Consumerism and the Wandering Eye

This semester is my final semester as an undergraduate student! Yay and ahhh! It being my last semester and me being the person I am to take as many classes as possible in every prior semester, I was left with some space in my schedule to take classes that interested me, but I never had time for.

Two of my courses this semester that are so different, yet so similar are, Eating American Literature and Psychology of Women. I know, I know. You, just like myself at the beginning of the year think that there is no way these two things have anything to do with each other. Well we were both completely wrong.

I took Eating American Lit as my last ever elective (well technically I ended up building it into my program). Me in an English class was already something I couldn’t imagine in a million years. Then I was taking Psychology of Women as my last Women’s Studies course for the minor (that I ended up not having). Both so vastly different topics. In Lit we read books and discuss the meanings behind different words. We uncovered the food industry and developed an appreciation for farmers. And Women’s Psych, though interesting, is a typical lecture course. We are learning about so many injustices that women have faced over the last… well actually always.

It wasn’t until right before Spring Break that we really started digging deep into consumerism in the food industry. While reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbra Kingsolver, we read about marketing and food labels. This was also covered  in Micheal Pollen’s book, Omnivores DilemmaAll of the work and time and effort that goes into just the wrappings of a food item are unreal. There are hundreds of people who’s jobs are to tap into the agrarian nostalgia, which basically is the concept that everyone has some sort of need to be connected to their food and where it comes from. People buy things if it makes them feel something. They buy them because they have some big open fields with cows in them and they think that means the cows that made their milk had a great life full of wide open spaces. Thats not the case.

But how does that connect to Psych of Women? Well while learning about relationships and attraction, we compared the psychology or what runs through a woman’s mind when dating verses a man’s. There was so much covered in these chapters; sex drive, attraction, dating and relationships are much more psychological than I once believed.

Dating and marriage are almost like consumerism. This is a larger stretch than saying that consumerism is all psychology, but what kind of IDS student would I be if I didn’t think outside of the box.

Photo by Micheal Stern

Picture this: you are at the store looking to buy some hamburger meat. You see all of the tightly wrapped portions that are perfectly weighed. But you are looking for some good quality meat to bring to your first BBQ of the summer. When one label catches your eye. Is it the green font, or the big lettering that says FDA certified Organic, that has you reaching for the patties?

The same can almost be said about dating. Now picture this: you are single and ready to mingle at the hot new bar in town. You have just gotten out of a long term

Photo by Byronv2

relationship and you are looking to meet new people and hopefully find a

meaningful connection. As your eyes wander the dimly lit bar you filter through the crowd of lovely ladies. When all of a sudden your eyes stop on a brunette with a sleek blue top on and a smile as bright as the moon. You find yourself standing up and walking her way.

So what is the difference?

How IDS Has Changed My Life

Rounds Hall- Plymouth State University

I came to Plymouth to become a teacher and I stayed for the people. I tell this to my tours every time I have one. To describe just one experience that I have had that has changed the way I view the world is almost impossible. Every single day that I have been on this campus has contributed to make me the person I am today. Working at the SAGE Center my first year at college opened my eyes and heart so wide. Discovering the Counseling Center my sophomore year saved my life in more ways than one. Being Student Body President allowed me to meet so many amazing people and do things I would have never imagined doing by the time I was 22. Working in Admissions and traveling with counselors has opened so many doors for me. But there is one experience that has changed my life forever, and that is the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.

Like I said earlier, I came to PSU to be a Health Teacher. And that is just what I did for my first seven semesters of college, the only thing left between me and that certificate was my final semester and student teaching. The summer leading into my Senior year I realized that I no longer wanted to be a teacher for a number of reasons, but I was just going to continue in the program because I was almost done. About one month into the Fall semester of my senior year I knew I had to change something in my life, because I was no longer happy with what I was doing.

The Quest:

Fall Leaves and Ayla Feet

My soul search, as well as an actual search, to find my happiness began almost instantly. I was researching graduate programs, attempting new coping skills for my anxiety about teaching, and searching for a way out of student teaching. I was so scared and nervous to tell people, because I always like to seem like I have my life together. I remember the first person I told that I didn’t want to teach; Dr. Shedd stood up from her desk and walked over to the couch where I was in tears and gave me a hug. She told me how proud she was of me and how everything was going to be okay.

After that day the news just poured out of my mouth. I needed to find out if there was any way to graduate on time, with a degree, and without having the last seven semesters go to waste. My emailing was endless, my answers unclear, and my time was running out. By the end of the week I had a list of names, some meetings, and somewhat of a plan.

I’ll skip to the part where I get happy!!

The meetings all led me to Dr. Robin DeRosa, the Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (IDS). She informed me that it could work. Could being the key word here, because I would have to build a program that was brand new from the courses that I had already taken and sell it as something unlike anything else at PSU. I also would have to take the Intro and Capstone classes at the same time, which is basically crazy.

Photo By: Sara Noyes

Call me crazy!!! The next day I had an appointment with Dr. Shedd (my Women’s Studies Advisor) and Dr. Busanich. Both of these women have been such supporters of me over the past few years and both have expertise in the fields that I was wanting to combine, health and women’s  studies. This meeting went better than I ever could have imagined. We had workshop and picked every single class that I was going to include in my program.

