Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2022


THROUGH THE AGES Traditions we treasure P.2

Inside this issue: Young alumni – from toys to tech P. 10 Tiny Forest takes root at Mercyhurst P. 15 Fans cheer MAC renovations P. 20


A Message from President Getz

I write this noet on a gray winter day in the thores of the Omoicnr outberak, six months to the dya since I statred heer at Mercyhurs.t We are preparing for spirng semesetr with a week of vitrual teaching and minimal ocna-mpus gtaherings. Each dya brings newofrecasts about whtawe shouldxepect over the ocming weeks and motnhs and ever-changing guidanecas to how bestot keep ourocmmunyitsafe. Yet, everyone in ourocmmunyitcontinuesot respond with the cadno- attitude thtahas always been a Mercyhurst hallmka.r Since my inauguartion, I hvae been asked myantimesofr my observations and initial imepssrion.sI always begin with ourrgeatest strength – our peop. Oleur dedictaed faculyt , staf , students, and alumni suppotr one another and seekaylswto do whtaever needsot be done to help Mercyhurst thrive – and likewise our community. In this issue, you’ll read about how our people are working to fig h t human traffi ck ing and to protect missing and exploited children, how we are helping to reduce food insecurity, and steps we are taking to preserve our earthly resourc es – all ef orts fueled by our unshakable commitment to Mercy. On our camp,ulsife goes on.aFll semesetr was very near ly “normal ,” in terms of our abiylito conduct classes faec-to-face and gtaher of r athletic ocmpetitions; thteriacal, musical and daencperformances; socialand communyit -building events , suchasHurst Dayandour annual Christmas eclebra tion; “Beyond the Gates” service-learning inititaives; and much meo.r As you may have read in our last magaz,iwne pucrhased the Siesrts of Mercy Mothehr ouse, which we have since renovated with new classoroms, labs, and facult y ofc es for our nursingopgrrams . These facilities accommodtae the nursingopgrrams thtawe relocated from North Eastot Erie, a now compleet consolidtaion of all porgrams thta

strengthen our college community and permit greater efficie nc y in c ourse of erings. At this writing, we are finalizing the No r th East property’s sale. We have also launched some important new

initiatives consistent with the fi v e-year strategic plan we are developing. Among them is our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, signifie d by a new President’s Advisory Council comprised of students, faculty , and staf . The council is empowered to develop approaches to improving outcomes, to assess our progress, and to report to the larger community on our successes and setbacks. Again, we will keep you posted as we delve deeper into this project. Another area receiving increased attention is social and environmental sustainability, as shown in our commitment to join Pope Francis’ holistic approach to protecting the earth for future generations. You can read more about this Laudato si’ commitment on page 14. In closing, let me just r eaffir m how grateful I am for the warm welcome I’ve received from so many of you and for your continued support of our beloved university. Carpe Diem,

Kathleen A. Getz, Ph.D.

Presidential Inauguration — Oct. 2, 2021

ON THE COVER: As Mercyhurst readies for its centennial, we take a look at some of our treasured traditions, both old and new. (Cover design by Leena M. Clint ’16)


Mercyhurst Magazine is a publictaion of the O fc e of Marketing anduPblic Relations.

MagazinedEitors Deborah W. Morton 814-824-2552 Shery Rieder 814-824-2364 Design Leena M. Clint ‘16 814-824-3677

Contr ibuting Writers Cameor n Anzevino ’21 Kristian Biega ’20 Brandon Boyd Deborah W. Morton Dan Richeal Chris Rosato Jr. Contributing Photgraphers Leena M. Clint ‘16 Lauren Esper Ben Friesen Ed Mailliadr Mercyhurst Spotsr Information Director of Alumni Engagemten Lindsay Cox Frank ’12 ’14M 814-824-2330

Inside this issue 2

TRADITIONS THROUGH THE AGES Check out Mercyhurst’s historic traditions from its earliest days to now.

6 WILD TIMES AT MERCYHURST The Wild Brothers refect on family, football, and university life.

Send changes of adedssr to:

14 PROTECTING OUR HOME, SHAPING OUR FUTURE Mercyhurst commits to Laudato si’ Action Platform to “care for our common home,” inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical.

’ Alumni Reltaions Mercyhurst Uneivrsity 501 East 38 th Street Erie, PA 16546 If you haven ' t been receiving the bi-monthly Alumni eNeswletter, Mercyhurst does notvheaan active email adderss for you . Visit t o update your inof rmation anderconnect. We’d love to hear form you! Send your sot ry idea,ssuggestions and comments to .

5 8

University Dogs Ofer A Helping Paw

Serving the Underserved

10 17 18 20 25 28

Young Alumni – From Toys to Tech A New Look and Feel for Student Union

How Three Alumnae Carry on Sisters’ Legacy of Service Athletics Celebrates Sensational Seasons, Sparkling New Facilities

