As a student currently pursuing my Master’s Degree, I get a lot of the same questions over and over again, from friends, from family, and from people I’ve just met.  “Are you in school?”, “Where are you going to school?” and finally, “What are you studying?” My response usually provokes something along the lines of “What’s that?  Is that, like, working with disabled people?”

With adults, I usually tell them that it’s examining disability from a sociological viewpoint and leave it at that.  With kids and teens, I explain that it’s looking at how disabled people are treated in society.  I’m pretty sure most people have never even thought about disabled people or how we’re treated.  There’s a lot of conversation around sexism and racism in today’s age, even heterosexism (more often called homophobia), but not so much around ableism.

I’ve known since I was in high school, ever since I discovered that disability studies was a field of study, that I wanted to do disability studies for the rest of my life.  Unfortunately, since the Bachelor’s program in Disability Studies at CUNY didn’t exist yet, I was forced to major in what I thought was the closest thing to it – special education.  However, I didn’t realize that special education unfortunately had no place for someone who was actually disabled.  After a lot of discrimination, I left college with no teaching certification, disappointed and disillusioned, and more ready for disability studies than ever.

As I discovered during my time in college, most of the dialogue about disability is dominated by parents, teachers, caregivers, and other people in auxiliary positions.  Disability studies changes all that.  Disability studies as a whole confronts the prejudice of those fields (like special education) head on.  In disability studies, disability is not a problem, a diagnosis, or a “special need.”  It is a complex social phenomenon, intersecting with the odd individualism of our bodies.  That’s why disability studies is so important.  It gives disabled people our own voices and own agency – something that is sorely lacking in other discussions of disability.

Moreover, on a personal level, I have a passion for school now that I didn’t before.  Even when I’m tired, or sick, or just don’t feel like dragging myself to class, once I sit down in that classroom and listen to my professor and classmates, I feel exhilarated.  You would think a 2 ½ hour class would pass achingly slowly, but it usually zooms by, because I’m interested in the material.  I feel welcomed at CUNY SPS.  I’m a part of a community, something I never really felt during my undergraduate studies.  Most of all, I love listening to my classmates’ stories – because in this field, everyone has a story to tell.

Everyone has a story, and I bet you do too.  With one in five Americans identifying as having a disability, we are all closer to disability than we think.  I shared mine, now it’s your turn.  What’s your story?  Share with me in the comments!

Cara Liebowitz is a disabled activist and blogger currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies at CUNY SPS. She serves on the board of DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring), an organization aimed at expanding opportunities for higher education students with disabilities. Cara was also one of the founding members of the I Am Norm Campaign, a national campaign promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can read her blog at www.thatcrazycrippledchick.blogspot.com.

What does it mean to be successful? What does success mean to you? As I prepared over the summer, for what will be my final semester towards my BA, I reflected a lot on what success meant to me. After all the effort it took to get this far, how will I use what I have been given? What is my next step?

Earlier in the summer, as I listened to the radio on my way home from work, I heard a playback of an interview of a well known American jazz musician, Charlie Haden. Haden described in his interview what a remarkable life and career he enjoyed. Although his accomplishments were many, what really stood out to me wasn’t so much what he did, it was why he did what he did, the motives behind his work.

Like any young professional, Haden struggled to make ends meet in the beginning of his career. Feeling guilty because he was not able to provide for his family, he decided to start recording commercial music. Although he was still working at creating music, creating commercial music was not something he believed in. In his own words, he said: “It isn’t what I want to do. I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and what I feel is important as far as my contribution or my appreciation and respect for this life that we’re living, and to try and make it better. I can’t feel that I’m making it better playing commercial music, and I never could and never will.” Listen to the full interview here.

What does this comment have to do with success? Well, Haden focused on producing work that he believed in and could feel proud of. It had real substance.  The feeling behind his work was what really resounded with me. It made me ask, why do I do what I do? What is really important to me? As I begin to take my first steps in my chosen career, how will I use my gifts and abilities? What will my contribution to society be? How will I be remembered one day?

Ultimately, I think I will have achieved success if I am able to produce work that I can stand behind of proudly. My journey up until this point has been a long and winding road. I feel like I scaled a huge mountain and am now at the top, gazing at the horizon. Looking ahead, beyond graduation, I want to strive to work hard at things that I believe in. I’m not sure where this journey will end, but I can’t wait to get started!

