Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When Genna Reed discovered her love for biology after whale watching in Cape Cod as a kid, she pursued that passion in high school, college, and graduate school. It wasn’t until Genna took an environmental policy class that she realized she wanted to shift gears from science to policy and advocate for environmental change. Genna started working toward her Environmental Policy master’s degree the fall after graduating from college.

What we love about Genna’s story is that when she recognized what made her excited, she followed those instincts. When a class re-awakened her interest in environmental policy, she turned that passion into further learning and ultimately, a career. Genna now works as a researcher at Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization and consumer rights group that focuses on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, and fishing. She spends her time researching and writing materials to support Food & Water Watch’s campaigns, specifically their GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling campaign.

Genna provides insight into how she spends her days, what it’s like being a researcher and advocate for the environment, and what the important things to know are when it comes to genetically engineered food. We’re inspired by how determined, passionate, and knowledgeable Genna is, and she really captures the ‘Seizing Your Youth’ spirit.

Name: Genna Reed
Education: B.A. in Biology and Psychology and M.A. in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University
Follow: @gennaclare / foodandwaterwatch.org

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Genna Reed: Youth is an advantageous time in a person’s life because individuals are most open to exciting opportunities and big changes, while also being resilient enough to manage these changes with ease. This flexibility begins to fade with age. It is absolutely essential that young folks take advantage of their freedom and explore new passions and interests whenever they can. Unless you happen to be Benjamin Button, you’re not getting any younger, so take advantage of it!

CJ: You majored in Biology and Psychology from Lehigh University. How did you decide what to major in?

GR: I have been very passionate about biology ever since going on my first whale watch in Cape Cod as a kid and becoming an instant die-hard humpback whale advocate. I was always more interested in my science and math courses during high school and carried that with me into college where my course load was predominantly biology and calculus courses. I was on the pre-med path until my senior year when I took an environmental policy course that re-awakened my interest in advocating for environmental change.

CJ: You also received your master’s degree in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

GR: I realized at the end of my senior year of college that I wanted to shift gears from science to policy. I had worked at an environmental chemistry lab at the Meadowlands in New Jersey for two summers extracting very high levels of pesticides and other contaminants out of soil and water samples. I realized just how badly humans had polluted the environment and how essential it is that our society work to clean it up. Although I enjoyed working in a lab, I wanted to help work on concrete changes at the policy level. It just so happened that Lehigh had started up an Environmental Policy master’s program that seemed like a great fit for me. I began the master’s program the fall after graduating from undergrad at Lehigh.

CJ: You worked as an intern at the Wildlands Conservancy where you led environmental education programs and handled live animals including turtles, lizards, snakes, and owls. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

GR: I really loved working at the Wildlands Conservancy because I got to share my excitement about the natural world and environmental conservation with kids. I learned how incredibly important it is to expose children to environmental experiences at a young age and to teach them how they fit into the biological cycles and what they can do to help protect the environment. It’s really fun to channel kids’ energy and enthusiasm into becoming mini environmental stewards!

Genna 2

CJ: You were a National Network for Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What was this experience like and what did you do as a Fellow?

GR: While I was completing my master’s thesis on wetland regulation and preservation, I was lucky enough to get a temporary fellowship position in Philadelphia with the EPA’s wetland division. I was able to apply things I was learning about wetland biological assessments into the policy world and to see firsthand how regulations are enacted. I spent my time with the EPA comparing and contrasting different ways to assess the health of streams and wetlands in order to find the best way to determine how these bodies of water can be protected from pollution and degradation.

CJ: You now work as a researcher for Food & Water Watch where your focus is on new technology issues within the food system. What does your role as researcher entail?

GR: I spend most of my time researching and writing materials (reports, issue briefs, fact sheets, op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs and testimony) that support our campaigns, specifically our GMO labeling campaign. I also work on federal comments on issues relevant to genetically engineered crops and animals and present our research at certain science and policy forums, stakeholder meetings and public hearings.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as a researcher?

GR:
1. Patience. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for.
2. Versatility. We have to be able to write about food policy to a range of different audiences.
3. Positive Attitude. Working at an organization that attempts to protect our food and water, we are up against very strong corporate interests, which makes it difficult to win our campaigns. We have to remain positive and keep on keeping on.

CJ: You research genetically engineered foods and the impacts that the technology has on farmers, consumers, and the environment. For people who are starting to learn more about genetically engineered foods, what are the most important things to know and keep in mind?

GR: The first thing I always tell people that are just learning about genetically modified foods, or GMOs, is that the way that this technology is currently used is first and foremost a moneymaking scheme for biotech companies that own seeds as well as the herbicides that are used with them. Herbicides are poisons, and their use has increased since GMOs were introduced. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the safety of GMOs and the herbicides that are used with them, and we have been the guinea pigs for this experiment since these crops and associated chemicals have been used for the past 20 years and foods made from these crops have been sold without labels the entire time. We should all be outraged at the lack of accountability and transparency from our regulatory agencies that have been keeping us in the dark about what’s in our food for far too long.

CJ: Food & Water Watch is an advocacy group with food, water, and environmental policy campaigns. Why do these issues matter to you and what can young people who are interested in these causes do to make a difference?

GR: There is not a single person in the world that is not affected by food, water and environmental issues. I have always believed that we have to take responsibility for the way in which we’ve treated our natural resources as commodities since humans began colonizing this planet. It’s high time that we begin thinking about the environment as having its own intrinsic value. Interested young people should get involved at the local level in their communities by getting educated on issues and joining with other concerned individuals to demand change.

Genna 3

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

GR: Monday mornings are spent drinking earl grey tea and going through my emails from the weekend and my to-do list that I’ve written on Friday afternoon. I start the day off finishing quick research tasks and then move on to longer-term projects as the day wears on. I try to do my writing either first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when my mind is the clearest.

