Monday, December 12, 2011

Final Project

       For one University of Oklahoma sophomore, getting to class isn’t about just waking up on time.
            Alex Dean, who has a physical disability, faces challenges from elevators to sidewalks on his way to class.
            Dean is part of the 11 percent of undergraduates who reported having a disability, according to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.
            People with disabilities are the largest minority group in America, according to recent research (The Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Inc.).
            Dean benefits from the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires schools like OU to accommodate those with disabilities.
            Suzette Dyer, director of OU’s Disability Resource Center, said she helps the school comply with national disability laws.
            “According to disability law, accommodation is an interactive process,” Dyer said.
            “All of our services are individualized [to help each student], so we just work with the students to help them figure out what their specific needs might be.”
            However, many areas of OU’s campus are accessible—even if other students don’t realize that, said Dean.
            “Sometimes, it seems like people will go out of their way to be nice, and it’s like, that’s nice, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘I got this. I can open that door,’” Dean said.
            “When somebody runs from across the Union and is like, ‘Here, I’ll get that for you,’ it’s like, ‘OK. Thank you. You’re nice, but it’s never an issue.’”
The Disability Resource Center can help students like Dean find alternatives if their classes are in inaccessible buildings. Students with disabilities should contact Dyer at (405) 325-3852 for accommodation. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Heath Fowler looks at a video game at GameStop on Black Friday. PHOTO: Kate McPherson.

Heath Fowler smells lotion on Katie Burks’s wrist. Fowler was shopping at Bath and Body Works on Black Friday to find deals on Christmas gifts for his mother and stepmother. PHOTO: Kate McPherson.
Two Denton, Texas high school seniors spent their first Black Friday shopping experience avoiding lines and grabbing deals.

Ryan High School students Katie Burks and Heath Fowler said they have skipped Black Friday shopping in years past because of the horror stories they’ve heard.

“When I’m around a lot of people, I tend to get nervous, so the idea of being around hundreds of competitive shoppers is really intimidating,” Fowler said.

Despite the stress, the pair decided to brave the crowds in order to grab the best deals, Burks said.

“I’d really like to find some discounted winter clothes, some jeans or boots,” Burks said.

“I'm a little nervous about all the intrusive crowds and masses of shoppers. I'm not going to get in someone's face over a shirt or something, so I'll be a little rattled if someone gets in mine.”

Deals on movies and CDs were attractive, but store promotions were the most intriguing part of the shopping spree, Fowler said.

“I really want to check out Bath and Body Works, just because I heard they give out free apple cider,” he said.

The pair shopped at Golden Triangle Mall, stopping in Bath and Body Works, Spencer’s, American Eagle Outfitters, J.C. Penney’s and PacSun, according to Burks.

The sale prices were impressive, Fowler said.

“The best part of the day was the experience of snagging items I had wanted to buy earlier in the year for a great deal less,” he said.

“American Eagle’s storewide sale of 40 percent off really surprised me, and I was really impressed with the sales I ended up taking advantage of.” 

Burks said the number of people shopping surprised her.

“The lines weren’t that bad,” she said.

“It really wasn’t as crazy as I’d expected. It seemed like a fairly typical shopping experience with a more focused intent on savings.”

Black Friday retail sales climbed 6.6 percent this year, according to ShopperTrak. Fowler said he felt the effects of more shoppers.

“Bath and Body Works was crazy, and I definitely stepped on a few unhappy individuals,” Fowler said.

The pair suffered from sleep deprivation, Burks said.

“The worst part was the exhaustion while shopping,” she said.

“Because of the competing stores and prices, you had a lot in mind while shopping, which ultimately took the leisure out of the entire experience. Shopping isn’t near as fun without its therapeutic aspect.”

Fowler said he thinks sleep is an important part of Black Friday.

“I found that people tended to be in an overall negative mood,” Fowler said.

“When people are deprived of sleep and running only on abnormal amounts
of caffeine, I guess that is to be expected.”

Despite these negative experiences, Burks and Fowler said they plan to shop on Black Friday next year.

