This I Believe First Draft (WIP)

One summer night while working as a lifeguard, I returned to the pool after my shift along with my coworkers for a guard party consisting of breaking almost every rule we were paid to yell at children for breaking and eating copious amounts of food.

As all the action began to die down and people settled into the wooden picnic benches around the guard table, I was reminded by one coworker that tonight was one of the last nights to view the annual Perseid Meteor shower. As much as I have always loved space and nature, I had never before ventured out into the night to watch a shower of stars. Looking him in the eyes, filled with the excitement of possibilities and of the end of summer, I asked, “well, do you want to go watch?”

Maybe in some alternate universe, these were the first words to a breathtaking romance. In this universe, it was only 10 PM and the sky was far too bright to see any meteors yet. He was leaving in three days for college and had just worked his last shift, while I was returning to high school for my senior year at the end of the month, meaning I probably wouldn’t see him again until the next summer. Still, as we lay there staring into the endless dark sky and laughing about some since forgotten joke, I couldn’t help but feel connected and a part of the entire universe I was existing in.

I knew then how much human connections to nature mattered. It led to my belief that above all else, sharing the natural wonders of the world with people you care about will lead you to a fulfilling life. As I giggled into the night, the world wrapped her arms around me and told me everything I needed was right in front of me.

After returning home to bed, filled with a lingering excitement, I randomly awoke early in the morning, with 4:00 AM staring at me on my clock. For a few minutes I groaned to myself at the idea of missing sleep, before remembering those stars I cared so much about. I grabbed a blanket and snuck out of my house with the hope to not wake up my sleeping family.

As I lay myself onto my asphalt driveway, the only place near my house with a clear view of the sky, I was again stunned by the beauty of the pinprick stars above me. Soon, I saw the first meteor and let out my breath, hearing nearby watchers yell out a cheer. We were all in this together, with a constant reminder of wholeness hiding in the sky.

Semester 2 Blog 1

As a teenager going through an ever lasting identity-crisis and uncertainty about what I want to do with my life in every sense (socially, academically, physically), pinning down specific beliefs of mine is really difficult for me. I know that I believe strongly in the importance of nature to help humans understand both themselves and the world itself. I have lots of stories about nature that I am considering, and a few beliefs I could use to frame them, but it’s still pretty wishy-washy. Once, when I was 12, I participated in a summer camp where we went spelunking (caving), and when we were deep inside of the cave, we all turned out our headlights and awoke to a world of darkness where we were left alone to think. The summer between junior and senior year I snuck out of my house to lay on the driveway and watch a meteor shower, only to be scared back inside by an early morning paper boy. Once, on a pilgrimage with my church, I went on a two hour hike up and down huge dunes of sand and wearily was presented with the beauty of lake Michigan in front of me. I have plenty of other stories like these that I think I could tell somewhat eloquently, I’m just struggling to come up with a specific belief. Maybe that nature gives us an opportunity to self-reflect, which helps us grow as humans? A second belief could be that nature connects us all when we stop to admire its beauty, and it can bring any people together.

For my passion blog, I don’t have any real desire to keep writing about just hiking, so I’m trying to think of ways to frame different activities involving nature with how the environment and climate affect us all. I read an article about how climate change is changing our National Parks, and I found it extremely fascinating. Writing about various topics like this and pollution and how it affects out-door recreation is basically what I’m considering. I think this fits into the updated assignment.

Two ideas for my CI blog that I got from reading the list included writing about college towns and writing about the environment in terms of food. The first is because I grew up in State College and now live in State College as a student. I could write for pages about town and gown and how universities affect the lives of residents in college towns. I also could write a lot about how much of a sheltered environment college towns supply, especially when almost all of your classes in high school included other children of professors. Many advanced class is my high school were full of extremely liberal students, and even Penn State’s campus is much more diverse in terms of ideologies than those classes were for me. Honestly I could probably write multiple CI blogs about college towns! For environment and food, I am actually taking a geography class specifically about these topics, so I assume I will quickly have a lot to say about how the two interact.

