I listened to President Obama’s final State of the Union address.  He ended his address by putting the onus for the state of our political system on the American citizenry—us.  He closed the circle quite nicely.

Back in 2008, I was flipping channels and came across Michelle Obama making a speech.  Essentially, she said that if we elected her husband, we couldn’t abandon them once they entered the White House.  She said that her husband would need an engaged citizenry in order to govern well.  It was heartening to hear her.  As a citizen, I felt empowered.

I was encouraged to do something that I had not done since high school.  I read the United States Constitution.  I rediscovered the fact that the President’s job is to protect the Constitution.  I also learned that the states are where the real power is in the United States.  People who really want to be engaged and vote on high stakes elections should really keep their eyes on local races.

Senator Obama’s tagline was “Yes we can!”  President Obama is ending on a note of “Yes, you can!”  We should accept the challenge.

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

Part 3: Flexibility of Use, the second principle of Universal Design
by Antonia Levy & Christopher Leydon

Welcome back, dear followers, to a fresh New Year’s edition of UD Nosh! This month, we’ll be discussing the second principle of Universal Design (UD): Flexibility in Use. Generally speaking, this means that the design of any product should accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. Flexible design seeks to:

  • Provide choice in methods of use
  • Accommodate right- and left-handed access and use
  • Facilitate user accuracy and precision
  • Provide adaptability of the user space.
Pruners for left and right handed use

Image source: http://www.ncsu.edu

Practical examples for this principle include not only the familiar architectural features like  restrooms and other facilities that are physically accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs or face other mobility challenges, but also consumer items like scissors or computer mice made for both left and right handed users.

This UD principle is important because design that fails to provide flexibility in use can lead to problems that are hard to fix later on. One enormous example of this kind of failure is the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which accommodates cars, trucks, and busses. Yet when it was build fifty years ago, no provision was made for a rail link between Brooklyn and Staten Island, nor for use by pedestrians or cyclists. The latter is currently being considered though it entails an expensive retrofit.

An emphasis on flexibility when designing products or environments brings into focus the difference between accessible (or barrier free) design and universal design. While the former is legally mandated to permit access for those who may be excluded because of a disability, universal design aims at inclusiveness in a broader and more integrated sense.

“Universal design places increased emphasis on the critical goal of meeting the needs of as many users as possible. … By increasing the number of people whose needs are being addressed in a single design solution, universal design encourages an integrative approach rather than multiple separate solutions.” (The Center for Universal Design)

In a university environment, disability services offices are usually tasked with primary responsibility for providing support to students with disabilities. This approach is based on the accommodation model, in which reactive adjustments are made by request to render an educational environment accessible to an individual with a disability. (In the case of a faculty or staff member, such requests are submitted to the human resources office, which arranges for reasonable workplace accommodations.) By contrast, a proactive UDL approach promotes the expanded goal of making these environments welcoming and inclusive from the start to groups that are diverse in many dimensions, including gender, race and ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, ability, or learning style. Such consideration on the front end helps prevent the need to redesign down the road when a user arrives on campus and indicates the lack of accessibility.

Accessible classroom chairs and furniture

Image source: https://www.ideo.com

More concrete examples include UDL-inspired classroom furniture such as tablet desks that can accommodate both left and right handed users or height-adjustable tables that can easily accommodate a range of user sizes and preferences. Furniture that can be readily moved allows us flexibility for different learning activities and student groupings. For staff, allowing for various delivery methods of documents to the school (by mail, fax, hand delivery, web form, or email attachment) or of paychecks to employees (by mail, direct deposit, or pickup) are consistent with the practice of flexibility in use. The School’s new website includes responsive design elements in its code (HTML5 and CSS3) that allow for automatic re-sizing to accommodate access from phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. Blackboard, our learning management system, is also available through mobile app. And even CUNYFirst has features that provide accessibility and flexibility of use.

This principle applies as much to teaching and learning—whether online or in a brick-and-mortar classroom—as it does to the physical campus. The diversity of students we encounter include a variety of learning styles and preferences: Learners might differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information, the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know, as well as in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. By utilizing varied instructional methods to include different modes of learning and different learning preferences, we not only meet the needs of students with the greatest barriers, but also improve access for a wide range of learners.

If you are curious, check out this questionnaire by VARK Learn to find out about your own learning preferences. Instructors could use the questionnaire as an icebreaker during the first week of classes to start a discussion with students about the way you teach and they learn.

