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War of the 21st century

2:51 PM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Michelle Tedford '94

Science has waged a full-scale attack on cancer. One teacher is ensuring high school students are prepared to protect themselves and help find a cure for what will kill a quarter of all Americans.

Statistics can sit on the page, cold and lifeless. But sitting in front of Jennifer Sunderman Broo ’04 were 21 warm, breathing humans, high school sophomores in ponytails and Uggs. And every one of them raised her hand to Broo’s question:
“How many of you know someone who has cancer or who has lost his or her life to cancer?”

It’s how Broo begins teaching her new curriculum, “The War of the 21st Century: The Cell Cycle, Cancer and Clinical Trials,” funded by the National Institutes of Health and made available this winter to teachers nationwide. She teaches the science of cancer in the context of our personal experience with the disease, embracing the fear and the determination that we can find a cure for what statistics say will kill a quarter of all Americans.

That cure might come from the mind of one of her students; inspiring the next generation of cancer researchers is one of her goals. Even more likely is her role in creating a more informed generation, one that understands the biologic processes that cause cancer and the choices we can make to reduce our risk or treat the disease — lessons we’d all do well to learn.

There’s a frog skeleton in the cupboard. Photos of scientists are pasted onto tissue boxes. And on an orange sheet of construction paper taped near the dry-erase board in Broo’s classroom are these words from Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

Broo  — tall and blond with fingers blackened by the dry-erase marker in her hand  — asks lots of questions of her students at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, an all-girls Catholic school that educates based on the teachings of a young woman who, in the 16th century, empowered women to serve God within the context of their families and professions.

Broo also asked one question of herself: Can I teach the science of cancer to students who are unlikely to take another biology class in their lifetimes?

“Sometimes I think teachers try to give all the practical stuff to the higher-level kids,” said Broo, who before joining St. Ursula two years ago taught Advanced Placement biology in Florida. The girls who sit around the black lab tables in her biology class are future writers and teachers and some who would rather earn accounting degrees than map out chromosomes. Yet Broo believes that understanding the science of cancer — how it occurs, what factors contribute to our risk, how clinical trials are run — is imperative for every student, every person.

“I tell them that I want them to have the information because, God forbid, when this happens to you or someone you love, you can search the Internet as an informed citizen,” she said.

Plus, she thinks cancer science is exciting. You can hear it in her voice as she describes the clinical trials that are leading to novel therapies for fighting cancer. Her energy comes from a lifelong fascination with nature and the systematic way it responds to changes in our environment. But she understands the looks people give her when she tells them she teaches cancer. “It was weird for me to be so excited to teach something that is so horrible,” Broo said.

Sophomore Gracie Ehemann was not at all interested in learning about a disease that had killed so many in her family and already threatened her.

“How can you be so excited to teach something that has taken my whole family away?” she asked, naming grandparents cancer has killed. “It was very, very hard to let myself open up to this.”

Broo knew it would be, which is why she begins teaching the unit each semester by asking about cancer’s impact on her students’ lives — raising their hands, writing reflection papers and discussing cancer truths and myths with their classmates.

Ehemann reflected on a painful memory: sitting in a doctor’s office with family members, hearing words she didn’t understand, and feeling fear and confusion.

“I had no idea what was going on. It all sounded so scary to me — even the word itself sounds super scary,” she said. “I think that this course really broke everything down. … Every piece of what the doctors were saying when I was younger I know about now.

“I wish I would have known before what everything meant, because I honestly feel that if a doctor came to me to talk about cancer and all the vocabulary, I would have a much better time understanding it.”

And it’s not just children who are struggling. Broo watched the family of her mother-in-law, Jackie, battle through the last months of Jackie’s breast cancer. “I wish I would have gotten to know her better,” said Broo of Jackie, a smart and vibrant woman who died in August 2012, three months before Broo married into the family.

“I saw the toll it took on their whole family,” Broo said. “I couldn’t help them, but at least I could help other families to be able to talk about it and deal with it.”

So to start the conversation, when her students raise their hands to the question about knowing someone with cancer, Broo now raises her own — for Jackie.

As a UD student, Broo enjoyed hiking at Glen Helen in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The biology major intended to pursue her doctorate and spend her life in a laboratory. But she looked back on the work she loved best — including internships at the Cincinnati Zoo — and realized she wanted to teach.

She earned her master’s in education from Xavier University and taught in Georgia then Florida, where she won a Science Education Partnership Award. It was her chance to get back in the lab.

Broo and fellow teacher Jessica Mahoney interned in Dr. Christopher Cogle’s University of Florida clinical and research laboratory. They would don white lab coats to work with new drug combinations to combat acute myelogenous leukemia cells, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. They were looking for the IC50 dosage — the dosage that would kill 50 percent of the cancer cells. Determining the IC50 is an early step in developing a benchmark for therapies that may eventually be tested in humans.

From their lab experience, Broo and Mahoney developed a lesson plan for their high school students in “translational medicine,” often referred to as “bench to bedside.” It is the application of traditional laboratory research — “bench” — to better the human condition and create novel treatments for diseases such as cancer — “bedside.”

Their first lesson plan focused on the genetics of cancer. But giving the students a little information on inherited cancers, like those resulting from the BRCA-1 gene, led to lots of questions. What about tanning beds? Smoking? How do environmental factors and lifestyle choices relate to the hereditary factors?

“They felt like we weren’t telling them the whole story,” Broo said. So the teachers expanded the curriculum, producing a two-week unit that incorporates traditional biology lessons and meets Next Generation Science Standards. It contains readings, videos and activities that can be adapted to students at a variety of learning levels. They presented the curriculum at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference at the end of November. It is available for free download [see “Continued Conversations” for the link].

