What to say when your family asks, ‘How’s OU?’ at Thanksgiving

College Green on Aug. 18, 2016 (Photo by Patrick Connolly)

When your extended family gathers around the table on Thursday to eat food and chat, the inevitable, “How’s college?” question will arise. Here are some talking points about Ohio University to bring up at the dinner table.

1. This was Pumpkin’s month.

No, it’s not because it’s Thanksgiving and we’re about to eat pumpkin pie. It’s because Pumpkin the cat, everyone’s favorite part of walking past the Board of Elections window on Court Street, finally got the love and attention he deserved during election season. He was more than just a spectacle to be looked at through the BOE window: he was an active participant in the demo-cat-ic process.

2. We have the most romantic (and famous) professors around.

I’m sure we all recall the heartwarming story that captured national attention about our very own assistant professor Dan West. After a student in his Introduction to Human Communications class posted this tweet, his story went viral and he garnered attention from national media, including Buzzfeed.

Today somebody asked my professor how he knew he wanted to marry his wife & he said, “I took her to the grocery store to get ice cream & while she was picking out a flavor, I realized she was who I wanted to grocery shop w for the rest of my life..”😭

3. Athenians can now smoke weed without penalties (well, sort of). 

On Election Day, 2,000 Athenians cast a vote to penalize misdemeanor marijuana charges within city limits. The Athens Cannabis Ordinance voids fines for those misdemeanor charges to decrease the incentive for officers to enforce marijuana laws. But before your mom freaks out — the new ordinance doesn’t apply to citations on OU’s campus.

4. We take care of our Athens pets.

Black Sheep hosted “Tuck the squirrels of College Green in and read them bedtime stories” on Oct. 23. The Facebook event had more than 100 people interested in giving back to the squirrels who have “a hard life.”

5. Speaking of furry friends, Tumbles, the two-legged pup is now two years old.

Tumbles, the local two-legged dog that captured national attention a few years ago, just turned two in September. He no longer uses the 3-D printed wheels the OU Innovation Center printed for him; rather he opts to hop around on his stomach or walk on his hind legs.

6. The infamous “Cocaine Plane” pilot was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Remember when authorities discovered more than 300 pounds of cocaine on a plane that unexpectedly landed in Athens earlier this spring? The verdict’s out, and the Canadian man who landed the plane was sentenced to serve eight years in prison.

7. Quit it with the “OU is only a party school” thing already.

OU didn’t make the cut for the top 20 party schoolsfor the second year on the 2018 Princeton Review. Despite the number one rating in 2011 and third place ranking in 2012, we fell off the list completely in 2016, but we were listed in The Best 382 CollegesBest Midwestern and Green Colleges.

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu 

Originally published for The Post on November 20, 2017.

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Despite low enrollment, women in OU tech programs thriving

Nicole Sova, a graduate student studying as a woman in STEM, poses for a portrait. (photo by Abbey Marshall)

Alexis Lanier, an electrical engineering student, has four women in her class.

According to a 2015 headcount from the Office of Institutional Research, only 15 percent of the Russ College of Engineering is female, despite the fact that technology is a “lucrative” field.

“There’s a lot of guys so (women) think they shouldn’t do it,” Lanier, a sophomore, said. “It’s definitely intimidating because it’s new to me, and I feel like the guys have always been really into it.”

J.J. DiGeronimo is no stranger to the frustrations those current students experience. As a 1995 OU alumna from the J. Warren McClure School of Information and Telecommunication Systems, DiGeronimo said most of her classes were at least 75 percent men.

Like many students, DiGeronimo’s main goal was to come out of college with a job. Because the ITS school was known at the time for a 100 percent job placement after graduation, pursuing a degree in communication systems management made sense.

“I was great in math,” she said. “I was great with numbers and science. … It was important for me to learn a feasible skillset the marketplace was looking for.”

As a keynote speaker and advocate for girls in STEM, DiGeronimo said gender stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions of the field can hinder a woman’s decision to enter the technology field.

“There’s some perceptions that it’s really geeky, that it’s a lot of coding, that they’re not going to fit in,” she said. “They don’t know people in the field to get experience or even ask questions of what it might be like. … There’s some preconceived notions that (women) are not going to like it.”

In most career fields, research shows women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, but in STEM fields, DiGeronimo said women make 92 cents for every dollar a man makes.

