By Sarah Costello

College life is busy. After just a few days the chaos will hit you like a semi-truck. With the homework, the projects and the studying, making time for outside activities (and even slowing down for five minutes to eat breakfast) takes some maneuvering. In addition to the stress of normal college life, many students also struggle with another prevalent problem — weight gain.

It seems these days being a freshman is synonymous with the dreaded freshman 15. But don’t let this inaccurate myth put a blight on your first year as a college student. According to, the majority of freshman college students will not gain 15 pounds (so feel free to release collective breaths of anxiety). A recent study conducted by revealed the average college freshman will gain five pounds.

Weight gain may seem inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be. highlights some sure ways to pack on the pounds, including little to no exercise, eating late at night, buying and keeping unhealthy snacks handy and making poor meal choices. A healthy diet and lifestyle is possible, even as a college student. The following six tips are designed to help you stay healthy and prevent the avoidable freshman 15.

1) Don’t skip meals

In college, meals must be adjusted to fit tight schedules. When in class all day, eating breakfast and finding time for lunch is sometimes impossible. Waking up five minutes earlier seems difficult, and grabbing chicken fingers at McEwen for lunch is much easier than packing a sandwich. There’s a reason people naturally eat three meals a day. According to, eating three balanced meals will provide you with energy throughout the day and helps maintain metabolism.

2) Eat a good breakfast

This tip goes hand-in-hand with number one. Eating three meals is important, but your day begins with breakfast, so make it count. According to, skipping breakfast can affect performance in class. When pressed for time, grab a bagel, some granola or even a piece of fruit to ensure your stomach and grade will not suffer from improper nourishment.

3) Substitute good choices for poor ones

Dining hall and cafeteria food is tempting. When you pay for all you can eat, it’s natural to eat all you can. Sometimes turning down savory chicken and golden french fries is difficult, but if possible, try to substitute the empty caloric and greasy foods for healthier options. For instance, Chick-fil-A in Octagon Café offers both fried and grilled chicken sandwiches. You’ll save 130 calories by ordering grilled chicken and get about a serving of vegetables. recommends eating whole grains instead of white rice and bread, and substituting fresh fruit for cookies and ice cream.

4) Drink water

When making better choices, do not forget the power of water. This necessary supplement is often replaced with coffee and sugary sodas, but staying hydrated is imperative to good health. writes that water not only curbs thirst, but also revitalizes skin and organs. Drink often, even when you are not thirsty, to avoid dehydration.

5) Pack a lunch

Packing a lunch will ensure you eat at the appropriate time, and it puts you more in control of what you eat. When running from class to class, it may seem easier to grab a candy bar from the vending machine and eat a real meal later. By packing a lunch, you won’t skip a meal, and you’ll be able to prevent headaches and overeating at a later meal.

6) Embrace variety

From childhood, the food pyramid has been prominent in doctors’ offices and even grade school. Adhering to the pyramid diet can be nearly impossible in college, but it is possible to introduce balance and variety to your palette. Try to eat lean meats (grilled or baked chicken), carbohydrates high in fiber (potatoes and whole grains) and healthy fats found in nuts and oils.


This article was featured on the Elon University news website, E-Net! Click here

By Sarah Beth Costello

The grassy area in front of Mooney doubled as a hospital ward, battleground and

Photo by Sarah Beth Costello

infirmary Tuesday morning as several academically gifted students enrolled in Elon University’s inaugural Formative Learning Experience program – “FLEX” for short – learned about first aid and took turns dramatizing emergency situations.

Meanwhile, a dozen students in an art class gathered outside Alamance to observe the environment and capture the landscape on canvases using impressionist techniques. Inside, students huddled over notebooks, writing plays based on favorite characters to perform in a reader’s theater class.

Fifty academically gifted students were selected to participate in the five-day FLEX Program, a summer learning opportunity that allows students from the third through 11th grades to be challenged, explore areas of interest and make new friends.

“We sent out information to Alamance-Burlington schools telling them about this one week experience for students identified as Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) students,” said Judith Howard, director of the university’s Master’s of Education program.

The majority of children participating in FLEX are enrolled in Alamance-Burlington schools, though the program was not limited to local residents. Supervised by Howard and FLEX director Wendy Staskiewicz, the program provides internships for Elon’s graduate students who must complete an internship before receiving their degree.

“It seemed to fit work better to bring students to campus and allow the graduate students to plan all of this themselves,” said Howard.

