Elon Students Vote in N.C. To Make a Difference

Reporting By Sam Parker & Doug Williams

As Election Day comes to a close, more than 90,000 registered voters finish casting their ballots in 37 different precincts, or voting zones, in Alamance County.

Among those registered in Alamance County are Elon University students—individuals originally from all over the United States who are voting in the battleground state of North Carolina to make a greater impact.

The First Baptist Church of Elon College

The First Baptist Church of Elon College served as a voting zone for registered voters in the Town of Elon.

Elon senior Courtney Whiting, a Connecticut resident, decided to register in North Carolina because she felt her Republican vote would make more of a difference in North Carolina than in her historically blue home state.

Elon senior Jonathan Cart, a Texas resident, also decided to cast his ballot in North Carolina because he felt it would make a bigger impact here.

“I felt like my vote would matter more here because Texas obviously will go red,” Cart said.

Elon sophomore Dean Shapero, a New Jersey resident, also registered in North Carolina because he felt his vote for Romney would make more of an impact in North Carolina.

Generally, Town of Elon voters at The First Baptist Church of Elon College, located at 621 E. Haggard Ave., seemed to vote Republican. The majority said they supported GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and local Republican candidates.

Voters at The First Baptist Church of Elon College also agreed the economy was the most important factor in this year’s presidential election.

Whiting, who voted for Romney, said she believes the economy is the most important issue in the election.

“I just know that I’m graduating from college this spring, and I would like to have a job,” she said.

Shapero said the economy was the factor that influenced his decision most.

“I’m not necessarily against Obama,” Shapero said. “But, I just think right now downsizing government and fixing the economy is most important.”

Elon sophomore Michael Lindsey, a North Carolina resident, said he could not decide on whom to vote for until the night before Election Day. After considering issues such as the economy and social issues though, Lindsey said he decided to vote for President Obama.

“A lot of people like to assume Republicans are stronger with the economy,” Lindsey said. “As an [economics] major, I don’t always think that’s true at all. I think you do truly need bipartisanship, and I think a lot of the things Romney has said to just try and get votes aren’t necessarily the best policies.”

This consensus among voters at The First Baptist Church of Elon College mirrors the results of the Aug. Elon University Poll, which found 48 percent of North Carolina voters deemed the economy the most important issue in the 2012 presidential election.

Other factors voters at The First Baptist Church of Elon College regarded as important included education, the environment, student loans and social issues.

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LectureTools: An Engaging Presentation Tool to Use in the Classroom

Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.

While searching for an alternative to clickers to use in his classes, Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, stumbled upon LectureTools.

Instructors can enhance classroom materials by incorporating multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions as well as images and videos onto slides.

Run by a five-person team in Ann Arbor, Mich., LectureTools is an engaging, web-based program that allows instructors to create interactive presentations.

“I was looking for something that was more robust,” Barbour said. “Think of [LectureTools] as a combination of clickers, Facebook and Twitter all rolled into one.”

By uploading preexisting PowerPoint presentations into LectureTools, instructors can enhance classroom materials by incorporating multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions as well as images and videos onto slides. Students can access presentations on their own devices by logging in to the program.

“All of this is like a clicker on steroids,” Barbour said. “But now, you don’t have to keep track of the clickers, and you don’t have to charge them up.”

LectureTools is free for instructors, Barbour said, while students must pay a flat $15 fee at the beginning of the semester.

LectureTools works best on laptops, tablets and smartphones, but students can use the program if he or she has a mobile phone with texting capabilities.

LectureTools works best on laptops, tablets and smartphones, Barbour said, though students can still participate if he or she has a mobile phone with texting capabilities.

Barbour said out of the seventy-odd students he has had in his LectureTools-based classes, only one did not have a laptop, tablet, smartphone or phone with texting capabilities. Because of this, Barbour is lending his Kindle to the student.

“There are places [students can] checkout tablets or laptops from the school, so I’ve run into that once out of 74 students,” Barbour said. “It’s probably going to be a problem less and less as we go forward.”

While logged in to LectureTools, students can control the view of their individual screens. Students can take notes on the slides, and because the program is web-based, students’ notes are saved online and can be accessed later.

