Statement of Purpose

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Alison Shuman Photography

As I begin my final semester at The University of Alabama I look forward to my nearing future with a hopeful heart and a handful of emotions. As a Type A personality I have become accustomed to having a plan for everything. However, writing a plan for my future in the workspace has proven to be quite a daunting task. I suppose this is because I am passionate about so many things that I can’t decide exactly what I want to do. As a result, this purpose statement might look a bit like the one from kindergarten when I said I wanted to be a doctor-princess-ballerina-singer/songwriter-astronaut-lawyer.

Upon my graduation in May of 2017, I hope to quench my desire for art and adventure by performing as a dancer for a major cruise line. I would thoroughly enjoy an Alaskan or Mediterranean cruise because of the grandeur of the scenery and vast difference from the Southern environment I have become used to.

After serving out my contract with a cruise line, I would pack my bags and move to New York City to become a Radio City Rockette and then a member of the New York Knicks Dance Team. I would then enjoy performing concert work with a contemporary ballet company either in the city or in Europe. In my free time, I would hope to work for a boutique public relations firm or for a small company. I enjoy smaller work environments because this promotes the fostering of meaningful relationships and individual career growth. It also gives a lot of variety to your work because one person is hired to perform multiple tasks.

When a few years have passed in The Big Apple or abroad, I will pack my bags once more to settle down in a suburb outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The Magic City is growing and I want to be a part of its springboard into an urban mecca of the South by engaging with the brand stories of local businesses. I want to marry my best friend and eventually get a #1 Mom coffee mug that I carry to my job as a local talk show host or public relations practitioner at my own public relations agency. I want to strive for a job where I feel that I am serving others from my own family to an entire community.

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“Try-Hard, Workaholic, Control Freak”

My mom was head mother of the PTA, which meant she planned all of our classroom parties in elementary school. At the 2nd grade Christmas party, I remember like yesterday the peanut butter and jelly reindeer sandwiches that were cut like triangles with half pretzels stuck in the sides like antlers and little red m&m’s on the noses and blue or green or brown ones on the eyes. We had green squiggly straws to slurp our red Kool-aid from the festive red cups printed with a snowflake pattern to match the plates. We played “reindeer games” that kept our easily amused second grade hearts laughing for days. We wrapped each other up in wrapping paper, went caroling door to door at other classrooms, and my personal favorite the jingle jam where we tied an empty Kleenex box that we filled with jingle bells around our waist and tried to shake them out without using our hands.

That day brought me, as well as the rest of my second grade class so much joy and I guarantee I’m not the only one that still remembers how much fun we had. However, after that day, my mom became known among the network of moms in my small town as a “try-hard.” The other moms rolled their eyes and said she “always over did it.”

They asked why she spent so much time working on this Christmas party… No, my mom was not hired as a professional party planner for the 2nd grade class so why did she work so hard on it? Before Pinterest, coming up with ideas like that were hard y’all! She did her job as head PTA mother. My mom gave her daughter’s 2nd grade class the best Christmas party our elementary school had ever seen. She did her job well.

Obviously, you can see how this is a big problem… Why do we, as a society, tear down our high achievers? Why do we laugh off our hard workers? Why do we all too often mislabel them as “overly Type-A,” “teacher’s pets” “brown-nosers,” “control freaks” “goody-two-shoes” “over achievers” and “work-a-holics?

Well, I think Nick Saban, a semi popular college football coach answered this question best, “Mediocre people don’t like high achievers.”

Whether you already consider yourself a high achiever or not, I will encourage you to stay open-minded when trying to explain the success of other high achievers by labeling them improperly. I will beg you not to sink to blaming their investment in their work on a personality flaw or addiction, or their victories on “not having a life.” And finally, I will challenge you to accept my solution to this problem and not be afraid of “work” in any of its forms and devoting yourself to what you do fully.

First, to clarify what I mean by work in this particular setting… I don’t just mean just a job you can get paid for or training for a job you can get paid for academically. In an online article by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, they suggest that “work” can not only refer to a set of tasks providing the financial security necessary to buy food and other resources needed for material well-being, but work can also refer to tasks of service, self and community improvement, maintaining familial and romantic relationships, and other internal and external pursuits. For example, being a girlfriend is work, running at the gym is work, maintaining your relationship with your mom while you’re away at school is work, cleaning your apartment with your roommates is work and so on. This definition of work, I encourage you to think about as we progress.

Next, to define workaholic – “Work-a-holic” was a term created by Wayne E. Oates in 1971. Oates said in his book, Confessions of a Workaholic that workaholism is the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly. He goes on to say that for workaholics, the need to work is so exaggerated that it endangers their health, reduces their happiness, and deteriorates their interpersonal relations and social functioning. But, does this unhealthy addiction explain the success of all workers?

