Major Decisions and More by afederoff

After twenty-four full hours of totems, charisma (as in “deep truth revealed by cosmic order, recognized by social adherence”), and modernity, I thought I would officially commence the summer with one last blog as a freshman at Duquesne University. Finals sucked, I’m not going to lie. Luckily, I only had four finals (instead of the dreaded five) and I think I did well on all of them. My classes were awesome, my professors helpful, and my experience wonderful!

Let me tie up some odds and ends:

I think I’ve finally decided on a major… sort of. I entered Duquesne as a journalism major, enrolled in the Narratio learning community. Although I have decided to not pursue a career in the journalism field, I could not be happier with the path I took. Besides the obvious elements (such as making great friends, having awesome professors, and fun opportunities…like blogging!), I have found many of the classes I have taken this past year will be helpful in building my future curriculum. For example, Media and Society has been a great stepping-stone to future classes I will be taking. So, without further ado, I have decided to make my own major. The liberal arts college offers this incredible program in which a student literally makes a major of their own. With the help of my adviser, I decided this was the best path for me because of my future goals (to go to NYU and get a MSW/JD). If you have your heart set on Duquesne, but the liberal arts college does not have the exact major you are looking for, I would suggest looking into the program. In order to do this, I must compose my curriculum plan to our dean along with my reasoning for this course of study (major summer project). What do I plan on studying exactly? I like to call it a degree in feminism… it will be a unique combination of media studies, sociology, women studies, and conflict resolution.

That brings me to my next point: you’re never too new to get involved. Though countless advisors, interviewers, and peers have told me I am way ahead of the game, I think I am just trying to stay on the right path, following my passions. So, as my summer plans shape up, I will be working for an OB/GYN Monday through Thursday, and Fridays and Saturdays will be devoted to my internship, the first exciting leap into my career path. I briefly mentioned it before, but since it began in January, I have hardly had the time to blog about it. Anyway, I will be an intern for Ms. Courtney Martin, feminist activist and author. The Women’s Center Therapy Institute, in NYC, has asked to be the frontrunner for their international campaign against distorters of body image. The campaign, entitled Endangered Species: Preserving the Female Body, is scheduled to occur in March of 2011 and I am ecstatic to announce that I have currently been working on the guest list!

In terms of getting involved on campus and in Pittsburgh, I would encourage new freshmen to step out of the comfort zone and just try everything. Organizations I have become heavily involved with are CONTACT Pittsburgh, Strong Women Strong Girls, the Liberal Art blog, and Residence Life, as well as Phi Eta Sigma (the freshmen honors fraternity) and Lambda Sigma (the sophomore honors fraternity). Becoming involved was one of the best decisions I have made all year. Sure, it took guts to attend all those initial meetings, but luckily I have them. J If you don’t, please, please take me up on this offer: email me, comment me, ask me questions etc. Being involved is key, especially as a Duquesne student!

Thinking back to high school, I still don’t enjoy being a freshman a.k.a. “fresh meat” and the like. But at Duquesne, faculty and peer leaders somehow manage to make it less scary then James Caldwell High School did. In fact, it’s not the kind of scary where you want to go home or eat lunch in the bathroom; it’s more like scary before a performance, a date, or a speech. Oh wait… I think the word for that is excitement.

Happy summer, see you all in August!



Don’t Be Afraid of the Learning Communities!!!! by afederoff

Just about this time last year, I was attempting to choose a learning community for my freshmen year. I know I was a little unsure of how much weight this held, how it would mold my year, and how to decide. Let me try to remedy that:

First and foremost, let me say that Duquesne’s Liberal Arts learning communities are awesome! They all really help integrate students into the Duquesne community instead a blunt transition. For this reason, you are “safe” picking any learning community offered. Basically, being a member of this community entails a couple things – you will have four core classes with these students (three first semester and one second), you will work on a service project with them through out these semesters, and you will live on the same floor as these people. Each community features different classes and a unique service project. These range from organizing organ/blood donation to publishing a book for senior citizens of Pittsburgh.

