Dayton’s civic and community leaders took about a century to figure it out, but on Monday, Dec. 12, the University of Dayton and Premier Health helped make good on one of John H. Patterson’s recommendations for Dayton’s future growth.
The University and Premier Health announced an agreement to purchase the 37-acre Montgomery County Fairgrounds from the county, the City of Dayton and the Montgomery County Agricultural Society. UD and Premier will jointly own the land and will work with community partners on redevelopment options.
“With the Fairgrounds in proximity across Stewart Street to campus, GE, Emerson and the Marriott, and just two blocks from Brown Street, it’s important to the University that future development here is compatible with the University’s strategies, supports our mission and complements the significant investments we’ve made with our progress in this region,” said UD President Eric F. Spina during Monday’s press conference.
Spina noted in a letter to the campus community that Premier Health had been interested in purchasing the Fairgrounds property for a number of years, and UD just entered the picture this fall. It proved to be the perfect pairing, as the UD-Premier proposal was approved this month after others had been rejected.
“Although the community has discussed the future of the Fairgrounds for many years, we (UD) had not sought involvement,” Spina said. “Our partnership with Premier on this project began in October when we were approached by Miller-Valentine to support its redevelopment proposal; the two institutions were mutually concerned with protecting our best interests as well as this community asset.”
Mark Shaker, president and chief executive officer of Miami Valley Hospital, celebrated the partnership at Monday’s press conference.
“This is an investment in the future of our community, the future of our partners in this project and, of course, the future of Premier and Miami Valley Hospital,” Shaker said. “We have a long tradition of working closely and successfully with University of Dayton and the other organizations involved in this project to create a safe and welcoming environment to attract and retain physicians, employees, patients and visitors to our campus. This provides an array of possibilities to continue that work in the future.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley mentioned that although the Fairgrounds sale had been under discussion among multiple entities for the past three years, the thought of using the land for development had been proposed years earlier — many years earlier.
“This conversation actually started before any of us were born when John Patterson announced that the Fairgrounds should move away from this site because it’s a key site for the future of the city of Dayton,” Whaley said. “So we can check this off the list as one more thing we’ve done that John Patterson said we should have done.”
With the announcement, Spina, who became the University’s 19th president in July, continues the work of recent presidents Daniel J. Curran and Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., in taking action to transform the neighborhoods adjacent to the campus, creating a footprint that extends across the southern edge of the city.
“The University of Dayton is an anchor institution, and we are proud to be an anchor institution and proud of our relationships in this community,” Spina said. “We believe that our involvement in the Fairgrounds development is another way to contribute to the revitalization and growth of our community.”
And, as Whaley added, “Congratulations to everyone who’s been working on this for the past 100 years.”
Inside Kennedy Union, child-sized trains led by bear conductors were perfectly adorned with fake snow — until a “snowball” fight broke out. The UD students stood watch as children tossed about handfuls of fluff, with some students clutching hot cocoa that their buddies insisted was still too hot to drink. Once the kids finished, UD students carefully picked the white cotton out of their giggling buddy’s hair.
Each year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the UD campus transforms into a child’s — and college student’s — winter wonderland. A 30-foot Christmas tree stands in Humanities Plaza waiting for Christmas on Campus — a tradition spanning 53 years — to commence with the lighting of the rainbow string lights.
About 1,000 children from the Dayton area are bused to campus and paired with a UD buddy for the special night. The event also is open to the public and, each year, faculty, staff and alumni bring their families to celebrate Christmas a little early, together.
This year’s theme was “where all roads lead home,” and thanks to a 25-member student committee and the help from UD students and organizations, the event continues to be a success.
“It is so special for us to see the difference we make in the community,” said Megan Ellis, two-time Christmas on Campus committee member. “For some kids, it’s the only Christmas they get, and knowing we made that happen is so rewarding.”
Each classroom in Humanities overflowed with guests and piles of puffy coats, hats and gloves scattered by warming children. In one classroom, Habitat for Humanity hosted gingerbread house making, using marshmallow fluff as edible glue. Some students practiced their parenting skills, telling their buddies not to eat the gummy adhesive. Regardless, sticky fingers spread the paste everywhere, and in the end, the kids did more eating than building.
Outside, though the line to climb into Santa’s horse-driven carriage spanned from Kennedy Union into Humanities Plaza, the children continued waiting to tell Santa Claus their Christmas wishes.
“We start working on the event right when we get back on campus in September,” said Grace Imhoff, another committee veteran. “Seeing the kids’ faces when they get off the buses, and again when they go home at the end of the night, makes it all worth it.”
