Monday, March 31, 2008

An Update on Miss Open City

After writing on Abby's blog during her most recent post about the facebook debacle, I decided to check and see if anything was official yet. The Miss Ohio website currently lists Samantha Eggers as Miss Open City. Samantha was the first runner up this year at Miss Greater Cleveland/Open City and she also took the talent award, I believe.

This should clear up all speculation about who is Miss Open City; I'm not sure whether the circumstances of the change will be discussed. In any case, congratulations to Samantha and I wish her the best of luck at Miss Ohio!

Roanoke Times article

Last fall, several upperclassmen including myself were interviewed by a reporter from the Roanoke times. For the most part, the reporter has managed to capture the rift on this campus. As expected, there are points I don't agree with: the use of the story about the secret society makes it sound as though we have a KKK chapter on campus. Anyone familiar with RMWC would know that our societies stretch all the way back to the beginning of this school; all harmless traditions.

No upperclassmen that I know condoned the behavior of whatever secret society decided to hood themselves and enter the freshman dorm. However, they acted like people were personally terrorizing them.

I'm sorry that students were outside your door in a hood- I admit, that is scary. But coming from a senior who has heard her fair share of ridiculous catcalls from first year men last fall, it's just as creepy for some 17 year old boy to follow you on back campus and say disgusting things.

One part of the article that made me laugh was the part about the dining hall ranking system. I noticed this ranking system the first day I was on campus; I openly shared the story with the reporter. I'm glad the men at least admitted to this childish act; did they REALLY think a bunch of 22 year old soon-to-be grads of a woman's college would want to be ranked according to numbers as we entered the dining hall?

Anyways, it is what it is.

Dividing lines

They started as freshmen at a women's college and will graduate from a coed campus. This first year of transition for Randolph College was difficult for many students, but the school's future is looking brighter.

JARED SOARES The Roanoke Times

SAM DEAN The Roanoke Times

Randolph College freshman Cameron Shepherd of Roanoke reviews notes during the first day of class.

JUSTIN COOK The Roanoke Times

Randolph men's basketball coach Clay Nunley keeps his eye on the action as his team takes on Lynchburg College. He has been building the team from scratch, establishing a new series of traditions.

JUSTIN COOK The Roanoke Times

Hillary Peabody teases her boyfriend, Montana Gibson, as they cook dinner at his home in Lynchburg. Hillary, a senior and student government president at Randolph College, opposed the college's going coed, but her stance hasn't stopped her from dating Montana.

JUSTIN COOK The Roanoke Times

Senior Molly Bunder (left), sophomore Elysia Lopez and freshman Brandon Morgan rehearse the play "Boy Gets Girl" at Randolph College. Bunder is an outspoken critic of the college's decision to go coed.

SAM DEAN The Roanoke Times

Randolph College freshman Pete Hamilton (center) of Roanoke participates in a teambuilding exercise during orientation.

LYNCHBURG -- Everything was degenerating so quickly.

Men in the dining hall supposedly ranking women's looks, one to 10. Men cat-calling in that Joey-from-"Friends" voice: "How you doin'?" Men offering answers during physics, hogging the questions. A professor having to change a comparison to a designer shoe, a Manolo Blahnik.

This is what they dreaded -- men stealing the limelight from women.

It was enough to make senior Molly Bunder worry about her school -- Randolph-Macon Woman's College -- being lost.

Physically, everything was the same -- stately Colonial buildings, arched doorways, grounds dotted by tall pines, a place steeped in tradition and surrounded by walls of red brick.

But the way Molly saw it, the soul of the place was gone.

To blame, she felt, were the 76 men who stepped on campus in August 2007 and the administrators who admitted them.

Molly had heard the reasons why, after 115 years, her college went coed. Trustees were concerned about declining enrollment, steep tuition discounts, spending on the school's endowment. Administrators seemed to be sending a message -- to survive, the college needed men.

But as the daughter of an alumna, Molly grew up absorbing tales of ladies singing Beatles songs in the stairwells, of being invited to tea in professors' offices.

She began the fall of her senior year fiercely opposed to the end of Randolph-Macon's all-female tradition. She worried coed would disrupt the campus' spirit of sisterhood, ladies' close bond with instructors, rituals like a fall pumpkin festival with cider and cookies.

She wasn't alone in her feelings.

As freshman orientation stretched into fall days filled with classes, sporting events and first exams, friction rose. The coed transition began with student protests, followed by tears, lawsuits and rumors about every action of freshmen.

Eventually, the tension exploded into an incident involving hooded figures roaming a dorm, an act intended to scare first-year students off campus.

It did that and more, threatening to tear apart the college's tight community.

Months later, some seniors are still bitter as graduation approaches. Some refuse to speak their school's new name, Randolph College.

"We applied to a women's college, and we're not graduating from one," said Hillary Peabody, the student government president. "[Men] are the reality of what we don't want to happen at our school."

Yet even Hillary, who arranged her fall schedule to avoid classes with men, found herself on both sides of the issue as the semester unfolded with all the elements of a bad blind date.

Only these men and women couldn't part ways at the end of the night.

A campus divided

The bad behavior started with a party.

It happened the second night of orientation, hosted by male athletes in a first-year dorm. There was lots of alcohol and the room was crowded. Music pulsed outside the room. The party was bumping.

Stories vary, but some say this was the cover charge: a pledge that both women and men had to strip off their shirts.

That night formed the seniors' first impression. Many felt it would take a lot to repair the rift.

Randolph-Macon was never a party school. Drinking had always been quiet and controlled.

For some women, the first men's soccer game was enough to bring tears. Administrators and fans filled the stands -- their stands -- when for so long, bleachers at their games stood empty.

Administrators seemed to be saying "boys will be boys." But the women were watching and whispering.

Some of the buzz was based on truth. There was a party during orientation, but Jonas Kjaer, a 19-year-old soccer player, blames the women for making up the nudity part to inflame everyone. When the party was busted, seniors stood outside clapping.

Rumors of men ranking ladies' looks in the dining hall were not entirely false, freshman basketball player Mike Creef admits. When guys see a girl, they say she's pretty.

"I don't know how they found out," he said. "We were trying to be discreet."

It's not like they were holding up scorecards, Jonas said.

Even first-year ladies, some seniors felt, were not "woman's college" women. They seemed less mature, less concerned about their studies, more conscious of how they were viewed by men.

A Randy-Mac woman would never go to a party and peel off her shirt.

Many of Molly Bunder's fellow seniors said the semester was becoming the longest of their lives. But she thought it was the shortest because every week seemed to bring a new crisis.

The theater major's first semester included rehearsing a play she had pushed for since summer: "Boy Gets Girl." In it she played a strong woman who goes on a blind date and ends up being stalked.

She must change her name, reinvent herself. Her life is upended by men.

The cast chose the play to provoke discussion about gender inequality and sexual abuse -- not Molly's outrage. But after loving her college so much, she knew exactly what it felt like for someone to destroy her life.

"Maybe being a woman," her character says, "means tolerating a lot of s---."

A growing discord

Growing up in Roanoke, Cameron Shepherd and Pete Hamilton often faced each other on the basketball court, opponents in traveling youth leagues and high school.

The 19-year-old freshmen started at Randolph last fall as roommates and teammates on the school's first male basketball team.

Like most men, they came to the college for sports, arriving on a humid August morning where Cameron's grandmother expected protesters and his single dad -- faced with the reality of taking his only child to college -- cried on the road to campus.

Other schools, such as Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, offered Cameron a full ride for academics. Roanoke College gave him a chance to play hoops -- junior varsity.

But he liked coach Clay Nunley when he visited Randolph. He wanted to be part of something new.

That meant obeying Nunley's echoed commands through hours of practice, racing and running drills as their Nikes squeaked against the polished hardwood and their toned arms became streaked with sweat.

Nunley is all muscle, with a deep voice and a strong superhero jaw. He's a Virginia native who, in college, played Division III ball -- leaving him with a soft spot that would bring him, at age 31, to Randolph. He left an assistant coaching job at West Point midseason, charged with building a team in the South.

When Cameron and Pete visited campus in high school, there were no teammates for them to meet, no games to watch, no winning record to consider.

Nunley's 11 recruits were asked to make a commitment based on faith.

They knew not everyone wanted them here. Yet Cameron did not feel the men were entitled to more than women. He understood why the seniors were upset and respects their traditions.

Tan and well-spoken, Cameron opens doors for ladies, calls his elders "ma'am," carries his girlfriend's picture in his wallet. He was a valedictorian at William Byrd High School -- a smart guy who was good on the court.

But friction began right away.

A Facebook posting said the basketball men came to Randolph only because they couldn't play anywhere else. Meanwhile, male soccer players complained someone had sprayed bottled deer urine in their dorm during their first game.

Others whispered that the male athletes were paid to come to campus.

As a Division III school, Randolph can't offer sports scholarships to ease its $25,350 annual tuition. Instead, both Cameron and Pete were awarded money for academics. Pete's parents pay more for his sister's in-state school than they do to Randolph.

Across campus that first semester, anger was so intense that students could feel it in the dining room. Freshmen women were called sluts when they passed Webb Hall, the senior dorm. Guys were told, "Go home!"

In return, some men stood bare-chested outside Webb. Just to annoy the seniors.

The boiling point

The acceptance letter was what lured her from California. It was personalized with her name -- Elysia Lopez -- and explained why Randolph liked her.

Letters from other schools -- Georgetown and Notre Dame -- began "Dear student."

She embraced the college's atmosphere of caring and respect. She felt like an individual, not a number.

For Elysia, a sophomore, Randolph was an amazing experience -- one she did not want to change when the school went coed.

She'd made a choice when she returned to campus in August. She could be bitter, or she could show men that a woman could be a feminist and accepting.

Her attitude was noticed.

Right away, she befriended Peter McIlvenny, an Irish exchange student who lived down the hall. Everyone thought they were dating, but it wasn't like that -- they were like brother and sister.

The hate mail soon came -- notes with skulls and crossbones calling her a traitor, warning, "Watch your back."

A threatening phone call followed from a blocked number.

As a Randy-Mac woman, she was supposed to know better than to welcome men.

When coeducation came, Elysia hurt, too. But guys, she reasoned, were not the ones making the decision. Each young man is somebody's son, somebody's boyfriend, somebody's brother.

This is not what she expected from her sisters.

She was so scared that she stayed in an off-campus hotel the second weekend in September.

