One Week Out

Junior Thomas Gelo will bring to life the view of a foreign culture from the eyes of a study abroad student through the medium of an Avant Garde film. Read the rest of his journey on his blog site http://tomgelo.wordpress.com/

I’m just six days away from my flight to London.

At this point I’m still not sure what this film is going to evolve into.  Ideas I hope to explore are:

-British perceptions of Americans.

-The human constructs of borders versus free will and a inherent ownership of the Earth.

-Cultural discomfort and dissonance.

I’m excited to know that my good friend Rachel Wilson will be joining me filming her own documentary on the British music scene.  I hope we can bounce ideas off of each other.  In the next week, it’s time to crack down and make sure I have all of my equipment in order.  Check out the details.

I’ve decided to shoot this film in 720p HD, at a frame rate of 60fps.  For a while I was debating this format versus full 1080p HD at 30fps, but settled on 720p for it’s higher frame rate.  This’ll pull in a crisper image especially when the camera’s on the move, and will give me more flexibility with time shifting in the editing room.  Since the majority of my shooting will be in natural light, I don’t expect exposure to be an issue.

My Gear:

I plan to shoot on the Canon Rebel T2i- a great travel camera as it is compact, supports full HD, and has several features of a higher end camera.

Your typical stock Canon Lens, nothing special here.

Your typical stock Canon 18-55mm Lens, nothing special here.

A Canon 75-300mm Telephoto Lens provides nice distance or a boost in perspective for landscape shots.

A Canon 75-300mm Telephoto Lens provides nice distance or a boost in perspective for landscape shots.

I picked up this Wide Angle lens converter on Amazon.  This Lens adapter will be perfect for capturing vast European architecture.

I picked up this Wide Angle lens converter on Amazon. This Lens adapter will be perfect for capturing vast European architecture.

Before Wide Angle Adapter

Before Wide Angle Adapter

After Wide Angle Adaptor

After Wide Angle Adaptor

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White Girl

For her Engaged Learning project junior Lauren Mishoe will create a mixed-media solo performance as a result of her time abroad studying female empowerment of the Maori people in New Zealand. Read all of Lauren’s blog posts on her blog site http://laurenmishoe.wordpress.com./

An 11 hour plane ride almost erases the idea of distance. Initially only the multitude of unfamiliar trees made me feel as though I were carrying a small terrier in a wicker basket and wearing ruby slippers: I weren’t in Texas anymore. The first two weeks of living in Auckland were full of adjusting, adapting, and maneuvering myself to appear as invisible and unassuming as possible. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable testing the waters of a new culture could be. Luckily for me, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and it was easy to blend in within the surprisingly international crowd. Eventually, as I familiarized myself with the layout of the city and formed friendships with those living with me, I felt I had a right to own the space I occupied.

Like your last hairpin inhaled into the vacuum, the feeling of validity vanished when I walked into my first class at University: Intro to Pacific Studies. I immediately realized, for one of the handful of times in my life, I was a racial minority in this space of 170+ people. I also realized  I had never spoken to anyone of Pacific Island ethnicity before. At this point, I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable, I simply noticed it. I gravitated toward a group of American students I knew from orientation week. The warm, smiling professor introduced himself and proceeded to discuss typical “welcome to class this is what we’re covering” type topics. As I was listening and taking down some notes, the prof. mumbled a joke in Samoan (I think) to which the class roared with laughter. I was startled by the energetic response and looked around to see everyone around me, save the 4 or 5 American students beside me, was rolling with laughter. I awkwardly laughed along. I laughed for the fact I had no clue what just happened, for the fact that none of my friends did either – but mostly I laughed because at that moment I felt so different and small that I wanted to jump on a bald eagle and fly back to Texas right then and there.

An overreaction? Probably. The regret for leaving my comfort zone was fleeting. It was only for the duration of the laughter  that I continued to dwell on my insecurity. I’ve since made many friends from all over the world, a few of them I met in Intro to Pacific Studies. But this whole event got me asking some hard questions of myself.

Why did I notice, the moment I walked in, that I was ethnically different from everyone else? What does it mean that this made me feel uncomfortable? What’s up with this human craving to fit in? Did everyone else notice I was different too?

Does all of this make me racist? … What does it mean to be “racist”?

