Twain Lecture Series Presents: An Evening With Dulce Sloan
By Angelie Roche
On March 24, renowned comedian Dulce Sloan visited SMCM for the annual Twain Lecture Series to perform a stand-up routine and answer students’ questions about her comedy career. Sloan, a Miami native who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, began performing stand-up in 2009 and has since won two comedy showcases and appeared on Conan, Comedy Knockout, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, and the Steve Harvey Show. In 2017, she joined the Daily Show with Trevor Noah as a correspondent. “I didn’t know [the Twain series] was a whole thing,” she confessed. “I didn’t even know Mark Twain was a funny guy.”
The Twain Lecture Series was started by professor of English Dr. Ben Click in 2007 as an opportunity for the campus community to learn more about one of the most famous American authors. However, during his lifetime, Twain was better known for his comedy; he gave over 1,000 lectures and talks, and though “Huckleberry Finn” is now known for its social commentary, it is full of humor as well.
Click first brought authors and experts on Mark Twain, then switched to inviting modern humorists and comics in 2009 when he realized that “campus lectures were typically ‘academic’ in nature—what this place (and what the world) needed was laughter.” Click’s process of choosing a performer each year involved reading up on up-and-coming comedians and “watching lots of YouTube.”
This year, he discovered Dulce Sloan on the Daily Show; to him, her humor’s ability to “[address] social justice issues surrounding racial and gender equality” felt particularly relevant to our time. When introducing Sloan, Click shared one of Twain’s well-known quotes: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
Sloan’s comedy routine featured her thoughts on NYC, her recent vacation to Turks and Caicos, and her opinions on “broke men.” One unexpected bit happened, though, when someone in the back of the audience walked through her spotlight, making the stage dark for a moment. Sloan took this bit and ran with it, saying, “during women’s history month, a man walks through my spotlight?!” After her talk, which had the audience roaring with laughter, she answered some students’ questions. One asked about how her degree in theater helped her current career. “It helped a lot,” Sloan responded. “In theater, the first thing you learn is to plant your feet and find your light. Most comics had never performed before, so they were awkward starting out– my experience in theater gave me an edge.”
Another student asked if Sloan had any advice for aspiring performers, especially those of a gender and/or racial minority. She pointed out the distinction people tend to make between performing and other jobs: “When you’re in the entertainment industry, people use your dreams against you. They act like your goals are unattainable when in reality so many jobs are competitive… you never hear someone telling an aspiring doctor they might not make it into med school.” She said that taking her feelings out of it helped her put failures into perspective: “It’s a business – no one rejected you, you just didn’t get a job.” Sloan also emphasized the importance of knowing her worth, especially as a Black, female performer: “If someone is trying to tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing, just ask ‘but why?’”
After the talk, TPN had an exclusive interview with Sloan. The first question we asked was “if you could send a message to your college-aged self, what would it be?” Sloan answered immediately, “I’d tell her, ‘you’re right. You are right about the talent you have and you’re capable of more than you think.’” She said she always knew her worth, but there were times when her professors and mentors doubted her capabilities. “I became the person I am despite them,” she said. We also asked about her proudest accomplishment, which she also answered without hesitation. “Telling my mother she could retire at 55,” Sloan said. In 2016, Sloan began making enough money from comedy to support herself, and in 2018, she made enough to support her mother as well, allowing her to retire early from her job in an Amazon distribution center. “That’s always been my first goal: supporting the woman who raised me,” Sloan said. What’s next? “Buying her a new house.”
Mark Twain wrote, “great people are those who make others feel that they, too, can become great,” and Dulce Sloan did just that– not only by sharing her laughter, but by sharing her wisdom and her sense of self-worth. If her lecture could be summed up in a single sentence, it would be this: Don’t let anyone walk through your spotlight.
Dulce Sloan and Dr. Click via SMCM Flickr (Photo Courtesy of Madeline Kenerly)
SMP Feature: Sophie Hannah
By Nicole Osborne
At St. Mary’s College of Maryland, every senior can partake in a St. Mary’s Project, also known as an SMP. This is a capstone experience that allows students to synthesize their learning into a research experience. St. Mary’s Projects are independent, eight-credit projects mentored by a faculty member and presented in a public forum. As the class of 2023 nears their graduation day and the completion of their SMP’s, The Point News decided to interview graduating senior Sophie Hannah.
Sophie Hannah is double majoring in Anthropology and History and minoring in Women, Gender, & Sexuality studies. Hannah says “I think these departments all have really approachable and kind professors who will support students with their academic and professional goals.” For her SMP, Hannah has decided to research the contemporary American history and culture of cosmetic plastic surgery.
This research includes trends such as the “Brazilian Butt Lift,” buccal fat removal and the “Mommy Makeover.” Hannah says “I am interested in the discourse surrounding plastic surgery because how people talk about bodies/beauty often represents how people think about gender, ethnicity, race, power, age, disability and more.” The SMP process for Anthropology majors starts earlier than other majors, as students write a literature review in ANTH Theory class in their junior year.
