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CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: KATE SHERIDAN

Kate Sheridan is Associate Director of Career Development for the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment.

How long have you been at Chatham, and what brought you here?
I have been at Chatham for almost two years, having come from Carnegie Mellon University, where I provided leadership and organizational development for staff members. I really enjoyed it, but working with students is a much better fit and more vibrant space for me.

What services do you offer Falk School students?
My job is to provide a full-service professional development experience, from traditional services (e.g., resume and cover letter writing, interviewing strategies, job search resources) to opportunities such as workshops, student employment, and internships. I also work with our Employer Relations Manager to develop partnerships and host networking and other events.

Perhaps my favorite part of our approach is helping students explore and define their professional identities and the ways in which our careers can be an extension of ourselves and the values we hold.

What’s most exciting about your job?
There are many things I love about my job, and all of them relate in some way to its evolving nature. The position is new to the Falk School, so I get to help create and define it.  But in addition to that, the professional landscape is changing rapidly–our alums will have a direct impact on what jobs in sustainability and food studies will look like, and how they will create lasting change for our local and global communities.

I take so much pride in each job or internship students embark on, not because of any involvement I may have had– our students truly do the work of landing these opportunities – but because the potential for impact in these positions is so significant, and to know that I am even the smallest blip in the unfolding professional journeys of this population of students is easily the most gratifying and inspiring part of my job.

Is job-hunting for sustainability professionals in any way unique?
The biggest challenge is that it is still evolving, and jobs fit such a wide range of skills and experience. Sustainability professionals need to demonstrate not only technical knowledge but also what are sometimes referred to as “21st century skills”: interdisciplinary problem solving, the ability to integrate a range of perspectives, engage systems thinking, and work in truly collaborative spaces.

Students need to have an entrepreneurial spirit, be assertive and able to manage ambiguity in positions that might not be clearly defined, and develop large networks to advance professional opportunities. There is a lot of groundwork involved in job searching within these fields–I encourage students to attend as many industry events as possible, volunteer for every opportunity they can, and conduct as many informational interviews as possible to get insight into jobs and organizations, and also grow their networks. 

What is a misconception that people tend to have about landing a job or an internship?
That they will find them in traditional ways–seeing a position on a job board, blindly submitting an application, and getting a call. Certainly this does happen, but tapping into our networks, reaching out to organizations and individuals whose work inspires you, and attending events to meet professionals in your field are all important practices in finding that next opportunity, especially when it comes to internships, and particularly within fields related to food studies and sustainability.

Academic programs in the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment  produce sustainability leaders through the Master of Arts in Food Studies (MAFS), Master of Sustainability (MSUS), Bachelor of Sustainability (BSUS), the dual-degree Master of Sustainability-Master of Business Administration (MSUS-MBA), and the dual-degree Master of Food Studies – Master of Business Administration (MAFS-MBA). 

 

 

Student-Run Communications Firm Takes on Real-World Clients

By Erin Boudreaux, MCOMM ’19

Through a student-run social marketing and public relations firm called Flanagan Communication Consulting, students gain real-world experience while working for social good–all without leaving campus.

During Fall 2017, the first year of the firm, 14 graduate and undergraduate students from Chatham’s Master of Communication program, the Master of Professional Writing program, and the undergraduate Communication major combined their diverse academic and creative skills to create strategic plans, white papers and video content for two clients: community development and environmental health nonprofit GTECH Strategies and Chatham’s Civic Learning, Democratic Engagement and Community Service (CLDE).

In addition to client work, FCC staff completed coursework on public relations concepts, engaged in collaboration exercises, and developed branding for their brand-new firm.

The Flanagan Communication Consulting course is designed to teach through professional experience. Instead of attending lectures, FCC staff meet for weekly staff meetings and workshop days where student teams worked together on client projects. The staff also tackled one of the most fundamental parts of professional communication: pitching and presenting work to clients.

For FCC staffers on the GTECH team, the semester’s work consisted of 1) two promotional videos for the organization’s year-end campaign, and 2) a social media plan for their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Students working with the CLDE gauged student interest in volunteering through focus groups and a campus-wide survey, and created individual portfolios of their work throughout the semester, strengthening their prospects after graduation.

