Thursday, September 15, 2011

Focus of the week: Cafe Q

The topic
This year, I have not been satisfied with Cafe Q. Although the renovations to it two years ago made it a much nicer place and increased the seating, the cafeteria itself is not built to sustain 5,900 students, grad students, law students, faculty, staff and visitors.

The food distribution area is essentially a big zoo; just a large open space with no order. It's nice that we have eight different areas to get food from, but it's just one long counter with lines essentially wrapping around each other.

The hours are another killer. I just went in to get some food, and the only place that was open was BYOB (where Coyote Jacks used to be). The line for that was at least 25 people deep. When you have 15 minutes between class and work, you can't wait on that type of line. They didn't even have bagels, pastries, or premade sandwiches available. So due to the time constraint I had, I couldn't get any food.

And it doesn't help that the Bobcat Den is closed as it works to be compliant with new state building codes. According to the school newspaper, it is scheduled to be reopened later this month. Quinnipiac does have a dining hall on the York Hill campus, but people usually eat there if they are up at York Hill; they don't go back up for the food, thus, are in the same boat as commuters.

The Solution
Several things can be done to alleviate some of these issues. First, stagger the hours that things are open and closed. The salad bar can be open before the crowd comes doesn't require any labor once it is set up. Open the deli at 10:30...there is nothing there beforehand preventing it from opening. The Kitchen needs to transition from breakfast to lunch, so it needs more time. Open it at 11:15.

Second, bring back the pre-made sandwiches. Many people go in there on the run between classes or class and work and cannot afford to wait on the lines on the risk of being late. Do more than just bringing back the premade sandwiches...have a select group of dishes readily available...maybe a plain pizza, chicken tenders and french fries, a different sandwich of the day, etc. This will allow people who just want something to get food; everyone who wants something different can wait in line.

Third, keep the students in the communication loop with the Bobcat Den renovations. Once it opens up and students know about it, the lines will start to balance out between the two locations.

Do you feel that this is a big area of focus? What would you do to alleviate it?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

QU301 Overseas

It's been a little over a week since I've returned to the states from a 12-day trip to Eastern Europe with my QU301 trip, and I'm still blown away by how the entire experience completely exceeded my expectations.

I knew I wanted to go abroad at some point during my Quinnipiac experience, but I changed majors enough freshman and sophomore year to use up all my electives.  Also, I love QU too much to leave for a full semester - so the QU301 classes with the travel component seemed like my best option.  I ended up picking the course taught by Professor Callahan: Meanings of Freedom.  I didn't know much, or really anything for that matter, about Poland or Prague (the travel part of the class).  But I picked the course anyway for the material.  I figured it'd be a great fit - me, a Chronicle staffer interested in how freedom of the press operates in different countries, learning about how freedoms are applied/withheld around the world.  I was did not expect learning nearly as much as I did.  

First, we spent a week in Krakow, Poland.  I quickly fell in love with the beautiful city - partly because it was so authentic.  It wasn't dedicated to tourists.  People spoke English, but almost nothing (street sign wise, etc.) was translated into English.  We often needed our professor's help with the menus (although we almost always chose pierogies anyway - BEST Polish food ever.)   There, we were completely immersed in a European culture.  I came away from everything fascinated with the consonant-heavy language - even though I can only remember "Good morning" - Dzien dobry!

On our first night, we sat with a class of history students at the University of Krakow (my professor's alma mater) and discussed communism and how they viewed America and its freedoms.  I remember someone from our class asked why they hadn't seen a Polish flag flying anywhere in the city yet.  A Polish student responded, "I knew someone would ask that! Americans are crazy about their flag!"  Moments like these, getting these perspectives of each others' countries and cultures, were just... truly invaluable.   Plus, the students were generous enough to spend time that night and for the rest of the week showing us different parts of the city.  

Besides that, we toured... seriously toured.  We saw the Old Jewish Quarter of Krakow, several churches and synagogues, Nowa Huta - the old Communist part of Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a castle (which we took horse-drawn carriages to no less), many, many museums and most unforgettably - the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.  Everything tied into our course - determining the meaning of freedoms and what happened when they were taken away from so many of these people in history.  I don't mean to sound cliche, but it meant so much more than skimming over the details with a highlighter or annotating for class discussion.  We stood in Block 11, which the prisoners called "the death block" for many disturbing reasons, and we stood by the roll call stand where Nazi officials once made prisoners stand for 19 hours straight.  It was depressing, mind-blowing, life-changing.

From Poland, we took a night train to Prague.  I woke up Wednesday, May 25, and watched as we pulled into the city from my bunk - pretty sweet.  At this point, I thought I was more prepared for Prague than Poland.  Whenever I said I was going to Prague, everyone would say: "OH - it's just gorgeous.  You'll love all the old architecture."  But what I didn't expect was for this old city to have such a vibrant feel - if I closed my eyes and blocked out the cobblestone streets and old architecture, Prague felt like Manhattan.  We toured the heck out of this city too - on bikes, by boat and with our feet (which ached at the end of every day by the way), we saw Prague's Old Jewish Quarter, John Lennon's wall, the Charles Bridge, the beautiful Prague castle, an underground museum and much more.        

I understood as I was experiencing these things how emotionally blown away I was.  It wasn't until we had our "final" -- a brainstorming session at a cafe on the river in Prague (hands down, the best setting for a final I've ever experienced) - with small groups connecting our travel experiences with what we had learned in a classroom at QU that I realized how much I was blown away educationally also.  It was so easy, connecting the stories from the tours and places we have visited to the course materials and the best part - almost everyone connected/remembered something different.  

So I came home last week - with more than a few souvenirs, a few pounds heavier (thanks to all the pierogies and Nutella), way too many pictures of buildings I thought were "pretty" at the time but now have no memory what they are, a determination to someday learn Polish and a class full of friends to share my unforgettable memories of two cultures we barely knew before.  Beaming, I came off the airplane and told my parents that it was one of the best decisions of my life to go on this trip... And I honestly don't think I've stopped talking about it since.                              

The entire class on our last night abroad.  Old Town Square, Prague.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day One of the Future

Today is day one of the future. The Class of 2011 is now in grad school, working or unemployed, but no longer at Quinnipiac. The Class of 2012 is now the senior class, 2013 is now the junior class, so on and so on.

As the former Class of 2012 President, I do have one piece of advice to give all of you. Live, laugh and love. This is our last of everything as we prepare for the future. Our last summer vacation, our last first day of school, our last Midnight Madness and everything else that will go on.

Make the most of everything. Spend time with your friends. Go on that random road trip that you're not sure if you want to or not. Do something each day that scares you. Thank your family for helping you get to where you have gotten today.

Take care of yourself. One day, your family will pass away, you may or may not be married, and when it comes down to it, you are the one here for yourself. You can't go much further than your body will let you.

On May 20, 2012, I hope all of you can look back on this and remember to live, laugh and love. Quinnipiac, we have one year left on campus and I am looking to make the most of it...I hope you are too!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Congratulations Quinnpiac Class of 2011!

In a ceremony that lasted about 2 1/2 hours from the beginning of the walk-in to the end of the walk-out, Quinnipiac University graduated 1,333 students. It was 60 and cloudy during the ceremony, but it was perfect because it wasn't hot or too chilly and I didn't have to worry about getting sunburned.

Mitch Albom was the commencement speaker, and he was absolutely great. I wish that the Class of 2012 could have gotten him. I think everyone enjoyed his 18 minutes on the podium.

To the Class of 2011, we have some big shoes to fill if we want to be able to live up to the standard you set. Thank you for everything you have done, and I wish you godspeed and good luck!

P.S. You can view the commencement exercises from yesterday here:

P.S.S Albom speaks from 24:30 to 42:30 in the video in the link above.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Coming attraction

If you don't know me or missed out on my introduction, you're really missing out. I'm one of the, if not the, biggest Bobcats sports fans. I'm at all of the basketball and hockey games in my jersey and wig [seen below].

In the next month or two, the winter sports schedules will be coming out. I'm looking to write my preview and prediction for M & W basketball and hockey. In addition to that, I look to be highlighting the major games, and in-season, possibly write my reaction to all of the games. Let me know what you think about this.

Can't wait until the schedules are released. Let's go Bobcats!

Home Sweet(?) Home

I've made my triumphant return to Northeast Pennsylvania, or "The Valley" as we like to call little corner of the world sometimes. I return to Hamden to start work on my fellowship on June 1. I'm really stoked to go back.

There are things about home that I like, that every college kid likes I imagine. It's good to see your family and your friends. It's good to have a fully stocked food pantry. Its good to have the solitude of your own room. Of your own bathroom. and not have to pay $3 per load of laundry that you lug however many flights of stairs. We all share that.

This summer what is different for me is that I'll really only be home these two weeks. I love my life at Quinnipiac, but I always enjoyed being home too. I now have these two weeks to cram everything in. Spending time with my girlfriend who home but will living in Pittsburgh for the summer (which is over 5 hours from the Valley), spending time with my friends, and getting to play some golf with my Dad. And there's the around the house chores, but those are often kind of light. Oh yeah and my biggest project, car shopping. I have a 1997 Jeep Wrangler that I'm selling ($6300, if you're interested). It's a really fun car, but terrible on the highway and not a practical traveling vehicle.

My point being, my summers aren't ultra relaxing anymore. Last summer I worked near 60 hours/week, the summer before I did 40hours/week of laying tile. I love being in college, I love doing new and exciting things, but I really miss the days of being 14 and not having a care in the world for months. When all I was responsible for was soccer practice, paintball, sleeping in, and going for bike rides.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's the point of a final exam?

I'm sure that this is something asked by many students, but what is the point of a final exam?

I understand that it is the capstone idea; you have learned the subject for the past 15 or so weeks, so we are now going to see what you know. However, it is one of the worst ideas out there. A final exam shows how much you can remember of a specific subject matter at a certain point in time, being affected by whatever else is going on in your life. It's a way for your professor to judge you, to give you a letter that is supposed to show how well, in their mind, you understand the subject matter. The funny thing about this is when you ask someone who took a big exam earlier in the day to explain the subject matter, they have usually forgotten many of the details already.

A final exam isn't just an exam. It's also a big portion of your final grade. One of the classes I took this semester gave 45% of it's final grade to the final exam. 45 percent! I don't get how you can put so much weight of this grade on this one examination. It really doesn't make sense to me.

As opposed to exams, projects and papers show the professor what you know and what you know about the topic. In fact, most the time, I feel that I learn more about the course when doing a paper or project than when taking the exam. I think all professors should consider going down the paper/project route rather than the exam route because then they can evaluate their teaching style based on what the students understand rather than if they incorrectly bubbled in "A" instead of "C' on the Scantron sheet.

In a perfect world, I would like to get rid of examinations all together. However, that isn't something that is least in my one year remaining in college. What I would like to do is bring a motion to the Student Government Association in the fall on this matter. I would like to have SGA pass this motion, which would be a recommendation to the Faculty Senate that no one examination can count as more than 25% of the final grade. By making it no more than 25% of the final grade, you're still giving the students a fighting chance of doing OK in the course AND you're giving the professor more of a chance to understand what you have learned so that they can judge you properly when giving you your grade. A paper or project would not be affected by this recommendation.

Exams are the easy way out for the professors, but don't truly reflect one's understanding of the subject matter. Let's work together and limit their effect on our academic experience.