Keepers of the Grounds: behind the scenes with MU facilities staff


The Palmer complex, where the majority of the facilities departments are located.

The Palmer complex, where the majority of the facilities departments are located.

Have you ever taken a moment to think about the guy who fixes that broken desk in the back of your classroom? What about the man who repairs the leaking toilet down the hallway? Or the guy who controls the heating and air conditioning in every single building on campus, keeping you comfortable while you’re in class or in your dorm? How about the woman who cleans up trash around campus and mows the grass and spends hours outside in the freezing cold cleaning up snow so you can walk to your classes? Have you ever thought of them?

Mindy, facilities secretary answers phone calls for the departments in Palmer.

Mindy, facilities secretary answers phone calls for the departments in Palmer.

The truth is, few college students do. When we think about Millersville University, we think of academics. We think of striving to be our best, of learning, of achieving, of seizing the opportunity. We think of new presidents and a new library and new dorm construction; we think of students and professors and administrators. But what about those employees we don’t hear as much about? What about those that work “behind-the-scenes;” the staff that ultimately make the campus run and function so that students and faculty can go about their work?

Many departments fall under the umbrella of facilities: grounds, plumbing, carpentry, HVAC, housecleaning, etc. The employees in each of these departments work hard day in and day out to make sure the campus runs as smoothly as possible. Lance Birk has worked in plumbing at Millersville for 23.5 years now. He takes care of any maintenance that involves plumbing: flow of water, sewage, repairing toilets, sinks, chilled water pumps, heat pumps, and anything else that involves plumbing or pipes. His job isn’t “pretty,” but it’s a vital position that without it, the campus plumbing wouldn’t function. Birk said the worst part about his job is some of the disgusting calls they get, like clogged sewage ejection pumps.

Ike Hogue, grounds crew, maneuvers the Hustler around campus on snow removal duty.

Ike Hogue, equipment operator for the grounds crew, maneuvers the Hustler behind the stadium on snow removal duty.

Dave Schober is in his 11th year working in carpentry at Millersville. He focuses on masonry, restoration, as well as power-washing, which includes cleaning areas up and removing graffiti. Matt Sellers has been an employee at Millersville for 35 years. He started out unloading trucks for food services and now takes care of all the controls for temperature and lighting on campus. “Everything is computerized now, so we run all the computer systems,” he said.

Becky Boxleitner is nearing the end of her second year with the university as a member of the grounds crew. The groundskeepers are responsible for keeping the campus grounds looking clean and tidy, as well as beautifying them for aesthetic appeal. In addition to trash pickup, her duties are very seasonal-based. “In spring it’s mulching, edging, and sometimes plantings, but usually landscaping the beds,” she said. “Summertime it’s more oriented around weed-eating and trimming with the push-mowers and riding mowers. In the fall we obviously have a lot of leaf-clean-up. There’s a lot of cut-backs also; we cut back perennials. In winter it’s more like pruning trees and shrubs and snow removal, of course. Sometimes I weasel in special projects during the week.”

Grounds crew was out at 5a.m. Monday morning removing snow from the campus so students, faculty and other could travel safely.

Grounds crew was out at 5a.m. Monday morning removing snow from the campus so students, faculty and other staff could travel safely.

These men and women may have the “dirty” jobs on campus, but that doesn’t mean their work is any less important than that of those who sit behind a desk in a suit and tie or a nice blouse and skirt. They dedicate much of their time and hard work to making sure the university can function properly. They work long hours out in the extreme hot and freezing cold. They spend precious time away from their families. Their work is important. “Without the plumbing or the maintenance the building would just go to shit,” Birk said of the work he and other plumbers do around campus. Schober said one of the strengths of the maintenance department is their ability to respond to repair/move requests in a timely manner. Sellers said that “without HVAC, no one is going to be very comfortable.”

Boxleitner also agreed and said that the work the grounds crew does in order to keep the campus looking beautiful aids in future recruitment for the university. “By beautifying and maintaining the campus, I think we’re also a selling point,” she said. “When a parent comes in with their child to see if they want to go to the university, the first thing they see is the visual. I think we are literally opening the door for new people to come in and I think it’s really important to present a well-maintained campus.”

Matt Sellers in his office, located in Palmer building.

Matt Sellers in his office, located in Palmer building.

While these employees’ work is vital to the functionality of Millersville’s campus, their work doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. It’s no secret that American society is divided into a class system, often times based on the kind of work one does for a living. The gap between white and blue collar workers is visible in everyday life, with a certain stigma attached to each group. Many times, the working class is looked down upon as those who have to get their hands dirty. “We are kind of the low men on the totem pole, kind of like the bottom of the barrel,” said Boxleitner.

Birk said that facilities employees are under-recognized on campus compared to say, professors and other faculty. “Maintenance is left out just like secretaries,” he said. “Professors and faculty don’t pay any attention to us unless they need something.” Schober agreed and said that’s typical for facilities workers. “People don’t view facilities as of equal importance to administrative jobs but when they need us in a pinch they realize how important we are,” he said. Sellers said that for the most part, he thinks individuals around campus recognize the work of facilities employees, but that there will always be some who don’t. “Some are very appreciative and are pleasant and fun to deal with,” he said. “Then there are some that are, like a cross-segment of any society, the grumpy ones.”

