Month: April 2017

North Carolina support for President Trump declines as first 100 days in office comes to a close

by Mariah Posey | April 28, 2017

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Graphic by Elon University.

With President Donald Trump’s first 100 days coming to a close, North Carolina support for the president and his administration has seen a considerable decline according to a recent Elon Poll conducted April 18-21. By conducting a live-caller, dual frame survey of 506 registered North Carolina voters, the poll found that 51 percent of people disapprove of the president’s current handling of his presidency despite 56 percent believing his actions match up with his campaign promises.

42 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency and seven percent remain in the middle ground. Despite initial widespread usNorth Carolina support during the election period, now 49 percent say Trump is doing “a worse job as president than President Obama.”

Jason Husser, director of Elon Poll, said that although presidents usually experience strong support during the beginning of their terms, Trump’s presidency is different. He added that the level of support Trump has seen in his first 100 days both for himself and in his key policies is “as low as we’ve seen in the history of opinion polling.”

“Trump’s difficulty in presidential approval likely comes from two sources: his rhetorical and policy decisions, which he has control over, and a divisive polarized and dysfunctional political environment that makes it hard for any incoming president to function,” Husser said.

Emily Mitch, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at Elon University, said that she’s not surprised by the decline in support based on the president’s inability to follow through on his promises.

“As someone who works in education, that’s where I tend to gravitate more to education myself about what’s been going on in that sphere,” Mitch said. “I think some of the work with Betsy Devos and that department is particularly disappointing to me, like the student loan stuff that’s been going on. I’m not wishing that things would happen particularly, but wishing that things that have happened did not happen.”

Like Mitch, senior Darius Moore also sees disparity in the Trump administration’s handling of education policies as well as other huge issues his team has promised to tackle.

“There’s been a lot of lack of attention to detail and a lot of big ideas about what he and his team want to change in regard to the Affordable Care Act, yesterday net neutrality, the public education system,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of big ideas thrown out but no sort of plan of action. I think people have very little trust in him because it’s a lot of talk right now. In these past 100 days, it’s been a lot of impulsive, ‘I just want to get a rise out of people and see what happens,’ instead of letting things pan out slowly and see what happens.”

Sheyenne Michelizzi, program assistant at the Provost Office, said that although she has never been favorable of the president, she is more devastated than before he took office and can’t tell whether he has a strong stance either for or against any particular issue.

“What I would like to see from him is more humility and any kind of thought towards the greater good of the citizens,” Michelizzi said.

 

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‘We Make It Our Own’: BSU 2017 Fashion Show reminds audience to live happily and unafraid in their own skin

Multimedia reporting by Mariah Posey | April 23, 2017

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Since 1986, the Black Student Union (BSU) — previously known as the Black Cultural Society — has been putting on a fashion show that places Elon University students of color at the forefront. This year on Saturday April 22 at 7:30p.m. in McKinnon, sophomore Kenneth Brown, special events coordinator for the Center for Race Ethnicity Diversity Education, wanted the show to deliver a message beyond fashion. He wanted both the models and the audience to feel empowered in their skin, and chose to base the stylings off of the popular 1987 black sitcom “A Different World.”

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Models stand together at the end of the show and receive a standing ovation.

“I wanted to allow them to see a different world,” Brown said. “A world in which we make it our own despite the things that make it seem like it’s not for us. I hope people learn that black people, we’re here. We’re trying to make a difference because this is our world, too.”

Aside from the fun elements of preppy clothing and dynamic struts across the stage, the show included several powerful segments. One in particular featured a song by Vince Staples entitled “Hands Up.” As the song repeated, “Put your hands in the air,” the models each lined up fighting the urge of their hands to give in to the requests. By the end of the struggle, their hands succeeded in their position of surrender.

Another powerful segment — which focused on business and business casual attire — devoted a portion to “black girl magic” and showed the models making confident strides down the stage, each making sure to give supportive high fives to one another as they crossed paths.

“My favorite part was the black girl magic,” said sophomore Kristin Wiggins. “No one ever talks about black girls, only about black men.”

 

For Wiggins and others in the crowd, it was refreshing to see support from multiple perspectives.

But the show didn’t stop at powerful statements. BSU staff sophomores Janay Tyson and Lana Logan also presented a $250 check to the Positive Attitude Youth Center in Burlington, North Carolina for their meaningful work with children and young adults. Tyson said that after having volunteered there and seeing the impact the center had, she realized their work was “amazing” wanted to help give back.

“Sometimes you do this work and it doesn’t get noticed,” she said.

For Brown, amongst the different things he hoped the show would accomplish, he most wanted for it to be a presentation of resilience.

“The largest portion of our history was dark and we weren’t very happy,” Brown said. “I wanted to showcase our happiness. I want people to take away that this our world and we make it our own.”

