Category: Shannon Poulsen (page 1 of 2)

Taking Too Much On: Learning to Say “No” to Opportunities

UD students are engaged students. Some do research. Others partake in extra-curricular activities. Many work. Everyone owns an individual part of the university through their involvement.


However, students can get greedy. They may want more than one college experience. They want to make as many memories as possible.


It seems that I’m the type of student who falls into this category. I want more than one piece of UD- I want to live the full college experience! I stretch myself between three registered student organizations and two jobs. I have not one, not two, but five college “stories.” I’ve gotten exactly what I’ve signed up for.


But then, my activities ask for a part of me, and I can’t reciprocate. Can I edit seven articles to send to corporate? Can I make an outside improv opportunity to perform? Can I film on Thursday, during my roommate’s birthday dinner?


Sometimes, you have to say no. I’m learning that now. I’m learning that what I’ve taken for myself is sometimes too much.


Artistic rendering of “too much”

This is not a unique situation. Many of my friends experience similarly conflicted schedules. We complain about being overly-involved, asking if our professors get together and plan tests on the same day on purpose. We blame organizers for not spacing events out enough, conspiring that someone is out to get us.


The reality is, we’ve set up a schedule that is out to get itself. We must turn some things down, even if we want to be a part of it. We want to volunteer to help students apply to colleges. Of course we want to become a Peer Mentor- it’ll fit somewhere right?


Not always.


We must learn to treasure the opportunities we took. It’s okay to not apply to be a Writing Fellow! Enjoy being a tutor at the Writing Center. It’s ok to miss Ag day on South campus for a Frisbee tournament! Cherish the winning catch rather than ruminate on the missed UDairy. Love the moments you got in the first place.


We must also learn that there is no shame in saying no. Perhaps someone is afraid to turn down an opportunity for fear they might be seen as weak. There is pride in being able to balance a full load and shame in showing stress. This, however, is all self-imposed.


I am not weaker by turning down a producer’s part in an upcoming filming. I am not a bad student for crunching in a policy event report last minute. I am not a bad friend for not being able to get lunch because I need a nap.


We are not weaker students by saying no to opportunities. We are strong students with wonderful stories to tell as is. And while taking a lot on our plate might be our nature, it is not a requirement.


Learning to say no is part of growing as a college student, and boy are we growing.

~Shannon Poulsen


Seeing a “Package” Through

My week was filled with Disney princesses, cameras, costumes, and emails. I am an actor, writer, producer, technical director, and one-time editor for the Biweekly Show.

A little background on Biweekly: We are a UD student-run TV show that airs on the Student Television Network (STN49) on campus. Every other week we get together, create, and run a 30 minute show. There are many technical terms behind a tv show but for the sake of discussion, I’ll define one. A “package” is a pre-recorded piece of material.

 This week, I was the producer for a package titled “True Hollywood Story: Disney Princesses, Where Are They Now?” We had Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, and Sleeping Beauty all share where they are now. It’s funny, unique, and interesting. It was also a lot of hard work.

My roommate, Cece, and I are both in Biweekly. She’s posing with my Biweekly shirt.


Here are some of the steps from creation to completion of an idea as told through Disney Princesses.


1.     Idea: My friend Alana pitched the idea of a Disney Princess follow up.


2.     Selection: The Executive Producers selected which ideas will be used for the show. They pick the writer, director, editor, and producer. Often times these roles cross-over. I was chosen for producer.


3.     Organizing: I emailed everyone (multiple times) to find a time we could shoot their scenes. This is the hardest part- no one is ever available together. People often need to be re-cast by the writer. This one worked out well.


4.     Scenes and costumes: I chose where to shoot as the day came. I had to coordinate with the director, Alisa, who would get the equipment. I also had to somewhat pick costumes. It’s actually extremely difficult to dress as a modern day princess!


5.     Acting: I dressed up as homeless woman for the Belle shoot. I got a lot of stares walking out of my building in costume. I also was Snow White. Organizing that outfit was a challenge. Who has a yellow skirt laying around? Luckily I had a yellow pillow case. Dirtying my clean apartment for a scene was easy. Cleaning it up after was not.


6.     Setting up shots: It took Alisa, my friend Dillon, and I a long time to set up a shot for the confessional-style shots in True Hollywood stories. Lighting has to be right (basically always have a spare lamp) and sound has to come out clearly. There is so much to balance in a camera shot. We spent about 10 hours or so filming this week.


7.     Editing: This is the coolest part of a package in my opinion. A three minute package generally takes three-four hours of editing. Every moment one recorded is sorted through and shots are picked. Working the editing program may as well be speaking a different language. Alisa is editing Disney Princesses. Otherwise, I’d be at The Other Side (STN’s office) on this fine night rather than studying in my room.


8.     Playing during the show: Once everything is approved by the executive producers, it is put on during the show. Describing how we get the content on during the show requires it’s own huge list for another day.


That’s a small taste of what I’ve done this week. It’s all done for a three-minute package that will air briefly on TV and online. The best part is hearing from people that what you’ve done is hilarious. It all pays off in the end.

~Shannon Poulsen


Attending the James R. Soles lecture with Senator Coons


On Monday September 16, I attended the third annual James R. Soles lecture given by Senator Chris Coons. He gave a speech on the constitution and citizenry, two very important concepts that the late-Professor Soles cared for very much. Additionally, my public policy professor Dr. Rich announced that UD is planning to apply for community engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It was a very packed and important event.


I borrowed a roommate’s formal dress and another’s cardigan and went on my way to the lecture. I had to give my name to check in. I recognized one person in the sea of suits and sat next to her immediately. The room soon filled with important (and old!) people.


My POSC300 professor, Dr. Mycoff, and I mingled. He and I mingled with my academic advisor from my summer, Dr. Wilson. The department chair for Political Science and International Relations, Dr. Gretchen Bauer was there. Dr. Rich and our doctoral student Mr. Barnes said “hi.” President Harker was there! He shook my hand and asked me how my summer was. More and more people of academic strength and university importance soon crowded around lunch. Did I mention there was free lunch?


Mingling led to more mingling led to more mingling. I ran into more friends- some there as guests and some there as Soles Fellows (aka scholarship receivers). I was extremely humbled by everyone in the room.


After meeting and greeting tons of people, it all settled into the pomp and circumstance of announcements and speeches. Senator Coons gave an amazing speech and took one of my questions at the end. That was nerve-wracking- try following up a doctoral candidate’s question about foreign committee seating with one that can impress a room. Hint: It’s pretty impossible.


Listening to Senator Coons, Dr. Bauer, Dr. Rich, and chatting with many more was an amazing experience. The lunch was even good. This experience would not have happened if I didn’t reach out to my professor. Which brings me to a practical piece of advice:


If you reach out and make connections while you’re here at the university, amazing opportunities will embrace you. The Honors Program shrinks the complex world of navigating connections into a more manageable realm, but it is not impossible to do so on your own.


In the end, I left an informed, and well-fed, undergraduate student. I also left with eight cookies in my backpack, but that’s just a small bonus.

~Shannon Poulsen



Hitting the Academic Sweet Spot

A lot of people come to college knowing exactly what they will study. They have mastered the basic skills to advance their knowledge, participated in various school activities to get some experience, and completed everything necessary to be where they are in their majors happily.


However, other people come to college with no clue as to what they want to do. Some people come in with an idea that completely changes. People like me.


I was admitted an English Education major, had a classroom my senior year of high school and hated it. I then switched to Business Administration, attended a Decision Day, and was bored the entire time. I moved to Political Science, admitting to myself that I love to follow and analyze politics- maybe I’ll find something there. After taking a communications class I added another major. Clearly, I fall into the “all-over-the-place” category.


However, I can gladly say that this week I hit my academic sweet spot.


“What is that Shannon? What is the ‘sweet spot?’” you ask.


Today I tied together that the viral spread of a mass-mediated message displays the values of a culture (which are socially constructed by said culture by the way). A message in clear altruism does not spread if it does not ring true to the values of a culture, regardless if the intentions are kind or not.


Last week, I left myself with the mental dilemma of trying to digest two separate definitions of what the core functions of the media are by two very intelligent professors from two different classes. If they are core functions within communications, how can there be two different definitions? Through varying theoretical approaches, obviously.


 “What did you just say Shannon?” you ask. I am asking too.


If you told me any of that a year ago, I would have laughed at you. People do not get jobs studying communication! Who cares about sending a tweet and having it go viral? Who cares what that says about the culture? Who cares about the functions of media- I just want the latest sports updates!


I have realized I care. I sat outside the library, thinking about all that I learned, and wiped away for an hour that investigating these answers may not provide me with an income. I just sat there and enjoyed exploring a sweet spot in my learning experience.

The best place to have an existential crisis: outside the library

The best place to have an existential crisis, outside the library

I ask professors questions after class because my brain needs clarity. I read all the required readings because I want to. I write over every word count I get for papers because I have too much to say.

This is the academic sweet spot. When you care so much to go above and beyond because you want to, you’ve hit it.

Don’t be afraid to change your major to find it. While I may be biased being a college student and not a struggling adult, I hope that everyone finds their academic sweet spot because man, it feels good.

~Shannon Poulsen




Once Upon a Syllabus Week

A long time ago, when universities were first founded, a magical and wonderful tradition was formed. Professors and students joined together to create Syllabus Week. During this special time, professors talk about class requirements and end class early. Students use the time to catch up with their friends they haven’t seen in a while, or if one is a freshman, to meet new people. Happiness is plentiful during syllabus week.


A dark cloud creeps in slowly over a student’s schedule called “really tough classes.” The cloud pours driving sheets of rain on Syllabus Week, bringing lightning and thunder to universities. Professors get agitated by the storm and decide that since they can’t be happy, no one can be. They decide to assign homework on the first day. Large projects begin next week. Nothing has an absolute due date just yet.

The poor students facing the storm of ‘really tough classes’ do not get to partake in everyone’s fun. They must complete the necessary assignments to start of the year strong. They might not know people in the class yet and are forced to work alone. These students get soaked in the rain.”

This year, the majority of my classes broke the golden rule of Syllabus Week. Not only did I stay in classes the whole allotted time but I also received homework for the very next class date. I did not get my “recess” time.  The storm ran over me and swirled me up in a tornado, and from that tornado, I watched my friends have all the fun.

Already a filled first week

Already a filled first week

Not only did I have to complete homework and therefore miss out on meeting up with friends, but my friends did not have the same situation as me. They did not understand that no, I was not making up an excuse to ditch them; I actually have work to do. There is a small population of students who do not get a Syllabus Week and those who have never experienced it just don’t understand.

Sometimes the syllabus itself is a problem. A full range of syllabi exist: a very detailed, date-filled syllabus to an idea-based, liquid, and ever-changing syllabus. Some professors put reading assignments on the date they’re due and some put them on the date they’ve been assigned as homework. Some put conceptualized dates and then change them as they go along. I need a detail-oriented syllabus with concrete dates to manage my schedule.

Despite the lack of frolicking fun, starting the school year without a break has prepared me for the upcoming semester. My friends are now cracking down to academia while I’ve already been here.

At the end of the storm, there is a brief period of warm weather and sunshine. Students hit by ‘really tough classes’ move forward as stronger academicians. That is, of course, until the journey to a 4.0 carries them over mountains, deserts, and oceans. Only then will they find a final break.

~Shannon Poulsen


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