Nothing like the sun in Miami

I left Cleveland on an evening flight, after a long day of work.  It makes for efficient, yet exhausting travel.  Luckily I had a direct flight to Miami.

 

Crandon Park Beach - not a bad way to spend the first day of vacation!

Crandon Park Beach – not a bad way to spend the first day of vacation!

The next morning was my beach day.  My mom and I slathered on some sunscreen and headed out to the beaches.  We didn’t go to South Beach, like I originally planned because Memorial Day weekend is Urban Beach festival, which means the streets were shut down and set up with multiple police check point stations.  All in all, it was too much of a headache that I preferred to avoid.  So we went to Crandon Park instead, which was relatively empty.

Relaxing under the palms

Relaxing under the palms

 

We settled under a palm tree for some partial shade and then basked in the bathwater temperature Atlantic ocean.  The continental shelf is further out in this section of South Florida, so it is shallow for really a long stretch.  There are also lots of seagrass beds, which are home to bottom dwelling marine creatures, like crabs and clams, and juvenile fish.  Once the fish grow up they head out to the coral reefs.

Exposed sea grass beds during low tide

Exposed sea grass beds during low tide

 

When the tide rolled out, the beds were exposed, prompting seagulls, anhinga birds, and pelicans to feast on the exposed fish and invertebrates.  Some of the exposed creatures included pink marine worms that truthfully looked like pink condoms. Some teens were freaking out about them, thinking they were jellyfish they would be stung from.  I assured them that there weren’t.  They delighted in touching the worms.

 

Intrigued by the exposed marine life

Intrigued by the exposed marine life

Marine tube worm exposed during low tide

Marine tube worm exposed during low tide

I strolled out to check out the beach dunes, which highly protected ecosystems.  The plants have really deep roots that function to prevent the sand from eroding away into the water.  They also are home to sea turtle nests!  I really couldn’t have asked for a better lazy beach day!

 

Beach dune ecosystem

Beach dune ecosystem

I ended the day with an early dinner at Tarpon Bend in Coral Gables.  Their mojitos and calamari are to die for.  I also splurged on some oysters and a shrimp sandwich.  Let’s just say that I am happy I do not have a shellfish allergy.  I love them way too much. YUM!

My favorite: raw oysters on a half shell

My favorite: raw oysters on a half shell

Mojito!!!!

Mojito!!!!

Research is my life.

Research is my life.  I’m the kind of person who is never content with knowing that things work or don’t work.  I need to know how and why they work or don’t work. Science research allows me the opportunity to answer these questions through experiments and data collection.  My name is Sharita Hill.   I am 27 years old and a mother of two wonderful children. I am also a Biology Pre-med major at Ursuline. I will be starting my senior year in the Fall of 2013, but this blog is to talk about the amazing research opportunity that I received this summer.Sharita Hill

It all started around February of this year. Professor Snyder, of Ursuline’s biology department sent out a mass email to all of her science students about summer internship opportunities at Case Western Reserve University. This immediately caught my attention because Case is a very well known research school, not to mention it is where I plan to earn my master’s degree.  From the list I found the Minority HIV Research Training Program (MHRTP) through the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).  I would be spending the whole summer working with a team of doctors dedicated to introducing advancements, both medical and holistic, in the effort to fight HIV and AIDS.  It seemed like a dream come true.  The only problem was that the deadline for the application was one week away.

I scrambled to put together all of the things that the application required of me, and enlisted the help of chemistry professor Dr. Preston and  biology professor Snyder to write letters of recommendation for me.  They were both willing and able to produce letters within 24 hours. I’m not quite sure what they wrote, but two months later I received an email from the MHRTP, informing me that I was the only applicant who had been accepted into the program.

On May 24 I was able to have a face to face meeting with my program mentor, Dr. Robert Salata.  He is a Professor and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Medicine and the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine at CWRU.  He is a fantastic mentor match for me.  He is devoted to research and making a difference in the world.  His research involves education and prevention techniques in order to prevent the spread of HIV. Using the prior education and prevention work that he has done in Uganda, he was able to design a very similar outreach program for a high risk HIV/ STI area here in Cleveland. The program is designed to target adolescents and teens. I was informed that I will be in charge of collecting statistical data concerning how informed teens are about safe sex practices and how their level of education contributes to the number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) within the community. I will also be leading classes to help teens make better informed choices about safe sex practices.