“It was great to see how dedicated the students were to these real client projects. While we practice many of these skills in other PR courses, this was an opportunity to bring their campaigning skills to life and see real outcomes,” says Assistant Professor and Communication & Professional Writing Program Director Katie Cruger, PhD

While staffers worked hard, they managed to have fun in the office environment. The inaugural staff celebrated two firm milestones, creating mission and vision statements and successful client pitches, with office parties complete with cake and pizza.

The mission is certainly worth celebrating:

Flanagan Communication Consulting strives to achieve excellence in the eyes of the public and of the organizations we aid while learning and growing as individuals and students. We aim to create mutually beneficial environments for the people who seek our services and the students who are acquiring these unique skillsets.

The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students in business, marketing, communication, graphic design, or media arts. Along with looking for our next all-star staff, Flanagan Communication Consulting is also in the process of identifying clients for next year. For more information on the course or to recommend a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit to work with us, contact student manager Erin Boudreaux at erin.boudreaux@chatham.edu.

The first cohort of FCC staffers voted unanimously to name Flanagan Communication Consulting for a beloved and brilliant Chatham alumna, Mara Flanagan (’15, Arts Management), who passed away two years ago. Mara was a gifted writer and communicator, and an active mentor of other students within the English and Communication programs. 

Learn more about Chatham’s Masters of Communication, Masters of Professional Writing, and Bachelor of Arts in Communication programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alumna profile: Abigail Gambino-Walker ’16

Tell us a little about your history and how you came to find Chatham’s program.

I am currently employed as a high-end residential interior designer here in Pittsburgh, and I graduated from Chatham’s Bachelor of Interior Architecture program. Over the course of a few years, I have worked on numerous scale renovations, new build constructions, and showhouses for Traditional Home Magazine across the United States. I am proud to have won first and second place in three international interior design competitions. Prior to my undergraduate education, I ran an online art business that I started in high school. So, I’ve been busy!

I came to find Chatham through my wonderful mother, Dr. Nancy Walker. When we were children, my mother would take us to play on Chatham’s campus in the summer. Applying to Chatham was a no-brainer because it was so familiar to me and the opportunity to complete the Interior Architecture program in three years was too good to pass up.

How was your experience in the program? 

I am not going to lie… The three-year Interior Architecture program was hard! It took a lot of dedication, even when all you wanted to do was anything but AutoCAD.

The coursework was rigorous, and professors were demanding, but the trials and tribulations were completely worth it in the end.

The handful of ladies that I graduated with were so incredibly talented and professional. From my dedication and instruction, I even landed a job before graduation and soon thereafter graduated with both confidence and peace of mind.

If I were to recommend anything to current students, it would be to first absorb as much information as you can and go the extra mile. Do extra brainstorming and research–a competitive edge never hurts. Second, the staff at Chatham are there to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or extra critiques. They also become great connections after you graduate. Third, and probably most importantly, is to go to events and network! I have my current job because I was in the right place at the right time and got my name out into the community. Trust me, it is so worth it!

Tell us about your professional experience today. Do you find yourself thinking back on what you learned at Chatham? 

Many of the skills I use daily are from a strong foundation that I built while at Chatham. When I began my undergraduate degree, I possessed an already strong customer-service background and wildly creative and curious mind. The formal education I received honed my existing abilities but also shaped new skills such as understanding building systems and codes; cultivating design concepts; and delivering knock-out presentations. Being a successful designer is all about being well-rounded and Chatham helped me to achieve a holistic approach to both work and life.

What would you say to a student considering the program today? 

I would say “just do it already!” Since being in the field for a few years, I have noticed that Chatham has a notoriously good track record amidst the interior design community in Pittsburgh.

In fact, my boss says she only wants interns from Chatham now because of how prepared the students are for real-life design application.

As a whole, the University is very progressive and tightly-knit, which is by design and to your benefit. There are so many ways to be involved, volunteer, perform, compete, explore, and engage locally, nationally, and globally as a Chatham student. If you have big dreams and aspirations or need help in understanding your best future and career goals then Chatham is the place for you.

