Allegheny Welcomes New Faculty

From a former resident of nearby Townville to a fantasy football player to a dedicated amateur chef, Allegheny’s new faculty members bring many unique backgrounds and qualities to the teaching table in the fall of 2018. Let’s meet each of them briefly:

Catherine Allgeier
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics

Catherine AllgeierAs a visiting assistant professor of economics, Catherine Allgeier comes to Allegheny with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

After graduation, she taught at a business college and then worked in the corporate world as a chief financial officer and a human resources director. “I realized that I missed the interaction with students and started teaching part-time in addition to my CFO role. I now have been teaching full-time for eight years (most recently at her alma mater) and use my corporate background to provide real-world accounting examples and experiences to my students,” says Allgeier.

“I am interested in information systems and communication, as they relate to costs and effectiveness in health-care diagnoses, such as using Watson as a diagnostic tool and the implications in not only a more timely diagnosis but also more cost effective,” she says.

She also has a green thumb. “My ‘other’ career would be in landscape and interior design,” says Allgeier. “I quit counting at 40 houseplants.”


Timothy Bianco
Assistant Professor of Economics

Tim BiancoTimothy Bianco joins Allegheny as assistant professor of economics, having taught previously at Bowling Green State University, where he also earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also obtained a master’s degree and his doctorate from the University of Kentucky. He also has worked as an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for five years.

“I enjoy teaching economics and researching cutting-edge financial and monetary economics, focusing on corporate credit,” says Bianco.

Bianco and his wife, Victoria, grew up in northeast Ohio “so moving to northwest Pennsylvania has been a smooth transition. I am a Cleveland sports fanatic and I enjoy traveling to Cleveland to catch a game from time to time.

“An unusual combination is that I have been known to apply cutting-edge econometric techniques to playing fantasy football,” he says.


Paula Burleigh
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History

Paula BurleighPaula Burleigh joins the Allegheny community as visiting assistant professor of art history and director of the Penelec, Bowman, Meghan Art Gallery. She earned her Ph.D. in art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She earlier earned a master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor’s degree at Emory University.

“I’ve taught undergraduate courses at City University of New York Baruch College, Bard High School Early College, and at Bard College, and I’ve taught adult education courses at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where I was a teaching fellow for several years before coming to Allegheny,” says Burleigh.

Burleigh specializes in art history and visual culture of Europe and the United States, from 1945 to the present. Her research interests include visionary architecture, feminism and gender as they relate to art, and utopian/dystopian themes in art and popular visual culture.

“I love to cook, and I didn’t let a decade of tiny New York City kitchen life stop me from elaborate culinary experiments — some failed, many succeeded, all were eaten at least an hour later than I intended,” she says.


Kimberly Caldwell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology

Kimberly CaldwellKimberly Caldwell joins the college as a visiting assistant professor of psychology. She earned her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience at the University at Buffalo, “so my background is a blend of psychology and neuroscience.”

She has taught introductory psychology and biopsychology, “and I am excited to be teaching a new course this semester that I developed called ‘Ingestive Behavior,’ which will explore the neuroscience behind eating and drinking. My research interests are broadly focused on how the brain controls eating and drinking, thus the inspiration for my new class. I am particularly interested in a peptide system called ghrelin that is capable of influencing both behaviors.

“Along with behavioral neuroscience, I have always enjoyed the arts and took several art classes through high school and even a couple here at Allegheny as a member of the Gifted Program — I don’t know if they still call it that, it’s been a while since I was in high school — at Maplewood,” she says.

“This brings me to my fun fact, I grew up locally in nearby Townville and took classes at Allegheny in art and dance while in high school.”


Michael Michaelides
Assistant Professor of Economics

Michael MichaelidesMichael Michaelides joins the Economics Department as an assistant professor. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Essex, a master’s degree in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree in economics from Virginia Tech, and a doctorate in economics from Virginia Tech.

