Allegheny News and Events

Allegheny Professor’s Podcast Brings Victor Hugo’s Work Into the 21st Century

Les Miserables podcastAllegheny College Associate Professor of French Briana Lewis has started a podcast that she hopes will open a dialogue about the relevance of Victor Hugo’s work in the 21st-century world. Lewis, who received degrees from Furman University, Boston University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has taught at Allegheny for the past nine years.

On most Tuesdays, Lewis releases a new episode of “The Les Misérables Reading Companion,” which she says “aims to break down the walls of academia, and make Victor Hugo’s legendary novel more accessible to the general public”.

Lewis says her inspiration for the podcast stems from her interest in the media form herself. As she listened to a variety of podcasts, she noticed the lack of shows about literature, recognizing that many podcasts focus on television shows and movies — often neglecting rich literature such as Hugo’s Les Misérables. Hugo was a 19th-century poet and novelist who wrote Les Misérables — a story that follows Jean Valjean throughout the early years of the nineteenth century. The 1862 novel has since been adapted for the screen and the stage.

Briana Lewis
Associate Professor of French Briana Lewis

Lewis noted the relevance of Les Misérables to the current political state of our world–and particularly, the United States. Given the contentious nature of the modern political scene, clear lines can be drawn from our current world to that of the novel, she said. So Lewis found it important to create an open discussion about the classic French novel that was aimed at the general public.

By using language relevant to all listeners regardless of their prior knowledge about French culture, Lewis is able to immerse people in the rich messages associated with Hugo’s most famous work. One such message is that social forces can make a person’s past cast a long shadow over their life.

Lewis noted that she intends for her audience to consist of people reading the book because the podcast is constructed as a reading companion, rather than a lecture series. The episodes, she said, act as a liaison between the general public the academic community of Hugo studies. By gearing the project toward a general book-loving audience, including those who might not speak or read French, Lewis makes knowledge about Hugo, Les Misérables, and French history and culture more broadly accessible.

For example, in Episode 33 of “The Les Misérables Reading Companion,” Lewis states that Hugo’s style “allows him to speak to individual readers, alone in the tranquility of their reading minds.” Moreover, readers are called to “question the boundaries” and act against “social damnation”.

The podcasts themselves will be a limited run, lasting 60 episodes. Lewis has some additional episodes and specials planned. That said, she hopes the podcast acts as a spark of passion for the novel, rather than a one-time experience for her listeners. As far as Lewis’ professional plans, she looks forward to remaining a part of the Allegheny family by continuing her career as an associate professor of French.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Kyle Kanell to Study Arabic in Morocco with ProjectGO Scholarship

Kyle Kanell has never left North America, but this summer his studies will take him across the Atlantic Ocean to Meknes, Morocco, where he has been awarded the ProjectGO scholarship for an intensive study of Arabic.

Kyle Kanell: Will study Arabic in the summer of 2018 in Morocco.

Originally from Beaver, Pennsylvania, Kanell transferred to Allegheny College in the fall of 2017 from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

From his first day on Allegheny’s campus, he began an intensive study of the Arabic language, completing four Arabic courses over two semesters.

Assistant Professor of Arabic Reem Hilal has been Kanell’s instructor this year and has seen his skill grow with each course.

“Kyle is a good fit for the scholarship because he has demonstrated interest in learning about the cultures of the Middle East, and the fact that he has taken all the available Arabic-designated courses this year, outside of intermediate-level Arabic, tells me that he is committed to learning about all different aspects of the Middle East,” Hilal says. “Being abroad in Morocco will provide him with more exposure to the region, through interactions with native speakers of Arabic and exposure to one of many Arab cultures. It will enrich his understanding of the region and its people.”

Kanell, a rising junior, is majoring in international relations with a focus in the Middle East/North Africa, and minoring in economics. He is also an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet. ProjectGO scholarships are administered by the U.S. Department of Defense.

“I knew from a young age that the military was the right path for me,” he says. “I also knew from holding leadership positions on varsity sports teams and high school clubs that I had great potential in terms of leadership. Contracting as an officer cadet in ROTC was the perfect fit to fulfill both those aspirations.”

Professor of French Laura Reeck is particularly excited about this opportunity for Kanell, as she was one of the first people to help him with his transfer to Allegheny and to advise him on studying overseas.

“Not long into the fall semester, he asked me when his first opportunity to study abroad would be,” says Reeck. “It was obvious that he was ready and waiting. I told him that he would probably need to wait a year. I don’t think he much liked what I was telling him. Not long after that, knowing that he is an Army ROTC Cadet, I came across the ProjectGO scholarship and suggested to him that he look into it. This scholarship will provide him with intensive Arabic-language instruction in Morocco, which will allow him to continue his Middle East/North African coursework and to get to know Moroccan society and culture.”