Visit Abigail’s website

Chatham’s Bachelor of Interior Architecture is a professional interior design program that prepares students for practice in an interior design or architecture firm. The Bachelor of Interior Architecture was most recently accredited by the Council for Interior Design (CIDA) in 2017. 

Students Curate Art Show in Downtown Pittsburgh

Frenetic drums mingle with downtown traffic. A dancer, raffia costume bouncing in rhythm, reels in the endless circle of a looping video. On her head is a helmet-like mask just like the ones displayed in the center of the room. But unlike many art gallery objects, these masks transcend the dusty stillness of museums. They are not inert— they are poised, as if waiting for their turn to dance.

For the first time, these and other objects from Chatham’s collection of Sub-Saharan African art are taking a trip off campus to appear in “The Dynamics of Gender: African Art from Chatham University,” held in Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center. This student-curated show presents African art objects donated to the university from alumna Cheryl Olkes ‘70, as well as pieces on loan from alumna Vivian Lowery Derryck, ’67, and a gift from Richard and Marilyn Finberg.

“Both Vivian and Cheryl recognize the value to a small school like Chatham—one with lively arts and museum studies programs—of students having direct access to art objects from different cultures,” says Associate Professor Dr. Elisabeth Roark. “At most institutions, undergraduate students rarely get to handle, research, and display actual works of art.”

Elizabeth Grace Carr ‘18, one of the student curators, agrees. “One of the reasons that I came to Chatham is because of the Olkes Collection and wonderful museum studies program. The ability for students to put on gloves and interact with museum-quality objects is not something that every museum studies program offers.”

Indeed, the students who curated this exhibition as part of their senior Capstone Project had a hand in almost every facet of the show. Seniors Raven Elder, Elizabeth Grace Carr, Abigail Bennett, and Jennifer Panza spent a semester focusing on individual research papers. Then came meetings, presentations, discussions. The students took great pains to consider their roles as curators and the assumptions and privileges they might bring to the show.

“We have to ask ourselves how to properly engage with cultural heritage that is entwined with colonial history, and how we can best avoid replicating past problems of prioritizing colonial narratives of Africa,” writes Raven Elder ‘18 in her capstone presentation. “The history of how African objects ended up in American and European art museums is undeniably complicated and problematic, and cannot be divorced from the history of colonialism and the division of Africa among European powers.”

From left to right: Student curator Raven Elder, Dr. Elisabeth Roark, student curator Liz Carr, and student curator Jennifer Panza (not pictured: student curator Abigail Bennett)

The spacious gallery was something of a double-edged sword. Dr. Roark and the students worried the art would get lost in the space, about four times the size of Chatham’s Woodland Hall Gallery and with much higher ceilings. Another issue was the safety of the objects themselves. Being made of vulnerable materials like raffia, fabric, and wood, the objects needed to be protected by specially-designed Plexiglas vitrines, or museum cases.

Jennifer Panza ’18 was able to use her expertise gained in her family’s framing and gallery business to create these vitrines from scratch.

“Though my father, his assistant, and I built, packed, and delivered the cases, all of us students designed the custom cases together,” says Panza, noting that the experience was tough but rewarding. “I built relationships, friendships, and memories. I learned so much. I will most definitely use this experience in future projects.”

It’s a strange thing to spend so much time on something you hope people ultimately won’t notice. Once inside the center, the vitrines melt away. Though the gallery is spacious and airy, the feeling of intimacy is overwhelming as one contemplates, for example, an Akua Ba, an Asante fertility figure primarily used by women hoping to conceive a baby.

The emotions expressed here—from desiring a child to honoring ancestors and beyond—are universal, timeless. The art is not, however, ancient. “Most pieces are from the 20th century, as is typical for African art since so much of it is made of ephemeral materials,” says Dr. Roark. “The art is traditional, in that it was created by traditional cultures, although these cultures continue to evolve and modernize.”

Nevertheless, these objects seem eternal in a way that Western 20th century artifacts might not, perhaps because of their particular lineage.

From culture to alumni collector, from collector to student curators, and from curators to the community—these objects have travelled an extraordinary path to sit where they are now, viewed by denizens of Pittsburgh, many of whom have ancestries as touched by colonialism as the art pieces and cultures themselves.