Fast forward to Spring semester of my Senior year. I was in a new major, I had a new life plan, and I was finally happy. Being a part of such an amazing major such as IDS, even for the short amount of time I have been, has already changed my life so greatly. I have found my voice in academia. I am able to stand up for what I believe in inside and outside of the classroom for the first time in my life. I am in control of my education and how I spend my time, and oh do I wish I had found it sooner.

Plymouth State University Panther Statue

It truly took a village to get me where I am today. Without the support of all of the staff I interacted with through my college career and this journey in particular I wouldn’t be here. I have found my bliss at Plymouth, but I came here for an education and I stayed for the people.



**This was my Top 20 Essay, which I just recently found out I was selected for**

HIV/AIDS Awareness Through Dance

Applied Drama and Theater As an Interdisciplinary Field in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Africa, was an interesting article (exert of a book). All different disciplines coming together to create a truly educational experience that was entertaining. I never really thought about dance being so educational, I usually saw it in a more as beautiful entertainment.

This experience combined health, history, dance, story telling, and poetry all together to tell the stories of HIV in Africa. Not only were the disciplines varying, but so were the people involved. There are dancers, teachers, choreographers, and was a collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Sport (MoES), the Ministry of Health (MoH), UNICEF and School Health Education Project (SHEP).

All of these different organizations came together to pull knowledge from all

Photo by Daniel Dudek

different areas to create a final piece. This article was more like a book that covered all of the different interworkings of the performance and the steps it took to get there. The table of contents has it broken down so well. Each section is written by someone else and their point of view. Patrick Mangeni and David Kerr wrote about Setting the Scene when Alexandra Sutherland wrote about Innovation in Research Practice/Theory and the names and sections go on and on.

To me dance is one of those very interdisciplinary areas. Depending on the story that is being told there is a different discipline that is the main focus using dance to convey that message or story.



But Why am I a Feminist?

My mission of finding a new feminist every day and tweeting about them has come to a close. I have asked every person the same three questions:

1) Why are you a feminist?

2) What does feminism mean to you?

3) Why is feminism important?

These were the questions that people had to choose from. They were put on the spot most of the time and had to come up with an answer that was 140 characters or less. Many people responded so well to the project, wanting to know more, see what other people were saying and really asking themselves the questions for once. Many of my interviewees didn’t know why they were a feminist at first, some were opened to the world of feminism, but most of all education and awareness was spread.

At first this wasn’t going to be my capstone project. I was going to do something different that was all about periods and I was also going to do the tweet a day during Women’s History Month (March). That would have been a huge undertaking I think.

My quest to find feminists was one of the most exciting things I have done! When I went on vacation I had the opportunity to meet new people and pose them with a question that they have never faced before. I would have to say that my interviews with strangers were my favorite ones to conduct, because I had no backstory of them and didn’t know how they would react. Were these people conservatives? Didi they even believe in feminism? I mean it was the South….

But, if anything this project truly taught me why I am a feminist. I never thought about it much. I was interested in so many things surrounding women’s equality and representation in societies, but I developed a full blown passion for feminism during the month of March. And I’m cheating right now, because my interview with myself will not and cannot be limited to 140 characters. So sorry folks that I interviewed who had too.

  1. Why am I a feminist?
    • This is the winded question. The one many people answered, but also deterred so many others. The word feminist almost had this negative energy to it. People imagine aggressive, cut throat women who hate men and want a world without them. I am a feminist, that is not as scary as this seems (at least in my eyes. Let me know if I am.). I am a feminist for all those that cannot. I am the voice for the women who do not have the right to theirs. I am in charge of my own body and who I allow into my life. I am an advocate.
  2. What does feminism mean to me? How do I define it?
    • To me, feminism is the advocacy and belief that all humans are created equal and have the same rights no matter, gender, sexuality, race or religion. That
      just because you were born with certain genitals does not make you any less of a human. And that you are in charge of your own autonomy.
  3. Why is feminism important?
    • If I had to pick a question this one is my favorite. Feminism itself, as a movement was important, but also today serves a much greater purpose. The word feminist, despite the negative correlation, has become a household word. People have a general idea of what it is. This itself is educating the world! I have always thought that education is our path to success, in all forms. Feminism has allowed discussion. It has allowed debate. It has allowed for so much, because of it being in the public and the media. This is why I did this project.

So Ayla, why did you do this project?

Well I wanted to do just what question three was displaying. I wanted to bring light to the word feminism. I wanted to show that all walks of life are feminists. I had People of Color (POC), men, women, homosexuals, elderly, and young people all participate. I had people of all different career paths, political beliefs and religions, the only thing I didn’t have was a child (which I totally should have done). I wanted to almost redefine what the word feminist was. I want to get as far away from that scary idea that people have about what a feminist has to be. Because in the end there is no true definition to what feminism is to someone, or why they are one, or why they think it is important. Feminism is all about celebrating diversity and accepting of our differences. And to me that is truly beautiful.

Check out all of my tweet interviews on my twitter @aylavirginia for more!