Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leavin the Rez

Hey folks,
It's been a while since my last post, and I've had a couple changes recently so I thought I'd spread some knowledge and democracy with this post.

I recently moved off campus, for the first time since I started college three years ago (time flies).  My freshman year, I lived in Carleson through May term and spent the summer back home in Colorado with family.  After plans to get a house and live in Salt Lake fell through following my sophomore year, I spent that summer at home as well.  This year, I decided to stay here in the Valley-I moved into a house with a 3 month lease by the U.  It burned down shortly after I moved in (all the room mates made it out safely and all my stuff was fine), so I'm now living with a friend who had a spare bedroom for the remainder of the summer.

It's about two and a half miles from campus, to the South and East.  It's chiefly a residential area, and the closest grocery store/shopping center/freeway entrance/etc.  However, it is a little closer to the Canyons and subsequent mountain access, which has been a boon for me.  This is a pretty major difference for me; living on the Westminster Campus, I've only lived in the middle of Sugarhouse.  This "eclectic borough" (as we call it) is a blend of residential, shopping, and business zones.  From campus, it's a 3 minute walk to the gigantic Sugarhouse Park, a 5 minute walk to the local favorite coffee shop,  Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods, Red Man tobacco office, and a 7 minute walk to the nearest Chipotle and grocery store.

I've found this change to be both good and bad; it's easy for me to get away when I want to, and there aren't the stereotypical pitfalls that come with campus living (less-than great living conditions, loud people late at night, etc).  By bike, the distance isn't too bad, and I'm significantly closer to both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, Mt. Olympus, and a couple other Wasatch front destinations I've taken advantage of.  However, driving a gas guzzler-SUV makes it relatively tough to get back and forth from Sugarhouse, where my girlfriend and most friends still live, without my wallet taking a hit.  I miss being able to walk down the street for an early morning cup of coffee, spending the afternoon in the library, and not being able to walk to the gym has significantly decreased my gainz.

Taking the good with the bad, I loved campus living and the convenience of it all.  But I was ready to move off campus.  Ya'll have any questions about differences between living on/off campus, feel free to hit me up!

Have a great rest of your summer!

Austin

*Tough times don't last, but tough people do*

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Signing Out


Hey Folks,
Well, summer is here.  And it's been here for a while.  So far, I've:

  • Moved out of the dorms
  • Moved into a 6-person house by the U
  • Watched as the top floor of that house burned down
  • Moved to a new house, on the opposite side of WC
  • Moved my family halfway across the country
  • Started a completely new job
  • Gone camping
  • Seen family
  • Spent time with friends
  • Learned everything there is to know about wine
  • Gone to two weddings
  • Climbed a mountain in a jeep, then almost rolled down
I'm excited to see where the summer takes me and my friends/family.  I've got friends in four countries in Europe, Africa, Thailand  and China.  It's going to be a great summer, can't wait to hear stories from everyone.  Enjoy the break Griffins!

Austin

*Tough times don't last, but tough people do*

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hindsight

We all know that hindsight is 20/20.  If we could act on every opportunity with the wisdom we get after experiencing it, life would be MUCH simpler, easier, and less painful.  It would also be boring, stagnant, and we'd never learn anything.  So while it's vitally important to live and to learn, to succeed and to make mistakes, a little bit of advice never hurt anyone.  Take it for what it is: these are my experiences and some of the more important lessons I've learned from my time at Westminster.  Here's "Three Things I Wish I Knew Coming into College."

1.)  "Show respect to all but grovel before none" (be strong in your humility)
In high school, I thought I was hot s#*t.  I wasn't much of an athlete and I didn't date the prom queen, but I did find something that I loved and truly excelled at.  My debate partner and I were one of the best teams in the state of Colorado and missed the chance to go to Nationals by only one ignorant judge who couldn't stand my high school for whatever reason.  I was extremely confident in my ability to find fault with any issue and make everyone see my point of view (I was also very confident that I could take any issue-irrespective of how bad or screwed up it was-and make everyone see the good/my way about the issue).  While this confidence helped me in many aspects of my life, I alienated myself by telling everyone my opinion about everything, and refusing to hear other points of view by dominating the other person through debate tactics.  I was annoying, isolated, and inherently limited in the scope of what I could accept out of higher education.  I can still vividly remember the day that my stubbornness was exposed to me (by the parent of one of the kids on my debate team, no less), and consider it a life changing event.  In fact, this 'getting knocked down and trampled upon' (as I call it) has changed almost everything about who I am as an individual.  While I am still very set in my views and not afraid to defend them in the face of oppression, I rarely trumpet them preferring to keep my mouth shut, and do not consider myself the best at anything. This has drastically opened up my social network, but has also furthered my professional education as I am able to accept and consider constructive criticism, learn from it, and apply useful parts in my daily life.  It's thus made me a better person, learner, worker, friend, and individual.  I wish I had known to listen and consider what others had to say before jumping to conclusions.