Freshman Michelle Rich, a student in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class, said she likes the flexibility of LectureTools in that it allows her to control what slide is displayed on her screen. She said she likes the interactivity of the technology, too, because it helps her to better learn the material.

“LectureTools is helpful, but I am still adapting to this new way of learning,” she said. “I really like how my professor asks us questions through LectureTools because it tests us while we’re learning.”

Students in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class discuss possible answers to a short-answer question.

Students can mark presentation slides as confusing, and they can bookmark slides to review later. Further, students can direct questions to instructors by typing them into a comment box, and professors receive those inquiries instantly.

“It’s another way for me to communicate with the class, and that’s really what I’m interested in because at the core, we are storytelling creatures,” Barbour said. “This allows me to tailor the story as I go to match what the class seems to need. Any good instructor always does that.”

LectureTools records all student activity and converts the data into a report, which is sent to an instructor approximately 20 minutes after class is over.

Barbour warned LectureTools does have some downsides though. Uploaded PowerPoint slides cannot contain animations, so instructors must remove those from their presentations manually before uploading them. Instructors cannot monitor what is on students’ screens either, so Barbour said he does not know if students are paying attention or if they are browsing Facebook.

Students can mark presentation slides as confusing, and they can bookmark slides to review later. They can direct questions to instructors by typing them into a comment box, too.

Sophomore Lizzie Guillaume, a student in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class, said she appreciates the interactivity of LectureTools but thinks it increases the temptation to search the Web.

“I think LectureTools is extremely helpful,” Guillaume said. “It requires all people to be somewhat engaged, and I think it keeps the class organized. However, it also enables people to get distracted with Facebook and other sites on their computers.”

Regardless of its benefits and costs, Barbour said it is important for instructors to remember LectureTools is not a replacement for teaching—it is simply an enhancement.

“Is it the be-all and end-all of teaching classes,” Barbour said. “No, we’re still storytelling creatures, and this doesn’t tell stories. Any good storyteller has props—this is a good prop.”

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Invisible Children’s “MOVE” Encourages Viewers to Get Involved

Elon University’s Invisible Children chapter screened “MOVE” on Oct. 24 in La Rose Digital Theater.

In response to the backlash that followed “KONY 2012,” a documentary created by Invisible Children to raise support for the arrest of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony, Invisible Children created “MOVE.”

Invisible Children, a nonprofit organization that works to end all LRA atrocities in central Africa, created the 30-minute documentary to explain the purposes of Invisible Children, “KONY 2012” and the movement against Kony and the LRA.

To spread awareness about “MOVE,” Elon University’s Invisible Children chapter screened the film on Oct. 24 in La Rose Digital Theater.

Val Mirelez, a full-time volunteer of Invisible Children, discussed the purpose of “MOVE,” stating the film aims to encourage individuals to join the cause and get involved.

“We’re here to hold humanity to a higher standard,” she said.

After the screening, through which audiences learned the LRA has abducted more than 30,000 children in Africa and has forced those abducted children to be child warriors and sex slaves, leaders of Invisible Children facilitated a discussion, encouraging students to voice their opinions and ask questions.

During the discussion, Gabriel Pacotoo, a Ugandan native who is touring the United States to share his story, explained how the LRA impacted his childhood. After the LRA murdered his aunt and grandfather, Pacotoo said he was often too scared to sleep at night, as he constantly feared being abducted by the LRA.

“Often times, I would leave my house, my bed, to sleep in the jungle,” Pacotoo said. “You are just so fearful for your life.”

Pacotoo encouraged audience members to help stop Kony so the warlord can no longer break apart families or hurt children.

“You are so big, and you are so brave for being here,” he said. “Be a part of history.”

Katie Salerno, co-president of Elon’s Invisible Children chapter, said she hoped “MOVE” would encourage Elon students to reevaluate their opinions on the movement to stop Kony.

“I think it was hard to look at ‘KONY 2012’ if you had never heard about the issue before, because like all the critics said, it does underplay a really large issue,” Salerno said. “If you’ve known about Invisible Children for a while and have seen the other films, then you would know that, but if you’re brand new to it, just seeing it for the first time, you can really be skeptical of it.”

MORE: Storify on the lifespan of “KONY 2012”

Salerno said she believes “MOVE” will be effective because it answers the questions critics posed about “KONY 2012.”

