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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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.