TED Outline




  • Walking into Math 230 on the first day of college and realizing of the 20 people already in the room, only one is female.
  • While four more later trickled in, the class is still only 20% women.
  • Class representative of the College of Engineering at Penn State, which was 20.9% in Fall of 2015. [Source]

What exactly is the gender gap in STEM?

  • Not in all STEM fields. Biological sciences are about 50-60% women, even at the Ph.D level. Math and Physical sciences have lower representation, but are almost equal a the bachelor’s and master’s level (40%) but drops down further to 30% when looking at PhDs.
  • The gender gap is very apparent in CS and Engineering degrees, where undergraduates are approximately 18% female.

Where does this gender gap come from?


  • Historically, women were seen as not being capable of being in Engineers.
  • “In 1955, Penn State’s dean of engineering declared, “Women are NOT for engineering,” asserting that all but a few “unusual women” such as Lillian Gilbreth lacked the “basic capabilities” necessary.” “Women Are NOT for Engineering”
  • Even as women moved into the fields of biology and physics, there seemed to be few people who thought they should move into engineering. Women’s colleges had programs for sciences but not for the T or E of STEM.
  • Huge shift to go from this to realizing women are perfectly capable at Engineering, but not enough to create equality in the field. Dramatic change to now, where women take their ability to be enrolled in Engineering programs for granted.

Why does it still exist?

Why does it matter? Why do we need women in tech?

  • Women help the tech industry:
    • Can be more knowledgeable about what women want in a product and what they’ll buy. We Need More Women in Tech: The Data Prove It
    • Diverse teams will have more ideas and better ideas because they have a wider variety of sources for their information
  • Not being in tech is bad for women
    • Huge number of open, well paying jobs in tech.

Should women feel pressured to participate in STEM even if they don’t want to?

  • Personal experience
    • Math Prize for girls at MIT
    • One speaker, a senior majoring in math at MIT who had previously participated in the competition, spoke about her plans for after college.
    • Wanted to want to be a professor due to the huge difference in gender proportions between male and female professors, but had other desires for her career.
    • Struggled to validate her choice, despite it being personal, because she wanted to benefit women.
  • Women are pressured to go into STEM if they excel at math
    • Parents and teachers have encouraged me to explore engineering because I am strong in math and science, but engineering doesn’t appeal to me.
    • Feel like I am not doing enough even though I am actually in a underrepresented STEM field…can always do more?
  • Women fighting back: Humanities are 100% valid
    • No one can force women to make any career choice they don’t want
    • Closing the gender gap is important, but what’s more important is allowing women to be independent and make their own decisions, as we’ve done with men for centuries.

Paradigm Shift Ideas


Women: Rights, expectations, and pressures

Before: First wave Feminism to reach equality through idea of Separate Spheres. Essentially argued for right to vote on the idea that women were “purer” than men, and therefore their opinion was important and would help protect America. However, this also added to the deeply ingrained idea that women and men were not equal and were in fact different. Although first wave feminism did succeed in giving women the equal right to vote, it accentuated the differences that society placed upon women.

Now, women are being more and more recognized as equals to men, although there is still not equality among the sexes. In this sense, women are now being pressured to go against the traditional ideals for women to be modern. Otherwise, they are not living up their roles. This is creating a double standard where women are expected to both be different and the same as men.

Marked by different waves of feminism (first wave, second wave, third wave), the disqualification of gender norms, the movement of women in STEM.

Resistance evident among women who like traditional roles and want to be different from these modern standards. Resistance among women who want to go further, but are still constrained by the idea that they should act a certain way, and not stray too far.

Shift in response to modern views of women and recognition of how similar they are to men.

Conditions available through vocalness of women, women moving higher in their fields, women moving away from home and a decrease in number of “stay-at-home moms.”

Shift to continue? Perhaps shift is not complete (hopefully), and women will eventually not be held to double standards. Future change where women can be just as modern and similar to traditional male norms without judgement, but can also follow the traditional roles of women if they choose. Need a society that does not expect everything from women and act so critically towards them.

