that Penn State students in the costume design program created all of the costumes as well. William Schroder, who teaches both costume design and scenic design at Penn State, oversaw the costume design.
And director Di Trevis is a big deal—she’s an English theatre director with a pretty impressive pedigree. She’s been on campus since the beginning of the semester, working with the cast and crew to get the production ready.
The play is what’s called a “restoration comedy,” which as I understand it is a production from the late 1600s (the Restoration period in England) that has a little fun with the social mores of the time. So I get the sense that we’re in for a pretty bawdy, entertaining evening when the show opens on Feb. 24.
I’m looking forward to attending a dress rehearsal or two in the days leading up to opening night—I love shooting photos of theatre, especially with cool period costumes like these—so I’ll be posting some more images in a week or so.
Tina Hay, editor
I don’t know much about this photo, which our graphic designer, Jessie Knuth, found in the University’s archives the other day. I can make an educated guess, though, that this woman got an A in bowling. Look at that focus!
We’re collecting our readers’ stories about gym class for an upcoming magazine article, and while it’s probably too much to hope for that the woman in this photo (circa 1943) will see this and write in with a story, I hope she will. I love long shots, and there’s got to be a story there!
We want your stories, too. Condense your phys-ed class memories to no more than 300 words and e-mail them to us at email@example.com, fax them to 814-863-5690, or snail-mail them to The Penn Stater magazine, Hintz Family Alumni Center, University Park, PA 16802. We need them by Jan. 24.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
One of the stories we’ve been working on for the January-February issue is a photo essay featuring some gorgeous underwater images shot by a Penn State faculty member and administrator. Jeremy Cohen is an associate VP for undergraduate education and a professor of media studies in the College of Communications—and from the time he was a teenager, his avocation has been scuba diving and underwater photography.
This story came about in an interesting way. Bill Mahon ’94g, VP for university relations, one day happened to notice a bunch of framed underwater photos lining the walls of Jeremy’s office in Old Main. He asked Jeremy about them, one thing led to another, and Bill ended up deciding to have about 10 of them posted to the Penn State Facebook page. I happened to see them on Facebook and immediately sent the link to our art director, saying, “Let’s do a photo essay on these!”
Jeremy graciously shared a bunch of his images with us and spent a lot of time talking to me about the stories behind them, about the state of the world’s coral reefs, and about fellow Penn State faculty and students who share his interest in the oceans. It turns out that (more…)
I know this past weekend was Homecoming and all, but I spent most of it thinking about birds. I mean, I watched the football game like everyone else, but … well, let’s not talk about that.
On both Friday morning and Sunday morning, I got up extra early and headed out to the edge of the Arboretum at Penn State to meet up with grad student Emily Thomas ’07a, ’09 and a small group of undergrads—all of them from the wildlife and fisheries science program—to watch them band birds.
I had seen a bird-banding operation once before, on a trip to Alaska, but that was a brief encounter. I thought it would be fun to hang out for a longer time, see a lot of different birds, and take a lot photos. And I was right: It was quite cool.
The way bird banding works is this: The volunteers stretch big “mist nets” (sort of like badminton nets, only much taller and longer) in various sites, then wait for birds to accidentally fly into them (more…)
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a nice article today about Natural Fusion’s dedication as a conference center for Bayer MaterialScience in Robinson Township, Pa. Natural Fusion is the house that Penn State students built for the Solar Decathlon last fall; we blogged yesterday about the house getting a permanent home at Bayer’s corporate campus just outside Pittsburgh.
The building serves as an example of energy-efficient design, and in keeping with that theme, instead of the traditional ribbon cutting, the company celebrated its new conference center by planting a tree.
Amy Guyer, associate editor