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Graduation, it’s only a year away…

Spring is often seen as a season of new beginnings.  The dead limbs of the trees burst back to life and the dandelions become prolific.  It’s a seson of sunshine and happiness after the dark and cold and dreary days of Winter.  For some, however, it can be a season of melancholy.  I am of course talking about the Seniors who will be graduating in thirteen days.  Yes, graduation is supposed to be a happy affair, a celebration of achievement over the past four years and all the achievement that the future holds for the graduating class.  It is also a bittersweet affair because while the graduating class is going off to change the world, their graduation marks the end of a very remarkable era.

I am a Junior here at Juniata and with each passing day I become more and more preoccupied with my own impending graduation.  There are so many things that I need to do in the next year to be even remotely ready to graduate.  I need to take the GRE so I can apply to Graduate schools, I need to apply to Graduate schools, write a thesis on the research that I have done here at Juniata, and try to have as much fun in the next year as I possibly can.

 Figure 1: Just two of the many amazing people that I have met while here at Juniata, doing what we do best, making door decorations for our residents.


Figure 1: Just two of the many amazing people that I have met while here at Juniata, doing what we do best, making door decorations for our residents.

I am not a fan of clichés, especially in writing, but I do believe that college is one of the best times of your life.  I didn’t come to terms with this realization until the beginning of last semester.  I was not having any fun.  Now that’s not to say I stayed in my room and did homework all the time; I did manage to get out periodically, but I never did anything that was outside my comfort zone, nothing that challenged me to grow as a person.  So, I decided to change that.  The one thing that I do not want to do is walk across the front steps of Halbritter a year from now and wish I had done more during my undergraduate years.

My Last Blog

After a week or so of settling in at Juniata College in the fall of 2013, I received an e-mail from my admissions counselor asking me if I’d be interested in joining her staff of bloggers. Here I am, four years later, at the tail end of my college career, writing my last blog.

Juniata has given me an abundance of opportunity. I had multiple campus jobs, studied abroad in Ireland for a year, and took some amazing classes with really great professors. I’m thankful for the jobs because I was able to engage with what I’m interested in: sharing information about Juniata and working with writing. Studying abroad was a great opportunity for me to meet people from around the world and expand my worldview. Finally, while I may heavily favor the English department, I thoroughly appreciate the liberal arts background that Juniata has given me through the courses I’ve taken outside my area of study.

I have taken the majority of my English POE credits with Dr. Mathur, so a last day of class selfie was a necessity.

I have taken the majority of my English POE credits with Dr. Mathur, so a last day of class selfie was a necessity.

I’ll always remember my days at Juniata participating in classes, giving tours, and tutoring in the Writing Center, but I’ll also remember the shenanigans like tenting for Madrigal or getting those early morning calls as part of the Mountain Day wake-up crew. Yes, I developed academically and professionally, but I also had fun. When people ask me what I love most about Juniata, I often say “the people.” I then follow that with a story from when I visited campus. The student whom I ate lunch with had to do a sign language scavenger hunt in which she had to have other students outside the class perform certain actions by giving them instructions in sign language. Students she approached dropped what they were doing to pay attention to her and to try to decipher what she wanted them to do. She had strangers doing cartwheels and football players sprinting to race each other. That’s when I realized that Juniata students are smart, but they’re also fun.

 

My good pals and fellow Writing Center seniors and I enjoying our last shift after three years of working together.

My good pals and fellow Writing Center seniors and I enjoying our last shift after three years of working together.

Thanks, Juniata, for a fun four years, and thanks to any of you who have followed my Juniata journey!

Advice on Advisors

When I decided to come to Juniata, I did so without visiting.  I came because of the stories an alumnus told me and from the conversations I had with students who were already here and my fellow incoming freshmen.  I arrived having no idea what the campus looked like or what the classes would be like and to be honest I was scared.  For the first week or so I didn’t have an appetite because I was so nervous.

I was still nervous as I sat outside my new adviser’s office waiting to talk about my schedule and what my life would be like over the next four years.   As I sat outside the office of Dr. Dan Dries I listened to his voice as he was talking to another of his new advisees.  It’s hard to explain, and maybe harder to imagine, but his voice had a carefree lilt to it.  His words were often interspersed with laughter and slowly my nervousness turned into curiosity.  If he was as jovial as he sounded the next four years were going to be great.

Thankfully, he was.  One of Juniata’s strongest and most beneficial programs is its academic advising.  We had advisers at my high school and they did a good job helping students pick classes and encouraging us to apply to college, but Juniata’s adviser’s work much harder.  Dr. Dries has not only advised me on the classes I should take for my POE but he has given me advice on whether I should attend Graduate or Medical school and where I might start looking for a good Graduate program.  This past year I even started working in his lab which does research on neurodegenerative disorders, the area of neuroscience I want to research.  He even invited me over for Thanksgiving when I had nowhere else to go.  Over the three years I have known Dr. Dries he has remained supportive and enthusiastic about my coursework and my success.