“I’m pretty sure I will be out there now that I know how awesome sales can be, but I’ll definitely have a game plan next time,” Fowler said.

“I think it would be helpful to research some of the bargains and get an idea of what to be looking for.”

“I saved money without spending extravagant amounts of money, so I’m
definitely pleased with the turnout,” Burks said.

“I just might have added a new tradition to my typical Thanksgiving repertoire.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog 7: Multimedia

Blog 7: Zombie Prom scares up dancers

The University of Oklahoma Resident Student Associations hosted Zombie Prom last Saturday in Couch Restaurants.

The event, planned by Traditions West RSA President Brianna Versteeg, invited students to dress up as zombies and enjoy food, dancing and face painting. Zombie Prom also hosted the service event A Million Thanks, an event that asks students to write thank-you notes to veterans.

This is the first Zombie Prom, though not the first RSA dance, Versteeg said.

“I came up with the idea for Zombie Prom after I went to the Halloween store for another event I was doing,” Versteeg said.

“I was going down the aisles, and I saw some zombie stuff, and I thought it would be really cool to have a zombie event. We had just had another event, our Awkward Ball, and everybody loved it, so we’re doing kind of the same thing, but with a zombie theme.”

Zombie makeup was easy to do, said freshman Alexandra Arcuri.

“Basically, all I did was color my face with Crayola marker, red and brown, and cover my face with white eyeshadow and mess up my hair,” she said.

Freshman Kayla Cunningham said she was not as excited as her friends to be at Zombie Prom.

“I decided to come to Zombie Prom because my friend and her roommate decided to come, so I just tagged along,” Cunningham said.

“I didn’t dress up because I’m not planning to stay long.”

The zombie theme was the best part of the night, said Arcuri.

“I love zombies. I used to go play something called zombie tag at home, so I was really excited for tonight,” she said.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

OU group raises money with music

    A University of Oklahoma group raised money for Rwandan AIDS prevention by playing music in residence halls on Oct. 27.
    Facilitating African Rehabilitation, a group dedicated to raising awareness of African issues, organized the annual event. The group recruited OU student musicians to perform for donations in residence hall lobbies and elevators.
    The group has played music in elevators four times in its history, FAR president Erin Weese said.
    “One of our former presidents actually came up with the idea,” Weese said.
“He was an RA who had a bunch of friends with instruments. He started by raising money for the group Invisible Children, but we’re donating to the OU chapter of FACE AIDS.”
FACE AIDS will donate the money to an organization that provides AIDS medication and education in Rwanda, Weese said.
    Facilitating African Rehabilitation had no problems recruiting musicians, Weese said.
    “We have two members that are musically talented,” she said.
    “One’s in civic orchestra, and one’s in a jazz group, so they ask their friends or people in their classes. [The people who play in the elevators] like playing music, and they like charity, so they’re generally really happy to do it.”
    Sophomore Alyssa McCollom said she enjoyed playing mandolin in the elevators because of people’s reactions.
    “Most people have enjoyed [our music], and they were super excited about it,” McCollom said.
    “They get even more excited when we play a song they know. Some people start singing along with you, which is interesting.”
    Most people like having music in the elevators, Weese said.
    “Most of them think it’s kind of a nifty idea, but I think some are bothered by the fact that we’re taking up space in the elevator.”
    Residents of the halls said they liked the fundraiser’s concept.
    “I think it’s really cool they’re able to raise money in such an interesting way,” freshman Christopher Sharkey said.
    “I’ve never seen anyone do this before.”
    The group often had trouble explaining why they were fundraising, McCollom said.
    “I think we should have had signs in the elevator because people did get confused,” she said.
    “The ones who gave money, we definitely made sure we told them where it was going, though.”
    The lack of information made some people uncomfortable, Sharkey said.
    “The reason I haven’t donated is partially because I don’t know too much about what the money is for,” he said.
    “I know it’s for AIDS, but I’m not sure what they’re doing with the money, and I’m not comfortable with that.”
    Despite the occasional lack of understanding, the group raised approximately $400, but they hope to accomplish much more, Weese said.
    “We want to work toward changing the misconceptions that a lot of people have about Africa,” Weese said.
    “We want them to know that Africa is not just a poverty-stricken place, but we want people to know there’s good things happening in Africa. We know our contributions aren’t going to change Africa completely, but we still want to help and give.”

