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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.

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.

 

Juniata Snow Day

Thursday morning I woke up around 2 AM, and looked out my window to see before me a winter wonderland. It was the picturesque snow – the one which rests easily on the trees and transforms your whole view of the world. It was gorgeous. I promptly appreciated it for a minute, and immediately fell back asleep, because nobody needs to be awake at 2 AM.

 

Snow Day

Now many of you may be thinking, “Oh cool, a snow day!”. I hate to break it to you, but absolutely not. Very rarely do we ever get classes canceled here at our little mountain college. You see, we are hardened to the snow here. We are unaffected by the cold. We are winter warriors! …sort of. Because most of our professors live in town, and Pennsylvania is well educated in snow removal, classes being canceled is a rare treat, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the winter weather.

Snow Day

After classes were over on Thursday, a few friends and I took off to frolic in the snow. The fresh powder wasn’t quite right for building snowmen, but we did throw a snowball or two. It was perfect for writing giant messages in the snow, taking a walk around campus, and finally, finishing the day with a walk to the cliffs.

Only a few minutes walk from main campus, the cliffs are a Juniata gem. The views are breathtaking, and while it looks good in every season, there was something magical about that landscape being covered in a fresh blanket of snow. Of the things I’ve learned being at Juniata, there is one main one that comes to mind right now: very few things are more beautiful than Juniata with a fresh coat of snow. I mean, just look at those pictures.

Snow on the Cliffs

So yes, while we don’t get very many classes off because of weather, we still get to enjoy the fun of the snow and the beauty of central Pennsylvania, which all in all, I would consider a win.

I am a Researcher

I’d never considered myself to be much of a “researcher”. Yes, I love environmental science, and most science learning, but when I thought about my future, I never saw research in it. Now, as a first semester Sophomore, I’ve found myself leading my own research project under biology professor, Dr. Norris Muth.

Last year, I began working on the project of mapping the street trees of Huntingdon Borough. I continued that project into this year, but a few weeks ago, Dr. Muth and Jim Savory (a member of the Tree Commission) approached me with a new project – the Huntingdon Champion Trees project. Well, that’s not quite our official name, but it sums it up fairly well. Essentially, our goal is to find the biggest tree of each species across Huntingdon County.

 

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

 

We had an article published in The Daily News (Huntingdon County’s newspaper) about our project, and the tips started rolling in. So far, people around the county have contacted me about almost 20 different trees. I’ve been going out a few times a week since then just to try to keep up with it!

 

The article written in the Daily News about our project

The article written in the Daily News about our project

Besides the fact that it’s incredibly cool to have my own project so early in my college career, the project itself somehow managed to combine everything I’m interested in. I love Urban Forestry (trees in cities and towns), history, people, and Huntingdon. I’ve met someone who lives in the same house that their grandparents once lived in, I went to one home that had an old carriage house, and a ramp in the front yard so people could get into the carriage, and I’ve seen some really, really huge trees.

I know trees are not everyone’s thing. Heck, they’re barely anyone’s thing. However, that’s not the point. Even though Juniata does not have a forestry program, I was able to invest myself fully in my interests.

Top 5 things I love about Juniata

Whenever I encounter students considering coming to Juniata, they always ask me the same few things.

“What is the social scene like?”

“How are the classes?”

“Do you like the size of the school?”

These questions are usually fine, but then I get the one question that is so hard to answer: “What is the best thing about Juniata?”. It’s a tough one. I mean, think about it. In answering that question, I’m trying to pick one thing that summarizes everything that Juniata is to me, and that’s near impossible. So, I’ve decided to make a list. A countdown list of what Juniata’s best is, at least in my opinion. I hope it helps.

 

  1. Trips – One of my favorite aspects, and one of my mom’s least favorite (sorry Mom!)

So far this year, I’ve gone on a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium, and to a 4-day professional conference in North Carolina, and its only October. The reality of Juniata is, there are trips happening constantly, they go all over, and they’re incredible. I know people who’ve gone to NYC, Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and so many other amazing places on Juniata or club sponsored trips. If you’re looking to travel, and travel with a great group of people, Juniata is a good place for it.

