Khaleel Desaque fulfilled a special promise on October 29 in Shippensburg University’s Old Main Chapel. About ten years ago, he promised his grandmother that he’d earn his doctorate, and this fall, he defended his dissertation for a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. “My grandmother aspired to be a teacher and was denied the ability,” he said. “It was my calling and her dream.”
To the students who pursue it, there’s nothing minor about the theatre minor at Shippensburg University. Learning the foundations of acting, production, and technical theatre from the minor’s dedicated faculty have led alumni to entertaining and rewarding careers.
Many of us have nailed the winning shot at the buzzer, set a new world record, scored the go-ahead touchdown, or hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning for our favorite team. And then we snap out of our daydreams. The vast majority of us will never get the call that we’ve been selected to play a sport at the professional level as several Shippensburg University athletes did this year.
Teaching oceanography at a landlocked university is next to impossible— Dr. Sean Cornell, professor of geography/earth science, has tried it elsewhere.
Thankfully, a fifty-year partnership with the Chincoteague Bay Field Station (CBFS) in Virginia allows Ship students to experience the ocean and all that comes with it.
“I never had the chance to take students to the ocean, but here I can put them on a boat in the ocean. They can feel the sand, taste the salt water. You can’t get that from a text book.”
Located in Wallops Island, Virginia, the field station has served thousands of students as an environmental education center since 1968. Partner schools, including Ship, take advantage of the field station’s educational and research opportunities that provide hands-on learning and access to equipment, facilities, marine life, and more that is not accessible on their campuses.
Dr. Nathan Thomas, associate professor of biology, has taught classes at Wallops Island since 2010. This past June, he again offered a three-week on-site ornithology class. “Students see how it works, see the information, feel it, and we talk about it,” he said. “It’s getting dirty, that’s what it’s all about.”
This October, the field station will celebrate fifty years of its continued collaboration with partner schools. In a time when these partnerships are dwindling nationwide, Cornell said the anniversary is a recognition of the last fifty years, but also an opportunity to look forward to the next fifty.
“We’re building new bonds and new relationships,” he said. “This is an investment in experience and research.”
In the late 1950s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ushered in a scientific revolution, tasking American scientists with advancing the world, Cornell said. “When he said this, there was an explosion of research. In Pennsylvania, universities were trying to figure out how to prepare students for those jobs.”
Ten years later, a summer program started at two locations—Cape May, New Jersey, and Lewes, Delaware. By 1973, the operation moved to Wallops Island, Cornell said, and at that point, the organization partnered with NASA. A consortium was established to create collaborative programs and fund resources. Eleven of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education universities are partners with the field station. Faculty and students use the facility for field trips, research, and classes, working with educators across disciplines and from sister universities.
“A lot of these projects wouldn’t happen if we weren’t collaborating,” Cornell said. “The goals and strategies of the campuses are to come together for the common good.”
Pulling together a consortium without knowing if it will succeed, surviving location changes, and tweaking programming is a testament to how many people are invested in the field station, Thomas said. Nationally, a program like this is unusual, he added. “Many people don’t understand how valuable an asset like this is to our students, despite the cost. Students gain so much from this, walking away with an undergraduate degree knowing that this helped to shape them into the scientists they are.”
Sarah Bartles ’13-’16m was first introduced to the field station while conducting undergraduate research with Cornell. Recently, she joined the CBFS as its university and research coordinator. She works with State System universities and others to plan field trips and classes so faculty and students can use the field station’s equipment, labs, and research vessels.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s well worth it,” she said. “Ship is an outstanding example of how dedicated faculty are to the field station.”
It’s not unusual for someone to stop Dr. Pablo Delis, professor of biology, when he wears his CBFS t-shirt. In Florida, a man stopped Delis after recognizing his shirt and asked if Delis was from Pennsylvania. “This has been linked to the history of Pennsylvania for fifty years or more,” he said. “I meet a lot of people. The experience of their education and the intellectual growth with the consortium helped them find a love of nature.”
Bartles worked with Delis as an undergraduate to study what types of snakes, turtles, and amphibians lived on Wallops Island. “The field station was my first research experience, and I absolutely loved it,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done for ten years, and just started with the field station.”
In addition to undergraduate research, Delis teaches zoology and costal herpatology courses at CBFS. He said these classes would be impossible to teach elsewhere. “I’d have to use lab specimens from a jar. This is the most hands-on experience. It’s field biology. When you catch a fish there—catch it alive—and it’s jumping up and down in your hands, it allows students the first contact with their profession.”
Teddy Them ’08 credits Cornell with getting students in the field and sparking his own love for field work. Them is completing his post doc in Florida and has a professorship set up in the fall in South Carolina. “Field experience is so important when applying for grad school,” he said. “When you experience it, it makes it so much better. You bring the classroom experience to the field, then bring the field experience back to the classroom.”
As an exercise in one of his classes at the field station, Cornell provides students with GPS coordinates from about ten years prior and charges them with finding the location. After walking around for some time, students follow the coordinates to the shoreline. Perplexed, they claim they can’t find it, so the coordinates must be wrong.
“Well, it’s been eaten (by shoreline erosion),” he said. “Those are the kinds of impactful moments. It’s scary, but it’s also real.”
Cornell has championed the field station since he began work there in 2006. In fact, he accepted an offer to teach at Ship over another university because of the partnership with CBFS. At his previous university, his only resources were video, textbooks, and a waveless pool. At the field station, he can do lab activities on-site, identify live organisms, study sediments, sample pH levels, or explore different coastal environments.
“About a third of my students have not seen the ocean,” Cornell said. “It’s not the beach experience with the boardwalk and the saltwater taffy. It’s going to see the environment without disturbance.”
Additionally, the field station offers faculty and students an opportunity to work with more than $600,000 worth of equipment that isn’t available on their campus. “They learn a powerful boat is important,” Delis said. “We’re traveling twenty, thirty, forty miles off shore. They learn the logistics and equipment necessary to plan that trip.”
Dr. Adrienne Oakley, assistant professor of geology and marine science at Kutztown University, said these experiences are huge for her students. “This is not equipment we have on campus. This is hundreds and thousands of dollars of equipment they get to use as undergrads,” she said. “It’s hands on, in the field. They get to manipulate data, do amazing dives, and take quizzes underwater.”
These experiences are significant to students as they see classroom concepts come to life. For one class, Oakley’s students collected specimens from flooded streets. “It’s meaningful because they can connect it to the real world. We were dragging nets through the road catching eels and fish during spring tide,” she said. “Hey, that’s sea level rise and climate change.”
Climate change was a national focus in the early 2000s when Them attended Ship. His hands-on classes with Cornell allowed him to touch organisms and see how they were affected by the earth. “We put our hands in the sand or mud, went kayaking in the bay. It’s a necessary component.”
And it’s a component he now uses in his own classes. In his history of geology course, he takes students camping. “It’s really nice having students who have never gone camping before. You see the light bulb go off. They think about things they hadn’t considered before.”
There are fifteen students in Thomas’ field class—the max who can fit in a van for transport—from several universities. In addition to Ship students, the classes includes people from Millersville, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown, and Bloomsburg, to name a few.
“I actually had experiences here as an undergraduate from IUP,” he said. “The research experience shaped me. I worked as a field assistant. …That attracted me to Ship.”
CBFS provides students with classes that might not be offered at their home institution, creating opportunities to network and research with faculty and students from other campuses. “Having an experience with a faculty member who is so passionate about a subject while they’re in the field is big. Students feel the same thing—it’s contagious,” he said.
That’s how Oakley and Joao Silveira Meyers, a graduate student in geoenvironmental studies, started their research collaboration. Silveira took a class at the field station last summer and stayed on for Oakley’s course, working with her to develop a thesis. Oakley co-advised Silveira Meyers’ work with Cornell.
“As he created his thesis, he approached me with a plan,” she said. “I get to experience students from other universities and get to collaborate with faculty while doing the research (at the field station).”
Silveira Meyers earned his undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering in Brazil. He said he did work in oceanography, but there wasn’t a facility like CBFS. “Most of my work was in class and in theory. I wanted to learn how to do field work and how to collect samples.”
Much of the research occurred at CBFS, but Silveira Meyers also traveled to Kutztown to meet with Oakley. When Silveira Meyers presented his research at the end of spring semester, Oakley traveled to Ship to watch it. “It was a great advantage to partner with students and faculty from another university,” he said. “It would not be possible without this partnership.”
Looking to the Future
In October, the field station will invite alumni, faculty, and stakeholders to Wallops Island to celebrate the fifty-year partnership. Bartles is in the process of organizing a weekend of events.
“We want them to come down and see what we do at the field station. We’ll highlight our professors and take people out on guided tours at sites or on boats,” she said. “They’ll see what we’re working on at the field station and why it’s important.”
The field station’s significance cannot be overlooked. “We need to be unique,” Thomas said. “In a challenging world where we’re competing for students on a regular basis, this gives us an opportunity to be unique.”
The opportunity for this level of field work as an undergraduate is unparalleled, according to Oakley. “There are tons of field stations throughout the country, but almost all are associated with research universities and almost all are grad focused. The fact is, 90 percent or more of this is with undergraduates,” she said. “The benefit to current students is almost unquantifiable. Our students are so far ahead of even students situated on the coast, because most of that work is for grad students.”
The CBFS attracts students and faculty to State System schools, she added. “I came from the University of Hawaii. It’s why I came to Kutztown. It’s why Sean (Cornell) came to Shippensburg.”
This partnership is about the future. “Education is never about short-term outcomes. It’s about longterm outcomes, successes, and values,” Delis said. “We have to invest and support this institution now in order to see the tremendous and valuable return on our investment.”
“We’re going to get that investment back tenfold.”
From the moment new students step foot on campus for orientation in June, orientation leaders greet them with an infectious enthusiasm and willingness to answer any questions. When they return in August to begin their first semester at Ship, Fall Welcome Week activities help first-year students take their initial steps in their college careers.
Some students thrive when they are let loose to discover their interests and career aspirations through their classes and participation in clubs and organizations. Others may feel unprepared and struggle to find the resources they need to succeed.