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.

Dating With Disabilities by Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini originally appeared on the YAI Network’s blog Voice.

At the end of my last blog, which was about Seeing Beyond Disability, I mentioned a social connection of mine that might progress. Since that post, my relationship has done just that, and I have spent some time thinking about dating and disability.

Online dating has made it easier for people in general to meet each other. However, living in this day and age of online connections, a double-edge sword presents itself. Every day — the ability to be more socially connected or to be more lonely.

Someone can be anyone online—they can be true representations of who they are in person, or they can become a digitalized recreation into some “ideal” image of themselves. As such, they can find and connect with a vast audience that is extremely diverse. Nowadays, people could meet each other in ways not possible a decade ago and in some instances, the internet can be the only way for certain people to meet.

Online connection however doesn’t always meet our social needs or ward off loneliness. Loneliness can feel like one of the worst experiences in life, and hearing well-meaning sayings such as, “You must learn to love yourself before anyone else can,” can only dull the often uncontrollable ache, especially if you hear it time and time again. Learning to love oneself is a lifelong journey after all.

Of course, there can always be a combination of social engagement and loneliness at the same time, especially for people with disabilities, who are often socially marginalized from their peers who don’t have disabilities, or even from each other. There may be more social inclusion and acceptance through online connection today, but isolation, suspicion of and stigmatization against people with disabilities is still a problem throughout society.

Meeting Amber

I met my partner, Amber, through an online dating/social networking site. Soon after we connected, I proceeded to totally ignore her for a week when I went on a meditation retreat. You know, just how all the dating guide books tell you a great relationship should start!

Given that it is the start of a relationship, the “honeymoon phase” as it’s often called, can be very passionate and exciting—with a natural amount of uncertainty. There are a lot of hopes, fears and expectations during this “discovery stage” that may or may not come true.

At the beginning of a new relationship there is hope that the other person will accept, understand, like, and maybe even love us; the hope that they will turn out to be who we want them to be in terms of sharing our values, sense of humor, ways to spend time, etc. There are fears that neither of us will live up to these hopes. There is the expectation that we’ll give each other a fair shot at finding out if we’re a good match. This is a time of exploring our differences and the things we share in common. How does disability impact this?

When one partner has a disability and the other does not, which is the case for Amber and me, things can get very interesting: especially considering that we will probably have to contend with, at one point or another, not only what we are learning and feeling about each other; but with opinions and questions from others that will make us cringe.

Questions about my voice will undoubtedly come up and some people will stare. Although it hasn’t happened yet, friends might ask Amber why she’s with me because in their opinion, she could do so much better. After all, why would anyone want to settle for “less” than they deserve?

While this may be a common experience for anyone becoming a new couple who endures criticism of their partner from friends and family, it can be magnified for people with disabilities, who are often judged on things besides their character, values and other traits that might make them good partners. Disability is an easy target as the deciding factor of the potential success or failure of a relationship, most often failure.

These things may or may not happen, but I have faith that if two people have inner strength, level heads about them and good communication between them, then love has a chance to endure.

Cary and Melissa 

Cary and Melissa are a testament to the idea of steadfast dedication in a relationship. They have been together for two years, and from them I have learned that each phase of a relationship has its ups and downs.

Several years ago, I met Cary at American University in Washington DC while taking a music course. We met in class when the teacher pointed us out to each other and the fact that we both had Cerebral Palsy—in front of the entire class. While that introduction was an unsavory experience, it sparked a lifelong friendship.

He and I shared many things in common besides our Cerebral Palsy, chief among them our fondness for music—and our dating woes. We always seemed to get led on by women, only to get our hopes dashed for a genuine connection. I know that this type of “leading on” or “being played” happens to people without disabilities as well and that guys do it to women, too. People with disabilities, however, are often more easily dismissed. I talked to a woman on the phone that I had met online through a dating site and the following day I asked her through a text message if my voice was what she had expected; she replied: “I expected your voice to be as handsome as you are.” I am still trying to figure out if that is a compliment or not.

Cary had a number of short relationships that ended in frustration and heartbreak before he met Melissa, who had gone through similar experiences. Melissa did not have a disability, but like Cary, longed for a real and meaningful connection. They met online through a dating site and started talking. Cary mentioned on his profile that he had Cerebral Palsy and Melissa, who had no idea what that was, looked it up. She was curious about him, having been attracted to his sense of humor, and decided to take a chance by meeting him in person. That was over two years ago.

