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Advice from a Graduating Senior

Hello readers! I’m Nikki Vergakes, a senior at Salem State University. I won’t be able to say that for a long time anymore, however. I’m moving on to the “real world”. I was in a similar position four years ago when I was graduating from high school and moving on to SSU. My first year was definitely very different from my senior year. Since then, I’ve become way more involved in student organizations and have turned my two friends from freshman year into many friends that I hope to stay close with after graduation. Through some life lessons learned the hard way, I’ve accumulated many pieces of advice for undergraduates navigating the tricky waters of college.

18034243_951209681649235_3394085137952661454_n.jpgI’ve been the one who has been writing these blog post for the past three years while simultaneously working with the most inspiring people, buffering my digital and social media skills, and most importantly seeing the direct positive effects of student involvement on campus. I was passed down this job after my freshman year from a graduating senior I knew from PRSSA (the organization that I’ve been President of this year) and am forever grateful to her! But enough with the sappy stuff, here’s some advice  for you that I’ve gathered through my years at Salem State.

1. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Okay, this is totally an Oscar Wilde quote, but it’s also my life motto. Sorry, Oscar. I began with this mantra the minute I emailed the past SSU Cross Country coach about joining the team that was here. After I had talked to a girl (who has since become one of my closest friends) at orientation and looked up the women’s team 5K times, I decided to do what I said I’d never do: NCAA cross country. This ended up being one of the best decisions of my college career. The moral of the story is: don’t knock anything until you try it, especially in college. You’d be surprised at how many extra hours are in a day when you’re not in class from 7:30 AM – 2PM daily!

2. Treat Yo Self

Once you’ve tried a bunch of things and have a productive life, it can be hard to find time for yourself. A lot of my college career was spent working on programs and initiatives to help fellow students. It can be rewarding, but draining too. So don’t forget to enjoy that “me time”. Take yourself to Chipotle. Get an ice cream from upper north. Try Candlelit Yoga at Gassett. Take a walk on the bike path. Better yet, take a nap! If you’re burnt out, you can’t be your true authentic self.

3. You can always take it a step further

In college there are a lot of deadlines that pile up at once. You also may have internships, on-campus jobs and EBoard positions. With all of these things to balance, it may seem easier to only put half of your effort into something and pass in a final assignment that wasn’t done to the best of your ability. This may just be from my writing background, but something should always be double-checked. Have a friend read your paper or article over for clearness and readability. Double-count the math problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

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4. Impulsivity is key

Getting stuck in humdrum routines leads to a lackluster life. You’ll get bored with your major, your job and more. Even with the craziness of college life, this is possible. If your friend asks you to go to Treadwells and you’ve been studying for five days straight, don’t say you’re too busy. Take a study break! Some of the fondest memories I have are from last-minute plans.

5. Don’t wish it away

It’s ok to turn down plans to regroup or if you’re just not feeling it. Don’t wish the days and hours away. Don’t just simply be somewhere and not be present. If you wish the days away, it’ll be four years later and you’re going to be confused as to how the black gown got on you. You’ll be thinking– wasn’t it just freshmen year? Enjoy the small and big things, and be in the moment for all of them.

6. Every challenge is a learning experience

In the moment, yes, little and big inconveniences can really be a downer. They can cloud your judgement when planning an event, they can hold you up from study time, or force you to miss a meeting or event. The show must go on, however. In that moment, you must think fast and either figure out a solution or enlist help. We can all think of a time that this has happened to us. Did it work out? With every inconvenience, we learn a lot. It’s also something that you will most definitely be asked during future job interviews!

17498650_10155902823915410_6046008454909681130_n.jpg8. Take pictures and document everything!

This is self explanatory. There’s nothing I love more than plugging in my external hard drive and looking at old pictures. I have a folder for every year of college. Save your snaps. Archive your memories. Document these moments, because you’ll never experience college again after graduation, and you’ll want to be able to remember every minute.

It’s been an honor to serve SSU and it’s been quite the four years. They’ve definitely been unforgettable. I’ll be reliving the memories on my hard drive very soon!

Study for the Spring Concert?

In case you missed it, D.R.A.M. and Cousin Stizz will be rounding out the academic year for Salem State University… quite literally. They’ll be treating us to a rockin’ spring concert on the last day of classes Wednesday, May 3 at 7:30PM in the Twohig Gym. We all may know D.R.A.M. from his hit song with Lil Yachty “Broccoli” that broke out near the beginning of this school year. We’ll be reminiscing on the end of last summer with the beginning of this one. We know he knows his vegetables… but what do we really know about him? Here are a few fun facts about each artist.

