It’s never too late to reinvent your life. Just ask Karen Spina, who’s living out the advice she gives her own children: “Find your passion and follow it.”
In her early days at the University of Dayton, she’s taken a highly visible role in her husband’s presidency as they forge a path together at a dizzying pace.
The couple has criss-crossed the country, from Chicago to Los Angeles, to meet alumni. They’ve shared dinners at Marianist student communities, kayaked with the president’s emissaries on the Great Miami River, opened up the president’s residence for gatherings, joined students, faculty and alumni at the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass in the chapel, cheered on the Flyer football team and socialized at faculty receptions.
“I was ready for the next chapter in our lives. Even Eric says I’m reborn,” says Spina, who juggled a 22-year career as a software engineer with raising two children, both now at Skidmore College. “Eric and I really are partners. I love the fact we’re doing this together.”
Whether over a cup of coffee at a local cafe or at a pizza dinner with students in her home, Spina exudes warmth, humility and unpretentiousness. What makes her tick? While she insists to a visitor that she doesn’t think of herself as an athlete, artist or educator, consider her life’s narrative.
At the age of 42, she earned her black belt in karate after her children expressed an interest in learning the martial arts. The following year, she trained and competed in the IronGirl triathalon — swimming a mile, biking 20 miles and finishing with a 5K run.
“In high school, I was so not athletic,” she remembers with a laugh. “When I did the IronGirl, I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this thing. I was not super serious about the competition side. I trained hard simply because it was something I decided to take on and had set a personal goal of completing the race in under two hours. Surprisingly, I did and got my name in the paper to boot. I couldn’t imagine at age 43 I’d have my name in the paper for a sports-related thing.”
Today, she runs four or five miles daily, enjoys yoga and Pilates, and, even as the days grow cooler, meets friends for water-treading workouts in a neighbor’s backyard pool. It was here that she learned about the “Scarecrow Row” display at Oakwood’s annual Family Fall Festival. She invited students to the house, cooked brunch and worked with them to create a jaunty Rudy Flyer scarecrow, complete with a pumpkin in his arm, for the exhibit.
“It was so much fun. Both of our kids are great artists, and Eric’s mother was an art teacher. I always had an artist’s closet full of supplies because I love to create,” she says.
And, at heart, she’s a teacher, too. The youngest of four children, she grew up in Wayne, New Jersey, with an engineer father and a stay-at-home mother. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Rutgers University, she entered graduate school at the University of Rochester, where she studied computer science, but also took sign language classes. “I wanted to be a math teacher for deaf students,” she says.
Instead, she became a software engineer, who eventually “fell into teaching math” at her children’s school when a teacher unexpectedly went on medical leave. Later, she worked one-on-one as a math tutor for 25 children. “I really felt that was my true calling,” she says. “Computer engineering stimulates the mind, but I worked in a cubicle and didn’t interact with people. I’m an extrovert.”
Spina, who says her family is the most important part of her life, met her husband through her brother, Ed, who taught with him in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at Syracuse University.
“I met Eric when visiting my brother but got to know him better when my brother asked us both to be godparents for his son. One weekend we babysat together, then Eric asked my brother for permission to ask me out,” she recounts. I knew on the first date I wanted to marry him. We planned to go to dinner, a play and a jazz club, but ended up talking for hours over dinner.
“He’s the complete package — a good person who’s kind and a wonderful listener.”
The couple found the University of Dayton to be the complete package, too.
“It’s the first place he interviewed once determining he would consider a presidency, and we said, ‘This is it,’” Spina says. “The Marianists are so warm and welcoming. The students are engaging, the community and University programs are fantastic, and the campus is gorgeous. It just felt right.”
(This piece appears in the Nov. 4, 2016, issue of Campus Report.)
On Sept. 9 near the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, it was only fitting that a honey locust tree was planted in honor of Father Norbert Burns, S.M. ’45, a former religious studies professor who taught more than 27,000 UD students for over 50 years. A tree just seemed to be the only thing that would have roots quite as enduring as Father Burns’ have been.
Besides teaching his Christian Marriage course, Father Burns also spent 45 years providing marriage counseling in his office until midnight. This passion for fostering and helping relationships blossomed at a young age for the long-loved Marianist.