“I think, in general, ‘KONY 2012’ spent too much time focusing on the people here and not enough time on the people in Africa, in Central African Republic, the Congo and Sudan as well as Uganda,” she said. “But, I think this one, I loved it. I thought it was great. Documentaries are wonderful—they help you to rally, they help you to feel for the issue, and I think it did a better job of explaining the issue and explaining a plan to follow through with [Invisible Children’s] initiatives.”

On Nov. 17, Invisible Children will host an event in Washington, D.C. called MOVE: DC to continue its mission. The organization is encouraging individuals to attend, so they can challenge global leaders to stop Kony. On the afternoon of Nov. 17, Invisible Children will surround the White House to show the U.S. President and international leaders it is committed to ending LRA atrocities. That night, the organization will hold a dance party at the city’s convention center to celebrate.

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The Breakdown of Employment Ratings at Elon University

Laura Cella ’12 is currently working three jobs in New York City to support herself. Though her passion is music, she is pursuing other avenues so she can pay the bills. Photo courtesy of Luke Lovett ’12.

Ask Laura Cella ’12 what an average day looks like for her, and you are sure to hear a typical response. She wakes up, eats breakfast, goes to work, comes home, cooks dinner or orders takeout and goes to bed—six days a week, four weeks a month, 12 months a year.

What Cella fails to mention is she is currently working three jobs to support herself in New York City, though her dream is to record her own music.

Cella, a music performance major with a vocal emphasis, pursued the Elon Bridges program after graduation last May and has remained in New York City ever since. Currently, she interns with a music venue, works for a composer and operates the kiosk at a restaurant. Cella’s passion is music, but for now, she is more focused on paying the bills than on recording albums.

“I don’t necessarily see myself at these jobs forever,” Cella said. “My goal is to work my way up. These part-time jobs are helping me to stay in New York. My parents aren’t helping me financially, but you know you want to make it in the world, and you have to do what you can to make it.”

Like Cella, many graduating seniors at Elon University are struggling to land their dream jobs. Though Elon’s employment ratings are historically relatively high, the poor economy and unstable job market have forced many young alums to pursue alternative avenues.

Elon’s Career Services surveys graduating classes three times to collect statistics on employment, graduate school enrollment and unemployment. One survey is administered on the day of graduation, one three months after graduation and one nine months after graduation. Tom Vecchione, executive director of Career Services, said Career Services typically receives an 85 to 90 percent response rate from those surveys.

“All in all, we always end up saying, ‘We’re reporting x, y and z,’” Vecchione said. “What question a savvy person will say is, ‘What is that based off of? What is your total population?’ And we’re always in a good position to say it’s 85 percent to 90 percent. We’re hearing from the vast majority of students. We feel really confident in terms of what we’re saying.”

Elon University’s Student Development Center is located in the Moseley Center. Among other resources, the Center offers students help with interviews, resumes and the job search.

Since he started working in Elon’s Career Services office in 2005, Vecchione said student attendance of the Student Development Center has increased dramatically. Because of the Center’s resources and its extended staff, he said there has been an approximate 20 to 30 percent increase in student traffic of the office. Typically, Vecchione said about 90 percent of graduating seniors report using Career Services before graduation, a number that is nearly 15 percent higher than the national average.

“Elon is very serious about career services, as you guys know, so this is not a big surprise,” Vecchione said. “I’d be very worried if it wasn’t, but this is good news.”

Career Services staff is located in each college to assist graduating seniors in the job search and application processes within their prospective majors. Here is a breakdown of employment ratings by college.

Elon College

Historically, Elon College has the lowest ratings in terms of employment but the highest in terms of graduate school enrollment.

Lauren Limerick, associate director of corporate and employer relations, said she believes this is due to the nature of the arts and sciences curriculum. She said many psychology, sociology, anthropology, chemistry, English, biology, art, art history and religious studies majors come to Elon with graduate school plans in mind, so she believes that is why Elon College places an emphasis on undergraduate research and scholarship.

Lauren Limerick, associate director of corporate and employer relations, helps Elon College majors locate and land careers in the arts and sciences fields. Photo courtesy of Lauren Limerick.