This article is part of an ongoing series introducing the concept of Universal Design (UD) as it applies to the context of higher education and to our work at CUNY SPS. Each month we cover one of the seven principles of UD with practical examples for both faculty and staff, including things you might not immediately associate with accessibility—or inaccessibility. Catch you next month! Questions or feedback? Email Antonia Levy or Christopher Leydon.

References
Darby, Alexa (n.d.). Understanding Universal Design in the Classroom. National Education Association (NEA): http://www.nea.org/home/34693.htm (Accessed January 11, 2016).
The Center for Universal Design, NCSU (n.d.) Introduction to Universal Design. https://www.ncsu.edu/project/design-projects/sites/cud/content/UD_intro.html (Accessed January 11, 2016).

With critics awards almost completed and the Academy Awards a little over a month away, I felt inclined to share some of my favorite movies from the past year. Mine is just another list for people to roll their eyes at. I mean, who’s reading this? I’m just some guy who really likes movies. A guy who would rather stay at home on a Friday night to watch one, and then wake up Saturday morning to hit the matinee for another; a matinee that sometimes sparks an entire day in the theater. I wrote in an earlier post about this not being a banner year for film. At the time, summer had come and gone. The bombardment of overwrought blockbusters, sequels, reboots, and end of seasons dumps were coming to an end. As 2015 grew older, however, the output seemed stronger than in recent years past.

The sequel/reboot fad didn’t end with the summer season; however, this fall gave us two reboots that reinvigorated franchises beloved by millions. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, though not as iconic or as unique as Episode IV or V, was an enjoyable movie-going experience. The first 30 minutes is as fun and exhilarating as anything released this year, even if the film is essentially A New Hope remix. Another reboot, what I would call my surprise of the year, Creed, knocked it out of the park (or ring?) for what amounts to the best of the Rocky franchise since the original.

The end of 2015 also re-introduced the world to the 70mm format. The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s mystery-western set in the 1800’s, is the first film projected entirely using the Panavision equipment since Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012). 70mm allows for a higher film resolution than the most frequently used 35mm, as well as capturing colors more vividly. It’s a glorious and exciting way to see a film. Questions arose about why a story such as The Hateful Eight needed to be shot in 70mm. It probably didn’t, but kudos to directors like Anderson, and Tarantino (as well as Christopher Nolan who has championed the idea of film use to the studios for several years) for attempting to bring this beautiful format (KILL DIGITAL) back to the forefront. These are filmmakers that truly care about the art. Whether or not every movie is a hit is irrelevant. They’re making them the way they want to make them about what they’re interested in. It’s something for anyone to admire.

The digital vs. film debate is a heated and contentious one as described by this Vox article.

***PRO TIP: Do not see The Hateful Eight and The Revenant back to back on the same day as I did. It was an endurance test I nearly didn’t survive. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of either, though Hateful had some big laughs.***

There needs to be a willingness to find great movies. This is not to say that a movie not seen by mass audiences are always better, but in watching there’s a feel they’re made with more care. I’m coming off as a snob, but I point this out because much of the following list will not be seen during the Oscars telecast. Go and find them.

1. Phoenix

2. Queen of Earth

3. Carol

4. It Follows

5. The Clouds of Sils Maria

6. Spotlight

7. Sicario

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

9. 45 Years

10. Creed

11. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

12. Ex Machina

13. Tangerine

14. Heaven Knows What

15. The Duke of Burgundy

Twitter: @BobbyJDaniels

Robert is a current student here at CUNY SPS, pursuing a degree in Communication and Media. He is interested in platforms of media, especially those related to digital media; and a fan of serious film as well as this current golden age of television.

Politics is a natural and neutral activity.  Whether or not you like it or get anything from it partially depends on your level of engagement and skill in politicking.

That’s what I learned through studying Cervero and Wilson’s theory of program planning.  Essentially, they say that program planning is a political activity because educational events and activities are always planned with other people.  Therefore, all of the planning must be negotiated with others.  I used their theory in undertaking a real-life program planning activity at work.

Cervero and Wilson destigmatize and normalize the word “politics.”  Most workers believe it’s good to shun office politics, because they think only people with wrong motives engage in politics.  I used to think that way, too.  Now I realize that to the extent that I refuse to engage in the political process, I limit my own success in changing things for the good of my students.  If good guys walk away from the process, the only people advancing their goals are people who are only looking out for themselves.  It’s important to engage in politics professionally.