Jim Brandau, grounds, spreads salt over the icy sidewalks in front of Dillworth.

Jim Brandau, grounds, spreads salt over the wet sidewalks in front of Dillworth.

Schober said that while the teachers are the most important aspect of the school because without them there wouldn’t be a need for the university, they sometimes don’t always give recognition where it’s deserved. “When they need us, then we are very important,” he said. “Some professors are great and down-to-earth and others think that they’re way up here and you’re down there and that’s how they treat you. I think that holds true with the administration as well.” Birk said the only time he ever personally felt under-appreciated was by an administrator. “They yelled at me for parking in their space when I was working and said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ They degraded me out in public right in front of grounds-people, housekeepers, and everybody.”

As opposed to faculty and administration views, these facilities workers felt as though students were mostly appreciative of the work they do, saying that they’ve received compliments from students. Birk said, “The students are pretty grateful for everything we do; they thank us a lot.” Boxleitner said, “It surprises me but it pleasantly surprises me when they say ‘Hey, this really looks great guys, you did a great job.’”

Pat Goldbach, grounds, shovels snow on the sidewalks behind Hash.

Pat Goldbach, grounds, shovels snow on the sidewalks behind Hash.

Like these four employees expressed, some students acknowledge their work and others don’t. With their busy schedules, it can be easy for students to overlook the work facilities employees do around campus. “I do not really give them much thought because I do not really see them too much on campus and I am usually too busy to take the time to notice,” said senior Nicole Findley. However, she said she does feel as though they have a vital role in making the campus function in a safe and efficient way for the students. Senior, Jared Artman said he recognizes the work these employees do. “They are the people that deserve the most credit around here,” he said. “Without them, could you imagine this campus?” Artman felt as though students take the work facilities employees do for granted. “I see students just walk right by these types of people and not acknowledge them whatsoever,” he said. “It is kind of sad. What they do behind the scenes needs to be more acknowledged.”

Hector Leon, carpenter, cuts a piece of wood using one of the departments saws.

Hector Leon, carpenter, cuts a piece of wood using one of the departments saws.

Although their work may sometimes be overlooked, all of these blue-collar workers said that overall, they feel appreciated on campus. Every single one of them agreed that they love the people they work with and they love being a part of the Millersville University community. “The best part of my job is interacting with people; both the people I interact with directly but also all the people on campus,” Sellers said. “I love getting out on campus and being able to go in and help people solve problems. Millersville is just full of great people.” Schober agreed whole-heartedly. He was a block-layer before he came to MU and said the difference between a job site and a campus community is obvious. “The sense of community here is so different than working out on job sites where everybody is in such a hurry,” he said. “It’s more of a family-like atmosphere than I was used to.” And it’s true; at the end of the day, the entire campus works together to make things flow smoothly. Everyone has their role and everyone plays their part. Millersville is a community; a family; and in the end, no matter what your part, take pride in knowing that you’re part of the marauder family.


College Democrats and College Republicans Duke it Out

By Seth Eckman

Put a Democrat and a Republican in the same room and things can get a little heated, especially in today’s polarized political landscape. Things were a little different, however, on Thursday Nov. 24, when a relatively civil debate between Millersville University’s College Democrats and College Republicans was held in the Ford Atrium in McComsey Hall on Millersville University’s campus in front of about 70 people. Both groups offered their competing visions on three issues: abortion, welfare, and immigration. Appropriately, the Democrats sat at a table on the left and the Republicans sat at a table on the right. Moderator Adam Lawrence stood between them, posing questions and making sure the debaters didn’t run over their designated time limits.

The College Democrats and College Republicans are two campus organizations. In addition to holding weekly meetings, both groups host events and go on trips. For example, the College Democrats have gone to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Gettysburg. They have also invited politicians like John Hanger, Tom Wolf, and Joe Sestack to speak on campus. The College Republicans have participated in noteworthy activities as well, including going to Washington DC, joining the Mill Creek Sportsman’s Club for a gun safety instructional, and writing letters to troops overseas.

Though the two groups are separate organizations, both collaborate often. “We frequently discuss events and political issues throughout semesters,” said Kelly McNelis, president of the College Republicans and one of the debaters. “Many of the Republicans and Democrats are good friends between the clubs.”

Debates between the two organizations have been held on campus for the last four years. “The purpose of a debate like this is to promote public awareness on issues facing the country,” said Justin Eveler, the president of the College Democrats and also one of the night’s debaters. McNelis added, “This debate is to get both of our clubs talking and discussing current political issues and learn to develop ideas.”

Both organizations were represented by three of its members. “The debaters were chosen through discussion in the club based on who had the most knowledge on each topic,” said McNelis.democrats and republicans

Each group member had five minutes to explain their party’s platform on their designated issue. This was followed by a three minute “free exchange” between both sides. The people in attendance were given index cards if they wished to submit a question. Questions were asked after each issue was debated.

