Extreme Makeover: Bessey Edition

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When I first opened the doors to the third floor of Bessey Hall for class in room 317, I was greeted with new faux wood flooring, a rearrangement of furniture, a fresh coat of paint, and benches. Anyone who has traveled to Bessey Hall knows the third floor underwent a renovation this summer, which included a few classrooms and a new look for the hallway.

I got the chance to meet with Dr. Laura Julier, associate chair and director of the professional writing program, and was able to get some more insights on the third floor’s revamp.

“All the people that were involved in the decisions for the renovation of the 3rd floor were very careful to try and meet with everyone in Bessey to share the plans and hear their concerns, which was important!”

Laura also spoke to me about two classrooms on the third floor’s transformation to become REAL classrooms, which stands for Rooms for Engaged and Active Learning. The aim of setting up classrooms in this format is intended to create a more interactive, collaborative  learning environment.

While I haven’t had class in these REAL classrooms, one room’s revamp I have been affected by personally is room 317. Room 317 is an important component of the third floor, especially in regards to the WRAC Department because it’s the professional writing program’s hub. For its portion of the makeover, 317 received a fresh coat of paint, a new whiteboard, a new printer, and a touch panel screen for instructors to use to operate different technologies in the classroom (as opposed to a remote). When I talked to Professor Alexandra Hidalgo about the new technologies, arrangement, and additions to the room she said:

“It’s easier to see all the students. Managing the computers is a lot easier. I love that little panel they have instead of the remote control. It’s a lot more user friendly.”

Besides attending and teaching class in 317, the department wants to make 317 an open area during its vacant hours for students to gather to collaborate and work on any of their projects. And students do. PW senior Marla Koenigskecht was  hard at work in the newly redone 317 when I asked her what she thought of the renovations. She said:

I like it. I guess I feel like it’s more set up like a classroom, unlike the previous situation.”  

The previous situation Marla referenced was a more closed up desk arrangement, condensing the room. Now the desk are arranged in a more open way, as seen below:

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Besides undergraduate students, graduate students also take classes and utilize room 317. Graduate student Maria Novotny said, she appreciated the two different projector screens because she can “be positioned to see each easily.”

As far as further professor feedback goes, when I asked Dr. Julier if she was happy with 317′s transformation she said:

Yes! There is less room for stuff sitting on tables, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s clean and I like the colors.”

Despite a downsizing in the amount of objects on the table, not all of the room’s eccentricity was lost. There are still a number of stuffed animals, Rubik’s cubes, magic 8 balls, markers, pens, and a number of other objects to help fuel the space with inspiration.

WRACcollageJordan Poll, a PW senior, found the lack of clutter refreshing, too. She described the new room as “professional, grownup, and more refined.” She also said:

“The colors and the organization of the space makes it appear more open and inviting. The even have light dimmers! I love the faux wood flooring, too.”

As for my own take on the space, I love it. I find that the amount of clutter is just balanced enough to remain quirky and inspirational, but not overwhelming. I never really utilized the space before for work, and now I’m definitely going to venture here more. I can see myself accomplishing a lot. Overall, I give the space a stamp of approval.

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The 24 Writers Who Are Getting On Track

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Would you ride a train for a year for the sole purpose of writing? If yes, you’re not alone–there were 16,000 applicants for Amtrack’s first writer residency program.

Out of the 16,000 applicants, 24 were named finalists and are going to embark on a yearlong journey across the United States to pursue their writing projects, with the unique ambiance of a long distance train.

In an article from the Seattle Times, the paper highlights two winners (both from Seattle). The two winners, Ksenia Anske and Scott Berkun, are very different in their writing styles and yet were both drawn to the nomadic program. It will definitely be interesting to see how different styles of writing are affected by the same environment! 

The CAL Creative Exploratory

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The CAL Creative Exploratory is an innovative workspace open for all CAL students to explore their creative interests outside of the classroom.

The CE offers a unique learning environment designed to promote hands-on, informal learning experiences. It is a place where students and faculty alike can collaborate on projects of their own choosing and design that integrate skills from various majors.

The Creative Exploratory provides the opportunity to reach beyond just going to class. It is a space intended to empower students to collaborate with others outside their major and build on their core CAL skills such as writing, research, visual and textual literacy, and information organization to surpass conventional disciplinary boundaries and spark creative innovation.

Follow the Creativity Exploratory on Twitter and Facebook.

Love Letters to Strangers

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When’s the last time you hand wrote a letter to someone? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Not for Hannah Brencher. Her mother used to write her letters in college and after graduation, Hannah slipped into the depths of depression.  To help ease her pain, Hannah then started writing love notes and leaving them around New York for strangers to find.

Her words of kindness quickly caught fire in the hearts of others and the act has now become a worldwide program, The World Needs More Love Letters, which will rush handwritten letters to those in need of a pick me up.

And why not just email? In this digital age, everything we write is transcribed electronically. Wouldn’t it just be more efficient to do it through the web? Maybe, but it doesn’t posses the same magic, personality, and love as the handwritten word.

In this quick and uplifting TED talk, Hannah tells us her story. As writers, this project is a strong testimony to the power of words-kind words, to be exact-and how as writers we can help change the course of someone’s day in a positive way.

If you haven’t handwritten a letter in a while (I know it’s been a minute for me), maybe take the time to sit down and join Hannah on this mission. I know I’m on board. It may feel a little strange at first, but as soon as you sign your name at the bottom of the letter, you may feel a little better, too; after all, we could all use a boost every now and then sometimes kindness towards others is the most rewarding, satisfying way to get it.