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By guest blogger, Aidan Griffiths ’22
There’s nothing quite like Fall hawk migration. Hundreds of thousands of birds of prey take advantage of the favorable Autumn winds and migrate south for the winter, sometimes grouping together in flocks of hundreds or even thousands of individuals at a time. Many enthusiastic observers gather each year to watch this amazing phenomenon, and it just so happens that Central Pennsylvania is one of the best areas in the country to do so. These majestic birds follow the abundant mountain ridges in Huntingdon and surrounding counties because the updraft of air off the mountain slopes helps them achieve lift. They also ride the warm currents of air, called thermals, that rise off the surrounding land. This allows observers to get fantastic views of many raptor species as they ride these thermals to the top and sail over the mountain. On October Seventh, the Juniata College Chapter of the Wildlife Society traveled to the Stone Mountain hawk-watching site in northern Huntingdon County to do just that!
Seven of us Wildlifers met bright and early (for a Sunday) at 9 AM behind Brumbaugh Academic Center. We took inventory, did some quick introductions, and carpooled up to Stone Mountain. On the ride up, we weren’t very optimistic about our chances of seeing good raptor activity. The winds were blowing from the South, which is the wrong direction for birds that want to end up there. Perhaps more to the point, there was a pea-soup fog that seemed to get thicker the farther up the mountain we got. When we finally got out of our vehicles, we could barely see six feet in front of us, and the rocky path leading up to the hawkwatch was wet and slippery. Nevertheless, we made the brief trek up to the platform. The view we had was such that we wouldn’t have been able to tell a hawk apart from our left knee, but we did have some nice birds at the summit. A small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and other songbirds greeted us with little chirps and squeaks while we waited for the mid-morning sun to burn off the fog. Our formal guide, Luke Fultz, had informed the leaders earlier in the morning that he wouldn’t be arriving until ten o’clock, and we were starting to wonder if we should have done the same. However, as the warmth of the rising sun increased, the fog burned off and blew away, and were left with a gorgeous view of Central Pennsylvania valleys and Jack’s Mountain on the ridge opposite us. And, of course, the dissipating fog heralded the arrival of our birds!
At about 10:30, we started seeing our first migrants. A group of four Tree Swallows passed daintily overhead heading south. Several groups of Turkey Vultures started lifting off and soaring over the ridge, some cruising right by us. In one group that we saw from above, we noticed another vulture species: A Black Vulture. The sun shone brilliantly off its plumage, and we were able to see the telltale silver wingtips and difference in size and shape compared to the nearby Turkey Vultures. Around this time, Luke and his friend Desmond arrived. He gave us a brief lesson about raptor identification and passed out some laminated fliers showing them in flight. Not long after, a Common Raven and a beautiful female Northern Harrier gave us amazing views as they passed the platform. We also had some songbird migrants overhead: a few warblers that zipped by too fast to identify and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In the midday sun, many of us found we were baking in our sweatshirts and long pants, so we shed as many layers as was appropriate for an academic setting.
About this time, Greg Grove, the regional eBird reviewer for Huntingdon County, arrived at the platform. A brief digression: For those of you who don’t know what eBird is (which is probably most of you), it is an online citizen science database where birders can submit their sightings, view other people’s sightings, and learn more about the birds of the world. It’s also a great resource for scientists and conservationists who want to learn more about the status of various populations of birds. Greg and his wife have been birding in Huntingdon for over twenty years, and Greg is one of the primary hawk counters for the Stone Mountain site. He helped us recognize the differences between Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. He pointed out the “top heavy” appearance, smaller size, and more fluttery flight of the Sharp-shinned compared to its larger, more fearsome-looking cousin. A couple male American Kestrels, North America’s smallest falcon, also sailed by the platform and wowed us with their beautiful blue, orange, and white plumage. A distant Red-tailed Hawk and another Raven concluded the day’s count. We thanked Luke and Greg for their help, gathered our things, and descended back down towards the parking lot. On our way down, we demonstrated our aptitude for non-bird wildlife observation when one of our leaders spotted a snake sunning itself on a rock. Unfortunately, it saw us and darted into the craggy rocks before we could identify it. When we arrived back at the cars, we rolled down the windows, grateful for the opportunity to cool off. On our way back to campus, we reveled in our success. It was a great day with great birds and great weather, shared by great people! It was definitely one of my favorite college experiences thus far!
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.
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.
When people ask me where Juniata College students go out for dinner, coffee, or to relax outside of campus, I usually have a premade list in my head that I tell them, but that list always starts with the same answer: Standing Stone Coffee Company.