In helping arts and sciences majors select higher education programs or careers in their respective fields, Elon College hosts a graduate school fair and invites employers such as Teach for America, Match Education, Boeing, Disney, the U.S. State Department and the Peace Corps to campus for informational meetings and interviews. The College also offers customized student professional development per the requests of faculty, Limerick said. Additionally, the College offers basic career resources such as self-assessment exercises, resume and cover letter development and exploration of career options.

“The key is for students to take initiative early and often,” Limerick said. “We’re not a placement office, but we can help students network, develop their resume and cover letters and guide them to options they may have never considered or thought possible.”

Limerick said it is hard to judge whether or not arts and sciences majors are taking advantage of the resources Elon College offers, but she said students have shown commitment this semester.

“I have to say, from a personal perspective, students are showing up to information sessions that relate to their major, and they are engaging, if not interviewing, with recruiters,” Limerick said. “However, again, it takes initiative and drive and a real desire for success to land a great internship or job. We’re not handing out opportunities, but we are advocating for them and encouraging students to be prepared and to be persistent.”

Martha & Spencer Love School of Business

Typically, the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business leads Elon in employment ratings.

Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business, said he believes this is because professional schools, like business schools, emphasis employability even before students arrive on campus.

Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business, said he believes the historically high employment ratings of business students are the result of faculty help, parent pressure and student initiative.

“I’d said that from the get-go, the students have been told, ‘Keep thinking about what it is you want to do when you graduate,’” Tadepalli said. “The Student Professional Development Center is also working with the students from day one, so I think when the parents send their students to business schools, usually they are very interested to know about job prospects, and as a consequence, I’m sure the students are getting it not only from the professors and the staff of the Professional Development Center but also from the parents saying, ‘Have you done this internship? What have you done?’”

Tadepalli said students work with Jan Pagoria, the director of internships for the Love School of Business, and other faculty to seek employers and land jobs. He said business faculty as well as alumni work to develop relationships with potential employers, and a large number of students receive job offers via their internships.

“We had a student who went to work for New York Life last year, and we are told that she’s been really pushing for them to come back and hire more Elon grads,” Tadepalli said. “Hooray for her! But, that’s what we hope happens. The company itself is very happy with her, so they’re looking to come back.”

School of Communications

Historically, the School of Communications serves as the average in employment ratings, though it has seen an increase in graduate school enrollment over the past five years.

Ross Wade, assistant director of career services for the School of Communications, said he believes the increase in graduate school attendance is the result of the poor economy.

“Honestly, I think it’s because the economy sucks,” Wade said. “I think people are going to graduate school because either there aren’t a lot of job opportunities or they can’t find anything, so they want to delay reality and at the same time get new skills because they think it will make them more marketable and be able to make a higher salary.”

Wade said he believes another reason why communications students are seeking higher education opportunities is because they are unsure of what career paths to pursue.

“Students don’t know what they want to do with their lives—[they think] that going to graduate school will miraculously tell them what they should do, but that’s really the opposite of what they should do,” Wade said.

Wade said he believes the competitive nature of communications students helps them to obtain job offers. He said he also thinks the real-world advice given by communications faculty is helpful in guiding students.

“Faculty typically come from a professional background, so they’ve been in the business,” Wade said. “They know the important stuff, like having a good resume and reel and interview skills, so they automatically incorporate that into their curriculum.”

As the School’s assistant director of career services, Wade helps communications students compile e-portfolios, reels and resumes. He advises them on how to prepare for interviews, and he networks with communications alumni to find opportunities in the industry.

“That’s the real benefit to the School of [Communications] is that there’s people dedicated to this population,” Wade said. “Then, that population moves into the real world, and so by default, we kind of move in with them a little bit.”

School of Education

Though few education majors are employed on graduation day, typically the majority is working by the time the three-month follow-up survey is administered.

David Cooper, dean and professor of the School of Education, said openings at elementary and secondary schools are not known until the school year finishes usually. Because of this, he said most education students are not hired until July or August.

Occasionally, though, Cooper said students are given job offers while they are student teaching.

“It’s hard to resist those,” he said. “So, at the end of the student teaching, which is typically a few weeks before graduation, sometimes our students are actually given a contract pending the awarding of their degree.”

