Monday, January 26, 2015

MLK Jr. Day - More Than Just a Day

Hello all and Happy Monday!  As I'm sure you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of this day, Saint Michel's (particularly the MLK Jr. Society) put together a host of events for students to attend throughout the week.  I attended the Convocation on Monday, with keynote speaker Kevin Powell as well as many other speakers from Saint Michael's and the surrounding area. Though it took a large junk of time out of my busy day, I'm so happy I went.

society racism groups media hip hop
Kevin Powell speaking in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel last Monday
For most of my life, I've thought of MLK Jr. Day as just another opportunity to miss a day of school. However, this year in particular, I viewed the day a bit differently. In light of many things, including the Convocation on Monday, my Race and Ethnic relations class last semester (arguably the most influential class I've taken at Saint Mike's), the many events that have raised our attention to the racial injustices in our society, coupled with my recent viewing of the movie Selma, I find that I have had a lot to think about throughout the past week.

First and foremost, as my Demography and Public Health Professor pointed out on the first day of class, I am lucky to be alive.  More than that, I am extremely fortunate to have been born into a family that has enabled me to earn a high school (and soon college) degree.  In two of my sociology classes, we have read an article by Peggy McIntosh about white privilege.  Each time I read it, I gained a greater appreciation for all that is granted to me in my everyday life.

I don't want this post to sound preachy, but I do want to take a moment to be grateful for my life, as well as acknowledge the fact that not everyone has the same privileges I do.  Another one of my professors last week urged my class to go see the movie Selma in order to gain a better appreciation for the struggles that African Americans went through in order to obtain the right to vote.  As I said to my roommates (who went to see the movie with me), I don't get angry very often, but during the movie, I was quite mad at what I was seeing.  As I write this post, I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts into words.  But I think what I'm trying to say is that it is that people were, and still are, judged and looked down upon because of their race of ethnicity.  It is unacceptable.  And it's not just in the media.  Just this morning, my Psych of Health and Wellness class had a discussion about an article we read pertaining to the the fact that race and ethnicity both have an effect on interactions, treatment plans, as well as outcomes of those seeking medical help.  I understand that it might be easy to group people together and make assumptions based on their looks - some would even argue that grouping people is a natural human tendency.  However, just because people may have similar looks doesn't mean they're the same.  As one of my good friends and mentors says, we are all strategically different, and that's a good thing.

A few days ago, I was having a conversation about people from South America.  One of the people I was talking to was trying to make a distinction between two South American countries, while another spoke of the countries as though they were one entity.  Though I'm sure no harm or offense was intended, it struck a chord with me.  Last semester in my Human Geography class, Professor Kujawa brought to our attention the fact that so many people speak of the entire content of Africa as though it is one country, when in fact there are at least forty seven separate countries (depending on whether or not you count the islands).  People do the same thing with other people.  Not all non-whites are the same.  Not all Asians are the same.  Not all Europeans are the same.  And everyone deserves to know that they are valuable and important.

While the speeches I heard on Monday were important, inspiring, and heartbreaking all at the same time, I left the Convocation still unsure of exactly what I'm supposed to do about the current state of our country as a soon-to-be college college graduate.  The best I can think of so far is to continue the conversation, with my friends, parents, peers, and you.  I also feel want to point out that for many years it has been my gut reaction to tune out whenever people use the word "history."  Now, however, I am slowly coming to understand that maybe learning about history isn't so bad after all.  As my Practicum professor said last week, we cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  We cannot just sit back and assume that others will take care of our problems for us, whether they have to do with racism, inequality, or something as simple as procrastinating on homework.

for the better

I have to admit that I had every intention of posting this on Friday as a conclusion to MLK Jr. week.  However, life got in the way, and here it is, already the end of the weekend and the start of another week.  After a moment of reprimanding myself for not posting this sooner, I realized that it's actually kind of perfect that I waited.  To me at least, it shows that conversation about these issues (and many more that I didn't discuss here) shouldn't be reserved to one week of the year.  The effects of people's actions have constant effects.  I hope that everyone continues to be inspired, in one way or another, to pay more attention to individual differences and to see the beauty in them.  We have a lot to learn from each other.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

PS I've been on a Script kick for the past song in particular because they're all great! :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

One More Round

Happy Friday everyone! Even though I've been back at Saint Mike's for almost a week now, it seems like it's been forever (in a good way).  I am so happy to be back living with some of the best people I know and having as much fun as possible (in between classes and homework of course). I can't believe it's my last semester here - the time went by more quickly than I ever imagined it would. But before I get carried away thinking about everything I want to do before my time here is up, I thought I'd take a minute to update you all on my schedule for this semester:

I'm taking four classes, three of which count toward my psychology major.  The first one, which I have on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 8am (bright and early, I know) is called Psychology of Health and Illness.  Even though it's early, I think I'm really going to enjoy the class, because of the professor as well as the content.  I've never had a class with Professor Tomasulo, but she seems very enthusiastic about the material, which will certainly help me out on days when I might rather be in bed!  One of the main components of the class is completing a health genealogy project. While it might be nerve-wracking to learn about what I might be genetically at-risk for, Professor Tomasulo has assured us that, while we can't control our genetics, there are things we can do each day to improve our overall (physical, mental, emotional) health. When I'm home, my mom really encourages me to eat well and exercise often, so I'm hoping her motivation as well as this class will continue to encourage me to be healthy each day.

Thank you to my roommate Lauren for the inspiration to use funny pictures on my blog!

My next class, which I have on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, is the last class I need to fulfill my sociology minor.  It is called Demography and Public Health, taught by Professor Bolduc. I've never taken a class with Professor Bolduc before, but he has stepped in for a few of my previous sociology classes when my professors have been absent due to conferences, etc. so I have certainly seen him around!  I don't have much experience with demography except for what we covered last semester in my Human Geography class. Regardless, as I was reading just last night, demographic information has many uses that can be applied in a variety of areas, so I'm excited to be able to add this to my current sociological knowledge.

My last class on Mondays is Practicum II, which is a continuation of Practicum I, which I took last semester.  The major work for the course is done outside the classroom via an off-campus internship. I will be continuing the work that I started last semester in an alternative classroom in Winooski High School, just a few minutes from Saint Mike's. I was able to learn a lot last semester from my internship, and hope to do the same this year. I will be at the school Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. My schedule this semester allows me to be at the school at different times than last semester. I am happy about this because it ensures that I get to see different parts of the school day and how students motivation, etc. changes throughout the day.

My final class, which I have on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is called the Psychology of Marriage and Relationships. I have wanted to take this class since I first heard that Saint Michael's offered it, so naturally I was extremely excited when I was able to register for it last fall. Professor Millwood teaches the course. I took Research Methods II with her during my sophomore year, and am looking forward to having another class with her. From the discussions we had this week, I am fairly certain that this will be my favorite class of the semester, and potentially my favorite psych class altogether. I'm sure I'll be dedicating many future posts to it!

In addition to my classes and internship, I'll be giving a weekly tour on Mondays, leading Liturgy of the Word (LOW) lunch on Fridays, and of course, singing in the Liturgical Choir, which is by far my favorite activity on campus. I'll also be doing my best to have as much fun as possible - this week my roommates started a semester bucket list, which we hope to complete by graduation. First on my list: get to Smugglers' Notch and go skiing!

Oldie but goodie of Cait and me at Smuggs!
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

PS To continue my tradition from last semester, I've been listening to Ed Sheeran non-stop this week. Specifically, the songs "The City" and "Gold Rush." I've also been listening to Nick Jonas' latest album (no shame). :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Belated Shout-Out to my Awesome Professors

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!  I have been home in New Hampshire for a little over two weeks after surviving finals week and am somehow just sitting down to write this post!  I wanted to thank two of my professors in particular for going out of their way to help me during the last few weeks of the semester.

As you know if you've read some of my previous posts, singing in the Liturgical Choir at Saint Mike's is my absolute favorite activity on campus.  During the Thursday of finals week (December 18), Deacon Lino Oropeza was ordained into the Society of Saint Edmund.  As a member of the Lit Choir, I had an opportunity to sing at this ordination (the first of its kind in almost 20 years).  One problem - my final for Human Geography was scheduled to be right in the middle of ordination.  

A bit nervously, I have to admit, I went to Professor Kujawa's office hours and told him how I, as well as one of my fellow classmates, would really appreciate it if he could move the final for us so that we would be able to sing at the ordination.  Moving finals isn't necessarily ideal for professors - it takes up more of their time and they have to reserve a room - so I was happily surprised when Professor Kujawa agreed to let my friend Maureen and I take our final a day late.  The ordination was an absolutely wonderful experience and captured everything that I love about being in Lit Choir - great music, spiritually enriching time with my friends, and that wonderful community feeling that is Saint Michael's.  I was actually a bit sad when it was over (partially because  I had to return to studying, but more so because I had such a great time).  So, a big thank you to Professor Kujawa (as well as other professors who did the same for other students) for being flexible!

I also wanted to thank my psychology senior seminar professor, Professor Kuntz, for giving each student in our class cards on our last day of class.  Though she knew some students better than others, she still took the time to write each student a card expressing her gratitude for our participation in the class as well as her best wishes for our futures (though some of us, including myself, are taking more psychology classes in the spring, our senior seminar is the culminating course for psychology majors).

In my card, Professor Kuntz  included a rock that says "Kindness."  This was particularly special to me for two reasons: one - because I happen to love rocks with words on them (I have a small collection), and two - because it indicated to me that she understood through my actions in class that I do my best to be kind to everyone, and it's always nice to have that recognized!

The card reads "Behind the complicated details
of the world stand the simplicities. - Graham Greene"
While I was quite relieved when I completed all my finals, I have to say that I am looking forward to the upcoming semester.  All the classes I will be taking pertain to either my major or minor, and they all sound quite interesting!  You will certainly hear more about them in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for reading!  And if you are in a place where it's super cold, stay warm!