The debate was moderated by Adam Lawrence, a faculty member of Millersville’s government department. Lawrence is also advisor to both the College Democrats and College Republicans.

Lawrence opened the debate with a quote from John F. Kennedy. “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,” Lawrence said. “The students tonight will demonstrate to you what it’s like when the two are combined, when we have opinion that is accompanied by thought and fact and evidence.”

McNelis and College Democrat Brad Bergman debated the first issue, abortion.

“Our party platform says that we do not support abortion under any basis except for cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in mortal danger,” said McNelis. McNelis stated that her party believes that human life is defined as beginning at the moment of conception, noting that the heartbeat of a baby begins 18 days after conception. “It’s not just women’s rights,” said McNelis. “The unborn baby has rights. So does the father.”

Bergman, representing the Democrats, said that his party believes that abortion should not be infringed on in any form, but noted that the party supports healthcare and educational programs that can reduce unwanted pregnancies from happening. “That’s the main problem,” said Bergman. “These women have pregnancies that they don’t want. What both parties could work upon is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies while reducing the number of abortions in our society.”

Eveler started the second issue up for debate, welfare and welfare reform, by admitting that the program is so large that it does need some tweaking. But he said that his party believes it would be detrimental to get rid of the program and let so many Americans fall by the wayside. “The problem with the program is that we don’t help people who are in welfare get out of welfare,” said Eveler. He suggested giving recipients more healthcare options, job training, and better transportation for them to get to their jobs.

Brandon Nye, representing the Republicans said that the welfare system is broken. He noted that 4.2 million people are on welfare, but only 37 percent work. Nye suggested that recipients should not only be drug tested, but show documentation that they are applying for jobs. “Welfare should be a safety net,” said Nye. “We have to go back to a hard rigor focused on qualifying work for welfare.”

College Republican Tony Roseanelli kicked the debate on immigration reform off by stating that his party is not against immigration. He shared his ancestors’ experiences. “They came to America with nothing,” said Roseanelli. “But they became successful and were able to live the American dream.” However, he felt that some immigrants are liabilities, noting that many take advantage of government aid at the expense of legal citizens. His solution to the problem was to secure the borders more and have immigrants register with the federal government and pass national security tests to ensure that they are not out to harm any Americans.

Bob Grant, representing the Democrats, opened by saying that immigrants “are not just illegal immigrants, but living human beings who care about the country.” He noted that only 12 percent of the population is here illegally compared to 13 percent in 1901. However, the immigrants then were European. Grant chalked up the outrage over illegal immigrants from Latin and Central American to xenophobia. “Undocumented immigrants that are within our borders that work hard and pay taxes should have a path to full participation in America,” Grant said. He suggested the first step is to pass the Dream Act, which allows youth that came here as children a path to citizenship as long as they graduate high school.

The debate was sponsored by Millersville University’s Civic and Community Engagement and Research Project (CCERP). CCERP’s responsibilities include providing “opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to engage in and contribute their expertise in searching for solutions to challenges in local and global communities.”

The Hipster Conundrum

hipsters across the 2000s

Hipsters across the 2000s photo courtesy of google images


He appeared to fit into what many would consider the hipster mold. The ironic mustache was present as were retro sneakers, an indecipherable wrist tattoo and tight black pants. He was contentedly sipping on a craft beer while rapidly tapping away on some kind of  Apple Device. However, when asked by a reporter if he would like to be interviewed on his hipster experience, he became indignant and refused to respond.

Ahhh, the countless conundrums one runs into when faced with trying to define hipster or hipster culture. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a hipster is “a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion).” But the more explicit Urban Dictionary calls hipsters, “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter (…) although hipsterism is really a state of mind, it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses.”

Hmm. Do they sound pretentious and annoying, or make you want to be/like/admire them? Are non-hipsters really “culturally-ignorant?” At the very least, these definitions of hipster should lead one to question their origins.

According to The Daily Texan, the term evolved from the word “hip,” and the original hipsters were young metropolitan African-American men from the 50s who shared a special kind of comradeship through their music and style. The Beats, who emerged from that scene, were vagrant poet types who lived hippie-like while opposing consumer culture and the norms of their parents’ generation. While never that big number-wise, the Beats still played a significant part in U.S. culture, making an impact especially in the music and literature scene. However, they were gradually replaced by the Beatniks, who were more into fashion then an actual ideology, and then the hippies, who fixated more on community living (with lots of peace and love thrown into the mix) than anything else. Then came the Punks, who responded to the shifting climate of the era (this was right after the controversial Vietnam War), with an outpouring of angry music and dress, piercings and tattoos included. Somehow from all that evolved hipsters, who seemingly can’t be figured out (or even figure themselves out).

Notwithstanding, Christian Lorentzen from Time Out New York, figures that “hipsterism fetishes the authentic elements of all the fringe movements of the postwar era–beat, hippie, even grunge, and draws on the cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity, reinventing it with a winking inauthenticity.” And Huffington Post contributor Julia Plevin thinks that the “definition of ‘hipster’ remains opaque to anyone outside of (its) self-proclaiming, highly selective circle.” Meanwhile PopMatter says that hipster might be the “embodiment of postmodernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetics.”
Ok then. Plain English, anyone?

