Author Archive

Intern By Week, THON Dancer By Weekend

KendallFor 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

February 17, 2017 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

A Bear-y Scary Encounter for the Craighead Brothers

craigheads bears

Photo via The Craighead Institute

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

February 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

Chris Hogan’s Journey From Penn State Lacrosse to Super Bowl LI

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

January 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm Leave a comment

Flying High in Pasadena

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Prior to Penn State taking on USC in the Rose Bowl, a B-2 bomber flew over the stadium while the Blue Band played the National Anthem. The common thread: the man piloting the bomber was a Penn Stater.

The pilot—who asked that we not share his name for security reasons—attended Penn State for two years before deciding to join the Air Force. He comes from a family of Nittany Lions, and when describing the experience of the flyover, called it “a true honor and a dream come true.”

Several pictures were taken by the boom operator who refueled the plane, and as you can see in the photos above, the pilot made sure his alma mater was represented during his flight. You can watch a clip of both the Blue Band’s performance and the flyover below.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

January 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm Leave a comment

The Innovative Nicole Medvitz

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

You wouldn’t know by looking at her or hearing her speak in her soft voice, but Nicole Medvitz lives dangerously.

Well, maybe she doesn’t live dangerously, but when she’s on the balance beam, Medvitz pulls off a move so risky that it’s only performed by one other person on Earth.

It’s her move – it’s literally called the Medvitz-Jarred (you can find it at the 46-second mark of this video) – and the senior Penn State gymnast has been doing it since her sophomore year of high school.

“So I did the base of the move before the actual move,” Medvitz said. “It’s pretty much a turn with one leg in the air. I did it with my beam coach, Jen Zappa, who I’ve worked with my entire life before I came here. And she was like ‘Why don’t you just try it to a scale?’ and we looked and it hadn’t been done before. So I tried it and it worked out and then started competing it.”

What makes this so difficult is that doing a move like this on the beam gives her no margin of error. In fact, Medvitz said it’s rated at the highest degree of difficulty. This kind of expertise on the beam has made her one of the top gymnasts in the conference – Medvitz was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016.

Her success, especially on the beam, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. From 2009-13, Medvitz was a Level 10 gymnast, a classification in which the top meet is the Junior Olympics. The only level above this is Elite – the top meets for that one are World Championships and the Olympics.

She was a three-time Junior Olympic national champion on the beam. She racked up wins over U.S. Olympians like 2012 alternate Elizabeth Price and Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal at the 2012 Games in the all-around.

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

And yet when the opportunity to move up and potentially become an Elite gymnast came about, Medvitz declined.

Instead, she thought it was important to focus on things like her education. Becoming an Elite gymnast requires a strict dedication to the sport, something that Medvitz knew about and decided wasn’t for her – she cited the fact that this level of gymnastics usually requires being homeschooled.

Medvitz was, however, competing at a college level for years. Level 10 is essentially the same level of competition as college gymnastics, although there are some differences.

“Three times a week we come in at 6 a.m., I never did that in club,” Medvitz said about her collegiate training regimen. “So we’ll come back later at 1:30 and practice the rest of the events. Club we did a lot more drills and stuff because we were still learning new skills, but here it’s a lot of perfecting the skills that we already have because we don’t really need to learn too much more.”

In addition to being technically sound, Medvitz is one of the toughest athletes on Penn State’s campus. For proof, look no further than her freshman year, when she suffered a torn labrum in her shoulder. Instead of getting surgery, Medvitz decided to compete in two events: balance beam and uneven bars. She competed in every meet, all the way through NCAA Championships.

That summer, she got the surgery she needed. Medvitz did only beam as a sophomore while working her way back before feeling like she was “fully better” as a junior. Now a senior, Medvitz feels all the rust that may have built up while getting to full health is gone. With this comes the optimism that she can compete in more events during her senior year. Medvitz hopes to try her hand at the vault and the floor exercise (which she admits are not her strongest events).

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

When she’s not on the beam, Medvitz is a standout in the classroom, as she was an Academic All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore and a junior and earned the title of Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year.

She is a management major who wants to combine her love of sports and entertainment after she graduates, and this past summer, Medvitz was a global sales intern for Nike, where she worked with the organization’s integrated marketplace team. Medvitz is also the secretary and oversees the communications and media committee for Penn State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board.

Penn State women’s gymnastics team begins its 2017 campaign – one which Medvitz hopes will end with a conference championship – on Jan. 7.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 28, 2016 at 4:26 pm 1 comment

Renee Frohnert Squats Wayne Brady and Makes a Deal

Photo via Renee Frohnert

Photo via Renee Frohnert

It’s safe to say that Renee Frohnert will never forget her appearance on Let’s Make a Deal. Frohnert ’16, who graduated last week and was a member of the Penn State weightlifting team, went on the show and squatted its host, Wayne Brady.

Frohnert wore her weightlifting singlet, which fascinated Brady. So he did what anyone would do: asked how much she could lift. Once he found out that Frohnert squatted 325 pounds at nationals, he asked if she would squat him. Frohnert did it fairly easily before going on to play a game.

Fortunately, video of the entire segment is online. It starts at the 13:20 mark, and we recommend watching it as soon as possible. We won’t give away what Frohnert won, but seeing as how she just bought a home, she definitely made a wise decision.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 21, 2016 at 11:56 am 1 comment

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