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Finding Your Fit

Advising-Donna Weimer

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

Staying FIT in College

You’ve probably all been warned of the infamous “Freshman 15”—the inevitable 15 pounds that you gain during your freshman year of college. Although this might be true for some people, I’m here to tell you that this does not have to be your fate! If you make proper meal choices and exercise regularly, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

For my first two years at Juniata, I was a member of the track and field team, so I didn’t have to worry much about creating my own workout schedule. My daily exercise routines were mapped out by my coaches. Due to a change in my priorities, I decided that being on the track team was no longer for me. This meant that I had to come up with my own workout schedule, if I wanted to stay fit.

Inevitably, I gained a few pounds from not having as rigorous of a workout routine as before, but I also started to get bored of my same uncreative workouts. Ultimately, I needed some more motivation.

Thankfully, I found out about FITLAB, which is a workout program offered every weekday morning at 8:00 am by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theater. The program was originally offered to only a small group of students who were training for an endurance obstacle race, but due to the high interest from other students, the program is now open to everyone.  The workouts vary daily and include endurance exercises, circuit training, stairs, and yoga. Before beginning each workout, we have five minutes of silence followed by five minutes of mindful meditation.

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My friend, Tyler Ayres, and I after our Wednesday morning yoga workout.

For me, these workouts are truly a blessing. Since this is my last semester of college, I had been getting a little distracted and not focusing on my health as much as I could have been. Now, I am motivated by working out with a great group of supportive people.

Though I don’t have my first class until later in the morning, I wake up every day at 7:20 am to get ready for FITLAB. I don’t regret waking up early because after a good workout, I feel awake and alert throughout the rest of my day!

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.

The Burning Question

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Figure 1 Just a small part of photosynthesis that contributes to the success of the entire system.

 

Dr. Hosler is one of my biology professors this semester. In his section of the class, we are learning about the finer points of photosynthesis and cellular respiration, and currently about how surface area and gradients help plants or animals carry out their respective processes. He draws marvelous diagrams and has a way of explaining complicated and dynamic processes like photosynthesis and cellular respiration so that the layman can understand exactly what is going on. He is a marvelous teacher and like any good teacher he asks us questions, and like good students… well most of the time we just sit there in silence.

That sentence should have ended, “we raise our hands high and proud to answer the question because we think we have a fairly good answer.” But we don’t, at least not often and definitely not all of us. Dr. Hosler pointed that out to us today in class. And it is not just us; professors from all departments at Juniata and at other schools have noticed a definite decline in people raising their hands to answer questions. Even back at my high school, it was the rare occasion when one of us would raise our hand to answer a question and it would always be the same set of people.

Why? What has changed so much on the student side of the learning process that we no longer feel the need, or want to ask questions? One of the many reasons I liked Juniata was the small class size because it is, quite simply, easier to learn when the teacher’s attention isn’t divided among a lot of students. Smaller class sizes allow for more teacher student interaction which also means more ability for a student to be able to voice their opinions in class. But as I have grown older, that has become less and less true.

From conversations I have had with friends and classmates, there are two big factors (probably more but these seem to be the most prominent) that affect how and when we choose to raise our hand. The first is the fear of being wrong. I think we have been trained over the course of our academic careers to fear bad grades and wrong answers because in our minds that is equal to failure and failure means not achieving your goals. But failure is not always bad. Unless you just inherently pick up on a subject, you will not know the answer the first time around. This is why we have professors: to be able to ask and answer questions. Learning is not always having the right answer; it’s a process that uses practice to go from a relatively poor knowledge base in a subject, to a broader and more solid grasp on the material. The second factor is fear of being the “know-it-all” kid who always has an answer.

The know-it-all does not always have the right answer, and when they don’t, the professor will correct them and open up the question to someone else to get a new perspective. Learning is a dynamic process, much like the processes I am learning about in Dr. Hosler’s class. If only one plant cell carried out photosynthesis, that plant would not last very long because it just would not make enough glucose. But all the plant cells working in concert to produce glucose make a thriving plant. Similarly if there is only one student per class that answers questions, they are really the only ones getting the benefit out of it. Sure, they may ask about something you didn’t understand, but in the end the class as a whole will do a lot better if everyone participated.

We come to places like Juniata to improve our minds, but also our person as a whole. Part of that is developing the critical thinking and social skills to voice your own thoughts on a question and to be able to back it up with supporting evidence. We will not always be right, because we don’t know everything, but we will be better equipped to think about the right answer and how to approach questions like it in the future.

So raise those hands high, for even though you may not have the right answer, you will be better off for having answered.

Wrapping it Up

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.

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On-Campus Job

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.

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Coffee from Standing Stone

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.