Category Archives: Fall 2012

The Weight of the Stone

By MATTHEW S HOFFMAN on November 13, 2012

 Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for titian - sisyphus.jpg

The last two weeks have been a proverbial Dante’s inferno as far as academic work goes. Multiple papers and tests have left me indisposed; however, the Center has been a place of reprieve. I’ve become good friends with the assistant director, Sarah Lyall-Combs, graduate assistant Jeff Resta and the other two interns, Sara and Mary. We all work together efficiently and productively without issue. Sometimes I get up early and go into the CGS office just to do work and be in that comfortable environment. The free coffee doesn’t hurt either. Being able to work face to face also has its benefits. Whenever I’m in the office, I try to be as proactive as possible and always ask Mrs. Combs what she needs help with.

I find I am more productive there, too. This week I came into the office to gather a list of social studies teachers throughout many school districts in the area. Also in my hometown Lancaster to help spread the word about the headscarf workshop. Up until this point, I never had much interest in outreach and involvement in the community. That sounds contrary to politics, since it of course is based so much on people. Now though, because of my internship, I am in the midst of coordinating plans and interacting with all sorts of people with different backgrounds. And it involves global issues, such as the headscarf banning controversy. I am also proud that the internship I am a part of is generating such opportunities.

Writing for the newsletter is a boon to my day as well. Being able to use my knowledge and understanding, cultivated by my education at Penn State, to write about such historians as Dr. Juan Cole or the great experiences at the fall festival is putting my education into actual practice. I don’t believe in over complicating subjects, even if they’re complex political theories. I believe people are smart enough to grasp difficult concepts if they are presented in a manner that isn’t belittling, patronizing or pretentious. I’ve read enough articles in these four years of college to know that academia often has a fetish for the Byzantine. And some professors inundate students with so many esoteric concepts that it’s a race just to memorize enough to pass the test. These are simply my own criticisms. I understand there is a need for higher level academics to extrapolate and analyze events and circumstances in a dry manner. Not always by choice, but by necessity to support hypotheses soundly. It’s all in the presentation, I think. Or a good professor.

Nevertheless, one of my goals in life is to interact with people from all backgrounds and share my knowledge in a tactful and genuine manner to try and, in some way, create an opportunity for contemplation. I don’t think I can change anyone’s mind, or that I should even. Dr. Cunning and I discussed a lot about the difference between debating to learn and debating with the intent to change. I think the former is the better route. That meeting with her has left a permanent, positive mark on my character.


 When I worked years in construction as an insulator, or in a warehouse that supplied the construction industry with insulation, I always strive to engage in dialogue in a non-confrontational way. This was pre-college even, as I hadn’t started that career until I was 23.

Later, after attending school, I was able to discuss politics and economics with union and non-union workers alike in a less narrow way. They were aware of my enrollment at Penn State and international politics – they always ask what this means and I never have a good answer – except that I should strive to know everything about everything. Sometimes they would ask me blunt questions about politics and where I stand ideologically, but I usually spent the time explaining the reasons based on theories and paradigms I’ve learned. that better illustrate the overall gamut of politics.

Sometimes I would speak Spanish with workers and would get to know them. Find out where they come from and such things, while other workers, usually white, would complain that they spoke in another language. I wasn’t afraid to challenge them on why they chose not to learn another language and sometimes the results would be threatening, but other times we would break into a discussion of geography and politics. Maybe after that they’ll remember our conversation and they’ll approach it differently next time. People do what they think is right, I’m not sure what to expect from that, but at least I made an attempt to introduce a new constellation illustrating a different side of the human condition we’re all party to. Politics can cloud and separate that fact. I’m not sure separating certain aspects of life into divisive spheres is how I want to go about living.

I don’t believe education and its byproducts should remain inside the institutions. In some environments, antagonisms against the way academia conducts itself are legitimate. I come from some of them. We write pages of homework and research papers, turn them in, and receive our grades. Then it never really turns into anything of importance outside of the myopic fetish of the GPA. I rebel against this. There is no reason for me to take on a task, project or paper without actually having a stake in its development and conclusion. Busy work, which school work feels like it devolves into, puts me a right existential crisis. I didn’t write about the Greek financial crisis because I didn’t care about the astronomical suicide rates, parents giving up their children, schools having no electricity or teachers and people starving to death on the streets.


 On the contrary, if John Donne is to be believed, and I most certainly subscribe to his conclusions, that no man or woman is an island, then everything does affect me in some way. And outside the classrooms and professor’s offices, I can introduce my feelings that are now substantiated with evidence to people I interact with in the streets. After all, they’re the people, my own family members and friends, who are most affected by concepts and theories that are discussed in courses. Unfortunately, too often it is in the abstract where people’s true stories are lost into models and statistical deviations.

