Monthly Archives: August 2014

What I’m reading about teaching and learning and higher education

A College President Goes Back to College and Learns a Few Lessons

Wellesley College Takes on The Grading Curve

Is It Possible to Get Students to Put Down Their Cell Phones? (Extra Credit if You Read and Comment on This One)

Yes, This is What I Feel When I Send Out That Email (you know the one) Each August (My Syllabus is 2 Pages)

Using Digital Pens for Teaching

Some excellent videos on how health care leaders view diversity

Events, Funding, and Other Stuff

Nominate your colleagues for the Undergraduate Teaching Award

Get undergraduates involved in your research by posting information here.

Want Help Integrating Technology Into Your Course? Try TLT101

Funding for Developing New International Education Abroad Programs (Deadline Sept. 15 for Spring Semester, Feb 15 for Summer or Fall Semester)

Get a Vision of the Future of Higher Ed or Funding for Technology Innovations (deadline Nov 17) from the Center for Online Innovation in Learning

Looking to Improve Your Teaching? Look Into the Certificate for Online Teaching , sign up for a Schreyer Workshop (new faculty check out their New Colleague Group)

TEDMED is in two weeks. Sign-up and see some interesting talks on the future of health.

Welcome back to students!


I want to welcome all new and returning Health and Human Development students back to Happy Valley. I hope you had a great summer and are ready for an outstanding academic year. I have a few short reminders or requests for you.

1. I want to remind all of our HHD students and student organizations about space available for their use. The Hintz Family Student Center, room 10 in Henderson Building, is YOUR center. It’s a great place to have a student organization meeting, hold a group meeting for a class project, or just relax between classes. Organizations can reserve it for meetings by calling 865-1428 or stopping by the reception desk in 201 Henderson Building (the Dean’s Office). When not in use for student organization meetings, the Hintz Student Center is open for all HHD students to use.

2. I am looking for HHD student volunteers to serve on my Associate Dean’s Advisory Board, a group of students to help me identify ways the College and its departments, faculty and staff can better serve HHD students. We’ll meet about once a month to discuss what’s on your minds and to work on projects for the College.

3. I’m interested in finding some student bloggers who would be willing to share their experiences and thoughts here on this blog, too. There is an events page here where we’ll keep activities of interest to students updated.

If you are interested in blogging with me or serving on the Advisory Board, please send me an email to Heather Zimmerman ( using the subject VOLUNTEER with the following information:

Advisory Board or Blogger:
Skills and experience you can contribute (100 words or less):

Finally, I want to invite you to stay in touch with me. I will have regular office hours for students (Thursday from 1:30-3 PM, call 865-1427 to make an appointment) and will also have Twitter Office Hours (TweetOHs) on Thursday from 8-9:30 PM (@DennisG_Shea and #PSUHHD). Those are times for students to share their ideas for improving HHD with me or just to talk about baseball, academic or career advice or whatever is on your mind. (My staff assistant is out this week, so if you plan on visiting tomorrow, drop me an email rather than calling for an appointment).

Good luck this year!

Our Stellar Students: Jenny Dang, Nutritional Sciences, Post #2

My internship at the YMCA Hilltop in Pittsburgh is coming to an end today and I have nothing but positive experiences to share. At the beginning of the summer, I was excited to help empower these children, but I didn’t realize how large of a mark they would leave on me. (See Jenny’s first post)

This photo features Daijon picking tomatoes for the showcase we had last week. The showcase celebrated projects like DJ 101 and Robokids in which the kids participated in. One highlight of the summer was meeting President and CEO of YMCA of the Greater Pittsburgh Area, Rig Riggins, because he was so thrilled to hear about my project at the community garden.

Jenny Dang

Veggies from the YMCA Showcase

My main project was teaching the kids how to grow vegetables at the community garden. Some of my favorite moments was seeing their faces light up after picking something and saying “Miss Jenny, look at what I grew!!” The garden not only increases overall food security in the Hilltop area, it also encourages them to try different herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

Jenny Dang_1

Some of the staff and kids

I also had the opportunity being a student dietitian for Dr. Barclay’s Camp for Kids with Diabetes at Camp Fitch in Erie, PA. Prior to camp, I was nervous since I had minimal knowledge about diabetes. After being welcomed with open arms by the medical staff from Saint Vincent Hospital and the Dietitians, Renee and Darlene (a PSU alum!) I felt like I was in the right hands.

