Staff Artist Unveils Mural – The Highlander

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Michael Gombita, Reporter

Residents of the Rasmussen House have noticed something beautiful in the children’s play room.
A large mural, unveiled at the end of March, is the result of an agreement with artist David “Razz” Randazza to create something to entertain the kids while they are playing.
Randazza works in the maintenance department, but he is also a painter.
“When I had the time to paint it, we decided to do a tree with animals,” said Randazza. “Then we decided to put it in the playroom so the kids could see it.”
The Rasmussen House, located on the corner of Lake Street and W. Center Hill Road, accommodates six students who are in the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program. The house, which is designed for the needs of mothers and their children, offer rooms like the playroom to benefit the families.
The mural consists of a tree with various animals, including a blue jay, cardinal, opossum and two squirrels. The tree also has an interesting feature that has the children stretching their imaginations.
“There’s a hole in the tree, but there are eyes inside of it,” said Randazza “They are all wondering what it is, and that’s why I put it there so they can keep their interest up and they’ll be wondering what it is, and each kid has their own idea of what it is.”
The mural took Randazza only six to seven hours to complete.
“I think it brings a lot of energy to the room,” said Randazza. “The kids see it and it makes them jump around, and they get happy. It also lightens the room up and looks more like a playroom.”
This is not the first project that Randazza has done on campus. He has contributed his time to many other pieces around the university, including a mural outside the elevator on the first floor of Mercy Hall. He also restored the crucifix outside of the chapel, built a new tabernacle, and he has painted many signs. Randazza said he has painted hundreds of signs in the 20 years that he has been an employee.
“Most of the work I do here is very involved with my job,” said Randazza. “I also have my own side business doing signs, truck lettering and murals. When I do it at Misericordia, it is just for the college, and I do it just because I enjoy it.”
The Ramussen house has had many upgrades to the structure in addition to the newly installed mural.
Katherine Pohlidal, director of the WWC program, has seen the house grow, just like the children who live there.
“We have done a lot of changes to upgrade it and renovate it a bit,” said Pohlidal, “a lot of interior painting throughout the house in which Razz has helped us with as well, along with volunteer projects.”
Pohlidal said the main floors in the house have been redone and repainted and crews incorporated a study room and office for the WWC coordinator, Theresa Doughty. She said she feels confident improvements will feed the creativity of the house.
“We feel like we are getting in that creative zone where we are able to add in more of the aspects that add more energy and have an inviting atmosphere,” said Pohlidal. “We want the families extremely welcomed and to feel like they are at home.”
Doughty, who Randazza said came up with the idea of the tree, has brought the wilderness inside.
“It was an idea to bring the outdoors in,” said Doughty. “It also just makes it alive.”
Both Pohlidal and Doughty feel that it brings a special meaning to the house.
“It brings a lot of life into it and makes that space for the children,” said Doughty. “It is a source of exploration every time they look. There’s something new they see or it causes them to wonder a little. It is also something that engages them.”

Student Avoid Success – The Highlander

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Michael Gombita, Reporter

 Students are passing on workshops at the Student Success Center, so workers are advertising to increase participation.

   Not one student attended the “There’s an App for That” workshop held by Megan Hurley, Retention Liaison for the College of Health Sciences and Kelli Gargone, Program Coordinator in the Office of Students with Disabilities.

They had planned to present a slideshow with information about various apps that students might find handy.

   Hurley said students aren’t showing any interest.

   “For spring semester, overall interest is not as strong as the fall,” said Hurley, “not just ‘There’s An App For That’ workshop, but also others such as ‘What does my Professor Want?’ or ‘Study Skills.’”

   Hurley and Gargone say advertising – or a lack of it – is part of the problem.

   “First year students attendance is no longer mandatory for students,” said Hurley. “In terms of advertising, there is much more we can do.”

    Staff post workshops on the e-MU portal and the Student Success Center page. Faculty members also spread the word to students.

    Ashley Coleman, first year occupational therapy major, has not attended a workshop so far this semester, but she is receiving one-on-one attention from instructors.

   “For writing workshops, I feel like it is not going to help you,” said Coleman. “My professor has you schedule times in order for him to meet with you and discuss your paper.