Maybe this snarky review of a Lancaster City self-described hipster dive resonates more strongly. As this one disgruntled customer posted on, “If you want to hang out with annoying, rich college kids and phony bologna snobs, this is your place. Do yourself a flavor and walk over to Square One for a real cup of coffee without all of the annoying people who love themselves way too much. Disgusting. They seriously should sell mirrors at this place. I think they would make a killing. I thought having a coffee was about having a coffee. Not anymore, it’s a fashion show coupled with dirty looks from the upper crust.” But apparently Square One Coffeehouse, though it takes its products very seriously and is known for its efforts to maintain reasonable prices while providing top quality coffee ( isn’t immune either. Some of its customer reviewers have described it as “too scene,” leading one to wonder what kind of scene (hipster or anti-hipster?) that is exactly, and if the  Square One fan was aware of those reviews when he posted his.

No wonder hipsters are afraid to identify or define themselves. But maybe we should take it easy on them. After all, some say that hipster culture has some positive aspects to offer.

Someone like Luke O’Neil from the Huffington Post. According to this self-proclaimed hipster (which some would judge destroys his authenticity), there should be no shame in wanting to dress stylishly and appreciate the finer things of life while sharing said experiences with countless others through multimedia. O’Neil gives hipsters credit for their capacity to discover worthy cultural and entertainment selections and then publicize said selections through online sharing for the benefit of other less aware folk. He says that sans hipsters there would be no decent mainstream music or art.

And New Cities Foundation blogger Sua Son credits hipster culture for bringing positive changes to cities, since apparently hipster types “look for ways to grow businesses, transform communities and become long term investors. They are young entrepreneurs who are doing things for cities. They are crafting new street scenes (while) influencing non-hipster types into making hipster decisions such as buying organic or enjoying brunch at local cafes.”

Son basically thinks that the majority of hipsters are busy creating positive business and cultural opportunities in their metropolitan areas of residence, therefore providing overall better living experiences for other locals. However, another Huffington Post writer explains that since there are no set ways of defining a hipster, said metropolitan areas are turning into centers where young folk (those counting as hipster sorts of “different origins and social class”) compete with each other to create new definitions for what truly classifies as “good taste.”

And New York Times contributor Mark Greif sees hipster communities as “crossroads,” where various young people are in silent competition for social status and secretly malign each other for their liberal arts degrees or attempts to become involved in the “creative professions.” They dabble in the notion of being the starters of some original idea and pride themselves on getting what’s really “cool” and “in” before anyone else does.

Perhaps, this is why they’re so easy to misunderstand, and then utterly despise. Popular website (among various others) pokes fun at hipsters for their “unwarranted self-importance” saying that their “rebellion” against those so-called societal norms is more ironic than anything else because it shows how much more attention they are giving them.

As Times writer Dan Fletcher says, “Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear T-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

Fletcher goes on to describe the enmity hipster types have attracted and why it’s somewhat merited. However he defends the original hipsters and their unique “alternative” music and art enterprises, saying that, “The hipsters who will be the dead end of Western Civilization are the ones who add nothing new or original and simply recycle and reduce old trends into a meaningless meme.”

Ahh, hipsters. Maybe they just need to stop trying so hard. It is possible to be creative and original without meaninglessly striving through the process. Many young people nowadays, while they wouldn’t admit to being hipsters, have borrowed certain so-called hipster features such as constant media use (, anyone?) What’s more, most women won’t be seen in flared bottom pants anymore while plenty of guys rock flannel shirts and undersized hoodies. And how many people wear those trendy, yet old-school style square-framed glasses for actual vision issues?

However, when polled on their overall impressions of hipsters, most people respond negatively, calling out hipster types for being overly concerned with style and veneer, while giving the impression of “trying too hard.”

Millersville student Zac Livesay summed up the responses well when he said, “Hipsters are so focused on themselves and their appearance, (it’s) pathetic.” And as Jordan Steele, also a student, said, “Hipsters are just a paradox; what will happen when they’re not hip anymore?”

It seems that while most people do appreciate the visual effects of a swanky knit cap, they sense fake irony, striving and evident shallowness from a mile away. It’s not difficult to tell  when a lot of effort was put into creating what’s supposed to be an effortless or even careless look.  So perhaps these hipster types just need to take it easy. Yes, this may be the Digital Age in which people can live in little self-made movies shared with countless other through  Instagram and other similar devices. And it might be easy to adapt an attitude of irony or disinterest while working towards originality and creativity. But there are far more important things to focus on then achieving the perfect mixed drink, discovering a “new” indie music show or trying to create an ideal slim cut denims/cardigan combo. Yes it is important to strive for creativity, intellectual growth and originality. But not while making it all about the image and impression. Instagram is an absolutely fantastic photo and video filtering device which can be fun to use; however, actually living the images is far more meaningful then constantly uploading and viewing them. Hopefully.

