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Tenting Takeover

If you’ve been on campus lately, you’ve definitely noticed the swarm of tents that suddenly appeared on the Quad. No, it wasn’t an evil camping magician that sought vengeance on Juniata students. No, it wasn’t Laughing Bush (our outdoors club) practicing for their next outing. It was actually a Juniata tradition called – yep! you guessed it! – tenting!

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Halloween Haunts at JC

A cool wind blows across campus. Jack o’ landers glow at night; the faint sound of Michael Jackson’s Thriller can be heard in the distance. It’s officially Halloween at Juniata!

Pumpkins decorate the campus here at JC
Pumpkins decorate the campus here at JC

Throughout the last couple of weeks, we students have been very busy celebrating the arrival of Fall and all the seasonal joys that come along with it. The Juniata Activities Board annually hosts Festifall – a celebration of all things Fall that includes pumpkin carving, horseback carriage rides, hot chocolate, a costume contest, and much much more! The best part of Festifall is sitting around the fire with your friends, enjoying warm apple cider, and totally not procrastinating on homework.

What’s that? You can’t make it to Festifall? No worries! There are plenty of other events to attend. Just last week, the Social Dance Club hosted a Halloween dance where students dressed up in their costumes and learned common Halloween dances. A big plus is that Juniatians are very artistic, so you’ll always see some very intricate or super interesting costume designs. We also recently had a Haunted Walk put on by the Wild Hunters of Juniata where students traveled through a path in the forest to be scared by tons of spooky surprises.

Hallway costume pictures - a college classic
Hallway costume pictures – a college classic

Today is officially Halloween and that means trick or treating! Every year, Juniata students team up to decorate the lounges of our residence halls to get in the spirit of Halloween. Then, we invite the children from in town to come trick or treat on campus! It’s always a great time seeing the children gawk at everyone’s costumes and the awesome decorations we’ve put up to invite them into our halls.

The various events that I’ve described are only a few of the many traditions we observe here at Juniata. If you’re looking for a school that’s big on traditions and big on community, then Juniata might be the place for you!

Student Senate Means Business

Clack! A gavel at the front of the room hits the wood table, and the sea of chatter surrounding you slowly dwindles into silence. You look to your left, and then to your right, only to find students just like yourself dressed in semi-formal attire. Their attention is aimed at a PowerPoint slide titled “Student Senate Meeting – 10/1/18.”

As you might’ve guessed, this is a typical Student Senate meeting here at Juniata. Every two weeks, representatives from each class, different committees, and select other groups on campus come together to discuss solutions to issues facing students. Often times, there will also be a member of the administration presenting on pressing matters or giving senators the most up-to-date-information.

President Troha addressing Student Senate. Photo by Sophie Bell.
President Troha addressing Student Senate. Photo by Sophie Bell.

Just two meetings ago, President Troha himself presented the college’s budget to the body of student representatives. He discussed the college’s goals for the future, the introduction of new programs – like Mock Trial and eSports – to enhance the student experience, and reaffirmed the administration’s accountability to the student body.

When I asked about student government as I toured other schools, my questions were often dodged as if I had brought up some kind of scandal. I quickly found that at these schools, student government had no power to enforce their decisions or make any kind of real change. At other schools, these “student governments” represented a single interest group or weren’t committed to action.

Students voting on a motion. Photo by Sophie Bell.
Students voting on a motion. Photo by Sophie Bell.

When I first got involved in Student Senate at Juniata in my freshman year, I was amazed at how many groups of students were represented, and further, how much they actually accomplished. Through fair elections in every class, the appointment of 10 senators on behalf of a student advocacy group known as Students Advocating for Universal Respect, and the work of other specific committees, Juniata’s Student Senate beautifully represents students from all classes and identities. Last year, these students were able to get more bike racks and recycling bins on campus and assist in the selection process of a new food provider. These are just a few examples of the collective action of Juniata’s student body.

The experience of working with so many other students to collectively improve the lives of students as Freshman Class President is something I wouldn’t give up for anything. If you’re looking to make change in your new environment, give back to your community, and represent your peers, I suggest Student Senate at Juniata College.

From Inboundee to Inbound Leader

This year I had the honor of being an Inbound leader for the incoming first year students. I signed up to be a hiking leader – I don’t know why. I am not a hiker and I have no idea what was going through my brain when I filled out the application, but I was determined to make the most of it.

The Inbound leaders of my group last year were fabulous. They were relatable and basically the spirit guides of my first week at Juniata. I wanted to be like them for my group of Inboundees.

We hiked several different trails, and I went through like a bottle and a half of bug spray, but it was worth it. On one of our hikes, an Inboundee licked a slug against our recommendation. Turns out, when you lick certain slugs, the bottom of a slug it makes your tongue go numb. It was quite the week of learning.

My 19th birthday happened to be on the second day of Inbound, and we had a mini birthday celebration at the lake. We stuck candles in Rice Krispy treats and wore birthday hats and tiaras while we kayaked. It was the first-time kayaking for some of our Inboundees, and it was really cool to share this experience with them.

Me and my Inboundees at the bottom of 1000 Steps.
Me and my Inboundees at the bottom of 1000 Steps.

