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SOPA, College and the Future of Online Content

by Kara Coleman

The Web was abuzz last month with talk of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Most people were probably aware that sites like Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out in protest on January 18th but what is SOPA and why should it matter to the average American? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stop online piracy, right? It depends.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) authored SOPA and introduced it to the House in October 2011. (The bill’s complete title is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes” -H.R. 3261.) While protecting ideas that belong to the States from plagiarism by people outside the U.S. jurisdiction certainly sounds like a noble cause, dealing with the Web is a tricky demographic: If SOPA comes into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice will be able to seek court orders against sites generated in foreign countries that they believe are violating copyright laws and American sites would no longer even be allowed to conduct business with or be linked to these sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America is a proponent of the bill, citing protection of creative ideas. Other supporters of SOPA say that it will help the pharmaceutical industry in America by preventing counterfeit drugs from being shipped in inexpensively from other countries. Opponents of the bill fear that their First Amendment rights are being encroached upon, as user-generated sites would likely feel the biggest sting. If a small minority of users violated copyright laws, would sites like YouTube or Flickr be shut down for everyone?

Two days after the online blackout/protest, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) announced that the decision to consider SOPA was being postponed due to the negative response from the sites who protested and the citizens who supported them for doing so. Is this the last we will hear of SOPA or is it set to be an ongoing battle? And finally, how would SOPA affect college students? While most professors don’t consider Wikipedia to be a valid source of information to cite on a research paper, it does give students a good overview of a topic and provide valuable links to scholarly websites that would be good resources. Social networking sites could be affected, too...need I say more? SOPA is not just talk that will stay on Capitol Hill – it could potentially change the way Americans use (or don’t use) the Internet forever.

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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National History Day Contest

This SOTW is Accepting Entries Through April 1st

February 13, 2012

National History Day Contest

by Suada Kolovic

Each year more than half a million students - just like - you participate in the National History Day Contest. How can you get in on the action? Choose a historical topic related to the annual theme, and then conduct primary and secondary research. Look through libraries, archives and museums, conduct oral history interviews, and visit historic sites. After you've analyzed and interpreted your sources, and have drawn a conclusion about the significance of your topic, you will then be able to present your work in one of five ways: as a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary, or a web site.

The National History Day Contest is open to students in grades 6-12 in the junior (grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12) divisions. The projects relate to a specific historical topic or theme. There are seven categories, including individual papers, individual exhibits, group exhibits, individual performance, group performance, individual documentary, and group documentation. Within each category, the first place winner receives $1,000, the second place winner receives $500, and the third place winner receives $250. The national contest is held in June.

For more on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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How to Network Like a Professional

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the nice things about growing older and getting further along in your college career is that you start to network and make connections that will help outside of college. Throughout the academic year, universities hold networking events that allow current students to connect with alumni and professionals in different career fields but remember, these events are a privilege to attend and there is a proper way to act and present yourself.

Dress appropriately. You don’t want to show up to these functions in jeans and a t-shirt – dress in a business casual fashion instead. It’s not necessary to wear a suit or anything but you want to dress to impress so some nice slacks (or a skirt for women) with a button-down shirt or blouse will do the trick.

Don’t get drunk. A lot of these events serve alcohol, which can be nice and fun (if you are over 21!) but you shouldn’t take it too far. This is a business event with professors and professionals, not a Saturday night party with your friends; if you do decide to imbibe, limit yourself to just one or two glasses of wine.

Talk to everyone. The point of these functions is to network and meet people. Don’t stand in a corner or only talk with the people you came with – interact with everyone there! People expect you to come up to them at these events so don’t feel embarrassed or rude doing so. Universities organize these events for people to make connections and if you don’t do that by talking to every person you can, it will be a waste of time.

Like I said at the beginning, these events are a privilege to attend so follow these simple guidelines and you will take full advantage of these experiences...and maybe even a job!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Obama Grants NCLB Waivers to 10 States

by Alexis Mattera

When the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect 10 years ago, public schools across the country were tasked with developing assessments for students in certain grades in order to receive federal funding. A decade later, President Obama has waived these requirements for 10 states in exchange for new programs that will benefit both students and educators.

Though public schools in the states of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee will no longer have to meet the NCLB achievement standards, they will now be required to adhere to three specific reform criteria: standardizing curricula for specific classes, holding individual schools accountable for improving student performance (particularly for minority and disabled students) and establishing a system to evaluate teachers. The plans will vary from state to state based on individual needs – New Jersey, for example, must improve high schools with low graduation rates or face state action while Oklahoma will be monitoring school culture and attendance rates – something both Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan view as vital to future success; less than enthusiastic, however is Republican chairman of the House Committee on Education John Kline, who would have rather continued working within Congress until bipartisan support was achieved.

What do you think of the NCLB waivers? Was change necessary now or do you feel the administration could have taken more time to formulate a decision?


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Campus Vote Project to Help Students Overcome Voting Barriers

by Alexis Mattera

For many college students, this is the first year that they’ll be able to vote in a presidential election...but do they know exactly how, where, when, why and for whom to cast their votes? One advocacy organization hopes to eliminate all doubt and increase student voter turnout in November.

The Fair Elections Legal Network kicked off the Campus Vote Project yesterday at George Washington University's Law School with the hope of creating campus-wide policies and programs that would make voting more accessible for students. College students are often unaware of voter registration rules, polling locations and, for students attending college away from home, how to meet proof-of-residency requirements and obtain the proper identification but the Project’s advisory board is already discussing the creation of election-awareness campaigns, college-centric voting websites, on-campus polling stations and even rewards programs to entice more students to register and cast their votes. "We have to re-energize schools and get them to be creative," said Robert Newsome, director of outreach and state relations at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and a member of the advisory board. Newsome’s fellow advisory board member and president of the United States Student Association Victor Sánchez agreed, stating, "With help and guidance, there should be better ways to help go about increasing access to voter registration and increasing voters on campus."

Do you think the goals set forth by the Campus Vote Project will get more students to the polls?


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Simple Saving Solutions for Students

by Angela Andaloro

The last few weeks of the fall semester are a stressful time with finals, travel and the holidays to handle but you survived – congratulations! You may have made it into 2012 in one piece but your checking account may not be so lucky. The good news is that there are many ways for college students to save money and make living on a tight budget feel downright comfortable.

Discover discounts. You would be surprised at how many restaurants, clothing stores, hair salons and other businesses have special offers for students! Even some cell phone carriers offer student discounts, which is perfect for the college student who can’t live without his or her phone.

Plan ahead. Mapping out your week – specifically planning your meals – will help you save a lot of money: Stopping at convenience stores and fast food restaurants for snacks adds up fast!

Get a Student Advantage Card.. For $20 a year, the Student Advantage Card gets you extra discounts of up to 25% at a variety of retailers including textbook rental sites and movie theaters.

Enjoy student perks. You can often get free pens and USB drives from companies visiting campus for career fairs. Speaking of campus events, they are often stocked with free food and other swag – what’s better than getting to meet new people and grabbing a bite at no cost? If you can’t make it but still want to take advantage of gratis goods, grab your smartphone or comp to snatch up some samples of your favorite products from sites like SampleStuff.com.

Saving money in college is very important but we would also like to have money to do the things we want. These tips will get you on track to having a few extra bucks when you need them and learn valuable money management skills for your future.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Get a (Residential) Life with NACURH!

by Radha Jhatakia

Do you think your residence hall life is a little dull and in need of help...or so great that other schools could benefit from your programs? Either way, I have the perfect opportunity for you to let your voice be heard and maybe do some traveling. Ever heard of NACURH?

NACURH stands for the National Association of College and University Residence Halls and they are having a conference soon. At these conferences, you gain ideas to host different programs at your college, meet students from a wide array of schools and learn many new things. I personally haven’t been to a NACURH conference yet but I attended a PACURH (Pacific Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls) conference at Washington State University in Pullman this past November and it was an amazing experience!

How do you get involved? I applied in September (the only requirement is that you live in university housing) and was selected as a delegate for San Jose State University. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we had many meetings to guide us through the tasks we had to accomplish and along with learning about new programs, delegates have to submit program ideas of their own – what a great way for you to share your ideas! Also, you have to show your school spirit so if you are proud of the college you attend, you can represent with school gear, chants and different competitions that will gain your delegation some points! The program I created for PACURH helped celebrate multiculturalism and was selected as a top 10 program – I was even able to present my program at the conference twice!

You won’t get many opportunities like this to make a difference and learn something new while having the time of your life! If you’re interested in NACURH or one of its affiliates, ask your residence hall government how you can get involved and start making a difference in residential life on your campus and beyond today!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Minimesters Provide International Experience in Less Time

by Alexis Mattera

Spending a semester abroad may not be feasible for students with rigid major requirements or ones who are aiming to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible to save on tuition. Instead of having students miss out on what could be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, schools like the University of Maryland are offering truncated programs called minimesters to foster international travel.

This winter alone, UMD’s study abroad office offered 42 short-term programs to destinations including Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand with courses covering government and politics, art history, architecture, education, geography and more. These trips are usually about three weeks in length and students (including the article’s author, Elizabeth Roberts, who completed two minimesters to Chile and Brazil) have reported it’s plenty of time to immerse themselves in the culture without sacrificing school, work and other obligations back home. This time abroad even causes some students to alter their educational directions: One UMD senior's minimester in South Africa last winter sparked an interest in health issues and has since translated into an internship with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

Do you think a minimester is a good way to interact with the age of globalization without compromising progress toward graduation?


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Bilingual Benefits at Home and Abroad

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I live in Buenos Aires full time, I was a Spanish major in college and I’m about as obsessive about Latin pop music as any actual Latina I know so naturally, people laugh when I tell them I almost didn’t take AP Spanish my senior year of high school. Once upon a time, I thought foreign language classes were good for silly skits and fluffing up your college resume but looking back, I can honestly say that even if I had no idea at the time, my high school Spanish classes were probably the most important classes I took in those four years.

Most colleges require language classes to graduate and have varying levels of language requirements for different study abroad programs. The thing about really trying to learn that tricky foreign language is that it lets you become part of whatever culture you’re visiting, whether you flew to another continent or just visited a part of your own college city that you’d never been. Instead of being just a tourist, you can become an observer – an anthropologist of that new and exciting land – but if you don’t know the language (or your basic cultural history), that task becomes impossible and you’re just a tourist with a resident visa. Think about practicing your French in a New York Haitian neighborhood, your Cantonese in San Francisco Chinatown or your Arabic in Dearborn, Michigan. You don’t have to fly a thousand miles away to get out of your comfort zone or expand your horizons.

Now I’m not advocating walking into Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and expecting your six words of Spanish to make you a whole bunch of new friends. Just like when you’re a visitor in someone’s home, be polite and know that your presence can easily become a burden rather than a novelty. If you work at understanding the people around you, finding out about their lives and listening to their opinions and goals, your limited language skills might rapidly expand.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Passport to Practicality

Smith Workshops Move Beyond the Books, Into Real Life

February 7, 2012

Passport to Practicality

by Alexis Mattera

Adjusting to life in college can take some time but once you’ve mastered the campus layout, course catalog and dining options, will you be ready for the world beyond those hallowed halls? Many students are not but the skills taught in a pair of programs at Smith College could change that.

The women’s college in Northampton, Mass., launched two programs – “Passport to Life at Smith” and “Passport to Life After Smith” – to address what students need to succeed on and off campus and since their debut in 2010, hundreds of students at various stages in their college careers have signed up. From being more assertive in class and emailing professors appropriately to acing job interviews and changing tires (and looking cool in the process), the courses offer tips every student would find helpful, not just Smith’s female student population. “These are skills that any college student would benefit from,” said Jessica Bacal, director of Smith’s Center for Work and Life and the creator of the workshop series. “Just cause you’re a guy it doesn’t mean you’re going to go into a meeting and feel really comfortable giving your opinion even though it’s different from someone else’s opinion.”

If there are any Smithies in the audience, we’d love to hear your firsthand experiences with these programs. To everyone else, what do you think of colleges teaching courses that go beyond traditional classroom offerings? Would you take one or do you feel real-life experience is preparation enough?


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