2.)  "Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, in a lonely place." (Know your friends, and hold them close)
This was a lesson that I'm still trying to learn from on a daily basis, but has affected my life more than any other single event in my journey of life.  I do not have the time nor the inclination to go into details, but about one year ago a close friend of mine committed suicide completely out of the blue (ironically, my signature quote at the end of each of my blog posts is a quiet nod to him as it was one of his favorite sayings).  At the risk of sounding ridiculously cliche, this really can happen to anyone; thinking that it can't or won't happen to you or to your family/friends is dangerously ignorant.  But enough about suicide.
What I chose to take from the event is the importance of friendship and the importance in realizing that you are also a friend to others.  Part of your duty as a caring friend is to watch-and, if need be, protect-your buddy's back at all times.  This is an important tenet of any friendship, but the more important (and less acknowledged) tenet is the fact that you have friends who are trying to do that for you as well.  Be there for each other.  And when you need it, let others know that you need them.  I'm blessed to have more brothers than I can count who would willingly lay their life down for me, and I am equally blessed to realize this fact.  I'll never let any of them down.

3.)   "When you arise in the morning, give thanks...for the joy of living.  If you see no reason for giving thanks, the problem lies only in yourself."  (Remember what you have and what you love)
Challenges are made to be just that: challenging.  Whether its starting off your freshman year in a new state, applying for a competitive internship, starting a family, or racing for 26.2 miles with 40 pounds on your back in the desert, it's important to push yourself to succeed by accepting and accomplishing challenging goals.  Unfortunately, a major part of the challenge is the threat of failure; the higher the consequences the higher the reward.  When you don't meet your goals and are ineffective in accomplishing the challenge, it's easy to get down on yourself.  At times like this, I have a hard time keeping things in perspective and sometimes allow my failure to negatively color all of my future endeavors.  I've certainly gotten better at avoiding this problem, and through my (numerous) failures, I'm able to better appreciate what I have had.  And by appreciating what I had and have, I'm reminded that I've accomplished other challenges in the past in order to get to where I now am.  Time spent on happy contemplation of the good things in my life, that I have earned propel me through bad times AND through good times.  Seeing who I am and what I love is helpful for me during the good times and the bad.

Hope ya'll enjoyed reading.  While writing this, I constantly asked myself how I will view this article in two, three, five, and ten years.  I'm excited to learn and experience more in the days to come, and very lucky to have lived the life I've lived so far.

Cheers,
Austin

*Tough times don't last, but tough people do*

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Call Sign: Huntin'

It's your second week of your first year of college.  You get up early for your Thursday morning, 8:00am health class (only tolerable because it's your last class before the weekend), and-distracted with thoughts of studying-barely notice the desertion and silence settled over your campus; strange even for that time of day.  Nothing registers as amiss until the clock strikes the hour and you're still the only one in the room.  Beginning to panic and thinking that you must have missed the email that canceled class, or, worse, you're embarrassingly in the wrong room, you turn to check the door.  This is when you realize that you're not alone.  First you hear the shallow panting and soft shuffling, then you smell the sweet aroma of decay, and, finally, you see it.  Suddenly...

ZOMBIESSS!!!!!!!!

That's right folks, while the possibility of a full blown Zombie-takeover of campus is (admittedly) low, failing to plan is planning to fail.  As such, and because I want to give my readers a leg up in surviving the infestation, I'm going to share my highly classified plans for dealing with the inevitable (yes, I actually have plans, and yes, the possibility just went from unlikely to inevitable...come at me bro).  

Were I in the unlucky shoes of the student I described above, and needed to protect my health by bailing on my health class, I've got several options.  If the zombie is alone (and assuming we're looking at Walking Dead zombies, rather than I Am Legend zombies), I feel confident that my swinging backpack could knock the target to the ground, at which point I either bypass the threat and proceed to exit the building, or (METT-TC depending) dispose of the threat for good with a swift downward thrust of my heel onto the targets forehead.  If more than one target is attempting to approach me, I'll probably go for the window and use the aforementioned backpack to break a window and hop out.  Arming myself with whatever weapon I can find (be it stick, stone, or the "hamburgers" served at Shaw) I'll move across campus to the Stock apartment volleyball court to meet my buddies, our already agreed-upon rally point to form up and fight off the campus.  On the way to the court, I plan on using every building, bush, and tree as concealment; however, if the opportunity arises, I'll aggressively rid the campus of as many living-dead invaders as possible.

