November 27, 2011


Cross posted from Marathon B4 Mastectomy 

"It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life." -- Randy Pausch's Last Lecture

I believe in listening to what's being said inside of you. Working at a Quaker school taught me that. In Meeting for Worship, the practice is to enter into a simple gathering, sit silently, and open your heart and mind wide so that the message of God can be heard. When you feel God's love and it moves you to speak, you stand up and share the message with others. No altar. No fancy chalice. No kneeling up and down. Just you, God, and silence.

For the lifelong Catholic in me, this was tough. In the early years of attending Meeting for Worship, I felt completely uncomfortable. I didn't understand how a religious service  -- a religious experience -- was possible if there wasn't someone of authority to interpret the message for me.

Every few Sundays, my husband and I would drive out to Queens to visit his family. His father is a Pastor of a charismatic Christian church. Live, upbeat music, clapping, "Amens" and "Yes Jesus!" filled the room during the songs, during the sermon, and long after the 2 1/2 hour service was done. People danced in the aisles, spoke in tongues, and turned to their neighbors to tell them "God loves you, and God is good all the time!" There was nothing this Catholic girl wanted more than for a little silence and a whole lot of structure. I didn't understand how it was possible that a religious service -- a religious experience --  was possible of everyone in the seats was involved in the service.

Though both places of worship seem so different, they share this foundation of God's message:

Listen. Feel. Believe. Be present.

Though some of you might find this hard to believe, for most of my life, I beat up my body and mind. Not thin enough. Thighs too fat. Butt to big. Arms too wide. Skin too brown. Hair too straight. Hair too curly. Hair too black. Eyes too small. Stomach too jiggly. From my early teens until my mid-twenties, I battled troublesome eating issues.  A few years in there, those eating issues became best friends with alcohol dependency. More years of self-loathing. More years of never feeling good enough. More years of trying to be better, live better, treat myself better.

I have finally begun to come to terms with the truth that years of believing I was worthless, ugly, not good enough, not smart enough, and not pretty enough are not going to be solved with a few sessions with a nutritionist and a few weeks in a gym. They won't even be solved with a few half marathons. Though my life events have helped me to leave most of that negativity behind, I still carry a small knapsack of it with me.
For the past 18 months, I have been focusing on my body in a very different way. Rather than obsessing about how thin I wasn't getting from working out, I had to focus on how strong I was growing. In order to heal properly, I had to concentrate on how my muscles were changing. Just days after surgery, I remember sitting up in bed giving thanks for having built strong abdominal muscles that helped pull me out of bed.

Today, I marvel at my range of motion. I smile at my ability to do 2 push ups without my chest muscles violently convulsing when, just a few months ago, I couldn't even bear weight on my forearms. I smile when I realize I can reach up to the top of the refrigerator, when I surprise myself as I zip up my dress, and when I finish running 6.2 miles with relatively no pain in my shoulders. I laugh when I choose to eat carrots instead of the Milano cookies in the white roll-top bag, when I look forward to that first refreshing bite of a really good salad, and the idea that a cool glass of water is more appealing than a bubbly glass of Diet Coke. My attitude towards food -- towards my body -- has changed. It's how I now live my life.

Though having the mastectomy quite possibly saved my life from cancer, it actually saved me from myself. After Joli got sick, I appreciated the value of life, love, and joy beyond material possessions. After my mastectomy, I appreciated ME. I began to love myself. I began to see myself as worthy of care, of compassion, and of beauty.

I am beginning to Listen to the positive messages and redefine the negative ones. I am beginning to Feel the change in my physical body and change in my emotions. I am beginning to Believe in myself. And, I am learning to Be present.

As I sat quietly at the dining room table tonight, I thought of a video that was circulated a few years ago that I never watched. It was of the Carnegie Mellon professor who delivered his "Last Lecture." I'm not sure what was prompting me to watch it, but I have learned to just go with what my heart is telling me to do.

I decided to just watch the 3 minute version (as opposed to the whole 76 minute lecture), and heard the line I was meant to hear:
If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. Your dreams will come to you.
I never imagined taking away my breasts would actually give me my life back. My life was meant to do this, it was meant to move in this direction; and so far, my dreams of feeling more like the Me I was meant to be are beginning to take shape.

