Role of a life: Theater professor donates part of liver to Clarion graduate

Marilouise Michel was scrolling through her Facebook feed early this year when a Clarion University graduate’s post leapt out at her.

Stevette Wano Rosen’s friend, a fellow Clarion graduate, needed a new liver. The donor must have a matching blood type and be able to take four to six weeks off work. Michel, a theater professor at Clarion, met both criteria.

“This has always been something that’s been an interest of mine,” she said of organ donation. Her father was a surgeon, and her cousin had a kidney transplant, among other inspirations.

Michel wrote to Rosen for details and learned about Tammy Pawlak, who had been in a coma and has an 8-year-old daughter.

“I was sitting in my office in the university, and I took a deep breath, and I typed, ‘I’m O positive,’” Michel said. “Everything from there was in capital letters.”

The exchange triggered a whirlwind of meetings, testing (including 43 vials of blood drawn), and paperwork. For privacy reasons, doctors did not introduce Michel and Pawlak, but the two chose to meet in Maryland.

“We tried to be really mutually supportive through the whole thing,” Michel said. “Because (Tammy) was a student, she almost feels like a distant relative. I’ve been at Clarion 27 years, so it feels like she’s a part of my family.”

Rosen echoed the feeling of kinship.

“I was absolutely blown away — relieved but not surprised because of Mel’s personality and all of our passion for Clarion University,” Rosen said. “You just become a family.”

‘A fabulous cake’

The donation process culminated June 6, when Michel underwent a multi-hour surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center. When it was over, she’d given 60 percent of her liver to someone she’d known a few months. Her souvenir: a 36-staple “shark bite,” as she calls it, winding across her abdomen.

Marilouise Michel, a theater professor at Clarion University, shows off her “shark bite,” after donating part of her liver to a Clarion graduate. Photo courtesy of Marilouise Michel

“I really feel like it’s not something I do,” she said. “It’s something doctors do, but they can’t do it without the ingredients — almost like a chef making a fabulous cake. I’m able to supply the ingredient to do this wonderful thing for this person.”

The recipe required some preparation: Michel followed a strict diet when she was concerned about one of her test results, and she cut alcohol in April.

“I did spend a lot of time dreaming about pizza and beer,” she said with a laugh. Her doctors cleared her to drink moderately eight weeks after surgery, and she had her first post-donation beer in early August.

Michel, a yoga teacher, also craved movement.

“I was doing yoga poses on the gurney (in the preparation room),” she said, because she knew some positions would be off-limits for a few weeks after the procedure.

She’s had no complications so far and planned a summer of sailing and “gentle camping in the woods away from doctors and needles,” she said. At an appointment in early August, Michel saw MRI images that showed her liver regeneration was “pretty much done now,” she said.

Collaboration was another critical ingredient, Michel said. She cited her family, her aerobics class that donated restaurant gift cards to her family, in-laws in Maryland who provided accommodations when she was in Baltimore for appointments, supportive colleagues, and friends.

“It was a real team effort,” she said. “I just happened to be the person who got cut open.”

Knowledge is power

A comfort to Michel throughout the process was the knowledge that she was not obligated to donate, she said. It was her choice.

“I was constantly checking in with myself and my liver, asking ‘are you OK with this?’” she said.

Pawlak was relieved the transplant went as smoothly as it did, she said from her home in Maryland. Her recovery has been slower than Michel’s, but she’s thinking positively, she said.

Marilouise Michel, left, and Clarion University graduate Tammy Pawlak take a photograph before their surgeries in June. Photo courtesy of Marilouise Michel

“I’m taking it one day at a time, baby steps,” she said. “Every day is a step toward 100 percent.”

The healthier she becomes, the closer Pawlak is to a trip to Clarion, where she has family — and friends.

“Clarion brought us all together,” Pawlak said. “I’ll forever be grateful for Stevette and Mel.”

Meanwhile, Michel intends to continue advocating for organ donation.

“So many people are waiting for livers, and you have to be so sick to be at the top of the list to get deceased donors,” Michel explained. “There’s a much better success rate with living donors.”

Michel has plans to make that success possible for others.

“My biggest contribution will be with my mouth … demystifying the process,” she said. “I think it’s the unknown that’s scary. If you can talk to somebody that’s been through it, maybe that can help people. I’m an educator. Knowledge is power. The more I can help people understand the process, the more other people can help people, too.”

Helping can be as simple as opting to be an organ donor on one’s license or giving blood, something Michel does regularly, she said.

“I could go to sleep and let somebody cut a hole in me and cut out part of my liver,” she said. “I don’t think it makes me a great hero because I think everybody has what they can do. I wish I could save lives every day. I help kids hopefully pursue their dreams. This is a way that I could help Tammy pursue her dream of being a mom.”

