The Class of 2019 has one goal, according to President Daniel J. Curran: To leave their community a bit better than it is today.
“Be a community builder, not just a community lover. You have a responsibility to add to this community in some way, to move us forward, to challenge us as an institution,” he said.
During his opening remarks at this year’s New Student Convocation, which formally marks the start of the 2015-16 academic year, Curran offered suggestions for how to meet this challenge.
“This is the last time you will be all together as a group before graduation in four years. Make these next four years your own unique UD experience. Fill them wisely,” he said. “Choose a second major; study abroad; make lots of friends. Make UD a better place.”
Senior Annamaria Karrells offered herself as an example. She is the first University of Dayton student — and one of only 10 nationwide — to receive a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provides academic and professional preparation for candidates to enter the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service, representing America’s interests abroad.
“I didn’t know anyone when I arrived at UD; it was up to me to make the most of my time here. Everyone on this campus wants you to learn and succeed and be a catalyst for transformation,” Karrells told the incoming class.
Her advice? Take a class outside of your field of study, listen to a lecture outside your comfort zone, or attend a club meeting even if you’re unfamiliar with the topic.
“There are thousands of other students here; use us as your resources,” she said.
Overwhelmed? Act it out.
It’s one thing many incoming first-year students experience, and it’s one thing the University’s New Student Orientation programming aims to help.
“Learning more about campus life and the resources available goes a long way in helping make the transition easier and less overwhelming,” said Re’Shanda Grace-Bridges, director of new student programs.
One of the newer additions to orientation weekend is the sociodrama. Student counselors from Camp Blue (a high-energy week of leadership building for incoming first-year students) act out a variety of situations that occur on campus. Ranging from becoming more involved in campus activities to handling a difficult roommate to dealing with situations involving alcohol, drugs, or violence, the scenarios teach students how to respond.
Split into two groups of six, the counselors went through an extensive three-day training session in early August to prepare for the sociodrama. After the training session, the actors had their scripts memorized — but they continued to practice nearly every day for the next week. Two performances meant that each group of six performed to half of the first-year class.
“It’s a dramatic performed piece that covers at least 21 different transitional issues that first-year students are known to have,” Grace-Bridges explained.
While faculty and staff play important roles during orientation weekend, students working in the New Student Orientation office are also responsible for making the weekend a success.
“I have an amazing group of young people who have come out to volunteer to serve UD by giving back to first year students,” Grace-Bridges said. “Our office knows that we can’t do it without them, and we appreciate their dedication and hard work — giving up part of their summer to come back to give back.”
When Alexandra Hall, one of the University’s newest residential coordinators, wanted to learn more about how college can be a pivotal period in students’ mental, social and emotional development, she went straight to the source: back to school.
A graduate student in the college student personnel studies program and an undergraduate member of the Class of 2015, Hall is most interested in the development of college-aged students. “I was a resident assistant previously, and now I hope to learn more firsthand with this job,” she said.
Her colleague, Rebecca Caserta, holds a similar view. “I came to UD in part because of its strong graduate assistantship program in the housing and residence life department and the higher education administration graduate track,” she said. “For me, college was a transformative experience that enabled me to find myself. My desire to enter the field of higher education stems from this, and I hope to be a support for students as they go through this transformation themselves.”
On the morning of move-in day, Hall and Caserta presided over the Marycrest front desk, ready to watch transformations take place — starting with the transition from empty dorm room to unpacked home sweet home.
“Typical move-in stories from our peers at other campuses include elements of stress and frustration over crowds, wait times and heavy lifting,” Caserta said. “At Marycrest, we had lots of students and staff hustling, all helping first-years unpack. They were especially active in getting rooms filled and students settled.”
One transformation down, hundreds more to go.
The scene across campus looked the same, but the stories were all different.
Unpacking in the southeast wing of Marycrest was Mary Guida, a first-year student from Grandview Heights, Ohio, entering the Discover Arts program. She was as quick to chat with passersby as she was to pull decorations, bedding, shampoo, notebooks and more out of boxes, giving them a new home in her home-away-from-home while her parents, Mark Fratus and Angela Guida, helped.
Angela noted, “I’m excited for my daughter to have the opportunity to go to college, but I’m especially excited for her to go to the University of Dayton.”
Mark — a proud Class of 1984 graduate decked out in UD polo shirt and baseball cap — added, “It feels wonderful to have her be a part of this community. I hold great memories of my time at UD, and I can’t wait to share those same experiences with Mary.”
Having a friend who attended the University of Dayton piqued Mary’s interest in the school, but it wasn’t until Mary found herself answering a scholarship question that she knew what led her to this room on the hill.
“I received a scholarship, and part of accepting it was standing in front of my high school and describing why I chose the college I did. I chose UD because I immediately felt a sense of community, similar to what I feel in my hometown,” Mary said.
Welcome to the community, neighbor.
Students, staff, parents and alumni packed the northeast half of the University of Dayton Arena, intermingled in the seats facing a stage set for President Daniel J. Curran to officially welcome the Class of 2019 to campus.
A tall curtain set the backdrop, the stage itself a black raised platform edged with potted plants and University members seated in folding chairs. The soundtrack is typical in such a crowd —bracelets clinking, clothes shifting, scattered coughs and faint whispers that fit in the pauses between words as the Rev. James Fitz began his address to the first-year students and their parents.
“We invite you at this university to a vision for life, for both the head and the heart. When you graduate you will have more than job prospects, you will have truth and faith,” Fitz said in a speech that touched on a number of unique aspects of the University of Dayton’s mission and how students, as members of the community, benefit from this special vision.
“Now is the time for you to take hold of the opportunity and gifts you have received. When you graduate, we hope that you will use the gift of a Catholic and Marianist education to enhance and transform our world,” Fitz concluded.
Fitz’s comments started a common thread that President Curran continued. “We’re here to support the students and the faculty. You’re all members of our community. We want to move ahead together,” he said.
The message was clear: The University of Dayton is an institution that empowers students to be active members of the world — active in learning and discovery, active in their immediate civic community, and active in the wider global sphere. The vision that UD guides each individual student to discover is one that, according to Fitz, “will make a difference.”
The Class of 2019 is ready to do just that.
You might see them on T-shirts of Blue Crew members, students, parents and faculty alike: peace-sign buttons that Jen Morin-Williamson, Marycrest campus minister, hands out during move-in day.
“I want to give these to students and parents to give them encouragement, and show them that things will be okay,” Morin-Williamson said. She’s been working and greeting on move-in day at Marycrest for nearly four years.
Morin-Williamson said move-in is her favorite time of year because she gets to meet all of her new residents and embark on their faith journeys with them.
“It’s my job to attend to the spirit and faith of new residents,” she said. “I encourage them to pursue a relationship with God, and in the process I tell them to try new things but to not give up on the religion they were raised with.”
Morin-Williamson is known as the organizer of Free Hug Fridays on campus, where students do just what the title says — give out hugs to other students in front of Kennedy Union. She also teaches the class called “Does anyone date anymore?” where students discuss modern relationship trends like meeting new people.
Morin-Williamson added that this year move-in has been especially smooth with all of the student help from the Blue Crew, and everyone has been in good spirits at Marycrest: “Students are excited for new beginnings, and we’re here to support them in that. We’re here to send them messages of peace.”
Keep an eye out for her signature buttons — like a spontaneous hug in front of KU, you may come across one when you least expect it, but most need it.
The leap from being a senior in high school to a first-year student in college can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Shifting that leap to gradual steps is Transitions, a free-of-cost program for incoming first-year multicultural students sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Friday, Aug. 21, Transitions hosted a lunch in Kennedy Union Ballroom for incoming first-year students and parents to talk with faculty and staff in their respective colleges. The lunch further familiarized the new students with UD and what to expect through their next four years. Both students and parents shared concerns, advice, and words of encouragement with each other and faculty. The lunch proved not only delicious, but also helpful.
Dr. V. Denise James, associate professor of philosophy at UD, took to the podium and offered words of encouragement during the Transitions luncheon. James shared stories of herself as a new student, helping UD’s newest undergraduates and parents gain bits of knowledge she wished she knew herself.
James focused on community, a word the students started to become familiar with through the program. While bringing up community, James shared that no one should make another feel like they do not belong. James told them to remember that UD’s community is their community.
“I want you to remember that we are better because you are here, and I want you to find a way to assert to whoever is making you feel out of place that this is your place,” James said. “I want you to be confident in that I am right about you belonging here.”
As James ended her talk, both parents and students felt a sense of calm. The food was good, the discussion was helpful, and the sense of community was clearly present.
Elvis. Aerosmith. Elton John. Frank Sinatra.
The greats all performed at UD Arena, on the same floor that also welcomed boxers, comedians, gymnasts and other entertainers, said Gary McCans ’68, the director of event services at UD Arena.
The Arena opened in 1969 to entertain men’s basketball fans excited by the team’s 1968 NIT victory and 1967 NCAA Tournament run to the finals.
“When the Arena opened, we were the largest privately owned facility in Ohio,” McCans said.
McCans started working in the ticket office at the Arena immediately after it opened. Every time a new act came through, his staff would have to set aside tickets for a year, in case the IRS or a promoter needed an audit.
After a year passed, McCans grabbed a few tickets from each event and started placing them in a box.
He now has hundreds of tickets, colorful mementos of a bygone era — when a night watching the Beach Boys cost less than $10. It turns out there was an event at the Arena for just about everyone.
“We’ve gone from Lawrence Welk to ZZ Top to country and western — Kenny Rogers and Alabama,” McCans said.
The Portland Trailblazers and Milwaukee Bucks played an exhibition game Oct. 4, 1974, featuring Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was the first time in their Hall of Fame careers that the former UCLA centers had faced off.
A post about McCans’ tickets on Facebook brought out more memories.
“My very first concert was at UD Arena — Def Leppard’s Hysteria Tour 1987,” wrote Michelle Brooks.
“(I) think I was paid $20 to be a student usher for Queen. Great show,” wrote Tom Didato in another post.
While the Arena still hosts the circus and WGI Color Guard World Championships, many other acts now choose larger venues in Columbus and Cincinnati, where promoters can sell up to 20,000 tickets, compared to UD Arena’s 13,455 or fewer, depending on stage configuration.
Back when the Arena first hosted concerts, acts would bring three or four semis of equipment. Now, McCans said, acts can have 20.
“We can’t fit the shows into our building anymore, they just got so big,” McCans said.
Concerts at the Arena may be a thing of the past, but they live on inside McCans’ ticket box and our memories.
What was your ticket to the stars at UD Arena? Share your story below in comments.
When Sarah Wilker ‘16 returned home last month from a six-week trip to Zambia, she unpacked clothes, souvenirs and a newfound appreciation for simple pleasures.
“The main goal of the program is cultural immersion, so living alongside and thus learning from the people of Lubwe,” Wilker said. “We were able to expand our learning beyond the classroom and experience firsthand a culture different from our own.”
Wilker and eight other UD students, in partnership with the University’s campus ministry office and Center for Social Concern, stayed at the capital, Lusaka, for two weeks with a community of Marianist Brothers at the Faustino House before traveling to Lubwe, where they stayed for four weeks.
“The hardest part at first was the language barrier, but another struggle was coming face to face with the severe poverty many of the children we had to opportunity to form relationships with were facing,” Wilker said.
An average day consisted of doing any type of service in a school or hospital, followed by bonding with the local people, focusing specifically on the children, Wilker said. They played football, were taught traditional dances and watched the beautiful sunsets every night.