Violinists Sydney Bader and Nathan Thomas perform in the lobby of Walker Center. The pair raised money for AIDS prevention in Rwanda.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scottish exchange student explores OU

    For exchange students studying at the University of Oklahoma, the Sooner Nation’s boundaries don’t end at the Red River. Calum Raffle, an exchange student from Dundee, Scotland, said his Sooner experience would extend onto his home campus of the University of Dundee when he returns in May.
    Though Raffle is the only Scottish exchange student, there are 231 exchange students at OU this semester, said exchange student adviser Tina Henderson.
    Henderson said eight other students from the United Kingdom are studying at OU this semester.
    Raffle said that knowing he would be the only person from his university at OU was intimidating.
    “It was a kind of nervous excitement when I first decided to come abroad,” Raffle said.
    “Maybe a few days before [I left], it was like, ‘Whoa. I’m going away for like a year.’ I started getting nervous right before I was about to take the plunge and go.”
    Once he arrived in the United States, Raffle moved into an apartment in OU Traditions Square and made friends with several of his neighbors.
    “A few American people have taken me to Oklahoma City and things and shown me around,” Raffle said.
    “When I get together with Americans, it’s mostly just so they can show me things I’ve not seen before.”
    OU sophomore Tegan Burkhard said she showed Raffle a children’s museum in Oklahoma City. 
    “He came with me and my friend to the Oklahoma Science Museum because we thought it would be a good experience for him, and it probably is not something he’s done before,” Burkhard said.
    “One time, I also took him to a [Union Programming Board] event. He learned how to tie dye because he’d never done that before.”
    Burkhard said she hopes Raffle will show her around Scotland when she studies abroad in Dundee her senior year.
    Raffle said Dallas is the only place he’s visited outside of the state.
    “I went down to Texas for the OU-Texas game because I managed to get a ticket for that,” he said.
    “It was quite an expense, but it was quite nice.”
    Raffle said although he did not try any exotic fried food at the Texas State Fair, he tried a fair standard before the game.
    “I did get a corn dog, and it was okay,” he said.
    “My friend yelled at me because I tried to put ketchup on it. Apparently, you can only dip corn dogs in mustard, not ketchup. I didn’t know that, and I thought that was pretty gross.”
    One phrase heard at the OU-Texas game was horrible, Raffle said.
    “I’m not really surprised by anything Americans say, apart from y’all, which I heard in Texas,” he said.
    “That winds me up a wee bit when you hear people say y’all. Why can’t you just say you all? I don’t know why you have to mix the two words into one. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
    Though Raffle said he chose OU for its extracurricular activities, he is also taking business and accounting classes.
American classes are very different from British classes, Raffle said.
    “It’s a lot more continuous assessment,” he said.
    “In Scotland you just kind of turn up for your classes all year, and then you have one exam at the end. Your attendance isn’t as vital as it is here.”
    Going home will not be easy, Raffle said.
    “I miss my family sometimes, but being independent is kind of nice,” he said.
    “I still live at home with my parents. I wanted to fly the nest a wee bit, so I’ve really enjoyed living and being in Norman.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Midterm Multimedia

Calum Raffle, a Scottish exchange student, discusses studying and living at the University of Oklahoma.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sense of Place Slideshow

The slideshow includes pictures from inside and outside Walker Tower, a residence hall at the University of Oklahoma. Walker Tower has a unique diversity of activity because it has a mall outside and a large, multipurpose lobby inside.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Audio for Blog 4

Students discuss evangelism at xPlore on Sept. 28.

Students talk about the creation and importance of xPlore.

Blog 4: xPlore provides discussion forum

The Episcopal Student Association at the University of Oklahoma started a new discussion program this semester.

xPlore is a student-led discussion forum. Each week, one member of the group presents an article or short video and facilitates an hourlong conversation. xPlore has met five times and has discussed things such as 9/11 and hell houses, co-president Kaitlin Warta said.