“As a whole, women in any field and men in any field should be about equal (numbers) just because it’s different points of view,” Katie Meeks, a sophomore studying biological sciences, said. “You are able to get a lot of different points of view and you are able to make more informed decisions.”

Although DiGeronimo said the lack of women in her college classes was unfortunate, she viewed it as a great preparation for the professional world.

“Most of my career, I have often been the only woman at the table,” she said. “Obtaining a degree that had more men than women prepared me for the workforce. I really didn’t have a lot of fear. I had already worked through some of my concerns about being the only woman.”

Meeks said her mother, a high school biology teacher, inspired her to pursue her dreams in STEM.

“Throughout elementary and middle school, I thought I didn’t like science,” Meeks said. “Once I came into high school and saw what my mother was doing, it made me want to do something better with my life.”

Though it helps to have representation in the field, DiGeronimo said those role models don’t always have to be female.

“I had a lot of great male mentors in my program that helped move me in the right direction,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have to look for the same gender. A lot of women look up to fathers, uncles, professors. It’s about getting around good people willing to help you in your career.”

Lanier agrees. She said her professors, who are primarily male, have been incredibly helpful because many of them are encouraging female participation in STEM fields.

“A lot of women tend to take support roles instead of the lead roles,” DiGeronimo said. “Don’t talk yourself out of the lead role. … Keep at it. It’s more about perseverance and persistence oftentimes than it is about how high of an IQ you have and how well you’ve done in your classes.”

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu 

Originally published for The Post on Nov. 16, 2017.

Saddling Up: How OU students are using horses to help people with disabilities

Just 80 miles south of Athens, a veteran who suffered a stroke was riding horseback, led by Ohio University students. His wife, watching her husband ride from afar, hadn’t heard his voice in two years.

He had been riding at OU Southern’s horse park for several sessions, and he began to burst into song.

“Home, home on the range,” he belted. “Where the deer and the antelope play.”

Everyone stared in disbelief as a man who hadn’t spoken a word in years began to sing.

That is just one of the miracles that happens every day at OU Southern’s horse park, said Kelly Hall, the director of the equine studies program.

OU Southern Campus’s equine program is one of five accredited international schools to certify instructors in therapeutic riding, attracting dozens of students to enroll in hopes of pursuing a career that could change someone’s life.

A program run by students


Only two full-time faculty members staff the program, leaving the rest of the work up to students and volunteers to keep the rates for riding low. OU Southern charges $45 for a private community riding lesson and $35 for private therapeutic lessons.

horses
Photo by Emily Gayton

OU’s Southern Campus offers an equine studies program that certifies instructors in therapeutic riding. Dozens of students have enrolled in the program.

“It takes a lot,” Hall said. “If you have one person in a wheelchair, you’re going to have to have two side walkers — one on each side — and somebody to lead the horse. You’re going to have to have an instructor. … It takes a lot of volunteers to make this program happen.”

To earn their associate degrees, students are required to participate in 25 hours of instruction with a minimum of two riders with disabilities at a time.

“The community therapeutic horsemanship center serves the purpose of allowing our students to earn their hours, but it also serves the tri-state community for people with challenges,” Hall said.

Unlike many other equine programs, OU Southern has its own horse park and barns for convenience of completing lab hours and maintaining control over curriculum, attracting students from places as far as Hawaii to participate in the therapeutic riding program.

Students also teach, care for the horses and assume other responsibilities alongside volunteers and part-time employees.

“I’ve always liked helping people, and I love horses,” Julia Glebins, a first-year student, said. “I’ve been obsessed with them my entire life. It just seemed like a natural fit.”

A horse’s strength


Horseback riding provides many benefits for people with physical disabilities. Riding develops a sense of coordination and balance and strengthens the same muscles used to walk, which can be especially useful for someone in a wheelchair.

“It benefits them to learn a different or better way of living,”Tabatha McKinney, who works at STAR Community Justice Center

“We have a couple riders who are paraplegic and in a wheelchair,” Hall said. “By putting someone on a horse and the horse walks for them, they’re exercising those muscles to help them hopefully gain some mobility.”

Glebins said she was touched when she was serving as a volunteer last year and saw significant progress in a boy she was assisting.

“One of our participants started out in a wheelchair and couldn’t hardly walk, and now he’s up walking on his own and doesn’t need very much assistance,” she said. “He rides on his own, too. … It’s pretty incredible.”

