Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Lealtad-Suzuki Center: Tapas Series and “Clicktivism”

The student leaders and staff of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center (LSC), the programmatic arm of the Department of Multicultural Life (DML).  
The Tapas Series had its first program on September 22nd in the Cultural House.  The topic of discussion was “Clicktivism: Social Media Activism.”  The event featured a social media gallery of posts from the ALS Ice bucket challenge, the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, and the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon campaign. We gave attendees notecards to write their thoughts and feelings down about the gallery. CFD Post Doctoral Fellow Juliana Hu-Pegues presented on her own personal activist work on the Don’t Buy Miss Saigon campaign and how she used social media as a tool. We then split into smaller group discussions where we talked about the different uses of social media activism, pros and cons of using it, whether “slacktivism” is an issue or not, and how we could use social media activism in our lives and at Macalester. We reconvened to share what we discussed and brought up questions we had. Students were engaged and interested in the topic and Juliana Hu-Pegues’ work. The overall program was well attended and generated great discussion from the students, faculty, and staff members that attended.

- Kyla Martin '15, Emma Stout '15 and Vivian Liu '17

Established in August 2002, the LSC is the programmatic arm of the Department of Multicultural Life (DML).   The LSC provides a range of services, including intentional multicultural education and campus programming; ongoing training and development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students; and personal consultations to discuss issues of identity exploration and cross-cultural communication.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This place will change you (for the better)

When I decided to come to Macalester, almost four years, I had no idea how this place would change me. Though I still have most of my senior year to complete, and many unforeseen changes yet to come, I owe the person I am today to this institution. As a First -Year setting foot on campus, I had no idea what was in store for me. Sure, I knew I’d learn a lot in classes, make new friends from around the world, and become a member of Macalester’s softball team, but I never anticipated that the shy, virtually uninvolved high school girl I used to be would become the – dare I say - outgoing, confident, overinvolved woman that I see when I look in the mirror today.

My first year on campus was filled with academic awakenings and realizations: I could no longer get by with my standard of work from high school, I was learning about ideas and theories I never knew existed, and I got the first (and only) C of my life. 

"All about that base"

Besides academics, my first year was also filled with early morning weightlifting sessions and springtime daily softball. With my parents no longer driving me to practices or weekend games, the decision to play softball was finally entirely mine and I truly fell in love with the game. My first year was filled with academics, softball, and many new friends, but I longed to be involved on campus more broadly.

Sophomore year began with a new work- study position on the student-run programming. To be honest, I had applied for this position on a whim, fueled by my desire to be more involved on campus. And to be honest, I am so thankful for that impulse. Program Board (image above) became my second home on campus. I was able to create and organize student events both on and off campus, by the end of the first month of school, I knew that this is what I’d been looking for. My life became more balanced and I became more than just a student-athlete. My role on Program Board, affectionately called PB, was my first step in learning that branching out was more than okay, it was wonderful.

Junior year was defined both by time spent both away from campus and time nestled in the heart of my collegiate home. The first semester I lived in an 18th century French mansion in Paris; the second semester I lived in a double with a bay window in Kirk Hall. 

I was absolutely terrified of going abroad. I was intimidated by having to speak a different language, adapt to a big city, and make new friends. One month in to study abroad, I realized my fears were almost completely unfounded. I made friends almost instantly and life in Paris was amazing.

I was initially apprehensive to return to the frigid winters and commitments of my life at Macalester. But while I did miss my Parisian life, I threw myself into life at Mac and never looked back. I added more onto my plate than I had ever taken on before, and the things I’d learned abroad began to shine through. I was no longer afraid to approach people and strike up a conversation because, I’d done the same in French for months. I became more independent, I no longer only went to activities and took certain classes because that’s what my friends did. Instead, I became unafraid to try new things without the security blanket of my established pack of friends.

Then, I decided to become an Orientation Leader. This is probably the decision that really sealed my fate as a newly labeled extrovert and now, I cannot imagine my life without this experience. I shared more of myself with more strangers (now friends) than I ever had in all the years of my life combined. Because of Orientation I learned how to be vulnerable, be a better friend, have confidence, and how to be an effective mentor. All lessons I carry with me every day.

To wrap this up, get ready for the best four years of your life, it may not always be easy, but this place will change you, I can almost guarantee, for the better.

Erin Slater ‘15
Federal Way, WA

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why History?

My final year of undergraduate school is fast approaching. With the impending doomsday comes a question no one wants to hear: what are you going to do with your major? In my case, the major in question is history. My answer to such questions tend to follow a pattern:

  1. crack a joke about the unmarketable nature of a history degree;
  2. present my dream job of writing for video games, TV, or film (which is far from being directly related to a history major);
  3. assure the questioner that I will take any job to pay student loans; and
  4. claim that any grad school worth going to shouldn’t really cost me anything.

