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Faith in our future

9:00 AM  Dec 26th, 2016
by Eric Spina

When University of Dayton students left for fall break, faculty and staff played with Legos and took a stroll through virtual reality.

But they weren’t playing. They were dreaming together about the University’s future and using creative ways to express their hopes and dreams.

One group constructed a monorail that would run between the center of campus and River Campus. Another built an urban farm in a reclaimed factory as an experiential learning space. Using virtual reality, others walked through a classroom of the future and considered ways they might revolutionize teaching by supplementing their lectures with engaging, immersive experiences.

This was the scene on campus on “Visioning Day,” a series of opportunities for faculty and staff to think seriously about our future.

I am asking the University of Dayton community and our alumni to think big, even audaciously, as we create a strategic vision together. We’re a great university with a collaborative spirit, but we would be a shadow of who we are today if, throughout history, we had not had big aspirations and adapted and changed for the times.

And, quite frankly, we are better than we know we are. We are better than others know of us.

Here’s our collective challenge: We must look honestly at our strengths, weaknesses and the challenges ahead of us. As we gaze 20 years into the future, we need to develop a few powerful, transformational ideas that will provide strategic direction, help prioritize investments, spark private support at higher levels — and move the University to a new level of excellence. At the end of our strategic visioning process, everyone needs to feel they’ve been heard.

That’s why I’m crisscrossing the country — from Dayton to Chicago, New York to Los Angeles — to talk to alumni about their dreams for their alma mater.  I’m encouraged by the level of engagement and the wealth of creative ideas.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the core values of UD that resonate with you. What differentiates a UD education? What areas of excellence will we be known for in two decades? What are those areas in which we fall short, and how do we tackle the issues of affordability, accessibility and diversity so that students from all socio-economic walks of life feel welcome and supported?

Thousands have already weighed in, and you can, too, at udayton.edu/VisionUD.

Join me at an upcoming alumni gathering for a dialogue about our future. Tap into weekly online conversations as we grapple with questions about the growing influence of digital educational technologies and the significant trends in American society that will shape the curriculum of the future. Read my fall faculty and staff address, where I candidly lay out the challenges and invite all who love the University of Dayton to help shape our aspirational vision.

We teach our students to adapt and change in a changing world, still true to the urgings of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Today, we embrace that same challenge — with imagination and faith in our future.

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Distinctive

4:11 PM  Dec 9th, 2016
by Thomas M. Columbus

What’s at the heart of being a Marianist?

We asked that of Father William J. Meyer, S.M., provincial assistant for religious life of the Marianist Province of the
United States.

The distinctive trait at the heart of anyone or anything which is “Marianist” is probably the combination of two characteristics: zeal and mission. Look at the dynamic statue of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianist Family, which graces the plaza behind UD’s Kennedy Union to notice that Blessed Father Chaminade is represented as filled with a zealous energy, a person definitely on a mission. (See video of the statue below.)

From where did this concern for “zeal and mission” in the Marianist tradition emanate? In founding the Marianist Family — the first lay groups of the Sodality of Bordeaux (1800), the Marianist sisters (the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, 1816) and the Marianist brothers and priests (the Society of Mary, 1817), Blessed William Joseph took inspiration from the Rule of Saint Benedict. In what many refer to the crowning chapter of his Rule, Benedict speaks of the importance of “good zeal.” Like Saint Benedict, Blessed Father Chaminade liked the word “zeal” — a powerful word that is used in the Scriptures. And there is something about Benedict and Chaminade that is zealous. As I look at the UD statue of Chaminade, I see energy, a fire burning within, the fire of the Holy Spirit — the good zeal of God’s grace.