—Kathryn Morton, APSCUF communications director

Summer internship full of learning, experience

When I first accepted my internship offer at APSCUF, I was overwhelmed with excitement, but I was a little anxious to move across the state entirely by myself for the summer.

Lindsey Newton, APSCUF intern, visits the Pennsylvania Capitol in June.

The APSCUF staff made my transition as easy as possible. Everyone was friendly and made me feel like a part of the staff from the very beginning.

This internship is special because you experience two internships in one. You work closely with the director of communications and the director of government relations, making it a great experience for any related major.

As a political-science student, going to the State Capitol and meeting with legislators and lobbyists was one of my favorite opportunities. It was exciting to get an inside perspective of what was happening, particularly during the budget season.

APSCUF has weekly staff meetings, which is a great way to catch up on what is happening within the union during the upcoming week. I also went to a few Board of Governors meetings. It was interesting to see the board vote on different issues, such as the tuition increase, firsthand.

I attended a few different rallies this summer. During the rallies, I ran APSCUF’s Instagram and Snapchat. I learned a lot about managing social-media accounts for APSCUF. I already began using these skills to enhance the social-media presence of Slippery Rock’s Young Progressives, of which I am co-founder and president.

I interviewed members of APSCUF, both professors and coaches. It was exciting to meet so many different people. This was my first time writing an interview, so I was interested in learning a more creative style of writing.

My internship was not limited to learning at APSCUF. I shadowed a lobbyist from Triad Strategies for a day. I sat in on a meeting about healthcare and learned about some of Triad’s clients and what their firm lobbies for, such as education and healthcare.

Newton, holding a poster she made for the PA Conference of Teamsters’ anti-“right-to-work” rally in June, posts photos to APSCUF’s Instagram account.

This year is APSCUF’s 80th anniversary. Interning during this time has been a memorable experience. To prepare for APSCUF’s celebration in September, I had the opportunity to look at various documents dating back to the ’40s. I even learned how to use a microfilm to read meeting minutes from the ’70s. I looked through and organized countless pictures of past events and members. Being able to see various parts of APSCUF’s history made me more grateful for this internship. I felt like I understood APSCUF and its members better.

Beyond the amazing experiences from interning, another benefit is APSCUF provides housing for interns who do not live nearby, making the internship accessible for all students in the State System, not just for students near the Harrisburg area.

My experience at APSCUF has been invaluable to me. I learned so much, lessons I likely would not have learned if it were not for this internship. I am grateful for the knowledge I gained, the experiences I had, and the connections I made during my time at APSCUF.

If you want firsthand experience on how our faculty union functions, while gaining experience in a field you enjoy, then apply for APSCUF’s internship. APSCUF is a great union for our universities’ amazing professors and coaches, and I am thankful to have been a part of it for the summer.

Lindsey Newton, APSCUF’s government-relations and communications intern for summer 2017, will be a senior this year at Slippery Rock University.

APSCUF life: Outside work translates back into classroom

Dr. Brian Okey, associate professor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania, tests water near Beaver Run Reservoir. Photo courtesy of Brian Okey.

Last summer, APSCUF went behind the scenes to show how faculty members and coaches continue to devote themselves to affordable, quality education even when class is not in session. This post is a continuation of that series.

As an associate professor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s department of geography and regional planning, Dr. Brian Okey spends much of his time outside the classroom.

“My emphasis has always been on environmental issues, more specifically, resource issues,” Okey said.

When concerns began to rise about the negative effects Marcellus Shale gas-well drilling might have on the water supply of Beaver Run Reservoir, Okey got involved.

Okey and colleague Nate McElroy began collaborating with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County on the Beaver Run Project in 2011. The project monitors the quality of water around Beaver Run Reservoir, a source of water for around 130,000 people.

The project employs roughly half a dozen students — undergraduate and graduate — each year.

“The project feeds into classroom teaching, while providing employment and practical experience for students,” Okey said.

The team of faculty and students goes out to the sites quarterly to sample the water. This is done usually throughout three days, typically on weekends to accommodate everyone’s schedule. A normal day of sampling takes between four to six hours, Okey said.

“There is a lot of rigorous hiking throughout the trails to get to the site,” he said. “It’s very physically demanding.”

Aside from the hours onsite, the project requires upkeep on the field data and equipment. Okey and his students work with geographic systems to maintain maps and other information.

Students also have an opportunity to gain experience abroad. Okey and colleague Sudeshna Ghosh developed courses with the department of architecture and regional planning at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to bring students to India to collect field data. This past June, the team gathered information about the water quality in the wetlands east of Kolkata. This region is a vital source of fish and vegetables for the citizens, Okey said.