Throughout the day, I usually have a couple of calls with our organizers on the ground to discuss campaign details and how we can work together to advance our cause or with representatives from other organizations who work with us in coalitions in order to build power to affect change. Hopefully by the end of the day, I have checked more things off the list than I have added.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a researcher do now to set him or herself up for success?

GR: Having an inquisitive mind is a great way to begin preparing to be a researcher. Research is really just the process of finding an answer to a question or a set of questions. Another good skill to start honing is the ability to distinguish between good sources and questionable sources. It is essential that good research be backed up by solid fact and discerning between what is credible and what is not is imperative in this line of work.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

GR: E.O Wilson’s Biophilia was incredibly important in shaping and affirming my own opinions about the importance of protecting the environment and the role of humans in preservation. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was also very influential for me.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

GR: I usually go for runs to clear my head. After that, I spend time cuddling with my two cats, Jack and Willow, for comfort (if they’re in the mood, of course).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

GR: As a researcher with a dual monitor computer set-up, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with inputs. Growing up in the age of multi-tasking and short attention spans, I sometimes struggle with devoting my full attention to individual projects as I’m working on them. I’m attempting to be more mindful of this and to fully immerse myself in one task at a time rather than spreading myself thin on a bunch of tasks.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

GR: I probably would tell 20-year-old me to spend a little bit less time studying and more time exploring the state parks and natural beauty around Lehigh and farther out into Pennsylvania.

Genna Reed Qs

Images: Genna Reed

CultureTech

Social media minions, if you haven’t done so yet, take a second to update your Snapchat.

Snapchat has become a legendary app. It encompasses everything involving sharing bits and pieces of your day with your friends and followers. Organizations have partnered with Snapchat to promote their events through a live feed, and this platform has essentially moved the spotlight from teenagers sending each other random photos, to involving companies creating corporate business deals. It has, in a sense, become revolutionary – it has forced companies and event planners to take a step back and promote their brand through a new medium.

Personally, Snapchat has taken part in my life since its early days. This is the application where I just may send my best friend selfies looking like a sleep-deprived- coffee-binging-alien as I study, holding a large coffee beside my colossal marketing textbook, or smiling through my cucumber green-facial mask-smothered face. It’s where I will send you snaps of scrumptious meals, fabulous weather, and must-go-to-events.

This is also the application where I have to plug my iPhone into my speakers in order to send you a selfie video of me singing to a song that I do not come close to qualifying as a worthy cover artist.

As may know, Snapchat has just released the latest version of the app on February 18, 2015.The new update has left users in a pool of joy – including me. Users can now let their smartphone play music from iTunes, Spotify, and Sound Cloud while recording videos. Before this update users had to use Mindie, an application that allowed music to play simultaneously. Snapchat shutdown Mindie just before the release of this new update. Extra efforts are no longer necessary for vivid video snaps.

I think their latest update, 9.2.0, puts into function a feature that should have been installed as a part of the app from the beginning. However, apparently this feature wasn’t on everyone’s mind. Instagram, Vine, and iPhone’s default camera also neglected to include music playing while recording. I applaud Snapchat for steering themselves ahead of the game. As for “bug fixes and improvements to make Snapchat faster” thanks Snapchat, those are always welcome, too.

I’m excited about this new update – it not only satisfies the demands of current users but it also makes social media life easier. In addition to their latest feature, I can’t neglect to mention the highly talked about “discover” feature. This was last month’s update which – I’m sure you’ve heard by now, is a screen of twelve media icons that serve as news platforms in that particular sector be it fashion, food, travel, sports, politics, etc. These editions or stories are available to the user for 24 hours and they come in multiple mediums like video, text, and photo to fully engage the viewer. Perhaps this is a great way to create a sort of liaison between a disengaged younger audience and paying more attention to the news.

Do you think that Snapchat hit or miss, here? Sometimes I wonder whether or not companies should stick to what they know. It’s interesting to recognize interest in expansion and the implementation of ideas, but I don’t know if I can see Snapchat as a news provider. Personally, I prefer sticking to more traditional resources. What are your thoughts?

Image: Pexels

EducationSkills

Hi, my name is Raven and I don’t delete old emails. This is embarrassing to admit, but I still have emails from freshman year of college. I’m a junior now, which means that I still have almost every email I have received since 2012. I am not going to tell you the exact number but I will say that if I could somehow transform my emails into currency, I’d have a lot of money.

I don’t know why I struggle with deleting emails after I read them. I do, however, know that I am not the only person who needs to do some spring cleaning on their inbox. I could continue to let the emails accumulate and see how much I’ll have senior year before I graduate. But I know that’s not a good idea, especially since checking my email will be become more tedious than it has to be.

This is one of the reasons why going back to delete old emails is so important. If you’re like me and get at least twenty emails per day, you don’t want to be overwhelmed by all of the unread messages you have. When just looking at all of the emails I have begins to overwhelm me, I tend to not look at all of them, which isn’t good because it’s easier to overlook something important that way. I get a few emails in and then I decide to go do something else because my brain feels like it’s going to explode from staring at the screen for so long.

I know that this is not a good thing to do, which is why I suggest setting aside some time and dedicate it to doing some inbox cleaning. Even though you might not want to, take the time to look through any unread email, delete the ones you don’t read and organize the ones you do need into folders. I know this sounds like a pain, but once you do this checking your email will cease being so scary.

Old habits can become hard to break if you don’t stop the cycle. You don’t want to enter into the workforce or even continue through your college career without organizing your inbox and making sure it isn’t too cluttered. Having an inbox with over four thousand emails both read and unread will become the norm if you don’t try to break the habit of letting your emails accumulate.

The importance of cleaning out your inbox goes beyond eliminating the stress that comes with checking your email; it is also a good way to stay on top of the things you need to do. I know that I am not the only one with a messy inbox, so I hope that those of you who are reading this will think about the importance of deleting old unnecessary emails. Once you’re through with the entire process, it will feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Maybe that’s not even close to what you’ll feel but having a neat and orderly inbox will make a life a lot easier.

And when you’re in college, easy is always a good thing.