Elon University faculty engage in panel discussing the implications of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | April 12, 2017

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Panel members left to right: Kaye Usry, Jason Kirk, Baris Kesgin, Haya Ajjan.

U.S. media coverage took an unexpected turn last week when news broke that President Donald Trump authorized a missile strike against the Assad-regime airbase. Trump said his actions were in response to the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, but some feel the strike was a policy reversal for the president who campaigned on staying out of conflict.

To initiate discussion and clear up lingering questions regarding the strike and its implications, members of Elon University faculty engaged in a panel Wednesday, April 11 at 4:15p.m. in Moseley 215. Safia Swimelar, associate professor of political science and policy studies, said as unfortunate as the events going on in Syria are, they need to be talked about. In moderating the panel, she aimed to provide context on the situation by discussing the humanitarian aspect as well as geopolitics and strategy, foreign policy and domestic relations under the Trump administration.

Ajjan pull“My family and I were actually glued to the TV,” said Haya Ajjan, associate professor of management information systems, speaking of when news broke last Thursday night. Just two days before on Tuesday, news coverage focused on the chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 100 people. Many blamed President Bashar al-Assad and his government, considering it a war crime against his own people.

“I looked over at my husband and actually he was crying,” Ajjan said, recalling the night she first heard about the chemical attack. “We both had tears in our eyes. We cried for the more than 5,000 soles that had died. I wondered, how many babies would be orphaned today?”

Although Ajjan is unsure of the impact Trump’s strike will have on war, she said she thinks it sent an important message.

“In the past three years, we Syrians have witnessed a lot of loss,” she said. “Assad and Putin are under the belief that they could do whatever they want, as they have for years, and no one can stop them.”

What the Trump administration proved with the missile strike she said, though controversial, is that these “atrocities are no longer tolerated.”

But the problem arises in analyzing how suddenly the decision to authorize the strike was made, leaving room for uncertainty in regard to the future direction of the president’s administration.

“As faculty, as Americans, as non-Americans, we’d all be forgiven for being pretty confused,” said Jason Kirk, associate professor of political science and policy studies. “It is an extraordinary shift in the vision of Trump’s presidency, in his goals for the world.”

Kirk added, “It feels like Trump made [what he considered to be] a good decision based off what looked good to him, and those who approved based it on last week. Period.”

Kirk said it’s important to keep in mind that there is often disorganization in the early days of any administration, but feels that what the Trump administration has demonstrated so far is “extraordinary disorganization in the White House.” Part of that, he says, is due to Trump’s shortcomings with staffing members of his team.

“It’s very difficult to conduct foreign policy when you’re missing layers of bureaucracy,” he said. “People who know things about places. Government and leadership requires that.”

Later, he added, “I don’t know how much to ascribe strategy to it versus just they didn’t expect to win the presidency. And they didn’t really plan for a lot of this. They didn’t plan for the White House Easter egg hunt. They didn’t do a lot of things and I think time will tell.”

According to Baris Kesgin, associate professor of political science, the Trump administration has failed at giving consistent signaling as to their course of action.

“Even the congress at this point is not knowledgeable of the Syrian game plan,” he said. “That is unfortunate.”

Though it’s clear that Trump was trying to send a message, it’s unclear of what that message is for certain. Trump felt that Assad crossed the line by waging a chemical attack on his people, but Kirk wonders if that “line” has been definitely laid out enough for the U.S. strike to have accomplished its goal. He says that confusion may only lead to more strife.

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This map shows how populated different parts of Syria are with individual forces of power.

“The stakes are too high,” Kirk said. “There’s an international audience to this. If people are confused by what Trump means by this, if Assad doesn’t know what lines not to transgress going forward, then he’ll either decide it doesn’t matter or he’s left in a position to continue to test the U.S. to figure out where these lines might lie.”

As foreign involvement in the Syrian conflict continues to grow, discussion around it becomes fuzzier. According to Ajjan, as the years have progressed, the plan for finding a military solution to ending war in Syria has become less and less clear.

“We used to have a plan in 2012 and in 2013, but now there are too many players on the ground,” she said.

Though Trump has taken an action he believes will prove that the U.S. won’t stand for abuse and suffering, his questionable long-term motives and haste in decision-making leaves much to be speculated.

Kirk acknowledged that there’s really no way for Americans to fully grasp how the president plans to handle foreign policy going forward, but is confident that it will one day come out.

“Part of the nice quality of having such a chaotic early administration is people are eventually going to write books about this stuff,” Kirk said. “They’re going to be tripping over each other to tell us what’s going on. We’ll just have to wait a few years.”

