JMU vs PSU… Or Dogs vs Cats… Take One

Since I have transplanted myself from dog-land (JMU) to cat-land (PSU) I have been comparing the two. Honestly in most ways they come out even. Same kind of school spirit. Same kind of students (nice, smart, friendly, hold doors for others, hard partiers, etc). Same small town feel.

But I have found two big differences so far. Let me elaborate:

1) Parking.
No one complains about parking at PSU. There are not legions of parking police crawling every inch of every parking lot writing tickets. Students do not wait in line for 30 minutes in parking lots waiting for a space to open up. There is not an us versus them mentality. In fact, parking at Penn State seems to be very functional and well thought out. Amazing for a school twice the size. After observing this seemingly miraculous condition for a semester I think it is because (1) a large percentage of the students/faculty/staff walk, ride bikes, or take the bus to campus. A large percentage. And (2) The bus system, both on and off campus, works well is dependable and reliable. It's not free into the city ($1.25 per ride) but a lot of people do it every day without complaint.

Score one for the cats.


2) Inclement Weather.
Well, JMU wins this one hands down. Take today, for example. We are in an ice storm. Full blown ice storm. Not snow. Ice. Covering everything. Thick. And is Penn State closed? Nope. Was it delayed? Nope. Will it close early? Nope. Crazy. JMU would have closed last night at the announcement of an ice storm. Ha ha. The best Penn State can cough up is an announcement to keep your cars out of the parking lot after midnight so the physical plant folks can clear them without obstacles every few feet. Umm hmmm… Yep. They're hard core up here. JMU wins. No contest, really. I will miss the 5-10 snow days each year.

Score one for the dogs.


Contest so far: All tied up with an edge towards the dogs. Snow days are awesome.

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Letter to Friends Back Home…

…posted here because I think it gives a pretty good overall assessment of my life these days and now my family can be in the loop too.

Wow. It's October. (Well, almost, anyway.) That means I have officially survived the first six weeks of grad school. And in one way or another, I have all of you to thank for that. It has been a heck of a transition and in some ways I'm only now beginning to feel stable. In other ways I'm still shaky and overwhelmed. But in all ways I feel happy and content and convinced this was the right decision.

The program has created the most stress and dissonance in my life by far. Looking around at my cohort I feel very blessed to have been selected for admission. It's humbling. They are a tremendously smart and talented group and I feel like a ten year old in high school on most days. The hardest part on a day to day basis has been trying to stay on top of all the readings. Oh. My. Goodness. Can I just tell you I have about 800 pages of journal articles (two pages per sheet) plus six textbooks.Just finishing the reading is a challenge but the expectation is, of course, to not just absorb it but be able to critique it critically and contribute in class. Eek! Just to give you an idea, I am regularly reading until 10-11pm two nights per week and spending about 21 hours in the library from Friday-Sunday. It's hard but worthwhile because we all know what a big mouth I have in class (or meetings) and I need to overcompensate at this point so that I feel confident enough to be able to contribute. This coming week is my first "hell week" with an assignment due in each class. Which leads me to…

Classes… I am taking three: two from a quantitative/empirical perspective one from a qualitative/critical-cultural perspective. That highlights what was the first big learning curve- everything is from a research perspective. Seeing as how I don't have much of a research background that was quite a mental hurdle. I didn't even know what the difference was between qualitative and quantitative when I got here and I still don't know which direction I will eventually choose to focus. But I'm learning new words such as hegemonic and polysemy, explication and operational definition. Woohoo! Yippee! If you're really nice I just might tell you what they mean then you can shout yippee too. The two quantitative classes are research methods and proseminar. Research methods is the big scary one that everyone was talking about before classes even started. I think it's going ok, but we have a mid-term coming up in two weeks which I think will highlight just how shaky I am in the terminology and concepts. Our class is already planning study sessions – power in numbers! In the proseminar we started historically way back with the Greek philosophers are are just now getting up into the mid-1900's. My favorite class is the qualitative one though – TV Studies. Yes, we are studying tv, but it's not easy. In some ways this has been the toughest class and I actually went home and cried after the second session because I couldn't even understand the QUESTIONS in class, let alone be able to provide answers. Sigh… This class has been the catalyst for the long hours in the library and obsessive study habits. It showed me just how steep my learning curve is and how hard I will have to work to get on an even playing field. So, I'm in there swinging. Studying and swinging.

