New Page: Humans of SUNY Oswego

Modeled after the very popular Humans of New York page, SUNY Oswego has a new page that’s getting some major attention.

Humans of SUNY Oswego is a photography post project on Facebook that aims to photograph students and briefly interview them for a photo caption to tell a story. The goal of the project is to raise awareness of the age old saying “everyone has a story to tell”.

I’ve been a fan of the HoNY page fan for a while and enjoy viewing the interesting photos that the photographer posts.  Even better than the photos, are the short stories that the brief interviews tell. Regular people have spectacular stories of love, loss, dreams, war and everything in between.

I love the idea behind the project; to showcase that everyday passers-by on the street are all dealing with something or have been through something. It’s so easy to get caught up in our lives and problems and forget that the world is so much bigger than just yourself and your own daily struggles. These simple photos and brief interviews are often inspiring and thought provoking.

Being a Social Media intern with a love of photography, I wanted to take this idea and bring it to SUNY Oswego. There are over eight thousand students on campus and undoubtedly a lot of interesting stories to be told and heard. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I get lost in my own little world when I’m walking across campus with my headphones in and music turned up loud. But imagine, if you truly looked around at everyone and thought about their lives, what they’ve been through or what they are currently dealing with. These thoughts make the world (or the campus) seem a lot bigger than just ourselves and our daily lives.

As one of the photojournalists for the Humans of SUNY Oswego project, I aim to take photos of interesting students and share a line or so that they have shared with me about themselves or their life. I will be posting these photos on the Facebook page.

If you, or someone you know has a story to tell and would like to be featured on the site, please contact me by sending the page a message or emailing me at kburke2@oswego.edu

 

My Journey In Japan, Part One

(NOTE: This is one of those blog entries that I probably should’ve started working on much, much sooner. Perhaps one could consider this a testament to the amount of adventures I’ve been having as of late?)

As I write this, I’m not currently in Oswego. Or in New York State. Or even on the North American continent.

Nope, right now I’m in the middle of a semester abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata-shi, Osaka, Japan. I’m only halfway through the semester, and I already have found it to be the most worthwhile experience of my entire life. This is the realization of a dream I’ve had since I was in middle school (and probably even before that), and is the culmination of over a year and a half of diligence, hard work, and perseverance.

Eleven years in the making, and I'm finally here...

Eleven years in the making, and I’m finally here…

 

 

I’ve got so many stories to tell about my adventures thus far in Japan that I’ll need more than one post to talk about them. But first, let’s talk about two things that have been fundamental in making this even possible in the first place: choice and responsibility.

This is my senior year. I plan to graduate in May, which means I have a little over a semester and a half before I’m expected to go out into the “real world” so I can “make something out of myself.”

As a Creative Writing major, I get a lot of comments from people asking me what I plan on doing after undergrad with that kind of degree. These comments often have a somewhat derogatory tone to them, as if I’ve somehow wasted all my money on something completely worthless.

Now, this is the part where you’d probably expect me to say something along the lines of, “The Creative Writing major is actually super-versatile, thank you very much,” and then drone on and on about how I could be a technical writer or a PR manager, both of which are rather profitable jobs.

Fortunately, that’s not what I’m gonna do. Instead, I’ll tell you the absolute truth.

The truth is, I don’t know what I plan to do outside in “the real world.” I sure as hell don’t want to spend my life rotting away inside a cubicle at a job I hate just because somebody else told me to. That’s not me; it’s not my kind of environment. Sure, it’s secure, but it’s also boring as hell. As Joseph Campbell (whom I’ll probably get to talking about in a later post) once said, “There is no security in answering the Call to Adventure. Nothing is exciting if you already know what the outcome is going to be.”

Now, where does Japan come into all of this?

Well, it’s simple: I’ve wanted to go to Japan since I was a little kid. Over the years I’ve heard a variety of people say a variety of things about the variety of reasons why it would be impossible and/or stupid to go to Japan.

“It’s too expensive.” (Nah, it wasn’t really.)

