Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ah, and PS.

I got into Global Development Studies! For more information on this interdisciplinary program, I will shoot you to the website that I sent my parents when they said, "Oh... I don't really know what it is, but that's nice and you sound happy!"
I will now be a third-year, History & Global Development Studies double major next year!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Service in Society

I went to listen to a speaker yesterday at the Kaleidoscope Room in Newcomb. I believe the ability to listen to a variety of speakers (I listened to John Yoo when he came!) and be exposed to a variety of different perspectives on different subjects is one of the highlights of my student career. The difference between lectures in class and lectures outside of class is that they are usually subjects that are not covered by a typical "discipline" and might even be controversial!

Anyway, back to the lecture--- it was part of the Service in Society series, and the title was "Intellectual Inquiry: A Pathway to Engaged Citizenship." What was covered in the lecture though was not a speech about service in the traditional sense, as I expected, but more of a diatribe about the lack of acknowledgment and support of the service done in the academic field--- particularly her program at the Woodson Institute. However, Deborah E. McDowell, who is director of the Woodson Institute for African American & African studies, made several good points, which I would like to outline here.

1. Service, interpreted now days, means moving outside of the boundaries established by daily life
Deborah McDowell started off her speech talking about how "service" in her day, which meant driving the elderly neighbor to the hospital, building a church together, and cooking three meals for the friend on crutches, was actually called duty or responsibility. Service connotes the helping of people out there, and the recipients of service, they, were disadvantaged. In truth, we should consider what the relationship between those who service and those who are served really is. To do service, do we go to the "disadvantaged area" or can we look into our own environment? McDowell argues that service starts within the boundaries of your daily life. If service seeks to expose injustices and discrepancies-- what forms of inequalities exist within our own institutions? How do you base service on what you like to do, instead of what's "sexy" like ASB? In doing service, how are you engaging those whom you are serving and bringing them aboard the planning and action?

2. Lip-service by the University for Interdisciplinary programs, but a lack of monetary and structural support
This struck me because I am interested in Global Development Studies, a newly created interdisciplinary program, and the statement that the University "talks the talk," but doesn't "walk the walk" from the director of an interdisciplinary program worries me. There are structural and institutional differences inherent between a department and a program, which are most evident in the funding. Programs do not have enough funding to even hire a professor but must "borrow" professors from different departments.

3. The difference between a program and a department
This flows from what I said earlier, but another difference between a program and a department is the lack of acknowledgment by the academic community. The academic community is still skeptic about the validity of knowledge from an interdisciplinary program, even though the knowledge produced is as valid and precious as the knowledge that comes from a department. The freedom to cross and make connections across boundaries is what attracts students to interdisciplinary programs, but to hear that this freedom comes at the cost of validity is unnerving.

UVA is considered a very service-oriented student body, with Madison House boasting over three thousand volunteers. Yet, we tend to look afar when we are performing service. Let's go to "that part of Charlottesville" or "these elderly grandparents" need you to help. McDowell makes the convincing argument that in truth the places that need the most attention and that you have the most impact on are the places close to home. For McDowell, her academic program is home and she sees many aspects of it that need "service."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blueprint Last Session

Today is the last session for my Blueprint group, before the Closing Dinner. That meant more than six weeks have gone by since I met my wonderful group of first years, second years, and transfer student-leaders. Although there were a lot of changes made from last year, I think the concept of having over a hundred Blueprint members worked out well. The fact that the majority of the Blueprint leaders knew each other really well helped a lot to solidify the leadership at top. I do not think that members of my group met outside of Blueprint on their own, but who knows? They might have! It's been a short time, but I hope that I've reached out to my "kiddies" (although most of them are the same age as me...) as a resource as well. All I know is that I did the best that I could to provide a fun, comfortable environment to meet new people and talk about leadership issues. I'm starting to get nostalgic about it already. Oh dear...

Friday, March 19, 2010


I am getting more and more involved in groups that are involved with community relations with minority groups. Sustained Dialogue, Charlottesville Dialogue on Race, Women's Center, and now UCARE! UCARE stands for University and Community Action for Racial Equity (clever, isn't it?). It's located in the Institute of Environmental Negotiation, which is right across from Cavalier Inn on Emmet Rd.

It's an interesting organization, not under the umbrella of the University of Virginia, but definitely drawing from its resources. I have only been an intern for less than two weeks, but already I have jumped into a lot. As with most paid internships, they would like to see that we get our work done. Right now, I'm sort out the links page on the website, and writing blurbs for it-- I hope you get to see the improvements!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meeting at Mellow Mushroom

I took a long walk outside today, in a white button-up shirt speckled with green flowers and white capris, because I love the sky today. Although it wasn't the sunshiney blue that makes me giddy, it was my introspective greyish-blue that I hum to as I walk on the sidewalks. The temperature wasn't warm, but was tinged with enough of a cold to bite if the wind blew... Okay, so it wasn't ideal weather for a walk in a t-shirt.

I guess I wanted to walk after a $1.70 Mellow Mushroom cheese pizza slice with $1.20 toppings worth of jalapenos and roma tomatoes. (NOM NOM NOM.) I did my best not to introspect too much nor look like a creeper as I entered deserted classrooms and buildings on Grounds. Having been on Grounds during summer, winter break, and spring break, I am used to and even like the feeling of being the only non-international student here. It's nice to reorient oneself without responsibilities expected from other people. I would definitely say that I am introvert in that sense.

I had lunch with an alumna, a recent graduate from the previous decade '09, at Mellow Mushroom. She ordered a small Kosmic Karma pizza that consisted of olive oil, pesto, roma tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese, and was successful in devouring only half of it. Her flyaway hair reminded me of wispy clouds that had graced the sky on Monday, and I missed her owl-esque look that was wise to my young soul. I presented her with a belated graduation gift of a scarf.

We talked about life, school, life after school, classes, majors, friends, our dorm, how indecisive we are, and Blueprint. All this and my pizza needed to be digested hours after our conversation. I think one of the best quotes from today is "Consume experiences, not material things. The truly happy cherish friends, family and new experiences." Woah. Yeah, that's right, woah.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Huzzah for CAPS

I have to give a shout out to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on Grounds. They are located in the same building as Student Health, so on the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Brandon Ave. I went twice in the past week, not for myself ironically, but for a friend and a resident. (I was feeling a lot better, because I had talked to some close people on my support network: friends and family.) They are very professional and considerate! While we definitely do rely on friends and family, sometimes they are not nonjudgmental or as supportive as we would hope they would be. Therefore, it's helpful to talk with a professional to sort out your feelings. CAPS is free for University students.