Mountain Day of the Mind

One of my favorite events Juniata has every year is the Liberal Arts Symposium, or LAS for short. Each year, classes are cancelled for the whole day, and students and faculty are encouraged to travel across campus and attend student presentations about work/research they have done during the year. There are a lot of different types of presentations, and most common presentations are often in the sciences. This year however, I was able to present my own work at LAS, with focus on the Theatre Department.
This semester, I decided I wanted to do an independent study with one of my professors, Leigh Hendrix, and I wanted to attempt to write a full-length play. I have written several short plays (10 minutes or less) throughout my time at Juniata, but I have never tried to write something as complicated and in-depth as a full-length play. I came up with the idea to write a murder mystery, because that is my favorite genre to read/watch. I’ve always loved crime shows and mystery novels, but I never realized just how difficult it is to write a mystery yourself! There is so much background work that needs to occur before one even starts writing in order to create a successful, fluid piece. Once a week, Professor Hendrix and I would meet to look at my writing progress, and map out the entire storyline of the play. I honestly didn’t think I would finish this semester. I know that it sometimes takes years for people to complete a play, and shoving this project onto my already packed work load was definitely difficult for me. However, a few weeks ago I managed to finish a first draft! As soon as I finished the draft, it felt like I had given birth! I had worked hard toward this goal that I didn’t think I would reach, and I did! Over the following few weeks, I printed out the entire script and edited it over and over again. I then recruited a bunch of my friends to aid in my presentation for the Liberal Arts Symposium.

 

The cast of the staged reading of "Airborne", an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.

The cast of the staged reading of “Airborne”, an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.

Since I was just doing a public reading of half of the play, it was a less strenuous rehearsal process, since the cast only had to meet once the read through the piece before presenting it at LAS. My play has eight different characters, so I had to ask a lot of different people to be involved, but everyone did such a great job reading their character at the presentation! After the reading, my mentor facilitated a talk-back session, where I could ask questions of the audience and receive feedback about the process. My first question to the audience was: Who do you think did it? To my surprise, although the audience guessed five different characters, none of them had correctly guessed the killer! That was definitely a confidence-booster for me, and it showed me that I wrote a really great play. I received such amazing feedback from the students and staff and outside audience members who came to listen to the reading. It truly was an amazing moment of pride, excitement and joy to hear my words being read out loud, and receiving positive feedback from so many peers.
Although the semester is coming to a close, that does not mean my work on this play is done. For most, a play is never done. There are always changes that can be made. I hope to keep editing this play and make it longer and stronger, and hopefully be able to stage the show at some point next year! Overall, the Liberal Arts Symposium was such a great experience for me to present a project I had put so much effort into, and see how others reacted to it. I can’t wait to keep working on my play!

The Wildlife Society Northeast Student Conclave

It’s that time of year again – the time for The Wildlife Society Northeast Student Conclave.

Northeast conclave

I’m realizing that these words probably mean nothing to you, but that’s okay. I’ll give a brief explanation. Every year, the Juniata Chapter of the Wildlife Society attends Northeast Student Conclave. To break that down even further, it is a weekend gathering of wildlife and nature nerds, and it’s the best. This year’s Student Conclave took place this past weekend in Halifax, Pennsylvania, and had almost 150 participants.

The Northeast Student Conclave was full of mammals, wildlife competitions, presentations on falconry, reptiles and more, but my favorite part about this weekend was the Bioblitz competition that took place on Sunday. For this competition, the group from Juniata was competing against other schools to see who could find the most species of plants and animals in an hour.

Sunday morning, the 5 of us did what any reasonable college student would do – we woke up early, and went out to look for plants and animals. As the hour began, we were off. We wandered through the woods flipping rocks, searching in streams, analyzing tree bark, and listening for bird calls. As we ran around in that early morning hour, we identified over 100 species of plants and animals. As that time was wearing on, I slowly began to realize how much I actually knew, and how much the people around me knew as well. It was incredible.

