The Blog

Stories and things of interest


Professor Wong Publishes on Disability-Related Discussions

Sarah Jin Wong, assistant professor of education and director of field placement, has recently published an article in Teacher Education and Special Education (TESE) available on Sage Journals titled “Breaking the Cycle: Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Disability-Related Discussions.”

Sarah started collaborating with her co-authors (Christa Bialka from Villanova University and Nicole Hansen from Fairleigh Dickinson University) in February 2017. She initially connected with Christa and Nicole within the realm of a Facebook group called CEC-TED Early Career Faculty Special Interest Group. CEC stands for Council for Exceptional Children (the nation’s largest special education organization) and TED refers to its Teacher Education Division. Sarah says, “When I found out about TED last year, I knew I had found my professional extended family outside of BAC. This group of colleagues who work in teacher-preparation programs all around the country are some of the warmest, most welcoming, generous, brilliant, and gracious people I have gotten to know!”

The idea of preparing pre-service teachers to have authentic conversations centered around disability is very important to Sarah. Especially now as the diverse needs of children in classrooms are increasing rapidly and as we prepare our pre-service teachers to become educators who are capable of supporting students with various learning needs in what is hopefully an inclusive classroom, this skill set becomes highly relevant. The theory is that if the pre-service teachers are able to have open and productive dialogue around these topics themselves, they are much more likely to be able to facilitate such important dialogue with their own students, thus creating a more authentic, inclusive climate classroom.  Therefore, this became an important objective for Sarah as she implemented the special education curriculum of the new dual-certification program at Bryn Athyn College. Sarah says, “Though we discuss disability-related topics in class, there are often ‘barriers’ that get in the way of our pre-service teachers having open and authentic dialogue around them.” Examples of barriers include novelty of the vocabulary and of the topics, uncertainty in word choice, often due to fear of offending, and even simply lack of experience.  Therefore, intentionally embedding practice of these kinds of dialogue through various assignments like the ones described in the article, helps build this critical skill set.  Sarah states, “Powerful human experience stories in the particular assignment that is described in the article have become such an effective tool that I use in the classroom to increase understanding and create connection.” So when she found that Christa and Nicole were addressing this need in similar ways in their respective programs, she was excited to establish connections with them, eventually leading to this publication.

Sarah says that she and her colleagues hope to turn this work into a more formalized research study, perhaps in the next year or two. They plan to gather both quantitative and qualitative data that will allow them to see the measurable ways in which the strategies discussed in the article are actually making a difference in the skill set of the teachers that they are preparing.

The abstract of the article is below. Click here to access Sage Journals and explore full article download options.

Teacher preparation programs play a seminal role in the development of prospective teachers, as they provide future educators with information regarding the rights of students with disabilities and the pedagogical means to support them in the classroom. Yet, few programs focus on how to discuss disability with students (Abernathy & Taylor, 2009; Cosier & Pearson, 2016). Once they enter into practice, many teachers hesitate to engage students in conversations about disabilities because they are unsure of what to say or fear offending students with disabilities (Crowson & Brandes, 2014; Gay & Howard, 2000). Because there is scant literature on how to best prepare pre-service teachers to hold disability-related discussions in their future classrooms, in this article, the authors aim to fill a void in current practice by providing examples of activities, assessments, and related materials that enable pre-service teachers to talk about disabilities.



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Chaplain’s Corner

It’s Christmas season here at Bryn Athyn College.  You can feel the spirit growing with the students as we approach Christmas day.  Our chapel offering have been building up to the day of the Lord’s birth with special messages in our services, candle lighting, singing, and offering the deeper meaning of the Christmas story as it applies directly to our individual lives.

One of these deeper meanings is about the angels telling the shepherds that they would find the child, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).  New Church teachings tell us that, on a personal level, a “manger” represents instruction, and that “swaddling clothes” symbolize “first truths.” (See Apocalypse Explained, paragraph #706.)  A person is led to see the Lord in his or her life by learning of him, through instruction of the first truths, which are the basic doctrines about the Lord, love to the neighbor, and useful service.  The Lord is born into our hearts in this way, as we behold the Savior of the world.

Instruction in the spiritual teachings of the New Church gives each student an opportunity to come to Bethlehem, so to speak, and to behold him.  To sense the presence of the divine providence working in their lives, to turn toward the neighbor with love and kindness, and to learn in all instruction at Bryn Athyn College to find meaningful useful service in this world, is all part of this.  As ministers at the college, our interaction with students begins here, with these first truths from which to build upon, leading to deeper truths as students continue their progress through the terms and through the years.  Our calling is to  invite all to come to a place where they can connect with their God, and grow in a relationship with him and with one another that brings good into the world.  Our Christmas hope is that many will, as did the shepherds on that Christmas night, “return, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20).


