Harrisburg – The Smithsonian Institution. The World Health Organization. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Brown University. Georgia Tech. Yale. Yosemite National Park.
They are among the most recognizable organizations, universities and locations in the world. And they are among the places Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education university students are spending their summer, many conducting research alongside world-renowned scientists as they prepare for their own careers.
The prestigious assignments fit right in with the State System’s recently adopted strategic plan, which calls for the universities to “promote the use of research‐based educational practices to enhance student achievement through programs such as internships, undergraduate research and/or scholarship, study abroad, or first‐year experiences.”
“Through the combination of the guidance provided by our excellent faculty and their own hard work, PASSHE students have access to extraordinary learning opportunities that go well beyond the classroom,” said Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “State System universities are able to open doors to unique and rewarding internships and research experiences that will help shape the lives and future careers of these remarkable young people for years to come. And they are contributing in their own right to a new body of knowledge that will benefit others, as well.”
Mr. Brogan has encouraged all of the universities to provide their students increased opportunities to participate in educational and cultural experience outside of the regular classroom. Those opportunities, while abundant, often are extremely competitive.
State System university students have shown they are up to the challenge.
Casey Bricker of McKeesport, a senior at California University of Pennsylvania, is spending her summer doing research at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., as one of only 17 undergraduate students selected for the highly competitive Natural History Research Experience. She is working with Dr. Douglas Owsley, head of physical anthropology at the museum, during her 10-week internship.
Ms. Bricker will earn a bachelor’s degree in forensic anthropology, with minors in justice studies and forensic science, at Cal U. She already has taken part in a variety of research projects at the university, focusing on the human skeleton — in particular, determining ancestry and gender from skeletal remains.
“This internship opportunity will allow me to enhance my skeletal analysis skills while contributing to projects being conducted by the human osteologists at the Smithsonian,” Ms. Bricker said.
Andre Gomes of Bushkill, a graduate student in East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania’s public health program, is spending three months in Geneva, where he is interning with the World Health Organization (WHO), working in the organization’s Department of Communications along with colleagues from Bulgaria, Canada, India, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and the United States.
Among his responsibilities has been to help prepare persons within the organization who will be sent into dangerous regions that are plagued with civil unrest. He spent several days on a Swiss army base drilling on a variety of risk-communications scenarios as part of that effort.
“What an incredible chance I have to be in this internship with this team,” Mr. Gomes said. “It will give me a lot of opportunities to learn, and I am committed to sharing with my WHO colleagues everything I know from my previous work experience.”
Mr. Gomes was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and came to the United States in 1985 at the age of 21. A carpenter and builder in the family business, he later went to work for the New York transit system. After moving to the Poconos, he changed careers to become a certified massage therapist. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in public health degree at ESU in 2012 and continued in the graduate program. He will receive his master’s degree this summer.
Samih Taylor of Bala Cynwyd, a student in Cheyney University of Pennsylvania’s Keystone Honors Academy, is participating in two summer internships. The rising junior was one of 18 students selected to participate in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s 2014 Summer VETS Program, which included an assignment at the New Bolton Center, Penn's large animal facility.
Most of Taylor’s summer is being spent in Woods Hole, Mass., where she is participating in the 2014 Partnership Education Program on “Ocean and Environmental Sciences: Global Climate Change.” She is one of only 12 students selected to participate in the prestigious program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and is working with a veteran scientist in the area of plasticology.
“I love it,” Taylor said. "We're finding different diseases that are in areas they've never been found in before and that's because these microbes are using the plastic pollution that people are putting into the ocean as a conduit to get to new places—almost like their mode of transportation."
The list goes on.
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania junior chemistry major Jocelyn Legere of York is working on a summer research project concentrating on nanotechnology at Yale University. Specifically, she is working with other researchers who are trying to find a way to convert carbon dioxide – a byproduct of burning fossil fuels – into a useful product, perhaps even an energy source of its own.
Dominic Sirianni of Kane and a student at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is working on a chemistry research project at Georgia Tech University as part of a study funded by the National Science Foundation. Classmate Taylor Genstermacher of Troy is working in the area of forensic science in a summer internship with the Ocean City, Md., Police Department.
Josh Levitsky of Hanover, a student at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, is serving his summer internship at Yosemite National Park, where he is studying interactions between bears and people. A number of other students from Shippensburg are participating in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at locations including Brown University and the universities of Chicago, Cincinnati and Minnesota.
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania rising senior Kristen Rinaldi of Bloomsbury, N.J., a mass communications major and editor of BU Now, the student-run, online news portal, is a photo intern with Seventeen magazine in New York.
Hope Foy of Philadelphia, a junior government and political affairs major at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, is interning with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., working in the office of U.S. Rep. Chakka Fattah of Philadelphia, who serves as the organization’s chair.
“My education at Millersville has provided me with the knowledge I need to thrive in my internship and future career,” Ms. Foy said. “My government professors have equipped me with the things I need to know for my internship, such as the legislative process, knowledge of laws and different policies. I am going into this internship with the proper knowledge, so that I will perform on an excellent level—all thanks to my education at Millersville.”
Students from all 14 State System universities are involved in a wide range of research projects over the summer, including a group of students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s environmental biology program who are taking part in an “applied conservation” project designed to help project the threatened Golden-Winged Warbler and students in Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s environmental science and biology programs who are working on a community/urban forestry project in which they will complete an inventory of every street tree in Pottsville. Students at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania are conducting a similar study in cooperation with the state Bureau of Forestry in nearby Grove City.
Take the summer off? Not these students.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 112,000 students. The 14 State System universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study.
The universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. The universities also operates branch campuses in Oil City (Clarion), Freeport and Punxsutawney (IUP) and Clearfield (Lock Haven), and offer classes and programs at several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and in Center City in Philadelphia.