One of the activities they added was the game “What’s My Risk?” Students pick cards to help understand that a combination of inherited and acquired risk factors could lead to cancer. Through the game, they learn why using sunscreen or exercising regularly helps reduce cancer risk, whereas heavy alcohol consumption or use of tanning beds can cause a mutation in the gene responsible for suppressing tumor growth.

“I didn’t realize there were so many steps to get cancer. I thought it just sort of happened,” said St. Ursula sophomore Annie Hamiter. Her cancer education that semester included a dose of relief from a fear she’d been carrying around for years. Doctors had told her family that her mother’s cancer diagnosis meant an increased risk for her. “With Mrs. Broo walking us through it and saying how everything has a step, and how things have to happen in your body for you to get it, I think that eased my mind. It’s not as if one day I’m going to wake up with cancer, it has to be a process that has to happen.”

It’s a process she now understands. [See “Division and mutation.”]

In the United States, one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

Broo shares that fact with her students not to scare them but to inform them. But fear — or passion or excitement — makes her students more invested learners.

“I joked with my husband that I’m emotionally manipulating them to learn science,” she said. “Anything that you can connect with on an emotional level pushes you to learn a little more than does just reading something in a textbook that doesn’t apply to you.”

It also helps when your teacher has written the textbook. On a Thursday afternoon, six of Broo’s former students sat around a table to discuss what they had learned. They gushed the most about having a teacher who not only did cancer research but also cared enough to teach it to them. Sophomore Gretchen Thomas called Broo “passionate.” Classmate Madeleine Morrissey agreed: “You need a teacher to be enthusiastic to rub off onto the students.”

Learning should be about more than just getting an A. Broo wants them to challenge and argue and question the material — and one another and her, which they did during a lesson on clinical trials.

Hamiter was angry to learn that cancer patients whose last hope may be an experimental drug would not know if they received the drug or a placebo. “I remember I kept on fighting with Mrs. Broo. Why would they let some people die for science?” Hamiter asked.

Broo insisted they read about the pros and cons of the practice and apply their own morality. For Hamiter, the question was more than academic. She struggled to find an answer, but she appreciated the space that allowed her to come to her own conclusion: “I’ve come to [believe] — it sounds awful to say — but these few people will die for the greater cause of creating a cure.”

The students took what they learned in class and carried it throughout their day, out of the classroom and into their homes. They started conversations with their parents, some for the first time having an open discussion about family health history.

Sophomore Marley Molkentin talked about her grandmother, who had died of lung cancer nearly a decade ago.

“I hadn’t thought about my grandma in awhile because I just don’t really like thinking about it,” said Molkentin, her voice soft and full of memories. “This class made me think again, and I don’t feel as sad anymore about it.”

The students said their conversations helped with closure or brought the family closer together, with the girls feeling good about being experts in a subject elder generations likely never learned in school.

They also mulled over their new knowledge and molded it into possible cancer cures. They would come to class with suggestions on ways to cut off the blood supply to cancer cells or to target chemotherapy drugs more precisely. Their approaches were simple, based on their 10th-grade science, but inventive. “They were coming up with some viable mechanisms that, if you could find a practical way to do them, could actually be some pretty great treatments for cancer,” Broo said.

She knows that few of her current students will go into science careers — those students are more likely to choose honors or AP biology — but she wants them to understand you don’t need to be a doctor or researcher to impact cancer. To demonstrate, students sat in a circle. Each girl represented one person involved in clinical trials — patient, spouse, oncologist, pharmacist, nurse, researcher, social worker, drug company executive. They tossed back and forth a ball of blue thread until it created an interlocking web of patient care.

“My favorite job was the person who would play and talk to the kids who have cancer and keep them sane through it,” said Hamiter, recounting watching a video of children with bald heads and bright eyes dancing with their nurses and singing to the song “Brave.” “I never knew there were people who did that, and I thought it was really cool.”

In the end, it’s a hopeful message that Broo wants her students to take from such a scary topic. For more than 4,000 years, humans have been making progress in treating, curing and preventing cancer.

“You have to train them to start to think a little bit, let them make mistakes and learn from them,” Broo said. “That’s one of the things I like about the cancer unit — there are lots of opportunities to internalize it and add their own spin — and hopefully it encourages them through the stories to take the mental energy or the mental effort to do that.”

That energy was evident in sophomore Monica Luebbers, who wriggled in her chair as she recounted her life’s ambition at age 10: to cure cancer. She said it was a dream that got lost in the chaos of middle school, when so many girls turn away from science.

“I think I want to get back that childish dream of trying to pursue a cure for cancer,” Luebbers said. “Mrs. Broo kept that fire alive, and maybe added some gasoline and made it grow bigger.”

Now that’s a way to wage a war.

Preparing for War: A (short) History of Cancer

2500 BCE
The date of an Egyptian papyrus containing the first medical description of cancer by Egyptian physician Imhotep.

460-377 BCE
Hippocrates gives an account of a woman with a carcinoma of the breast. He was the first to use “carcinos” and “carcinoma” to describe the tumors.

Marie and Pierre Curie discover radium, with which doctors begin to deliver high doses of radiation to tumors. Radium also proves to be carcinogenic; Marie Curie dies of leukemia in 1934.

Senator Matthew Neely asks Congress to advertise a $5 million reward for “information leading to the arrest of human cancer.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Cancer Institute Act.

An accidental release of mustard gas in Bari, Italy, leads doctors to understand the chemical’s ability to kill cancers of the white blood cells, leading to chemotherapy treatments.

In his State of the Union address, President Richard Nixon asks for an appropriation of $100 million to find a cure for cancer: “Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.”

First tumor suppressor gene, Rb, is isolated. It is among the first genes to be linked to familial cancer.

The first DNA microchip is developed, leading to today’s “gene chips” that are tools to develop individualized cancer treatment plans.

Gleevac, the first drug to target a specific characteristic of a cancer cell rather than attack all rapidly dividing cells, is successfully used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia.

The FDA approves the first cancer-preventing vaccine, Gardasil. It protects against the human papillomavirus, the major cause of cervical cancer.

The Cancer Genome Atlas project is researching and publishing all the possible changes in genes related to specific cancers.

Division and mutation

Cancer can form when the normal process of the cells goes awry. To illustrate this, Jennifer Broo has her students at St. Ursula Academy work in teams to draw a poster-sized diagram of the cell cycle.

Typically, the cell goes through a predictable process of duplication and division, producing cells for specific functions within the body.

But things can — and do — go wrong. DNA can replicate incorrectly, causing mutations that could become cancer. The cells have opportunities to correct these errors at checkpoints. On the cell diagram, Broo illustrates them as stoplights. At each stoplight, the cell can ask itself, are more cells needed? Are the environmental conditions right for cell growth? Is my cell DNA replicating correctly? If the answer is no, the cell can delay division, repair the mistake or kill itself (apoptosis), making room for neighboring healthy cells.

Broo teaches her sophomores that cancer development is a multistep process that requires mutations in both tumor suppressor genes and proto-oncogenes within the cell.

The function of tumor suppressor genes is to prevent mistakes that could lead to cancer. These genes slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes and tell cells when to die. Tumor suppressor genes can be turned off because of an inherited deficiency such as BRCA-1, the gene deficiency inherited by actress Angelina Jolie, or because of a mutation that develops over a person’s lifetime.

Proto-oncogenes regulate the normal processes of a cell. They are genes that signal to the cell what function to perform and how often to divide. Mutations to proto-oncogenes can also be inherited or acquired.

Age is a risk factor; the more cells have replicated, the more chances there are for mistakes to occur.

But students learn about other risk factors that are within their control. They learn skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types and that they can prevent acquired mutations by using sunscreen or avoiding tanning beds.

And they also learn that many of the breakthroughs in cancer are likely to be in understanding ways to prevent it. This education is especially important for 15-year-olds to learn, Broo said, because they have a lifetime to reduce their chances of
developing cancer.

Continued conversations

“The War of the 21st Century: The Cell Cycle, Cancer and Clinical Trials,” by Jennifer Broo and Jessica Mahoney

Recommended by Jennifer Broo:
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
“It is a long book, but very readable, even if you haven’t had a biology class since high school.”

National Institutes of Health
“This would be one of the sites I would go to if I knew someone with a rare type of cancer or who had tried standard treatment options and wasn’t improving.”

“Oncogenes, Tumor Suppressor Genes and Cancer,” by the American Cancer Society
“This provides an easily understandable explanation of the genes involved in cancer.”

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
“Another comprehensive website with good animated tutorials.

About the author

Michelle Tedford ’94 is editor of University of Dayton Magazine. She hasn’t taken a biology class since the ninth grade.

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Sister Angela Ann Zukowski

Digital humanity

2:19 PM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Audrey Starr

Technology has altered our behavior. Is it also changing our values?

Her patience ended as the flight began boarding.

Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H., had just changed seats in the airport concourse for the third time, desperately seeking solitude from a chatty passenger. His conversation, however, was not with her.

“I had found a quiet place to work,” remembers Zukowski, religious studies professor and director of the University of Dayton’s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. “Then, a man talking loudly on a cell phone sat down across from me. So, I moved. He followed. I moved again. He followed again. After the third time, I asked him not to follow me, to which he replied, ‘But, I’m trying to get away from all the noise!’”

That was the beginning, she says, of her heightened awareness of what it means to be human in today’s digital civilization. “Everybody’s talking to somebody, but they’re not talking to the person in front of them,” she says. From dinners with friends interrupted by text messages to wilderness hikes punctuated by the ding of an email notification, Zukowski soon felt surrounded by a “culture of distraction.”

Technology has given us new ways to explore, communicate and connect; we already learn, interact and worship differently. We can’t escape it, but we can be aware of it — and recognize our response to a shift that’s changing more than what we do; it’s changing who we are.

The feature that makes current technology so desirable is also what’s advancing our dependence on it. The telegraph, the radio and the personal computer, for instance, proved transformative for previous generations. But, at some point, their users could — even had to — walk away. Portability marked a new frontier.

“Any time new technology is introduced, it is so attractive that it captures our imagination, and we spend a lot of time with it simply because we’re enamored,” Zukowski explains. “The question is, how much time do we spend before either the admiration passes or we get totally sucked in?”

Think about the evolution of transportation. When the main mode was by foot, travelers’ moderate pace allowed them to notice the beauty of the trees, see the flowers blooming, observe the changing seasons. Now, zooming down interstates and flying through the sky, we still see autumn leaves and snowy hills, but they’re passing by rapidly, a peripheral thought instead of a focal point.

Zukowski — a former member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications — sees this trend at the Caribbean School of Catholic Communications in Trinidad, which she co-directs and is co-sponsored by UD’s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. When the school began in 1994, students were eager to learn about new media, although most of their parishes owned none of it. Then, six years ago, students began bringing cell phones to class. A year later, the phones were already being replaced with newer versions.

“Then, they brought digital cameras. They brought laptops. They brought iPads. This is a developing country, but suddenly, our students had more technology individually than we had within the whole school,” Zukowski says.

