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Lessons from afar

1:45 PM  Jul 22nd, 2016
by Danielle Damon '18

When I think of India, my mind fills with slums of brightly painted buildings and contrasting dirt roads. I envision children running down the street as dust kicks up under their feet and adults standing on doorsteps waiting to give us their blessing and say, “namaste.”

The images are so clear now, but before I left to spend five weeks this summer in India on a UD service/cultural immersion trip, I was often asked, “What will you be doing there?” I struggled to find an answer.

Since returning home about three weeks ago, I have realized my most vivid memories do not include what I was doing or the places I went, but the people I met.

I learned I could put a smile on a little boy’s face who used to pick trash for money by attempting to speak his language. I can support a local businessman by purchasing a Rs. 5 chai tea, which is inimitable. I could feed a woman, who is elderly and disabled, her favorite food – even if all of these moments pushed me – a 20-year-old woman from Cincinnati who more often spends her days stressed over college and work, instead of where her next meal will come from – out of my comfort zone.

To answer those who asked what I would be doing in India, I can now respond without hesitation. I was participating in the ministry of presence. India taught me that in order to make a difference, all you need to pack for a trip is yourself.

So thank you, UD, for allowing me to fully understand through service and travel all you have given me: a community that has no boundaries and the means to make a change.

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Katie Willard uses a solar oven to activate carbon.

ETHOS Immersion: Peace from Patna

9:31 AM  
by Bridget Lally '17

After just five weeks, chemical engineering seniors Katie Willard ’17 and Claudia Labrador Rached ’17 have gained significant experience solving real-world problems and handling political obstacles as part of their 10-week summer immersion in India through the University’s ETHOS program. 

Willard and Rached work with SAAP — Solar Alternatives and Associated Programmes — in Phulwarisharif, just outside the northeastern city of Patna. The Jesuit brothers founded the nonprofit and the students live and work within the Jesuit compound.

Willard and Rached are continuing the work five previous ETHOS groups have made designing and building a Solar Thermal Adsorptive Refrigerator, which doesn’t rely on electricity. Bihar, the state where they work, experiences frequent power outages from an unreliable electric grid, and the solar refrigerators help hospitals and rural clinics properly store vaccines. Ethanol and activated carbon, materials usually accessible and inexpensive on a global level, are the working adsorption ingredients that drive the cooling effect.

A “political curveball in Bihar,” created an unexpected roadblock, Willard said, creating a real-life challenge the students had to overcome.

“Ethanol was a readily accessible material in Patna…until the government outlawed any possession or sale of liquor in the state of Bihar one month before we arrived,” Willard said. “Because of this, we haven’t been able to run adsorption cycles on our working prototype, preventing us from collecting further temperature and pressure data. ETHOS is all about thinking outside the box and using local resources to overcome unpredictable circumstances, so we’ll figure out a way to resolve the situation.”

Through the project, the students have gained knowledge about home distillation, ethanol and soft metal properties concerning corrosion and sealing methods, often working by hand. They’ve also learned more about Indian culture by living and working with local citizens.

“I am full of kashi and takara (happiness and peace) in India. The only way it could get better is if I see -30 in Hg on the pressure gauge for a good length of time,” Willard said.


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prayer service, Peace Pole

Working across differences

1:15 PM  Jul 19th, 2016
by Teri Rizvi

President Eric F. Spina is calling on the campus community to pray, engage in dialogue and “work across differences” in the wake of increasing violence in the nation and world.

“I ask our campus community to pray for peace and wisdom during this time of heightened tension,” he wrote in notes to faculty, staff and students.

“I encourage you to reach out to faculty, staff and students of color and listen to their perspectives. Pray for our campus police and all officers for their safety and judgment as they work to protect us. Pray for all victims of violence.”

Spina signaled that the University of Dayton will bring diverse voices to lecture halls and other gatherings this academic year for “supportive conversations about race, police-community relations, human dignity, difference and trust.”

In his note to students, he wrote, “I strongly believe a Catholic university can model the way we confront injustice, value the diverse gifts of all and bring people together in unity around the common good. As we prepare for a new academic year, that’s our collective challenge.”

Earlier this month, Campus Ministry invited the University community to gather in prayer around the peace pole in St. Mary’s Courtyard, “calling for an end to violence and injustice everywhere,” including St. Paul, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Baghdad and Dayton. Two more special prayer services have been held in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception since then — for the victims of Nice and the slain police officers in Baton Rouge.