Marianists encourage one another and others they encounter using our saintly founder’s words: “The essential is the interior.” If we pay attention to the interior life of God’s graceful promptings, the direction of the Holy Spirit will help each of us do our part to bear Jesus, as Mary did, to a waiting world. Blessed Father Chaminade believed that we could best be attentive to this presence and movement of God within by being part of a community, religious and lay, as mission-driven members of the Church. Chaminade believed that all Marianists and indeed all baptized members of the Church are in a permanent mission of responding with zeal to this grace of bringing about the Kingdom of Jesus.

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Powder-blue jerseys and dental plates

9:00 AM  Nov 29th, 2016
by Doug Harris ’79

It was about more than hockey.

Walt DeAnna ’62 didn’t expect many perks for the fledgling hockey program at Dayton when he became coach in 1963-64. But he believed the school could at least provide the bare essentials, and he wasn’t afraid to push for them.

Instead of having the Flyers wearing second-hand uniforms donated by a local pro club, DeAnna sought out Harry Baujan, the athletic director then, to see about getting jerseys in the traditional UD colors of Columbia blue and red.

“I asked him, ‘Do you have any old football jerseys?’” DeAnna recalled. “He took me down to the stadium, and there was a bunch of old jerseys: powder blue, red numbers, and red-and-blue stripes on the sleeves. But they were the kind with the tails that you buttoned underneath you to keep the jersey in.

“I got all the tackle and guard jerseys I could, and we cut off the tails. Those were our jerseys the first couple years.”

The Flyers often had to make do without top-of-the-line gear, even after transitioning from a club team to the non-scholarship varsity level in 1964-65.

But DeAnna still managed to build a winning program by providing structure, attracting top talent and developing bonds with his players that have only grown stronger with time.

“I tell people all the time, ‘If you don’t have a Walt, you don’t have a hockey program,’” said Bill Bommarito ’77, a four-year captain. “You need people like Walt DeAnna to make that happen.”

The program had an unlikely pioneer. Although DeAnna was from Windsor, Ontario, he wasn’t a hockey buff like most native Canadians, playing only sporadically at the youth level.

But he picked it up again when he attended college, choosing Dayton after hearing about it through his high school vice principal, Paul Donoher, who was the brother of UD Hall of Fame basketball coach Don Donoher ’54.

Playing in the school’s first hockey games as a freshman in 1958, DeAnna would become the team’s leading scorer each of his four years. One year after he graduated, the team needed a coach, and he was urged by younger brother Mario ’65 and other players to take the job.

“I told them, ‘If we could ever get it to be a varsity team, I’ll spend some time with it,’” DeAnna said.

That wasn’t an easy sell. Before securing varsity status, DeAnna had to get the blessing of Baujan’s successor, Tom Frericks ’53.

“I told him the guys were scrounging around for $10 or $25 to rent the ice and pay the referees,” DeAnna recalled. “He said, ‘I tell you what, you run it one year the way you’re running it, and you report back with your financials and all the things you’re doing. If I think it’s worthwhile, I’ll take it to the athletic board.’”

One year later, DeAnna and the Flyers did enough to win Frericks’ support. The board was also swayed, approving a $1,500 budget.

“Frericks never asked how many wins or losses I had. He just knew we were taking care of 25 to 30 kids who wanted to play hockey,” DeAnna said. “And we had some interest on campus from people who wanted to see us play.”

DeAnna had a career record of 211-107-16 in his 22 varsity seasons with four conference championships while playing mostly against other college programs around the state.

He routinely corralled seasoned players from hockey-mad cities such as Boston, Detroit and Chicago as well as about a half-dozen prospects each year who had Division-I scholarship offers.

The recruits fell in love with UD and liked DeAnna’s balanced approach.

“I’d say, ‘If you come here, your big game each year is going to be Oberlin. But if you want to be a doctor or lawyer, if your parents want some grades from you, you can’t say hockey is going to interfere with your school. You’ll graduate with a 3.2 instead of a 2.1 and play 18 to 19 games and keep your interest — rather than playing 60 games and practicing every day for a couple hours,” he said.

“Surprisingly, a lot of the kids decided to come to the school because of that.”

