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Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I’ve always celebrated a Thanksgiving week as opposed to a Thanksgiving Day.

This year, it started with an all-nighter of cooking in the kitchen of Unity House for the Friends-giving of Sherwood. The Resident Advisors held a Friendsgiving dinner in the lounge consisting of lumpy mashed potatoes (I couldn’t find a proper masher), Kraft mac and cheese, and sliced turkey meat from the deli counter at Giant. The food wasn’t amazing but, the company was.

Then the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I had another Friendsgiving with some old high school friends. We sat around for hours and ate an unreal amount of pie and talked about what we don’t miss about high school.

The main event of Thanksgiving dinner is always a huge production in my house.  My Mom spends days prepping the house for company. In our house, “The door is always open”. (We’re like a less trusting version of the Tanner family from Full House – our door is only open figuratively and both of my parents are still alive). We usually have anywhere from 23-38 guests, in addition to my family of five, joining us for Thanksgiving dinner. We have first cousins, second cousins, third cousin, aunt and uncles, college friends, exchange students, exercise buddies, neighbors, coworkers, stray pets – if you can name it, we have more than likely had them over for Thanksgiving dinner.

This year our guest of honor was a foreign exchange student who was staying with my cousins in Colorado for six months. She’s visiting from Sydney, Australia. We grilled her on all things Australian then she grilled us on all things Thanksgiving. Introducing her to all of our family’s weird Thanksgiving traditions was probably my favorite part about this Thanksgiving.

The cousins after the final round of the Thanksgiving Day Tournament. Reigning Champion Jordon with his certificate (matching crown - not pictured)

The cousins after the final round of the Thanksgiving Day Tournament. Reigning Champion Jordon with his certificate (matching crown – not pictured)

My family is very competitive, so every year we have a Thanksgiving Day tournament. This year in addition to playing Pit and Apples to Apples, we added cup pong and bowling. As the reigning Thanksgiving champion from last year (it says so in my Instagram bio, so you know it’s true), I got to start the tournament off. My sister designed the brackets and we had guest judges for each game. After a tie in nearly every competition, I passed the crown to Jordan as reigning Thanksgiving Day champion.

After the tournament we squeezed into the dining room and living room (we can’t all fit in the dining room) and sat down to eat. Before we can get our food, we go around the entire table and everyone has to say what they’re thankful for. This year there was an extensive amount of people who were thankful for family, food, and Steve Irwin. I think for that we can thank our guest of honor.

After dinner we ate dessert and watched my two grandmothers yelling at each other from their seats across the family room because neither can hear what the other one is saying.

“I’m getting old.”

“You’re feeling cold? Get a quilt.”

“I’m Irish not Scottish. We don’t have kilts.”

 

Thanksgiving will forever be my favorite holiday

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!

 

On a day and time chosen by the Juniata Activities Board, students race to the Quad to see who can be the first one to set up their tent. However, this year, there was a little bit of a twist! Groups, typically consisting of 6 to 8 students, first had to complete a set of 16 challenges in the form of a scavenger hunt in order to be granted permission to set up their tent. The very first group to set up their tent is deemed “Head Tent,” which has the responsibility of creating the rules and challenges for the next week.

My tent for the week!

My tent for the week!

 

Here’s where the fun comes in. Each tenting group accrues points through different challenges throughout the week while they sleep in their tent. From Sunday night to Friday morning between the hours of 5pm and 8am, Head Tent is allowed to call “Roll Call.” Whether it be at 5:00 in the evening or at 3:25 in the morning, when students hear the air horn they begin sprinting to its location. As soon as the air horn is blown, Head Tent begins reading the tent names in order from most points to the least, ensuring that at least 1 member of each tent has attended roll call.

 

In addition to roll calls and random mini-games throughout the night, every day there is at least one big event for tents to show off their style. This year’s events included a lip sync battle, a scavenger hunt, a calendar creation and presentation, a fashion show, and a talent show! In previous years, Head Tent has included different events like a rap battle and a drag show.

