Art-filled weekend

- The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

Listening to Burning Camel while working in Coffee Grounds

Everyone always says it is easy to find live music and productions on a college campus; you just have to look for them.

One recent weekend, however, I didn’t even have to look — they were staring me right in the face, so I indulged myself and took advantage of them.

In just three days, I saw a modern dance performance, which also included tap dancing and a pretty amazing dance to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I attended Burning Camel and saw many student bands perform across campus. Finally, I was a guest at "James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris, the Lucia Joyce Cabaret."

As most know, I am a huge supporter of the dance community at Connecticut College — I lived with a student dancer for a year — so I am a usual show-goer at the Myers Dance Studio, but I don't remember a show being as impactful as this one. Additionally, I got to see my friends dance and see the dances that my friends choreographed — it was amazing to see their work come to life.

My attendance at Burning Camel was half support, half convenience. A friend of mine was playing in the show, but it was also taking place in Coffee Grounds, a café in my dorm, Katharine Blunt House. So I was able to listen comfortably to the musicians while lounging in my slippers and doing work at the same time.

My reason for going to "James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris, the Lucia Joyce Cabaret" was in support of a friend who was the stage manager, and another friend who was preforming. Upon entering the theater, I confronted with a most unusual scene and a most unusual performance: A group of institutionalized people, led by the amazing character of Lucia Joyce, on put on a memorable and slightly scary cabaret show.

It’s slightly overwhelming to be surrounded by so many talented students, but I love that fact that I can get so many different genres of art simply by living on a college campus.

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So You Think You Know Me?

- The Experience, Mike Wipper '17

So You Think You Know Me?

The Think S.A.F.E. Program hosted its own version of "The Newlywed Game," pitting roommates, friends and couples against one another to see how well they really know each other.

While the overall message was fun, it also celebrated healthy relationships in all forms and continued Green Dot's efforts of sexual violence prevention. Green Dot is an organization that has become one of the most popular and beloved groups on campus. Built on the goal of fostering bystander action through education and the ever-popular training sessions, the organization has become a powerhouse in organizing events like Green Dot Week.

"So You Think You Know Me?" drew a huge crowd and I enjoyed playing as much as I enjoyed seeing other people's answers and responses. My favorite moment was when two roommates were asked, "What is your roommate's pet peeve?" Each correctly responded: people. It goes without saying that when they flipped the boards over and showed each other what they had written, laughter erupted.

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#SoCollege

- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

College is weird sometimes.

One recent evening, I was walking with my friend Emma when someone just started walking next to us, ranting about how awful his day was. People here are pretty friendly and open to talking. Emma and I were a little bamboozled, but we listened to his complaints and occasionally commented on them. When he finished his rant, he apologized, saying that he just really had to get it all off his chest. He walked away, leaving me and Emma a little confused, but amused.

Later that night, Emma and I went to the student center and saw the student there. I had one of those should-I-or-shouldn't-I moments before deciding to ask him how the rest of his night went. The student, Drew, was sitting with his friend Dougie. They invited us to sit and, before we knew it, hours had passed.

We eventually split ways, but before we did, we all exchanged numbers. A few days later, we made dinner plans, which led to us sitting at a table in Harris for hours discussing the creation of the universe, the idea of free will, reincarnation, etc.

A few days ago, Emma and I didn't know Drew or Dougie, and now we're friends (who discuss really deep philosophical things over cheeseburgers) because we happened to be walking by when Drew needed to rant. These types of things wouldn't be possible in a larger school. In a class of 10,000, you don't just run into someone a couple of times in a night and then decide to be friends. I don't think that phenomenon really exists in the adult world, either.

Being ranted to by a stranger is an unusual way to make new friends, but if I'm being honest, I don't think I've made any of my friends here in a "normal" way. It's one of those charming, weird things about being in a small college.

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Slacktivism vs. activism

- The Experience, Allison Mitobe '17

Recently, I went to a discussion called "Slacktivism vs. Activism," which explored these two different forms of advocacy. It was an open discussion in which people talked about how they personally advocate and whether they advocate through means of slacktivism, activism or both.

I’d never heard of the term "slacktivism" until I attended the meeting and, like most people, I associated the word with a negative connotation, thinking it was a passive and lazy form of activism. (Slacktivism often entails hashtagging a post on social media to demonstrate support for a cause, signing an online petition or similar virtual efforts.) The public has a tendency to see slacktivism as disparaging. Even though a hashtag or a post will not directly change the cause people are supporting, these actions bring attention to the public through social media. As social media is often how people receive news, interact with one another and learn about social issues, Slacktivism, despite the negative connotations in its name, can help social movements to be accessible to anyone who participates in social media.