-- by Liza Talusan


The Black Athlete
Growing up in a predominantly Black neighborhood, playing sports was an expected way of life for me. In fact, as a Black male your athletic prowess in any sport afforded you a sense of pride and superiority to those who did not possess the same ability. Conversely, to be Black and possess no athletic ability was frowned upon. Expressions such as “soft,” “chump,” or even “White boy” were often used to characterize “non-athletes” throughout every recreational park, gymnasium, and court I found myself in. Countless images in the media portray Black people as “physical specimens;” perpetuating the stereotype that athleticism is innate to and the standard for all members of that racial background. In watching any NBA game, it is never hard to notice the fact that the majority of the athletes are Black, while the coaches, owners, and spectators are White. Many young African-Americans have been socialized to idolize professional athletes rather than teachers, doctors, or business owners. Young African-American men are continuously lured into a culture that devalues education and overemphasizes the desire to live irresponsibly.
I acknowledge that a system which marginalizes the Black athlete and African-American culture is deeply embedded in our society. However, education is the key to disrupting it. A person can be an athlete and still be a responsible and meaningful contributor to society. As the saying goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” In recognizing their status as role-models, many athletes lead healthy lifestyles that can and should be acknowledged. Though the media often attempts to portray something otherwise, the overwhelming majority of athletes have minimal involvement in alcohol and drug use, minimal involvement in violent and criminal related incidents, have obtained some level of college level credit, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and are actively engaged in their respective communities. In addition, athletes possess and demonstrate great character building traits such as teamwork, persistence, passion, hard-work, determination, and discipline among others.

I believe that we as a society should not condemn our Black students who aspire to be the next Lebron James. Instead, we should continue to encourage and expose them to more holistic images of the Black athlete as well as other Black professionals, scholars, and academics. 

--By Randall Phyall

November 8, 2011


Out of my comfort zone.

I am a Latina.

And, as I joined 9 Asian American Stonehill women at the Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence (ASPIRE) 7th annual Asian American Women in Leadership Conference hosted at Simmons College, I really knew I was Latina. Just looking around the room, I am quite certain I was the only Latina at the Conference. Which, this makes sense, right? After all, it was a conference for Asian American Women.

I was born and raised in a Spanish speaking household, where Spanish was my first language. I grew up helping prepare our signature dishes, pupusas and tamales, in the kitchen while listening to my aunts and uncles share stories of how life was so different in El Salvador.  My family’s cultural values, faith, and determination were shared with me from a very young age. The schools I attended growing up in this country were racially and ethnically diverse. The members of my church represented the diversity of Latin America. Walking through my neighborhood, I knew I would pass people who looked like me and spoke my language. The city of Bridgeport, CT was my comfort zone. I knew I would see myself represented in my community.

But, so much of what I tell my students is to "live outside of your own comfort zone." Get out there. Get involved. Get engaged. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Though I am one of only a few women of color on this campus (and hence, already out of my own comfort zone), it was important to my growth and development to go to a conference -- as a Latina -- for Asian American women. 

This Asian American Women in Leadership Conference “aims to promote strategic dialogue on the importance of leadership for Asian American girls and women. Specifically, the conference is designed to explore the role of leaders and leadership in a context relevant to Asian American women, highlight the effectiveness of diverse leadership skills and styles, create cross-generational networks among attendees that will extend discussions and relationships beyond the scope of the conference, and raise awareness about ASPIRE, its mission and value to Asian American girls and women (”

I must admit at first I was extremely nervous to attend the conference as a Latina. Attending this conference definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone because I knew I would be in a room of women who neither shared my language or looked like me.  

This opportunity to step out of my comfort zone was perhaps one of the best experiences of my life. By stepping out, I encountered a different world -- one in which I found a lot of similarities.  I was exposed to the experiences of individuals  as they gave voice to their stories of growing up, as college students, as professionals, and as leaders.  Though we looked quite different on the outside, the truth was that we shared many of the same struggles, stories, and experiences as women of color. And, when we didn't share similarities, it was important for me to listen and be an ally in the conversation.