On a typical day, I discussed menu items with kitchen staff and prepared meal sheets with carbohydrate content for the campers, led games on diabetes management, and performed 12:00 AM and 3:00 AM blood glucose checks. On the first day, I realized how important my job was in monitoring their blood glucose level so they could have fun and be safe. By the end of the week, I became more confident and knowledgeable about what to do when someone has hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

The Dietitians

The Dietitians

The Campers

The Campers

Where I spent my free time

Where I spent my free time

I can’t believe how fast this summer flew by, but I am excited to head back to my home away from home in just a few days. I look forward to being a T.A. for Nutrition 100 and being on the executive board for UNICEF and the Student Nutrition Association this year!

“Worthy Objectives”

Since I was young, I have always collected quotes.  It’s interesting to look back through them and see how my views have changed reflected in the words of others that I thought were important enough to save.  As my daughter left for her first year of college, I gave her a journal that included a few of my favorites.  One of those was a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about education.

“The function of education…is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education that stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals….Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

This quote resonates with me at a time that we debate the value of education and try to measure and assess what a university education provides. Too often, as in my own field of health services research, we measure what we can count, rather than what is the goal of true education or true health care.

I saw a recent article talking about value and measurement in higher education, yet the other value and measurement considered were salaries and return on investment.  These are important goals, but there was not even a consideration that student learning, much less the development of character, were worthy objectives.

As we start a new academic year, I hope that Penn State students and faculty keep in mind these words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and seek the true goal of education.

Our Stellar Students: Sarah Kidder, Biobehavioral Health, Post #2

Hello again! Summer has flown by and in just one week we will be starting classes again.  As for the research I have been doing in Dr. Cavigelli’s lab, everything has been running smoothly! This past week we collected fecal samples (yay) for our Asthma-Anxiety project.  From these samples we will be able to determine cortisol levels during various times of the day. We also have continued running behavioral testing such as the Novel Social and Novel Physical tests. (Sarah’s first post)

To further explain, in the novel social test, an arena is set up with two cages placed inside.  One cage is empty while the other cage has a novel animal (a mouse that the subject being tested has not been housed with) in it.  The mouse and a tube that was housed with it is placed into the arena.  For the next five minutes, we code the mouse’s behavior including latency to the empty cage and the novel animal cage. In the novel physical test, the mouse and its tube are placed into an arena with three other novel tubes and toys.  Latency to a novel object, the number of times touching a novel item, crawling through and on top various toys are all recorded.

These tests are used to determine the social inhibition of each mouse and their reactions to new environments.  A more introverted mouse will tend to stay in his own tube, rarely exploring the other toys in the arena, whereas, a more extroverted mouse will be willing to explore the other toys and animal.

We are concluding testing with this wave of mice and will begin to analyze the data collected.  Another project I will commence, possibly for part of my honors thesis, will be examining lung samples while measuring the thickness of collagen present.

Our Stellar Students: Julia Dunnigan, Nutritional Sciences, Post #2

For the month of July I lived and worked in a rural farming town in West Africa. The word incredible doesn’t even start to describe my experiences in Frankadua, Ghana.

The program I was lucky enough to work with is headed by a volunteer organization called IVHQ. Based out of New Zealand, IVHQ runs volunteer initiatives all over the world that provide much needed help to underprivileged communities.

Myself along with 14 other volunteers were stationed in Frankadua, a small town of 5,000 inhabitants in Ghana’s Volta region. Two programs were based in this town, a teaching program that assisted three local schools and an agriculture program that helped develop farm lands for the community.

I worked with 4 of the other volunteers on the agriculture program. Our main goal that month was to develop a newly acquired plot of land for the poorest of schools in the area.

The first step was to till the soil and remove tree stumps and rocks. We would get up at 5:30am every morning to head to the farm before it got too hot to work in the fields. Everything had to be done by hand or with very basic tools, there were no short cuts to this work. After tilling we planted the 1/3 acre plot of land entirely with watermelon. The watermelon was to be used as a cash crop to help sustain the farm and provide an income to the school.

Field where watermelons were planted.

Field where watermelons were planted.

After planting, the watermelon were left to mature for a week before we fertilized the soil. In that time we worked to raise funds to purchase more land for the school to use. One of the volunteers set up a donation page online, and the response was amazing. After the first few days we had raised over a thousand dollars, enough to purchase two more acres of land for the school and other plots in the community. With the funds we were also able to buy more seeds, including carrot, bean, plantain, and eggplant.

Eggplant seeds.

Eggplant seeds.

Making sheltered beds to mature the eg plant seeds before transplant of the semi matured seedlings to a larger field.

Making sheltered beds to mature the eggplant seeds before transplant of the semi matured seedlings to a larger field.

Not only did I leave knowing that I made an impact on the community, but I also came home with a deeper appreciation for what I usually took for granted. These people, living without running water and many without electricity, were still some of the happiest I have ever met. Their basic way of life just reinforced the locals tight knit community and incredible work ethic. Everyone truly had a place in the village, including the volunteers; and I feel so lucky that I was able to be a part of it.