Cousin Stizz

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1. He did a song with the up-and-coming rapper Kyle called “Want me Bad”:

2. He’s from Boston!

3. His debut project  was called “Suffolk County” and was released June 2015.

4. He’s currently on tour with Kyle, the artist he did the song “Want Me Bad” with.

5. He has 437,428 monthly listeners on Spotify.

D.R.A.M.

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  1. D.R.A.M. stands for “Does Real A** Music”.
  2. Another meaning for “dram”, with no periods means a small drink of alcohol or spirits.
  3. His birth name is Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith.
  4. He was born in Germany and was raised in Hampton, Virginia.
  5. He has appeared on songs and albums with Chance the Rapper, Rem Bank, Elle Varner and more.

Haven’t scored tickets yet? Grab them here. See you then!

Want Change? Take the Campus Climate Survey

The campus climate survey, why does it matter?

A diverse, inclusive and safe campus is an enriching and educational space. SSU prides itself on being diverse, but there is always room for improvement. The priority of the university  is that students feel safe, seen and included on campus. The need for more diversity in administration, faculty and staff and more programming about diversity and more are needs that have been brought up by students recently. There is now a clear pathway to SSU prioritizing these needs as well as expediting the programs that may put these needs in place.

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This pathway to more diversity is an ever-important, 20-30 minute Campus Climate Study. Great initiatives that have come from other schools that have done campus climate studies include gender-inclusive bathrooms, more diverse faculty, more classes about diversity and social justice and funds for more programming to enhance sense of belonging for all community members. Some of these initiatives already happen at Salem State but some that the community could benefit from do not happen on campus yet. They very well could given you take the short 20 minutes to complete the survey.

The survey is not just a diversity initiative, it is for all community members to voice their experiences in order to reach a better campus climate. Climate can be described as:

Lived experiences, cultural attitudes and perceptions.

How does it work?

Administrators have committed to making the changes that appear as needed from the survey results. It’s up to you to take the survey and let them know what we need. They’re willing to help the student body, they just need to know what we need to change in order for this campus to feel safe and inclusive.

“This is a chance for your experiences to be quantified into important data that will help improve the climate and overall experience of students” – Rebecca Comage, director of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs.

The study needs at least 30% student participation for the study to be statistically significant. There is currently only 7.8% student participation. Participating will help stop uncomfortableness from impeding your educational and extracurricular experience.

What’s in it for you besides a better campus climate? Once you take the survey, you’re entered in a raffle to win either:  a credit for an undergrad and grad course, up to $100 for any entertainment ticket, $50 clippercash, a $100 book voucher, a free meal plan, grad school app waiver and more.

How to get involved:

LOOK OUT FOR THESE FUN OPPORTUNITIES TO TAKE THE SURVEY AMONG PEERS:

  • Survey parties in residence halls this week (March 8th)
  • Spring Break Part 2: Survey Party in the Center for Diversity & Cultural Enrichment: FREE FOOD and information about the survey!

Take the 20 minutes to take the survey here, for a better campus climate.

Take the survey here and if you post about it anywhere, use the hashtag #wecandobetter.

Uplifting Stories to Inspire us During Finals Week

Sometimes the best place to go for inspiration is outside of ourselves – especially during a time of high stress such as finals week. Inspiration can seem bleak when you’re looking from a library window. You look around, and realize who you are: you’re a 19-year-old college student. You’ve been in the library for seven hours now, living off of stale chips and desperation.

Go eat some food. Go drink some coffee. Then read this blog post for inspiration.

  1. Dear World on the Boston Marathon Bombingss-140411-dearboston-tease.today-ss-slide-desktop.jpg

As we all know, the Boston Marathon was a traumatic event for many. Some lost loved ones, some suffered serious injuries. Dear World, a non profit that recently visited SSU’s campus, asked some of the survivors if they would tell their story. As you can see, although this survivor lost her legs from the knees down, her “Dear World” story is that she is still standing and still beautiful.

Click above to see the full album of Dear World stories and pictures from Salem State University.