The First-Year Experience (FYE), which will be introduced into the curriculum for all incoming students in fall 2018, will employ new teaching techniques and make university-wide strides toward student success—even more than it does already.
“It’s kind of like students in high school are being asked to come to campus and they’ve never driven. And now we’re giving them all sports cars and saying, okay, drive! But they don’t know how to drive, where to drive, or what driving looks like,” said Richard Zumkhawala-Cook, an English professor who will teach two First-Year Seminar courses next semester.
“And at the same time (there are) all sorts of opportunities, so we give them big roads, too. But I think the First-Year Experience class will help guide them. Some students get here and they say ‘I don’t want to drive,’ but that’s what you’re supposed to do here. Or they’ll say, ‘I don’t know where to drive.’ Well, we will help you.”
From Idea to Reality
An FYE program isn’t a new idea on college campuses. Several colleges and universities in Pennsylvania have these types of programs, such as King’s College and Edinboro University. It isn’t a new idea for Shippensburg University, either.
“For almost thirty years they have talked about introducing a First-Year Seminar, but it really took new life with the hiring of President Laurie Carter,” said Dr. Steven Burg, chair of the History and Philosophy Department and FYE co-coordinator.
“She had both been someone who had a First-Year Seminar when she was in college, and I think that she had also seen what a First-Year Seminar could do for students while at Eastern Kentucky University. So for her, it was one of her top priorities when coming in as president of Shippensburg.”
In order to make room for the new First-Year Seminar course, University 101, the general education curriculum needed to undergo some changes.
“When this (idea) came along, one of the things that the History Department decided to do was—because of the value of first-year seminars—we made a significant change to what we do as a department,” Burg said.
Instead of History 105 being offered for first-year students during the fall semester and History 106 in the spring, the History Department faculty will now focus on teaching the First-Year Seminar in the fall. This means students will be required to only take one general education history course instead of two.
“For me and my department, this is something we believe is a good thing for the university—a good thing for students— and we are deeply involved in this.”
Once the new course fit into the freshmen curriculum, Burg and Dr. Laurie Cella, English professor and FYE co-coordinator, as well as other program administrators had to figure out how to get the ball rolling in a short period of time.
Some measures that followed included constructing the FYE curriculum, and recruiting and training peer mentors and faculty.
All Hands on Deck
While the developmental process of the FYE was by no means effortless, there was a significant amount of support across campus, and individuals stepped up to fill the empty roles quickly.
“My sense is that there wasn’t a single person who had one person come up and say ‘will you teach this class?’ It was something that was in the air that we’re breathing. It was coming from so many different levels. It was coming from Old Main, it was coming from the departments, it was coming from the faculty leadership and university leadership,” Zumkhawala-Cook said.
Since the First-Year Seminar will be a required course for all first-year students, there will be more than sixty-five sections. Each will be capped at twenty students so that the class sizes remain small and manageable. Of the numerous sections, about forty-four professors from a variety of departments will teach the course, and some have volunteered to instruct two sections.
While the professors have some flexibility in the application of material within their sections, the introductory course will focus on four main things—cultivating academic and scholarly success, engagement Ship students train as Peer Anchors to mentor incoming freshman entering the First-Year Experience. with the university community, fostering personal development and wellness, and promoting an understanding of diversity and social responsibility.
These concepts will be built upon in general education classes in the following semesters, including Introduction to Human Communication, Writing Intensive First-Year Seminar, and Introduction to Academic Writing. Students will intentionally take these courses with the same group of twenty or fewer students that they did in the First-Year Seminar class, so the peer connections made in the classroom will grow into lasting bonds.
In addition to the relationships built among fellow first-year students, each course of the First-Year Seminar will be equipped with a student mentor who carries the title “Peer Anchor.”
“They’re going to be essential because there are many times that my students are afraid to come to me for a variety of reasons. It’s not even just afraid, it’s that most professors are authority figures and first time students don’t know how to approach us. So the Peer Anchors are going to be the bridge from the students themselves and the professors,” said Dr. Stephanie Jirard, professor of criminal justice who will teach a First-Year Seminar course in the fall.
Lindsay Walker, a sophomore psychology major and future FYE Peer Anchor is excited to mentor to new students. She said this will help her build interpersonal skills and allow her to directly impact the next generation of Ship students.
“It’s definitely going to be an exciting experience to work with a faculty member, as Shippensburg has a diverse mixture of faculty members with so much to offer incoming students,” she said.
Students and faculty are just two of the populations on campus actively participating in the student-centered FYE. Many faculty members think this culture shift contributes to the campus-wide unity that Carter advocates. “Under the leadership of President Carter, there has been an effort to try to break down divisions within the university—to get people talking and collaborating together in some ways that in the past they may not have been doing as much,” Burg said.
“I think the more that we can build connections across campus, the more that we can get all people thinking about how we all have different roles but we are all here to support and serve the students, this is going to be a powerful period of change for the university.”
Making Students the Priority
While the successes of other FYE programs were used as a foundation to shape Ship’s program, how to address and fulfill the needs relevant to this campus is something that the co-coordinators and campus leaders are still exploring.
“Every institution is different, so we don’t want this to be Clarion’s or Harvard’s or Georgetown’s first-year seminar. We want this to really be something that reflects what’s unique about Shippensburg University,” Burg said.
With the tendencies of Ship students in mind, the FYE curriculum will monitor and address the weekly development of first-year students as they adjust to college life.
The first two weeks on campus are considered the “honeymoon,” when everything is new and unfamiliar to students. During these initial weeks, professors will strive to make students feel welcome and supported. Following the “honeymoon” is week three and four, “culture shock,” which is when students begin to have their initial doubts. It is essential for them to develop a sense of purpose and connection to the university.
Weeks six through nine approach “the initial adjustment and growth through experience” phase. Students finally begin to relax on campus and gain the confidence to step outside their comfort zones. Around the midterm at weeks eight to twelve is the time of “mental isolation or evolution,” which calls for reassessment and strengthening skills and study methods.
When the final weeks of the semester come to a close, students are met with “acceptance and integration.” During this time, the workload and intensity are high while students are prepping for final exams, but they also begin to feel closure and at home on campus.
By discussing these phases in the classroom and encouraging students to speak with their professor or Peer Anchors for additional support, these issues will be addressed and students will receive the guidance they need.
Cultivating Skills for Success
Like many FYE professors, Jirard will approach the progression of these phases and the curriculum themes of success, community engagement, and diversity with creative teaching. She will require Frankenstein as a reading in her class because it conveys a series of themes that are especially engaging for first-year students.
“We’re going to start with the novel and then branch out on those themes—criminal justice themes, deviance, society’s acceptance,” she said. “All of these are things I plan to relate to our current world in an academic way.”
Students will research the themes by reading related articles and completing assignments that will prompt them to further analyze their findings. After the concepts are cultivated in the classroom, students will be encouraged to apply them to their lives and the lives of others by attending events on campus and participating in service learning.
“Instead of it being about product, the students will become skilled in reflective practices and experience. It’s going to require them to be tapped in on everything that is going on around campus,” Zumkhawala-Cook said.
First-Year Seminar professors will encourage students to attend activities paid for by their tuition, then cater discussion around those events in class. Each class also will take part in two service experiences in the community during the semester.
“There are a various ways to make this connections happen through the First-Year Seminar. Some faculty and Peer Anchors may choose our fall day of service, others may choose a trip to a museum, or a musical, or partnering with a nonprofit agency to do a service-learning project,” said Javita Thompson, director of FYE and community engagement.
These experiential components of the course will work to foster connections that exist both on and off campus for students.
While the core of the FYE program will have the greatest impact on first-year students, the ripple effects of campus connectivity will not stop at the first semester or the first year. The hope is that rethinking the framework for first-year students will lead professors to revaluate teaching practices of all courses.
“We’re thinking about building a more strategic and purposeful teaching and learning series for the next year and hoping that would grow into a center of teaching and learning,” Cella said. “I want to think of this as a really exciting opportunity to think more critically about our teaching strategies and how we can continue to grow them, and foster a sense of a community of scholars thinking about how their teaching is impacting students.”
Considering how the additional resources and mentorships provided through the FYE will better acclimate first-year students, the program will likely become a stepping-stone for improvements across campus. However, with this fall being the first year for FYE on campus, in many ways it will be a trial and error experience that will help shape its future.
“This is always going to be a work in progress. We’re committed to doing this to the best possible extent that we can,” Burg said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of assessment and reflection to keep trying to make it better. We haven’t even offered the seminar the first time, and we’re already planning for the second time.”
Burg and other FYE administrators have noted that first-year students are not the only students who are faced with struggles when adjusting to college life. Transfer students, non-traditional students, and veterans are all groups that they hope to include in FYE in future years with a similar course, such as University 201.
This is only one of the many possibilities for the FYE, and the opportunities for growth are plentiful because of the campuswide dedication to student success.
“The energy is different than I’ve seen in a long time here as far as doing something new and feeling good about what we’re doing,” Zumkhawala-Cook said. “We’re going into it with all of our energy forward, so (the future) looks very optimistic.”
By Bill Morgal '06-'10M
The overarching goal for Shippensburg Field Hockey in 2017 was attainable, but also unprecedented. The Raiders planned to defend their national championship.
To do that, a veteran squad had to transition. Hall of Fame Head Coach Bertie Landes announced her retirement after the season, and Tara Zollinger arrived in February as head coach.
“The first time I met them on my interview (players) asked me, ‘We want to win a national championship again; are you going to help us get there?’” Zollinger said. “When I took over, I said, ‘It’s going to be really hard, and there are going to be ups and downs.’ They knew that we needed to make changes, but at the same time, be able to keep the traditions and keep the culture they worked so hard for three years to create.”
As predicted, there were plenty of bumps and challenges along the way. But the end result was everything that the Raiders desired. On a cold, grey November Sunday in Louisville, Kentucky, Shippensburg posted a 4-1 victory over number one seed LIU Post to claim the NCAA Division II National Championship.
The Raiders struck early, and then often—blitzing the Pioneers with a series of offensive strikes. Senior Madison Scarr, the SU Student Government Association president, scored on the first shot of the game less than ten minutes in with a redirect at the edge of the goal.
