Shopping Studies

Chris Manolis decided early in life, growing up in a small family distribution business in the San Francisco Bay area, that, really, he’d pass on studying business. He already had an education in that world.

“In a small, family-owned business, you do everything,” he says. “The last thing I wanted to do was business, so I went to school as a psychology undergrad at UCLA.” It turns out, though, that even with a degree in psychology, he couldn’t get business out of his mind. “After hanging out and relaxing after graduation, a buddy of mine convinced me to get my MBA. He said it was a good degree to have.”

So Manolis enrolled at San Francisco State University, and while working on a research project on store image with one of his marketing professors, he stumbled upon a defining moment: There was a need for people who could mix business and psychology. It was known as consumer behavior.

“I saw this marketing we were researching in the real world and applied it to psychology,” he says. “Consumer behavior draws traditional businesspeople, social scientists, anthropologists and psychologists. It’s all about behavior.”

The dual degrees, along with a PhD from the University of Kentucky, landed him a job as associate professor of marketing at Xavier and co-researcher of a study on the psychology of shopaholics—compulsive buyers who were once pigeonholed as an extreme negative behavior.

“There’s the guilt factor within compulsive buying, there’s dysfunctional spending and there’s money. The scale we used to measure focused on three components, suggesting that shopaholics be placed on a continuum scale, rather than an either-or extreme.”

It’s knowledge he now takes to his students. “I ask them, ‘When are you not a consumer?’ The answer is never.”

Semester at Sea

When assistant philosophy professor Steve Frankel arrived at Xavier in 2003—fresh from a four-year stint teaching philosophy and European culture at the American University of Paris—he thought his international days were over. Wrong. 

In August, he packed up his family and boarded a ship for a semester-long program at sea. The program took him to 10 countries and dozens of cities from Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Europe. The ship stayed five days in each port, allowing the students and Frankel’s family time to check out the culture, meet the people and sample the local modes of transportation—elephants in Thailand, camels in Egypt and a Jeep in the desert dunes.

“The idea behind the trip is to study about these places before you go into port so you know about the architecture, art, history, culture. I taught about the political philosophy, ethics, and religion and philosophy of each place.”

“With such long tracks at sea, teaching class was like sitting down with a bunch of friends and talking about books I enjoy reading. I didn’t expect teaching to be such a pleasant experience.”

“The best way to examine your own beliefs is to confront radically diverse cultures and people. We took a trip down the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and talked to the monks about the differences between religions. It gave us a lens to think about the differences between those cultures and perspectives.”

“Before we’d go into these countries, we’d have a debriefing from the State Department and they’d tell us things like, ‘Don’t bring up Tibet in China because you will be arrested and we may not be able to get you out.’ ”

“One thing I learned is to take much less for granted about our country and what we stand for—the values of individual freedom and equality. Those principles aren’t readily embraced around the world. We went into places where the environmental degradation was almost beyond belief. I was shocked by the amount of poverty in India, and the people’s attitude toward poverty. The caste system shocked us, too. So I began to appreciate this American spirit.”

“Going through the Gulf of Aden off Somalia they pulled everybody off the decks and floored it because there were pirates in the area. But there was a NATO fleet that followed us to Turkey.”

“The trip helped me to see more clearly the value of study abroad, especially the interaction with the citizens. It forces you to think about who you are. You have to start explaining America and what it means to be American to them, and that is a very healthy activity to engage in and a good introduction to philosophy.”

Preserving Slave-Era Culture

Several years ago, Antoinette Jackson toured the Sea Islands off the South Carolina coast near Hilton Head while enjoying a vacation through the South. Little did she know the chance visit would reverse her life’s direction.

The brief tour of St. Helena Island in June 1995 exposed her to the historic Gullah-Geechee culture that flourished with the growth of black slave colonies on the islands off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. Because of the relative isolation of the rice plantations they maintained for their owners, the Gullah people retained much of their African cultural heritage much of which survives today including sweetgrass basket-making, African rice dishes, a creole blend of English with West African dialects, spiritual practices and storytelling.

Jackson, who researched cultures as a hobby, was so intrigued by her discovery that she returned a few months later to visit the Jehossee Island rice plantation. At the time, she worked in Chicago for AT&T/Lucent Technologies and had an MBA she earned from Xavier in 1990. But her passion was culture, and she began researching the Gullah-Geechee on her own. That led to six years at the University of Florida, where she won a research fellowship and earned her PhD. Her 2004 dissertation on African Southeast coastal plantation communities explored the development of the region’s rice agriculture.