Something about being covered in tents makes the quad so much better

Something about being covered in tents makes the quad so much better

 

Students participate in all of these fun activities in order to be first in line to buy tickets to Madrigal. Madrigal is Juniata’s two-part winter formal dinner and dance; as such, the tent with the most points gets to pick the best table at the dinner. The most important thing about the Madrigal dinner is that your professors serve you! After the food has come and gone, students share a lovely time with candles and holiday carols.

 

If you’re looking to create some lifelong memories with your closest friends, Juniata is definitely the place for you.

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!

Third time’s the charm

It is now my senior year at Juniata, and for the third time, I traveled to Quebec during fall break (October 11th to the 14th). Unlike previous years, this trip was something that I especially looking forward to for several reasons:

Fall break this year came about 2 days after the Fulbright program’s deadline. The application process was very challenging, and by far, it has been the most difficult application that I have written. I applied for a linguistics research Fulbright in Cote d’Ivoire, a project that stemmed from my internship in Strasbourg, France in the Spring of 2018. I worked diligently with a cadre of faculty members who pushed me to craft a competitive and compelling research project. The process got overwhelming and intense at times, so after the Oct. 9th deadline, I was excited to travel to Quebec and celebrate, alongside another Fulbright applicant and a friend of mine, Annaleigh Baremore.

Annaleigh and I are French club officers and worked together to plan this trip, despite meeting many obstacles. First, the Quebec trip did not occur during the previous year when Annaleigh and I were abroad. Professor Henderson who is head of the French department and also the club’s advisor was away on sabbatical. As seniors, Annaleigh and I wanted to bring this trip back, and travel to Quebec one last time. Another issue that we encountered was the high cost of transport, which almost canceled the trip. However, at the very last minute, the Office of Student of Activities gave us a minivan and two vehicles to go to Canada!

Posing for a group photo!

Posing for a group photo!

This 3rd trip to Canada was in my opinion the best because we had a diverse cadre of students. The trips were previously dominated by French speakers, but this time we had students who spoke Spanish, Korean, German and Hindi. I was happy to see them participating and learning about francophone cultures. They all tried poutine, maple syrups, all specialty of Canada. In addition, because we all shared various backgrounds, we tried other cultural foods: we went to a Korean restaurant in Montreal called Kantapia and drank some bubble tea at Chai. Once in Quebec City, we had dinner at a Cambodian restaurant and tried a delicious tapioca desert!

Although the experience was tiring, given that we had a 12hours ride back to campus, I would do it once again if could. As it is my last year at Juniata, I will be looking at various memories such as this trip to smile back on.

Wings on the Ridge

By guest blogger, Aidan Griffiths ’22

The annual hawk migration is an incredible sight if you're in the right spot! Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra

The annual hawk migration is an incredible sight if you’re in the right spot! Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra

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!

Trying to see through the fog. Photo credit Annemarie Sciarra

Trying to see through the fog. Photo credit Annemarie Sciarra

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.

Our trusted leader, Luke Fultz. Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra

Our trusted leader, Luke Fultz. Photo credit: Annemarie Sciarra

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!

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.

Chilling Revelations from a Nobel Laureate

A few weeks ago, Juniata was visited by a very special guest, Dr. Bill Phillips of the Juniata College graduating class of 1970 and one of the 1997 Physics Nobel Laureates.  Despite his huge success in his field, Dr. Phillips has not forgotten where he got his start, a small Liberal Arts college nestled in the hills of central Pennsylvania.  Dr. Phillips comes back every four years to give talks about physics and to interact with current Physics students, and others as well.  I’m sure he has many reasons for why he does come back, but I’d like to think that he mainly does it to inspire younger generations, to instill within them a belief that they can do anything and go anywhere with hard work and the right attitude.

Bill Phillips '70, magically shrinking blown up balloons.

