Nightmare on K Street, or, Interning Is Scary

ghost-clipart-Ghost-Clip-Art-7It’s Halloween and thoughts turn to… an internship?  Makes sense to me.  Both are scary, but if you get over your shivers, they can be a lot of fun and give you what you need for the future: experience.

Internships provide that wonderful yet terrifying life experience in between student and working adult when you’re both really sure of yourself and not so sure at the same time.  I’m sharing that experience right now with some other awesome, yet spooked interns.  We can agree that given the season, ghosts and ghouls have nothing on being a public relations intern.  Here’s what we think can bring double trouble boil and bubble to interning in PR.

Maddie:

A comment I get constantly after telling someone that part of my work in PR involves social media is, “So you pretty much just tweet all day?”  What they don’t understand is the brand building and reputation managing that goes along with the social media aspect of PR.   At my first internship, I was given a two-hour long presentation showing all that could go wrong with companies using social media.  I was shown a tweet about scoring a case of beer and, ‘#gettngslizzerd’ that showed up on the American Red Cross twitter account.  It was a simple mistake of an employee not switching back to a personal account.  The Red Cross handled the faux pas well with a little humor and all was forgiven, but the story stuck with me.

Of course, as an intern, I’m not given free range over any social media accounts, but there is a nagging fear that I will somehow get accounts confused and send out a post that should not be connected with SDI. While it can be easy for people to blame the intern and damage control isn’t too difficult by posting a follow up to explain the blunder, you never want to be the one to cause that chain of events in the first place.  It can be unnerving when the beginning of your adult career can be tarnished with a rogue click of a button labeled, ‘Tweet’ or ‘Post’.  Thankfully, that has never even come close to happening to me.  I get all the posts I write okay-ed before I put them up and haven’t accidentally left myself logged onto the SDI account.  If anything, my fear has helped me be more particular and pay more attention to the work I’m sending out, which is never a bad thing!

Morgan:

New internships are ALWAYS scary, no matter how much experience you’ve had. But more often than not, it’s just that newness that makes them intimidating. I think what may have been the “scariest” part of this particular internship for me was coming in blind. By that, I mean that I had never met anyone at SDI, seen the office, or gotten a feel for the environment. In fact, I sent my resume, interviewed and accepted my internship all over the phone from England this summer. My past internships, for the most part, have been near my school (The University of Georgia) so I’ve been able to talk with others who have gone through the position and visit the office for interviews before taking the job. So, navigating the DC internship process was intimidating on its own. And to add to that, though I had visited DC multiple times, I had never experienced “real” life in the city. I knew it would be a challenge to start a new year in a new city with a new internship, all experiences I really haven’t had before. And it’s been a challenge. But, it’s also been one of the best semesters of my college experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. SDI has helped me become better at PR and at navigating the professional world in ways I never could have learned without this internship. I can’t believe it’s been two and a half months since I came into SDI “blind,” because now it’s like home here in DC.

Julie:

As I was winding down my second year at Penn State, I found myself asking reflecting on, “When was the last time I did something for the first time?”  I had always been an explorer; but it dawned on me that I was half way through my four years of college, and I really craved some challenging new experiences in order to stretch beyond my comfort zone.  I decided it was time to take a sabbatical from the college life that I loved, to spend my junior year away from campus in order to experience new things, grow and expand my perspective.  Life can get pretty boring if you stay within the limits of your comfort zone, so I decided there was no time like the present to get a jump start on my career working at Susan Davis International.  Here are the scariest aspects that I’ve experienced so far with my internship and D.C. experience:

 

  1. You are forced to learn how to become independent. Although moving to college and starting a life away from home required independence, it is nothing like traveling to a new city alone and throwing yourself into a workplace with full-time professionals.  You don’t get to have your best friend as your roommate helping to keep you from missing class, or even as a buddy to walk to work together.  From day one you are forced to pave the way, and be fully accountable for yourself.
  2. Time Management.  Time management is crucial to your college career, and it was always something I felt I could handle.  In fact, I find it easier to manage my time when I have more on my plate.  Not in D.C.!  Public relations is definitely not just a 9-6 office job.  There are endless amounts of work and something can always be improved.  Also, it’s difficult to step away from the work in order to study for the three classes I am taking as well.  In addition, I need enough time to visit my friends in and explore the city, because all work and no play could make Julie a dull girl!
  3. Networking. Dressing up in a suit and going to a fancy restaurant to make small talk with professional and successful alumni is definitely not something I had on my top priority lists before coming to D.C.  Although these functions were intimidating, I can now answer the question, “Why did you choose public relations?” like a pro, and I have even started to work on my “elevator speech.”
  4. The people.  One thing is for sure, every person in D.C. is on a mission.  Whether they are asking for change, power walking to work, or even shopping, everyone is usually always serious!  There are some friendly people that you may meet in your travels, but for the most part, they do not make up the majority.  On our first day, we were instructed to stay out of several sections of the city, and that we always have to be careful when walking alone especially at night.  The people I work with, however, have been amazing, and I am learning something new every day.  This really is a life changing experience, and I have been really fortunate!

Despite our pre-internship jitters and concerns as we plunged headfirst into the PR world, our experiences have made us all more capable interns.  By facing our fear and doing what scares us, we have been able to navigate through the challenges thrown our way and find ourselves better prepared for whatever lurks ahead!

 

Maddie Packard, SDI

Maddie is a senior at St. Norbert College studying Media Communications and Business

October 29, 2015

LUNGevity Crushes Cancer One Step At A Time

LUNGevityWhat does taking a deep breath mean to you?  It could offer you a chance to relax, gain some peace of mind, fill your lungs with fresh air, and be thankful for all of life’s blessings.  There’s a place you can do that while supporting a tremendous organization dedicated to helping individuals with lung cancer reach for a breath, and for hope.

Breathe Deep DC, LUNGevity’s annual community walk on the National Mall, is set for November 1st.  Anyone can participate and can register right up to the day of the walk.  Pets are welcome too.  They even get their own “Fur a Cure” shirt!

The event was originally developed by lung cancer survivor and Bethesda father of two, Jerry Sorkin, when he realized that there were no DC events that brought together lung cancer survivors and raised awareness of the disease.  Now, thousands of people affected by lung cancer from all walks of life come together with friends, family, volunteers, and advocates all with one common goal: to improve survivorship, quality of life, and to ultimately make lung cancer a manageable disease.

LUNGevity has spent every year of Breathe Deep DC focusing on raising awareness of lung cancer and celebrating the great progress that has been made against the disease.  But there is still a great deal of work to be done – and by participating in walks and donating, people across the nation can help LUNGevity create a world where no one dies of lung cancer.

LUNGevity is the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit, and it has changed the lives of the lung cancer community through research, education, and support.  Breathe Deep DC is one of LUNGevity’s signature events with counterpart walks in other cities across the nation.

Last year, LUNGevity launched a new website that features a Lung Cancer 101 section, event advertisements, links to blogs, expert resources, and offers opportunities for people to connect and share their own stories.  The site empowers and inspires people to stand up and make a difference.

Listen to a few voices from LUNGevity supporters:

“LUNGevity is about survivors, hope and networking. The people with this organization have changed my crazy life forever.  I found a network of lung cancer survivors who have given me so much inspiration to get out and advocate for lung cancer.” – Beth S.

“Everything that LUNGevity does is to lift us up and inspire us as survivors.  They do their jobs so well.” – Jessica S.

“Together we are so much stronger than just one of us alone.” – Gail L.

SDI has been proud to support LUNGevity’s walks nationwide and its passion to eradicate this disease while bringing hope to generations of individuals living with lung cancer.  Every breath is a gift.  SDI is honored to witness firsthand how LUNGevity is changing the national lung cancer conversation, one step at a time.

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By Julie St. John Haupin, SDI

October 21, 2015

The Value of the Documentary in the New Media Age

Professional video cameraThe documentary is not a new media genre.  The reality-based form has been a longstanding tool of informing, educating and entertaining. However, as we evolve into a new media age where more than sufficient information is available anytime, and at anyone’s fingertip, is the documentary still a viable medium for your client’s objectives?

The nonfiction characteristic of the documentary distinguishes it but also limits both its entertainment value and audience.  However, research by Amy Hardie suggests that documentary enthusiasts proactively seek out topics of interest to them. Thus, the limitation of the scope of viewers can in turn mean that documentaries attract a more focused audience that is receptive to the material, not only in terms of the stories, but also as persuasive vehicles for change, and audience members are more likely to become agents for manifesting the documentary’s message.

Today, the Internet extends the documentary’s reach and increases the scope of targeted viewers who are potentially interested in its message. In the past, the only way a documentary could reach the public was through television or the big screen, excluding many independent documentaries with meaningful topics but limited resources. The Internet significantly lowers the threshold for circulating a documentary and increases marketing efficiencies. Social media makes it feasible for viewers to engage the documentary’s promoters as well as to communicate with each other.

Skilled documentarians are improving the medium with better storytelling and visual effects to attract more viewers. The combination of enhanced visuals, increased entertainment values and improved marketing efficiencies of the Internet ensures that documentaries will remain a powerful media tool for your client, business or educational objectives.

By Vicky Wang, SDI

September 25, 2015 

 

 

10 Secrets to a Successful Internship

Internships — your first taste of the so-called “real world” blogthat exists beyond the confines of your college campus. Internships offer you the opportunity to gain valuable experience in your field of study, and to test drive a profession to better understand if it’s something you’d like to pursue in the future. If you’re astute, you can absorb a bounty of knowledge and make connections that can ultimately lead to a post-graduate job! Throughout the past three months of my internship at SDI, I’ve learned that the value of your experience is commensurate with how much you invest in your success. To help you get the most out of your internship, here are some of my top tips:

  1. Set yourself apart. Demonstrating your individuality can begin before you’re offered a position and may even encourage an offer. A thank-you email after your interview is expected, so do the unexpected — send a handwritten note. Handwriting a thank-you note is not only an unusual courtesy in this digital age, it shows you understand the value of a personal touch. In my field, public relations, that’s a highly valued trait.
  1. Make an effort to meet everyone in your office and to learn about their life experiences. In my opinion, the importance of building meaningful relationships with the people you work with can’t be overstated. Making strong connections with your staff members doesn’t only make your experience in the office more enjoyable but can also help you in the future, especially when you need references and for networking. A great way to get to know people you’re working with is to take note of what professional books they’re reading and add them to your reading list. You’ll expand your knowledge about your profession and may gain insights into their perspectives.
  1. Use your time in the office wisely. Internships offer you a once in a lifetime learning opportunity; take in as much as you can. Take advantage of the extra opportunities to work beside those above you, because it’s in those moments you learn the most. Experience is the best teacher, so be sure to jump at any opportunities that come your way, such as volunteering to stay late to help someone in your office with a deadline.
  1. Learn from your mistakes. Yes, you will occasionally make mistakes along the way and that’s ok as long as you learn from them and move forward. The mistakes we make often serve as some of our most valuable life lessons.
  1. Dress conservatively and professionally. Although my mother always told me, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” the way you dress often sets the tone for how people think of you as a professional, therefore it’s important to err on the side of conservative dress, unless your company culture suggests otherwise. Tight pants, low cut tops, short dresses, skirts, t-shirts, jeans, funky hair colors and extra piercings may be your preferred after-work style, but generally they are not the best way to make a good impression in an office.
  1. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity. During your internship it’s important to understand that you will most likely have to do mundane tasks. Whether it’s emptying the dishwasher or stuffing folders, maintain a positive attitude, get the job done the right way, and understand that those working above you have to trust you with the little things before they can rely on you for major projects.
  1. Take notes. When you are given a particular task or assignment, be sure to take notes so you remember exactly what the expectations are. Prior to starting your task, make sure you understand what to do, how to do it and the end goal. If you’re ever confused about something don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s better to take the time to ask questions and clarify things than to have to redo the entire project later.
  1. Treat every single person in your office with an equal level of respect. Whether it’s your boss or the janitor who cleans your office space, treat everyone around you with the upmost respect. Good manners, and bad ones, rarely go unnoticed.
  1. Be social … but be careful. We’ve all heard this time and again, but it’s crucial to be careful about what you post on social media – whether your account is private or not. Social media lives forever. You never know where your life is going to take you and you never know who will be looking into your past. Be smart and thoughtful about the things you post online. Use social media as a mechanism that can only help to enhance your professional reputation, not destroy it.
  1. When the time is right, speak up. It’s important to know when to speak up and offer your thoughts and ideas, and when it’s best to listen to and learn from what others have to say. One of the best pieces of advice that Susan Davis has given to me this summer is that if you listen 90% of the time, and talk 10% of the time, you can never go wrong.

These are just a few tips to help you put your best foot forward in your internship. Treat your internship like an investment, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.

By Austin Courtney, SDI 

July 23, 2015

Troubles Shared

The horrific mass shooting inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last month tipped the balance in a ‘‘decade’s old tug of war” over the meaning of the Confederate flag. Governor Nikki Haley stated that, “For many people in our state the flag stands for traditions that are noble, traditions of history, of heritage, and of ancestry,’’ while for many others the flag is a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.’’ This intensifying national debate has led to Confederate flags and symbols being taken down across the United States, and has led major outlets including EBay, Amazon and Wal-Mart to discontinue the sale of Confederate flag merchandise.

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The shooting occurred just a fortnight after I arrived in the United States from Northern Ireland. Having often read about issues of race in the US I wasn’t all that taken aback by the news that racial hatred had permeated through the incident. The image portrayed of America to the rest of the world is, intentionally of course, one of strength, unity, and patriotism. So in that respect  what was more surprising was the realization that America is still experiencing the same struggles of national identity and coming to terms with the past that we struggle with every day in Northern Ireland.

As expressed by Governor Haley the Confederate flag has many different connotations. The problem then is reconciling these views in order to take a unified stance as a nation.

In this respect I feel that there is something instructive that we in Northern Ireland can learn from the US. When visiting the cemetery at Gettysburg, a place where some 50,000 lives were lost in just 3 days, I felt that it was clear that what was commemorated there was not triumph, but loss, on both sides.

It is tempting to ask how such pandemonium can be caused by a flag. People have used flags for over 4,000 years. Even before groups of people identified as nations, tribal groups and clans used flags to identify themselves as a unit. Symbols, such as flags, are meaningless in their own right; they do not have innate meanings. Human beings give them meaning.

Flags hold the power to polarize opinion. Anyone in doubt of this fact need only look to Northern Ireland.

National flags serve not only as a means of identification, but also as a symbol of a country’s history, ideals and its future. In light of Northern Ireland’s troubled past, it is thus unsurprising that, as a society, we have been unable to share in a unified acceptance of a national flag.

From the end of 2012 through 2013, protests took place across Northern Ireland in response to the decision to limit the number of days the Union flag flies over Belfast City Hall. This affray, which was comprised of some 55,000 incidents, saw a nation divided. It re-opened ‘Pandora’s Box’ in Northern Ireland, and the question of national identity raised its head once again.

For many members of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland, the removal of the flag from the state building was symbolic. In this respect some members of the Unionist community have expressed solidarity with the sentiment expressed by supporters of the Confederate flag; that their heritage and culture are under attack. For some, the Union flag flying 365 days a year was little more than common sense, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom after-all, whilst for others it was not representative of their national identity. In my opinion the Union flag cannot adequately represent the national identity and shared future of the people of Northern Ireland.

Last weekend, the loyalist community of Northern Ireland commemorated the 12th of July, a celebration of Protestant King William’s victory over Catholic King James in the Battle of the Boyne, which often sees tensions between republican Catholics and loyalist Protestants increase and erupt in violence.

Some 24 police officers and one young girl were injured during loyalist riots, which erupted yesterday when a contentious Orange Order parade was halted after disturbances broke out. Once again, at the fore of the news was a flag controversy, prompted by an extremist minority of individuals flying Nazi and Confederate flags.

It is important to realize, however, that these incidents are crucial in prying open lines of communication and prompting important national conversations. What ultimately evokes such emotion and uproar is not the piece of cloth, but an issue of determination and a question of identity. These conversations are a battle of wills to determine which elements of our nations’ pasts have a place in our future.

In the context of Northern Ireland, it is of the utmost importance that we have these difficult conversations and work towards creating a shared identity for our nation. It is vital that we air out our troubles, old and new. This will be a long and arduous process but, ultimately, we must work towards creating a flag that both sides of the community can take ownership of. Until such a time, we will remain divided.

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By India Fahy, SDI

July 15, 2015

On Independence Day

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

From Concord Hymn
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now, as summer sits astride the nation, we turn to celebrate one of the most loved of national holidays, the 4th of July.  We’ll escape to the mountains, flood the beaches, grill all manner of meats, eat potato salad and corn on the cob, cool our tongues with ice cream and drink roughly a billion dollars worth of beer.  All of which is just as it should be.  But, one thing most of us are not likely to do, is use the term Independence Day.  For some, that may be a matter of choice, for others, it’s because we’re gradually losing the connection with our history celebrated on Independence Day.

It’s useful to occasionally read and reflect upon the radical truths captured in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that was officially adopted by the Congress on July 4, 1776.  “We hold independence-day-4these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The power of those beliefs first expressed by a brave group of individuals who had shown themselves willing to die for them, has lived on in every succeeding generation.  We have not always lived up to them, but we have always returned to them, and in so doing affirmed their enduring value. The greatness of this nation continues to rest in its people, and its investment in a set of principles long held by free people, but captured with incredible elegance over two centuries in our past.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Independence Day.

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By Tom Davis, SDI

July 2, 2015

Sharing is Caring When it Comes to PTSD Awareness

Father’s day has passed, and many Americansptsd uncle sam have already begun preparations for 4th of July celebrations. However, few know that sandwiched between the two early summer highlights is a less noticed but increasingly important national observance day. Tomorrow is National PTSD Awareness Day. Visibility for the disorder has increased in recent years due in part to media coverage of its prevalence in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, but an air of mystery and stigma still shrouds the issue.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published the fifth edition of their diagnostic manual, DSM-5, in 2013. In it, the APA made changes to the diagnostic criteria and behavioral symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder. The manual now describes PTSD as a disorder caused by direct or indirect exposure to a traumatic event (actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation) resulting in “clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social interactions, capacity to work or other important areas of functioning.” Those afflicted can experience four different kinds of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and hyper-arousal.

Reading that, it’s no wonder that air of mystery and stigma still exists.

Studies have shown that social support is a key factor in whether or not a person exposed to trauma will develop PTSD.  People without strong family, peer and community support are much more likely to suffer from PTSD than those with solid support networks. Thirty percent of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD compared to 11 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans—a drop many researchers have attributed to more societal awareness and understanding of the disorder.

The smaller percentage of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD may represent progress, but much more must be done.

We’ve had the opportunity to gain a close-up glimpse of what it’s like living with and caring for a veteran with PTSD through our work with Caring for Military Families: Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Hundreds of thousands of our service men and women have been diagnosed with PTSD. Yet, only one out of three of them will actually seek help or treatment. The Foundation’s beneficiaries — military caregivers — speak frankly and passionately about the difficulties caring for a loved one with these insidious and invisible wounds, and the need for support and resources to help them cope with the challenges.

So, how do we become a society of support rather than one of shame, fear or silence?

The change starts with education. Becoming familiar with the disorder’s causes, signs, symptoms and treatments can turn a concerned bystander into a powerful catalyst for change. To break down the APA’s dense language, here’s what you need to know:

Causes

  • Traumatic experiences can range from physical and sexual assault, to military combat, to natural disasters, and so on.
  • The traumatic experience does not have to be first-hand — being witness to the event or even learning that the event happened to a close friend or family member can be traumatic enough to induce PTSD.
  • Research indicates that the intensity of the experience is linked to the probability of PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs cites in this guide that 86 percent of Iraq veterans experienced receiving incoming fire, and 79 percent know someone who was seriously injured or killed.

Symptoms

  • Re-experiencing the event through recurrent dreams, flashbacks, etc.
  • Preventing trauma response through avoidance of all thoughts, places, people and emotions related to the event.
  • Negative cognitions and mood, like persistent sense of blame, loss of memory for aspects of the event, and isolation.
  • Being hyper-aroused, either through aggressive and angry behavior or over-reactive startle response.

Treatments

  • PTSD is curable with consistent and engaged treatment.
  • A variety of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques have been shown to be very effective in treating PTSD, including controlled re-exposure in a safe environment.
  • EMDR, a relatively new but highly effective therapy, is aimed at changing the response to traumatic memories.
  • Some medicines, particularly anti-anxiety medications, can be useful in managing symptoms.

Learn about PTSD and share what you learn with your colleagues and friends. You can do a lot by supporting National PTSD Awareness Day on your social media channels.  Let’s all make an effort to lessen the mystery and reduce the stigma.

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By Cassady Burns, SDI

June 26, 2015

 

How to Look Smart But Stay ‘Cool’ in the Summer Heat

Professional Dress Blog PictureIt’s summer time in Washington, DC, which means ice cream trucks, baseball games, and of course, sweltering heat and humidity. The sun is blazing and the heat index will likely soon soar above 100—a bit of a shock for an Irish girl working for Susan Davis International for the summer.  Back home in Ireland, summer temperatures average around a comfortable 60 degrees, so the thought of wearing professional clothing at the height of summer in DC was quite daunting. However, with meticulous planning I’ve managed to put together a ‘weather appropriate’professional wardrobe. Here’s what I’ve learned along with some valuable tips from staff at SDI!

In the PR industry, how you present yourself is crucial as it serves as a reflection of you as an individual, as well as your company. “How an individual dresses for work can be a powerful extension of his personal brand,” says Matthew Randall, executive director of the Centre for Professional Excellence. Clothing, accessories, and even footwear help to reinforce or diminish a person’s skills and qualities in the eyes of their employer, co-workers, and clients. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of dressing professionally.

One of the most difficult challenges in choosing hot weather attire is preparing for the varying climates you often encounter in one day during DC summers — scorching heat, freezing air conditioning, and frequent afternoon thunderstorms.  I’ve found the solution lies in layering your clothes. Layers allow flexibility to match the needs of each situation. I never leave the house without a lightweight cardigan or umbrella, just in case.

Senior Account Executive Dan Gregory suggests always having a jacket hanging in your office. This allows you to travel to and from work more lightly dressed and still be prepared to meet with clients in professional attire. He also suggests keeping a fresh shirt on a hanger for when a heat-wave hits. If you haven’t already, make sure that a travel-sized deodorant is your best friend this season and keep one in your desk drawer!

Wearing light colors is a stylish way to update your seasonal wardrobe, but it’s also a great way to stay cool. Dark colors absorb and trap heat, making you hotter than usual. One report on the causes of heat stroke states that wearing light colored clothing is key to regulating body temperature during the summer months. So this tip is actually scientifically proven!

Ladies, “less is more” when it comes to summer hair and makeup. One thing that screams unprofessional is smudged makeup. Replacing your trusty liquid foundation with a lighter powder and investing in waterproof eye makeup can help prevent you from looking like you’ve melted in the summer heat. For hair, a neat bun or braid is a great way of keeping hair away from your neck while still looking polished.

Last but not least, blisters are an unfortunate reality of hot weather. However, wearing comfortable shoes for your journey to and from the office is an easy and effective way of avoiding them. Much like Dan’s tip, keep a pair of professional work shoes in your bag or at your desk to slip on once you get into the office.

These are just a few of the tips that are helping me settle into my first summer stateside and allowing me to make the best possible impression during my time here at SDI. I hope they help you beat the heat!

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By India Fahy, SDI

June 23, 2015

 

What are you reading?

It’s time for the annual summer must-read lists Summer Reading 3 (2) that will pop up in most media outlets. While the major publishers will have their recommendations, here’s what some of our staff find intriguing, unsettling, informative, character-building, provocative, mesmerizing and just plain good.

Recently read by Allison Kluh is Allegiant, by Veronica Roth, the last book in the Divergent trilogy, a dark view of a society partitioned into five factions based on the character traits of its citizens, and the inevitable rail against forced conformity.

It’s the second go-around for Lisa Miller with Game of Thrones: Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. The world’s been waiting since 2011 for book 6 in the series, so a re-read is the only way she can get her fix of Westoros, Tyrion and The House of Black and White.

The erudite Judy Whittlesey is keeping up her artistic sensibilities reading Whistler: A Biography, by Stanley Weintraub, about the life of the influential yet eccentric American artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Dead Wake, by Eric Larson, awakens Tom Davis’ history passion; the author takes the reader on board the Lusitania for its final voyage across the Atlantic.

Aliza Bran just cracked open JoJo Moyes’ One Plus One, and the crack’s so fresh she’s not yet sure what it’s about. However, she was also left gurgling in the “Dead Wake” by Eric Larson and got her gumshoes on reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins about a woman who is trying to put together the pieces of a mystery murder.

Nicole Tieman is nurturing her professional skills with Measure What Matters, by Katie Helahaye Paine, an instructional about measuring online engagement and social media to improve how your brand or client relates online. That follows All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (“It was AMAZING”)a story about a blind French girl and a young German orphan who was talented at fixing and operating radio equipment, and their journeys through WWII.

Brain buff Cassady Burns is excited to get her nose back into My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor—a neuroanatomist recollects her catastrophic left hemispheric stroke and the illuminative lessons learned on the road to recovery.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, keeps Jayne Davis up at night. Abandon everything you know and take a flying leap into the wild unknown of the Pacific Coast Trail with one shoe on and a hole in your heart.

Dan Gregory is taken with Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul, an extensive look into the personal and cultural events that shaped the comedic legend’s professional genius and prosperity alongside his devastating fatal flaws.

According to Austin Courtney, 20-something women seeking belly-aching laughs should look no further than actress and writer Lena Dunham’s brutally honest pseudo-memoir, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned.

Although we think Susan Davis is secretly reading When Women Rule the World, author unknown (but suspected), her pick is Road to Character, by David Brooks, which explores how thought leaders and inspiring historical figures developed inner character and personal morality. Whew.

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By Jayne Davis, SDI

June 19, 2015

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc

D-DaySeventy years ago today, Operation Overlord was already well underway. Shortly after midnight on June 6, 1944, more than 24,000 airborne assault troops dropped into the fields of Northern France to prepare the way for the beach landings scheduled to begin just a few hours later. This was to be the largest amphibious invasion in history and would ultimately lead to the downfall of one of the most oppressive and brutal regimes the world has ever known. It involved more than 11,000 aircraft, 7,000 ships, and one hundred and sixty thousand troops. These men, the majority of whom came from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, were poised to storm the beaches of Normandy and begin to drive back the forces of Nazi Germany. Millions more were preparing to follow them in the coming days and weeks. By the end of the day, the combined Allied forces had suffered at least 10,000 casualties, with more than 4,000 men left dead. The Battle of Normandy had begun, and would rage on until the end of August. It was to be a costly campaign, with hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides in the months that followed D-Day.

Nearly a decade ago, I had the privilege to visit Normandy with my family. We decided to visit the famous Pointe du Hoc. Standing there, it is easy to see why this place was so strategically important; from its height, one can see the whole of both Utah and Omaha beaches. This site held special significance for me because my grandfather was a Ranger who fought in campaigns across North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. It was his brother Rangers who assaulted this cliff-top fortress. Seeing it in person was a powerful experience. Even today it looks like the surface of the moon, covered in craters from the heavy shelling and bombing in the lead-up to the invasion. Seeing the bunkers there, many of which are still standing, was eerie. It was so quiet, peaceful almost; but it was not hard to imagine the chaos that took place here. Men fought, died, and sheltered here in a hail of gunfire and explosions that went on for nearly three days. Of the more than 225 Rangers who landed at Pointe du Hoc and scaled the hundred foot cliffs to reach the top, only 90 fighting men remained when relief arrived on June 8th.

After visiting Pointe du Hoc, we thought it was fitting to go to the Normandy American Military Cemetery and Memorial. Here stands row upon row of white crosses, marking the burial sites of 9,387 men, most of whom died fighting in the Normandy campaign. The cemetery is immaculate, perfectly cared for. It is a testament to the gratitude still felt by the people of France for the sacrifice made by so many Americans to free them from tyranny. It is important that we remember them as well.

On this 70th anniversary of the landings that marked the beginning of the end for Nazi rule in Europe, the numbers of World War II veterans amongst us have dwindled. We must make sure that they and the sacrifices of their comrades in arms are not forgotten. Without the 416,800 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who gave their lives, and the millions of others who served alongside them, our world would be a much darker place.

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By Sam Burns, SDI

June 5th, 2015

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