Tag Archives: Maria Thiaw

The Knightly News Podcast Welcomes The Cast of Truth and Professor Maria Thiaw

The third annual student-created play opens May 17

By Darren Greene and Paul Miller

In the first segment of the podcast, Central Penn College Theater Director Janet Bixler along with some of the cast joins the Knightly News to discuss her upcoming student-created play.

Spring is kicking in and the third annual student-created play is back at the Capital BlueCross Theatre.

Last year, the production was “Dreams and Nightmares.” This year, the play is entitled “Truth.”

The play is centered around a small group of friends that all deny their truth about themselves.

We are all eager to see how “Truth” plays out with this cast of students.

Show times are from May 17-19, starting at 7:30 p.m., and May 20 for a matinee showing, starting at 2:30 p.m.

Ticket price is $3 for students and $5 for general admission and tickets are available at the box office or online.

The box office will open one hour prior to the show and online tickets along with additional information about the show are available here.

In the second segment of the podcast, the Knightly News is joined by Professor Maria Thiaw to talk about the American Griot Project that she has been working on over the last two years.

During her time on the show, she discusses what the American Griot Project is and how she envisions the future of the project.

To learn more about the project, you can go to Thiaw’s blog about the topic and find out how you can help.

In addition, Thiaw discusses the club she advises, the Knight Writers, a creative writing club on campus that promotes self-expression.

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The Knightly News Releases Special Podcast

By Paul Miller

Co-Adviser to the Knightly News

In our most recent podcast, the Knightly News podcast is joined by Student Activities Director Adrienne Thoman to discuss her “Featured Three” events of September.

In addition to Thoman joining the podcast, Professor Paul Miller steps back from the host role and becomes the guest, as Nasir Harris interviews Miller about his upcoming LinkedIn:  The Time is Now workshop.

In Thoman’s segment, she discussed some fantastic events on campus for the month of September, including the upcoming Knight Writers Poetry Slam, Late Knight Breakfast, and Cram Jam.

Knight Writers Poetry Slam – Wednesday, Sept. 7 from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. in the Capital BlueCross Theatre.  Admission is free.

Late Knight Breakfast – Thursday, Sept. 8 from 10 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. in the Knight and Day Cafe.  No cost to students.

Cram Jam – Begins Sunday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. – Monday, Sept. 12 at 5 a.m.  No cost to students.

In Miller’s segment, the importance of having a LinkedIn profile for college students was discussed.

“Having an excellent LinkedIn profile is the single most important thing a student can do while in college to promote their talents and find opportunity in the job market.” Miller said.

He provided a preview to his workshop that will take place Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 4:00 p.m. in Milano Hall, Room 13.  All are welcome.

In addition, Dr. Karen Scolforo stopped by the give our campus a wonderful leadership tip that can be used by all.  The Media Club thanks Dr. Scolforo for her continued support.

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Poetry Slam Set To Hit Central Penn Campus

By Norman Geary

Media Club Reporter

The Central Pen Literary E-Zine and Professor Maria Thiaw’s ENG330 Contemporary Writers of Color students will be hosting a poetry slam on Sept. 7, at 7 p.m., in the Capital BlueCross Theatre in the Underground.

Performers will be competing for prizes: 1st place, $100; 2nd place, $50; and 3rd place, $25.

These are the rules for the event:

  • Poets will have 3 minutes to perform, with the clock starting when the performer begins talking.
  • There will be no introductions or disclaimers, absolutely no apologies, and there will be no props.
  • The poem each poet performs must be his or her original work.

There will also be a panel of judges which will include faculty and students.

To compete in the poetry slam, send an email to the centralpen@centralpenn.edu. Include name, major and name of the poem to be performed. Prepare two poems, in case of a sudden-death round.

Thiaw said participants will be judged not just on the quality of their poems, but also for on-stage presence.

A Slam Preparation Workshop will be held on Aug. 31, at 3:30 p.m., at the Knight Writers Meeting, Milano Hall, Room 17.

 Isaiah Isley performing his original work in the 2013 Poetry Slam.


Isaiah Isley performing his original work in the 2013 Poetry Slam.

Mistress of Ceremonies will be Ladi Glori, an inventive and creative spoken-word artist.  She was born and raised in Maryland. Glori has been featured in a number of poetry events and television shows.  Glori also has teamed up with musicians, dancers and other poets to offer her multifaceted talents in the arts community.  She is coauthor of a book with five poets (Below the Belt, 2012) and creator of a CD, Mute the Background (2011).