Cooper said the School of Education is aware some states mandate teachers receive their master’s degrees within five years of teaching, and because an increasing number of education majors are from out-of-state, the School anticipates some will pursue higher education opportunities instead of teaching positions.

“We’re aware of some of those realities for them, but a lot of it is really difficult to track because state regulations vary so much across the country, there’s not really a uniform standard for that,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the School of Education hosts a teacher career fair where education majors are able to practice their interviewing skills. At the fair, which takes place every spring, human resources employees and administrators from several school districts interview students throughout the day. Evaluations, in which interviewers are asked to comment on the preparedness of the seniors, are given to students at the fair’s conclusion.

“The Elon seniors come out very, very well on those [evaluations],” Cooper said. “So, we know they are getting themselves properly prepared not just for the interview but for the jobs themselves.”

Cooper said education majors seem to take initiative when searching for teaching jobs. He said they not only take responsibility for their own learning but for the logistics surrounding their learning as well.

“They seem to be good at planning, good at organizing their time,” Cooper said. “And so they’re looking ahead at those careers and getting themselves lined up for them properly.”

In looking towards the future, Career Services hopes to strengthen its relationships with Elon students, Vecchione said. He said the staff wants to see students more than once before they graduate and leave Elon.

“Now, we just want to deepen the experiences,” he said. “It’s great for a senior to say, ‘I used you guys,’ but that may have been two weeks before they graduated. We want to get multiple experiences when they get here.”

*Data for charts taken from Outcome Reports produced by Career Services

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Elon Construction Forces Football Tailgaters to Move

With the demolition of Harper Center, approximately 350 parking spots previously reserved for football games were lost, forcing Elon University football season ticket holders and tailgaters to uproot to new locations.

With the construction, only 60 parking spaces remain in the Harper Center lot, all of which are reserved for student organizations. To accommodate for the loss in fan parking, tailgaters were transferred to the softball field, McMichael and Francis Center parking lots.

Kyle Wills, senior associate athletics director for business and operations, said few tailgaters have complained about the move from the Harper Center to alternative locations, but he admits the situation is not ideal.

“We don’t have wonderful parking on this campus,” Wills said. “But, we’ve made it work. We have limited space.”

The softball field and McMichael parking lots are available to fans through a set price, while the Francis Center parking lot is free of charge, Wills said. Shuttle buses run continuously to the Francis Center throughout the game to transport fans to and from the stadium.

“It’s funny because I don’t think there’s a lot of parking, but everybody always seems to find a place,” Wills said. “We’ve had 13,000 [people] a couple times in the past couple years when Appalachian [State University] comes or when its homecoming. We are concerned about it, and we’ve got signs and police, and it just seems to always work.”

Len Dillon, an Elon alumnus, has been coming to Elon football games for 20 years. Dillon, who now tailgates in the softball parking lot, said he and his family and friends miss the grassy areas and large spaces of the Harper Center lot.

“I do miss the trees and the shade,” Dillon said. “But, I understand the need for construction on Staley and Harper. It’s change—we’ll deal with it and go on.”

Because Elon prohibits tailgaters from setting up equipment on the asphalt, with a lack of green space in the softball parking lot, Drew Nelson, an Elon alumnus, said it is hard for tailgaters to find a spot to setup their tents, grills, chairs and cornhole boards. He said he misses the family-like atmosphere that existed in the Harper Center parking lot.

“If you look around here, there’s not a whole lot of green space, so you have to get here really early to get a space where we can set up a tent,” Nelson said. “Also, I liked being over [in Harper] because you were closer to all the student organizations, so with me and my dad’s fraternity, it was nice to be able to go over and see those guys rather than now having to walk over there. “

To battle the lack of grassy areas, Wills said fans have started setting up their tailgates hours before game time.

“[Fans] have to come early to get a spot, and it’s comical,” he said. “We played last week at 3 p.m. and at 8:15 a.m., I saw two of my friends putting a tent up. I said, ‘Get a life. Do something.’ But, what they do is set up their area, and go home and mow the grass and do whatever and then they come back, and we allow people to come in at any time.”

