VALLEY Magazine | Spring 2022

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VALLEY Penn State’s premier student-run life and style magazine.

VALLEY Magazine is published once per semester and distributed for free on Penn State’s main campus in University Park, PA. Our mission is to recognize Penn State students for their academic and extracurricular accomplishments and to feature local style, entertainment and lifestyle trends. VALLEY Magazine is named after Happy Valley and was founded in September 2007 by former Penn State students Nicole Gallo, Meredith Ryan, Katie Zuccolo and Kathryn Tomaselli. The Spring 2022 magazine is VALLEY’s twenty-ninth issue.

8 10 14 15 16

17 SELF IMPROVEMENT 18 19 20 22 24 26

Funded by the Student Initiated Fee

Bonjour, Konnichiwa, Ahlan Hello My Name Is... Music Maestro Surface Pressure How Attached Are You? Head in the Clouds

27 CAMPUS CULTURE 28 30 32 38 40 42

How to Lose a Guy Earning the Ears The Path Less Traveled Inside A Politically Tumultuous Generation Making Up for Lost Time Should We Hook Up?

43 ENTERTAINMENT 44 46 47 48 49 50

The content and opinions of this publication reside solely with the authors and not the Pennsylvania State University or the University Park Allocation Committee.

Self Care Without Boarders Mindful Munchies Beauty Blending into Politics The Healthy Ha-Ha’s Ditching the Douch

Written By A Woman Gender Contamination & Harry Styles The Pull of Parasocial Relationships Behind the Gold Statues Hollywood’s Humans Glorious Greek Girls

53 FASHION 54 56 58 60 62

That’s Camp! Keeping College Close to Your Heart Breaking Gender Roles One Red Carpet at a Time The Garment District: Woven into the Fabric of Life Fashion Spread


When I was little I wrote stories. I wrote stories about real people and fake ones. I’d sit in front of the TV and imagine what the people on the screen would say to me if I could speak to them. It sounds crazy, but for a 6-year-old it’s pretty standard. That being said, I never really grew out of it. I would watch movies and think of questions I would ask the actors if I ever got the chance to meet them and what stories I would write about them. That became a comfortable dream, until I joined VALLEY. Being a part of this publication has opened up a whole new world for me, one that, thankfully, isn’t a figment of my imagination. I’ve been able to dream bigger and become a better writer. I’ve been able to write articles about movies, TV shows and music, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview celebrities and I got to grow into the person I always dreamed I could be — a storyteller. The story that I have been most lucky to tell is Ritul’s. I’m ecstatic over the idea that I will one day be able to say that I wrote the first feature on him before he became a famous actor, and I will never stop talking about it. Ritul Katoch is someone who embodies the idea of never letting someone divert you from your chosen path. There is something to be said for going against the odds that not only the world has stacked against you, but those closest to you as well. To Ritul, thank you for being willing to share your story and inspiring not only me, but hopefully everyone who reads this, to follow their dreams. Deciphering your rambling was a pleasure and I’d be happy to do it again once you’re famous. The magazine that you’re about to read covers a wide array of topics, some of which could be seen as controversial, but isn’t that what journalism is all about? Asking the hard questions, bringing to the foreground ideas that are not widely agreed upon and being the voice for those who don’t have one. I hope you open this magazine with curiosity and close it with a broadened mind. This work of art that you have before you could not have been made by just one person alone. You know what they say — it takes a village. To all of the editors-in-chief who came before me, I hope I carried the legacy you left proudly. To Tess, who accepted me onto this magazine and became who I strived to be one day and Christy, who gave me the encouragement I needed to be a leader in this club, I’m forever grateful. Most of all, to Nicole, who gave me this opportunity. You have always been and always will be one of my best friends and I hope I made you proud. To our creative director, Annie, you put your heart and soul into this magazine. It was a true pleasure to watch you work and see the world through your eyes. To our design director, Jordan, this is a work of art and I’m in awe of everything you do. To our photo director, Becca, thank you for bringing these stories to life. You’re an amazing hype-woman. To our business director, Ava, thank you for always putting up with my crazy ideas and listening to me ramble on the phone for hours on end. I know one day when we’re in the audience at a Broadway show we’ll look back on these times and smile. To my amazing editorial team, I couldn’t have done this without you. Seeing your lovely faces every week and exposing myself as a weirdo in front of all of you was something I’ll never forget, especially the powerpoint collages. I’m sure none of you will ever forget those. To my web and print writers, your work inspires me and you’ve given me the chance to be a leader. Thank you all for joining me on this crazy ride and I love every single one of you more than I could possibly say. To my section editors, thank you for being ready to go the extra mile and for editing an insane amount of articles every week. To my self-improvement editor and one of my best friends, Elise, we’ve been in this together for four years and I’m so glad you’ve been by my side keeping me sane. To my copy editor, Huntyr, you made spending countless hours editing much more fun than it sounds. I’ll go on a road trip with you any day. To my web director, Mason, you poured your life and soul into the website. I can’t even wrap my brain around how much you do and you’re the best person I could have asked for to take on the task. Harry Styles would be proud. And to my managing editor, Amanda, you have been my other half through this whole insane journey and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. I’m so proud of who you’ve become and I can’t wait to hand this amazing job off to you, I know you’ll be wonderful. Finally, to you, the readers. There are no words that can encompass what this magazine means to me, and the fact that you took the time to pick it up makes my heart so full. The stories that you will read from my writers and the work of art that you will see from both the creative and business divisions are truly one of a kind. Not a lot of people can say that they had a hand in making a magazine and you are why we do it. I hope that after reading even one page of this publication you will be inspired to go out into the world and share more stories. The world needs more joy and laughter and change. All my love, always,

MJ Bergin, Editor-In-Chief



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“I want to learn many skills because I want to learn in different and creative ways, how could I approach things in unique ways, that motivates me.”


There’s a good chance your idea of self-care doesn’t involve compassion, meditation or communal naked bathing. Our western world has a different definition of self-care than the eastern world. However, there are practices that are worth traveling the globe for.

EAST VS. WEST SELF-CARE The western world sees the body as a “machine,” composed of different parts we treat as problems arise. On the other hand, the eastern world views the body as a self-regulating ecosystem that is affected by the environment and approaches self-care holistically, like daily waters to a garden. As westerners, we are familiar with what self-care means to us. We use bubble baths, massages, face masks and other skin products to promote a clean and healthy exterior to fight against a stressed state. For internal self-care, people promote therapy, talking with friends, setting boundaries and other ways to establish a strong sense of self. All these tactics tend to focus on fixing your state when you are experiencing moments of stress, depression and other negative feelings. While there are aspects of our self-care

routines that are great for improving overall health, the East has a different perspective of self-care and new practices we could appropriately integrate into our routine.

EASTERN SELF-CARE: THE ART OF THE MINDBODY CONNECTION Keeping in mind the eastern mentality of the “body as a garden,” the East implements self-care as a lifestyle, rather than a practice. According to Penn State kinesiology professor Storm Riddle, in their self-care “they look at body systems and their traditional practices, their practices are in the idea of blending mind and body together.” To eastern cultures, the body is not divided in different segments in which each part is working independently, but that every part needs to function properly for overall health. Some common practices in the eastern world are yoga, an internal medicine practice called Ayurveda, meditation, tai chi and more. While a lot of eastern practices have exercise elements, the alignment of the body and mind is key. Connecting the mind and body means doing things mindfully and with purpose — making sure to analyze what you are feeling and how you can improve your mental and physical state together. For professor Sima Farage, a Penn State kinesiology professor and instructor in the Health Promotion and Wellness department, mindfulness and meditation are a part of her daily routine. Each morning she engages in mediation. “I don’t put pressure on how long it needs to be, whatever you can do is good,” says Farage. “The little pause in the day is important to disassociate yourself from the doing.” Farage references the different lifestyles between the East and the West. Having lived in Lebanon, she says a key difference is the need for constant productivity in the West. “We [westerners] think that sitting and taking up space is a waste of time,” says Farage.


She says that we might find it fearful to surrender ourselves to the Earth and the energy around us, which is the spiritual aspect of a lot of eastern practices. But this pause could be beneficial to add to our pre-existing self-care routine.

Photographed by: Jacob Lawall, Elinor Franklin

Farage focuses on her internal health by practicing Ayurveda, a way of health that involves the prevention and treatment of illness through massages, meditation, yoga, dietary changes and herbal medicine. Ayurveda is a direct reflection of the eastern self-care perspective of treating ourselves from the inside-out.

“Getting away from the notion that self-care is about how you look, the eastern part is about how you feel,” says Farage. For Farage, she integrates Ayurveda by getting 12 hours of sleep each night, using food as medicine, dry brushing her skin and being mindful of her five senses, like monitoring the kind of music she hears.

INTEGRATING EASTERN PRACTICES IN A WESTERNER’S ROUTINE Although eastern self-care is very different and has great benefits, we shouldn’t entirely abandon the way we live in the West. “I am not necessarily advocating for one approach over the other, but how both can be beneficial,” says Kristen Boccumini, adjunct professor in kinesiology at Penn State. Boccumini understands that we like to treat symptoms rather than change our lifestyles, but ultimately, change is what is required to see real results. “Daily lifestyles of self-care are easy to neglect,” says Boccumini. Western intuitions, like college, can cause stress and mentalhealth concerns. If you find yourself to be the person that has good intentions when it comes to changing your lifestyle but ultimately quits because it’s “too much work,” you’re not alone. Whether your definition of self-care is a face mask and a bath or a yoga flow and guided meditation, the main goal is to take time for yourself. Maybe try taking a “trip” in your routine to see a refreshing and hopefully enlightening perspective on what it means to self-care.

mindful munchies BY LILI GOLDBERG In today’s culture, it seems like society is moving from one fad diet to the next. Although we have evolved, and body positivity is trending, it would be naive to say society doesn’t idolize weight loss and “perfect bodies.” Social media has heightened the average individual’s desire to look a certain way and hop on these restrictive diet plans. How could anyone keep up with this? What if there was a way to have more food freedom while still staying on a healthy track? Mindful eating is defined as being fully attentive to your food — as you buy, prepare, serve and consume it. More specifically, intuitively choose what you are eating as well as being present during your meals and snacks. This practice goes hand in hand with intuitive eating as well. Intuitive eating is when you truly allow yourself to make peace with all food and follow an 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is exactly what it sounds like! For 80% of the time, you want to make a conscious decision to eat things that will make you and your body feel good. The other 20% of the time is for your cravings. It allows you to “tap into your head and give it what it needs.” If you want to have a green smoothie and eggs for breakfast… great! If your body feels like it wants to eat a big stack of pancakes… that’s okay too! When we put a restriction on certain types of foods or label them as bad we are adding to this idea that we need to eliminate certain foods to lose weight or feel healthier. There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” food. In this ever-changing and fast-paced world, it can be hard to sit down and eat a full meal at your table. The practice of mindful

eating promotes the idea that the more present you are, the more “in tune” you will be with your body and the choices that you make. An article written by Harvard said, “According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day eating, but more than half the time, we’re doing something else, too.” Although okay in moderation, eating while doing a completely different activity is not good for our mind.

“This mindless eating — a lack of awareness of the food we’re consuming — may be contributing to the national obesity epidemic and other health issues,‘’ says Dr. Lilian Cheung, a nutritionist, and lecturer at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So how do we eat more mindfully? This involves letting your body catch up to your brain, knowing your body’s personal hunger signals, cultivating a mindful kitchen and understanding your motivations as well as attending to your plate. We are all guilty of grabbing the bag of Doritos from the pantry while watching the latest episode of Euphoria and before you know it, the entire bag is gone. This is an exact example of what mindful eating is NOT. Were you hungry for an entire bag of Doritos? Probably not. Rather than listening to our emotions and acting on our impulses, discovering our bodies’ response to needing more fuel will benefit you greatly. Everything in moderation is acceptable, but when we eat out of sadness, boredom, stress or anger, it can cause us to go overboard.

Distracted eating is the worst enemy when you embark on a journey to practice mindfulness. We are all guilty of this. We do this when we eat whilst doing something else. Our attention is on our task, not the food we are consuming. Eating mindfully means you are fully present during your meals and snacks. Most of the time we eat until we are too full. An article by, says “The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat.” These practices are supposed to be less stressful and eventually turn into a habit. So let’s talk about some ways we can incorporate this into our daily lives. Slowing down is the first big step. To begin, prior to going food shopping, make a list of things you are going to buy. This is how you will create the kitchen that you want to eat. Going in with a plan allows us to make healthier choices and not be tempted by the processed snacks around us. If you fill your fridge with fresh produce, and healthier options than that’s what you’ll eat the majority of the time. If you fill your pantry with chips and cookies, then that’s what you’ll eat. It all comes down to what you surround yourself with. If we allow ourselves to eat what we want in moderation, take time to listen to our bodies, and make consciously better decisions, we will get closer to this lifestyle. Mindful eating, along with intuitive eating, is the next step in creating a healthier relationship with food.

Photographed by: Taylor Kuszyk, Clare Connell Makeup by: Derek Ulrich


BEAUTY BLENDING INTO POLITICS BY MASON SHAFFER Fashion, like most things in this world, is one of many outlets for political statements in our day and age. Whether it’s where you buy what you wear or where you’re wearing it, there is no denying that a statement piece is a statement for a reason. Fashion is entirely political, and this is made most evident by the women in politics. Physical appearance, especially for any woman involved in politics to any degree (or in general), is almost always the first thing people notice about her. This is certainly not groundbreaking news to anyone — but how do the other aspects of physical appearance impact the way we view women in politics? Are those things political too?

is beautiful (or even professional) in America. Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was subject to heavy criticism when she first took office in 2019 over her choice to wear a hijab, a headdress native to her Somalian roots. It could be said that this scrutiny was a result of mass prejudice or the fact that Omar chooses not to reveal her hair, which is a physical characteristic associated with femininity by American beauty standards. Racism doesn’t just extend through American society & politics — it happens all around the globe. Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, while perhaps not directly involved in British politics, serve as prime examples of this.

Things like makeup, hair color and style, signs of aging, height and weight have greatly impacted the way society views women and subsequently values them. Women who don’t fit a certain pant size or have one too many wrinkles are almost immediately deemed less desirable and are therefore of less value to our society. Women who wear too much makeup aren’t smart enough to hold an opinion of any worth, but the women who don’t wear enough aren’t pretty enough to listen to.

Kate is always done up, but not “too much.” She is never seen without her hair freshly blown out or slicked back into a polite ponytail; she is always wearing enough makeup for any person who actually wears makeup to know that she is wearing makeup, but never so much that it’s blatantly obvious to anyone who doesn’t.

