Monday, October 17, 2016

Albert, Bob, and Buster

One's a famous physicist, winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics and the author of the theory of relativity, considered the most important scientific breakthrough in modern times.

Another's a famous songwriter, this year's Nobel prize winner in literature, and a figure whose songs and lyrics not only shaped his generation's identity but changed folk music forever.

A third's a famous athlete, a catcher for Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, at 29 regarded as among the best ever to play the game.  No Nobel prize to his credit, at least not yet, but plenty of other honors (Rookie of the Year, MVP, batting titles, and so on)--and more to come.

Could Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Buster Posey, each representing a different generation, each with a different talent and passion, possibly have anything in common?


Talent, for starters.  A serious commitment to their work too.  Mostly, a willingness to try harder than others around them.

"It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer," Einstein once said about himself and his work.  Truth be told, Einstein was smart. a genius in fact, but also someone with a tenacity that helped him remain focused on problems that had stumped others.

Ditto for Dylan. Those who think his songwriting was effortless need only listen to Dylan describe his commitment to his craft.  "For three or four years, all I listened to were folk standards," he said in a 2015 speech.  "I went to sleep singing folk songs." As Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach commented recently, Dylan may indeed be a genius, but there's more to it. "The secret of geniuses is that they work harder than everyone else."

And Posey? Lauded for his intelligence and dedication as well as his athleticism, he has impressed every coach he's ever played for.  Florida State baseball coach Robert Martin, who coached Posey in college, said his "work ethic and discipline [was] unmatched, the best I've ever seen."  It's this quality that's helped Posey excel in the big leagues, emerge as his team's leader, and even overcome adversity, including a serious leg injury sustained in a nasty home-plate collision in 2011. 

Is there a lesson for us in their stories? Definitely.  

While most of us will never win a Nobel prize, sell out a Madison Square Garden concert, or hit clean-up for our favorite team, we'll all do something--actually several somethings (college, career, family, friendships, etc. etc.)--that will challenge us to try our best.  Chances are the harder we try, the more successful and satisfied we'll be. 

And even if things don't always work out exactly as we'd like, there's satisfaction in knowing we didn't shortchange ourselves. 

Effort matters. Hard work matters. Being your best matters. 

Just ask Albert, Bob, and Buster.    

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What? You're Not Planning to Vote?

In the College Center Building the other day I heard a student tell a friend she wasn't planning to vote in the Presidential election because she didn't know much about the candidates and "it didn't really matter who got in anyway."

Her friend nodded and said that she too was sitting the election out. She added that she hadn't paid any attention to what the candidates stood for, though she thought Donald Trump was a jerk and had heard Hillary Clinton couldn't be trusted.

So both were letting others decide their future for them.

This isn't a pitch for a specific candidate (though I can say for sure it DOES INDEED MATTER who becomes President).  Nor is it one of those "voting-is-your-civic-responsibility" lectures that you've probably heard before and that doesn't seem to resonate these days even though there are tons of people on this planet who would give anything to have a say in who runs their country.

But it is about engagement and knowledge and interest, none of which seemed to matter much to the two students whose conversation I overheard.

It's also, in a curious kind of way, about personal pride. Neither student seemed at all embarrassed that she hadn't bothered to learn about the candidates or their views on issues that will most certainly affect everyone's life.  Both seemed content to be ignorant and indifferent, as if making an intelligent and informed decision about the next President was on par with deciding what Netflix film to watch on Friday night.

Happily, there are students on campus who pay attention to the world, including the words and ideas of those seeking to succeed Barack Obama, and who will get to the polls on Election Day and cast a vote for the candidate of their choice.  To those I say Bravo, no matter what their politics.

But to those who know nothing--and who see nothing wrong with knowing nothing--it's time to step up and start paying attention. There's too much at stake on Election Day (and beyond) for anyone to be mentally missing in action.  What's more, your life is too important to leave its quality and direction to others, not all of whom (trust me on this) have your best interests at heart.

