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April 2016

My Study Abroad Experience: The Dominican Republic

12219510_890565517700906_6255608414153645308_nToday’s blog post comes to us from Ellen Emeric, a junior majoring in sociology. Ellen was recently awarded an NSF/REU Summer Fellowship on “Investigating Social Disparity and Social Vulnerability,” in the Department of Sociology and Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning at Texas A&M University. 

In the Fall of 2015, I spent my semester in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. I knew I was going there to study, but I didn’t anticipate that the experience would help me to grow as a person as much as it did. My city of Santiago was home to about 500,000 people, comparable to the size of Tulsa, and I stayed with a host family who lived 20 minutes walking distance from the university I attended, nicknamed Pucamaima.

I took a full schedule of courses, all but one of which were in Spanish. I had the opportunity to explore specialized topics, such as feminism in the Caribbean region and Dominican forms of dance. One of my favorite classes covered the history and status of Dominican-Haitian relations as a result of a thirty-year anti-Haitian dictatorship in the Dominican Republic during the late 1900s. This course actually had zero Dominican students in it; it was all exchange students from Haiti. As an international student, opportunities like that gave me the chance to engage with different kinds of people, and understand differing perspectives on economic and social issues that seem outwardly objective.

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Hiking the hills of the Eastern Pennisula

In addition to the incredible experiences I had on campus, I learned many things from my host family, and not just about language and culture. My host mom taught me so much about life, faith, and strength. She is a dentist who owns and manages her own clinic in the metropolitan area and is a single mother of four equally successful young adults. When life became difficult or overwhelming, she was there to brighten my day, provide encouragement and give me a hug. From my host mom, I learned how to make tostones (fried green plantains), how to make curtains, and how to belly dance. Some days, our ordinary interactions were what made me feel the most at home in this new place.

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Ruins of a 13th century sugar mill

Personally, I did a lot of growing. I took a course on intercultural communication and learned about sources of conflict (and cooperation) between different populations. Through overcoming the language barrier, I conquered a large portion of my fear of embarrassment; my vulnerability in unfamiliar situations brought out a confidence I never knew I had. I grew in tolerance and acceptance of others, and taking a step back from my own culture taught me that a global perspective is equally as important at home and abroad.

Historic monument to the Revolution Heroes, a short walk from my neighborhood.
Historic monument to the Revolution Heroes, a short walk from my neighborhood.

No essay or article can accurately capture the fullness of my experience in Santiago. Public cars, traffic jams, endless bus rides, service trips, empanadas, mosquitoes, merengue, rice, avocado, language mistakes, and an infinite amount of flexibility are just a few of the things that could characterize my trip. More importantly, however, I left more of my heart in the Dominican than I ever anticipated I would. My time there was challenging, but most certainly unforgettable. I wouldn’t want to have had it any other way.

My Favorite Professor – Bill Hinkle

IMG_5118Today’s blog comes to us from Katie S., a junior Communication major from Des Moines, Iowa.

Bill Hinkle is an adjunct professor of advertising in TU’s Communication department. Adjunct means that he is a part-time professor who has a full-time job working in the Tulsa community. He takes time out of his work and life to share his extensive knowledge of the advertising industry with us, his students.

This is Hinkle’s 22nd year teaching at The University of Tulsa. He now teaches Principles of Advertising, Media and Concept Strategies, and advises the annual National Student Advertising Competition. But he started in 1994 teaching just one class.

He described his first ever class to me. He came without a syllabus or book and planned to just wing it for the whole two hours and 45 minutes. He said, “I’m standing on the third floor of Oliphant in this giant room with 42 students. There are 84 eyes staring holes through my forehead, waiting for me to tell them something they haven’t heard before. So it’s six o’clock and I talk for a few minutes and I’m not making any sense, so I decide to call roll.” He continues, “Well that took about five minutes and then I talk some more. I talk and talk and talk and I think that about nine days have gone by, but I look at my watch and it’s only 6:15. I talk some more, and when I check again it’s only 6:25. So I said, “Okay, well that’s it for today and we’ll see you next week!” I got home and walked through the door and my wife looked at me and said, “It’s 20 minutes until seven! What are you doing home?” I told her, “I just told them everything that I know about the advertising industry in 20 minutes!”

News-Hinkle-MACHinkle spent the next week putting together a lesson plan and luckily, he had much more than he realized at the time to share about advertising. He spent the following years perfecting his lectures and projects. He worked in both the college of Arts & Sciences and the Business College. He set out to create a program that truly offered integrated marketing communication, everything from advertising, to public relations, to broadcast production, to graphic design. In other words, all of the vital parts that make up an agency. About seven years ago, he finally saw his goals realized.

He called it the TU Ad Program.

This program was created, in large part, due to the aspirations and hard work of Bill Hinkle. Little by little, it has added more professors, students and special topics. The program encourages applicable knowledge and experiences that are realistic and can help build our portfolios. Many of the professors in the Ad Program are adjuncts, which means they have clients and connections in the Tulsa community and beyond. Our adjunct professors, and especially Hinkle, are the first to make a call for the students that work hard and show great passion.

When asked his favorite thing about teaching, Hinkle’s response is instant and automatic: “the students.”

“I love being around people like you. It keeps me young[er]. I learn just as much as you all do, maybe even more. I love to see the lights come on. Like in that very first Principles class, you have people that don’t even want to stand up and say their names, and now, they are doing amazing things! That’s the fun. I also like the camaraderie. I like the social engagement. And above all, I like to see students move on and do well, whether they go into advertising or not.”

Bill Hinkle is the best advocate for students that I know. He devotes an inordinate amount of time, money, and effort ensuring that his students are successful both in and out of the classroom. He encourages passion, personality, and boldness. In his classes, we are allowed to be daring and bold. He also lets us know that sometimes, our bold ideas will fail. This does not mean that we fail. It is simply an opportunity to try again.

Fall In Love With Greek Life

IMG_1147Today’s blog is from Brittany James, a junior Mechanical Engineering major from Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Greek Life is love, encouragement, confidence, silliness, a community, an opportunity, a lifetime of truth and loyalty, and a support system. Greek Life is my life. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, most people from my high school were surprised I not only went through recruitment, but that I stuck with it. And I haven’t just “stuck with it”; I’ve fallen in love with it. Just what is it that makes Greek life so special? What makes me want to put my letters on everything I own and throw what I know in every photo with pride? Why should you give sorority recruitment a shot?

Check out the flow chart for some of the more basic arguments, but if you really want to get to the heart of it, for me it really comes down to three things.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.05.40 PM
IMG_0610The first is the idea of being a part of something bigger than myself. My sorority history, ritual, and values transcend both time and distance. Through it, I have had the opportunity to meet sisters from across the United States and prove to myself that my sorority is more than a dot on the map in the middle of Oklahoma. One of my favorite sisters I’ve ever met is a 96-year old woman named Fio. Fio has been a Greek woman for 75 years. She is a major donor to my organization, and she still joins in the dance party when Katy Perry is singing.

Women like Fio remind me that being a Greek woman isn’t about me, myself and I. Instead, it’s about the girl scouts I mentor, the sisters I make smile on a bad day, the people I help in our community, and the national and local leaders that inspire me. I have no doubt that my sorority has given me the confidence, tools, and support needed to be a part of the small acts of change in the world for the better. The grand scale Greek life composes is extraordinary and has the power to do amazing things with such amazing women involved. To be counted among those women is both a blessing and a continuous inspiration.
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And although my little dot does extend beyond Tulsa’s boundaries, my sisters here are my support system, my encouragement base, and my best friends. They encourage me to do the things I never would have imagined myself capable of, and they don’t let me stop there.

From supporting me on our executive council as a freshman to pushing me to be President, they’ve helped me discover a lot about myself and changed the direction I want my life to go. They’ve also completely embraced all of my little quirks and obsessions. They fill my Facebook wall with cute corgi videos, banter about my baseball teams with me, and let me eat all the Mexican food I want.

The only thing they’ve put their foot down on is wearing socks with flip flops, but I suppose I can’t really blame them for that. And while those are the things I’m passionate about, my sisters have different likes and obsessions. There are those who can sing like Adele (I can’t even clap on a beat) and others are vegan (hello, have they heard of ice cream?). And while I don’t have those things in common with them, there’s more to us than our likes and our interests. Instead, it’s our values that unite us and bring us together. Be it as simple as sharing corgi videos or supporting me as President, there’s nothing quite like a sisterhood.
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Lastly, I sincerely believe that my involvement in Greek life makes me a better person everyday. I don’t think it’s changed me; I’m not a different person because of Greek life. But I am a better person because of it. I always said, “Oh no, Greek life isn’t for me.” But that’s what society was telling me, and, like usual, society had no idea what it was talking about. If I didn’t care about academic success, becoming a strong leader, and making friendships based on my values, then yes, Greek life wouldn’t have been for me. But I do care about those things. I care about them a lot, and Greek life helps them become a reality for me.
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I am a lot of things. I’m a girl. I’m an engineer. I’m a daughter, and a sister, and a granddaughter. I’m a community volunteer. I’m a Presidential Scholar. I’m a role model. I’m president of the engineering honor’s society on my campus. I’m a national leadership award recipient. I’m a corgi lover and a baseball fanatic. But above all, I am first and foremost a Greek woman in everything I do. So yes, I love wearing my letters and throwing what I know for artsy Instagram photos. But more than that, I love my sorority for the value it has added to my life. I would encourage anyone to take the chance and give sorority life a shot. Some may decide it really isn’t for them, and that’s completely okay. You will still have the opportunity to meet great girls and make friends through the process. But I would be willing to bet that the majority of people will surprise themselves and fall in love with it- just like I have.