Editors note: Rose Rucoba ’19 is a student journalist working in the Office of Marketing and Communications. As a participant in one of the events during Human Rights Week, Rose shares her experience of feeling empowered to create change and be a voice for the voiceless.
Being a college student, I often find it difficult to remember that my voice matters to the government. Human Rights Week is a time to not just remember that my voice matters but also a time to turn my words into actions.
During Human Rights Week Feb. 18-26, UD focused on capital punishment and the incarceration system in the U.S. Students heard speakers, watched and discussed films, and participated in a Criminal Justice Plunge where students spent time at Good Shepard Ministries, a shelter that provides services to those reentering society after incarceration.
I personally participated in Liberation Letter Writing, a letter-writing event that kicked off Human Rights Week in Kennedy Union’s Torch Lounge. We wrote letters to Ohio Gov. John Kasich opposing the death penalty.
Volunteer student organizers handed participants fact sheets with statistics regarding capital punishment: race in the incarceration system, the costs of keeping inmates on death row, and the appalling number of people on death row who are found to be innocent.
In my letter, I focused on race. Data showed that it is the race of the victim, not the perpetrator, that determines incarceration. The fact sheet also showed that far more black men go to prison for killing white victims than white men do for killing black victims. As a result, there is a disproportionate number of minority inmates on death row.
In my writing, I tried to persuade Kasich on two issues I feel strongly about. First, that allowing the racial injustice to go on in the Ohio incarceration system means that the state is allowing racism as a whole to persist in the nation. Second, abolishing the death penalty would be guaranteeing the dignity and human rights of every person, no matter his or her race.
The Liberation Letter Writing event gave me a sense of power I had never experienced before. For once I was sending my true opinions out into the world instead of just simply remaining a name on a petition.
In learning about capital punishment, I came to realize that people who have suffered from abuse and addiction are often the ones who end up on death row. I believe these individuals need treatment and help, not death. Yet, their voices go unheard.
Participating in Human Rights Week, though, gave me hope that if I continue to push the government and use my voice, the day may come when those in power finally decide to listen.
Each year, the Rector’s Council honors two faculty or staff members who have, over time, made noteworthy contributions to the Catholic, Marianist character of the University. Named in honor of Brother Elmer Lackner, S.M., and Father Joseph Lackner, S.M., these honors are among the highest awards given at the University.
A love of science led Margaret Pinnell ’88, ’95 to a career in engineering. Using her skills to help others transformed that career into a vocation.
As an engineering student at UD and in her post-graduate positions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and UD Research Institute, Margaret Pinnell enjoyed the process of developing and testing composite materials as a research engineer.
In 2001, when Pinnell became a full-time professor at UD, she developed a broader interest in the intersection of engineering and community engagement after learning about the ETHOS (Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-learning) program. Pinnell was involved for 10 years, and served as acting director.
“It was something I was incredibly passionate about,” said Pinnell, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “It exemplifies what UD is about, particularly the way it’s so different from other international engineering service programs. The ETHOS program isn’t about helping ‘those poor people,’ instead it’s about working with people to co-create solutions to problems. ETHOS has very Marianist roots.”
Pinnell also collaborates with other academic units and departments to expand STEM literacy in local K-12 schools, a topic on which she’s also published multiple papers during the past decade.
“I really felt like what I was doing was my vocation,” Pinnell said. “I could see how engineering made a difference in the world.”
As the University expanded its educational footprint, Paul Vanderburgh helped lead the charge while staying true to UD’s mission.
He began teaching at the University in 1995 as an assistant professor of what was then the Department of Physical Education. Vanderburgh joined a growing department that began focusing on overall wellness, offering majors in dietetics, nutrition, exercise science and exercise physiology. From 2004-10, he served as department chair and oversaw the addition of the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program.
Vanderburgh joined the 2007 cohort of Marianist Educational Associates and later helped lead initiatives that enhanced the University’s Marianist charism. He served as co-chair for the Mission and Identity Task Force and led UD’s effort to gain a Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a national recognition of community-engaged learning in higher education. That initiative led to the creation of the Office of Experiential Learning.
