PowerPoint Presentations

So I am sitting in Einstein’s sipping a nice hot cup of coffee and brainstorming the skills that are probably most necessary, yet underrated when coming to college. Yes, reading and writing is essential for success at university and basic math skills and an elementary command of generic science and history topics will probably suit you well, but never underestimate the need to know how to make a PowerPoint presentation.

Yes, PowerPoint, the program you were forced to use in your interpersonal communications class in high school (Virginia high school students have to do that too, right?). If you are in an honors class, a leadership class or basically any other kind of entry level class at CNU with fewer than 80 students in it, you will probably be tasked with doing a presentation of some sort. PowerPoint becomes your best friend.

For those of you unfamiliar with PowerPoint, it is a program that allows you to put together a slide show filled with images and text. For those without fear of public speaking PowerPoint presentations are recognized as the easiest part of a presentation project. Unless you are required to submit an essay or research on the presentation topic it is entirely possible to put together a PowerPoint presentation that holds in eight slides the entirety of your knowledge on a topic. It is up to you, the presenter, to then imply that you know more than your PowerPoint shows.

If you are one of the great number of people who fear public speaking more than death itself, allow me to ease your mind a bit about presentations at CNU.

First, it takes a certain amount of maturity to get into this university. Yes, we all like to play video games, wear funny clothes and watch “Boy Meets World” marathons on ABC Family, but you’ll find that no one here is going to laugh you out of the room unless your presentation consists of you arguing that magic causes climate change and that Jar Jar Binks should have won best supporting actor for his stunning performance in “The Phantom Menace.”

Very few of the classes at CNU have students competing against one another, this means that everyone in the class wants you to succeed as much as they want to succeed. When you kick butt on a presentation in your class, it raises the bar. It encourages everyone to do as well or better. In a way the things you do contribute to the overall quality of CNU itself. If you work hard and encourage others to work hard, then word will continue to get out that CNU is churning out top-notch students and soon-to-be workers. Why does that matter? It matters because it makes that degree you hold at the end of it all even more valuable.

But I digress. If you don’t know how to make a PowerPoint you should spend some time and make sure you learn because it is something you’ll need to do in college even if no one has told you about it.

Doc

Students have that one professor who, for lack of a better phrase, makes them “wake up and smell the coffee.” One such professor has made a drastic impact on my life, and I am extraordinarily thankful that there are individuals like Dr. Sean Connnable, of the Department of Communication, who truly strive to make each students’ learning experience far greater than a lecture in a classroom (in fact, you can easily find him lecturing on the Great Lawn when it’s a beautiful day).

I met “Doc” my first week of freshman year in my introductory leadership course. As student after student filed in, attempting to find the perfect seat so they either will be easily noticed or easily forgotten (which never happens when Doc’s around), I struggled to figure out just who this professor was … he had this smirk/smile on his face like he was about to perform a great speech and instantly capture every students’ attention. Of course, I found myself to be thinking this because I had just come from my Acting 1 class, and performance was obviously on my mind. Little did I know just how right I was as Doc opened his mouth and some strangely familiar words filled the room:

“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

The class just stared. I think one guy in the back muttered, “…what?”

Doc laughed and asked if anyone knew what it was from. I was scrambling to think but honestly was so caught off guard that I had no idea what the answer was (that and maybe because I hadn’t read The Glass Menagerie in more than four years) and Doc continued to laugh. Clearly a new way of teaching, he utilized Tennessee Williams’ words to make us think and to make us question, rather than blindly follow the professor’s word as gospel. Despite the opening monologue being the only aspect of Tennessee Williams that Doc enjoys, something I do not think I will ever forgive him for, Dr. Connable is the type of professor that completely “gets” his students and wants to see them succeed.

A vital member of the Communication Department and a profound faculty member at CNU, one should easily consider themselves lucky to have such a remarkable and truly unique professor. Hardly a pushover because of his warm and inviting personality, Dr. Connable asks you why you think the way you do and what made you come to such conclusions about the topics at hand. This, on the surface, appears to be an obvious aspect of a professor, right? Wrong. Of course, the faculty want to know what you think the answers may be and how you came to such an answer, but Dr. Connable does not just want any answer – he wants to hear your interpretations and ideas, right or “wrong.” Having this type of education at CNU has allowed me to cultivate my own opinions and ideas without fearing being incorrect; not because I’m never wrong (haha, I’m wrong more than right!) but because I now think critically to support my thoughts so I can better explain myself rather than merely regurgitating facts to pass a midterm. Dr. Connable doesn’t want you to memorize pieces of information and repeat it; he wants you to state why that piece of information is important to begin with.

