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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.

Recently I read an FB status on a friend’s page that asked what a panic attack felt like and I smiled in sympathy. I wanted to reply and describe it, but I didn’t want to take up that much space. I recently experienced my first panic attack.CherylAtwell_Charlie

Now if you’ve been a reader for a while you are wondering, well why did you have a panic attack? Finding out you are the grandmother of a five day old infant can do that to you. Looking back, it’s a really funny story. It was about 8:30 pm on a Friday evening. I was puttering around my kitchen, wine glass in hand, when my eighteen year old son ‘S.’s seventeen year old girlfriend ‘A.’ called me up. We both said ‘hi’. Then she said, “S. said I should talk to you because you give really good advice. He said you gave him good advice about our dog a couple of weeks ago.”

“Sure,” I said, “I love dispensing advice, what’s up?”

A: “So we had this baby right, and I don’t know what to do.”

Me: “A baby what?”

A: “A baby!”

Me: “A puppy?”

A: “No a baby girl.”

Me: “Whose is it? Are you babysitting?”

A: “No, it’s our baby. Me and S. had a baby girl a few days ago.”

Me (sounding very stupid by now): “You and S had a baby girl a few days ago?”

A: “Yes, and I needed some advice from someone on what to do about it and S. wanted me to call you.” Here I think she said something else, but I couldn’t really hear her anymore.

Me: “Ok. Let me call you back. Just stay by the phone and give me a few minutes and I promise I’ll call you right back. In, like, a few minutes.”

Somewhere in the middle of that last sentence is when the panic set in and the attack began. My hand was shaking so hard I could hardly hold the phone. My heart felt like it would beat out of my chest, or be squeezed to a complete stop by the increasing tightness. My throat was closing up and I realized there were tears falling because I felt them scalding my face. Both my son T. and his dad J., my significant other, were staring at me with panicked looks on their faces. I hung up the phone and ran past them to the bathroom. J. followed me in and shut the door.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“S. had a baby girl!” I squeaked. I grabbed his shirt tightly with both hands and burst into loud crying. If he hadn’t been holding me so tightly I think I might have crashed to the floor, I could hardly breathe.

He let me cry for a while and when I finally began to wind down, he said, “You have a right to feel upset and cry, but you need to get it together and call those kids back. Can you imagine how scared they are right now? And they called you for help. Go call her back, and go get the baby if you need to, everything will be fine.” He was right of course and hearing him say it, I started to feel much better and calm down.

I washed my face and then as he walked out of the bathroom, my mother knocked on the door. He let her in and directed her to the bathroom. As soon as I saw her, I burst into tears again, having an ‘I-need-my-mommy-moment.’ And although that lasted all of about 90 seconds, it helped me get an immediate perspective on how it must feel to be a seventeen year old girl with an issue like this and no one to talk to. I told my mom what was going on and she said essentially the same thing J. had. I just felt all the hurt, anger, and disappointment drain out of me to be replaced by something like a steely resolve. I went back to the kitchen (and my wine!) and called A. back and arranged to pick them and the baby up the next morning.

CherylAtwell_KhevShe was with us for a few weeks until her parents got themselves situated. Now I am officially a grandmother to a beautiful baby girl named Charlie. Whew, I said it! I guess I’ll be writing lots of infant articles now, between her and my niece. I can’t wait to pick her up and meet up with my sister and niece to shop for baby girl dresses, shoes, hair bows and pink everything!

Cheryl is a student at CUNY School of Professional Studies and the mother of three boys.  A former office manager, she currently writes a blog about her adventures in parenting called  In her spare time she likes to check out fun new places and things to do with children for her readers. 

Hello friends,

Some of you know already that I volunteered at a Red Cross shelter on Long Island as part of the disaster relief efforts after the Hurricane Sandy (Monday, 10/29/2012). I’d like to share some of these experiences with you. You would hardly believe the pace of work at these places. Every moment is taken up by thinking and acting on a never ending list of items. I’m very glad I did this. I’m back home after almost three days, having taken a Long Island Rail Road train back to Jamaica station and the subway from there. I got to sleep three hours twice in that time. I could have gotten more, but one goes into some kind of adrenaline rush and mostly only sleeps when told to—a few times.

This shelter is located by Farmingville in a high school, and, on my first night there, received 100 clients from another shelter that had closed due to lack of electricity. That brought us up to about 230 in total at the time. The Red Cross (ARC) had prepositioned a container with supplies that Sunday, and we took cots, blankets, and many other useful items from there. Parents and residents from the community kept walking in with bags full of donations: clothes, diapers, soap, toiletries… we had boxes full of toiletry kits prepared by a Girl Scout troop, for example, and food was often donated from businesses nearby. This shelter will probably have to close on Sunday to make room for school starting again Monday, and they did not know where they’d be transferred to when I left. (*update: It did not move that weekend. Things change often.)

While I was there volunteers ran the entire site. Our managers were professionals with years of experience in emergency and disaster relief management, and the volunteers all did what they were best at. In training at the ARC in Manhattan we were told two indispensable things: 1. ‘Be flexible.’ 2. ‘Listen to them. It helps.’ —and it does: So many times our clients just stopped me, and told me their story. One could see their relief to share. I’ll add another, #3: ‘Let people be people.’ With so many quirky characters under one roof, the only thing one could do is just take them for who they were—people in need of help, who needed a place to sleep, food to eat, and a hot shower. Many of them had literally lost everything. Others just couldn’t stay at home for a while, because of a lack of electricity, and often because they were dependent on medical devices needing electricity, like oxygen machines.

I won’t go into detail on some of the bad luck that these folks have had. Needless to say, if one has to go to a shelter, it’s serious.

Because I was rushing almost everything I did, the pictures are somewhat below my usual quality photography.

I was made aware of this need for volunteers by a friend. She forwarded me the information, because I asked and she’s connected to the ARC in Manhattan. I signed up on Tuesday, showed up for training on Wednesday morning ready and packed for three days, as the email had asked, and was in a van with four others out to Long Island that same afternoon.

There’s an ARC coordination center somewhat east of New York from where we were sent to where the need was greatest.  More volunteers from Americorps, Stony Brook University, Jetblue and others arrived on Thursday and brought much needed help to the team, and we finally had enough people to do the work. A bus from the SPCA housing the animals/pets arrived on Thursday as well and the pet owners got to spend time with their animals. Ambulances and paramedics from Ohio and Alabama were kept at the school to provide extra medical coverage, beside the nurse, who was sent home and replaced after 48 hours of straight work. The school’s custodians helped us 24 hours a day with facilities, and police officers kept the peace.

The staff and clients started working together very quickly to manage events like putting together 100 beds. One kid really stood out. He helped like a champion with anything he could. I’ll call him Brian and he celebrated his 16th birthday in that shelter. The school’s custodians found out and got him a cake. The ARC’s policy is to never abandon people, but the goal really is to get people connected to their relatives and back on the way to get back to their lives.

One senior lady was there, because she needed electricity for her medical device (oxygen, in her case), and I often just called her Sweetheart. I was glad to see that she was picked up before I left. There were about 5 babies, 25 kids, and the rest were adults. The kids were kept with their parents/parent in a separate gymnasium in the school, next to the gymnasium housing adults and one of our goals was to create routines, so that everyone had some structure to their time there. If they needed something and we had it, it was theirs.

Ok, I’m exhausted and on my way to a full night’s sleep, after a great, warm, homemade dinner.

This was an amazing and moving experience, and I thanked the ARC that they let me do it. Please consider making a small donation to

Hope you’re all well, and thanks for listening.


Michael Spieth

If you have questions, comment or email, and I’ll fill in whatever I may have forgotten to mention. You can connect with me on LinkedIn with a quick search for my name, as well. Needless to say, these are my views and I don’t speak for the ARC.

Michael Spieth is a graduate of the Advanced Certificate in Project Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.

The following message is posted on behalf of David Mordkofsky, SPS student in the Project Management (PROM 210) course.

Hello SPS Community!

We wanted to let you know that a group of SPS students will be taking part in a worthy event on Oct 21st, and we invite you to join us!

Team Busibodies, David Mordkofsky

As part of a class assignment for Project Management (PROM 210) CUNY School of Professional Studies, our team of 6 students (Ayanna Cassanova, Tenaya Randolph, Jennifer Pagaduan, Marco Vasquez, Debra Daniel-Sealey, and David Mordkofsky), have decided to participate in the 2012 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk/Run, in association with the American Cancer Society. The event will take place on Sunday, October 21st 2012 at 8:30AM in Central Park, NYC.

As part of the course curriculum, we needed to choose a project to manage. Our team decided to take part in a “real” fundraising project where we could help to make a difference in our community, and felt that Making Strides was the perfect choice. We call ourselves Team Busibodies!

Team Busibodies would like to invite you, (CUNY students and facility members) to join us on Oct 21stand walk with us! Friends and family members are also welcome! This is a great opportunity to help support a worthy cause, showing support for CUNY SPS and the American Cancer Society.

Team Busibodies, Ayanna Cassanova

I welcome everyone to visit our team’s home page on the Making Strides website. From here, anyone can view our mission, track our progress, read our personal stories, and make a donation.

There is no cost to walk with us, although we welcome donations, and encourage you to ask your friends and family members to help support you.

We will even provide free Busibodies t-shirts and water (while supplies last).

The Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk/Run starts at 8:30am on Sunday, October 21, 2012.

Here is the detailed information:

1. Meet at 72nd Street and 5th Avenue at 7:30am (on the corner)

2. We will give out T-Shirts (while supplies last).

3. We will walk in together to the start (72nd Street Bandshell)

Directions – 6 train to 77th Street & Lexington Avenue. From there you would need to walk to 72nd & 5th Avenue. This is the closest train to the park entrance.

If you would like more information, please email David Mordkofsky.

Thank you!
Team Busibodies

Team Busibodies, Tenaya Randolph

Why We are Making Strides:

We are participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event because we, along with most people, have been touched or have been affected by breast cancer in some way. As a team, we know that we can, and will make a difference in the fight to end breast cancer.

This cause is personal to us. Some of us have lost loved ones–friends and/or family members–some having not even reached the age we are today.

We look forward to days of better treatments and lasting cures. As a team, we believe we can help get there. We aim to inspire hope, and to help raise awareness. The awareness we hope to bring about deals not only with how important fundraising efforts are in reaching a cure, but also relates to the importance of preventative measures, helping to stop this deadly disease in its tracks.

We are also walking to honor breast cancer survivors, and let them know we stand with them in their fight.

We thank you, and invite you to join us!

Who are We Making Strides For:

We walk for our sons and daughters, parents, grandparents, friends, and all loved ones we know who have been or might be affected by this deadly disease.

Team Busibodies, Jennifer Pagaduan

Why We Support the American Cancer Society:

Today 1 of every 2 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer reaches out to the American Cancer Society for help and support. The donations our team raises will enable investment in groundbreaking breast cancer research, free information and services for women diagnosed with the disease, and access to mammograms for women who need them. Our donations will help more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors celebrate another birthday this year!

Saving lives from breast cancer starts one team, one walker, and one dollar at a time. We know that the American Cancer Society is the leader in the fight to end breast cancer. We know that supporting them will ensure that if you need someone to talk to anytime of the day or night, they’ll be there. If your friend is losing her hair from chemo, your mother needs a ride to treatment or a loved one needs a place to stay when treatment is far from home, they will be there to help.

Please join us and together we will walk for a world without breast cancer.

In less than 4 weeks, I will be standing in Staten Island waiting for the start of the 2012 ING NYC Marathon with great anticipation. This is what I have been working so hard for over the last 5 months. It started with giving up a pack of Marlboro Lights a day and my commitment to fight for my health. Even though 5 months seems like a very long time, it’s almost a blink of an eye compared to the events over the last 2 weeks since my last post, “The Final Countdown.”

On September 29th, I ran with my team at Prospect Park with a brand new pair of running shoes, shoes that I call my “ruby-red-running-slippers.” I had special ordered these shoes in this special red color to match my American Cancer Society DetermiNation blue and red jersey. And special they are! Wearing them for the first time, I did 13.9 miles in them! So, I like to believe they are magical. It was as though I clicked my heels three times and the run was done! (Okay, so maybe not that magical!)

I used these very same running slippers on October 7th for the Staten Island Half-Marathon. It was an extraordinary experience for me. I was overjoyed while I ran. I kept a positive attitude and a steady pace. I was joyful and smiling at the finish! It brought me back to the day I felt as though I was forcing myself to try and fall in love with running. The idea seemed like a fairytale—just as clicking my ruby-red-running-slippers to magically complete a race might sound to you.

