UMass Lowell’s online programs get high marks in national ranking - Lowell Sun

UMass Lowell’s online programs get high marks in national ranking - Lowell Sun UMass Lowell’s online programs get high marks in national ranking - Lowell Sun Posted: 31 Jan 2021 12:00 AM PST LOWELL — UMass Lowell's online education programs are again ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, which assessed more than 1,000 programs nationwide. UMass Lowell's online graduate program in criminal justice is No. 4 in the nation and No. 2 among all public colleges and universities, and offers the lowest price among New England-based programs appearing in the new ranking. UMass Lowell's online graduate program in information technology is No. 16 in the nation and is the highest ranked among all public institutions in New England. UMass Lowell's online graduate programs in education are ranked No. 23 nationally and the highest among New England colleges and universities. UMass Lowell offers multiple opt

How to write an essay: Best personal essay writing classes, books - Business Insider - Business Insider

How to write an essay: Best personal essay writing classes, books - Business Insider - Business Insider

How to write an essay: Best personal essay writing classes, books - Business Insider - Business Insider

Posted: 23 Dec 2020 01:42 PM PST

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Everyone has a story, but not everyone knows how to tell their story. One place to start is finding the perfect container for your experiences and insights. Enter: the personal essay. 

Well-crafted essays mark the difference between a meandering group of paragraphs and a clear, resonant idea. ALmost every occupation can benefit from stronger communication, research, and persuasion skills — all of which can be sharpened from essay writing classes.

Think about the application prompts you've muddled through or the chances for publication you've felt too intimidated to attempt. The confidence to explore a topic, land on a perspective, and express it effectively is universally valuable, whether you're writing a personal statement for college, crafting a cover letter for a new job, or giving a presentation at work. 

The essay writing resources below range from 200-page books to eight-week online courses. Some require submitting original work to receive feedback, while others are prompts meant to inspire new ideas. 

15 essay writing online courses, workshops, and books to strengthen your storytelling skills: 

Award-winning storytellers join Fairfield University’s MFA workshop - CTPost

Posted: 21 Dec 2020 01:33 PM PST

Fairfield University's annual Master of Fine Arts (MFA) residency will feature three award-winning guest lecturers during their series of workshops running Dec. 27 through Jan. 3.

Novelist Zadie Smith, filmmaker Mira Nair and U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey will offer advice and expertise to aspiring writers participating in the creative writing program.

Carol Ann Davis, MFA director and english professor said the three guest lecturers will answer questions about their writing habits, process and experience. Davis said they will each speak about an assigned text of the speaker's choice as well as their recent work.

"Visiting writers illustrate the role a deep devotion to craft can play in the span of a writer's life," Davis said. "By their examples, they inspire, and by their generosity to students' questions, they continue the work of educating the next generation of writers."

Smith is a British author who has received a number of awards for her writing including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Her books include "White Teeth," "On Beauty," "Grand Union" and "NW." Nair is the filmmaker behind "Mississippi Masala," "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love," "Vanity Fair," "The Namesake," "Amelia" and most recently "Queen of Katwe." Trethewey has written five collections of poetry and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Davis added that the workshop is an "invaluable teaching tool" for the program.

"It's always magical to be able to listen closely to writers whose work you admire in a small and intimate setting! Though our program is virtual, it remains relatively small, and as all of us have learned during the pandemic, a Zoom talk can be quite a heartfelt and intimate experience. So, the first reason it's exciting is because we will be in community—briefly, of course—with some of the great artists of our moment. That's rare. And because these visiting writers will be coming into an intensive, nine-day residency in which all are working on their own writing, students will be primed to really take in the lessons offered by these writers—both through their own reading, and the exploration of their ideas that will come from the questions asked and answers given. It's a real exchange, and that is precious in the age of Covid."

Typically the annual workshop takes place on Ender's Island off the coast of Mystic. Davis said "the real heart of the residency is the workshop, and that only happens when you gather for sustained discussion in one place."

Davis said she originally had doubts about holding the workshop virtually, but found that the MFA programs staff and students were willing to adapt. "that community is durable and resilient enough to move online when it has to. And of course, as you can see, we invited truly stellar visitors to lift our spirits and keep raising our game!"

For more information about Fairfield University's MFA program, visit

No Filmmaking at Film School: Administrative Policies Make Production Impossible - CU Columbia Spectator

Posted: 14 Dec 2020 12:00 AM PST

Columbia School of the Arts promotes its film master's degree program with a skillfully produced trailer that offers a seductive sales pitch to prospective applicants. The school boasts that students' films play at "every major film festival you can think of: Telluride, Berlin, South by Southwest and Tribeca, Cannes." Deans and professors tout the program's focus on practical training and portfolio development set students up for industry success: The school proudly announces that students are "making things from the first day they come here and they're making things as they walk out the door."

