Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Brief Update on Class Projects (Senior Year is Busy!)

I want to start this entry with a quick apology for my brief hiatus from my internet communications; I've been doing well but at times it's been hard to manage work + classes + clubs + social relationships.

Anyway! Despite being busy, senior year at Clark has thus far been very enjoyable. I'm very excited about the projects I've been assigned for this semester. Recently I had a meeting with the professor of my sociology course (SOC 203: American Jewish Life) in which we discussed the topic of my project for the course. I'm planning on doing my project on a topic I only recently became interested in through a course taken last semester - PSYC 143: Human Sexuality. During the semester we viewed a film that discussed somewhat the topic of male circumcision in America. And this was first time in my life that I had considered what male circumcision means.

And then, this past summer, I attended a circumcision within the Reform Jewish community, and experienced my first bit of cognitive dissonance with the custom; I simultaneously maintained that this was a custom I grew up understanding as a symbol of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, while also realizing that it is a medical procedure prominent in the United States that may or may not have solid reasoning medically. Additionally, through reading feminist writings on the topic, I've begun to see how the custom could be interpreted as something that excludes women - it continues the patriarchy of the society by continuing a custom that excludes women anatomically.

So, these are my opinions, and only at the beginning of their development; my professor was extremely helpful, offering me sources to begin research with. I'm excited to look more into the topic, to trace how male circumcision has shifted over time throughout generations of Jews (and non-Jews) in America. I'm glad to be able to research a topic that I am personally affected by - it will make the ten-minute presentation/fifteen-page paper much easier to get through.

One other class update! Earlier this evening, during my COPACE course (On Death & Dying) I got the okay to write a book report on a book I read this past summer: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo. We, in the class, have an option to either 1. go to a cemetery, 2. write our own obituaries, or 3. write a book/movie review. Though all options sound interesting, I'm excited to write the book review. It's a very interesting read that deals with some of the questions that have come up in class so far; mainly, how does one define quality of life? How does death affect the manner in which we live? What does death mean? What does life mean, in relation to death? It should be interesting to go back and examine the book with a slightly new (and more informed) view on the topic.

Soon I shall be heading to bed! I hope everyone's week has gone well so far. Happy New Year/Shana Tova for those who are observing Rosh Hashanah. Goodbye for now!

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Death and Dying (A Reflection of the Course Thus Far)

I've been thinking about death a lot lately.

No, but really.


But what I am actually referring to, rather than a mild obsession with zombies, is my COPACE course The Final Chapter: A Study of Death & Dying. We've been approaching death in a way I've never experienced before, and I've been thinking of it in a way I've never pondered previously. Chapter two of our textbook Death, Society, and Human Experience presented the question "what is death?"

At first, it feels simplistic. But then, I began to realize, I'm not sure.

The textbook presented some manners in which death has been viewed in the past (these are the few I found most interesting):
1. Kenneth V. Iserson suggested that death may be a complex process that takes place over time
2. In the 3rd Century B.C. Epicurus thought of death as one event in a sequence of events (i.e. as somewhat meaningless)
3. The Harvard Criteria for determination of brain death (1968) presented five biophysical determinants: un-receptive & unresponsive, no movement & no breathing, no reflexes, a flat EEG, & no circulation to or within the brain.

Later, the text discussed the manner in which people view death - mainly, how it is personified; as a gentle comforter, as a macabre and evil (scythe-clad) being, as an elegant and worldly guide, or as an undistinguished automaton. In their 1997 study, Kastenbaum & Herman discussed how the personification of death differs according to the type of personality each individual attributes to death. 

Although I have experienced death in certain ways, I had never before given thought to what exactly death is - or, more so, what it means to me. Which is certainly a concept I'd need to ponder before becoming involved with chaplaincy/pastoral care or hospice work; fields where death & an understanding of the variety of processing types attributed to death would be absolutely necessary.

So, I began to ponder, what is death?

