Faculty Programs

Sandra Richtermeyer, chair and professor of accountancy, is taking over as the new director of faculty programs in mission and identity starting this fall. The half-time position helps faculty create new and innovative ways to transform students in the Ignatian-Jesuit educational tradition. Richtermeyer was named one of the “One hundred wise women” in Cincinnati in 2011, outstanding educator by the American Women’s Society of CPAs, and educator of the year by the Lean Enterprise Institute. She is the third faculty member to lead the effort, following professor of marketing David Burns and professor of theology Gillian Ahlgren.

Applied Knowledge

The real success of education is not knowledge but applied knowledge—that is, taking what you learn and being able to apply it in the real world. Which is why five sociology students got a great education from a new class. The class was based on the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and done in collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which was hosting an exhibit called “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” The exhibit is about how the worldwide oppression of women is one of the most pervasive human rights causes today, and how creating gender equality can help solve many of the world’s most severe problems—poverty, violence, child mortality. The students took their classroom experience and served as guides and educators at the museum.

A Smashing Good Time

Benton Farms is a 260-acre working farm located about 30 miles south of Xavier in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Each fall the farm grows patches and patches of pumpkins, which it offers to Halloween fans from around the region. Once Halloween is over, though, the remaining pumpkins need to be chopped up so they can be broken down into compost. It’s a messy and laborious chore.

Enter the Xavier Navigators—and their baseball bats. The Christian ministry club, which is part of a larger international organization, typically meets for Bible studies. But in November, the group took a little trip to Benton Farms and spent a good chunk of the day—and several hours into the night—smashing pumpkins. They left covered in pumpkin mush and joyously chocked up the entire experience to team building.
John “Papa” Benton appreciated the help, even though he may have been confused by the enthusiasm of the students to beat and batter pumpkins until they were covered with seeds and slime. If it helps the youth, he says, he’s glad to do whatever he can.

Decoding Math

Quick. Decipher this code:

Bnpv. kp’t slp yiyuhlsy’t enilukpy tqxayzp, nsm bnpvybnpkzt juleyttlu mysn blupls wsldt kp. pvnp’t dvh tvy’t zuynpym bnpv elu pvy zuynpkiy bksm, n zontt mytkrsym nulqsm pvy kmyn pvnp bnpvybnpkzt zns xy xynqpkeqo nsm uyoyinsp pl yiys pvy bltp ukrvp-xunksym ksmkikmqnot. Yiyuh ekepyys dyywt, dkpv nttkrsbyspt kszoqmksr n dvlmqskp bhtpyuh, ns yszuhjpkls nsm myzkjvyubysp nttkrsbysp nsm ns liyuikyd le rnby pvyluh, blupls tvldt n syd rulqj le tpqmyspt pvy xynqph ks sqbxyut.

Can’t figure it out? Dena Morton can. In fact, it probably wouldn’t take the associate professor of mathematics any longer than five minutes to decipher it. And she’s happy to share her secret.

That’s actually the first thing she teaches students in her course, Mathematics and the Creative Imagination—how to encrypt and decipher
secret messages.

Doesn’t sound like your typical math class, does it? Well, that’s kind of the point. By incorporating hands-on, creative projects into the syllabus, Morton has found a way to turn even the most right-brained individuals into math enthusiasts within the 50 minutes of allotted class time.

“Here, look,” she says, picking up a piece of paper from her desk. “I show this to my students during the first week of class. There is no way anyone can see this and not think it’s cool.”

Morton takes the scrap of paper and cuts it into a long, skinny strip. She twists one side of the paper and connects the two ends with
tape, creating a loop known as a Mobius strip. She then takes a pen and draws a line down the middle, and, without lifting her pen the line
ends up on the other side of the loop.

“Even though this looks like a two dimen-sional loop, it really only has one side, see? This is topology—it’s math.”

In addition to including creative projects that illustrate the principles of cryptology and topology, Morton also includes logic and game theory into her class. One of her assignments involves a murder-mystery game, while another project involves plotting outcomes of a game
onto a graph and then turning those plotted points into colors, creating a painted image for the end result.

Tim Holliday, a junior history major and former student of Morton’s, signed up for Mathematics and the Creative Imagination in the fall semester of his sophomore year. Before taking Morton’s class, Holliday says he thought math was tedious and useless. But, he says he found a new respect for it. He even went so far as to describe math as an elegant and interesting subject.

“My advisor suggested I take the class, partly because she said it was a good one for non-math majors,” says Holliday. “And it was great for me because it created a dialogue between disciplines, like history and math. It opened my eyes to how math affects history, as well as other things, too.”

Morton created the course after teaching a similar class as a master’s student at Johns Hopkins University. She says that the language of math is in everything, and she’s happy she gets the chance to change the way students feel about the subject.

