Xavier Spotlight

A lot has changed at the University during the last 45 years, but at least one constant remains: Rowena Williams. In 1960, Williams began as a dishwasher in the old Red Building’s cafeteria and has worked as a line server, grill cook, salad maker, cashier and supervisor.

Today, she gets up at 4:00 a.m. every weekday. By 6:30 a.m., she’s at the Hoff Dinning Hall setting up for breakfast before assuming her post at the cash register where she greets sleepy-eyed students who stop for a bite before class. “As a cashier, I like to talk to students,” says Williams, who sees more than 1,000 students a day. She also enjoys meeting generations of Xavier graduates. “As long as I’ve been here, I’ve had students that had brothers and sisters here or four children and a father. It’s nice when you get to see the whole family coming in.”

Reaching for Diversity

The desk in Cheryl Nuñez’s office is a sea of manila folders broken by flecks of reddish-brown where the sunlight from the tall, lone window strikes the wood surface. Another group of folders peers out of a black bag underneath the desk surround. Still more protrude from the side pocket of Nuñez’s purse. And then there are the file drawers—reams of research underscoring the seriousness of the task at hand.

A petite woman who emanates a focused intellectual energy, Nuñez came to campus last May as Xavier’s first vice-provost for diversity. Her charge is to help pave the school’s path to a more inclusive future. To do that, she’s set to work building bridges and overseeing the creation of a diversity plan that will ultimately impact all aspects of the University. She spends her days mining others’ experiences and burrowing her way through historical documents, reaching for the roots of the existing perspectives, resources and attitudes that lie at the University’s core. And with 175 years of Xavier history to examine—most of it dedicated to educating white males—there’s much to digest.

What’s more, the very nature of diversity makes it impossible to concretely state tomorrow’s goals today. “The idea of a quest for diversity suggests that it’s a product we’re seeking, or an outcome,” Nuñez says. “In fact, it’s a process as well. And it is in many ways in the process that its value really lies.”

Since 1978, the United States Supreme Court has twice affirmed the importance of creating diverse student bodies as a key element in providing a better educational environment for all students, a point that plays directly into Xavier’s commitment to educational excellence—and to the Jesuit commitment to help those groups in society and on campus that have been historically underserved, if not excluded. Adding members of those groups to the campus mix, Nuñez says, helps remedy the situation while opening the door to a greater understanding of multiple perspectives and different ways of learning.

In contemporary jargon, it’s a win-win situation. But it’s more complex than that. Society is always evolving, meaning that anyone attempting to accurately reflect it must try to hit a moving target. Some say that an institution can declare itself diverse when minority enrollment reaches 17 percent, a figure Xavier hit this year. Others, like Marc Camille, the University’s dean of admission, suggest there is no magic number or critical mass, and that the best institutions can do is compare themselves with their surrounding community and similar schools.

“I think that we all struggle with the term diversity, because nobody’s completely sure what that means,” says Kathy Hammett, director for international student services. “When we talk about issues of diversity, we are talking about so many things.”

Among those things, Nuñez says, are culture, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality and ability. There are also disabilities and socio-economic factors to consider. And each of these areas can be broad, often overlapping one another. What’s more, diversity goes beyond the student body, to include curriculum and hiring practices for faculty and staff. The fine line lies in inviting and providing for inclusiveness without watering down the definition until diversity means everything, and thus, nothing at all.

Still, for most people, the racial mix of the student body is the easiest starting point in discussing diversity. XU 2000, the University’s comprehensive plan released in 1994, formalized the goal of increasing diversity on campus. And there have been a number of initiatives designed to bring more students of color to campus—efforts that appear to be working. Since 1999, the University has seen a 69-percent overall increase in applications from students of all backgrounds.

At the same time, Xavier has become more selective, its overall acceptance rate dropping from 89 percent to 66 percent. But during this period, the student population has grown more diverse. Students of color now make up 17.5 percent of the freshman population, as opposed to 10.3 percent in 1999. In terms of pure numbers, African Americans show the greatest gains: In 1999, 48 African Americans enrolled at Xavier; in 2005, the figure rose to 85, a 77-percent hike. And more African Americans are applying, with total applications rising from 247 in 1999 to 998 last year, a 304-percent increase.

These figures reflect both demographics—African Americans have long been the largest minority group in Cincinnati —and the University’s historic recruiting philosophy. Camille arrived at Xavier in 1999 and says that until that point recruiting students of color “meant just recruiting African Americans.” But in recent years, the Hispanic/Latino population has emerged as the fastest-growing group, both nationally and locally. This shift demanded broader strategies.