The puppy-love I was feeling with running didn’t stop there. I recall how I was emotionally happy but physically beat up after my first 10K race in July. Practice on the following Tuesday was so painful, that I felt like quitting. I fully expected and prepared myself for a tough practice this past Tuesday after doing the Half-Marathon on Sunday. Guess what—that was absolutely not the case. I ran my fastest 5.1 miles ever at 1 hour, 9 minutes and 21 seconds. My first race ever, the “Take Your Base 5-Miler” on June 30th, I clocked at 1 hour, 17 minutes and 48 seconds. Even though it’s exciting, having a personal-record is not everything. To me, it’s more about how I’ve been feeling after my runs. I feel giddy and excited. After Tuesday’s practice, I remember thinking, “That was a GOOD workout!” I never imagined in a million years that I would be excited about how “good” a workout felt.

So, indeed so much has happened in the last 2 weeks. I’ve had somewhat of a personal transformation. I am not getting over-confident though. Next weekend is my last opportunity for a long run before the big day. After this weekend, I begin to taper down on my mileage—while still practicing with shorter runs. I must must MUST hit 16-20 miles this weekend. I missed my target last weekend by 3 miles. But I am a “DetermiNator” and I am up for this challenge no matter how much time I have left to practice!

And while “time” is in the spotlight, I must remind myself—TIME is after all why I am doing this. Whether you are an individual who is fighting cancer, surviving cancer, helping a loved one fight cancer, or remembering a loved one who lost the battle to cancer—we all want time and lasting memories together. The American Cancer Society gives people the greatest gift and their most precious commodity; time.

For more information on my journey to the ING NYC Marathon & fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society, please visit

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

Does anyone remember what the feeling is like when you are on your way to school and you realized that you forgot your homework assignment at home? I had that heavy pit in my stomach last night at practice. A fellow American Cancer Society DetermiNator reminded me that we have just 4 weeks left of training before the big day in just 39 days. Race day will be here before I know it. Am I prepared? Can I do this? I’ll just say it, I am scared!

I hurried to practice yesterday evening straight from work, meeting up with my daughter and my puppy along the way. Pix11 was waiting there to interview me, hear my story, and meet my daughter and dog. As the official media partner for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation athletes for the ING NYC Marathon, they wanted to learn more about me. Who is this Alexandra person? She quit smoking, never worked out before—and now she is running a marathon? (Read: Is she crazy?)

Speaking with Magee Hickey was exciting and motivating. Hearing more about her story made me want to keep pushing and working on my story. I didn’t have a pit in my stomach during the interview—I was overwhelmed with excitement. In the end of the interview, she asked me what my final message would be to anyone hearing my story. I said, “If I can do this, anyone can do this!” I really meant that.

 After my interview with Pix11, practice was already starting and I ran to join my team. It was test night—meaning, we needed to run 3 miles (with a short recovery time between each mile) as fast as we could. During the warm-up, I did a quick mental check.

1 – Hydrated / Fueled? Yes, Check!

2 – Positive attitude? Yes, Check!

3 – Ready to do this? YES! CHECK!!!!

The first mile, I pushed hard—like I was supposed to. During the recovery period, I had pains in my ankles and on the top of my feet. As a result, I had to take it very easy and slow the rest of my run. I recalled my statement to Magee Hickey… “If I can do this, anyone can!”  IF I can do this, anyone can. Ah, and there is that heavy pit in my stomach. I carried that heavy pit in my stomach the rest of my run. Can I do this marathon? I. AM. SCARED.

Fortunately, my dedicated (volunteer) coaches from the American Cancer Society did not leave me stranded with my self-defeating thoughts. Through investigation, discussion and observation, I learned the cause of my discomfort. I learned that I’ve already worn out my first pair of running shoes (seriously?) and that I am not stretching correctly after my runs. What a relief! I can fix that!

I honestly don’t mean to whine about my training. Perhaps I whine or get emotional because I am scared of the unknown. There is always silver lining to every issue, if you are willing to look hard enough. I didn’t have to look that hard for it this time, because I hit a personal record for my fastest mile ever at 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I’ve made vast improvements since my first run. I am stronger. I am training for a marathon. I will finish the marathon! I am doing this for the American Cancer Society so I can help others celebrate more cancer free birthdays… and at the same time, I am fighting for my health.

For more information about my race, please visit my fundraising page at You can also sign up to be an official cheer station volunteer on race day here:

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

Alumni Spotlight
Nelson Franco

The Alumni Spotlight feature highlights one of SPS’s proud graduates. We asked Nelson Franco (B.A. Communication and Culture, Class of 2012) five questions about his experiences before, during, and after SPS.