Anthropology students then go on to write a topic proposal with any methods or IRB forms the summer before senior year. The Anthropology major offers great opportunities for their students as they also get to meet together as a major and practice presentations where they update each other on their preliminary results. Hannah said, “I think it is less stressful to start earlier and it also fosters community within the major.”
When asked about the most challenging and rewarding parts of her SMP, Hannah said “I like to cast my net very wide, so I bit off quite a lot of work in terms of research, so perhaps that was the challenging part. It is very rewarding to see it all come together at the end and to create graphs, present at conferences, and be confident with my arguments.”
The SMP process offers a lot of room for growth and expansion of knowledge but it also influences the college community as these projects live on beyond the senior’s years here at SMCM. Hannah said, “I hope my legacy will generally be for students to pursue all their goals, cultivating ties with each other and having fun while doing it.” Hannah also had some advice for future SMP students and SMCM students in general, which is to go to conferences and present the hard work that you’ve done here at SMCM. Hannah presented her SMP topic at the University of Maryland’s 15th Annual ANTHRO+ conference. Finally, she told TPN, “Make sure to ask your professors and learn about everything you can do!”
SMCM Hosts Relay For Life
By Catherine Wasilko
The Relay For Life Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, Apr. 22 on the Pillow. Relay For Life is, as defined by three time cancer survivor and professor Joanne Goldwater, “a walking event. The idea is that teams form and you have someone from your team walking laps throughout the entire event.”
The Relay For Life club started back in “2009, and put on their first event in [spring] 2010,” Goldwater explained. Since then, the club has been successful and had several Relay For Life events held each year on their own. It even managed to function before the COVID-19 lockdown.
“As it turns out, we had our annual event right before the college for spring break,” Goldwater explained. “We lucked out; we got it in just in the nick of time.” Goldwater also works St. Mary’s County and their Relay For Life events. The county had canceled their Relay For Life event in 2020, but resurrected the event in 2021, as well in 2022.
One of the ways you can honor a loved one is through luminaria bags, which line the “track” on the perimeter. When it begins to get dark out, the bags will be lit in a luminaria ceremony. During the first lap of the relay, cancer survivors will walk around the Pillow as others cheer for them.
Goldwater explained how this year is planned to be more involved between the college and the county. “The county and the college are joining and doing one joint event. In the past, they were separate events. If we can continue this, I anticipate it’s going to be a much bigger event down the road because it will be the only event in St. Mary’s County.”
In addition to the Relay For Life event, the club will also be adding a Bark For Life segment. Goldwater said, “We know that our pets, our beloved furry companions, have a positive impact on people who are fighting cancer. We know that those of us who have pets, we get a great deal of support from that animal.”
However, “we also unfortunately know that animals get cancer. So we’re doing a Bark For Life so that people who have dogs can bring their dogs with them (on leashes) to celebrate with us the fight against cancer.”
There will be a lot of fun activities for students to participate in. There will be food trucks coming to campus, a feature new to this year’s event. A cappella groups TNA and Interchorus will also be performing. Freshman and President of the Relay For Life Club Anjali Raheja explained “We want to broaden the participation and awareness of our club and also make sure everyone’s having a good time and getting involved.”
Raheja also explained how the Relay For Life event isn’t only about the event happening the day of; it is also about the events that lead up to the event and “the collaboration with other clubs and communities. Getting that county event leadership team involved will really help us.”
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai Stars in VOICES Reading
By Emery Levin
Opinions EditorCareer Week: Diversity Leadership Panel and Career Fair
SMCM hosted its penultimate VOICES reading on Thursday, Mar. 30, featuring bestselling Vietnamese fiction writer Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. Quế Mai is the author of the international bestseller “The Mountains Sing,” which has won several awards including the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. Her newest novel, “Dust Child,” published on Mar. 14, has already been selected as a best book of Spring 2023 by the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, Ms. Magazine and much more. She has also published several books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction in both Vietnamese and English, which have been translated into 20 languages. She has been voted by Forbes Vietnam as one of the 20 most inspiring Vietnamese women of 2021 for both her career and for being an advocate for the rights of oppressed groups in Vietnam. Quế Mai was joined by Wayne Karlin, a Vietnam war veteran author who taught at College of Southern Maryland (CSM), and Professor Ho Nguyen, founding member of the economics department.
Quế Mai was born shortly after the Vietnam War ended, and grew up in the ensuing poverty the war had left on the country. She cited that growing up, her family often didn’t have enough to eat. As a result, many of Quế Mai’s writings focus on being a citizen during and after the Vietnam War. Her perspective is particularly important because a lot of literature based on the Vietnam War in the U.S. focus on the view of the American veterans that fought there.
