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There was once a young girl with a learning disability. She was quiet, socially awkward, and kept to herself but was kind and intelligent. One day a girl in class she liked talked to her for the first time. The young girl was ecstatic. However, the following day that same classmate came up to her and said I hate you and walked away. What is hate? The dictionary says its a tense or passionate dislike of someone. Yet, is that all it is? It’s a way to put someone down, to build confidence, to get your way.

A teenage boy is bullied at school and struggles with his classes. He is always worried and anxious about everything. His ticks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors interfere. His grades drop and he wants to drop out of high school. Yet, he did not quit school due to a single teacher’s devotion to him. He followed his passion. He received his masters and became one of the top employees at his workplace.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

People are not very open about suicidal ideation. It can be embarrassing and shameful for some. People with emotional/mental issues tend to cover up their suffering. They do not want others to see it or be a burden. People will suffer in silence and fight it the best they can. When people are suicidal they hide it, but there are signs. Professionals are always looking for these signs, knowing that right before suicide; people are calm and happy because they know they will no longer suffer. People often misinterpret this calmness and happiness as the person doing better. Unfortunately, by this point it is usually too late.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

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.

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.

I grew up in Metro Manila, a Philippine urban jungle that’s pretty much Westernized, for better or for worse. At the end of October, malls would be decked out in Halloween decor. Private schools would have Halloween parades. Gated communities would have Halloween parties and children with their parents and nannies would go around their subdivision trick-or-treating. Horror movies, both local and international, would play on cable television. Halloween wasn’t for everyone, but everyone was familiar with it.

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Ultraman versus a Kaijuu

I spent my first Halloween in America in Brooklyn—Clinton Hill, to be exact. The community organized family-friendly, outdoor, Halloween-themed shows to accompany the traditional dressing up and candy-giving occasion. The first show I watched was an amalgamation of monsters and horror movie references. While I never did catch the plot, the appearance of Ultraman made up for it. The second show I got to watch twice. It was a mixture of Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and a science lesson on the circulatory system. Its offbeat delivery kept me highly amused. But more than the shows, it was the community that delighted me. Total strangers would laugh and chat with each other. Families would roam the streets together. That sense of togetherness, even if it were just for a few hours, was memorable.

If I were asked to make a comparison between Halloween in the Philippines and Halloween here—we both use this event as an opportunity to comment on the current state of affairs of our respective countries.

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Amazing Halloween decor.

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Scarier than The Addams Family.

Talk about frightening. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Laura is a teaching artist from the Philippines. She is a graduate student in the MA in Applied Theatre Program and is also an Apprentice in the CUNY Creative Arts Team. She enjoys theatre, music, literature, and silliness. This is her first time in the United States. While she finds New York City full of delightful surprises, she has to admit Netflix has made quite an impression on her.

A Sunny Fall Day

October 18th marked my second month in the United States. It feels like I’ve been here longer and I mean this in the best possible way. What’s lovely about being an international student, and one who has never been to America before, is a lot of things are new and exciting. Every moment is an opportunity to learn.

I’m fortunate enough to have experienced the seasons turn from Summer to Fall. Having come from a tropical country, the Philippines, I can’t help but marvel at those who have dealt with cold climates all their lives. I’ve been warned it’s only going to get colder.

While freezing isn’t exactly on top of my “things to do in New York” list, the warmth of the everyone I’ve encountered—from the MA in Applied Theatre Program to the Creative Arts Team and beyond—will last me a lifetime of winters.

I’m excited to be part of this weblog. I look forward to sharing with you my experiences as an international student.

Laura is a teaching artist from the Philippines. She is a graduate student in the MA in Applied Theatre Program and is also an Apprentice in the CUNY Creative Arts Team. She enjoys theatre, music, literature, and silliness. This is her first time in the United States. While she finds New York City full of delightful surprises, she has to admit Netflix has made quite an impression on her.

“She has been convicted. Bail revoked.”

Those are the words I received in an email from a former professor of mine. Anna Stubblefield was convicted of two accounts of rape. The verdict reached my email on Friday at 11:59am.

I know, some people are happy. They think, “A rapist has been put in jail and now Dman and his family can begin to heal.” That statement is the furthest from the truth.

