For our latest issue, we sat in on Michael Green’s class at Penn State Hershey that teaches medical students about the power of comics. But it’s not the only initiative in which Penn State is using graphic narratives to help raise understanding and empathy around difficult health issues.
Although a handful of universities like Rutgers and Ohio State have published books about the comic culture and cartoonists, the Penn State Press has dedicated an entire series to the graphic medicine genre. The first book, published in 2015, was Graphic Medicine Manifesto, a volume of scholarly essays and visual narratives that is as much an intro to “comics in medicine” as a declaration for its place in this world. (Among the co-authors of the book are Green and English professor Susan Merrill Squier.)
In just under two years, Penn State Press has published at least seven other graphic memoirs, on subjects from caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s (Aliceheimer’s) to parenting a daughter with Down Syndrome (Hole in the Heart). One book getting a lot of press right now is My Degeneration by Alaskan cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl about his daily struggle with Parkinson’s. Says Publishers Weekly: “The narrative covers the fear and determination that make up [his] daily life, from the terror of suddenly unable to walk to the triumph of still being able to dress himself.”
People are reading—and sending pitches—from around the world. Squier recalls how one customer bought Graphic Medicine Manifesto for a brother with incurable throat and jaw cancer: “[His brother] had basically all the treatment he could have, but was now just trying to find a way to live with the situation. And he was blown away by the possibility to express what he was really feeling and not able to get out yet.”
In addition to teaching their classes and editing these books, Squier and Green organize an annual global conference on graphic medicine. Says Green: “We’ve brought together communities of artists and scholars and physicians and teachers and patients, all around this common interest in comics in medicine.”
Got a case of the winter blahs? Blue-White weekend can’t get here fast enough? Our latest issue might just have the cure for what ails you: Saquon Barkley coming right off the cover! Our March/April 2017 issue features a look back at an incredible season of Nittany Lion football highlighted by comebacks, big plays, and big players—like Barkley—who took fans on a wild ride to the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. The photo spread begins on p. 26.
The new issue, arriving in mailboxes soon, also features comics, but it’s probably not what you think. In “Truth Between the Lines” (p. 37), we take you into the classroom at Penn State Hershey, where fourth-year med students reflect on the experience of becoming a doctor through an unusual practice—writing and drawing their own graphic narratives. You’ll find some of their work on our pages, too.
And you’ll get a glimpse into the life of Gary Eberle ’67, who turned a passion for wine into his life’s work, only to have his thriving California winery snatched away—before ultimately getting it back. “The Boar Endures” (p. 44) is a story of perseverance and the importance of savoring success.
More from the issue: a profile on Alex Patin, a Penn State junior who has developed a set of headphones that can read brainwaves to create playlists that match your mood; and John Hanrahan ’91, an All-American wrestler during the 1980s who’s still at it today—and recently won a world championship.
What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at email@example.com.
B.J. Reyes, associate editor
For 15 hours every week, I am a Penn State student who is reluctantly wrapping up my senior year majoring in public relations, looking for ways to sneak in an extra semester without my parents noticing.
For 13 hours every week, I am an intern with the Penn State Alumni Association’s strategic communications team, where I help create content for AlumnInsider and the association’s social media accounts.
And for 46 hours during THON Weekend 2017, I’ll represent my THON organization, FOTO, on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center.
When I think about why I want to dance, I realize there is no one answer—but that really, I owe a lot to THON. It has changed not only how I see the world, but also how I see my role within it, and that is because of the children and families who have shared their stories and their lives with me. My aspiration to do work that betters the lives of children has, through my time with THON, transformed into a desire, into a need, into a promise I’ve made with myself.
Standing for 46 hours is a really, really long time—my dad still doesn’t understand how it is “a thing,” he says—but it’s something I feel I can give back. And even when my feet start hurting, and I’m so delirious that I start imagining I’m having conversations with band members from One Direction, I’ll stand strong, because that is what these kids have taught me.
I expect my 46 hours dancing in THON to reflect my four years with FOTO. There will be lots of laughs and some tears. There will be hard work, random food cravings at random times, and an overwhelming supply of support and love. And most importantly, there will be kids who, for an entire weekend, have the opportunity to just be kids.
Kendall Brodie, strategic communications intern
Alia Gant, a diversity resident librarian with the Penn State Libraries, had never shared her story in public. Being a lifelong, plus-size woman in a society obsessed with thinness is tough, to say the least, and the experiences—many of them hurtful—Gant has endured over the years are not easy to recount.
