A bright future
A message from the interim chancellor and chief academic officer
Welcome to the inaugural online issue of the Penn State Beaver Magazine!
I’m excited that we are taking the magazine online because it not only supports our ongoing campus sustainability efforts but it also allows us to offer our readers more modern and dynamic content that is both visually pleasing and easily accessible. We hope that you will enjoy stepping into this new, virtual world with us.
Because this is Penn State Beaver’s 50th anniversary year, we’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how far our campus and community have come since 1965 (which you’ll see reflected in the story about campus myths and traditions). But I think it’s important that we also look forward.
A new iteration of the magazine is just the beginning.
In the fall, we’ll launch our sixth baccalaureate degree program, Project and Supply Chain Management and reopen the Michael Baker Building, which, thanks to a renovation, now offers our students and faculty state-of-art learning and research facilities. As you’ll read in this issue, our athletics program continues to thrive and bring energy to our campus with our women’s basketball team winning its fourth consecutive conference championship in February. And, as always, our students are connecting with the community through service learning projects in engineering, sustainability, sociology, philosophy, Information Sciences and Technology and other programs. In the past year alone, our first-year engineering students have completed three projects for the Pine Run Fire Department, including a device that helps the department fight rural fires. Our sustainability students have created permanent, environmentally friendly fixtures for our campus, including a composting site and a straw bale garden. And our IST students are in the process of building a new online purchasing system for local company c3controls.
We are also exited to welcome a new cohort to our Advisory Board, continuing our strong relationship with our alumni, business and community connections.
As you can see, our future is tremendously bright, and we are so glad to have you as part of it.
Interim Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer
Happy anniversary, Penn State Beaver!
Unraveling 50 years of myths and legends
It was the early 1960s, and the Beaver County Commissioners were anxious to do something with the former Beaver County tuberculosis sanatorium, a low-slung brick building in Center Township that had recently been rendered useless.
Tuberculosis, which once killed more than 100,000 Americans each year, was fading as new treatments and a vaccine made the disease manageable and isolation unnecessary.
At the same time, demand for college education was swelling, and Penn State University responded by planting undergraduate outposts in small towns across the commonwealth.
The commissioners saw the possibility of a perfect marriage. They offered the property in Center to Penn State. To sweeten the deal, in addition to the building and grounds, the commissioners promised $600,000 for renovations and construction.
And that is how, on Sept. 19, 1965, Penn State Beaver opened its doors to 97 students.
A half century later, the campus spans 105 acres and hosts a student population of more than 700. It’s growth, both physically and academically, has been marked by well-documented milestones, such as the opening of the Wellness Center and the addition of the Project and Supply Chain Management degree program.
But, as is often the case with history, some stories of the campus have been altered, engineered or embellished, their origins lost to time and memory.
So in this Beaver County version of a golden jubilee, let’s set history straight on a few favorites … or at least try to.
The Ponzi scheme
When the campus opened in 1965 – with more than 2,500 Beaver Countians on hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting – it operated out of the remodeled sanatorium. But construction began almost immediately on the Michael Baker Science and Engineering Building, the General Classroom Building and the Library.
The budget for those buildings was about $2 million, and the commissioners had promised $600,000, so Campus Executive Joe Guisti went to work raising the other $1.4 million.
According to inaugural faculty and longtime advisory board member Betty Sue Schaughency, the fundraising strategy was a bit of genius. Guisti pitched agency after agency, upping the stakes with each meeting.
If I can raise $200,000, will you match it?
If I can raise $400,000, will you match it?
If I can raise $800,000, will you match it?
Of course, if any rung on that ladder would have fallen, the entire plot would have imploded but, apparently, it worked, as the three buildings were dedicated in 1968.
The dedication ceremony program made no mention of Guisti’s supposed higher education Ponzi scheme, however. Instead, it stated: “Actual construction was begun in January, 1967, on the General Classroom Building, the Library and the Engineering and Science Buildings, with their costs to be met by a $600,000 appropriation from the County of Beaver, $800,000 funded from the Federal Higher Education Facilities Act, and $600,000 from the Appalachian Regional Development Commission, the latter being the first of its kind for educational purposes in Pennsylvania, and the second time for the Appalachia region.”
