Standing Tall

Bedeviled again. First the Duke University basketball team kept Xavier from reaching the Final Four in last year’s NCAA Tournament, winning 66-63. Then, in November, it kept Xavier from reaching another pinnacle: having the nation’s best student- athlete graduation rate. The NCAA’s report for the Class of 2004 showed that Xavier had a 93-percent graduation rate; Duke had a 94-percent graduation rate. Three points on the court, one point off. Darn them.

Still, the report confirmed to the nation that in the highly competitive, high-pressure world of college athletics, Xavier plays extremely well on both courts. The Musketeers finished ahead of some of the country’s other brainy athletic powers—Notre Dame, Stanford, Georgetown—and were a substantial 31 points ahead of the national average of 62 percent. In a time when stories of abuse and exploitation of student-athletes appear regularly, the NCAA report clearly placed Xavier in the small group of schools where academic integrity and winning aren’t mutually exclusive.

“That’s because the philosophy at Xavier is different,” says director for athletics Dawn Rogers. “When we hire coaches we always talk to them about what’s important at Xavier: We always place academics first; we always operate with integrity—we won’t operate in any gray areas; we expect them to win; and we expect them to recruit the right kind of student-athlete. It doesn’t help a coach if he recruits a young man or woman who isn’t going to be academically successful.”

Twenty years ago, just as the men’s basketball team was rising in stature, the NCAA had very few guidelines regarding the academic performance of student-athletes. If a university wanted to protect the integrity of its academic programs, it had to take its own measures. Xavier did. In 1985, it created the position of an academic advisor who was specifically responsible for the guidance and supervision of student-athletes.

While other universities may have had similar counselors, Xavier went several steps further: It empowered the position by making it report to academic affairs and not the athletic department, thereby giving it the authority to bench an athlete for academic reasons. It also hired coaches and administrators who backed the position and decisions.

“When I came here in 1985, the field was nondescript; there was nothing written on it,” says Sister Rose Ann Fleming, the brains behind the creation of the effort and the force behind its success. “I just assumed this is how we would do it. If all we’re doing is bringing students in to manipulate the system and to stay in their sport, that’s wrong. Ethically, we cannot take advantage of them. I think that’s absolutely wrong.”

The energetic nun has six academic degrees—A.B., M.A., M.B.A., M.Ed., Ph.D., J.D.—and served for eight years as president of Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She is undeniably qualified and presents a commanding case for the power of education. She has a highly pleasant demeanor and a quick smile but an unbending willingness to discipline an athlete who dares defy her rules.

And those rules are these: Don’t miss class; study; do the assignments; take at least 12 credits per semester; maintain a 2.0 grade point average; find a career path and get on it.

Over the last 20 years, the rules and expectations have become ingrained into the University’s system. For her efforts, Fleming’s been named MVP of the men’s basketball program and inducted into the University’s athletic hall of fame.

If the weight of maintaining Xavier’s academic integrity within the sporting world rests upon her shoulders, it doesn’t show. If she comes across as too strict, she’s not apologetic. Her only concern, she says, is making sure those who come to Xavier do what it takes to earn their degree. “She has such a pulse on each player academically,” says Chris Mack, a 1993 graduate and now assistant basketball coach. “And she builds relationships with the players. Guys still call her after they graduate for advice.”

Her efforts are well documented: She’s benched at least one athlete in every sport for academic reasons; she’s shown up at their doors and escorted them to class; she once called an athlete and let the phone ring more than 100 times to get him out of bed. “You’re letting them down by letting them tell you what they’re going to do,” she says. “Every single student can do this. It’s just up to us to make sure it happens.”

Despite the successful results, not everyone sees Fleming’s work as admirable. Critics have accused her of pulling strings or providing student-athletes with advantages over other students. She denies the charges. So do others.

“Our coaches are not allowed to contact any professor,” says Rogers. “Sister Rose Ann is the link between athletics and academics, and there’s a clear line to whom she reports to and works with. It doesn’t matter what I think. She and her staff report to a different department, and that’s very, very important.”

After 20 years, Fleming just knows the ins and outs of the system a lot better than most. Student-athletes also need additional help because of the demands on their time and energy. “The life of a student-athlete is more difficult than the average student,” Fleming says.

If she pleads guilty to anything, it’s to being part of the difficulty in their lives. Most have to be trained in the ways of college life—at least how life is at Xavier. “They come in here as a young person with a very high skill in a particular sport,” she says. “They have lived larger than life because of their athletic achievements, and you have to get them to settle down and know that doing their math and science project is normal, that it’s the way it should be. It scares new athletes to death. You’ve got to watch them closely.”

Each night a large portion of the University’s 250 student-athletes file into the library for a mandatory two-hour study hall. Fleming tells them they must find two more hours on their own as well. They also must take at least 12 credits. “If you take 12 credits per semester plus six in the summer, that’s 30 credits per year. Over four years, that’s 120, which is what you need to graduate.”

