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Alumni profile ’93: Ready for her close-up

8:54 AM  Jul 18th, 2017
by Jeaneen Parsons

As president of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Susan Zech ’93 has seen many thespians preparing for close-ups. The boutique college with campuses in New York and Los Angeles counts among its alumni Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, to name a few from its 132-year history.

“I consider it a privilege to lead an institution I so wholeheartedly believe in,” Zech said. “It’s a joy to do work that honors an important legacy and advances a mission I really care about. Actors are vital to our civilization. Art heals. Inspires. It holds a mirror up to society and helps audiences understand the human condition. What could be more thrilling?”

Zech wears many hats — strategist, problem solver, consensus builder and mentor — and credits UD’s Learn. Lead. Serve.
maxim as a central philosophy that has shaped her leadership style. “It’s funny how what resonated for me then has remained important over the years. As I’ve matured in my role, I’ve discovered more about leadership being rooted in service,” she said.

The Academy attracts a global student body representing nearly 40 countries and all 50 states. Zech says this diversity enriches the learning process both professionally and socially for students.

When not commuting between the two coasts for work, Zech spends time with family and friends. “There’s no place like New York. I’ve also found it’s important to find a beach, lake or mountaintop from time to time to recharge.”

So, would Zech ever utter that famous line from Sunset Boulevard, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”? Not likely.

“I have the greatest respect for actors. They are among the most courageous souls on earth. I get to contribute in a meaningful way to the development of young actors, but my calling is not to be on stage,” Zech said.

Filmmaker Cecil De-Mille, Academy Class of 1900, found many others who would.

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Celebration, vision

1:53 PM  Jul 10th, 2017
by Michelle Tedford

The celebration started and ended with a focus on students, just as it should.

This April, during a jubilant four days, the Univer-sity inaugurated its 19th president, Eric F. Spina.

After a joyous Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, it was time to tour student talents — from a cappella singing by the Audio Pilots to to community building with a Walnut Hills Neighborhood picnic. Spina and his wife, Karen, got into the fun, acting out scenes from a living scrapbook with members of the improv troupe On the Fly.

His participation was an extension of the admiration he’s shown for UD students since he joined campus July 1, 2016.

“You never cease to amaze me,” he said. “You are our inspiration and our promise to the world.”

Spina’s optimism for the future and the impact UD students, alumni, faculty and staff will make in the world guided the program for the celebration.

During panel conversations Monday, April 3, professors in math, education and engineering shared a table where they discussed how their disciplines contribute to shared community solutions. Such cross-collaborations will be an intentional part of the University’s vision moving forward.

The innovation theme continued through Tuesday, April 4, when a keynote address and panel discussion focused on opportunities to create distinctive futures.

“Not everyone can be an inventor, creator or discoverer,” said 44-year IBM veteran Nicholas Donofrio during his address. “But everyone can be an innovator.”

With an eye toward ingenuity, the installation ceremony incorporated elements of both tradition and whimsy. Faculty and representatives of other universities marched into UD Arena to formal brass music, and at the conclusion danced and clapped their way out to jubilant tuba music alongside members of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. In between, the audience of more than 1,100 heard voices of the community, including those who shared what makes this “Our UD.”

For Dominic Sanfilippo ’16, it is “realizing that our big, complicated world is made more joyful and more just by sharing stories, taking risks and finding our voices together.”

Two former UD presidents — Brother Raymond Fitz, S.M., and Daniel Curran, both of whom remain active on campus — took the stage to embrace their newest counterpart before Spina shared his vision.

“I remember all the voices I have heard on campus, in alumni communities around the nation and in Dayton gatherings as we shaped our aspirational strategic vision to be ‘THE University for the Common Good,’” Spina later said. (Read more on the vision, Page 27).

The Celebration of the Arts performance was that evening, followed the next day by Stander Symposium presentations. The students — through grace, wit, sweat, inquiry and resolve — shared with the community the best of their education.

It was a celebration rooted in the optimism and vision of an ambitious president, in the transdisciplinary collaborations of faculty and staff, and in the impact students will make in the world as they strive for common good through a UD education.  

“I’m still clapping,” Spina said after the performance. “And can’t wait for next spring’s encore.”

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A very, very fine house it will be

4:24 PM  Jun 15th, 2017
by Thomas M. Columbus

Amenities. Accessibility. Air conditioning. And a very cool look.

As well as a lot of infrastructure that fans won’t see.

Over the next three years, a $72 million project will transform one of the nation’s most iconic sports venues, the University of Dayton Arena.