They certainly didn’t come for the amenities. UD paid for the ice time for twice-a-week practices and home games at Troy Arena or wherever a rink could be found, while also ponying up for uniforms, refs and a modest $3.50 per diem on the road.

The players had to shell out for their skates and padding. And they were careful not to break their hockey sticks because those came out of their pockets, too.

“We knew we weren’t football players. We knew we weren’t basketball players. We knew we weren’t scholarship players in any way, shape or form,” said Bommarito, a St. Louis resident. “But I think the thing we always had on our mind was that our jerseys said, ‘The University of Dayton.’ We had a chance, maybe not with the brightest of lights, of representing the University with the something we loved doing.”

Though the opposition was also of the non-scholarship variety, games were fierce. The Flyers embraced physical contact and sometimes even initiated it.

“I’ve got a (dental) plate. I lost a couple choppers,” said former player Peter King ’77, a Philadelphia product. “Some guy put the butt end of his stick down my throat.”

Under DeAnna, the Flyers were tough. They finished under .500 only twice and went 18-1-1 in his last season in 1985-86.

The program is still going strong though it reverted to the club level again in 1990 when UD joined the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

The news of the program being de-emphasized was a sad day for the varsity alumni, but they still take great pride in having been Flyers and are grateful for DeAnna’s lasting impact. They affectionately call him “The Mentor.”

Since many are now too old to suit up for the annual alumni game in Dayton, they have begun a fall tradition of spending a weekend playing golf and swapping stories with the 76-year-old DeAnna near his home in Port Charlotte, Florida.

“Walt was all the things you’d want in a father without coming down super hard on you,” King said. “He was the kind of guy you could talk to when you made a mistake. He stood up for his guys. He made it fun, but he never put up with our juvenile behavior.”

DeAnna, whose annual coaching salary topped out at $150, worked full time as a salesman for E.F McDonald in Dayton and stayed with the company after it was sold. He and his wife, Marilou, raised three children (all UD grads).

He traveled for work, but he always made time for his players.

“When I think of the Marianists — because I was fortunate to go to a Marianist high school and then a Marianist university — I always think of how their No. 1 asset is an ability to create community and make people feel part of something very special,” Bommarito said.

“That’s what Walt did.”

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The mess we’re in

9:00 AM  Nov 23rd, 2016
by Phil Aaron, S.M. ’54

When I was a secondary school principal, I dreaded the visit of my provincial, Father William Ferree, S.M. He had elaborate solutions to all my problems. I thought he didn’t understand the reality of the situation.

He was, however, a genius.

True, an absent-minded one: He once came out to celebrate Mass without a chasuble; the server had to remind him to complete his vestments. He was intense, whether he was giving a tennis lesson or tackling large social problems, classifying Marianist historical documents or clearing a road with heavy equipment.

He never met a situation that was too big or too difficult to address. He addressed not individual problems but the big picture. He expected the same from others.

And he did not like whiners.

That is evident in his influential book, Introduction to Social Justice. He did not see complaining about institutions as a good beginning to changing them. To him, social charity requires us to give unconditional love to the institutions that we have created just as we would to another person, whether or not that person is perfect. This “mess we’re in” (as he phrased it) is our global reality, the imperfect, untidy and developing gift from God through which we achieve ever higher and higher levels of human flourishing.

The mess is a gift from God. Our first task is to accept it as a gift of love.

According to Ferree, the act of social justice, that is, what one does to practice virtue, requires us to join with others to reconstruct all institutions from the family to global organizations like the United Nations. Drawing on the social encyclicals of popes, he taught that all virtues have a social dimension because humans were made to be in relationship.

They are wired to work together.

Our obligations will vary, he taught, based on our relationship to the institution, our family being our first obligation. He stressed the need for competence and professionalism in working to reconstruct the social
order.

