Stories That Shape Us

book“Stories shape our assumptions, expectations, and realities. Stories, whether personal, cultural, academic, or otherwise, teach us about the world.” Provost Bridget Newell’s introduction to the Stories that Shape Us presentation at Bucknell’s Weis Center quieted the chattering, sociable audience of Bucknell students. This event featured seven professors of various departments presenting their own stories that have shaped them. In college, Bridget told us, “we have the chance to examine, revise, and explore our own stories.” These professors’ wisdom and diversity of voice can help us develop new perspectives and insights or substantiate our personal values and beliefs. They might even help us shape our own stories.

Provided is a summary of the impactful speeches Bucknell professors delivered. 

  1. The Inextricable Link of Sexuality and Gender

Nikki Young and Coralynn Davis – Women and Gender Studies

Professor Nikki Young and Professor Coralynn Davis of the Women and Gender Studies department walked onto stage and asked us to close our eyes. They asked us to reflect on when we first began to realize we were a sexual being – that is, associating with one gender or another. After a moment of reflection, they numbered the various possibilities that might have popped into our minds. Was it when our room was painted blue or pink? Our first kiss?  There is no right answer because an individual’s sexuality may shift over time and in different spaces. They then narrated a crucial moment of their own gendered identity – when they came out as lesbian. The pain. The freedom. The confusion. “Aren’t we still the same people we were before?” Coralynn wondered. “Maybe, maybe not,” she answered herself.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are inextricably linked. They explained, “sexuality, (our own and the category itself) intersects with other social identities.” When we associate with being female or male or heterosexual or homosexual, society unconsciously ties signifiers to our identity. One piece of identity creates another piece, causing sexuality to be shaped “by history and cultural context.” Coralynn and Nikki substantiated this through personal anecdotes. Coralynn spoke of her time at college during the 1980’s. It was the height of feminism which helped shape the course of her development as a lesbian. Nikki talked about her extreme minority status- an African American lesbian. What does it mean, she wondered, to be a black queer woman? She didn’t answer her own question.

The middle-aged professors both proved that any examination of oneself is a lifelong process with no concrete answers or directions.


2. One Week in June: Making Race, Making History

Michael James- Political Science

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” – Marx, The 19th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

Professor Michael James noted that Karl Marx’s assertion from 1852 relates to the racially spurred events that occurred in June 2015. Professor James spoke of Rachel Doleful, the African American female president of NAACP, who was revealed to be white and he spoke of Dylann Roof, the suspected white male who entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, killing 9 people. The farce and tragedy of June substantiates Marx’s argument that “we make our own history but we don’t choose it, we inherit it.” Whether good or bad, history’s omnipresence haunts us “like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” We can try to change the norms of the institutions and societal standards around us but, that is exactly it, all we can do is change. There is no blank slate we are born into.

Professor James, relating Marx’s thought to race, counts four ways that we make race:

  1. Collectively, not individually
  2. Unintentionally, more than Intentionally
  3. Under circumstances inherited from a history (and present) of racial oppression
  4. Under conditions of unequal power

He left the audience with two questions: How will you make race? How will you make history?


3. Religion and Spirituality

Rebecca Joseph – Chaplain for the Bucknell Jewish Community

Rabbi Rebecca Joseph began the presentation of her own story through song. After the last note, she asked us to raise our hands if we were wondering what is she doing, why is she doing that, why is she doing that here. She explained that this song celebrates the Jewish ritual Havdalah. Havdalah, literally meaning to separate, is the distinction between holy time and daily activities – the blessings that discern darkness and light.

This ritual provides her meaning and purpose to the rest of her week. More importantly, this ritual grants her the power to actively shape and create her own story, a story that involves trying to make the world a kinder place. By letting the audience observe her intimate ritual, she showed us her way of making change in the world. Just in that one song, she made an impact on the hundreds of people in the audience: people quieted, listened, and some may have relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful song. It caused me to wonder, how can we engage in our own rituals to do better for the world?


