Bundle Up!

As we continue to experience dangerous sub-zero temperatures and wind chills, the importance of being safe just can’t be stressed enough. I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to destroying my hair with a hat or leaving extra time to get to my destination, but lately it’s just not wise to not take all necessary precautions.

Just last week their were multiple casualties as we all slid up and down icy hills and stairways. The sliding continues but now we add the possibility of frostbite to exposed skin. According to almanac.com, when the temperature is  balmy 0 degrees and the wind speed is a slight 15 mph, the wind chill makes it feel like -19 degrees and frostbite can occur within 10 minutes.

Two local colleges, Edinboro University and Penn State Behrend  both chose to cancel classes today. With many students and staff being required to spend more than 10 minutes outdoors commuting, I respect and agree with their decision to cancel.

This topic leads me to question when and if educational institutions will take advantage of the technological age that we live in, when conditions make being outdoors dangerous, for whatever reason. We have the capability to share information and check  online attendance. Some local public school districts are investigating the possibility of cyber days.They have to seek state approval for such an option to become reality. Logic leads me to think that private colleges could institute a similar policy without such a process. I think the question is worthy of asking.

The extreme temperatures also lead me to wonder what the future holds as far as what kind of weather conditions we can look forward to and how to prepare to ensure everyone’s safety. I am not an amateur meteorologist nor do I predict the future, but I think that this is another question worthy of some serious consideration.

There are always stories about extreme weather conditions throughout the years and people who will deny that our climate is changing. People are always fascinated or terrified by extreme conditions, but when these things seem to occur more frequently, concern and action seem more appropriate responses.

There were rumors in the media that Niagara Falls had completely frozen over. I watched as Al Roker dispelled that myth. Because of the volume of water, it’s not possible to completely freeze. There are stories of people walking across the falls many years ago. They were able to do so, probably not wisely, due to an ice jam that formed at the top of the falls.

Stay safe, bundle up and ask questions!

Crossing Niagara Falls is not recommended!
Crossing Niagara Falls is not recommended!

 

Linking and Learning

JUST THE FACTS

When we learn about events that take place around the world, how do we know what to believe? Whether we read news in print, watch television broadcasts or rely on the internet for our news, how do we sort out fact from fiction? How can we understand world events and the political relationships between countries if we’re uncertain about the accuracy and honesty of the news that we’re consuming?

Many people believe that it’s impossible to tell a story without some inserting some bias. I would have to agree. Even if a reporter or journalist has access to factual information,  their version of events as they tell the story, will likely be biased in some way, whether personally or from others who modify the story. Most journalists and reporters tell stories that go through a series of editors, publishers and other filters. Before these stories reach the consumer, any information in the story that may conflict with government or corporate issues may be removed in order to avoid controversy or keep the peace with corporate owners. So the first hurdle we have to jump is having faith in our source of information.

Major news organizations have also been greatly influenced by the use of technology and social media to keep us up to date with world events. In the rush to be the first to break a story, information can quickly become misinformation. Last summer I read a tweet from the Associated Press, a well-respected news organization. The tweet stated that a Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash landed. Other news organizations re-tweeted the horrible news. It wasn’t long before someone discovered that it wasn’t true, but the mistake couldn’t just be erased. So, even trusted, well-respected sources can get it wrong.

Technology and social media also allow individuals, with or without journalistic experience or integrity, to create news. Can we trust that this direct, unfiltered news is an accurate portrayal of events? High-tech gadgets can  allow individuals to create raw authentic stories or completely fabricated versions of events. Videos of things that take place in our own country or anywhere in the world can serve as a way to enlighten people to the truth or they can serve as propaganda used to promote any organization’s agenda. Michael Krona is a lecturer and researcher in media who has much to say on this topic.

The Terrorist group, ISIS’s use of technology has enlightened many people to the horrors they inflict on journalists and others. Some people believe that they use their videos of be-headings and killings to promote their agenda. In reality, they have served to unite many countries, who might not otherwise agree on issues, in an effort to eliminate them. Most news outlets have refused to share these horrifying images with the public, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News claimed they were carrying out their duties as journalists by showing the video. Other news outlets disagreed.

