Return From Fall Break

Fall break is about the best thing that can happen to you as a Captain freshman. Coming home to CNU is like a revival of life itself. Before fall break you will be stressed by the pounding of text into your ears and the scratches of pencil setting off your nerves. If you aren’t, you probably aren’t colleging right.

But once the anxiety of post-midterm begins to trickle off, you are gasping for a revival, and lo-and-behold! One is presented to you.

While back in your hometown, you may visit old friends, sleep all day, perhaps discover your parents are actually funny (or perhaps not, in most cases), maybe even play with your younger siblings – until they start biting. And once you are getting just enough of everything, you’re whisked away back to “new home” and find yourself alive and well and happy to be back at good old CNU.

You begin to discover the small joys that were lacking before. The grass is greener – literally, because they worked some voodoo magic on it while you were away – and sun shines with just a little more splendor than it did before. The leaves are actually turning yellow, something you’ve missed from back home in NoVA. (Which, face it, most of us are. Sorry, Richmond.)  And the air, oh yes the air; it’s filled with brisk richness and a quality of cold not found elsewhere.

Your classes will seem easier – you know those eccentric teacher ways now and how to respond. Your room will be cleaner (that’s new), so don’t let it falter! Picking up classes and keeping your room tidy are two very important aspects of successful studying, and now that you’re back you’re going to have to fight to keep those good habits up! And yes, I did just say a clean room will affect your studying. Nobody likes to concentrate with eyesores and clutter in their way. It’ll make your mid-mornings, lazy afternoons and work-nights all easier.

You may lapse in the beginning, but come back! Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting. Because if you can maintain order in those crucial few weeks after fall break, you’ll have a golden set of habits to continue throughout the semester at CNU.

The Roommate Game

The age-old question: Will I get along with my roommate?
Answer: To be determined.

My roommate/best friend/life saver and I have lived together for four years now. So, with her assistance and input, I have collected tips on how to have a successful and promising living situation. All of these may not be applicable for everyone (but they should at least be good for a laugh):
1. Find someone who is willing to compromise and has the same aesthetic as you.
Your room, whether or not you’re sharing, along with the common room (it’s coming, freshmen, it’s coming) is your new home, your haven, and you don’t want it to look like a cave (not that it really could, considering CNU Housing is so unbelievable) … That being said, don’t go crazy and copy everything you see on Pinterest or Pottery Barn or Martha Stewart’s magazine, either. Yes, this tip typically applies to girls more than guys — guys, you have your own ideas of decorating (from what I’ve seen it involves giant flags and “Pulp Fiction” posters, but that just may be my brother). Regardless, make the space your own for both of you. This can be done by dividing up the space, picking a common theme or color, or, if you both have the same apathy for decorating, have all basic/minimal decorations. You were going for minimalism, right?
2. Have a television.
Yes, do your homework. Yes, go out and see people. But have a television for roommate bonding time or just as a relaxer before you go to bed. It just wouldn’t be a fully complete day if Micaela and I didn’t watch some History Channel documentary before sleep.
3. For an ideal living situation, live with someone who has relatively the same style of social life (but not necessarily the same social group) as you.*
This can be a tough one, especially with freshmen who may not even know their roommate, and because you’re both adjusting to a new lifestyle. But if things get bad and you truly feel as though you cannot live together any more, CNU does what it can to adjust your rooming situation accordingly. That being said, do not just throw in the towel the one time your roommate comes back a little too late and wakes you up three hours before your first class. If you both have a similar social life (or lack thereof, aka, us during senior year) then your living situation can be a breeze. *Not for everyone, but if you want your roommate to be more than just a roommate, more like a close confidant, there will be a strain on the relationship if one of you goes out clubbing until 4:30 a.m. and comes back with glitter showering your carpet while the other puts the kettle on at 7 p.m. and knits half a scarf while watching the latest episode of “The Following.”
4. Get off campus/out of your room as much as possible.
This does not mean go home (see no. 5)! But see what else the area has to offer. Some of my best memories from college have happened off campus, from spending the day at MacArthur Mall to going to Yorktown Beach as soon as the weather gets warm. There really is plenty to do in this area, and CNU frequently has activities on campus as well as off (example: English classes attending a Shakespeare production).
5. Do not go home every weekend.
Your college experiences and opportunities will pass you by, and you will not develop relationships with others if you go home every weekend rather than adapt. But do go home every now and then, your mom will thank you!
6. For everyone’s sanity, do not put your boyfriend/girlfriend’s needs ahead of your roommate’s (within reason).
REMEMBER: You are constantly living with your roommate. He or she could eat all of your cereal and finish off the milk and not tell you if you have blatantly ignored their requests. Come on guys, this is self-explanatory.
7. Continuing with no. 6: Don’t be impossible.
Remember, you and your roommate are coming from two different backgrounds, and that you all need a little give and take. Establish boundaries and rules immediately. IMMEDIATELY.
8. Speak your mind.
If something is bothering you, do not let it bottle up. Chances are, your feelings are justified or could be caused by a simple misunderstanding. Talk to your roommate (keyword talk, not scream) and explain where you are coming from. He or she might be totally unaware that something has upset you and will adjust accordingly.
9. Find out if your roommate has allergies.
Yes, I am aware that it really sucks for Micaela to have to eat her peanut butter and pistachios in her room, and that we can’t have fish sticks in the freezer (not that she likes them, but still …), but all of that would kill me. So ask your roommate, don’t kill her.
10. You are his or her roommate/friend, not his or her parent. 
Sure you may get worried if your roommate hasn’t left their bed for five days and is starting to smell, and yes, you should probably say something, but if they’re choosing to play Xbox instead of going to class, it is not your responsibility to chastise them. We are all adults now and are capable of making our own decisions. But remember, if this roommate is far more than a roommate and skips class or never does homework, you can ask if they are OK or give them the little push that they may need. It’s all about balance and being able to read the person you’re living with.