“I went to a Marianist high school, a branch of Catholicism founded by Chaminade,” said Burns from his home on Sawmill Road. “Chaminade felt that the answer to life could be found in oneness with one another and in each other’s understanding of God and community.”
Chaminade’s beliefs appealed to Burns, so much so he decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life trying to bring people together. Arriving at UD in 1958 with a mission in helping young people’s understanding of relationships, Burns quickly took over the Christian Marriage course to teach his beliefs.
“I believe in practicing in my class what I teach, so I greeted my students at the door as they came in and hugged them at the end of class, if they let me,” Father Burns said. “The class formed a wonderful bond of oneness, and discussed the challenges and difficulties of marriage and relationships in the context of the Catholic Church.”
As he looks back on his life, Father Burns is happy with what he’s done and the help that he’s given to people.
“I’ve had such a great life, and have done exactly what I wanted to do,” said Burns, to whom the University dedicated the tree planting. “The tree is a symbol of life, of the embrace of God and creation. Since I had spent my whole preaching life in oneness, it just seemed that the tree was the best symbol of all that.”
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — aboriginal elder, activist and educator Lilla Watson, 1985.
This quote was printed on the back of purple teeshirts which student organizers of the Crossroads and Intersecting Identities Conference wore on Saturday, Oct. 22.
The conference, held at the Jesse Philips Humanities Center, was sponsored by students in the Creating Inclusive Communities initiative, part of the Center for International Programs.
The keynote speaker was James Loewen, a best-selling author who wrote Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Got Wrong.
Loewen is an educator holding a doctorate in sociology from Harvard University. He has taught race relations for more than 20 years. During his keynote presentation, he informed the audience how the distorted history we receive in schools while we are young impacts the negative state of race relations which exists today.
A “safe room” was provided for guests, in the case the workshops or panel discussions brought about fear, anxiety or any type of personal unease.
Junior Lauren Durnwald, a psychology major, attended the conference and was moved by one session in particular, titled “She’s Such a Slut!: Analyzing our gendered language choices and their impact” facilitated by Kristen Keen, the assistant dean of students.
“It was interactive. That surprised me because I thought it would be lecture-based,” said Durnwald. “[Conversation] adds a different element to it, and I think that’s important.”
In another session, “Creating Community through Reciprocity and Relationships: The Case of Kettering Circles,” students participated in a role-play demonstration of the challenging balancing act that the world presents to people living in poverty. Dr. Teri Thompson, a full-time professor in the department of communication, facilitated this session.
Education major and sophomore Taylor Tovey enjoyed this presentation about reciprocity.
“I learned about community unity,” said Tovey. “If you just try to help me, that’s not getting us anywhere. I enjoyed learning about the concept of working with people.”
It’s a warm, sunny night, the sun is hanging on the mountain range in the distance, and Molly McKinley ’01 is rolling down the tundra.
Tundra rolling may be a time-honored tradition more often carried out by children and the resident grizzly bears, but it’s also how McKinley likes to celebrate a warm summer night in Alaska: going side-over-side down the alpine biome. Throw in a handful of wild blueberries and she might just be in heaven.
Welcome to 99-year-old Denali National Park, one of the amazing American places protected by the National Park Service.
It has been 100 years since the National Park Service was founded, and in that time 412 wilderness areas and historic sites, natural wonders and national monuments have been created, recognized and protected. The oldest, the National Mall, was designated 226 years ago and grandfathered into the Park Service; the newest, Stonewall National Monument, was inducted June 24 of this year. Dubbed “America’s best idea” by writer Wallace Stegner, the National Parks model has been exported to countries around the world.
While the National Parks are full of monuments and glaciers, endangered species and civil rights memorials, perhaps their most important assets are their stories. Stories that celebrate natural wonders, such as the bristled trees of Joshua Tree National Park, and stories that reveal devastating human histories, such as the slaughter of 300 people in Sand Creek, South Dakota, and the internment of 117,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
Those stories are at the core of the National Park Service mission: to preserve, “unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
As the National Park Service prepared for its centennial celebration in August, University of Dayton alumni reflected on the important roles our parks play in society today and regaled us with their own stories of the National Parks and its mission.
