Posts tagged - magi

What I learned in my masters program

FDRHatCigOne month left! Instead of dying of despair like record numbers of my demographic lately (came close!), I overcame to graduate this May 13 from CSU’s Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI) program. What did I learn?

Well, as the most non-traditional of students, I had time to watch a lot of TCM, and last week I finally saw a film that captured what I learned in the MAGI program in a non-academic consumable nugget. Hot Stuff, a 1971 animated short by Zlatko Grgic, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is sort of a Smokey Bear warning cartoon from Canadian firefighters to kids.

“This tongue-in-cheek animated short serves as a cautionary tale against the hazards of fire. Early humans were given the gift of fire, but warned against the dangers, warnings that eventually fell by the wayside.”


In the MAGI program, I learned that capitalism is a fire which behaves exactly as Hot Stuff depicts. Awesome, necessary power, with constant risk of explosion. Unless it’s in a furnace, capitalism, like fire, will engulf all around it in flame. Needs to be a pretty strong furnace, too.

HotStuffPosterI also learned FDR’s New Deal was that furnace, the size of a country, designed to funnel the power of capitalism for the most good, to all; just as fire is captured, stored, transformed, and harnessed in Hot Stuff. Pipes in the New Deal furnace have been springing leaks since it first roared to life, with vandals (neoliberals to be exact) taking bits of pipe in order to unleash the fire for more than 80 years.

As a young Clintonista, I bought the con that making the New Deal’s furnace pipe less thick and certain would all work out just fine. Another analogy I often use is the Eye of Sauron, and The Ring. We as Americans are particularly vulnerable to this…er…Dark Side Precious. (for geeks, see Gramsci.) My paper on the City of London best captures my MAGI journey from Clintonista to Bernie Sanders/Jeremy Corbyn leftism. It’s a crime story. A known racket (the City) took a crowbar to a key New Deal pipe and lopped it off…in 1953. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis at CSU deserves many thanks for including the City in the syllabus. It helped me write a very personal term paper on my own role in helping keep the New Deal gushing one of its first, most damaging, furnace leaks.

So, off we DLC-Third Way-Centrist-New-Labour buffoons went for a few decades, removing valves, shoving in more fuel to the fire, overloading the pipes of a weaker New Deal furnace…all vividly animated in Hot Stuff. The first 6 inch thick walls of the New Deal furnace to crack were organized labor laws. From the moment the Wagner Act, a crown jewel of FDR’s first term, took effect in 1935, capitalism has been torching its way through unions, continuing without cessation today. Just like fire in Hot Stuff.

So you watched a lot of TCM?

NRAMovieScreenGrabA great movement will be required to reconstitute a 21st century New Deal furnace for capitalism, or luck. Probably both. Herbert Hoover spent the bulk of his presidency making things worse after the October crash in his first year, 1929. On a Trump timeline, that’s this fall. Bernie Sanders probably could have staved off the next, completely predictable, financial crisis. Trump can’t even see it. Eye of Sauron, and whatnot.

Mostly what I learned during the MAGI program is that Americans need to be reminded how Americanly awesome the New Deal was. We once controlled capitalism, not the other way around. And that furnace, which we dismantled ourselves, built the American Dream, which today is a fantasy. America used to be so very proud of the New Deal. TCM helped me visualize this pride during the last three years. For example, classic movies of Hollywood’s New Deal era were unabashedly supportive of every aspect of FDR’s program. Even in opening credits, like this one from Claude Raines’ first big hit The Invisible Man in 1933, celebrating the National Recovery Act (the first, better, NRA).

My MAGI exit project studied the internet as a powerful global non-state actor, currently subjecting this debate on our generational insecurity to its own never ending, constant churn of ideas. Thanks to TCM, I guess I’ll toss some Canadian animation into that buzzing stew. In Hot Stuff, it’s easy to see Trump, Brexit, and LePen sparks fly from overloaded sockets as busy, distracted humans ignore the warnings and multiply the risk, oblivious to fire breaking free of its human control. If you’d like to see more incredible Canadian animation, check out the NFB website. Some pieces of the furnace still work.



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Graduating in May from CSU’s MAGI program

I plan to walk at graduation in May, 2017. You’re all invited to see me take my masters degree from CSU President Ronald Berkman, who himself successfully prevented me from entering the program in 2013 because of my 2002 conviction, as follows.

