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grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Month: February 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Several Decades of Snacking: A Celebration of Dr. Munson’s Study Breaks

Despite their prominence at the University of Delaware, super cool lab goggles, and the fact that everyone “oohs” and “ahs” when they say their major, I have never envied those students pursuing a degree along the lines of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or Biochemistry.

That is, until one day, while I was slowly dying in the silent study lounge, a tall and distinguished-looking gentleman poked his head in the room.

“You know,” he opened with, “Sugar sharpens the brain. And as there is a lot of food out there; I hope you will do your duty in not letting it go to waste.”

Dr. Munson sits by while Honors student Allison Amatuzzo enjoys the snacks at the Feb. 27 study break.

Attention captivated, the other inhabitants of the room and I immediately abandoned our studies and followed this man into the main lounge. We were curious to see what he was referring to.

What awaited us was a literal feast for the eyes. Spread out on several tables we found a display that could cure any physical or emotional weariness we may have been experiencing. Oreos, Tostitos, salsa, potato chips, vegetable dip, candy corn, and more formed a spectacle of beauty. It was a gratifying sight for eyes that had been yearning for something more satisfying than the light of a laptop screen.

Malnourished college students that we are, we needed no further encouragement. We ravished the banquet, pausing in our chewing only long enough to murmur an expression of profound thanks to the man who had filled our stomachs and lifted our spirits.

The man was Dr. Burnaby Munson of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and that would be my first encounter with what have been affectionately named, “Dr. Munson’s study breaks.” A tradition that began in 1979, these deliveries of edible encouragement on nights before big exams have become a staple of life in Russell.

“They’re the best part of the week at Russell, they give you something to look forward to, “ confirmed Honors student Claire Gollegly.

“They were first held on Friday nights in Dickinson, which was then the Honors Dorm,” Dr. Munson described in recalling the origins of this ritual. “They were meant to provide a social alternative to more common Friday night activities, so no actual studying was originally involved.”

After bemusedly remarking that Friday nights had predictably low turnouts, Dr. Munson explained that they were then moved to Tuesday nights, where they became more of the “study break” they are known as today.

Dr. Munson remembered the awkward hesitancy with which these breaks were first received, saying the dynamics were “amusing to watch.”

“None of the students wanted to be the first ones there,” he recollected.

Of course, this hesitancy has vanished entirely. Today, Honors students welcome the event with open arms.

“They make Wednesdays not so bad,” explained one such Honors student, Elizabeth Viersma. “They help get you through the week.”

The professor further elaborated that these study breaks essentially began as an extension of the sustenance he would provide during actual exams. “Exams were always in the evening and guaranteed to be long, the kids needed something to eat,” he reasoned.

When asked if providing food for tired test-takers is a common practice in his departments, Dr. Munson admitted he is one of the few that do.

He also opens this banquet to all of Russell, not just those students who will be taking his test the next day. For people like me, to whom talk of “optical properties of chiral nematic of liquid crystals” resembles an alien language, this has been a gift.

And so I issue a sincere thanks to Dr. Munson, whose visits to the lounges of Russell are much like visits from Santa Clause at Christmas time, and who always manages to cheer up study-weary Honors students with his sumptuous snacks.

Suddenly, majoring in a chemical science doesn’t sound so unappealing.

~Victoria Snare

“I Think This Is The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship”

Hello Honors Program! My name is Hannah Tattersall and I am a freshman communication interest major from Hockessin, Delaware.  I am so excited to be able to write a blog for the Honors Program every week! For my first post, I thought I’d have some fun introducing myself and have a throwback to all those acrostic poems I used to make as a little girl.  This one is using the letters UDHP for the University of Delaware Honors Program!

