Perspectives on Virtual and In-person Classes

Administration at The University of Scranton implemented a two-week pause in in-person instruction beginning on Sept. 19 and ended Sept. 30.

Both students and faculty were excited to get back in the classroom.

Professor Strain is a communications professor who teaches several classes ranging from a first-year seminar to a 300-level political communication course.

Professor Strain

Strain enjoys being face-to-face because it offers a type of connection that being online cannot match.

“There is nothing like the vibe and energy of being face-to-face with a group of students and engaging one another in some interesting and intense discussion,” Strain said.

He also said there are some challenges to face this semester, including lecturing with a mask on and trying to teach to both an in-class group of students and to those who have to attend class through Zoom because they are in quarantine.

“Effectively communicating with both sets of students is far more challenging than I thought, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Strain said.

Professor Strain teaching one of his classes both in-person and through zoom.

Professor Strain said he has been proactive in trying to keep in touch with his students during the uncertain times. Not only does he maintain communication with his students, but he also just likes to check in on them.

“I have been more proactive than ever trying to maintain consistent communication with students,” Strain said. “[S]tudents learning remotely need to feel like they are still part of the class in every way, so my outreach is more consistent and focused than ever before.”

He aims to be there for his students so they know they have someone to talk to or to motivate them when things get tough. He said he is proud of them.

“I am more optimistic than ever that we will get through the semester without more campus shutdowns,” Strain said, “I’m proud of our students [for adapting] to life in COVID-19 America.”

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Scranton Clubs Recruit with Online Activities Fair

Every fall, the University of Scranton holds an Activities Fair for students to explore the various clubs and club sports offered on campus.

This year, the activities fair was online to adhere to social distancing. Clubs and club sports registered for an hour time slot between 12-3 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2020. First-year students and upperclassmen that were interested in a certain club joined the Zoom meetings to talk with the club officers and get some general information.

Patricia Cummings, program coordinator for the Center for Student Engagement, helped organize the event. Cummings said the club fair was very successful with over 400 students in attendance.

“At our typical outdoor club fair…we might have closer to 500 [students],” Cummings said. “Four hundred [students] is a success for us, especially given the online nature of the event.”

Students attending the fair were eligible to receive prizes such as a $50 Amazon gift card and even some Scranton apparel. Clubs were also eligible to win prizes, too. Cummings said she received positive feedback from students and club leaders.

“Students were very excited about [the] prizes,” Cummings said. “Club leaders had great [one-on-one] conversations with students.”

In past years, students would walk past club tables and sign their names and not have a conversation with the club leaders. This year, students tended to stay in the Zoom meetings and talk directly to club officers.

Rachel Smith, a senior biology major with a concentration in nutrition, is president of the Biology Club on campus. Continue reading

Oct 10: Fall Break in West Chester, PA

After a few very stressful weeks, I was ecstatic to go home and have some down time. My fall break wasn’t anything exciting, but it was exactly what I needed! The first thing I see when I get home is the changing leaves in Chester County and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

It was great to spend quality time with my family and just relax. When I got home, I was immediately greeted by my dog, Cody, and he followed me around for a good two days.

On Saturday, I got to go out to one of my favorite breakfast places, Hanks Diner, with two of my best friends, Emily and Maddi. The French toast there is to die for! We also met up with our friend, Logan, and had a good time sharing laughs and catching up on each other’s lives at school. Later that evening, I had dinner with my family and my dad made my favorite dish, spaghetti and sausage! When I smell that pasta sauce being made, I know I’m in for a real treat.  But, the best part of the day was sitting on the couch and watching a movie with my mom. My dad calls us “TV buddies” and always tells me how much my mom misses me. We watched the movie A Good Year. Of course, it’s a romantic comedy … that’s our favorite genre! Along with all the family time, I got to see our family friends and their kids. The kids are two years old and five months and they just bring so much happiness to my life! I always make a point to see them when I come home.

When it was finally time to leave, my mom and I decided to treat ourselves one last time and get our nails done. We always say that it makes us feel more put together having a fresh color on our nails. Now I’m starting the week feeling refreshed and ready to work hard until Thanksgiving!

November 16

Crossing Cultures: Global Insights into Nigeria


By: Kayla Johnson

Last Thursday, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services hosted their final Global Insights presentation, which enables members of the University community to learn about different cultures from the perspective of a current international student.

The final presenter was Uzoma “Uzo” Agbasionye, who was born and raised in Enugu (located in the eastern part of Nigeria). His talk covered everything from geography and politics to his plans for the future.
When Agbasionye came to the United States he was sure life here would be something out of a movie, specifically “Mean Girls,” because this was his only experience with American culture. He was interested in coming to the United States to learn about the many cultures represented here. Here at Scranton, he studies business management and loves playing sports, especially soccer, basketball and volleyball.