The 2017 phase of the project will include a new four-sided, center-hung video board, LED ribbon boards on the fascia of the Spectrum Flight Deck and suites, new 100- and 200-level seats, and updated and additional American with Disabilities Act seating. Upgrades to the audio system and broadcasting infrastructure, initial work on platforms for four new terrace suites, and upgrades to the dewatering pumps are also planned.

A new concourse and new 300- and 400-level seats will come in 2018 as well as several upgrades to the infrastructure, including new court lighting and improved Wi-Fi. The corner video boards will be moved and turned toward the 300/400 level. Restrooms, concession stands and merchandise locations will be added and upgraded.

The concourse and 300- and 400-level seats, restrooms and concession stands will be completed in 2019. New club seats will appear between the 200 and 300 levels; terrace seats, in the four corners. The exterior will see a new design with upgraded lighting; the interior will be climate-controlled.

Funding will come from philanthropy (spurred by several multimillion-dollar lead gifts), corporate sponsorships, external private and business partnerships, ticket revenue and general University support.

In a message to the University community, Eric Spina, president, and Neil Sullivan, vice president and director of athletics, wrote, “We do not plan to seek any governmental funding for the project. We expect the fundraising will have little, if any, impact on our high-priority academic

goals because of the difference in individual donor interests. No donors will be steered away from other funding priorities to support the Arena project.”

Game schedules will be maintained throughout the three-year renovation, during which time the 10 millionth fan to watch a Flyers men’s basketball game at the Arena will walk through the doors.

And as the renovation comes to a conclusion, it will be time for the venue that has hosted more NCAA men’s basketball tournament games (117) than any other to celebrate its 50th birthday.

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Returning to ‘a special place’

4:17 PM  Jun 15th, 2017
by Thomas M. Columbus

Talking to a group of current students about UD, a 1987 grad said, “This is a special place.” Back on campus for the first time in quite a while, he easily recalled the address of his old house — 1302 Brown St.

The grad was Anthony Grant, speaking at an April 1 news conference at the University of Dayton Arena. Two days earlier he had been announced as head coach of the University of Dayton, only the seventh in the last 70 years.

The students to whom he was talking were his team.

“This is a labor of love,” he told them. “This program is about this community, about the city of Dayton, about you guys.”

The basketball program, he said, “is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

Christina Grant, his wife, told Campus Report editor Shannon Miller, “Two weeks ago we were talking about settling down and making Oklahoma our home for a while, so our high schoolers could graduate.”

The Grants had been there for two years; he was on the coaching staff of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Then, UD’s coach at the time, Archie Miller, resigned to go to Indiana. Dayton called Grant, who as a senior at UD was co-captain and MVP.

Don Donoher, Grant’s UD coach, said, “He was into the NBA with a great franchise and everything, and all of a sudden I got a call from him. And he said, ‘What do you think?’

“And I said, ‘Come on!’” “When he got the call from Dayton,” Christina Grant said, “it was like a whole different world. He has a special place in his heart for Dayton, so I figured if he spoke with the administration, it was likely going to happen.”

For the Saturday news conference, the Grants didn’t fly in until that morning. Tom Archdeacon ’72 reported in the Dayton Daily News, “Friday was prom night for the Grants’ son, Preston. ‘It’s a big deal. His mom wanted to be here when he came home,’ [Anthony] Grant said.”

The lack of selfishness that characterized Grant as a player has stayed with him.

“I told Neil [Sullivan, UD athletics director] that I wanted what was best for Dayton,” Grant said. “Selfishly, I want it to be me, but as an alum, I want what’s best for this University. And if they, the members of the administration, thought that this hiring was the best thing, then I’m doing backflips down Brown Street.”

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Right again on Brown Street

11:52 AM  Jun 15th, 2017
by Kevin Riley '84

I turned right on Irving Avenue from Trinity, right again on Brown Street, and finally left on Stewart Street, crossing the Great Miami River and heading past the Arena to Interstate 75.

I glanced around, hoping these sites on the thoroughfares of my life would remain indelible in my memory. I had 500 miles of driving ahead of me, but I was in no hurry.

There was Milano’s, where I’d purchased hundreds of sandwiches, including many I’d taken to fellow UD alums waiting at the end of innumerable road trips. There was Timothy’s, where … well, I’d spent more time than necessary.

Flanagan’s, where I could still hear the sounds in my head of my roommate’s band playing from my student days. And the Arena, where I’d seen hundreds of games.

