April 2, 1998......Volume 27, Issue 26

News . . . . Arts . . . . Calendars . . . . Letters . . . . Links . . . . Deadlines . . . . Archive

Movies used to study behavior
Family pledges $5 million
Professor to teach from space
How many zeroes?!
Faculty/Staff Alerts
Penn Staters
Asian American Month
Forum speaker 
New at Penn State
Enforcing the rules
Let's go fly a kite
Penn State to hold CIC seminar
Student Affairs seeks AVP
Penn State news bureau

Taking a closer look

MBA students in Dennis Gioia's "Managing People in Organizations" class
view clips from the movie "Dead Poets Society" as an aid in their study of change
and organizational behavior. Gioia says the popular movie is an excellent study
of empowerment in bureaucratic organizations.
Photo: Greg Grieco

Movies prove excellent choice
for studying organizational behavior

By Charles DuBois
The Smeal College

In an MBA classroom, a movie like "Wall Street" would seem the popular choice, but a Penn State professor avoided the obvious and chose "Dead Poets Society" to really burrow into issues of management.

At first glimpse, the film "Dead Poets Society" is about a renegade English teacher, played by Robin Williams, who stirs up a stuffy prep school by stimulating his students with ideals of individualism and creativity. Although Williams succeeds in motivating his students, his victory is short-lived and his actions ultimately end in failure -- subject matter perfectly suited for a class in film, sociology or education.

But, in the view of Dennis Gioia, professor of organizational behavior, there's more to it.

"'Dead Poets Society' is an excellent study of empowerment and the limits and consequences of empowerment in bureaucratic organizations," said Gioia, a faculty member in The Smeal College of Business Administration. "It's a study of the difficulty of affecting change in an organizational culture as well as a study of leadership and motivation."

While watching the movie with his family recently, he realized that it explored many of the issues he covered in the Smeal MBA core course "Managing People in Organizations." The film soon became the latest in a line of movies, including the classic "Twelve Angry Men" and "Fat Man and Little Boy," integrated into the course as illustrations of business principles.

Gioia's students were made to work their way to discovery. The MBAs were divided into teams of five to six each and asked to do an analysis of "Dead Poets." Their findings had to be in the form of 20-minute presentations before panels empowered to judge and interrupt. Fifteen minutes of questions followed -- questions that could cover any aspect of the movie, the course or current managerial practice.

"They had a great experience," said Gioia. "It was a more engaging assignment than yet another written case analysis or a boring exam."

Gioia was gratified to see how many themes they uncovered -- culture, leadership, power, motivation and politics.

"Most watched the movie four times," he said. "After the second time, they realized that the story line is a veneer. There are many interpretations and possible answers, and that's just the way it is in management. You have to decide which one works."

Ross Fasco, a Virginia Tech undergraduate who worked as a senior consultant with Ernst & Young, came away from "Dead Poets" with this conclusion: "You can't implement change in an organization without considering a broader culture. If you're going to implement change, do it with people, not to people."

MBA student Volker Kohl has his own interpretation -- that innovation and synergy are the key to an organization's success.

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Family pledges $5 million
to fund spiritual center

The Frank Pasquerilla family of Johnstown has made a $5 million commitment to fund a new spiritual center on Penn State's University Park campus. The new center will be an addition to Eisenhower Chapel, which currently is used by about 30 student religious organizations and hosts more than 3,800 events annually. The chapel also houses the University's Center for Ethics and Religious Studies.

Frank Pasquerilla is chairman and CEO of Crown American Realty Trust, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that specializes in regional shopping malls, including Nittany Mall in State College. He also is chairman of Crown American Hotels, a privately held hotel company that includes 25 hotel properties. Sylvia Pasquerilla is his wife. Frank's son, Mark, is president of Crown American Realty Trust, and daughter, Leah, is special assistant to the chairman and CEO at Crown American Realty Trust.

