Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Here at Carpe Juvenis we live and breath Seizing Your Youth, and for that reason our community is filled with people who both chase their dreams and pursue other passions. Co-founder Catherine is currently a senior at the George Washington University where she focuses on Women’s Studies and Political Science. Last Spring she had the opportunity to take a Graduate class called “Gender & Violence” from Professor Chai Shenoy. An Attorney Advisor for Peace Corps, the Co-founder of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) in Washington, D.C., and an adjunct professor at GWU and WCL (WHEW!) this is one incredibly driven woman. As a creative activist, Professor Shenoy has worked for over ten years on national and local anti-violence initiatives through multiple platforms. She has represented survivors of gender-based violence and fought for their rights through policy creation and training of professionals and specialists in every field. As a professor she instills a sense of confidence in her students that they, too, can make a positive impact on their communities and help to end gender-based violence. It is a privilege to introduce to you Chai Shenoy.

Name: Chai Shenoy
Education: JD, American University, Washington School of Law; BA, UCLA
Follow: Twitter | LinkedIn | Collective Action for Safe Spaces

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Chai Shenoy: I think that there are different definitions. For a lot of us, seizing your youth is about taking what is available to you and making use of all the tools that you’ve been brought up with, and that the community has given you. Then it’s about really going beyond your potential – seeing how you can go and actually address some of the issues that are coming up in the community. I think that young people are who can solve many of these issues that we are facing today. Without them we won’t be able to solve so many things that we hear about like dating violence, sexual assault, issues around power and privilege, issues around environmental concerns that are now causing so many wars and famines. I think that for me seizing your youth really means taking all of those resources and diving into what you’re here for.

CJ: What initially sparked your interest around women’s rights and activist work?

CS: I grew up in a family where my mother had a major role in my life and became my role model. She came from a culture where women aren’t necessarily given equal footing as men, and when she immigrated to the United States she continued with her passions, which are the sciences. She told me that you really have to fight for what you think is right in this world.

CJ: When and where did you discover your passion?

CS: It wasn’t until college that I figured out what I love doing. There are a lot of different things in this world happening to equalize women and children, but on my college campus I wasn’t really seeing that. There was so much unspoken violence; people weren’t talking about dating violence and sexual assault. Soon I became really vested in that work and in working with youth. While I considered myself at that time to also be a young person, I knew that I wanted to continue working with the population that tends to have the best ideas but who also have the worst advocates. You could definitely see that when it came to gender-based violence on campuses, and it was brushed off as an issue that was just part of youth culture and was accepted as the truth. Let’s say, for the sake of those critics, that gender-based violence is the truth – do we really want that to be part of our culture? That critical thinking came from how I was raised. I was told that I should be questioning right and wrong, and to have a strong moral ethic. Equality is important and we need to have it.

CJ: As the co-founder of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), how did you and your team transform CASS from a blog to a dynamic organization?

CS: To be quite frank, it happened very organically. It was really the community that utilized social media in a way that allowed voices and experiences to be heard. Sharing an experience of public sexual harassment by a stranger can happen once you’re at home, or in a safe environment. So our community in D.C. asked for us to start to do trainings on this, and it morphed into a lot of offline activism with an online presence, because that’s where community is.

CJ: You attended the Washington School of Law. In retrospect would you have made the same commitment now? What would you have done differently?

CS: Yes, absolutely. I would have been wiser about financial aid, looking for scholarships, and being more prepared about the fiscal responsibility that comes with any higher education. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started to acknowledge that I have a fear of money and then needed to do something about it. I got a financial adviser and started to ask questions like “What are my fiscal goals in life?” That’s really the only thing I would be wiser about now – the fiscal impact. But with that said, law school for me opened up a variety of things. First it opened up my mind to critical thinking in a very focused way. I was critical thinking about applying legal structure to where I wanted the law to go, or making policy recommendations for youth rights, gender-based violence issues for teens, and education. All of those things were and are very important to me. Law school also opened up my eyes to the variety of jobs for people who have the skills of critical thinking. I would never replace going to law school. I think it was a magnificent choice, especially coming to the nation’s capital. It’s a beautiful place to be for people who are willing to push themselves and be challenged.