Okey is also part of a nonprofit group called the Altman Watershed Association for Restoring the Environment, of which he is the former president. The group works to protect streams from coal mining, is constructing a rail trail, and it participates in an annual trash cleanup.

This outside work can be translated back to the classroom learning experience for the students, Okey said.

—Lindsey Newton, APSCUF intern

Championship baseball coach works toward common goals

West Chester University baseball coach Jad Prachniak, right, said he is thankful for the opportunity to be a member of APSCUF.
Photo courtesy of West Chester University

How do you win NCAA Division II national championships twice in six seasons?

Coach Jad Prachniak would be someone to ask: He led West Chester University’s baseball team to this accomplishment in June.

Consistency was key, and the team focused on one day at a time, Prachniak said.

“We just have to play better than the other team on that day,” he said.

In 2012, Prachniak coached his team to win the national championship, a special first season for him with the West Chester Golden Rams. Previously, he was an assistant coach at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

While both wins were great accomplishments, Prachniak said, they feel different.

“The years in between gave me a new appreciation for this championship,” he said, adding he is proud of both teams for dealing with the adverse situations that come up throughout the game.

The best feeling about the championship wasn’t just the win itself, Prachniak said.

“(It was) knowing every member of the team played a role in winning; it wasn’t just the starting lineup that got us there,” he said. “It was a great team to work with.”

Prachniak’s favorite part of his job is the day-to-day interaction with the athletes, he said. The talented players remain focused in a conference Prachniak described as competitive with very good teams.

Prachniak said he is thankful for the opportunity to be a member of APSCUF. Being in a union as a coach is a special setup — one that is helpful and important to him, he said.

“Working in college athletics often creates a unique support system naturally, with coaches and support staff working towards common goals together,” Prachniak said. “Being a member of APSCUF takes that support system to a higher level. The collaboration of APSCUF puts us in a better position to provide positive learning experiences for our student-athletes.”

—Lindsey Newton
APSCUF intern

Read the full NCHEMS report

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems this afternoon released its full report of its review of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Click here to download a PDF file of the report.

After Chancellor Brogan’s retirement annoucement, APSCUF looks forward to collaboration with State System

Chancellor Frank T. Brogan speaks at Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s Advocacy Days media event in April at the Pennsylvania Capitol. APSCUF file photo

Chancellor Frank T. Brogan today announced his Sept. 1 retirement from Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Click here to read the State System’s press release. Click here to read APSCUF’s response.

APSCUF-KU president calls for “equal seat at the table”

APSCUF-KU President Dr. Amanda Morris’ comments as prepared for the July 13, 2017, Board of Governors meeting:

Good morning. My name is Dr. Amanda Morris and I am an associate professor at Kutztown University and I serve as the KU APSCUF chapter president.

Over the past year, I’ve had meetings with some of you, with our own administrators at KU, with legislators and the one thing we have in common is that we all say that we need to collaborate and cooperate more. But we cannot collaborate and cooperate if you shut us out of the decision-making process. So I am here today to request equal representation for faculty on any task force or committee that is created to develop an action plan in response to these consultants’ recommendations.

We expect an equal seat at the table so that faculty can help fix our system. We want to participate in developing solutions with you. And there is precedent for this. I want to draw your attention to two things in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

First of all, in the beginning of current CBA there are several side letters, many of which establish what are called “joint labor-management committees.” This is all I’m asking for. A joint labor management committee that will figure out how to respond to and incorporate the recommendations the consultants have provided.

Secondly, the “purpose” section of our contract says, “APSCUF and the State System of Higher Education, desiring to cooperate each with the other in mutual respect and harmony” – and I think we can all agree, there hasn’t been a whole lot of harmony in the past year, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of mutual respect.

This is an opportunity, right now, this moment. Show us that you want to work with us. If you want faculty buy-in to whatever it is you think you’re planning to do, you’re going to need faculty to be part of the process. Work with us in mutual respect. Collaborate and cooperate with us in some semblance of harmony.

APSCUF represents the faculty. We are the ones who work most closely with students in the classroom, through advising, even one on one mentorships that extend far beyond their graduation. We want what is best for them.

I want to draw your attention to a line in Article 4 of the CBA. Article 4 is Duties and Responsibilities of Faculty Members and the last line in section B says “faculty members have the responsibility to perform other tasks characteristic of the academic profession, and to attempt honestly and in good conscience to preserve and defend the goals of the Universities including the right to advocate change.”

Members of the Board, chairwoman Shapira, Chancellor, we as faculty have a duty and a responsibility to be involved right now with this issue, with this report. And the Board of Governors and the State System have a duty and a responsibility to include us as equal partners at the decision-making table. Bring us in. Let us help you decide the best course of action in response to the NCHEMS report and maybe, just maybe, we might achieve some harmony and mutual respect.

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