The World is a Big Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Food of Life

Ryan Lavalley was scared. Just a freshman, he was sitting in a car with some fellow students headed toward downtown. Their goal: take the sandwiches they made that afternoon to people living in a homeless area known as the Queensgate Camp.

To Lavalley, it was like entering another world. “We walked in and I saw couches and chairs,” he says. “There’s an area for the kitchen and for sleeping, like a house without walls. We’re under this overpass, and it’s someone’s home. I thought This is just weird, there’s dirty men sitting around.”

One of them was named Dog, who sat in the area reserved for games. “Do you play chess?” Dog asked. The board was already set up. So Lavalley, who considers himself a pretty good chess player, pulled up a stool opposite Dog, a rough-looking man, balding, measuring about 6 feet tall. They chatted as they moved their pieces around the board. Dog asked questions about what Lavalley was doing in school. Lavalley held back his game a little to be fair to the homeless man.

“Then he just beat me in 10 moves,” says Lavalley. “That moment, I’ll never forget it, it was the first time I saw them as more than just people who live on the streets.”

Lavalley’s comeuppance became his devotion. And he is no longer scared—cautious, but not afraid. Now he sees the homeless as people, just without homes.

Since that first Sunday evening two years ago, Lavalley has been a vital part of Labre Student Outreach, a group of students whose simple mission is to take food to homeless people every week and let them know they’re not forgotten.

“The people involved in Labre are dedicated and are looking for more than the soup kitchen experience,” Lavalley says. “What we’re doing is walking with these people through their experiences. We’re not trying to save them or make ourselves feel better.”

Labre was founded at Xavier two years ago by Tim Ogoneck, a graduate of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, where Labre began in 2003. The group is named after Benedict Joseph Labre, an 18th century Frenchman who lived among the homeless in Rome.

Each week, about 15 students sign up for the Sunday evening sandwich-making sessions and trips downtown. Xavier Dining provides the food, paid for by donations of meals off students’ meal cards. “The sandwiches are the key into the door of the homeless world,” Lavalley says.

Labre members have been sharing food and conversations with them for so long that they’ve come to trust each other. There are basic rules: Never pressure a person about anything. Don’t carry cash. When people ask for money, say, “We just have food. Do you want to talk?” And finally, students are told to never go off by themselves without another Labre member. The issue of safety is foremost, Lavalley says.

Labre now has about 200 members, and Lavalley is in discussions with Xavier’s Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice to explore how they can work together and become an officially recognized student group. The group’s consistency over the last few years is way beyond most student groups, and its focus on relationships, not just food, fits in perfectly with the Jesuit ideals. By being officially affiliated with the Center, though, it can receive advice, resources and ongoing support that it might not now receive. And, having the stability of an organization behind it can help prepare new students to pick up the mantle of leadership.

For Lavalley, an occupational therapy major with a psychology minor, Labre has opened up new possibilities for the kind of work he wants to do. “Labre changed me,” he says. “I know I want to work with impoverished people who are oppressed and help them regain dignity as a human being.”

But for now, Lavalley is committed to Labre. He organizes the Sunday evening food preparations and transportation, and he and a core group of veteran members also visit the camps during the week to check on the residents. And every week, he goes confidently to Queensgate to bring Dog dinner, share some conversation, and engage him in another round of chess. Sometimes, he even wins.

Changing the Game

Amy Gore admits she’s not crazy about running. But there she was in Disney World last January, running a marathon with a group of about 20 Xavier students. The reason? Distance4Dreams, which raises money through running for seriously ill children. Gore, who earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy in 2009 and master’s degree a year later, started the Xavier chapter of D4D with a few friends last year.

Gore learned about Distance4Dreams from Katie Przybysz, a friend at the University of Dayton who started the charity. She worked as an intern at A Special Wish Foundation. Some of Przybysz’s friends were running a Disney Marathon and looking for a charity to support. That gave birth to Distance4Dreams.

