Trip Worldwide

While his family sleeps, Trip O’Dell places a call from his Milwaukee home to a 3-D artist in New Zealand. Another night he interfaces with a company in India that does 3-D modeling.

 

As the creative director of Nogginaut, a Chicago-based interactive design firm, the 1995 graduate often works with designers, artists and programmers around the world to create installations for museums and public spaces that use sensors and video game technologies.

For example, he helped create a virtual aquarium for Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, a $60-million interactive museum. The exhibit allows the user to change different water quality settings, such as pH, temperature, salt and turbidity, to see how they affect the environment and fish.

He also created a pit crew game at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., where visitors act as the pit crew during a race. Four tools hang in front of a 15-foot-wide screen. When a car appears on screen, the crew reacts by performing random tasks such as removing the tires with a ratchet gun that vibrates when you press the trigger or filling the gas tank with a fuel can. “We use infrared lasers in the tools to detect where someone is pointing the physical tool at the screen,” O’Dell says.

O’Dell refined his design skills at Indiana University where he earned a master’s degree in immersive mediated environments. His thesis project—a prototype for an interactive museum exhibit called Digger McGoo’s Fossil Hunt—caught the attention of Nogginaut’s CEO. O’Dell also creates installations for trade shows and consults with companies on how they can present information to the public in novel ways.

“What I do isn’t necessarily high tech,” O’Dell says. “It’s interaction design—the way people interact with the object and spaces and systems around them. That could be anything from a web site to a museum exhibit or a restaurant or a retail store.”

The Way It Was: 1940

When they weren’t on the field, the court or the mound, Xavier athletes could be found socializing with one another through the Varsity “X” Club. Membership was limited to students who had earned a letter in an intercollegiate sport, which made for pretty small numbers. “However, with a lot of pep and cooperation, we are able to make up in spirit what we lack in number,” reads an excerpt from the 1940 Musketeer yearbook.

The club sponsored the annual homecoming dance and the popular Neophyte Week or, more commonly, “Hell Week,” when present members subjected candidates to a grueling initiation process.

The club’s main purpose, however, was to promote fellowship and community among its members. After graduation, the athletes were automatically enrolled in the Graduate “X” Club, a larger and more active association. This allowed alumni to keep in contact with former teammates and with the University.

The Right Turn

James R. Weber watched the news reports of Hurricane Katrina and knew he had to do something. Weber, a dentist and 1970 graduate, has a long history of volunteerism. So the question wasn’t “What if?” but “How?” The federal government was recruiting dentists, but it required a solid four- to six-week commitment, which was impossible for a solo practitioner like Weber.

 

Fortunately, the Ohio Dental Association was looking for volunteers to set up a trip of its own, and Weber and 10 other Ohio dentists signed on, paid their own expenses and headed south. In mid-October 2005, Weber found himself in Baton Rouge, La., where he spent five days working in a 32-foot-long mobile dental van on loan from an organization in northern Ohio.

On the Saturday of his visit, Weber and his wife made an evening trip for dinner to New Orleans’ French Quarter. As the couple drove through the city, where a wrong turn landed them in what was left of the city’s Ninth Ward, Weber saw what televised reports only hinted at.

“You can’t really get a feel of it without being there,” he says.

For their effort, Weber and the other Ohio dentists were awarded the 2006 Ohio Dental Association Marvin Fisk Humanitarian Award. But Weber says the real reward came from seeing the resilience of the storm’s survivors. “It was terrible to see all that devastation, but really a privilege to serve these folks because they were powerful, heroic people, for the most part,” he says.

The Good Fight

God needed a fighter. So he called Tom McCarthy.

 

Six years ago, McCarthy was living a good life. The 1994 graduate just bought a house, was taking M.B.A. classes and working at an annuities job at Union Central Life Insurance Co. But he kept feeling a tug at his heart. It was God calling. He needed a fighter.

The priest abuse scandal was nearing its frenzied peak, and while many people were shying away from the priesthood, McCarthy couldn’t help but feel he was being called into it. “Fight for me,” God kept saying. So after a great deal of soul searching, he sold his house, dropped his classes, resigned from his job and entered Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati. And as soon as he arrived, the media was there at the doorstep, waiting and wondering why, amidst all of the scandals, people were interested in becoming priests.

“You’re always going to have bad people in any profession,” he told them. “That’s true of the priesthood. But a lot of people don’t recognize all of the good priests out there and all of the good work they’re doing. So it’s either give up or fight. When it comes to something as important as the Church, you need to fight.”