Happenings on the Hill

Class Notes


Traditions through the ages

By Deborah W. Morton

What mid-20th century Mercyhurst alumna doesn’t remember the grandeur of May Day? Who doesn’t wax nostalgic over Father-Daughter Weekend, or the Big-Little Sister Program of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s? Many of those early traditions have given way to popular new ones including Hurst Day, Day of Service, and SpringFest. Others, like the Mass of the Holy Spirit, are so deeply embedded in the university’s culture that they seemingly have no expiration date. Each generation of students observes time-honoerd traditions that de f ne the college experience in ways few other circumstances can. Traditions provide a sense of identity and community and engender school spirit. They also can be a ilttle spooky. Plenty of colleges have legendary tales of paranormal activity. Mercyhurst’s hallowed halls are home to so many ghost stories that the university hosts occasional tours to provide glimpses into the world of our very own Haunted Hurst. One of the more popular tales, no doubt lost in translation over many generations of storytelling, goes like this: A beautiful young female student became engaged to the love of her life just before he went off to war. She kept vigil, waiting patiently for his return, until one day she received word that he had died in action. Devastated by the loss, she gave her life to God and joni ed the convent. Some years later there came a knock at her door. It was her beloved. He was alive! While the reunion should have been joyful, it was immensely painful for the young woman who had pledged her life to the Lord. So confused and con f icted, it is said she lapsed into a deep depression. At some point, she placed her engagement ring on a statue in the college chapel and, shortly thereafter, passed away. What happened to the ring? No one can be sure, but legend has it that it mysteriously reappears from time to time in the chapel, and that’s enough to give believers the chills. Many will remember the annual Commencement March on State Street in downtown Erie, which took place from 1990 to 200 7. It was a grand procession of university leaders and faculty in colorful academic regalia and graduating seniors outfi tt ed in heavy black caps and gowns. One year, the weather was threatening, and umbrellas stood at the ready. For some reason, though, they never were distributed, and just as hundreds in the entourage lined up to take thei r f rst steps south on State, the sky opened up. The rain was unrelenting, and the entire graduation ceremony, held inside the historic Warner Theatre, was marked by a most u n c o m f o r t a b l e c a c o p h o n y o f s q u i s h y s h o e s , s o p p i n g r o b e s , a n d d r i p p i n g mortarboards.

Surely, there exist many more memorable moments, and we’d love to hear yours. Meanwhile, here’s a brief acounting of some current Mercyhurst traditions: Legend of the Anchor – The Mercyhurst anchor serves as a source of good luck for the Lakers and a reminder to hold strong in di Today, anyone who touches the anchor is said to be given good luck and strength in whatever storm may lie ahead. Day of Service – For new students, the academic year begins with a bonding exercise during which they board a dozen buses and travel to di f erent sites across Erie County to perform a morning of community service. Homecoming Weekend – This fall event welcomes alumni of all generations back to campus. Always popular is the opportunity to reconnect at the biggest tailgate of the year. Hurst Day – This is the best-kept secret of the year, when students awaken t o f nd that all classes have been canceled. The campus takes on a carnivallike atmosphere with a scavenger hunt, in f atable slides, jumps, obstacle courses, a dunk tank, rock walls, a mechanical bull, music, food, and prizes. Mass of the Holy Spirit – This is perhaps Mercyhurst’s oldest tradition, although it has evolved over time. Originally, the Sisters of Mercy held an opening day Mass to mark the spiritual start of the academic year; however, the actual Mass of the Holy Spirit, a Jesuit tradition, did not begin until 1996. Mercy March for Anti-Racism – Nowin its secondyear,thismarchis part of the university’songoingeff o rts in supportof diversity,equity, inclusion, and justice on its campus. Reunion Weekend – This popular event fetes alumni of all generations in celebration of landmark reunions, a highlight being the 50th anniversary class. SpringFe st – Always the highlight of spring, this campus-wide dance party, complete with a headlining music act, signals the close of the academic year. Senior Class Gift – Since 1989, the senior class has raised funds to leave its legacy to the college in the form of a gift, more recently, an endowed scholarship. Sister Damien Spirit Bell – Located in Trinity Green, the Sister Damien Spirit Bell commemorates Sister Damien Mlechick, a Sister of Mercy and devoted fan of Laker athletics known for boisterously ringing a cowbell at every big game. Now, after every athletic win, the team gathers in Trinity Green to ring the bell and sound out its victory.

f cult times.


’ EDITOR ' S NOTE: As we begin the countdown toward our centennial in 2026, we want you to share the anticipation with us. In coming Mercyhurst magazines, we ' ll highlight our memories and values, historic moments, and even a few tall tales that de f ne ’ “ The Mercyhurst Experience. In this issue, we highlight Mercyhurst traditions, some old, some new. If you have suggestions for further Countdown” features, or if you have any personal remembrances of traditions you’d like to share, please email Debbie Morton at .


Remnants of a Storied Past Here are some of Mercyhurst’s more memorable older traditions, as catalogued by university archivist Bryan Colvin: BIG-LITTLE SISTER PROGRAM In Mercyhurst’s early decades before going co-ed in 1969, the Big-Little Sister Program paired incoming freshmen with students in their junior year. The juniors acted as mentors and guides for the new students. The following year, the sophomores hosted the Sophonade formal dance, a Christmas pageant, and an end-of-year Lantern Night to say farewell to their senior Big Sisters. FATHER-DAUGHTER WEEKEND Th e f rst Father-Daughter Weekend was held in March 1966, the last in 1985. Mercyhurst’s female students welcomed their fathers to campus for a weekend of father-daughter bondin g f lled with activities that included a dinner dance, guest speaker, and sports event. MAY DAY Th e f rst May Crowning at Mercyhurst was held in 1929. Originally held in the Grotto, the annual spring event later moved to the front of campus. Students chose a May Day Queen and court, and everyone dressed in full-length white gowns. The last May Crowning was held in the late 1960s. OLD-FASHIONED FOURTH OF JULY Beginning in 1984, Mercyhurst’s Erie campus hosted an Old-Fashioned Fourth of July celebration, complete wit h f reworks. It became a well-known summer event in Erie, drawing a crowd of 50,000 in 1996 for the Erie Bicentennial. That year, Mercyhurst welcomed the John Philip Sousa Band to perform. The tradition ceased in 2006, as the crowds became larger than the campus could safely accommodate. Mercyhurst has continued to be the main sponsor of the City of Erie’ s f reworks display. ORPHANS CHRISTMAS PARTY In keeping with the college’s mission of service, Mercyhurst students hosted an annual Christmas Party for children from the local St. Joseph’s Orphanage. The children received gifts, treats, and visited with Santa. The tradition spanned decades and spread Christmas cheer throughout the community.