So what are you waiting for? Go clean out that inbox!

Image: PicJumbo

EducationSkills

Creating your own website is now easier than ever. It has become more economical in terms of money and work. But while starting a website is worth only a few clicks of effort, maintaining it and receiving constant traffic takes quite some skill. The essentials, tips, and tactics listed below are ones that I have learnt through experience by starting my very own website.

1. Finding your website’s niche

This is arguably the most important element to your website. You have to identify ‘why’ you are creating your website or ‘what’ purpose it serves. This will be your site’s trademark; people will remember your site for this very reason. To give an example, my website, www.maverickyouth.com, focuses on giving individuals the liberty to write and publish opinionated pieces. Linkedin’s niche is to serve as a platform that connects potential employers with seeking employees. The niche you pick will help your website set it apart from the crowd and it will make it more lucrative (If you’re planning on starting it for commercial reasons of course). Your title may also be linked with your niche for more impact. This task sets you going in the right direction.

2.  Who You Are Targeting

This is the next big step. While having a large consumer base might seem, quite intuitively, stronger, it is not necessarily so. True, having a large audience is a definite ‘plus-one’, but it’s better to have a narrow set of ‘active’ users than a large set of passive ones. My website looks to target young opinionated teenagers who wish to portray themselves through writing. Once you know who you are targeting, everything else will fall into place quite easily. Your website’s look for example can be modified to appeal to your user base’s interests.

3. Teamwork and Diversity Are Key

Having a team of committed individuals will make the whole process faster and more fruitful. Your choice of hiring (for pay or not for pay) is up to your discretion; the bottom line is you have to hire individuals ready to put in their best efforts. Diversity is key in this aspect. Make sure you have a team with diversified skill sets. You have to define their jobs clearly to avoid any ambiguity. Divide the website’s workload and hand over the work to the suitable team members. For example, you may provide the web designing work to someone with a strong background in computers. Since keeping up with each member’s progress is a must, make sure your team isn’t too large, as personal attention is required for more per-capita output.

4. Market Research

After your website is ready, you may share it with a select few to get their opinions and feedback. This sample audience may be close friends, family members etc. They should be people giving credible feedback. Otherwise, you may use websites like www.criticue.com to get feedback from online users around the world. This is an important measure to take before taking your website out into the open. The opinions you receive will be good sources for final touches. They may make you think of things you had not thought of before; you might see potential problems that you once overlooked. If your initial vision was strong, then the positive feedback you get from people will serve as a confident booster. Negative feedback will definitely make you rethink some of your website’s components. This is all for the improvement of your website.

5. Social Media

After your website goes live it becomes time to turn towards social media. Social media is a blessing to all website’s wishing to make it big. There are several widgets your website may employ to connect with websites like Facebook, Tumblr, etc. For example, your website may have a widget that allows users to register to your website by logging into their Facebook accounts. On the same note, creating a Facebook page for your website will be highly beneficial as you will be closer to your consumers. You may choose to use some credit to advertise through social media and attract a larger fan base. But before you involve money into the picture, it’s best you view some of the tutorials on Youtube that show you how to best handle your credit. Make sure you have a constant flow of posts on these social media pages. They are great for advertising new services or products. Since this job can be quite taxing, it would be pragmatic to have at least one individual on your team overseeing this.

Good luck with your own website endeavor!

Image: Picography

CultureHealthSkills

The first thing I do when I get online is go straight to Facebook. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m doing it. Next thing I know, I’m scrolling through my news feed clicking on links, reading statuses, and commenting on pictures. That entire process seems to take up a good chunk of my time. Why? Because the Internet is a black hole. It sucks away our life and we’re not even aware of it, until we shut down our laptops or tablets and look up to find that time passed us by while we read the latest celebrity gossip or watched the latest episode of our favorite TV show.

While the Internet can be an extremely wonderful place, the outside world has so much to offer. Don’t spend your entire break from school online because if you do, you will have missed out on your chance to get some fresh air or spend time with your family and friends.

I know what I’m about to say might be hard for some of you to do. This is why, before I put in my request, I just want to remind everyone that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest will still be here tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. Spending a few days away from social media and the Internet, in general, won’t make it to disappear into the cyberverse forever. That said (after you finish reading this article of of course), I want everyone to close out of their Internet browsers and shut down every electronic device. Those are two simple steps but it might prove to be really hard for some, especially if you’re the kind of person who loves to stay connected at all times.

I am that kind of person too. I like being able to read what’s going on in other countries and, guiltily, what’s going on in the lives of celebrities I like. But, at the end of the day, I make sure to remember my own life. I am young. I still have a lot to explore and a lot to experience. I can’t do any exploring or memory making if I am always sitting in front of a computer screen.

And neither can you.

Get out there! The world is your playground. If you can’t travel to far off places just yet, take a walk around your neighborhood. Check out that store you haven’t gone in yet or maybe try the new coffee shop that just opened. Call up a few of your friends and go see a movie. Do something that doesn’t involve the Internet or social media. Unplugging is seriously one of the best ways you can seize your life because, whether you remember it or not, there was a time when we didn’t have laptops and smartphones and tablets. When we were kids, we still were able to find ways to entertain ourselves that didn’t involve the latest app or Twitter.

Pick up a book from the library, rock out to your favorite song,  and maybe help around the house or clean your room. Do something that doesn’t involve plugging in to the Internet. Do anything that will allow you to seize your youth because you don’t want to look up one day and realize that you didn’t seize every moment of your life. This moment in our lives have the potential to be the greatest. All you have to do is get out there and do more with your time than just stare at a screen. I know unplugging isn’t exactly an easy thing to do, but once you do it I promise you won’t regret it.

Image: Nomadic Lass

Culture

It’s the time of year where we say our thanks to the things we’ve taken for granted, and being without a phone for the second time this semester has caused me to realize all the things I’m truly thankful for when it comes to my phone. Being without a phone has made me acknowledge not only the many things I take for granted regarding my phone, but also the things that having a phone has caused me to take for granted. Here are some things I’ve become thankful for that may just influence you to put your phone down for a couple of hours this holiday season.