We live in an ever-changing world. We have access to information from around the world at our fingertips. We can personally interact with people that we rarely even heard of in the not-so-distant past. We are no longer isolated from events that occur far from home. As we and the world around us evolve and change and we see an emerging global order, how do we interpret the many different accounts of events that are occurring? Now, more than ever, we need to scrutinize the news we consume. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure the safety of trained, professional journalistsjournalistcomvb1 as they bring us the stories that enlighten us.

Please Be Seated

As we settle into the second semester, I am reminded of a dilemma for students of all ages; where to sit? I actually found a quiz that promises to tell you what your classroom seat says about your personality. I won’t be sharing my results.

Each year the new Sheridan Scholars have a day for orientation. We always take time to show them their classroom. I always point out that they should also consider where they might want to sit on that first day, as it will likely be their seat for the entire semester.

Students who attend large campuses may have classes in large auditoriums. That might change the desire to sit in the same seat. The thought makes me curious, but not enough to research it.

I’m now attending for my third year and taking my eighth and ninth classes. I’ve been in traditional classrooms with desks, rooms with chairs around a conference table, computer labs and studio settings. In each case, everyone chose a seat the first day and rarely ventured very far away, except once.

My first class that I enrolled in was in a classroom in the Odd Fellows building. The desks where bulky old wooden desks with lots of primitive carvings on top for entertainment purposes. I chose to sit in the front row in the right, or left if you’re the professor, corner. I never strayed, although I think the professor easily recognized me. I watched as she struggled trying to identify everyone while taking attendance. She even remarked about how some students seemed to be roaming all over the room. I wondered if these roamers might be dooming their GPA by defying the norm. That’s another topic that I’ve not researched.

I’m enrolled in a class this semester that doesn’t have one empty desk in the room. It’s impressive that our professor seems to have a grasp on not only our names, but how to pronounce them. That’s a skill that I lack and sincerely admire.

Please don’t think that I’m taking a stance in favor of assigned seats. We are independent and have the ability to make our own choices. I do think that professors may prefer to see you in the same general area for identification purposes. That said, if you choose to be a roamer, good luck to you.

In the three years that I’ve observed this phenomenon, I believe that the majority of students are creatures of habit. My advice is that you put some thought into where you park yourself on that first day since you’ll probably inhabit that spot regularly.seats

Torture

If the title got your attention, then hopefully the topic will motivate you to learn more about a controversial issue that could affect the future safety of our country.

I attended a recent lunch and learn lecture in Quigley Hall titled “The Torture Report”. I was motivated by the free pizza that fit perfectly into my break between classes, but I soon took out my notebook to capture some of the key points made by Professor Tamashiro.

“The Torture Report” is a book that is available in print and online. It was created to give a full account of the Bush administration torture program.

Torture has been traditionally defined as action that intentionally inflicts pain. It can also be referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques” for purposes of political correctness or in an effort to disguise the reality of what it entails. During the Bush administration terms such as organ failure and death were added to the definition as a way to limit what could be legally considered torture.  Professor Tamashiro used the word “torture” throughout his presentation.

Those who endorse the use of torture would say that it is safe, legal and effective. They believe that acts of terrorism happen quickly and that we need a method of acquiring intelligence just as quickly, which can best be accomplished through the use of torture.fence

Those opposed to the use of torture believe that we risk forfeiting our fundamental values that our country was founded on. Terrorists groups often motivate their followers by portraying us as hypocrites. Would this portrayal be justified if we use torture to get information?

My quest for free pizza left me with a lot to think about. Future generations will be affected by decisions about how we protect our safety and our values. There are no easy answers and it’s up to us to make our wishes known.

Did you know?

Photo by Kassie Mosbacher during a trip to San Francisco
Photo by Kassie Mosbacher during a trip to San Francisco

One thing I’ve learned in my time as a student is that a day off from classes does not mean a day off from learning.

In honor of the today’s holiday, for federal employees and some students, I have scoured the internet for facts about Martin Luther King Jr. that I never knew. While I realize that all information on the internet is not necessarily true, I selected information put in print by reputable sources.

Hopefully you spent time attending some of the more enriching activities on campus today. Here’s a few tidbits that you might use to impress someone who doesn’t follow my blogs.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth name was Michael King Jr. His father, Michael, changed his name to Martin Luther when he became a minister. His son followed in his footsteps.

The federal holiday was enacted in 1983 but it was not officially observed in all 50 states until the year 2000.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is also celebrated in Toronto, Canada and Hiroshima, Japan.

Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at age 35. He remains the youngest male to ever win the prize.

He enrolled in Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 15. He graduated in 1948 with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology. His grandfather, father, brother and two sons are also alumni of the college.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only U.S. citizen who never held political office  to have a national holiday named after him.

With each generation his dream lives on.

Leading By Example

hatchLots of local media outlets have covered the topic that I have chosen. They each took their own approach and covered it from their own perspective. Each story was informative and engaging.

With all the attention, I debated whether or not to add my two cents. I felt like I would be remiss not to.

Unless you live under a rock, you must have heard by now that Professor Cheryl Hatch did not take her own advice to rest over winter break. Instead, she did follow some advice that she often gives to students: Be open to opportunity and take advantage of connections.

Professor Hatch and Brian Castner traveled to Liberia to report on the Ebola crisis. If you haven’t followed the stories and images they have created, you need to stop reading this blog and read  https://news.vice.com/article/progress-in-liberia-schools-shuttered-by-ebola-set-to-reopen.

The stories and images that came from this collaboration brought a human aspect to what has become a household term recently. Few people have not heard or spoken the word “Ebola”. Many people were in a panic at the thought of this disease invading our borders. Ebola was the topic of reports in virtually every media outlet on a daily basis.

In all of that reporting, I never saw images or read stories that focused on the life that goes on despite this horrific disease. Death has claimed many victims of Ebola, but life goes on for many others. The images captured by Professor Hatch give us a glimpse of death and the life that continues. Her photos tell a story of suffering and survival.

In my few years as a Gator, Professor Hatch has provided me with guidance, advice and opportunities that I never imagined possible. We are so fortunate to have her in our midst and to learn from her experience.

Landing

Winter break flew by a little too quickly and as classes resume it’s not always easy to keep your head above water! The adult scholars on campus are all adjusting to the workload of two courses as opposed to one in the fall. As a scholar with experience, it doesn’t get easier and it’s vital that you maintain some sense of organization. If you attempt to “fly by the seat of your pants”, you may not have a successful landing.

The one bit of advice that I would give future scholars trying to juggle the responsibilities of life with the rigor of academic tasks is to make lists. I make a list each day. Some days I have more things checked off than others, but it’s the only way that I have found to ensure that nothing gets forgotten.

Winter break has become the time that students are applying for internships, fellowships and even summer jobs and opportunities. In fact, some deadlines occur before December. The stress of keeping track of what to apply for, what you have applied for and waiting to hear back from various people can be overwhelming. It’s a time of uncertainty as you wonder what comes next. Again, it’s easier to manage if you keep a list of what you’ve done, what still needs done and the results of your efforts.

Last fall I took a photography class. It was fun, informative and a real skill-builder. Photography skills can be an asset in lots of professions and much of what I learned is relevant as I begin this semester’s class in video production.

I also enrolled in World Politics this semester. It’s a topic that I would like to learn more about and it fit well into my schedule. As it turns out, I will be blogging regularly for this class. I’m hoping that my experience as a Gator Blogger will help me accomplish this assignment and serve as a learning tool. Hopefully I can provide links in the future.

As we all jump into this semester, remember that you’re not alone. There’s lots of us jumping in together. Time will again go by too quickly. Here’s wishing all of us a successful landing!

What's that saying about any landing being a good one?
What’s that saying about any landing being a good one?

Life on Campus

It’s time for the campus to come back to life. It’s always difficult to get back into the academic routine, but the time has come.

I don’t feel organized or prepared, but I’m eager to learn some new skills and meet some new people and the campus needs to be filled with life again. A college campus without people just doesn’t seem right.

A few weeks ago, I decided to stop by the post office to check my lonely mail box. I don’t check it often, as non-traditional students don’t typically get cool stuff in the mail and thus lack the motivation to play the “will my mailbox open on the first try” game. As expected, there wasn’t anything cool in there. In fact, I was disappointed to find out that I have a library fine and I missed the chance to pay in canned goods, but that may be the subject of future blogs.

The real weirdness of that visit to campus was the lack of sound and activity. I found a parking place way too easily, which should have indicated my lack of company. All of the doors to the Campus Center were locked except for the main entrance.

As I crunched down the steps, I realized how loud my approach was. I tried to walk more softly, as if I were disturbing someone. I didn’t even see or hear any birds. My presence was completely unnoticed.

