Give ‘Hamilton’ a Shot

I have recently been completely obsessed with the Broadway musical “Hamilton” for the past week. I knew about the play but never gave it much thought, now I can’t stop thinking about it. The music had put me in such a great mood that it made me want to research more about not only the plays’ roots and influences but the history of the nation. It has gotten to the point where my roommates don’t know what to do with me anymore. As I am writing this blog post, I am listening to the album. I belt the show tunes in the shower, on my way to class, folding laundry, crafting. I have yet to even see the play!

 

It all started when I read an article online about Lin-Manuel Miranda who had created an album remixing all the songs in the hit show with popular artists (and a late-night talk show host) such as Usher, SIA, Queen Latifah, Chance the Rapper and Jimmy Fallon, to name a few. The single “It’s Quiet Uptown” performed by Kelly Clarkson was available to listen to. I heard the song and immediately loved it!. The lyrics were just too simple yet clever. I had wondered what the original Broadway song sounded like so I listened to it as well. The original song was great! After playing these versions 100 times, I decided I should most likely listen to the rest of the album. Best decision I ever made! The music score has heavy influences of Broadway mixed with R&B and hip hop. The songs had themes that pertained to social issues of today as well as discussing the history of our founding father Alexander Hamilton.

 

I highly recommend listening to this Broadway musical. “Hamilton” has received such great reviews and won so many awards and for good reason. It is influential, and this play’s popularity came at the perfect time considering the whole election season has ended. If you are sparked by curiosity to look up the history of our founding father to know what his life was life, he is in fact our nation’s first security who created the national bank.

 

I hope you are convinced to give it a listen to or even research more about the history of our nation; it’s very interesting. With that, I sign off.
- Amber

An Art Talk

When you enter Saint Xavier’s Visual Arts Center, you often are met by silence and the occasional sound of the extremely noisy ventilation above the nave. The smell of paint thinner and charcoal present in the air tells of the place’s purpose. But this week was different. Instead of the tranquil silence of the VAC which would allow artists the quietness they need for work, there was a steady murmur of focused dialogue. The smell of paint is replaced by caramel and apples. The nave, empty of all but the movable panel walls for paintings and photo prints, is now filled with chairs and people intent to listen and analyze.

This week, we had a very important and memorable event at the Saint Xavier Art Department. Every semester, the Art Department hosts two senior seminar art critiques, one for the midterm and another for the final. It is always exciting to see the progress of fellow students and getting inspiration from them. There was a lot of interesting projects and theses.

This year, we had a smaller graduating class of seniors than the year prior, eight in total. Seven of them I knew on a personal level. It was amazing seeing the hard work they had pushed out this first half of the semester. As an artist, it proved an invaluable experience as I prepare to take their place next year. It is often said among the seniors that senior critique is a grueling and terrifying time to be at hand. While that may be true in certain regards, it is also a very rewarding and liberating time as well. The professors giving detailed and poignant advice and critiques on certain pieces, which opens one’s eyes to what is to be expected and what areas one should focus on.

Open to the public, the art critiques are wonderful events for people to come by and see what exactly goes on in the Art Department and what our promising young people are dreaming up. Here at Saint Xavier, we’re known for our Nursing and Education departments. But it should be remembered for its artists as well. Often times, the works of art that decorate Saint Xavier and give the walls and halls color are from the people that once walked those same halls wondering of what the next painting or sculpture or photo would entail.

Common Mistakes A Freshman Can Avoid

Freshman year of college is most likely the most exciting thing to happen. You are finally away from home and you get to meet new people and find a newfound freedom. With all those things, you tend to make a few mistakes along the road every now and then that you learn from. As a freshman resident last year, I noticed that there are three things that my fellow peers in my class and I had made the mistake of doing. These could have been completely avoided if taken noticed of.