Prior to attending Allegheny, Michaelides spent one year as a visiting assistant professor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. His research interests include: Financial econometrics, empirical asset pricing, time series econometrics, applied econometrics, behavioral finance, volatility modeling, and financial risk forecasting.

“My research has focused on exploring the behavioral biases of investing through the quantitative application of statistical and mathematical models. Yet, my research has been so strongly influenced by the philosophy of science literature,” says Michaelides.

When not in the classroom or on a research mission, Michaelides is a Liverpool Football Club supporter.


Matthew Mitchell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Matthew MitchellRight out of college, Matthew Mitchell traveled to Japan and taught English as a foreign language for six years. He had earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, with a minor in chemistry, from Illinois Wesleyan University. As an undergraduate, he also found time to sing in the university choir and teach rock climbing.

Mitchell later completed an M.A. in Asian religions from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Ph.D. from Duke University’s Graduate Program in Religion. “I spent a lot more time in my office writing than on the beach,” he said of his two years in Hawaii.

Mitchell’s teaching experience includes posts at the University of Hawaii, Duke University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University. And he worked at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, helping to bring Chinese students and scholars to the institution for short-term and degree programs.

Mitchell’s research interests include Asian religions — especially Japanese Buddhism, social history, and women and gender in religion. This year in the Religious Studies Department, he will be teaching a number of courses across traditions from Asian religions to Islam. He is currently studying the social, financial and legal activities of a group of Buddhist nuns in Japan’s 17th–20th centuries. “One of the biggest surprises people have is the diversity of the nuns’ activities,” he says. “Most people tend to think of nuns as cloistered, not active, and certainly not involved in gambling or lawsuits.”

Along with Japan’s importance to Mitchell’s research, the nation holds other special meaning for him: it’s where he met his wife and it’s the birthplace of his oldest daughter.


Pamela Runestad
Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies

Pamela RunestadPamela Runestad likes to know how things work.

“I found I could fold all of my interests — infectious disease, nutrition, culture, Japan, writing and narrative, and film — together through becoming a medical anthropologist,” she says. “These combinations will be at the heart of my courses in global health studies here at Allegheny.”

Runestad holds a B.A. in biology and English — with a minor in psychology — from Augustana College (now University) in South Dakota and an M.A. in Japanese language and society from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She also earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in medical anthropology with a focus on Japan at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu.

Her doctoral research focused on socio-cultural responses to HIV/AIDS in Japan and how those have an impact on health. Her current research project explores institutional food for pregnant and postpartum mothers in Japan.

Runestad’s life and work experiences outside of the continental U.S. give her unique perspective. “I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and I lived in Nagano, Japan, for 10 years,” she says. “So at this point, I’ve only lived about one-quarter of my life in the ‘lower 48’ — Alaska-speak — or the ‘mainland’ — Hawaii-speak. That time was spent in South Dakota, Nebraska and North Carolina.”


Yee Mon Thu
Assistant Professor of Biology

Yee Mon ThuYee Mon Thu describes herself as “a scientist who likes to learn how the natural world works — and an amateur artist who likes to use imagination.”

Before arriving at Allegheny, Thu taught biology at her undergraduate alma mater, Grinnell College. She earned a B.A. in biology with a concentration in global development studies there before completing a Ph.D. in cancer biology at Vanderbilt University.

“I am interested in how cells maintain genome stability in the face of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can cause DNA damage,” Thu says of her research. “I am also fascinated by the involvement of these pathways in cancer.”

When away from the classroom and laboratory, Thu enjoys visiting national parks.


Birgit Weyhe
Max Kade Writer in Residence

Birgit WehyeAs a graphic novelist, Birgit Weyhe uses both her writing and drawing to explore historical and political incidents. She’s primarily interested in migration and the definition of home and identity. In addition to authoring several books, Weyhe has a monthly page in a Berlin newspaper where she draws the “lifeline” of a person who has changed places of residence often.