Elysia talked to the residence life director when she returned that Monday. She'll take care of it, Elysia thought. Finally, she relaxed.

Until that night. When all the hot anger on campus boiled over.

It was late. Elysia recalled she and friends were in Peter's room when one of them spotted a figure walking down the hall -- a woman in a black robe and hood.

Elysia peeked out to see for herself.

Cloaked figures gathered outside her room. Some stood on either side of the door. Three more waited down the hall. One sat on a trash can.

All guarding.

Waiting for her.

They wore matching robes and hoods -- full-length and long-sleeved, with dark veils covering their faces. Elysia could not recognize a single feature, just the tops of tennis shoes.

Guys on her Bell Hall floor saw them, too, and used cellphones to snap pictures. The cloaked figures did not scare the men. Many said they knew it was the women, "dressing up like Halloween."

But after everything, Elysia was terrified.

Peter stepped into the hall, cursing in his "crazy Irish accent."

This was unacceptable, he told them. This was shameful. This was a disgrace.

Meanwhile, Elysia called her resident director from Peter's room. The phone kept ringing. Ringing and ringing.

The stairwell was beside Peter's room -- her escape. She sneaked out, pushing the heavy metal door. She ran down a flight of stairs, reaching the R.D.'s room. She started pounding. Pounding and pounding -- until she heard the stairwell door creak.

She turned around. They marched toward her, single file. Eight figures in black.

Elysia stood, back pressed against the door, as they circled around -- coming for her.

Most women on campus were unhappy, but this small minority was taking action.

Elysia is not a man-hater. That's not what she feels being a feminist is about. The college she knew was about genuine love. She thinks some women forgot that with coed.

As the cloaked figures surrounded her, a friend -- a soccer player -- was outside and saw what was happening through the window. He ran inside.

"Leave her alone," he ordered.

The women left through a back door, never saying a word.

Elysia does not know what would have happened next. She's heard rumors before about secret societies hazing women -- physically and verbally -- on campus.

Peter stayed in Elysia's room that night. He was up until dawn, keeping watch.

The raid led Peter to a decision. Even Elysia found herself encouraging him -- it was best to move to another school.

His exchange program arranged a transfer to Iowa's Cornell College.

Days later, he was in the dean of students' office signing withdrawal papers as a staff member's eyes filled with tears.

No one harassed him at Randolph -- everyone was so nice. But this was his time abroad, his year to have fun before returning to Ireland.

This, he felt, was not his fight to fight.

Signs of a new future

The day after the raid, Cameron and Pete gathered with athletes in an outdoor quad.

Men and women. First-years and seniors. They were all athletes, they decided. They must get along.

The roommates were across campus in their dorm during the chaos. A basketball teammate called after spotting a cloaked figure in his doorway, reflected in his computer screen.

Cameron and Pete reached Bell Hall after the cloaked figures left, at the end of an outdoor freshmen-versus-seniors shouting match. Security came, but the crowd took a half-hour to simmer and scatter. Cameron and Pete didn't understand what was happening, only that people were upset.

Randolph's president, John Klein, sent an e-mail to faculty, staff and students, saying what happened would not be tolerated.

"The actions of these few students are not representative of the values of this college," it read.

Dressing in hoods, after all, is a felony in Virginia.

Later, seniors held a meeting with freshmen. They apologized, saying not all seniors were against them.

They did not come to college, some freshmen said, to get treated like this.

Some students turned themselves in to Sarah Swager, dean of students. All she can say is the night involved a secret society, and she needs it to change its ways.

She considered the raid the wake-up call that was needed to make adjustments.

"We knew something would jolt us into talking," she said.

Afterward, a lot of women told the dean, "I'm going to be part of the solution."

Swager knows some women will never accept the change, but going coed has brought vibrancy to campus. A college-sponsored dance in September was a sweaty, standing-room-only mass. Socials were ghost towns in the past. Here, the building was creaking.

Before, campus emptied on weekends. Ladies focused on academics, putting play in second place. Before, the women were so serious, administrators invented a holiday, "Mac Doodle Day," canceling classes so students could build sculptures out of Cheez Doodles.

Just weeks into the fall term, Swager saw students playing volleyball on courts that were never used, and men tossing footballs on campus.

"There's a spirit creeping on our campus that's really nice," she said.

Smells like team spirit

Outside the locker room, the team huddled, fists raised and touching.

"One, two, three!" one player shouted.

"Team together!" the crew responded.

The gym was full this November night for the Wildcats' first home basketball game. Here, women and men who had been so edgy with each other earlier in the year had a chance to yell for one another.

Cameron was nervous, high-fiving a teammate to the bump of hip-hop. He already scored the first point in team history when the Wildcats played out of town the previous week.

Players pumped one another up.

"Do you know how many teams underestimate us?" one asked.

"It's our time to shine, baby," another chanted all the way into the gym.

The student section was small but vocal -- a trait adopted by even the newest Randolph students.

The women's softball team, fresh from their tailgate, were the loudest, cheering for defense: "C'mon, guys, let's go!"

Life on campus was slowly getting easier.

The game drew a largely freshman crowd dotted by upperclassmen. Many male athletes came to women's games, now ladies were here in return.

Junior Brittany Eubanks, a volleyball player, protested the coed decision. She never pictured herself rooting for men.