As one example, last year the University rolled out the Miguel Pro, S.J., Scholarship, an award of up to full tuition, aimed at high-achieving Hispanic/Latino students and mirroring the successful Francis Weninger, S.J., Scholarship for African-American students. In the course of six years, the University has increased applications from Hispanics by 352 percent and seen a 144-percent increase in enrollment, though Camille is quick to point out that while Hispanic/Latino students now make up 2.8 percent of the overall student population, only nine enrolled in 1999 and just 22 in 2005.

When professor of English Tyrone Williams arrived on campus 21 years ago, Xavier was a different place. “Going to the cafeteria was a sort of reminder of the division of labor on the campus in terms of class as well as race and to a certain extent even gender,” he says. “It was primarily women who lived in the neighborhood, either black or from Norwood . So when you saw people from there and from the physical plant, the differences were fairly stark, from my perspective.”

In spite of those differences, Williams stayed, largely because of the sense of community he found. Extending that same sense of community to include an increasingly diverse population is a campuswide commitment, and one the University has met with general, if predictably uneven, success. There’s no question Xavier’s a different place.

But there’s more to be done. Across the board, the University has geared up to ensure students succeed once they’re here. Among those efforts is the office of multicultural affairs, which supervises and advises a dozen or so minority student organizations, such as the black student association and the student organization of Latinos, and coordinates programs with the goal of bringing minority students together with members of the larger Xavier family as well as the community at-large. “Everything is about exposing these young people to the broader reality,” says Paul James, director for multicultural affairs.

For the approximately 140 international students on campus, there’s also the Interlink program, which builds community by matching American students with new international students. And as with all students, the office of student success and retention plays a key role in acting as a conduit, greasing the wheels to ensure students get what they need to succeed. Its director, Adrian Schiess, says his office saw 3,800 students and took 6,000 phone calls last year. Part of this success comes from the quality of students the University is enrolling, but Schiess says there’s another secret. “This office is successful because it treats everybody the same.”

These approaches, along with those provided by the learning assistance center, the office of student support services and others, are working. Ron Slepitza, vice president for student development, has been at the University 13 years, long enough to see Xavier’s approach to diversity begin to mature. While admitting there’s much that can still be done in terms of inclusiveness, Slepitza points out that students of color are now retained at a rate equivalent to other students, that they graduate at a rate equivalent to other students, that they have an overall grade point average almost identical to other students, and that the same can be said for first-generation students. “That is exciting,” he says. “We far exceed national averages in regard to that.”

Against this backdrop, Nuñez settles in to work. In December, her diversity advisory council, a group of 25 individuals drawn from across the Xavier community, presented a draft of the diversity plan to the board of trustees’ inclusion task force. Broadly stated, the draft outlines 10 goals across four major areas—student access and success, campus climate and intercultural relations, education and scholarship, and institutional transformation—and provides a framework for meeting those goals and measuring progress.

The plan mirrors the goals of the University’s strategic plan and is designed to allow flexibility in terms of focus areas. It will run concurrently with the strategic plan, both culminating in 2010. When a new strategic plan is drawn up, there will be a new diversity plan to reflect it.

“There’s no formula, no perfect calculus for diversity,” Nuñez says. “When assessments of students, faculty and staff show changes in perceptions, behaviors and skills—and show improvement—then we’ll know that we are moving forward in the right direction.”

Diwali

When members of Xavier’s South Asian Society decided to stage the Indian festival of Diwali in the Gallagher Theater in November, they weren’t sure what to expect. The members had never staged the festival before, so they printed 400 tickets, hoping that at least 200 people would attend. But on the eve of the performance, they realized that wasn’t the case. Instead, the show sold out, leaving co-presidents Gaurav Marwaha and Keyur Parikh with another dilemma: How were they going to satisfy the hungry crowd?

The Indian restaurant catering the event couldn’t make more food on such short notice, but a few calls yielded another restaurant that could—a good thing, considering 420 people actually attended, some forced to sit in the aisles.

Diwali—Sanskrit for “rows of lights”—is a five-day celebration comparable to the Western world’s Christmas. Although rooted in the Indian sub-continent, Diwali is celebrated throughout the world. During this cultural and spiritual holiday, people don new clothes, visit family, share sweets and light fireworks. Participants also light buildings with diyas, or lamps, in hopes of receiving blessings from Laxshmi, the goddess of wealth.