The woman on the left side of the coat of arms...
The woman on the left side of the coat of arms of New Zealand is Zealandia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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SMU at the Clinton Global Initiative University

Last weekend, I travelled to St. Louis with five other SMU students to take part in the annual Clinton Global Initiative University. CGI U, hosted by President Bill Clinton, is a meeting that invites students from over 300 universities and 75 countries to examine pressing issues and learn from renowned public figures. The conference, which was held at Washington University in St. Louis, examined several issues including environment and climate change, education, peace and human rights, public health, and poverty alleviation. The meeting featured several notables, such as Muhammad Yunus and Stephen Colbert. I had the opportunity of representing SMU at the conference with five other students- Rahfin Faruk, Daiskuke Takeda, Timm Wooten, Josh Bakarich, and Chibundu Nnake. My commitment, which fell under the Peace and Human Rights section, involves The Nari Kit. The Nari kit is a transitional crisis kit that provides battered women with basic necessities as they transition from critical situations to a secure environment. Rahfin and Daisuke represented their organization, Green Riba, which is dedicated to delivering zero-interest loans to entrepreneurs in Dallas. Timm and Joshua represented Props Social Ventures, which gives DFW entrepreneurs the chance to jumpstart their business with student-operated microloans. Chibundu provides students in North Memphis with after school tutoring and mentoring to help guide them from middle school to high school and then through college and beyond. With over 1000 students from all over the world in attendance, the conference was an unparalleled experience.

SMU students at CGI U

SMU students at CGI U

The conference included several sessions that focused on the primary issues of conversation. One of the first sessions, called “Getting off the Ground: Stories of Starting Up”, featured a panel of innovators who shared their insights and experiences of launching their own businesses. Speakers at this panel included Chelsea Clinton, Mark S. Wrighton, President Bill Clinton, Kenneth Cole, Jack Dorsey, William Kamkwamba, and Zainab Salbi. The panel of entrepreneurs spoke on how young innovators should accept preliminary failures as part of the process of getting started and shared lessons they learnt from their own experiences. President Clinton made an interesting point when he stated, “your commitments say a lot about what you care about and what kind of world you want to live in”. Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, explained that “the way to implement our imagination is to believe in ourselves and believe that we can do it”.

Opening Plenary Session

Opening Plenary Session

The second session, titled “A Better Future for Girls and Women: Empowering the Next Generation”, featured public figures who discussed ways that today’s youth can support women and girls in having a brighter future. The panelists spoke on how students can work to empower girls and women. Speakers included Chelsea Clinton, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, Hawa Abdi Diblawe, Stephen J. Felice, and Muhammad Yunus. Shabana Basij-Rasikh explained that “it really takes persistence, patience and the belief that you can do something”. Dr. Yunus pointed out that “the power of technology can go far beyond what it was intended for. Technology can transform everything”.

A Better Future for Girls & Women

A Better Future for Girls & Women

I also attended a working session, titled “The Human Rights Information Revolution”, which was part of the Peace and Human Rights section. The speakers included Sarah Kendzior, Sabrina Hersi Issa, Emily Jacobi, and Alec Ross. The panelists spoke on digital human rights activism and increasing Internet access all over the world. The panel examined how the Internet can be a tool for human rights, as well as a human right. Alec Ross stated, “any of you can leverage your social and mobile networks to raise a lot of capital for your campaigns”. The last plenary session, which was called “Solutions without Borders: Working with Unlikely Allies”, examined the necessity for collaboration. Speakers for this panel included Bill Bishop, Will Allen, Claire McCaskill, Sara Minkara, and Brendan Tuohey. The panelists spoke on how to form effective partnerships, and the significance of cooperation over conflict. Senator McCaskill said, “I know you’re all going to be the shining stars leading this country”. I attended another working session called “Modern Day Slavery: How do we end human trafficking?”. The panel featured Alex Wagner, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jeannette Richardson-Baars, and Dan Viederman. The panelists spoke on the major issues related to trafficking and how CGI U representatives can support the fight against trafficking. Jada Pinkett-Smith spoke about the new Be Safe application that she is involved with, and stated, “we’re hoping the Be Safe app will become the new 911”.

Human Trafficking lecture

Human Trafficking lecture

The closing conversation was certainly the highlight of the night- with speakers President Bill Clinton and Stephen Colbert. Colbert’s talk doubled as a taping for his show, and the excitement in the room was beyond palpable. The closing conversation added a light-hearted touch to the conference, reminding students that commitments should be exciting. President Clinton explained, “we’re all tied together. We live in an interdependent world”. When asked about CGI U, President Clinton said, “the great thing about Clinton Global is that it has created a global network for giving”. After the closing conversation, I headed to office hours with Gary White, co-founder of water.org. White spoke on the initial struggles of his now famed non-profit venture, and gave us advice on how we can utilize resources around us to bring our commitments to fruition. After office hours, I made my way to a working session with Chelsea Clinton for Women and Girls related commitments. The working session not only served as an avenue to network with like-minded students, but also gave us insight on how we can continue working to support women and girls. The weekend concluded with a service project with Gateway STEM High School. The morning kicked off with a talk from President Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and the principal, Dr. Beth Bender, who all spoke on the importance of giving back. CGI U students worked on various restorative projects around the school. President Clinton closed out the weekend saying, “If you want a future of shared prosperity, everyone has got to be a part of it”.

