Posts Tagged ‘RMU’

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

I’ve always been a nostalgic kind of guy. I enjoy romanticizing the previous iterations of my life.  There is irony in this.  I am a history professor that loves to preach to my students that ‘THERE WAS NEVER A GOOD OL’ DAYS’  It is not much different in my own personal history. Yet, I often romanticize time periods of my own past that I realize were not necessarily good times. Evidently I’m a paradox.

Let’s venture into this strange nostalgia.

  1. Though I was undoubtedly nostalgic at an earlier period in my life, I would say my 9390178-largeoddest nostalgia occurred when I was in college.  Inexplicably at 19, I began to view my high school days through rose-tinted glasses. This made absolutely no sense.  When I was living high school, I hated high school.  I deeply romanticized a time that should not have been nostalgic.
  2. After college was graduate school.  Surprise, surprise; at 23 I could not get enough of college memories. Now, this made more sense. College was a great time; much better than high school! Plus, in comparison to undergrad, graduate school was trying. My desire to succeed began to really take over my life. The pressures of grad school just made any blemishes on my college experience pale in comparison.
  3. I got my advanced degree in 2002. I went looking for a job. Then I found a job.  Oh boy.  My student loans needed to be paid back.  Hmmm… maybe grad school, with it’s bookishness, it’s intellectual stimulation, it’s trips to the library and wide-open schedule wasn’t all that bad after-all. At 27, as a working stiff, the thought of once-stressful grad school made me nostalgic.

From 1999 (grad school) to 2008 (career),  Chicago was my home. Though my university was by no means small, the big city was a bit of a culture shock. My initial nostalgia chicago-image-1for college probably  had as much to do with the location of my university as it did with parties, classes and social life.   The entity of Chicago just added to the stress of school and career life.  Chicago was bills. Chicago was truly being independent for the first time.  Chicago was living with my fiance, paying rent on time, dealing with bad landlords and constantly  taking in stray cats.  All the eras of my life seemed simple compared to Chicago.

Then, in 2008, my wife and I left Chicago. We moved to Oak Park, just to the west of the city.  We bought a  house one block over the Chicago city limits.  My two small daughters were born, and then they started day-care (that bill was like a second mortgage!) Oak Park hasn’t been utopia. Taxes, house repairs and play-dates keep us busy and sweating. Still, I would not want to live anywhere else.  I love our community, our neighbors and our friends. Oak Park is much more home than Chicago ever was.

But, just because a place isn’t home doesn’t mean I can’t be nostalgic for it.

A couple  months ago, I turned a Chicago nostalgia corner. I was given the opportunity to teach the ‘Chicago Urban Experience’ course at RMU, and began to really think about Chicago.  What is the identity of Chicago? How does Chicago shape you? I wanted my students to think about these questions. So it only made sense for me to ask the same questions of myself.

One day, I was on the train reading Neal Steinberg’s memoir about his life in Chicago. Then, GR-Ashland2-10it hit me: That feeling of nostalgia. The feeling put a silly smile on my face. All of a sudden, I find myself doing something unexpected: I am looking around and absorbing Chicago. I look at the faces on the train. I look out the window on the El at the neighborhoods going by.  I pay attention to the beautiful architecture of the loop. Heck, I even enjoyed a Chicago hot dog the other day. The people, the culture, the history of Chicago are wonderful!  This class reminded me that when I lived in Chicago, it wasn’t just stressful, it was also incredibly exciting!  The restaurants, the friends, the unknown. These things are now my romantic past, and the thought of them warms the cockles of my heart.

‘Sweet Home Chicago’. Yeah, I guess it really was that.



By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

In high school, my indefatigable math teacher, Mr. Sycz, informed me and the rest of his unsuspecting students that the majority of adult life is spent at work. As such, he wisely advised us to choose our careers carefully. What he failed to mention was that all those hours at work will be spent with other people. Regrettably, there is no way to select our coworkers; the only recourse is to cross your fingers. How fortunate, then, that I love both what I do and the people with whom I work.

I’ve always liked working cooperatively with others, a natural result of growing up with six siblings. At every job I’ve had in my 25 years of RMUILsealwork (Cowgill Printing, McDonald’s, Dimitri’s Restaurant, Mr. Todd’s Cleaners, Royalview Manor, First Community Village, The Courtyard, Country Counter, Dick’s Last Resort, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Grafton Street Pub, Lakeland Community College, Academy at the Lakes, Hillsborough Community College, Harold Washington College, Columbia College, and RMU), I’ve met and worked with fantastic people who’ve helped make any work less tiresome. The same is true here at good ol’ RMU, where I have worked since arriving in Chicago in 2007.

