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The weather was cooperating when The Innovation Network (TIN) sponsored a pre-Thanksgiving “Friendsgiving” event at Brookdale Community College on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

The gathering was attended by approximately 50 students who enjoyed the “Pie Day” theme. Apple pies (graciously made by Elana Maloney, a faculty member in the English Department,) pumpkin pies, cherry pies, and pizza pies graced the fall-themed serving station outside the upper level of the Student Life Center.

Emphasizing mental-health awareness, TIN provided pocket-sized laminated cards providing stress-reducing tips and suggestions on how to cope with challenges. The group also provided handouts describing student mental health and wellness resources. These services include 24/7/365 emergency services offered by Monmouth Medical Center Psychiatric Emergency Services and 2nd Floor Youth Helpline.

Students won prizes and Thanksgiving-themed treats as they participated in games, led by TIN President Jeanette Falotico. These games tested students’ knowledge of the campus and the many resources available to them. This included information about recovery meetings, telehealth clinics, counseling, support offered by the Brookdale Police, and the TalkCampus app, providing anonymous 24/7 peer-to-peer support. TIN was honored to have Marlena Frank, M.S., Associate Professor of Psychology at Brookdale, speak to the group. Frank’s theme was gratitude and she led participants through several exercises explaining how to both experience gratitude and share gratitude with others.

Acknowledging that family gatherings can be a source of stress, especially when dealing with opinionated loved ones, Frank shared how “savoring gratitude,” the practice of directing one’s attention to a pleasant event, can help diffuse and perhaps even prevent an unpleasant reaction on Thanksgiving Day.

“Savoring is simply finding something to be grateful for in that moment,” Frank explained. “It could be anything – the smells of the food cooking or the taste of the delicious pie or dessert – savor that sensation of taste and choose to experience and focus on that.”

Another exercise had the participants open their phones and text an expression of gratitude to someone for whom they are grateful in some way. Once completed, a student shared how when he told his friend he was grateful for his friendship, the friend was also grateful and happy. Frank responded: “And this is how shared gratitude works – the giver is thankful and expresses it, and the recipient is now happier and appreciates the gesture.” She ended by asking everyone to take these lessons home with them and practice gratitude this holiday season.

All attendees received a free raffle ticket and near the end of the event, a drawing was held for one of three gift baskets, assembled by TIN’s secretary, Rebecca Sayilik, helped by Sarah Ayers, TIN’s treasurer. The lucky winners took home baskets filled with treats, school supplies and delicious candy.

Two pies from TIN’s Friendsgiving event were put aside and given to Student Life Center’s Mary Jo Burkhard. Burkhard is both a Brookdale alumnus and U.S. Navy Veteran, having served for 11 years as Radioman Petty Officer Second Class. Burkhard, the First Vice-Commander of the American Legion Post 266, will donate the pies to the American Legion for Thanksgiving.

A police officer who was working in the area was the recipient of a remaining pie to share with his fellow officers at their Brookdale station. He was both surprised and grateful for the gift.

Falotico thanked everyone who attended Friendsgiving and reminded participants that TIN meets every Tuesday at noon, either by Zoom or in person by their recently created Monarch Waystation and Meditation Garden, outside the lower level of the Student Life Center. Falotico said the club is unique in that “We think globally, act locally, and help students have a voice in addressing issues that interest them.”

“I’m so happy to have joined TIN,” said Maloney, a club adviser. “You all make it so fun, and I love the way you get things done!”

On Saturday, Oct. 2, The Women’s March rally in Red Bank drew approximately 650 participants, including Brookdale students and professor Roseanne Alvarez, who is the coordinator of WILL (Women in Learning and Leadership).

“I’m here because I can’t not be here; it’s at the heart of what I teach: ‘the personal is political,’” Alvarez said during the event, which began at the Red Bank train station where state Senator Vin Gopal, a lifelong Monmouth County resident and defender of women’s rights, rallied the mostly masked crowd before the march proceeded to Riverside Gardens Park.

“We must stay alert and active – we can never let what happened in Texas happen here!” Gopal said, referring to the Texas Law that bans all abortions after six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. The Texas legislation also encourages private citizens to file a lawsuit against any person they believe “aided and abetted” an abortion, providing bounties for informants. As written, an Uber driver or parent or friend who gave a woman a ride to or from a provider would be liable for $10,000 plus court costs.

In addition to The Women’s March group, Planned Parenthood, The League of Women Voters and the NJ Coalition for Reproductive Rights participated in and supported the march and rally.

