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Mountain Day of the Mind

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.

 

The cast of the staged reading of "Airborne", an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.

The cast of the staged reading of “Airborne”, an original murder mystery play at 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!

SPRINGFEST: A Tale of Many Sunburns (and some other fun stuff too)

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.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

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.

Graduation: How is it Here Already?!

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!

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.

 

International Food Fair and Talent Show

Amigos de Guanin is hosting its annual International Food Fair and Talent Show. This event is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. As secretary of the club, I am very excited for the event on Saturday, February 18th. All proceeds go to an underdeveloped community in the Dominican Republic that I visited in 2015 with a group of students on a one credit service trip. I fell in love with the community and have been raising money ever since.

International Food Fair and Talent Show

The International Food Fair and Talent show is an invent where we get other clubs to help us make multiple dishes from around the world. This year, we have dishes such as matzah ball soup, a rice and beans dish, and many more. Following these delicious dishes will be talent from places such as Africa, the Dominican Republic, and many others.

A lot of planning has gone into this event. It will be held in Baker Refectory from 7-9PM and tickets are $8 with student ID, otherwise $10 at the door. You will be receiving a plate full of food, a night full of talent, and an experience like no other. Ellen Campbell, Dean of Students and other speakers will be presenting throughout the evening.

I am so happy to be part of a club like Amigos de Guanin. It is my senior year and so it is my last year involved with this fundraising experience, but I really am honored to have been a part of this work and I hope to continue to contribute even after graduation.

photo credit:  Jared Evans

photo credit: Jared Evans

Ubuntu Presents: I Am African, but I don’t Speak African

Saturday Nov. 12th marked my most memorable day of the semester at Juniata. The Ubuntu African club held a cultural event that featured a fashion show demonstrating traditional attires, music and dance from various regions of Africa. I was very proud to have been part of this event called “I Am African, but I don’t Speak African,” because we wanted to educate the public about Africa’s ethnic diversity.

Figure 1: Ubuntu Club Members in Traditional African Attires: (from left to right): Melat Solomon, Ruhama Almaw, Kisest Birru, Anne-Marcelle (Me), Sayida Rabiou-Yari, Zoe Michael, Theresa Perry, Hephzibah Joshua, Taha Barkaoui, Joycelyn Radeny & Stephanie Njeru

Figure 1: Ubuntu Club Members in Traditional African Attires: (from left to right): Melat Solomon, Ruhama Almaw, Kisest Birru, Anne-Marcelle (Me), Sayida Rabiou-Yari, Zoe Michael, Theresa Perry, Hephzibah Joshua, Taha Barkaoui, Joycelyn Radeny & Stephanie Njeru

The planning of this event started a month ago when my fellow club members met at the Unity House to discuss our ideas for the semester. Although the Ubuntu club was known for dancing at various events, including the multicultural fest and the dance ensemble fall recital, we wanted a platform of our own. As such, we chose a date, booked the venue, created posters and reached out to professors and peers to spread the word. In addition to dancing, we had other members show their hidden talents through poetry, modeling and singing. I was mostly involved with reserving the venue and choreographing dances to popular Afro beats songs like “Bank Alert” by P-Square, “Tiguidi” by Tour de Guarde, and “Shake Body” by Skales. My favorite moment of the event when a kid named Jillian bravely came to dance with us. He was amazing, full of energy and quickly picked up our dance moves.

Figure 2: Joycelyn, Hephzibah and I dancing with Jillian, and other audience members joined us.

Figure 2: Joycelyn, Hephzibah and I dancing with Jillian, and other audience members joined us.

The event would not have been successful without our combined efforts, which is what the name of club reflects. Ubuntu is a Swahili word, meaning “togetherness”. We had Stephanie as the master of ceremonies, and she made sure that the show ran smoothly! Other club members helped make the event successful, including the club’s president, Hephzibah, from Nigeria, the club’s event coordinator, Joycelyn from Kenya, Sayida, from Niger, Taha from Tunisia, Melat, Kisest and Ruhama Ethiopia, Zoe, from New York, and Theresa from Maryland. In total, five African countries were represented that night: Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria; and seven ethnic languages: Swahili, Gouro, Baoule, Haoussa, Tunisian Arabic, Amharic and Igbo. Our message was clear: Africa is not a country but a continent, and its diversity goes deeper than country borders drawn on the map. These borders do not necessarily represent or isolate the different ethnic groups, which number in the thousands.