“There’s a special sauce at UD that sometimes is hard to put your finger on, but the way we approach our work, the way we interact and the opportunities that we have to really think about our mission and identity and spend time with others talking about it, that’s really a blessing,” he said.
For the Colwell brothers, an ordinary day at school could turn into a family reunion with a simple request to meet for dinner. Though conflicting schedules and different interests don’t always allow them to see each other often, they value the time that they do get to spend together.
While many generations of families come through the University of Dayton over the years, it’s a unique situation to have four brothers to share in that experience simultaneously.
The eldest, Chris ’17, started the Flyer tradition five years ago when he left his home in Dublin, Ohio to begin his first year at UD.
“I was here two years earlier than my first brother Nicholas,” the civil engineering graduate student said. “So it is like you have a little break, you realize how much you miss being with them, and then one by one they all start showing up here.”
Soon brothers Nick ’19, Jon ’21 and Ben ’21 arrived at UD and now all four brothers are pursuing their academics on the same campus.
Surprisingly, the fact that family would be around was just a happy bonus for the next three siblings. All say what they valued most was the rigorous education they would receive at UD as the main reason they chose to attend, though there’s no denying the advantage of having family around.
“If I ever have a problem or simply want to be with my family, I know that my brothers are only a few minutes away” Nick said.
Three play intramural soccer together, which allows them to spend more quality time together. They enjoy attending basketball games with each other, and smaller perks like sharing meal plans and washer and dryer access.
But, each Colwell brother has been able to find something individually to devote their time to that makes their UD experience unique to him — from Battle of the Bands to joining a co-op.
“There has been something there for all of my sons,” said Michael Colwell, the siblings’ father.
The only downside? Packing to go home for breaks.
“It takes a lot of planning for how many cars need to go home and back in order to make packing a little bit easier,” Ben said
When Holly Gyenes ’17 was tagged by friends in a casting post on Facebook, she did not expect to have a contract from Disney’s new a cappella group, D Cappella, in hand a few weeks later.
Gyenes earned a bachelor’s degree in music studies with a focus in vocals last year. She was a member of UD’s first pop a cappella group known as Remedy. Since graduation she has worked at McCutcheon Music, a music store and studio owned by her first-year guitar professor Jim McCutcheon, and performed with the Dayton-based, professional a cappella group Vocalight.
Now, Gyenes is joining D Cappella’s first cast and will travel across the United States performing contemporary arrangements of Disney songs.
“I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in music, but before Disney I was in a place in my life where I was questioning if I wanted to pursue Vocalight as a career or go to graduate school for music,” Gyenes said. “This offer from Disney assured me that I should go the performing route.”
Disney invited Gyenes to New York City after watching her video submission of Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer.” She went through two rounds of callbacks before flying to Los Angeles for what turned out to be her acceptance into the opening D Cappella cast.
“I thought L.A. was going to be a final callback, but when I noticed there were 14 of us I thought we were the cast, but also that some of us were understudies,” Gyenes said. “When they told us we were all main cast, I was over the moon.”
Gyenes has sang at Carnegie Hall, and opened for Grammy-winning artist Daya. However, going on tour will be a new experience.
“Traveling on a bus and touring is an experience I’ve never had before,” Gyenes said. “I think my biggest challenge will be building up the endurance to perform every night.”
Gyenes is excited for the challenge and eager to see where D Cappella will perform when tour dates are announced later this summer or early fall.
“We cannot begin to fathom who we are as persons, until we examine and appreciate the wonderfully rich and diverse streams of human life and culture that formed us.”
The opening remarks made by University Provost Paul Benson to a full audience in the Kennedy Union ballroom on Jan. 24 were brief, but powerfully set the stage for the Spring 2018 Speaker Series keynote address by Imbolo Mbue.
A Cameroonian immigrant, author and PEN/ Faulkner Award for Fiction recipient, Mbue took the stage to discuss her experiences as an immigrant who came to the United States to attend college.
Reading excerpts from her book Behold the Dreamers, Mbue provided the audience of students, faculty, staff and community members thought-provoking insights on what it is like to be an immigrant in a foreign country.
