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What do you call a busy adult with masochistic tendencies? A student at CUNY SPS! Now that I have your attention… Hello! My name is Milan Fredricks and I am one of the newest masochists at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you a bit about me…

Nine years ago, I was pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree at CUNY Lehman College, having successfully completed three semesters. It was difficult because I was juggling work and family issues, but finishing my degree had always been a priority for me. Then, in 2008, everything came to a head. I became unemployed and those family issues imploded. My focus was shot and my fire was snuffed out. I missed lectures, didn’t show up for labs, and was generally “not all there” when it came to my classes. By the time mid-terms rolled around I had to admit to myself that this wasn’t working, and so I made the painful but necessary decision to drop out of Lehman.

But even then, in the midst of my unhappiness, I swore to myself “this is only temporary!” I figured that I would find another job quickly, work through my family drama and get back to school as quickly as possible. In hindsight, that was a bit naive of me. 2008 was the recession and the worst possible time to lose my job. For the next three and a half years, I experienced chronic unemployment, and the stress of constantly looking for work severely dampened that initial enthusiasm of returning to school. Worrying about my family, worrying about whether I would make rent that month, and suffering from insomnia and mild depression made school my last priority. I never forgot about the promise that I made to myself, but when faced with the possibility of homelessness and the stress of family turmoil, the importance of finishing my degree simply paled in comparison. Finishing my degree was out and basic survival was in.

Nine years later it’s hard to believe that I lost so much time. But the more time that passed, the easier it was to forget that promise. I think I was humbled by my bad experience and viewed finishing my degree as more of a luxury that I couldn’t afford. Even when things on the work front started to stabilize and the family stuff got resolved (somewhat), I still found it difficult to get back on track regarding my college career. It was fear more than anything else, now that I look back. I just didn’t want to take that risk. I was scared to rock the boat. But a few months ago, things changed for me. A light-bulb went on somewhere deep in the cob-webbed recesses of my brain and I decided to renew that promise to myself.

Today, I am a far cry from where I was nine years ago. My family and work circumstances have vastly improved. I am happily employed with an organization that I am proud to work for and 18 months ago I was promoted to a senior administrative position. In my new role, I get to work on projects that allow me to flex my creative muscles. Most notably is the website re-launch project that I managed and the marketing and branding initiative that a co-worker and I plan to propose. The more creative work I get to do, the more I’m pulled to the visual and the graphic. Design and communications have grown into a passion for me and I started teaching myself how to use creative tools, like the Adobe Creative Suite, in the hopes of improving my skills and broadening my repertoire. I am really interested in learning more about UI/UX design and I even enrolled in a course to learn more about full-stack web development! (Just enough to not embarrass myself.)

My educational journey has come full circle. The pain and shame I felt in abandoning my degree is lessened when I realize that, perhaps, that awful time was actually a blessing in disguise. I wasn’t as passionate about what I was doing back then as I should have been and that may be why I was able to walk away. I am now pursuing a degree that I am truly excited about. The CUNY SPS B.A. in Communication and Media degree will give me the foundation I need to jump-start the career I am falling in love with, one that emphasizes design.

But don’t think that I’m satisfied with just achieving my B.A. I plan to ride this new wave of energy and excitement all the way to my Master’s degree! I know that it will be hard. I mean, I’m only two courses into my first semester and I am still trying to shake off those cobwebs. But I’m getting there. That first step was definitely my hardest so everything else after that is within reach. A CUNY SPS degree is my gateway to the life that I want and the life that I deserve. Years of stagnation and regret have evolved into my renaissance age. With my degree and continued self-learning, I can see into my future. A future that has been nine years in the making.

Milan Fredricks is a born and bred New Yawker, a self-professed tech nerd, self-taught web and graphic design freak and lover of puppies and ice cream (Häagen-Dazs, none of that Turkey Hill garbage, and do not argue with her on that!). Her very large, immediate family drives her to the brink of insanity almost everyday but at least it gives her something to tell her therapist! Milan is currently enrolled in the Communication and Media bachelor’s degree program here at CUNY SPS.

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Humility is a valuable characteristic in many situations, and an office environment is no exception.

If you were hired by an office, it is likely because you had some skills or knowledge relevant to the work. It is good to be confident about your qualifications, but the key is to keep your confidence in check.

You may think you know a lot about a topic, or the right way to do a procedure, or the complete history of your industry. Unfortunately, that mindset will limit your growth. Instead, approach every situation as a learning opportunity even if it is something you have already seen 100 times.