The SUB lion
Gary Keefer, the late and former Penn State Beaver chancellor, shot it.
It used to live in the basement of the old administration building.
It was wandering around Beaver County when someone killed it, stuffed it and started a campus.
Everyone has a story about that stuffed lion and how it ended up perching on a log in a glass case in the Student Union Building. Turns out, the real story has little to do with love for Penn State and everything to do with disdain for dead animal decor.
A Moon Township man, whose name has been forgotten, shot the lion on a hunting trip to Wyoming. According to former director of finance and business Luke Taiclet, it was the largest Western Mountain Lion taken in the state at the time.
The man kept it in his Moon Township home for years. Upon his death, his wife couldn’t stand to look at the animal anymore. She wanted it out of the house. According to Diana Patterson, Beaver’s director of development, she figured she’d offer it as a kind of mascot to Pitt or Penn State. Penn State won.
Director of Enrollment Dan Pinchot and Maintenance Supervisor Dave Hunt were tasked with driving a rented box truck to Moon to, quite literally, pick it up.
A cabinet maker in Hopewell later constructed the glass case around the lion.
“It has remained there, quite happily, ever since,” Hunt said.
The impossible professor
Jim Hendrickson was an engineering undgrad in the late 1970s when he signed up for Professor Leo Takahashi’s physics class. It had been advertised by fellow engineering students as practically impossible.
Hendrickson soon learned that was not hyperbole.
“You knew you were going to get beat up, you just wanted to make a good showing in the fight,” Hendrickson said of Takahashi’s legendary tests.
But the physics professor somehow managed to straddle the line between being beloved and brutal. Many students failed his class the first time they took it; many of those same students raised money to establish an endowed scholarship in his name.
Three decades and a career later, Hendrickson is back at Penn State Beaver as a senior engineering instructor, and Takahaski is still teaching physics.
One of their shared students recently asked Hedrickson if Takahaski is planning to retire when he reaches 50 years of service to the campus (a date that is fast approaching, but one that Takahashi would prefer not to mark).
“He doesn’t view it as work, so retirement isn’t in his mind,” Hendrickson replied to the student. “It’s his life’s hobby.”
Do you have any Penn State Beaver myths, legends or anecdotes you’d like to share? Email email@example.com and we may feature your story here in the coming months.
The times they are a-changin'
But not fast enough for women in STEM
When Cassandra Miller-Butterworth was a teenager, she spent the summer laboring alongside a veterinarian from her hometown in South Africa. She had always loved animals and wanted to test her dream of working with wildlife.
The vet, a small and farm animal specialist, was impressed with her knowledge, her work ethic and her passion. But, still, as the summer came to its inevitable close, he offered Miller-Butterworth a kind warning.
“I think you’d be an excellent vet, but you’re going to struggle because you’re a woman,” he told her. Her petite frame didn’t help. The farmers, he predicted, would never trust her to wrestle with a horse or cow.
“The farmers will laugh at you,” he said.
“He was right,” Miller-Butterworth said. “I didn’t take offense at all. He was being very realistic.”
So when Miller-Butterworth went off to study at University of Cape Town, she chose zoology as her major.
Three decades later, South Africa has changed. Women now outnumber men in veterinary schools and many have taken jobs in large animal or wildlife medicine.
In the United States, Miller-Butterworth has witnessed a similar shift in science, technology engineering and math. About half of the students in her biology classes at Penn State Beaver are female and laboratory jobs nationwide are increasingly filled by women.
On the Beaver Campus, Miller-Butterworth is one of seven female STEM professors. That’s half of all STEM professors on campus, much better than the national average.
But even those statistics can’t mask the larger problem – females are still underrepresented in STEM.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women hold a disproportionately smaller share of of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering. And while half of the country’s workforce is women, only a quarter of the jobs in STEM belong to women.
To Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, a civil engineer and a member of the Penn State Beaver Advisory Board, that’s not just disheartening, it’s a call to action.
“To me, it’s terrible,” Moon-Sirianni said. “There are not enough people reaching out to young women and encouraging them, and it has to start young. A lot of girls don’t think they can go into it; someone needs to tell them they can.”
Finding a role model
When Penn State Beaver Engineering and Computer Science Instructor Sherry Kratsas was young, she wanted to be everything. At one point she even considered marine biology, an odd choice for a girl growing up in landlocked Philippi, West Virginia.
That she eventually decided on engineering wasn’t really a surprise. Her dad was a heavy equipment mechanic and she often served as his assistant. Saturday mornings went something like this: Paint. Patch the boat. Fetch the tools. Change the brakes and drop a new engine into the car.
There was nothing she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do.
So when she stepped into her engineering classes at West Virginia University and was one of the only females in the room, she wasn’t much bothered by it.
“I knew I was a minority and expected to be,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid to compete with men. My dad and brother made me a little competitive.”
Research shows that role models like Kratsas’ father help to break down stereotypes and allow girls to see that there is a place for them in STEM. The call for role models is so strong that even the White House joined the cry, producing a series of Google Hangouts called “We the Geeks” that highlight science, technology and innovation in the U.S. Several focused directly on STEM innovators and the examples they set for girls.
The problem, according to Moon-Sirianni, is that too few of those STEM role models are female.
As an assistant district executive for design at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Moon-Sirianni does a lot of hiring. More than 90 percent of the applicants are men. And she always asks the same question: “What made you want to be an engineer?”
At this point, the answers are pretty predictable. My dad was an engineer. My uncle was in construction. I liked Tonka trucks.
“I’ve never had someone come in and say ‘my mom was an engineer,’” Moon-Sirianni laments. “Engineering is an industry dominated by men.”
In science, particularly biology, female role models seem to be in better supply. Beaver Biology Instructor Stephanie Cabarcas-Petroski was a graduate student at St. John’s University in New York when she joined the molecular biology lab of her future mentor Laura Schramm.
At the time, Schramm, now an associate professor and associate dean at St. John’s, didn’t have the protection of tenure, so working in her lab was considered a gamble. Cabarcas-Petroski happily took it. She wanted the guidance of a young female faculty member, and Schramm’s focus on the transcription of cancer cells interested her; her grandmother had died of cancer when she was just four years old.
While they worked together, Schramm gave birth to two children, excelled at research and earned tenure.
“She was the definition of superwoman to me,” Cabarcas-Petroski said. “It was amazing to watch a woman in a male-dominated department go through that process.”
That experience prompted Cabarcas-Petroski to take a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, where she was able to continue cancer research.
Though she has since traded the lab for the classroom, Cabarcas-Petroski still looks to Schramm as a mentor and collaborator. The pair have published together, including a recent paper about breast cancer and the consumption of soy products.
Perhaps because of her relationship with Schramm, Cabarcas-Petroski is keenly aware of the way that young, female students may view and emulate her. She begins each semester by explaining her background in research. She wants her students, particularly the young women, to understand what’s possible in biology.
“When you feel you’re in it alone, it’s harder to make progress,” she said.
Talking about results
The nation’s focus on Women in STEM, or lack thereof, has led many educators to take a deep dive look at what attracts and retains females in those fields. What they’ve found can be simplified and summed up in three words: women like results.
Lina Nilsson, the innovation director at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, recently penned an article for the New York Times suggesting women are drawn to engineering projects that produce some societal good.
And an article in Inside Higher Ed posited that female STEM students have better outcomes when they study in a project-based curriculum.
The idea is that women are more likely to thrive when they can see the outcome of their work.
If those theories are correct, Penn State Beaver professors are ahead of the curve. Instructors in all disciplines, but particularly in STEM, have increasingly been taking learning beyond the classroom, assigning semester-long, curriculum-based projects that bring lectures to life.
