Archive for March, 2011

Short on Everything

 By Jocelyn Moye

Montgazette Staff Writer

Frank Short wants his students to get angry.

Even confused or hurt. Some may laugh at themselves.

And that’s a good thing.

His critical approach to teaching inspires a span of reactions.

Short’s classroom approach is reflected in his book: “Short on Everything,” which covers all the bases: food, religion, politics, pop culture, family, sex and his Irish-Catholic heritage.

For nearly 30 years, Short has taught Montgomery County Community College students on subjects that include digital and fine art, graphic design and advertising. The Philadelphia native and graduate of Tyler School of Art wrote the book as a way to take his creativity to another medium.

“The aesthetic principles of fine art and graphic design are similar,” he says. “It all comes from the same place.”

Short applied this perspective to writing.

He describes the book as “a collection of essays that are critical observations mixed with enhanced memoirs.”

His students soon learn that the book reads as if he’s leading a classroom discussion.

Every word, like his in-class critiques, is unabashedly straightforward and laced with humor.

Although some students find this approach overwhelming, it ensures they won’t forget the importance of critique as they continue working.

Short says he approaches instruction by “bringing discipline to things outside of the discipline,” which keeps students engaged.

This outside-in approach to his critiques and lectures often develops from his classroom observations. He reels-in students of the texting generation back into the moment.  Short’s essays are tangential, yet they wrap up to make a distinct point.     

The book of critical essays, like Short’s instruction, leaves an impression.

When asked about time spent in his classes, students have markedly different reactions.  Some are unappreciative of Short’s no-holds-barred critiques, while others laugh as they re-count the ways that he berated their art.

“Every drawing I thought was bad, he liked, and every drawing I thought was good, he didn’t like,” says Ryan Godman.  He says Short’s standards were higher than expected for an introductory-level drawing class. “I think he saw where I could be, but I just couldn’t tap into it.” 

Although the two butted heads over what makes a good drawing, Godman says that his art improved dramatically by the semester’s end. 

Brian Muntzer, an art education major, says the similarity between Short’s book and his instruction is simple.

“It’s his philosophy of being himself,” says Muntzer, who has consulted Short in his studies to become a teacher. In the book and in the classroom, Muntzer says Short uses his experiences.

Reading “Short on Everything” gives students an understanding of Short’s philosophy.

The chapter, “Short on Talent,” describes art students as being gifted with “an inflated view of their own abilities.” Through higher education, they are turned into “jaded, cynical, chain-smoking nihilists,” Short writes.

These statements are not only limited to Short’s societal observations.  In his years at Tyler, Short found himself transformed into an all-black wearing coffee and cigarette dependent.

Short’s fine art has been exhibited in the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia Print Club and various small galleries. His graphic design work has been featured in national ad campaigns. It won’t be surprising if the at-once entertaining and thought provoking “Short on Everything” finds an audience with many readers. Or becomes a pocket guide for his students.

Frank Short’s essays from the book can be read online at: http://faculty.mc3.edu/FSHORT/2005/frank%20short%20biography.htm.

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More Java Please

A Caffeinated Campus

Café noir, near and far

By Julia Tasca

For the Montgazette

Take a minute to ignore the construction noise, dust and mud and consider the coffee that’s coming to the Blue Bell campus.

Coffee served in a soon-to-be-named Parkhouse Hall atrium café or in a new lounge in the College Hall library.

Include the College Hall cafeteria, Advanced Technology Center and bookstore and students will – eventually, once the construction clears – have more options to get a caffeine fix. The Parkhouse café is set to formally open in September; the library lounge, in 2013.

“The [Parkhouse] atrium will become a venue for College events, a destination for student engagement and a place for all to grab quick, reasonably priced food and coffee,” College President Karen Stout said in an e-mailed announcement about the contest to name the café. The deadline for entries was Feb. 14.

Reasonably priced may describe the cafeteria’s coffee.

As far as coffee prices go, the cafeteria presently is the cheapest. A cup of java there ranges from $1 for a small to $1.40 for a large (refilling a travel mug saves some trees and knocks off 25 cents).

Coffee at the ATC café, One Village Coffee, is comparable in quality to Starbucks but without the hefty price tag, says barista Steve Regul. One Village offers drip and specialty coffees ranging from $1.60 to $4.75 (the travel mug discount applies there, too).

One Village Coffee is organic and fair-trade certified, which means the farmers who harvest the coffee beans are paid adequately and are taught properly how to grow and maintain their crops without pesticides or chemical fertilizer, Regul says. The Campus Bookstore also offers fair-trade, organic brew. 

College Food Service Director Dave Green said the new café at Parkhouse will serve the same type of coffee as the cafeteria.

“Students can just grab something fast and be on their way,” says Green.

The library’s café, however, would be comparable to One Village Coffee in the ATC, he said.

Green encourages students, faculty and staff to suggest ideas for the new coffee spots. He can be reached at café@mc3.edu.

Students like sophomore Kate Rogers prefers the coffee served in the ATC.

“It’s about quality and taste, not price or location,” she said.

History instructor Patrice Lewis has a permanent office in Parkhouse Hall, and she claims she will continue to grab her coffee from One Village.

“To me, the ATC building isn’t that far from [Parkhouse] and I enjoy their coffee,” Lewis said.

Student Trevor Fitzgerald, on the other hand, will continue to consider the bottom line and “definitely choose based on price and location.” 

As Montgomery County Community College’s Blue Bell campus becomes more and more caffeinated, students, faculty and staff should consider caffeine’s side effects.

Grace Spena, Director of Health and Wellness Initiatives, revealed a few of the cons that go along with excessive caffeine consumption.

            Caffeine increases heart rate, triggers anxiety and causes restlessness. Eight ounces of coffee contains 45 milligrams to 100 milligrams of caffeine.  But the actual amount of caffeine is approximated in most food and drink. The approximation makes consuming caffeine multiple times a day, every day, unhealthy and risky, she says.

Too much caffeine can even feed depression.  When the immediate effects of caffeine wear off, a person may feel tired. And tiredness is commonly mistaken for a diminished sense of self-worth, Spena added.  Even when the major jolt of energy has gone away, caffeine remains active in the body.  Getting to sleep may seem harder for people who drink caffeinated beverages throughout the day, she said.

Moderation is the key, Spena said.

She provided some healthy alternatives that actually wake up the body faster and last longer than caffeine.  Fruit, protein, fiber, juice and complex carbohydrates are just a few smart choices that will kick off metabolism in the morning, she said.

Gunnar Saxon, a freshman, says that he does not drink coffee often.

“Every once in a while, I’ll have a cup, but I mostly steer clear of the stuff.”

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