Category Archives: Editorial

Real World Experience Makes a Difference

Who knew that there could be so many types of hot dog equipment? That’s what I asked myself when I began writing a buying guide for the WebstaurantStore with classmates from my Advanced Public Relations class. Working with the WebstaurantStore was such a great opportunity to gain real world experience and learn about the foodservice industry.

With any PR project it’s important to meet with the client before starting the project. Our class met with the Smallwares Content Manager, Mike Good and the Digital Media Director, Emily Smith. Through this meeting we were able to learn about Clark Associates, Inc. and how the WebstaurantStore started. We also learned a little more about the project we would complete for Web. Mike and Emily explained that buying guides serve as a tool to inform customers about a specific topic within the foodservice industry; the guides help customers make informed purchasing decisions. Our clients also went through the key components of a good buying guide and then we got to choose our topic for the guide. My classmates and I decided on writing a buying guide about hot dog equipment.

After the meeting, my class had a good idea of where our project was going. However, we were a little worried about actually writing the guide. We knew nothing about hot dog equipment or how it fits into the foodservice industry. It didn’t take us too long to learn about the different types of hot dog equipment and uses. Through research we were able to get a better idea of what the content for the guide would look like. From here we began to create our outline for the project. After our outline was approved we began to write the buying guide. It was crucial for us to include SEO keywords related to hotdog equipment throughout the guide so that the guide would rank in organic search results.

Our buying guide went through three major revisions before we moved into actually adding content to the website. The review process was a great way for me to receive feedback on my writing from individuals currently in the field of writing and communications. After our content was approved my class had the opportunity to “build” our buying guide on the back end of Webstaurantstore’s website. This process helped me gain valuable lessons in HTML and proper layout design.

I’m proud to say that our Hot Dog Equipment Buying Guide is now published on Webstaurantstore’s website. Working with an actual client made publishing my writing a reality. It’s a great feeling to know that my writing will directly affect purchasing decisions of restaurant owners and other foodservice companies all over the world. This project also led me to a content internship with WebstaurantStore. Now I get to write great content every day with a great team! If you are looking for great real world experience, consider applying for an internship or job at WebstaurantStore. We would love to have you!

It’s time we stop pretending gun violence is a problem we can’t solve

When I texted my mother from the bus to Washington, D.C., to tell her that I was going to the March for Our Lives to join hundreds of thousands of other people to march in support of increased gun control, she called me two seconds later to tell me that guns were not the problem, and that attacking the holiest of all our nation’s laws, the Second Amendment, was not the answer.

And thus the open invitation to endlessly debate me on the issue of gun control was sent out to everyone in my family, right down to my 10-year-old brother who told me I needed to stop protesting before I got myself killed.

The truth is, I’m not really sure why people seem to think that the problem of school shootings, or even gun violence in general, has nothing to do with guns. An extensive study done by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center confirms in every way what should be obvious: more guns equal more gun deaths. The same study found that states with more restrictions on firearms had fewer homicides and suicides caused by guns, even while controlling the study for a host of other factors, such as poverty, unemployment, race, and deaths unrelated to firearms.

Listen. I totally get why people love guns. I really do. I grew up learning how to use rifles and pistols from my grandfather, and the hunting season has always been a time of celebration. It’s part of the reason why I am not advocating the complete banning of guns, or the repeal of the Second Amendment.

What I am advocating for are common sense laws, protections that can decrease the deaths and injuries caused by firearms.

These are measures like requiring universal background checks, so domestic abusers and people who have previously committed crimes cannot easily get ahold of a gun, and waiting periods to get a gun, to prevent brief impulses that result in homicide or suicide.

Measures like raising the minimum age to buy a gun, as 18 to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at a rate nearly four times higher than adults 21 and older, according to research done by Everytown for Gun Safety.

Measures like reducing magazine capacity, so that shooters will be forced to reload more often, which could buy time for victims to escape and for law enforcement to get to the scene.

Measures like banning bump stocks, which speed up the shooting rate of a gun so it acts more like an automatic weapon.

Measures like removing the current ban on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from doing research on gun control, which vastly limits the data on the effectiveness of gun control laws and which measures help decrease gun violence the most. And before you say gun violence is not a disease, neither are car crashes, another public safety matter studied by the CDC.

My mother argued that “criminals and crazies will always be able to get a gun if they really want one.” But then why do we bother banning or preventing access to other things that are dangerous, like the ingredients needed to make bombs? According to the “Los Angeles Times,” after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, it became more difficult for people to obtain the ingredients needed to make bomb, and terrorist attacks using those weapons decreased, the new weapon of choice being the far less regulated method of guns.

Sure, there’s always going to be exceptions. But if we make it so that it’s even a little more difficult to gain access to a gun, it could help. At the very least, we have to try.

Because I’m tired of hearing about the next set of children who are dead. I’m tired of hearing about 9-year-olds who volunteer to stand in front of their classmates in a school shooting because they want to protect their friends. I have never known a world where school shootings were not commonplace events. As long as I can remember, I have had drills on what to do in case there is a shooter — lights off, lock the doors, hide underneath desks and out of sight, and if that’s not enough, and if the shooter still gets in and begins to kill your friends and classmates, play dead, hold your breath, and hope that the blood and bodies around you are enough to convince them that the job here is done, hope that he moves onto the next room, the next hallway. It shouldn’t be this way, and it doesn’t have to be.

Marches are only the beginning. Now it’s time to call our representatives and demand change. And if they refuse, we go to the polls. And we vote them out.

 

This infographic lists five facts about the state of gun violence in the United States, as well as the effectiveness of increased regulations.

Standardized Testing: Is It Worth It?

Schools and states have forced students to take standardized tests since elementary school to test skills in reading and math so that the government and other organizations can compare the supposed knowledge of their students to others nationwide. In Pennsylvania, it is known as the PSSA’s. The most important of these standardized tests are taken in high school: the SAT and the ACT. They have the power to determine whether or not a student gets into college.

Many places of higher education require either an SAT or ACT score for comparison to their pre-determined cut-off number. But with more and more colleges and universities moving towards being test-optional, and the popular opinion among many students that their test scores do not represent their academic ability, these tests have become obsolete and need to go.

The SAT became a universal testing tool in 1946 with the founding of the College Board after being introduced in the U.S. Army to test I.Q. The College Board’s “About Page” claims that the SAT helps students successfully transition to college because of the knowledge it tests and the programs offered to help prepare them for the test.

The ACT began in 1959 at the University of Iowa, pioneered by professor E.F. Lindquist and Registrar Ted McCarrel and focused on academic achievement as opposed to the SAT’s test of aptitude. Like the SAT, the ACT is supposed to test a student’s college readiness and offers programs and practice tests to prepare them for college.

The organizations that created and run these tests acknowledge that the tests are difficult and require a lot of preparation so that students do well on them and can get into college. But these organizations are the ones who imposed the tests on students in the first place instead of trusting the education system to prepare them for higher education.

Reason one to eliminate standardized testing: more than 1,000 colleges across the country are test-optional, and more colleges are following their lead. The first to eliminate the requirement for SAT or ACT scores was Bowdoin College in Maine in 1969, following a Bates College study showing that those who submitted test scores did not show any higher rates of graduation or better academic performance than those who did not.

Though the SAT was meant to level the academic playing field for all students, it was created in a time before admissions counselors had details about the academic rigor of the high schools of prospective students.

Reason two to eliminate standardized tests: grades are a better predictor of success in college, according to Robert Schaeffer from FairTest, an organization that addresses fairness in student test taking and scoring. This makes perfect sense; being tested on subjects that students actually learned is a much better indicator of how well they understood the topics they learned instead of testing them on irrelevant knowledge that they may not have covered in class. Furthermore, according to a 2016 survey by the National Education Association, 70 percent of educators say that their primary state standardized test is not developmentally appropriate to their curriculums. Plus, colleges now have detailed information about the rigor of high schools, so they can look at how well a student did at their school in relation to their grading process. We do not need some randomized test that covers what these organizations think students are learning anymore.

Reason three to eliminate standardized tests: many students feel that they are poor test takers; I know many of my peers in both high school and college have said that they do not think they are strong test takers. Furthermore, a majority of my fellow students, including myself, have said that they do not feel that their SAT and ACT scores accurately represented their academic abilities or their abilities in general outside of the academic realm. For example, some students are able to figure out the test, thereby bypassing the need to study and learn the knowledge that they supposedly need in order to be prepared for college. Other students are more creative and have artistic abilities that these standardized tests ignore.

Eliminating standardized testing will allow students to focus on their classes and learn the information that they are being taught instead of worrying about what happens if they haven’t learned something that is on a standardized test. Colleges are also concerned with grades, co-curriculars and in many cases, the personal essay. It sounds to me like colleges have plenty of material to make a decision about whether or not to admit a student, so why worry about a score that may or may not represent their applicants?

 

Humans of Etown: Dr. Rita Shah

dr shah

There’s nothing better than a professor with an open door, one with a willingness to say ‘hey’ and answers any questions that might be crossing your mind.

That’s exactly how Dr. Rita Shah is, the woman whose office sits on the second floor of Nicarry Hall, just out of reach of the hustle and bustle of everyday classes. She teaches all of her students to be respectful of a professor’s open-door policies, but is always there to talk if need be – sitting at her desk, constantly working away like the diligent professor and sociologist that she is.

Her office is filled with boxes, stacked in the corners and piled on top of one another like kids in a dog pile. Crates are filled with files, papers, books, and more, the walls emptied of memories. The space used to be covered with knick-knacks – notes from students, stickers promoting activism and feminism, random coffee mugs and Post-It notes and all the other indications of a well-loved professor.

Officially (that is, according to the college’s website), Dr. Shah is a criminologist who researches the relationship between parole and post-release supervisors for prisoners, as well as the re-entry process for former prisoners, but to the campus community, she is a beloved coworker, professor, and friend. Dr. Shah has always been a woman anyone can go to for advice, no matter the topic. She’s always got an intelligent thought, and they are always greatly appreciated.

She received her PhD from the University of California-Irvine, and has been at Elizabethtown for the last six years, teaching criminology courses and the occasional first-year seminar. Students have described her as an excellent teacher – if an intense one – and frequently comment on how much they learned from her.

On Becoming a Professor

Dr. Shah is known for her rigorous sociology courses that mentally prepare students for the workload of college – and eventually, the workforce, academic or otherwise – but there was a point in her own academic career where she considered a career path that didn’t involve working with students.

“I actually debated between law school and the PhD,” she says of her decision. “And between the two, I really enjoyed both teaching and research…[I] knew that if I went into law school, I would either be a defense attorney or a constitutional lawyer. And I wasn’t convinced that I would be 100% happy doing that, but I knew I would be as a professor.”

On Feminism

Last semester, Dr. Shah taught a first-year seminar course titled “Joss Whedon: Friend or Foe?”, which focused on examining writer-director Joss Whedon’s filmography under the lens of many different types of feminism. The course involved a cumulative final paper in which students examined particular pieces of Whedon’s work, and many credit the course with giving them a much deeper understanding of a subject they’d heard so much about.

Shah noted that the course material was incredibly interesting to her, but also that feminism is something that students and staff (as well as the general public) should understand on a deeper level.

“I think it gets a bad rap,” she said. “It’s something that I don’t think people really understand until they’ve taken the time to really look at [it]…[Like], what exactly does feminism argue, what are the different branches of feminism? Most people, when they critique feminism, I think they focus more on radical feminisms, and the idea that, y’know, ‘we don’t need men’. But that’s one of many, many, many different versions of feminism, and many individuals don’t abide by that.”

She also mentioned that feminism isn’t just about empowering women, it’s about breaking down the barriers between men and women so that no one is viewed as ‘less than’ another person.

“The only differences that exist [between men and women],” she says, “Are the ones we put upon ourselves. But those differences have been around for so long that it’s really hard to acknowledge that they don’t actually exist biologically.”

She speaks powerfully and with authority, like a woman who knows her stuff and isn’t afraid to show it as she speaks.

“And so I think feminism – especially today – is important because until we start breaking down the assumed differences, we’re never going to get to a point where we can truly have men and women – and anyone else who identifies as any other gender identity outside of the binary – as truly being equal, as truly being respected, as truly viewed as an individual with worth.”

On Leaving Etown

Dr. Shah’s packed-up office is not just the sign of a semester coming to an end – it is the sign of her career at Elizabethtown coming to a close, her chapter in the college’s history books written and ready to be published. She is moving on to Eastern Michigan University, a far cry from the colonial-style buildings and chocolate-scented air of Etown.

“I’m going to be in a place that’s going to be much larger,” she says of Eastern Michigan, “And so, I have no doubt that I will find students and faculty and staff that I will connect with and be close with, but it’s not the same as having a handful of people in every class, even only thirty students in every class, where I can get to know you on a first-name basis.”

But when asked what she’ll miss most about this tiny little college in Amish country, she credits the school’s greatness to its people, without hesitation.

“Etown has some truly amazing faculty and staff that work here who are just some of the most kind-hearted, hardworking, brilliant people you’ll ever meet, and they bring the warmth to Etown, and I will definitely miss that.”

A stack of three large plastic bins sits behind her desk chair as she talks about these people – she says they were filled entirely with her graduate school dissertation data. She said that purging was difficult, but a welcome and cathartic release. It’s sad to see her go, but the feeling of eradication is shared as the semester comes to a close.

We’ll miss you too, Dr. Shah.


Listen to the full interview with Dr. Shah here.

The FX-Men: Mutants on TV in Marvel’s “Legion”

“Who teaches us to be normal when we’re one of a kind?”

Those words, spoken by Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett (yes, named after that Syd Barrett), define one of the many incredibly grounded, human themes playing in the background of FX’s Legion, a new television series based on one of Marvel Entertainment’s many successful X-Men comics of the same name.

In this new superhuman endeavor, created by Noah Hawley (known for his work on FX’s “Fargo” series), Dan Stevens (of “Downton Abbey” and “Beauty and the Beast” fame) plays David Haller, a man who is believed to suffer from paranoid schizophrenic delusions, but may be much more than anyone thinks.

legion
A view on a millennial’s way of watching “Legion” – aka, the blessing of being able to watch DVR’d television on a laptop.

In the comics, David Haller is Legion, the antihero son of Gabrielle Haller and Charles Xavier, the telepathic mutant famously played on film by Sir Patrick Stewart. While Dan Stevens lacks Legion’s infamous high-top hairstyle, his spirit remains the same – a manic, uncertain man coming into an incredible amount of power and not being sure what to do with it. At its core, “Legion” is about a man going through a cycle of acceptance, and the reality of that shows very clearly on Stevens’s face. As extreme as David’s situation is, he’s someone people can connect with on a very deep, very human level, despite the fact that he can hear others’ thoughts and send kitchenware flying with his mind.

Aside from Dan Stevens, the rest of the cast is incredibly smart and well-cast, filled with televisions veterans and newbies alike. Amber Midthunder and Bill Irwin make a fantastic team as Kerry Loudermilk and Cary Loudermilk (yes, you read that right), and Aubrey Plaza makes a wonderfully bizarre Lenny Busker – a role originally written for a middle-aged man.

Jean Smart dominates as Melanie Bird, the stoic leader of “Legion”’s band of mutants. She carries herself with the style of Miranda Priestly and the biting wit of Rizzo from “Grease”, shutting down antagonists with unforgettable one-liners like, “You’d better learn to fly like a bird, because the age of the dinosaur is over.”

Jemaine Clement, known for his comedic work in HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” and 2014’s “What We Do in the Shadows”, brings well-placed laughs as Oliver Bird, the eccentric and long-suffering (or so everyone thinks) husband of Melanie with a fondness for beat poetry and jazz music.

Each character is a scene-stealer in their own right, but the real gem of the show is Noah Hawley’s ability to create an atmosphere that feels foreign and dangerous, getting audiences inside David Haller’s head and projecting his frenzied emotions onto viewers. Prime-time television has seen some other well-received superhero television shows – like the CW’s DC properties and ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – but nothing quite like the acid trip that “Legion” delivers. The show shifts from reality to imagination (and maybe even further) seamlessly, often blurring the line between the two so strongly that viewers have difficulty distinguishing them. In one moment, everything seems normal, and in the next, soldiers are piled together in a floating heap, or a character is literally dancing through the fabric of reality to Bassnectar’s remix of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. And that’s just how Hawley likes it.

The series reads like one long Kubrick film, and isn’t afraid to push the envelope when it comes to production value. Subtle hints to the show’s origins are worked into the set or the camera work – like the circular windows with the x-shaped frames that look eerily similar to the famous X-Men logo (also seen in the show’s title cards) – but they also aren’t shy about using cinematography to drive the story.

Hawley and his team aren’t afraid to play with color and color symbolism, often surrounding their actors with bright hues in the setting or washing them in pure colored lighting to signify something important. Whether it be the bright blue of innocence and safety that shows up in places like the “astral plane” inside the characters’ psyches, the orange that connects David back to his time in Clockworks Mental Hospital, or the dark, sinister stoplight-red that colors a frame every time an antagonist has the upper hand, Hawley colors his show like a child with a set of neon markers, and it works out wonderfully.

Some may call it strange, but most would call it a masterpiece. Noah Hawley and his cast of mutants have succeeded in telling a story that few would be able to translate to the screen, pulling viewers into what David would call a “romance of the mind”.