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Unlock Your Voice

For the past two years, I have been involved with Lift Evr’y Voice and Unlock Your Voice here at Juniata. These two events are courses taught every other year at Juniata through the English department. Our class (which is typically, no more than ten students) works together for the majority of the fall semester, planning a coffeehouse-style event celebrating specific groups of people. For Lift Evr’y Voice, we choose to celebrate African American literature. For Unlock Your Voice, we honor women everywhere by performing music and poetry written by anyone who identifies as a woman.
Lift Evr'y Voice
We picked a theme, created images and ideas, sent out emails, bought supplies, recruited volunteers, and ultimately transformed the Ellis Ballroom into a dimly-lit, beautifully decorated coffee shop with lots of sweet treats. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to pull together an event like this, but it is always amazing to see the final product a few minutes before we start our show.
This year, we had the most volunteers ever, and had about 20 performances throughout the night, ranging from slam poems to ukulele covers, and everything in between. We had both men and women participating, and some women actually read material they wrote themselves! We had a huge turnout, and it was so lovely to see so many wonderful people (faculty and students) come together to promote something that is so important in our society (and especially to me).
Lift Evr'y Voice
Every year the English Department switches the course every other year (i.e. this year we did Unlock Your Voice, so next year will be Lift Evr’y Voice) but I believe it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to come and speak up about certain issues, by delivering beautiful poems and songs and sharing the beauty of literature with the campus community. I wish I could work on an event like this every semester because it’s very inspiring for me, so I’m excited to sign up to work on Lift Evr’y Voice next year!

Relay for Life

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The hula-hoop lap

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to participate in Relay for Life here at Juniata College. I was a team captain for the club Amigos de Guanin. This year, we decided to sell lemonade. Last year, we sold ice cream on the quad. Although we didn’t collect the highest amount of money, it was still really great to be a part of this event. It’s refreshing to be a part of something so fun around the time of year when things start to get really stressful. It’s even more fun to experience such a rewarding activity and spend the day in the sun!

Raising money for cancer research is one of my favorite things to be involved with on campus. I really enjoyed planning what we’d be doing for this event and I even more so enjoyed walking and participating. Some of my favorite parts of Relay this year were the cartwheel laps, the Zumba lap, and the clown lap. I really enjoy the survivor lap, too; it’s really empowering and inspiring to watch the survivors and their caregivers take on the track.

At the end of Relay, there is a luminary lap in which participants honor someone they’ve lost to cancer. The lap is done in silence as participants walk around the track. The track is outlined with glowing paper bags with names on them of people who have lost the battle to cancer.

Following this lap, there is a ceremony. Poems, personal stories, and songs were shared. It was a beautiful and empowering day from 10am-10pm. I am so honored to have been a part of Juniata College’s Relay for Life, 2016.

Reflections on Freshman Year

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Just a casual selfie with President Troha

I can’t believe it. Freshman year is almost over. This year, time has passed more quickly than I could’ve ever imagined, but I think that might just mean I’m doing it right. I could give you the stereotypical “there’s been ups and downs,” and honestly I probably should because that’s the truth. I wish I could write down everything I’ve experienced, but if I tried to even summarize everything for you, we would both be here for hours. Let me give it to you in one word: joy.

That’s all I can think when I think about this last year. My life has been filled with joy ever since I arrived at Juniata College. That does not mean times weren’t hard, or I was never sad. I’ve been distraught here. I’ve been mad, and I’ve cried. However, I’ve also laughed until I couldn’t breathe, I’ve smiled until my face hurt, and I’ve gone on an incredible amount of adventures with the people I love.

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Now that I’ve gone through the ups and downs of a year of school, I think I’m old and wise enough to give you some advice on what to expect when you come to Juniata College.

