4 ways to make a difference during the holidays

With finals approaching and the craziness of the holiday season beginning, it is imperative not to forget about the importance of giving. This year, count your blessing and turn your christmas list into something that makes a difference in the lives of those in need. Here are a few simple ways to make a global difference during the holidays:

1. Buy One, Give One

In need of a winter hat, some new glasses, or a pair of fresh kicks? There are various organizations that follow the “buy one, give one” philosophy, allowing shoppers to make an impact with each purchase. Since the philosophy took off in 2011 with Tom’s “One-for-One shoe campaign, companies have joined the bandwagon by targeting their markets to shop towards a cause. Here are few you might not know about:

Warby Parker offers up stylish, quality eyewear – glasses and sunglasses – at a reasonable price. The best part: for every pair purchased, they donate one pair to someone in need, through their partner, VisionSpring. Harley Chase, Marist Senior was seen rocking Warby Parker frames on campus.“Give one, get one brands are a great idea to spread awareness, and I appreciate that these companies acknowledge their social corporate responsibility,” says Chase.smile-squared

Smile Squared is a buy one, give one company that highlights the often overlooked importance of items we might deem mundane, like a toothbrush. Smile Squared offers a high-quality, biodegradable toothbrush to a child in need for every brush sold.

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Hats delivered in hospitals by college superheros

Love Your Melon is an apparel brand run by college students across the country with the mission to give a hat to every child battling cancer in America. For every hat sold, another hat is donated in person to hospitals nationally by Love Your Melon college ambassadors dressed as superheroes. There are even Love Your Melon ambassadors on campus at Marist. Lily Hickey, a Marist Senior joined the program with 20 friends to spread awareness about the company it’s mission. “Cancer has affected far too many people in my life, as well as the lives of countless others. Jumping at the opportunity to start something in the Marist Community that could make a difference for those facing cancer was no question” says Hickey. You can select “Marist College” at checkout to support their group.

2. Give a Microloan 
I’m sorry, what? That’s right. Think less about your student loans for a second and more about the spare change in your pocket right now – it has the potential to reach someone in need and make a significant personal, community and economic impact. Microfinance companies have popped up around the world to help give money directly to people who not only need it most, but also have the least amount of access to loans. Microcredit is an extension of very small loans called microloans, which give money to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history.
It is simpler than it sounds: the operation is designed not only to support entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty, but also in many cases to empower women and uplift entire communities and economies at the same time. kiva-slide-001
Organizations like Kiva and Zidisha are just two of many microfinance companies that allow you to scroll through specific people in need of loans, like “Yusuf, in Nigeria, in need of help to buy food and clothing, eliminating the pressure to sell maize for low prices” (KIVA) or “Jasmin, in the Philippines, who needs help to buy new supplies for her sewing machine.” (KIVA). Kiva also sells Kiva Cards which are essentially gift cards you can give to friends and family to empower them to help those in need. With the card, you choose a borrower, make a loan, get repaid, and repeat. It is the only gift that lets you truly keep on giving.

3. Start a campaign
When your friends and family, significant other or parents start bugging you about what is on your Christmas list, don’t go searching the web for cool gadgets on Amazon that you definitely don’t need. Instead, think about what you might already have that others might need. Start a campaign to raise money for a cause you feel passionate about – from wildlife preservation to world hunger. You can use GoFundMe to create a page and an easy link to send to all your loved ones. If you have a specific charity in mind, you can even make a page that sends money directly to the cause. There, they can donate money in lieu of buying you a horrific sweater you’d never wear or a necklace you’d have to pretend to love. This past September, a boy used his birthday to raise $1,290 on GoFundMe for bullet-proof vests for the local police dogs. Learn about his story here. Some charities even give you an option to start a campaign directly through their website, like charity:water and St. Jude.

4. Skip Secret Santa 

The Secret Santa tradition is often shared amongst friends, families, and even in the workplace. The finite moment of unveiling who you must purchase a gift for can be dreadful: What do they like? What do they need? How much do I spend? The entire ritual can add unnecessary stress to the already hectic holidays. “If you get someone you don’t know then you have to resort to guessing their taste or getting something generic,” says Erin Marcinkiewicz, a nursing student who found herself in 3 different Secret Santa groups last winter.