The disability community is in so much emotional pain right now. For myself and so many of the members of the disability community this is history on repeat. Over and over again we are denied rights, are silenced and locked away. All because society has placed us in a figurative box, we can’t be sexual, we’re not worthy of love and we’re not people. Having impairments dehumanizes us according to society. If we can’t speak the way society demands we do, then we’re truly invisible.

Twelve people—a mixture of women and men of many different racial backgrounds, all of them appearing able-bodied, ruined two lives, those of Anna Stubblefield and Dman Johnson. Did they know what they were doing? Yes. They had a different viewpoint though. Those people thought as they sat in the jury room that they had the power to “save the disabled boy,” “make things right” and “serve justice” because, “She should’ve known better than to be sexual with someone physically helpless and mentally defective.”

Let’s take a glimpse at who they really imprisoned. Literally speaking, Stubblefield is sitting behind bars. She’s not serving a life sentence so eventually she’ll be free. Or will she? Stubblefield can never get a job working in any kind of teaching position EVER again. Once she is free, finding a place to live might be difficult, as her name will be added to the sex offender’s list. She’s lost her place in the world. Her name will forever be tainted.

With the guilty verdict also came a second imprisonment: Dman’s. No, he’s not literally behind bars. Instead he’s serving a “life sentence” of being denied independence, his voice and a life of his own. His voice forever silenced by the State of New Jersey. Not once was he allowed to speak during a trial that revolved around him. Instead the prosecution made assumptions. They ASSUMED he was “mentally defective” and “physically helpless.” He will remain forever imprisoned in society’s perception of disability.

As a member of the disability community, I can’t help but feel angry, upset and guilty about the entire situation. I’m angry because it’s 2015 and the state of New Jersey still views disability through a eugenics mindset. To the state, Dman and Stubblefield could never have loved one another. How could they? Stubblefield is able-bodied and Dman is disabled. They still frame love as an emotion that is exclusively open and entitled to able-bodied people. In contrast, people with disabilities are believed to be non sexual—“She can’t have sex, she’s in a wheelchair,” or “He’s too mentally defective to consent to sex or know what is going on.” People with disabilities shouldn’t be sexual or romantically involved with each other or able-bodied people because they’re inferior, simply because society can’t or doesn’t want to process the concept of us having sexual desires or romantic relationships. The moment people realized Dman could be and was sexual was when the relationship between Stubblefield and him was torn apart. This is eugenics era thinking, an outdated way of perceiving disabilities and the people who have them.

I’m also upset because after all that we, as people with disabilities have experienced—sterilization, institutionalization, the fight for civil rights leading to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990—all of these milestones are meaningless if society still views people who use different methods of communication or have “severe physical disabilities” as “mentally defective” and “physically helpless.” The outcome of the Stubblefield case demonstrates that we still have a long way to go as a society in terms of the acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. After the verdict, I’m wondering when and if our society will ever get to that point.

Lastly, I feel guilty. As irony would have it, I received the news of the verdict as I was on my way to a CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD) meeting. We were electing a new E-board and discussing various ways in which we can create change and make the overall CUNY experience better for students with disabilities. How could I think of creating change with and for my fellow disabled CUNY students when Dman was locked in the narrow box of society’s perceptions of disability and the one person who had the chance at helping him gain independence was sitting behind bars? All because they loved and wanted to be with each other? It just didn’t feel right. It still doesn’t. I get to spend time with each person I love and care about while the legal system denies Dman and Stubblefield that same opportunity.

My thoughts and support go out to Dman, Stubblefield, everyone that knows them and the disability community during this very sad and difficult time. If I’ve learned anything from this case, it’s that I need and will continue to advocate for and alongside the disability community, especially for the members of the community who use different forms of communication and are silenced by society. None of them will go unheard.

#freeDman #FreeAnna

Danielle Lucchese is a second year graduate student in CUNY SPS’s MA in Disability Studies program. Born and raised in Staten Island, she moved to Manhattan last year at the start of her CUNY SPS experience. When Danielle’s not hitting the books or writing papers, she enjoys exploring New York City, photography, writing poetry, playing volleyball, reading fantasy novels, listening to music and spending time with family and friends. 

Marcy Lewis graduated from the CUNY School of Professional Studies with a B.A. in Psychology just last week. She shares advice for new students, and talks about how she overcame many obstacles on the way to completing her degree.

