We appreciate the continued commitment of the women’s rugby program to making us look smart. The Lions, who we featured on the cover of our May/June issue last year, traveled to California over the weekend and came back with their fifth straight national championship. Penn State knocked off BYU, 15-5, to extend one of the most impressive dynasties in college sports.
Led by coach Kate Daley ’09—who we profile during her All-American undergrad days way back in 2009—and an MVP performance from freshman Azniv Nalbandian, the Lions claimed the inaugural D1 Elite final, the title game of the new women’s college rugby playoff format. But there was nothing new about this for Penn State: It was not only the program’s fifth consecutive championship, but its 11th overall, the most of any team in the nation.
Ryan Jones, deputy editor
Did you know Penn State used to have a student-run farm? If you’re old enough, you might remember the student-farmed, off-campus plot—and the controversy when the university took control of it and it eventually shut down. Times have changed, and today, in a very different form (and right on the edge of campus), Penn State’s student farm is back.
Approved by the administration in January, the new student farm (and the Student Farm Club that runs it, under the umbrella of the university’s Sustainable Food Systems Program) recently broke ground on a plot, with plans to begin planting this summer. Looking to get the word out—and take advantage of a Blue White Weekend forecast that looks just about perfect—the club is hosting something of an open house this weekend: From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, visitors can tour greenhouses and take part in family-friendly interactive games, all just across Curtin Road from the Creamery. Check out their Facebook page for more info; should be plenty of time to squeeze in a visit before kickoff.
We’ll probably stop by, too: We’re planning an in-depth feature on the student farm and the changing face of agricultural education in a future issue. Keep an eye out.
Ryan Jones, deputy editor
Sitting quietly at his locker on Tuesday night, 90 minutes before tip-off, Tim Frazier was busy with one of the NBA’s most enduring pregame rituals: filling out envelopes.
Frazier was in Philadelphia with the rest of the New Orleans Pelicans for a mostly meaningless late-season games against the Sixers; “meaningless,” of course, being a relative term. Neither team will make the playoffs this season, so it didn’t mean much in the standings. But for Frazier ’13, ’14, a second-year player looking to establish himself as an NBA regular, every game—every possession, really—is a chance to prove himself worthy. For guys like Frazier, every game matters.
He didn’t seem to be feeling the pressure before the game, filling out envelopes for the comp tickets he was leaving for some friends. Times like these, Frazier looks like a seasoned vet, calmly handling one of the NBA’s more mundane tasks. His focus now is on showing that same sort of veteran composure and production on the court.
His story should be familiar to Penn State fans: Undrafted in 2014, he spent most of the 2014-15 season in the NBA’s developmental league, where he was nothing short of dominant, winning D-League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors. That effort earned him brief call-ups last season with the Sixers and Blazers, and it was Portland that signed him for the 2015-16 season. But the Blazers’ backcourt depth mostly relegated Frazier to the bench this season, and he went back to the D-League, nearly averaging a triple-double for the Maine Red Claws in eight D-League games.
Signed by the injury-ravaged Pelicans three weeks ago, he’s been better than good so far in New Orleans, posting a career-high 19 points and 13 assists last weekend in a win over Brooklyn. He was slated to start against the Sixers, the team that gave him his first, brief NBA opportunity. In the locker room pregame, seeing a familiar face from his days at Penn State—where he finished his career as the Nittany Lions’ all-time assist leader and one of the most complete players in program history—he’s happy to take a minute to look back, and to look ahead.
He says he keeps as close an eye on his alma mater as his schedule will allow, talking regularly with coach Patrick Chambers, who made the drive down to Philly for the game. He’s heard plenty about the Nittany Lions’ incoming recruiting class, potentially the best in program history, and a group loaded with Philly talent. He speaks regularly with teammates from his time in Portland; he and Damian Lillard, the Blazers’ star point guard with whom Frazier became particularly close, are in daily contact, and he says Lillard will watch his games and offer advice and critiques.
It’s suggested that the biggest difference in Frazier’s game this season is simple confidence. “So much,” he concurs, his eyes going big with acknowledgment. Unlike the rookie who was called up late last season and thrown into the NBA fire, he understands the importance of looking for his own shot. His on-court unselfishness worked against him at times last season, as he almost never looked for his own shot, even when left open. As he showed with that 19-point outburst last weekend, or his 10-point first quarter against the Sixers Tuesday night, it’s one of the many lessons Frazier has learned since.
He also had five assists in the first quarter Tuesday, and for all practical purposes he was the best player on the floor as the Pelicans built an eight-point lead. But they lost it when he went to the bench for a breather, and as the game went on, the Pelicans looked every bit like a team with its top six scorers out injured, fielding a roster of unfamiliar call-ups in their place. The Sixers ended up running away with the game, winning 107-93. Frazier’s stat line—12 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals—was probably the most impressive on the team.