At Xavier, the group solicited pledges for every mile they ran. “It was like we were working for the money instead of just asking for it, which made our training more meaningful,” says Gore. The Xavier chapter headed to Florida in January and raised about $4,000 for a girl named Jackie with a rare type of kidney cancer. Jackie and her family went to Disney World this summer after she finished chemotherapy. Gore isn’t sure whether she’ll run another marathon, but the club will remain her legacy. So will getting Jackie and her family to Disney World.

“I always said I’d never run a full marathon because I didn’t think it was good for the body,” she says. “But of all the reasons to do it, those were the things that really pushed me to the finish line.”

Lessons Learned

Jayma George was nervous. It was her first week of college, and as she stared at her schedule of classes, there, in big, bold letters, was the one word that sent fear scurrying through her body: Biology. Even though she graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade point average, the school was small and didn’t offer advanced placement classes. As a result, she felt like she was already behind most of her classmates.

And it showed.

Recognizing her nervousness, her professor suggested she try Supplemental Instruction, or SI, a specialized student-to-student tutoring program that Xavier has in place for four areas: general chemistry, organic chemistry, general biology, and anatomy and physiology. A trained peer tutor attends each class and then conducts study sessions open to all students afterward. While students can still get personalized attention from the professor or graduate assistant, sometimes having a fellow student explain something makes all the difference.

“I was nervous about it enough,” says George, a sophomore natural sciences major from Pandora, Ohio. “I thought, ‘Free help? Great.’ It’s not worth failing first before getting help.”

SI is an internationally recognized academic support model developed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Xavier began its formal SI program in 2007 for general biology, general and organic chemistry, and then added anatomy and physiology last spring. Math, accounting and modern languages may soon be next. The reason it’s growing so fast? It works.

Before SI, these über-hard classes averaged drop-fail-withdrawal rates as high as 30 percent. Now the average is in the single digits. In organic chemistry, the rate has dropped to zero.

Stephanie Mosier, assistant director of Xavier’s Learning Assistance Center, which oversees the program, also measures the program’s effectiveness individually by dividing students into three groups—students who attend regularly, student who attend at least once and students who do not attend—and then recording their grades. In one course Mosier surveyed, students who attended SI sessions regularly scored an average 3.02 versus 1.6 for those who never attended.

Mosier works with the professors to create the framework for the study sessions, but gives student leaders a lot of latitude in how they get their tutoring lessons across. Some use online videos, memory games, even skits to help get the material across to their less-experienced counterparts. The positives can also translate into more than just As and Bs, though.

“My SI leader is now one of my best friends,” George says. “She’s going to be a senior in the same major. She helped me figure out what classes to take and how to budget my time. She also helped me with a lot of other things. She’s been a really good mentor.”

Student leaders benefit as well. Not only are they paid for their time, tutoring helps reinforce the material for their own sakes and shows well on résumés and grad school applications.

Mosier says the program has been very well received by everyone involved. There’s only one problem: She now has more prospective student leaders than she has positions available. That, of course, is a good problem to have. And, one of the prospective student leaders is George. “I did well enough that I’m going to be an SI leader for an incoming general biology class,” she says.

For Mosier, that’s what makes all of the work worth it. “The biggest compliment for me is to see a student who wants to be a tutor, who says, ‘I want to be as inspiring to future students who take this course.’”

The Price of Success

Business majors will enjoy new desks, high-tech classrooms, spacious gathering areas and glass-enwrapped towers in their new building, but they’ll be paying a little extra for the privilege. Starting this fall, Xavier is charging business students an additional $500 per semester. This is the first time Xavier has implemented a tuition differential for any area of study. The increase is justified by salaries for business faculty generally being higher than other professors, greater costs associated with educating business students and the basic business tenet of supply and demand. The college continues its rank as one of the best business schools in the country.

Saudi Scholars

In April 2005, President George W. Bush invited Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Aziz Al Saud to his Crawford, Texas, ranch where, among other things, they chewed on the idea of beefing up the number of Saudi students studying in the U.S., which had declined significantly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Wanting to do his part, Abdullah, since crowned king, pledged to provide full-tuition scholarships for Saudi students admitted to universities in the U.S.—including at Xavier.