Jackson’s good fortune, and her research, continued when the University of South Florida in Tampa hired her as an assistant professor of anthropology. Her research has included published works on the Jehossee Island rice plantation, the Snee Farm plantation and the Kingsley plantation. Then, last October, she was one of five commissioners appointed by the National Park Service to serve on the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission representing Florida. The commission, one of 37 established across the country to preserve different elements of America’s culture, will manage and fund preservation efforts in the Gullah-Geechee corridor that stretches along the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville, Fla., to Wilmington, N.C.

“It all came full circle,” she says. “I had no idea that just stopping off on a vacation and getting interested in a culture would lead to getting my PhD and now getting appointed to a commission based on that work. You never know. You go on what seems like a tangent, and it’s all connected.”

Jackson is excited about the appointment. She still enjoys poking around the remains of slave chimneys, the rice mills and other plantation remnants. But as a member of the commission, she has the power now to make sure these and other cultural elements are preserved for discovery by future generations.

Midlife Lessons

To read Ed Colina’s blog click here.

To see photos from his trip click here.

When he closes his eyes, Ed Colina is transported back to the village of Nyumbani. It is dusk, his favorite time of day, and in the dimming light of the dusty, Kenyan summer, he stands by his hut and scans the other houses for the cook fires glowing behind each one. There must be 20 or more. Most everyone makes a stew of rice and beans, but he sniffs the air for the familiar smell of chapati, a traditional flat bread, pan-frying over the hot coals.

As he strolls between the houses, the children call him to share their meal, and when he accepts, they bring out the special guest’s chair for him and a big plate of stew and chapati. It would be rude to refuse food when you’re an invited guest, so Colina, who just a few months prior lived in an upscale condominium on a Northern Kentucky golf course, gladly accepts. The truth is, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

At 53, Colina is living the fruits of his midlife crisis. A successful educator and principal of a Catholic school in Burlington, Ky., Colina still felt something was missing. He wanted to do more with his gifts as a teacher, and he wanted to simplify his life. After a period of discernment, Colina quit his job last year and went to Africa.

An Internet search turned up Nyumbani, a non-profit mission in Kenya that has an orphanage in Nairobi for infected children whose parents died of HIV/AIDS and a self-sustaining eco-village with 250 orphans and about 30 grandparents. It was just what he was looking for. So he sold his condo and gave away the pool table, his clothes and electronics. He turned in his leased car on the way to the airport and took off for Nairobi, arriving on Sept. 8, 2007.

Colina, a 1976 theology graduate, kept an online blog of his journey, detailing the Nairobi slums, the orphanage and the village that wormed its way into his heart. It’s not only the places that draw him, it’s the people, he says. Like the sick child who died just days after they met, the ageless grandmothers who shared meals and memories, and the motherless schoolchildren who scrubbed the classroom floors every morning.

But he also raised money from his old school to buy solar panels that power the computers by day and a clinic by night. He organized thousands of library books and made curtains for the shelves, pumping the foot pedal on a sewing machine. He taught computer and other classes. In time he became as much a part of the village as it became a part of him.

He returned home in early March but already misses the people—Benard and Charles Darwin, his friend George, the Kenyan who calls him “my best friend Ed”—so much that he’s planning on going back. “When I left Kenya and those kids, I didn’t know if I’d see them again or even if they’d be OK,” he says. “Right now it’s 6:00 o’clock there and they’re cooking supper, and at 7:00, they’ll go back to school. I’m ready to go back now.”

Magis Moment

On Saturday, May 17, 1,397 undergraduates and 761 graduate students gathered with family and friends in the Cintas Center to celebrate Commencement 2008. Erich Kunzel, conductor for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, was the featured speaker at the undergraduate ceremony, while Howard Gray S.J., a long-time leader in expanding the role of Ignatian spirituality in higher education, spoke at the graduate event. 

This year marked the inaugural presentation of the Magis Award, which recognizes a recent grad based on the high degree of excellence in his or her work and the extent to which his or her personal life embodies Jesuit ideals. Jerome J. Gutzwiller Jr., a 1998 graduate, was the first recipient of the new award.

Since leaving the University, Gutzwiller has carried the Jesuit ideal of being a person for others through his work and study in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and, most recently, Lima, Peru. There, working through a private contractor, he was operations manager for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s $51-million poverty reduction and alleviation project.

Other commencement honorees included Philip J. Gasiewicz, who was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award; long-time Musketeer tennis coach James J. Brockhoff, who received the Paul L. O’Connor, S.J., Leadership Award; Gray, who received the University’s Leadership Medallion; and Kunzel, who was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters.

Lay President

Robert Gervasi visited Quincy University’s web site, and what he saw looked strangely familiar. The 1,300-student Franciscan school in Quincy, Ill., was just about the same size as Xavier during Gervasi’s undergraduate days. What’s more, Gervasi’s family background included strong Franciscan roots.

