First Female NFL Official Makes Lasting Impact on PFW Campus

By Lindsay Burke

After reaching a milestone in her officiating career in becoming the first female to officiate in the National Football League and the first to officiate in a Super Bowl, Sarah Thomas takes her professional experiences as a learning tool.

Thomas spent time meeting and interacting with students on the Purdue Fort Wayne campus last Tuesday.

Her message was clear, “prove to yourself that you belong where you are.”

Her message was not centered around her being the first, but rather ways students can be successful when they take that step into their professional careers.

Thomas urged students to find a mentor, someone to lean on when things get tough – because they will at some point. She went on to say “don’t look at these tough times as failures, but rather speed bumps.”

She urged both students on campus and those in attendance at her Omnibus Speaker Series appearance on that evening to reach for their dreams.

“That work ethic, that attitude, how you carry yourself, and your field presence, that recognition will come,” Thomas said. “Don’t do things for the recognition, do them because you love them.”

Thomas’ 10th season in the NFL has already begun as she is required to go through frequent testing to stay current on rule changes throughout the league. She does this all while raising her three children and working at a marketing agency.

It was brought up during the class lecture with students that officials in the NFL take a lot of criticism, but Thomas has trained herself to block out the negative noise and focus on what she can control in perfecting her craft.

Being in the public eye can have its negatives, but the importance of being self aware of what is being posted on social media and how we carry ourselves when we’re out is vastly important.

Thomas shared with the audience that she was scouted by the NFL while officiating a football game. She got their attention not because she was a woman, but because of her field presence and the way she carried herself.

She went on to say that she didn’t even know that scouts for NFL officiating existed, but because she carried herself with professionalism and dignity, she stood out.

Thomas continues to pave the way by traveling around the country sharing her experiences with students. To motivate and guide them into the mindset that anything is possible.

For more information on the Omnibus Speaker Series visit

Oscar winner Michelle Mizner visits Cinema Center

By Noah Proffitt

The Cinema Center held a free screening of 20 Days in Mariupol and featured a Q&A with producer Michelle Mizner last month.

The film won best documentary this year at the 96th Academy Awards – the first time Ukraine has won an Oscar. The production covers the events witnessed by a team of Associated Press reporters trapped in the city of Mariupol during the first twenty days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, and producer Vasilisa Stepanenkothey captured the graphic damage the invasion caused and the lives that were lost during it. The film does not hold back from showing the violence and terror happening in the region, leaving audience members shocked and moved by the scenes displayed.

In the film, news broadcasts from around the world use the footage that reporters filmed while in Mariupol. News reports from Russia showed how they accuse the footage of being fake news or that the people trying to survive in Mariupol are paid actors.

After the screening of the film, Cinema Center held a Q&A with Mizner, the editor and producer of the award-winning documentary, and Ann Livschiz, professor in the department of history at PFW. Audience members were able to ask questions about the film, and news on Ukraine now.

Mizner works for Frontline, a television series produced by PBS covering a vast number of topics. There, she edits hour-long documentaries for the show. With 20 Days in Mariupol, it was her first time working on and editing a feature length film.

Mizner worked closely with Chernov, who was one of the cameramen capturing the footage and is the director of the project.

Mizner mentioned that she was working with Chernov directly via satellite phones during the twenty days. He would send the footage over whenever they had access to satellite connection.

At the same time, Chernov and his team were also trying to avoid the Russians, risking their safety to inform the world of what was really going on in Mariupol.

She describes the work process with Chernov as “making an album.” She says she was the “producer” of an album and Chernov was the artist “who brings vision or something integral to them.”

Mizner mentioned how much the film means to Chernov and the rest of the reporters who captured the footage. The camera crew are all from Ukraine and were deeply affected by what they witnessed and went through.

Mizner mentioned her own connection and passion for helping create the documentary.

“There are many things that I hope,” Mizner said. “One of those things I hope is journalism. We think about journalism, and what it takes to make good Journalism, and the risk they take to gather that information.” 

When Chernov came to the United States, both were able to finish the film with the footage they had. They were able to put out the message and facts in the film from the footage they gathered, to let people know what was really happening in Mariupol.

The event was held at the Cinema Center, a not-for-profit theater that shows a wide range of independent films and hosts unique events. Every year, they host their own film festival “Hobnobben,” showing local independent films and others from around the country.