Our perspective of women, whether conscious or not, is inherently dictated by their physical attributes and the way they are presented to the world, which is also made evident by female political figures.

She always wears a respectable heel — nothing too high, of course — and often neutral or muted colors so as to not draw attention to her outfit as opposed to herself or her husband. Kate is a polite, quiet white woman who always looks polished and put-together, and has been painted to be the more proper of the royal wives.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has sought to defy this norm and push boundaries, one lip color at a time. Representative Ocasio-Cortez is often donning a bold red lip in her place of work, which is an uncommon sight on Capitol Hill. AOC’s red lip is truly the ultimate statement — by refusing to sacrifice her femininity, AOC makes a powerful stance against the traditional masculinity we see in American politics. We simply cannot have a discussion about the way physical appearance plays a role in society’s value of women without discussing the way race dictates this as well. The United States’ centuries-long history of oppression of people of color and westernized culture has directly impacted beauty standards in America, which is almost exclusive to whiteness. This intersectionality has translated to standards of professionalism — for example, Black women’s natural hair or braids are often deemed “inappropriate for the workplace,” while pin-straight hair and other physical characteristics are associated with white women. To that, traits of other ethnicities or backgrounds and other cultures aren’t taken into consideration when defining what

During her time as a royal, Meghan Markle presented herself in the same manner as Kate Middleton — she wore minimal makeup, dressed almost exclusively in neutral tones and kept her hair neat and off her face. Meghan is also polished and put together by any fashion or beauty standards. Meghan, however, faced mass scrutiny during her time as Duchess of Sussex and was a victim of the British press because of her race and ethnicity. No matter what she wore, how she did her hair, where she went or what she did, it was deemed unprofessional, un-ladylike or unfit for a woman of her position, directly as a result of her race and American upbringing. While standards differ from country to country and culture to culture, beauty isn’t limited to only certain traits or features. Beauty, despite American culture’s perception of it, is not what makes a woman — or any person, for that matter — valuable. The politicization of beauty standards has distracted us from that.

THE HEALTHY HA-HA’S BY SIMONE SKINNER Did you know that laughing can be identified as an exercise? According to Healthline, laughing yoga involves a series of movements and breathing exercises that promote deliberate laughter. This type of exercise is just one of the impacts that laughter can have on a person’s health.

WHAT IS LAUGHTER? Laughing is described as a pleasant physical reaction of the body consisting of rhythmic, audible expulsions of amusement emitting from the diaphragm. It is the physiological response to the subject of humor and joy. When a person is laughing, the diaphragm, abdomen and facial muscles are the parts of the body that are affected the most. While laughing, the diaphragm and chest muscles tighten and in that movement it forces air out of your lungs. In this sudden expulsion of air, your body recognizes that it needs more oxygen and causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase in an attempt to produce oxygen for your organs. This flow of air also causes your vocal cords to vibrate and emit what we all know as the contagious sound of laughter. Laughter doesn’t just create a sequence of physiological events to occur throughout the body, it also provides sufficient health benefits in those fits of giggles and belly laughs.

HOW LAUGHTER AFFECTS THE BODY Laughter has been proven to reward people with several physical and mental health benefits. It can benefit the body through several physical factors such as blood flow, immune response and blood sugar levels. When laughing the blood vessels contract and expand more easily than when a person is tense. This causes blood flow to increase more fluidly throughout the whole body. In addition, it can lower blood pressure which aids in the reduction of a stroke or heart attack. Laughter affects the body’s immune system by decreasing stress in the body and increasing the number of antibodies. In one study consisting of 19 people with diabetes, it has been proven that blood sugar levels can be decreased from laughter after having them watch a comedy rather than a lecture. It can have a significant effect on mental health — it eases anxiety and tension, relieves stress, improves mood, strengthens resilience and perspective. According to HelpGuide, when a person laughs, they experience an ease in strong emotions such as anxiety, sadness and anger. Laughing increases energy to help focus more on your goals throughout the day. Laughter can strengthen your resilience and perspective in

a way where it psychologically distances you from situations and sees them in a more realistic light, thus decreasing tension and diffusing conflict.

HOW DOES IT SIMULATE EXERCISE? Laughing can simulate the feeling of exercise through different ways that can add additional health benefits to the body. Knowing that the activity of laughing is mostly produced by the respiratory system, it is not a shock that it would also be a great exercise for both the respiratory and cardiovascular system.

In fact, in a study from Men’s Journal, it is stated that, “Laughing at least 100 times a day can equal 15 minutes of cardio exercise, increasing cardiovascular health.” Laughing also simulates exercise by working your abs. When laughing, your muscles are expanding and contracting. Laughing yoga is another exercise that can equate to exercise simulation as well. This is a breathing exercise that evokes the deliberate physiological movement of laughter. Most people with physical injuries or illnesses use this technique as an alternative to general movement compared to regular exercise.

SHOULD LAUGHING BE A LEGITIMATE EXERCISE? Laughter has similar effects to exercising, but compared to regular exercise, it has more short-term effects on the body. Melissa Rodgers, Assistant Teaching Professor and Director at the Center for Fitness and Wellness at Penn State says the body’s physiological response with exercise and laughter mimic each other acutely, but still has some vast differences in terms of health management. “When you are looking at management of disease and management of weight or long-term disease, it improves your ability to perform activities of daily living and just be a fitter person. Laughter just doesn’t keep up with all those additional benefits of exercise.” Laughter should be considered a healthy activity that can be integrated into daily fitness programs as a way to enjoy life-long benefits.

“Laugh more, move more, enjoy it together,” Rodgers says happily.


Ditching the Douche BY SYLVIE AUGUST Is it time to ditch the douche? Summer’s Eve, Vagisil and other intimate wash brands give off the impression that their products will not only make you feel clean but also help you smell like a rose — it’s perfectly natural to not smell like a rose. What began as a misconception about birth control became a misconception about cleanliness. According to the United States’ Office on Women’s Health, “Douching is washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids.” Douching began as a technique for women to prevent pregnancy by cleaning with honey or olive oil. As time progressed, Lysol became the most popular brand for it. Advertisers exploited insecurities about vaginal cleanliness with little regard to actual vaginal health. According to an Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy, “This messaging is typically conveyed using terms like ‘clean’ and ‘fresh’ in product names and descriptions.” Feminie hygiene is also an intersectional issue. Michelle Ferranti, an advertising researcher and American history professor, wrote a review essay on this issue titled, “An Odor of Racism: Vaginal Deodorants in African-American Beauty Culture and Advertising.” Ferranti writes, “The lens of gender cannot satisfactorily explain the racial disparity in rates of vaginal deodorization, nor can feminist activism alone remedy the historical inequalities that underlay the practice among African-American women.” According to Ferranti, “Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth showed that 59% of Black women douche in comparison to just 27% of white women.” Within the academic essay, Ferranti explains how the phenomena of Black women douching much more frequently than white women came to be. Ferranti describes the history behind the deeply racist and false belief that Black women’s bodies have an odor that needs cleansing. Racists used the “smell” of Black people to justify segregation in many cases. Furthermore, the sexual violence that Black women endured during slavery and during segregation contributed to the stereotype that Black women are hypersexual. Consequently, many Black women felt the need to reclaim their health and bodies by wanting to feel clean. Thus, it became incredibly easy for feminie hygiene advertisers to exploit the insecurities that resulted from the horrific atrocities that Black women faced. Ferranti writes, “In short, the misuse of Black women’s bodies — and the misuse of images of Black women’s bodies — have coalesced to provide powerful enticements to douche.”

As douching grew out of trend due to its connections to health problems such as “bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, STIs and vaginal irritation or dryness,” according to the United States’ Office of Women’s Health, feminine hygiene brands like Summer’s Eve needed to change up their products in order to stay in business. Thus, the external cleansers, such as wipes, deodorant sprays and washes, were born. According to the United Kingdom National Health Service, “[Scented wipes and vaginal deodorants] can disrupt the vagina’s healthy natural balance.” If you are questioning whether you are truly clean down there, it could be reassuring to realize that the vagina is self-cleaning. Healthy bacteria live inside that help maintain the pH balance and produce natural antibiotics to rid of any harmful bacteria that may enter. “If the balance of bacteria is disturbed, this can lead to infection and inflammation,” according to the United Kingdom National Health Service, which may explain why douching and cleansing inside the vagina can lead to irritation. Using unperfumed soap around the vagina can help wash away any sweat, dead skin or bacteria that may accumulate after a long day, but the inside will clean itself. If you find yourself worried about your health or notice any unusual odors or sensations, it is best to consult a doctor before a Summer’s Eve advertisement. For four years, Women’s Voices for the Earth campaigned against Summer’s Eve products with their “Summer’s Deceive” movement. In 2021, Summer’s Eve removed ten of the chemicals that Women’s Voices for the Earth cited as most harmful. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, “[The products] still contain undisclosed fragrance ingredients and possibly Neutresse (a patented ‘odor controlling technology,’ we don’t actually know what’s in it.)” Despite the known harmful chemicals being removed, ambiguity about what is really in some of these products remains. Furthermore, the toxic marketing that allowed the products to rise in prominence in the first place is still at large. The marketing surrounding feminine hygiene encourages people who have vaginas to potentially damage their bodies in order to smell like “Blissful Escape” or “Island Splash,” but that is not what a body needs.

Women’s Voices for the Earth wrote, “[Summer’s Eve] needs to change the narrative that tells us that our bodies aren’t good enough as they are and need products like this to be clean.”



“Caring for myself has motivated me to care for others… and not just in the face mask way. But holding myself accountable for things…having the ability to understand myself and show up for myself has helped me to understand that until I do that, I cannot show up for others.”


Communication is key. It is something that comes so naturally yet when you digest the thought of being incapable of understanding someone else just because of language barriers, it is astonishing. Conversations are flowing from various forms of languages all over the world and only knowing one for an entire lifetime holds you back from new connections. Acquiring a new language goes beyond being bilingual, it symbolizes the beauty within different cultures and places. On our planet earth today, there are around 7,000 languages in existence — all to decode a message we as human beings are delivering to one another. Not being able to converse with another person just by not being able to understand a different language sounds odd when put into those terms — as if it was just that simple, right? Being bilingual is simply a skill set — one that can come in handy for many reasons. Think about traveling outside of the country. Any region you choose to go to is going to be a challenge in conversation as every country’s main dialect differs. Even in the United States, English seems like it is the main language. However, that is far from the case anymore as different languages are welcomed and encouraged. Another way learning a new language is helpful is for jobs. Being capable of communicating one style allows for more diversity and inclusiveness in the workforce. It is beneficial for companies in the sense of expanding their business beyond just their inner networks.

Jake Landmesser, a current Penn State student majoring in finance with a minor in Spanish said, “I used to work with a lot of people whose first language is Spanish. As I continue in the business world, I think minoring in another language would benefit my career by being able to translate and communicate in more than one language.”

Going hand in hand with those reasons, a great factor of becoming bilingual is meeting new people. Being able to conversate in multiple languages allows room for meeting people you never would have without inquiring about that new skill set. You could have a soulmate somewhere but never know because of a language barrier. These barriers hold back society from interacting with other parts of the world. So, why not? Why doesn’t everyone learn a new language? Especially hearing all of the effects of the benefits. Well, it isn’t that simple. Learning, interpreting and then putting it to use to fully conversate takes time. Sitting down to learn a brand new language is time-consuming considering you are starting from not even knowing the word hello yet. It is like riding a bike for the first time — devoting all your time to learning something new. Acquiring any new set of skills requires patience. Trying anything for the first time can be intimidating not knowing what will happen or if it is worth the time and effort it will require. With learning a new language, it is normal to feel these things. Everything is hard at first, but if you keep up with it then that uncertainty disappears and everything starts to align. Becoming bilingual is a process and it is studied for that particular reason but do not let it stand in the way. Learning comes at your own pace — whether you master a new language in eight months or 12 years, you are successful anytime you are consistent and determined. Everyone’s journey is different so do not let that stop you from learning a new language. Remind yourself of the reason you started — anything is possible.


It’s a simple question, right? You were given your name at birth and it has stuck ever since. But does it match you? What is the story behind it? What really is your name? The study of both individual and collective names is known as anthroponymy, a branch of onomastics, which has been around since the mid-19th century. When referencing a person, a name is a sacred, concrete form of identity. It is a title for who you are, who you have been and who you will become. Names can be religious allusions, mythological references, family namesakes or just something that pulled on the heartstrings of the parents when they first met their child. Whatever the meaning is behind the name, it can bring a greater understanding of self if the individual resonates with it. A name has the capability to hold personal values, family history or overall, a stronger sense of identity. This contributes to the power that a name holds, making it a much greater thing than simply a form of identification. With all of this said, some people may not feel this way about their name. If you do not feel connected with the meaning of your name, or just simply do not like the way it sounds, there are actions you as a citizen are able to take to change it. Legally in Pennsylvania, the citizen must fill out a petition for a name change, get a fingerprint card, publish a notice of a hearing, attend that hearing and be sure to update all legal records and documents. This may sound like a hefty process, but individuals deserve to have a name that they personally feel is representative of who they are. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, this process often gives them a chance to take ownership of their identity. Different states or private practices are working to make this a more feasible process, as they too recognize the power behind a name, and the power it can bring to one’s self. Here at Penn State, a public speaking class was instructed to produce a speech that revolves around their name. This could be anything — the story behind it, the meaning of the name or if the students like or dislike their name. In all their uniqueness, these speeches showcased how personal the relationship that one has with their name truly is. How one feels about their

name is no stagnant case — all relationships evolve and this is no exception. One member of the class, second-year Michael Vareha, explained that he is named after Saint Michael, the archangel. This name means “who is like god” or “no one is god” to which Vareha says is “a good reminder to be respectful and selfless throughout his day to day life.” Second-year Anthony Tavana, another student, also solidified values when learning the meaning of his name, as he said, “Throughout my life, I never had too much connection to my name, more just considered it a collection of sounds, something used to refer to someone, but now, not so much.” Anthony means priceless, or worthy of praise, and while Tavana reassured that he is not vain enough to consider himself priceless, he does firmly believe that “it is good to take credit for the good work you do.” Other names are powerful in the way in which they represent the family they come from. Reagan Alexis Wood stated that her initials are RAW, “which is kind of unfortunate if your head is in the gutter,” but she connects with the name proudly, as her father wanted her to have the same initials as him. Similarly, to Wood, another second-year named Emily Boccarossa explained that her name is a constant reminder of the hard work that her grandfather put in to give her family the life they live now. Sometimes inspiration for a name strikes randomly. Secondyear Avi Adams, a fellow member of the class, stated that she has never met anyone else with her name, and that is because her mom thought of it while watching a movie. “Someone was falling off a cliff,” says Adams, “her name was Amy, and someone screamed, and it sounded like Avi, so that’s where it came from.” The story behind a name has the capability to be just as unique as the person it belongs to. A name is a grouping of syllables that work together to form something bigger — you. While a name is powerful alone, you are the keeper of its meaning. You get to decide how you want your name to be interpreted just by being yourself. Find strength within your name, as you deserve a worthy title.


