Have You Heard?

New Students

The Help

Most people do not like talking about their problems, whether they are academic, financial or emotional – especially at a place like Duke. The stigma attached to mental health issues do not mix well with the Duke community. Things become a lot more daunting when there are unrelenting expectations to be the perfect student with an immaculate academic record; this quickly tears away at one’s self-esteem and life.

When I first arrived on campus, two years ago, I was ambitious and ready to tackle whatever was thrown at me. However, following my first semester, I realized that things were not fine. I used to conquer school, but now it was conquering me. I had no one to talk to about what was going on inside my head. I thought, ‘people have their own issues to deal with’. I did not want to be a burden. Speaking about how poorly I was doing in my classes would be humiliating. In addition, being 3,000 miles away from my home did not help my situation.

No one ever thinks that they will suffer from depression until it actually happens. Before leaving for college, I always thought that I was healthy and happy with my life. I never thought that my life would spiral out of control. I isolated myself from everyone because I did not want to be perceived as crazy. I found myself unable to escape the clutches of my bed. If it was not for a close friend of mine recommending CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) to me, I am sure that I probably would have been kicked out of school.

CAPS is a beautiful thing- it really is. Before ever walking in to my first appointment, I thought that I was going to be bombarded with questions by a psychologist that thought I was crazy. That was not the case. I was asked to talk about everything that was bothering me: school, family, money, etc. I was given the opportunity to vent to someone who I knew would not judge me - they just listened and gave advice. As I continued to visit regularly, I began to feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I was able to breathe throughout the day with ease. Most importantly, I started to do well in school again.

If I could offer any advice to an incoming student, it would be to make an appointment at CAPS if they are ever going through some tough times. I know that the easiest thing to do is to bottle up your emotions, but that will only make things worse. Remember to always take care of yourself first.

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Giving to Gain

Hello Class of 2018! My name is Gabrielle Sawyer and I am a rising junior studying Public Policy and Markets and Management. I have just returned home to Washington, D.C. after spending a very eventful semester in SoCal with Duke in Los Angeles. In addition to taking courses with USC and Duke professors, I interned at Overbrook Entertainment on the Sony Pictures Studio lot. The decision to trade in Durham for Hollywood was an uncanny one given my calculated nature. Before leaving, I was a straight-laced pre-med student wary of exploring my lingering interests for film and media. Given the traditional nature of Duke, I never thought it possible to make a living in the entertainment industry. My perspective began to change as I connected with Duke alumni that work as successful producers, agents, and journalists. 

Giving up pre-med has been one of the most uncomfortable and stressful decisions I have made so far at Duke. Giving up the security of a stable career track has really pushed the boundaries of myself and of my family. I sometimes worry that by not becoming a doctor, I am throwing away this extraordinary opportunity to study at such a prestigious university.

Finding that spark and that passion may not come as easy for some. I am evidence of this. It is okay to be fearful of the future. Just don’t let that fear keep you from building a life full of vigor and energy.  The worst possible thing you can do during your four years at Duke is to choose a career path that does not make you happy nor challenges your abilities as an intelligent and creative human being.
This is YOUR time. Live these four years up AND make wise decisions. Have fun!

On that note, I can’t wait to meet you all! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

-Gabby

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True Blue Peer For You

Hi Class of 2018! Congratulations on your recent graduations – now all that’s standing between you and Duke is a few months of summer!

My name is Ali Preston. I grew up in Tampa, FL, and graduated from Plant High School. After a freshman year spent taking Political Science, Religion, Finance, and German classes, along with an amazing Writing 101 class, I decided to dive – blind and headfirst – into a Psychology major and haven’t looked back.

I’ve recently placed myself in a somewhat unusual situation. I arrived at Duke with the Class of 2016, but I will leave with the Class of 2015. I decided that my college experience was meant to be shorter than the usual college experience, for a variety of personal reasons that have very little to do with the quality of my priceless Duke experience and very much to do with me and my future plans.

No matter how much time you spend at Duke, this chapter of your life can be absolutely incredible and simultaneously challenging/stressful – both academically and socially. I want to help you take advantage of everything Duke has to offer while preserving or even improving your physical and mental health. The mental health side of this mission is especially close to my heart. I am on the leadership team of Peer For You. We not only provide an anonymous messaging service through which students can share stories of struggle and receive empathetic (if not also helpful) responses from Peer Responders, but we also try to reach out to students on a daily basis with messages of resilience, empathy, and hope, all in an effort to transform campus culture to promote trust, vulnerability, community, and connection. We are here for you from the very beginning. (I’m a TED addict, so I just thought I’d include one of my relevant favorites for your viewing pleasure.)

