Eurovision in Oxford

first_imgHundreds of students from colleges across the university tuned in to the Eurovision Song Contest last Saturday, joining an estimated 125 million viewers around the world who watched the contest broadcast live from Malmö, Sweden.The show enjoyed unprecedented popularity in Oxford this year with more than a dozen Eurovision parties being held in JCRs, college bars and even the Union. Colleges known to have hosted either an official or unofficial Eurovision party include St Hugh’s, Exeter, Jesus, Hertford, Balliol, Lincoln and Keble, amongst others. Emmelie de Forest representing Denmark ended the night at the top of the scoreboard with her song ‘Only Teardrops’. The UK, represented by 80s pop-star Bonnie Tyler, came in 19th with only 23 points.Harry Davies, who organised this year’s party at Exeter, said, “Exeter turned out in force for Eurovision this year, about 50 people came to the JCR throughout the night. The room was covered with European bunting and giant flags. Most people were given a mini-flag of their chosen country to wave, crayons so they could show their allegiance facially, and also a score-sheet, so they could rank the performances in categories such as ‘The Likeability Factor’ and ‘General Amazingness’. 26 daring students entered a sweepstake and it became pretty vocal and competitive during the scoring, but it was brilliant to see so many people get involved with what really is the greatest three-and-a-half hours of television mankind has ever created.”An Exeter first year also praised the work of their JCR, commenting, “It was a great success…We passed a motion earlier this term to pay for food and drink as well as decorations and it acted as a great pre-party to the bop we had later that evening.” Adam Ward added “Despite the Eurovision rule of not being able to vote for yourself, Exeter definitely deserved douze points for its Eurovision party.”A first year from St Hugh’s said, “Nearly every seat in the JCR was full, and in my experience the JCR hasn’t been as full at any point this year so far…A number of finalists empathised with the sentiments expressed in Greece’s entry ‘Alcohol is Free’. “The UK’s low position on the scoreboard has once again raised questions about whether Britain’s continued participation in the competition is worth it. One second-year Jesus medic said, “It’s impossible to dislike Eurovision, even though we keep losing. Of course it’s a shame about Bonnie, until you remember that it’s not 1983 anymore and nobody really cares.”last_img read more

Bayonne bounds forward Progress fueled by development, open spaces, and transportation

first_img1 / 5  A ferry is planned for the former military ocean terminal base (MOTBY)  2 / 5  Twin 22-story towers on North Street will create a truly urban skyline and become landmarks to be seen from miles around.  3 / 5  Residential development is booming in Bayonne  4 / 5  The existing World War II-era warehouses once stored missiles, tanks, and all kinds of cargo to ship abroad to support war efforts from 1967, when the peninsula became a military base, to 1999, when the base closed.  5 / 5  The new Bayonne is attracting commercial development. ❮ ❯ ×  1 / 5  A ferry is planned for the former military ocean terminal base (MOTBY)  2 / 5  Twin 22-story towers on North Street will create a truly urban skyline and become landmarks to be seen from miles around.  3 / 5  Residential development is booming in Bayonne  4 / 5  The existing World War II-era warehouses once stored missiles, tanks, and all kinds of cargo to ship abroad to support war efforts from 1967, when the peninsula became a military base, to 1999, when the base closed.  5 / 5  The new Bayonne is attracting commercial development. ❮ ❯ The new Master Plan, which was revised in July,2017, promotes contemporary urban planning principlesto create high-density, walkable, bike-able, and mixed-used development. The plan recommends the city establish “station area plans” for neighborhoods within a quarter mile of a light rail station as “transit villages.”The plan creates two tiers of zoning. “Catalyst” projects would allow for buildings between eight and 10 stories, and require public open space, while “non-catalyst” projects would be between four and eight stories.Catalyst projects within a four-block radius of the 22nd Street Light Rail station include 19 East, a 138-unit luxury rental building; Madison Hill on the former site of CJ Murphy; Skye Lofts South and Sky Lofts North, both on Avenue E combining for nearly 200 units; and a 180-unit Parkview Realty residential development._____________Most developers have included indoor garages in their plans.____________The MOTBY factorCity officials are so hopeful about Bayonne’s future that they are shooting for the stars. In September of 2017, the city joined hundreds of cities across the U.S. and Canada in responding to Amazon’s request for proposals for a location to build its second headquarters. Bayonne was banking on the former Military Ocean Terminal Base.Amazon’s short list of finalists does not include Bayonne, but that doesn’t mean that MOTBY’s warehousing space has no value.Lincoln Equities Group (LEG) recently completed its acquisition of a 153-acre site on MOTBY, called the Bayonne Logistics Center, formerly owned by Ports of America. The company plans to redevelop the property into 1.6 million square feet of industrial warehouse space adjacent to the Port of New York and New Jersey.The existing World War II-era warehouses once stored missiles, tanks, and all kinds of cargo to ship abroad to support war efforts from 1967, when the peninsula became a military base, to 1999, when the base closed.What companies will occupy that space is not yet determined, but Amazon could be in the mix, because the company has been spreading its warehouse footprint like wildfire in New Jersey in the last few years.At MOTBY, multiple large residential developments are set to break ground after years of environmental remediation and financial planning. Those plans have attracted a Costco to the area of Route 440 near the 34th Street Light Rail Station, near residential developments on the base._____________The city has the most undeveloped space in the county.____________That ribbon of highwayThe 34th Street Light Rail pedestrian bridge will soon fulfill its original goal of allowing pedestrians to safely cross Route 440. Currently, it takes only light rail riders over the tracks to a parking lot. With so much development set for the other side of Route 440, pedestrians will finally have a destination to walk to.South of MOTBY, and across from the 34th Street station, South Cove Commons has been in constant redevelopment mode. The area is under renovation to make the area more attractive to pedestrians. In November, the Alessi Group, which develops South Cove, installed a large limestone frieze that once graced the long-demolished Philadelphia Civic Center.While the 34th Street pedestrian walkway is in the works, Alessi redesigned the other pedestrian access point to South Cove at 22nd Street by installing a new signal to provide enough time for pedestrians to safely cross, and a vehicle off-ramp was removed.Most new developments in the city are intended for mixed-use purposes, meaning the ground floors can be used for commercial entities, while the top is typically reserved for residential use. South Cove is also building new office spaces to accommodate the changing needs of local businesses.Continue up Route 440, and vehicles can enter the NJ Turnpike via Exit 14A, which has been under construction for the last few years and was completed in May, three months early.The project increased toll plaza capacity from 11 to 13 lanes, extended the ramp from Interchange 14A westbound, expanded the Hudson County Extension to two lanes, and replaced the existing two-lane connector bridge with a new four-lane structure to Route 440, Route 185, and Port Jersey Boulevard.A new flyover ramp, where the ceremony was held, was also constructed from the interchange and Port Jersey Boulevard to Route 440 south. The existing traffic signal at East 53rd Street was removed, and the new roundabout will maintain permanent access to the 14A Interchange.The project will enhance access not only for industrial truckers, but for the thousands of residents bound to live on MOTBY. The city will also benefit from fewer multi-ton trucks wearing and tearing Bayonne’s locally maintained roads and bridges, which could make for fewer potholes and a safer driving, walking, and cycling environment.Open spaceDennis Collins Park on First Street, one of Bayonne’s largest parks, underwent a large renovation that was unveiled this spring. New playground equipment, exercise equipment, bean toss, a patio area for leisure and yoga, solar charging station, a new volleyball court, two resurfaced tennis courts, and two renovated dog parks are now available for all to use.New playground equipment includes ADA-accessible swings, tot swings, a dual beam Kid Koaster, a standing rocker, and a Volta Inclusive Spinner.New exercise equipment includes ellipticals and steppers.The long-term goal is to make most of the Bayonne shorefront accessible and walkable. City officials and the Port Authority have discussed the potential for a linear park underneath the Bayonne Bridge that would start at 5th Street and extend south to Dennis Collins Park and could include a walkway, bike path, parkland, playground, and other amenities. The walkway would extend north up Bayonne’s western shore to connect to 16th Street Park, Stephen R. Gregg Park, and Rutkowski Park. The linear park concept dovetails with the massive 44-acre Promenade development planned for the old Texaco site.NJ Gov. Phil Murphy visited the city in May to help announce the start of the project, which will create a pathway and park connecting Bayonne High School to 16th Street Park, where a proposed miniature golf course would be located if a developer is found.Last year, Stephen R. Gregg Park received $3.7 million worth of waterfront ballfields. Also known as Hudson County Park, it has more than 100 acres of open space that includes ballfields, tennis courts, basketball courts, bocce courts, horseshoe pits, and a running track. Now it’s resurfaced two full-size soccer fields and two mini soccer fields with turf, and added two full-size softball fields, all with new landscaping and LED lighting (the same lighting used by the University of Arizona).The park, which is maintained by the county, was improved using County Capital Funds.A pond renovation in July and August of 2017 beautified the northern-most section near Rutkowski Park. The manmade pond, which was filling up with muck and leaves, was drained to add a new sodium bentonite liner layered with sand to prevent water from leaking into the soil, as well as coir logs that allow plants to grow around the pond’s edge, which features a new walkway.Development has opened the door to public-private spaces that will be included in some large residential developments. Meanwhile, the McDonald’s on Broadway will be pushed back to make room for a private-public plaza on the corner of West 25th Street.center_img New buildings are bound to change the face of Bayonne, two of which will create a truly urban skyline and become landmarksto be seen from miles around: twin 22-story towers on North Street. Meanwhile, a ferry is planned for the former military ocean terminal base (MOTBY) as well as thousands of residential units and a Costco.The city has the most undeveloped space in the county. That space is either planned for development or is in the process of development. Rental fees in those buildings are often too high for most current residents, but the city and developers are hoping to attract newcomers who have been pushed out of the New York City housing market and young professionals seeking convenient locations from which to commute.But luring developers to build in Bayonne can be politically dicey. Local government encouragesdevelopment by using payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), which let developers make payments directly to the city instead of in property taxes, which help fund the school district. Because Bayonne is already underfunded, the city council passed an ordinance allotting five percent of payments to the school district, and another five percent to the county.To encourage development where it is needed most—in and around public transit stations—the city revised its zoning ordinances to allow developers to build less parking if it wants. But developers still have to attract people to live in the buildings, and many of those people will probably want cars. Most developers have included indoor garages in their plans. The grand planlast_img read more

Cyclists Receive Warm Ocean City Welcome in MS Ride

first_imgBy Donald WittkowskiThousands of bicyclists crossing the finish line Saturday in the MS City to Shore Ride were greeted by a woman holding an orange sign with two words written in black letters: “Thank you.”The sign seemed like a simple expression of gratitude, but for Trish Repetski, it conveyed a very powerful message.To her, it symbolized the efforts of so many people who have banded together in the fight against multiple sclerosis, an incurable, often disabling disease that disrupts the central nervous system.“It brings a tear to my eye to see them finish,” Repetski, her voice choking with emotion, said of the bikers. “Sometimes, they have tears in their eyes, too.”On Saturday, it was the fifth straight year that the 56-year-old Repetski, of Fairless Hills, Pa., held the “Thank you” sign. Riders passing by her on Fifth Street heading to the finish line at the Ocean City Boardwalk often gave her a thumbs-up or a wave in a show of appreciation.The emotional exchanges between Repetski and the cyclists were among many poignant moments during the annual MS bike ride, a major fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. An estimated 7,000 bikers were expected to raise more than $6 million in the ride from Cherry Hill to Ocean City.As she has done for five straight years, Trish Repetski, of Fairless Hills, Pa., waves a “Thank you” sign as riders arrive at the finish line.Repetski did not ride, but was part of the “Raising Caine” team that supported her friend, Mike Caine, a Levittown, Pa., resident who has MS.“It’s the least we can do for him,” Repetski said of Caine.Some bikers participated in teams while other cyclists simply rode on their own. The event gave riders a choice of route options that ranged from 25 to 180 miles, taking them along the scenic back roads of South Jersey to the Jersey Shore.David Bucher, 67, a retired mailman from Philadelphia, said he has been riding in the event for 38 years in a row. On Saturday, he dedicated his ride in memory of two friends who died this past year.One of Bucher’s friends had MS, while the other had cancer. Bucher had the name of one friend, whom he identified only as Kathy, written on an arm band that he wore during the ride.“I really don’t know if I’m making a difference,” Bucher said of his longtime participation in the fight against MS.But then he paused for a moment and added, “Just the fact that I’m here, I think that I am making a difference.”Rider David Bucher, of Philadelphia, and MS Society volunteer Karen Meyers, of Southampton, Pa., share a hug.Karen Meyers, an MS Society volunteer, said she believed Bucher and all of the other cyclists made a huge contribution toward efforts to conquer the disease.“It’s very comforting. These people are doing the hardest part, and they’re doing it for people like me,” said Meyers, who has MS. “I appreciate it so much. It means a lot to me.”Meyers, 47, of Southampton, Pa., personally thanked the bikers as they signed a tent wall that allowed them to write tributes to friends and family members who have MS.At one point, Meyers and Bucher gave each other a big hug.“You rode for me. Thank you,” Meyers exclaimed as Bucher smiled in return.This year’s MS ride was the first time that cyclists entered Ocean City via the Route 52 Causeway, the main gateway into town. Previously, they had used the Ocean City-Longport Bridge as their entry point. The route was changed at the request of the MS Society to make it easier and safer for bikers to enter Ocean City.Cyclists enter Ocean City using the Route 52 Causeway as part of a new route for the ride this year.Ocean City police officers were stationed along the entry route to protect the cyclists and direct traffic.Sgt. Brian Hopely, of the police department’s Traffic Safety Unit, noted that 25 officers were specifically assigned to the ride. Volunteers from the city’s Community Emergency Response Team supplemented the police for crowd control. Other officers were on normal duty across the city, representing a major commitment by the police department throughout Saturday.“Everything is moving along smoothly,” Hopely said as the first waves of MS riders began hitting the finish line late in the morning. The MS City to Shore ride attracts thousands of bikers and raises millions of dollars in the fight against multiple sclerosis.last_img read more

Friends Replace O.C. Man’s Stolen Camera – and Then Some

first_imgBy TIM KELLYIt was a moment that might cause a person to question humanity. But that moment was quickly followed by another that would restore one’s faith in humanity.Sean Beebe is an Ocean City resident well-known to locals and visitors alike. He’s an accomplished photographer, a presence on the beach, Boardwalk — and prior to the COVID-19 outbreak — at area restaurants and night spots.“Sean is a great guy,” friend Shane Rauner related. “That’s why so many people wanted to help him out.”Last week Beebe was grabbing a bite to eat and briefly walked away from his seat to dispose of his trash.Upon his return, a timeframe of less than a minute, his Nikon D5500digital SLR camera was gone.The trusty camera had rarely left Beebe’s side for four years. Just that brief moment of separation was all the thief needed.Sean Beebe captured a lightning strike in Somers Point recently.“As most of you know, my camera was stolen the other day,” Beebe wrote on social media. “I want to thank (all of his friends) for all the love and support during this tough time. Hopefully soon I’ll get a better camera and capture much better pics.”That post was pure Sean, Rauner said.“He’s always positive and Sean is a guy who would do anything for you. But this really hit him hard,” Rauner noted. “He takes such amazing photographs, and then his camera gets stolen. That was a really hard thing for him to deal with.”That’s when Beebe’s friends came to the rescue.Organized by a group of pals including Rauner, Kylie, Kirsten and Cory Raab, Amanda Brooks, Conor Plasha, Sam Newnam and Christian Heist, a crowdfunding site was set up on the internet to try to replace Bebe’s old Nikon.“He told me that he paid about $500 for his stolen camera a few years ago, and that’s what we set as the (crowdfunding) goal,” Rauner said. “I wasn’t sure if we raised that much if it would be enough to actually replace the camera.”Something would be better than nothing, the friends reasoned, and the page went live on Wednesday.They needn’t have worried. In less than 24 hours, the effort raised more than six times the goal amount. The page was finally shut down, Rauner said, after more than $3,200 had been raised.“Even after the page had been closed, we were getting messages from people who still wanted to help. That shows you how highly people think of Beebz,” Rauner said.Beebe was thrilled to hear about the fundraiser’s success and began looking to purchase new equipment.“I’ve already ordered a new lens and I’m shopping around to find an upgrade,” he said, gratefully.Rauner said he was “amazed” the crowdfunding page achieved such immediate success, although he “shouldn’t be surprised at all.”“Beebz is such a well-liked guy it kind of stands to reason. He is just the nicest guy you’ll meet. If you need a ride or if he can help you in any other way, he’ll drop whatever he is doing to lend a hand,” Rauner pointed out. “I also know that if the situation were reversed, Sean would be the first person to step up and do whatever he could to help out.”An expert at many aspects of photography, Beebe specializes in capturing the beauty and life surrounding the South Jersey Shore. Beach and surf pictures and sunrises and sunsets are among the subjects posted on the page.For more information, please visit said he was thankful for the action of his friends and that he will soon be back in business with upgraded equipment.“It really means a lot to me,” Beebe said. “I’ve been seeing nothing but positivity amid all the negativity in the world today.”The power of the sea and the Atlantic City skyline on display in one of Sean Beebe’s photographs. Sean Beebe in a portrait he totaled “Social Distancing.” (Photos courtesy Sean Beebe Photography Facebook page)last_img read more

The Head And The Heart Announces Second Red Rocks Show With Hippo Campus

first_imgIt may still be the first few days of 2019, but outdoor concert season will be here before you know it! The world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado has kept busy over the last few weeks as producers for the outdoor venue continue to announce shows scheduled for their upcoming season. The latest 2019 concert to be announced arrived on Tuesday (along with Gregory Alan Isakov) and features indie-folk band The Head and the Heart, who have added second Red Rocks show on July 18th with support from Hippo Campus, in addition to their previously announced July 17th performance.The Head and the Heart are no strangers to playing Red Rocks, as they’ve done so the last few years with some memorable moments. Their 2017 show even included an on-stage engagement proposal between two fans.The band is expected to share a new studio album sometime in 2019, as their last full-length release came back in September 2016 with Signs of Light. The band recently gave somewhat of an update from the studio when they shared a lovely cover of Sheryl Crow‘s 90’s ballad, “Strong Enough”. Watch video of the recording session below:The Head and the Heart – “Strong Enough” – Sheryl Crow cover[Video: The Head and the Heart]Hippo Campus is also a relatively new band, although they fall a little more within the electro-pop realm in contrast to The Head and the Heart’s organic folk-inspired sound. Hippo Campus released their own sophomore studio album last year with Bambi, which has given them the perfect excuse to continue touring into the new year. They were also included on Bonnaroo‘s 2019 lineup announcement shared early Tuesday morning.Tickets for the July 18th show go on sale this Friday, January 11th here.last_img read more

‘Then, I wanted to run’

first_imgThis is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.Until that moment, just about everything in Daniel Cnossen’s life had been going as planned.Born on a 250-acre farm just outside Topeka, Kan., Cnossen, 35, was passionate about athletics and the outdoors during his carefree boyhood, traipsing through the fields and woods surrounding the family’s fifth-generation homestead.He had long set his sights on attending the U.S. Naval Academy, perhaps becoming a Marine. But after getting in, he felt a special affinity for the elite Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) teams, whose special-operations fighters undergo some of the toughest military training in the world. SEALs must maintain superlative fitness and master a host of advanced combat, survival, and escape skills, like swimming while both hands and feet are bound, rappelling out of helicopters, and deep-sea diving under grueling physical and psychological conditions.After graduating from the academy in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Cnossen entered SEALs officer training, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. On SEAL Team One, he led a platoon of 20 men and completed deployments in Iraq, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan.“That was just an amazing job. I can’t think of a better job with better people. I would do that job in perpetuity,” said Cnossen, now a degree candidate for a mid-career master’s of public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).But in September 2009, during a nighttime SEALs operation in Afghanistan, Cnossen stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). The ensuing explosion destroyed his legs and caused severe damage to his lower body, including a fractured pelvis.Unconscious for eight days, he woke up to find himself back in the United States at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. In unrelenting pain, he learned that his legs had been amputated above the knees.In all, he spent six months in the Veterans Administration hospital. So far, he has undergone 40 surgeries to repair injuries and internal damage and to stave off infection. The first months after the injury were all about survival and trying to relearn the most basic human skills.“First, I’m going to drink. Then, I want to eat. Then, I’d like to get out of this bed. Then, I’d like to get in my wheelchair,” said Cnossen of his earliest goals. “At one point, it was so liberating to be in a wheelchair. And then I got my prosthetics, and I wanted to get out of the wheelchair and just wear my prosthetics,” custom-made aids that required 18 months of physical therapy to adapt to and master.“And then I wanted to walk all the time and not have a wheelchair. Then, I wanted to run.”True to the SEALs’ ethos of humility and quiet professionalism, Cnossen doesn’t like to talk about himself or his ordeal. He didn’t volunteer that he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor for his combat service, that he was recognized by first lady Michelle Obama at the White House, or that he was the only double amputee on active duty in Navy SEAL history before his medical retirement last year.Daniel Cnossen competed in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics as a sit skier. He plans to train for the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo by Joe KusumotoCnossen had always loved running and wanted to get back to it after his injury, but found it took a long time to master the wide-swinging gait he must use because of his amputations. It’s a movement that’s quite different from the one employed by “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius and other below-the-knee amputees, who often can do far more challenging activities, such as hiking and running uphill, than bilaterals. That confusion can lead to frustrating assumptions and misguided expectations.“People, sometimes in an optimistic way, to try to be cheerful, can say things that are very misleading,” said Cnossen. “There’s differences, so sometimes the more able-functioned people get a little more credit or you assume that’s the role model, when in reality, you may be more impaired than that, and that’s just not an option.”Still, within a year, Cnossen ran a mile on his prosthetic legs without stopping. He went on to run a 5K in less than 18 minutes and in 2011 finished the New York City Marathon in a remarkable 2:38, using a combination of running and hand cycling.Unsatisfied with those benchmarks, Cnossen then learned cross-country skiing, using a sit ski. Taking up a competitive sport again after his injuries was a natural progression, he said. “My identity was wrapped up around training, physical ability, perseverance, and mental fortitude, so these were the things that I fell back upon after my injury. I would credit being an athlete to living through what I went through.”Cnossen moved to Colorado, where he trained for a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Ski Team and competed in the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.“I really wanted to do the Paralympics — to train as a team, to compete representing the U.S., which is an honor. The sport of cross-country skiing requires a lot of mental discipline, mental toughness. It’s a tough sport to train day after day after day for a whole season, and that’s why I gravitated to that,” said Cnossen, who graduates soon.He’s still exploring career possibilities, but he knows they will involve human rights work done in tandem with religious organizations around the world.In the fall, he will enter Harvard Divinity School to pursue a master’s of theological study degree while juggling a return to training and international competition in order to qualify for the 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea. It’s a demanding agenda that Cnossen is eager to embrace.“How could I really stress about this place when six years ago I was dealing with ‘Am I ever going to walk; am I going to eat again?’ It changes perspective. It did make me probably appreciate life more, so it was a good lesson for me,” said Cnossen, who refuses to submit to the mostly self-induced pressures of graduate school and skimp on exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep.“If I can be an example for anything, sometimes people take this environment, in my estimation, a little too seriously. It’s just school,” he said. “The real world has much more serious consequences.”last_img read more

Eating more fruit in teen years may help stave off breast cancer

first_img Read Full Story Women who ate nearly three servings of fruit daily when they were teens had a 25% lower risk of getting breast cancer when they were adults than those who ate half a serving, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.The study drew on data from more than 44,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who answered questions about their eating habits as teens.Apples, bananas, and grapes seemed to confer the most protection. Maryam Farvid, visiting scientist in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study, said in a May 11, 2016 Time magazine article that fiber in these fruits could help reduce cancer risk. They’re also high in flavonoids—antioxidants that combat cell damage that can trigger abnormal growth. Farvid said it’s better to eat whole fruit than to drink fruit juice because juice often has no fiber in it.“This study underscores the importance of what a young girl eats for her future health,” Farvid said. “This study also has an important message for schools and the need to provide students with the opportunity to consume more fruits and vegetables as part of the school meal program.”last_img read more

Six Lessons Learned from the Largest Tech Merger in History

first_imgThe following is the second of two guest posts from John Powers, principal, Deloitte Consulting, LLP. The first can be found here on Direct2Dell. Powers recently interviewed Rory Read, chief integration officer for Dell and chief operating officer, Dell EMC, and Howard Elias, president, Dell EMC Services and IT, for Deloitte’s CFO Journal in The Wall Street Journal. Following that, and many prior discussions, he gathered his thoughts here on the historical combination of companies that created Dell Technologies.A Merger of Equals. History says it’s not possible; Dell and EMC prove the exception.In my previous post, I looked at how the historical merger of Dell and EMC came about, and how their teams laid the foundation for a Value Creation Integration Office (VCIO) to manage the process from beginning to end. This not only enabled them to complete a successful merger in September 2016, but also surfaced a number of invaluable lessons along the way that should be studied closely by any company entering into a similar arrangement.They include:Customer firstOver-communicateBuild on a legacy of innovationMajor on the majorsRespect culture(s) and amplify foundational elements of the new companyOne size does not fit allLesson 1: Customer firstAs a primary guiding principle, the VCIO focused on generating value for their customers. Their goal was long-lasting value through innovation, service, and collaboration. Both companies wanted to ensure they provided true value immediately following the merger’s close, and worked diligently to shape for their customers the most valuable offerings possible. Solutions spanned the spectrum of the new company’s capabilities, offering everything from completely new offerings to simplified billing for its largest combined customers. From a successful track record of acquisitions by both companies, the VCIO knew what customers wanted and didn’t want out of the new company — innovation, simplicity, and most importantly, no disruptions.Rather than simply rely on instinct and experience, the VCIO commissioned a study to refine the Day One offer based on a broad sample of the customer base. Using every avenue possible to listen and engage with customers, the VCIO confirmed what they knew; Customers wanted, above all, the continuation of the great client experience they had with each company before the merger. In the simplest terms, this translated to “Do no harm.”“‘We were designing the new company from the customer back. Michael said this an awful lot. Every decision needed to begin and end in the customer’s best interest,’ said Rory ReadShareWith this in mind, the VCIO mapped the customer experience for key customer segments. They identified areas of potential conflict as the companies came together (e.g. sales people serving the same individual at a client). They built a detailed playbook for combining the customer teams into seamless groups, with a “Minimum Disruption” mantra for their customer operations teams, and implemented several leading practices designed to shepherd their clients through the integration. Key steps included:Creating a customer experience owner, team, and governance structure to hold business functions accountable to the strategyEnsuring cross-organization alignment sessions to help avoid creating conflicts or surprises for the customerEnsuring the account teams had a clear vision of the customer experience strategy so they could properly represent how the integration would impact the customer’s day-to-day experienceEnsuring account transitions were closely managed through the integration process, and that there was a proper balance between soft metrics (account relationships) and hard metrics (sales revenue) moving forwardPrioritizing the most prominent account relationship as accounts were reassigned and, in cases where there was an equal relationship between the Dell and EMC sides, soliciting customer feedback on their preferences before changing account team relationshipsProactively putting the customer first built trust across both companies, and with their customers, enabling the companies to bring their similar, client-centric cultures together and preserve their valuable, high-touch customer support models.  This outside-in, customer-first mentality created the mechanism to prioritize and execute those 20 percent of the opportunities which presented 80 percent of the accretive value.Lesson 2: Over-communicateBefore any planning could begin, the VCIO used the 60 day “go shop” window to form teams, allowing key employees to get to know each other, develop their charters and work plans, and define key objectives and outcomes, all before looking at a single piece of data, or beginning the work of building out organization charts. VCIO team members were each asked to read Stephen Covey’s “Speed of Trust” as a baseline to establish a foundation of trust and working relationships.This early communication and team building proved to be extremely important at every level of the VCIO. Work teams met daily and reported out to the VCIO leadership on a weekly basis. In turn, VCIO leadership met multiple times each week, often face-to-face and through video conferencing across all geographies. In addition, all teams held monthly, face-to-face meetings, with regular updates to the CEOs and Boards of both companies. Because so much was at stake, tough calls were made, including removing some of the initial VCIO team, and taking a more aggressive approach to project management.Lesson 3: Build on a legacy of innovationWhile the VCIO determined that change for change’s sake was not desired by the customers, they also realized that the new combined organization could exceed client expectations by showing its customers how the new company could provide world-leading technology solutions for its clients’ most difficult problems.Innovation is a long-term process, and only limited product information could be shared between the organizations before the merger close. The VCIO chartered a cross-functional team comprised of experts from key domains to focus on bringing a limited number of unexpected, extensible new solutions to market in the new company’s earliest days. The cross-functional team prioritized Minimal Viable Products (MVPs) for Day One, which they used to showcase the combined company’s technology leadership, competitive leadership, and compelling offers.Designed through a cross-functional effort among marketing, product development, supply chain, and finance, the team converged on:Marketing leadership across key product areasConverged and hyper-converged infrastructureExpanding Dell Financing offerings to EMC and VMware customersCombined with carefully designed commercial agreements that enabled working across the companies prior to the merger close, these new offerings provided customers with an obvious signal that the new company was positioned to innovate, and provided salespeople with a unified message for their newly combined client teams. The result? The combined company held its first large event (Dell EMC World) just five weeks after the merger’s closing where, with more than 6,000 customers and partners in attendance, it announced the first combined Dell EMC technology solutions.Lesson 4: Major on the majorsIn any merger, and especially in one the size of Dell and EMC, there are more work, decisions, questions, and issues than there is time to address them. With this in mind, the VCIO implemented a streamlined decision-making process to ensure that top executives were only called upon when necessary to address only the most critical issues. To make sure that the right people were making the right decisions at the right times, the VCIO defined a small leadership group that was responsible for key decisions across key business functions like product development, marketing, communications, finance, sales, and supply chain. This group worked together to address decisions that were deemed to:Be strategically sensitiveBe critical to value realizationHave a material impact on key stakeholdersImpact multiple business units or functionsHave a significant impact on operationsCoupled with this, the VCIO also implemented and relied upon a decision calendar to help drive planning and ensure that key decision deadlines were adequately defined and met. Through this methodology, the group was able to keep key players focused throughout the merger process and, at the same time, take up as little of the top executives’ time as possible on decisions or issues that could be delegated to the integration teams.“‘Early on, we identified the key end-to-end value drivers – customer and partner experience, team-member experience, keystone offers (showcasing the capabilities of the combined companies), and revenue and cost synergies. Every team and every decision was aligned to these desired outcomes,’ said Howard EliasShareBy following this strict decision-making tree, the VCIO worked to make sure that the very top executives were only focused on the most critical 20 percent of the decisions that, were in turn, driving 80 percent of the overall merger value: a perfect example of the Pareto principle in action.Lesson 5: Respect culture(s) and amplify foundational elements of the new companyAs important as it is to ensure that the technical aspects of a merger are carried out as efficiently as possible, many companies find that it’s as important – and perhaps more daunting – to embody a unified corporate culture across the two formerly independent organizations.When you’re dealing with a merger of equals like Dell and EMC, potential cultural conflicts can be significant, as both companies have a long, and proud history with strong leaders and entrenched cultures. From a macro view, executives at both Dell and EMC saw many similarities in their respective cultures, and came into the merger process with a shared goal. As they stated early on, “We are committed to serving our customers. We have a passion for winning. We believe the key to our success lies in innovation, and we deliver results the right way, with the highest ethical standards.”Even so, the actual integration process of the two workforces made it clear that, despite shared values, there were key differences in how these beliefs were manifested in the approaches employees at each firm took toward their everyday work. EMC was very proud of its world-class customer support, which made a lot of sense given the large size, and relatively low number of transactions it conducted. Dell was also very proud of how it brought superior value based on its design and supply chain innovation, which made sense given the relatively small size and the large volume of transactions it conducted. These differences exposed some different ways to put customers first and exposed some potential conflicts, such as:Efficiency and scale versus innovation and supportDelegation versus collaborationSpeed to action versus Six Sigma executionThe integration team used surveys to identify and understand the core differences between the companies and their approaches. Using that knowledge as a basis, each company began surveying their employees regularly and consistently to understand when culture clashes began to emerge, and to address them before they become serious challenges. In addition, the team leveraged a variety of more direct techniques to shape its new culture, including the monthly checkpoints with integration leaders to discuss and address cultural challenges as they emerged. They also relied on “change agents” in each organization who were tasked with conveying key messages, gathering critical input, deploying global leaders to manage the integration plans, and customizing them for their specific countries and locations.While there was no way to completely avoid conflict across the new organization, this proactive approach and consideration of their employees’ sensitivities meant that problems could be addressed quickly and efficiently with a minimum amount of discomfort and, more importantly, employee turnover.Lesson 6: One size does not fit allGiven the companies had both grown around different customer engagement models, choosing one integration strategy for the full company portfolio would pose a significant risk to the business and culture. As such, the companies began by identifying their key operating differences, which could be contrasted as high-touch for low-volume/high-value relationships (EMC) versus a lower touch for high-volume/high-value relationships (Dell).Upon merging, the new organization had to determine how to bring these two differing viewpoints together, especially in areas where there was overlap between Dell’s and EMC’s existing user bases. The solution? Dell and EMC navigated their differences by leveraging the best parts of their existing approaches, and implementing customized integration approaches to suit different types of business operations areas across the new organization:For enterprise solutions, Dell’s operations were integrated into EMC in order to leverage the strengths of EMC’s operating model and structure, and high-touch modelFor end-user, computing centric solutions, Dell’s operating model was leveragedThe supporting organizations also split approaches based on their primary missions. Information Technology was integrated leveraging the EMC approach to take advantage of key innovation investments, while supply-chain, HR, and finance were integrated leveraging the Dell model to take advantage of the scale and global optimization of the organization’s supporting technology.Additionally, businesses which were majority-owned, but not materially integrated into either company (e.g., VMware) retained their model where key functions are coordinated to drive scale and consistency, but the business operated as strategic business units of Dell Technologies.The takeawayMerging two large, well-established organizations into a new, single entity didn’t happen without considerable planning, thought and effort. While it might have been easy to simply try and combine existing workforces, where possible, eliminate redundancies, and rebrand the new entity to achieve new economies of scale, the executives realized that type of quick and dirty approach would not meet their larger goals and objectives.Instead, they took a different approach and started by defining what the goal of the merger was for their organizations, as well as the advantages their new entity would bring to their existing and loyal, customers.By doing this, they were able to devise a new “best of” approach that defined not only the direction they wanted to take the combined company in, but also, the culture they wanted to foster throughout the organization.John Powers is Deloitte’s Global Corporate Development leader. He drives the inorganic growth strategy of Deloitte, in coordination with our global business and member firms.John, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP, formerly led Deloitte’s Defense Sector and its Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) practice in the US and globally. Throughout his career, he has helped to execute several large M&A transactions, including the Dell/EMC merger, and the eBay/PayPal divestiture. His work has spanned the globe and has enabled the effective transition of more than 400,000 employees over the course of his career.John is a visiting executive lecturer at the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business on the topic of merger integration. He joined Deloitte upon completion of his MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in 1994 and graduated with a BA from Brown University in 1988. As an undergraduate, he received an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship and later served as an Army Finance Corps officer.As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of our legal structure. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.last_img read more

Fall semester updates: What you need to know

first_imgThe Observer has reported on numerous announcements from administrators across the tri-campus community regarding the reopening of the campuses for the 2020 fall semester. Here are some of the most important statements, all in one place:Ben Testani | The Observer Jenkins condemns ICE restrictions – July 9Highlights: Notre Dame would file a brief in support of a lawsuit by Harvard and the MIT to block Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) decision to expel international students who attend universities exclusively online for the fall semester.Saint Mary’s details safety plans for fall semester – July 9Highlights: All Belles will be required to complete an online training course which covers the newly established health and safety guidelines. In addition, all students attending in-person classes will be required to complete a COVID-19 test, and will undergo a daily “wellness check.”Big Ten goes conference-only – July 9Highlights: Notre Dame’s football schedule shortens as the Big Ten conference announces it will implement a conference-only schedule for fall sports, including football. As a result, ND’s game with Wisconsin has been canceled.Students to be mailed coronavirus tests – July 8Highlights: Notre Dame students are being required to take an at-home coronavirus test prior to arrival on campus. Specimen collection will be staggered depending on when students plan to arrive on campus, and by July 15, all students will be notified by when they must complete their test.Holy Cross outlines safety precautions for fall semester – July 2Highlights: Holy Cross will follow Notre Dame’s lead in much of the coronavirus precautions. Additionally, all students will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test within ten days of going back to campus.University releases plans for coronavirus testing – June 29Highlights: All Notre Dame students who reside outside of St. Joseph County, as well as St. Joseph County residents who will live in Notre Dame residence halls will undergo free COVID-19 testing prior to the start of fall semester. The University is also putting together a COVID-19 Response Unit to oversee testing during the year.Notre Dame announces plans to still host presidential debate – June 24Highlights: The first debate will proceed Sept. 29 with significant modifications in light of the pandemic. Only a fraction of the expected visitors will be able to attend.Erin Hoffmann Harding outlines policies and procedures for this fall – June 22Highlights: Dates for Welcome Week, changes to dining hall meals, new meal plans and quarantine sites are announced.Holy Cross sets move-in date – June 17Highlights: Returning college students will move in Aug. 9, one day prior to the beginning of the fall semester. First year students will move in Aug. 7-8.Saint Mary’s move-in – June 12 Highlights: The Belles will move in over the course of 6 days, with students to registering for 2-hour time slots.Jenkins announces health, safety protocols for reopening campus in the fall – June 9Highlights: Guidance on classroom seating, daily health checks and a tentative schedule is discussed.University cancels study abroad – June 8Highlights: Students who are no longer going abroad will be able to live off campus or participate in an on-campus housing lottery.Notre Dame announces plan to bring football players back to campus – June 5Highlights: Football players can return to campus as soon as June 8, with voluntary workouts slated to begin June 22. Every player will be living in the Morris Inn. A football player later tested positive for COVID-19 after returning.Tri-campus community announces start to fall semester – Late MayHighlights: All three schools announced classes would begin for the fall semester on Aug. 10, and would conclude before Thanksgiving for a shortened semester.Tags: 2020 fall semester, coronavirus, tri-campus communitylast_img read more

Lost Lake, Starring John Hawkes & Tracie Thoms, Opens Off-Broadway

first_imgOscar nominee John Hawkes and Broadway vet Tracie Thoms officially open in the world premiere of Lost Lake by Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn on November 11. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the show will play a limited engagement at Manhattan Theatre Club’s New York City Center—Stage 1 through December 21. View Comments In Lost Lake, the lakeside rental Veronica (Thoms) has managed to afford is a far cry from the idyllic getaway she and her children so desperately need. And the disheveled property owner, Hogan (Hawkes), has problems of his own—problems that Veronica is inevitably and irrevocably—pulled into. A portrait of two strangers bound together by circumstance, Lost Lake is about the struggle for connection in an imperfect world. Lost Lake Related Shows The production features scenic design by J. Michael Griggs, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting design by Robert Perry and original music and sound design by Fitz Patton. Show Closed This production ended its run on Dec. 21, 2014last_img read more