   She rarely hears about workshops advertised.

   “I have only heard about two workshops,” said Coleman. “They do not advertise well.”

    Gargone does not take it personally that students are not attending.

    “We know that students are busy and if you only have an hour to grab lunch then you should get lunch,” said Gargone. “Students are using the Student Success Center for different things.”

    Staffers have many workshops planned for the spring and fall semesters, each one guided by a staff member who is comfortable with the subject.  Workshop times are staggered throughout lunch hours and evening hours so they fit students’ schedules.

    “We try to focus on what students need,” said Hurley, “as a staff, talk about what is it that students could use more information and try to plan those.”

    “Part of my own personal goal is to tap into more of the student’s needs,” said Hurley. “What kind of workshops you would like to see or what are we lacking?”

   Planned workshops include a writing studio on March 12 at two o’clock, and “Test Taking Strategies” on April 8.  On April 10, Writing Center tutors will present another writing studio for students who are unsure how to give or take constructive criticism in peer review.

    Students’ who cannot events are welcome to visit the Student Success Center to receive information.

Autism Speaks U Makes It To Campus – The Highlander

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Michael Gombita, Reporter

Members of Autism Speaks U, a university-wide organization, are looking forward to making an impact for people who have autism.

   Students Nicolina Davidson,speech language-pathology major, Alexis Membrino, physician’s assistant major, Brianna Membrino, occupational therapy major and Emily Power, nursing major, decided to bring this club to campus to raise money for research and awareness about autism.

   The club will raise money by means of fundraisers and activities.   “All of the money raised will go towards the Autism Speaks organization,” said Davidson.

   The students came up with the idea after they decided to start a club and the topic of autism always seemed to arise whenever the four got together.

   “We were just hanging out in our dorm and Nicolina brought up the interest of starting a club,” said Power. “She saw it on the Autism Awareness website, and saw the club advertised. We also saw that surrounding colleges such as Marywood and Wilkes had the club on their campus. So we were all in for helping out with the club, and the rest is history.”

   The four looked around campus to see who would be interested in serving as advisor.  They asked Dr. Lori Charney, assistant professor of occupational therapy.

   “I was very pleased that they have asked me to be an advisor,” said Charney, “This is my first year here at Misericordia University.”

   Charney has participated in fundraisers for autism and Autism Speaks, and she was interested in raising money for autism in the public school where she previously worked, but she did not reach her targeted number of fundraisers.

   “I was bummed out for not being able to do some of the fundraisers back at the public school,” said  Charney. “So when the group approached me to be able to help them with the club, I was right on board wanting to help.”

   April is autism awareness month when a special campaign, “Light It Up Blue” happens across the world.

   One notable event is the display of blue lights around the Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower.

   The Autism Speaks U club has planned events that enable everyone on campus to participate.

   “We’re going to have a day where everyone will wear blue,” said Powers.

   “We will also be selling blue t-shirts which all the money that is made goes to Autism Awareness but also to make sure that if no one has a blue shirt, they are able to get a blue shirt to wear.”


Metz Invites Students to T.A.S.T.E – The Highlander

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Michael Gombita, Reporter

  “If you don’t clean your plate, you won’t get any dessert,” is an old expression moms might say to kids at the dinner table, but Metz Culinary Management is putting a twist on it.

   At the beginning of the spring semester, Metz offered students an opportunity to focus on selecting sustainable meals and eating practices –  and get rewarded for it.

   “Taking Action for a Sustainable Tomorrow Everywhere” also known as “T.A.S.T.E” or “Clean Plate” is a post-consumer waste program that Metz has been testing out for the past year. Metz now has a sustainable system.

   The T.A.S.T.E Initiative is available in many of Metz’s locations on the east coast from Atlanta, Fla. to right at home in Dallas Pa.

   Heidi Franssen, Metz. dining services manager, said she is thrilled to bring the program to the school.

   “We had Lebanon Valley College participate in the program first,” said Franssen. “Now it is going around from our corporate accounts to the school accounts but especially our school accounts.”