Last year, Miller-Butterworth and Cabarcas-Petroski asked their biology students to research and design bat houses for the campus, an effort to ease the deadly effects of white nose syndrome by giving female bats safe places to roost with their pups.
This semester, Mathematics instructor Angela Fishman had her sustainability students create and build permanent, environmentally friendly fixtures for the campus community, including a composting site and a straw bale garden.
Information Sciences and Technology Instructor Amber McConahy and her students teamed with electrical component company c3 controls in a year-long effort to build a new online purchasing system for its customers.
And each semester in Engineering Design 100, Kratsas and Senior Engineering Instructor Jim Hendrickson pair their students with real-world clients to work on semester-long projects.
This spring, one of those projects called for students to design a new smoke machine for the Pine Run Fire Department so firefighters are better able to train for zero-visibility situations. Jordan Devault is the team lead; one of two female team leads in the class.
It’s just her second semester in the engineering program, but she’s already become accustomed to being the only female, or only other female, in her classes. And she doesn’t mind, as she calls it, “leading the guys.” As she sees it, she’s more organized than the rest of her teammates, which made her a natural fit to steer the group. Plus, she looks at the project from a different perspective than they do.
“The goal isn’t to have a working machine,” she said. “It sounds funny, but I think that’s not really the point. The point is to learn that you’re going to have setbacks, learn how to take customer comments and learn how a team works.”
In other words, she’s taking a long view of her education, her sights clearly set on her ultimate career goal, knowing that each project she leads, each team she collaborates with, is another step on her way to breaking the glass ceiling hovering above her.
Because that ultimate career goal is to become an audio engineer in the music industry, a job traditionally dominated by men.
Getting an opportunity
In 1990, when Angela Fishman received her Ph.D. in engineering from Wichita State University, she made history as the first woman to graduate from the engineering college with a doctorate.
Because her specialty was in reliability, and reliability experts are always in high demand, she never had trouble finding a job. In fact, she worked on some of the industry’s most cutting edge projects, including the military’s Apache helicopter and General Motors’ first electric car.
It was challenging and exhilarating, and sometimes frustrating. Because Fishman knew, though the quality and importance of her work was equal to her male counterparts, her pay was not.
“I had to learn how to play the game,” she said. “I had to learn how to toot my own horn.”
It’s a skill encouraged female students to hone when she headed Penn State Beaver’s Center for Academic Achievement and mentored young women interested in STEM. She received a Penn State Women in Science and Engineering award for her efforts.
And it’s a skill many women in the working world still need to perfect, according to Moon-Sirianni. And because media and politics are increasingly focusing on women’s rights – including equal pay and maternity leave – she believes the opportunities for women to shine in the male-dominated world of STEM have never been greater.
“I don’t think a lot of girls know the opportunities for advancement,” Moon-Sirianni said. “We want to promote women (at Penn DOT).”
It’s a lesson she imparts when she speaks to girls and young engineers, which she does often, and encourages her employees to do, too.
When her daughter was a student at North Allegheny High School, for example, Moon-Sirianni was a frequent guest in the classroom, touting the benefits that come with an engineering career – team-based work, job stability, the chance to stand out in a sea of men.
“Why would you want to be one of 1,000 in nursing when you could stand out and have so much opportunity to be noticed in engineering?” she’d ask them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Moon-Sirianni’s daughter is now a freshman industrial engineering major at University Park, and many of her friends chose STEM majors, as well.
That was the upshot of a few visits to a local high school. Imagine if all women in STEM committed to reaching out to young girls, says Moon-Sirianni.
“There so much potential,” she said. “There’s nobody else guiding them. We need to do it.”
To learn more about Penn State Beaver’s STEM-related programs, visit beaver.psu.edu/academics
Totally Baked, totally successful
Business alum Josh Hogenmiller is coloring the car world
Josh Hogenmiller wraps a gas mask around his face and reaches for his gun. He fires into the air, once, twice. A fine black mist drifts from the barrel. Everything’s working properly.
He takes aim at a skeleton of silver metal, curved like a rib cage and hanging on a wire from the ceiling, and shoots.