Earlier that Sunday in the Arena my son grasped the hand of UD President Eric F. Spina and was handed his diploma, becoming the third of my three children to graduate as a Flyer. He joined his siblings, his mother and me as UD alumni.

As I merged onto I-75, heading south to our home in Atlanta, I was overwhelmed by the impact of my nearly 37-year direct connection with the University and the city of Dayton. And tears welled in my eyes as I realized that relationship was over.

I’d taken the drive the other way up Stewart Street in August 1980 as my parents moved me into Stuart Hall. I’d visited campus just once and made an impulsive, poorly informed decision to attend UD. I expected to transfer after the first semester.

That was just the first of several times I’d nearly convinced myself that I’d be better off leaving Dayton, as university and city became inextricably linked for me.

But I ended up loving the place.

Upon graduation, I resisted the idea of staying even though I had a great job offer from the Dayton Daily News. After all, my friends were going off to places like San Diego. Later in life, I would wrestle several times with opportunities elsewhere.

But I stayed. And as I wrote when I finally did leave 31 years later in 2011:

“Now I realize that Dayton was the perfect place to build a life … along with my wife, whom I met here, and my three children, I leave behind the place that will always be home.”

But we really hadn’t left it behind.

After we moved to Atlanta in 2011, my eldest daughter was already at UD. Her younger sister and brother would follow.

They had opportunities elsewhere, and I sometimes wondered if I should push them to attend another university, perhaps one closer to us. But privately I was proud of their decisions, made with pressure to go elsewhere, because I knew they recognized a good place and would be happy.

Plus, they kept me linked to the place where I passed nearly every important milepost of my adult life.

As I navigated my career, marriage and raising a family in Dayton, I was always within a couple of miles of UD; it gave me confidence as the backdrop of my life. I would use the library, occasionally be asked to speak to a class and bump into an old professor.

We moved to a home within a few blocks of UD, where we’d live for 18 years. Our babysitters were UD students, including my sister (Mary Riley Casa ’90) and my wife’s sister (Brooke Meehan Ratterman ’94).

Having children at UD gave me the excuse I needed to visit — and a powerful reason to set off around the country for NCAA basketball tournament games.

I’ll have to be more creative now, inventing business reasons to visit town, and perhaps to catch a Flyers game and have a late dinner afterward at the Pine Club.

I just can’t leave the place behind.

 

Kevin Riley is the editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was previously the editor of the

Dayton Daily News. His wife, Tracy ’84, and his children, Anne ’12, Erin ’15 and Colin ’17, are all UD graduates. He can be reached at kriley@AJC.com.

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‘Mom, I’m quitting my job’

11:38 AM  Jun 15th, 2017
by Mike Vehar ’06

The scene: Explaining to my parents in Cleveland my decision to leave my corporate job to join a startup company, 3-19 Coffee.

Me: I might be taking a new job with Mike (Weaver ’06). He’s starting a specialty coffee company with another partner, and they think I would be a good fit for the team.

Mom: Specialty, like Folgers?

Me: Not exactly.

Dad: But you have a great job.

Me: I have put a lot of thought into this. [This conversation happened when my wife was seven months pregnant with our first child and I was 10 months into my engineering job and enjoying it.]

Dad: Why do you think this would be a good move? [I had also convinced them it was a good idea to do a stove project in South America, to move to Denver with no job, to spend a year in American Samoa.]

Me: If I don’t take it, I think I’d regret it the rest of my life. [I said the same thing when I started a company to get solar lighting solutions to rural Guatemalan families.]

Mom: So will you have a coffee shop?

Me: We will sell everything online at the beginning.

Mom: How will this company work?

Me: People are willing to pay a higher price for quality coffee when they know the farmers are being paid fairly. We would source great green coffees, roast them with care, then sell and ship the freshly roasted coffee.

Dad : OK.

Me: People’s willingness to pay more for better coffee allows the farmers to make more money, which in turn allows them to get better education and medical care for their families, reinvest in their farms, and save money for their children’s futures.

Mom: And what is the name of the company again? 3-19?

Me: Yes, 3-19 Coffee. The founders’ wives share the birthday March 19. The branding is really cool.

Dad: So that’s it?

Me: No. A portion of every sale will go toward social projects in any community taking part in our coffee from seed to cup. The first project will be an art program with Catracha Coffee in Santa Elena, Honduras. Youth there do not have opportunities to create art.

Mom: How will that help you sell coffee?

Me: Well, it won’t directly. But by funding this art program, we tell customers we are seriously committed to social good.

Mom: Is Cleveland one of your communities?