College Fan Bases Across the Country

By Chris Norton

With a total capacity of 4,300, Biemesderfer Stadium at Pennsylvania’s Millersville University draws in quite the crowd during sports games, despite the football team having a less than impressive record this past season. Colleges all over the country consist of students who invest themselves in their university’s sports teams. Whether it is football, basketball, or soccer, the sports almost always draw in a proud fan base varying in size.

As they ended their season at a lowly 1-10 record, the Millersville Marauder football team failed to generate a spark among fans. Despite this, every Saturday, the stands were filled with thousands of students, family members, and community members screaming and cheering. Such is the case for most sports at this considerably small university.

The women’s field hockey team here at Millersville University managed to have its best season in the history of the school, therefore catching the attention of students and the community. Their fan base has expanded exponentially since then, and has continued to grow even after their impressive run ended sadly in Virginia Beach against Shippensburg University. The Marauder’s success was undoubtedly the main reason for the growth in spirit among fans. However, at larger schools like Penn State University, for example, most sports teams draw in large crowds regardless of records or success. The difference being, with larger schools being nationally broadcasted, fans feel more of an appreciation for their university’s teams.

Generally, these Division I schools are much more strict with athletic recruitment, so the players on these teams have earned their positions. Division II universities, like Millersville, recruit with talent in mind obviously, but receive significantly less funding than organizations at Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Maryland to name a few. This creates a greater deal of difficulty for Millersville in terms of finding talented players who are willing to play, or even sit on the sidelines for a few weeks waiting to play. All of these factors tie into fan attendance, as well as experience for all those present.

Division II schools are not the only ones encountering low fan attendance, however. Writer for Adam Kramer says “College football has an attendance problem. Not an interest problem, and certainly not a money problem, but an empty-stadium epidemic that is gaining steam,” and according to Jon Solomon of “Through the first five weeks of the college football season, attendance in Football Bowl Subdivision games was down 3 percent from 2012 and 6 percent from 2011.” Larger schools do not necessarily mean more sports attendees. Typically, teams suffering many losses in a season tend to decrease the spirit in fans. Such is the case for Texas Christian University’s football team. Despite being a Division I school with a fairly populous stadium, the team’s poor season has reflected in the stands.

The Horned Frogs less than impressive turnout. Photo courtesy of

The Horned Frogs’ less than impressive turnout. Photo courtesy of

With more school spirit undoubtedly comes more emotion. This is especially evident at university sporting events. Senior Penn State student Brian Ennis on the hectic environment said “The problem I encounter every now and then is the group mentality that comes with huge crowds. Once one fan starts screaming and yelling vulgarities, everyone else feels the need to join in, which sometimes makes our student section look bad. It would be nice to have smaller crowds at times for space efficiency and whatnot, but there is no doubt that a big fan base can be a lot of fun.”

The atmosphere at Millersville University is much different than schools with enormous student sections in both good and bad ways. Sophomore Millersville University student Alex Geli said “I have absolutely no problem with Millersville’s smaller sized sports programs. It’s nice when the community, students, and surrounding townspeople get together in a more collaborative and intimate environment. Plus, albeit exciting and a reason to pride yourself in your university, having the magnetizing impact that big sports programs bring, I think, dilutes the overall reputation that the university upholds as an academic institution.” Despite the smaller crowds, students invested in Millersville’s teams possess considerable amounts of passion. The only difference being the number of those accounted for in the stands wearing yellow and black, hoping for a Marauder win.

Writer for, Gary K. Johnson said “Almost 49 million fans attended college football games at all 644 NCAA football-playing schools during the 2012-13 season.” The University of Michigan topped the scale with a stadium capacity of 109,901, and Penn State closely followed holding 106,572. The capacity of Biemesderfer Stadium pales in comparison to these numbers, but some would argue that school spirit does as well. Sophomore at Millersville University Ryan Woerner said “The fans don’t seem as into it. It kind of hurts everything. Coming here and seeing that my high school stadium was nicer than my college one was a bummer. College football has a cult following, but we can barely attract our students without even charging them.”

Now a senior at Penn State, undergraduate Zach Sloane feels the opposite about his school’s enthusiasm. “I love the huge student section and large attendance at our football games. Attending a school like Penn State gives you a huge sense of pride for your team. Everything from the mascot to the cheerleaders magnifies the excitement. Another aspect I enjoy is the nationwide coverage we receive as a school. Seeing our team on ESPN the day after a game is always a surreal feeling. It’s nice to know people are fans of our team all across the country.”

Not only do experiences vary among colleges all across the country, but opinions do as well. Students, locals, and overall fans consider college sporting events fantastic ways to show school spirit for their university. Crowd sizes and school enthusiasm differ all over the country. Millersville University is home to a fairly small stadium with a decently sized fan base, though some students may disagree. Regardless, college sports fans love flashing school colors and screaming at the top of their lungs just to show their pride, whether it is among a crowd of 500, or 100,000.