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and many other spirited Christmas songs could be heard throughout the rooms of Top of the Market on Dec. 1, as the University of Dayton Alumni Association sponsored a Homefull Christmas event at the banquet center.
This was the second time the UD Alumni Association sponsored a Christmas Off Campus event locally in Dayton. Since the University presents Christmas On Campus each year, Dayton does not have an off campus event that other UD alumni communities across the country usually hold.
But two years ago, Kelly Davis ’11, a member of the event’s planning committee, along with several other UD alumni decided they wanted to change that.
“We realized we wanted to support a local organization through this event. We couldn’t exactly do that at Christmas On Campus. We felt that getting involved with a local organization would be more fulfilling, and additionally we could have more alumni volunteers at the event, which would also make it more rewarding,” Davis said.
The alumni association has sponsored Homefull for both years it has held the event. Homefull, a nonprofit, provides shelter for the homeless in Dayton, through their family living center. The organization states on their website that they serve 600 people daily.
During the event, children and parents travelled to the banquet center for an evening of holiday fun, where about 120 guests attended and about 25 UD alumni volunteered.
Loud chatter filled the rooms as kids enjoyed coloring and crafting, decorating Christmas cards and cookies, playing cornhole, watching the movie Elf on comfortable couches or eating dinner.
The Marriott Hotel donated food, and Liftoff Entertainment provided free photos with Santa, enacted by A.J. Wagner, who is also the man in the red suit at the annual Christmas On Campus event, which took place on Dec. 8.
The Akumanyi Foundation (TAF), the University’s newest service organization, promises to not just involve students on campus in charitable work, but to also engage them in international philanthropy.
TAF, which began at The Ohio State University, is a service group dedicated to improving the lives of women and children living in poverty worldwide. By building collaborative relationships and brainstorming ideas with those interested in their cause, the foundation raises funds to implement sustainable, effective solutions to help those in need. TAF also offers summer trips to Ghana, so participants can see the sites of TAF’s current projects and learn more about the country and its culture.
“With the start of TAF at UD, we will primarily be focusing on funding the construction of an eight-room classroom school in Senya, Ghana,” said Erin Peiffer, senior mechanical engineering major who founded the UD TAF chapter this fall.
These new classrooms will serve more than 400 students, all of whom currently attend Becky’s School at Becky’s Children’s Home, founded by Seth and Vivian Aseidu, in Senya. The current school building suffers from poor infrastructure and stands on rented property, prompting the vision for the new classrooms.
“The new school building will provide a safe learning environment for the students,” Peiffer said. “In past years, there were times that students were unable to attend school because of severe storms, and missed out on valuable school days and lessons.”
The students’ current school building is not built to withstand the severity of such storms. However, the new classrooms will be constructed to endure harsh weather, ensuring that the students do not miss school during Ghana’s rainy season.
To fundraise for the classrooms, TAF members plan on selling Pura Vida bracelets, which are handmade bracelets from Costa Rica. The members are also thinking about restaurant takeovers on Brown Street and holding bake sales around campus.
“I thought that UD would be the perfect place to start a group of this sort that focuses on global empowerment through sustainable initiatives,” Peiffer said. “Fundraising for the classrooms will be a great way to initially get UD students involved with TAF and the great work that it’s doing.”
If interested in joining The Akumanyi Foundation, please contact Erin Peiffer at email@example.com.
There are deserts in Ohio. And Karlos Marshall plans on putting an end to them.
In 2015, the academic development coordinator for ArtStreet and Institute for Arts Nexus founded the non-profit The Conscious Connect, Inc. with hopes of ending book deserts in Ohio.
The Conscious Connect’s website defines a book desert, as “a geographical area that lacks the access and/or resources to high-quality, affordable, and culturally relevant and responsive print books.”
With this definition in mind and a goal to end book deserts in area neighborhoods, the grassroots’ first initiative, “The Root,” placed culturally relevant books in 20 urban Ohio barbershops and beauty salons where children could read while they waited.
Marshall said that a staple of the program is making sure the books are culturally relevant, having either a black or brown main character, or by being written by a black or brown author. He emphasized: “Children are already being exposed to characters that do not look like them and people have a preconceived notion that the black or brown children can’t read or don’t want to, but in reality, they don’t have books or characters they can relate to.”
And soon, Marshall’s goal grew.
“We want to make literature available at every corner of the community,” Marshall said.
Now, The Conscious Connect is holding a drive for 15,000 books to pilot its next initiative – “Little Libraries” in west Dayton neighborhoods. Holding about 20-30 books in unlikely places, the libraries come disguised as bird houses.
