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

Reflecting back on my first encounter with a higher education institution, I vividly remember feeling secured and my professors always reassured and motivated me to believe that there was no room for failure. This gave me the drive to obtain my Associate’s Degree in Science from the Borough Of Manhattan Community College.

Unlike my fellow ACE scholarship recipients, I never took time off from school. I immediately transferred to Hunter College. There I felt overwhelmed, unsure of myself, and my drive slowly reduced. I felt like a fish in an ocean full of sharks and stingrays. My professors were intimidating just as much as my classmates were. I received no support and no reassurance that I could do this and excel. I remember crying for the first two weeks because I felt so lost. After a year of not wanting to be there, I received an impromptu email from the CUNY School of Professional Studies and I figured, “what would I lose by attending the information session?” I remember running from the number 1 train to the 3 train from the Upper West Side to get there. I made it in 15 minutes before the session ended. I vaguely remember Director of Student Services Z. Lobley being there and she handed me all the information I needed. She encouraged me to attend a one-on-one evaluation session with an advisor and apply in person. This has been one of the best life changing decisions that I have ever made.

Many tried to discourage me to not follow the path of online learning and I am very happy that I am not easily swayed. Having two jobs and working 50-60 hours a week gave me little time to sit in a classroom setting. After my first semester at CUNY SPS, I felt the same way I did at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. I felt safe, encouraged, and the support of my advisor and professors were just what I envisioned my learning experience to be. The professors had the same motto that “failure is not an option,” which they showed. It varied from emails, phone calls, and the Blackboard messages they bombarded us with on a weekly schedule. Being selected as the recipient of the ACE Scholarship validated for me that all of my late night studying and heavy consumption of black coffee did not go unnoticed.

While on the scholarship, I am currently giving back to my fellow students by being a mentor, which is another life changer. Now that I am so close to completing the requirements for my degree, I hope to use everything I have learned to continue working in my community, either in a non-profit organization that advocates for disability rights or in the education field.

Thank you, CUNY SPS, for this opportunity, and for supporting me and my fellow students in our future endeavors.

Noelitta Tailiam 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 BA in Disability Studies degree program in June 2016.

Shinobi Ninja Rocks Hood

Kookin Sol

When you talk about funk, rock, and hip-hop, laced in the form of indie fire, one group comes to mind. Yes, Shinobi Ninja continues to pave the way for a new musical revolution.  In a world were genre defines your audience and how much success you should expect, Shinobi Ninja quickly reminds us that it’s never about that crap.  Duke Sims (D.A.), Baby G, Maniac Mike, Alien Lex, Dj Axis Powers, and Terminator Dave continue to create without boundaries, refusing to be marginalized by the constraints imposed by the music industry.  Fresh off performances at SXSW, these guys continue to mesmerize crowds through out the world.

The party mix below of Shinobi Ninja’s classic anthem, “Rock Hood,” is a blend of beats by Jeff and flows from the ninjas.  We sat down in the studio with Shinobi Ninja’s bass man Alien Lex and laid down these tracks last summer, ironically this was one of the last sessions we would collab on in  Shinobi headquarters located on 23rd St., in the heart of The Flatiron District.  The studio is no longer on 23rd, but the music we created continues to generate a buzz. This version is available for Deejay’s looking to add ‘Rock Hood’ (Party Mix) to their collection.  Please send your request for an mp3 to

The future looks bright for Shinobi Ninja, for more dates on upcoming performances check out the website at  Also, I have a beat tape that will be available this summer called, ‘Beet Juice,’ be sure to check it out as well.  Always remember that true music is from the heart, it can’t be defined by words because it’s marinated in authentic feelings and energy.  With that being said, it’s important to support groups like Shinobi Ninja because the work that they are putting in will eventually define new standards in the recording industry.



Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

Dear Journal,

I have so often been reminded of the issue that other people do not understand my profession.  It has been said, that unless one has gone through the rigors of nursing school, and has gone on to get licensed, and practiced in some setting for a while, one will forever stay outside of “our walls of having been there.”  I, therefore, have taken it upon myself, this undertaking of trying to make the outside world understand.  For those of us in the profession, who just cannot find the exact words or even the right picture to enlighten an outsider about what we do, it is okay.  For, I have willingly volunteered to step up to take on this responsibility to ensure that someone out there, whoever you are, will get a feel of it’s fine grain as if in between one’s fingers, even if only for a moment.  This might mean that I may have to search the whole world over for the words, in whatever form I may find them.  Perhaps, needing to even call upon other media to give them that intended effect.  In doing so, I will lend the world my eyes.  Then, maybe then, will the rest of the world really see what we see when looking around, in our nursing scrubs.  We may travel back in time, journey back to the present, even jump to the future, and at times go outside of the topic area for a moment, as needed, in search of the words we may be looking for:

Words to come

worlds away

the person I am to become

catch the words to say

too near to be

the person I am to me

—Inah Castro

Inah Castro has been a practicing nurse since 2009. She first started out as an LPN and is currently attending CUNY SPS for her BS in nursing. She is bicoastal, as she is licensed in California as well as New York, and has over the years worked on both ends of the country. Inah enjoys writing, cooking, and boxing/kickboxing. 

I own a piece of land in the middle of the Mayan jungle in a small town near Valladolid called Uayma. I bought it because I love its church. But soon after my purchase I fell in love with the people.

Miguel Xooc is my unaware Mayan Professor and helper. He keeps calling me to tell me every detail of what happens in this isolated and abandoned, by me, piece of land. He gets extremely excited when I visit the place and he shows me all the progress he has made in keeping the jungle away from the small destroyed construction of the Hacienda home that used to be there. He keeps track of every wild animal he sees and of every snake he kills. He even saves their skins for me. I had to tell him to secretly inform me all the details of what he does and specially keep any animal skin he kills away from my wife or I will never convince her to move there in our retirement!

Last weekend Miguel told me that he discovered a cave. He anticipated my desires to give it a look and so he made a path so we could walk with my son to explore the cave. It was about one kilometer from the entrance of the lot so he really worked hard to create this path. While we were walking I told my son to look at the wild orchids blooming on tops of the trees. While looking at the tops of the trees Miguel warns us to watch our steps and be careful with the thorns of one of the branches of the trees he cut earlier. I asked him, “What do you call this tree Miguel?” and he said, “It is a Tzubim.”

We continued walking until I saw an identical branch and I warned a friend of my son by telling him to be careful with the Tzubim. Miguel immediately corrected me by telling me, “No, Patron, that is not a Tzubim, that is a Chimmay!“

“How would I know? They look all identical to me,” I responded.

Miguel could not believe that I was not able to tell between such tremendously evident differences. He decided in that moment that he was going to give me a botanic tour and he started to name and describe every tree he saw while we were crossing such a densely thick forest.

“So Patron, this is a Chaka. Look how red its wood is!”

It has a very soft wood.

“Now look! This is a Dzilzilche, this has very beautiful shells around its trunk.” Miguel said. “This is a Chacté. This one has bigger shells around its bark and it has a very red Chulul.

“Hey Miguel,” I said, “Stop there. What is a Chulul?”

“Ohh! Chulul means heart in Mayan. The Chacte’s chulul is very red and its wood is very hard.”

“Look that is a “Bacabché. In this one the trunk is very smooth, it does not grow thorns and its “chulul” is brown,” he said. Then Miguel gets extremely serious and tells me, ”Patron, this is a Chintoc.”

Miguel introduces me to this tree as if it were a person. “This tree is so hard that it breaks axes.”

We slowly continued moving our steps into the forest when we found more than fifty flowers laying on the floor. Miguel tells me those are the flowers of the Piim. That tree has many thorns but its flowers get bees crazy. Then he points to the top and there they are, hundreds of flowers coming out of the branches like a miracle. Then I asked Miguel why bees get so crazy about these flowers. He takes one and asks me to smell it. In that moment I joined the bees as the most incredibly intense and unexpected vanilla essence escapes from the flower.