I had lunch with Cary and Melissa the other day and, after sharing their story, Cary said to me, “I think people with disabilities often have idealistic expectations of what it means to be in a relationship and what I have learned is that being in a relationship is a lot of hard work.” Melissa smiled and nodded in agreement.

Things are not always easy for Cary and Melissa. Sometimes when they are out, they experience stigma and downright discrimination. One time at a bar, a man got up from his seat to go to the bathroom and when he returned to find Cary in his seat, he said to the friend he was with, “I can’t believe you gave my seat to a cripple!”

This made both Melissa and Cary understandably angry and reminded them that ignorance and fear of difference unfortunately persist.

The Disability Factor

The dating dilemma that many people with disabilities find themselves in, more often than not, is that they are not given a chance to date. People without disabilities are simply not open to it. As one of my cousins pointed out to me the other night, “When people think about dating and the dating culture, they don’t really think about people with disabilities, and if they do, it is often how to exclude them from dating. The thought of them [people with disabilities] dating, makes us [people without disabilities] uncomfortable.” While this is not always the case, it is common enough to mention.

In some ways I understand the notion behind the fear of dating someone with a disability. There’s the common misconception that the partner without a disability will end up being a caregiver more than an equal partner, and the view that disability is a weakness rather than a strength. A former partner of mine said that she thought that women were probably intimidated by my disability and what it implied about my needs as a partner, and that they did not know how to get past their fearful reaction.

Having a disability should not be a deterrent to emotional connection, especially in the romantic sense. A person with a disability might want to date someone who also has a disability, for reasons such as mutual attraction and shared understanding. Or they might want to date someone who does not have a disability for the same or other reasons.

The common assumption that two people should date because they both have disabilities, or that they are dating because they both have disabilities, is very annoying. It’s like assuming that two people who are tall, for example, should date or are dating because they are tall. A person with a disability should have the freedom to date whomever they chose—and experience the same risks of heartbreak and love and everything in between—just like everyone else.

To be desired and to feel loved is one of the cornerstones of what it means to be human, and it should be available to everyone, regardless of difference, be it an accent, walking style, learning style or something else. Humans have had this very unhealthy obsession with sameness for far too long, and any difference has been met with fear and has been demonized as a result.

Yes, to be in a relationship with someone with a disability requires taking a chance and giving that person a chance. But the same is true in regards to any relationship. Dating someone with a disability may or may not have more, or maybe different challenges, but that does not make the relationship or the partner any less worthy of taking a risk and trying to make a meaningful connection.

It takes strong people to look beyond disability, and to have the emotional fortitude to look within to see that we all have talents, limitations and the ability to offer love.

Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini is a graduate student at CUNY School of Professional Studies in its Disability Studies program and a disability advocate. He is also an intern with YAI Network where he regularly contributes to their blog Voice. Born in New York City, he’s lived all over the country. When not in New York, Keith resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he’s getting a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona.

Ever felt like you were on a never-ending roller-coaster ride and THAT was your life?

There’s something about being on a ‘coaster that makes you feel like you are not in control. You are just experiencing the ride, but should it take a sharp turn left or right, you are just going to have to grin and bear it, or scream your head off, because you are not in control.

Or so you think. Who told you to get on that ride anyway? Oh….I see.

And life feels like that sometimes.

But it’s important to remember that there’s choices you can make to prevent or even mitigate the crazy freefall you think is approaching.

I remember living day-to-day with that crazy anxious feeling in my chest. Like, how am I going to get through today? I know I’m strong, but damn, this is killing me. I feel like a rubbed out eraser.

Things changed for me when I began to see my inner turmoil reflected in my external world. There’s nothing like seeing the ceiling collapsing all around you to realize that what you thought you were holding up….had been falling down all along. Do you understand?

Over the past year or so I’ve devoted myself to the new motto “no new business,” and what it means is that I have the power to say “no,” to set my own limits, to focus on my own goals, to slow down, to stop, to make changes, to remove or stay away from people and situations that hurt me, and so on.

“No new business” means I’ve got enough on my plate and I’m just trying to deal with what I’ve got on my plate right now. I love you, but, I can’t help you right now. I have to help myself right now. But as soon as I’m okay, I’ll do what I can. I can’t help you from a hospital bed, right?