Shippensburg scored three times in the second half, beginning with a penalty stroke converted by freshman Jazmin Petrantonio, a recruit from Argentina who was named the 2017 Atlantic Region Player of the Year. LIU Post, in search of offense, pulled their goalie in favor of a kicking back with 12:40 remaining. But the Raiders added goals down the stretch by senior Brooke Sheibley and sophomore Rosalia Cappadora to clinch the win.
“This is surreal,” Zollinger said after the game. “It’s amazing, and I am so proud of our senior leadership and our young ones who came on. We had a vision, and we had a goal, and every single day at practice we knew what our vision was. We knew what our goal was, and today we got it done, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Of that veteran leadership, Shippensburg boasted eleven seniors in 2017. The class finished with
a 65-17 record, three NCAA Championship appearances, and back-to-back national championships.
“Since our senior class is so big, there were always different opinions and feelings going around the team. But we really have one goal, and every game we’re always on the same page with the game plan and how we’re going to execute it,” senior captain Kylie Huffman said.
“We really brought that in with the underclassmen to make sure they understand how Ship Hockey operates.”
Huffman said the coaching staff provided positive change. “They brought new ideas and new trends starting in hockey to our world, especially with our scouting report. That was a whole new thing that we saw, and I think that just excelled our hockey even more. So, I’m really happy about where we are right now.”
Defensively, the Raiders allowed eight shots or less to all three of their opponents in the NCAA Tournament, a feat it accomplished just six times all year entering the postseason. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Ally Mooney, an All-Tournament Team selection, finished with twelve saves over the course of the NCAA Playoffs.
“With the new coaching staff, we definitely changed up our tactics on the field here and there, but I think we came together as a defensive unit and really supported each other,” Mooney said. “I think just having faith in each other and knowing that we work together well is how we got there.”
The victory also resulted in Zollinger becoming the first person to win an NCAA Division II National Championship in her first year as a collegiate head coach.
“I have a really great group of athletes who were willing to work incredibly hard,” she said. “Whatever division or whatever level you are playing at, whenever you have people who are willing to work and set their mind on something, it’s a coach’s dream. I am so excited. It’s amazing that our senior leadership was able to get it done two years in a row and make this dream for our university. I am so excited about where we have yet to go, but these women and the legacy they left, it’s incredible.”
In terms of legacies, the victory also is a continuation of the #FlyHigh22 tradition that became a fundamental foundation of the field hockey squad as it plays in memory of Amanda Strous.
“Going into this game, this was the last field Amanda (Strous) played on her senior year,” Sheibley said. “So, knowing that, I knew that I had to lay it all out,I had to support my teammates, and I knew my teammates were going to support me whenever things weren’t going my way.”
Passion and hard work were evident all season long, especially through the determination of junior team member Megan Hart. Diagnosed with leukemia in September, SU rallied around its teammate and adopted the mantra of #HartStrong during her recovery.
“Meg’s our biggest motivator. When we found out about her diagnosis, we had a team meeting and we talked about what we needed to do to support her,” Zollinger said. “Then also we talked about from here on out, every single game is for Meg. We talked about getting a game ball to be able to give her, and we wanted to be able to write every single date of every single win that we have on that ball to be able to give to her. She’s been such a motivation for us.”
Despite the many layers of adversity, and the myriad trials and tribulations that a season can provide, Shippensburg stood firm in wanting to accomplish its main goal. And, when it came down to it, they did just that.
“It was a give and take, but in the end, we had trust in each other,” Zollinger said. “We knew what our vision was, and we knew what needed to be done to make that vision happen.”
Bill Morgal ’06-’10m is SU’s sports information director.
By Chris Eckstine '14
For some college students, taking on a minor is required. Others simply want to use a minor to help them find their career sweet spot.
But the students enrolled in the disability studies program at Shippensburg University aren’t just taking a minor—they’re part of a movement.
“The minor was always conceived as being very interdisciplinary, and not from a biomedical model, but from a social-cultural model of thinking about how do societies think about disability, what do they define as disability, how does that change across time and place, what kinds of policies are created and what are the implications of those for the real lives of people with disabilities,” said Dr. Allison Carey, sociology professor and disability studies minor director.
The program, now celebrating five years, started with one course.
“There was no way for students to get that specialty across the university or even to recognize it. So the project started with just an honors interdisciplinary class,” Carey said.
The 18-credit minor is now one of the biggest on campus, and it grew quickly.
“We started really working on bringing in speakers to raise awareness around disability and as a path for student careers, but also the campus philosophy that this was part of multiculturalism, that this was part of diversity, and then we started working on the minor,” she said.
Before the program sheet was drawn up, the push for inclusiveness on campus already was in motion. From an Introduction to Exceptionalities class prior to the minor’s creation about seven years ago, the award-winning student group, People Involved Equally (PIE), was born. Students have since created the Disability Awareness Club, which won an award last year for enhancing diversity.
During weekly PIE meetings, adults with developmental disabilities come onto campus and participate in various activities.
“It gives me a different view of people, especially with people with disabilities,” said Tori Bender, PIE’s vice president. “I have made friendships I probably would have never made and met people I probably would have never met if I didn’t just take time to open my eyes and just learn.”
Bender, a social work major and disability studies minor, also is a job coach for high school students with disabilities. The junior credits PIE with sparking her interest in taking Introduction to Disability Studies in the first place.
“It honestly changed the way I thought about everything.”
Bender is just one of many success stories within the minor. Students with majors in all three of Ship’s colleges are taking on disability studies and getting involved with groups like PIE. Faculty created a Disability Studies Steering Committee to incorporate related curriculum in many departments, a movement Carey insists can only benefit from more growth.
That integration allowed Holly Harrar ’16 to zero in on her career aspirations and pursue her passions at the same time. For her, the topic of disability always has been personal.
“(My cousin) was the same age as me and battled juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Her fingers and joints were so inflamed there were days she could barely move. Those were on days where her condition was the worst. On others, she attended preschool with me, played for hours in the yard, and had a laugh that could turn someone’s day around. In October 2005, she passed away from complications with a new medication. From that point on, I found ways to provide kids just like Courtney with opportunities to thrive. It’s also why I decided to become a disability studies minor,” Harrar said.
A communication/journalism major, Harrar didn’t think twice about declaring a minor in disability studies when the time came. Her growing knowledge of disability studies and her involvement with SUTV formed the two-pronged approach to combining her communication capabilities and her desire to tell the world about the disability community.
“Once enrolled in a few courses, my curiosity began to grow. I started asking questions about my life as a typical college student and if someone with a disability, who otherwise is just like me, can go to college. I was naive to the fact that they can and they have been across the country for years. Why didn’t I know about it? Immediately, I wanted to share this with my professors, peers, and as much of Shippensburg University that I could. So I did some research and decided the best way I could do this is by finding a college or university with a program for students with disabilities and ask if I could bring my camera and document how they run their program,” she said.
George Mason University allowed Harrar to do her project. The story aired on SUTV and later earned an Emmy®. “The biggest reward came from the disability studies professors who gave me the inspiration, knowledge, and guidance to spread the message of opportunity for people with disabilities. I am forever grateful,” she said.
Harrar is now a reporter for Blue Ridge Communications TV-11, covering northern Lancaster County, where she always looks for ways to give viewers a better idea of the disability community.
Prior to landing that job, she had the opportunity to work as a one-on-one aide with a high school student with a physical disability that limited his mobility.
“Although he could do everything for himself, except get around the school the same as everyone else, he was a fully-functioning high school sophomore but sat alone at lunch. After my first day working with him, I decided it would be the last time I would let him eat lunch alone. I sat with him, talked about sports, his pets, and how annoying last night’s homework was. Sometimes, a simple conversation is all it takes to realize someone with a disability isn’t all that different from you.”
That realization is a point students in the minor and groups like PIE and the Disability Awareness Club hope everyone can understand. Students in these groups interact with people with disabilities, something they might not have done before. That’s why events like inclusive basketball—a no labels, no hierarchy, no judgement event—give students and participants a chance to simply be united.
“It’s easy to stay away when you’re not forcing yourself to be involved, but once you are, you’re like, this is fun. It’s not intimidating; it’s not scary,” Bender said.
Students like Harrar and Bender may not have found themselves in a position to better understand disability had they not come to Ship.
“There aren’t that many disability studies programs yet, so we’re very cutting edge in that regard,” said Carey, who was vice president of the Society for Disability Studies and chair of the disability section of the American Sociological Association.
Although the program is only five years old, other schools have taken notice of Ship’s practices. Carey said both the University of South Florida and Millersville University have reached out to her about the minor’s introductory course, which involves a student panel where some students talk publicly about their disability experiences for the first time.
“We are one of the few programs that has taken the liberal arts basis of disability studies really seriously and made it across all three colleges. And we have great faculty,” Carey said.
“For example, Dr. Marita Flagler has worked on writing disability law in Albania, considering how the Americans with Disabilities Act might work in a country like Albania.”
Carey, her colleagues, and eager students have furthered the discussion on disabilities over the past five years and will continue to do so in the future.
At Ship, the disability studies program has proven that higher education is not limited to the opening of one’s mind, but can involve the opening of one’s heart.
“The disability studies minor taught me about patience in that no two people are the same, nor are two people with disabilities the same. I was able to learn new ways to interact with people with disabilities everywhere I went. This ultimately changed my day-to-day interactions with all people for the better,” Harrar said.
The program, once an aspiration that began as a lone class, has blossomed into a continuous conversation. It has been integral in students, faculty, and staff alike, taking a hard look at accessibility on campus. Their work has resulted in tangible changes, such as the addition of ramps and an increase in accessibility-related signage.
“The buildings and grounds folks took our suggestions so seriously. Shippensburg met the requirements of the ADA, but the requirements of the ADA don’t necessarily create an inclusive, welcoming campus,” Carey said.
Accessibility continues to be a focal point because of classwork in the minor. Students have taken on related capstone projects and created surveys to report the findings back to the university, resulting in policy change in the Office of Disability Services. The program is designed so that students in any field of study can connect disability with their major.