Quincy needed a president; Gervasi needed a new challenge. Against that backdrop, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the 1972 graduate recently became the first lay president in Quincy’s 148-year history.
The appointment is just the latest twist in Gervasi’s distinguished career. During his University days, Gervasi wanted to be a classics professor. But he soon “had to face the stark reality that the future of ancient history is limited,” and headed off to earn an MBA.

He returned to Cincinnati, launched his own consulting firm and became executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities. From there, he went on to head Chatfield College; become dean of Kentucky campuses and dean of external programs for McKendree University’s Louisville, Ky., campus; and work as president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Institute for Study Abroad. He has also been active in the classroom, teaching courses at Xavier, McKendree, the University of Louisville, the University of Zimbabwe and a number of other schools.

But Gervasi never forgot the sense of community at Xavier—a quality he also sees in Quincy. “My new position is an honor, a challenge and a calling. Quincy’s mission statement sounded like it was written for me and about what I want to promote in Catholic intellectual tradition.”

King of Queen

Jim Blum says there’s something special—almost human—about a real steamboat. And to Blum, no steamboat is more special than the Delta Queen. 

Blum was finishing his junior year at the University in 1968 when he saw a bulletin-board ad for a summer job on the Queen. He applied and enjoyed it so much that he came back for another summer after graduation in 1969, with an eye toward returning to Xavier for graduate school in the fall. “The summer turned into a longer stretch,” he says. “I guess I got bit by the river bug.”

Blum started working in the boat’s purser’s office and “hanging around the pilothouse as much as I could.” After five years, he left the Delta Queen for a job piloting the steamboat Admiral, where he met his wife Annie. He spent a year on the Belle of Louisville and then returned to St. Louis to work in the towing business.

But the Queen kept calling him back. Blum returned to the boat, eventually spending five years as her master, or captain, a run broken only by a brief stint as master of the Mississippi Queen. In 1992, Blum left the pilot’s house in the face of shifting ownership and changing philosophies and took his current job as a civilian in the U.S. Coast Guard’s St. Louis licensing office.

These days, the federal Safety at Sea Act and her own wooden decks threaten the Queen’s life as an overnight cruise ship, and Blum’s government job precludes joining the campaign for her exemption. But he is cheering from the sidelines, perhaps still smelling traces of the fire and the oil that make her special.

“The Delta Queen is very unique,” he says. “It’s all real. It’s not Disneyland.”

Grow XU

The White Fringetree—Chionanthus virginicus—is fairly rare on campus. We only have a few on the residential mall. It is cold-hardy to -30 degrees, but won’t tolerate drought conditions. The fringetree is native to the Southeastern United States, and can grow to a height of 20 feet and a width of 20 feet. In late spring, it has lacy white flowers on panicles about 6 inches long. The leaves are 3 inches to 8 inches long and range from medium to dark green. In September, the fruit looks almost like blueberries, and in the fall, the foliage turns yellow. The fringetree prefers, moist, acidic, well-drained soils and tolerates full sun to moderate shade. If you’re planning on planting a woodland landscape, this is a good one to include.

Finding God at Work

Jeff Hoeben manages Camp Gray, a Catholic youth camp in Madison, Wis., but says he found his calling in Nepal. When the 2002 graduate went on Xavier’s academic service learning semester to the South Asian country in 2001, he had a life-changing experience. “It was my time in Nepal that taught me to love service,” Hoeben says. “I thoroughly enjoyed giving of myself and, upon returning to Xavier, I began seeking ways in which I could serve others here in the States.”

Hoeben first became aware of Camp Gray during a young adult conference he attended after graduation. After seeing its logo on a water bottle, he returned home and began researching the camp. What he found was a perfect fit, combining his passions for faith and the outdoors. Soon afterward, he landed a position as a volunteer program specialist.

Today, Hoeben lives at the camp year-round and serves as the camp director along with his wife, Rebecca, whom he married there in 2005. Together, they manage the budget, hire and train staff, communicate with parents and work with the board of directors to plan for the future while remaining faithful to Camp Gray’s mission.

“The best thing about working at Camp Gray is that each and every day I have the ability to, as the mission states, ‘Offer a natural sanctuary for people of all faiths to experience God, discover self and walk hand-in-hand with friends,’ ” he says. “We are very fortunate to have been called here, and we are excited to stay and do the Lord’s work for many years to come.”

Campus Discounts

Earning a Xavier or Edgecliff diploma demonstrates a culmination of academic achievement. But did you know that it also earns you a number of campus discounts even after graduation?

For example, you can save 10 percent on all bookstore purchases, including athletic apparel. Alumni also receive a 10-percent discount on a one-year membership to the O’Connor Sports Center as well as discounts in the Gallagher Student Center food court and Ryan’s Pub.

Graduates can also save money on wedding receptions at the Cintas Center and receive a free ticket to every home athletic event with the purchase of one ticket (excludes men’s basketball).