On Ukraine: Upcoming Event from the International Studies Program

Hi Honors Students,

As many of you are aware, these past few weeks have been tense and painful in the realm of foreign affairs. With Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, many outside the conflict are left frightened and reeling by the first intra-continental war in Europe since WWII. DePaul’s International Studies Program will be holding a virtual panel to discuss the recent invasion of Ukraine and the history of tension between Russia and NATO. The event is co-sponsored by the Political Science Program and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy.

The event will be held on Tuesday, March 8th at 4:30

The event will be held over Zoom

Guest Speaker Dr. David Stovall

Since the Spring of 2020, Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been under attack due to distortions and lies about its creation and purpose.  As part of the “Taking a Stand” speaker series, Dr. Stovall will explain what CRT is and its utility in the battle between myth-making and historical accuracy.

This virtual event will take place on Thursday, January 20th. 6:00 – 7:15 PM.

Please register on Eventbrite by clicking here.

Missing the Little Things

Author: Elizabeth Ruda

As a suburban commuter, I wasn’t one to hang around Chicago too long after class, but I started getting nostalgic the second everything went on lockdown. Managing Metra transfers and exploring the urban landscape gave me little daily quests, some tasks to accomplish. I enjoyed the growing sense of freedom that came with discovering new locales in the Loop and seeing how far my legs and a Google Maps connection could carry me.

Now, I’m not going to complain about my two-hour commute to campus dropping to a two-minute jog down the stairs, but being forced to sit still on camera for extended periods of time does not quite lead me to appreciate Zoom University in the same way I did going to school in the city.

There are little things about Chicago I miss. One custom I still find charming is visible when it rains. As someone heads down a sidewalk with an umbrella open overhead, another person with an umbrella will approach from the opposite direction. In order to avoid bumping into each other, the two people will tilt their umbrellas away as they pass, not enough to uncover their heads, but enough to create room. After a while, this practice becomes natural to the point that people don’t even have to make eye contact with each other to initiate it. I thought this was so wonderful from an anthropological perspective that I ended up including it in a creative nonfiction reflection on umbrellas (which was aptly titled “On Umbrellas”).

I also find it sweet how people look out for each other. I feel that people in Chicago typically keep to themselves, not talking to anyone, fiddling with repeated internet searches over asking questions out loud. Seating on the quad was six feet apart before the pandemic; most would rather not create an awkward situation by sitting next to a stranger even if an entire bench is between them. But when waiting for classes, it would be normal to ask a random person nearby, “Hey, would you mind watching my stuff?” as one made a quick trip to the washroom or water fountain. I never had to fend anyone with sticky fingers off from another person’s belongings, either.

A few years down the line, though, I’m sure my Zoom classes will have their own sort of special place in my memory. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s gotten a kick out of seeing people’s pets wandering around in the background or tried to keep a straight face while my parents did something silly off-camera to get me to laugh.

Nostalgia has its merits. At the same time, reality is in the present. Gratitude for what has been, is, and is to come will carry us through whatever trials and consolations lie ahead.

DePaul Campus = Ghost Town

Author: Vinnie Podlasek 

Photo: Christina Milich

The time is 8 a.m., I wake up with the same feeling as SpongeBob after a night at Weenie Hut Jr’s. Groggy and completely exhausted, I get dressed, and like usual, I’m wearing the same outfit as every Tuesday. I step outside into the chilling winter air, taking an excellently long sign as I wipe the fog off my glasses. Thus, I begin my commute to DePaul. 

A more or less 30-minute commute from the South Side of Chicago to Lincoln Park, I arrive at DePaul’s Campus. Using the SpotHero app, I park under the “L” as the train rumbles and screeches, shaking everything around me. I sit in my car, preparing for the class as I finish my breakfast banana. I step out of the car and begin a snow ridden walk to class. 

It is the winter quarter and walking on DePaul’s Campus for the first time after almost a year since “Zoom University” began… it felt strange, almost eerie. The feeling of a “ghost town” would devour over any other thought I had. Walking to the Art & Letters Hall to attend my French class was surreal. Felt almost wrong, like I was going to get in trouble for being the only soul in sight. Nevertheless, I entered and attended class with just three other classmates, and of course, my Professor.