1. Reminders

I’m always busy, and with being busy comes needing a way to stay organized and on top of things. My phone has all of my alarms, appointments, birthdays, and random notes in it in order to keep my daily life together. Being without it has definitely made me thankful for my little partner in crime!

2. Email

After missing out on the email for my 8:30am class being cancelled and getting up and lugging myself to class, I have definitely taken having access to email on my phone for granted. Being able to have my email on my phone allows me to check it straight when I get up; along with any cancellations that go with it!

3. Social Media

Not being able to Instagram on the daily may or may not be causing me to have withdrawals. Social media helps me keep in touch with my friends at school, as well as my friends and family at home. Being without easy access to all my social media sites has made it a lot more difficult for me to stay up-to-date on everyone’s lives.

4. Nature

Though being without a phone has given me my share of hardships, it has also helped me to realize how beautiful my campus truly is. Instead of scrolling through my feeds while walking to class, instead I look around and notice the beautiful flowers, trees, and architecture that I so easily took for granted.

5. Friends

My relationships with those who are my true friends, as well as my family, clearly deepened without a phone involved. It brought back emailing and direct messaging on Twitter, which although may be annoying, shows me who my true friends are when having to make an effort. It has also pushed me to spend more time talking to my friends and family face-to-face rather than texting them 24/7. Not having a phone has allowed me to be more social and have better relationships in general.

Though having a phone is a great thing that many of us take for granted, it’s also important to acknowledge the little things that we overlook when we’re absorbed in our screens.

Image: Jonathan Velasquez

Health

You think you’re healthy, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a stress-free morning? Many times, we don’t realize that being healthy goes further than being physically healthy; it has to do with being mentally healthy, as well. There are many do’s and don’ts: do exercise, do eat plenty of fresh greens, don’t go near processed foods, don’t munch on late those night snacks, and do check out that yoga center that’s just around the corner! Although these are all great things, we must not neglect to underscore the importance of maintaining a stress-free morning routine.  Consider these few tips to help keep your morning game on!

Avoid Technology First Thing

How to not check those morning streams of Instagram posts, flips of late night Snapchats, or the urge to text X friend about X morning thought?  However, resisting technology and avoiding grabbing your phone or touching that computer for the first hour of waking up will allow you to hold the peace of mind to focus on just yourself. It also decreases your reliance on technology and you will be able to concentrate on other important things. Morning texts, e-mails, appointment alerts, and social media feeds spark the first dose of mental stress. It’s best to simply stay away from white noise, artificial bright lights, and overall technology in order to focus on yourself for that first hour.

Drink Water

There is nothing more revitalizing that chugging a glass of water at the break of dawn. Studies have shown that water cleanses your blood from toxins, which in turn, makes your skin glow and renews your cells by increasing the rate at which new muscle and blood cells are produced. Also, nutrient absorption is boosted by purifying your colon. It also helps balance the lymph system and fluids in your body. But the best part? It spikes your metabolism by 24% which means that this is great for weight loss! Who knew that simply gulping down water could do such wonders to your body? Try a cold glass of water, or warm water with lemon.

Meditate and/or Exercise

Every person is different, and there are different ways for each person to meditate. Meditation can consist of doing yoga, sitting in silence, showering with essential oils, or even take a quick trip outside to be with nature. Walking outside, watching the sunrise, and even going for a run on the dawning beach is a great way to clear your mind. Also, meditation is for a great way to begin the day in a peaceful surrounding and to encase your mind with positive thoughts.

Exercising first thing in the morning is also a great way to start your day. Whether you exercise inside or outside, increasing your heart rate does wonders for your body. Working out first thing in the morning is a smart way to get your daily sweat out of the way. If the weather is good, get your fitness on outside. Studies show that you will be a happier person if you are outside. In the University of Essex, they have studies that have shown that “green exercise” or exercising outdoors can improve your self-esteem and mood. I would say this is an excellent way to start your day!

Avoid Rushing

Rushing is an integral part of American culture. America is constantly running to get to work, school attendance, an appointment, an event, a meeting, a flight etc. The point is, we never want to be late, yet we are always on the verge of it. This is perhaps one of the most stress-inflicting things that the body can go through. You can avoid this by picking out your next-day’s clothes the night before, making a to-do list in the evening so you won’t forget anything in the morning, and the most effective one, I think: wake up extra early. This will give you the peace of mind that there is no way you can be late since you’ll be able to avoid rush hour or any other incidents that may impede on timeliness.

Shower with Cold Water

Turns out, there are more health benefits to cold water than just drinking it! Showering with ice cold water is incredibly beneficial for your body, as painful as that may sound. It increases your metabolism fifteen fold! After exercise, cold showers also help your body recover by reducing soreness. Heart rate increases when exposed to a surge of chilled water which in turn, causes faster blood flow which will up your energy big time and help you avoid hypertension and the hardening of arteries. There was a study at Virginia Commonwealth University showing how cold water stimulates the main source of noradrenaline, or a chemical that may be used to decrease depression. All in all, starting off your day with a cold shower is a stress reducer and yes, I will repeat, very healthy.

Any of these tips will be great to implement into your current routine. It feels great to start your day off on the right food! How do you maintain a healthy morning routine?

Image: Unsplash

Culture

With a bigger screen and a slimmer body, the iPhone 6 is at the forefront of news today. Companies like Apple have cornered the market on technology, with owning an iPhone becoming a social norm.  However, this makes me wonder why such large companies like Apple choose to waver back and forth between menial physical characteristics, like screen size, rather than focus on serious technological advancements?

Apple and Co. possess the most power and means of evolving the technical side of phone production and use, and yet their time is geared toward the technological phenotypes. Financial gain is the impetus behind Apple and other phone companies focusing on smaller issues. Satisfying the public’s demand of larger screens is cheaper than, say, the demand for better battery power. Apple focuses all publicity on appeasing these fewer requests while appearing as though they are at the forefront of technological advancements.