Discover History: Preserving
Perhaps it’s natural that history major Ann Honious ’00 ended up working for the National Park Service, a leader in historic preservation and responsible for preserving everything from the stories of Paleo-Indians in North America 12,000 years ago to the Chesapeake Bay landscape associated with both the beginning and end of slavery in the United States to the Wright brothers bicycle shop.
Honious began at the Park Service in 1992, surveying historic buildings and parks and cataloguing historic structures. She worked at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park before becoming the second employee at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. She then went to the Gateway Arch — formally the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial — where she oversaw for nearly six years the history, museum and ranger programs.
Today, she’s the deputy superintendent of Capitol Parks East in D.C. and the administrator for roughly 15 parks east of the Capitol, including the historic home of Frederick Douglass and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.
“I’ve always been interested in telling stories, and the National Park Service gives an opportunity to tell those stories where they happened,” says Honious. That’s the National Parks’ purpose: “They help you find or get to know your country — whether that be on a hike in the Grand Canyon or a visit to Independence Hall.”
Or on a tour of one of the nation’s 11 National Battlefields.
When Dale Floyd ’68 walked the parks and fields of the American South back in the mid-1990s, he wasn’t looking at the trees or the animals, he was mapping Civil War battlefields in his mind’s eye. And on paper.
For nearly five years the historian served on the Park Service’s Civil War sites advisory commission, helping determine the nation’s most important Civil War battle sites. The Army had already done much of the heavy lifting, identifying 10,500 Civil War battles, and Floyd and colleagues used that documentation as a jumping off point. They narrowed the list to about 500 sites of import and set out to investigate.
With U.S. Geological Survey maps in hand, Floyd walked the sites, inspecting fields and pastures, determining the significance of the battles waged, and the condition of the land and any remaining artifacts. He evaluated what threats existed to the sites, and what might in the future. Some of the battlefields were mostly gone, developed or encroached upon. Artifacts at others had been mined by individuals.
In the end, Floyd and his co-authors drew up an argument for preservation of many of the sites. Without it, the report said, the nation stood to lose fully two-thirds of its major Civil War battlefields. Soon, the American Battlefield Protection Program was established and, in 1996, Congress signed into law the American Battlefield Protection Act. Under the National Park Service, the ABPP “promotes the preservation of significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil.”
Today, the Park Service oversees 11 National Battlefields, four National Battlefield Parks and one National Battlefield Site. While not all of the nation’s Civil War and Revolutionary battle sites are encompassed within the National Parks, many are. Antietam National Battlefield, for example, commemorates the bloodiest one-day battle in American history, a day where 23,000 soldiers were declared dead, wounded or missing after 12 hours of battle. Preserving such history is part of the Parks’ mission — and value.
“The Park Service is custodian of important properties,” says Floyd, who has since retired. “And the Parks are the conservators of what are supposed to be our most important historical properties.”
That historic conservation extends to manmade technology and its consequences. For instance, there’s the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, which “preserves and interprets the history and legacies” of the Wright brothers and one of America’s great African-American poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar. Kimberly Juhnke ’02 is one of many UD alumni to intern as an interpretive ranger — think educator in a uniform — at Dayton Aviation.
To Juhnke, having a program that tells the story of the people and experiences that changed America is critical.
“Each site you go to you learn something new. It’s important to know where you came from, and what happened in our country,” says Juhnke. “The Wright brothers, for example, were such innovative men, and they never even graduated from high school. That’s a testament to that time period.”
While some sites celebrate innovation and American spirit, others serve as testament to American ingenuity gone unchecked, including the Johnstown Flood Memorial.
In the late 1800s, the wealthy citizens of Pittsburgh bought a reservoir, converted a dam and created a massive lake for a private resort. They altered the dam but failed to maintain it properly and, in 1889, a storm destroyed the dam, killing 2,209 civilians below. The Great Flood, as it’s known, also led to the creation of the Army Corps of Engineers. And yet, says Juhnke — who worked at Johnstown, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Site and the Flight 93 Memorial for a year after graduation — few would really know about that flood, or that devastation, were it not for the National Parks preserved memorial.
Preserving cultural and natural places may be core aspects of the Parks’ mission, but education is paramount. Education — about wild plants and animals or about historic events — inspires people to protect the parks for the future. It also shapes dreams.
Steven Roberts ’97 knows this firsthand.
