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Non-Trad Undergrad

Focused on issues affecting adult and commuter students at the University of Memphis

By Gretchen Kalhust

On his website, The Escapist, William J. Walton asks his readers to think of role playing games as “a form of interactive storytelling, in which all of the participants act out the roles of characters in the story.” Walton writes that role-playing is an adult version of a child’s game of pretend.

To outsiders, role-playing games and those who play them are often misunderstood. The Memphis Role Players’ Association at the University of Memphis was founded in 2008 with the purpose of bringing role-players together and to clear up misconceptions about the hobby.

James Beel, 21, a University of Memphis management information systems major and founding member and former president of the Memphis Role Players’ Association admits that he sometimes struggles with how role-players are characterized as solitary loners.

“That image is completely wrong because you can’t role-play by yourself. Well, you can but it is very, very boring. It’s a very social activity,” said Beel.

Beel said that he sought out role-playing to relieve the boredom he felt after playing video games.

“On the back pamphlet of one of my video games it said ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ and I immediately had this image in my head: ‘Oh, I don’t want to be of those people.’”

Beel found a local group of role-players, or what insiders call gamers, and joined them for a game. Later when questioned by a friend about having played Dungeons and Dragons he began gaming seriously.

Allen Antoine, 22, a University of Memphis recording technology major and current president of the Memphis Role Players’ Association explained that there are primarily two types of role-playing games.

“There are the types you do here at a table with paper and pencil and dice and there’s also what you call live-action role-playing where it’s essentially like you are acting out the part of a character in a film that is not being recorded.”

Antoine said that he prefers table-top role-playing.

“I’m very much a fan of sitting down at a table and rolling some dice as opposed to being out there in the world possibly looking foolish.”

One of Antoine’s teachers introduced him to role-playing games with the game Dungeons and Dragons during his freshman year of high school.

“I was like, ‘Great! This is like a video game except the options are endless,’” said Antoine.

Antoine and Beel agree that Dungeons and Dragons is a favorite among role-players and the group’s members.

Introduced in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was one of the first mass-marketed role-playing games. The game is controlled by a Dungeon Master, or DM, who plays the part of the game’s monsters and enemies, and who also narrates the story and acts as the game’s referee. The players choose their own characters that grow and develop as the game progresses. The game’s manufacturer, The Wizards of the Coast, released the fourth version of the game in September 2010.

Antoine played Dungeons and Dragons for about four years with his teacher and when he came to the University of Memphis he said he missed having a regular role-playing group.

“There are several gaming conventions in the area. I quickly got in on all of those and found myself a group here in the area that I’ve been playing with for five years.”

Antoine and Beel were looking for a way to connect with role-players on campus when the idea of starting a student organization came to Beel.

“I wanted everyone across campus to know that there’s somewhere they can go, that they’re not alone,” said Beel. “They’re not going to be this kid sitting in their basement doing absolutely nothing.”

Registered student organizations, the official student clubs and groups on campus, are allowed by the university to promote themselves more freely than non-registered groups. Beel saw this as an advantage to creating the group.

“Our powers as an RSO are a lot better. As just a group I wouldn’t be able to advertise in all the buildings. I wouldn’t have funding for what we’re doing,” he said.

Membership has more than doubled for the group which initially formed with about 10 members and is now a group of between 25 and 30. The group holds monthly meetings where Antoine disseminates information.

“Generally, I’ll inform people of opportunities that are coming up and let them know about ways that they can get in on events that are happening here on campus,” said Antoine.

Beel, hoping to build on the success of a game day sponsored by the Memphis Role Players’ Association last year, has plans to host a convention this spring. Goals for the three-day convention are to provide a 24-hour facility for game play and to exceed last year’s attendance of 83.

“We previously attempted this and found we could not do it as we needed a substantial sum of money to pay for campus security during the event,” said Antoine

“I want to be able to pay the money to keep the UC open the entire time, 24-hours,” Beel said. “If I want to keep it open 24-hours, it’s going to cost about three to five grand.”

Beel said that he wants to have at least 200 attendees at the upcoming convention and views the event as a way to show role-playing in a positive light.

“Role-players get a bad rap. A lot of people hear us and say, ‘Oh, those are just those nerds that do that.’ The problem is that role-playing is just an activity for a lot of us. Everybody kind of blankets role-players all together; we have other hobbies we do other things,” said Beel. “I absolutely hate it that we’re all grouped together as this one big sect of sweaty, nerdy, anti-social people.”

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I recently spoke with Allen Antoine, president of the Memphis Role Players’ Association. I asked him to describe how he would explain what role playing is and the following video clip is his very insightful answer.

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I’ve put together a slideshow of photos to go with the story I wrote about role playing. I’ve posted the slideshow below.

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I sat in on a game of Dungeons and Dragons played on the University of Memphis campus on April 5, 2011. I was able to capture some of the unique sounds associated with role-playing in an audio file, like the rolling of dice, gamers acting out their characters, and laughter of the players.

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By Gretchen Kalhust

No one enjoys spending money to fill up their gas tank, especially when prices are high and funds are low. The U. S. Department of Energy reports that Americans pay about $3.10 per gallon for gasoline and analysts warn prices could go up to $5 per gallon. “If prices go that high I would have to consider taking more of my classes online next semester to offset the cost of commuting,” said Sue Stacks, 51, a business administration major at The University of Memphis.

Stacks is not the only student at The University of Memphis worrying about the high cost of commuting. Tough economic times make budgeting difficult. Students already worried about finances are beginning to thinking about fluctuating gas prices and the affects on their finances.

Thomas Rainwater, 21, a U of M broadcast journalism student, moved to an apartment closer to campus to help offset his expenses.

“When I lived off-campus in Germantown, I had to drive 30 minutes to school and 30 minutes back everyday. It was terrible.”

Rainwater, who also works as a pizza delivery driver, said, “My gas usage is absolutely ridiculous. If gas prices rise to $4, I’ll seriously have to consider getting a new job.”

Students can reduce the amount of gas they are using and in turn the amount they are paying for gas by carpooling. Carpooling allows students who live near one another to share a ride to campus while they share the cost of gasoline. University of Memphis students, faculty, and staff have access to a free, self-service carpool database through the university’s MyMemphis website. On this website, drivers can view current carpool lists or start a new carpool.

Rainwater and Stacks agree that cutting back on other expenses has helped ease the burden of paying more for gas.

“I burn a ton of gas driving at work so I have to limit my spending on eating out, groceries, and things like that,” said Rainwater.

Stacks admitted that she also reduced the size of her budget.

“I’ve had to cut back on a lot of my expenses, like going out to eat and shopping,” she said. Stacks commutes from her home in Oakland, Tenn. to campus at the U of M, a drive of about 50 minutes, to attend classes three times a week.

Riding the bus also helps reduce fuel costs for students. The fare for 31-day pass on the Memphis Area Transit Authority system costs $50. The average driver, driving 12,000 miles a year, averaging 22.5 miles per gallon and paying $3.10 per gallon for gasoline will pay a little more than $1,653 per year for fuel. That means in a typical month drivers pay about $138 for fuel; purchasing a monthly bus pass would save drivers more than $85.

Robyn Winston, 39, a University of Memphis nursing student said that she did not understand why gas prices were so high.

“These prices don’t make any sense to me. One day they’re down and the next day they’re up.”

Winston, who commutes to Memphis three times a week from Jackson, Tenn., a round-trip drive of about three hours, is not alone in her confusion.

Understanding how analysts predict future gas prices can be complicated because these calculations rely on a lot of complex factors. Michael Sanibel recently explained in his posting Signs That Gas Prices Are Going Up at SFGate.com that, for the most part, the price of gas rises and falls because of supply and demand.

“The supply and demand for all of these [petroleum-based] products will impact the price of gas,” writes Sanibel.

The United States relies mostly on foreign countries to supply it with crude oil because it produces only one-third of its own oil. If a problem happens that slows down the production or export of oil, like protests in Egypt or fighting in Iraq, the cost of crude oil will rise. Problems also happen when not enough oil is supplied to meet the demand of high-consumption countries like the United States, China, and India. Supply and demand play a large role in shaping the costs of fuel.

• The average cost of gasoline has gone up over $1.20 per gallon since 2009.
• An average driver uses about 533 gallons of gas a year. If gas prices remain unchanged, in one year a driver will spend more than $1,600 for fuel.
• View current gas prices in your neighborhood at GasBuddy.com.
• More information can be found on gasoline use and pricing trends on the U. S. Department of Energy’s website.
• To access The University of Memphis carpool database, log in to MyMemphis with your university user name and password. The “Carpool Information” channel is in the right hand column on the home tab.

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December 7, 2010
by Gretchen Kalhust

According to the website for the University of Memphis’ Office of Institutional Research, 42 percent of the school’s enrolled students are non-traditional students. What makes a student a non-traditional student? A non-traditional student is anyone enrolled full- or part-time who is age 25 or older. Some non-traditional students have difficulties finding a balance between being a parent, working full-time, and dealing with marriage and supporting a family while attending classes. The Adult and Commuter Student Services office provides resources to these non-traditional students. “We help adults adjust to life as a student,” said Heather Hampton, office coordinator.

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November 18, 2010
by Gretchen Kalhust

Lisa Parr settled into an oversized chair at Barnes and Noble and a nearby display of books about the University of Arkansas’ football program immediately caught her attention. She leaned over and picked up a book.

“I think my first word was hog,” she said.

As she set the book aside, Parr began to tell me about the pressures of being a woman in male dominated field, about how she felt like she was meant to be an industrial engineer, and the lessons she has learned on the job.

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