My first official day of work will begin on Wednesday May 29. I’m very excited to see what impact I can have on furthering the goals of this program. The staff has been so welcoming to me; I only hope that I can add more greatness to this already fantastic team.

Packing for 2.5 months (and with a cat!)

Packing for a 2.5 month multi-purpose trip to 2 US states and a developing country is a tad challenging.  And yes that cat is coming with me on my adventure (more on that soon).

Luggage for 2.5 months

I have been traveling for quite some time and have figured a few things out along the way.  So I thought I would share some of my top ten rules for packing.

10. Do NOT buy heavy and expensively pretty luggage.  It should be durable, and it WILL get dirty from being processed.

9.  Lay out all your clothes beforehand and choose outfits that are multipurpose and coordinate with each other.

8.  Choose a neutral makeup palette and bring just the essentials (mascara, powder, tinted lip balm, blush, and one eye palette is enough for me).

7.  Choose clothes that travel well and do not wrinkle easily.

6.  Roll your clothes inside out to prevent wrinkles, pack tightly, and avoid getting dirty from inside your bag.

Jsnyder_2Jsnyder_5

5.  Bring multipurpose undergarments – I love convertible bras for this reason.

4. Wear your bulky clothes and shoes on the plane – always have a sweater/jacket, scarf, and/or socks in case the plane is freezing.

3. Use every nook of space in your luggage.  For example, I always put my socks or belts in my shoes.  I also keeps them from getting flattened.  If I have a fragile item, I wrap it in my clothes to pad it.

2.  Always leave space a little space in your luggage for gifts or mementos from your vacation.My carryons include a packable purse (Black Longchamp).   Included in my essentials are my dissertation field/data notebooks (yellow).  They never leave my possession!

1.  The following items belong only in your carryon/personal item!!!  Do not let them be away from you in case you get stranded without your checked luggage: prescription drugs, computer, camera, all chargers, jewelry, passport(!!!!), and anything else that is really delicate/valuable.

I am sure I am forgetting to pack something, but isn’t that part of the charm of traveling?

 

After the Lecture: What does an Ecologist do with their summer “break”?

That is a good question!  Hopefully this post will provide some insight.Jenise Snyder working with wetland plants in Belize

First though… who am I and what am I going to blog about this summer?  My name is Jenise Snyder and I am a full-time Biology Instructor at Ursuline College.  I have been teaching at Ursuline for 3 years.  I am an Ecologist, specifically a Wetland Ecologist and have been studying tropical and subtropical wetlands for the past 12 years.

As a Ph.D. student in Ecology at the University of California, Davis, I have been investigating how excess nutrients from fertilizers impact naturally low nutrient wetlands in Belize.  Part of my summer travel will actually be to work on writing the final chapters of my dissertation.

The rest of my summer travel is for vacation… well not really.  As an educator, you kind of never take that professor hat off.  So while I am going on vacation to Miami (Florida, not Ohio) and Belize, I know I will be collecting snippets of information, pictures, and  legally collected specimens, that will be used in my future classes.

So what am I planning to do on vacation?  Well first off, go to the beach!  My hometown of Miami has lovely beaches that I plan to visit and soak up the sun.  I will do some eating too.  I love Cuban food namely: café con leche, flan, and some pastelitos (little pastries).  Plus, I am going to visit my family.

In Belize, I am on a surf and turf vacation.  I will start off exploring some Mayan ruins in Central Belize.  Then I will head to the islands for some snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and some serious lounging in a hammock.  I am looking forward to going to my Belize as a tourist and not a researcher for once!

The final and longest leg of my journey will be to Davis, CA, a college town about 25 minutes southwest of Sacramento, and 130 minutes north of San Francisco.  I am renting a home here and will be hanging out with my Ph.D. advisor and lab colleagues.  While I am here, I hope that I can finish writing the last bits of my dissertation, as well as work on some future research projects.  But all work and no play is no fun, so I imagine that a trip or two to Sonoma or Napa Valley to do some wine tasting will probably happen.

So yeah, I think this is going to be a pretty amazing summer.  I hope you enjoy my journey.