Pursuit of fitness: 22-year-old Mark Harris’ journey to developing a passion for health and inspiring others

by Mariah Posey | April 2, 2017

Mark Harris is a 22-year-old self-taught fitness motivator from Chapel Hill, North Carolina with more than 4,500 Instagram followers. He shares videos of his workout transformations as well as words of encouragement with his followers.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

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Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

There’s one golden key to life whether pursuing happiness or any other achievable fulfillment and Will Smith said it best in the movie “Pursuit of Happyness”: if you want something, go get it. Period. At just 22-years-old, fitness motivator Mark Harris has become the champion of his own career by making his goals a priority and checking things off the list as he goes.

With a current Instagram following of more than 4,500 people with whom he shares motivational posts tracking his fitness journey, Harris aims to show people that failure is essential to any success story and that anyone willing to work is capable of succeeding.

“I’m a huge believer in if you want it, you’ll make time for it,” Harris said. “If it’s truly your passion, without any busts or doubts, you will make time for it at the end of the day.”

From skinny to built: figuring out what works

Harris began making time for what he wanted two years ago when he decided to start living a healthier lifestyle. Being the only one in his family to take a strong interest in fitness at the time, he was left to figure out the specifics on his own which he described as a “nerve-wracking” process.

Harris Pull 2“It didn’t take me til’ recently to figure things out, like eight months ago, when I really started to conduct my own studies and research what workouts work best, what benefits what muscle groups and whatever,” he said. “That’s when I really started to crack it down. I guess from failure, from trying this workout and that workout, that’s what kept me going.”

Knowing that everyone’s body performed differently, it was important for Harris to learn what worked best for him. He said although genetics play a role, strong work ethic can also yield results.

“Some people have great genetics so therefore, they work a certain muscle group,” he said. “Of course, they’re going to be able to grow faster, develop faster, get better results. And then there’s the other people who really have to work twice, even 10 times as hard, as the other person who has great genetics.

“That’s why I kept doing the transformations. It’s to show people that I basically came from nothing — skinny guy running track — to I guess a bodybuilding motivator now.”

Finding a balance between work and play

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Photo by Caroline Brehman | Mark Harris at Elon University.

Harris says true passions require sacrifice, and as a member of the U.S. Air Force deployed in the Middle East, he is no stranger to the practice.

“Even though you have to sacrifice other things that are less important to you, you’re still going to do what your passion is at the end of the day,” Harris said. “Of course I run into lack of sleep, oh I miss this meal, that meal, but I’m so prioritized on what I want to do. People call it selfish, but it’s my passion so I don’t think that’s selfish whatsoever.”

Harris believes in the value of working hard and said slacking is not one of his cups of tea.

“I’m not a believer in kind of wanting things,” he said. “You either want it or you don’t.”

He says the best way to stay positive about what you’re doing is to not sweat the small things.

“There’s somebody out there that’s in a way worse situation than you’re in and I always think about that all the time,” he said. “Especially me being on this deployment, I’ve seen some really interesting things that’s just made me value my place in life. Valuing my opportunities, valuing my blessings. It’s really a humbling feeling.”

Although Harris has run into days where he doesn’t feel the most motivated, he makes it a point to remind himself of his purpose.

“I just consistently remind myself of what I am doing this for, how far I’ve came,” he said. “If I stop now and make excuses, how far is it going to set me up in the future? If I stop now, then I’ve basically settled. Settling is always not good, no matter which way you look at it.”

Using social media as a tool

Once Harris began seeing progress he was comfortable with, he realized he could use his results to inspire others through his Instagram account. He says the response he got was shocking.

“I had no clue that I had this many people supporting me,” he said. “You can scroll through all the comments and people are always telling me, ‘Keep pushing, keep going.’ They have my back if I need any help. And these people don’t even work out at all, and they see me posting these transformations and they want to go out and get it themselves.”

Harris pullOne supporter left a comment saying:

You’ve come such a long way and you are one of my very few sources of positivity and motivation. I do hope you always keep progressing in your journey and don’t ever lose that animal ambition of yours.

“I think that was my best comment,” Harris said. “Really caught me by surprise.”

With the support of his followers, Harris knew he couldn’t quit.

“People that don’t even work out keep telling me to keep going, keep pushing and that’s what makes me feel like I’m actually doing it for more of a purpose,” he said. “Because people have my back, I don’t really want to let them down.”

The opportunities Harris’s Instagram has provided him with allowed him to recognize its power along with that of other social platforms.

“People do not realize how much social media helps out and benefits you in the long run,” he said. “So many people shun social media, but social media actually helps you out tremendously.”

Working towards building a brand

Besides reaching his weight goal of 180 pounds and competing in the near future for natural bodybuilding, Harris wants to begin developing a brand within the next couple of years. Along with creating a clothing line, he hopes to someday own a gym of his own.

Larger than fitness, Harris wants his brand to promote messages of positivity. He encourages others to never quit, to hurdle their obstacles and above all, to know that “failing is acceptable, but settling isn’t.”

While uncertain of where exactly his passion will lead him next, Harris assures one thing:

“I’m just getting started.”

For fitness tips and more from Mark, visit his YouTube here.