To merely protest that an institution is not perfect, according to Ferree, alienates one from efforts to reconstruct it. He admitted that social reconstruction is a complicated, gigantic problem, one that never would be completely solved. He preached, however, humans are continually finding new tools with which to address the complexity of the problem and that our responsibility was to manage change and reorganize continually.

One of his “laws” — Cooperation, not Conflict — presents particular problems for social activists who see a duty to protest an unjust situation without understanding its complexity and the good that may exist alongside the injustice in a complex organization. Ferree did not advocate destructive revolution but creative collaboration.

The “mess we’re in” is made up of institutions that humans have organized. Ferree sees this work of humans, this mess, as an image of God, the means God has chosen through us to deliver his grace. These institutions — from the UN to the church to the family — are imperfect. We need to accept them in their imperfection and to continually reorganize them.

As a young principal, I was trying to solve particular problems. Father Ferree was trying to alleviate their causes; he was trying to change the world.

“Introduction to Social Justice” by William Ferree, S.M., can be found at bit.ly/UDM_Ferree_introsocialjustice.

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Alumni profile: Reinvention revolution

9:00 AM  Nov 22nd, 2016
by Gita Balakrishnan

Had it not been for cancer, divorce and the loss of a loved one, all devastatingly crammed into two years, Yvonne Burns Thevenot ’92 may have never reinvented herself.

But reinvent she did, and she hasn’t looked back.

Triumphing over adversity allowed Thevenot the courage to leave a high-paying position at JPMorgan in 2013 to return to school and pursue her dream of becoming an educator.

The New York resident is now founder and executive director of STEM Kids NYC, a nonprofit organization created in 2015 to help bridge the gap between inner-city schools and STEM opportunities for at-risk, underrepresented youth.

“I started to look inward, and I relied on faith and my relationship with God. And, I discovered that it didn’t matter how much money I made. I started to look at what made me happy,” she said.

She credits her time at UD as the foundation for her desire to encourage others.

“The gift UD gave me was my freedom of expression without fear,” she asserted.

She wants to pass on that confidence to the youth she encounters, who she says limit themselves by not seeing their potential outside stereotypes or educational expectations.

Thevenot holds a degree in management information systems and worked for more than two decades in IT and finance. She hopes her story of reinvention and faith gives students a chance to see themselves differently.

Just as she’s reinvented a STEM identity for herself — educator, innovator, motivator —  Thevenot hopes to inspire others to not set limits by self-defined stereotypes.

“My dream is to generate interest within these kids so they see themselves differently — as scientists, engineers, mathematicians,” she said. “I want them to create a STEM identify for themselves.”

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Robotic inspiration

1:34 PM  Nov 19th, 2016
by Madalyn Beban ’18

During Jonathan Dekar’s freshman year, a woman approached the School of Engineering with a question: Could something be done to improve mealtimes for her daughter, whose disability limited her motion and required a caregiver’s assistance?

This wasn’t the mechanical engineering major’s first exposure to this problem. Through his grandfather’s diagnosis with a degenerative disease, he had witnessed the challenges that independent eating posed for some individuals.

“It was a basic human need gone unfulfilled — you have to eat to stay alive,” said Dekar, who graduated in 2011. “This wasn’t just another engineering project, getting food from point A to point B. I wanted it to be emotionally empowering and inspiring.”

Through four years of technical coursework, prototyping and researching the market, Obi was born.

Obi is a tabletop device with an automated spoon, robotic arm and a four-course compartmentalized plate that moves with practiced precision.

After graduation, Dekar shifted his full attention into making this product, learning additional skills in finance management and regulatory compliance.

“An engineering education is a ‘license to learn,’ and with an engineering mindset you can learn to do just about anything. It’s a toolkit,” he said.

Formally launched in July 2016, Obi has already garnered accolades. It won the 54th annual R&D 100 awards in the category “mechanical and materials,” as sponsored by R&D magazine. It was also a finalist in the 2016 International Design Excellence Awards.