U is for an Unhealthy Obsession with TV and Movies
This statement is probably the truest statement you will ever read from me. I have a rigid TV schedule of shows to watch every day and I am constantly checking for the latest news and spoilers on my favorite shows.  Some of my favorites include Psych, Once Upon a Time, Arrested Development, Downton Abbey and Parks and Recreation, which is why I am super excited that Aziz Ansari is coming to UD! I have more DVDs than I can count, many of which are entire TV series and some of my favorite movies like Bridesmaids and You’ve Got Mail. While I do watch a ridiculous amount of TV and movies, I only do so AFTER my homework is completed, don’t worry!

D is for Dance!
I am involved in many different activities and clubs this year, but one that has been a constant in my life is dance.  I have danced since I was a wee, little two-year-old tot.  Currently, I take ballet, tap, jazz and pointe, and I am an assistant teacher at the same dance studio in Wilmington. In addition to dance, I am a Social Media Ambassador for Blue Hen Says (@BlueHenHannahT), a member of STN49 and a Blue Hen Ambassador. Plenty of room for activities for me!

H is for the Letter H!
Part of my personal identity is that I am the youngest of four girls, all of whom have a name beginning with the letter “H”.  As you can imagine, we get called by each others’ names quite often.  In more ways than one, I have found myself following in their footsteps.  All four of us attended the same high school, all four of us have or will graduate from the University of Delaware and all four of us lived in Russell during our freshman year! I am even living on the same floor that my oldest sister lived on, just a few doors down.

P is for Paris!
Last summer, my family and I went to the magnificent, beautiful, amazing and marvelous (insert any other similar adjective that can be applied here) city of Paris, France.  It was a truly amazing time and I fell in love with the city, like most people do.  Travelling to Paris made me realize how much I want to travel when I get older and hopefully I will be able to do that as part of my future career.  I also can’t wait to be able to study abroad during my time here at UD!

Until next time,
~Hannah

P.S. – Whoever can name the movie the title of this post is from will get a special shout-out in my next post! Comment or email me the answer!

How to maxmize your Honors experience

I know, I know. “Honors activities are only for freshmen.” While that may or may not be true, it doesn’t have to be. Before you close this page, just hear me out. Maximizing your Honors experience is like picking your schedule for next semester (and I don’t mean stressful) – you have to tailor it to your interests. Below are the five easy steps to taking advantage of the Honors community.

 

1. Pick one major Honors event to attend a year

The Honors Program brings many influential speakers to campus. This semester the University had the privilege of hearing Wes Moore speak (See Ruby’s review here) thanks to the Honors Program. Before the semester is out, we will also hear a poetry reading by Rita Dove who previously served as Poet Laureate of the United States. These speakers don’t come to speak to an empty room – so go and bring a few friends.

2. Exclusive Honors opportunities

If you haven’t seen the study abroad video yet check it out. It highlights the first ever Honors study abroad program and two spring break trips that have been offered. I cannot speak highly enough of the Honors study abroad, so if you have ever wanted to go to Italy I encourage you to apply to this year’s program with Dr. Fox . As Honors students, you have the opportunity to plan the entire trip from where you want to go, to what you want to do. Check out our blog from 2012.

In addition to fantastic opportunities like this, the Honors program takes trips to see performances such as LOL at The Grand in Wilmington or various performances on campus. Show some support for your friends or reunite with your friends from freshman year, take a break from studying (like we all know you’re doing on a Friday night) and take advantage of these great offerings.

 

3. Dr. Munson’s study breaks

If you have never been to one, just go. There are plenty of gummy bears. Enough said.

 

4. Attend an Honors info session featuring a professor 

These sessions may be in the Honors freshmen dorms but that doesn’t mean you can’t go as an upperclassman. Some of your favorite professors give you a preview of their classes or an interesting topic that they may feel too nerdy to share with people who well…aren’t nerds like us. Seriously, at least go to one. You’re guaranteed a night of intellect and laughter.

 

5. Make friends for life

That sounds incredibly cheesy, but for real. My manager says this before every shift at work and I just laugh but it is extremely applicable in our case. I am best friends with my freshman year roommate. I know people that are living with Honors classmates from their first year and I will be friends with not only my Italy classmates, but also my study abroad professor for years to come.