The group allows students from many faiths to react to religious issues in an inclusive environment, co-president Michael Bibens said.

“From a religious standpoint, we’re a lot more open-minded than other places [on campus],” Warta said.

“Even though we’re a Christian organization, even if someone’s not Christian, we invite them to come in and talk about a topic with us.”

The group is not a Bible study, junior John Putnam said.

“I feel like most Bible studies, you go in, and there’s variation in what people might get out of a verse or how they interpret it, but there’s not major variations in ideas,” Putnam said.

“[xPlore] is similar to a Bible study in that we are talking about religious topics, and we will reference the Bible, but it’s just completely open. You don’t have to be scared of having an opinion or having a thought and presenting it.”

xPlore was created to allow various viewpoints, Bibens said.

“The goal of xPlore wasn’t to lead people to an end,” he said.

“It was to let people say, ‘This is what I believe and how does this topic affect what I believe? Do I believe it? Do I not?’ And then, once you understand that [about yourself], then whatever your result is, that’s great. That was our whole point, to have a forum for people to explore themselves.”

xPlore is similar to a book club because of the high quality of the discussions, junior Andrew Bentley said. 

“I started coming to xPlore because I really enjoy talking about my religion and my faith and my spirituality,” Bentley said.

The Episcopal Student Association sees xPlore as a growing opportunity for their ministry, Warta said.

“I hope that it will bring us closer together as a community,” she said.

“I also hope it will get some more people interested in our organization, that people will think xPlore is cool and maybe bring their friends next time.”

xPlore meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. at St. Anselm of Canterbury in Norman.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blog 3: FHE allows Latter-day Saint students to bond

Students gathered Monday night for Family Home Evening at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Institute of Religion on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Family Home Evening, or FHE, is a weekly event that allows Latter-day Saint students to bond. Latter-day Saint families participate in events in their home, but college students hold FHE in their campus buildings, according to the church’s website.
The group started Monday night’s event by singing the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Maegan Robison, FHE coordinator, presented a five-minute lesson on humility, and the group played the game Heads Up, Seven Up.
FHE usually involves a hymn, a spiritual thought and a game, but not every night is identical, said Brent Davis, Latter-day Saint Student Association president.
“A lot of the FHEs I’ve been to are more spiritually minded than tonight’s,” Davis said.
“There’s [usually] more of a spiritual thought behind it, and tonight’s activity was more directed at having fun together than discussing a spiritual sense.”
No other group on campus has an event like FHE, said Robison.
“We try to focus more on bonding with each other as a family, to try to learn to be supportive for each other in every day life and spiritual things [than do other churches on campus],” Robison said.
FHE is also different from other LDS church events, OU senior Alex Schafer said.
“It’s a lot more casual than church would be,” Schaefer said.
“FHE is kind of just that social gathering that we need at the beginning of the week to get us going.”
Attending FHE allows Latter-day Saint students a unique chance to build bonds with one another, Davis said.
“Every time you come, you get to connect better with your fellow student and people who are a part of the religion here in this area,” Davis said.
            “If you come to FHE, you create better relationships and friendships.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog 2