Weyhe was raised in Uganda and Kenya and came back to Germany at the age of 19. “I consider all three countries as my home,” she says. After returning to Germany, she earned a master’s degree in German literature and history from the University of Hamburg and a Diplom in illustration from the University of Applied Sciences, also in Hamburg.

Since 2012, Weyhe has taught at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel and Düsseldorf in Germany and at the National Art School in Maputo, Mozambique. She also has led workshops at the German Cultural Center (Goethe Institut) in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Finland, France and Canada.

Wehye said that she is a passionate reader. On a three-month trip to Patagonia last year, she and her husband read 15 novels to each other. “We praised the invention of eBooks,” she says. “Otherwise our backpacks would have been very heavy.”


Tarah Williams
Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

tarah williamsTarah Williams uses survey and experimental methods to understand how social identities —partisan identities, racial identities and many more — shape individual political behavior, for better or worse. Her current research explores whether and when individuals will confront prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives.

“As a shy person, I often struggled to speak up as a student,” she says. “My job now requires me to help students find ways to participate in class, and because I needed to work to find my voice, I have become committed to helping others find theirs. Similarly, my research is concerned with how we can encourage people to speak up to confront prejudice.”

Williams earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois. Before pursuing graduate school, she worked in state government as a researcher for the Illinois Legislature. She has taught courses in politics and policy at Washington University in St. Louis, Miami University in Ohio and the University of Illinois.

Along with her teaching and research, Williams enjoys walking, cooking, musical theatre and — since arriving at Allegheny — exploring Meadville.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Graduate Awarded Prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Colleen Silky
Colleen Silky

Allegheny College alumna Colleen Silky is one of only 90 students from across the world to be awarded a highly competitive 2018 Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Silky, 29, of Pittsburgh, grew up in Syracuse, New York, and graduated from Allegheny in 2011 with a double major in neuroscience and psychology. Beginning in September, she will pursue a Ph.D. in clinical neurosciences in a three-year program at the University of Cambridge in England.

Silky will study new methods for identifying cellular irregularities in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, with the use of patient-derived cell lines. ALS was thought to be strictly a motor neuron disease, but recent advancements have shown that support cells could cause aspects of disease pathology.

“I hope that studying three-dimensional cell organoids will shine light on new therapeutic pathways for patients in need and bridge the gap between conventional two-dimensional cell cultures and clinical trials,” Silky said. “I am honored to be joining the Gates Cambridge community surrounded by diverse scholars working to make a difference around the world.”

Silky is recently married to Ben Limegrover, a 2009 Allegheny graduate. The couple will relocate to England for a semi-permanent move for the duration of the full scholarship, which also provides housing.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 by a $210 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge — the largest single donation to a university in the United Kingdom.

The program awards scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the U.K. to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. The program’s goal is “to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others,” according to its website.

For the past six years, Silky has worked as a research scientist at Cognition Therapeutics in Pittsburgh. She believes her experience in conducting clinical trials for Alzheimer’s was a major factor in her selection for the Cambridge Gates Scholarship.

Silky said her work-related experience likely gave her an advantage:  Many of the candidates she met during the interview process were seniors or recent college graduates.

“We have been studying Alzheimer’s disease and discovering a small molecule to hopefully treat the cognitive problems in Alzheimer’s patients,” Silky said about her work with Cognition Therapeutics. “I didn’t want to leave the company until after we got the drug into clinical trials. Then I wanted to go after my Ph.D.”

Allegheny helped prepare Silky for her career in a number of different ways, she said, including the opportunity to conduct hands-on research and to be a student-athlete.

“I played on the lacrosse team, and I think being a student-athlete really helped me to balance a very busy schedule with high stress and still be able to learn,” Silky said.

She said the time-management skills she developed at Allegheny, along with the ability to think independently, provided the foundation for her to contribute from day one in a start-up laboratory — an environment that doesn’t necessarily have the resources to offer that kind of training for newly-hired employees.