The Center has held multiple events like this in the past, showing a movie, then holding a Q&A afterwards, with people who are educated on the topic. The goal is to allow citizens and audience members to engage with the material and ask their own questions, creating a space to hold important conversations.

After the event, audience members formed a lengthy line to thank Mizner for her work and for coming to the Cinema Center.

Mizner mentioned that all Frontline films are available for free on YouTube.

“They are long formed and deeply reported documentaries,” she said. She strongly encourages others to check them out at Frontline’s website, as they are a terrific way to learn about America and the world.

PFW Gives Faculty the Opportunity to Express Themselves Through Art

By Bayley McDonald

Purdue Fort Wayne displayed artwork created by faculty members and put them up for sale, with all the proceeds going to the Department of Art and Design scholarships.

The “Creatives” art exhibition had an opening ceremony on Feb. 1 with 44 creative works by 22 members of the PFW community.

This was an exhibition specifically for faculty and staff who maintain some kind of creative practice outside of their work on campus. This exhibition includes drawings, paintings, fiber arts, photography, glass art, and wood art.

The exhibition was coordinated by Derek Decker, the director of the Visual Arts Gallery and a professor at PFW. Decker has taught at PFW since 2012 and is currently teaching two classes this semester on top of running gallery events.

“To show the community, as well as our students on campus, some of the ways that art can influence your life,” said Decker when discussing the importance of this event.

He also discussed how many of the staff members use art to de-stress and connect to their creative side, apart from their role or department on campus.

Decker believes that art can always impact your life in a beneficial way, even if you are not a professional, and that should be celebrated.

“Instead of just seeing them as your engineering professor…no, that engineering professor also likes to wood turn,” Decker stated. “He also has, like we all do, likes and hobbies outside of what we do.”

Decker also discussed how this exhibition is an important way to humanize PFW faculty, and for the students to see another side of them.

One of the artists, Bruce Kingsbury, discussed the importance of this event, and displayed his piece Modest Femme.

Kingsbury is currently a professor in the biology department, and previously served in other roles such as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and chair of biology.

However, he spends his free time creating unique artwork, like the one pictured here.

“It is a form of validation, that people appreciate what I do,” Kingsbury said. “I think they did a very good job and gave my piece some life.”

Kingsbury described this event as a great way to get to discuss his art with others as well as a great opportunity to bring people together and create interactions that benefit students and staff.

This event also benefits Kingsbury in another way. He said he experiences feelings of believing he should not share his art due to “imposter syndrome”. However, this event gives him an opportunity to experience people enjoying his artwork.

He also believes it has great impacts for students.

“I think it’s great for students to pursue their dreams, and this is a way that the college can help do that, and a way that I can help do that,” Kingsbury said after discussing how the proceeds from this event go to scholarships for PFW students.

These scholarships help current, or future, students pursue their passion for art. Just in the 2020-21 academic year, $91,213 were awarded from the Department of Arts and Design scholarships. 

Lauryn Wulliman, a communications student at PFW, was also in attendance at the opening of the exhibition.

“They get to put their artwork out there and to show the world, especially students…something that they have put their heart and soul into,” she said.

Wulliman believes that it is essential for students to see and experience art in a way they may not usually do. She thinks this is beneficial in general, but specifically to non-art majors.

Wulliman also said that this event was very enjoyable, and she plans on attending next year. She also hopes that more students will take the time to come look at the artwork and meet the artists next year.

The exhibition was open from Feb. 1 to Feb. 25. Since the exhibit is now over, the artwork is no longer up for sale and the remaining artwork has been returned to their artists.

 However, Decker reported that 16 pieces were sold from the “Creatives” exhibition. This totaled out to $1,199.04 put toward the Art & Design Student scholarship fund.

Project Ballet Students Showcase Dazzling Talent

Project Ballet welcomed families and friends to their annual Student Choreography Showcase earlier this month.

The local studio is a space where those ages 3-18 go to learn the many variations of the artistic dance genre, and it also doubles as a performing arts middle and high school that provides ballet training for the region’s youth.

Within their many performances throughout the year, including the Nutcracker last winter and their upcoming spring rendition of Snow White, the students worked hard to put on a showcase that displayed the unique talent that each student possesses, whether it be ballet or another genre of dance.

Pictured is the cast and crew of this year’s Student Choreography Showcase (credit: @project.ballet)

“It was a lot of hard work put in behind the scenes of the show,” said Violet Hahn, student director and choreographer of this year’s showcase. “I had to test out different lighting and modify it to meet all the choreographers’ visions.”

Hahn also discussed coordinating costumes for each of the pieces, making sure transitions ran smoothly, and transforming one of the studio rooms into both a stage and a seated area for audience members to come and watch their loved ones perform.

“It was entirely a student-ran production,” said Beth McLeish, CEO and artistic director at Project Ballet. “We do this every year to ensure our students get the experience of directing a show and to stress that behind-the-scenes work is just as important as the performance itself.”

Molly Hahn, the mother of the student director of this year’s show, had only compliments to the group.

“The culture of support and encouragement that the students and staff have created is fantastic,” Molly said. “The students thrive in this tight-knit environment.”

Project Ballet offers many different accommodations for their students to ensure that they not only get exceptional ballet training, but also obtain a good-standing education to bring with them into the next step of their lives.

Meanwhile, their supporters get to enjoy a series of captivating performances that showcase their dazzling talents as overall dancers.

If you missed the showcase, you can still catch it here:

If you or someone you know is interested in the artistic ways of Project Ballet, you can visit them at or visit their Instagram @project.ballet for more information.

SAB Kicks Off Homecoming With Crafting For A Cause

To kick off homecoming, PFW’s Student Activities Board held an event to warm hearts and bodies: Blankets and Bracelets.

The event was held on Feb. 6 and students gathered to tie blankets for charity and make friendship bracelets for themselves. A variety of snacks were offered and a mix of background music and movies kept energies up.

“We just wanted something kind of cozy and fun for homecoming week,” said Elizabeth Lassiter, SAB Chair. “You know, everyone’s starting to come back from break so we wanted to do a kind of event where people could kind of destress and do something for a good cause.”

That cause is the Rescue Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to “provid[ing]…a home for the homeless, food for the hungry and hope for their future,” according to their mission statement.

“Especially with it being really really cold… we want to make sure we take care of our Fort Wayne community and try to lend a helping hand,” said Sydney Coyne, fellow SAB Chair.

There was a mild sense of surprise among the attendees that they were donating blankets made rather than the students keeping them, but students were given a PFW branded blanket to take home in exchange.

“I did not [know the blankets would be donated] but I’m not upset,” said PFW transfer student Kailani Johnson. “I love giving back to the community, especially because it was at no cost of my own except time.”

Kailani Johnson (Left) and friend Lilly Buchanan (Right) show off their finished blanket

That seemed to be the general opinion among the students. The line to enter wrapped around the corner before the event officially began and students continued to filter in throughout the night. The SAB hosts were pleased with the turnout, especially considering PFW’s large commuter population.

“To see so many students come out for an event after 5 p.m. is really really nice,” Lassiter said.

Lassiter has had her college experience improved by campus events and joined the SAB to spread the positive impact. 

“To be able to be one of the people that helps people get out of their dorm, get out of their house and do something fun, it’s actually really fulfilling.” 

And for Johnson, it was her first time attending a PFW event and it left a good impression.

“The vibes are good, it’s been a good time.”

Fort Wayne: A Midwest hub for music and art

Abby Gehlhausen

Imagine walking downtown in a mid-sized city, seeing countless murals and art installations. Flyers on the windows of local businesses advertise local artists and bands. Then, you wander upon a performing arts theater for the Philharmonic, and you decide to sit in for the performance; the chandeliers, the red velvet, the wine.

That’s what it feels like to be in Fort Wayne, Indiana. If you seek it out, a whole world of arts and music exists in this city.

From the Embassy Theater to public art, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, local artists, The Civic Theater, and Sweetwater Sound, there is something to fit everyone’s interests.

Art and music are important because it allows us to express ourselves and create something we are proud of. In return, it often boosts people’s confidence, gives people purpose, and can even help us learn about different cultures.

Maddie Mory, a music student at Purdue Fort Wayne, says that as a music educator, music is powerful and even increases our critical thinking skills.

“Studying music has allowed me to be constantly challenged while gaining an appreciation for past cultures and composers’ work,” Mory said.

Art aids in forming many developmental skills, builds math concepts and allows for social experiences with others, starting in childhood.

According to the American Psychological Association, “…high schoolers who take music courses score significantly better on exams in certain other subjects, including math and science, than their nonmusical peers.”

With the benefits of the arts in mind, here is a bit of what Fort Wayne has to offer.