“If you’re in business, you can think about human resources and disability or disability as a market. If you’re in criminal justice, the majority of people in the criminal justice system, adults and juveniles, have some kind of disability label. If you’re in education, certainly disability is going to be relevant. In exercise science, you’re dealing with physicality. Whatever specialty you’re in, disability will likely be very relevant for you,” Carey said.
While great work has been completed over the past five years, the remaining work is not lost on the faculty and students. That mindset will continue the push to meet the demand for sign language on campus. It will continue the conversation about building a program for students with intellectual disabilities to attend higher education. The pioneers of the program continually look to expand it, both internally and externally.
“It gives students a valued skillset that’s a little different than what other students are getting, but also, students often want a sense that they’re improving the world,” Carey said. “And I think disability studies helps give them that sense that they’re participating in something, that the culture is changing. It’s improving in this aspect and they can be a part of that because there’s still so much work to be done. There’s still so much stigma and exclusion. So, to be kind of on the front end of that, I think students find that exciting.”
Chris Eckstine ’14 is SU’s digital content producer.
The rails that physically divided the town of Shippensburg nearly one hundred years ago are now strengthening the connection between the university and downtown communities as plans surrounding the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail steam ahead.
For years, a sign at the edge of campus proclaimed the trail was under development. Graduating classes for more than a decade wondered if plans to enhance the old “goat path” would ever come to fruition. When Dr. Allen Dieterich-Ward started teaching history at Ship, he had the same thought.
“I love rail trails and have studied them a lot,” he said. “We moved here in 2006, and one of the first things I noticed was the ‘trail under development’ sign. Year after year, the sign never changed, and I wondered what the deal was.”
The forces that derailed the trail were complicated, but not impossible to overcome. The Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council (CVRTC), which owned the stretch of trail through campus, needed funding and a solid partner, namely the university, Dieterich-Ward said. Once that happened, the trail development was on a fast track.
Over the past year, the CVRTC celebrated the opening of a new bridge over Foglesonger Road, a paved expansion through campus, the addition of a comfort station at the trailhead off Earl Street, and the acquisition and relocation of an original Penn Central boxcar. On April 21, the university and several downtown partners will host TrailFest, a combined race and BrewFest held at the newly established trailhead off Earl Street. The community event will cap off a week of activities surrounding President Laurie Carter’s inauguration on April 20. Organizers are excited that this most recent partnership between the university, the CVRTC, and downtown organizations will revitalize town and create future opportunities.
“I feel like we have a movement right now, and we can really make a difference,” Dieterich-Ward said.
For nearly twenty years, the CVRTC has developed the former Cumberland Valley Railroad into an eleven-mile, multipurpose recreation trail. The section through Shippensburg Township Park was completed in 2006, but the stretch through campus sat relatively untouched.
Dr. Paul Taylor, associate professor of mathematics, used the trail with his wife and started attending CVRTC meetings about ten years ago. “At the time I joined, the trail from Shippensburg Township Park to Newville was completed, and we were trying to keep it maintained,” he said. “We owned the stretch through Ship’s campus, but didn’t have the money to improve it.”
About five years ago, the CVRTC received a grant to complete the trail on Ship’s campus, Taylor said. After dealing with a few practical issues, they started clearing out the trail in 2016. Last spring, the CVRTC, university, and local partners worked to install a new bridge over Fogelsonger Road and pave the mile of trail through campus.
“It’s very exciting to think that for so long, we were just trying to keep the grass from getting too tall. Now the trail is through campus, and campus seems more excited about it,” Taylor said.
Dieterich-Ward, who also sits on the CVRTC, was thrilled to have the trail extended, but envisioned more. “It was time for me to give back and lend support to the trail. I knew the trail was finally getting built through campus, but I wanted to make sure community needs were being met, not just recreational needs.”
He pictured the project as an urban trail going through the heart of the community. To make that vision a reality, the rail trail had to be visible and easily accessible. Dieterich-Ward heard the Shippensburg Rotary Club wanted to build a comfort station, so he joined Rotary to help.
“I could see how all the pieces were fitting together,” he said. “I wanted to help with building the comfort station and use my university connections.”
Last fall, Shippensburg Township and the Shippensburg Rotary Club jointly funded the comfort station located at the new CVRT parking area at the corner of Fort and Earl streets. The multi-use event and performance space will continue to evolve with upgraded parking, a Pennsylvania Railroad signal, a performance stage, and more.
“The Rotary Club of Shippensburg is very proud of our collaborative effort with Shippensburg Township, the CVRTC, and Shippensburg University,” said Gary Davis, Rotary president. “We have been meeting for two years now, and Rotarians have donated over 200 volunteer hours to the comfort station project. Our hope is that the entire community will continue to work together for the betterment of the greater Shippensburg area.”
No longer sidelined by its previous stumbling blocks, it seemed the CVRT was moving full speed ahead. Now it just needed a statement piece.
Hidden in the trees at the end of Queen Street near the old Hoffman Mills building was a railroad enthusiast’s dream—an abandoned, uniquely green Penn Central boxcar.
“All of us railroad enthusiasts had known it was back there,” said Jim Stanton ’00, a member of the Conrail Historical Society. “In the winter when you’d hike the trail you could see it. It was a jungle back there. ...It was hard to get pictures of it, but it was neat to see a relic.”
It’s not unusual for railroad enthusiasts also to be photographers, Stanton said. When the plant was scrapped in 2016, he was certain it was the end of the line for its neighboring boxcar. So, he grabbed his camera. “I photographed it as much as possible, so that when it became tin cans and razor blades, there was a historical record.”
Coincidentally, Stanton and Taylor are neighbors. Stanton knew Taylor served on the CVRTC, so he mentioned the boxcar, suggesting it could serve as a welcome center off Britton Road. “Paul said, ‘I need to introduce you to a guy. Allen.’ He knew things I didn’t know. Allen’s the dynamo, but he needed to find the people who could make the right things happen.”
Dieterich-Ward received the news from Taylor. “I went over immediately and was blown away by (the boxcar). It was abandoned for thirty years, but was structurally sound. I was just amazed it wasn’t torn down.”
Relocating the boxcar next to the Rotary Club’s comfort station would provide that eye-catching addition to the trail and create another tourist attraction in the community. It was just a matter of making it happen. Fortunately, Stanton said Dave’s Truck Repair in Chambersburg fit the bill. “We found someone local, talented, and sympathetic to the price.”
As the boxcar traveled down Richard Avenue to its new home off of Earl Street, another piece of the puzzle came together. Out of curiosity one night, Jim Tabler ’10 wandered over to the site. Having formerly worked railroad maintenance, he volunteered to build a track panel to display the boxcar.
Now relocated and preparing for renovations, Stanton said the boxcar is situated in Foreman’s Triangle for the perfect photo op. “Lots of people remember the Penn Central green running through town. It’s a unique color green, so when it went by, it caught your eye.”
Two things are needed to create an authentic community development, according to Dieterich-Ward—outdoor recreation and a connection to where you are. Adjacent to the trail, the boxcar provided a perfect opportunity to develop an accessible mini-museum that told the story of the Cumberland Valley Railroad. These new developments—the rail trail extension, comfort station, boxcar museum, and performance space—collectively were renamed Shippensburg Station.
For Tiffany Weaver ’09-’12M, the director of the Shippensburg Historical Society and one of Dieterich-Ward’s former students, this was a gift. “When Allen asked if I wanted to be involved, I said, ‘Yes, please!’ I think this is a really cool space for the community. It’s really cool to see this brought on as Shippensburg Station and provide more of a connection between the university and community.”
Thanks to a $71,000 grant through the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation, Weaver and Christi Fic ’15M, university archivist, are developing forty feet of exhibit space in a boxcar. The grant, provided to the CVRTC, covered renovating the boxcar’s exterior, preparing the interior for the exhibits, and purchasing materials like display cases. Weaver and Fic picture the space as mostly permanent exhibits with a theater area on one side and a place for children’s educational programming at the other.
“We really want to tell the story of the railroad in the Cumberland Valley, especially how it interacted with citizens on a day-to-day basis,” Weaver said. “It’s about their lives, the university, jobs, and the area in general—anything that makes that personal connection and makes it as inclusive as possible.”
Stanton said people have told stories about the different railroads, but no one has put the whole story of the Cumberland Valley Railroad together like this. “There weren’t many places served by three railroads,” he said. “The whole story has never been told in one place.”
At the end of March, Weaver and Fic will invite the public to an open house to view the space and learn more about their plans in hopes that people see their vision and share their railroad artifacts with the museum.
Celebrating with TrailFest
Countless pieces have come together—some by design, others by chance—over the last few years to create what is now Shippensburg Station.
April’s TrailFest celebrates the latest trail expansions and community partnerships. TrailFest couples the CVRTC’s twelfth annual Race, Run, Ride, and Ramble event with the Shippensburg Historical Society’s second annual BrewFest.
It might actually be easier to continue to host these events separately, said Mitch Burrows ’17, owner of University Grille and Shippensburg Chamber of Commerce board member. “But, to do it at this location that is more centralized for the university and downtown makes it a broader effort for everyone to be involved,” he said. “This is a lot of people’s vision... We want one overall community—the university and the local community as one.”
The daylong event will kick off with the Race, Run, Ride, and Ramble. The Brewfest will feature more than twenty breweries as well as a few wineries, and live music from local bands. “People will come out for a community event. They come for the beer, the art, or the music, and this is a combination of all of them,” he said.
Stanton is excited. He knows not everyone geeks out over railroad history like he does. That’s why all the pieces of this project are equally important. “The boxcar might be what gets someone to get out of their car, maybe even stay there. But the music, the trailhead, the event space, the restrooms, a place to picnic... that’s the beauty of Allen’s master plan. It will never be just one thing. It gives people reasons to come back.”
And although the journey can be stressful, Dieterich-Ward said the rewards are sweet. “It has been so gratifying to find out people’s passions and put it all together in the thing we’re calling Shippensburg Station. ...If we care about our community we can make it a better place.”
By Katie (Paxson) Hammaker ’93
During her junior year at Ship, Amy Grey ’03 Rev. Jan Bye, campus minister, rushed to Grey’s side. “Jan was there for me. She called the hospital to get answers. She even called my boyfriend, who was at work, to tell him.”