Our event had a great turnout, and I was very happy to see our peers and professors celebrating our cultures. This was very important to us because it encouraged us to put plans into motion for our bigger event in the spring, where we will have authentic African dishes from various parts of the continent.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Nahui Twomey

An In’tents Election

As I write this, people all over the country are flocking to polling stations to cast their votes in one of the most divisive elections of our time. For months we have been bombarded by almost non-stop news coverage of what the candidates have said or done. New discoveries about shady pasts and predictions about even shadier futures have had us on the edge of our seats. But as with any mind numbingly repetitive act, this election cycle has ceased to surprise us… well at least me. The things that once appalled us about our candidates don’t really affect us anymore. When a heavy hitting revelation happens each week, the potency that they might have once held rapidly degrades.

“Oh more emails were found? He did that too? I mean how many of us actually know where Aleppo is?”

Figure 1: First time voting!

Figure 1: First time voting!

 

I would hardly describe myself has a political person, but the candidates up for election, and the issues they stand for, have gotten me fired up on more than one occasion over the past few months. Logic would dictate that the closer we get to election day, the more heated the arguments would get as people would try to sway their friends to their side of things. Yet I have noticed quite the opposite has happened. Sure I still here the odd conversation about the election on campus and I pick up the odd bit of election news from The Late Show with Steven Colbert, but the fiery rhetoric that has been such a Hallmark of this election has disappeared.

Figure 2: You can't run through a campground...

Figure 2: You can’t run through a campground…

Now again, I am not a political person and this is my first time voting, so I don’t know if this is how an election cycle usually progresses. Regardless, I think that we are all tired of the whole year. The election cycle was like watching a really bad reality show. Like the ones you see on TLC. People watch, not because they are particularly interested, but because they are captivated by the spectacle. By the time this blog is posted we will know who our next president will be and, hopefully, the drama will be over.

Here at Juniata there will probably be discussions that last a few days. We will want to know what our country will look like with our new president. Maybe a few of us will do some late night Google searches on the best way to sneak into Canada. But just as the election cycle rhetoric dissipated, so will the nervous chatter. We will start to focus our at’tent’ion to our annual tradition of tenting, where students camp out and compete for tickets to the Madrigal dinner. Students will write wraps, and choreograph dances and stock up on cold medicine in preparation for the week after tenting.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that while the presidential election is important and will determine a lot about the next four years, the outcome shouldn’t change how we live our lives. As someone somewhere once said, “This too shall pass.” Despite how you feel about the impending election results, don’t let them ruin your day, or your week or your next four years. There is a lot more to life than a presidential election. So if you’re feeling a little nervous, pack up a tent and get away from it all for a while. Oh, and don’t forget the cold medicine, it’s a little chilly outside.

Unlock Your Voice

For the past two years, I have been involved with Lift Evr’y Voice and Unlock Your Voice here at Juniata. These two events are courses taught every other year at Juniata through the English department. Our class (which is typically, no more than ten students) works together for the majority of the fall semester, planning a coffeehouse-style event celebrating specific groups of people. For Lift Evr’y Voice, we choose to celebrate African American literature. For Unlock Your Voice, we honor women everywhere by performing music and poetry written by anyone who identifies as a woman.
Lift Evr'y Voice
We picked a theme, created images and ideas, sent out emails, bought supplies, recruited volunteers, and ultimately transformed the Ellis Ballroom into a dimly-lit, beautifully decorated coffee shop with lots of sweet treats. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to pull together an event like this, but it is always amazing to see the final product a few minutes before we start our show.
This year, we had the most volunteers ever, and had about 20 performances throughout the night, ranging from slam poems to ukulele covers, and everything in between. We had both men and women participating, and some women actually read material they wrote themselves! We had a huge turnout, and it was so lovely to see so many wonderful people (faculty and students) come together to promote something that is so important in our society (and especially to me).
Lift Evr'y Voice
Every year the English Department switches the course every other year (i.e. this year we did Unlock Your Voice, so next year will be Lift Evr’y Voice) but I believe it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to come and speak up about certain issues, by delivering beautiful poems and songs and sharing the beauty of literature with the campus community. I wish I could work on an event like this every semester because it’s very inspiring for me, so I’m excited to sign up to work on Lift Evr’y Voice next year!

Global Village: Le Village Francophone Rocks!

One of the most exciting aspect of my second year at Juniata has been my involvement with the global village (GV), particularly the Francophone Village as its programming coordinator. The global village is a learning and living community centered around language and intercultural learning. It is made up of Intercultural Floor, El Rincón Hispánico, Haus Wanderlust, Le Village Francophone and the Chinese Village. The language houses formerly used to be off campus with their own individual buildings. This year however, the GV has been relocated into the Tussey and Terrace (TnT) dorm, and the lounge has been renovated and turned into the global commons with a dining room added! Some language houses have changed their named, including the Francophone Village (previously known as le Village Français). The name change was initiated by the residents and me to make the village more inclusive as most of us were French speakers but not French.