             Peace among American religions is possible, three religious leaders said at a forum Sunday, Sept. 11 in Norman.
            Community members gathered at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts to attend the Abrahamic Faiths Post 9/11: Building Peaceful Communities In a Violent World forum, where religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities discussed the impact of 9/11.
The program was not a celebration or a time of mourning, said moderator Barbara Boyd, director of outreach for the religious studies program at the University of Oklahoma.
            “Today’s program is focused on a message of peace that transcends the suffering caused when airplanes became weapons of death,” she said.
            The suffering after 9/11 allowed many to focus on ties of humanity rather than differences in religion, panelist Imam Imad Enchassi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said.
            “Out of evil always comes good,” Enchassi said.
            “As I approached the mosque [on Sept. 12, 2001], I could see something shiny in front of our door at the mosque. Immediately, to my surprise, everyone picked up their phones and started dialing 911, saying, ‘A bomb, somebody left a bomb at the front door.’ Something divinely drove me toward the door. It was a healing bomb. It was an aluminum bouquet of flowers left in front of our mosque by someone who cared enough to say that they loved us as their neighbors.”
            Rev. Mitch Randall, senior pastor at NorthHaven Church, did not experience the good will Enchassi did.
            “It was on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001 that I made my way out of my favorite coffee shop in Fort Worth, Texas,” Randall said.
            “While getting into my car, a young man pulled up beside me in his pickup truck. He stared at me for a moment, then made a conclusion, most likely based on the color of my skin, that I was one of ‘them’ and offered a one-finger salute to demonstrate his anger.”
            Despite this incident, different faiths can find peace with each other, Randall said.
            Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, discussed the process of rebuilding trust after terrorist attacks.
            “There are no easy answers, and we ought not rely on any easy answers because the task before us is a mighty task,” Hirschfield said.
            “To remember to put it all together again is the task of this entire nation.”
            Learning about other faiths was the best part of the event, said OU sophomore Hannah White.
            “Oklahoma is largely Baptist, and I think they did a really good job of teaching about Judaism and Islamic faith,” White said.
            “I know very little about the Islam faith…I always thought that Muslims were completely different, but they’re not when you get all three into the room.”
            The event provided an opportunity for healing, said OU sophomore Grace Conway.
            “I think it was a good program for our community, and I’m glad it was opened up to the community,” Conway said.
            “In the past, they’ve had things like this for OU and the religious studies department, and I think it’s really good that the community had this.”
             The forum also included a ceremony in which four children from the three Abrahamic faiths mixed colored sands to represent religious unity, something Conway said she found very meaningful.
            The event helped students remember lessons learned after 9/11, White said.
            “It’s a reminder that we’re all people, and we all have to be strong together,” she said.
            “It reminded me that we need to have hope and make peace, and that’s my goal for our country.”

Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield discusses the importance of showing love to other religions with Rev. Mitch Randall and Imam Imad Enchassi. PHOTO: Kate McPherson

Children from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths prepare to participate in a ceremony to represent the unity of their religions. PHOTO: Kate McPherson

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blog 1: Introduction

            A blog covering religious groups and events on the University of Oklahoma campus was started two weeks ago.
            The blog, Sooners Seeking Sanctuary, aims to increase knowledge about the religious community on the Norman campus. Nine blog posts will use photographs, audio and video to report on activities of groups of various faiths.
            According to freshman Phoebe Lo, a member of the Christian group Chi Alpha, religion is rarely discussed in the media. Lo said conversations about faith in media such as blogs and newspapers are vital to the well-being of religious groups.
            Students say that it’s important to discuss religion through media because of misunderstandings some have about faith.
            “A lot of times Christians in general are grouped together in the media,” Susan Stancampiano, publicity intern at St. Thomas More University Parish and Student Center, said.
            “Catholics aren’t mentioned [in the media] unless it’s more or less controversial or an opinion by the Pope.”
            Lo said she thinks many students are confused about her organization.
            “I guess when I ask people about Chi Alpha they most often think it’s some kind of sorority,” Lo said.
             Sama Astani, president of the Baha’i Association, said media coverage of religions helps shed light on political situations across the world.
            “Given what we’ve been through as a religion, it’s disappointing [that Baha’i does not get more media attention],” Astani said.
            “In Iran, since it’s an Islamic nation, we’re not really allowed to be Baha’is. Baha’i students aren’t allowed to go to school, to universities. Their rights are being stripped away from them. They can’t live a normal life. A lot of Baha’is are imprisoned unfairly, unjustly. The media can raise awareness of religion’s human rights perspective.”
            Astani said he thinks articles and publications about religion are important in a newly globalized world.
            “It’s important to keep people open-minded to help spread tolerance,” he said.
            “We’re at a point where tolerance is looking a little harder to grasp, especially between Muslims and Christians. Given what’s happened in the last ten years, I understand why it’s happening, but talking about religions in the media helps spread tolerance and knowledge.”
            Sooners Seeking Sanctuary will publish a new blog post roughly every week. The blog can be found at