Standing Stone is owned by a Juniata graduate, and is only a short walk from campus. It’s a great place to sit, do some homework, or to potentially get a job (as my roommate, Bekah, did). However, they also host these incredible open mic nights in partnership with the college. The open mics can be for everything from just the fun of it, to an open mic night for Genocide Awareness and Action week. Most recently, Standing Stone hosted an open mic night for the International Day of Peace, and it was delightful.
The International Day of Peace open mic ran from 5-6PM in the cozy coffee shop. I was a little late to the event myself, but when I got there, it was amazing. Professors were singing songs about war and peace, students were reading original poems or other works, community members were there, and there was an overall atmosphere of peace in the room.
There was so much variety in the pieces that were read. Some had a somber atmosphere, some were hopeful, some were angry… I got the chance to read a piece that I wrote this summer. My reading was a short little blurb of thoughts about an old man and a pipe, which may not sound like it has anything to do with peace outright, but I like to think people enjoyed it! This was my third time reading my work in front of a crowd here at Juniata (or anywhere really!), and it keeps getting easier and more fun every time. It is something I would definitely recommend to any who are interested in trying!
The open mic wrapped up, and then the evening carried on with free live music from a local artist. Overall, I think it was a wonderful event. This has turned into a bit of a piece about how great Standing Stone is, and about how much I like the open mic nights, but that’s okay. It truly is a great little coffee shop, plus they have excellent food if you ever need a snack or a break from dining hall food. And the open mics are something I never thought I would participate in, but really enjoy. All in all, I’m just very thankful that this partnership exists between small businesses in town and the college. It creates something wonderful for all of us.
Like many students who transfer, Jamie Mistretta ’17, from Philadelphia, Pa., was struggling to find an engaging environment at her previous college, which led to a phone call with an admission counselor at Juniata. “I didn’t feel academically challenged, so I knew I wanted to attend a school where academics are a priority, and find a place where I could really get to know other students and professors,” says Jamie. Her phone call allowed her to meet an alum of the College and gain a really authentic understanding of the Juniata community.
After visiting Juniata, Jamie reflected on how easy and important it can be to design your own Program of Emphasis (POE). At Juniata, Jamie is able to take classes in a pre-designated POE program and then take specific courses that allow her to re-define her degree program. “It is great to have the option to study what I want to study and create my own personal POE,” says Jamie. She didn’t lose any time by transferring, as nearly every credit transferred to Juniata. She is currently pursuing a PreK– 4th grade education POE, but she is also interested in speech pathology.
In addition to finding her academic transition easy, Jamie also quickly adapted to a new social atmosphere on campus and in the Huntingdon community. “It was really important for me to go to a school where I could have great relationships with students that did not only revolve around studying,” says Jamie.
Juniata encourages students to interact with classmates through at least one of more than 100 campus clubs. She is currently an active member of Amigos de Guanin, a club that raises awareness and hosts fundraisers for people in Guanin, Dominican Republic, and she is a member of concert choir.
According to Jamie, the key to transferring is acknowledging what aspects you truly need out of your education. Transferring to a different college can be stressful, but phone calls and visits can really allow you to share some of your concerns and interests to achieve a more satisfying college education.
“Don’t hesitate, always apply,” Jamie says. “Applying gives you options and opportunities to find the qualities you want in a college experience.”
Written by: Lauren Frantz ’15
It is officially week 2 of my final year at Juniata College, and let me tell you, I’m already feeling pretty nostalgic. I spent the entirety of last year studying abroad, first in Russia and then in India, and though it was an incredible year full of adventures and new experiences, I am so happy to be back at Juniata. Everyone tells you about being homesick, but no one really warns you about being campus-sick. You really do start to miss your college once you’re gone for a while, but thankfully I still have one year left! Here, I have created a bucket list of things I will endeavor to complete during my final year here.
- Attend every single tradition. At which other college are classes canceled on a random day and everyone picnics at a lake in the mountains? And only at Juniata is there an event where freshmen risk bodily harm by charging at the rest of the student body, trying to fight their way past them. Juniata College has many unique and fun traditions, and I was insanely jealous every time I saw pictures of my friends participating in fun activities, such as eating lobsters at Lobsterfest and pitching tents on the lawn for Madrigal. This year, I am not going to miss out on any of the events and activities at JC.
