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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.

 

Juniata Snow Day

Thursday morning I woke up around 2 AM, and looked out my window to see before me a winter wonderland. It was the picturesque snow – the one which rests easily on the trees and transforms your whole view of the world. It was gorgeous. I promptly appreciated it for a minute, and immediately fell back asleep, because nobody needs to be awake at 2 AM.

 

Snow Day

Now many of you may be thinking, “Oh cool, a snow day!”. I hate to break it to you, but absolutely not. Very rarely do we ever get classes canceled here at our little mountain college. You see, we are hardened to the snow here. We are unaffected by the cold. We are winter warriors! …sort of. Because most of our professors live in town, and Pennsylvania is well educated in snow removal, classes being canceled is a rare treat, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the winter weather.

Snow Day

After classes were over on Thursday, a few friends and I took off to frolic in the snow. The fresh powder wasn’t quite right for building snowmen, but we did throw a snowball or two. It was perfect for writing giant messages in the snow, taking a walk around campus, and finally, finishing the day with a walk to the cliffs.

Only a few minutes walk from main campus, the cliffs are a Juniata gem. The views are breathtaking, and while it looks good in every season, there was something magical about that landscape being covered in a fresh blanket of snow. Of the things I’ve learned being at Juniata, there is one main one that comes to mind right now: very few things are more beautiful than Juniata with a fresh coat of snow. I mean, just look at those pictures.

Snow on the Cliffs

So yes, while we don’t get very many classes off because of weather, we still get to enjoy the fun of the snow and the beauty of central Pennsylvania, which all in all, I would consider a win.

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

I’m in a Production!

When I was twelve years old, I performed in Little Shop of Horrors at my summer camp. I knew nothing about acting, it was the “kids version” of the show, and I had a stereotypically bad New York accent. I’ve loved musical theatre my entire life. This show was one of the first shows I really connected with, and ultimately fell in love with. Fast forward eight years later, and here I am, starring in Little Shop of Horrors as a real, college production!

Since the Juniata Theatre Department typically puts on a musical every three years, I was so excited to get back into my “element” from high school. Although I love getting to experience and train with different types of theatre (i.e. Shakespeare, devised work, contemporary plays, etc.) musical theatre has always been my favorite type, and is ultimately my goal for after I graduate. For this show, we brought in Tara Giordano, an outside director from New York, Gabriel Gould (who is actually an English Professor here at Juniata) as our Musical Director, and Nate Dryden, a visiting artist who focuses on aerial and floor movement (I was able to work with him last year on trapeze!) as our Choreographer. As for our cast, this is one of the first shows where the cast is mostly non-theatre students. We have four freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, two seniors and a graduate student! It has been such an amazing experience to have so many different types of talented people working on a beautiful show.

 

Cosimo Sciortino (left), Carlos Velasco Carrillo (center), and I working on a scene in rehearsal.

Cosimo Sciortino (left), Carlos Velasco Carrillo (center), and I working on a scene in rehearsal.

Rehearsals have been really hands-on for us, as we have been taking our ideas for our characters and going into so much detail about them, how they move, how they speak, how they think, what they want, etc. It definitely takes a lot more than just reading words off a page to make a play really come to life. Since the show takes place in the 1960s, we have to play with different styles of dance and attire from that period (our costumes are awesome). When blocking scenes, even though our director ultimately decides how the scene should look, Tara was always willing to listen to our ideas and encouraging us to embrace our impulses. It’s been a really educational, beneficial, and rewarding experience working on this show and putting so much effort into the play we’ve created.

Max Martin-Udry (left) and Carlos Velasco Carrillo (right) reviewing a scene.

Max Martin-Udry (left) and Carlos Velasco Carrillo (right) reviewing a scene.

We have all been hard at work for the past two months memorizing, blocking, building, and singing our hearts out in rehearsal every day. While you’re in a production, it often seems like the actual performances of the show are ages away, until one day you wake up and realize you’re opening in a week! It’s been really crazy watching this show grow from a script in our hands to a real play on stage with a live band, a beautiful set, and soon an audience sitting in front of us! Little Shop of Horrors opens on October 21st at 8:00 PM, and will be performing on the 22-23rd, and 27-29th as well. Tickets are free for Juniata students and $20 for general admission! If you are in the area, and want to see a hilarious, bloody, romantic, and slightly terrifying musical, then I hope you come see the show!

 

 

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?

Relay for Life

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The hula-hoop lap

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to participate in Relay for Life here at Juniata College. I was a team captain for the club Amigos de Guanin. This year, we decided to sell lemonade. Last year, we sold ice cream on the quad. Although we didn’t collect the highest amount of money, it was still really great to be a part of this event. It’s refreshing to be a part of something so fun around the time of year when things start to get really stressful. It’s even more fun to experience such a rewarding activity and spend the day in the sun!

Raising money for cancer research is one of my favorite things to be involved with on campus. I really enjoyed planning what we’d be doing for this event and I even more so enjoyed walking and participating. Some of my favorite parts of Relay this year were the cartwheel laps, the Zumba lap, and the clown lap. I really enjoy the survivor lap, too; it’s really empowering and inspiring to watch the survivors and their caregivers take on the track.

At the end of Relay, there is a luminary lap in which participants honor someone they’ve lost to cancer. The lap is done in silence as participants walk around the track. The track is outlined with glowing paper bags with names on them of people who have lost the battle to cancer.