Reeck noted how intensive, immersive studies of language is one of the best ways to improve language proficiency and fluency. “Especially for a language that requires significant dedication to learning like Arabic,” Reeck says, “learning a language in context is incredibly motivating. Meknes is a beautiful city with a rich cultural history and heritage. I’m certain Kyle will appreciate that aspect of it, and I know he’s looking forward to learning more about Morocco generally.”

Kanell’s experience with Arabic at Allegheny and in Morocco will take him further on his path toward government work. “Immediately following graduation, I will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army,” says Kanell.

“By studying in Morocco on scholarship, my understanding of the culture, livelihood, and particularly my abilities in Arabic will become greatly enhanced,” he adds. “I am looking into becoming an active duty officer in a combat arms branch. After that, I hope to work for the government in either a diplomacy or intelligence position.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Student Grace O’Malley Awarded Prestigious NOAA Hollings Scholarship

Allegheny College sophomore Grace O’Malley has been awarded an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). O’Malley is the third Allegheny student to win a Hollings Scholarship in the last two years.

The competitive scholarship includes two years of tuition support and a paid 10-week summer internship to conduct research, resource management or education projects while working with a NOAA mentor.

Through the Hollings Scholarship program, O’Malley plans to pursue an internship in marine ecosystem research. “I’ve become really interested in ocean conservation and hope to be able to see this work being done firsthand,” O’Malley, a biology major and Spanish minor, said.

O’Malley credits three people with cultivating her initial interest in science. First is her grandfather, who was a biology professor at St. Lawrence University and suggested she consider Allegheny. In addition, as a high school student, O’Malley conducted aquatic ecology research with Susquehanna University professors Jack Holt and Mike Bilger in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

“Without these three mentors in my life, I don’t know if I would have the confidence and drive to pursue my dreams so forcefully,” she said.

At Allegheny, O’Malley has continued to explore her passion for science. She works as a project assistant with the Creek Connections environmental outreach program and as a chemistry teaching assistant.

O’Malley also has collaborated with Scott Wissinger, professor of biology and environmental science, to study caddisflies, a mothlike insect that lives near lakes or rivers. She will continue that research with him this summer in Colorado, working on a project in the Rocky Mountains.

Wissinger and Creek Connections Project Director Wendy Kedzierski encouraged O’Malley to apply for the Hollings Scholarship, she said. O’Malley also received assistance with her application from Patrick Jackson, director of fellowship advising in the Allegheny Gateway.

Jackson said that the Hollings Scholarship is designed to help NOAA ensure that young scientists in the educational system are prepared to advance the agency’s mission. NOAA is charged with keeping citizens informed of the changing environment around them — from daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce.

NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product, according to the agency’s website.

“The fact that Allegheny has now sent three students into the Hollings Scholarship program in the last two years is a testament to the work being done on our campus,” Jackson said. “Allegheny students are ready to get out into the world and do serious research, which is the only kind that NOAA engages in. They don’t have the time or resources to get students up to speed; they need them ready on their first day. And Allegheny students typically are.”

Jackson encourages Allegheny students who are interested in applying for the Hollings Scholarship to contact him at or (814) 332-2779.

According to NOAA, the Hollings Scholarship program is designed to:

  • increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities;
  • increase public understanding and support for stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere and improve environmental literacy;
  • recruit and prepare students for public service careers with NOAA and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government; and
  • recruit and prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science and to improve scientific and environmental education in the United States.

At the end of their summer internships, Hollings scholars present their results to scientists and peers during the annual Science & Education Symposium. Scholars also can apply for funding to present their research at up to two scientific conferences.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Senior Samantha Bretz Sets Her Sights on Becoming Miss Pennsylvania

Allegheny College senior Samantha Bretz will compete for the title of Miss Pennsylvania in June, now that she already carries the banner of Miss Crawford County.

Allegheny senior Samantha Bretz from Adrian, Michigan, won the title of Miss Crawford County. Photo Credit: Julie Haemer-Scott/Cambridge Springs

Bretz was crowned Miss Crawford County 2018 in February, competing against eight other contestants in Conneaut Lake. She won the interview, talent and evening gown awards as well as the first-place scholarship. Bretz performed a ballet routine to the Cupid Variation “Act III: Amour” from Don Quixote, a routine known for requiring impeccable balance and lightness.

“In the interview room, the judges asked me ‘Why are you here today?,’ Bretz recalls from her February pageant competition. “I replied ‘Crawford County is the reason.’ Out of all the places in the world I’ve traveled to, this is the place where I discovered a passion for experiential education. Now I’ve made it my mission to bring creativity, collaboration, and reflection to classrooms across my communities. I work toward a future where students can develop a sense of purpose in their education and can learn by play rather than by rote.

