Weekly article roundup & extra goodies


#CurrentlyReading: Naomi Klein’s “No Is Not Enough”

There’s a line where the sky meets the sea and it calls me
But no one knows, how far it goes
All the time wondering where I need to be is behind me
I’m on my own, to worlds unknown

–”How Far I’ll Go – Reprise,” Moana

This past weekend, I trained at Common Dreams for the Saturday/Sunday shift, so I got to take off today. I used my free time to visit the DMV and handle some household chores, but I am happy to feel increasingly settled at my new job and in my apartment. After work on Friday, I was drained from a long day of trying to sort through some troubling global affairs, so I went home and watched Moana, a Disney film released last year. (For a fascinating look at how producers navigated culture and criticism, check out “Consider the coconut! The Polynesian myths (and Disney-fications) behind Moana.”) For me, Moana resonated because its main female character seeks adventures and life experiences beyond the limited parameters her father sets for her—similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

After watching the movie, I found myself reflecting on two scenes from my teen years. When I was 14 years old and started researching some journalism and political science programs at prestigious Northeastern colleges, my father said to me, “get your head out of the clouds.” He promptly informed me that I would attend community college first, and if I attempted to go to any out-of-state schools, I would “not get a dime” from him. I channeled his rejection of my ambitions into motivation to study harder and lead as many extracurricular activities as I could manage. Three years later, I accepted a full scholarship to attend Ithaca College in New York State; I told my father about it in the exact place where he had told me to stop dreaming.

So, for anyone who has read this far down the post: Don’t let yourself be held back by the people who don’t believe in you. College was by no means easy, but it taught me the value of perseverance, and the vitalness of finding people who love, respect, and support me. I learned to seek out people who both challenge and encourage me to chase after my “crazy” dreams.

Apparently, last week’s reflection theme was “absurd restrictions forced upon me as a teenager,” because I also ranted about dress codes—and received many wonderful words of encouragement from friends, family, and former teachers. I am including it below.

As I retrieved my apartment keys from my handbag tonight, I couldn’t help but notice that my fingertips brushed against my thighs, so this dress would have violated my high school dress code. It has been a decade since I started high school, yet the policing of my attire apparently remains engrained in my subconscious. I, like almost every woman and girl I know, have struggled with body image issues most of my life…but I have also cultivated a love for fashion, and I use my clothing choices to express who I am and who I wish to be. I remember when a male high school teacher reprimanded me for a skirt that barely complied with the dress code; I remember sweating through short-sleeved tops in 90-degree weather, because we weren’t allowed to wear shirts that showed our shoulders; I remember being relieved that the yoga pants-ban came after I graduated, because as a college-bound 18-year-old, they were my go-to comfort option.
Somehow—despite my visible tattoos, pink hair dye, and “short” dress selection for summertime work attire—at age 24, I have graduated college (which I attended on an academic scholarship), secured full-time employment in my desired career field, and fostered a wonderfully supportive community of friends, family, and colleagues who embrace me for who I am, and what I wear. So, maybe it’s time we stop pulling teenage girls out of classrooms for their “distracting” dresses, and allow them to learn while wearing whatever clothing makes them most comfortable. Eventually, they will have to decide what careers they want to pursue and whether they can live with any requirements that accompany those career fields, but first, LET THEM LEARN WHO THEY ARE AND WHO THEY WANT TO BE.
If they want to pursue careers that involve pantsuits and heels, that’s awesome. If they want to work from home in pajamas, sounds great to me. If they want to work for a company that, like mine, accepts an animal print dress and Birkenstocks, then that’s fantastic…but while teens are trying to figure out what to do with their futures, let’s stop policing their wardrobes and instead focus on encouraging them to be thoughtful, compassionate human beings.

A few more pieces you should read (in addition to mine, which are posted at the bottom):

Weekly Roundup (read all my CD articles here)

“The Mooch” Likes Cameras, But DJT is the Boss

Unlike Sen. Sanders, Senate Democrats Don’t Condemn Dirty Energy Bill

Poland’s Lawmakers Are Nuts and Poles Are Mad About It (Update: Shockingly, their far-right president did a good thing and vetoed these awful bills)

Muslim Worshippers Clash With Israeli Forces Outside a Famous Holy Site

Sen. Warren Flunks Trump – Six Month Report Card

Exxon-Exec-Turned-US’s-Top-Diplomat Did Some Bad Things With Russia

Trump Snubs Nation’s Oldest Civil Rights Group (Again)

DJT’s ‘Bait and Switch’ Presidency (Spoiler Alert: He Didn’t “Drain the Swamp”)

GOP Tries to Gut Federal Protections for Endangered Species (See Cute Animal Pics!)

House Republicans Introduce a Budget/Tax Reform to Boost Military, Help Rich Folks

State Dept. Plans to Shut Down Office That Investigates War Crimes, Genocide, Etc.

It Is Also Considering Sending the Refugee Office to Homeland Security

Badass Nuns Build Cornfield Chapel in an Attempt to Block Pennsylvania Pipeline


My struggle to define success

Burnt pastries

While trying to feed myself a subpar dinner, I almost burned down my apartment building.

For months, I have been revisiting the same nearly complete blog post. It resides in my email draft folder—waiting, lurking. Every time I consider publishing it, I stop myself. 

Its topic: Success.

Part of me is turned off by the idea of success—if I consider myself “successful,” won’t I just become complacent?

Part of me is lured in by it—if I consider myself “successful,” won’t that be an indication that I feel fulfilled by my daily life?