The chief of his village, he said, is his grandfather who had seven wives and 44 children. Agbasionye spoke openly about how he loves seeing and living with his grandmother, how his mother is stricter than the strictest parents in the United States, and how he would love to stay here and make a life where it is safer and where he could have a family.

This semester, Global Insights has featured students from Palau, Yap and Vietnam.

Check out more photos from Global Insights on our Flickr page.

Learn more about the Office of International Students and Scholar Services here.

University Celebrates Veterans Day

By: Megan Castaldi

To honor and celebrate our Veterans and ROTC community, The University of Scranton hosted several events on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. These events included an inter-faith prayer service over a “Field of Flags,” a Veterans Center dedication, an open house for the Veterans Center and a Veteran lecture series.

The Veterans Center dedication is for our newly constructed Veterans and ROTC Resource Lounge in Hyland Hall.  With this new lounge, Veterans and ROTC members can gather and offer information to new veterans.

Dr. Daniel Fraustino, a representative for the Veterans Club Advocacy Committee, said that the new Veterans Resource Lounge is the culmination of several years of hard work by Robert Zelno, a recently retired staff member, and the Veterans Advisory Committee, an association of professors and professional staff at the University.

The Veterans Advocacy Committee hopes the new Veterans Resource Lounge will be a good place for current and incoming Veterans to congregate.

“The committee is dedicated to reaching out to veterans applying to the University and those already studying here,” said Fraustino. “The VAC intends to create a welcoming environment, academically and socially, where defenders of our freedom can meet, study, and talk.”

For more information about Veterans Day and The University of Scranton, click here.

Q and A with Lauren Conniff, creator of the Instagram account @uofshumans

By: Robert Bauer

Lauren Conniff
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Class: 2017
Major: Strategic Communication


Lauren Conniff is a rising senior who is also the proud creator of @uofshumans, an Instagram account that peers into the lives of the members of our Royal community. She wants to use this account to tell the stories of people that others might not hear or read. I had the opportunity to sit with her and talk about her work!

Q: Do you want to briefly describe what Humans of The University of Scranton is?

A: It’s basically my spin on Humans of New York. I truly believe that everyone has a story, but not everyone has a platform to tell it. So, I wanted to do my best to tell the stories of the people who never would if they weren’t asked.

When I meet up with the person I give them a really vague prompt, like “just talk about something that impacts you everyday,” or “[what’s] something cool that happened to you today?” or “[what’s] something that is significant in your life?” and then they just rattle off whatever they can think of off the top of their head. Interviews are no more than three minutes long.

Sometimes we’ll end up talking for 20 minutes after the recorder is off because we end up getting into such a good conversation, and why stop something that’s good?

Q: Because you are in the Class of 2017, how are you going to hand off the account? Do you have any plans for that?

A: I think it would be cool to give it to a current junior at the end of the year, because then they’ll be in their senior year and be the place where I am and want to get to know the people around them. There’s something special about having a Senior doing it because they’ve seen more and experienced more.

Q: What do you hope people take away from the account or what kind of feelings are you hoping to instill upon people?

A: I hope that, if anything, people realize this campus and this University is so diverse and that there are so many people with stories to tell. You truly don’t know a person until you ask them to tell their story, just as much as you think you can narrow someone down to a couple of sentences, they probably have years and years worth of stories and life experiences to tell you.

It just shows that there is more to a person than what they show on the surface, and it’s our job to figure it out as people trying to get to know people that we’re walking past every day and hope that they can share some wisdom with us.

You can find the stories as reported by Conniff on Instagram by following @uofshumans.

October 19

What I did for Fall Break

By: Kayla Johnson

After the stress of midterm exams and papers, Fall Break was much needed. I was looking forward to some rest and relaxation in the comfort of my home. I got home that Friday afternoon and was instantly greeted by my puppy; he’s a Yorkie named Cooper. It was easy to get back into my routine at home, playing around with my dog and hanging around with my sisters, Brianna and Hailey, and catching up with my ultimate best friend — my mom.

I finally got to see my best friend, George (who I’ve known since I was 5), we talked about anything and everything, like we always do. We binge watched all of the Star Wars movies and downed every kind of candy — maybe too much candy (especially gummy bears, my personal favorite).

My next stop was my grandmother’s house, where I was served up some delicious, homemade Italian pasta with her original marinara sauce paired with meatballs and garlic bread. The perfect meal. It was a basic family night surrounded by my favorite people sharing laughs and never-ending jokes — something I look forward to whenever I come home.

Although it may not seem like much, this Fall Break was everything I needed — a nice amount of relaxation balanced with seeing some of my favorite people. I always look forward to some time to myself without the pressures of schoolwork, but, I also can’t wait until I can come back and see all of my friends. No matter where I am, I always have so much to look forward to and I couldn’t be happier about it.