We Are Family

I struggled with this title because I didn’t want to make it seem that the college experience is all about warm fuzzy feelings. There is a ton of hard work that goes into being a successful student, friend and community member in any university you attend. But the absolute, uncontestable greatest thing about going to CNU is, in fact, becoming a member of a second family.

Different students will have different stories about where they found their campus families. One of the most obvious examples of newfound families are sororities and fraternities. Since I’m not part of Greek Life, I spoke to my friend, Kristen, about her experiences as a family member of her sorority.

Although Kristen wasn’t initially interested in Greek Life when touring around campus for the first time, once she started attending CNU she told me she immediately realized that Greeks were the most involved, spirited, academic, friendly and philanthropic students and instantly wanted to become a sister. Not only do she and her Alpha Phi sisters try to make differences in the community, but the fact that they shared common bonds, goals and values made there even more to love. When I asked her what she thought of her sorority as being a form of family, she brought up the sisters she lives with in Rappahannock Hall. “We are one big, diverse family and never have a dull moment,” she said. “Each day I am reminded how absolutely lucky I am to build that kind of relationship with them … my sisters are my rock, my inspiration.”

If Greek Life isn’t for you, no fear: there are plenty of student clubs, service organizations and intramural groups you can try out to find people with similar interests as you!

But the CNU family doesn’t just stop at the boundary of your roommates and immediate friends; so many Captains will tell you how proud they are to go to a school where kindness can be found among strangers. I remember having a particularly woeful day a few years ago, and it might’ve showed, because a random CNU Captain came up to me in the library and asked if I was all right. And then last week, a girl I only know through mutual friends came up to me in Regattas and told me to have a fantastic day!

These aren’t isolated cases, folks. Once you become a Captain, kindness, smiles and opened doors are just expected from everyone you meet along the way. So, I guess it is true: we are family.

