Final guest in MUSG Speaker Series: Comedian and Mental Health Advocate, Sara Benincasa

On Wednesday, April 2, MUSG will welcome the award-winning writer and comedian Sara Benincasa to campus in the AMU Ballrooms at 7 p.m.

As the final guest in the 2013-14 Speaker Series, Benincasa will share her remarkable story on her journey overcoming the challenges of mental illness to become an award-winning writer and comedian. Through a provoking and hilarious dialogue, Benincasa will engage students in a conversation about college, campus life and mental health. benincasa_dgsq-01

Benincasa will speak about her experience with panic attacks and agoraphobia that inspired her debut memoir, Agrofabulous! Dispatches From My Bedroom. In addition to releasing her book, from 2008 – 2010 Sara hosted and produced “Get in Bed,” a humorous radio show on Cosmo Radio. Prior to self-initiated ventures, Benincasa was a citizen journalist in the 2008 MTV Choose or Lose Street Team, which was a part in the Emmy award-winning “Think” campaign.

The comedian has made appearances on NBC’s Today Show, the CBS Early Show, CNN’s Situation Room and MTV News. The Huffington Post referred to her as one of “ Our Favorite Female Comedians,” and TIME says she is “adorably…hilarious.”

Currently, Benicasa is working on her newest venture titled GREAT , a novel inspired by The Great Gatsby but with a modern twist.

MUSG strongly encourages students to see Sara Benincasa wrap-up the 2013-14 Speaker Series, as well as participate in an insightful discussion about mental health and college life.

The event is free and open to all Marquette students. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

For more information on MUSG’s news and events, visit or the MUSG office, AMU 133. For additional updates, like MUSG on Facebook and follow MUSG on Twitter.


Immigration Reform Activist to Speak on Campus

Immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas will speak at Marquette at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25 in the Weasler Auditorium.

vargas_tabloid-01Vargas, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker, revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant in an essay in The New York Times Magazine, after winning a Pulitzer Prize while working for the Washington Post. His essay, published in an effort to promote dialogue on immigration reform, detailed the uncertainty of his life due to his immigration status.

Vargas was born in the Philippines, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to live with his grandparents when he was 12-years-old. However, he never obtained permission to live in the United States permanently. Vargas learned of his immigration status at the age of 16 when he applied for a driver’s license and discovered that his identification documents were fraudulent.

After publishing the essay revealing his immigration status, Vargas founded Define American, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to facilitating national conversations about immigration issues. Define American supports the DREAM Act, a legislation package that would allow undocumented immigrants a path to legalization. The organization also monitors use of the term “illegal immigrant” in the media, and urges new outlets to instead use the term “undocumented.” Outlets including The Associated Press and The New York Times announced they have made the switch.

Vargas also testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

In the two years since Vargas revealed his immigration status, he has become a face of the immigration movement. His appearance on Tuesday, March 25 is free to students.

Countdown to Shawn Johnson: Day 0

We at MUSG have decided to celebrate the arrival of our very special guest, Shawn Johnson, with a five-day countdown. Using the flexibility, agility and athletic abilities of some of our very own MUSG members; we will present to you the five reasons why you should come see the Olympic Gold Medalist share her inspiring story in the Varsity Theatre on Jan. 30.

Tonight Marquette Welcomes Shawn Johnson!

Doors open at 6 p.m. at the Varsity Theatre. Free tickets are still available in the CLSI.






Former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson to speak at Marquette

Marquette University Student Government will resume its speaker series at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 30, 2014, in the Varsity Theatre with Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Shawn Johnson.

Johnson, a Des Moines native, rose to stardom as the media-dubbed “greatest hope” for American gymnastics in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Johnson, a two-time national champion, earned a Gold Medal in the Women’s Balance Beam in addition to three Silver Medals at the games. Following an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, Johnson suffered an injury that led to her retirement from competitive gymnastics in June 2012.

As the first speaker of the New Year, Johnson will inspire with her story of a challenging road to success, the pressures faced as a young woman and word-class gymnast and the lessons she learned in dealing with a johnson_dgsq1_EDIT-01career-ending injury.

Johnson will also speak about her work as a philanthropist and spokeswoman, and how she works as a role model through a mentoring program that teaches young gymnasts about nutrition, mental strength and motivation.

Tickets for the event will be available on Wednesday, January 22, and can be picked up in the Center for Leadership, Service and Involvement located on the first floor of the AMU in room 137.

Marquette students and staff must present their MUID in order to pick up their free ticket, and a number of public tickets will be available on a first-come, first- serve basis.

Doors open at 6 p.m.

All Marquette students  and the surrounding community are invited to join MUSG in welcoming this Olympic star to share her remarkable story and learn how she strives to “be the difference.”

For more information on MUSG’s news and events, visit or the MUSG office, AMU 133. For additional updates, like MUSG on Facebook and follow MUSG on Twitter.

MUSG sits down with Retired Staff Sgt. Eric Alva

“It was the proudest moment of my life,” Retired Staff Sgt. Eric Alva says as he shares the picture of him taken the day Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the law barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from serving in the military, was repealed. If you Google “Obama signs the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” you’ll see Alva smiling, standing immediately to the right behind of Obama as he signed the bill into law. “You know, that’s history, history in the making,” he comments as he fondly remembers his accomplishment.

When Eric Alva sat down with Marquette University Student Government before his Speaker Series appearance on Nov. 14, 2013, he shared more about his personal experiences from fighting for equal rights and his thoughts on the current culture of equality and discrimination.

In 2003, Alva was honorably discharged from the military after an explosion from a landmine caused the amputation of his right leg and broke is left leg and right arm, and made him the first American Marine wounded in the Iraq War.

Alva looked at his devastating injury as a second chance at life and chose to advocate for gay rights in America, and even pursue legislation to make nation-wide change. Alva joined up with Congressman Martin Meehan to work for a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He got a chance to testify and share his story at the House Armed Services Committee Meeting in 2008, where he says he faced extreme opposition.

Alva remembers a testimony given in opposition of the repeal; marking the first time he had heard “ugly opposition to the repeal.” He recounted the testimony, which claimed that, if Congress repeals DADT, “you’re going to have men raping men and you’re going to have women raping women.” At the meeting that day, Alva had to listen to discriminatory comments about gay people that made his “blood boil.”

Though for Alva, it was worth the opposition to see DADT through to the end.  He describes the significance of what being at the signing of the repeal meant to him, “Standing there represented people, ever since our country has been in existence, who were gay, lesbian or bisexual who served in uniform but could never be out.”

The signing of the repeal on December 10 22, 2010 changed history and now allows, “patriotic men and women who were valuable for their skills, just like everyone else…to be able to serve their country and even die for their county.”

Opposition to Alva’s equal rights activism did not end after the signing of the repeal. In August 2013, Alva was advocating in his hometown of San Antonio to update the city code to include sexual orientation and gender discrimination in their non-discrimination policy. He was booed during his testimony, and many of those against equal rights for gays made discriminatory claims about gay people.

Recognizing that he will always face opposition, Alva chose to look at the issue in a different way, “You really hear all the ugliness of what someone else’s irrational fear is like. They are just not educated and they are basically ignorant.”  Alva says despite facing lies and discrimination, he tries hard not to be like “them” (his opposition) because it will “eat you away.”

However, Alva pointed out that tolerance has come a long way since the beginning of the pursuit of equal rights for homosexual Americans. “There were people who were working on it years before me and I think they faced more harsh criticism then what I did when I was starting to work on repealing DADT.”

Alva urged college students to seek help if they are experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment. “No one should ever be bullied into hiding who they are…no one owns your happiness.”

He also commends and admires young people working towards equality and encourages students to stand up against discrimination, “No one should ever feel that they have the superior power to tell you how to be or act or love or where to live. I mean it’s wrong. It is oppression. It’s cruel.”

Looking to the future, Alva pointed to changes in history, in policy and in society that will contribute to a more tolerant America. Just recently with marriage equality moving forward in Hawaii and Illinois, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and with the election of the first openly gay senator, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, Alva is optimistic for the future. “It’s remarkable how fast we’re going. Makes me a little nervous, but I’m so happy.”

MUSG sponsors Sexual Violence Awareness Week keynote speaker

MILWAUKEE (Sept. 27, 2013) – Marquette University Student Government will feature Jaclyn Friedman in its second installment of the 2013-14 Speaker Series. Friedman will come to campus on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Weasler Auditorium. 

As writer, educator and activist, Jaclyn Friedman is a popular speaker around college campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Friedman is the editor of hit book Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power in a World Without Rape. In November 2012, Friedman published What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex & Safety. This empowering guide to deciphering modern-world, female sexual identity has been named a finalist for ForeWord’s Book of the Year Award in Women’s Issues.

 In addition to her writings, Friedman is a founder and the Executive Director of Women, Action & the Media, where she recently led the successful #FBrape campaign to apply Facebook’s hate-speech to content that promotes gender-based violence. She is also a charter member of CounterQuo, a coalition dedicated to challenging the ways we respond to sexual violence.

Friedman’s visit will serve as the keynote address for Marquette’s Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which takes place Sept. 29 – Oct. 4. For more information on campus events during Sexual Violence Awareness Week, visit


MUSG’s Speaker Series is free and open to all Marquette students.

For more information on MUSG’s news and events, visit or the MUSG office, AMU 133. For additional updates, like MUSG on Facebook and follow MUSG on Twitter.

RJ Mitte on Breaking Bad plot, educating viewers and upcoming projects

Marquette University Student Government kicked off its 2013-14 Speaker Series with Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte. Over 700 students came to the Varsity on Thursday night to hear Mitte’s thoughts on overcoming adversity, fighting for opportunities and, of course, Breaking Bad.

Before Mitte took the stage, he sat down and talked with MUSG.

MUSG: For people who aren’t familiar with cerebral palsy, can you briefly explain the disorder?

RJ: Cerebral palsy (CP) can be caused from a lot of things. It is most commonly caused from a lack of oxygen in the brain at birth. It damages the parts of the brain that control the fine and gross motor skills and it can be fixed over time. There are very rare cases where it is progressive, luckily mine is not progressive. It mostly affects my muscles and my fine and gross motor skills. It will affect a variety of different elements to the body. A lot of times my brain is constantly having blood flow move to different parts of the brain so there are certain parts of the day, the way I sleep, the way I perform, a lot of times I do not have blood on that part of the brain… I find it very interesting because CP is a very common diagnosis, but most people don’t realize that they have it. You can get it from a head injury; you can get it from multiple things.


MUSG: How does your condition differ from that of your character on Breaking Bad?

RJ: My character on Breaking Bad… you know there’s really not a big difference. The main difference is his speech and his walking ability. But when I was a kid, I had braces [and] leg mobilizers, which would pretty much straighten my tendons and the legs and make sure everything would not contract because with CP a lot of times your muscles don’t work. With CP the muscles contract so it’s like a “Charley horse” 24/7. So when I was a kid they would put me in casts and in binding because I was what they called a severe “toe walker”. My tendons kept pulling out my leg so my toes would point down and that was a natural occurrence for my feet. So when I was a kid they would bend them back.

Walt Jr. hypothetically went through these exact same treatments. He’s been through all of that; he’s lived that life. At the time, when I got Jr., Jr. was older than me. He was 15 and I was 14. But now I have grown up older than him because it is a day-by-day show. So it’s interesting because when I look back at the beginning of the role and I look back going through my character and when I was creating him, I was thinking that this guy has gone through the same thing that I had to go through when I was a kid and I just used my experience growing up with my disability for him.

MUSG: Throughout your career you’ve tried to educate viewers on living with a disability. What kind of progress do you feel you’ve made?

RJ: My biggest thing is when I talk or when I speak. When I talk about my disability… it’s mostly about how no one will ever understand what having a disability is like until they have a disability, until they have something happen to them that puts [a] part of their body out of commission. Even though it’s briefly, it’s still a form of dealing with a disability and my biggest thing is to talk to people and tell them that no matter what you’re going through on a daily basis someone else is going through this, plus more. Someone is always trying to better themselves; someone is always trying to learn more and to be able to control their own body. Most people don’t have to fight for that right, but you’re talking 11 million people all around the world are fighting to physically control their body.


MUSG: Last Sunday’s episode of Breaking Bad shocked viewers. What is the one plotline that surprised you even as you were reading it?

RJ: Every episode surprises me; every episode has these unique things, all the subtleties [and] all the things that play out. You read these episodes and you’re surprised in every episode. It’s not a particular moment or a particular episode that surprises you; you’ll be surprised in every scene by what’s happening. Vince [Gilligan] and the writers do such an amazing job.

Mitte also told MUSG that he is working as an executive producer on a new documentary, Vantage: The Tara Calico Story. The project will tell the story of 19-year-old Tara Calico who disappeared in her hometown of Belen, New Mexico in September 1988. All local efforts to find Calico had failed when, in June 1989, a Polaroid photo of a girl, who is theorized to be Calico, and a boy, identified as Michael Henley, both bound and gagged.

Calico’s disappearance remains unsolved and her body has yet to found, but a recent announcement by a county sheriff brought the case back into the public eye. Mitte says the documentary will focus on “[Tara] and the boys that committed the crime and the families that tried to cover it up.”

After his conversation with MUSG, Mitte went outside and greeted fans entering the Varsity. Then, speaking to a crowd of Breaking Bad fans and eager listeners, Mitte asked you listeners the tough questions. “What [do you do] when you someone is in distress? Are you willing to stand up for them?” Mitte asked.

Mitte’s overall message to students was to seize the opportunities in front of them and not forget the gifts they have. “Everything you put into the world comes back,” he told listeners.

His final words were met with applause from Marquette students and droves of listeners stayed to take photos with Mitte after the event, some even bringing him various breakfast foods as a tribute to Walt Jr.

Don’t miss MUSG’s next speaker, feminist writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman, on Thursday, Oct. 3.