My RMU colleagues are tremendous people, and we know each other incredibly well. Since my coworkers are diligent and dedicated teachers, I am already predisposed to like them and admire their efforts. They are all CLAwonderfully smart, too, of course, each in his or her unique way. Everyone I work with will stop to help a fellow teacher or student. Everyone will devote his or her expertise to our shared purpose: the endlessly worthwhile endeavor of education.

Most importantly, my co-workers at RMU, specifically the CLA members (many of them Turtle writers, too) are generous and thoughtful. What follows is just a small sampling of the everyday—but in no way ordinary—kindnesses my colleagues show to one another.

Paula provides lunch when Fridays involve the dreaded all-day meetings.

If there are cookies next to the coffee pot, they are probably courtesy of Turtle father Michael.

Jenny supplies us all with fresh vegetables from her considerable garden.

Pyle created the “cabinet of wonders,” a repository of free books, Cd’s, and DVD’s to share.

I’d be surprised to find a more sympathetic listener than Ellen.

Cynthia keeps the refrigerator stocked with fancy flavored creams to augment the free coffee.

Pat McNicholas brings homemade fudge every finals week.

Paul jots down the best zingers on his whiteboard to highlight the general goofiness in the CLA suite.

If Peter does anything, you can bet it will be done with “alacrity and aplomb.”

Like any good family, we endure each other’s idiosyncrasies, often turning flaws into perfections of a different kind. Mick tells the same Irish jokes every St. Patrick’s Day, year after year: how excruciatingly wonderful.

When my colleagues aren’t busy conducting research, planning curriculum, teaching classes, grading papers, or attending meetings, we can be found in the CLA office giggling like teenagers. We pretend that we are in a workplace sitcom called “RMU Kiddin’ Me.” We’re all certain the show would be hilarious, of course, which illustrates my good fortune in both terms of my job and my coworkers.

There is nothing quite as delightful as laughing at work, something I enjoy every single day. The funniest line or exchange will be added to Paul’szipper white board. If a joke is too inappropriate, it is designated as “Invisible Whiteboard” material and will remain a joke amongst ourselves.


Paul, “I’ll send you the ZIP file.”

Me, “I can never remember how to unzip things.”

Paul, “Then how do you get dressed in the morning?”

Insert the cutesy sitcom title here.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

I had a strange realization last quarter.  I was in my American History course, and I just mentioned in passing, apropos of nothing, that people get far too outraged at young men wearing baggy, low hanging pants.  To my surprise, my teenager/twenty-something students started to complain about the droopy trouser fashion in the gallery_1_1_11337 (1)exact same language as most octogenarians. I think some may have even muttered something about ‘kids these days’. I felt as though I was surrounded by cooler, younger Abe Simpsons, waving their fists at passing clouds.

I wouldn’t say this was the first time I have noticed this unexpected phenomenon.  I have heard students before speak of loose-fitting slacks in negative terms.  But, as I looked around the room this time, realizing the ethnic and racial diversity of a 40 person class at Robert Morris University, I was struck at the different characters reviling the fashion in a similar….well….fashion.  White, African-American, Latino, Asian, young, old, male, female; a small majority of the class had the same negative opinion when it came to baggy pants.

My mind started to wander.  As I checked in on social media in the days and weeks after this particular course last quarter, I saw a handful of memes posted by extremely different Facebook ‘friends’ that were supposed to be funny, but obviously masked a severe outrage and hatred concerning young men’s pants.  Again, the strangely divergent backgrounds of the people posting about an innocuous fashion trend struck me.  Old and young; white and black; urban and rural; educated and not-all-that-educated; men and women; northerner and southerner; liberal and conservative; religious and secular.  They all agreed on a topic.

It hit me! The outrage about baggy pants is pluralistically democratic.  I can’t think of any other social topic that a broader range of divergent people agree upon.

Ironically, I think this outrage is backfiring.  If these people want to get rid of the baggy pant look, they may be more advised to start practicing it themselves.   Most other youth fads, whether it be music, movies, language, or fashion, lose their revolutionary chops when less rebellious populations co-opt them.  As soon as mom and dad start to listen to rock and roll, rock and roll is dead. Along comes punk, and mom and dad are outraged. Long live rock and roll.

The baggy pant fashion has never been co-opted by mainstream society, and it probably never will. Perhaps this is why the baggy pant look is a freakishly long youth fashion trend.  The best I can figure, the look began around 20 years ago, gaining its first full-throated pop culture critique from Alicia Silverstone’s character in the film ‘Clueless’.  See this clip:

Such long lasting outrage raises two big question.  First, what upsets people so much about this fashion choice?  Is it the ‘sloppiness’ of the look, as Alicia Silverstone points out in that clip?  Or, is there something more sinister?  Is racial bias tied up in the disdain as well?