“I wouldn’t have gotten that at a large-scale university, and it has continued to propel me forward in a lifelong passion,” Silky said. “We’re used to doing hands-on research independently, so for a small research company that was very important.”

Silky is prepared for what life has in store for her — perhaps even discovering a cure for ALS — and she continues to reflect fondly on her time at Allegheny.

“I love Allegheny and will tell that to anyone who asks,” Silky said. “I think the Allegheny rigor and the push to be an independent thinker and scientist really helped me.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Andrew Nunn Awarded Pennsylvania House Fellowship

Allegheny College senior Andrew Nunn has been awarded a Pennsylvania House Fellowship, which will take him to the state Capitol, allowing him to gain insight into the people, issues and politics of the legislative process.

Created in 1982 by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Bipartisan Management Committee, the program gives college students a close-up look at the daily workings of government in Harrisburg. Legislative fellows get to attend hearings, committee meetings and the legislative session, as well as conduct research and draft bill analyses.

As a final project, each fellow will research and then draft a piece of legislation to present to the House. Each fellow is placed either in a leadership office or in the office of a committee chairman. Nunn will likely be placed on either the Education or Urban Affairs Committee, based on his interests and experience.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Allegheny students have been selected for the fellowship. “It provides an unparalleled up-close experience with state-level politics,” said Patrick Jackson, director of Fellowship Advising at Allegheny. Jackson has helped students through the application process for the House Fellowship, as well as other competitive awards and fellowships.

Nunn, who is from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, will begin the fellowship in January 2018. He is a psychology major and education studies minor, and is a Bonner Scholar and Alden Scholar on campus. Nunn has classroom teaching experience through a fellowship with Breakthrough San Francisco, a national program working to increase academic opportunity for highly motivated but underserved students, and was an AmeriCorps volunteer in 2015–16 in Washington, D.C.

“My experiences of the inequities of our educational system have pushed me toward education,” said Nunn, “which resulted in me taking a break from Allegheny to teach fifth-grade math and English language arts in Washington, D.C., as well as becoming a teaching fellow with Breakthrough San Francisco. It is this passion for education that has brought me to pursuing a Pennsylvania House Fellowship not by chance, but by an understanding that this is a necessary path for my journey if I want to have a major influence on the many educational disparities of public education — a path that will be full of challenges, learning and new experiences all directed toward action.”

After college, Nunn plans to seek a teaching residency and eventually become an educator in the public school system. He is pursuing several residency programs and has applied for an English Teaching Assistant Fulbright Scholarship to teach in South Korea in 2018–19.

“Andy is going to use the Pennsylvania House Fellowship to gain some experience thinking about education policy,” Jackson said. “He already has quite an impressive teaching record, but he’s interested in serious reform, which can only happen by pulling the levers of government. Given what he’s already accomplished, I’d say Andy is on his way to being a leader in some school system somewhere. Any district in America would be lucky to employ him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wound up in a position of real influence in the coming decades.”

Said Nunn: “Essentially, I’m pursuing this fellowship because of what I hope to gain. In general, this fellowship is going to be an experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. So with that comes an abundance of knowledge I am able to gain. More specifically, if I want to have a major influence on the many educational disparities — funding, retention and teacher education to name a few — I must know the legislative process. The Pennsylvania House Fellowship will provide me with an avenue to directly understand this process, and begin my work toward changing the structure of our educational system.”
____________________________________________________

If you are interested in applying for the Pennsylvania House Fellowship for the upcoming year, contact Patrick Jackson at pjackson@allegheny.edu and visit http://www.pahousefellowship.us/ for more information about the fellowship.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Andrew Nunn Awarded Pennsylvania House Fellowship

Allegheny College senior Andrew Nunn has been awarded a Pennsylvania House Fellowship, which will take him to the state Capitol, allowing him to gain insight into the people, issues and politics of the legislative process.

