Students Stranded in Oxford Question Int’l Ed.’s Response

Students sitting down for their final exams at the College of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) in Oxford April 15th received a rather unexpected surprise when their teachers told them that a volcano erupting in Iceland would probably cause flight delays. By the time they had finished their tests, Heathrow Airport was closing. Now, all 18 of the recently graduated Oxford alumni were stuck in limbo, unaware of when they’d be able to leave the school.

The volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, had begun erupting the previous day after eruptions in March. Authorities across Europe grounded airlines on that Thursday and Friday for fears that the volcanic ash, which covered the air above northern Europe up to 13 miles up, could cause failure in the jets’ engines. From that Thurdsay until April 21st, the Oxford students were among over five million people stranded in Europe. According to the BBC, the six-day delay cost the city of London alone £100 million.

“At first it was a little scary not being able to go home because you didn’t know when you were going to be able to leave Oxford or what was going to happen with your flight,” said junior Jacklyn Ward. “Almost everyone studying abroad was stuck at CMRS. I think a few people went to the airport to try to get a flight out but they ended up getting stuck in the airport anyways.”

“Not being able to travel home was extremely frustrating,” said junior Megan Lantz. “My mom was supposed to come and travel with me for a week in the UK but never made it because her flight was cancelled. We had to cancel all the entire trip, all of our reservations, everything, it was really upsetting. It was really frustrating to finally be finished school, to have been abroad without our friends and family for four months and then find out we couldn’t go home/they couldn’t come to us.”

“I know some people were really frustrated about not being able to get home, particularly because they had been missing home for weeks already,” said junior Julia Rocha. “On the other hand, there were at least a few people who were excited to get a couple of more days in England. Some people took the opportunity to get more traveling done by rail, while others explored Oxford a bit more.”

The College made accommodations for the students as it could. “CMRS, especially our senior tutor, was concerned that we were all stranded and was doing his best but there honestly wasn’t much he could do,” said Lantz. “They were very gracious for letting us stay at CMRS until we could get flights home and constantly wanted updates on our travel situations.”

“SMCM offered us emergency funds for food,” said Ward. “It was really easy to get the money, which was nice. We just had to ask CMRS for how much we wanted and when we wanted it by. But not many people took advantage of the emergency funds.”

Several students said they were surprised not to hear from the International Education office about their predicament sooner.

“We all felt like the IE office didn’t really care that we were stuck abroad because they hadn’t emailed the students at all,” said Ward. “They said that they had been in contact with CMRS but none of the students knew that so we were all pretty upset with the way SMCM handled the whole thing. But after we emailed the IE office saying that we felt they forgot about us, they emailed us all offering us emergency funds.”

“We were well aware that there wasn’t much they could do, and they did, like CMRS, offer us emergency funds for food until we could get home,” said Lantz. “But for the first few days when we didn’t hear from them, it was kind of like, ‘Hello? You have over a dozen students stranded over here.’”

“It was disappointing that a program that puts such emphasis on … safety and security didn’t even contact us to see if we were alright stranded in a foreign country,” said senior Ally Moore. “I would have appreciated if the day after the airports shut down they had contacted us.”

“I think the CMRS response was great,” said Rocha. “They told us on the day of our final exam that we would probably encounter problems with our flights and that should it last a while, we would not be held to the agreement that we should be gone by Saturday at noon. So, before we all even realized there was a problem, we were already reassured that we wouldn’t get sent to the curb. In terms of IE, I think I would have been completely satisfied with their response if it hadn’t been more reactive … While I think their response was a helpful one and more than you could have expected from a larger, more impersonal school, it did come a bit later than I would have hoped.”

According to LaRita Hagar, the Director of IE, CMRS was the IE office’s representative responder should any situation arise. “Where there was confusion was that our on-the-ground partner was acting on our behalf.” Hagar said she first heard about the problem on Saturday from Dean of Students Laura Bayless, and had not heard from students before that.

Hagar said that the IE office has previously dealt with problems arising from hurricanes, earthquakes, and health issues, among others. She said that students studying abroad could call Public Safety with a problem to be relayed to proper help. According to Hagar, 89 percent of incoming first-years plan on studying abroad to fulfill the Experiencing the Liberal Arts in the World requirement, so problems like these are problems that will need to be faced in the future as well.

SGA Victors: Weiss/Benjes, Smith, Harvey

Marlena Weiss and Ken Benjes. (Photo by Jackson Webb)
Marlena Weiss and Ken Benjes. (Photo by Jackson Webb)
On Monday, Apr. 19, the results of the Student Government Association (SGA) executive board elections were announced. The 2010-2011 SGA president and vice-president will be juniors Marlena Weiss and Ken Benjes, the treasurer will be junior Matt Smith, and the director of campus programming will be junior Jessica Harvey.