According to a 2013 report by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union, there will soon be as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as there are people inhabiting the planet, with the figure set to pass the 7 billion mark this year — meaning that many individuals own multiple devices.

By the end of last year, 96 percent of the globe had been penetrated by the mobile market, and almost half (41 percent) of the world’s households were connected to the Internet. The report also shows that, worldwide, young people are almost twice as networked as the population as a whole.

“This digital culture is informing, forming and transforming our students, the digital natives, at quantum speed,” Zukowski says.

Call it the Rip Van Winkle effect: One day, we rolled out of bed, and it seemed the whole world changed while we slept. For today’s youth, though, it’s all they’ve known. A 2010 Nielsen study noted that 36 percent of children ages of 2 to 11 use both the Internet and television simultaneously, with children ages 8 to 10 spending about 5.5 hours each day using media — eight hours if you count additional media consumed while multitasking.

Education for these “cyberzens” — citizens of a digital civilization — is no longer contained within four walls. Today’s learning environments are without borders, as communication theorist Marshall McLuhan predicted: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.” Many textbook companies have rebranded, offering “personalized learning experiences” that deliver a mix of text, videos and digital assignments.

The new learning ecology calls us to move from “learning about” something to “learning to be,” Zukowski says.  “In the 20th century, the approach to education was focused on learning about things and creating stocks of knowledge that students might deploy later in life. This approach worked well in a relatively stable and slow-changing world where students could expect to use the same set of skills throughout their life. But now lifelong learning is imperative. Everything is in flux, with constant change calling for flexibility.”

Take the Caribbean school, for instance. When leaders realized the vast amount of technology students possessed, they revamped their learning model to accommodate it. Instead of creating lesson plans in advance, coordinators approached each class based on the tools students brought with them. Monday could mean learning about f-stops on DSLR cameras; Thursday might see a tutorial on mobile blog posts.

Zukowski found a similar situation happening in the U.S. As a judge for the Catholic Schools of Tomorrow Award, she realized that a third of last year’s entries indicated their schools are 100 percent paperless, with students issued tablets instead of textbooks.

Indeed, the days of solitary lecturing may be numbered.

“Students’ brain scans actually look different, and they communicate differently,” Zukowski says. “I teach my UD courses now like a TED Talk. I’ll give a presentation for 15 or 20 minutes, then ask them to discuss the ideas, then do something within their table cohort. I feel like I cover more material in a traditional lecture, but you can tell that doesn’t get through to them anymore. They zone out. And, if students are being taught differently in elementary and high school and then come to college and our environments are still traditional, that won’t work. The universities that will survive will be the ones willing to shift.”

Shauna Adams, associate professor of education and executive director of UD’s Center for Early Learning, follows the neuroscience behind our changing brains.

“Any interaction that you have, any language that you use, any sensation that you engage in, the more it’s repeated, the more it becomes part of your neuro-network,” Adams says.

Zukowski points out that adults born before 1965 came of age when the amount of knowledge was more manageable, when someone could start at the beginning of a book and read to the end. So, people growing up in the 20th century learned to read left to right, top to bottom, start to finish.

This is not how young people influenced by the Internet read, she says. They read in the form of the letter “F,” conditioned by a website layout to read across the top first, down the left side and then skim through the center. Their minds have been rewired for kaleidoscope color and constant movement. Black and white pages are yesterday’s news.

As instructors in Trinidad noticed more and more digital devices being brought to the school, they also noticed something else: Fewer students were socializing with each other after lessons ended. In previous years, students could be found “liming,” a Caribbean term for a casual, often unplanned social gathering. Now, it seemed, they were still hanging out — but it was happening virtually.

As Zukowski says, “New technology creates new opportunities, but with any change, something’s being lost. Sometimes, you lose something you wish you hadn’t.”

Like silence. In a recent BBC feature, The Noisy Planet, Dutch sonographer Floris van Manen notes that noise is like a drug, so easy to get hooked on that most of us now feel distinctly uneasy when confronted with silence. He offers this example: “The next time you go to a concert, listen carefully to what happens when a long, loud passage is followed by a quiet one: many people start coughing. The constant overexposure of our aural nerves is as addictive as using chemical stimulants.”

But listening highlights the dignity of the human person, Zukowski says, suggesting that community is essential to being and becoming more human. By treating time with other people as valuable — and not something that passes the time in between text messages and Facebook likes — you’re communicating your respect for them as individuals. Zukowski refers to a “vibration reflex syndrome”: the urge to double-check that your device is still on, and fully charged, when it’s been quiet for a few minutes.

“We’ve gotten into the habit of making the people we’re with feel like there’s always somebody or something else more important waiting to come our way,” Zukowski told the audience gathered at the University’s 2013 Catholic Education Summit. “If your cell phone is on vibrate right now, why? Why aren’t I the most important person in your life right this minute? Why do you want to be distracted by that next text message?”
The fourth annual Civility in America: A Nationwide Survey purports that rudeness in the U.S. has reached crisis proportions. The most recent study found Americans encounter incivility more than twice a day on average, and nearly half expect to experience it in the next 24 hours, prompting the report’s authors to call rude behavior the country’s “new normal.” For the first time since the survey began in 2010, the Internet and social media rose into the top ranks of perceived causes, joining politicians, youth and the media.

“It’s as simple as taking everything for granted instead of treating everything as a gift,” Zukowski says. “People are accustomed to instant gratification now. They expect instantaneous responses, which leaves little time to explore or reflect on issues in any depth.”

Adams sees the trend in her students, too. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that they have a need for immediate answers. Their ability to wait for information is very different than it used to be,” she says. A lack of access to answers is more uncomfortable for today’s learners, she says, because it activates anxiety, increasing stress hormones.

