What would you like to read about on the Alma College blog? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a first-generation college student — students whose parents did not graduate from a four-year college or university— is an impressive accomplishment in and of itself.
Not only are you blazing a trail for those who follow you, but you’re also a credit to those who came before you: parents, guardians, family, friends and other supporters.
But being a first-gen college student comes with unique challenges. Your college may seem like a new, unfamiliar and even lonely place, especially considering that you may not be able to call someone at home who knows what you’re going through and can relate to the struggles.
That’s why it’s so important to remember that you’re not alone. Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, has had thousands and thousands of first-gen college students come through its halls and succeed through to graduation. More than most alums, these people are eager to pass on what they learned and the lessons they needed to succeed.
The Alma College Career and Personal Development Office recently hosted a roundtable discussion with alumni (from three different decades!) who were also first-gen students. Here are some tips they gave to future first-gen college students:
Here is some additional help, from the Career and Personal Development Office:
Everything Alma College will be celebrated on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at I ❤️ Alma Day. At this event, alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and students will join together to celebrate and advance Alma College. We want you to get involved! Here are three ways you can participate:
Do you know someone who is trying to decide where to go to college? Tell them about Alma! The Refer a Scot program offers students who are referred by an alumnus, faculty, staff member, current student or friend of the college to receive a scholarship in the name of the individual who referred them.
Do you have a job or internship available at your company? Know of an employment opportunity that you would like to share with fellow Scots? Tell us about it, and a staff member can help share the opportunity with our students.
Giving to Alma College looks different for everyone. Major gifts enable Alma to make substantial changes that impact the college’s long term goals, but annual gifts of any amount make a difference to the student experience in any number of ways. However it’s done, your gift strengthens Alma and its students, and we appreciate it very much.
By Matthew Cicci
Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Composition at Alma College
Alma College can offer you a way to study fandoms — a form of culture study that touches on everything from “Harry Potter” to Luke Skywalker to the NBA.
In my ENG 280: Fan Cultures spring term course at Alma College, students and I explore all the ways that fandoms — communities centered on media objects or hobbies — impact society. We examine how fans use fan objects to form their identities, how they form social groups, and how those social groups interact and influence the broader world.
But before I scare you off with these big questions, let me stress: We also revel in the joy of being a fan and sharing that experience.
If you find yourself relating to any items on the list below, you should join us!
You’ve got an eye for detail
Whether it’s identifying which issues of “Amazing Spider-Man” influenced the film version of his suit or picking out which Jonas Brother is attempting to hide his face from the cameras (because you know that Harry has a penchant for high-waisted pants), you pay attention to the aesthetic details of your fandom — you know, the little things most people might miss.
You don’t need Wikipedia
Who was Luke Skywalker’s uncle? Who won the NHL’s Conn Smythe Trophy in 1997? What does “THAC0” mean? You know the answers. You don’t need to look it up. By virtue of immersing yourself in a fan culture, you’ve picked up all kinds of deep knowledge on the subject. These things come easy to you. (By the way, the answers are: Owen Lars, Mike Vernon and “To Hit Armor Class Zero.”)
You make time
Your team is playing? Well, you schedule things around that. Your favorite show is released on Friday? Well, weekend plans can wait until you watch. Comic Con is in two months? Well, multiple nights a week until then, you will be crafting your most exceptional “Mass Effect” cosplay in the meantime. If you find yourself setting your clocks and calendars in an effort to align with your fandom, you should probably join us.
You might have a digital clubhouse
“Star Wars” Reddit. Comic Vine. NBA Twitter. Pitchfork music reviews. You know where to go to stay up to date with the content you are a fan of. You’re part of a bigger community — social media, YouTube shows, podcasts — you know not only how to find your fan object, but also the people who constitute your fandom, so you can tap into the broader conversation.
The above are just a few symptoms of being a superfan. But being a fan of something is so ubiquitous that this list is not close to being definitive. For some, fandom is an opportunity to engage in big social gatherings and online communities. For others, it’s a secret little joy just for them…
These and many other varieties are explored in ENG 280: Fan Cultures, as we think critically about our engagement with these fandoms. We question that sliding scale of communal to individual, we question what it means that fans make time for their fan objects, and so much more.
Oops … there is the professor in me going off on all the fascinating, deep questions again. Don’t worry, though — the fan in me is definitely here to simply enjoy the experience. That’s what being a fan is all about.
Matthew Cicci is an assistant professor of digital rhetoric and composition at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. If you’d like to learn more about the ways Alma College can help you dive deep into interesting subjects like fandoms, check out our spring term course catalog.
Did you know that your local library likely offers music, TV and movies and school supplies? The library has become about more than just books.
Libraries have come a long way in recent years. The stereotypical stiff, dusty and dull storehouse of books from way back when has been replaced by a more relevant hub of information and community activities. Now more than ever, libraries reflect the interests and needs of the people they serve — and that’s a really good thing.
The library at Alma College is no exception. Staff there know that most college students have a lot on their plate, so they do everything they can to save you time. The library also offers a number of different entertainment options that you might not be aware of, which can save money. Matthew Collins, library director, took us beyond the stacks of books to explore all the library has to offer.
Spotify is great, but vinyl is final
Why bother with an online music subscription for $10 every month when you can get music at the library? Music students are probably familiar with the library’s collection of sheet music, but fewer know about the CDs that are available for checkout. Even more unique at Alma is the college library’s selection of vinyl records. They even have a record player that you can check out overnight.
Who needs Hulu when the library comes through?
When it’s time for movie night or a TV-watching binge, you can take the money you’d normally spending on streaming services and use it on popcorn instead. The library has you covered, thanks to a collection of more than 4,000 DVDs — including foreign language, documentaries, popular films and more. If you don’t have a DVD player, you can check one out at the library. You can also subscribe to Kanopy, a streaming service with classics and indie favorites, through the library. And if you really want to go old school, the library offers VHS tapes and a VCR.
Short on school supplies? Head to the library
Unless you sleep at the FedEx Office, your residence hall room probably doesn’t have a printer to use. They do come in handy, though. Thankfully, the library has several black-and-white printers, and even a color printer, which you can use for less than what cup of coffee costs. The library has scanners to use and dongles available to rent. And the Olofsson Lab has brand-new computers that come equipped with Microsoft Office.
The best resource a library has — its staff
It might sound corny, but library staff really want to help you — and in just about any scenario you can think of, they can do it. Matthew says librarians have assisted students with everything from car repairs to filling out forms to research papers. They have a lot of life experience to share! Our librarians are also trained to help people find the information they’re looking for. Don’t spend three hours trying to find a source in a book when a librarian can find it in 10 minutes — that’s what they’re there for. All that time you saved can be much better spent elsewhere.
The Alma College Library, in Alma, Michigan, is a tremendous resource for students, staff and faculty. For more information, visit alma.edu.
iGEM uses science to help the communities in which we live and work.
Alma College has a student organization for just about every interest you can imagine. If you love it, you can find like-minded students to serve, explore and have fun.
Want to go Greek? You can choose a social Greek fraternity or sorority. Academically qualified students may be invited into one of the disciplinary academic honor societies. The college offers dozens of interest-based, religious/spiritual and music groups as well; ranging from Model UN to Student Congress, Gender & Sexuality Diversity to the Alma Choir.
But the student org that might most closely replicate the interdisciplinary nature of a professional team is iGEM — short for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. It’s a long name for a simple concept: we can use science to help the communities in which we live and work.
Devin Camenares, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Alma College, leads the group, which is growing in size every year. Devin told us why the group is growing, and how you can get involved for yourself.
“Have I got a job for you!”
Basically, Devin said, the main goal of iGEM is to identify a problem in the community and use science to help solve it. But that doesn’t mean everyone who gets involved with iGEM works in a lab. iGEM believes that while research is important, it takes more than that to make change.
That’s why the iGEM team at Alma College has students tackling different jobs, based on their interests. The 2020 team had several students doing work in a lab, but there were also students who created a webpage for the project, hosted a podcast, created graphics and did other important work.
Joining iGEM is one of the best ways to meet people across campus from different disciplines. The 2020 iGEM team at Alma College included students from biochemistry, computer science, anthropology, psychology, fine arts and multimedia journalism, among others. Everyone on the iGEM team has had different experiences, Devin said, and that diversity has played a big role in the team’s success in recent years.
That’s another cool thing about iGEM — it’s a competition. Every year, more than 6,000 students from around the country work on iGEM projects. They come together in the fall to present their work at iGEM’s annual Giant Jamboree. Alma College won a gold medal at the iGEM 2020 Giant Jamboree, improving on the results of the 2019 Giant Jamboree, when the team took home a silver medal.
Make power moves
Have you ever wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself? Something that allows you to really make change? iGEM will prepare you for that role in ways that few other student organizations can.
At the 2020 Giant Jamboree, the Alma College iGEM team explored a problem that has plagued the local Gratiot County community for decades — an environmental disaster that polluted groundwater, soil and the nearby Pine River. (The team won a gold medal for their work, too!) But even more important than the result of the Giant Jamboree, Devin said, was that the Alma iGEM team worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on their project.
When the federal government starts listening, you know you’re doing something important.
Do you want to learn more? Read about iGEM or contact iGEM Adviser Devin Camenares at (989) 463-7208 or email@example.com.
Students, staff and faculty members at Alma College participated in the first annual Chalk the Walk event in downtown Alma May 22.
The free event — a collaboration between downtown Alma business owners, the Alma Community Art Center and the Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce — drew more than 100 participants and 40 sponsors overall. Trophies were made and given out by Alma Mayor Greg Mapes, along with several awards, including the Picasso Award and the Scotty Award.
Check out the photos below, courtesy of the Alma Community Art Center, to see how Alma College connects with the local area.
Editor’s note: Morgan Henson is a junior at Alma College from Norton Shores, Michigan. Through the college’s Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE), she participated in an an Alternative Break in April 2022, in Louisiana and Texas, assisting with cleanup and reconstruction following Hurricane Laura. After coming home, Morgan wrote this reflective essay.
The most important thing that I learned is that it is important to help others because you never know what someone is actually going through. I could not imagine what it would be like living in some of those conditions in Texas, and I felt incredibly blessed to be able to help some families. I went there to make an impact on other lives, which I feel like our group accomplished, but I walked away with so much more than that. Many of those people had an impact on my life, and I want to bring the skills that I learned in Texas back to my local community.
My favorite part of the experience was getting to move a family completely out of their home and into a different one. This family had been experiencing poverty and the hurricanes that happened in Texas destroyed many homes in the area. Our group was able to actually meet the family, and it was so heartwarming to see how grateful they were for the afternoon of help that we provided them. Additionally, I loved getting to spend the week with my peers in a new place while completing community service. I got to build stronger relationships with some of my fellow students at Alma, which is something that I am extremely grateful for.
Local help needed, too
This experience made me realize that there are many people in the Gratiot County community who are seeking help just like many families were in Texas. It’s not the same in the sense of hurricane relief, but creating food baskets and providing other assistance is something that we could be doing here. Since I had this experience in Texas, I feel much more confident in terms of community service. I am reaching out to different local organizations to see how I would be able to help them locally. Going to Texas made me realize that I personally can make a huge difference in others’ lives, and I want to be able to give back to people in my college community.
Benefits for a lifetime
After Alma, I plan on attending the University of Chicago MBA program or law school. When it comes to business, it is very important to learn how to communicate with others. This experience allowed me to meet so many new people and to get to know them on a more personal level. No matter what career path I end up having, I know that I want to work with people and give back to my community and to other communities across the nation. If I ever own a business one day, I would want to follow the triple line business model — looking beyond just the “bottom line” — and implement different ways to give back to others and to the environment within my business. If I attend law school after Alma, I want to make sure that I am always approachable and that my clients as well as other people in the community feel like they can always come to me for assistance regardless if it is legal help or not. I never want to appear to be closed off to others, and I would like to give back to as many people as I possibly can in my future career.
More rewarding than vacation
This was probably one of the best experiences that I have ever had, and I found it much more rewarding than any vacation that I’ve taken. It gave me the opportunity to travel to a new place with some of my college peers, and we truly made an impact on other lives in Texas. Completing the community service felt so rewarding because I know that we were able to help others out in many ways that we don’t even understand. I feel so grateful for Alma College, and this trip shows what Alma is about. I would recommend this experience to any student at Alma, and I would urge every student to take opportunities like this during their time in college.
Getting out of my comfort zone
I completed work in Texas that I never could have imagined myself doing. I got out of my comfort zone on almost every level, and I was facing new challenges every single day of the trip. I am very proud of myself for doing something like this, but more importantly I feel grateful that I was able to have this opportunity at Alma. I want to build on this experience by continuing to give back to others in the community. I don’t want to stop my work just because I am back at college or in my hometown. I want to make an impact on lives around me just like I did in the community of Orange, Texas.
By Jim Daniels
We title everything — so, some of this will be relevant to writers of nonfiction and fiction as well — but the thing about poems is that the title gets more weight.
A lot of poems are only on one page, so you get the title and the poem and the two create an energy. Even if it’s a two-page-or-longer poem, you still get the title in your head. In a story, novel or memoir, the title can kind of recede in your memory.
Some writers start with the title when they sit down to write. Some writers will start some of their work with a title. But for a majority of the authors, I know the title is an afterthought. It’s added later on, once we know where we’re going.
The way I write, I don’t know where I’m going. So, the initial title can often be misleading, or keep me from going where I want to go — or where the poem wants to go. I’ll give you an example from my own work, based on a real event.
There was another Daniels family on our street and the boy in that other Daniels family, not related to my family, shot his sister one day. He didn’t kill her, but he wounded her.
Initially, we were getting phone calls at our house with people thinking I or one of my brothers had shot my sister. My initial response was “Oh, haha, of course we would never shoot our sister. I mean, that’s ridiculous how could anyone even imagine that?”
The initial title of the poem I wrote about that story was “The Wrong Daniels.” That title, however, kept the poem in the realm of being an anecdote and not a poem because I could distance myself
“Oh, isn’t it odd that people may have thought that myself or one of my brothers had shot my sister? I mean, that’s crazy.” But if I only tell that story, there’s a barrier there. It’s just an odd fact. So, “The Wrong Daniels” was the wrong title.
If you ever look at the acknowledgments of any book of poems, they list where the poems were previously published, a lot of times in literary magazines. One of the things that you notice is that the poet published the poem under a different title originally in a literary magazine and then when they were putting a book together, they changed the title.
That’s a temptation that I’ve succumbed to it as well. So, the second title for “The Wrong Daniels” was “Protection,” and I was thinking that was too neutral for me in terms of the intimate world I was trying to create.
One of the options that we have, particularly in poetry, that I don’t really see in other forms of writing, is where you run the title into the poem so that the title is both first line and the title. Often that’s indicated by not capitalizing the words, but this may be done by having the words in boldface or some visual element.
What I did: The first line of that poem was, “On the other end of the street,” and then it went, “A kid with my last name shoots his sister.”
That’s the title I ended up using, because it worked on more than one level. That’s one of the things we try to do in writing, particularly with poetry, because it’s supposed to be the most compressed, intense form of language there is. If you can get something to work on more than one level — which is, of course, what similes and metaphors do — then you’re getting a little more mileage out of it. So, in my mind at least, I was thinking, “On the other end of the street,” but also “On the other end of ourselves.”
In other words, the poem for me ended up being about not that whether I will ever shoot my sister or not, but that we all have the capacity for doing horrible things in our lives, inside of us, that exists within all of us. For me to get to that poem, I had to acknowledge that, and so that title helped me acknowledge it while also grounding the poem “on the street.”
Another thing that titles can do is to ground the poem. My friend Michael Delp, who also went to Alma College and who taught at Interlochen Academy for many years, once said that if you have one foot on the ground, the other foot can go wherever it wants. I thought that was a great metaphor for a title, because if we don’t have any feet on the ground — and some poems do that to us — we enter the poem and we’re in freefall, just trying to figure out what’s going on.
We don’t have to have both feet on the ground, but at least one, because that gives us a kind of anchor so the other foot can move around that anchor foot, so that they’re always in proximity in terms of how far you can stretch one leg from another. But it can wander, to a certain extent.
There are different ways to ground the poem. One is simply in place and time. Ted Kooser, who I admire a lot, is a former U.S. Poet Laureate and he does that a lot, particularly since so many of his poems are set in Nebraska, where he lives.
There are some poets who are more poets of place. Not every poem or poet needs to tell us exactly where we are, but on some level it’s good to know. James Wright, a poet from Martins Ferry, Ohio, has a poem, “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio.” It’s about a high school football game. From the title, we know what time of year it is and where the city is. Even if we don’t know what Martins Ferry, Ohio, is, or where that is, the name evokes something. So, we have that foot on the ground, and I think sometimes a literal time and place in the title can be effective.
Another thing is a kind of tonal title. For example, the title “Protection,” that I was using — that had no tone to it. Sometimes you can get through a poem and then once you read the poem, the title makes sense. Even though it might seem neutral at the beginning, after you read the poem, the title makes more sense.
But there’s a poet named Lee Upton, who has a poem called “Pity for Blondes.” What you got from that title is a different kind of grounding. You got the attitude, pity, and you got a subject, blondes. That gives you a head start on the tone of the poem. It’s a funny poem and I think “Pity for Blondes” can evoke a moving in that direction in terms of pity being a slightly sort of facetious word there.
I hope this provides some new ways to think about titles. Giving a piece the right title can provide many opportunities. Do yourself a favor and keep exploring. Don’t settle for the first title that comes to you.
The Alma College Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing offers the opportunity to enter an artistic community in which you will read deeply, study and hone your writing craft, and participate in energetic discussions that will help you see your poems, stories, essays, and memoirs in the context of current issues and events. Learn more at alma.edu/mfa.
While every generation leaves their own unique imprint on Alma College, we know there are some aspects of the Alma experience that unite us all. Here’s a few takes that you know are true — but only if you graduated from Alma College.
How many Scots still have the trees we were given during Welcome Week?
After you graduate, you start to miss hearing them.
Pizza Sam is an essential stop on any homecoming trip back to Alma College. Remember to stop at Pizza One, too — it’s alumni-owned and equally delicious!
The tower design has confused all of us at some point.
Chances are, you know someone who has been married there.
For such a small school, we have a big alumni base!
We’ll celebrate all things Alma College on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at I ❤️ Alma Day. At this virtual event, alumni, parents and friends will join together to celebrate and advance Alma College. Learn more here.
It’s often said that “experience teaches wisdom,” as painful as that can be sometimes. Our experiences often lead to the wisdom that, when combined with creativity, can produce great writing. When we make a conscious decision to turn our painful experiences into fuel for our art, great things can happen.
Robert Vivian has published four novels, two collections of meditative essays, plus multiple plays, poems, and dervish essays. He has been with Alma College in the English department since 2001, and he joined the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in 2022. Sophfronia Scott recently discussed with him the process of turning pain into art, using a concept called “immortal wounds.”
: Today, we’re going to talk about a concept that I learned from you many years ago when I was an MFA student, about the concept of “immortal wounds.” I still talk about it today. I share it with my students, I think about it in my own writing, and it’s from a lecture that you gave 10 years ago. I think it’s an important concept. Before we get into it, can you explain first what the concept of the “immortal wound” is? Sophfronia Scott
Robert Vivian: Absolutely. This is from Robert Frost. He wrote or said once, “It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him or her that he has taken an immortal wound, that he will never get over it.”
There’s a passage in Shakespeare, I think it’s “Hamlet,” talking about the “wonder wounded hearers” and that just has always stayed with me. I do believe and have read from others that there are certain moments in our lives of great pain, great beauty, that when they strike us, they are with us for good.
There’s a passage from a novel that I absolutely love, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Mick Kelly is one of the characters and she’s a poor girl living in the south in a big family. One night, she’s out having a cigarette after babysitting, and she’s sitting under a neighbor’s window:
“One program came on after another, and all of them were punk. She didn’t especially care. She smoked and picked a little bunch of grass blades.”
“How did it come? For a minute, the opening balanced from one side to the other. Like a walk or a march. Like God strutting in the night. The outside of her was suddenly froze and only that first part of the music was hot inside her heart. She could not even hear what sounded after, but she sat there waiting and froze, with her fists tight. After a while the music came again, harder and loud. It didn’t have anything to do with God. This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the daytime and by herself at night.”
So, Mick has this deep aesthetic awakening and later in the passage she starts scraping her thighs with little stones until she starts bleeding. And this moment changes her life. I won’t tell you how the book ends, but she wants to be a composer.
When I teach this book, I often ask students, “Well, how many female composers do you know?” and usually Clara Schumann is probably the only one that people mention. But this is a long way of responding to this idea that this is what formed Mick as an artist — this deep pain, sorrow, joy, recognition. And after this happens to her, she wants to be a composer even though the deck is completely stacked against her for a variety of reasons.
I know when I was a young writer, I had these moments where I heard or read something so beautiful, it was like, “Oh my God, I want to give my life to this.” It’s dangerous, because of course, we don’t know the outcomes of these things. We’ve talked before about writers like Tennessee Williams, whose sister Rose was lobotomized, and Rose shows up in so many of his plays. That was an immortal wound for him, I think.
SS: Our immortal wound can be something that forms the foundation of our writing. Because yes, we’ve talked about that, how Tennessee Williams wrote about her, whether he realized it or not. It’s not always overt, but she is in so much of his work.
RV: When you joined my undergraduate creative nonfiction class and we read your essay, “The Legs on Which I Move,” I felt, and please correct me if I’m way off with it, that essay was catalyzed out of a wound. That you wrote about how the boots that you wanted to fit into, they weren’t made for you and you wrote so beautifully of that and the way I interpreted was this was kind of a wound that you wrote out of. Am I way off?
SS: I would not have used that word, but why is it that I still remember that moment? I was 7 years old, but I still remember that moment. So, why do I remember it if not for the fact that I was wounded somehow?
RV: I’m an academic, but I flunked kindergarten, and so I grew up believing I was kind of stupid, which I now view as a weird kind of gift that has helped me as a teacher a lot. Because I don’t approach academic subjects necessarily in terms of intellectual power, but something a little more complex maybe.
I don’t mean that it’s better, it’s just that that wound … if I’m any good as a teacher at all, it’s because I flunked kindergarten. The things that we stumble over often become … well it’s in the Bible, right? “The stone that was rejected becomes the cornerstone.”
I think of the immortal wounds in that way: that those profound hurts or failures or whatever they may be, we as artists take them and we write “The Glass Menagerie” for Tennessee Williams. We try to take the wound and make it beautiful somehow. Which isn’t dismissing the wound. It is not saying, “That didn’t hurt,” or that it wasn’t bad. It’s just maybe a form of transcendence.
SS: Yes. Sometimes, I think we are too quick to want to push past pain or think that it has to be that we have closure, that we’ve gotten over it, but do we ever really?
It may not be a bad thing. It may be something that informs us — like you said, it informs your teaching.
I like the word “transcendence.” I think you’re right; it allows us to grow. If we can’t get over it, at least we kind of grow over it, if that’s makes sense, and we become something more because of that wound.
RV: It’s like the last page of “A River Runs Through It,” when the elder father says, “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” “Yeah, I like to tell stories that are true.” And the father says, “Next time, why don’t you make up a story? Because it’s those we love and should know who elude us.”
Then he goes, “Now all the people I know and love are dead, but I still reach out to them.”
That book is the response, you could say, to the murder of his brother. He turns that tragic murder into this gorgeous novella or memoir or whatever people want to call it. So, that’s the immortal wound that Norman claimed, and the gift he gave us with that beautiful book.
The Alma College Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing offers the opportunity to enter an artistic community in which you will read deeply, study and hone your writing craft, and participate in energetic discussions that will help you see your poems, stories, essays, and memoirs in the context of current issues and events. Learn more at alma.edu/mfa.
Perhaps you love the sound of bagpipes, or you heard them played at a meaningful moment and want to replicate that feeling. Read on to learn about bagpipes!
The world of music is full of many types of instruments, but perhaps none stand out quite as much as the bagpipes. A prominent symbol of Scottish heritage, it’s easy to picture them in your mind’s eye, perhaps being played by a man or woman wearing a kilt. Their sound is unforgettable — the average person may not be able to tell the difference between a clarinet and an oboe, but you immediately know when someone is playing bagpipes.
Andrew Duncan is the Alma College Pipe Band Director, a group of about 20 students, separate from other music groups on campus, who gather to play bagpipes at various events and gatherings. Andrew explained to us exactly what the bagpipes are, why the instrument is popular at Alma College — and even how you can get involved if you want to try them out!
How do bagpipes work?
Bagpipes are a woodwind instrument, Andrew said, in the same family of instruments as the clarinet and saxophone. “Pipers,” as those who play them are called, blow air through a blowpipe into a bag. (Weird, but true: these bags are traditionally made of sheepskin. Nowadays, they are made of synthetic materials.)
The bag feeds air into another pipe, called a chanter. Pipers use two hands to manipulate the chanter, which produces the melody of a song. Other pipes, called drones, make one continuous sound. Unlike other woodwinds, it’s difficult for bagpipes to stop producing sound after they have started, so pipers need to produce A LOT of air to keep the bag full.
Want to give them a try?
Andrew said the pipes seem challenging, but many people pick it up as their first instrument and get along fine. You can get started with a practice chanter — an instrument with no bag and no drones — which only costs about $100.
There aren’t many colleges and universities across the country with their own pipe band. Andrew believes Alma is the only one in Michigan that offers it. But it’s not something students do in far-off corners of the college — Alma embraces its Scottish background.
Pipes can be heard everywhere from Welcoming Convocation to the Traditions Dinner, from football games to the Homecoming parade. It’s the type of sound that grows on you. Students frequently comment that when they go home for breaks from school, they miss hearing the sound of a piper playing off in the distance as they go about their days.
The Alma College Pipe Band is the one of the only of its kind in the nation — made up entirely of students and faculty of the college. For more information, visit alma.edu.
Finances don’t have to be an obstacle to exploring the world.
First-generation college students — students who are the first generation of their family to attend college — can face additional challenges that others don’t encounter on campus.