But now I have a better answer.

As a history major, I'm (unsurprisingly) passionate about historical awareness. It helps us understand the world we live in today by telling us how we got here. To put it simply: living in 2014 and not having any in-depth historical knowledge is like jumping into Lost, season four.

It could be argued that society is more historically aware than ever. In order to be considered "historically accurate", a historian has to jump through the same all-powerful hoops of the Scientific Method. This leads us to believe that history is as true as it could ever be. Unfortunately, this is an entirely unreasonable expectation.

Reason #1: There is no way to objectively teach history. We can never understand an event from every possible angle. What we can do is create discussion that raises questions and considers previously silent perspectives. Yet this isn't how the subject is taught in school, especially K-12. Instead, disastrously, it's boiled down to dates and names and places and numbers to be memorized. All context is erased. Questions aren't asked, because who cares, when you have standardized tests to study for?

Reason #2: History, like science, is not an exact science (sorry, science major friends). You can use all the numbers you want, but at the end of the day, nothing is exact. Science has made life easier in a lot of ways, but it’s still not ideal. Similarly, I’m not claiming that an awareness of the past will prevent people from being horrible in the future - that will always happen, sorry.

The difference is that no one really expects science to be perfect. A hypothesis is a theory. A theory is a theory. A law? You guessed it. It’s a theory. We view every scientific discovery as proof that we are continuing on a linear progression. But historians are expected to not make mistakes, because all we have to do is present the facts, right? Not possible. History is far from cut-and-dried.

This is a serious double standard between history and science, and is an extreme limitation for history. Society demands that historians use a barely-altered scientific approach. Historians (supposedly) need to be objective and rational and look at the facts, but whether you're examining something that happened ten years ago or ten thousand years ago, you can only claim to "know" so much about what happened.

What I'm finally beginning to understand is that we are less certain than ever before as to what history is. What's the difference between history and memory? What's the point? Does remembering the past do more damage than good? My mathy and sciencey friends ask me these questions all the time. They are super-relevant questions, and I can't provide succinct answers.

Maybe I'm being a bit too optimistic, but to me, the fact that I’m asking all these unsettling questions about my major choice is a sign of growth. It means that I'm learning to see connections where I didn't before. I'm curious about exploring new perspectives, and I'm interested in creating my own. The world is more interconnected than I ever realized and history is the paper-maché that holds the collage together. When I spend years working in the service industry while my bachelor's degree gathers dust on a shelf, I'll look back on this attitude of mine and sob into my Ramen, but right now I'm loving it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What Does it Mean to Be a Division 3 Student-Athlete?

Last spring, the attempt by Northwestern’s football team to unionize and other events spurred many conversations and debates at Macalester about athletic privilege. Most of the conversations started from non-athlete students who feel that student-athletes on campus have many perks, including being allowed to skip class, have locker rooms and apparel, and just generally enjoy more privileges among staff and facilities. This was not the first time these conversations were generated and will certainly not be the last. However, in the back and forth debate among students about the life of a Macalester athlete, an important question is often ignored: What does it actually mean to be Division 3 student-athlete?
As the phrase “student-athlete” suggests, being an athlete at Macalester and most (if not all) Division 3 schools means developing as a student first and an athlete second. It means that we take all the same classes with the same expectations as other students on campus. It means that we worked hard in high school to get into college and continue to work hard to ensure success later in life.

Showing off our k-tape jobs from our trainer, Alison!

We do not receive scholarships, we do not get personal tutors, we do not get assigned different homework or tests, and we certainly do not  consider it a perk to skip class because, as any student-athlete knows, missing class simply means more work later on. This is different from how athletes in Division 1 and some Division 2 programs are treated, which is where the college athlete stereotypes originate.

So why be a Division 3 student-athlete? What is it all about? I cannot speak for other students, but for me being a student-athlete at Macalester means that I get to play my favorite sport—softball—while receiving a phenomenal education. It means that I get to spend a lot of time with people with similar interests just as student musicians, actors, government leaders, and others do.

Infielders on the temporary stadium turf softball field

The best part is that one community does not define me because along with being an athlete I also get to be a researcher and organization leader on campus, to plan school events and have internships. I get to be Anna the person first and Anna the softball player second.

For me, being a Division 3 student-athlete means that I’m given the opportunity to make lifelong friends, stay in shape, be a part of a community, and have fun playing competitive softball. It means that my teammates and I play softball because it is something we want to do and love to do, not because we have to do it. It means that I am willing to stay up later to finish homework, be sore 50 percent of the time and dedicate myself to a team. Satisfaction comes from team solidarity (three claps, ladies?!) and accomplishing things as a player and a team that we have worked so hard for. It comes from making great friends and having a support system as I prepare for life after college.  