Through True Blue, I hope to give you some tools to make your time at Duke into the best experience of your life thus far. Know that part of navigating your Duke experience is figuring out what the “best experience” means for you.  I’m very excited about and thankful for the opportunity to welcome you all to Duke, beginning this summer and continuing through Orientation Week. Looking forward to meeting you all in August.

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Dreaming is envisioning

My parents told me that when I was a young toddler, I wanted to be a doctor, dancer, writer, flight attendant, singer, and actor all at once. I was constantly envisioning myself as a new person each time I came up with a new profession; I was always living in the future. I could never pinpoint what I wanted to do. Duke changed that.

Duke, what’s up?! My name is Hanan (rhymes with the bomb.com), and I’m a dreamer.

When I dream, I not only escape my reality, but I imagine my life in a new way. I like to stretch reality—why can’t I be a dancing doctor who writes while being a singing flight attendant that acts on the side? The truth is—I can do all of these things, and it all begins with a simple dream. I find dreaming incredibly empowering—I am in complete control, I decide, I conquer, I achieve.

Dreaming is envisioning. While my future is still a bit fuzzy, it’s slowly manifesting itself. As a Public Policy and Global Health double major at Duke, I see myself using my health policy education to become a global citizen in the world. I hope to utilize the skills I’ve gained in the classroom to contribute to our ever-changing world. My main interest lies in humanitarian work, with an emphasis on social justice/human rights issues, women’s health, and global development.

My heart lies in Africa. I’ve traveled to Africa six different times and traveled to four different countries in the continent (hopefully more countries in the future). While some may feel like they know Africa, in reality, many people’s understanding of Africa is very limited, due to the media’s negative portrayal of the continent. Mass media fails to provide a dynamic perspective of the continent, and instead unfairly emphasizing the dysfunctions of Africa. As Mos Def once said, “if Africa stands in good stead, then the globe will be positively affected.” Thus, it’s vital for people to realize the beauty of the continent, and not be so wrapped up in the media’s narrow portrayal of Africa. Africa has a special place in me—I love its rich history, culture, traditions, and diversity. It’s why I constantly find myself gravitating towards the continent; I enjoy spending weeks on end in African countries at any chance I get.

Duke helped wipe the mist off the foggy lens that is my future, but spots of fuzziness still remains. I’m confident that things will clear up by the end of my time at Duke. And your future will clear up to; everything will work out the way it should, when it should.

Stay dreamin’
Hanan

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Diversity, Change, and You

Hello! First, I would like to give you a warm welcome into the Duke community and congratulate you for making the best decision of your life by choosing to call Duke your home for the next few years.

My name is Milton Padilla, and I am originally from the greater Philadelphia area. I am a rising sophomore double majoring in Economics and Public Policy with every intention of going to law school and running for political office (Padilla 2032!). I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the country and compete with Duke’s Mock Trial team and I am so excited to be a member of the True Blue cast this fall.

College both attracts diversity and breeds change. I used to consider myself as diverse as they come; I’m Puerto Rican and Scottish, I live in a suburban town a stone’s throw away from one of the biggest cities in the country, I listen to everything from rap to alternative, yet I was amazed by the diversity of Duke’s student population. At college, you are exposed to so many different people, ideas, and interests that your worldview will assuredly change.
So for me, True blue is not just about sticking to your core values and beliefs, but also being open to the good kinds of change that college fosters. I emphasize “good” because attending college brings just as many temptations as it does freedoms.

Pressures come frequently, and even from unexpected sources. I can remember several Saturday nights when I chose to stay in and finish homework while my parents and friends back home were messaging me things like “Where’s the party tonight?” or “I’m sure you’re out with friends.” The stereotypes surrounding the college experience will stress you out at one point or another, and that is why the Duke Wellness Center is here, to support your efforts to stay healthy and balanced while you traverse the rigorous landscape of college.

It will NOT be easy, and it will test your character and your beliefs, but if you stick to your True Blue, I can assure you it will be rewarding, and a lot of fun! Good luck!

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From a small graduating class to Duke

Hi! My name’s Brooke Beason and I’m a rising sophomore from Alabama majoring in political science.  I’m super excited about being a part of the True Blue team this year. True Blue is something unique to Duke that supports freshmen through the transition to college life.

I came to Duke not really knowing what to expect at the beginning of freshman year. I had read my Blue Book and had kept mostly up to date on (read: checked constantly) the Class of 2017 Facebook page, but that didn’t prepare me for how I would feel when I arrived on campus August 20th.