Fleming makes it sound so easy. And it really is, she says. It just takes someone to make sure it gets done. The NCAA has stepped up its efforts, but Xavier’s requirements are still stricter, so Fleming’s not going to change. “I’d like to see every school doing what we’re doing,” she says. “It’s a lot of work, but it can be done.” It also builds a momentum that helps breed its own success.

“Look at David West,” says Rogers. “He was aware that if he left early for the N.B.A., he would be the first senior on the men’s basketball team not to graduate since 1985. I’m not suggesting that was the deciding factor, but there was pressure there. He knew. And how many programs is that even a talking point?” Maybe Duke.

Reaching for Something More

“I’m adopted,” says Katie Meyer. 

Sitting cross-legged in a wooden spindle chair, Meyer begins a personal revelation that most 20-something college students could never fathom. With a blanket draped across the seat, her bare feet emerging from a pair of worn coveralls and her long, thick red hair brushing her shoulders, Meyer looks very comfortable-both in her coveralls and in her mood-as she bares her soul before a group of 35 fellow students and adult leaders. “When I turned 21, I decided to find my biological family,” she says. “I learned my mother was 17 when she had me, and my father was 24. I contacted Catholic Social Services and learned I had grandparents and a 16-year-old half sister. I was on top of the world, but then I learned my biological mother had died in 1990. She committed suicide.”
It’s a Sunday afternoon in February 2004 at the Milford Spiritual Center 30 minutes outside of Cincinnati. Meyer, a senior, is part of a group of Xavier students on the Approach Retreat. Together, they are nestled comfortably in easy chairs or sprawled with their friends on the carpeted floor of the center’s great room. The light, even on this gray winter day, seeps in around the furniture, washes across the bookcases and fireplace, and wraps around the students. It’s enough to brighten any sour mood. The music plays, Katie talks and everyone feels something-closer, happier, connected.

“I never knew what a punch in the stomach was until I heard those words,” she says. “Then the tears came, the sobs came. I could not speak. I would never meet my mother or laugh with her or joke with her or tell her, ‘I love you.’ My grandmother wrote, ‘She loved you as only a mother could love a child.’

“But I was pissed off at God. He took away the love of my birth mother. He didn’t ever let me see her. I wondered how could a mother feel so low that she takes herself from those who love her the most? It was a huge blow to my faith life.”

The students soak up the painful revelations and incorporate them into their own lives. They’ve been here since Friday evening and spent most of their time listening, talking, reflecting and writing. They keep journals of their thoughts. They meet in prayer services where they hear directives from a Jesuit priest. They go through a process of discernment that walks them through a series of topics: self-awareness, faith, hope, forgiveness and reconciliation.

They eat together, play sports and take walks along the Little Miami River. They make new friends. In the end, it is hoped, they have a better sense of themselves, the people they love and their own spirituality-and they have enhanced their college education with a learning experience they might not have received at another university.

While most college students spend their weekends working, studying, partying and playing, a steady number are eagerly devoting 48 hours of their valuable time to spiritual reflection. The popularity of retreats on campus attests to a growing realization among young people of the need to feel connected to a greater community and a greater power. “When life gets so busy, it’s just so beautiful to be able to step outside and focus on what’s going on and what you need,” says Bill Schwarz, a junior last year, who served as one of six leaders on the retreat and has been on five others since coming to Xavier. His favorite was a three-day trek on the Appalachian Trail with nine fellow students.

“A retreat focuses on the wholeness of a person, and I felt by hiking and reflecting with friends I was able to grow more,” he says. “I was in the greatest church in the world, the Appalachian Trail, and it was so easy to see God all around me. As I leave college, it will be one of my favorite memories.”

Schwarz, like Meyer, is a retreat junkie. He can’t get enough of them. He thrives on the feelings he gets from retreats-feeling connected to others, feeling a part of a community, knowing himself better in relation to God. It’s a sense of security knowing you can rely on others.

“As college students, we see a world so crazy and bombarded by popular culture, and we have a sense of information overload,” he says. “A retreat is a great opportunity to reflect, take that in and grow from it, sort it out and figure out how you’re being affected.” B.J. Gall skipped work and homework to attend the retreat at Milford.

“I’m missing two days of work,” Gall says. “I have a seven-page paper due Tuesday and 500 pages to read by Wednesday. It doesn’t matter. This is totally worth it, because for me, it’s an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and contentment. I feel better by coming here. Every once in a while your vision is skewed, and this retreat puts it into perspective and you can see straight.”

Retreats weren’t always so popular among college students. Always a fixture on the campuses of religious schools, they used to be mandatory at all 28 Jesuit colleges. The Jesuits viewed them as part of the whole educational experience-intellectual, moral and spiritual-and students were expected to attend retreats just as they were expected to complete so many credit hours to earn a degree. “You had to make a retreat every year in order to graduate,” says Leo Klein, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry. “If it was not documented, you didn’t get your degree.”

In the 1940s and 1950s, he recalls, classes were canceled for several days and “every mother’s son” would come to the Fieldhouse and silently listen to talks by the retreat master. Spiritual life then was part of the Catholic culture, and most Xavier students were Catholic.