Graduate Assistanship… First I have to say how much I'm enjoyng being a worker bee again. My boss is awesome and very smart. He has 23 years of experience and more ideas than there are bees in a hive. His excitement and enthusiasm rivals my own so we get each other worked up. lol… It's pretty funny and a good fit. The surprising thing is I'm working in the distance learning arm of Penn State (called the World Campus) and really enjoying it. Honestly, I never thought I'd say that. I had lots of doubts about distance learning and its effectiveness as a learning environment. But I am slowly being convinced that it CAN be very challenging and produce as much learning as a traditional face to face classroom. Of course there are bad teachers online just as there are bad teachers in the classroom, but I am beginning to be exposed to tools and techniques that make for a very rich environment. How about that? Who knew? Maybe one of these days I'll end up teaching online. It could happen. My boss and I are an office of two. Ha! We are the brand spanking new Faculty Development arm which was created in April and my boss came on board as Director in June. We are trying to get some programs off the ground as quickly as possible which has created yet another steep learning curve for me. I'm not only having to learn about distance learning, but faculty development models as well. So far, so good, I think.

Finally, life… Life is good. I've started running again for the first time in five years. I filled up my car the other day for the first time in six weeks. I feel good. I love State College and Penn State which is pretty much JMU on steroids. It has the same brand of nice people, school spirit, party-hard/work-hard environment. The students are smart, the football stadium is mind-boggling big, the ice cream is delicious, and the weather is lovely (so far, anyway). I still read the JMU website and follow the news on the CAA Zone message boards. My JMU moles still fill me in on the news and updates (Steve Grande – boo!) I lost my voice cheering the Dukes on against App State last weekend and still wear my purple windbreakers pretty much every day in the office.

 I want to thank you all with every part of my being for your support, teachings, and encouragement from the time I started my career at JMU as a student all the way through this moumental change in my life. I think about you all often and miss you a lot. I hope you are all doing well, happy and healthy. Please get in touch if you are ever in the area. I'm hoping to get down to JMU to visit sometime before Christmas.

Miss you and take care!
🙂 Stevie

P.S. Sorry this is so long and feel free to forward it to anyone else you think might be interested.
P.P.S. I still haven't sold my house so let me know if you know someone who is looking!

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JMU visits PSU

My friends came up last weekend… yay! Here are some highlights:

… visiting every landmark and photo opp at Penn State
… arriving just as 107,000 people exited the football stadium. That is a LOT of people in case you were wondering.
… really good Indian food, really good pizza, and really bad bar food (and service)
… driving around on Saturday night yelling the "We are… Penn State" cheer out the car windows.
… watching the JMU football team whoop #1 App State's booty on TV. We are now #1. Yesssssssss!
… ice cream run at 10 pm
… probably lots of other stuff I'm forgetting.

Enjoy this photo tour of the weekend…

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Weekly Update: July 6-12

Welcome to the first addition of the possible new format for my bloggage. Why a new format? Let me explain…

Vox Habit
Simply put, I am trying to ween myself of my Vox habit. Vox is addicting. Your lives are addicting. And fascinating.

And I got sucked in involved until I was spending 2-3 hours at a time reading and commenting on everyone's posts plus trying to think of something worthwhile to say on mine.

Truthfully, I enjoyed it and have come to respect and care for my neighbors in Vox-land a lot, but have come to the conclusion that I just can't keep it up at that level. My goal and plan is to write on my own blog at least once a week or so because it will be the primary way to keep in touch with my friends and family once I start my doc program next month. I fully expect that posting once a week might be all I can manage. So, to my favorite Vox neighbors, I will do my best to at least check in once in a while to keep up with your lives and adventures, but I don't think I will be as active a participant as I have been.