Music – it’s the soundtrack of our lives. Chords, melodies and notes are scientifically proven to help us through hardships and acquire motivation, and in some cases, enhance studying habits and the immune system. For Min Park, a third-year international student from South Korea, it’s something to cope with a hectic schedule. The biology major spends her mornings writing lab reports, afternoons in lecture halls and evenings in the library. Her headphones, however, are always in her ears, “listening to one song on repeat.” In contrast, Park’s preferences are varied: Japanese anime openers (“Even though I don’t watch anime”), Korean pop music, original soundtracks, Western pop and “country, but only Taylor Swift country.” She also likes jellyfish white noise, 12hour Studio Ghibli playlists and piano coupled with rain sounds. She also says the background noise depends on her mood and even what she’s studying that day. “Last semester, I had physics and I had chemistry,” says Park, “chemistry — I did not have songs with lyrics on. It was always white music or the rain because I have to memorize stuff. Physics, for some reason, I always have the lyrics stuff on.” “I turned on what I was interested in, like lyrics and stuff, and I could study for some reason. So I sort of have that habit now.” No matter the method, Park noticed a difference in her ability to focus. “The reason why I listened to lyrical stuff while studying physics is because I experienced my concentration get better,” says Park. “I think it’s more of a trial-and-error. I was studying with both depending on my mood, because then, you know, I could get into the zone.” This is because of how memories are paired with sensory stimulation — a psychological process wherein one or more of the senses including hearing, smell, taste, touch and vision are activated. It’s the reason why we can recall the winter holiday season when we hear a Christmas song in the summer, according to researcher Chenlu Gao. Gao, a research fellow in sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, co-authored the 2020 case study “Classical music, educational learning, and slow-wave sleep: A targeted memory

reactivation experiment” with Paul Fillmore and Michael K. Scullin — all of which are scholars in cognitive science at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

MUSIC AND MEMORY Published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, their work examines the intersection between three variables: music, slow-wave (deep) sleep and studying. They further investigated an already established technique called targeted memory reactivation (TMR) where sensory or verbal cues — in this case, music — are paired with learning material to enhance long-term memory. “A lot of college students listen to music when they study,” says Gao, “so he [Scullin] thought that’s a great opportunity because those students are already pairing those sensory stimuli, the music, with their memories of textbook knowledge. So, if they’re already doing part one of the targeted memory reactivation, can we maybe just do part two and help them remember that knowledge better?” Fifty undergraduate students at Baylor (between the ages of 18 and 33) completed a college-level mathematics-based macroeconomics lecture whilst classical music played in the background. “Those songs don’t have lyrics, and we know lyrics may interfere with learning,” says Gao, “the specific songs we chose had very distinctive melodies, so we thought they were great for targeted memory reactivation.” The symphonies of Beethoven, Chopin or Vivaldi replayed to only half of the participants as they slept in the laboratory. The next day, everyone took a macroeconomics exam. After over a year of experimenting, Fillmore, Gao and Scullin found those who listened to classical music during slow-wave sleep scored 18% higher than those who didn’t. “It may show us that it’s possible to use this targeted memory reactivation technique to help college students learn better,” says Gao, “and even, like, really tough STEM materials better.”

MUSIC AND THE BRAIN Kiminobu Sugaya, head of neuroscience at the University of Central Florida, has been in the field for over four decades. Alongside violinist Ayako Yonetani, he teaches one of the most

Photographed by: Jenny Lee & Sara Bobulinski

popular courses at the institution’s Burnett Honors College — “Music and the Brain.” The duo delves into music’s influence on human behavior, brain function, relieving stress and boosting our immune response (“No way, right?”).

“Stress increases the cortisol — the stress hormone response—and suppresses the immune system,” says Sugaya, “but the music can relieve the stress, and then reduce the cortisol level. If cortisol is reduced, then music can increase the immune system.” Park can attest to this double effect. “Like now, I can’t go back to the place where I didn’t listen to music. I think I do need music now,” says Park. So, what’s the verdict? Sugaya says it’s up to you, but advises to use music as a motivator as opposed to fuel. Music not only helped Park feel more productive, but also less alone during remote learning. “Studying, honestly, is really lonely. So it’s nice to have a person there,” says Park, “but, the pandemic—you couldn’t really do that, right? So, I feel like not having a person, like a study buddy, really impacted me. I tried to find something instead of a study buddy, which is music.”


SURFACE PRESSURE BY SIMONE SKINNER *Trigger warning: mentions of racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions* On the surface, nobody knows what you are thinking or going through. All they see is who you are expected to be, but not who you truly are. This can be daunting, especially to the part of their identity that is prevalent on the outside every day — their racial identity.

WHAT IS RACIAL IDENTITY? By definition, racial identity is the individual sense of a person’s identity that is brought on by how the individual has processed and internalized aspects of psychological, sociopolitical and cultural factors. Most people develop their racial identity through the social and ethnic groups that they interact with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, for some, finding that individual sense can be confining.


HOW DOES IT START? Racial identity can be a sensitive topic for different types of people who believe they should already have one based on their appearance. These consist of multiracial groups, minority groups and even non-minority groups as well. The deterioration of the development of racial identity can stem from media portrayals, diverse ethnic backgrounds and even politics. In the media, the representation of different groups isn’t the most authentic, especially when most of those representations are based on stereotypes and general assumptions. These characters can start to weaken racial identity because they do not accurately represent the ethnic background they originate from. Mixed-race backgrounds can also trigger an emotional break in their racial identity for those in the multiracial community. When a person is made up of different cultural backgrounds, they might identify as multiracial. However, other people might experience the opposite and feel uncomfortable with being a part of two races. The most notable instance would be “Racial Impostor Syndrome.” From this, people struggle with their internal sense of self that doesn’t match with others’ perception of their racial identity and gives rise to a feeling of self-doubt. It causes these people to feel as though they are in between races and have no personal relation to any part of their heritage. Politics is another stem of the problem in America, but it affects non-minority groups more than any other group in the sense of white identity politics. Although we live in a non-minority dominated environment, there are some groups that experience an altered sense of identity that is immersed in politics. According to Vox, almost up to 40 percent of non-minority Americans associate their non-minority identity through politics, which also means that almost up to 60 percent do not. This can be detrimental because this leaves non-minority groups with a significant part of their self-identity involuntarily saturated in politics, whether they like it or not.

Once a person starts to understand how and why they struggle with their racial identity, it opens the doors for healing and better understanding of self.


Troy Turner, a third-year Penn State student, says as a biracial person, he socializes with groups of similar cultural backgrounds when he struggles with his racial identity.

Interpersonal, structural and institutional discrimination as well as micro-aggressions can also trigger a shift in one’s racial identity as well. If severe enough these challenges to one’s identity can cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation.

“Just being able to hear other people’s experiences of that similar racial identity is huge,” says Turner. “For discovering racial identity, having talks with your family members, uncomfortable or not, would be beneficial just using your communication.” Alex Kenney, counselor in the Multicultural Resource Center at Penn State, also suggests that it anchors you to a particular history that you can be proud of and relate with. “Racial identity is the entry point into one’s history and then there are nuisances within that group that many people strive to identify with or strive to learn more about to kind of actualize their existence and experiences.”

According to Zencare, the reason for these challenges around race and cultural identity vary mostly in the topics of discrimination, racism and intergenerational trauma. Penn State American literature Professor Aldon Nielson comments on how one of the struggles of identity stems from racism. “Racism creates a situation where some people are oppressed and demeaned and so forth and that is going to create a struggle with people asking the obvious question, ‘Why Me?’”

Starting the conversation about racial identity is the first step to aligning your outer self to your inner self.

Photographed by: Jenny Lee & Sara Bobulinski

HOW ATTACHED ARE YOU? BY KIRA SARSFIELD What’s the most pressing topic for a first date? Money? Dating history? Marriage? While some believe that these conversations should be set aside for future dates, more Gen Z’ers are discussing make-orbreak topics early on in their relationships. These conversations can involve exchanges of political views, religious beliefs and controversial opinions. But — has anyone ever asked you about your attachment style on the first date? Probably not. But, it’s an intimate conversation topic that partners can have to learn more about each other.

In her study, infants were left in a room with their primary caregiver. Upon random intervals of time, a stranger was instructed to go into the room, converse with the primary caregiver and then the primary caregiver would leave the room. The infant was then studied based on his or her reactions to the primary caregiver leaving. From these observations, Ainsworth adopted the three main attachment styles: secure, insecure avoidant and insecure ambivalent/resistant. The specifics of Ainsworth’s research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information are:

WHAT EXACTLY IS ATTACHMENT THEORY? While some prefer to discuss love languages, research shows that there is an interconnectedness between one’s attachment style and development of their close relationships. This phenomenon is known as attachment theory, in which the way we form relationships with others is largely influenced by the way we were attached to our primary caregivers as infants. To better understand the concept of attachment theory, consider researcher Konrad Lorenz’s experiments with baby geese. Lorenz noticed that baby geese would follow whatever living figure they encountered in the first few hours of life — whether it be the mother goose or a human researcher. Inspired by this groundbreaking research, psychologist John Bowlby studied patterns of attachment within infants. He theorized that attachment was innate and separation caused emotions of distress, fear and panic within infants. Confirmed by his research, Bowlby found that a primary relationship between an infant and caregiver plays a major role in the development of future relationships.

ATTACHMENT STYLES To further the specifics of attachment theory, social scientist Mary Ainsworth led the notorious Strange Situation experiment with infants.


Secure Attachment

Insecure Avoidant

Insecure Ambivalent / Resistant

OBSERVATIONS • Distress when mother leaves • Easily comforted by caregiver • No sign of distress when mother leaves • Unbothered when caregiver returns • Intense distress when mother leaves • Resist contact when caregiver returns

Considering the time gap between infancy to adulthood, these attachment styles have still been proven to impact our partner selection and relationship development.

FROM AN EXPERT Molly Countermine, Associate Teaching Professor of Human Development and Family at Penn State, has taught and researched attachment theory for more than 20 years.

Following Countermine’s extension studies through Project Siesta, she has found that attachment styles are not definite and often change throughout the course of our lives. “The attachment relationship is this organic, moving, living breathing relationship that is created because of who you spend time with,” says Countermine. Alongside our attachment styles adapting to adulthood, Countermine believes that our primary caregivers change in similar fashion.

“Since attachment is formed through day-to-day interactions, your primary caregiver may change to your best friend in adolescence,” Countermine says. “In adulthood, your primary caregiver may be your romantic partner instead of a parental figure.” Above all, Countermine knows that attachment styles are not limited to our perceptions of relationships — but rather perceptions of ourselves. “Attachment is a parallel thing,” Countermine says. “If I believe that others are not there for me and do not respond to my needs, then I will believe I am not worthy of other people to take care of me.” Expanding on the research from Ainsworth’s study, there is also more detailed information of what each attachment style can look like.

SECURE ATTACHMENT As the most common attachment style in Ainsworth’s study, secure attachment is when the infant maintains a healthy relationship with their primary caregiver. The infant is conditioned to the parent responding efficiently to their wants and needs, which aids the child’s ability to develop stable and loving relationships for the future. Studies by the University of Montreal have shown that children with secure attachment tend to have higher self-esteem, confidence and long-lasting relationships as adults.

INSECURE AVOIDANT In Ainsworth’s research, the insecure avoidant infants showed little to no reaction when their primary caregiver returned and left the room. Their behavior is rooted in self-reliance from a young age, which follows their livelihoods as adults. Typically, these adults value freedom and independence. As a result of this, it can be difficult for adults with this attachment style to let go of their freedom to maintain long-lasting relationships with others.

INSECURE AMBIVALENT As the last attachment style from Ainsworth’s observations, these infants were noticeably distressed when their primary caregiver left, but resisted contact upon return. Adults with the insecure ambivalent attachment style can be described as “anxious” or “overly needy.” They struggle with finding balance in their relationships, which causes them to exert oversensitive or clingy behaviors.

HEAD IN THE CLOUDS BY ALEX DRAKE Each minute of each day there is a constant competition of who or what will hold our minds’ attention. Emails, Canvas notifications and social media advertisements are all strategically curated to fill our subconscious mind without us even realizing. With all of our brain’s attentiveness driven towards these attention competitors, where is there room for all that we need to think to conquer our days? How is it that some days our brains feel lighter than ever on our shoulders, and others it’s only weighing us down? There are a multitude of driving forces that play into the health and functionality of our brain; if you’ve ever found yourself in a variation of the situations listed above you’ve most likely fallen victim to brain fog. Researchers and neurologists place heavy emphasis on brain fog not being an illness, but instead describes it as a conditional state of cognitive dysfunction that can involve memory problems, lack of mental clarity, poor concentration and an inability to focus. Neurologists recently conducted studies on brain fog and the varying elements of daily life that can influence or suppress it; particularly in regard to the way we interact with technology. Our subconscious minds tell our hands to open apps, read messages and answer notifications without our conscious mind ever mindfully recognizing what we are doing at that moment. 99Firms provides statistical analysis on the average young adult being able to hold a natural attention span for about eight seconds. Eight seconds is an extremely short amount of time that a stimulus has to catch and hold your attention, and if successful, results in the release of our happy hormone — serotonin. Author and journalist Charles Duhig describes how we make action-based decisions and form habits from our subconscious mind and complete them through our daily actions through the simplicity of a habit circle. Duhig’s “The Power of Habit” demonstrates the three elements that form a habit: the cue, the action and the reward. Our devices and social platforms provide us with quick promises of temporary satisfaction, to which we have adjusted into our habit circles of daily tasks — always leaving our brains satisfied but prepared to consume more. In the simplest terms this means, to change the

experience of brain fog, the first place to start is where your habitual routine lies. Researchers linked the health patterns of high risk individuals to display “post-acute brain fog and fatigue,” when referencing those who suffered from a long term chronic disease or have weak immune systems. A recent study by UC San Francisco and Weill Cornell Medicine, published in “Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology,” focused on the long-term impacts that COVID-19 had on those who now experience more regular waves of brain fog. Their analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid in adults who had been infected with COVID-19 and had reported symptoms of brain fog, displayed an elevated amount of protein — suggesting inflammation and a weakened immune system, eventually resulting in negative affects on their cognitive function. Thus, taking an inside out approach to prevent or rid yourself of brain fog long-term is the best option. Natural remedies have survived and circulated on earth for thousands of years, so you can bet that our ancestors had us covered when it came to freeing ourselves from the restraints of brain fog. Meditation is one of the most notably beneficial, but difficult activities to gain consistency in. A meditative state is the direct opposition of the state that brain fog puts us in, meaning it could be one of the most helpful daily practices for brain fog victims. If you’re not quite ready to sit thoughtlessly still for minutes on end, a similar action that you can place into your habit circle is going on a walk directly upon waking up. Much of brain fog can be accredited to processed foods, sugars, alcohols and additives that slipped under the radar and into our pantries. Exclusion and inclusion walk hand in hand when it comes to diet, thus including foods high in omega 3’s like salmon, avocados, walnuts or supplements like Lion’s Mane, which is rich in polysaccharides that promote brain health are simple ways to boost your cognitive function and overall health.