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“School in a box” UNICEF gift

Here’s an alternative to the painstaking task of secretly buying someone a bottle of wine or set of lotion or bubble bath they will likely re-gift next year: pool together the money each person would have spent on a gift and vote on a charity to send it to. There are countless local, national and global organizations in need. UNICEF has a section on their site that highlights inspired gifts.This allows you to look for specific gifts (within different price ranges) needed for various causes around the world. Once you choose the gift and personalize a card, UNICEF says that “Each lifesaving gift is sent to where children need it most, GUARANTEED.” (inspiredgifts.unicefusa.org). Lisa Richards, a secretary at a small dental office in Morristown, New Jersey opted out of Secret Santa last winter and together with her coworkers, purchased a UNICEF inspired gift called School in a Box for about $200. One of those kits meets the needs of 1 teacher and 40 students to carry on classes for 3 months in a conflict-affected country. “I would trade every Christmas gift I get if it means making that much of an impact.” says Richards.

With the season of giving upon us, it is time to choose how you will make a global impact this winter!

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Behind the scenes with MPORIUM

The Marist fashion department is giving student retail a new meaning with three classes combining product development, buying and marketing together to run the on-campus hub for the latest trends, MPORIUM.

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Students wearing RIVER+STONE

“My biggest goal was to transform Fashionology, which was primarily a “fashion buying lab” course to MPORIUM, an entirely student run enterprise that could better speak to the entire Marist Community” says Professor Jennifer Finn, who teaches the MPORIUM course FASH315, originally titled Fashionology until this semester. The class is divided into four sections: buying, human resources, store management and marketing. Students are completely hands on in researching the latest trends and bringing them to the MPORIUM store. Victoria Marzano, a senior in the home-buying section of the class says “In August I had put together buys from different wholesalers online. When I do a weekly recap after a good week in home it is very rewarding.” However, Marzano says that the most popular department is Marist’s own brand, River+Stone. According to Finn, “River +Stone is still our top performing category, with over 55% of the total business.”  Continue reading

Seniors start planning travels for spring break

“We’re planning spring break!” exclaimed Erika Thompson as she sat huddled over her computer in the downstairs lounge of Lowell Thomas with friend, Mackenzie Kramer.

When they can, the two seniors spend time in between classes and their internships researching hotels and cool vacation spots with hopes of taking a trip in March with their 4 other best friends. Destinations in mind range from Guatemala, St. Lucia, Costa Rica and “we’ve even looked into Norway!” Kramer laughed.

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Kramer created a brochure to show her friends the cost of their trip!

The friends have been close since freshman year and have been saving up for this moment. They are also fairly seasoned travelers, all 6 in the group having studied abroad, where they traveled together to a combined total of 11 different countries. They are utilizing sites like AirBnB and Trip Advisor to help make the trip unique and affordable.

“We don’t want the typical trashy spring break experience. We want to explore a culture and adventure together,” Kramer says, a fashion design major and current design intern at Elizabeth and James who has simultaneously been working tirelessly on her final senior design collection. “I know once we book this flight, looking forward to the trip is what will get me through the hectic days of work!” Thompson agrees – she is onto her second internship in the Hearst Tower, currently a fashion closet intern with Good Housekeeping. “The trip will be reward we wholeheartedly deserve, and a chance to celebrate the hard work we have done all four years of college.” The girls hope to book the trip before Thanksgiving.

Drone policy to ensure safety, not limit creativity

On October 21st, students Matthew Struble and Jon Sterlacci found themselves surrounded and questioned by multiple Marist Security guards as they flew their DJI Phantom 3 drone high above the Rotunda. It was only a week later that Marist released a Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Policy to be enforced starting October 29th.

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SORAerial captures a picturesque shot of the Marist rotunda

“Right as we went up, capturing a great shot of the Rotunda, a security guard came outside with a walkie-talkie. Within 90 seconds, two security guards were coming towards us from Donnelly, two more from Handcock, and eventually 7-8 guards were around us, ” Struble explained. Security asked them what they were using it for and if they had permission. “We explained it was for a project, and then continued to shoot all day.”

Struble finds their ambush and the timely release of the drone policy as no coincidence. Yet, Director of Safety and Security John Gildard assured that no specific incidents on campus led to the creation of the policy, adding that many colleges around the country have issued similar regulations in the past year. “There is nothing to be afraid of” Gildard stated, “We wanted to get out in front of it, before there was a problem.” Monica Couvillion, a Marist senior expressed a fear of drones. “They sound threatening, and the presence of them on campus makes me worry about my privacy.” Struble, a proud ‘drone-er’, insists that the word ‘drone’ itself gets an undeserving negative connotation. “People associate it with drone bombings and spying when most are not much more than a toy plane.”