1. The first most common mistake a freshman at SXU could make as a resident is not budgeting their meal plan money. I used to budget myself to spending no more than $25-30 a day. This had worked perfectly because I had a surplus of meal plan money. I remember there were a few of my peers who depleted their meal plan to $0.01 with a month left in the semester and they would get embarrassed to constantly ask people to buy their meals. Since, I had a surplus of money, I felt it was only polite to help those who didn’t budget correctly. Although, with every meal you buy someone else whose surplus quickly diminished, the more likely you are to find yourself without the funds you need. The school meal plan is designed to be used for one person; thus, the lesson of this first common mistake is to budget your meal plan correctly as well as avoid buying other people food on your meal plan.

2. Another common mistake made as a freshman is missing class. I personally as a freshman last year had gotten sick and had to miss a whole week of classes. Granted I had talked to my professors and given doctor’s notes to them, but I had missed so much class it was difficult to catch up. Now that was just my scenario of missing class. The biggest mistake you could make is missing class to sleep in. There are ways to avoid being so groggy in the morning: Have a set schedule for sleeping, avoid all-nighters and eat breakfast. The way I get myself to class is by giving myself an incentive. Usually, I reward myself for going to all my classes for the week by allowing myself to eat my favorite snack or binge watch a show on Netflix. The reason I stress going to class so much is because you are basically cheating yourself out of money every time you ditch. You already paid for school, so by not going, you are wasting not only your money but the opportunity to pursue an education as well.

I hope you avoid these mistakes not only as just a freshman but in general for your time at school. I know this seems like logical advice to follow because we, as students, have been told this since we could comprehend the meaning of responsibility, but once you start developing these simple habits you will see how much less hectic and how much more organized your life will be.

Greetings to Another Year of School!

5D1FC65F-9994-4AA1-BCD7-BB01CEC842F2Hello all and welcome back to another year of my blog!

For those you who have been constant readers for the past two, going on three years now, thank you. It’s always amazing to know you are reading these posts. For those of you who are new to Cougar Diaries, welcome! Cougar Diaries is an up-close and personal view of SXU students during their time at SXU. I love getting to share my own experience at SXU with others because I love SXU!

Here’s a little introduction about me: I am a Junior with a Middle School Education Major, and endorsements in Language Arts, Reading, Social Science, and ESL Studies. I hail from the shivering cold Minneapolis, Minnesota, where winters are long and summers are under construction. I am the eldest of four siblings. IMG_1334My sister Maya, 18 years old, starts her first day of college tomorrow in New York, our birth place. I’m extremely proud of her for making this huge step into adulthood but know I will miss her. My brother, Emiliano, is 13 years old and although he is my only brother, he is my favorite brother! He has great taste in music, movies, and we can talk about Pokemon GO. And the baby of our family is Luna, 7 years old, and she is one of my favorite human beings in this world. She is the sweetest, most passionate, Snow White princess I know.

This is my third year living in Regina Hall, the first-year resident hall, and I could not be more excited about it. Like last year, I am living on the third floor but this time as a resident assistant. So far, the third floor ladies have been nothing but outstanding, and I am so excited to be serving them this year!

A8A8A554-9917-4691-8185-E0BCBAC56A0FOne thing that stood out to me when I first visited SXU was the community that made the campus home. This year I will be a student ambassador, going on my third year in the program. I have loved getting to work with prospective students and their families as a tour guide. One of the things I love most about this job is getting to meet the students who I gave a tour to. On those days when I’m crazy busy with work and classes, knowing that the conversations I had with touring students made a difference makes me feel great.

I will also continue my involvement with campus ministry by being the Justice Peer Minister, a completely new position this year! My role will involve me working with campus ministry and the SXU community on social justice issues. This will work with my positions for Mercy Students for Peace and Justice (MSPJ). My board positions for MSPJ are the vice president and the immigration head committee. At its most basic level, MSPJ draws inspiration from our collective human desire to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings. We empathize with other people and long to relieve their suffering. MSPJ strives to encourage and nurture that concern for others and channel it into contemplation and action so that we may better ourselves, our families, our community, and our world. We draw inspiration from the Sisters of Mercy, the religious order that founded Saint Xavier University. The special characteristic of the Mercy mission includes a consideration for, and service to, the poor and marginalized of society. The Mercy tradition emphasizes compassion, concern and action. We invite students, faculty, and friends to embrace this tradition and draw upon it in their lives.

This year I will be doing my second year as a Transition Peer Mentor (TPM) where I will be working with an instructor on a one-credit course on how first-year students transition into college. Last year I had a great class, and after one meeting this past week, I am looking forward to working with these first-year students on making the most of their college experience.

Something new that I will be a part of this year is Schmitt Scholars!A0435816-45F9-4114-AF87-97946EC9E26D The Schmitt Scholars Program promotes the development of promising Saint Xavier University student leaders, helping participants advance their leadership efforts at SXU and preparing them to make a broader impact on the world after graduation. Schmitt Scholars receive a merit-based scholarship and participate in a program of activities that provide them with opportunities to reflect on and develop their leadership potential. I am looking forward to the growth and development that will occur throughout this program.

This year I do have a lot going on, but I look forward to sharing my involvement and activities with you as a reader! Posts about cute siblings, puppies, and exploring Chicago are guaranteed! Please continue reading throughout the year and let me know if you have suggestions for what I should include in my posts.

And So It Begins Again

And so it begins again. After a summer of listlessness and procrastination, the school year has now begun once again here at Saint Xavier. The sea of emerald and forest green has been cut low to gently bristle the toes. The looming trees that line the road remain standing tall to shade the palaces of which one reads on a summer day. Cicadas sing their nostalgic song of childhood days gone by remaining from high up in the trees, the steamy air of summer still gushes to tell us ‘not yet.’ And as that first day began, the sight of lost doe-eyed freshmen brings back a sense of amusing youth and nostalgic naivety to the school grounds.

It’s a marvel to be had seeing the faces of those first years and remembering that once we were so. With their nice collared shirts and prim and proper summer dresses, their almost foreign appearance becomes apparent in the sea of dull-eyed upperclassmen. It is so out of place seeing these magazine catalogue-looking kids walking down the hall with almost a swagger about them. And despite the small gap in our ages and my own youthful age, I feel old, old in heart and temperament. While they walk aimlessly playing the latest mobile game, I yearn for the free days that I may remember such a time that I was able to wander into the park district and fish for snails along the rocky shores or weaving words into a story of people and places and places with people and people from places. Like an old man watching rambunctious children walk off to school while he remains glued to his stoop, I find myself content in my amusement of the strangeness of youth as if I am somehow separate from it as if I were somehow detached.

Perhaps it is I that is out of place as I sit lazily in the diner with worn sandals and dirt-covered sweats and Tee. Is it really the excitement and nervous fright of the first years that should be alien to this school as so many others? Does feeling a sense of adventure in the sea of the mundanity of those of us accustomed to life here so wrong? I wonder if such a feeling as that is such a bad thing in this place that sings a song of flight. We all want to get out and get into the real world but when we’re there we want to go back to these carefree days when being a kid was something we took for granted. And here, I feel myself at a crossroads. The nervous fright of nearing the end of my time here begins to loom over me now. The eventual bidding of farewell to friends only a year older draws near every day. Here I am hapless as I inch towards the inevitable day when I will be left only to remember those days when nothing but what I’d do tomorrow mattered. It is these things that bring up this bitter and yet so sickly sweet nostalgia for those endless summer days that have me stepping back to that warm feeling of independence from home but still knowing I had a place to go back to. But perhaps the misguided ventures of the first years are just the end of that same accustom they had the year before as their days as high school students went by. And perhaps it is that same feeling of adventure and nervous excitement that will come when I am handed that diploma and take my first step out the door on my way to work. And so it begins again and the days count on as they had done before.

A New Day

This year has seemed so short in its passing and yet so much has been done and has happened. I have finished my second year here at Saint Xavier and it doesn’t seem real. I am going to be a junior in the fall. To be honest, it’s frightening to see that my school career here is already halfway over. It seems like only a short time ago I was still a high schooler anxious of my future in college. Now, I am a college student and I am anxious about what the future after college will be like. Much thought has gone through my head as this year became the pivotal moment in my and my family’s life. My father is retiring after twenty-odd years of hard manual work, and with that, a new change in our family dynamic. It is said that sophomore year is when a student “gets it.” What that is can be debated. Is it when a student finally realizes that their major was the wrong one? Or is it that they realize what they were called for, in the lack of a better word? I find it to be the latter. After volunteering at the Salem United Church of Christ’s PAPS or Homeless Shelter and with SXU’s Bread Truck and just interacting with people, I realized that I did indeed pick the right career in mind. I found that going out there and helping others was not just the wholesome thing a person should do but also a fun one. There is no point in a career or education if you’re not having fun. I want to enjoy what I’m doing in my livelihood. That is what I believe.

Finals are next week. I have my first one tomorrow. I’m not completely stressed out like a lot of my friends, but it does have me thinking. Once they are done with, what is there to do? What more can I do here until next semester? And what am I to do this summer? I am hopeful that I will get a job to help support my family. Since my brother is graduating college in the next two weeks, there is an excitement and an anxiety for him as well. Will he get a job following graduation? Will my parents be able to pay the payments of the Parent Plus Loan? All these spiral in my head as I crack a carefree joke to my friends. I don’t want to be a bother, and so I keep it away. This is my problem, why share it? Maybe that’s my mistake. But I can’t worry about that now, finals are here.

I feel that this year was a good one. I made new friends and cemented ones I know will last me a lifetime. My heart warms and pangs at the knowledge that many will graduate this year while I will be left behind. I live far away and visiting them is beyond the question. But I am confident this is not the end. I smile knowing that, but I frown for the future. I feel anxious looking to what the future entails, but I am hopeful that at least this step in my life is over and much more are to come as my aspirations to become a teacher draw ever nearer. Now I look out my window, the sun is setting. End comes this day but there comes the promise of tomorrow which is uncertain. Uncertain as it is, it is beautiful what this new day shall bring.

Senior Art Show

This week marked a very important occasion for the Art Department at Saint Xavier of which I am a part of. This Saturday, April 23, was the second half of the senior art show of which the artists of the Senior Seminar course showed to their instructors as well as their families and friends all of which they have achieved this year as well as what they have done since they begun their education at Saint Xavier. There were beautiful traditional drawings, informative and beautifully designed information posters, digital design and more. The reason why I enjoy these shows and why I encourage all students and anyone really to check them out is because of what they represent. These pieces are the products of nearly half a decade of work here at Saint Xavier. It shows what the school has to offer in the old field of fine arts. While SXU is known for its nursing program and its business program, the institution has a thriving and strong Art Department that I am lucky to be a part of. Below will be some examples of the art shown in this half of the art show. What I want to discuss in this blog is the significance of this show and the SXU Art Department as a whole for us art majors. The reason I am writing about this is because of the thoughts that have begun flowing in my own mind of what it will be like for me in Senior Seminar in two years.

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The Art Department at SXU is small. The entire department is located within a simple protestant church down the road from campus. Due to its small size, both location and faculty-wise, there is a much more casual and close relation between students and teachers. Most of us who are in the department are on a first name basis with our professors, cracking jokes and snarky comments unheard of in other departments. As a result, we realize that a professor does not have to be the distant and hard-to-approach mentor we once thought but a human being that like us who shares the same hopes and aspirations and fears we do. There is no need to be afraid to talk to them, but we are them and they are us. Education is not a one-way transference of information. It’s a collaboration, a sharing of knowledge to better ourselves. That is a major reason why I feel that I made the right choice. I’m sure other universities have similar going ons at their art departments but I feel that with our small size, there is more room for connections that could not be possible if anywhere else. There’s a lot on my plate but seeing some of my close friends succeed in this endeavor has given me some steel to push on steadfast.

