Monday, December 24, 2012

Why I LOVE my major and minors!

Hey everyone!

I hope you're all enjoying your Holiday break! As I am typing to you, my mother is cooking up a storm for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, my sister just came through the door with an armful of packages, and as for me...well, I'm avoiding the last-minute cleaning and wrapping I have to do with a blog post! So, thanks for fueling my procrastination.

As most of you may know, I'm a Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts major at Saint Mike's. I have this belief: the longer the name, the cooler the major! If you're from the same school of thought, then nothing is better than MJD!

When I started the college search, I knew I was mostly interested in schools that offered a Journalism program. The thing about journalism, though, is that it's one of the fastest-growing and most changing fields of study. Modern technology has changed the way the media work. Journalists are no longer just writers; they are photographers, designers, editors, and web creators. What made SMC stand out for me was that our MJD department was taking this into consideration. Before I got to Saint Mike's, the major was known as "Journalism and Mass Communication". Then, the department revised its curriculum in order to allow more focus on much of the emerging technology and new skills that are needed to succeed in today's industry.

One really fascinating aspect of the MJD major is that we are not only learning how to use technology responsibly and effectively, but we are also learning how to analyze the ways in which new media may change the way we receive information and even alter the ways we view the world. There's no doubt that people are spending more time than ever indoors, that we now receive news and information mostly over the internet, and that so much screen time often leads to negative health effects. But, how do computers change the way our brains function? What does the impact of technology have to do with human interaction? With so many opposing views and thousands of outlets to receive news, how do we choose which source to trust? How have social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter changed the ways we interact with each other? These questions, among many others, are ones that all MJD majors will become familiar with and eventually answer in their own terms.

One of the ways we consider these questions is through a week-long "Tech Fast", a time each semester when students are encouraged to completely "unplug." We turn off our cell phones and ipods, write many assignments by hand, and stay away from computers--which, as a school that relies so heavily on email to keep students informed about happenings on campus, is an incredibly difficult task. This is all optional, of course, but most MJD majors take part in it as a way to fully comprehend our reliance on these tools. The tech fast always creates some awesome discussions in class, as all of the students get really pumped to share their experience.

An inspirational message to MJD students on the door of a Bergeron computer lab. 

Of course, the curriculum wouldn't be much if the department didn't have an incredible staff of professors to teach it. Well, MJD majors present and future, you're in luck! The Saint Mike's MJD department employs several amazing journalists from various specific areas of interest. They have traveled the world, worked for an array of companies, taught at other prestigious schools across the country, and they've been published in all media forms. These professors are dedicated, too. I've spent a lot of time in Bergeron (the main academic building for MJD students...hopefully you'll like this tight-knit journalism community, because you'll practically live there!) and there are always professors around, in their offices, having meetings with students, and helping out in the classrooms. They work extremely hard to make themselves available for anything the students may need.

Another quick thing to tell you about the MJD major--this group of students and professors is truly a community. It's evident in the impromptu study sessions, the conversations that might last long after a class has ended, and the fact that you'll probably get to know every single person in the major. I remember a conversation I once had with a transfer student who commented on the competitiveness of her old school. She loved that at Saint Mike's, the students were "all in it together"--learning from each other and willing to help other students succeed. I can definitely relate to that. I love that these students are so talented, they're constantly pushing me to do better without even realizing it. But at the end of the day, we're simply trying to better ourselves, not outdo each other--which allows us to realize that we are truly each other's best resources. The camaraderie of the MJD department at Saint Mike's is likely to go unmatched at most other schools.      

To see some student-run MJD work in action, check out the Defender, our weekly newspaper that covers all kinds of news and events on campus and around the Burlington area.