I am going to avoid this query, since I think each person who hates baggy pants has their own reason, and to pigeonhole anyone‘s particular feelings is unfair.

The second question is more intriguing, and, I believe, more important.  Why are people so outraged with another’s pants, all the while ignoring much more outrageous social ills? I will take up that troubling question in next week’s blog post.

By Heather Alexander, RMU Student

Has all respect for personal space gone out the window or is it just me?  Unfortunately, I am forced to ride public transportation to and from work and school on a daily basis because paying for parking downtown is just about as expensive as paying back a student loan.  My CTA experiences vary from day to day.  Some days are loud, like when the girl who continuously pops her gum in mid-conversation on the telephone decides to sit next to me and I feel like she has her phone connected to an amplifier.  And some days are quiet, like when the tired old lady with all the grocery bags shifts half of her weight onto my seat.  Whether it is a noisy or quiet day, my space is still being intruded upon.


Anyone who rides the CTA knows that some of these things are to be expected, but how much heavier or taller (I’m only 5’2”) do I have to be in order for someone to say excuse me when they bump me upon boarding or exiting the bus?  And is it really going to harm your conversation that much to continue in the privacy of your own home?  I’m pretty sure your boyfriend/girlfriend cheating on you is irrelevant to the well-being of the majority of riders on the bus.  I know during rush hour, buses can’t help but be crowded, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.  Even though the riders on CTA have to deal with being uncomfortable from time to time, a little courtesy goes a long way.  Now, would I be wrong if I told the amplifier girl that she needed to lower her voice or if I moved away from the straddling old woman?  No, I just need more personal space within a public space, and as a paying rider I should deserve at least that much, in addition to safely arriving to my destination.

To avoid invasion of personal space on the CTA, I choose to just wait out the rush hour period.  I’ll occupy myself doing meaningless things like window shopping or spending money I don’t have on food and drinks just so I won’t have to be bothered with all the hustle and bustle of annoying conversations and shopping bags.  So what if I get home an hour later and have to stay up the rest of the night working on homework for the next day? At least I’ll still have my dignity.

BY Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure to kick-off the new quarter with my BPS in Organizational Writing SUPERSTARS: Kayla, Myranda, Blake, and Heather. The class is Advanced Creative Writing.

(Timeout: I get to teach my favorite subject and with a group of students as amazing as them? And I get paid to do this stuff? I must be doing something right….)

During class, we did an activity – myself included – in which we all went up to the whiteboard and started writing our favorite movies, TV shows, books, stories, and poems. The ultimate goal was to identify what types of creative writing we enjoy watching/reading so that we can identify what types of creative writing we may enjoy creating.

During our brainstorming, Kayla asked me if we should write down songs as well. I said no. My thinking was that adding music would make the lists too big and cumbersome. Plus, we won’t be writing music in this class, so I wanted to stick to examples that directly relate to the types of writing we’ll be doing.

But now, two days later, I realize I made the wrong call. (Which means you were right, Kayla. Score one point for you.)

I realized how right Kayla was while driving to work this morning listening to a song I’ve been addicted to for days: “Happy” by C2C.


This song (along with the entire album Tetra by C2c) has been my go-to “happy” music for the past week. After all, as the song says, “You’ll never feel happy until you try,” and this song makes trying easy.

(Side note: How gutsy is it to call a song “Happy”? What if “Happy” didn’t make me happy? How often does a song succeed in having a title that is the reality the music is about to create for you? For example, I’ve never listened to Jay-Z and then instantly had a quantifiable 99 Problems, and even if I did, one of them would always be about a girl.)

When making my list on the whiteboard with the rest of class on Tuesday, I realized that almost all of my items are either A) happy and humorous or B) intellectual and emotional. And my absolute favorite movies and books combine all of those traits.

As I listened to “Happy” today, the obvious point dawned on me that my favorite music follows that same pattern. Music either puts me squarely inside my own head and heart, or it is my escape to fun and happiness.

Again, the whole point of this whiteboard exercise was to discover what type of creative writing we may want to do. For myself, having done plenty of creative writing, I already know that my whiteboard list reflects my own writing.

Since my tastes in music provide that same reflection, I really should have had the class listing their favorite music as well. It’s as much of a piece of the puzzle as any other item they were listing. Sure, we may not be writing music in class, but we were trying to discover what’s inside of us that we may want to express.

So, I was wrong. My writers were correct. Once again, they’ve proven to be smarter than me, but that’s a good thing.

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PS: If you liked “Happy” then check out some more by C2C. Here are two more of my favorites: