Penguin flier miles


The students, faculty and staff of Youngstown State University have traveled a total of 1,343,873 miles by airplane from February 2011 to June 2012. That’s enough airtime for 54 trips around the Earth. Penguins travel across the U.S. and beyond for education, competition, recruiting and more.

Ron Cole, director of university communications, said this type of exposure is valuable to the university and to the travelers involved.

“Whenever anyone is able to carry the YSU name anywhere in the country or around the world in a positive kind of way, it obviously reflects well — not just on the university, but on the Youngstown community in general,” Cole said.

Cole said that since the university has experienced budget deficits the past few years, each appropriate department vice president closely monitors the requests to ensure that they are necessary.

A global market

Gang Peng, an assistant professor of management, flew 13,621 miles last December — the farthest distance traveled in one single trip — on a trip from Chicago to Shanghai and Beijing.

Peng was not willing to comment on his traveling.

Management Chair Rammohan Kasuganti said Peng presented papers at a conference in order to get articles published.

Kasuganti said faculty members often travel to keep up with the field.

“If you’re not doing it, you’re not up to date with your field,” Kasuganti said.

He said people in university settings typically travel to present research or to maintain accreditation. Also, in the management field, it is important to see how business is done in various cultures and climates.

Remaining competitive

Michael Wernicki, the assistant men’s basketball coach, traveled 60 times last year, covering 30,395 miles.

Most trips were for away games. However, Wernicki said he also travels between academic years for recruiting.

“We recruit a lot in July. Sometimes we’re gone for the whole month. Nowhere in the U.S. is too far for us. We’re everywhere,” Wernicki said.

Wernicki said he has traveled to various destinations such as Las Vegas, Georgia, Florida and California.

“We’re flying from one place to the next,” he said. “Being where we are located at, our best players are from different parts of the country. It’s a huge factor that contributes to the success of the teams.”

“We would be seriously behind if we couldn’t fly because we have been able to bring in great players, and our team’s GPA is over 3.0,” he said.

Wernicki said assistant coaches recruit at Amateur Athletic Union tournaments throughout the month of July. Coaches like Wernicki also travel to high schools across the country to scout.

Eighty percent of recruiting is done over the phone, email or Facebook.

International education

Some students studying Italian traveled to Italy during a study-abroad program last year. Italian professor Carla Simonini said seven YSU students traveled with two students from Cleveland State University to partner with an Italian school called Culturforum. The group stayed for almost five weeks to learn more about the customs and practice the language.

“We were in class with people from all over Europe and were able to represent our university against people Germany and the Netherlands,” Simonini said. “It immerses the students in the Italian culture and language.”

Students were able to travel and study for the same price as a spring semester at YSU. There were other travel and lodging expenses, but the students made it worthwhile when they hiked, visited archeological locations and tasted authentic Italian cuisine.

Alyssa Yacovone, a junior and international business major, traveled to Sicily and said the experience helped her get to know herself better.

“Studying abroad and traveling abroad opens up your mind,” she said. “Do some soul searching, order food that you’ve never heard of, do things you couldn’t ever imagine yourself doing, listening to new music, dancing in the streets, ride on a Vespa or play in a soccer game.”

She said she still keeps in contact with the friends she made there.

“We keep up with each others’ lives, Skype and, best of all, practice my Italian,” Yacovone said. “I’ve met lifelong friends that I have across the world. By making friends with the people who lived there, it was, in my opinion, the best way to embrace and get accustomed to a new culture.”

But Yacovone appreciated the opportunity.

“By being spontaneous, you’ll see the world in a new perspective,” Yacovone said. “When you come back, you’re a different person, and when people tell you, ‘You’ve changed,’ they’re right.”