4. Gender Through My Lens

Atiya Stokes-Brown – Political Science

In Atiya’s family, football reigned supreme. Fall was about buffalo wings, jerseys, and “the game.” When Stokes-Brown was ten, her uncle said to her, “football is for the guys. It’s never too early for a young lady to learn her place in the world. Now go back to the kitchen.” She wondered how her biological presence determines her place in either the kitchen or living room. She asked us, “How do we reconcile demands for equality with sex?” Sex is pure biology and gender is the social construct. So, to be a woman means to be the female sex biologically and have the feminine characteristics and behaviors that different cultures attribute to women.

Different cultures attribute different behaviors to women and men though. Gender therefore can’t be constructed independently of race, class, ethnicity, and nationality – the equation of womanhood or manhood would be incomplete. Atiya then brought up Serena Williams. As we have seen this week and as we have seen for years, the discourse surveilling her approach, her competitiveness, her appearance “creates her as an ‘other.’” As a strong black woman, there are everyday challenges to her womanhood. Atiya finished with an anecdote of her own challenges as a black woman. A white man didn’t offer her his seat in the pediatrics office. Yet, when a white female walked in, he jumped up and said, “I always offer my seat to woman, as I gentleman should.” Atiya bluntly asked him, “Ain’t I women too?” Who is to say whether Atiya, Serena Williams, or any woman who doesn’t fit into the social constructs of womanhood, “ain’t a woman”? Atiya left us with the dates “1851-2015” in boldface letters on the presentation screen.


5.  Being an Ally, Advocate, or Active Bystander: To Be is To Do

Sheila Lintott- Philosophy

We have all heard the term “bystander effect” ad nauseum. Strategically, Professor Sheila Lintott approached the bystander effect in another way. She presented us with the term upstander: a person who stands up for his or her beliefs. “Doing nothing”, Sheila noted, “is easiests. If someone takes time to talk to you [for doing something they disapprove of], you are worth their time.” She gave an example that resonated in the audience: the controversy surrounding Caitlyn Jenner. She was talking with a friend who made an inappropriate comment regarding Jenner’s gender change. Sheila, not agreeing with the comment, simply replied “certain people’s experiences go far beyond your own.” By holding her friend accountable for her words, she hoped she made a difference in her friend’s mindset. She also noted that she would want to be held accountable for her actions so she can learn from them. Maya Angelou’s inspirational quote summarizes Sheila’s story beautifully: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”


In Closing

Throughout these presentations, students were asked to engage with the speakers through the social media forum Yik-Yak. Students had a lot to say. Comments covered all aspects of the various emotional spectrums – positive, negative, enlightened, angry, interested, confused. The presentation had reached a goal that can be difficult to achieve among college students: engagement. Students had heard their professors’ stories and now were developing their own insights and reactions to them.

Provost Bridget Newell left us with this: “we have the power to shape our community, how will we do that?”


Tea Time: 6 Reasons Why Students Should Drink More Tea



“Prince Dharma was touched by Divine grace and went out to preach the teachings of Buddha in China. To make himself worthy of such a mission, he vowed never to sleep during the nine years of his journey. Towards the end of the third year, however, he was overcome by drowsiness and was about to fall asleep when by chance he plucked a few leaves from a wild tea plant and began to chew them. The stimulating qualities of tea immediately had their effect; Dharma felt much more alert and thereafter attributed the strength he found to stay awake during the six remaining years of his apostolic mission to these leaves.” 1

Thus goes the Indian legend surrounding the origins of tea. Tea, founded in China, has been around since 2737 BC. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) tea drinking became an art form and a refined part of everyday life. During this time, a man who grew up in a monastery, Lu Yu, wrote The Book of Tea, the most prominent and influential book in Chinese tea culture. Lu Yu transcribed a “detailed account of ways to cultivate and prepare tea, tea drinking customs, the best water for tea brewing and different classifications of tea.” 2  Also during this century, tea spread to Japan, where only the rich and monks imbibed for medicinal purposes. The monks drank the tea in order to stay awake for long meditations, which explains why tea is so closely associated to Zen Buddhism. 3 As the practice of tea drinking spread from the nobles and monks in Japan to the common people, it simultaneously spread across Asia. Tea then arrived in Europe in the 17th century. And, finally, reached the “New World” on the ships of English and Dutch settlers, where it was so impactful that it altered our country’s history. Today, tea is now the most popular beverage in the world after water, with 15,000 cups drank every second.  1

I won’t tell you not to get your morning cup of joe for obvious reasons, but I will tell you some compelling facts about tea’s many benefits that go far beyond the realm of a caffeinated boost. Here are just the top five reasons why I think more students should consider consuming this aromatic beverage.