Above all, the trailer stresses that students continue collaborating and connecting after they receive their degrees. "The key thing in a film program is the community of filmmakers … all collaborating together" and "pulling each other onto jobs" once they enter the profession, the trailer says. When Columbia film students enroll, this is the experience that they sign up for.

But the pandemic and Columbia's response has upended that vision. While students across Columbia's schools are frustrated with the shift to remote learning, film students have been hit particularly hard. Unlike a strictly academic program that can be adapted to fit remote learning, the film school relies on hands-on training and in-person experiences. After almost two semesters of online learning, students have

limited access to equipment, collaboration with peers, and the actual process of filming simply cannot be replicated in a digital space.

Film schools across the country have taken vastly different approaches to how they adapt to COVID-19 restrictions. The American Film Institute Conservatory, a graduate film school in Los Angeles, for example, developed thorough guidelines that allow it to continue providing equipment and socially distanced film sets for its students.

Columbia, however, went in a completely different direction.

When the pandemic first hit, Columbia's buildings closed indefinitely, including the Nash Building, which houses the film equipment Master of Fine Arts students use for production. For months, students had no access to essential filmmaking equipment from the University.

This semester, the film school reopened that facility at limited capacity, allowing students living in the New York City area to borrow cameras, lights, and other crucial resources. But other barriers to filmmaking remain. Columbia opted against providing COVID-19-safe film sets like some of its film school counterparts; instead, students in the United States are only permitted to film inside property owned or rented by a member of the cast or crew , however small or poorly ventilated they may be. For some students, that restriction renders filming impossible.

At the same time, the University increased the program's tuition from $68,759 to $71,040. The school offers limited need-based scholarships, and there are no policies that allow for students to take a voluntary leave of absence. While there was an increase in the master's program tuition, all Columbia and Barnard undergraduates saw a tuition freeze for the 2020-2021 school year. Those students also received a rebate on their Morningside Heights or Student Life fee, of about $144.

In a statement to Spectator, a University spokesperson stated that "The School of the Arts has taken extraordinary steps to support students pursuing an MFA in filmmaking." In addition to citing general emergency grants for graduate students and access to University COVID-19 testing, the statement referenced an additional stipend offered to film students to help cover production costs. There was no statement provided as to why the program saw an increase in tuition.

But some students say it has not been enough. That particular stipend was announced in early December and provides a maximum of $2,000 for thesis films, which typically cost upward of $25,000. With limited options to work on their projects, students worry about what the University's response will mean for their educational experience and career prospects.

"I came to make films and I can't do that," creative producing candidate Donovan Tolledo says. "That's the only reason why I'm here and paying far more than all these other schools."


Masters of Fine Arts programs at the School of the Arts generally follow a conservatory model, meaning that actual artistic practice, including filmmaking, acting, and visual art, is the core component of the curriculum, more so than history and theory—topics much more easily adapted to remote learning. Columbia has faced criticism for its attempts to adapt fine arts programs to the COVID-19-safe world since the outset of the pandemic.

Last March, more than 80 undergraduate and master's students in the visual arts programs wrote a letter of protest to University President Lee Bollinger and visual arts department heads decrying many similar issues to what film students have identified. They called for a tuition refund and for the School to halt remote visual art classes. None of these demands were met.

As an aspiring producer, Tolledo was particularly drawn to Columbia's hands-on approach. Unlike other film production master's programs, Columbia's expands beyond business and financial skills associated with the role of a producer. He was eager to learn how to engage with the creative side of filmmaking and take courses that taught him the ropes of directing and screenwriting. With such expansive training, he hoped to produce the thoughtful Asian American stories he so lacked in his youth.

The final project after the first two years as a master's student, called the "courseworks years," is an eight- to 12-minute short film. Most of this year's projects have been postponed or severely limited. Ordinarily, master's students would already collaborate in classes and build a team of collaborators for their culminating projects.

Tolledo isn't making a short film this year. He is stuck in his hometown of Chicago, almost 800 miles from the equipment he would normally be able to access as a Columbia film student. His only other option under Phase I production restrictions would be to pay for cameras and lighting himself.

"They said you can use your own equipment … [but] I don't have any money," Tolledo says. "I'm going to use my phone and the quality of what I'm going to do is essentially a TikTok video."

The restrictions also require productions to take place at an "at-home" location owned or rented by a member of the cast or crew. Sets are limited to six people including an approved health and safety manager, whom the production team is responsible for finding on their own.