“No new business” means saying to yourself, I work full-time, I’m in school, I’m a parent, I’m trying to improve my health, maybe work on a personal hobby or passion, and that’s about all I can handle at this moment. And THAT’S OKAY. I’m not a superhero, I’m just human.

And as we enter into the fall and get supercharged up to do this and do that and do this and do that—I say, slow down. You don’t have to ride every roller-coaster in the park. Just pick one or two. And maybe it doesn’t have to have that loop-di-loop either.  Just chill, do what you can do, and be happy with that. And allow others in your life, who want this and that, to also be happy that you are taking care of you.

“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.” —Edna Ferber

Christina is passionate about teaching and helping others, social justice, and business ownership. She has a BA in English from George Washington University and a MA in Education from Howard University. She is currently completing a MS in Business Management and Leadership at CUNY SPS. After 10 years of teaching in public and private schools, she’s chosen to focus on helping women and minority owned small businesses succeed and give back so that her families, friends, and communities can thrive.

Seeing Beyond Disability by Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini originally appeared on the YAI Network’s blog Voice.

A few months ago, I was having coffee with a friend from CUNY, telling her about this internship and I mentioned the slogan of YAI, “Seeing Beyond Disability.” She took issue with it, commenting that people should not have to see beyond disability, they should just see disability and accept it as a part of the person. Ideally, yes that should happen; however, we do not live in an ideal world. Sometimes people have to see beyond disability first, in order to be able to come back and accept disability.

I remember a few years back, I was having lunch with a very dear friend of mine near Lincoln Center when we saw a couple dressed up, on their way to what we assumed was their prom or some other formal event. What was striking about this couple was the young woman, who was wearing a bright red dress, had a metallic prosthesis for her left leg. She could not have been older than seventeen or eighteen and yet the confidence in the way in which she walked arm in arm with her date was stunning.

In a conversation with another friend, my disability came up and my friend said, “I can’t believe people call you or think of you as disabled! I don’t.” When I asked her what she considered “being disabled” meant, she said she considered it being human. Her answer has stayed with me ever since because that was the first time someone had said something that bold, that it started to shift my view of having a disability to one of having a shared experience in relating to disability, especially in seeing the hidden disabilities in others around us.

I was finishing up a lunch meeting with my pastor in Tucson, Arizona, and as we were walking back to his car, he echoed the same statement of not considering me disabled. Now, it is important to point out that neither of them considers disability as something negative, something that should be feared and avoided. They could see my disability as a part of me, rather than being all of me; which is what most people see when they see a person with a disability. They see only the disability and not the person who happens to have a disability. A disability is a part of a person but it does not make up the person.

I like to meet new people whenever possible and recently a close connection was formed through a social networking site. When the topic of my voice came up, through promoting last week’s blog post, I asked the person if she could get used to my voice, especially if our connection progressed. She said, “Your natural accent is a part of what makes you who you are and that’s beautiful.”

Seeing beyond a disability is not hard to do, it allows a person to see another person’s full potential while being aware of all the parts that make up that person. Seeing beyond is not ignoring. It is about accepting, even if that acceptance is not right away in some cases. So if you are struggling with the “seeing beyond” concept or know someone who is, as a person who has experienced both stigma and acceptance, I offer this advice: Take a risk, see the whole person, and plan to be surprised.

Keith R. Murfee-DeConcini is a graduate student at CUNY School of Professional Studies in its Disability Studies program and a disability advocate. He is also an intern with YAI Network where he regularly contributes to their blog Voice. Born in New York City, he’s lived all over the country. When not in New York, Keith resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he’s getting a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona.

The ePortfolio Showcase, which is hosted on a Digication ePortfolio site, highlights student work in individual courses, programs, and capstone projects at both the bachelors and masters level.

tyoes of eportfolios

ePortfolio provides a window into our students’ lives: who they are and who they aspire to be. While reviewing nominations to this year’s showcase, we were delighted to see much more multimedia integration; providing a richer experience for viewers while demonstrating students’ digital skills.2014_badge2_orange Showcase winners received an Amazon gift card and a digital badge to place in their ePortfolio. Please take some time to browse the featured ePortfolios below and feel free to leave the winners some comments on their work.