Since then, 24 Saudi students have enrolled at Xavier, including 17 this year—a major increase, says Lea Minniti, director for International Student Services.

“They respect the U.S. education system,” she says. “Providing full pay for these students is great for us, and the students are bright.”

Students must complete one year of intensive English language instruction before entering as undergraduates. Some stay for graduate degrees. Abdulrahman Sadawi completed the English program in one year and decided to stay. Now a freshman, Sadawi is looking forward to a degree in medical technology and a job at a new hospital in his home city of Jeddah on the Red Sea. “I consider myself lucky,” Sadawi says. “It means a lot because with an education from the U.S., I will have priority when I apply for a job.”

Hair to Help

They came, they shaved, they left bald. In January, 38 men and two women sat in the Gallagher Student Center atrium and shaved their heads in solidarity with child cancer patients to both raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and to provide hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program.

“I knew I was going to be out of my comfort zone,” says junior Kristen Alpaugh, president of the Children’s Charities Club, which organized the event. She was also one of the two women to get buzzed. “But that’s when you grow. At the end of the day, it’s just hair.”

The event raised $3,500, part of the total of $9,000 the club raised in its first year. Led by professor of psychology Cindy Dulaney, the club also held a 5k run in which 211 runners raised $3,500 for St. Baldrick’s, and it sent volunteers each week to help at the local Ronald McDonald House.

So what’s next?

“Next year, we’ll take a more local approach to the charities we’re raising money for and possibly organize a service trip in conjunction with Ronald McDonald House,” says Alpaugh. “We will continue volunteering, because when you do good, you feel good. We want to share that with everyone.”

Bowling for Ethics

Students always spend their weekends debating difficult choices. Which party should I go to? Should I get up now or sleep a few more hours? Should I do laundry or are these clothes clean enough? A few students, though, spent a weekend in November pondering tougher questions. Five students participated in the 11th annual Central States Regional Ethics Bowl at Marian University in Indianapolis, presenting and defending ethical arguments. Although it was Xavier’s first time participating in the competition, the team had an impressive finish, tying Belmont University for fifth in the competition.

“We brought our collective team strengths of logic, knowledge of the cases and our preparations for arguments,” says fourth-year student Ashley Taylor. “Because it was our first time competing, we were unfamiliar with the competition setup and debate methodology, but now we know for next year.”

Sponsored by the Center for Organizational Ethics at Marian University, Vectren Energy and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, students from various schools spent the day presenting their sides of tough and tricky cases—ranging from health care to school policies to business decisions to discrimination issues.

Students were judged by business executives, college professors, lawyers and entrepreneurs on logic, clarity, depth and focus of their team argument, as well as on the team’s ability to refute the opposing school’s argument. “The experiences of presenting a clearly thought-out argument and responding to other thought-out positions shape students into good critical thinkers and train them in respectful dialogue with others,” says Karen Spear, assistant professor of philosophy at Marian and director of the Center for Organizational Ethics.

One Sweet Ride

As a student in Xavier’s entrepreneurial studies program, Tim Glockner vividly saw the relationship between academia and the real world: Glockner’s father, Andy, would send him the financial statements from the family business, and Glockner and his roommates would pore over them as case studies.

Though his father urged the Glockner children to do what they wanted, Tim Glockner knew early on that he’d head back to Portsmouth, Ohio, after graduation to work for the family business, which includes the Toyota and Honda dealerships that Tim runs as well as a General Motors dealership, a motor-oil distributor, a leasing company and an insurance agency.

He’s the sixth generation to work for Glockner Enterprises, which began as a hardware and sundry store in 1846 and later expanded to transportation—first selling the buggies that attached to horses and later automobiles. Tim, a 1998 graduate, had planned on spending six months at each of the family’s businesses to learn them better, but after starting at the Toyota and Honda dealerships, he decided to stay.

“The Japanese companies are just notorious for continuous improvement,” he says. “They drill that into you all the time, and their representatives, when they come in, they’re partners with you instead of telling you what to do. I completely bought into that.”