  1. Pack lightly. Be aware that even though our dorm rooms are fairly large, they will not fit everything you bring. I promise you, you will accumulate a lot of things over the course of a year.
  2. There aren’t exclusive cliques here. Yes, there are groups of friends, but all of the ones I have encountered have been incredibly welcoming, so take advantage of that.
  3. Don’t always wait for an invitation. Okay, no, you should not invite yourself to someone’s birthday party or third wheel on a date, but if someone is going to play Frisbee golf, ask if you can go along. College students don’t always know that some people are waiting for an invitation.
  4. Time management is so important. Juniata is an academically challenging school, but it is incredibly easy to balance those academics with other activities. Prioritize and manage your time.
  5. Ask for help. Everyone I have met here has been more than willing to help me, so if you need or even just want a support network, Juniata has an incredible one.
  6. Enjoy it. Don’t count down until you can go home for Fall Break or until the semester is over. Appreciate the people you meet and the experiences you’re having. It’ll be gone before you know it.

Wherever you decide to go (I hope it is here, because this school is wonderful), just make sure it’s somewhere where you can take advantage of all college has to offer, because let me tell you, freshman year is fantastic.

LAS 2K16: celebrating undergrad research

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Some of the presenters and their presentation titles (including me!)

 

The Liberal Arts Symposium is one of the most popular traditions in the spring semester, and is where classes are cancelled and the entire college community celebrates the research, project development, and performances of Juniata students. I remember my freshman and sophomore year attending the different presentations and thinking with excitement, “I’m going to present MY thesis senior year!” Well that day came, and let me tell you, I was not feeling excitement anymore but sweaty palms and a knotted up stomach.

This entire year, I’ve been working on my senior honors thesis. As I wrote in my last blog, I’ve been looking at how the Indian media talks about corruption, and though I’m still writing my paper, I was able to share with my friends, classmates, and professors my preliminary findings. (Which is that the way we think about corruption, innocence, and guilt in the West is very different than the way Indian newspapers frame it in a specific politician corruption case.) I practiced my presentation a countless number of times, but that didn’t keep me from feeling extremely nervous before I went.

It ended up going pretty smoothly though! To be honest, I don’t remember anything about it except that I think I talked pretty quickly. Whenever I stumbled over my words or suddenly felt uncertain about what I was saying, all I had to do was look out into the audience, where I had so many friends and classmates supporting me. After it was over, I felt so proud; it was so incredibly rewarding, sharing what I’ve been doing with the Juniata community.

Other presentations were just as good! One friend presented on U.S. immigration policies, and another presentation I went to was on research looking at how to genetically modify mosquitos to halt the spread of malaria. My favorite presentation, though, was about synesthesia and the museum experience – the two presenters are even designing their own art exhibition based on their research findings! All in all, the Liberal Arts Symposium was an amazing day!

Francophone Fest!

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French Club members (Thibault de Prémorel, Marie Rouyer, Laure Monthuis, Maria (Masha) Golovinova, Yasmine Allaya, me, Océane Briffaut, Cécile Lee, Marthe, and Mathilde Doubrere) photo credit by Haruka Kamekaya and Futaba Asakawa

As the school year comes to an end, there are more and more activities and events on campus. Most recently, I was involved in the week-long Francophonie festival, which was organized by the French club. After having been recognized by the French embassy for its diversity and contribution to the French Language, the French club celebrated and showcased the various cultures of French speaking countries. The club members and I pulled our strengths together to make dishes, create performances and presentations, and promote Francophone culture.

The week-long festival started with short country presentations given to the public by students representing a particular francophone country, including Côte d’Ivoire (given by me!), Tunisia, Bretagne (a region of France), Burkina Faso, and of course, France! I even learned some fun country facts; Planet Tatooine from Star Wars is an actual town in Tunisia! There were also movie screenings such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, one of my favorite animated films, and Timbuktu, an Oscar nominee for best foreign film, which shows the effects of Jihadism on both the victims and culprits. I was very happy to see that some of the events were considered extra credit for various courses!

