Puksta Self-Care: Forging Ahead into Finals!

Image result for image of students preparing for finals

The time has come when all the preparation and studying for the semester is nearing an end and final tests and papers are around the corner. Now is the time to ready your minds and bodies for the final push to finish classes. Pukstas thrive on challenge and stress, but the months of hard work can have a draining effect and can weaken us when we need all of ourselves at peak performance. Thanksgiving break can lull us into a false sense of complacency and make us vulnerable to poor performances. The final steps to the goal are near, so get yourself ready for the final push and ensure your arrival to the peak that is academic excellence!

Tips for prepping for finals:

-Get plenty of sleep: Those hours of test prep time and writing papers will seriously impact your shut-eye time very soon. Give your body, mind, and especially your immune system a much-needed boost by stocking up on plenty of slumber. Create a “sleeping zone” where you can turn off the outside world and just relax and rest. Sometimes this can be achieved through sleeping masks and earplugs. Sometimes with dark curtains and white noise. Whatever works

-Buy food and drink ahead: A stressed mind is often a focused one. Take-out and delivery can be convenient and fast, but a student budget doesn’t always allow for much of this and grocery stores can seem impossibly far away when deadlines are near. In addition to the junk food (try not to overdo this), make sure to buy a few extra meals that you know will pick up your spirits, be easy to make, and will give you the extra fuel to help you finish. Having something good to drink is also smart. Try to keep the sugary stuff to a minimum and put some of your favorite beverage in the fridge for those late nights and early mornings. Coffee and tea can be the lifeblood of students, so make sure you’re supplied well.

-Hydrate: Get your water. Dehydration can make you sloppy and unhealthy. A filtered water pitcher and a reusable water bottle (maybe one of those shiny new Puksta ones?) are perfect for keeping you in plenty of H2O and keeping you on the go.

-Actually study: There’s no other way to say it. You can’t learn by accident and rarely is anyone an instant genius, so you’ll need to crack open books, scan pages of online text, and review notes in order to get those marks that will ensure that a degree is in your future. Set a study schedule and try to stick to it. Create a space where you can focus and You can create a study habit that will serve you for finals and for the rest of your college years.

For a little more on this visit:
https://www.math.tamu.edu/~kahlig/help/cramming.html or stlawu.edu/academic-support/how-should-i-prepare-tests-and-final-exams

Puksta Coordinator Spotlight: Alyssa Marks

Alyssa is a woman driven by a love for social justice, the outdoors, good beer, and chocolate chip cookies. Raised in Dearborn Michigan, she is the most recent addition to the Puksta Coordinator posse and serves MSU as the Civic Engagement & Public Service Careers Industry Manager. A “Pioneer” and graduate of Dearborn High School, she completed her master’s degree in Social Work as a “Wolverine” at The University of Michigan. Continuing her family’s legacy of education and public service, she volunteered for Americorps prior to her graduate program and after graduation joined the Peace Corps where she journeyed to Mali to lead an adult literacy teacher training program.  

Making friends and opening minds in Mali, she eventually journeyed to the land of majestic Rocky Mountain peaks and cinnamon sunsets, where she would meet her husband through a mutual Peace Corps friend. Passionate about good skiing and better baking, Alyssa is a Colorado outdoor enthusiast and a self-admitted fan of The Great British Baking Show. Around town, she can often be found enjoying a brisk stroll in Wash Park, enjoying a good IPA or Sour at Cerebral Brewery, and feasting on “all things tuna” at Taki Sushi. She especially values the lazy late Colorado summers and is on the constant lookout for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie (Potbelly is the current leader).

Remembering the days of having to fight for a seat for a 45-minute bus ride from her college digs to her classes, Alyssa now fights for her MSU students where she champions them in numerous ways, including her duties as a Puksta Coordinator. A fan of the Auraria campus, Alyssa was drawn to her current MSU appointment by the non-traditional and diverse student body and envisions many years of prosperity and growth in the role. Still formulating her long term plans, she is considering furthering her education with either a PhD or EdD, in the coming years. Of her fondest Puksta memories, to date, she mentions the thrill she experienced when connecting on new project ideas and planning with the new scholars at the recent MSU Puksta meeting in October.

Alyssa is looking forward to the winter break where she intends to reconnect with her family back in Dearborn and is planning to wake them on Christmas morning with sizzling cinnamon rolls. Dreaming of one day vacationing in Ireland and Scotland, Alyssa looks forward to many years of avid Colorado living and keeping the Puksta torch held high. Puksta is strengthened by your passion for the scholars and celebrates your determination to ensure their success. Cheers to you Alyssa!

Puksta Self-Care: Unleash the Feast!

Image result for image three stooges thanksgiving

That special time is finally here! Classes are on pause, the travel has been undertaken (or not), your mind is resting, and the family is gathered. Time to throw that diet out the window for a day and dig in. For just a few precious days, Pukstas can rest, relax, and revel amongst those who’ve truly made their academic journeys worthwhile. Not only is the Thanksgiving holiday a time for bringing out the good dishes and waiting impatiently for the big meal to start, but it’s also a time for bonding with family and friends and soaking up those moments that will become rare and infrequent in the years to come. Put your judgments and assumptions on hold for a day, hug someone and celebrate!

Tips for the Feast:

-Meat(less) isn’t a crime: If you prefer to eat meat(less) this holiday, then do so, but it’s good practice to respect the choices of others (especially if they respect yours) and make sure not to lay on a slice of guilt with each slice of tofu/turkey others eat. Maybe they’ll be encouraged to try it out themselves if you lead by example?

-Help with the dishes and/or trash: Sure college is tough, but not so much that everyone else has to do the cleaning after. Especially if you want to be seen as the adult you now are, spend a few minutes helping out before you let the food coma consume you. Maybe you can enlist siblings or other family members to also lend a hand and lessen the load. It’s a great way to show appreciation for the effort put towards your benefit and a means of returning a little goodwill. If you’re told that it isn’t necessary, maybe challenge it by saying it’s your personal way of giving thanks this holiday. Either way, don’t just be a slouch on the couch and help out a little.

-Don’t make the meal the only enjoyment: Sports and other games are great ways of making even more family memories during the holidays. A game on the TV is great, but maybe a board or card game later? Making the most of the holiday, in particular, is usually something nobody ever regrets. Put the friends on hold this day and spend it with the best ones you’ll ever have.

-Spend some special time with those you love: Maybe it’s morning coffee with dad or afternoon tea with mom, but set aside a little time to specifically connect with those you love. This can be particularly special with the elder members of your family because it’s easy to just live in the moment and forget that time and lives are limited and you never know how many holidays you’ll have with those who are special and cherished.

For more tips on enjoying your Thanksgiving with the family check out:

Puksta Self-Care: Scent Your Scene!

Image result for image of good smells

Let’s be honest, students don’t always have the best smells around them. Week-old garbage, stinky socks, litter boxes that should’ve been emptied a few days (weeks) ago, and moldy pizza. Studies and papers, especially around finals time, tend to divert attention away from those things that can be a source of tension with dorm/roommates and make your quality of life less than optimal. Nobody likes an offensive smell, but we often aren’t aware when we become the ones generating it. Stink begins and accrues slowly and subtly, so we often become familiar with something until we walk into where we live and exchange fresh air for something that can have us wheezing and sometimes (even worse) heaving.

Tips for Scent:

-Clean up and wash up: The first step in getting your scent refreshed is to clean up and/or dispose of those things that often make the worst stink. Trash and dishes can often be the worst culprits as decaying food can make your home smell like a dumpster. Get that trash thrown out and put a little elbow grease to those dirty plates (rotting potatoes can be a major source of stink). You’ll notice the difference almost instantly. Cat boxes and laundry piles can also make your haven into a smelly hell, so change the litter and maybe do laundry once a week (pick a day and stick to it). Not only will you be living healthier, but it will also improve your mood and focus.

-Air things out: If the weather allows, crack open a window or patio door and let some of the outside in. Once the offensive odors are gone and the apartment/dorm room is clean, use some fresh air (don’t forget to safeguard the pets) to get the last remnants of those bad smells out. A scented cleaning agent is a great way of starting the process, but nature is often the next (and natural) best next step.

-Start small and build from there: There are a number of products that can improve the scent of where you live. Oils, diffusers, candles, incense, and room fresheners are all proven ways of making your space smell better and make your time indoors more enjoyable. Whichever you choose, start with something small and see if it does the job. You can always add but be aware that you can have too much of a good thing and can overwhelm yourself with something that’s normally enjoyable. Also, be careful with anything that requires flame or heat and make sure to take necessary precautions and be aware of pets and fire/smoke sensors.

-Dryer sheets can be your friends: Not just for making your laundry smell fresh, they can reduce static cling and keep enclosed areas (like gym bags and cars) smelling fresher. Be careful of pets getting ahold of them, but dryer sheets can help to lend some freshness to your life.

Some additional info on the benefits of good smells and the many uses of dryer sheets can be found at:
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/scents-and-wellbeing_n_5193609 and thespruce.com/use-dryer-sheets-around-the-house-4060532

Puksta Coordinator Spotlight: Kathleen Ferrick

Serving the University of Denver, Kathleen is program coordinator for CCESL (D.U.’s Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning) and has also been working with the Puksta Scholars for nearly two years. A Denver resident since two, Kathleen attended East High School where she was an “East High Angel” and grabbed the occasional bite at the famous Denver eatery: Pete’s Kitchen. After graduation, she temporarily left the noise and congestion of Colfax and Denver for the wooded hills and quiet canyons of Boulder where she attained a B.A. in Psychology at C.U. It’s there where her interests in social justice started to come into focus when she attended an ethnic and gender studies class.

With her B.A. secured, Kathleen then returned to her beloved Denver where she attended D.U. and achieved a Master’s degree in Social Work. The days of skiing the Rockies and eating the sopapillas of Casa Bonita now long behind her, she began formally working for D.U. and is currently helping Pukstas achieve their dreams where Kathleen works hard to foster “spaces where student’s voices are heard.” She’s a vegetarian who enjoys pad thai, greek veggie omelets, and the occasional scoop of coffee ice cream. An aspiring home chef, she loves to cook and can often be found creating meals from one of her many vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. Sitting down with a bowl of steaming hot noodles and veggies, she likes to relax with an episode of HBO’s Succession and enjoys old episodes of Game of Thrones where Cersei is one of her favorites.

When not trecking through the numerous trails around Golden, she can be found listening to Indie 102.3, sitting at the benches by the Evans Chapel, waiting for her order at the Jerusalem Restaurant, or steeping her tea at Hooked on Colfax. Kathleen envisions a long future in higher education and intends to continue supporting students while working to increase the anti-oppression sentiment on her campus. She looks forward to her weekly meetings with the D.U. Puksta Scholars and dreams of vacationing in Colombia someday. Kathleen is a powerhouse of intellect and enthusiasm, dedicated to helping all the students (but especially those of the Puksta Scholar Program) achieve their dreams. Her hard work and diligence help to ensure their continued and future successes. Cheers to you Kathleen!

Puksta Self-Care: Phone Home!

Image result for image of student calling home

The time is almost here. Fall is fading away and winter is right around the corner. Many of us will soon be traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles back to our families for the holidays and reconnecting with parents, siblings, relatives, and old friends in a far more intimate manner than we might expect. For some, the five-minute phone calls of the regular semester are a perfect way of getting in touch without things getting “touchy”. Checking-in and sometimes reassuring those who care, without an extended conversation, can be a great way of creating “snapshots” of your lives and keep you all up to date without the perils of falling into long conversations, debates, and (sometimes) arguments that family gatherings can sometimes elicit. Not only is this stress-inducing for all, but it can prevent (or at least create a major obstacle against) getting the rest, relaxation, and bonding students and family members usually seek during these cherished and rare times.

University life is a time for personal discovery and transformation and it can sometimes be challenging for everyone concerned when the “new you” goes back home. Maybe your politics have changed, or your diet, or your religious views, or whatever. Unveiling your personal growth and achievements are something to always be proud of, however, there are ways of being yourself and expressing yourself that can be more effective and mindful than others. Remember that these are the people who have cared for and loved you through all the time before (and during) college and your academic and personal journey doesn’t need to be a potential catalyst for discord. Apply the discipline and thoughtful applications that you’ve learned in school towards having the most rewarding holiday experiences possible. Some of this can be achieved through a simple call home in advance of your travels. In addition to finalizing travel details (very important), it can be a means of preparing both your family and you so that you can all make the best of the time you have together.

Tips for the Call:

-Don’t Just Text or Email: Though texting and emails can be a quick and easy means of communication on campus and in private life, simple messages can’t convey the genuine you or allow others to do the same. Don’t expect your parents and family to adequately decode your textual shorthand or emojis like your university friends. If a phone call won’t work maybe a Skype or Zoom session would be perfect. Either way, try to make the connection and conversation as productive and beneficial as possible.

-Set Aside More Time: This isn’t the time for that five-minute check-in. Set aside an hour, if possible, and try not to rush through things and listen. This might seem a bother, but it’s likely you’ll both get more quality from an organic (not scripted) conversation and help ensure a positive visit. In addition, you might get valuable insight for the next tip.

-Get an Idea of What to Expect: Who is planning to stop by? Who will actually be there during the time or on holiday(s)? Who might be expecting you to reach out to them? Will you be able to sleep in your old room? Are there any struggles or challenges that you might need to prepare yourself for? It can be tricky and you have to be careful about prying too deeply, but there might be details and information that you can obtain and process in advance that will give you a better idea of how to conduct yourself and live with those you’ll be with.

-Be Careful with “Bombshells”: Revealing a big secret at the Thanksgiving dinner might be great drama for movies and tv, but often doesn’t have the beneficial impact that one might expect. “Ripping the bandage off” might seem the only way to tell others about some of the details of your life and facets of who you now are, at first glance, but usually doesn’t allow others the time to process the new information and productively respond. This can create situations and responses that are more reactionary and emotional than might actually be good for anyone. Using the call as a way of gauging what you unveil about yourself (and maybe when you should) can be very helpful. If you’re concerned about how your family might respond or are unsure how to communicate something, consider a drop-in session with a school mental health counselor who might be able to give you some additional tips or help you figure out how to proceed.

-Remember that You are Now an Adult: Adults get to decide what they do and don’t reveal about themselves and when to offer any of it. Be aware that your parents might feel entitled to certain information (especially since they care about you and might also be giving you financial support) so keep this in mind and reveal/impart information accordingly.

Some articles that might help:
https://www.bravotv.com/personal-space/how-to-avoid-fighting-with-family-over-thanksgiving or
https://www.scholarships.com/resources/campus-life/college-lifestyle/college-students-returning-home-for-the-holidays/ or
https://yourteenmag.com/teens-college/college-life/parents-college-students-home-holidays or

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: James Artis III

James is fighting for equality. Having experienced a tragedy within his own family, this DU student has taken it upon himself to be seen for something more than for his color, especially by law authorities. James is working to mend the relationship between law enforcement and African-American communities through a number of efforts intended to prevent the phenomenal number of fatal shootings that have been leaving families in tears and creating an ever-widening rift between the two within this nation. Wishing to act as a catalyst that will empower the black community to become more central in law enforcement policy and practice, he has been a mentor for the Excelling Leaders Institute and has been working with the Cherry Creek School District towards their Brotherhood efforts. After graduation, he intends to take down the walls of misrepresentation by creating a nonprofit that works towards this while working with low-income communities of color. Through sponsorship, partnership, and collaboration, James is working to ultimately make America a place that is safer and much more just. Keep working towards your goals James! Puksta is here to give you the support to help your vision (and the vision of so many) become a reality.

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Blanche Marie Ndoutou

Blanche wishes to make America more of a place of refuge for refugees. Having sought this nation as an alternative to the strife where she previously lived, she is now active on the DU campus with her co-created organization: African Students United and is seeking partnerships and guidance from both her university and local community colleges to better help others just like her. An ardent student, she is also conducting research on the refugee population in Denver while working on ways of easing the transitional obstacles and stress that is often experienced by those also seeking peaceful and productive lives by coming to this country. Though she is active in these efforts, she doesn’t see herself as an activist but prefers to think she’s just a human being caring for others. Your cause is a noble one Blanche and Puksta is here to help you make your dreams a reality. Keep up the hard work and remain determined, for we are proud to have you within our ranks!

Puksta Self-Care: Treat Yourself!

Image result for images of people getting pedicure

Whether it’s that sinful dessert you’ve been denying yourself or that spa treatment you’ve been yearning for, occasionally rewarding yourself can be a great way of celebrating the small milestones that comprise a semester.
Pukstas are well-aware of the stresses of University life and it can sometimes feel that the immediate and often intangible rewards of academic achievement do little but point you to the next obstacle or task to be overcome. Stressing over a paper or studying for that big test? Sometimes setting up a self-reward system can become a great motivator and help give you that extra boost to the finish line. Not only can these little pleasures become a small respite from the rigor, but they also serve as a means of you honoring the most important person in your life. Because if you don’t love yourself then how can you love and help others?

Tips on Treating Yourself:

Make Achievements Realistic-Try not to become focused on achieving the highest GPA in the class or the best grade for an assignment. Students sometimes set themselves immediate goals that seem far in excess of true success in retrospect. Nobody is an instant expert, so don’t put the weight of the world onto yourself to be perfect. Remember that you’re a human being and humans are imperfect. This isn’t to say that striving for greatness is bad, far from it, but we can sometimes believe that we have to run before we learn to walk. Superheroes are great for print and film, but real superstars have many setbacks and obstacles along their paths and many even have failures when they’ve achieved what others consider perfection.

Spread Things Out-Don’t just plan a reward for getting an A at the end of the semester, decide on some smaller rewards that are significant enough that they’ll motivate you through the weeks and months until winter/summer break. Maybe getting your nails done for finishing that big assignment or that game for getting an A on that daunting test? Save getting the full spa treatment day, the new game system purchase, or maybe taking that trip for when the semester is over and you can truly rest your mind for a month, really relax, and appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

Make it Personal-Tell yourself that you love yourself with something that really matters. Have you been craving that really good sushi from your favorite restaurant or denying yourself that pair of shoes that would really make you feel like you shine? These are great ways of applying a little self-congratulation for all the hard work that only you know you’ve been applying.

For more on the benefits of treating yourself visit Psychology Today at:

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Cicilia Saenz

Cicilia has a broad smile and even wider aspirations. While at MSU, this Puksta star is shining both in the classroom and within her local community where she is working to create an afterschool program that specifically works with and benefits special education. During her time with Puksta, she has learned self-reliance and to collaborate with others, having worked closely with CUE 21st Century, in addition to her local community. After graduation, she hopes to continue her efforts by teaching and working more closely with a segment of the student population that is often ignored and neglected in society. Her efforts will no doubt bring many more smiles and brighten many futures. Puksta is proud to celebrate you Cicilia and all of your great work!