Home » 2015 » March

Monthly Archives: March 2015

Writing Policy for the State Department – visiting U.S. State Department diplomat Scott Kohmel

After meeting Juniata alumni, Scott Kohmel in D.C. the previous year. I became very interested in joining the Foreign Service. Scott works for the U.S. State department and is the Vietnam desk. This is a four year job that he will soon leave to work at an embassy overseas. On his visit to Juniata he discussed how the State Department makes policy and how to write.

A very valuable piece of advice from Scott is that everything that happens in the State Department is based on writing. It is essential to improve your writing ability. The State Department looks for brevity, reading nothing over one double spaced page. Every sentence has to have a point, and it is best to write using as few as possible words. Professor of international politics, Emil Nagengast stated that in his experience students that couldn’t write well also did not read a lot. I am neutral on Professor Nagengast’s statement because I understand that reading does improve your writing syntax; however, struggling with grammar issues and spelling myself I do not believe that reading improves these issues.

As policy was described to me, I did not see much difference between it and some of the papers I write in my politics classes. To draft a policy you have to have an idea, research, and a valid argument that can be put into practice.

Another part of policy is conversation. Scott wanted to highlight that face to face communication is very important for creating a policy. You have to talk to someone in order establish and finalize a policy. This communication develops into negotiations, which are secretive in nature. Scott argues that negotiations should be secretive because the officials who make policy, especially policy with other nations need to be able to talk through the policy and come to a compromise. This compromise will not happen if the public and interest groups are watching and reacting to the negations. The negotiations are where the shaping of the policy is created and allowing these negotiations to be done in secret acts as a massive brain storm see if a win-win situation is achievable.  It is important, however, to release the policy to the public in order to get public support. A policy is not very successful unless you have public support.

One thing that Scott stated that stuck with me that I am still trying to analysis is the statement “you cannot let your classes get in the way of your education.” I will leave you to think about that statement as well.

 

To hear more about Scott, check out this video.

Why I Chose Juniata

Being from Florida, you get some interesting questions and looks from other people. When I am asked where I am from I always get this strange look because I chose to move from sunny Florida to bitter cold Pennsylvania. Yes it was a big change and a completely different place that was far away from home, but in the end it was worth it. I got to build my own major at Juniata where I could choose the courses I took and learn what I thing is necessary to build a career. I have chosen to name my degree Entrepreneurial Arts and it is exactly what I want to do. With my degree I can help businesses with their digital media plans.

Thalia blog

A photo I took of an artistic piece embedded in the walls of the Huntingdon community

 

I also got to continue to play the sport that I love and pick up track and field along the way to challenge myself further. I have two families here with me, my field hockey family and my track family. They are completely different and unique in their own way with multiple personalities. The relationships I have built with my teammates and the moments of silliness are ones that have made my experience so wonderful.

It is great that all the professors want you to succeed and want to genuinely help you to get a good grade, but to grow your knowledge and future. It is nice to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors make time to help their students and always have their door open for you to come in to talk. Juniata wants their students to thrive and the faculty help in any way they can to help students in any aspect they can. As a senior, I have many faculty and staff members that have helped me to prepare my resume and network. My boss even brought me to a marketing conference in Hershey, PA where I was able to learn more about marketing strategies for higher education. All this knowledge and experience will help me build the future that I envision and I am happy to have chosen Juniata College to help me do exactly that.

Advising at Juniata College

As I was enjoying my Spring Break and talking to some friends from high school, I noticed that my friends at other colleges are having a drastically different college experience than I am. I don’t mean that my friends don’t get to experience Storming of the Arch or Mountain Day or Liberal Arts Symposium. I understand that different schools have different traditions, but one of my friends who attends a large university said something that I couldn’t even fathom from my Juniata College mindset: he has never met his advisor face to face. Of course, this led to multiple problems with scheduling, internships, and degree requirements, but I couldn’t get over the fact that while I see both of my advisors multiple times per week, he has yet to meet his.