The purpose of the South Asian Society, one of 83 student-run clubs on campus, is to educate others about South Asian heritage. It’s sponsored talks, movies and cultural dinners, but this marks the first time in the club’s three-year history that it’s staged such a show. “Two years ago, I never would have thought a South Asian cultural event of this magnitude to ever be possible because nowhere on campus was this region of the world represented in student clubs and organizations,” says Marwaha. “This campus needed something—some reflection of the cultures that make up nearly a quarter of the world’s population.”

The event included Bollywood dance routines, a fashion show with colorfully beaded finery reflective of particular regions, skits highlighting why and how the world celebrates Diwali, speeches directed at the universal and spiritual significance of the holiday and an interfaith prayer representing Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity.

“The purpose was to show that even in our different walks of life we all share the same message of Diwali,” Parikh says. About 35 students, including several from the University of Cincinnati, had a month to rehearse. “The biggest challenges we faced were organization and experience,” says Parikh. “Many of the students had never been on stage before and almost none had been involved with an Indian dance. As a result, the choreographers found it a real challenge to create dances that would amaze an audience, but still be feasible for performers with little to no experience.”

The event raised approximately $2,000, which was donated to UNICEF in support of natural disaster relief. The evening ended with a full Indian buffet.

Yet, while Diwali comprises lavish decorations, sweets and fireworks, it also possesses a more spiritual purpose: to dispel the darkness of one’s own ignorance. “It is a festival of the light that shows us the way on our journey through life,” Marwaha says. “The purpose is to glorify the light of God. It is he who bestows the real light—the everlasting light upon the darkness of the world.”

Extra Credit: Peter Block

Peter Block is a consultant and trainer focusing on empowerment, stewardship, accountability and community. He’s written several best-selling books, including Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, which was recognized as the most influential book for organizational development practitioners over the past 40 years. He also founded Designed Learning, a training and resource firm. He is working as the consultant-in-residence at the Williams College of Business

What type of work will you be doing here at Xavier? My goal is to help Xavier connect more deeply with its neighborhood and the larger Cincinnati community. I think Xavier has a desire to be partners with the community instead of developers of the community.

What’s the guiding thread or philosophy behind your work? The restoration of community, which means to help change the fragmented nature of our cities. And you do that by changing the conversation from a kind of problem-oriented thinking to one of possibility and connectedness.

How will that play out in your work here? I’m trying to get more people involved in civic engagement—a different kind of civic engagement—and create projects that bring Xavier’s enormous assets and connect them with the needs of the community. I want to raise people’s consciousness to the awareness that no organization can be successful in isolation. It’s about getting everyone to care about the well-being of the whole. It’s an antidote to the individualism and short-term focus of most of our lives.

Profile: Kim Blanton

KIM BLANTON

Bachelor of Science in physical education, 1992 | Personal trainer, Cincinnati

Strong Start | Blanton was a member of the women’s basketball team from 1987-1991 after being heavily recruited coming out of high school in Lexington, Ky. She chose Xavier so her parents could watch her play.

Record Breaker | As a starting guard, Blanton set—and still maintains—the second-highest record for three-point accuracy in a career, just four-tenths of a percentage point behind leader Jennifer Parr. She is also a member of Xavier’s 1,000-point club.

Off the Court | After graduation, Blanton taught at private schools in Cincinnati for a few years. “I’ve always been active and have always had an interest in health and physical activity, and I thought I would enjoy teaching kids. It kind of ended up leading me into what I do now.”

Change of Pace | Eventually, Blanton found her calling as a personal trainer and became certified through the International Sports Science Association. “I started with two or three people and supplemented my income by working at GNC. Most of my clients now are elderly. They really enjoy working out.”

Internal Medicine | In July 2000, Blanton began taking a prescription medication that caused her to break out in a rash, which the doctors treated, unaware it was an early indicator of a much more serious problem. By February 2001, Blanton started exhibiting nausea and lethargy before contracting jaundice. She was sleeping 30 hours at a time and had stopped eating.

Emergency Situation | When tests for Hepatitis A came back negative, doctors ordered a liver biopsy, which revealed that her liver was 90 percent dead. “The medication attacks the liver and you don’t realize it. The liver can’t flush it fast enough over time. It sends your liver over the edge and goes into acute failure and you literally have four weeks to live.” They moved her to the top of the liver transplant list, and almost a month after her first symptom, she received the new organ.