While the course has many components, cryptology may be the most fun. It’s also a perfect intersection of language and math. The art of studying, writing and breaking codes requires a strong knowledge of language and letter frequencies. Codes can range from simple substitution cipher systems (A=D, B=E, C=F) to complex computer coding.

“Cryptology is kind of romantic because you get to talk about wars and spies, and stuff like that,” Morton says. “It’s the art and science of making and keeping secrets. It is hard with some students because they are so convinced that they hate math. But their minds change when they see how beautiful and fun it really is. That’s what I try to show them in my class.”

By the way, here’s the answer to the problem:

Math. It’s not everyone’s favorite subject, and mathematics professor Dena Morton knows it. That’s why she’s created Math for the Creative Imagination, a class designed around the idea that mathematics can be beautiful and relevant to even the most right-brained of individuals. Every 15 weeks, with assignments including a whodunit mystery, an encryption and decipherment assignment, and an overview of game theory, Morton shows a new group of students the beauty in numbers.

 

Medical Success

Eight years ago, a group of faculty from the Department of Biology and staff from the Office of Multicultural Affairs got together and began mentoring African American students who were majoring in the sciences, including aspiring doctors and researchers. The goal was to encourage them, enhance study skills and give them a greater chance to succeed.

The group quickly became organized into the Ernest E. Just Society and expanded to include chemistry, physics and nursing majors. Today they meet weekly, bring in professionals of color as guest lecturers and take science-related field trips.

And the work has paid off. Three of those first-year members—Adeleke Oni, Keyona Gullett and Emanuel Ofori—completed medical school and are now in their first year of residency.

All for Health; Health for All

Xavier sports teams are well-associated with the motto “All for one and one for all,” a call for unselfishness and teamwork coined by the Three Musketeers. That mentality has now found its way into the College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education. Earlier this year, Xavier received a three-year, $827,256 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to create a collaborative program among the various health-related programs within the college—nursing, health services administration, occupational therapy, special education, psychology, counseling, radiologic technology, social work, athletic training, educational leadership and human resource development.

 

The program benefits faculty by creating an intense faculty development curriculum for the fostering of interprofessional teaching skills. It benefits students by preparing them to teach, administer and practice using evolving technologies. And it allows faculty to travel to other universities to share best practices. It is expected that more than 150 students each year will participate.

“The Affordable Care Act means more access to care and increased opportunities to provide preventive services in the community,” says Susan Schmidt, director of the School of Nursing. “A health care workforce grounded in collaboration is best prepared to provide access to services across settings, to break down the silos of fragmented care and provide care in the least expensive environment using futuristic technology. This project substantially benefits underserved populations, rural populations and serves health care shortage areas.”

(Ful)Bright Future

Shaye Worthman, valedictorian of the Class of 2009 who majored in both psychology and Spanish, is now pursing a master’s degree at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. And she just got some help. This summer Worthman received a Fulbright Full Graduate Degree Grant to study political economy of development at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, during the 2012-2013 academic year.

 

Unified for UNIFAT

The summer before her freshman year, Meghan Marth traveled to Gulu, Uganda, to visit a friend. Her name was Atoo Irene. She was 7 years old.

Marth wanted to see how Irene was doing. She wanted to see for herself that Irene had not become one of the country’s “invisible children,” the kind who are scarred inside and out as a result of the brutal civil war activities perpetrated by Joseph Kony, the notorious warlord and head of the guerilla group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Marth and her family began sponsoring Irene at a special school created for the war’s child survivors, and she wanted to calm her fears about Irene before starting college.

Sitting on Marth’s lap, Irene’s light blue school uniform contrasted brightly against her smooth dark skin. Marth studied her face intently. Irene sat quietly and tentatively but happy to see Marth again. It was the second time in two years Marth made the long journey from the United States to see her.

For Marth, though, the trip provided more than a calming reassurance about Irene. It also solidified her decision to attend Xavier as a Community-Engaged Fellow and the direction she chose for her life.

“The trip affirmed that this is what God wants me to be doing and that my choice of college was the right one because Xavier

would value what I was learning,” says Marth, who’s now a junior.

“The students taught me so much about life and they’re full of wisdom about the way they approach life.”

It all began when Marth was a freshman in high school. Her church showed the “Invisible Children,” a documentary about the Ugandan children who were affected by Kony and his guerrillas. Some were forced to become soldiers or sex slaves. Others were injured during raids on their homes. Still others became orphans when their parents were killed or homeless, like Irene’s family, after their homes were burned by the LRA.