In less then 10 minutes, silver is black.
He quickly discards the mask and gingerly lifts the skeleton – a dirt bike frame – from its hook. It’s ready for the oven. 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
“And that’s about it,” Hogenmiller says with a shrug.
He’s being modest. Because the process he just demonstrated actually takes a deft hand and a lot of experience to do right.
And Hogenmiller makes sure he does it right. Every time.
His business depends on it.
Baked, at the beginning
It all started with a $100 gun and a $50 oven.
Hogenmiller, ‘15, and his friend Billy McCoy, both car enthusiasts, had been using the gun to spray colored powder onto their car and bike parts and the oven to cure the concoctions.
The result is a durable, colorful coating that gets you noticed on the road (Lime green wheels! Royal sapphire fenders! Midnight black dirt bike frame!)
Soon, friends were making requests. And then friends of friends. And they had to upgrade to the $2,000 gun. But then that gun started giving them trouble – belching bursts of powder instead of an even coat – and it was time to make a hard decision.
Were they going to tough it out with their $2,000 gun and keep doing work for friends, or upgrade to the $6,000 gun, buy a bigger oven and build a business?
They chose the entrepreneurial path.
In 2014, while he was still studying business at Penn State Beaver, Hogenmiller sold his BMW M3 to cover costs, built an 8x4x4 oven and Totally Baked Powder Coating was born.
The business, located in a garage on Cycle Drive in Freedom, is nearing its 22nd month of existence and expects to clear nearly $15,000 in April.
“That $6,000 gun is the best purchase we ever made,” Hogenmiller said.
The powder coating process isn’t new – industrial companies have been using it for years – but it is growing in popularity, partly because it’s more durable than paint, and partly because it’s considered more environmentally friendly. The process emits fewer volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, than painting.
And it looks really cool, a necessity for the motor sport enthusiast crowd that Hogenmiller and McCoy cater to.
Totally Baked offers thousands of combinations of colors and additives. Lately, Hogenmiller has been experimenting – and encouraging his customers to experiment – with two tones, fades and metallics. (He has a set of wheels waiting to be picked up that are lime green and hot pink.) But glossy black is still the most popular powder, and the cheapest since they can buy it in bulk.
“Blacks are nice for profit margins,” Hogenmiller said.
Not that Hogenmiller has been too concerned about profit margins lately. The business has grown in each month of its existence, and with prices set just right for the area (a set of wheels, the most popular item, will set you back just $200 to $300), Hogenmiller expects even greater growth in the future.
So does Penn State Beaver Business Instructor Dan Smith. Smith mentored Hogenmiller when the company was still in its infancy and allowed Hogenmiller to use the Totally Baked to fulfill his internship requirement.
“You could see Josh had a lot of potential,” Smith said. “He’s a doer. He’s good at his craft. He’s made tremendous progress and we’re all very proud of him and the success his company has experienced.”
Baked, in the future
Hogenmiller, a Quigley Catholic grad, grew up racing dirt bikes but was forced off the circuit when he shattered his wrist in a snowboarding accident. He quickly transformed himself from someone more interested in the mechanics of motorized vehicles to someone more interested in the aesthetics. So he knows the car enthusiast world well. And car enthusiasts are still the foundation of the business – a customer recently drove in from Maryland after meeting Hogenmiller at a car show.
But Hogenmiller and McCoy have expanded their customer base to include commercial clients, too. A former co-worker of Hogenmiller’s now works for Ron Lewis Automotive Group and contracted Totally Baked to do all of the dealership’s powder coating. Other dealers have followed suit.
The more commercial clients Totally Baked can line up, the sooner Hogenmiller and McCoy can expand.
They have goals of buying a 60-by-40-foot garage and an oven big enough to cure a car frame. A few employees to do the tedious prep work of stripping and sandblasting would be nice, too.
But the powder coating? Hogenmiller still plans to do that himself. He’s a perfectionist, and he believes his customers deserve high quality and fast turnaround. It’s the reason he spends so much time in the garage. Some days, he’s there until 3 a.m. His girlfriend doesn’t love it, but it’s the price he pays to be his own boss.