It also relates to values, says Zukowski: “Only that which is new is good and true. If it’s six months old, it’s gone. Our role and our responsibility as Catholic educators is to educate our young people to realize that they are cybercitizens and can also transform this culture. This is a culture that is shaping them, and they’re not even conscious of it.”

Speaking at the TEDxDayton conference in November, Chris Wire, president of Real Art Design Group, said we’re still inherently curious, asking Google around 60,000 questions a second. The problem, though, is that we’re less interested in the exploration cycle.

In his talk, “The Magic of Brainpower, Deductive Abilities and Curiosity,” he said technology is “accelerating the fading of wonderment.” With a computer in our pockets, it’s become too easy to neglect the power of our own mind, asking “Why?” less and looking for quick, data-driven answers more.

“I’m not saying reject technology,” he told the crowd. “I’m saying we need to re-script our use of it. Think for yourself. Don’t let Google be a reflex. Don’t be a passive consumer of information; become an active creator. Come up with your own ideas of how it could or should work first, then go check your answer. You just might have a brand-new, nutty, crazy, magical idea.”

To help, Zukowski encourages her students to disconnect and actively seek out “Sabbath moments” and has found that they want them, too. She recalls a conversation with Lauren Glass ’13, one of her Chaminade Scholars, a program for honors students to explore their vocation and faith.

“Quiet time, to me, doesn’t just mean removing exterior noise. It also means silencing your thoughts,” Glass says. “It’s good to get away from the gazillion screens, or people, or the stressful parts of our day — but we need to take time away from ourselves, too. By consciously existing outside of our own ego, we’re moving toward cultivating peace and selflessness in our lives.”

Sabbath time, like other periods of rest, allows us to re-create ourselves — to focus our minds and center our hearts. It’s a temporary fasting of the tangible that strengthens the spiritual.

Zukowski says, “We need to live more holy, and wholly — consciously and intentionally, carving out time to detach. These are values important to developing a spiritual life. If only our search for God was as intense and constant as our search for a Wi-Fi connection.”

If it’s increasingly hard to ignite our creative minds, cultivating a sense of religious imagination in students can be equally challenging. Mirroring changes happening in the classroom, many churches now offer multiple worship styles, maintaining a traditional service as well as a contemporary, interactive one that appeals to minds that crave more activity and stimulation.

“Imagination in the Catholic Church is strong; our churches are full of symbols and stories,” Zukowski points out. She cites author G.K. Chesterton, who said that intellectual knowledge is important but, without imagination, we lose a sense of what’s transcendent.

Such is the challenge for Catholic educators, she says. “I believe firmly that education, particularly Catholic education, can and does offer a value-added dimension in the face of a new digital civilization. We have the blessed opportunity to communicate faith that stimulates the religious imagination of our students and acknowledges the presence of a merciful, compassionate and loving God, even — especially — in a virtual culture.”

For Adams, recognizing the challenges and needs of a new generation of students is essential. “One challenge for professors today is that we are often not seen as the authority on a subject as identified by the millennials we teach,” she says. “They don’t trust information, and they look at it more collaboratively. If I tell them something, they don’t view me as the expert in early childhood; they will check it out and communicate with their friends and go to social media.

“Class today does not stop when they leave the classroom. It continues, and students process information constantly,” Adams adds. “They want to have an ongoing conversation between scheduled lectures.”

Ultimately, Zukowski sees more fulfillment — and less frustration — in the digital frontier ahead. “I strive to see the new digital landscape as a gift evoking a call and not a threat provoking fear,” Zukowski says.
Next time you’re in an airport concourse, choose your seat wisely. The world may expect to hear your phone call — but it doesn’t have to.

About the author

Audrey Starr is managing editor of UD Magazine. She finds Sabbath moments during long walks along RiverScape (aided by a pedometer iPhone app).

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Fuzzy button UD

Warm and fuzzy

1:23 PM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Audrey Starr

The question isn’t, “Do you still have your fuzzy button?” It’s, “Where is your fuzzy button?”

They live in drawers, nestled next to multicolored paper clips and rolls of Scotch tape; on walls, tacked beneath calendars and dog-eared photos; and in basement trunks, buried with a couple of yearbooks and four years’ worth of ticket stubs. Even out of sight, the fuzzy button — a trademark of the late Father Matthew Kohmescher, S.M. ’42 — still carries an impression.

A philosophy graduate, Kohmescher — who died from cancer in 2007 — served as chair of the religious studies department for 20 years, leading the program during the transformative Vatican II years and the hiring of the University’s first Protestant and lay theology faculty in the 1960s.

He was known by several monikers, from the “grandfather of Founders Hall” to “Father Beanie,” thanks to a distinctive red and blue skull cap. As the unofficial UD greeter welcoming future Flyers to campus, he was simply “Father Fuzzy.”

“A ‘fuzzy,’ according to Father Matt, is a way to make the world a better place through a smile, a gesture or a helpful act,” said Brandon Artis ’09, who worked alongside Kohmescher for two years as a student tour guide. “Every student who came into contact with him learned about the fuzzy pledge. I still have my button; it sits on a bookcase, next to a picture I took of him. The pledge was simple in application but its implications were potentially monumental.”

As Kohmescher explained in a 1998 interview, “The older I get, the more compassionate and understanding I become. I’ve learned that you can’t change the world by [complaining] about it. Even if you pull all the weeds, if you don’t plant flowers, you still end up with just mud.”

Wrote Jackie Sudore-Flood ’95: “I loved Father Matt. He was my angel during my four years at UD, and I learned so much from him. One nugget that has always stayed with me: You don’t have to always like the things you do, but you must always love yourself. I still have my fuzzy pin from 1991.”