Blogger Armenoush Aslanian-Persico

A know-it-all attitude will also inhibit your relationships with your colleagues, superiors and even subordinates. If your coworkers feel you are being condescending, dismissive, or insensitive, they will clam up, and the channels of communication will be closed off. Instead, give your coworkers a chance to be heard, and they will feel valued and will want to talk to you more. People like to participate in the conversation and process. People like to teach and tell you their stories—let them.

Even if you are an expert in your field, approach every person in your office as if you have something to learn from them, because you do. Perhaps you won’t learn a technical skill from them, but you can learn about their experiences and history. Being humble in interactions will benefit your career, as the knowledge you gain from others will help you make smarter decisions in the future. It will also help you develop your social and emotional intelligence. Finally, humility will benefit your entire office by encouraging positive growth, openness, and collaboration.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

Respect is the grease that turns the gears of the workplace.

In some offices, workers respect the boss but the bosses don’t respect their employees. In other offices, some groups of workers are given respect while others are not. In a productive office, respect flows freely, from top to bottom, bottom to top, and laterally across colleagues.

Respect is a tricky currency. It can be gained simply through authority. However, the most enduring respect is earned. To earn respect, you must first give respect. This is not an overnight process. It can take many tries and many years. It can take many small gestures. It can also be thankless, with no guaranteed result. Even so, there is a good chance that showing respect will improve your career trajectory.

The Berenstain Bears

Here are some tips to respecting your colleagues:

  • Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
  • Exercise sympathy. Keep in mind that you are seeing only the cover of the book. You do not know that person’s history. You do not know the struggles they have endured to get to where they are. You do not know if they are experiencing personal or family hardships.
  • Be realistic. Some people are already doing the best they can. If you feel you are dismissing people because they do not meet your standards, consider that they may want to help you, but are not able to due to their abilities.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. If you feel the need to disrespect somebody because they disrespected you first, remember that this cycle will lead to nowhere good. You cannot dig yourself out of a hole by digging deeper.
  • Think of your future. People who you might have conflicts with today could become your best friends a year from now. Approach people in a way that will not burn your bridges.

Finally, despite the title of this post, hate is not a constructive emotion. Work to remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary. Find alternatives to your negative thoughts. Over time, this can improve how you connect to those around you.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

Do you hate your job?

Many people answer yes. Some people say no and instead tell you how much they love their job. Regardless of the answer, the financial reality for most of us is that we need to work.

When people talk about how their job angers or frustrates them, they are rarely talking about their actual work. Rather, they complain about their colleagues, about rude conversations, about being confronted, slighted, bypassed, embarrassed, and humiliated. The greatest challenges at work are rarely about mastering the material. Rather, they are about mastering relationships.

Over these next few posts I hope to share some lessons I have learned from workplace interactions. We all have these stories. By sharing and reviewing our mistakes, we can improve not just our lives, but the lives around us, and the culture of our workplaces. Taking a thoughtful approach to a difficult situation can mean the difference between hating your job and loving it.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

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.

In 2002, the Boston Globe released a series of investigative articles covering the widespread pedophilia and subsequent cover-ups within the Catholic archdiocese of Boston. The investigation led to a Pulitzer Prize for the Globe and the conviction and sentencing to prison of several priests in the Boston area.

Now that you have a background, you should know something about the movie: it’s excellent. Spotlight, named for the investigative unit of the Globe (the oldest of its kind in the U.S.), is an affecting, impressively directed and acted drama that cares more about the possibly unsexy “how we got here.” The job of a journalist can be a tedious one. These stories don’t come together overnight. It takes weeks, months, sometimes years of hard work to tell the right story. Spotlight plays as something of importance, but also as a sort of love-letter to investigative journalism.

One of the year’s best films, surely a front-runner for Best Picture, Spotlight embraces the power of the press for good; it pits two of Boston’s most known institutions, the Catholic church, and the Boston Globe against each other. As stated in the movie, 53% of the Globes readers are Catholic. Boston is a town made up of many Irish-Catholics. How will they react to such a story? There is also an ethical line to be drawn in regards to the feelings and privacy of those abused. In one case, a father of three tells that not even his wife knows of his childhood of abuse.

The film itself is not a takedown of the Catholic church. Writer/director Tom McCarthy allows the facts to speak for themselves as well as giving the audience the opportunity to make decisions based on those facts. Instead of showing us the abuse, he allows the actors portraying the abused convey the emotions. It’s often true in horror films that the threat of the violence is more scary than the actual violence. Same rule applies. There’s a lot to be said for subtlety and restraint, something McCarthy proves himself completely capable of here. It made him the perfect director for such a film.

The superb cast of writers and editors (played wonderfully by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and John Slattery) put together the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle just waiting for its conclusion. Comparisons in genre to All The President’s Men and Citizen Kane—the standard bearers for newspaper films—are inevitable.

