Monthly Archives: May 2011
One of our graduating Communications Technology majors has been our CT major liaison and community facilitator for the last two years. He was the first student I’ve been able to hire in this role, and we had to learn together what he was going to be able to do to make a difference in the department. It’s been fantastic to have someone who was respected by all his peers and was basically willing to build anything we asked him to. Last year he took the lead and organized our CT Open House that for the first time was actually well attended. In no small part to the many, many emails and phone calls he made to new students, making them feel welcome. He even built a photo booth for the event that was turned into a great video (featuring majors hanging out with Robert the mannequin). He also has been instrumental in helping build the CT major website, writing regular blog posts and facilitating conversation.
So this blog post is for you Iddan. Congratulations and thanks for being a great student, great help to the CT community and giving me a baseball signed by you. Best graduating student present ever. You Rock!
At the end of each semester we recognize students that are “doing good.”
And whether they are actually do well in their classes doesn’t matter, because what we care about is that they are doing somethiong good for the community of Communications Technology (CT) majors.
Recognizing students that build community around their discipline of study isn’t something that a college usually does. Typically recognition goes to students with a high-level of academic accomplishment. They recevie the big awards. The big medals of honor and the cash-money checks that come with this recognition.
But it’s the student(s) that may not have the best GPA or the most creative contributions to the discipline that are actually making a difference at your school. They are the ones that work hard and hang out with everyone. They nurture the community.
So they may not get the big award but they deserve an award for helping all the outlying students to keep on dreaming. And by dream I mean they help students outside of class continue to learn – they run clubs, build group projects, or just make it fun to hang out in an academic way.
We give these students the “99¢ Award” which comes in the form of praise and a silly trinket we find in the local dollar store – a roll of puffy stickers, a porcelain figurine of smiling puppies, or a box of clever card tricks.
Though these little pieces of appreciation are ephemeral, we hope that they make a lasting impression. Because these students are the ones in which I place my “99¢ dreams.”
“Mr. Hersey could you please send Michael Smith to the principal’s office.” These words were spoken in a pinched female voice, disembodied and degraded by the aged speaker box that hung on the concrete wall. I looked at my sophomore peers in English class, they all looked at me, I looked at Mr. Hersey. He walked to the intercom, pulled its trigger and said, “Mr. Smith will be right down.”
I was to meet with Vice Principal Yarrow, a man with a left arm that ended just above the elbow, who was known as a fierce competitive cyclist steering and shifting with his one hand. He always wore short sleeves, and held students’ records under his incomplete left arm – a clamp holding down a folder filled with indiscretions that couldn’t escape the permanent display of a lack of judgement.
“Mr. Smith you know why you’re here don’t you?” said VP Yarrow.
Sweating, recoiling opposite his massive desk, I racked my brain for what I’d done,”Um, no?”
“You’ve missed Ms. Wright’s Spanish class three days in a row.”
“Ms. Wright? Who’s Ms. Wright?”
“Mr. Smith your Spanish IV teacher, please, Ms. Wright!”
“Um, I’m in Spanish II with Ms. Cone.”
An uncomfortable moment of silence followed.
“You are Michael Smith?”
Unclamping the folder, VP Yarrow took a closer look at the student file, “Michael C. Smith?”
“OOOOhh, noooo. I’m Michael B Smith. The B is for Branson.”
That was probably the first time I’d owned my middle name. A family name from my mother’s side, that her father had, as did her father’s father, and onward. I’d aways felt it was an awkward middle name, too haughty, too nasally, too unlike any other middle name I’d come across in my narrow suburbia experience. My brother got Scott, I got Branson.
But I’ve been owning that middle “B” for sometime as I’ve created (and will continue to create) innumerable usernames for an endless list of internet accounts and services. Having a “common” name is a blessing and burden on the internet, easy to hide, but hardly found. Why?
Starting in 1964, “Michael” became the most popular given name in the US and would remain so until over three decades later “Jacob” would take the title in 1999. Jacob and I have been battling for the number one spot ever since (though he’s owned the crown for most of the 2000s). And “Smith” is the most common surname of the United States – all time.
Yup, that’s my name, “Mike Smith.” I have one of the most common names in the United States. People I meet to this day still ask me, “No really, what’s your real name.”
So as I create accounts, trying usernames – msmith, mbsmith, michaelsmith, michaelbsmith, etc. They’re already gone. And I can’t be “msmith4377″ or whatever other username a bot wants me to be.
Last summer I started a blog on the CUNY Academic Commons about my old artworks and had the need for a username for a variety of social media accounts that I wanted to affiliate with it. “NotTrivial” was the username I chose, and its origin is explained in one of the artwork blog posts. I use @nottrivial on Twitter, Flickr, and a few other places now (including the name of this blog for now).
But I’m officially owning my middle name for the second time in my life now, with michaelbransonsmith.net and I’m not sure what that means for “nottrivial.” Maintain it and continue to propagate it? I’ve parked @mbransons on Twitter for now, but rebuild followers and following?
What’s in a (user)name anyway? What do you think?
So that I have a place to sift through ideas and extend my participation in the networked conversation. A slow start, but a start. Thanks to the CUNY Academic Commons and the Commons Team (@mkgold, @boonebgorges, @cstein, @scottvoth, @brianfoote, @sarah_morgano) for building a place for CUNY folk to hang and be their academic selves. And thanks to the many I’m getting to know via DS106 and Twitter, (@DrGarcia, @jimgroom, @scottlo, @mikhailg, @timmmmboy, @grantpotter, @lwaltzer, @giulaforsythe, @noiseprofessor) and many more!
Looking forward to creating, building, and simply goofing off in the many digital storytelling playgrounds out there.