“I was extremely excited when I saw the email from Louis [Ritzinger, SGA Parliamentarian],” said Weiss. “The first thing I did was call my mom, since she had been contacting me throughout the weekend… And then I texted Ken.”

“I was talking to a friend outside Schaefer before class and noticed that I was suddenly getting a lot of texts, which turned out to be congratulations texts,” Benjes said about his finding out about the election results.

Weiss said that initially, she was “somewhat intimidated by the process” because unlike this year, the past couple of SGA presidential tickets have run uncontested. However, Weiss said, “I think that winning a contested election will make us better at our jobs since we have more of a promise to fulfill.

“I am extremely honored and excited that our campus chose us for these important positions,” she said. “My goal for the 2010-2011 year is to follow up on all the ideas I put forth in my platform and always be on the lookout for ways to make St. Mary’s even better than it already is. I plan on staying on campus this summer and will be devoting a large amount of time to SGA and preparing for the upcoming year. I wholeheartedly look forward to working with Ken to lead the campus.”

“As I said in my platform, I plan to fight terrorism on campus,” Benjes added.

Current SGA president senior Justin Perry said that he thought that Weiss and Benjes would do an “amazing job.”

Of Weiss, Perry said that it “sounds like she’s going to continue to place an emphasis on sustainability” and added that her “progressive policies on sexual health,” such as the gender-neutral housing proposal which she spearheaded would have a broad impact on the campus.

“She’s been very involved in the past,” he said.

Perry said that he felt that Benjes would be “incredibly strong” at building openness between between the SGA executive board and the senate. “It feels very divided sometimes,” he said.

Perry also commented on Matt Smith’s election to the office of treasurer. He said that “Matt has been a very vocal leader in the senate for responsible spending,” noting Smith’s role as a “senate leader” this year.

“And he’s awesome,” Perry added.

Junior Colleen O’Neil, the head of the presidential ticket that ran against Benjes and Weiss, said that although she did not win the election, she would still remain active in campus life.

“Of course I am discouraged that my running mate, Hillary [Powell], and I did not win the election but I do think that Marlena and Ken are fully capable of leading our school,” said O’Neil. “I wish them nothing but the best and am excited to see where else in the school I can be involved and invoke change. I love St. Mary’s and its student body and was excited about being SGA president for the sole purpose of giving back and making a lasting change at SMCM.

“I will still be involved and fulfill this purpose in some other manner,” she added.

Ignatius Talks Politics, Journalism at Bradlee Lecture

David Ignatius may be best known for writing the spy thriller-turned-film “Body of Lies,” but instead of shallow Hollywood glitz attendants at this year’s Ben Bradlee lecture got an in-depth glimpse of the Washington Post journalist’s adroit analysis of pressing political issues.

The Ben Bradlee lecture, now in its sixth year, is meant to “focus on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to journalism with a focus democracy and its implications for democracy,” said head of the Center for the Study of Democracy Michael Cain. The lecture takes the form of a question and answer from multiple parties chosen by Cain, this year including fellow Washington Post writer Sally Quinn, Professor of Political Science Matt Fehrs, and Editor-in-Chief of The Point News Lara Southgate.
Cain first thanked donors for their contributions to the Center of the Study of Democracy’s endowment, and then introduced Ignatius by praising his “hard-hitting column” and his ability to “[weave] personal narrative with geo-political strategy.”

After Cain’s short introduction, Sally Quinn began her line of questioning by outlining three main topics of discussion: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq-Iran, and Israel-Palestine. Before proceeding to this line, however, Ignatius pointed out one of the major issues plaguing the U.S.’s relationships with all these countries: namely the negative sentiments many people in these countries have towards Americans and American involvement. Ignatius stated, however, that even as these countries dislike us they admire many of our freedoms, and that it is the press and, “All of the Ben Bradlees in American press [that are our] greatest weapon in making our way through a world that generally doesn’t like us.”

Moving on to Quinn’s lines of questioning, Ignatius talked about his winter with the 117th infantry, which according to him, “got smashed” by casualties. He further went into portraying the situation as he saw it in Afghanistan, a place where the government was and is so corrupt that the people turn to the Taliban because they are tired of paying bribes. It is this corruption that led Ignatius to say, “[the] hard part of this war isn’t really the military part…it’s the political”, and that the problem in Afghanistan (and especially Kandahar), “is not the enemies, is not the Taliban…it’s our friends.”

Ignatius further touched on the Taliban-side of the equation, elucidating the major (if not always clear) distinction between Al-Queda and Taliban, the former being originally outsiders who came in to fight against the Russian occupation. He also said that there’s “no way we are going to put [Afghanistan] back together unless we make the Taliban and its supporters feel as if they are taking part in a new, more stable Afghan government.” He added, however, that we could not stand to lose some of the cultural in-roads we have made in Afghanistan, mainly in relation to women’s rights.

