“Beer writing, well crafted” goes the tagline for Hop Culture, an online daily lifestyle magazine for the newest generation of craft beer drinkers. The magazine’sfounder and editor-in-chief is Chatham MFA in Creative Writing student Kenny Gould, ’17.
Hop Culture—which boasts a masthead that includes several Chatham Masters of Arts in Food Studies graduates as well as current Chatham graduate and undergraduate students—features new content daily. Beer-focused travel guides outline realistic itineraries (see Pittsburgh, Denver, and Boston). In addition to travel, sections dedicated to people, gear, beer, and culture feature interviews, definitions (what is a gueuze?), book reviews, and a “Cheers to Science” series, in which the magazine recognizes an extraordinary scientist by pairing him or her with an extraordinary beer—a refreshing diversity of content for what might seem like a narrow focus.
“A professor once told me that when you’re writing about food or drink, you’re never writing only about food or drink,” says Gould. “You’re writing about history, culture, traditions, people. There’s only so much you can say about a beverage with only four ingredients.”
After graduating from Duke University with a degree in English, Gould moved to New York City, where he wrote for a men’s lifestyle website called Gear Patrol. Then he moved out west for a fellowship with an urban farm in Berkeley, CA. Soon he found himself ready for a new chapter, and began looking into graduate programs.
“I found Chatham’s program, and I really think it’s the foremost program for writing about the environment and place, which was something that really interested me,” he says. “It was the only school I applied to.”
Gould says that the idea for Hop Culture began on a class trip to Peru with MFA Program Director and Professor Sheryl St. Germain, PhD. “I was reading a guidebook Sheryl lent me, and wondered why there wasn’t such a thing for beer,” says Gould, who had been interested in craft beers for years, even developing a beer-of-the-week program as an undergraduate. “I thought I could do a big road trip and write about the best breweries in the US. Then I realized that there are 5000 breweries in the US, and I couldn’t possibly pick and choose. Then I thought I’d write nine books, one for each of the districts the census bureau splits the US into, but then I thought that no one reads books anymore. This current project has really brought together everything I’m interested in—writing, beer, sense of place, and the online component.”
Chatham University’s groundbreaking MFA focusing on nature, travel writing, and social outreach is the premier graduate program for nurturing students interested in place-based writing and innovative community programs.
This story, by Bethany Lye, originally appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of The Recorder.
LaVaughn Wesley grew up the eldest child of a single mother of five. His family frequently relocated to start fresh, with young Wesley weathering at least 12 moves across three states.
Amid this shifting backdrop, one ritual took anchor in Wesley’s childhood: his mother would get him a new pair of shoes each fall. “They had to last me the entire school year—just that one pair of shoes,” he recalls. “It was a big deal.”
Wesley, now the father of a 4-year-old girl, had this memory in mind while student teaching in the gray and gritty neighborhood of McKeesport, Pa., last year. A young boy entered his classroom one morning wearing shoes so well-worn, they were losing their soles. “Things like that matter a lot to middle schoolers,” says Wesley, 31. “I thought about my mother and all of our struggles. And I knew what being that boy was like.”
Wesley went home, grabbed a pair of Jordan’s from his own closet, and handed ownership over to the student the next day.
“The love that I got back from him was incredible,” recalls Wesley, who is now leading his own classroom at the same school—Propel McKeesport.
As a member of the Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps inaugural class, Wesley earned his Pennsylvania teaching certification and a master’s degree from Chatham in just 15 months.
The program, which requires participants to take night classes while teaching in a Propel classroom with a mentor for much of the workweek, isn’t for the faint of heart. “It was as hard as I have ever worked both on an academic and a personal level,” says Wesley.
As part of the program, Chatham reduces tuition fees by 65 percent, and students receive a scholarship that covers the remainder of their tuition bill plus a monthly stipend until they earn their degree. In return, the participants must commit to teaching in the Propel School system for the next three years.
Chatham’s Program Director of Education Kristin Harty runs the University’s half of the Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps, and she believes the program is the only one of its kind in the region.
Her counterpart at Propel Schools, Randy Bartlett, says that the partnership grew out of a clear need to fill classrooms with teachers who were passionate about equity in education—and who could bring stability to urban schools, which have long struggled with a high turnover rate among staff.
“As an organization, Propel recognized a teacher shortage and decided to not only create a new pathway for teachers but find individuals who were social justice minded,” says Bartlett, who serves as the director of teacher residency and research for Propel Schools. “We made a decision that we needed to turn the model on its head.”