Something Wickedly Awesome This Way Comes…

As I write this during the witching hour, I find it only appropriate that this post relate to Halloween, and CNU, of course. CNU never fails to disappoint during any form of holiday, be it Halloween or even March Madness (yes, there’s a themed meal, thanks CNU Dining!) and the faculty continues to incorporate holidays into their lesson plans and extracurricular activities. For this spooky time of year, the Trible Library and the medieval and renaissance studies minor is hosting the CNU Shakespeare Festival: Macbeth. For three nights next week, three films will be shown depicting different directors’ interpretations on Shakespeare’s quintessential tragedy of murder, psychological and political turmoil, and yes, witches. Afterwards a panel will  discuss the films, covering dark subjects like demonology and witchcraft/stagecraft of Macbeth. The actual history of witches (real, stage or just your next-door neighbor) is both fascinating and can actually be used in a multitude of classes.

Professors Grace Godwin and Sharon Rowley are key faculty members, both in this event and this scholarly program, along with Lori Underwood, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and History Professor Amanda Herbert. These faculty members will be personally hosting a “Witches of Macbeth Costume Contest” because we all clearly need as many opportunities as we can to dress up for Halloween (not a joke, serious college business, I tell you!). I have had the pleasures of having both Dr. Godwin and Dr. Rowley for classes in both my theater and English majors, and I can say with extreme confidence that both of these women are terrifying (in their knowledge of Shakespeare and beyond!) and are wonderful professors who take their craft very seriously. They enjoy teaching the complexities and wonders of Shakespeare, especially in bringing his words out of a textbook and onto the stage.

Festivals such as this convey how diverse and exciting this campus is: ranging from students who are interested in a little bit of everything, obsessed with one thing or ready to see what the world of academia has to offer. I hope everyone has a wonderfully frightening (and safe!) Halloween and to see many students donning their greatest interpretations of the Weird Sisters.


The President’s Leadership Program (PLP) at CNU brings together promising students and teaches them the essence of being a leader. Along with the mandatory freshmen orientation in the summer, students in the PLP program also attend a Summer Leadership Adventure Program (SLAP) orientation.

At first, I was a bit skeptical of SLAP week. It was a mystery. There were no descriptions online as there were for freshmen orientation, so I did not have a clue about what was to come. After freshmen orientation was over, I was on my way to the dining hall when I met Erica and Taylor.  They were two of the SLAP week facilitators for 2013.  I, at first, had mistaken them for two SLAP attendees.

My SLAP week facilitators from the Pink Team were Brittany and Catherine; they were two of the most enthusiastic, pep-filled people I have ever met. In their synopsis of the schedule for SLAP week, they emphasized that the program was formulated to challenge us physically, mentally and emotionally.

During SLAP week we participated in many icebreakers, such as “ride that pony,” “what’s in your milk,” and “look up, look down, look out.” At first, the icebreakers seemed a bit silly, but they were fun and hilarious. There were also other activities like baby travel pods, team olympics and the variety show. The objective of baby travel pods was to create a car seat from the given materials that will protect your baby (an egg) from a two-story fall. There also had to be a commercial that promoted the group’s car seat creation.  Our group had one of the only two eggs that survived the fall.

Through all the icebreakers and activities, I can truly say that SLAP week was a life-changing experience, even though it seemed a bit silly at first. The program builds character, and I formed life-long friendships. Personally, SLAP week really built my self-confidence, and improved my self-concept. Through the genuine support over everyone involved, I was able to make it through to the end.

Why It Rocks to Be a Communication Major

One of the latent qualities I acquired after declaring my communication major was immensely thick skin. Between being told that my major is useless or that people choose communication because they dropped out of more difficult majors and picked [it] because lets face it, its pretty easy,” (as you can see, the person who was harping on my major couldn’t even add correct punctuation!), it might appear as if I’ve become the butt of all academic jokes. But how’s this for being the laughingstock: according to a report developed by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, recent graduates with degrees in communication have a 7.4 percent unemployment rate, lower than several business and engineering fields.

Similarly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004-14 Job Outlook for College Graduates, “communications technology and the expansion of media outlets are driving job growth in [writing and the arts] … strong competition for jobs is expected in nearly all these occupations.” So with a degree in communication, what can I not do? I can be anything from a technical writer to a director of online communication to a producer of a television show, whereas people with more technical degrees are limited to their specialties. In a Time article, Annette Gordon-Reed writes, “the ones who will do best in this new environment will be those whose educations have prepared them to be flexible.”

