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Posted by on in Internships

b2ap3_thumbnail_Rachel-N_20150806-182248_1.jpgUpon her arrival at her internship in an unfamiliar jungle located in a foreign country, Rachel Narasimhan, as one might expect, felt a bit homesick. However, she received comfort from an unlikely source, in the form a baby howler monkey named Stevie. After that moment, she never looked back.

This summer, the Waynesburg University senior biology major spent a month as an intern at Aloutta Sanctuary, a rehabilitation and research center located on the Chiriqui Peninsula of Panama, observing and working with monkeys like Stevie. During her time at the sanctuary, she was able to work with many different types of monkeys, including two capuchins, two Geoffrey’s Tamarins and two baby howlers.

While there, Narasimhan was provided with many opportunities to interact with and observe these monkeys, taking on responsibilities such as providing enrichment for them and watching and recording any behaviors they might exhibit that are typical to monkeys in captivity. Each day, she spent nearly an hour documenting howler behavior in order to compile an ethogram, an inventory of every behavior exhibited by the howlers during the period of time in question. It was through observations such as these that she learned how to read and interpret their facial expressions and body language, so as to improve her interactions with the monkeys.

“It is one thing to see them in photographs and to learn about their behavior in a textbook, but nothing compares to seeing it in person,” Narasimhan said.

She was also able to bond with these animals through activities such as grooming sessions and cuddling with the babies. To prevent the monkeys from becoming bored, the interns often rearranged the branches in their enclosure or hid food in interesting places for them to find, tasks fun for both the monkeys and the staff.

In addition to working with the monkeys, Narasimhan spent time studying the effects of teak harvesting in a local teak plantation on the animals that live there. Despite being profitable, teak plantations are often devastating to local mammal populations. However, she found that through collecting the teak in a way that leaves the understory rather than completely removing it, the plantation will be more sustainable.

“Conservation and sustainability are the reason for all of our work at Aloutta, and I [enjoyed] learning about how to make the world a better place, one step at a time,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan feels as though she was truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend part of her summer at the Aloutta Sanctuary. The experience has showed her how much she enjoys working with animals. Upon graduation from Waynesburg University with a major in biology and a minor in psychology, she hopes to be able to continue doing the type of work she experienced during her time in Panama.

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Posted by on in Alumni

Psychology

Assistant Professor of Psychology at Keystone College

La Plume, Pa.

Additional Info:

  • Bachelor of Science, Waynesburg University, 2007
  • Master of Arts, Kent State University, 2009
  • Doctorate in Experimental Social and Health Psychology, Kent State University, 2012

“My experience as a student at Waynesburg University instilled in me a desire to light the way for others through the motto of ‘Fiat Lux,’ which means ‘let there be light.’ I learned the value of caring and compassionate mentorship from the small classes and relationships with faculty at Waynesburg University. Now as a young professor myself, I consistently draw upon my Waynesburg experience to guide me. I seek to pay forward my Waynesburg experience by helping my students find their path like I did.”

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Posted by on in Alumni

Psychology

Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University

Bellingham, Wash.

Additional Info:

  • Recipient of the distinguished Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman & Francis J. Bonner MD Awards
  • Fellow and Visiting Professor at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
  • Bachelor of Science, Waynesburg University, 1961
  • Master of Science, University of New Hampshire, 1965
  • Doctorate in Social Psychology, University of Oklahoma, 1969

“If not for Waynesburg University, I'm not certain I would be where I am today. Waynesburg provided me with a strong spiritual and educational foundation that stays with me all the time.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Digiandomenico_Kyle_6.JPGFor his passion for service, Waynesburg University awarded Kyle Digiandomenico the prestigious Bonner Scholarship as an incoming freshman. Now three years later, the junior psychology major credits the scholarship for not only allowing him to become a better servant leader, but also for helping to earn him a summer 2013 internship at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.  

“I used many techniques I learned in my psychology classes,” Digiandomenico said. “But without experience from many of the sites I serve at through the Bonner Scholar Program, I would not have been equipped to pursue the internship.”

Waynesburg is one of only 23 higher education institutions in the nation to award the Bonner Scholarship, which offers scholarships to approximately 15 incoming scholars each year. The scholarship requires awardees to perform eight to 10 hours of community service each week, as well as two summers dedicated to serving. 

For Digiandomenico, a summer at the Clinic counted toward the Bonner Scholar Program’s summer service requirement, while also fitting within his academic pursuits. According to Evan Kephart, the Interim Coordinator of the Bonner Scholar Program, Digiandomenico embodies what Waynesburg University means by “service learning.” 

“There is a huge difference between service and service learning,” Kephart, a former Waynesburg University Bonner Scholar himself, said. “When a student is able to serve within their selected field of study, they are able to take the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom and bring them to bear in solving social or environmental issues. That is what makes Kyle's situation so significant; he was able to use his classroom learning to serve kids at a higher level, which is exactly what the Bonner Program is about.”

Digiandomenico said that working with children and understanding the concepts from his psychology courses prepared him for work as an undergraduate group counselor at the Clinic. He worked with Cleveland Clinic’s Summer Treatment Program for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help modify behaviors, develop problem solving skills and enable them to take control of their behavior.  

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. The Summer Treatment Program (STP) is a seven-week behavior modification program that helps children, adolescents and their families learn to manage ADHD. 

“I was assigned two specific children from our group of 10,” Digiandomenico said. “I created individual goals, requirements and plans for them. I was responsible for labeling the negative behaviors, documenting them on a chart and creating goals that we tailored to the specific frequency of negative behaviors.” 

As a part-time basketball coach for the Clinic, he worked to develop positive social interactions between the children in the classroom, a typical setting and an athletic setting. He also hosted daily therapy sessions for the children during which they could discuss anything they wanted. 

“My favorite part was getting to know the children on a deeper level,” Digiandomenico said. “It was a great experience to understand what the children were struggling with at that point in their lives and it was so exciting to work with them one on one to come up with skills to solve those problems.”

Digiandomenico relied on his faith, developed in the heart and nurtured at Waynesburg University, to step outside of his comfort zone and apply for an internship with young people experiencing ADHD. 

“It was very challenging to work with attention deficient children, but I gained a new understanding of patience and problem solving skills,” he said. “I had learned the techniques in class, I had served several populations and I was discovering God’s will for me. Serving at the Clinic was an opportunity for me to tie all three aspects of my life together in real practice.” 

 

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