So, that was a LOT, and I feel like I've simply skimmed the surface. This is obviously a topic I'll constantly come back to on my blog, so I'll make the appropriate tags for you all to explore as I continue posting throughout my college experience. For now, I'll only say a few things about each of my minors:

The Environmental Studies minor (also offered as a major) at Saint Mike's is by far one of the coolest approaches I've seen to this interesting area of study. This has an interdisciplinary focus, looking at nature and the current issues in our environment from several perspectives. Not only do we study sciences like biology and ecology for a basic understanding of the way our earth functions, but we observe human interaction with nature over time by analyzing art, literature, philosophy, and even music. We look at famous environmental disasters and legal cases as well as modern issues that plague our world, including climate change, food insecurity and the global water crisis. The Intro to Environmental Studies class I took this year was extremely engaging, as four professors from different disciplines came together to teach a course that really opened my eyes to the world around me.

Creative Writing has been an absolute pleasure for me so far. I love to write, which is one of the main reasons I went to school for journalism. However, I often find that there's a lot of structure in journalistic writing, and sometimes it's necessary to stick to a certain format and of course remain objective (depending on who or what you're writing for, you can be more flexible with your writing, but traditional journalism might not always allow this). The Creative Writing minor is the perfect outlet for me--sometimes, I just want to write fiction! I've also found that my CW classes have strengthened me as a writer in general, and they often help me see my MJD major in a different way. CW has allowed me to explore different styles and techniques to find a way of writing that is uniquely me.

If you're interested in Creative Writing but you're not sure if you want it to be your minor, have no fear--there is a solution! You can practice and contribute to the CW community by submitting pieces to the Onion River Review, our campus literature and art publication. I'm an auxiliary editor for the review, which basically means that I get to read the submissions and meet up with the rest of the editors once or twice a year to help decide what to publish (it's so popular that unfortunately, there's not enough room for all of the submissions!) It's a really great way to get involved with people who share similar interests--there's also an open reading for poetry and other work about once a month on campus!

So, there you have it--a little look at why I love learning at Saint Mike's. Stay tuned for more major/minor information as well as the normal shenanigans! For my next few posts, I'm hoping to focus on some projects that I've done or contributed to in some way or another.

Again, Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Catching Up

Hello Readers! I am so sorry that it's been what seems like forever since my last post. As you may know, the last few weeks of the semester are always the busiest as everyone is rushing to wrap up their classes. Since so much has happened in such a small amount of time, I will update you on some of the highlights:

Earlier this month I attended a Christmas party held by Founders Society for alumni, faculty members and their children. It was a lot of fun--Alliot was all decked out for the occasion with a giant Christmas tree and an appearance from Santa, which the kids loved. We also had craft stations set up so that they would have little hand-made gifts to bring home with them.

My friend Cara and I had a photo shoot in Santa's chair after he left.

Our craft station made candy-cane reindeer!

The Christmas party was a good break from working on projects and studying for finals, and it also got me into a really festive holiday spirit. Though we did not get much snow, and what little we had is already melted and gone, campus looked like a winter wonderland during the first week or so of December.

As the snow melted and the next few weeks carried on, things became a bit more challenging. With deadlines and finals approaching, there was not as much time to relax or get away from work on the weekends. Although many a Saturday afternoon was spent in the library, the stress of the semester closing was accompanied with and balanced out by good friends, late-night runs to the Knightstand, and laughing fests that seem to come out of nowhere simply because we're so tired that everything seems hilarious (come on, you know what I'm talking about!).

There were also some stress-free events held on campus. The comedian, John Hodgman, put on a show that had all of the students laughing. There were a ton of activities for people to relax at the end of a long day, like getting Henna tattoos or "Fun Night" in Alliot when we were given crayons and paper tablecloths at dinner and allowed to let our inner five-year-olds free.

As for finals themselves, I think they went really well. My final assignment for Nature and Outdoor Writing was due on Monday. We had a choice to research an environmental person, organization, or issue, so I wrote about the global water crisis. I also had my Christianity final on Monday, and was actually surprised at how much I wrote for each of the questions we had. Though I had studied hard, I didn't think I had much to say. But, I ended up using almost the whole two-and-a-half hours allotted for the test, and I filled up two essay booklets!