During his last year volunteering with the office of admission, Kohmescher greeted more than 4,000 visiting families, estimates Carin Andrews ’08, former campus visit coordinator. The fuzzy pledge was also a reminder to live responsibly and make wise choices, she said.

“Tough subjects we have difficulty tackling with our own children — alcohol, drugs, sex — Father Matt would discuss with warmth, understanding and compassion, knowing that these were concerns many parents have when sending their children off on their own. There won’t be another like him,” Andrews said.

She catches a glimpse of her fuzzy button, pinned next to her door, as she leaves her house each morning.

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(left) Lee Falke and (right) Larry Lasky

Legal support

1:14 PM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Allison Lewis '14

Many people hope to leave a mark on the community through their professions, but few actually do. A new scholarship in the School of Law will thank a local attorney for leaving such an impression.

Public service became Lee Falke’s work when he took a job as assistant prosecuting attorney in Montgomery County, Ohio, nearly 60 years ago. Eight years later, he was elected county prosecutor, a position he held for 27 years. Falke earned respect from constituents, law enforcement and the legal community for his just, fair, diligent and principled leadership.

He served terms as president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the National District Attorneys Association and, in 1975, established a victim assistance division, one of the first in the country, to help victims of violent crime. Falke has also served as a mentor to young professionals. Many have gone on to distinguished careers as judges, including Dayton Municipal Court Judges Bill Wolff and Carl Henderson, and Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Kessler, who was the longest-serving judge on the court when he retired in 2007.

“Falke is known for his unique hiring practices,” said Larry Lasky ’77, a Dayton attorney who initiated the scholarship. “Many chief prosecutors require employees to be of the same political party. Falke hired someone of either party as long as they could try a case, tell the truth, be kind — and win.”

Lasky worked with Falke for more than 25 years and credits his success to their time spent together.

“Falke is not afraid to do what has to be done. He fired me twice and hired me three times. Altogether, I spent 26 years in his office and became a better lawyer because of it,” Lasky said.

A UD student for three years — long enough to become a two-time letterman in baseball — before transferring to Ohio State his senior year, Falke hired many UD School of Law students throughout his career.

“I tried to hire people who got good grades and seemed like they would be enjoyable to work with. At one time, I felt like I hired more students from UD than anywhere else around because so many of them posessed those traits,” he said.
Being in the spotlight is not something Falke enjoys, but he is honored and humbled to have a scholarship created in his name.

“I hope to use this as an occasion to show my appreciation to some of the people who got me here,” he said. “Also, when I worked as prosecutor, it seemed like many students did not fully appreciate the role of a prosecutor. I hope this scholarship will help students see prosecutors as the lawyers in the white hats, not the black hats.”

Falke’s career is a testament that prosecutors can do a great deal of good, something Lasky knows and others see, too.

“Falke made me a much better lawyer than I would have been on the street or on my own,” Lasky said. “His office had a very collegial atmosphere that taught people a lot and allowed them to do great things. I wanted him to see just how many lives he’s touched.”


Nearly half of the lawyers Falke employed who have held or currently hold public office also have a UD connection:

Hon. Sharon Ovington ’81 (LAW) – U.S. District Court

Hon. Barbara Pugliese Gorman ’74 (PSY) & ’77 (LAW) – Montgomery County Common Pleas Court

Hon. John Kessler – adjunct professor, UD School of Law

Hon. Dennis Langer – part-time faculty, UD School of Law

Hon. Judith Bene King ’69 (SOC) & ’77 (LAW) – Domestic Relations Court

Hon. Nick Kuntz Jr. ’65 (PMT) – Juvenile Court

The late Hon. James Cannon ’78 (LAW) – Dayton Municipal Court

Paul Roderer Sr. ’64 (HST) – Dayton City Commission

Mark Owens ’81 (LAW) – City of Dayton, Clerk of Courts

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rudy gp fish


12:35 PM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Audrey Starr

Go ahead, call them weird. Members of the Austin alumni chapter want it that way.

From bat-watching boat cruises to a Texas hold ’em tournament, the University’s second-smallest chapter — edged out only by Puerto Rico — embraces its quirks and those of the city.

“The city’s tagline is ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ so we’re known for having an edge,” explains Michelle Arnett French ’87, chapter president. “We like to brainstorm outside of the box and take advantage of all the non-typical things Austin has to offer.”
French and her husband, Jeff, a 1987 grad, had lived in Texas for seven years when they began having what she calls “UD encounters.” Once, they asked a bartender in a sports grill to turn on a UD basketball game. He told them someone was already in the back, watching it. Then, they saw someone wearing a UD T-shirt at a nearby gas station. The group grew large enough to become an official chapter in 2007.

“Jeff began keeping an email list of fellow Flyers we met until we had enough to become an official chapter. The dot-com explosion brought a lot more people to Austin, including UD grads,” French says.

Like Emma DallaGrana ’13 and Nick Doyle ’13, who both found jobs in Austin before they’d even donned a mortarboard.

“When I found out I was moving to Austin for a job with 3M, I immediately logged on to alumni.udayton.edu and was thrilled to see an alumni chapter there,” DallaGrana says. “I had no connections in Austin and did not know a single person in the whole state of Texas. From the beginning, Michelle and the chapter have been so welcoming and engaging. Just knowing a group of Flyers in the city made it that much easier to move here.”

A 2012 recipient of UD’s Innovative Program of the Year Award for the bat-watching event, the Austin chapter’s programming is also philanthropic. More than half of the proceeds from a recent poker tournament, which included a tutorial on how to play, were given to the Dan Haubert Memorial Scholarship. In February, the group laid out a welcome mat — in the form of carbohydrates — by hosting a post-race celebration lunch for alumni in town for the Austin Marathon. They also formed a cheering section the day of the race, which several alumni ran in memory of Haubert ’06.

“One thing I love about our smaller chapter is that we’re able to go beyond having the same alma mater; we can build personal relationships,” says French, who helped DallaGrana find an apartment and hosted her and Doyle for Thanksgiving dinner. “Your background and your age don’t matter — when you’re a Flyer, you’re family.”

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How to sell anything (in less than 60 seconds)

10:14 AM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Audrey Starr

Got a minute?

That’s enough time to convince people they need to hear more, says Jay Janney, associate professor of management and marketing and founder of UD’s Business Plan Competition, now in its eighth year.

“The goal of a pitch is to entice people to listen further, not to get a final commitment,” he explains. “For an entrepreneur, that means getting an appointment to pitch the full plan.”

Janney, the Robert and Patrica Kern Family Foundation Faculty Fellow for Engineering and Entrepreneurship, has coached hundreds of students in UD’s elevator speech competition — named because the spiel can be shared in the time it takes to ride three floors in an elevator. He says it’s the component students usually dread.

“It’s a good life experience for students, but they hate getting up to give pitches. After they do it once or twice, though, they begin to enjoy it, and they get it. We founded the Business Plan Competition to give students an experience they don’t get in class,” he says.

Here’s how to knock your own pitch out of the park:

1. Be an attention-getter. “A good opening, or ‘hook,’ resonates with the listener and leads to the problem statement, which ought to make your audience nod and say, ‘Yeah, that needs a solution,’” Janney says.

2. Say (or play) it again. Janney teaches this technique: Give your pitch, then visualize the sort of good news you’d want to call home and tell your parents about. “I ask them how that feels and how they’d say it. Then, repeat the pitch. It changes. They are more enthused, more natural.” Or, follow the lead of Aaron Pugh ’13, who won first place in this year’s contest. “I recorded myself giving the speech, then listened to it on my iPod. When I went to sleep, I left it playing.”

3. Know it’s not all business. An elevator speech isn’t just for entrepreneurs, Janney points out. “When I networked campus, I found many departments have a pitch; they’re just called different things: an audition, a tryout, an interview,” he says. “The worst thing you can do when selling yourself is ramble, or be unsure or appear to waste someone’s time. Someone who is focused, relaxed and sincere stands out.”

4. Make ‘em laugh. Pugh is energetic and funny — and he wanted his pitch for Hot Seat, a portable, heated stadium chair with a USB hub, to reflect that personality. “I like to joke around, so I incorporated that into my pitch; it made it feel more natural. My tagline was, ‘Don’t let frost bite your buns.’ It was clever — and I figured, nobody else is going to be talking about your butt, so it’s memorable.”

5. Remember your audience. “What you need doesn’t matter to anyone else besides you; your pitch has to appeal to the person you’re talking to,” says Pugh, who has developed a prototype — and attracted some investors — for Hot Seat. “You only have 60 seconds; make sure you’re emphasizing the benefit to them.”

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jet plane

War stories

10:05 AM  Mar 18th, 2014
by Michelle Tedford '94

Did you hear about the great Toldeo War? No? Then you weren’t sitting around the Tedford kitchen table in 1984.

The World Book Encyclopedia was more common on our dinner table than a glass of spilled milk, and my all-elbow adolescent self spilled enough to float the entire 22-volume set. Alongside pork chops in mushroom sauce, my parents served a heap of curiosity with a side of disbelief that could only be remedied by a trip to the bookcase.

My father, Clint, loved history. As a boy, this son of a farmer whose fields lay adjacent to an Army artillery range looked to the skies for his future. He had read all about Charles Lindbergh, the pioneer aviator who, like him, had grown up in Little Falls, Minn. Charles and Clint graduated from the same high school 40 years apart, and my father followed in his flight path and became a commercial airline pilot.

Dad’s black leather flight case smelled of hydraulic fluid and the thin air at 30,000 feet. Inside, next to his flashlight and logbooks, was a pocket dictionary, worn by repeated thumbing. Watching him leaf through it demonstrated to me, a girl with abysmal spelling skills, that with the right resources anything was possible (and, yes, I just misspelled “abysmal” twice before getting it right).

Which leads us to those hallowed blue-bound World Books. At supper that evening in 1984, when we challenged his assertion that a war was fought over what we knew as Toledo, Ohio, he sent us thumbing through the volume “O.” We learned that the only casualty, other than a stab wound, was suffered by Wisconsin. Not yet a state, Wisconsin lost its “head” — what would become Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — when President Andrew Jackson brokered a truce that allowed Ohio to keep the disputed “Toledo strip” by giving Michigan the resource-rich wilderness.

If you thought this column was about history lessons or family dinners or encyclopedias, you are wrong. It is about cancer. My father was diagnosed in 2002 with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor. After surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, the still-growing tumors pushed out his knowledge of the Toledo War. While he remembered our names, he did not know which end of the videocamera to speak into when recording his last message to us. He died in 2003.

I did not want to write a feature on cancer. Like young Gracie Ehemann in Jennifer Broo’s high school biology class, I did not want to talk about a disease that has killed my father, my cousin, my grandma and so many others.

But, in sitting and talking with her students, I found hope. And then there’s the story of Maryland teenager Jack Andraka. Motivated by the death of a neighbor, he developed an easy test for pancreatic cancer. If science could find a way to harness the enthusiasm of 15-year-olds, the problems of the world could be solved. Broo’s students are joyful and honest and curious. They refuse to take “no” for an answer in the way only a know-it-all teenager can. I hope every high schooler in America will learn from Broo’s cancer curriculum.