"They're now a part of our school," she said. "We're still kind of dealing with it. ... [Going co-ed] is not really their fault."

On the court, coach Nunley paced the sidelines in his dark suit, clapping, pointing, barking orders. Benched players sat on folding chairs whose cushions still read, "R-MWC."

The game was a blowout --104-23 against Patrick Henry College. Hugs and knocked knuckles were everywhere as sweaty players squeezed into the packed hall outside the gym, Pete carrying the game ball.

Mom Carsonette Hamilton rustled Pete's auburn hair.

"Did you notice the gym was full?" she asked. "You are setting a good precedent."

Back in the locker room, the team applauded Nunley. The next game was days away, he reminded them, a new battle.

"Get ready for the future," he said.

New friends, new peace

It's six weeks until graduation, and peace has returned near the end of this mass blind date.

The women know their classmates now -- it was easy to talk trash when they could not match faces and names.

Even a leader of the opposition, student body president Hillary Peabody, is dating a male transfer student -- though it took a while before they held hands on campus.

Still, the change is hard for some seniors.

Hillary, for instance, still makes a point of not saying her college's new name.

Molly Bunder, meanwhile, burst into tears when she crossed the Virginia state line after winter break. Her anger is fading, but has not led to acceptance.

She's looking ahead, auditioning for graduate theater programs. But even the end has come with annoyances -- graduation materials sent to parents say, "Randolph College."

Her degree, like that of most seniors, will read, "Randolph-Macon Woman's College."

The way she looks at it, her alma mater is dead. After picking up her diploma, she's never coming back.

Sophomore Elysia Lopez is leaving, too. She will study in England next year. Overseas, this English major and tennis captain can choose from hundreds of literature courses and has hopes of watching Wimbledon.

After being harassed, she had planned to spend the rest of college abroad. Now, she wants to return to Randolph as a senior. She does not want to miss graduation.

No one has bothered her since the raid. She thinks Peter McIlvenny's transfer made everyone rethink their actions.

Peter does not believe in regrets, but wonders what would have happened if he had stayed.

Even now, he can imagine the bond seniors shared over the years, especially after 115 years of history. He knows change is hard and can see why some would want to take their anger out on somebody. It's a pity, he said, that it had to be the boys.

Now, men and women alike are applying to Randolph in record numbers.

Coach Nunley has traveled three states in search of basketball recruits. This year, he could tell of his team's 8-14 record, and have visitors spend time with players.

The team is a family now, and Cameron and Pete, more like brothers.

They hosted two Hidden Valley High School seniors in their dorm one night, where comforters crumpled at the foot of each bed, the trash overflowed and the long-legged recruits sat with them watching "Streetball" on ESPN.

Three girls squeezed into the room wearing late-night sweat suits and ponytails.

"You guys should definitely come here," they echoed.

"You're not just a number," Ashley Woodrum, 18, added.

"We're like a family," Rachel Carlson, 18, told them.

The basketball season ended at home on a mid-February night.

With a minute left and a seven-point lead, the student section was on its feet.

"They're all fresh-men!" students chanted at the Lynchburg College rivals.

"They're all fresh-men!" Clap-clap. Clap-clap-clap.

Afterward, players on the inaugural team signed a basketball to be displayed in a trophy case. Long after the last all-women's class is gone, after the college grows and coed becomes the norm, the signed ball will be there -- a piece of history as new traditions bloom within the red brick walls of campus.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Apparently, there is a lot of speculation about whether a certain titleholder in Ohio has stepped down. I've received a phone call and six emails about this issue so I feel like somehow people feel like this issue affects me. The titleholder in question is Zephylia Khooblall, named Miss Open City 2008 last July. At that pageant, I was 3rd runner up. Sylvia, the director, is someone who is great about keeping in touch pre and post-pageant. A few years ago, Sylvia offered two titles and for some reason (I'm not sure why...) Miss Open City did step down prior to Miss Ohio and Katelyn Koval, now a Pennsylvania titleholder, took over and went to Miss Ohio with that title.
In any case, I don't know anything about this. I have NOT been contacted about this by Sylvia or anyone else. I am also the third runner up; they would have to go to the first runner up prior to coming to me. The 2nd runner up is the new Miss Maple City.

Whether or not Zephylia has stepped down, I think it's only fair to leave the publicity of such an event to Zephylia and the Miss Greater Cleveland/Miss Open City/Miss Ohio Board. In an email this afternoon someone asked whether it was true that I was the new Miss Open City.
It is amazing sometimes how quickly gossip travels sometimes, and how often it isn't even true. No, I am not the new Miss Open City...obviously as the third runner up if it came to that I would assume the title if it was needed. That said, I have not been asked, and I am not sure what the situation of the first runner up, Samantha Eggers, is, but it is her responsibility before mine.
Sylvia is a wonderful director and I wish her luck with whomever she ends up taking to Miss Ohio. If it fell all the way to the 3rd runner up and I was able to do it, we would deal with that situation when we came to it. However, I am moving to Virginia after graduation. I will be a full time graduate student at Virginia Tech next fall. Ohio is a great place to live (although I will always give my mom a hard time about moving us there from Chicago after I was born!) but I have every intention of living in Virginia, just as I have for the last four years.