In the case of Mr. Russo, the committee determined that he was not an acceptable candidate for the MAGI program or Cleveland State University. Based on the careful consideration of the matter provided by the committee, I do not believe the decision should be disturbed. Ronald M. Berkman, Ph.D. President

I proceeded to further “disturb” Dr. Berkman’s decision after my run for county executive in spring, 2014, in which I placed 3rd out of 6 candidates, beating soundly both a former county sheriff and a former mayor. I cashed those votes in to re-apply to the MAGI program, gaining acceptance to CSU over Dr. Berkman’s 2013 objection. Thank you to the nearly 10,000 voters across Cuyahoga County for helping.

As I promised, I did not let my voters down. I’m currently sitting on a perfect 4.0 GPA. One of the perks of returning to school after so long is being reminded how long it takes to grade law exams, thus, as of this post, I’m still waiting on a grade for the fall semester international law class. Good chance it’s an A, so I will enter my final semester in the CSU Master of Arts in Global Interaction program with a 4.0, pending one more class this spring semester.

It’s been both strange and wonderful to be back on campus for the last 3 years. Since my first degree in 1989, much has changed, much hasn’t. There are many more international students, many of whom have become friends. The campus itself is a far more welcoming physical space than the mausoleum it used to be. Winter at CSU is still brutal; they haven’t yet figured out a way to stop the wind tunnels.

Being the rabble rouser I am, I had a tangle or two on campus, specifically, over the MAGI internship. Because I gained admission based on my voters, however, I avoided every other fight. I could have been in constant combat from day one. Very quickly, I learned that the vast majority of the lip service CSU pays to the plights of ex-offenders is just that; lip service. I often felt barely tolerated, instead of welcome; which I guess is to be expected. If I could pick one thing I’m most proud of during the MAGI program, it is my banishment of New York Times buffoon Tom Friedman from having his nonsense made assigned reading. Friedman appeared in several classes, and after a while, I had had enough. It didn’t take much; the slightest pin prick of oversight is usually enough to expose a preening Davos Man court jester of oligarchy. If Tom Friedman ever again shows up in a MAGI syllabus, it ain’t my fault.

Through it all, I’ve given no one any reason to think Dr. Berkman’s 2013 rejection was proper, quite the opposite. As an experienced international relations practitioner, and an attorney, I took it upon myself to help my fellow students as much as possible. An extra professor in the room, so to speak. I don’t (and couldn’t) know how much my fellow students learned about me and my journey. I just assumed everyone would eventually Google me, which meant it was on me to try to set a good example to other students, to challenge ideas presented as fact, to dig deeper, never to take anything at face value, and always stand up for yourself.

My MAGI experience has often felt like a long, desperately needed rest at a magical oasis after crossing a decade wide desert under constant incoming fire. Now, I enter the job market again. My phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook, but I’m still hopeful. The Russo Reclamation Project has a capstone now, thanks almost entirely to the political process. My work with the Bernie Sanders campaign this year has featured a lot of disillusionment with that process. I hope I’ve proven that even as American democracy decays all around us, it can still be accessed to accomplish your goals, no matter how hopeless it all seems. Happy New Year, everyone.


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Back to school, graduating in spring; a Tim update

Leaving The Closet by force, one should never build another one. This is the story of my journey against The Next Closet, another leg of which will be my graduation from the MAGI program at CSU Spring, 2017. I write this for anyone who’s interested, including future employers, or future voters for that matter! Put the kettle on.

So I met a boy.

FreeTimesCoverJune2008UnforgivenOnce I was granted early release from probation in December, 2002, I fled to London in January, 2003 to leave it all behind and start a new life. Soon a hot summer romance with an American Labour Party student intern bloomed; totally my type. I was finally exploring my bisexuality openly for the first time, in a city I love. One day he was stepping out the front door of Labour HQ, saw me turn down Old Queen Street (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), ran to kiss me; and I broke his heart. Couldn’t kiss him in front of a place we both worked; fear seized me, and I became my conviction that instant. My New Closet’s walls appeared everywhere. Probably irrational, I know! But that’s how a criminal conviction governs you sometimes.