One of the most common misconceptions about African art—and Africa in general—is that the culture and people the art represents is monolithic. One only has to look around the gallery space to know that this is untrue. Each group has its own aesthetic sensibility and cultural ideals it seeks to express, and objects range from ceremonial to practical: Fertility icons share space with hair combs, wooden dolls, and giant spoons used as hostess gifts.

One four-legged stool is striking in its simplicity, low to the ground and unadorned. Stools like these were used by women to provide a sturdy seat during domestic chores. The intention behind that extra leg, the deferential thoughtfulness given to women whose lives were often defined almost in total by their role as caretakers, is powerful.

Meanwhile in the Lobi culture, the men have stools with only three legs, two in the back and one in the front, a not-so-subtle reference to the “third leg” of male genitalia. For some contemporary viewers, the patriarchal overtones to these and other objects could be overwhelming. Take the Spirit Maiden mask of the Ibo people, which denotes the downcast eyes of the ideal woman. But it’s important not to drape contemporary expectations onto these objects, says Elder. “A lot of our early conversations were surrounding issues of interpretation and contextualization. How could we most appropriately analyze these objects through the lens of gender without forcing the works into a preconceived narrative or framework?”

And indeed, while the very title of the show includes the phrase “dynamics of gender,” objects are presented free from curatorial judgement—in fact, many of the students and Dr. Roark cite the Spirit Maiden mask as their favorite, full of artistry and grace, remarkably light for its size.

It faces off—conceptually and physically—with a large Gelede mask. Though this mask was worn exclusively by men, they did so in a dance that honored high-ranking females in Gelede society—ancestral, supernatural, and living. The mask’s expression is serene, her forehead high and noble. Her eyes are wide open.

 

Introduction to Virtual Reality Experience Design

image capture from a final VR project from student Camila Centeno-Bonnet

“See, the world is full of things more powerful than us. But if you know how to catch a ride, you can go places.” – Neal Stephenson – Snow Crash

We assume that Stephenson was not talking about Chatham’s forthcoming Bachelor of Arts in Immersive Media program (applications for fall ’19 now being accepted), but he may as well have been: graduates will be prepared to work in some of the world’s most exciting fields–gaming, travel, entertainment, education, travel, and more.

It’s all about creating content that’s a joy to interact with. A cornerstone course is a two-semester journey called Introduction to Virtual Reality Experience Design. We asked instructor Doug North Cook for a look inside the course. Here’s what he said:

“We started by reading Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk epic Snow Crash to help us see the future we are now living in from a different angle. Since then, most of our time has been spent exploring new virtual environments, creating, and talking to creators.

For example, talking with the producers of Job Simulator–the biggest VR game of 2016–let us get the inside scoop on how to think about creating VR experiences that are for everyone. Here’s a look at Job Simulator:


^ a glimpse of the wild fun of Job Simulator

When creating, we tried to spend as much time in VR as we could. Lack of prior training wasn’t a problem, as tools like Oculus Medium made it easy to build 3d assets (like the one below) and then bring them straight into our projects.

^ A 3d sculpt by Camila Centeno

Games, stories, technical demos, art galleries….we built them all and then some. This semester, the whole class is working collaboratively, with industry mentorship, to build a single VR experience. Students are taking on roles as audio producers, programmers, project managers, 3d artists, and capture artists to make their world come to life. I can’t wait to see where they take us.”

Below is a VR project made by Madison Krob.

via GIPHY

Introduction to Virtual Reality Experience Design is a cornerstone course in Chatham’s Bachelor of Arts in Immersive Media program, launching in Fall 2019.  

Hack Your Study Skills

PACE Center staff
Education & Writing Specialist Nick Maydak, Shannon Brenner, Cindy Kerr, and Academic Counselor Barb Sahlaney

We sat down with Cindy Kerr and Shannon Brenner, respectively director and coordinator of the PACE Center for Academic Support and Disability Support Services, to learn how students can get the most out of their time hitting the books. Here’s what we found out:

Hack textbook reading.
This works well for science books. Before you read a chapter, go through and look at all the headings. Note any terms that are bolded, any sidebars, and look at the pictures, graphs, and charts.