The warmth of a horse


The benefits of therapeutic riding go beyond what can be seen on the surface. Hall said emotional and mental therapy is a lot of what the program tries to provide through its lessons.

The park works with agencies for weekly lessons and has served foster care industries, regional mental health industries and more.

“It benefits them to learn a different or better way of living,” said Tabatha McKinney, who works at STAR Community Justice Center. STAR serves as an alternative to prison with the intent of rehabilitating nonviolent felony offenders and frequently works with the horse park.

horses
Photo by Emily Gayton

Students teach and care for the horses, among other responsibilities. The program attracts students from places as far away as Hawaii.

OU Southern is partnered with Safe Harbor, a domestic violence shelter in northern Kentucky. The two secured a grant to bring children to the park weekly for riding lessons.

“It’s fun,” Jacob Bowman, 11, said. “I learn stuff about horses. They’re fun to play with and cute. I like it here.”

Hall said OU Southern tailors programs to specific needs. In the case of Safe Harbor, a main goal is teaching kids to positively identify and cope with emotions.

“I love riding (the horses),” Keagan Thornton, 8, said. “I’ve learned about leading and riding and about my emotions.”

Horses have unique personalities just like humans, Hall said. People might be drawn to a particular horse and learn a lot about their feelings from interacting with the animal.

“The horses show what we don’t want to face,” McKinney said. “The horses can sense your emotions. … It gives us a therapeutic moment to talk about those emotions instead of stuffing it.”

Expansion of the program


Since OU Southern’s equine program began offering online courses in spring 2016, adjunct professor Mark Abell said he has seen an increase in enrollment. He said this semester he has his largest class size of 26 people in introduction to equine studies, with students from the Athens campus and high school students enrolling.

“It’s really caught on,” he said. “It’s interesting because in the online program, you have a wide variety of experiences. … It’s a really good way for us to go beyond just the campus.”

Online classes, which are heavy on economics and technology, focus on the commercial side of the horse industry, Hall said. She said the staff rewrote the entire curriculum to accommodate online courses.

“Technology is really important in the horse world, too,” she said. “The horse industry is very large. There’s about a million full-time jobs in the horse industry.”

Many students are interested in starting nonprofits related to horses, so Hall said the program created online courses on equine nonprofit development and management.

Hall said they are also adding a degree to the eCampus. There will be a soft launch in January and a full launch in fall 2018.

“That’s a big deal for us,” Abell said. “I think it’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Abell said he was excited for the program to grow and continue to flourish because of all the good he sees come out of it every day.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful program,” Abell said. “Miracles come from it. … When you watch their expressions and the light bulb comes on, and they see all of that because of the interaction with the horses, it’s really powerful.”

Originally published for The Post on Sept. 28, 2017. Appeared in print Sept. 28, 2017.

Gubernatorial candidate to return to OU in October

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Youngstown, will return to his alma mater, Ohio University, in October as part of his campaign to reach out to college campuses.

Schiavoni, a 2001 OU alumnus, began his campaign nearly a year ago and has spent every day in a different part of Ohio. He said his sights are set on college campuses in the upcoming months. He said he is planning on going to Ohio State University, Kenyon University, Oberlin College and — of course — his alma mater.

“Young people are the key to this next election,” he said. “As I travel the state, young people want to be involved in this next election because they know it’s important.”

Schiavoni said he will participate in OU’s homecoming parade Oct. 7, but, as of press time, he does not know if he will hold any other events.

Although he will be walking with them in the parade, OU College Democrats has not yet endorsed a candidate and will not until the spring primary.

“We’re really excited about that,” OU College Democrats President Ashley Fishwick said of Schiavoni coming to Athens. “It’s good to see a candidate who’s really engaged with students.”

At 37 years old, Schiavoni is the youngest governor candidate. He said this gives him an advantage when it comes to garnering college students’ votes.

“I understand the concerns (of students),” he said. “I understand we need to give young people incentives to stay and build their lives here.”

Schiavoni said he will establish fellowships to get young people involved in his campaign.

Schiavoni said a main focus of his campaign is advocating for the alleviation of student debt. He will roll out a bill next week to assist in financing homes for first-time buyers with student debt.

“We want young people to stay and prosper in Ohio,” he said. “I’m somebody that is concerned about your future and keeping you in the state. I know we have to have incentive programs.”

Sam Miller, former president of the College Democrats, said she is interested in several candidates, and Schiavoni is one of them.