Came back home after my life got exploded, the first of the pattern I would not yet recognize for years. I spent a month in a nonprofit job before some jerk blew me up in March 2004, days after I signed a year long Tremont apartment lease, and a three year car lease. Thus began the Tremont Era, a years long drunken stoned blur tailspin during which I turned to writing and video online, college radio at WRUW (that glot blowed up too), clinging to the hope of something working out abroad. The blind side hits just kept coming.

I learned another lesson in that blur. Jobs, gigs, proposals, partnerships, business plans, every single hustle I stooped to for survival blowing up in my face was never really about my conviction. It was about money. People imagined losing a nickel if associated with me, a phantom paranoia that turned even friends (very close ones, too) into vicious animals toward me in the blink of an eye, whenever it suited the ghosts they conjured circling their pocketbook.

Project Whole Tim

West Bank election observation mission, 2004

West Bank election observation mission, December, 2004, still in Closet #2

Over time, this pressure of another secret (my conviction) forcing me to live two lives became too much. My crime being so minor I didn’t have to register as a sex offender just didn’t matter. No difference in the real world. I still sometimes safely navigated my old world with none the wiser, to Latvia in 2003, even into the West Bank, my last well paid international politics gig from late 2004 to early 2005. It would take Congressman Tim Ryan’s own wife calling me during the 2005 Labour Party campaign and asking me (me!) for a job to be the last straw. As I imagined myself on the cover of The Sun for a week (Labour Perv!), it became clear. This wouldn’t work. At 37 years old, I would have to start over as if I’d just been born.

So I decided, as the Kennedys might say, to hang a lantern on my problem, as painful as I knew that would be. If I kept the conviction to myself, it would blow up in my face predictably. People would hurt me, and I would hurt people I loved, just like my First Closet did. Every time I wonder if this road is the right one, I think of my London fling, who I’ve never heard from again. Maybe he finally Googled me, or maybe he just couldn’t be bothered with a hot mess who couldn’t kiss in broad daylight in the middle of London. We should have made out right there in front of Labour HQ like star crossed London lovers. Instead, I hurt him, and shouldn’t have. No More Closets.

It’s kinda working

Basically, I had a political problem, and using my skills and experience, I would proceed to solve it. Like I always did. I threw myself into that decision as I would any political campaign. PR rollout, online investigative journalism, two runs for public office, I started planting stories I knew would be hit pieces just to get that Kennedy lantern ever higher on my problem. Over the last year, I even went through the motions of attempting an expungement I knew would never happen (Judge Ambrose rejected the motion without so much as a hearing this spring). Project Whole Tim is now about 10 years old. It should be an HBO series, so many twists and turns, trials & tears, with tiny triumphs here and there.

My 2010 campaign yard sign in Tremont

My 2010 campaign yard sign in Tremont

After winning my very public battle to get into CSU, using the votes I earned countywide to fight my way in, it was like I crossed the finish line of a marathon with a sprint then collapsed in a heap. Boy did I need the rest. Still do. Slowly, I felt myself become older, and suddenly very tired. The MAGI program can be done in 2 years, but I took it slow. I’ll brush up on international law in the fall, my last class being international economics this spring. I’ve had some battles on campus, all minor skirmishes associated with Project Whole Tim. But I’ve kept a 4.0 GPA throughout, am interning with a highly respected international attorney in town, and have contributed to my community in the MAGI program with my experience abroad like an extra professor in the room. The MAGI program as a whole is excellent, helped me put theoretical meat on a lot of old bones, even producing some of my best writing. And I’ve made some new friends from all over the world, who met the Whole Tim the first time, and accept me.

I kinda feel like I’m back at NDI. I’m consulting on politics, training, helping build power for the powerless, at home, because I want to, and have to. Not for a handsome salary in a far off land (which would still be nice). My long battle with the internet has given me a unique understanding of its political power, which I’ve put to use successfully. I’ve written at length about the duality of this power, how it can create dystopia or utopia in equal measure, in what I think is a pretty solid theory about how the internet works globally. My hope is to find work where the skills I learned on this long journey can be useful. I know for a fact they are quite useful, indeed.

Bottom line, I’m starting to feel whole now, like I’ve never done before. Project Whole Tim is working, slowly. Took a lot longer than I wanted it to, but that was (is) the road ahead of me. Please feel free to forward this along to folks who might be interested. And thanks to everyone who helped along the way.


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My structural theory of the internet in international relations

Click here for the paper in PDF form —->> TimRussoOnInternetRisk


This paper is my contribution to the required group exit project for the MAGI program at CSU – the five of us each got on A. It’s a more traditional version of my previous Kantian theory, a paper I wrote in the Fall, 2014 semester for the international relations theory class.

Our group found that the internet behaves politically at the global level as a known ideational structural phenomenon, creating and contesting norms which govern nation state behavior. My portion of the paper focuses on internet memes (citing the now legendary Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash) as a variable which illuminates how these ideas are contested, the most “fit” ideas surviving a cybernetic discourse to become the normative global structure within which states act and react.


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So I think I figured out how Ed Balls Day happened

EdBallsDayCakeThis spring semester in CSU’s MAGI program, I developed a theory of how the internet works in international relations. A year ago, I submitted a similar paper for publication, and it was torn to pieces in peer review. Just submitted the new theory, so my fingers are crossed.

I’d love for you to read it! However, since just about every academic publication requires exclusivity in order to review your work, rather than risk rejection because I put the paper out on my own website, you can’t read the paper yet. Don’t get me started.

Basically, I found that the internet works a lot like biological Darwinian evolution, except for ideas. Ideas enter the online primordial ooze, a 24/7 constant churn of contested discourse, very like how millions of micro organisms spent billions of years evolving into higher life forms. Except online, millions of ideas evolve in a similarly hostile and contested environment much, much faster; at the speed of the internet. The most “fit” ideas evolve to survive the online ooze and become structural norms which govern the behavior of nation states, even challenging their sovereignty. Even creating Ed Balls Day!

As I did my research, I was somewhat stunned how early 21st century scholarship has yet to approach the internet in this way. My theory is based in bedrock, decades old, international relations theory, specifically non-state actor theory. It’s not really new. Everyone likes to think they’ve done something entirely new, but in this case, I’m fairly certain no one has ever made the argument I’m making about the internet and international relations. We’ll see if peer review agrees, or rips me apart again! Stay tuned.


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Bernie Sanders opens CSU office today in the belly of the exploitative beast

ClevelandStaterBerkmanHouseOne does not simply un-Feel The Bern. Your eyes start to see exploitation all around you, all day, every day; exploitation that’s always been there, now visible in stark relief. As the Bernie Sanders campaign opens an office today across the street from Cleveland State University, ahead of Ohio’s March 15 primary, the event will be surrounded by a stinking exploitation so foul, it’s boiling over.

Like so many Vikings, I fought like hell to become a masters student in international relations at CSU. I learned last year this degree includes the grotesque practice of charging students tuition for the required privilege of working for free. And now we’re learning that’s the tip of the Dickensian iceberg.

CSU President Ronald Berkman, fresh off last year’s revelation that he flies private jets the 150 miles between Cleveland & Columbus, now wants CSU to pay for his new house. His third. The $1.2 million mansion in Shaker Hts. just wouldn’t do for a newly single divorcee, so CSU ponied up for a pimp pad downtown at The 9, the better for Berkman to bachelor with.

Alas, the bachelor pad was too small for all the glitterati that simply must be wined, dined. Maybe that’s why we are so exploited at CSU; our poor board was cramped at Berkman’s pad while deciding to tie unpaid intern labor to credit hour requirements.

One wonders which CSU board member felt so cramped while being entertained at Berkman’s bachelor pad they were moved to hit the real estate listings. Hey Napier, is that your foot under the table? Personal space alert! Was it Bob Rawson, Berkman’s former Shaker Hts. neighbor, Jones Day King of The Universe longing for the plush lawns of The Heights to mingle his toes in while sipping the champagne?  Morty Levin, whose family name festoons half the buildings on campus? Maybe Lord of All He Surveys Dan Moore, who “currently serves as chairman of seven companies, each with its own proprietary edge: Soundwich, Inc.; Team Wendy LLC; Impact Armor Technologies LLC; Sleep Optima LLC; Tennessee Iron Products, LLC; Polyfill, LLC; and NatGasCar, LLC. He serves as director of Park-Ohio Holdings Corp (NASDAQ), Cleveland, Ohio, and Invacare Corporation (NYSE), Elyria, Ohio.”