“It’s risky (to have your own business),” Hogenmiller said. “I know there’s nothing else backing me. That’s why I never leave.”
To learn more about Penn State Beaver’s business major, visit beaver.psu.edu/academics
With 19 titles in 10 years, Penn State Beaver Athletics is dominating the conference
There are a lot of little ways to measure athletic success: wins and losses, individual accolades, the number of fans in the stands.
But nothing – nothing – trumps championships.
And Penn State Beaver has an awful lot of championships. In just the past 10 years, the campus has collected 19 Penn State Athletic Conference titles in seven different sports. And women’s basketball won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Championship in 2015.
It’s a lot of success, and it’s created a bit of a problem, albeit a happy one.
“We’ve run out of room in the trophy case,” said Director of Student Affairs Chris Rizzo, who oversees athletics.
Actually, they’ve run out of room in two trophy cases. The case nearest the Gary B. Keefer Wellness Center houses hardware from decades past when the campus competed in the National Junior College Athletic Association, and baseball and golf regularly collected regional and national accolades.
The case nearest the gymnasium entrance is stocked with the iconic PSUAC lion trophies, marking the 19 times Beaver has reigned supreme in this decade.
The success, as success will do, has created a buzz. On campus, students – both athletes and non-athletes – have reveled in each victory, packing the gym and taking to social media to share the glory. Off campus, coaches are finding it easier to recruit, even from across the country.
And, in the conference, other teams have started a facetious rumor that Penn State Beaver Athletics is flush.
“The rest of the conference thinks we have a lot of money,” said Athletic Director Andy Kirschner with a grin. “We’re just doing a lot with a little.”
And it’s working.
Building upon success
On Feb. 23, with less than a minute left in the PSUAC Championship game, senior guard Khalia Adams drove the length of the floor, made a jump shot, drew a foul and sank the resulting shot to give Beaver a single-point lead over Penn State Hazelton.
The victory, secured when time ran out, marked the fourth consecutive PSUAC title for women’s basketball.
Within the week, Adams and fellow senior guard Morgan Kurtz were named PSUAC First Team All-Conference and USCAA First Team All-American. Sophomore forward Brittany Jackson and junior forward Asia Borders were named Honorable Mention All-Conference. And Coach Tim Moore was named USCAA Division II Coach of the Year.
You could call the season the result of good players, good coaching, good recruiting or good team chemistry. But Moore will tell you that, more than anything, it’s the result of a good culture.
At Beaver, say the coaches, they are given the freedom to run their programs without micromanaging from Kirschner or other higher ups, and the rivalry between programs in basically non-existent. In fact, coaches and athletes from other teams are often in the stands at other sporting events, cheering on their fellow Lions.
“At a lot of schools you see athletic departments where coaches compete and worry about what others are getting. Here the coaching staff does a good job of working with each other and sharing ideas,” Kirschner said. “When basketball looks good, we all look good. When soccer looks bad, we all look bad.”
It’s motivation for coaches and athletes who are already, by nature, fierce competitors.
“You don’t want to be the program that isn’t doing well,” Moore said.
Lately, no one has had to worry much about that. Besides the 18
conference championships, the campus boasts 80 USCAA All-American and 187 PSUAC All-Conference players in the last 10 years. And the campus’ only club sport, inline hockey, won the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Roller Hockey League championship in 2015.
Plus, the allure of small-school athletics is beginning to spread.
“The conference is starting to grow,” Assistant Athletic Director BJ Bertges said. “Schools putting more effort into athletics and the importance of athletics with recruitment and retention.”
There are still challenges, of course.
Because Beaver offers the first two years of nearly all of Penn State’s degrees, many students start their college careers on campus but finish them at University Park. For coaches, that means just two years to develop a player before he or she is gone. An increasing number of four-year degree programs – Beaver now has six and will likely have more in the coming years – has helped slow the drain but hasn’t stopped it.