For those passionate about music, Sweetwater Sound is a great place to start. As the country’s largest music retailer, they offer products and services for any aspiring musician, such as music lessons.

“Sweetwater has equipped me with the tools and knowledge to pursue my dreams,” said Aidan Bahre, a long-term customer from Fort Wayne. “When you walk in, it’s like Disney World.”

Sweetwater was founded in 1979 by Chuck Surack as a recording studio and has since reached 1 billion dollars in revenue. Many say Sweetwater’s motto sets the company apart from the rest: “Always do the right thing.”

If you prefer to listen to music, the Philharmonic at the Embassy Theater, the Clyde Theater, and a variety of local bands will be your go-to spots to visit.

According to Emily Shannon, the director of marketing and community relations for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, they have been focused on providing musical experiences to the Fort Wayne community and inspiring musicians since their first performance in 1944.

“We love to host events focusing on famous composers, help our youth orchestra flourish, invite the public out for holiday performances, and offer free tickets to students so that they may retain a passion for the musical arts,” Shannon said.

Fort Wayne has a large scene of local artists and bands. Some of the up-and-coming bands are a part of Purdue Fort Wayne’s Gold Top Music Group, a new record label with the university.

The group hosted an Indie Music Night in May, where three bands performed: Los Galaxy, Man of the Flood, and Los Lemons.

Supporting the work of local artists is important because it allows us to connect with our local community and financially support their work.

Quentin Wright, a member of the local indie rock band Disco Curls, said his band recently performed at The Ruin and The Muse on Band, two local venues for performers.

“Playing in Disco Curls has let me grow creatively and musically,” Wright said. “I love getting to meet new people, build my relationship with my bandmates, and produce new music.”

If you are more interested in art, the public art map of downtown Fort Wayne will be your best friend.

There has been a huge push for making downtown more beautiful by painting old buildings and creating art installations in the past few years. You can even sign up for the Fort Wayne Public Art Trail, which provides exclusive information and maps right from your phone.

While you’re in the area, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Arts United Center are fantastic places to check out.

The museum’s recent featured exhibits are ‘The Art of the Skateboard’ and ‘Color X Color: Selections from the Chuck Sperry Archive’. Arts United Center hosts a variety of events at many of the locations already mentioned. More recently, they started a podcast called “Art Unites Us” which currently has three episodes and is growing into a series.

Let’s not forget theater productions! Fort Wayne’s Civic Theater strives to nurture the creative soul, promote diversity, and educate the community. Upcoming productions include ‘Noises Off’, ‘Steel Magnolias’, and the ‘25 Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’.

Michaela Mooney, a 2021 Carroll High School graduate who heavily participated in theater and show choir, said that she loves being able to be in productions past graduation.

“Theater and singing are a huge part of who I am, and I am grateful that I still have somewhere to call home.”

Student-run eSports program pays homage to Fort Wayne

These days, you don’t have to be on the field or the court to compete in sports.

There is an ever-growing community of competitive gamers in the online world of eSports, and two students are bridging the gap between the learning stages and the professional scene.

Isaac Wendel and Jaden Hullinger are the co-founders of the eSports program 260Widow Gaming. Best friends and roommates at Purdue University Fort Wayne, they are representing the city’s area code with the new organization that highlights both local and international talent.

The group is geared toward students in high school and college interested in the multimedia world. Interests include gaming, editing, marketing, design, and many more creative mediums that contribute to the popularity of eSports.

So far, 260Widow Gaming has about seven involved in Fort Wayne, and one that joined from Romania.

The eSports lab is in Walb Student Union, room 221. You can find 260Widow Gaming on YouTube and Twitter.

Starting with our neighbors, Baha’i community looks to build unity in Fort Wayne

An event this weekend is uniting the community with two steps: vision and action.

“Building Vibrant Communities” is all about the oneness of humanity. Together, those in attendance are discussing tangible ways to grow closer as a community.

Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Marisol Sharpe has watched the city grow and is stepping up as a leader to make sure growth continues. Thanks to an initiative organized by the Baha’i community Sharpe is part of, the Fort Wayne conference is one of many happening around the world. Saturday’s focus is on the vision, and Sunday the discussion is all about action.

And the event is far from a lecture. Discussion-based breakout sessions are designed to involve every voice in attendance. Adults, teens, and youth as young as five years old are all invited to join in.

Sharpe said everyone has a part to play in the betterment of the world, and everyone has the option to be a “protagonist” in the effort to make the world a better place.

You don’t have to wait for another conference to be part of the program. One way to practice “oneness of humanity”, Sharpe explained, is to get to know our neighbors. Forming relationships with the people that live around us fulfills the second part of the initiative– action.

“I don’t think we realize– the small acts of kindness, how far those things really go,” Sharpe said.

The two-day conference is Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are provided. Learn more about the efforts of the Baha’i and register for the free event online.

Here’s why you might find a rubber duck around campus

If you find a miniature rubber duck perched somewhere around campus, you’re not hallucinating.

Thomas Carroll is a sophomore studying organizational leadership, and he’s practicing those skills now with a unique way to spread encouragement to his peers.

It all started at Chick-Fil-A, where Carroll works, when some new team members were hired: “mental health rubber ducks” for workers to have a reminder to keep smiling.

“Ducks- especially miniature rubber ducks- are something that everyone can really have a happy connection to.”

Thomas Carroll

Carroll was inspired and started the quirky Instagram account at beginning of the 2021 fall semester. The content consists of mini rubber ducks: red, blue, green, yellow, and the collection is growing.

Posts are close-up pictures with just a background glimpse of where they might be hiding. If you’re lucky, there’s a hint in the caption.

Carroll said he and his mini friends have been everywhere on campus. Keep your eyes peeled for a duck near any of the main buildings, including Kettler Hall, Engineering, Neff Hall, Walb Student Union (don’t forget to check the cafeteria) and many more places. Hideout spots aren’t limited to the indoors, either– some ducks have been found chillin’ out in the snow.

Carroll said his followers have been enjoying the random duck content on their feed, and the social media account has created memorable interactions between him and other students.

One response that impacted Carroll was from someone reaching out to thank him, saying they found a duck just when they needed a pick-me-up that day.

“If nothing else comes from this– that’s perfect,” Carroll said.

The latest edition to the quest: when you find a duck, there may be a compliment or note of encouragement attached.

When you find a duck, you get not one, but two instant new friends–the duck, and Carroll! Make sure to message the Instagram account and let him know you succeeded.

You can follow the adventures of the rubber ducks at the Instagram account @pfwduck.

Celebrating Diversity at Hobnobben Film Festival

By Brianna Datta

“Hobnobben is on its sixth annual festival which is absolutely amazing for Fort Wayne and the community. We continue to grow every single year. This year we received a record number of film submissions, so we love to see how this festival has evolved and changed from the beginning”, said Amanda Hille, co-chair of the Hobnobben film festival for the last three years.

Hille explained the significance of this event taking place in a town like Fort Wayne, extending the invitation for those unfamiliar with independent filmmaking to share their art and their perspective with the Northeast Indiana community.

“One thing we’re excited about with Hobnobben is that it is very much a Fort Wayne event. We accept films from high school all the way up to more professional type projects. We have several awards that emphasize the locality of Fort Wayne. So, this year we had a quarter of our films that were submitted that were tied to Indiana in some way, whether its being in Indiana or that they were Indiana-specific. So, we are excited to nurture and grow filmmaking in the Fort Wayne area because it is an important art form, where you can not only share your story but it’s a way to allow people from diverse groups and perspectives to showcase what they want to say in a succinct way. With this particular type of programming, we rely on the Fort Wayne community members to show up and participate in seeing films, we rely on community businesses and organizations to help sponsor Hobnobben, and this festival is really about bringing people together in an inclusive way to make sure that everyone is seen and heard and that we can really celebrate other perspectives which is so unique.”

Hille also highlighted the ways in which Hobnobben sets itself a part from other film festivals, describing how Hobnobben actively celebrates diversity beyond just the content of the film selections. Many of the films submissions selected were directed by women, and the Hobnobben festival itself was led by women. In addition to this, Hobnobben offers a special award, the Jen and Lynn award, to celebrate LGBTQIA representation in the films.

“For me, being a part of Hobnobben during my second year, one of my co-chairs said that there aren’t many festivals that are led by women it’s only, I believe, twenty-eight percent of festivals. So, for us to provide that understanding is so important. We have a new award called the Jen and Lynn award that is specifically to highlight and celebrate LGBTQAI films, and that’s one way to make sure that we are bringing representation to Fort Wayne. Forty percent of our films that were in this festival were directed by women-which is unheard of when you compare it to your mainstream Hollywood films.”

To stream the films from this event visit

For more information on the Hobnobben film festival visit