Penn State President Graham B. Spanier noted that the existing facilities at Eisenhower Chapel are inadequate to the University's goal of providing a well rounded educational experience for students.

"The most fundamental challenge facing colleges and universities today is developing conscience, character, citizenship and social responsibility in their students," Spanier said. "Our chapel and related programs form a central part of our attempt to meet this challenge. The men and women who work in the interfaith activities that take place there help to put a 'human face' on the University-- they are an essential part of students' co-curricular activities.

"But these facilities can no longer meet the growing demands placed on them. We are deeply grateful to the Pasquerilla family for their extraordinary generosity, and for the tremendous commitment they have made in helping us to make a strong moral character and a sense of values an integral part of a Penn State education."

Eisenhower Chapel was built in 1956 using private funds, and was named for Helen Eakin Eisenhower, the wife of Milton Eisenhower, who served as president of the University from 1950 to 1956. The structure was expanded in 1976, again without state appropriations.

The timetable for construction will be established following additional fund raising for the facility, which will be supported solely by private funds, according to Spanier. Additional fund-raising activities for the estimated $9 million project are planned as part of the University's forthcoming capital campaign.

"With 15 Crown American malls and 11 Crown hotels across the state of Pennsylvania, we have a property in nearly every one of the 24 communities where Penn State has a presence," said Frank Pasquerilla. "Crown American is the largest operator of retail space in the state. With 90,000 Penn state students and thousands of alumni across Pennsylvania, it is fitting that we partner with the University on this project. We have a desire to give back to these communities and to extend our partnership with Penn State."

Mark Pasquerilla added, "We were especially impressed by the interfaith leadership that is involved in the spiritual center project. We have had excellent discussions with representatives from the University, and we're excited by the truly diverse nature of the student groups that will benefit.

"In addition, we were extremely pleased by the recent commitment by Joe and Sue Paterno to this project. The Paternos continue to be excellent 'sales representatives' for the University. We hope that others will be inspired as well."

Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno and his wife, Sue, recently designated a $1 million gift to the spiritual center as part of their $3.5 million overall gift to the University.

Among the ministries sponsored by their respective faith groups are Catholic, Hillel (Jewish), Episcopal, Lutheran and the United Ministries representing the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), American Baptist, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), and Church of the Brethren.

Frank Pasquerilla joined Crown -- then known as Crown Construction -- less than one year after it was founded in 1950. He became president in 1956 and sole owner in 1961. In 1993, Crown American split into two entities, Crown American Realty Trust and Crown American Hotels, when the shopping mall portion of the company became a publicly held real estate investment trust. Currently, there are 26 regional shopping malls in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.

Frank Pasquerilla is also a trustee emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and has received honorary doctorate degrees from Notre Dame, St. Francis College (Loretto, Pa.) and Mount Saint Mary's College (Emmitsburg, Md.). He is chairman of the diocesan finance committee for the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese, general chairman of the Partnership for Education for the diocese and a member of the board of trustees for the foundation for the diocese. State College is part of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.

Mark Pasquerilla joined Crown American in 1981 and was named president in 1990. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and completed a master of science degree in international relations at the London School of Economics. As a Fulbright-Hays scholar under the auspices of the European Research Institute, Mark studied international affairs at the University of Cologne. He is a member of the board of directors of USBANCORP, Johnstown.

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Practice makes perfect

During training, Jim Pawelczyk, payload specialist, practices procedures
to be used in microneurography, a technique used on the Neurolab mission
for measuring nerve signals traveling from the brain to blood vessels.
Photo: Courtesy NASA Neurolab Web site

Penn State professor to teach from space

By Barbara Hale
Public Information

John Glenn isn't the only astronaut whose extraterrestrial activities could end up enhancing the quality of life for older adults.

Penn State's Jim Pawelczyk, assistant professor of kinesiology and physiology, and his space-going colleagues scheduled to be aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in April will conduct more than two dozen studies that hold promise for older adults and others.

