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My gentle join-Peace-Corps pitch

October 15, 2019

After years of encouraging my students to create their own multimedia portfolios—whether by gently cajoling or by requiring this singular act on the syllabus—I decided finally to do it myself.

Mostly the site is devoted to my work as the University of Vermont’s student media adviser, though I do include examples of my fiction writing and journalism as well. It’s still a work in progress.

A single post, however, centers on my Peace Corps service. That’s what I’m posting here today.

I’m tempted to tell you up front why I’m singling out this piece to cross-post—that’s the journalist in me—but the fiction writer wants you to float along gently from beginning of the mini-memoir to its end.

(The fiction writer is the one who has let me write this particular post in the first place. He’s more indulgent than the journalist but gets only one UVM media blog category to himself—OSO, or Overly Solipsistic Offerings—which he’s used just five times since 2009.) (His fraternal twin the journalist says he should stop referring to himself in the third person now because it’s creepy. (And he’s cringing at all these parentheses.))

So I’ll keep this introduction brief—the journalist said—and thank you for reading.


The cast of "The Face on the Barroom Floor," closing night.

The cast of “The Face on the Barroom Floor,” closing night.

 

I was a China 5: part of the fifth cohort of Peace Corps volunteers allowed into China—and only the fourth since the events at Tiananmen Square.

It might go without saying that our students at the small teachers college in the urban farmers crossroads of Zigong had never heard the full story of the 1989 massacre in that Beijing square, where—according to them—a mere handful of malcontents had occupied China’s sacred gathering place, always under Chairman Mao’s gaze, for the sole purpose of disrupting social order, until authorities calmly ushered them out. When we showed our students a photo of one brave Chinese youth staring down a tank, they refused to recognize the tank as Chinese, though without question it was.

“That’s Russian,” one student said. “That tank must be Russian.”

We did some things that probably we shouldn’t have while we were in China.

At one point, the four volunteers at our site—two women in their 20s, my wife and then me—misread a string of cultural subtleties intended to forbid us from taking about 20 of our students on a field trip to another college some two hours away. This was at a time when our students had been told that they couldn’t gather in groups of more than three without a permit. Communist Party bosses were alerted to our misdeeds. They tracked us down in this other town, and our foreign-affairs liaison looked weary as he explained that the words “It might be difficult to take such a trip” really meant “Taking such a trip is likely to cause an international incident.” That liaison, Lu Fei, expended what I’m sure was a significant amount of social capital, guanxi, protecting us volunteers—and potentially averting an international incident. Lu Fei spoke no English, and my Chinese was never more than passable, so we’ve lost track of one another since my Peace Corps service ended at the beginning of the millennium. But I love that guy.

Peace Corps, if you’re lucky, equals love—or at least relationships of a kind you couldn’t conceive before. Our former students, now in their 30s, aren’t allowed to use Facebook, so we keep in touch through WeChat, an app that you might or might not have heard of but which dominates in China. Last year, one of the students visited the United States and took the two extra flights necessary in order to visit us in Vermont, where her 3-year-old girl danced with my daughters. I’d directed Didi Gong in an English-language stage play at Zigong Teachers College, but mostly she had studied with my wife, Beth. In English that Didi had developed in Beth’s classes and office hours, she thanked my wife for being the best teacher she had ever had. As she spoke, Didi broke into tears. That’s how grateful she was. Beth cried, too.

Peace Corps, if you’re lucky, opens the world to you and helps you discover a part of yourself to offer the world. In my position as a media adviser at the University of Vermont, I make sure my students know about my service so that they have someone they can approach if they’re curious. So far, I’ve watched two of them make the journey overseas: One of my newspaper advertising managers today teaches English in Armenia, and one of my radio station managers just returned from the Mbunza village of Mupini in Namibia, where she worked daily as a health educator.

I’m thrilled to see my American students experience the toughest job they’ll ever love. You can experience it, too. If you’re thinking about beginning the adventure, do it. If you don’t take the chance when you can, you’ll always wonder whether you should have. And if you do take the chance, you’re unlikely to regret your decision. Or forget your experience.

Note: This story originally appeared at byChrisEvans.com.

UVM front and center at summer’s largest college student media event

July 12, 2019

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UVM Student Media took center stage in Minneapolis this week at the College Media Mega-Workshop, the summer’s largest gathering of college media students in the country.

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Evans

UVM media adviser Chris Evans, who helped to produce the event as president of College Media Association—one of four college media organizations sponsoring the event—taught about 50 collegiate journalists the ins and outs of reporting and storytelling.

“So much of what I’m able to teach at these national events comes from what I’ve learned about student media at the University of Vermont,” Evans said. “This is a good chance to pay it forward.”