For me, at this point in time, I see death as only a lack of life. Never before have I pictured death as anything located outside of the body, as a personified figure, but rather, as an internal reaction; one last sigh of life released, and then death: the absence of life.

Additionally, never before had I considered what it means physically to be dead - braindead? Unresponsive? A flat EEG? Upon first glancing at the material, it was strange to realize that I'd never pondered what death "means". But then again, what does life mean?

In pursuing a career that deals with all the meanings of death - the absence of life, the continuation of existence, fate, a complex process that occurs over time, one meaningless event in a series of other meaningless events; my hopes are to bring meaning to life.

Life, in a long process leading to death (with visiting the infirm in hospitals). Or life, moments before death, in a hospice center or home.

I appreciate this course, on Death & Dying, because despite the heaviness of its topic material, it's lending me positive thoughts in a manner applicable to my life goals. I am excited to continue learning, and to hopefully form more fully my own conceptions.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Psychology Major Overview & Capstone Update

I'm writing the first draft of this entry while I listen to the soothing sounds of Charlton Heston in Orson Welles' (1958 version of) Touch of Evil. Nothing nicer than a "stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town" on a Monday evening; shared, of course, with the students of SCRN 231.

I want to focus this entry on my psychology capstone - PSYC 270: Advanced Topics in Social Psychology, taught by Prof. James Laird. Because I'm not certain I've previously done so, I shall first explain what I'm referring to when I reference my capstone. So, to begin, here's a basic overview of the requirements necessary to fulfill in order to become a psychology major at Clark University, summarized from information provided on the Clark website here and here).

which is a broad overview of the field of psychology taught at Clark. Sometimes students with AP credit from high school can skip this and move right onto the other intro courses, three of which are

The psychology department recommends fulfilling these three courses within the first two years at Clark. Students often complete these courses while simultaneously taking courses from the Basic Processes (BP), Developmental (DEV), and Social/Personality (S/P) content areas. The requirements dictate that a student must take one course from each of the three content areas. For example, I completed

PSYC 143 - Human Sexuality (for my BP credit)
(both of which count towards S/P but interest in the topics led me to take both)

After the seven intro courses have been completed (psych 101, statistics, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, one BP, one DEV, & one S/P) the student then moves onto the two mid-level courses, (1) a seminar, and (2) either a lab or a research course. A handful of courses for the mid-level requirements are offered each semester. It is recommended that these two courses are completed during the third year at Clark, but I am somewhat of an anomaly and have yet to complete either, which I will be doing next semester. This is an excellent example of the flexibility of the order of course requirements, though I'm sure it's a bit neater to complete them in the suggested order. Because course offerings differ from semester to semester for these two requirements, I'll instead give you summaries (taken from here) of what these types of courses entail. 

- First Seminar (PSYC 237 - 259): focuses on the attentive analysis of psychological texts, the articulation of opinions concerning psychological issues, and the use of library and reference skills in psychological writing.
- Laboratory Requirement (PSYC 200 - 214): focuses on doing psychological research including planning, data collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation. The laboratory requirement may be fulfilled by taking a research course.
- Research Courses (PSYC 215 - 235): are opportunities to participate in faculty and/or graduate student research projects, in all stages of the research process from conceptualization to presentation. The work normally terminates in an Academic Spree Day presentation and/or co-authorship of a scholarly paper or conference presentation.

As I said, I have not yet completed my First Seminar nor my Lab/Research requirements. However, I am in the process of completing the final step in the psych major process: the capstone course. It is recommended that the capstone is completed during the fourth year at Clark (and after the completion of the mid-level courses, though so far I'm fine having not done either). There are three options for capstone courses (1) Capstone Seminars, (2) Capstone Research, and (3) Internship and Directed Studies. Again, because the courses vary per semester, I'll offer brief summaries of each type. My capstone, PSYC 270, is a capstone seminar.

