An award-worthy performance by Ciara Jones


An award-worthy performance by Ciara Jones

The big prize winner of the Homecoming Poetry Slam

Jamie Heathcote

Contributing Writer

Taking home the first place prize from the Homecoming Poetry Slam during her first semester here at UMBC, Ciara Jones touches on her experience performing here and her passion for spoken word poetry.

At this year’s Homecoming Poetry Slam, students shared their artistic abilities that fuel imagination and express feelings through a collection of words. Coming in first place and winning $200 was Ciara Jones, junior social work major. By using a spoken word form of poetry, Jones presented the audience with a performance she calls “Silence.”

On “Silence,” she said “It has to do with how we sometimes use silence as a coward’s garment and we don’t always voice what we’re thinking or what we want out of the fear of being rejected, or the fear of simply being wrong. I want to encourage people to speak out.” Judging by her award for her performance, her message may have made the impact she was hoping for.

Jones, a new transfer student from CCBC, said the Poetry Slam “was a different atmosphere than what I’m used to, but it was awesome to be in the presence of such amazingly talented writers. It didn’t feel like a competition to me, it was just us all speaking out together.” For Jones, it was an experience to embrace her passion rather than a competition for the number one spot.

Jones described her most memorable performance as a piece she performed when she lived in Germany. “I was asked to perform a piece for Holocaust Remembrance Day — an event the Army was holding,” she said. Being thankful for this opportunity, it also affected her in a great way.

“I hadn’t truly known the power of words until after I presented that poem and talked with those who had heard it. [With the] impressions and impacts [it made], that’s when I figured God had some stuff brewing with this poetry thing. I’ve stuck with it since then,” she said. While also embracing her faith, today she is involved in a Christian group here known as Anomaly.

Jones said “What I admire about most poets is how they provide such descriptive detail. When it comes to my style of poetry, I like getting to the point and I think that’s okay. I have a love for poetry that’s relatable and understandable to the non-poet.” She strives to reach out to her audience in meaningful ways.

One can’t help but notice Jones’s blatant love for poetry. Works of spoken word poetry have impacted and progressed her life, and she hopes to offer the same positive feelings to her audiences through her performances.


Get to Know a Retriever: Brendan Chittick

I Loved Nature and I Liked That

Brandon Foster

Staff Writer

 Brendan Chittick talks television, travel and diversity.


What is your name, major, and year?

My name is Brendan Chittick, a senior who is double majoring in American studies and history.


Where are you from (city, county, state)?

I am originally from Frederick in Frederick County, Maryland.


Who do you admire and why?

I try not to idolize other people, but there are a few more well-known figures who have influenced me in one way or another. One of the biggest influences on me has been Andrew W.K. and his ‘party’ philosophy of life.


What is your career goal?

At the moment, I am leaning towards doing work with the National Park Service (NPS). I have visited countless national parks all over the country, and I admire the work that the NPS does to preserve natural and historical places/spaces. I also love being outside.


If you could change one thing around the world, what would it be?

If I could change something, I would end factory-farming practices. Our current agricultural system is disgusting, unsustainable and nothing to be proud of.


What do you like most about UMBC?

The thing I like most is the diverse cast of students and faculty here. The student population at my high school was about 99% white, and a homogenous environment like that is good for no one. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to meet so many people from different places with such different ideas and experiences.


What activities do you participate in on campus?

I am the host of a punk rock radio show called Shorter Faster Faster on WMBC, an event programmer for (seb) and member of the drumline for the Down and Dirty Dawg Band.


Who is the celebrity you would like to meet; what would you do with him/her?

I would like to meet Katy Perry, no question! I am a big fan of her music, and I would not mind grabbing a slice of pizza with her.


What is/are your favorite thing(s) to do outside of UMBC?

I love riding my bike, going to punk shows, playing music, record shopping, traveling and searching for vegan food.


Where do you want to spend your next vacation?

I would love to visit Germany as far as longer distance travels go. On a trip to Puerto Rico, I made a friend at the hostel I was staying at who was involved with the punk scene in Munich. We have been exchanging letters ever since and have mutually agreed that if we are ever in one another’s areas, we would have a place to stay. I would also love to go to a hardcore show in Germany; I have heard they get a bit wild!


What is your favorite genre of television (comedy, competition, reality, etc.) and why?

I guess comedy; my favorite shows are King of the Hill, Daria, Futurama, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Trailer Park Boys. Outside of comedy, I really enjoyed the first season of American Horror Story.


What kind of music do you like?

I like any music I can vibe with, but I definitely gravitate towards punk and hardcore.


If you met Dr. Hrabowski (UMBC President), what would you say to him?

I actually have met him once while dressed as Santa Claus and said something like “ho ho ho.” Unforgettable!


UMBC students need a break

Thanksgiving break isn’t enough to decompress

By Holly Vogtman

Staff Writer

Some schools are adding a Fall break or are lengthening Thanksgiving break. UMBC only give a Thanksgiving break. UMBC leaves no breathing room or family time for students.

   Many students can finally breathe after the completion of a hectic midterm week, but the stress doesn’t stop at UMBC — there’s no Fall break to be found.

Unlike many other universities, UMBC only offers two class days of Thanksgiving vacation along with the weekend that follows.

A Fall break or an extension of Thanksgiving Break should be inserted into the calendar due to high levels of stress that ensue during midterms and because the current Thanksgiving break is too short for students to travel long distances to visit with their families.

“According to the Spring 2013 NCHA Survey filled out by UMBC students and students across the US … 83.0% of UMBC students who completed the survey reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do in the last 12 months,” said Shaikh Iqbal, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major and President of Active Minds, the UMBC mental health awareness organization.

Requesting a Fall break or an extension to Thanksgiving break is not a cry to just get off a week of school, but an actual situation where time off could improve students’ high stress levels and general mental health.

Other universities are beginning to add in an extension to Thanksgiving Break or a whole separate Fall Break to better the experience for their students.

Some of these universities include Ivy Leagues: Princeton, Duke and Notre Dame all have one-week breaks in the middle of the Fall Semester.

With full support from their president, Richard C. Levin and Dean Mary Miller, Yale has also added a Fall Break in addition to their extension of Thanksgiving Break.

In a letter to the faculty, Levin and Miller wrote, “It has long been a concern … that, particularly for freshmen, the unbroken period of 11 or 12 weeks of classes between the start of the fall semester and the Thanksgiving recess can be challenging.”

The nonstop academic period from August to the end of November creates a lot of stress for the students of UMBC and, by the time Thanksgiving comes, the four day break seems like a tease.

Classrooms start to empty out after midterms as many students decide to take their own break and skip classes anyway because everyone needs rest especially amidst the grueling academic schedule of university students.

Some students also take off more days during Thanksgiving week for travel and time with their family.

A senior media and communication studies major, Oyin Ogungbemile said, “I think we should get a week break because for some students spending time with family is essential during the holidays and having only those two days plus the weekend is not enough to enjoy family time.”

A Fall Break or Thanksgiving Break extension would be a benefit for both students and professors as a period of rest to further prepare for the upcoming weeks of the semester full of final exams and projects.


PAHB arches intentionally ambiguous, better for it

UMBC shows same dedication to arts and humanities as it does to STEM

By Allison Opitz

Contributing Writer

 Though many were initially taken aback by the construction of the PAHB arches, students and faculty are appreciative of UMBC’s commitment to the arts and humanities.

Rumor has it that no one on campus understands what the arches outside of the new Performing Arts and Humanities Building are, why they’re there or what they’re for. Where did they come from? How do we use them? Why don’t we know anything about them?

The state of Maryland recently passed legislation that required all major construction and renovation projects to include public art, and UMBC’s PAHB is the first institution to comply. The school commissioned sculptor Thomas Sayre who intended the arches to be “a composition reminiscent of classic academic cloisters where light and shadow dance across the highly textured surfaces.”

The installment was commemorated at the PAHB Grand Opening Ceremony on October 17, but until then, no one quite understood their purpose. Many students and faculty alike were initially taken aback by their appearance. Anissa Sorokin, lecturer and Writing Center director, said that the arches are “not at all” to her taste. Still, she says that “art is a deeply important part of the human experience, and I’m pleased to see that UMBC recognizes that.”

Alex Reeves, a junior theater major, “didn’t like that the color clashed” with the crisp, modern PAHB exterior. “It’s not the most beautiful, but it is a practical way to show the kind of work we do.” The theater program at UMBC is doing “transformative” work, she said, and liked that it could be used as a performance space.

Another theater major, Jeff Miller, said that he “feels like it’s starting to fit in” after initially not being thrilled about the installation. Neither Reeves nor Miller had a solid understanding of who created the arches or what their intended function was, but Reeves said they were a “really nice way to show commitment to the arts.”

Some feel that the installation doesn’t express its purpose well enough. Christopher Varlack, an English lecturer, believes that true art “is intended to evoke thought and serve as a source of inspiration for its intended audience … the deeper meaning behind the installation still eludes me.” He suggested a plaque, describing the arches’ intended purpose to help students interact with them.

The artist, Thomas Sayre, said at the PAHB Grand Opening that the arches are “a venue to appreciate art outside of the customary setting … it is a museum without walls.” He meant for us to ask what the arches were for and how to interact with them; he had hoped that people would “respond with spontaneity — a challenge to try something new.”

UMBC has shown its commitment to the arts and humanities by investing in a $160 million facility — the fruit of 10 years’ worth of planning and construction. Sayre wanted the “functions of the building to leak out into its front yard,” so let’s ask ourselves how we want to use it.

SamComic1 (1)

Group work makes the group hurt

Team-based learning only works in an ideal world

By Aviva Zapinsky

Contributing Writer

According to many professors, team-based learning is more effective than lecturing. But this is only true in an ideal world.

   Team-Based Learning: those words strike dread into many undergraduates’ hearts. If they can find a way to rearrange their schedule so as to avoid this experience, they probably will.

In a recent initiative in many courses, especially science and math courses, have become more group-oriented in their curricula, based on the data from several studies. One from 1989 showed that the team performs better than the best student in the team 99.95% of the time.

Dr. Steven Miller, an associate professor in the biological sciences department, thinks this is a good change, saying the new method “helps students learn and retain the information for longer. We did a mini-study with Dr. [David] Einsenmann, who is a very good lecturer, and who teaches genetics in the spring. The students who took team-based genetics did better answering the same post-questions than the students who took the lecture genetics … .”

But it doesn’t work that well everywhere. Many students don’t show up to class, nd many students don’t do the required reading. Let’s face it, college students — when faced with the option of doing the work or riding on someone else’s work — will take the free lunch.

That undermines the whole concept of group-based work and the discussion it engenders, making it less effective for everyone. That one person in the group who does nothing ruins the group work for everybody.

So it is not fair to tie everyone’s grades together when the group is inherently not monitored for balanced dynamics.

Dr. Miller says that, “We have modified things slightly since last fall. Now we have students work individually first, before discussing things with their team — because nothing is worse than having someone tell you the answer before you have the chance to work it out for yourself. So we don’t have the genetics students do everything as a team.” This solves some of the problem, but only a little.

But students still seem to have a problem with team-based learning. Kristie Langford, a junior biology major says, “I don’t really like it in [genetics]. Since we are in a lecture hall, we can’t really talk to our team members, so it’s as if we are learning on our own, anyway … half the people don’t really want to do it. It would be more effective if everyone were fully into it. I also don’t like that our grade is tied to other peoples’.”

So yes, the data is there. Team-based learning is more effective as teaching method, but only in an ideal world, where students actually show up to lecture all the time; where students actually all do the work and all do the readings; where students don’t rely on one person to carry the team. So until someone comes up with a treatment to make college students responsible all the time, perhaps the traditional lecture should be brought back.


Mandated academic advising: a tedious formality

Why this misguided practice needs to go

By Gideon Shrier

Contributing Writer

UMBC has required academic advising for years – but does the policy make sense?

In theory, academic advising allows a student to discuss their progress towards their goals with a trusted mentor. They bond, the student asks questions, the advisor answers them and both come out of the process satisfied.

The reality of the situation isn’t usually so impressive. While there are definitely people who benefit from advising sessions, most simply confirm their schedules with their adviser, get cleared to register and leave. They gain nothing but the permission to enroll in classes they already knew they wanted to take.

Many students take the latter approach. Andrew Ide, an English major in his senior year, said, “meetings for me are less than ten minutes, and I don’t get anything out of the experience.” He said he usually already knows what classes he plans to take, but he realizes that this isn’t the case for everyone. He does wish that he had an advisor who was genuinely interested in his future, but he has yet to meet one.

In the same vein, Nicole Gosnell, a highly motivated and successful psychology major in her senior year, said, “It’s more necessary for some people than others. It can be a hassle for people who know what they’re doing.” A student with a clear and informed conception of what they want to do with their education has little need of advising and shouldn’t be constrained by students with a murkier undergraduate experience.

Linda Baker, a psychology professor and adviser, provided strong counterarguments. “For those who aren’t keeping track of their progress, these meetings are important in helping them plan their schedule appropriately. For those students who do keep up on where they stand and what they still need, more time during the advising sessions can focus on longer term academic and career plans,” Baker said.

Baker went on to say that advising is even more important for upperclassmen than it is for underclassmen, as a mistake is more costly in the later years of undergrad. She’s right about that, and right about the idea that an advising session could potentially be helpful in planning for the future.

However, both she and the administration are missing an important point: the student should be able to choose to attend an advising session (or not) before registering, even if that means they might make a mistake.

The main purpose of undergraduate education is to foster critical thinking skills, independence and intellectual growth. The sort of hand-holding behind mandated academic advising stands in stark opposition to this principle. The policy implies that students can’t be trusted to successfully register on their own.

At the very least, the administration should confer a degree of trust to upperclassmen, who have had years of experience dealing with the registration process. To do otherwise shows a lack of faith in their capacity to make informed choices and recover from mistakes.