Amidst the speculation I wanted to clear up that I have heard nothing from Sylvia or the Miss Ohio board regarding this issue. At this point, all the talk seems speculation and it's unfair to those involved to keep talking it up and making suggestions. If information is released about whether or not Zephylia has really resigned, I will post it here.

A few Guerrilla Girls pictures

On Wednesday last week, a long-awaited event arrived on our campus: The Guerrila girls. She gave a great presentation, and I wanted to share a few pictures from the event.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Founder's Day Photos

Walking to front campus
Emelina as a new Eta! (even class spirit group)
President Klein and SG President Hillary plant rosebushes
Nada, Whitney, Nessa, me, Audra in our 'senior gear'
Our dorm's banner

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's MacDoodle Day!

The perfect end to this week is MacDoodle Day, our annual Surprise Day Off! We don't know when it's coming, but the entire day is dedicated to fun! All classes and exams are cancelled and students get a chance to relax. This day was so anticipated and needed this year that last night in the dining hall at dinner during Founder's Day celebrations we all started clapping in hopes that President Klein would announce the day. They tried to fake us out with a podium in the dining hall.

Two years ago, they announced this day on a very busy Friday (St. Patrick's day) and it began with a statement in the dining hall during dinner the night before by our president. Well this year Dean Swager waited until 4:53 AM to send us the email. This day off from classes is very needed around this campus currently; the heavily academic atmosphere in addition to recent traumatic events has made for many stressed out and worn down students.
The events for the day include:

11am-1:30pm Lunch in Cheatham Dining Hall

Menu: Barbeque Ribs, Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Corn on the Cob, Macaroni and Cheese, Make-Your-Own Sundaes and Banana Splits.

Non Residents, Faculty and Staff may eat for the reduced rate of $3.50.

11am-3pm Inflatable Mechanical Surfboard and Box & Joust in the Bell Quad

Rain Location: Smith Banquet Hall

12:30-1:30pm Cheese Doodle Art Contest under the eaves of the Dining Hall

Group and individual entries are welcome. Prizes awarded in various artistic categories.

1:30-2:30pm Field Day on Front Campus

Rain Location: TBA

3pm The Matinee!

Smith Hall Theatre

Did you like the 2007 Faculty & Staff Show? Youll love The Matinee featuring live acts and videos from The Show. Join the Crazy Greek Play Lady, Amy Cohen, for all the fun!

I love attending a school so rich with tradition! Even though I never have classes on Fridays (or Mondays, for that matter!) I will certainly come out and enjoy the fun. This day will kick off a very busy and exciting weekend here on campus!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Some much needed good news

Over the past few weeks, I have been grappling with what to do with my life after graduation. I didn't think I could afford graduate school. My hope for the months since I have applied (since November) was Virginia Tech. I had a professor who attended there for graduate school and I really felt like Tech was the school. My mom had a gut feeling about it, too.

I had an appointment tomorrow to look at apartments in Lynchburg for the next year; I felt that if I wasn't going to attend graduate school, living here for a year until I figured out a new plan would be best. I was still waiting to hear from two graduate schools and was feeling pretty dejected about the options; how likely were they to accept me now in late March? I had applied in November and I was dealing with increasing worry that I wouldn't be accepted.

So, you can imagine my excitement when with one last hope I signed into Virginia Tech's graduate application status online and saw a bolded "Acceptance" next to the Decision area. A little button appeared asking if I planned to attend or not.

Tech is both within my financial reach and a program I have wanted to be a part of. Over the last few weeks I struggled with how I would afford to attend a masters program, but Tech will make it possible I'm still waiting to hear how financial aid will fall out, but this opens a door for me that I have been waiting for since December and brings me on my next step to my journey of becoming a political science professor.

I'm more than excited! More details will follow!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Campus Events

As we near the end of the semester, there are many events planned on campus. This week is especially busy. In addition to our academic demands there are so many things going on. The campus is also abuzz about when MacDoodle Day will be (a tradition during a day in March when all classes are cancelled, a band comes on campus, we have inflatables and food during the day, and all sorts of fun events). The events for this week are:

Wednesday the 26th:
Guerrilla Girls, 6:30, Come see how these women are redefining feminism by exposing sexism, discrimination, and racism in culture, art, and politics.

Thursday the 27th: Founder's day Celebration: seniors will line up in their robes, stoles with buttons, and funny hats, to celebrate the founding of the College.

Friday the 28th:
7:30 PM Theater performance of "The Brutality of Fact"
10:00 PM-2Am Annual Black Light Affair by Student Government (campus-wide party to celebrate founder's day)

Saturday the 29th:
Spring Visit Day (I'll be talking to people about MAC and the American Culture Program)
5:00 PM Performance of the Vagina Monologues for V-Day 2008
10:00 PM -2AM Founder's Day ball by student government

Sunday the 30th
2:30-5:30 Tea for Dr. Ivy, Director of Reading program (all of us former abroaders are excited to see Dr. Ivy, who is a favorite!)
6:00 Performance of Lianna Carrera, comedian
8:00 Annual lip sync by MAC

As you can see, it's very busy this weekend- lots of pictures will be taken!

Monday, March 24, 2008

School updates

Some other updates from school:

We leave for Las Vegas in two weeks! It's going to be a crazy weekend trying to compete in Miss Commonwealth then leaving on Sunday for this school trip, but I'm sure I can do it!