   The program’s main purpose is to aid in the national awareness about food waste. According to Jonathan Bloom’s book Wasteland, more than 4.5 million tons of food is wasted every year in the U.S. About 25 percent of that is edible food – enough to fill the Rose Bowl every day. The T.A.S.T.E. Initiative helps inform people in the dining hall or Cougar’s Den about the effects of food waste in  social, global and environmental ways.

   “By the time students get to college, students will be more aware about what they eat and what they are buying such as groceries,” said Franssen.

   Students who participate will receive a card and students will have to “clean their plate.” When they are done eating, they can go up and show their clean plate to the Metz employee who will stamp the student’s card. Student who have ten stamps will receive a token, which can be used for various items.

   “One token is a free soda, two is an ice cream, three is $5 in flex points, four is $10, and five is $15,” said Franssen. “It pays to do it.”

   Many students are doing the best they can improve his or her eating practices, but students such as first year physical therapy major Sierra Krohnemann say this program adds fun to the effort.

   “Anyone can say they are not going to turn down a reward,” said Krohnemann.

   Metz is also encouraging students to sample things that students might otherwise try.

   “Anyone who wants to taste anything, Metz will give you a sample portion of it,” said Franssen. “We try to encourage students to try new foods that they are not sure about.”

   As the T.A.S.T.E Initiative progresses, Metz will add to the project.  One new idea is reusable food containers.

   “At the beginning of the fall semester, paying an initial $5 will get you a plastic container for students to use for takeout,” said Franssen. “If you are done or the container gets dirty, students can bring it back to the dining hall and you can return it or get a brand new one for the next takeout. It eliminates any paper waste that is caused.”

   Metz will also assess results to see if the T.A.S.T.E Initiative is effective. In the near future, Metz will calculate waste by comparing the amount of unfinished food to that of previous  semester when the initiative was not in place.

“It is going to be interesting to see if there is a difference in the amount of waste that we are producing,” said Franssen.

Franssen encourages students to try the food that Metz serves whenever they can, just as they can sample foods at grocery stores.

“When you are at the deli at the grocery store, you can try a slice of meat and see if you like it,” said Franssen. “Instead of buying a pound of something you don’t know if you like it or not, you will know beforehand before purchasing it.”

Advertisements and information about the initiative are posted in the Banks Student Life Center. Information is printed on table centerpieces, and advertisements are posted on the marquees located in the food lines.


MCN87 Rings in the New Year with Upgrade – The Highlander

Full story here.

Michael Gombita, Reporter

The communications department is starting off the new year with a long-awaited technology upgrade.

   Dr. Melissa Sgroi, department chair, and Dan Kimbrough, assistant professor, led the way in upgrading the studio to a state-of-the-art Tricaster video control system with the help of engineers Carl Budrecki and Dan Matern from Fox 56.

   “We began on January 5 by pulling stuff out of the studio to finishing the setup and connections on January 8,” said Kimbrough. “We were basically starting from scratch because everything in the studio was in need of replacement.”

   The studio had been upgraded to and analog platform in 2005. Analog is the most basic form of a television studio, which involves tapes and a lengthy process of completing and exporting finalized work. With the upgrade complete, the communications department is able to work in a high-definition or HD. The studio no longer needs tapes to record and the Tricaster eliminates the worry about aging decks and tape storage an organization. Television staffers will now digitally record data and store it in files, similar to a desktop computer saving a Word document.

   “This is an entirely digital system that eliminates an awful lot of hardware because all of the software that takes care of the recording is included in the TriCaster,” said Sgroi. “All of the software and equipment is included in the machine so there is no need for multiple pieces of equipment. The TriCaster does it all.”

   Included in the TriCaster system is the TriCaster control board, two flat-screened monitors, and a new audio board.    

   Sgroi said the communications department is interested in purchasing HD cameras to go along with the rest of the equipment in the control room.

   One feature that students will most likely use in projects allows the creation of virtual sets. Talent featured in shows or projects can be set in a tropical paradise to even in outer space.

   Engineers removed old equipment to install the TriCaster system, and the only snag was stripped screws in the  old equipment that needed to be removed.