I don’t think this internal dichotomy is uncommon, especially among 20-somethings…or dare I even write the dreaded term millennials…but in my day-to-day I don’t often encounter in-depth discussions focused on defining success and analyzing how it pertains our decisions.

My unpublished piece is a critique of a popular news outlet’s BuzzFeed-style listicle about how “successful” people spend their weekends. The listicle’s main premise is that weekends should be reserved for “me time” and passion projects. My argument against that is essentially that success shouldn’t mean doing something you hate every weekday so you can spend the weekends doing what you love (which describes the vibe I got from the listicle); rather, I claim success should mean taking care of yourself and doing something you love every day, and finding a way to live off of that.

And I know, that’s extraordinarily easy to say and immensely more difficult to practice. What’s held me back from hitting that daunting publish button is doubt in my own argument and whether I’m actually practicing what I preach (don’t hate me for this cliché; it’s just too fitting to resist). 

As I type this from the heart of Midtown, guzzling endless cups of tea and coffee to keep my sleep-deprived brain marginally more functional, I ponder my definition and whether my life reflects it. I have spent the last week temporarily doing someone else’s full-time job, while freelancing during mornings and evenings, and working part-time on the weekend (gotta love the Brooklynite’s freelance hustle). 

“Me time” has meant me knocking out from exhaustion in the early hours of the morning, clutching pints of Halo Top or cups of Yogi tea that by some miracle haven’t yet spilled on my laptop (plus facilitating the rescue of a 35-pound raccoon from an eight-foot barbed wire fence and almost burning down my apartment—see photo above—but those are stories for another time). 

As I contemplate my upcoming career and location decisions, I wonder what will be required of me to pursue my passions. I wonder whether I truly want to solidify my currently dubious definition of success, or just keep chasing it; I wonder whether concretely defining success for myself will actually guide me to becoming successful by my own measure; I wonder whether continuous personal growth requires us to allow our individual definitions of success to constantly evolve, and if so, how to navigate that.

With this unsettled definition to consider (not to mention all my swirling thoughts about where I want to live and work), I struggle to determine whether my daily choices are truly enhancing my skills and aligning with my career goals—i.e. paving a path to success.

So, I put these questions to you, internet dwellers:

1. How do you define success?

2. How does passion interact with your definition of success?

Cornell’s new major reflects technology innovation in global & public health

By Jessica Corbett and TinaMarie Craven

Robert Parker was part of the team that proposed Cornell's new major. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

Robert Parker was part of the team that proposed Cornell’s new major. (Photo by Jessica Corbett) Click the photo above to view a slideshow.

Cornell University launched a Global and Public Health major this semester in response to student demand and demonstrated interest in its minor program, Robert Parker, director of undergraduate studies for Cornell’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, said.

Parker noted a trend among higher education institutions developing similar programs, and said examination of peer programs was a key part of developing Cornell’s Global and Public Health major, which was proposed by the Division of Natural Sciences. Public health typically refers to domestic population health, while global health is applied beyond the U.S., Parker said.

“Our program is designed to encompass both of those scenarios,” Parker said, “Our intent is to weave both domestic and international issues, whenever possible, throughout the entire curriculum.”

Growing interest in this field isn’t contained to university students. TechChange, a D.C.-based startup launched in 2010, provides online technology training for agents of social change. Members of the global and public health field are part of their target audience for course offerings.

Beginning Nov. 17, TechChange will offer its most popular course, “mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health,” which coincides with the 2014 mHealth Summit and Global Health Forum in D.C.

Nick Martin, CEO and founder of TechChange, said increased cell phone and Internet availability has changed how health issues can be approached globally.

“We look at things like patient adherence — getting people to take their pills by getting SMS reminders, to remote monitoring — being able to attach the phone to things like censors, to do diagnostic tests, those kinds of things,” Martin said. “Also, for frontline healthcare workers, in most of the world, a number of countries, people don’t have regular to access to hospitals and doctors with health care facilities.”

Cornell’s program focuses on building a deep understanding of both natural and behavioral sciences, combined with a mandatory ‘real-world’ experiential learning course, Parker said. Course requirements range from biochemistry and psychology, to courses on statistics and epidemiology, or the study of the spread of disease.

Click the slide above to view a slideshow for this story.

Click the slide above to view a slideshow for this story.

Parker said one of the reasons mobile technology offers so much opportunity in this field is that transcends limitations of physical infrastructure.

“One of the challenges, often, particularly in resource-poor communities is trying to figure out what’s happening.  And yet as access to mobile devices explodes around the world, it’s becoming a two-way street,” Parker said. “Innovations in technology that transcend traditional infrastructure are opening up lots of new opportunities—both to acquire information about the nature of communities and to effect change in those communities.”

The internet and media are making the public more aware of current health issues Rebecca Stoltzfus, director of the global health minor, said.

“Students find these problems disturbing and compelling, and they want to see how their education can make a difference in people’s lives and can close a gap on some of the big global health inequities that exist in the world,” Stoltzfus said.

Danielle Corona, a biology major and global health minor, conducted her fieldwork in Peru, where she worked to encourage Peruvian women to immunize their children. Vaccine bracelets acted as a physical reminder for mothers, which Corona said was helpful because the bracelet made it easier to bridge literacy and linguistic gaps.

Corona said the program allows students to expand their understandings of health by studying health issues from a broader mindset.

“With Ebola, we have something that’s starting in a small developing country, but it has the potential to spread to other countries and we need to understand how we can deal with issues that are serious,” Corona said. “Globalization is a real thing. We have to know how to deal with health threats around the world, whether it is a small village in Thailand or a main city in America.”

Click here to view a slideshow for this story.