Julia and some of the kids from the school their farm was benefiting.

Julia and some of the kids from the school their farm was benefiting.

Our Stellar Students: Karlie Hudock, Post #2

Hello, my name is Karlie Hudock, and I am a senior majoring in Health Policy and Administration and minoring in Information Science and Technology in HPA. I am from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, located about 40 miles east of the city of Pittsburgh.

At Penn State, I am involved in the Future Healthcare Executives Club. By joining the club, students are able to become a student associate of the American College of Healthcare Executives. This membership opens doors for students when it comes to networking, career planning, and learning more about the world of healthcare. It is also a great way to increase professional development. This March, our group attended the 2014 Congress on Healthcare Leadership in Chicago.

My career aspirations are to work in the health IT field, hopefully in the greater Pittsburgh area. I am currently completing my internship as a summer associate at UPMC in the Information Services Division (ISD). Follow me on Twitter @karliehudock for quick updates on my experience – look for the hashtag #UPMCSA!

Hi, everyone! My internship is coming to a close in the next week, and I am pleased to say it has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I truly feel like an important part of UPMC, and it is a great feeling to have in an internship experience. I look forward to sharing my experience with other Health Policy and Administration majors upon my return to Penn State this semester.

Looking back on my original blog post at the start of the Summer Associate program, I can’t believe how far I have come and what I have learned. I completed the kick-off presentation for the Information Services Division program – what an experience! I have never had the chance to make a presentation like that before, but it was a great way to get introduced to the executive boardroom. I now feel much more prepared to give my report-out presentation.

I also had the opportunity to have lunch with Dan Drawbaugh, the CIO of UPMC, in the executive boardroom. All of the ISD SAs had the chance to introduce ourselves and tell Mr. Drawbaugh about the projects we have been working on. Other events I was able to participate in included three community service events, a Pirates game and networking dinner, and a tour of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. The service events were super fun.

All of the summer associates in attendance worked together to help make Pittsburgh a better place both for work and play. Service is a key component of the Summer Associates program, and I am happy I was able to give back so much to the community. Another part of the program I have mentioned before is executive exposure. At Penn State, many students love the opportunity to network with alumni, because we all share that special bond of being a Nittany Lion. I felt the same enthusiasm when speaking with individuals from across UPMC about my summer experience and the opportunities that await me in the future.

My main project focus throughout the summer was the Adoption and Utilization of Observation PowerPlans at UPMC East. I gained a lot of skills in project management right from the start. I learned how to complete a project charter and executive summary, both of which guided me through the process of completing tasks and accomplishing goals. I also was able to apply skills in Microsoft Excel by running reports on the observation unit and manipulating them in the program. This led me to be able to produce reports in a way that had previously not been done. I developed charts and graphs for executive leadership to easily review. This became a regular weekly initiative and was an integral portion of the reporting phase of the project.

After rounding with hospitalists at UPMC East, I was able to determine several factors hindering the usage of PowerPlans. Now, at the conclusion of my project, I am proud to say that usage has increased in the Abdominal Pain, Chest Pain, Nausea/Vomiting, and Uncontrolled Back Pain diagnoses codes by 13%, 16%, 30%, and 33%, respectively. The goal at the initiation phase of the project was to increase usage by 10%, so this is a huge accomplishment for me. I am so grateful to all for the help I received along this 11-week journey, and I can’t wait to see where this experience takes me in the next phase of my career!

Our Stellar Students: Rhoda Moise, Biobehavioral Health Post #2

First and foremost, I must thank the Africana Research Center, Schreyer Honors College, Multicultural Resource Center, and the College of Health and Human Development for their support in my research endeavors this summer. This invaluable 5 week experience has forced me to grow personally by pushing my limits of Western comfort passed my perceived limits. (See Rhoda’s first blog post)

There have been nights where I could not sleep because the buzz of mosquitoes jolted me from my sweaty slumber. There have been days where I have lost grasp of the last time I have showered. Amid trying to study for my GREs for graduate school and submit abstracts before conference deadlines with fickle Wi-Fi and prohibitive electrical access, I have fended off numerous anxiety attacks.

I have grown professionally by cultivating a critical research lens in the field. I am now able to effectively conduct interviews in another language, a skill which will be invaluable for my future career aspirations. Through the people I have come across, albeit research participants, my colleagues, taxi drivers, hospital security, etc., humanity has reintroduced itself as an endearingly selfless entity. Life has reminded me of its definition and purpose: to experience. There’s absolutely nothing like bringing your dreams to fruition. Traveling. Transforming. Transcending.