   “We were removing so many monitors and cables that were used for VCR and Beta Tapes, and in the digital age we are in now, we are no longer using any of those types of recording technologies. We do have a VCR and Beta Tape player, but it is not necessary to equip the new technology with those types of players.”

   Students will now have an opportunity to use equipment that many professional television stations are also upgrading to. Some professional studios in the area are using the same equipment.

   “We want the communications department and MCN87 to be something that Misericordia University faculty and student body is proud of,” said Kimbrough. “It is good to say that we have a state-of-the-art studio and mean it. Students graduating Misericordia University will be able to get jobs and move  forward in their skill and how marketable they will be applying for a job.”

   Taryn Talacka, junior communications major and producer of the MCN87’s college television show “Hey You, MU!,” looks forward to using the new technology.

   “Our field of communications is always changing, so being able to update our technology helps us transition to the college environment to the work environment, and it is really great to see this monumental change,” said Talacka. “We’re hoping to incorporate some shows for ‘Hey You, MU!’ in the studio because it is much easier to accomplish now.”

   The department always encourages students of all majors to take classes and participate in student media. One course open to all students is Video Production I.

   Students can also be involved with MCN 87’s “MU Sports Reporters,” which is recorded in the studio. This show consists of a three-person round-table discussion of current topics in the world of sports. This is no prerequisite for this activity so anyone who is interested in sports or video production and is willing to work is welcome to sign up with the communications department.

   Faculty and students who cannot make it to live shootings can view all of the studio action on Vimeo at vimeo.com/mucom. Facebook users can also keep up to date on social media by liking MCN87.

MLK Events A Success During Full Schedule – The Highlander

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Michael Gombita, Reporter

Some students are questioning why the university did not have a compressed schedule on Martin Luther King Day, but officials say campus celebrations were a success without it.

   Officials had originally planned a compressed schedule to provide time for teach-ins and other activities, but officials nixed the plan and notified students about the change on Friday.

   “Not having a compressed schedule feels kind of wrong,” said freshman chemistry major Victoria Bednar. “It is a national holiday, and businesses such as the post office are closed and they should respect that.”

   Matthew Hinton, Coordinator of Writing in the Student Success Center and member of the planning committee, said many events were spread over time so they could be held within a regular class schedule.

   “The intent of having a compressed schedule was for teachers and faculty to be able to do teach-ins at this time. We did notice, however, that teachers were doing lessons for the celebration all week, so this allowed breathing room for other activities,” said Hinton.

   Hinton said no planned activities were impacted by the full class schedule. Events included faculty teach-ins, a United Nations anti-racism pledge, a multimedia performance, a film showing, an ecumenical prayer service, a soul food lunch and Babel Poetry.

   The UN pledge against racism was among the most popular events among students, faculty and staff.

   “We acquired well over 200 signatures to make the pledge,” said Hinton.

   Each person who signed the pledge received  a special pin that shows the face of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

   “We handed out many buttons to those who accepted the pledge after signing it,” said Hinton.

   The committee’s goal was to help students, faculty and staff appreciate the individuality of every person on campus, in the community and throughout the world.

   “Each activity touches a key part of our life here at Misericordia,” said Hinton. “Some are entertaining yet thoughtful, such as the movie ‘Dear White People.’” The film, which was included the day’s celebrations, is a satirical comedy that focuses on the lives of four black students at an Ivy League college.

   “I felt that the movie showed a different perspective of racism in American Universities,” said junior communications major Christa Porasky.

   The planning committee has already begun planning the 2016 celebration.

   “Whatever the results are from this year, you have to take from it and learn from it and develop for next year,” said Hinton. “It is only going to get more interesting and better every year. “I love it and looking forward to continuing it. I take it very seriously and I am very humble to have this responsibility,” said Hinton.

   Hinton said the events – as well as the tasks that went into organizing them – were a learning opportunity.

   “Being in the planning committee, you learn a lot of how to make activities like this happen on campus. Just being in the room with the other committee members, you learn a lot from just them.”

   In addition to Hinton, committee members include  Maria Cabrera, Sister Jean Mesaros, Darcy Brodmerkel, Dr. James Calderone.