It was a balmy Florida evening in 1997 when Roberts, alongside Greg Leingang ’97 and Brian Boynton ’98, first discovered the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The classmates had mapped their spring break by National Parks, arriving seven parks later at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.
Studying history growing up, Roberts had learned about Jamestown and about the Mayflower, but no one had ever taught him about the influence of the Spanish. As the lights burned below the walls of the Castillo, turning it into a glowing castle, Roberts knew he’d be back someday.
“The Castillo, built more than 300 years ago, isn’t just an old building, it tells special stories about freedom, about defending family, about sacrifice,” says Roberts. “Creating those experiences in real places has a huge power to help people find their own values, to find their own meanings in America’s special places.”
Roberts has spent the 20 years since that visit sharing the stories of America’s past through National Parks, beginning at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park where he worked as a seasonal park ranger. Later, at Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, he revealed the lives of those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. He worked at James A. Garfield National Historic Site and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“I found specialness in the places,” says Roberts. “These were authentic places that had real stories of America for people to experience and actually become a part of during their visit.”
That Parks mission of education — and of sharing something important about America’s past with visitors from around the world — is ingrained in Roberts. “We help people care about their national parks, and about these national stories, and about these special resources. We hope they will get excited about them and also want to share these stories and become stewards of their own national parks. These are the people’s parks.”
Now, 20 years after that initial visit, Roberts is back at the Castillo where he serves as chief of interpretation and education.
If the Spanish arrival to America and their influence on the United States seems like ancient history, try donning Jeff Malik’s ranger hat.
In the high, cold desert of Kemmerer, Wyoming, there’s neither cactus nor bare earth in sight. Instead, sagebrush and mesquite and hardy vegetation clings to the earth, and prairie dogs run wild. A rock outcropping, Fossil Butte, hangs above the remains of an ancient lake. In that ancient lake are the fossilized remains of palm trees and alligators.
Malik, who is currently completing his master’s in public administration at UD, spent the summers of 2009 and 2010 at Fossil Butte National Monument, working as an interpretive officer, doing everything from leading tours to managing invasive species. The most exciting part of the job, however, was providing environmental education and especially fossil education.
Fossil Butte is home to 50-million-year-old fossils — among the best preserved in the world — and as such, it’s a destination for many families. One trail leads to an active resource quarry where researchers dig for fossilized fish. Visitors can watch the dig and, perhaps more important, rangers and researchers let kids lift up slabs of rock, look for fish and measure the fossils found.
To Malik, that kind of firsthand education is what makes the National Parks so important. They’re an opportunity for people to directly connect with nature, and with some of the most important parts of America.
“I mean that both in a natural environment setting and in a historic setting. It lets people experience these places firsthand, in a way that there’s no other chance for them to otherwise,” says Malik. “There’s just nothing that can compare to a kid going camping for the first time or seeing herds of bison in Yellowstone or viewing the Grand Canyon.
“That’s where the power is; that potential for a transformative experience.”
Which perhaps explains why the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial.
Explore nature: preserving
Today, 480 threatened and endangered plant and animal species exist within the areas protected by the National Parks, and the Park Service is charged with reducing the risk of their extinction while simultaneously telling the stories of these places, plants and animals to those responsible for preventing that extinction — the public.
McKinley, outdoor recreation planner at Denali National Park and resident tundra roller, has countless tales about the National Parks and run-ins with endangered species. The view from her office window in the woods offers spruce and alder and, quite routinely, a moose, but a short drive or hike leads to a world covered in tundra. Denali is green in summer, white in winter, and brown during spring — or mud season. Then, for a short time in autumn, there’s an explosion of color as the tundra comes alive in a way most people don’t expect. There’s a fabric to the place, says McKinley, a carpet of purples and reds and oranges.
During her Park Service career McKinley has spent a day perched on a glacier using a battery-operated chainsaw disassembling a decades-old plane crash for recycling. She has come upon a moose kill and a bear dining on that kill, and she has learned, midway through a river crossing, that caribou huff through their nostrils at humans. And, there was the day that, while surveying a new trail location, she looked up to discover one of those
endangered species the Parks seek to protect — a lynx — just 15 feet away.