We all deserve to have every seat at the dinner table filled with those whom we love. It’s time to find a cure for cancer. It’s time for this great war to be over.


Read about the teaching of Jennifer Sunderman Broo ’04  here: http://udquickly.udayton.edu/udmagazine/2014/03/war-of-the-21st-century/.

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Human Rights Conference 2013 Photo by Arthur Su

A voice for the voiceless

9:56 AM  Mar 18th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran

When I addressed faculty, staff and students at my presidential installation 12 years ago, I talked about how a Catholic university must be a force for social change.

Today, I’m more convinced of that than ever.

At a February lunch with students, one shared an intriguing idea about how he could develop safe water in developing countries. During summers, teams of our students have traveled to Africa, where they’ve worked with villagers to install pipelines to carry clean water. Still, the problem of access to safe water persists in too many places in the world.

Our faculty and students have long fought against human trafficking — to the point of encouraging Ohio legislators to pass Senate Bill 235 that made it a felony. Still, more than 1,000 children in Ohio become victims each year.

In October, I signed an agreement with Catholic Relief Services that supports faculty research and advocacy in a campaign to eliminate slave labor in Brazil. Last summer, five professors visited the country to examine slave labor in the manufacture of consumer goods that Americans buy. They met with government and church officials to map strategies for change. Still, the International Labor Organization estimates that 40,000 people work in slavery in Brazil today.

News and social media show us faces of the poor, of refugees, of victims of starvation and genocide. We shouldn’t turn our eyes.

So last fall, we convened a global conference to share research on effective human rights advocacy and announced our intention to create and endow a human rights center on campus. In recent weeks, we’ve met with foundations and alumni to share our vision for a center devoted to education, research, advocacy — and action. We are seeking partners in this work deeply rooted in our mission as a
Catholic, Marianist university.

We will be a voice for the voiceless. To do so, we must continue to analyze the systemic causes of injustice, advocate solutions and educate students for work that will advance human rights.

We’re in an ideal position to make a difference. We started the country’s first undergraduate human rights program in 1998 and began offering a bachelor’s degree in human rights studies a decade later. Our alumni today work worldwide in humanitarian roles.

During the past two decades, we’ve held symposia on human rights issues, including the rights of the child and violence against women. Through a generous gift from alumnus Peter McGrath ’72, we began a rigorous research fellows program. Faculty and students conduct research in all areas of human rights, from human trafficking to refugee resettlement.

I’m reminded of Marianist priest William J. Ferree’s philosophy of social justice: It’s not up to individuals alone to make a difference. It’s the responsibility of all to work together to create change.

In the Marianist spirit, through the center for human rights, we will work together to address the world’s systemic injustices and promote the dignity of all people.

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L-R: Sr. Nicole Trahan FMI, Gabby Bibeau, Sr. Marcia Buchard FMI, Caitlin Cipolla-McCulloch

A simple life, a Marianist life

2:46 PM  Mar 17th, 2014
by Caroline Glynn ’16

In a world where the simple life feels far away, a few Marianist sisters have found an alternative in a small house in Kettering, not far from campus. The Annunciation House, located near the corner of West Dorothy Lane and South Dixie Drive, opened its doors in August to women discerning their future as Marianist sisters.

UD graduates Gabby Bibeau ’11 and Caitlin Cipolla-McCulloch ’12 live alongside Sister Nicole Trahan, F.M.I., and Sister Marcia Buchard, F.M.I. Cipolla-McCulloch has lived in the house since its inception in August, and Bibeau since December 2013.

One of 300 Marianist sisters worldwide and a coordinator of Marianist vocations at UD, Trahan said that interest in the Marianist community has grown in the past few years.

“I think that there is renewed interest in religious life, and people are becoming more OK with talking about it. More people have realized that this is a viable option for their life and that there are other people doing this,” Trahan said.

Bibeau, a religious studies and English major, suggested this renewed interest has come as a reaction to the consumerism and hyper-individualism of today’s culture.

“There’s something happening with the millennial generation and religious life,” Bibeau said. “I’ve spoken with quite a few other people my age who are joining religious life, and we have all reached a similar conclusion. In people our age, there’s more of a desire to do something radical. Young people are becoming more skeptical of society’s false promises of comfort and luxury, and they want something different.”

While building the culture of the house from scratch has been difficult, Trahan said that establishing routines — such as sharing meals four times a week and coming together each day for prayer and Mass — has helped each woman learn along the way.

Women in the process of discernment can choose to live in the house for one month to one year. While living in the house is not necessary for discernment, it serves as a helpful tool to women in the process of contemplating their place in the Marianist community.

“Living in community with the sisters has been essential in my discernment because actively ‘trying on’ religious life is a huge help when you are trying to discern if it’s what God is calling you to,” Bibeau said. “Living with the sisters has made me feel very alive, more my best self. That’s a good indication that it might be what God is calling me to.”

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liar society

The Liar Society

10:39 AM  Mar 17th, 2014
by Emma Jensen '16

A book series by Laura Roecker Stropki ’03 and Lisa Roecker.

Stropki teamed up with her sister, Lisa, to co-write a “book we would have loved reading as young people.” The duo is now three installments into their Liar Society series, which follows 15-year-old Kate and the secrets she uncovers within her posh co-ed private school. “We discovered that it’s not as easy to write a young adult book as it is to read one, but we’re hooked now on the writing process,” Stropki says. Their favorite part? Getting fan mail from girls who have become avid readers because of their books.

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