Peruvian Partner

A Jesuit University in Lima Helps Open Doors for Xavier Students to Truly Experience Andean Culture

In the low-income neighborhood of Ventanillas on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, a group of Xavier students is busy interacting with—and teaching—a classroom of chatty children. After singing a Spanish version of “London Bridge,” they gather round a table to brainstorm ideas for a storybook. The children create pictures for the book and practice acting their parts, prancing around in bare feet.

Continue reading “Peruvian Partner”

Beetle Mania: The Hunt for a Different Kind of Longhorn

Like a lot of entomologists, assistant biology professor Ann Ray has been bugged by a dearth of information about the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. So she joined a group of other bug-crazy biologists to find a better way to locate them than just looking in the weeds.

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle, whose Latin name is Desmocerus californicus dimorphus, is a threatened species, just a step below endangered. But there’s a catch—no one really knows how many there are.

“Since (the beetle was added to the threatened species list in 1980), it has been the subject of a lot of controversy because the larvae bore into elderberry trees,” Ray says. “Elderberry is a weed. It just grows up in all sorts of place. Since the beetle’s elderberry habitat is protected, you can’t cut down elderberry trees. But you also can’t develop.”

Property owners don’t like elderberry, but they can’t cut down the pesky weed because it’s the habitat of the longhorn. And yet determining exactly how threatened the longhorn is has been nearly impossible. Until now.

Who would have thought that the sex pheromone desmolactone could be the answer?

Entomologists use pheromones like desmolactone in special traps, where the pheromone is hung in a cross-section of cardboard. The beetles are attracted to the pheromone and hit the cardboard as they fly, falling into the trap. Only the male beetles are attracted to the traps. It’s a far more effective way to find specimens than hunting through elderberry trees.

Ray and her colleagues published an article on their discovery in the online journal PLOS One in December last year and hope it’s the answer to finding—and studying—the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. And maybe freeing up the elderberry for a much-needed trim. Read the journal article at PLOS One.

 

My Momma’s Kitchen: Cake in a Jar

If home is where the heart is, the kitchen is the beating center at least that’s what it’s like at the Spencers’ house in Cincinnati. The kitchen is the center of activity for Naimah and her mother, Vallery.

“In that kitchen I learned so much from her,” Naimah says. “I would do my homework there, share stories about my day. I shed tears in that kitchen. But there was always cooking.”

Naimah has always been enthralled with cooking. It was a passion fueled by her mother and the magic of mealtime. When they went to grocery stores together, Naimah would collect the free recipes they handed out. She even learned to read and write through cooking.

“I would sit next to my mom and write each recipe down,” Naimah says. “I didn’t realize she was just telling me what was on the back of the box. I wrote it anyway. I would say, ‘Mom, I need to save this recipe forever.’”

So it’s no surprise that it was in that kitchen that the online bakery, My Momma’s Kitchen, was born. It happened one day when Vallery decided to make a cake. She and Naimah went through the routine of cooking and sharing stories, but the cake turned out to be something else—dark chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting in the middle and decanted fudge frosting as icing—a three-layer masterpiece.

“As soon as I ate this I thought, ‘What am I doing? I could be a baker. Mom we could do this together!”’ Naimah says.

Vallery hesitated, but Naimah welcomed the challenge. With Naimah’s experience as a 2012 Xavier business graduate majoring in Entrepreneurial Studies, and Vallery’s skills in the kitchen, Naimah knew they could be a success. Together the mother-daughter team dove into the business of baking. And through trial and error, they discovered the best way to ship a cake was in a glass jar. A very small, just-the-right-size-for-dessert kind of jar. Now the Cake-in-a-Jar is their flagship item.

A pack of four begins at $35. “It’s not just a cake in a jar,” Naimah says. “It’s the best-cake-you’ll-eat—in a jar. It’s the best-experience-you’ll-have—in a jar.”

Naimah and Vallery also make cookies, brownies and traditional layer cakes. Working up to 12 or more hours a day, they keep the bakery running. And growing. My Momma’s Kitchen is on Facebook and Etsy as mymommaskitchen, and they’re thinking about bringing the business to local farmers markets and some day opening a real store.

Sometimes they also create baked gifts and wedding favors. Other times it’s just so someone can have a little taste of home. Because at the center of everything is family, home—and a kitchen.

LEARN MORE about My Momma’s Kitchen and buy your own Cake-in-a-Jar at their website.

Student Spotlight: Charlie Rosebrough, Senior

Sitting in the Xavier archives is a little known journal about a quarter-inch thick. The spine is disintegrated and the pages so fragile that a simple touch can cause them to crumble into dust. Inside is the Historia Doma or House History, a Jesuit account of Xavier’s early years from 1847-1894. It’s a rare source of Xavier history, but for years, no one knew what it said. Written in Latin, the ledger sat in the archives, waiting to be translated.

Then came Charlie Rosebrough. After six years in high school translating the same Latin over and over, the junior honors student and begrudging Latin lover swore he would never touch it again.

“I didn’t choose Latin,” Rosebrough says. “Latin chose me.”

Rosebrough wanted a theology degree. When he saw Xavier’s Honors Bachelor of Arts, which focuses on the classical languages of Latin and Greek, he couldn’t resist. It was great preparation for his degree, but he would have to fight against the monotony.

“As you can imagine, Latin is only so fun when it all has been translated before,” says Rosebrough. “When I go to class and Virgil has been translated a thousand times, it’s boring. I wanted to translate something that has never been translated.”

In his freshman year, Rosebrough sent out three emails looking for translation work. One was to the Cincinnati History Museum. The curator told Rosebrough there were tons of un-translated documents. In German. Another went to the University of Cincinnati’s archives. No response. The last was sent to Thomas Kennealy, S.J., in the Xavier archives.

Kennealy thought he’d hit the jackpot. Finding anyone, not to mention a student, who can translate Latin to English doesn’t happen very often. Kennealy had Rosebrough translate some old diplomas first. When he saw Rosebrough’s skills, he pulled out the journal.

“It’s amazing how much sense Rosebrough has made of it,” Kennealy says.

Rosebrough went to the archives every day, working anywhere from one to five hours. He pored through the Historia Doma, which was written by a Jesuit who was called a scriptor historiae. Every few years, the name of the scriptor historiae would change.

“So there’s about 15 to 20 different authors,” says Rosebrough, “That means I had to get used to 15 to 20 different handwritings as I went through the thing.”

To make it more complicated, none of the authors were native Latin speakers. They all thought and spoke in their own different languages such as English, French or Dutch. This meant what they wrote has its truest meaning in their native tongue, while Latin itself is only an approximation.

“It’s like I’m guessing what they initially thought and then put into Latin,” he says. “Latin is almost a barrier to what their thought is.”

To streamline the translation process, Rosebrough set out to create a readable master transcript. First, he transcribed the journal into his own handwriting in Latin and then typed his Latin onto a master transcript. It took a little over a year to transcribe the Latin into English.

“It’s more important for me that there is a good Latin copy than there is an English, because the Latin will always be true,” Rosebrough says. “My translation is my own.”

What he learned from the journal sheds new light on early Jesuit history at Xavier. A large section of the journal is dedicated to the fire that burned down St. Xavier’s Church in 1882 and the rebuilding process that followed. Lost in the blaze was a beautiful organ.

Rosebrough’s work on the journal has become an integral part of who he is today.

“It’s defined me,” he says. “Last year when the fire alarm went off, the only thing I grabbed was the USB drive that had my work on it. This entire building could go up in flames, and I could not care, but if this thing (USB drive) was destroyed, I would have been heart-broken.”

With the English translation complete, Rosebrough is looking to publish an excerpt in the academic journal, U.S. Catholic Historian. After graduation this spring, Rosebrough hopes to enter a doctoral program in Jesuit American history, a passion he credits to the ledger.

“Without Charlie,” Kennealy says, “who knows when these would be translated. We are going to miss him when he graduates.”

 

 

 

 

Dr. Double Duty

It takes intellectual guts to go after your PhD. To get your MD, it takes a lot of spunk. To go after both is, well, crazy.

But for 2014 graduate and Fr. Finn Award recipient Michael Petrany, it made all the sense in the world. Especially when he learned he was being awarded a fellowship that covers the entire cost of both his PhD and MD programs and gives him enough money to live on for the duration. It’s called the Whitsett Fellowship, and he’s its first recipient.

The fellowship is named after Jeffrey Whitsett, a physician and professor at the University of Cincinnati and a world leader in pediatric research. Its goal is to develop and promote physician scientists to be leaders in both research and hospital settings.

The fellowship supports students for the entire time they are working on their dual degrees in the Medical Scientist Training Program. Petrany, from Huntington, W.Va., began his journey at the University of Cincinnati Medical School at the end of August with the aid of the fellowship. He was inspired to apply after working for two years in a lab with researchers and doctors at Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “I always loved science and I had a real passion for scientific investigation and learning new things,” Petrany says. “But I always wanted to find a way to ground that in service for others.”

The path to a PhD and an MD is long—seven to eight years. There’s two years of traditional medical school, then three to four years of PhD research. The program ends with two years of medical residencies and clinical rotations.

“It’s a challenge,” Petrany says. “You’re learning the language of science and clinical medicine. And you’re responsible ultimately to help bridge the gap between those two things.”

VB Coach

With the departure of volleyball coach Mike Johnson for the greener courts of Notre Dame, Athletic Director Greg Christopher announced that associate head coach Christy Pfeffenberger would take his place as the new head coach.

“It became clear during our search process that the best choice for a new leader for our volleyball program was already here,” Christopher says. Pfeffenberger has been with the team twice before already, first from 2008-2010 and most recently since March 2014 following a three-year stint as an assistant at—you guessed it—Notre Dame. All told, she has 10 years of Division I coaching experience including at University of Dayton and Youngstown State. She played at Dayton from 2000-2004 where she was Atlantic 10 Player of the Year in 2004. “I`m excited for my first head coaching opportunity to be here at Xavier,” she says. “I truly believe in the mission and values of the University.”

Into the Wild

A program started by visiting theology professor and alum Leon Chartrand gives a whole new meaning to the idea of the outdoor classroom. Xavier Expeditions offers courses that include trips to cool places such as Yellowstone Park and the Sawtooth Wilderness in Alaska. This year, Chartrand added a trip to the American Southwest. For one week over spring break, students enrolled in Sacred Ground & the New Story: Navajo Lands explored nature and Navajo spiritual concepts, like “walking in beauty.” They did hands-on learning in the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert of the ancient Southwest and the Navajo and Hopi nations. Students are encouraged to draw from Native American cultures, the Judeo-Christian and other religious traditions, and from the knowledge of evolution to rediscover the earth. Chartrand hopes his students learn to see the earth as a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects, and how to tackle human-earth relations. Chartrand invites students to suggest favorite locations for future trips. Some of his favorites? The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Galapagos Islands and the Serengeti.