These are the ultimate rewards and the privileges that I value as a D3 student-athlete. We pay for our apparel, we pay for our education, we work for our grades, we coordinate the use of the locker rooms, gym space, and weight room with the campus. These are not our privileges as they are for Division 1 athletes, and even if they were, they are not the ones I would appreciate most.

—Anna Munson ’15 (LaCrosse, Wis.)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Some favorite places...

Hey new students! Some Mac students and a recent alumnus share their favorite places...

To grab a snack:

I am in love with Tea Garden (technically not a snack, but still an amazing place). The staff are super-friendly and willing to advise you on different flavors. My go-to choice for brisk fall days is loose leaf black orchid with milk and almond. - Angela

I'm all about the Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) on University Avenue! - Abbie

Dunn Bros - a huge cup of coffee and an apple fritter is my go to energy boost before a late afternoon class. - Lucy K

Tea Garden!- Ben

For a snack and coffee I usually go to Caribou on Snelling. It is quiet and warm in there, so during the winter I love sitting by a window when it's snowing with a cup of hot chocolate :) - Sara

Breadsmith. It's right across from campus, and they have amazing scones and muffins which are really cheap too. - Joe

To relax (when not in class):

4th Floor Old Main - Abbie

Whole Foods - I find grocery shopping super soothing, and you can't beat the free samples! - Lucy

Surprisingly, I find Cafe Mac very relaxing sometimes. It is a nice way to hang out
with friends and forget homework for a little while. - Ben

The Children's Reading Room, on the second floor of the library, is a great place to relax. Their beanbag chairs are incredibly comfortable and great for a quick power nap. - Joe

Since I don't have much time (like most Macalester students) to go somewhere just to relax, I wanted to find a place where I can be relaxed while doing work. Cahoots is a coffee shop on Snelling and Selby. When I go there I try to work on something that I like, instead of something boring, with a cup of coffee. Sometimes I just sit there and watch a movie or read a book. - Sara

The library has some surprisingly cozy areas where I can curl up and do my
reading for the week. The basement bean bags, the children's reading
room on the second floor, and the window seats spread throughout the
building are good study and nap locations. - Angela

Children's Reading Room on second floor Library - Nora

To go off-campus:

Minnehaha Falls - Abbie

The Midtown Global Market is always fun and always different. The tamale stand is my personal favorite but they also host really unique events there. When I was interning with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency I worked a booth at the Green Gifts Fair, which is hosted at the Market right before the holiday shopping season starts. - Lucy

I love going to the Mississippi River by St. Thomas. Beautiful spot any season of the year. - Ben

When I have time, and the weather allows, I love going to uptown and the lakes. It is fun to spend a day at the beach and then go for dinner or shopping in uptown. During winter, though, I like going to downtown Minneapolis, especially Nicollet mall. The skyways are really helpful during the cold Minnesotan winter! - Sara

The Mississippi River. There are great trails so you can run or bike along the river, and even take them up to Downtown Minneapolis! It's especially beautiful in the fall when the trees start to change color. - Joe


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Abbie and Karen Adventures

So it all ended with two things:

1) A friend  (that’s me on the left and Karen on the right), and here’s a clue about thing number two.

2) A bike (here’s mine, taking a little break in front of Minnehaha Falls, the Twin Cities’ urban waterfall).

So, the backstory: Karen and I lived on the same first-year floor, Doty 5, but weren’t friends at all. Don’t worry! We both had many other friends; we just didn’t happen to cross paths until sophomore year, when we lived together in the Macalester Vegetarian Cooperative. That’s where the first Abbie and Karen adventures started.   

First, in August 2011, a trip to Northfield, Minn., to attend a food justice retreat with the Real Food Challenge. Then some bread baking and other cooking projects, and soon enough, we founded a student org with some other friends. FoodRoots was a student group with the goal of working together with Café Mac and Macalester to achieve more ethical food purchasing on campus. This work, in solidarity with other schools all over the country, took us to a national conference in Santa Cruz, Calif.  (that’s us above on a farm in California!), that February, where our suitcase famously got stuck in a turnstile in San Francisco. 

Over Spring Break 2012 we took a trip to visit friends at Beloit College, with a brief stop in Madison, and the next October, we took an overnight bus to Baltimore for another food conference. 

Being fancy

But anyway, what I’m trying to tell you is that our friend Lily (that’s Lily on the left and me on the right, being fancy) was interning over the summer at Common Harvest farm in Osceola, Wis. And we couldn’t just let her be out there, for a full three months, without a visit. But the thing about Osceola is that it’s 50 miles away by car, and neither of us has a car. THUSLY, the great bike trip to Wisconsin was born.