Here are a few highlights demonstrating the many ways our students are defining themselves academically or professionally while creating full records of their learning:

  • Both Joan Murray and Donna Harbans really dove into reflection. They included full reflections for each course listed in their academic sections as well as an overall program reflection.
  • Benjamin Miller delivers presentation and passion in his Business ePortfolio.  He included a great deal of video presentations and documents to support his business ideas.
  • Tobie Buford and Xian Edwards showed the many ways students can use multimedia to express themselves and compliment their course work. Both put a lot of work into their ePortfolios having shared much about themselves and their studies. Tobie used SoundCloud to make us hear the passion she has for disability studies.

To visit the ePortfolio directly, simply click on a student’s name. To view additional information such as the course they created the ePortfolio for and why the ePortfolio was featured, click on the image.

We’re thrilled to be able to share their work within and beyond the CUNY SPS community and send a special thank you to all of the showcase winners for the time and energy they put into their ePortfolios – they really are fantastic!

The following blog entry was submitted by Acting Assistant Director Michael Wilson, M.A. in Applied Theatre.

On April 16 and 17, the Arts in Education Roundtable hosted the 2014 Face to Face conference at CUNY’s City College of New York.  The conference is an annual gathering for educators, artists, and administrators in the City’s arts education community.  I attended to represent CUNY SPS’s M.A. in Applied Theatre and keep an eye out for developments in the field.

At least ten students and alumni of the SPS M.A. in Applied Theatre participated in the conference, representing every cohort in the program’s seven-year history, including a member of the new cohort entering in 2014.

Andre Dimapilis (’12) presented on the use of drama to teach math to young children.  Participants in the session explored how to adapt and frame familiar games around basic mathematical concepts such as distance, numerical correspondence, and patterns.  In addition to considering math instruction, participants in the session wrestled with the more universal question of how to offer creative challenges to students without embarrassing them in front of their friends.  Andre suggested that mindfully scaffolding activities helps make it safe for young people to take risks.  Andre’s contagious love for learning disarmed the conversation, illustrating that passion and care go a long way, too.  Andre drew his presentation from his work as a core team member of the Early Learning Program at the CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT).

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre

Joey Schultz (’12) and Kevin Ray (’11) presented on devising theatre with middle-school youth, drawing from their work as staff members of the CAT Youth Theatre.  Their approach will be familiar to students and alumni of the M.A. in Applied Theatre: play drama games to develop community and common theatrical vocabulary; investigate ideas that are of interest to the group; and provide a clear structure for participants to follow to create their own original pieces of theatre about their ideas.  For this session, Joey and Kevin lead participants in using physical images to assert how they would change the world.  The assembled teaching artists and administrators viscerally lampooned gluttony and inequality in many areas including, pointedly, arts funding.

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre

I also attended “The Many Hats of a Teaching Artist: Cultivating Professional Partnerships,” a session led by members of the Roundtable’s Teaching Artists Affairs Committee.  We used image theatre and other techniques to address issues that arise in relationships with parents, administrators, and classroom teachers.  Afterward, I spoke with committee member Lauren Jost about organizing to support teaching artists: what will it take to have reliable healthcare coverage?  Reliable pay for preparation and travel?  The issue is near my heart: when I was a teaching artist, I struggled with the inconsistency of the work.  I began a meetup group with Anneka Fagundes (’11) and Reka Polonyi, a graduate in Applied Drama from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, to workshop issues that arose in our work as teaching artists.  We imagined a structure for combining our resources and elevating the status and treatment of teaching artists in the field.  I am eager for our graduates to pick up that torch and run with it.

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre
Plenary speakers were concerned with the status of the field in the City.  New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said that making art teaches children how to approach learning.  Making art also develops skills tested by the city’s Common Core academic standards.

Later in the day, City Comptroller Scott Stringer presented from his report State of the Arts: A Plan to Boost Arts Education in New York City Schools.  The report, which was released in April, shows that one in five City schools has no part-time or full-time certified art teacher.  Stringer said he is working to secure funding to place an arts teacher in every school.  Reflecting on the day, Roundtable Co-Chair Ted Wiprud said that we arts educators now have a place at the table more than ever.  I shared this news and Ted’s outlook with my officemate, Maureen Donohue.  “More certified teachers?” she mused, “does that mean more jobs for teaching artists, or the other way around?”

I looked in Scott Stringer’s report and found that one in six schools have no arts or cultural partnerships—in other words, no teaching artists.  Would increasing arts spending expand those partnerships?