“Someone like you wouldn’t survive a week over there.” (Try eight. And counting.)

“You’re too stupid to get into a university over there.” (Honors Program with a 3.3 GPA.)

“What’s the point? You’ll just end up owing boatloads of money over nothing.” (See below.)

“Stop being irresponsible, Tom. Just graduate and get a job like everyone else. Worry about Japan later.” (Again, see below.)

Well, if this post is any indication, in the end I didn’t listen to them, and I’m so glad I chose not to. The truth is, this semester abroad wasn’t just the best decision I’ve ever made, but the most NECESSARY, as well. I’d been exposed to too much cynicism to that point, and I needed to break free.

[*cue minor tangent*]

You see, I hate cynicism. It’s probably one of the worst qualities to find in a person, as it more or less translates as a sign of laziness and apathy (which are two equally terrible character traits). I especially hate when I hear my fellow classmates back home (many of whom are juniors and seniors) whine and moan about how “the last four years have been worthless” and “I still don’t know what I want to do with my life” and “[Insert name here]‘s got a degree in [Insert Liberal Arts major here], so he’s gonna be flipping burgers when he gets out of here.”

Here’s the thing: people who say that kind of stuff seem to have missed the point of college; they act like all they need to do is attend class during the week and party during the weekend and they’ll somehow magically figure out who they are and what they want to do. They neglect opportunities like study abroad or clubs and organizations, saying that they’re just a waste of time. School is work, and to them, work should always be separate from play.

And then when they realize they were wrong, they blame it on their parents and other adults who told them that getting a degree was the only important part of their college education.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

See, the thing that so many of those cynical students seem to forget is that college is about learning to make your own decisions, as opposed to following the will of someone else. Thus, whining about how you gained nothing from college is a sign that you didn’t learn how to think for yourself. That’s a skill you often can’t fully learn how to use in a classroom setting; you can only apply it there. You have to learn about yourself and the world around you by actually getting out and being there.

[*end minor tangent*]

Which is where I turn once again to my experiences in Japan. I’ve known for a while that I probably won’t become a full-time writer; for one thing, it’s been hard to come up with something original, and for another, I have a rather short attention span that makes writing for significant length of time somewhat difficult. (Which is why it’s actually kind of weird that this post is as long as it is…)

[*cue another minor tangent; don't worry, kids, it's all relevant in the end*]

But I do know one thing: I love stories. I love telling them, I love reading them, and I love learning about how they work. And I also love games; playing games, talking about games, and learning the science behind games.

And I know that I can take these two bits of knowledge and tie them together. And I know that by tying them together I can see the world from an entirely different perspective. And from that perspective I can find things to do and make that can change the world as we know it. Things that take my creative writing and cognitive science backgrounds and turn them into the impetus behind a force of good.

Knowing that, I feel there’s only one choice I can make, because I have a responsibility to myself (rather than to the people around me) to do something extraordinary with my life.

And the best way I can think of is to pursue cognitive video game studies in graduate school.

[*end minor tangent*]

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Man, does that Tom Kline likes his tangents. But trust me when I say that this all ties together rather nicely.

Because when I first came to Oswego as a freshman, my parents and high school teachers had already told me that I had a responsibility to study what interested me, because in doing so I’d learn to appreciate the gift of choice that came with that opportunity. And so I became a Creative Writing major and Cognitive Science minor, and somehow ended up in Japan.

There, we’re back on track.

Now, having finally come to Japan, I’ve been rewarded for my self-faith and conviction by being granted so many other opportunities while being here. My birthday, September 19th, was the day of the Jugoya full-moon festival in Kyoto, and I got to go to a celebration at Shimogumo Shrine. That night, the full moon was said to be the prettiest full moon of the year (in contrast to a similar festival in May, which is said to be the most powerful full moon of the year).

It was a great night.

 

What’s more, I spent the next four days in Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show 2013, which was an industry expo similar to E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo, held every summer in LA). Unlike E3, however, the last two days of TGS are open to the public.

The ticket for TGS 2013

 

While I was there, I got to play a bunch of crazy games that might not even come out in America.

 

This guy was from a Sega game for the Nintendo 3DS that had something to do with fighting using Japanese yen. I barely understood what was going on. At the end of the demo they gave me a box of tissues that looked like a 10,000 yen bill. Japan, people. Video games.

And my favorite part of the trip was getting to meet a bunch of independent game developers. These are two-and-three-man studios who come together to make games on their own terms, free from any corporate meddling. They often make more avant-garde games with interesting mechanics that in turn can influence the rest of the games industry.

Here’s me with the guys at VisionTrick, who are working on a game called Pavilion for the PS4 and PS Vita. There’s an interview with them that I’ll post soon. They were pretty awesome.

Rickard Westman(left) and Henrik Flink (right) of VisionTrick Media. Talking to these guys was really, really cool.

 

And here’s me with Henry Fernandez and his brother, who are working on FluffEaters, a mobile game for Android and iOS devices. An interview with them should also be going up in the near future:

Me with Henry Fernandez (aka Henry Kun), left, and his brother (whose name sadly escapes me at the moment…), right. These guys were also really cool to talk to.

It’s great to talk to these developers because they operate on a more easily-approachable level; they make games, but they’re not Shigeru Miyamoto or Cliff Blezinski (from Nintendo and Epic Games, respectively). You can go up to them and talk about game design and playing games without feeling like you’re speaking to a suit (or, in the cases of Miyamoto and Blezinski, a legend). In a way, these guys are artists who are making their dreams come true by creating something unique for others to experience and interpret and learn from. They could’ve gone and become businessmen, rotting away at a job they hate, but instead they decided to do something awesome with their lives.

Thus, we’re not really different at all: I love games, they love games. I’m in Japan at the Tokyo Game Show experiencing the insanity that occurs within, and so are they. And most importantly, I’m here because I never gave up on my dream, and neither did they.

That week alone was one of the greatest and most life-changing periods of my entire life. And none of it could’ve happened (or at least, not to the extent that it had) outside of Japan. If I hadn’t made the choice of going to Japan now while I’m still an undergrad, I’d be letting down so many of the people who got to where I am today.

But that, friends, is a story for another time. Until next time, stay tuned for more coverage from the Land of the Rising Sun!

Leadership Skills – A.K.A. How to be a Good Community Member

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.

-Henry Ford

You may not have known it at the time, but when you decided to come to SUNY Oswego, you entered into a sort of social contract. By making the choice to pursue a higher education degree, you have made the choice to be part of a community. The  community you and I belong to is called SUNY Oswego. The most important part of your end of the contract is your obligation to go to classes and do the work for them, but there is another part of that contract which may not be so obvious: being a valuable member of your community at large. The college has multiple avenues for being active in the greater community, but there is one common thread which holds them all together: you. Without student members of the extracurricular organizations and offices, there would hardly be anything to write home about at this school. And while you may not think your role in whatever group(s) you are a part of is particularly important, it most definitely is. If you take these bits of advice and try to behave more like a leader in your organization, you might see it spring to life and gain more influence and credibility in the community at large.

1. Confidence is key.

We’ve heard it a  million times, but it can’t be stressed enough. If you know what you are talking about (or at least act like you do), people are more likely to listen and believe. But this isn’t about just being outgoing for no reason; I mean to say that if you work hard on something, it will show in the way you talk about it. So, sometimes it isn’t enough to talk the talk if you don’t have something good and tangible to back it up.

2. Dedicate time.

This appears to me to be one of the most common problems facing young student leaders. It is very difficult to set aside time for something when the first thing you learn about college life is the breadth of opportunities and activities available to you as a student. But if you can hone in on a few things and really set aside the hours for them, you will soon find people looking up to you and appreciating your effort and dedication to your club or activity.

3. Organize.

If you can find some solid, meaningful, and well-defined goals for your time here at SUNY Oswego, you’re already two steps ahead of the competition. A good way to do this is to start big and work your way down. Find a few broad goals for yourself and compartmentalize them into smaller, more specific tasks, and keep working your way down more and more until you have found yourself in the possession of a set of tasks that are very easy and not stressful individually.

4. Enjoy what you do.

Most importantly, don’t force anything upon yourself. If an activity is not naturally part of your life, you might find yourself often unmotivated to pursue it. This may seem like common sense to some, however I can say from personal experience and first hand observation that it is very easy to feel the need to do something simply out of obligation to friends or maybe because you feel forced to. The trick is to enjoy helping others in the ways that you most easily can afford to.

Hopefully some of these tips stick with you throughout your college career, and hopefully I have helped you make some connections in your mind on what it truly means to be active and a good member of your community. This is an important skill set, one which will greatly enhance your personal and professional life – after all, that’s what we’re going to college for in the first place, right?

5 Student Organizations Anyone Can (And Should!) Join

“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Boy this campus is boring, there’s nothing to do here!”? Well, if so, you’re in for a treat today and this blog post is just for you! You may not know it, but there are a TON of student run organizations on campus (many of which are free and just require attendance & participation), and no college experience is complete without being a part of at least one. Its a new year and a new semester, so maybe its time to make a resolution and be a part of something, no matter how small!  Without further ado, here are a few student organizations that you can join and become an active member of with relatively little or no prior experience:

 

Outdoor Club

http://www.oswego.edu/orgs/outdoorclub/index.html

Get back in touch with your wild side! The outdoor club sponsors trips to many of the natural wonders of the northeast. Expect lots of camping and hiking! They accommodate beginners as well as seasoned pros. They even have movie nights and often team up with other clubs to put on events, such as the ski and snowboard club’s campus rail jam. It’s a good stress reliever to get away from school and out into nature for a while, and this club makes it very easy, often providing trips for free! So check out their website and go to a meeting, you might just find it to be the perfect balancing out activity to your busy college lifestyle.

 

Arts Alive

The official student run Art club on campus, these guys are down to earth. No pretentious art gallery fancy pants judgment to be found here. All of their information can be found near or in Tyler Hall Rm. 201. They put on educational events almost every week, and beginners are as welcome as anyone else with a passion for creativity and aesthetics.

 

 

Story Teller’s Guild

Yes, they are nerdy. But they are all also great people with a passion for fiction of all sorts, whether it comes in the form of comic books, games, or anime (among other things). Probably one of the largest groups on campus, they welcome geeks from all walks of life, and encourage members to host their own game/movie/role-playing etc. events. They also put on one large convention every year called ARCON, featuring plenty of game tournaments, panels, and memorabilia booths. Anyone can join, and you don’t have to be obsessed with the lifestyle to have a good time (even if it may be encouraged)!

 

 

Students for Global Change/ Go Green Team

Now two separate clubs, formerly under the umbrella club Students for Global Change, S4GC and the Go Green Team exist to promote environmental, social, and political awareness amongst citizens, with the Go Green Team specializing in environmental concerns and local green initiatives. Students for Global change often supports many other organizations on campus and encourages members to reach out to the community with their concerns, whether that be through workshops, personal projects or fundraising for global outreach organizations.

 

Student Association

http://www.oswegosa.org/

Last but most definitely not least we have SA, the glue which holds all of the other student organizations together. Believe it or not, the students who choose to participate in SA are doing it of their own free will, actively working to make the social and cultural environment on campus great for everyone. They have a lot of influence in many of the policies that are made by the administration and work very hard with average students who want to make something happen, but perhaps don’t have the tools or the know-how to go about doing it. In joining SA, you could gain a lot of experience working with people, which is something employers love, but they don’t necessarily teach in the classrooms. Their are many positions, from being a senator to a financial officer, and finding which is right for you would be a great step in learning how to be a leader in not just the SUNY Oswego community, but later on down the road of life as well.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Cut the Craft

Ultimate Frisbee Club

Philosophy Club

History Club

 

You can find information on all student organizations here, including many more specialized clubs for your more immediate interests:

http://www.oswego.edu/student/organizations/search.html

I hope this was informative, and if I didn’t get to any clubs or organizations on campus (new or otherwise!) that are accessible and anyone can join, give ‘em a shout out in the comments below!

