Tag Archives: College

Widener University Attends 2017 FUSE Conference on Representation and Resistance

Cabrini University hosted the fifth annual Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) conference at the beginning of November 2017. FUSE is a national organization that provides a network for undergraduate student editors and writers and their faculty advisers. The three-day conference brought together about 60 students from 13 universities for a series of writing and editing workshops and panels centered around the theme of representation and resistance.

The conference aimed to display the importance of understanding “tha capacity of literary arts to evoke social change, depict the experiences of underrepresented populations, and protest injustices.” Each workshop was dedicated to speaking out, finding your voice, and telling one’s story, whether it be through Susquehanna University’s “Feminist Short-Shorts” or SUNY Geneseo’s “Defining Your America.”

Poet and activist Martín Espada kicked off the conference with a captivating reading of his poems, which “explore the immigrant and working class experience.” He read passionate poems from his published works as well as moving poetry in response to today’s political climate. Espada also hosted a workshop on satirical poetry where he read examples from Marge Piercy, Ernesto Cardenal, Jack Agüeros, and John Millington Synge before encouraging students to write and present their own satirical poetry from what they learned.20171103_201203

Widener University was represented by Nicole Gray, Jasmine Kouyate, Haley Poluchuck, Jennifer Rohrbach, Carlie Sisco, and Kira Smith, along with their professors. Below are reviews from Widener representatives regarding the 2017 conference:

Jennifer Rohrbach
Carlie Sisco, Nicole Gray and I presented an hour-long workshop session titled “Using Documentary Theater to Craft Monologues of Resistance.” During the workshop, we worked with student editors from other schools to write monologues that addressed the issue of polarization in our society. We used examples from Anna Deavere Smith’s 1994 book, Twilight, Los Angeles, 1992, to help students shape their own monologues. Smith’s book contains monologues from people involved with and impacted by the 1992 Los Angeles uprising in protest of the police brutality of Rodney King. 2017 marks twenty-five years since the uprising occurred, so we really wanted the monologues created during our workshop to do justice to Smith’s work and the legacy of the event. It was a little nerve-wracking to present in front of a whole seminar room of my peers, but they were extremely receptive to our vision for the workshop. It was especially rewarding to hear how the mode of monologue-writing pushed people out of their comfort zones and made them think about language–and the impact of 20171103_135311it–in a different way.

Carlie Sisco
The most inspiring aspect of this conference was being able to hear the incredible writing of my fellow peers at the open mics. We are a very tight-knit team at Widener and we’ve gotten to know each other not only as people, but also as writers. It was amazing to hear from the talented students at other universities and colleges who are brave enough to read personal or vulnerable pieces of work to a room filled with strangers that share the same passion. This conference allowed for so many opportunities to generate pieces as well as reading them. Between those who shared during Martín Espada’s workshop and those who read during the two-hour open mic, I’ve become so impressed and inspired by those around me. It’s a true testament to why we do what we do. As writers, we aim to inspire, move others, express a given voice, and potentially make a difference with the stories we tell. Listening to the students I’ve gotten to meet and work with over the course of three days, it’s easy to tell that we’re on that path. I’ve never felt such a part of such a talented community.

Nicole Gray
After attending Martín Espada’s workshop and enjoying how people got very into the performance element of their writing, I felt it was a must to attend the performance poetry workshop. I was glad I did. Susquehanna University held a session titled “Using Performance Poetry to Reclaim Identity” in which students were asked to explore their identity, what brought them to this place in their lives, and what sense 20171103_134045of self does to propel them in today’s society. The students running it had history in acting and were able to provide suggestions about voice and body language. They also shared information about a slam poetry club they were involved in at their own school. It was cool to hear that performance poetry is becoming more appreciated as literature in itself, since it certainly has qualities that cannot be expressed through pen and paper.

Jasmine Kouyate
During the FUSE conference, a few Widener students participated in the workshop shop hosted by fellow University of California Los Angeles students, titled “Finding Your Voice.” The prompt given at the workshop was to write about a time that you feel you should have spoken up when feeling marginalized or when your voice was undermined. We were given fifteen minutes to write about this moment in time and then an additional ten minutes to write about how the conversation would have gone had you spoken up. In this moment, I was forced to step into the consciousness of the individual whom I disagreed with and conceptualize realistic dialogue for this hypothetical situation. While I did not necessarily come to any resolution with that person, I found that exercise to be cathartic, daunting, and comforting. It was comforting to know that I had internally confronted the individual and myself, knowing that I will be prepared in the future for confronting ignorance and bigotry.

Haley Poluchuck
FUSE was interesting. I liked being surrounded by writers and getting to know people from different schools who shared my majors. Martín Espada, our guest reader, had great pieces with awesome backstories and meaning. He was very animated and was entertaining to watch. I also enjoyed hearing pieces written by the other students, read during the open mic. I learned some interesting things during the different panels as well. The first talked about writing monologues, which is a style I hadn’t written in before. It’s a great way to exercise dialogue-writing skills. Another panel I went to talked about editorial policy, which I was interested in because I want to be an editor. We discussed how to choose what should and shouldn’t be accepted in a journal. Being Widener Ink’s past editor-in-chief, it was interesting to hear from other students who ran literary journals and to hear what they did differently. Overall, the conference was a great way to meet people with similar skills and goals as me, and it was a great learning opportunity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Dr. Kenneth Pobo’s Loplop in a Red City Engages Audience at Widener University

For those who have an appreciation for the arts, it can often be hard to choose just one form, let alone one single work of art to showcase. The world of artist expression is vast and constantly changing. Fortunately, we do not have to choose. We can praise all art and even weave it together as our own, which Widener professor, Dr. Kenneth Pobo demonstrates in his newest book, Loplop in a Red City.

Released on May 15, Loplop in a Red City is a collection of ekphrastic poetry inspired by artworks old and new, figurative to abstract, Vincent Van Gogh to Leonora Carrington to Max Ernst. The poems are agonized and idyllic, uneasily at home in the surreal, animated, beautiful, and complex.

A large group of students, fellow faculty, and more gathered in the Widener University Art Gallery on October 5 to hear Pobo read from this book of ekphrastic poetry. Anybody who has ever heard Pobo read poetry before can agree there was a draw to be in that room and share in the experience.

22228595_10155712969309754_3351709741957370351_n

Dr. Kenneth Pobo shares his latest ekphrastic poetry at the Widener University Art Gallery

In Dr. Michael Cocchiarale’s introduction, he mentioned that Pobo became interested in poetry through a love of music. How fitting that someone so impacted by writing would also be impacted by music, painting, and any other artform. When one person has such a passion for art, it can become contagious and that is what happened that day at the reading. By the time Pobo got to the poem “Georgia O’Keefe’s Flowers”, his audience was so engrossed that most of us felt we were indeed collapsing into this magnificent flower that he described

I think a good way to sum up the theme of the experience is with Pobo’s response to the question, “What is your favorite painting?” After some thought, he simply said, “I don’t know.” I think for any true artist that is the only answer. Art can affect all different parts of us and for all different reasons. Though we might be driven, for a moment, to appreciate one work of art above others, the nature of art makes it impossible for any one piece to stand alone as the best.

Loplop in a Red City is published by Circling Rivers and is available for purchase on Amazon.

by Nicole Gray

2016 FUSE Conference Addresses Literary Citizenship

Since 2012, Widener students have been attending and presenting at the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) national conference. This year, students and advisors from fifteen schools from South Carolina to Pennsylvania to Michigan to California came to Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio to present on the conference theme of literary citizenship. Widener University was represented by junior English majors Emma Irving and Jennifer Rohrbach and senior creative writing and communications double major Kelsey Styles, along with creative writing professor and faculty advisor Dr. Michael Cocchiarale.

20161103_101402

Literary citizenship is, to put it quite simply, the act of creating a more positive community with stronger writers and editors. It can also include the acts of maintaining diverse journals, teaming with other publications and organizations on campus, communicating effectively among staff and writers, and encouraging participation from all students—not just English or creative writing majors.

Widener students presented a panel about how four campus publications tackle this issue.
Widener’s The Blue Route, a national undergraduate literary journal, publishes interviews with local authors and poets. Widener Ink and the Blue & Gold both sit down with students and work together to improve that student’s writing. The Chester Magazine connects Widener with the surrounding community, and works to bridge Chester’s growing arts scene. All three of Widener’s student representatives collaborated to create this panel.
Here are personal reflections from two Widener participants at FUSE:
Jennifer Rohrbach

Working with Widener’s dedicated community of writers, editors, and readers gave me the opportunity to hone my own writing and editing skills through publications such as The Blue Route, the Blue & Gold, and Widener Ink. My three years at Widener have shaped me into a literary citizen without me even realizing it! But the literary community is so much larger than what we see on Widener’s campus. Attending FUSE at the wonderful Bowling Green State University opened my eyes to the national literary community, what it has accomplished, and what it can become.

We hit the ground running on Thursday, the first day of the conference. After a business meeting and a journal showcase, students from universities across the United States presented panels on how their schools and publications promote literary citizenship. I learned that literary citizenship is a much broader, yet more inclusive term that I’d originally thought. Anyone with a love for literature and a desire to share it can be a literary citizen. One of the most inspiring panels I attended was about representation and diversity not only in the stories published in journals and lit magazines, but also among the editors reading submissions.

On Friday, the group split up for roundtables where students from different schools could more casually discuss topics such as aesthetics and technology and advising student editors. It was a great experience to speak with students I otherwise would never have met, and it was reassuring to hear that they go through the same highs and lows with their publications that I go through with the publications I’m a part of. After the roundtables, I chose to participate in the Guerilla Poetry activity—just one of the various activities for the afternoon. A group of about 10 students and I left sheets of poetry all around Bowling Green’s campus which, for comparison’s sake, is at least three time’s Widener’s size, if not more. We got some weird looks from Bowling Green students as we stuck poetry in random books at the library and in between bike wheel spokes. But not an hour later our ‘tour guide’ Ally Butler (a student at Bowling Green and FUSE attendee) got a Snapchat from a friend who was delighted to have found a poem stuck to a tree in the middle of the quad.

While the conference itself was great, my favorite part was the new friends I made. On a campus as small as Widener’s you can see the same people every day. It was inspiring to realize that there is a community of writers and editors out there in the world who are as enthusiastic about literature as I am, and who are dedicated to instilling that enthusiasm within others to further cultivate literary citizenship.

Kelsey Styles

I attended many panels about literary citizenship. The first panel I attended was run by two students from Francis Marion University in South Carolina. They talked about how to get more majors involved with the literary journals on campus. Editor-in- chief of their journal, Snow Island Review, Anna Jackson, was herself a psychology major, and used that to her advantage. During her presentation, she pulled up scientific theories of motivation, such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and explained how she incorporated them into her campus organization. She explained that by giving editors more responsibility and making them feel like they were contributing to something important, they became more excited to work toward the common goal. Not only did meeting attendance increase for them, their submissions soared from about 75 to about 180.

The next presentation I saw was about Susquehanna University’s literary journal, Flagship. It’s a journal just for travel writing, and it’s open to all majors at their university. At Susquehanna, it’s required that all students study abroad at least once. This journal is not only a collection of some of those stories, it’s a way for students to cope with any culture shock or large experiences they were struggling with since returning from another country.

The final panel I attended before my own presentation was about representation in literature, entitled “Maintaining a Diverse Literary Community.” Camera Martin from Oakland University explained how it was the responsibility of editors to include diverse writers. Editors are the gatekeepers of media, in many cases. By opening the door to writers of color and writers of different sexualities, editors are able to create a more diverse and empathetic audience—and it is their job to do so. Her panel was fabulous. Widener followed her which was both tough because it was such a strong presentation but also a plus because she’d drawn a significant crowd. We basically had a full room to discuss how Widener contributes to literary citizenship—which we do in many ways.

There were more than just panels. I also went to a keynote speech by the very talented Karen Craigo (I know she’s very talented because I attended her reading later that day). I went to a reading by Wendell Mayo, a fascinating author with strong voice. Friday, I attended a discussion about how other schools conducted their literary journals. Widener’s literary journals are extracurricular, though the Chester Magazine had a class element to it and Professor Cocchiarale has taught a Contemporary Literary Scene class that examined current undergraduate journals including our own. All schools who participated in the discussion explained some of the benefits and the drawbacks of conducting their journals in the class format. Some schools, like Susquehanna and Widener, had several journals, and some schools, like Cabrini, only had one. Bowling Green also hosted workshops where students could either work on their writing, post poems around campus, or create their own zines.

Though I had initially been wary about the small size of the conference, FUSE 2016 was ultimately just as amazing as a large conference. I was able to make closer friendships than I would have otherwise made. It’s easier to get to know someone when you’re constantly in close proximity. At a larger conference, I might not have seen the same people twice. This FUSE, I not only saw people constantly, but by the end of the conference we had interacted so much that I could consider us friends.

If you wish to start a FUSE chapter at your undergraduate institution, check out the FUSE National website for more information: http://www.fuse-national.com/.

20161104_134329

Written by Jennifer Rohrbach and Kelsey Styles

2016 Banned Books Week Begins!

 

This week marks the start of the annual Banned Books Week! The event was established in 1982 as a way to celebrate the freedom to read and shine a light on the persistent problem of censorship. Organizations across the nation have been participating ever since. This year the celebration takes place from September 25-October 1.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), Banned Books Week “highlights the value of free and open access to information” as well as “brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

Since 1982, more than 11,300 books have at least been challenged, meaning a person or group has requested for a book to be removed. In the last year alone, 275 books were recorded challenged by the ALA. Titles of the top ten most challeged books of 2015 include Looking for Alaska by John Green, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, and I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Books such as these are often challenged for their diverse content.

An infographic on Readers.com explains the reasoning behind these challenges to be primarily caused by books containing offensive language, sexual content, or content unsuited for the age group it is being presented to. Other reasons include violence, homosexuality, religious views, racism, and substance abuse. While some books remain merely challenged, other books suffer a ban from certain countries meaning the book is successfully removed from libraries or being taught in schools.