Bill Phillips ’70, magically shrinking blown up balloons.

His own attitude is one of positivity and an almost childlike sense of curiosity and fascination with physics, even after a lifetime of in-depth study.  His energy and enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself excited for each new physical property that he introduced, despite my small amount of disdain for the field of physics.  He bounced from one side of the stage to the other, always talking, his hands always moving as he described the intricacies of time and its relation to the coldest temperature ever recorded.  During the talk, I roamed through the crowd and behind his presentation setup taking pictures of his talk.  I captured liquid nitrogen being poured, ad libitum, on the floor and up the aisles of the lecture hall and I watched as the 77 Kelvin (really freaking cold) liquid nitrogen shrunk twenty or more fully blown up balloons down to a size small enough to fit them all into a bait bucket approximately one gallon in size.

By pouring liquid nitrogen into a clear container we were able to watch this very, very cold substance boil at room temperature.

By pouring liquid nitrogen into a clear container we were able to watch this very, very cold substance boil at room temperature.

Smashing frozen solid rubber balls into oblivion on the black concrete floor of Alumni Hall in our very own Brumbaugh Academic Center was cool (pun intended) to watch, but more fascinating was watching the crowd.  Each face lit up with excitement as they watched each new demonstration.  By far the most interesting faces to watch were those of the professor emeriti, those scholars and teachers that have retired from Juniata, several of whom taught Dr. Phillips when he attended Juniata.  Their stoic faces broke into easy smiles with each joke and one was even giddy with excitement with each new revelation of a physical phenomenon.  And the best moment of them all was when a water bottle filled with liquid nitrogen and placed under a trashcan, exploded launching the trash can up in the air causing the entire audience to jump and my heart to stop for a few seconds.

Dunking normal objects, like a flower, into liquid nitrogen makes them brittle enough to disintegrate with a firm squeeze, as Dr. Phillips gladly demonstrated!

Dunking normal objects, like a flower, into liquid nitrogen makes them brittle enough to disintegrate with a firm squeeze, as Dr. Phillips gladly demonstrated!

Bill Phillips most influential contribution to this campus did not come in his relation of physics to students of his alma mater, but in an answer to a question from a young audience member after his talk had concluded.  The student asked what, if anything he would tell his younger self.  He answered by telling a story of a time during his junior year at Juniata College when a physics professor from Princeton came to give a talk.  During the question and answer portion the Juniata students asked about graduate school and getting into Princeton and the speaker gave the rather flippant answer that no one from Juniata could ever get into Princeton.

The professor emeriti, left and center midground of the photo, observe a demonstration, perhaps reminiscing about the time they had Dr. Phillips in their classes.

The professor emeriti, left and center midground of the photo, observe a demonstration, perhaps reminiscing about the time they had Dr. Phillips in their classes.

Bill Phillips took that information and proceeded to ignore it as he not only applied to Princeton, but also Harvard and MIT.  His overarching point with the story was to not let anyone ever sell you short, especially if you are a Juniatian.  That really hit home for me as I am now applying to graduate school and worrying if I will get accepted.  What I tend to forget is that here at Juniata we are almost over prepared for our futures.  If you choose to come to Juniata for the four years of your undergraduate study you are sure to embark on a difficult journey.  Fun?  Absolutely!  Fulfilling? Of course.  Difficult?  Definitely.  But we are better students and people for having gone through those difficult times.

Even if you are not a Juniatian now and even if you never will be.  Remember to never let anyone sell you short.  Show them what you can do and prove them all wrong.  You might be surprised how far you get.  Maybe you’ll even win a Nobel Prize.

You can find the video mentioned in this blog at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzESTv7ohhY

International Day of Peace

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.

A student performs at Standing Stone's Open Mic Night for the International Day of Peace.

A student performs at Standing Stone’s Open Mic Night for the International Day of Peace.

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.

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.

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.

 

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