Taking an oudtoor study bear k withrPofessor Penny Hanes and her d,oLgucky, are, from left, Miguel Rivera, Aaron Smith,rFed Komb,eStephen Cannad,yand Myanna Smith. ‘Must Love Dogs’ people love their dogs so much. And, yes, there is one. In fact, there is an entire body of research on the subject. Accordin g to a study in the journa l Science , when human s and dogs look into each other’s eyes, both get a boost of oxytocin, which is the same feel-good hormone behind the special bond between new parents and their babies. In his latest book, “Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You,” behavioral scientist Clive Wynne of Arizona State University cites research showin g tha t a single , simpl e trait – the capacit y to love – is wha t make s dogs such perfect companions for humans. We could cite more sources, but su f ce it to say, Mercyhurst loves its dogs. Whether it’s a visit to the Counseling Center to share a quiet moment with Bailey, the university’s therapy dog; or escaping the complexities of chemistry, thanks to classroom visits by Larry, Professor Clint Jones’ corgi; or walking across campus with Professor Penny Hanes and her beloved rescue dog, Lucky, dogs have a special place on the Hill. Only in academia would you search for a scienti f c reason to explain why If the occasional encounter with one of these familiar canines isn’t enough, the university also hosts Dog Days in the fall and spring, when Mercyhurst faculty and staff b ring their dogs to campus to interact with students and share a bit of puppy love. Oh, and by the way, in addition to having two actual service dogs living on campus, the university also is home to these emotional support animals: 14 dogs, seven cats, one rabbit, one gerbil, and one crested gecko.


Wild times at Mercyhurst Brotherly trio refects on football, family, and university life

By Brandon Boyd

Twelve years of Wild at Mercyhurst University began with tears. Not from any of the three Wild brothers themselves, of course – in th e f rst meeting with then-Mercyhurst football head coach Marty Schaetzle, it wasn’t oldest brother and self-proclaimed “meathead football player” Zac Wild who cried. It was his father, James Wild. As a blue-collar worker in suburban Pittsburgh, James worked hard in the construction business to provide for his family and give the best to his three boys – Zac ’08, Ian ’12, and Garrett ’16. Their mother, Teresa Wild, worked part time in the family business and stayed home to help raise the boys. All three excelled in sports, and as Zac began getting recruited by colleges, they went on visits to various schools, including Mercyhurst. “I didn’t know anything about Mercyhurst until I was recruited for football,” Zac said. “But we visited Mercyhurst and had a great time. We sat down with Coach Schaetzle, and he o f ered [an athletic scholarship] and said, ‘Here’s what we can do for you.’” And in the same way opposing o f ensive linemen couldn’t hold back a blitzing Zac Wild, James Wild couldn’t hold back his tears after learning of his son’s scholarship o f er. “He was like, ‘let’s sign right now,’ and I’m just hitting him,” Zac said, laughing. “Like, stop embarrassing me. We’ll think about it.” That thought eventually turned into 12 years, three new Lakers, and a family forever Mercyhurst made. A Wild Introduction As th e f rst member of the Wild family to attend college, Zac describes himself as a trendsetter. “I did the hard work and navigated, and then [my brothers] are like, ‘There’s this nice pathway Zac created,’” he said, jokingly. And while his brothers would later come to Mercyhurst and make their own marks, it was Zac wh o f rst learned what it meant to be a Laker. Growing up, the Wilds lived a middle-class childhood, playing sports with the same kids and getting to know the same families. When Zac branched out for th e f rst time, he realized life looked di f erent outside his bubble. “Growing up, the focus was ‘get a paycheck and a pension, and you’re set,’” he said. “At Mercyhurst, I was meeting new people, making connections, and really expanding my horizons.” He expanded his horizons on the footbal l f eld, too, growing into a lineman with defensive prowess. One of his most impressive statistical games took place in 2007 versus Gannon, where he had six tackles and three sacks. Zac also had the chance to play with brother Ian during the 2008 season, when the elder brother’ s f nal season and the middle brother’s freshman season lined up, a memory that he now treasures.

The Wild Brothers – Zac, Ian, and Garrett Ian In Action Ian Wild felt homesick before ever leaving home. He had just committed to the University of New Hampshire, but something didn’t feel right. Having watched Z ac f ourish as a Laker, on a campus that seemed so welcoming, he opted to follow his brother’s lead and commit to Mercyhurst, where he had been recruited to play football and lacrosse. Ian eventually became a “golden boy” of the Lakers, helping Mercyhurst win it s f rst-ever national championship in men’s lacrosse during the 2011 season, with his fourth an d f nal goal of the championship game serving as the game winner. On the footbal l f eld, his physicality and athleticism helped him earn the Lakers’ Defensive MVP award in 2011, as well as First Team All-PSAC, and he helped the team make the NCAA Division II Football Championship Quarter f nals for th e f rst time. He would later go on to stints with the NFL’s Bu f alo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers in training camp and preseason, as well as playing several years for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. But it almost didn’t happen. At least not in that way. The weight of a demanding two-collegiate-sport lifestyle, coupled with injuries during his freshman year of lacrosse and his sophomore year of football, had him down and out.