Several days later, Bye even drove Grey to her father’s funeral outside of Philadelphia when her family was unable to get her.
UCM is an interdenominational campus ministry that provides opportunities for Ship students to develop spiritually and grow in their faith. Ship is the last university in Pennsylvania's State System of Education with UCM. As the minister for UCM, Bye coordinates religious life and spiritual support services on campus.
UCM will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary at Ship this spring. Bye has been with UCM for nearly half its existence. An ordained United Methodist minister, she moved to Shippensburg from Ohio with her husband and young son in 1994 to take the position.
“It’s been a privilege to do this job. Spiritual development is an important part of a student’s overall development, just as important as academics.”
“The relationship between campus ministry and the university has been an extraordinary one,” said Dr. Jody Harpster ’74M, past president. As the former vice president of Student Affairs, Harpster worked closely with Bye and served as the university’s liaison to UCM.
Bye describes UCM, originally known as the Campus Interfaith Association, as a clearing ground for students of various faiths. She works to connect them with appropriate resources to meet their spiritual needs while they are on campus.
Students of numerous faiths are represented at UCM—Lutherans, Methodists, Muslims, and Presbyterians, to name a few.
“Our main goal is to be welcoming of anybody and everybody,” said junior Zach Miller, “especially people who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else.”
“UCM is my family away from family,” said graduate student Austin Wisser ’17. “It’s nice to be around other students who share my beliefs and values.”
“Some of my greatest relationships and fondest memories were made through UCM,” Rachel (Varner) Smith ’98 said. “What drew me in was the ability to make close connections with other students, local churches, and the community.”
Bye maintains a resource center with the names of local clergy and places of worship. She even makes introductions and matches students who wish to visit a specific church, so they can attend together.
“We really like students to explore what’s available in the community,” she said. “We believe that broadening the resources for students will help them succeed.”
UCM offers many on-campus options for spiritual growth. “Worship services are on Sunday afternoons so the college students can sleep in,” Wisser said.
Students can attend a grilled cheese and bible study every Wednesday at the campus spiritual center.
“There is something comforting about faith, friends, and a warm and melted cheese sandwich,” Bill Connor ’04-’05M said.
“It beats ramen noodles and easy mac and cheese any day.”
Food is a common theme for UCM activities. Bye hosts an informal dinner gathering at Kriner Dining Hall on Mondays for any students who wish to join her.
While free food is a popular way to draw students in, the lack of it is a valid problem for some. UCM recognizes this need and maintains a food pantry that is open to any students who need it. It is stocked with donated soup, pasta, peanut butter, and other canned, non-perishable items.
“It started when the state budget held up student loans,” Bye said. “Many students lacked money for meals until their loans came through. Also, some of our international students must stay over breaks, and the dining hall is not open.”
UCM also organizes numerous social events each semester. Game nights, volleyball, hayrides, trips to the movies, and hikes on nearby trails provide quality fellowship time.
Participation in UCM is, of course, by choice. Some parents call or approach Bye and ask her to direct their son or daughter to a church. Bye will reach out to these students, but only if the student has granted permission through a form in the new student packets.
“I can invite students, but I am not here to harass them,” she said. “Students are adults, and they can make their own decisions.”
Some students just want to learn about faith. “This is a safe zone where they can ask questions and explore their faith. Students can have conversations with others in a loving and respectful manner.”
One way that Bye helps students learn is through Questions of Faith, a weekly discussion group that explores social and political issues from the perspective of different faiths.
“Some students are very conservative, some more liberal, but they care and respect each other as they explore their faith,” she said.
“We wanted to understand and learn about our faith,” Smith said. “Some students stray from their faith during college, but I developed a sense of belief and what I wanted for my life moving forward.”
Smith met her husband, Michael ’00, at Questions of Faith. She said they did not always agree on the issues, but they did agree that when they got married after college, they wanted Bye to perform the wedding ceremony.
Many of Bye’s former UCM students have honored her with this request. Bye estimates that she has performed at least 100 weddings for UCM alumni during her time at Ship. She also has performed at least ten faculty weddings.
UCM’s spiritual support and counseling services are available to students and the campus at large.
“UCM provided all of our students, faculty, staff, and administration with spiritual support as we needed it,” said Tony Ceddia, president emeritus. “They helped in many crisis situations over the years—a death or an accident. We were grateful for the support we received.”
Bye responds to more than just crisis situations. For some college students, the pressure of living away from home for the first time or the anxiety of breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend can prompt them to seek help.
“A lot of students, for many different reasons, choose not to utilize the campus counseling services when they need help,” Harpster said. “Some of those students are more comfortable seeking that support from UCM.”
“Ship staff and faculty cannot offer spiritual resources to students because we are a state school, but they can support UCM’s services and send those students to us,” Bye said.
Spring Break, UCM Style
UCM hosts an annual service trip to Louisiana during spring break in March. Ship students join with others from across the country to perform service work, and in some years, relief following a natural disaster.
“It’s about broadening the students’ understanding of God’s creation,” Bye said.
In the past, students have repaired a leaky roof, constructed a home access ramp for a wheelchair user, and distributed emergency relief kits to residents.
Last year, Wisser painted an “under the sea” themed wall mural to brighten up a domestic violence shelter. “It was so hot and humid that the paint started to run. The mural ended up looking like a Salvador Dali painting,” Wisser joked.
UCM also hosts periodic mission trips to Vietnam, a place that is special to Bye. She adopted her daughter from Vietnam, which inspired the destination for future mission work.
“I was involved in three trips to Vietnam,” Connor said. “It was powerful to be part of such an impactful program, and develop an understanding that I am part of something much bigger than just myself.”
Ship students have assisted in the construction of a school, a health clinic, and multiple homes in Vietnam.
Closer to home, UCM serves the community year-round. Students participate in numerous projects like stocking shelves at King’s Kettle food pantry and building homes through Habitat for Humanity. Each fall, students “adopt” migrant workers from nearby apple orchards, delivering warm clothing, blankets, and food.
A Permanent Home
Almost since UCM’s inception, its offices have been housed on campus at various locations provided by the university. But the organization lacked a permanent home.
In the late 1980s, President Emeritus Gilmore Seavers approached Ceddia with a solution and a potential significant benefactor.
The late Lee Hippensteele ’48, who served on the UCM Board of Directors, had a passion for campus ministry.
“Mr. Hippensteele was a man of great faith,” Harpster said. “He believed that we all benefit from having a solid religious foundation in our lives, and he wanted to make that available to all students.”
Because Shippensburg University is state owned, no religious buildings can be constructed on campus. So, Hippensteele purchased eighteen acres of private land directly adjacent to campus, and donated it to the SU Foundation with the stipulation that it be used for a spiritual center.
The foundation embarked on a successful capital campaign and dedicated the Cora I. Grove Spiritual Center and Interfaith Chapel in 2001, located just off of Adams Drive.
The center houses UCM’s offices and provides meeting and program space for several campus ministry groups.
“The spiritual center makes Shippensburg University special,” Ceddia said. “Many students see the spiritual aspect of their lives as important, like the nourishment they receive from the center.”
The spiritual center is perhaps best known for its chapel. The chapel is intentionally devoid of religious symbolism and contains a movable altar to accommodate groups of any faith for worship, memorial services, and other religious events.
The chapel is available for weddings, but the bride or groom must be a Ship student, alumnus, or an employee of the university or SU Foundation. The spiritual center has hosted about a dozen weddings since it opened.
Another focal point of the spiritual center is a meditation room, which is a sacred space used by many students for quiet prayer and reflection.
The spiritual center is open daily Sunday through Friday and on Saturdays for special events during the school year.
“It is hard to imagine life at Ship without UCM,” Connor said. “UCM was the cornerstone of my Ship experience outside of the classroom.
“In today’s digital, fast-paced world, I hope that Ship students are still taking the time to get involved in campus ministries and understand the importance of building personal friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Katie (Paxson) Hammaker ’93 is the director of development and marketing for the Susquehanna Chorale and is a freelance writer based in Mechanicsburg.
Laurie Carter came to Shippensburg University as the institution’s seventeenth president with a spirit of collaboration and a desire to communicate. She wants to involve the entire campus community to jointly focus on the university’s future.
"When folks ask me what my vision is for Shippensburg University, I always pause, because vision for a university does not come from one individual. It comes from the community,” Carter said. “So, our vision will be a vision that is established based upon many conversations that will take place over the course of the next few months.
“After those conversations, we’ll really sit down and set the path, the clear path, for the future of Shippensburg University.”
Since she arrived to campus on August 7, Carter has stayed true to her words. Socializing with students, meeting with staff members, chatting with the larger community as she walks the local rail trail—she is soaking it all in. When the fall semester kicked off, she launched “Convo with Carter,” providing fifteen-minute sessions for anyone on campus to chat with her during open office hours. More than forty sessions booked up within the first two hours of the announcement, with plans to do additional sessions in the spring.
As the president of a university and the mother of a new college student, Carter’s focus is on student success. But that can only be accomplished with the dialogue, advice, and counsel of the entire community, she said. “Student success requires the input, the collaboration, the output of every single member of the community. I take student success very seriously. Unless we’re all working together, we won’t be able to achieve what the students need from us.”
With that in mind, Shippensburg University Magazine wanted to know what questions our community had for our institution’s newest leader. Here’s what you asked, and how she answered:
Has a university presidency always been something you’ve wanted to pursue, and why?
Gabby Binando, junior
I can’t say that it has been something that I’ve always wanted to pursue. My career sort of took on a life of its own, and I was enjoying it. At a certain point, folks started saying to me, “You should be a president!” So I think other folks started thinking about it long before I did, and even after they started saying that to me it took years for me to get to the point where I thought, OK that would be something I would aspire to at some point in my life.
What has been your biggest takeaway about Ship since accepting this position?
Jodie Vanderman Driver ’00
That its future is bright. There is so much potential here. I am excited about the opportunity to work with everyone in the community to really help it fully realize its potential. ...The possibilities are endless in terms of the community collaboration, and everyone wants it. That was one of the things that struck me during my interview, that so many people talked about wanting to strengthen ties with the community, because you don’t see that everywhere, you don’t hear that everywhere.