In our socially distant setting, we commenced our French lesson. If any class would be beneficial to in-person learning, it was a language class. The one-on-one attention and frequent interaction with my classmates was and continues to be absolutely incredible. I would consequently love every minute of it. Though as the lecture went on, the feeling of community crept back. The feeling of being an actual student reemerged. The spark and desire, the yearning to learn, the feeling that was gravely absent for myself for over a year through E-learning was starting to resurface. 

When the class ended at 11:10 a.m., I left, and uttered “Au revoir, à bientôt.” I stepped out of the building, and the great exodus began. Walking back to my car, I see the snow shower down; the snow almost blankets my vehicle below as the train’s rumbles above. Thus I wipe the new Jackson Pollock theme off my car, and begin my commute home… just like every Tuesday.

Pigeons, Walking, Writing, Oh My!

Author: Deyana Atanasova 

If you’ve been referring to pigeons as “the rats of the sky,” you might want to reconsider your perspective.  

That’s precisely what accomplished author and professor Kathleen Rooney asks readers to do when reading her newest novel, Cher Ami and Major Wjittlesey, which is told from two perspectives: an army soldier in WWI and a messenger pigeon. If you want to hear about it more in-depth and better than I could ever explain it, you can learn more about it here from Rooney herself. 

(The cover of Rooney’s newest novel, Cher Amie and Major Whittlesey)

Yet, even without reading the novel, we can all be a bit more conscientious of how we regard and interact with the world, including what we take for granted and what we remember.

In an Honors Speakers event on Thursday evening, January 21st, right after the inauguration, several students from the Honors Program hopped on a Zoom call with author Kathleen Rooney and had the opportunity to hear a live reading and engage in a Q&A. The topics talked about ranged from writing processes, walking as an adjacent activity to writing, buckets of historical knowledge, the publishing industry, and of course–really cool pigeon facts.

For example, did you know that pigeons can actually recognize the alphabet and learn upwards of 60 words? Or that when looking at a group of people, they can actually discern us as individuals? Meanwhile, chances are, if we were to see the same pigeon two days in a row, we would never really be able to tell them apart.

The moral of the story is, we take things for granted. And yes, that’s a truism, but if you asked me whether I would miss the sight of a pigeon under the Adams/Wabash stop by the Brown Line before quarantine, I’m not sure I would have understood the gravity of the question.

And by the way, this conversation doesn’t even include the whole “pigeons aren’t real” discourse which, quite frankly, seems like a silly joke but becomes quite harmful when unpacking the deep double standards of surveillance. Dr. Eric Anthamatten’s philosophical piece “Visibility is a Trap: Body Cameras and the Panopticon of Police Power unpacks this much more (shout out to Dr. Fanny Söderbäck’s HON 105 Philosophical Inquiry class for featuring this reading). So, what does this have to do with pigeons again? Well, you might have also seen all of those Bernie memes with the mittens. There was one in particular where Bernie was photoshopped sitting in front of a bunch of pigeons, giving off that Michael Scott feeding the pigeons in the park vibe. And in fact, there’s even a meme generator where you can photoshop Bernie sitting anywhere in Google Maps Street View.

An unphotoshopped photo of Bernie at the inauguration

I found myself becoming bothered on social media during and after the inauguration as I was trying to come to terms with the idea that yes, the new administration would mean undoing a lot of harm.  But it is not a like a carrier pigeon flew in from a beam of light in the sky with the one-step policy solution to battle systemic racism, the prison industrial complex, implementing universal healthcare, mitigating the pandemic, etc.

To borrow a pun from Rooney on the night of the live reading, I do not advocate for the “pigeonhole” idea that now we can go back to “normalcy” and compartmentalize politics. We need to keep learning, unlearning, and re-learning. We simply cannot forget not just the past four years but the underlying centuries of oppression that led up to it.