A check off the bucket list; recent MU grad adventures on the Appalachian Trail


Graduation is such a bittersweet time. It’s exciting to be ending one chapter and beginning another, but at the same time, it means that it’s time to take that big scary leap into the real world. Matt Ruhl, a 2013 graduate of Pennsylvania’s Millersville University, postponed that leap into real life after graduation by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. It took Ruhl and a friend 139 days to hike the total 2,185.9 miles the trail consists of.

After graduating in May, Ruhl and his friend, Logan Sangrey decided to put off the real world and hike the trail. Sangrey had always wanted to do it and asked Ruhl if he wanted to. “I said, ‘Hey, why not!’ I wanted to have an adventure before I jumped into real life,” said Ruhl. “I have my whole life to work, and it was the best time to do something like this, so we did. I made so many new lifelong friends and made memories that I will cherish forever.” While hiking the trail, everyone goes by a trail name, either one the hiker comes up with or one that others come up with. Ruhl went by Stretch and Sangrey went by Braveheart.

The beginning point of the trail. Photo credit: Matt Ruhl.

The beginning point of the trail. Photo credit: Matt Ruhl.

Ruhl and Sangrey set out on the trail, starting at Mt. Katadin in Maine. There are three types of thru hikers: 1) northbounders (nobos), southbounders (sobos), and flip-floppers (those who start in the middle, hike to one end, then go back to the middle and hike to the other end). Ruhl and Sangrey were categorized as sobos since they started at the northern-most point. Travelling southbound is the hardest way to hike the trail because the New England section is the toughest. “It’s said that nobos have done around 80 percent of the trail, but only 20 percent of the work when they hit the New England section,” Ruhl said. “Due to this, most people hike north to get their “trail” legs before they hit the real hard stuff.” When Ruhl checked in at the halfway point in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, he was logged as the 26th sobo this year whereas over 1,000 nobos have checked in already this year.

Ruhl and Sangrey had to carry all their essential supplies with them. Their packs held: sleeping bag, ground mat, clothes (one set to hike in and a second for camp clothes), rain jacket, fleece, a stove for cooking, rope for hanging food when necessary, a dry bag for food, a knife, gas for stove, a rain cover for pack, a head lamp, first aid kit, water bladder, Nalgene, tent, water filter, crocs for camp shoes, boots, trowel, food, and as Ruhl said, “Most importantly, toilet paper!” Ruhl carried a few luxury items along as well, including his iPod, a mini speaker, and a battery pack for charging his electronics.

Ruhl enjoying the view at one of their pit stops during their hike.

Ruhl enjoying the view at one of their pit stops during their hike. Photo Credit: Matt Ruhl.

Ruhl said that while hiking, their days looked pretty much the same as far as their routine went. “We would wake up, typically around six or seven, change back into our damp hiking clothes (worst part of the morning), pack up our camp stuff, have breakfast, then hit the trail,” he said. They would then hike with intermittent snack and lunch breaks. Ruhl said they had to eat a lot because they would typically burn 6,000-8,000 calories a day. “Our metabolisms were on overdrive and we had to continuously be eating to sustain ourselves. The Appalachian Trail is the best weight loss program because you can eat whatever you want, however much you want, and still lose weight.” For breakfast, they would eat a Poptart and a Snickers bar. Lunch consisted of two protein bars, and dinner was either mac-and-cheese, a pasta side, and mashed potatoes, “or every college student’s favorite…ramen,” said Ruhl. They also snacked on candy and trail mix for quick calories and protein. After hiking, “we would then get to camp, set up camp, change into our camp clothes, and then have dinner. We would then journal for the day and then go to sleep to do it all over again.”

The men would camp at either three-sided shelters or at “stealth camps,” which is when they would find a spot right off the trail to set up their tents for the night. Ruhl and Sangrey would venture into towns from time to time to restock their food supply or to eat in the town. Because towns were located several miles off the trail, they would have to hitch rides into town. Ruhl said he wasn’t sure about hitching at first but it turned out to be easier than he thought. “The Appalachian Trail is great because of the trail community and the people involved,” said Ruhl. “Just about everyone knows about the trail, so if they see you around with your pack on, they know what you’re doing and are more likely to help you out.” Ruhl said they met a lot of different people, which made it more fun. “That was probably the best part of the trail, the people,” he said. “The views are always going to be there, but the people and the relationships are what make the trail.”

A beautiful sunset encountered along the way. Photo Credit: Matt Ruhl.

A beautiful sunset encountered along the way. Photo Credit: Matt Ruhl.

One of the biggest difficulties Ruhl and Sangrey faced on their adventure was the weather at the beginning of their trip. It took them 25 days to hike through Maine and only nine of those days lacked rain. Ruhl said everything they had was just constantly wet. However, the second half of their trip boasted better weather as they were only rained on around five times the entire second half. It was also difficult at first to develop their “trail legs.” “Maine is the most difficult part of the trail as far as terrain and elevation,” Ruhl said. “The trail had no switchbacks so it would just go straight up over the mountains. It is said that all of the elevation changes in just the New England section are equivalent to climbing Mount Everest seven times. That’s tough stuff!”