CMA produced the event with Associated Collegiate Press, College Media Business and Advertising Managers and Collegiate Broadcasters, Inc., Evans said.

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Pavis

His co-presenter, Theta Pavis—CMA vice president and student media adviser at New Jersey City University—said the goal was to ground students in a variety of forms of storytelling.

“We’re not talking just about writing,” Pavis said. “This is photo, social, even a bit of video. Today’s journalist needs all of the above in the toolkit.”

Caleigh Knight, a sports writer from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, said she learned a great deal during photo training on the second day of the workshop.

She said she learned that, in shooting photos, it was important to get to the right angle for the shot.

“The weirder you look taking it, the better it works,” she said.

This is the fourth year that the four organizations have worked together to produce the workshop, which this summer brought more than 350 students to the University of Minnesota for four days of intensive training.

IMG_5556Workshops included sessions on student leadership, college radio, ad sales, photography, diversity in the media, self-care for journalists and more, Evans said.

“This event is getting bigger and better every year,” he said. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

The Vermont Cynic racks up photo and advertising awards

December 4, 2018

The Vermont Cynic has had a big semester on the national awards scene.

During the National College Media Convention in Louisville, UVM’s student journalists were recognized as among the best in the nation in two categories: photojournalism and advertising layout:

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Black Student Union President Harmony Edosomwan, a sophomore sits in the middle of Main Street in Burlington during this week’s protest. Edosomwan and others have been calling for the removal of top University of Vermont officials for what she calls failure to act against racism on campus. Photo by Oliver Pomazi, The Vermont Cynic

  • A photo of UVM student Harmony Edosomwan, president of the Black Student Union, sitting in the middle of Main Street in Burlington during historic protests for racial equality in Spring 2018 won second place in the nation in the environmental portraiture category. Vermont Cynic photojournalist Oliver Pomazi took the photo.
  • A Vermont Cynic advertisement known as a “house ad” won fourth place in the nation in its category. The ad, designed by Cynic layout editor Lily Keats, was intended to encourage students to get involved with the student newspaper.

Cynic leaders said they were proud of the work produced by their staff.

“We’re very excited that the work we do every day has paid off, and we’re looking forward to producing even stronger content in the future,” said Greta Bjornson, the news organization’s editor-in-chief.

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Cynic layout editor Lily Keats won fourth place in the nation for her advertisement encouraging students to join the Cynic staff.

Award recipients were chosen by judges from Associated Collegiate Press, the student-media organization that also awards the Pacemaker Award—the “Pulitzer Prize of college journalism”—which the Cynic has won in years past—and the Story of the Year Award, which the Cynic earned in 2015 and 2016.

 

A Day in the Life at UVM

October 12, 2018

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Want to see what it’s like at the University of Vermont? Check out this week’s feature by University Communications: “A Day in the Life”—a sunup till past-sundown visual journey featuring videos and photos, like the one above of this week’s Vermont Cynic staff meeting.

Thanks for a GREAT year at UVM Student Media

May 22, 2018

With hundreds of students spread across three amazing student media organizations, this year in WRUV-FM, UVMtv and The Vermont Cynic has been straight-up fantastic.

Thanks for all of that you do. Have a great summer.

And we’ll see you in August!

The Vermont Cynic documents historic UVM protests

February 24, 2018
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Black Student Union President Harmony Edosomwan, a sophomore sits in the middle of Main Street in Burlington during this week’s protest. Edosomwan and others have been calling for the removal of top University of Vermont officials for what she calls failure to act against racism on campus.
Photo by Oliver Pomazi, The Vermont Cynic

When a group of University of Vermont students protested this week against the administration for what the students called a failure to act against racist acts and institutional practices—a week in which a UVM staff member also staged a public hunger strike over the same issues—The Vermont Cynic staff launched a multimedia effort on VtCynic.com to capture the moment.

This collegiate journalism rivaled some of the best that The Vermont Cynic has ever produced. This page contains just a few of the moments captured by the staff of Cynic Editor-in-Chief Erika Lewy and Managing Editor Greta Bjornson.

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NoNames4Justice, an UVM social justice group, staged rallies in Waterman, the main UVM administration building, more than once during the week. The first of the rallies occurred on Feb. 20 in support of John Mejia, a UVM staff member who staged a hunger strike to protest racial injustice. Photo by Alek Fleury, photo editor of The Vermont Cynic

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UVM Vice Provost Annie Stevens, right, listens to student protesters, who have called for her to resign.

UVM media in the spotlight

November 27, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.13.14 AMFor the second time in just as many weeks, the University of Vermont’s communications office has devoted some virtual ink to UVM student media. We appreciate the shout-out!

You can read the latest story here.