My Travel Itinerary

  • 5.23 – 5.27: Miami, FL
  • 5.27 – 5.29: San Ignacio, Belize
  • 5.29 – 6.3: Caye Caulker, Belize
  • 6.3 – 6.4: Miami, FL
  • 6.4 – 8.10?: Davis, CA

Ursuline Psychology takes you places!

Ursuline Psychology takes you places!

Research plays an important role within the field of psychology, and our department has done a wonderful job at providing exciting opportunities such as this to students who wish to pursue a career in psychology. The goal of the Midwestern Psychological Association is to promote the advancement of psychological science. This is done through holding an annual meeting at which papers, posters, and symposia research are presented.There are over 2000 members of MPA, which makes it one of the largest psychological associations in the world. Members hold positions in universities, colleges, hospitals, clinics, school systems, business and industry, government and private practice. They teach, conduct research in laboratories, do diagnosis, therapy, and counseling, and serve as administrators and consultants. Through attending this conference, we have had the opportunity to network with fellow psychology majors, professors from other intuitions, and attend lectures of some of the leading researchers in their field. Psi Chi, an international honors society in psychology, is also an important part of our path towards a career in psychology, and its goal is also to promote and encourage research from undergraduate and graduate students.

Becoming member of Psi Chi has given us the opportunity to win an award for our submission to the MPA conference. Of the 400 plus research projects that were presented this year, only 18, including ours, won an award in excellence from Psi Chi. This is a wonderful achievement for us, and shows the wonderful opportunities available when students join Psi Chi and attend conferences such as MPA. We could not have accomplished all of this without the help of our faculty advisors, Dr. Edmonds and Dr. Frazier, so for this, we thank you!

Ursuline Psychology takes you places!May 1st  Just landed in Chicago! The Palmer House is absolutely gorgeous; we are so excited to have this 19th century home for the next few days. Painted ceilings and gold leaf trimming-staying here makes life feel like a movie! Chicago is such a beautiful city, and the weather is wonderful so we headed out to go sight-seeing. We saw “the bean”, Millennium Park, the fountains with faces, as well as the Chicago Riverwalk. Headed to dinner now, maybe we will get a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza…

May 2nd  This is the day we present our poster and accept our award from Psi Chi!: Waiting for our names to be called to receive the award, inflicted reflection upon how far we have come and the amount of work we have put into our research. It is amazing to have this opportunity-not only to have the professors and programs to teach us how to do quality research, but the freedom to design our own experiment within our own interests, and then to share it and be recognized in a professional setting; amazing experience.poster sessions, sit in lectures of our choosing, and attend roundtable discussions. We learned a lot today, and really enjoyed meeting new people and networking. It was an awesome experience to speak to others who are interested about our research, as well as learn what our peers around the country are researching also. We saw posters on topics ranging from Autism and the basal ganglia to texting while driving, along with many diverse others. It was so nice to meet so many people in one place who share the same passion for psychology; definitely a sense of belonging! We even got to see Elizabeth Loftus in person… her work is Ursuline Psychology takes you places!groundbreaking! It was crazy to be able to see her lecture in person after learning about her in class. We

May 3rd  This is our last day at the conference, and today we are free to walk through absolutely enjoyed our trip and will remember it always. We genuinely enjoyed interacting with our academic peers and hope to come back again next year!

After the Lecture: Service Trip to El Salvador

Students, faculty and alumnae from the Art Therapy and Counseling Department at Ursuline College are currently on a service trip in El Salvador. Read their blog below.

Art Therapy and Counseling Trip to El SalvadorFinal Blog: El Salvador Service Trip 2013 We began this service learning trip with the idea to immerse ourselves in another culture to see and be seen. It was our premise to experience the world as interconnected, and become more global citizens in the world. We hoped that this experience would be eye opening and that we could bring some joy to the children of Santo Domingo School in Chiltiupan, El Salvador. This experience did prove to be eye opening and more! The faculty, alumni and students were blessed with an “over the moon” reception of gratitude, made evident by multiple hugs, kisses and excitement in all the art and creative activities. The people we came in contact with were warm, authentic, and earnest in learning from all of us, as we were eager to learn from them.

The Ursuline students, alumni and staff quickly picked up Spanish phrases that made communication more viable. At times it was a comedic play of crazy charades in hopes of being understood. Nevertheless, love is a universal language, and it was felt in the students outreach and the heartfelt response. We successfully worked with approximately 150 children, from ages 5-17, painting, drawing, and creating all manner of craft projects. In addition, 6 murals were painted on the school walls with the support of the teens at Santo Domingo School, and this left a lasting mark for the children to remember our time together.