Me: I’m working with an artist here in Cleveland who does projects with kids here like those in Honduras.

Dad: Why this focus on art?

Mike: 3-19’s mission is coffee, art and community. People everywhere should have the opportunity to express themselves creatively.

Mom: An artist in Cleveland?

Me: Yes. She’s going to be one of our 3-19 Coffee featured artists!

Dad: Featured artist?

Me: We’ll partner with artists to design the art for our packaging. We commission art and customers select which art they want on their coffee tins. And, we’ll put a video bio on our website for each artist to promote their work.

Dad: It seems like your heart is in this.

Mike: Trust me, we should be able to find people that share our beliefs and LOVE coffee, too.

Mom: Would you have to travel? What about your future daughter?

Mike: My wife and I have already been working out how we could make it work if I had to leave the country for several days. We want to be honest with our customers that we have seen, firsthand, operations on the ground.

Dad: This is a big decision, Michael.

Mike: I’m excited. I have faith that taking this risk will be worth it. I love that I will be using my Spanish and working with video production again. I’ll learn, get better. I want to bring stories from around the world to people’s living rooms and smartphones. When I used to sip a cup of coffee, it was just a sip. Now it’s a story.

 

See those stories at 319coffee.com.

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Lasting bonds

11:30 AM  Jun 15th, 2017
by Myron Achbach ’58

The station wagon was a golden yellow; the purple letters on its side read “Cathedral Latin.” An impressive ride for a young man at one of Cleveland’s premier high schools in the late 1950s, early 1960s.

A student cheering Latin’s Purple and Gold would have loved to have it. But it belonged to the school’s athletic department, and I, in addition to being a teacher, was assistant athletic director. Among the people I knew at Latin were the athletic director, Pat Tonry, S.M., and Chris Conlon, S.M., both of whom became lifelong friends. Chris’s death on March 26 brought me to thinking about those years.

Roughly 35 Marianists, many of us in our 20s, lived and worked and enjoyed life together. Chris taught Latin I, II and III and comparative literature to seniors as well as being faculty moderator of the senior class. Pat taught religion to seniors in addition to his AD duties. I taught English and religion and later moved to American history.

In addition to its academic quality, Cathedral Latin was a sports powerhouse. One of its track and football stars became an All-American running back in college. We are still in touch with each other.

But much of the experience for us Marianists was in our everyday life. We ate lunch in the school cafeteria, breakfast and dinner in the three-story house we shared with each other. Besides our work, there were playful times. For example, the school had a life-size statue of the martyr St. Sebastian, complete with many arrows stuck in his body. We liked putting the statue in a shower stall and pulling the curtain and being amused by the reaction of the next person taking a shower.

The principal of the school and director of the community, Father James McKay, S.M., knew when to say “no” but tolerated our pranks. He was a model of wisdom and dignity. We learned a lot at Latin — about teaching students and relating to their parents and living in community, about friendship, about what it means to be Catholic and Marianist.

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Living classroom on a green hillside

9:00 AM  Jun 8th, 2017
by Debbie Juniewicz ’90

From a St. Joseph medal and the promise of $12,000, great things continue to grow. Building on faith and opportunity, the university founded on that promise is helping to create a school in Malawi, Africa. It will be a hub for experiential learning and research initiatives, supporting development in Malawi as well as the futures of the UD students who will serve there.

Amidst the winding, rugged dirt roads and atop the rolling green hillside, brick and mortar buildings have taken shape.

The sturdy man-made walls are in sharp contrast to the natural beauty, with the Great African Rift Valley and Lake Malawi both in view. It won’t be long before students and teachers walk among the classroom buildings and dormitories of the Wasambo High School campus. But it’s not the physical structures that will have the greatest impact; it’s what the buildings represent — opportunity.

“People in Malawi value education above almost everything else,” said Matt Maroon ’06, founder of Determined to Develop, a Karonga-based nongovernmental organization in Malawi. “I’ve seen mothers sacrifice food in order to pay school tuition for their children. I’ve seen families sell their last goat to send their promising son to the first term of high school, not knowing at all where they will get the money for the second term, let alone the following three years.”

Maroon has found the common theme in this land-locked African nation to be one that resonates more than 8,000 miles away on the campus of the University of Dayton, where students, faculty and alumni have worked with Maroon’s organization to make the school a reality for Malawian children.

