cdifonzo has written 5 posts for The Digital Bullpen

5 things you don’t know about the SG presidential slates: Christina Hughes and Muhammad Shakir

Muhammad Shakir and Christina Hughes. Photograph taken by Dannielle Gayle.

With student government elections beginning this week, we at the Digital Bullpen decided to get in touch with the new potential leaders of USF. Instead of giving students a full regurgitation of each candidate’s platform, here are five interesting things you didn’t know about Christina Hughes and Muhammad Shakir:

1.) Hughes was not only her high schools homecoming queen, but also crowned Prom queen. She played on her high schools basketball, volleyball, and track team, so it’s not surprising Hughes was also voted Most Memorable and Most School Spirit. Shakir and Hughes are quite a match because he also ran track and field, and was the captain of his high schools football team for two years.

2.) It comes as no surprise that both Shakir and Hughes were involved in leadership roles in their high school, and both members of National Honor Society. When they graduate college, they both intend to restore higher education. “Originally it was my goal to go to law school after I graduated,” said Shakir, “but after being at USF and getting involved [in SG], I have a passion for student affairs.”

3.) Outside of student government, Hughes also works at the New Tampa Pet Resort. “I guess you could say that I am a dog whisperer,” explained Hughes. “I have been working with animals for over four years. I know over 200 breeds of dogs.”

4.) “I like to think I can sing a little,” said Shakir, “but not good enough to be a talent.” There’s only one way to find out… Student Government Idol. Since Hughes and Shakir’s campaign motto is already Be The Voice, it seems only fair.

5.) “My favorite book is ‘21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ by John Maxwell,” said Shakir. “I know it may sound dry, but gaining knowledge on what leadership really is gets my blood pumping.” As for Hughes: “My favorite book is LL Cool J’s ‘I Make My Own Rules.’”

For more information on Christina Hughes and Muhammad Shakir, check out their website. Don’t forget to follow USF’s student government on Twitter and Facebook, and — most importantly — vote!

USF has a snowboarding club?

Snowboarders on a slope

The University of South Florida is now playing host to a new, and rather unlikely, club: the Bulls Ski and Snowboard club.

“I’ve been wanting to put this together for a while now,” said David Davis, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and founder of the club. Even though Davis lives in Florida, he started skiing at the age of nine and has been active in the sport for 15 years.

Students searching for the club on Blackboard will run into one little hitch. It is technically a special interest group, not a sports club. According to Davis, club sports are strongly encouraged to have insurance coverage for all members. That and a few other requirements seemed impractical with a snow sport in the Sunshine State.

The main objective of the club is not only to get people together with similar interest in snow sports, but also to coordinate a weekend trip up north to officially participate. With enough members, the group intends to plan a road trip and split costs in gas while also getting a group rate on gear and hotel rooms and a package deal on lift tickets. The destination: North Carolina.

As a special interest group, the club can hold fundraisers to help pay for the trip and possibly be reimbursed by the University for some of the costs. Davis said he regrets not starting the group sooner and applying for school funding.

“It takes about 14 weeks to get school funding,” he explained, and by the time it goes through the season will be over.

Davis is also planning a personal trip to Canada.

“I’m going to Calgary and anybody’s welcome to come with me,” he said. “I’ve got a place to stay, so you’ve just got to pay for your flight. It’s going to be a $1,200 trip so it’s hard to get interest in it, but it’s going to be fun.”

Even though the Ski and Snowboard club was just activated January 15,  it already has 24 members and the requests to join are surprisingly steady.

“I get about two or three Blackboard requests a week, or students will just email me,” said Davis.

The groups first meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 24 in the Marshall Center, Room 3708. An official website is currently in the works so a Facebook fan page is being used to inform members about future meetings.

If you are interested in joining, or if you have any questions about the Bulls Ski and Snowboard club, Davis can be reached at .

FiveFingers Fashion Footwear

By Courtney DiFonzo

You may have seen a new and unusual shoe trend lately on campus. They resemble brightly colored socks with individual toe encasements, and they are the newest trend in the world of outdoor adventure. They are called Vibram FiveFingers, and at first glance the shoes resemble a frog’s foot, but the outlandish design happens to be the catalyst for the recent increase in sales.

After you see these shoes, you won’t be forgetting them anytime soon.

“[Bill Jackson’s] has been carrying them for four years,” said Trent Mullett, the camping department expert at Bill Jackson’s adventure shop, “and since I’ve been here we’ve been selling them nonstop.”

“The sales have definitely increased year after year,” said Kristen Murphy, a customer service representative for Vibram FiveFingers.

Cassandra Lubbers, a senior anthropology major at USF, is what some may call a hippie, but also a Vibram enthusiast. She is the vice president of USF’s Rock Climbing club, and has become an avid fan of the FiveFinger shoes. They makes her bare-footed nature not only socially acceptable, but also comfortable and safe for her recreational activities.

“My first opinion of them was that they looked like gorilla toe socks, but they were intriguing and unique,” said Lubbers, who first learned about the Vibram shoes three years ago from her boyfriend.

While a handful of people in the Rock Climbing club wear the FiveFinger shoes, Lubbers did note that she sees more and more of these unique shoes at USF everyday. “I have seen a lot more people wearing them,” said Lubbers, “not necessarily for the right reasons though. More to look cool.”