Circle Blog 5

Reuniting the translucent creatures of the deep seems like a natural step after finding them all in the same environment, but the results of this decision are disastrous. The meek seahorses, which were “translucent but tinted just so, as if gilded only slightly, fell into the tank, drifting down like a slow rain of golden question marks,” were the first to find a space in this new environment (476). These seahorses seem to represent the general population, members of the circle who watch the actions of others from afar. They don’t do much, but they exist and are curious about the world around them. Next, the octopus is placed in the tank, where it “instantly spread itself up like a welcoming hand. As it had done when alone, it traced the contours of the glass, feeling the coral, the seaweed, always gentle, wanting to know all, touch all” (476). Here, the octopus is representative of the original intent of the Circle, to connect all knowledge and make it accessible to everyone. This is far more innocent than the final intent of the Circle, and involves discovering the world and sharing it, as the naturally curious human feasts to know everything that is possible to be known. The octopus is not harming anything or anyone, but it exists and explores. Ty’s original purpose in creating the Circle seems much more in touch with the octopus. It was to streamline, to discover, but not to cause any destruction.

Finally, the shark is released into the tank, which “darted downward and quickly snatched the largest tuna and devoured it in two snaps of its jaws” (479). The shark was quick to pounce on its prey, and consumed everything in its sight, turning it into a grey ash. The Circle made it its goal to consume every part of its lives, striving for complete transparency from its members and creating a goal of absolute knowledge. In this way, it has become the shark, because it eats everything in its path. The purpose is supposed to be noble, allowing the greatest possible amount of sharing of information and expanding humans knowledge. However, this quickly becomes more sinister, as with the snark which then attacked the octopus, “ripped off an arm…and, in a flurry, ripped its prey’s tentacles off, one by one, until the octopus was dead, a shredded mass of milky white matter,” destroying the more innocent a curious version of the Circle (481). The shark doesn’t stop here. It continues, and “it ate everything, and deposited the remains quickly, carpeting the empty aquarium in a low film of white ash” (482). Nothing stands in the shark’s way, nothing is inedible. Nothing is left unknown. In the transparent shark, we see a symbol of the transparent Circle, which is all knowing and omnipresent. Clearly the intent of the Circle is no longer innocent, and it is no longer protecting off its users, but instead aims to control all, know all, and be all.

Circle Blog #4

One of the themes throughout the entirety of The Circle, but especially throughout this section, is the idea of the great tear that opens up in Mae when she lacks any sort of attention from her friends. Evidence of a similar reaction in others is also very clear, especially with Annie and Francis, in a way a psychologist might want to label as extreme rejection sensitivity (okay, I’m not actually a psychologist, but in my opinion, that’s what their reactions seems like to me.) While waiting to fall asleep, Mae was scanning through social media when, “she felt the tear opening up in her again… The tear was growing within her, opening quickly, a fathomless blackness spreading under her” (336). When Annie doesn’t respond to her message right away, her parents don’t respond to her messages, and her watchers aren’t really paying much attention to her, Mae starts to feel empty and as if her entire life is falling apart. She feels rejected by the lack of interaction with her friends and family, as is not able to entirely distract her brain with the constant fake social interaction that the Circle normally provides. It continues the next morning when no one really responds to her phrase, and “she was momentarily deflated” (337). The same type of response is apparent in Annie’s jealousy of Mae, and her inability to accept that Mae is moving up so quickly in the company. It’s apparent when Francis says, “I want you to rate me,” after their sexual encounter (383). It’s especially evident in the people Mae meets through CE who won’t leave her alone, like Helena from New Mexico. The constant attention to social media and constant simulation has left these individuals unable to cope with their own thoughts and with not knowing, to the point where they have become irrational and dysfunctional to some degree.