By the time Klein came to Xavier as a professor and pastor of Bellarmine chapel, it was 1970, Vatican II was five years old and the world had changed. There were fewer Catholics on campus and retreats had withered. “Kids were paying someone to sign their names at the retreat,” Klein says. “The obligation had come down to you could go for an evening. I saw that keeping this obligation going was just silly.”

So Klein told the faculty he wanted to end the mandatory retreats and replace them with something else. They agreed, and he never regretted his decision. What took their place was a slowly evolving system of voluntary retreats, attractive to a handful of committed Catholics, that really took off in the mid-1990s with an initiative to open them to the wider Xavier community. “Xavier does a great job of creating community, but what was lacking was building community that was faith-driven,” says Megan Halverson, associate director for campus ministry.

By 1997, the University offered eight retreats that served 361 students. By 2001, it offered 12 retreats for 588 students, a number that remains steady today.

Despite the growing numbers, the fact that campus retreats reach only a fraction of the undergraduate population troubles Klein. He takes seriously the spirituality leg of the three-pronged mission of Xavier-to educate students morally, intellectually and spiritually-and feels the University is not challenging students strongly enough in that arena.

To that end, he’s looking into raising the spiritual bar for students by offering-and maybe requiring-their attendance at a series of orientation programs during the freshman year for a full exploration of the Jesuit values.

“We need to do a whole lot more for students in the freshman year to raise the questions for them of moral, spiritual and intellectual values,” Klein says. “We don’t want to have obligatory retreats again, but we want to add the moral and spiritual dimensions of our education and make sure they’re more sewn together with the intellectual.”

All retreats, no matter their design, have one thing in common: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola are at their core. The ideal retreat is spending 30 days following each step of the exercises, which are a series of prayers and reflections designed by Ignatius to bring the individual closer to God. Students, however, typically spend two days pondering a selection of the exercises. They break into small groups for discussions throughout the weekend, leaving their meeting rooms littered with candles, matches, crumpled tissues and lollipop wrappers.

Each year, campus ministry considers what new kinds of retreats should be added to meet the needs of the ever-changing student population. The newest one is the Discover Wilderness Retreat for students who are more comfortable seeking spirituality in nature rather than a retreat center.

Such efforts to offer a wider variety and different styles of retreats to attract more students are a trend seen at most Jesuit campuses, says Charles L. Currie, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and a former Xavier president.

“The growth in retreats has been an increasing interest in the last 10 years at least, and I think it’s related to an increased realization on our campuses that if we really are to keep the Ignatian spirit alive, we have to get back to the roots of that tradition in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius,” he says. “It’s a combination of an increasing desire by students for these retreats and an increasing effectiveness on the part of campus ministry in offering these retreats.”

Greg Carpinello, campus minister and retreat leader, says the students themselves are the program’s best salesmen. “Word is getting out that our retreats can be beneficial for you no matter where you are in life,” he says. “Students leave these retreats energized to live passionately and in community with each other at Xavier. When others hear they had such an incredible experience, they want to experience that, too.”

As she talks, Meyer tells how she shifted from being angry about her mother to searching for her dad. Between the Internet and her own determination, she found him, and with trepidation gave him a call. So much was at stake-maybe love, maybe rejection. “Hey, how’ya been?” he asks, as if it had been only a few months. They arranged to meet. It went well.

“Without their patience and love, I would not be heading back to the top of the world,” she says of her new-found family. “I can close myself off to new relationships and ideas, but when I follow my heart, things just seem to fall into place.”

It’s become her mantra for living.

Flushed with the excitement and fulfillment of their new discoveries and new friendships, she and the other leaders hug everyone goodbye and hop in the van for the trip back to campus. The students spend a while longer writing in their journals and discovering surprises in their rooms before they head back to resume their student lives.

But at one point before she leaves, Meyer reflects a little longer on her experience.

“What do I get out of retreat? What don’t I get out of retreat? The chance to reflect on my personal life, myself, my faith in God and others, the opportunity for me to connect with people, myself and God,” she says. “I feel more balanced, more assured. I’m headed in the right direction, and even if I’m not having that relationship with God, I’ll be OK.”

The End of the Innocence

As Xavier University approaches the 175th anniversary of its founding in 2006, Xavier magazine is examining key moments in the University’s history. This is part of a series of stories about the people, places and events that have made Xavier what it is today. 

It dangled from his neck, landing squarely on the front of his black graduation robe: a white wooden peace sign. And student body president Gene Beaupré wore it proudly as he strode onto the stage in June 1969 to receive his diploma from President Paul O’Connor, S.J. They had a history, these two, clashing more than once over student demands. On this warm June evening, however, O’Connor happily handed Beaupré his diploma. Then he spied the medallion on Beaupré’s chest.

“What’s this?” O’Connor asked, picking up the ornament.

“It’s a peace sign, Father,” Beaupré said. “Would you like to wear it?”

O’Connor looked him right in the eye. “No, thanks.”

O’Connor had just about enough of Beaupré and his fellow student activists. The University’s 29th president presided over Xavier at a time of monumental change-both in the nation and on the campus. While the Vietnam War raged and soldiers died and politicians ranted and black activists marched, the tumult of the 1960s was echoing at Xavier as well. And it left its mark.