The engineering entrepreneur feels confident in the mission his company has undertaken — to continually improve the quality of life through exciting and usable consumer robotics.

Dekar said he feels others should never let fear of failure dissuade them from trying something difficult. He said, “Failure is an option, fear is not. College allows you to broaden your mind and explore, and when you find what drives you, you become the work you do.”

 

Read about how one group of UD students responded to the original challenge from inspiring children who wanted to feed themselves, originally published in the Dayton Engineer in 2006.

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Traveling light

8:01 AM  Nov 14th, 2016
by Kristen Wicker ’98

Lucas Keefer didn’t take his toaster with him when he moved from Dayton to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Keefer, a post-doctoral research fellow in psychology at UD from August 2014 to June 2016, left to accept a tenure-track position at the University of Southern Mississippi. He also left behind the state where he has family, including a 1-year-old niece, within a three-hour drive.

Yet Keefer, who’s lived in four states during the past 10 years, is used to being in transit — and has studied the impact of just this type of mobility. While he was at UD, he co-wrote a paper with Omri Gillath, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, that suggests highly mobile people are more likely to view possessions as disposable — and, in turn, friendships and romantic partners as well.

Keefer and Gillath outlined the findings from their four studies in the paper, published in the April 2016 journal Personal Relationships. Together, they suggest that people who are more mobile think of their belongings as disposable, which perhaps is what also leads them to think of their relationships as disposable.

“When you put it all together, mobility is indirectly affecting our commitment to our relationships because it changes how we feel about our material possessions and, likewise, how we feel about relationships,” said Keefer, who’s seen the study results play out somewhat in his own life.

“I definitely ascribe to that first part of the process, that people who move often are more willing to throw things away,” he said. “I would throw away all my belongings except my computer, books and guitar (when I move).

“But I don’t know if that’s affected my relationships,” he continued. “My data would suggest that it has, but if so I’m not aware of it.”

People

Molly Blake ’96 still mails friends and family handwritten birthday cards — despite the fact that, as the wife of a recently retired Marine, she has moved 11 times since college graduation. Her seventh-grade daughter has attended seven schools.

“There have definitely been people who I’ve been great friends with and have lost touch with, not for any malicious reason but because some people just are not great at keeping in touch,” Blake said. “I happen to be really good at keeping in touch. I learned that from my mom, but also from being in a military family. I work hard to cultivate my friendships because I’ve needed them. I had a baby while my husband was in Iraq, and it was the military connection that made it easier. Military families really rely on each other and create a very special bond.”

While a romantic relationship led to Blake’s move-a-lot lifestyle, Keefer and Gillath found romance may be a casualty for other highly mobile folks.

UD alumnus Paul Sozio ’15 agrees: “I was dating a girl when I was in Argentina and, while it was exciting at the time, we went back to our respective countries when we left Argentina,” said Sozio, who has lived in Honduras, Nicaragua and Argentina during study abroad programs and while working for nongovernmental organizations. “Going into it, you think, ‘This probably isn’t a permanent thing’ in the back of your head.

“But for me, you can’t put up a wall and think, ‘I don’t want to get close to anyone,’ because it’s more important to cherish the time you do have together and be present,” he added. “You have to know that the people you really click with, you’re going to stay in touch.”

Jake Muniak ’14 has moved between Ohio, Nicaragua, Denver and Seattle since graduation and is now a travel service consultant for South America Travel. He agrees that many friendships fade with frequent moves, but others remain solid.

“A real relationship takes a lot of work, and that becomes more so when you don’t see that person every day,” he said. “I visited my college roommate in Chicago when I was traveling from Ohio to Seattle and it was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know the next time I’ll see you.’ We made plans to meet up on St. Patrick’s Day 2017. He might have to come to Brazil to make that happen.

“Making plans is one thing. Following through is another ball game.”

After many years of a highly mobile lifestyle, Blake also has found certain friends — particularly those from her UD days — stand the test of time.

“Most people at the age of 42 have their group of friends they’ve had since they graduated from college and moved into their house,” Blake said. “We don’t have that. We have friends all over the place. We’ve never had family near us so we can’t be like, ‘Let’s go to my parents’ house on Sunday.’

“This is part of why I treasure my true friends so much,” she added. “My Dayton roommates and I just had our 20-year reunion. I love those girls. It means a lot to me that we can get together and hang out as if no time has gone by.”

Places

Kaitlyn Ridel ’13 wanted to live in Washington, D.C. — and she does, although it’s taken some moves back and forth between there and her hometown of Cleveland, as well as between Boston and Dayton, to make it happen. Now, Ridel is a brand and communications specialist for FiscalNote.

“My family is very close, and they’re all in the Cleveland area,” she said. “I’m the only one who’s kind of stayed away so I feel like an oddball sometimes, but I’ve always loved politics and policy so D.C. seems like the right place for that. My career, for now, is going to come first, and my family understands that.

“I do love Ohio, but I need to see if I can make D.C. work,” she added. “I have a really great set of friends here and a great job and want to see where it goes.”

In their paper, Keefer and Gillath note that mobility can have two effects. Moves within the same community are unlikely to have much impact on social networks. Long-distance moves, on the other hand, are likely to result in both geographical and social network changes.

Today, young people such as Ridel and Muniak often focus on the places where they want to live, and then find jobs.

“Having a job where I can be mobile and make enough to pay off my student loans is a goal, and this job provides that,” Muniak said. “I’m at that stage in life where I can stay in a hostel with 30 people and sleep on the floor. One day, I will want to lay low and settle down, and I want to know I squeezed everything out of that time when I could be transient.”

Sozio grew up in Cleveland, where his parents planned trips that helped him catch the travel bug. 

“I’ve been stateside for two weeks and I’m already wondering where my next trip will be to,” he said after returning from Nicaragua. “I need something to plan and look forward to.”

For Blake, after all her moving about, she’s ready to settle down in her new home in Littleton, Colorado — a place she and her husband selected for their love of the mountains and skiing and the fact that her family has a vacation home nearby.

“We bought a house that’s a bit of a renovation project,” she said. “We’ve never had a clean slate to make our own and build that dream deck and fire pit.”

Things

Settling down also means Blake can add some color to her home’s style.

“Now we have this huge house, and we don’t have any furniture,” she said. “Before, everything we owned was beige or brown so if we lived in a historical charmer or a new hacienda house, it would fit.”

Yet Blake isn’t used to having much in the way of stuff.

“We’re lean and mean and ready to move at a moment’s notice,” she said. “If we can’t get both our cars in our garage because there’s too much crap in there, we almost lose our minds. We have drawers that are completely empty and closets with one thing in them.”

“We’ve had houses we’ve rented and sold and it was the same situation,” she added. “Even big stuff like a house — I still had no connection to it.”

Indeed, Keefer and Gillath found this to be typical of highly mobile people.

Their paper also notes one practical aspect of moving has received little attention in existing residential mobility research: When moving, people must decide what possessions are worth moving and what can be left behind.

“If we were to time travel to a place when everything we owned was a family heirloom, perhaps we wouldn’t throw things out,” Keefer said. “So potentially in places high in residential mobility, we
also have a culture of easily replaceable consumer goods. But those and other implications are still open questions.”

Ridel, Muniak and Sozio are with Blake when it comes to traveling light. Ridel has moved photo albums and a good Italian cooking pan from place to place but otherwise rents furnished apartments. Muniak and Sozio move functional things, such as solid boots and a good rain jacket and,in Sozio’s case, a guitar.

“I’m not a very good interior decorator because everything I have is secondhand,” Muniak said.

For Sozio, living and working in places such as Honduras and Nicaragua where many people are impoverished also caused him to look at his belongings in a different way. “You look at your own material possessions and reconsider what you really need and what is really valuable,” he said. “There are some things you should cherish, but generally speaking it makes you less attached to stuff.”

Meaning

So what does this research say about the human experience?

“The conceptual thread connecting these is the similarities between our relationships and objects,” Keefer said. “We have a willingness to throw things away and a willingness to get rid of relationships. In a way, we’re treating people as objects, and that’s what draws this together.”

But finding the big picture would require additional research.

“Whatever connects mobility to whether or not we keep relationships is more complicated than we have the data to tell,” Keefer said. “The connection to moving and keeping relationships is complex. The human story and why this is important is a question that is still a bit open.”

And with this study, he added, no conclusions can be drawn about whether or not this willingness to dispose of belongings, and therefore relationships, is healthy or unhealthy. Nor does the study take into account the ever-growing influence of technology and social media on our relationships and ability to maintain them.

Gillath noted the research findings show “we need to pay more attention to people’s moves and mobility, and we need to think about the ease of moving and the ease of getting rid of things and of ties, because it might result in various relational difficulties down the line.

“There is a connection between how we view our lives and our physical surroundings and how we perceive our social ties,” he added. “And we pay a price for the ease of mobility and the tendency of people to dispose of things in their lives.”

For Keefer, “Maintaining old ties seems like a double-edged sword. It can meet some social needs to stay in touch, but it can be stifling to forming new social circles in the new location. There is some advantage to knowing someone nearby who can feed your cat when you’re out of town. Ultimately, we are social beings.”

Beings who, when settling in a new home, have a much easier time getting a new toaster than finding new friends to feed that cat — and so much more.

To read more on the research article this article is based on, please here .

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Disposable tendencies

8:00 AM  Nov 14th, 2016
by Kristen Wicker ’98

What we keep, and what we leave behind: Findings from the residential mobility research

The paper published in the April 2016 journal Personal Relationships by Lucas Keefer and Omri Gillath was a merger of their interests.

Keefer’s research focuses on attachment to objects, and Gillath’s on attachment to friends and romantic partners. After working together in a University of Kansas lab, they decided to join forces to examine the question of how mobility relates to our material possessions and how we relate to close
others.

They also looked to past research conducted by Jewish German psychologist Kurt Lewin, who wrote in a 1936 paper about Americans’ penchant to quickly make — and discard — friends. They also examined more recent research by Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia and others.

“We had this idea about how mobility relates to material possessions and human relationships, and we found that research from 80 years ago is still very applicable,” Keefer said.

To build on the work of Lewin and others, Keefer and Gillath conducted studies in which participants completed questionnaires, including a “Willingness to Dispose Inventory” designed to assess people’s willingness to dispose of objects and close relationships (friends and romantic partners). Participants also were asked about their history of moving.

Studies were held starting in 2009 at the University of Kansas, where Keefer did his graduate work before coming to UD. Another three studies were held every year or two as Keefer and Gillath tweaked and added to their body of work and research findings.

Four studies were part of the research presented in their paper, “Generalizing Disposability: Residential Mobility and the Willingness to Dissolve Social Ties.”

Study one examined whether the perception of objects as disposable is associated with perceiving friends in a similar way. It showed people’s tendencies to dispose of objects and social ties are related.

Studies two and three tested whether high residential mobility makes people more likely to dispose of objects, which in turn results in an increased willingness to cut certain social ties. The studies demonstrated that a history of residential mobility (study two) and increasing residential mobility (study three) likewise increase the willingness to dispose of objects and, through that, dispose of social ties.

Study four compared the geographic and relationship aspects of residential mobility and tested whether changes in social networks have a direct effect on what the researchers called “relational disposability.” This study showed that the relationship aspect of residential mobility is crucial in affecting relational disposability.

