Posts filed under ‘Students’

Headshots—of Birds

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I’ve long been a fan of the bird-banding program offered by the Arboretum at Penn State. (I’ve written about it here, here, and here.) Under the direction of volunteer Nick Kerlin ’71, who has both a state and federal license to do this sort of thing, students put up “mist nets” to catch wild birds, then fit each bird with a tiny metal ID band. They record data on the bird’s weight, age, sex, etc., and then set it free.

Nick sends the data to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory in Patuxent, Md., where scientists can use the information to monitor the health and migration patterns of bird populations.

I like the research aspect of bird-banding, of course, but I also like how it offers Penn State wildlife science students—and anyone else who’s interested in stopping by—a chance to learn about birds in a very up-close way. It’s also a great chance to photograph the birds. This morning I took a macro lens along, to try some close-up portraits, and I thought I’d share a few of the images I got. Above is a female cardinal, and below is a more extreme close-up of the same image:

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The group this morning also banded several white-throated sparrows, a handsome bird that, around here, shows up in the fall and stays until spring. Here’s one:

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And here’s a tufted titmouse. Note the leg band he’s just acquired:

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There are two more banding sessions remaining in the fall season; you can see more information about them here.

Tina Hay, editor

October 19, 2016 at 1:12 pm Leave a comment

Penn State’s ‘Titanic’ an Engrossing Tale

SHIP'S CREW: From left, musical theatre major Benjamin Nissen as Second Officer Lightoller, School of Theatre faculty member Ted Christopher as Captain Smith, and musical theatre student Khaleel Mandel as First Officer Murdoch.

From left, musical theatre major Benjamin Nissen as Second Officer Lightoller, School of Theatre faculty member Ted Christopher as Captain Smith, and musical theatre student Khaleel Mandel as First Officer Murdoch.

A Broadway musical may seem like an odd way to tell a tragic tale, but author and composer Maury Yeston pulled it off with Titanic, which debuted at New York’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in early 1997. The play went on to win five Tony Awards, enjoyed modest success before closing two years later, and lives on today in regional theatre.

(The play is no relation to the James Cameron movie of the same name, which came out in December of 1997.)

In the Penn State Centre Stage production of Reston’s musical, which opened last night in the Pavilion Theatre, theatre students and faculty bring to life the complicated characters involved in the 1912 disaster—from the ship’s proud owner (Bruce Ismay, played by Steve Snyder) and designer (Thomas Andrews, played by Richard Roland), both of whom are on board for the maiden voyage, to the snooty first-class passengers, to the wannabes in second class, to the emigrants in third class sailing toward a better life in America.

Richard Roland as the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews.

The Titanic‘s designer, Thomas Andrews (played by Richard Roland), is overcome with anguish as the ship goes down.

The musical traces a trajectory that starts with the optimism and opulence of the first few days on the ship and ends with the encounter with an iceberg and the disbelief, anger, and grief that follows.

In an especially intense scene, Ismay, Andrews, and the ship’s captain (Edward Smith, played by Ted Christopher) hurl recriminations at one another. Later, after the lifeboats are full and those left on the ship face the inevitable, Andrews agonizes over whether his design is what has led so many people to their deaths.

Titanic runs through Oct. 17 in the Pavilion Theatre. Highly recommended.

Tina Hay, editor

October 9, 2015 at 11:22 am 3 comments

Keegan-Michael Key on Campus

Here’s a guest post from our colleague John Patishnock ’05, editor of AlumnInsider:

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Alumni Fellow Award honoree Keegan-Michael Key ’96g spoke with Theatre 100 students Wednesday morning, sharing advice and talking about his process of creating characters and sketches. Co-creator and co-star of the hit Comedy Central show Key & Peele, Key is in town for tonight’s Alumni Fellow awards dinner and has been making the rounds to various classrooms. During his 20-minute talk, he told students that comedy is about zigging and zagging and challenging misconceptions about what the audience expects to see.

Key displayed big-time energy with his gregarious personality, even obliging one student who asked for his autograph amid the Q&A. Key also spoke to the work ethic that’s needed in his profession, saying he routinely wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for a 15-hour workday. What keeps him going, he said, is that he’s doing what he’s passionate about. That’s one reason why he worked so much when he was studying at Penn State, saying he wanted to stay busy because he wasn’t sure if the work would stop when he graduated. Fortunately, he said, the work didn’t stop then and hasn’t stopped since.

At one point, a student asked Key if he envisioned being where he is now when he was at Penn State. “Not in a million years,” Key responded, but he said he made the right decisions at the right time and challenged himself. For example, Key was a dramatic actor at Penn State but has carved out a career as a comedic performer, and he told students they have to allow themselves to see beyond what they think their career path will be and be ready for new experiences.

“I’m not going to lie, so much of this is luck, so much of it is being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Another thing is you have to have some kind of training, you have to have tools that you can use, but then the opportunity has to strike, as well.”

John Patishnock

 

October 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

The Evolution of ‘Humans of New York’

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Brandon Stanton in Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium. (photo by Tina Hay)

Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York franchise, had some good advice for the 2,500 Penn State students who came to see him in Eisenhower Auditorium last night:

Don’t wait for perfect.