By the time O’Connor stepped down in 1972, Xavier was a different place, both physically and substantively. Not only did it undergo the most significant building boom since the 1920s, but it was transformed from a tranquil, unquestioning institution catering to well-raised Catholic boys into an active campus where women and black students were among those demanding more of a say in their education.

The decade began peacefully, resembling the 1950s when the World War II generation settled into a period of peace and quiet after the uncertainties and horrors of war. The all-male, mostly white Catholic university that O’Connor arrived at in 1955 was a perfect representative of its time, turning out well-educated, morally formed young men who attended Mass regularly and had a bit of wild, safe fun while on campus.

But the reverberations of a society increasingly discontent with the status quo began to be felt in the mid-1960s. Anti-war sentiment led to a new look at poverty and race. Folk songs gave way to rebellious rock ‘n’ roll. Even the Catholic religion was getting a makeover as the Second Vatican Council gathered from 1962-1965. In short, anything and everything was questioned, challenged and changed.

Xavier was no exception. Radical ideas were discussed, loud music was played, students staged protests. Some say it began when Mary Lynn Tekeulve walked onto campus.

SEPTEMBER 1965

Tekeulve eschewed the traditional all-female Catholic colleges for an education with the men of Xavier. Women had attended Xavier’s Evening College for years, and that’s where she enrolled. But Tekeulve’s mother worked in the Registrar’s office, and the Jesuits agreed to let her attend day classes. So, she and Marie Bourgeois, whose father was a professor, tread where no women had gone before-the University’s daytime halls. In four years, they were allowed to graduate with the Class of 1969, which led to an administrative change the next fall that allowed women to register as regular day students for the first time. It was, says director of student retention Adrian Schiess, one of the most important decisions ever made by the University’s board of trustees.

“I’d been in an all-girls school all my life and I thought, I’ve had it. I would like to go see how the other half lives,” says Tekeulve, now a grandmother.

Women of that era had to endure urinals in their bathrooms and a strict skirts-only dress code. Tekeulve once tried to return a book to the library, but the librarians wouldn’t let her in because she was wearing slacks. They also ran into resistance from some of the older faculty, including some Jesuits. Patty LaGrange tells of an English professor who invited her to leave the classroom because of a literary discussion he was about to launch on a sexually related topic. She declined.

But Tekeulve found the campus welcoming, even if the boys were nervous around them. “It was intimidating, all the men,” Tekeulve says. “We thought here we are two freshman girls-we’ll have dates coming out the wazoo. But the fact of who we were made the guys shy away from us.”

APRIL 1968

The assassination of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. triggered riots across the country, including Cincinnati. “Sitting in the classroom you could see Avondale burning, the flames and smoke,” Tekeulve says. “It was sad. It lasted almost a whole week. UC closed and their students didn’t have to take finals, and everybody thought Xavier, being so close, might have to do the same.”

The riots never touched campus, and the University never closed, but the events were felt by many, particularly a cadre of activist African-American students. J. Kenneth Blackwell, now Ohio’s secretary of state, and Donald Darby, now a retired educator, and two other students went to see the dean of men, Patrick Nally, to petition the University to send them to King’s funeral in Atlanta. Blackwell told Darby to “put on your toughest game face,” and Darby tried to look his militant best in an attempt to show the administration they were determined about how important it was for them to go. Nally first told them there was no money in the budget. They said they’d be back at 2:00 p.m. “Within a few hours, they had round-trip airline tickets for us and meal stipends so we could take care of ourselves,” Darby says. “That was one of the most significant events I ever participated in, and I owe it to Xavier.”

A sense of mutual respect developed between the black students and the administration during the decade, but acquiescence to their demands was never certain. “Even though there was preliminary resistance,” says Blackwell, “they, in fact, allowed us to speak, and when we spoke convincingly, they would listen and change did take place.”

NOVEMBER 1968

The call came to Beaupré from the president’s office. Father O’Connor wanted to see him. Beaupré just organized and led a boycott of one of the University’s longstanding traditions-the mandatory Memorial Mass. About 50 students carried signs and marched around the Fieldhouse before holding an “alternative Mass” in a nearby coffee shop. They thought it was wrong to demand attendance at a religious ceremony. Besides, it was common for students who went to sign in for those who didn’t.

“I was asked by O’Connor if I understood how disappointed many alums would be,” says Beaupré, a longtime political science professor at Xavier and its community relations director. “I said I was sorry, but we were making a statement about freedom to choose, and the Mass had much greater meaning when you are able to choose to go. It was a stormy time on campus, and I think he was trying to exert some authority.”

The only discipline O’Connor imposed was a $5 fine to those who skipped the Mass. By December, spurred by a petition from the student council, the administration agreed to let attendance at the Memorial Mass and the October Mass of the Holy Spirit be voluntary. But O’Connor maintained the fines, though he agreed to direct them to religious development on campus, an idea proposed by the students.