To Tolledo, these restrictions make little sense; if anything, they curtail relatively safe methods of filming, but allow higher-risk activities. Filming in a cramped apartment without enough room for minimum social distancing is permitted, but shooting in an open forest is forbidden. The restrictions also create an accessibility issue: Students with large residences or the financial means to rent spaces have more opportunities to create a compelling film than those in smaller spaces. With COVID-19 more likely to spread in a confined setting, Tolledo questions whether it is worth risking his health to create a film in his Chicago apartment.

Tolledo also saw his "eight-to-12" as the opportunity to access the training and collaborators that he could apply to his thesis film; without it, he worries that he will not be able to find a crew to depend on. Moreover, the shift to remote learning means he is neither in the room learning how to work with film equipment, nor is he learning to work with actors or directors.

"By the time [we start] the thesis films next year, we won't have the actual practice on set to actually do it," Tolledo says.

Students in their thesis years, during which they put their knowledge to use and build film portfolios, face even larger hurdles when mounting productions.

The School of Arts created the option of a virtual thesis in which students outline their process for what would otherwise be a fully-fledged film; as part of this process, they mock up shooting plans, estimated budgets, and storyboards. In practice, students say this adaptation reduces the thesis project to a film proposal, which means that many third- and fourth-years will leave Columbia without the films they came to make. They are also missing the opportunities to take these films to global festivals where they are ultimately picked up for distribution, something many considered a crucial component of their film school experience.

With such a gap between students' abilities to secure equipment or film in their personal residence, the difference between making a film this year or settling for a virtual adaptation often comes down to how much money they can spend on top of tuition and living expenses.

"Imagine a world where only rich people could make art. Is this the world that Columbia wants?" Munir Atalla, a second-year creative production student, asks. "Should only people with access to resources be allowed to make film?"

This is not the first time the School of Arts has come under fire for issues with accessibility.

"The issues of the program being sexist, classist, racist, etc.—those things have been raised by students and classes before us and things that our class has organized around pre-pandemic," Atalla says. "But this pandemic has definitely exacerbated those issues."

In 2018, students in the School of the Arts' visual arts programs demanded full refunds and spoke out about decrepit studio spaces in Prentis Hall and prestigious faculty members who were mysteriously absent from teaching roles. Earlier that year, a photography professor resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. John Coatsworth, the University provost at the time, acknowledged that the quality of the program was a "disgrace." Despite this, the University opted against returning or reducing students' tuition.

When Jackie Todd, a third-year producing student, needed an unexpected surgery last summer, tuition was a considerable burden on top of her medical bills, leaving her anxious about her future financial situation.

Despite coming to Columbia to create films, Todd admits that the fact that production is nearly impossible has provided her financial relief. "[The administration] is not really willing to bend and work with students to make a plan that is more financially reasonable for them. For me, not making a film this year is great, because then I wouldn't have to spend money on it," Todd says.

"We're listening to our students and what they want to talk about" is one of the closing lines to the school's trailer. It's a glittering promise that Columbia will stand by your side.

For Todd, this simply is not true. "We're the customers," she says. "And it felt like they just decided to not give a shit that we are customers expecting a certain level of dedication, a certain level of communication, a certain level of product—which is our education."

Enjoy leafing through our ninth issue!

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LeBlanc says full return to campus next fall seems 'unlikely' - GW Hatchet

Posted: 14 Dec 2020 12:00 AM PST

Updated: Dec. 14, 2020 at 5:39 p.m.

Based on current data about the COVID-19 vaccine, University President Thomas LeBlanc says a full return to campus next fall seems "unlikely."

LeBlanc said at the Faculty Senate's final meeting of the semester Friday that some faculty, staff and students may not have access to the vaccine by next fall, but officials will likely be able to "do more than we're doing now" on campus. He also confirmed at the meeting that expected layoffs resulting from the pandemic for the fiscal year, which have saved the University $32 million, have concluded.

"Obviously we will have our eyes on a fall reopening if it's possible, and we'll be watching the data very carefully on the distribution of the vaccines and using that to ultimately guide our decision on how we reopen in the fall," LeBlanc said.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the United States could see the "overwhelming majority" of the population vaccinated by the end of the second quarter of 2021. But he said masks and social distancing measures will still be needed throughout 2021 because the vaccine is not 100 percent effective.

LeBlanc said officials saw an increase in requested COVID-19 tests and a "modest" increase in positive cases among the on-campus cohort after Thanksgiving break, which he said is likely tied to an increase in travel around the holiday.