What really interests me about these reactions is that I have felt the same way myself, and it’s terrifying how dependent I (and other individuals our age) have become on this constant distraction and interaction. I have had days myself where no one responds to my snapchats or my texts and everything just seems to come falling down, even though these interactions are really incomplete and unintimate. Personally, I have done what I can to counteract these feelings, and cutting out social media that causes them until I feel like I can return and behave rationally again. I’ve given up my phone for a week before, deleted Instagram and Facebook each for months at a time, and I never watch Snapchat stories, just because I know how invasive this irrational rejection sensitivity can be. Social media brings so much to our fingertips that it causes us to forget how to act without it. Beyond that, it causes us jealousy as we view the lives of individuals around us through rose tinted glasses, as Annie does with Mae. And like Francis, it causes us to need constant reassurance and to avoid criticism at all costs, because our self esteems become completely build upon the way everyone around us sees us. There are definitely many positives to the internet and social media, but this poisonous atmosphere that leads to rejection sensitivity and vicious FOMO sometimes needs to be avoided.

Circle Post #3

Everyone keeps secrets, everyone acts selfishly, and everyone keeps at least some aspect of their lives private. According to these mantras and the ideas of The Circle, doing these things is wrong and hurtful to society, but I disagree with them having any traction in real life. When Mae and Eamon Bailey first discuss these values together in Bailey’s office, Mae is quick to defend the use of secrets, but Bailey continues to make attempts to disprove Mae’s arguments. While he does succeed in making Mae agree with him, I see holes in his arguments. In this discussion, Mae says, “There are definitely things you don’t want your parents to know,” and Eamon responds with, “Would your parents want to know these things?” (285). He says this with the clear intention that he’s looking for the answer yes, but I don’t disagree with him on this one. Though I’m not a parent myself, I highly doubt most parents would like to know just what their children are up to on college campuses. Sometimes, in the real world, it’s better not to know—they say that “ignorance is bliss” for a reason. In this case, keeping secrets may be telling lies, but neither party is hurt by the secrets that are kept.

The conversation continues to the discussion of gay people coming out and how that would benefit all gay people. Bailey says, “When millions of men and women came out of the closet, it made homosexuality not some mysterious so-called deviance but a mainstream life path,” which does hold some degree of validity (286). However, the expansion of this to believe that it is every gay person’s duty to come out in order to end persecution of gays is, in my opinion, a flawed argument. Yes, much of the time parents who were homophobic end up being accepting of their child’s sexuality, but there are social contexts where people still look down upon homosexuality. If you compare the idea of homophobia to racism, it would make sense where the argument fails. Individuals can’t really hide their race most of the time, yet people are still openly racist knowing individuals of other racists. Maybe sharing everyone’s sexuality would help many people and end direct prosecution, but it would not end discrimination and homophobia. In this case, sharing may be caring, but it’s also dangerous for the individual.

Finally, the idea that privacy is theft came out of the conversation between Mae and Bailey, and that each individual’s experiences should be accessible by anyone who might want to have the same experience. In Bailey’s words, “everyone should have a right to know everything, and should have the tools to know anything,” although his basis for this belief is completely around fairness (288). While I don’t disagree that it would be nice to have the ability witness any incredible experience anyone has ever had, I don’t think an argument based simply on fairness can hold. It may be unfair that I can travel the world while others can’t afford to, but my particular experiences are my own. What makes certain memories so powerful is their privacy and the fact that it is your own memory. I’ve never felt as much looking at a picture of a place as I have actually standing there. Overall, I can understand the emotions behind these statements and their connection to real life, but I definitely don’t believe in them or think they are valid.

Civil Artifact Essay Outline


Click here to view on Google Docs.