Lake

  1. Proximity to home – This one, my mom likes

Juniata really is in a great location. We’re 3 hours from D.C., 3 hours from Philadelphia, 3 hours from Pittsburgh, and fairly close to a lot of other places, such as NYC. Generally, if I don’t know where someone is from, I assume it’s 3 hours away, because we’re pretty much smack dab in the middle of everything.

 

  1. Huntingdon – A charming mix of old and brand new

Huntingdon is a fantastic little town. There is a plethora of coffee shops, thrift shops, little stores, and beautiful old buildings. Its small enough to always feel at home, and large enough that you always manage to see something new.

 

  1. Tenting – It’s awful and wonderful all wrapped into one freezing week

Tenting is an amazingly awful experience. It’s a hilarious week of talent competitions, 3am challenges, impossible tasks, and a lot of air horns being blown. It’s also a week of freezing your butt off, and realizing at 4 am that you have an exam in less than 12 hours that you forgot about. I would definitely recommend it.

 

  1. Everyone – You can’t beat the people

I’ve come to realize that out of everything, the people here are my absolute favorite part of Juniata. Professors, facilities, hall mates, classmates, dining hall workers… they’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. The thing is, everyone around here is willing and wanting to help you. Juniata is a community of wanting each other to be happy, and that fact is evident in everyday life.

Friends

I hope my little list was informative and helpful in your journey of selecting a school, but there’s only so much you can get from writing. If you get the chance, you should come check it out for yourself.

You and I are different people

Okay, yes that is an obvious fact, but it’s also an important one. If you do decide to come to Juniata (which I truly hope you do), you won’t have the same experiences as me. We’ll be on the same small campus, we’ll probably have mutual friends, and perhaps even a class or two together, but I can never tell you what your experience will be like. I know that. So, on that note, I’m not going to tell you about me. Instead, I’m going to tell you about some of the incredible people here who you might someday get a chance to meet. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be telling someone else a story about you.

To kick us off is a very good friend of mine. We didn’t meet in the usual way, but rather, he walked by my room when I was having a really rough night (I had just lost a bunch of shoes that didn’t belong to me after borrowing them for a scavenger hunt). When he looked in, he saw me huddled in the corner eating off-brand pop tarts, nearly crying, and instead of walking by, he walked in. We talked for hours about nothing, and yes, I later found the shoes.

I have another friend who is just incredible. Last summer, he worked in a hotel in Germany, and this summer he’s sailing around Tahiti and Australia for a couple of months. In the span of an hour, he encouraged me to work in New Zealand this summer at a horse trekking farm, simply because I can. I would never have had the courage to actually go for it without his inspiration and encouragement.

Friends

It isn’t just the peers that are amazing here. One of my professors, who happens to also be The Wildlife Society advisor here, hired me to work in the Field Station Office this year. Every time I go in for work, he starts off by asking me how I’m doing, and I can tell he truly cares. He knows I have a busy schedule this semester, and he wants to make sure I’m not overworked. Every week, it makes me feel a little better knowing that someone is looking out for me.

One more thing that happened recently really stands out to me. Walking to dinner, I saw a bunny in a storm drain. It was a baby, just huddled in the corner. When I saw that it was still there the next day, I went to President Troha’s office to tell him about it, because I knew he would help me. Even though he wasn’t in at the time, his secretary was on it. She was not about to leave that baby bunny in the storm drain either.

There are so many stories from so many different people on this campus, I couldn’t even make a dent in them if I tried to tell them all. From a girl who made it her mission to change the world because her life was personally affected by genocide, to a friend who works six jobs here on campus but still manages to do well in all of them, to a professor, whose parents told her that she only had a limited amount of options for her life because she was a woman – the stories are endless and incredible.

Group

Although I’m surrounded by all of these incredible people, I don’t feel lost in the shuffle. I don’t feel like I’m competing, and I don’t feel put down, because we are all a piece of what makes Juniata so amazing. Without our myriad of backgrounds, and intense variety of stories, Juniata wouldn’t be what it is today. It’s a patchwork I’m proud to be a part of, and if it fits you, hopefully someday you’ll be a part of it too.

