September 2011 Archives

Safety Protocols Everywhere, and No One Paying Attention?

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Jan Wachter teaching Safety Sciences classI don't really think much about safety in the workplace. Maybe because the most dangerous thing that could happen to me in my third-floor office in Sutton is that I get overly caffeinated (I love coffee and have my own personal Keurig).

But thankfully for people at job sites that have dangerous chemicals and machinery, there are people who do think very strategically about workplace safety.

I really enjoyed a recent meeting with Jan Wachter, associate professor of Safety Sciences. Dr. Wachter has a very diverse past, including study at a theological seminary. He's not your typical safety professional, but he's incredibly knowledgeable and has extensive experience in many different work sites. What intrigued me about his current work was that he was looking at safety from the perspective of the worker, not management.

Dr. Wachter got a $90,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation to study "worker engagement" in the safety process.

WAIT! Don't click away just yet. I promise, it's interesting.

Here's what that means. If workers have an accident, even if it's because of a mistake that they make, it might not really be their fault, Dr. Watcher argues. It might be that they just aren't buying into safety protocols and guidelines.

So the fault, dear reader, is not in their stars, but with management.

Here's what he says: "While human error has been associated with the majority of incidents in the workplace, motivation and worker engagement may be the keys to human-error reduction."

Dr. Wachter hopes that the outcomes of this research, once instituted in the workplace, could reduce lost workdays due to accidents by 20 percent.

The key difference in this study, as opposed to other research on safety in the workplace, is that Dr. Wachter will investigate how well--or how poorly--workers are engaged, or buying into, a shared accountability for identifying at-risk situations and responding to them.

There's more about Dr.Wachter on the Research at IUP website, and I encourage you to stay tuned. I expect some very out-of-the-ordinary results from his research.

Rocking the Classroom

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If you walked by Cogswell Hall this morning, you might have heard "Louie Louie" ringing through the halls. A lot of "Louie Louie." As in, a full hour of "Louie Louie." After all, it's "Louie Louie" Day in Gen Choral.

"Gen Choral" is what students call Music professor Laura Ferguson's General/Choral Methods class. And although Ferguson admits it has a reputation as "the rock band class," it's actually a class that teaches music education students the "very traditional" skills they need to lead choirs and choruses--along with general musical training to help them work with the many other ensembles they may be asked to lead, including world drums, microphone techniques, steel drumming, and, yes, rock band.

The mix of skills taught in Gen Choral derives from new thinking about what school music programs should provide for students. "There's this real disconnect between the kinds of music we make in schools and the kind of music we find authentically in our culture," notes Ferguson. Instead of making students fit the mold of what we already have--concert band, choir, orchestra--why not fit the mold to them? Why not open the door wider so more students participate in school music programs?

Ferguson is not the only music educator asking these questions. More primary and secondary schools are bringing popular music into their music curricula each year, and there is a growing body of research on the approach. In Britain, an organization called Musical Futures trains teachers to build upon students' "existing passion for music." And in the U.S., Little Kids Rock supports "teaching methods that are rooted in children's knowledge of popular music forms such as rock, rap, blues, hip-hop, and more." (Check out the New York Times's "Fixes" blog for more on Little Kids Rock.)


But Ferguson believes she is the first person to create a college course for music educators that revolves around these new approaches to teaching music.

A key element of Ferguson's approach to the rock band part of the course is separating music students from the instruments they have spent years learning to play. It's not an easy transition for many, as years of musical training have convinced them that they should not play music at all unless they can play it very well. But not playing the instrument they usually play forces music ed students to be more "like their future students."

Hence "Louie Louie" Day.

Within a single class session, Ferguson's students pick up the electric guitar, electric bass, and sit at a drum kit for the first time. They learn their first three power chords and start playing a recognizable song. For many, it's a completely new way to learn music--and they are surprised to see how quickly beginning music students can start making music that they enjoy.

It's a lesson these future educators will take with them when they graduate. So don't be surprised if you hear "Louie Louie" coming from the choir room at a high school near you.

A Gen Choral Sample

While "Louie Louie" Day isn't open to the public, the Gen Choral concert is. This final class activity is a concert where students direct each other in choir performances and play music on the instruments they started playing only a few weeks earlier.

Below, you can enjoy a now-legendary (among IUP music students) performance from one of those concerts: "Lorraine's Lament," an ode to Lorraine Wilson, professor emeritus and former chair of Music:

Nursing Simulation Lab Makes Music Video Debut

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IUP's Nursing and Allied Health Professions degrees are some of our most rigorous programs, and for good reason--the things that the students learn there ARE a matter of life and death.

The faculty work very hard to create real-life experiences for students, so they are well prepared for work in hospitals and other health care settings. In September 2010, faculty members Lisa Palmer and Julia Greenawalt were successful in receiving amost $300,000 to create a simulation lab, which mirrors the home of a rural patient with a common chronic illness. The lab is designed to help train nurses for home health care especially and includes telehealth monitors used by home health care agencies. Dr. Palmer explained that with the shortage of nurses, more and more patients are being treated in their homes, and this laboratory offers a significant advantage to IUP students who go on to work with home health care agencies.