"It looks like there's a slight uptick in our positivity rate, but we have to remember that off-campus students self-select to get tested, and therefore they are kind of a unique population in that regard, a bit of a biased sample," he said.

Provost Brian Blake said at the meeting that officials have finalized certain GW Law courses and courses at the Arlington campus to be held in a hybrid format during the spring semester.

Senators also provided a report on GW's finances for fiscal year 2020 and discussed budget scenarios for the upcoming fiscal year.

Joe Cordes, a faculty senator and a professor of economics, said administrators implemented two phases of budget mitigation in FY20 to deal with the pandemic's financial impact on the University. He said the first phase included 339 layoffs; the elimination of about 150 vacant positions that officials had initially budgeted for, which saved about $47 million; a temporary merit pay freeze, which saved about $15 million; and expense reductions like cutbacks in travel, which saved about $38 million.

He said phase two included the temporary suspension of retirement contributions in August, which saved about $27 million, and expense reductions at the school and unit levels, which saved about $21 million. Cordes said the phase also included using $20 million in "unrestricted assets" that the Board of Trustees made available, but he added that he is not sure if the money came from the endowment, which officials had previously vowed not to tap into in response to the pandemic's financial impacts.

Cordes said officials indicated to him at the time he created his presentation for the report that restoring part of GW's suspension to retirement contributions is a priority in the next fiscal year.

"I'm told that this is highly likely, but it needs to be run by the Board, so that's where we are right now," Cordes said.

He said GW has opportunities going into the next fiscal year to generate more revenue through potential increases in enrollment, which would provide more tuition revenue, and an increase in the University's housing  capacity after Thurston Hall renovations are completed. But he said those goals could also be challenged by national trends indicating a decrease in undergraduate enrollment.

Cordes outlined three scenarios for fiscal year 2021 – a pessimistic scenario in which the University remains fully online, a "moderately optimistic" scenario in which students return to campus and enrollment projections for FY21 remain the same and an optimistic scenario in which enrollment is higher than projected for FY21 and students return to campus.

He said GW's endowment performance should be improving because 25 percent of it was previously invested in private equity, but that amount has decreased to 8 percent. Investment experts have criticized private equity investments for being risky despite their potential for high returns.

"We can hopefully look to improve endowment performance," Cordes said. "We're starting the 200th year campaign, which hopefully will bring in some additional resources."

Cordes also said the A1 credit rating that GW received from Moody's Investors Service in October was better than some of GW's peer schools like the University of Miami and D.C.-area schools like American and Georgetown universities. He said A1 is a "pretty good" rating and is the third-highest rating that GW could have received, with AA being the best possible rating.

"The main thing to look at here is kind of how they've characterized us," Cordes said. "The way I would put it is that our financial situation is very sound, very solid."

He added that Chief Financial Officer Mark Diaz said Standard and Poor's, a New York City-based rating agency, will release its own evaluation of GW's credit soon, which he expects to be similar to that of Moody's.

Susan Kulp, a faculty senator and professor of accountancy, said FY20 was the first full year of the Medical Faculty Associates' consolidation with GW, and a "big part" of the University's losses comes from the MFA.

Officials announced in December 2018 that they would restructure the relationship between GW and the MFA to increase the University's decision-making power and provide increased responsibility over the MFA's annual budget and CEO.

She said the University faced a $61 million loss this year, with $43 million coming from the MFA. Kulp said the University faced a loss of only $14 million during fiscal year 2019 since the MFA consolidation occurred after the the year began, demonstrating that the MFA provided a "significant impact" on the University's finances this fiscal year.

Cordes, the faculty senator, said the losses due to the MFA consolidation are likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic since doctors could not provide certain basic services or elective procedures for some time.

"The hope is that the new arrangement is going to lead to, I would say, better cost and management control, and that should improve matters," he said.

Kulp said officials also changed GW's auditor from PricewaterhouseCoopers to Grant Thornton this fiscal year, which she said is "unusual," but the new auditor has provided better service to GW for a lower cost.

"All accounts are that the new auditor is fabulous and responsive, and this was a GW-initiated process," Kulp said.

Arthur Wilson, the chair of the Faculty Senate executive committee, said executive committee members are working to develop a survey of LeBlanc's leadership and communication abilities after faculty voted to conduct a review of LeBlanc at last month's Faculty Assembly meeting.

Wilson said officials will release the survey "on or about" Tuesday, and it will be open for faculty to fill out for one month. He said officials will make the findings of the survey available "sometime in February."

Senators also unanimously voted to approve the nomination of Tarek El-Ghazawi, a professor of engineering and applied sciences, to the senate's research committee.


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