Two Artifacts:
Obama: Hope Campaign poster
Trump: Make America Great Again

  1. Introduction:
    1. Background Information:
      1. 2008 Economic Situation
      2. Current Economic Situation
      3. Political Situation
    2. THESIS: Both the message of “Hope” and “Make America Great Again” took advantage of the dissatisfaction of Americans to gain voters for the candidates through their use of Kairos, appeals to Ethos and Pathos, and reliance on the Commonplace of Patriotism.
  2. Connotation of “Hope” and “Make America Great Again”
    1. Some background on “Hope” and on “Make America Great Again”
      1. Hope poster originally designed by Shepard Fairey independently of Obama Campaign, not officially accepted by campaign from the start. Before the word “Hope” was on the poster, there was a design with “Progress,” but it was decided the word had a negative figure. It appears that the more important part of the poster was it containing the likeness of Obama, rather than the message. Hope was a secondary slogan.
      2. “Make America Great Again” used originally by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 campaign, written on a pin. At the time, US was experiencing Stagflation, so the economic conditions were worsening (similar to in 2008 although not as great of a degree). Trump adopted it for his own campaign.
    2. Hope: idea that the future can be better, and that change is possible no matter how bleak things are at the moment. Relates to the 2008 Recession and the job losses surrounding it.
      1. However, Obama also made use of the slogan “Yes We Can” which is all around positive.
      2. Hope was not even the main slogan of Obama’s campaign, and came from a second source.
    3. Make America Great Again: similar idea that future will be better, but also idea that current America is not great, and that there is something wrong with the state of our nation that needs to change.
    4. Both slogans appeal to the candidates’ political parties – different from the president at the time. Obama was a Democrat running during the presidency of the Republican, and vice versa with Trump, so it was OK to look down on present state of the nation.
      1. Contrast with 2016 DNC:
      2. “America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.” (Obama)
      3. “I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America.”
  3. Kairos: Both political campaigns took advantage of the dissatisfaction of Americans at the time of the election, however, there was a very different economic situation in 2008, and President Obama’s current approval rating is over 50%, while George Bush had one of about 37% at the end of his second term (Gallup).
    1. 2008 dissatisfaction: Job loss, etc.
    2. 2016 dissatisfaction:
    3. Is Donald Trump misguided in his use of a slogan that presents America as negative?
      1. Comparison of unemployment rates between then and now
      2. Some type of comparison with 1980 and Ronald Reagan using the same slogan w/ that context? Maybe
  4. Ethos and Pathos: While Obama’s poster appeals directly to Ethos and Pathos, Trump’s slogan and personality tend to lack Ethos and not emphasis Pathos to as great of a degree, but this has an appeal in itself.
    1. Hope Poster
      1. Ethos – “power and sincerity as a speaker would create a positive association with his likeness.” Obama gives himself credibility through being one of the best rhetoricians of our time.
      2. Pathos – Hope, Looking off into the distance
    2. Make America Great Again
      1. Lacks Ethos? Donald Trump does not have same degree of credibility as Obama, but that is an appeal in itself
      2. Obama, as a career politician, has established himself as credible through his terms as a senator in addition to his public speaking ability. However, many Americans think career politicians are exactly what is wrong with the country, so Donald Trump’s lack of ethos is appealing in this way
      3. Pathos: not as strong, but the idea of change does same thing with this slogan, gives emotions to Americans who are dissatisfied.
    3. Not as deliberate with Trump.
  5. Patriotism: Through the terminology and coloration of both the Hope poster and both the posters and hats that contain the slogan “Make America Great Again,” the Obama and Trump campaigns both made appeals to the commonplace of patriotism.
    1. Obviously we want politicians who care about our country.
    2. Red, White, and Blue – no mistake
      1. Gives feeling of unity and strength.
    3. “America Great,” red hat
      1. Most aggressive of the colors of the flag, relevant to aggressive message?
    4. Appeal to citizen to vote in election.
      1. Reminded the importance of patriotism and the cost that came with it.
      2. Gives us a way to unite and make the world better
  6. Conclusion:
    1. Rhetorical appeals for just a few words and colors
    2. Powerful campaign slogans that promise a better future and a better America
    3. Reminding us to vote, relevance to current election and age (first election year)
      1. Relevancy
    4. Open to greater idea: how political candidates can take advantage of the general feelings of American citizens to create rhetorical appeals. Our feelings as a nation shapes the rhetoric of the election itself.