Now, moving on, to directly contrast this, and answer that question – an academic journal’s account of a qualitative interview study by Marilyn Machlowitz revealed that some of those labeled as “workaholics” were both satisfied and productive, finding joy in their work and fueling their creativity. This actually improved their mental and physical health. Their gratification came from their passionate involvement in work and resulting self or societal improvements so they became relabeled as “hyper-performers.”

But, what I’m here to talk to you about today is not as black and white as just differentiating between two terms and deciding what cases it’s okay to say someone’s addicted to work. This is an honors class. We’re better than that. I want to dig deeper into the root of this problem.

In a recent online discussion board for postgraduates, one user noted that he was very intimidated by high achievers, by someone who was perhaps pursuing a PhD while also making outstanding contributions to the community and asked if anyone else felt like this. I then read about a million responses.

We have a society that looks for reasons to explain success other than hard work, determination and investment.

The amount of responses was overwhelming, but one response stood out in particular to me because of its positive nature. She said “It is important not to assume that people who have achievements or invest themselves into work are unhealthily driven, unfairly privileged, or unhappy. There is something healthy and liberating about accepting yourself as being quite good enough and still being able to admire those people who can and do achieve a heck of a lot more. We all have a right to walk this earth, a right to contribute and a place to direct our abilities.”

Ultimately, My goal today is to provide you with a solution to this backward society we live in. My goal is for us to fully allow ourselves to celebrate the high achievement around us and fully celebrate high achievement within ourselves.

That solution is first being assured that loving doing your job and loving doing it well is not a selfish endeavor. You are not out for self-gratification or glory. It is a life of service to yourself, to those around you, to your community, to your country and to the future. It’s putting your whole heart into every job you do because you love those around you so much that you would never provide them less than the best work you have to offer.

That solution is also for you to find confident, reassuring love in your work that will keep you unafraid of achieving and unable to envy the pursuits of others around you. That solution is never allowing yourself to cut corners or settle for mediocrity. That solution is taking pride in all you do by investing your heart into it.

When I work, whether it’s for a class or an internship or for my family baking cookies over the holidays, it feels like diet coke bubbles fizzing up my throat – like sunshine coming out of my fingers.

Finally, I want to encourage you not to be afraid to love your work like that, no matter what it is. Whether you’re baking cookies for the PTA, crunching numbers at a desk from 9-5, shaping the young minds of tomorrow, playing catch with your son, or getting coffee at a big shot PR agency, I want you to be excited to strive to be the best cookie baker, number cruncher, mind shaper, coffee getter that this world has ever seen.

I challenge you to accept this solution so that one day, when a group of 2nd graders have the time of their life at their Christmas party, it wasn’t all thanks to a try-hard. It was all thanks to the best mom in the world, a hard worker, determined to serve in every way she could.

Gender in Modern Dance As Expressed By Ted Shawn and Martha Graham

In the introduction of the book, The Modern Dance: Seven Statements of Belief, author Selma Jeanne Cohen draws comparison between the Caterpillar’s question to Alice as she stepped into Wonderland and investigation of the modern dance identity. The question was a simple three words, “Who are you?,” but Alice’s response resonates. She replied, “ I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.” 

Modern dance’s answer to “Who are you?” has diversified, metamorphosed, and magnified immensely. This is due largely in part to the distinctiveness and passion of the pioneers of the art form, but also the coinciding transformations of a country it was rooted in. Americans Ted Shawn and Martha Graham – both innovators of modern dance in their own rights – developed varying and similar ideas about gender expression in modern dance. Presumably, this is because of their vastly different experiences of their genders and understanding of identity of the sexes.

As a male in the 1920s and 1930s, Ted Shawn strove to exemplify the “masculine ideal” through the creation of an all male company that performed works focused on physical strength, mental control, and endurance like Kinetic Molpai.

After seeing Shawn’s wife,  Ruth St. Denis,  perform, Martha Graham trained at the Denishawn dance school predominantly under Ted Shawn’s direction. However, to contrast Shawn’s focus on the male perspective and male experience, Graham choreographed exclusively from the female perspective. To qualify, however, Graham did not follow Shawn’s outline for gender specific movement.

Shawn felt that feminine movements and dance experience should be comprised of movement in a small range and “concave receptivity” or in a circular, contracted position. While opposingly, Shawn felt men should dance with expansive movement and position themselves upright and with a forward thrust.

As a female, Graham challenged the long-held expectations of movement for both genders. She did this by striving to reveal the exertion behind dance. She desired to show the labor in movement and the concentration it took to execute positions. This is a revolt not only against Shawn’s idea of the feminine movement vocabulary, but the long-held ideas of movement regardless of gender in the entire dance community. Graham showed strong female characters that displayed bravery, strength, and resilience while doing movements many early critics described as “ugly.”

While Shawn appears to many as a chauvinist, it could be argued that he expanded the horizons of dance exponentially because of this extremism. Historically, dance has celebrated “feminine” movements, costuming, and dancers. From the time of Louis XIV, male dancers were largely considered to be effeminate.  Shawn challenged those ideas and as mentioned, expanded dance audiences to even the most conservative of people. Perhaps his suspiciously sexist remarks functioned in the World War I America that was consumed with nationalism and heroism.

The ideas of gender expression by Shawn and Graham are large pieces of modern dance’s response to “Who are you?” In the always changing American culture it propagates in, modern dance’s groundwork for gender illustration paved the way for new artists to accept or reject the gender constructs of the society in which they exist.

 

Works Cited

Cohen, Selma Jeanne. “The Caterpillar’s Question.” Introduction. The Modern Dance; Seven Statements of Belief. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1966. 1-14. Print.

Jackson, Lawrence. “Modern Dance: The Beginning Years.” Dance History II. The
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. 19 Jan. 2016. Lecture.

Rossen, Rebecca. “Ruth St. Denis & Ted Shawn – Dance Teacher Magazine.” Dance
Teacher Magazine. N.p., 01 Oct. 2007. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

Dance Photos

Choreography and Copyright Law in the United States

Since the adoption of The Copyright Act of 1976 in 1978, many legal commentators have devoted their time and energy to analyzing the copyright protections of choreography. However, many questions remain unanswered by the members of the dance community.

The following research provides a digestible definition of the parameters of the 1976 federal copyright law addendum and a brief legal history of choreography in federal courts for both non-dancers and non-legal experts. The research identifies and discusses many of the limitations in copyright law in respect to choreography while also recognizing philosophical issues in legal specificity and concrete definitions of abstract entities like originality, ideas and expression, and what constitutes a tangible media. The research is focused on the beauty in artistic collaboration and potential detrimental legal implications of doing so. Possible solutions to legally motivated problems faced by dancers and choreographers are also proposed throughout the span of the paper as well as behavior to emulate from past dance professionals. 

Is Social Media a Good Outlet for Political News?

Social Media has become a growing outlet for millennials to get their news. This news is anything from celebrity gossip all the way to happenings in the political arena. With social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Buzzfeed now acting as an aggregate for information as well as a social network, how effective can it be to gain the knowledge to participate in the political process from these sites/ apps?

Huffington Post

POLITICO

Pew Research

Civil Beat

That’s what the experts had to say, now what do you think? As a digital native and future public relations practitioner, I am curious how news and social media are meshing.

Eclipse

Dance Alabama! is a campus favorite from the University of Alabama’s Theatre and Dance Department. Dance Alabama! features an evening length dance concert totally produced by students of the dance program at UA. The students are asked to choreograph, execute concepts, design lights, and cast their own dances. Dance Alabama! showcases student work for a week at Morgan Auditorium on UA campus.

This year, I had the opportunity to perform in a work that I co-choreographed with my younger brother, Kendall Niblett.

For most of our lives, Kendall and I were told our artistic voices are as different as night and day. We challenged this idea by fusing our choreographic processes into one complete work. Below is a link to view this work, Eclipse choreographed for the Dance Alabama! concert for Spring 2016.

Eclipse

Young Women for America

When going to a college as big as The University of Alabama, involvement in small groups is vital to create a sense of belonging. UA is home to students from all 50 states and over 77 countries. While such diversity in influence and thought is beautifully eye-opening, it is also very important to fellowship with people that share similar interests, ideas and goals. Because of this, my colleague and I founded a chapter of Young Women for America at UA.

Young Women for America (YWA) is the collegiate project of Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation’s largest public policy organization. Its mission is to empower young women’s political efficacy and encourage involvement in the political process.

Upon founding the organization, I was chosen as Vice President and lead chapter meetings once a week. At these meetings, we discuss relevant issues and consult research, expert commentary, and statistics to form educated opinions. We also learn how to appropriately petition, rally, lobby and communicate our stances to others.

I am very thankful for the experiences this organization has provided for me and look forward to using the knowledge gained in every day conversation and a potential future in law, public relations, or public policy related work.

For more information on YWA or CWA visit the national website here

CWA Logo from Official Website


Case Study for Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

Following an emissions discrepancy discovered by researchers at West Virginia University, the Obama Administration ordered the German automaker, Volkswagen to recall half a million of its cars. Volkswagen illegally installed software in 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi models from 2009-15 to inaccurately report the output of pollutants to cheat on emissions tests. This software was sensitive to activate special equipment that regulated emissions during periodic testing. However, in a trade-off to enhance vehicle performance during regular driving, save fuel and increase torque and acceleration, the software would turn the emission conscience equipment off. On road testing led by the California Air Resources Board in May of 2014 found that when this equipment was turned off, the cars spew 40 times more pollution than is allowed under the Clean Air Act. The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance called this level of emission a threat to public health. The excess pollutants released from Volkswagen vehicles like nitrogen oxide can cause asthma attacks, bronchitis, empysema, other respiratory diseases and premature death. After the discovery, the company issued several statements to apologize and admit that they “totally screwed up,” in the words of Former Chief Executive Martin Winterkon. Winterkorn resigned as CEO and was superseded by Matthias Müller. Under Müller, the board said it “will leave no stone unturned” and will hold those responsible accountable for their actions and role in this issue. The company suspended five of its high-ranking executives, halted sales of some diesel cars and the EPA and Justice Department are pursuing an external investigation. The EPA and Justice Department, The House and Senate and independent states are determining what penalties the company will face for the emissions deception.

As Volkswagen, the initial goal is to restore widespread consumer trust in the brand. This goal, while perhaps the most simple will be hardest to achieve. A distinction between the Volkswagen crisis and other automotive public relations crises is that Volkswagen was not a victim to mistake, oversight or a mechanical malfunction. This crisis was premeditated and secretive, shattering consumer trust and eliminating the effectiveness of public apology. Several statements and videos have already been released and an apology was constructed as a reactive strategy, vocal commiseration. Arguably, the most effective apology was from former CEO Martin Winterkorn when he simply said, “we screwed up.” These simple, conversational words aided in the public’s perception of a genuine apology and humanized the situation. As with any apology, a reactive strategy rectifying behavior is required to effectively restore customer trust and brand image. The suspension or resignation of those involved with the software’s production and installation should be enforced strictly, and relayed to the public with transparency by the use of public speeches. Matthias Müller is the new CEO and face of Volkswagen and should immediately be primed as a trusted image. This disassociation with all that were involved in the emissions discrepancy is perhaps an effective reactive strategy, diversionary response. A new CEO and clean-sweep of responsible employees creates a better image externally, and a new employee pride in the company’s moral integrity internally. An objective to expand on this goal is to increase overall positive attitudes about Volkswagen by 30% in the next six months, and increase positive attitudes of the target demographic – the millennial generation – by 25% in the next six months. This can be gauged by surveys and focus groups.

Volkswagen should also use the Communication Proactive Strategy of news generation to insure a positive media agenda to influence the public agenda when reporting on Volkswagen’s restoration efforts. This news generation and positive presence in each news cycle can be achieved by the use of special events, transparent communication, and strategic philanthropy.

For a special event, Volkswagen can host a town-picnic type reception outside in the fresh air with transparent communication demonstrations of the new and improved Volkswagen technology that controls emissions 100% of the time, audience engagement test drives for the community, an audience interest kiosk using interpersonal communication and dialogue for questions regarding the recall and how to get their current 2009-15 car’s emissions control fixed free of charge, and finally an announcement by Volkswagen’s new CEO of the company’s own creation of a pollution awareness and emission control in the auto industry foundation. A strategic philanthropy would be to donate and support the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the American Lung Association by airing commercials of a family with young kids in the backseat of a Volkswagen with the windows down and fresh air through their hair and message content of Volkswagen’s concern for the air we breathe and then flash the logo of the philanthropy and devise a message of support and concern for these respiratory diseases caused by automobile emissions. Social media (an organizational media tactic) should be used to insure the widespread knowledge of these efforts in the targeted millennials who are concerned with environmental issues.

 

 

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

This makes me so excited to study abroad in Florence, Italy. I am looking forward to the opportunity to grow and count down the days!

Stai Al Borgo

One of the places to have the best view of Florence is from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Not only we can see the dome of the Duomo, the whole city is almost all within our sight.

When I had the view of Florence in front of me, I immediately fell in love with the fact that all the buildings and constructions were in the similar yellow-brown color. It was the unification and simplicity that highlight the beauty of the city.
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

While enjoying the view, I couldn’t help but admire how much Europeans appreciate their cultures and heritages from their ancestors. I bet what I saw was not much different than what the people, who lived hundreds years ago in Florence saw. Wish we could learn the same way to treat historical remains in China before it is too late.
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

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