Me and my friends Now I’m guessing what you’re thinking right now is  “oh my gosh, that girl is a super nerd”.  Well, on one  hand, yes. I am just a super nerd, but that isn’t the  whole point. My point is that this past weekend, I  got to spend all my time with a group of almost 150  people who shared the same passions as me – 8 of  them being from Juniata. That’s what happens here.  You get connected with people who love the things  you love, and there is no feeling better than sharing  a passion.

Oh, and we got 2nd place in the competition! Fun  fact about wildlife nerds – they give you animal  skulls as trophies.

Do You Even Lax Bro?

I was first exposed to lacrosse as a freshman in high school when I was applying to Fountain Valley School of Colorado.  I knew nothing about the sport, but from the moment I saw the few pictures of what looked to be combination football-hockey players striding through the trees of Fountain Valley’s Victory Road, I knew I wanted to play.  These hopes were soon dashed by an aside comment from one of my Track and Field teammates who, when I told him that I wanted to play lacrosse because it looked fun, said, “Dude you’re so tiny those guys would kill you.”  And that was the end of that.

At the beginning of this spring semester, Juniata Women’s Lacrosse made their NCAA D3 debut.  I can’t say that I was all that excited about watching the sport because I didn’t understand the rules (and even after watching two games I still don’t understand what half the fouls were called for) and my initial infatuation with the sport had faded.  But I was excited to watch my friends play a sport they loved and had practiced hard to do well in.

Figure 1: Our Juniata Women's Lacrosse team, warpainted up for their first game!  Their record is now 3 wins to 0 losses.  Is it too early to say "undefeated?"

Figure 1: Our Juniata Women’s Lacrosse team, warpainted up for their first game! Their record is now 3 wins to 0 losses. Is it too early to say “undefeated?”

The day of the first lacrosse game was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm for mid-March in central Pennsylvania.  The stands were not as full as they could be for the inaugural game of our lacrosse program, but those of us who were there were all there to support our friends and family and we were excited!

To be honest I’m not sure how many of us thought we were going to win that first game.  Of course, we were all hoping and praying that our team would win but it was their first game and we assumed the girls they would be playing would be hardened Lax athletes.  But from the moment Kat scored the first goal, I knew it was going to be a good game.  The moment the crowd saw the ball hit the back of the net, it exploded to its feet cheering and screaming in the elation of an early success.  Then Britt scored, then Natalie then Kat again and Britt again and before I knew it the game was over and we had managed to win by a decent margin and we had made it into the double digits.

Before this year I never attended Juniata sporting events.  I just never found the time to.  But the energy of that first lacrosse game, the support that the crowd gave to the team was infectious and next year, when I will be a Senior you will hopefully find me at every single home game, supporting my team.

SPRINGFEST: A Tale of Many Sunburns (and some other fun stuff too)

Hands down, today was the best day I have ever had at Juniata.  To start, the weather was beautiful, especially compared to the nasty conglomeration of precipitation the meteorologists like to call “winter mix.”  The sky was clear and the wind that had plagued us all week had diminished to a light, almost refreshing breeze.  All of this provided a lovely backdrop to the amazing event of Springfest.  Every spring, our Juniata Activity Board, more commonly referred to as JAB, puts on a day-long event to celebrate the coming of spring and the sun and the warm weather that comes along with it.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

This year Springfest was Coachella  themed, as the JAB member who  planned the event told me.  They  brought in four performers from  across the northeast, including Lee  Dewyze the winner of season nine of  American Idol, and an amazing  acapella group out of Canada call  Eh440 (check them out they were  AMAZING).  The event ran from noon  to seven in the evening and every hour  of the event was packed with bouncy  castles, food trucks, three encore  performances from the Downbeat  Percussion group, and a Ferris Wheel.

For me, it wasn’t the terrifying awesomeness of a Ferris Wheel (what?  I’m afraid of heights) or the red chili chicken burrito served from a food truck that mad the day so memorable.  I think I can take the liberty to say that for most, Springfest is the first day in a long time that they can leave their rooms and homework, and bask in the warmth of a sun that is too often hidden during the winter months.  It’s a time to let loose a little before the final projects and tests start flooding in, robbing us of any time that we might otherwise have spent on the quad, lazily hammocking.