“Faith — it’s people’s faith that tomorrow will be a brighter day with hard work, persistence and an education,” said Maroon, who first visited Malawi in 2006 during a year of service with the Society of Mary. “It’s the idea that one’s current condition need not assign them a set path in life, but that they have the choice if only given the opportunity to find the road toward prosperity. And that education is the surest way to lift one’s self to a state where one can comfortably, and humbly, take care of a family.”

It’s a faith reinforced by Flyer research, volunteerism and fundraising, from students and faculty in engineering, education, arts and sciences, and business. It is a faith that will also be passed on to future UD students, who will benefit from having the school as an experiential learning base. Wasambo High School, when it opens Sept. 1, 2017, will showcase the best of the University’s transdisciplinary, liberal arts education in the Marianist spirit of partner-based community building.

“UD is taking the exact opposite approach of an ivory tower, instead realizing that its talents and treasure can make a concrete and lasting impact on education in a global context — and that’s happening on the ground in Africa,” Maroon said. “This is the Marianist approach, to be around the table with the people whom we serve, partners in development and uplifting one another along the way. It’s intentional. It’s grounded in reality, and it’s faithful.”

A great need

The Society of Mary, UD’s founding order, is deeply rooted in Malawi, opening Nkhata Bay Secondary School in the early 1960s and, shortly thereafter, operating Chaminade Secondary School — which still educates students today — in Karonga. The Marianist sisters this year will open their own mission in Malawi and focus on teaching.

The population statistics of Malawi underscore the need for educational institutions: Close to 47 percent of the population is 14 years old or younger, and another 20 percent is between 15 and 24. The median age in Malawi — a country with an estimated 976,300 people living with AIDS or HIV — is just 16 ½ years old. According to Maroon, there are significant hurdles in the Malawian education system, including access to high school and quality education.

“Only about 18 percent of eighth-grade graduates, students in our area who have finished primary school, are able to continue on to high school because of capacity,” Maroon said. “There are simply not enough schools or room at the existing schools.”

Standard Malawian curriculum has not traditionally emphasized enrichment and experiential learning.

“We want to take the Malawian model — based off the British system — and infuse it with some of the best practices internationally,” Maroon said.

UD Department of Teacher Education Chair Connie Bowman is excited about her department’s involvement at Wasambo. Faculty and students will assist in professional development for teachers in Malawi, focusing on student-centered instruction and active engagement for learning, as well as curriculum development and recruitment.

“Many of our graduates are teaching in foreign countries,” Bowman said, “and we believe Malawi will be an excellent place for them to engage in teaching and infuse their training in best practices through the educational field.” 

The first phase — which is currently under construction — is a boys’ high school, set up in an English boarding school style. The long-term plan includes a girls’ high school and a technical college.

The desired outcomes for Wasambo High School are threefold: provide a world-class education for the students; create a teacher training program that enables instructors to learn and implement best practices; and create a “living classroom” as part of the UD partnership where UD students and faculty can analyze challenges and work with Malawians to develop solutions.

The new school is located in Sangilo Village, Chilumba area in the Karonga District. This district is several hundred square miles with a population of about 60,000. Students will come from all around Malawi with an emphasis on offering positions and scholarships to local students. The impact of the school, however, extends well beyond the region.

“This is a benefit to the nation,” said Scotch Kondowe, Karonga District education manager. “In line with Malawi’s development strategies, strengthening secondary education is a top priority. To have a partnership with Determined to Develop and the University of Dayton is a welcome concept, and we are glad that outside stakeholders are taking interest in supporting government through the development of secondary education.”

While students will soon experience the immediate benefits of attending the new school, long-term benefits are expected for generations to come.

“Lack of education is a barrier to development,” said Senior Chief Wasambo (pictured left), the traditional authority and custodian of all land and culture in the region. “Having the school will change lives and opportunities, from poverty to prosperity, and it will transform the community for the better long term.”

The school, not coincidentally, is named in the chief’s honor, as it was he who allocated the 120 acres of land to Maroon in 2013 to establish the campus. The cost? Anyone familiar with the story of Father Leo Meyer and the purchase of the property on which the University of Dayton now stands will find the answer remarkable. Maroon paid about $12,000 to compensate a few local farmers for the land. In 1850, Father Meyer purchased 120 acres from John Stuart for the promise of $12,000 and a medal of St. Joseph as collateral. Maroon, likewise, presented Chief Wasambo with a St. Joseph medal.

Each entering class will consist of 80 boys from more than 50 elementary schools in the area. Some students at the all-boys boarding school will pay tuition, while others will receive scholarships. Looking forward, Wasambo will have 300-plus students onsite in four years.

“The community can see that there are not enough schools in our area,” said Alick Zika Mkandawire, a community liaison officer. “The schools we do have don’t have good learning materials and don’t have enough teachers. The new school will provide these, and the community is excited for good things to come.”

The Marianist way

Maroon’s connections with the University of Dayton have evolved and benefitted both the Malawians and UD students.

Students have worked on issues of human rights in Malawi with Determined to Develop since 2010. Since 2011, the School of Engineering’s ETHOS program has worked with Malawians on projects from renewable technology to potable water. The political science department initiated the Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development in 2013. The practicum, now housed in the Human Rights Center, pairs UD students with Malawian university students in-country to tackle development questions that give Determined to Develop insight into how it can best serve the community.

“It’s amazing when we have our UD students here, as they can dig into an issue and, with their Malawian counterparts, help us understand where we should focus our efforts,” Maroon said. “Their research gives credibility to our mission and influences the direction we take our programming.”

UD student research has been broad in scope, ranging from assessing community access to clean water to an assessment of gender-based violence against girls. From an examination of health systems to agricultural studies, the students work hand-in-hand with their Malawian counterparts.

“UD’s partnership with Determined to Develop and the people of Sangilo Village has grown organically over the years and has really been defined by the priorities and vision of our Malawian partners,” said Jason Pierce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s heartening to see the collaborative spirit that has emerged on campus and with our partners.  Folks just get it and are eager to play a role.”

Collaboration has translated to action, and there’s no better example than Wasambo High School. UD practicum students have examined local challenges in access and quality of secondary school education. ETHOS students conducted land surveys and are helping with plans and construction. Teacher education faculty and students are working on curriculum and teacher training.

“In my mind, the Wasambo project vividly illustrates the capacity of UD as a comprehensive university, one that leverages students and faculty from engineering, education, business, and arts and sciences to find localized solutions to global challenges,” said Pierce, who as former chair of the political science department initiated the Malawi practicum.

More than an education

There is a buzz of anticipation surrounding the opening of Wasambo. Sophie Phiri (pictured left), a local mother and cook, is excited about what the school could mean to her children.

‘‘I’m happy because, now, there is an opportunity for my children to go to a good quality school,” Phiri said. “Teachers coming from outside Malawi will be able to help my children learn things like English and other skills quicker. If my children learn fast they can get good jobs, which will help our family lots in the future.”

Moses Mulungu, a local bricklayer and father, anticipates that his children will, one day, travel beyond Malawi thanks to Wasambo High School.

“They will only be able to do this by get-ting a good education and learning to read road signs and other important life skills,” Mulungu said.

While the parents are hopeful, the excitement of the students who may some day call Wasambo home builds with each passing day as the campus takes shape.

Since they broke ground in September 2016, much progress has been made on the physical facilities. The garage and storehouse are complete. The foundations for the head teacher’s house, boarding master’s house and volunteer teacher’s house are also complete. Maroon said building is expected to move quickly once the water system is in place. The water tower — which will hold four plastic 5,000-liter tanks for the gravity-fed water system — has been finished, as has the drilling for the three onsite wells.

Computer and multimedia labs will be among the facilities in the classroom blocks, and space has been reserved for a small outdoor amphitheater.

“My heart is pounding with excitement and nervousness,” said James Mayni, 14 (pictured left), who is looking forward to improving his English through the teaching of native English speakers. “I have always wanted to go to a boarding school, and this could be my dream come true. I will keep hoping that my next chapter of my life at Wasambo High School awaits.” 

Lowani Chirwa, 14, is also hopeful that he will be in the initial class of students admitted to Wasambo. His goal is to become one of the most educated people in his village and to fine-tune his English, as Wasambo will be an English-speaking campus.

“I believe that I will be able to learn higher reasoning skills, since the teachers will be highly educated,” Chirwa said. “I am looking forward to becoming a good, fluent English speaker.”

Exceeding expectations

Rick Pfleger, a 1977 UD graduate, has been on board since the beginning of Maroon’s development work in Malawi in 2008. He and his wife, Claire Tierney Pfleger ’78, met Maroon when he was a UD student living near their daughter, Lindsay Pfleger ’06.

“When Matt first decided he wanted to stay in Malawi, we wanted to help him financially,” Rick Pfleger said. “His goal was to start an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. At the time, we thought if he got 10 to 15 orphans under roof, it would be a home run. He now has 45-plus orphans in dormitories, four nurseries and preschools, and serves more than 500,000 meals a year in the community.

“I never envisioned he would stay this long, much less have the incredible impact he has had in Chilumba. Matt has become a fixture in the community, even to the point where the village chiefs made him an honorary member of their group,” Pfleger said.

Maroon brings two or three young members of the community to Chicago annually to meet the Pflegers.

“From the very beginning, we have been amazed by the spirit and optimism of these children,” Pfleger said. “When they share their stories with us, it enthuses us even more to continue our annual support. They are incredibly sincere, hopeful and grateful.

“Determined to Develop is certainly one of the most encouraging and fulfilling projects we have ever been involved with. We could not be more proud of Matt and what he has accomplished in the Marianist spirit.”

The Pflegers’ contribution to UD’s experiential-learning mission in Malawi has helped make Wasambo a reality. The wider UD community has also contributed, including a $10,000 fundraising initiative in 2014 by the University of Dayton student chapter of Determined to Develop.

“The Pflegers’ faith in UD, Determined to Develop and the Sangilo Village is inspiring.” Pierce said. “I am profoundly grateful for their support of this project and for seeing early on the impact the partnership could have in the community and the life-altering experiential learning opportunities it provides our students.” Pierce added that fundraising continues for future experiential learning opportunities for UD students.

While Wasambo will be life changing for the young people who attend school there, the experience of working in Malawi has also been life changing for those who have shared their time and talents with the people of the region.

“One of the most meaningful things I have learned from my time in Malawi is that no matter who you are you can probably help someone, know someone that can help, or you have the resources to learn how,” said Rob Greene (pictured left in red T-shirt, with members of the planning and work crew, including Matt Maroon, far right), an ETHOS graduate student currently working on the Wasambo project. “Being in Malawi has also made me rethink relationships and truly value them. Of course making friends halfway around the world and then leaving is one difficult aspect, but you could sit down with someone and immediately know 100 ways that you are different, but all you need is one similarity, one point to connect. Surprisingly you’ll find that not only are you not that different, but you can probably help each other.”

Greene — who is working toward a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus in environmental engineering — has been working as a project manager onsite and with Maroon on future construction plans.

“At times, it seems like ETHOS has only complicated my plans, but now I understand that I don’t only have an opportunity but also a degree of responsibility to act to better benefit my community and greater world community,” Greene said.

Department of Political Science Chair Grant Neeley has seen firsthand the impact the work in Malawi has had on the practicum students.

“It’s a tremendous learning experience and, in some cases, it most definitely shapes their career plans,” Neeley said. “But, regardless of their career path, this experience equips them with a greater understanding of how to work in a community setting. They gain a respect for others and their opinions and an ability to work through challenges, and that’s incredibly valuable because no matter where they go, they will be in a community.”

Even after years of UD student involvement in projects in Malawi, Pierce is impressed by the scope and impact of Wasambo High School.

“It’s a reflection of the commitment and passion of the community in Malawi, Matt, and UD,” he said. “It’s exciting to see our faculty and students engage in work that resonates so deeply with the Marianist mission.”

Pierce anticipates University of Dayton involvement with Wasambo and in Malawi well into the future.

That’s music to Maroon’s ears.

“The longer I am here in Africa, the more I realize that people have the same goals, no matter their culture or differences,” Maroon said. “We all want to push ourselves forward and we want to take care of our families. We all have the same motivations; to be happy, healthy, useful, fulfilled, valued and loved. This school will allow that impact to multiply the current work that we are doing. It will be a transformational force for families that will ripple from each person who passes through. We are transforming a society and are building another pathway to prosperity. How exciting is that?”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

In 1998, the College of Arts and Sciences talked of sowing the seeds for human rights professionals who could collaboratively transform conversations and communities around the world. Today, those alumni serve in seven countries and numerous organizations dedicated to bettering the human condition. Here’s a look at where some alumni of the 2014 Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development, featured in the Winter 2014-15 UD Magazine, are today thanks to a UD education that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Alyssa Bovell ’14
Associate director of Project Partnerships IPM (International Partners in Mission)

“The interrelated challenges that impede the social, economic and political empowerment of women inspired me to pursue a human rights-based career in development. Women’s economic agency as a force of global poverty reduction has become an issue of international importance that I’ve become passionate about. [The practicum] has led to my current position at an international nonprofit that is focused on supporting women with equal access to resources and services to transform and sustain their communities.”

Jed Gerlach ’15
International programs assistant, Plan International USA

“It was great to be part of [Determined to Develop], a grassroots organization that was doing such great work with the resources given to them — an organization that not only helped people, but empowered them. To see that, as a student, had a great impact on me: on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.” 

Jason Hayes ’15
International program coordinator, Operation Smile

“You can study these things in a classroom and read every textbook out there but, at the end of the day, it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have an emotional effect until you get there and you see, firsthand, what the realities are. It was huge for me. I would highly recommend fieldwork. It affirmed for me the work I wanted to do.”

Andrew Lightner ’16
London School of Economics

“[The Malawi practicum] introduced me to wonderful people, fascinating research and exciting future opportunities. I have difficulty describing its impact, as I cannot recognize my worldview, experience at UD or current career trajectory without the practicum. I am currently studying international development and economics and aim to continue research in international and economic issues. The values and relationships Determined to Develop helped me form will continue to drive my career and non-career decisions.”

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How high will we fly?

11:46 AM  Jun 6th, 2017
by Eric F. Spina

Together, we dreamed big and imagined a future of soaring possibilities.

As I near the end of my first year as president, I still hear the thousands of diverse voices from conversations on campus, in alumni gatherings around the nation, in the Dayton community and through Facebook Live as we shaped our aspirational strategic vision to be globally recognized as “THE University for the Common Good.” (See stories, Page 25).

I also hear the echo of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, who profoundly understood the transformative power of education. His words reverberate today as we educate socially conscious leaders: “By educating the mind and the heart, the school can form people who in turn can work at changing the very structures of society to ensure a community of justice and reconciliation.”

From our founding 167 years ago, we have unfailingly turned big dreams into bold moves, always with the common good at the center.

Our aspirational vision, then, is anchored in who we are — a Catholic, Marianist university that graduates pragmatic dreamers, compassionate community builders and creative thinkers eager to make a difference in a world all too often fractured by divisiveness.

It’s moored in our belief that, as a preeminent research university, we are called to advance technology in fields that benefit humanity.

And it’s an essential part of our DNA as community builders. As we move two decades into the future, we pledge to blur the lines between the campus and the community as we foster innovation, entrepreneurship and deep engagement in the city of Dayton and beyond and, together, work to make the world more just.

This is not my vision as your new president. It’s our vision.

Dreaming boldly stretches the imagination, but realizing those dreams can stretch us even more. Today, we are challenged to step up.

Working with faculty, staff and researchers, we are already tackling some of the bold aims in our strategic vision — moving forward on plans to create an innovation hub in the Dayton Arcade downtown and aggressively pursuing new research endeavors in fields like sustainability and human rights.

Without greater alumni engagement and support, we can’t become what I call a stronger version of ourselves — a university recognized worldwide as a partner for the common good through our teaching, research, scholarship and civic engagement.

Along with deans and faculty, I will continue to meet alumni where you are — in your communities, workplaces and homes — to listen to your ideas for new curricula, service-learning initiatives and global engagement. I will ask humbly for your support, particularly in improving affordability and access.

How high will we fly? With your support and God’s grace, we will soar.

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Alumni Profile: Secrets of the museum

8:47 AM  Jun 5th, 2017
by Karina Cabrera ’18 and Gita Balakrishnan

Wide eyes, open minds, contagious laughter. The whimsical sounds of children exploring interactive exhibits keep Jan Wrzesinski the happiest she can be at her job as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Alabama.

A communication major while at UD, Wrzesinski had a stint working in radio broadcasting early in her career, where she was known as Jan McKay. She now finds herself with more than 25 years of experience working in museums.

And, she says there’s never a boring day. As the executive director, Wrzesinski blends her skills to work on fundraising,
communications, planning and outreach to the community.

“The Exploreum is a very exciting place. Our mission is to inspire a love of math and science among all citizens, in particular school children, through summer camps, special demonstrations, and other hands-on learning opportunities,” she said.

She recalled the time when NASA gave a moon rock to the Explorerum for two weeks.  Although there was a high level of security surrounding the extraterrestrial object, the museum guests enjoyed the opportunity to see firsthand a piece of outer space.

Ultimately, Wrzesinkski said she hopes the museum experience provides an additional learning environment for children to appreciate the world around them: “We help bridge the formal classroom learning environment with group and individual science activities. We make it fun.”

Wrzesinski enjoys the challenges of running the museum, which has a $2 million budget, to help maintain the three permanent galleries, several rotating galleries and the pre-kindergarten demonstration area.

Children can participate in chemistry experiments, learning how to cook healthy, examining the lungs of smokers, and taking part in other hands-on activities.

“Kids mean a lot to me in the work that I do,” she said. “To me, all kids are precious.”

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