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Being the solution

10:51 AM  Jan 2nd, 2018
by Gita Balakrishnan

In the summer of 2011, Jessica Davis ’14 was in the middle of Africa on the back of a safari truck, sitting next to a rhinoceros she had just sedated. The transport could have been due to the animal needing to be dehorned to protect it from poachers. Maybe it was because another preserve requested more rhinos. Or maybe, the animal was just sick.

Regardless of the reason, Davis spent one month in Africa trying to protect African wildlife. At the time, she wanted to study wildlife medicine.

But, on her plane ride home, Davis realized she wanted to do more. She recognized the animals she wanted to protect were suffering because of social, environmental and political policies she had no control over.

“I realized I wanted to be the ultimate solution to the problem. I wanted to know why was the first domino even tipped? I don’t want to be these animals’ last line of defense, and that’s what I was in Africa. I want to be their first,” Davis said.

When she arrived back at home in Indianapolis, she knew sustainability was really the solution she was looking for. She went on to receive her master’s in biology from UD with a concentration in ecology.

“Sustainability is not my job. It is my ethos,” she said. “It permeates every decision I make.”

In 2015, Davis became the director of sustainability at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis where she teaches sustainability courses, handles operational sustainability and engages the campus and Indianapolis community.

Her interests include ecology, sustainability, environmental policy, and restoration of the human-nature relationship.

“The reason I am passionate about this is because I view sustainability as an intergenerational obligation. What we do today will have a big impact on those that come after us. If we do not change our trajectory now, future generations will be forced to bear the cost of today’s decision,” she said.

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Taking center stage

10:51 AM  Jan 2nd, 2018
by Lauren Caggiano ’07

Some people spend their whole lives waiting for their dreams to happen. Others make it happen. Through his business, Broadway_Buzz, Bryan Campione ’05 builds social marketing platforms and provides event planning services for entertainers.

And he’s getting noticed.

In 2015 and 2016, he was recognized by IBM as part of the #GameChangersIBM platform for his work in social media on Broadway.  A man of many talents, he also keeps busy producing new theatrical and musical initiatives.

The common theme in his work is one of art for the sake of expression and as an agent of change. In his words: “What I get to do … is take people outside their normal lives for an hour or two and invite them into a world that breaks their norm and reflect inward on whatever that may be.”

Speaking of reflection, Campione said among his greatest achievements have been building and directing Rock n’ Roll Debauchery, a theatrical rock experience that involves singers, dancers, aerialists, video graphics and more throughout the city. Performers come from Broadway, American Idol, Cirque Du Soleil, So You Think You Can Dance, TV, film and more.

Campione, who majored in French at UD, said the work stokes his creative fire. “This is what I love — collaborating and working on exciting projects like this with people from across the gamut of the arts world,” he said.

He said the backdrop of a vibrant big city keeps him energized. In his spare time, he enjoys dining out at the city’s diverse establishments, spending time outdoors and taking in live music. New York has a feel of its own, and Campione absorbs the constant excitement in both work and play.

“It allows working here to be an exciting adventure every day,” he said, “because just like on a Broadway stage, no two shows or
days are the same.”

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Community close to home

11:33 AM  Dec 19th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan

A.J. Ferguson ’12 sees Dayton changing. It’s in the way college students are volunteering. It’s in the words of excitement he hears on the streets from other professionals.

“Even 10 years ago, people would tell UD students to not go past Brown Street,” Ferguson said. “But now, when I talk to students, they are aware that something cool is happening. I’m no longer hearing people say that Dayton is this scary, dying city.”

As the director of UpDayton, Ferguson says the positive shift in the perception of the city he calls home is indicative of volunteer efforts, investments and programs that are pouring into downtown revitalization projects.

The nonprofit began in 2008 and is part of those efforts by helping find ways to keep talented individuals in the area.

“Our goal is to inspire and empower Daytonians to create the community they want,” he said. “There’s far more depth and meaning to creating the community you want to live in rather than just moving to one that sounds cool.”