But Gant was inspired to come forward and share her story Wednesday as a “human book” at Pattee and Paterno Library. She was one of a number of people who took part in Penn State’s first Human Library project, a global initiative that originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, and uses dialogue and human interaction to counter stereotypes and preconceived notions that people have about others.
Typically, readers will “check out” a Human Library “book” for a one-on-one “read.” But Megan Gilpin, outreach coordinator for Library Learning Services, who spearheaded the effort at Penn State, felt that small, 45-minute storytelling sessions with no more than 10 people attending at a time, would be more conducive to encouraging the free flow of words, thoughts, and experiences between storytellers and their audiences.
That format appealed to Gant and encouraged her to participate in the project. “I really liked the setting—it was intimate in a way that allowed people to trust each other with their experiences in a safe space,” she said.
Allison Subasic ’09g, former director of Penn State’s LGBTQA Resource Center, felt the same way. “I’m a shy person,” said Subasic, who spoke candidly to a small group about her difficult childhood, her family, and being dyslexic. “This was good for me.”
Even experienced storytellers like Brian Davis (above), an undergrad majoring in African-American studies, criminology, and sociology who has spoken before large gatherings and given TED talks on his former life as a gang member in Philadelphia, favor the Human Book format. “I feel like I’m able to breathe and tell my story more intimately,” Davis said. “We all have certain prejudices, no matter what we think, but by sharing stories and listening to stories, I believe those prejudices do dissipate.”
Gilpin first heard about the Human Library project at a librarian’s conference last May and thought it would be perfect for Penn State. The event, part of the All In campaign launched last October to promote and commit to diversity and inclusion, featured 14 storytellers sharing often difficult-to-tell stories on race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, among others.
“We wanted people to hear someone else’s stories and recognize that others have had barriers,” Gilpin said. “We wanted stories to be told in settings where people could ask questions, where everyone is reciprocal and everyone can learn something new about someone else.”
The Human Library concept has spread to more than 70 countries since its inception in 2000. Gilpin hopes it will be repeated at Penn State on a regular basis.
Savita Iyer, senior editor
Our Jan./Feb. 2017 issue features a story on the Craighead siblings, a trio of Penn Staters whose lives’ work stemmed from a dedication to nature. One project of the two Craighead brothers—Frank ’39 and John ’39—was a 12-year study of grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park. According to the official Craighead Institute website, the duo “developed field techniques to attach the collars and track the movements of the bears.”
During one encounter, the mix of drugs they used to sedate the bear wore off before they could collect all of their data, which led to an especially scary run-in with the animal. There is video of the incident, which you can watch here. It illustrates both the dangers of their research and how close they got to the animals they studied.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
There’s only one Penn Stater left in the 2017 NFL Playoffs, and he never took a snap for the Nittany Lions on the gridiron. Chris Hogan ’10, who totaled nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s 36-17 win over Pittsburgh, played lacrosse for four years in Happy Valley.
An all-conference selection, Hogan scored 57 goals for the Nittany Lions, a run that former Penn State coach Glenn Thiel described as “dominant” when discussing him last year. While he played football in high school, Hogan never suited up for Penn State.
Due to an injury suffered during his sophomore year, Hogan had one year of athletic eligibility remaining after he graduated from Penn State. He wanted to try football, and ended up at Monmouth University in his home state of New Jersey. A two-way player, Hogan accrued 12 catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns as a wide receiver and 28 tackles with three interceptions as a defensive back.
Undrafted in 2011, he bounced around for two seasons, earning stints with the 49ers, Giants, and Dolphins. He was signed to the Bills’ practice squad late in 2012, promoted to the team’s active roster a month later, and spent the next three years playing in every game for Buffalo.
This past offseason, Hogan—aka “7-Eleven,” a nickname he earned in Miami because “he’s always open“—joined the Patriots. He set a career high in receiving yards (680) and starts (14) this year, while also bringing in 38 receptions and four touchdowns.
Hogan broke out in a huge way during Sunday’s conference title game. His 180 receiving yards were a career best and the most in the team’s postseason history. The two touchdowns and nine receptions were also career highs.
During his time with the Bills, Hogan said, “I still feel I have hurdles to clear and ways for me to become a really good slot receiver.” He proved that he is indeed a really good slot receiver on Sunday night, and now, he’s going to play in the Super Bowl. Not bad for a former lacrosse player.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor