Monthly Archives: September 2014

Do you want to have sex?

Ah, the somewhat awkward, moment-killing, dreaded question. But it’s important to know, right?? Just because you’re getting hot and heavy, doesn’t mean that reaching for the condom without checking in with your partner is okay. Maybe your partner isn’t as into it as you think or they want to do try something new in the bedroom that you would never even consider doing. Clarity is key. I know, asking “Do you want to have sex?” might not be the sexiest question you could ask your partner, but you can make it unique, and you can make it sexy. “Do you like that?” “I really like it when you touch me here, but not there.” “How are you?” “Are you okay with that?” “I love it when you do that.”

Sex is an act that two or more people participate in together. It’s not one person doing something to another. Any sexual activity requires consent, and asking questions and checking in with each other is the perfect way to practice that.

“Do I have to say the word ‘yes’ to give consent?” If you want to be clear and enthusiastic, then, yes! Say yes or no to whatever sexual activity you feel like doing at that time. You can also show that you’re completely engaged in the sexual activity with your actions: smiling, murmuring, “mmm hmm,” taking off your clothes, or directing your partner’s touch. These actions communicate that you’re enjoying it and want this too! But just because a partner consents to one thing doesn’t mean they’re consenting to everything.

Your actions can also say NO. This would look like your partner putting their clothes back on, refraining from eye contact, or being silent. If your partner shows discomfort, check in. Ask how they’re doing. Isn’t it sexier when both of you are enjoying yourselves?

“What if I change my mind?” Consent is given freely to your partner, and it CANNOT be given by force, coercion, manipulation, or intimidation. Sexual activity under any of these circumstances qualifies as sexual assault or rape. It might sound like: “Come on, I thought you loved me;” “But you promised we would have sex tonight.” Consent is YOURS to give and, therefore, yours to take back at any time. Don’t feel badly about stopping the sexual activity, even mid-way through.

Consent is NEVER implied because you’ve been dating or have had sex before. It’s a case-by-case basis. You would never assume that your roommate will cook you dinner every night, just because they did last night.

If you’re too drunk to drive a car, you’re too drunk to give consent. You have to be able to choose without impaired judgment, and when alcohol is involved, you really can’t do that.

Remember, Consent is sexy, so ask questions and communicate with each other! Not only will you have an amazing time, but you’ll be in control of you sex life, which is what we all want, right?

Check out Laci Green’s youtube video on consent:


  • 1 in 4 college women will have experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault in their 4 years of undergrad.
  • 1 in 10 men report being sexually assaulted.
  • 60% of rapes are unreported, and only 3% of rapists will ever spend a day in prison.
  • The first 6 weeks of freshmen year are when college women are most at risk for a sexual assault. This is known as “The Red Zone.”
  • Most college-aged sexual perpetrators carry out an average of 6 assaults each.


  • For on-campus counseling, call The Counseling Center at 410-704-2512.
  • For 24-hour rape crisis intervention and advocacy, call Turnaround at 443-279-0379.
  • To report an assault to the university, call Towson’s Title IX Coordinator at 410-704-2360.
  • To report an assault to the police, call TUPD at 410-704-4444 or Baltimore County/City police at 911.

Writing by Kelly Bryan
Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Peer Educator
The Counseling Center

Resources by Maria Wydra, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist, Sexual Assault Services Coordinator
The Counseling Center


Pre-Searching before Researching: The Key to Research Paper Success

As the semester gets going you might be starting to get those (possibly) dreaded research paper assignments. Sometimes the hardest part of that paper is getting started. Maybe you chose a topic or one was assigned to you, but how do you write a WHOLE paper on a topic you know very little about? Where do you even start? Have no fear, there are many tools and resources for you to use to start your “Pre-Search.”

Pre-searching is the “getting to know your topic” before you even start thinking about using library databases to find articles. Why do you need to do this? You have to know what’s out there before you know what you want. Let’s say you want to write a paper related to obesity. We all know obesity is a problem in this country, but for who? Why? What are the issues involved with obesity? Are there ways to prevent obesity? What is the treatment for this disease? Those are all questions that you might not even know to ask until you start to read more about the topic. If you go straight to the library article databases and start searching “obesity” you will get a million different results- which is not always a good thing.

Pre-searching (background reading) can help you:

  • get the big picture on your topic so you can better understand what are the issues and questions associated with it
  • see what the options are in terms of focusing your topic or paper
  • figure out what keywords to use when searching

So, how do I pre-search? I’m going to tell you a secret, Wikipedia, is an excellent starting point for many topics. “WHAT?! My teacher says I can’t use Wikipedia, I HAVE to use scholarly articles,” you say. Wikipedia is not a resource for doing research on your topic, it’s a place to do background reading. We all (should) know that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and therefore may not be 100% accurate, but it can be a great place to get the gist of a topic area. It can help you get some background to be able to do better searching and in turn write a better paper. Check out this YouTube video from the Cooperative Library Instruction Project for more information on how to use Wikipedia for background reading:

Wikipedia isn’t the only place online to go for background reading, you can also use Google to find credible websites with background information. For many topics you can find credible background information through government, professional association, and non-profit organization websites. To limit your search to either .gov (government) or .org (organization) websites, simply go to Google and type in your topic followed by site:gov or site:org like this:


After I run this search, my results are all from government websites such as the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.

Library Encyclopedias
A third place to do your pre-searching is through the library’s many specialized encyclopedias and other reference books. There are encyclopedias, dictionaries and handbooks on many different topics on the main floor of the library. Stop by the Research Help desk and we can direct you to reference books on your topic. Don’t feel like coming into the library? We’ve got you covered with e-reference books. One large collection of e-reference books is through a database called Sage Knowledge, a searchable collection of over 60 encyclopedias and reference works. You can access it here: A second large collection is through the Gale Virtual Reference Library, which provides access to encyclopedias covering topics from education to art to public health. It can be accessed here: You can find a list of all of the reference book databases here:

Still got questions? You can always stop by the Research Help Desk, but this week we’ve got all of your academic needs covered through the Academic Resource Fair. Stop by the fair for help from a librarian as well as the Writing Center, Academic Achievement Center, Academic Advising, Disability Support Services, and even OTS training! We’ll have prizes and snacks too! Stop by for a minute or stay the whole time!

Academic Resource Fair
Monday, September 22nd 3pm-5pm
Tomorrow: Tuesday, September 23rd 10:30am-12:30pm
Cook Library, 3rd (main) Floor

 Carissa Tomlinson
First Year Experience Librarian
Cook Library

Ice Bucket Challenge Out; Career Center Challenge In

This summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has cooled down in recent weeks, but that’s no reason to stop challenging yourself this semester.

Every student has something more that they can give – but unlike the ice bucket challenge, we’re not talking about donating money.

We’re talking about that extra push you can give yourself to help land an interview and then get that dream internship or job you’ve always wanted.

CAREER CENTER CHALLENGE: The Career Center is challenging you to attend at least one career-related event this semester that will contribute to your future. Here are our recommendations for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

FRESHMEN: By this time, you’re finally settled into your new environment and all of the crazy life changes don’t feel so – well – crazy anymore. But don’t get too comfortable. Take the challenge and attend one of these career-related events.

SOPHOMORES: Don’t fall into the “sophomore slump” – the time when you are no long0714048 Sophmore week-localister a newbie and somehow you get lost in the mix of your peers. Fortunately, the Career Center is featuring Sophomore Career Week so that you can complete the challenge.

JUNIORS: This is the year to fine-tune your resume to meet the needs of potential employers for internships and jobs, as well as improve your skills overall. Take the Career Center Challenge and attend at least one of these career events.

SENIORS/GRADUATE STUDENTS: By this time, you should have some work experience under your belt. But if not, there are still plenty of opportunities that the Career Center is offering this fall to ensure you complete the Career Center Challenge.

For more information about the Career Center visit or call 410-704-2233.

Sara Heilman
Career Center Marketing Intern.

Study Groups Empower Students to Learn

stStudy groups have been proven to be very successful in helping students perform better in their courses. Effective group learning can increase motivation and confidence, as well as strengthen connections among your peers. The ability to work as part of a team is also a highly desirable trait in the workforce. Being part of a study group experience can be rewarding, but requires effort on your part.

Some of rewarding benefits of joining a study group are:

  • Improve your understanding of course material
  • Share resources with current students about course content
  • Experience new ways of thinking and new ideas about course content

Possible complications within a study group are:

  • An unmotivated participant can turn a study session into one long gossip session
  • An underprepared participant can turn a study session into a “teaching” rather than a sharing of ideas
  • Lack of commitment of each participant to attend sessions could ruin the pace and motivation for all participants

Size Matters

When forming a study group, it is important to consider not only how many people should be in the group, but also who should be in the group. For best results, limit the size of your study group to three to six students. Too many voices in one group can cause chaos, confusion, and distraction. Furthermore, the more people you have in your group, the more difficult it can be to schedule a time. If there is a larger group of students interested in forming a study group, simply divide the group in half and mix up the members from time to time. When organizing a study group, don’t feel limited to only inviting your friends. Choose your study group members wisely – people who have similar academic goals and have a desire to participate, share, listen, and learn. A good start is talking to your classmates sitting around you to gauge interest in forming a study group. It is very likely that there are other students in the class also looking for study partners!


Another important aspect of study groups is the preparation each group member must complete before the group meets. Study groups should be a secondary means of studying; each member should be studying on their own before the group meets. The group time should be spent clarifying topics that each member doesn’t understand or as a time for practicing exams or tests.

Group Goals

Study groups are formed for many different reasons. It’s important to determine the specific goals for your group. Are you looking for test preparation? Your group might develop possible test questions to review and provide practice before exams. Are you looking for a group to meet weekly? Your group might compare notes from class sessions to fill in gaps and clarify topics, share study strategies, check for understanding of readings, or develop study aids like charts or notecards.

Once you have your group together, the Academic Achievement Center can provide guidance on how to structure the group for success using the “AAC Study Group Toolkit.” To get started, visit our website at and fill out the request form.

Additional Resources:


Academic Achievement Center

Elizabeth Scarbrough

Kimberly Graham
Placement Testing Coordinator

Marissa Insinna
Graduate Assistant

Jeremy Boettinger
Learning Specialist

A Mindful Way to Approach the Beginning of the Semester

stressed studentA stress free life is impossible. (Darn it, right?) Stress is a normal part of everyday life, and stress can have a significant impact on us in both physiological and emotional ways. The bad news here is that we cannot escape stress. The good news, however (yes, there is good news!), is that we can absolutely influence the way that we experience stress and help buffer against stress’s negative side effects. Our mindset plays a huge role in the way that we view and approach stress. Engaging with stress and our experiences from a mindful perspective can help us cope with stress in a healthy and positive way. Research shows that engaging in mindfulness can help improve attention and memory, decrease worry, improve communication with others, and improve immune functioning – just to name a few.

So, what is mindfulness, you ask? Mindfulness is a unique way of paying attention to our experience that involves both full awareness of the present moment, and open-minded acceptance of it. Awareness relates to being cognizant of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in any given moment. Stress and worry often arise in relation to thoughts about the future or past. Focusing on the here-and-now can help decrease stress’s power over us. (After all, the only thing we can impact is life in-the-moment anyway.) Open-minded acceptance involves being receptive to whatever enters your awareness. This means embracing things we may be happy to pay attention to (such as joy and excitement), as well as things we may rather ignore (like sadness, anger, and pain). This last point may cause you to feel skeptical about mindfulness, but the key with this perspective is that when we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings, and experience them fully, we can more easily move beyond them. For example, try not to think about a purple elephant… All you can think about is a purple elephant! Now focus on the purple elephant… Your thoughts probably dwell on the purple elephant initially, but then start drifting to other things. The point is that thoughts and feelings we try to avoid and ignore only become stronger. The very attempt at pushing them away gives them more power.

Another way to think about mindfulness is to imagine you are seeing the world through a baby’s eyes. Everything is new, exciting, and interesting. Hold that lens in one hand. Now, in the other hand, think about the way you might relate to a friend who is crying and upset. Hopefully, as you try to support your friend, this involves compassion and non-judgmental support. Now, imagine relating to yourself with this kind of compassion and lack of judgment. This is what it involves to embrace your experience and self in a mindful way. Most of us can be easily consumed with self-criticism and self-doubt, so relating to ourselves in this way can be unfamiliar. However, you can hopefully get a sense of how powerful it can be.

Mindfulness is a way of being, but it’s also a skill. The good news is that it’s very easy to start, and you can practice while you do just about anything! If you’re intrigued and want to learn more about mindfulness and how to incorporate it in your life as the semester starts, here are some ideas and resources for you.


  • Bring awareness and focus to every day chores: When you are doing dishes, focus on what you are doing as you are doing it. Feel the water as it runs through your hands, hear the sound as you scrub the dishes. If your mind drifts away, get your focus back to the experience of doing dishes, nothing else.
  • Looking at things as through a child’s eyes: Next time you start feeling that stress is piling up, go for a walk. As you walk, look at the trees around you, look at the color of the sky, as if you were seeing them for the first time.
  • Practice deep Breathing: Start practicing deep breathing on a regular basis. Take a few minutes once a day to deep breathe from your abdomen. That way, next time you find yourself feeling stressed, doing deep breathing, which results in a sense of relaxation, will come up more naturally.flat,550x550,075,f.u1
  • Bring awareness to your body: Throughout the day, be aware of any points of tightness in your body while you walk. Notice your body as you are walking. Pay attention to your posture. Pay attention to your feet as they contact the ground. Feel the air on your face, in your body, as you walk.
  • Eat mindfully: Choose one meal a day, every day, which you will eat mindfully. Eat slowly. Focus on the smell of your food, look at its color and its textures. As you start eating, take time in every bite to savor the different tastes. Notice any changes in taste as you chew. Notice the aftertaste.

As you can see, you can approach your everyday experiences in a mindful way. Also, as a skill, the more you practice living mindfully, the more readily you use it when needed.

Also, the Counseling Center on campus has different resources available to help you have a more mindful approach to your daily life:

  • We have a Meditation Room. You can book it for individual meditation or attend group meditation sessions. Schedule a session at TUCC front desk or by calling our Counseling Center at 410-704-2512.
  • You can find audio, apps, and other resources in our website, at
  • You can check out for the schedule of Therapist led Guided Meditations.

Bea Palma Orellana, MS
Doctoral Intern
Counseling Center

Nina Weiss, MA
Doctoral Intern
Counseling Center

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