Friday, May 23, 2014

Reading = College Success (Seriously!)

So maybe you're looking at the title of this post and thinking, Reading?  Doesn't this dude know we're in the digital age? Hasn't he ever heard of Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, etc. etc.?

Trust me on this--I know all about digital.  But I also know that being able to read and understand a piece of text, be it an online article, a selection from an etext, or a chapter in one of those clunky print textbooks, is vital to success in college and almost every profession you can think of.

It's also the key to a satisfying and fulfilled life.

I'm not the only one who believes in the power of reading.  New York Times's columnist Frank Bruni recently reported on research that indicated a connection not only between reading and intelligence (no small thing) but--for readers of fiction--between reading and empathy.  Coming to grips with the complexities of human behavior makes people, in Bruni's words, "more adept at reading people [and] sizing up the social whirl around them."

That's right: Reading fiction makes us more aware, more empathetic (something inhabitants of this planet sorely need), and better able to connect with others.

That's not all.  Bruni cites research by Emory University neuroscientists who have found "enhanced neural activity in people who'd been given a regular course of daily reading."  Translation: Reading trains our brains and keeps our minds in shape.  It helps us become more focused and orderly thinkers.  It's the equivalent of regular exercise, only from the neck up. 

All this isn't intended to dismiss the value of film, video, and the ever expanding digital universe. They're clearly important in their own right.  But so too is the printed word, which can often make us think, feel, and remember in ways like nothing else.  Good writing, no matter what its subject, leaves its thumbprint on our minds and hearts long after we've read the last page or logged off our laptop.

So do your brain a favor this summer and read a book.  Or several books.  Or a good daily newspaper. Being a proficient reader will absolutely help you be more successful in your classes.  It will score points with your professors, who'll be impressed by your ability to understand and respond thoughtfully to assigned texts.  And best of all, it will make being alive that much more fun and interesting.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Taking a Page from Heather

Sometimes you have to push--and even break a sweat--to make good things happen.

No one knows that better than Heather, a promising young writer and former student of mine from another college.  A few years ago, Heather and two of her classmates decided to start a women's magazine at their school.  Though they'd never produced a publication from start to finish, they took the plunge anyway, developing the magazine's "look," giving it a name, brainstorming story ideas, recruiting writers, photographers and designers, and setting out to see what they could produce.

Like every creative venture, the process had its trying moments.  Some people who'd promised to help didn't come through.  Others didn't collaborate or communicate as well as they should have.  There were occasional missteps, sometimes requiring fixes.  There were also ridiculously long production delays (not the students' doing), along with a few campus naysayers who weren't exactly supportive.

Still, Heather pressed on.  She could have decided that the hassles weren't worth it and junked the whole project.  But she stayed with it and wound up producing an informative and eye-catching publication.  Not everyone recognized how much time, thought, work, and heart went into the magazine, but those of us who were rooting for her certainly did.

This post isn't really about producing a magazine--which may or may not be on your goals list--but  instead about having  the patience, energy, and tenacity to bring your own vision to life.  Many students I meet in college have goals and plans for themselves: to enter a profession, start a business, become a writer or artist or performer, etc. etc.  But the first time they hit a bump in the road, many become discouraged and give up.

Don't!  No matter what you aspire to do in your life, you're bound to encounter at least some obstacles and setbacks.  But if your dreams and goals matter enough to you, you can't let circumstances get in the way.  You have to keep trying.  You have to keep going forward.  Quitting doesn't provide much comfort.

So whether you're graduating from Nassau this month, registering for your next semester at NCC, or starting here in September, take a page from Heather.  Give your goals, whatever they are, your best shot.  Don't worry if you stumble; everyone does.  Ignore the doubters; they're not worth your time.  And remember that in the end, the only person you really have to worry about pleasing is yourself.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Creative Spirits at Work

Say this for NCC students: they're creative.

Visit the Firehouse Art Gallery (whose student art competition runs through May 15) and you'll see what I mean.  More than one hundred student works, in a variety of media, are on display.

Ditto for the Music Department's concerts and choral presentations, which are regular events throughout the year, especially in the spring semester.  Lots of musical talent here.

At this Thursday night's fashion show in the College Center, you'll see a different kind of creativity, as NCC fashion students model their designs for the campus community. Stop by and get a glimpse of their great work.

And while you're in the CCB, take a look at the terrific artwork produced by Nassau students as part of NCC 101's Student Multimedia Arts and Writing Competition (see this year's winning entries below).  Each reflects the student artist's response to this year's college-wide theme, "Speak, Memory."  One work is more engaging than the next. 

That's not all.  Students who participated in this year's competition also wrote poems, shared personal reminscences, and wrote and performed original music, all speaking to the power of memory.  You can read, view, and listen to their work on the First-Year Experience's Creativity page at

Whether you're a poet, a painter, a songwriter, an essayist, a designer, a photographer, a musician, a sculptor, or someone interested in pioneering new forms, there's plenty of room to stretch at this college.  And there's no shortage of people--faculty and others--willing to help you reach in new artistic directions.  Just ask the students who've found Nassau a source of inspiration.  

   Blaine Garde  
First Prize 

                                                                        Alvin Sumigcay
                                                                          Second Prize

Lauren Carbone
Third Prize