When asked on the opium issue, Ignatius said that the fertile land in Afghanistan could easily be used to grow other food that could be used to feed starving Afghanis, ad praised the Marine Corp’s current program, in which they pay a cash equivalent to farmers and given the seeds for other crops.

Ignatius also touched on the United States’ “co-dependant relationship” with the unpopular President Hamid Karzai, who has spoken vehemently against American influence. Ignatius said that, as a result of popular anti-American sentiments, Karzai’s defiance, “gives him a sense of dignity.” He added that Karzai’s ultimate test will be if he is able to run the country effectively once U.S. troops leave.

Shifting to the Iran-Iraq controversies, Ignatius talked about how the “latest chapter” in Iraq was fairly good, and how the Iraqi elections had succeeded despite a $100 million covert campaign by the Iranian government to sabotage the leading party. He added that the Iraqi government, “makes a lot of mistakes,” but still has a working army and security force to at least keep the peace.

When focusing on Iran, Ignatius addressed on the issue of nuclear power, and said that despite the Iranian government’s assertions that their goal is nuclear energy, “they want a bomb!” However, he pointed to the facts that Iran’s current work has been mired with mechanical problems and political strife, and quoted Napoleon when he said, “never interrupt your adversary when they are making a mistake.” He also said that it would be around 1-2 years until Iran could actually begin enriching Uranium on a reliable scale. He also speculated on the possibility that by then the international community could find a way to express the dangerous nature of nuclear enrichment to the Iranian government, instead of going down the very undesirable path towards eventual war.

On the issue of Palestine, Ignatius noted that, “pessimism pays” and that, “we all know what [a Palestinian state] would look like…we just have to make it happen.” He also pointed out that President Obama seems more serious about reaching an agreement between Israel and Palestine.

Turning to journalistic matters (and at the prodding of a question regarding American media’s informative potential by Fehrs), Ignatius said that, “Americans are not curious enough about the world.” He also pointed out that although foreign news is one of the least-read parts of his own Washington Post, the Post’s foreign offices remain open despite current downsizing domestically. He also expressed his admiration for how people in the military were, “learning tremendous things about the world” during their tours of duty, and highly recommended that employers hire returning vets for this reason.

Yet at the same time, Ignatius also chided members of the modern news media of “poisoning our political system” by turning political debate into “shouting matches.” He spoke strongly on how the American political system was becoming dysfunctional as a result of this partisan bickering, and said the, “people want to see action on things they care about.”

After being asked by Southgate how to transfer from college to professional journalism, he said, “You just do it; you just write.” He added that everyone today can publish via blogs and the Internet, and that newspapers are looking for people “[who are] taking some risks” with their work.
Ignatius also talked about his time as a novelist, and how his first novel (“Agents of Innocence”), came from his time in Beirut and the stories he heard from those affected by the deaths caused by the Beirut embassy bombing. As a result, he said that it was ultimately a true story, and that all his novels since then, although works of fiction have a great deal of truth to them.

Student and faculty reaction to Ignatius’ talk was generally positive. First-year Michael Hullett said, “I really liked actually hearing the stories about his time in Afghanistan.” Senior Katie Schultz, who hadn’t heard of Ignatius before attending the lecture, said he “makes me want to learn more about world affairs, and he brings a refreshing view.” Senior Garrett Fehner said, “Thought that it was a good discussion of a diverse list of policy issues.” Fehner also said that, “I would’ve liked more of a lecture format, but this way we got to learn more of the character of Ignatius.”

Cain agreed with that sentiment, and said that the lecture “shed some different perspectives on things that he does. And I got to see that he was [more] a writer that just happened to be a columnist.” Having spent time outside the lecture with Ignatius, Cain also remarked, “he’s a warm guy…it’s nice to see the faces behind [the news].”

Panel Celebrates Twain

Peter Sagal, Amy Holmes, Dr. John Bird, and Mo Rocca discuss ‘The Damned Human Race.’ (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
Peter Sagal, Amy Holmes, Dr. John Bird, and Mo Rocca discuss ‘The Damned Human Race.’ (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
On Apr. 24 at 7 p.m., one of St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s last big events of the academic school year took place: The 4th annual Mark Twain Lecture Series on American Humor and Culture.

For many St. Mary’s students, this current semester of Spring 2010 might seem like one of the college’s most memorable semesters.

First, SMCM was assaulted with the major snowstorm that left the cancellation of various classes in its wake, which was then succeeded by the men’s basketball team entering into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

But, finally, it was time for the annual Mark Twain Lecture Series, which first took place only three years ago in 2007, all thanks to the English Department Chair Professor Ben Click.