“One of our goals is to not interrupt the activity of the wildlife if no one’s in danger, so I was just hanging out with this lynx,” she says. “Me and a lynx, for kind of a long time, and the lynx wasn’t scared of me and I wasn’t scared of it. But there’s this huge beautiful cat, with tufts of fur coming out of its ears, and huge paws that allow it to walk on the snow in the winter, and to be that close to such a different, beautiful, amazing creature is really special. I feel really blessed by those opportunities.”
Coming to Alaska is striking and sometimes hard to wrap our heads around, she says, but that’s part of the enjoyment: “Everything here is so darn big. The mountains are big, the landscape is big, the mammals are big. I think for some people it creates a baseline shift in how the world around us can feel. And, when the world around us feels really big, it can make you feel really small. Or, it can make you feel awed and inspired.”
Which is what the Parks are after: preserving natural places for education, enjoyment and inspiration. In fact, the National Parks stewards, and celebrates, some of the most spectacular scenic places in the United States. There’s the windswept Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, one of the of the 88 coastal and ocean parks in the system; the 4,700 caves and karsts scattered across the country, such as the lava tubes at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho; and the star-filled skies over the buttes of Canyonlands National Park. And then there’s Old Faithful.
Yellowstone National Park, home to Old Faithful, became the world’s first national park in 1872, decades before the creation of the National Park Service. In August 1916, the Department of the Interior was overseeing 21 national monuments, 14 national parks and two national reservations, with no umbrella organization to run or manage them. With support from journalists, the National Geographic Society and more, Congress passed the Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service, and placing the 37 parks under its protection. Chief among those was Yellowstone. Today, Yellowstone encompasses 3,472 square miles, 500 active geysers, 900 historic buildings, 1,800 known archeological sites and two endangered species: the Canada lynx and the grizzly bear.
Melissa McAdam ’83 has seen much of this and more. Some of it from her office window, which on this day offers a view of a grazing female elk framed against a backdrop of historic buildings. Nearby, a tree bears the weight of a giant owl condo. The nests there have produced multiple flocks, and a parliament of owlets is fluttering among the branches. Tourists stand below, cameras trained on the baby birds, oblivious to the elk grazing nearby.
McAdam landed at the world’s first national park in the early 1980s on a lark. A friend had returned to UD raving about her summer working at Yellowstone, and so McAdam followed suit. In 1982, between her junior and senior years, she spent the summer working in reservations at Yellowstone. She returned in 1983 (and met her now husband, Rick), then left for a while to “try to do the real job thing.”
But Yellowstone beckoned. By 1985 they had returned for good.
“For us it’s the scenery, the feeling of openness, of spaciousness. When you grow up in the suburbs of the east, as I did, this is a different experience. It’s a feeling you can breathe,” she says of her decision to make Yellowstone home.
McAdam began her career as an accounting technician, then volunteered in the public affairs office before landing a job in the emergency communications center. She’s been working full time for Yellowstone National Park ever since and today holds the title of supervisory budget analyst. Her staff handles everything from human resources to procurement to budget management for the resource management and science branches of Yellowstone. Or the animal, vegetable, mineral branch, as she calls it.
“I like the idea of being part of a community — such a tight knit community — that’s also tied to a mission,” she says. “I’m still amazed by the wildlife. And the features — I don’t spend enough time at Old Faithful, but the features are unlike any other in the world.”
And then, there is the intersection of exploring nature and discovering history; of cultural and environmental preservation. Saratoga National Historical Park — one of the nation’s 50 National Historic Parks — melds cultural preservation and natural exploration. The park, in upstate New York, is rural, and the Revolutionary War battlefield that comprises the majority of the park has been protected from much of the encroachment that has happened at other historic sites. Saratoga has one big looping road that encompasses much of where the fighting happened in 1777. There are 10 places you can stop to see significant battle sites, and trails — paved and unpaved — jut out from each.
It looks much as it would have in the 1700s, says Jason Huarte ’02, and that means this park has given him an appreciation for the American Revolution and how difficult life was.
“It makes you pretty grateful for what we have now,” says Huarte. “Just a couple hundred years ago there were guys cutting down trees and building walls so lead balls didn’t go through their bellies.”