1. What was your background prior to coming to SPS?

I had only taken one college course back in 1980. The second course was 24 years later (2004). I’ve had no change in career since 2004, but this was not my objective when going after a BA.

2. Why did you choose SPS and your program?

50% of my coursework was done at John Jay. The remaining courses needed to complete a political science degree were difficult to fit into my schedule. While searching for other CUNY colleges, I found SPS. Of course online courses worked perfectly for me, but I did change my major. This ended up being a closer fit to my current career so it turned out to be a double-bonus for me.

3. What is your favorite memory from your time at SPS?

Prior to being this year’s student speaker, my favorite memory was visiting the mosque at Ground Zero for a research project.

4. Are you currently working in your field of study? What are your current career and /or life goals?

My current career as Logistics Manager certainly exposes me to various business cultures around the globe. With my degree in Communications and Culture, this knowledge has certainly widened my tolerance of cultural differences with working others around the world. In addition, new technological tools experienced with my coursework have certainly helped in my current career.

5. Is there a message you want to share with your fellow SPS alumni?

I believe that I could have completed my degree without the help of fellow students’ encouragement and support. However, it certainly would not have been as inspirational and fun. Thanks and congratulations to all!

The CUNY SPS Online B.A. in Communication and Culture offers an interdisciplinary curriculum focused on critical issues related to communications, with special emphasis on new and traditional media. Students examine and evaluate social and organization culture, preparing them to launch or advance their careers in management, media and communications, social services, and international organizations.

Find out more about this and other SPS programs by visiting our website or by attending an in-person information session. The next Online Baccalaureate Info Session will be held Wednesday, September 12th 6-8pm at the CUNY Graduate Center. Click here to register

Recently, I a friend told me that we were moving into the ‘Age of Aquarius” and I should be on the lookout for major positive changes in my life. Only vaguely aware of the concepts behind astrology and the planetary sign under which I was born, I simply laughed her statement away and asked if she really believed in horoscopes and such “super-natural” seeming ideas. This question led to a lengthy debate regarding astrology and inspired me to conduct a bit of research and discover some of the ideas behind the “science of the stars.”

Astrology, or the “science of the stars,” is widely regarded as one of those pseudo-sciences, important in the old days but not nearly as relevant in today’s logical and linear-inclined scientific ideologies. Indeed, the basic principles of astrology are rooted far beyond what can be observed or measured physically; it builds instead on foundations of celestial thought, intuitiveness, and ancient philosophies. For example, as stated by Rob Tillet, published astrologer, “astrology seeks the meaning and application of the influences of the planets, stars and other celestial phenomena in our lives.” Yet, despite the somewhat mystical and spiritual doctrines of astrology, many people are drawn to astrology to determine the significance of various events or even attempt to predict what may next occur.

The science of astrology predates nearly every other science currently in existence today and has been traced as far back as 1645 BC to certain Babylonian civilizations. However, as noted by, “astrology’s origins can also be traced to several other locations and cultures, including Egypt, Greece, and Rome—civilizations whose people developed sophisticated sciences, authored influential astrological texts, or provided counsel based on the stars.” So how is “counsel based on the stars” rendered? Traditionally, astrologers relied on the premise that every human is a spiritual being born under a particular planet and as such is very likely to display certain personality traits, have specific encounters/experiences, or fulfill various obligations depending upon the alignment of their birth planet with the other planets. Astrologers defined which planet an individual was born under by reviewing their birth date and decoding what the position of the sun and the other planets were at that time. For example, as Rob Tillet tells us, “each planet is literally the body and expression of a spiritual being or entity whose job it is to guide the destinies of life-forms on this planet.” Each planet has its own physical representation (i.e. fish, justice scales, ram) which corresponds to a particular month. These symbols are recorded chronologically in a reference chart called the “Zodiac.”

The Zodiac is divided into twelve divisions—also known as houses—each of which corresponds to a planet and of course a sign. For example, the first sign of the Zodiac is Aries (the ram) which is ruled by the planet Mars, followed by Taurus (the bull) ruled by Venus, Gemini (the twins) rules by Mercury, Cancer (the crab) ruled by the Moon, Leo (the lion) ruled by the Sun, Virgo (the Virgin) ruled by Mercury, Libra (the scales) ruled by Venus, Scorpio (the scorpion) ruled by Pluto, Sagittarius (the Archer) ruled by Jupiter, Capricorn (the goat) ruled by Saturn, Aquarius (the Water-bearer) ruled by Uranus, and Pisces (the fish) ruled by Neptune.