Once the conference had come to an end, I walked away with new found knowledge, new connections, and a new sense of inspiration. It was amazing to look out to the audience and see women from different ages, cultures, and walks of life united with the purpose of learning from each other. Throughout the day I was able to learn about other Asian American women, the Stonehill students that joined us, and myself. I learned, firsthand, the benefits of stepping out my comfort zone. 

"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand." -- Chinese proverb

November 1, 2011


Diversity Task Force
October 31, 2011
2:30 pm

In attendance: Maryanne, Steve, Anne, Liza, Dan, Craig, Michelle, Laura,
Presenters: Brian and Claus 3 students

  • Progress Reports and Summaries are due to Liza
  • Aggressive December deadline in order to meet our timeline
  • Student Affairs Update will be sent via email by Liza
  • Curriculum Subcommittee
    • Anne met with Katie Conboy about the faculty task force about inclusion in the classroom. Provost Conboy shared insights and resources with Anne.
  • Student subcommittee
    • SGA Diversity Committee developed the "I am not a bystander" pledge. This will be shared and discussed tomorrow at the Town Hall. Faculty and staff are invited to sign the pledge as well.
  • Enrollment Subcommitee
    • Dan will share some admissions information at the Town Hall in order to dispel the myth about the alleged disparity between ALANA and non-ALANA students academic performance. The facts state that both student populations have relatively the same academic profile.
Brian and Claus Presentation
  • The approach to this model includes: Develop, Test, and Implement
  • It begins with cause and effect belief antecedents and developing a cause and effect model.
  • This Diversity Task Force has identified the following two outcomes:
    • Enhance students appreciation for the diversity of persons and cultures 
    • Equip students with the skills that they need to to engage and contribute to a diverse world
  • A model will be developed model that will then be presented to the committee to then test using surveys, field experiments, interviews, and objective data.
  • The lenses that will be used in this model are:
    • Demographics
    • Students are students (what are the drivers for people?)
    • Cosmopolitan (After reading a number of articles that discuss what the diversity drivers are, they have come to the conclusion that overtime approaches that single out ALANA populations has not yielded desirable outcomes.
      • As a committee we need to identify what kind of diversity do we want. As a Catholic college we respect human dignity, therefore we should value diversity. We need to work towards the creation of a culture that embraces diversity. 
  • Timeline
    • Path modeling session can be held in December
      • Process: Identify outcomes and facilitate session with stakeholders. At this meeting eveyrone will engage in a monitored brain-writing process.
    • Testing can begin during the Spring 2012 semester
·         Using this approach, the presenters will use the two goals that this taskforce identified, which inputs are infinite (increase number of diverse students, recruit diverse faculty and curriculum, increase opportunities for students to engage in diversity). The approach is to test what we think may work.
·         We need to identify abstract qualities to distinguish between concrete actions and the latent model where we want to understand and assess statistically. The idea of creating the  model is to get everyone on the same page in order to combine and organize the individual variables together to reach the goals set out by the committee.
o    After we identify the abstract variables/factors that we believe will be a cause to move forward, found in the strategic plan, the goal is to understand the latent model that drives towards diversity outcomes. How do we test each variable? Survey assessments, data, existing literature, field experiments, interviews, focus groups, and objective data. The process helps identify and take inventory of the strategic plan.
o    There are factors that we are unsure of which comes first, the testing provides the context for what steps to take.
o    We have all identified topics that are important (student retention, faculty recruitment, curriculum, and etc.). The question at hand is whether our focus is only a small percentage of the story? Are there other factors that will make the impact we are seeking? This process will provide a method and structure to determine what variables and factors are needed and most beneficial, allowing us to sequence the KPI’s already established in the Strategic Plan.
·         Conclusions
o    There are many great ideas based on intuition, however, if we introduce evidence and data into selecting the ideas that will provide success, this will be more beneficial. By testing the different factors we can identify the ones that work best and prioritize them.  We know that the sequencing of things is important. For example, do we create a  diverse environment before and in order for diverse students to come or do we bring diverse students and with them then create a more diverse environment.
o    Next Steps:
§  Schedule a meeting with presenters and a small group of the committee to identify what are the areas of interest, review data and review information.
Schedule a time December to have a brainstorming meeting with the entire committee.