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Spring into green

(04/01/10 4:00am)

As spring has finally sprung, so has a brighter hue of green. Environmentally conscious students, staff and businesses united in the Student Union on Thursday as part of the Environmental Student Association's first Sustainability Bazaar. Twenty-five eco-friendly businesses in Western New York came to participate in the event to inform students about the green possibilities in life. Liz Alnutt, a junior biological science major and an intern for the Environmental SA, was in charge of coordinating the Sustainability Bazaar, which took a semester of planning to complete. By informing students about what they can do to help the environment, Alnutt is confident that the carbon footprint can be significantly reduced. "[The Environmental SA] wants UB to be more sustainable, meaning that we need to use resources that can be used again in 50 years," Alnutt said. A huge variety of businesses and organizations were represented, from wilderness preservation, like the Association for Wild Animal Rehabilitation and Education, to public transportation, such as Buffalo Care Share. "The main reason that we're doing this is two-fold: one is for helping UB students and the other is for the people of Buffalo and their environmental needs," said Chris Llop, director of the Environmental SA. Llop hopes that by garnering more student interest, both the administration and students will be better able to work in tandem and bigger strides can be made in the green movement. "It's one thing [for students] to push the administration to [go green], but if students aren't [doing it themselves], then it's kind of hypocritical," Llop said. "We want to teach [students] that they have the ability to make simple choices that will make things better." Students were shown that what they choose to eat could make an impact on the environment. Organic coffee was provided by CVS and a make-your-own granola station was set up for hungry passersby. Students also had the chance to learn about the critters that call wilderness their home. Owls, insects and reptiles were all in attendance and handlers were more than eager to talk about their injured pals. Judy Fisher, a distributor for Shaklee, an eco-conscious cleaning product company, was excited by the turnout of the event. "I always thought that college kids had no interest in [going] green at all," Fisher said. "But kids are actually reading the information and learning. This is a great event. I'll come back every year for as long as they have [the bazaar]." Marcy McMahon, a sophomore psychology major, believes that immersing students in a culture of green on campus with events like the Sustainability Bazaar will allow the movement to become more of a permanent reality. "When you're constantly bombarded with [the green movement], you start to think it's normal," McMahon said. Tierney McMahon, a freshman psychology major, has always tried to do her part in helping to save the environment. "I always try reusing things, like [not] buying new notebooks every semester," McMahon said. The Environmental SA is satisfied with the growing support that it has received in the past few months and is happy that several clubs have reached out, wanting to collaborate with the organization. One of the organization's goals is to make going green easier. The latest project the Environmental SA is working on is an electronic recycling drive where students can bring in their old cell phones, computers and other devices to be recycled. Alnutt believes that it is the responsibility of younger people to get involved now so that the earth will be a safer place for others in the future. "We're a campus of 30,000 students – pretty soon, we're going to be making the decisions that older people are making for us, so it's important to be informed," Alnutt said. E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com


Growing green

(03/18/10 4:00am)

Katie Ingraham wants to save the planet by planting a garden. Ingraham, the complex director of Creekside Village, has submitted a proposal to the Pepsi Refresh Project to create a community garden in the complex. She hopes to use the garden to educate students about environmental issues and self-sustainability. The Pepsi Refresh Project rewards innovative thinkers who want to make a difference in the world. Pepsi will reward $50,000 to the 10 project ideas with the most votes. Ingraham's proposal includes the creation of two sections within the garden — one for the residents of Creekside and another for partnered groups such as UB Green, UB Environmental Task Force and Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo. Students will be given their own plots of land that they will be responsible for weeding and watering. Educational programming and composting will also be available in the garden. Ingraham is confident that her proposal will help further UB's green initiative and inspire students to lead greener lifestyles. "Providing a community garden will open a door for our students to grow their own vegetables as well as learn valuable lessons on sustainability and green gardening that they will be able to take from here and incorporate in their lives wherever they go," Ingraham said. According to Ingraham, Creekside Village was one of the first complexes in the SUNY system to include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings. From the light bulbs to the tabletops to the recycled carpet and the refurbished furniture, everything inside and outside of the building is green. "A lot of people don't know about [the complex] because of its hidden location," Ingraham said. "Creekside is still a relatively new community, and this project could help it [to become] better known." Ingraham has noticed a trend in university gardens across the country. Many campuses are beginning to recognize how beneficial gardens are to the supplementation of food service programs. "If [campuses] have the space to do it, they should use it," Ingraham said. "It's cost-effective to grow your own [food]." When Mike Yates, the assistant complex director, was approached with the idea, he jumped on board immediately and helped generate excitement because he knew it would greatly add to an already eco-conscious campus. "Residents have approached us and are showing interest in this," Yates said. "What we're doing is extremely unique." The complex directors would be extremely grateful if the garden proposal won in the Pepsi Refresh Project contest, but they are going to continue developing the idea regardless of whether or not Pepsi awards funding. "We decided to give [the contest] a shot, but if it doesn't work out, we're still going to put in a continued effort," Yates said. Ingraham sees the potential in UB to expand its green initiative and to become an even bigger leader in the movement. "There's a lot of good that's happening now with what UB Green is doing in terms of creating a greener campus, and I hope our garden [can] be another small step in furthering that initiative," Ingraham said. The winners of the Pepsi Refresh grant are determined by votes received at www.pepsirefresh.com. The voting ends March 31. E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com




Being bi in America

(02/26/10 5:00am)

Yep, I'm bi. Bilingual, I mean. Well, technically. My enthusiasm for learning a foreign language quickly fizzled after high school. I took five years of Spanish in high school and one semester in college, and that is about as far as I have gotten. Some high schools have actually dropped their foreign language requirements for graduation and others are maintaining them, but students often lose interest in continuing their foreign language education after those requirements have been met, just as I had. Columnist and author Susan Jacoby calls us a 'Know-As-Little-As-You Can-Get-Away-With' Nation. According to Jacoby, 'Only 9 percent of Americans, compared with 44 percent of Europeans, speak a foreign language. The Web has only reinforced the smug American conviction that everyone worth talking to in the world speaks English.' It does seem like most of us are simply satisfied with knowing enough to get by, but I think some schools are trying to make an effort to change this, and they're doing it in a novel way. The New York Times recently published an article on the rise of Chinese language instruction in American schools. U.S. schools are implementing new foreign language programs with the help of the Chinese government, which sends instructors to countries all over the world and pays for part of their salaries. Approximately 27,500 middle and high schools in the U.S. offer at least one foreign language, and of these, 1,600 are now teaching Chinese. The number of elementary school students learning Mandarin has also increased. Now I really feel like a slacker. Little kids will soon be able to make business deals with the Chinese, and I can't even say a sentence in Spanish without second guessing myself first. Jumping from high school level to college level was a large leap for me. I lost confidence in my ability to comprehend the material, and I got frustrated with the fact that I wasn't catching on as quickly as I hoped. I convinced myself that being proficient in Spanish, rather than fluent, was still an accomplishment, yet I still don't identify myself as being bilingual, because I could never really hold up my end of a conversation with a native-Spanish speaker. So I suppose I'm still confused. Sometimes I wish that the importance of learning another language was instilled in me when I was younger. If I was taught a foreign language in elementary school over a consistent period of time, I think that interest would have stuck with me throughout my entire schooling career. That natural curiosity that most children develop so early in life is what motivates them to seek further knowledge when they are older. And this knowledge doesn't have to be sought only in a classroom. There are books, programs, and resources that are available to those who are willing to learn another tongue on their own. We talk so much about the value of English, but Americans often fail to see the importance of learning another language other than their own. It takes patience, but the rewards are well worth it. So many more doors will open for those who do stick with the process. Spanish is the number one minority language in the U.S. and Mandarin can give students an edge in business and government. Besides that, learning a language just makes you more culturally aware. It feeds the intellectual soul. Although I'm not a kid anymore, I'm starting to realize that it's never too late to learn something new. Thinking about the possibilities overwhelms me. There are so many unique languages I would love to learn—Italian, Latin, Russian, German, and even American Sign Language. But for right now, I might just start by revisiting some of my old Spanish textbooks and brushing up a bit on that before I decide to take on the world. E-mail: jessica.brant@ubspectrum.com


Searching for native pride

(02/24/10 5:00am)

When Charles Bonham received a frantic e-mail from the Native American People's Alliance listserv stating the possible end to the organization at UB, he felt compelled to reach out to the club for the first time. 'When I was informed that the NAPA was dissolving, I was at first deeply saddened,' said Bonham, a freshman undecided major. 'Here was an organization that sought to reach out to a community that, in my experience, often needed a unifying force to truly be recognized.' Kristie Martin, the president of NAPA, sent that frantic but heartfelt e-mail to the 100 or so Native American students who were placed on the listserv. 'NAPA has been around since 1970 and used to be a really prosperous club with many community ties and a large influence on campus,' Martin said. 'I've tried really, really hard to spread cultural awareness about Native Americans and open membership to everyone … but I'm at a loss.' Garnering interest among the native and non-native community has been difficult for Martin. There are many misperceptions that exist about Native Americans and Martin has been exposed to such stereotypes while attending UB. 'A guy once [asked] me, ‘You guys actually exist?' Martin said. 'A lot of people think that we are cartoon characters. It makes me feel fictionalized.' Kristie's desperate cry to the small Native American population on campus was also heard by Steve Demchak, a graduate student in the department of American Studies. He, too, can identify with Kristie's struggle to keep her organization alive, as he is facing a similar struggle for survival. Demchak has worked with NAPA for the past two years and took on the endeavor of forming a Native American Graduate Student Association, which was recognized by the Student Association this past November. The process involved a lot of patience and relentless searching, according to Demchak. 'Getting any Native student to come together in some united form here at UB has been like pulling teeth,' Demchak said. 'I'm Navajo enrolled, and I had to chase down Native grad students and others to get our paperwork in to get recognized by the GSA.' According to Martin, the university's effort to recruit Native American students has been minimal and the overall lack of outreach to the Native American community has been disappointing. '[Our club] doesn't have the numbers that clubs like the Latin American Student Association or the Black Student Association have,' Martin said. 'It's tough trying to get those numbers.' Martin is a Daniel Acker Scholar, the only merit-based scholarship program at UB that gives special consideration to underrepresented minority students. Martin believes that if more incentives like this were offered, especially to those students who live on reservations, the university could attract more Native American students. 'Syracuse University offers full scholarships and free housing and Cornell and Potsdam also have large Native American communities,' Martin said. 'The belief is that most Native Americans don't attend college, and [NAPA] wants to dispel that.' According to Donald Grinde, chair of the American Studies program and a specialist in Native American research, UB cannot compete with private universities like Syracuse in the aggressive recruitment race because of the school's state status. Grinde, however, agrees that the university could do more to make UB welcoming to Native American students. 'UB could do more to make the university a better place for these students in terms of a more diverse curriculum, a better campus climate, and more programs,' said Grinde. Martin plans on working hard to spread awareness about NAPA and Native American culture. She has several events planned, such as panel discussions, social dances and cultural cooking lessons. Additionally, for the first time this year, her organization will hold a welcoming celebration for accepted Native American students in the fall. 'I don't want NAPA to dissolve while I'm in presidency,' Martin said. 'I want this club to succeed.' E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com


Bundling up for Winterfest

(02/19/10 5:00am)

Student Affairs, Student Athletics and the Undergraduate Student Association will host the first Winterfest on Friday and Saturday. The two day long winter festival is the first of its kind at the University at Buffalo and will feature several events and competitions for students to contend in. 'As a community, there really isn't much to do outside in the cold unless you ski, and people here look forward to the spring so much because they get sick of the long Buffalo winter weather,' said Tom Tiberi, senior assistant director for University Residence Halls & Apartments. 'This is something fun for students to get involved with and they can go outside and actually enjoy winter.' Opening ceremonies will begin on Friday and will follow with igloo and snowman-making competitions at Student Park behind Lake La Salle parking lot. On Saturday, participants will compete in broomball, human dog-sled races, snowshoeing and Olympic-style events such as curling and ice-skating on Lake La Salle. 'We really wanted to utilize the lake [because] it's a resource [UB] hasn't tapped into for a very long time,' Tiberi said. Teams will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals in true Olympic fashion at an elaborate awards ceremony. First place winners for each event will receive passes to Colden Tubing, Co., a downhill tubing park located next to Kissing Bridge. Students can form teams to participate in more recreational activities such as polar bear kick ball and enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride throughout the festival as well. Refreshments and food will also be available. Tamika Wilson, a senior occupational therapy major, has already registered and is looking forward to competing in broomball and the snowman-building contest. 'We have Fallfest and Springfest, why not celebrate winter?' said Wilson. Karen Rochford, assistant director of Marketing and Sports Clubs for Recreational and Intramural Services, is especially excited for broomball, a game similar to ice hockey in which two teams of six use brooms to push a puck or ball on the ice. Rochford finds it interesting that many students she works with on campus have never heard of the game before. 'Where I went to school [at SUNY Brockport], broomball was huge. We had intramural leagues and played all the time,' said Rochford. '[My friends and I] are pretty excited that it's being brought to UB for a weekend.' Because the Winter Olympics kicked off this week, Rochford believes that Winterfest could not have come at a better time. '[Winterfest] has the potential to become something huge, like a UB-Olympic type event, where Greek life and other clubs could compete, extending over a week instead of just two days,' Rochford said. Tiberi is also optimistic for the future of the event. 'This is just the first year, so we're just seeing how much interest we can get,' Tiberi said. 'But I wouldn't be surprised if it grew into something bigger.' Students do not have to live on campus to participate and can register as individuals or with teams. All registrants will also receive a free fleece cap. All interested participants can register online now at http://www.housing.buffalo.edu/winterfest. E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com




Home is where the heart is

(02/01/10 5:00am)

Every fall semester, an incoming class of freshmen embarks on a journey called 'college,' although not every path is the same. Some students decide to live on campus, while others decide to commute to school. As a senior in high school trying to figure out where she would go, Samantha Kovler, now a sophomore communication major, always had the desire to dorm and looked forward to having a home away from home. 'I wasn't sure where exactly I wanted to go [to school]. I didn't feel like I should stay at home and commute to school, although my mom suggested me staying on Long Island,' said Kovler. 'I wanted that going away experience, where I would live on my own in a dorm, meeting tons of different people.' Kovler's curiosity and desire for independence led her to the University at Buffalo, where she was placed in Governors's Lehman Hall her freshman year, despite the fact that it is not a freshman dorm. Nevertheless, Kovler was satisfied with her new living quarters. 'I liked the setup of Governors. Each suite had its own lounge, which was useful for gatherings with people and especially for studying,' Kovler said. Kovler now lives in Ellicott, which she likes just as much. While Kovler was packing her suitcases and beginning her journey to Buffalo, Jessica Conboy, a sophomore French major, was doing the same. After going away to school for a semester, Conboy had a change of heart. 'I switched and just decided to stay at home,' said Conboy. 'I think dorming is fine if you're far from home, but I chose to commute because it's not far from my house and it saves me a lot of money.' Conboy believes that commuting is an attractive option for those who do not mind living with their parents. She enjoys the perks like free laundry service, home cooked meals, privacy and little distraction. However, Conboy considers parking to be a hassle, as do many other UB commuters. 'Parking is ridiculous. You have to get here early and fight for parking spots unless you have a really early or really late class,' Conboy said. Conboy does not feel like she is missing out on any college experiences by commuting. She believes if a student truly wants to get involved on campus and meet people, they will, regardless of living quarters. One of the most important factors in determining whether she would dorm or commute, Conboy says, was money. 'I've talked to my parents about this before and I'm pretty sure that I save about $10,000 a year by living at home, which is completely insane and makes me really glad that I'm at home … since I pay for my schooling, that's less loans to pay back,' Conboy said. Conboy and her parents are correct in their approximations. According to the UB Web site, room and board averages around $10,092 a year. Mark Johnson, a junior business major, also commutes because he thinks it is the smarter financial decision. However, he believes finding and making friends is a difficult task. 'As a commuter, you miss out on a lot of girls and miss out on meeting people on your floor. I'd have more friends if I lived on campus. It's easier to meet people when you dorm,' said Johnson. For some students, the hefty price of freedom is difficult to afford. Jessica Orchard, a sophomore communication major, became a residence hall advisor to help relieve the cost of room and board. 'I'm paying for school on my own and have taken out the maximum amount of loans possible because I cannot fund my schooling out of pocket right now,' said Orchard. 'Dorming is nice, but now that I think back, if I could have the choice, I'd still be living at home and saving my money.' The decision of whether to room on campus or remain at home is an important one. At UB, both options have their share of merit, and in the end, it is up to the individual student to choose the environment most suitable for him or her. E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com



Helping Haiti

(01/20/10 5:00am)

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that recently hit Haiti was felt well beyond the Caribbean country's borders, shaking the hearts of those who wanted to help in any way they could. When the members of Caribbean Student Association heard the news, they knew they needed to jump into action by holding a clothing drive. 'My reaction [to the earthquake] was shocking, just because it was two countries,' said Jay Stevens, a senior management major and President of the Caribbean Student Association. 'Haiti is already a poor country, and for this to happen to them, it's just devastating… words can't explain it.' The Caribbean SA is accepting anything and everything that will aid the quake-stricken country. Water, food, clothing and blankets will all be collected Wednesday in the Student Union lobby from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m., or they can be dropped off at the Caribbean SA office, located in 307 Student Union. Stevens said that they're giving all the donated items to the Red Cross of WNY, but also wanted to donate to an organization in the Dominican Rebublic as well. Like many people in the U.S., Jonathan Joseph, a senior legal studies major, has family connections to Haiti and is concerned with the status of the country and it's citizens. 'A lot of homes were lost and ruined… I know my uncle owned personal property there and it was destroyed,' Joseph said. 'When I first heard about [the earthquake], I thought it was tragic. My family is devastated too. That is where they were born and raised… They have relatives out there that they could not reach.' The unexpected natural disaster has deeply impacted Joseph and his family, and the uncertainty he sees in their eyes is a haunting image that has stayed with him since news of the earthquake. 'My father has a really good friend that recently just went over there, and he hasn't heard from him yet. He's been trying to get into contact with him,' Joseph said. In addition to a clothing drive, the Caribbean SA is working to set up a larger fundraiser, like an ice-skating event, to help the victims of the earthquake. They encourage other clubs and campus organizations to join in on their effort. While Joseph and others were grieving, others had no idea what had happened in the Caribbean country. Some students did not know about the earthquake in Haiti until it was discussed in one of their classes, like Carla Schory, a freshman business major. 'I didn't really know where Haiti was or what happened there until my teacher talked about it,' Schory said. 'And my English teacher mentioned it too. He told us we needed to go online and research [the earthquake], so I did.' After hearing around campus that more and more organizations are getting involved with helping Haiti, Schory feels like she needs to do her part as well. 'I can't even fit all my clothes in my bins in my dorms, so I have stuff to get rid of,' Schory said. 'I'll definitely donate. I really want to help.' E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com