“America gives immigrants a lot, but also takes a lot out of them,” Mbue said alluding to the same critical tone that is prevalent in her book. Mbue continued to explain that although many Americans understand the path to citizenship is lengthy and challenging, there is one misconception. “Becoming a citizen doesn’t make everything easy,” she said.
Mbue advocated for immigrants when she explained that even after gaining citizenship, many immigrants continue to struggle to feel comfortable and at home.
Amidst these frustrations, Mbue found a sense of welcoming in the people she met. It was the clergy member from her church that invited her over for Easter, and the friend from class whose family hosted her for Thanksgiving dinner. It was those who listened to her story without judgement, and those who shared their own stories with her, that let her know she belonged.
It was this found passion for listening and storytelling that kept Mbue in the U.S. She says that this country gave her the opportunity to be a writer, a career path she never would have thought of following in Cameroon. In America, Mbue realized her lifelong curiosity for others, and it is this curiosity that calls her to stay.
“There are many different ways to live a full life,” Mbue said. “All people have stories that should be listened to,” she continued, as she modestly stated her immigration story is not different from many others, it is simply known.
Fifty years after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., another voice is speaking out against an injustice that still remains today for African-Americans in this nation—segregated schools.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist known for her reporting on racial segregation in America’s school system, was selected as the University of Dayton 2018 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Speaker.
She spoke Jan. 23 in Kennedy Union’s ballroom about America’s broken school system and how segregation in classrooms is still haunting America, nearly 70 years after the civil rights movement.
Hannah-Jones began her speech by reminding the audience of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and how it “makes us feel good” about the progress the nation has made since the 1950’s, but that America still has a long way to go.
She went on to discuss how segregation today is the result of a long history of segregating, integrating and re-segregating America’s schools.
“In the 1950’s, there was complete segregation. Then, once we finally got serious about de-segregation, we saw a big increase in black children attending majority-white schools,” she said.
However, she added that in 1988, at the peak of the desegregation process, progress stalled.
“Really just one generation after we get desegregation going, we have decided as a country that we have done enough to erase 400 years of apartheid and that we are going to move on. And then, we start to re-segregate our schools, and now, our schools are segregating black children — particularly black children — as they were in the 1970’s. We have gone backwards,” Hannah-Jones explained.
She highlighted the fact that segregation was “not just a problem in the South.”
“Dayton was placed under desegregation rules in the 1970’s because Dayton operated entirely black schools with black teachers, and when a neighborhood would start to change, they would transfer all the white children out of the integrated school and turn it back into a segregated school,” Hannah-Jones said.
Wrapping things up, she drove home the point that the only statistically successful fix to the problem of segregation is integration.
“What integration does,” Hannah-Jones stated, “is it gets black kids what we guarantee for white children. That’s what it does. No more. No less,” Hannah-Jones said, citing research and statistics that point to all-white schools having better educational resources and funding.
She ended the speech by questioning how long it will take before change occurs, before African-American students get an education equal to that of white students.
“My question to all of you tonight, as we celebrate Dr. King, is to ask yourselves, ‘How much longer?’” Hannah-Jones said.
“Now take me to my people.”
That was the statement by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when he visited President Richard Nixon at the White House during the civil rights era.
The people King wanted to see were the African-American employees who worked in the basement of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And one of those employees was a butler.
During the annual campus MLK prayer breakfast Jan. 16, The New York Times bestselling author and journalist Wil Haygood spoke to a full ballroom about how he met Eugene Allen and made it his mission to tell the story of Allen’s years working in the White House as a butler.
Haygood’s article “A Butler Well Served by This Election” was published in The Washington Post and became the inspiration of the award-winning movie The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.
Haygood told the audience how he developed the idea for the story as he was covering the 2008 presidential election. He had traveled to dozens of cities and states and “had a feeling” that Obama was going to win.
It was this feeling that made Haygood want to find a White House African-American employee who had worked during segregation to show how the country had progressed under the backdrop of the first black man winning the U.S. presidential election.
After days of phone calls and asking people he knew trying to locate African-American White House employees, Haygood was given the name of Eugene Allen.
Allen served as a White House butler under eight U.S. presidents, beginning his career in 1952 and ending it as head butler in 1986. Allen saw firsthand American politics and culture evolve as various administrations filtered through the White House doors.
He was also in attendance as Obama was sworn in as the first African-American U.S. president.
“When I was in the White House, we couldn’t even dream to have a dream like this,” Haygood recalled Allen telling him.
As Haygood called on the audience to be wary of governments and leaders who “foment anger and agitation” he asserted that “there is no doubt that America is at a crossroads.”
University provost Paul Benson emphasized the University’s calling to take on the challenges and obstacles on the journey toward equality.
“If UD is to be truly excellent, we must increase diversity, among our students, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees,” Benson said. “That’s not a hope or a dream, and it can’t become a ‘woulda’ or a ‘shoulda’ — it’s an imperative.”
The University is holding several events this week to celebrate King and his legacy including hosting Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for The New York Times Magazine, who will deliver the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. address at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Kennedy Union ballroom. Admission to the event is free and open to the public.
A new opportunity for UD students, as well as the greater Dayton community, emerged fall semester from the department of art and design.
Assistant professor of art education Darden Bradshaw organized the Visiting Art and Scholar Educators (VASE) lecture series to provide students and the public a chance to learn from artists in the field about their work and its ties to social justice.
Io Palmer, an associate professor at Washington State University, kicked off the lecture series with a presentation of her collection entitled “Working Ideas.” In her work, Palmer addresses class, capitalism and societal access.
One of Palmer’s favorite and most featured mediums is hair, either real or synthetic, as it represents issues in African culture. As seen in “Combs in Hairballs,” Palmer attempts to show how people express themselves socially and culturally through their hairstyle.
Other major influences of Palmer’s work include her parents and her African and Jewish roots. Aside from sharing the influence and inspiration behind these pieces of art that she has shown all over the world, Palmer also addressed the art students in the room, offering one simple piece of advice.
“You just gotta work,” Palmer said.
The next VASE lecture will take place during the spring 2018 semester. The featured artist has yet to be announced.
Through the partnership of Campus Ministry, the Department of Art and Design and dozens of volunteers, four Advent banners now hang from the ceiling of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception through the remainder of December.
Two professors in the Department of Art and Design, Suki Kwon and R. Darden Bradshaw, guided the project. They conducted 19 workshops for the UD community to contribute to the final banner design.
During these workshops, each attendee received a 6-inch square piece of wool that would eventually be bound together to create the 4-foot-by-26-foot banners.
The project took 10 months and nearly 1,000 hours to complete, according to both Kwon and Bradshaw.
“The preparation it took to create these banners emulates the preparation and anticipation of the Christ child,” Bradshaw said.
Kwon and Bradshaw will continue creating banners for the chapel as three more sets are in the works for upcoming religious holidays.
“The energy that the banners bring to the Chapel continues to surprise me,” said Kathy Sales, assistant director for Campus Ministry for Liturgy. “We are thankful that both Suki and Darden were so gracious and willing to share their gifts with the community.”
Among the busyness that comes along with finals week, students made sure to take a break to stop by the retirement party in honor of Baxter, the therapy dog that has been helping to relieve stress for UD students the last several years.
Baxter, a 13-year old flat-coated retriever, has been serving as a therapy dog for the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association for five years. He has been visiting UD’s campus to serve as a destressor for students during finals week since 2013.
On Dec. 11, members of UD’s community gathered on the first floor of Roesch Library to celebrate Baxter’s retirement with cake, cookies and lots of love for through pats on the head and hugs.
Community counseling graduate Tina Donovan ’08 told the crowd many stories about her dog, including when she recognized his calling. She recalled one of their first outings together was at a dog park. Although there were other dogs running around and wanting to play, Baxter was more interested in interacting with humans. Baxter soon became known as the “Walmart greeter” of the park and Donovan decided to enroll him in therapy classes.
“We called Miami Therapy on the spot for classes and I’ve been following his lead ever since,” said Donovan.
At the party, Baxter’s only focus was on his newfound friends — UD students who wanted to take a little break from their studies during finals week. It was clear Baxter would be missed.
Maureen Schlangen, Roesch Library’s e-scholarship and communications manager, is one of many who will be missing the puppy-dog eyes and wagging tail next semester.
“Baxter is such a good dog, the library is his favorite place to be,” she said.