We moved on and then he points at a tree and tells me, “That’s a Mahahual, this tree’s bark is so thin that we use it for tamales’ wrapping.” Then we walked next to a Tzubim, and Miguel’s experience sadly tells me that this tree has such big thorns that if you step on one you cannot sleep all night long. We walked again next to a Chimmay and then he tells me that it has a very, very hard wood with an extremely brown “chulul” but it compensates those sins with its very beautiful fruits.

He goes on with and describes trees with names such as pomoCHE, bacabCHE, chinCHE, ikiCHE, piniCHE, yaxCHE. Then I asked why most names end with “che.” Well, it means wood. So the beginning describes the type or purpose of wood we Mayans give to a tree. Some are the wood that cures, the wood that hurts, the wood for shelter, the wood for the gods.

While he describes all the trees features, I get close to them, I look and touch them, I start to detect their subtle differences as Miguel tells me what they are used for until we found a “Chechen.” In that moment as I approach to that tree a scared Miguel yells at me to stop. “No patron, do not touch that one! Its bark is highly poisonous, you will get a terrible itch and the swelling will be unbearable.”

As I am impressed by the height of the thousand oaks among their Mayan friends I cannot help asking Miguel, “How come do you know all these trees?” Miguel tells me, “Well, we are all Mayans. The trees and us were born here and for us knowing the trees is like recognize a family member.”

Overwhelmed by the immense variety I end our tour by asking, “And who planted them?”

Miguel, with absolute conviction answers, “God, of course!”

Rodrigo Rodriguez is a human rights and immigration lawyer living in the Yucatan among the Mayans. He is a lover of good music and food, and is always looking to be amazed by nature. Rodrigo is a student here at CUNY SPS working on his Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law.

I’m sure the title sounds frilly and full of smile’s and good stuff but no, you’ve been fooled. This is about the things that I have observed that drive me insane.

I’m friendly to a degree. You approach me or speak to me and I’m polite and social. Otherwise, you’ll likely meet my deadpan, emotionless or cold glare. It’s interesting because I wasn’t always this bad when it came to being social. When I first moved to New York I was still a social butterfly again to a certain degree. I’ve always been particular. In about 5 minutes maybe 10, I usually have people pegged. I’ve either classified you into one of 3 categories—we click, we will never click, and invisible. I have no in between. This is usually a result of my silence, however profiling. Everywhere I go I profile. It’s a habit, it’s innate and I can’t help it.

Being in New York again since childhood from 2008 to present, I still enjoy my space, which we have very little of. If a train is packed, I’m willing to be late to let 4 trains pass me then to plaster myself onto the window or subway surf on the outside. So this morning as I jump onto the elevator, I let one pass so as to not enter a packed one. (I have a morbid theory that if the elevator was stuck, I’d rather be alone than to be packed like a sardine. I think it’s an entirely valid reason, maybe not.)

The moral of the story is, I enter the elevator. Where do I stand? Can you guess? In the most invisible corner humanly possible. Want to guess what happens? Two more people enter and where do they stand in an entirely empty elevator, next to yours truly Suzy sunshine. I move my head and I know my face has taken the puzzled look as I think to myself, why?

Why do people feel the need to stand so relatively close to you when there is clear space, in front and in the middle of the elevator. It drives me insane. My little hamster wheel squeaks with the fury of why? I try to move myself away. I’m blatant about it, because again, why must you stand near me when there is such an obvious amount of space?!

My personal favorite is the packed meat locker called a subway. It’s one thing for the train to be full, it’s another when you think your getting in and your practically riding the platform. You clearly see that there is no space, so where do you seriously think you’re going? I’ve been known to ask people if they’d like to ride my shoulders? Perhaps a piggy back ride? Shouldn’t you at least know my name since you’re so in my space right now? Of course, depending on the mood, there are far less nice things I have said about this.