This new home health care simulation lab adds to the department's current simulation laboratory, established by the department in 2007 and renovated in 2009. This lab includes manikins of all "ages," including an infant, two simulated hospital rooms, and IV and other training devices.

While this laboratory gets very heavy use by students and faculty and will undoubtedly help future nurses save lives, it was the site of a very unusual project this summer.

David Altrogge, a 2006 IUP art studio/graphic design graduate, is making a name for himself as a cofounder and creative director of Vinegar Hill, a full service production company and creative agency based in Indiana. IUP has used his company for projects, and he has used IUP and Indiana places and spaces for several of his productions.

David recently was contracted by Centricity Records to produce a music video for Aaron Shust's My Hope Is in You. The story is about a couple waiting as their daughter is treated in a hospital following an accident. I won't give away the ending, but you might want to have a few tissues handy while you watch it.

If you've ever visited Johnson Hall (home to the department), and the "hospital" in the video looks sort of familiar to you--well, that's because it is. IUP's Nursing and Allied Health Professions Department's simulation lab is the hospital, and the hospital lobby is the lobby of the Nursing department in Johnson. The video features several IUP Nursing graduates, including Megan Wallwork (doing chest compressions), Janelle McCombie, and Kristi Altrogge. The Bennets, of Indiana, are the grieving parents.

While IUP is proud of David's work, we are also proud to know that the simulation lab did exactly what it was supposed to do, albeit in a fairly unorthodox setting: It offered a very real hospital environment, with a realistic patient and believable injuries. A win-win for all involved.

Planning for the Future

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Residential Revival housingI got a call recently from a freelance reporter writing for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who had heard that IUP had "done some major construction."

Talk about an understatement.

"Yes, we've just finished a $243-million project to renovate or replace all of our university-owned residence halls, the Residential Revival. It's the largest project of its kind in the nation, ..." and on I go.

It's been such a major presence for this university and our communications work (four groundbreakings, four ribbon cuttings, two "demolition teas," a front-page feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education, of which I am particular proud) that I tend to into PR-autobot mode when talking about Residential Revival.

He listened politely, and then asked me something that most reporters don't generally even think to consider. "Yes, I know of the project. I wondered whom I could talk to about how all your construction fits into campus planning efforts."

That switched OFF my auto-reponse. "I have the perfect person," I assured him. "Mr. Tom Borellis, he's currently the assistant to the vice president for Administration and Finance for Special Projects. He's THE MAN when it comes to campus planning."

IUP's Residential Revival is a very visual demonstration of IUP's commitment to a new way of living and learning on campus. The new buildings are beautiful, and students and parents are loving them. But most people, probably even most people on campus, don't understand the back story as to how they fit into the long-range campus plan.

Tom does. He was the director of Student Housing Development during the four phases of the construction of the eight buildings and is a key figure in IUP's long-range development plan, which looks at EVERYTHING physical plant related, from parking needs to pedestrian and vehicle patterns to signage.

Because he's worked with colleges and universities, he's a specialist in the field and "gets" that form has to follow function on the campus--that the academic strategic plan comes first, then the plans for new buildings. He also understands that as plans are developed, they have to be as a result of consensus, input, meetings, more meetings, discussions, and did I mention meetings?

He comes to IUP from GWSM, a nationally known landscape architecture and planning firm in Pittsburgh (he was president and chief operating officer), and I remember when Tom and his firm were consultants to IUP. Ed Receski, then vice president for administration, wisely realized that IUP needed Tom in this role full time, and he brought Tom to IUP in 2001 as the university landscape architect. Happily for IUP, he stayed, expanding his role to take on the Residential Revival.

I usually try to be present during media interviews, not because I am necessarily needed to provide information, but because I learn so much from the experts that I set up to talk with reporters. This was no exception. Two hours flew by (Tom is a very entertaining storyteller, by the way), and I learned a great deal about how the living-learning trend began in California (state of, not California, Pa.) and that IUP's long-range plan was the impetus for the entire State System of Higher Education to require long-range plans of all its member universities. Tom also talked about how these buildings, because of the public-private partnership, truly are outside-the-box thinking that made badly needed facilities possible during some very challenging economic times.

The reporter also asked about the future of IUP and its facilities. Tom brought out our recently approved long-range plan, which strategically details five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years into the future, promising a new Humanities and Social Sciences building and a new Natural Sciences and Mathematics building.

The story appeared recently in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with the headline "IUP Ditches 'Dungeon' Dorms amid a Residential Revival." It tells the story of IUP's efforts to revitalize the campus quite nicely. And, I look for this reporter to be back, and to be calling on Tom and other IUP experts.