Banned Books Week celebrates all 11,300 of these challenges. With censorship prohibiting what people can and cannot see or read, it is important to exercise freedom. Turning a blind eye to “diversity” won’t solve anything. This week, and in the weeks following, embrace diversity instead of trying to hide it. Read freely!

For more information on Banned Books Week visit their website or follow their Twitter!

Check this out!

Staff editor Jennifer Rohrbach has been published on FlashFiction.net. Read her awesome analysis here!

Reflections on the Managing Seminar for College News Editors

English and Creative Writing students often have so many opportunities to show off their skills in various university clubs and organizations, including school newspapers! Here, Kelsey Styles reflects on a journalism conference she attended in July and gives us a peek at the interesting world of college journalism.

I never would have considered breaking news to be something I, a mere student, should be thinking about. However, two weeks ago at the Managing Seminar for College News Editors (MSCNE15) in Athens, Georgia, I realized that I could make an impact. Were something to happen on campus, students could be the first ones there—we could beat NBC and CNN if we’re fast enough!

Going into MSCNE, I wasn’t sure how to feel. My brain was stuck on the concept that attending would mean I’d have to do work (in the summer, no less). Even up through the orientation dinner, where event coordinator Cecil Bentley explained that sessions would run from almost 9 am to 9 pm each day and that we’d need to complete projects in our free time on top of that, I was concerned. What had I gotten myself into? But by the end of the next full day, I knew I was in the right place.

Despite one or two bores, most seminars were entertaining, informative, and eye-opening.  One session, “Journalism of Ideas” by Dan Reimold, was an hour and a half of generating stories worth reading. What I loved about his session was that he didn’t just stick to traditional storytelling. He discussed ideas that could create a buzz, like short interviews with students that could be posted to social media, picture galleries of the weirdest graffiti on campus, and professors reading reviews (like the ever-famous “celebrities read tweets about themselves” video series).

Of course, the conference wasn’t just about fun with social media. The advising professors spent a lot of time discussing the proper execution of a breaking news piece and students got to explain some of their proudest investigative pieces. Throughout the week, we were expected to write a feature piece on the city of Athens using several multimedia tools. My group’s site, found here, has a full-length story along with a map, infographic, picture gallery, and video. We were told to play to our weaknesses, so I learned how to make an infographic, and made both on that website!

On Thursday, we had a breaking news exercise where we had the chance to, as one speaker put it, “get it first; get it right”. This was especially cool because it was my first experience covering an event in real-time. I had a chance to play photographer while others conducted full interviews and wrote pieces. My phone was constantly buzzing as members on the scene relayed information back to the office, while the students there fed us questions to ask.

In another room, MSCNE15 advisors continued refreshing our sites to see who had the most up-to-date information and who was first to complete their articles. At the end, a mock press conference was held, and then a press release was finally sent out. After the exercise, we were all called in for “the beat down,” as one staff member called it. The professors ripped our sites to shreds, telling us how many things we’d messed up or gotten wrong. Though the actual breaking news exercise was exhilarating, the end was sobering; as the professors explained, we only get one chance in the real world.

At the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia!

At the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia!

Though the breaking news exercise was perhaps the most informative of the entire week (the hands-on aspect of the experience was so valuable), I also feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to visit the CNN World Headquarters. The conference we had with Paul Crum, the CNN Vice President of U.S. news operations, as well as various other official CNN reporters, was truly gratifying. The conference was one of those experiences that almost didn’t seem real—am I actually in a room with the best of the best in this business? – until the head of internships came out and began answering questions about how to apply. I know I have a lot to improve upon, and I may never be accepted to work for CNN, but the opportunity to be in that room and have the head of CNN’s internship program offer insider information about how to get involved there made me feel like I was worthy—like I could actually do this for a living one day.

I absolutely loved attending MSCNE15, more than I can explain here. Not only was it informative and exciting (which are two things every good conference should be), but it was almost a relief. My absolute delight with everything – even the boring two-hour seminars I sometimes had to struggle through – was an affirming sign that I’m in the right place and doing exactly what I love to do in life.

By Kelsey Styles

College Orientation for Humanities Majors

And so it’s the middle of June. The mortarboard caps have been thrown in the air, sensational senior week beach trips have been carried out…now it’s time for college orientation season to begin! We all remember that awkward day of bonding games, peppy tour guides, and motivational speeches, but how much does that day really prepare you for what’s ahead, especially as a Humanities major? What advice or tips would you give to incoming Humanities students as their college experience truly begins with orientation day? Comment and let us know…and then go tell that to any recent graduates in your life about how to deal with what’s coming next!