 

There you have it. Five easy steps to maximizing your Honors experience. You’re only at college once (well…those of you who really love learning might not be) so take a gander at all of the opportunities (classes if we’d like to continue the metaphor) and tailor your experience (schedule) to best suit your interests.

 

Take it easy.

~Chelsey Rodowicz

 

 

 

Ruby’s Wes Moore Recap

This past Wednesday, Wes Moore spoke to the University of Delaware community at the invitation of the UD Honors Program.  The 34-year-old man graduated from Valley Forge Military College, Johns Hopkins University, and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.  He served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, worked with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a White House Fellow, and authored the New York Times bestseller The Other Wes Moore.  If I had heard just this litany of achievements, I would probably assume that Wes’s intellect and ambition had been apparent and nurtured from birth by a financially comfortable family.

Honors Students wait to get their posters and books signed by Wes Moore.

But I would be wrong.  The reality is that Wes spent much of his childhood in poverty on the tough streets of inner-city Baltimore and the Bronx, skipping school and being surrounded by the illegal drug trade.  He was arrested even before he became a teenager.  Wes did attend the top-notch Riverdale Country School, but had to carefully manage his identity during those few years, as his attendance at Riverdale made him the neighborhood social pariah while his wealthy classmates shunned him for his poverty.

Somewhere along the way, Wes turned his life around.  But another Wes Moore was raised just a few blocks away in Baltimore, one that will spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in a jewelry store robbery that killed a police officer.  The Other Wes Moore is the mesmerizing story of these two men.

Wes managed to impress me even more in person as he spoke of the value of personal responsibility and community service.  Scribbling notes, I realized that he is incredibly quotable, but I think the best line of the night actually came from the Wes who is a convicted murderer:  “I think we’re products of our expectations”, not our environments.

That comment really resonated with Wes, who described his shock at the articulateness of the convict’s first letter to him.  Even he had low expectations of Wes.  As I mentioned earlier, just by looking at his early environment, most people probably wouldn’t predict that the author would achieve so much.  But aren’t we all supposed to have faith in the American Dream, that anyone, no matter where they come from, can rise to success?  I thought I believed, until Wes made me realize the power of expectations.

There is no doubt that there are enormous structural problems in Baltimore, and all American inner cities.  While unfortunately on an individual level it is unlikely any one person will cure poverty and the subsequent issues of pervasive violence, inferior schools, and high teen pregnancy rates, we can change our expectations of those born into such unlucky situations.  Wes Moore proves that difficult circumstances need not dictate outcomes.  I could not agree more with his statement, “Potential in this country is universal, but opportunity is not.”  It is not enough to be grateful that our parents and teachers believed in us. When we recognize that individual and societal expectations can hold people back just as easily as they can push others forward, we learn that a key component of community service is instilling high hopes for those whom not much is expected of.

~Ruby Harrington

“Our Lives are Not Our Own”

by Mel Allen, Deval Mehta and Ben Falandays

Wes Moore begins his story reflecting on the reality that sudden moments of decision have great potential to seal our fate. From a young age, we are influenced by those who raise us, our peers at school, and the resources that our communities are able to provide. These influences help to shape our most basic values and morals, and impact these major decisions and choices that we will make throughout our lives.

Wes explains that the intention of this book is reflect on choices and accountability at both the individual level and the societal level. We all play a role in society and “little separates each of us from another life altogether”,  in terms of certain decisions which determine where we end up, as well as little also separates us from our peers that go down different paths.  For me, this was a key take away from this book, and I was encouraged to reflect on family and friends from my neighborhood and the similar parallels (and unfortunately, outcomes) that exist between them and the Wes in prison.

