All posts by Rachel Kenney

I am a 2015 graduate looking for meaningful work in writing, language education, or a related field with opportunities to continually learn, grow, and have a positive impact on the community. My ideal job would arrive at the intersection of my two greatest passions: writing and advocacy. I am a hardworking, enthusiastic, and empathetic team member hoping to positively affect change in the world. Here you will find my writing portfolio which includes my academic writing; creative nonfiction pieces; my published work while employed as the lead writer at JMU's University Unions' Office of Technology and Design; a contribution to the university's newspaper, The Breeze; and the zine I helped revive, edit and publish at JMU's only student-run radio station, WXJM-FM, where I volunteered as a DJ and Big Events Coordinator. Enjoy!

One Fortunate Cookie

I have three fortunes from fortune cookies taped above my bed at home. They are my dreamcatcher; a part of me truly believes that by keeping them just above my sleeping body, they will ward off  treacherous nightmares and instead fill my brain with serendipity.

The first one says, “The really great man is the man who makes everyone feel great.” I found this one my freshman year. I keep it above my head for two reasons: 1) because I felt that it was very true of my personality; I really feel best when I can help others around me feel happy too, and 2) to remind myself on those off days to treat others with the same unconditional love and respect that I crave.

The second one says, “You are about to embark on a most delightful journey!” I got this fortune the night before I left to study abroad in London during the spring semester of my sophomore year. Crazy right? I’ve never had a fortune necessarily come true (most can’t because they are vague and easily applicable; see above), but this one definitely did. Seeing this tiny piece of paper every morning throws my heart into an impenetrable whirlwind of happiness and nostalgia while simultaneously reminding me of all the delightful journeys yet to come that neither I nor that tiny piece of paper could possibly predict.

The third one says, “Nevermind tomorrow, TODAY is the day!” I got this one during my junior year, right after I moved off campus and into a house with my best friends. I keep this one to remind myself that the present day is one of the best times to be alive—and how lucky I am to see it each morning when I wake up (both the new day and the fortune!). I find this especially helpful when I am feeling so worried or anxious that I let myself forget how to start, instead succumbing to irrationality and putting off all that troubles me and even things that I love. I might not get a tomorrow, so I must remind myself to make the most of today.

A few weeks ago, I found another fortune, this time on the floor of my living room. It reads, “Fear can keep us up all night, but faith makes one fine pillow.” With this year having been the most emotionally trying of my college career, it felt a bit too real to ignore. There were nights when I lay wide awake despite the dark and following days I wanted to sleep away just to escape fear—a particular kind of fear that comes with leaving behind everything you know only to return what you have left behind (read: I’m moving back in with my parents). But, my fortune said it all: the one thing that kept me going was faith. Not a religious faith, not even necessarily a spiritual one—just a faith in myself and in the people (my roommates/best friends/fellow coven witches, boyfriend, family, cat, professors, writing team!) that love and support me.

All that I learned this year, and every other year of my college career, I learned with the help of a fortune cookie.

Behind the Scenes

You might find it hard to believe, but I, along with my fellow writer companions at TAD, do more than just write eloquent blog posts and cover the many events and news that occur within University Unions.  Like Nelly Furtado said, “[we’re] not a one-trick pony.” We each have separate lives outside of TAD that are wrought with adventures and hobbies and passions that we are just dying to share! So, our blog posts for the month of February will be like a literary MTV Cribs; we’re inviting you inside our lives to check out where the real magic happens!

Continue reading Behind the Scenes

Two Truths and a Lie

A month ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Ask Me Anything,” about making the most of a job interview. If you’ve read that article, you probably assumed that I am some powerful and professional, all-knowing goddess of job obtainment. And although that perception looks fine to me from way up here on my high horse, I find it necessary to show the World Wide Web that I’m more than that—more than just an extremely successful and strong woman with a pretty face.

But in all seriousness, I am interested in displaying a different side of myself, and what better way to get to know someone than playing two truths and a lie!

Let’s begin:

  1. I am related to the Kellogg cereal people.
  2. I cut men’s hair.
  3. I want to be a professional volleyball player.

Now, take a second and formulate your opinion. Which one is the lie? [Cue Jeopardy music.]

Well, I am related to the Kellogg cereal people. My father’s grandfather was named Robert Kellogg and was a descendant of John Harvey Kellogg, the founder of Kellogg’s cereal. However, when his wife, Hazel, my great grandmother, kicked him out of the house and remarried a different man, hilariously named Oliver Hazard Perry Kenney, she took his name. And she didn’t stop there—without her children’s permission, she changed their names too. Imagine coming home one day after school and your mother telling you you’ll have to start writing a completely different name on all your papers. Difficult, right? And no, I’m not bloody rich.

I also do enjoy cutting men’s hair (or women who are unafraid of electric clippers). When I was a sophomore, a friend of mine asked me to cut his hair. Having had hairstyles that resulted in cruel nicknames like “trapezoid head” and “tiny face” (I don’t want to talk about it), I really wasn’t comfortable putting someone else’s social status—not to mention hair and flesh—in danger. When he insisted that I simply “look like someone who’s good at cutting hair,” my ego felt sufficiently inflated enough to take on the task. It’s safe to say my career took off from there; I have been giving the oh-so-unique “long on top and buzzed on the sides” cut for two years now. If you are ever in need of a cut, I give them for free!

As you may or may not have guessed by now, I do not want to be a professional volleyball player.  In fact, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of sweating and rolling on the floor for my livelihood. If you asked me what I wanted to be ten years ago, this would have been the truth. But the real truth is that my volleyball career was stunted because, well, I am. After being the captain of my high school volleyball team for two years, I was cut junior year for being too short for my position as a setter. Although I was devastated, I used my newfound free time to start doing improv comedy, which changed my life drastically. In fact, I now see that as one of the most crucial turning points in my life because I not only started to become someone I liked, but it helped guide me to my passion for writing.

So, did you guess right? If you liked this post, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more personal blog posts coming from the other wonderful members of the TAD writing team later this month!

Ask Me Anything

As college students, we are all too familiar with the looming anxiety that comes with entering the job market. Most of us will inevitably spend hours, days, even weeks searching and contacting potential employers trying to land a job—any job—or if we’re really lucky, one that we might truly love and be fulfilled by. Even getting a response about a job inquiry can feel like a massive victory- but don’t celebrate just yet! The next step in the process, the interview, can really make or break the opportunities you are afforded. Although it can be a nerve-wracking process, interviews are actually a great chance to let yourself shine. For those with a less than desirable resume, interviews allow you to make up for what you are lacking on paper by demonstrating your personality and capabilities firsthand. And if you are on the opposite end of the spectrum, the opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills will only further compliment the spectacular resume you worked so hard to build.

Obviously, interviewing is a stressful and ongoing process; it is not only the interview itself that matters, but also how you prepare before and follow up after the interview that will make an enormous difference—and just may get you the job!

Before the interview:

  • Get to know your company and interviewer. Gathering as much information as possible about your potential employer is integral to a successful interview. Scour the company’s website, find any available information on the interviewer, or even call the company to speak with someone who is currently employed there. The more you know, the more prepared and interested you will seem.
  • Dress for success. Not only will dressing professionally show that you take yourself seriously (and that others should too!) but it will also make you feel better. By looking your best, you can feel your best and ultimately perform to your maximum potential.
  • Practice. Available online are a whole slew of potential interviewing questions. Make a list and practice answering each one. JMU’s Recruit-A-Duke offers two interviewing services: Practice Interview Program, in which students can schedule appointments to meet with employers and practice interviewing, and InterviewStream, which allows you to practice interviewing online using a webcam.

During the interview:

  • Take your time. Always think before you speak. When the interviewer poses a difficult question, take your time to compose an answer that is worthwhile instead of rushing through with an inadequate response, or worse, blathering on about nothing.
  • Ask questions. By either creating a list of questions beforehand, or writing down questions as the interview progresses, you will show your interest in the company and desire to grow as a future employee.
  • Remain professional. Of course it is important to remain calm, cool, and collected during an interview, but this does not mean you should let your guard down. Feeling too comfortable with the interviewer can allow you to slip up and come off as unprofessional. Remember: the interviewer is your future boss, not your new best friend.
  • Sell yourself honestly. It is integral to sell yourself during an interview, but it is commendable if you are able to remain honest at the same time. For example, the interviewer will most definitely ask what your strengths are, but will also expect you to know your weaknesses.
  • Provide examples. When answering questions or referring to your skills and experience, be able to cite concrete examples. Saying that you “volunteered at a soup kitchen in Baltimore” will come off as much more respectable and noteworthy than saying something vague like you “helped those in need”.

After the interview:

  • Say thank you. Just as you have gone out of your way to make time for the interview, so has the interviewer. Thanking them shows that you are grateful for the opportunity and humble enough to recognize the effort and time someone else put forth for you.
  • Call them back. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time frame (say 2-3 business days), take the initiative to call or e-mail them back, express your continued interest in the position, and politely ask if and when you can expect to hear back. This will not only show to them that your interest is sincere, but it also will help you decide your next move within your own job search.

Interested in more information? Check out these sites that helped me out!

Monster Job Interview Tips, 7 Interview Tips That Will Get You the Job

JMYou

As a senior, I have watched JMU grow over the past four years. Actually, explode would be a more fitting word for the vast changes, renovations, and expansions that have taken place on campus over the years—and within even just the past year alone. With an incoming freshman class of 4,300 and 880 new transfer students, there are currently upwards of 20,000 students on campus daily. But when even the line for pizza at Topio’s (the option with typically the shortest line) in Duke’s extends almost to the entrance, you might feel like one of a million rather than a measly 20,000—a feeling we are particularly vulnerable to as fresh-faced first years. But, would you believe me if I said that a snow leopard with a blue tongue helped me combat those exact freshman year blues?

It all started on the first fall day of my freshman year. It’s always a wonderful day when you realize the weeks of backpack-shaped sweat stains on your back are through, and sweater weather is upon you. That day, like any other day, I woke up and peered into my closet to put together an outfit, excited at the prospect of finally slipping back into cozy autumn attire.

Normally, putting together an outfit is my favorite part of the day; I love to express myself through my clothing. But, since my arrival at Ikenberry Hall on move-in day, I had been trying to dress like the typical JMU student. I suppressed my need for self-expression and opted for wearing what everyone else wore in order to seem less like a freshman, and moreover, to blend in with the rest of my peers. In high school, I had worn whatever I darn pleased, often mixing multiple patterns, sporting my mother’s old high school geography bee jacket, and tacky sweatshirts bought at Mt. Rushmore over the years. But as an incoming freshman, I was more concerned about fitting in.

Inspecting the contents of my closet that morning, and gazing upon all of the awesome tacky sweaters, the velvet pants, and the leather jacket, I felt conflicted. I wanted so badly to wear the clothes that made me feel most like myself, but felt that I couldn’t–or shouldn’t– for fear of seeming different. Standing there in front of the sliding doors of my Village-style, wooden closet, I had an epiphany: Weren’t there upwards of 20,000 students going to this school? Did I really expect to please all of them? Weren’t there probably other students on this campus that dressed like me, or chose to express their style similarly? Feeling like an idiot, I grabbed the first tacky sweatshirt in sight, a black crew neck with an enormous blue-tongued snow leopard’s face down the front, and ran with it, desperate to make up for lost time.

I will always remember that day as the first day I decided to be myself at JMU—the day I began to fit in because I was no longer trying to be something I wasn’t. Now, I’m not saying that wearing an ugly thrift store find changed my entire college experience, but it was one of my first steps of many toward my own self-acceptance in my new environment. Although one can feel lost at sea on such a large campus, being yourself will give you the clarity of mind necessary to truly grow and thrive, try new things, and ultimately find your own personal niche in the JMU community.