When it comes to activism, people tend to have more reverence towards physically campaigning for political change. However, it begs the question: Why does it have to be either/or? Can’t a person do both? The answer: Yes! People can push for change in both active and passive ways and you don’t have to place yourself in one category, but instead right in the middle of the Venn diagram.

As the event ended, we discussed that physical activism is a time-consuming commitment. I believe slacktivism should not be written off as bad and lazy, but instead should be viewed as another form of activism. If anything, slacktivism tailors activism to keep up with the times and keep up with the trends of social media. If it weren’t for social media, activism would not be as trendy as it is now. How you choose to advocate is not as important compared to the results, and slacktivism has positively impacted advocacy.

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As Told By Vaginas

- The Experience, Kirsten Forrester '17

Students take a bow on stage after performing monologues written by their peers about the female experience

For the past thirteen years, the female students of Connecuticut College have performed "The Vagina Monologues," an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, to raise money for sexual assault survivors. This year, however, the students and community decided to create a production that better speaks to the experiences of women on our campus. They titled the new show "As Told by Vaginas," and the show is now comprised of student-written monologues from within our community. As I sat in the audience and listened to friends and peers perform these monologues, I appreciated the candor in which these stories were told. They were true, honest and real. Some were funny, some were serious, and others empowering. Most of all, I could feel the sense of community among the female performers. In the photo above, they take a group bow together. 

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Exposure therapy class

- The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

The first few lines of the story that got workshopped in my Writing the Short Story Class

As part of Connecticut College's career program, the career office offers a number of workshops to help students prepare for internships and jobs. When students take the workshop about personalities, they find out what Myers-Briggs personality type they are. When I first took this, I distinctly remember being told that my personality type was one that did not take criticism well ... which I took as a personal criticism, thus fulfilling what the test had just concluded. Since then, I have been working on trying to take everything less personally, especially when it comes to my essays and any sort of constructive criticism. This challenge was put to the test last week in my "Writing the Short Story" class, when the short story I wrote was “workshopped” by my classmates and professor.

How a workshop works: The person whose story is going to be worked on sends out that story the week before, then everyone reads it and makes comments over the weekend. On Tuesday, everyone comes in already having read the story, then discusses the story while the author sits there silenty, taking notes. When it came to be my turn, I was scared that no one would like my story and anything critical they said about it would feel like a personal attack. To combat my fear, I had several (very critical) friends read my paper and give me comments on it so I would feel better prepared for my workshop. We kept joking all week that this was going to be my exposure therapy, but even with all that preparation, I was still terrified when the day arrived. Despite my worrying, however, my classmates and professor we’re very respectful when it came to critiquing my story (as they are with all of the stories in the class) and I received very positive feedback.

Now, I will say, I have not mustered up the courage to go through all the individual written comments they made and gave to me about the story. That will come soon and be round two of my therapy session.

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Residential life in the snow

- The Experience, Oliver Ames '17

This is a story about community, leadership and lots of snow. I’m a floor governor (similar to an RA but with additional responsibilities) in one of the College’s oldest residential halls, Branford. After getting to know members of the residential life student staff really well during my first year at Conn, I wanted to become a part of the student staff so I could help create the nurturing atmosphere found in our residences.

This winter, after lots of training and one semester of experience on the job, I finally feel like I’ve hit my stride as a floor governor. I know how to help with homesickness, mediate disagreements, and help keep people calm and entertained during snowstorms. This winter has been one for snow in New England. Nearly every New England town is covered in a mixture of beautiful white snow, brown slush and black ice. Because of the weather, the school has had to close a few times.

When a blizzard hit Connecticut in January, floor governors sprung into action. We had numerous tasks to complete to keep the halls running during the storms, but, more importantly, it was up to us to keep students safe and entertained. We planned snow day events, helped Facilities shovel walkways, started fires in the fireplaces of common rooms, and helped the College continue to operate as staff worked night and day to plow and move snow.

When I was accepted to the position, I was overjoyed because finally I felt like I could be a figure for people to turn to. This winter has offered the student staff that opportunity, and we rose to the occasion.

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I'm Not Racist ... Am I?

- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

André Robert Lee '93, left, and Liza Talusan '97 at the Connecticut College screening of "I'm Not Racist ... Am I?"