I understand educational institutions are not all structured in the ways I’ve described, but I don’t necessarily believe it’s the exception either. As I’ve watched, in my own 27 year life span, the disparity in wealth and education increase within society, it is important to remember the privilege of attending school even if I’ve been condemned to living like a peasant because of the costs. However, I remain critical of my surroundings, always skeptical (mistaken for cynicism), and try to recognize myself in every stranger’s eyes.


From College Student to Teacher

By SARA ELIZABETH THOMPSON on October 31, 2012

The Center for Global Studies here at Penn State is involved with educational outreach within the State College community. Part of this outreach includes partnering with The Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School to help run its after-school club sessions. As an intern for the Center for Global Studies, I teach one of these clubs. Every Wednesday, for two hours, I trade in my usual role of a college student for that of a teacher of world cultures and environmental studies.

I’m currently a senior at Penn State University majoring in Community, Environment and Development, with minors in Economics and Spanish. This is a relatively new major to the College of Agricultural Sciences. I am frequently asked what I plan to do with my education after I graduate. This summer I was lucky to have an experience that has given me some idea to what I will do after graduation. I spent a month in the Dominican Republic teaching underprivileged children. From this experience I have developed a passion for education. I truly believe that the gift of education is the best thing you could ever give to someone.

What actually attracted me to the Center for Global Studies was its developing education outreach program. I think it’s extremely beneficial for students at a young age to be conscious of the world they live in, including different cultures and environments. I have the opportunity to teach two different sessions, the first being one with fourth graders and the second is with kindergarten and first graders.

It took me a few weeks to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in my club. As I got to know the kids in my class better it became easier to think of activities which kept them engaged and exposed them to new information, while having fun. I can understand how after a full school day, staying after school can seem like a drag.   I want my students to look forward to Wednesday afternoons because they like what they learn and what we talk about.

Each week, I bounce back and forth between activities that focus on different cultures and the environment. For example, one week I gave a lesson on pollution and my younger students completed and colored worksheets in which they had to circle pollutants and match species to their environment. The next week, I talked with them again about the three Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle. It was really cool to see them make the connection to how you can reduce pollution through reusing and recycling products. My favorite lesson that I did with my older students was our “international party”. I instructed each student to forget about who they were as I gave them a new identity. This new identity described a person living in another part of the world. It gave their age, occupation, body language, social habits, etc. I had the students introduce themselves to each other under their new identities. I encouraged the students to interact with each other according to the social norms and body language of their aliases. It was a fun activity and I was happy as the students highlighted aspects of other cultures from what they learned from their new identities.

The more sessions I teach, the more I look forward to the Wednesday afternoons that I spend at YSCP. The learning environment the school provides is welcoming and inspiring. My students are smart kids, and believe it or not, they have even taught me some things. So far this experience has strengthened my interest in teaching. I think the next two weeks will be fun.  With Halloween and Thanksgiving approaching, I’ve been thinking about activities we can do involving holidays in different cultures. Be sure to check the CGS blog to see how everything went!

Not just for grown-ups!

By MARY RISH on October 28, 2012

When people hear the name “Center for Global Studies,” their immediate thought may not be children–I have to admit, mine wasn’t either.  Luckily, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn about all of the great outreach events for children that the Center sponsors.  As you can read on our website, “Part of the mission of the Center for Global Studies is to partner with schools in Pennsylvania in order to develop ways to enhance global perspectives in K-12 classrooms. The CGS will provide annual funding for K-12 teachers to incorporate and expand the presence of global studies in their curricula.”  It has been my pleasure to get involved with some of this K-12 outreach throughout my semester as a CGS intern; it’s perfect because I hope to live abroad and work as an English and American cultural studies teacher after graduation.

I’ve been most involved with CGS’s partnership with the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School (YSCP).  A public charter school located right here in State College, YSCP promotes global education through classroom learning as well as their after-school Extended Day program.  This fall I’ve had the amazing opportunity to lead my own club as part of this program.  Every Wednesday, I teach two one-hour sessions on German language and culture (perfect for me because I’m a German major!).  I look forward to each meeting; I love seeing the kids learn about another culture–from games and songs to famous events like Oktoberfest, not to mention a lot of German vocabulary thrown in there.  Other clubs being taught by CGS staff this semester include World Cultures and Mythology & Folklore.

In addition to the Extended Day volunteer work, the Center for Global Studies runs many other K-12 outreach programs, including a yearly teachers’ workshop (coming up this November) and World Stories Alive!, a multilingual storytelling event that takes place Saturdays from January to April.  This fall, we even made an appearance at two fall festivals in State College and Bellefonte, presenting a booth about mehndi, the art of henna.  As a future teacher with an interest in international studies, my internship with the Center for Global Studies has provided me with so many great opportunities to utilize my skills and interests.  Find more information about the Center’s outreach programs here.


Picture 26.png

UN Wine and Cheese Social

By MATTHEW S HOFFMAN on September 15, 2012
This past Wednesday, September 12th, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Third Annual Wine and Cheese Social at the Centre Furnace Mansion. It was hosted by the United Nations Association of Centre County. My adviser, Sarah Lyall-Combs, suggested it would be a good place to network and meet new faces. Plus, wine and cheese! Also, Dr. Ann Tickamyer, Professor and Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology was presenting on the topic of women’s empowerment in Indonesia and Appalachia.

Since my girlfriend was accepted into a graduate school in the fantasy, beer drinking land that is Belgium, I am without a car. “No problem,” I thought. After all, the weather had been quite lovely the past week. But the universe pulled the trigger on me and cranked up the atmosphere’s furnace Wednesday. The one mile walk from the Bryce Jordan Center to the Centre Furnace Mansion certainly heated up.
Image courtesy of
The event was scheduled to start at 6PM. After trudging through the grasslands (the sidewalks just disappear at some point) and bordering on trespassing, I arrived on time. Sweaty, mind you. Then I had a look at my dress shoes and they were dirty and dusty. I grabbed my name tag from the entrance desk and made sure to clean up my shoes in the bathroom. I like to think Johnny Appleseed would have freshened up too, unless apples reduce perspiration or that whole story is a metaphor for hedonism…
Darting back and forth between every stranger’s eyes, I spotted one of my fellow interns Sara Thompson. Although after my journey through Mordor to get to the place, I was happy just to see humans that weren’t hidden inside speeding cars nearly running me over.
Sara and I poured some wine (and poured some wine) and tried to stay out of the way while we waited for the assistant director of CGS, Sarah Lyall-Combs, who had made my appearance there possible in the first place. At one point I noticed there was, encased in glass and on display, a deed for the sale of a slave named Matthew. Started to wonder about that place’s sense of humor.
At one point, an older gentleman introduced himself and we began talking. He was well-versed in European politics. For a few moments, we discussed possibility of federalism ever making its way into the European system. I didn’t have time to rage against the economic framework of the EU and its failings, as a tour of the mansion was to begin momentarily. Sara and I decided to tag along.
The mansion is spacious, to say the least; however, it is a bit unsettling to watch 200 year old people staring at you from a painting while you trample around their house. One of the rooms, the nursery, especially gave me the creeps. You would think that, considering in those times there was a necessity for a great imagination, they would imagine that their decor resembled a haunted house. But then maybe they just didn’t want company. Once the tour was over, we met up with Mrs. Combs and had some more wine before the presentation started.
Image courtesy of
Dr. Tickamyer’s presentation involved the comparing and contrasting gendered lives of two separate regions: Appalachia and Indonesia. At first, she discussed her childhood trip to Appalachia where the mountainous region amazed her. Dr. Tickamyer also spent time in Indonesia and fell in love with it as well. These personal (I would say profound) moments sparked the creation of the project she was presenting. She highlighted the similarities and differences, such as life at home and work and women’s status in each respective society. The conditions for women, even though they are a world apart, are shocking and depressingly alike. Surprisingly, Indonesians had elected a female president (Megawati Sukarnoputri), whereas the US has not done the same. Unfortunately, women in both regions are still under the patriarchal social structural boot. Reality being the final note.
Overall, the experience was fun and educational. Being in the midst of global mindset and an affinity for all cultures put me in a great mood. Especially working for CGS where I can be proactive in cultural exchange. I was also able to learn more about both Sara and Mrs. Combs, as well as dive headfirst into a taste of post-graduation life. Which, as I fearfully point out, is ever closer than I realize.
As for the ways and means home, Mr and Mrs Combs blessed me with a ride downtown to catch a bus. My feet were most thankful.

First Couple Weeks

By MATTHEW S HOFFMAN on September 15, 2012
During the first two weeks, I have been assigned to do work for my internship at the Center for Global Studies (CGS) on an array of projects. Working with my adviser Sarah Lyall-Combs, CGS’ director Dr. McClennen and our secretary Amy Tegeder has been an engaging and positive experience. Not to mention the other two interns, Sara Thompson and Mary Rish, as well as graduate assistant Jeff Resta, have been a pleasure to work with so far too.
One of the projects I am assigned to is researching grants for a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant application. In particular, this is a grant that will hopefully bring an Arabic lecturer to Penn State.
With this being the beginning of the semester, assignments and duties are at a low hum before the engines of time speed up the schedule. Nevertheless, I have to focus on possible interviews from participants involved in upcoming events. They could potentially be utilized in the CGS newsletter.
As part of my internship, I am to keep in mind my political science studies and synthesize them with my work whenever possible. As far as concepts and theories from coursework are concerned, there is a lot of basic knowledge that has come into play these first couple weeks. Mainly the studying of globalization and geography throughout my college career so far.
However, my interests in the criticism of neoliberalism and capitalism will be tied into an upcoming presentation. On September 19th, Luz Angelica Kirschner will address attendees with a presentation titled: “Neoliberal Globalization and the Mothering of the Nation in Crisis.”
Such presentations are just one of the many types of events that CGS hosts during the semester.
At this juncture, the internship is better than I had anticipated. My tendency to focus on European politics is being challenged, which is great. I’m moving out of my intellectual comfort zone in order to gain a more well-rounded global education. And considering the diversity of topics slated to be covered over the course of the semester, it’s an opportunity to discover more of the world while engaging with the community.

Dr. Sophia McClennen and The Colbert Report

By MATTHEW S HOFFMAN on August 30, 2012

Dr. Sophia McClennen, Director of the Center for Global Studies at Penn State, has written a new book called Colbert’s America. In the book, Dr. McClennen, among other interesting aspects of the Colbert character and show, examines “how the comedy of Stephen Colbert packs enough political punch to change the way a nation thinks.”

Patrick Gavin interviews also Dr. McClennen in the POLITICO article, “Academic goes deep on Colbert,” The article details the inspiration for the project, why Colbert makes a better book subject than Jon Stewart, the influence of Colbert’s super PAC campaign and insightful quotes about the subject from Dr. McClennen herself.

Read both articles for more information!

And for anyone unfamiliar with Colbert, here’s a YouTube video of Stephen Colbert maintaining his character on The O’Reilly Factor:



We Are…The Center for Global Studies

By SARAH LYALL-COMBS on August 29, 2012

With summer winding down — yes, we are but a few days from the unofficial end of summer! — the staff of the CGS has been busy preparing for the 2012-2013 academic year. We have many exciting projects and new collaborations in the works, not the least of which is the research project “Geographies of Power: Justice, Revolution, and the Cultural Imagination” led by CGS Director Sophia McClennen with the Worldwide University Network (WUN), a consortium of 18 research universities from five continents. Here are a select few events currently being planned:


  • Juan Cole, Middle East Expert and Professor of History at Michigan, will speak in October as part of the “Geographies of Power” project. His talk will kick off the series of events for the WUN project.
  •  The CGS Brown Bag Lecture Series, programmed throughout the academic year, will provide a venue for graduate students to present their research to peers, advisors, and the general public.
  •  The CGS will co-sponsor International Careers Expert Stacie Berdan’s visit to campus on November 15, during International Education Week, to talk about international careers and global job search basics.She will also speak to several classes in the afternoon and hold a university-wide session in the evening.
  •  The Center is assisting the Division of Undergraduate Studies in planning a professional development seminar for academic advisors at University Park and branch campuses. The seminar will focus on the theme of fostering global citizenship through academic advising with the goal of encouraging global learning at the undergraduate level.
  •  The Center will provide continued support for the weekly Comparative Literature Luncheon Series.


  • The Center plans to expand the impact of the curriculum developed for World on Trial: Headscarf Law episode by conducting a workshop on the issue this fall to reach middle and high school teachers throughout Pennsylvania. In collaboration with the Title VI National Resource Center at the University of Pittsburgh, this workshop will be webcast to K-12 teachers in the Pittsburgh area thereby increasing the potential for impact.
  • As part of the Center’s commitment to area teachers, we will offer a professional development workshop for practicing K-12 teachers focusing on the teaching of world culture through the visual arts during a teacher in-service day in January at State College High School. This workshop will be convenient for teachers while still providing Act 48 hours as did previous workshops.


  •  In partnership with the United Nations Association of Centre County, the CGS will bring Gillian Sorenson, Senior Advisor, United Nations Foundation, to University Park for a two day visit which will include a public lecture and a forum for students, faculty, and the general public.
  •  The CGS will shift from collaborator to organizer of the spring story time series World Stories Alive! Tales in Many Tongues held at Schlow Library. During each session, children ages 3-8 and their families will experience story time followed by songs or poems conducted in a select foreign language and participate in an extended art project connected to the culture. Over the course of the series, attendees will experience 11 world languages: Chinese; Spanish; Turkish; Arabic; Italian; Hindi; Russian; Hebrew; Korean; Portuguese and Japanese.

We invite you to peruse our web site to learn more about our activities and initiatives. Stay tuned. Be involved.

Sarah Lyall-Combs is the Assistant Director and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Global Studies at Penn State. She can be reached at