Me, my general advisor, and my friend at Madrigal

Me, my general advisor, and my friend at Madrigal

When I returned to campus and talked to my friends here about this strange phenomenon, they were all as surprised as I was initially. Juniata runs on a dual advisor system, meaning that all students from their second semester onward have both an academic and a general advisor. The academic advisor is from the student’s academic department, while the general advisor is a professor or faculty member from outside that department. Both my advisors are great; I’ve met with them (face to face) multiple times, had them for class, and received multiple letters of recommendation from both of them. With all that my advisors have done for me and how instrumental they’ve been in my college career, I was taken aback by a student one year ahead of me at another school saying that he doesn’t even know what his advisor looks like. When I asked if he thought my advising situation was as strange as I thought his, he said that Juniata’s advising actually sounded great.

I guess aspects of college like advising are sometimes overlooked or taken for granted. I’ve heard students say that getting both advisors’ signatures on papers or forms is a bother, but I think that never seeing my advisor throughout my college career would be infinitely worse. The advising system at Juniata is a tad unusual in that it involves two advisors, but between my own personal experiences with my advisors and what my friends told me about advising at their schools, I am very grateful for the advising that I’ve received here at Juniata. I’ll be sure to thank my advisors for their work the next time I see them!

Kristin Beck: A Model of Courage

Last Thursday at Juniata, I had the opportunity to hear the courageous story of Kristin Beck, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who came out as a transgender woman at the age of 45.

Kristin Beck served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for 20 years.

Kristin Beck served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for 20 years.

Since the time Kristin was in the 3rd grade, she knew that she identified as a woman. She got caught wearing her sister’s dress a few times and received punishment from her parents for not fitting gender norms. She joined the Navy SEALs so that she could “protect herself, build armor, and hide her true identity from others.” Due to social stigma in the previous generations, Kristin did not come out publicly until 2013. She said, “This is who I am. This is what I got to do. I’m going to start living my life how I want.”

Many people were shocked by her dramatic physical changes since she had gone from a macho-looking Navy SEAL to looking like a “Barbie doll.” Kristin explained that change doesn’t always have to be this drastic and that even changing your major could help you become closer to the person that you want to be. “Live your dreams. We get one life. Go for your dream, and work hard,” said Beck.

Since retiring from the Navy SEALS, Kristin has become a civil rights activist and is running for Congress. If elected, she will be the first transgender person in Congress; however, Kristin expressed that she doesn’t want to be looked at as the “first transgender,” but rather as an “American.” She said that her mission is the same now as it was when she was a Navy SEAL: To build bridges. As a Navy SEAL, Kristin physically built bridges in countries around the world, but as a civil rights activist, Kristin hopes to build bridges between people of all different backgrounds. “I want to fight for peace at any cost,” said Beck.

Kristin Beck serves as a civil rights activist and is running for a position in Congress.

Kristin Beck serves as a civil rights activist and is running for a position in Congress.

Kristin Beck’s story is not only inspiring for other people who are struggling with gender identity but is also inspiring for the population as a whole. Oftentimes, we face discouragement from others when wanting to express ourselves in a way that might not fit societal norms; however, Kristin serves as a model of hope for those of us just waiting to take that next step in discovering our true selves.

International Film Festival

The international movie festival hosted at Juniata College helps prepare students for their study abroad experience. From May to December, I will be studying abroad in China. Watching the movie Farewell My Concubine, about the traditional Beijing Opera, helped me visualize China and begin thinking about all the aspects of Chinese culture that I was going to experience.

This movie left me with more questions than it did answers. In all honesty I do not know too much about Chinese history. The movie left me fascinated by the Chinese revolution, and how jade tea cups could change the course of a nation. Once in China, I will be able explore topics like this a lot more in depth, but since the movie was able to inspire my interest on the subject I will be able to add that to my “Before I Go to China Research” list.

I would compare the beginning of the movie to Charles Dickson’s Oliver Twist, about a boy’s life in the orphanage in London. It was very similar, but very drab and painful to watch. When we think of actors we think of someone with a glamorous life, that is not what was portrayed. Instead this movie gave us the honest truth behind what it takes to make an opera star. The movie explored the Beijing opera, and gave a glimpse into what art and culture is like in China.

I liked the movie overall, and the festival helped enhance my international experience. I look forward to seeing the Beijing opera in China as well as all the other cultural and historical marvels China has to offer

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: