Different is Beautiful

So, after taking some time apart from writing due to just being so busy. I sat down and watched one of the most beautiful documentaries I have ever seen. I’m sure many of you heard about the book Wonder, which is now a major motion picture. It is about a little boy that may look different on the outside but he is as tough as nails on the inside. Soon after seeing the commercials for the movie, ABC started to show previews about an upcoming 20/20 special they were having about a little boy that was living life exactly how the movie character was.

The 20/20 special was about a boy named Nathaniel who has Treacher Collins syndrome. It is a rare disorder that causes craniofacial deformities. I am not going to say too much about the special because it is a show that everyone should watch along with their children. Yes, it is sad at times to see that a child has to live life worrying about what other people think of him but it is refreshing to see how tough he was to get through the bullying. Let’s face it, kids and their words can be brutal and mean. The whole time while I was watching the show, I was amazed and proud that Nathaniel never gave up.

So why write about this show? Well, honestly, it’s because I want people everywhere to know that being different is beautiful. If we were all the same, life would be boring. Everyone looks different, lives different and feels different for the exact reason that it allows us to experience life how it was meant to be.

Country music singer, Sam Hunt, once said, “The key to me is being different not for the sake of being different, but being the most authentic version of what you do. And definitely it takes a willingness to be different, because there was resistance for me early on, and I feel like that’s usually the case when there’s a certain paradigm or trend happening, and you step outside of that.” This quote sums it up perfectly, don’t be afraid to be different and don’t be afraid to be outside of the box that society says we should all be inside.

Embracing differences can be hard to understand but that is what makes the people around you special. From television segments like the one previously mentioned, it teaches us that you have to use your differences to grow and help society recognize the beauty behind everyone. I have found my happy place and it is being surrounded by my supportive family and doing things that I love which is writing and dancing. Just like Nathaniel never gave up, I will do the same. I will learn to be outside the box because that is what makes life adventurous and fun.


To end this post, I want to talk about a song that was mentioned in the 20/20 special. That song is called Beautiful and is by Christina Aguilera. In the song, it says, “You are beautiful no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down…oh no. You are beautiful in every single way. Yes, words can’t bring you down, oh, no. So don’t you bring me down today…” Always remember that no matter what differences you may have, you are perfect in your own way. Most importantly, don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.


Muslim panel answers anonymous questions

**This article was originally published in The Signal on April 17, 2017**

By Hannah Fakhrzadeh
Staff Writer

“I don’t feel oppressed. I feel liberated.”

For Abrar Ebady, a senior biology major, wearing a hijab is not how the media portrays it. While wearing the hijab started at a young age for Edady, it is ultimately her choice to continue.

“The hijab is really about modesty,” said Farsha Rizwan, a senior biology major.

Hosted by the Muslim Students’ Association, “Ask A Muslim” was held on Wednesday, April 12. It provided students the opportunity to ask questions to a panel consisting of students and two special guests about the misconceptions of Islam and life as a Muslim in America.

“(The event) is a great way to learn about another religious group on campus and it provides students and faculty alike (the chance) to have their questions answered,” said Zahra Memon, MSA’s public relations co-chair and a sophomore deaf education and iSTEM double major.

At the event, questions were anonymously submitted to ensure students felt comfortable asking about a range of topics.

“We want everyone to be honest with asking whatever they are curious about,” said Alizeh Shamshad, MSA’s public relations co-chair and a sophomore biology major. “By keeping it anonymous, nobody needs to worry about potentially offending someone due to their question, as we would love to answer every question you have. No question is offensive, as the end goal of each question is to develop a greater understanding and facilitate awareness.”

Panelists share what it’s like to be Muslim in America. (Jason Proleika / Photo Editor)

Sameera Chaudry, a general member of MSA and a junior biology major, agreed.

“This kind of open discussion can serve to unite the TCNJ community by fostering an atmosphere of understanding and unity,” she said.

Dr. Mateen Khan, a guest speaker, physician and a Muslim community leader who has dedicated his life to studying and teaching the Quran, believes the panel helped students better understand each other.

“Panels like these help to break down these walls and help us understand one another as fellow human beings,” he said. “Islam is a beautiful religion which over a billion people attribute themselves to. It is worth sharing and understanding.”

Yaseen Ayuby, a panelist and a junior applied mathematics major, reminded the audience to learn for themselves and to “take what you see on the media with a grain of salt.”

Ebady further explained educating oneself and directed the audience to a book titled “The Sealed Nectar” in which she calls, “a beautiful interpretation of Islam.”

The second guest speaker, Kieran Webster, a Rutgers University–New Brunswick graduate student studying business strategy and human resource management, loves the journey Islam has taken him on. Webster wasn’t born into an Islamic family. Instead, he made the choice to convert from Christianity to Islam about three years ago.

“Islam is a religion of logic. The foundation of our religion is ‘as salaamu `alaykum’ which means ‘May the peace and security of God be upon you.’” Webster said. “It elevates us beyond bias, prejudice or bigotry because with this greeting, we are made aware that we worship one God and we seek peace by being peaceful with one another.”

After a question inquired about the injustices of the panelists, Ebady and Nawal Mubin, a sophomore communication studies major, shared their stories.

Mubin described a moment she had with a supermarket shopper. She said, at first, she was unsure how the interaction would pan out. She soon realized that the woman was genuinely interested in learning about her culture.

Ebady recalls a time she passed a group of guys on her walk home from a party. As she passed, she heard them call out “terrorist.”

“I was genuinely afraid for my life,” Ebady said.

While the event allowed the panelists to share their stories, it also became a learning experience for both the audience and panelists.

“I learned more about my religion than I expected tonight,” said Roshaan Iqbal, a sophomore biology major and one of the student panelists for the event. “There were some concepts about my religion that I didn’t even fully understand, and even I got some of those concepts and ideas cleared up.”

Liana Shehata, MSA’s historian and a sophomore psychology major, said Muslim Americans are just average Americans.

“We go through the same struggles and live our lives normally here in the States — we just have beliefs and cultures that differ from the Western culture, and different isn’t necessarily bad,” she said.

**This article was originally published in The Signal on April 17, 2017**

Students talk injustice at monologues

**This article was originally published in The Signal on April 10, 2017**

By Hannah Fakhrzadeh
Staff Writer

“We close our eyes so we don’t have to see the children’s blood-soaked school uniforms, their still sizzling flesh or their bodies contorted in terrible positions.”

For junior biology major Sameera Chaudhry, the horrible scenes displayed in the media of war-torn Syria and the innocent faces of lives that were lost are forever etched in her mind.

Chaudhry discussed the daily injustices that occur around the world, yet most people choose to turn a blind eye.

Students gathered on Thursday, April 6, in the Education Building to hear the Muslim Students’ Association’s Justice Monologues, where students discussed issues of injustice, both in their lives and around the world.

Student embraces muslim identity. (Meagan McDowell / Staff Photographer)

In her monologue, Nawal Mubin, a sophomore communication studies major, pointed out that our nation has witnessed various movements supporting minorities that don’t feel equally represented.

“We say everyone is equal, but we still have (so many) movements for minorities,” she said.

Mubin also brought up the lack of justice in cases like the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

“How can we sit back when we know innocent lives are taken every day?” she asked the audience.

Kyle Kulaga, a freshman career and community studies major, shared a touching story about struggling with his hearing disability in school because some of his teachers did not use American Sign Language in their classes.

“Do you think it’s fair for someone with hearing loss to go through what I went through?” he asked. “I don’t think so, and I want people to know that American Sign Language was a big part of my life.”

Iman Khan, a sophomore biology major, shared an empowering story of overcoming differences in her monologue entitled, “A Triumph of the Conscience.”

“Why am I different? What makes me different?” Khan remembers asking in regard to her darker hair and skin.

Eventually, Khan realized that she should be proud of her identity and not let the opinions of others affect how she sees herself.

Monologues encourage open-mindedness. (Meagan McDowell / Staff Photographer)

“I am me and me is what they will see,” she said.

Matthew Hardy, a senior sociology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major, explained an enlightening encounter he had with a Muslim man who gave him a Holy Quran.

“We are all humans,” he said. “I encourage everyone to really listen because you never know what you will learn.”

The Justice Monologues not only provided students the opportunity to tell their stories, but inspire those in attendance, as well. Engy Shaaban, a junior special education and psychology double major, developed a new perspective following the event.

“I think in this day and age, ignorance and especially close-mindedness can be so incredibly dangerous,” she said. “For me, coming to these sorts of events is a way to be exposed to different perspectives that I might not typically have access to.”

The feeling was mutual for Zainab Rizvi, a member of MSA and a junior elementary education and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major.

“Many people live in their own bubble, and it’s important that they come out and hear the experiences of others,” she said. “It’s a way to appreciate the lives of others and understand that people come from all backgrounds.”

Zahra Memon, MSA’s public relations chair and a sophomore deaf education and iSTEM double major, shared her thoughts on the event.

“We’ve all faced some type of injustice in our lives, and even if we haven’t, someone who shares our ethnicity or culture has been affected in some way,” she said. “The Justice Monologues are a way for all of us to come together and hear the stories of students who have felt injustice.”

Memon believes it is important for students to empathize with their peers.

“We often forget to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, however, this event will give us the chance to see the other end of the lens,” she said.

**This article was originally published in The Signal on April 10, 2017**


**This article was previously published in Unique Homes**


By Hannah Fakhrzadeh


San Francisco builder Barbara Butler hand-designs and crafts elaborate play structures for children combining childhood fantasies with architectural know-how. Her client list includes Gwen Stefani, Will Ferrell, Robert Redford, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, and Walt Disney Productions. The structures range from small, cozy cabins to big tree houses to large play forts complete with monkey bars, rope swings, bridges and anything the imagination can conjure.

**All photos courtesy Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc.**

**This article was previously published in Unique Homes**


**This article was originally published in Unique Homes**


Unique Homes sat down with Kevin Venger to discuss his experience designing ultra-luxury buildings, working with industry greats, and meeting buyer demands.

By Hannah Fakhrzadeh


Kevin Venger, the co-developer behind Miami’s RegaliaTen Museum Park and Paramount on the Bay always has been intrigued by the concept of developing and designing beautiful and luxurious buildings. “I have been developing, designing and building since I was a child. From my first self-performed treehouse to the art of the high-rise tower, I have always been intrigued by the concept.” To find out more about Venger’s designs and concepts, we sat down with him to see what he had to say.

What peaked your interest in building and developing in the luxury real estate market?

I am always fascinated by the near-endless possibilities of the luxury real estate market, because the buyer’s demand is not the norm. The ability to implement first-to-market materials, finishes and work with the world’s best designers affords a sense of excitement and thrill for me.

Considering the fact that the expectations are high for properties in the industry, what are some of the hyper-specific design needs billionaires are asking for?

Billionaires with multiple homes around the world no longer want to invest extensive time into building out a new residence’s interior space, which often can take two years to complete and requires time involved in the selection process when working with an interior designer. Rather, they are seeking a more turnkey experience in which they can purchase a home with the millwork, finishes and often interior furnishings already in place to quickly move in. 

Requests such as floating staircases and glass-faced pools are becoming more common. How do you explain the rise in the desire for such artistic elements? 

Today’s home needs to equally be artistic and functional. Rare and unique elements are serving more than ever as conversation pieces, which are memorable to those who visit the residence and on a daily basis for the owner. From the floating staircase to the glass-faced pool in Regalia’s $35 million Beach House condo residences currently for sale, one cannot escape the exclusive sense of place in this home because of its one-off features. Those who purchase a residence such as this demand no less, and want to ensure their living experience cannot easily be replicated. 

Can you discuss the climate of Miami’s $20 million and up real estate market?

While certain regions of the world have experienced financial woes, the ultra-luxury sector remains insulated and continues to draw interest due to its long-term value within the marketplace. As a result, the ultra-affluent market does not tend to fluctuate in the same manner. 

Where do you see the market going in the future?

Miami is poised to reach a level of global attention as it continues to grow. With increased activity from China, Dubai and beyond, the next 10-15 years of Miami’s legacy will be defined by new foreign interest and prime investment opportunities for those who deem the city as the “new” London or New York in terms of projected future prices and its art, culture and lifestyle.

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Interior renderings courtesy ARX Solutions. Exterior, Pool and Balcony photos courtesy Catapult 13.

One of your developments, Regalia, is one of Miami’s most sought-after oceanfront towers. Can you discuss the inspiration and idea behind it and what can be expected from it?

Our level of expectation exceeded the archetypal luxury condominium found in Miami, with our finishes comparable to the finest residences in New York City. For our buyers, we sought to create a curated living experience that was highly intimate in nature, with only 39 residences each residing on their own private full floor, which is very unique to the U.S., and further transcends beyond their residence into the amenity spaces in order to still feel livable and residential.  

Inspiration behind Regalia’s exterior are the waves and wind; we felt it was important to have a meaning to its façade and be place-specific. The design embodies the beauty of Sunny Isles Beach and its oceanfront surroundings. Given Regalia’s location, the building marks the gateway between Sunny Isles and Golden Beach, so its design must be impactful, yet welcoming.

For the interiors of the residences, you tasked Charles Allem to design it. What made you choose to use Allem?

Charles Allem is a master at designing truly livable interior spaces that appeal to all tastes. Being that Regalia has many international residents, it was crucial to design for everyone, with subtle mixes of materials, color, textures and artwork that seamlessly work together. Allem created an ambience that flows to naturally unify the interior and exterior design palate. 

Another design you are behind is 1000 Museum; can you discuss the idea behind that and what it offers?

1000 Museum celebrates an exterior facade (“exoskeleton”) design accentuated by curvaceous flow that continues elegantly into the interiors. This concept has never been seen on this side of the world. 1000 Museum will greatly make a design impact within the downtown Miami urban setting, forever changing the skyline as a visionary masterpiece. As the only ultra-luxury building in the area with just 83 residences, it will remain a legacy project for Miami and another for Zaha Hadid.

The architect behind 1000 Museum is Zaha Hadid. Can you describe Hadid and her legacy? 

