Students at Wilson, Mont Alto campuses tout benefits of higher learning

August 26, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The freshman blushed just slightly and ducked his head when he asked Julie Barrett how to get to his Monday afternoon class at Penn State Mont Alto.

Barrett quickly pointed out the correct entrance using her past two years on the campus as a knowledge base. The 20-year-old from Mercersburg, Pa., plans to finish her associate degree in nursing this year.

"It's an awesome nursing department. ... I just love the faculty here because they do everything they can to help you," she said.

Classes started this week for 1,238 students at the Mont Alto, Pa., campus nestled in the woods adjacent to Michaux State Forest.


Hundreds of other students have descended onto the campus of Chambersburg's Wilson College, although school officials there said they won't know the actual number of students enrolled for another two weeks.

"Wilson is a good place to get to know yourself," said Amy Weiland, 20, from Johnstown, Pa.

Weiland, who is in her senior year, chose Wilson because of its environmental sustainability program. She's volunteered on the campus farm and worked with solar energy and biodiesel.

A greater focus on environmental sustainability at the campus means a new floor of dorm rooms set aside for 30 students with that interest. Also, a campus spokeswoman said the school expects to soon purchase a few electric vehicles.

"In a lot of literature we've been reading, a lot of colleges are going this way," said Chris Mayer, program manager of the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living at Wilson.

Mayer pointed to rising prices for food and gasoline as an impetus for the efforts.

"Everybody is thinking about these things," she said.

Mayer is scheduling hikes, cookouts, field trips, movies and discussions concerning the environment.

Darnell Joseph, 19, discovered that the environment at Penn State Mont Alto is different than his home in New York City.

"When I came to visit, I really liked the area. Lots of trees," the engineering major said.

Penn State Mont Alto recently joined the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and has plans to soon develop an intercollegiate baseball field on campus. The school added six new faculty positions for 2008-09, a campus spokeswoman said.

Leah Schultz, 20, of Shrewsbury, Pa., already participated in a fall meeting of the dance club at Wilson, where evening classes started Monday. All others start today.

"I actually never really left campus over the summer," Schultz said.

The pre-veterinary major took summer classes and continued her work as student government president.

She praised the college for embracing its long-standing traditions, one of which will be the convocation on Sept. 2. There, the school's president and students leaders will make speeches followed by a small, formal parade and informal "song wars."

"It's a way we all come together," Schultz said.

Crystal Sharnas, who turns 18 today, joined her new roommate, Marsha Baylor, 19, for dinner in the dining hall at Wilson on Monday.

"This school has a great atmosphere," said Baylor, a transfer student who enters Wilson as a junior.

"It looks like a good school. I think I'm going to enjoy it," Sharnas said.

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