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Field research leads to a model for post-election peace

Faith Okpotor talks on the efforts behind peace during elections.

On Thursday, October 22, the World Affairs Council of the Mid-Hudson Valley teamed up with Marist College’s UN club to present the Fall 2015 Programs with a talk from Faith Okpotor, recipient of the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant and a Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar from the U.S. Institute of Peace. The event, titled “Electing Violence: Explaining Post-Election Violence in Africa” resulted with a packed audience in the Handcock center with mostly students, but a handful of faculty and locals.WACHV-logo-31

Okpotor did not waste time. In fact, she was briefly introduced by the faculty UN club advisor, Dr. Juris Pupcenoks, but then did not expand on anything regarding herself. She dove right into the model – conditioning, then exploitation, and then escalation – which she had created based on her post-election violence research done in Cote D’ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. The audience followed along with her presentation, which included a detailed flow chart to compliment her explanation of every step. She moved fast, but it was easy to understand because you could tell she was so seasoned in speaking on the topic.

Okpotor took us to Ghana first, where there has been a reduction in electoral violence over the years. Why? Due to public awareness made by the government. “When I talked to leaders there [Ghana] they had all admitted to participating in the violence.” She explained, noting, “Peace is still highly at risk.” She further explained that it was in the 2012 election that societal development for sustained and continuous efforts of peace promotion began.

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Who is behind the sushi counter? A cultural virtuoso

In the Marist cafeteria, 4:00pm is a meticulously organized time – a calm before the storm, when the cafeteria workers are preparing dinner and bracing themselves for the slew of hungry students soon to arrive. “We are pretty busy!” answered JoJo Naing from behind the sushi bar, when I if he could spare a minute for a few questions. His wife, Thin Thin, was feverishly setting up the ginger, wasabi and soy sauce station while he checked the rice cooker. JoJo and Thin Thin are happily married – and you can tell. Together, the couple works six days a week serving the Marist students their very own delicious sushi, from tuna avocado to California rolls.IMG_3398 (1)

Jojo and Thin Thin are originally from Myanmar, but left their homeland 10 years ago due to the serious ongoing civil conflict there. “There is no peace in my country”, Jojo stated. Along with their two daughters, the Naing family now resides in Hyde Park where they have their own sushi restaurant, KT Sushi. Occasionally, you can even find their daughters behind the counter, helping their parents by rolling out sushi or preparing rice. The two more or less communicate with the Marist community with the help of a translator, but can get by in casual conversation with the students. “They are always smiling, and I can tell they love what they are doing!” says Marist freshman Kevin Stewart, who admits to eating from the sushi bar almost daily. Continue reading

Pool owners pay for the heat

MORRISTOWN, N.J. – Diving into your refreshing pool during a hot summer day is a little less appealing when you realize that the heat also forces you to dip back into your wallet. Pool owner Peter Schmitt, of Morristown New Jersey, noticed a trend his pool expenses this summer. “The hotter it got outside, the faster the chlorine levels in the water declined.” Schmitt noted that in June and July, the average cost of supplies – particularly chlorine – was around $70 per month. “In August, I dropped almost $110 to keep the pool maintained and chlorinated to the sufficient levels. Valerie Blafer, a fellow Morristown resident and pool owner noted that the hotter in seemed to be outside, the dirtier her pool looked. “I found myself not only spending more money on chlorine, but also more time on vacuuming and cleaning away algae.” With the dog days of summer lasting far into September, Schmitt found himself in a dilemma. “If it is still hot, I usually like to keep my pool open as long as possible – to get the most use out of it. But by the weekend after Labor Day, I usually close my pool.” This year, he explained – “I would have loved to keep my pool open one more month. But I spent way too much money on chlorine this summer already.” And with that, Schmitt and his family bared the hot days of September without a pool. Similarly, Blafer noted “I closed my pool on August 31st, much earlier than usual, because I was sick of the upkeep. My pool felt like work, when in the past it felt like a luxury.” Early September weather has so far been anything but luxurious. According to Accuweather.com, the high temperatures during the first week of September this year ranged from 96 to 99 degrees.“I could have used a swim,” admitted Blafer’s 11 year old daughter, Mollie Blafer.

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