by Monica Fiore
Staff Writer and Reporter
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Every semester, Penn State New Kensington opens its doors to welcome new students. However, students are not the only new people received at the campus each semester.
The campus also acquires new faculty and staff members. This fall semester, two professors have joined the faculty at Penn State New Kensington; Dr. Penelope Morrison, a professor of Biobehavioral Health, and Professor Nick Petrucci, a professor of Mechanical Engineering.
“It’s a different environment than what I’m used to,” said Dr. Morrison. “I was at Magee-Womens Research Institute for the last three years and prior to that, I was at a post-doc at RAND, and had been teaching part-time in the school of social work at Pitt with master students. I haven’t worked with undergrads since 2010, and I really enjoyed returning to that.”
Morrison, a 2010 Pitt graduate with a degree in Medical Anthropology and a Masters in Public Health with an emphasis on Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, got connected to Magee-Womens Research Institute a few years ago.
“I worked as a collaborator, a co-investigator, and a methodological expert on a two year study looking at intervention mechanisms that work with men who have been convicted of a domestic crime violence in Allegheny County,” she stated. She also worked as a methodological expert in a study on opioid addiction in pregnancy.
“When I saw the job posting for the Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health here, I felt like that was where I was supposed to be. This really gives me the opportunity to teach people about these things and to help people to see the importance of understanding these things in terms of thinking about long term objectives for different populations and different health issues,” Morrison stated.
Dr. Morrison’s classes this semester are classified under and meet the requirements of the Bachelor of Sciences degree in the new Biobehavioral Health major. Morrison stated that Biobehavioral Health is in a discipline that, “examines health from all angles, not just looking for the genetic, hereditary, or biological underpinnings of disease and illness, but also looking at how culture, socioeconomic status, race, gender, and sexual orientation and how all of those things play a role in determining a person’s health outcome.”
She added, “I want my students to come away with a sense of health as being a human right and a matter of social justice, not just a privilege.”
Though it has been a while since Morrison has worked with undergraduates, she stated that she is very excited and is looking forward to it.
“I think working with undergraduates is vastly more rewarding in a sense because young people are formulating their thoughts and their perceptions about what they want to do with their lives and who they want to be,” said Morrison. “The student body here, to me, seems to be very appreciative that they’re getting an education and I feel like the students value the quality of education that Penn State can offer and I think that’s really great. I feel like there’s a lot of school pride and a lot of pride at being a part of the Greater Penn State system.”
In addition to Dr. Morrison’s arrival, Penn State New Kensington also welcomed back a faculty member, Professor Nick Petrucci. Petrucci previously worked at the campus for 8 years, but left when the program he taught in was closed, therefore eliminating his position.
“I have my own consulting business and I was working as a subcontractor for a company, doing some safety related work and also some engineering,” said Petrucci. “With my consulting business, I do failure analysis.” Petrucci revealed he came back to the campus this fall because he didn’t want to leave to begin with.
Petrucci currently teaches four classes this semester, including “Mechanics For Technology” and “Mechanical Drives”.
“I have classes here Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday that start at 8 in the morning,” said Petrucci. “I’m either teaching, prepping for teaching, grading papers, or on Wednesdays, I do some consulting work and fit in the failure analysis.”
Petrucci stated he is most looking forward to his students’ desire to learn. “Ultimately, helping the students to be in the best position, having them learn, and seeing them get excited when they understand something keeps my mind sharp,” Petrucci revealed.
Looking to the Spring 2017 semester, both professors plan to return and teach newer classes being offered to them.
Dr. Morrison plans to teach a Human Sexuality course, “which will look at LGBTQ issues, sexual discrimination, sexual orientation; a wide range of issues and how those issues are related to sexuality also play a role in people’s health and well-being,” she stated. Morrison will also teach a “Research Strategies for Studying Biobehavioral Health” course, and a “Foundations and Principles of Health Promotions” class.
Petrucci plans to return to teach four new courses, including “Measurement Theory and Instrumentation”, “Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer”, and “Electro-Mechanical Project Design”, a course he will be teaching with fellow professors Karl Harris and Robert Mueller.