Speech Outline

Hook: TBD

Introduction/Context: Back in 2008 the recession put people in a negative place. Many were laid off and felt like they were much worse off than they had been in the years past. 2008 election placed Obama against John McCain, and Obama was from the opposing political party as the previous president (George Bush). Due to this, he needed to promise some sort of change to make him relevant to those dissatisfied with the previous president. Although originally independent of the Obama campaign, the Hope poster became a well known and widespread symbol of his campaign. 

Problem: How to make a campaign relevant to the hurting population.

Thesis: At a time when people needed hope to believe things would be okay, the Obama Hope campaign poster brought a positive message to his campaign through its kairos, the use of ethos and pathos, and the commonplace of hope.


Claim 1: Kairos

  • Due to the time period, Kairotic, need for hope.
  • People were unsure of what was happening, thought US was greatest country in world but losing jobs, Kairotic time for “Hope”


Claim 2: Ethos and Pathos


  • Credible due to his previous terms in office
    • Senator, went to law school, relevant; family man – wife, two children.
  • Amazing public speaker, gives himself ethos.
  • Uses red, white & blue to relate him to the credibility of the US.



  • Appealed to the emotional need for hope.
  • Obama’s posed as if he’s looking off at the distance at a better future, gives him a sense of relatability.


Claim 3: Commonplace

  • Group of people had idea that Obama represented hope for a better future due to the poster.
  • Patriotism and desire for a better America throughout the country.

Conclusion: As a political slogan, hope meant that Obama promised a change for those dissatisfied with current state. In this year’s election, we see Trump do the same with the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The promise of change with a new presidential party is a useful skill to appeal to people who are looking for a difference with the next term.

The Circle Post #2

The very basis of intimacy in our lives is so often privacy. A moment alone with a close friend or partner can lead to intimate conversation, and the interruption of such event can be awkward, annoying, or embarrassing. However, as technology is moving forward, we are less often alone with just another person. Even when we are with our boy friends or best friends, a phone often interrupts and stands in the way of complete privacy. It’s not that intimacy is impossible in a public environment, it just takes a person who really does not care what the world thinks about them to truly be honest when there are others around.

At this point in The Circle, Mae still values her privacy in intimate matters, which is why she gets so upset when Francis uses her as the example for the program LuvLuv. As she watches Francis reveal just the fact that there is any intimacy between the two, she becomes embarrassed and furious. At the time, “Her face was in her hands, her eyes peeking from under her trembling fingers,” and Mae could barely process the fact that Francis was revealing so much about herself in the context of his love interest (122). When the two interact following this event, Francis says, “I’m sorry…Mae. Sorry. I don’t understand why you’re so mad,” because at that point, Francis does not himself value privacy in intimacy (125). Mae doesn’t quite understand why she’s so mad either. All of the information that was shared with the public is observable if one were to look through her social media accounts, and it didn’t bother her that anyone knew she was allergic to horses. After considering why she might be so angry, she finally realizes that LuvLuv just presented all of her preferences as just a mirror, but it wasn’t a complete picture of herself. She was more than just her taste in food and her hobbies, but LuvLuv did not present herself as such. Essentially, with taking all the privacy and personality out of learning about a prospective romantic interest, all of the intimacy was removed. This created a relationship where there were no secrets that were just held by the two people who were dating.

As the book continues, Mae meets another man, Kalden, who she develops a much more intimate relationship very quickly. Although the two do not know much about each other, the secrecy behind their interactions creates intimacy. When remembering the events that happened in the dark, “she could think of little else,” other than Kalden (170). The privacy she had in her interactions with Kalden create a fiery bond. Later in the book, this privacy and secrecy continues, and their romantic encounters are always much more intense and intimate than any of the less private interactions she has with Francis. Overall, intimacy seems to be based on privacy, and Mae is aware of this, but not consciously. Even in non-romantic encounters like those with her family, Mae also has a more intimate relationship when the interaction is private. It appears that only when you are alone can you truly act as yourself.