Today, the program is marked by a multiyear commitment to developing teachers and comprehensive wraparound support along the way to ensure that they succeed. “This is not your typical training program,” says Bartlett. “We are not preparing students who might go teach somewhere else. We know for a fact that these teachers will be teaching in our classrooms the following year. They are a part of the Propel family from day one—and that makes a big difference.”
Harty notes that another defining feature of the program is its dedication to training teachers who grew up in urban communities similar to those of their students. “These teachers understand the culture, needs and strengths of the neighborhoods they are serving, and there is a strong trust that grows from that common connection.”
Wesley, who spent some of his boyhood in McKeesport, fits this requirement to a tee. And his most obvious connection is an important one: he looks the part.
At Propel McKeesport, which spans kindergarten through eighth grade, 71 percent of its 400-student body is black. Wesley is also black, and a rarity in his profession, where roughly 2 percent of public school teachers match both his gender and race. Add in the tattoos covered by his perfectly pressed dress shirt, his nose piercing and the diamond stud in his ear, and Wesley doesn’t just fall outside the mold. He obliterates it. This seemingly artificial factor matters. When Wesley initiated a discussion with his social studies class about racial profiling earlier this year, he spoke from experience—and his students knew it.
Even more than looking the part, Wesley has lived the part. He considers his backstory critical to his success in the classroom where, every single day, he is watching life repeat itself. And he knows firsthand that some of his students are navigating obstacles that are less perceptible than well-worn shoes.
“Some of these kids don’t have food at home. Some come from mentally and physically abusive homes—or homes where education isn’t valued and is just a day-to-day thing,” he says. “I see myself in all of these kids. I grew up in the neighborhoods that they lived in. And I have roamed the streets where they live,” he says.
This perspective has helped Wesley set some realistic expectations walking into his teaching career. For one, he’s not out to fix anyone. “As an educator, I know that you cannot have the cape on your back and think that every child seeds to be saved.” He also has a clear sense of what success looks like in his classroom: “I want to get through lessons on a day-to-day basis. And I want to keep things organized and create a culture that is warm, inviting and where students feel comfortable enough to open up and engage.”
Michon Gallaway, 13, is an eighth-grader at Propel McKeesport. From her vantage point in the third row of Wesley’s social studies class, he’s already hitting those marks.
“He understands us. He knows us,” says Gallaway, who recently invited her teacher to watch her perform for her church (he accepted—and kept his promise). “He’s also very caring and a really great teacher.”
Gallaway is equally complimentary of her Propel education. “I was struggling a lot before I came here,” she says, noting that her mother initiated the move from the nearby public school. “Now, I have all A’s in my classes, and it will help me get into an excellent high school and a really good college.”
The latest public statistics on Propel McKeesport support Gallaway’s optimism. When it comes to standardized test scores, sixth graders at Propel McKeesport are outperforming their peers at the nearby middle school at every turn. GreatSchools, a nonprofit that uses a 10-point scale to evaluate the quality of K-12 schools across the country, echoes this assessment, scoring Propel McKeesport decisively higher overall (6) than its local counterpart (3).
Bartlett and Harty are confident that the Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps program will continue to advance the quality of a Propel School education. And with more teachers like Wesley filling classrooms—and staying put—it’s easy to see why.
As for Wesley, he says he hopes to one day serve as a principal of a Propel school. But for now, he’s focused on making the most of where he stands today—and that’s at the head of the classroom, leading by example. In this role, Wesley is keenly aware that he’s teaching his students a lesson that will never check the box of any state-mandated education requirement. And he’s ok with that.
“They know my story. And, together, we’re building theirs,” he says. “I always tell them, ‘You can succeed, no matter where you come from.’ And, as long as they keep showing up, listening and working hard, I’m going to help them get there.”
Producing fresh, healthy food in a way that doesn’t deplete natural and man-made resources is a 21st century challenge that Scott Marshall has been unknowingly preparing for almost all of his life. Today, as President of Marshall’s Heritage Farm and member of the first graduating class of the Chatham University Falk School of Sustainability & Environment’s Bachelor of Sustainability program, Marshall is positioned to leverage his extensive experience in the food industry and deep love for the land to embrace the dramatically changing–and crucial–movement toward sustainable agriculture.
Marshall had begun thinking about how he could use his grandparents’ farm as a family asset in 2013, and after a job change, he decided a return to school was in order. When he saw a magazine ad featuring Eden Hall, Marshall decided to visit Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus to explore a degree program that would help him in his family endeavor.