Now, after three years of babysitting his wonderful children (another way he started his class: “OK, who can babysit my awesome little boy, Gideon?”) I view Dr. Connable as an extended family member. Christopher Newport University’s faculty is honestly one in a million and I consider myself blessed to have had such a wonderful and eye-opening experience here.

Resumes, Applications and Interviews–Oh My!

“Early and often” was the advice given to me by Monica Hill, Assistant Director for Employer Relations at CNU’s Center for Career Planning (CCP), when I spoke to her about the long and tedious journey of finding employment. Applying for your future career can be a daunting task, especially if you have no clue where to start. I was one of those people, for sure, but through trial and error and a whole lot of persistence, success will be close in your hand.

The cool thing about applying to jobs, if you think it’s cool, is that the hiring process is both about the quality of experience and the personal characteristics you bring to the interview. I know I’ve ducked out of a lot of applications because it required X amount of years of experience or X qualifications in so and so degree. But the thing is, in the long run, you may not go into a job that fits precisely with your degree. Instead, it’s the skills you’ve learned from the degree that will prove to be much more useful. Just because I major in communication doesn’t mean I want to do public relations (an aggravating assumption), but I do have the writing, research and organizational skills necessary if I did want to go into PR. Also, please: follow your passions!

Although most of it depends on personal judgment, I was surprised to hear that seniors graduating in May should really have begun searching for jobs at the beginning of the year. While I thought I was being smart by starting over winter break, there is a lot of truth to it. If you’re interested in government jobs, for example, the earlier the better when you take into consideration all those security clearances and tests needed. But don’t freak out yet! The CCP still has a load of opportunities for you coming in the spring!

CCP will be holding various events throughout the semester to get you prepared for all those questions you might have about the employment process. On Tuesday, January 21, in the DSU Madison Room they will host a resume and cover-letter writing workshop, while on Wednesday January 15, in the Madison Room they will have a workshop about finding internships.

I asked Monica what advice she would give students when it comes to employment, and she told me that you get jobs by talking to people. Whether it be through LinkedIn profiles; talking with professors, family and friends; or visiting the folks at CCP, building a strong web of networks is a sure way to make your presence known. And what better way (wink, wink) to make yourself known than by attending the 2014 Career Fair on Thursday, January 30, from noon to 2:30 p.m. in the DSU? Really though, it’s better to take advantage of these opportunities when they are available to you.

Why Sometimes the Class You Least Want to Take Turns Into the Best Class Ever

I’ m terrible at science.

I took a college-prep bio course in high school and while I usually got away with Bs, my teacher always wondered why I was in the class. Maybe the problem was that one of our big projects was to put together a bug collection and I would rather stick myself with needles than impale a bug on a board. But I digress …

At CNU we all have to fulfill certain required liberal learning core classes. These include a couple of math classes, a second-level language class, and at least one science class and lab. Needle-less to say, I wasn’t particularly excited about the possibility of dealing with a science class again, but “you gotta do what you have to do before you can do what you wanna do.”

So, as usual before the semester began when I would take a science class, I went around to my friends to ask them what they recommended. Astronomy and botany were the two science classes most recommended, and as a nerdy “Star Wars” fan I opted to try astronomy so I could learn about Death Stars and stuff.

… Alas astronomy filled up before I was able to register, so I was stuck with botany. The study of plants. AKA: Snorefest … or so I thought.

The botany class I took turned into the most fascinating and enjoyable class I have ever taken outside of my major. Dr. Lauren Ruane made a subject I thought was as dry as a cactus actually the complete opposite (in order to continue the metaphor I could say “as wet as the inside of a Baobab,” which is a tree that stores immense amounts of water in its trunk. Think Rafiki’s house from “The Lion King.”)

I learned so many things about plants that blew me away. The under-appreciation of fungi in medicine, the deadly poisons found in some of the most common plants, and the history of plant-based narcotics presented an endless source of wonder for someone like me who had barely grazed the surface of the science world.

Did you know that pigs can be trained to sniff out truffles (a kind of underground mushroom that is worth an absurd amount of money)?

Did you know that heroin and other narcotics were originally made to try to assist people with morphine addictions?

Did you know that there is a single fungus that covers acres, making it the largest living thing on Earth?

NEITHER DID I!

When you come to CNU, don’t let your preconceived notions about certain subjects convince you that there is nothing good to come from them. Even today I find myself spewing out facts I learned in botany class because it was just so interesting. I credit Dr. Ruane for making the subject so interesting. As much as I hate to admit it, I never would have even considered the class if not for the liberal learning core.

New Semester, New Endeavors

Welcome back, Captains! Winter break will always have a special place in my heart, since it’s the only break in the school year where we don’t have to spare any stress over assignments, projects and papers. The general consensus is that it never lasts long enough, but the great thing about starting again is tackling news goals and challenges. Even cooler: as you move through your time at CNU, you start to see your goals come to fruition!