- Capstone Seminars  (PSYC 260-297) are open to undergraduates, and in many cases, to graduate students, and are taught at or near the graduate level.
- Capstone Research (PSYC 292) courses are by faculty permission only. Capstone research students should expect to write a substantial research report describing the theory, methods, statistical method, results and conclusions of the project they conducted.
- Internship (PSYC 298) and Directed Studies (PSYC 299) may count as University credits, but not as major credits.

So there you have it! An overview of the psychology requirements at Clark. And now, to move on to specifics about my capstone seminar. 

The course, though titled Advanced Topics in Social Psychology, has a more specific focus this semester. Prof. Laird chose an overall topic of "consciousness", and each student will be presenting information on a specific sub-topic on an assigned date. The presentation will involve a fifteen-page paper and a powerpoint presentation. 

I am excited about the topic I've chosen to research - it's called prosopagnosia, or "face blindness". In essence, the disorder is defined by a person's inability to recognize faces, even one's own, or those of close friends and family members. The author/professor/physician Oliver Sacks references it in the title of one of his books, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. In addition to writing about the topic, Oliver Sacks identifies as having prosopagnosia.

I don't know too much about the topic yet - I am presenting on Nov. 28th, and will begin my research during this next or two. Because I am presenting later in the semester, the professor anticipates that I will have a nicely prepared and well-edited presentation & paper (seriously, those presenting sooner are expected to be less prepared, but will have more time to edit; those presenting later have more prep time but less time to edit after receiving feedback from classmates and the professor). Upon doing more research, I will update with specific information about the topic, in addition to my plans for the paper and the presentation.

The film (Touch of Evil) is about over, so I will wrap up this entry now. I hope everyone's well and enjoying the recent drop in temperature - feels like Autumn is nearing (ooh, nearly time to take Clark-in-the-Fall pictures). Until next time!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

stART on the Street Photos

I'll write soon with course updates, but I wanted to post some pictures that I took earlier today at stART on the Street. I hope everyone's week starts out well! I will write to you all soon.

Musicians performing on the street


Slam poetry

One of the many booths

Jane browsing clothes

Giant bubbles

The view from the hill across from Elm Park

The booth for That's Entertainment

Folks performing for a crowd

Arts & Crafts

Ran into some fellow Clarkies! (Dylan's blog here, because I haven't linked to it enough times already)

Friday, September 16, 2011

End of the Week Walk & Thoughts

I've just returned from a nice stroll through Worcester with my friend Jane! After brunch we decided to take a walk, and so we ended up walking up past the Clark Bookstore (we stopped in to look at sweatshirts) and then looped around by Living Earth.

Upon our return, we did a bit of posing in front of our house (23 Maywood - the Wellness House; located directly across the street from Maywood Street Hall).



Today I will be working on some homework, studying, and reading. I have my first exam coming up on September 27th. It will be over all of the readings covered thus far in my sociology (American Jewish Life) course. The readings have covered a variety of topics related to Jewish American culture, often colored by a historical lens. Often, it feels, the course readings are implying the question: what happened in the past to cause this event to be significant today? Again, our major project will focus on the tracing of one strand of Jewish American culture, so it fits well to examine how a certain topic has shifted or grown over time.

I'm feeling very excited for my COPACE course on Death & Dying. In the most recent reading that I completed for class (on Wednesday), the text delved into some interesting topics, in particular those suggesting why people may fear the death of others'. Because, the text suggested, it makes us aware of our own mortality. This was something I had considered but never felt in such blunt terms, so it was a nice/oddly terrifying sort of realization to encounter. I am pumped about this course because I feel that it will be a wonderful preparation for the world of hospice work.

Additionally, I'm feeling very excited for my social psychology capstone. I feel that it was a particularly good choice because I am hoping to enter a field in which I will be interacting with people (socially) in events where a background in psychology may be especially significant. The topic of consciousness is such an intriguing topic to study; it will be interesting to see which sub-topics my classmates focus their projects on.