The Canvas is Blank

Art has been a very important part of my life growing up. But I never saw it as a viable career path since, to be frank, I was not very good at it. It was only during my last two years in high school that I was able to fully appreciate the craft as it pertains to me and bring myself to the level of which I am now. Now, it is my second year at Saint Xavier, and I am fully engaged in my path toward becoming an art teacher. As an artist and an appreciator of art, museums and art galleries are a welcome change of sight from the normal pace of school here at Saint Xavier. This week, I had a fantastic opportunity to see both. On Thursday, my Digital Imagery class went to the Art Institute of Chicago. There we went and saw many pieces of wonderful and intriguing art pieces. My favorites include, “Festival in Montmartre” by Gino Severini, “Terracotta Decorative Panel” by Louis H. Sullivan and “The Banquet” by Rene Magritte. Here are the three pieces:
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This wasn’t the first time I went to the Art Institute. In fact, I’ve been there about six times and each time I’ve learned something new. But like my art professor said, museums are where art made by dead people hangs; galleries are where art made by living people hangs. You can only learn so much by looking. Sometimes you have to ask and listen.

On Saturday, there was the Senior Art Seminar gallery opening. There were dozens of people who came to the SXU campus gallery to see the hard work of the seniors in the Art Department. A lot of my friends were there and it was nice to see their progress and what the future for myself entailed. One of my friends displayed a beautifully constructed miniature house with a film projected on it displaying his pet insects and arthropods. Another student displayed dozens of black-and-white photographs of locations across Chicago in which a person was murdered. It was hauntingly beautiful — the serenity of the photos – while knowing full well that someone had lost their life there. It really broadens my understanding of the media and the depth of an artist’s concept.

For this week, I’d like to discuss the importance of exploring the field in which we pursue. I often hear people entering careers as a result of their parent’s urging. It’s a problem we all might face. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a parent having high expectations for their children. In fact, I would encourage it as it shows that anything less is unacceptable, at least for me. But there needs to be a restraint on that notion. Students need to be able to fully examine their own path and horizons if they are to be happy with the career they seek. Leave no stone unturned on your path and be sure to never regret it. This path we seek is ours, not our teachers or our parents. It is ours of which our lives will revolve around. The canvas is there; we just need to think of what to paint.

An Uncertain Future

This week has been a long and busy time. With lots of homework and surprise midterms, on my account, thrown into the mix, it’s been exhausting. About a week ago, I received word via email of the increasingly suspect status of the MAP grant due to the political gridlock in Springfield. This has been going on for the past few months – these emails. They were mostly the same when it came to updates on the MAP grant, the situation down in Springfield, what Saint Xavier’s been doing to help out and what we as students can do. It’s amusing sometimes how often the school reminds us of their efforts toward correcting this problem that they themselves have no total control over the bureaucrats down in Springfield. It shows that they are aware of their students’ concern. I appreciate it. I know the school is trying its best. If I thought otherwise, I’d be more inclined to a negative view. They’re doing all they can, I believe. If they didn’t, they’d be saying goodbye to a third of its students and much of its core value of diversity with low-income students, like myself, being forced to drop out due to a lack of funds. With a significant percentage of schools that students can’t afford to attend, it becomes a big problem. I don’t want to see that happen here. I care too much about this school and the community it has created to see it happen. Despite this notion, at least, Saint Xavier University is faring better than other schools in the state. Realizing this, I feel concerned for my friends that are going to other schools. I wonder how they’re dealing with this crisis.

I know they are doing all they can to keep this school up and running. But this email that was sent to us on the MAP grant and how we’ll have to look for alternative options was a setback for myself and I know for a lot of students in my situation. From what I’ve heard from other students in my position, we’ll have to come up with the money, around $4,750 for myself. For myself, I was able to find an acceptable alternative by taking out a loan which will be replaced with the MAP grant if it comes back. How am I going to pay that back in that time period? And why should I? Why am I and other students of low-income families being forced to pay for a grant affirmed to us by the state? I know the school’s reasoning for the push. They can’t run this school if there’s no revenue. They have done all they’ve can and more to continue to fight for us and work with us to find an amicable end to this situation. However, for the state, I have no such reservations. The state’s shooting itself in the foot by putting the burden of paying the shadow left behind by the grant upon the backs of the most financially vulnerable. If we qualified for the MAP grant due to our low-income status, how does it make sense for that student to pay what is unpayable?