By Megan Castaldi

Fall Break is one of the most anticipated breaks that we have at The University of Scranton. It is the first break of the year, so I am always eager to go home to visit with my family and any of my friends who may be home as well.

This Fall Break I did not go anywhere exciting or do anything crazy, but rather relaxed and appreciated my time at home. I got to see some of my friends from home, celebrate my sister’s 22nd birthday, watch my brother’s soccer game and bake a bunch of cookies with my grandma.

My grandma loves to bake, so it was nice to do something with her that she really loves doing; she also makes the best cookies you’ve ever had, so that’s an added plus.

The combination of all of these small things made for a very enjoyable Fall Break for me. It was nice to get a break from doing schoolwork and to hang out and enjoy the fall season with family

A Night at the Iron Furnaces: Scranton Bonfire Festival

By: Kayla Johnson

Scranton Bonfire FestivalThis past Saturday, Scranton’s historic Iron Furnaces hosted the sixth annual Bonfire festival. The Bonfire Festival acts as a fundraiser for the Anthracite Heritage Museum and explores the roots of Halloween in good, old-fashioned Celtic style.

Other autumnal festivals and Northeastern Pennsylvania’s industrial history are brought to light and celebrated through the Bonfire Festival. This year’s festival featured tarot card readings, fire twirlers, a Jack-O-Lantern contest, face painting, fire hooping, a balloon artist, stilt walking, a Day of the Dead ofrenda, a fairytale demonstration and plenty of hands-on activities sponsored by the Everhart Museum. There was live theatre, dance performances by Symmetry Studio, a Harvest Display by the Greenhouse Project at Nay Aug Park and — last but not least —the amazing ceremonial lighting of the bonfire.

All were encouraged to come dressed in their Halloween costumes and enjoy the historic site. The crowds enjoyed the activities as the furnaces acted as a picturesque backdrop.

Read more about the bonfire, here!

Step into Reality: The Poverty Simulation

By: Kayla Johnson

This past Friday, the Campus Ministries’ Center for Service and Social Justice hosted the Poverty Simulation, an exercise that allows students to explore what it’s like to struggle to survive with only the bare minimum on a month-to-month basis. The purpose of the simulation is to open the eyes of more than 80 students to the daily battle low-income families deal with, whether it’s being on welfare, attempting to get their next meal or finding child care for children.

“I did this in order to gain a greater insight as to what the real world could be like . . . good or bad,” said Adrian Laudani, a junior who participated in the Poverty Simulation.

The simulation took place in DeNaples and introduced a host of students to the severity of living an impoverished life in this country. The students assumed the roles of more than 26 families facing the harsh reality of poverty. Some of those 26 families are newly unemployed, others are homeless, while some may be senior citizens receiving disability as well as trying to raise their grandchildren. The job of the “families” is to supply basic necessities and decent housing during the course of four weeks lasting 15 minutes.

October 12

One Junior’s Incredible Tour of #OurScranton

By: Kayla Johnson

downtownThough it was the first week of October, the sun still warmed Scranton. Blue skies and picture-perfect clouds were above. It was the ideal weather for my tour of downtown Scranton. From Northern Lights and Adezzo to Bar Pazzo and the Daisy Collective, I had my fair share of discovering to do. There were countless restaurants and shops I hadn’t even known existed, even though I’ve begun my third year at Scranton. There’s just so much to do on campus, I just never found myself walking past Osaka, a Japanese restaurant, or Northern Lights, an adorable coffee shop, when it came to exploring downtown.

“My favorite thing about living and working in downtown Scranton is the consistent growth and development that is happening all the time,” said Jessica Durkin, Community and Government Relations & SBDC assistant (as well as a resident of downtown Scranton). “We have all of the conveniences of a big city: shops, restaurants, coffeehouses, etc., with the familiarity that comes with living in a close-knit community. New businesses have been frequently appearing all over the city, something that I am very excited to see continue.”

There were a variety of shops and restaurants that I wasn’t even aware of. Bar Pazzo is a definite stop on my next visit; they have an entire gelato bar and some tasty pizza (and flavors dedicated to the fall season, which are some my favorites). The Daisy Collective, a women’s clothing shop, is new to town and has a cozy interior with chic, modern decorations. There are so many stops and places where students can sit back and relax or do some studying with friends. Adezzo, a coffee shop, offers the perfect combination of ambience and strong coffee (to power through an extra exhausting study session).

Downtown Scranton was full of surprises (the great kind!), and it made me wish I had taken the journey two years ago. So, set aside a date and take walk around downtown! You won’t regret it.

Check out my downtown tour on Snapchat here.

Experience more downtown Scranton photos on our Flickr page.