Talk about making IUP look good, now and into the future.

A Million Reasons to Thank an IUP Student

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Into the StreetsI don't normally like to generalize about IUP students, because the more students I meet, the more I realize that they are very different from one another.

However, I don't think that I'm too off the mark when I suggest that 98 percent of IUP students are probably snuggled up to their pillows on Saturday mornings and enjoying dreamland. (I have two twenty-year-old sophomores, so I also feel fairly informed on the habits of this particular species.)

But, this past Saturday, September 17, some 150 IUP students blew that stereotype. And it wasn't for cereal and cartoons, but to benefit community agencies in Indiana.

Last Saturday was the fall Into the Streets event, organized by IUP's Office of Service Learning. Students volunteered for this national day of service at seven sites in Indiana County. Students did everything from painting curbs to helping with the United Way demolition derby fund-raiser to cleaning up around Indiana Borough with borough employees.

The Into the Streets project is in its ninth year at IUP. It happens every fall and spring, and, in spring 2011, there were 300 students who volunteered for service at 13 different community sites. In fact, there were so many students interested in participating that the Office of Service Learning had to go back out to community agencies to ask for more volunteer opportunities. That makes me very proud of our students. The spring event is the bigger of the two, as there tend to be more service opportunities at that time of year, Service Learning officials tell me.

While I'm pleased that 150 students took part in the event this fall and I believe that number  is noteworthy, it's really just a very small part of what our students do each year. 

In 2009-2010, 8,752 students volunteered for some kind of community service. That is 58 percent of the IUP student body. And it wasn't just a one-shot deal for most students: Those IUP students performed 136,810 hours of community service during that academic year. (Totals are still being compiled for 2010-2011.)

So, that means that MORE THAN HALF of IUP students volunteered for their home community in a nine-month period, most in a sustained kind of way. Measured by the current national minimum wage, these work hours would be valued at $991,872.50. That's just short of A MILLION DOLLARS.

What did they do? Food drives; books for the Community Guidance Center; selling daffodils for the American Cancer Society; helping children learn to read better; cell-phone drives for women in domestic violence situations; being a "big heart" for children in the Big Hearts Little Hands program.

I got a call from the former director of Big Hearts Little Hands (formerly Big Brothers Big Sisters) not too long after I started at IUP. "I want to talk to you about your students," she started, and I braced myself. "Oh, no, what happened?" I asked, really not wanting to hear the answer.

"Without IUP students, this program couldn't exist," she said. "These students are wonderful. It's a big sacrifice to give up your free time when you are a student and to care about someone else's child, but they are amazing. I am proud of each and every one of them. Thank you."

Enough said.

NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (NASA Goddard photo)I am old enough to remember the celebration surrounding America's first lunar mission and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. ("One small step for mankind" is part of my heritage.) I also remember the ORIGINAL Apollo 13 mission (not just the movie with Tom Hanks), and I was one of the many people who were extremely impressed to have former astronaut Jim Lovell here at IUP for the First Commonwealth Lecture Series. To my generation, astronauts like the late Patricia Hilliard Robertson (a 1985 IUP Biology graduate) are heros, and space travel and NASA still have a major wow factor.

I also remember Skylab and how worried everyone was about the possibility of being hit by space junk falling from the sky. It did sort of tarnish the space program for me, mostly because it was such fodder for late-night comedians and the show Northern Exposure. (Who else remembers that was how Maggie O'Connell's first boyfriend died?)

Fast forward thirty-two years, and here were are again. "Satellite the size of a school bus poised to fall to Earth at an undisclosed location," television news reporters state with the appropriate look of concern. But I think Americans have a lot less panic and a lot more amusement over this satellite than Skylab.

Ken ColesI know what I think, but I'm more interested in what our faculty experts have to say about current issues. Kenneth Coles, associate professor of Geoscience, did not disappoint on the subject of NASA's UARS satellite and the "threat" of it hitting something--or someone--here on Earth.

"Thousands of old satellites, rocket boosters, and pieces of debris orbit the Earth. Many are in orbits that eventually decay due to friction with the very thin uppermost atmosphere," he explained.

"When they lose enough energy to fall to Earth, smaller objects burn up in the
atmosphere, but very large ones can make it to the ground. NASA and NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) track a lot of 'space junk' and give as much warning as practical of such events.

"Compared to the other perils of everyday life (such as riding in a car) the hazard is very minor for us on the ground, but space junk is a much greater problem in orbit, where collisions can cause considerable damage to a satellite or spacecraft."

Even NASA experts are pretty calm about the possibility that you could be hurt by a falling piece of satellite. They predict that twenty-six parts of the satellite will survive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, and the odds of getting hit by one of those pieces is 1 in 3,200.

So, while I am not a statistics expert, considering that Pittsburgh has an average of 152 snowy or rainy days each year, maybe I should do my own television news story: "This just in: Residents of Western Pennsylvania have a 41 percent chance of getting wet from snow or rain on any given day!"