Spotlight celebrates the standard of integrity each journalist should hold themselves to. In the world of Twitter (shamelessly plugged without pay by me at the jump) where attention spans are at a low, and clickbait is at a premium, the care and effort that went into the piece leaves me with a sense of gratitude. It feels true to form that in the end, the job goes on. As one conflict simmers, another one brews. Sadly, there will always be a scandal to be uncovered. We should be hopeful, whether it’s print, online, or otherwise that it’s investigated and reported as thoroughly and honestly as it is here.

Spotlight: 3.5/4

Tweet me @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.

The power of positive thinking; if you can believe it, you can achieve it; walk by faith, not by sight; what you think about, you bring about; keep your eyes on the prize… All these sayings and mantras are what millions of people repeat and live by every day.

All stem from the law of attraction.

The law of attraction has become a big part of my daily life. I am in the process of changing my thinking to be more in line with the law of attraction. Over the past recent years, we have been inundated with information regarding the law of attraction via various books and movies. I always thought it was just some self-help bull so I didn’t stop to listen, but I’m listening now!

The law of attraction is very powerful yet very simple. It can be described with so many different words, but my favorite words to describe it are:

VISUALIZATION BRINGS MATERIALIZATION

What that means is that if you visualize something enough you will bring it to fruition; you will bring your visions into reality.

Even before I was aware of this law, it happened to me. In the past, I’ve thought about something so much that it manifested into reality; good and bad things.

Now with this knowledge, I try my best not to dwell on my fears and things that I DON’T want because those very things will come about. Now, I dwell on the end result, the things that I do want.

It is a struggle at times because when things go wrong it’s easy to slip back into a negative thought pattern. Being more conscious of my thoughts, and what triggers my fears and negative thoughts has helped tremendously. When I find myself emitting negative thoughts about a certain situation, I immediately fight it off by thinking of something that makes me happy, like shopping or driving that new Range Rover that I have posted on my vision board.

What are your thoughts on the law of attraction?

Martine Chevry received her B.A. in Communication and Culture from the CUNY School of Professional Studies in June 2011. She currently works as an Assistant Editor and lives in Queens, New York. She is a devoted mom, daughter and girlfriend, as well as an up and coming indie writer. She enjoys kickboxing, shopping, reading, writing and her guilty pleasure is reality television.

2011 is behind us and now we’ve embarked on a new year, 2012.

Last year was a pretty good year, especially for me in academia.  As many students can attest, the beginning of a new semester can bring with it, new challenges, fresh perspectives and even elevated stresses.

In my experience, as a mom, full-time employee and part-time online student – organization is key.  (Notice how I rated all of my responsibilities).

First, before registration begins, I discuss my registration options with my academic advisor.  Who in my view, is a pretty awesome lady!  I know sometimes we feel that we’re capable of doing the basic things on our own such as applying to the classes of our choice – but in order to fully take advantage of your highest potential,  it’s always a good practice to seek out help from an advisor who can view your strengths and weaknesses before making a recommendation.

This tactic proved to be very successful thus far.  And while I can’t say there weren’t times when I wanted to give up, my adviser was there to lead me in the right direction.

Second, communication is vital.  Communication is a means by which two or more people interact.  If you find there’s trouble lurking or that you’re not quite sure how to get an assignment completed, talk to your professor – they’re the first point of contact.  The staff at SPS are truly great at responding to the needs of their students.  Being an adult can  sometimes make you feel like you shouldn’t ask for help.  Well, I couldn’t disagree more.

That’s the whole point of communicating!

At times home life, work and school can wear on you as an individual. But the way to come out on top is to ask for help when it is needed.  I’ve also found that communicating with classmates has proven to be fruitful.  For the past two semesters, I’ve met some really nice people on blackboard.

Third, networking is essential.  Find at least one classmate in every class that you stay in contact with, in case you’re unable to attend class or have to travel for work or family related issues.  This can serve as a backup plan.  Remember, we’re adults and should be able manage our schedules accordingly.  (Especially since we do it for our children and jobs)!

Don’t neglect your responsibilities.

Fourth, stay on track with all assignments.  Again, this is as essential as any other item I’ve listed.  Staying on track with assignments will keep you focused and also help you to remain in sync with quizzes, tests and projects, to which a portion of your final grade can/will be affected.  I’ve found, when I see myself falling behind, I remain in contact with my professor.   Look things happen, this isn’t a perfect world we live in.  It’s the professors decision to delay or extend a due date.  At most, they’re willing to help to if you keep them abreast of the issues.  If that isn’t feasible, ask your professor if they’re assigning extra credit.  I recommend all students take advantage of these extra points, since you never know what may happen down the road.

Points do add up!

Your experience is what you make it. Get ready, get set, and go!