Assistant Professor of Biology Lisa Whitenack was elected to the board of directors for the American Elasmobranch Society, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the scientific study of living and fossil sharks, rays, and their relatives and promote education, conservation, and the wise utilization of natural resources. In addition, Whitenack’s research on performance and pinch force in stone crab claws has been included in the exhibit “The Machine Inside: Biomechanics,” which is currently at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and will be touring North America and Europe through 2017. You can explore the exhibit at http://biomechanics.fieldmuseum.org/.
News & Updates
What would you do to save a life?
Two recent North Allegheny High School graduates are willing to jump into a freezing Allegheny River, run the Pittsburgh marathon and even bungee jump off Victoria Falls in Africa.
Jessica “Jessi” Mazzoni, 21, of Marshall and Natalie Geer, 21, of McCandless have teamed up on a fundraising project that couples the silly and sublime, all in an effort to save the lives of some of the neediest people in the world.
Ms. Mazzoni, a senior at Allegheny College double-majoring in biology and global health, and Ms. Geer, a junior at Ohio Wesleyan University majoring in early childhood education, are determined to raise enough money to renovate a medical clinic in Zimbabwe.
They’re taking an increasingly popular avenue known as crowd funding, listing their fundraising efforts and goals on the indiegogo.com website that allows Internet users to scan the website listing an array of funding appeals and adopt an effort that suits them.
The young women are pledging a range of reciprocal activities based on the amount of money pledged to their effort, from double clapping and making shoutouts to donors while taking the Pittsburgh Polar Bear Plunge in December to hosting a luncheon at a restaurant of a benefactor’s choice.
It’s all contingent on achieving their fundraising goal of at least $30,000 by Oct. 24. And while the young women will be pleased if that goal is achieved, they’re really hoping to meet it tenfold and then some: $347,000. And, if they do, they’ve promised to bungee jump off Victoria Falls — an African landmark near Zimbabwe.
The roots of their efforts began half a world away at the Nyadire United Methodist Mission, an outreach of the United Methodist Church. The mission property in Zimbabwe supports a half-dozen outlying medical clinics. The mission is in partnership with the nonprofit group The Nyadire Connection, known by its acronym TNC, which is seeking to renovate the half-dozen medical clinics. Ms. Mazzoni and Ms. Geer are determined to raise enough money to complete one top-to-bottom medical clinic overhaul.
Why would they pose such a challenge for themselves?
Ms. Geer, the daughter of Paul and Faith Geer, summed it up: “I couldn’t help myself.”
The young women’s story begins, in a sense, with Ms. Geer and a dinner-table conversation with her mom when the young woman was 16. A woman they knew who was associated with Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park was leading a trip to the Nyadire Mission in Zimbabwe, and Ms. Geer wanted to go. She stayed for three weeks on the mission property, which hosts a hospital, a teachers college, a nurses college, primary and secondary schools, an orphanage and single-family homes.
“I got to know the people, the community. I fell in love with it all,” she recalled.
From the day she returned, she wanted to go back and set out to raise the funds to do so. But, political climates changed and when she was ready to go a year ago, it was deemed unsafe to travel there. So, the return trip was postponed to spring/summer 2014.
Meanwhile, Ms. Mazzoni’s parents, John and Nancy Mazzoni, heard at Dutihl United Methodist Church in Cranberry, of the TNC effort and mentioned it to their daughter. At about the same time, Ms. Mazzoni learned of her former schoolmate’s plans. The trip to the Nyadire Mission seemed to fit both with her educational interests in global health and her spiritual interests as a member of the United Methodist Church.
The young women left the U.S. on May 12 and stayed for two months. Initially, they traveled with a Methodist group from the South Hills but stayed on after the group members left.
Ms. Geer spent her days in a second-grade classroom, volunteering and working with the teacher. Ms. Mazzoni worked in the mission hospital. Ms. Geer also got to see the hospital up close when she was treated there for malaria.
“I went to the hospital and it was a very functional hospital,” she said. The same could not be said for the outlying medical clinics she and Ms. Mazzoni toured. Located miles from the mission property, the clinics were dilapidated by any standard — except for one. The Chikwizo clinic had been successfully renovated through the TNC project, at a cost of about $347,000, and was dedicated July 25.
“It was very impressive,” Ms. Geer said.
The young women determined that the Nyahuku Clinic, about three hours from the Nyadire Mission, was in the worst condition. Surrounded by landmines from the independence war of the 1980s, the clinic is a three-room structure that’s being eaten away by termites, Ms. Mazzoni said.