“The more a person has moved or relocated, the more he or she had to dispose of his or her possessions (at least some),” Keefer and Gillath write in their paper. “The more he or she disposed of possessions, the more likely he or she is to see possessions or objects as disposable. Once such a disposable approach was adopted, it may be extended or generalized to social ties, coloring the perception of people or social ties as more ephemeral and easily ‘disposed.’

“Taken together, the four studies provide consistent support for the idea that higher residential mobility results in higher willingness and tendency to dispose of social ties,” the paper reads. “Our studies provide support not only for an association between attitudes toward objects and people but also provide evidence that this perspective has important implications for the study of close relationships. Pressure to act in specific ways toward material objects — in this case, to dispose of them — may have subtle yet important implications for how people act toward other humans.”

To read the full article, “Traveling Light,” click here .

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Alumni profile: Hitting the road

4:00 AM  Nov 11th, 2016
by Shannon Shelton Miller

Mark Backs, Class of 1948, wakes up at 5 a.m. for his daily 1 ½-mile walk with his dog, Nemo, then returns home for breakfast to fuel his morning workout sessions with a personal trainer at the gym. Backs, age 88, finishes with a yoga session before settling in for the afternoon.

“That’s when you hibernate,” he says. “You don’t go out until evening.”

Summers are scorchers, but three temperate seasons make life in Tucson, Arizona, worth it, Backs says. He’s lived in Arizona for more than 20 years, moving shortly after retiring in 1989.

Born in Minster, Ohio, Backs and his brother, Alton, both attended UD and graduated in 1948. They earned medical degrees from Loyola University in Chicago, and Alton pursued a career in radiology while Mark became an anesthesiologist. Mark served in the Army Medical Corps, while Alton is a Navy veteran.

“I loved UD,” Backs said. “I still do. It was a great experience and I had great teachers who made my medical career possible. I remember using my notes from biochemistry and other science classes at UD while I was in med school.”

Backs spent most of his career in Madison, Wisconsin, where he and his wife, Adele, raised six children. They enjoyed traveling and visited Italy 10 times — Adele was the daughter of an Italian-immigrant father and Italian-American mother, and became fluent in Italian herself after studying in college.

They were married 62 years before Adele died in 2015, and Backs now spends much of his time with Nemo and his daughter Tammy, who lives in Tucson. Travel is still in his blood though, and he had Dayton on his itinerary in spring 2016, making his first visit to campus in seven years.

“I plan to go back there again,” he says. “When I’m in my 90s.”

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Peace

4:00 AM  Nov 5th, 2016
by Tom Columbus

What can we do?

We asked that of Caitlin Cipolla-McCulloch, nF.M.I. ’12, and  Gabrielle Bibeau, nF.M.I. ’11, two novices of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, the Marianist sisters.

“‘A peacemaker prays,’ said the spiritual writer Father Henri Nouwen,” according to Bibeau. “Part of the novitiate is focusing intensely on your prayer life, which includes an hour a day in silent prayer as well as studying the charism and doing spiritual reading.

“In these times of political turmoil and fear of the ‘other,’ I am reminded of how important prayer is for us to be people of peace. Spending time each day with God is where I gain the energy to speak the truth in humility and to love those with whom I strongly disagree. And my prayer is best when it reminds me to remember the sufferings and trials of people around the world and to live my life in a way that can, I hope, have a positive impact.”

“It is disheartening,” Cipolla-McCulloch said, “to see the many acts of violence occurring in the human family. The founders of the Marianist family, however, also lived in violent times. The founders responded by forming small communities of faith. Our communities, our families, are our first places where we can practice nonviolence.

“We can be people of prayer who seek to understand the differences among ourselves. We can be people of hospitality welcoming all kinds of people to our tables and homes. We can follow Mary’s example of pondering in our hearts. We can strive to be on the margins, advocating for those who are persecuted.

“We can form ourselves in faith and hope so that we can share this faith and hope with our church and our world.

“Our communities can help us share, help us gain perspective and challenge us to think about new, exciting ways to be people of peace.”

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