The view from South Mountain

Hello 75 and Sunny – Goodbye 20 and Snowy! Semester in Mesa 2015.

Hello 75 and sunny, goodbye 20 and snowy!  That’s right, we finally arrived in Arizona!

My name is Lien Do, and I am a senior at Wilkes University studying Marketing. The wonderful people who are on this SiMesa journey with me include Marc Perry (junior), studying marketing, Megan Powers (junior), studying accounting, and De’Von Moore (junior) studying management.

SiMesa 2015 Students

SiMesa 2015 Students (l-r) Marc Perry, De’Von Moore, Lien Do, Megan Powers

Everyone’s adventure out to Arizona was different. De’Von had the most patience out of all of us because he took the 36 hour drive from Maryland to Arizona. His drive here was definitely a long one but exciting because he got to see a lot of different terrain from the Windmill Farms to the dry desert. De’Von stopped in Nashville, TN, and ate at a restaurant called The Aquarium. He also stopped by Amarillo, TX, where he had his first Wing Stop, Lemon Pepper.

Megan escaped the cold a week early and had the chance to come out to visit her family. She got to do a lot of sight-seeing and lucky enough to spend a couple days in the warm weather!

As for Marc and I, we spent 6 hours on a plane – exciting, I know. We were counting down the seconds ’til we landed, but those seconds seemed like an eternity. As the plane went over Phoenix, we saw all the lights and couldn’t believe that we were finally here.

Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel

Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel

Once we all got to the Marriott, we were taken back by the fact that this was where we were going to be staying for the next three months, trust me if you saw this hotel, you would be too. What makes the experience at the Marriot so much better is the staff. They are very friendly and welcoming… legends wearing Marriott shirts. We basically became best friends within the first 30 mins of my arrival.


Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel

As our week went on, we started classes and had a great mini tour of the Greater Phoenix area. The Mesa Marketing Coordinator, Jen Atkins, took us around ASU’s campus, and showed us where spring training takes place. After the tour, we had In-N-Out Burger for the first time ever. Although it was kind of messy, it was absolutely delicious! I’m still questioning why we don’t have one of these in Pennsylvania.  It would save lives.

Our first adventure of the semester consisted of a scavenger hunt that Jen put together. Downtown Mesa reminded me a lot of Downtown Wilkes-Barre because of how all the restaurants are local instead of chains, which I thought was cool because you wouldn’t expect that in a big city. We went to stores such as Sweet Cakes, Gotham City Comics, Lost Dutchman Coffee, and many more

Mesa Arts Center

Mesa Arts Center

wonderful businesses! Sweet Cakes Cafe was my favorite local business, though, because they offer great food and sweets. They also have a 5-layered brownie… I don’t think I need to explain how great those are, the name says it all! The most unique business I encountered was the Mesa Art Center. The structure of center made it very appealing.

Our second adventure was a hike up South Mountain that Deanna, a current student at Wilkes

Lien and Megan on South Mountain

Lien and Megan on South Mountain

Mesa, put together. This was my first time ever going on a hike and I was pretty sure I was going to make Marc carry me. This hike was slightly difficult but that’s only because that’s the most cardiovascular activity I’ve done in ages. Thankfully we didn’t see any strange creatures lurking around. Overall though it was worth it, we got to the top of the mountain and the view was unbelievable!

This is my first time on the west coast and experiencing a different region of the world. Within our first two weeks out here, we’ve met some great people and are having a great time. I’m definitely excited to see what else this semester has in stored for us!

The view from South Mountain

The view from South Mountain


  • If you are over 21, make sure you have a horizontal ID and not a vertical one.
  • I know they get annoying, but read the e-mails that are sent out so you don’t forget any important paper work.
  • Drink water, it’ll save your life (seriously, you’ll get dehydrated).

Guidance by Mentorship by Austin Bennett

Knowledge can be obtained through books and experience, but empowerment–that is beyond self. It is the parent who says, “I love you;” or the teacher who says, “I believe in you;” or the coach who says, “You got this;” or the spouse who says, “I trust you.” Trusting your own abilities does not come easy. Confidence is gained through failure. It also comes by way of continued encouragement and guidance. Mentorship is essential to success.

There once was a particular academic tradition where professors referred to their students as “distinguished comrades.”* Education was built on mutual trust and respect. It was a mutual endeavor built around camaraderie not mere self-reliance. Similarly, in the Ancient Near East, the Hebrews viewed those who pursued scholasticism as part of a family unit. Instructors were referred to as “fathers.” Students were referred to as “sons.”* Much like a child learning from a parent, students were guided by teachers for the betterment of self and community. In both traditions, a close-knit-community was formed around scholasticism and teachers were viewed as mentors.