Karen and I both bike a lot, but I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re true bikers, by which I mean we don’t have spandex suits and there’s no use timing us ’cause we’re pretty slow. But if there’s one thing about me and Karen, we’re game for an adventure. We pumped up our tires and greased our chains, affixed our bikes with racks and crates, planned a route with the least amount of highway riding, and took off on our 61-mile trip to Osceola! This was the first image of the farm as we crested a hill.

So at this point in the blog you might be thinking WHO CARES? To which I say, it’s not just about the adventure. It’s about this: I didn’t know I could bike 61 miles until I tried it. I didn’t know I could move away from my family, start a student org, travel from coast to coast, or make have friends who would hold me along the entire journey, until I came to Macalester.

As we biked for seven hours, we talked a lot about what the past four years had meant for both of us. A lot of studying and tests. A lot of goofy dancing and spontaneous and much-needed coffee breaks. A few well planned jaunts across the country, and some regional travel too.

This is one way to tell the story of my four years of Mac, one grounded in relationship that bled into activism. This is a story about how Macalester fed my passion and gave me the opportunities to make real change in the world and in myself, and in what I thought I was capable of.
Abbie Shain ’14

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Chuck Green Fellowship: Education outside the classroom

For the past seven months, I've been fortunate to take part in the Chuck Green Fellowship. The fellowship, an offering of the Political Science Department, is probably one of the most interesting opportunities Macalester offers. It has certainly been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my Macalester career.

The Chuck Green Fellowship is named for a now-retired political science professor who has long believed in the importance of students working in communities and with nonprofit organizations to create social change. After he retired, a group of his former students endowed this fellowship to ensure that his teachings and philosophy would live on.

Only 12 students a year are selected for this fellowship, which ensures that a close-knit community is formed as we go about our work. The fellowship consists of two parts: a spring-term class in which we learn about organizational social change and a summer work component in which we apply the knowledge to a project at a Twin Cities nonprofit.

The class was nothing like none other I've taken at Macalester. It was small: just the 12 of us plus a faculty facilitator. Throughout the semester, we learned about different theories and methods of enacting social change, and how to apply them to nonprofit organizations. Plenty of guests came to offer their wisdom, including Macalester President Brian Rosenberg and even Chuck Green himself.

We students were given an incredible amount of control over the direction of the class. At the beginning of the semester half the syllabus was blank, allowing us to propose our own assignments and topics and work them into the syllabus. This freedom resulted in some incredibly engaging classes and thought-provoking conversations, many of which were led entirely by our fellow students.

Each of us had to connect with a nonprofit organization that worked in an area we were interested in, an organization we would then work for over the summer. We all received assistance from the the Internship Office and Career Development Center in finding these organizations, as well as help and advice from political science professor and Chuck Green fellowship facilitator Julie Dolan. Many of the skills we learned in the process, such as professional networking and developing contacts, will be useful later as we look for jobs.

After finding an organization to partner with, we began developing an action plan outlining the scope of our summer work. Then for ten weeks, we worked full time at our partner organizations. Each of us received a generous stipend to cover our living expenses, and we had the option of living in free campus housing.

I worked at a nonprofit called Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), an organization that advocates for improved public transit systems, bike trails, and other sustainable development in Minnesota. I worked mostly on the Move Minnesota campaign, which is pushing for increased transportation funding from the state legislature. I helped develop their summer field plan, coordinated volunteers, staffed events, and researched various topics for the campaign. TLC was the perfect fit for me, since I’m a geography major interested in urban studies and transportation. Through this experience I learned how nonprofits and organizers work to change public policy, and how many layers of politics and bureaucracy must be impacted to create meaningful change.

Once a week, all 12 fellows gathered for dinner with Professor Dolan to discuss our projects and give one another support and advice. Perhaps the most valuable component of the fellowship was learning from each other. Our group members had a wide variety of academic backgrounds, interests, and projects, which made for a rich experience when we shared our perspectives. Other projects this summer included human rights education in schools, Latina economic empowerment, food accessibility and security, and refugee resettlement. Hearing about everyone else's projects and why they were passionate about them was eye-opening.

At the end of our 10 weeks of work, we gathered for a banquet at the Alumni House with our organizational partners, giving us a chance to thank them for this wonderful opportunity, and to gather together as a cohort one last time.

I was drawn to Macalester largely because of its urban location. Over the past two years I've fallen in love with the Twin Cities and become aware of how the metro area is a kind of classroom. The courses that have forced me to leave campus and explore the Twin Cities have been my most rewarding ones, and have taught me the most about how to become an engaged community member. The Chuck Green Fellowship reinforced this.

Two of Macalester’s core values are academic excellence and civic engagement. The Chuck Green Fellowship perfectly meshed those two values, and that experience will definitely shape the rest of my time at Macalester.

- Joe Klein ’16