  1. Improves Memory

Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland found that consuming green tea enhances memory. The researchers divided participants into two groups. One group was given green tea (27.5 grams of green tea extract in a beverage) and the other was given a placebo. Neither groups knew what drink they were given. The researchers “found that participants who drank the beverage containing green tea extract performed better on the memory tasks” due to a “distinctly different activation pattern between their frontal and parietal lobes.” 5 Researchers believe green tea could aid in treating cognitive impairment disorders such as dementia. 5

  1. Boosts Focus and Concentration

Green and white tea contain high amounts of L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea plants. L-theanine, with the help of  caffeine, boosts concentration and alertness. 7

  1. Cleanses Liver

Tea can help us balance the damage we do to our liver from drinking alcohol. Research from Japan shows, “tea is a powerful antidote to the effects of alcohol” due to theanine that “accelerates the breakdown of acetaldehyde” which is a toxic byproduct of alcohol breakdown. Theanine also “blocks toxic radicals,” that our bodies produce when breaking down alcohol.

In simpler terms, theanine accelerates the removal of alcohol from our body. 8 I suggest trying dandelion root tea for a thorough liver detox. 

  1. Relieves Stress

A study by University College London researchers found “that people who drank tea were able to de-stress more quickly than those who drank a fake tea substitute.”9 Moreover, they found that those who drank “a black tea concoction four times a day for six weeks – were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood after a stressful event, compared with a control group who drank the fake or placebo tea for the same period of time.” Drinking green tea has similar results due to the polyphenols in green tea which reduce stress levels and the damaging impacts stress has on brain, “while increasing levels of calming chemicals in the body.” 10


  1. Promotes Better Sleep

College students are one of the most sleep deprived populations, with 70% of college students who have reported sleeping problems and 50% suffering from daytime sleepiness. 11 Drinking tea, which contains theanine, provides the perfect solution for students who want to get a good night’s sleep but not necessarily a longer one. Theanine is “able to improve the quality of sleep, speed recovery from exhaustion, and promote refreshing feelings after sleep.” 12  This is perfect for people who want to get a good night’s sleep but not necessarily a longer one. Just make sure when you reach for the tea at night, you choose decaf!

  1. Strengthens Immune System

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study that found how substances in tea boosts the body’s immunity by fighting off infections. Many habits that college students engage in can lead to a weakened immune system such as sleep deprivation, stress, and living situations. 13

This study found that:

“This latest study shows how chemicals—known as alkylamines—which are commonly present in tea (as well as wine, apples, mushrooms, and other sources), are also present in some bacteria, cancerous cells, parasites, fungi, and other disease-causing agents. Drinking tea may be able to prime the body’s immune system against these agents, by teaching disease-fighter immune cells to recognize and remember alkylamines.” 13

To learn 13 MORE reasons why drinking tea is good for you, read Time Magazine’s article here.

My own experience drinking tea is the inspiration behind this article. As I huddled up next to my computer brainstorming about what to write about, I took a slow sip of my hot tea. As the aromas wafted into my nose and the tea dripped down my throat, warming my insides, I immediately felt at ease. I thought about how drinking tea has changed the way I work and relax. Now, here I am, hoping it can have the same effect on you.


XX & 3 Cups of Teatea






  1.  “The History of Tea.” History of Tea. Bruits De Palais, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  2. “The History of Tea.” Chinese Tea., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  3.  “The History of Tea.” The History & Origin of Tea. Teavana Corp., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  4.  “The History of Tea.” History of Tea. Bruits De Palais, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  5.  DiSalvo, David. “New Study Shows That Green Tea Boosts Working Memory.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  6.  DiSalvo, David. “New Study Shows That Green Tea Boosts Working Memory.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  7.  Mitchell, Terri. “Theanine.” Life Extension, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  8.  “Hangover Prevention.” Life Extension, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  9. “Black Tea Can Soothe Away Stress.” (EUFIC).The European Food Information Council, 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  10.  “10 Ways to Reduce Stress.” Psychologies. Kelsey Media Ltd, Feb. 2011. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  11. Hershner, Shelley D., and Ronald D. Chervin. “Causes and Consequences of Sleepiness among College Students.” Nature and Science of Sleep. Dove Medical Press, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  12. “Theanine Super Nutrient.” Body Concepts Nutritionals. Body Concepts Group Pty Ltd, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  13.  Pickrell, John. “Tea Boosts Immunity and Helps Skin, Study Finds.”National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Apr. 2003. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
  14.  Pickrell, John. “Tea Boosts Immunity and Helps Skin, Study Finds.”National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Apr. 2003. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