Created in 1982 by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Bipartisan Management Committee, the program gives college students a close-up look at the daily workings of government in Harrisburg. Legislative fellows get to attend hearings, committee meetings and the legislative session, as well as conduct research and draft bill analyses.

As a final project, each fellow will research and then draft a piece of legislation to present to the House. Each fellow is placed either in a leadership office or in the office of a committee chairman. Nunn will likely be placed on either the Education or Urban Affairs Committee, based on his interests and experience.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Allegheny students have been selected for the fellowship. “It provides an unparalleled up-close experience with state-level politics,” said Patrick Jackson, Director of Fellowship Advising at Allegheny. Jackson has helped students through the application process for the House Fellowship, as well as other competitive awards and fellowships.

Nunn, who is from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, will begin the fellowship in January 2018. He is a psychology major and education studies minor, and is a Bonner Scholar and Alden Scholar on campus. Nunn has classroom teaching experience through a fellowship with Breakthrough San Francisco, a national program working to increase academic opportunity for highly motivated but underserved students, and was an AmeriCorps volunteer in 2015–16 in Washington, D.C.

“My experiences of the inequities of our educational system have pushed me toward education,” said Nunn, “which resulted in me taking a break from Allegheny to teach fifth-grade math and English language arts in Washington, D.C., as well as becoming a teaching fellow with Breakthrough San Francisco. It is this passion for education that has brought me to pursuing a Pennsylvania House Fellowship not by chance, but by an understanding that this is a necessary path for my journey if I want to have a major influence on the many educational disparities of public education — a path that will be full of challenges, learning and new experiences all directed toward action.”

After college, Nunn plans to seek a teaching residency and eventually become an educator in the public school system. He is pursuing several residency programs and has applied for an English Teaching Assistant Fulbright Scholarship to teach in South Korea in 2018–19.

“Andy is going to use the Pennsylvania House Fellowship to gain some experience thinking about education policy,” Jackson said. “He already has quite an impressive teaching record, but he’s interested in serious reform, which can only happen by pulling the levers of government. Given what he’s already accomplished, I’d say Andy is on his way to being a leader in some school system somewhere. Any district in America would be lucky to employ him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wound up in a position of real influence in the coming decades.”

Said Nunn: “Essentially, I’m pursuing this fellowship because of what I hope to gain. In general, this fellowship is going to be an experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. So with that comes an abundance of knowledge I am able to gain. More specifically, if I want to have a major influence on the many educational disparities — funding, retention and teacher education to name a few — I must know the legislative process. The Pennsylvania House Fellowship will provide me with an avenue to directly understand this process, and begin my work toward changing the structure of our educational system.”
____________________________________________________

If you are interested in applying for the Pennsylvania House Fellowship for the upcoming year, contact Patrick Jackson at pjackson@allegheny.edu and visit http://www.pahousefellowship.us/ for more information about the fellowship.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Lynn McUmber Advocates for Mental Health Awareness in Crawford County

Allegheny College graduate Lynn McUmber has helped transform the Crawford County Mental Health Awareness Program (CHAPS) from a small drop-in center more than two decades ago into a countywide agency that now serves more than 800 clients annually.

McUmber, Allegheny Class of 1978, has served as the executive director of CHAPS for the past 22 years. After graduating, she began work in various social work positions, with focuses ranging from intellectual disabilities to child welfare to Active Aging. It was when she transitioned to housing and homelessness that she found a greater passion for her work.

“When I returned to Meadville, in working at the county office, I saw how many individuals who experienced mental illness here were in very, very poor living conditions, and really had very little community support,” McUmber says.

“I was able to convince the county office to allow me to focus on that issue, of housing and decent affordable housing for persons with disabilities, especially mental illness,” she says. “That was the beginning of a career of exploring what opportunities are out there, and looking into a system and starting to develop a network of an array of services that would help individuals who have experienced mental illness, and/or individuals who are homeless or near homeless, access affordable housing and be successful in maintaining that housing.”

CHAPS was initially founded in 1988 as a small drop-in center that opened one evening a week for receiving services as a peer-support group but away from clinical oversight.

McUmber joined the program in 1990 and was able to bring her work with the county to CHAPS to begin to focus on housing opportunities. At first it was led by a board of equal members, but by 1995 McUmber was voted into the executive position.
CHAPS has since expanded to offer a range of services that still include the drop-in center, although now it is open daily.

There is also the Community Education and Outreach program (CEO) which hosts various peer- or family-support groups and education programs; Mobile Psychiatric Rehabilitation, which assists members in accessing resources and building skills to be as independent as possible; Housing Solutions, which connect homeless individuals with affordable, permanent housing, and help them develop skills and resources needed to maintain that housing; and the Journey Center, where both staff and members collaborate on projects in jobs such as receptionist work, outreach, publication or data collection. In addition, every year the organization holds a Walk-A-Thon, its fall fundraiser in which volunteers complete a three-mile walk and are sponsored by local businesses who donate monetary pledges.

“Lynn is continually dedicated to the growth of CHAPS,” says Amanda Burke, program coordinator for the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program and Peer Support Program, and a CHAPS employee for the past 10 years. “She remains open-minded and mission-driven when seeking new funding sources and new programming opportunities. She has worked tirelessly to increase the number of services CHAPS can offer the community. She has a true passion for this work as evidenced by her continued efforts to advance the agency’s mission and goals.”

“We always look at ‘what is the need?,’ and then we try and meet that need,” McUmber says. “We always made sure not to chase programs. We are a consumer agency, so everyone shares in identifying what’s needed and decision-making.”

CHAPS’ primary mission has been to provide support for individuals with mental illness, but the agency has been able to expand that to a secondary mission — providing opportunities for individuals and families who are homeless or near homeless, because the two often occur simultaneously.

Burke says the variety of services offered is what makes CHAPS especially successful and vital in Meadville. “We pride ourselves on being a safe and accepting place for people to come and receive the support they are in need of,” she says. “We highly value the many community partnerships we have with other agencies and providers as well.”

McUmber graduated as a psychology and speech major from Allegheny, but says the experience and understanding she gained from the community service are what led her to CHAPS. “The skills and gifts I received were not so much in social matter, but the ability to collaborate and think outside the box,” she says. She has been able to implement those skills in a different approach to mental health care, one intended to address all areas of a person’s life, and focus on recovery and the individual’s gifts.

“If you think about a person’s life and all of the areas of their life that they’re about, mental illness has been thought about as how an individual needs to go to a doctor and get medication. We try and address all the other areas of a person’s life, which includes their housing, what your income is, do you have friendships, do you have a purpose in life, be it a job, volunteer work, somewhere you’re needed? Do you have the skills that you need to manage your home and your finances? Your spirituality, your family, your friends. Mental illness brings a lot of loss in different areas, and we try and create opportunities through programming so people can regain those things.”

McUmber’s work can be clearly seen in CHAPS’ impact today. Last year, the group served 810 individuals; helped 187 households establish permanent housing; had 114 members actively volunteering; and through the Journey Center, helped 40 members gain employment in the community. Many of the workers at CHAPS have experienced some form of mental illness as well or came to CHAPS in a time of need, and through their programs have made great strides and are now trained in administering those same programs.

“Lynn is an excellent leader and director,” Burke says. “She has made it her life’s work to improve the lives of those who come through CHAPS and the community as a whole. She has the ability to find the good in every situation and identify the gifts and strengths of those around her. She is kind, caring, funny and empathetic. It is my honor to work alongside her as well as learn and grow from her experience.”