Then read the chapter. “It’s a ‘pre-reading strategy’ that helps your brain,” says Brenner. “It makes connections more easily because you have an idea of what to expect.”

But don’t stop there. After you finish the chapter, close the book and write down (or audio record) everything you can remember from what you just read.

“Go back and try to recall the info every couple of days,” says Brenner. “Whatever you can’t comfortably recall and explain, reread that section and try it again. It’s more work, but it’s unbelievably effective.”

Hack your to-do list.
Does it look something like this?

  • Write psychology paper
  • Study for chemistry test

Kerr and Brennan suggest that you break those tasks up into smaller, goal-oriented tasks, like this:

  • Write psychology outline
  • Find three sources for psychology paper
  • Re-write chemistry notes from last week
  • Write down everything I remember from Chapter 3 of chemistry text

“Because they’re smaller, you’re much less likely to procrastinate starting them,” says Brenner. “Also, a longer list of easier-to-manage tasks leads to crossing more off that list, which leads to a greater feeling of accomplishment and productivity!”

Hack the methods of information delivery.
Say you’re in a lecture class, but you’re a visual learner. “Go to YouTube and find some videos,” says Kerr, who recommends Khan Academy’s YouTube videos. “They’re available 24/7, and if you watch them and then look at your lecture notes or textbook, they’ll supplement each other.”

Kerr notes that many students are used to having whatever learning resources they need given to them in high school. “Once they come to college,” she says, “they might not know what’s out there to help. That’s one of the places where we can come in.”

The PACE Center comprises the writing center, academic coaching, tutoring, and disability support services. Find it on the third floor of the Jenny Mellon King library, or access their online scheduling system here.

“Look for What is Good”: Mr. Rogers’ Commencement Speech at Chatham

“February 19th 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, the beloved children’s TV show filmed in Pittsburgh and starring musician, puppeteer, and Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers. Mr. Rogers addressed the students of Chatham University, then Chatham College, during the 2002 Commencement program. To celebrate his show’s anniversary, we’re releasing a copy of his Commencement speech here.”

From Cohort to Cohabitation: Mike Bacasa, MPT ’96 and Holly Putnam Bacasa, MPT ’96

Holly Putnam was working at Cappy’s Café on Walnut Street when a friend walked in one morning, accompanied by a man she didn’t know. “This is Mike Bacasa,” said the friend of the man she would one day end up marrying and having four children with. “You’re both starting the physical therapy program at Chatham.” It was 1994, and Chatham was dipping its toes into graduate education, launching master’s programs in both physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Today, programs in Chatham’s School of Health Sciences are highly competitive, with an overall acceptance rate of approximately 23 percent. But back then, students faced a risk of a different kind: the PT program had yet to become accredited. “That was nerve-wracking for many of us,” says Holly. “But we were all so excited to be there. I think the students and the teachers knew we were all in it together. It bonded us in a different way than what other classes might experience. We all worked really hard to reinforce the idea that the program was successful. It was actually a really fun part of being part of that first year.”

Holly had just finished undergrad at Pitt, and she remembers the first time she understood the difference between a large undergraduate program and a small, private school. “I had avoided organic chemistry all throughout undergrad,” she says. “But I needed to take it at Chatham, as a prerequisite. I realized right then—wow, I can get an A in organic chem! I couldn’t believe all the individual attention I was getting. I realized right away what a good environment the smaller, intimate setting was for learning.”

Holly and Mike, not yet romantically attached, did their thesis together, along with two other students. “It was a case study of a patient who had had a stroke,” says Mike. It was his great-aunt, in fact. “We worked with her three times per week for eight weeks, traveling back and forth to Brookline. Holly and I got to see what it was like to work together. She was always the principal investigator, though, so she was always in charge. That’s still the way it is today!” he laughs.

“I always felt like we were so well supported,” says Mike. “The professors really coached us along. They were always there to say ‘You can do this; we’re here to get you wherever you need to be.’”

“I remember a lot of hands-on lab work in the basement of the Chapel,” he continues. “We had lectures in Coolidge Hall, some in Buhl. Being on campus was great. The group of 40 or so of us in our cohort, we just did everything together,” he says, adding that Holly was always the social chair.