CJ: As an adjunct professor at the George Washington University and WCL, what do you hope your students take away from learning about gender-based violence?

CS: That they can be change makers. That you yourself can help stop the culture of violence. You don’t have to dedicate your entire life to it by becoming a lawyer or an advocate or a social worker, you – just as an average person – can stop somebody or question someone when they’re making a joke that is sexist or has an undertone of gender violence. Or when you raise your own family consider talking about the dynamic of how to raise a male, female, or transgendered child. How do you make sure that we continue to have conversations about ending gender-based violence? I hope that my students can walk away feeling empowered that they can do something. You yourself can make a difference.

CJ: Could you please tell me a bit more about your work with the Peace Corps?

CS: I should give the disclaimer that anything I talk about related to Peace Corps is from my own personal capacity and I’m not a Peace Corps representative. What attracts me about working at Peace Corps is the fact that it’s a federal agency organization that has a social justice mission to help people understand the United State’s culture, and for us to understand other countries’ cultures as well. One of the things I love about it – and this is going to sound odd – is that gender-based violence happens everywhere. It’s not unique to one region of this world. Sadly it’s a common thread amongst all of our cultures, and being at Peace Corps to work on sexual assault and gender-based violence issues has been such a privilege and an honor. Seeing how a federal agency can help a victim of sexual assault, and empower her or him to seek out services and make sure that they complete their goal of being a Peace Corps volunteer – that’s really our mission. We’ve spoken about gender-based violence as being an impediment, for example, to finishing college, it’s a reason why people leave their jobs, or potentially become isolated from their families. We don’t want the sexual assault or gender-based violence incident to be why anyone walks away from Peace Corps with. We don’t want that to be the defining moment, so it’s an honor to work on policies that hope create an empowering atmosphere for a victim of gender-based violence.

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CJ: How do you maintain – or seek to maintain – a work-life balance?

CS: It’s an everyday struggle, but I also think that there’s a false narrative we build when talking about work-life balance. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has said that they’ve achieved that balance, male or female, with or without children. I think what you can do is acknowledge your limitations. Something that I’m learning about myself is that you don’t have to do everything all at once. You’ll be able to do everything that you want to do, it just won’t happen all at once. I think that in this fast passed social media world we see people doing things that we want to be doing, and we judge ourselves. I’m coming to realize that it’s us breeding our own notion of thinking we need to be doing things that we don’t need to be. You’re all right as long as you can live, and have a life, and be living out your passion or passions. So I don’t really think there is such a thing as work-life balance.

CJ: Do you think that the career advice to “Follow your passion” is good or bad?

CS: It’s very dependent on the person and what they need to be doing in his or her life. For someone who can follow his or her passion and have a day job that helps cultivate that passion, that’s great. But at the same time not everyone has the privilege to follow that passion and get paid or be reimbursed for it. But I think you have to do something that will make you feel vested in yourself. When you vest in yourself you vest in the community. That’s where so much local change and the ripple effects of change happen.

CJ: What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

CS: I think I would say have faith in yourself more than anyone else in this world. I think we always question ourselves, especially in our twenties. And all of it is part of the normal developmental process, but you’re asking yourself a lot of deep questions. What am I doing with my life? Why am I here? How do I get to where I want to go? Those are all really deep and meaningful questions. Get to know yourself. You are your own best advocate.

Skills

Going from high school to college is a huge transition. No longer do you have teachers nagging you to turn in assignments or those annoying bells that you and your peers rushed to class to beat. You are now officially responsible for your actions and the decisions that you make. While the consequences of being late in college aren’t marked by a pink detention slip, they still exist and they’re more detrimental to your life than you might expect.

Just as it takes about 21 days to break a habit, it takes the same amount of time to adopt one. You might be thinking that it’s impossible for someone to be late that many times in a row, but I’ve seen it happen so many times and it was always the same people coming in five minutes (or later) after that imaginary bell rang signalling the start of class. The people who are repeatedly late probably have countless reasons why they can’t make it to class on time, but just like your future employer, your professor isn’t going to care too much about your excuses.