Though he sparred with and often stood up to students, his manner and decision-making earned their respect. “Paul was a real leader of Xavier,” says Tim Burke, a Cincinnati lawyer and Democratic Party leader who was student body president in 1970. “He would make clear what his position was on issues, but he would listen and was open to change. You could not help but respect him. He was an awesome figure, someone who cared enormously and deeply about Xavier University.”

SPRING 1969

During her senior year, with the Vietnam War escalating, Tekeulve would sit in the University Center while the guys guzzled gallons of coffee before going for the physical examinations required by the draft board. The hope was the caffeine would elevate their blood pressure enough to warrant a deferment.

“When they’d come back from their physicals, it was very sad because you knew these friendships you’d made could be over,” she says. “Some, like Bob Rice, felt it was their duty and they were going to be heroes. I thought anyone who went over there was a hero.”

About 14 months after their class graduated, Tekeulve returned to campus to attend Rice’s funeral at Bellarmine Chapel. The popular Xavier Musketeer mascot was killed by a mortar round in Vietnam. “I remember thinking, all these people were going, and for what?”

OCTOBER 1969

Anti-war sentiment was building, but it was muted by the presence of ROTC on campus. Many not only supported the war but signed up to serve. More than half the student body participated in ROTC, says Schiess, who was a gung-ho ROTC member. Back then, he says, opponents of the war were viewed as the enemy. So when a national anti-war protest was planned at colleges across the country on Oct. 15, Xavier canceled classes and held a day of observance for all points of view.

“We knew that around the country students would be striking against their universities in protest of the war, and we said, let’s do something different,” says Burke. “We put together an educational day and presented both sides. We were Xavier, and we were going to do it different.”

O’Connor not only approved the event but moderated a debate between a Jesuit conservative and a member of the Chicago 7 on trial for the melee during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The University turned a potentially divisive event into a learning experience for people of differing opinions. By the end of 1969, ROTC was no longer mandatory.

MAY 1970

After National Guard soldiers killed four students during an anti-war protest at Kent State University just a few hours up I-71, marches and riots sprang up on campuses across the nation. At Xavier, Burke led about 500 students on a march to the University of Cincinnati, blocking traffic and carrying signs of non-violence. By the time the group headed downtown, they numbered 10,000, walking silently in the streets during rush hour. “We realized you didn’t have to go to Vietnam to get killed,” says Burke. “You could get killed right on campus just protesting. It was ugly.”

SEPTEMBER 1970

The Jesuits themselves were not immune to the changes, and some protested alongside the students. While older, more traditional Jesuits rejected Vatican II, younger priests welcomed the relaxation of clothing requirements and the liturgy. They gladly turned to face the congregation and celebrate the Mass in English, not Latin. They invited students to take part in readings and willingly abandoned the flowing cassock and pushed for pants and shirts.

“When I got here in 1970, we were expected to wear collars and cassocks or clerics suits, but that was coming to an end,” says Leo Klein, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry. “It was extraordinary. People were saying, ‘Why do that? Why can’t you wear a tie and be a Jesuit?'”

As campus minister, he saw students wantonly avoiding the mandatory retreats and promptly replaced them with a voluntary system that now attracts more than 500 students a year. Required Sunday morning Mass was replaced by a voluntary evening service. And he made sure the altar in Bellarmine faced outward.

The curriculum, too, changed to make it more appealing, especially in the sciences where interest was waning. Ted Thepe, S.J., a chemistry professor, put together a new required chemistry course that was difficult but more interesting. “I called it kitchen chemistry,” Thepe says. “The approach was to try to make it practical and more relevant.”

In hindsight, perhaps that was everyone’s goal-make everything practical and more relevant. Perhaps that’s what the graduates’ peace signs came to symbolize. For students like Burke, it was all about the ability to engage.

“We came out of that activism believing we could change things,” Burke says. “We didn’t have to accept things the way they were, and we could always try to make things better.”

The Future of Learning

Kandi Stinson is anything but a fortuneteller. Her roomy Schmidt Hall office reflects her position as the University’s interim associate academic vice president-a sizable desk, a neat row of filing cabinets and a large window overlooking a small courtyard. There isn’t a crystal ball in sight. Nevertheless, on this gray winter morning, Stinson is looking into the future, first with a direct nod to the not-so-distant past.

“When I was in the faculty, I had shelves with books and books,” Stinson says. “And it was relatively common for a student to look around and say ‘Have you read all these books?’ And I’d say ‘Well, yeah, plus some.’ And to them it’s really amazing that somebody could actually sit and read these books.”

Books, she says-at least those in the three-dimensional sense-are slipping quietly into the background, and not just in her office, but across campus. Stinson’s job is, in part, to look ahead and make sure Xavier stays at the front of higher education’s learning curve, and today that curve is paved with technology. Quantum leaps in the quality and accessibility of techno-tools and -toys are creating a high-speed generation of learners who read, write and research online. Dubbed the “millennials,” they are weaned on and shaped by around-the-clock stimulation and access. And it’s creating change.