“Slams are really entertaining and you should encourage your friends,” Thiaw said.

Poetry slams have been very popular since the 1990s and are well received by young poets across America.  While slams have seen some opposition in academia, they have proven to be a considerable force generally.

Content of slam poetry typically targets politics; broad social issues; and racial, economic and gender injustices.

According to poets.org, the structure of the traditional slam was started by “Slampappi” Marc Smith in 1986, who performed at a reading series in a Chicago jazz club.  With Smith’s success came a kind of rebirth of poetry performances, and the coining of the term “slam.” The term and movement spread rapidly across the country.

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Maria Thiaw’s Message to Student Writers: Get Published.

The Central Pen e-zine is a good place to start

 By Norman Geary

Media Club Reporter

 Maria Thiaw, professor of writing and humanities, is used to honing the written word.

With Thiaw’s background in poetry and in writing for literary journals, and her long tenure at Central Penn, publishing “The Central Pen” – the college’s literary e-zine – was a perfect match.

“The Central Pen” was “The Midsummer Knight’s Dream” when Thiaw started teaching at Central Penn in 2004.

In 2007, Thiaw was handed the reigns.  The magazine was widely distributed among students and faculty, staff and their families, and in the community.  But magazine projects stopped when a funding problem arose.

 New times

In 2012, Melissa Wehler, Ph.D., came on board to assist with many projects. With the addition of Wehler, the online version of “The Central Pen,” less expensive to produce on the Web, came to fruition.  That’s when the publication became an e-zine – an electronic magazine.

Wehler’s experience, which included a strong background in blogging, added to Thiaw’s background in writing for literary journals, meant new life for “The Central Pen.”  This endeavor continued for a couple of years, and included students in many projects.

Eventually, student involvement began to dwindle. During this time, Wehler acquired another position at Central Penn, so Thiaw and professor Thomas Davis, who teaches writing, continued editing the e-zine.

Changes

Thiaw and Davis developed creative ways to enhance student involvement that included covering school activities and publishing their work. Thiaw and Davis knew when students publish their work, it would look good to future employers.  It also showcased students’ writing abilities and kept the community informed on college news.

“This is also a great way for students to further their careers,” Thiaw said.

“The Central Pen” is promoted primarily by social media. This project is coming out of the School of Humanities and Sciences.  When something new is published, it is shared through emails with people on a subscribers’ list who tend to sign up through club fairs.  It also goes out through Facebook and Twitter.  The Knight Writers Creative Writing Club has a Pinterest page and a Facebook page that promote the e-zine.

Through these channels, the word gets out.  If students are shy about writing, Thiaw offers this advice, “I would encourage them (to consider) all the benefits of getting published, and … we have really good editors.  We really are not going to publish something that is not ready.”

Want to get published?

To be published, according to Thiaw, it is important to receive direction and constructive criticism, and Thiaw and Davis are adept at helping students improve their writing.  Students have to be reminded that not all submitted work will be published.

“As a writer, you are always sending things out and, more often than not, you are going to get rejected,” Thiaw said.  “But keep in mind that the best organizations will tell you that your writing is not what we are particularly looking for, but try this organization.  Or, if you make these two corrections, then your submission will be ready to be published.”

With this in mind, Thiaw said she will help someone polish his or her work.

Professor Maria Thiaw is proud to mentor the students as they learn more about creative writing. Photo by Tyler Willis

Professor Maria Thiaw is proud to mentor students as they learn more about creative writing. Photo by Tyler Willis

Plenty of help available

There are numerous resources on the Central Penn Summerdale Campus to assist students with their writing.  Some of these include the writing center, the Smarthinking online tutoring service and the library.

“No one leaving Central Penn should lack in any way when it comes to writing skills,” said Thiaw.

Besides the e-zine, Thiaw is involved with curriculum review and teaching classes.  She is also the advisor and the founder of the creative writing club on campus called The Knight Writers.  The club meets Wednesdays 3:30 p.m. in the Leadership Room of the library.  There is also a yearly poetry slam where students can win money for their performances.  In addition, there is a Central Penn poetry contest in April.

Because April is National Poetry Month, the winner of the contest can win the top prize of $100 and a year’s membership to The Academy of American Poets.  That person can also be entered to win the academy’s big prize of $1,000, and be published nationally.

Other pursuits

Thiaw is also on the Diversity Committee, and is involved in Word Wednesday and TED Talk Tuesdays, and various functions on campus that promote diversity. She is active in the arts and poetry community (in which she is known as Maria James-Thiaw), and is a member – and sometimes featured performer – of The Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel performance poetry group, which meets Thursdays at 7 p.m., at The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg.  Thiaw is a longtime member of the Cartel, and serves on the board of Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers Wordshop.  The Wordshop meets Fridays at 7 p.m., also at The Midtown Scholar.