Coming from a high school graduating class of 17 students (Yes, you are reading that correctly.) to a new class of 1,700 was the single most drastic change of my life. I remember looking around the first day of orientation week. I wondered to myself how some people already seemed to have surrounded themselves with new friends while I had only met my roommate and RA.

It took a little bit of time for me to adjust to college life, but eventually I settled in and had a better first year than I ever could have imagined. As classes started, I realized that having the most (or least) orientation week friends wasn’t going to make or break my Duke experience. I got more involved in the performing arts community in Pegram and made some of the best friends of my life.

That’s why I am so enthusiastic about True Blue. I remember True Blue as being a time when older students reminded me that everyone has their niche at Duke. The True Blue program tells students about transitioning into all facets of college life; it’s not just a program about alcohol safety and sexual health, although those things are important, too. It promotes a healthy lifestyle by encouraging students to eat healthy food, be active, and get enough sleep (arguably the most difficult part of college). I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to present this information to incoming freshmen and to support them as they begin their Duke careers. See you in August!

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A Red-Headed Devil Turned Blue

My 9th grade history teacher would tease me by calling me a “red-headed devil” due to my energetic personality, and the fact that I have curly, red hair.  …Plus, he had my brothers before me - you younger siblings out there know what I mean -, but I DIGRESS!  Little did I know that three years later I would go from being a red-headed devil to a Blue Devil.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Fate?  Yes!  Just like it is fate that you all were chosen to come to Duke!  Welcome Class of 2018!

To introduce myself… My name is Morgan Irons, and I am a rising sophomore.  I hail from the Historical Triangle, specifically Yorktown, Virginia, where all you see are trees and people dressed in 18th century garb!  If you ever need to know about colonial history, I got you!  Currently, I am deciding between a biophysics and an environmental science major to go along with my premed track.  I also participate in many activities on campus, from TEDxDuke to the campus beautification organization I created called The Campus Keepers.  However, even with everything that I do on campus, I still find time to hang out with friends and explore the Durham and Raleigh areas.  I promise you, you will feel more at home if you explore your surroundings.

Coming to Duke is a scary, intimidating transition, especially after you hear current Duke Students talk about all the stuff they do.  But, do not give into the insecurities and doubts that come with a new environment.  Life at Duke is more than what GPA you have, or how many activities you can pack into your schedule.  Believe me, I found myself wondering how I was chosen to attend Duke after hearing about my fellow classmates during Orientation Week.  But, my first year led me to find new meaning in my life.  I realized that who I become as a student, person, and friend is defined and created by me and my actions.  Just as you are coming into the time of your life where you can make decisions about your future, you now have the power to take the quirks and talents that you have and shape them into the version of yourself you want.  It may seem cliché to say, but no one is alike and that is one reason why you were chosen to come to Duke.  You are bringing something to the table that only you can bring.

True Blue is here to help you realize your potential and show you the wonderful Duke community you are entering.  We want you to have the best times of your life!  Just as I heard my first year when I saw the True Blue cast:  no matter the decisions you make or the pressures you feel here at Duke, stick to your True Blue!  Welcome to a place where your dreams become reality!  (That sounded mildly Disney-like.)  See you soon!

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A Brave and Startling Truth

Dr. Maya Angelou delivered the convocation address to incoming Duke students for the past 24 years. With her passing, we offer A Brave and Startling Truth, which she delivered to the Class of 2016. The poem was first delivered in June 1995, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

A Brave and Startling Truth
written by Maya Angelou
Dedicated to the hope for peace, which lies, sometimes hidden, in every heart.

We, the people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth.

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And face sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and
     daughters
Up with bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
 

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi
      who, without favor,
Nurtures all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the       
      dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people, on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That, in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing,
     irresistible tenderness,
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

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Collaboration & Change for a Common Good

 

Collaboration & Change for a Common Good
A Reflection on Collaboration in Campus Life
India Pierce and Sean Novak

 

One way that we can work effectively to create change for a common good is to work collaboratively across communities. With this in mind, India Pierce from the Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity (CSGD) came together with Sean Novak from the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA) to create a program that explored the intersections of race and sexual orientation. As part of the CMA’s En/Countering Racism series (E/C), they created a program for students to gather and explore intersectionality. This was done in order to deepen participants’ understanding of themselves and others as a means to building stronger coalitions for social justice.