This year’s lecture, titled “Twain’s Relevance Today: Race, Religion, Politics, and the ‘Damned Human Race,’” boasted the appeal of having four guests speakers, compared to the single guest speaker that was traditionally chosen for the past three years. These four panelists also managed to draw a large crowd due to the fact that they were more famous than what the St. Mary’s campus is typically used to hosting.

Moderated by Peter Sagal, NPR’s host of “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” the lecture focused on asking questions in the framework of a Mark Twain mindset in order to spark debate and conversation among the other three guests, which included CNN Political Analyst Amy Holmes, Humorist/Comedian/Actor Mo Rocca, and renowned Twain scholar Dr. John Bird.

“It’s a special version of the annual Mark Twain Lecture,” said Dr. Ben Click, who also stated that he had been working as late as last spring in order to put this lecture together in memory of the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death.

Held in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center, which (according to Dr. Click in his e-mails promoting the event) has also now been nicknamed as the “Mike”, attendees started filing in about an hour beforehand, leaving the gymnasium packed by the start of the lecture at exactly 7:15 p.m.

While the myriad of campus residents, staff and faculty members, local high school students, and other community members located their seats within the auditorium, the crowd was treated to approximately ten songs by the band The Rusty Spurs, which later prompted speaker Mo Rocca to ask if St. Mary’s was a “hippy-dippy campus.”

Reaching the podium on the platform stage in order to introduce the guest speakers at the start of the event, Dr. Click set the mood of the lecture by joking with the audience. “You’re all here for the 100th anniversary of Leo Tolstoy, right?” said Click. “It’s his anniversary this year, too. But he’s not funny.”

While the approximate two hours that the lecture lasted were filled with commentary on politics, race, and media within the culture of the past and present, the conversations were also constantly interrupted with laughter and applause. The hilarious anecdotes ranged from how a student once stated “that Dr. Click has a ‘bromance’ with Mark Twain” to Peter Sagal placing his cell phone up to the microphone so that the audience could hear the singing voice of a 10-year-old named Emily whom he had met at Thompson’s Corner Kafe in Leondardtown earlier that afternoon.

Despite the many jokes and funny anecdotes, the panelists also conversed on various topics including the affect of media (specifically the work of comedic commentators) on politicians and public views, the difference between partisanship and politics, and what Mark Twain would think of mass media and culture today, as well as other subjects.
One of the most referred to cultural topics was that of Tina Fey’s now famous Saturday Night Live impressions of Sarah Palin. This prompted various discussions on how media has affected the way that the masses view politics, as well as the politicians. “It is unseemly to see these politicians tripping over themselves to get on late night shows,” stated Rocca. “Is Washington, D.C. the Hollywood for ugly people?”

Dr. John Bird added his view to this specific topic by even quoting Mark Twain. “‘Against the assault of laughter,’” said Bird, “‘nothing can stand.’ Laughter is a very powerful force. A very powerful force in society.”

After the close of the general discussion (and a couple of kicks and Seahawk cheers from Rocca), the Q&A session began, which then brought the entire lecture to an end. The finale of the event garnered a round of applause, as well as a standing ovation from various audience members as the panelists made their way to a table at the side of the stage in order to sign books and posters.

While this Mark Twain Lecture was aimed at discussing Twain’s view of the “damned human race”, one of the best opinions of the night was given by Mo Rocca. “Toward the end of [Mark Twain’s] life, as he got angrier and angrier,” he stated, “he did believe he was part of the damned human race. Well, I’m an optimist. And I believe we’re all a part of the best damned human race!”

Students Support Referendum to Raise Fees for Green Projects

During the SGA elections, which ran from Apr. 13-16, students voted on a referendum to raise their Student Government Association (SGA) fees $10 so that the SGA can fund green/sustainable initiatives on campus via a revolving loan. SGA Parliamentarian Louis Ritzinger said that with just over 30 percent voter turnout, the referendum passed “overwhelmingly.”

The idea for the referendum came from SGA president senior Justin Perry, Queen Anne senator first-year Becky White, and Caroline senator sophomore Danielle Doubt. After tabling and conducting surveys to see how much people would be willing to pay for green energy and what they would want the money to fund, they sent their results to Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall.

Perry said that they found that some students were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for green energy. Regarding the nature of the projects that students wanted to fund, 60 percent of students wanted their money to go entirely to green campus projects, 39. 5 percent wanted a combination of green projects and renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset emissions, and 0.5 percent wanted only RECs (which is what green money goes to now). “Green campus projects” might look something like geothermal heat pumps for the townhouses, the residents of which pay their own utility bills.

Perry said that 2007 was a “watershed year” for devoting money to green energy, and that the College was a national leader in environmentalism. He said that other campuses were catching up, but St. Mary’s would continue to lead.

“At St. Mary’s, we pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge,” he said.