Holly characterizes the way that they were taught to look at patients “without tunnel vision” as nothing less than profound. “A lot of our clinical instructors noticed it,” she says. “I think Chatham students really stuck out more than other students, because of our problem-solving strategies.” Mike agrees: “Once we went out to the clinics, our brains already had those problem-solving pathways in place,” he says. “We were one of the first schools to provide problem-based learning, and thinking in terms of problem-solving was second nature to us. It still is, in every aspect of my life, not just rehab.”

Holly characterizes the way that they were taught to look at patients “without tunnel vision” as nothing less than profound. “A lot of our clinical instructors noticed it,” she says. “I think Chatham students really stuck out more than other students, because of our problem-solving strategies.” Mike agrees: “Once we went out to the clinics, our brains already had those problem-solving pathways in place,” he says. “We were one of the first schools to provide problem-based learning, and thinking in terms of problem-solving was second nature to us. It still is, in every aspect of my life, not just rehab.”

“Being among the first grad students—that was interesting,” says Mike. “I remember when we first came to campus, some of the undergraduates weren’t so excited about having men on campus. We’d see messages written in chalk on the sidewalk—let’s keep Chatham all women, things like that.” “I can’t say enough about the relations we still have with our professors, like Pat Downey and Sue Perry,” says Mike. “That says so much about the program, that they’ve been able to hang on to the original professors. There was a time when (Professor of Physical Therapy) Sue Perry and I were both working at the Rehab Institute. That was unreal, working side-by-side with her, after she had taught us so many things.” After graduation, Holly started working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh. She encouraged Mike to apply, and he did. He got in. About a year later, they started dating, and today, they have four kids.

“I always say that Mike was the first ever male to graduate from Chatham, because students graduate alphabetically,” says Holly. “That’s why we say we have the first Chatham baby—our son Michael. We gave Esther (Barazzone, Chatham’s 18th president) a photo of him as a baby wearing a Chatham sweatshirt. Now that baby’s going to be 13.”

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In 2001, Mike started his sole proprietorship, Wellness for Life, working privately with clients in their homes who had had a stroke or other type of brain injury. In 2006, they opened a space at the corner of Forbes and Shady avenues in Squirrel Hill, and began seeing a mix of clients. “I’ve been working with three of my current private clients for 15 years,” he says. “It’s an unbelievable experience to get to work with someone for that long. I learn a lot; they learn a lot. It becomes a different kind of therapy when it’s ongoing.”

Wellness for Life prides itself on providing one-on-one care throughout the spectrum of life, and since 2006, Holly has been working on the other end, doing early interventions for children aged 0-3 throughout Allegheny County. “It’s a big privilege,” she says. “I go into homes and meet families and their baby or child who has been identified as developmentally delayed. I can teach them things while I’m there, and I evaluate them to see if they qualify for services paid for by the state. I can recommend therapies outside of PT too, like speech or OT. I love it and can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Both Holly and Mike have stayed involved with Chatham over the years. Mike served as a graduate alumni representative for three years to the Board of Trustees, and was also involved with the Alumni Association Board. He has talked with graduating students about his experiences as a business owner, facilitated students doing assessments of real neurological cases, and taken continuing education courses through Chatham. Holly worked with a behavioral therapist to introduce a behavioral component to the pediatric course in Chatham’s PT program, developing scenarios with additional complications for the students to strategize their way through.

“Without that degree from Chatham, I just know that I couldn’t do what I love to do,” says Mike.

New Beginnings for the Penguin Whisperer

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(This story first appeared in the Fall 2017 Recorder.)

Katy Wozniak, neé Antkowiak, grew up with three older sisters and a menagerie: six dogs, “four or five” cats, birds, guinea pigs, and rabbits. It was a bustling life, filled with trips to Sea World and to zoos, that stoked her desire to work with animals. “I always said I was going to be one of those trainers one day,” she says.

Wozniak’s family lived in Oil City, PA, which she describes as a very small town. “I liked the small, close-knit atmosphere,” she says. Later, she got to know another small, close-knit atmosphere on trips to Chatham College, where she visited her older sister Jessica.
“I loved how you were in the city, but once you drove up that driveway, and you were in another world,” she says. She loved it enough to enroll the following year, intent on pursuing her desire to work with animals through studying biology.