Ferguson got involved in the organization while still a UD student, when he attended the UpDayton Summit in 2012. From there, he volunteered to head an on-campus club GoDayton, which encouraged UD students to leave the “UD bubble” and explore the city.

And although Ferguson’s degree is in mechanical engineering, his full-time position merges his  other passions while at UD: sustainability, River Stewards and Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.

“UD is creating the kind of leaders that our world needs right now,” he said. “No matter your career field, everyone can be involved in their community and be a voice for the common good. Because otherwise, other voices win out.”

If his years at UpDayton and UD have taught him anything, he says it is the power of the individual.

“I believe more than ever that our city needs you to show up,” he said. “I’ve seen it. Anyone can make a difference.”

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Stephen King haunts my classroom

5:00 PM  Dec 15th, 2017
by James Farrelly ’66

Stephen King has haunted my classrooms since 1975 when his first novel, Carrie, made it out of the trash bin — courtesy of his wife, Tabitha — and into the paperback market. That allowed students in my Literature of the Occult class at UD to scoop it up and trip out over the telekinetic Carrie White and her mean-spirited destruction of not only her high school classmates but also her hometown of Chamberlain, Maine. By 1980, almost half of the books in my so-called “Séance Fiction” course were written by King.

I resolved to woo King to be the keynote speaker for the University of Dayton 1982 Writers’ Workshop. I persuaded Ellie Kurtz, director of student activities at the time, to write a letter inviting him to speak. I told her to stress that his audience would be mostly students familiar with his work and eager to learn about his writing process.

Ellie had a different idea.

She told him a story about this crazed professor who teaches the occult who had been twisting her arm for months, insisting that she invite King to campus or she might not have the use of her arm, or even that arm itself, if he did not agree to come. How could he say, “No”?

When I picked him up at the Cincinnati airport, the first words out of his mouth were, “Does she still have her arm?”

My introduction and King’s presentation on that glorious night is on YouTube at bit.ly/UDM_StephenKing1982.

Since the early ’90s, I have taught Stephen King on Film on a rotating basis with other film courses. When planning the course for fall 2000, I was mindful of the1999 accident that came close to killing King on June 19 (ironically my birthday); I noticed that we would be in session on Sept. 21, King’s birthday.

Surely, a party for his 53rd birthday was in order for us to celebrate as a class his recovery and rehabilitation. The class had such a wonderful time at this event (Carrie, too, who shares King’s day of birth, was included) that I repeated it when he turned 55, 60 and 65.

This year, 2017, King turned 70. I enthusiastically shared my plans for the big “7-0” party planned for the fall with the students in my spring term class. “What about us?” a disgruntled student inquired; “What do we get?” Other students chimed in.

Since it was March, I remembered that it was the 35th anniversary of King’s visit to campus. With St. Patrick’s Day a week away, I also thought of our students’ penchant for celebrating “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” in September. So, we celebrated “Halfway to Stephen King’s Birthday.”

We watched the YouTube video of King’s speech, sang “Happy [Half-] Birthday” to King, and devoured the gruesome chocolate birthday cake with dark chocolate icing and red blood sprinkles (so we could remember Carrie, too).

On Sept. 21, 2017, we did it all over again, this time on his real 70th birthday. The only thing missing was King himself.

My invitations will never measure up to Ellie Kurtz’s ghastly motivator that brought him to the University of Dayton campus 35 years ago.

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Beneath the moon, we sat, silent

5:00 PM  Dec 15th, 2017
by Ellie Rizzo ‘19

In Zambia last summer, I found the gift of presence, of love.

To organize what I learned and felt, I used teachings on solidarity by Father Dean Brackley, S.J. He invites us to have the courage to discover our vocation by lowering our status — downward mobility.

Have the courage to lose control.

I seek explanations, justifications, logic. But in Zambia, under the brightest moon, with eight of my best friends, I could let go of my control. My need to understand disappeared because that moment embodied true presence. Mwape looked at me with doe eyes. Monta hid under the sheet next to me to stay warm. Jackson and Chisala shared a blanket. We sat silently; I gave up my control; it was a perfect moment of human connection.

Have the courage to feel useless.

Jonah, 18, was our closest older friend in Lubwe, Zambia. He took us places, helped us avoid being scammed, invited us over for dinner. But he also expected that we could change Lubwe and make it better. After hearing his plans for the village, we sat paralyzed, imagining all the complicated intricacies. I felt useless; this scared me. I told Jonah we weren’t there to fix Lubwe; we couldn’t. We were there to love, to share stories, to learn about our brothers and sisters.

Have the courage to listen. Have the courage to receive.

Adriana sang “I do believe in Jesus” in her sweet 7-year-old voice as we walked home after sunset. Those five words were more English than I had heard all day from her. Anthony exclaimed in the local language how he could sneak home to America with me. I received love through avocados and potatoes. My friends gave all they had, and I received it with open arms.

Have the courage to let your heart be broken.

Mwila, whose father is dead, begged me to support him in school or buy him a school uniform. He works to afford school for him and his brother Charles. He also perceives gift-giving as love; so when I supported another student who wasn’t in school, his heart broke. Hearing I had given someone else a gift that he was not receiving, Mwila believed I loved him less. He ignored me for days. Eventually, he sat next to me and cried. I tried to help; he just cried more. My heart broke for him and his community.

Have the courage to feel. Have the courage to fall in love.

In Zambia, I couldn’t understand everything. I could only feel presence, pain and joy. One day Chanda and Teresa got in a fight that took six of us to break up. Chanda could barely breathe; I was left in shock. I walked away and began to cry, but then I saw Mwansa, a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome, and yelled “Mwansa, isa” or “Mwansa, come!” He ran into my arms and I picked him up. I stared into his eyes and let his innocent joy fill me. His comfort showed me that where there is immense pain, there is also immense love.

Have the courage to get ruined for life.

One of the fathers invited me into their home. The parents’ room barely fit a bed, and the seven kids all shared another room with clothing used for blankets. Mwaba, one of the sons, saw me inside and immediately ran outside. He worried I would treat him differently since I had seen his reality. But love knows no size of home or amount of stuff. That family is in my heart forever.

Have the courage to make a friend.

This statement felt less powerful than the others until I met Monta. (I am also friends with many others, and I wish I could share each of their stories.) Monta and I bickered, played cards and futball, ate fritas. He jumped into my lap at sunset every day, and although we couldn’t verbally communicate, his presence calmed me. He didn’t need anything but to sit there with me. Me being a part of his story and him being a part of mine reminded me of the power of simply making a friend.

These people, that place, taught me how to love better, more unconditionally. As I look back, the friendships I made and the pain in being separated from my new family now reminds me of my continued journey in downward mobility.

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Forgiveness

4:57 PM  Dec 15th, 2017
by Allison N. Moon ’08

Eva Mozes Kor is a 4-foot-9-inch woman, 83 years young and dresses head to toe in her favorite color — blue. She has a magnetic energy that instantly drew me to her when I first heard of her story last fall. Within a few months, I traveled to Poland to hear her tell it herself. She made me laugh, then cry, then laugh once again. My life will never be the same.

At 9 years old, Eva was a headstrong girl living with her parents, two older sisters and twin sister, Miriam, on a farm in Romania. By 10 years old, her parents and two older sisters were dead, and Eva was living in a dirty barrack with her twin sister, kept alive only to be used for medical experiments. This was 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Her family was identified, captured, herded into a cattle car and ripped apart on the platform at Birkenau in a matter of days. After being stripped of her possessions, her hair was shaved and she was branded — “A-7063.” She was no longer a human being, a little girl meant to play and laugh and love; she was a test subject.

She slept on a wooden bunk, was provided with little food and water, and forced to submit to the orders of her captors and other prisoners put in positions of “privilege.” Three days a week, she walked to a nearby barrack to have blood drawn and to be injected with unknown chemicals. On alternate days, she was marched with the other twins of Birkenau to Auschwitz, a trip that would take up to an hour one way by foot, to undergo tests and experiments. For more than 240 days, Eva thought of only one thing — survival, for her and her sister.