Glockner takes care to honor the family legacy; he wears the Xavier class ring of his grandfather, Edward “Ebb” Glockner, who graduated from the University in 1948, and he volunteers his time with the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, Shawnee State University and the Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center.

But that legacy has not prevented Glockner from innovating whenever and wherever he can. A few years after taking over the dealerships, he knocked the buildings down and built new ones with an emphasis on family-friendly comfort. Last year the company introduced an iPhone application to let customers browse inventory and schedule service appointments. Glockner Toyota won a 2009 Toyota President’s Award for outstanding customer satisfaction.

“Everyone’s looking for something new and different, and we’re continually trying to stand out,” he says. “This business is so competitive and we’ve got to work to make it easy for people to do business with us.”

Inside the Game: Enrollment

Shannon Pratt’s career goal is fairly straightforward: the Xavier freshman would like to be general manager of a Major League Baseball team someday. Ambitious, yes. Easy, no. But this semester, she’s completing an internship that may inch her closer to her goal.

Pratt is one of six Xavier students chosen for the Reds Ambassador Program, a partnership between Xavier and the Cincinnati Reds that aims to accomplish two goals: Give budding sports executives some real-life experience with a professional team, and give the Reds insight into capturing the hard-to-reach college audience.

While the Reds have offered internship programs to Xavier students for almost a decade, the Ambassador program was launched just last year. It is the brainchild of Doug Olberding, chairman of Xavier’s Department of Sport Studies, and Reds executives Ryan Niemeyer and John Davis. Niemeyer and Davis are both Xavier alumni—Niemeyer earned a degree in sport administration in 1999 and Davis a degree in sport management in 1999. They knew a stint inside a professional sports team is invaluable for students hoping to break into the industry.

“So many entry-level jobs are in sales and marketing, and having experience that includes measurable results through ticket sales is a valuable thing to have on a résumé,” Olberding says. “It’s a way for them to get their feet wet and see what it’s like on a day-to-day basis to be involved in the sports world.”

Pratt, a Denver native, learned about the internship on a visit to the Xavier campus while she was still in high school. She is a diehard Colorado Rockies fan and scouted schools based on their sport management programs. “I came to Xavier mostly for sport management, because it’s a good program and known throughout the country,” Pratt says. When she arrived on campus, she followed up with Olberding and applied for the 2010 Ambassador program. She is the only freshman chosen as an intern so far.

The group launched its internship in early December by working at Redsfest, the annual offseason event to stoke fan awareness and show appreciation. When classes resumed in January, the students began meeting with Reds executives both on campus and at Great American Ballpark at least once a week, sometimes more often.

They were charged with planning and executing an event to draw the Xavier community to a Reds game in April, but along the way they also learned about accounting, community relations, groundskeeping—everything it takes to run a professional sports team. In planning the April event, the Xavier group had access to Reds mascots, group-ticket sales strategies, a dedicated budget and any other support they needed from the Reds.

“What’s cool about the program is it isn’t a typical entry-level experience where you do the grunt work,” says Chris Butler, a sophomore from Philadelphia who is also in the program this year. “We’re planning it ourselves. We can pitch Ryan Niemeyer any idea and he’ll say, ‘Sure, as long as it works.’ When I graduate in two years, I can put on my résumé that I planned a student-run event with a professional sports franchise. I don’t know many sport management programs that will let you connect with a major-league franchise and let you run the show.”

In turn, the Reds get help figuring out how college-age students decide to attend professional sports events and how teams can entice them to attend more often. It’s a tough market for teams to crack. Games can require advance planning for tickets and transportation, while college students are more likely to choose entertainment at the last minute. And the price of tickets is another barrier to perpetually cash-strapped students.

“A lot of the internship is us trying to pick their brains, explore social networking and digital media on a college campus, an environment they’re in every day,” Niemeyer says.

Last year’s event was a Xavier Night for students in April. The game attracted 30,000 fans to the ballpark, and Chris Mack, who had just been named head coach of the men’s basketball team, threw out the first pitch. This year’s event broadened its target to reach Xavier faculty, staff and alumni as well as students—including six students who will no doubt be drawing on its lessons for years to come.