Ruhl’s favorite state on the trail was Virginia, even though about a quarter of the trail lies within its state lines. “I really enjoyed the Grayson Highlands in southern Virginia,” he said. “They were gorgeous and had wild ponies, which was awesome. The White Mountains in New Hampshire were absolutely beautiful too.”

Ruhl completed the trail in 139 days. Photo Credit: Matt Ruhl.

Ruhl completed the trail in 139 days. Photo Credit: Matt Ruhl.

With his adventure completed, Ruhl has returned home to Lancaster, Pa. and is assimilating back into the real world, including getting re-accustomed to driving a car. He will also begin his job search, trying to capitalize on his bachelor’s degree in technology education from Millersville. He did, however, have some advice for any upcoming MU graduate: “Take some time for yourself after you graduate. You have your whole life to work. Have a little fun while you have the time and check something off your bucket list!”

Threshold: Growing up and out


“Are we going to be known as the cliquish church or for having real community? Threshold church, what is your true calling?” challenged speaker Jimmy Nimon, addressing the congregation on a recent Sunday with a biting message.

Nimon, a Threshold pioneer involved in its formation, hit home with his words as he called out attendees for their lack of outreach, as well as appearing to be geared more towards image rather than substance. Though sobered, the audience received his counsel eagerly and did not hesitate afterwards to introduce themselves to newcomers, as he had requested they do once the sermon was over.

This is just one example from many which shows how Threshold is embracing diversity while building community. Currently meeting at Penn Manor Highschool’s main auditorium (located near Millersville University), this church grew from a pioneer group of seven to what is now bordering on 300 regulars, many of whom attend smaller group meetings throughout the week.

Known for dynamic hour-long worship services and stirring  messages, Threshold has drawn a vibrant crowd of mainly Caucasian 20-somethings, many of whom commute from Lancaster City and its surrounding boroughs. Interestingly, these attendees have been recognized by first-time visitors for their beauty and stylishness. As Naomi Hess, 23, said in reference to her first impression of Threshold, “I just couldn’t believe how pretty everyone was….I was like, whoa, what is this? Did all these people come out of a fashion magazine?”

“Why aren’t there more Hispanics and [African Americans]? It’s so white,” said Millersville University student Anthony Galati, 21, after his first visit.

Hess’s and Galati’s comments reflect those of other visitors. As Nimon pointed out in his message, Threshold first-timers are often struck more by the congregation’s attractiveness then by their friendliness. However, this lack of diversification and warmth is troubling, not only to Nimon, but also to those serious members who want to be known for their spiritual zeal rather then skinny jeans, suede boots and dark pea-coats. Associate pastor Jake Kail, partially in response to this issue, is currently mobilizing Millersville students who attend Threshold. He has invited them to attend a special service being held Nov. 16 on the university’s campus at the Student Memorial Center, with the purpose of establishing connections to other campus ministry organizations at Millersville.


Associate pastor Jake Kail and wife Anna, who definitely don’t hurt Threshold’s “place of pretty people” stereotype image courtesy of Threshold website

“We are trying to form ties with UCF (University of Christian Fellowship) so we can partner with them and other Millersville campus ministries to reach out to the students,” Kail said on a during a recent Sunday service, as he presented the congregation with the idea of initiating more Threshold activity on campus.

The pastors (though they would rather not be known by that title) Corey Martin, Jeff Nolt, and Jake Kail are  what many would call physically appealing men, but they are far more concerned about reaching souls then looking good on Sundays. To paraphrase what Nolt said two services ago, his heart is God’s heart and God’s concern is saving every soul in the world. So he (Nolt) is also geared towards saving the world, one person and prayer at a time.

 Visions such as Nolt’s are nothing new at Threshold, which continues searching for ways to reach the surrounding community with its dynamic message.

Associate pastor Jeff Nolt and wife Christine, who aren't bad-looking either

Associate pastor Jeff Nolt and wife Christine, who aren’t bad-looking either image courtesy of Threshold website

Whether or not this effort to connect with MU students becomes fruitful is anyone’s guess.  Colleges are assumed by many to be those places where most students let religious affiliations fly to the wind. A recent survey by Lifeway Christian Research reported that over two-thirds of young people involved in church in high-school will to some extent forgo church activities from ages 18 to 22.

After all, college is an area where young people are presented with more freedom to make their own choices, especially in regards to church attendance. And for those students whom choose not to attend available services, there are a variety of reasons. Busyness, peer pressure, desiring a break from church, negative past church experiences and difficulty in finding a good church are among those factors.  According to Brad Waggoner, Vice President of research and ministry development at LifeWay, relationships are ties that maintain people in churches. Therefore, church leaders have a responsibility to challenge members to reach out to the surrounding communities.

“Frequent and intentional contact can either prevent or counteract the tendency of some to drop out of church,” he said. Waggoner says that those young people who don’t feel connected to church in their teens will probably not want to try to find a church at college either. Scott McConnell, the Director of Lifeway Research, agreed, saying that those folks who seek church fellowship are the ones who’ve already had a positive past with church guidance and relations, and see it as something important worth consistently pursuing.