As the chanting crowd marched through the streets of Red Bank, they were met with mostly female police officers who stopped all traffic so the march could proceed without interruption. One smiling officer was thanked by the marchers. As she shouted, “I’ve never been happier doing my job!” The crowd then erupted in cheers of appreciation.

As participants spilled out into Riverside Gardens Park, speakers, including Mike Beson, a candidate for Monmouth County Commissioner, Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey, and others spoke of the need to send a clear message that women will do whatever it takes to defend their right to reproductive freedom.

The participants were a diverse group of women, men and families. Signs ranged from “Grandma is Marching for the rights of her Granddaughters” to signs proclaiming, “Ruth Sent Me” alongside images of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The dominant message of the day was that activists were working to both overturn the Texas law and prevent similar restrictive laws from spreading to New Jersey.

“Reproductive rights are human rights. Full stop. It’s not a slogan or a chant; it’s not a T-shirt or a social media-worthy poster or protest sign,” Alvarez said. “It is the fundamental, global recognition of the human right to dignity, autonomy – freedom from coercion and discrimination. I could go on and on because this is about reproductive justice.

“There are many intersecting concerns – from forced sterilizations to maternal mortality rates – that are also part of the international movement for reproductive justice,” Alvarez said. “In the face of one of the most blatantly and dangerously unconstitutional state laws passed in our lifetime, this collective demonstration of support and solidarity gives me hope, but most importantly, the determination to keep doing this.”

The Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education to harness the political power of women and their communities. It began in 2017 as a spontaneous protest to address the assault on women’s rights and has grown into an organization with a unique ability to respond to and empower everyday women.

“We believe that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” The goal of The Women’s March is to create a society in which women are free and able to care for and nurture themselves and their families in a safe and healthy environment. This is accomplished through trainings, outreach programs and events. The Women’s March is committed to “dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”

Original article published in The Current.

On April 29, several accomplished and committed Brookdale students were recognized at the 2021 Student Achievement Showcase over Zoom. Each mentored by a Brookdale faculty member, the program featured students from a wide range of campus organizations and academic majors.

Samantha Scott, a hospitality major at the College, was recognized for her United States destination project completed in Professor Michelle Zuppe’s Travel and Tourism course. Scott presented her detailed plan for a trip to Portland, Oregon at the showcase.

“The trip had to include all transportation, accommodations, food and beverage choices and a variety of attractions and sites to visit. Samantha planned an excellent trip that I want to go on. She did not miss a detail,” Zuppe said. “The trip was well planned and the itinerary included everything to see in Portland.”

Hospitality management major Randi Knauf was featured by Professor Zuppe for her excellent work on a wedding planning project in Catering and Event Planning. The assignment entailed planning a reception for 100 people, requiring students to choose the venue, menu, decorations, transportation and entertainment along with creating a timeline for the event. Knauf said the challenge of intricately planning a wedding reaffirmed her desire to pursue a career in event planning.

“Knowing I was wanting to get into this field, I thought I was going to get a perfect opportunity to see if I was going to enjoy this and what it would be like,” Knauf said. “[This project] was meant for me, so this turned out to be so much fun working on it, and it turned out to be confirmed that I will enjoy this.”

The Innovation Network (TIN) President Maeve Maguire and Vice President Jeanette Falotico were recognized by professors and TIN advisers Deborah Mura and Thomas Berke for developing and implementing the Monarch Butterfly Garden and Mediation Center on Brookdale’s campus.

“This academic year they have run the complex process of planning a garden, raising funds, including a fabulous February health series and implementing the creation phase so phenomenally that the amazingly involved tasks always seemed effortless,” Berke said. “We are extremely proud and awed by them and the team they created and lead.”

During her presentation, Maguire said the butterfly garden was created with the goal of promoting mental health on campus, which was accomplished through adding herbs for aromatics along with bells and chimes.

“We had a psychology professor sit in on one of our meetings and she mentioned that a lot of students were coming in in crisis and we have been trying to brainstorm ways to kind of counteract that or give some help to students, and we realized we could bring that into the garden with meditation,” Maguire said.

Aside from the wellness aspect, the garden will also serve as a waystation, equipped with necessary resources for monarch butterflies to sustain their migration.

Mentored by professor Elana Maloney, Taylor Cinelli was recognized at the showcase for her research article on motivation, where she discussed the importance of self-compassion and self-discipline in achieving goals.

“[Cinelli] was a shining star from the get go from the very first paper I read of hers which was open and honest and moving about her own personal challenges and struggles,” Maloney said. “And then I have her again now for English 122 which is research writing and I just found her research to be stellar and and and full of depth and full of passion.”


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