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The Multicultural Storyfest

Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.

This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.

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Thida Win ’17 from Myanmar talks at the 2015 Multicultural Storyfest.

Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.

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Andrea Morillo ’15 from Honduras performs at the 2014 Multicultural Storyfest.

All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!

If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Spring Break in New Orleans

Spring break is a time when many students travel to tropical islands for a week-long adventure, while several others venture back home for a relaxing time with family and friends. In the past, I’ve had both types of experiences, so for my final spring break, I decided to try something a little different. I had heard about an interfaith service trip to New Orleans, and while I’m not actively involved with a religious group at Juniata, campus ministry welcomed me with open arms.

Although I had always heard about the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, I thought that after 11 years the city would be restored. Although most areas of New Orleans have recovered nicely, the Lower Ninth Ward has not fully recuperated.

While in New Orleans, I, along with 17 other Juniata students, worked with an organization called Capstone, which aims to provide the citizens of the Lower Ninth Ward with free community gardens. To help out, we weeded, planted, and watered the gardens; constructed and painted boxes for honey bees; cleaned and fed goats and chickens; and helped with other jobs as needed.

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Juniata students weeding one of Capstone’s community gardens located in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Since this was also an interfaith trip, we explored and discussed different religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Unitarian Universalism. Additionally, we were able to learn about the culture of New Orleans by talking with local citizens, eating beignets at the famous Café du Monde, visiting a Mardi Gras museum, and touring the renowned Saint Louis Cemetery.

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The future tomb of actor Nicholas Cage, located in the Saint Louis Cemetery.

Lithuanian-American writer Ruta Sepetys once said, “New Orleans is unlike any city in America. Its cultural diversity is woven into the food, the music, the architecture—even the local superstitions. It’s a sensory experience on all levels, and there’s a story lurking around every corner.” After experiencing New Orleans first-hand, I could not agree more.

Staying FIT in College

You’ve probably all been warned of the infamous “Freshman 15”—the inevitable 15 pounds that you gain during your freshman year of college. Although this might be true for some people, I’m here to tell you that this does not have to be your fate! If you make proper meal choices and exercise regularly, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

For my first two years at Juniata, I was a member of the track and field team, so I didn’t have to worry much about creating my own workout schedule. My daily exercise routines were mapped out by my coaches. Due to a change in my priorities, I decided that being on the track team was no longer for me. This meant that I had to come up with my own workout schedule, if I wanted to stay fit.

Inevitably, I gained a few pounds from not having as rigorous of a workout routine as before, but I also started to get bored of my same uncreative workouts. Ultimately, I needed some more motivation.

Thankfully, I found out about FITLAB, which is a workout program offered every weekday morning at 8:00 am by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theater. The program was originally offered to only a small group of students who were training for an endurance obstacle race, but due to the high interest from other students, the program is now open to everyone.  The workouts vary daily and include endurance exercises, circuit training, stairs, and yoga. Before beginning each workout, we have five minutes of silence followed by five minutes of mindful meditation.

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My friend, Tyler Ayres, and I after our Wednesday morning yoga workout.

For me, these workouts are truly a blessing. Since this is my last semester of college, I had been getting a little distracted and not focusing on my health as much as I could have been. Now, I am motivated by working out with a great group of supportive people.

Though I don’t have my first class until later in the morning, I wake up every day at 7:20 am to get ready for FITLAB. I don’t regret waking up early because after a good workout, I feel awake and alert throughout the rest of my day!

The Beginning of the End

As I walked upstairs to my room in Pink, I noticed that my resident assistant had changed the bulletin board. It read, “Celebrate the beginning of the end.” This certainly made me stop and think. My life had been so busy lately that I almost forgot this would be my last semester at Juniata College. I always thought that I’d be ready to graduate, plunge ahead into the “real world,” and then never look back. Well, I’m pretty certain this will not be the case. Although I’m excited for what the future will hold, I’m also more nostalgic about leaving this place than I ever thought possible.

The semester certainly started off differently than all of my previous semesters. During the first two weeks of January, I traveled to the Dominican Republic again on my third Cultural Learning Tour with Juniata College. Although this has been quite the pattern for starting out my spring semester, this particular trip was different in that my father came along, too! A few months before the trip, he asked me if he could go so that he could experience the beautiful country and meet the community members who had become my second family.  During the course of two weeks, we had a wonderful time and made sure not to complain too much about the extreme heat because we knew it was better than the alternative cold weather back home.

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My dad (right) saying farewell to his new friend, Santiago.