Marcy Lewis is a recent graduate from the Psychology program.

1. What was your motivation/inspiration for completing your bachelor’s degree? Why did you choose to continue your education at CUNY SPS?

I have had so many things that have motivated me to complete my bachelor’s degree. Coming from a broken family of low socio-economic status and having my first child when I was very young created a desire for me to show my children that stereotypes do not define who you are or what you can accomplish. I wanted to do better for myself as well as my children and to inspire them that even in hard times you can still achieve your dreams.

I chose CUNY SPS because it offered me the complete package of what I was searching for in a University: flexibility, accreditation, affordability, positive reputation for online programs and a strong background in the academic success rates.

2. What is it like to earn a degree fully online?

Earning a degree online has been a mixture of ease and difficulty. I find that I learn better using this method of instruction yet when speaking with those who attend “traditional” classes it seems there is often a greater work load in online classes. I have found that it is crucial to be somewhat ahead of the game; slacking is just not an option as it will pull you behind faster than you could imagine. It really takes commitment, self-discipline, and structure to stay on top of all of your assignments. Being late can really affect not only your work but the work of the entire class. However, despite these difficulties I would not have taken any other route in getting my degree as it truly was the best fit for me.

3. What is the greatest piece of advice you received while at CUNY SPS?

Many of the professors I had here at CUNY SPS offered a similar piece of advice that I found to be quite crucial throughout my college path; taking care of yourself is vital to not just the body but the mind as well. Being someone with a chronic illness, Multiple Sclerosis, this can be quite difficult but I was able to incorporate much of the knowledge and skills I gained through my studies in increasing my overall wellness. By doing so I was able to significantly decrease the stress of being ill, taking care of a family, and taking a full course load each semester. To me, this was crucial in completing my degree.

4. What advice would you like to extend to someone considering entering the Psychology program at CUNY SPS?

The greatest piece of advice I could offer someone considering entering the Psychology program at CUNY SPS would be to interact as much as possible with your professors and classmates as this is how you will get the most out of your academic journey. Asking questions for clarification or direction as well as checking in regularly and participating in the class or group discussions are all vital in achieving greater learning in the online Psychology program. One of the main focuses I found in my online classes was concept of learning not just from the professors but from fellow classmates as well; we learn from each other and we succeed with each other.

5. In which ways have you grown as a result of your studies at CUNY SPS?

As a result of my studies at CUNY SPS I have grown intellectually through the new knowledge I acquired from professors and classmates. I have grown more confident in my abilities and with myself, not just in a professional manner but in personal matters as well. Most of all, I have learned that living with a disease that I cannot control does not mean I have to succumb to its disruption. It is empowering to know that you can take control over something so destructive and that is something that I do not know if I would have learned had I not continued pursing my education here at CUNY SPS.

6. What does earning a bachelor’s degree mean to you?

To many people earning a bachelor’s degree means a higher salary and greater prestige. Those, after all, were some of the reasons that enticed me to start undergraduate school. However, during my second semester I became ill and everything changed. I could have just quite when my doctor said I was unable to work. Why continue if I will never be able to use a degree? The answer is this; a bachelor’s degree meant so much more to me. It meant showing my children that no matter what life deals you to never give up. It meant keeping faith that maybe I can beat the illness and not let the illness beat me; maybe someday I CAN put it to use. It meant showing those nay-sayers that people can overcome adversity no matter how big or small and to never underestimate the underdog. It meant proving to myself that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.

7. What kind of impact do you think your degree will have on your professional and personal lives?

Having my bachelor’s degree will most definitely have beneficial impacts on my professional and personal life… if I am able to return to work. Before school I was a waitress, working long hours/weekends/holidays, constantly missing out on my children’s lives, living day to day on tips never knowing how much I would make; thankfully, those days are over. A bachelor’s degree in Psychology increases my job prospects in such a wide array of professions. Living in North Carolina I am able to take the needed exams to secure a teaching license or I can opt to work in my chosen field and assist with grief counseling for military families in my area… the options are quite plentiful as a Psychology degree is so versatile and can be beneficial in social work, business management, customer service, education, mental health etc. etc. etc… My degree has also benefited me personally because I have been able to incorporate skills I have gained to help family and friends during difficult times.