At Xavier and campuses across the nation, the impact of these developments is altering the way learners learn, the way instructors teach, the way classrooms look and, yes, even traditional ideas about colleges and universities. Responses are ranging from the creation of online campuses to supplying traditional students with computers or iPods on which they can download and turn in their assignments. Traditional means of teaching are giving way to methods that are collaborative, interdisciplinary, sound bite oriented, and, yes, perhaps even flashy and entertaining. All of which, Stinson says, is light years removed from the days not too very long ago when it was a major classroom production to wheel out a cranky movie projector to show reels of even crankier film.

“When I started here about 17 years ago, a computer assignment for students was unheard of,” Stinson says. “Now it’s not unusual to walk into a classroom and see students working on computers during classes.”

At the top of each hour, students flood the academic mall outside of Ron Slepitza’s third floor office window. Looking at the masses on the mall, the University’s vice president for student development points out the new generation of students developed around the central themes of multi-tasking and constant communication.

“You hardly see a student walking down the mall without a cell phone close by their hip, their hand or their ear,” he says. “And if they’re not talking, they are text-messaging. At the same time, when they’re on the computer doing an assignment, they’ve probably got up an instant messaging service and they’re talking to 20 of their friends at the same time. They might have their iPod earplugs in listening to music, and out of the corner of their eye they’re catching what’s coming across the screen from CNN. And they have four different programs down below that they’re switching between, and that’s life.”

These students tend to be learners who utilize more experiential techniques than their predecessors, says Mary Walker, the University’s interim vice president for information resources. “Millennial students also tend to be more interested in service to the community, are more open to learning mediated by technology and are more comfortable working in teams compared to past generations.”

This attitudinal shift toward computerized bites of information is challenging long-held concepts in many areas. The staff at McDonald Library, for instance, must now look at digitizing titles in their collection, says JoAnne Young, the University’s associate vice president for library service. But improved electronic access raises another critical point in the learning process-overwhelmed with options, students don’t automatically choose the best information.

“Right now students say ‘I can get anything I want on the web,'” Young says. “The challenge is to find a way to package it so the user can know it’s an authentic, valid, reputable item that they can make judgments based on.”

Such issues, Stinson says, signal a kind of change in the very concept of learning literacy. “It isn’t just reading; it’s technological literacy and it is, I think, visual literacy,” she says. “How do you make sense of the pictures and the things that you see? Whether it’s in an advertisement, a billboard, a map-any of those things requires a kind of literacy, a kind of critical interpretation that I think students don’t necessarily come prepared with in part because they are so exposed to it, so it’s like breathing-you don’t really think about it.”

Tremors from these major swings are being felt in classrooms as well. “In some ways, students expect to be entertained,” Stinson says. “They’ve been entertained from birth with television, movies-all that technology. You can go into Media Play and buy computer games for your 2-year-old. Pre-schools increasingly incorporate technology into playtime and education. So students don’t expect to sit in a classroom and simply listen. They want to see, they want to have that flash and the interest that goes on with those things.”

They also expect to do their work in teams, creating projects that are interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary with other courses-a mindset created by the business world where improved communications have made collaboration and teamwork the name of the global game.

“The generation that’s coming up now has classrooms that you and I wouldn’t recognize,” says associate professor of education Brenda Levya-Gardner. “They are working in groups for projects in preschool, elementary school, high school. So they come to college, if they’re the traditional undergraduate, and they expect to do that at the college level as well.”

To meet the need, the University plans to construct a multi-building Academic Quadrangle that employs a wide range of technology and a host of non- traditional classrooms and learning areas.

“The University has been changing rapidly for many years in that realm,” Levya-Gardner says. “But the quadrangle incorporates almost an institutionalization of the fact that we realize students learn informally as well as formally. And informal ways are as important as the formal ways. A lot of professors are also acknowledging that students learn best with a combination of modes of learning-the individual as well as the group. And so they’re focusing on building activities into their environment that encourage both.”

Sitting at the table in her office, Stinson takes these visions one step further to the next wave of instructors-not just the recent graduates, but the ones who follow them. What roles will they play? How will they change things? It’s possible, Stinson says, that students 10 years hence will encounter learning environments that seem foreign not only to 1995 graduates, but to 2005 graduates as well.

“I think that there is a real possibility that, architecturally speaking, classrooms with four walls may be a thing of the past,” she says. “Fluid spaces shared by people, by activities, by technology as well as by more traditional kinds of learning spaces might become more common.”

In such a future, Stinson says, a class that transpires over a period of 75 minutes may be broken into a number of activities with people-and possibly multiple classes-moving back and forth to stations within the same general learning space.

“In teaching, one of the trends is toward much more interdisciplinary, collaborative team-teaching building on the idea that things are connected,” she says. “For instance, that it’s really difficult to study history well if you’re not also studying political science and thinking about how that relates to philosophy. And I think as the connections become clearer, we’ve got to think about spaces and activities that make it possible for students to make those connections and allow them to happen.”

Of course, as times change, the target has a habit of moving. So there’s no way to tell exactly just what’s over the horizon.