 

Reflections on Freshman Year

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Just a casual selfie with President Troha

I can’t believe it. Freshman year is almost over. This year, time has passed more quickly than I could’ve ever imagined, but I think that might just mean I’m doing it right. I could give you the stereotypical “there’s been ups and downs,” and honestly I probably should because that’s the truth. I wish I could write down everything I’ve experienced, but if I tried to even summarize everything for you, we would both be here for hours. Let me give it to you in one word: joy.

That’s all I can think when I think about this last year. My life has been filled with joy ever since I arrived at Juniata College. That does not mean times weren’t hard, or I was never sad. I’ve been distraught here. I’ve been mad, and I’ve cried. However, I’ve also laughed until I couldn’t breathe, I’ve smiled until my face hurt, and I’ve gone on an incredible amount of adventures with the people I love.

sydney2

Now that I’ve gone through the ups and downs of a year of school, I think I’m old and wise enough to give you some advice on what to expect when you come to Juniata College.

  1. Pack lightly. Be aware that even though our dorm rooms are fairly large, they will not fit everything you bring. I promise you, you will accumulate a lot of things over the course of a year.
  2. There aren’t exclusive cliques here. Yes, there are groups of friends, but all of the ones I have encountered have been incredibly welcoming, so take advantage of that.
  3. Don’t always wait for an invitation. Okay, no, you should not invite yourself to someone’s birthday party or third wheel on a date, but if someone is going to play Frisbee golf, ask if you can go along. College students don’t always know that some people are waiting for an invitation.
  4. Time management is so important. Juniata is an academically challenging school, but it is incredibly easy to balance those academics with other activities. Prioritize and manage your time.
  5. Ask for help. Everyone I have met here has been more than willing to help me, so if you need or even just want a support network, Juniata has an incredible one.
  6. Enjoy it. Don’t count down until you can go home for Fall Break or until the semester is over. Appreciate the people you meet and the experiences you’re having. It’ll be gone before you know it.

Wherever you decide to go (I hope it is here, because this school is wonderful), just make sure it’s somewhere where you can take advantage of all college has to offer, because let me tell you, freshman year is fantastic.

Wildlife Student Conclave 2016

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In high school, and even in college, you work on projects that are hypothetical. They don’t play out in the real world, or really determine much in your life besides a grade. However, in college, I’ve found one project that really does make a difference.

As I have said in a few of my other postings, I am a member of The Wildlife Society here on campus, and we’ve undertaken a huge project. Every year, each region of the United States has a student chapter that hosts the Wildlife Conclave. Our chapter members decided last spring, “Hey! We can do this!” and signed us up.

When I signed up for Wildlife Conclave planning last semester, I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be getting into. It turned out to be a massive event – we have almost 150 people attending – that would require months of planning, budgeting, and long meetings.

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The planning committee

In attending events, I never really thought about how much time and effort went into it. It was just something I would go to, enjoy, and go home. In planning an actual event, I have learned that it is a lot more than that. We have to think about site logistics, funding sources, workshop assignments, making nametags, planning meals… the list goes on forever. At first, it was incredibly intimidating. It seemed like the planning would never end, and that this event would never actually happen.

Now, looking back on the past two semesters, thinking about how the event is only a week and a half away, I’m a lot less intimidated, and I realized that I have learned a lot. I learned to make a vanguard to plan when things need to get done, how to make a budget, how to coordinate orders, and how to be committed to deadlines. None of this would get done without the amazing work of everyone in The Wildlife Society, and the motivation to do that work.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, there is something special in knowing that the project I’m working on is a real thing. The pens and water bottles I ordered for this event are tangible. The people are coming, whether we’re ready or not, so we have to try like crazy to be ready. My work matters here, and that is an incredible experience to have.

If you are interested in learning any more about the event we are holding, or The Wildlife Society at Juniata in general, always feel free to contact me or to like our page on Facebook!

Random Roommate Roulette

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As an Eagle Ambassador and a freshman student here at Juniata, one of the questions I most commonly get is, “How do you like your roommate?” I have been asked this question at least a dozen times by parents and students alike, and I answer it the same way every time.

“Oh my god, I love her.”

Now, I know that statement does not make me seem like the most eloquent speaker (perhaps because I’m not), but it is the truth. My random roommate is one of the best things that has happened to me at Juniata and in life as a whole.