So, what do you plan to tackle in 2014? Whether it be getting good grades, forcing yourself to go to the Freeman Center or being more adventurous, CNU has plenty to offer for you to accomplish each one!

While I’m the first to admit that numbers and grades aren’t everything, I can’t deny the satisfaction that a good grade on a test or paper brings. Although it takes awhile to get back into the swing of things, there are a few things you can do to make sure this semester is successful. First, I always swear by planning ahead. Not to give out my precious secrets, but keeping up the readings (and even reading ahead!) can give you ample time to devote to other classes. Good note-taking is always an effective way to engage the material—not only are you doing critical thinking on your own, but when you get to class you are better prepared to understand the material! Visiting your core adviser or the folks at the Center for Academic Success are also sure ways of finding new strategies to thrive in class.

For those of you determined to follow through with fitness resolutions, The Freeman Center offers plenty of classes from cycling, yoga and Pilates to get yourself into high gear. If group classes aren’t your thing, the personal fitness training program is a great way to start learning the basics—after all, safety first in the gym, Captains! A quick tip: my favorite times to head to the Freeman are between 11 a.m. and noon; there is literally no one at the gym at that time.

And for the adventurous, what better way to embark on a new journey than exploring study abroad options! Whether it be traveling to New Zealand, Israel or England, there is really no better way to expand your horizons than by experiencing different walks of life. Although I’ve personally never done a study aboard program (which I vehemently regret), I know of many Captains who have had enlightening and exciting journeys in various countries across the world.

There, with all these resources, you now have no excuse not to ring out spring semester with a bang! Good luck with your endeavors!

It’s All Greek to Me?

The buzz of excitement. The sweaty palms and perfected hair. The nervous, yet hopeful smile and the one question on every girl’s mind: “Where will I run?” Ah, recruitment week. The one week of the school year where every girl going through the process is both excited and undeniably exhausted at the same time. The week where you question absolutely everything and find yourself wondering if you are in the Twilight Zone. Welcome – we’ve been waiting 😉

I have been part of Greek life at CNU for four years now, and each semester I see the ebb and flow of relationships, of philanthropies, of finding one’s own niche within the culture. To be frank, if you told me four-and-a-half years ago that I would be in a sorority, I would’ve laughed in your face and said, “Yeah, uh, I have an identity and I don’t pay for friends.” And now, here I am, going through my last recruitment, and seeing the newest classes begin to find their places in each sorority. Greek life at CNU is honestly different. I can say this with absolute certainty (due to friends in Greek life at other schools throughout the country). For one, and let me make this clear, we do not haze. Of course rumors fly around campus saying that you have to have a trust fund to join one sorority, or one sorority only accepts girls with a specific body type and hair color – but those rumors are simply said for the same reason as others – for attention and shock factor. College kids thrive on juicy gossip, and if you can fixate on one specific group then that’s even better; and that’s where Greek life can find itself at many schools…

But as a sister of Gamma Phi Beta, I have been opened to many, MANY different types of personalities and interests. Probably 70 percent of the sorority I wouldn’t have been friends with or even talked to back in high school (ah, the close-minded years) but through my recruitment process, through my time as a sister, I have been exposed to girls who have completely had their lives turned upside down and still wore a smile each day, and girls who spend the majority of their time helping others. While Greek life may honestly not be for everyone, just like basically every other activity in life, opening yourself to the possibility of a new chapter (pun intended) in your life can truly help you grow.

For those going through recruitment this week: first, I wish all of you good luck and to maintain an open mind and heart – remember that you aren’t looking for clone copies of yourself (and this applies to sorority sisters as well) but for a group of girls who can truly help you become who you want to be. Second, relax and be yourself. By attempting to be someone you’re not, you may easily get swept up in, perhaps, the wrong home for you, so let the real you shine! And lastly, do not get your head mixed up with your heart. This is where many girls can find themselves tossing and turning at night – you may find yourself thinking “well, this sorority has the best reputation in this category” or “this sorority can get me my next job” but this truly isn’t an intellectually driven decision, it’s a moment where your gut tells you immediately what is “home” to you. So trust it.

And lastly, I want to make it apparent that I am not just some Greek life cheerleader, or promoting one sorority over another. Honestly, I am by far not the most involved sister, nor do I go around calling every sister my “best friend.” I very much understand that there are multiple factors to one’s college experience, and my sisterhood makes up a part of mine, just as theater also does; but having these experiences has defined me as an individual, opened my mind up to different types of women and given me a meaningful commitment that will last a lifetime.