So take these next few weeks to get registered (here's how-- and get informed.  And on Election Day, get to the polls and vote.  

Because your voice and your vote matter. . . . 

Monday, September 19, 2016

NCC Campus Life

Welcome Back!
Welcome back to your first day of classes of your college career....for the second time.  You have one semester down and have three more to go. Enjoy it because believe me, it flies by!

You are now role models to over 2,000 new incoming freshmen status students to NCC.  Like you last semester, this experience at NCC is all new to them.  So if you meet one of these students, guide them in the right direction to class, show them around campus, or anything that could help them transition into life at NCC.

If you did not get the opportunity to get involved last semester, Thursday September 29, 2016 during club hour, the Office of Student Activities is sponsoring a Student Activity Fair.  There will be numerous number of student organizations attending this event and I’m positive they are interested in meeting and talking to each and every one of you!

100+ clubs, twenty sports teams, a cool art gallery, a great theater program, a 24/7 radio station, parties, concerts, speakers, trips--campus life rocks at NCC.  And you owe it to yourself to be part of it.

Here's how to get started.

1.  Get to know the Student Activities Office (College Center, Rm. 150).  The Student Activities Office is the center of campus life at NCC and the place to go to begin making contacts.  Drop by and pick up a copy of its Directory of Student Clubs and Organizations, a neat publication with descriptions of all active clubs on campus.  If you're interested in a specific club, ask someone in the office when and where it meets and take yourself to a meeting (no invitation required!). Or leave a note in a club mailbox--every club has one in the Activities Office--requesting a call or text about upcoming meetings. And if you have a special interest, ask how you can start your own club.

2.  Get into the Game.  If watching and/or playing sports is your thing, the Phys Ed Complex--aka the Gym--is the place to be.  You can pick up team schedules (no charge for admission to games) and find out about NCC's ever popular Intramurals program, which gives you a chance to play everything from flag football and co-ed volleyball to dodgeball and three-on-three b-ball. You don't have to be a super athlete to take part in Intramural activities--just somebody who likes competing and who doesn't mind working up a sweat. And speaking of sweat, you can lift, swim, work out, shoot hoops, and keep in shape during the Gym's open rec period, times when facilities are open to all students.

3.  Get on "Stage."  Want to be in the NCC choir or a campus theatre production? Head on over to the Music Department (Building H) or the Theatre Department (nearby) and ask about audition dates.  Want to have your own radio show?  Drop by the radio station (Building H) and see what's available. Interested in writing for the campus newspaper? Visit the Vignette office (College Center, Rm. 347) and introduce yourself. NCC is always on the lookout for students willing to display their talents, be it in the literary magazine, the campus art gallery, the annual student fashion show, or someplace else. No shortage of opportunities for those wanting to make their presence known. . .

4.  Get to the Activities Fair. If you want to get a quick "feel" for campus life, stop by the Activities Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at club hour (11:30 a.m.) in front of the College Center. The Activities Fair is a kind of club flea market--tables everywhere you look, each staffed by a different student group. You can browse, chat with club reps, ask questions, and make connections with a group (or two--or more) that seems interesting. Going to the Activities Fair--or even signing up to be contacted about meetings--doesn't obligate you to join something. But it's a good way to get started. There are also good snacks at the Activities Fair, along with some cool giveaways!

Notice how all of these suggestions involve doing something: visiting an office, checking out possibilities, showing up at the Activities Fair, etc. etc.?  The key to getting involved in college is taking those first steps: making that phone call, knocking on someone's door, walking into that club meeting and introducing yourself.  If you're not used to doing these things, there's no better time than now to learn. Just about everybody you meet will be glad to meet you.

Hope you have a blast at NCC!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Beware the UW!

So if you've been on top of all your classes this spring and expect to finish each with a good grade (or even a pretty good grade), CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done! You can stop reading this post and get back to wrapping up your semester.