At Chatham, Katy fell in love with a psychology class in animal behavior. “It was the professors that made the class,” says Wozniak. “Dr. (Thomas) Hershberger and Dr. (Joseph) Wister. They helped me decide to change my major to psychology, focusing on animal behavior, with a minor in environmental science.”

Wozniak calls a study abroad trip to Belize led by Dr. Wister “the most amazing experience of my life. One morning we got up at 5:00 a.m., made our way through the jungle with flashlights and climbed a Mayan temple in the dark so we could be there for sunrise. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. You’re sitting on top of this temple as the sun rises, you hear the toucans waking up, the howler monkeys waking up, you’re at the canopies of the trees, as far as you can see, rainforest and beautiful jungle. It happened over 20 years ago and I can still picture every moment of it.”

During her sophomore year, Wozniak interned at the Pittsburgh Zoo, doing observational research on orangutans and rhinos. A couple of years later, she went back to the zoo to work on her senior thesis: comparing elephant foraging behaviors in the wild and in a zoo setting.

“A lot of people think that animals in zoos are forced away from their natural behaviors, but they’re not,” she says. “For example, penguins in the wild spend about 90% of their time in the water, really just coming onto land just to breed and molt (lose feathers). So they have to eat and eat and eat in the water, to store energy for the time when they’re stuck on land. Here in the aquarium, we can just go up to them and feed them on land, but they don’t want it. They retain those natural behaviors. So we try to make their environments as natural as possible, so that people can see these natural behaviors.”

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After graduation, Wozniak returned to the zoo to intern in the aquarium for a year, and had opportunities to work with other animals, too. When a full-time job for an aquarist (“that’s like a zoo-keeper for aquarium animals”) opened up, Katy applied and got it, beating out more seasoned aquarists across the country. She started working full-time at the aquarium in 2000.

“The ‘penguin guy’ was close to retirement age, and he wanted me to work with him,” she says. After two years, he did retire, and in addition to routine care, here’s something that became part of Wozniak’s unofficial job description: Think about ways to make a penguin’s day better (the technical term is ‘enrichment’).

“My penguins love bubbles, so we’ll put a bubble machine in the exhibit, and they’ll chase the bubbles around and pop them with their beaks,” she says. “They have exceptional eyesight, and they’ll follow a laser light. When kids run across the exhibit with those light-up shoes, you’ll see this whole group of penguins chasing this kid back and forth, watching that light light up. Then when we get a really nice snowfall we’ll take them outside to play in the snow early in the morning. They’ll get on their bellies and toboggan and eat snowflakes as they fall.”

“Our penguins’ names come from all over the place,” says Wozniak. “They might be named after a Pittsburgh Penguin, or a little kid from Make-a-Wish might name one — that, for example, is why we currently have one named Cakey-Wakey and one named Letang.”

katy

Wozniak rose in the ranks, and formalized the aquarium’s internship program in 2006. She attended career fairs and reached out to colleges including Chatham, Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh, and Slippery Rock University.

For the past 14 years, Wozniak has been taking her dogs to Twinbrook Animal Clinic for care. “During a routine visit, the owner and head vet told me that she was looking to bring someone on board who shared her passion for animals, programs, and reaching out to the community,” she says. “We met a few times after that, and then the offer to become the clinic’s practice director was on the table. It would involve not only managing the clinic, but moving their programs forward and expanding their offerings.”

“It was a tough decision,” she says, “but I love the staff, and I love the vets, it’s near my house, and I felt ready for a new challenge. I also wanted to give back to them for all the years they’ve been here for our animals.”

Wozniak is excited to bring Twinbrook out into the community. She envisions visits to schools, and bringing animal care to homes, for people who maybe can’t come to a clinic. Right now, Twinbrook focuses on dogs and cats, but Wozniak thinks that can
be expanded too. “There are so many areas around here that have farms with horses,” she says. “I think it would be awesome to expand the practice in that way.”

