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Big Macs and Bio

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

-Emily Kaplan, intern

April 30, 2012 at 11:04 am 1 comment

Yes, That was a Mule on the HUB Lawn

A constant flow of visitors peering from the Bell Tower, tug-of-war outside Old Main, and a mule grazing the grass of the HUB lawn.

It was a unique day at Penn State, indeed.

Wednesday was the annual Old Main Open House, a day to celebrate Penn State’s history. The event — which also featured free food, arts and crafts and guided tours of Old Main — was hosted by the Lion Ambassadors. When I stopped by at 3 p.m., there were about 75 visitors mulling around the area, taking in the partly sunny April afternoon.

As visitors waited for their guided tours — highlighted by a trip up to the Bell Tower for a scenic view of campus and downtown — they munched on free popcorn and frozen ices.

At 4, President Rodney Erickson opened his doors for a one-hour office hour session. Students could stop by to talk about anything — or just get to know the president.

Visitors also participated in tug-of-war, cider scrap, and push ball scrap — better known as scrap games. It’s OK if you don’t know what scrap game are. I needed a brush up on the term, as well. Between 1885-1916, freshmen and sophomores would duke it out for bragging rights in a series of competitive games. Among the visitors who seemed to enjoy the revival of the competitions was the Nittany Lion, who apparently participated in a few games of tug-of-war before I arrived.

This year’s Open House featured some new surprises — notably Boomer, the soon-to-be 6-year-old mini mule who hung out by the HUB and was impersonating Old Coaly, Penn State’s first mascot. She and her handler made the 3-hour, 45-minute drive from Butler County the morning of the event.

After I said hello to “Old Coaly,” a tour group walked by. What appeared to be the younger sibling of a prospective student turned to his father and asked, “Do they always have a mule hanging around here?”

Emily Kaplan, intern

April 20, 2012 at 10:58 am 1 comment

Public Pride

Students filing out of class early Wednesday afternoon were surprised by what they saw when they passed Old Main: An arc of rainbow balloons spreading across the steps. And a colorful celebration.

Pride Week, an annual event that promotes acceptance and support for the university’s LGBTQA community, is in full swing at Penn State. The week includes a plethora of events, from a intensive three-day workshop focusing on identity to a concert at Chumley’s benefitting the AIDS Project of State College to a drag show on Friday night at the HUB. At Wednesday’s rally, which lasted about an hour, a handful of spectators donned red t-shirts that read, “40 years and still queer, 40 years and still here.” The logo is Pride Week’s theme this year, celebrating the history and strides of LGBTQA organizations at Penn State.

Several speakers—from active leaders in Penn State’s LGBTQA community to the president of the State College High Gay Straight Alliance—stepped up to the makeshift stage in the middle of campus. They told stories of friends who came out, discussed what the LGBTQA community meant to them, and shared personal experiences. Perhaps the loudest applause came when the vice president of the Penn State chapter of Delta Lamdba Phi, a national fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, pointed to his father in the crowd. “He was the person I was most terrified to come out to,” he said. “And now he’s my biggest supporter.”

As the crowd of about 75 people erupted in applause, two female students sporting backpacks strolled by. “Wow,” one student said to her friend. “That’s really cool he could share that in front of all these people in the middle of campus. Really cool.”

Emily Kaplan, intern

March 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

Gen Ed Classes: A Lot of Learning, A Little Bit of Fun

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

March 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

The Lady Lions Punch Their Dance Card

Coquese Washington could barely sit still.

The Lady Lion head coach—along with her team and about 75 fans and friends—sat patiently in the Bryce Jordan Center’s Founder’s Room on Monday evening, eyes glued to several televisions airing the NCAA women’s tournament selection show. But Washington, recently named Big Ten Coach of the Year, couldn’t contain her nerves. Just five minutes into the show, the coach got up to fetch a glass of water. About five minutes later, Washington got up again.

“I can’t take this,” she said to an assistant coach with a laugh.

Finally, as the ESPN analysts unveiled the Kingston, R.I., region of the bracket, Washington could breathe a sigh of relief. The Lady Lions are going dancing. Here’s video of the team’s reaction, including a quick interview with junior point guard Alex Bentley:

Penn State earned a No. 4 seed and will open against No. 13 UTEP Sunday night in Baton Rouge. The Lady Lions’ region is stacked, featuring No. 1 seed UConn—which has won six NCAA titles in the last  12 years—and a potential second-round matchup with No. 5 LSU in the Tigers’ backyard. The Lady Lions don’t seem fazed. Everyone seemed to share the same sentiment: Excitement for what’s to come.

“One of the most fun parts of being a college basketball player is Selection Monday,” Washington said. “And seeing your name come across that screen, it doesn’t matter who you play, where you play, you’re in and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

Emily Kaplan, intern

March 13, 2012 at 11:26 am Leave a comment

The Return of State Patty’s Day

All you need to know about State Patty’s Day can be found at Peoples Nation, the pricy T-shirt shop on College Avenue. The front third of the store features items custom made for the student-organized holiday: Green necklaces with shot glass pendants, green and white feather boas, green sequined oversized leprechaun hats, and shirts with slogans such as “Sorry I’m Not Sorry: State Patty’s Day 2012.”

On Tuesday morning when I stopped by, two female students were waiting as the cashier rang up 20 green pinnies. The total? $290.40.

“They’re for my friends from out of town,” the girl said to her friend as she reached for her credit card. “I’m so excited they’re going to come up. This is going to be the best State Patty’s ever.”

With the context of everything that has occurred at Penn State since November, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this really time for the best State Patty’s Day ever? Beginning Friday, thousands of Penn State students—and thousands of visitors—will descend upon the streets, bars, and apartments of State College to, well, party. “It’s just a giant drinking holiday, not much more,” junior Brittany Smith said. “It’s just an excuse to drink all day long.”

The holiday has grown immensely since its inception in 2007. Last year, State College Police made a record 234 criminal arrests—up from 160 in 2010—and fielded a record 480 calls. Close to 11,000 people have joined a Facebook group titled “Official Facebook Page: State Patty’s Day 2012.” With that kind of momentum, State Patty’s Day 2012 is slated to be bigger than ever—right?


The image of Penn State students has been scrutinized (more…)

February 23, 2012 at 11:24 am 5 comments

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