But it seems certain that learning, as it has always done, will continue to play tag with the future, opening doors, reflecting what’s behind them and then opening new doors. And learners will continue to respond to the world in which they’ve grown up-for the foreseeable future a world that includes massive doses of technology.

“The world is becoming smaller because of technology,” Stinson says. “I just don’t see that going back. It would be like getting rid of your microwave.”

Profile: John McCuen

John McCuen
Bachelor of Science in psychology, 1993 | Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for the South Balkans, Skopje, Macedonia

Bubble Buster | McCuen joined the Peace Corps after graduation because “something about being at Xavier had me leaning toward a service-oriented career. I felt I was living in a bubble and could help people in other places who have a lot more poverty than the U.S.”

Fish Farming | Guatamela was his first home. For two years he would go out from his town, a hub of 2,000 with no running water and sporadic electricity, to teach animal husbandry and fish farming to area residents.

Pay Back | “It was extremely rewarding. I saw clearly that in a place like Guatemala, if you’re born poor, there’s very little way to break out of that cycle no matter how smart you are or how hardworking. It’s a very difficult life. I have that appreciation, and it compelled and motivated me to continue.”

Food for Thought | His experiences led to a master’s degree in international and intercultural relations and then to employment with Catholic Relief Services. He went to Macedonia and the Dominican Republic, where he met his wife, Gercia. His year in Macedonia began with his evacuation when the NATO campaign against Serbia started in March 1999. He managed food delivery to a Macedonian refugee camp that housed 32,000 people.

Peacenik | In November 2003, McCuen was given oversight of six countries—Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Moldovo, Macedonia and Romania. Much of his work focuses on building peace between the ethnic Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo. One of the programs he developed is aimed at the youth of Mitrovica whose families are separated, literally, by the Ibar River—Serbs to the north, Albanians to the south. The students are part of a citywide youth council that focuses on improving common problems in their schools such as facilities and developing competitive sports programs.

Baby Steps | “Bit by bit, the youth are coming together to work on a common agenda to benefit both sides,” he says. “The thought is that bringing Serbs and Albanians together is one way to break down the stereotypes and learn about the pain and frustrations they’ve experienced and gain from that. There’s a lot of genuine friendships that have developed.”

Bridging the Past | When an Albanian teen died in an altercation near the river with a Serbian youth, riots erupted. But the youth council members didn’t participate and even called each other to make sure they were OK.

Hopeful | “We do have hope,” McCuen says. “We might get to the point where we have soccer matches and basketball matches together.”

Profile: Michael F. Ford

Michael F. Ford
Bachelor of Arts, political science, 1970 | President of Bay Communications, a communications and strategic consulting company, Glyndon, Md.

Sowing Seeds | Ford’s interest in politics was spawned during his years at Xavier in the late 1960s when the Vietnam War became a lightning rod for all manner of social issues including civil rights and women’s liberation.

Freedom | “It was the war that was a generational attraction to get involved. What Xavier did was give me a lot of latitude and support. When I was a junior, I missed a final exam and the professor asked me why. I said I had to testify before Congress. He said, ‘In that case, OK.’ They encouraged involvement, and the freedom they gave me allowed me to learn this was something I was good at.”

Degree of Success | He went on to earn a master’s degree in government from another Jesuit institution, Georgetown University.

Name Dropper | In his 35 years as a political consultant, Ford’s worked with a virtual list of who’s who in the world of Democratic politics. He’s also been an analyst on “The Today Show” and “Larry King Live” and political consultant for the film of Stephen King’s “Dead Zone.”

Most Impactful | In 1980, Ford ran Ted Kennedy’s primary campaign against Jimmy Carter. They lost, but that experience set him up for everything he’s done since.

Most Difficult | Walter Mondale vs. Ronald Reagan. It brought out the frustrations of the Democratic party. He was blamed for the loss. The party’s problems were the same as today, he says. “We have a to-do list, not a vision.”

In the Beginning | He started Bay Communications in 1984. One of his first clients was John Waihee, whom he helped become the first native Islander elected governor of the state of Hawaii.

Other Clients | The N.B.A. Players Association hired him to boost their public image and bargaining position during the 1998 strike.

The Business Side | Ford was one of two partners who challenged famed investor Warren Buffett and created “Class B” shares of Berkshire Hathaway Corp. stock for small investors. The move created $250 units of the stock, which was trading at $30,000 a share at the time. His effort was featured in Newsweek magazine.

Steady Stimulant | Ford fuels his busy schedule by reading more and sleeping less. He’s typically awake until 3:00 a.m. and up at 6:00 a.m., though he admits to stealing catnaps in the afternoons. His reading list: The New York TimesWashington PostWall Street Journal daily plus novels on his favorite topics—politics, history and current events. “I need it to stimulate me to write.”

Profile: Melissa Beasley

Melissa Beasley
Bachelor of Arts, communication arts, 1996 | Elite athlete relations manager, U.S.A. Track & Field, Indianapolis

Out of the Blocks | Beasley wanted to be a sports reporter and spent a summer in Atlanta interning for a Fox television affiliate during the 1996 Olympics. There she met a producer from ESPN who told her about the soon-to-be-launched ESPNews. She was soon editing highlights for “SportsCenter,” “Baseball Tonight,” “NBA2Night” and “NHL2Night.”