An online petition is circulating to protest Berkman’s housing service. Some of the comments…

I’m STILL paying on loans for a Masters degree to be a teacher making $33K/year, barely getting by in my little home with interest to pay and THIS guy gets a free home, HELL NO!

FYI, Ronald Berkman makes almost $600K including bonuses, enough to buy a lavish home in the CLE market with CASH on one year salary. Why is CSU shelling out more $$ for his housing allowance?

hey mr. President, want to help me with my rent?

Our university has been hijacked by corporatists whose soul ambition is profit. Their ponzi-scheme style administration will no longer be tolerated and we, the students and faculty need to actively stand up and resist.

I can’t really think of a place more ripe to Feel The Bern than across the street from CSU. The office opening is today from 5-7pm. I have a class at 6; might be late for it.

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The deep systemic roots of CSU’s exploitation of free intern labor

EatingMoneyMouthCleveland State University’s administration just can’t quit you, capitalism.

At a meeting with concerned students at the end of fall semester, 2015, President Ronald Berkman announced in a proud flourish that after at least a year of discussion about charging tuition for unpaid internships, CSU would change internship credit to a “zero-hour” credit, which would appear on a transcript, but not require a tuition payment, as it would now be “zero hours”. Problem solved, right? Wrong.

Instead of following up with a written and announced policy, as was promised at the meeting, the administration is instead now claiming that because the internship credit would be “zero hours”, any program with an internship component would then require another class of the student, to make up for the lost credit hours.

Cha. Ching.

VP of Student Affairs Ernest Yarborough argues in an email, “If students currently receive 3 credits for an internship which they pay for, and under the new policy they receive 0 credits but do not have to pay, they still have to complete 120 credits.”

Political Science chair Charles Hersch explained in an email this is somehow tied to the change from quarters to semesters. “…after the 4-3 conversion, we increased the number of required courses to make the total number of credits required the same.”

In effect, CSU used unpaid internship work by students to bootstrap their way to keeping all programs at the same credit hour requirement. Woe unto the student who notices…you can’t really make this stuff up.

In my first go round at CSU, I interned through the political science program with Dennis Kucinich’s 1988 primary campaign. That internship was an elective, not a requirement, and the professor, then political science chair Jim Kweder, arranged the internships himself for every student. Today, CSU does the exact opposite – in the MAGI program, not one finger is lfted by any professor to help students find an internship, and that internship is required.

Meanwhile, as this policy gets “discussed” by the administration, students for at least 4 semesters have been forced to pay for the privelege of working for free all so CSU can keep bootstrapping credit hours off of their unpaid labor. Worse, CSU administrators and professors seem to think this is perfectly normal, to the point that the highest level decisions about credit hours in a university-wide transition from quarters to semesters explicitly relies on unpaid labor by students to clear the bar.

This is what 40 solid years of freeing markets gets you in public education. Such a grotesque, Dickensian exploitation is unworthy of a university the calibre of CSU. Viking students fight like hell to get where they are in life, overcoming obstacles not many other university students ever face in America. CSU should not exploit them, too. It is long past time for Dr. Berkman to solve this problem of the university’s own creation.

Enough is quite enough.

Tim Russo is a student in the Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI) program at CSU. 

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The grotesque practice of charging students tuition for unpaid internships


UPDATE: Bernie Sanders will be on campus at CSU on Monday, Nov. 16.

Like many Vikings, returning to Cleveland State University after graduating in 1989 was not in my plans, but I arrived on campus last year (after a fight) as a student in the Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI) program with fond memories. My fondest is work as an intern for Dennis Kucinich’s quixotic primary campaign against Mary Rose Oakar in 1988 via the campaign politics course, an elective. The professor rounded up political campaigns to pitch themselves to us students, and we each chose who to work for. Dennis had little money, and would end up with only 25% to Mary Rose’s 75%, which meant an unpaid intern got heavy exposure and responsibility at every level of the underfunded, understaffed campaign. I learned most of what I know about politics from Dennis that incredible spring.