We are trying to reschedule Lianna's comedy show for sometime this weekend. She wasn't able to make it here on time last week, and given the mood on campus after hearing about the loss of a fellow student, things may have worked out for the best.

The Guerrilla Girls will be here on Wednesday! More info in a later post, but this is something I am really excited about.

I am in a fantastic mood because I got a B on my economic senior paper rough draft. Since the department has a different grading scale, this is a B+ in any other department. This is excellent news, since I had months less than other students to complete my research. I handed in my paper with hesitation. I'm looking at foreclosure rates in the Midwest, so there is little research about this issue and its in the news everyday. I am thrilled because I think with some hard work and a solid presentation, I can pull off an A-! After four years in this grueling and sometimes frustrating major, it would be an incredible reward to achieve that with my senior work.

I'll be representing the Macon Activities Council this weekend and talking about what we do here on campus. Since many people don't know what that means or what my job entails, I think a future post about MAC and the Guerrilla Girls should be coming soon!

Finally, I want to thank all of the volunteers here and all of the young women competing for Miss Virginia who have reached out to me and encouraged me leading up to Miss Commonwealth. There is nothing like sharing a dream with so many other amazing women; they understand how important it is to me and their kind words mean so much. Whether I am in Roanoke this summer or not, I know that there are some beautiful, driven, and amazing women competing for Miss Virginia this June. I would be honored to be up there with them!

A loss

I have several school-related updates, most of them good. Unfortunately, however, last week our community lost a first year student, Jenna King, in a car crash as she was driving to North Carolina. I think the campus was rocked by a loss; when you attend such a small school the loss of one person is felt very strongly. I know that some students are planning a vigil here in addition to the funeral services being held elsewhere. This hits especially hard for those of us preparing our life after graduation; it is devastating to think that a 17 year old first year student will never have that opportunity.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Miss Central Ohio results

Congratulations to:

-Jillian Dansko, the new Miss Central Ohio, on a well-deserved win. This fellow tap dancer has come close many times and I'm glad she finally got her recognition. You can check out Jillian's blog at

-Amy Allen for a long, long overdue finish as a runner-up. She came in 4th runner up tonight to Miss Central Ohio.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brief Life Update

This week has literally knocked me off my feet. On Sunday morning, I remarked to fellow American Culture Program student Dani that my throat hurt. On our drive back from DC, I kept coughing and was thrilled when we bumped into a Coldstone so that I could grab a milkshake.

Each day the "cold" seemed to get worse, culminating in today when I slept through my morning presentation. I slept thirteen and a half hours! Of course, being the Laura that I am, my first thought waking up was about my presentation, and I jumped on it right away and got in touch with the professor. Sometimes being a good student really pays off when you get sick or make some small mistake; professors know this isn't typical behavior for you and are more understanding.

I went to the health center after notifying the professor, and now I'm resting up and trying to feel better.

In any case, I feel a hundred times better about the state of my senior economics paper than I did last week. It still needs lots of work, but I feel more confident handing it in tomorrow than I anticipated.

And glory, glory, a weekend on campus! I have spent every weekend away or extremely busy since the start of this semester, and I am so thrilled to finally have a weekend here in my room (admittedly a mess) to catch up on schoolwork and preparing for life post-graduation. I have a lot on my "to-do" list for the weekend, but I'm glad that for once I don't have travel plans and can take a little more "me time" to recover from whatever this illness is.

That's all for now!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Thank you

This Thursday, I'll be traveling to Richmond for a scholarship program and luncheon with Phillip Morris. (I have included a picture of me two years ago in the luxurious hotel during the luncheon).

Randolph Macon students have a strong history of making this elite list of few students in Virgnia. Staci Mason won it the year before me, and current junior Liz Nguyen got it last year.

My sophomore year of college, the financial aid office here contacted me about a really amazing scholarship for students studying accounting, business, economics, or biology. It was being offered by Phillip Morris USA and the Virginia Federation of Independent Colleges. Once I saw how large the scholarship was, I was very doubtful that I would be in the running for such an award. I had only completed two years of my economics courses, and my hopes for the future strongly included politics more so than economics. I had also recently taken Arabic (not one of my better decisions) and a very challenging economics course, so my grades were not their strongest at that point.

I decided to apply anyways. I hesitated at first, since my grandmother was a smoker for years and had heart attacks very early in her life. Although as my mother says, be grateful for someone trying to help you out. I truly would not have made it through college without the dozen scholarships I have received (not even counting pageant-related scholarships), so I am extremely grateful.

I got a letter and a phone call a few months after completing the scholarship telling me that I had received the $10,000 scholarship for my junior and senior years of college. This was an incredible blessing-the numerous scholarships I had received near my high school graduation had paid off the first two years of college, but I was certainly faced with a challenge for the last two years. I couldn't take out any private loans (nor did I want to) and I was attending a private instituion billing at over $30,000 per year. This scholarship made all the difference for me, and truly opened the door to studying abroad. Prior to receiving this scholarship, I was extremely nervous about being able to stay in college financially. College has always been my responsibility and it has at many points seemed like there was no other way. But God is always opening windows for me, and I am very grateful for that.