Thiaw has been widely published, including in an anthology through the Writer’s Wordshop, and went last year to Paris for a week-long workshop sponsored through the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts.  She recently attended the conference of the Associated Writers & Writing Programs, in Los Angeles, where she met many Pulitzer Prize winning authors.  She is doing research on a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program that she is starting on the Central Penn College campus.

With Thiaw’s experience, all students who aspire to be good writers should take full advantage of the writing opportunities she and others at Central Penn offer.

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Which Way Did He Go?

An ex-con shares how he got on a better path

By Christine Fusselman
Media Club Reporter

Let’s bring in the guy who’s spent 25 years in and out of prison to inspire our students!

What?

But that’s just what Business and Communications Program Chair Russell Kulp did recently. He invited Ronald L. James to speak to a group of Central Penn College students from two oral communications classes and a freshman seminar class on Nov. 20.
Since last year, James has done speaking engagements – sharing the message from his book, Choices – Lessons Learned from a Repeat Offender (2013).

Ronald L. James, author of Choices – Lessons Learned from a Repeat Offender (2013)

Ronald L. James, author of Choices – Lessons Learned from a Repeat Offender (2013)

“Ron’s book, Choices, is an incredible journey from the depths of despair and hopelessness to exhilarating heights,” Kulp said.  “Ron’s message is touching hearts and changing lives.”

Students from one of Prof. Maria Thiaw’s oral communications classes described the presentation:

“Climatic – (James) has great story telling abilities,” says business management student Darrin Zehring, 19.

Neya Beattie, 29, is a health science major. She called the presentation “Powerful. It was a wake-up call.”

James captured the attention of the audience by talking about some of the poor choices he made in his life and asking, “Who’s choice is it?”

He explained that the choices he made in his youth snowballed into increasingly poor choices as he got older, leading to smoking, drugs and alcohol. The choices got worse after that, eventually leading him to spend more than 25 years in and out of varying levels of incarceration.

During the presentation, James asked the audience, “What’s your dream?”

Students replied with mainly career-focused dreams, including being a detective or in another law-enforcement job, or being a forensic scientist or cosmetologist.

Another relayed a dream of being happy.

He then asked, “What can derail you?”

James’ answer: “Some people don’t know they’ve made a bad choice until the consequence comes.”

RonCard_1

He then gave examples of the negative results others had when they drove too fast or agreed to that second drink.

James shared about a time in his life when he was fighting an addiction to heroin, and after using up all of his other resources, he went home to his mother, whom he calls “Mi Mi.” She welcomed him home like a “prodigal son,” offering him food, a hot shower, clothes and a place to stay.

He said she used to always say: “Good, better, best. May you never rest – until the good get better, and the better best.”

Even after he stole her wedding rings to sell for drug money, she would welcome him home when he showed up. It wasn’t until years later, and after her death, that he realized his regret.

“I robbed my mom of having a son,” he said.

Criminal Justice major Brett Sherman, 19, said, “His story was shocking. He stole from his mom. When she told him, ‘You needed them more than me’ – that was painful.”

Prof. Thiaw said she knew someone who had dealt with addiction. “I never truly understood how very destructive that is to the family until hearing these stories.”

Prof. Janet Bixler wrote, “Ron James shared his story about choices. His presentation was a wonderful complement to my freshman seminar curriculum, where the students are exploring goal-setting and strategies for overcoming obstacles. Mr. James made it clear that the choices we make have the power to move us forward toward success or to create giant obstacles. His life experiences vividly illustrated our need to examine the intentions and motivations behind our actions, thoughts and desires.”

James’ decision to change came in prison.

“I saw myself for who I was,” he says.

He began to read to improve the reading skills he sorely neglected in school. He also chose to help and guide new inmates, and found that he enjoyed helping others.

Today, James is touring middle and high schools, along with colleges in Pennsylvania and other nearby states. Recent stops include The Ohio State University, and in nearby Shiremanstown, River Rock Academy, where he spoke to adjudicated youth. James says he is looking forward to taking his speaking tour to charter schools in Houston. He also uses his affinity for helping others by being a life coach.

He and his wife, Annie, welcomed a baby girl this month. Her name is Mireya, which means “miracle.”

More information about James and his book can be found at his website. It includes video links, blog entries and contact information.

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