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from Goree Island, located off the shores of Dakar.. through The Door of no Returns into the Atlantic Slave Trade

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from Goree Island, located off the shores of Dakar.. through The Door of no Returns into the Atlantic Slave Trade

Our Stellar Students: Christina Spohn, Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, Post #2

My time at the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) is sadly coming near its end- I will be back at Penn State in less than a month! What a whirlwind these past two months have been: every single day I am doing a different job. The support role allows me to see the aspects of a course from a bit of an outside perspective. I work closely with the Course Director to make sure that every patrol is set up for success before, during and after course.

While supporting courses I have done everything from teaching belaying and assisting with rappelling at rock climbing camps to cooking for 50 students and instructors to driving the whole patrol to get milkshakes. It is not always glamorous though. Some of my other duties regularly include: driving to the Denver airport more times than I care to count, doing 12 loads of laundry in a day and repairing torn sleeping bags.

(Looking out over the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, CO. This is the standard view while assisting with a rock climbing camp at Turtle Rock.)

(Looking out over the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, CO. This is the standard view while assisting with a rock climbing camp at Turtle Rock.)

I have spent 8 days in the field so far, with a 15-day course coming up in the next week! My first crew was a rambunctious group of ten 14-16 year old boys. We spent a week exploring the Mt. Massive Wilderness and successfully summited 14,421 foot Mt. Massive halfway through course! They learned to cook, navigate off-trail, and pick a great campsite. I taught lessons in Leave-No-Trace, group living standards, overcoming fears and more.

I am excited to expand on my lessons with a longer course as I head into the field with my 15-day backpacking course. My patrol is yet again all male, but my two female co-instructors and I have plans for games, peak attempts and a final trail run challenge to use all of the students’ boundless energy!

(My first patrol descending the ridge of Mt. Massive in late June)

(My first patrol descending the ridge of Mt. Massive in late June)

My days off at COBS hardly feel like days off-in a good way! I have summited 14,000 foot mountains, rock climbed hundreds of feet up cliffs, seen a show at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheater and explored the nearby ski towns. One of my favorite days off was a trip to Hanging Lake, a beautiful turquoise pool near Glenwood Springs, CO.

(Me after the Royal Flush- a 6 hour, 1,500 foot rock climbing route overlooking I-70 outside of Frisco, CO. Don’t worry Mom- I wore my helmet the whole way up!)

(Me after the Royal Flush- a 6 hour, 1,500 foot rock climbing route overlooking I-70 outside of Frisco, CO. Don’t worry Mom- I wore my helmet the whole way up!)

This internship has been a dream come true- I work in one of the most supportive environments I have ever been in. In this community of other explorers and environmentalists, I have found teaching and technical mentors as well as life-long friends. I am excited to take the culture of feedback, the eternal sense of adventure and the love of inspiring students back to my community at Penn State and to my future jobs, whatever they may be.

See Christina’s first blog post

Our Stellar Students: Sarah Kidder, Biobehavioral Health

Hello everyone! I am a rising junior pursuing a major in Biobehavioral Health with minors in Global Health, Spanish, and Biology.  After completing my education at Penn State, I plan to work in the public health arena.  Driven by passions for human rights, gender rights, and every person’s basic right to health care, I aspire to launch a non-profit organization that benefits women’s reproductive and sexual health in both developing and developed countries.

More specifically, I hope to work with those women and children who have been trafficked into the sex industry.  With the use of drugs to force compliance and the engaging in unprotected sex with multiple sex partners daily, the risk of being exposed to HIV is certainly heightened.  After completing my public health fieldwork experience (as required for the completion of the Global Health minor), and pursuing other abroad opportunities provided under the Schreyer Honors College, I hope to gain insight into constructing a successful and sustainable organization of this nature.

Another passion of mine is the study of mental health, which leads me to my research work here at Penn State. The issue of mental health and the stigma attached to it has too often been swept under the rug in this country, leading to the tragic events such as school shootings and suicides.  Globally, more than 350 million people suffer from depression, a staggering number that can no longer be ignored.

Currently, I am working in Dr. Sonia Cavigelli’s Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Lab.  In this lab, we study the effects of early childhood stressors and the possible connection to the diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders later on in life. We utilize a rodent model to study behavioral and physiological changes that result from an induced asthma stressor created with an ester called methacholine, along with environmental stressors.  Each animal’s behavior is observed throughout adolescence using various behavioral testing and stress is measured by observing the cortisol levels of the mice.

Since moving back to State College two weeks ago, I have been preparing tissues for observation including brain, prefrontal cortex, lung, hypothalamus, and hippocampus samples. We have also started with a new liter of animals where we will try to determine the exact amount of methacholine needed to produce a stress response.  We also plan to begin analyzing data collected from the past year.  I hope to give you a look into our results in my next post!