But if somewhere along the way this term you stopped attending a credit class--and never got around to withdrawing officially from that class--you absolutely need to listen up.  Unless you take some action soon, your grade-point average could be headed for a disaster, courtesy of Nassau's UW policy.

What's UW?

UW (Unofficial Withdrawal) is a fairly new grade at Nassau, introduced a few years ago.  It's assigned when you stop attending a credit course but never officially withdraw.  The nasty thing about a UW is that it counts as an F in your grade-point average, which means that receiving even one of these grades can mess up your semester big time.

To avoid a UW, here's what you can do:

Go to the registrar's office (Cluster C, first floor) and pick up a Drop form. When filling it out, make sure you include the number, CRN, and section of the course you're withdrawing from (you can find this info on your class schedule on the MyNCC system).  Then catch up with your professor and ask him or her to sign the form.  Once you've gotten the signature, turn the form in at the registrar's office before the last class meeting.  You'll then receive a grade of W (Withdrawal), which at the very least will keep your average from getting clobbered.

A good solution? Absolutely, especially if it's clear there's no way you can complete the course successfully and receive credit.  But remember that you have to do all this before the last class meeting. That doesn't leave much time, especially since most professors aren't on campus every day. 

So don't delay!  Get the Drop form and go talk to your professor.  Faculty aren't required to sign the form, but many will anyway--so it's definitely worth a try.  Your transcript will thank you!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What Would You Do? What Should You Do?

You're in a restaurant and a nearby customer is verbally abusing his female server for not bringing his meal more quickly.  The customer says he's had to wait 45 minutes for his dinner and he's blaming the server for the delay.  The server, a young Hispanic woman, is clearly shaken by the intensity and nastiness of his complaints. She does her best to calm him down, apologizing for the delay and even offering to reduce his tab.  But the more she tries to make things right, the louder and more menacing he becomes.  When he refers to her as an "incompetent slut who ought to go back to Mexico," you decide he's definitely crossed the line.  You consider saying something about his crude behavior but aren't sure if you should get involved or what exactly you should say.  

Scenes like this (maybe without a bit of the vitriol) play out each week on John Quinones's award-winning ABC show, "What Would You Do?"  The show features situations in which ordinary human beings must decide whether to respond to an act of bullying, bigotry, injustice, dishonesty, or something equally horrible.  The situations are staged ("aggressors" and "victims" are actors playing roles), so that only the onlookers are unaware that the actions they're witnessing are scripted.  The ultimate focus of each episode is on the onlookers' actions, which are discussed in detail once Quinones appears on the scene and announces that the situation at hand is in fact part of his show.

After eight seasons, "What Would You Do?" remains incredibly popular, probably because its situations bear a striking resemblance to those we sometimes encounter in our own lives.  Almost all of us witness behaviors, at least on occasion, that involve the mistreatment of others.  Whether it's a homeless man being harassed by obnoxious teens, a Muslim woman denied a seat in a restaurant, a kid with Downs' syndrome hassled by insensitive supermarket customers, or a young teen publicly and mercilessly berated by his mother for failing a test in school, we find ourselves in situations that cry out for a response.  The show asks us to think about our responsibility to those who are bullied, harassed, ridiculed, cheated, exploited, and/or otherwise dumped on by others.  It asks whether we have an obligation to speak up when faced with injustice, even when we ourselves are not the objects of tormentors.

In other words, it asks us to grapple with that huge question: What's the right thing to do?

Facing up to our responsibility to others (and to our role in life's bigger picture) isn't easy, especially when the alternative--looking the other way--seems a whole lot neater and less complicated.  But coming to grips with that responsibility is critical to becoming a full-fledged human being.  Shows like "What Would You Do?" get us thinking, always a good thing, about the impact and implications of our actions.  So do many college classes, of course, especially those involving the study of literature, ethics, and morality.  The journey to adulthood can be rocky and confusing sometimes, but it's hard to imagine a college education without it.

Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in the College Center, John Quinones will be on campus to talk about his life, his show, and the issues"What Would You Do?" raises.  His talk, part of NCC's spring cultural program, will be one of the highlights of the semester--a chance to meet and speak with someone whose show draws us away from our own concerns and encourages us to think about another's. Don't miss this event.  It will leave you with plenty to think about.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Be A Peer Mentor at NCC!

During the 2015-2016 academic year, the First Year Experience Committee of the Academic Senate, through its Peer Mentoring sub-committee has been working to 'pilot' a new program that pairs NCC student peer mentors with NCC 101 students and their instructors.  There were five peer mentors during the fall 2015 semester and again five peer mentors for the spring 2016 semester.  Preliminary results show that having a fellow student peer mentor work with new/transitioning students in this way has a positive impact on students' experiences in the course and at NCC!

The interested students applied for the peer mentor program to the sub-committee, which reviewed applications and academic transcripts and then conducted interviews.  The students selected were then paired with a NCC 101 instructor and class whereby the peer mentor and faculty member would begin meeting and planning on how to best work with the students in the class. 

The selected students are encouraged to attend an orientation/training session before the semester begins.  They are also expected to meet with their NCC 101 instructor-partner to regularly assess how the students are progressing and to plan for class sessions and upcoming events.

Peer mentors often help to promote NCC's student events and activities, assist students with navigating the campus, provide helpful tips to succeed in college, and even present on some relevant topics and share personal experiences and advice.

If you would like to apply to be a peer mentor and/or would like more information about this new and exciting initiative, please check out the 'Be A Peer Mentor!' link within the FYE Committee page on the website.  Applications are being accepted for fall 2016 peer mentors until 5/11/2016.  For more information, please contact Dean Dave Follick in the Admissions office at 516-572-7346 or at

We hope you will consider applying to be a peer mentor and help other NCC students!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stopping Bullies in Their Tracks

If you've never had a brush with a bully, consider yourself lucky.

But consider yourself unusual, also, for most of us have had at least some encounters along the way with people who thought it was cool to push others around.  Using an arsenal of "weapons" (fists, taunts, threats, rumors, gestures, online posts, etc.), bullies have been tormenting people for ages--on junior high school bus stops, in high school locker rooms, at parties, in workplaces, on Facebook pages, or pretty much anywhere else those with crummy egos act out.

While being bothered by bullies is never pleasant, most people manage to handle their situation without too much drama.  They change their routine, report the problem to someone who can intervene, or adopt behaviors that minimize contact with the toxic personalities plaguing them.

But not everyone copes successfully.  People harassed by bullies sometimes do desperate things, like running away, dropping out of school, or even taking their own lives.  And on occasion, victims sometimes try to turn the tables on bullies, lashing out at those who've hurt them, often with tragic consequences. 

If there's any good news about bullying, it's that the world has at long last recognized its seriousness and begun to take action.  Anti-bullying campaigns are the norm at many schools, elementary through high school.  Since bullying is also part of higher ed's landscape, many colleges also address the topic.

Nassau is no exception.  Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in the Tower (11th floor), NCC's "Conversations about College" series will present a program devoted to understanding and responding to bullying.  The session will be presented by Craig Wright, NCC's affirmative action officer, and will focus not only on why bullying happens but what people can do about it.

Even if you're not being bullied, you should make it your business to attend.  Chances are you'll hear something that will add to your understanding of this shabby behavior--including why people become bullies in the first place.  More importantly, you'll come away with some strategies for helping others (especially those being targeted) stop bullies in their tracks.

There's no place on college campuses or anywhere else for that matter for people who take pleasure in menacing others.  But the only way the bullies of the world will behave differently is if the rest of us let them know their antics won't be tolerated.

So stop by the Tower tomorrow and learn what you can do.  Putting a stop to bullying is everyone's business, including yours and mine.