Wonder if that will make Good Morning America? I'm ready for my closeup. ...

Celebrating the Constitution at IUP

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Constitution Day 92011D385.jpg
As part of the campus celebration of Constitution Day, Professor Joseph Mannard of the History Department dressed in Colonial garb for the public reading of the U.S. Constitution. Scores of students and faculty members lined up in front of Stapleton Library to read a portion of the Constitution. The Political Science Department and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences sponsored the day's events, which also included a presentation called "A Casual Conversation with the Framers of the U.S. Constitution," featuring four of the Constitution's authors--James Madison, Ben Franklin, Charles Pinckney, and Alexander Hamilton, portrayed by Mannard, David Chambers, Mac Fiddner, and Steven Jackson.

"The commemoration of Constitution Day provides an ideal opportunity to take a closer look at how our government is structured and what powers it does or doesn't have," said Gwen Torges of the Political Science Department. "In the past, these events have generated a surprising level of interest and discussion about just what the Founding Fathers were thinking and what they hoped to achieve in writing the Constitution."

Constitution Day commemorates the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution.

The Importance of Building a Culture of Philanthropy

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sidewalk Alumni Gift Sign 200.jpgYou probably noticed the signs and sidewalk chalk messages during the first week of school. They were part of an educational campaign the Annual Giving Office sponsors to help students understand the impact of gifts from alumni and friends of IUP. It's part of an effort to build a culture of philanthropic giving on campus. Students who understand how private gifts affect their education are more likely to understand why we ask them to give when they become alumni--and then respond by giving.

Activity like this is essential to the fund-raising process, and schools like IUP--state-owned institutions--have an additional hump to overcome, because of a misperception that we are fully funded by the commonwealth. Earlier this year, the New York Times ran an article that included interviews with administrators from numerous public universities. It described the misperception well:

When the State University of New York at Geneseo surveyed its alumni three years ago as part of a plan to increase fund-raising, the initial response was heartening. Former students described their time there with words like "love" and "the best four years." Then came what one administrator, Michael J. Catillaz, called "the cold shower." Asked if they would donate, almost all said they thought the university was financed entirely by the state. The state's contribution was actually 25 percent, and it has been dropping ever since.

"Inviting alumni in large numbers to actively support the college is a foreign notion," said Mr. Catillaz, the vice president for college advancement.

In truth, some of our current students have been inspired to give or facilitate philanthropic action on behalf of the university. The IUP Ambassadors, for example, conducted numerous fund-raisers to name a room in the new Kovalchick Complex. Members of the IUP History Club work tirelessly to make sure the Eric Slebodnik Memorial Scholarship, housed in the Foundation for IUP and established in memory of a student who died in the line of duty in Iraq, continues to help a deserving student. These same students also raise money for the Jack Kadlubowski Scholarship, established in memory of a late faculty member. There are other examples, but the point is that instilling in students the importance of the impact private gifts have will, we hope, reap long-term rewards after they leave us for the greater world.

Stories about student and alumni philanthropy that we can share with funding agencies and large-gift prospects often inspire them to also give. When members of the campus community give, they are expressing their belief in the institution. That's a powerful thing. After all, charity does begin at home.

Chad Hurley's New Delicious Venture

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chadhurley.jpgYouTube cofounder and IUP alumnus Chad Hurley is jumping into a new venture by purchasing Delicious, the link sharing and organization tool, from Yahoo. As an off and on Delicious user, I'm excited by the prospect, because Hurley and his colleague Steve Chen seem to understand how so many of us are overwhelmed by the all good stuff we might want to keep track of on the web. The New York Times tells the story better than I can.

I first discovered this nugget of information when a few of my Facebook friends subscribed to Hurley's Facebook page. When I visited, I was delighted to find his profile picture was one Keith Boyer, our university photographer, shot for IUP Magazine. (The photo appears in the print edition, not the online edition.) Hurley earned a BFA at IUP in 1999. Through a gift, he named the arena in the Kovalchick Complex in honor of his track coach, Ed Fry, a retired professor.

Good News "for a Change"

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What They Said screen shot

I truly do enjoy my job, and I am very appreciative of the folks who go out of their way to tell me that they are happy with the media coverage I've arranged. One of my favorite things is when folks e-mail me or stop me out walking around campus with story ideas. Alumni, especially, are very loyal to IUP, and they like to see their university represented fairly for the accomplishments of its students, faculty, and graduates. So, I try not to take it personally when I hear, "Let's get some good news out there about IUP for a change." I know they care deeply about IUP and its reputation and are just trying to help.

For the past several years, I've been maintaining a log of media hits on the What They Said web page. I think it's a nice record of IUP in the news, and I hope that people (hint, hint: This means YOU, blog reader) visit it often.