Lead pastor Corey Martin and wife Carrie, beautiful people who also recognize the beauty of real church community

Lead pastor Corey Martin and wife Carrie, beautiful people who also recognize the beauty of church outreach and community image courtesy of Threshold website

It could be inferred from these studies and others that college itself is not responsible for pushing young people away from religion, but rather, it is their backgrounds and prior church experiences. Millersville students can attest to this.

Jordan Steele, a computer science major at Millersville, wasn’t raised in the church and still has no interest.  “I stay in and chill, doing housework and homework on the weekends,” he said. “Church doesn’t matter to me. It never did growing up and it doesn’t now.”

For Catholic-raised senior Maria Barcoski however, church keeps the guilt down. “It (Mass) is the only time I have to really devote to my relationship to God. I don’t pray very often during the week,” she said.

On the other hand, Mushtak Meherzad’s religious beliefs are crucial. “College has reaffirmed my faith because it has put me into situations and around people where my faith has informed my decisions,” said the practicing Muslim, who is currently working on his master’s degree in English.

Campus prayer group leader and UCF supporter Zac Livesay also remains devoted.  “A lot of people around here look for something spiritual but don’t want church. They don’t want organized religion since it’s too restrictive for a lot of them. UCF is moving away from the church thing; they don’t hide that they are church but also want to be known for small groups,” he said.

Livesay wasn’t raised as a Christian, but life experiences produced a desire to pursue this faith, a desire which has only grown throughout college.

Certainly, Millersville University  is not lacking in the church department. A search of “churches” on the MU website brings up listing of 13 local religious institutions, ranging in denomination from Catholic to Lutheran to Methodist to Evangelical. Nonetheless, Threshold is still geared towards building an even stronger Christian presence on campus through its burgeoning tie-in with UCF.

Its  leaders believe that through building blocks of relationship and community,  they will be successful. Threshold attendees may look perfect, but as the majority of members have recognized, their church is not. Still, this majority is maintaining solid efforts to fulfill the Christian commission through carrying out outreach and establishing relationships, on campus and elsewhere. For further information, visit

Best-Selling Author Gives Advice To First-Year Students

 By Seth Eckman
“High school does a miserable job at preparing you for the uncomfortable,” said author Harlan Cohen, who on Monday, Oct. 28th, spoke to about 75 Millersville University freshmen in the Reighard multipurpose room in the Student Memorial Center located on Millersville University’s campus. For an hour, Cohen gave advice, sang songs, and fielded questions concerning the difficult  transitions that first-year students go through and how they can become comfortable with their new, sometimes intimidating, collegiate environment.
Cohen is the author of five New York Times bestsellers and is a syndicated columnist. His advice columns, directed towards teens and young adults, have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Seventeen, and Psychology Today. In addition to writing, Cohen is also a public speaker, having visited over 400 college campuses around the country. Cohen’s latest book, “The Naked Roommate,” is a college handbook for first-year college students that offers tips and advice on classes, money, roommates, sex and relationships, and partying.
Cohen gave comforting words to students who were still getting used to the changes that going to college and living on campus can bring.  “When you’re a first-year student, it’s really hard to say anything,” said Cohen, “and you’re not going to put yourself in vulnerable situations.” He stressed that freshman must first acknowledge their discomfort and intimidation. He routinely referred to this as “becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.” “You’re in the best time of your life, but it’s miserable right now because you’re experiencing reality,” said Cohen. “If you look at what’s happening right now, it’s not about Millersville, not about college, but about the transitions in life. It’s about managing those changes.”
“I equate the first year of college as being stuck inside a snow globe filled with s—,” explained Cohen. “Once it gets shaken, you’re stuck inside it. It happens during transitions that are all a part of life. So what do you do? Do you hide, do you hate, or do you face it?”
Author Harlan Cohen

Author Harlan Cohen

To get over those feelings of confusion and alienation, Cohen advised students to take risks, regardless of how vulnerable it makes them feel. Cohen stressed what he called the three p’s: patience, places, and people. Students must have patience when adapting to and getting the best out of college life, they need to get involved in places on campus so they feel more connected, and they need people to be in their corner when they are going through rough or confused times. Cohen suggested that disconnected and alienated first-year students participate in organizations and athletics, and suggested involvement in career centers and internship programs for students who are on the cusp of graduating and making their own transitions into the workforce.

Cohen said that most can overcome the intimidation that big transitions like college and post-collegiate life can bring, but one has to work hard. “You really have to want it to be good and want it to work,” noted Cohen. “We all have to give the opportunity the chance to show its good side.” Cohen said that college students have many options to get the best out of their time in college, and the best out of their lives. “The life you need to live is not about your only choice, but your best choice,” said Cohen. “You all live in a world of options.”
The event was sponsored by Millersville University’s peer mentor program. The mentors are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who live in the same residence halls as the students they are assigned to mentor. The mentors sponsor educational programs that emphasize transitional issues, encourage students to get involved in campus activities, and confront any kind of behavior that is detrimental to academic success.