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A new perspective

3:24 PM  Jul 12th, 2016
by Jamie Vieson ‘18

Junior Jamie Vieson has been interning in the Ohio Attorney General’s office as part of the Statehouse Civic Scholars program, an eight-week, summer residential state government internship opportunity in Columbus, Ohio. Community service is part of their internship, and Vieson shares her experience that reflect on #BeTheChangeUD.

This week was up and down for me. Inside and outside of work I have highs and lows.

My low outside of the office was during the service project. I have never really worked with the homeless population before, so I was very distraught at first. It just broke my heart to see all of the children there. After the experience, I broke down because it was just too much for me. I felt helpless for each of the families and disappointed in myself for not understanding this problem to the full extent, doing more to help or appreciating the blessings in my life enough. There is the face of one little girl in particular that I can’t get out of my head.

But, it is this little girl that brought me my high for the week.

She walked in with Mom, Dad and four other siblings. Her parents were having a disagreement. She looked at me, and the biggest grin came across her face. The entire time she was in the dining hall she did not utter a word. Each time we would make eye contact she would smile and giggle. I made sure to smile back and wave.

All individuals need to be treated with dignity and respect.

Her family finished their dinner, and the parents were telling the kids to go. She looked at me again, smiled, ran up to me and gave me a huge hug. I didn’t do a very good job holding it together after that, but I would consider this moment a high. Even though I didn’t think I could help, I realized that we all can through something simple, like a smile.

I want to take that further now, but a smile is a good place to start.

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Father Michael Fish presents "Contemplation in Everyday Life" at the Summit

Contemplation and innovation for Catholic educators

11:34 AM  Jul 8th, 2016
by Bridget Lally '17

The University of Dayton Center for Catholic Education hosted the fifth annual Catholic Education Summit, “A Crucible for Faith, Learning and Hope,” Friday, June 24 at UD River Campus. The theme of the summit was “Contemplation and Technology in Catholic Schools.”

The Center, which delivers programs and services to schools in a Catholic and Marianist spirit, also celebrated a milestone at the Summit – its 20th anniversary. Friday’s agenda concluded with a celebration dinner in recognition of this achievement.  

The Summit consisted of a series of presentations, such as “Christian Meditation with Children” by Paul Tratnyek, “Contemplation in Everyday Life” by Father Michael Fish, “Technology Tools to Engage Students” by Katie Poeppelmeier, among others. Small group discussions, prayer and meditation were also included in the day.

The broad audience of nearly 140 participants included Catholic teachers, principals, community partners and vendors who provide materials for Catholic schools such as textbooks or technology.

“We chose technology as this topic is frequently mentioned by teachers and principals as an area of interest,” said Susan Ferguson, director of the Center.

This day was a reminder to all about the connection between technology and meditation. Technology is so innovative yet people have to have the ability to unplug, find peace and connect with God each day.

“We live in a world bombarded with stimulation and distraction,” Tratnyek said. “We have to provide students with another way of being and seeing the world.”

Tratnyek, of Stratford, Ontario, Canada, touched on the benefits of meditation he has witnessed in his Canadian schools. “Over time, it creates community,” he said. “The kids are calmer, engaged and inclusive. Anybody can do it and it’s so simple. We have six-year-olds teaching parents to meditate.”   

Tratnyek may return to Dayton to help Ferguson and Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and a professor in the department of religious studies at UD, implement training programs on Christian Meditation for children starting in local Dayton Catholic schools and then across the country, through virtual technology.

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Pope 1

Opportunity of a Lifetime

4:15 PM  Jul 7th, 2016
by Karina Cabrera '18

What comes to mind when you think of Catholicism? For many, it’s Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. This past month, 30 students from UD had the privilege of seeing the Pope in person from a mere eight rows away.

Andres Berdut ’18, an International Business major, was among the lucky 30 who participated in the Villa Nazareth study abroad program. The trip began May 1 and ended June 24. The students stayed with host families in Rome, Italy. “I wanted to get out of the United States,” said Berdut, “I wanted to have an adventure. I also needed a study abroad for my major.”

Berdut is from Puerto Rico, so his ability to speak Spanish came in handy when the group attended mass in Vatican City.

