We don’t slow down just because it’s summer…
As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to recruit the next generation of cyber talent, the CyberSkills Management Support Initiative (CMSI) hosted students from Baltimore and DC area colleges and universities, including American University students, at an event today at the US Coast Guard (USCG) operations center at Curtis Bay Yard. The event included a panel discussion on cybersecurity led by CMSI’s own Renee Forney and a tour of USCG cyber facilities. The discussion featured distinguished panelists working in the cybersecurity field from across DHS. The panelists were able to speak about their own work experiences and offer students a taste of life on the front lines in the fight to protect of our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure. After the panel and the subsequent question and answer session, students were taken on a tour of the state-of-the-art operational hub and cybersecurity facilities at Curtis Bay Yard. The event offered us the opportunity to learn about exciting activities and rewarding programs at DHS as we consider employment in the field. Thanks to USCG, CMSI, and Renee Forney for this incredible event.
After all of the weeks of working on this project, here is the final product.
On April 26th, 2014, the popular web series TEDx came to American University for the first time. Throughout the four sessions that were held in the Abramson Family Founders Room in the School of International Service, faculty, staff, and students shared their ideas on topics ranging from the rise of the makers to music and its power to transform conflict.
The event kicked off with Andrew Lih, an associate professor of journalism at AU, who discussed how Wikipedia, who “helped you get through term papers and high school,” is helping to bridge the knowledge gap. His talk, right from the get-go, kept the audience very engaged and set the bar very high for the following speakers.
Another noteworthy speaker, who opened up the second session of the day, was professor Scott Talan, professor of Public Communication at American University, who talked about online presence and marketability. The point that I took away from his discussion was that you need to make yourself marketable and desirable online because jobs will often find you rather than the other way around.
After lunch the discussion sessions picked up again. The highlight was Canadian exchange student Graham May, who gave a very passionate lecture about how the philanthropic efforts of celebrities in an attempt to better the world are actually hurting indigenous peoples’ way of life.
The live speakers were offset with videos by other TED speakers who discussed topics ranging from the jobs of the future and how machines will impact them and how the Internet can facilitate teaching and learning peace and even how to start a movement.
As part of the technical crew tasked with setting up, running, and breaking down the show, my TEDx experience began the night before with loading in all the equipment needed to make the show a reality. Under the direction of Ryan Anderson, we managed to get the space ready with time to spare.
The event, as a whole, went off with only a few minor technological hiccups. The speakers had unbelievable amounts of insight into their topics and supplemented them with fascinating personal accounts and engaging anecdotes. All in all, should AU host another TEDx event, I know I will be active in promoting on (and off) campus and hope to be part of the crew again. Everyone should come to a TEDx event at least once in their lifetime, and I am glad that this particular one was my first.
Yesterday I celebrated Holi: the Indian festival of colors! It was sponsored by the South Asian Student Association and held on the quad. We ‘celebrated’ by running around with paint and powder and a few water guns, dousing our friends (and strangers) in color. My friends and I wore white, and by the end were wearing all the colors of the rainbow.
Just another Sunday at AU!
A little preface: I really like America. I have an American flag in my dorm room. I go to THE American University and live in our nation’s capital. I’m from Concord, Massachusetts, where the ‘shot heard round the world’ was fired. (We started the Revolutionary War and America, basically.) It’s not a perfect country, but it’s mine. So it should come as no surprise that Captain America is my favorite superhero.
I loved the first movie, and saw it three of four times. So when the second was announced, I was pretty excited. It comes out on 4/4, so I was planning on going to the midnight release. However, I was walking by the University College office the other day and saw they had tickets for an advanced screening. Completely free, as well.
After I stopped squealing I grabbed a ticket, which looked like this:
The screening was a bus ride away in georgetown, and even though the event was open to college students from all of DC, I ran into other kids from AU there as well. I won’t spoil the movie, but… it was really good! Set in DC too, which was pretty cool.
In my final semester here at AU, I’ve had my most exciting internship yet. Working with the Congressional Study Groups and the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, I’ve had incredible opportunities to meet prominent scholars, experts, Ambassadors, Members of Congress, and Former Members of Congress. In my capacity as intern, I’ve been doing research, planning events to brief Members of Congress, and attending all sorts of events on and off Capitol Hill. Last night, FMC hosted the 17th Annual Statesmanship Awards Dinner which honored Operation Homefront, Mr. Carlos Gutierrez, and Congressman John Lewis for their civic engagement.
At the dinner, I was able to meet Cokie Roberts, Rep. John Lewis, and fill up on great food! I feel extremely lucky that I was able to attend this high-level and amazing event at the Mellon Auditorium. Things like this just don’t happen if you’re not in D.C.!
Before I start this post, I’ll forewarn you that I’m a proud biology nerd. Tonight, while a large number of AU students were attending the Dick Cheney speech, I found myself not in Bender Arena, but in the Butler Boardroom, attending a speech by Nina Tandon. Nina Tandon has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and an MBA from Columbia Unviersity, as well as degrees from MIT and The Cooper Union. She is a co-founder of epiBONE, a company that makes new bones from stem cells (how cool is that?!), a researcher at Columbia University Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, and a Associate Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at The Cooper Union. She was a TED Senior Fellow, a Fulbright scholar, and previously worked as a Pharma Consultant for McKinsey & Company. She’s a brilliant, amazing woman, and I may or may not have geeked out when she retweeted me after the event.