In the space of just four years, Stanton has gone from an unemployed bond trader to Internet sensation. His Facebook page—featuring his iconic photos and stories of everyday people—has more than 10 million likes, and his 2013 book, Humans of New York, spent 21 weeks on The New York Times Best-Seller List. A follow-up book, Little Humans, is due out next week.

But it didn’t happen all at once, he told the audience last night. Instead, he found his niche through an evolution, a gradual series of tweaks to his approach.

In 2010, as a 26-year-old bond trader in Chicago, Stanton “was looking for a hobby,” and after winning $4,000 in a football pool, he bought his first camera. Originally he photographed landscapes and landmarks in Chicago. When he eventually started taking photos of people, it was from far away, without their knowing.

Then, for a while, he would find someone who was engrossed in something—say, reading a newspaper—and position himself on one knee, waiting for them to look up and realize he was there. When they did, he’d snap their photo—which, needless to say, they didn’t always appreciate.

“I didn’t know you could ask people to take their photo,” he says simply.

HONY founder Brandon Stanton at an Eisenhower Auditorium news conference. (photo by Tina Hay)

HONY founder Brandon Stanton at an Eisenhower Auditorium news conference. (photo by Tina Hay)

When he finally did start asking, he was pleasantly surprised at how many people said yes: “I remember feeling such satisfaction. And I realized, This is kind of special.”

About five weeks into his new hobby, Stanton got fired from his job, and got the idea to move to New York City to pursue his street photography. Given New York’s rich diversity of people, he says, “I just thought, This would be such a great place to do a [photo] blog.

“I was sleeping on a mattress in the cheapest room I could possibly find in Bedford-Stuyvesant, taking 20 to 30 portraits a day,” he recalls. “And that went on for six months, in complete anonymity. It was a very hard and lonely time.

“Then I discovered Facebook.”

Stanton created a Facebook page, began posting a few photos a day, and the fans started trickling in—a huge antidote to the loneliness. “I started noticing names of people I didn’t know who were following my work. It was the most liberating feeling in the entire world … it lifted a million pounds off my shoulders.”

At first the photos carried only short captions, if any. So another turning point came in late 2011 when he started attaching stories to the photos. Stanton recounted having been sick with the flu and unable to get outside to shoot new portraits, so he rooted around in his existing photos and found one of a woman dressed entirely in green—even green hair. He remembered that she had said something to him that day, and he decided to put her comment into the caption:

HONY screen grab

The caption reads:

“So do you do a different color every day?”
“No, I used to go through different stages. But then I found that I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”

The photo—one that Stanton had initially regarded as a “throwaway”—became an instant hit. (Currently it has nearly 156,000 “likes.”) Stanton changed his approach accordingly, and now spends as much time talking with each of his subjects as he does shooting their photos; brief excerpts from those conversations now accompany the portraits he posts to his Facebook page. The questions he asks are personal—”What is your greatest struggle right now?” “Can you remember the time when you felt the most afraid?”—and the answers he gets are surprisingly honest.

In August and September of this year, Stanton took his HONY concept to an international level, doing a 50-day world tour in partnership with the United Nations. His photos of schoolchildren, shopkeepers, and young mothers in such countries as Iraq, Israel, and Ukraine revealed that even in areas ravaged by conflict, people are … well, people. There’s a reason for that, he told his audience last night: He went out of his way to look for ordinary people and moments.

“If I’m covering a rally or protest with 12 journalists, and they all have cameras … there could be one guy who’s really angry and all 12 photographers will be gathered around that person. And that’s the photo that goes out to the world. People want to find the extreme images and stories; those are what really sell newspapers.

“I wanted to depict normality in places where very extreme headlines are coming out … to apply this normal intimate process in some scary places.

“I’m just trying to show normality. Not extremity, just normalcy.”

Stanton’s lecture last night was sponsored by the Penn State Student Programming Association.

Tina Hay, editor

October 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm 2 comments

I Love This Penn Stater’s Graduation Speech

This morning I came across a speech that Bailey Sanders ’14 Med gave at the Penn State College of Medicine graduation ceremony in May. Her peers, the graduating med students, had chosen her to give the student commencement address, and I can see why. I have a fondness for public speakers who are articulate, animated, confident, and funny—and Bailey Sanders is all of those things. (She has the med school dean, Harold Paz, laughing from the start, and eventually she wins over President Eric Barron too.) Can’t wait to see what kind of physician she’ll turn out to be.

Her remarks are eight minutes long and well worth your time.

Tina Hay, editor

June 18, 2014 at 11:56 am 3 comments

He’s Watching the Students Like a …

DSC_0024_med_hawkWe’ve got a hawk of some sort who’s a frequent visitor to the grounds outside the alumni center. Today he (or she?) spent about a half hour on a tree branch outside Ryan Jones’ office, and then it moved to the top of the pergola outside our main entrance, where it sat for another good hour. There were plenty of students  walking along the sidewalk below it, but the hawk seemed unconcerned about the students—and vice versa.

I took this photo with my back to the Electrical Engineering Building. The stone building you see is the old president’s house, which is part of the Hintz Family Alumni Center.

As always, click on the photo for a bigger and crisper version.

And if you can ID the species of hawk based on what little is visible here, I’ll be very impressed.

Tina Hay, editor

December 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm 8 comments

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