-Rev. Grant Schnarr, Chaplain

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Chaplain’s Corner

In October, our Wednesday chapel services have followed the New Church Journey series “Practicing Forgiveness.” I’ve been struck by the beautiful balance in the teachings on forgiveness. We are to forgive not just up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). But this does not mean that we ignore the harm done to us or let evil go unchecked; Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him.” (Matthew 18:15). Part of seeking reconciliation involves acknowledging that harm has been done. It is challenging to live by these teachings — to wish well to those who have hurt us and at the same time to seek justice — but when everyone is committed to these ideals, our communities find healing. It is a central New Church teaching that mercy and justice are not opposed to each other; they make one, as love and wisdom do. In the words of Psalm 85, “Mercy and truth have met together; justice and peace have kissed.” It’s inspiring to be part of a community that seeks to live these teachings.


-Rev. Coleman Glenn, Assistant Chaplain

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Fall LNAP Draws Big Numbers

This Monday, the Long Night Against Procrastination continued its support of scholarly study and encouragement for a culture of community learning. At its busiest hour of the night, 30% of the student body was in the Swedenborg Library at one time, tucked into study nooks, utilizing the new conference pod, taking a snack break at the cafe, or congregating around tables in the main area and upstairs. Two therapy dogs were introduced into the mix for the first hour of the event, and a masseuse was there in the main room with a comfy massage table and essential oils to promote focus and provide stress relief. Students checked items off their to-do lists, goals were reached, progress was made, and another “celebration of the slog” was successfully entered into the books!

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BAC Gains Full Membership to NCAA Division III

Just days ago Bryn Athyn College was granted full membership to the NCAA Division III after four years of provisional membership. The process was completed a year faster than is customary, and that’s due to the fantastic work of our athletic department in meeting all the requirements and obtaining a waiver to combine the last two years of membership into one. The official press release is below. GO LIONS!

Bryn Athyn College Granted Full Membership to NCAA Division III

Bryn Athyn, Pa. – The NCAA Division III Management Council has notified Bryn Athyn College that it has successfully completed the provisional membership process and will compete as full members of the NCAA Division III starting fall 2017. As a full NCAA Division III member, the College will be eligible to compete for national championships and will have voting rights on NCAA legislation.

President Brian Blair said, “Bryn Athyn College is very pleased to gain full membership into NCAA Division III.  This membership provides our student athletes with opportunities to compete at a high level while also participating in programs that emphasize the safety, soundness, and overall character- building of the student-athlete.”

Bryn Athyn made quick work of the membership process, completing the standard five-year process in just four. The robust and exciting growth of the athletic program has infused the campus community with extra energy and school pride, as the 150 student-athletes at the college eagerly await a fully competitive upcoming year in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

Athletic Director and Vice President of Business Development at Bryn Athyn College, Matt Kennedy, said, “This news from the NCAA marks a new day for Bryn Athyn College and our athletic programs. We are now a full NCAA Division III member, which provides our student-athletes with the opportunity to play the sport they love while working towards obtaining a degree. I would like to thank President Blair and the administration for their support and trust over the past four years of this incredible journey through the NCAA provisional process.”

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Professor Bryntesson’s Adventures in the Florida Wilds

While on sabbatical this spring, Professor Fredrik (Figge) Bryntesson, Ph.D., took two trips to Florida to study the Ivory-billed Woodpecker–the largest woodpecker to have lived in the United States.  Due to habitat destruction and hunting, the number of Ivory-bills dwindled in the early 1900s and the last definitely known population disappeared in the 1940s. Some now fear that the species could be extinct. However, there have been a number of reports of Ivory-bills throughout its historic range in the Southeastern US since the 1940s to the present.

Bryntesson and Chuck Hunter, Southeast Regional Refuge Biologist for the National Wildlife Refuge System, US Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta, are working on developing a comprehensive understanding of the historical status of this bird (Photo, left: Ivory-bill specimens at the Florida Museum of Natural History). To do so, they are gathering information from the published literature, and, importantly, from the unpublished archival documents such as field notes, correspondence, memos, and reports on the subject. It is clear from archival documents that there are many more reports of Ivory-bills than have been published, and archival information also provides us with very important insights such as the views and thoughts about Ivory-bills held by many ornithologists and Ivory-bill searchers. Therefore, the archival sources significantly add to our understanding of the historical status of Ivory-bills (Photo, right: researching in the archives).

In May, Hunter and Bryntesson journeyed to northwestern Florida and visited multiple areas where sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have been reported. The Dead Lakes, and the Chipola, Apalachicola, Aucilla, Wacissa, and Wakulla Rivers provide the type of swampy surroundings where Ivory-bills have historically been seen (Photos below, left to right: Dead Lakes, Wacissa, and Wakulla rivers).

While investigating these habitats, they were able to spot a range of interesting wildlife, and though they were mostly on the lookout for birds, they also saw a couple of alligators (Photo, right: American Alligator. Photos below, left to right: Great Egret, Pileated Woodpecker, Purple Gallinule, Red-shouldered Hawk).