Tandon’s talk, “Super Cells: Building with Biology,” focused on all of the possibilities that lie within our cells. As Tandon illustrated, there are plenty of connections between biology and technology: many of today’s “top innovations” come from researchers, not industry. The revolution of biology and research has mirrored that of general technology, moving from machines to information and, finally, to life. In biomedical research, cells are now being used as the basis for innovation, a stage of science which Tandon refers to as “Body 3.0,” the first two stages being viewing the body as a whole machines and viewing organs as interchangeable and fixable. epiBONE is making bones from cells, and various other researchers have created other body parts such as tracheas and lungs. Tandon shared with us the idea that cells can do even larger things, because they already are on a smaller scale. She spoke of cells being used to make things such as clothing (which has been done), self-repairing structures like bridges, or innovations that can harness more energy than the sun. These things are possible because cells can already repair the body and produce their own energy. All of this was fascinating, and it was really cool because, as a first year biology student, I actually understood a fair amount of what she spoke about!
I am so grateful that the Bishop C.C. McCabe Lecture Series brought Tandon to campus to talk about science, but she also covered a broader spectrum of topics. One of the points I found most interesting was how she believes there is a symbiotic relationship between art and science, and that as the goals of science change with our society, the humanities will be dually as important as science. She emphasized the importance of looking for science, not looking at it, and that we should consider the disconnect between what scientists can do and what they should do. As an aspiring doctor, one of her simplest remarks struck me the most, saying “People first, content second,” meaning that we should focus on people’s stories and needs, trying to enhance people’s lives.
AU is well-known for having high-profile political guests such as Dick Cheney, but we also regularly have amazing people from all corners of academia, including scientists such as Nina Tandon. I’m so glad that I got to attend this talk in person and didn’t have to just use the TED website, and it gave me a lot to think about and many new books to read (as well as bragging rights that she retweeted me!).
Tonight former Vice President Dick Cheney came to speak at AU! The Kennedy Political Union brought him to campus in an event open only to a few hundred people. He spoke mostly about national security, but also a little about his personal life as well. He was a great speaker and the audience was very engaged. Peter, a fellow freshman on my floor, said it was his favorite speaker KPU has brought to campus!
He was also one of the most candid politicians I’ve ever seen speak. He was very blunt, and confronted each topic head-on. He was able to talk about serious matters like water boarding as well as crack jokes about how people compared him to Darth Vader. He was also incredibly, impressively unapologetic for controversial US policy. One thing that really stuck with me was what he had to say about wiretapping our allies, such as German chancellor Angela Merkel. His opinion on the topic was: ‘Why shouldn’t we? I think we should.’ It really made me respect him that he was willing to voice an unique opinion not found in the media.
[Pictures to come when KPU uploads them]
But the highlight of the evening was when the former Vice President and I exchanged head nods. It happened.
The banners are up, The brackets are made. The buses are gassed up. It’s official: the American Eagle’s men’s basketball team is going to the NCAA tournament!
The road there was exciting in its own right. The Eagles began Patriot League play this season with 10 straight wins and finished the regular season 13-5 against conference teams. After hosting Colgate and Holy Cross in Patriot League quarterfinal and semifinal wins, the Eagles — and not just the players and coaches, but the spirit team and two busloads of students, too — traveled to Boston University to take on the Terriers in the PL final. Perhaps you heard what happened: We won, and we stormed the court. Winning the Patriot League meant an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Since then, the excitement on campus has been unmissable. “We’re Dancing” banners hang from buildings. The sign outside Bender Arena flashes “Congratulations!” We had a huge celebration on Sunday to watch the selection show, and learned that today, we’ll play second seed Wisconsin in the round of 64 in Milwaukee. And last night, a group of students boarded an AU bus and spent the night on the road to Milwaukee to face .
At 12:40 p.m. Eastern, the ball will go up in the air and the game will start. Yes, the 15-seed Eagles are the underdogs, by a lot, but we’re proud to be there, and we know our team will fight hard until the very last second. It’s just how we dance.
One of the best parts of living in DC is re-experiencing the magic of the city when friends come to visit. In the shuffle of midterms, interning, and extracurricular activities, last weekend a friend visited from Florida, so I decided to take the day off to walk downtown with him.
After my Microeconomics class, my friend and I took the metro to Adam’s Morgan, my favorite neighborhood in DC. There, we had brunch at Open City, a delicious restaurant with plenty of DC character! Open City is the sister restaurant to Tryst, my favorite coffee shop. (Tryst has been my off-campus library whenever I have papers to write, but need the energy of the city for inspiration).
After we had eaten the best veggie scramblers I’ve ever had, and thoroughly eavesdropped on the bankers from the financial district at the table next to us, we started walking down Connecticut Ave. We passed Dupont Circle, serenaded the whole time by street jazz performers, and made our way past many different Embassies. When we reached Farragut North, the energy of hundreds of young professionals and interns on their lunch break reminded me why I chose to go to American University.
We kept walking, and approached an area overrun with police cars. My friend asked me what it was, and it took me awhile to realize that we were in front of the White House! There were more police cars than usual, so we decided to scope it out. When we turned the corner onto Pennsylvania Ave, we saw a couple hundred people waving Ukrainian Flags and holding posters, all advising the president on how he should handle the crisis in Ukraine. We walked among the crowd for a couple minutes, talking to cheerful protesters, asking how they want the president to respond, and listening to the Ukrainian songs they sang as a group.
We left when they began their march around downtown Washington, escorted by the police officers that had initially caught our attention. But before we threw in the towel and took the metro back to AU’s campus, my friend and I had a mini snowball fight on the National Mall, something two Florida natives enjoyed way too much!
As an International Relations student, walking by the Embassies, seeing so many passionate professionals, and witnessing the Ukraine protest were all great reminders of why I love Washington, AU, and my classes. It is walks like that one through DC that help me stay focused through challenging classes and fascinating material. As a student at AU, I’m not just studying a book, but can easily apply my class material and case studies to what is happening down the street, in the global microcosm of Washington DC.