But it’s not just numbers. A degree in communication is often disparaged as being a “soft” area of study, but in reality, your future employers are looking for people with broad educations that taught them writing skills, how to think critically and communicate easily. Not only that, but communication majors also learn to question everything in the world around us, from advertising and images to news reports and speeches. Call us jaded, but this type of questioning ultimately leads to the bettering of the world. Do you think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have risen to that stage and proclaimed that he had a dream if someone before him didn’t originally question the inequalities between white and black men and women?

I could go on and on about how my major is not useless, but I won’t because all bloggers know the power of short and efficient messages (I clearly failed on the “short” part). But I encourage you, as a prospective student or even one of our newest members, to embrace liberal  learning and try things before you knock them. You’d be surprised, although you really shouldn’t be, at all the amazing, intellectually invigorating things we learn about.

Searching for Tranquility

If you are someone who frequently needs change, like me, I strongly suggest – no, I really must insist – you bring a car to campus.  Change must be a constant in my life. Change in activities, change in scenery, changing atmospheres … It’s all pertinent to my survival.

Otherwise, I feel like I’m being muted. I can’t scream, I can’t go anywhere, I can’t escape from my trap. There are options, of course. You have your friends with cars and weekly activities put on by the Campus Activities Board, but the heart of my adventuring is a like a plot of vegetation. It must be fertilized gently, and allowed space to grow. And as of this moment, it is left untended.

I need to seek new thrills constantly, and find myself craving to escape from the brick walls. Once I can do that, however, I find myself satisfied and welcome the return home to our graceful pillars. My only excuse is that I am a wild spirit. I cannot be contained, I cannot be cut off. And most certainly, I cannot be trapped.

I am probably much more of a wild spirit than most people (in fact, I’m rather sure of it), so please do not let this scenario scare you. CNU is a wonderful home, and an even better place to live because of how much they take care of you and all of the wonderful people who live here. I love coming home to something familiar and calming. I just need to let my free spirit romp around on uncommon ground before I can do that.

And the problem is, I am also an extremely independent being, who likes doing things on her own terms in her own time. I wish I could go to the beach, not to be silly and have fun, but to sit by myself and contemplate the waves. Work on a problem that bothers me. Go to quietly take in the world. But I need to do so alone. And asking for a ride there and back is only a hindrance to my friends. So, being unable to assert my independence makes me feel helpless. Like locking myself into a prism I cannot escape.

And we need to escapes sometimes. We all do. We need to take a random trip to the beach. We need to get out, and do things before we can come back and appreciate the everyday campus.

So my advice: skip the debate. Drive that car straight into our fancy lot, because if you even have the slightest inkling you are like me, I would grab those keys and keep them safe.

And maybe when you get here you can give me a ride.

The Leadership Program

When I was accepted to CNU in the fall of 2009, I made my acceptance in the President’s Leadership Program (PLP) a major factor in my final decision of attending CNU. That said, even then I was not entirely sure what PLP would entail. The program advertises itself well, but what you get out of the PLP program is harder to explain than any pamphlet can tell you.

The minor in leadership studies you attain through PLP is not directly going to make you a better leader. Yet, one of the most valuable things I have learned in any of my leadership classes is that you can’t teach leadership. Spoiler alert: I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t pursue the leadership studies minor at CNU. I will tell you that it is not for everyone. The PLP class of 2014 has been losing members since my freshman year. I suspect this is a result of a false expectation freshmen have when joining the program. I’ll give you three reasons why I think students drop out of PLP:

1. The classes are very challenging. I know that as a freshman I thought to myself, “Self, you are taking a class in leadership. This is going to be a breeze.” False. With the exception of the first class-and-a-half, leadership classes have consistently been the most difficult classes I have taken each semester. Each class involves a lot of papers, very in-depth and complex readings that often take as long as writing a good paper, and the professors demand a lot. There are countless leadership theories and none of them are definitively correct. It is a kind of science that is not an exact science. Many of the classes require rote memorization as well as conceptual understanding.

