Call for Stories: Your Most Memorable Penn State Classes

Last week, my son attended New Student Orientation at University Park. He spent the night in a dorm and came home super excited about the plethora of incredible classes he can choose from over the course of his four years at Penn State.

Here at The Penn Stater magazine, we are collecting stories from alumni about their most memorable classes, and we’d love to hear from you.

Was there an elective that changed your life and set you off on a completely different career path from the one you thought you’d be on? Were you inspired—or the opposite—by a particular professor? Or, maybe you met your future spouse in one of your classes. We want to know!

Please send your stories to: heypennstater@psu.edu or mail them to: The Penn Stater magazine, Hintz Family Alumni Center, University Park, PA 16802.

Deadline: July 1. No more than 250 words, please. We’ll publish the best tales in an upcoming issue.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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May 29, 2018 at 9:29 am Leave a comment

Inside Our May/June Issue

The Finals Countdown

Our May/June cover will no doubt rekindle some memories of Finals Week—when it sometimes felt like you’d never get out from under the pressures of studying. Others have different memories, whether it was because of scrambling to make it to the right room assignment or talking your way into a grade by visiting a professor’s office hours after the fact—or even because the week culminated with wedding bells following your last final—tales of finals week memories run the gamut. See how Penn Staters remember the experience in our collection of “Finals Week Memories,” starting on p. 54.

Also in this issue, you’ll meet Gillian Albinski ’93, an alum who knows a thing or two about surviving a zombie apocalypse. See how this Penn Stater helps prop up The Walking Dead and more of your favorite shows in “The End of the World as She Knows It” (p. 46). And see how a dozen university experts frame “The Immigration Debate:” from political and ethical angles to health care and higher education concerns (p. 45).

Plus see what lessons Penn State researchers are learning from a newly discovered coral reef in Colombia (p. 62), how wrestler Bo Nickal secured another NCAA championship for the Nittany Lions (p.26), and how a student is using art to overcome a disability—and gaining some national acclaim (p. 16).

It’s all in our May/June 2018 issue, arriving in mailboxes soon.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

April 26, 2018 at 4:22 pm 2 comments

A Fitting Community Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

One year before he was assassinated in Memphis, TN., Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. rented a house in Jamaica and penned a final manuscript entitled “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”
Last night at the Eisenhower Auditorium, on the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, the answer was clearly “community.”

In a glorious and moving tribute to King’s life and legacy, put together by music professor Anthony Leach ’82 MMus, ’96 PhD A&A and Russell Shelley ’97 DEd A&A, six choirs took the stage in turn to perform a number of much-loved songs. They included the iconic anthem “We Shall Overcome,” and Leach’s original arrangement of the beloved gospel “This Li’l Light of Mine,” for which the Penn State Glee Club (conducted by Christopher Kiver, director of choral activities); Essence of Joy and Essence 2 Ltd (both conducted by Leach); The State College High School Master Singers (conducted by Erik Clayton ’06 A&A, ’08 MU Ed); the State College Choral Society and the Juniata College Concert Choir (both conducted by Shelley) crowded together on the stage in a grand finale.

Leach—who was featured in our Sept./Oct. 2017 issue—expressed hope that the community spirit would continue here at Penn State and beyond. The much-loved choir director, who came to Penn State as a graduate student and founded Essence of Joy and Essence 2 Ltd.—will retire shortly.

On January 21, 1965, Dr. King addressed a crowd of 8,000 people at Rec Hall on the University Park campus. Those who were unable to get a ticket listened to his speech on Penn State’s first student radio station, WDFM, which broadcast it live.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old.  —Savita Iyer     MLK image

April 5, 2018 at 10:42 am 2 comments

Talking About a Functioning Democracy

A functioning democracy is a work in progress with many moving parts, one of the most important being vibrant debate and discussion.

That’s just what political science professor Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, and Jenna Spinelle, the Institute’s communications specialist, are hoping to encourage with a new podcast series entitled “Democracy Works”

The series—which will air weekly at https://www.democracyworkspodcast.com, and can also be found on Itunes, Google Play and Stitcher—will look at the many issues impacting democracy, and how they work together, through discussions with Penn State faculty, alumni, and guest speakers.

“There are so many overtly partisan podcasts out there—we saw a niche that we could fill by stepping back from the daily news cycle to look at the bigger issues in a democracy, and what different people are doing to make democracy work,” says Spinelle.

“We’re not coming at those issues from a partisan perspective or playing pundits,” Berkman says. “We’re just talking to people about the work they are doing, and putting that in a larger context so that we can all understand what a functioning democracy is.”

Berkman and Spinelle say they were greatly inspired by Pennsylvania’s iron and steel workers: “They came together to build something bigger and better. Similarly, each of us has a role to play in building and sustaining a healthy democracy,” Berkman says.

Upcoming podcast episodes include a conversation with Daniel Ziblatt, associate professor of government and social studies at Harvard, about his recent book How Democracies Die, and interviews with students at State College Area High School who attended the recent “March for Our Lives” event in Washington, D.C..

The Democracy Works Team invites anyone from the broader Penn State community who has an idea for an episode, or who would like to speak to any aspect of democracy, to contact them at democracyInst@psu.edu.

“We know that there are so many great Penn State alums doing interesting work that we don’t even know about, so we encourage people to come in,” Spinelle says. — Savita Iyer

 

Democracy Works Logo

 

April 3, 2018 at 3:04 pm 2 comments

When Truckers Fight Trafficking

The Freeman Project House on the south side of Columbus, Ohio, looks like any other house. Yet it is distinct from the other homes on the street because it’s been set up to serve as a refuge for female survivors of human trafficking, as a place to help them get a fresh start in life.

The home—which will welcome its first residents this summer—was founded by Barbara Freeman, a survivor of trafficking and a great source of inspiration for Pearl Gluck’s latest movie, The Turn Out.

The feature-length film—which has its world premiere tomorrow at the Columbus International Film & Animation Festival—sheds light on human trafficking at truck stops across the U.S., a huge and underreported problem. Gluck, an assistant professor of film and media studies in the Bellisario College of Communications, fears it could only get worse going forward.

“Wherever you have drugs and addiction, everywhere that young people aren’t being given educational opportunities and where they lack stable environments, and wherever there is prostitution, there is trafficking,” she says. “Predators are everywhere— they’re looking at everyone and at vulnerabilities from homelessness to lack of love. They’re watching what your kids put on Instagram.”

Behind the Scenes Turn Out

Pearl Gluck (center) with actors on the set of The Turn Out

The Turn Out is told from the point of view of a trucker whose active role in a domestic sex trafficking ring rises up to haunt him when he engages with an underage victim. More often than not, victims of trafficking are transported across the country on trucks, but many people are not aware of the fact that truckers are also important players in the fight against trafficking, Gluck says.

“We like to point our fingers at truckers— but they’re on the road, they really see what’s going on, and I wanted people to know that many truckers are actually every day heroes in the fight against trafficking,” she says. “The organization Truckers Against Trafficking trains truckers to observe what’s going on when they’re on the road, to ask someone they think might be a trafficking victim how old they are and whether they’re where they are of their own volition, and to generally report any activity they find suspicious.”

For The Turn Out, Gluck interviewed truckers, lawyers, police officers and many others who are working to end trafficking. She also spoke to multiple survivors, who shared their painful stories with her.

“The trafficking network in this country is vast and it encompasses everything from intricate, nationwide networks run by gangs, to smaller networks that start in the home,” she says.

According to Polaris, the leading organization working against global trafficking, reports of human trafficking increase every year here in the U.S. In 2016, over 8,000 cases were reported, most of which were sex-trafficking cases of underage girls and boys. The average age of a child tricked into prostitution and trafficked is 13.

Gluck hopes more states will take a cue from Ohio and the work done by State Representative Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), a strong voice in the fight against human trafficking for the past 15 years. Fedor is the architect of the 2014 End Demand Act that, among others, broadened Ohio’s definition of trafficking and increased the penalty of purchasing sex from a minor from a misdemeanor to a felony. She also hopes that more states will create CATCH Courts, which were started in 2009 by Judge Paul Herbert in Columbus as a way to provide victims of trafficking forced into prostitution with a path of rehabilitation, recovery, and support.

The Turn Out is set to premier this week. Gluck has also written and directed Summer, a short film about two teenage girls at a Hassidic Jewish sleep-a-way camp, which premiered earlier this year at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New York Jewish Film Festival; and Where is Joel Baum?, starring veteran actress Lynn Cohen. The movie won several awards, including best film at The Female Eye film festival.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

 

 

 

March 22, 2018 at 1:17 pm 3 comments

Strumming Circle


The “Club Hopping” feature in our March/April issue offers a brief glimpse inside the Penn State Ukulele Club. But a 75-word short didn’t seem to do it justice.

In this video, you see the club in action—well, in practice, which the club holds every Thursday night in 301 Boucke. It’s open to everyone—students, faculty, and staff—from seasoned pros to anyone who has never picked up the instrument . Just ask Micah Kress ’12, an IT administrator in the College of Science, who found a ukulele in the street one summer and then just so happened to poke his head into the classroom last winter upon hearing the gentle strumming sounds in the Boucke hallways. “I asked, ‘Hey, is this a club or a class?’” he recalls. “They said it’s a club, it meets this time every week; I said, ‘Alright, I’ll see ya next week. When I left I heard them all cheer, and someone said, ‘We got one!’”

It turned out to be a great decision, too. “They helped me push myself,” he says. “I probably wouldn’t have made as much progress if I hadn’t. I wish I had joined when I was an undergrad.”

The main draw of the club is the instrument itself: It’s easy to learn, and it’s fun to play. With just four string, the chords are simpler than a six-string guitar, and all the notes are of a higher pitch, which makes the sound gentler and more pleasant. After all, the instrument is probably most closely associated with a light island breeze on a Pacific Isle beach with a piña colada nearby.

When they’re not in the classroom, members of the club can sometimes be found just playing in a quad or vacant lawn space. But they also get gigs, like playing at THON and other campus events. “Basically, the core of it all is to just have fun, hang out, and play the ukulele,” says Nick Pugliesi, vice president of PSUkulele. “We do do a little bit of learning, like understanding the chords, but we mostly just want to have fun.” (You’ll see Pugliesi at the lectern in the video above.)

The club, founded in 2014, currently boasts about 30 members, most of whom happened across the club via word of mouth or at the annual Student Involvement Fair. Carly Danielson, a junior from Pittsburgh, sought out the club after having picked up the instrument the summer before coming to school. “I always thought they were a really interesting instrument,” she says. “I love music, but I can’t really play anything that well. I wanted to pick up something and ukulele just seemed like a really good thing.”

That feeling of happiness inspired by the ukulele is another big draw. “It feels happy when you play it,” says Madison Schrenk, a freshman majoring in secondary education. “Different instruments evoke really different feelings, and the strings of the ukulele—it’s lighter and bouncier than a lot of things.”

“I’d say the ukulele is the instrument of peace,” Pugliesi adds. “It’s really soft and just relaxing. And it does boost morale. “It brightens up my mood. When I’m stressed out, I just take a step back and ukulele is what I play.”

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

March 21, 2018 at 2:40 pm Leave a comment

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