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

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The town and gown: Coming apart at the seams?

Photo credit - aprilbell, sxc.hu

Photo credit – aprilbell, sxc.hu

When your boss is someone like Michele Papakie, you hear a lot of funny phrases. We have flyers posted in Command Central (410 Davis) that say “Can’t died in a cornfield!” and “Be the duck!” and “No! Try not! Do or do not, there is no try!”  (Technically that last one isn’t a Papakieism, but it still makes me laugh.)

Michele also introduced me to the phrase “town and gown” which is apparently a popular way to describe the relationship between universities and their towns. I didn’t grow up in a college town, so I hadn’t heard the phrase until this year. If you’ve never heard it either, the community around a university is the “town” and the university people are the “gown.”

My first thought about the gowns were graduation gowns, but it actually goes back to the Middle Ages when European university students, who often acted as minor clerics, wore black robes similar to the clergy. This became the long black gown with a hood and cap that we think of when we picture scholars. The gowns were really helpful for students studying in unheated buildings, but they were also symbolic of the fact that academics did not perform physical labor. (Can you imagine trying to harvest crops dressed like Professor Snape?)

But the gowns also symbolically separated students and their teachers from the folks around them. Many university students didn’t speak the local dialects and the townspeople didn’t speak Latin, which made communication very difficult. And as universities gradually gained more and more independence from local control, the town began to resent and lose trust in the gown. Conflict and violence were rampant because each group was governed by separate bodies, each with its own priorities and loyalties.

IUP students volunteering at the Indiana Community Garden - Photo by The Penn

IUP students volunteering at the Indiana Community Garden – Photo from The Penn

Flash forward to the modern-day United States: we don’t see a lot of violence between towns and universities, but it turns out that things aren’t exactly amazing, either. Universities believe their existence is key to the survival of the local economy; the surrounding towns claim institutions are robbing them of local tax revenue as universities expand and remove land property for local tax rolls, and universities aren’t taxable like other entities using town resources. Technically, universities don’t have to contribute anything to the town’s government, although some do.

Which brings me back to the Strategic Visioning Project and what got me thinking about the town/gown relationship. I first learned about this sticky situation when I facilitated a group interview last week at the community meeting of the Public Works committee at the borough. And I’m usually quick (maybe too quick, sometimes) to weigh in on a debate or propose a solution, but this is a tough one.

The borough receives no money from IUP and can’t tax the university, so maintenance and development projects are often underfunded or impossible. The borough manager said if IUP was a corporation, like IBM, the local government would be in great shape because of the tax revenue. But since IUP can’t be taxed and it doesn’t contribute funds to the borough, things aren’t so great financially.

On the other hand, IUP brings in nearly 15,000 students, effectively doubling the town’s population for much of the year. While students are here, we are employed by and patronize local businesses and contribute our time to area non-profits and through initiatives like Into the Streets.

Professors also contribute to the cultural and political landscape of the town — I’m thinking in particular of a handful of professors who are central to Indiana’s Center for Community Growth, which works to improve the livelihood of area residents by addressing social, economic, racial and environmental issues. But professors and students alike are also local business owners, entertainers and board members for a number of organizations.

It’s not like the borough doesn’t recognize this, either. Members of the Public Works committee noted the university’s contributions to the town, too. Without IUP, one said, Indiana would have remained a lower-class mining town.

The students and professors remain a strange mixture of town and gown, especially students like me who live off-campus, work in the town and rarely go home. We contribute a lot, but we’re also supported a lot by things like roads, sidewalks, recycling programs, facilities, parks and rec, law enforcement and fire departments, to name a few. And these things take money.

Which leaves the relationship where, exactly? Should IUP charge students a fee to provide the borough with the funding it needs for the town’s law enforcement and maintenance, much of which is directly tied to IUP in the first place? Should the borough work more closely with the university to begin meeting some of its professional needs while giving students internship opportunities?

The town and its center of learning do not have to be two separate entities, since each depends on the other for survival. Maybe things would have gone better back in the Middle Ages if the townspeople could have picked up some Latin and the scholars had invested more in the town and learned its language and ways. Or the academics could have tried taking off the gowns when they were outside the university. There’s no need for imaginary boundaries where none exist.

So I don’t know what the solution could be, and I’m excited to hear from people who have lived in this town their whole lives or for many generations. But I can tell you what won’t solve anything: cutting off communication between both parties and refusing to repair the relationship.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Please comment below.

– Emily Weber

It’s Almost Over?!

After a week-long hiatus for vacation, I was welcomed back to the command center to a dismal feeling. As August approaches (TWO DAYS!) our team is beginning to be disbanded. Our internship required 200 hours of each of us, and although a few of us have worked fewer hours due to other commitments or jobs, some of our team has logged enough to be finished by the end of the week.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, Michele is freaking out. I am sure it’s only because she has separation anxiety, and she has grown so attached to us that the thought of us leaving scares her. Yup, must be it. However, for the rest of us, it means losing valuable assets to the team. I have no doubt that we will be able to pick up where they leave off, but it’s kind of scary to realize that this summer is coming to an end.

We have worked hard for the last couple months. Although it may seem unsettling right now, our team disbanding just leaves room for the rest of us to step up to the plate. I think we did a great job of showcasing our skills thus far, but this will take the remainder of us further outside our comfort zones.

With three more weeks for me, I plan on making the most of what we have left. It’s terrifying when the date is in front of you, but to have the due date merely a couple weeks away,  sends me into a pit of anxiety. It’s time to show Michele just what we are made of. We got this.

-Hailey Crowley

Explain Like I’m Five: What is Strategic Visioning?

Reddit - Explain Like I'm Five

Reddit.com – /r/explainlikeimfive

One of my favorite websites is Reddit.com. I’m totally addicted. And one of my favorite “subreddits” (sub-forums on the website that deal with one topic) is “Explain Like I’m Five.”

Kind of like the Simple English version of Wikipedia, it’s a great way to learn about something that you never thought you’d be able to understand before. Complex issues are broken down and explained in a way that easier to comprehend.

One day I was browsing /r/explainlikeimfive, and it made me think, “Do the people we interview actually understand what strategic visioning is?”

Sure, we try to explain it to each person we come in contact with. We hand out papers that go into detail about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and the process we’re using to accomplish these goals. If you look to the left, this blog even has a page dedicated to explaining it.

It never hurts to explain it one more time though and to explain in a simple way.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about strategic visioning, by the way:

“Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. In order to determine the direction of the organization, it is necessary to understand its current position and the possible avenues through which it can pursue a particular course of action.”

Visioning Binoculars

Photo credit – fluffbreat, SXC.hu

Did you understand that? Even though it’s summed up fairly concisely, I feel like we still need to get a little simpler.

How about this?

Strategic visioning lets an organization (like IUP) know :

  • What people think about where it stands now and where people think it should head in the future
  • What the organization excels at
  • What needs to be improved
  • How and why it has succeeded in the past
  • Exactly what it does, and for who it does it

Strategic visioning answers these questions by:

  • Interviewing “shareholders,” aka people who are in any way affected by what the organization does
  • Gathering data about what the organization has done in the past
  • Collecting information from as wide and comprehensive a group as possible

Is there anything I forgot? What are some questions that you still have about the project? What would make the concept of “strategic visioning” easier to understand?

Comment one or two sentences as if you were explaining strategic visioning to a five-year-old.

–Brittany Madera

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.

IMG_6148

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.

-Katie