Crosstown Cooperation

The intense and often-heated Crosstown Shootout, which has drawn the nation’s attention for its fierceness and upsets, has taken on a more sportsmanlike – albeit still intense – air.

The game has been rebranded as the Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic, relocated to the more neutral U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati, refashioned to be a benefit for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and refreshed to include additional events with students from the two schools.

In October, a collaborative team of students from each school participated in the Bridges Walk for a Just Community, an annual 5K event celebrating the rich ethnic and cultural heritage of the Cincinnati region. That was followed in November by members of the basketball teams from both universities participating in a special day at the Freedom Center that included displays about community engagement, collaboration and service at each school. The event tripled the Freedom Center’s average attendance for the day.

 

Bellarmine and Bollman

When Richard Bollman first walked through the doors at Bellarmine Parish, most of today’s Xavier students weren’t even born yet. That was 20 years ago. Two decades.

That’s a long time to do anything, much less the same thing. But for Bollman, that’s been his life since 1992—pastor of Bellarmine Parish. That, however, is changing. In January, Bollman is taking a sabbatical and beginning a new, still-undecided phase of his ministry.

“This all feels coherent and timely for me personally, but also a little theoretical as yet,” he wrote to his congregation. “I have very few ideas about 2013 as yet. I’m expecting things to fall into place.

“As a Jesuit, I have not lived through many changes in ministry: In 1980 I left the University of San Francisco to become the director of the Jesuit Center at Milford [Ohio]. In 1992, I became pastor here. At each move I was lucky to have some time off to close out responsibilities and catch up with myself. That’s happening again now. And beyond my own need to appreciate the chance, I believe we can expect a good transition at Bellarmine, leading both to continuity and fresh approaches.”

Dan Hartnett, S.J., is taking over parish responsibilities. Hartnett spent nearly 20 years in Lima, Peru, in pastoral leadership and university education before, most recently, serving as pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan, Ill., in suburban Chicago. He also taught philosophy at the University of Loyola Chicago.

Watch a video of Bollman talking about Holy Week, Easter and Easteride.

A New Approach

What’s the connection between theology and trauma? Between religion and recovery?

Professor of theology Gillian Ahlgren is searching for the answer and was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Louisville Institute to dig into the concept of theological and spiritual resources for trauma recovery. “Traumatic events involve a crisis of meaning,” says Ahlgren. “They can shake one’s confidence in the goodness of life and the goodness of humanity.” The answer could have a huge impact on returning veterans, survivors of rape, human trafficking, domestic violence and others, she says.

Basketball Success

A study by Basketball Times ranked the men’s basketball program 21st best in the country based on winning percentage, number of NBA players, graduation rate, the University’s U.S. News & World Report academic reputation, the program’s history with NCAA rules compliance and the overall quality of the head coach as evaluated by his peers. Basketball Times has conducted an evaluation every five years since 1997, and Xavier is one of only nine basketball programs ranked in each survey. The others are Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Murray State, North Carolina and Syracuse.

Sister Act

Aubree Smith remembers the day her family got the frightening news about her older sister Alex. The sophomore volleyball player at Xavier was suffering extreme pain from a severe back injury, and the family feared the worst—that an old spinal injury had resurfaced and she could be paralyzed.

“I was a senior in high school,” says Aubree. “I was at lunch and I started crying.”

Luckily, the injury turned out to be a herniated disc—painful, but not career-ending. Alex had surgery in October 2010 and spent the rest of the season recuperating. When she was ready to start training again, though, she turned to the one person she knew was good enough to push her and get her back into shape—her sister.

Aubree had already committed to playing volleyball at Xavier. She did that when she was 14. So, shortly after graduating from a suburban St. Louis high school, she was on the road to Xavier with two missions—kickstart her college career and get her older sister back in shape.

It turned out to be a grand reunion. Aubree and Alex have played on the same volleyball team since they were in grade school. They played together on select club teams and on their high school team. So it seemed fitting that they should carry that forward to Xavier.