Speedy Recovery | Blanton bounced back quickly, which she attributes to her good physical condition. “They said it would take me probably three months to return to work and I returned in a month and a half. I was hiking four-and-a-half miles four weeks later. I was lifting weights five weeks later.”

Good Example | “My clients always ask my opinion about anything medical. I always say you should go to your doctor, but I’m usually pretty accurate. They see from example how being in good physical shape I’ve been able to bounce back and continue my life. As far as the way I train myself, I’m just as strong and lifting heavier today than before, which is a surprise because that was something the doctors didn’t think I could do.”

Danish Anyone?

A team of 10 Danish administrators and teachers studying school curriculum and philosophy in the U.S. last fall visited Xavier for an informal cross-cultural gathering. The Xavier department of education and the McDonald Library sponsored a conference in October where the Danish educators mingled with staff and faculty members from the departments of art, music, modern languages, psychology and English As a Second Language.

During the conference sessions, the participants explored subject area expertise from the American and Danish perspectives. They also looked at current theories of practice in specific curricular areas. Other sessions addressed opportunities for students and educators to study and work outside the U.S., including the exploration of service learning semesters, study abroad opportunities, and internship programs that would provide academic credit and valuable work experience, says Isaac Larison, assistant professor of education.

The visiting administrators and teachers were from two schools in Denmark, Brenderup Skole and Roskilde Lille Skole. Both have hosted teacher education students from the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (www.kiis.org). Xavier students have studied in Denmark through the Kentucky program for the last three years.

The Danish educators also visited Cincinnati area preschool, Montessori, and K-12 public and private schools to explore the curricula and philosophies of American schools. They hope to establish exchanges with teacher education programs and K-12 schools in the U.S.

Profile: John K. Ritter

JOHN K. RITTER

Bachelor of Science–Business Administration, 1994 | Co-owner, Ritter Daniher Financial Advisory; Cincinnati

Passion at Work | Ritter and his business partner, Jeffrey Daniher, launched their firm in July 1999 with no clients but “a solid business plan and a ton of passion.” The company now manages more than $70 million for about 80 families. Ritter attributes the rapid growth in part to its focus on financial life planning, a holistic approach that helps clients not only manage money but also define and achieve their goals.

National Recognition | Bloomberg Wealth Manager has twice named Ritter Daniher one of the top 250 financial advisory firms in the country, and Ritter was recently appointed to a two-year term on the national advisory panel of TD Waterhouse Institutional Services. The panel’s 20 members offer input on new services, technological advances and other issues related to improving the industry.

Close to Home | A Cincinnati native, Ritter had three requirements in choosing a university: a small school, a strong business college and the opportunity to play NCAA Division I golf. “Thankfully, I found what I was looking for right in my hometown.”

Links to Success | During Ritter’s first season on the Musketeer golf team, it featured five freshmen and one sophomore. The young squad won its first tournament and never looked back, winning the Midwest Collegiate Conference championship four years running. Ritter was named all-conference each of those years and served as co-captain in his final two seasons.

Honing a Focus | During his senior year, Ritter worked part time for a financial-planning firm and stepped into a full-time job following graduation. “I learned a lot in my time there, but I also learned that their approach to financial planning differed from the way in which I wanted to deliver it.”

Exclusive Club | Ritter, Daniher and a third partner, Ronda Koehler, are all certified financial planners and work on a fee-only basis—meaning they are compensated solely by fees paid by clients, not through commissions or other forms of compensation.

Staying in Touch | Ritter has remained close to the University through his involvement in a number of societies and activities. He is particularly proud of his work assisting with the All Fore One Golf Classic, a fundraiser for Xavier’s athletic teams. “This event has turned into one of the best in town, and it is raising significant dollars,” he says.

Profile: Tony Anderson

TONY ANDERSON

Bachelor of Arts vocal music, 2000 | CEO of Vizionary Productions; Doctoral student in hip-hop and education at the University of Delaware, Wilmington, Del.

Many Hats | Anderson—a teacher, live hip-hop disc jockey, music producer and composer—developed an educational program that uses hip-hop music as a means of exposing elementary and secondary school students to a wide range of life skills, from basic writing to business networking to career opportunities. The Delaware State Board of Education is now working to include some of his practices in its curriculum.

Worldwide Success | Anderson’s approach is best reflected in the success of Bassline Entertainment, a hip-hop group he assembled with 13 students, many of whom are underachievers. The group has taken its positive messages on tours of the United States and England. The students handle their own business and even have their own line of clothing.

X Days | Anderson came to the University on a music scholarship. He served as the Musketeer mascot, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, legislative vice president of the black student association, sang in a group called Trifecta and sat on a host of committees. He also helped with strategic program planning for African-American students and was instrumental in launching Greekfest and the Miss Black and Gold Pageant.

Rap It Up | At Xavier, Anderson launched his career as a DJ and built a thriving business. At one point, Anderson, whose stage name is DJ Tone Capone, decided to quit. “I tried to price myself out, but they kept paying. So I just kept doing it.”

Producing a Vision | Following graduation, Anderson headed to Florida to work on a master’s degree in education. While there, he started Vizionary Productions.

Worlds Collide | While student-teaching at an elementary school, Anderson began devising musical exercises for a class of behaviorally challenged students. The students bought into it, writing and recording a song, and generally changing their attitudes toward education.

Higher Ed | The success of the program brought Anderson public attention. As a result, a professor from the University of Delaware invited Anderson to the school to work on a doctorate while trying his hip-hop approaches with middle-school students—a project that became Bassline Entertainment.

Profile: Joseph P. Broderick, M.D.

JOSEPH P. BRODERICK, M.D.

Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude with distinction, 1978 | Staff attending physician;professor of neurology; chair, Department of Neurology; member, The Neuroscience Institute, University of Cincinnati

Service to Others | While his father, Xavier alumnus Joseph Broderick, M.D., encouraged his seven children to do “whatever makes you happy,” it was their mother, Marilyn, who encouraged the Catholic-educated Broderick clan to pursue careers in health care or the priesthood as an ideal way of service to others. Joseph, the eldest, took the advice to heart, and four of his siblings followed him into the field of medicine.

Choices | Broderick considered studying psychology because he was fascinated with how the brain works. “But you never get to touch the patient and that was not for me. I wanted to be hands-on and take care of the whole patient.” After graduating first in his class from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1982, he considered being an internist, like his father. During rotations with neurologists at UC and the Mayo Clinic, however, he realized neurology was his field.

Brain Teaser | “The brain is so complex and interesting and I looked upon that as a much greater challenge. Plus, there was more happening with the brain than with other areas,” he says. Neurology in the mid-1980s was mostly about diagnosing problems. There was little available to heal the patient. But in the last 25 years, the field of brain therapy “has just been revolutionized.”

Brainstorm | Since joining the University of Cincinnati medical school as an assistant professor, Broderick has accumulated a dizzying array of neurological research, published work, appointments and awards from such prestigious organizations as the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. He works 60-65 hours a week and still has time for family, even helping coach his son’s seventh grade basketball team.

Stroke | Much of his research focuses on stroke, the most common neurological disorder. He also oversees research by other faculty into other neurological disorders including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Though he enjoys seeing patients, less than 20 percent of his time is spent with patients because of his research and administrative duties.

No-Brainer | Broderick was part of a research team that showed the clot-busting drug, Tissue Plasminogen Activator, or t-PA, if administered within three hours of symptoms, restores a person’s brain functions to nearly normal levels in about a third of all patients. Now the job is to educate people to hurry to the hospital.

Rewarding | “One of the coolest things in medicine is seeing someone who can’t talk or move, but within an hour of treatment they can talk and shake your hand.”

Brain Gain | The Neuroscience Institute, which he helped found in 1998, has recruited nearly 50 neurosurgeons, neurologists, psychiatrists and laboratory scientists to positions at the medical school. All are involved in research studies of the spine and brain, including testing a promising new treatment for brain hemorrhages.

Lasting Impact

As chair of the University’s department of English, Thomas Savage, S.J., left a powerful impression on his students. So much so that 35 years after his death, many former students continue to remember him through contributions to the Thomas G. Savage, S.J., Memorial Scholarship fund, which awards $8,000 each year to two students with an interest in the humanities.

This year, a group of admirers commemorated the anniversary of his death with a memorial dinner, raising $4,000 and bringing the scholarship’s endowment to about $280,000.

Two years ago, three men showed up to a Mass at Bellarmine Chapel on the anniversary of Savage’s death. “They told us they had been students of Fr. Savage, and they get together every year to remember him,” says Joseph Wessling, program facilitator for Ignatian Programs and a retired professor of English who coordinates the fund.

Why such dedication? “He’d have 20 people sign up and 10 of them would withdraw because he expected so much from them,” says Wessling. “But for those who stayed—not only did they learn a lot, but he changed their lives.”