Says McUmber: “This has been a wonderful life. As far as a job goes, it’s been an incredible opportunity to be a part of this movement. CHAPS evolved in a slow process, but blossomed out mindfully. And I’ve developed so many long-lasting friendships and have seen such amazing and great things happen in people’s lives.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Lynn McUmber Advocates for Mental Health Awareness in Crawford County

Allegheny College graduate Lynn McUmber has helped transform the Crawford County Mental Health Awareness Program (CHAPS) from a small drop-in center more than two decades ago into a countywide agency that now serves more than 800 clients annually.

McUmber, Allegheny Class of 1978, has served as the executive director of CHAPS for the past 22 years. After graduating, she began work in various social work positions, with focuses ranging from intellectual disabilities to child welfare to Active Aging. It was when she transitioned to housing and homelessness that she found a greater passion for her work.

“When I returned to Meadville, in working at the county office, I saw how many individuals who experienced mental illness here were in very, very poor living conditions, and really had very little community support,” McUmber says.

“I was able to convince the county office to allow me to focus on that issue, of housing and decent affordable housing for persons with disabilities, especially mental illness,” she says. “That was the beginning of a career of exploring what opportunities are out there, and looking into a system and starting to develop a network of an array of services that would help individuals who have experienced mental illness, and/or individuals who are homeless or near homeless, access affordable housing and be successful in maintaining that housing.”

CHAPS was initially founded in 1988 as a small drop-in center that opened one evening a week for receiving services as a peer-support group but away from clinical oversight.

McUmber joined the program in 1990 and was able to bring her work with the county to CHAPS to begin to focus on housing opportunities. At first it was led by a board of equal members, but by 1995 McUmber was voted into the executive position.
CHAPS has since expanded to offer a range of services that still include the drop-in center, although now it is open daily.

There is also the Community Education and Outreach program (CEO) which hosts various peer- or family-support groups and education programs; Mobile Psychiatric Rehabilitation, which assists members in accessing resources and building skills to be as independent as possible; Housing Solutions, which connect homeless individuals with affordable, permanent housing, and help them develop skills and resources needed to maintain that housing; and the Journey Center, where both staff and members collaborate on projects in jobs such as receptionist work, outreach, publication or data collection. In addition, every year the organization holds a Walk-A-Thon, its fall fundraiser in which volunteers complete a three-mile walk and are sponsored by local businesses who donate monetary pledges.

“Lynn is continually dedicated to the growth of CHAPS,” says Amanda Burke, program coordinator for the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program and Peer Support Program, and a CHAPS employee for the past 10 years. “She remains open-minded and mission-driven when seeking new funding sources and new programming opportunities. She has worked tirelessly to increase the number of services CHAPS can offer the community. She has a true passion for this work as evidenced by her continued efforts to advance the agency’s mission and goals.”

“We always look at ‘what is the need?,’ and then we try and meet that need,” McUmber says. “We always made sure not to chase programs. We are a consumer agency, so everyone shares in identifying what’s needed and decision-making.”

CHAPS’ primary mission has been to provide support for individuals with mental illness, but the agency has been able to expand that to a secondary mission — providing opportunities for individuals and families who are homeless or near homeless, because the two often occur simultaneously.

Burke says the variety of services offered is what makes CHAPS especially successful and vital in Meadville. “We pride ourselves on being a safe and accepting place for people to come and receive the support they are in need of,” she says. “We highly value the many community partnerships we have with other agencies and providers as well.”

McUmber graduated as a psychology and speech major from Allegheny, but says the experience and understanding she gained from the community service are what led her to CHAPS. “The skills and gifts I received were not so much in social matter, but the ability to collaborate and think outside the box,” she says. She has been able to implement those skills in a different approach to mental health care, one intended to address all areas of a person’s life, and focus on recovery and the individual’s gifts.