Following this lap, there is a ceremony. Poems, personal stories, and songs were shared. It was a beautiful and empowering day from 10am-10pm. I am so honored to have been a part of Juniata College’s Relay for Life, 2016.

LAS 2K16: celebrating undergrad research

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Some of the presenters and their presentation titles (including me!)

 

The Liberal Arts Symposium is one of the most popular traditions in the spring semester, and is where classes are cancelled and the entire college community celebrates the research, project development, and performances of Juniata students. I remember my freshman and sophomore year attending the different presentations and thinking with excitement, “I’m going to present MY thesis senior year!” Well that day came, and let me tell you, I was not feeling excitement anymore but sweaty palms and a knotted up stomach.

This entire year, I’ve been working on my senior honors thesis. As I wrote in my last blog, I’ve been looking at how the Indian media talks about corruption, and though I’m still writing my paper, I was able to share with my friends, classmates, and professors my preliminary findings. (Which is that the way we think about corruption, innocence, and guilt in the West is very different than the way Indian newspapers frame it in a specific politician corruption case.) I practiced my presentation a countless number of times, but that didn’t keep me from feeling extremely nervous before I went.

It ended up going pretty smoothly though! To be honest, I don’t remember anything about it except that I think I talked pretty quickly. Whenever I stumbled over my words or suddenly felt uncertain about what I was saying, all I had to do was look out into the audience, where I had so many friends and classmates supporting me. After it was over, I felt so proud; it was so incredibly rewarding, sharing what I’ve been doing with the Juniata community.

Other presentations were just as good! One friend presented on U.S. immigration policies, and another presentation I went to was on research looking at how to genetically modify mosquitos to halt the spread of malaria. My favorite presentation, though, was about synesthesia and the museum experience – the two presenters are even designing their own art exhibition based on their research findings! All in all, the Liberal Arts Symposium was an amazing day!

The Multicultural Storyfest

Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.

This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.

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Thida Win ’17 from Myanmar talks at the 2015 Multicultural Storyfest.

Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.

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Andrea Morillo ’15 from Honduras performs at the 2014 Multicultural Storyfest.

All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!

If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Wildlife Student Conclave 2016

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In high school, and even in college, you work on projects that are hypothetical. They don’t play out in the real world, or really determine much in your life besides a grade. However, in college, I’ve found one project that really does make a difference.

As I have said in a few of my other postings, I am a member of The Wildlife Society here on campus, and we’ve undertaken a huge project. Every year, each region of the United States has a student chapter that hosts the Wildlife Conclave. Our chapter members decided last spring, “Hey! We can do this!” and signed us up.

When I signed up for Wildlife Conclave planning last semester, I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be getting into. It turned out to be a massive event – we have almost 150 people attending – that would require months of planning, budgeting, and long meetings.

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The planning committee

In attending events, I never really thought about how much time and effort went into it. It was just something I would go to, enjoy, and go home. In planning an actual event, I have learned that it is a lot more than that. We have to think about site logistics, funding sources, workshop assignments, making nametags, planning meals… the list goes on forever. At first, it was incredibly intimidating. It seemed like the planning would never end, and that this event would never actually happen.

Now, looking back on the past two semesters, thinking about how the event is only a week and a half away, I’m a lot less intimidated, and I realized that I have learned a lot. I learned to make a vanguard to plan when things need to get done, how to make a budget, how to coordinate orders, and how to be committed to deadlines. None of this would get done without the amazing work of everyone in The Wildlife Society, and the motivation to do that work.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, there is something special in knowing that the project I’m working on is a real thing. The pens and water bottles I ordered for this event are tangible. The people are coming, whether we’re ready or not, so we have to try like crazy to be ready. My work matters here, and that is an incredible experience to have.

If you are interested in learning any more about the event we are holding, or The Wildlife Society at Juniata in general, always feel free to contact me or to like our page on Facebook!

V-Day 2016

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The entire cast and production team of “The Vagina Monologues”

A little more than a month ago, a sophomore student approached the Office of Student Activities and asked if it was possible to put on a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” This is a collection of stories and monologues, turned into a play about women in every aspect. She was worried that it wasn’t possible, or it was inappropriate, or that it would be received negatively on campus. Yet she worked for one solid month, through organization, casting, rehearsals, marketing, and ticket sales to put on two performances on campus, and everyone loved it.

Julia McMurry, the student behind it all, wanted to put together the production in support of Huntingdon House, a non-profit organization in town that provides support for victims of domestic violence. She reached out to the student body and asked if anyone was interested in performing in the piece or working behind the scenes. I jumped at the opportunity to get involved, and auditioned (and was cast!). There were 18 women who were a part of the production, with three additional individuals helping with casting and rehearsals.

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Me performing “My Angry Vagina”

We quickly worked to put on the production in a month, working hard in rehearsals and taking time to reflect on what it really means to be a woman. Being in the production allowed me to meet students from all different backgrounds and POEs and really branch out socially. Not only was it an additional performance opportunity for me, but it was a completely different experience than performing in a show through the theatre department.

I’m so honored to have been able to be a part of this production, and the fact that it was entirely student-run and put together in one month brings me so much joy. We had a huge audience for both performances, and we raised $1,087 for Huntingdon House! I hope this becomes a Juniata tradition because I would love to be a part of this production again!

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