President Carter, you’ve done an amazing job of being accessible, visible, and approachable since arriving at Shippensburg. What are the most important things you have learned from conversations you have had with Ship students and faculty during your first weeks on campus?
Dr. Steve Burg, professor in and chair of the History/Philosophy Department
I have learned that the campus is prepared to work together as a community to do what’s necessary to move Ship forward, and that’s very encouraging.
What would you tell a prospective parent as to why their child should choose Shippensburg University?
Chris Morton, chair of the Military Science Department
My son is a freshman in college, so what concerns families very often are the finances, the majors, and the career opportunities, and then whether their student will feel at home. Shippensburg is an affordable institution with very high-quality programs.
We have programs that rival the best in the country, so part of a high-quality program is preparing students for a career. Our students are graduating with skills that will allow them to seamlessly transition into the workplace and be successful there. Parents need not worry about their student floundering when they get into the workplace, because they’ll really be prepared.
And then there’s such a strong sense of community here, that as soon as the student hits the campus we’ve got our arms around them. We are a home away from home for all types of students; whatever their passion is there is probably some part of their major or club or organization that fuels that passion. All of those pieces come together. And there are faculty who are teaching classes, they’re not being taught by graduate students. It is a university that provides parents with all of the pieces they are hoping for in a collegiate experience.
How do you see the university evolving over the next several
years with regard to institutional commitments to academic programs?
Dr. Christopher Woltemade, professor of geography/earth science
We are interested in developing programs that are going to meet the needs of students and the surrounding region. That’s what regional institutions do. We will continue to look at majors that will meet the needs of today’s student and tomorrow’s student and provide what the region needs in order for it to continue to move forward. We are paying attention to what’s going on around us so we know the programs that we should be thinking about and that could benefit our students.
Knowing that our students will have to consider increasingly the world outside the fifty states, how would you like to internationalize our campus?
Dr. Agnes Ragone, professor of modern languages
Internationalization is really important for the students to understand our role in the global society. How we do that is through study abroad opportunities, exchange programs, but even components of particular courses that talk about the global society and how students can better navigate them. We also have an international faculty, faculty from all over the world, and they bring their perspective to our students and help them understand their role in a larger society.
How do you feel about the relationship between Ship students and the community?
Brandon Christmas-Lindsey, senior
Well, I have experienced that relationship on the day that we had the Ship Serve event, and we had 300 or 400 people working all over the region and in the community. There is a real interest in and commitment to serving the community in a broad and significant way, and I want to foster that.
Is there a way to make student activities more diverse on campus?
Najee Surratt, senior
Sure! Engage more students in the planning of student activities. I had a conversation with Maddie Scarr, the president of the SGA. She talked about how diverse the Student Government Association is this year, and it hasn’t always been that way. She is encouraged by the level of engagement of community members in the SGA process, and I think as a result of that, there will organically be more involvement across the board. But the goal there is, students have to get involved. If they’re not involved, then their perspective is not brought to the table.
How can you help students manage their time better?
Kiara Sabur, freshman
We do that in a variety of ways. There’s the Learning Center. As we are looking at a first-year experience, time management will certainly be a part of that process in helping students make the adjustment from life in high school to life in college, where you have a lot more free time and have to figure out how to prioritize things a little differently. So if we have a solid first-year experience that lays the foundation, we then have the Learning Center and other support networks across the university that will really allow students through the course of their career to feel supported and guided in these areas if they get off track.
How can Ship make the transfer student experience smoother by ensuring credits transfer from community colleges?
Nolan Currie, sophomore
We’ve actually already started talking about that and have a plan to make that process a little more user friendly.
In the past several years, campus morale has dropped dramatically... How will you help Ship heal, where our family members will trust one another and work together in a more positive manner?
Dr. Alison Dagnes, professor of political science
I hope I’m doing that by listening to folks, and then taking what they have to say into consideration. We’re not always going to agree on the course of action, but everyone should at least feel as though they can play a part in the process of moving forward. I also think it’s really important for folks to look ahead. The past is the past, and quite frankly, there is little we can do about it. But, there’s a lot we can do about the future.
Colleges are struggling with enrollment as it relates to the traditional student. What ideas can we implement at Ship to increase enrollment with the nontraditional student and enhance recruitment efforts for traditional students?
Javita Thompson, assistant director of community engagement
That’s a very good question. I could go on for days about it. We are looking carefully at all populations. For traditional students, increasing enrollment has to do with being more creative in our approaches. The high school population in Pennsylvania is shrinking, so that means we probably have to look outside of the state for traditional high school students. We also can do some things that will increase our percentage of students coming from inside the state, and that has to do with scholarships, financial aid, and other processes, and we’re looking at all those.
The nontraditional student, the adult learner in particular, is a huge market we’re looking to tap into, and we’re looking to do that in the most creative ways possible, meeting the needs of that population. So that would probably mean expanding our online offerings and working very carefully to craft programs that are going to help that population achieve their goals.
How can alumni support the university’s efforts to recruit and retain students?
Rachel Jarabeck ’98
We need to engage alumni in a variety of ways, primarily in having them help us spread the word about all the wonderful things that are happening at Ship. And then, even engaging them in the recruitment process, and that will depend on where they are, what the particular needs are in that particular region or state, and how that will best serve the university. We’re no longer going to take cookie cutter approaches to how we’re engaging the alumni, but rather really studying what will be most effective for specific populations.
What is one action that everyone can take to make Shippensburg University a great place to live and learn?
Dr. Samuel Forlenza, assistant professor of exercise science
One action—everyone can pull together and share positive messages and stories about the wonderful things that are happening here.
Where do you want to see this university in three years?
Ruben Bourdeau, senior
I want to see enrollment stabilized, reinvestment in our outstanding academic programs and support services for students, and strengthened ties with the town and surrounding communities.
Ship recognized six athletes and one coach for their outstanding accomplishments during the annual Athletic Hall of Fame luncheon during Homecoming weekend.
Lindsey Knupp ’05 — FIELD HOCKEY
Lindsey Knupp, a four-year starter in field hockey, graduated as SU’s all-time school record
holder for goals and assists. Her fifty-six career goals remains sixth all-time at Shippensburg, while her thirty-four assists rank second. The two-time National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All-American and three-time All-PSAC performer exceled during a four-year stretch under head coach Bertie Landes in which the Raiders began an incredible run of success. SU won at least fifteen games each season, posting a 66-19 record from 2001-04.
Knupp started all eighty-five games in her Raider career—totaling 146 points. Her seventeen assists as a junior in 2003 remains a single-season school record, and she is one of seven players in school history to achieve at least three assists in a single game.
After graduation, Knupp began a career in professional baseball as an associate with the Reading Phillies in 2005, then joined the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ front office in 2007, which is the AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Chuck Davis ’07 — MEN’S BASKETBALL
Chuck Davis is SU’s all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball history with 1,825 points and also its school-record holder for career steals with 203. In four seasons with the Raiders, Davis helped the team to a record sixty-nine wins.
A three-time All-PSAC Western Division First Team selection, he was named the PSAC Western Division Player of the Year as a junior in 2005-06. Davis also was selected to the Daktronics All-East Region First Team and recognized as an Honorable Mention All-American by Division II Bulletin. He averaged a career-best 19.5 points and also led the team with 5.1 rebounds per game.
The 2005-06 Raiders won a school record twenty-four games, won the PSAC Western Division with an 11-1 record, reached the PSAC Championship game, and appeared in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history.
In 2015, Davis began his master’s degree in the Organizational Development and Leadership Program for Higher Education Structure and Policy at Ship. He is starting his third season as an assistant coach with the SU Men’s Basketball team while also working as a graduate assistant with the Academic Success Program.
Jaime-Lyn Dacey ’06 — SOFTBALL
Jaime-Lyn Dacey is one of the best softball players in the history of the PSAC. Starting center fielder from 2002-05, she is SU’s all-time leader in batting average (.422), triples (23), and RBIs (156) while ranking second in school history for hits (264) and runs (163) and tied for fourth in stolen bases (49).
Dacey is a two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American, four-time NFCA All-Region honoree, and three-time All-PSAC selection in addition to being named the 2005 PSAC Eastern Division Player of the Year and the 2002 PSAC Eastern Division Rookie of the Year. She also earned the prestigious honor of Academic All-America First Team as a senior.
After graduation, Dacey played professional softball for two years with the Philadelphia Force, a team in the National Pro Fastpitch League. She also served as an assistant softball coach at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is in her tenth year as a fourth-grade teacher at Langtree Elementary School in Hamilton Township School District in New Jersey.
Geoff Bloes ’07—MEN’S SOCCER
Geoff Bloes is the all-time leading scorer in SU men’s soccer history. After seventy-seven
career games, Bloes set new school records for career goals (51) and career points (130). He also finished second in school history with twenty-eight career assists and totaled ten game-winning goals.
Bloes is the only player in school history named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Men’s Soccer Player of the Year, a feat he accomplished as a junior in 2006 and as a senior in 2007. He was a four-time All-PSAC player, including Rookie of the Year honors in 2003. Bloes is one of two players in school history selected three times as a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Region player. As a senior, he was the second All-American in school history, earning a spot on the Daktronics All-America First Team.
After graduation, Bloes played four years professionally with the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer League. A supply chain management major, Bloes was employed in logistics and operations supervision, in the Lancaster area and is the inbound manager at Henry Schein Animal Health.
Clyde Cressler ’65—WRESTLING
Clyde Cressler is one of seven Raider wrestlers in school history to become a PSAC Champion—claiming the 1962 title at 115 pounds. He is one of three SU wrestlers to win that weight class at the PSAC Champi- onships.
In three years as a wrestler from 1961-63, Cressler posted a 24-4-1 record. He was an integral part of the formative Shippensburg wrestling teams that had success early on in the program’s history. In a competitive Pennsylvania Conference (PC) that featured some of the best programs in the country at the time, SU took third place at the 1961 PC Championships and had a 9-2 dual meet record. Shippensburg also was third in the PC in 1962—the year Cressler won his conference crown.
Cressler worked as a sixth-grade teacher, then earned a degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 1969. Two years later, he bought his first pharmacy in Meadville. He now owns eighteen Medicine Shoppe Pharmacies in Pennsylvania and two in New York.