Hebrew Bible has been wonderful so far as well - Prof. Fox still remains a favorite professor of mine. I have completed the majority of my Jewish Studies concentration requirements with him.

Enough about classes for now! I'm off to do a bit of homework. Tomorrow I'm hoping to do more homework/studying & to see a few friends, and then on Sunday I'll be attending stART on the Street (which is really great! Everyone in Worcester should definitely try to go).

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monday, Monday

I've finally had a real Monday! Our past two were canceled; first due to Hurricane Irene, and then due to Labor Day. I'm satisfied to have finally attended all of my classes and to have become acquainted with professors and with what course work will entail for the semester.

College time is equally great and also disorienting - each day can feel like multiple days, and yet overall the weeks speed by. Part of me can't comprehend that I've been at Clark for three school years already! Totally crazy. And yet, it's only Tuesday. My Mondays through Wednesdays are fairly busy, with courses and projecting for the Screen Studies department in the evenings. But then after my two classes on Thursdays, I'm freeeee! Except for my SPOC book club meetings, that is. And usually, the CUFS weekly screening (this week it's The Dead Poets Society!)

Anyway, I attended my Psych Capstone course on Monday evening, which looks to be both interesting and challenging. Our course will focus on the topic of consciousness, and each student will choose a topic within that topic (I'm hoping to explore prosopagnosia - a disorder when people become unable to recognize faces while maintaining the ability to recognize other objects) which we will become experts on, and present our information in paper/powerpoint form to the class on assigned dates.

Presenting information seems to be a theme of my courses this semester; for American Jewish Life each student will pick one minute strain of Jewish life in the U.S. (be it bagels, a type of jewelry, or summer camps) and trace it throughout time. Because we're able to pick topics that interest us as individuals, I anticipate the project as being very interesting & enjoyable. And also, in the COPACE course (a Study of Death & Dying), each student will complete a paper/presentation on one topic related to death (approved by the professor) and present it later in the semester.

In general, being a fairly shy lady, I tend to find presentations unbearable. But because the topics are being catered to the individual, I anticipate that these projects will be enjoyable and not too nerve-racking.

The weather is lovely in Worcester today, I hope it will last through Sunday when stART on the Street is occurring - I attended last year and it was wonderful, with lots of college students, Worcester residents, and local artists, artwork, entertainment, and activities. If anyone is in the Worcester area on Sunday, I highly recommend attending it.

This past weekend I had a bit of free time & was able to walk around with my friend Dylan Scott (his blog can be found here) to take pictures of the Clark campus. I hope you enjoy them!

My friend Jane posing in front of Jonas Clark Hall

Dylan posing on a bench in Red Square

Students walking outside Goddard Library

Wright Hall, on Downing Street

Students juggling on the green (outside of Jefferson Academic Center)

Until next time!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Beginnings of Courses & Clubs

Happy Friday (my apologies to your ears - it's just too relevant to pass up)!

I'm quite fond of my schedule for this semester at Clark - I work my projectionist job Monday through Wednesday, and I have classes from Monday through Thursday. Fridays are mine for homework, laundry, sleeping in, or taking walks through Worcester. I'll have to remember to bring my camera next time, so I can post some pictures.

Since updating last, I have gone to my official first COPACE class. I am very excited for this course, the syllabus seems very closely catered to my tastes. It's also a very small class, only seven students, which I personally find more favorable than large classes (though I must say, I haven't had too many huge classes at Clark throughout my years here).

So, my COPACE course, officially titled "The Final Chapter: A Study of Death and Dying" at first appears somewhat macabre. However, we will be viewing the topic from a social services viewpoint, colored with a sociological lens - it's more of a course that enables us to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional/psychological processes of death, the cultural attitudes associated with death, and to gain knowledge of community resources. Which, as I mentioned previously, is right up my alley; this course will be delving into the very topic that would be relevant to my career as either a hospice worker or Jewish chaplain.