Pawelczyk, who is the first Penn State faculty member chosen for shuttle duty, will be conducting some of the space-based experiments on himself. But his youth won't mean the results are only applicable to young people.

"Many of the changes we see in space flight are similar to those associated with the aging process," Pawelczyk said. "These include a loss of blood volume and less precise control of the cardiovascular system, changes in the vestibular system which controls balance and, on longer flights, loss of muscle mass and bone mineral. Mechanisms responsible for these adaptations may help us to identify the causes of similar problems often seen in the elderly."

As a payload specialist, Pawelczyk's chief duty aboard the 17-day Neurolab mission is to serve as both operator and subject for the 26 studies scheduled for the mission. The studies were proposed by teams of scientists from Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Canada, as well as the U.S. Pawelczyk and the other crew members will carry out these experiments for them.

The experiments are designed to determine how the brain and nervous system adapt to the stresses of life in space. In a recent visit to campus, Pawelczyk described one experiment that will be duplicated on Earth by elementary school children who follow the in-school WPSX-TV program, "What's In The News." The experiment involves catching a ball.

Pawelczyk explained that when we catch a ball on Earth, we are drawing on our understanding of how objects accelerate in gravity. Based on this understanding, we can successfully anticipate where the ball will be and catch it.

"In space flight," Pawelczyk said, "the ball isn't going to accelerate. It's going to be at a constant velocity. So, we're going to have to relearn that simple motor task to successfully catch the ball. This same learning process applies very much to people who have to relearn motor tasks as the result of stroke."

Another area Pawelczyk will focus on during the shuttle mission will be four experiments on blood pressure regulation and orthostatic intolerance, an inability to maintain consciousness that results from an inadequate blood supply to the brain. A specialist in autonomic neurophysiology, Pawelczyk is one of a team of co-investigators with Dr. C. Gunnar Blomquist, University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, on this study.

Researchers estimate that over a half million, mostly older, Americans suffer from disorders involving orthostatic intolerance. But young people can be affected as well.

"It happens after space flight in about two-thirds of astronaut personnel and it then resolves itself," he said. "But during that period of time, we have a window where, basically, we have a relatively young healthy person looking like a much older person in terms of orthostatic tolerance."

The orthostatic intolerance experiments on board the shuttle will investigate the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure moment-to-moment. Pawelczyk will measure blood pressure, blood flow to the brain and other cardiovascular parameters. In addition, he will place a thin electrode, the size of an acupuncture needle, in a nerve just below the knee of three of the crew members to record the signals going from the brain to the blood vessels. These signals cause blood vessels to constrict which increases blood pressure, just as stepping on a garden hose increases water pressure, said Pawelczyk. Jay Buckey, the other payload specialist on board the Neurolab mission, will perform the procedure on Pawelczyk.

During a visit to the University Park campus in January, Pawelczyk was asked whether his experience aboard the shuttle will be useful in his teaching when he returns to campus after the mission. Pawelczyk said, "I don't see any way around it."

In fact, while he's still aboard the shuttle, Pawelczyk and Peter Farrell, professor of physiology, will discuss the experiments with Penn State students in a live question-and-answer, distance education experience set for April 26. Students at three other universities also will talk to the other payload crew members during the mission.

"Space flight is a good way to excite students about science and research," Pawelczyk said. "It is still a new frontier."

Pawelczyk is scheduled to leap that frontier's boundaries on April 16 at 2:19 p.m. The first Penn State faculty member to do so, he promises to return a full measure of teaching, research and service as did the original land-grant university pioneers.

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How many zeroes?!

Students at Penn State Erie and the lion mascot from that campus help spell out an anonymous gift's
dollar amount for the people who attended a March 25 press conference. During the event, it was
revealed that Penn State Erie's School of Business would benefit from a $20 million donation.
Photo: Courtesy of Penn State Erie

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