“To be honest, I contemplated making a change,” Ian said. “But I stayed the course, and I did the physical rehab. That next year, we won the PSAC [in football], and then that spring we won the championship in lacrosse.” Had Ian made that change, he also wouldn’t have had the “best of both worlds,” as he describes it: Not only did he get to line up next to Zac on the footbal l f eld, but he also had a year playing with his younger brother, Garrett. Garrett On the Gridiron Th e f rst time Garrett Wild was recruited to be a Mercyhurst Laker, he wasn’t even a teenager. He was at Mercyhurst to watch Zac when one of the coaches pulled him aside and, in jest, acted like Garrett was on an o f cial visit. “At the time it was funny, and I was just thinking, ‘yeah, maybe one day,’” Garrett said. “As it turned out, eight or nine years later, I ended up at Mercyhurst.” It was a natural fit f or Garrett – he had been going to games at Saxon Stadium since middle school, and as a high schooler, he watched as Ian’s team won the PSAC. At his own school, Baldwin High School, he excelled as an all- conference player in both football and lacrosse. “Seeing my brothers’ success at Mercyhurst in f uenced me,” Garrett said. “Mercyhurst seemed like the right fi t , and it all just kind of fell into place.”

Just as he was in f uenced by his brothers, others’ opinions of Garrett were in f uenced by Zac and Ian’s previous performances. “I struggled sometimes, especially my freshman year with Ian’s success,” Garrett said. “I felt like people expected me to [play that well right away], too. I just had to work and let things play out. “I put my own pressure on me, so people didn’t really have to do it for me or bring up that I was a Wild brother,” he added. “They didn’t have to worry about me slacking – I took it upon myself to do my best.” He performed well as a linebacker from 2011 to 2014 and made the All-PSAC West Second Team in 2014. The Bond of Mercyhurst In the stands for many of those games was Zac, who, as the oldest brother by several years, got to appreciate Garrett’s play for th e f rst time post-Mercyhurst, continuing his connection as a Laker alum. Looking back, all three brothers had the chance to re f ect on playing for Mercyhurst and seeing the other brothers compete as Lakers. “We were all key players. We had similar drives. It was pretty cool that we all sustained really good careers,” Garrett said. “It all worked out for us, and I think that’s pretty special.”

For Zac, no w a f nancial advisor at Edward Jones Investments in Erie, he saw how being a Laker connected him with Ia n, a f nancial planner at All-Pro Advisors in Pittsburgh, and Garrett, a millwright and warehouse supervisor at J. Poli Inc. in Pittsburgh. “With our Mercyhurst experiences, while we didn’t experience it side by side, hip to hip, it still connected us all,” he said. “We were in the same locker room with the same coach, lifting the same weights. It gives us a great connecting point. And obviously, we can bond over football, but there are also things like eating at Egan Hall and classes we took.” And for Ian, he took time to think about how Mercyhurst impacted the Wild family over the course of 12 years. “You always feel welcome at Mercyhurst. And you always felt at home,” he said. “‘Hurst is Home’ felt true.”


Serving the Un derserved The “underserved” constitutes a broad category that envelops the poor, sick, hungry, homeless, uneducated, abused, and magrinalized. From their modest beginnings in 19th century Dublin, the Sisters of Mercy made caring for the underserved the cornerstone of their mission. So, too, it is at Mercyhurst University, where that mission is always at work in one form or another. Here are three ways Mercyhurst is working to right wrongs, fix t he broken, and keep the Sisters’ legacy alive in their community.

TAKEN – Mercyhurst fghts human trafcking

Criminal records: A modern-day scarlet letter The availability of criminal records on the internet poses overwhelming obstacles to citizens who have paid their debt to society and are trying to move forward with their lives. For one, they have been linked to perpetuating poverty because arrests and convictions are part of background checks that often impede quali f ed individuals from getting jobs with family-sustaining wages. For instance, should a 35-year-old single mother who was convicted of a drug o f ense when she was 18, and has since earned a college degree and not reo f ended, be hindered in her job Pennsylvania, and here in Erie County, is the Pardon Project, a vehicle for granting pardons to nonviolent o f endesr andthose meeting certain criteria, said Dr. Maria Garase, associate professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Mercyhurst. Garase and department colleague Atty. Tina Fryling, along with Colin Hurley, executive director of community engagement, are members of a steering committee whose aim is to take the Pardon Project of Erie County from concept to reality. search because of a criminal record? One solution that is gaining traction in “Our eff o rts on the committee focus on c reating a Pardon Hub where trainedvolunteers known as Pardon Coaches can help individuals complete a pardon applicationthat, if approved, would help them to earn a second chance in our community,” said Fryling who, along with Garase and Hurley, completed Pardon Coach training through the Erie County Bar Association’s continuing legal education program. In the long term, Garase said, the goal is to train and oversee students who will help low-income clients navigate the pardon application process,

