Bridges to Prosperity Bridge Builder Conference – by Katie Barrett

September 30th, 2014

The Bridges to Prosperity conference in Winter Park, Colorado was a very educational and productive weekend. In addition to learning a lot about the structure of the Bridges to Prosperity group, I learned a lot about humanitarian infrastructure work. This is something something which I already planned on doing, so it was good to be reminded of how big of a need there is. I was also made aware of how large of a undertaking it is to build a bridge of the scale we are planning. Ben and I made connections with a lot of other student groups who have already built a bridge rurally and also with bridge professionals involved in Bridges to Prosperity and other humanitarian civil engineering causes. Both of these connections will help us in the upcoming project year, as this is our first stress ribbon bridge the Collaboratory has built.

Over a billion people worldwide do not have basic transportation access. Rivers or canyons separate remote communities from basic educational, nutritional, spiritual, economic and health-related needs. The only effective way to make an impact on communities through infrastructure is to engage the local leaders in fixing the problem: use the local masons, constructors, and technical supervisors. Otherwise, the community will look at whatever was built or fixed not as their own project, but as the missionaries project. Problems tend to arise with this, as when something needs to be fixed again, the community often does not take ownership and repair the structure. They may just wait for the missionaries to come back and fix it. We also learned a lot about risk management and safety. This is extremely important in both our project and in our future jobs, as we will often have risk of falling during construction, inspection, or likewise.

Overall, I learned a lot from this conference. I learned that I think I will fit best in a more non-profit setting when it comes to my engineering job in the future, as I am most passionate about that aspect of civil engineering. It is extremely impactful on the world, and also is a good way to involve my spiritual beliefs with my career.

Bridges to Prosperity Bridge Builder Conference – by Brett Reinert

September 30th, 2014

Bridge Builder Conference

Hosted by Bridges to Prosperity

Though it was the earliest hours of the morning, my mind was alive as I processed the information of the Bridge Builder Conference with my Collaboratory teammate, Katie. During that drive home Monday morning, we expressed mutual excitement for the upcoming season within the Bridge Group. The sessions and workshops provoked new ideas, and bolstered our confidence that the Bridge Group can be a huge success. This blog aims to share those ideas.

Bridges to Prosperity divided the conference into lectures of various types, professional development seminars, and hands-on workshops. I attended one workshop on concrete and masonry, and it was extremely insightful. While development projects lower the standard for quality of work, the task is still just as difficult. The third world mixes most concrete by hand and amidst the elements, causing certain techniques to increase efficiency and strength. Johann Zimmerman taught me the basic ingredients of concrete and the typical ratio for mixing them. I learned how to mix concrete quickly using two people. His workshop advised creating a clear slab the day before mixing for a clear working space, delegating one person to count mixture parts, and showed us what consistency the product should be for maximum strength. This advice will definitely benefit me some day in the field.

Explaining how to mix concrete efficiently.

Johann describing the finished product and demonstrating techniques for forming in the developing world.

The concrete workshop only accounted for a small fraction of my time at the conference. Most of the transformative information came from the numerous sessions Bridges to Prosperity held throughout the weekend. Development was a reoccurring theme, as well as, sustainability and success.

The weekend began with a lecture by professional engineer, Dave Zanetell. He led a team to create the new Hoover Dam bypass and convinced me that the successful corporate skills he used can be translated into the developing world and building bridges within that context. The next morning, Avery Bang, the C.E.O. of Bridges to Prosperity spoke on the importance of footbridges in the developing world and the opportunity for influence through statistics highlighting correlation of health and adequate transportation. I followed this up with a professional development seminar on suspended bridge design. Most of the information was geared toward those in industry or those who have constructed bridges in the past; however, I was still able to glean some good tips on which clamp brands to use, the importance of trustworthy materials, and so forth.

After lunch, everyone gathered for another keynote lecture about how to measure program impacts. Kevin Donovan and Wyatt Brooks shared great information on how to choose location for bridges and set up systems that monitored the use and overall success of the bridges. Before dinner, a panel of professionals working for NGOs held a discussion on careers in international development. They gave testimony to the various paths into the development sector and the benefits and hindrances of each.

The next day, I went to a safety briefing. The developing world has no policies and liability, which, when combined with more primitive working supplies, can arguably make conditions much more dangerous. Emily Braucher ended the conference with a phenomenal lecture on cross-cultural communication and power. She challenged the current way we do and think about development, as well as, expressed the importance of understanding various communication styles.