I'll update with specifics as the course progresses.

Yesterday evening I attended a couple of club meetings. I'm very excited to continue being a radio DJ for ROCU this year, and in addition to continuing my co-presidency at CUFS, I'm also joining a new club - the SPOC book club. For those who are unfamiliar, SPOC stands for Science fiction People Of Clark. I'm excited for the book club because 1. I'm quite fond of reading books and yet 2. haven't read many science-fiction/fantasy books. I'm hoping to gain more exposure to the genres through this club.

Again, I'll update more with specifics as we begin to choose the books for the semester.

So, I shall spend the rest of my Friday getting ahead on my reading for the next week, and possibly doing some laundry. I hope everyone enjoys the sunny weather today!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Senior Year Begins

Hello again!

Or, "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story", as one of my friends is fond of saying. 

I'm very excited to continue my blog this year! I look forward to relaying my experiences at Clark as a Psychology major with a concentration in Jewish Studies, as a senior, on the verge of graduation! I'm beginning to discover how I will be able to merge my university studies with potential career options following graduation, and I hope, through this blog, to paint an accurate portrayal of how Clark has prepared me for what will come next in life.

So you may ask: what are my plans for Clark this year?

They're very exciting! I'm taking four classes: my capstone for psychology, called 
Advanced Topics in Social Psychology; a Jewish studies/sociology course called American Jewish Life; a Jewish studies course called Reading the Narratives of the Hebrew Bible (those who followed this blog last year may recall that I took the second piece of this course previously); and a COPACE course (through the Adult/Continuing Education program), a class titled The Final Chapter: A Study in Death and Dying.

Additionally, I am maintaining my position as a co-president of the Clark University Film Society (CUFS), and I will be preparing play-lists and hosting a radio show with a couple friends as a part of ROCU, Radio of Clark University. As the year progresses, I may join a few more clubs (Clark has so many to choose from!)

I will also be working as a student projectionist for the Screen Studies program here at Clark - I'll be in charge of setting up and projecting a number of screenings per week.

You may then be thinking: your senior year sounds great! But what's next? Are you going to stay at Clark and continue with the Fifth-Year Program?

My plans for the future are still uncertain - graduate school is a definite option, but my plans are not solidified to the point where I'd feel comfortable committing to Clark's excellent Fifth-Year program (check out Dylan's awesome science blog, which discusses what it's like to continue at Clark after undergrad, or this audio clip by a past student explaining why he decided to enter the Fifth-Year program).

If not Fifth-Year, then what are your plans?

I'm looking into careers where I may be able to combine the two topics I grew to love so much at Clark - psychology, and Jewish studies. Potential careers at this point include Jewish chaplaincy and hospice work; in my own experiences with illness and familial death, I have grown to appreciate how comforting the presence of such people can be during difficult times. And both positions would combine very nicely the topics I've studied here at Clark! For interested parties, here's a list of the smattering of courses that really pushed me to become interested in a career where I'd be lending kindness to the infirm: Suffering and Evil in Jewish TraditionHolocaust: Agency and ActionIntroduction to Peace StudiesIntroduction to Abnormal Psychology, and Sociology of Families. I'm hoping that courses this semester (mainly A Study in Death & Dying and American Jewish Life, in addition to the Social Psychology capstonewill provide me with even more of a basis for the types of topics I’d uncover as a Jewish chaplain/hospice worker.

Clark truly is an institution that changes lives - without the availability and proximity of such enjoyable and interesting psychology & Jewish studies courses, I'm not certain I would have landed on a potential career choice that feels both accessible and exciting to me as an individual. 

This blog will follow my experiences at Clark throughout my senior year, with a focus on how my courses (and past courses) have prepared me for experiences after college. I'll keep you updated on events on campus, and will hopefully be posting relevant pictures, videos, and tweets (I've never used Twitter before, but I'll post links once I've set it up).

Thanks for reading so far - I look forward to keeping all of you updated!