Astrologers today rely on the Zodiac chart in much the same way as astrologers of old. For example, comparing a person’s birth date with the alignment of the planets on that particular day not only reveals their sign but it is also said to provide insight as to the person’s future—hence daily horoscopes.

As I conducted my research, I also began to read up on my sign and determine how closely my personality matches the attributes credited to individuals born under the planet Uranus. After learning Aquarians are thought to be, as stated by Michael Thiessen, creator of Astrology Online, “friendly, humanitarian, honest, loyal, original, inventive, independent, and intellectual with tendencies toward unpredictability and contrariness,” it is my thought that my personality traits do closely parallel the ideas of the astrologers. I now flip to the daily horoscope section in the paper to see what astrologers of today are advising me to look out for!

With that being said, I am looking forward to entering the “Age of Aquarius” and encourage everyone to look into their own astrological sign. If nothing else, it will be a fun pursuit and an educational journey!

Works Cited:

Tillet, Rob. How Does Astrology Work? Astrology on the Web, 2012. Web. 7 August 2012. A History of Astrology., 2010. Web. 7 August 2012.

Thiessen, Michael. The Water Carrier. Astrology Online, 2012. Web. 7 August 2012.

I know I could graduate two or more semesters early if only I would take summer classes. But I won’t. Two courses a semester on top of working full-time and trying to have a life (and have some fun!) is too stressful and I need the three-month break from formal education, tests, papers, discussion boards, wikis and required reading. I admire and applaud those that go to school year round and know that we all have different goals, restrictions and time frames.

I spent most of this summer on my self-help project. I realized that I needed to let go of some things, move on with others, change some behaviors, and learn why I keep making some of the same mistakes and how to make better choices. I also needed to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

I did a LOT of reading—blogs, articles, and books. Not all information is good information. In fact, some of it is garbage. However, a little discernment and fact checking can do wonders. A beauty magazine suggested a biotin supplement to improve my soft, splitting nails. Dr. Oz said it was OK. I have been taking it for several months and my nails have improved. Speaking of Dr. Oz, I work in the same complex and happened to be in the elevator with him one morning. He must have been experiencing a bad day, because he was not the same persona as on TV. Excuuuuuse me.

I read all kinds of relationship advice, ranging from carving my initials into the leather seats of someone’s car to reciting the following mantra over and over again: “I’m sorry; please forgive me; I love you; thank you.” Forgiveness of a behavior does not mean acceptance, and it allows the forgiver to find peace and move on. Acknowledging my part in a failed venture and seeking forgiveness for my failures is an important ingredient in recovery. Grudges and holding onto hurts destroy the soul.

I read some excellent books, including one with simple yet creative ideas on how to handle money, a beautifully written but disturbing book about the spiritual, physical, and bureaucratic struggles of inhabitants of a Mumbai slum and a poorly written but “different” trilogy about alternate lifestyles. OK—it was the Fifty Shades of Grey books. The first one was riveting and thought provoking, but the experience became less interesting through book two and turned into a boring, eye-rolling page-turner by the third installment. Part of the problem may have been that I read all three books over a several day marathon. Even though I was number 1,000 something on the New York Public Library e-book list for each book, they happened to become available at the same time and I did not want to have to re-request them and become number 1,000 something again.

I tried some new recipes and made food I enjoy but usually buy prepared or in a restaurant. Hummus did not turn out as good as Sabra’s, but my gazpacho is very tasty (but not as good as Billy’s, the brother of a friend) and my sesame noodles are not bad. Since I had so much leftover fresh ginger from the sesame noodles, I chopped it and added it to boiling water for a few minutes. I ended up with ginger water that tastes great in a tall glass of ice or mixed with tea.

Besides cooking, I took time to enjoy crafts again. I made a few pieces of jewelry, picked up a needlepoint that I hadn’t touched in many years, and will finish (I will finish!) the sweater I started about 10 years ago and left more than half done.

