Lights, cameras, reaction

first_imgIn a hidden basement room in the Littauer Building, M.P.A. student Ashley Orynich was preparing for her close-up. Armed with talking points and a dazzling smile (she’s also a newly minted dentist), she took a seat in front of a large camera, ready to win over the imaginary Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow on the other side of the lens.The leaders of that day’s “On-Camera Interview Basics” workshop, Molly Lanzarotta, senior communications officer at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), and Doug Gavel, HKS associate director of media relations and public affairs, warned her that the questions — which Lanzarotta would read from the other side of a soundproof door — wouldn’t be easy.The lights dimmed, and Lanzarotta dusted Orynich’s face with powder.“Visualize that the little orange light is your friend,” Lanzarotta advised.In a world where every candidate, nonprofit director, or government official is never more than a blog post or a YouTube video away from capturing an audience (or from a potentially ruinous flub), HKS students have learned they need to embrace the spotlight. And to gain the skills they need to communicate effectively, they’ll need more than just the comfort of a friendly blinking light.Enter the HKS Communications Program, a long-standing resource that offers elective courses, one-on-one writing consultations, and workshops like the one Orynich used to practice interviewing.HKS recently surveyed its graduates five years out of the School, asking alumni what they found most valuable about their education. The survey found that the tools alumni say they use most often in the real world were their communication skills.The finding was surprising, given the fact that communications classes aren’t mandatory for any of the School’s degree programs. But the results speak to the popularity and utility of the program, which existed for more than 20 years under the guidance of Marie Danziger, a lecturer on public policy who taught the beloved “Arts of Communication” course. When Danziger decided to retire last year, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy took over the program.The move to a permanent home is just one of several ways HKS is beefing up the program, said Jeffrey Seglin, the new director. The program also hired another full-time lecturer, Luciana Herman, who joins the ranks of several adjuncts and two writing consultants.“While the students who come to the Kennedy School are amazingly diverse and talented, many of them have never had strong writing programs or a lot of experience writing or speaking professionally or even dealing with digital media or technology,” Seglin said. “They have expertise in their field, but not necessarily in writing or public speaking.”That dictum seems to hold true across many professional schools, if HKS enrollment is any indication. Students from the Graduate School of Design, Harvard Business School, Harvard School of Public Health, and elsewhere regularly cross-register for HKS communications classes, according to Seglin.“Regardless of where you are in your career, it’s never a bad idea to work on these skills,” he said. “The print world may be shrinking a bit, but [students] see the online world expanding. It’s an opportunity for them to get their voices out there, and they’re in the prime market for doing it.”While there aren’t hard numbers on how many students take advantage of the offerings, Seglin said the communications program offers 60 to 70 workshops per academic year and six or seven elective courses per semester. The classes routinely fill, with a long wait list.Workshops are first come, first served. One recent evening, Holly Weeks’ workshop on “Giving Bad News Well” drew a curious crowd that overflowed from a small classroom in the Littauer Building. The premise was irresistible, for masochists at least: a chance to practice speaking before an audience that hates your guts.“This is a safe environment,” Weeks, an adjunct lecturer in public policy at HKS, told her students. “I hope you’ll rise to the occasion and give people a really nightmarish experience.”Federico Cuadra Del Carmen, an M.P.A. student pursuing a joint law degree at Northwestern University, went into Weeks’ workshop with a solid public speaking background. He had competed in Model United Nations in high school and college, then did communications and marketing for a grassroots nonprofit in Nicaragua.But when he got up in front of the group — in the guise of a candidate running against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega — the crowd’s convincing heckling quickly threw him off course. Weeks stopped him midsentence.“You’re following us, and we’re not going in a direction you want to be going in,” she told him. Refine your key points and stick to them, she advised.“Straight repetition is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you’re saying what you need to say,” Weeks said.With just a few tweaks to his language — lots of “your” and “our”; no “but” statements; simple, forceful sentences that “start, go forward, and end” — Del Carmen quickly regained control of the crowd, making compelling points about Nicaragua’s failing schools and the need for more jobs.“Classes like these, for people who have some kind of background in politics, may be undervalued or overlooked,” Del Carmen said afterward. “But what these classes offer are strategies for how to improve or polish the skills you already have.”The workshop made him even more eager to take “Arts of Communication” in the spring —  if he makes the cut, that is. “I couldn’t get in this semester,” he said.last_img read more