Before school began, I was pretty terrified of getting a bad roommate. I have two older siblings, both of whom had terrible roommate experiences, so I was expecting the worst. I tried to combat what I perceived as the inevitable by finding a roommate through the little bios on the Class of 2019 Facebook page, but somehow everyone had already paired off. I was left with the ominous reality of the random roommate. So, I filled out that little survey as honestly as possible, and prayed that I wouldn’t end up with an axe murderer.

Then I waited, and waited, and waited for what I promise you will feel like forever. Finally, in July, I got the name of my roommate: Bekah Ford. What I saw from my time spent Facebook stalking was old high school photo shoots, pictures from prom, and your other average things like photos of Alaskan landscapes, green New England mountain peaks, and a ton of pictures of a group of ragged-looking people hiking a 2,181-mile trail through the Appalachian Mountains. This odd variety of photos confused me. Who was this girl? Why wasn’t she shaving her legs? (A question I asked when I hadn’t yet grasped that she had just hiked the whole AT). Finally, and most importantly, would she like me?

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When I finally made it to Juniata in August, I was more than a little intimidated by Bekah. This girl had done what most of us only talk about doing: seizing the opportunities life has to offer. I was no match. I’m not going to say it was perfect at first interaction, because for a long time, we were simply acquaintances. I guess that’s what happens when you’re too intimidated by each other to have a real conversation. However, after one long night of making guacamole, we bonded. We haven’t really left each other ever since. We eat almost every meal together, share two classes, are currently raising a pet fish together, and I plan to live with her for just about… forever.

I could go on here for hours about how amazing my roommate is, or how she buys me candy, does my laundry when I’m sick, makes me laugh, or just generally brightens my day, but something tells me that is not what this blog is for. My point is, do not be scared of the random roommate. It could work out beautifully for you, as it did for me and so many others. Even if it doesn’t, you can very easily fix it, so there is nothing to be afraid of. Trust me, sometimes you have to roll the dice. If you do, you just might win it big.

From 0 to 400 in One Semester

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Because I’m a freshman, I’m expected to take the intro classes – the easy ones. However, this semester I decided to do something different. Back when I was signing up for classes, I decided to take a 400 level biology class called Environmental Toxicology.

Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with how class levels work (honestly it still confuses me a little bit). Essentially, I decided to take a class designated for juniors or seniors who had taken more than the single biology class I had taken, and perhaps a chemistry class or two. Simply put, I was crazy, or at least that’s what my friends told me. I was worried, but not too much because I had another freshman friend who would take it with me! Well, as it turned out, he had to drop the class, and so on the first day of classes I walked into Toxicology more than a little intimidated by what I had signed up for.

The class is taught by Dr. John Matter, who is one of the professors for the freshman biology class. I enjoyed his section of the course so much that I decided that I would take a class with him in the spring semester. As it turned out, the only class he taught that I could possibly take was Toxicology, and so I decided that would be my class. I had to do a few things first: get his permission, and my advisor’s permission.

When I went to get Dr. Matter’s signature, I was a little worried he would just say “no” with no debate to be had, and so I was pleasantly surprised when he smiled at me and said “sure!” He assured me that even though it might require some work, he thought I could handle the class. With this newfound confidence in myself, I went to my advisor’s room to get her signature. She gave me a funny look and said, “Are you sure?” and then gave me her permission as well.

Walking into a room full of seniors and juniors on the first day of class was intimidating, but as it turned out, there were some faces I recognized. The first couple of classes went well, and I did not feel lost. Dr. Matter was hilarious as usual, and so I stayed in the class. It’s week three, and I’m still (and hopefully will continue to be) enjoying myself.

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The point of this story isn’t that you should take Environmental Toxicology when you get here because it sounds easy, because it’s not. The point isn’t that Dr. Matter is a hilarious professor, even though that is true. The point is that throughout the whole process, nobody told me “no” or “you can’t do this.” Throughout the whole process of signing up for this course, I was the only one considering holding myself back. You can do anything once you get here, like take crazy classes or join all the clubs. You can do whatever you let yourself do, and that is the best thing I’ve encountered about being at Juniata.

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