It’s also important to engage in politics nationally.  At work, I get to voice my opinions at meetings, through e-mail, individually, etc..  My opinions get “heard” when I get the ear of the right people.  Nationally, my voice gets heard when I vote.

Years ago, when I first registered to vote, the Board of Elections sent out an Election Guide telling citizens when to vote and who and what we were voting for.  Now, there’s nothing.  Also, in non-presidential election years, it seemed like there were plentiful debates to attend so that you could decide how to cast your vote.  I feel like those things have vanished.  Fortunately CUNY is launching its own campaign to help us out.  Check out Voice Your Choice to see more.

Until then, keep these dates in mind:

  • March 25 – Voter registration deadline
  • April 19 – New York primaries
  • November 8 – General election

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

It began with a miracle.

It ended with a miracle.

Earning the trust of a viewer is paramount to a successful show. We want to be taken places we didn’t think possible, but have it make sense creatively, while having it make an impact emotionally. Recently concluding what some consider an all-time great season of television, Season 2 of The Leftovers took me there and then some. We watch the show from a fresher perspective this time around, one that the show so successfully employed in Season 1’s ‘Guest,’ by using a single person POV. It narrowed the focus of each episode while sharpening the edges.

(SPOILERS: I will be touching on some plot points of the season, so if you want to watch the show spoiler-free, your eyes need go no further.)

This season began with the Garveys + Nora leaving Mapleton for a place that was virtually unharmed during the Departure—Jarden, Texas, otherwise known as Miracle National Park. This is not a reboot. It’s more a contemplative continuation of the seeds that were planted in Season 1. Their move breathed new life into the series. It instilled the feeling of hope that was there in Season 1, but not prevalent. (Full disclosure: I’m a staunch defender of Season 1 despite it’s issues.)

“There are no miracles in Miracle,” says John Murphy early on. The Murphy’s, long-time Miracle residents, and new neighbors of the Garveys, have a checkered past of their own. We witness their journey from comfortable on the surface—a strong contrast to what the Garveys often present—to confused and lost, just like many outside their sanctuary of Miracle. In the finale, we see Erika Murphy and her husband John in separate scenes make clear that they don’t understand why their world has crumbled around them. Their daughter Evie, who disappeared towards the end of the premiere episode, has reappeared under peculiar circumstances unwilling to even speak to her parents.

“I don’t understand what’s happening,” says John.

“Me niether,” replies Kevin.

There’s a magic to this show, as Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix.com writes. A feeling that every time you watch, something profound is about to happen. We sit on the border of real and surreal, living the show through the eyes of the cast. In those eyes we must figure it out along with them.

Taking a page from The Sopranos playbook, the eighth episode, ‘International Assassin’ forces Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) to navigate his way through a sort of Hell in order to find peace. Or was it purgatory? It doesn’t matter because what we got was one of this year’s finest hours of TV. When he wakes up back in the Hotel Hell in the finale, we’re once again blessed with a moment not soon to be forgotten. Kevin must karaoke Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Homeward Bound’ in order to leave this place. To go back to his family, the people he loves, the life he feels is not yet complete. The gut-wrenching is agonizing; the confusion and pain pouring out of Theroux’s face was something to marvel. In a show filled with poignant musical moments, this topped them all.

The Leftovers is a metaphor for death. What happens when you lose someone? How do you react? How do you move on with your life? Co-creators and writers Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (author of the novel, The Leftovers) are going for maximum emotional impact with this series. Home run.

As Season 2 wound down, it was unclear whether there would be a third. Ratings dropped precipitously from Season 2, and though it was critically acclaimed, that’s no guarantee. The Leftovers has found itself on many year-end top 10 lists, including #7 in the HitFix critics poll (a cumulative poll of more than 50 television critics.) The reviews were not as kind for the first season making it more than apropos that the turnaround seen in the next would take place in a town called Miracle. HBO issued a press release last week announcing that The Leftovers would return for a third and final season next year. The trilogy will be complete. THANK YOU TV GODS.

This is an experience. A show that thrives off insanity. As engrossing as it powerful, as sad as it is beautiful, there are very few experiences that compare. In this age of peak TV, we’re lucky to have a show like this. It takes risks and goes for broke. It grabs you by your heart strings and keeps tugging. Lindelof and Perrotta have my utmost trust and respect. They can take this in any direction and I’ll follow. In the words of Iris DeMent, “I think I’ll just let the mystery be.”

Miracles do happen in Miracle.

