Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The Beatles!"

To those of a certain age, Ed Sullivan's words, delivered in typical Sullivan fashion, changed everything. 

For the millions of Americans who got their first glimpse of the Beatles on February 9, 1964, life would never be the same. 

More Sullivan performances followed.  So did gigs in Washington and Miami, concerts (screamfests!) at Shea Stadium and elsewhere, all ending (in America) with the final San Francisco show in 1966.  But the albums kept coming--"Rubber Soul," "Revolver," "Sergeant Pepper," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Abbey Road," "Let It Be," each reflecting  the Beatles' development as musicians, their growing political awareness, and (at times) their fraying personal relationships.   The '69 rooftop concert in London gave us a final glimpse of the band doing what they did best--playing music and having fun.

If you're a Beatles' fan (or even if you're not but you're looking for a place on campus to hang out), you'll want to get to the College Center (Rms. 252-253) this Tuesday, April 1, for a look back at the Fab Four.  There'll be food, music, videos, giveaways, and a few surprises.  Can't promise that Paul or Ringo will show up, but you'll have a good time anyway, listening to music, watching videos, and remembering a group that changed just about everything in America, all those years ago.

Ladies and Gentlemen .  . . The Beatles!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Here's to Commitment

It's sometimes easy to be cynical about the world, especially when you encounter people who are  forever taking the easy way out.

But when you meet people who aren't this way--who work hard, push themselves, and realize there's more to life than just "getting by"--you can't help feeling renewed.

That's been my experience at Nassau these past few months, as I've watched or heard about students who have demonstrated talent and commitment--and who've been recognized for their accomplishments.

Maybe you've heard about the thirteen NCC students who received the 2014 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.  The award recognizes students who "have integrated academic excellence with other areas of their lives," including "leadership, campus involvement, athletics, career achievement, community service, and creative or performing arts."  The recipients' achievements are truly  impressive, enough to make us optimistic about the future.

Maybe you've also heard about the 44 students who recently received NCC's "Who's Who" and "Student Activities" honors.  Both awards acknowledge students' academic achievement and contributions to campus life as club officers, members of sports teams, orientation leaders, newspaper editors, and student government leaders.  All of those recognized have enriched the campus fabric and made Nassau a more interesting place.

Not only have individual students at NCC excelled this spring--entire groups have also distinguished themselves. The men's basketball team won the 2014 Region XV Division III championship, racking up 25 regular season wins, defeating three tough teams in the division playoffs, and notching two victories in the NJCAA tournament.  The team's numbers are impressive, but even more so is the players' tenacity and willingness to hang together in a season that lasted five long months.

Another NCC team, Speech and Debate, earned honors this year at the International Forensics Association World Championship competition.  Competing on a world stage in Paris, France, Nassau placed second among community colleges and fourth overall among two- and four- year schools. Several students received individual honors in specific categories: After-Dinner Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, and Communication Analysis. Their performances reflect hours of practice and preparation as well as a commitment, on everyone's part, to stretching themselves.

And speaking of stretching: maybe that's what college, at its best, is really all about--pushing yourself, developing (or improving) skills, resisting the temptation to just go through the motions, and discovering just how much you can accomplish when you combine heart, mind, and effort. Some NCC students in our midst have done all of these things recently, and it's important we take notice.

                                               Members of NCC's Speech and Debate Team display     
                                               their awards from the International Forensics Competition.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Time to Step Up

Can you believe the spring semester is almost half over?  That's right.  In less than a week we'll be at the halfway point.  Then it's a mere seven weeks (eight if you count the Passover/Easter break) until everything wraps up.

If this news really isn't news--if you've been keeping an eye on the calendar and keeping up in your classes--you can stop reading now and go back to what you were doing.  Congrats for being on top of your education.

But if the "it's-almost-midterms" message makes you gasp--and worry that you're in trouble in your classes--you definitely need to read on. 

To be sure, there's no need to reach for the panic button, at least at this point.  Seven weeks is a long stretch.  No matter how the first half of the semester has gone, there's still enough time to catch up on papers, projects, required readings, etc. and finish strong.

But you do need to act--and sooner rather than later. You need to find those syllabuses you got in January and see what lies ahead in each of your classes.  You need to take yourself to the Math or Writing Center (or some other campus service) and get whatever help you need.  You need to knock on your professors' doors during office hours and have some frank conversations about where you stand in your classes and how you can catch up. 

And above all, you need to get working.  No time to lose.

If by some chance you've decided that it makes sense for you to withdraw from one (or more) of your classes and concentrate on the remaining ones, remember that you still need to withdraw officially. Don't just disappear from a class, which will result in a UW grade, which will be calculated as an F in your grade-point average, and which won't make you happy.  In case you're wondering, you can still get an automatic Withdrawal if you file the paperwork by the April 4 deadline. 

But withdrawing is an absolute last resort.  It's almost always better to finish and to have something to show for your time.  Achievement matters--in college and everywhere else. 

What with snowstorms, class cancellations, late openings, and early closings (plus a week off for George Washington and company), the first weeks of the spring semester have been anything but ideal. Life is indeed imperfect.  But you can't let your education be undermined by circumstances.  

You have to move forward.  You have to step up, at moments like this, and take care of business.   

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Being Part of the Conversation

Imagine being at a party and listening to people talk about events in the news and not being able to add to the conversation because you know absolutely nothing about what they're discussing. 

Depressing?  Enough to make you feel like the dullest bulb in the box (or at the very least, like you've missed something important in your education)? 

If so, now's your chance to get informed.  Throughout March and continuing into April, all sorts of people--some famous, some not so--will visit NCC to talk about issues that matter to us all. Most will be speaking during the day (times when you're probably on campus).  Admission to all talks is free.

Next Monday (March 10 - 2 p.m.), for example, Tracy Martin--Trayvon's father--will be speaking in the College Center about the need for everyone to be involved in eradicating racism and violence.  Before his son's death, Martin was an ordinary citizen.  But in the months following Trayvon's shooting and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, he's become an advocate for change.  He'll speak his mind about what needs to be done to make America better.

Piper Kerman is another figure who, until recently, was not widely known.  But after serving a fifteen-month prison sentence for money laundering, she published "Orange is the New Black," an insightful book about her experiences, both good and bad, in the Danbury State Correctional Facility.  Kerman will be speaking in the College Center on March 17 (11 a.m.) about prison life and the hit Netflix series based on her book.

Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy may be best known for writing books with provocative titles and thoughtful perspectives: "NIgger: The Strange Case of a Troublesome Word" and "Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal."  His views on race and prejudice, which he'll present on March 24 (12:30 p.m; Tower, 11th floor), are guaranteed to give everyone plenty to think about (as well as some lighthearted moments along the way).

The impact of mobile technology on the quality of life isn't exactly a new topic, but to David Pogue, former tech columnist for the New York Times, it's something we all need to be aware of.  Pogue, author of "Macs for Dummies," will share his views on the subject, focusing on the big question of whether mobile technology is "killing us" (his words), on April 7 (12:30 p.m.) in the College Center.

Attending these talks won't fill in all of your knowledge gaps (there's a LOT to learn, after all), but it will definitely make you feel more at home next time the conversation turns to what's happening around the planet.  Being in the know will also enrich your life, making you a more interesting person and increasing your understanding and appreciation of the big picture.  If this isn't the ultimate goal of college, I don't know what is.