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Family and the Long Drive Home

It’s often said of young people that we don’t appreciate the value of family. In our early twenties we are most concerned with distinguishing ourselves from our families. We strive to a new life and a new character apart from the people with whom we spent the first 18 years of our life. These are admirable—and necessary—goals for college students. But that doesn’t mean a life entirely set apart from our family works best. In fact, most of the people I know at Juniata retain a healthy amount of contact with family.

What one defines as “healthy”, of course, varies depending on the sort of person you are and the circumstances you find yourself in. Many of my more extroverted friends keep in near-daily contact with their family from home, usually through the magic of text or online chat services. Some of my peers live close enough to campus that they either commute daily or, more frequently, spend the odd weekend at home. About half of our population here comes from within the state, so whether they live in Amish country or Appalachia home isn’t so far.

But for myself and many others, home is a long way away. I live in Massachusetts which—though thankfully on the same coast as Pennsylvania—is a nine-to-ten hour drive away. With the exception of Thanksgiving, I spend my breaks and free time exploring in-state or elsewhere. Many more students spend Thanksgiving here, especially those of my friends who live on the left coast. And for the ten percent of students who come from abroad, home is further away than many can appreciate—both in physical and cultural distance.

Thankfully, we are no longer living in the age where telephones require booths and quarters to operate. There are a variety of apps and services which allow one to send messages, images, and voice chat for free over any internet connection. I personally used Viber, a WhatsApp clone, while I studied abroad in New Zealand so as to save on cellphone bills. While I’m in this country, I share a group chat with my nuclear and extended families where we post pictures and musings from our daily lives.

Today more than ever students are traveling further and further away to go to college, something I believe to be an admirable trend. Distancing ourselves from where we grew up allows us to see a new way of life and gives us a chance to redefine who we are. For those of us who find ourselves flung far away from home, even with other oceans or continents between us, our modern age has at least some of the solutions. Now if I could only figure out how to get my cat to Skype me…

Zachary Hesse is a writer, commercial fisherman, and philosophy student at Juniata College. You can find more of his writings and get in touch with him at his website, zacharyhesse.com.


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.

I am a Multimedia Technology Strategist

Let me start from the beginning. I knew what I wanted to be before I came to Juniata. I loved technology and I absolutely loved being an editor and working with cameras in high school. So I knew that I wanted to major in Integrated Media Arts to strengthen my abilities.

Once, when speaking with my advisor, I brought up the question of what types of jobs I could get with an IMA degree. However, most decent jobs that I was interested in also required marketing skills. Luckily for me, at Juniata, students can create a program of emphasis or POE to individualize their intended major with whatever fascinates them. For instance, I was intrigued by integrated media arts, marketing, information technology, computer science and education. So I put all of these different majors together to create another major titled, Multimedia Technology Strategies.

I get a lot of different responses when I tell people about my major. Most responses I receive are similar to those of a contortionist. My two personal favorite responses are, “Wow… why?” or “Who are you, superwoman?” Taking five different types of classes surprisingly isn’t that hard when you are interested in the content.

As a senior now, I don’t regret any of the choices I made with scheduling. Unfortunately, I had to drop the education bit along the way. However, it seems that I have learned how to teach people without having to take classes in it. Life has given me the education I need to be able to teach people my passion of videography. Hopefully, I find a career that fulfills my passions. If not, I will just have to create my own business.


If you have any more questions about the POE program, check out this link: http://www.juniata.edu/academics/areas-of-study.php