Twitter: @BobbyJDaniels

Robert is a current student here at CUNY SPS, pursuing a degree in Communication and Media. He is interested in platforms of media, especially those related to digital media; and a fan of serious film as well as this current golden age of television.

I will end this semester with my post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Facilitation.  As a licensed social worker, I can truly say it’s been a pleasure to experience the field of adult education while getting practical experience in it for the past three years.

When I worked in social services, I facilitated orientations and conducted workshops for adult job-seekers.  I had a semester of adjunct teaching experience, and was thinking about teaching again.  Then I heard about CUNY SPS holding an open house at the Graduate Center.  That’s how I heard about the program.  The SPS representative told me that, whether or not I became a teacher, the program would make me a better workshop facilitator.  In other words, I couldn’t lose.  She was right.

Making the shift from social services to higher education was a culture shock for me, as I realized how much my students had to overcome in order to be successful college students.  My first class, Adult Development (ED 602), couldn’t have come sooner.  My classmate, Marie B, and I decided to research the relationship between college readiness and mentoring.  My eyes were opened when I began to see systemic challenges my students are facing.

Two years later, I distilled our research into a lesson plan, Introduction to Seminar, which my colleagues and I taught this semester.  The lesson reviews the four skill sets incoming freshmen must master to be successful in college: academic behaviors (study skills), contextual skills (knowing the culture of college), key cognitive strategies (problem solving skills) and key content knowledge (solid academic foundation).  The other tangible result of my being in the program is that I created an online learning website to use with my students this semester.  I am using my final class, Developing Programs for Adult Learners (ED 603) as an opportunity to engage my colleagues in a review of our curriculum.

More importantly, the way I’ve changed as a result of my participation in the program has been the biggest benefit to my students and me.  I have become more knowledgeable, understanding, and empathetic which manifests in me having much more patience and increased ability to meet students where they are.  In addition to learning from the professionals studying with me in the program, I have been consciously modelling the behavior of my Adult Learning & Program Facilitation teachers—Prof. Susan Fountain and Dr. Carol Robbins.  They are both inspiring, experienced, creative, ethical educators who really know how to educate adult learners.

Again, it’s been a pleasure.

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

 

This post was written by Anthony Mongelli, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

In her recent blog post, fellow ACE Scholar Christine Hansen wrote of the persistent dissatisfaction with her law career that prompted her into a search that eventually brought her to CUNY SPS. I empathize entirely with her feelings of professional emptiness, as I have also been dissatisfied with my two decades-long career (spanning 13 companies) in finance, and came upon CUNY SPS in a similar fashion.

I remained in finance for so long merely because it paid well, I could always find a job in the field, and perhaps most importantly, I had not discovered that about which I was truly passionate. After much reflection, I now recognize performing work of great intrinsic value as the key to profound satisfaction, and there is neither salary sufficiently large nor a perk so compelling as to compensate for feeling unengaged with one’s work. Moreover, I now understand that I changed jobs frequently because the work itself—not the bosses, commute, benefits, or whichever reason I would cite to justify leaving—was unpalatable.

In my view, no work is as valuable as that which places one in the service of others. I deeply believe that those who hold talent and advantage ought to work those talents and advantages to societal benefit. By their ardent support of the ACE Scholarship program, it is clear that the administration of CUNY SPS believes in this incumbency. It is also clear that the benefactor of the ACE Scholarship, Mr. Alan Fishman, likewise believes in this incumbency, as evidenced by his generous financial support of the program.

While working in finance, I utilized my work ethic, articulation, organizational skills, persuasiveness, intelligence, communication skills, team-building ability, and skill in motivating others for the narrow benefit of corporate interests; it is difficult to describe the excitement I feel now that I am on the cusp of pressing my talents into the service of the many in the hopes of making lives substantively better through a career in social work. I will be attending New York University’s Silver School of Social work, pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree.

I was most strongly attracted to the ACE Scholarship because it keeps one close to the CUNY SPS community via a tether of obligation. ACE Scholars act as mentors to two incoming students, are required to produce a blog post (the one you are reading), participate in School events, and make known our experiences with the ACE program. ACE Scholars, who enjoy the advantages of being diligent, persistent, self-starting, and goal-oriented, give back to the CUNY SPS community by leveraging those talents in the service of their mentees and the school.

It would not have been possible for me to complete the undergraduate degree with which I flirted for twenty-something years if it were not for CUNY SPS. The programs are innovative, the online learning environment is intuitive and flexible, and the professors with whom I have studied were all eager, interested and responsive; all of these coalesce into a unique learning experience that benefits additionally from CUNY’s affordability. It is without reservation that I say that CUNY SPS is one of the brightest gems of the CUNY system.

Anthony Mongelli is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Psychology program at the end of this semester.

This post was written by Michael Castano, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

The ACE Scholarship award has provided me with great opportunities. This has been a very busy semester for me at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. Since this is my last semester before I obtain my bachelors in nursing degree, there were many requirements that needed to be completed.

This fall I was required to fulfill 90 clinical hours for my nursing capstone course, complete 3 courses’ assignments every week, mentor two nursing students, apply for graduation, work full time, and was recently diagnosed with a cardiac condition. Being a recipient of the ACE Scholarship has given me the time to fulfill these requirements, because I did not need to pick up overtime shifts to assist me in paying tuition.

The scholarship also gave me the time to complete my applications to graduate schools, in which I have been accepted into the school of my choice, where I will be pursuing my masters in nursing degree and become a family nurse practitioner. I also believe that I gained valuable skills, such as time management, resilience after unexpected obstacles, and becoming a mentor.

The mentees that I was assigned to didn’t require as much guidance as I thought they would need. However, it was nice being there for them whenever they required assistance.

I believe without the assistance of the ACE Scholarship award, I would not have gained these valuable skills, or would have been able to focus the amount of time I did on my academic career and future goals, and for that I am thankful.

Michael Castano is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the Nursing program at the end of this semester.

This post was written by Zarina Kopb, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

“Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.”—Orrin Woodward

In the modern world, the ability to take charge is a highly desirable quality and skill. Leadership skills are necessary in various fields. We often wonder whether leadership is an innate or an acquired quality. Can a person who lacks passion and charisma but possesses an appropriate education and training be a great leader? Is honest, personable, brave, passionate, and hard working individual qualified to lead a team and expect success without possessing certain leadership skills?

I think that leadership qualities exist in every individual to a certain degree and we all can lead others in some parts of our lives. In my opinion, leadership skills start forming while following someone’s lead. We learn from other people and then we model our learned behaviors allowing others to learn from us. Following and learning from the right people can be a crucial factor in one’s career path. Open-mindedness and the ability to hear others are some qualities of a future-leader. To advance and perfect such qualities means to make a habit of using them.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a mutually beneficial way to perfect and acquire certain skills. By becoming a mentee initially, one can identify own goals, strengths and weaknesses, and ways for improvement as well as exercise taking charge safely. There are many benefits of having a mentor, which includes one-on-one interaction and support from an experienced individual who has dealt with the current issues of the mentee, which allows for trust, connection, and bond. Wisdom can be shared and certain mistakes can be avoided through such interaction. A mentor can lessen anxiety and empower his or her mentee by modeling desired professional, personal, and communication skills; offering real life advice and resources to the mentee.

I find that benefits of being a mentor are as invaluable as having a mentor. Mentors benefit from the relationship with a mentee through learning new things, widening resources, and sharpening our own coaching methods. Being able to help the person who is willing to learn and potentially benefit the career of the mentor and the field itself is truly empowering and rewarding. Relationships and friendship can be built through this interaction. I think that if person has a mentor he or she is more likely to mentor someone else in the future and that is a main goal of such relationship.

Zarina Kopb is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Nursing program at the end of this semester.

Every social worker must do a 3-day per week internship, over 2 years, to get a MSW.  The internships are difficult because one has to operate as a skilled social worker by demonstrating the knowledge, ethics and skills of the profession, when in fact, the intern is still learning.

That’s one of the big differences between being an intern and a volunteer.  An internship is a transformative experience that will turn one into a professional.  Volunteering can be transformative, but it’s not designed to do that—you can leave the same way you came in.

The internship supervisor (another MSW) is the intern’s social work instructor, on-the-job-coach, role model, advocate and protector.  I learned all this when I supervised interns.  That’s also when I started to realize how much I enjoyed the educational part of supervision.  It was also part of the motivation to trade in social services for higher education.

Now that I’m an educator, I can truly say that it’s an honor and a privilege to have students.  When I look back and realized how my internship set up the foundation of my career, I felt honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of setting a foundation for my students.

Whenever I get annoyed with my job, I remember that I asked for it.  All of us vent to our friends when we’re annoyed.  I gave my friends permission to remind me that—whenever I start to complain, remind me that I said it’s an honor and privilege to do what I do.

As much as I might sometimes complain about students, I’m glad to be here at CUNY.

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

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