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries' Lab at our lab bonding event last semester.  We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit.  Do you know the capital of Australia?

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries’ at our lab bonding event last semester. We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit. Do you know the capital of Australia? 

I wrote about Ellen Campbell several weeks ago and just like her, Dr. Dries is not an isolated case at Juniata.  Professors from all departments are highly involved in their student’s lives, inviting them over for club dinners, having them house sit and even baby sit.  Juniata’s students are as close with their professors as they are with one another and I think that is one of the most unique things Juniata offers.  The student to staff ratio of thirteen to one is not just a statistic it represents one of Juniata’s defining characteristics, our community.

Living off Campus

When I came to Juniata College, I had no intention of living anywhere but a dormitory. I loved (and still do) that Juniata guarantees housing for all four years. When I was in the midst of the college search process, I’d immediately scratch any college that forced students off campus after a year or two off my list.

 

I made many of my friends through living in a dorm as an underclassman. If you end up on a floor with a lot of freshmen who keep their doors open, you’ll meet a substantial number of your classmates. With a meal plan, dinners and lunches become good times to catch up with friends about their days and even better times to procrastinate work.

 

I went abroad and ended up in a house with six Irish girls. My meal plan was gone and I was responsible for cooking for myself, cleaning the house, and buying necessary items like dish soap, aluminum foil, and toilet paper. A huge advantage to living in a dorm with a meal plan is that you don’t have to worry about a lot of these more mundane tasks.

 

After returning from abroad, I decided to keep the house-style living. But, as I said earlier, it was important to me that Juniata never forced me off campus. I made the decision for myself. Seniors have the option to apply for approval for off campus housing, and my house was accepted. Seniors, with the highest room draw numbers, also have apartment-style living options through Juniata, as well as single rooms in Nathan Hall or other double dorm rooms throughout campus. I have friends who still live on campus and those who don’t, and it really depends on each person’s preferences. The most important part of choosing a house for those of us off campus is that we are close to campus, because even when we’re not living on campus, we are still spending a lot of our time there – going to class, doing research, and working the jobs we’ve had throughout our time here.

 

Figure 1: As the flag says, “Welcome to our pad.”

Figure 1: As the flag says, “Welcome to our pad.”

 

While there are times that I miss aspects of living in a dorm (being only a few steps away from your friends’ rooms is pretty great), I do appreciate the chance to gain more adult experience. Sure, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to cook myself dinner. I also have to go outside to see the friends that I don’t live with. However, living off campus has been a positive experience overall and I value the chance to gain some extra responsibility before moving to meet whatever life has in store next.

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.

International Food Fair and Talent Show

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

International Food Fair and Talent Show

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

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

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

photo credit:  Jared Evans

photo credit: Jared Evans

Ellen Cambell: Making Juniata a World of Possibilities

As I begin the second semester of my Junior year, I have started to look back on all of the people that have helped me and supported me. You might say it’s a little too early for this level of nostalgia, but in a year from now I will be anxiously awaiting news about my graduate school applications as well as frantically trying to figure out where my life is going over the next five to six years. Thankfully, Juniata is filled with kind and supportive people who care about the student’s lives, and who do their utmost to make sure they get where they want to go in life.

One of these people is Ellen Campbell. I first met Ellen when I was applying to be an RA my freshmen year. At that time, she was the Resident Director for our off-campus housing. She has a quick wit and an enthusiastic personality and she made the stressful process of applying to be an RA a little less so. Ellen is now the Assistant Dean of Students and is doing all she can to make Juniata an amazing place for all who go here. She is incredibly approachable and will even yell across the quad if she sees you. She has the unique capability to take a funny conversation or story and seamlessly transition it into a serious conversation. One of the things that I believe sets Juniata apart is the Faculty’s relationship with the students. Given that our student to professor ratio is 13:1, our professors and administrators time is free to interact more with the students and it allows them to invest more in our lives.

Figure 1: Is it as Funny lookin' to you as it was to Ellen?

Figure 1: Is it as Funny lookin’ to you as it was to Ellen?

One of the ways they do this is by participating in student events. Last semester, Ellen and I had the unique opportunity to be a part of one of Juniata’s more comedic traditions, Mr. Juniata. One of the contestants performed his rendition of the Mean Girls talent show routine. As soon as the quartet walked out on stage Ellen started to laugh. Ellen does not have a normal laugh. Ellen’s laugh engulfs everything around it and can be heard above even the rowdiest of crowds. She grabbed my arm and the arm of the kid on the other side of her and started shaking us in her excitement and merriment. I don’t think I have ever laughed harder in my life than I did in that moment. If I had gone to another school, I don’t think I would ever have been able to experience something like that with a professor and certainly not an administrator.

From the brief time I have known Ellen she has made me feel welcomed and supported and, even if she didn’t realize it, she has taught me that education of any kind is an investment and you get out of it what you put in. If you ever get the chance to come to campus I sincerely hope you get to meet Ellen and barring that, I hope that you get to hear her infectious laugh as it echoes across campus.

From the DNC to the Inauguration: The Benefits of Participating in Experiential Learning

 

Figure 1: Dabbing with Abraham Lincoln

Figure 1: Dabbing with Abraham Lincoln

After the Democratic National Convention (DNC) last summer, my latest experiential learning was the Presidential Inauguration program with the Washington Center (TWC) along with 10 other Juniata students. The two-week seminar started on January 8th, and I had the privilege to learn from experts in various political fields from economists, environmentalists, historians, journalists to lobbyists. For instance, if it were not for this seminar, I would not have been exposed to dynamic speakers like Eric Dyson and Greg Carr who represented the perspective of Black people on the potential outcomes of Trump’s presidency. This was very important to me because, as a liberal arts college located in rural Huntingdon, P.A., and a predominantly white school, Juniata College has only a few People of Color in its faculty body.

Figure 2: Dr. Carr and I after his discussion

Figure 2: Dr. Carr and I after his discussion

I have been living close to D.C. in Germantown, M.D., for 9 years. However, I had never fully known the District until the inauguration program. I was able to see the amount of power in D.C. I enjoyed the D.C. bus tour and learning about the District’s history. Visiting the both the Holocaust and New African American Museum was a worthwhile experience, which made me humble to have such amazing opportunities available to me. Just like the DNC, the seminar was a great career opportunity to network. I was invited to an alumni reception at the French Embassy, and I met four dynamic students from Science Po (Institute of Political Studies) in Strasbourg, France, currently studying at Georgetown University! Did I mention that I was very excited to interact with them because I too will be living and interning in Strasbourg next year? Not to mention that I made sure to get them all tickets to the inauguration itself. Indeed, this is a connection that I look forward to develop.

Figure 3: Amanda Wagner and I doing a jump shot at the Tidal Basin after visiting the Lincoln Memorial. Photo Credit: Jackson Hoch

Figure 3: Amanda Wagner and I doing a jump shot at the Tidal Basin after visiting the Lincoln Memorial. Photo Credit: Jackson Hoch

Living in the Nation’s capital allowed me to visit my senators and representatives and interact with them as well. Our small group discussions also put me in close contact with my fellow Juniatians hailing from conservative backgrounds, whose voices often gets lost in this predominant liberal institution. During the weekend, our group also got together to attend two very different but equally formidable theater productions: Capital Steps and Confucius—the latter was my favorite because it was produced and choreographed by the 77th direct descendant of Confucius, Kong Dexin, and was visually breathtaking. By far, the craziest part of my experience was meeting Malia Obama at the club on my birthday night! Although I did not get a picture with her, seeing her was the best birthday gift.

I am a Researcher

I’d never considered myself to be much of a “researcher”. Yes, I love environmental science, and most science learning, but when I thought about my future, I never saw research in it. Now, as a first semester Sophomore, I’ve found myself leading my own research project under biology professor, Dr. Norris Muth.

Last year, I began working on the project of mapping the street trees of Huntingdon Borough. I continued that project into this year, but a few weeks ago, Dr. Muth and Jim Savory (a member of the Tree Commission) approached me with a new project – the Huntingdon Champion Trees project. Well, that’s not quite our official name, but it sums it up fairly well. Essentially, our goal is to find the biggest tree of each species across Huntingdon County.

 

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

 

We had an article published in The Daily News (Huntingdon County’s newspaper) about our project, and the tips started rolling in. So far, people around the county have contacted me about almost 20 different trees. I’ve been going out a few times a week since then just to try to keep up with it!

 

The article written in the Daily News about our project

The article written in the Daily News about our project

Besides the fact that it’s incredibly cool to have my own project so early in my college career, the project itself somehow managed to combine everything I’m interested in. I love Urban Forestry (trees in cities and towns), history, people, and Huntingdon. I’ve met someone who lives in the same house that their grandparents once lived in, I went to one home that had an old carriage house, and a ramp in the front yard so people could get into the carriage, and I’ve seen some really, really huge trees.

I know trees are not everyone’s thing. Heck, they’re barely anyone’s thing. However, that’s not the point. Even though Juniata does not have a forestry program, I was able to invest myself fully in my interests.

An In’tents Election

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

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

Figure 1: First time voting!

Figure 1: First time voting!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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