Bryntesson’s interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker dates back to 2005 when it was announced that the bird had been reported in Arkansas. This announcement was big news because many people thought that the bird was extinct. Hunter’s interest goes back much further. He said, “For me personally it all goes back to childhood, when at age ten I thought I had seen an Ivory-bill near my house and I found out how to contact the local Audubon Society chapter.” Professionally, he started focusing on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as part of his job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989. He has been the general go-to for evaluating reports and other odds and ends for this species ever since.  Hunter said, “This became nearly a full-time effort with the 2004-2005 Arkansas reports and I, among other things, assisted in planning and implementing searches across the Southeast with various state and federal agencies, and other private parties.  Alas, by 2010, nothing better than the original reports emerged, but there were many reasonably credible reports from a variety of folks with noted levels of expertise.  That however, has led to no resolution of whether or not the species continues to persist.”

Bryntesson and Hunter at the County Record in Blountstown, Florida. Photo by Robert Turner.

During the trip, Bryntesson and Hunter worked to gather and analyze more information about Ivory-bill reports.  The two spent much time in several archives reviewing notes, records, and publications on historic Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings. They found a wealth of useful information, mostly about Ivory-bill reports between the 1930s and 1960s, including material about the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary, which was a refuge for ivory-bills managed by the National Audubon Society between 1950 and 1952.  Figge says, “The published literature contains relatively brief descriptions of, or references to, the reports of Ivory-bills in the area in the early 1950s, and the subsequent establishment and closure of the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary, but there is no comprehensive account published. The purpose of our research is to produce a detailed account of these historic events.”

So the mystery continues, and Bryntesson and Hunter work to tell the story. Bryntesson said, “Working out this type of history is like solving a giant jig-saw puzzle. Every now and then we find new pieces to add. Recently, we have found many important documents in archives. These items provide us with a better understanding of the history of the searches themselves, and the evidence that has been amassed.”

This spring, Bryntesson and Hunter presented a poster on their Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary research at a scientific conference at Stockton University. Bryntesson gave a talk at the Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida, and an article was published about their research in The County Record of Blountstown, Florida.  Bryntesson related one of his favorite parts of this work: “One thing that I really like about researching the historic status of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is that it is not just about the bird, it is about people too. The searchers have been, and are, incredibly dedicated and it is fascinating to learn about their findings and thoughts, as well as their passion and enthusiasm for finding the bird.”

The gallery below includes pictures from the research trips in Florida. Click on each picture to enlarge. Photo credits: All photos taken by Fredrik Bryntesson unless otherwise noted.

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FeelGood Raffle Extravaganza

FeelGood is raffling off ten amazing baskets to anyone who is smart enough to buy tickets! These baskets are filled with a range of exciting things, from tasty treats to gift cards. Sponsors such as Jules Thin Crust, Allways Cafe, Huntingdon Valley Crossfit, the Trenton Thunder, and All Aboard Cafe have generously donated to the cause, and the BAC FeelGood chapter is excited to give these prizes to the lucky winners on Tuesday evening, May 23rd.

Buy your tickets online or in person at the Bounty Farmers Market on Saturday, May 20th, or at the Residence Life BBQ on Tuesday, May 23rd, where the drawing will take place (you do not have to be present at the raffle drawing in order to win).

When you buy a raffle ticket, what does your money go toward? Ending poverty and hunger on a global scale through an inspiring and community-building mechanism called FeelGood!

FeelGood is a youth-led movement turning students’ college years into a time of effective global action. On campuses across the country, students run a successful social enterprise—a grilled cheese deli— to raise money and build public support for the end of extreme hunger and poverty. In the process students gain critical business, leadership, and teamwork skills that serve them throughout their lives.

Chloe Kund, co-founder of the FeelGood BAC chapter, is proud to say that to date $19,000 has been raised on the BAC campus. An avid supporter of the FeelGood initiative, Chloe has been a student volunteer, a counselor at the FeelGood summer conference, and for the past two years she has served as a FeelGood “changemaker ignitor.” Years ago Chloe fell in love with the FeelGood mission and didn’t want to stop being a part of it after graduating in 2014. She says, “It’s something that fuels me– it’s a very bright spot in my life that connects me to a movement I believe in.” Chloe will be serving as the BAC “changemaker ignitor” next year as well, helping more students help others.

Maia Wyncoll is the marketing and PR chair for the BAC FeelGood chapter. She volunteers her time and talent because she wants to make a difference. She says, “It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that as a college student I can’t make an impression on the world…but FeelGood has helped me see that each person can have a good impact, and as a team working toward a common goal we can have an incredible impact.” Maia’s work with FeelGood has brought her out of her comfort zone and helped  her make good friends both on the BAC campus and across the US and Canada through the FeelGood network. She’s also found an internship through this experience that she is very excited about!

To learn more about FeelGood, go here.  Remember to buy your raffle tickets!


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