Charting Course

To help increase awareness among instructors, the University launched a faculty focus group to study the issue of online teaching. Professor of English Stephen Yandell, who has never taught or taken an online class, is co-leading the group with management professor Rashmi Assudani, whose doctoral research focused on managing virtual teams.

“It became clear early on that Rashmi and I could serve as the good cop, bad cop, with Rashmi being more pro online education and I being more skeptical,” Yandell says. “We need that balance to facilitate a useful discussion.”

To do so, Yandell, Assudani and the nine faculty members of the group will learn how to use various technologies, take an online class at another university and invite guest speakers to discuss various aspects of the topic. They will ultimately share what they learn and any conclusions with all faculty. “If we don’t help answer the questions, they will get answered but by someone else,” Yandell says. “As the faculty, we need to explore the options as broadly as possible, so we can pose well-considered answers. We need to address how online and other distance options can provide what we believe a Xavier education to be.”

The group falls under the direction of the Center for Teaching Excellence—a faculty development think tank that began in the Fall 2010 and is designed to facilitate collaborative reflection and discussion about teaching. To do so, the Center organizes a consistent array of periodic, ongoing and regularly scheduled programs, including: Panel Discussions on foundational educational subjects; Brown Bag Lunches on issues within Xavier or higher education; The Coffeehouse, which is an open forum on various issues; Chronicle Conversations, which delve deeper into an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education; and Workshops, informal continuing education efforts.

The Center also sponsors several learning programs, such as: A pilot Faculty-in-Residence Program that provides access to some of the University’s top teachers; Faculty Learning Communities, which are cross-disciplinary groups that engage in a yearlong collaboration exploring an issue related to teaching and learning; Teaching Mentoring Pairs Program in which faculty members observe one another, teach and talk about the experience; and the Faculty Fellows Program in which Fellows spend a summer and one semester working on a project that significantly impacts some academic activity.

Touch Points

When it comes to teaching with technology, Stephen Yandell is torn.

On one hand, the professor of medieval English literature embraces the traditional classroom with its face-to-face instruction and eschews recent advances in web-based curriculum. On the other, he’s intrigued by the wide variety of user-friendly technologies transforming the form, feel and delivery of higher education in today’s globally focused, Internet-dependent world.

“I have a conflicted relationship with online learning,” says Yandell. “I am both skeptical and excited about the possibilities.”

Skeptical, he says, because online classes have a tarnished reputation for being too easy. Excited because today’s technology allows for innovative and creative ways to study almost any topic.

Even medieval literature.

“There is technology that allows you to explore medieval manuscripts,” Yandell says. “It can turn the pages for you. It’s great and that’s just the beginning. I was at a conference on medieval studies, and one presenter told us how she took her students to a Second Life space where she had designed a way for them to deal with various portions of the text while forced, as an avatar character, to confront the same issues of greed that the Pardoner addresses in Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale.”

In many ways, Yandell’s love-hate relationship exemplifies the fear and fascination sweeping campus as Xavier begins to chart its path into a realm now dominated by for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix.

Exactly where or how Xavier positions itself is uncertain because the University hasn’t outlined a clear strategy—yet. But it’s coming. Yandell is co-leading a group studying the issue. (See sidebar.)

“It will be a serious concern for Scott Chadwick, the new provost, to put structures in place to address Xavier’s proper place in online course delivery,” says Steve Herbert, a physics professor who co-chaired the University’s search for a new provost and chief academic officer to replace Roger Fortin, who’s retiring and returning to teaching this summer. “Everyone knows this is something we have to do and that’s been reflected in the provost search, but no one has stepped up or is capable of stepping up because no one really has the power.”

[divider]ONLINE (R)EVOLUTION [/divider]

To this point, Xavier’s foray into online classes has been a random, grassroots effort. It started seven or eight years ago, with a handful of pioneering professors who experimented with online tools such as podcasts and discussion boards to reach graduate students in business and education.

Now online classes, mostly graduate level, are offered through all three colleges. Xavier also is on the cusp of a watershed event. The University is expected to unveil its first online degree—a master’s degree in Montessori education—as early as Fall 2012.

“Our direct competitors offer online degrees, so we need to get busy,” says Gina Lofquist, director for Xavier’s Montessori Education program. “It fulfills the mission and broadens Xavier’s opportunities.”

The availability of online classes at Xavier varies greatly, however, depending on demand in a particular program and the ability and willingness of faculty to make the digital leap from in-class to online.

“Every university is in a huge state of flux,” Yandell says of online curriculum nationwide. “The field of online courses has been the Wild West for many years now.”

The result will no doubt define a revolutionary change in higher education but the process is evolutionary, a phenomenon akin to other major technological advances throughout history.

“Every new technology that has come along has made educators nervous and the public, in general, starting with the printing press,” Yandell says, “and later AV technology, email and the Internet.”

As a result, Xavier and most traditional universities also offer hybrid classes that incorporate traditional classroom instruction with online components.

“Hybrid courses concede the benefit of meeting face to face with an instructor to guide students along the way,” Yandell says. “No one seems to have clear answers about what kinds of courses have proven to be best suited for online components or what steps are being taken to ensure that the same level of rigor is maintained for online and traditional classes.”

Yet the direction is unmistakable, Yandell says. “More online offerings are clearly a key direction that higher education is moving in, and it absolutely behooves us as a faculty at Xavier to address these questions right now. Putting our heads in the sand won’t do anything.”

[divider]THE NEXT FRONTIER [/divider]

Online classes have caught on at Xavier—and elsewhere—because they offer students flexibility and require nothing more than a typical PC to participate.

“The technology is cheap and accessible,” says Cynthia Kelly, a longtime nursing professor who started teaching graduate classes online two years ago. “I’m 53 years old. When I started teaching, you had to be able to write a programming language to use the technology. Now you pick and click.”

Kelly insists that today’s technology is uber easy to use, for teachers and students alike.

“You don’t have to be a techie person to use the tools,” Kelly says. “It’s really old technology. What’s new is the application.”

Online also offers universities a way to attract more and different types of students, Lofquist points out. “The rest of the world is doing it. We need to offer people options.”

The online Montessori master’s degree program is making its way through the University’s curriculum approval process and must ultimately be reviewed by the Higher Learning Commission to obtain accreditation, says Mark Meyers, dean of the College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education. Approval for a traditional program typically takes a year to 18 months, he says.

Meyers isn’t sure how long it will take to get approval for the online Montessori degree because it is the first of its kind at Xavier.

“It could get stopped for discussion at any point along the way because it is new,” he says. “It will be the pilot.”

[divider]IGNATIAN IDEALS [/divider]

Traditional public and private universities—Jesuit among them—are moving into online programs at a rapid pace, particularly in the last year. The Jesuit universities with established online degree programs include Regis in Denver, Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., and St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

But how does Xavier—or any Jesuit university—incorporate and protect Ignatian ideals of pedagogy with online curriculum? It’s an important consideration among most faculty at Xavier.

“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right,” says Elaine Crable, a veteran business professor who champions Ignatian best practices for online curriculum. “It’s not going to be a correspondence course. We’re going to incorporate the Ignatian philosophy or pedagogical paradigm into it.”

The former chair of the Department of Management Information Systems got on board with online programs several years ago.

“When we started doing this we weren’t worried about the Phoenixes of the world,” she says. “That pressure started coming in the last year with so many pop-ups. We decided it was an important addition to the MBA. Our students needed it.”

Crable, Meyers and other online proponents believe strongly in the importance of maintaining high academic standards and the Ignatian pedagogical ideals for which Xavier is known with any class the University offers.

Proponents contend that a well-structured online class can be at least as challenging—if not more so—than its traditional counterpart. Students in an online class, for example, often are required to participate “in class” by posting comments on a given topic.

“The thing about online is you can’t hide,” says Meyers, who has taught online courses in Xavier’s Department of Educational Leadership. “As an instructor, you get direct reflective evidence from individuals, even more than in a classroom. Everyone has to comment.”

At Xavier, professors choose how much or how little technology to incorporate into their classes, but the University is making it easier for instructors to make the digital leap through a rollout of Wimba, a computer-based platform for online teaching. “With Wimba, your computer is your classroom,” says Bob Cotter, associate vice president for the Division of Information Resources. “The key is that Wimba uses consumer technology. It’s Skype-like.”

[divider]CRAWL, WALK, RUN [/divider]

No matter how easy the technology is to use, using it well enough to teach effectively takes time and practice, says Roger Effron, an adjunct professor in the School of Education. Effron has taught in traditional classrooms on campus and in a host of non-traditional venues, including Cincinnati-area high schools, in Xavier’s video conferencing studio and at an off-site location in Wilmington, Ohio. Last fall, though, he ventured out even farther, teaching a class to Xavier students from his second home in Venice, Fla. Effron says he even recorded a few podcasts of his lectures while sitting poolside.

“Getting used to being an online professor is very challenging,” says Effron, who received good overall reviews from his students. “You gotta crawl before you walk and walk before you run. I experimented with a few things this year. I made lots of podcasts. Next year I will probably add Wimba.”

To be sure, just because today’s students live in the Information Age doesn’t mean they all want to take online classes. To address both needs, Xavier offers multiple traditional sections for every online version of any class. Sometimes both online and traditional versions of the same course are available during the same semester. In other cases, such as with Effron’s classes, the online counterparts are offered during alternating semesters.

Kelly, the nursing professor, says it’s easy to get hooked on the technology with a little patience and some practice. “It’s like something you didn’t know you needed until you started using it,” she says, comparing Wimba to email. “If I can do it, anybody can do it. There’s really nothing special about me other than my curiosity.”

The interest in teaching online courses varies widely among Xavier’s 318 faculty, and the extent to which an instructor uses online components also varies.

“The focus is on good teaching,” says Kandi Stinson, associate provost for academic affairs. “It’s up to the instructor how much technology to use or not use.”

“I’m looking forward to experimenting with online options,” says Yandell. “The key is using the technology where it can make a difference and meet the goals.”

Other Worlds

A Star is Born

Forgive anyone who suggests that Marco Fatuzzo sometimes keeps his head in the clouds.

The affable physics professor might well agree. After all, his area of expertise is theoretical astrophysics. “In a broad sense,” he says, “it means using physics and applying it to what processes occur in space—how stars live and die, that sort of thing.”

All this birthing and dying takes place in molecular clouds, those regions of space with a lot of gas, so that’s where the physicist spends his time—in a virtual sort of way, via computer models and data spreadsheets. Examining stars that are one-tenth to 100 times the size of the sun, Fatuzzo seeks to sort out some of the interstellar mysteries.

“The puzzle is, no matter where we look in the galaxy, it’s the same,” he says. “The reason it’s a puzzle is that things are very different in varying locations—environment, heat, magnetics.”

In contrast to other aspects of nature, for instance, this becomes baffling. “If you are comparing the environment at the North Pole with the environment in the Sahara Desert, for instance, you would expect differences.”

As part (and particle) of his interest, Fatuzzo focuses his research on the emission of cosmic rays and how they impact star formation. He’s particularly fond of particle acceleration and high-energy radioactive signatures, and enthusiastically launches into a discussion of gamma rays, protons, black holes, pulsars and supernovas at the broach of the subject. All the action, in short, that takes place at the universe’s “Galactic Center.”

“It’s complicated,” he says. “Basically, I take my knowledge of physics, how particles move and collide with other particles, and essentially build computer models. Then you compare predictions with actual signals from these stars, and try to make the picture make sense.”

[divider]Herding Bacteria [/divider]

Imagine that bits of bacteria are actually like herds of cattle. Only tiny. Really, really tiny. Then you can begin to appreciate the challenges that Heidrun Schmitzer faces on a daily basis. The associate professor of physics is charged with corralling these miniscule munchkins while, get this, they are still squirming around inside the human body. No small feat.

Schmitzer—who holds 19 patents in the fields of nonlinear, polarization and quantum optics—now focuses her research on one of the few strains of bacteria in the world that are born with actual magnets inside, specifically, iron oxide nano-particles. Apparently, these magic magnets mutated over eons so they could better orient themselves with the earth’s magnetic field. “It knows, for instance, whether it’s swimming up or down in the water. In this case, they want to be down, in an environment that’s not oxygen rich.”

Schmitzer jumps from the dusty chalkboard in her office where she scribbles formulas and tries to mimic how the bacteria start to rotate, to the nearby physics lab to test her ideas. “It’s interesting to try out, because nobody did this before,” she says. “There are also applications to the findings. There is the idea out there in the medical science field to minimize.”

Whether you’re a physician dealing with cancer drugs, blood cells or body fluids, you end up wanting to pump things through small capillaries or channels. The challenge is how to do that. “You could fabricate tiny metal propellers, but that would be really expensive,” she says with a laugh.

The key to these creatures’ effectiveness, besides a naturally magnetic personality, is their spiral shape. Think a helix, or corkscrew, capable of speeding to 360 rotations per minute. “The test is in how fast you can transport fluid by dragging something in a whirl,” she says, peering into a microscope. A roto-rooter, as it were, on a nano scale.

[divider]New Testaments [/divider]

It’s all Greek to Art Dewey. And it should be. When the professor of theology began researching the writings of St. Paul with three other New Testament scholars, they went back to Paul’s original letters, which were in Greek. And for 17 years, off and on, they scoured the original Greek texts, stubbornly delving into hidden meanings and arguing over intricate phrasings. “It was a long slog,” he says. “Sometimes, we’d spend an hour on a word or a sentence.”

The foursome endured weekly long-distance confrontations, brutal seven-hour conference calls and face-to-face meetings in an effort to achieve the analysis and introspection necessary to reach some kind of truth. And they did. The culmination of the research was The Authentic Letters of Paul: A New Reading of Paul’s Rhetoric and Meaning, a new book that immediately became the publishing house’s best-seller ever and forced a second printing after its November release. The tome distinguishes Paul’s letters from others attributed to him in the canon, disentangling “composite letters” and attempting to free Paul’s voice from 2,000 years of orthodoxy.

Tinkering with the Scriptures or challenging their historical authenticity is, in the eyes of some, blasphemy. Dewey’s heard it all before, though. He is a founder of the Healing Deadly Memories Program, which addresses anti-Semitism in the New Testament, and is a member of Jesus Seminar, a group of academics researching the historical Jesus. To him, it’s just part of his job as a New Testament scholar.

“People think of Paul as a closet Lutheran or a micromanager or anti-women,” he says. “None of these things is true if you read the authentic Paul. People don’t even think about why Paul was beheaded. What he wrote was counter-cultural, counter-imperial letters about who was the true ruler of the cosmos, over the empire of Rome.”

The first key is determining what Paul actually wrote. It was accepted practice in the ancient world for followers of famous figures to write in their names. That happened with Paul. Dewey and his fellow scholars finally judged just seven letters to be authentically penned by Paul—roughly half those that are attributed to him. So they removed the rest and then reversed the traditional order of chapters.

“We also don’t use the usual terminology,” he says. “We don’t use ‘faith’ or ‘Christ’ or ‘flesh.’ We don’t use ‘sin.’ We had to really look at the deep metaphors of Paul’s speech and how they can be translated into comparable metaphors today. What you get ordinarily is a rather wooden translation rather than one that reflects the vigors of Paul’s challenge itself.”

[divider]The Bug Detective [/divider]

As a child, Mollie McIntosh was chided by her mother, “Don’t play with bugs.” She didn’t pay attention, and today her world revolves around either grotesque dead bugs or live ones that carry horrid diseases. Eccckk.

McIntosh is Xavier’s resident bug brain. The assistant professor of biology is an aquatic ecologist and forensic entomologist with a self-professed passion for scaly, leggy, creepy creatures. Preferably ones that are dripping wet.

Lately, the first-year professor’s attention has been focused on two water bugs in Ghana. A mystery malady, Buruli Ulcer Disease, is sweeping 30-35 tropical countries and McIntosh has been called in to discover if the disease is transported by aquatic bugs. “Not mosquitoes, which is typical,” she says. “But two water bugs: Naucoridae and Belostomatidae. We have both these in Ohio, so that’s how we became involved in investigating.”

So are these water bugs turning out to be the culprits? “We don’t think so. They might possibly be vectors for the disease, but our evidence is showing there are just not enough of these bugs around to affect all the people who have been afflicted.”

McIntosh is still on the trail, however.

“All cases are associated with aquatic habitats,” she says, “and all are habitats that have been modified by humans through deforestation, flooding, agriculture, dams and such. We think it’s something very complex going on in the environment that allows the bacteria to become more numerous.”

It’s all a long way from the recreational Field & Stream magazine. More akin, actually, to Freshwater Biology and the Journal of Forensic Sciences, where McIntosh has documented her other wetland ecosystem studies, such as the effect of water diversions on aquatic communities in tropical Hawaiian streams. But research hasn’t been all fun in the sun. She and her students recently became embroiled in a “CSI” kind of investigation in which a nursing home was being hauled into court over a patient becoming infested with maggots. “It got a little gruesome, yes.”

[divider]The Criminal Mind [/divider]

Gail Hurst spends a fair amount of her time behind bars. Or inside halfway houses.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Hurst’s forays into the seedy side of Cincinnati are all part of her research role as an associate professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice.

Largely through the auspices of the Talbert House—a local social services agency—Hurst works with incarcerated women who are drug addicts and/or physically abused in an attempt to figure out if the services they’re offered really help them when they get out.

“Being in criminal justice, you see that there are a lot of people we could benefit or help if we knew more about the female offending population before they are forced by circumstances to offend yet again,” she says. “Sometimes when we are making policy decisions, we don’t ask the group affected. We need to get it from the horse’s mouth.”

Hurst, who first got the attention of the criminal justice community for her research on juvenile delinquency, is compiling her data and analyzing results, and she plans to have a research article ready for publication in the fall.

“We can provide some kind of service to these women who are going to get out of prison,” she says. “These are women with a host of issues that we, society and the criminal justice system, will have to address.”

Better, she says, to be pro-active before the offender knocks at (or breaks down) society’s door once again.

[divider]Defending the Little Guy [/divider]

Ann Marie Tracey has always been on the lookout for the “little guy.” As lead prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio. As assistant city solicitor for Cincinnati’s consumer protection division. As a longtime Common Pleas Court judge. So it’s no surprise that in her role as associate professor of legal studies and co-director of the Cintas Institute for Business Ethics, she’s still looking out for the little guy. And sometimes the older guy.

“For the past couple of years, I have been focusing on discrimination issues,” she says. “And, more particularly, age discrimination issues.”

As the nation’s Supreme Court churns out new decisions every legal season affecting the realm of consumer rights and age discrimination law, Tracey is finding her research work garners new relevance. “The Supreme Court once really limited what a plaintiff could recover in an age discrimination suit, for instance. Now, there are new ways to look at age discrimination claims.”

Along with a Canadian co-author, Tracey has produced a study titled “Building a New Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” examining different approaches in age discrimination in the two countries.

“My description of research is different,” Tracey says. “In the legal field, it’s really based on legal developments. So we don’t do the kind of hard data collection or statistical analysis that many professors here would do. Much of what I do feeds off what the Supreme Court is doing.”

Right now a key Supreme Court case she’s watching is “AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion” in which AT&T believes any company that issues a contract to customers should be able to stop the option of a class-action lawsuit in advance—a case right out of the George Clooney movie “Michael Clayton.”

[divider]Social Studies [/divider]

Some people see sports fans as nothing more than people spending their time playing games. Not Christian End. The associate professor of psychology sees diehard NFL types and college boosters as the ultimate petri dish in which to test the predictions of social identity theory, sorting out how people privately and publicly act. When he mulls over human beings and why they do the things they do, he first scans the bleachers and sidelines.

“Being a sports fan is an important social identity for some people,” End says. “So the results of comparisons between groups are very salient in sports.”

Determining this cause-and-effect has become something of a specialty for End. From tracking sport fan identification in obituaries to the influence of game outcome on romantic relationships, End has found no lack of fodder in the sports/psychology linkage. His published research includes the effects of seat location and ticket cost as indicators of sports fans’ potential hostile aggression, and sports fans’ impressions of gay male athletes.

End has also published on such topics as the economic impact of NFL franchises as well as the non-sports-related impact of cell phone rings while students are testing. “I usually use sports as an example for my social psychology classes,” he says. “You have people from different backgrounds or in different parts of the world, and they can overcome barriers to begin a conversation just because they see someone in an airport wearing a team hat.”

The World is a Big Classroom

It was the height of the winter season in Lima, Peru, a good time to travel around the country and see its sights—the coastal region, the mountains, the Amazon jungle. But Ann Fiegen couldn’t get out. The senior was serving as a Brueggeman Fellow last summer, conducting research about public health systems in a developing country, and was holed up inside a nondescript government research lab. While tourism soared, she was getting a firsthand education testing blood, serum and tissue samples for highly contagious mosquito-born viruses—primarily yellow and dengue fevers.

Then it arrived. Among a batch of samples that came in from Cuzco, in the high Andes where a yellow fever outbreak was under way, was a piece of the liver from a person who had died. Fiegen was a little uncertain. Frogs in biology class and blood samples are one thing. Human tissue is something else altogether.

“It was emotional for me when handling an actual piece of someone who had died,” she says. “They said I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to, but I said, ‘No, I want to help.’ ”

She processed the sample, and it tested positive for yellow fever. “I logged it into the database and moved forward.”

How fitting. Fiegen has been moving forward ever since she came to Xavier from Roseville, Minn. Her freshman biology professor spotted her talent for science and encouraged her to think about going into scientific research if not medical school. Fiegen took the advice and began applying for summer research internships, eventually landing one the summer after her sophomore year at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where she explored neurological and cognitive diseases. The next summer she won a spot at Harvard University and studied the human papilloma family of viruses.

Both experiences convinced her that she wants to study infectious diseases, including viruses and parasites, with a focus on improving public health systems in developing countries. She credits her toughest biology course at Xavier for honing her interest.

“We would talk in class about viruses in every facet—how they replicate themselves, how they spread from cell to cell to human, how our health systems break that cycle and where they fall short, and how does the makeup of a virus impact sociology and immunology. We looked at it from an interdisciplinary perspective to see not only how things work, but how and why it matters.”

Her final summer stop would be Peru. As she was applying to grad schools in her senior year, she also was awarded a coveted Brueggeman Fellowship by Xavier’s Brueggeman Center for Dialogue. She wanted to research public health systems in a developing country, and the Brueggeman program, which sends students on independent research projects to locations around the world, was the perfect way to go. She was placed as an intern in the research lab of the National Institute of Health in Peru and stayed with the family of the institute’s director of public health.

Fiegen, who’s now enrolled in Harvard’s PhD program in virology, spent eight weeks in Peru. Most days, she was in the lab, catching a shuttle bus to the institute south of the city. With more than a third of its population living in poverty, Peru is still struggling to improve its public health. Fiegen’s lab work helped define where outbreaks of disease were occurring so that treatment and prevention could be focused on those areas.

She did manage to get out of the research lab for a while, spending a few days with the family touring famous sites like Machu Picchu. But she also was able to visit a remote public health center in the Amazon region for a close-up look at the deplorable conditions researchers there must tolerate. She had to go in by plane to reach the old outpost, where she observed their work testing human tissue samples and water and food supplies for the region.

“They had very poor facilities,” Fiegen says. “They were in the middle of the Amazon where it’s above 80 to 90 degrees year-round and extremely humid, and most of the buildings did not have air conditioning or an autoclave to sterilize equipment. They had to hand-wash with soap, water and bleach.

“A major concern for me is the safety of these people risking their lives to work with these agents, and then they do all this work, but it’s not accurate because of all these compromising factors.”

For her fellowship, she explored the connections between basic science, clinical applications and public health. What she learned is embedded in the work she’s doing today at Harvard.

“How healthy your population is, is a product of the public health systems. My time in Peru drove home how connected these concepts are. That was really sobering—the people trying so hard to take care of the public health of the entire province, and they’re so severely compromised by the resources available.”

Pick a Pair of Partners

Last fall, the School of Education began teaming with nearby Pleasant Ridge Montessori Elementary School to develop a professional practices program for Xavier students. The school will showcase Montessori teaching practices and provide professional development for teaching specialties.

Also, the University is partnering with the Jesuit-led Cristo Rey Network of high schools to help Cristo Rey students through scholarship programs, job sponsorships and pre-college summer enrichment programs. The national network of Cristo Rey high schools offer urban students the chance to finance their education through corporate work-study programs in which they gain job experience, self-confidence and an understanding of the relevance of their education.

MBA and P&G

With funding from the Procter & Gamble Fund’s Higher Education Program, Xavier is creating a new course for MBA students that teaches them that green isn’t just the color of money. The course, “Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability,” deals with:

  • Corporate social responsibility;
  • The role of a business both within its community as well as with its other stakeholders; and
  • Topics related to sustainable practices in businesses to leave the earth in as good as or better condition.

The subject, which is important in today’s globally competitive environment, encourages students to explore different viewpoints and develop their own mental models.

The course is being developed by assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship Rebecca Luce, who has conducted research on the subject and included pieces of the subject matter in her courses for several years.

The course uses the base-of-the-pyramid market as a basis for integrating an interest in “doing well by doing good” and attention paid to the long-term effects of doing business.

A Lasting Impact

The Academic Service Learning Semester trips often leave a huge imprint on both the students who go on the trips and the impoverished areas where they stay. It’s a classic win-win. Sometimes, though, the wins go even further and the imprint the students leave is on the hearts of others. At least that’s the case with two Xavier students who went on the trip to Nicaragua last spring. John Fisk and Laren Grove made such an impact on the host family they stayed with, the family named them godparents of their newborn baby, Valentina. Both Fisk and Grove are flying back to Nicarauga in March to be with their godchild for her christening.

Rafting for God

When Leon Chartrand was in college at Miami University, he liked to spend his non-studying time running around the streets of campus and would even enter marathons as a means of satisfying his competitive soul. At least until he entered the Las Vegas Marathon. There, in the heart of Sin City, something happened. Something in his soul changed.

The trip was, for the most part, pretty miserable. The airline lost his luggage. It was incredibly hot. And, to cap it all off, the race was boring—13 miles down one flat side of the Strip and 13 miles back up the other.

Halfway through, though, Chartrand lost all interest. His hope gave out. He saw the medical attention van and flagged it down. “Take me back to my hotel,” he said. He went upstairs, packed his gear and checked out—literally and figuratively. He drove to the Grand Canyon and spent the next two nights staring at the stars.

“I had never seen the Grand Canyon before,” he says. “The stars, the silence, the sounds. The rest of my life, really, has been an ongoing attempt to understand, appreciate and savor the sense of God that I first became aware of on that trip.”

The moment led Chartrand to earn a master’s degree in theology from Xavier and a doctorate in ecology and theology from the University of Toronto. Today, he’s back at Xavier as a visiting professor of theology and trying to share with others the same soul-changing experience he had. While Xavier isn’t anywhere near the Grand Canyon, it does have enough natural resources nearby that a similar experience can be recreated. So he and professor of theology Gillian Ahlgren teamed up to create a six-mile-long canoe trip down the Little Miami River that offers first-year students a new way of understanding God, nature and themselves.

“Attuning myself to God’s presence, within me and around me, is made so much easier when I engage the beauty of nature,” says Ahlgren. “Nature is not an abstract concept. It is beauty embodied in concrete details that reinforce the mystery of the divine—the spray of colors on a single turning-leaf tree, the sound of water trickling over stones. For me, the detail is a clear, even piercing reminder of the delicate relationship between creator and creature.”

For the students, the trip is a twofold lesson in life: first the metaphorical analogy of life’s journey, how the river is constantly changing; how obstacles must be avoided; how the current changes speed. Second, how one of the foundational principles of Jesuit education—finding God in all things—is so clearly seen in nature.

“One of the first things I realized when I got on the canoe was that you’re not always in control,” says student Mark Kroger. “Within the first three minutes, our canoe had already done a 360-degree rotation. After that, I learned that sometimes the river will throw you a curveball and you just have to go with the flow.”

Realizing students have a tendency to, well, act like students, Ahlgren and Chartrand instructed them to spend the last half of the journey in silence, simply using their senses to observe all that surrounded them.

“We’ve all heard birds sing before,” says student Keith Topper, “but to really stop and listen and notice their sounds and the melodies they create affected me deeply. It really allowed me to think about the beauty of nature and the reality that God created everything that my eyes see. The physical world that we live in is a constant reminder of God’s presence and power in our lives.”

“I noticed about five or six turtles and one blue heron that I otherwise might have missed,” says another one of the students on the trip, Tom Ohlman. “It made me realize that God’s grace is everywhere around us; we just don’t take the time to notice.”

A second river trip is planned for the spring with a new crop of first-year students. If all goes well, the experience could be an annual event.

“Never before did I think that a simple river could teach me so much,” says student Alex Pierce. “The river and the environment in which it existed proved to me that there is a distinct harmony in the world. Everything is linked together in this basic, natural way. That continues to stun me.”

Wheels of Fortune

When he finally dipped his tires in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 27, he had checked off what he calls a “BHAG,” a big, hairy, audacious goal. (Shortly thereafter, he checked off a tray of lasagna and two meatloaves—singlehandedly.)

“I am someone who’s defined by goals,” Gibson says. “If I don’t have a goal that I’m working toward, I feel empty.”

In this case, the goal wasn’t entirely his own. He was also raising money for his friend, Ashley Thompson, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Gibson served with Thompson on the Student Activities Council. “She’s always been this huge light bulb and sparkplug for our group of friends,” he says. “She’s always so positive.” He raised $4,500 toward her medical bills.

Gibson, a 2005 graduate in entrepreneurship and a brand manager at Procter and Gamble, worked holidays and bank-rolled a year’s worth of vacation to take this trip. He had exactly 32 days to finish the ride. “That amount of time off dictated my itinerary,” he says. “I knew that if there was a set, hard and fast deadline, I’d meet it. I put it all on the line and knew I had to do it.”

There was plenty of difficulty along the way, but now that he’s back in the office, and his metabolism has (almost) recovered, Gibson finds himself missing the journey.

“Every day when I got up in the morning, my purpose for that day was so simple,” he says. “Having that simplicity was really, really refreshing.”

Profile: Myron Kilgore

MYRON KILGORE

Bachelor of Arts in English 1958; Master of Education in counseling, 1969

Retired principal and hearing officer, Cincinnati Public Schools

Cincinnati

Running Game | Kilgore was one of the first African-American students to enter Xavier. He arrived in 1954 on a football scholarship and played all four years as a running back.

Racial Tensions | “For the most part, the coaches took care of that. When we played in Kentucky, Coach would say he wanted everyone to go to the lobby together, and we knew what was happening. Denny Davis and I were the first African Americans to play on the University of Kentucky football field.”

My Alma Mater | With his English degree and teacher’s certification, Kilgore returned to his high school, St. Martin de Porres, to teach. He later moved to St. Xavier High School for 10 years before transferring to Crest Hills Middle School where he was a counselor and then principal. He wrapped up his teaching career as a hearing officer for the district before retiring in 1990.

Back To Work | Not one to stay idle long, Kilgore tapped into his experience as both counselor and hearing officer, returning to St. Xavier as a minority consultant and to two public school districts as a hearing officer. At St. Xavier, he helps minority students of all races adjust to the academic expectations and social environments that may be unfamiliar to them. As a hearing officer, he hears cases of students recommended for expulsion by their superintendents. In both positions, he works at being a strong male role model for youth.

Clothes Horse | Kilgore gives his wife all the credit. He is a snappy dresser. The reason? “When I started teaching, we had to wear a coat and tie. You get used to this. They are my work clothes, and I think it’s a symbol of professionalism and models for men how a professional should look. I think those kids really, really respect that.”

Dream On | He inspires kids by telling them to think about things they want. “I tell them to set some goals. You have to dream, and once you start dreaming, the dream will change attitudes. And when attitudes change, the behavior will change for the better. My first thing is to brainwash them, tell them how smart they are. Their potential has to be developed and they have to recognize that. Sometimes we put kids down so much they become dumb.”

Fast Cars | One goal he offers them is owning a fancy car. It may be materialistic, but it can get them moving in the right direction. “I ask them, how are they going to get that? If they can get it, then everything else is in place. In our society, it is about power and money, but it’s also about keeping your ethics in place. You’ve got to be honest with yourself and God and keep your ethics.”

The Gamut | Between his work at St. Xavier and his days as a hearing officer, Kilgore sees the best and the worst in kids’ behavior. He tries to help them all. “You have to be able to read people, kids, the whole gamut. I remember one kid said to me, ‘I’m going to go to college.’ And next time I saw him, he was in college.”