Meghan Mangrum

Junior at the University of South Florida. Mass Communications – Journalism Student. Aspiring writer and explorer.
Meghan Mangrum has written 8 posts for The Digital Bullpen

Guide dog keeps student on the go

Justin and Edric like coffee. Like many University of South Florida students, they frequent Java City in the business bunker and Starbucks in the library, at least when the line is short.

Justin and Edric walk fast; they’ve got places to go. Sometimes they end up in the streets trying to maneuver their way to class.

Justin and Edric fidget. When he’s sitting and talking, Justin will shake his legs, not out of impatience but out of unconscious habit. Edric shakes; he’ll toss his head continuing the wiggle down his entire body.

Justin and Edric seem like any typical pair of friends found on college campuses. The only thing that separates them is that Justin Chan is blind; Edric is his guide dog.

* * *

With the help of his guide dog, Edric, Justin Chan is able to navigate campus with ease. Photo Credit: Meghan Mangrum

Chan, a junior, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 8 years old. Born in the Philippines, he moved to St. Petersburg in 1999, where he received treatment at All Children’s Hospital. While in the hospital, Chan spent six months in a coma.

“For a little kid it was a lot,” Chan said. He underwent bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants using his brother’s stem cells. Due to the transplants, Chan’s blood type was actually changed.

“They literally almost killed me,” he said. Though the treatments worked and Chan is now in remission, not all the side effects were beneficial. Born with 20/20 vision, Chan had a hemorrhage in his brain and blood got into his eye cavities, leaving him partially blind.

When he was released from the hospital, Chan went to live with his aunt and uncle in Port Charlotte, even though one of his brothers, his sister and his mother still live in the Philippines. Though he is now visually impaired, Chan doesn’t think his disability slows him down.

“People always ask how I do it,” Chan said. “It is just something you need to get used to.”

* * *

Upon approaching Java City in the business building, Chan finds the door handle. He and Edric get in line, accidentally skipping a woman who maneuvers around them. While in line, Edric sits next to Chan. The man waiting at the front of the line calls to Edric and Chan grimaces. He dislikes it when people call to his dog while he’s working.

Chan orders and pays with his card. The barista reaches for it cautiously. After she hands him his drink, Chan feels for the straw.

“Where are the straws?” he asks. The barista looks confused and mouths helplessly. She goes to nod in the direction of the straws but then thinks better of it.

“They’re over…,” she stumbles, searching for what she should say.

Not skipping a beat, Chan asks if they are at the condiment bar and heads in that direction. After feeling around for a minute, he casually asks where they are and I hand him one.

Heading outside, Chan asks if I see an available table. There is one so we head toward it. Chan tells Edric “seat” directing him to find an empty chair. Edric is a ladies’ man though and he tries to sit with me.

Edric does this often, Chan tells me. When selecting a seat in a classroom, Edric is supposed to lay his head in an empty seat and Chan will feel his way to sit down. Sometimes Edric puts his head in a girl’s lap.

* * *

USF is a spacious campus; that is one of the reasons Chan decided to attend. He spends his time divided between the business building where many of his classes in the College of Business are located and the library, where he works as a tutor for the Tutoring and Learning Services.

Chan used to navigate campus with a white cane that would detect objects in his path. He wanted a guide dog though. In July 2011, he was paired with Edric, a golden retriever who will be 3 years old in April.

“I kept putting it off,” Chan said. “I should’ve gotten him as a freshman.” Now Chan and Edric are inseparable. They are a team and it allows Chan to go about his day easier.

“I feel a lot more confident walking around with him,” Chan said. “He gets me around relatively well.”

Even still, Edric is a young dog and sometimes he gets distracted. Not only is he a ladies’ man, but he also gets super excited in large crowds. This is one of the reasons Chan doesn’t like it when people try to get his dog’s attention because he is easily distracted.

One afternoon, Edric was at the groomer’s and Chan had to use his cane for a few hours – he hated it. Having Edric allows Chan to move at the fast and efficient pace that dominates his life.

“My parents never let me say because you’re blind, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something,” Chan said. “Not to knock on other blind people. Some of them are babied by their parents.”

Sometimes the students he tutors are surprised when they realize he is blind. Some even wonder if he can help them.

Yet Chan has been honored with scholarships from the College of Business and is pursuing a double major in accounting and finance. He has a laptop and iPhone that talk to him and listens to lectures in class like every other student.

“I try to visualize what they are talking about,” Chan said. “I get general ideas of what journals and math equations look like.” When writing on the whiteboard Chan jokes that sometimes it can get messy, but he basically knows where things are spatially and mentally knows what he wants to write.

Chan says he would like to work as a tax accountant or for the government but at the same time, like many college students, he isn’t entirely sure and doesn’t want to tie himself down.