8. What do you hope to do after graduation?

After graduation I would like to work on getting stronger both physically and mentally so that I can return to work. I am hoping to either work with children and families in crisis or become teacher at the elementary level. Perhaps one day I will return to school; however, for now I would like to focus on my health and re-entering the work industry. But first I am going to take a little R&R and enjoy life, my family, and yes… the beaches of Coastal North Carolina.

Bonnie L. Johnson is a faculty member in our new BA in Human Relations program. She is a teacher and leader in the areas of multicultural relations and social change. A graduate of NYU and Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College, Johnson has developed and taught courses in African American Women’s History, Black and Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies and Adult Education at several colleges. She has been an adjunct professor with the CUNY School of Professional Studies for more than 8 years, and will teach Foundations of Human Relations in the spring 2015 term. Professor Johnson shares her thoughts on leadership, the student experience, and more.

Professor Bonnie L. Johnson , Human Relations Program CUNY SPS
1. How is your semester going so far? Any major surprises with the launch of the BA in Human Relations program?

Absolutely. The classes are larger than I’m used to. But it’s fun; they’re all good people.

2. Which five qualities should leaders cultivate in order to thrive within today’s work environment?

1) Authenticity; 2) Do what you say you’re going to do; 3) Believe in yourself and in your followers; 4) Honesty; and 5) Have a vision.

3. You seem to have a knack for being on camera. Have you always been this poised and confident?

No. I’m actually very shy, although students would disagree with that. When I’m in front of a classroom I’m in charge and I guess that comes through on camera, too. I like what I do. I’m a teacher. That’s who I am.

4. What’s coming up for you on the professional front?

I’m getting ready to teach winter session, which, phew, I don’t know. A three-credit course in three weeks. It’s a lot to do, but I’m looking forward to it. I like a challenge.

Professor Johnson also shares some fun facts about her life.

1. Favorite article of fall clothing: A sweatshirt.

2. Best song to listen to after a long day: Anything by Aretha Franklin. I just downloaded her new album where she covers Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

3. What you’re reading right now: My textbooks. Oh, and Fire Shut Up in My Bones. It’s brilliant.

4. Your claim to fame family recipe: Black eyed peas. With ham.

5. Last time you laughed so hard you cried: In class this semester. I was teaching Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting with the physiological needs—things you need in your life to survive. So I went around the classroom and asked my students what they think belongs in that category, and one of them said: “Sex. People say you can die if you go without having sex for a long period of time.”

Thanks, Professor Johnson!

We’ll go and pick up a copy of Fire Shut Up in My Bones this weekend.

Brenda Burns is a current student in our new BA in Human Relations degree program. Read about her experiences here at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

Brenda Burns, current student in CUNY SPS BA Human Relations program

1. Why did you choose to continue your education at CUNY SPS?

I continued my education at CUNY SPS because they offered the new B.A. program in Human Relations.

2. What is the single most important professional or personal goal that you would like to achieve during your studies at CUNY SPS or after graduation?

My goal during or after graduation is to be a guidance counselor in a school or a counselor in another organization helping children.

3. How have you grown intellectually as a result of your studies at CUNY SPS?

I have definitely have grown intellectually more than I could have imagined as a result of enrolling with CUNY SPS. I’m forever grateful for all that I’ve learn in the courses that I have taken.

4. What advice would you offer to someone considering applying for admission to the program?

I’ve already given advice to a co-worker that the setting at CUNY SPS is like a family, and any help she might need someone is always available to assist her. Also, I told a co-worker that the courses given are excellent for my professional development as your personal life. She is now enrolled for her second semester and loves it. She thanks me all the time for recommending CUNY SPS.

Brenda also shared some fun facts about her life.

1. Place of residence: Far Rockaway Beach. I worked in the city for 29 years so the travel is not a problem. I love the city.

2. Favorite CUNY SPS course: I can’t say I have a favorite course because they all have something different to bring to the table. However, I can say I lean toward courses that help me understand teaching  children because I work with the DOE

3. Weirdest place you have studied: On the train. Other than that I’m usually studying at home or at work during my lunch break. I can’t study with music on it’s a distraction to me.

5. Best thing about your community or NYC: The diversity of people and all that it has to offerBroadway theaters, Times Square, restaurants, land marks such as the statue of liberty and empire state building and living across the street from the beach.

Thanks, Brenda!

We wish you continued success with your studies this semester.