I walked in the main entrance and still saw nobody. Nobody to awkwardly hold the door for. Nobody to recognize in the lobby. Nobody enjoying food. coffee or conversation. Not one solitary soul, except me.

When you find yourself in this situation, you suddenly become self-conscious and almost feel as if you’re doing something wrong. I didn’t know whether to try to find someone and explain my presence or just check my mailbox and get out as quickly as possible. I opted for the latter.

I actually heard some voices as I headed upstairs to my mailbox, but I chose not to find their source. Maybe too many scary movies led me to doubt their origin or maybe I feared their reaction to my presence.

All I know is that an empty campus is not the place I want to be. So welcome back everybody! Welcome, welcome, welcome! It’s time to bring life back to campus!

Hello! Where is everyone?
Hello! Where is everyone?

Honoring a Legacy

Ida Tarbell was born on Nov. 5, 1857. Her birthday was recently celebrated by staff, students and friends of The Campus newspaper with stories and delicious carrot cake.

As we chatted and munched,ida a student asked the obvious question, “Who’s Ida Tarbell?” I had read about her, included her in at least one presentation and had written requests for dignitaries to attend a conference honoring her in the spring. I knew the basics about her, but I felt that my answer lacked something.

If the real question had been “Why are we celebrating her birthday so many years later?”, my factual and brief answer was completely inadequate. Ida Tarbell blazed a trail and her determination deserves to be honored. She was a teacher, author and journalist. She graduated from Allegheny College, the only woman in her class, in 1880. She is well-known for her book “The History Of The Standard Oil Company”.

Her accomplishments are admirable. Her character and spirit are worth remembering and honoring .She was a truth-seeker and she overcame many obstacles as such.

In researching and writing her book, an effort to fight the monopolizing of the oil trade, she gathered facts from thousands of pages of documents and conducted interviews with people who were sometimes cooperative, but not always. She was an investigative journalist before that was a career choice.

Her gender was less of an obstacle to telling her story than gathering facts was. That didn’t stop her.

I envision lots of people who did everything they could to stop her. She may not have been invited to social events. I doubt that she received an invitation to the Rockefeller Christmas party. She may have even endured threats to her safety. She persevered.

We celebrate this woman because of her spirit.

We honor her by continuing to be fearless, unpopular truth-seekers.

 

Gator Day

Gator Day 2014
Gator Day 2014

I’m a little behind in discussing this topic but that seems to be the theme of my Fall 2014 semester. All too often, I find myself barely getting to my destination or completing projects on time. So far, while I may be skating in by the skin of my teeth, I have not been late!

During my summer internship, I had just myself to be concerned with and I was able to be organized and not only meet the deadlines required at my workplace, but usually complete stories ahead of time to allow for more editing time.

Since my return home, I’m still trying to accomplish my goals and tackle all those other things that go on when you’re part of a family and a working student. Most of the time I find myself hanging on by a thread. I’m starting to stress less about this and just keep going forward.

I stayed true to this trend when I shared my internship experience at Gator Day. I blew in just a little ahead of schedule, made my contact that I need to connect in a Skype session and basically winged it. I’ve become quite familiar with winging it lately. Had I taken part in the rumored Gator Day Eve festivities, I might not have made it at all. This is yet another benefit of being a non-traditional student. I wasn’t invited to Gator Day Eve!

Several other students joined  me on Gator Day to share our internship experiences and advice with a great group. We were all unique in many aspects and yet we all shared a common experience. We all started our internship experiences uncertain of our abilities and we all emerged with confidence and networking connections that will last forever

I used one of these connections to offer advice and insight via Skype. Elizabeth Bloom took time out from her day to talk about her experience as an intern and as a reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Her area of expertise is classical music. While she spends time attending concerts and events, her expertise is often called upon for many stories that she can contribute to. it’s not uncommon for her to write an obituary when a local or famous musician dies.As the summer saga of the foreclosure of a building in Pittsburgh that housed a cultural center took twists and turns, she often spent time gathering facts and getting the news out quickly.

My point is to rectify any impressions that her job is easy or without moments of stress. She loves being able to write about her passion, but her talent goes beyond being a music connoisseur. She is an example of a talented writer being able to focus on their chosen area of expertise and she started as an intern.

Whatever your passion, if you enjoy writing and storytelling, an internship in media may be a great experience for you too.