The Cognitive Benefits of Going Outside


William Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours.” In this poem, he portrays a rift between humans and the natural world. We are increasingly losing connection to nature even though it is scientifically proven that we feel better when we bond with nature. Evolutionary psychologist Edward O. Wilson deemed this hypothesis “biophilia” to explain the “instinctive bond exists between humans and other living systems.” Not only are there social, behavioral, and health benefits that the natural world can provide, but there are also immense cognitive benefits from interacting with nature. You can actually improve your academic productivity by taking a break from studying. So, if you need any motivation to take a break from your studies to get outside, you have come to the right place.

Improved Short Term Memory
The Psychological Science Journal published a study done at Ann Arbor found that going for nature walks helps improve memory by 20%.
“University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups. One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other half took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The ones who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve.”  1

Improved Concentration
In a similar study to the one above, students were divided into three groups. One group took a walk through the city, one through nature, and the rest relaxed. All three groups then took a proofreading test. The nature walkers had the highest score. Researches wrote, “The attentional effect of nature is so strong it might help kids with ADHD, who have been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park. ‘Doses of nature’ might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool … for managing ADHD symptoms.”  1

Restored Mental Energy
We have all been that person sitting in Betrand with no life behind our eyes unknowingly staring at a wall and when we snap back into it, we realize a half hour has gone by – well, I know I have atleast been this person. Mental fatigue is a condition manifested by low productivity, alertness, and energy. Just by being outside, we connect to the earth’s energy (how much of a hippy do I sound like right now…but it is true!). The restorative elements of nature boost energy by reducing stress hormones and lowering blood pressure. Studies also show that “sunlight can also increase the body’s production of serotonin, which lifts mood and increases energy.” 3

Enhanced Creative Thinking
German and U.S. researchers found that even just viewing the color green enhances creative performance, so surrounding yourself with lush vegetation could have amazing cognitive effects.
“Participants in the study were either shown the colour green, white, red, gray or blue. After a brief glimpse they were asked to complete a creative task.
For example, in one task participants were asked to list as many creative ways to use a tin can. In another, participants were asked to list as many ’round things’ they could think of.
Their data revealed a strong correlation: participants who were shown a brief glimpse of green had increased levels of creative performance.
Basically, those who saw green came up with more interesting ways to use a tin can and included absurdly round things in their list.” 4
We need to get outside the box in order to see outside the box.

The dock near the Gateways, the farm at Ards, and the bike trail all provide a natural respite. Also, the scenic Susquehanna River that runs through Lewisburg offers a wide array of outdoor adventures that await us before it becomes too cold out. These activities include kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and more. To learn about some planned activities through emails and meetings, join Bucknell’s Outing Club.


  1. “Friedman, Lauren F. “11 Scientifically Proven Reasons You Should Be Spending Less Time in the Office.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 30 June 2015. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
  2. “Friedman, Lauren F. “11 Scientifically Proven Reasons You Should Be Spending Less Time in the Office.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 30 June 2015. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
  3.  Krusak, Kristen. “9 Energy Boosters.” Real Simple. Time, Inc., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.
  4.  “Go Wander: How Meandering in the Outdoors Can Enhance Creativity.” Crew Blog. N.p., 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.

The Importance of Yoga for Students


Yoga classes have been popping up more and more around college campuses partly due to the unhealthy amount of stress students face on a daily basis. Chronic anxiety takes a toxic toll on the body and mind and yoga provides an outlet. Although I am far from a yoga aficionado, I am always happy when the semester starts back up and I can try out the plethora of yoga classes Bucknell’s KLARC center offers. I always feel the benefits of attending even just one class a week. Yoga allows me to release my stresses, embrace the present moment, and appreciate myself and my surroundings. Yoga’s benefits also extend into my hours and even days after the class. Here are some compelling reasons to attend a class:

Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress

According to the American Yoga Association, anxiety increases when we don’t exercise because our muscles build tension, our breathing becomes constricted, and our mind undergoes a state of restlessness. By performing the practice, we regulate our breath while relaxing our body, and by doing so, we release muscle tension and flush fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients throughout our brain and body. Additionally, by concentrating simply on inhale and exhale, we recenter our awareness to our essential being: our breath.1

Increase Focus and Brain Function

Concentrating on one’s inner self and breath while reducing anxiety and stress leads to impressive cognitive results. In 2013, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people who did hatha-style yoga for 20 minutes performed better on brain tests that measured focus and working memory than people who walked or ran on a treadmill for the same length of time. Study lead Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, observed:

“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of  information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout….The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.” 2

Improve Sleep Quality

Between balancing academics, extracurricular activities, and a social life, sometimes sleep isn’t our first priority. According to a study conducted at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, “70 percent of college students receive less than the eight recommended hours of sleep.”3 Yet sleep is vital for a person’s health and well-being. The most important component to falling asleep is having a calm mind when you hit the pillow. Yoga can aid in this. The International Journal of Yoga has found that the slowing of breath and focus on the present shifts the “balance from sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response,” and as a result, lowers heart rate. Thus lowered heart rate creates tranquility, a greater sense of well-being, and less anxiety. By converting what we learned in yoga into our mindset as we wind down for the night, we have the power to normalize our sleep cycle. Asanas, pranayama, and yoganidre all relieve any stress, tension, and fatigue you may be feeling, providing you the power you need to fall asleep and creating a more restful slumber.4

Additionally, substantial evidence concludes that sleep plays an essential role in learning and memory processes. Scientists have recently been able to manipulate sleep to reach such conclusions. Many studies have found the absence of sleep impairs neurocognitive processes (among other processes), thus resulting in worsened school performance. By sleeping more, we can actually study less.5

Appreciate Yourself and Feel Powerful

Yoga has taught me to not be so hard on myself but rather thankful for myself. I realize that I don’t need to stress the small stuff and, by doing so, I develop a new perspective of problems I am facing. Certain poses, such as the warrior II pose, awaken my own power. By working every muscle and releasing tensions, I feel the connection, both mentally and physically, between relaxation and strength. As I search for stillness of body, I end up discovering stillness of mind. I also feel better about myself because even the simple act of attending a yoga class adds balance to my life and achieving a balanced life is essential for my personal effectiveness and happiness.

Other benefits of practicing yoga include boosting immunity, perfecting posture, lowering blood sugar, building awareness, improving relationships, and encouraging self-care . It’s no wonder that a study by the Yoga Journal found that 20 million people in the US practice yoga. If you haven’t yet joined the yoga revolution, here is your chance. Namaste.

Yoga teachers (and my house mates!) Heather and Chloe strike a yoga pose after a successful and sweat inducing yoga class.


KLARC Yoga schedule:

9-10: Vinyasa Yoga with Keri (will begin in Oct)
3:30-4:30: Yoga with Chloe
6:30-7:30: Restorative Yoga with Taylor

9-10: Yoga with Lisa
4:30-5:30: Power Vinyasawith Heather
9-10: Vinyasa Yoga with Keri (will begin in Oct)
9-10: Yoga with Lisa
3:30-4:30: Power Vinyasa with Heather
7:30-8:30: Yoga with Chloe
4:30-5:30: Yoga with Staci

mindfulness yoga

Sources cited:

1. “How Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress.” American Yoga Association. American Yoga Association, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.

2. Castillo, Michelle. “Yoga May Improve Focus, Ability to Remember New Things.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 10 June 2013. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.

3. Shragge, Rebecca. “Sleep Deprivation Soars among College Students.” The Aggie. The California Aggie, 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>

4. “” Yoga and Insomnia., 5 Aug. 2008. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

5. Woodyard, Catherine. “Abstract.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Dec. 0005. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.

  1.  “How Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress.” American Yoga Association. American Yoga Association, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.
  2.  Castillo, Michelle. “Yoga May Improve Focus, Ability to Remember New Things.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 10 June 2013. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.