Barry Kerr ’85—BASEBALL
Barry Kerr is one of the best shortstops to suit up for SU’s baseball team. He is the first player in
school history with ten or more home runs in a single season and posted a .318 career batting average in 149 games with the Raiders. He was a co-captain in 1984 and 1985, a two-year span in which SU posted a sterling .710 winning percentage.
Kerr played for SU Hall of Fame coaches Art Fairchild and Bob Yocum and was known for his strong throwing arm. He finished as a three-time All-PSAC performer who also earned All-Region honors and an All-America honorable mention as a sophomore in 1983. He is one of three SU baseball players, in school history, to earn Academic All-America First Team honors during his senior season.
Kerr has held various progressive finance positions for industry-leading manufacturers and has been a senior director with JLG Industries in Hagerstown, Maryland, for the past seven years.
Bertie Landes—Honorary — FIELD HOCKEY/LACROSSE
Bertie Landes served as Shippensburg University’s head field hockey and lacrosse coach from 1999-2005 before transitioning solely to field hockey, completing her eighteen-year tenure in 2016. Landes built and maintained SU’s modern tradition of field hockey excellence and brought the university its first two NCAA Division II championships in any sport.
Landes totaled a 302-77-1 record as the Raider field hockey coach—winning 79 percent of her games. SU won at least twelve games in all eighteen seasons under Landes and qualified for the PSAC Tournament seventeen times, reaching the PSAC Semifinals sixteen times.
Prior to Shippensburg, Landes spent nineteen seasons at Cairn (Philadelphia Biblical) University. In thirty-seven years as a field hockey coach, Landes compiled an overall record of 486-133-17 for a .778 career winning percentage. Landes ranks number eleven all-time among all NCAA divisions for head coaching victories. She retired as the winningest active coach at the NCAA Division II level.
By Matthew R. Humphrey ’17
There’s a growing fascination around things that go bump in the night. Whether a believer or skeptic, it’s hard to escape the onslaught of TV programs and tourist attractions centered on ghosts, spirits, and paranormal activity.
This developing phenomenon intrigued Dr. Matthew Ramsey, associate professor of human communication studies, after a host of shows appeared in the mid- to late- 2000s, such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal, and others. “It felt like each week a new ghost hunting show was being introduced. As a result, I decided to design a quasi-experimental research project to attempt to gain insight into the increased interest in the paranormal.”
Ramsey’s study, “The Perceived Paranormal and Source Credibility: The Effects of Narrative Suggestions on Paranormal Belief ” had two goals. “One, I wanted to see if I could manipulate people’s belief in the paranormal via narratives. Two, I wanted to see if source credibility—how credible a person appears to be—would affect people’s belief in the paranormal.”
He found that people were willing to believe in unverifiable and potentially fallacious stories if a source’s testimony seemed credible and the story truthful. Ramsey has since completed a more “methodologically robust” replication and extension of this study that he’s editing and preparing for publication.
Even the skeptics can see benefits to the paranormal trend. Dan Rebert ’89m is the videoconferencing specialist at Ship. He lives in Gettysburg, a hub for all things paranormal, or “spook central,” to quote Ghostbusters. Rebert’s theory on the crop of latest ghost stories: “It’s all made up. I grew up in this area, and we never heard any of this until recently.”
Fake or not, Rebert doesn’t see it as a bad thing. “I don’t believe in any of it, but it’s definitely a positive thing. It’s brought a lot of tourism and money into Gettysburg, and I’m all for that.”
On the Hunt
Unexplainable events attract plenty of curious people. Amanda Cruickshanks ’19, an art major, has always been interested in the paranormal. “While growing up I always heard stories my pappy would tell. Ghost stories, Big Foot, and everything. Back in the 1960s and 1970s he would
go hunting and take horses up into the mountains in Montana. He’d hear these crazy noises and experience all kinds of unexplainable things. It just intrigued me. He’s the kind of guy that wouldn’t lie about something like that. Then later, I got into all of the TV shows.”
During winter break of her freshman year, Cruickshanks’ interest in the paranormal led her and some friends to a ghost hunt in Gettysburg. Instead of paying too much for the “big, clichéd ghost hunts,” the group discovered the Keystone Paranormal Investigation Association (KPIA) and contacted founder Ashley Brennan. “We wanted to use equipment and go out to places that people don’t normally go to. ... We thought the tour was going to be eight or ten people, but it ended up being just my two friends and me.”
Brennan, who has appeared on The Travel Channel’s Most Haunted series, showed Cruickshanks and her friends how to use the ghost hunting equipment. “I was never really skeptical, because I always believed in the paranormal, but I still wanted that one solid evidence-based experience to solidify my belief. That first hunt helped to convince me.”
Cruickshanks became so intrigued by her first hunt that she kept in contact with Brennan and is now an investigator/team member with KPIA. Brennan started KPIA to help those who encounter paranormal activity, and she offers services such as investigations, personal cleansings, and house cleansings.
“I’ve experienced so many incredible things since becoming a member of KPIA,” Cruickshanks said. “Ashley explained to me how people who are more open to everything are so much more receptive to spirits reacting to you and interacting with you.”
One of Cruickshanks’ most memorable experiences with KPIA took place in Pottsville. A few years ago, a woman called KPIA to investigate her home shortly after her husband committed suicide. The husband had flown into a violent rage the night of his suicide and was described by the woman as being “possessed.” Ongoing paranormal incidents at the woman’s house led to continuing investigations.
“When we arrived at the house, the first thing I noticed was that all of the doors and entryways were salted. I knew it was something serious, because I’d never seen anything like that before,” she said.
“We had all of our equipment set up: tripods, cameras, laser sensors... We also had our home base set up with all of our laptop computers and monitors showing all of the rooms. We made sure all of the doors were locked and that there was no one else in the building but us.”
The final nail in her coffin of doubt occurred not long after that. “We hadn’t started investigating, trying to ask questions, or anything like that. All of a sudden out of nowhere it was so clear, so loud, and so heavy. It sounded like a 300-pound man wearing heavy boots stomping through the living room right behind us. The space between the back of our chairs and the wall was probably just enough so that you could back out and walk away.”
When it comes to encountering ghosts and the paranormal, Cruickshanks said, “It’s really a weird feeling because all at the same time you’re terrified, you’re excited, and you’re intrigued. In my case at least,it made me want to learn more and more. And I do every timeI go on a hunt.”
Seeing is Believing
Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, there are practical applications for the techniques used in ghost hunting.
Dr. Jeremy Olson ’97m is an assistant professor of criminal justice administration at Mansfield University. He was intrigued by the paranormal as an undergraduate student in a physics class, particularly when the topic of string theory came up. “I became interested in the idea that there may be things out there that we simply can’t see because we don’t have the equipment. Fast forward several years, and that turned into my interest in paranormal activity and paranormal investigation.”
While teaching a class on serial killers at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Olson began working with the university’s archivist Bill Black. Black and his family are members of Ghost Researchers in Pennsylvania (GRIP).
“We got to talking about how we might incorporate ghost hunting into the context of a criminal justice investigation. They invited me along to see how these investigations work with an experienced group,” Olson said.
He tagged along for a ghost hunt and was stunned at what he saw. “The very first investigation I went on, I’m listening to them asking questions, I’m looking at the teamwork, I’m looking at the planning process, the equipment they’re using, the analysis they’re doing... I’m thinking, ‘Holy crap! This goes right along with a criminal justice investigation as far as the skill set.’ It’s the same sort of analysis, critical thinking, questioning, and trying to get the big picture of what’s going on.”
After working with Black and GRIP several times, Olson made ghost hunting a mandatory part of the course The Dark Side of Crime to teach introductory profiling. “The students absolutely loved it. The investigations were on a Saturday night outside of normal class time, so students had to put things aside to take part. By the end of the class when they had to present their findings, they could connect this to ideas of profiling in criminal justice.”
Olson felt the class was on to something, so they completed as many investigations as they could. The class eventually presented in Gettysburg for the Pennsylvania College English Association showing the collaboration between two universities by using ghost hunting in a profiling class. “I’ve also presented at a few national criminal justice conferences on the subject. Classes eventually got to the point where over half the students aren’t even criminal justice majors.”
An Eerie Education
Ghost stories can certainly enhance history in an educational setting, according to John Walsh ’01, an English language arts teacher in the North Schuylkill School District. When he began volunteering for the Schuylkill County Historical Society almost three years ago, he proposed the idea of educating students through interactive presentations on local history. He’s covered the Molly Maguires and breaker boys, the Pottsville Maroons’ stolen 1925 NFL Championship, ethnic foods of the county, and Schuylkill County legends, lore, and ghost stories.
“The ghost stories have been the most popular by far. I would say I have done that program about fifteen times over the last year-and-a-half.”
These presentations are so popular that Walsh received requests to do them over the summer and to take them on the road to other area schools. “Normally, students begin by participating in a scavenger hunt throughout our museum. This hands-on experience seems to pique their interests.”
After the scavenger hunts, students go to the society’s community room where a campfire-like setting is created. The students take a seat around the “fire” to build an eerie mood. “Students need to know the background of the story to fully understand why there is a legend or ghost story connected to it. I then select six or seven stories to tell. It’s a fun way to teach history and for the students to learn.”
Word spread, and members of the community requested that these programs become publicly available. “I proposed the idea of developing a haunted history walk through the downtown section of Pottsville. The society’s executive director and president liked the idea, and we began to collaborate and research stories,” Walsh said. “The cool part is, all of the stories told are historically based. It’s a collection of murders, curses, hexes, hangings, ghosts, and even one story in which a son made the grisly decision to mummify his mother.
“I’m just happy the stories are based on historical accounts. I don’t think I could make up stories this macabre even if I tried.”
Walsh is particularly thrilled with the idea of the haunted history walk because it will help with revitalization efforts in Pottsville and will benefit the historical society. “The more people we bring into the city for tourism and activities, the better,” he said. “The historical society is a nonprofit, so every single penny helps support the society and enables us to offer more programs and activities for the public.”