En/Countering Racism is one part of the CMA’s Race Speaks Initiative. The series aims to provide a safe space for people to share their experiences encountering racism and build participants’ capacity to effectively counter it. The more we explore intersectionality, the more we will see that life is much more complex than our politically polarized times might suggest.

In the beginning, the focus was on doing good works and providing students the opportunity to enrich their understanding of themselves and others. However, in the midst of the project the true essence of collaboration became apparent. As much as they wanted the students to leave anew, they walked away from the experience impacted themselves. The project became more than just another event to host or dialogue to facilitate. It was a lesson in how to successfully collaborate. On the heels of the recent rollout of the Student Affairs Leadership Development model, India and Sean thought to share some insight regarding their experience.

Sean’s thoughts…

I had the pleasure of collaborating with India this past semester for our En/Countering Racism Series. I approached her with a very broad idea. I felt there was a need to host a program that explored the intersections of race and sexual orientation. I came to India with that basic starting point and little expectations. I know that I desired for the program to primarily be geared toward stimulating ideas for how and why individuals and organizations should work across communities (Ex. Black community and Asian Community) and movements (LGBT justice and racial justice movements.)

After a few brainstorming sessions, we came up with a concept about “challenging the face of privilege.” As we talked, India and I found a common desire in challenging ourselves to think about our privilege. On the surface, you can assume that I am White and I am male. Additionally, you can assume that she is a woman and Black. I knew from conversation that we had a similar social economic background, coming from a poor and/or working class background. With our education and current profession, we are both experiencing relative mobility in that aspect of our life. However, both of us are more than just this. As we talked, it was clear that we both acknowledged that we have multiple and intersecting identities. We both acknowledged that we needed to consistently bring our whole selves to the table and not just our racial identity, or sexuality, or gender identity, or class background, etc. We both believe that no aspect of our experience pertaining to our identity operates in isolation of other identities. It all intersects. We thought it important that we all explore our privilege instead of just pointing fingers at those who we perceive as “the privileged.”

In my opinion, what worked so well with India and I was that we were both willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable. We threw ideas around. We had a level of trust built that allowed for us to brainstorm without worry of being ridiculed for our ideas. Neither one of us had ulterior motives. This wasn’t a case of either one of us putting together a collaborative program in order to build our professional portfolio. We did this for the love of the work. India appeared to have a common desire for creating and expanding community and empowering students to work for equity. We had a common goal of providing people a space to explore the complexities of their lived experience not only to see how unique and distinct those experiences are but also, how we might be able to find common interests.

Next, I feel that we had mutual respect for and were resourceful with one another’s strengths. Instead of positioning ourselves against one another, we just focused on the work. I love the work I do. That’s why I committed to it. That’s why I chose this as a profession because I had a deep desire to work particularly with racial reconciliation and justice. It was obvious to me that India had a similar passion and commitment. After observing her track record in the short time she has been here at Duke and the conversations that we’ve had, India had similar motivations as I to embark on this journey together.

Additionally, what worked so well with our collaboration was a mutual willingness to compromise. India may have had an idea and I may have not initially agreed or thought differently. Instead of resisting, I discerned her suggestions. Sometimes, I might come back and say, “I think we should do this instead.” She agreed at times and disagreed at other times. Nonetheless, it was never personal. We had built a strong foundation from the start so we had a common goal. There were no suggestions that intentionally led us off course from that goal. Compromise can be a long and tedious process when you’re trying to organize a collaborative effort. I could easily have taken this program on myself (as could she) and created all the content. It would have been quicker and easier in the short-term. However, I am a firm believer that when you build bridges with weak foundations they are bound to collapse. Compromise and equitable collaborations are absolutely necessary for a sustainable initiative or program. If I wanted something for my professional portfolio, I could have just thrown it together and advertised it. In my opinion, compromise in collaboration is the difference between (1) being seen as a leader and (2) being a leader.

The last item that I will touch on is that we both put in our work. There was a mutual effort. We delegated duties and when one of us thought the other was taking on more than they should, we expressed it. After all, how could we take an inequitable approach to developing a program partially geared toward empowering participants to be more equitable? That wouldn’t be establishing a solid foundation. Sometimes, I was caught up with other projects or was simply slacking. I was open and honest about it with India. She was honest with me when she was falling behind as well. We made adjustments and knew what we were working with most of the time.

It truly was a pleasure working with India and I am going to enjoy working with her to build a larger initiative off this collaboration.