“It’s incredibly small and overcrowded. Children who need vaccines are seen outside the clinic on a bench because there’s no room inside. The walls are falling apart. The ceilings are falling down. A toilet is a hole in the ground, and medical waste is thrown in an open pit behind the clinic. It’s so remote there’s no cell phone signal. There’s no running water or electricity,” Ms. Mazzoni said.
She was saddened to see the quality of health care so low in the 21st century, Ms. Mazzoni said. “People are suffering and dying from diseases that can be easily treated. I saw someone pass away at the [mission] hospital from a respiratory problem that, ideally, should have been treated [successfully], but the resources weren’t available,” she said. And that care was superior to that available at the outlying clinics, she said.
When the young women got back to the U.S., they agreed they needed to do something. The something was crowd funding.
Ms. Mazzoni did research into which efforts were most successful and determined that they should mix the seriousness of their goal — to renovate a medical clinic — with some fun and silliness, said Ms. Mazzoni. They determined that potential benefactors on indiegogo.com “liked to see young people involved in an adventure and doing some fun and silly things,” Ms. Geer explained.
“Basically, we made a website with a video that shows that we’re willing to do ridiculous and crazy things to get money for this project,” she said. And all contributions are tax deductible.
Their site can be reached at www.indiegogo.com/project/the-adventure-for-clinics.
For a $22 donation, Ms. Mazzoni and Ms. Geer will be videoed double clapping as they make the Pittsburgh Polar Bear Plunge in December, if they meet their total goal. For $100, the benefactor gets a shoutout while the women jump into the river.
For a donation of $375, the donor gets “before and after times two” — a video of the medical clinic before and after renovation, and a video of the two jumping into the freezing river, before and after. For $750, the young women will take the donor to lunch, give him or her a thank you note, and present that person with a video of the plunge.
The official goal is $30,000 by Oct. 24, but they really want $347,000. If they reach their goal, they will take the Plunge; if they hit $100,000, they’ll run the Pittsburgh marathon; and if they achieve $300,000, they’ll swing or bungee jump off Victoria Falls.
Their campaign began Sept. 8 and within four days, they had raised more than $8,000.
The young women said they expect Zimbabwe and its people to be a part of their lives forever.
“It just so happens my heart is encrypted with Zimbabwe,” Ms. Geer said.
As for Ms. Mazzoni, she would like to return and begin her professional life there, aiming to bring better health care to a country she, too, loves.
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 724-772-9180.
By Kathleen Prosperi ’11
Jim Wible ’71, co-founder and president of American Colors in Sandusky, Ohio, has long believed in the potential of Alleghenians. Not only does he advocate for students as a College trustee, he believes the Allegheny graduate to be a quality investment for his company, having recruited and hired Gators since the company’s inception in 1975.
“I know that the skills it takes to handle the pressure of getting a degree from Allegheny apply to the business world as well,” says Wible. His company provides high-quality liquid pigment systems and other products to the coatings, composites, plastics and allied industries. It serves customers from two manufacturing facilities, one in Sandusky, and the other in Lebanon, Tenn.
Finding committed, long-term employees has produced challenges, and a need for change has blossomed into what appears to be the next revolutionary idea in corporate recruitment.
Jim Fitch, assistant director of career education at Allegheny, explains: “Jim (Wible) came to me and proposed hiring a group of graduating seniors as a team, interviewing and hiring them as one unit … a unit with a variety of majors, skills and talents.”
The hope is to promote future success and satisfaction at American Colors through pre-existing, forged relationships while nurturing a critical mass of Allegheny alumni who contribute as employees.
Invited to apply as a group, Tyler Hogya ’14 (Economics/Computer Science), Jordan Encarnacion ’14 (Chemistry/Economics), John O’Donnell ’14 (Economics/Communication Arts), RC Kunig ’14 (Biology/Economics/Psychology), and Elliott Hasenkopf ’14 (Chemistry/Economics/Biology) were one of four cohorts to express interest.
“Over the past four years, we have become great friends through living, working and playing together,” said Hasenkopf.
“Being able to come right out of college and enter the real world with four of your best friends seemed surreal. I was extremely surprised to hear of this opportunity, mainly because I’ve never heard of such a strategy before. It was new to all of us,” O’Donnell added.
The idea was new to everyone involved, including the hiring team, which was comprised of Wible, Matt Kosior, chief operating officer, and Kayla Beatty ’12.
“We saw huge, exceptional talent,” says Wible. “This group, the one we chose, was the most enthusiastic and seemed to have a cohesiveness that I liked.”