It was his first fight for God—but not his last. In May, he was ordained a diocesan priest and assigned to a parish in the Cincinnati diocese where he’s celebrating Mass, presiding over weddings and funerals, and fighting for God daily.

McCarthy is no stranger to scuffles, though. After putting on some weight his freshman year at Xavier, a friend of his talked him into joining the boxing team as a way to shed a few pounds. “OK,” he said, “but I don’t want to do any sparring or fighting.”

That notion didn’t last long. By December, he was in the ring and on his way to accumulating an 8-4 record. He lost 50 pounds and didn’t quit until his senior year when he decided a job was more important than a jab. “I needed the money more than I needed a punch in the face,” he says. “But it taught me a lot of lessons, like giving up is never an option.”

And that even though your arms are too short to box with God, they’re never too short to fight for him.

The Black Belt

When Ali Malekzadeh became dean of the Williams College of Business four years ago, he was, in a sense, closing a large circle. Although Malekzadeh studied and worked at universities across the United States, his educational roots lie in Jesuit schools in his native Iran. An avid student of taekwondo, Malekzadeh comments on the relationship between martial arts and business education, the realities of educating business students and the educational approach that makes Xavier “a special school.”

 

“My entire first through 12th grade was in a Jesuit school. What I learned from the fathers was the value of hard work, the value of personal relationships and caring about every student. Almost my entire graduating class is in the U.S. They all have very good professions, and it all goes back to our high school education and the role models that we had.”

“I’m a member of the American Taekwondo Association and a fourth-degree black belt. My oldest daughter and wife are fourth-degrees, and my youngest daughter is a third-degree. So this is a family thing. It started when my oldest daughter was 8 years old. She was shy and pushed around in school. Both of my daughters were in the top 10 in the world. I was ranked in the top 10 just once, and I emphasize just once. My oldest daughter can rearrange my headgear in an instant.”

“I think the parallel between martial arts and what we do in the business school is this: When a student comes in, we surround that student with a team of peers and instructors and assess what are the needs of this specific person and then help that person succeed. Our job is not to fail them; our job is to help them succeed.”

“Business students today have a very short time to prepare for the global world. Previously when we educated business students, we said, ‘When you graduate from here you go work for a local company, you make a good living, your life will be great.’ Except now, that local company may be Procter & Gamble, which will only hire you if you are the best employee in the world. All of our graduates are competing with the graduates of the best schools globally. So that is a challenge. And that is an amazing responsibility.”

“We’ve had amazingly high quality faculty and staff who take the job very seriously. Those are two critical pieces. Then we have significantly upgraded our placement and career programs in the business school. Our executive mentors are doing amazing things for their students. All of these things together, the faculty, the staff, the board members and the trustees—with everybody helping us, the graduating class of 2006 from the business school has a 97-percent job placement rate. That’s unheard of. Usually top, top, top business schools are at 89 to 91 percent. That’s where what’s special about Xavier comes into play.”

Teaching in the Trenches

At the bottom of Mike Moroski’s stairwell hangs a picture, which the 2001 graduate passes every morning on his way to teach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati. Taken last fall, it depicts the opening reception for a building in Over-the-Rhine—Cincinnati’s poorest neighborhood—that he and his students rehabbed. About 50 parents, volunteers and friends gathered at the site to celebrate months of hard work and welcome owner Liz Shockley and her mother to their new home.

“The No. 1 cause of homelessness is lack of affordable housing, and Cincinnati has one of the lowest home ownership rates in the country,” Moroski says, explaining why the rehab process is so important.

Moroski didn’t start out restoring entire buildings. In fact, he knew little, if anything, about construction. Instead, he simply volunteered to chaperone a group of boys going to Over-the-Rhine to do general labor and fix-up. “I went down the one time, and the people I met and the things I saw and did really affected me, so I started going more and more,” he says. “I did it that one time and the next thing I knew, we were adopting buildings and working every weekend.”

The English teacher’s enthusiasm for Over-the-Rhine is equally matched by the students he mentors. “I’ve got 20 kids signed up a weekend,” he says. “I have to turn kids away.” To help students learn more about the area in which they are working, Moroski created a weekend retreat for 12 of the most involved students. He arranged sessions for the group, which calls itself M.A.C.H. 1 (Moeller Advocates for Community Housing), that addressed issues of homelessness, government regulations, and the bureaucratic and pragmatic concerns surrounding affordable housing.