But I've not really done an "official" count of media hits for several years, so, last year, I was asked to  count and measure the number of "good news" stories about IUP out there with circulation information. Here's what we found:

There were 435 positive stories about IUP from January 2010 to January 2011 in 46 different media outlets locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

This does NOT include the hundreds of stories featured on our local radio station OR any stories on athletics. ... I imagine the number would probably triple if I counted sports reports and features.

Anyway, these media hits ranged from places like Religion Dispatch (with a circulation of 2.3 million), the New York Times (circulation 740,007), and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune (circulation 534,750) to 29 hits in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (circulation 393,071), 22 hits in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (circulation 319,987), and 310 stories in the Indiana Gazette (circulation 16,000). Using what researchers call the "industry multiplier" (how many people actually read or hear news reports), this means that good news at IUP "for a change" reached 76,474,622 people. Yes, 76.5 million people.

Of course, we don't catch every media hit, so this is just what I've been able to document. I think it's a pretty impressive number.

That's the good news. But be assured, I'm working to get that 76.5 million up past 100 million for 2011-2012, story tips and ideas are always welcome!

IUP-TV Crew Dazzles CBS Sports Crew

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IUP received great publicity when CBS Sports Network broadcast last night's home football game (September 15). There were at least two alumni watch parties in distant places, and alumni from across the country gave us likes and comments to promotional announcements we made on IUP's Facebook page. IUP nearly upset nationally ranked Bloomsburg.

IUP_TV_Logo_redblack.pngWhat you may not have heard: The students of IUP-TV came to the CBS crew's rescue. CBS forgot to bring along a particular cable--an essential piece of equipment needed to use IUP-TV's editing system. The students and station technician Chris Barber juryrigged some equipment to make it possible for the crew to use the system. The CBS crew was impressed again by the students' ability to edit the footage shot of campus and of Indiana that was shown during the broadcast. IUP-TV students also worked in various paid support positions during the broadcast. All great stuff for aspiring broadcast industry professionals.

Here's a sample of the IUP-TV sports crew's ability, produced after the home opener against East Stroudsburg.

Songbirds and Stuttering

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zebra finchI'm an early riser, and I love the sound of the birds in the morning.

Recently, I learned about a research project that has made me think about songbirds from a whole different point of view.

I came upon this story in a very roundabout way--I got a call from a reporter in the region, looking for information about an IUP professor working with a local company.

Right church, wrong pew. He had the right professor, Paul Nealen, Biology Department, but not the correct information about the type of research. But, it put me onto a great story.

Dr. Nealen believes that the little zebra finch, a songbird native to Australia, may hold the key to understanding speech and hearing issues in humans.

For the past sixteen years, the last six at IUP, Dr. Nealen has been studying how hearing and vocal communication occurs in the zebra finch by examining how their neurons act during learning, memory, and communication.

Okay, just stay with me here.

It is his hope that, as researchers gain a greater understanding of how these neural circuits work in these songbirds, they will be able to determine how--and why--human speech and hearing problems like deafness and stuttering occur.

"We can learn things from birds that are really relevant for humans," he said.

Paul Nealen, Biology DepartmentDr. Nealen says that songbirds learn to vocalize or sing in a way that matches how humans learn to speak--by hearing themselves practice. In humans, hearing our own speech helps us to produce normal speech. Just ask any parent about that--it's what we do to help our babies learn to talk.

Who knew that the same is true for zebra finch--hearing their own song helps them to maintain and refine their ability to sing?

The goal of Dr. Nealen's research is to discover how individual neurons contribute to this overall function of using auditory feedback to guide the production of sounds.

One of the most exciting parts for me in telling the story to reporters is that Dr. Nealen involves IUP Biology undergraduate students in the project. But that's another blog entry.

When Students Meet Alumni

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alumni_connections.jpgSome say who you know is as important as what you know. If that's true, what do you do when you don't know someone? My colleagues in the Alumni Relations Office are working with the staff of the Career Development Center and IUP's academic areas to make sure our students make connections in the working world.

Next week, students from Eberly College of Business and the Computer Science Department will travel to Pittsburgh to attend a reception the Alumni Relations staff has planned with employees of PNC Bank. The idea is to give students the chance to make contacts with alumni within the company; those contacts could in turn lead to internships, cooperative experiences, inside knowledge, and, maybe a job after graduation. Mary Jo Lyttle, director of Alumni Relations, asked me to acknowledge the alumni from PNC who have volunteered to serve as the event's host committee: Davie Huddleston '69, David Williams '79, Brady Wise '95, Joanna Ender DiCiurcio '02, Gary Greenwood '06, Jennifer Butter '07, and Benjamin Pollock '09.

Alumni Relations and others in University Relations are working on a similar event in New York City in December for students studying business, Fashion Merchandising, and Hospitality Management. More on that later.

Binai Exhibit: Twentieth Century Retrospective

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binaiLaSoif_412.jpgPaul Binai's work is bold--in color and in thought--and sometimes haunting. The fifty-year retrospective of his work--and glimpse of the twentieth century--is worth a trip to the University Museum. The exhibit served as a backdrop to the University Museum's Gala fundraiser, Eine Kleine Kit Kat Klub, held last weekend in the Blue Room. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette covered the event.

There is no admission fee to the University Museum, which is located on the first floor of Sutton Hall. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2:00 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday from noon to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 4:00 p.m. The Binai exhibit runs through December 3. If you go, be sure to pick up a copy of the exhibit catalog. Binai's biography itself is fascinating and provides perspective to some of what you'll see hanging in the gallery.

Attaque Old Age!

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Lynn Botelho, professor of history

Magazines and newspapers are full of stories about aging boomers who are aggressively taking charge of their health and the aging process, acting as if this is something new. Not surprising, as the boomers' mantra is "It's all about me." (Boomers, don't e-mail me complaining about this description. First of all, I am one, and, second, if Wikipedia says it, it must be true.)

But it's NOT new, according to Lynn Botelho, professor of History and the 2011-2012 University Professor.

"People have this perception that this generation of seniors is the first to really 'fight back' against aging, and that seniors in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries would 'go gentle into that good night' that was old age," Botelho said.

Lynn Botelho fencing

"That is simply not the case. Geriatric medicine began in the 1700s, not in the nineteenth century, as many people believe. Seniors in the 1500s were well aware of the benefits of moderating their diet, exercising, and special medicinal treatments to address issues related to aging."

Botelho is a historian of old age and the aging body in early modern England and Europe. Her current work, being completed as part of her role as IUP's University Professor, is a five-part book, The Aging Body, the first wide-ranging study on old age in Europe in the 1700s.

It might be because I'm just a little south of thirty now (okay, maybe more than a little), but this work makes me feel just a little better about my own efforts to age gracefully.

I'm also totally intrigued by Botelho's other passion: fencing. And not just working out with the IUP Fencing Club (she has been its advisor for many years). I'm talking WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Botelho is a competitive fencer, in both foil and épée. She won two national titles at the July 2011 United States Fencing championship: an individual Veteran Woman (40-9) national championship and a gold medal as part of the Women's Veteran Team.

"Fencing is a very physical activity, but it's also about how well you think under pressure, so it's a good fit with the life of an academic," Botelho said.

Lynn Botelho unmasked in fencing gear

And she knows something about the academic life. Botelho has published seven books and thirteen articles or essays on the subject of the history of aging. She serves in several international executive positions in the field of British studies, including as president of the North American Conference on British Studies. She has degrees from the University of Oregon and Oxford and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. She also is a life fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge.

IUP's University Professor award, a lifetime title, recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates an outstanding record of teaching, research, and scholarly activity and service.

I am very excited that Botelho will be the first IUP professor to be featured on a new television show on WTAJ-TV called "Central PA Live." She will be a guest on the Wednesday, September 14, show, which airs from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Comcast cable channel 193. And, there's another IUP connection: The host for the show is a 1979 IUP Journalism graduate, Dawn Pellas.

This week, Botelho will be talking about aging, but she's already been invited back to do another segment, teaching show host Pellas how to fence! I'll definitely be tuning in to both shows!

"Understanding" September 11

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September-11-memorial.jpgAlmost everyone has a story of "where I was on September 11, 2011." Here is mine.

I was off campus for a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce.

The director had his television on, and we both stood there, stunned and silent. I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. "What a horrible accident. How could that happen?" I remember asking out loud, thinking that the pilot must have made a tragic mistake or maybe the plane's instruments had malfunctioned. The response from the Chamber director is still with me. No words, just a look of disbelief, a failure to understand how anyone could be so naive as to think that these attacks were accidents.

And in seconds, I got it. A sickening realization of the truth. An immediate worry for my family, for my children, who had just arrived at their fifth-grade classrooms at East Pike Elementary School.

"If this could happen in America, in New York City, in Shanksville, at the Pentagon, could it happen here, in my town, at my university, to my home?" It was a question we all were asking.

In the weeks that followed at IUP, we all tried to think about the best ways to help our students, our parents, and our staff and faculty, especially those who had friends and family in New York City and abroad. We offered counseling. We assured worried parents that their children were safe. We decided to keep up business as usual, thinking that it would give students something to do, and to think about, if classes continued. We were afraid for our international students and faculty members, especially those who were Muslim, and tried to offer them as much support as we could.

I hated that this tragedy had taken over our lives, that it was all that we could think about or talk about. I knew it had to be our priority, but I hated it.

I just wanted life before 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001, back.

We spent a lot of hours discussing what we should do "in response to September 11." We participated in President George W. Bush's national call for a prayer and remembrance event. More than 4,500 people gathered in the Oak Grove for a ceremony that still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it ten years later.