At the reading, Quế Mai read samples from “Dust Child” that focused on each of the three protagonists: a boy who was left in an orphanage because he has an African American veteran father who fought against Vietnam, an American war veteran who travels to Vietnam to get closure, and a Vietnamese bar girl who had engaged in sex work to get by during the war. Quế Mai stressed that she thought each of these perspectives were important because they give differing views on the war while also being underrepresented, or looked down on by the public. Quế Mai believes in giving the underprivileged a voice and fights censorship in Vietnam in order to educate children about the war and land reform. It took seven years to publish “The Mountain Sings” due to its themes. She had no publisher and almost lost hope, but kept pushing so that she could tell her story and give the victims of the war a voice. She also read a poem in both English and Vietnamese.
With her literature and articles, Quế Mai also helps reunite veterans with their families in Vietnam. She based “Dust Child” on the Vietnamese children fathered by U.S. veterans during the war who were often left in orphanages and treated poorly for being “the children of the enemy.” She grew up around these children and always had a deep compassion for them, and so when writing “Dust Child,” she reached out to these people and U.S. veterans to interview them and learn more about this phenomenon. In doing so, she actually ended up reuniting a veteran with the Vietnamese woman he had a child with, and they are still seeking out their child to this day. It goes to show just how much giving a voice to underrepresented groups matters in the face of adversity.
This event also gave Professor Nguyen a chance to discuss his family’s experience during the land reform, an event in which communists tried to reform the land by framing people for crimes and executing them in trials. It was a tearful experience as he recounted how his mother was nearly murdered and they had to leave his baby sister behind so they could reunite with her later.
Quế Mai’s reading was very compelling in how she shed a light on the damage of the Vietnam war. It is clear that she cares very much about helping those in need and using literature to do so— this reading shows just how much literature can help others in the real world. Professor Anderson stated: “It was one of the most compelling and impactful readings we’ve had, bringing together a global sense of the damage of this war and how it keeps reverberating out into our own moment… To hear, too, about her efforts as a journalist to reunite children and their parents affected by the war and to raise funds for that effort is a very helpful model for how to work effectively as a writer-activist.”
When TPN asked Quế Mai for any writing advice, she said, “write stories that make you sleep less. Don’t write to sell, write something that drives you, things that keep you going.”
Career Week: Diversity Leadership Panel and Career Fair
By Bridget Norton
Career Week was a week full of events aimed at developing necessary skills to succeed and thrive in the workplace. It lasted from Mar. 22 to Mar. 28 and included a Fair Prep workshop, a “Dress for Success” fashion show, Professional Pathway panels, and the Career and Internship fair. The Diversity in Leadership panel on March 27 was also part of the Career Week leading up to the Career Fair. It had three speakers: Leslie Walker from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Marc Pirner, principal of Chopticon High School and Leslie D. Taylor of Taylor Consulting Services and NAVAIR.
The guests began the panel by touching on how to promote diversity in the workplace. They emphasised the importance of understanding not everyone has experienced the same challenges or have the same strengths. In order to reach as many people as possible, it is important to hire a diverse team. They noted that it is also necessary to listen empathetically to people from all levels of the company and provide a space for them to voice their opinions.
The panelists suggested joining clubs and becoming lasers in communities you enjoy as a way to develop leadership. Being involved and going outside your comfort zone can allow for personal diversity through experience. Additionally, focusing on yourself and your habits can allow you to be a good leader for others. A mentor was mentioned as a good support system when reflecting on yourself and your strengths and deficits as a leader.
SMCM freshman Riley Sandoval found this panel so influential that she decided to take the COREP201 class “Leadership Matters” taught by Leslie Taylor this coming Fall. She stated that Taylor had “such a unique experience throughout her career that would be fantastic to learn from.”
The Career Fair was the cumulative event of the Career Week and was hosted on Mar 28. It featured many tables set up in the ARC, hosting employers in the local area. The company representatives were very informative on their companies’ missions, and some had internship or job opportunities that they were able to offer to students who attended. Senior and Peer Lead Intern at the Career Center Ellie Pratt expressed her excitement at overhearing “a bunch of people talking about how they had been offered internships over the summer or jobs post-graduation,” especially knowing how hard “the career center staff worked to make the experience the best it could be for the students.”
The majority of employers present were from the STEM field, though there were some companies that work in other areas like land preservation, teaching, county government organizations, or emergency services. However, while there were many employers representing the humanities, and there were none representing jobs in the arts. This may be a result of SMCM’s locations near the Pax River Air Base, or some companies not having enough money to attend multiple career fairs during a semester, according to Pratt. However, SMCM freshman Grace Jewitt expressed further frustration on the topic, stating that “it is unfair of the college to give uneven opportunities of connection and real-world experience to one portion of the college population over the other. It is their responsibility to support all of their students.”
(Photo Courtesy of Kaley Christman)