Marth was profoundly impacted by the film and wanted to help. Enter Abitimo Odonkara, a Ugandan woman who years earlier started a school for child victims of the civil war. She named the school the Upper Nile Institute for Appropriate Technology, or UNIFAT. During a trip to the United States, Abitimo met with Marth and other students and suggested they help pay for the children’s schooling.

So the students organized Unified for UNIFAT (U4U) at several area high schools. Marth ran the chapter at her high school, and when she came to Xavier in the fall of 2010 she brought her efforts to campus.

The club’s first event in spring 2011 netted $600, enough to sponsor two children. For $300 a year, a child receives books, school supplies, two uniforms, a pair of shoes and tuition, which includes a meal of rice and beans every day. U4U is now sponsoring eight children.

The club also won recognition as student club of the year last year for its work raising awareness about Uganda and UNIFAT.

In September, Unified for UNIFAT brought the UNIFAT Primary School’s lead mentor, Opiyo Denis, to Cincinnati to make fundraising presentations at local high schools and colleges. The mentors make sure the sponsored children receive the academic and social services paid for by their sponsors.

“I know what the children go through,” Denis told chapter members. “I work hard to make sure their school work improves and help them to forget the past.”

For Marth, Denis’ visit assured her that Irene is making progress and has a good chance of graduating from high school. That alone is an important step forward for a little girl whose life was changed forever by a war she knew nothing about.

Gaming Strength

Imagine not being able to use one of your arms. Imagine how hard it would be to take out the trash, tie your shoelaces or eat a steak. Imagine how difficult it would be to wrap a holiday gift or unload the groceries.

Yet that’s a reality for thousands of stroke survivors. According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, with survivors suffering from a range of injuries from impaired eyesight to slurred speech to decreased motor coordination.

Flaccidity, or weakness on one side of the body, is the most common issue, though.

So what does one do? Turn on the Xbox, of course.

From 2006-2007, occupational therapy students Amy Whetstone and Sarah Schuck researched the effects of playing video games on post-stroke survivors at the Drake Center, a long-term rehabilitation facility in Cincinnati.

The patients met with Whetstone and Schuck three times a week for three weeks where they played video games as part of their rehabilitation.

The video game, developed by Performance Health Technologies, is a computer program similar to the “Pong” game of earlier days. Instead of twisting knobs or pushing buttons on a console, though, a sensor is attached to the patient’s affected limb. When the limb is moved, the sensor sends a wireless signal to the computer, which tracks the patient’s accuracy rate and progress.

One of the study participants was a woman who, before her stroke, enjoyed traveling overseas and was able to drive herself to and from work. After her stroke, she was unable to perform house chores or drive herself anywhere.

She continued her physical therapy after the three-week study, and she eventually relearned how to drive and later was able to resume travelling.

Typical stroke treatments include physical therapy and electrical stimulation to the brain. The concept of using a video game to increase motor activity, however, is relatively new to the field of occupational therapy.

But, says Valerie Hill, a clinical faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy who oversaw the study, the treatment seems to be effective. It aids in the patient’s physical rehabilitation, plus it’s fun.

“Having as many tools as possible at our disposal gives our clients more opportunities to regain that strength,” says Hill. “Treatment is about learning mobility applications in a positive and encouraging way.”

While traditional occupational therapy techniques are effective, the unique feature about the video game is its real-time, encouraging assessment of the patient’s progress, says Hill.

“If something is able to give positive feedback, it’s more fun and encouraging for the patients. Rather than repeating exercises and motions, the video game acts like an incentive.”

By the end of the study, Schuck and Whetstone concluded that both participants experienced an increase in their quality of life, as well as a higher inclination to use their affected limb.

The participants also noted that the game proved more motivational than traditional rehabilitation techniques.

“These people struggle with things every day that you and I don’t even think twice about,” says Whetstone, referring to the study participants. “Strokes are debilitating both mentally and physically, but treatment is changing and improving quite a bit.”

Turning Out Interns

Shortly after exams were over in May, three students packed their bags for an eight-week getaway. But this was no vacation.

The students were part of Xavier’s first statehouse internship program at the state capital in Columbus, Ohio, that put them in the heart of the Ohio State Legislature.

Associate professor of political science Mack Mariani says this year’s pilot program was so successful it will be offered again next year. “We wanted to take advantage of the fact we have this big capital two hours from our campus, and we have these alumni there doing great things whom we are able to partner with. It strengthens connections with our alumni in Columbus and allows us to give students skills to take into the job market.”

Xavier has similar internship programs in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

The program came about after an alumnus working at the statehouse contacted Mariani and Gene Beaupre, a professor in the Philosophy, Politics and the Public honors program, suggesting they take advantage of the number of alumni in Columbus who could help place students into legislative internships.

“It took us a few weeks to get it going. It was such short notice that only three got to do it,” Beaupre says. “I think next year we’ll have at least eight.”