Anyone who has seen the movie “Taken” starring Liam Neeson remembers the terrifying moment when his daughter is kidnapped. But that’s just the beginning, as she is sold into a sex-tra fc king ring. As a form of modern-day slavery, tr af ckers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of forced labor or sexual services against their will. The example in “Taken,” while chilling, is the extreme. More commonly, the process involves grooming, a painstakingly slow, furtive exercise. For several years, Mercyhurst has been at the front lines of various pursuits to combat the proli f c social problem. The university o f ers coursework on human tr af cking taught by Dr. Nicole John-Danzell, assistant professor of applied sociology/social work. It also maintains a student club and coordinates a communitywide organization, the Anti-Human Tr af cking Coalition Force, to connect local groups working in th e f eld toward a collective approach in combatting the crisis. Deborah Davies, assistant professor of intelligence studies, oversees both the coalition, which includes 150 community members, and the club, which

has more than 60 student members. Some of the latest e f orts include:

THE SOAP PROJECT Victims often say the only time they are alone while being tr af cked is in motel bathrooms. That’s why members of the Student Anti-Human Tr af cking Club are participating in the SOAP (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) Project. Students trained by

community coalition members are distributing bars of soap – wrapped with a red band bearing the National Human Tr af cking Hotline number (888-373-7888) – to local motels. The group also o f ers training for motel staff t o help them spot signs of tr af cking. 211 SERVICE In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission designated 2 11 the phone number for information and referrals to social services and other assistance. The 2 11 service is provided by more than 200 local organizations committed to serving their communities. In Erie, that organization is the United Way. Davies said the Anti-Human Tr af cking Coalition Force is actively working with the agency to provide human tra fc kinginformation. HIGH SCHOOL AWARENESS PILOT PROJECT Mercyhurst students are rolling out a pilot program to bring the message of human tr af cking to high school students. “Our model is to have a peer-to-peer conversation between Mercyhurst students and high school students, allowing for real-life discussion about using apps and other online features that could inadvertently open them up to predators,” Davies said. For more information on the anti-human tr af cking eff o rts at Mercyhurst, contact Davies at .


Forensics’ newest mission: Missing and exploited children

while providing the students with meaningful and focused racial and social justice experiential learning opportunities. “This project aligns nicely with the Mercy Mission and our Core Values, more speci f cally highlighting socially merciful and re f ectively aware values,” added Hurley. The Mercyhurst team joins representatives from the Erie County Court of Common Pleas, Erie County District Attorney’s O f ce, Erie County Public Defender’s O f ce, the Bar Association, and Gannon University, as well as members of the community, elected o f cials, business leaders, and agencies that serve lower-income individuals. For more information on the Pardon Project, contact Garase at .

They’ve identi f ed victims of fata l f res. They’ve helped to solve murders. Their work has given closure to families time and again. Now two forensic anthropologists at Mercyhurst University

have been tapped to assist with investigations into missing and exploited children.

Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat, chair of applied forensic sciences at Mercyhurst, and Assistant Professor Dr. Joe Adserias- Garriga have joined the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) as subject- matter experts. Dirkmaat’s expertise is centered on his pioneering work in recovering human remains from outdoor sites. In addition to being a forensic anthropologist, Adserias-Garriga is a forensic odontologist, who assists in identi f cation of remains through dental records. NCMEC o f ers forensic services to law

enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners to f nd missing children, identify unknown deceased children, and develop leads on child abduction homicides. According to its website, the Forensic Services Unit calls upon subject matter experts from a wide array of forensic disciplines to develop a comprehensive evidence strategy to ensure all possible forensic resources have been considered. When NCMEC put out a call for forensic anthropologists and forensic odontologists late last year, Dirkmaat and Adserias-Garriga knew their unique combination of skills could be valuable. In the end, NCMEC hired three forensic anthropologists and three forensic odontologists from more than three dozen applicants, with both Dirkmaat and Adserias- Garriga getting the nod. “For Mercyhurst to have one of each among all those who applied is very cool,” said Adserias-Garriga, whose impetus for getting involved was partially personal. “My mom is a pediatrician. … I don’t have any kids of my own, …. and I just thought this would be a way I could help children and their families,” she said. “Dr. Joe stood out for us because of her dual concentration, and the fact that she had experience dealing with cross-border issues,” said Carol Schweitzer, supervisor of NCMEC Case Manager Forensic Services, the latter referencing her work in locating, recovering, and identifying remains found in the vicinity of the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas. Of Dirkmaat, Schweitzer said, “We were blown away by his range of experiences, especially by his outdoor crime scene assessment and recovery. Plus, he had worked with NCMEC before in exhuming remains of unidenti f ed juveniles, and we valued his ability and the quality of his work.” Although the expertise of Dirkmaat and Adserias-Garriga typically comes after a victim is deceased, Dirkmaat said, “It’s critical when you are recovering remains, especially in light of a crime, that you use the best practices, and that’s where our archaeological recovery protocols come into play. We can help provide closure for families.” In selecting both Mercyhurst professors, Schweitzer said NCMEC considers itself fortunate. “Not only do they already have a working relationship, but Mercyhurst is a great university and has such a broad (forensic anthropology) program. We knew they would be a great pair to assign casework to.”

The Pardon Project Erie County Steering Committee includes, from left: Judge Stephanie Domitrovich; Julie Kresge, executive director, Erie County Bar Association; Atty. Tina Fryling, associate professor of criminal justice, Mercyhurst; Jacqueline Wilson Lager, executive director, Northwest Legal Services; Taylor Baker, graduate assistant, Mercyhurst O fc e of Community Engagement; Dr. Maria Garase, program director, Criminal Justice Administration, Mercyhurst; Atty. Tim George; Colin Hurley, executive director of community engagement, Mercyhurst; Peter Agresti, director, pre-law program, Gannon University; Jack Daneri, former Erie County District Attorney; Elizabeth Hirz, current DA; Aubrea Hanes, Erie County clerk of records; and Antonio Howard, pardon fellow, Pardon Project of Erie County.