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Yasmine Allaya (right) and Marie Rouyer (left) serving couscous to audience members. Photo credit: Haruka Kamekaya and Futaba Asakawa

To conclude the event, we organized a dinner, with dishes from various francophone countries. As a result, I decided to make our famous alloco (fried plantains), fried sweet potatoes, and my own recipe called sardine fried rice. This dish in particular was a combination of a fried rice recipe, taken from my host mother during my stay in China, and Ivorian spices! The biggest challenge was obtaining ripe plantains two days before the dinner. Although it seemed impossible, we were able to find the ideal plantains in the local Walmart! Other dishes included Tunisian couscous and gratin dauphinois from France. In the audience, there were middle and high school students present, and they enjoyed the food as well as learning about the Francophone world.

Finally, the dinner came to an end with an energetic dance performance by me, Haruka, the French club’s president, and Joël from Burkina Farso, to a song called “Remanbele,” by Serge Beynaud. The dance moves were mostly based on an Ivorian dance and musical style called coupé-décalé! My friend, Yasmine, also performed an Arabic dance from Tunisia. Given the success of the festival, the French club and I look forward to making the event happen again next year, and every year after that!

The Multicultural Storyfest

Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.

This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.

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Thida Win ’17 from Myanmar talks at the 2015 Multicultural Storyfest.

Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.

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Andrea Morillo ’15 from Honduras performs at the 2014 Multicultural Storyfest.

All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!

If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Flying Solo

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Julia LaPlante (’17) practices her solo performance.

For the past few weeks, my Performance Lab class (run through the Theatre Department) has been building our show, Solos, which opens in two weeks! Performance Lab is an incredible class that Theatre Performance POEs get to experience, where every few weeks different guest artists come to school to work on specific techniques or skills with us. We’ve worked on movement, scene studies, playwriting, and stage makeup, and learned what it’s like to be an actor after we graduate. I’ve only had two semesters of Performance Lab so far (as a Theatre POE we need five semesters), and it is definitely the best and most rewarding class I have taken at Juniata. We get to build so many different skills, work with incredible artists, and make outside connections in the “actor world.”

Recently, we have been working with Leigh Hendrix, an actor and theatre performer based in New York, who is serving as our mentor for our solo performances. Each student in our Performance Lab class has created a seven-minute piece, and is starring in it alone. The themes and stories are all incredibly different, and my classmates have worked to portray a multitude of diverse characters.

For my solo, I wrote a short play called “Out of My Head”, which shows the struggle of a girl who is arguing and sometimes being controlled by the voice in her head (which I believe everyone has had some experience with at some point). I will be playing the girl and the voice at the same time, switching back and forth between the two simultaneously. Playing two characters at once is something I’ve never done before, so I’m really excited to continue working with my play in rehearsals. I probably re-wrote my script a dozen times, always tweaking and changing little things here and there until I found a draft that I am very satisfied with. As an actor and playwright, it’s nearly impossible to find “the perfect draft” of a play because every time you read it, or listen to it being read, you find new things you want to change. It’s a really fun but strenuous process.

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Theatre Practicum students work to set the stage for Solos in the Movement Studio.

Solos are being performed April 20th, 21st, and 22nd in both the Suzanne Von Liebig Theatre and The Movement Studio. Since there are eleven students in our class, we split the group in half, so six will be performing in SVL Theatre, and five in the movement studio. I definitely recommend coming to see a performance, because it’s really amazing to see some of the work Juniata’s performers can do. If you want to see all of the student’s pieces, you’ll need to come two nights (since you can only be in one space at one time). My friends and I have worked really hard on these original pieces, and I can’t wait until we can show everyone!

Wildlife Student Conclave 2016

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In high school, and even in college, you work on projects that are hypothetical. They don’t play out in the real world, or really determine much in your life besides a grade. However, in college, I’ve found one project that really does make a difference.

As I have said in a few of my other postings, I am a member of The Wildlife Society here on campus, and we’ve undertaken a huge project. Every year, each region of the United States has a student chapter that hosts the Wildlife Conclave. Our chapter members decided last spring, “Hey! We can do this!” and signed us up.

When I signed up for Wildlife Conclave planning last semester, I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be getting into. It turned out to be a massive event – we have almost 150 people attending – that would require months of planning, budgeting, and long meetings.