On Tuesday, I had my Environmental Studies exam. We had already presented a group project for this class a week earlier, which was an event that I had seen as so important that until Tuesday I felt as if I was already done with the course. I'll admit that this test threw me off a bit--because I had taken that attitude about it, I wasn't in the best mindset to take an exam. However, once I got into a rhythm, I found it pretty easy to write responses to each of the questions. It was an open-note test, but I only referenced my books when I felt that I needed to. Otherwise, I relied on my brainpower and passion for the subject to take over, and once more I found myself staying the whole time to complete the exam.

My website for Advanced Digital Media was also due on Tuesday. This project was a final portfolio website that had to incorporate all of our past work into one big project. I have to admit, this assignment was certainly the most intimidating for me, as I am not the most technologically-minded person and I often become extremely frustrated with design programs. I poured all of my spare time and tons of effort into the project, and it really paid off. It was definitely the most complex assignment I had completed all semester, and apart from a few extra things I wanted to do but ran out of time for, I had gotten the result I wanted.

Here is a sample from the home page of my website, which had a slide show of my photography.

The website was due at 5PM on Tuesday, and after making some minor adjustments, I finished just in time. Once I sent it in, I took a big sigh of relief--I was done! This hectic semester was over!

The euphoric feeling lasted about two seconds. My next thought what?

It's funny once you're officially done with a semester. At first, it doesn't feel real. One minute, you're racing against the clock, trying to get everything done. The next minute, there's nothing else to do.

I came up with ideas quickly though. Since I was catching a ride home with Sheila and she was not done until Friday, I spent my next few days of freedom cleaning out my room, which definitely needed a few days' worth of attention, and getting all of my Christmas shopping done on Church Street with local Vermont products. (Okay, and I slept A LOT.)

After Sheila's final presentation on Friday, we piled all of our stuff in her car and got on the road to head home. It was only a few minutes into the ride when I heard the awful news about the tragic elementary school massacre that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. A friend from that area told me, so we turned on the radio and listened to the news most of the way home. I know that during this holiday season, my thoughts will remain on the victims of this event and their families. It is so terrible and unfortunate that nothing will ever be the same for them.

Hearing this news made me hug my family a bit tighter when I got home. I am so lucky and grateful to have them in my life. To all of my readers, I hope that you and your loved ones have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.

So, that just about wraps up the last few weeks of my blog absence. And quite a few weeks they were! They were difficult, yes, but they were equally productive, interesting, enlightening, and at times even fun. They have caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting about how far I've come since the beginning of the semester and even since I began college. They have taught me lessons about time management, stress, and especially in light of the past few days, love, the true meaning of the holidays and the most important things in life.

I spent my first day home with my family. We put up our tree and Christmas decorations. I also spent some time looking ahead at my plans for the future--so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go read through all of my study abroad materials!

Please excuse my creepy smile--I'm just a bit too enthusiastic for this endeavor.
Stay tuned for more posts--I'm working on a list of everything I want to tell you about my major and minors!

Happy end-of-semester!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Well this is awkward...

Oops, looks like I haven't been here in a while. I swear, it's not you, it's me. Really. Sorry to be keeping everyone waiting!

First of all, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I really enjoyed it, and it came at just the right time too--it was so nice to relax a little bit over break before coming back for the final stretch this semester. I just finished one project last night, which worked out well, but I still have two more to finish as well as a paper that I'm hoping to be done with by the end of next week. Then, I just have to study for exams and before I know it, there will be nothing left! I'm sure it will be relieving, but at the same time, I'm not going to know what to do with myself!

It's a good thing I'll be going home for winter break...there will be no boredom when there are Christmas lights to hang, trees to decorate and cookies to bake! (In case you couldn't tell, I'm a Christmas fanatic. In fact, I'm wearing a shirt right now that's from the boadway musical of Elf that says "Sparkle Jolly Twinkle Jingley." Yeah, I'm one of those...)

So anyway, I just wanted to check in with you all. I'm still kickin' and going strong. Hope you're all doing well!

PS, It's snowing up here in Vermont. LOVE IT!!!! I hope it'll be a white Christmas in New York this year as well.

Wherever you are, stay jolly...and stay warm!