“In college, I loved my child psychology courses too,” says Wozniak. “And there’s real potential in using animals therapeutically, for anyone from geriatric populations to kids who may have issues. I’ve seen this with kids that come through the zoo on tours, how maybe they have a hard time focusing, but they can just focus on a bird and feel how soft it is—you can see it’s therapeutic for them. I have so many ideas, but I know I need to focus and prioritize,” she laughs. “But in the end, my goal is always to help.”

“It’s a little scary to be leaving this job that I’ve loved for the past 20 years, that has supported my life and my love of animals. But I didn’t want to get stuck in a rut, and I’m looking forward to this new adventure.”

Wozniak considers herself to be starting anew not just in her professional life, but also as a parent: her daughter Antonia is in college, and her son Joey is in second grade. “I’m going to a whole second round of sports events and elementary school plays,” she laughs. “And getting used to a new job. It’s like going through life again.”

Q and A with Katie Cruger PhD


Name: Katie Cruger
Title: Assistant Professor, Communication (hopefully Associate Professor next month!); Director of Professional Writing and Communications Graduate Programs
Date Joined Chatham: August 2011
Born & Raised: Northern Virginia, outside of DC. But also spent much of my life in Manhattan
Interests: Media, Words, Plants

Q: How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
A: I loved movies, TV, and magazines as a kid. I thought I wanted to produce those things as a film maker, editor, show runner. That’s why I earned my B.A. in Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan University, which is a similar environment to Chatham’s: small, liberal arts college in a bustling city. But then I started working in industry and realized I had more to say as a critic than as a filmmaker or copywriter, and decided to pursue graduate school.

Q: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
A: Babysitting taught me how to spot a lie. Hosting, bartending, and being a server taught me about interacting with people, and how to best negotiate uneven power relationships, but also how gross and unfair the world is. My first full time job was at an advertising agency, which taught me that I didn’t want to sell things to people that they didn’t need, but that I was good at thinking about messages and persuasion, and wanted to explore ways to use those tools for social good.

Q: What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?
A: Nannying and being a student are a key part of preparation for teaching. But I also was lucky to have a lot of pedagogy training during my time as a graduate student, so that I wasn’t employing trial and error in the classroom as much as educated guessing. Still plenty of errors, I’m sure, but hopefully fewer.

Q: What makes teaching at Chatham special for you?
A: I appreciate getting to interact with students more than once during their time at Chatham and watching them develop as thinkers and activists first through fourth year, and even beyond to graduate education. I like that so many of our students are committed to justice and making the world better through their work. That means we get to explore the “how” of social justice, instead of just the “why” it’s necessary.

Q: What is your passion?
A: Other than my academic work and family, I’m extremely passionate about animal rights and link between feminist and sustainability concerns and how humans interact and treat animals. I also really love plants. More than people, I’m embarrassed to admit. I’m a certified Master Gardener in Allegheny County and love growing and cultivating plants more than most other things I could spend my time doing.

Q: What one individual had the greatest impact on you and how?
A: Erm. I’m sorry, I don’t think I have a clear answer to this one. I’ve learned a lot about who I didn’t want to be from crummy bosses and leaders of the past. I’m very inspired by Feminist leaders like Angela Davis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Ursula K. Le Guin, but I never met any of those people. My son has certainly changed my life the most out of anyone.

Q: What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?
A: I used to be quite a good musician. And dancer. And I used to care a lot about high fashion and walked miles a day in 4 inch heels as a Manhattanite.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? 
A: Garden. Watch my backyard chickens wander about the yard. Snuggle goats (post retirement, my business card will absolutely read “Professional Goat Cuddler.”) Hang with my kid.

In 2016, Dr. Cruger was selected from a competitive, national pool of nominees to participate in the Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar in Chicago, Illinois. Read more here

Chatham’s accelerated 30-credit Masters in Communication (MCOMM)  is a hybrid program, blending on-ground courses with select online offerings for increased flexibility. Students are able to choose tracks in Environmental Communication, Healthcare Communication, or Strategic Communication.

Chatham’s  Master of Professional Writing (MPW) program is a broad-based 30-credit online program that leads to a unique, professional degree with specializations possible in Technical Writing or Web Content Development, and paths of study for nonprofits professionals and communications professionals.