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. English professor Susan Merrill Squier, who has been teaching comics to grad students since 2011, co-edits the series with physician and artist Ian Williams. 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.
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.”
Squier and Green are also part of an international committee that organizes 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.”
In the Jan./Feb. issue, we asked readers to share memories of the mail they received in college. The feedback was many more letters than we were able to publish in “Sent With Love.” Here are just a few more memories (and mementos) about campus mail.
My wife and I are from Johnstown, Pa. We met and started dating in the summer of 1966. Upon returning my sophomore year, we started writing letters. We each wrote a letter every day until graduation. I graduated in December and we married in January. We still have a few of those letters and are happily together after 47 years.
David C. Long ’69
I received a letter from a girl I had met during the summer of 1964. The letter was addressed as follows: Larry Husbands Penn State. Somehow it found its way to my mailbox in the dormitory.
Lawrence N Husbands ’68
Look for a welcome pop of color inside your mailboxes soon: You won’t be able to miss the striking aracari named Beatrice gracing the cover of our Jan./Feb. issue. This toucan is just one of the magnificent models featured in “Critter Close-Ups.” Michael Faix, a wildlife photographer and staffer at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, shares his pictures and the stories behind them starting on p. 42.
In “Learning in the Dirt” (p. 24), Dana DiFilippo ’92 discovers the Penn State students who are managing their own working farm on campus. (It turns out that they’re learning as much about themselves as they are about growing food.) Also in the issue, we take a look at the profound legacy of the Craighead family, which includes two leading conservationists and a bestselling author, in “Three of a Kind.”
We also asked readers for memories of getting mail at college and received dozens of great responses. Whether it was a sweet surprise, like mom’s baked-from-scratch cookies, or a love letter in a long-distance relationship—we learned that, years after opening these envelopes and packages, they still remain some of your most special deliveries. Start reading the letters on p. 32.
More from the issue: a profile on Kaia, the adorable golden retriever puppy who is making her mark as a full-time employee at Hershey; a story about Nike CEO Mark Parker ’77; and a recap of the amazing season for the 2016 Nittany Lion football team.
What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Downey, senior editor
Few Penn Staters have ever hoisted the Stanley Cup. (Ryan Lichtenfels ’00, manager of hockey operations with the Anaheim Ducks, was one Nittany Lion to earn a championship ring when the Ducks won in 2007.)
But when it was time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to gather around the 2016 Stanley Cup and pose with their new hardware in June, there was one female pictured among the elite group of hockey players on the ice: Jen Bullano Ridgley ’03, the senior director of communications for the team, for whom this championship was twice as nice, as she was also with the Pens when they won the Cup back in 2009. “I kind of felt like I grew up with these guys—the Crosbys, the Letangs, the Fleurys,” Ridgley said.
In her role, Ridgley is the link between the press and the players, which includes the endless task of managing interviews for superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. She’s the only female to hold this kind of position in the NHL, but that’s a nonissue: “I never considered that it would be a harder road because I was girl. I just wanted to be a part of the Penguins organization,” she said. “But you do have to have tough skin.”
Media access and outlets have both changed since she joined the Pens as a graduate intern back in 2005. Thanks to today’s culture of round-the-clock coverage, there’s very little of the team that you don’t see.
“During the playoffs [this year], we were doing six interviews before the puck even dropped before games,” she said, “And, post-game, we had nine interviews before we even opened the locker room to the general media.”
Shortly after their final win in San Jose, Calif., Crosby texted Ridgley to tell her that he was planning to shave his playoff beard—and Showtime wanted to film it for a documentary.
When the team touched down with the Cup in Pittsburgh, the first thing Ridgley did was pick up her husband and their daughter, Harper, for a celebratory barbecue at Mario Lemieux’s house. The following months were packed with parades, public events, hometown tours, plus more interviews and photo shoots. With the new season officially underway, Ridgley looks back on what was a crazy—but memorable—summer: “It’s the shortest offseason, and the busiest offseason, but it’s the one you hope for.”
Amy Downey, senior editor
Keep an eye on your mailbox: Our November/December 2016 issue is being mailed out this week to members of the Alumni Association.
On the cover is an image of the iconic elms that decorate central campus. These stately trees along Henderson Mall are just one reminder of the beautiful landscape at University Park. Starting on page 24, “A Natural Beauty” takes a look—literally and figuratively—at some of the 16,000 trees that have defined our campus since 1855.
Also in this issue, deputy editor Ryan Jones writes about Patrick Chambers and his Nittany Lion basketball team. Now entering his sixth season, and with a pair of nationally ranked recruiting classes, his best season yet could be around the corner.
Editor Tina Hay went down to the Department of Homeland Security in D.C. in September to meet with a group of alumni who are tasked with a big job: keep America safe and secure online. Read the roundtable with them, “Watchers of the Web,” on page 34.
Plus, we celebrate the Penn Staters who medaled in the Olympic Games; we interview an elite opera singer who, at the age of 63, is also a student in the School of Music; and we look at the Mini-THONs that have popped up in dozens of middle and high schools.
Send us your thoughts about the new issue by commenting below or emailing us at email@example.com.
Amy Downey, senior editor
Alumni Association members should keep an eye out for our Sept./Oct. 2016 issue, which should be arriving any day. From the photo on the right, it looks like Sneezy the Penn State squirrel already has her paws on one. Sneezy is featured on the cover, along with student Mary Krupa, who is widely known as “The Squirrel Whisperer.”
Krupa, who is set to graduate this December, befriended Sneezy on the Old Main lawn as a freshman; since then, the pair have made headlines around the world for their adorable photos. But what people don’t know about their friendship is that it’s also empowered Krupa to tackle her Asperger’s at a critical time. Read about her incredible college journey starting on p. 28.
In “Kelly Ayotte Makes Her Case,” Ryan Jones profiles one of the most prominent female Republicans in the country. Learn about how Ayotte ’90 is more than ready to fight for her place in the party starting on p. 36. Also in the magazine is a feature on student group World in Conversation, the Penn State program that’s bridging ethnic, religious, and national divides—all through meaningful dialogue.
More from this issue: a documentary on legendary fly fisherman Joe Humphreys ’58, ’63g; a chat with the 2016-17 Penn State Laureate; fun photography with volleyball superstar Haleigh Washington; and a lesson on playing Pokémon Go around campuses.
Have some thoughts about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Downey, senior editor