“Pope Francis spoke only in Italian. Many of my peers were sad that they couldn’t understand him, but I speak Spanish so I was able to understand about half of what he was saying. He spoke about marriage and how it was a blessing and emphasized importance of showing respect towards your partner. He was very humble, very calm. He gave a beautiful talk.”

Berdut expressed how fortunate he felt to be only eight rows away from the Pope. “I know a lot of other students have been able to witness him from previous years, but we had the opportunity to see him at a much closer proximity.”

Because of this opportunity, Berdut hopes to one day live in Rome.


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New University of Dayton president Eric Spina meets the media and community partners at Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley, Friday, July 1.

Just saying hello

9:58 AM  Jul 5th, 2016
by Shannon Shelton Miller

Eric Spina’s exposure to the state of Ohio before becoming the 19th president of the University of Dayton was, admittedly, limited.

“As a kid, I think we took a family trip somewhere in Ohio to visit somebody for maybe about three days,” he said. “That was really about it. I’ve driven through Ohio, been to Cleveland a few times, but I’ve really never experienced Ohio.”

Why come to Dayton? Spina, a Buffalo, N.Y. native, said it was a question he received frequently from associates when he decided to leave upstate New York and a 28-year tenure at Syracuse University to move to the Midwest.

If he didn’t have the answer already, he found it the afternoon of July 1.

A busy schedule of meetings, conversations, luncheons, Mass and other activities defined Spina’s first day as president, and he concluded it with a visit to Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley Center for Families for a press conference with local media and a reception with community partners. Former University president Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., Fitz Center for Leadership in Community Executive Director Hunter Goodman and other Fitz Center staff members were among the UD-affiliated attendees.

“That you would come just to say hello on a Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock on the start of Fourth of July weekend, that’s a testament to the greatness of this university and the warmth of this community,” Spina said. “I’m here because you would come here.”

Spina and his wife, Karen, shook hands and posed for photos with dozens of well-wishers whose faces will soon be familiar sights as Spina becomes a campus fixture. A student attendee, Lyric Fields ’18, fielded questions from the media about her advice for Spina as he steps into his new role.

“Stay grounded,” Fields said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I think he’ll be fine.”

Spina is ready to jump in.

“I’m getting to know Ohio,” he said. “It’s a welcoming place, a place of natural beauty and supportive people. Karen and I are looking forward to the bike trails, to the water. We’re really looking forward to getting out and learning more about the city and the broader region.”

Click here to read more about Spina’s first day on the job as president of the University of Dayton. Follow him on Twitter @DaytonPrezSpina and Instagram @daytonprezspina, and read his new blog, From the Heart.


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Welcome, President Spina!

Neighborly welcome

4:18 PM  Jul 1st, 2016
by Teri Rizvi

The University of Dayton community today rolled out the welcome mat — actually a gigantic banner — for new president Eric F. Spina, who became the 19th president in school history.

Driving down Stewart Street, Spina and his wife, Karen, were greeted by an enormous red-and-blue banner hanging from the entrance archway: “Welcome to the Neighborhood, President Eric Spina.”

Under the row of presidential portraits in St. Mary’s Hall, well-wishers stopped by to say hello and grab coffee and muffins from a breakfast buffet. At the 12:30 p.m. Mass, the chapel filled with faculty, staff, students and alumni who outstretched their hands, blessed the new president and spontaneously applauded him.  “Give him courage, give him grace, give him enlightenment,” prayed Father Kip Stander, S.M., the University’s chaplain.

“Today we are looking at an exciting transition,” said Stander during the homily. “We will need the Word of God to be in our hearts to deal with all the graces — and all that will come our way.”

During a fast-paced day, Spina warmly greeted everyone he met, paused for selfies with students, asked numerous questions, offered encouragement and support — and quietly signaled the priorities of his presidency.

He toured engineering labs, talking to students and faculty about advanced materials and vision-guided robots. In the Center for International Programs, he chatted with students from India, Lebanon, Jordan, China, Saudi Arabia and Rwanda about what drew them to campus.

“Thanks for picking the University of Dayton. It’s a premier university,” he told them. “It’s important that I spend time with you. All of our students, either international or domestic, need to understand we live in a shrinking world.”

After a lunch of salmon and rice with the Marianists, he and Karen stopped by each table to converse about topics ranging from religious artwork to professional sports.

With staff from the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, he headed over to Catholic Social Services on Brown Street at the end of the day to meet community, religious and neighborhood leaders involved in social justice work.

After Spina’s whirlwind first day, faculty and students gave the new president high marks for his approachability, humility and collaborative spirit.

“I’m genuinely excited and hopeful for his presidency. He’s a good fit,” said Joe Valenzano III, president of the Academic Senate after meeting with Spina and Provost Paul Benson. “It was a thoughtful meeting, and he demonstrated an approach that will be welcomed by the faculty and the university community.”

Marta Kuzma, a sophomore early childhood education major, found Spina “very warm and welcoming,” adding, “He made me feel special.”

In an interview earlier this month, Spina, former vice chancellor and provost at Syracuse University, talked about what drew him to the University of Dayton — from its prowess in technology and research to the Marianist focus on servant-leadership.

“It really is an extraordinary place,” he said. “The world needs to understand the magic of the University of Dayton.”

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Adopted Sisters

Unknown UD connection

11:06 AM  Jun 23rd, 2016
by Karina Cabrera '18

Kelly Woodward Meltzer ’93 had a life filled with memories, friends, and family but nothing too out of the ordinary. That is until one night, she unexpectedly received a detailed message from a fellow UD grad that changed her life forever. “I was in disbelief; my parents never told me I had an older sister,” Meltzer said.

Meltzer’s parents, Bob and Nancy Woodward, graduated from UD in 1969 and had put a baby up for adoption their senior year. They married in 1970 and two years later Kelly was born, with her two younger brothers joining shortly after. Almost everyone in the family graduated from UD, including her biological sister, Veronica, who she didn’t know existed.

Veronica Wagner Hecker graduated from UD in 1996 with a master’s in education. She settled in Kettering, Ohio, and as years passed, began to search for information about her biological parents. With the help of an adopted persons search group and the UD alumni relations staff, Hecker was able to put the pieces together. “If it wasn’t for the UD alumni house, I wouldn’t have been able to obtain the amount of information I got. They were very helpful throughout my search process, and just as eager as I was for the success of my search,” said Hecker.

After finding all the information that she could, Hecker said she sat on it for several years: “I knew there was a very good chance that it could end up a completely different way. I was really nervous to reach out, but my family had been very supportive. With their support, the process became loads easier.”

When Meltzer received Hecker’s message in 2010, she was overwhelmed with emotion — angry that her parents never told her or her brothers, and intrigued that she had an older sibling. “I was the oldest of three,” Meltzer said. “I had always wanted an older sibling. It was really cool to know that I did have one.” The two sisters have since built a relationship, keeping in contact for holidays and special occasions.

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Aloha, archives

3:50 PM  Jun 21st, 2016
by Shannon Shelton Miller

Roesch Library staff and archivists from the Marianist Province said “Aloha” last Thursday to the Marianist archival center housed at UD for almost four decades, as the last two shipments of artifacts prepared to travel within days to their new home in San Antonio.

Seven truckloads in all filled with materials documenting the history of the Society of Mary in the United States will have moved from Dayton to San Antonio as part of an effort to place all provincial collections of Marianist Archives — once spread across the Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pacific and New York provinces — under one roof on the campus of St. Mary’s University.

Although Roesch Library has housed the center since 1977, the Society of Mary in the United States, not UD, operates the Marianist Archives.

The new National Archives of the Marianist Province of the United States has two facilities with 10,265 square feet of storage, exhibit and office space. After purchasing an existing building on the St. Mary’s campus in 2014 from the city of San Antonio, the National Archives began moving collections from the former St. Louis Province Archives, already housed in another building at St. Mary’s, to the new space. Materials began leaving UD in fall 2015.

To thank UD faculty, students and staff for their help with the move, the Province threw a Hawaii-themed Aloha party June 16. Mary Kenney, a Marianist Province archivist based in San Antonio, gave a short presentation about the new space at St. Mary’s that will serve as a center for Marianist scholarship.

“We’re really relieved to have gotten this all done,” Kenney said about the two-year process. “We’re moving on to a new era.”

Renovations to the new building and grounds are ongoing, and the collections of the Pacific Province, Cincinnati Province and New York Province will be relocated to Texas by the end of June.

The University’s Marian Library, located on the seventh floor of Roesch Library, will move some of its collections to the space the Marianist Archives once occupied on the third floor.

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