Though Wills is unsure of when the Harper Center construction will be finished, he said he hopes fans understand the athletic department is doing the best it can about the current parking situation.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is go to Chapel Hill and try to park there,” he said. “We’re just trying to accommodate everybody and the fan experience as good as we know how to do it. You just try to please the majority.”

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Byron Pitts Discusses Human Reactions During Times of Disaster

Byron Pitts, CBS News correspondent and contributor to “60 Minutes,” spoke at Elon University on Thursday night about the resilience of human beings during times of disaster.

During times of disaster, typically it is human nature to want to help, to desire to aid the afflicted. During tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Indonesia, individuals risked their lives to uncover bodies, heal wounds and offer hope.

Byron Pitts, CBS News correspondent and contributor to “60 Minutes,” addressed a sold-out house in McCrary Theatre at Elon University on Thursday night with his speech, “We are Tough and Delicate Creatures.” In his message, Pitts discussed how he witnessed the resilience of New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina and the strength of disaster-stricken areas around the globe while covering the tragedies as a journalist. He talked about the spirit of human nature in that people are willing to sacrifice their own needs in order to help others.

Pitts discussed his experience as a reporter in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He said he witnessed acts of both hope and horror, and he explained fear was the driving force behind the varying degrees of those different responses.

“I’ve seen what can happen to people if they are frightened, if there is no law and order,” Pitts said. “We saw it during Katrina.”

Pitts said what surprised him most during his time in New Orleans was the way in which the city handled the clearing and burial of dead bodies. With hundreds of corpses lining the city’s highways, he said it surprised him a nation like the United States would fail to pause and respect its fellow citizens.

“In Indonesia after the tsunami, for religious and cultural reasons, bodies were cleared and identified,” Pitts said. “It struck me how off in a developing nation, people paused long enough to deal with the dead in a dignified way. But in our country, we allowed our citizens, our fellow Americans, to be left on the highway.”

It was not that the afflicted people of New Orleans intentionally avoided helping the deceased, Pitts said. He believes anyone is capable of doing something awful because it is human nature. But, Pitts advised it is better to perform poorly than to not assist at all. He warned unresponsiveness leads to even further damage.

“What I’m not comfortable with is indifference,” Pitts said. “What I’ve learned is if good and decent people watch the world go by, that’s dangerous. I want to encourage you to not be indifferent about your lives.”

[Read About the Advice Pitts Gave to Aspiring Journalists in the Audience]

Pitt contrasted this idea of indifference with a scene he witnessed in Haiti after the nation was struck by a disastrous earthquake in January 2010. He said though thousands were homeless, without water and suffering from immense pain, he heard a woman start humming. She then began to sing, and after a few moments, a man joined her—then a young person, then another. He said a sea of humanity banded together to carry out a hopeful tune, the Haitian national anthem.

“It speaks to a courageous people who have had to endure hardship before,” Pitts said. “It speaks to the human spirit.”

Pitts said we should learn from the Haitians in that it is our duty to respond in hopeful, meaningful ways to devastating or dangerous situations.

“I think we as a society have to work around the margins to prevent those events from occurring,” Pitts said. “Do your best at whatever situation you’re given. Do your best to impact the world in any way you can.”

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Audio Slideshow: Elon University’s El Centro de Español

Sylvia Muñoz, director of Elon University’s El Centro de Español, discusses the growth of the department over the last 15 years. Muñoz has directed the program since its inception in 1997, after former Elon president Fred Young selected her to oversee its launch. Muñoz administers El Centro’s cultural events, conversation classes and student employee work schedules. A native-speaker herself, Muñoz is originally from Costa Rica.

Since taking the position as director, Muñoz has welcomed Hispanic students as well as American students eager to learn the Spanish language into the El Centro family. All Elon students are welcome in El Centro, as Muñoz encourages both native speakers and non-native speakers to spend time in the department regardless of their skill level. On a typical day in El Centro, there are students receiving help from native speakers, faculty and staff members taking conversation classes and occasional cultural events taking place in the kitchen.

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Cook Says Campaigns Must Discuss Economy, Candidate’s Likeability to be Successful

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The success of a presidential candidate rests on his ability to address two components in his campaign: the economy and his own likeability.

Charles Cook, non-partisan political analyst and founder of the Cook Political Report, addressed the effectiveness of the 2012 presidential campaigns in terms of these two issues in Elon University’s Whitley Auditorium on Monday night.

He said both campaigns have succeeded in addressing one of the issues, but they each picked a different one.

“If I had to characterize it, if I had to sum it up, I’d say if President Obama is reelected it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign,” Cook said. “If Mitt Romney wins, it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign.”

Obama’s campaign has focused on the familial, loving nature of the president instead of the failing economy, Cook said. Because of this, Americans have grown angry at the lack of ownership and responsibility the president has taken.

“The economic downturn is worse than any other economist expected it to be,” Cook said. “As the economy got worse and worse and worse, people were saying, ‘Why are you [Obama] doing healthcare? You should be more focused on the economy.’”

Since voters are disappointed with the president’s actions, Cook said, it has resulted in the loss of Senate seats and a decrease in voter support.

“When you have this kind of economy, you generally don’t get reelected,” he said.

However, voters are asked two questions, Cook said, the first being, ‘Do I want to renew this president’s contract for another four years?’ If the answer to that question is no or maybe, then voters are asked, ‘Do you want to hire Mitt Romney?’

The Romney campaign has failed to make any significant effort to improve Romney’s likeability, Cook said. It has channeled all of its energy into discussing the poor economy instead of presenting its candidate as a viable alternative to the president.

“Where I’m critical of the Romney campaign is they focused 95 to 99 percent of their efforts on convincing people that the economy is terrible, and they should blame President Obama,” Cook said. “But, what they were not doing was convincing us of the second part of that equation: should you feel comfortable in voting for Mitt Romney?”

Cook said women voters living in the 11 swing states were asked to describe their opinions on Romney. Many said they believed he was a rich, successful businessman who was Mormon, but few were able to provide additional information about him.

“They’d say, ‘Well, [Romney’s] probably smart, and he probably understands the economy,” he said. “But what else? Nothing. Is he someone who’s trustworthy? Blank faces. Is he someone you would feel comfortable having in the Oval Office? They have no idea.”

Because the Romney campaign team failed to define its candidate, Cook said its opponent did the defining for it.

“When you look at the 11 swing states that are going to decide the presidency, they knew nothing at the front end [about Romney],” Cook said. “Then the Obama campaign came in, layered in all of this stuff on Romney’s head and nothing had been done, nothing had been applied to protect him from it. And all of these accusations kind of stuck to him like Velcro.”

Cook initially thought Romney would win the election, but now he believes Obama will be reelected, despite his failure to address the poor state of the economy. He said it is hard for Americans to vote for someone they know little about personally.

“If someone would have asked me 90 days ago, 120 days ago, and put a gun up to my head, I’d try to be evasive about it, but if I thought you were going to shoot, I would’ve been wrong,” Cook said. “If you asked me again now, I think I’d say Obama even though it’s close.”

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Costumes, Props & Politics: The Protestors of the DNC

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From Jesus impersonators to red-nosed Occupiers, the protestors at the Democratic National Convention played passionate characters.

Through singing, screaming and speaking, protestors broadcasted their messages on topics such as abortion, homosexuality, religion and economics. Props in tow, the protestors utilized extension cords, graphic photos, the Ten Commandments and a guitar to ensure their messages were seen and their voices were heard.

Groups such as the Occupy Movement, Organized for Action, the Shame Project and Operation Save America took over the streets of Charlotte, traveling from different regions of the country to reach an audience.

But, despite the differing costumes, methods of message delivery and locations of origin, most protest spokespersons mentioned religion was the underlying motivation behind their actions. Some mentioned God and Christianity specifically, while others discussed the importance of understanding one’s personal beliefs. Some assembled peacefully while others damned nearly all humanity.

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Top 10 Politically-Active Professional Athletes

Today, you are just as likely to see an NBA all-star hocking a presidential candidate as you are a sports drink. In order to capture the political nature of some of America’s most-loved stars, Creative Loafing created its own version of the top 10 most politically-active professional athletes.