Muslims wonder what’s ahead

first_img A Q&A with Ali Asani about the worldwide erosion of pluralism when it comes to respecting beliefs Battling religious illiteracy <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UA287fc0jk” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/1UA287fc0jk/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> Related The Harvard Muslim Law Students Association (MLSA) is using the #yourvoicematters campaign as a platform to reach out to Muslim-American youth. Courtesy of MLSA“There’s a whole science behind de-escalating versus escalating,” Rosenthal said. “People really do feel marginalized and wishing they could be invisible. It’s very important for those of us who are not Muslim to advocate on their behalf.”Asani said he believes that the University needs to embrace its role as a “moderating voice” counter to those of society’s extremists. He said Harvard’s Islamic Studies Program is planning events this spring to explore Islamophobia and other concerns.Asani believes that the rise of Islamophobia can be traced to religious illiteracy, an ignorance of other faiths and cultures that permits a one-dimensional view of human beings whose identities are rich and complex, influenced by gender, education, background, profession, and even hobbies.“It leads to viewing human beings through one lens. It strips them of their humanity,” Asani said. “Illiteracy becomes a danger for the project of democracy. Democracy can’t function if you’re afraid of your neighbors.”Rosenthal said meeting the challenge to one part of the Harvard community is a task that should be taken up by all.“What’s really important for the University is to recognize this is not a problem for our Muslim community to solve; this is a problem for us all to solve,” Rosenthal said. “This is similar to other challenges that cause us to ask, ‘Are we an inclusive, diverse place?’” When he was in school on Long Island, N.Y., Yaseen Eldik was just another kid. Then 9/11’s hijacked jets crashed into the twin towers, and life changed for the American-born Muslim.“I was called a terrorist and asked if my parents belonged to al-Qaida,” Eldik said. “Because of that experience — of feeling almost like an enemy of my community — I began to feel isolated.”In the wake of the November Paris attacks, the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., and an incessant anti-Muslim drumbeat from some U.S. presidential contenders, Eldik and other members of the Harvard Islamic community described what it’s like to live under the current wave of “Islamophobia” in America, one that Harvard Islamic Chaplain Taymullah Abdur-Rahman said has reversed years of healing since the 2001 calamities.“There was some healing from 9/11 to now. It’s more rewarding for people to trust you than to like you,” Abdur-Rahman said. “Paris shook the campus up …. Then San Bernardino happened. There was a retreat on [the part] of Muslims.”Eldik recalls his own response to the hostility and fear he encountered after 9/11: He withdrew, something that today he thinks was a mistake. That’s why he and three other Muslim law students got together earlier this month and made a video, released online last week by the Harvard Muslim Law Students Association. The video urges Muslim youth not to hide if they encounter anti-Islamic sentiment, but to engage, share their experiences, and speak out.“My protective instinct was to be a recluse. Don’t do that. You can be both Muslim and American,” Eldik said. “[The video seeks] to legitimize the fear that Muslim youth feel in America because of the Islamophobic sentiment.”The video, which had 1,000 views within days of its YouTube and Facebook release, is aimed at Muslim youth across the country, but also may resonate on the Harvard campus.“We’ve reached this situation where things are very, very tense, and obviously will affect students here,” said Ali Asani, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and cultures and director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. “It’s created this feeling of discomfort, this fear [on campus]. Every day you hear more and more.”“We’ve reached this situation where things are very, very tense, and obviously will affect students here,” said Ali Asani, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and cultures and director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerEldik and Abdur-Rahman said the campus community largely has been supportive, though Asani said there have been incidents here. He heard of a case where a hijab-wearing student was called “brainwashed” by a non-Muslim classmate. In addition, Abdur-Rahman said, several Muslim students have called him, expressing anxiety, fear, and difficulty concentrating on end-of-term projects and exams.