“I decided the best path was to focus on sustainable or regenerative agriculture,” says Marshall. “Eden Hall had all of the opportunities I was looking for. I was happy that I had the opportunity to finish my education in a cutting-edge program.”
Prior to attending Chatham, Marshall had spent 25 years in the food service industry. In early 2014, following the death of his grandfather, Marshall began working on a plan to purchase the family farm in Indiana County. The following year Marshall, his wife Lynne and Scott’s parents were able to finalize the purchase, setting the stage for the development of Marshall’s Heritage Farm.
The independent farm is committed to producing sustainably grown, healthy agricultural products for restaurants, food businesses, and consumers in Western Pennsylvania. In alignment with its mission to support the health of family and community with quality foods while restoring biological diversity and vitality to the land, Marshall’s Heritage Farm plans to develop community workshops, educational programs at local schools, and it is anticipated that all of the farm’s products will be naturally grown by 2026. “My passion is providing clean, healthy food to the community,” explains Marshall.
Marshall’s education at Chatham enabled him to effectively launch the Marshall’s Heritage Farm enterprise. He explained, “It helped me focus on writing a business plan and building my brand. I also formed an operating entity and purchased the farm.”
He also acknowledges that the ability to achieve his goals was influenced by the support he received from faculty, staff, and friends that he encountered while at Chatham.
“I couldn’t list just one, because there were several people that influenced my time in a positive way,” he says. “All of them had an individual role in supporting my goals and success at Chatham. Never underestimate the power of listening to people who have a passion and interest in your success.”
Marshall’s commitment to agricultural sustainability is further evidenced by his work as Field Manager at 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh, a community organization that works to end hunger and reduce food waste.
Based on his experience, Marshall advises: “Be open to new ideas and be excited to be part of something new.” His decision to take an active role in the essential movement toward sustainable agriculture, his decision to attend Chatham University’s innovative Eden Hall Campus, and the launch of his family business all demonstrate that Marshall walks his talk.
Located approximately 20 miles north of Pittsburgh and comprised of 388-acres of farmable land, field labs, classrooms, dining halls, and residence halls, Eden Hall is one of the world’s first university campuses dedicated to sustainability education; students at this campus are immersed in hands-on education within fields such as sustainable design and built environments, community development and planning, sustainable agricultural systems, and ecological wellbeing.
This article previously appeared in Chatham’s Recorder alumni magazine.
As part of the first cohort of Chatham’s Masters of Sustainability program, James Snow loved “embracing the ‘newness’”. “It was a great opportunity to not only help craft the program, but also to be able to gain opportunities from something so new.” Snow said the faculty and curriculum ensured that the students were out in the field, having hands on, real life experiences. He said, “That is a critical element to being placed in a job after graduation.”
Snow is currently a project manager for the environmental nonprofit GTECH: Growth Through Energy + Community Health. With more than 40,000 vacant lots in Allegheny County, many of which attract crime, decrease property values and reduce community cohesion, GTECH’s work to transform these spaces cultivates the unrealized potential of people and places to improve the health of our communities is vital. Through this process, GTECH offers an opportunity for residents to take pride in their community and land. Play spaces, parks, community gardens, and storm water installations are some of the types of projects imagined by residents, meaning what once was a blighted liability, is transformed into a useful asset. “We focus of the intersection of community development and the economy while identifying community health issues and working on solutions,” Snow says proudly. He was an intern at GTECH while at Chatham, prior to transitioning to a full time employee following graduation.
As Snow reflects upon his time at Chatham, one of his early classes stands out. “In one of our first sustainability classes we were assigned a watershed project that included three different hydrologic systems in Allegheny County. One was urban, one suburban, one rural. We were looking at how when you look at a macro problem, like water run off or storm water, you have to be able to work up and down the scale to find a solution. We had to study everything from what kind of community this was, to who lives here, to what’s the geography and terrain like.
It was so helpful to look at these large, complex problems and then break down the context, then put it back together to craft the solution. It’s not only about different groups, people and backgrounds, but it’s also about taking all those pieces and putting it back together for a final product,” he notes.
Chatham provided Snow with the opportunity to get out in the field and experience real world situations and environments. His experience working directly with people and all different social and economic backgrounds was critical in developing a holistic view of sustainability and community development. “Chatham is a big enough program to obtain resources, but it’s small enough to build really close relationships,” Snow says. This allowed Snow to truly understand the world he’d be working and making a difference in.
Chatham’s Master of Sustainability (MSUS) program prepares enterprising students with the tools necessary to be the agents of change that corporations, governments, and other organizations need to lead their sustainability initiatives. The program and its focus on real-world impact is inspired by environmental icon and Chatham alumna Rachel Carson ’29, whose own work over 50 years ago continues to impact the world.
Allison Marsh, Class of 96, has made a career out of being forward-thinking. For the past decade, she’s worked in new product development at American Greetings, most recently as a Research and Development Manager. “The sole reason my job exists is to help you tell someone how you feel,” she says. “That’s actually pretty powerful. But what does that gesture look like to a millennial, or to the next generation? Does it have to look like a traditional greeting card? Probably not!”
Marsh’s team handles the cards that “do the unexpected,” she says. “If it sings, dances, lights up, records your voice, shoots confetti, has a QR code—if there’s something above and beyond what you think of as a regular greeting card, it comes from this department.”
Born and bred in Pittsburgh, Marsh loves the city, and when it came time for college, she wanted to stay. “I knew I didn’t want to sit in Psych 101 with a hundred kids and be lucky if the professor knew my name,” she says.
“So I looked at Carlow, Duquesne and Chatham. But once I visited Chatham, I was done. It’s like being in a treehouse above the city. You can’t see that it’s there from the road; it’s hidden, but like two minutes from everything you can experience in city life. I knew I was going to get a great education in a very safe environment. And to me, that’s what I was paying for.”
Marsh came to Chatham hoping to get a degree in art education, but then she discovered art history. “I totally changed my course,” she says. “I thought ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing. It’s creative, but it’s also research and discovery, asking questions, generating hypotheses, and trying to prove a point.’”
And she found that Chatham was instrumental in helping her take that on. “I was pushed, challenged; my professors knew who I was and what I needed to succeed,” Marsh remembers. “With class sizes that small, there’s no way you’re skipping class. And you don’t want to, because you’ve developed this little community of people, not just with the professors, but also with the others in the class. It allowed me to form really nice bonds with other students, working as a team, understanding how I learn best.“ This is something Marsh says that has paid off extraordinarily well in her career.
“I work closely with creative teams, technical teams, and manufacturing teams. I think of myself as a mediator, doing by best to keep all those people as happy as possible while bringing forth the vision of the product we’re trying to introduce. So communication is hugely important, and so is attention to detail, and getting people motivated to work in a team. “
After graduation, Marsh was accepted into a doctoral program in art history at Arizona State University. After six months, she figured out that “the practical day-to-day life of a professor wasn’t in line with my passion. I was like ‘wow, I am not cut out for this.’”
Back in Pittsburgh, she applied for a job as a studio assistant for the artist Burton Morris. “He was a really well-known illustrator and graphic artist, but wasn’t doing a lot in the realm of fine art, and he wanted to make that distinction,” Marsh says. “He recruited three or four of us assistants to transfer his illustration to large canvases. So I was making ten dollars an hour—this is back in 1998—to paint.” Marsh stayed with Morris for a couple of years, and learned the business side of art galleries. When it was time for her to move on, Morris introduced her to a business friend of his. “He said ‘How would you like to learn product development?’” Marsh recalls. “And I was like ‘Sure! What is it?’ Back then, they didn’t have courses in product development—you could study industrial design or things like that, but there wasn’t this business component.”
The company sent Marsh to China, where she learned about working with manufacturers there. “I ended up falling in love with the culture and the people,” she says. “And I’ve been going back and forth to Asia for work now for 16 years. If someone had said to me when I was at Chatham ‘you’re destined to work with the Chinese,’ I would have just laughed. But it happened.”
“It just goes to show that you never know what you have an aptitude for until you let yourself try it,” she continues. “There’s a lot of trial and error. You’re going to try stuff that you’re not good at, but then you’ll try something else and it’ll be a total surprise. That’s what this has been for me. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be working for the company that invented Strawberry Shortcake.”
Or, one would imagine, create a furry bag with googly eyes that Miley Cyrus has been spotted carrying, but that happened, too. “We intended it as a gift bag,” Marsh laughs. “But Miley turned it into a fashion statement. We’re not complaining.”
It could not be said that as a student in Chatham’s Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Digital Technology, Danielle Burkhart sat on her thumbs. She took classes and held several part-time jobs, but perhaps most transformative to her career was the time she spent working as a digital video graduate assistant. “My grandfather always told me, ‘you are only in school for a limited amount of time so give your best effort. It will pay off,’” said Burkhart. “Through the assistantship, not only did I become familiar with the applications available to editors, but I also had the opportunity to use these programs while working on productions at Chatham.”