It’s really just the lack of courtesy that pulls my chain. I am evil to a lot of degrees, yup I admit it and very openly, but I also know how to treat people with dignity and respect. unless your on my dark side…may the force be with you. Blame it on being a double Capricorn, blame it on a self diagnosed personality disorder, whatever it is all I’m saying is it’s really not hard to treat each other just a little bit more courteously and not trample one another.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

 Artist Spotlight with Skematics

This semester we added a different element to ‘Kookin Sol,’ if you were tuned in last semester, we dealt with true music and great production. We also dealt with social justice and the power of our voices in the community. Although these issues still plague our inner cities, we decided to embrace some of the creative voices that are coming together to form a new music community. As a music maker, I see the undeniable dedication that these artists display on a daily basis; therefore we hope to present new music from new artists as we continue to work for equality and justice for all. I sincerely hope that you don’t sleep on this artist series; these artists are the voices of the future.

Our first artist hails from Washington Heights, NYC. He entered the game a few years ago with the single, “Hit Them Hard,” which was ironically produced by yours truly. Skematics went on to write music with industry notables like R.I.P. Sean Price and Saigon. He continues to shine as an underground artist that made the decision to represent good lyrics and quality music. Skematics recently completed his new EP titled, “Somewhere In The Gray” scheduled to be released early this spring. This project is sure to define Skematics voice and should solidify his ability to produce records in a climate where true music is fading quickly. Be sure to support this new project from my guy, the Dominican Dynamite, Skematics, he is no stranger to the kitchen, and is ready to serve the world that recipe he has just created through music.

Featured below is his new song titled, “Feels So Right.” Skematics takes us down a narrative path of a man who wants what he is not supposed to have. With a smooth hook featuring his home girl CrestaStarr, this track displays his maturity as an MC. Self produced; Skematics takes us on a journey reminiscent of the soul classics we grew up on! Also be sure to check out his first single featuring Saigon entitled, “4 Elements,” produced by PF Cuttin. This track lets us know that true hip-hop is still alive!  As a musician, I have witnessed the evolution of Skematics, on this project we got a chance to work together again on a track called “Understand Me.” Of course the creative process was exceptional, but more importantly we both continue to represent music, life, and equality. Do yourself a favor, download this guys new project, “Somewhere In The Gray,” be apart of history in the making. Peace.

click to follow Jeff on Twitter

Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

Elected officials make a lot of decisions that affect students, so we should vote.  We get 4 chances to vote in 2016.  Here’s a little summary of what’s happening.

April 19: New Yorkers will vote in their party primaries for president.  Some of the different parties are Democrat, Republican, Working Families Party, Green Party, Conservative Party, etc..  When people register to vote, they get to select the party they want to be a part of.  Some people do not pick a party.  The registration deadline is March 25th.

June 28: Primary day for all 27 New York members of the United States House of Representatives, including New York State Senator Schumer.  The registration deadline is June 3rd.

September 13: Primaries for all 63 seats of the State Senate and all 150 seats of the State Assembly.  The registration deadline is August 19th.

November 8: President and Vice President of the United States.  The registration deadline is October 14th.

The only way to vote is to be registered.

Find out how to get a job as a poll-worker.

You can get more information by checking out CUNY’s Voice Your Choice website.

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.

To read books like this, I have to be in a certain mood. Just like any other genre, be it mystery, true crime, or forensic psychology related. I knew from the moment I was about 80 pages in, that this was going to require a certain state of mind from me to be able to finish it. So over the past month, in between reading thrillers, etc., I finally finished it.

The book was about a neurosurgeon that was diagnosed with cancer and his journey until his untimely demise. The book offers an interesting perspective into the journey of someone who’s life is cut short by such a serious illness such as cancer. There were a few quotes that stuck with me and a few thoughts that I’d like to share and understand your thoughts.

