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!



Busy as a Bee by afederoff
04.22.10, 8:10 am
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags: ,

Ok, I know I’m a bad blogger… I haven’t written in two weeks! Show mercy: here’s why.

Since returning to Pittsburgh from Easter, I have been bombarded with work. In fact, even before that. My entire Easter Break was spent reading GenX Religion an (300 page) anecdotal analysis on Generation X and the religion they practice. Ok, so yeah, we were assigned books on the syllabus with hopes to end unit three with book reviews of several different views on religion. The assignment was twofold: part one was a three-page book report, incorporating how the book applied to the material through out the course. The second part was a fifty-minute presentation in which you educated the rest of the class on the book – obviously not the assignment to postpone. I also have been struggling with a film review on the Matrix and how it approaches religion and modernity. Oh right, and that’s just one class. Other classes have been going the same way, as I’m sure everyone can attest to.

Yesterday, I visited Roosevelt Elementary for Strong Women Strong Girls for the last time this semester. Unfortunately, our programming there only encompasses fifth graders, who leave the school for middle school this summer. So it was goodbye. However, seeing their progress was incredible. For example, seating was always an issue for us, so we would lay out name cards every week in a random order. Yesterday, though, we let them sit where they wanted, and to our surprise, there were no issues and the split themselves up evenly at the tables. Although I will miss them, I am very excited to meet a new set of girls next fall.

As I run off to class, the computer lab, the library, class, the ice cream sale, and back to the library, the best thing I can offer is a little ice cream – Strong Women Strong Girls will have an ice cream stand on the third floor of the union: for one dollar, you get a scoop and a topping. Additional scoops and toppings are twenty-five cents. It’s a great deal, a great study break, and a great cause.

Hope to see you there,


Freshmen Involvement Update: Overload by afederoff

I happen to know for a fact that my RA is on duty on Tuesday nights. (Yet, this is to be expected after doing rounds with her.) So, last Tuesday, right before Easter Break, I had a bunch of floor mates over to hang out before we all headed to our respective homes. When Hailey, my RA, knocked on the door to do her post freshmen involvement forms, I was surprised by what I heard.

As she went around the room asking each of my friends what they had become involved with, I was impressed by how these girls manage their time. Every person in the room had become involved with any programs, clubs, or sororities Duquesne has offered. As time goes on, I am finding this is not uncommon for the Duquesne University student. Many organizations are very welcoming to freshmen, and our students seem to want to be involved.

However, as I listed all the things I have planned for next year, I became increasingly overwhelmed. Here is the list I spewed out to Hailey:

Strong Women Strong Girls: I’m sure everyone knows my now I am a mentor for Strong Women Strong Girls and I love it! This is an awesome organization to be a part of, especially if you plan on going into education, gender studies, or PR. The sense of community established among Duquesne mentors is welcoming, but because the organization is in many cities, the feeling of being part of a tri-city volunteer organization is very powerful.

Resident Assistant: I was accepted to be a resident assistant. Of course, there are many benefits to this job, but I hear it is very time consuming. Nonetheless, I am very excited for all aspects of the job. In fact, I find out where I will be living next year tonight.

Phi Eta Sigma: This is a freshmen honors society. I think about 250 freshmen students are members. Commitments include bi-weekly meetings.

Lambda Sigma: This is a sophomore honors society. Only 50 students are accepted into this fraternity, which fosters leadership, scholarship, fellowship and the spirit of service. I am very excited to be a member of this organization. Requirements are weekly meetings and 13 hours of community service a semester.

CONTACT Pittsburgh: Contact is an incredible organization: it is a 24-hour crisis hotline. After many hours of training (50+!), I am now a volunteer. This is not a very big time commitment (after training, that is) but it is a cause that I wholeheartedly support. It very rewarding work, and while challenging at times, I am very happy to be involved.

Gwen’s Girls: Gwen’s Girl is a group home for girls ages 8 to 18 who are underprivileged. There are many different opportunities to get involved in this organization – I had planned on tutoring after school and peer mentoring. The only downfall to volunteering at Gwen’s Girls is the location: it is difficult and dangerous to get to without a car.

Internship: I have mentioned before I will be working for Courtney E. Martin, author and activist, through out the next year. We are working on an international campaign against the distortion of body image, the thing I am most passionate about! This is a great opportunity and I am hoping it will provide an irreplaceable learning experience and also open future doors. I would highly advice anyone and everyone to look for an internship

…And of course, blogging!