A Glimmer of Hope, The Congo

Dr. Webe Kadima is an associate professor of chemistry here at SUNY Oswego. Since 2006 , she has made two biannual trips to Kinshasa, the largest city and capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The purpose of these trips? To research and develop an affordable medical solution to Type 2 diabetes using wild plants found in the jungles of the Congo. Working closely with a doctor in the region, Kadima has been able to narrow down what started as 90 plants in research to the three most reliable.

 In this interview Dr. Kadima explains why it is important to have effective alternatives to Western Pharmaceutical Drugs for diabetes, her involvement in the upcoming screening of Cry for Peace and the impact of the Panzi Hospital’s work in the Congo.

This interview does contain conversations about the crisis in the Congo and I feel it necessary to add a (trigger warning:rape) due in part to the discussion about some of those atrocities including rape as a weapon of war. 

 

ARTSwego will present the premiere screening of a new video version Cry for Peace: Voices of the Congo onFriday November 2nd 7p.m at SUNY Oswego’s Waterman Theatre. Tickets are on sale for $5 through all campus box offices. All proceeds will be contributed to the Panzi Foundation USA.

More information can be found about Panzi Foundation USA and the vital role they play in the DRC at their website: www.panzifoundation.org

BE.

Hello readers! My name is Mark Willson. Maybe you have seen me around campus, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve seen some of my work on the Tyler Hall North Wall. My unofficial slogan of late has been the simple statement, “Be”. That’s what I’d like to talk about for my first post as a student blogger.

Be. It is only two letters, yet it carries a world of meaning. What does it mean to me, you ask? It means exist. It means be an active agent in your environment. My environment is SUNY Oswego. Yours probably is too if you are reading this.

So to kick off this new school year, I encourage all of you to get out there and  do something outside of your comfort zone, get involved on campus and in the greater Oswego community, and you will BE.

In the meantime, enjoy this entertaining excerpt from Open Mic Night (which you can catch/be a part of every Thursday at the Lake Effect Cafe!) :

Mike_BieberFever

Look! Up In The Sky! It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s…Some Guy Introducing Himself!

Hmm… given that we’ve been out of school for almost a month, you’d think I would’ve posted at least something by now. It seems procrastination, sleep, summer classes, sleep, looking for a job, procrastination, finding a job, sleep, working at said found job, eating, and sleep have gotten the better of me.

But now I’ve finally arrived, and am ready to finally make my first appearance on this fine Student Blog of ours!

My name is Tom Kline, and I’m a junior Cinema and Screen Studies/Creative Writing double major (with a minor in Theatre). I hail from the lovely (and rather quiet) town of Endwell, NY (which is about 20 minutes from Binghamton, for those of you playing along at home). I went to high school at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, where I graduated as a member of the Class of 2010.

I have what you’d call a “spirited” personality, which is to say that I tend to get excited fairly easily, and my voice often carries as a result. This ability to project is key to being an actor; in the real world, however, it often doesn’t fly. But that’s okay, because I find I’m still able to express my views and opinions (as well as fictitious anecdotes and the like) through writing, which in my experience has been an arguably quieter activity.

And if what people tell me is true (which is not always the case, sadly), I’m pretty good at this whole writing schtick.

Needless to say, much of my extra- (and even inter-) curricular activities involve extensive writing, editing, and other ways to mess around with the English language:

- I’m a member of the College Honors Program.

- I’ve been a regular Staff Writer for The Oswegonian for two years now, and some of my movie reviews have won journalism awards. I even served as a Copy Editor for a semester.

- I am currently a tutor in the Writing Center for the Office of Learning Services. Our office in Penfield Library is a perfect place to find help with papers and other forms of writing.

