Industrial engineering department unites virtually for a 'Night of Togetherness'


By Miranda Buckheit

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students, faculty and staff from the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) at Penn State came together this month for a virtual evening of togetherness.

Soundar Kumara, Allen E. Pearce and Allen M. Pearce Professor of Industrial Engineering, imagined the idea as a way to unite the department for an evening of relaxation and bonding, even from a distance.

Kumara explained that he sees social life as an integral part of our wellbeing, and he believes that faculty have a unique role to play for the students as teachers, advisers and friends.

“It is hard for me to even understand this kind of stress on the students, so I feel that it’s critical for us [faculty] to help them in our own ways,” Kumara said. “I appreciated the help of IME faculty and staff. Danielle Fritchman in the graduate office did a great job to drum up excitement.”

Nearly 50 participants came together on Friday, April 3, to enjoy performances that included stand-up comedy, poetry, singing, piano, electronic music, violin and juggling. The group also played trivia and a guessing game on faculty and staff’s high school photos.

Sarah Root, associate teaching professor and undergraduate adviser, served as the master of ceremonies for the night. Root explained that while being a master of ceremonies is not her expertise, she was glad to help.

“We saw people’s pets, children, skills and even more things that we didn’t know about each other,” Root said. “I’m glad that we could have togetherness, apart.”

Dale Goldman, a third-year industrial engineering student, explained that the night was a great opportunity for him to express his artistic side and interact with members of the department. In particular, Goldman performed “Piano Man” by Elton John.

“Seeing everyone, with their families, show off their talents was a comforting reminder that the world is still moving and that we will make it,” Goldman said.

Ling Rothrock, professor and interim department head, marked the event as a “rousing success” and a showcase of community during this time. Rothrock credits the event’s attendance to Kumara’s planning, along with the assistance of IME faculty and staff.

“From the singing of traditional Indian songs to a piano performance, this event also highlighted the international community we live in,” Rothrock said.

As a first-year master’s student and international student, Yu-Hao Chang showcased his talent of diabolo juggling. Diabolo, commonly called the Chinese yo-yo, is a juggling device made from an axle and two cups, and it is spun using a string attached to two sticks.

Chang explained that he, as an international student, is used to studying and spending time on campus. Since social distancing has been in effect, Chang has been finding ways to keep himself entertained at home, such as playing diabolo.

“We are restricted in our little rooms by the social distancing policy,” Chang said. “My motivation was to promote the flexibility of playing diabolo because I think it’s fun to play while inside.”

With this event, Kumara aimed to provide community for students that are in State College while their families are around the globe.

“This problem is severe for international students and a significant portion of our graduate students are international,” Kumara said. “So, it is important to let them know that we care, we are here for them and we will help in these critical times.”

“We Are” stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories.

Visit to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by novel coronavirus. We are!


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Megan Lakatos