“They have had some trauma, and professors have been gracious,” Abdur-Rahman said. “I think they should keep in mind [that] this is their country as well. They should mourn [for the dead in the San Bernardino shootings], as the rest of us mourn. Mourning is part of healing. Secondarily, don’t feel guilty. You didn’t do anything wrong.”With members of the Harvard community finishing their studies for this semester, Harvard President Drew Faust said the year-end break should be a time for reflection about the importance of religious diversity to the community and, specifically, about the struggles faced by members of Harvard’s Muslim community.“As we approach the new year, and as we look forward to time for rest and reflection amid a turbulent time in the world, I hope we can keep in mind our community’s enduring commitment to religious diversity and to welcoming and respecting people of different faiths,” Faust said. “I would like especially to express support and reassurance to the valued Muslim members of our community who, in a variety of settings, have recently had occasion to worry about the breadth and strength of that commitment in the larger society. Their concerns remind us of the important work we must do every day to engage with one another in a humane spirit of mutual respect and to assure that every member of our community feels a sense of belonging.”Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana said it’s important to understand how tightly bound people are to each other and to strive to create a tolerant and supportive community on campus.“As I look ahead to 2016, I hope that we recognize that no matter what each of us believes, we are inextricably connected to one another,” Khurana said. “We must resist those who fear difference and encourage intolerance. We must redouble our efforts to create a truly inclusive community and to embrace the Muslim members of our community during these difficult times.“I have faith that education can be a strong antidote to bigotry and intolerance. Education should enable us to question our own certainties about how to understand and live in the world. And education should open our minds to the ways that our differences create the conditions for infinite possibilities. Education gives us the humility to see each other with gentler eyes and accept both our differences and what we have in common.”Eldik said he has felt supported while on campus, with several people expressing sympathy and concern that he must deal with anti-Islamic sentiment. Yet with Harvard integrated into its surrounding communities, the fear and discomfort of the broader society is not far away. “When I leave Harvard, it can’t protect me if someone sees me and feels threatened,” Eldik said.A student at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health experienced that recently while on the way to work at a Kendall Square biotech company, according to Meredith Rosenthal, the School’s associate dean for diversity and professor of health economics and policy.Rosenthal said the student, who preferred not to be identified, was dressed professionally and riding on the subway. Someone accused her of having a bomb in her bag, and a group of men surrounded her, the student said. She showed them her Harvard ID and opened the bag, which ended the encounter. The incident itself was distressing, Rosenthal said, adding that it was also upsetting that no bystanders spoke up in her defense.The episode sparked a community meeting at the Harvard Chan School, at which Asani and Abdur-Rahman spoke. Abdur-Rahman said he had expected a crowd of just 20 or so, but many more turned out, with standing room only inside the room and people spilling out into the hallway.The crowd was of many races, religions, and ethnic groups, Abdur-Rahman said, but seemed to have one question in mind.“The No. 1 question [was], ‘What can we do to help you?’” Abdur-Rahman said.Since then, Rosenthal said she has gotten several emails from students asking how, in essence, to be a good bystander. In response, the School is planning “bystander training” in January or February, at which people can learn the best ways to prevent a situation from escalating, to support Muslim community members, and to step in when needed without jeopardizing their own safety.A voice for American Muslim youthlast_img read more

Wyandanch Teen Gunned Down Outside Home

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York An 18-year-old man was shot to death in front of his Wyandanch home early Sunday morning, Suffolk County police said.Eric Meade was standing with a group of people in the front yard of his South 26th Street home when he was shot in the head at 1:20 a.m., police said.Relatives took the victim to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where he was pronounced dead.Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on this incident to call them at 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.last_img read more