 

Thoughts from India…

I have been at Duke for a little less than a year but it did not take me long to understand how much of a buzz word “collaboration” is for folks around here. Yet, it seems to be at times easier to talk about than it is to do. Call it newbie naivety, but I believe that if us Student Affairs folks could figure out how to succeed with our collaborating efforts we will all win. I remember sitting down with my supervisor early on during my time here, sharing with her all of my ideas for how we could work with other identity/cultural centers. Encouraging of my enthusiastic spirit she encouraged me to consider every opportunity that presents itself.

Unwavering in my opinion, that’s exactly what I did when I embarked upon a wonderful collaborative project with Sean. He approached me about creating an event that would work for the CMA’s En/countering Racism series and I don’t want to brag but the experience was the stuff dreams are made of. I say this because I have often been approached about collaborating on events where the real intention was simply to use our space or for us to provide financial support. I wasn’t being asked to be a partner in the creation of an event, most of the time the planning for the event was already completed. In those instances I can’t help but feel a little confused because that is not how I see collaboration working. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot and do not want to collaborate on everything. However, what I am normally asked for is to be a sponsor of an event not a collaborator on the creation of an event. It would have been easy for Sean to fall into the same pattern, as En/countering Racism is a series that he plans on his own. He could have come to me with a vision and plan for how we would work together and what the event would be, leaving very little room for me to interject; I appreciate that he did not do this.

Our first few meetings were us just talking about the issues that are important to the students we serve. We discussed the types of programs that were the most successful in each of our offices and sought to take some of those elements and include them into the work we would do together. I can’t remember how we came to the topic of privilege but when we got there everything seemed to fall in place.

Working on this project showed me that there is a clear difference between working with people and collaborating with people. In any working relationship there are some pretty basic expectations that one has for their teammate, like completing tasks and meeting deadlines. However, successful collaborations go beyond the logistics…beyond the things on paper. Successful collaborations push and cultivate the growth of us as individuals. Our project focused on challenging the traditional notions of privilege, a topic that could not be taught to others until we did a little of the work ourselves. We had numerous conversations about the spaces in which we felt we had privilege and those that we didn’t. For both of us, we discovered that it is important that we bring our whole selves into our work. In order to do that we must first see beyond the check boxes of identities and see ourselves as the complex individuals that we are. At first glance it doesn’t seem that Sean and I would have much in common, aside from the fact that our home sports teams were rivals, Michigan and Ohio State.  Despite Michigan’s inferiority to Ohio State, we found out we’ve had some similar experiences in certain aspects of our life and others that were completely different. It was on those things that we were able to build a strong foundation for our work. I didn’t feel the anxiety that I’ve felt when working with others where I had to do x, y, or z otherwise it wouldn’t get done. Most importantly I was able to be myself, I admitted when I didn’t know something or was swamped with other things. It was our flexibility and openness that helped Sean and I work well together. We discussed how we approach creating events and when we’re at our best so we could support one another where we were and not where we would prefer the other to be.

At the center of every collaboration must be trust, and it is probably the hardest part of any true collaboration. We by nature are looking for ways to save our own butts. We expect the worst in others and over compensate for bad things that haven’t even happened yet. Those approaches are a disservice to those who we are committed to serve. I am of the belief that the best collaborative experiences often look like magic. Magic is something that can be taught, you teach it by encouraging people to think outside the box and embrace the process of stepping into the unknown. If we want our division to be one in which we are truly collaborating and creating meaningful programming for students we must first start by teaching the skills that people need to be successful at those things like emotional intelligence, communication skills, and effective management skills.  I believe that these skills helped cultivate a healthy working relationship between Sean and I. I look forward to what happens next as we build off this collaboration.

Sean and India closing…

We had a wonderful time working together. This started off as a one-time program to explore the intersections of race and sexual orientation and it is now developing into a half-day workshop. We plan to restructure and expand this program to provide an opportunity for students to engage even deeper into the complexities of intersectionality. One of the primary purposes will be to galvanize and equip students to work across identities and movements. Additionally, we will be altering this workshop to provide a professional development opportunity for colleagues to consider an intersectional approach to advising student organizations as well. As advisors, we think it is important for students to work collaboratively and not always in isolation from other organizations and communities.

In closing, we believe that collaboration is a vital component for us to provide the best service possible for our students. It is difficult to be influential in encouraging students to work together if we are not setting the tone for what it looks like. One of the most powerful things we can do to increase our ability in advising students is to first advise ourselves. Working collectively can be a daunting task with competing interests. However, we believe that enduring the struggle and fighting through the dissonance can produce sustained initiatives that will prove to serve students and ourselves well.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

India & Sean

 

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