“Oftentimes in politics, we see older people pretending to understand the issues of young people,” she said. “He was a Bobcat. He wasn’t in college that long ago. He understands that college is really expensive and is trying to fix that. His youth really attracts college students to him.”

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on Sept. 17, 2017.

On the lookout: the best places to people-watching Athens

With approximately 24,000 total students on Ohio University’s campus, students are bound to see some pretty cool things during their time in Athens. Here are some of the best places to observe others on and near campus:

Athens County Courthouse

The Athens County Courthouse, 1 S. Court St., is located right in the middle of Court Street, making it a prime people-watching location. Throughout the year, the area in front of the courthouse is the site of many protests spearheaded by local activists due to its central location.

Benches wrap around the trees between the courthouse and the Athens County Board of Elections, where Athens resident Kayla Graham sat and watched the cars and people pass by on Court Street.

“I live right down the road,” Graham said. “It’s a nice day, so might as well. I just like to watch people.”

Another bonus is that it is free to sit at the location, Graham said.

“If you sit at any other place, you have to eat there,” she said.

Tables outside Court Street restaurants

People Watching Spots

Patrick Connolly | FILE

(left to right) Caleb Amos, Cody Sutton, Marideth Rock and Lori Linnevers, all of Athens, Ohio, enjoy the view out of the Bagel Street Deli front window during HallOUween 2014.

Some local businesses on Court Street, such as Brenen’s Coffee Cafe and Whit’s Frozen Custard, have tables outside where students will often sit if the weather is nice enough.

“We sat outside because it’s such a nice day out, and it’s nice to take a break from studying and projects and all that,” Jane Dickerson, a rising junior studying graphic design, said while she sat outside Brenen’s Coffee Cafe.

Certain days are better for people-watching than others, including Fests and HallOUween.

“We were sitting here by the window on Palmer Place Fest, and people were just running around super drunk outside taking pictures and wearing weird stuff,” Dickerson said. “That was pretty funny.”

If they’re really lucky, students will be blessed with the presence of a furry friend scampering down the street with its owner.

“I love dog watching,” Dickerson said. “Definitely the dogs.”

College Green

College Green is the hub of OU. For more than 200 years, students have enjoyed the shady trees and brick sidewalks. When the weather is nice, students can be spotted swinging in a hammock doing homework, picnicking on blankets or sunbathing on College Green.

“I like seeing all the people out,” Carly Rankin, a rising senior studying biology, said while she sat at the Civil War Monument. “That’s one of my favorite things about Athens. When it’s nice out, all these people are just congregated all the time.”

Evan Schmidt, a 2017 OU alumnus, laid back on a picnic blanket on College Green eating Chipotle with some friends. He said that was one of his favorite things to do in Athens.

“(College Green) is the eclectic college feel of everyone hanging out on grass whenever they want,” he said. “It’s the most stereotypical college feel in Athens.”

Originally published in The Post‘s Orientation Guide on May 25, 2017. The orientation guide is on the stands at Ohio University during summer months to welcome freshman to campus life.

Athens adventures: Plenty of places to explore in southeast Ohio

During your four years on campus, you’re bound to get bored milling up and down Court Street every night, but Athens has plenty more to offer. In the surrounding area, there are an abundance of locations to explore.

The Ridges

Students who are brave of heart can take a trek up to The Ridges, a piece of land purchased by Ohio University in the late 20th century that used to serve as a mental health center.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum, as it was named when it opened in 1874, housed patients with mental health issues. The state and federal government purchased more than 1,000 acres of land to construct the hospital. Since the piece of land was so large, patients could roam the complex, tend to the orchards, take walks and attend plays.

As the number of patients dwindled — when practices such as shock therapy and lobotomies became more controversial — the main hospital building became abandoned. The bulk of the hospital is still uninhabited, although the Kennedy Museum of Art is housed inside the main building. OU houses offices in The Ridges as well.

Nearby the mostly-abandoned main building lies a cemetery with nameless graves. There are also other spooky tales, one of which involved a stain inside the hospital from a decomposed body. Because of the ambiance, many have dubbed The Ridges as haunted.

The Ridges also has several scenic hiking trails for those who are more faint of heart.

“If you go past the graveyard and up the hill, there’s a trail to this awesome meadow during springtime, which is beautiful,” •Amanda Poll, an OU alumna, said. “I love to run up to Radar Hill.”

