Penn State communications students who have questions about academics, course selection, career goals, choosing a major, getting involved on campus or any number of other matters invariably contact or visit the advising office.
The dedicated group of advisers assists hundreds of students each week through appointments or drop in hours, and that staff support for students is integral as they plan and achieve their academic and career goals. Everyone from freshmen and transfer students getting acclimated at University Park to seniors preparing to leave for the “real world” know the advising office provides vital resources -- powered by a committed, engaged and welcoming staff.
Best of all, the eight-person staff brings a diversity of perspectives and personalities to the usually bustling office in Carnegie Building every day. That demeanor and diversity play a big reason for the success of the College of Communications and its students, too.
From an almost unrivaled Penn State football tailgater to a dog agility trainer, the avocations and hobbies of the advising staff show they’re just as diverse as the nearly 3,000 students they serve. Here’s a brief look at the staff, and their hobbies and talents.
Perry, a Berwick, Pennsylvania, native, is a Penn State graduate and leads the office in his role as assistant dean for academic services.
A Penn State cheerleader as an undergraduate, he enjoys tailgating for Penn State football games, attending all home games and an average of two away games per year. Perry and his two best friends, whom he has been close with since third grade, have been hosting tailgates since they were freshmen at Penn State.
“We take it seriously, but in a seriously fun way,” said Perry.
The group meets as soon as the lots open for good food, drinks and socializing with friends and guests. Every game, they have a ritual called “communion,” where they have a mini pep rally, singing fight songs and doing cheers for Penn State as well as the visitors, if present.
“I can’t say we have any formal accomplishments, nor do we want any,” said Perry. “We often get asked to enter the best tailgating competition, but that is just not our style. We just want to relax, have fun, be good sports and cheer the Nittany Lions on to a win. Postgame tailgating is always better after a victory.”
An academic adviser, traveling is Bierly’s favorite activity. The Williamsport, Pennsylvania, native and her husband visited Alaska on their honeymoon and they love traveling as often as possible.
Bierly has been to numerous cities on the West Coast and beaches on the East Coast. She makes weekend road trips to places like Baltimore, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh.
Longer visits overseas have taken her to the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. She has also visited Honduras, Iceland and Victoria, British Columbia. Her sister lives in Vienna, Austria.
“I have always loved history and learning about other cultures,” said Bierly. “Now, I especially enjoy introducing our children, Parker and Ava, to people from all over the world. It’s also been so fun exposing them to different languages, new foods, different currencies and different modes of transportation.”
Her experiences have helped her understand why so many students want to travel abroad and it helps to better appreciate the accomplishments of the College of Communications’ international students.
One of five Penn State graduates in the office, Fuss is an academic adviser and recruiter for the College of Communications.
Outside of the office, Fuss’ hobby is exercising. Currently, the Pennsylvania native is a qualified professional bodybuilder and also completes CrossFit competitions. She works out twice a day, first at 5 a.m. and then at 5 p.m., allowing one off day a week.
“I like it because there are few things in life that you’re in control of and you’re in control of your body and what you’re putting in it and how you portray yourself to other people,” said Fuss.
Fuss estimates she has helped more than 500 people change their eating and exercise habits. She says it compares to her job as an adviser because with both, you have to be disciplined and organized. In November, she competed in her first fitness competition, which she won and qualified pro.
“It was such an amazing experience and I have a year to step on stage with the other professional women to kind of defend that and earn that title,” said Fuss. “At the end of the day, helping people in my professional career and then in my hobbies is what I love to do.”
At the moment, State College native Harding spends most of her free time with her 1-year-old daughter Mae, whom she describes as her greatest joy. Harding, a lead adviser, also tries to live a sustainable and minimalist lifestyle, enjoying the simple things.
“Living simply allows me to enjoy the small pleasures of life,” said Harding. “The little things in life are what really matter.”
In the office, her lifestyle translates into her personality, helping students who feel overwhelmed.
“I help them focus on the important issues, breaking down problems into simple steps so they can put their lives and education into perspective,” said Harding.
A staff assistant in the advising suite, the Pine Glen, Pennsylvania, native is often the first person students interact with when visiting 204 Carnegie Building. Her joyful and engaging personality -- which means students are always met with a smile -- are an important asset to the office.
Johnson enjoys singing all types of music, particularly gospel, as well as acting. Each year, she sings and performs in her church’s Easter Production called “King of Kings.”
“I enjoy singing because it lifts my spirits and hopefully the spirits of those around me,” said Johnson. “I can be heard singing in the hallways and offices of Carnegie any time of the day.”
In addition, during the holiday season, Johnson also donates her time as a masseuse to faculty and staff who in turn made a donation to the United Way.
A State College native and Penn State graduate, Kennedy is a staff assistant in the advising office.
Her hobby is dog agility and she has been involved in the sport since the fall of 2000, when she was immediately hooked. As a trainer, she runs with her dog and directs him or her through a series of obstacles. The object is to get through the course the fastest time without any errors.
Kennedy has two dogs who compete -- Koi, who is at the master’s level, and Cyra, who just started competing at the novice level. Kennedy takes the dogs to a dog-training club once a week to practice. Last July, Koi and Kennedy earned their third Master Agility Championship, the highest title in dog agility offered through the American Kennel Club.
“I am very proud of him, and delighted in our continuing success in the sport,” she said.
The hobby has helped Kennedy develop skills that she can apply to her everyday life, including analytical skills, dedication and persistence.
Muré, a Penn State alumna, has many hobbies, including enjoying alone time, cooking, dance, movies, theatre and reading.
The academic adviser and Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, native finds her alone time pleasurable, purging and regenerative. In addition, she always prefers a nicely cooked meal to eating out and likes to express herself and escape with dance and theatre. Watching movies and reading help her acquire knowledge and simply enjoy herself.
“These hobbies are important to my mental and emotional health and help me summon more patience, intuitiveness and tolerance in my daily interactions,” said Muré. “Advising students is an integral and critical part of my job that I take very seriously.”
These days, Wilk, an academic adviser, keeps busy with her baby boy, Tye, who was born in November. A Blairsville, Pennsylvania, native and Penn State grad, Wilk and Tye spend their days eating, napping, reading books and doing laps around the house. Recently, Tye has rolled over and laughed for the first time.
“Being a mom has been the most amazing and fulfilling experience, while also being the most demanding thing that has ever happened to me,” said Wilk.
In addition, Wilk enjoys working out and hiking. She and her husband exercise together and look forward to including Tye into their active lifestyle. Wilk also loves to sew.
“Sewing allows me to create one-of-a-kind items through color, design and style,” said Wilk. “It’s important to encourage our students to continue their interests and hobbies to make them more engaged and purposeful in their endeavors.”
Wilk, who had been out of the office on maternity leave, returned after spring break.