For those curiosity seekers itching to explore, Olson offers some advice. “I’ve been on something like thirty to fifty ghost hunts and have been going on Big Foot hunts for thirty years. I can maybe count on one hand the number of times we ran into something we couldn’t explain. Going on a ghost hunt isn’t like on TV where you get five different bits of definitive proof every single investigation. ...Most of the time when you’re on an investigation you’re sitting at a table, sitting in a room, talking with a whole lot of nothing happening.”
“If you want to do this because you want it to be like on TV, it’s going to be nothing like that. But, if you want to spend time trying to figure out how to explain some very difficult things, then you’re in for a lot of fun.”
Matthew R. Humphrey ’17 is an intern for SU Magazine.
It’s hard to explain, but the opening lines of the 1996 British dark comedy Trainspotting does a solid job describing opioid addiction.
“Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”
“It’s everywhere,”said Kyle Gautsch ’04, who has been working with Harrisburg City Police since 2005. Now sergeant in charge of investigations, he said, “Heroin has no jurisdiction or race or class. Personal friends of mine have had kids who have overdosed, and they come from a great family.
“This is not just a city issue.”
Scott Young ’90, acting chief at Lower Swatara Police Department, said law enforcement noticed a big shift in the last five years. “It’s not really one class of people. Heroin doesn’t discriminate. ...A lot of it revolves around prescription health insurance and turning to heroin for a cheaper fix.”
Governor Tom Wolf declared the rapid rise in opioid addiction a state crisis last fall, and President Donald Trump classified it as a national health emergency within the last few weeks. From law enforcement to politics to prevention and rehabilitation, several Ship alumni are playing a role in turning the crisis around.
When Young worked for Franklin County Probation and Parole in the early 1990s, the drugs of choice remained marijuana and crack cocaine. These drugs appealed to certain people and embedded in certain neighborhoods, he said. “I supervised DUI offenders and inner-city drug dealers. We took the worst of the worst. Opioids were not big at that time.”
As opioid use rose, it became clear that it was affecting more people in less defined areas. “You’d see it in people who were well off and people who weren’t,” he said. “There’s not really a trend with this. It doesn’t discriminate with age, sex, race—it’s all walks of life.”
When Gautsch worked undercover investigations on vice, he, too, witnessed the shift from crack to heroin. When he made arrests as a result of his investigations, he said he often spoke to the users. “I was just being inquisitive. I’d ask, ‘How did you start?’ They’d say because of surgery, a car accident, etc. They’d get addicted to pills, but pills were expensive. Heroin is cheaper.”
Gautsch said cities like Harrisburg traditionally see higher drug use. But opioid use is different. “Drugs in Harrisburg are coming from Philly and New York down Interstates 83 and 81 and the 76 turnpike. There’s a pipeline to get drugs into the city, but they don’t stay in the city. Every community has a drug issue.”
Both Harrisburg City and Lower Swatara are now using Narcan, generically known as Naloxone, which is administered to block the effects of opioids when a user is overdosing.
With the availability of Narcan came the “Good Samaritan” law. This allows someone to report an overdose without facing charges as long as the person identifies who they are and stays with the victim until first responders arrive, Young said. First responders then provide Narcan to the drug user, confiscate any drug paraphernalia, provide an ambulance, and share resources for drug treatments. Law enforcement is not permitted to make an arrest, he said.
“Some people think, they have a problem, they chose to do this, they should suffer the consequences,” Young said. “That’s not my department’s belief; that’s not my officers’ beliefs. Everyone has family or a friend touched by drug or alcohol addiction. ...Our job as first responders is to save lives. That’s our calling.”
The state of Pennsylvania has to take the opioid crisis very seriously, said State Rep. Mark Keller.
In September 2016, Gov. Wolf addressed a joint session of the legislature, stating that Pennsylvania loses ten residents to addiction every day, and the state has been working on solutions to the epidemic since 2014. In his remarks, he said that more than 3,500 Pennsylvanians died that year due to addiction, and the Centers for Disease Control reported that prescription opioid overdose deaths in the United States are four times what they had been in 1999.
“We’re trying to attack it,” Keller said. “We need more awareness.”
This past February, Keller joined US Congressman Lou Barletta at Shippensburg University to cohost a forum on the state’s opioid and heroin epidemic. Similar forums have popped up in communities across the state. Panelists at Ship included medical professionals, law enforcement, the Cumberland County district attorney and coroner, and drug and alcohol specialists. Keller said more than 100 people attended.
“We’re bringing it more to light and paying attention to it more,” he said. “We’re very supportive of addressing the issue.”
As a legislator, Keller said he’s cosponsored rules and regulations that he hopes curtail the growing crisis. One thing he worked to change through new legislation is creating a database of patients who receive prescription opiates so doctors can view what was prescribed when and by whom. “We have to be more cautious,” he said. “Per this legislation, to renew a prescription, you have to actually see your doctor again.”
This statewide database is now in use. Keller said legislators recognize that every person has a different tolerance to pain, and when opioids are used properly to manage that pain, the system works. He recognizes that this new legislation is more time intensive on the medical side, but it makes doctors more aware of how patients are using their pain medication.
“Every patient is different,” he said. “But opioids can lead to something else like heroin. If someone is dependent, we have to have awareness. There are resources available, and we are educating the public.”
When addressing addiction, treatment is discussed, but recovery often is overlooked, said Kristin Varner ’00. Treatment is a short-term solution, while recovery requires long-term behavioral changes.
As a former alcoholic in long-term recovery, Varner was thrilled to speak on Keller’s panel at Ship and share her perspective. “You’re always in recovery; you’re not recovered,” said Varner, who now is director of RASE’s Carlisle programs, training, and advocacy. “Anyone is vulnerable to slips.”
RASE is a recovery community organization based in Harrisburg that serves a nine-county area. Its staff and volunteers all are active members of the recovery community. Varner started working with RASE after eighteen months in recovery. “What has helped me the most is understanding. Because I went through it, I can empathize with them.”
After college, Varner said she abused alcohol and did cocaine. At twenty-six years old, she was bartending in Harrisburg and living in her parents’ basement. “Things unraveled for me,” she said. “It just goes to show you, addiction crosses all paths.”
Although she said it took multiple attempts to reach long-term recovery, she explained that she never relapsed. Longterm recovery requires commitment to behavioral changes. It wasn’t until her parents kicked her out and she sought her fifth treatment facility that she truly committed to changing her life.
“Addictions are like lifestyle diseases. You have to change your life to recover, like heart disease,” she said. Substance abuse can initially be addressed with medication like Vivitrol, a once-a-month treatment that blocks the effects of drugs. But true recovery requires life changes.
“The substance doesn’t matter. The drug is not a disease. It’s about the behavior,” she said. “It takes a lot of work to identify relapse triggers.”
Prior to 2008, Varner said insurance companies claimed recovery was unnecessary and would not cover the cost. RASE helped to push through the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, or Act 106, which passed in 2010 and provides minimum coverage to alcohol and substance abuse users.
Most people who seek treatment and recovery through RASE are externally motivated, Varner said. It could be family, friends, even finances that drive them to make the initial call. RASE offers a transitional housing program, a recovery specialist program with one-on-one coaching, and a Buprenorphine coordinator program to assist those receiving treatment with ongoing recovery, among other services.
After years of decreased funding, Varner said the state and national focus on the opioid epidemic is starting to benefit organizations like RASE. But there’s still a long way to go to fix the problem.
“People who have this disease aren’t bad people,” she said. “We have to destigmatize the disease through education.”
In addition to awareness, treatment, and recovery, Varner said prevention is key. “We live in a society where we’re told, ‘Just take a pill.’ ...We’re going to lose another generation if we’re not doing prevention.”
Gautsch still remembers his fifth-grade DARE officer. Launched in 1983 in Los Angeles, the substance abuse prevention education was prevalent in schools through the 1980s and 1990s. Today, few schools use DARE or build relationships with local law enforcement, he said.
“If I have the opportunity to do public speaking, I’m always receptive to it,” he said. “We have to build rapport with kids, then teach them to follow and listen. You listen to people you have a relationship with.”
Young said that when his children’s teachers discovered that he was a police officer, they often asked him to speak to their classes. “More time and effort needs to be put into education,” he said.
Kelly Kiefer ’10-’16m is a prevention specialist in Cumberland and Perry counties. She develops and implements community-based and school programs that provide healthy coping skills for adolescents, youth, and families. “I believe a lot of the struggle with getting prevention out is that schools don’t have the time,” she said. “It’s sad, but the reality is, these are ten-to twelve-week programs. People are too busy—until it’s too late.”
Kiefer said prevention is key to addressing the addiction crisis, but the focus has to shift away from scare tactics. Providing a one-time lecture on the horrible effects of drugs is proven to stick with kids less than seventy-two hours, she said.
“It’s all about social skill building. We have to teach kids and families how to communicate with each other. Skill building is at the root of it.”
Most of these voluntary programs last eight to twelve weeks. One ten-week program that focuses on strengthening families includes separate two-hour sessions for parents and kids with a combined component at the end. School programs are available for kindergarten through grade twelve and cover topics from risk factors to mental health to dangers at home to bullying. “We gather information ahead of time so we can provide a program that meets the best needs of the school,” she said.
As part of the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance, Kiefer also emphasizes a recent campaign through pastop.org. “There’s a stigma out there that this won’t happen to me or anyone I know. Pastop.org pushes ‘Anyone.’ It was my brother, my uncle. This is real life,” she said. “More and more, this is hitting closer to home.”
Prevention has to be part of the education on opioid and other substance abuse, she said. Because of the fear surrounding the opioid epidemic, the public wants a solution now. “People want to preach and think it will stick, but it’s a process.”
“It’s easy to keep your head in the sand until it’s a problem, but the more aware you are, the more equipped you are to deal with it. You have to be equipped with those skills at a young age,” she said.
Otherwise, Kiefer agrees with Varner—we’ll lose another generation.
To borrow a line from the National Park Service, Ship wants you to “Find Your Park” this summer, with some help from a few of our alumni. Dozens of our grads from history, geography/earth science, and other disciplines have turned their passion for conservation, outdoor recreation, history, and culture into volunteer positions and full-time careers at state and national parks. If you’re still contemplating how to maximize your summer days, plan a trip based on these alumni tips.