One of the key differences between the Wes’s was the impact that positive role models and mentors had, and this was not limited to only family members.  We all should accept a certain level of responsibility and accountability, and work together to provide positive, uplifting avenues for those that may not have access to these. Until we eliminate the distance and judgments that we often build between others, gain a sense of empathy, and recognize that “even the worst decisions we make don’t necessarily remove us from the circle of humanity,” the story of the Wes Moore serving a life sentence will continue to persist.

A friend that I met this past Winter Session in Ghana told me that “the greatest accomplishment in life is not achieved by one person, but by supporters of loving people.” This cooperative attitude is something that we can all easily adopt and can certainly go a long way, noted by the success of the author, Wes Moore. For me, this book was a call to leadership and service; although the fate of both Wes Moore’s was based on a series of personal choices, in turn we have to not only recognize and celebrate the role that strong mentors can play in shaping these decisions and choices, but also identify how we can serve as these for family, peers and community members.

~Mel Allen

Mel Allen is a Writing Fellow for the Honors Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Readers!  My name is Deval Mehta.  I’m a Physics major with a minor in Mathematics and a Freshman Fellow here at the Honors Program.  As a Freshman Fellow, my responsibilities include helping the Russell Fellows plan events for the freshmen honors community in the Russell Complex, acting as a liaison between the Honors Program and my floor, and of course, being involved in Honors Program events and initiatives.  Community service plays a large role in my life, because it has been drilled into me since I could understand human speech.  For as long as I can remember, my parents have volunteered their time at the Vaishnav Temple of New York (VTNY), my house of worship.  When I turned five, I followed in their footsteps and began volunteering my time at VTNY as well.  In high school, I worked with other organizations as well, mainly UNICEF, and never lost my love of community service.  Now, I’m working with the Honors Program to undertake a few more community service initiatives.

For many students, the end of the fall semester meant a chance to unwind, see high school friends, and reacquaint themselves with their long lost love named sleep, but at the Honors Program, we’ve had serving the community on our minds.  Over Winter Break/Session, the Honors Program recommended that students read a book entitled The Other Wes Moore.  Unlike the Summer Reader required by the University for all freshmen, The Other Wes Moore is not only meant to ring up conversation among its readers on campus, but to engage their minds in thinking about the everyday occurrences of the less fortunate.  To follow up a great Winter Reader, the Honors Program has decided to hold a Day of Service to give our students the opportunity to help the community is life-changing ways.

In the spirit of community service and in awe of Wes Moore’s story, the Honors Program will be working with Head Start Inc.  Head Start Inc. helps children between the ages of three and five and their parents, who come from low-income families, prepare for school both socially and cognitively through services oriented towards education, health, nutrition, and social behavior.  Significant emphasis is placed on the parents’ involvement in the education of their children and on helping the parents help their children achieve their literacy, education, and employment goals.  Head Start Inc. has centers around the country, but here in Delaware (particularly in Wilmington), Head Start is located in the West End Head Start Center, funded by the West End Neighborhood House, another one of our Service Day partners.

On March 9, 2013, the Honors Program is sponsoring Day of Service for students to out and change the community.  One of the four projects on this Day of Service entails redecorating classrooms for the children in the West End Head Start Center.  Our goal is to provide these children between the ages of three and five and their parents the best environment in which they can begin to achieve a similar level of education and knowledge to what we know today, in other words, we want to give them a head start in life, one that they might not have without help.  By redecorating these classrooms, we’ll create a brighter atmosphere for these children and families, and as an effect, a brighter outlook on their futures.

~Deval Mehta

Deval Mehta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our lives are not our own. I’m sorry, Donald Trump, you did not claw your way to the top based on sheer willpower alone. Nor savvy people skills. Not even maverick business moves. So then to what forces can we attribute the rise of an International Dynasty? I don’t know. No one knows. To pin down one factor is already to miss the point. Luck, divine intervention, maybe Mercury was aligned just so when Papa Trump saw Mom across a crowded bowling alley  – the best we can say is that “the universe was on his side” (except for the whole hair situation). All we know is that a whole lot of things converged to make Trump what he is.