Her strength to survive is only matched by the strength she found to forgive. To hear Eva’s message of peace and forgiveness is a stark contrast to the ruins of gas chambers, cremation buildings and barracks in Birkenau but is an emotional message of the power we all have to be a positive influence on the world. She challenges us to find our way to forgive those who have wronged us because holding on to anger and resentment only causes more hurt. How many of us carry around the grudges, pain and suffering from past experiences? I know I am guilty. And if Eva can forgive Nazi doctors, can’t we find our way to forgive others, too?

The challenge Eva leaves us with is to replace anger with peace. As an adult, she spent four months writing a letter that she would never send, expressing her own feelings of hurt but concluding with three words: “I forgive you.” And she meant it. With those three words, she discovered no one could give her the power to forgive, and no one could take it away.

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How to explain complicated ideas to non-experts

9:36 AM  Dec 15th, 2017
by Shannon Shelton Miller

Whether we work in highly specialized fields like medicine or technology or happen to be making a health care speech on Capitol Hill, our messages must be delivered in a way most can understand.

All UD students regardless of major spend a semester learning that skill in Principles of Oral Communication, a Common Academic Program course that teaches the foundations of making information clear to particular audiences and promoting civil discourse in the process.

Coordinated by communication lecturer Jason Combs, the course incorporates input from professors across academic units whose disciplines have their own communication challenges.  The textbook created especially for the course teaches students to start with the big picture. And then, they’re off:

Know your topic

The communicator must have a strong grasp of the topic’s concrete principles. With that level of understanding, he or she can then determine the best ways to connect with the audience. Sharing a story to illustrate the idea is often helpful.

 Choose wisely

Decide what’s most important, and present only that information. It’s better to pick a smaller amount of information and have the audience
retain all of it than to present a larger amount with minimal retention.

Ask questions

This helps facilitate understanding and generate ethical dialogue.

Remain civil

“The goal is understanding, not debate,” said Joe Valenzano III, chair of the Department of Communication. “The goal is not to change another person’s position, but to get a better understanding of why people think the way they do.”

Know your audience

“This class taught me to increase my awareness of what I communicate,” said senior Kayla McLaughlin, a student in the School of Business Administration who added communication as a minor after taking the class. “I focus on how to say something in front of different people so they’re receiving exactly what I want them to know.”

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A boat, a horse, a man

5:05 PM  Dec 4th, 2017
by Phil Aaron, S.M. ’54

Among a dozen sleeping bodies, I awake to cold and rain. Peter, our leader, will soon say, “Let’s get some breakfast going and row to shore for the marathon run.”

Tea, granola and honey on a 20-foot open boat will be followed by a 7-mile run on a rocky trail around our island base camp. We are nearing the end of a monthlong sailing experience in 1975 at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine.

A young teacher on my high school staff told me about Outward Bound schools and their theories about learning from the experience of overcoming obstacles in natural settings such as sailing and backpacking.

At age 42, I had a doctorate and a career as the principal of a 2,000-boy high school. But now I was in a competitive situation full of 20-somethings. Many were experienced sailors; I did not know the difference between port and starboard.

I was learning — about adjusting to wind and weather and 20-somethings and about encountering myself.

Water — fog, rain and waves — was the constant that month. We daily moved from one island to another, sometimes sleeping on the boat. It was never hard to fall asleep.

Outward Bound was about learning from experience. There were no books or lectures. The instructor said as little as possible. The experience took place in a group setting because the theory is that the truth is in the group, in the community — and all are responsible for finding it.

Years later, while biking, I stopped at a meadow to admire a mare and a colt. I noticed that, although the mare followed the colt everywhere, she just let it wander around finding its own path except when it ventured near to me. Then the mare chased it off in another direction away from the danger of my presence.

I tried to convince students that this was a symbol of my teaching style; I am afraid they did not understand my method. When I would later ask them about my style of teaching, all they could say was it had something to do with a horse.

My Outward Bound experience convinced me that the greatest service a teacher can do for students is to let them find their own paths in their own ways, to intervene only when their wandering in one direction is not working.

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A whole new world

10:54 AM  Dec 4th, 2017
by Cari Zahn ’18

Kristi Gillespie ’93 spends her time creating worlds.

Picture a kingdom of 10,000 people. There are royals, peasants and people dressed in medieval armor, ready for combat. Tents line a giant field, glowing with string lights in the Pennsylvania night. People run rampant in giant wooden castles and reenact their own storylines.

This is the Pennsic War, a live action roleplay event held by the Society for Creative Anachronism. Gillespie was first introduced to the Society in college, and though her time served in the Navy drew her away from such activities, she was reintroduced to role playing when she met her wife and reentered the fantastical worlds of seven different groups.

One thing Gillespie finds most appealing is the inclusivity it provides. As a disabled veteran, Gillespie isn’t able to participate in the combative events but said there is so much else to do within these worlds, such as blacksmithing, leatherworking and cooking.

“It’s an escape from reality,” Gillespie said. “You get to be somebody else. You don’t have the baggage of your daily life for the weekend.”

Gillespie has published one book, titled Gultar, the Gentle Giant, and is in the process of writing another. She uses her writing skills to craft weekend-long live-action events with 80 or 90 different storylines. She’s running an event this October and working to make it even more inclusive by designing characters for transgender and nonbinary people, an idea she picked up at a new Harry Potter-inspired event she attended last year.

While being a famous author and turning her books into movies are among Gillespie’s dreams, for now, she said she is content creating worlds for people to entertain and be entertained by.

“I’m happy just making other people happy at this point,” Gillespie said. “I’ve lived a really full life. I’ve done almost everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life.”

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Testing…testing…

2:50 PM  Dec 1st, 2017
by Michelle Tedford Æ94

Toothpaste. Hockey. Dog. Boy. Banana.

Memorize those words. You’ll need to repeat them back to me at the end of this
column.

I was asked to remember five such words — not these exact words; those I can’t remember, then or now — as part of a research study out of the Department of Physical Therapy. This is the second time I’ve volunteered, in part because my ordeals as a test subject have been minor. The first time, I wore oversized Fitbits on my wrists for a week to gather data on how I used my arms. This time, in addition to the memory test and some exercises, I laid on a table and tried not to fall asleep while students measured the girth of my arms.

Mary Kate Lewis sees volunteering differently. “It’s something anyone can do to impact the greater good,” she said.

Lewis, who graduated from UD with a pre-physical therapy degree in 2016, is one half of the physical therapy doctoral duo responsible for designing, conducting and evaluating research to gather typical measures of upper limb function in women. Lewis and her classmate, Molly Schaffer ’19, want to know how women without breast cancer use their arms in comparison to women with breast cancer.

It’s among the studies students have conducted under the direction of associate professor Mary Fisher. Her work includes investigating the functional problems women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer experience after treatment. Lewis said if they can ascertain the range of “normal,” it could help practitioners better understand the early warning signs of conditions like lymphedema, or arm swelling from a buildup of lymphatic fluid.

While I agree with Lewis that research subjects help the greater good, volunteering is also a way that I, a member of the University staff, can connect to the essence of what happens on campus: faculty research, education, student experience, community outreach and a quest to create a better world.

As I talked with Lewis, I learned more about her motivation for becoming a physical therapist. It includes having a hands-on role in helping people live better lives. Lewis told me about her very first patient: the woman was 102. That day, Lewis helped the centenarian move and stretch.

Lewis said she sees research as an extension of that opportunity to help others. It’s also allowed her to learn a lot about herself.

“If I ever had to do research as a Ph.D. — which is a daunting thought — I know it’s something I could handle,” she said.

Back in the research room, the students administering the tests are encouraging me through the routine. I’m a stellar test subject for arm volume measuring (I just lay there), and I follow directions well for the range of motion, peak force and endurance tests. The cognitive test is a bit trickier, and I can’t recall the word I’m to repeat that begins with a “C.” (Cloak? Church? Caterpillar?)

Lewis tells me not to worry, everyone has trouble — an indication she’s also learned an empathetic bedside manner.

Me, not so much. Remember those five words? Go.

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