It’s the foot-in-the-door phenomenon in real life: by satisfying more basic demands, these companies expect the public to comply with buying their expensive products. However, this approach is detrimental. Like a politician looking for re-election, Apple and other hegemonic companies are thinking about the short term: financial gain over scientific growth. There is no such thing as a new and improved phone these days; by changing the screen size or the accessibility of certain applications, phone production companies have fooled the masses into believing that advancements are being made.

For example, I checked Google for comparisons between the new iPhone 6 and its competitors, the Nexus 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. The consensus was that all of the phones performed the same functions relatively, with the major difference being in screen size. If the only contrast in these products is screen size, which is still a nice commodity, then consumers have been conned.  Reiterating what was said earlier, financial gain is the impetus behind cellular phone production, and will continue to be so long as the public believes that buying newer models of phones is upgrading in terms of technical abilities.

Image: Carlos Hergueta, Flickr

Skills

We’ve all got to face the facts. We live in a world where we cannot escape the constant buzzing and humming of phones, televisions, and computers. We may think that we control this technology, but how much influence do all of these devices have on our lives? Let’s take a quick test to find out. Answer the following the questions in the most honest manner, choosing the one you would most likely relate to:

tech table

Now, if most of your answers are A, you’re a little too dependent on technology. If most of your answers were B, you’re not dependent on technological gadgets to get your work done, and you’re self-reliant and you’re willing to talk to other people directly, without a medium of an electronic thingamajig.

In all honestly, I answered mostly B, and I’m happy about that because I abhor being dependent upon anything. But what if I were to answer mostly A? Would I need some sort of “digital detox?” Perhaps I would. Surely enough, technology is very important. I should point out here that without technology, man obviously would not have come thus far in civilization. Not to mention, technology has been around since humans have been around—tools such as wheels, spears, and maybe even fire are examples of innovations man has come up with to make human life easier and bearable. We do not recognize technology and all the forms it comes in immediately, but it does loom in every corner, trying to simplify and automate our lives every moment of the way.

I often catch myself admiring my elders who got their schoolwork done without the help of the Internet. I mean, how did they do it, after all? Our generation is so dependent upon the Internet for almost every single purpose in life: education, entertainment, networking, etc. The possibilities are endless with the Internet. Also, with living in a technologically developed country such as America, Internet access is replete. We go into malls, coffee shops, schools, and offices and receive the instant gratification of Internet connectivity. I’ve almost come to think “How can we survive without the Internet?” The web is just such an integral part of our lives now. I feel like people our age have almost become far too dependent on it, and maybe it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate our life decisions.

We do not need electronic gadgets to solve every single one of our problems. Maybe it’s time to start using other people for advice, books for knowledge, and the outdoors for relaxing. We need to get away from these digital screens that we are glued to and realize that there’s so much more to our lives, and we cannot waste our precious time in front of a synthetic screen with dancing figures.

Before you get me wrong, I am definitely and undoubtedly an avid user of technological products. I use my laptop to get most of my schoolwork and financing done, my phone to look up directions and text my friends, and my television to watch Pretty Little Liars and Discovery Channel. Technology such as this plays a pivotal role in my life. I am certainly not trying to bash technological inventions or those who routinely use them.

However, I have the simultaneous feeling that I waste each minute I spend in front of a computer or television. I feel I could better use my time…I could go outside and take a walk, read a book on my swing, or be volunteering in a local shelter. I have this perpetual fear that I am not going to get all my work done or my dreams accomplished each time I sit down in front of a screen. I want to travel around the world, meet new people, and try new cuisines.

What’s the point of having friends, an education, or even a backyard if you cannot use it, since you’re too busy staring at a pixellated surface? What are we if we do not utilize our knowledge and spend time with the people around us? What if we aren’t grasping all the opportunities which are present to us because we’re capsized by some electronic device?

The only advice and plea of freedom I can proffer is to step away from these gadgets, and maybe be artistic, passionate, athletic, or focused on other areas of life. Technology will not solve our problems, only we can. Perhaps it’s time to start doing that. Let’s not be a lame generation that always stares at our phone screens…let’s be exciting. Let’s innovate. Let’s capture every ounce of our youth and turn it into something special. After you’re done reading this on your computer or phone screen, what are you going to do?

Image: Symo0, Flickr 

EducationSkills

Technology (particularly the internet) is taking over our lives.

Regardless of our current or desired career paths, understanding basic coding can be an invaluable skill to bring to the workplace. Our bosses may want to start a company blog, spruce up the existing one, or add some features to the company website. If we can help with the task, we’ll set ourselves apart.

And for those of us who are unemployed, displaying our resumes, portfolios and/or industry knowledge cleanly and crisply with HTML and CSS styling will increase our chances at getting an interview.

We all know this, yet many of us still find it difficult to adapt our skillsets to meet the rapidly changing www landscape. Others of us worry that learning computer and web-related skills will be too costly and time-consuming. Even worse, there are so many different languages involved in coding and programming (CSS, Javascript, HTML, Python, Ruby, sheesh…) that things get real confusing, real fast.

As someone who knew absolutely zilch about coding and programming about a month ago (and still has a long way to go), I’ve compiled some tips that have helped make my journey in learning to code a little breezier:

1. To get started, you’ll want a canvas for practice (i.e. a blank web page). If you’re a college student, your school may offer free web space to its students to blog, post portfolios, etc. Email your IT department or technology help center to find out.

2. If this isn’t your case, use a free site like WordPress, Tumblr (although I believe Tumblr uses a different language), Weebly or Wix. These sites are “user-friendly” but offer options to go beyond the basics using code.

3. To begin practicing on your webpage, a very simple option is to Google search the code for different things you want to include. If you want to create a background image, you can search “code for background image.” This, of course, is hit or miss and your results may not be for the specific language you want. (HTML5 is the most updated language for typical HTML coding, which is the base language in web design.) I’ve found that w3schools.com generally has accurate results for various HTML5 coding values.