Current Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall was involved the first time that a green energy referendum passed, and said that “hearing that “[the current referendum] passed was really exciting…It sends a lot of messages.” Now, he says that he and the administration will be working with the SGA to figure out how to put the money raised to the best use.
Perry said that “renewable energy can save the students a lot of money.” Sustainability was part of Perry’s platform when he ran for SGA president, which led him to get involved and propose a “modest increase”–originally five dollars–in fees to fund green energy. According to Perry, the SGA had originally considered making the referendum a proposal to raise fees $20, but when this was put to a vote, it was defeated by one vote in favor of raising fees $10. Class of 2010 president Chris Rodkey cast the tie-breaking vote.

“I fully support green initiatives, especially upgrades that will save the College – or more specifically the students – money,” he said. “I just think the timing of this was off on this one.” Rodkey did not support the $10 fee increase as a whole, either, for the same reason.

Waring Commons Senator junior Zachary Agatstein agreed. “Students are already paying massive amounts of money to come here…While $10 is not a massive sum of money, it strikes me as somewhat cruel to ask students or their families to contribute yet more money at a time when many are struggling to pay their tuition bills or are struggling to make basic ends meet. Don’t get me wrong; I think that green initiatives are important. It’s something for which our campus is known. But now was not the right time.”
Still, Perry thinks that the fees will save the students money, at least in the long run.

“The SGA’s role is to properly steward student funds,” he said. “This is a responsible way to do that.”

Gender-Neutral Housing Passes SGA, Seen Favorably by Students

On Tuesday, April 20, the Student Government Association passed legislation stating that, “The SGA supports the adoption of a gender-neutral housing policy on North Campus Housing (Lewis Quad, Waring Commons, North and South Crescents and the Greens) that students may opt into if they so choose.” The legislation, which was sponsored by Secretary Marlena Weiss and LQ Senator Ken Benjes, only condones the creation of such a housing policy.

There was some debate among the SGA before the legislation was passed. Many of the senators wanted clarification about the different parts of the policy, specifically about what gender-neutral housing would look like. When it was confirmed that the legislation only supported the establishment of gender-neutral housing within the current credit based system, it passed easily, with only two Senators voting no. There was some concern that gender-neutral housing would be available outside of a credit based system, like WISH or SAFE house.

“In no way would this when it’s implemented take spots away from students who would have priority because of their credits,” said Weiss. “Just because you want to live with someone of the opposite gender wouldn’t give you priority to live on North Campus.”

“There seemed to be a lot of discussion at SGA about the potential ‘bad break-up’ situations that could arise from couple who choose to live together,” said Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall, who attended the April 20 meeting. “But as was pointed out in SGA, we need to be real about this.” Gay and lesbian couples have lived together in the past, and roommate or housemate conflicts can arise regardless of the inhabitants’ orientations.

“Residence life already does an admirable job ameliorating or otherwise dealing with roommate/housemate conflicts,” said Hall. “This policy would give greater freedom and acceptance to platonic friends who identify as ‘males’ and ‘females’ who want to live together, and those who do not force themselves into heteronormative distinctions, and yes, heterosexual couples. And you know what? Every one of those scenarios involve “‘love’- and love is always risky.”

As before, Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky said that it is possible a gender-neutral policy could be implemented for the 2011-2012 school year. The SGA’s legislation was the first step in the process: the administration has not yet begun to work on any such policy. For gender-neutral housing to be implemented, the President’s cabinet and Board of Trustees would most likely need to be involved.

Students, in general, have been receptive to the idea for a variety of reasons. Several students remarked on the possibility of friends co-habiting.

“As someone who’s always had girls as best friends, I’m glad that our relationship would no longer be discriminated were we to want to live together,” said first-year Evan Mahone. “This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully we will serve as a models for other schools.”

“I support it,” said sophomore Emily Skeen. “Gender-neutral housing would give friends a chance to bond even further.”

Other students had more to say about the legislation’s potential for changing heteronormative assumptions.

Senior Bethany Wetherill said, “I think it is a necessary step, a step toward accepting students who may not easily identify as simply ‘male’ or ‘female’ and allowing students to live with whomever they feel most comfortable with.”

2010 World Carnival Presents Quidditch, Nerf Wars


Click to enlarge
Photo by Brendan O’HaraPhoto by Brendan O’HaraPhoto by Brendan O’HaraPhoto by Brendan O’HaraPhoto by Brendan O’Hara

As one of the College’s annual traditions, World Carnival almost always manages to draw a large crowd of students and surrounding St. Mary’s County citizens to the Admissions Field in order to partake in all of its spring festivities.

This year, World Carnival can be chalked up as a great success, due to the perfect weather, the great number of activities that were planned, and the addition of some very popular and new events. While the choice of musical guests left various students with mixed feelings, the inflatable (and deceptively difficult) blow-up course achieved a relatively good turnout.

On Saturday, the various booths from the different St. Mary’s clubs and sports were advertising henna tattoos, free tie dying, cotton candy, chia pets, t-shirts commemorating the seven wonders of St. Mary’s, and a bucking barrel, among others. Outside vendors also included Maggie Moo’s ice cream, a lemonade stand, and other booths selling clothing, baskets, and more.

“Knowing all of the work that went in behind the scenes, I think the event went extremely well,” said sophomore Anna Danz, who was Vendors Chair of the World Carnival Committee. “The fact that we as committee members could enjoy it as well speaks to how well it was organized and the overall quality of the events.”

Within the tent several performances took place throughout the day on Saturday, as well as the night beforehand. The bands that performed included Donora, The Cool Kids, Black Coffee Experience, and Slyfoxed, with other performances being presented by Interchorus, a dance group from College Park, and Take One! Improv.

Possibly the most talked about events, though, were the new additions of the Nerf Gun wars and the Quidditch matches. The former event kicked off around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Many students could even be seen running around Admissions Field, still playing, after the game had finished.

The Quidditch matches, on the other hand, started at 3:15 p.m. and lasted for a few hours. “We were thinking of cool events that St. Mary’s kids would enjoy,” said sophomore Thao Corcoran, the co-chair for Publicity and the Friday night events of the carnival. “And Quidditch is that cool event.” The matches produced a large crowd around the part of the field closest to Schaefer Hall, while various players dressed in costumes (and sometimes painted all over with body paint) ran around on broomsticks trying to win the game for their team.

“Quidditch was insane,” said Danz, “but in a good way. I mean, who doesn’t love unleashing their inner Harry Potter?” She also said that Quidditch will most likely make a comeback at next year’s World Carnival, but with a few changes to the rules.

Overall, this year’s World Carnival provided many of the students and locals around St. Mary’s County with a fun day in the sun during one of St. Mary’s College’s biggest annual traditions. “World Carnival was a great success this year,” said junior Jamie Phillips, the Volunteer co-chair of the carnival. “We had lots of great clubs and activities, and people seemed to really like the Quidditch and the musical acts.”

College Alumni Sarah Koh Interns for Weekend Edition NPR

The following is an interview on Friday, April 16 with Sarah Koh, ’09, an intern for Weekend Edition on NPR.

What year did you graduate from St. Mary’s, and with what degree?

I graduated from St. Mary’s college this past May in 2009. I majored in political science and I minored in film and media studies.

What is your position at NPR?

I was an intern for the weekend edition show, which airs on Saturday and Sunday mornings…and on Sundays I would have to come in by 6 in the morning to help the producers get the show on the air for broadcasting.

What made you decide to become an intern for NPR?

Well, I [was] kind of interested in getting into something in media production and communications…[NPR] seemed like a good place to work for, so I thought, “Why not?” so I applied.

So, what did you have to do to obtain the position?

I just went on the web site, and they have all the internships listed for each department and each show…so I just went online and applied.

What is your favorite part of the internship?

I really like just the whole hands-on experience…I had to do a lot of researching and booking guests for the show, so I would call a lot of different publicists, coordinate schedules and determine when we’re going to pre-tape an interview for the show that’s going to air on the weekend…NPR has a lot of member stations and bureaus so the host of our show will be in our studio in [Washington,] D.C. but whoever they’re talking to might be in New York or California …Sometimes we’ll have guests come to our studio and one time we had Wesley Snipes come in so that was really exciting…another time we had Jazz singer Jeremy Cohen come in for an interview…I think having that little brush of fame through our internship was a lot of fun.

You mention that you help producers research certain topics. What is your favorite topic you’ve covered?

All the interns produce this program called Intern Edition. We just had our premier on [April] 15, and what that is is all the interns get to produce stories…we’ll report [on] someone who we think is interesting, write our own scripts for it and edit our own pieces and all the interns kind of help each other throughout the entire semester…I think [through] the intern portion of it I also learned a lot concerning how to edit things, how to produce things.

What was your Intern Edition topic?

Over the fall I worked for this girl [who] has her own web show online called “Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden” so it’s…kind of like a “Degrassi” kind of teen drama…It’s only online and she hires her own cast and her own crew and she writes all of her own scripts and she pretty much does everything by herself.…It’s not just television or the movies anymore, people are turning to the internet to have their creative outlet, their own stories and [produce] their own shows and they have a lot more freedom because they’re doing all these things by themselves on a low budget… What people don’t know is that there’s actually this whole group of people out there that are making shows only for the web, and if you go online there [are] all these shows that people don’t really know about..

What was the most challenging aspect of your internship?

Just multi-tasking all the things…I have another intership that I’ve been doing, at a casting agency on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then Wednesdays to Sundays I’m at NPR so I [work] seven days a week…A lot of the producers who I [was] working with directly would give me a lot of things to do for the day, but at the same time I had the story for myself that I had to be working on for Intern Edition.

What has your internship taught you about journalism, and radio journalism in particular?

A lot of producers say, “If you work here, you should consider yourself as a journalist because that’s the kind of environment you’re working in; you have to think as a reporter.” So in order to do that you have to be really aggressive and if you have any story ideas you have to let everyone know what your story ideas are because you can’t just sit there and let other people take an idea that you already have…I’ve met a lot of people that are always on the move [and] never in one place but work at one show for a while and then they make a connection with another producer on another show and then they go over there…You always have to put your ideas out there , have to always talk to people, always kind of be on the go [and] be aggressive.

What advice would you give aspiring journalists who want to obtain an internship?

If you are trying to look for a job, start by applying for an internship or a local member station…I don’t know for journalism per se, but I kind of feel like for anyone in my position of what to do after college…[try] to get as much experience as possible and apply for any position that’s interesting. Even if it’s something unpaid, if it looks like it’s something related to what you want to do… if it looks like something that you can get a good experience out of, you should apply for it.

Biology Student Published in Journal of Applied Toxicology

Senior Gordon Michael Selckmann sits with some of his work in Dr. Ramcharitar’s fish lab. (Photo by Elise Kielek)
Senior Gordon Michael Selckmann sits with some of his work in Dr. Ramcharitar’s fish lab. (Photo by Elise Kielek)
“Differential Ablation of Sensory Receptors Underlies Oxytocin-Induced Shifts in Auditory Thresholds of the Goldfish (Carassius auratus).” This is the title of senior Gordon Michael Selckmann’s recent publication in the Journal of Applied Toxicology (JAT). While other Biology students at the College have been published in science journals before Mike Selckmann, his journey to this point in his academic career is one of perseverance, dedication, and much hard work.

Entering the College in the 2006-2007 academic year, Selckmann found his beginnings as a basketball player on the varsity team under coach Chris Harney. While staying on the team for his first two years, Selckmann performed relatively well in the sciences before taking a stronger interest in the research side of the College’s Biology program.
“Basketball…required a lot of time…as did biology,” he said. “You can give 110 percent all the time, but split between two passions and you’re still bound to fail both.”
In summer 2008, before his junior year, Selckmann contacted animal physiologist and assistant professor of Biology John Ramcharitar for a position in his ichthyology (fish-studying) lab on campus, looking for science experience outside of the classroom.

“Simply put, I’ve been a fisherman all my life,” said Selckmann. “I heard that there was a professor from Trinidad that dealt with fish, so I simply struck up a conversation. Just seemed like a good fit for me.”

Not knowing him well as a student, Ramcharitar asked other College professors about Selckmann, including Biology professor Bill Williams. “I think he’d do very well working in your lab,” said Williams to Ramcharitar in an email correspondence. “He’s a good student…[and] he’s very tall.”

Leaving behind his place in the basketball team, Selckmann began working in Ramcharitar’s lab the following semester, studying the anatomy of the dendritic arbors that branch from nerve cells for Fall 2008 and Spring 2009. During the study, Selckmann combined his scientific understandings with his talent for illustration, important for the comparative study he was conducting.

But working in Ramcharitar’s lab taught Selckmann more than how to fine-tune his lab abilities, as a busy schedule forced him to stay on top of things. “I used to get up at six or seven every morning and work until my 9:20 or 10:00 classes,” he said. “It was a great way to wake up…and I started scheduling better in my classes as well as in lab.”
Though it was his first lab experience, Selckmann was able to gather enough data to put together a poster presentation for the XXXVI International Congress of Physiological Sciences, scheduled to be held that year in Kyoto, Japan. However, a conflict arose in terms of funding for the trip, which would have to cover airfare and living expenses during Selckmann’s stay in Kyoto. “We were hoping to get a travel award to send Mike to Japan,” said Ramcharitar, “but that didn’t come through.”

Rather than attend an alternative conference, Selckmann’s family stepped in to help with the funding for the trip, covering travel costs to get him to Japan. With the support of his family and year-long work, Selckmann gave his presentation during the conference, titled “Dendritic Arborization of the 8th Cranial Nerve of Teleost Saccular Sensory Epithelia: A Comparative Study.”

In the same summer of his trip to Kyoto, Selckmann continued research with Ramcharitar, beginning a side project on ototoxicity in goldfish. Goldfishes have inner ear structures comparable to those of humans, making them valuable for ototoxicity studies. “I worked on Sciaenids and watched other people in lab work with goldfish,” he said. “I asked enough questions and got pretty good at dissections that I was allowed to help.”

In his research, Selckmann found that gentamicin, an antibiotic used on humans for bacterial infections, destroys sensory receptors responsible for hearing, altering auditory thresholds of the inner ear. After gathering enough data with the help of seniors Cody Brack, Sophia Traven, and Mary Smist, Selckmann presented his data in 2009 at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, IL.