“I don’t know what I want fully, but I have a general direction,” Chan said.

Regardless, Chan spends a great deal of time working towards a career in accounting. He is a member of Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting fraternity. Recently, he led a team that presented on how their chapter utilizes technology at a regional conference.

A busy guy, Chan also traveled to Tallahassee to visit his girlfriend who received a concussion while playing goalball. Goalball is a sport designed for visually impaired athletes, which Chan also plays. In fact, he is hoping to get back into the sport soon.

After February, Chan will be finished preparing for his conference and “will need something else in life.” Always moving, he’s sure he’ll find something to do.

5 things you don’t know about the SG presidential slates: Brian Goff and George Papadeas

Brian Goff and George Papadeas are among six sets of candidates running for student body president and vice president this week.

Starting Monday, students will cast ballots for the next student body president and vice president. Brian Goff, a junior majoring in biochemistry, and George Papadeas, a junior majoring in marketing, are one of the six sets of candidates.

The Digital Bullpen caught up with Goff and Papadeas last week to learn more about their campaign. Here are five things you may not know about them:

1. Goff and Papadeas are pledge brothers. They both rushed the Delta Chi Fraternity in the fall of 2011. They had met previously, but both agree that they really got to know each other once they joined Delta Chi.

“We had an instant connection,” Papedeas said. “We are brothers now… We have a great relationship.”

2. Papadeas was not Goff’s first choice as running mate. Goff decided to run for student body president in December, and though Papadeas joined his campaign, Goff already had a running mate. When Goff’s original running mate dropped out of the race, he chose Papadeas.

“We were both in awe over what we both wanted to run on,” Papadeas said.

3. Papadeas has no Student Government experience. Though Goff has been involved with SG since his freshman year and served as attorney general under current student body President Matt Diaz, Papadeas has never been involved with SG. Instead Papadeas has a “grassroots” or “personal connection with students,” according to Goff, as a resident assistant in Cypress Hall.

4. Goff thinks they are like “yin and yang.” The fact that Papadeas does not have SG experience does not concern Goff. He believes that Papadeas’ personal connection with students balances out his “student administration side” since he has already built relationships with administrators as attorney general. This is one of the reasons Goff chose to run with Papadeas.

5. Goff and Papadeas know how to run a catchy campaign. They took the three values they wanted to run on: fiscal responsibility, campus involvement and community outreach, and turned them into the slogan “ACT,” which stands for advocate, communicate and traditions.

“I had a vision of what I wanted to run on,” Goff said. Since last year’s TBM (total bull movement) campaign was catchy, Goff knew they needed something that would make them stick out. Though Goff claims not to be the creative one of the two, Papadeas emphasized that the slogan resulted from their collaboration.

Students prepare to uncover The Buried Life in advance of tonight’s ULS lecture

USF students were asked "What do you want to do before you die?" in preparation for a ULS event featuring The Buried Life, and these are some of their answers. Photo by Meghan Mangrum.

Ride a bull, swim with sharks, run a marathon, have sex with Chris Brown?

These are all on University of South Florida’s students’ “things to do before I die” list in advance of a visit from The Buried Life, a group of four men who set off to accomplish their list of “100 things to do before you die” who are coming to USF tonight (on Tuesday, Feb. 21.)

Here is a trailer for the show:

To prepare for the lecture, sponsored by the University Lecture Series (ULS), a whiteboard was set up in the Marshall Student Center two weeks ago and students were invited to add what they want to do before they die to it.

Some of the answers have been surprising: meet Lady Gaga, own a green crotch rocket and be made fun of on South Park.

“I want to release the zombie plague on the world,” said Wes Holloman, a junior. “I couldn’t think of something meaningful. There are so many things you can do. I wanted to put something funny.”

Someone wrote “shoot up a mall” on the board, but when ULS staff was notified, they erased it, said Megan Gallagher, a sophomore and ULS Hostess Director.

Generally, students are excited about The Buried Life’s lecture. The group was made popular by the MTV reality show of the same name.

“The Buried Life is really inspiring; they make you think that you can do what you say,” Gallagher said. Gallagher’s addition to the list: start a slow clap at an event.

Some student’s goals weren’t as silly as “burst into song when the moment isn’t right,” but were more personal and thought out.

Andrea, a junior, wrote “I want to love for life” on the board, with hearts around it. Andrea was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 22.

“That opened my eyes that life is really short and you have to give your all,” Andrea said. “Love is a really important theme to me.”

Jordan Jackson, a sophomore, also wants to make a difference in someone’s life. On his bucket list is to post random compliments all over a city or all over campus.

“Someone could be having a bad day and they walk by and they see that and their day is changed,” said Jackson.

Silly or serious, students are interested in the project. One board is already filled. This week more will be of students to write on and they will then be displayed at the lecture.

“Everybody has things they really want to do, but maybe they are afraid to do try,” Jackson added. “Getting it out there is the first step.”

#FLdebate tweets buzzing over Republican National Debate at USF

The Republican National Debate at USF on Monday brought not only parking lot closures, Quran-burning pastors and national media outlets but it also gathered a lot of social media attention.

The 9 p.m. debate saw a watch party hosted by Student Government; protests by Occupy Tampa, College Democrats and Students for a Democratic Society; and the presence of controversial anti-Muslim preacher Terry Jones and his supporters.

Because of this, both campus and the Internet were buzzing.

On Monday, four of the Top 20 Google trends of the day pertained to the debate. They were: “republican debate,” “presidential debate,” “GOP debate” and “FL GOP debate.” “Florida debate” continued to be one of the most searched terms on Tuesday.

For those actually following the debate live, “#FLdebate” was the most popular hashtag used to locate coverage of the debate. Many viewers, especially students, were both watching and tweeting.

Eileen Blake, a senior majoring in mass communications, attended the watch party and tweeted throughout until her iPhone ran out of battery life.

“I tweeted regularly while watching the debate because I have a number of politically interested followers,” Blake said. “I loved watching all the other people I follow on Twitter discuss the debate; because I follow mostly politicians and news sources it was interesting to see what they took out of it and what was getting highlighted.”

Blake’s tweets mirrored the often serious, sometimes ridiculous tone that tweets can take. They varied from “@emblakexo Connecting with people is not just mitt’s problem. It’s a Republican party problem. #FLdebate #USF” to “@emblakexo Mitt’s tie is so Obama blue. #USF #FLdebate.”

Twitter users provided consistent commentary on the candidates’ discourse, while also staying abreast of other activities on campus. Reports of a fight between protesters, the arrival of Ron Paul supporters and opinions on Brian William’s moderating skills were all discussed over Twitter.

Many outlets harnessed the use of social media to publicize the event and communicate throughout. USF News had a team of student bloggers tweeting, set up a Foursquare check-in point and hosted a live blog to cover the debate.

Overall, it seems that social media has found its way into the political process and can be utilized in various ways.

“I think social media has significant contributions for all kinds of conversations,” Blake said. “In terms of politics, it has lately played an important role in bringing closer contact between politicians and their constituents. It is useful in determining what the public is thinking about or how they feel on certain issues.”

Humans and Zombies Run Rampant On Campus

Chris Byrne embraces his transition from human to zombie. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Byrne.

TAMPA, FLA – On a seemingly ordinary Monday night, while many students are attending long meetings, cramming for the exams that are approaching as the semester winds down or relaxing at home, a gathering occurs in the Marshall Student Center. Divided into two groups, staring each other down across the USF seal on the floor, are students with bandanas wrapped around their heads or tied around their arms. Soon these students, armed with Nerf guns or balled-up socks, will leave the safe haven of Marshall and stalk into the night on their final mission – this is Humans vs. Zombies.

This spring, for the third consecutive semester, Humans vs. Zombies returned to USF. The four day game spanned the weekend of April 15 – 18 and featured new administrators, new missions and even some new rules.

“I’ve played [HvZ] three times and the games get better every time,” said Chris Byrne, a sophomore majoring in theater arts and secondary education. “It’s a chance for students to get out there and meet new people and just be themselves.”

HvZ is a live-action game “of moderated tag commonly played on college campuses,” according to the official HvZ website. Students all begin as humans except for one Original Zombie and the game continues as if a zombie apocalypse has taken over campus.

The game is an all-encompassing time commitment. For the duration of the game, players are always on their guard. The only safe zones are indoors so when players venture outside they run the risk of being tagged by zombies, or if a zombie stunned by humans. This year, large Nerf gun zones were set up. Nerf guns can be used to stun zombies so humans can get away and keep up the resistance.

“There were Nerf restrictions during the day, but Saturday and Sunday were Nerf days,” said Joshua Moore, one of the four students administrating this semester’s game. “It was easier to isolate [the game] to a weekend [this year].”

Previously sponsored by Christians in Action and the Campus Activities Board, HvZ had a new sponsor this semester, the Association for Nerf Appreciation. Originally there was not going to be a game at all. CIA decided not to run it due to the complications that arise when planning an event such as this on campus.

Joshua Moore and three other students had played the previous semesters and wanted to see a game this spring as well.

“[I] had a lot of fun and had a great experience meeting people,” Moore said in regards to the first game he ever participated in. “As a player you see what needs to be improved and that is why I wanted to be an administrator.”

Together Moore, Brandon Breedwell, Zachary Cornett and Lindsay Fussell organized a spring game.

