Up close and personal

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been emailing and scheduling private interviews with professors, and consequently doing a lot of house calls.

In addition to the added cardio I’ve been getting from running around campus, I’ve been hearing a lot of new perspectives from some of IUP’s brightest and most distinguished faculty.

Throughout the duration of this process we’ve been trying to interview people as a group, enabling participants to feel more comfortable, bounce ideas off each other, and allowing us to knock out more than one person per facilitation.

Switching gears and doing more private interviews has definitely been an entirely different experience. I feel a more personalized connection, which has been both good and bad. In a one-on-one setting, I have noticed professors speak more candidly and freely, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they don’t have to worry about defending their ideas or positions to other participants.  This has resulted in some really honest answers, which is exactly what we’re looking for.

Doing all private interviews really isn’t feasible, and I think there are benefits to both methods. It really also depends on the person you’re talking to. Sometimes in group interviews certain people dominate the conversation while others don’t seem as eager to participate. One way that we’ve been able to still get results from those who are less eager to express ideas out loud is having them write down their thoughts on our question outline.

Being able to conduct interviews, whether privately or as a group, has given me a better perspective on the way people communicate. It has sharpened my people skills and thickened my skin, especially when conducting a private interview with anyone who is skeptical of our project.

The best way to silence the doubters is by asking for their opinion.  The only thing we can do is keep talking to people, and if you ask me, I think pretty soon they’ll be talking about us too.

–By Juliette Rapp


Is it a gob or a whoopee pie?

Is this a whoopie pie or a gob?

Photo courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com

Some of us were sitting in the Command Center of the Strategic Visioning Project recently and a discussion came up. I said I wanted the gob that I had in my bag and Em asked, with a puzzled look on her face, what a gob was. Long story short, gob or whoopee pie, it’s the same thing depending on where you live and apparently, the term “gob” is pretty exclusive to Western Pennsylvania.

According to the story, the coal miners of the area carried them in their lunch buckets to work and the tasty, cream-filled confection looked like lumps of coal on the piles at the mines, hence the name “gob.” Most people call these things Whoopee Pies, hence Emily’s confusion when I said it.

This little conversation led us to embark on an entire discussion about dialect, what words and pronunciations were used, and where in the country they were used. We found the locations of the pop/soda/coke debate and apparently “pop” is said in the northern half of the country, and here I thought it was a Western Pennsylvania thing only. I thought wrong.

I have to say that this is what will sometimes happen when a small group of journalism graduates, current students, and one food and nutrition major from the northeast, talk about when they’re thrown into a room together. We get on the subject of words and their meanings and origins. Trust me; this really does make for a lively conversation.

So you people out there in cyber-world may be wondering… what does this have to do with the Strategic Visioning Project? Well, we were learning a bit more about each other in terms of dialect and that leads us to this project.

The word “diversity” has come up so much in the focus groups and interviews about IUP and what makes it distinctive. My opinion is that when people were using this word, they were talking about the different ethnicities and demographic areas in which students were from. With a student population of roughly 15,000, this university has students from all over, from across the state, across the country, and even from around the world.

We have a melting pot of students that while it probably isn’t unique to just IUP, it gives us a chance to dive into other areas and/or cultures, and creates an interesting learning experience; even if it is just talking about words and meanings.

So what is it to you? A gob or a whoopee pie?

–Shawna McCutcheon

We Really Want Your Opinions…Really

As another way of trying to reach out to faculty members, we decided to break the university down into departments and email each professor individually. So, I whipped out a spreadsheet and began assigning names. Naive me thought that there couldn’t be that many faculty members in certain departments…I was wrong.

I looked at the departments I had assigned myself: nursing and allied health, economics, counseling, health and physical education and professional studies. I had 140+ professors to email. Individually.

About two days later when I had finally accomplished this, I was optimistic. I’d already received a few responses and it was looking like it was going to be a good turnout. Not so much.

Of the 140+ faculty members I reached out to, only about 10 got back to me. That’s not a very good rate of return. If I was looking at this from a numbers standpoint, I’d probably fire myself.

So what do we do to get people interested? We can’t pay people, we can’t threaten them and we can’t force them to share their opinions.