Young alumni … intrepid pioneers Life’s a playground for toy designer Ashley Favata By Kristian Biega

Have you ever taken the time to really admire the craft behind toy design? Each sparkly streamer, colorful pattern, or exciting light and sound display had to be thoughtfully imagined by a designer long before a toy reaches the hands of a child. A senior graphic designer at Dynacraft Wheels, Ashley Favata ’16 uses her experience in graphic arts and fashion to design rideable toys that inspire children to explore and play.

“Working with all of the toys and brands that I grew up with makes my younger self really happy,” said Favata. In addition to working with name-brand products, one of Favata’s proudest achievements is her original designs for rideable plush animals called the Zoo Crew.

Her designs of a plush gir af e, panda, and elephant are now sold in Walmart stores nationwide.

“It’s really cool to see my designs in stores and on social media,” Favata said. “I also love having the photo shoots with the kids and the Zoo Crew. Seeing the kids hug and play

Favata began her career

with Dynacraft Wheels, the largest privately

held bicycle and wheeled goods distributer in the world, shortly after graduating from

with the plush animals is so

funny and fun.” Some of Favata’s other favorite projects include a rideable bus, a food truck with accessories, a dog wash station, and butter f y wings on a Barbie bike. Working with major retailers could be intimidating for some, but Favata has never shied away from the more challenging aspects of her job. “Designing in this industry is a weird balance between excitement and nervousness. It is a fun challenge

Mercyhurst, a journey that took the Bu f alo, New York, native to Atlanta, Georgia.

She’s been impressed by the vision of the company, led by owners who support their designers’ ideas but like to push the creative envelope. (Can it be more exciting, more imaginative, or more kid-friendly?) The result, she said, is that “Dynacraft is one of th e f rst companies, if not th e f rst, to start new trends in kids’ toys.” During the past several years at Dynacraft, Favata has applied her skills to various aspects of the design process, including social media, photography, graphics and logos, and training other designers. One of two senior designers on the team, her primary role is visual design. “In the design process, I get to do everything from lighting and sound e f ects,

to have deadlines, when you want to be sure to present your best designs all the time,” Favata said.

Favata said her foundation in art from Mercyhurst plays a major role in her job today, recalling lessons learned both in and out of the classroom. She was encouraged to pursue her creative passions by combining her graphic design major with fashion merchandising in a contract major. “I feel that I got my current job because of my experience with fashion as well as graphic design,” Favata said. “I really am grateful for all of the hands-on learning experiences and the support of my professors at Mercyhurst.” After nearl y f ve years with Dynacraft, Favata is grateful for the opportunities provided in her career and the experiences that helped her make it happen. “I got really lucky with this job,” Favata said. “I always knew that I wanted to go into a creative career, so right after graduation I dove into applying for any kind of design job I coul d f nd. I never imagined that I’d move to Georgia to work with toys, but I love what I do and am thankful that I get to be creative every day.”

to choosing the color and texture of the bikes, to the streamers and graphics on them – we are encouraged to try anything we can imagine,” said Favata. “My role in visual design means that I work closely with the industrial designers to ensure that everything I want to make visually can work physically.” When designing its quads, bikes, and electric ride-on toys, Dynacraft often works with notable brands including Barbie, Hot Wheels, Baby Shark, Marvel, and Transformers.


AIM science grads excel on career path because ‘Mercyhurst is not just a school; it’s an experience’

By Brandon Boyd

For two Mercyhurst graduates, the paleontology program and the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) not only set them up for the future,

Both students also took time to credit Professor Scott McKenzie and AIM Director Brad McGarry, whom Abney described as like a “second father,” as in f uential f gures during their time at Mercyhurst. “Scott was truly a mentor in the purest sense of the word,” Deak said. “He should be the gold standard, and everyone else in paleontology should follow by example.” McKenzie had similar praise for Abney and Deak as students. “They were inventive and contributed to the literature of the science by presenting

but also spurred them to explore the past via a Tyrannosaurus rex. Cooper Abney ’18 and

Michael Deak ’19 both have completed work locally at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, where they assisted with dinosaur skeletons, and experienced paleontology on a national level through venues including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Both students are currently wrapping up post- graduate work – Abney at Texas Tech University and Deak at Youngstown State University – and credit Mercyhurst for helping them advance professionally and socially.

posters, abstracts, and talks at several international geological meetings. It’s rare that undergraduate students do anything like this,” McKenzie said. “I believe that Cooper will

be a great ambassador for paleontology and natural history, and that Michael

will make discoveries that will further our

a understanding of the past.” Abney pointed to his time interning at the Smithsonian, where he helped set up a new dinosaur hall, as one of his favorite memories as a Mercyhurst student. He is wrapping up his time at Texas Tech University, where he has done collections-based work behind the scenes at the campus museum. There, he has documented items, learned museum laws, and honed preservation techniques. Deak cites mounting a dinosaur skeleton at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and studying the holotype specimen of T. rex at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for his thesis as highlights of his Mercyhurst career. He i s f nishing up his master’s degree in biological sciences at Youngstown State University and recently presented sloth research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology in Phoenix, Arizona. No matter how far they advance in paleontology and the sciences, both say their time at Mercyhurst allowed them to grow personally and professionally and — as with fossils they’ve cared for — both were able to explore and uncover who they could become. “Mercyhurst is not just a school; it’s an experience,” Deak said. “I de f nitely got the best experience out of it.” k