We needed some kind of educational program, some kind of discussion, we all agreed. We broke things down. It had to be a series, we felt. The issues surrounding September 11 were just too big for one presentation. What would we call it? How would it look?

We came up with "9-11: A Community Discussion." It felt right for the first program to be about the basics. What had happened? What do we know? I remember suggesting to the planning committee that we should use the word "understand," as in, "Understanding 9-11."

Several heads nodded; people started to take notes. Good, I thought. Now we can move on and start planning the program. We can move on, and go back to the way things used to be. If we just understand the what and the why, it will never happen again. We can make sense of things again.

And then a student spoke up. "I don't think that's right," she said. "I don't think we should say 'understand.' I'll never understand September 11. I can acknowledge it, I can cope with it, I can move past it, but I will never understand it."

Her comment has been with me since September 2001. And ten years later, I know she is right. I still struggle to "understand" the September 11 attacks.

I've moved forward, but without the sense of innocence I had before September 11, 2001. I no longer have the certainty that I had on September 10, 2001, that the violence of the following day just isn't possible in my world.

I miss that innocence. I miss my children being that naive. I miss America being that naive.

I continue to appreciate that the university and Indiana community come together each September 11 to mark the day. And even though I've been thick in the planning of each program and I know the words to be spoken, I still find myself fighting back tears as I stand outside in the Oak Grove, thinking of how our lives were forever changed by September 11, 2001.

I've also watched the mother of one of our alumni lost in the World Trade Center attacks accept condolences and flowers from our president during the 2008 ceremony. Her face, still full of grief and disbelief, also will always be with me. I don't let myself think about it too hard, as it breaks my own heart. Too close to home for those of us who are mothers, especially mothers of sons.

In 2002, less than a month after the first anniversary of September 11, we dedicated an artifact from the World Trade Center, on loan from the Kovalchick family, of Indiana. I've watched tour groups go by the monument, and I wonder what these high school students, who were in third and fourth grade in 2001, think about the structure. Maybe September 11 has been so much a part of their lives that they don't realize there was a time when the World Trade Center was a symbol of commerce and prosperity and Shanksville was just a sleeply little farm town outside of Johnstown.

This year, we have created an opportunity for a different kind of reflection, a more personal time for individuals to think about what this decade has meant to them and what they will do to move forward. I hope it brings comfort and peace to those who take part in this vigil.

I will always grieve for the loss of innocence. But I do not hate talking about September 11. The sadness is with me, but it does not define me any longer.

Thoughts? Comments? Please feel free to share them below.

Videos from Stills Showcase Campus Life

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IUP's fabulous photographer, Keith Boyer, is now dabbling in a twisted form of media by putting his still pictures to music to create small video features. Here's an example...

This new venture allows the Communications Office to use his photos in more venues. It also gives us a new way to provide video products to the IUP community. Of course, productions like this one are not substitutes for video productions made with bonafide video expertise and equipment. IUP is very lucky to have two talented people in the form of Bill Hamilton and Emily Smith creating videos of that ilk. And, those who are familiar with Bill's Get My Story productions and Emily's IUP 360 productions know that they are of a different kind--and all three genres have a place in telling IUP's stories. The more productions like these we have to share, the more we can share with those we serve at IUP and with all of our constituents through social media. It's all part of promoting the best our campus has to offer. Watch for productions like these on IUP's YouTube Channel, IUP's Facebook page, and other spots around our own website.

Want to see more? Here's a piece Keith created to cover Welcome Weekend activities:

Texting in the Classroom? OMG Yes!

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I'm just going to step up to the microphone and admit it.

I'm Michelle, and I have a love-hate relationship with texting. (Okay, now you answer, "Hi, Michelle." And I continue.)

I love the convenience of getting a quick answer with a text, but I HATE that my daughter is always giggling about a funny text or tweet she just received when I want her full attention. I just feel like she's not present in the moment.

I imagine that there are a lot of folks--not just parents--who feel much the same as I do. But I have come to this conclusion: It's just where we are.

So, I was completely excited when I saw Nursing and Allied Health Professions professor Teresa Shellenbarger's news about a recent poster presentation that explains how texting can be used effectively in the classroom. I also loved her title: "OMG: Encouraging Texting in the Classroom." That's media gold. Encouraging texting in the sacred space that is the classroom? I knew it would attract reporters' attention.

And it did.

Dr. Shellenberger was featured in a July 30, 2011, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story headlined, "Professor Incorporates Use of Cell Phones as Classroom Tool."

I love her quote: "I just got tired of fighting them. I figured, if I can't beat them, why not join them? Why not use cell phone technology in class?"

She goes on: "I use texting to poll the class. I post a question for them to see, and they text their answers that I post on a PowerPoint for the class to see. And sometimes when we're working on a controversial topic where students don't really want to own a response, I have them phone a friend and get an anonymous opinion to post."

This quote is my favorite: "A class can be mediocre and dull, and when I tell students to get out their phones and text to a question, the energy level just goes up."