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger: We know. He’s known more as an actor and the former governor of California. But Arnold is also a former bodybuilder, who began training for heavyweight competitions at the age of 15. By 20, he won his first Mr. Olympia contest and went on to win the competition for the next six years. Known for his leading roles in many blockbusters, like “The Terminator” and “Total Recall”, Schwarzenegger stepped away from Hollywood to pursue a political career in 2003. Schwarzenegger ran in California’s recall election and defeated opponent Gray Davis. He was reelected in 2007 and finished his second term as governor in 2011.
  2. Michael Jordan: Legendary NBA all-star Michael Jordan held a $3 million fundraiser in New York, titled the “Obama Classic,” for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. After refusing to endorse Democrat Harvey Gantt in the 1990 North Carolina Senate race saying, “Republicans buy shoes, too,” Jordan changed his tune when he donated $10,000 to Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2004.

    Michael Jordan, photo by simplistic.designs.

  3. Magic Johnson: Former Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson has openly supported President Obama since his initial campaign in 2008. Johnson expressed his pro-Obama sentiments on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2008, mentioning his excitement about the candidate’s presidential victory. Johnson has contributed $5,000 to Obama’s 2012 campaign funds, and he supposedly handed over $60,800 to support the Democratic National Committee, according to website WNYC.org. Johnson also campaigned against California’s Proposition 8, which sought to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
  4. Tim Thomas: Boston Bruins goaltender and two-time NHL playoff MVP Tim Thomas made a political statement in January after refusing to attend his team’s Stanley Cup championship ceremony at the White House. Thomas claimed his differing political and ideological opinions kept him from coming to the celebration. Thomas further explained his decision and reasoning via Facebook, writing, “I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” he said. “This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL. This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic.” Thomas has also made political statements concerning same-sex marriage, claiming he supports fast-food franchise Chick-fil-A on its stance against gay marriage.
  5. Willie Mays: San Francisco Giants legend and Baseball Hall of Famer the Say Hey Kid has endorsed President Obama in his 2012 re-election campaign. While introducing the president at a fundraising lunch in San Francisco in June, Mays said, “It’s just a wonderful feeling that I have in my heart… a great, great pride (in Obama). He’s the man that we need to be in the White House.” Mays and Obama share a friendly relationship that began when the two flew together on Air Force One soon after the president was elected. Mays managed to receive an invitation to fly with the president after he asked his attorney to call the White House to ask about the matter.
  6. Kristi Yamaguchi: The former Olympic gold-medalist and world champion figure skater has yet has yet to officially endorse Mitt Romney, but she did appear beside the GOP candidate at a function in February to commemorate the 2002 Olympics. Yamaguchi donated to Romney’s campaign in 2008 and is featured in a 2012 election advertisement sponsored by a pro-Romney Super Political Action Committee (PAC).
  7. Jesse Ventura: Known as The Body, Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation, ran for mayor in Brooklyn Park, Minn. in 1990 after spending 11 years in the ring. Running on the ticket of the Reform Party, Ventura won the election and served as mayor for four years. In 1998, he redirected his energies and ran for governor of Minnesota. After narrowly defeating his major-party opponents, Ventura took office in 1999 and served as governor for four years.

    Jesse Ventura, photo courtesy of cw_anderson.

  8. Curt Schilling: Retired MLB pitcher and four-time World Series Champion Curt Schilling has a history of supporting GOP candidates. His passion for politics led him to campaign for President George W. Bush in 2004, and in 2007, he contributed to candidate John McCain’s presidential campaign. Rumors claiming Schilling may run for public office have surfaced numerous times, and during an interview with Fox News in 2010, Schilling said he wasn’t ruling out the possibility.
  9. Jim Brown: A Hall of Famer and former running back of the Cleveland Browns, Jim Brown led the NFL in rushing for eight of his nine seasons. In 2002, Sporting News named Brown the greatest football player in history. But aside from his talents on the gridiron, Brown is also active in political matters. In 2010, he joined Magic Johnson, Baron Davis and other Democrats in working against the Tea Party. The movement gained national attention and raised $5 million in support.
  10. Carmelo Anthony: New York Knicks NBA hotshot Carmelo Anthony tweeted about donating to President Obama’s 2012 campaign, saying, “This is cool, I just did it, you should too. Donate $10 to @BarackObama, text GIVE to 62262.” Anthony has openly supported Obama’s re-election efforts and even shot some hoops with the president at the “Obama Classic.”
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