Saturday, May 25, 2013

Endicott Graduates Fight Fire and Disease

By Tala Strauss
Gordon College News Service
May 1, 2013
(This appeared in a GCNS package of stories in the print and online editions of the Boston Globe, North, May, 16, 2013.)

When Samantha Fowler, 21, of Westchester, NY, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 13, she thought her life was over.

“I didn’t think I’d grow up a regular teenager,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’m not going to go to college, because I’m not going to be able to have fun.’”

Eight years later, as a graduating senior at Endicott College in Beverly, MA, Fowler now spends much of her time advocating for diabetes awareness. Like Fowler, Endicott senior Jon O’Bryan, 22, of Essex VT, has also spent most of his free time helping others as a volunteer firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Essex Fire Department. O’Bryan even keeps his gear in the trunk of his car so he can drive straight to the scene of an emergency.

Before either walks across the stage at Endicott’s 73rd graduation with 520 other undergraduates on Friday, May 24, they will have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people.

Brandi Johnson, the associate dean of students at Endicott College, has known O’Bryan and Fowler since their freshman year. Johnson, whom Fowler affectionately calls “Mom,” took both students on alternative spring breaks and interacted with them regularly throughout their time at Endicott.

“From their start here, they were automatic rock stars,” she said. “They engulfed themselves in Endicott in a positive manner.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tufts Graduates Tackle Global Healthcare Issues on Campus

By Alanah Percy
Gordon College News Service
May 1, 2013
(This appeared in a GCNS package of stories in the print and online editions of the Boston Globe, North section, May 16, 2013.)

It took Laura Corlin, 22, a Tufts University senior, a trip overseas to discover her passion for community and environmental health. As a result, just weeks before graduation, she’s been busier than usual presenting a thesis on a two and a half year asthma epidemiology research project, working eight hour shifts and serving as the campus director of development for a national group on health equity.

One of about 1500 students graduating from the university on May 19th in Tufts’ 157th commencement ceremony, the Colorado native will earn her degree in biopsychology and community health as well as the 2013 Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service.

“I’m grateful for the tools, resources and ideas I’ve gained over my time here,” said Corlin.

But Corlin won’t be leaving with only her degree. She teamed up with Kanupriya Tewari, another Tufts University senior, to cofound a vibrant chapter of a health equity program called GlobeMed on the university’s campus. Its purpose is to expose Tufts students to global health disparities.

The two met in pre-health science classes, and later combined their experiences and medical interests to help establish the campus organization. Tewari (who has roots in India and Egypt) interned with GlobeMed and knew it would complement Corlin’s commitment to addressing unjust healthcare practices.

 “My motivation—which is shared by Laura and others—stems from a sustainable and accountable model I learned (at GlobeMed),” Tewari said. “It promotes student engagement in global health.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

UMass Lowell Students Feed Lowell and the Web

By Stephanie Francis
Gordon College News Service 
May 2, 2013
(This appeared in a GCNS package of stories in the print and online editions of the Boston Globe, North, May, 16, 2013.)

When looking for a place to take his date for dinner, Aldo Beqiraj, 22, U-Mass Lowell senior and Salem native, quickly became overwhelmed by all the websites he had to visit to get the restaurant’s information.

 “I was on Groupon and I bought a deal there and I found a cool place,” said Beqiraj. “I had to go on Yelp and look at reviews for that place, and then I had to go to to make the reservations and then I had to go to All Menu to look at the menu. Then I realized that I didn’t want to go there anymore so the whole process started over.”

The frustration inspired Beqiraj to create a website that had all the services in one place, and the idea for the Grab a Bite website ( was born.  And while Beqiraj searched for a way to get his idea off the ground, Jennifer Ho, 24, another UMass Lowell senior and Lowell resident, was securing plans for her business.

Though both students will be among the 3,169 students graduating on May 18th, they represent the emerging entrepreneurial vision that distinguishes them. Beqiraj an electric engineering major, has a few job opportunities in his field when he graduates, but is open to working for himself and growing the Grab a Bite website. Just weeks after graduation Ho, a business major, intends to establish her restaurant, Snowdaes a specialty shop that serves shaved “snow” located at 1075 Westford Street in Lowell, MA.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Lessons from Grandma: A Mother’s Day Tribute

By Alanah Percy
Gordon College News Service
May 8, 2013
(This column appeared May 11, 2013, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

While most kids have memories of sleepovers with friends, I remember sleepovers at my grandma’s house until I was16. Our days were full of fresh food, lemonade and stories of her life on the farm in Alabama with 12 brothers and sisters.

One of our favorite projects was gardening. We tore open small bags of seeds that said  ‘cucumber,’ ‘squash,’ ‘watermelon’ and ‘tomato,’ marveled at the various colors and shapes of wire for the garden’s perimeter. Then we’d grab three good shovels, the sprinkler and of course a few old fashion southern sun hats.

“Let’s go fool around with this ol’ garden,” Grandma would say.  I couldn’t wait for the moment when the barren dirt would spring with life and colorful fresh vegetables would emerge. Grandma’s eyes filled at the sight and I always wondered why it meant so much to her.

Years later I realized she was remembering life in the south as a sharecropper, when she and my grandfather were forced to turn over part of their garden’s harvest to a landowner in exchange for land.

During this Mother’s Day season, I am reminded of my grandma’s compassion and tenacity, qualities that have shaped my own personality and strengthened my family. Her mother, my great grandmother, didn’t have much money but did the best she could to encourage her kids to value education and trust God with everything. Growing up in segregated Alabama, Grandma witnessed senseless violence and racism that prevented her from experiencing simple pleasures like purchasing a Coke from the local store. Two of her siblings died from heart attacks in their twenties and one drowned.

Advice from Silicon Valley for Bewildered College Graduates

By Tala Strauss
Gordon College News Service
May 6, 2013

(This column appeared May 21, 2013, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

For many college seniors these days, the thought of approaching graduation is burdened by fear of unemployment and lack of direction. This isn’t helped by the fact that almost every day someone asks what we’re doing next. As a graduating senior at a liberal arts college near Boston, my answer has been relatively vague so far. Panic and apathy jostle for the upper hand. But I want to avoid pessimism and denial – because the reality is that college ends, and something, no matter what, comes after it.

So for spring break I escaped New England’s stormy weather and flew across the country to sunny California. But I didn’t dig out my bathing suit and head to the beach. Instead, I packed a skirt and prepared myself for two days of interviews in Silicon Valley. I wasn’t going for job interviews. I was going to interview professionals – to find a clue to the future.

I asked five people for their advice to graduates. It turned out that one piece of advice I received I was already following: don’t ask for jobs, ask to interview people. Informational interviews can help expand a graduate’s network and give them insight into various careers. But people also told me it’s a myth that I ought to know what I’m going to do by the time I graduate. I won’t know what I’m supposed to do until I’m about 35, they said. And it’s also a myth that my major will determine my career path.

What Charity can learn from Journalism

By Stephanie Francis
Gordon College News Service
May 9, 2013
(This column appeared May 18, 2013, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

Sociologists are damned with the burden of knowing all the troubles of the world. In his book Culture Making Andy Crouch describes journalists as the poor cousins of sociologists. Both study the mechanisms of culture, and both are damned.

As a sociology major who has aspirations in journalism, I suppose this makes me doubly damned. But I am also learning how culture allows me to understand what needs to be fixed. And my generation is one that wants to right the wrongs of the past; the increasing numbers of non-profit start-ups reflect that.

We want to help those starving babies in Africa that our mothers told us would appreciate the Brussels sprouts left on our plates, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hunger is bad and should be something we want to disappear. The passion and urgency we have approaching these problems is inspiring, but I’m afraid we’re doing it wrong.

In my journalism class we were required to read The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. Like many beginning classes, we learned the foundational necessities for journalism. But these ideas can also be useful when thinking about charity. The ideas of verification, truth, and loyalty to the citizens are good virtues to apply to life.