There is nothing more comforting than a clear, mindful awareness of the world around you. A clear mind opens space for creativity, knowledge and a deeper human experience; and to achieve that, it’s about time we all break up with brain fog.


Things don’t always go according to plan, but when you fall nine times, you gotta get up ten. Dream bigger!



You’ve heard it all before: Ask for his Snapchat and not his number, don’t be the one to initiate, don’t be too clingy, don’t be too forward, don’t double snap, don’t follow his Instagram too soon, don’t ask him what you are, blah, blah, blah. Every rule in the dating book is slighted against women. We are told our whole lives how not to act to land a man, and yet no man is ever taught how to treat or pursue a woman. We’re led to believe from a young age that women are not the ones who hold the power in the dating scene: but what if we were to tell you that you really are? It’s no secret that navigating dating and relationships is a difficult task — but combining that with modern hookup culture and college guys who aren’t “looking for anything serious” can make a girl feel like the problem for expecting the bare minimum from a man they’re interested in. Begging to be seen during daylight hours, making plans in advance or to simply be exclusive can feel like pulling teeth and is positively exhausting. Young women, now more than ever, are struggling to find something beyond a “u up?” text. Despite this, celebrity matchmaker and co-founder of Matchmakers in the City, Alessandra Conti, whole-heartedly believes (and frequently tells her female clients) that it is the women who actually run the show where heteronormative romance is concerned. “Believe it or not, men take direction really well,” Conti explains. “Set a boundary or an expectation early on — ‘Of course you’ll take me on a date,’ ‘I’m looking for a boyfriend,’ or ‘I love when a man plans a date,’ will let them know what you want them to do — and they usually do it.” Elaborating further, “There are a lot of bad guys out there who will do what he can to make sure you don’t know your own strength. A narcissist will mindgame you into thinking you don’t hold any power because they know you hold all of it.” So begs the age-old question: Do you lose a guy by being clingy or by pursuing one with bad intentions?

“If you can set your boundaries before you get looped in, you’ll be able to objectively spot it — if he doesn’t meet them, it just makes it that much easier to weed him out and move on.” It can feel sometimes as if women are doing a lot of weeding out and moving on these days. Now more than ever, it feels like dating is an even bloodier battleground than ever before — and that’s saying something. Dating apps, the recent appropriation of emotional unavailability, the normalization of hookup culture (or at least the recent burgeoning prominence of it) the taboo around defining a relationship and fear of missing out, among other things, has made dating feel like a vicious, endless cycle of swiping right with no real connection. “Hookup culture has always been there — it’s just more prominent now,” Conti says. It’s been argued that hookup culture was initially marketed to women as a way to empower themselves by claiming their sexuality. There’s recently been a surge in discourse arguing that this is actually far from the case and that this norm was put in place to further hurt women. Conti agreeswith the latter: her explanation? Men and women have completely different chemical responses to sex, which makes it biologically more different for women to detach from a man after her judgment has been clouded by oxytocin — meaning even if you don’t want to, you can have almost 100% certainty that you’ll catch feelings for that guy you’ve been hooking up with.

GUY IN 10 DAYS GUY IN 10 DAYS GUY IN 10 DAYS “Women learn very quickly that it’s not as empowering as it’s made to be and men don’t understand the feminine experience.” Has dating always been this bad? Have women always struggled with men this way? Aside from the obvious changes surrounding technology and the taboo of casual sex, what else has changed with our generation? Conti has noticed one major difference in the dating culture between her Millennial and Gen Z clients, which she calls “night and day.” “Men’s and women’s wants and needs haven’t really changed — what society has said and narratives [about dating] has changed exponentially.” Why this sudden switch with Gen Z? Conti has some insight. “Gen Z is focused on gender equality, which is an incredible thing,” she starts, “but so many young women are now having trouble romantically because they want to hold onto those ideals but aren’t sure how that can apply to a date: Does he have to pick up the check? Do you? Will he think you owe him something if he pays the bill?” That said, a lot of young men are struggling to navigate courting a generation of empowered women — they want to uphold those ideals but are afraid to overstep. Conti went on to explain that men are like houses:

“If a man doesn’t have a job, doesn’t like the job he has, or is floundering in his career at all in any way, he will never be able to form a committed relationship because he’s unstable.” Conti went on to explain that for most men, their career is like their foundation, or the part of their life that grants them stability. “If they don’t have a stable foundation, they can’t build a first floor.” So if the guy you’ve been planning to bring to your sorority date function is struggling to find a job post-grad or has changed his major a handful of times, he’s likely not interested in (or capable of) much beyond your formal pictures. If they’re insecure in their field, they won’t be stable enough to truly be a good partner. “Some men never really leave that frat boy phase,” she explained. “For most of them it’s a brief stint throughout college; for some of them, not so much.” The notion that there’s even a glimmer of hope that Chad from Sigma Apple Pie might eventually have a change of heart should be enough to keep the ladies going — but what should we do in the meantime? Conti relayed some advice she shares with her female clients: “Men who are great at dating are usually not great at relationships.” Compliment the guy and build them up, but remind him of your boundaries. “Don’t be super negative — assume the best, set an expectation for them to be a gentleman and then affirm it.” First dates aren’t a good tell of a person — go out on a few more before laying your eggs in one basket. “Normalize telling a guy what you want and allowing him to meet that blueprint.” Let him lead. And, finally: “Feel empowered to ask for what you want — guys will go for it.”



The Most Magical Place On Earth — for many people, it’s a vacation, but for some, it’s where they go to work! Kendall Mainzer is a passionate and thoughtful storyteller, and if you’ve ever been interested in working for Disney, or just need some inspiration sprinkled into your life, there’s no better person to learn from than her. Prior to being named Director of Student Engagement for the College of Arts & Architecture at Penn State, Mainzer worked at Disney World theme parks for four years. Now she teaches courses that give Penn State students a closer look at the inner workings of The Most Magical Place on Earth. Growing up in Northern California, Mainzer watched Disney movies and has always had a love for the characters. But it was not until Mainzer visited Disneyland for the first time that she realized just how connected she felt to this make-believe world. “I’ll never forget the feeling of walking in [to the theme park] and feeling calm,” says Mainzer. “I knew a little bit more of who I was the second I stepped in that place, and it stayed with me throughout my life.” Seven-year-old Mainzer turned to her mom that day and said she wanted to be the president of Disneyland, not even understanding it was a real job, but knowing she wanted it in her heart. Later, struggling to find her passion while attending UC Davis, Mainzer considered her “North Star.” The “North Star,” she explains, is the thing that would make you most happy. This is when she discovered the Disney College Program (DCP). After applying and getting into the competitive program, Mainzer was given a merchandising role in Magic Kingdom. She would have preferred a role in Attractions or PhotoPass, but getting a role she didn’t necessarily want was more helpful than she could have imagined.

“It’s impossible not to grow as a person in that experience,” says Mainzer about the DCP. “It transformed my work ethic, my sense of community and my sense of collaboration. It was life altering.” Not getting her dream role didn’t matter, she explained, because she took the role she was given and made it her own dream. After graduating from UC Davis, Mainzer wasn’t sure where her life was headed next. With her ultimate Disney dream in mind, Mainzer decided to earn her law degree. She tried new things, like working as a public defender for kids, and didn’t worry where they would take her because every choice led her to grow. “As scary as that was,” she says, “it gets less scary the more you do it.” In 2009, Mainzer made a bold move and returned to Florida. Determined to get a job at Walt Disney World, she was hired part-time as an Attractions cast member in EPCOT at SpaceShip Earth. “Here I was with a fancy education saying ‘Watch your step, time travelers!’” Mainzer says, laughing. But the Disney College Program had given her the insight to network with fellow employees about their own journeys. Mainzer told every one of them she wanted to become the president of Disneyland — which she says sounds odd but was the smartest thing she could have done. She understood that some of the best leaders in Disney started out as frontline workers. Mainzer took on 11 diverse roles in her four years there, from facilitating youth education workshops (now called Disney Imagination Campus) to being the Executive Events Coordinator. Although the coordinator role was underpaid and “backstage” she got to hold CEO Bob Iger’s jacket at one event and meet Jane Goodall at another. Mainzer said yes to every opportunity. One of Mainzer’s favorite roles was being a Disney VIP Tour Guide. “It was the honor of my life,” says Mainzer, who had to become an expert on the entire Walt Disney World Resort.

Mainzer emphasizes that none of her coolest roles would have happened if she had not accepted the wildly underpaid and unpopular ones. “It got me in the room, and whenever I was in a room, I made use of it.” Although Mainzer loved working for Walt Disney World, life took her on a different path. She describes this next stage with a “Tangled” metaphor, when Flynn Rider told Rapunzel that she could find a “new dream” after she experienced seeing the floating lights. While working 60-80 hours a week for Disney, her husband was accepted to pursue his PhD at Penn State. Coming to State College in 2014, Mainzer says, allowed them as a couple to focus on being a family — they are now the parents of two children. She thought that she would only be at Penn State for a short amount of time but realized that what she was doing at the university felt like dream-making too. Mainzer found her way to the Stuckeman School at Penn State and noticed that there weren’t enough student services, which led her to become the first Director of Student Engagement for the College of Arts and Architecture. She wanted to create a place for students to go when they felt lost — because that’s how she felt in college. Mainzer also came up with the idea to teach classes centered around Disney, which took years to get approved. In the Arts and Architecture course, Mainzer taught students the history of Disney theme park design, along with Disney fun facts and special stories from Mainzer’s work experiences. Hannah Martin, a junior studying Recreation Park and Tourism Management, took Mainzer’s class during Fall 2021.

“[Her] class was a breath of fresh air. It never failed to stand out as the bright spot of my school day,” says Martin, who described how Mainzer showed the class how to think about design like Disney Imagineers do. “She often called these design days ‘blue sky’ activities’ and there was never a moment where I left class uninspired.” Now participating in the DCP for the Spring 2022 semester, Martin works as a concierge at the Polynesian Village Resort. “Though it’s only been a month into my magical journey, and there are always ups and downs within any adventure — I firmly believe that I will emerge from my program professionally enriched, with lifelong bonds and with a twinkle in my eye,” says Martin. Through her roles in student engagement and teaching her classes, Mainzer wants to help students find their WHY, even if it sounds “silly.” Mainzer is proof that life doesn’t end after college — in fact, she encourages people to appreciate every stage of the journey and know there is always “brightness ahead.” “Even though I am not YET the President of Disneyland, it remains my North Star,” Mainzer says as she describes what she hopes for the future. “It’s the thing that helps me recenter myself, to remind myself why I do what I do now.” As for now, Mainzer is planning to pursue graduate studies in educational psychology at Penn State, then return to Disney at some point where she can help shape their educational program.   Mainzer’s magical journey teaches us that it is never too late, or too early, to go after your dream. And no dream is too big or scary to pursue. “Working for Disney is about being kind to the people around you,” Mainzer says, then sprinkles in another bit of advice: “Be open to possibilities and tell people your dreams. Don’t be afraid to be afraid.”




On a night like any other in Harrisburg, PA, 8-year-old Ritul Katoch was watching a Bollywood movie, with his parents who had recently moved to the U.S. from a small, rural town in the mountains of India. As Ritul watched the actors on the screen, he felt his heart beat hard inside his chest and fantasized seeing himself up there on the big screen, transporting viewers to another world, a place outside of the sleepy suburbs of Harrisburg. Back then (and even to this day) Ritul’s parents were having a dramatically different fantasy for their eldest child, their only son. His father worked at software companies while his mom studied in community college, until they both found work in the medical field when he was in high school. They dreamed Ritul would grow up to pursue a profession that promised a practical and financially reliable future, such as medicine. They had worked so hard to bring their two children from Himachal Pradesh, the village in India where Ritul was born, to the promised land of America, with its world class education and endless opportunities. They were sure Ritul’s quick mind and eagerness to help others would naturally lead him to be a doctor, and besides, who ever heard of a rich and famous Indian American actor?

WHERE IT ALL STARTED There is something to be said about carving your own path in life. Ritul Katoch, a warm, kind and driven person is doing just that. He has taken every opportunity to look at life the way he chooses and to carve the path that he thinks is best for him, despite the strict road his parents had him on and all of the diverging roads that have attempted to stray him from that path. Growing up he always loved to play pretend. His parents would take him to events put on by a local organization called the Asian, Indian Americans of Central Pennsylvania (AIACPA), where participants would have the opportunity to share traditional dances and songs with the group as well as network with other families. In this close-knit and openminded group, Ritul found his chance to become an entirely different person. A host, the master of ceremonies of sorts. He auditioned, got the gig and stood up on stage in front of a community full of people that he felt comfortable around — thus beginning his journey as a performer. Of course, when he got up on that stage for the first time it was all about the nerves. He wondered if he was any good or if he would fumble his words and make a fool of himself, but he didn’t. “I did that all through high school till senior year. And I was like, I really like this, but I mean it’s not acting,” says Ritul. “At least I got to be up on a stage and see if I was comfortable with a bunch of people staring at me.” Once he realized that he was comfortable with performing on some level, he began looking for more ways to get involved; scouring his high school for chances to get in front of a camera or on stage. He joined the speech and debate club his freshman year, which was another chance to get used to speaking in public. But his real niche was the dramatic interpretation portion of the competitions that his club would attend. That was the door that opened for him, finally letting him set foot in the acting world for real.