There are several ways you can choose your learning community.

  • By Location: Each community lives on a specific floor in a specific building. I know there are many rumors about the two buildings, Martin’s and Ann’s, and some students pick their learning community based on these locations. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS because it is not guaranteed the community will reside in the same location.
  • By Professor/Director: If you have met a compelling professor featured in a specific learning community, you may be interested in joining that community. Before picking this community, however, speak with the professor about the community: they will have a lot of great insight to offer you!
  • By Curriculum: While I would not solely choose your learning community based on curriculum, it is important to look at the classes each community requires: in reality, this is where a large amount of your time will be spent. I would encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone if there is a class you have never taken or do not fully understand, but if one class appears totally boring to you, that is something to consider.
  • By Goal: Each learning community features several nouns and a catchphrase summarizing what will be achieved in this community. For example, as a member of Narratio, my phrase is “Create a story about your community”. This is what appealed to me, and as I continued to read about the courses and Dr. Sora on, I realized this was the right community for me.
  • By Others: I know that some people are afraid of not knowing anyone in their learning community and band together with friends or acquaintances in order to prevent this. I would highly advise against this – first, there is no need to worry about being alone; chances are most people will be in the same place as you. Second, the curriculum and service project will take up a majority of your time. If you are not particularly interested in these requirements, the learning community experience will not be as fun and beneficial!

Here is a quick synopsis of each learning community (you can find more information here:

reckoning, reason, judgment, method

Improve your analytical thinking skills.

Director: Dr. Michael Irwin, Department of Sociology

people, crowd, multitude

Explore the dynamics of cultures and societies, masses and movements.

Director: Dr. Charles Hanna

parts, roles, characters, personalities

Consider how individuals and groups shape one another.

Director: Dr. Leswin Laubscher, Department of Psychology

circle, the world, the earth

Study other lands, cultures, and states.

Director: Dr. Mark Frisch, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

telling relating, narrative, story

Create a story about your community.

Director: Dr. Joseph Sora, Department of Journalism and Multimedia Arts

letters, literature

Explore literature and society.

Director: Dr. Stuart Kurland, Department of English

trial, legal investigation, judgment, decision

Search for truth and justice through evidence in the public sphere.

Director: Dr. Ronald Arnett, Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies

trust, confidence, belief, faith

Challenge and strengthen your most important beliefs.

Director: Dr. Jotham Parsons, Department of History

trust, confidence, belief, faith

Challenge and strengthen your most important beliefs.

Director: Dr. Jotham Parsons, Department of History

state, citizenship, city-state

Prepare to make a difference in community and governance.

Director: Dr. Tsekani Browne, Department of History

Good luck,


Narratio Learning Community by afederoff
01.26.10, 3:47 pm
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags: , ,

As I blogged about last semester, my learning community is Narratio. With the caption, “telling, relating, narrative, story,” our service project, in broad terms, is to create a story about our community. My membership in this community landed me on the fourth floor of St. Ann Hall West with my fellow female Narratio-ians: those who would hope to major in Journalism, Production, and Multimedia Arts etc. We could catch a glimpse of our male counterparts across the window on the East side of the building.

Just to re-cap, I completed three classes last semester with these students: Media and Society, our community director Dr. Sora, which turned out to largely be a history class, Thinking and Writing, a core writing class, and Biblical and Historical Prospectives. Although none of these students are my absolute best friend, I found many benefits in local study partners and we developed a sense of solidarity.