In fact, points might get deducted from your overall grade if you are constantly coming to class well after the lecture has begun. The consequences might be different at every university and, in some places, there might not even be any rules against being late but, again, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any consequences.

If you can’t come to class on time, then showing up to an internship or a job when you’re supposed to be there might be extremely difficult for you. Being on time requires discipline and a lot of time management. This means going to bed at a reasonable time and, even if you don’t, still forcing yourself to get up when the alarm goes off (and remembering to set your alarm in the first place). If you have 15 minutes to get to each class, make sure you calculate how fast you would need to walk and how long it takes you to get from Point A to Point B.

Once you get into a habit of showing up on time, you won’t have any issues doing it in the future. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’d put more effort into being punctual if they had a job because they’re getting paid to be there, but even if those are your exact thoughts, that isn’t a good argument to make. You’re in college to get a degree that is necessary to land said job, and if that isn’t enough of an incentive to be on time, how can you be a good employee?

Not only can not being on time affect your professional future, but it could damage the impression your professor has of you. They might not be taking off points for your tardiness, but if you ever need them to write a letter of recommendation or if you need help with something, they could take into account that you never made an effort to show up to class on time and that you were repeatedly late. Sure, you have other professors to turn to if you ever need a recommendation, but if you’re not showing up to one class on time, you’re probably not managing your time well which means that you have probably been late to other classes.

It’s like a Domino Effect. Once you start being late to one class, that tardiness begins to affect your punctuality in your other classes. You miss out on so much when you’re not in class when it starts. The first five to ten minutes of class could be the material that’s going to be on the test, so if you’re steadily missing out on that information then you probably won’t do well on the tests. This is not to say that you won’t get good grades because you could possibly get the notes from a classmate or read from the book assigned for the class, but the probability is higher because lateness can translate into not putting in enough effort to get an A or a B, especially if you have a habit of being late.

Don’t get me wrong. Being late once or twice is bound to happen. Things come up and we all oversleep sometimes. Those few mishaps aren’t going to lead to failing grades. Just don’t make a habit of it because once it becomes one, it will take some effort to undo. If you are one of those people who is late three or four times a week, it’s not too late to try to do better. Adjust your sleep schedule, try to walk faster when getting from one class to another, and look for shortcuts if your classes are farther apart and you don’t have a bike or don’t want to chance getting on a bus or driving a car. There are always ways to make it to class on time, you just have to put in effort to make time work in your favor and not against you.

Tardiness is not something you want to carry with you each semester because, in the long run, it can affect your grades and your credibility in the eyes of your professors. There is a saying that goes ‘dance like nobody is watching.’ You don’t have to dance across campus (you can if it’ll get you moving faster), but what you do have to do is act like everyone is watching and, more importantly, you need to watch yourself. Hold yourself accountable and be a responsible student by being as punctual as possible.

If you need to imagine that annoying bell to put a little pep in your step, then do so. Do whatever it is you need to do to be on time because you can’t seize your education if you aren’t present the entire time.

Education

Happy first day of autumn! Who’s looking forward to hot cocoa, scarves, and bundling up with a good read? To say that we’re excited would be an understatement. Now that summer is over, it’s time for a fresh reading list. Here are the eight books at the top of our reading list…

1. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan

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2. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster

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3. The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us by Diane Ackerman

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4. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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5. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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6. Unspeakable And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum

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7. What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

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8. Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil Wars by Karen Abbott

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What books are you reading this fall?

Image: Abhi Sharma, Flickr

EducationSkills

With the holiday break so close, studying for finals may not be the most exciting thing on your to-do list. However, exam week is critical and because of its importance, it can cause major stress. For us during finals week – as much as procrastination tried to distract us – starting to study early was super helpful. That way, when our finals test date crept up, we didn’t need to cram all night and we had a little more confidence. As painful as finals week is, you have the power to take control. There are many little useful tricks to help you study – hopefully one of these works for you!