Her legacy speaks for itself already. She is one of the most fabulous individuals and unique designers that I have ever worked with. Since Miami will mark her first high-rise residential tower in the Western Hemisphere and her love of the city was well known (as she had a permanent residence here), 1000 Museum is really special project that adds to her worldwide legacy.

You’re behind many other luxury buildings like the Four Seasons Hotel & Residences Miami, Ten Museum Park and Paramount on the Bay. What have you learned from developing these projects that helped you with Regalia?

A residential project’s design, services, operations and use of materials all have to be in perfect harmony in order to create an ultra-luxury, five-star lifestyle experience. These elements cannot function on their own for true luxury to exist.

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Exterior photos courtesy Ken Hayden. Interior photos courtesy Morris Moreno. Beach House renderings courtesy Neoscape.

**This article was originally published in Unique Homes**

Dreaming on Cloud Nine


By Hannah Fakhrzadeh

**This article was originally published in Unique Homes**

**This article was originally published in Unique Homes**

IMM celebrates largest graduating class

**This article was originally published in TCNJ’s The Signal on March 3, 2017**

By Hannah Fakhrzadeh
Staff Writer

Due to heightened interest in interactive multimedia, the College’s department will celebrate its biggest graduating class.

This May, students will take part in IMM history, according to Rachel Lichtenberg, the IMM department’s program assistant.

“IMM had three graduating seniors in its first class, and we will now have 44 graduating seniors,” she said.

There are currently about 160 IMM majors and 60 minors.

In 2001, IMM became a major at the College thanks to the hard work of Kim Pearson, an associate professor of journalism and professional writing, Phillip Sanders, a professor of art and interactive multimedia, and Ursula Wolz, an associate professor of computer science.

Their goal was to connect JPW with the growing field of technology, so they began the lengthy process of writing a proposal.

IMM majors learn a variety of skills. (Tcnj.edu)

The professors wanted the graduating students to use the knowledge they acquired to excel in a variety of professions, according to Pearson.

“We hoped that IMM would be a place of interdisciplinary collaboration that would also enrich its complementary disciplines,” she said. “We wanted it to be structured enough so that a student would have a firm foundation in writing, digital media and interactive computing, but flexible enough for each student to acquire depth and experience in the areas of the student’s choosing.”

Fast forward to 2017: IMM has become a popular major due to its adaptability, according senior IMM major Chris Lundy.

“IMM is a non-traditional major in the sense that we are always taking advantage of new technologies and constantly changing the curriculum to match trends of the various fields,” Lundy said.

Senior IMM major Ryan Laux agreed.

“Technology is at the core of IMM, and everything we do embraces the newest technologies that exist, from new camera gear, to 3D printing and virtual reality,” he said.

The lessons learned in IMM courses are applied to students’ everyday lives. For example, alumnus Joshua Lewkowicz (’15), an assistant animatic editor at DreamWorks Animation, acquired the bulk of his skills through his classes.

“After graduating from the IMM program, the technical knowledge of how to use and apply these programs was able to directly translate into the workflow and environment of DreamWorks Animation,” he said. “Whenever I run into a technical issue with a program, I am able to troubleshoot the problem myself.”

Technology is at the center of the IMM major. (Tcnj.edu)

Lundy believes both current and future IMM majors of different specializations will continue to explore the ever-changing digital landscape.

Laux agreed.

“The internet has certainly taken over much of the professional industry, and nearly everything we learn in IMM has an application in many avenues, from entertainment to advertising, to physical installations and even government,” Laux said.

Each year, the faculty sets a goal of attaining 15 new IMM majors, but Pearson is ecstatic that the program has exceeded their goal.

“It has been gratifying to see (the department) grow beyond our expectations,” Pearson said.

This year not only marks the IMM department’s largest graduating class, but the Fall 2016 semester welcomed the largest incoming freshman class, as well.

IMM was once a male-dominated field, so Lichtenberg was excited to see the incoming freshman class split 50-50 between male and female students.

“I know from talking with IMM women alum that this is particularly exciting, as (the former students) recall that their IMM classes had fewer women colleagues,” she said.

Although it is hard to predict the future, John Kuiphoff, an associate professor and chair of IMM, believes the program has a long and experimental future.

“I think we are going to continue to grow, and we are going to be able to offer even more,” Kuiphoff said. “My hope is that our students and alumni will help to create a future that is bright. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring.”

Editor’s note: This article reports that this year’s IMM graduating class is the largest in the College’s history, but it is, in fact, exactly the same size as last year’s graduating class. The department has had a 42 percent increase in graduates over the last few years, according to Kuiphoff.

“We’ll probably reach 200 majors within two years,” Kuiphoff said. “That’s really exciting, and it will allow us to do things that we couldn’t do before. … We really put everything we’ve got into making this the best major it can be.”

**This article was originally published in TCNJ’s The Signal on March 3, 2017**