Bro-Force In Action

Once I've rallied with the "bros," we'll re-provision ourselves, re-assess the situation and finally move to establish a safe zone around Westminster's poster building Converse.  From here, we'll save who we can, treat who we can, and deal with who we can't.  I've already stashed supplies for two weeks on the roof of Converse, so we should have enough supplies for 20+ people for at least one week; everything from water, to nerf darts, to food, to sleeping bags is sitting on the roof of converse right now.  I feel confident that we'll be able to survive and defend the campus until we can be rescued and assemble a larger zombie-huntin' team to put them back under the ground.  

Stay ready, Stay Alive!

Cheers, and stay imaginative.  

Austin 

*Tough times don't last, but tough people do.*

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Just Warming Up

Looking through my blog entries, I can't help but be surprised at how quickly time passes.  I try to post about one blog entry a week, and it seems like just last month that I was welcoming everyone back from Christmas break, reminiscing on skiing trips, and turning the apartment heat up against the snow drifting down through the windows.

And now I'm typing this with the beginnings of a tan, rocking the classic shorts/t-shirt/sandals look and stretching to put the air conditioning on (well I'm not quite going for the AC yet...the heat just feels too good).

Long story short, I'm enjoying the sun and the challenge of actually attending class as the green grass and warm air pulls my attention elsewhere.  Here at Westminster, we're all gearing up for finals-as well as barbecues, beach season, and Bermuda shirts.  Good luck on finishing out the year strong, Griffins, and enjoy the sun!

Cheers,

Austin

*Tough times don't last, but tough people do*

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lecture Series

Hello folks!

The year is quickly drawing to a close; the grass is turning green, flowers are starting to bloom, t-shirts and short-skirts are starting to appear on campus, and students are registering for next year.  This time of year is always a good one...academic work is in the lull before the storm, barbecues are being fired up and the sun is starting to tan some skin.  It's also a time of reflection: what did I do well this year; how can I improve next year; what are some memorable experiences; am I getting enough bang for my buck; etc.  Personally, I've recently realized how fortunate I was to (finally) start taking advantage of the Executive Lecture Series this year.  The series is promoted by and hosted at Westminster College, and features a diverse group of public speakers.  We've had generals, diplomats, businessmen/women, activists, scholars, and many other categories of professionals address the community in their field of study.  This was my first year taking advantage of the series, and I've learned a ton from the simple lectures.  

I attended quiet a few throughout the year, and plan on intending future lectures in subsequent years.  Some that particularly stick out to me are lecture's I've blogged about already, including the founder of The Mission Continues, a Pakistani woman's rights lawyer, and a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  They've expanded my regional knowledge, issue knowledge, and (hopefully) professional contacts.  I'm going to remember some of the lessons discussed in the lectures and hopefully apply them in future endeavors.  If you haven't yet, I encourage you to check out the next lecture!  

Cheers,

Austin

*Tough times don't last, but tough people do.*

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scholarly Pursuits

Good afternoon folks,

Thought I would talk a little about the relatively young Scholars program for this weeks blog entry.  I'm currently in my first scholars class, Contemporary Issues of War and Peace, which is being co-taught by Bill Bynum, Jeff Nichols, Fatima Mujcinovic, Michael Popich, and Tim Dolan.  The course analyzes several different aspects of the American involvement in the post-9/11 Global War on Terror, including Human Trafficking, Torture, Interventions, and Irredentism.  It's a very interesting course and is filled with some of Westminster's most active and engaged students who are committed to making a difference in the world.  

The program is designed as an equally rigorous sister program to the Honors School with a larger emphasis on discussion and hand's on learning.  It was started during my sophomore year, and I just became involved in the program this semester (too late to earn a Scholars Diploma upon graduation).  From the program's website page, 

"The Westminster Scholars program is a challenging, hands-on, collaborative learning environment designed to develop [student's] critical, creative and analytical thinking. These motivated students participate in small problem-based learning courses limited to twenty students. The problems explored in these courses will come from current real world situations and will challenge students to actively learn and apply their knowledge to develop solutions."\

The program stresses discussion and debate, and is mainly student led.  Students are presented with real-world problems by their professors, and are expected to work both independently and collaboratively to find and apply theoretical (or actual) solutions.  Many Scholars classes give student's the opportunity to earn community service hours while fulfilling course requirements and actively working to improve the Salt Lake area.  Many student's have done work at local schools, homeless shelters, food banks, and community centers.

My class, which doesn't exactly deal with issues of local pertinence, is still looking at the issues in a regional light.  Our cumulative project and final is to identify an issue of global relevance with solutions that can begin at the local level.  For example, my group has just started working on the Guantanamo Bay question while attempting to find a way to shut it down.  We're tossing around ideas of affecting national leadership decisions here in Salt Lake, including boycotts and strikes.  We'll see where the project ends up.

The Scholars program is an awesome type of class for students like myself, who learn by doing and experiencing rather than by osmosis or lecture.  I encourage everyone to check the classes out, they're a great time!

Cheers,

Austin
*Tough times don't last, but tough people do*