We tell people over and over how important this project is and how their opinions matter, but not everyone listens. So we’ll keep persevering and keep hounding people to share their opinions with us. When you open your email and have 47 messages from me, at least I know I tried.

So if you have even a sliver of interest in IUP, your opinions count and we want to hear them. Sign up to be interviewed, follow us on Twitter and let us know what you think makes IUP distinctive!


A Trenney Tradition

Let me take you back…

May 6, 1992.  8:27 p.m.  Indiana hospital. I, Katie Lee Trenney, entered the world.  I was given the Trenney family middle name (Lee), had brown hair and brown eyes — growing up I was always told that I looked exactly like my dad and his sister, my Aunt Gina.  On May 6, 1992, I was born into the Trenney family.


All of the Trenney’s in Hawaii

BUT.  I was also born into the IUP family.  I was raised with a love for the university.  When I was little, my dad was the athletic trainer for IUP Football.   I remember playing on the sidelines while he worked at practices, and running through the halls of the Memorial Field House.  I attended my first IUP Football game when I was just five months old.

IUP has always been a Trenney Tradition.  My parents, my sister, my sister’s long-term boyfriend, and six of my aunts and uncles attended and graduated from IUP.  Currently, my dad is an IUP professor and my Uncle Frank is the athletic trainer for IUP Football and Women’s Basketball.

My family was able to use the education they earned at IUP to become successful in their careers.  My mom and Aunt Gina are teachers in Derry Area School District, my sister is a third-grade teacher at a private school in Atlanta, my Uncle Don owns a restaurant, Trenney’s Grille, in Hopewell, Pa., my Aunt Karen is a nurse at Allegheny Regional Hospital, my Aunt Lynn is a nutritionist in Pittsburgh, and my sister’s boyfriend, Ray, just completed his master’s degree in economics at the University of Georgia.

Emily Trenney ('11), Amy Trenney ('83 and '84), Ray Edwards ('11), Karen Trenney ('81), Ron Trenney ('83), Gina (Trenney) Yanoff ('94), Don Trenney ('80), Lynn (Cappellino) Trenney ('80), and Frank Trenney ('92)

IUP Alumni:  Emily Trenney (’11), Amy Trenney (’83 and ’84), Ray Edwards (’11), Karen Trenney (’81), Ron Trenney (’83), Gina (Trenney) Yanoff (’94), Don Trenney (’80), Lynn (Cappellino) Trenney (’80), and Frank Trenney (’92)

A couple weeks ago, my family traveled to Hawaii.  I figured it was the perfect opportunity to talk to them about IUP SVP.  My Uncle Don couldn’t figure out why it was taking us so long to do this project, he thought he had much more efficient ideas to create a strategic visioning project.  Well, Uncle Don, feel free to take over!

My mom shared that she hates mission statements.  She thinks that they are simply words on paper and never really reflect the institution.  I loved this comment because that is exactly what we are trying to avoid! It made me feel like all of our work will pay off, and all of our interviewing will help us create a mission statement that WILL reflect the values and goals of our university.

Once my family understood what we were actually doing, they were excited about it and seemed impressed that I was working on such an important project!

Looking towards my senior year, I am thrilled to be the next Trenney to graduate from IUP and I hope to share the tradition with my own family in the future.


Lemon doughnut

I bit into a lemon doughnut the other day. If you’ve never done that, let me explain what it’s like.doritos-cool-ranch

It’s like finding a hundred dollar bill on the ground, only to go to a convenient store to buy Doritos and have the manager tell you the bill is counterfeit. It’s also like buying a bag of Doritos, only to discover the bag is completely empty (not just half empty like it normally would be).

It’s like working with NVivo.

NVivo is a computer software that, at its basic level, categorizes your notes and finds common themes in them. We at the IUP SVP have begun to use it to help us organize the notes we’ve taken during our group discussions.

But it’s not as easy as we thought. It’s not a wizard with magical categorizing powers. On the surface, it’s a doughnut, but it’s filled with lemon-flavored gelatin.

Without getting into specifics, we’re finding that it requires much more manual work than we first thought. Not as pleasant as we judged it to be. I guess I’m a product of my generation — I assume computers can do everything for me. And that’s dangerous. I need to work smarter, not harder, and not let computers take over my job.

And avoid lemon doughnuts.

–Caleb Murphy