André Robert Lee '93 is a director and producer who creates documentaries designed to open up the floor to racial discussions. Rather than making a "safe space," he wants his audience to be uncomfortable. He wants real discussions to occur as a result of the works he's made.

Lee is an African-American who got a golden ticket, as his peers referred to it, when he received a full scholarship to an elite private school. After going through prep school, he attended Connecticut College.

Lee was always fascinated with the idea of this golden ticket he received and how it forever changed the way he fit into American society. He started reflecting on his own story, which made him want to expand his research and discovery further. So, he combined his interest in racial studies with his interest in film. "I'm Not Racist, Am I?" is his most recent project.

Last Wednesday, the campus got a chance to watch the film and have a Q&A session with Lee. Prior to this, my American Studies class got an even more exceptional experience: Lee came to our class and, more or less, led that day's class discussion.

The experience that movie-goers, but especially members of my American Studies class, were able to have was really unique when you think about it. Many people don't have the opportunity, resources, and/or education for such discussions, let alone discussions with a filmmaker. We were able to combine people from different states (different countries even), different economic backgrounds, different cultures, etc. to have a real, unfiltered discussion on race. That's such a genuine, liberal arts-y thing.

We also can't forget that Lee is a Connecticut College Camel himself, as is Liza Talusan '97, an educator featured prominently in the film. As a first-year student, I haven't really looked past college yet, but it's good to sometimes take a step back and look at all of the possibilities. College students are standing in square one, surrounded by opportunities that they can choose to take or not take. Lee was in our shoes, then he left the Land of Camels on one of those paths and returned to show us baby Camels what's possible.

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Love is for everyone

- The Experience, Mike Wipper '17

Often times, events on campus stand out by the amount of free food they offer. Although "Love is For Everyone" did offer the delicious cuisine of Mirch Masala, it was more than the food that drew me (and countless others) to enjoy a night of spoken word, group poetry and musical offerings, all aimed at transcending the idea of love on Valentine's Day just being about the romantic sense.

As a collaboration between the Office of Residential Education and Living, The Women's Center, the Residential Education Fellows, the Student Activities Council and other organizations, incredible poets from all class years came forward and offered their take on love in every sense of the word.

I must say: I've seen some spoken word performances and I'm not lying when I tell you that this night offered the best I had ever seen — much more so than some performances in Boston that were in "professional" settings. I was so amazed at the quality of art being created at our College. Pictured here are Haley Gowland '17 and Katherine McDonald '17 performing a number of beautiful duets: some sad, some happy, but all incredibly moving. Their harmonies sent shivers up my spine. Also pictured is Riley Meachem '18 performing an original poem. His creative language and beautiful rhetoric kept me entranced throughout the entire piece. In addition, I had a great conversation with Joseph Mercado, who organized the event with help from Professor Roberts of the Dance Department.

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Classroom debates

- The Experience, Rebecca Seidemann '18

I think we all remember a time (or maybe a few) in middle school or high school when we raised our hand to express some ingenious idea we had, only to be immediately shut down by the teacher. Pre-Continental Drift theory — one can only imagine how many students in geography courses said, "Hey, those continents look like they fit together." Then the teacher would say, "No, stop trying."

Well, college is pretty different. Unless you're in math, your ideas aren't usually flat out wrong. I know, it's shocking. You can express thoughts and no one will call you out for being ridiculous (in theory, at least).

I was in my American Studies class the other day, a philosophy class, discussing the poetry of Hughes, Whitman and Ginsberg. For context, my professor likes to break everything down very carefully into minute detail. You can't get away with spewing out thoughts without being asked to define the words and concepts that you used in your explanation. We were talking about how "hopeful" some of these poems were, and I decided to take a page from my professor and try to define exactly what "hope" is.

I raised my hand and disagreed, saying that these poems were actually not hopeful. I believe that the word hope has the connotation of relying on external forces to assist in a situation. My professor disagreed, but he didn't say I was wrong. Then, as the class went on, more and more of my classmates started agreeing with my point. Soon, this definition of "hope" became part of the main discussion. I find the interpretation of language really fascinating, so this conversation was right up my alley.

It's so nice being able to discuss things with professors and know that neither party has to be right or wrong. You both get to bring your background knowledge and prior experiences to the table to try to figure out something together. Of course, it was also a welcome experience to have my peers chime in, and it's also relieving not to have as strict a lesson plan as in high school. This flexibility lets our conversations wander and develop naturally.

In college, professors aren't "teaching to test," so I've noticed our classes can slow down and inspect concepts without the fear of missing too much material. This aspect of college is something I really enjoy.

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