At the end of it all, what really matters? There came a point where he was diagnosed with cancer, would he return to neurosurgery—his passion? Where would he go? What would he do, and most importantly, what really mattered? I often think about my own demise, what have I accomplished, what have I not, what do I want, and what would I do but my own question of what really matters. Now that I am a mother, I have an Achilles—my daughter. Had I not been a mother the answer would be simple, what matters to me is money and my friends. Now I find that what matters to me is the ability to see my daughter grow and guide her through life. Money is still there, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a sordid affair with money. It is the root of all evil after all and everyone has a price, or at least I’m honest enough to own that I have one.

The book was a good read, again heavy in the content and the reflection and understanding that we all have a counter over our heads, just ticking the minutes and days away. But the takeaway is much larger in scale, because I reminded myself to take more time to myself, more time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, more time to see and be one with nature and the things that I enjoy and love.

So at the end of the day…what really matters to you?

Here are the quotes:

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church. Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

Part 4: Simple & Intuitive, the third principle of Universal Design
by Antonia Levy, Christopher Leydon & Julie Maybee

Simple & Intuitive, the third principle of Universal Design (UD), refers to the use of any product being “easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.” Guidelines for this principle include:

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity;
  • Be consistent with user expectations and intuition;
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills;
  • Arrange information consistent with its importance; and
  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion. 

General design examples for this principle include the moving sidewalks found in airport terminals and other public spaces, or the kind of lavatory faucets that make their operation readily apparent and relatively easy.

Ikea manual

Remember instruction manuals that either use overtly technical terminology or visual instructions that are impossible to follow? Instructional materials would be readily accessible to more people if they take into account the principle of simple and intuitive design, for instance by combining plain language and drawings alongside the text. Avoiding unnecessary complexity and jargon applies to any instructions—including those created by university offices for use by staff, faculty, and students.

The design of our campus facilities should facilitate immediate understanding about the purpose and utilization of each design feature. Moreover, its means of use should be intuitively obvious so that it operates as anticipated by the user who can, therefore, use it spontaneously.

For a faculty perspective this month, we invited Julie E. Maybee, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Lehman College and Adjunct Associate Professor of Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS, who suggests a number of ways to apply this principle to the design of online and hybrid courses in Blackboard (Bb).

To make course navigation more simple, I aim to minimize the number of clicks required for students to figure out what work they need to do each week. I create a folder for each week in a content area on Bb called “Weekly Modules” or “Weekly Folders.” The folder description includes the date range for each week, as well as special due dates (such as for essays, or drafts of the final paper)—hence, the “Weekly Folders” section almost serves as a course calendar as well.

Each of the folders contains all the work the students have to do for that week. Moreover, in the interest of simplicity, each folder has the same structure:

  • An item introduces the week’s topic and study questions or learning outcomes;
  • A list of assignments students have to complete during that week—i.e., what to read, what work to submit, etc.;
  • A list of the week’s readings; and
  • Links, with assignment instructions, to the specific Bb tools students will use to submit their work, e.g. a link to the relevant discussion board (or blog) or to submit an assignment.

Each folder is thus a completely self-contained place where students can go to complete all their work for the week.

screenshot julies course1

There are also a few ways to make the course design more simple and intuitive. For one, providing multiple access points to the same items can help your students to navigate the course site more easily. For example, aside from the links in the Weekly Folders, I provide shortcuts to the discussion board or blog on the course menu for faster access. In addition, I create a link to the “Help with Writing the Final Paper” folder both within the “Assignment Information” section (for students looking for information about the assignment) as well as the “HELP!” section of the course (for students who think in terms of needing help with the paper). In other words, whichever way they might think, students will find a link to the information they are looking for in either place.

Also, limiting the variety of tools you assign is an easy way to simplify the design of your course—for both the instructor and the students. Each feature in Blackboard works a little differently; e.g., replying to a discussion forum is different than commenting on a blog or editing a wiki, and using the assignment tool is different from taking a test. So, instead of trying to use them all, I give similar assignments from week to week, or at least in multiple weeks. For instance, in some of my courses, students do the exact same discussion assignment for weekly readings: students must post four posts to the discussion board, some of which must answer study questions I provide on each of the readings, and some of which must respond to my or other student’s posts.

Making your assignments repetitive also helps to convey your course expectations to students. When an assignment is the same every week, students will find it easier to learn what they are expected to do, and they also have multiple opportunities to learn (and respond to) your expectations for that kind of assignment. If you then grade the discussion every week—preferably by using rubrics, which Blackboard makes fairly easy to do—you will also be providing consistent feedback to students that helps them to understand what these expectations are.

Last but not least, assigning different levels of writing assignments helps to accommodate students with a wider range of literacy and language skills. Since I do not typically grade discussion posts for grammar and style, I use the discussion board as a place where students can write more informally. Short blog/paper assignments can be helpful as a scaffold for the final paper by giving students lower-stakes opportunities to practice skills they will need when completing the more significant assignment later. In my own discussion posts and in grading feedback, I encourage students to provide citations to back their claims, to interpret quotations in their own words, to offer scholarly evidence from the readings for their views, and so on.

These are just a few ideas about some of the ways our courses can be more simple and intuitive—and hence more accessible—for students.

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.



As I write this, I have Microsoft Word open with nothing more than a title on the page. Even the title isn’t sitting well with me. It’s the beginning of a 5-6 page paper due next Friday for which I have a topic, enough background information, and websites for citation purposes. The words are just hard to come by. I’m writing here to vent my frustration with the sometimes overwhelming process of putting thoughts to paper.

In another Word window, I have some sentences down for a project I’m a bit more excited about, though there’s no grade given for that. That’s a personal project. Ideas came to mind, and it was best to write them down. I’ve always dreamed of making a film. Not for fame or fortune because I’m too much of a realist for that, but because it’s the best way I can think of to express some of life’s sensibilities. A diary. I’m not talking about some three hour epic, but something short; 10 minutes, 20 minutes. Maybe several 10-minute sequences over the course of time that add up to feature length. I can post them on a website dedicated to the project. YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram play a part in promotion.

It’s all a struggle. It’s like sometimes your mind just becomes a cloud. The type of cloud with nothing going on inside. No lighting or thunder, no rain or snow. I write, not because I think I’m any good at it (I give myself credit for being pleasantly mediocre), but because it can be very rewarding. Here, I vent my frustration. On another page, an idea comes alive. That’s when I love it. The screen in front of me becomes a form of therapy. Getting started is the hardest part. Then I get started, and the first 500 words become the issue, though once you get into a groove, it can be an infectious feeling. One idea follows another and suddenly you’re several pages in without feeling like you’ve really tried.

What’s the best ending to your story? Forget the story, what’s the best ending to a paragraph? How do I make the simple thought a powerful one? I should let more prolific authors answer those questions. It’s possible the answer isn’t the same for everyone. We each get to a specific point in our thoughts, but go in different directions.

Despite all that, I’ve always been capable of a good paper. Give me a 5 page paper any day of the week over a 50 question multiple choice test. Studying for weeks for a test is arduous at best, excruciating in general. Writing is such an important part of being a student at CUNY SPS. Its helped me view my strengths and weaknesses in equal measure, and with time, improve those deficiencies.

One tip I can give that’s been helpful to me as of late is to find a song, or a type of music you like; something that helps you relax, or puts a smile on your face. Play that music when you write. Not so loud that it’s a distraction, but loud enough so that you feel whatever emotion you’re looking for in the moment. I’d always heard that classical music was a great motivator in the process. I tried it. I liked it. I also find inspiration in a terrific film score. Sometimes it’s dark and creepy, sometimes it’s melancholic, and other times it’s the uplifting sounds that might push you to a place of triumph, so to speak.

Some will use big, thoughtful words, and speak in terms you might not understand. I find as much value in that as someone who just writes what they think in even the simplest of ways. I’ll go back to my open Word windows now and try to piece it together bit by bit. I know it will get done, and done well. It just takes time.

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.


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