Planning for the fall semester

Summer is off to a fine (if wet) start, and it’s already almost July.  It won’t be that long until September 1st is upon us and we are into the fall semester.  So, what can you do now to start getting ready and make that last burst of summer a little more fun and a little less stressful?

1. Check your course schedule – Are you registered for everything you need?  Have any of your courses been canceled or moved?  Do you need to retake or finish any spring courses and thus the fall schedule  needs to be adjusted?

2. Check your financing – Have you applied for or accepted all of the aid for which you are eligible?  Have you thought through how to pay for the remainder and set up any transfers between accounts that might be needed to do so?

3.  Start buying books and supplies – Many classes will have the texts listed with the college bookstore, and that’s a great option for convenience.  But, you also may find that it suits your needs more to buy/borrow them elsewhere; however that takes more time, so don’t wait until the last minute.  Some supplies will have to wait until the term starts, but the general items you can get now.  What do you need (notebooks, pens, paper, highlighters, etc.)?  What changes should you make in your supplies from last year to help you organize better (a day planner page in each notebook, color coordination for classes, etc.)?

4.  Sort through your dorm/apartment supplies to see what you need to purchase for this year.  If you start now, it’s easier to find sales on things like towels, blankets, fans, toiletries, etc.  At the last minute, the prices may be higher and the selection more sparse.

5. Once you figure out what you need, buy some big plastic bins and start packing!  Think how much easier it will be if you aren’t shoving stuff into garbage bags on August 31st.

6. Organize your contact list and back it up somewhere.  Be sure it includes the name and number of your academic advisor, a friend or two that you can call on for an emergency ride to/from campus, your housing office, the registrar and bursar’s office, your doctor, etc.

7. Sort your computer files, delete the old or unused items to make more space, back up everything else (having it on discs and a flash drive or your university drive is a good idea), and perform routine system maintenance (defragment your drive, empty the recycle/trash bin, etc.).

8. Plot out your schedule for each week so that you have a sense of when  you will have time for things like exercise, meals, grocery trips, library work, etc.  If you plan in time for exercise and meals, you are more likely to have healthy habits when the semester starts and less likely to be shoveling a Snickers bar and a bag of Fritos into your mouth between classes.

9. Brush up on the skills that you know you find difficult.  Are you a poor note taker?  Do some reading about note taking strategies.  Is math your downfall, and you have an accounting course scheduled for fall?  Pick up/borrow a “learn at home” math text and work through some of it.  Do you find it difficult to read scholarly work?  Download a couple of articles from the library site and work through them slowly, coming up with some strategies about what might work for you (e.g. I find it easiest to read the intro, methods, discussion, and then go back to the findings).  Is writing your challenge?  There are plenty of great online tutorials about writing that can help you brush up on your skills and use of formatting and styles before the semester starts.

10.   Relax, enjoy the weather, see some live music, go to the beach, take a walk!  Don’t let your summer pass in front of a computer screen reading exciting blogs like this one.  Get out there and have a nice time and get yourself in a good frame of mind to start the new year.


Fearless Speech

Often, in the US, we take our right to free speech for granted.  But, this right is one that is often an issue of conflict and agitation.  It’s a right for which people frequently must fight.  French philosopher and scholar, Michel Foucault, utilizes the Greek idea of parrhesia to talk about “fearless speech.”  Fearless speech happens when an individual engages in honest discourse about an issue, in opposition to a person/group/agency with more power.  As discussed by Foucault, such fearless speech is not an easy chore:

[T]he parrhesiastes is someone who takes a risk. Of course, this risk is not always a risk of life. When, for example, you see a friend doing something wrong and you risk incurring his anger by telling him he is wrong, you are acting as a parrhesiastes. In such a case, you do not risk your life, but you may hurt him by your remarks, and your friendship may consequently suffer for it. If, in a political debate, an orator risks losing his popularity because his opinions are contrary to the majority’s opinion, or his opinions may usher in a political scandal, he uses parrhesia. Parrhesia, then, is linked to courage in the face of danger: it demands the courage to speak the truth in spite of some danger. And in its extreme form, telling the truth takes place in the “game” of life or death.

Thus, parrhesia or fearless speech represents the act of taking a personal risk due to a belief that the words must be heard.  As you see in this quote, Foucault tells us that fearless speech occurs in private settings (e.g. a child arguing with a parent) and public settings (e.g. an individual speaking against organizational, religious, political institutions of power).

We all engage in fearless speech from time to time, but the current situation in Iran is an impressive (and depressing) example of how far some individuals must go and how many risks they must take to speak the truth, as they understand it.  From the perspective of communication scholarship, it is important that we read about and discuss such events, as they speak to the power of communication (in oppression and in activism).  From the perspective of world citizenship, it is important that we read about and discuss these events so that we can consider our own roles in the larger world community.

If you haven’t been considering the communication aspect in the situation in Iran, I suggest the following media reports as a place to begin thinking about the role of communication, censorship, and parrhesia in the ongoing conflicts that are overwhelming the country:

Iranians Get Word Out Despite Official Obstacles

Iranian-Americans Hungry For Updates Amid Tumult in Iran

Protesters Gather Again, As Iran Panel Offers Talks

Social Networks Spread Defiance Online

It’s sobering, powerful, and sometimes inspiring reading.


Summer Reading List

While Rowan doesn’t currently have a university read text, many schools do have a program where one book is suggested for students and faculty to read over the summer and that text is then incorporated into classes in the following academic year.  As our college is home to the writing arts program, and we are all great believers in the power of a good book, I would like to make some suggestions for “unofficial” summer reading for members of the College of Communication community.  This list reflects many suggested text for universities across the U.S.

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship and the Redemptive Power of Music - Steve Lopez

The Speed of Dark - Elizabeth Moon

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century – Thomas L. Friedman

The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South – Osha Gray Davidson

The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan

Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream –  Sam Quinones

Maus : A Survivor’s Tale Volume 1: My Father Bleeds History – Art Spiegelman

Whether you read these books or others of your own selection, take the time to read (something besides blogs and tweets) in Summer 2009, and bring the new understandings you achieve through reading with you for the upcoming academic year.