- Find the secret spots. Because Juniata is located in the mountains, there are many different places to explore around campus. One of my favorite spots is the Cliffs, only a 10-minute walk away. The views are incredible, but another little known fact is that there is a rope swing at the bottom (how cool is that?!). No one really knows where exactly it is, but it can’t be too hard to find. In addition, there are great hiking trails not too far from campus, including 7 Geocaches within a mile (a Geocache is a container filled with an unknown object that you find using GPS coordinates). I have never been Geocaching but who doesn’t love a huge treasure hunt?! Before I graduate, I will leave no stone unturned.
- Make lasting relationships. This may sound cheesy, but one of my goals is to make sure I leave Juniata having made enduring friendships. Juniata is a small community, and I know everyone here has my back and wants the best for my future. I know I can rely on my professors and advisors to guide me both in my final year and after I graduate. In addition to becoming closer to my mentors, I am also looking forward to meeting new people and getting re-involved in my favorite clubs, like Circle K and PAX-O (a Peace Studies club). It’s my last year to really make an impact, so I hope to be as involved as I can! Finally, I know I’m going to miss all of the friendly faces on campus, from Laura who works in Baker to President Troha. These sorts of people make Juniata a happier, brighter place, and ultimately a college that is unique and irreplaceable.
As much as I don’t want it to, senior year is going to fly by. No matter what I’m doing, whether I’m canoeing on Raystown Lake during Mountain Day or debating the meaning of life with a professor, I’m happy to be back home at Juniata. I can’t wait to start checking things off my bucket list!
It’s crazy to think that I only have three weeks left of my first year of college. It seems like just yesterday I was taking trip after trip back out to the car to move all of my stuff into the dorm. This year has definitely flown by! As my semester comes to a close, and this is my last post for the year, I’d like to recap some of my favorite things about my year at Juniata.
I applied for a job in the Admissions Office right off the bat when I arrived at Juniata, and did not have my hopes up since I was only a freshman. Shockingly, however, I got the job! I have had so much fun learning more about how the college admissions process works, and have met such wonderful people throughout the year. I’ve also learned how easy it is to find a job on campus. If you are in need of some cash, Career Services is an incredible place to start. There are so many jobs all over campus, in every field, so it doesn’t matter what qualifications you have, you will definitely find something.
Cafés, Cafés and More Cafés!
If you know anything about me, you’d know that I love cafés. I love the atmosphere, the coffee, and the creative recipes different places make. I love getting off campus, walking into town, and plopping down at a table with a cup of coffee, a scone and tons of homework. This week especially, since I will soon be returning home to Boston, I decided to visit all the different cafés in Huntingdon. Standing Stone, a popular spot, definitely has the best sandwiches and board games, which is a win-win for me! Stone Town Gallery, a café and art gallery, has the best scones and most interesting decor, and so much fun artwork and jewelry to look at and wish for! Wildflower Café, which I actually only visited for the first time today, has the sweetest staff, huge tables to do work, and deliciously strong coffee. When I first came to Juniata I was very hesitant about the small town and the limited number of places to eat, but I have fallen in love with the sweet shops throughout the town.
Visiting the Jail
When I tell people my college is near a prison, most people are shocked, or scared or confused. I had similar reactions when I first learned that too, but now it seems totally normal to me. Especially due to the fact that earlier this year I got to go inside the prison and talk to some of the prisoners. Last semester I took an Introduction to Criminal Justice course that included an opportunity to attend The Day of Responsibility over at SCI Huntingdon. A few of my classmates, my professor and I spent one day inside the prison, listening to different speakers talk about the effects of crime in communities, and even got to speak to different prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. I was very surprised at how intelligent many of the prisoners were, and how funny, charismatic, and normal they were. The Day of Responsibility definitely challenged and changed some of my views on the criminal justice system, and I was incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.
Personal With Professors
One thing I wanted from college was a strong relationship with my professors. I have learned after this year that Juniata is the best place for that. All of my classes are small (my smallest class is six people), which really gives me the chance to develop a relationship with my professors. I often send an email to one of my professors, with a link to a video I found interesting and thought they might enjoy. I am never afraid to just pop into a professor’s office to say hi, or to ask a question about an assignment, or anything like that. Even if I am struggling with something, my professors have always been there for me, and willing to help in whatever way they can. I really do feel understood and cared for by my professors here at Juniata, which is an incredible feeling.
Warm Weather = Fun on the Quad
As the weather begins to warm up, more and more people have started doing work outside on the quad, which makes me so happy! I always envisioned college to be people leaning against trees, reading books and listening to music while others play frisbee or volleyball nearby. Luckily, that is exactly what I got at Juniata. I’ve been taking my homework outside, and bringing a snack and a blanket in case the weather gets a little chilly, and just finding a spot in the grass to work for a few hours. It’s always relaxing to work in the sunshine, and sometimes (more often than not) someone I know will walk by and sit with me for a while. I’ve even brought my guitar out and took jam session breaks in between studying. I love warm weather, and I love the atmosphere and energy of working outside with others.