- My screenplay “The Chase” was featured in the Spring 2012 edition of The Great Lake Review, SUNY Oswego’s semesterly literary journal.

- Last semester, I was inducted into the Alpha Sigma Eta chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English and Creative Writing honors society.

- And of course, I’m writing for this blog!

As I mentioned, I’m also an actor; I most recently made my return to the stage in last semester’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, in which I played Friar Francis and the Sexton. Here’s a photo, courtesy of Lakeshore Images:

That's me in the front, with the Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque robes.

It was my first college theatre production, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. I’m looking forward to working with the Theatre department in the future.

When I’m not chained to a desk, writing, acting, or sleeping (or acting like I’m sleep-writing while chained to a desk), I enjoy playing video games and watching action movies (my favorites are Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 and Die Hard, respectively). I’m also interested in mythology; as part of my Honors thesis, I’m researching the various ties to world mythologies found within anime, manga, and popular culture at large. It’s just one of the ways I’ve been able to fully embrace my “nerdy” interests by integrating them into my academic studies (but more on that some other time).

Well, I guess that’s me in a nutshell. In closing, I’d like to thank Tim Nekritz and the others involved with this blog for allowing me to become a contributor. I’m looking forward to posting some of my more interesting stories about SUNY Oswego sometime in the future.

Until then, thanks for reading!

 

Live to Inspire.

From where do you draw inspiration. For me it’s everywhere. It’s my enviorment, it’s my friend who just got the really good job, it’s the blog or site I visit and go man they write so well!, it’s watching Kanye be passionate about art, it’s watching Jay-Z talk about progression, it’s sitting in Barnes and Nobles on a cold rainy day in the city reading magazines in the same corner for 2 hours in between classes, inspiration is knowing that one day my whole family is going to look down on me from the seats in the Campus Center Arena as I get my degree and pat me on the back. Inspiration is everywhere man. I truly do live off of my inspirations. I’m here to be inspired and to hopefully inspire someone else , like truly inspire them. So I don’t know…how are you inspired?

Remembering Gil Scott-Heron

 

Gil Scott Heron

Gil Scott Heron

 

 

 

I will not assume that many of my peers have an idea who Gil Scott-Heron is, or have any real knowledge of his impact. Most of his work until, recent was produced during the 1970s. By the time I was born in 1988, Gil Scott-Heron was rarely heard from unless to highlight the hard times he had fallen on.

However yesterday, at the announcing of his passing, people across the world responded. Many from various circles and backgrounds. Even Eminem  tweeted ” RIP Gil Scott-Heron, He influenced all of hip-hop.” As word continues to spread and more people becomes aware of his passing, the praise and adulation will undoubtedly pour in. Although his impact was felt world wide, his spoken word often dealt with the social issues felt by those within the black community. He became a social activist through the lyrics and lines within his poems and spoken word. Over percussionist sounds his words would flow touching upon political issues , poverty and disparity within government programs.

Gil Scott-Heron’s most popular piece The Revolution Will Not Be Televised took aim at mass media,mocking through references of pop-culture items and the role they played in distracting Americans from real issues.

To truly understand the talent and amazing spirit in which Gil Scott-Heron connected with millions isn’t to read about it, but to experience it for oneself. That is how he impacted a culture and helped to influence generations after. Through his words, his prose , his unique approach to addressing social issues over those rhythmic drums. That is after all how he impacted mine.

So I leave you with the link to his spoken word and the explanation that would come years later to what is regarded as his best work. RIP Gil Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

“The catchphrase, what that was all about “The Revolution Will Not  Be Televised” that was about the fact that the first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you’re living and the way you move. So when we said that The Revolution Will Not be Televised we were saying that the thing that is going to change people, is something that no one will ever be able to capture on film. It’ll just be something that you see and all of a sudden you realize “I’m on the wrong page or I’m on the right page but the wrong note and I’ve got to get in sync with everyone else to understand what going on in this country”

-Gil Scott-Heron