With such a long list, it is hard to believe in August, I entered the Duquesne community, completely uninvolved and a little lost. Therefore, if anyone is interested or unsure about in getting involved, whether it is in any of these organizations or other organizations on campus, please, please feel free to talk to me. Also, any questions on time management… I’m your girl!


Strong Women Strong Girls Garden by afederoff

Roosevelt’s Strong Women Strong Girls service project has been fine-tuned! I think I can speak for my fellow mentors in saying we are extremely proud of the design. The background of the project includes an educational portion: for the past few weeks, the girls have been reading announcements on the loudspeaker about the perks and utter importance of recycling (which their school does not do). They have assumed their roles as educators, an exciting position, and have been doing a great job. Then, as far as the actual service projects goes, the overall plan is a three-part model in which the girls will transform a dead, weedy garden into a friendly, bright atmosphere to relax in during recess. Although the girls are graduating to middle school this summer, our hope is that this garden will flourish and return every spring (especially considering our choice of annuals). However, besides the actual experience of building a garden, there are many lessons we hope to transfer. For one, many of these girls doubt their abilities and power, either because of their social status, race, or gender. Transforming an entire garden using only Girl Power should definitely prove this untrue. This is an empowering opportunity. Also, the importance of planting a garden is not solely for aesthetics, but also to improve environment conditions; in general terms, make the world a better place.

Here is the step-by-step process: (excluding the planning steps… which were definitely vital.)

Week One: Pinecone Bird Feeders

The girls spoke about an interest in having butterflies inhabit the garden. Although this would certainly be beautiful, such a task is difficult to achieve. We did consider the type of plants butterflies are attracted to, but creating a butterfly garden on a budget is near impossible. However, we decided to bring another form of life into the garden – birds! Pinecone bird feeders are a great way to remain environmentally friendly while helping out our flying friends. If you have never made them before, the only supplies you need are peanut butter, pinecones, and birdseed. The process is simple but fun, especially if you start to see results! After spreading a pretty thick layer of peanut butter on the pinecones, roll them in birdseed and hang them in a garden or other outdoor area. The only complication: carrying a 20lb bag of birdseed around campus for three hours.

Week Two: Cement Stepping-Stones

When we went to inspect it, Roosevelt’s dilapidated garden area had three random stepping-stones miscellaneously placed… we knew we had to do something about this. Therefore, when we came across this possibility, we were very excited; it is an all around great project to do with the girls and it is CHEAP! The idea is to mix your own cement and make stepping-stones out of it. “Quickcrete” is the best option out there: it is about three dollars for a 60lb bag (which I refuse to carry!!).  After mixing the powder with water, you basically pretend you are making a cake – we plan to use 15 aluminum pie plans, differing in shape. While the cement is still wet, you can put other pebbles into it or make handprints etc. We bought a bag of goldfish pebbles, pink of course, to spell out SWSG. This aspect of the project allows the girls to leave their “legacy” behind. The stepping-stones will be there for years, and they will have made them.

Week Three: Weeding

This will probably be the most difficult part of the process: not only will the girls hate doing it, but we will too! However, hopefully the explanation of the importance will be enough to convince the girls to just get through it.

Week Four: Planting

To recover for the morbid and boring reaping from the week before, we will be planting! The mentors met for about two hours to discuss the types of plants we should plant. We had a lot to consider: skill level, difficulty, life span, and growth period (since the girls will not be there for July and August). We were lucky to find a secret gardener was among us – her guidance was fundamental in our choices. We decided on several easy seeds, like wildflowers, which are both pretty and low maintenance. We also wanted to be sure the girls would see results, so we purchased several bulbs as well as bushes. Hopefully the weather permits, and everything grows and flourishes into a garden as strong as it’s parents.


Strong Women Strong Girls is Going Green! by afederoff

I think a Strong Women Strong Girls update is necessary.

Second semester SWSG is structured slightly different from our first semester curriculum. For all chapters of SWSG (Boston and Pittsburgh alike) second semester curriculum is based around a service project. Each chapter picks what type of project they are doing. (I’ve used the term ‘chapter’ a few times. By this, I mean university. For example, we are the Duquesne chapter.) Duquesne chose “Going Green” among three other options. After that, the decision is left to the individual schools.

