All posts by Sarah Rewers

B. Bad

#GoodbyeBreakingBad

Staff writer Sarah Rewers gives a recap of TV’s most talked about show, and sits down with USF Alum and Breaking Bad  Story Editor Gennifer Hutchinson.

*Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read this if you have not watched the last season yet.*

The epic drama series is over. For those of us that fell in love with the show and its incredible twists and turns, not to mention the outstanding acting, what do we do now? The show has ended, Walt and Hank are dead and Jesse is free.

We are now left with nothing but the task of reflecting on one of the best — if not the best — drama series ever created.

AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is not a show that fans watch superficially. This show requires digestion. It’s difficult to watch a ruthless jackass shoot Hank (after hearing his last words to Walt: “You’re the smartest guy I’ve ever met, and you’re too stupid to see he made up his mind ten minutes ago”) or the hated Todd pop a bullet into Andrea’s head without any warning. We have to let our brains adjust and interpret.

Not only is the narrative excellent and well-done, but also the aesthetic qualities create images that we hold with us after each episode. Namely, the cinematography adds to the show’s appeal. Remember Season 4, Episode 1 when the camera zoomed in on the blood from one of the many murder scenes and then smoothly transitioned to a guy eating fries and ketchup? Those details are very smart and they become almost tangible to us.

Another impressive aspect of the show is the fact that the occurring events are not always presented in chronological order. This is not an unusual tactic — Quentin Tarantino is known for doing this in his movies — but it definitely creates tension and interest for the viewer. “Breaking Bad” is able to do this without letting all the facts become murky.

To do some digesting for myself, I spoke with “Breaking Bad” story editor Gennifer Hutchison, who graduated from USF with an undergraduate degree in media studies.

Foghorn: What led you to this job? How were you able to jump from college grad pursuing media career to famous TV writer?

GH: I worked in the industry for ten or twelve years as an assistant. I got a job as a production assistant for “Nash Bridges.” Then, I got a job on “X Files” as a production assistant. Vince Gilligan (the creator of “Breaking Bad”)  was the writer/producer for “X Files” so I worked for him there. Once I heard that Vince was starting a new TV show for AMC, I immediately read the script and contacted him. First, I was a writer’s assistant.

My big break came when Vince allowed me to write a freelance script for “Breaking Bad.” He liked it, so he used it for Season 3, Episode 8 and hired me as a staff writer for the show. From then on, I was promoted each season, until I eventually became the executive story editor.

Foghorn:What, in your opinion was the main theme of the show? Specifically, what is your view of Walter White and what are your thoughts on his changed personality?

GH: When Vince created the show, his idea was to create a character and change him. His vision was to take a guy and watch him change. That’s what’s really interesting about “Breaking Bad.” We thought about what felt organic. We always approached it from a character’s standpoint. We took it step by step, until he descended into a criminal. We thought really hard about what would make sense for him. We did the same for all the characters.

Foghorn: I read somewhere that Bryan Cranston thought the ending of the show was “perfect and unforgiving.”  Do you think everyone had this ending in mind throughout all the previous seasons? Did you pretty much know where the show was going to go or was it still up in the air by the middle seasons?

GH: We all had general ideas of what would happen to the characters. We all knew Walt should die, and we talked about different scenarios that could happen. We didn’t know if he would die after being shot or if it would be the cancer. Also, we all knew Jesse should go away. It was generally all up for grabs.

Foghorn: Going back to your experience at USF, I read a quote from you about how Professor Barker-Plummer influenced you during your time here. Is there anything in particular that you learned from her, or from any professor here, that you still hold with you today?

GH: All my Professors influenced me. It was really upsetting when Andrew Goodwin died. I have been thinking about him a lot since that happened, because he was really supportive. I did my senior thesis in his class. I had this idea to write it as a piece of fiction, and he said I absolutely should. And I think him letting me write something academic in a fiction form gave me confidence to communicate through fiction.

Barker-Plummer taught a lot about representation and groups. That’s what I take with me into a room, especially when I deal with characters who are the minorities. I try to make sure that they are just as real as the standard lead characters. She taught me to be mindful of those things, which was really important and helped. It’s about telling a good story without sacrificing your value systems.

Foghorn Lastly, what advice do you have for students pursuing similar media-related careers?

GH: The thing you learn is that no one makes it the same way. It’s nothing like becoming a doctor or an accountant. It’s a very fluid process. The one common thread is that you have to really want to do this. It’s very competitive. Even when you’re in your darkest moments, you have to know that this is what you want to do. You need to be persistent and confident.

Also, if you want to be a writer you should be writing. You should always be practicing your craft. Talent plus luck is the way you make it. You have to be there when that person says ‘hey why don’t I give you a shot.’

The Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus

An Added Hurdle for College Students to Cross

College students may be pleased — or infuriated — to know that their schools may offer the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) during their senior year. What is this and why does it exist? It is essentially a standardized test for college students–similar to our high school SATs– and if it gains increasing popularity over the next few years, it will most likely be what future employers require of college graduates.This test aims to cover the areas of analysis, problem solving, writing, quantitative reasoning and reading, according to the Council for Aid to Education.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “about 200 colleges and universities, including small liberal arts colleges Ursuline College of Pepper Pike, Ohio, and Stonehill College of Easton, Massachusetts as well as some of the California and Texas state university systems” will offer the CLA+ to their seniors this year.

If you enjoy taking tests (or, at least, tend to perform well on them), this could be your saving grace if you did not earn the best grades in college. This might be a result of the fact that more and more employers are starting to realize that GPA is not the best indicator of a student’s readiness for a full-time, post-graduate job.

Why the shift towards holding unreliable, dubious feelings about GPA? Two words: grade inflation. And employers are starting to catch onto this trend.

Even Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy at the nonprofit American Council of Trustees and Alumni, believes that “the tests could help address the problem of grade inflation, with schools awarding higher grades over the years in an effort to attract and retain students.”

So, let us consider this: you pay thousands — or, in the case of USF, hundreds of thousands–of dollars by the end of your (hopefully) four years in and then, right when you think you’re done with the stress, you’re not.

If your school did not adequately prepare you for the “real world” with the tools and necessary knowledge — even if you got decent grades — it will definitely be reflected on your CLA+ test score.

The CLA+ could highlight the differences between mediocre educations and top-notch educations. It will illustrate what students really did learn during their undergraduate years.

Hopefully, because we USF students are able to engage with our professors and connect with our classmates on levels unknown to students of insanely huge schools, this will be picked up by the CLA+.

One thing’s for sure: universities that are lacking in the education department will definitely not be able to hide behind their easygoing professors after employers start asking for CLA+ test scores.

For this reason, the CLA+ will produce results that will most likely even out the playing field made up of post-graduates scouring for jobs. And because it aims to even out, it holds good intentions.

College Labor: The Solution for the Monetarily Distressed Student

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Be it to pay off rent or to tip the food delivery guy, the quick buck is every college student’s best friend. College Labor is a service geared toward helping out college students who would like more spending money but can’t commit to a full-time job. The website allows college students to earn extra cash by performing mostly standard jobs including shopping, moving, and delivering for San Franciscans who need some help and are willing to pay for it.

 

Currently, 22 USF students are employed by College Labor. “I am very happy with the money I make from it. The jobs can pay really well for relatively short hours of work, so it is very profitable,” said junior Ashan Fernando. “I make way more than minimum wage,” said another junior, Christopher Viray. “We make a good amount of money with tips.” Viray added that he would recommend this job, since the “bosses are great, the jobs aren’t too bad and the money is good for a struggling college student who needs pocket money.”

 

College Labor was launched in September 2012 by Joey Toboni and Justin Ohanessian, a 2007 USF business administration alum. Ohanessian and Toboni conceived the idea for the company in college when they came home seeking the perfect summer job. However, they found it difficult to find jobs that would pay “under-qualified 19-year old students.” Sound familiar? They tried but had no luck, so “in an act of desperation” they posted advertisements saying they’d do anything for money. “We soon discovered a real demand for odd jobs, tasks and general labor help, especially if it was from friendly and reliable college students,” Ohanessian and Toboni explain on the “About Us” section of the website.

 

Student workers appear on the College Labor website. Their pictures are shown, as well as little blurbs identifying their first names, the schools they go to, and how much money they have made with the company thus far.

 

According to Ohanessian, a majority of the people hiring students are older adults living in San Francisco. Very rarely do students hire other students for jobs. If you’re a fellow San Franciscan who needs some sort of hauling or cleaning job done, you simply post it on the website, and College Labor will come up with a wage for you. Once you accept that wage, the job is sent out to all College Labor workers until someone claims it.

 

Most of the jobs utilize manual labor skills. Students don’t need to have a car and don’t need to be able to lift heavy items. Toboni said that some employees have a membership with Zip Car, which provides car and van rental services at affordable prices for students.  Those interested in working for College Labor won’t have to worry too much about getting stuck with an abnormal job. The strangest job posting Ohanessian found was a request to ship pork rinds from the Ferry Building farmer’s market to someone living in North Carolina. Ohanessian said. Another odd job was for a student to wait in line for the iPhone 5 the first day it was released. College Labor has also connected students to helping out with an online cooking show with chef Michael Mina and musician Michelle Branch.

 

Although there are many websites dedicated to providing folks assistance with daily tasks by connecting them with responsible people online, College Labor was created specifically for college students burdened with loans the high costs of tuition. “Some customers have mentioned they feel uncomfortable making someone their same age or older do the same task,” said Ohanessian.

 

People can also count on College Labor to get their jobs done. Ohanessian and Toboni will personally cover shifts if students are not able to at the last minute. “We will do our best to make up for it with refunds and discounts,” Ohanessian said . “We just want to make sure everyone is having a great experience.”

 

“We don’t have huge [venture capital] backers forcing us to expand and grow as quickly as possible. We are funding this venture ourselves and our focus is really making this a great local service, “Ohanessian said. “For now we just want to offer a great experience for our customers and our students. If we do that, we feel we’ll be successful.”

Requirements (SIDEBAR)

1. You must be an active college student.

2. Simply visit the website at http://collegelabor.org and “Apply to be a Helper.”

3. Once you submit your information, your profile will be looked over and, if qualified, you will be called in for an interview.

4. New hires are put through a training session to prepare them for different job scenarios.

Art For Change: African American SF Artists Seek to Stay Distinguished

Last Wednesday, USF welcomed an unique presentation from the Three Point Nine Collective — an art group that strives to provide a community for all the African American artists living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group was recently started in response to the recent decline of the African American population in San Francisco to a mere 3.9%, which is what inspired the collective’s title. As the population declined, so did the public attention to African American art. The purpose of the group is to shed public light on the African American artists living in the Bay Area and peg the question, “Does San Francisco care if African American people are here?”

As founder A.T. Stevens mentioned, the artists want to incorporate the “African American presence in the fabric of life” by exhibiting their art, and not letting the San Francisco media exclude them. The Three Point Nine Collective website further explains that “their work represents their creative contribution to the African American existence, enriching the greater San Francisco artistic community with their narratives and perspectives born from being members of a diaspora community.”

The four following artists presented impressive collections this past Wednesday evening: Ron Moultrie Saunders, Michael Ross, Sydney Cain, and Rodney Ewing. Saunders displayed his Secret Life of Plants collection, which included “photograms”—pictures formed without cameras—of plants and other organic materials. He is able to expand the size of little plants through his artwork, which he believes allows him to “not take nature for granted” and to “expose the plant form” that we otherwise might not take the time to recognize.
Ross, a San Francisco native, believes that art is the “blackest thing [he] can do” because it allows him to create his own conventions and express himself singularly.

He has lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years, and has observed the depressing decline not only in the city’s African American community, but also in the interest in African American art. He presented his collection of abstract houses that strikingly express intense human emotion through color and movement. Through his art, he aims to capture the “universality” of human emotion.

Cain is a student at California State University East Bay and spends her time creating mystical freestyle drawings and vibrant paintings of abstract patterns and shapes that form strange and intriguing figures. When asked how she wants to her art to affect society, she replied that she wants to “challenge the colonial cosmograms.”

By this, she means that she aims to provide a response to the shaping of the environment and presenting what art means to her. Through the original figures she creates, she is able to provide a “vessel for art” and depict the hidden side of herself as a young black woman.
Ewing creates beautiful paintings based on certain topical events, such as “Baptism” that was inspired by the tragic occurrences of the Port Chicago explosion that killed many African Americans during World War II.

He uses watercolor as a medium to represent the paradoxical effects of water in history, such as Hurricane Katrina. These paintings are presented in his collection titled “Rituals of Water.” Before he takes his brush to the paper, he first lets the watercolor form natural patterns and images overnight. Through Ewing’s historical images, he is able to “dissect memory to create a narrative” that sticks in one’s mind.

Thanks to the Three Point Nine Collective, these artists are receiving the deserved recognition that the San Franciscan media was not allotting them. If San Francisco represents tolerance and diversity, then it must continue to incorporate the strong presence of the African American community. By giving attention to these artists, we can maintain this essential community and not ignore the people who contribute culture and inspiration to this city.

Senate Briefings

C.A.S.A. Seeks to Improve Advising Assistance
Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Academic Student Services Laleh Shahideh gave an informative presentation on the recently formed Center for Academic and Student Achievement (C.A.S.A.) program. C.A.S.A., which was created last summer, aims to provide academic support in all areas to USF undergraduate students and graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The program is expected to have its office set up in the UC building later this year.
C.A.S.A. proposes to assign each USF student with a faculty advisor to give academic support. It will also assign a student staff member from the academic colleges, schools and Student Life department as a university advisor to assist students.
Shahideh stressed the importance of student-faculty interaction, which C.A.S.A. hopes to increase at USF.
The program is expected to be particularly helpful when there are scheduling conflicts between professors and students. It is also anticipated the program will ensure students have an advisor in circumstances where faculty advisors have to leave on sabbatical.
With the implementation of C.A.S.A., students will no longer have to contact multiple offices for advising assistance. Advisors will no longer be assigned by major, which will open opportunities for all students to receive help.
C.A.S.A. aims to eliminate the stress associated with registration by creating more resources for students to seek academic and personal support.

State Government Poses Threat to Recipients of Cal GrantsCal Grant financial aid students may be at risk due to the state government’s proposal to reduce Cal Grant funds. Governor Brown intends to reduce California’s deficit by increasing taxes but if voters don’t approve, his administration will make cuts to bussing for K-12, programs for the disabled and higher education. For recipients of the Cal Grant at private universities this means aid would be reduced by more than forty percent.

Currently, 943 USF students would be affected by the cuts to the Cal Grant program.
The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) urges all students to send in stories of their personal need for aid. March 7 is the AICCU day of action, in which students benefiting from Cal Grants can share their thoughts on the issue with Sacramento government officials.

Visit aiccu.edu for more information about proposed cuts to Cal Grant.