Aging facilities also pose a problem. Business and Finance Director Adam Rathbun is hoping to soon update the baseball and softball fields, which he suspects haven’t had more than a facelift since being constructed.
“There are plenty of holes to fill,” Kirschner said, “but they were a lot more plentiful 13 years ago.”
USCAA school, NCAA feel
When she graduated from Burgettstown High School in Washington County, Rachael Charlier had planned to play NCAA Division II softball at Shepherd University in West Virginia.
But plans change. And, prodded by her mom, dad, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents – all Penn State alums – Charlier agreed to play USCAA Division II Softball at Penn State Beaver.
At most USCAA DII schools, the difference is plain: Fewer students. No athletic scholarship money. Older facilities. Assistant coaches paid in gear.
But the benefits are apparent, too. Athletes travel less, miss fewer classes and have more time for studying. In the past decade, Beaver has had 343 PSUAC Academic All-Conference and 11 USCAA Academic All-Americans.
Those numbers are a deal closer for Moore when he’s recruiting.
“At this level, I’m not selling the WNBA,” he said. “I’m selling the Penn State education.”
And the athletes understand the difference.
“I don’t think I would have made it all four years at an NCAA school,” Charlier said. “I think I would have quit, and I know I wouldn’t have been successful academically. Here, they give you time to be a student first.”
Chris Weathers, a former Beaver basketball player, agrees.
“I know that here I found something special and was able to walk away with a Penn State degree that no one could ever take from me,” he said.
But, make no mistake, Beaver athletes enjoy a little celebrity, too.
About one in every six students is an athlete. That’s a large chunk of the 700 students enrolled, so they tend to be well represented and well known. And it doesn’t hurt that the athletics department likes to promote its athletes on campus and on social media.
For the past several years, Beaver admissions counselor and photographer Justin Vorbach has produced flashy, professional posters and videos that, if you ask Bertges, are on par with the top NCAA Division I campaigns.
The attention offers athletes some recognition for their work. After all, they not only carry a full load of classes and play a full season of sports, but many of them also work in the off-season to cover housing, books and spending money.
“It gives them something beyond a championship and trophy to work toward,” Bertges said. “You don’t have to be a conference champion to be a big deal. We’re able to give them an experience.”
Changing the atmosphere
For all the ways Beaver athletics has changed the lives of its athletes, athletes have also changed the culture of their campus.
Because nearly 80 percent of Beaver’s student population commutes, the campus demographics have traditionally mirrored Beaver County’s demographics; that is white, lower-to-middle income, native Pennsylvanians.
Today, thanks in large measure to minority, out-of-state athletes, campus diversity far outpaces local diversity in a university system where diversity is a growing measure of quality.
“It benefits the campus; not just athletics. It really builds the campus community,” Bertges said.
And it also helps enrollment.
Director of Enrollment Dan Pinchot often points to athletic success and Athletic Recruitment Coordinator Ryan Hudacsek as big boons to admissions. About 15 percent of Beaver students are now athletes.
Before Hudacsek, Beaver head coaches – most of whom have full-time day jobs – were solely responsible for recruitment. Now they are able to rely on Hudacsek to step in once an athlete is interested, or to suggest athletes they would have otherwise not considered, particularly those from out of the area.
And they are starting to see some returns. Just this year, Bertges’ volleyball team boasted six out-of-state athletes.
Out-of-staters are doubly important to campus because many of them live in Harmony Hall. That means they are among the 150 or so students on campus 24/7.
“It helps shape campus culture and life,” Bertges said. “Almost nothing goes on without athletics on campus.”
Living and working together, and shaping the atmosphere of the place they call home for two to four years makes for a close-knit group of athletes.
“It’s a family feel,” Charlier said. “I go up to UP on the weekends and I know there is no way I would have made the bonds there that I’ve made here.”
For Weathers, it was life altering.
“I made a home here,” he said, “grew as a man, filled roles, volunteered, studied, trained, learned, explored, partied and was tested in so many unbelievably life changing ways.”
To learn more about Penn State Beaver Athletics and get recruited, visit psubeaverathletics.com