Capstone Project

My capstone portfolio consists of my research project on HIV stigma, my writer’s evolution essay, and other writing from college like my “Why I Write” essay from gateway. In my writer’s evolution essay, I focus on how I developed a better sense of audience and purpose in my writing over the course of the MiW. In my portfolio, I include papers from earlier writing classes that show this deficit in my writing. A lot of my progress in strengthening my sense of audience is reflected by my capstone portfolio.

For the project, I created an HIV Stigma Toolkit designed for HIV social workers in Michigan. I was inspired by my volunteer work as an HIV test counselor at UNIFIED, a non-profit HIV clinic and resource center in Ypsilanti. The goal of the Toolkit is to help HIV social workers increase the capacity of their clients (people living with HIV [PLHIV] and members of vulnerable populations) to effectively challenge HIV Stigma. I aim to help HIV social workers understand the origin and impact of stigma experienced by PLHIV in Michigan as a means to better decode and address their clients’ fears of stigma. The ultimate goal is this: by helping their clients overcome fears of stigma, HIV therapy will be significantly improved.

The first section of the Toolkit (“Stigma Trends in Michigan”) gives a definition of stigmas experienced by PLHIV in the state and an overview of the distribution of those stigma experiences. The goal of this section is to inform social workers of what types of stigmas their clients most likely face, divided by characteristics like age, race, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, marginalization, etc. My next section (“Social Stigma) includes an analytical essay on how stigma affects PLHIV through a social lens. My essay focuses on behavioral outcomes of social stigma such as social avoidance and delayed care. My next section (“Legal Stigma”) is an analytical essay on how stigma affects PLHIV through a legal lens. Here, I focus on the origin of legal stigma through HIV Criminalization, defined as the use of criminal law to prosecute PLHIV. Finally, in my last section of the Toolkit (“Interview”), I interviewed a man living with HIV about the ways he challenged stigma; we also focused our conversation on how stigma changes with age.

I hope you enjoy looking through my project and my older writing pieces. Here’s the link: https://jordan-levine-capstone-project.squarespace.com

 

MLK D.C. Homelessness Presentation

For Martin Luther King’s day, while I was back at home in D.C., I attended an MLK “Day of Service” presentation at my old high school that focused on homelessness. My dad and other individuals who work for non-profit organizations discussed homelessness in the D.C. area. With my dad having worked in affordable housing for the homeless for the past few years, I was very interested in learning more on the subject.

The presentation expanded my notion of being “homeless”. The presenters discussed some of the most damaging forms of homelessness like the condition of being chronically homeless, in which individuals suffer from a mental disease preventing them from getting the help they need. For a long period of my life, I really wondered what drove my dad to work in a non-profit field like in the various homeless coalitions that he had worked. What I witnessed growing up was that the hours are long and that the people you work with aren’t the easiest to deal with.

At the presentation on MLK day, a student asked one of the presenters, who runs a company to find affordable housing for formerly homeless clients, what inspired them to do their line of work. That presenter pointed to his residents as inspiring him to keep working at his job. The selflessness and honestly of his answer struck me, and triggered me to reflect on what I really inspires me in a career of medicine. As I thoughout about what to discuss about my academic and personal life in my medical school interviews (“how to say this” or “when to say what”), this presentation showed me that the most important thing is to stay genuine.

Introduction and Writing Communities

Hi all,

My name is Jordan and I am majoring in Neuroscience with a pre-health focus. I am from Washington D.C., and I hope to start medical school a year after graduation and do some sort of research before going. The main writing community I have been a part of at Michigan has been the Undergraduate Journal of Public Health. I am an editor for the “field notes” section, in which the author recounts a firsthand public health-related experience, typically a volunteer experience. We submitted our first edition for review in November and expect to have the journal published in April. What I like most about working on the journal is the content of the articles I review. What I have found most challenging about editing other people’s writing is knowing where to draw the line. In other words, while it was easy for me to alter someone else’s writing into my own voice, it was challenging to keep their voice consistent while making my own revisions.

 

Another writing community I was a part of was in my study abroad program in Capetown this past summer. My peers and I were tasked to keep a journal to document our trip. My program focused on human rights in South Africa and I had a chance to write about many trips I took like the one to Robin Island or to the comedy festival that I attended in Grahamstown. This journal, which focused on observing human rights and how they are protected in South Africa, gave me the opportunity to integrate a lot of choice into my writing. I liked that this journal I compiled felt more creative, less strict like the academic writing I worked on in the journal of public health. One goal I have for this course is to become a better creative writer.

Boilerplate and Cliche Examples

When I think of examples of boilerplates, I turn to the current presidential election. It’s all over the news, comedy talk shows, and my newsfeed. Even if I didn’t want to hear about the things the presidential candidates were saying, I still would anyway. In particular, I hear republican candidates echo each other on many topics. Each of their campaigns focuses on repealing Obamacare. Moreover, elected Republican officials have been criticizing the Affordable Health Care Act for as long as I can remember. Many of them use the same templates, or boilerplates, to voice their criticisms.