This media hit was posted on IUP's Facebook page, and it resulted in several comments, including, "I'm dying to tap into this technology as a tool (in my high school class)," to, "Please don't encourage cell phone use in the classroom." Both valid points. Dr. Shellenbarger shared with me the Horizon Report for 2011, which forecasts that cell phones are the "trend to watch" for educators. I'm sure there will be MUCH MORE on this topic!

I'm still working on my twelve steps. See you at the next meeting.

Pride in Place

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I'm not an IUP alumna, but I truly consider myself a part of the IUP family. IUP pride is absolutely contagious.

Of course, I'm completely in the thick of how IUP makes a difference in the lives of current students. And because so much of my work is focused on faculty research and student achievements, I don't always think about the bigger picture--that there are also hundreds of stories about how IUP made a difference in the lives of past students, our 100,000 living alumni.

Then, IUP gets a $1-million gift from 1961 graduate Terry Serafini, and it just reinforces how deeply IUP alumni care about their university.

Mr. Serafini, a successful Pittsburgh entrepreneur, graduated with a degree in education but has been a longtime friend of the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology (in fact, he was honored in 1996 as the Eberly Entrepreneur of the Year).

He's earmarked his gift to Eberly for renovation of the building's atrium, which will be renamed the Serafini Atrium, and to establish the Serafini Outstanding Scholars Program to provide scholarship support to students in the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology and in math education in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Construction just started on the atrium renovation in August.


This 1,200-square-foot new space will complement the adjacent Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, allowing access to the university through this expanded area. The renovation is expected to take about four months to complete.

No question, the size of this generous gift is news. But I was also impressed with Mr. Serafini's personal story. He began his business career in 1964 as a computer systems marketing representative for the IBM Corporation. In 1970, he cofounded Computerpeople, Inc., working there for twenty-seven years. During his leadership, the company grew to employ more than 1,300 computer professionals. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, the company also maintained offices in Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati; Sacramento, Calif.; and Portland, Ore., providing systems expertise in all disciplines to major corporations throughout the United States.

Mr. Serafini also cofounded Compucom, Inc., a digital-imaging and microfilm-solutions company in Pittsburgh, and formerly served on its board of directors. Before starting his business career, he served as an officer in the United States Army.

There's a saying that a person is judged by the company he or she keeps. If we extend that maxim to how to judge a university, I think IUP is in pretty outstanding company with alumni like Terry Serafini.

Scientifically Speaking, Sunshine Makes Us Happy

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I had marked my calendar incorrectly, and so I was hours late for my interview with David LaPorte, who teaches Clinical Neuropsychology in IUP's Clinical Psychology doctoral program. Despite my mistake, he happily set aside what he was doing in the Psychology Department office and pointed us in the direction of his office.

The irony was that I was interviewing him about the effect sun has on mood. And, this guy personified good nature.

laporte-david-5511d71.jpgIUP's photographer, Keith Boyer, was with me, and we rushed behind LaPorte as he began to explain the effects the hormone melatonin has on the brain. He was a fast talker--someone who has a lot to tell you, because he is eager to share what he knows. When we settled down in his office, I concluded that LaPorte must know what he's talking about, not only because he sounded convincing and because of his good credentials, but also because he actually had several brains--in buckets and jars--stashed in his office.

Teaching tools, he offered.

He told us exposure to sun has an effect on the human mood, because it suppresses melatonin. "If you want to go to sleep, take some melatonin," he said.

"If in the middle of July you go to northern part of Sweden, it will be light until eleven o'clock at night, and people will be walking around all bright eyed and bushy tailed. They aren't sleepy, because their melatonin is being suppressed," he said. "Conversely, in the shorter months of the year in the latitudes where we are, melatonin doesn't get suppressed and people get tired."

As a clinician, LaPorte says the cause often presents as a mood disturbance but more commonly, in winter months, people are lethargic--they want to sleep more, they eat more carbohydrates, and they tend to gain weight during that time. He suggested that people who visit sunnier climates in the winter tend to feel good because of the sun but upon return to darker climates at higher latitudes, they also return to feeling sluggish and depressed.

"It's almost a leftover hibernation response," he said. "Think about animals that hibernate and don't do anything at all during that time. That's sort of leftover in us, as human beings."

Too much sunlight isn't always a good thing, however. LaPorte said, generally,  more violent crimes are committed during the summer.

"During the winter we have a build up of melatonin and a lack of energy. In the summer, we have a lot more energy. The opposite of depression is mania," LaPorte said. "When people are manic, they have large amounts of energy and because they don't get as much sleep, they become irritable and violent. When you look at when people are most violent over the summer, it's not when it's the hottest or the most humid, it's when the most sunlight is available."

Keith and I met with LaPorte to pull together a story for IUP Magazine. You'll see one in the Fall-Winter 2011 edition.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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