“If you think about a person’s life and all of the areas of their life that they’re about, mental illness has been thought about as how an individual needs to go to a doctor and get medication. We try and address all the other areas of a person’s life, which includes their housing, what your income is, do you have friendships, do you have a purpose in life, be it a job, volunteer work, somewhere you’re needed? Do you have the skills that you need to manage your home and your finances? Your spirituality, your family, your friends. Mental illness brings a lot of loss in different areas, and we try and create opportunities through programming so people can regain those things.”

McUmber’s work can be clearly seen in CHAPS’ impact today. Last year, the group served 810 individuals; helped 187 households establish permanent housing; had 114 members actively volunteering; and through the Journey Center, helped 40 members gain employment in the community. Many of the workers at CHAPS have experienced some form of mental illness as well or came to CHAPS in a time of need, and through their programs have made great strides and are now trained in administering those same programs.

“Lynn is an excellent leader and director,” Burke says. “She has made it her life’s work to improve the lives of those who come through CHAPS and the community as a whole. She has the ability to find the good in every situation and identify the gifts and strengths of those around her. She is kind, caring, funny and empathetic. It is my honor to work alongside her as well as learn and grow from her experience.”

Says McUmber: “This has been a wonderful life. As far as a job goes, it’s been an incredible opportunity to be a part of this movement. CHAPS evolved in a slow process, but blossomed out mindfully. And I’ve developed so many long-lasting friendships and have seen such amazing and great things happen in people’s lives.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Heuchert Delivers Keynote at Historic Psychology Conference

Professor of Psychology Juvia Heuchert delivered an invited keynote address entitled “African Contributions to Peace Psychology” at the 1st Pan-African Psychology Congress in Durban, South Africa from September 18-21. This historic congress was the first time ever in which psychologists from across Africa gathered to deliberate on psychological issues specific to Africa, as well as more general themes related to human rights, inequality, and well-being. Dr. Heuchert was the only African keynote speaker invited from outside Africa to address the congress. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDXSi1iP6tc .

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Heuchert Delivers Keynote at Historic Psychology Conference

Professor of Psychology Juvia Heuchert delivered an invited keynote address entitled “African Contributions to Peace Psychology” at the 1st Pan-African Psychology Congress in Durban, South Africa from September 18-21. This historic congress was the first time ever in which psychologists from across Africa gathered to deliberate on psychological issues specific to Africa, as well as more general themes related to human rights, inequality, and well-being. Dr. Heuchert was the only African keynote speaker invited from outside Africa to address the congress. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDXSi1iP6tc .

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Clark, Students Present at Behavior Analysis Conferences

Ariel L. York ‘16 and Professor Rod Clark of the Psychology Department and program in Neuroscience presented a poster of York’s senior thesis, “A Frequency Count of Disguised Mands in Preschool Children: Effects of Socioeconomic Status,” at the 43rd annual Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference held in Denver, Colorado in May 2017.

Delaney W. Arbore ’19 and Clark presented a poster titled “An application of Behavioral Momentum Equations to the Game of Basketball” at the 40th annual Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior (SQAB) conference, also in Denver in May. York, Alexis Sotelo ’20, and Clark also presented a poster from a sequence of independent study projects titled “Acquisition of Schedule-controlled responding under the Valproic Acid (VPA) rat model of Autism” at the conference.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Clark, Students Present at Behavior Analysis Conferences

Ariel L. York ‘16 and Professor Rod Clark of the Psychology Department and program in Neuroscience presented a poster of York’s senior thesis, “A Frequency Count of Disguised Mands in Preschool Children: Effects of Socioeconomic Status,” at the 43rd annual Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conference held in Denver, Colorado in May 2017.

Delaney W. Arbore ’19 and Clark presented a poster titled “An application of Behavioral Momentum Equations to the Game of Basketball” at the 40th annual Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior (SQAB) conference, also in Denver in May. York, Alexis Sotelo ’20, and Clark also presented a poster from a sequence of independent study projects titled “Acquisition of Schedule-controlled responding under the Valproic Acid (VPA) rat model of Autism” at the conference.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research