Even though I still have several homework assignments ahead of me tonight that I should have worked on today, I don’t regret spending my entire day outside.  Sure, I’ll be a little more tired this week, but it’s also only three days long for me (thank god for Easter weekend and not having classes on Thursdays).  My skin will also be red as a beet and burning up due to sunburn, but being uncomfortable for a few days will be well worth the day of music and food and fun that I just had.

Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association Conference

Don’t worry; we weren’t moving when I took the picture.

Don’t worry; we weren’t moving when I took the picture.

 

We left Juniata on Friday morning and had a rainy drive to the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association (MAWCA) Conference in Reading, PA. Every year, our Writing Center Director (Professor Carol Peters) takes us to a conference for both professional development and group bonding. When I was a sophomore, we went to the National Council for Teachers of English Conference, and my fellow tutors went to the International Writing Centers Association Conference in Pittsburgh while I was abroad for my junior year. Some of us can gain some presentation experience at these conferences, too!

Here’s a table of good-looking Writing Center tutors having some fun conversations over dinner at Chatty Monks.

Here’s a table of good-looking Writing Center tutors having some fun conversations over dinner at Chatty Monks.

This conference was smaller than the one I went to my sophomore year, and that had its advantages. For one, it was more intimate. Many of the sessions were round table discussions rather than lectures. I had not considered how differently Writing Centers could function based on student demographics, institution size, and mentorship styles. There were many interesting presentations, too. For instance, I attended one that talked about tutoring grammar through games. While I don’t know that their approach would work for Juniata’s Writing Center, it definitely gave me a lot of ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, we had to present as well. This is our table at The Carnival, where Writing Center tutors and directors talked to interested conference-goers about games and bonding activities to implement in Writing Centers.

Of course, we had to present as well. This is our table at The Carnival, where Writing Center tutors and directors talked to interested conference-goers about games and bonding activities to implement in Writing Centers.

Of course, we had to present as well. This is our table at The Carnival, where Writing Center tutors and directors talked to interested conference-goers about games and bonding activities to implement in Writing Centers.

Juniata’s Writing Center is a really tight-knit group, and the conference only brings us closer together. When prospective students ask me what my favorite thing about Juniata is, I either answer “the people” or “the opportunities.” In the case of the Writing Center, it’s a perfect marriage of the two. I’ve had many opportunities for professional growth and I’ve met some of my best friends.

Ain’t No Life Like the Reslife

Your Resident Assistant is as important to your freshmen year as the friends you make during those first few weeks on campus.  The RA is not just big brother listening at the door for shenanigans, they are also a friend and mentor.  I have been an RA for the past two years and I can honestly say that if I had to go back and do it all again, I would still choose to be an RA.  I have gained an overabundance of leadership experience and I have also gotten to meet and build relationships with some pretty amazing people.

Figure 1: Three of our amazing RA's for next year, and one very odd RD... you decide who is who.

Figure 1: Three of our amazing RA’s for next year, and one very odd RD… you decide who is who.

Among those great people are the Resident Director Brett Greene, Residential Life Coordinators Kevin Turner and Jason Francey, our Director Tasia White and Penny Hooper-Conway.  First, Penny is a saint.  She is our Associate Director of Reslife and she is the glue that holds the office together.  She has been there the longest and her experience shows (and is much appreciated) during times of high stress, like Room Draw.  Tasia, the Director of Reslife is new to her position but not new to Juniata.  I spoke with her last semester when she was applying for the job and her passion for Reslife and her love for Juniata are the main reasons that I recommended her for the position (though as a lowly RA my input probably had little to do with her hiring).

As freshmen, the RLC you’ll encounter most Is Kevin Turner.  As the Senior RA of Sherwood Hall, it has been my pleasure to work alongside Kevin this past year to develop the freshmen community in that building and across all our first-year buildings.  Next year he’ll be working with Senior RAs Becca and Ellie, in Sunderland and Sherwood respectively, to continue to grow the communities in those buildings and improve upon the programming that we offer.

The most exciting thing about next year is the staff.  We have biochemists and zoologists, an expert bowler (with his own perfectly white bowling shoes) and a lacrosse player, a member of the Juniata Concert Choir and a kid who likes to ride bikes a little too much (though I can’t talk because I run a lot so…).  We have a diverse staff and we all have very diverse interests and personalities.  What we do have in common is a love for Juniata and the drive to make others feel as welcome here as our RA’s made us feel when we were freshmen.

Graduation: How is it Here Already?!

Can you believe I’m going to be ordering my cap and gown next week? Senior salute is in just a couple of days. Not only will I be trying on hats and gowns for size, but I’ll be tying up loose ends and deciding what’s next for me as I say goodbye to the staff from offices around campus.

What’s next for me? I was able to obtain a job in Philadelphia working for an adult education center, starting over the summer as an early education coordinator and transitioning into a night class teacher. While working, I plan to take pre-requisite credits at Temple University for speech pathology with hopes of continuing my education as a fulltime graduate student in the fall of 2018.

My education at Juniata College was individualized—I got exactly what I wanted from it. I picked Juniata so that I could have an undergraduate degree in something more marketable than pre-speech pathology. This was because I wanted to be more marketable and be able to work while attending graduate school so I could afford it and also so I could be gaining experience while still in academia.

I’ve already made this connection with the adult education center from two summers ago, I worked with them as a rising junior. Now, I am doing exactly what I wanted to do because of my marketable degree in Education Studies and Human Development.

I look forward to the years of possibility ahead. This is just the beginning. There are six weeks left of classes and 47 days until I take that walk down and switch over that tassel. It’s all just so surreal!

Advice on Advisors

When I decided to come to Juniata, I did so without visiting.  I came because of the stories an alumnus told me and from the conversations I had with students who were already here and my fellow incoming freshmen.  I arrived having no idea what the campus looked like or what the classes would be like and to be honest I was scared.  For the first week or so I didn’t have an appetite because I was so nervous.

I was still nervous as I sat outside my new adviser’s office waiting to talk about my schedule and what my life would be like over the next four years.   As I sat outside the office of Dr. Dan Dries I listened to his voice as he was talking to another of his new advisees.  It’s hard to explain, and maybe harder to imagine, but his voice had a carefree lilt to it.  His words were often interspersed with laughter and slowly my nervousness turned into curiosity.  If he was as jovial as he sounded the next four years were going to be great.

Thankfully, he was.  One of Juniata’s strongest and most beneficial programs is its academic advising.  We had advisers at my high school and they did a good job helping students pick classes and encouraging us to apply to college, but Juniata’s adviser’s work much harder.  Dr. Dries has not only advised me on the classes I should take for my POE but he has given me advice on whether I should attend Graduate or Medical school and where I might start looking for a good Graduate program.  This past year I even started working in his lab which does research on neurodegenerative disorders, the area of neuroscience I want to research.  He even invited me over for Thanksgiving when I had nowhere else to go.  Over the three years I have known Dr. Dries he has remained supportive and enthusiastic about my coursework and my success.

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries' Lab at our lab bonding event last semester.  We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit.  Do you know the capital of Australia?

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries’ at our lab bonding event last semester. We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit. Do you know the capital of Australia? 

I wrote about Ellen Campbell several weeks ago and just like her, Dr. Dries is not an isolated case at Juniata.  Professors from all departments are highly involved in their student’s lives, inviting them over for club dinners, having them house sit and even baby sit.  Juniata’s students are as close with their professors as they are with one another and I think that is one of the most unique things Juniata offers.  The student to staff ratio of thirteen to one is not just a statistic it represents one of Juniata’s defining characteristics, our community.

Bailey Oratorical

You’ve all heard it before… Juniata is a special place. We all have heard it, we all know it, and we all sell it. For some reason, however, whenever I’m asked the question “why?”, my mind goes blank.

How can I tell you why Juniata is special any more than I can tell you why gravity happens or why bananas are the best when they’re mostly yellow with just a touch of brown? The words escape me, and it just seems like a fact of life. However, one thing recently gave me a true reason, a true piece of evidence to prove that Juniata is a special place – The Bailey Oratorical.