I am not confident in the measures that are being taken by the state and find them misguided. I don’t blame the school. I blame the incompetence in the state legislature to affirm the basic rights of its citizens to education. I blame them for not setting aside their differences and realizing that by removing a huge percentage of its student population, low-income and poor, from acquiring the skills to work in-demand jobs, the state will suffer in the long term. For us students, we need to become more active in this process. The legislative process does not, or at least should not work in a vacuum. There was a rally of students a few weeks ago to lobby for the MAP grant, although it was ultimately unsuccessful in encouraging the state to pass the MAP grant, Saint Xavier and other schools showed their commitment to their promise of education. We need to do the same and advocate for ourselves, too. I really want to remain here at Saint Xavier. My friends are here, my dream of becoming a teacher is here. But with these circumstances, the future is uncertain. But I know Saint Xavier is there for us, and we need to be there for ourselves.

“What are you going to do after graduation?”

Welcome back, readers!

I wish I could say that I had the most fantasitc and productive week ever, but alas, very few noteworthy things have occured since I last blogged.

As mentioned in my previous blog, I turned 22 on Wednesday! I suppose that’s an event, although I’ve come to realize that the older you get, the less birthdays are really celebrated. If you ask me, it should be the other way around. Making it through a year of childhood is a blessing indeed, but making it through a year of adulthood is a victory. That is something to celebrate.

Just a couple of 22 year-olds!

Just a couple of 22 year-olds!

I did get to venture home this weekend to celebrate with my family. Our plans didn’t pan out exactly how we intended (nothing ever does), but we made the best of it. I got to hug my nephews and have most of my family all in one place and it seems that this matters to me more than anything else as an adult.

On Saturday afternoon, we did a couple of quick, fun, fall activities at Undead Acres (see previous blog for details on this great establishment) and then we hung out at home and ate some birthday cake. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 22 years it’s that you have to cherish little moments like this. A quote that I have been TRYING to apply to my life recently comes to mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

Sitting with our nephews at Undead Acres

Sitting with our nephews at Undead Acres

That being said, registration for Spring Semester is upon us here at SXU which means all students have to meet with their academic advisors and get approved to register in the coming weeks. It has occured to me that this will be my final registeration for college classes and it has everyone and their mother asking me, “So what are you going to do after graduation?” And the only concrete answer I have to that question is “I don’t know.” That answer will most likely be accompanied by a detectable hint of shame as if I have come all this way and exercised and expanded my mind only to come up empty handed. You would think after four years of study I would have everything figured out, but that’s just not the case. I attribute this uncertainty partially to the nature of the major and partially to my personality. A lot of majors lead right into a specific career, for example, my sister is an elementary education major, so when someone asks her, “what are you going to do after graduation?” she can, with a good degree of certainty, say “be a teacher.”  As a communication major, I will be qualified and trained to do a wide range of things. To give you an idea of what I mean, here is a list of the concentrations I will have completed by the time I grab my diploma in May:

  • Journalism
  • Online Communication
  • Advertising and Public Relations
  • Communication Studies
  • Health Communication
  • Corporate Communication.

I could give you some general areas of interest I have, but even those change from time to time. I wish I had a clearer path at this point, but I’m anticipating a period of trial and error after I graduate and I think that’s o.k. I think as humans, especially as college students, we interpret a lack of direction as failure, but when you really think about it, trying different things until you get it right is the way you’ve learned everything you know now, from first steps to college degrees. So if you ask me that question, believe me when I say “I don’t know.”

Depsite all of this uncertainty, I am confident in what I have accomplished so far and everything I do, including this blog. It gives me a little more experience and a little more insight as to what my future might hold.

Thank you for bearing with me as usual!

Until next time…