Create a plan.
Before you dive in to your mounds of paperwork, old tests, and study guides, create a clear guideline for the most important topics you’ll need to know for each test. This way, when you spend hours studying, you will be studying the material that will be most useful. Also, set aside hours of your day for studying for each class/test instead of just studying when you feel like it. When you have a clear plan, you’re more likely to follow it.

Take 5-10 minute breaks.
For every 55-60 minutes that you study, take a 5-10 minute study break. Whether you are transitioning between topics or just need to clear your head for a bit, do something completely different to take your mind off of what you spent the last hour reading and practicing. Don’t be fooled, break time is not wasted time.

Designate a study area for a certain period of time, then change it up.
Spend the morning studying history at the library, and then move to a cafe to study English in the afternoon. When you’re back in your dorm or at home that evening, round out your day by practicing math equations at your desk. If you sit in one place all day long, you’ll start to get distracted and bored. Everything will feel like it is blending together. Switch up your environment for a change of scenery and for the walking breaks.

Start studying early.
As hard as it is to avoid procrastination, starting to study early is the best thing you can do for yourself. Since it is no surprise as to when finals are in the year, you can plan out your study days accordingly. Try to give yourself at least one month to study before finals week. During your first week of studying, you won’t necessarily need to buckle down and study as hard as you will in the third and fourth week. Use the first couple of weeks to review all of the material, start from the beginning, and refresh your memory.

Find a focus point.
Designate something to be your source of comfort. For instance, a favorite family photo, your childhood teddy bear, a soft tennis ball to squeeze, or a funny comic strip. Then, when you get anxious or nervous before your test, pull out your little object to bring some laughter, happiness, and focus back into your mind.

Walk/Jog/Dance.
Get those endorphins going! Cardio is good for your memory and health, and a quick dance break might be just what you need to remember a tricky equation or definition.

Laugh. A lot.
Just as you need your cardio break, you also need to laugh! Laughing relives tension and stress, so don’t be shy. Laugh away. Watch a hilarious video your friend sent you, listen to your favorite comedian, or crack a couple of silly jokes with friends.

Talk to your professor.
If you start studying early, you can create a list of questions you may have to ask your teacher. Swing by his or her office hours and discuss anything you might find confusing. Also, be sure to ask in class or during office hours what exactly will be on the test. Your teacher might not be willing to share that information, but it never hurts to ask. When you start early and arrive prepared, you will be more confident come test day.

Memory aids.
Maybe writing equations or definitions down on flash cards will help you remember them. Maybe acting out a Shakespeare scene will help you better understand the themes and major plot points. Turning the capitals of countries you need to memorize into a song or poem will definitely spark a reminder during the test. Do what works for you and be creative!

Study with friends/classmates.
But only if it makes sense for you. You want to study with people who are motivated to learn the material and who have been paying attention in class. Everyone should equally contribute to the conversation or that time spent with a group is just not worth it. If you find a good group to work with, divide up the material between your peers and have everyone come to the study sessions with their sections filled-in with useful information. When the group can help each other and maximize time and be efficient, it is a win-win for everyone involved.

Avoid the dreaded all-nighter.
It might sound tempting to stay up all night before the test to cram that last bit of information. However, if you stay up all night, you’ll be exhausted for your exam the next morning. What you study last-minute the night before will have little impact on your overall knowledge of the content, so it’s better to get eight hours of sleep so you feel refreshed, quick, and comfortable.

Enjoy healthy snacks.
Want to munch on something while you study? Snack on carrots, apples and peanut butter, popcorn, and almonds. Avoid sugary sodas, energy drinks, and too much caffeine, as that will just give you a sugar crash that you did not need.

Breathe.
When you feel your heart starting to race when you’re studying from the anxiety about test day, put everything down and just breathe. You’ve taken tests before, you’ve done the work all quarter/semester, and you’ve read the material. Breathe deeply for a count of 10 seconds, think about positive outcomes only, take a break if you need it, and then get back to work with a more relaxed attitude.

Good luck with your finals! You got this!