Winner of the 2017 Bailey Oratorical

Winner of the 2017 Bailey Oratorical, Anh Ha.

The Bailey Oratorical is the longest standing academic tradition at Juniata College, this being it’s 107th year. It is a speech competition that happens every spring and has 7 contestants who each give a 6-8 minute speech answering a prompt. I could go on, but these statistics of the Bailey, the history, the prizes, the try outs – they all pale in comparison to actually being in that room. None of those things are what amazed, captivated, and touched the audience this past Tuesday night. What we felt that night was pure heart and pure love.

36…7..3…and beyond. From 36 tryouts, to 7 finalists, to our top 3, and to hundreds of people who received the gift of hearing these speeches last night, the Bailey is a treasure. The speeches ranged from Claire Delaval’s questioning of the assumptions of the prompt: “At the heart of the liberal arts is civic engagement: How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?”, Nitya Chagti decidedly stating that we are all her family, and Maeve Gannon welcoming us into the world of social change. It was heart wrenching to hear their personal stories, to feel their presence reverberating throughout the room. In the end, they were accepted and appreciated by each and everyone one of us in that theatre.

The second place winner of the Bailey, Nitya Chagti and myself.

The second place winner of the Bailey, Nitya Chagti and myself.

The first prize for the Bailey is undoubtedly impressive – $1,000. However, I do not think a single one of those seven finalists that night was thinking about money. I know a few of them personally, and their actions were not driven by a desire to win, make a quick buck, or get a resume booster. Each of them had an idea that they thought could make the world better if they shared it, and I think that they were right.

The love, friendship, and support I felt in that room was endless. And that feeling, that one of fullness, pride, tears welling in my eyes, warmth exuding from my heart…. That is what makes Juniata special. For as little as I can put it into words, I hope you all know what I am talking about, I hope you have all felt it before. There is no feeling like it.

If you ever get the chance, I suggest you tune into the Baileys. In person is preferable, online is second best. You will be surprised, happy, sad, angry, hopeful, loved. The people here will love you, and that is beautiful.

 

Living off Campus

When I came to Juniata College, I had no intention of living anywhere but a dormitory. I loved (and still do) that Juniata guarantees housing for all four years. When I was in the midst of the college search process, I’d immediately scratch any college that forced students off campus after a year or two off my list.

 

I made many of my friends through living in a dorm as an underclassman. If you end up on a floor with a lot of freshmen who keep their doors open, you’ll meet a substantial number of your classmates. With a meal plan, dinners and lunches become good times to catch up with friends about their days and even better times to procrastinate work.

 

I went abroad and ended up in a house with six Irish girls. My meal plan was gone and I was responsible for cooking for myself, cleaning the house, and buying necessary items like dish soap, aluminum foil, and toilet paper. A huge advantage to living in a dorm with a meal plan is that you don’t have to worry about a lot of these more mundane tasks.

 

After returning from abroad, I decided to keep the house-style living. But, as I said earlier, it was important to me that Juniata never forced me off campus. I made the decision for myself. Seniors have the option to apply for approval for off campus housing, and my house was accepted. Seniors, with the highest room draw numbers, also have apartment-style living options through Juniata, as well as single rooms in Nathan Hall or other double dorm rooms throughout campus. I have friends who still live on campus and those who don’t, and it really depends on each person’s preferences. The most important part of choosing a house for those of us off campus is that we are close to campus, because even when we’re not living on campus, we are still spending a lot of our time there – going to class, doing research, and working the jobs we’ve had throughout our time here.

 

Figure 1: As the flag says, “Welcome to our pad.”

Figure 1: As the flag says, “Welcome to our pad.”

 

While there are times that I miss aspects of living in a dorm (being only a few steps away from your friends’ rooms is pretty great), I do appreciate the chance to gain more adult experience. Sure, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to cook myself dinner. I also have to go outside to see the friends that I don’t live with. However, living off campus has been a positive experience overall and I value the chance to gain some extra responsibility before moving to meet whatever life has in store next.

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