A part of this scholarship is attending a luncheon to meet with executives as well as the CEO of Phillip Morris himself. I went my sophomore year and was picked up by a black sedan that drove me to Richmond. We were treated like superstars. I was surrounded by MBA candidates at my table as well as Phillip Morris workers. It was a little intimidating being 20 years old and a sophomore from a woman's college, but it was a great experience. I couldn't attend the luncheon last year due to being in England (thank you, Phillip Morris!) so I am excited about traveling there this Thursday and Friday. It looks like we will be seeing more of the company and taking a tour ( no cameras allowed though).

My Community Advisor bumped into me this morning and reminded me that we have six weeks until graduation. It's exciting and simultaneously terrifying. Will I be working and living in Lynchburg? Will I move to Northern Virginia? Will I become a Hokie? Who knows, but I am trying to be patient and see how things pan out.

It does seem like graduation is coming up soon, and I've wanted to make a post about all the people who have helped me through this amazing four year experience and I will do that soon. I recently submitted my senior information to the yearbook, and it took me the longest to find a quote that truly describes my life motto :never give up and just keep working hard. This applies to my life in and out of the classroom and on and off the pageant stage.

So I will close with the Frank Lloyd Wright quote I found and turned in:
"I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen."

I'm back!

I just got back last night from a 4 day trip to Washington, D.C. I have many thoughts-but I need to get them written up for class first, since that's for a grade!

A few posts are in the works.

My senior paper draft is due this Friday, so I'm going to be very overworked and difficult to get ahold of, especially since I'll be out of town on Thursday and Friday. Be patient with me!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Exciting News

Last night I received an email stating that there is going to be one more pageant held here in Lynchburg leading to Miss Virginia 2008. Many of you know how I was feeling (upset, disappointed in myself) after Miss Lynchburg this year but this opportunity opens one more door for me. I practically jumped out of my seat reading the email.

Miss Lynchburg was my 10th pageant this year, and it was hard to come close so many times without quite making it there. This gives me another option, and if it isn't meant to be, I trust that. I think God has a plan for everyone and that the right time will come!

Once I found out this was happening, I emailed my "cheer squad" from Miss Lynchburg to thank them and let them know about this opportunity. Within the hour, the Dean of Students had emailed me back asking if they could come again to cheer me on. I have been so blessed attending R-MWC- the support system here is beyond what I could have anticipated.

The pageant is going to be here in Lynchburg the night before the Miss VA workshop (also being held in Lynchburg) so it's literally right down the road, in the same location where Miss Hill City was held.

I will update more later!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Consumer Alert: Do NOT buy Sheer Cover

Back in October, I saw an ad on TV for sheer cover, a makeup company supposedly similar to Bare Minerals, for half the price of the more well known product.

I went online and purchased the kit, and received it in several weeks. I used my credit card to purchase the $29.95 kit. Since I had already paid, I looked over the invoice and then cut it up.

A few weeks later, I started receiving numerous emails that "my Sheer Cover kit had shipped". It looked like they were sending me numerous kits (none of which I received, ordered, or wanted). I didn't even like the product, and I didn't want any more. I called the company and they assured me that it was an error in their email processing and not to worry.

After getting back from Ohio yesteday (that long story is another post totally) I found a debt collection notice in my mailbox for $127 from Sheer Cover. First of all, I already paid. Secondly, I never ordered or wanted more. Thirdly, I was NEVER notified that they even thought there was a problem with payment, which I already submitted. It was immediately turned over to a collection agency.

I did some research and found that there have been 146 complaints with the BBB in the last 36 months, 75 of which resolved in a full refund.

So, while this will be easy to fight, it will waste my time to fight this ridiculous company.

If you ask me, go spend the $60 in Sephora to get Bare Minerals. You'll save yourself money and time in the long run.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Election

As many know, the day after Miss Lynchburg I decided to drive home and enjoy my spring break. I made the trip on Monday and got home about 7 P.M.

The next day, I had the fortune to receive that last minute phone call that I was needed at the Board of Elections here in Ottawa County. The roads here were questionable at that point, but I started driving and only had to stop once before getting there. Once there, we delivered extra ballots to precincts, helped several people in the hospital complete their ballots, and then I stayed on hand at the Board to prepare for that night.

It was a blessing they used a cell phone system this time, where each precinct had a cell phone so we could reach them quickly. As weather got worse throughout the day, it was necessary. And since requests for Democratic ballots were up 76% from the 2004 primary, many precincts were running out constantly (although they had plenty of Republican ballots...)

I made an error a few weeks ago when talking politics with an English professor. It used to be in Ohio that you had to be a declared Democrat or Republican to get that particular ballot, but times have changed and it is now a "semi-open" state, meaning that you are free to choose if you want to vote Democrat, Republican, or issues only. For this reason, many people crossed over from Independent or Republican to cast a ballot for Obama or Clinton. I think this is really interesting, since turnout was huge. I don't know how any board managed it- turnout here in Ottawa county was 46.43%, which is huge for a primary election. Precincts were calling all day letting us know they were running low on ballots and then we'd sent people out to them.

As weather got worse, we called in the Deputy Sherriffs. This was interesting, because we had 7 Deputies suddenly part of the election process. I bumped into someone I graduated high school with, Kevin, who has dreamed of working in law enforcement since his diaper days. It did not surprise me in the least to find him working as a Deputy. He was one of the group driving around, giving older pollworkers rides home if they needed it, and eventually, picking up the ballots.