Besides the aesthetic differences, Vibram shoes are created differently to help improve balance and release unnecessary stress on the spine by forcing you to walk on the balls of your feet. Since your foot is no longer bound in a single position, you have free range of motion that feels natural. “They also help decrease shin splints when running,” said Mullett.

The Vibram shoes sizes are also far more specific than other shoes. A person’s optimal shoe size is determined by an actual measurement of the foot down to one-fourth of an inch so the shoe will fit like a second skin. There are even specific styles for wider feet or a higher instep.

Yet there is a small issue with the Vibram shoes: they cannot be custom made. The sizes have a vast range, but if you happen to have an unusual toe count, Vibrams cannot make you a custom SixFinger.

Unlike other work-out shoes, such as Skechers Shape-Ups, the Vibram shoes are made for outdoor activities and even have specific designs for different sports.

The Vibram “Classics” are the original everyday collection while the “Sprint” collection is made specifically for versatility and jogging. The “Flow” has thicker insulation for colder temperatures and water sports, and the KSO (Keep Stuff Out) has a razor-siped outer sole for better traction. There is also the “Treksport” designed to endure rugged outdoor terrain and the “Bikila” for high performance running. Vibram even has a line of FiveFinger shoes for kids.

“We don’t sell much of the ‘Classics’ or the ‘Sprints’,” said Mullett, “but the ‘KSO’ and ‘Kila’ are out of stock constantly.”

Not everyone sees the FiveFingers shoes as a fashionable alternative to sneakers though. “I think those shoes are hideous,” said Jacob Senkbeil, a junior biochemical major. “I don’t care if they make my feet flame-resistant, I would never wear them.”

“We have been barefoot since the beginning of humans,” said Lubbers, “and [regular] shoes do not form to your feet like Vibrams do. They are more natural, yet still protect you from garbage and debris.”

While the shoes are made thin enough to give you the sensation of being barefoot, they are made to endure rugged terrain and last for years. “They are made specifically for outdoor use,” said Mullett. “I haven’t gotten a single complaint on them since I’ve worked here.”

“I mainly wear them when I go hiking,” said Nichols, a junior business major. “They have a lot of traction and it’s seriously like being barefoot, just with bonus protection.”

Unlike other shoe fads, the Vibrams have just increased in popularity since 2008. “Crocs hit for a while and kind of died off, but these [Vibram FiveFingers] are staying strong,” said Mullett.

“I think the sales are just going to keep increasing,” agreed Murphy. All we can do is wait and see if the barefoot trend catches on, or see if our Vibrams are ultimately doomed to be thrown in the back of the closets next to our Heelys.

USF Muslim students feed the homeless in Project Downtown

Every Friday, a group of 50 or so volunteers stuff themselves in their personal vehicles and carpool downtown, hundreds of homemade lunches in tow. There they spend hours handing out free lunches to homeless people and making connections to those who feel they have nothing. This is what Project Downtown is all about.

The national Muslim Students Association sponsors the program and according to their website, “The students continued to visit their friends downtown every Friday to offer whatever modest, unconditional gifts they could offer, which has so far included well over 10,000 meals, 1500 articles of clothes, and 1400 toiletry kits. They have also helped secure three apartments for their friends, who are no longer homeless.”

“We usually co-sponsor events with MSA,” said Project Downtown President Hajja Kamara, “and we participate in Hunger and Homelessness awareness week. One thing I plan to change is to host more events on campus.”

Project Downtown has been around for six years, and is closely associated with the MSA organization on campus. “Our members have increased dramatically this past year,” said Kamara. “We average about 50 volunteers a week.”

Due to a recent budget cut, the number of campus events has dwindled down to the weekly trek downtown, an annual banquet and a few low-cost promotional projects.

“The long term goal is to use our non-profit status and get a big as Metropolitan Ministries,” said Kamara. “[We want to] become the voice of the homeless not only in Tampa, but also in the U.S.”

Islamic Lecture Series Held On Campus

The University of South Florida’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) is sponsoring a series of lectures on the USF campus in an attempt to promote insight on the Islamic religion. The first meeting was advertised as being held in the Marshall Student Center, but the information was incorrect and resulted in a canceled lecture.

The MSA is having a meeting every Thursday in March, with each meeting devoted to a specific part of the religion. The meeting held this afternoon was on the meaning of life and a brief overview of the religion as a whole.

Thirteen people showed up to the meeting, nine of which were Muslim.

When asked why we came to the meeting, a female student named Creigh said, “I am tired of being ignorant.” Creigh works at INTO at USF with a lot of Muslim students, and she said she “want[ed] to be on the same page as them.”

Presenter Yasir Abunamous works for the Muslims Without Borders chapter at USF, and began the meeting with asking, “What do you believe is the purpose of life?”

Amongst the thirteen students there were only two answers. The Agnostic and Atheist students responded with a gentle shrug and a sheepish, “I don’t really know,” while the devoted Muslim and Christian students knowingly answered, “To be a slave to God.”

The meeting was less of a lecture and more of a discussion. We talked about the five pillars of Islam and the ultimate meaning of life according to the Quran.

“Without faith there is nothing,” said Abunamous.

What was so interesting about the meeting was we discussed how faith was everything in life, but it didn’t have to faith in the Islamic religion. Just having faith in general gave life purpose. Even the Atheist and Agnostic students agreed, and the lecture was an immense success.

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