“[The lab team] worked extraordinarily fast and [Dr. Ramcharitar] constantly reminded me that he was holding us to a fast pace,” said Selckmann, “but I really enjoyed the focus and long hours that I could sink into my work.”

After continuing his research under Ramcharitar, Selckmann gathered enough data in his own studies to co-author, with his mentor, the ototoxicity paper now currently in its early publication stages.

“[Mike] over the last two years has made tremendous strides in his academic development,” said Ramcharitar. “Mike is now looking at options for graduate school, and he has a lot of potential in the fields of environmental studies and biomedical research.”

“I’ve seen how much he’s changed over four years,” said Director of Instructional Support Elaine Szymkowiak. “I think he really got excited and took off with his work with [Dr. Ramcharitar].”

Selckmann completed his St. Mary’s Project in Biology on this former research, titled “An investigation of the teleost sensory saccular epithelia: cranial nerve arborization and innervations of the sciaenid saccule sensory epithelia,” and will be presenting on Tuesday. “It shows that instructors shouldn’t just focus on top-of-the-class kids,” said Ramcharitar. “If a student is competent and willing, they may just need the correct mentoring to really reach that potential.”

Graduating with the Class of 2010, Selckmann plans to continue working with fish in his post-College career. “I have a summer job…over at [the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory] in Solomons working on rockfish,” he said. “I’m also applying for some grad school programs. No matter what, I want to stay around fish and the environment.”

VOICES Reader Declares Democrats ‘Sexy’

On Thursday, Apr. 15 the VOICES lecture series presented author and professor Lee K. Abbott. This VOICES reading saw a change in venue from Daugherty Palmer Commons to Cole Cinema.

Lee K. Abbott is a non-fiction writer and professor at Ohio State University. K. Abbott has been published in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Los Angelus Book Review. Abbott was also professor to two of St. Mary’s English professors, Jennifer Cognard-Black and Jerry Gabriel.
The lecture began with an introduction by English Professor Karen Anderson who served less as an introduction to Abbott but more of an introduction to Cognard-Black and Gabriel, who shared stories of their classroom time with Lee K. Abbott.

Cognard-Black gave a very funny overview of her relationship with K. Abbott. At one point she very amusingly says, “…he’s a cowboy and I’m a princess–okay, I’m a feminist princess.

“He changed both me and my writing completely,” said Cognard-Black, “He’s a mentor in the truest sense of the word.”

Gabriel followed up Cognard-Black by saying, “ …don’t follow JCB.” He also gave a few words about Lee K. Abbott and his experience in the classroom.

He ended up his introduction with a phrase he said to one of his classmates back during his time at Ohio State, “Lee K. Abbott’s a big deal…yeah, no kidding.”

As Abbott took to the podium in Cole Cinema the lights dimmed except for those shown on Abbott. He was the focal point of the entire audience’s attention.

He did not give much of a lecture before his reading. He acknowledged the accolades heaped on him by his former students and introduced the title of the short story he would be reading, “A Great Piece of Elephant.”

Abbott’s story focuses on three individuals and as he moves through the story he changes the character’s point-of-view from L.T., a drunken younger brother; Smitty, the staunch Republican older brother; and Sheriff Mac, the town sheriff caught in between enjoying neither brother’s company.

During each shift Abbott alerted the readers to what is about to occur taking time to point out, “the fancy move,” he makes.

As the story moves through the plot and changes point of views there is a prevalent line that stays the same, the character of L.T. keeps repeating a bumper sticker saying, “Democrats are Sexy.”

This little phrase, while amusing in context, is hilarious at the end of the story when not only is the joke explained–much to the amusement of the audience–but so is the title. “Democrats are sexy: Whoever heard of a great piece of elephant?”

During the question asking portion of the lecture, Abbott explained that this story was inspired by a bumper sticker that he actually saw, but that the majority of it was simply a story that came from a bumper sticker.

“I was so intrigued by this [sticker] that I looked online to see what other kinds of bumper stickers you can buy. You’ll be happy to know that your first amendment right is being put to good use,” said Abbott.

Naturally in the discussion it was asked if Abbott was a political writer since the story he shared was inspired by a political bumper sticker and one of his characters was a typical, stuffy Republican. “In my personal life, I’m a yellow dog Democrat–if the race is between a Republican and a yellow dog, I vote for the yellow dog,” said Abbott.

Not only did Abbott give a lecture but he also visited one of the Creative Nonfiction classes on campus.

“It was really cool. He came to my Creative Writing class and led a workshop. I like his attention to detail and how they [details] are all important in his stories. Plus, he’s a really cool guy,” said junior Lauren Grey.

The next VOICES Reading and last one of the semester will be April 29th at 8:15 in DPC.