We hiked 1000 steps (the name is a lie by the way – it is more than 1000 steps), and I barely made it up. At every break in the stairs, the group would all take a break and turn around to watch me drag myself up the steps about 100 feet behind them. Around step 300 I waved them ahead with the other group leader and stopped for a break. I decided I couldn’t handle anymore hiking and told them I would meet them on their way down.

They sent me inspirational quotes and pictures of the view at the top to motivate me to keep going. I arrived about 20 minutes later than everyone else but I made it. They all applauded me when I arrived at the top of the lookout and immediately collapsed on the ground in a heap, gasping for breath. After I got over the fact that my legs were so tired it felt like they would never work again, I appreciated all of their motivation and support. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. It awoke a new determination within myself for the rest of our hiking adventures. I still always ended up bringing up the back of the group, but I wasn’t as far back as I was before.

The last day of Inbound got rained out, so we made tacos in one of the residence hall kitchens. I was low-key thankful to not be hiking another day, and eating tacos was a better bonding opportunity in my opinion.

We hiked, went kayaking, made tacos, played a lot of ice breakers, and made some pretty strong friendships. I’d say this Inbound was a success. I hope I was as good of an Inbound leader as mine were.

ABASM: We Came for the Science and Stayed for the free T-shirt

This past weekend, several Juniata students had the opportunity to present their research at the Allegheny Branch of the American Society of Microbiology’s yearly conference.  As a bonus the meeting was held right here at Juniata in the von Liebig Center for Science.  The conference took place over the course of roughly thirty-six hours starting from early afternoon on Friday and ending early evening on Saturday.  Over the course of those thirty-six hours students from nineteen institutions, both graduate and undergraduate, had the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of topics from distinguished speakers and from one another.  There were several unique presentations over the two-day period.  The first was a self-mentorship workshop where the speaker guided us through introspective searches into our deepest desires and goals which we later used to help craft a personal mission statement.  The next day we participated in a workshop given by a Juniata alumnus that now works at Ecovative, a company that produces biodegradable packaging products with fungus.  We even got to take some samples home with us!  To close out the conference Juniata’s very own Dr. Belle Tuten, a history professor that specializes in medieval medicine, gave a talk on the methods by which doctors in medieval times used to treat wounds.  The subject matter, which was quite humorous by itself, was made even more so by Dr. Tuten delivering her speech as if the medical practices of the past were perfectly reasonable methods for treating diseases.

Some members of Dr. Lamendella's Lab and myself looking more awake than we actually felt
Some members of Dr. Lamendella’s Lab and myself looking more awake than we actually felt

While the workshops and speaker sessions were fun and educational, nothing compared to the student presentations.  Although I presented this summer at the Landmark Conference at Susquehanna University, presenting at an actual society meeting had a much more significant feel to it.  Sharing my hard work with a room full of people who were just as big or bigger science nerds than me was phenomenal and then being able to sit back down and learn about all the other awesome projects students were working on was just as exhilarating.  This conference further affirmed by desire to go into research when I graduate from Juniata this May.   I learned so many new things about tools like CRISPR and about how viruses affect fetal brain development, to cover just a few things.  This conference increased my thirst for knowledge and understanding about the scientific world and made me that much more excited about graduate school next year.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the constant support and mentoring by Dr. Regina Lamendella and Justin Wright and their lab.  Without them I highly doubt that our lab would have done so well at the conference, and many of us that presented wouldn’t have had as high quality research to present on without their connections and collaborations.  There are many labs that conduct undergraduate research on campus.  Students can do research in almost every department on campus, and many students present this research at local, regional and national conferences, including the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and our very own Liberal Arts Symposium which we host every Spring.

Ecovative preparing samples of their product for the conference attendees
Ecovative preparing samples of their product for the conference attendees

From my experience, albeit limited, Juniata has one of the best programs for undergraduate research.  Everyone is encouraged to participate and you can get involved as early as your freshmen year.  All it takes is a little initiative, drive to succeed and no small amount of curiosity on your part.  Even if you don’t think you’ll like research, I still encourage you to participate.  You might find, like me, that you love research and the amazing sense of discovery that comes with it, and find it much more satisfying than being a doctor.  Or you might not.  It is better to try and not like it, then never try and miss out on an amazing opportunity.  Not only that but if you do want to go to med school it looks good if you have done research.

Truc '18 and Hoi Tong '18 after their very successful presentations
Truc ’18 and Hoi Tong ’18 after their very successful presentations

I leave you with this: Research can be difficult.  There are days where you will want to pull your hair out because your line of code just isn’t working or your organic reaction has failed for the twentieth time.  If you get nothing else out of research, you will at least learn the ability to fail.  Yes, the ability to fail.  It is an art, one that I am still mastering.  Sure, succeeding at everything you do feels great, but you don’t really learn anything from it. Failing teaches perseverance and creativity.  Believe me, you do a lot of failing when you first start researching.  You learn as you go and slowly, you improve.  The quality of your work gets better as does the understanding of your project, and for me, my desire to learn more about what I was researching also increased.  It is quite a journey but there is no better place to undertake that journey than Juniata.