“My four years at Mercyhurst were among the best four years of my life thus far,” Deak said. “Being in the AIM program gave me a chance to socialize with other individuals who were on the autism spectrum and also prepared me professionally by going on various business trips to cities such as New York and Washington, D.C.” Abney agreed with the notion that Mercyhurst’s academics and AIM program helped him advance. “I wouldn’t have gotten to experience this otherwise, if it wasn’t for the AIM program,” Abney said. “Speci f cally, the work I’ve been able to do at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, hands-on time with various fossil and biological specimens in m y f eld, and the professional reputation that I’ve been able to build with experiences like these.” Both students’ geology major with a concentration in paleontology prepared them to advance their knowledge and experience within the f eld, and the AIM program equipped them with social experiences to take their careers to the next level.

“Up until college, I was a pretty socially awkward person,” Abney said. “The opportunities that the AIM program aff o rded me, such as social events and professional connections, have continued t o af

ect me

to this day.”


Liberal Arts Embraces Tech ‘Soft skills are anything but soft’

- As an English major at Mercyhurst, Jennings found her passion for writing and interest in a wel l rounded and humanistic approach to her career through inspiration from her professors. She formed a close mentorship with English professor Dr. Ken Schi f , who passed away in 201 7. He encouraged her to explore storytelling through creative non f ction, a skill she still uses today. “ Writing for user interfaces is just like writing creative non fi ction.You createa n experience for someone by using the right words and phrases ; it af ects how people feel. In my career, I am using language to create realities. That is essentially the reason I got into writing, said Jennings. ”

“ [Moving from creative writing to content design] wasn’t that hard of a change, Jennings said. “For many people, so much of writing is about trying to get it right – they want to create worlds like Tolkien or change the world like GloriaS teinem , butthat was never why I was drawn to writing. Learning ” – ” how to master language gave me the opportunity to bring structure, logic, and reason into the world. ’ In the fall of 2021, Jennings began a new position as principal product design architect at Danish customer support software company Zendesk, working with major clients such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. For Jennings, the best and most challenging part of her job is having a tangible e f ect on people ' s lives. She urges business and l af ect our society, both on a group and individual level. I really want people in these sorts of jobs to have taken classes in history, civics, “ ” philosophy, and ethics, so they know how our decisions will always have outcomes for other people, Jennings said. People “ innovation leaders to constantly think about how our digital environment and the advancements we create wil

“ Hazel Jennings ’09 has been working in the tech industry for the past 10 years and is con f dent that one of the most important assets of the industry, and the world, is a strong foundation in the humanities. Building complex technology is hard, so there is a huge need for technical skills, she said. “However, we are also changing the course of humanity with the things we build, so we need people with humanities backgrounds in the room when these decisions are being made. ” ” Technology in our world has made incredible strides in the past decade. Video chats, virtual doctor visits, and immersive augmented and virtual reality programs all are now easily within reach for many. One can only imagine the advancements that will continue into the next decade.

After graduation, Jennings moved to Pittsburgh to begin her career in the city ' s startup scene. She moved to San Francisco in 2012 and began working as a product

’ writer for Hotwire. In 2013, Jennings became the founding member of Instagram ' s c ontent team. Throughouht er career withInstagram as director of content design, Jennings got to name the di f erent photo fi lters, work on developing the Boomerang app for Instagram, as well as introduce Instagram Stories.

who have studied the humanities and, therefore, have a background in pattern recognition, critical thinking, and rhetoric


” and talking about over the next decade She carries her drive and years of experience with her in her new position with Zendesk, recognizing the challenges but con f dent that with the continued support of liberal arts education, the future is bright for the tech world. It ' s incrediblyintimidatingb,utyoujusthaveto feel the fear and do it anyway,” Jennings said. We are solving problems that have never been “ ’ “ ” creativity to do what we do In any industry, collaboration is key. That ' s why Jennings hopes those who have strong ’ . solved before. It takes a lot of con f dence and .

- Technology certainly has improved the lives of many around the world. Jennings has seen f rsthand as advancements in the digital world closely intertwine in our daily lives, for better or for worse. Her advocacy for the humanities is stronger than ever, as the world tackles these life altering changes. Things are only going to become even more immersive, and there are a lot of ethical “ can think about these things more easily than someone who spent their entire life learning to code.” questions surrounding these advancements, Jennings said. “These are the questions we need people in the liberal arts to be thinking

- the humanities are the key to a more people centered approach within the tech community. As a young professional who continues to assist in advancing our world of technology, Jennings proves her skills and foundation in the backgrounds in technical disciplines can work together more with those who have a di f erent set of skills. Despite the liberal arts often being seen as inferior to “hard skills” taught in other disciplines, students who have a background in research, rhetoric, and critical thinking based in

” humanities are anything but “soft.

COVID-19 frontliner earns respiratory therapist degree – twice

Francheska Martinez-Gomez '20 yearned to be a respiratory therapist, so much so that she earned her degree twice. The Mercyhurst University alumna is among COVID’s unsung heroes – those specially trained men and women whose job is to keep people breathing. In 2015, Martinez-Gomez relocated to Erie from Puerto Rico, where she had been trained as a respiratory therapist and worked in th e f eld for six years. Because her program was not acredited stateside, she was unable to practice her profession here.