According to at least one study, first-generation students deal with more financial strain on campus than continuing-generation students. There are several factors tied into those statistics, but it’s important not to let that scare you away from pursuing your college dreams.
There is a whole world to explore once you start college. Finances don’t have to be an obstacle to start that exploration — they can be a learning experience, like everything else. We asked Elon Brissette, the coordinator of financial counseling at Alma College, for advice on how first-generation college students — and anyone else who needs help — can navigate the process of paying for your college education.
Stop, breathe and think
People in general, whether they are first-generation college students or not, don’t know what they don’t know, Elon says. When first-year, first-generation college students are already thinking about everything from classes to food to living away from home … taking finances into account can be overwhelming. As it relates to this subject, students don’t always know what information they should share or what questions they should ask. So, knowing your resources on campus is key.
Elon suggests that students and their families take their time when considering topics like setting a four-year financial plan on paying for college, seeking scholarships and taking out loans. There’s nothing wrong with reviewing your financial aid award letter with your admissions representative and financial aid staff member and then taking your time to just think about it. Elon suggests you revisit the subject after a week and see if it all makes sense. If you feel confused, don’t be afraid to go back and ask for help.
Know your resources
It can be challenging for any student to come to campus without the built-in system they may have had at home, but there is always someone who will be there for you, Elon says. Too often, first-generation college students don’t realize the financial, academic and support services that are available to them on campus.
As it relates to financial supports, Elon suggests that students study up on what is available to them — and once again, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. At Alma College, there is a Financial Aid Office (which can assist with the specific financial aid you were awarded, like grants, scholarships, work study, and student loans you were offered), Financial Services Office (which is where you go to pay tuition at the beginning of every semester and find out information on payment plans) and the Coordinator of Financial Counseling (who can talk to you privately or in small groups about more general financial wellness topics).
Find your family
It is also important to find highly motivated students you can partner with; peers who genuinely care about you and understand what life is like being the first in your family to go to college — or who are willing to listen. There is a group on campus for everyone, a group where you can be yourself.
At Alma College, the King-Chavez-Parks (KCP) Mentor Program is one of those groups. It provides mentorship for first-year students in navigating college and all it has to offer. Elon said, these mentors help with everything from how to access college resources to how to make friends. A similar program, Campbell Scholars, provides cultural, academic, social, and financial literacy resources and mentorship to students of color at Alma College. Both are wonderful opportunities designed to support you and help you make the most.
For more information on financial aid packages available at Alma College, visit alma.edu.
You’ve probably heard Alma College described as “a private, liberal arts college in Michigan.” And you might have wondered: “Liberal arts? What does that mean?”
That’s a fair question. The term itself is a little bit curious, especially considering that not everyone at liberal arts colleges leans left politically or dabbles in the arts. So, let’s break it down, and talk about what people study at liberal arts colleges and why it’s important for society. Then, you can decide if pursuing this type of degree is the right choice for you!
Q: Why do they call it a “liberal arts college?”
A: The term originates waaaay back to the time of classical antiquity. Back then, “liberal” — rooted in the Latin word liberalis — didn’t carry with it the political implications of our time. Rather, “liberal” meant “free,” and what a free person did back then was study.
Romans of that era studied grammar, rhetoric and logic, believing that those subjects, known as the trivium, made an individual well-rounded. Today’s “liberal arts” colleges also aim to make an individual well-rounded, but have expanded on those three subjects to include others, like history, mathematics and philosophy.
Q: Say more about that — what kind of subjects can I major in?
A: So. Many. Subjects. Alma College, for example, offers more than 45 undergraduate programs, in subjects including:
Going back to what we said about making an individual well-rounded: These courses tend to work with each other in interesting ways. Using Alma as an example again, you might take a course that mixes environmental science with English, or political science with art. This lets you dive deep on the subjects you’re drawn to, examine them from different perspectives, while broadening the scope of your experiences.
Q: My parents really want me to ask this last question: What can I do with a liberal arts degree?
A: We’re glad you asked. A liberal arts degree can help you train yourself to see different perspectives and ask great questions, apply knowledge across subjects, understand interplay between subjects and be great learners in an ever-changing world. Future employers will know you can bring creative thinking to work, which is a huge bonus. And at Alma College, you’ll be part of a passionate alumni base that is committed to helping each other succeed personally and professionally, long after they have left college.
Sometimes my students and I talk about how one of the conditions of being a writer is we innately are not only curious people, but we have the capacity to be surprised. We’re open to surprise almost naturally, like our skin is just a bit more sensitive to the world’s touch. We’re what Kurt Vonnegut called “human beings” — big, rubbery test tubes, seething with chemicals, to paraphrase him.
But sometimes we hit that wall and we feel a little bored, or uninspired.
One of the things that I’ve learned to do as a writer, when I hit that kind of wall, is to manufacture surprise, manufacture inspiration, and not necessarily wait for inspiration to descend from the celestial monochord and fill our literary buckets with some kind of holy ray of inspiration. I tell my students to go out actively looking for it, manufacturing it, and this can happen like picking up a book and reading.
Here are a couple of ways that I do that for myself:
I talk to my students about ways in which I like to manufacture inspiration and surprise, and then they start talking about the ways in which they like to manufacture surprise. You have no idea where your creativity is going to come from. You have to go seek it out.
If you’re sitting there in front of the blank screen and you’re waiting for inspiration to come, no. You must go find it. You’ve got to go fill those buckets.
It’s our job in part as writers and as art makers to look longer and harder at a seemingly mundane thing than anybody else would, and then on the page to examine that seemingly mundane thing through various lenses: historical, social, anatomical, biological and things religious oftentimes. How do various world religions, for instance, engage the ant that I glimpsed through that magnifying glass?
I’m going to scratch and scratch and scratch at the seemingly mundane, the seemingly quotidian until its gooey inner holiness or horror begins to leak out, until it begins to yield its secrets.
In doing so on the page whether it’s in creative nonfiction or via poetry, we oftentimes are taking this thing — it could be an object or it could be a concept — taking this thing that we thought we understood, that we previously mistook for simple and mundane, and it’s our duty as writers to restore that thing to its innate complexity and to learn something about it.
I’m always telling my students, when you’re writing about something on the page, even if you’re seeking out meaning in your own experience, I caution against presuming certainty in the poem or the essay because certainty means that something is over.
If you’re presuming certainty, it signifies that you’ve already gone on this journey and now it’s done, and you found the answer. What’s at stake but that active seeking on the page, that questing after these sorts of answers however ephemeral, illusory, and, ultimately, elusive?
It’s that questing after them that kind of allows a reader to go along on this journey with you and quest as well and be part of that conversation. I see writing as an invitation to conversation, oftentimes an urgent and desperate invitation to conversation, rather than just a one-sided monologue.
The Alma College Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing offers the opportunity to enter an artistic community in which you will read deeply, study and hone your writing craft, and participate in energetic discussions that will help you see your poems, stories, essays, and memoirs in the context of current issues and events. Learn more at alma.edu/mfa.
If you’re looking for something to do this summer in mid-Michigan, look no further.
Across the world, young students and their families are seeking ways to avoid learning loss due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One way to potentially avoid the “pandemic plummet” — or simply get out of the house for some much-needed socialization and fresh air — is a summer camp. After holding camps virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic, Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, is back at it this summer in person.
There are a variety of activities at Alma, including performing arts camps, athletic camps in specific sports, cheerleading camps, and leadership camps, for kids from second grade through high school.
Kari Yerington, assistant director of residence life at Alma College, has a few suggestions for cool camps that families can get involved in, so that when students return to classrooms in the fall, they’ll be energized and already in learning mode.
First, a word about safety
Alma College is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment on campus, Kari said. The college adheres to all local, state and federal guidelines to ensure that the community and its guests remain safe and healthy. All faculty, staff, students and guests are required to practice safe social distancing in and around college facilities. Campers will receive more detailed information prior to arriving to campus, but families should know that they will be tested for COVID-19 before camps start.
The hottest new camp this summer is …
Ask college athletic directors across the country about the fastest-growing sports right now and they will likely come back with one common answer: eSports! Indeed, eSports and game design are way more popular than they were during the time of “Galaga” and “Mrs. Pac-Man.” (Kids, ask your parents.) Kari says she loves all of the summer camps at Alma College, but she’s really excited for the newest one, eSports and Game Design, which takes advantage of the recently opened, one-of-a-kind, bar-slash-restaurant-slash-eSports-hub , in downtown Alma.
Avoid the ‘pandemic plummet’
Learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a real issue, academics say, and summer camps can help avoid that. Alma College offers camps in several different subject areas, for students across various grade levels. They include Global Challenge, a United Nations Security Council crisis simulation for high school students, and Explorers Week, a science and mathematics course for students in grades 2-through-6. There are also science and mathematics courses for older children and a research course for incoming first-year college students, ACORN.
Exercising your social skills and body
Has staying inside during the pandemic led you and your kids to feel a little under-socialized and physically out-of-shape? (If so, you’re not alone, says the author of this piece.) Alma College offers a number of performing arts camps that can help get you feeling more “human,” including bagpipe competition, choral conducting and intensive dance. There are also athletics camps and events, where you can learn skills in football, basketball and volleyball from real collegiate athletes.
Summer camps at Alma College start in mid-June and run through August.
By Tim Rath
When I look back on my time at college, what sticks out as my happiest memory? Probably my study abroad course.
No matter what your major is or what you want to do with your life, I believe study abroad is an enriching opportunity. It may seem frightening — I was nervous going into it, too! — but what I learned about myself and the world made it all worth it.
Alma College offers a ton of options for students who wish to study abroad. For the 2022-23 academic year, Spring Term courses are scheduled in 11 countries on five continents, meaning you can truly see the world. And — this will make your parents happy — Alma offers a way to make it all affordable.
We’ll get to that last part in a moment. For now, here are eight great reasons to study abroad this year.
Before I studied abroad, the only opportunity I ever had to go outside the United States was to visit relatives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada — not too different from my hometown in Michigan! Studying abroad gave me a chance to see the world.
Study abroad courses are often “immersive” experiences, meaning that you are living within the area that you’re studying, while you’re studying it. The lessons I learned while studying abroad have stuck with me more than most other college courses I took.
Studying abroad will allow you to see the world through the eyes of others — not just your friends, family and neighbors, but people who live far away from you. It’s an eye-opening experience, and extremely beneficial to your well-being.
While you’re studying abroad, your family won’t be able to check in on you. You’ll have to navigate the day-to-day without them looking over your shoulder. It may seem scary at first, but you eventually learn that you’re capable of more than you may have realized.
What’s it worth to go through life on easy mode? While you’re studying abroad, there will be challenges that come up. It’s inevitable. But when you overcome them, you feel better than you would going about your daily routine at home.
Alma College offers SO. MANY. PROGRAMS. for students who are interested in studying abroad. In the 2022-23 academic year, you can take everything from history to education, environmental science to English, music to world cultures. It might sound cliche, but … there’s something for everyone.
Taking a study abroad course shows future employers that you have the capacity to do more than just study hard and participate in extracurricular activities. It shows that you’re well-rounded, willing to step outside your comfort zone, and capable of relating to all kinds of people.
This is probably my favorite reason study abroad at Alma College. As part of the Alma Commitment, the Alma Venture program will provide up to $2,500, and sometimes more, to offset the cost of your personalized experience, including a Spring Term course. Learn more about the Alma Venture program.
— Tim Rath serves as the director of college communications at Alma College. In 2009, as part of a study abroad program, he studied political science at the University of Oxford, in England.
Info sessions for Spring Term 2023 are going on NOW. Check out the following events to see if you’re interested!
Picking out your college courses can be one of the most difficult choices you make as a student — it can also be really fun.
Alma College offers a number of courses that go beyond the prerequisites and into subjects a bit more specialized and interesting. Danny Wasserman-Soler, associate professor of history at Alma, teaches one such course: Witches and Demons.
Pretty spooky, right? In this course, Danny aims to go beyond pop culture icons like “The Crucible” and “The Exorcist” and into something a little deeper: an understanding of a controversial and misunderstood 300-year period of European history, during which as many as 90,000 (!) witch trials took place.
Danny agreed to share with us three facts about witches and demons that we might not have been able to gather from movies and TV. So, gather your coven, brew up a potion and check it out!
If you’ve ever seen “Hocus Pocus” and had the thought that all witches were women, Danny says that’s just a stereotype. While it is true that the majority of people accused of witchcraft in Europe from the time period he studies, 1500-1800, were women, there was a substantial minority of men who were also accused. In fact, in some countries, like Iceland and Russia, men made up the majority of accused witches.
Danny breaks the idea of witchcraft down to a math problem: Bad deeds + a pact with the Devil = witchcraft. But while many of the leading religious figures in Europe, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, would preach about the Devil during this time period, Daniel said churchmen didn’t carry out the majority of witch trials. Most witch trials were carried out by civil courts – not religious courts.
If you’ve ever been out and about and thought you saw a witch, but weren’t really sure if what you saw was the real deal, Danny has some suggestions. In Europe, at this time, it was believed that witches were given a special mark on the body from the Devil, as a way to show their allegiance.
Ever wonder how a person in this time period could be accused of witchcraft? Danny says it sometimes happened after someone in a community suffered from “demonic possession” — the idea that a demon took over their body and caused them to do horrible things. When thishappened, he said, the possessed person would blame their situation on someone in the community who they accused of being a witch. The next step was usually the “witch trial” commonly portrayed in books and movies, though the trials themselves looked different than what we see in books and movies.
Many of the most educated scholars of the time devoted themselves to studying witchcraft and the Devil, so witchcraft trials were sometimes surprisingly thorough and careful.
Danny Wasserman-Soler joined the faculty of Alma College in 2012. He teaches courses on European history (from Middle Ages to the Enlightenment) as well as world history and recently published a book, “Truth in Many Tongues: Religious Conversion and the Languages of the Early Spanish Empire.”
Whether you’re into RTS, FPS, RPG or all of the above, you’ll need to level up before you can go from easy mode to expert.
If you think games are hard to play, consider this: Making them is even more complex.
By the time a game hits store shelves, every aspect of it — from the sound to the text, the art to the code — has gone through rigorous consideration and testing. When you consider that it all happens in an ever-changing ecosystem of consumers’ tastes and technology offerings, it really forces you to appreciate how far we’ve come since “Pong.”
If you want to be a content creator or start your own company, you’ll need to build skills that can be used to create a portfolio, and the connections to network with people already in the industry. Schools like Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, where game design is taught as a course — along with complementary, multidisciplinary instruction in areas like computer science, math and English — can help get you reach the hallowed halls of Nintendo, or wherever else you want to be.
Lauren Woolbright, an assistant professor at Alma, shared some insight on the game design course.
What’s in a game?
Since it came out 10 years ago, Cards Against Humanity has become a staple of adult parties. You and your friends may have giggled at the offensive, risque and politically incorrect words and phrases printed on the cards in your hands. But are you able to say what the game stands for, as a whole? What do you think the designers intended to say about society when they created it?
To answer that question, Lauren assigns students a “content analysis.” They take all 550 cards out of the deck, put them on the table and look at them at the same time — not just hand-by-hand. They look for themes and messages, trying to get down to the bottom of how CAH was made, and why it is so successful.
Students teaching students
At Alma, there are actually two game design courses — one upper-level and one lower. Upper-level students are required to design a presentation for the class, and are given a lot of leeway to discuss the topics that interest them.
In one recent course, Lauren said, a student presented on the topic of modded, or modified, games, in which players or fans themselves alter games which have already been released. It’s considered outdated to think that games won’t be modded after they are released, she says — and the authorship that comes from players having the control to guide their own experiences offers some really cool results.
Another student presented on a couple of horror video games, “Until Dawn” and “Dead by Daylight.” Going beyond what makes the games so fun to play, Lauren said, the student dove into how narrative structure and technology have made horror a great genre for the new generation of video game systems to explore.
In both cases, these presentations discussed topics that are being held today — and will continue to be held in the future — in meetings at the world’s biggest video game companies. Students learned, from each other, about theory and practice in video game development. It goes way beyond “just playing” video games for fun.
Work hard, play hard
Speaking of playing games — there is a lot of game-playing that happens in Lauren’s game design courses. It’s not just for fun, however. There’s a lot of learning involved.
One of the students’ last projects involves play testing games that their classmates have made. In Lauren’s class, play testing is a rigorous process, taking several class periods, where game players test every possible outcome that can come from every conceivable decision someone could make. A designer has no idea how a game will be received by the general public until they watch someone else play it, Lauren says, and the process is always extremely enlightening for students.
Video games have been animated by computers for some 30 to 40 years. But a trend that has come up in recent years, surprisingly, is hand-drawn animation. Dundee University, in Scotland, teaches courses in hand-drawn animation — and Alma College students can get there by taking a study abroad course. Find out more on alma.edu.
Have you ever thought about making your own game? Want to learn more? Visit alma.edu to learn how you can get started in this growing (and fun!) industry.
From taking notes to living away from home, your first year of college will go smoother if you know what to expect. Rely on current and recent students to offer the best advice.
Every college student has concerns or challenges during their first year. While some end up being no big deal, others may require some major changes. Liney Figueroa of Muskegon, now a senior at Alma College, offered these tips to students who are just starting out:
Try to have perfect attendance in your classes
There may be things that come up that make this impossible. But as far as a goal goes: go big or go home, right? Studies show that students who go to class and take notes do the best, regardless of how “smart” they might be. Plan your class schedule in a way that works best for you and pay attention to yourself more than anyone else. Liney uses a planner and charts every day out the night before, to make sure she’s prepared for whatever comes.
Take notes the old-fashioned way
I’m not going to tell you to never use your phone. More than likely, you know there’s a time and a place when it’s appropriate to use it and when it’s inappropriate — like, during a lecture. Consider using a pen and paper to write notes in class, instead of a laptop. Studies show you’ll remember more that way. You can always copy your notes to your laptop after class.
Meet with each of your professors for office hours at least once every term
Professors are required to set aside office hours, which are special days and times to meet with students in a 1-on-1 setting. You can usually find this information in the course syllabus you received at the start of the term. Your professors can help in all kinds of ways, in and out of the classroom — from going over coursework in a private environment, to discussing college life, to figuring out life after college. More importantly, your professors WANT to help — so help them, and take that first step toward getting to know them better.
Ask for help when you need it
The difference between “high school you” and “college you” is that you’ll be the main person in your life who deals with your problems. Even as a high achiever in high school, Liney found that college was more challenging. She wasn’t used to asking for help for her classwork, but eventually came around to the idea that she couldn’t deal with everything by herself. Ask around and seek out the BEST person to help you with your individual problem. For example: a resident assistant can help with issues in your residence hall, an academic advisor can help choose your major and a health professional can help with anxiety.
Join at least one extracurricular activity
So far, we’ve mostly focused on academics — with good reason, because doing well in your courses is the best way to have success after you graduate. But using your time away from class in constructive ways is also important. Joining an extracurricular activity gives you an easy way to meet other college students who are going through the same things you are. Liney said coming to college seemed intimidating at first, until she started getting more involved in student affairs. There, she said, she found fun things to do in her free time and made friends for life.
If you’re looking to become a student yourself, consider Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. We don’t just want you to succeed, we make sure of it.
Did you know? Alma College offers the first and only low residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in the state of Michigan. A “low residency” model is one in which brief periods of in-person class time are sandwiched between much longer intervals of distance learning.
The low residency model of the Alma College MFA in Creative Writing makes the degree accessible for students long-established in, or even retired from, their careers. However, the format can also be a good option and a tremendous benefit for recent college graduates who wish to pursue the degree as their next step after completing their undergraduate studies.
Alma MFA faculty member Anna Clark did this when earning her own MFA, and program director Sophfronia Scott discussed it with her.
Sophfronia Scott: What did getting your MFA mean for you?
Anna Clark: It was life changing. I started my MFA program about six months after graduating from my undergraduate program, and it was the only one I applied to. I think I knew intuitively where I belonged. Most significantly, of course, it made me a better writer. I always loved writing. I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life, but I had kind of coasted on having some natural facility with language and knowing what a pretty sentence is and all that. What the program gave me was a chance to dig much deeper into thinking about structure and narrative voice and what it takes to write something of substance.
It also made me a better reader, certainly by introducing me to just an unbelievable array of writers of fiction and poetry and nonfiction– writers from all over the world and throughout history which was, of course, imaginatively very exciting and also gave me an opportunity to learn how to articulate how things work. I learned to be able to read in a way where I could understand how and why a certain effect was being created by the writer, or why the work was affecting me or wasn’t—why it didn’t work. All this helped me with my writing and made my reading more exciting.
And finally, my MFA just gave me a really amazing community. I knew I wanted to be in a low residency program because I wanted to be around a more diverse array of writers, people who are multigenerational. I’d just gotten my undergraduate degree. I didn’t want to be in the same kind of campus environment full time, and I also wanted to learn how to be a writer in my real life instead of in a cocoon, though that’s beautiful too. It was incredibly wonderful to connect with so many amazing, talented, exciting people who to this day more than a decade later are still part of my life. So being in a low residency program was a good bet and I have no regrets.
SS: I’m glad you mentioned when you started your MFA because so many of the students who do come to low residency programs are older students who’ve been doing other things already for several years. It’s good to know that students can come sooner, right out of their undergrad, and that it can work for them too.
AC: It was great for me because I was graduating college and there was a lot I wanted to do with my life, and doing a low residency program gave me a way to do multiple things. I moved to Boston. I was living and working in a kind of intentional community there and I was having a chance in my program to work on my fiction writing to become a better writer. I wasn’t the only younger one there, it was multigenerational which is what I was looking for. I wanted to be around different kinds of people with different kinds of lived experience.
SS: Thank you for that. I think it would be helpful for a lot of students who are seniors right now in their undergrad programs and thinking about what they want to learn next.
Editor’s note: Chloe Koupal, of Houghton Lake, Mich., is a junior at Alma College. Through the college’s Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE), she participated in an Off-Campus Study program, studying economics at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. This essay is adapted from a survey Chloe filled out about her experiences.
Studying abroad at the University of Aberdeen was a very memorable time. One of my favorite experiences was the first time I traveled to a castle with a few of the local residents. It started off with a train ride to Stonehaven — my first time on a Scottish train — which took place on a track that curls around the North Sea borders. The views were absolutely gorgeous!
Dunottar Castle was amazing, too. The path from the town to the fortress shows so much scenery, from the waves crashing on the cliffs to the sheep pastures surrounding the grassy hills. At the very end of the passage is the castle. It’s chilling to watch the waves from the North Sea crash upon the sides of the peninsula and the landscape around it. They are so powerful!
I also really enjoyed this particular trip because it shows how long the castle has been standing here — it was built sometime between 1400 and 1600 — and how much history has happened around it. I would definitely recommend this castle to anyone who can travel to Scotland in the future.
Another highlight was going to the capital of The Highlands, Inverness — think about mountains, rivers, and rolling hills — for the Scottish ballet. The dancers had not been able to perform this play since 2020, due to the pandemic. The energy and intensity that came off the stage that night left me in absolute awe. It just showed how much work and effort they had put into the play itself to make a work of art so beautiful.
A learning experience
I have tried to keep my mind open to as many opportunities as I can. Sometimes, it’s only by growing “comfortable with being uncomfortable” that we can truly grow.
One area in which I’ve grown is in solving problems despite a fast-paced environment. There are any number of situations that can arise when traveling in an unfamiliar area, and that’s OK. I’ve learned how to slow down, assess the situation and deal with it in the best possible way.
When you’re open to new experiences, it can change your perspective. You put yourself in the shoes of another person, who lives a life completely different from yours, but still deals with the same basic issues that we all face. You see how they solve problems and understand how it differs from the way you do it. It’s a real learning experience, and for that reason, I think every student should do it.
Here’s a good example of that idea in context: One time, I went to a town in northern Scotland called Forres to go whitewater rafting (an absolutely incredible experience, by the way!). The guides that worked for the rafting company were around my age and had all lived in different areas of Scotland, with different stories to tell. After the trip, we talked for a few hours about how contrasting our lifestyles were, and yet, we all came to be in this beautiful place.
It’s the kind of conversation that I couldn’t have had on Zoom or Teams in my residence hall. I had to venture out and talk to someone new. It took some work, but was totally worth it.
Not for the faint of heart
While I think every student should study abroad if they can, I want to emphasize that it’s a big commitment. You will see people who look differently, speak differently, act differently, and view the world differently. Like most young people, this was a new situation for me — sort of similar to coming to Alma College for the first time, but more extreme. It was a little daunting and nerve-wracking, to be honest.
I was in Scotland for about six months, and I believe the long trip is better. There were times when I would miss being in my own bed back home or I wanted to see my close friends. However, I really enjoyed being off on my own adventures for the time I was there.
I was the only student at Alma College to attend the University of Aberdeen at the time. In a way, that was a blessing — I did not have anyone to lean on except myself. I had to fully put myself out there to meet others and create friend groups, and it paid off with authentic experiences. I suggest others looking into studying abroad and really try to incorporate themselves into the new environment.
Halloween may be over, but for writers a ghostly presence still haunts them: the blank screen/page. I haven’t thought about this specter for a while because I’ve spent the past few months submerged in a book manuscript. However, recently I hit the SEND button, delivered the book to my editor, and unwittingly invited the spirit back to my desk. It’s time to begin again.
I know certain writers would rather run screaming from the room than sit down and face that blankness. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, and yes, scary. But my family and close friends will tell you: I don’t do fear. It’s not that I don’t have fear — it’s quite present, in fact. Sometimes it’s like a tiny badger on my shoulder, tugging at my dreadlocks in the most annoying way. I just don’t let the little guy pull me around all day. I believe in handling fear.
How do I do that? By constantly reminding myself fear is a complex emotion. It’s made up of many different worries and concerns. If I can get under the hood and see what’s broken, missing, or bothersome, I can address those issues and — poof! — dismantle the fear.
Here’s how it works. What is the fear of the blank screen really about? For some writers, it’s about a fear of writer’s block. And that block, depending on who you are, can be composed of a nasty brew of low self-esteem, lack of confidence, parental issues, and a host of other ghosties. Choose one and bust away.
If I’m blocked, I know it’s because something’s missing. I don’t know what to write because I haven’t done enough thinking, research, reading, planning, resting or something. I may not know what it is, but my plan of attack is to figure out what’s missing, fill the void, then get back to writing.
But when I was working on my novel Unforgivable Love, I had a totally different writing/fear experience. The final stages of that book’s revision kicked my butt. Even though I knew what I was doing with it — I even had a list of to-dos I was working my way through — there were times when I was afraid I would never be done. If I had let that fear stop me on any given day, I would have ensured the non-finish of the novel.
So I had to break it down. What was my fear really about? And what could I do about it? Here’s what I found and what I did. I decided the issues goring me most were frustration and isolation.
This was really the heart of the matter. I would think I had one chapter to write and it would become two. Then I had to go back to the beginning and make changes to accommodate the new material. I felt like Mickey Mouse trying to destroy those broomsticks in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, only to have them keep multiplying. The work always seemed to increase not decrease.
Fortunately, thanks to an excerpt in Narrative Magazine, I discovered words of comfort in Memorable Days: The Selected Letters of James Salter and Robert Phelps. I devoured the whole book, especially Salter’s 1972 letters describing his writing of the manuscript that became the novel Light Years. I felt as though we shared the same struggles:
“I’m on page 115 (of my own book). I hardly remember what is behind me. It’s like a densely enacted journey during which you’ve made notes. When I’m finished with this first, tedious working-out, in the summer, I’m going to look at it like a ruined garden, I hope I will, with dimensions that please, lovely corners, walls, and weeds, weeds everywhere…”
And when Salter had his breakthrough, I knew mine couldn’t be far behind. Even now I still love reading these words:
“But a few minutes ago, searching for the place to insert an anecdote about marriage I’d heard, a place in my manuscript which is now almost 300 pages, I had a wonderful thing happen to me, I suddenly realized: it’s there! I had begun to read and I saw that I liked it, even more, I was completely taken by it, and also, for the first time I caught that faint glimmer that is light at the end of the tunnel. To think that this will be a book, and a book that I am deeply interested in, what comes from the vitals, as Kazantzakis said. Suddenly I am filled with energy.”
I don’t write in total isolation. I’m lucky to have a writing partner who meets me via Zoom for several hours each week and we write in each other’s company like two people sharing an office. But as I neared the end of my revision, I felt my world had become vastly constricted. I couldn’t see beyond getting my family fed, my son to school, and working on my book. As time went on my hair grew down to my hips, I stopped writing to friends, weeds overtook my yard, and rooms in my house disappeared under clutter and laundry. I started to feel like a wild woman alone in the forest and feared I would not find my way back.
But I happened to pick up Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life and learned this was okay. She too, while finishing a book, let her hair grow long, lost touch with friends, didn’t clean windows. And in this she gave me permission to take care of myself and my book through its final push.
“I took care of my family, and my book got written. That was all I could manage…As you near the end, you will likely feel selfish. You will want to do everything you can to protect your instrument—which is to say, yourself—as you inch toward the finish line. This is as it should be, as it must be, if your work is to reach its potential. Embrace this selfishness, for now. Wrap it around you like a quilt made of air. Let no one inside of it except those you love the most. Don’t leave that essential place. Be a good steward to your gifts.”
Dani’s wonderful words told me I wasn’t alone, and this time would soon pass. Even more, I will probably enter this phase again with the next book. But I’ll recognize it next time, and be a little less floored. As I came back into the world I had the opportunity to meet the lovely Dani in person and thank her for easing me through this revision and the fear. I’ve learned the light at the end of the tunnel often is people like Dani Shapiro and James Salter showing the way.
What do you do to handle your writing fears?
By Benjamin Peterson, lecturer of political science and history at Alma College
Today, so many people believe that their voices do not matter. They believe that nothing can be accomplished through politics except conflict, strife, and bother. But in reality, all it takes is a few phone calls, and a bit of bravery, to schedule meetings with legislators, have a conversation, and maybe change the world a little. Ever since I began teaching, I have wanted students to have exactly this authentic experience.
Over the past Spring Term at Alma College, I realized this dream while teaching a course called Political Advocacy and the Environment. As part of this class, my students designed a plan to help raise awareness in the legislature about agricultural run-off into the local Pine River. The students did tremendous work in the classroom, doing research and holding robust discussions about the issue of agriculture and environmental quality. We talked about how state government works, and watched committee hearings online so that students could understand the personalities and quirks of each legislator. They considered solutions to the run-off issue, designed fact sheets, and planned communication strategies.
But the class did more than this. It is one thing to learn about an issue, it something else to advocate for it in front of a legislator! Thanks to the Alma College Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE), we were able to provide our students with an authentic political experience. The 3CE provided funding and connections for us to take a trip down to the state capitol in Lansing, and meet members of the state Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the governor’s staff. We were sharing space — as well as our informed perspectives — with the people who had the power to get things done in government, and make a significant difference in our local community.
As a professor, it was a transformational experience. Knowing that they would be heading down to Lansing made the experience real and authentic for my students. They thrived on that authenticity, with some students clicking at the writing and research part of lobbying, and others excelling at discussion and debate. One student blossomed and roamed around every room he was in, talking with everyone he met. Everyone enjoyed talking with him, and several offered him internships. It turns out that he’s a natural lobbyist. He even got me a meeting with the governor’s top policy advisor! Several of the students from the trip are now pursuing careers in political advocacy and I am helping them to find internships.
I recognize that not every student may be animated by the issue of agricultural run-off, though a small group of my students plan to continue working on the issue. That’s not really the point. This is: The students have seen how government works with their own eyes. They know they can make a difference. And I have no doubt that they will make a positive difference for our community, our state, and our country.
— Benjamin Peterson is a lecturer of political science and history at Alma College, as well as a former lobbyist and political organizer.
Alma College Alternative Breaks are known for providing opportunities for students to engage in direct, hands-on service, education and reflection.
In the case of Hunter Wilson, an Alternative Break provided her new best friend.
Hunter, who graduated from Alma in 2020, currently works for the college as a Climate Corps program planning grant employee, where she helps students and community members learn about climate change and its effects on the Gratiot County area. In December 2021, she accompanied a group of students to Horse Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and Animal Refuge, in Tennessee, which provides medical care for and houses abandoned and abused dogs.
Hunter worked with a group of about 12 Alma College students to aid in the sanctuary’s mission — practicing social skills and behavioral skills with the dogs, as well as a bit of maintenance and cleaning. She also met Layne, a 5-month-old mutt with a heart of gold.
Unable to get Layne out of her head upon returning to Michigan, Hunter went back to Horse Creek in January to adopt Layne. Now, they’re living happily ever after.
“Layne was one of the girls in a litter of seven or so,” Hunter said. “Her mom was taken to the rescue after being found abandoned under a highway overpass. They believe she was there for weeks before she was found and gave birth at the rescue.
“Layne is 100-percent deaf,” Hunter continued. “While I was at Horse Creek, one of the employees told me that she would probably never be adopted because of that. When they told me that, I knew I had to take her home with me.”
Layne is doing great in Michigan, Hunter said, being kept busy with obedience school, at-home training and lots of snuggling. Layne has two pet siblings; a dog, Winston, and a cat, Mittens, both of whom she gets along with wonderfully.
Hunter’s Alternative Break to Horse Creek was actually the second time she had been there. She went once before, as a junior at Alma, and loved it so much she could hardly wait to go back. She intends to volunteer there again when time allows.
Hunter said she would recommend Alternative Breaks to any student at Alma.
“I participated in three Alternative Breaks during my time at Alma. It was so much fun. I was able to make so many connections, not just personally, but professionally,” Hunter said.
“It’s a great opportunity to think about what you really want to do,” she continued. “I think sometimes, students get a little too submerged in academia. We forget about our other passions and how to get things done. Alternative Breaks help fill that gap — working on cool projects, in cool places, and seeing success happen in real time.”
Alternative Breaks allow students to spend time doing service work while traveling outside the community. This may involve providing childcare in a homeless shelter or being involved in disaster relief efforts. Whatever you’re doing, you’ll have fun while reflecting on what is important to you in life.
There are plenty of colleges and universities across the country that offer courses on writer J.R.R. Tolkien and his most well-known work, “The Lord of the Rings.” But few, if any, teach them the way Alma College does.
The class, ENG 180M-01, better known as Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth, is a Spring Term course that gives students an interdisciplinary perspective on “LotR,” leaning hard into Tolkien’s concept of secondary worlds. If you take this class, offered by professors Laura von Wallmenich and Steuard Jensen, you’ll learn what it means to not only think critically about one of the world’s most famous fantasy novels, but to build an imaginary world with its own consistent version of reality.
So, as Gandalf says in LotR: “Go where you must go,” and read on, to learn more about this interesting and unusual course at Alma College!
An English professor’s perspective
Laura is an associate professor of English and coordinator of the American Studies program at Alma College, who has been with the college since 2001. She’s an expert in early American literature who has teaching and research interests in many types of literature, as well as popular culture and film studies.
She comes at LotR with an interest in discussing how it fits into our world. For example, did you know that Tolkien borrowed some of basic narrative forms and topes from Norse and Anglo-Saxon sagas? Did you know that the Elvish languages that Tolkien famously created were influenced by Welsh, Finnish and Greek?
From Laura’s perspective, LotR created a sort of “modern mythology” for a world that was hungry for it, creating a pastiche of already-existing cultures and subcultures. It’s a really interesting take for LotR superfans to consider, one that will make the real world seem bigger and more interesting than you might have thought possible.
A physics professor’s take
Steuard is an associate professor and chair of the Alma College Department of Physics and Engineering, who has been with the college since 2009. While his expertise is in physics topics, like string theory and M-theory, he’s also something of an expert in LotR and Middle-earth.
He approaches LotR with an eye toward the world that Tolkien created, which has different rules and structures than ours, but nevertheless has rules and structures just the same. If you ever wanted to know why, in LotR, elves are immortal and humans are not, ask Steuard. If you want to know the difference between orcs and Uruk-hai, ask Steuard. If you want to know why Sauron’s Ring controls the other rings … you know what to do.
Steuard might not have clear-cut answers to these questions, but it’s fun to try and understand them. It’s a different sort of reading than what an English professor would take — you can definitely see Steuard’s science background influencing his way of thinking about Tolkien — but it’s also really interesting, particularly for people whose interests lie in English and literature.
What do you do in this class?
In addition to reading the texts, Laura and Steuard assign a number of interesting and creative assignments that draw from their own unique ways of thinking about the series.
One fun assignment sees students create their own words, much like Tolkien created his own languages, and use them in sentences. Students are also asked to create their own worlds, along with some characters and artifacts within that world. This will encourage you to be your full, creative self — figuring out what your own passion is and how you might build a world around that.
While the class is very much focused on engaging with the text, there is some discussion about how they relate to Peter Jackson’s famous LotR film trilogy of the early 2000s. You might also see Steuard dress up like Legolas, sing “Frodo of the Nine Fingers” and play the ukulele, but … we’re not going to spoil the ending.
Much like Gandalf the Grey turning White, some things just need to be seen to be believed.
Spring Term makes in-depth study of a single subject as well as traveling and exploring new cultures easy. In addition to fun courses like “Lord of the Rings,” many classes involving travel are offered. See which Alma College Spring Term course is right for you.
It’s normal to be nervous about living with someone new — or even someone you have known for a long time. But with a little bit of thought and planning, you can be the kind of roommate your classmates dream of.
Whether you’re moving into a residence hall during your first year of college or an off-campus apartment as a senior, living with someone new is bound to bring some challenges. However, there are easy things you can do to become a great college roommate.
Alice Kramer is the director of residence life at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan. She has experienced the college roommate life from multiple sides: first as a roommate in college herself, then as a resident advisor, and now in her current role. Because Alice has seen it all, she’s in a good position to pass on tips on being the best college roommate possible.
1. Expand your horizons
You might think you want a roommate who shares your interests — your favorite TV shows, music, movies and books. Maybe it would be nice to share notes with a roommate who has the same major as you. But what’s more important, Alice says, is having a roommate who shares your personality type. Let’s say your roommate likes to keep things neat, but you’re more of a free spirit. That is more likely to cause a problem than if you can’t agree on what movie to watch on a Friday night. Plus, it’s fun to explore new interests!
2. Don’t set your expectations too high, or too low
Alice has heard stories about roommates who became BFFs and ended up in each other’s wedding parties. She has also heard about roommates who became the perfect storm.
The most-common stories end up somewhere in the middle: not-so-dramatic success stories about people who came together for a year, were good roommates to one another, and got along well.
Your roommate doesn’t NEED to be your best friend in order for you to have a storybook college career. In fact, sometimes it’s better to have multiple people in your life you can bounce ideas off of, in case you need a different perspective.
On the other side of the coin: don’t get too discouraged if things aren’t working out right away. Any person who has ever lived with another person would say you won’t agree with the people under your own roof 100% of the time, even if you like them a whole lot. A little patience and understanding goes a long way.
3. Start the conversation early
You’ll likely find out who you’re living with at college before you move in. So, don’t wait to find out what they’re about! Give them a phone call, send a text, or add them on Facebook and Instagram. Listen to what they have to say and ask them follow-up questions. (It will show you’re paying attention.) Having a conversation when you’re relaxed is a lot easier than talking when you’re trying to write a term paper… and your roommate just invited friends over to hang out.
Looking for a good conversation starter? Alice suggests figuring out who is bringing what to your room or apartment, before you show up. If you both show up with a TV, microwave, futon and couch, it probably won’t all fit in your space. Also, talk with each other about your boundaries: “Do we have a collective set of snacks, or do you have your snacks and I have mine?” Be honest! A little bit of honesty now will help avoid big issues down the road.
There are no right answers to these questions. It all depends on your personality and preferences. But being on the same page is important.
Despite the challenges that can come from living with someone new, residence life is one of the most exciting and engaging parts of your college experience. Alma College is a residential college, which maximizes those opportunities to their fullest extent. Learn moreabout student life at Alma.
Terms like “phishing,” “social media” and “two-step verification” weren’t very common only 20 years ago, but they’re more important than ever nowadays.
From the food we eat to the people we speak with, it’s apparent that communication technology has made its way into just about every important aspect of our lives.. What may be less apparent are the many ways technology — and the information we put out into the world every day — can be a threat to your relationships, job, bank account and credit report.
Elizabeth Cameron, professor of business administration, is a licensed attorney and business consultant who continues to consult with clients so she can bring real life examples into her law, cybersecurity and management classes at Alma College. Every day in her class, she tells young people that it’s not just their grandparents who need to be careful using technology — you can be a victim, too. She offered five tips to clean up your “online hygiene,” in order to stay safe and utilize technology to its fullest advantage.
Really. Do it. Make a better password.
Yes, Elizabeth says, there are still people using “password” as their password for social media, online bank accounts and e-mail addresses. If that’s you, it’s time to change your habits. Hackers are more skilled than ever at cracking combinations, and when you use a common password, you’re making it way too easy for them. Consider a string of symbols, letters, numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters that may be meaningful to you, but don’t make sense for others. One suggestion might be: I8@joes4the2ndtimethisweek.
Get smarter about social media
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t simply communication tools anymore. They are the world’s window into your life. Not only are your friends and family checking in on what you’re posting, but employers (current and future) and co-workers are, as well. Elizabeth suggests highlighting the good things you’re doing, like volunteer work, and saving your selfies, memes and jokes for the next time you’re together with friends. Remember, nothing is ever permanently deleted.
Remember that anyone can create content online and say that they are someone they aren’t. With that in mind, don’t believe everything that you read, watch or listen to — especially if it’s the kind of content designed to provoke an emotional response. Elizabeth suggests finding out who the source is, who produced the content and where they got their information. There is value in making you feel certain ways about various topics — don’t let yourself be manipulated.
‘More valuable than oil’
For centuries, whenever someone wanted to make a point about the value of a good, they could point toward the cost of oil. Nowadays, Elizabeth says, the information that you put out into the world every day — from the Instagram post you tagged yourself in at Starbucks to the review you left for the car wash on Google — is being monetized. She went as far as to say it’s “more valuable than oil.” So, why give it away for free? Be careful about sharing what you’re doing and where you’ve been.
‘Think twice, click once’
Phishing emails are more common than ever and scammers are very sophisticated about getting you to make a click you’re not supposed to. Even if it seems plausible that your co-worker is in need of some fast cash, Elizabeth says, it’s best to take every link online with a degree of suspicion. “Think twice, click once” is the advice she gives when it comes to interacting with people in situations outside of the norm.
Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, offers courses within its business administration department on topics like cybersecurity and risk management. If you’d like to learn more, check out the business administration page on alma.edu.
If you’ve made your way to this page, you have probably already read a little bit about the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree. You may be weighing the pros and cons of signing up for an MFA program, like the one at Alma College. But there is a lot of information online about MFA programs — and some of it may not be relevant to your interest as a student. Where can you go to find out what it’s like for students in a program like this?
Leslie Contreras Schwartz is a 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and the 2019-2021 Houston Poet Laureate. She is a proud disabled poet and community activist; her poet laureate community work includes writing a workshop resource book on poetry for healing, storytelling and mental wellness. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s at Rice University. She is also a faculty member in the Alma College MFA program.
Sophfronia Scott: I’d like to talk a little bit about the student experience in the Alma MFA. What are your hopes for what a student might get from their MFA at Alma?
Leslie Contreras Schwartz: I hope that students, when they come to the MFA program at Alma, are able to feel that their experiences are not only valued, but nourished by the faculty and that they’re in a community that also nourishes their lived experiences. That is not always something valued in creative programs, especially MFA programs.
Of course, we want intelligent writers. We want them to be able to study the skills and craft of writing, to be able to talk about it fluently, to understand the elasticity of language — all those things that we can do well in an MFA program. But I think intelligence also needs to include the concept of experience.
Experience is so important to develop our points of view and it’s an integral part of our creative side. If we show our students that we value that, we can help them further create meaning and go into the literary world once they leave. When they do, they will strong with belief in the validity of their experiences, so that they can continue to write not necessarily personal narratives, but they can write from their own perspective with confidence.
SS: I like that you make the delineation that you don’t necessarily have to tell a personal story to have a point of view. Sometimes, newer writers get into this feeling that they are not allowed to write about or talk about certain issues — that it has to be the realm of “these writers from on high” somewhere. But their voices are just as important as anyone else’s. They do have something to say.
LCS: I think that even if we’re not writing from a personal point of view, the writing itself is formed and shaped by our own experiences. So, it’s important that we nourish those experiences. We can’t just so that it’s valued, we have to show that it’s nourished, so they can feel and understand that this is a rich part of their life as a writer.
SS: We have an exciting, artistic community at Alma for that very reason — because writers come to us with so many different voices. In bringing those voices into the forum, we all learn so much from each other. It’s amazing.
I want to ask about what earning your MFA has meant for you, because so many of the students considering our program are going through a big decision-making process. There are so many voices out there talking about how getting an MFA may or may not be worth the time, the effort, or the money. Yet, I know that for me personally, it changed my life as a writer. I’m wondering what it meant for you.
LCS: It did absolutely change my life. When I was looking toward applying to a program, I was searching for something. I was already writing and was reading as a writer, but I wanted a space: a community where I could connect with other creative writers and be directed and mentored to study literature that would be helpful to me in my own creative practice.
That is very difficult to do on your own. It’s also very difficult to find a community that is so engaged — as they are in the MFA programs — in conversations around craft, around the issues that are central to what we do as artists. All those more academic discussions, but also being able to share our experience and to be able to have our stories, poems and nonfiction workshopped by people who have been trained, and to meet peers who are struggling with the same journey that you’re going through.
SS: Leslie, you mentioned reading. Can you say more about that? I felt the same way. I wasn’t reading as much before I got my MFA and being in an MFA program just opened up my reading world to writers I’ve never heard of before. It also let me see technique and craft on the page by talented people, which inspired me to go to new levels in terms of my own writing.
LCS: During my MFA program, I learned to read in a writer’s sort of way, if that makes sense. I studied the techniques that writers used and one writer exposed to me through my MFA would lead to 100 others who were often was very particular to areas of concern in my own writing.
I am constantly learning. It’s like you say, I did read before the MFA program, but because of the constraints of the MFA program, you had to read a certain amount of text. It opened up more avenues to me to different kinds of knowledge to different kinds of writing styles that I’m not sure if I would have been able to find on my own. Maybe if I spent decades in the library, eventually, but it helped with mentor guidance.
SS: How are you different now because you have this community, because you have a different type of reading life? How is your writing life different now since your MFA?
LCS: I definitely have grown and flourished from the support of a writing community, not just here in Texas, but around the country. Because of my MFA program, my peers, my teachers were from all over the country. They are practicing writers and I still am connected with them.
As far as the knowledge I gained, it’s a rigorous form of study. With MFA programs, there’s a lot of annotating, a lot of analyzing writing about different themes, and aspects of writing — so I gained the knowledge and then I was able to apply it. After I graduated, it helped me create and sustain a writing practice because I had all these tools at-hand. I had that support that I could reach out to to get feedback. It is a difficult and a long process and it’s vital to have a community, and then to be able to use all the tools that I gained.
Writer’s block is something that every writer deals with. Despite the ideas swirling around in our heads, sometimes we just have trouble putting pen to paper and seeing those ideas through. There are many reasons this can be the case, and many different ways to snap out of it.
One of those ways is to simply be curious. If it seems simple, that’s because it is. Most writers are curious by nature, but by taking on big ideas, we can forget about the types of questions that got us interested in being writers in the first place: Who? What? Where? Why? How?
faculty member Alma College Master of Fine Arts in Creative WritingDhonielle Clayton is a New York Times-bestselling author of “The Belles” series and former teacher. She’s used to cultivating curiosity for her own work and in others, and has some advice to share with us on how they can do it for ourselves.
Sophfronia Scott: Today we are talking about your working with students and I’m wondering: Is there something that, as a teacher, you find you’re always telling your writing students?
Dhonielle Clayton: The biggest thing that my writing students hear from me is to be curious, to follow little things down rabbit holes, because you never know what you’re going to find at the end of it. That means reading widely, reading things outside of the genre or the area that you write in, also following those sort of little story seeds just to see where they end up.
I think curiosity is the piece that has made me have a lot of stories. Curiosity makes you continually search for truth and search for something that’s exciting. And I think that can show up in your writing. A reader can see when a writer is very curious or excited about a topic that they want to dive into. So, that’s something you’ll hear from me as a writing instructor: Be curious.
I ask a lot of questions: How would you follow that path to see where it leads? There’s something in this scene here, how about you look this up? Why don’t you check this out as a mentor text, did you know about it?
SS: I would think that curiosity opens up so much opportunity that it would help someone who might feel stuck, someone who’s in writer’s block.
DC: Absolutely. I think that when you aren’t curious is when you are in writer’s block. You are in a stalemate with yourself, and you have to fill your well up with things that you enjoy.
I think because I write about the things that I’m curious about and the things that make me angry, the intersection of those two things lead to my stories. So, I always push writers to dig deep. Find the thing that you’re curious about or just frustrated with and investigate. Go down that rabbit hole and see what’s there. See what you can use, see what you can mine and channel into your own work.
SS: Yes, being curious helps me to push the boundaries and yet I have to remind myself to do that.
I’m working on a new novel — I write historical fiction — and it occurred to me that I may be trying to stick too close to history. I’m looking at books and shows like “Lovecraft” and thinking about how history can be different and have fantastic elements like in Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.”
I realize I can really push a boundary here by asking myself, “What if?” I start with asking that question and see how far it can take me.
DC: It’s a good question, because I think that we as writers are programmed to walk the line and to walk a particular line that is safe. I ask questions to push you off the line just to see what you find. You can always go back to the line. But why not see what happens?
See what you uncover by stopping and going into that wood just for a little bit. Then come back to the road. It’s never wasted time to go off the trail for a while. I don’t believe in wasted words, but I do believe in remaining curious and seeing how unexpected things can be found when you maintain that sort of curiosity.
In order to thrive, we all need support, guidance and resources to help us understand the world and our lives within it, especially when times get tough. And mental health has many dimensions. That’s why Alma College supports students in a variety of ways along the journey to a healthy, whole college experience. Whether it’s counseling, movement, meditation, connection or a nourishing meal shared with friends – we’re here for you.
Wilcox Health Center
Formerly known as the Wilcox Medical Center (and casually known on-campus as “Wilcox”), this facility recently changed its name to reflect its mission of providing complete health and wellness services. It provides quick appointments that are easy to schedule and available in-person, virtually or over the phone. Visit them in-person, call (989) 463-7181 or visit alma.edu/offices/wilcox-medical/ for more info.
Alma College Dining Services offers a wide variety of fresh, healthy food options, right at Hamilton Commons. Whether you’re in the mood for a protein-rich breakfast to start your day, a post-workout smoothie, a salad when you get out of class or a fresh-from-the-grill burger to end your night, they’ve got you covered. Alma College Dining Services provides vegan and vegetarian offerings at each dining station in Hamilton, along with good identification of possible allergens and gluten-free options.
Take care of your body
Physical wellness looks different for every person, and awareness of your body’s unique needs is the first step. Thankfully, Alma College offers something different for everyone in this area.
When you’re done working out your mind in class, head on over to Stone Recreation Center (known on-campus as “Stone Rec”) to work out your body. Whether you want to join a group fitness class, set your own pace on the indoor track, get your heart pumping on a cardio machine, pump iron, play a game of basketball (or volleyball or tennis or floor hockey), or play an intramural sport, Stone Rec has got something for you.
Make time to connect with people
Developing personal connections can make you stronger and more resilient, even in times of stress. Friends can help us understand the things we value in life, allowing us to make decisions based on those values. At Alma, you’ll have lots of opportunities to connect with the people you know and others outside your social circle.
There are more than 80 student clubs and organizations — based on interests, identity, religious traditions, civic initiatives and everything in-between — to help you connect with like-minded people.
Every week, there are also all kinds of events designed to bring people together. You can find out what’s happening through Alma Connect, the Student Affairs Instagram account, and the TVs and flyers on the walls around campus. (We’re really excited about Water Palooza on Sept. 3 and the Animal Print Party on Oct. 1!)
Mindfulness and spirituality
For many people, spirituality, religious identity, and spiritual exploration are an important part of mental health. While Alma College is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we offer opportunities for students from a variety of religious expressions to practice their faith in a safe, encouraging, and uplifting environment.
Among the weekly activities offered are multi-denominational, interactive, creative Christian worship services, as well as a gathering of interfaith leaders. See more at alma.edu/student-life/spiritual-life.
For those seeking activities related to mindfulness, the college offers a variety of yoga classes for everyone from beginners to advanced yogis. Find out more at the Stone Rec website.
Alice Fulton, a mentor of mine who is a fantastic poet, told me something that I have found incredibly helpful and that I return to often.
She said, “We imitate when we think we innovate, and we innovate when we think we imitate.”
It’s something that has stuck with me because of the phrasing. I didn’t understand it when I first heard, the quote, but it’s something that I wanted to repeat myself. In some ways, it reminded me of poetry I enjoy in that I could like what it sounded like before I understood what it meant. Then, over time, I started unpacking it for myself. I did that with this phrase.
“We imitate when we think we innovate.” For me, that meant if:
I might think that I’m doing something incredibly new and challenging and innovative. But someone else may have already done it. That doesn’t mean that I can’t follow that or add to it, but if I’m not aware of it, I might just be repeating something similar. Or I can’t complicate it any more, because I’m starting from an earlier point, when if I knew something already existed, I could take advantage of studying that and start at a different point.
The other part of, “We innovate when we think we imitate,” seems to mean that we shouldn’t be afraid of influences. Part of how we learn is through others, through their work. That doesn’t mean you end up copying them. You could try really hard to imitate a writer that you love and you’re never going to be that writer. You are your own writer.
Imitation is a really important part of learning and so is exercising writing muscles. But the other component of that is a fear of influence. I see this with younger writers who think, “If I read too much of this one thing, then I’m going to start writing like this person or like this group of writers.”
Part of that is true. What we read influences us and it’s good to read widely and have various influences. But I don’t think of influence in the same way.
I think of influence as when I read writers that I love, they do influence me in the sense that they teach me something in their work that is instructive. In that way, I wouldn’t be afraid of influence, because:
It’s the difference between writing by yourself in a void, where you’re essentially just talking to yourself, versus understanding that you are part of a conversation. Instead of talking to yourself, it opens you up.
How lonely to think that you’re just writing on your own! It makes it so much harder versus understanding that being a writer is to be part of a community. That’s helpful because instead of thinking of other writers as influences, I like thinking in some ways that they’re like collaborators. They are helping me get to my work — helping you see what’s possible with the language.
There are many types of ancient artifacts that can be found in Michigan, but the “Michigan Relics” are definitely a fraud.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American newspaper headlines were dominated by conflicts like the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. As a result, a newfound interest was raised in Native American peoples — who they were and how they came to settle in North America. The public turned to a relatively new field of study, archaeology, for answers.
Knowledge of the methods of archaeology, however, was not yet widespread, and numerous “finds” in North American turned out to be frauds.
Michigan was the setting for one of the more famous finds of “relics” that were eventually shown to be modern creations. Two men in Michigan, James Scotford and Daniel Soper, “discovered” a group of objects made out of clay, copper, slate and stone, which were decorated with writing that looked vaguely similar to popular Mediterranean and Near Eastern artifacts that were being publicized elsewhere. Scotford and Soper said they were evidence of ancient settlements near their hometowns and throughout Michigan.
But experts disagreed and provided ample evidence that Scotford and Soper were lying. Family members eventually came forward to tell the story of how the fraudsters manufactured the “relics.” Neither Soper nor Scotford ever confessed, however, and they both died in the 1920s. No additional relics were discovered after they were gone.
Even so, interest in the “Michigan Relics” has continued to live on. In defiance of archaeology, which has continued to grow and improve as a field of study through the years, small groups of people believe the relics are real. Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, has a few of the relics in its historical archives. It’s unclear how the college to possess them, but it likely has something to do with them being produced in nearby Montcalm County.
Alma College Library Director Dr. Matthew Collins, pointed out a few interesting facts about the fake relics:
What makes them fake?
If you’re from Michigan, you know the winters can be treacherous and the springs can be rainy. Anything that is allegedly thousands of years old and comes from the ground in Michigan needs to be able to survive in that kind of weather. Scientists at the time were quickly able to tell that the clay relics couldn’t have done that, because they turned into mud when wet. The next group of relics discovered were, by some change, items that had been fired with low-heat fires, making them resistant the Michigan environment. These objects were covered with symbols from several ancient cultures that supposedly were words in a language.
What do the words mean?
When the words printed on real relics are studied, archaeologists are able to determine what they say and what it means. They may be written in ancient languages, like Phoenician, or Egyptian hieroglyphics, or even Assyrian cuneiform. The “Michigan Relics” contain a combination of symbols that look like several ancient languages, which, when mashed together don’t spell anything.
Where do they come from?
While the creation of some of the clay items remains a mystery, metallurgical analysis that was taken of the copper relics many years ago showed that the dimensions are all exactly consistent with smelted hot-rolled copper produced at that time — not the pure copper that real Native American tribes in Michigan occasionally used for decoration. Some of the slate relics had the exact dimensions and characteristics of milled and precisely cut slate roofing tile, like that produced in Detroit near Scotford’s residence.
What happened to the relics?
The discovery of the relics by Scotford and Soper – who were always present – generated tremendous publicity and income for the two. The relics were sold to various collectors, even internationally. The Church the Latter-Day Saints, bought many of the relics, for example. After the relics were shown to be frauds, they were donated to various museums in Michigan. Alma College received its relics this way. After the publication of a scientific article in 2001 that showed clearly all of the problems, the Mormon Church donated all of its relics to the Michigan History Museum.
Michigan is an interesting place, that was very clearly filled with all kinds of interesting people at one point — and it continues to be! You can read more about the area in which the “Michigan Relics” were found at alma.edu, or, for more, visit the Alma College Library.
College student workout plans are varied and unique. Here’s how you can stay fit all semester long.
Embedded in the cost of tuition at many colleges and universities these days is a membership to a gym or a recreation center, oftentimes located right on campus. Concerns over “putting on the freshman 15” are outdated — college students these days feel more body-positive than their parents’ generation, and they want to be physically healthier, too.
But for some of these students, their first trip to the college rec center is their first trip to any gym in many years. They might not know or understand what their rec center offers and how to take advantage of those offerings. Fletcher Roberts, the director of sports performance and assistant wrestling coach at Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, has seen it all.
We asked Fletcher for some tips – and maybe a little tough love – on how beginner-level college students can get the most out of fitness resources during their time at college:
Pick a plan — then stick to it
Fletcher’s first tip is likely pretty obvious: Figure out why you want to go to the gym. Do you want to relieve stress, lose weight, gain muscle, improve as an athlete, or something else altogether? A fitness class, or personal trainer, can help you devise a plan.
The next step, however, is a little less obvious: Stick to it. Fletcher says that — now, in the age of social media, more than ever — students he sees in the gym are suffering from a “fear of missing out,” or FOMO. They see their friends at other schools doing a workout routine that looks good, so why can’t they do the same thing?
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with what your friends are doing, but your plan is yours. Stick to it.
Put your calendar to work
Just as important as knowing how to use a weight machine is knowing how to use your online calendar, Fletcher says. College students have heard variations on this theme time and time again: “Your mom isn’t going to wake you up in the morning to go to class any more! You need to do it yourself.” But that sentiment takes on new meaning in the gym.
If you don’t get enough sleep, Fletcher says, it will show up in your workouts. If you skip breakfast, it will show up in your workouts. If you spend your time at the gym taking selfies and goofing off with friends, it’ll show up in your workouts.
So, set your online calendar — or do whatever you need to do — to accommodate all of the tasks you need to do that day. Then, stick to the plan.
Everything in moderation
It should probably go without saying that if you’re making a serious step toward physical fitness, you’re probably thinking about your eating habits too. Fletcher says that while it’s a great idea to eat well, he abides by a “90/10” philosophy on diet — healthy foods 90 percent of the time and splurging 10 percent.
Be smart about it, of course. Don’t schedule your splurge day on the same day as your workouts. But enjoy! At this point, you’ve earned it.
Fitness and wellness programs at Alma College offer you everything you need to reach your goals. The Alan J. Stone Recreation Center offers personal training, fitness classes, yoga and more. Read all about it at alma.edu. And if health and fitness are your passion, check out Alma’s Integrative Physiology and Health Science program!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is designed to be easy for students and families to fill out, but difficulties can arise. We’re here to help you secure scholarships and student loans, so that your personal finances are less tricky.
Personal finances can be tricky. Even those who understand the ins and outs of saving and spending can find it difficult to talk about. However, for so many, financial aid is what makes college possible in the first place. With that in mind, let’s dive right in.
But where to even start? For help with that, we talked with Michelle McNier, director of financial aid at Alma College. She’s talked to most of the students who attend the college, as well as their parents, at one time or another, and has heard questions surrounding financial aid many times. Once someone has a firm understanding of the basics, Michelle says, she can help with more advanced questions that are more specific to your situation.
Q: What’s the first step to applying for financial aid?
A: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) tells the government what they need to know about you in order to allow you to receive federal, state and institutional need-based financial aid. You’ll need to fill it out to receive grants, work study and Stafford Loans.
Q: When should students fill out the FAFSA?
A: The FAFSA is available beginning Oct. 1 for the following school year, and you should complete it as early as possible. The government is looking for your tax information from the previous two years, so it isn’t a matter of needing to wait. The deadline to apply for the fall term in Michigan is March 1.
Q: Is the FAFSA difficult to fill out?
A: It can be, but help is available. The FAFSA is designed to be easy to fill out, but there are inevitable difficulties that come up, as there are with any form. I would encourage anyone who is having difficulty to contact the Financial Aid Office by calling (989) 463-7347 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Do students have to fill out the FAFSA every year, or just once?
A: That question comes up a lot, especially around deadline time. Students must reapply for financial aid each year and maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress to remain eligible.
Q: Do you have any other tips for people with respect to the FAFSA?
A: There are a lot of families who think they might not qualify for financial aid. I tell them to file the FAFSA anyway, especially in their first year. It may open a door you weren’t expecting, which can help fund a college education. If you don’t file, nobody is going to know you might need help.
Q: Are there other types of financial aid available beyond FAFSA?
A: Absolutely. Here at Alma, we offer scholarships and grants, in addition to state and federal aid. We offer student and parent loan options, with financing. Of course, there are various scholarships available through all kinds of organizations throughout the country. The FAFSA doesn’t need to be completed to receive this kind of aid.
Q: What else do we need to know?
A: As students are considering different colleges and universities, and reading the award letters that spell out the financial aid package, they should know these letters can vary tremendously between institutions. That can be very confusing. Having a true grasp on what students are getting from each institution they apply to, and how much they have to pay out-of-pocket is important. I would encourage anyone with questions to reach out to our office. We’re happy to help.
Alma College, in Alma, Michigan, offers scholarships and grants, in addition to state and federal aid, to help students go to college. For more information, visit alma.edu.
Undergraduate students and young people often hear of the importance of building a community, finding their people, creating a niche. There’s a good reason for that! Building a community outside of the classroom is a very important part of learning and growing as a person. It builds confidence, increases perspective and inspires new ideas. And despite romantic notions about solitary poets cranking out beautiful works in quiet coffee shops or isolated log cabins, writers need community, too.
Donald Quist is author of the linked story collection For Other Ghosts and the essay collection Harbors, a Foreword INDIES Bronze Winner and International Book Awards Finalist. He earned his MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri. Sophfronia Scott, the program director of the Alma College Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, recently spoke with Donald about building and maintaining community as a writer.
Sophfronia Scott: You’ve been teaching for a long time. I’m wondering, is there something like a writing tip maybe a teaching idea that you find that you share often with your students?
Donald Quist: On day one of any workshop or any writing class that I have, I like to tell my students writing is not a solitary activity. I try to assuage that whole idea that you’re just writing alone in this little vacuum by yourself and you’re living this hermetic life. That, to me, is a fallacy.
Every time you write with the intention of sharing it with someone else, you are joining a conversation. You are speaking to voices that influenced you. You are speaking to future voices who you will influence. You are not writing in a vacuum, you are a part of a community. It’s engaging with others. Whether fiction, poetry, nonfiction, whether it’s cross-genre, you are doing something that will help establish and broaden a community.
That is one of my biggest pieces of advice, because oftentimes I see people new to writing and they kind of feel like they need to struggle through it alone. They’re reluctant to share. And I can get that. It can be scary to produce something that’s so much a part of yourself and give it to world, like, “Here!”
That takes a level of vulnerability and a level of courage. That’s what it takes to build community— it takes vulnerability, it takes courage. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re not alone when you’re write. You’re with others.
SS: I like that you brought it back to the conversation about what will happen and what can happen in the MFA program. I think we get so caught up in that idea of not wanting to share, like, “Oh, I can’t talk about it yet,” and I understand that. I know in certain stages, I can be like that too, but you also miss out if you don’t say, “This is what I’m working on.”
Just today, I was on the phone with my dear friend, the novelist Breena Clarke, and we were having a talk about what we’re seeing in fiction right now. I told her that I’m working on another historical novel and we started talking about what it means to write about history and she said, kind of off the cuff, “Who says that it had to happen that way? Who says that it did?”
Suddenly I was like, “Stop! I’m trying to be so accurate in this but what if I’m putting it out there and saying, “What if it happened this way?” That really has opened up my mind to thinking about the narrative of my novel in a different way. That would have never happened if I felt that I couldn’t tell her that I’m working on a new book right now.
DQ: Exactly. If you pick up any book by me and you flip to the acknowledgements in the back, you’ll see it’s pretty long, and that’s because it was a conversation. These stories that I produced were built out of conversations. There are ideas that I just would not have arrived to without talking through them first in my writing process with friends — many of whom came out of my own MFA program.
Without those discussions, without sharing or being open to sharing, you really can miss out on opportunities to make your work even stronger. So, let’s push away the idea that we’re all just huddled over laptops and dark quiet rooms. Let’s talk through the work, let’s share, and I think we’ll be all better for it.
SS: And as you pointed out earlier, and I will highlight this again in case it was missed, that you and I went to the same MFA program. Obviously, we are still in community and you were one of the first people, when we were planning this MFA, that I contacted about it.
I wanted you to teach in this program because I already know your teaching. I’ve seen you lecture and I’ve seen you find your work. It’s been years since we graduated, but we are still involved in each other’s lives and we know our work. We are inviting students into a likewise community where they can get to know each other, grow, and then be a part of what grows from that effort.
Human biodiversity was one of the best classes I have taken at Alma College. It was a class about looking at the variety of human life in different areas. This experience allowed me to reflect on myself and how I view the world.
Before we went to Washington D.C., our professor, Dr. Eric Calhoun, challenged the entire class to dig deep and really think about how they view people and their actions. When we were in DC, everyone had a different topic they had to research, such as diets of slaves in America compared to people of African countries, to create a final project.
My final project was titled “How the Perspective of Human Biodiversity led to Rape being used as a Tool in War.” I looked at how rape has been a tool of power and war and presented my findings. Everyone had a different topic with varying cultures and ethnic groups.
There were some hard days with heavy topics. The National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum contained exhibits that were so powerful and heartbreaking. I think everyone should go to both museums at some time in their lives. It made me think and reflect about how awful decisions and actions of the past can still be seen within society today. We learned things about American history that we were never taught in high school. That much was disheartening to think about, but Dr. Calhoun and my classmates created an environment that made it feel safe to share our thoughts and feelings about hard topics without fear of being judged.
The hard days were always followed up by uplifting experiences. The class went on a night tour of all of the major sites in Washington — Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument — where we learned about their history and the ideas of how they were designed. We were able to go to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and had fun watching all of the animals. We spent hours at the botanical garden and the art gallery and tried food from too many food trucks to count. Every night we would go out to dinner, where we laughed about the day’s events and had a good time.
When we came back to Alma, the discussion didn’t stop. We all had projects to put together from information we gathered from the museums. It was interesting to hear everyone talk about their subjects, because they tended to utilize information someone else had missed — there was just so much to take in! All of the projects added to our collective well of knowledge and information.
We had the chance to revisit the subjects we talked about before our trip to Washington, now with the added insight we gained from the visits to the museums. I found myself realizing that my entire thinking process had changed. I’m putting myself in different situations more than I was before, which has led to me changing my views on certain topics.
I think I’m a more understanding person as a result of this class. I’m also getting better at working with others and talking about difficult subjects in a productive way. I know I’m not a finished product and my views will continue to evolve — and this class helped me see that that is OK.
With theaters closed, dancing for a camera became an alternative to choreographers and dance companies. Screendance is now more popular than ever.
We don’t need to go in too deep about the many sad ways the pandemic impacted the arts community. You already know about movie theaters closing, live performances being canceled, and artists broadcasting their work online. This might not be “the new normal” forever, but it’s what we’re living through right now — and could be for a long time.
On the positive side, art and media have flourished in new ways during the pandemic. With so much of our time spent in our homes — and with so many people using their computer webcams and smartphones — more people than ever are dancing for the camera. Maybe you yourself have tried to produce a dance video for TikTok!
If so, you should check out an art form that is growing in popularity across the world, screendance. It’s like a deeper version of TikTok videos — an art form that combines dance with performance, visual arts, cinema and media arts to produce something truly provocative, interesting and beautiful. Some colleges and universities offer courses where you can make your own screendances; Alma College, in Michigan, is one of them.
Rosely Conz is a dancer from Brazil, choreographer and dance teacher, who also serves as an assistant professor in the theatre and dance department at Alma. We asked Rosely to share a few things she tells her students about screendance. Here’s what she said.
You’ve probably seen screendances before
Maybe you haven’t heard of screendance, but it’s actually been around for quite a long time. On the first day of her screendance class, Rosely likes to show her students a black and white film by filmmaker Maya Deren and dancer Talley Beatty, which was made all the way back in 1945. They utilize some techniques that were innovative and experimental for the time, like a slow-motion jump. Pretty cool!
Screendance is for people who love dancing …
Screendance will get you thinking about choreography and dance in ways you never have before. Depending on what you’re trying to say with your screendance, you can move fast or slow, with high energy or low. You can move with strength or fluidity, forward or backwards, in-place or all over your room. Think of your body like pieces in a puzzle, Rosely said — screendance is how you make it all fit together.
… as well as other forms of media!
Like we said earlier, screendance isn’t just about moving your body — it’s integrative with film and media arts. Screendance will make you think about the placement of your camera in ways like, “Is it above my subject’s head, or at their feet?” It will push you to consider the site where you’re filming, like, “How can my subject use the blue paint on that wall to tell a story?”
It will also get you to consider lighting. Rosely herself created a screendance, “Still Here,” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that made use of something called a “ghost light” — an electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theatre when the theatre is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. What she was trying to say, symbolically, was that while live shows may not be happening right now, they will return eventually.
Screendance is not exclusive
It may be true that screendance is like a “deeper” version of TikTok videos, but it’s definitely not exclusive or high-brow. Screendance doesn’t turn its back on social media, Rosely says — it embraces social media. Borrowing a phrase from Karl Marx, Rosely says, dancers own the “means of production” like never before, and that translates into some really cool art. As technology has improved through the years, social media users have (perhaps unconsciously) been able to incorporate elements of screendance, like moving the camera around, into their own videos.
What screendance hopes to do — and what we hope you will do — is expand on what you already know, to continue making better and more interesting art!
Do you want to learn more? Read about the Alma College Dance program or contact Rosely at (989) 463-7141 or email@example.com.
If you’re just starting out in the professional world, it can be hard to feel confident in your resume-building skills. We’re here to help.
When you leave college, your resume is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether you’re entering the job market, pursuing a graduate degree, or taking some other path in life, it tells people in the professional world not only who you are, but why you should be a part of their team.
It’s easy to find resume tips online, but how well can you trust the random corners of the web where Google can sometimes lead you? That’s why we asked Brittany Stoneman, associate director for career and personal development at Alma College’s Center for Student Opportunity, for her top tips. Brittany talks to hundreds of students every year about how to create a good first impression and help them on their next steps after college.
DO: Brand your materials to match.
Your cover letter, resume and reference sheet should all have the same header, font and style.
DON’T: Get too fancy with the font.
Use a clean, easily legible font. For most applications, now is not the time to be overly creative. You don’t have to be boring, though — consider personalizing your materials to mirror the company’s branding in your resume style (in terms of color scheme or font).
DO: Pay careful attention to language in the job description and company website.
Buzzwords go a long way! If you mirror their language to yours, it could show that you’re a good fit for their organization.
DON’T: Make things complicated.
If you save your resume using an obscure file type, the company may not have the right software to open it. Save your materials as a universal format, like a PDF, and call it something simple, like “Jane Doe Resume” or “John Doe Cover Letter.”
DO: Make it easy for the company to contact you.
The top of your resume should include your name — make it stand out, without overwhelming the rest of the information — as well as your contact information. Include a professional-looking email address, phone number, location and LinkedIn URL, if you have one.
DON’T: Forget to spell check.
Whether you’re applying for a job as a proofreader or not, companies will want to see that you pay attention to detail. Only use appropriate abbreviations and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in your resume.
DO: Tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying.
Clearly showcase transferable and industrial skills that fit the position. Your bullet points should explain the skills that you’ve learned through your experience, which you can apply at the position you are seeking.
DO: Put yourself in the best possible light.
Accomplishments should be qualified and quantified including the action, task and result by utilizing action verbs and specific examples. Using bullet points, explain the skills that you learned through your experience, which you can apply at your sought-after position.
If you’d like more help with resume-building, interviewing, networking and other career-related topics, check out the Alma College Center for Student Opportunity.
Alma College is a place that alumni, family and friends will always hold in their hearts as very special. This is where they learned the skills needed to make an impact on the world, where they expressed themselves creatively, academically and athletically, and where lifelong friendships and family relationships were made. We will forever love Alma College!
Recently, the Alma College Alumni Association asked its fans on Facebook a simple question: Why do you love Alma College? Here is what they had to say.
I ❤️ Alma because of the lifetime friends I made! Go Thetas! — Christine S.
I love Alma because I met my husband there. It’s become our family thing - both of our kids are Alma grads now, too! — Debora C.
I ❤️ Alma because of the lifelong friends and memories! And the way it feels like a family - anytime you meet anyone who went to Alma, it’s immediately a special bond! — Christine P.
I love Alma because I met my lovely wife and many lifelong friends there. — Justin B.
I ❤️ Alma because of the amazing friendships that are still thriving today and the awesome connection it builds between my mom and brother who also attended Alma. I can’t forget the Alma College Choir and how impactful Doc and those experiences have been to my life. — Samantha L.
I ❤️Alma because it allowed me to meet some of my best friends and forced me to become the best version of myself! I’m so thankful for the mentors and connections I made during my time there. Always proud to be a Scot! — Allyson C.
I ❤️ Alma because 30 yrs later, it still feels like home. I met incredible people and it prepared me for a career I love (teaching). — Tami O.
I ❤️ Alma because I was able to receive the best career preparation while making memories with life long friends and my now husband. I loved my time at Alma so much that I’ve taken every one of my cousins on a visit during their junior year. Now 2 of them have decided to attend Alma. Go Scots! — Ashley M.
I ❤️ Alma because of the wonderful connections both personally and professionally. — Missy R.
I ❤️ Alma because it taught me to how to think critically, learn, and lead in a spirit of empathy and service. — Amy P.
I ❤️ Alma because I received a high quality education that prepared me for my career while at the same time I meeting the most amazing friends and participating in opportunities not even on my radar when I applied to attend there. Doors opened up for me to expand my life experiences (sports, highland dance, campus job, etc) in a supportive environment. — Doreen L.
I ❤️ Alma because of the challenge it gave me academically and the lifetime friendships found there. — Anna W.
I ❤️ Alma because it opened my mind to new ways of thinking and opened my heart to life-long friendships! #plaidworks — Jessica K.
I ❤️ Alma because if the cadaver lab! — Bethany B.
I ❤️ Alma because it allowed me to learn crucial skills and take part in once in a life time experiences that I can use both professionally and personally. It also started a legacy of my siblings attending! — Kimber B.
I ❤️ Alma because my professors have gone above and beyond in preparing me to be a teacher that educates confident world-changers! — Katie R.
Everything Alma College will be celebrated on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at I ❤️ Alma Day. At this virtual event, alumni, parents and friends will join together to celebrate and advance Alma College.
Students in Lexi Smith’s fifth-grade class at Shepherd Elementary School were asked recently to write letters to their favorite colleges. Lexi didn’t necessarily expect to get a reply from the school that she wrote, but her mother, Leslie Hohlbein Smith ’03, knew she would.
Lexi sent a letter to Alma College. She said that her mother, who is now a teacher at Shepherd Middle School, played on the Scots’ softball team. Lexi said when she goes to college, she wants to play softball and basketball.
The Alma College Admissions and Athletics offices answered Lexi’s letter in a big way. They sent to her school a gift basket, filled with all kinds of Alma goodies, including a softball signed by members of the softball team and individual cards signed by members of the women’s basketball team. There was also an invitation from longtime Alma softball coach Denny Griffin for Lexi to be a bat girl at a home game.
“I honestly didn’t think she would take us up on it, but I’m so glad she did,” Griffin said. “When you put a smile on a kid’s face, everything is worth it, especially when you consider it’s such a simple gesture.”
Lexi served as a bat girl during the Scots’ home opener doubleheader against Manchester University, which were both 10-0 wins. Leslie Smith said the team rallied around Lexi before the game, talking to her and making her feel welcome. When Lexi got home from the game, her mother said, she kept talking about the team, long into the night.
“It was a really wonderful experience. I didn’t expect anything less from Alma College — they were great when I went there, and they are great today. I was really happy they were able to do that for her, and I hope we’re able to go to more games together as a family,” Leslie Smith said.
Time will tell if Lexi, 10, ends up taking the field at Scots Park as a softball player someday. For now, the family has a very happy memory of coming back to Alma College.