Partnered with The University Libraries Diversity & Inclusion Committee, donations are flooding in, while student engineers-in-training work on designing the “bird house” styled library structures in professor Beth Hart’s Engineering Innovation classes.
“I would love for my students to figure out how engineering isn’t just about technical things,” Hart said. “It’s about solving a problem that can make a big difference on many many levels.”
The libraries are projected to be implemented in spring or summer 2017, and afterward, there are endless opportunities for what is next for The Conscious Connect.
“In the West we think of education as a brick and mortar structure,” Marshall said. “But all around the world education is happening outside of the classroom . . . We are redefining what is education and where you can access it.”
Did you know a chewed plantain herb can draw the anaphylactic out of a bee sting within 15 seconds? Did you know mullein can work as an expectorant, or spicebush layered under an asthmatics’ bed can help them sleep at night?
These are just a few of the earth-grown remedies Leon Briggs – a Tonawanda Seneca Indian and educator – spoke about at the “Free to You From the Creator’s Garden” discussion held on Nov. 15. Briggs talk closed the Native Peoples of the Americas Colloquium held by the Circle of Light, a UD inclusion and diversity program.
“Native plants are not ‘things’ to be objectively studied, owned and consumed without careful consideration of what the impact will be for seven generations,” said Mary Anne Angel, the founder of the Circle of Light. “Plants are our relatives, and our lives are inextricably interconnected.”
Briggs said there are 12 plants easily found in everyday life that have medicinal benefits, and that those “12 plants will soon turn into 144 remedies.”
According to Angel, indigenous people have thousands of years of medicinal and nutritional plant knowledge and she believes that “it is important to bring indigenous speakers to UD to talk about native plants – not because their knowledge is better [than mainstream scientists and corporations] – but because both types of knowledge are invaluable and can work symbiotically with each other.”
The colloquium is an annual event held in November during National Native American Heritage Month to educate the community on Native American history, culture and spirituality.
There are some new members of the UD community that have been sleeping under desks during class and even sniffing around neighbors’ porches.
Even so, they are making many friends and leaving their paw marks all over campus.
4 Paws for Ability has returned to campus for the second time. The nonprofit, which raises, trains and places service dogs with children worldwide who have disabilities has assigned eight dogs to teams of UD students during the fall semester to help socialize the animals for their future roles.
The program on campus began in spring 2015 when graduate student Amanda Prater decided to bring the campus’ first service dog—Crash— to the University for social training. She learned about the program when she was a University of Kentucky undergrad.
“It [was]my goal to implement this program on University of Dayton’s campus because being involved with 4 Paws for Ability is a great way for UD students to get involved with their community, and the campus is also a great environment for the dogs to be socialized in,” Prater, who is studying in the school of psychology, said.
Since then, UD’s program has grown and five dogs are already set to arrive spring semester.
“I’ve really come to respect the role of service dogs,” said student handler Meg Mahoney ’18, who is a foster parent for 5- month old Mike, a half lab and half golden retriever. “It’s been a great opportunity being able to educate others on what these dogs will do.”
The animals go everywhere with their handlers whether it’s class, grocery store shopping, restaurants or strolls through the neighborhood—all to make sure the dogs are ready for the next step, Advanced Training at the 4 Paws office in Xenia. Prior to coming to campus, the dogs are first trained at prisons by inmates, where the animals learn basic commands.
The dogs will eventually be trained and placed as: hearing ear dogs, autism assistance dogs, mobility assistance dogs, seizure assistance dogs, diabetic alert dogs, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder assistance dogs, facilitated guide dogs, multipurpose assistance dogs or search and rescue dogs.
“It is a blessing when you get to witness your foster dog meet their child for the first time,” Prater said. “When you see the child smile and hug the dog you worked with and love so much, you know you have to foster again.”
Wearing a traditional Omani dishdasha gown and a kuma turban, Tarik Alkharusi smiled broadly as he took a selfie of University of Dayton president Eric Spina relaxing with a dozen international students after a Sunday lunch.
Later, the senior mechanical engineering major handed Spina a pin of the intertwined flags of Oman and the U.S. as a gift for his hospitality.
“It was a great event where we could be together as international students in one culture and share our thoughts, dreams and hopes with the president for a better Flyer community,” he said.
In an informal, free-ranging conversation over falafel, vegetables and cheesecake, international student leaders chatted with the president about the best parts of their University of Dayton experience and the challenges. Then, they peppered him with questions.
“I’m as new as the freshmen around this table. I’m still getting my sea legs,” said Spina, breaking the ice. “Family and friends in New York always ask me what strikes me the most about the University of Dayton. My very quick and consistent answer: the students. The students really are remarkable in terms of their commitment to community and making a difference in the world.”
The students, who hailed from Puerto Rico, the Middle East, China and India, said they appreciated the University’s family atmosphere, the growing diversity of the student population, campus traditions and the helpfulness of faculty and staff.
“The teachers are passionate about students, but they’re also concerned about them (outside the classroom),” said Gabriel Lopez, a senior entrepreneurship major from Puerto Rico. “I’ve seen them change people’s lives, mine included.”
One student told the president that the University needs to build more partnerships with companies to help prepare students for the world outside graduation. Another said he appreciated the improving relationship between students and public safety officers. Another reluctantly brought up the issue of the stereotyping of some international students.
“We value the richness that a diversity of countries and cultures brings to our campus,” said Spina, who talked about improving diversity on campus.
“I’m an engineer, so I know a little about the design process,” he said. “You’ll sell a million widgets if your design team includes only people born in Buffalo who attended a Catholic school and were married with two kids and a dog. You’ll sell a gazillion if your design team includes men, women, someone from Saudi Arabia, someone from Puerto Rico and a person with disabilities because a diverse group of people bring different perspectives. It becomes a more exciting, richer, higher-quality environment.
“As a university,” he said, “if we don’t become more diverse, it threatens our quality.”
As the lunch closed, a student asked the president for his “best advice” for them after graduation.
“Everyone around this table is privileged. We all have an education. A lot has been given to us,” Spina said. “I do believe hard work, passion and talent ultimately win out and will allow you to power through challenges. Be optimistic and push forward.
“My money,” he said, “is on you.”
Theater in Education, a new once-a-week CAP course, is UD’s latest educational endeavor to bring new tools of learning to its students.
Co-taught by Dr. Treavor Bogard, a professor in the school of education, and Gary Minyard, a professor in the theatre department, the course is part of a collaboration with the Victoria Theater Association in Dayton. Consequently, students have the chance to bring the lessons they learn in the classroom to the children’s theater program at VTA.
“The students are basically using drama as a teaching tool,” Bogard said. “They learn lessons in their classroom on campus, then go to VTA and teach the lessons to the kids.”
One way that the students implement their lesson plans is through VTA’s children’s shows, which had already been planned long before the course began in August.
“The students create a drama-based lesson based off of some element of the show,” Bogard said. “We have to work with what’s on their calendar, but the shows are used as a vehicle for exploring a certain concept.”
One example of that is VTA’s most recent children’s show, Mutts Gone Nuts, in which trained rescue dogs perform different tricks. Throughout the show, UD students led interactive read alouds, puppetry and choreography sessions, all built around the show’s key themes.
“Academic wise, we focus on using the show as a way to talk about rescue dogs, and how these dogs have finally found a forever home,” Bogard said.
The partnership between UD and VTA is also highly beneficial for the students, providing valuable opportunities for mentorship.
“Before the lessons get implemented in the children’s program, our UD students are mentored by the teaching artists at VTA,” Bogard said. “We want our students to have confidence that their lesson plans will be successful with the kids.”
In the case of this new course, it sounds like everybody wins – even the rescue dogs.
This past Veterans day, a group of over 100 cadets, 60 volunteers, veterans, students and friends gathered to run a 5k in recognition of all of those who have fought for our freedom.
“Those who served our nation deserve to be recognized every day, but even more on Veterans Day,” said Major Jeff Rosenberg , Chair or the ROTC program.
Ashley Morello, a veteran and now UD junior, started the Student Veterans Association (SVA) last spring as a way to meet other veterans on campus. In partnership with the ROTC program, Morello planned the 5k as a way to promote their organization, but more importantly as a way to bring together and honor veterans in the Dayton community.
“As a senior in ROTC, it’s a great way to get involved and honor those who have already given so much,” said UD student CJ Haag ’17.
The 5k was sponsored by Miami Valley gaming and Sunshein Podiatry. Dr. Kevin Sunshein, a veteran and ‘80 grad was involved in ROTC while a student at UD. He now specializes in neuropathy therapy, which is a new alternative to traditional medicine. Sunshein says many of his patients are veterans. Sunshein Podiatry is the third practice in the nation that offers this treatment and the first in the state of Ohio.
“It’s a privilege to be here today as a sponsor, but even more exciting to participate as a veteran and UD grad.” Sunshein said.