Yes, I’m an Actor

I’m going to be completely honest: I have had people laugh in my face when I told them what I study at school. When I tell people I’m studying Theatre Performance, I often hear “Okay…but whats’s your backup?” Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have a backup. I’m an actor and that’s what I want to do. I love performing more than anything in the world and it makes me so happy while doing it, so why not make a career out of it?
I’ve loved performing since the age of three. My first play was The Three Little Pigs, I played Pig #3 and my father played my house. Ever since then, I have loved being on stage. I love creating characters, expressing emotion through text, and getting to be someone I’m not. This semester has given me more than enough opportunities alone to help pursue my career.
Little Shop of Horrors
At the beginning of the semester, I was cast as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. It was one of my dream roles and I was so beyond honored to get to perform that show in front of the entire school. We sold out all six of our performances! How crazy is that! Right after we closed the show, I performed in Unlock Your Voice: Breaking Boundaries, an English-department event celebrating female writers. I chose an intense slam poem about feminism and sexism and it was awesome. After that, I was cast as Callie in Stop, Kiss which opens later this week. This play is incredibly different from Little Shop, and so much more emotionally draining that I expected it to be. I can definitely say this is one of the hardest shows I’ve worked on, and it is such a beautiful piece that I can’t wait to share with the campus community. And recently, I was cast as the lead in a student-written feature film that I will get to work on for a few months next semester. This is not my first student film, but it is my first feature length film and I am so excited to start working on it!
As a young actor, I still haven’t decided if I want to focus more on live theatre or film, because I’m still dabbling in both. At Juniata, however, I have been given the opportunity to try both, extensively, and learn so many skills to help me in my profession. I can never give Juniata enough praise for how incredible the theatre program is here. I never would have imagined to be cast in three separate projects all over the span of a few months.
Little Shop of Horrors
I know I’ve picked a risky career. Trust me, I know. But I chose it for a reason. Performing makes me happy. It gives me energy, it brings my joy, and it brings joy to other people as well in the audience. That is so meaningful for me, and I love what I do. I know I still have three more semesters left at Juniata, but I am so ready to go out into the real world and do what I love.
Photos by: Morgan Horell ’17

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

Reflecting on the Fall Semester of My Senior Year

My mother never thought I’d be happier than I was when I was in Ireland; I had a smile on my face every time we Facetimed. She told me over Thanksgiving break that she was surprised how quickly I adjusted back to my Juniata College life after a year in Cork. So, I thought about it, trying to discern what it was that was so appealing to me about Juniata this year in particular. I readjusted so quickly because I really missed my classmates and now that I’m back I want to spend as much time as possible with them.

Here I am on Mountain Day with two of my best friends since freshman year.

Here I am on Mountain Day with two of my best friends since freshman year.

I went to school with the same people for fourteen years before I came to Juniata, so I never really had to make new friends. I think that’s the case for a lot of students. The advantage to the small campus at Juniata is that it is really conducive to making friends since everyone is in close proximity and you see most people on a daily basis. My friend Elise and I connected through overlapping Inbound activities, and Maris and I met through a mutual friend. We’ve remained friends since the early days of the first semester.

I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.

I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.

I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.

I always tell people that one of my favorite aspects of Juniata is the students; we are both intensely passionate about their areas of interest and willing to drop all that we’re doing to participate in an event or a tradition to have a good time. We do our schoolwork and take it seriously; we pursue internships and opportunities ravenously. However, we also want to have fun and embrace the quirks of Juniata and its students. Maybe there’s another school where students sleep outside in tents for a week just to sing one line in one Christmas song, but Juniata’s ambitious dichotomy in both fun and work is unique.

When I visited Juniata, I ate lunch with a friend who attended my high school and then went to Juniata. She asked if we could end lunch a bit early and partake in a sign language scavenger hunt. I obliged, and the resulting half hour is one that I talk about often. The rules of the scavenger hunt were simple: get people who were not in the class to do the actions that you wanted them to by only using sign language (think “sign language charades”). When students on the quad dropped their backpacks and sprinted around and football players did cartwheels in the Ellis Ballroom, I knew that Juniata was a place where I could learn and get the school portion of the college experience, but also that it was a place where I could have a good time and make some fond memories. That memory-making potential is what really drew me back in after my year away, and it’s what has me excited for all that is to come with the remainder of my senior year.

Juniata’s First Cheerleading Competition

It was a normal day. The team woke up and prepared hair and got dressed in spanks, body liners, shells and skirts and awaited to board the bus for the two hour trip to the Harrisburg Farm Show complex. This was a normal occurrence as we traveled away to the boy’s football games often. The only difference was that this time, the cheerleading team was competing!


I can recall all of the nervousness in each girl. The chaotic mess of that morning scrambled everyone’s minds while their anxiety settled in. This didn’t help as several of our girls have never competed before and did not know what to expect. The other captain, Faith, and I have competed before several times and knew what was about to happen. Needless to say the day wasn’t too overwhelming for us. Our coach was probably the most nervous out of all of us. She has been with us since the very beginning of the routine and wanted us to do well. I should also mention that she is pregnant meaning her mom genes kicked in a lot throughout the day. We were told several times to use the restroom.


When we arrived we all settled down to finish our hair and makeup while our fan club (our parents and boyfriends) began to show. At this point, I noticed that every girl was listening to the music and going through the routine step by step. Everyone knew that we could get it down. We have marked it through so many times and we all knew where to go and what to do. The only issue was, we had never run the routine full out (this meaning with tumbling, stunts, and dance). This was probably what threw everyone’s nerves off the most. We were competing a routine that we had never completed before!