In a CNN Politics article that was released on Tuesday, Ted Cruz discusses Obamacare. Here’s the link: http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/24/politics/ted-cruz-obamacare/index.html

Cruz asserts: “What is problematic about Obamacare is that it is killing millions of jobs in this country and has killed millions of jobs. It has caused millions of people to lose their insurance, to lose their doctors and to face skyrocketing insurance premiums. That is unacceptable.” I think this statement qualifies as a Republican boilerplate, as the assertions that Obamacare is “killing jobs” and that it is causing people to face “skyrocketing insurance premiums” are repeatedly used.

Battery advertisements always say “last longer” or, put differently, “longer lasting”; a cliche I often find that is used by battery companies. The advertisement rarely specifies what the battery is being compared to. They are implying that their battery lasts longer than other batteries or other versions of the same battery, but always neglect to make the full comparison. For example, Energizer’s slogan is that their AA battery “Now Lasts Even Longer”. Duracell boxes have written on them: “Long Lasting Power”. I think these are interesting examples of cliches used by companies to make implications, while hiding assertions, as a means to get us to buy their product.

 

What do you actually mean with that word…?

A person can disguise what they mean when they describe something by choosing the right word: a word that both conceals the meaning of what they are actually trying to say, but can also reveal that meaning upon further reflection. Whether that thing the person is describing is another person, an ideology, or a piece of writing. Whether that person is doing this to be kind or intentionally sly.

We can choose words like these to describe prose. These words have literal meaning that you can locate in a dictionary, but actually mean something else to us when you think about it; they are implying something different. Words like these, which pertain to prose, that come to my mind are adjectives that criticize the prose without seeming like a criticism if you just look at the word itself. Here are some examples:

Ambitious — If  a prose is ambitious, you could be complementing the writer for taking on something difficult (like an important subject or using a complex syntactical structure). But… you could also be saying “this piece is out of the writer’s league, they should stick to something simpler”.

Dramatic — If a prose is dramatic, or has a “dramatic voice”, then the prose is not convincing enough, not reliable, not believable to the reader. 

Enthusiastic — Describing a prose as enthusiastic is a way of saying that it could have been passionate, but something was missing that made it one level below a passionate piece: an enthusiastic piece.

Emotional — If you say its an “emotional piece” well perhaps you are saying that the emotions and feelings that the writer is expressing substitute for lack of substance, facts, analysis. 

Rhetorical —A rhetorical piece is one where the writer is trying to write as a way to appeal to a certain group of people; they are trying to influence them. But if you describe a piece as “rhetorical” you can also be implying that it is dishonest, not true to the writer or a reader not in the group that is being targeted, and thereby not worthy of a read. 

Why I Think I Write

While George Orwell was not an only child, in his essay “Why I Write”, he discusses his “lonely child’s habit” of creating stories and having conversations with imaginary people. Orwell states that his desire to write, or his “literary ambitions”, was born out of essentially being lonely and feeling undervalued as a kid. As an only child, while I did not feel undervalued or hold imaginary conversations, I discovered my literary ambitions by being alone. I picked up things around me to read, usually magazines that my parents left around; I became really into flying magazines as a kid. However, I never read a piece because I enjoy the act of reading: I enjoy having my questions answered.

When I begin reading, I immediately think of what questions can be answered by this piece, and what the author set out to answer by pursuing this endeavor of writing. In other words, I read with a learning or informative incentive.

This is where I find the most pleasure in reading, and so that’s what I want people to gain from my writing. I want to answer their questions while also showing them what question I set out to answer. When a reader delves into an essay I wrote, they will clearly know why I wrote the piece and what question I set out to answer. In my repurposing essay, I spend a lot of my paper discussing my topic personally, in a way that will make my readers understand why I care and why I took the time to write that paper. This is why I believe I want to write. I want to write in a way that will make my driving question intriguing to my reader and have them learn about themselves through my writing.

My Ideas for Remediation

My re-purposing essay is a reflective narrative, in which I discuss how being labeled as Jewish, while I do not personally identify with being Jewish, has shaped parts of my life. In the essay, I explore how I and my peers define “being Jewish,” particularly by contrasting the notions of ethically vs. religiously Jewish. Three ideas I have for a remediation of this essay are:

  1. A documentary of a series of interviews with undergraduate students who define themselves as Jewish. I would ask questions to them like: What makes you identify as being Jewish? My goal here would be to understand how these Jewish students think of being Jewish, and whether they interpret “Jewish” as more ethnic or religious. I would try to devise questions that get at that point, specifically.
  2. Similar to my first idea, I could create a podcast that incorporates interviews from student who define themselves as being Jewish. Unlike #1, where I would focus the project on the other students, I would make this podcast more personal by talking about my own reactions to being labeled as Jewish and my interpretation of being Jewish. I would try to pitch my own ideas to the interviewees and see how they respond.
  3. Finally, I could remediate my essay into a historical presentation where I create something like an interactive map. I would trace how the meaning of Jewish changed over time and was molded into what it is today. Of course, I would have to do a lot of research on its interpretations, and especially its interpretations in the past.

Stay Learning (on the Internet)

I deleted my browsing history last Thursday afternoon and can now reflect on all the places I’ve surfed over this extended weekend. The first site I see myself repeatedly checking is Ctools, which makes sense because I was waiting for my biochem exam grade to come out all of Thursday and Friday. The Ctools Gradebook page was clearly a top hit for the first part of this experiment–until Friday morning when the scores were released.

Two sites that I often look up are Facebook and Vox. I did not need this weekend’s experiment to show me that I consistently check these sites. At the beginning of this year, I deleted my twitter and Instagram, deciding that I needed to minimize being distracted on social media. That left me only with Faceboook, so since its really my only form of social media distraction, I go there probably almost every time I open up my laptop. I realize this can be a bad habit. One way I can disrupt this Facebook habit is to always keep the tab open on my computer. As a way for me to avoid re-opening my Facebook page, every time a notification comes up I can always see it that way. I use similar logic for keeping my imessage app open on my computer at all times: by being able to see if a I receive a message on my computer, it prevents me from unnecessarily checking my phone.

I can also see from my weekend’s browsing history that I searched for Vox at least once a day. I have been reading Vox, especially during this time of year, because I enjoy learning about the presidential primary election. In my opinion, Vox delivers the most concise, straightforward, and most importantly not-boring, news articles about the election. I like to generally keep up with politics; even when the article is not discussing the election, Vox provides good news about what is going on in the government. Finally, because it was Super Bowl weekend, I was on nfl.com, bleacher report, and other sports news sites. I found that this Super Bowl was filled with questions and controversies surrounding Cam Newton: why did he leave the newsroom? why didn’t he recover his fumble? why was he so targeted on twitter for his “lousy” performance? In all, I enjoyed reading about the different opinions I found on those sports sites this weekend.

Writing Venue: The Scientific Journal

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read through many scientific journals, defined as a periodical publication that reports new research. Scientific journals come in many volumes and aim to further the progress of science. As a neuroscience major and having worked in a biopsychology research lab, I have become very familiar with this kind of writing venue. What I find interesting about this particular venue is that the forms that appear in a scientific journal, the scientific articles, are all formatted almost identically with each other. Abstract, introduction, hypothesis, experimental overview, results, discussion, conclusion. That’s the order of almost any writing form you find in the venue of a scientific journal. What is certain, and what I find very interesting about this venue, is that every single scientific article in a scientific journal begins the same: with an abstract. This can be explained by the venue’s audience: the people who read scientific journals are usually researchers on a mission to find something very specific. These researchers are trying to find a specific research article in the midst of  thousands of other similar articles, so scientific journals must be designed for their goal-driven audience. The way to achieve this goal is by placing the abstract at the beginning of every article for the audience to read, as a means to see if this article is in fact what they are looking for.The abstract is similar to the summary of the article, but it emphasizes results and conclusions (if the experiment worked or not). In other words, the reader of a scientific journal should understand the significance of the article before reading it. Thus, a key property of the scientific journal venue is the abstract. The abstract is the deciding point for the reader, whether to continue reading or continue searching.

I have spent many hours skimming abstracts in a scientific journal before coming across the article I was looking for. The scientific journal is written for efficiency; its for researchers who need to find something very specific in a pool of articles that differ by the slightest details. So, another key property of the scientific journal venue is its search engine. Using an online search engine for any scientific journal is an art of its own. You must know where to place the quotation marks, “and”, and “or” in order to get the desired article. It can be a very tedious process. It serves as a filtration method to put the researcher in the realm of articles they are looking for. By manipulating the search engine, a researcher can sort which abstracts they should begin to read through.

Do you actually believe the sex articles?

I have not read that many sex articles, but when I come across one, I am often left wondering how does this author make their argument believable. I’ve found a trend in the sex articles that I’ve read: the authors of these articles cite their own experiences having sex while making an argument. For example, I once read an article on VICE where a female writer outlines the best positions for sex for a girl by discussing her own sexual encounters. I don’t think this is wrong; it makes a sex article more relatable for the reader if the author talks about the sex they’ve had in the past. But where do we draw the line? How credible is this author if everything they’re basing their argument on is firsthand experience? I am very intrigued by this form of writing mainly because of this issue of their own credibility and how they mold their argument. In my opinion, a great sex writer should blend real scientific sex facts with their personal sexual experience if I am going to be convinced. Sex is obviously a very personal thing; everyone does it differently. I’ve never heard of someone having sex with two different people and it being exactly the same, so how can a writer conclude that a sex position is the “best one”. Sometimes what they write is a joke and is meant to be read for only entertainment. But when they try to make a clear argument, I am very interested in how they go about writing their article. If too much is based on their personal experience, I am incredulous. If too much is based on science, I am bored. Finding the sweet spot between the two is, in my opinion, what makes a sex article believable.