We braced ourselves for the cold, but we did not prepare ourselves for the insane amount of snow that would soon surround us. After our first week of classes, Winter Storm Jonas arrived. As the snow came down by the foot, I was at Dr. Will Dickey’s house babysitting his two little girls. By the time he and his wife, Katie, had returned home, the snow was almost a foot high, so they allowed me to stay overnight and wait to drive back in the morning. By the time I woke up, however, we had two feet of snow on the ground, so I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Surprisingly, though, this was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. We all made breakfast together and then ventured outside to play in the snow.

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Attempting to uncover my car after the snow storm.

All in all, the “beginning of the end” is going quite well for me, except for the fact I can’t tell if my face is still tan or if it’s wind burnt from the cold. Either way, I’m looking forward to what the rest of my last semester has in store!

Building Leaders Who Make a Better World

In September 2013, then senior Chelsea Naglic created Juniata’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), the nation’s largest leadership honor society. The mission of NSLS is to “build leaders who make a better world.” Since I was a sophomore in good academic standing at the time, I received an invitation to join the society. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first, especially since NSLS requires an $85 membership fee. After doing some of my own research and talking with other students on campus, I decided that the membership fee would be money well-spent.

To become inducted into the society, students must first attend orientation, which provides a schedule of events for the semester. In addition to orientation, nominated students must also attend Leadership Training Day, which helps students to identify their true passions and leadership styles. Additionally, students must attend three speaker broadcasts throughout the semester and participate in Success Networking Teams, in which students gather to discuss their future goals. Finally, Juniata College holds an induction ceremony each spring for everyone who completes the necessary steps.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It is what you make of it.” Sure, you could easily go through the motions and become inducted into the society, or you could go one step further to make the experience truly worthwhile.

I chose the latter option. After becoming inducted, I decided to apply for the Better World Grant—one of the many grants and scholarships that are offered to inducted members. I spent most of my spring semester developing a proposal to build a raised garden in a rural community in the Dominican Republic. Thankfully, my hard work paid off, and I was awarded $4,000 to begin my project.

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The finished garden at Centro Cultural Guanin in the Dominican Republic.

In January 2015, I traveled to the Dominican Republic with 16 other students on Juniata’s Cultural Learning Tour. We built the garden alongside community members and have been able to watch it thrive over the past year. Instead of relying on government funding for food, the community members can now produce their own fruits and vegetables.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without funding from NSLS. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and I highly encourage all nominated students to apply for membership. Currently, NSLS has 537,370 members at 490 colleges nationwide. In just two short years, Juniata has inducted 263 of its own members. As a member of NSLS, you will be joining a large network of alumni and peers across the nation, and who knows, you might even be able to make the world a better place.

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Kirstin McKenzie (right) and I (left) at the 2015 NSLS Induction Ceremony

To learn more about NSLS, please contact the chapter’s president, Kirstin McKenzie, at mckenkx09@juniata.edu. Also, be on the lookout for Juniata’s third annual Glow Run, which is set to take place in the spring!

 

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October: The month for tricks, treats, goblins, and ghouls. Of course, Juniata students thoroughly celebrated Halloween, but most importantly, we also bonded together for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Colleges Against Cancer, under the direction of their president and my roommate, Kirstin McKenzie, planned a month filled with activities!

The month kicked off with Boobie Bingo. “Boobies, tatas, jugs, and melons,” yelled the winners. Since I’m a bingo fanatic and quite the competitor, this event has always been one of my favorites. This year was no exception. So many people were in attendance that we had to find more chairs!

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month was kicked off with Boobie Bingo!

 

The next night, Colleges Against Cancer hosted a Remembrance Ceremony to honor survivors and those who have lost their fight. This was a very emotional event, but it was a powerful reminder that we are not alone in this battle. Breast cancer affects everyone in some capacity.

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Emily Cozby (left) & I at the Remembrance Ceremony.

 

Finally, Breast Cancer Awareness Month culminated with the Boys in Bras Fashion Show combined with Concert for a Cure. Some of Juniata’s most outgoing men took the stage and flaunted off their fancily decorated bras. Although it wasn’t a competition, the guys took it very seriously and tried to outdo the person before them. Plenty of laughter ensued!

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The boys preparing for the runway!

 

After the men strutted their stuff, the concert began. As always, I was completely impressed with the amount of talent that we have at Juniata. Sophomore Joshua Katz stole the show with his unique style of guitar playing. With a donation from the women’s soccer team and the money raised from all of the events, Colleges Against Cancer raised a total of $399.16 for breast cancer awareness.

In addition, Colleges Against Cancer kick-started their fundraisers for Relay for Life with a canning event throughout the town of Huntingdon. Within only a few short hours, we were able to raise $353.51. After including Relay for Life funds, Colleges Against Cancer was able to raise a grand total of $752.67 during the month of October!

Cancer is certainly a force to reckon with, but there is no doubt in my mind that Juniata students will continue to be resilient and fight back.

Celebrating the Life of Erin Dodson

 

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(From left to right) Erin’s parents, Michelle & Bernie Dodson; the current girls’ volleyball team; alumni; coaches.

On October 13th, my two worlds collided. My alma mater, Altoona Area High School, and Juniata College joined forces to commemorate the life of Erin Dodson. Erin graduated as a two-time all-state volleyball player in 2004 from Altoona Area High School and then began her freshman year at Juniata College, where she was to continue her volleyball career. Sadly, Erin was diagnosed with brain cancer at the start of her freshman year and lost her battle seven years later at the age of 25.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to personally meet Erin, but I played volleyball with her younger sister during my time at Altoona, so I was able to learn a lot about her. In an effort to honor Erin’s courage and perseverance, the girls’ volleyball team at Altoona organized a benefit volleyball game. Although I have attended several volleyball games at Altoona in the past six years, I have never been to a game quite like this one.

As soon as I walked into the fieldhouse, I was overwhelmed by a line of thirty baskets that team parents and community members had donated for the event. The entire lobby was just full of people. So many people were in attendance that they had to open up the other half of the gym, which is usually closed off by a movable wall. While Erin’s mom, Michelle, was expressing her gratitude between games, the wall started moving, and it soon revealed the entire Altoona Area High School pep band. When does a pep band ever play for a volleyball game?! Never.

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The pep band is revealed.

At the end of Michelle’s talk, she asked the audience to hug the person sitting next to them because Erin loved giving everyone big hugs. The whole night was completely overwhelming and truly amazing. Erin’s family and friends from both Altoona and Juniata joined together to celebrate her life. I couldn’t be more honored to have walked the same halls and to have played on the same court as Erin Dodson.

Reflecting on my Summer Internship at Capital BlueCross

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Capital BlueCross, a leading health insurance company located in Harrisburg, Pa. Although my POEs are Health Communication and Psychology, I have worked in Juniata’s marketing department for the last two years, so I decided to intern with Capital BlueCross’ market research team. Little did I know, market research is much different than marketing, so I had a lot to learn! In addition to learning the skills required for market research, I also learned a great deal about myself.

On the first day of the internship, I walked somewhat hesitantly through the big glass doors because, I’ll admit, this was my first time actually seeing the building. My interview was over the phone, so I didn’t see the building until my first day on the job. I was also surprised to find 25 other students waiting in the lobby to begin their internships as well. This was when I discovered that Capital BlueCross has a huge corporate internship program with students employed in almost every department. And here I thought that I would be their only intern, which leads to Lesson #1: Research the company’s internship program a little more so that you are adequately prepared for your first day.

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On our first day at Capital BlueCross, we met the other interns by doing team-building activities, such as building a replica of this helicopter out of Legos.

Speaking of research, I would be doing plenty of that over the summer! I learned so many new skills related to Microsoft Office and several other new databases. I also worked on a project with four other interns from different departments on how Capital BlueCross could better engage millennial employees and customers. We were planning on presenting our findings to our managers at the end of the summer, so we knew that we had plenty of time to work on the project. We planned out our weekly goals and paced ourselves accordingly, until one mid-summer day, we were asked to present our research to the CEO, Gary St. Hilaire, within three days of receiving the request. And now, we were scrambling, which brings me to Lesson #2: Be prepared for curveballs. Although we were rushing to compile all of our information, the presentation was definitely a success, thanks to increased effort from everyone involved.

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As part of the corporate internship program, we volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House by baking hundreds of muffins for the residents and their families.

Reflecting on my internship, I am very grateful to have had such a wonderful manager and co-workers. They were very approachable and always willing to help me when I had questions. From this experience, however, I did learn some more about my own workplace preferences. Market research requires long hours at a desk without much interaction with the outside world. Since I am more of a people-person, I asked my manager if I could shadow some other departments. Thankfully, she was very flexible and willing to let me shadow a health educator for two days. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her out in the community, and I even decided that I might want to pursue this field further in graduate school. Lesson #3: Be proactive and get the most out of your internship experience.