The group volunteers through the summer as well, and plans are in the works for another building rehab this fall. In January, Moeller awarded Moroski its service award. “This part of my life with Over-the-Rhine and working with the boys and with the homeless and making that connection really helps me to be a better teacher,” he says.

Something to Cheer About

Cincinnati Reds fans know exactly what to do when “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” plays during the seventh-inning stretch. They stand and sway to the old-time melody.

 

But “Cotton-Eyed Joe” leaves most of them non-plused. These days, however, five Xavier students and alums, with pompoms and red uniforms, are there to show them how to dance to the popular old country folk tune—heel clicks and all. Erica Carey, a graduating senior, two juniors and two alums—all current or former members of the Xavier dance team—are members of the new Reds cheerleading squad. Their job is to get fans cheering.

They do that by leaping onto the dugouts where they dance to programmed music on the sound system. They dance on the field before games and run the bases after a win. They greet fans at the gate, deliver birthday greetings to fans in their seats and shoot T-shirts into the stands.

It’s a new tradition for the oldest game in America, one the Reds inaugurated last season. But the 15-member MDX Reds Crew got off to a rocky start, Carey says. Fans didn’t know what to do when they saw cheerleaders on top of the dugouts, and for awhile people called in to local radio talk shows to complain. That’s all changed, she says. “Last year, they’d look at us awkwardly, but now they look for us because they know we throw out T-shirts and things.” And because the girls cut a mean two-step to Carey’s favorite, “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

Renaissance Man

Jim Poehlmann may not be a familiar face, but virtually everyone at Xavier knows his work. As a printing services assistant—and the University’s one and only pressman—Poehlmann has a hand in producing most of the printed material done on campus, about 1,000 projects a year, covering everything from flyers and brochures to business cards.

 

Off campus, it’s much the same. Poehlmann’s wide range of interests—often including some kind of volunteering component—touch many people who might not recognize him in person. His involvement with Oxbow, Inc., a wetlands preservation group that owns in excess of 800 acres at the confluence of the Ohio and Great Miami rivers near Lawrenceburg, Ind., is a case in point. It’s a place Poehlmann feels especially close to, and he has been a member of the organization for 12 years and its treasurer for the past four.

“I grew up a couple miles from that area and spent a lot of time playing, hiking, riding bicycles and fishing in the area,” he says. “And then about May of 1978, I was looking for a fairly romantic place to propose to a certain girl, and given the wages I was earning at that time, dinner at a five-star restaurant was out of the question. So we went to the oxbow on a Saturday night, and built a little fire. I asked and she accepted. For those reasons, that area has a special place in my heart.”

Along with participating in some area cleanups, Poehlmann spends a bit of his free time in front of his computer, keeping track of the numbers for what is now a $3 million conservation corporation. This affinity with numbers has a direct tie to Xavier. After coming to work at the University 11 years ago, Poehlmann decided to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. He received his diploma in 1998, and about a year later began to feel the itch to take more classes. When his first two class choices were already full, Poehlmann went back to the schedule. “There was a basic accounting course on Monday nights,” he says. “I said ‘Nobody wants to be there,’ and sure enough, there was a seat open.”

To his own surprise, Poehlmann discovered he actually likes accounting. When the dust settled, he’d accumulated 33 hours of accounting classes and nine hours of other business courses, and was eligible to sit for the C.P.A. exam. While he has yet to take that step, he does spend 20-25 hours per week during tax season working as a tax preparer for a C.P.A. firm. And he also finds time to volunteer his services.

“One of the classes I took was volunteer income tax assistance under [Priscilla] O’Clock, probably the most rewarding experience I’ve had through Xavier,” he says. “I do a little side practice on my own, and it seems like every year somebody will need some pro bono work, and I’m able to provide that. There’s no money in it for me, and it’s busiest time of the year, but it never seems to get too excessive and it’s a service I can provide.”

When he needs a break from all this activity, Poehlmann hits the road. An avid cyclist, he tries to participate in two or three one-day, 30- to 50-mile tours each year. Last year, he purchased a three-wheel recumbent bike—“an old man’s bike,” he calls it—which he plans to take out on a tour in September. But here again, Poehlmann’s interests extend beyond the personal. For instance, he regularly volunteers at the “Hilly Hundred” tour in Bloomington, Ind., helping to repair bikes and driving the “sag wagon” to pick up cyclists too fatigued to finish the ride.