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The planning committee

In attending events, I never really thought about how much time and effort went into it. It was just something I would go to, enjoy, and go home. In planning an actual event, I have learned that it is a lot more than that. We have to think about site logistics, funding sources, workshop assignments, making nametags, planning meals… the list goes on forever. At first, it was incredibly intimidating. It seemed like the planning would never end, and that this event would never actually happen.

Now, looking back on the past two semesters, thinking about how the event is only a week and a half away, I’m a lot less intimidated, and I realized that I have learned a lot. I learned to make a vanguard to plan when things need to get done, how to make a budget, how to coordinate orders, and how to be committed to deadlines. None of this would get done without the amazing work of everyone in The Wildlife Society, and the motivation to do that work.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, there is something special in knowing that the project I’m working on is a real thing. The pens and water bottles I ordered for this event are tangible. The people are coming, whether we’re ready or not, so we have to try like crazy to be ready. My work matters here, and that is an incredible experience to have.

If you are interested in learning any more about the event we are holding, or The Wildlife Society at Juniata in general, always feel free to contact me or to like our page on Facebook!

V-Day 2016

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The entire cast and production team of “The Vagina Monologues”

A little more than a month ago, a sophomore student approached the Office of Student Activities and asked if it was possible to put on a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” This is a collection of stories and monologues, turned into a play about women in every aspect. She was worried that it wasn’t possible, or it was inappropriate, or that it would be received negatively on campus. Yet she worked for one solid month, through organization, casting, rehearsals, marketing, and ticket sales to put on two performances on campus, and everyone loved it.

Julia McMurry, the student behind it all, wanted to put together the production in support of Huntingdon House, a non-profit organization in town that provides support for victims of domestic violence. She reached out to the student body and asked if anyone was interested in performing in the piece or working behind the scenes. I jumped at the opportunity to get involved, and auditioned (and was cast!). There were 18 women who were a part of the production, with three additional individuals helping with casting and rehearsals.

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Me performing “My Angry Vagina”

We quickly worked to put on the production in a month, working hard in rehearsals and taking time to reflect on what it really means to be a woman. Being in the production allowed me to meet students from all different backgrounds and POEs and really branch out socially. Not only was it an additional performance opportunity for me, but it was a completely different experience than performing in a show through the theatre department.

I’m so honored to have been able to be a part of this production, and the fact that it was entirely student-run and put together in one month brings me so much joy. We had a huge audience for both performances, and we raised $1,087 for Huntingdon House! I hope this becomes a Juniata tradition because I would love to be a part of this production again!

Speed Chatting… better than Speed Dating

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Speed dating was never a good idea to me. The concept always seemed so uncomfortable. However, when Juniata’s Health and Wellness student intern hosted a SpeedChat event on campus last week, I decided I’d give it a try. 

SpeedChat was an event to help students get to know each other. When I arrived to Sill Boardroom, I was surprised at the large amount of people who were attending. The chairs were set up in a few lines and were facing each other. As students arrived, they were given a ticket.  You sat with the person whose ticket number matched yours. In between the chairs were questions to help prompt conversation.

I sat down waiting for someone’s ticket to match mine and to my surprise, it was actually someone I already knew! When the five minute round of chatting began, we asked each other some of the questions on the sheet.

I learned a lot about her. Even though I see her four days out of the week for class, I didn’t know how much we really had in common. As the round came to an end, we agreed to talk again soon. 

The next few people I met were just as interesting. There’s no one who isn’t interesting at Juniata. I learned a lot about different places in the world, family ideologies, different POE’s, and so much more. I really am happy that I talked myself into going. 

It’s important to attend events at Juniata. You learn so much about fellow students, about the school, and about the community as a whole. Talking to different students, even if it didn’t create friendships, creates a unit. Juniata is a unit of individuals who think differently, broader, and more outside the box. I think that this event really helped remind me of my love for Juniata and I am glad I have creative and fun opportunities, like this one, to give me a break from all the studying for midterms!

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