At this point his parents weren’t seeing this as anything serious. They were just happy that he was a part of a club and building his resume. After memorizing a 10 minute monologue, he walked into a small classroom that had only three people seated in it. His heart pounded and his hands got clammy. On his first attempt he stumbled with his words and asked to start again. The judges nodded politely and waited patiently for him to perform. He didn’t reduce anyone to tears, but since he was the only one signed up, he won by default. But still, a win is a win. That win got him to regionals, where he was put up against kids who had years of acting experience and knew their scenes inside and out. He unfortunately lost that time around, but in doing that, he saw the world that he could be a part of some day. Ritul was able to gain advice from those people and he was struck with the thought that he could be the one giving advice to young actors one day. “I loved it. I didn’t do many extracurriculars so I was able to dedicate a lot of time towards it,” says Ritul. “You know in high school you have to do presentations, which is totally different cause you don’t have to put any emotions into it, but for this you do. It’s an actor’s job to put emotion behind the words that are there, you know, the subtext.” Now he realized it was time to bring this up to his parents, but they were set in their ways. There were no pats on the back, no encouragement to follow his dreams, just a stern look and a harsh reminder of the reality that acting isn’t ever going to make you any money.

MOM AND DAD, THIS ISN’T A PHASE Ritul was a son who always followed in his parents’ wake and walked on their path, but life had other plans. He knew that his parents weren’t going to be the most supportive when it came to switching up his life and pursuing a career that most consider unstable and unattainable and the lack of support that his parents blatantly showed put a damper on his plans. “Whenever I put myself in front of a camera, like vlog on my little iPhone 3 or something, my dad hated it. He thought I was a clown, which obviously, I’m sure I was at the time,” says Ritul. “But he would always shut me down and would tell me I didn’t have any talent so why was I even trying.” His mom, concerned for his and their family’s reputation, focused on what others in their community would say. Since most people in their close circle of friends all had kids going into very prestigious fields, like being a doctor, it was hard for her to wrap her mind around the fact that her son no longer wanted to pursue medicine. His mom continuously pushed for it to be an after medical school endeavor and his dad vetoed the idea in any capacity — point blank. “I said to her, I don’t really care what other people say as long as you guys are supportive, that’s all that matters to me,” says Ritul. “My big thing was, even if I failed, at least I did it and can say that I tried. I won’t regret anything.” But for a time he believed what his parents said and put acting on the backburner. By the time he got to Penn State he stopped dreaming of being an actor. He had let his

parents’ words echo in his ears, but only for a short time. “I just kind of lived on autopilot and with that doubt for a long time,” says Ritul. However, once COVID-19 became the frontrunner in our world, Ritul took his chance. He started taking his courses online, like the rest of the world, and threw in some theater classes. He also did a few auditions through school for student films and plays, just to throw his hat into the ring. As Ritul became more and more enthralled in the acting process, he started looking for role models in the entertainment world, especially if those actors didn’t have their family’s support. He noticed there weren’t many Indian American leads in the film world. Where was the Indian American Indiana Jones, Spider-Man or Luke Skywalker? Maybe he’d have to take matters into his own hands and blaze his own adventurous path in that world.

LIFE IS ART The more Ritul went down his chosen path of acting, the more he loved it. Once school started back in person, he started auditioning for anything and everything. He auditioned for Penn State films such as “Player Piano” and “The Door.” He’s done a few student films, “Burnout,” “Where Your Treasure Is” and “Almost Heaven.” Stage acting was a familiar and exciting experience for him. He started with a small play that was being done at Penn State, just to get his feet wet. His acting professor pushed him to start small and take the chance, otherwise he might have been too nervous to get started. As it turned out, that particular piece was exactly what he was looking for on multiple levels, opening even more doors. This led Ritul to his other passion, helping people. “Art can be used as a means of getting away from the harsh realities of the real world, but at the same time it’s also a mechanism that can be reflective of what’s going on in the world too,” says Ritul. “This sometimes means that these are issues that need more light shed upon them.” The play was called “Dry Land” and it was about a high school girl forced to do DIY abortions. He played a small role in it, but the overarching message was something that Ritul found extremely important — women’s rights. That particular issue is something very close to Ritul’s heart. He is a founding member of the Student Pad Project at Penn State. The club started by raising funds towards helping women in rural villages in India, since many of them don’t have access to menstrual products. A nonprofit called the Praise Foundation that is located in a southern village in India was the direct recipient of the funds that were raised by the club. Raising even more than they anticipated led them to be able to start a pad making site in that village. Women are now paid to operate the site and there are finally menstrual products available to all the women in the village. “A lot of women in Indian villages are stay-at-home moms,

but they obviously have aspirations as well outside of that,” says Ritul. “And of course it’s okay if they don’t either, but it’s really hard for them since they grow up in poverty and I’m very sure being a mom is hard too. So now working at a local pad site can give them a daily sense of satisfaction towards a goal that can directly benefit themselves, they sometimes don’t experience at home or feel as if they are missing outside of their day to day life.” Alongside his work for women in underdeveloped countries, Ritul also wants to be a voice for people who come from a similar background as him and want to pursue acting. It’s something that he believes not a lot of people who come from conservative Indian families get to pursue. In India there are a lot of lower class communities and watching films is what brings them all together. A lot of people either watch them after long days of work with their families, if they can afford a television, or instead they go to a community theater to watch. “It’s an escape from the harsh reality that they’re facing. That’s something I really felt a sense of similarity to. Like although I wasn’t working 15-18 hours in a day, this was also still an escape from the real world and the issues it brought for me. ” says Ritul.

LEANING INTO THE ESCAPE There was a time in his life when Ritul would sit in his mom’s lap and watch movies on his dad’s desktop computer. Circumstances of life would be swirling around outside of his dad’s office, but he would find himself immersed in the world that he was witnessing. Ritul’s parents had him when they were young, and only a few years later they moved to America, completely alone. It was a struggle for them to go somewhere new, especially with a kid, and have to adapt to an entirely new culture. These movie nights became a solace, an escape for him. “I reached a point at a certain age where I just started to watch as many as I could in a week on my own,” says Ritul. “Stuff with high rotten tomatoes ratings, classic movies from the 70-80’s, as well as following certain actors and seeing how they developed into their persona through their movie history.” Over the years of being an avid movie lover, he has noticed one thing missing from most of those films — people who looked like him. There are a few films like “Slumdog Millionaire,” or “Harold and Kumar,” which showcase people like Ritul, but not nearly as many as there should be. There are lots of stereotypes and clichés in those movies, but that’s not what he wants to deal with. He wants to be in a role that has nothing to do with race or gender. It’s just an “anyone can play that person” role, and he wants it to be him. What keeps him on this chosen path is the hunger that there is nobody there yet. No one that really looks like him and

has the background that he does. Nobody has taken that spot yet. There are the actors from most every walk of life out there, but there aren’t many that represent him yet. He can count on his hand the number of people that would be his competition in the industry today. “It sounds ambitious, but I feel like I have to do that,” says Ritul. “I have to be overly ambitious.” For him, there’s not much in the industry that shows an accurate description of what it’s like to grow up as an Indian American. Few have found a proper way to tell that story yet. He also wants to lean into the struggles that come with this life and this passion that he has chosen. There are no shortage of roadblocks for him but that’s what makes it worth it. Struggling is what makes a person better at things and that’s what Ritul appreciates about this path. “If you’re not experiencing real life then what you create is gonna be superficial,” says Ritul. “Your art suffers when you’re not out living.”

FORGING A NEW PATH Taking the leap and making the change to a different path is easier said than done, but Ritul knows it’s worth it. There is a time to take risks, and doing it in college is one of the best of those times. Now that Ritul has made himself a home in the world of acting, he knows that he’s got nothing else to lose. Having thought it through and been given alternate paths to take, Ritul’s comfortable with the one he’s on. That being said, looking back to his past self, he does wish he’d started earlier. The earlier you start, the more mistakes you get to make. Despite being a humble Penn State boy, Ritul still has big dreams. He hopes to get a few big awards under his belt, perform both on stage and on screen and bring more representation to his community. “I hope to see more people that are younger, who saw me and wanted to do what I do,” says Ritul. “Individuals of color for sure, but if i can particularly hit the conservative south asian American families then that’s the gold. That’s what I hope for.” Most of all, he strives to be the person that other people that look like him are chasing. The few people that he can count on his hand that look like him in movies are who he’s fighting to get to, but he wants to be that for someone else one day. To be the stepping stone for a more inclusive world. “I want to be a voice to show them that you can do it,” says Ritul. “I’m not gonna be someone who’s like, this is my struggle and my struggle alone. I want to help more people work towards a career in the arts, in any arts, it doesn’t have to be exactly what I’m doing, but if there is a kid who loves to sing or dance or draw comics, and his parents don’t necessarily support that, I want to be an example that it can be done.”


An ongoing global pandemic. The Capitol insurrection. Two high-stakes presidential elections. A nationwide call for gun control. Deep partisan divisions. Afghanistan. A movement for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others. Accounting for 22.1% of the United States population, young people have lived through one of the most politically tumultuous periods in modern history. We are also one of the most politically active. Generation Z, born between the years 1997 to 2012, voted in droves in the 2020 election — upwards of 55 percent of eligible voters — making the difference in key states for the Biden-Harris ticket. This is perhaps only the first tremor of our impact. For Morgan Watt, president of the Penn State College Republicans, it’s a sign of progress.

conversations in school and by standing up for what I believe in, I can have an impact.” Junior Ladin Suliman, a dual major in philosophy and political science, resonates with this sentiment too. As a member of the Penn State College Independents, he says the candidate is paramount as he’s seen various politicians “who sort of went around parties.” It’s also about open-mindedness. “Being an independent gives you the most flexibility,”says Suliman, “it allows you to be more honest in your engagement with the political realm in choosing the candidate you truly care about, and you think that has the best policies towards the American people.” Suliman, who was born in Philadelphia, has lived “all over the place, really.” In 2008, he moved from Texas to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There, he experienced contrasting worlds.

Inside a Politically Tumultuous Generation ROOTS OF PASSION “We’re the new voters,” says Watt, “we’re the next generation here!” The senior animal science major grew up hunting, raising livestock on a farm and kayaking with her family in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Since coming to Penn State, her political lens has changed. “With what has happened, I am able to kind of break myself out of that category, I would say,” says Watt, “so, I’m a Republican, I’m a conservative, but I’m not necessarily a Trump supporter.” Watt also says her father, a teacher, “certainly started that fire in me.” “I started watching the news with my dad and following elections with my dad, and it got me really interested,” says Watt, “and I realized that by having

He witnessed women, Muslim or not, being expected to wear an abaya with a headscarf over their heads. Religious police were notoriously strict. “In certain cases, they would hit them in the street,” says Suliman, “publicly in front of other people because of not adhering to these rules.” A third-year, who is a member of the Penn State College Democrats, also attributes his political passion to his upbringing. “Being a Democrat comes from my dad facilitating how I think and feel about certain things,” he says, “I’ve also had the pleasure of talking to a lot of people from different marginalized communities, different countries.” An eighth-grade visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia provoked an epiphany. He enlisted in the army his junior year of high school.

Three years the health policy and administration major and political science minor served as an infantryman, training on either coast and Canada. It wasn’t until the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, “that really set a fire underneath me,” and was the “ultimate moment” the veteran decided to take action. “I took an oath to protect the Constitution,” he says, “and that day, the Constitution was violated by the president and all of his numbskull sidekicks.”

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE Are we past the point of no return? Michael Berkman, Penn State political science professor and director of The McCourtney Institute for Democracy, says to proceed with caution.


“We often take one step forward two steps back, or two steps forward and one step back,” says Berkman, “you often see greater democratization met with backlash, like we’re seeing right now.”

It’s apparent we’re living in a weird time. Partisanship has our institutions in a chokehold, trickling down into policymaking and society. Polarization has become a staple of the current American political climate, dividing the citizenry into teams where the other side is seen as just that: the other. Watt says the media is partially to blame.

In 2020, a historic 158.4 million voters — roughly twothirds of the eligible population — cast their ballots amid a pandemic. Instead of celebrating this unprecedented participation in the democratic process, over 440 bills have been introduced in 49 states to restrict voting access. 34 have passed in 19 states as of December 2021.

“Especially in the media, it seems like we are more different than we are similar, ” says Watt, “I think in reality, that’s not true, we are more similar than we are different.”

He marks the beginning of contemporary polarization within the American party system to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Southern Democrats subsequently flocked to the Republican Party, thus initiating “the process of sorting we see today,” according to Berkman.

Another reason, she reckons, is a culture shift. “Our culture is changing,” says Watt, “in some ways, we’re becoming more sensitive or less likely to accept people that disagree with us or less likely to engage in a conversation with somebody that seems different than us and wouldn’t back up our views.” Suliman argues it’s a matter of moral principle. “The American citizenry is very diverse, and we don’t have much to agree on, even in regards to our own Constitution,” says Suliman, “so, I think that the current state of politics it’s just characterized by people who are unwilling to listen. Although there are real differences, the divide isn’t as stark as it’s presented in the media.” As a first-generation American, he acknowledges how one’s values translate into their degree of understanding the world around them. “Everyone’s values are different,” says Suliman, “I think that the biggest issue is due to a lack of shared-ness between people.”

Over the decades, this has evolved into affective polarization, or “negative partisanship.” Party labels “take on a tribal or team aspect to it,” says Berkman, “where everything is about your team and everything’s about the other team being bad. That becomes a situation where the other side is seen much more as an enemy rather than a component.” While he thinks democracy is headed for a “potentially dark place,” Berkman says young people can turn it around. “They’re gonna become old,” says Berkman, “they’re gonna take over and become the main voters within the electorate.” The third-year Democrat, who promotes integrity in public office through the non-partisan group Veterans For Responsible Leadership, strives to preserve and protect our institutions. “No other country has what we have,” he says, “if more and more people are blind to that fact, then we’ll simply lose democracy — that’s it.”

The veteran says misinformation is a primary instigator of hostility, having witnessed the jarring effects of conspiracy theories whilst serving. “A lot of people I was around were your typical Oath Keepers, and your three percenters and your conspiratorial victims,” he says.

“I do hope that the American political system will go through a considerable amount of reform,” says Suliman, “and that young people will be invigorated with a real love for their country, and by extension, the politics of their country.”