While his interests have always been broad—he’s also a Ham radio operator, and a long-time carpenter and cabinetmaker—volunteering is a fairly recent development. “The reason I pursue some of these volunteer activities ties directly with my education here,” he says. “I have an associate’s degree from a local community college. And on that diploma, it reads something like ‘This degree is conferred with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.’ When I got my degree from Xavier, it reads ‘with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto.’ The main thing I learned from the Jesuit way of life is living for others. If I took that education and only used it to earn a dollar, I’d say that education would have been wasted on me.”

Profiting from Purses

One of Lissa Knue’s newest possessions is a purse made of banana leaves. It reminds her of the day she was walking with one of her new African friends, a middle-aged woman from the village of Arusha in Tanzania, on the road to St. Lucia. Knue, a 1988 clinical psychology graduate, had to jump over a stream to get to the road. But when she jumped, she fell and the woman turned to her and, with a big smile on her face, said, “Ooh la la.” Knue just burst out laughing. It’s funny how things come to be, she thought.

 

For three weeks in January, she worked with a group of about 20 Swahili-speaking women, survivors of the AIDS epidemic, teaching them how to knit and crochet strips of colorful material into handsome purses. Then she helped sell them to tourists and volunteers for about $17 apiece—a lot of money in Tanzania. Every time a woman finished a purse, Knue would marvel at it, saying, “It’s beautiful. Ooh la la!” and take a picture of the woman with her purse.

“Ooh la la is what I say with my grandchildren,” she says. “Then the women started saying that, and they even started calling me Ooh la la.” Though she’s been back in the states for months, Ms. Ooh la la isn’t finished with Tanzania or St. Lucia Nursing Home where some of the women live. St. Lucia was founded by a Tanzanian nurse who started it as a hospice to care for women with AIDS. But most of them died, so she turned a portion of the hospice into an orphanage for the HIV-infected children the women left behind.

When Knue’s friend, Connie Naber, met the nurse during a volunteer mission, she was running out of money and couldn’t pay rent on the home.

So Naber started the non-profit Karama Connection in Cincinnati to support purchasing land and a new building for St. Lucia, which now houses about 15 orphans and several women. Knue joined the group that went in January to help build the new home.

“I went specifically to help women who had been deathly ill from AIDS to make money on their own so they can sustain themselves,” Knue says. “It reinforced to me that people are people no matter where they are, and you have to respect them in their culture, you have to help them help themselves, and then they have pride. It’s not about you feeling good, but about them feeling good about themselves.”

Knue went back in May for the dedication of the new St. Lucia and to visit her purse-making friends. No doubt as she showed off her banana-leaf treasure, a gift from one of the women, they cooed approvingly, “Ooh la la.”

On the Set

When Dudley Arbaugh graduated in 2005 with a degree in entrepreneurship, the last thing he envisioned was fetching James Gandolfini a piece of cheesecake from a local deli while on the set of “The Sopranos.” However, that’s exactly what happened.

 

Arbaugh often daydreamed about a job in film and television. Fortunately, he knew the right people and got in touch with a family friend who worked as the unit production manager on “Spider-Man 3.” Although he could only secure a weeklong stint on the set, Arbaugh moved from Greater Cincinnati to New York, slept on his aunt’s couch on the Upper East Side and convinced his superiors to keep him around a little longer.

“If you serve as an additional production assistant, you can actually work on multiple projects at the same time,” he says. “Basically you network your butt off, making friends with current production assistants, second assistant directors, everybody who is anybody that can get your name out to those with other productions. If you’re afraid to ask for a number or make a phone call, this job wouldn’t last very long for you.” So far, the networking has paid off. He recently worked on the film “American Gangster,” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, which is due out this fall. He’s also worked on television shows such as “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “America’s Most Wanted,” “Rescue Me” and, of course, “The Sopranos.”

On “The Sopranos,” for example, Arbaugh works as a production assistant, which entails arriving on the set by 6:00 a.m. to receive instructions for the day. That could be taking breakfast orders for the actors or directors, organizing the daily tally for walkie talkies, readying background actors for placement or keeping everyone quiet once filming begins. Overall, he averages 12-hour days, although it’s not uncommon to work an 18-, 19- or even 20-hour day only to be back at work five hours later. “If I have to drop off the film at the end of the night at Technicolor downtown … let’s just say two cups of coffee and a whole lotta gumption are the only reason my eyes are open the next day.”