Besides working with locals, the students were able to take a couple days off to travel to Livingstone, Zambia, to see Victoria Falls (the largest waterfall in the world) and participate in a safari.
When reflecting on her journey, the secondary math and religious education major said she would gladly return. Appreciating the small things, like sunsets and silly songs, now echoes in her mind.
“The children really helped me to learn and experience how to love more fully,” she said. “There was not a day we walked outside and weren’t greeted by loving and smiling faces and the best hugs I have ever received. The experience opened my eyes to how big our world really is, and how much poverty and injustice exists outside our country.”
Allison and Margaret Engel fondly remember their mother sitting at the breakfast table with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in hand, shaking with laughter.
“She could only manage to get out two words — Erma Bombeck,” recalled Allison, who has collaborated with her twin sister on a one-woman play, “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End.”
Starring stage and screen actress Barbara Chisholm, the world premiere is slated for Oct. 9-Nov. 8 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Chisholm most recently appeared in the Oscar-winning 2014 film, “Boyhood.”
Broadway director David Esbjornson directs the humorous production, described as “a look at one of our country’s most beloved voices, who captured the frustrations of her generation by asking, ‘If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?’”
This is the duo’s second one-act play that celebrates women humorists. In 2010, the two journalists and authors brought the feistiness of syndicated Texas political columnist Molly Ivins to life in “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.” Kathleen Turner starred in the critically acclaimed production on stages in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
After the premiere of “Red Hot Patriot,” Aaron Priest, Bombeck’s agent and longtime friend, contacted the playwrights about their interest in bringing Erma to life on stage.
At the peak of her career, Bombeck’s “At Wit’s End” column appeared in more than 900 newspapers, reaching 30 million readers. Her entertaining essays hung on refrigerator doors around the country because they captured so perfectly the foibles of family life. She’s arguably the most famous graduate of the University of Dayton, which honors her legacy through the popular biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. In 1996, she died of complications from a kidney transplant.
“It was such a delight to remember and read all of Erma’s books and columns,” Margaret said. “She is so witty and gets at the secret life of a family that makes us laugh in recognition.”
To research “At Wit’s End,” the sisters read her immense body of work — thousands of columns and a dozen books — and viewed “Good Morning America” clips from her 11 years on the show. They perused the University of Dayton’s online Erma museum for photographs, speeches and other material and interviewed Erma’s husband Bill, secretary Norma Born and the three children, Matt, Betsy and Andy.
“We had an avalanche of material to work with,” Allison said. “The family has been so wonderful as far as being generous with their time and remembrances.”
Matt Bombeck, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, said the family is looking forward to hearing Erma’s words performed. “The Engel sisters were absolutely the right playwrights to bring our mom’s humor to the stage,” he said. “We hope the play not only makes audiences laugh, but gives people a deeper insight into her life.”
The Engels’ appreciation for Bombeck grew enormously as they worked to translate her life for the stage. “We found her remarkable,” Allison said. “She was so well known that magazine polls showed her right up there with the pope among admired people, yet she didn’t go Hollywood. When the kids came home from school, she was just mom. We tried to portray that in the play. To be ordinary and have such remarkable fame, it’s almost impossible to pull that off.”
Bombeck poked fun at motherhood and housekeeping during a time of social change for women, drawing a legion of like-minded women as fans. “Many people probably don’t realize that she spent almost two years of her own time on her own dime stumping for the Equal Rights Amendment,” Margaret said. “She lived through the Depression and that experience of seeing what her (widowed) mother went through also informed her activism.”
As a champion for women’s lives, Bombeck would appreciate that 50 theatres in Washington, D.C. have agreed to premiere new work by women playwrights this fall as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.
Early ticket sales for “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” are strong, which doesn’t surprise the playwrights. “There’s pent-up demand for Erma,” Allison said.
For tickets, click here.
(Illustration by Ed Fotheringham, courtesy of Arena Stage.)