When I chose to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing at Wilkes University I was promised a mentor-based education. At that time, I did not fully know what that meant nor did I whole-heartedly buy the rhetoric knowing the competitive nature of colleges. Yet, what I found was something closer to camaraderie and kinship than cool academia. I became at once a peer and a son. When I wrestled with choosing my creative thesis, fearing I was out of my depth, encouragement came in the most unlikely of ways. I had a dream. The program director, Bonnie Culver, came to me like a fairy-god-mother and squelched my fears by pointing to mentorship. She said, “That’s why we’re here.” When my wife gave birth to our first child mid-way through my creative thesis, my mentor, Jeff Talarigo, offered more than advice on writing: he offered fatherly advice.

Author Bio: Austin Bennett is a son, brother, friend, husband, father. He received his M.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University in 2014 and is currently pursuing his M.F.A.

*Kuper, Abraham. Scholarship: Two Convocations Addresses on University Life. Trans. Harry Van Dyke. Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2014. Kindle file.

Our First Arizona Graduates

The Honorable Scott Smith, former mayor of the City of Mesa, will be the keynote speaker as Wilkes University awards its first master of business administration degrees on Jan. 13. Three students will graduate with their master’s degrees in a 6 p.m. ceremony at the Mesa Arts Center. Diplomas will be presented by Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy.


The graduates are (left to right) Kelly Rogers MBA ’15, Jamie McWilliams MBA ’15, Erica Roca ’09 MBA ’15. These students are the University’s first graduates in Mesa.

Smith was mayor when Wilkes opened its center in Mesa as one of four colleges invited to participate in the H.E.A.T. (Healthcare, Education, Aerospace, Technology/Tourism) Initiative for Economic Development in Mesa, designed to increase college opportunities and spur economic growth.

The graduation ceremony will be in the Nesbitt-Elliott Playhouse at the arts center. There will be a reception to immediately follow the ceremony in The Brown Sculpture Courtyard.

Wilkes began offering its MBA program in Mesa in 2013, and will offer bachelor’s degrees in 2015 along with the M.A. in creative writing and M.S. in education.  Wilkes is located in the Mesa Center for Higher Education, 245 W. Second St. in Mesa.

About Wilkes University

Wilkes University is an independent institution of higher education dedicated to academic and intellectual excellence through mentoring in the liberal arts, sciences and professional programs. Founded in 1933, the University provides its students with the experience, mentoring and education necessary for career and intellectual development as well as personal growth. Learn more at

The Culmination

Well, here we are. At the finish line of the semester; but I’ll be crossing with bittersweet excitement. Hell, I listened to Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve three times on my last day to work. We have created our own little lives out here, like a separate identity. I walked around Entrepix for the last time, ensuring to say goodbye to each person. I walked by my completed project, sitting on the production floor. I stopped when I saw it; doing a cool internship project was the reason I wanted to work for Entrepix, it was even the reason I came to Arizona. Somehow until that moment, I never realized that the most memorable parts of my experience out here were because of people I’ve met.

I came to Arizona for a resume builder, and because I was tired of the daily grind. Well the daily grind sure was taken care of, and I have a few new lines on my resume. Great. But what I truly gained in Arizona cannot be measured in GPA points, money, or objects of any kind. It’s feeling unsure walking into a new internship, and the satisfaction of a ‘good job’ handshake walking out. It’s having nervous jitters driving a rental car to Las Vegas, and the calm of deep 3AM conversation driving through endless desert. It’s the pain of climbing every mountain possible, and the self-gratification of standing on the top. It’s the uncertainty of leaving a cozy college campus for a semester of who-knows-what, and the relief of it being the right choice. It’s hopes, fears, and all the other abstract nouns mashed into a blob we like call the human experience. And whether you’re in Wilkes-Barre, Mesa, or anywhere, you’re living it one minute at a time.

So yes, I’m going to miss being in Arizona. I’m going to miss my co-workers, the other students, the Mexican food, the scenery, the hotel staff, and living with 10 of Wilkes’ crazier students, but life is longer than one semester. And with what I truly learned out in Arizona, I’m excited to go home because the adventure continues, the landscape just changes. See you all soon!

~Danny Lykens




P.S. moral of the story: Collect experiences over things. Make friendships over money. And live dangerously; just don’t die.

Grander adventures

We’re down to the last two weeks. From work, to our adventures, everything has been getting crazier. As the time crunch is on, we realize that the vacation semester will soon end. The problems at work have more pressure, but the solutions have become more rewarding. Key parts had been lost due to extenuating circumstances, but we recovered. Now the projects are close to completion, and we are feeling positive. I’m going to be sad when the projects are over though; I have had such a great time with the people at Entrepix, and I do not want to go.