This semester, I live on the fifth floor, apart from my learning community, and I am unsure about my future in the Journalism profession. Still, I am a proud member of the Narratio community and I am enrolled in our community class, Understanding Art, with the same students. However, I recently discovered we have encountered a few setbacks. Our community project was to produce a magazine that would be distributed to the elderly folks at the senior center in the Southside. Our class was split up, much like a production company would be, and we had individual tasks that needed to be completed. As an assigned writer, my job needed to be completed first. And that, I assure, it was. Yet, apparently, somewhere along the line, tasks were not fulfilled, and our production has not yet been published. This made it difficult for us to write our final paper in Thinking and Writing – so we didn’t write it. Last week, in Understanding Art, our professor suggested we reference our papers to complete an assignment. Unfortunately, this was impossible. She was shocked to find out about the events that occurred, and is getting the project back on track.

To be honest, even though our learning community service project did not go as smoothly as planned, the bumps in the road served the biggest service possible; I am almost positive I do not want to be a journalist one day. Had it not been for this real world experience, I would not have realized how much dependence I would have on other sectors, or my personal distaste for this. I would have continued in my major, and one day, ended up very unhappy.

On the first day of my Media class, Dr. Sora said he had two goals for the semester: to either persuade us of futures in journalisms, or to prove it was not our calling or ultimate profession. I think he just may have succeeded.


10 Simple Ways to Have a Better Day by afederoff
12.09.09, 11:13 am
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags: ,

This article will appear in Narratio’s  publication for the senior citizens. Enjoy! Alyssa

10 Simple Ways to Have a Better Day

Sometimes not even the sun can clear up the clouds hanging overhead. Unfortunately, gloomier days are bound to happen; they pave the way for smiles and sunshine. Yet when that raincloud cannot be shed, it can be difficult to remember that there is something beautiful hiding behind every corner. Days like that may require a little extra effort, but these ten tips can help make every day, especially rough days, a little bit better.

  1. Pick a phrase of the day, and force yourself to incorporate it into conversation. Phrases can range from “when in Rome” to “an apple a day”. Thoughts of this phrase loom in the back of the mind, and when the chance to insert it appears, a strange sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. This is such a fun and easy way to keep the mind gears turning all day, every day.
  2. Write down the one new thing you learn everyday in a journal. Although sometimes this may be a challenge, learning is daily. At the end of the year, open the journal and recognize all the knowledge that has been acquired through out the calendar year. This really illustrates that no matter the year of birth, knowledge is endless, and life is full of unknowns just waiting to be discovered.
  3. Look at the sky. Every day is different, but there is beauty every single day. Whether it is finding the moon in the middle of the day, or deciphering shapes inside the clouds, the sky is a great resource to induce wonder.
  4. Read a comic. This activity may take less than a minute, but it can set the tone for a great day. Comics, although sometimes silly, can highlight the simplicity and humor in everyday life. Although life is a serious matter, it is important to remember not to take anything, including yourself, too seriously.
  5. Listen to soothing music, especially upon awaking. Before you begin your morning routine of brushing your teeth or preparing breakfast, switch on a relaxing radio station, to gently ease you into the day. By beginning slowly, and without much stress, each day will flow.
  6. Say thank you. The important aspect of saying thank you is the recognition that it requires. Making a conscious effort to acknowledge favors forces you to see the kindness in people. Although many occurrences indicate that the world is becoming more violent, this simple activity encourages the opposite.
  7. Check the weather. Any kind of weather can be lovely, if you’re prepared for it. Sure, rain is a pain if you’re wearing the wrong shoes, and the sun is too hot if you’re wearing a sweater, but preparation can change all of that. If you have the tools (i.e. rain boots), any kind of weather can be fun! Abolish the woes of inclimate weather, and check the weather everyday.
  8. Have a good breakfast. Sure, statistics show that breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. However, explore breakfast choices that you enjoy.
  9. Help someone. There are many ways to help someone, and some of them take very little effort. Whether it be something big, like volunteer time with a nonprofit organization, or just simply holding the door for someone, helping others is a great to get a little bit more out of each day. Plus, a tiny act of random kindness may mean a lot for the person on the other end.
  10. Smile. It truly is a contagious activity. On days that are dragging on, a smile may be all someone needs to make it through. Pass on a smile, and it will be returned to you at some point through out the day.