Strouds Run

Strouds Run State Park is roughly a 15 minute drive from campus. The park is comprised of more than 2,000 acres, including a 161-acre artificial lake. In the late summer and early spring, students flock to Dow Lake to rent canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats to soak up the sun and explore the lake. There is even a small beach with sand and access to swimming.

“(When I went last week), there was a nice sunset over the water,” Jillian Sosnak, a rising sophomore studying biology, said. “There wasn’t a lot of people walking around either, which was nice.”

There are also hiking paths and campgrounds.

“We went on a hike around the entire lake last week,” Lillian Cahill, a rising sophomore studying biology, said. “We went about eight miles. … It was really secluded.”

Hocking Hills

If you’re looking for a day trip, Hocking Hills State Park is the perfect location. The park is located in Hocking County, about an hour’s drive from Athens. The park is chock-full of scenic trails that include waterfalls, streams and more.

“I’m a photographer, so I go to a lot of places like Hocking Hills,” Evan Schmidt, an OU alumnus, said. “If you take more of the unknown trails, you can find some really cool vantage points of the lakes around here.”

The most popular trail is Old Man’s Cave, which derives its name from a hermit who lived in the large cave on the trail.

“I didn’t go to Old Man’s Cave until (my senior) year and I now regret life because it’s so awesome,” Schmidt said.

Originally published in The Post‘s Orientation Guide on May 25, 2017. The orientation guide is on the stands at Ohio University during summer months to welcome freshman to campus life.

OU alumnus running for governor

 

A former Bobcat has his sights set on the governor’s chair in Columbus.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, announced his candidacy for governor of Ohio on March 1 in a news release. Schiavoni, a 2001 Ohio University graduate, has served as the minority leader of the Democratic Party in the state senate for the past three years.

Prior to his election as state senator in 2009, Schiavoni worked as a workers’ compensation lawyer. He said he is ready for the next challenge and will work to address problems such as school funding, the drug epidemic and the job market.

“I saw a lot of things the state government was doing that was not helping the everyday Ohioan,” he said. “As I travel the state, I see we’re not funding our schools properly. The job market is lagging so we should make investments in jobs. We have a lot of neighborhoods that desperately need investments from the state when it comes to … revitalization.”

Schiavoni has spent the past few weeks traveling around the state to listen to the stories of his current and potential constituents.

“Ohioans want somebody that they can trust,” he said. “I want to bring people’s voices to the statehouse. The most powerful tool is giving people the opportunity to come down and testify of what’s going on in their particular municipality to make legislators understand.”

Republicans have held the majority in Ohio for •seven consecutive years. Schiavoni, a Democrat, believes the two parties can work together to improve their constituents’ lives.

“It doesn’t have to be a political battle in the statehouse every day,” he said. “They want somebody who can go there and work as hard as they possibly can to improve the quality life of people.”

Schiavoni criticized Republican Gov. John Kasich’s allocation of funds and taxation system and said he would change the way those practices are done if he were to take office.

“Constantly, it seems the governor’s priority and the Republicans’ priority is to tax cut before making investments,” he said. “We have to invest in those areas before we say we’re going to do cuts, especially to the wealthy. … Every year I see there’s an income tax reduction but a sales tax increase.”

While attending a College Democrats convention in Toledo, Schiavoni said he met several students from Athens, including Sam Miller, the current president of OU College Democrats.

“Joe Schiavoni has always been on my radar since he is minority leader,” Miller, who serves on The Post‘s Publishing Board, said. “He has stood up for the working class and Appalachia. Getting the opportunity to meet him was really good.”

Nicholas Felt, a junior studying political science and recording industry, was among other OU College Democrats who met Schiavoni. As a previous intern of former State Sen. Lou Gentile, Felt said he knew about Schiavoni and his policies prior to meeting him.

“In my mind, he is the most qualified candidate,” Felt said. “He’s been a champion of the working class in Ohio, and he’s always worked to uphold values of Democrats in Ohio.”

Schiavoni affirmed he is the best choice for college students, citing his plan to make college more affordable and managing state debt.

“Dealing with affordability, dealing with debt and also dealing with the job market is important because a lot of graduates want to stay in Ohio, and we want to keep them in Ohio, so we need to incentivize that,” he said.

Schiavoni said he is grateful for support from his alma mater and college students.

“I love seeing young people excited about this,” he said. “We desperately need young people to be very active in this election. … Politicians need to embrace the ideas of college students and college graduates.”

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on April 19, 2017.