Huarte, an engineer and the supervisory facilities operation specialist at Saratoga, has seen his share of National Parks. He was sent to the Statue of Liberty after Hurricane Sandy and helped the National Park Service design a whole new docking system at Ellis and Liberty Islands. He has seen the massive red sandstone cliffs and narrow slot canyons of Zion National Park and most of the monuments in Washington, D.C. And of course, there were the years he spent as an engineer with the National Park Service in Alaska, flying on four-seat floatplanes to the wilds for a project, or helicoptering into the middle of nowhere to oversee construction.
“You see bears fishing in rivers, hear wolves at night. … And you’re on the clock. People save their entire lives to go see the things I saw while on the job,” he says.
Such wildlife may be why Huarte’s veneration extends beyond Saratoga and to the Parks in general.
“It makes you appreciate how rich of a country we are in natural resources. You have Alaska with glaciers, and then you have Death Valley — all in one country.”
The proud holder of a National Parks Passport — a little booklet filled with stamps that track every check-in at every National Park, Monument or Site — Huarte has already been to 112 of the 412 National Parks. Like many alumni, whether they work for the Park Service or not, his life goal is to visit them all.
“They call the National Parks America’s greatest idea,” he says. “I think it’s true.”
Empowerment is a liberating feeling. Or, for some UD students, it’s Empowermint.
On Wednesday Oct. 19, the “Vote Everywhere” Political Science department initiative and the Student Government Association collaborated to host a debate watch party at Kennedy Union’s Hangar for the third presidential debate.
Students gathered with friends in an informal environment to watch the live, televised event on a large projector screen in the Hangar’s lounge area.
A special milkshake treat, featuring mint, coffee and fudge flavors, was available to the Galley customers during this election season.
“I created [the Empowermint milkshake] initially on National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 27,” said Katherine Liming, Team Leader of the University of Dayton Vote Everywhere. “We then carried on the partnership for our debate watch parties in the Hangar. I was aware of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor, and was inspired because it was such a great pun and that is Vote Everywhere’s mission, voter empowerment.”
Ryan Wray, junior with a double major in international business and marketing, found the third debate to be “the most heated between the two candidates.”
“In past debates it was more clear who the winner was,” said Wray. “This debate presented more serious concerns about what the candidates will bring to the presidency.”
Chloe Massie-Costales, sophomore with a double major in human rights and sociology, felt a sense of frustration after the debate viewing.
“There’s a lot of extremism in this election,” she said. “I think we’ve moved away from actual debating.”
In October, the autumn sky shines blue above St. Joseph Hall as the sun sets aglow red and yellow leaves.
No wonder it’s such a popular time for high school students to visit campus.
During three weekend open house events for prospective students, UD welcomed 1,019 students and their families, not to mention the hundreds who fill the admission office during the weekdays.
One family received the presentation and tour — plus a bit of that special UD hospitality. Here’s how it happened:
A mother and daughter come to campus, enjoy the open house and visit the bookstore. While walking back to Albert Emanuel Hall, they stop a current student to ask her a few questions. The student — a transfer from Miami, a school the daughter is also considering — shares how happy she is to be at UD and answers all their questions. Mom is so impressed and pleased that she and her daughter take the student to dinner.
Helping a stranger. Fellowship over a meal. Sounds like a perfect introduction to life at UD on a beautiful autumn day.
UD admissions, by the numbers:
1,019 Prospective students attending fall open houses
605 High school visits by admissions counselors
389 College fairs attended
244 Coffee chats with prospective students
61 Individual student interviews
11 Dayton area high school receptions
The upcoming election has been unlike any other we have seen in recent years. Both candidates have engaged in behavior that many describe as mean-spirited, brutally negative and ultimately disheartening to our country’s morale. It is also the first presidential election that many college-aged social media driven millennials can vote in.
Although students may support one candidate over another, in turn disagreeing on major social and political issues, there has been unanimous respect for each other’s beliefs on campus.
Thought-provoking questions were answered and respectful debate took place on Oct. 18 at Table of Plenty, a gathering of UD students and Campus Ministry staff over a meal and discussion on complex social justice issues during the session “Faith, Values and Voting.” Students expressed their fears and disappointment for the first presidential election they are eligible to vote in.
Elizabeth Montgomery with Campus Ministry said, “What saddens me most is that when I think about my faith and this election is how people have been interacting. Party lines have become too severe and our two candidates can’t even shake hands before a debate. We have forgotten about seeing the good in others.”
Students discussed concerns about the lack of civility and respect for human dignity that is portrayed from both candidates. Attack ads were also a big topic of the day. Students said that they believed the blatant disregard the candidates have for each other has inspired the same negative feelings amongst many of their supporters. It has become “normal” to see their friends on social media tearing both the candidates and each other’s beliefs down.
Jack Needles ’18 said, “Parties have become so polarized. It’s like politicians just regurgitate their party platforms, not personal beliefs. This calls you to question, is that moral? Do you vote for a party or do you vote for the better person?”
Although negativity and name calling surround this election, through events such as Table of Plenty, UD students are able to engage in difficult conversation with respect towards one another and with the hopes of inspiring positive change.
“The next 30 minutes can save your life,” Dayton Bright Pink education ambassador Amanda Knoth announced at the Brighten Up Educational Workshop at the McGinnis Center on Oct. 19.
Bright Pink is the only national non-profit organization focused on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women, according to its website.
The organization is a national partner of Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity and this year UD ZTA invited women in other Greek organizations to the workshop for the first time.
“Bright Pink’s presentation is a great opportunity to learn about the risks we’re subject to as women,” said sophomore Brennan Striegel who is a member of ZTA and brought her roommates to the presentation. Striegel acknowledged the importance of education on the topic and found the presentation as “an opportunity for us to come together to discuss and understand a cause that I think everyone can relate to and has been affected by.”
Participants learned that one in eight women will develop breast cancer and 80% of breast cancer is found by the woman herself. Women should be looking for lumps, swelling, redness and other symptoms.
“Know your normal,” Knoth said, encouraging more women to become self advocates for their health by conducting self exams on a regular basis.
Knoth further educated participants that one in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer, but the signs are not necessarily overt. Knoth stressed the importance of bringing abnormal pelvic or abdominal pain, fatigue or other symptoms to a doctor’s attention.
In addition to knowing the symptoms, breast and ovarian cancers are linked to genetics and knowing family history is vital in understanding one’s risk. Knoth recommends women talk with both sides of their families and use the Bright Pink assess your risk tool to see if their risk level requires more screening than the standard cycle recommends.
“This is all important information as women need to band together,” Knoth said when concluding the presentation. “Share this information with a woman in your life. . . [this] can save your life, but only if you act.”
Erin Frey is a student reporter in the Office of Marketing and Communications. She has written in UD Magazine, Porches and UDQuickly. Erin had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky and take part in UDSAP from Oct. 6-9. She shares, here, the impact the trip had on both her and the residents of Salyersville.
The population of Magoffin County in Salyersville, Kentucky is about 13,000. To the 16 UD students that stayed in the UDSAP (University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program) house over fall break – those 13,000 people are beacons of God’s love.
I was lucky enough to have been one of those 16 students, and for those who also have had the honor of staying at the UDSAP house, know about it’s special power. It’s crumbing walls are covered in quotes from it’s inhabitants from the last 50 years, its aroma is that of wet grass and tired smiles and still it somehow manages to be the most inspiring and relaxing place I have ever stepped foot in.
The long weekend consisted of hiking, playing bingo at a nursing home, and running wild with the kids and teens of the local community. It doesn’t sound like much, we didn’t give anyone anything, build houses or donate money. We, instead, were simply present. We visited their neglected, tiny, trailers and played in the dirt. We listened, laughed, cried and most importantly, we told everyone we met how much we loved them because those three words, are rare to be heard or said for the children we played with.
As Tom Whitaker, a local artist told us, “You can’t leave love out if it.” In everything we did, we poured out love to those who don’t normally receive it. Whitaker also told us that the main problem our world faces has nothing to do with economics, race, or war, but a lack of self esteem. People are not told how special they are and are unaware of their potential.
Little did we know, while trying to show the people of Salyersville love, these children who lived in houses held together with duct tape and elbow grease showed us how little it took to make their day. They craved attention and for someone to take an interest in them. They sat on our laps and filled our hearts with joy as they accepted our exasperated arms and made us feel young again.
Tj Meyer, and UDSAP ’97 alum sums up the purpose of the trip perfectly. His quote, displayed on the wall of the house reads, “The fabric of my soul is sewing me a blanket. Do I use it to hide, or do I give it to someone who is cold?”