The intelligent advocacy of our graduates would help in that direction.  Interested in being involved?  Write me at Michael.Wilson@mail.cuny.edu.

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre

 


Show Your Work

Have you created one or more ePortfolios this past year? If so, we invite you to submit your ePortfolio to the CUNY School of Professional Studies ePortfolio Student Showcase for an opportunity to be selected as one of the “Featured Student ePortfolios” on the ePortfolio Showcase website and receive a $100 Amazon gift card!

Selections are made based on:

  • Design layout
  • Organization of materials
  • Best use of multimedia
  • Demonstration of reflective learning
  • Overall representation of academic skills, coursework, and extracurricular activities

To nominate yourself, please complete this form by May 24, 2014. Please help us recognize your great work with ePortfolio!

Resources

Last year, the ePortfolio Team and Career Services teamed up to create a webinar to explain the nature and uses of ePortfolios that gave students the tools they needed to build their own ePortfolio in time to participate in the showcase. Last month, we teamed up again to offer our first in-person workshop titled, “Transform your ePortfolio,” where we covered how to copy and move content between ePortfolios, finding Creative Commons images, and how to identify and showcase transferable skills. If you missed the workshop, here are the final tips we gave to students:

ePortfolio Tips

  1. Think hard about the organization, appearance and general layout of your ePortfolio.
  2. Be sure all relevant documents are uploaded to their corresponding sections of the ePortfolio.
  3. Avoid bright colors and stick to the more traditional business formatting and fonts.
  4. Use meaningful pictures to bring some life to your ePortfolio.
  5. Write good content and keep it up-to-date.
  6. Use reflection to create a narrative of your transferable skills.
  7. Connect your ePortfolio with social media sites so people can find you more easily.

transfer

 

SHOW YOUR WORK!

The New York Times digital subscription for CUNY SPS students

Hey guys,

When I decided to write a graduation blog—sort of a tell-all about my CUNY academic journey—I quickly found out I literally had no idea of what to say. It isn’t that I’m lacking in material; rather I was chock-full of witty statements about meeting (or missing) deadlines; “thanks,” to send out to all my CUNY professors and other administrative staff that helped make earning my undergraduate degree an experience I’m truly proud of; and, of course, time-management tips for full-time students who have thousands of other obligations. However, I struggled with pulling anything cohesive together. So, after many wasted afternoons at my local Starbucks, I did what any other Communication and Culture graduate would do—I communicated by sharing my “writer’s block” phenomenon all over the Internet. While waiting for inspiration to hit or a friend to text back with a sympathetic ‘smiley face,’ I stumbled across a really enlightening video featured here.

As a Communication and Culture major, this video really struck a chord with me. The author presents his message in a brutally honest manner that cannot be ignored, if only because we are all so plugged in to society via “smartphones.” I, personally, can attest to the difficulty of striking up a conversation on the bus stop or even offering something as simple as a greeting to a passersby because we just don’t notice each other. The lives that we live online, the conversations that we hold via social networks, even the pictures we take and immediately post have become so important that we may be missing out on everyday moments. And why? Why is it so important that we ‘share’ every minute detail about our lives on social networks—it’s only being looked at, considered, judged, and then passed over, reduced to a ‘like’ or simply forgotten. I don’t quite know the answer to that question but I do know that I am going to utilize my degree NOT to publish my life online but to communicate interpersonally with the people around me.

My studies here at CUNY SPS helped me realize we are a nation of many cultures, languages, ethnicities, backgrounds, stories, and feelings. Each of us matters in our unique way and we all are worth more than the click of a ‘like’ or ‘share’ button. Communication, thus culture, is comprised of much more than wording an essay online or in class, composing an eloquent response to a peer, and knowing the correct usage of a word. Communication does not stop when we leave online chat rooms, close out private messages, or even exit our classes. Likewise, the history behind the many cultures populating America cannot be summed up and manifested in one person who thinks to share his or her life-story via Facebook or chooses to post authentic cultural dishes on Instagram. Communication and culture is so much larger than us that to truly understand its content, we must go outside the Internet, beyond our smartphones and venture into this people-populated world.

Big steps are not necessary in our quest to start interpersonal communication with those around us. The first thing I’m going to do is stop practicing yoga in front of my laptop screen with my cell close at hand and actually enroll in a class at my local gym. Ten dollars a class, no cellphones allowed, and interaction with men and women of all ages and ethnicities. Sounds perfect!

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