Location is key. Who we are is often dictated by where we are, the pressures we face and the opportunities that present themselves to us. Fortunately for a philosophy major like myself, opportunities to channel Thoreau and escape into nature to reflect are many. This is perhaps my favorite perk of living at Juniata; the rolling foothills of the Alleghenies provide as many opportunities to get as lost as one wishes.
Living in a rural area has been a change for me. Where I live at home in Massachusetts might technically be considered exurban, but I’m no civil engineer. It’s safe to say that I would have to drive for several hours before I start seeing cows in pastures on the side of the road. Here, however, cows are nearly as common as cornfields. While some might think this would be a shock to my system, it has in fact proved the opposite. Living in a brand-new environment and facing novel challenges has strengthened my character considerably. Going out of one’s comfort zone–whether it’s taking a class on Business Management as a philosophy major (as if a philosophy student will ever be in charge of a successful business) or joining the SCUBA club as a novice on a week-long trip to Florida–is the most surefire way of developing one’s self.
This summer may have been the best summer of my life. Some version of this clichéd line can be found at the end of any nineties summer coming of age story, but it does accurately sum up my three months in Huntingdon doing research and experiencing just a little bit of what my life might be like after graduate school. The beauty of a summer internship experience is that it allows you to not only get hands-on experience in your desired field of work, but it also helps you to decide if the work you are doing over that summer is what you want to do for the rest of your life. In the last few days, in fact, I was lucky enough to realize that I do want to go into microbiology and bioinformatics. However, this realization also came with a gut wrenching, panic stricken moment because suddenly I was no longer set on going into neuroscience, something I have wanted to study since I was a Junior in high school. With this change of my heart has come several moments of panicking and internally hyperventilating about my future and everything that I must complete for graduate school between now and December 1, 2017.
So, what could have possibly caused my sudden change of heart? What groundbreaking research have I done that has convinced me to completely switch career paths? To be honest my work really hasn’t been that groundbreaking. It has been fun though. I am sure that it is hard to imagine how sitting at a desk for eight hours a day staring at a computer can be considered ‘fun’, believe me I understand where you are coming from. That’s not the part of the job I found glamorous. It was discovering relationships between bacterial species and the gut cells of mice that I found so fascinating. I have had a minor interest in the gut microbiome since I read a book on how the gut microbiome is thought to influence some neurodegenerative disorders, but it was not until my research this summer that I really began to appreciate our microbial gut friends. The project was made even more fun since it was my own project. I oversaw the analysis and it was on me to determine what the results of my analysis meant.
The partnerships that Dr. Lamendella and Justin Wright, my two mentors this summer, have cultivated through their bioinformatics company Wright Labs (a startup company funded in part by Juniata’s Business Incubator) have allowed students like myself to get an almost graduate school level of research experience while still at our undergraduate institution. This opportunity, as I have already pointed out, has been instrumental in the decision of a career path. I am excited to continue working with Dr. Lamendella and Justin through this next year, which will sadly be my last at Juniata. Though I’ll be leaving in a few short months, I know that the work I have done for Wright Labs has set me up well for graduate school and all the research work I have ahead of me.
Spring is often seen as a season of new beginnings. The dead limbs of the trees burst back to life and the dandelions become prolific. It’s a seson of sunshine and happiness after the dark and cold and dreary days of Winter. For some, however, it can be a season of melancholy. I am of course talking about the Seniors who will be graduating in thirteen days. Yes, graduation is supposed to be a happy affair, a celebration of achievement over the past four years and all the achievement that the future holds for the graduating class. It is also a bittersweet affair because while the graduating class is going off to change the world, their graduation marks the end of a very remarkable era.
I am a Junior here at Juniata and with each passing day I become more and more preoccupied with my own impending graduation. There are so many things that I need to do in the next year to be even remotely ready to graduate. I need to take the GRE so I can apply to Graduate schools, I need to apply to Graduate schools, write a thesis on the research that I have done here at Juniata, and try to have as much fun in the next year as I possibly can.
I am not a fan of clichés, especially in writing, but I do believe that college is one of the best times of your life. I didn’t come to terms with this realization until the beginning of last semester. I was not having any fun. Now that’s not to say I stayed in my room and did homework all the time; I did manage to get out periodically, but I never did anything that was outside my comfort zone, nothing that challenged me to grow as a person. So, I decided to change that. The one thing that I do not want to do is walk across the front steps of Halbritter a year from now and wish I had done more during my undergraduate years.
After a week or so of settling in at Juniata College in the fall of 2013, I received an e-mail from my admissions counselor asking me if I’d be interested in joining her staff of bloggers. Here I am, four years later, at the tail end of my college career, writing my last blog.
Juniata has given me an abundance of opportunity. I had multiple campus jobs, studied abroad in Ireland for a year, and took some amazing classes with really great professors. I’m thankful for the jobs because I was able to engage with what I’m interested in: sharing information about Juniata and working with writing. Studying abroad was a great opportunity for me to meet people from around the world and expand my worldview. Finally, while I may heavily favor the English department, I thoroughly appreciate the liberal arts background that Juniata has given me through the courses I’ve taken outside my area of study.
I’ll always remember my days at Juniata participating in classes, giving tours, and tutoring in the Writing Center, but I’ll also remember the shenanigans like tenting for Madrigal or getting those early morning calls as part of the Mountain Day wake-up crew. Yes, I developed academically and professionally, but I also had fun. When people ask me what I love most about Juniata, I often say “the people.” I then follow that with a story from when I visited campus. The student whom I ate lunch with had to do a sign language scavenger hunt in which she had to have other students outside the class perform certain actions by giving them instructions in sign language. Students she approached dropped what they were doing to pay attention to her and to try to decipher what she wanted them to do. She had strangers doing cartwheels and football players sprinting to race each other. That’s when I realized that Juniata students are smart, but they’re also fun.
Thanks, Juniata, for a fun four years, and thanks to any of you who have followed my Juniata journey!
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.
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!
It’s that time of year again – the time for The Wildlife Society Northeast Student 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.