4. Use free online tools (a much easier option than #1-3). The following are the most popular and easy to use:

  • Dash: This is the tool I’m using, and it is outstanding. It provides step-by-step lessons and allows you to enter your code and see what it looks like on the actual test website in real time. It teaches general HTML, CSS and Javascript; enough to design pretty websites, blogs and even simple animations.
  • Codecademy: Offers interactive online tutorials for everything from the very basics to more advanced programming languages. It also allows you to take lessons with your friends. I’ve never used it, but it appears similar to Dash.
  • Khan Academy: Offers free programming and computer science tutorial videos, in a variety of world languages.

5. For Dummies books: There are lots of these books out there, including Beginning Programming for Dummies and more language-specific ones, like Beginning Programming with Java for Dummies. They cost money, but you can find them reasonably priced on Amazon, and you’ll always have pages and pages of information at your fingertips if you purchase one.

6. Want to really dig in and become a pro? It may be worth paid lessons:

  • Community colleges: They likely offer beginner courses that won’t totally break the bank. A great resource and will come with an instructor and, usually, in-person instruction.
  • Training programs: These are offered by companies like General Assembly, which is the company that offers Dash. Offerings include in-depth courses on a variety of design, programming and coding functions. The courses can get pricey (upwards of $10,000 for advanced, full-time) but there are slightly cheaper night and weekend courses (around $3,000), offered in many major cities. They also offer workshops and one-time classes starting around $100.

Do you have any tips or tools for learning to code and program? Share them below!

Image: infocux technologies, Flickr

CultureSkills

It is difficult in this day and age to find an individual who isn’t connected to one account or another. It’s surprising if someone can honestly say they don’t have at least one social media account. I was born into a generation that has never experienced a world without social media. I opened my first social media account at the ripe young age of 11 on MySpace (not the required minimum age of 13…shhh).

Since then, I’ve always had something. But it hit me this summer how dependent I’d become to social media. It was scary, to be honest. My usual morning routine always included checking Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook before heading out for the day. It isn’t fair to say that social media isn’t important because it definitely has its uses. Social media connects people in ways that never would’ve possible 20 years ago. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts can be used not only for personal reasons, but also as a way for potential employers to learn more about you. A well-managed social media account can say so much about a person. However, it’s nice to disconnect for a while. The longest I’ve lasted is a week without checking any of my social media accounts. I realize a week is not actually a long time, but short as it was, it was extremely refreshing. So give it a try! Who knows what you’ll learn about yourself.

A few tips for managing a successful social media account:

  • Show your personality, but be wary of what you post. Don’t anything that you might be ashamed of later.
  • Be sure you have permission when posting anything involving someone else.
  • Post a variety of things! Even the most artsy shots of any specific thing can get boring after a while.

The dangers of social media:

  • Customize your privacy settings. Some accounts, like Facebook, connect you with not only associates and co-workers, but also family and friends. You may post something intended for close family members to see but not anyone else, or vice-versa. Make sure your settings are air-tight.
  • As I mentioned before, just because a picture of you and friends having a night out might be of interest to others, that doesn’t mean that it should be posted. If maintaining an account with only one privacy option (like Instagram – either private or not private), be extra, extra picky with what gets posted.
  • To put it simply, don’t post anything that may come back to haunt you later. Our parents don’t have to worry about an impulsive tweet posted at 2 am when they were 18 coming popping up somewhere. We do.

We’d love to know – do you tweet?

Image: DeathtotheStockPhoto

InspirationSkills

I live a whirlwind of a life. With this constant chaos comes quite the mess to follow. I’m talking papers and books stacked to the ceiling, clothes thrown and shoved in unconventional places and the constant “Where’s Waldo” like escapade when looking for anything.  I couldn’t live like this so I did some searching and found some nifty little fixes that were able to help a Tasmanian devil like myself. When it comes to getting work done, I can use all the help I can get.

Here are my top 4 tips for getting that desk (and brain) of yours organized!

1. Get Pretty.

Invest in pretty stationary! You’ll find yourself being far more careful and considerate with it and it keeps you organized. Who doesn’t want to whip out a gorgeous little book whenever they want to jot down an appointment?

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Whitney English Day Planner

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Mon Cahier Planner

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DIY Planner

 2. Think Sticky.

Sticky notes have changed my life. Like a quick little reminder, you can stick these guys anywhere and be instantly reminded to do just about anything! For me it’s remembering to take my vitamins.

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WTF Sticky Notes

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Ribbon Sticky Notes Pad Set

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I’m Sticky Post It Notes

3. Get Hanging.

Put all those important papers and notes somewhere you can see them! And feel free to style them accordingly.

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Chicken Wire Organization

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Hanging Desk Organizer

4. Top It All Off.

There are way too many pens, pencils, rulers, and other random doo-dads and gadgets we keep on our desks these days. Why not display and organize them in style?

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iPhone Dock Plus Vase

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Mason Jar Organizer

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CultureEducationInspiration

We’ve all been there. We’re checking our phones before we go to sleep, in the middle of the night, and as soon as we wake up. We glance at our phones to see if we have any new emails or text messages even when there isn’t an alert or notification. We send texts, scroll through Instagram, read new status updates on Facebook, and get lost in the black hole that is Reddit. From our waking moment until shut-eye, we live a good portion of our day through small screens. It’s easy to get burned out from technology and the constant access to one another. The information available is overwhelming, and technology never sleeps. It is a 24/7 beast that never loosens its grip, that is, until you make it. This leads us to our trick that has helped us recharge when we feel consumed by cell phones, apps, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets that have monopolized our attention.

