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Ubuntu Presents: I Am African, but I don’t Speak African

Saturday Nov. 12th marked my most memorable day of the semester at Juniata. The Ubuntu African club held a cultural event that featured a fashion show demonstrating traditional attires, music and dance from various regions of Africa. I was very proud to have been part of this event called “I Am African, but I don’t Speak African,” because we wanted to educate the public about Africa’s ethnic diversity.

Figure 1: Ubuntu Club Members in Traditional African Attires: (from left to right): Melat Solomon, Ruhama Almaw, Kisest Birru, Anne-Marcelle (Me), Sayida Rabiou-Yari, Zoe Michael, Theresa Perry, Hephzibah Joshua, Taha Barkaoui, Joycelyn Radeny & Stephanie Njeru
Figure 1: Ubuntu Club Members in Traditional African Attires: (from left to right): Melat Solomon, Ruhama Almaw, Kisest Birru, Anne-Marcelle (Me), Sayida Rabiou-Yari, Zoe Michael, Theresa Perry, Hephzibah Joshua, Taha Barkaoui, Joycelyn Radeny & Stephanie Njeru

The planning of this event started a month ago when my fellow club members met at the Unity House to discuss our ideas for the semester. Although the Ubuntu club was known for dancing at various events, including the multicultural fest and the dance ensemble fall recital, we wanted a platform of our own. As such, we chose a date, booked the venue, created posters and reached out to professors and peers to spread the word. In addition to dancing, we had other members show their hidden talents through poetry, modeling and singing. I was mostly involved with reserving the venue and choreographing dances to popular Afro beats songs like “Bank Alert” by P-Square, “Tiguidi” by Tour de Guarde, and “Shake Body” by Skales. My favorite moment of the event when a kid named Jillian bravely came to dance with us. He was amazing, full of energy and quickly picked up our dance moves.

Figure 2: Joycelyn, Hephzibah and I dancing with Jillian, and other audience members joined us.
Figure 2: Joycelyn, Hephzibah and I dancing with Jillian, and other audience members joined us.

The event would not have been successful without our combined efforts, which is what the name of club reflects. Ubuntu is a Swahili word, meaning “togetherness”. We had Stephanie as the master of ceremonies, and she made sure that the show ran smoothly! Other club members helped make the event successful, including the club’s president, Hephzibah, from Nigeria, the club’s event coordinator, Joycelyn from Kenya, Sayida, from Niger, Taha from Tunisia, Melat, Kisest and Ruhama Ethiopia, Zoe, from New York, and Theresa from Maryland. In total, five African countries were represented that night: Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria; and seven ethnic languages: Swahili, Gouro, Baoule, Haoussa, Tunisian Arabic, Amharic and Igbo. Our message was clear: Africa is not a country but a continent, and its diversity goes deeper than country borders drawn on the map. These borders do not necessarily represent or isolate the different ethnic groups, which number in the thousands.

Our event had a great turnout, and I was very happy to see our peers and professors celebrating our cultures. This was very important to us because it encouraged us to put plans into motion for our bigger event in the spring, where we will have authentic African dishes from various parts of the continent.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Nahui Twomey

Reflecting on the Fall Semester of My Senior Year

My mother never thought I’d be happier than I was when I was in Ireland; I had a smile on my face every time we Facetimed. She told me over Thanksgiving break that she was surprised how quickly I adjusted back to my Juniata College life after a year in Cork. So, I thought about it, trying to discern what it was that was so appealing to me about Juniata this year in particular. I readjusted so quickly because I really missed my classmates and now that I’m back I want to spend as much time as possible with them.

Here I am on Mountain Day with two of my best friends since freshman year.
Here I am on Mountain Day with two of my best friends since freshman year.

I went to school with the same people for fourteen years before I came to Juniata, so I never really had to make new friends. I think that’s the case for a lot of students. The advantage to the small campus at Juniata is that it is really conducive to making friends since everyone is in close proximity and you see most people on a daily basis. My friend Elise and I connected through overlapping Inbound activities, and Maris and I met through a mutual friend. We’ve remained friends since the early days of the first semester.

I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.
I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.

I spend a good portion of my week with my fellow Writing Center tutors, and they’ve become some of my best pals. Here, you can see Katie and me bowing to the newly crowned Mr. Juniata.

I always tell people that one of my favorite aspects of Juniata is the students; we are both intensely passionate about their areas of interest and willing to drop all that we’re doing to participate in an event or a tradition to have a good time. We do our schoolwork and take it seriously; we pursue internships and opportunities ravenously. However, we also want to have fun and embrace the quirks of Juniata and its students. Maybe there’s another school where students sleep outside in tents for a week just to sing one line in one Christmas song, but Juniata’s ambitious dichotomy in both fun and work is unique.

When I visited Juniata, I ate lunch with a friend who attended my high school and then went to Juniata. She asked if we could end lunch a bit early and partake in a sign language scavenger hunt. I obliged, and the resulting half hour is one that I talk about often. The rules of the scavenger hunt were simple: get people who were not in the class to do the actions that you wanted them to by only using sign language (think “sign language charades”). When students on the quad dropped their backpacks and sprinted around and football players did cartwheels in the Ellis Ballroom, I knew that Juniata was a place where I could learn and get the school portion of the college experience, but also that it was a place where I could have a good time and make some fond memories. That memory-making potential is what really drew me back in after my year away, and it’s what has me excited for all that is to come with the remainder of my senior year.

Juniata’s First Cheerleading Competition

It was a normal day. The team woke up and prepared hair and got dressed in spanks, body liners, shells and skirts and awaited to board the bus for the two hour trip to the Harrisburg Farm Show complex. This was a normal occurrence as we traveled away to the boy’s football games often. The only difference was that this time, the cheerleading team was competing!

 

I can recall all of the nervousness in each girl. The chaotic mess of that morning scrambled everyone’s minds while their anxiety settled in. This didn’t help as several of our girls have never competed before and did not know what to expect. The other captain, Faith, and I have competed before several times and knew what was about to happen. Needless to say the day wasn’t too overwhelming for us. Our coach was probably the most nervous out of all of us. She has been with us since the very beginning of the routine and wanted us to do well. I should also mention that she is pregnant meaning her mom genes kicked in a lot throughout the day. We were told several times to use the restroom.

 

When we arrived we all settled down to finish our hair and makeup while our fan club (our parents and boyfriends) began to show. At this point, I noticed that every girl was listening to the music and going through the routine step by step. Everyone knew that we could get it down. We have marked it through so many times and we all knew where to go and what to do. The only issue was, we had never run the routine full out (this meaning with tumbling, stunts, and dance). This was probably what threw everyone’s nerves off the most. We were competing a routine that we had never completed before!

 

In the end, only one stunt fell which wasn’t bad. As the scores showed, the judges actually liked our routine! Not too shabby for a couple of college kids making up the routine on the fly one day after deciding to compete.

 

2016 is a year to remember for Juniata College as this is the first year JC has ever sent a cheerleading team to compete and guess what… We won first place! Check that one off of the bucket list.

 

The team after receiving our first place banner.
The team after receiving our first place banner.

 

The Juniatian

I wanted to do something big before I graduated; I wanted a big project in order to go out with a bang! The Juniatian has been the project for me. It’s been a roller coaster of a journey and it’s really just getting started.

It began when administration had to make the executive decision cut newspaper as a course. This was devastating to many of us. However, it was the opportunity for the newspaper to become something even bigger than it was.

Over the summer, I worked very closely with the Provost and administration to figure out what we could do to evolve the paper into something new and different. I learned a lot from this experience. Not only did I get to sit face to face with my president (not exactly something you get to do at other universities) and give a sales pitch (I still remember how sweaty my palms were!), but I also got to work closely with the Provost who then helped us take the next steps.

The Dean of Students, The Provost, my friend and I.
The Dean of Students, The Provost, my friend and I.

 

One of the most exciting achievements that came from the summer was the creation of the paid positions. We were able to create paid positions for Juniatian staff.

Because we are one-hundred percent student run, it’s students who run the interviews for these positions. So, this week I held interviews in our office. It sounds so official, I know! It’s been such an experience to be recognized for initiative, work with administration, and interview students.

I am honored to be in the position I am in and I look forward to what comes next. I am so fortunate for the opportunities Juniata has allowed me to surround myself with.

I am a Researcher

I’d never considered myself to be much of a “researcher”. Yes, I love environmental science, and most science learning, but when I thought about my future, I never saw research in it. Now, as a first semester Sophomore, I’ve found myself leading my own research project under biology professor, Dr. Norris Muth.

Last year, I began working on the project of mapping the street trees of Huntingdon Borough. I continued that project into this year, but a few weeks ago, Dr. Muth and Jim Savory (a member of the Tree Commission) approached me with a new project – the Huntingdon Champion Trees project. Well, that’s not quite our official name, but it sums it up fairly well. Essentially, our goal is to find the biggest tree of each species across Huntingdon County.

 

My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.
My friend Evan Quinter in front of a huge Sycamore tree.

 

We had an article published in The Daily News (Huntingdon County’s newspaper) about our project, and the tips started rolling in. So far, people around the county have contacted me about almost 20 different trees. I’ve been going out a few times a week since then just to try to keep up with it!

 

The article written in the Daily News about our project
The article written in the Daily News about our project

Besides the fact that it’s incredibly cool to have my own project so early in my college career, the project itself somehow managed to combine everything I’m interested in. I love Urban Forestry (trees in cities and towns), history, people, and Huntingdon. I’ve met someone who lives in the same house that their grandparents once lived in, I went to one home that had an old carriage house, and a ramp in the front yard so people could get into the carriage, and I’ve seen some really, really huge trees.

I know trees are not everyone’s thing. Heck, they’re barely anyone’s thing. However, that’s not the point. Even though Juniata does not have a forestry program, I was able to invest myself fully in my interests.