In the end, only one stunt fell which wasn’t bad. As the scores showed, the judges actually liked our routine! Not too shabby for a couple of college kids making up the routine on the fly one day after deciding to compete.


2016 is a year to remember for Juniata College as this is the first year JC has ever sent a cheerleading team to compete and guess what… We won first place! Check that one off of the bucket list.


The team after receiving our first place banner.

The team after receiving our first place banner.


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

To Be, or Not To Be (Involved)

The spring semester theatre production of “Hamlet” opens this week and I am so incredibly excited. Not only are they performing this weekend and next, but they get to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August! I was not cast in this show, but just because you’re not cast doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar. I hopped on the opportunity to work backstage with the costume crew. This was my first experience working on the technical side of theatre, but my supervisors were appreciative, understanding and helpful with our tasks.

Juniata College actors rehearse the upcoming play "Hamlet"

Juniata College actors rehearse the upcoming play “Hamlet”

I was a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t know how to sew, but the costume designer for the show, Tara Webb, taught me everything I needed to know. I worked to sew buttons and labels while she made alterations to the actor’s costumes.

Another great part of working backstage is that I get to see the whole process of the show being put together. Many of my best friends have been cast in the show and it is
so amazing to see them killing it on stage! Not to mention, “Hamlet” is not an easy show! Any Shakespeare play has some serious memorization and text work that needs to be done before the play can even begin to be blocked in rehearsal.

“Hamlet” opens this Thursday, February 18th, and will perform the 19-20, and the 25-27th as well. There is a male cast and a female cast, and the casts alternate each night. I’m so proud of my friends for all of the work they’ve put into this show, and I’m so glad I can be a part of it, even thought I’m not in the actual show.

My Senior Year Bucket List

steph study abroad

It is officially week 2 of my final year at Juniata College, and let me tell you, I’m already feeling pretty nostalgic.  I spent the entirety of last year studying abroad, first in Russia and then in India, and though it was an incredible year full of adventures and new experiences, I am so happy to be back at Juniata.  Everyone tells you about being homesick, but no one really warns you about being campus-sick.  You really do start to miss your college once you’re gone for a while, but thankfully I still have one year left!  Here, I have created a bucket list of things I will endeavor to complete during my final year here.

  • Attend every single tradition. At which other college are classes canceled on a random day and everyone picnics at a lake in the mountains?  And only at Juniata is there an event where freshmen risk bodily harm by charging at the rest of the student body, trying to fight their way past them. Juniata College has many unique and fun traditions, and I was insanely jealous every time I saw pictures of my friends participating in fun activities, such as eating lobsters at Lobsterfest and pitching tents on the lawn for Madrigal.  This year, I am not going to miss out on any of the events and activities at JC.
  • Find the secret spots. Because Juniata is located in the mountains, there are many different places to explore around campus.  One of my favorite spots is the Cliffs, only a 10-minute walk away.  The views are incredible, but another little known fact is that there is a rope swing at the bottom (how cool is that?!).  No one really knows where exactly it is, but it can’t be too hard to find.  In addition, there are great hiking trails not too far from campus, including 7 Geocaches within a mile (a Geocache is a container filled with an unknown object that you find using GPS coordinates).  I have never been Geocaching but who doesn’t love a huge treasure hunt?!  Before I graduate, I will leave no stone unturned.
  • Make lasting relationships. This may sound cheesy, but one of my goals is to make sure I leave Juniata having made enduring friendships. Juniata is a small community, and I know everyone here has my back and wants the best for my future.  I know I can rely on my professors and advisors to guide me both in my final year and after I graduate.  In addition to becoming closer to my mentors, I am also looking forward to meeting new people and getting re-involved in my favorite clubs, like Circle K and PAX-O (a Peace Studies club).  It’s my last year to really make an impact, so I hope to be as involved as I can!  Finally, I know I’m going to miss all of the friendly faces on campus, from Laura who works in Baker to President Troha.  These sorts of people make Juniata a happier, brighter place, and ultimately a college that is unique and irreplaceable.

As much as I don’t want it to, senior year is going to fly by.  No matter what I’m doing, whether I’m canoeing on Raystown Lake during Mountain Day or debating the meaning of life with a professor, I’m happy to be back home at Juniata.  I can’t wait to start checking things off my bucket list!


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