Art Therapy and Counseling Trip to El Salvador

Adding to the art making and work at the school, we visited extreme rural areas around Chiltiupan to get a better world view of the grim reality of poverty and its effects on individuals. We even went to a very small school on another mountain top and made a surprise visit. We went about entertaining these shocked children with the “hokie pokie” and then proceeded to teach an art therapy lesson of feeling expression. These particular children indicated to us how grateful they were for our “drop in” visit letting us know that they were honored because they are often forgotten about because of their remote location.

Toward the end of our trip, we toured the capital and were able to see the mural and memorial wall honoring the 75,000 people killed in the civil war. Sister Dorothy Kazel and the 3 other church women were listed on this wall, along with countless others who lost their lives fighting for freedom.

At the end of the day, we have been given a bigger gift than we could ever have brought. The gift was one of gratitude. No matter how poor any of the native El Salvadoran people were, there was always enough joy for a smile and an invitation to sit and talk, or come into their home, no matter how humble. Surely our time was well spent in the service of humanity, and as we helped, we received tenfold.
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Saturday April 20 We just finished a beautiful breakfast while looking at the ocean. Heading to the airport soon. We all have mixed feelings of joy and sadness. Our hearts have been opened in new ways and we will forever be grateful for this experience.

Friday April 19 Our last day in El Salvador today. We are heading to the city of San Salvador to go to the art museum and the market; then some time at the beach!

Art Therapy and Counseling Trip to El SalvadorThursday April 18 Our last day at the school. Bittersweet. The children and the students have been enriched by this experience. A 5th grader in Cleveland had donated all her stuffed animals for our trip. We gave them out yesterday and it was axing to witness the excitement and joy!

Our students are a marvel and have taken the voice, vision and values ideals into practice. They have been so generous of heart and spirit, truly amazing.

Wednesday April 17 Monday was an exciting day. Children at Santo Domingo School were overjoyed with our presence and art materials. We worked hard at practicing Spanish phrases and giving out lots of hugs! Students really seemed to gain experience in multicultural awareness and communication. We are off again this morning for a 9 hour day! Adios!

Sunday April 14 Arrived Saturday. After the memorial, Sr. Rose pulled to the side of the road for some cool refreshing coconut juice. The woman at the stand whacked the coconuts with a machete. She put straws into the top of the coconut so we could drink the juice. Later she sliced them open and we ate the coconut meat! Delicious!
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At the start of every endeavor it is important to ask, “Why are we doing this, and why do we want to do this?” We as students and faculty at Ursuline College wish to come to El Salvador to help those in need. After searching for different locations to provide Art Therapy and Counseling for people of the world who need help, it appeared that El Salvador was one of the best choices due to Ursuline College and Ursuline Sisters connection to El Salvador in providing service work and help over the last 30+ years.

Because we are Art Therapists, we also know that art has no barriers and a common language is not needed for the expressive healing of art making and art psychotherapy to be of benefit. As faculty and members of the department of Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling, we also wanted to find a way for our students to become global helpers and healers, and to be able to see the world in a more realistic light. This reality will help to create a mature and seasoned therapist in the world, wherever the student ultimately chooses to practice counseling and art therapy. To see and be seen are core needs in every human beings life, we are at the very least hoping to provide a lens of understanding and deep compassion for those in El Salvador who we work with by really “seeing” the essence of human suffering, courage, and resilience.

Art Therapy and Counseling Trip to El Salvador

We wish to serve the children in El Salvador who feel disenfranchised and unempowered. Those who have experienced loss, grief, trauma, stress, depression, hopelessness and despair are our target group; however, all are welcome to experience art therapy and counseling groups, sessions, and projects as Sr. Rose and Sr. Irma see fit. Those who are attending from the U.S. include students Mari Ballentine, Stephanie Ferenc, Diane Fleisch-Hughes, Rachel Lyman, Steve Macek, Emma Pitchford, Nema Saleem, Brittany Spaulding, Sharon Stupp, Ashley Tilberg, Nicole Topp, UC alum Areka Foster, and faculty Megan Seaman, Katherine Jackson and Sister Kathleen Burke.