“For me, it’s all about personal development,” says Bretz, who is from Adrian, Michigan. “Each category of the competition challenges you to express your best self, and that comes from the preparation and practice. Titleholders should be able to eloquently communicate their thoughts and ideas, exude passion for their platforms, exhibit poise and confidence, think on their feet in stressful situations, and work toward presenting their talent beautifully.

“Once crowned, a titleholder has a “year of service” promoting her personal platform by advocating and leading in her community. I started competing as a creative means to fund my education. The Miss America Organization is the leading scholarship provider for women in the U.S., and I have been fortunate to receive multiple scholarships toward my Allegheny education.”

On campus, Bretz is an economics major and minoring in both French and dance and movement studies. She has been involved for her four years with the Orchesis Dance Company, serving as both choreographer and president, and has been a member of Delta Delta Delta, the Jazz and Dance Ensemble (JaDE), the Allegheny College choirs, Lambda Sigma sophomore honor society, the Finance and Facilities Committee, and Omicron Delta Epsilon. She volunteers with Civic Engagement, is employed as a Center for Business and Economics fellow, and interns for the Gifted/Talented middle school enrichment program.

Last year, Bretz competed in a pageant in Michigan and won the title of Miss River Raisin Festival. For Bretz, pageants have helped her to become the best version of herself — able to speak confidently, keep well-informed, and further her passion for progressive education methods.

“I would not be the successful individual I am today without the Miss America Organization,” says Bretz. “For my very first pageant interview, I was shaking in my heels as the judges asked controversial questions about current topics. By staying informed and engaging in civil discourse with my peers, I became so much more self-assured in expressing myself, and now I can confidently give an opinion on any topic in front of any audience.”

Bretz has accepted a position with Boston Scientific as a finance leadership development program associate immediately following her graduation in May. Her experience at Allegheny, as well as the rigorous practice of interviewing through the Miss America Organization, has helped her to become an ideal candidate for the position, she says.

“Even after I stop competing, I will always have this passion for education and will continue to seek ways to change the world,” she says. “It’s not just a crown in a beauty contest, but a platform to create meaningful change, and that’s what I love about Miss America. … Who knows what new and exciting opportunities await? Next stop, Miss Pennsylvania!”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Presents Its Annual International Film Festival

The Allegheny College Department of Modern and Classical Languages will present its free 2018 International Film Festival, a five-week series of foreign films to be shown at The Movies at Meadville at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays between Jan. 31 and Feb. 28.

The series begins on Jan. 31 with the 2017 French film “Faces Places” in which 89-year-old Agnes Varda and 33-year-old French photographer and muralist JR team up to co-direct this documentary. They travel through the villages of France in JR’s photo truck meeting locals, learning their stories, and producing portraits of the villagers. The movie documents these encounters as well as the unlikely friendship the filmmakers formed along the way.

A film of Arabic origin, still to be selected, will be screened on Feb.7.

On Feb. 14, “Coming Home,” a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou and released in 2014, will be screened. The story is about a former political prisoner (Chen Daoming) who tries to help his wife (Gong Li) regain her memory and rediscover their love for each other.

“Julieta,” a Spanish film directed by Pedro Almodovar and released in 2016, will be shown on Feb. 21. In this film, a chance encounter causes a woman (Emma Suárez) to reflect on the tragic circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her daughter.

On Feb. 28, “Axolotl Overkill,” a German film directed by Helene Hegemann and released in 2017, will be screened. In this movie, Mifti, a 16-year-old, begins to develop an obsession with Alice, an enigmatic and much older white-collar criminal.

The movies are open to the public. The theater is located at 11155 Highland Drive. Free round-trip shuttle service to the theater will be provided for students, departing North Main Street at Brooks Walk at 6:10 and 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday.
The films were selected by the Allegheny faculty, coordinated by Associate Professor of Spanish Wilfredo Hernández.

Photo Caption: “Faces Places,” a French film, is a documentary by filmmakers Agnes Varda and JR.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

2018 International Film Festival Starts

The Allegheny College Department of Modern and Classical Languages will present its free 2018 International Film Festival, a five-week series of foreign films to be shown at The Movies at Meadville at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays between Jan. 31 and Feb. 28.

The series begins on Jan. 31 with the 2017 French film “Faces Places” in which 89-year-old Agnes Varda and 33-year-old French photographer and muralist JR team up to co-direct this documentary. They travel through the villages of France in JR’s photo truck meeting locals, learning their stories, and producing portraits of the villagers. The movie documents these encounters as well as the unlikely friendship the filmmakers formed along the way.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research