Changing Lanes | Missing the direct contact with athletes, she decided to pursue a career in sports administration and media relations and returned to Xavier as an intern in the sports information office.

Gaining Position | Shortly after her internship ended, she was hired by U.S.A. Track & Field, the sport’s sanctioning body. She joined the organization in September 2000, just weeks before the Sydney Olympics. She now oversees several programs, is the liaison to the anti-doping agency and is program administrator for the post-collegiate special assistance fund. The fund aids athletes as they make the transition from college to professional ranks. She also helps publish a quarterly athlete-based magazine, Elite Beat, edits a handbook for elite athletes and writes a monthly anti-doping newsletter.

Covering Ground | She’s on the road about 70 percent of the year. Her travels have taken her to Chile, England, Canada, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and France. She spent March 2004 in Hungary and was in Greece for the month of August for the Olympics. Upcoming trips may take her to Japan, Russia and possibly Morocco. “Of course, Beijing is the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics, but that is far down the road.”

Going for Gold | Beasley says 2004 was by far her most rewarding year, “seeing the athletes’ hard work and accomplishments get them to the Olympic stage. I remember seeing many of them as junior athletes.” She also assisted with the daily trips to a U.S. Naval Base, where the athletes experienced all the perks of home. “I helped to coordinate a meet-and-greet with the sailors and others on the base—our way of saying ‘thank you.’”

Next Race | The major international event is the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, in August. “Many people only think of track and field every four years, but this sport happens every year and there are always exciting moments.”

Profile: Bill Daily

Bill Daily
Bachelor of Science in business administration, 1957; Master of Education, 1961 | Professor of communication arts

Finding Meaning | A full-time faculty member for 36 years, Daily’s helped shape the University. But what shaped him the most was a 1992 faculty trip to Nicaragua. He’d been searching for purpose since a near-death experience in 1970 and found it in the poor. “Seeing their tremendous strength and hope in spite of having nothing was very powerful. I never felt closer to Xavier because I felt the spirit of St. Ignatius was alive there.”

Service Chain | The trip planted the seeds for the University’s service-learning semesters and led Daily to his work with the homeless in Cincinnati. That led to a service-learning semester in Cincinnati’s poor Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Lessons Learned | Daily also serves on the board of ReStock, which rehabs housing in Over-the-Rhine, and has worked as a consultant for the neighborhood’s homeless shelter. “In service, it’s what you learn, not what you give that’s important,” he says. “That’s very humbling. There are all sorts of poorness, other than economic. We’re all poor in some way.”

Learning Lessons | Some of his fondest undergraduate memories are of the informal talks with Jesuit faculty in the old South Hall. Those days also provided Daily with a lifetime friend and mentor, professor Walter Clark. “He instilled in me a deep desire for learning. I’m forever indebted to him for that.”

Family Tree | Daily, his wife and six children hold a total of 19 academic degrees, nine of them from Xavier.

Love the Game | An Indiana native, Daily has a love affair with basketball. He tried out for Xavier’s freshman team but was cut by a student-coach named Jim Bunning. Still, Daily left his mark on Xavier basketball in 1978 when he chaired the committee that hired coach Bob Staak, a move widely acknowledged as the turning point in the school’s hoops fortunes.

The Love of Music

The University nearly doubled its collection of music CDs this year thanks to a gift from 1951 graduate Robert Seifert. Most of the 350 CDs were of the classical, jazz and blues genres. Seifert dedicated his donation to the memory of Brother Francis W. Schneider and Hubert Buschle, who were both involved in music studies at Purcell High School in Cincinnati when Seifert attended school there. He credits them with nurturing his love of music.

Father Finn’s Fiddle

History remembers Francis J. Finn, S.J., as an author, University trustee and the man who coined the nickname “Musketeers.” Today, he’s also recognized for his namesake, the Father Finn Society, which recognizes those who arrange planned gifts to the University.

But Finn was also a violinist. And thanks to a gift from Richard and Alice Dooley, Finn’s violin has a permanent home at the University. “When Father Finn died in 1928, his family gave the instrument to his close friend, Dr. Joseph Topmoeller,” Richard Dooley says. “Dr. Topmoeller and his brother, Father Bernard Topmoeller, were German immigrants instrumental in starting the parochial school system in Cincinnati.” Dr. Topmoeller had four sons and two grandsons who attended the University, and the violin eventually passed to his third son, attorney Joseph Topmoeller, father of Alice Dooley. Alice used it for violin lessons when she was a child, and it has been carefully preserved since. The Dooleys arranged the gift in memory of the Topmoeller family’s long association with Xavier.

The Stradivarius copy bears the name “R. Wurlitzer” on its label, suggesting it was originally sold at the old Wurlitzer Music store in Cincinnati. “Father Finn’s impact is still being felt at Xavier,” says Mark McLaughlin, executive director for the office of gift and estate planning. “Having his violin allows us to tell a little bit more of his story.”