The program’s schedule involves team-building exercises, where students participate in activities from designing t-shirts to playing the “knot game” and other team challenges. For two hours each morning, students join one of several educational and creative classes, including reader’s theater, reading discussion, the outdoors, science, digital storytelling and art.

“The learners bring so much to the program,” Staskiewicz said. “One young student was reading The DaVinci Code and talking about complex symbols in the painting during a FLEX art class. This is just one example of the advanced concepts about which students are already knowledgeable. They are coming in with so much. I don’t think schools always tap into that.”

Students in the reading discussion course wanted an opportunity to talk about their favorite books with other students and developed new characters for books such as the Harry Potter series. The outdoors class educates students on environmentally responsible camping and other outdoor activities, from packing a backpack to geocaching.

Students in the science class explore physics, learn about the orbiting space shuttle and chart the fall of a bouncing basketball. Those in the art class experiment with a variety of styles, studying artists from Andy Warhol to Claude Monet.

“We had an interest inventory where we asked students what would make this program interesting,” Staskiewicz said. “The students said it would be boring if they were sitting at a desk all day, completing worksheets and learning things they already knew.”

Gifted students can become bored in the classroom because much of the work is easy for them, Staskiewicz said. Teachers tend to focus more on the academically challenged students, which makes it difficult for gifted students to maintain attention in class when they already know the material.

Staskiewicz said the graduate students do not have “any grand goals for the end,” but rather hope for the children to leave encouraged and eager to continue learning. The students in the reader’s theater class plan to perform an original plays that will be video-taped by another student interested in digital photography. Students will showcase their accomplishments for family members on Friday.

“I like being able to cater to students who are academically talented,” said graduate student Danielle Baker. “Often these students’ needs or wants don’t get much attention in the regular classroom.”

By Sarah Beth Costello

This article was published on the Elon University news Website: E-Net!: Click here

When it comes to science, Terry Tomasek, assistant professor of education,

Photo courtesy of Elon University Relations

believes students need to go beyond the classroom walls to truly experience and understand the subject.

Tomasek supports hands-on learning environments that enrich learning through experiments, observations and fieldwork.

Three years ago, Tomasek and two colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro launched the summer camp program Slip Slid’n Away (SSA) for high school students interested in herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles), ecology (the study of the relationships between different organisms), scientific fieldwork, research and nature.

“When I started teaching, I taught high school,” Tomasek says. “High school has always been a love of mine. [SSA] is a camp that focuses on environmental education, which is also something I love.”

On June 14, SSA welcomed 30 students from North Carolina high schools to the 2009 summer session. The weeklong summer program was held at the Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center in Efland, N.C. Campers spent five days conducting experiments, observing natural habitats and engaging in fieldwork with scientists, professors and UNCG doctoral students.

“The idea is to get kids to engage in scientific practices,” says Melony Allen, a doctoral student at UNCG who volunteers with SSA.

The SSA program differs from traditional camps in that students are required to attend six follow-up meetings throughout the school year. The camp encourages students to continue the pursuit of science by performing research, presenting information to fellow students and completing projects.

Campers spend mornings at various stations around the camp, attending a different session each day before returning to their favorite on the last day. The stations feature wildlife such as snakes, and box and aquatic turtles. Students collect snakes in the wild, then study them and document observations with the guidance of instructors. Students also hunt box turtles with help from Boykin Spaniels, dogs specially bred for the task. At the vernal pool station, students study temporary pools of water that provide breeding grounds for amphibians and reptiles. In another, experiment students set 10 traps around a lake at the retreat center to determine whether aquatic turtles preferred to eat sardines or chicken.

In the afternoons, campers participate in traditional camp activities, including riding the zip line, swimming in the pool, hiking, canoeing and relaxing.

Photo courtesy of Elon University Relations

Tomasek says the program has received interest from students nationwide, but only North Carolina high school residents are accepted.

“I’ve always been interested [in herpetology],” says Douglas Lawtan, a freshman from Randleman High School in Randolph County. “When I heard about this I was happy. I was pretty ready for it.”

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund provides funding for the program, and students

attend the camp free of charge and are each given stipends of $200 under the stipulation that they will attend the six meetings throughout the year. The fund expires this year, but Tomasek and her colleagues are actively searching for future funding and are hopeful that SSA will return in 2010.

“I look forward [to camp] every year,” Tomasek says. “I think it renews me. It renews my sense of what it means to teach young people.”

Says SSA volunteer and University of North Carolina at Pembroke professor Andy Ash, “It’s a worthwhile thing. I’d be tickled pink to come back.”

By Sarah Beth Costello

February 9, 2010

In a culture dominated by consumerism and influenced by competing companies urging the masses to throw out the old and upgrade to the newest products  sustainability and responsibility often takes a back seat.

Adrian Boggs, founder of Practice Design Build, is working to change current habits and encourage the local community to invest in lasting products. As a designer, artist and furnisher Boggs creates pieces that serve as functional items made from discarded materials and waste. Dumpster- diving and garbage- gathering have become the main sources of inspiration behind Boggs’ work. Boggs’ company designs and constructs interior items for clients, working within their budgets while creating long-lasting products.

“There’s nothing really new about sustainability,” Boggs said. “It’s becoming more common, but there are many

Photo submitted.

different ways to make things sustainable.”

Practice Design Build is one of the first custom sustainable furnishing companies in the Triad. Working with materials that would normally go to waste is one of Boggs’ trademarks. Boggs’ creates furnishings from leftover scraps, wheat board (a material made from the chaff seed hulls and stems of leftover wheat) and even reclaimed waste streams, an industrial term for a stream of garbage left over in manufacturing processes.

“When Practice Design Build provides sustainable furnishings to clients, we’re replacing demand on typical industry with goods that are sustainable,” Boggs, 38, said. “Practice is a small company and I like working here, helping the local economy.”

Though sustainable products are often more expensive, Boggs said costs will begin to lower as the demand for better-made products increases. Searching for less expensive materials also enables Boggs to decrease the costs of his items. Though this often requires research, visits to various hardware stores and even occasional dives into dumpsters, producing affordable and well-made products is important to the integrity of Boggs’ work.

“When I use waste materials I’m keeping waste out of landfills in Alamance County,” Boggs said. “I think that the work I’m doing sets a precedent and helps people understand, be creative and find uses for what we’ve been calling garbage.”

Boggs said creating furnishings out of garbage and scraps requires a level of creativity that gives every furnishing a level of uniqueness.  Whether crafting a chair, bench or coffee table, Boggs wants to encourage interactivity between the user and the product.

As a graduate student at  UNC Greensboro, Boggs interned at a furniture company in High Point. He noticed the company was throwing away small pieces and scraps that were useless in the manufacturing process and asked to take them home where he began experimenting.

“One of pieces was a ‘proof of concept,'” Boggs said. “The other one was my master’s thesis work. These were strong examples of what can be done with garbage and wood waste.”

These two pieces are currently exhibited at the Center for Visual Artists gallery in the Greensboro Cultural Center until Feb. 19. Boggs’ exhibited pieces include a table and bench constructed out of Baltic birch plywood.

Boggs returned to school later in life and was the oldest student in the program. But his experience as an industrial fabricator, woodworking and construction contributed to his success while at UNC G. Now an adjunct professor of advanced materialism methods at the campus, Boggs continues to infuse students with his love for design and construction while encouraging them to pursue more sustainable options.

Boggs argues living sustainably will not eliminate overflowing landfills, garbage streams, pollutions and excessive waste. The answer, he said, is in personal responsibility.

“We have landfills overflowing with good materials that get thrown away,” Boggs said. “I think it’s a trap. We have a responsibility to ourselves to be honest with what we use to identify ourselves.”

By Sarah Costello

Oct. 25, 2009


Amazon Kindles can hold several books at a time and range between $300 and $600. Image courtesy of Tevami.

Dime novels, pocket-sized dictionaries and heavy textbooks are items of the past. Now students and book lovers can travel anywhere with an assortment of literature and reading materials housed on a single device known as The Amazon Kindle.

Kindles enable consumers to download books and choose from their personal collections without visiting the library or bookstore.  The product was released in 2007 as an alternative to e-books and other digital formats.

Rather than downloading digital books onto a laptop, consumers now have the option to purchase Kindles, which are slightly larger than iPod touches and have the memory to store dozens of books. It is a form of “electronic paper” specifically designed to mimic the look of ink on paper by reflecting light rather than backlighting its pixels.

“I saw someone using a [Kindle] last year and I did a little research on them,” said sophomore Rebecca Berube who spent about $300 on her Kindle. “It seems like a steep cost, but books are a lot cheaper (to purchase) for a Kindle.”

Kindles come with different levels of memory and capabilities and can cost between $300 and $600 depending on the model. While consumers still pay to purchase books, the costs are generally lower for Kindles, usually topping off at $15.

“A lot of the classes I’m taking use non-traditional textbooks,” said Berube. “A biology book, for instance, would not work for Kindles, but for just text it’s workable in a digital format.”

Kindles also allow students to highlight and make notes, combining all notes in a single folder. Users can access for free via their Kindles to purchase books.


Kindles provide instantaneous enjoyment when on the go, holding dozens of books, literature, articles, etc. for easy enjoyment. Image courtesy of Slash Gear.

“I like to bounce between books,” said junior Joel Slocum who received a Kindle from his grandmother. “(Kindles) are definitely worth it if you do a lot of reading, especially if you read a lot of paperbacks.”

In addition to the Kindle, other e-paper platforms include Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Reader, the iRex iLiad and the Jinke Hanlin e-Reader.

While a wide variety of literature, fiction and non-fiction books can be downloaded directly to Kindles and other e-paper platforms, there are still few textbooks available. Many book publishers are hesitant to provide cheaper versions to Kindle users.

Students can still save money by downloading e-books to their computers, a format that not only eliminates extra costs to consumers, but also enables publishers to produce books at lower costs.

“With e-books, anybody can publish,” said junior Drew Smith who has the free Kindle application for his iPod touch. “It’s another voice for people and it’s cost effective.”

Smith explained that Kindles are “half-way” devices that cut costs and allow consumers to keep all their books together on a piece of a technology half the size of a sheet of paper. As more publishers begin to transition to digital formats, many question the future of tangible books, libraries and bookstores.

“I think almost all literature will [eventually] be offered online,” said Smith. “But I think the option for print will still be there.”

As with all new initiatives, Kindles do have some negative aspects.

“Because you can change the font size on Kindles, it changes the words on each page and the page numbers change. There’s no correspondence between the paper and the digital,” said Berube who explained this is a problem when professors require a certain amount of reading for each class.

For people accustomed to reading actual books, adapting to a digital format may be different. But students advocate transitioning to Kindles is not as difficult as it may seem.

“It’s the same quality as books,” said Smith. “Maybe photos will be lacking, but it’s just text on a background. I’m over hard copies.”

By Sarah Beth Costello


Image courtesy of The Boston Globe.

Brows glisten and fingers twitch during the final stages of a long battle between two passionate competitors. Tension is evident as the board quickly becomes vacant of pieces. Eyes widen and collected breaths are released with the subtle tap of a fallen king. Checkmate.

Intense competition between Elon chess players can be expected every week at Chess Club meetings, when players of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability challenge and learn from one another.

“Our club is kind of unique because we have total community involvement,” said Aaron Peeks, associate professor of sociology and the adviser of the Elon Chess Club.

Students, faculty, staff and even children attend the Tuesday evening meetings for instruction, as well as friendly competition.

“Chess is about puzzles,” Peeks said. “If you love puzzles, you’ll love chess.”

Peeks has played chess since high school and temporarily sacrificed his undergraduate studies to compete in national tournaments his freshman year. He said he loves the beauty of the game and the ability to relate chess to life.

“Chess keeps my brain sharp,” Peeks said. “Chess provided me with a level of self-control. It’s made me a better planner.”

One of Peeks’s goals as the faculty adviser is to shatter existing stereotypes that often accompany chess.

“Chess is (often) seen as a nerdy game for geeks,” he said.

He advocates that chess is not solely for individuals with high IQs, impressive GPAs or a collection of pocket pens.

Peeks also wants to interest more women in the game. With female representation at less than 10 percent in national tournaments, Peeks said he believes it is important to encourage women to play a game often perceived as explicitly masculine.

“There’s a more feminine side to chess,” Peeks said. “There’s artistic beauty and motion, but a lot of females think they can’t grasp it.”

Jennifer Shahade, a two-time American Women Chess Champion and the author of “Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport” is attempting to combat misconceptions by empowering women and girls through the art of chess.

Jennifer Shahade is the author of several books and a chess tournament champion. Image courtesy of Princeton Public Library

Jennifer Shahade is the author of several books and a chess tournament champion. Image courtesy of Princeton Public Library

Shahade is the co-founder of 9 Queens, a nonprofit organization in Tuscon, Ariz., which provides chess instruction to girls and youth in the inner city.

“It’s important to teach chess to girls and women because chess improves confidence and rewards healthy aggression,” Shahade said. “For cultural reasons, these are areas in which women often don’t feel as comfortable as men. Chess is a medium where boys and girls can compete on an equal playing field.”

Peeks, a self-proclaimed feminist, said he believes women should have equal opportunity to participate in chess and would like to interest more women in the game.

Peeks hopes to attract more male and female students by spreading the word through public tournaments and a “Beat the Professor Challenge” Sept. 22 at College Coffee. Students who can beat Peeks will receive a $10 gift certificate.

“Come to chess club,” Peeks said. “It’s uncanny how chess can improve academic skills. Research shows kids who play chess have higher GPAs.”

By Sarah Beth Costello
July 29, 2009

Doctors told her it would be impossible to dance again, but Elon alumna Katherine

Katherine Southard faced countless obstacles, including scoliosis and multiple attempts at the Miss N.C. Crown before finally receivng the Miss N.C. title in June 2009.

Katherine Southard faced countless obstacles, including scoliosis and multiple attempts at the Miss N.C. Crown before finally recieving the Miss N.C. title in June 2009. Image Courtesy of

Southard (’07) didn’t let that stop her. As the winner of the Miss North Carolina Pageant this year, Southard not only has the opportunity to perfect her dancing skills, but also plans to help others who are facing the same challenges she once did.

Since early childhood, Southard has battled scoliosis, a medical condition that causes curvature of the spine. Instead of a straight back, her spine curved to the side, deforming part of her body and making dance extremely difficult.

Southard was only two years old when her mother enrolled her in dance lessons, but it did not take long for her parents, teachers and fellow classmates to realize she lacked the ability to perform like the others.

“(Dancing) was frustrating because I didn’t look like the other girls,” Southard said. “My back curved and my ribs stuck out. And they all tried to get on me for (dancing) improperly, but I wasn’t. We finally realized I physically couldn’t dance correctly because of my spine.”

Despite the pain and difficulty, Southard continued to dance throughout school and eventually majored in dance at Elon. In 2005, Southard underwent surgery to correct the curve in her spine with potentially devastating results to her dance career.

Persevering Through Difficulty

“I think it’s important not to give up,” Southard said. “It’s hard to realize in the moment, but having gone through this I feel like I’m a much stronger person than I was before.”

Refusing to toss out her ballet shoes, Southard continued to dance after the surgery. Dancing was still painful and more difficult than before, but her passion for the arts proved to be stronger.

“For someone who said I wouldn’t be able to (dance) anymore after surgery, the fact that I overcame it gives more confidence and encourages me to overcome obstacles,” Southard said.

Southard performs during the talent portion of the Miss N.C. Pageant

Southard performs during the talent portion of the Miss N.C. Pageant. Image Courtesy of

Before her corrective surgery, Southard participated in the 2005 Miss North Carolina pageant.

“When I (competed) in 2005, it was before I ever had the surgery and after that I thought ‘I’m done’ because I have to have this surgery,” Southard said. “And I had it, and really pageants are just a way I can get back into dance and try to be better.”

Southard competed in 2008 as Miss Mount Holly and did better than she had in the 2005 competition. After placing second runner-up, she decided to continue training and preparing for the 2009 pageant as Miss Raleigh. After three years of participation, she was finally crowned Miss North Carolina.

“I think it’s one of those things where you’re in the moment and you don’t even think,” Southard said. “I remember looking at my family. My sister was jumping up and down and my dad had a blank, shocked look on his face.”

Looking Towards the Future

Southard’s responsibilities range from fundraisers and pancake breakfasts to working with the United Service Organization in support of troops and addressing the North Carolina House and Senate on the issues of scoliosis.

“(I’m working on) getting information packets to children so parents can learn how to screen their child for scoliosis themselves,” Southard said. “It’s unbelievable how many people have contacted me. I had 180 friend requests on Facebook, many from girls who didn’t know that (scoliosis) is an issue.”

Southard plans to travel to Las Vegas in January for the Miss America competition. She said she looks forward to the different atmosphere and the possibility of being crowned Miss America despite the handicaps and challenges she has faced.

“You need to embrace adversity instead of running from it,” Southard said. “Embrace the good things or the bad things that come along.”