The benefits will be twofold—for the graduates and for American Colors.
“Over the last few years, after we hired students from Allegheny, we noticed they would say, ‘I came here [to Sandusky, Ohio] and didn’t know anyone. I’m having trouble getting involved in the community and finding it tough to meet people,’” says Wible.
Although other Allegheny graduates were pleased with American Colors, assimilation in other areas of their lives proved to hamper their overall happiness. That won’t be the case with this group. “These graduates will now get to go into the real world with an immediate support system. We hope this will provide them with a smooth transition into the workplace with a sense of belonging,” Wible says.
The students also see the benefits: “When entering the professional workplace, it is essential, not only that you have many positive relationships, but that you continue to build upon them while continually adding new ones. Our pre-established relationship will also allow us to feel comfortable more quickly in our working environment,” says Kunig.
“We see this as a potential for longevity for the company, as well,” Wible adds. “We are hoping that all five of the new hires will like and form a long relationship with American Colors.”
“I believe our team chemistry will translate into a professional environment seamlessly. Not only are we able to achieve goals together, but we also challenge each other. I think the ability to bring in five new workers who already work well together will serve American Colors well, especially in project-oriented tasks,” says Hasenkopf.
At this point, the future of group recruitment can only be imagined. After all, it is not the norm. The benefits can be seen as huge, though, for all parties involved.
“We’re hoping that it can become a model … that other employers who can do this will think, ‘What a great idea. …Why don’t we do this too?’” says Fitch. “If we had 20 employers who did that, we would have huge diversity in the types of job opportunities we are providing to students.”
President James H. Mullen, Jr. adds: “Jim is a great Alleghenian who has long been committed to affording opportunities to our students. In hiring this very talented group of our graduates from diverse disciplines, he is at once implementing a very innovative business approach and reinforcing the strength of Allegheny’s liberal arts curriculum.”
No matter what comes from this unique hiring strategy, the future is bright for American Colors’ new team. The team began its first day at American Colors. Each person had their own job description: Encarnacion, Kunig and Hasenkopf are project chemist trainees and Hogya and O’Donnell are operations trainees. However, it should be pointed out that they will have the opportunity to work on a project together as a team, to exhibit abilities learned at Allegheny.
As graduation day approached in May, Hasenkopf reflected, “As graduation is upon us, everyone has started to say goodbye to Allegheny and the friends they have made here, but we have this amazing opportunity which will allow us to see our closest friends every day. We are all very excited to hit the ground running and apply our Allegheny College educations to our endeavors with American Colors.”
Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies and Biology Becky Dawson has published the textbook Understanding Epidemiology: Concepts, Skills & Applications, which teaches undergraduate students the skills required to think critically about public health problems. The text takes an interdisciplinary approach to solving epidemiology problems through case studies and exercises. Erica Bryson ’15 and Elizabeth Schafer ’17 contributed to the development of the text.
Seventeen Allegheny students participated in the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference held at Penn State Behrend on April 12. They are (with their faculty advisors listed in parentheses): Leanne Balster ’14 (Stephanie Martin and Ben Slote), Patricia Belle ’14 (Brad Hersh), Mark Burkhart ’14 (Scott Wissinger), Jordan Gaston ’16 (Tricia Humphreys), Shelby Hernan ’15 (Jeff Cross), Maria Miranda ’14 (Jeff Cross), Allison Palmer ’14 (Tricia Humphreys), Patrick Payne ’15 (Stephanie Martin), Kirsten Ressel ’14 (Scott Wissinger and Matt Venesky), Tashina Robinson ’14 (Tricia Humphreys), Kelsey Sadlek ’14 (Brad Hersh), Samantha Skobel ’16 (Jeff Cross), Amanda Spadaro ’15 (Kristen Webb), Rachel Stegemann ’14 (Brad Hersh), Adrianna Stolarski ’14 (Milt Ostrofsky), Rachel Verno ’14 (Stephanie Martin), and Jennie Vorhauer ’14 (Brad Hersh). Gaston, Hernan, Ressel, Stegemann, and Stolarski were given awards for best presentations in their sessions. A total of 248 students and 136 faculty from 13 colleges in western and central Pennsylvania participated in the conference.
Professor of Biology, Neuroscience, and Global Health Studies E. Lee Coates and Professor of Physics Dan Willey recently presented “Development of an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Office at Allegheny College” at a Council on Undergraduate Research workshop held in Alexandria, Virginia. Coates also presented “Development of a Summer Research Community” during one of the workshop sessions.