All in all, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to intern at Capital BlueCross. Not only did I learn more technical skills, I also learned a lot about myself and my work preferences. My internship was a wonderful experience, and I would definitely recommend it to other students!

 

 

Kristin Beck: A Model of Courage

Last Thursday at Juniata, I had the opportunity to hear the courageous story of Kristin Beck, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who came out as a transgender woman at the age of 45.

Kristin Beck served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for 20 years.

Kristin Beck served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for 20 years.

Since the time Kristin was in the 3rd grade, she knew that she identified as a woman. She got caught wearing her sister’s dress a few times and received punishment from her parents for not fitting gender norms. She joined the Navy SEALs so that she could “protect herself, build armor, and hide her true identity from others.” Due to social stigma in the previous generations, Kristin did not come out publicly until 2013. She said, “This is who I am. This is what I got to do. I’m going to start living my life how I want.”

Many people were shocked by her dramatic physical changes since she had gone from a macho-looking Navy SEAL to looking like a “Barbie doll.” Kristin explained that change doesn’t always have to be this drastic and that even changing your major could help you become closer to the person that you want to be. “Live your dreams. We get one life. Go for your dream, and work hard,” said Beck.

Since retiring from the Navy SEALS, Kristin has become a civil rights activist and is running for Congress. If elected, she will be the first transgender person in Congress; however, Kristin expressed that she doesn’t want to be looked at as the “first transgender,” but rather as an “American.” She said that her mission is the same now as it was when she was a Navy SEAL: To build bridges. As a Navy SEAL, Kristin physically built bridges in countries around the world, but as a civil rights activist, Kristin hopes to build bridges between people of all different backgrounds. “I want to fight for peace at any cost,” said Beck.

Kristin Beck serves as a civil rights activist and is running for a position in Congress.

Kristin Beck serves as a civil rights activist and is running for a position in Congress.

Kristin Beck’s story is not only inspiring for other people who are struggling with gender identity but is also inspiring for the population as a whole. Oftentimes, we face discouragement from others when wanting to express ourselves in a way that might not fit societal norms; however, Kristin serves as a model of hope for those of us just waiting to take that next step in discovering our true selves.

#ShaqTheHouse

On Saturday, January 31st at 4 pm, the Juniata College men’s basketball team played Drew University; however, this was a basketball game unlike any other. Throughout my three years at Juniata, I have gone to several basketball games, but I have never before seen such an enormous crowd of fans at a regular season game. The bleachers and surrounding areas were full of students, faculty, and community members who were all wearing white t-shirts with hashtags saying, “#WeGotShaqsBack” and “#ShaqTheHouse.” Without some more context, you might be thinking that Shaquille O’Neil came to visit Juniata. Unfortunately, that will probably never happen at small-town Huntingdon, but we do have our own “Shaq.”

In October 2014, Shaquille “Shaq” Smith, a Juniata College freshman basketball player, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Within just three short months, Shaq was put on life support while in a coma and had suffered three strokes.  Amazingly, Shaq is now on his way to recovery but still requires 24-hour care. With rising medical bills, the Juniata College men’s basketball team held a game in order to raise money for Shaq’s family. Typically, games are free to students, but for this game, students and all other fans could purchase a five-dollar t-shirt or bracelet for admission into the game. The money that was raised from the concession stand, 50/50, and halftime contests was also donated to Shaq’s family.

The cheerleaders wearing their #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts.

The cheerleaders wearing their #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts.

Before the beginning of the game, Shaq was wheeled out to the middle of the court where he expressed his gratitude for everything that had been done in his honor. His teammates and coaches hugged him and shook his hand, but even more powerful, the Drew team members, all wearing #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts, also shook his hand. This was when the waterworks began for me. There is something just absolutely beautiful when two opposing teams can come together to unite for a cause. The game is put aside, and reality prevails.

Shaq meets with his teammates before the game.

Shaq meets with his teammates before the game.

English author Charles Buxton once wrote, “Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body and soul.” Not only did the Juniata College men’s basketball team demonstrate this zeal by defeating Drew 68-58, but Shaq, unable to walk and still suffering from multiple complications, said to the crowd, “Don’t worry about me. I’m a fighter, so I’m going to keep on fighting.” And with that high level of perseverance and the tremendous amount of support from the community, Shaq will be right back out on that basketball court in no time.

Shaq swooshes a shot during halftime.

Shaq swooshes a shot during halftime.

To learn more about Shaq’s illness and/or to donate to the cause, please visit the following website: http://www.gofundme.com/kwlq58.

 

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