“My first day with my unit, Trump was elected,” he says, “and everybody came into work the next day saying ‘you’re gonna get deported,’ ‘you’re gonna get deported,’ to the Mexican soldiers we had in our platoon. I just remember that was such a toxic environment.”

“Our role is to be very critical of everything that’s going on–to question things, to vote most importantly,” says Watt, “and to learn as much as we can to become that next generation of politicians, senators, congressmen and presidents.”




On March 11, 2020, President Eric Barron announced that Penn State would be shifting to online learning with plans to return to in person classes two weeks later. With no understanding yet of how the pandemic would impact their lives, some students rejoiced at the announcement and celebrated an extended spring break. As it became clear that students would not return to in-person instruction for the rest of the semester, so many factors in student lives — school, family, friends, career — began to seem cripplingly uncertain. With a future so unpredictable, a time machine would have been the best tool to see how the pandemic would play out.

MARCH 2020 As students celebrate their “extended spring break,” people all over the world shuffle into their homes in hopes to stay inside for two weeks to “flatten the curve.” The beginning of the pandemic symbolized a time of loss for millions of people. “I just had no idea what was happening,” says second-year elementary education student, Alexandra Gurski. “School felt almost insignificant.” “Nobody knew what was happening, and nobody knew how to handle it.” As flowers bloom in the spring, quarantiners try out new hobbies like baking bread, watching “Tiger King” and whipping coffee. Two weeks pass, summer starts and COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Trying to get people to flatten the curve simply turns into trying to get people to wear a mask. So, what does this mean to students?

AUGUST 2020 Under the late August humidity and sun, Penn State students wonder how a “hybrid” semester will be at Zoom University. Violet Zung, a senior studying digital & print journalism, reflected on her experience throughout the pandemic as an international student. Zung was a sophomore when the pandemic began. “I was worried that I might not be able to come back,” Zung says. “As an international student, I would not be able to be in the country [if class was on Zoom.]” Fortunately, Zung was able to return to University Park for the semester, but she found that Penn State was not the same as she left it. “I went in for one in-person class for fall semester,” she says. “Even that class, after a while, the professor decided to put on Zoom.” When freshmen came to campus in August, some students felt that moving into college for the first time did not live up to their expectations. Everyone was required to wear masks everywhere, and students were not permitted to go into dorm buildings that

they did not live in. Very few classes were held in-person and spectators were not allowed in Beaver Stadium, causing the campus to feel empty throughout the fall. “It was nice that I was finally in a new place with new people,” Gurski says. “But it was a let down because I was ready to be in the swing of things. Everything was still not normal, and I was waiting for it to be normal.”

JANUARY 2021 In order to slow the spread of infections due to travel, Penn State sent their on-campus students home in November for the Thanksgiving holiday and planned to allow them to return to campus in January. However, as cases drastically increased over winter break, the university decided to push the start of inperson instruction back until February. While the winter weather and pandemic raged, many students stayed inside and attended classes on Zoom. “One semester was ok,” Zung says. “But the second semester trying to do the same thing from home was getting mentally exhausting.” An emphasis on mental health emerged in popular culture due to the extremely adverse effects that the pandemic had on mental health, particularly for students. After canceling spring break, Penn State instituted “Wellness Days,” an initiative that gave students one day off per month in order to rest and focus on their personal wellness. “I wish I could have told myself that it gets better,” Gurski says. “I think I struggled a lot because I felt like it was totally out of my control.” As the semester drew to a close, vaccines became more widespread across the country. Many students left State College for the summer with the hope that they would return to normalcy on campus in the fall.

AUGUST 2021 Over the summer, students wondered what the fall semester would bring. “During the summer, I had a constant anxiety of thinking ‘Do I need to leave because school will be online, or do I need to stay?’” Zung says. Returning to campus in August symbolized the return of inperson instruction and football games. In the August heat of 2020, hardly any students could be seen on campus. One year later, Beaver Stadium was at full capacity again, and the Pattee Mall was flooded with students running from class to class. “I was ecstatic,” Gurski says. “It felt like it was finally what I was here for.” In the fall of 2021, Penn State students started making up for lost time.



BY CASEY ZANOWIC Friends with benefits. One night-stands. Casual sex. Whatever you want to call it, the idea of hookup culture has been a norm on college campuses for decades. With the rise of hook-up apps such as Bumble, Tinder and Hinge — and students increasing use of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat — hooking up has become easier than ever. But is hooking up the right way to go? And is this hookup culture a good thing to have on a college campus?

On an emotional level, hooking up can be misleading for both partners. Often one person is more attached or will expect different things than the other; this person will leave the situation disappointed, or even angry, simply because they were under different perceptions of what the relationship was. Additionally, some people may engage in behaviors they wouldn’t normally do, just because they feel like asking for a relationship or something more committed is asking too much.

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of hookup culture, the term refers to the perception in our society that accepts, and sometimes even encourages, casual sex without the formation of emotional attachments or a need to be in a committed relationship.

Casual sex isn’t always a bad thing! For some people, engaging in hook-up culture makes them feel empowered and liberated. It’s an opportunity for people to have fun, have their sexual desires met and explore a new type of sexual intimacy, all without the bond or strings of a relationship. Others say that hook-ups are also good in that they can potentially lead to relationships or clarify each person’s feelings toward their partner.

So what exactly is a hook-up you may be wondering? In her book “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy,” Donna Freitas offers three factors that define a hook-up. First, it includes some form of sexual intimacy; second, it’s brief — lasting just minutes to as long as several hours over the night; and, finally, it is purely physical, with neither party wanting to form an emotional attachment (supposedly, but that’s not always the case!). Dr. Jill Wood, a Penn State professor in the department of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, said that when she talks to the women in her classes, many feel that hooking up is the only option. It’s difficult for many women to navigate hook-up culture and get something good out of it. “There’s just such a lack of dating culture at all. We have lost, I think, any sense of norms or rules around dating. To the extent that often people are hooking up and there hasn’t been a date and there probably won’t be a date,” Wood says. Even though casual sex may evoke positive feelings in the moment, the potential problems with hookup culture might be reminiscent of your high school sex education class. Hookups can have harmful effects including sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, emotional or psychological injuries or unintended pregnancy. Hooking up can also be risky because of the false sense of security that it provides, leading people to be less cautious. If you’re hooking up with different people, it’s not monogamous. While you might think you can tell that your partner is clean and disease-free just by looking at them, that just isn’t true.

Wood believes that we should be asking a larger question: why is the only option for dating or sex hook-up culture? “When the expectation is just that you go from drinking at a party to having shitty sex, I don’t think that largely women end up feeling that good about themselves,” Wood says. “It has nothing to do with their worth or their value or their attractiveness. This culture has eroded the expectations or ability that women can expect anything in return.” As with everything, there are positives and negatives attached to hooking up. Hookup culture isn’t considered a problem because of the kind of sex it promotes, but because it creates a destructive environment in which casual sexual engagement feels common and required. While some feel liberated after engaging in a hook-up, others feel ashamed or overwhelmed, but continue to take part in them simply due to this culture that makes it feel weird not to. Having casual sex isn’t something to be ashamed of! It’s cool if that’s what you’re into, but if you’re not, that’s also okay! No one should feel pressured to do something they don’t want, especially when it comes to sexual intimacy and sexual relationships. For better or worse, hookup culture is a prevalent theme on college campuses, but, luckily, students today are freer than ever to explore their sexuality and engage in whatever they choose to do.



“Penn State has so many opportunities. If you involve yourself, you can land amazing things. If you want to, you can do anything — it’s out there for us.”

Photographed by: Taylor Kuszyk, Clare Connell



“You have bewitched me, body and soul,” says Mr. Darcy, the iconic romance lead in “Pride and Prejudice” written by Jane Austen. The world of romance has enchanted us all, and most of our fantasies stem from our favorite characters, many of them male. But, behind every great man is a woman — literally. The Mr. Darcy’s of the fictional world all possess similar qualities: respectful, passionate, devoted and kind — in other words, they’re “written by a woman.” With over 158.5 million views combined on TikTok, #writtenbyawoman and #writtenbyaman have taken pop culture by storm. Whereas “written by a man” is leveraged to showcase the often lazy ways that men create women, to be “written by a woman” is the highest form of praise. Essentially, it’s the dream man a woman wants, who is often written by a woman, for other women. While men write women sleeping in full-faced makeup and lingerie, or seductively dancing in the kitchen, women write men holding open doors and unabashedly stanning women. Finding great women written by men is not impossible, but it’s harder than it should be in mainstream media. Written by a woman, characters include dreamy male leads in great happily ever afters, but they also filter in the harsher realities of romances, like Laurie and Jo in “Little Women.” Lisa Sternleib, professor of ENGL490, “Women Writers and Their Worlds,” at Penn State notes that many women writers are often drawn to writing about romance, but demonstrate how the domestic is not just a fulfillment of wishes, but something more complicated and difficult — maybe showcasing something that doesn’t work anymore. “The work I’m interested in is about marriage and about how it’s a lot more painful and difficult than anyone would lead you to believe.” Romances include heartbreaks, intellect and tough emotions — they thrive off both the flaws and dreamy qualities of characters. “I wouldn’t limit what women write to anything,” says Sternlieb. “Today there are lots of serious women writers out there and they are writing about anything they damn please” — whether

that be happily ever afters or relationships that don’t work out. Even though love is a universal topic, to the media and often to men, romances — especially for women — are reduced to “chick lit” and “chick flicks.” “In our culture, anything that is associated with females is always going to be considered inferior,” says Sternleib. “Football is something we take seriously, but romance novels are something we don’t take seriously.” But great romances have catapulted women into power. Not only did Jane Austen create one of the greatest love stories of all time, but she also practically invented the novel as we know it today. Female romance writers made space for women. Now, TikTok has its own community, bringing in a new wave of romance readers. Anna Steffey, author of the “Falling Series” has built her own following on social media, and regularly digests content in the BookTok community. “The romance genre has always been seen as more feminine, therefore I enjoy seeing women and men embracing romance as a form of entertainment and not just casting it away just because the majority of the female population enjoys it,” says Steffey. Not only did it start the trend, but BookTok manifested “written by a woman” into the real world. Now, the phrase isn’t just used to describe fictional men: think Harry Styles, Timothee Chalamet and Ben Barnes serving to demonstrate that such men may meet those ideals beyond imagination. “Sometimes there is a fine line between fantasy and reality — especially in romance — and consumers do not know where the line is drawn which can be concerning when interacting in real life,” says Steffey. While the people we meet may never fully be like the characters in our books, maybe that’s a good thing. We may never have an accurate reflection in fiction that works for all, and “written by a woman” certainly embraces what could happen when love, desire and intimacy can blossom without the boundaries of real life. Critics are right when they argue these ideals are fantasies. But, that’s what makes them worthwhile.


GENDER CONTAMINATION & HARRY STYLES BY EMMA KYLE Have you ever wondered why so many boys and men had such jaded views toward the boy band, One Direction, while girls and women loved them? It wasn’t because they lacked talent, but because of something called gender contamination — the notion that men want nothing to do with things that women like or that are seemingly feminine.

This, however, is not necessarily a conscious aversion. Deeply rooted fear of emasculation, by virtue of adopting a product for women, can create cognitive dissonance for male consumers — an inconsistency between thoughts and actions. This doesn’t come as a surprise either, considering our society is still heavily influenced by codes of gender.


Dr. Bethany Doane, a post-doctoral teaching fellow in the department of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State explained how codes of gender are strongly tied to the power structures of our society.

Jill J. Avery of the Harvard Business school is credited with coining the term “gender contamination” which was originally attributed to the Porsche brand. The phenomenon itself is actually a marketing term and is used to describe the idea that men are less drawn to products that are associated with women. Though brands are shifting away from strictly gendered products, there are still instances where we continue to see this in our popular culture today. As Carmen Nobel at the Harvard Business School puts it, imagine the principle of gender contamination as real-life “cooties” — the irrational fear of spreading a fake illness by way of close proximity to the opposite gender. It most often spreads from women to men and presents “symptoms” in the form of a direct threat of emasculation. It’s the false belief that engaging in behaviors or liking something that society deems as feminine will strip a man of his power, therefore threatening his masculinity.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? Though the brand is working to evolve away from genderspecific messaging, Gillette has historically been known to market their pink razors as Gillette for Women and their black ones as Gillette for Men. This sort of gender-normative marketing, which has been common in thousands of consumer brands, is thought of as just one reason for the emergence of the gender contamination phenomenon. Another instance where we see this theme is with Diet Coke. Originally, Diet Coke in the silver can was popular among women but not men, even though men collectively had a need for a diet soft drink at the time. Coca Cola then developed and marketed a new product in a sleek, black can — Coke Zero. Coke Zero is essentially Diet Coke but in a more masculine design, which also omits one key word: diet. These two nuanced changes were enough to boost sales among men because it removed the feminine association with the product.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF GENDER CONTAMINATION? When products are marketed specifically for women, men generally have a hard time rationalizing their perception of the product as just a “thing” versus a “thing for women.”

“In a patriarchal society, one in which men tend to hold more cultural and economic power, there is this hierarchy that puts the things that are coded as masculine above those that are coded as feminine. So in other words, we value strength over vulnerability or competition over collaboration.” Additionally, she shared how the principles of the phenomenon speak to the ways in which women’s preferences are often devalued in society, at large. “When we talk about masculinity as being ‘fragile,’ it’s because it’s more invested in that hierarchy and the rules that uphold it. So a woman acting tough to succeed doesn’t threaten that hierarchy of masculinity over femininity; it kind of upholds it. Whereas the reverse threatens that structure.”

BUT WHAT DOES HARRY HAVE TO DO WITH IT? In the realm of pop culture, Harry Styles acts as a modern-day gender contamination crusader. He’s one of only a handful of entertainers who are publicly fighting against normative gender codes. Most notably, he appeared in a long, Gucci dress on the December 2019 cover of Vogue. The look sparked immense controversy, but he remained unphased by the backlash surrounding his (glamourous) metaphorical middle finger to the patriarchy. Beyond this, Styles’ career was arguably made successful by teenage girls — much like the Beatles. Rather than trying to bury his boy band roots, Styles embraced them, aiming only to gain an older, more mature audience as his career evolved. “When we see how silly it is to be threatened by a behavior that’s arbitrarily associated as masculine or feminine, breaking the rules is the way to disrupt them, and that’s ultimately a good thing.” Doane says. So how can we reconcile activism like Harry Styles with the realities of a society that is still heavily influenced by normative gender codes? Disrupt them.



You feel like you know them, like they could be your friend and no doubt about it. The only problem is, you’ve never met. Why do we feel this way towards big celebrities? A parasocial relationship is one-sided and involves idolization by an extreme extension of effort. It takes a great deal of mental and even physical energy to devote the time to be a fan. This type of relationship is a one-way street, where the participants are audience-to-performer or audience-to-celebrity. Engaging with a celebrity on a fan-level used to look more like buying a magazine and plastering the posters on bedroom walls or tuning in to catch their appearance on a talk show. Celebrities were glamorous, untouchable, a vision of what most can’t have. Now with TikTok, celebrities are more accessible than ever. Likewise, the average person can reach the entire user base of TikTok. This has never been possible on this scale before and has meshed influencer and celebrity. Sarah Erlichman, a PhD student at Penn State who studies parasocial relationships and media, believes that it is completely natural to form these relationships. Contrary to popular belief, forming a parasocial relationship can promote healthy attitudes, behaviors and coping mechanisms. “It’s highly stigmatized,” Erlichman adds, saying that those who have celebrities as role models are viewed as obsessive and unimaginative. However, a parasocial relationship can be formed with someone a person does or doesn’t like. It’s also in our nature to seek out environments where we feel our interests are supported since friendships are easier to form on common ground. Because most “regular” people are used to living life on social media, seeing this influx of celebrities puts them on that common ground. Authenticity and vulnerability are also factors that make someone worth looking up to.

Emma Chamberlain for example, is a content creator who has been able to build a brand and following from relatability that has carried into her booming career. She continues to discuss her struggles with mental health even after her commercial success. Those in the entertainment industry more used to conventional media scrutiny know they need to embrace personability, the “relatability” to appeal to the audiences who will support them. They need to show that a serious pursuit of the craft can co-exist with an earnest expression of passion. Only a few celebrities have been successful as so-called social pariahs, and even then, they need to draw lines. The way people currently put themselves on the internet to make a platform and make connections mirrors the way college used to be talked about as a necessary step to get a job. Maintaining a platform is a tangible way of saying you have the numbers to further your career. Starting a career with social media can come from establishing a personality and content, or a very low-profile is kept on social media until you’re established somewhere else and can therefore keep up that persona or brand. Forming parasocial relationships creates opportunities for outcasted communities to find ways to belong. People use these relationships to explore their identity in a society that can be unforgiving of unconventionality. Additionally, there has been a positive correlation with celebrities speaking out on their mental and physical health struggles and everyday people reaching out to find helpful services. The ties between media and parasocial relationships are more abundant than ever, and forming them can result in greater positive effects than they have historically been given credit for.


BEHIND THE GOLD STATUES BY AMANDA FLYNN The Academy and The Hollywood Foreign Press. Two of the most well-known bodies in Hollywood. What’s one thing they both have in common? Controversy.

45% women, 36% underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, and 49% international from 68 countries.” But, there is still room for improvement so that minority groups, such as women, have the chance to be recognized. For example, only seven women in the 93-year old history of the Oscars have been nominated for best director. Two have won. In the best cinematography category, only one woman, Rachel Morrison, has been nominated. It was in 2018. With that, the inequality seen within voting bodies, raises the prevalence of blatant snubs. Due to the fact that the voting bodies and their branches, in the case of the Academy, are lacking diversity, actors tend to be left out in acting categories. A recent example of this occurred at the 2020 Academy Awards with Bong Joon-ho’s legendary thriller, “Parasite.”

There is more to award shows than the glamorous red carpet, the prized trophies and the extravagant after parties. From blatant snubs, deep-rooted bias and an immense lack of diversity, several award shows and their voting bodies have been receiving attention for their lack of inclusivity and fairness, not only this year, but since the beginnings of these shows.

This celebrated South Korean film took home four awards; all of which did not include acting.

In 2015, this issue gained traction through a hashtag you may be familiar with: #OscarsSoWhite.

International films tend to be overlooked in acting categories – Though getting better, as seen with Youn Yuh-jung winning best supporting actress last year for “Minari,” the Academy has been stuck in their ways of nominating A-list actors from domestic films.

This social campaign sprouted after activist April Reign posted, “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair,” on Twitter on January 15, 2015 after the 87th Academy Award nominees announcement. All 20 of the nominees in the acting categories were white. Reign told the New York Times that, “It could’ve been a bunch of different things — there were no women in the directors category, there were no visibly disabled people nominated — so #OscarsSoWhite has never just been about race. It’s about the underrepresentation of all marginalized groups.” In 2016, #OscarsSoWhite continued on, more present than ever. For the second year in a row, all 20 acting nominations belonged to white actors. “One time you could call a fluke, two times feels like a pattern,” says Reign. The hashtag brought attention to the lack of diversity within the voting body of the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Cheryl Boone Isscac, who represented the Public Relations Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2013-17, also told the New York Times that, “The statistics showed that our membership was 94 percent white and 77 percent male. People would say to me that it wasn’t on purpose, and I would ask them: Are you sure?” Seven years after #OscarsSoWhite, some changes have been made to the voting body that could permit more diverse nominations. In June 2020, the Academy announced that it met its goal of increasing diversity within its membership. “The 2020 class is

The lead actors in this best picture-winner, were praised throughout award season by critics, but when it came down to the Academy, the acting branch snubbed all cast members.

Further, The Academy is not the only body under fire in recent years. This year, the Hollywood Foreign Press (HFPA) was the center of attention. In a 2021 study done by the Los Angeles Times, it was reported that the 87-person voting body responsible for awarding Golden Globes, had zero Black members. In response to that, the 2022 show still went on, except it was not broadcasted to millions from the Beverly Hilton. The HFPA decided to instead, quietly publish the names of its winners for its 79th show on their website and social media. Perhaps this discussion raises the question of how to view these “prestigious” awards. Shows such as the Golden Globes, and more specifically, the Oscars, do not need to be the defining factor of success for films in the industry. Are these shows truly the peak of filmmaking success if they fail to recognize the marginal group of creators over and over again? To show support for filmmakers that are not getting the praise and attention they deserve, former Britannica intern Imaan Yousef says, “Streaming platforms increasingly provide filmmakers at the forefront of diverse stories a medium to reach a wider audience.” “By showing up to support films that resonate with people’s diverse experiences or identities in new ways, audiences can work toward revolutionizing systems of validation for films.” A gold statue does not define success. The next time you tune into award shows, try to think about what may be hiding behind the gold.


Lights, camera … computer?

What Does This Mean For Hollywood’s Humans?

Imagine if Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in “The Titanic” was played using artificial intelligence. Consider a computer that could replicate his exact emotions, words and actions he was assigned in the notorious script.

Although Ai companies are not advanced enough to completely replace Hollywood’s best, film companies are loving this new technology. But at what cost?

It sounds scary, right? Right. But – that’s the future of Hollywood. To navigate budget cuts and less funding, top-tier media production companies such as Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox have signed partnerships with artificial intelligence (Ai) companies. Complete with accurate box office projections and digital script writing, these Ai companies help your favorite films come to life – literally. When Did AI Start In Hollywood? Beginning in 1927, Ai was first introduced to the Hollywood scene through the movie “Metropolis.” In this futuristic sci-fi film, Ai was used to create eye-catching visuals and set designs that were described as “beyond its time” by movie critics. Following the success of “Metropolis,” the concept of Ai became the new buzz around Hollywood films. People became captivated by the concept of creative imagery, which led to the development of Ai-based films such as “Star Wars,” “Toy Story” and “Avatar.” Nowadays, Ai is not just limited to on-screen visuals – but rather off-screen production. Consider Ai-based companies Cinelytic and Movio, whose goal is to predict film success through marketing, scheduling and more. A Deeper Look Into Cinelytic From film to music industries, Cinelytic is a Ai startup company that specializes in analytic-based decision making. To determine film package evaluations, Cinelytic’s system relies on a complex computer algorithm that considers large amounts of audience data. Thousands of factors are taken into consideration for these packages, with few being specific plots, release dates and celebrity guest value.

Human jobs. Unlike humans, these platforms can process large amounts of data and generate near-perfect predictions within seconds. They are quick, profitable and almost too easy for film directors to utilize. They also don’t complain when they receive a 30-minute lunch break. Regardless, these film prediction programs are outperforming humans in the entertainment industry. Consider 20th Century Fox’s horror film “Morgan,” which was the first movie trailer that was created using Ai systems. Using IBM’s analytical processing networks, the computer produced a trailer based on the three following factors from the movie. Visual Analysis: Identification of people, objects and scenery, 24 different emotions and labels across 22,000 scene categories Audio Analysis: Ambient sounds, character’s tone of voice and musical score) Analysis of Scene Composition: Location of the shot, image framing and lighting Thanks to the complex thinking of IBM’s Ai systems, this movie trailer was created in 24 hours. For humans, the process of developing movie trailers can take up to two weeks to two years, according to Business Insider. In comparison to humans, these Ai technologies are fast and consistent. They produce high quality work, with their creative juices never running out. And this leaves potential screenwriters, film editors and animators scrambling to keep up. What’s Next?

These film package evaluations are then used to determine best profit values for the film in different countries around the world.

Regarding the entertainment industry, one thing is clear — Ai is here to stay.

In turn, this Ai system has proved itself to be a monumental asset for filmmakers looking to improve efficiency and boost overall profits.

In the meantime, humans are adapting to this technology by working alongside Ai systems. Screenwriters, film editors and animators are now tasked with less ‘busy work’ and given more time to think creatively for movie production.




Rick Riordan made every teenager wish to be Poseidon’s child, but Liv Albert made every woman think twice. At some point, we’ve all been interested in Greek myths and the elusive stories of the Gods and Goddesses. Every trope, every tale, every storyline has all seemingly been recycled from an older mythology story. Yet, these retellings are never quite told for women. Liv Albert, author and creator of the hit podcast, “Let’s Talk about Myths Baby!” knows this better than anyone else. With 800,000 – 1 million downloads per month, it’s clear that people are interested in a new perspective. Her podcast retells myths in a sarcastic and entertaining way, recognizing that not every myth has meaning, but it is loaded with biases that are more sinister. Greek myths come from lore and oral storytelling, which was made into literature and retold throughout history. In older retellings and more commercialized works, many claim men or Gods were “with” women — they “seduced” her, “fell in love” or “carried her off.” All are euphemisms, and Albert makes sure to call it what it is. “I think it’s really important to look at these stories and use correct terminology,” says Albert. “I do describe it as assault and abduction when that’s the case. There’s a lot of times in myths where it’s explicit that it’s not consensual and I think that’s important, too.” Albert says that often people will defend the assaulters in Greek Myths since the language used in those stories protects their actions. But that doesn’t mean their actions are validated, it means that the people who translated these sources saw it that way. This is precisely why translation is so important and why retellings need to be told accurately – there are repercussions to not analyzing messages and passing them on, and it’s reflected in our society’s behaviors and thoughts. Not only is there bias in the language towards women, but in the characters of women. “So often, the ones who are known to be beautiful are known for that because it ruins something in some way,” says Albert. Helen of Sparta was beautiful and blamed for

the Trojan War. Pandora was beautiful and blamed for all the evils in the world. Women in Greek myths are demonized for their beauty, seen as a symbol of power to men or completely unimportant. Even when women are given power, it’s limited. Penelope and Clytemnestra from the “Odyssey” were left in charge when their husbands went to war, and yet in some retellings, there is a man left to watch over or rule alongside them. In these stories, Albert says, “these women weren’t actually given the credit for the power that they logically would’ve had.” Even one of the most powerful women, the Goddess Athena, was aligned with men in every way; she was the man’s goddess. Inherently, Athena would not have been that, but the sources we have used her as an agent of the patriarchy. One thing is to be made clear – women are underrepresented in mythology because of how it came to us through history. It’s not that their stories weren’t important or being told, it’s that we don’t have them because it wasn’t passed down. “What we do have is a lot of works that weren’t written by men but written down by men,” says Albert. As Greek Myths become more popular with the success of Madeline Miller’s “Song of Achilles,” and Albert’s podcast, she notes, “women have always loved Greek Mythology … but now we can retell these stories from a real place of agency and power.” Medusa even became a symbol of the #metoo movement in 2018 as her story was re-examined. Although seen as a monster in books like “Percy Jackson,” original sources state that Medusa wasn’t harmful. She lived at the edge of the earth and was sexually assaulted by Poseidon, then punished and killed with the help of Athena. As more women see her as this status of survivor, Albert notes, “Men have to come up with all these other reasons why that’s not what she is.” She’s a monster. She’s terrorizing the lands. She’s evil. She deserved to be killed. It shows the lengths people will go to bury women’s stories, but people like Albert are ensuring that no woman’s story is lost in translation.

Photographed by: Jacob Lawall, Elinor Franklin



“At the end of the day, if what I’m wearing can make someone else confident, then I’ve achieved something. I hope people think, “Hey, if she can do it, so can I.”



Fifty-eight years ago, writer, Susan Sontag, defined a term that still has influence to this day – camp. In terms of fashion, you may either love it or hate it. It is a type of fashion that has you turning your head back and forth asking, “Does this even make sense?” Nonetheless, camp has certainly made waves in the fashion industry, granting room for play and imagination in the wardrobe. It is an aesthetic that can be contributed for breaking down stereotypes, exploring gender identity and personal expression. At its fundamental roots, it involves experimenting with clothes, without any constricting rules. In recent years of pop culture, you may remember camp being the driving force of the 2019 Met Gala. Fans of fashion saw attendees walk up the infamous stairs, decked out in show-stopping garments, in celebration of the night being centered around Sontag’s essay. But what is camp? In her essay, “Notes on Camp,” Sontag defines this taste as, “A certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization.” With the 21st century of fashion in full swing, the unconventional, eclectic styles that have sprouted from this aesthetic have been seen in major fashion houses such as Moschino, Viktor and Rolf and Diesel. In the recent Moschino fall 2022 show in Milan, creative director Jeremy Scott brought furniture to the runway — models were seen wearing garments that replicated grandfather clocks, chandeliers and dressers. A collection like this, can be considered the epitome of camp. However, you do not need to go far and wide or scour down pieces from high-end brands to find this aesthetic — camp is everywhere around us, and most importantly, it is about having fun.