This year’s game saw new restrictions on who could play as well. Players had to register online and attend an informational meeting before they could play.

“The number of people registered was somewhere around 250 and the number who actually played were about the same,” Moore said. Due to the short amount of time available for planning and organizing the game this semester, there was less time to advertise and register for students.

The types of students who played this semester varied.

“People of every major and social group played in the fall,” Byrne said. “This spring there was a smaller group of more dedicated players who had played in the past.” As HvZ becomes a staple on campus, it allows for further growth and improvement to the structure of the game.

This semester’s game featured nine missions with well-thought out storylines and plots. Missions “exist to entice humans and zombies to go out together,” according to Moore.

Some players considered the missions to be overly simple this semester, but this may also be due to the fact that many players were returning players.

“The humans decimated the game,” Moore said. “Most of the humans that played, that actually really care about the game have been playing since the first we had this game on campus.” A lot of people also just like to be humans because they like Nerf guns.

Yet it never seems to matter which side wins. The only prize is bragging rights.

Humans are considered victors if there are still humans remaining at the end of the game because zombies are reverted back to humans. This year there was an imbalance in the number of humans versus zombies at the beginning of the game. The experience remains the same though.

“The administration is starting to grow a fondness for the game,” Moore said. The most common reason students cite why they place is because it is a stress relief. HvZ provides a great social interaction and a great way for students to get out and meet friends.

Most players, especially the administrators of this year’s game, believe that there will always be an interest in the game.

“Meeting new people will always be a good detail that entices people to play,” Moore said. He would like to see Humans vs. Zombies become a tradition at USF.

A game is already in the works for next semester. CIA once again may sponsor a large scale game and expects an even higher turnout. The sight of Nerf gun-armed humans pursued by bandana-clad zombies along the winding sidewalks may very well continue to be a traditional sight here at USF.

Humans vs. Zombies on campus; residence halls ban important factor of the game

Residence halls at University of South Florida are not merely places for students to sleep, but they often witness a wide array of bizarre activities and restrictions. This weekend it was zombies and Nerf guns.

On Friday, April 15, USF began its third game of Humans vs. Zombies. It was not an uncommon sight to see competitors with bandanas tied around their heads and arms chasing each other around campus.

One aspect to the game is the human’s ability to throw socks or shoot Nerf guns at zombies, but this also proved one of the biggest dilemmas for safety.

Nerf guns are banned in all on-campus residence halls. According to most Resident Assistants, they pose a safety threat; no weapon-like equipment is allowed.

In the past, Humans vs. Zombies players have encountered problems if they have been in possession of Nerf guns in the residence halls.

“Last year I was written up for having a Nerf gun,” said Mike Fischer, a sophomore who lived in Poplar Hall at the time. “We couldn’t have them in our rooms so a lot of people kept them in their cars or just snuck them in and out.”

This year, participants of the game organized pre-game meetings with the Department of Housing & Residential Education and the University Police Department to make sure that problems would not arise.

“Last year, Nerf areas around the dorms caused a lot of noise complaints,” said Joshua Moore, an administrator of Humans vs. Zombies. “This year the Nerf areas have been moved from around residential areas or athletics. There are also Nerf restrictions during the day.”

Campus Housing Offers Specialized Options to Continuing Students and Freshmen

According to school administration, freshmen attending the University of South Florida this fall will once again be required to live on campus.

The 2011-2012 school year marks the third year of USF’s First Year Housing Initiative. This rule requires all first-time college students to live in the residence halls on campus for two semesters.

Current USF students have already had the chance to retain their rooms or select a new one for the upcoming school year. Room selection began Sunday, Feb. 13 with the honors college and continued into March.

Continue reading »

RHA Launches Annual Rez Fest Event

Thursday begins a marathon of events that the Residence Hall Association calls Rez Fest.

Every year the various councils for each residence hall on campus partners with the RHA to hold dozens of events for students who live on campus. These events can be limited to residents of that specific hall or to any USF student. They include casino nights, ice cream socials, game nights, etc.

Rez Fest features a total of thirteen different events between Thursday, March 24 and Sunday, March 27. Each hall council, as well as RHA and other organizations affiliated with the Department of Housing and residential Education, holds an individual event.

This year’s theme is “Hall-y Wood” and each event is based on a popular movie. For instance, Andros I is hosting a “Finding Nemo” pool party at the Andros pool on Friday, March 25. Other events include “Grease” karaoke at Andros II and a “Get Him to the Greek” event hosted in Greek Village.

Each event will also have free food and giveaways to gander interest from residents.

Kickoff for Rez Fest began with Cypress Maple Hall Council’s “Inception” Event in Maple C at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 24.

Here is a schedule of the festival events. Photo courtesy of Katie Zwingert

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