One of the best suggestions I learned on the self-help journey is to expand my social group. Be open to new people, different types of people, other experiences and settings. has a meetup group for any and every interest. Joining a group is free and I now belong to several. I have been on walking tours of lower Manhattan, visited Coney Island and City Island, went out to dinner and brunch, explored my ancestry and did other really interesting things with people I did not know a few months ago. I have old and dear friends, but we don’t have the same interests in everything, the time or the resources. I have made some new friends and I am taking a trip with one of them through our travel meetup group.

I have learned so much through my informal education this summer. I am grateful for everything that has brought me to this point in my life (the good and the bad, because nothing is a mistake if you learn from it) and the sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes with the ongoing and never ending self-discovery process. The journey is as important, if not more important, than the destination.

Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumna of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary created and maintained a community/political blog from 2002 to 2004.

With the start of the Fall 2012 semester this week, those of us who took the summer off are quickly reminded of the juggling we will need to do in order to maintain our family responsibilities and jobs. Schedules need to be re-arranged, social outings declined or cancelled, and sometimes we have to ask others for help. I’ve already had to ask my brother to spend time with Athena, my daughter’s Chihuahua, because we are both keeping long days with work and school, and in my case, training for the marathon too.

Asking for help has become a new talent of mine. It is how I have been able to raise over $2,500 for the American Cancer Society and how reaching the goal of $3,500 is attainable. Since the CUNY School of Professional Studies has an opportunity to fundraise for Komen’s Race for the Cure, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my fundraising secrets that have made “asking for help” a lot easier than it sounds.

Social media has been my number one source for donations. Using Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, LinkedIn and blogging, I make the opportunity available to many potential donors. I engage my audience of friends, family and colleagues by making meaningful posts about my progress, set-backs, victories and challenges. I invite others to comment, share, and get involved. I offer opportunities to support me with either financial support, moral support—or both.

One of the most engaging tools I’ve used is MapMyRun. While running, it tracks me and my friends can watch me live on the app. (Feel free to add me if you use MapMyRun, user name: xahndra.) One of the coolest features with MapMyRun is that when my run is complete, it posts a map and a custom message with my mapped run. I set the program so that it will automatically post to Facebook and Twitter after my run with a link to my fundraising page. My online community sees that I am doing the work and that their funds mean something to me. (It also socially holds me responsible to stick with my program and training days… Win Win!)

I try to think of gimmicks and mini-goals. For example, the hashtag on Twitter, #FF stands for FollowFriday. Many Twitter users actually search for that hashtag to see what fun people to follow on Fridays. Also, people pay attention to the #FF in their Twitter feed. So, I made #FF stand for something else. FUNDRAISING FRIDAY!

Fundraising Friday works best when you have some sort of mini-goal associated with it. For example, a few Frundraising Friday’s ago, I was very close to the 50% mark. I needed just a hundred dollars or so. By the time #FF Fundraising Friday was almost over, I needed just $19.25 to hit 50%. I sent out a tweet and status update requesting that amount and instead I received two more $25 donations pushing me well over 50% of my goal. It’s fun because now some of my teammates are using #FF Fundraising Friday and having success as well. Try using #FF this Friday as a member of the CUNY SPS team for Komen’s Race for the Cure. Let me know if it worked for you too!

In all my tweets and updates through social media, I try to engage others. If I can get a well known handle to retweet me or donate their status update for me, it’s a good day for my awareness. I always tag organizations on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve actually been retweeted by authors, sporting good stores, and the American Cancer Society. When this happens, it’s a great day for my awareness campaign! I’ve even asked for a status updates and tweet donations from my friends and followers. It’s really helped me reach the friends of my friends. In the last 3 months, I’ve actually doubled my number of Twitter followers. This will really help me for the next time around.

Outside of social media, I write bi-monthly email updates to all my contributors, family, friends and colleagues. This keeps them engaged and aware of the huge impact they’ve made in my life and reminds them of the good cause they have contributed to. I write updates to the blog on my fundraising page regularly, reporting my progress and milestones. I’ve held two happy hour fundraisers with friends and colleagues and I plan on doing a bake sale in the office. There really are so many little things that a #CharityRunner could do to raise big money without costing too much time.

So, here’s my personal challenge to the CUNY SPS community. As a team, let’s try to raise some serious cash for the Susan G. Komen #RaceForTheCure! So far we have 17 team members. If each of us raised $100, we would be making a huge impact with $1,700 raised as a team. That’s almost half of what I am raising on my own for the American Cancer Society. Can we do it? I think we can! To join our team and efforts, please visit

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.