Ivy Leaf - Spring 2014

Thoughts from the Chancellor and Dean

Pursuing Dreams and Passions


Chanceller and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry
Dr. Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry

At Penn State Altoona, we help students develop the courage and confidence to pursue their dreams and passions. We build and test their skills, teaching them the value of introspection, assisting them in learning how to challenge themselves to not only reach their goals, but to find deeper meaning throughout their lives.

As the stories in the current issue of Ivy Leaf remind us, our dedicated faculty and staff carry out this important mission within a friendly and nurturing community of learners. In “Penn State Altoona Lives in NYC,” you can read about the success of three of our students in pursuing their dreams and career goals in the Big Apple—particularly in terms of how their experiences at Penn State Altoona helped prepare them for their journeys.

For Aniekan Udo, life in New York City found him working as art director and graphic designer at Ralph Lauren, later pursuing web design in Asian markets, while Guyviaud “G” Joseph landed a position as an account executive at CBS only to foster the courage to pursue his lifelong passion to become a full-time actor. For Nicole Nelson, life in New York City afforded her with a range of professional experiences with such media juggernauts as NBCUniversal, CNBC News, the Bravo Network, and the SyFy Network, among others. In each case, our students’ experiences remind us of the importance of drawing upon our academic preparation to not only serve our ambitions, but to find larger senses of fulfillment in our lives.

In a similar vein, “The Third Boat” tells the moving story of Penn State Altoona alum Darren Miller, who draws upon his experiences as a long-distance swimmer in order to serve his nonprofit charity on behalf of children, as well as to push himself to the extreme and achieve his personal goals. For Darren, the physical demands inherent in his passion for swimming underscore the importance of learning how to be thankful for our lives and celebrating the fragility of our existence through personal challenges. In particular, Darren highlights the significance of “visualization” as a means for reaching one’s goals—as an avenue for swimming alongside the metaphorical “third boat” that exists out there for all of us.

Finally, in “Giving New [Digital] Life to Women’s Literary History,” you can read about Dr. Sandy Petrulionis’s inspirational work with Penn State Altoona students through a long-term editorial project devoted to the life and work of Mary Moody Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s aunt and a key influence upon the writings of her famous nephew. Through their work on Mary Moody Emerson’s voluminous journals, Dr. Petrulionis’s students develop valuable editorial and critical skills under the tutelage of a world-renowned and highly accomplished scholar.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously described his aunt as “a blessing which nothing else in education could supply.” For our Penn State Altoona students, Dr. Petrulionis fulfills precisely such a unique and valuable role, providing them with lifelong skills and unforgettable educational experiences. As Dr. Petrulionis remarks, “This kind of work gives our students tremendous experience. It takes a very special and talented type of student to persevere and succeed in the midst of such complex annotations research.” For Dr. Petrulionis, a scholar of international reputation by any measure, her greatest joy emanates from working closely with our students and seeing them grow as thinkers and scholars.

In short, these stories about our students and their work underscore our powerful mission at Penn State Altoona, where professors like Dr. Petrulionis afford their students with nurturing and transformational learning experiences. In describing her work in “Penn State Altoona Lives in NYC,” Nicole Nelson remarks that “sometimes, I can’t believe I get paid to do this!” As our dedicated faculty and staff would surely tell you, this is precisely the way we feel about our lives as educators.