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.

Ecological Landscaping Association Conference – by Emma Vatour

March 18th, 2014

As a student of ecology and an aspiring ecological landscaper, it was a privilege to have attended the 2014 ELA (Ecological Landscaping Association) conference and learn from many of the leading figures in the field. The conference rooms seemed to reverberate the buzz of so many excited earth-enthusiasts communally appreciating what fascinates them most. The general liveliness was underpinned by finely tuned, intellectual discussions of innovative techniques and new understanding. The energy of the conference was in full swing by the time Michael Phillips began his session on Enhancing Ecosystem Dynamics for Trees. During his talk Phillips laid out the essence of his practice at Lost Nation Orchards, an apple orchard in New Hampshire. His thoughtful practice simultaneously increases his harvest and also pays close attention to the minute and extravagant relationships that exist in nature. As a farmer and steward, Phillips’ works hard to enhance everything from beneficial fungal growth in the soil to the generation of habitat for pollinators and beneficial predators.

As the well-versed ecologist knows, life begins in begins with the soil. The first important practice emphasized by Phillips is to promote mycorrhizal growth to facilitate the uptake of nutrients by fruit trees during maximal growth periods. Having a diversity and abundance of mycorrhizae (fungi that associate with the roots of plants to mutually support each other) drastically increases the soil volume reach of trees. This can be achieved by dipping the roots of young plants in a mycorrhizal mix before planting or by applying fungal favoring compost, biochar or burying dead wood by the root tips of trees. Phillips also suggests the technique of biological mowing, which allows the growth of leafy vegetation until right before the first feeder-root flush of the trees. Right before these plants go to seed, you can mow them and leave them to mulch the ground where they were growing, increasing the water and nutrient availability for the trees.

A second form of diversity Phillips encourages is the plant diversity of the orchard floor. He personally favors species like comfrey, crocuses, daffodils, crimson clover, lupines, echinacea, lemon balm, native grasses, and woody herbs. Each of these provides an extra layer of dimension and support to the dynamic interplay between species within the ecosystem. He strongly endorses the use of comfrey (with infertile seeds) as a species with a multitude of good qualities. Species like crocuses and daffodils will provide protection from voles, while clover and lupines will fix nitrogen in the soil. Other plants enhance the habitat structurally or provide the food necessary to birds that prey on pest insects. Woody herbs at the base of trees act as mycorrhizal accumulators to further benefit the trees.

It was fascinating to hear Phillips not just speak of the connections between plants and soil, but also of the wider impact of all species, including field mice, fox, and song birds. I was particularly impressed by his familiarity of the timing of the processes and events that occur throughout the year in his orchard. It is this vital familiarity that I believe has been lost from our culture to the detriment of all earthly things, including ourselves. I strongly believe there is space in everyone’s practice, no matter the field, to integrate ecological knowledge. For Phillips an appreciation of ecological connections means a healthier orchard. By understanding the ecosystems around us we can participate in the mutualisms that exists there. We can also gain humility in witnessing the capacity and intricacy of nature.

I have high hopes for incorporating these lessons and others I learned at the conference into my future career. Even though I’ve always had an affinity for natural things, I only just discovered the realm of restorative native landscaping in the last year or so. It’s been exciting to see how this field, that I couldn’t have imagined when I was younger, fits so well with what I’m passionate about and hope to impart to the world through my life’s work. This discovery initially came with unbridled enthusiasm for every aspect of this newly realized field, which with time and more exposure will, I expect, simmer into a more directed trajectory toward the niche that makes the most sense for me. The conference it’s self was a great stepping stone for learning more about what niches exist in ecological landscaping and resulted in many contacts and helpful conversations among those already working as a landscape architects, botanical garden curators or restoration ecologists. I plan on volunteering in future years, as I expect it will serve as great source for information, inspiration and networking in years to come!

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conference – by Ian Gallo

March 18th, 2014

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conferenceis one of the best sustainable agriculture conferences in the country. Every year, growers, processors, distributors, and researchers from Pennsylvania and the surrounding states congregate in State College for two days of workshops, discussions, a trade show, and, of course, a locally grown and fermented cocktail and cheese hour. Having to the conference before, I had great expectations and they were definitely met. I am studying sustainable agriculture at Messiah but have sort of drifted away from farming but the conference always has a way of reinvigorating my passion for working on the land and helping others do it well.

With more than 120 workshops their was no shortage of interesting topics. I attended lectures on everything from transitioning a farm to use animal power, specifically draft horses, to how attracting beneficial insects. The workshops that interested me the most however, was a series of lectures and discussions given by the manager of a buyer’s cooperative in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. There is a surging demand for locally produced items, specifically food. Over the last ten years farmers markets have exploded in popularity, doubling in number. This is an excellent way for consumers to purchase healthy, sustainably produced food while building a relationship with those who are growing it. However, most farmers markets only run from May-October and are limited in dry and bulk goods (oats, flour, oil, etc.) Many grocery stores are trying to meet this demand but are simply not moving fast enough. This is where a small buyer’s co-op can be so useful in sourcing local and healthy produce and foods year round. The series of lectures was on how distributors and growers can work together to benefit each other while supplying the consumer with a superior, local product. This sounds fairly simple but can be very difficult to navigate if managed poorly. The talks focused on the healthy aspects of a grower-distributor relationship and how it can be improved by understanding each other’s needs and  how distributors can market local products while educating consumers. I have definitely thought about working on the supply-side of local food for a while but this really peaked my interest. Distributors and suppliers are the real drivers of consumption habits and this is often overlooked when devising strategies to move towards a more sustainable food system. I would love to have a cafe/grocer or source food from local farmers for restaurants. The are many opportunities in this growing field and these lectures were a great primer to get guide my thoughts.

There were excellent keynote speakers both Friday and Saturday. Daphne Miller, M.D. gave a wonderful talk on Friday about the beneficial of food grown in soil that has a great diversity of microbes. The keynote on Saturday was given by a renowned Chilean agroecologist from UC Berkeley, Miguel Altieri, that has studied traditional and conventional agricultural models and trends in the global food system. Altieri gave one of the most thorough and educated critiques of conventional and transgenic agricultural that I have ever heard. He critiqued industry claims that conventional and transgenic agriculture is the only way to feed the growing population, biofuels are a viable substitute for fossil fuels as well as the reductionist approach to agricultural study. This was greatly refreshing and really helpful as I continue to think about the problems associated with conventional agriculture. Hearing this rousing talk with 2000 other like minded individuals is really motivating to say the least. I am really looking forward to exploring new topics I was turned onto as well as revisiting old thoughts as I continue to process what I learned.