“There were times I said, ‘I just can’t do this,’ but Christine and Nicole (Christine Gluvna,

program director; Nicole Marton, director of clinical education) were always there to stay after class with me, explain things, and give me the encouragement I needed to keep going,” she said.

Martinez-Gomez graduated in spring 2020, deep in the throes of a rapidly spreading pandemic. In terms of the timing, her skills couldn’t be needed more. Today’s respiratory therapists are in high demand and serve as vital members of the health care team. The career track is expected to grow by 23% within the next 10 years, and the 2020 median pay for respiratory therapists is estimated at $62,810 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Besides treating patients in pulmonary distress due to complications from the virus, respiratory therapists also help su f erers of asthma, bronchitis, COPD, pneumonia , f u, RSV, lung cancer, and more. In terms of her own return to th e f eld, any hopes of easing

She had come to Erie with her boyfriend, now of 25 years, who was here to have heart surgery. Besides supporting him in his health challenge, she had a lot to f gure out on her own: how to earn a living, how to becom e f uent in the English language, and how to restore her dream vocation. She began working at the Multicultural Community Resource Center (MCRC), where she was able to practice the language while helping those of the Hispanic and refugee communities adapt to life in Erie. Although working at the MCRC was rewarding, she said she longed to do the work she had done in Puerto Rico, a career choice that was inspired by watching respiratory therapists ease her grandmother’s su f ering from a debilitating lung condition. “It was then that I thought – wow – I want to be one of them,” she remembered. In time, Martinez-Gomez discovered Mercyhurst’s Respiratory Therapist Associate of Science Degree Program at North East and started saving her money to enroll. Then she took a job as a cashier at a local big box store, where she was able to work nights and go to school during the day. The second time around should have been a cakewalk, but still struggling with the language and having to translate her lessons before being able to learn them, was taking a toll.

into it were moot as she immediately stepped into the fast-paced environment of the emergency room and its step-down COVID unit at UPMC Hamot.

“It was scary at the time because we really didn’t know what we wer e f ghting,” she said, “but I really love the profession. I’m glad I made it.”


LAUDATO SI’ COMMITMENT University joins Pope Francis in holistic approach to protecting the earth for future generations

By Deborah W. Morton

The Mercy mission, the Sisters’ Critical Concerns, the university’s forthcoming strategic plan, sustainability initiatives, and commitment to diversity and inclusion – it’s as if they are all coalescing in a kind of re f ned harmony. The word “coalesce” has Latin roots that mean “to be nourished together,” and that is exactly what is happening at Mercyhurst with the university’s recent commitment to the Laudato si’ (Praised Be You) Action Platform inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical in which he urges “care for our common home.” In announcing the university’s commitment, President Kathleen A. Getz, Ph.D., says Mercyhurst joins more than 100 Catholic universities across the United States, Africa, Europe, and Latin America in honoring the Pope’s priorities. Essentially, he asks that institutions come together in a holistic approach to some of the political, social, economic, and environmental problems that plague the world today. The undertaking extends over seven years, with th e f rst dedicated to community building; then, over the nex t f ve years, pursuing plans to achieve seven concrete goals (see separate box) ; f nally, culminating in a year of giving thanks to God. “I am delighted that our university is advancing this timely Vatican initiative, which is both urgent and consistent with our own mission,” Getz said. “We see this as an opportunity to connect and expand our existing work, while developing plans to achieve new goals as responsible environmental stewards.” Getz noted that the university’s newest strategic plan, now under development,

already includes attention “to enhancing the university commitment to campuswide, environmentally sustainable practices in light of the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy.” During the next several months, the broad university community will work with Cabinet members to identify relevant university initiatives that are already underway. Under the Laudato si’ goal of “caring for the poor,” for example, the university o f ers The Beyond Scholarship in support of low-income students of color living in the city of Erie as well as the Pardon Project, Carpe Diem Academy, and alternative spring break service trips, including those supporting Habitat for Humanity. Two new university projects, which we examine here, are dedicated to “caring for the earth”: the Tiny Forest and the Tower Garden Project. “I have been struck by how Mercyhurst University students prioritize environmental sustainability and climate change as crucial moral and spiritual concerns,” said Dr. Greg Baker, vice president for mission. “The Laudato si’ commitment gives more shape to Mercyhurst’s enduring commitment to the earth, which we trace back in a special way to the tireless advocacy of Sister Maura Smith. This will allow us to look at broader issues through the lens of care for the earth – like buildings, vehicles, energy consumption, and curriculum. This will also allow us to look at how students and employees nurture and prioritize the Sisters’ commitment to 'ecological conversion' through simple, gentle, sustainable daily habits and attitudes.”

Seven Goals of Laudato si’ Action Platform • Care for the earth – with emphasis on addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecological sustainability. • Care for the poor – with special attention to vulnerable groups like indigenous communities, refugees, migrants, and children. • Develop an ecological framework for economics – by acknowledging that the economy is a subsystem of human society and part of our common home. • Develop an ecological framework for education – with a need to rethink curricular and institutional reform to foster ecological awareness and action. • Develop an ecological framework for spirituality – by encouraging greater connections with the natural world in the spirit of wonder, praise, and gratitude. • Adopt a sustainable lifestyle – with attention to su f ciency: living with just enough and not excess to ensure a good life for all. • Encourage community engagement – with attention to participatory action at all levels, local to international.


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