Excitement and curiosity filled my mind in the weeks leading up to the conference. I left feeling fulfilled and transformed. As a representative from my Collaboratory group, I felt that I had learned valuable information to guide our next steps. The Collaboratory approaches its project with a business model. This benefits students because they experience various aspects of the professional world such as clients, deadlines, and documentation. At first, it looks like a perfect setup, but it could come at the expense of the communities for whom we are working. Effective humanitarian work comes from teaching and empowering communities to a level where they will become self-sufficient and continue the work on their own. When we come in with our own agenda, and, even if we do not realize it, fail to interact with and involve the community, the project becomes something for our own satisfaction and is not sustainable. I do not believe this is necessarily bad, but we need to carefully analyze our purpose within the Collaboratory and if we are focusing more on personal gains or those we are serving.

On a personal level, I received a greater affirmation to my calling in development work. The Bridge Builder Conference exposed me to all sides of development work and the various paths to get there. Many development focused, engineering NGOs exist, but only a couple approach their work from a faith background. Even faith-based, non-profits with engineering type work, such as World Vision, have no ministry component. This worries me, but at the same time has opened my eyes to opportunities of founding something like this. Lectures on cross-cultural communication and transportation dispensed wisdom about international interaction as an individual and the prosperity that comes from adequate transportation.

There was no shortage of knowledge spat out at the conference. I hope that many groups and individuals can grow from it and become more effective in their work. I would like to thank Messiah College’s Student Government Association for providing grant money that made this attendance possible. Time to build some bridges!

Ben Reinert

Council for Exceptional Children’s International Conference – by Domenic Michael Andolina

May 13th, 2014

On Friday April 11th, 2014, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (also known as CEC). This event is hailed as one of the most prestigious conferences for special educators in the world. It is held annually, and consists of a wide variety of presenters sharing new and upcoming research/evidence based practices that influence the practice of educating students with special needs. There are about 400 presentations each day, consisting of posters, panel discussions, workshops, and demonstrations. My attendance and presentation at this event both challenged me as a professional, and enabled me to share the knowledge that I had gained from my formative time spent at Messiah College.

Dr. Melinda Burchard (Assistant Professor of Special Education) provided me with this opportunity. Last Spring, she submitted a proposal, which included an outline and abstract of our presentation entitled, “Concrete Tier 3 and Special Education Math Interventions”. This proposed 1 hour demonstration would be co-presented by Dr. Burchard, Danielle Morabito (a fellow Senior majoring in Early Childhood and Special Education), and myself.  During this process, I learned how to propose a presentation for a professional conference, which will be extremely beneficial to my future career plans.

As a result of the many individuals with disabilities who attend this conference, I learned that it is crucial to include multiple means of representation when presenting. It was not enough to have a PowerPoint (visual), but to also include auditory (reading, not just summarizing the information on the slides, in addition to expanding on the information), and kinesthetic (engaging the audience in the creation of low-tech mathematical interventions). Being intentional about this part of our presentation proved to be extremely successful. In addition, I also grew professionally by learning how to be an effective and respectful communicator during a time of questioning and answering within our presentation.

One of my PowerPoint slides showed an instructional objective used to measure student learning of interpreting data on a circle graph. A professional in the audience asked me, “Why is your quality set at only 50%?” You could feel the tension in the room as she offered me this question. As I thought about my answer, I thanked her for bringing it to my attention. I admitted that my knowledge of instructional design had grown since the creation of the intervention, and that I found it crucial to adjust this quality before implementation of my intervention. I also added that it is important to be a reflective teacher, and that her comment enabled me to realize an area of weakness. Overall, through presenting and being asked questions, I learned how important it is to respect my audience, in order to continue my growth as a public communicator.

This presentation was an outgrowing of a project that I completed in my junior year at Messiah. We received a tremendously positive response from our demonstration, while inspiring teachers, higher educators, and paraprofessionals with our unique approach to Tier 3 mathematical interventions. After our presentation, I was able to fully understand the wealth of information that I had gained through this project. It also helped me to translate my experiences of being a college student to my future classrooms—where it will affect students in positive and amazing ways. Each of my assignments here at Messiah, in particular my attendance and presentation at this conference, has enabled me to be a more reflective teacher and has prepared me to be a strong professional influence in the world of education.

Jubilee Conference by Christina Thomas

April 14th, 2014

“Everything Matters” was this year’s theme for the Jubilee Conference. A team of Messiah students left at 10am on a Friday morning heading towards Pittsburgh, PA. Throughout the rest stops and the constant singing, we discussed what we would expect and the issues we could address upon returning to campus. So, what did I expect? I expected a room full of students from various disciplines and walks of life all united by our common faith in God. What I did not expect was entering a conference gaining professional networking skills, how to become a “storyteller of the past”, and how to be a humble, patience, efficient, and effective leader.

With me on this trip were several student leaders throughout the Office of Multicultural Programs from our multiple student organizations as well as our advisor Scott Hwang. Outside of the common gathering center was an array of organizations and colleges and universities tables. We were able to network and talk to graduate admission counselors, find local summer job opportunities, and connect with post-graduate organizations. The conference even challenged students to “sell themselves” by hosting a friendly competition on who was able to professionally connect the most with these various organizations and schools. As a history major, I was able to attend a session by Dr. Eric Miller of Geneva College on “Telling the Story of the World”. In a room full of future historians we were taught how to not only do history, but how to be a successful historian as we face graduation and begin to look towards graduate schools and professional jobs. This lecture provided me with great lessons as I began my graduate schools interview. Dr. Miller also taught up great secrets in securing funding for graduate school and making the most out of our undergraduate history degree. Through this conference, I gained a greater sense of how to become a historian pursuing graduate work. As I expanded my academic and professional experience, I began to even further grow in my leadership.

Being the school’s Vice President of Diversity Affairs is no simple task. Throughout the constant meetings and evaluations, I am constantly left with the issue of connecting six cultural based student organizations to the entire campus. At Jubilee, I had the privilege of attending two sessions, ‘Discovering the Beauty of Ethnicity and the Fragility of Pride’ and ‘The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Life as a Black Christian on a White Campus’. I found with these informational sessions that we must first take a step back before moving forward. It was a humbling lesson because I am constantly looking for ways to push forth this alternate chapel or propose this change without first stepping back to assets and take note of the various needs beginning within our own office and our own students. The second session spoke greatly about microaggressions, a big issue on our campus. During this session there was an even bigger movement stirring at many colleges and universities with powerful campaigns against microaggressions. Both of these sessions gave me efficient tools on how to address issues as a Christian attending predominately white colleges and to pass on what I learn to future leaders.

PAFCS Annual Conference by Laura Kreider

April 14th, 2014

This past weekend, I attended the PAFCS Annual Conferences at the Marriott in Lancaster County.  At this conference I had the opportunity to network with many other Family and Consumer Sciences majors, teachers in the field, and other professionals.  I gathered many materials and resources that will help me become a stronger professional and will aid me as resources for within the classroom.  Additionally, I attended workshops that informed me of the many areas of specialization within the field of Family and Consumer Sciences, the issues concerning our state and our content, and the strengths and resources we have at our disposal.

This information will be very helpful as I search for a teaching job this year because I have made several connections with different school districts as well as professional organization that will help me maintain my own level of professionalism.

Today more than ever, it is important to remain relevant and current in our content areas, and attending this conference was one method for me to maintain this goal.  Thank you SGA for helping make this possible!

Pennsylvania Association of Family and Consumer Sciences by Sara GaNung

April 14th, 2014

The Pennsylvania Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (PAFCS) is an association created with the purpose to improve the quality and standards of individual and family life through programs that educate, influence public policy, disseminate information and publish research findings. This association firmly supports professionals who strive to achieve their purpose as leaders in their communities.

At the 90th PAFCS Conference, I was provided with multiple tools and opportunities to advance my future profession and achieve the goal of enriching my students and community with the purposes of PAFCS. At the conference I was able to attend sessions that provided me with information for teaching strategies, lesson planning and opportunities to provide my students. It was great to be surrounded by professionals who enjoyed Family and Consumer Sciences and have the same passion for teaching as I do during each session and event during the conference.

My favorite part of the conference was networking. Even though I am still a year out from entering the work force, I gained multiple connections with not only educators but businesses that are connected to my field of study. For example, I connected with a representative from RealityWorks, who provides baby stimulators for FCS teachers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. He is able to get me connected to FCS teachers in all of those states, and provided me with opportunities to be able to provide this baby stimulator for my future students. Attending this conference broadened my horizons as a future FCS educator, provided me with opportunities to connect with future job possibilities and introduced me to new ideas to incorporate into my classroom one day.

Redefining Investment Strategy Education Conference – by Matt Meads

April 11th, 2014

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend the RISE conference (Redefining Investment Strategy Education) hosted by the University of Dayton. My ability to attend this conference was largely due to the generous support of SGA’s Professional Development Grant which helped pay for some of my expenses. While attending the three day conference I had the ability to listen to several great speakers, sit in on various panel discussions, and speak with other students and professionals about many hot topics surrounding today’s world of investments. I was also there as a representative for the Messiah College Investment Club, which is a club on campus that actively manages a portfolio valued over $200,000.   

Having this experience was very influential in my learning at Messiah College. Striving to work in money management, this opportunity allowed me to take my education to the next step. With incredible guest speakers such as the Head of Cleveland’s Federal Reserve, Sandra Pianalto, and host of the CNBC show “Mad Money”, Jim Cramer, I was able to learn so much.

I also had the unique chance to talk one on one with many professionals that were only several years out of college but already becoming very successful in their line of work. Through these interactions I was able to ask for advice and tips on what things I can currently be doing to better prepare myself for working in money management.

On the last night of the conference, I attended a networking event where I was able to speak with other student investment managers about how their clubs functioned and ways to improve the club for everyone.

This conference was extremely beneficial to my professional development. It has greatly increase my confidence in myself as a student investment manager, provided me with investment knowledge I couldn’t have learned elsewhere and given me ideas on what I can do next to get to reach my goals. I am so grateful to have had this experience and am very thankful for Messiah’s willingness in supporting my goals and helping me further my education.

247th ACS National Meeting & Exposition: Chemistry & Materials for Energy – by Lauren Martin

March 31st, 2014

The American Chemical Society’s 247th National Meeting in Dallas was a great opportunity. 

My career goal is to go to graduate school for medicinal research. I would like to obtain my PhD and then research in a lab to find the cure for various diseases. This conference gave me experience in presenting my research and seeing other research topics within the same field. Being able to present my research at a national chemistry meeting gave me the chance to hear feedback on the research I am currently doing. I was able to hear ideas on the progress I have made in research along with ideas for the future of my research. Professors and other researchers approached our poster presentation and asked questions which required an extensive understanding of my project. I had to communicate the ideas of my research in a way that others could understand.  I gained experience in presenting my research, which is a skill I will need in my career. In addition,  I was able to interact with other undergraduate and graduate students and learn about their research. This interaction allowed me to understand new ideas in research and improved my education as a chemist. I attended multiple meetings in medicinal chemistry and organic chemistry. These talks were given by graduate and  PhD researchers.  I was able to relate the information I learned in the meetings to class material and my research. This experience was a highlight of my chemistry education, and it helped me grow as an aspiring research chemist.

Jubilee Conference 2014 – by Albert Mhangami

March 26th, 2014

On the 14 of February I went with a team of students from Messiah College to the Jubilee Conference for 2014. Our team went under the guidance of Mr. Scott Hwang, and was made up of a pretty diverse group of students. Our little van carried in it a world of English, African, Jamaican, and American ideas joined together in the hopes of learning something new. These hopes were pretty high, and understandably so. The prospect of going to a conference which aimed to get representatives of Christian students living and learning in separate communities all over the USA to come and worship and learn together, even for a few days was way too good to pass up. So good in fact, that we were willing to give up our valentine’s day for a six hour drive to Pittsburg.

When we arrived we immediately noticed the dedication of the CCO, as they had gone to great lengths to provide amazing housing and facilities to address the huge mob of students. We stayed at the Westin Hotel Pittsburg and our rooms were but a staircase away from the seminars and conference events. The days were broken up into three main sections, morning seminars, afternoon worship, afternoon seminars and finally evening worship. There were numerous seminars and describing the detail alone of the brilliant subject matter, would take a rather stocky book’s worth of pages. We were frantically racing to and fro, trying to hear talks and discussions on faith and college, law and the moral conflicts of modern day slavery, economics and much more. The speakers were notable members of their different realms of influence, from professors, to chaplains, to think tank staff from Mars chocolate company. The wisdom they poured out in the little time they had gave you little time to reflect and left you wanting to ask more, to probe deeper into the logic of how they had come to the conclusions they had. At the end of most sessions I found myself reading over what I had jotted down and being rather embarrassed by the amount of times “Oh that’s what they meant”, came out of my mouth.