2. Who doesn’t love a good proposal video?

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From the Facebook page “How He Asked” comes this amazing proposal story. He planned an huge surprise for this teacher fiance, using people so near and dear to her heart: her students. After hearing what her students think love is – she saw it first-hand. Proposal videos are usually so cute that I cry – but at least this is crying at something besides finals! Who doesn’t need a good cry every once in a while?

.Dog Reunited with its puppies

 

Surviving a traumatic event, a proposal, and now PUPPIES?! This blog post is taking you through all the emotions today. This story is truly inspiring and it doesn’t hurt that it’s oh so cute. This dog mother was stressed about being displaced – until she was reunited with her puppies.

We hope that these beautiful stories inspire, or at least distract you from the stress of finals this week. However many tests and/or finals you have – you’ve got this! It’ll all be over in two short weeks– then comes a month of relaxation. See you in January!

 

Messages of Hope

After the election, the climate of the country has been anything but stable. The Salem State community has attempted to make this campus a safe space, however, and there have been multiple ways in which the campus has addressed this. Along with emails informing the community that SSU cannot tolerate hate and bias, the student involvement and activites office has taken it upon themselves to make a statement.

The theme of #ChangeMakersWeek was letting your voice be heard. As stated below, we have given multiple outlets to raise our voice. One of these outlets was hosting Dear World during Leadership Weekend. The Dear World project travels across various college campuses, conferences, and more to find the stories inside people and tell them to the world.  They have covered Hurricane Katrina, the Boston Marathon bombings, and more.

Even if you don’t know someone at all, hearing a simple story from them can shed some insight on their true selves. Stories bring people together, even in the darkest of times. At the Student Leadership Conference on Sunday, we heard the stories behind five students’ pictures. Though not everyone knew those students personally, the crowd had the privilege of hearing a few deeply personal stories about them, giving us all a sense of closeness.

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Here are examples of outlets available to the campus community:

Campus-wide “brave space” sessions were held to open up the conversation in a non-judgmental space.

The Student Involvement office recorded videos of students committing to not tolerating hate and bias.

The Student Involvement office gave opportunities for students to leave messages of hope on sticky notes in the campus center.

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Students, faculty, and staff were given the opportunity to tell their stories through the “Dear World” campaign.

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Get involved in the University’s strategic plan

One of the best things about attending Salem State University is the incentive to involve students in the university’s development process. In other words, YOU have a say in the direction that the university wants to grow in. Want more social justice initiatives? Want more diversity? Want more civic engagement? The university is giving us the chance to weigh in on its future, and the futures of the incoming students. This is not an opportunity to be taken lightly.

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Picture courtesy of salemstate.edu

The collaboration committee has surveyed faculty and staff about what changes they would like to see in the future. It’s the student’s turn now to speak up.

Currently, the mission of the university reads:

“Salem State’s mission is to provide a high quality, student-centered education that prepares a diverse community of learners to contribute responsibly and creatively to a global society, and serve as a resource to advance the region’s cultural, social and economic development.”

The strategic plan is essentially the vision for the future of the university with specific tactics the university plans on taking action on – all supported by the mission. The new strategic plan for AY 2017 is focused on keeping up with the ever-changing world around us. This new plan is being constructed to reassess the priorities and goals of the university that will eventually lead to tangible changes.

The strategic plan of 2013-2016 focused on student success, diversity, and sustainability. This plan aligned the academics and engagement of the university with social justice and change. Some of the fruits of this strategic plan included the implementation of the new general education curriculum,  more combined 4+1 masters and bachelors programs, the veterans services center, the center for civic engagement, and more. These are tangible examples of how the university benefitted from its last strategic plan.

Now YOU can have a say in what will be in the next plan. The office knows that surveys aren’t the best way to get opinions out of busy students. They also acknowledge that the best way that students voice their opinions is in a room full of their peers, where they can bounce ideas off of one another. That’s why they’ve organized just that.

The planning committee formally invites you to:

Strategic Plan STUDENT FORUM

Date: Tuesday, November 15th

Time: 4:30 PM

Location: MLK Room

Please come out and provide ideas and thoughts on what should be included in the new Salem State Strategic Plan! Student voice matters!

Speaking of change please register for the Student Leadership Conference. Take time on Sunday to grow your leadership skills and hear from the powerful group “Dear World” as the keynote.

The Center for Diversity & Multicultural Affairs also invites you to “STEP Afrika” tonight in Vets Hall at 8 PM. Come see this transformative step group perform.