We were in constant communication with the precincts getting information from them and letting them know that plans had changed. Generally, the precinct workers have to close up shop and drive the ballots in the lockbox to the board. The board was concerned about road safety, so the deputies went and picked up all the ballots. Things went really smoothly, but I was so caught up in this board that I didn't even know what was going on in the rest of the state. Clinton was doing great here, but I have to admit I was a little surprised about her overwhelming success statewide. Could it be all those non-Dems requesting dem ballots? Hmmm...

In any case, it was a great opportunity to be involved in an important election, and well worth not getting home until 2 A.M.!

The wheels of democracy have turned in Ohio, and made this race even closer!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A recap

As many people know, this past weekend was the Miss Lynchburg pageant. I didn’t write about it before because I was too focused on getting ready for it. Writing about it afterwards is difficult.

This was my tenth pageant this year. Living in Lynchburg, when I knew that I was going to compete there, I was really excited about the opportunities for the winner. I already feel so connected to this community, as a girl scout leader, employee in a local law firm, intern at a domestic violence shelter, and a member of the R-MWC community. I know this town, I know the people here, and I would have been honored to represent it all.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. After my tenth attempt, I was first runner up. I supposed I should consider changing my life motto to “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” because that has certainly described my experience this year. Of course, many would say that competing so much has improved my self-esteem- and it has. But that easily cracks apart when pageant after pageant sets of judges have decided that I’m close but not quite there. It is both frustrating and disappointing that all my hard work just hasn’t paid off.

This is not to say that I am not grateful for all the wonderful opportunities and scholarship money that has come my way this last year. I spent my entire junior year abroad in another country, and competed in my first pageant only three weeks after moving back to the United States. I have come a long way.

Knowing that, however, means that I felt a slew of emotions on Sunday afternoon when my name was called as first runner up. Just like every other pageant, I wonder “what could I have done differently?” The winner was deserving, as usual, but why does it seems like I have to work and work and work and still never get there? I have two months until graduation from college, and I haven’t spent any time with my friends this year. I’m either working, competing at a pageant, or getting ready in some way for a pageant. I wouldn’t change that, but I almost wish I had known ahead of time that it just wasn’t going to happen for me; I have sacrificed all my time and energy and come so close.

It was a bitter loss to be in Lynchburg with my friends and bosses there, as well as members of my academic community, including my Dean of Students and Residence Life Director. There is something special about Randolph-Macon- everyone supports you. I certainly felt that because they cheered for me the entire pageant long and swarmed me on stage. It is devastating to lose a pageant in a community I have lived in since 2004 and truly loved.

On the bright side, I have met a whole new group of friends. I can honestly say that I know nearly every woman competing at Miss Virginia this year, and all of them are outstanding. I really wish them the best of luck, because they have become friends that I look forward to seeing and enjoy spending time with.

Once the pageant was over, I held my composure. I warned my friends that if things went badly, I would be upset, largely because this was my last opportunity to get to Miss Virginia. I was fine until I saw Madison Van Duyne, the first contestant I met in Virginia who truly is an amazing young woman with a great family. I bumped into mothers, directors, contestants, and volunteers that I have seen all year long, and all of them encouraged me and told me not to give up. For that, I am thankful. When I saw Madison, I just started crying. All the emotions I was feeling just swelled up into tears. I’m upset with myself that I lost my cool, because I in no way wanted the new winner, Sarah Fitzpatrick, to feel like I thought she didn’t deserve it. I was simply feeling the emotions that have followed me since I started competing months ago: disappointment, frustration, sadness. It takes an incredible amount of confidence to keep doing this, and for someone who doesn’t consider herself a “pageant girl” it is so easily lost in those few moments where it finally hits you that “it’s just not going to happen”. I have come close and placed in pageants this year 8 times. And each time I was upset for a day, then got back on track and worked even harder. Knowing that Miss Lynchburg was the last title this year to win just really brought me down.

That said, I am extremely grateful for the outpouring of support I have received all year long and especially after this pageant. I truly could not have come as far as I did without all the help, kind words, honest truths, and hugs backstage. Any young woman in Virginia who is eligible to compete should consider competing in these pageants- it sounds cliché, but it will really change your life.

I could never hope to thank every person who has made a difference this year from directors offering helpful words to the group of RMWC alums who has always made me feel like family, to my on and off campus employers who have patiently given me time off and boosted my confidence to my group of friends who have set through endless pageants and waited anxiously to hear how I did. I could never thank my Ohio support team or my mother or boyfriend, who have done everything from obtaining my pantyhose at the last minute to convincing me to keep going. There is simply no way that I would have done all that I have without the constant belief in me from other people.

As for me, my middle name may as well be determination. I’m not done yet. I have two years left after this one (thanks for making sure I was born on January 4 instead of December 29 as planned, Mom) and I simply refuse to give up. I have gotten so much out of this experience and I have come so close that I know I can do this.

You will see me soon J

A lot of hard work...

I haven't posted much for a few reasons.

I devoted my life the week before Miss Lynchburg to preparing for that pageant, and I really didn't let anything distract me. Therefore, no blogging.

Since Miss Lynchburg is over, I drove home on Monday for a break that I really needed. A few posts are in the works. I had the opportunity to work the election in Ohio on tuesday, which was very exciting. I also have a big post of thanks recapping my experience this last weekend.

I promise it will come soon :)