Although sometimes it feels like the roof is indefinitely leaking, these ten simple behaviors can brighten any day.

Senior Center by afederoff
11.15.09, 7:30 am
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags: ,

On Thursday, as part of my learning community project, I visited a senior center in the Southside. As a freshman, the learning community I belong to is Narratio, which based upon the concept of narration. For our community project we are publishing a book for the elderly of Pittsburgh. Although we had already been assigned our articles, my fellow writers and I wanted to get a better feel for our audience.

With Dr. Sora’s approval, instead of going to class, we set out for the Southside at 9 A.M. After a quick 15-minute walk, we arrived and quickly learned that Thursdays are Bingo days. Unfortunately, because of this, not many people wanted to speak with us. Many were busy buying bingo cards, getting stampers ready, and whatever other preparation Bingo involves. We approached several tables with our note pads, looking like real reporters, and explained our mission, but we were turned away by about half of the senior citizens. Although we got some information, the resistance of the people certainly spoke loud enough. The trip informed us that many older people are uninterested in the society of today. This information will help us tweak the outlook of our articles.

Eventually, an aerobics instructor suggested we go see what was going on in the back room. Upon entering, we found a line dancing class was in session! This type of dancing, although pretty easy, still is a great workout featured at the senior center. As we stood by watching, they encouraged us to join, and finally Erica and I gave in. We stayed and learned about four dances before becoming tired out. Yet, it was a really cool intergenerational experience. The senior center is a great resource for elderly people who still want to feel jovial and agile.


Narratio by afederoff
10.29.09, 5:08 am
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags: , ,

My learning community, Narratio, has finally jumped into our community research project. Narratio, full of mostly journalists or communication majors, will be publishing a book specifically for the elder community of Pittsburgh. Earlier in the semester, after a seminar on the publishing industry, my professor asked for a two-page paper describing what part of the industry we were interested in. With that, he split us into groups and basically turned our classroom into a mini publishing industry.

There is the editorial side, which contains the editorial managers, the writers (myself and Erica included), the researchers, the proofreaders etc. Then, there is the production committee, full of photographers, page designers and the like. It is very cool to the see the “industry” to function as a whole during group discussions. Everything is very professional as well, considering estimates and the audience. I think that this project is perfect for my major because it is really giving me a taste (although it’s certainly a small one) of what my future may look like.

I am very excited that I was assigned to be a writer for the book. We have been working closely with the editorial managers to come up with stories that would interest our audience. Ideas such as “What’s wrong with the Old Country Buffet” and “80 is the new 60” are being tossed around. The whole thing is a lot of fun!  In fact, Dr. Sora, being the cool professor that he is, is considering canceling class so the writers can take a trip down to a senior citizen center and get a feel of their interests. I’m excited that the ball is finally rolling!

There’s definitely more to come.


Narratio Service Project by x3erica1037


Today was the unofficial beginning of my learning community’s service project. (Shoutout to the Narratio kids!!) Last week, we all handed in papers about where we would ideally like to work in the publishing business, and today our professor, Dr. Sora, assigned us to groups of three to five people based on what we wrote. The groups represented departments in the editorial and production sides of a publishing company including Editorial Management, Reporters/Writers, and Arts and Technology.

I was put into the group of reporters and writers, so we will be working closely with Editorial Management, who will decide what they want us to actually write about. My group may even get to visit one of the senior centers in the area to do some interviews, which I think would be really fun. As of now, we’ve had the first meeting with our groups and learned a little bit about what each of us will be doing.

Our overall goal is to work together throughout the semester and eventually publish a book for the senior citizens of Pittsburgh. Since the senior citizens are a bit of a forgotten demographic in the media, Dr. Sora thought publishing something specifically for their age group would be a good way to incorporate service in with our focus on writing. I think they will be happy to meet with us and hopefully enjoy reading our finished project.

More updates about the project to come!