His contract with New Orleans guarantees him a spot through the end of the regular season, now just a week away. Asked if he has a hunch about what happens next, Frazier is blunt: “July 1,” he says. That’s the date NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents. Until then, he’ll keep looking for chances to make his case.
Ryan Jones, deputy editor
It’s been a month since our March/April issue hit Alumni Association members’ mailboxes—plenty of time, in other words, for readers to share their opinions. Not surprisingly, we’ve heard from plenty of them: dozens of emails (quite a bit more than we usually get, certainly) and a handful of phone calls and handwritten letters, the tone of which has been pretty evenly split between those who are upset or angry about our cover story on the lives and experiences of Muslim students at Penn State, and those who are proud and supportive.
We will of course run many of those letters in our May/June issue, but I thought it was worth writing here to say a bit more about the students themselves. The roundtable conversation that led to the feature was pulled together with the help of May Ayad, a junior graphic design major and current president of the Muslim Students Association. Our curiosity had been sparked by the MSA’s “Free Pizza Friday” giveaways, and once we contacted Ayad, she was able round up a few of her classmates to join the conversation.
The pizza giveaway is just one outreach activity of the MSA, which was created to “unite the Muslim body and integrate with the State College community.” Ayad and Hamsa Fayed, a senior international politics major and the MSA’s events coordinator, were featured in February in a USA Today article on the MSA’s “Day in Her Hijab” event, which gave students from any religious or ethnic background the chance to experience what it’s like to wear the traditional Muslim head covering on an American college campus.
They’re not the only MSA members making news: Zico Khayat, a junior studying biological sciences, was recently featured on Voice of America news for his efforts to help found a Penn State chapter of Alpha Lambda Mu, considered the nation’s first Muslim fraternity. Zico made a point of wearing traditional formal garb in our photo shoot, but the State College townie told us he generally only does so on special occasions; when I ran into him last week at State College High School, where he was helping out with an elementary school volleyball tournament my son was playing in, he was wearing a T-shirt and basketball high-tops.
Then there’s Ramisa Fariha, one of just a handful of Bangladeshi students at Penn State, and probably one of the sharpest students on campus. A junior in the Schreyer Honors College studying biomedical engineering (which we mistakenly referred to as “biomechanical” in the feature—sorry about that, Ramisa), she started out at Penn State Behrend, where she was named the campus’s Outstanding First-Year Student in 2014. Finally, Khaled Enab is something of an outlier in this group: A grad student working toward his Ph.D. in energy and mineral engineering, Enab is married with two young children.
As a group, they don’t represent the entirety of Muslim experience on campus, let alone the United States. But with due respect to those readers who disagreed, we felt (and still do) that theirs was a perspective worth sharing. I hope their decency, intelligence, and thoughtfulness came through in the story. They’re proud to be Penn Staters, and I’m proud we’ve got that in common.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
On Saturday at the Penn Stater Hotel, seven teams of Penn State students gathered for the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. This year’s challenge: build a contraption that opens an umbrella in no fewer than 20 steps (and no more than 75). The results were colorful, creative, and—for the most part—pretty effective.
The winning team—for the second year in a row—was the Society of Engineering Science, whose successful runs, clever design, and ability to stay within the rules (“no live animals” among them) made them the favorite of both the judges and the 200 or so locals who crowded into the conference room to check things out. Seeing all that Penn State teamwork and ingenuity in one place was very cool indeed.
For a closer look at the winning SES machine and some of the competition, check out the gallery below.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
If you caught the opening of Saturday Night Live this weekend, you saw Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush (or, at least, the comedians playing them) trying to woo skeptical voters with renditions of the early ’90s hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” No matter which way you fall on the political spectrum, it was pretty funny stuff:
Of course, most folks watching probably didn’t realize the Penn State connection to a song both Rolling Stone and Mojo magazines rated among the best of all time: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was written by former Nittany Lion football All-American Mike Reid ’69. The Outland and Maxwell Trophy winner went on to a terrific but relatively brief NFL career before committing to music, where he’s built a quietly stellar career as a songwriter. (ESPN.com caught up with him last year.) And when he does play live, as he did in this clip captured in 2014, he gives his own take on the classic he wrote.
Reid has mostly worked under the radar over the years, but as that SNL sketch reminded us, his most famous song has some serious staying power. In addition to Raitt’s huge hit 25 years ago, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” has been covered by the likes of George Michael, Boyz II Men, and most recently, Adele.
Ryan Jones, senior editor