The trick to recharge yourself is to unplug. Unplug from the constant communication and attention hog that is technology. Obviously we’re not saying to give technology up forever, but press those ‘Off’ buttons on your laptop, cell phones, tablets, and other gadgets you might use, for an afternoon, an evening, or even for an entire day! Without distractions in the form of buzzing, beeping, and red flashing lights, you can actually enjoy the present moment and let your mind power down for a short while. To unplug, simply switch the off buttons on your devices, put them in a drawer or another room (out of sight, out of mind), and plan activities that will keep you active and away from technology. When you allow yourself to step away from being constantly accessible, give yourself more ‘you’ time, and choose to engage in-person rather than on text or Instagram, you’ll feel recharged and ready to go.

Besides recharging and preventing burnout, here are some more examples of great benefits of unplugging if you still aren’t convinced to give up your iPhone for a couple of hours:

More You Time

Instead of spending most of your time reacting to phone alerts, use your time to focus on yourself. Maybe that involves going for a jog, listening to music, cooking, reading, or just catching up on some much needed zzz’s. Listen to your body and give yourself more ‘you’ time.

Build In-Person Relationships

A TIME mobility poll showed that 17% of all poll respondents said they check their phone at every meal regardless of whom they’re dining with. Instead of being distracted and glued to who is trying to reach you by phone, pay attention to the people physically around you. Get to know people in-person rather than through text. These relationships you build face-to-face will be much more valuable than the ones you build online.

Feel Less Stressed

You hear a buzz or beep and immediately reach for your phone. Whether it’s an email or a text, you might feel the need to respond to someone or take care of the issue immediately. If multiple texts or emails come in, there are more responsibilities now added to your plate. The stress and to-dos add up quickly.

Experience the Present

You’ve seen others do it and you’ve done it yourself: walking and texting. When you walk and text or just spend a lot of time on technology in general, you miss out on the amazing things happening around you. You miss the beauty of a flower garden, a potential new friend walking by, and awe-inspiring architecture. When you need directions, instead of asking someone for help and engaging with another human, it has become far too easy to use an app to locate your Point B. Join and experience the present sans technology, and who knows what you’ll see and discover.

Sleep Better

Try sleeping with your phone not next to your head. Instead, charge your phone in the kitchen or bathroom. This way you won’t be tempted to roll over in the middle of the night and check your text messages. This might also help prevent your phone from being the last thing you see before you get some shut eye. Furthermore, the light from phones and laptop screens affects the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, in our bodies. In turn, your sleep will be delayed and you will feel tired, cranky, and unproductive the next day.

Be Happier

Live your own life. Stop comparing your life to the highlight reel that you see on your friends’ news feeds and statuses. Remember that people post only the best photos and updates on their profiles, and what you see are edited and curated portions of their life. You’re not seeing what’s behind-the-scenes. Social media can make us feel lonely and jealous, both of which do not make us happier. When you experience the present and stop living your life through your screens, you will feel happier.

Be More Productive

Without the constant distraction of technology, information, and communication, you just might get more done. Unplug so you don’t have to worry about multitasking or responding to anyone. Focus on your tasks. When you don’t have beeps and buzzes pulling your attention in other directions, you will accomplish more.

Have you ever tried unplugging for an afternoon?

EducationSkillsTravel

Carpe Juvenis is always on the lookout for tools that will help simplify life. In a technological age where there are hundreds of thousands of different smart phone apps, finding the very best can be difficult. Here are some apps that we have used consistently and with ease! They have all been “Carpe Tested” for quality approval.

When it comes to:

To-Do Lists

This duo smart phone/computer application allows you to sort out daily, weekly, or monthly tasks in an easy to follow visual To-Do list. The color coded lists transfer between your computer and smart phone via wifi so you can save time! Just be sure to watch the dollar amount on this one – downloading the Mac computer version will cost you $9.99 but there is a Clear Free version on the iPhone app store.

http://realmacsoftware.com/clear 

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When it comes to:

Staying informed

Circa keeps you up to date with the most critical information on the most important stories of the day. Less time is wasted and more information is digested. Being informed has never been so easy or fun. This app is free!

http://cir.ca

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When it comes to:

Easy “reading”

Although the Carpe team typically prefers reading books, Audible has a fantastic app that makes listening to an audiobook super easy. If you have an Amazon account you can download an audiobook through Audible for free!

http://www.audible.com

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When it comes to:

Commuting

Carpe does a lot of traveling so it is essential that we have the right tools to sort out public transportation wherever we may be. The “Embark” apps are amazing. There are 10 different transit systems available, all of which are free. From San Francisco to Washington, D.C., these apps have you covered.

http://letsembark.com

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We hope that you love these helpful tools as much as we do! Which apps do YOU love?

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As Online Content Lead at General Assembly, Candace Williams has a lot of responsibility. She keeps the content moving along, interacts with all of her teams, and has long days that vary in tasks. After spending time earning her Masters in teaching from Stanford and then becoming a teacher, Candace knows quite a bit about education. Paired with her love for technology, Candace is a perfect fit as an Online Content Lead. Candace advises to not stay on one path, to take advantage of opportunities, and to hustle hard. We are inspired by Candace’s work ethic and her passion for both teaching and learning. 

Name: Candace Williams
Age: 27
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Claremont McKenna College, Master of Arts/Teaching Credential from Stanford University
Follow: Twitter / General Assembly

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Seizing your youth means trying new things and hustling hard on something. Even if it doesn’t work out, try new things and learn about yourself. Be willing to push the envelope.

What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and how did you determine what to study?

I applied to Claremont McKenna College for the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program. I loved the tutorials, and the amount of writing that we did upped my writing skills. PPE was one of the main reasons why I applied to CMC.

Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

I didn’t study abroad, but I worked abroad a lot.

Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?

I have interned at a lot of places. My first internship was during the school year at Claremont McKenna College. I did tutoring and was a lab tech and resident tech assistant. During the summer, I worked for my Congressman at his campaign office in my state. I got that internship through CMC’s career services. I looked through the postings, applied, and they gave me a stipend and class credit.

The second summer, I was a teacher at a juvenile detention facility, and CMC gave me another stipend and a fellowship. I wrote papers and got some class credit. After that, CMC gave me a grant to work in India for human rights work.

I graduated the following summer and went straight into my teaching program.

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What were you doing before General Assembly?

I was in social media, so basically I was paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day. Before that I was an elementary school teacher and I taught K-5 science in the south Bronx. Before that I went to grad school while teaching at the same time. I have a Masters in teaching.

You are an Online Content Lead for General Assembly. What does being an Online Content Lead mean?

It means that I am an instructional designer. I make sure that what we put out online really helps people learn. I also help source instructors and I am like the glue that holds our teams together. There are a lot of teams that put our content together. There are video teams, the design team, marketing efforts, and I am the person who keeps the content moving along.

What does a day in your life look like?

It really depends. What I really love about this job is that it is so flexible. Yesterday I was in Washington D.C. I got up at 5:30am, went to Penn Station, and took the three hour train to D.C. I met with people there, filmed at the New America Foundation, hopped back on the train, and got home around 8pm.

The day before that I was at work filming something until 9pm. During the day I have a lot of meetings and we talk about the redesign of the website. Sometimes I come in early, sometimes I come in late. It really just depends.

What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an online content lead/producer do to set themselves up for success?

The number one thing is to hustle hard and work hard and to seek out different opportunities. I wouldn’t get trapped in one path. It may seem like everyone is doing the same thing, such as finance or going to the same college, but I would actually look for things to do that are different and that are off the beaten path so you can learn about yourself. People will take notice.

I never imagined that I would be an online content lead, but it really fits my experience because I’m passionate about tech and teaching. When you’re passionate about something, those jobs and opportunities will open up, but you have to show that you are passionate. You have to find the right opportunities.

If you were hiring an intern, what are the top 3 traits that you would look for?

1. Working hard. That doesn’t even mean staying at work until it is late, it just means doing a task and doing it well.

2. Collaboration. I want people who work well with others.

3. Being a fun, nice person to work with. At work you should be able to enjoy spending time with people.

You’ve been out of school for five years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”

I think school life is real. If you’re creating the right life for yourself at college, it should be hard and it should mean staying up late and working. I feel like the things that I did at school were not that different than what I do now. At school, I was waking up early and going to work and working on a lot of different projects. I had a lot of deadlines and worked with many people. Be flexible and realize that you’re going to be terrible at a lot of things.

You went to the Stanford University School of Education. Where does your interest in education come from?

I’ve always been into education, even in elementary school and middle school. I always tutored kids and had an interest in education. I’m very passionate about it.

How did you decide where to go to grad school?

I care about education so I took some classes at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and it was going really well. When Stanford came to campus, I was on my way to England for a debate tournament. I had my big suitcase but I was the only one who showed up to meet them. I met the head of admissions and she was excited to meet me. They had to sell me on the program, like why would I go to a program that was more expensive?

It came down between Stanford and CGU, which are both great programs. For me, I realized that their ideology was the same about teaching so I decided that it was time to try something new and get out of Claremont.

What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

A lot. I was president of the tech association, editor of the paper, I played the bassoon, and I volunteered a lot. In college, I was involved in debate and tech. With debate, I started teaching kids who were new to debate. I started debate my first day of college.

What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your personal time?

I like feeling like I’m making stuff that matters. I like to have fun and I like to be with friends and family. I like feeling like I’m connected to people.

Who is your role model?

My mom, of course. She’s awesome. She works very hard, she’s smart, and she works very well with kids.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Nothing. I made mistakes, but you just have to do it.

CultureEducation

When we come across programs that make us excited about learning, we can’t wait to share and tell people all about it. One program in particular that we adore is General Assembly, a global educational institution that empowers individuals to learn topics such as technology, design, and business. You can take classes, workshops, courses, or immersive programs that last 8-12 weeks. The opportunities are seriously endless.

Last week, I took a class about eCommerce at General Assembly, and just in that hour and a half, I felt like I had a good grip on the basics. The class sizes are small, the instructors are accessible after class or by email for additional questions, and classrooms are clean and spacious. Oh, and there’s free Wifi!

I can’t wait to take more classes at General Assembly. I learned a lot from my first class, and if you plan on taking a course at General Assembly or another program, here’s what you should know!

1. Don’t forget your ticket. If you register for a class online, you will receive an online, printable ticket. Print this out right away and remember to bring it with you to class. This will make checking-in much smoother.

2. Bring a notebook or a laptop. You will be taking a lot of notes. Don’t rely on just your mind to remember everything the instructor says.

3. Do initial research. Even if you are taking a class because you do not know the first thing about the topic, it never hurts to do some initial research before the course. This way, in case the teacher uses terms and doesn’t go over them in class, you will have an idea of what he or she is talking about. Having done some initial reading also allows you to focus on the details that is being presented rather than trying to catch up with the basics.

4. Come prepared with questions. The instructor may encourage questions throughout the class or after he or she has finished the lesson. Either way, have a couple of questions prepared so you get the most out of your course. Remember, there are no stupid questions!

5. Arrive 15 minutes early. You don’t want to be the person stumbling into the class five minutes late and scrambling to find a seat. Plan on arriving 15 minutes early so you can find a good seat, set up your laptop and get out your pens, and review your questions.

6. Sit near the front. Sitting near the front of the class will help you see the presentation slides better, as well as give you a better chance of having your questions answered. You don’t want to be peering over people’s heads just to see what the slide says. Arriving 15 minutes early will help guarantee you the best seat in the house.

7. Introduce yourself. If you are sitting next to someone, say hi. If you enjoyed the class a lot, approach the instructor afterwards to say so. It never hurts to introduce yourself – good things might come out of it.

8. Thank you email. If the instructor offers his or her email address at the end of the presentation, jot it down and make sure to send a thank you email. Thank the instructor for his or her time, what you most enjoyed about the class, and if you have any additional questions, now is the time to ask them.

Have you ever taken a class at General Assembly/a similar program?