Today, 27 years later, like just about everything in capitalism’s 21st century nirvana, the economics of internships have been totally reversed at CSU. In many CSU programs now, an internship is a requirement, not an elective, almost always unpaid, for which students also have to pay tuition, receiving nothing from CSU other than the required “course” credit. Unlike in 1988, for the MAGI internship I spent more than a year searching on my own, without any help from CSU, landing one with a law firm based not on anything related to CSU, but on my law degree from CWRU. When I learned I had to then pay CSU for the privelege, I almost fell over.

I began an effort to understand this policy, by writing every single level of university administration, from the political science department up to the president, asking what in fact was the university policy which justifies charging students tuition for unpaid internships. For the last two months, I’ve asked the same questions over and over. Here are my questions.

– Has the board of trustees ever discussed this practice? If not, why not?
– How much money (millions?) does CSU take from unpaid interns every year?
– Where does that money go?
– Is any of that money spent on career placement? How much? For what?
– Is there any effort for interns required to find international work?


Apparently, there is no policy. The only response I’ve received to my objection to the practice amounted to a group punishment for ALL MAGI students; the political science department merely piled more work onto the student, justifying the “course credit” with a hastily announced requirement for a paper and a grade by faculty. No one from CSU has addressed the tuition requirement, after two months.

Based on my studies in the MAGI program, it is apparent we have a cultural difference here. One culture (university faculty and administration) has never been unemployed in their entire career, sucking down obscene salaries, for God knows what. The president, who takes a private jet the 150 miles between Cleveland and Columbus, “earns” nearly half a million dollars a year. This culture is easily blind to the other culture, CSU students, who attend an urban commuter state university, unlikely their first career choice, piling on debt, many out of desperation, some homeless, most with no income, who are attending university in order, someday, perhaps, with luck, to get paid for work, not the other way around.

If a student has to pay to work, it simply does not pay to work. All the incentives are backwards. CSU ends up teaching students that they are nothing more than a funnel for money financed with federal student loan debt, for someone else’s benefit, and that no matter how hard you work, it will never benefit you.

This 1989 Viking alum proudly says enough is enough. I hope others will join me to advocate the end of this grotesque money grab that would make Ebeneezer Scrooge himself blush with shame. I am happy to discuss the way forward with the CSU administration, and continue to await their response. CSU is a tough student body. Apparently, we need to prove it.

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I’m a student again

Last year, summer 2013, I applied to my 1989 alma mater Cleveland State University for the Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI). Some folks will recall that didn’t go so well. I was denied admission based on my 2002 criminal conviction. I appealed the denial directly to CSU president Ronald Berkman with a letter writing campaign from friends, family, and supporters, to no avail. After my run for County Executive in the May 6, 2014 Democratic primary, I decided to re-apply to the same MAGI program based on my performance in the election. The only additional information required for my new application was an updated personal statement, which follows.

In 2013, I applied for the MAGI program, and was denied admission based solely on my 2002 criminal conviction. A few months later, I decided to run in the 2014 May 6 Democratic Primary for County Executive. 
The reason I decided to place my name on the ballot for the second time (first in 2010 for County Council Disrict 7 where I earned 730 votes), is that the political process, and specifically the voters, are the only forum in which I can be judged as an entire person, not by one mistake. Voters decide who should lead them based on the entirety of a candidate’s record, biography, achievements, faults, mistakes…warts and all.
I earned 9,171 votes on May 6, placing third among six candidates, well ahead of both a former county sheriff, and a former mayor. Voters were given ample notice of my mistakes and faults, in fact, every single mention of my candidacy in Cleveland media pointed directly, and often only, to my past.  Still, I placed third.
I believe CSU, my alma mater, did me a great and very personal wrong in 2013. Thousands of voters in Cuyahoga County disagree with CSU’s admissions committee decision in 2013, with their votes. If someone like me cannot attend a public university, even after proving himself not just professionally & academically, but politically, then I believe I have proven CSU’s admissions policy as unjust and wrong as applied in my case, and that policy must change. 
CSU has an excellent opportunity to right that wrong, today, in 2014. It would be an honor to help CSU move forward beyond this mistake as a MAGI candidate. 
I learned this morning, August 9, 2014, my application was successful and I begin classes as a full time student in a couple of weeks. I would like to thank everyone who helped me along this journey – you know who you are – and I promise I won’t let any of you down.