Polka Dot Patty

The big excitement this week came from a lovely bought of hives that covered me from chin to ankles in polka dots. Woohoo! It appeared after I started taking an herbal supplement. Nothing else in my life had changed so I'm 99% sure it was connected.

At first I thought it was an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients, but antihistamines and Cortisone cream didn't do anything to make it better so now I think it was the supplement working on something internally and trying to push it out through my skin. Lovely. My very intelligent and well-informed health enthusiast brother and mother first clued me in to this idea. Thank you!

But if that's the case, I'm all for it. If it's some nasty toxin and this supplement will get it out of my body, I'll put up with looking like a cheetah for a while. That being said, I'm starting back on it today, just at a lower dosage. My greatest hope is that it might get at the root of whatever weird malaise has made my life sucky for the past several years. This supplement is an all-natural antibiotic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-everything basically, and has actually been called a miracle-worker by people who have taken it. I am hopeful. Let's leave it at that.

Getting Sad
This week I started really feeling sad about leaving JMU and all the wonderful people there. Till now it's been like an

intellectual exercise / problem to solve / list of to-do's. But a couple times this week I found myself at my desk with tears in my eyes. I don't think it has fully sunk in yet so I'm sure I'll be full-on bawling by the end of the month.

I'm not going to say much about this right now because it will be its own post later on. I need to let it simmer for a while to make sure I can honestly get my feelings on paper. I'm hoping it will be cathartic for me and represent the impact the JMU community has had on my life and development.

New 'Puter


This week I bit the bullet and finally made up my mind about what kind of computer to get for grad school. It was a tough decision since I love technology and all the finalists seemed exciting. In the end I went with a Lenovo ThinkPad R61. It gets great ratings on and comes with lots of fun bells and whistles. It also comes with Vista, which I'm not thrilled about, but I figure it's going to become the standard OS for PC's whether I want it to or not. Darn Microsoft. It should have been delivered Friday but I have to be present to sign for it. Which I am equally glad about and frustrated by. Now, I will have to leave work early on Monday to be here to receive it. Next week, between 2:00 and 5:00 be listening for an ear-splitting SQUEEEEEEEEE as I tear open the box.

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Toilets, Fish, and Foolishness

Happy July, folks!

I am alternating between being tired and cranky and neither makes for uplifting and entertaining bloggage. So I have been practicing avoidance therapy. It works!

What have I been doing lately?

Fixing toilets… check… so proud of myself!


Finding a new home for my fish tank. Here it is at my place and in process of being dismantled…


And in its new home… GORGEOUS!

And going to good bye parties and social gatherings. Some of the shenanigans…

EmbarrassedPosterSarahShae jerms

Barnes x2ClevebgersFrancoisWill

Since I was silly enough to let it slip that I did synchronized swimming in college, my colleagues honored me with a routine of their own… This was truly one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. The best part is how serious they all are.

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Clothesline Project – Graphic, Read with Caution

I forgot I took these pictures a few weeks ago.

Every year at JMU we host the Clothesline Project in conjunction with Take Back the Night. Both are events that center around sexual/physical abuse and empowerment to take life back.

I remember the first time I went to the Clothesline Project about ten years ago, I just cried as I read the messages. All the t-shirts were made by JMU students over the years. Ten years ago there were maybe 50 shirts. This year there were hundreds. Too many to display them all.

I took pictures of some of the shirts. If you are easily offended or have a history of sexual abuse or rape, you may want to stop reading. Some of the messages are really powerful and heart breaking.













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Happy 100th Birthday, JMU!

This week our beloved university turned 100. It was fun and yet another opportunity for us to all wear purple and gold for the week. I ❤ our school spirit. It's one of my favorite things about JMU.

So, my top ten favorite memories:

10) free snowcones on Wednesday
9) free cotton candy on Thursday
8) free ice cream on Friday
7) free birthday cupcakes on Friday
6) the commissioned Orchestral piece "Portraits in Bluestone"
5) Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine's speech at the Convocation
4) the painted Duke Dog display
3) the new James Madison statue
2) the giant inflatable Duke Dog
1) the giant human 100 shot from an airplane

Our birthday in photos. Enjoy!

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