If you’ve made it this far into this post, you’ll know that we landed pretty far from where we took flight. But I think that’s part of the beauty in writing, in that you can meander and walk around, connecting checkpoints and making meaning.

If anything, maybe the next time you see or think of a pigeon, you’ll sign a petition or learn more about the local work being done by heroes in their communities right now. Maybe, you’ll end up picking up a copy of Rooney’s novel and reading it, savoring every clever line of and about the dynamics of language. Or, you’ll look up the slightly unsettling amount of figures of speech out there related to pigeons.

In the Q&A portion of the live reading event, Rooney also said something along the lines of “usually, stuff finds a home.” I forget the context given my rushed, chicken pigeon scratch handwriting, but I hope that in some way, shape, or form, you got something from this piece and that it has found a home, albeit even a fleeting one. P.S. In other (un)related news, a pigeon was spared from the death sentence recently in Australia. Lots to unpack there, too.

What To Do in Chicago During A Pandemic

Looking for activities and things to do in quarantine while in Chicago? Even though we can’t enjoy some of the normal things that Chicago is best known for, there are quite a few things to do in the city, keeping in mind COVID guidelines and social distancing of course. HSG Social committee chairs Ben Stumpe and David Taullahu created this fun video to highlight what there is to do in the city. From going to Millennium Park, the Bean, the Art Institute, and so much more, Ben and David illustrate some fun FREE activities to do around the city. Since this is from two college student’s perspectives, it really shows that you can enjoy the city on a student budget during the pandemic. When you have some free time or want a break from Zoom, I suggest exploring some of these cool places in the video. Enjoy!!!

Click on this link to watch the whole video!

Honors Summer Series: Racial Justice in America

Author: Jade Ryerson

On June 25th, as part of it its summer Speaker Series, the Honors Program held its first webinar-style Zoom event for incoming freshmen. “Racial Justice in America” introduced new students to the Honors Program. By addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the country today, this event offered Honors students an opportunity to listen, learn, and consider how they can make a difference whether in the classroom, at the ballot box, or socially distancing in their pajamas. 

Professor Jennifer Conary, the new Honors Program Director, moderated the event and invited three distinguished Honors faculty members to present mini lectures. Professors Chernoh Sesay, Christina Rivers, and Francesca Royster shared their expertise about the pervasiveness of systemic and institutionalized racism and the dehumanization of Black people.

Dr. Sesay of the Religious Studies department kicked off the event by discussing how ideas powerfully shape and are shaped by society. Professor Sesay illustrated how the U.S. Constitution enshrines the United States as a place where freedom and opportunity are possible, yet it is simultaneously deeply oriented toward the marginalization of Black people by denying their autonomy and agency. There is an inherent contradiction between these ideas which challenge that the United States is a place where racial justice and equality can ever really be achieved. In this context, Professor Sesay explained why our ideas matter: they deeply shape the current political and historical moment. 

In her mini lecture, Political Science professor Dr. Christina Rivers discussed the denial of civic personhood through felony disenfranchisement and misinformation about voting rights and requirements. She explained that if African Americans are seen as societal threats, they more likely to be incarcerated and their political voices are more likely to be stifled. Additionally, when a person’s civic personhood is denied, they lose a fundamental power to control their political lives, as well as the influence of their political voice.

English and Critical Ethnic Studies professor Dr. Francesca Royster introduced the power of storytelling and imagining the past, present, and future. She stressed that we are here because our ancestors and predecessors imagined we could be. Drawing from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the recent movie Black Panther, and work by singer/actress Janelle Monae, Professor Royster explained how Afrofuturism provides a critical way to reimagine Black life and envision the future. When the complete humanity of Black people is denied by systemic violence and policing, there can be devastating costs to young people’s imaginations and psychological experience.

Within the context of their own disciplines, each speaker demonstrated the importance of recognizing the complete humanity of Black people. By engaging with these difficult issues, this event briefed students about something the Honors Program does best: encouraging students to explore their own interests, challenge long-held beliefs, and discover unfamiliar ideas.