There is so much more that happened this year than I can fit in one post, but I tried to capture some of the best things about going to school at Juniata. Although Juniata is a small school and far from home, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to attend.
Being from Florida, you get some interesting questions and looks from other people. When I am asked where I am from I always get this strange look because I chose to move from sunny Florida to bitter cold Pennsylvania. Yes it was a big change and a completely different place that was far away from home, but in the end it was worth it. I got to build my own major at Juniata where I could choose the courses I took and learn what I thing is necessary to build a career. I have chosen to name my degree Entrepreneurial Arts and it is exactly what I want to do. With my degree I can help businesses with their digital media plans.
I also got to continue to play the sport that I love and pick up track and field along the way to challenge myself further. I have two families here with me, my field hockey family and my track family. They are completely different and unique in their own way with multiple personalities. The relationships I have built with my teammates and the moments of silliness are ones that have made my experience so wonderful.
It is great that all the professors want you to succeed and want to genuinely help you to get a good grade, but to grow your knowledge and future. It is nice to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors make time to help their students and always have their door open for you to come in to talk. Juniata wants their students to thrive and the faculty help in any way they can to help students in any aspect they can. As a senior, I have many faculty and staff members that have helped me to prepare my resume and network. My boss even brought me to a marketing conference in Hershey, PA where I was able to learn more about marketing strategies for higher education. All this knowledge and experience will help me build the future that I envision and I am happy to have chosen Juniata College to help me do exactly that.
For me, the car ride to Juniata College was not a long one, only about an hour and a half. Following US 22 you pass picturesque farm land, beautiful mountains, a few houses and arrive in a tiny little town. It is quiet and people were out and about on that warm afternoon. Huntingdon is in central PA, you can’t expect a city here, much night life or a mall. However, Huntingdon has something very interesting: a vibrant multicultural college, with a diverse student body. In the middle of central PA this much diversity is hard to find.
Besides the diversity of the student body, what is so unique about Juniata is how well all these cultures and ethnicities get along. Juniata creates a bonding experience that unites and celebrates the cultures that exist on campus, such as those of Pakistani students, Chinese Students, Vietnamese students, Australian students, and American students.
Juniata Presents, the organization that focuses on bringing art and culture to campus, does a good job at showcasing this diversity through unique musical acts. The Red Baraat and the Hot 8 Brass band, who recently performed on campus are two examples of this diversity. The Hot 8 Brass band represent the music scene in New Orleans. The southern flare, and trumpets are completely different from Red Baraat who has a more Indian hip hop feel to their music. The results are the same: students enjoy them.
Not every performance at Juniata is going to be a favorite of every single student, however the fact that this tiny little college in the middle of farm land central PA can bring these big name shows and allow students to experience these fun cultured performances for free, is a wonderful and transformative learning experience.
Here at Juniata culture is celebrated, and welcomed. It is something not only to be proud of but to be shared.
When I first arrived at Juniata, I felt like everyone around me was from Pennsylvania. Everyone I talked to would say, “Oh yeah, I’m from Altoona,” or, “I live outside of Philly,” or some variation of this. However, I am not one of those people. I’m from Boston, which is a very long drive from Juniata College. When planning my fall, Thanksgiving and winter breaks, I was worried I wouldn’t find a way to get to the airport, or people that weren’t driving home to the same areas I was headed. I was very pleasantly proved wrong.
Juniata has students from almost forty different states in the U.S. as well as over forty different countries. There are so many people who don’t live locally, who fly from University Park Airport in State College or Harrisburg International Airport, take a bus or drive home for the holidays. Juniata College allows freshman to have cars on campus, which has been very helpful for me so far. Although I do not have a car of my own, my roommate, who lives in Altoona, PA, has her own car. She, as well as many of the students here at Juniata, is incredibly generous when offering rides to places I need to go. It is also easy to find other students looking for ride or cab shares on your Juniata Class Facebook group.
If you don’t have friends with access to a car, don’t worry! Juniata offers a shuttle service during the week of breaks throughout the semester. For a low cost, the school will shuttle you to or from campus to some of the neighboring airports in State College and Harrisburg, as well as different bus and train stations in those areas. They are easy to sign up for, and are offered at different times throughout the day to work with everyone’s schedules.
Many people may worry about going to a small school in a small town, but Juniata works to make travel accessible to all students and to make the town of Huntingdon seem not so small!