Roosevelt, the school I mentor at deliberated together. While the girls suggested all the ideas, we eventually pushed them towards one particular one: renovating a morbid garden that the school had, let’s say, “let go”. We were thrilled by this suggestion, because not only is it more thrilling than picking up trash, it is a great way to help the environment and contribute to the community. It’s actually a really great piece of land, and it has awesome potential! After checking with the school principal, we were even more excited to hear that we will not have to pay out pocket for the supplies. We have been planning – we want the garden to be colorful – and the girls are very excited to begin.

We also discovered that Roosevelt does not recycle. To fulfill the educational aspect of the service project, we have been gathering “green facts” for the girls to read on the morning announcements. Although they are at a 5th grade reading level, I think there are some interesting points:

Reducing means cutting down the amount of garbage that is made. The best way to reduce is to only buy items that you really need.

Reuse means to use something again instead of throwing it away. Usually, this means finding a new use for it. For example, you could turn a jelly jar into a drinking glass.

Recycling means taking materials from items you have already used and turning them into brand new products. Most aluminum cans are made of recycled products, because aluminum would take 350 years to disintegrate!

  • Paper accounts for 40% of solid waste in the United States, which is about 72 million tons annually. If every household replaced one roll of regular toilet paper with one recycled post-consumer waste roll, four thousand twenty-four trees would be saved.
  • The U.S. uses nearly $1 million worth of energy every minute. Instead, with one million dollars, you could also buy 25 Mercedes Benz cars or 4,000 IPod Touches! That is why it is important to turn out your lights when your leave a room.
  • Automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, and buses in the U.S. drove over 2.8 trillion miles in 2002 — comparable to driving to the sun and back thirteen thousand, four hundred and forty times.
  • One way to cut down on this is to carpool. That means getting a ride to school or work with someone else. If everyone else at Roosevelt did that, the amount of miles driven would lessen greatly by the end of the year!  

Consider Going Green this spring!


Birthday!! by afederoff
02.16.10, 7:30 am
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags: ,

Every six years or so, I once again have to share my birthday with Ash Wednesday. This coming Wednesday will double both as my 19th birthday, as well as Ash Wednesday, symbolizing the first day of Lent in the Catholic faith.

This year, I have a crazy birthday schedule. I will be starting the day off mass at 7:45. I know, early, but this is the only mass time that fits nicely into my POA. From eight to eleven, just like every other Wednesday, I have class. This is new for me; in high school, our winter break always fell on the week of my birthday so I’ve never had school or any other responsibilities for that matter. This year, however, after class I am mentoring with Strong Women Strong Girls. Although this prolongs my day, I am actually pretty excited my birthday fell on a Wednesday for this reason! It will be fun to celebrate my birthday in elementary school again, with the happy birthday song and the age chant at the end.

This will be my first birthday away from both of my parents, but I am embracing the challenge. I have also saved both of their packages so on Wednesday I can get presents much like I would at home! Still, I will be going out to dinner, and I have heard that a particular cake order has been placed at Cold Stone!

In general, I am very excited for an action packed birthday!


Strong Women Strong Girls by afederoff
01.21.10, 4:51 pm
Filed under: AlyssaF, Bloggers, Class of 2013 | Tags:

Strong Women Strong Girls has begun again for the semester! I am still mentoring at Roosevelt Elementary School in Carrick, which I am rather happy about. It was very nice to see the same girls as last semester, and very reassuring to hear that they remembered our names.

Because it was our first week back, we didn’t have a bio or woman of the week for them to learn about. We asked the girls to write about their new years resolutions in their journals, and tell us a little about their Christmases. Reading the resolutions were quite impressive; the girls wrote things like respecting their parents and doing better in school. Those are few things I could work on as well. Meanwhile, quickly made paper frames with some construction paper and glue, and asked the girls to decorate them. They had a lot of fun, using feathers, stickers and markers and so did we!

After that activity was over, we had time to make gene bracelets, which I think is a really cool activity! Each girl got a piece of yarn and a gene card, which listed several genetic traits, such as hair texture. Each trait was assigned a specific bead, so each bracelet was unique, just like each girl.

Even though we only had four mentors and no lesson plan, it was a great visit.