As for adventures, we have not been downsizing. Recently, I rented a car for 24 hours, but did not plan our day trip until I had the keys. Over breakfast, Ryan mentioned Las Vegas was a short 5½ hours away. After rallying the troops, Doug and Polzella were on board with Ryan and me. We fit a more proper definition “day trip”, as the trip took a quite literal 24 hours. I’d love to write more, but that would break the golden rule of sin city; what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

My favorite part of the craziest day trip ever? Illogically, the drive. Getting to know people is easer in a coffee fueled conversation at 3AM trapped in a car. Ryan asked the question, “What happens when we leave? Do we go back to not knowing each other?” It sounded like a quote directly out of The Breakfast Club. I simply responded, “I hope not.” Vegas was a shallow, glimmering city of image and lust; except for us, we had real good times.

The ridiculousness continuous, as we got to experience the realest beauty I’ve ever seen; the Grand Canyon. I wonder how long it took the Mayans to dig it. Everyone in the program piled into a 15-passenger van, and off we went. We got to the canyon in time to see the sunset. Now I’ve said before that pictures don’t do true beauty justice, but this is the first time my own eyes clearly could not portray an accurate image to by brain. My own eyes made it look fake; like it was a painting draped across the horizon. Nothing compared, nothing. We walked down into it a negligible amount, enough to escape the crowds. There we watched the sun set.

The next day we hiked along the rim. The Colorado River looked like a stream from the top, an impossibly far way down. I could have spent weeks there, hiking down and exploring. I’ll be back, that is certain.


Suggestions for future SiMesa-ers

After being here for almost 4 months, I have experienced quite a bit. For all the future SiMesa-ers, I have put together a list of suggestions that have helped me have the time of my life.

  1. Carpool out

Don’t get me wrong; the public transportation is great out here. I use it a lot, for cheap. But, there are places that public transportation does not go. For instance, Sedona is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Millions of years of history can be seen in a single rock. The reason I was able to go; Doug drove out. Without that 1996 Saturn, I wouldn’t have seen Sedona, I wouldn’t have hiked the Superstition Mountains, and I wouldn’t have boated on Lake Saguaro. The city is great, but the beauty of Arizona lies outside city borders.

  1. Work out housing early

I almost didn’t go because of housing issues in Wilkes-Barre. This was a suggestion from the school itself. If you want to go to Mesa, be careful about your housing your junior year. I almost had to pay double rent. Everyone’s situation is different though; the only easy solution is for those living on campus. If you live off campus, you may need to find a sublet your apartment.

  1. Keep an open mind, try to get out and try new things

Be willing to try new things. I have had such a great time just doing everything I can. Rarely I regret something I’ve done. I only regret what I haven’t done; the opportunities I’ve missed. If you go to Mesa, or anywhere for that matter, don’t just sit around. Get outside; visit everywhere you can. I bought a bicycle to help me explore more; it was worth every cent. We’ve tried to climb all the mountains seen from the city. To quote the 1999 film, Fight Club “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” So if you’re spending it looking up Fight Club quotes locked away alone in your room, you’re doing it wrong.

  1. Don’t be scared

Every single person on this trip almost backed out at one point or another. If you can make it out here, do it. Don’t hesitate. After being here, I can’t believe I ever thought about backing out. Will you miss home at times? Yes. But regret won’t be on your mind. You have the choice to be part of the genesis of Wilkes’ branch in Mesa, or you could spend another semester at home, running through the motions. Looking back, I think the second one scares me more.


PS. Also, learn how to pronounce Spanish words. The Mexican food down here is great, but during the first few weeks, ordering is horrifically embarrassing.

Sometimes ‘work’ and ‘fun’ can be the same word

Wait, I get paid for this?!?

After weeks of careful planning, designing, and ordering, we finally got to start getting our hands dirty at work again. Alex and I have been working on designing test rigs for machine components at our internship. We have been doing a good chunk of work on making part lists, detailed drawings, and other related documents. Designing was fun, making simulations on the computer and such, but being an active force in making the plans a reality was a great change of pace. I haven’t had this much fun since LEGO. (Which oddly wasn’t that long ago)

Our parts came in, we printed out our drawings we made, and went to work. We unpacked all the parts and organized them like child would presents. Then, we were gone from the world. It was a flurry of tools and bolts as our industrial erector sets slowly took form. A day later, the frames were complete, and we were embarrassingly giddy, but too excited to care. There is a certain joy behind getting so enthralled with something to the point where time no longer feels relevant. It’s only my project and me. When I stop though; I find it hard to believe that work could be so much fun. I’ve always thought that part of happiness lies in doing what you love.  It’s starting to look like I was right.

All our parts nicely organised

All our parts nicely organised

My assembled frame

My assembled frame

Alex's assembled frame

Alex’s assembled frame