Closing Conversation

Closing Conversation

CGI U was certainly an unparalleled experience. From the valuable connections I made to hearing the inspiring words of today’s leaders, I came back from CGI U more inspired than ever. CGI U isn’t just a place to discuss ideas, it’s a place where today’s youth takes concrete steps towards creating a better future.

 

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Preparing for Clinton Global Initiative University Annual Meeting

An update from Ashley Wali, a sophomore studying Finance and Fashion Media who is researching the effectiveness of a transitional crisis kit for domestic abuse victims.  

Last summer, I embarked on one of the most inspirational experiences of my life. When I first boarded the plane in a confused daze, I had no idea that what started as a simple idea would quickly become a way to change lives.

 I was accepted into the Engaged Learning program during my freshman year. I created the concept of the Nari Kit, a transitional kit that would aid a domestic abuse victim while transitioning from a critical situation to a place of safety. My mentor, Dr. Rick Halperin, told me one afternoon that I was “sitting on a gold mine of assistance”. I wrote up a proposal, and was the only freshman to receive the grant. I traveled to Bangladesh the summer after my freshman year to start the Nari Project. The kit contained a copy of the Declaration of Human Rights in Bengali, a sari, toothpaste, a toothbrush, hair oil, a towel, a package of food, and 500 takas. As women suffering from domestic abuse came through the forum, I distributed the Nari Kits. The sweltering weather and culture shock may have been challenging, but the experience was beyond rewarding. I remember one woman in particular. She had suffered extensive abuse from both her husband and her in-laws, and was estranged from her child. As soon as I handed her my kit, she looked inside and immediately had tears in her eyes. She gave me one of the most sincere hugs I have ever received, gave me her blessings, and told me how the kit made things so much better for her. It was one of the most heart-warming and inspiring moments I have ever experienced.

 My research didn’t stop there. I followed up after I returned, and found that my kits were very well received. During the initial stages of my project, an advisor told me that my project had the potential to help women all over the world. Since I had worked in a developing country, I thought it would be interesting to carry out similar efforts in a developed country. This is where CGI U comes in.

 The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) connects the next generation of leaders with a similar model of the Clinton Global Initiative. CGI U is not only an excellent way to learn from some of the most inspirational leaders in the world, but also meet and network with like-minded students. I have the amazing opportunity to travel with some of the brightest students from SMU to St. Louis this weekend to attend the sixth annual CGI U meeting. Each student must develop a commitment to action, which is essentially a plan of action concerning a pressing issue in the world. My commitment is to extend the Nari Project to Dallas. I am partnering with Genesis Women’s Shelter, and researching the effectiveness of the kit in the outreach program and the shelter.

 The name of my project, The Nari Project, comes from the word ‘Nari’ in Sanskrit, which means woman. While violence is a widespread issue, the amount of abuse women face is staggering. My mission is quite simply to help as many women as I can.

 

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No Easy Task!

As I sit here starring at my laptop screen, I know I have entered a long and challenging journey into the world of research. While I am no blogger, I hope to share my Unbridled Project experience with you, conducting research on student organizations at SMU. I will be studying the adverse affects of annual leadership change found in student organizations and will then try to create a training program that can address these factors.

As a Business Management and Psychology double major this project is right up my allie. Additionally, student involvement has also been a large part of my college experience and therefore, combining all three aspects has resulted in my current Unbridled Project. In fact, from my experience as a student leader, I have noticed three main adverse effects of annual leadership change that I would like to primarily address in this study. First, I believe that student organizations do not do a good job of clarifying expectations and position descriptions to their new members. When students accept a leadership position in a student organization, they are expected to become accustomed to the group culture and understand their responsibilities with little direction. Even when team members are very supportive, it can take a student leader anywhere from two to four months to reach his or her full potential. Second, annual leadership turnover also requires essential information turnover. Moving forward from year to year, many student organizations lack continuity in vision and annual feedback, leaving the new management to learn from their own mistakes and create a new vision rather than refining and developing the previous one. Lastly, organizations sometimes carry over unhealthy habits that create unsuccessful organizational cultures. In most cases, much of the new leadership in student organizations is comprised of existing members who have chosen to pursue a new role in that group. Therefore, students tend to carry over unhealthy habits such as picking up slack for other members in an organization where students are told to take accountability for their actions, or interfering too much in another member’s work in an organizational culture that tries to encourage autonomy. These habits then transfer down from year to year as part of the organizational culture, rather than being addressed as they occur.

Currently, I have been working on finishing up my literature review, completing my survey, and starting work on my final report by doing sections such as the introduction, literature review, conceptual framework, and methods.

I am really excited to know that my research may have a great impact on SMU student organizations, and possibly be a starting ground for other annual leadership change institutions as well!

Moreover, as I continue to work through this project, I hope to keep this blog updated with my exciting, new experiences.

 

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