This is equally true for everyone. The cult of the individual, a definitively American phenomenon, would like to tell you otherwise – that you are the “captain of your fate,” that every little boy or girl can be President with only a heart of gold and a little elbow grease. But we are a long way from the “rags to riches” dime novels of a bygone era. Are dimes even still considered currency? With skyrocketing economic disparity, de facto segregation, and a drastically increasing correlation between parent-child class level, this is a receding hope. Some 40 years ago, an American child could reasonably expect to earn more than their parents, to make a better life for their children. This is not necessarily the case today.

This is not to say that individual quality and talent are non-factors. Of course they are. Donald Trump does have determination, people skills, and exceptional business know-how that helped him legitimately earn what he has. But the real question is, where did those things come from in the first place? He didn’t simply sprout from the ground like that, he was raised. By a specific family (the Trump’s), among a specific group of friends (assuming he has those), in a specific neighborhood (Queens), in a state (New York), one of 50 in America – and only this exact combination of factors makes ‘Trump’ a reality.

What I’m trying to say is that what we like to call a “person” is really nothing less than a bio-psycho-social system on a huge scale. We are products of an individual life, of a culture, and of a history – a very long history. The story of who you are starts at the big-bang.

So great, then our fates are determined? Are there just too many factors to reasonably control our lives? Well, yes and no. Chance will always be relevant. But the ‘American dream,’ has never been that we would all be filthy rich, only that we each have a chance to move up in life. For most of you reading this, you have known for a long time that you would go to college. You had at least some control over how your life would turn out. And now you have even more control. You have the opportunity to envision a future life and work towards making it reality.

But what if you couldn’t envision this path? What if it seemed that despite your greatest efforts, you had no control of where you would end up? Why, then, would you be motivated to work at all?

Let’s call it the “hope factor.” It keeps people going in the direst of situations. The lack of this is nothing less than resignation, despair, and disconnection with responsibility. And it’s a big part of what drives the lives that we see play out in The Other Wes Moore.

In the book, we see Tony Moore trying desperately to shift the course of his brother’s fate. He feels that “his brother’s life could be saved,” explains Moore, “even if he felt that his own had already, at age fourteen, passed the point of no return” (27). Yet, by the age of 18, one Wes was a high school dropout, a drug dealer, a parent, and a convicted felon; the other was a platoon sergeant. One Wes saw chances to take command of his life folding out before his very eyes; the other saw his future for the first time only upon the passage of his life-sentence.

When it comes to changing people’s lives for the better, no, we cannot come up with a formula to make everyone a Trump. Some will be born to millionaires – they will inevitably be millionaires themselves. Most of us won’t have this opportunity. But, if at least we feel that we have a chance to build, we will surely build. If, on the other hand, we feel at age 14 that our fates are sealed, we will leave them sealed.

For many Americans, their futures are not transparent. They have no guarantee that if they work hard, if they go to school, if they are honest people, they will have good results. They witness many around them do just those things, and they witness these investments take them no further towards security or stability. This is a situation which makes young children truly ‘lost causes.’ For some classrooms, we mean it when we tell the children that they can become President one day. For others, this is simply a lie.

But it shouldn’t be a lie. It hasn’t always been a lie (As Wes Moore points to in the case of Bill Clinton), and it doesn’t need to remain one. So when I think about how to repair a broken system, I first point to the ‘hope factor.’ Personal responsibility is important, but a culture without hope makes it a moot point. We have a generation of kids deprived access to their future. The first step to changing the cycle is clear: we need give back an American dream.

The case of the Wes Moore’s shows us that we are “products of our expectations.” Not simply our own, nor others’, but “others’ expectations that you take as your own” (126). What expectations do you have for yourself? What expectations do you have for others? What about for the children of Wes’s Baltimore and all the cities like it around the globe?

~Ben Falandays

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