Sontag emphasizes that, “Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation — not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy.” “Fashion is a fun, creative outlet,” says fourth-year Sage Kugler, president of the Fashion Society at Penn State. With camp, the excitement of putting outfits together is amplified to a whole other level. It may seem intimidating at first to mix and match, but Kugler says it can be as simple as pairing statement pants with a black tee. “You don’t have to go all out right away,” says Kugler. “If you try that one new necklace or new t-shirt that you really like, you can try to work around that … Maybe you’re like, ‘Hey these colors go well, I haven’t tried this yet.’” When asked about people in fashion who embody this style and who aren’t afraid to play with different patterns and textures, Kugler mentioned @TinyJewishGirl, a.k.a Clara Perlmutter. After chatting with the 23-year old, recent New York University graduate, who is certainly making a name for herself in the fashion world on TikTok, with a following of over 770,000 and counting. Perlmutter designed her major at NYU around cultural criticism and creative writing. She actually never took a fashion course throughout her academic career, instead, fashion has always been a “personal interest” of hers. Along with creating TikToks, Perlmutter works full time in social media marketing for Steve Madden. “I’ve always been into dress-up,” Perlmutter says. “I have approached fashion in a way where everyday I get to put on a costume.” In her TikToks, viewers can find Perlmutter putting together oneof-a-kind pieces ranging from her lime green, 90s reminiscent, SWEAR Air Revive Xtra sneakers, to her ironic OGBFF skirt that quite literally is a black skirt with “mini skirt” written on it, to eclectic headbands such as her Spacec0wgirl headband made from barbie doll heads. At first glance and on their own, pieces from her wardrobe may seem unconventional, but Perlmutter creates camp magic once she begins styling. “When I see an outfit, I see it in its entirety,” says Perlmutter. In her videos, Perlmutter shows her viewers how she puts pieces together — step-by-step, layer-by-layer. As with any style, Perlmutter emphasizes that it is important to play with what makes you feel most comfortable. “I think that you should dress in a way that's true to yourself and not copying anyone … I think that you need to look inside yourself and think about what you like,” says Perlmutter. “I try to be a role model in that, I am true to myself and I am expressing myself. I don’t think anyone needs to dress like me. I think that everyone needs to dress in a way that makes themselves happy.”

54 Photographed by: Becca Baker


Timelessness, tradition and community are ideals that have inspired a stylish new way to carry your college memories with you after graduation. Pushing back on the limits of a malecatered industry and reinventing a world where collegiate jewelry can be sophisticated and have a feminine touch, cofounders and childhood best friends Kyle Garcia and Penn State Alum Elizabeth Shirley along with her sisters-in-law have built their brand, Kyle Cavan, from the ground up.

something special, you’re part of something that is incredible.”

The idea for the brand came about after Kyle felt that she didn’t have a memorable piece of college to take with her besides an old Duke sweatshirt. The typical chunky class rings and cufflinks were geared toward men, outdated and gave off a vibe that just didn’t apply to every college graduate.

Initially, Penn State even denied their request as they have strict regulations on who is able to represent and use their brand. As Kyle Cavan became more and more established, colleges and universities opened up and today the brand pairs with almost a hundred different schools and counting.

What began as just a recognition of the lack of inclusivity within the collegiate jewelry industry became the foundation for Kyle Cavan. The brand came in with a completely different approach looking to craft timeless pieces that could be worn for all of life’s big moments.

“What really sets us apart and what sometimes has allowed us to work with schools really early on in the process is that we develop architecture pieces for them,” says Garcia, “This was part of who we were since we launched but we only did it for a few schools because we wanted to make sure we talk to the audience and are doing the right pieces.”

“We wanted to create something that works for an eighteenyear-old going into college and then someone who’s eighty and celebrating a monumental moment like — say her and her husband met in college or her granddaughter is going to the same school that she went to,” says Garcia. Implemented in every piece is a token representing big accomplishments and monumental events within your life. This feeling inspired the namesake behind the brand as an ode to Garcia’s grandfather whose uplifting nature had a great influence on her — Cavan roots back to a county in Ireland where her grandfather was from. “He [Kyle’s Grandfather] walked into the room and you were in a room with a hundred people and you all felt like you were part of something bigger than yourself — he just had that ability,” says Garcia. “We’re trying to create that feeling like you’re a part of

After the initial idea, Garcia and Shirley united to get their start-up off the ground but as they moved farther into the college licensing industry, they began to unfold more and more barricades. To be able to use different university names and logos, they had to get licensing which was the opposite of easy with only about 20 percent of companies obtaining approval.

Rather than replicating every jewelry microtrend, Kyle Cavan is focused on creating timeless pieces that their audiences actually want and will hold on to forever. Their first collection was inspired by vintage coins with emblems of the seals and logos from different universities that were the opposite of the typical masculine jewelry we would typically see and instead highlighted smaller, dainty jewelry that signifies a huge moment in your life. “These are forever pieces, it’s not a fast-fashion jacket that you want to be on trend with,” says Garcia. “It needs to be able to be forever and that’s what we wanted to represent.” This idea of everlasting class jewelry continued within every collection that was created thereafter, and with every new collection came hours of thought and sentiment into all aspects of the brand.

To find out what exactly was pulling on students’ heartstrings, the co-founders went straight to the source asking students exactly what they wanted to see and what part of their universities left an imprint on them. From the Sunburst and Florentine to the 7-Point Diamond Necklace and custom-drawn Architecture pieces, Kyle Cavan offers students completely customizable college jewelry that is made to represent some of the most significant mementos you have during your college career — whether it be a building like Old Main or a saying that empowers unity like “WE ARE!” “This is a really major moment and influential time in college students’ lives — it shapes you,” says Shirley, “you should be able to wear gorgeous pieces that represent that.” Not only does Kyle Cavan represent the impactful moments in your life — but they’re also making their own impact every step of the way. Each piece of Kyle Cavan jewelry is created from responsible and ethical factories where each piece is handcrafted by different workers. This makes their products much more sustainably sourced than most other jewelry brands, which was a crucial factor to the owners who work with the same manufacturer that has done work for colossal jewelry brands like Tiffany and David Yurman. “It’s so important to remember that people are making these things behind what you’re buying,” says Shirley. “It’s just a good reminder as consumers.” It was also important for the brand to give back whenever they were able. Partnering with organizations like No Kid Hungry, Girls Who Code, UNCF and Penn State’s THON™, Kyle Cavan donates a portion of their proceeds to help students have the resources they need to succeed.

As a woman-owned company, Kyle Cavan has made it their mission to uplift and encourage women in any way they can. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the day that Title IX, a law prohibiting educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on their sex, was enacted. In celebration of this crucial moment in history, Kyle Cavan is launching a campaign to help young women learn more about financial literacy — something both Garcia and Shirley have become passionate about in their journey as female entrepreneurs. Believing that women should have financial freedom and decision-making power was the inspiration behind a campaign that includes quick, informational YouTube videos to help women learn more about credit cards, taxes, APR and more knowledgeable tidbits that are important to know when becoming a young adult. “For us, Title XI is just the next step that provided us with the education and the platform to go be successful and to go to the next step as women,” says Garcia. “Now, the next step is making sure we know what’s happening when we’re taking paychecks in from all these opportunities we’re going after.” “It’s really just about opening up people’s opportunities and making sure the doors continue to be open for them,” says Garcia. Continuing their work for women, Shirley holds the position of vice-president for Penn State Women’s Network in New York City where she hopes to host different events in order for alums to build off each other’s knowledge of the working world. Kyle Cavan serves as more than just your typical collegiate jewelry brand — it’s pushing women to the next level so they have the ability to foster a sense of belonging wherever they may choose and hang a trophy of their hard work close to their hearts.


Photographed by: Becca Baker


Fashion is a prime tool for self-expression. Some might even argue that a person’s style is the first indicator we receive about who they are. However, for decades fashion has existed within the gender binary — men wear pants and ties, women wear skirts and frills. These expectations that are forced upon us beginning in infancy leave little room for self-exploration in the ways we adorn ourselves. Androgyny, by definition, breaks this binary. Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the quality or state of being neither specifically feminine or masculine,” bringing androgyny into the fashion world eliminates these gendered expectations and allows more room for individuality. Gender expectations, however, extend far beyond fashion. In fact, gender roles are so ingrained into American culture that we have come to accept them as truths of life rather than largely imaginary differences. Mary Kruk, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Penn State, defines gender roles as the ways society expects men and women to behave — the rules people are expected to adhere to based on the bodies they inhabit. “Women are expected to be nurturing, caring, docile, agreeable and emotional. Whereas men are expected to be strong, independent and not very emotional. Men are expected to — or allowed to — be very sexual, women are not. Women are supposed to be sexual with, say, one person, not with a lot of people, or else they risk being called sluts,” Kruk says. These roles that we expect men and women to fit into begin in childhood and have deeply-rooted consequences ranging from economic hardships for women to difficulties with communication between men and women in relationships. Perhaps most significantly, though, is the emotional toll that gender roles can take on people who don’t feel like they fit the role they were given. Whether this manifests in the inability to have a fully satisfying career or the inability to dress in a way that expresses your inner self, society’s expectations of men and women lead to significant stress for many people — even those who seem to fit the bill perfectly. Then why do we continue to rely on gender roles? Because, “that’s what we’re taught to do, that’s how we’re taught to behave and that’s what people applaud us for,” Kruk says. “If you get praise for acting one way, it’s really difficult to act in a way that might not get you praise.” When it comes to fashion, breaking gender roles can be exhilarating, but also risky. While women have been allowed to wear more androgynous clothing for decades, men have not had the same privilege. Oftentimes, men who don’t present

themselves as traditionally masculine in their dress face severe backlash from society in the forms of verbal and physical harassment. However, in recent years men — particularly men in Hollywood — have been given space in society to experiment with feminine clothing. Androgynous fashion has always had its place in the entertainment world — whether that be Ziggy Stardust or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” — but even these most famous examples were adored largely within subcultures rather than the mainstream. However, now more than ever, androgynous fashion has found a home with the most mainstream people imaginable: A-listers. Today, some of the most widely admired celebrities regularly break gender expectations in their fashion. From Timothée Chalamet to Zendaya, androgyny is everywhere. Harry Styles — arguably the most widely adored celebrity at the moment — not only became the first man to appear solo on the cover of Vogue, but did it in a dress. He faced backlash, sure, but the backlash seemingly had no impact on his public image of heartthrob and sweetheart. In fact, Styles’ post One Direction brand seems to be built almost entirely around his androgynous presence — and he has received no shortage of praise for the barriers he is breaking. Following the lead of A-listers, suddenly thousands upon thousands of men across the country are wearing nail polish and eyeliner, crop tops and florals. In part thanks to social media, now more than ever men are allowed to express identity outside of the traditional masculine ideal. Icons of androgynous fashion like Prince and David Bowie are no longer anomalies in the public eye. Today, celebrities can break the gender expectations of fashion without being a novelty, playing a role or making a statement — simply wanting to dress a certain way is justification enough. The rise of androgyny has been a breakthrough in the fashion world, but does it signify more than that? Kruk worries that the role-breaking fashion we’re seeing today is simply a trend. “On the one hand, we seem to be more accepting of men painting fingernails and wearing more feminine clothing, but sometimes it feels like a fad, where we’re more accepting of heterosexual, cisgender men doing this,” she says. On the other hand — assuming that the rise of androgynous fashion is more than a trend — the growing acceptance of androgyny could reflect society’s gradual dismantling of traditional gender roles. Maybe, at some point in the future, there will be more women in leadership positions, men will be allowed to freely express emotion and androgynous fashion will be everywhere we turn.



From the MET Gala to Fashion Week, New York has certainly made its mark as one of the fashion capitals of the world. It’s estimated that the fashion industry is worth 3 trillion dollars worldwide according to Fashion United, and along with European fashion leaders like London, Milan and Paris, New York’s impact on apparel is legendary. The Garment District in Manhattan has been known as the center for fashion manufacturing and design since the early 20th century. Also called the Fashion District, this area of midManhattan is now home to the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Fashion Walk of Fame, not to mention numerous fabric stores. To appreciate its significance, let’s look back at its complex history to see why New York’s famous Garment District has the greatest concentration of fashion designers in the country. Before it became the Garment District, this neighborhood of Manhattan was notorious for a much different reason. Nicknamed “Tenderloin” and “Devil’s Arcade,” it was home to the greatest concentration of prostitutes in the United States. An influx of theatres, hotels and casinos in the area contributed to lively nightlife and, as a result, an illegal sex trade. The garment industry was growing faster than any other in the city between 1828 and 1858, strengthened by the invention of the sewing machine. In fact, the government looked to manufacturers in NYC for uniforms during the Civil War. By the early 20th century, a majority of the immigrants in NYC were Eastern European Jews, many of whom were skilled in commerce and textile production. Of all the immigrant groups arriving in the U.S. at that time, Jewish people had the highest proportion of skilled workers. The skills of these workers perfectly matched the developing industry, and by 1910, the textile business included 46% of the industrial labor force in the city, according to As hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers were living and working in the Garment District, real estate developers were helping to transform the neighborhood. Brownstones used for illegal bordellos were replaced with garment lofts, and the theaters and seedy nightlife began to disappear. By WWII, New York replaced Paris as the fashion capital of the

world, and the Garment District was the city’s single largest employer. Nevertheless, the industry still struggled through the 40’s and 50’s because of competition for cheaper production in other parts of the world. Fast forward to the present day, and the Garment District still remains the center for fashion in NYC. Casey Miller, a third-year student in the Fashion Design AAS program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, admits to having a ‘love/hate relationship’ with the Garment District. Situated between Times Square, Penn Station and Herald Square, the area is crammed with tourists. But the beauty is the hidden gems you will find along the way. “Buildings upon buildings are full of fabric stores, button shops, hidden pattern-making studios, designer studios and boutiques…It can be overwhelming at first, but exploring is the best thing to do. The area is full of ideas, opportunity and creativity,” says Miller. The Garment District has grown significantly over the years, but one thing remains the same — the community feeling. Miller explains that everyone you pass has the same passion for the fashion industry and the struggle to break in. The people are what make living there so special. “An associate stayed and kept a store open late for me once because I was in desperate need to get supplies for a class and everything was closed,” says Miller. If you’re planning to visit this historic and vibrant area of Manhattan, be sure to stop in Miller’s favorite fabric and sewing tool store, Steinlauf & Stroller. Then go directly next door to Mood Fabrics (fans of “Project Runway”…sound familiar?). There’s even a guided walking tour that takes you to the local fashion scene hangouts and landmarks as well as to wholesale showrooms where you will meet a fashion designer or two! In a matter of blocks, you will realize how far the Garment District has come. The immigrants infused this once-gritty district with people passionate about fashion. The neighborhood is much more than the commerce it produces — it is a community that inspires.


Photographed by: Becca Baker, Annie Princivalle

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