2. Volunteering hours can be a hassle if your heart isn’t in it. PLP requires members to volunteer a certain number of hours toward community service each year. This really isn’t much of a problem for those who get involved early in their first semester in an effort they enjoy. For those who wait to get started on volunteering, or who can’t find something they enjoy, this requirement can become an unfortunate annoyance. If you are forcing yourself to commit what few spare hours you have to something you don’t want to be involved in, then the volunteering requirement isn’t meeting its intended goal and could just result in you leaving the program.

3. They only joined for scholarship money or because the program is “prestigious.” Students who join PLP because they get an extra scholarship or because they have only heard recruiters talk about how prestigious, important or impressive the program is (and nothing else) tend to consider dropping more often. If you are not interested in the study of leadership, then the monetary incentive is not worth the time and effort the program requires. The same goes for the incentive of having something nice on your resume. If you don’t want to learn the in-depth leadership theories and social science behind them, you should find other resume boosters that are more worth your time.

Now let me give you the three key reasons for joining PLP, and why I think it is one of the best programs for someone like myself.

1. The leadership faculty are among the most invested and committed professors at this (or any) university. PLP has been evolving every year I have been a member, which can be frustrating at times, but for the faculty, it is a challenge and an opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the program. Every leadership professor I have had has been committed to putting as much into their class as possible. My Leadership Theory class was as overwhelming as the rest of my courses combined, but by the end of the semester I had learned more than I thought I possibly could. It was like going into a calculus class with no knowledge of math besides the fact that it involved number,s and walking out with a B+.

2. It gets better. If you told me when I was halfway through my Group Leadership class freshman year that I would get an A and would be able to talk intelligently on everything from social exchange theory to Kellerman’s philosophical doubts about the basis of the “leadership industry,” I probably would have looked at you like you were trying to explain to me why Adele’s voice is not as impressive as Rebecca Black’s, yet I did get that A, and by the end of the last class for my leadership studies minor I had a pretty good idea of what I was talking about.

3. It’ll bring out the best in you. Through PLP I got involved in volunteering with the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia (a state-sponsored program aimed at providing legal services to people who cannot afford private attorneys). I also began volunteering at a similar program back home in Maine during school breaks. It was through a leadership professor that I was introduced to the Student Honor Council, a significant student organization of which I am now the president. Through PLP’s involvement requirement I was encouraged to join Trebled Youth, one of CNU’s talented a cappella groups. The groups I am involved in, the effort I put into my work, and my understanding of people and groups have all been influenced in some way through my involvement in PLP.

The President’s Leadership Program isn’t for everyone. The classes revolve around an intricate social science that hasn’t been fully dissected yet. The expectations from the program can seem overwhelming at first, and it is easy to (incorrectly) expect that when you enter the program that you will walk out of it a certified leader. Yet if studying different, conflicting views of leadership interests you and you want to be encouraged to get involved in the CNU and the Newport News community, and if you want to learn alongside some of the best faculty at the University, then you should definitely consider PLP. I’m glad I stuck with it.

Ode to Poor, Broke Student

Alas – now that you’re on your own, away from mom and dad, your monetary funds are beginning to change. So long to the “hey, can I have 10 bucks?” and sweet dreams to “when are we going shopping?” Say hello to “I can’t … my bank account looks like the Sahara, totally dried up, with no sign of rain” (aka money). Now, you truly can embody the stereotype of “poor college student” because that is exactly what you are: POOR (relatively speaking) COLLEGE (hey, CNU) STUDENT (time to study).

Of course we all come from various monetary backgrounds, but basically a common denominator is that our parents have supplied our needs and desires throughout our childhood. Some of us have learned a sense of responsibility through typical teenage summer jobs, while some of us have been working year-round. Regardless of our disparate backgrounds and employment histories, during the college years we must learn to budget and manage our funds. At first, management of one’s funds can be daunting, especially while learning and managing all the other aspects of college life. Here are some tips that should help with the transition to managing one’s finances:

1) Ramen. Ramen. Ramen. It’s cheap and it’s efficient. Sure, it doesn’t have all of your vitamins and nutrients, but do I need to remind you that it’s cheap? Conservation of dollars – that’s what matters. You can worry about vitamins in four years … when you can afford nutritional cuisine! The next best thing, I can attest, is the delicious college delicacy of Pop-Tarts and Toaster Strudels. Third, a pleasant, affordable treat is the staple of mac and cheese.

2) Budgeting is your friend – I learned this one the hard way (although at least nothing too drastic happened other than a scolding from my father, but there’s no guarantee that that luck will strike again). Whether it’s your parents giving you money once a month or working to support yourself, budgeting is a necessity for survival. I mean sure, maybe your roommates will loan you a few bucks for a sandwich, but it’s a pretty well-known fact that everyone you come in contact with is budgeting as well. Remember Polonius’ advice (yes, I went there): “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.” What I do is relatively simple: I see how much money I have on the first of the month, I subtract the funds for rent/water/electric/cable (I live off campus – it’s totally different on campus where you pay a lump sum and eat in the dining halls) and then I divide the remainder by 30 (or 31) to see how much I can spend each day. This then, of course, may change depending on how much I am going to spend on groceries (aka Ramen and Pop-Tarts). Bottom line – tell yourself you have less money than you do and you should be fine!

3) Bring a LOT of clothes with you when you move in. Sure, you may not have room for all of them, which is why Bed Bath & Beyond makes a mint from the under-the-bed storage bins, but this hoarding of one’s wardrobe helps cut back on both how much laundry you have to do and on how much money you have to spend on said laundry. And please, for all our sakes, do actually wash your laundry or have the recommended plethora of clothes with you so no one else has to suffer from the aroma of your poor, broke self’s smell.

4) Water. We all know  we are supposed to drink at least eight full glasses of water a day (note: don’t try this back to back, you’ll puke) but besides the required amount, drinking water helps fill you up! No, I am not advocating anorexia by saying “Don’t eat; drink water!” I mean come on, there’s Panera, Moe’s, Tropical Smoothie and Chik-fil-A … you’re going to want to eat! But rather than spending more money at a vending machine, refill your tumbler (yes, get a tumbler/water bottle) with water. This will help hold you over until your next meal and both your body and your wallet will thank you!

Finally, don’t let money become the main focus of your life, as that’s easy enough to do when it can partially dictate your life, but do pay attention to how and why you are spending; this will make your time in college far more enjoyable and who knows, maybe you’ll even have a little left over for a nice shopping spree at Newport News’ “Rodeo Drive” equivalent – Patrick Henry Mall (but probably only for two items…).

Week Eight, Graduation Can Wait

I’ve been having a serious case of nostalgia lately: you know, the familiar sentimental yearnings for years gone by. Maybe its just the “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes I’ve been watching, but there’s this strong pang deep down in my organs that’s finally realizing how close I am to graduation. Really, really darn close!

And it’s a little freaky. Because when I think about it, it feels like only yesterday that I was saying tearful goodbyes to my parents and immediately forgetting them to spend long nights talking with my freshman hall mates. It feels like only yesterday that I came back from my first fall break and really missed everyone on campus. I could go on and on, but the emotion is still the same: there are only a few more months to go before I walk across that stage and am handed that sweet diploma. Talk about finality.

Leaving CNU will be like leaving a good friend who has helped you develop into your true, absolute potential. You never, ever forget those kinds of friends.

This is because the true college experience isn’t marked by how many straight As you make or how many people you know on campus—it’s about how much you grow as a person. In hindsight, I know now that CNU was the perfect university for me because it brought out all those qualities and characteristics that were waiting to be nurtured. Through failures and triumphs, happiness and sadness, going to CNU helped me become who I truly am.

And this, dear students and parents, is the indisputable value of the liberal arts education at CNU: students’ awareness of themselves and the community become heightened; they become more reflective about their own beliefs, choices and motivations; and their new-found sense of selves will help them personally, professionally and socially.