The worship was brilliant and you couldn’t help feeding off of the energy of the band and the swarm of jumping students surrounding you. Much to my entertainment Mr. Hwang found himself as hyped as we were and burst out dancing on one occasion. After worship the entire auditorium would sit down and after being advertised numerous books to buy (which I can’t decide whether it was a positive or negative addition to the main service) we would hear brilliant ideas, sermons and testimonies of how “Everything Mattered”. The phrase “Everything matters” was plastered everywhere and was the theme of the entire conference. Although the phrase seems extremely vague it was amazing how it was quite the opposite. The core of the conference was to bring all schools of thought, all realms of interest and all vocations and hobbies to the realization that whatever their function in society they mattered. The speakers elegantly tied together how whatever we found ourselves with the ability to do better than most people, or whatever we found ourselves loving to do; that was an outlet for ministry and a stronghold for our Christian influence on society.

What an amazing truth that “Everything matters”. I left the conference with a great sense of accomplishment and am glad that I had the opportunity to go. I gained a lot from this conference and was pretty impressed how the speakers and organizers managed to reach out to scholar and athlete alike. One speaker Mr. Andy Crouch found a way to place scientists and musicians on the same boat, tying the brilliance of Bach to the complexity of physics. It was amazing to say he least and an adventure worth its weight in gold. I hope to attend next year, and am confident my colleagues share the same sentiments.

American Chemical Society Conference – by Julie Fenton

March 21st, 2014

I recently had the privilege of attending the national meeting of the (ACS), held in Dallas, Texas from March 16-19. This experience was made possible in part by an SGA Professional Grant, sponsored by the Messiah College Career Center. ACS is the premiere professional development organization for chemists in the United States; though many regional meetings and gatherings are held each year, the spring national meeting is the largest and most significant gathering for chemists nation-wide. For an undergrad, attendance at this meeting is critical for developing connections with others in the field, for securing internships and research positions, and for presenting original research projects.

At the conference, I presented a poster on my own original research project. Attendance at this conference and the presentation of my work was the culmination of 12 weeks of full-time research I conducted last summer through a National Science Foundation international Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF iREU) in the Laboratoire de Chimie Moléculaire de l’Etat Solide at the Université de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. My project, entitled Selective Formation of a Hexaprismatic Carboxylato-Coordinated Titanium Complex from an Asymmetric Pyridine Carboxylic Anhydride Precursor, focused on the synthesis and characterization of novel titanium-containing hybrid materials. It was remarkably successful, and I was able to realize all of the project objectives during my summer project (a rarity in the cutting edge of research science). My work has since been published in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry. At the ACS meeting, my poster on this project was presented in two sessions: one specifically for inorganic chemistry at the undergraduate level, the other in a professional-level poster session. At the poster sessions in which I presented, I was able to network and share my research with numerous other chemists. I made connections with other undergraduate chemists, graduate students, and numerous professionals in the field. As I enter graduate school in the fall and select a group to do research with, these connections will be invaluable to me. Additionally, it was productive to receive feedback on my project from others doing similar work.

When I wasn’t presenting my own research, I was able to benefit from listening to research presentations by others. At a meeting of this size (more than 6,000 individuals were in attendance), there were practically countless research talks to attend. I have been accepted to four Ph.D. programs to begin in the fall of 2014, and plan to study materials-inorganic chemistry. As I make my decision as to where to pursue this degree, the professors and research groups at each institution are critical: the more that I know about each group and the projects that they are working on, the better informed I will be in making my final decision. Many of these professors and their graduate students gave talks on their current research, and by attending these talks, I was able to interface with them and to hear more about their work. From the sessions I attended, I was exposed to much of the cutting-edge research in inorganic and materials chemistry. I was overwhelmed by the scope of current technology and the progress of research in chemistry, as well as the applications that many of these avenues of research could hold in the near future. By attending this meeting, I have been able to contextualize the research being done by the groups I am interested in (and by many others).

I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend this meeting. I look forward to applying all that I’ve learned to enhance my chemical knowledge as my time at Messiah ends and as I move on to continuing my education next fall.