Students who are awarded this competitive assistantship through Chatham get both a tuition discount and real-world experience through filming all events on campus. During the course of their work, they also serve as ambassadors of the Film and Digital Technology program. “I felt a lot of confidence and pride in knowing that Danielle was a representative of our program and of the University,” says Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Technology Kristen Shaeffer. Shaeffer also supervised Burkhart’s assistantship, and Burkhart considers Shaeffer a mentor, calling her guidance invaluable and her role in the community as a young, female, successful communications professional an inspiration.
While the MFA in Film and Digital Technology is offered as an accelerated one-year program, students have the option to complete the program at their own pace. Classes are held on weeknight evenings, allowing students to continue working during the day. “Students graduate with a strong portfolio,” says Shaeffer. “Films made as part of the production classes become a launching pad into the professional world of conferences and festivals.”
Or somewhere entirely different: After graduation, Burkhart worked the Pittsburgh Pirate’s digital video board. “Never did I have two days that were the same, she says. “The majority of my time was spent with Pirates production, where I worked ballpark events, home games, Pirates events in the community, and even spring training. When I was not out shooting these events, I was editing pieces for the Pirates Video-On-Demand channel, social media, or the Pirates official website.” Burkhart was with the Pirates for seven seasons. She is currently Athletics Multimedia Services Coordinator at St. Francis University, where her main areas of responsibility are live webcasting, media for the athletics website, and production for the video board. She still occasionally does work for the Pirates.
To learn more about Chatham’s MFA in Film and Digital Technology program, visit chatham.edu/mfafilm.
Aafke Loney didn’t plan for her family’s lifelong involvement in hockey to blend seamlessly with her passion for business; it just happened that way. Aafke, who earned her MBA from Chatham in 2011, along with her husband Troy Loney, are the proud co-owners of the Youngstown Phantoms (youngstownphantoms.com) of the United States Hockey League. This acquisition marries the couple’s backgrounds, and Aafke has big plans for developing not only the Phantom’s players – but also the team’s fans and sponsors – so that “everyone invested receives a complete experience, a value in supporting the team.”
The Phantoms have enjoyed much recent success: five of the team’s alumni have signed NHL contracts, an additional three players were drafted in the 2014 NHL draft and, this year, one of their players is projected to be a top 10 pick in the 2015 NHL draft. Aafke’s latest venture is a Girl’s Hockey Weekend skills competition and symposium on Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, OH. “We are excited to support the 2014 USA Girl’s Hockey Weekend October 10-12 through providing this opportunity for girl’s youth hockey in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” says Aafke. Chatham University Women’s Ice Hockey coaches, captains and players will present a College Athletics Q & A followed by on-ice skills development during the event.
You might say Georgena Terry forged her own path, but it would be the only cliché in her story. Georgena earned her first bachelor’s degree as a drama major at Chatham College. “I did lighting and tech. I was always more comfortable behind the scenes. I loved math and physics and all that stuff,” she says. Small wonder, then, that she earned her second bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University which Georgena completed in two years, due to having so many transferable credits from Chatham (Georgena also holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania).
A lifelong avid biker, Georgena became interested in bicycle frames, and built her first frame in her basement. It was an exact copy of the bike she was riding at the time, and she found herself questioning the choices that were made in its construction. It was a short step from there to hand-building frames for women’s bodies that were in increasing demand among women cyclists in her community. Recognizing an unmet need, Georgena launched Terry Precision Bicycles for Women, which grew to include award-winning components and apparel.
The accolades began to pile up: In 1996, Georgena was named one of four cycling pioneers by Bicyclingmagazine. In 2002, she was the only woman recognized in Outside Magazine’s list of 11 cycling innovators. In 2005, the Direct Marketing Association of New York named her Marketer of the Year. And in 2010, Georgena received the Pioneering Woman award from Outdoor Industries.
As Georgena was being recognized, she was also working to engage and encourage women cyclists and to protect the wilderness that has always been so important to her. In 2001, she began to sponsor a women’s road racing team, focusing on developing young female riders. In 2006, Georgena donated thousands of dollars to breast cancer research and to grassland conservation efforts. In 2008, she held the first “Wild Goose Chase,” a fundraiser for the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Georgena sold Terry Bicycles in 2009. “The CEO said ‘Do you want to keep the handbuilt bicycles? We don’t have the expertise’,” Georgena recalls. “So I took that part with me.”
Today, that part is Heart of Steel Bicycles. Georgena notes that contrary to popular opinion, steel is a great choice for the serious cyclist. “Maybe it’s because of the diamond frame,” she muses. “…Tube diameters have increased and tubes that were once round may now be oval or tapered. But the frame is still a diamond.”