Figure 1I (on the far right) and my fellow French speakers at the Francophone Village open house: Perrine Lesage, Pia Dubar, Justine Delloye, Omar Zniber, Taha Barkaoui and Charles-Elie Latawiec

Figure 1: I (on the far right) and my fellow French speakers at the Francophone Village open house: Perrine Lesage, Pia Dubar, Justine Delloye, Omar Zniber, Taha Barkaoui and Charles-Elie Latawiec

As a programming coordinator, I am responsible for several things, including coordinating monthly dinners and activities. The best part of being a coordinator is making those dinner because, for me, FOOD=LIFE! I really enjoy cooking, and I believe that one way to have an effective cross-cultural communication is by sharing food. As a result, twice a week, my residents and I pull our efforts together to make delicious meals from the Francophone world. The most recent dinner, last Friday, featured the famous poutine dish– French fries topped with cheese and gravy–from Québec. Since I went on fall break trip to Quebec with the French club, it seemed only appropriate to do a dish from that region. In addition to the regular potatoes, we made some sweet potato poutine, inspired from the menu of Cinko, my favorite restaurant in Montréal! While we ate, a slideshow our adventures in Quebec was playing on the screen, and we had the great time.

Figure 2The original Poutine from Cinko!

Figure 2: The original Poutine from Cinko!

At previous dinners, we made food from Côte d’Ivoire (Aloco-fried plantains-and fried rice), Tunisia (Tunisian coucous), France (Quiche) and Québec (Poutine). These dishes represented the countries and regions of the French speakers that Juniata had, which shows the affluence of the francophone cultures on campus. In order to promote the village, I organized an open house and invited President Troha and Provost Bowen. They were happy with our work and loved the food! In the near future, we will be making food from Niger Senegal and Guadeloupe and continue to invite various members of the Juniata community.

Figure 3: Ivorian fried rice and Tunisian coucous mixed

Figure 3: Ivorian fried rice and Tunisian coucous mixed

As a global citizen, I am proud to be involved in pioneering GV in the newly renovated Global Commons; My co-coordinators and I, with the support our advisors and generous contributors, do our best to set the stage for the future global residents. GV still has a long way to go—we still need a kitchen of our own, which requires donations and skillful marketing skills–, but I believe in the importance of language learning and global citizenship. And indeed, we are on the right track.

 

Photo Credit to: Haruka Kamegaya

It’s Mountain Day!

Four years ago, when I was a senior in high school I browsed around different college websites hoping that something would catch my eye and nothing did for the longest time. It wasn’t until I found the traditions on the Juniata College youtube page that really peaked my interest. One of the main reasons why I decided to come to Juniata was not because of the academics; it was because of the traditions that occur throughout the year.

Mountain Day

Each fall semester of every year holds a random day when students get the entire day off of classes to go to Raystown lake and play games with peers and professors. The catch is, that no one knows when this day is going to be. Not even the professors know when this day is. This past Thursday was this glorious day known as mountain day and everyone woke to the sound of wonderful air horns and pots and pans at 5am to hear the incredible news. (When you are a student here, you will understand the feeling of excitement when those beautiful air horns sound in the morning.) As I am a senior with a car I didn’t have to wake up in time to get the buses that leave for the lake in the morning, so I slept in and made it to the lake just in time for lunch. Each year there are a variety of different bouncy houses and activities for students to enjoy. This year, there was a zip line, inflatables ranging from the original racecourse to trying to knock people off a pedestal with a wrecking ball, a caricaturist, a create your own spin art frisbee section, an air brush tattoo artist, and a photo booth, along with the many types of games and general activities that go on at the lake. It was a beautiful day to spend with my friends and just relax. It is not just a day off from classes but a time to connect with both of your peers and professors to create a stronger bond. Also, it was nice not having to worry about the test that I was supposed to have that day.

This year was my last mountain day and I have to tell you, I think this is the tradition that I will miss the most. I love the secretiveness about it and the thrill it gives you when you hear an air horn outside of your window. When I graduate, dependent on what profession I go into, I may not be able to call off for a random day of the year. I will just have to sit back at work and hope everyone else enjoys his or her mountain day. I have always proposed that we should have a mountain week. Maybe one day I will make that happen. A random week off in the beginning of the year is what everyone needs when life gets stressful. Don’tcha think?

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