March 2010 Archives

This year's Student Marshal

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Max.jpg.jpgOne of the things about committing to doing a blog is that you've committed to doing a blog, a consequence of which is that you've got to write stuff in your blog. One of the good things, however, about writing stuff in your blog is that there are good things to write about. And one of those good things is the topic of student marshals.

I came to Penn State from UNC-Chapel Hill, and after my first year here, I learned that each department selected an outstanding graduating major to represent it at commencement, and I learned that the students elected by each Department themselves select a departmental faculty mentor to accompany them during the ceremony. This was not something that we did at Carolina, and it struck me as a great idea on multiple levels. First, all of us know that there are lots of terrific students that we have the honor of teaching in our classes and of working with in our labs or centers or other research contexts. Having a system of student marshals provides a way of giving meaningful public recognition to many outstanding students across the College at graduation. It also allows students an opportunity to recognize faculty with whom they have worked closely and who have helped (we hope!) to shape their intellectual development at a crucial juncture of their lives. 

This year, our Student Marshal in SIP is Max Freeman. Besides being selected as our student marshal, Max has also been awarded an Evan Pugh Scholar Award. The Evan Pugh Scholar Award is awarded to juniors and seniors who are in the upper 0.5 percent of their classes at the end of the fall semester of the year that the award is given. Max is a double major in Psychology and Spanish, and he is also completing a minor in International Studies. The picture above is a picture of Max being international in Spain.

In short, we are really proud of what Max has accomplished here at Penn State. In addition to his stellar academic record, Max has been active in a number of service activities, including volunteering at local animal shelters, organizing a video games tournament to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and organizing fund drives for the local food bank. Max has also worked as a research assistant on laboratory projects focused on bilingual language processing, and I'm delighted to say that we'll have him around for at a little while longer. Max will be working next year full time as a Research Associate in the Center for Language Science.

Congratulations, Max, on a terrific college career!

Maria Truglio wins College Teaching Award!

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It's that time of year, the time for teaching awards. I can't tell everyone how happy I am to be able share the news that our very own Maria Truglio has won a 2010 College of the Liberal Arts Outstanding Teaching Award for Tenure Line faculty.

This is a wonderful award that recognizes Maria's dedication as a teacher and mentor, both inside and outside of the classroom, and I can't think of a more deserving winner. Maria is a wonderful instructor, and at the risk of embarrassing her, typical written comments from her students include high praise for her hands-on approach to teaching and learning, her genuine concern for and interest in her students, her openness to the opinions and ideas of her students, and her gift for fostering an atmosphere of trust in the classroom. It is not unusual to see summary remarks such as "This was the best course of my college career," "Best classroom experience at Penn State," and "The most I've learned from any class here."

I've had  the chance to observe Maria a number of times, and I can still recall forgetting that I was supposed to be the observer and not a student in a wonderful seminar that Maria taught on Umberto Eco, sitting there with my hand in the air. I asked Maria to give me a few notes to describe what she is currently looking at in her most recent research. Here's what she said:

"My current research focus is on Children's Literature in Italy starting from the period of Italy's national unification (1861). I'm analyzing both famous works, like Carlo Collodi's the Adventures of Pinocchio  (a story far more complex, satirical, and violent than the Disney film adaptation ),and obscure books, like the 1904 spin off called Pinocchio in Africa.  I'm interested in seeing how these children's books helped to define the new concept of "being Italian," since before 1861, people living in Italy identified primarily with their local community.  I enjoy using these children's books in my classes, partly because they are so much fun to read, but primarily for what they can teach us about Italy. Since many of these books were written in part to promote literacy in standard Italian, they are custom made to help us learn the language, too. As one student wrote on the evaluation for my seminar on La letteratura infantile, "By studying the literature for children, it is easier to understand how a culture develops and where its values are based."

Sound interesting? Drop Maria a note at, or, better yet, sign up for a class.