“They are two of our best players,” says coach Michael Johnson. “With any set of teammates who have played together a long time, they develop an awareness, an unspoken understanding of where the other is on the court. With Aubree being the setter, it helps us that she and Alex have had that chemistry of connecting with each other for a long time.”

It’s not often that coaches get sibling players, and when they do, it isn’t guaranteed to work. Siblings can bring, well, sibling rivalry onto the court, where it can damage team chemistry. But in the case of Aubree and Alex, Johnson learned quickly he had nothing to fear.

That’s because these two sisters are close. Very close. Almost like twins. They’ve shared the same bedroom since birth, gone to the same schools and have the same friends. They finish each other’s sentences. They like the same things. They understand each other deeply, and they respect each other even more.

And it shows on the court. Aubree, a setter, puts the ball in just the right spot for Alex, a hitter, to slam it across the net. It’s like a duet. And it’s intuitive. Aubree is the one who signals how the play will go. It’s unspoken, maybe a head tilt or a shift of the eyes.

“Aubree will set the ball knowing where I will be,” Alex says. “Aubree trusts me to be there.”

That word, “trust,” is the key to their relationship and their play.

“I can see where she is and can see if she’s ready. I’ll set her on a perfect pass to hit the ball,” Aubree says. “I know where the other girls are going to be, too, but it’s unique with Alex.”

Alex and Aubree believe their relationship with each other and ability to talk openly about issues has helped bring the whole team closer together.

Johnson says the team prides itself on being a family, and “Alex and Aubree have a lot of sisters on the team besides each other.”

“I know if she’s in a funk,” Aubree says. “Maybe the team sees how open we are, and it opens the door for them.”

“They see how they can be close with each other,” says Alex. “With volleyball, it’s about team chemistry. If you’re angry with each other, you won’t want to play. But volleyball is such a fun sport, and it’s more fun when you’re playing with each other.”

That’s not to say the sisters don’t ever get mad at each other. In high school they would carry grudges, but in college, they’ve learned to drop it, to not say what they might have said a few years ago. “We won’t be mad at each other on the court,” Alex says.

That commitment to each other helped bring Alex back to form the summer after her surgery. Aubree took a freshman English class that summer and began training early with Alex. Aubree needed to learn the team’s offensive strategy. Alex needed to get back in shape.

“I hadn’t had any reps or hitting, and if I wanted to be a starter again, I had to get better quickly,” Alex says. “I needed her here.”

It worked. By the time the season got started, Alex was ready, and Aubree proved herself more than capable as a starting setter. She earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, made the All-Rookie Team and was a seven-time Rookie of the Week—an A-10 record.

Alex was named to the First Team All-Conference and holds the school record for hitting percentage.

With an additional year of eligibility because of her back injury, Alex is looking forward to another season on the team—and another year playing with her sister. It will be their last. Together. But it will be good. Aubree setting it up high so Alex can slam it home.

Medical Success

Eight years ago, a group of faculty from the Department of Biology and staff from the Office of Multicultural Affairs got together and began mentoring African American students who were majoring in the sciences, including aspiring doctors and researchers. The goal was to encourage them, enhance study skills and give them a greater chance to succeed.

The group quickly became organized into the Ernest E. Just Society and expanded to include chemistry, physics and nursing majors. Today they meet weekly, bring in professionals of color as guest lecturers and take science-related field trips.

And the work has paid off. Three of those first-year members—Adeleke Oni, Keyona Gullett and Emanuel Ofori—completed medical school and are now in their first year of residency.

All for Health; Health for All

Xavier sports teams are well-associated with the motto “All for one and one for all,” a call for unselfishness and teamwork coined by the Three Musketeers. That mentality has now found its way into the College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education. Earlier this year, Xavier received a three-year, $827,256 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to create a collaborative program among the various health-related programs within the college—nursing, health services administration, occupational therapy, special education, psychology, counseling, radiologic technology, social work, athletic training, educational leadership and human resource development.

 

The program benefits faculty by creating an intense faculty development curriculum for the fostering of interprofessional teaching skills. It benefits students by preparing them to teach, administer and practice using evolving technologies. And it allows faculty to travel to other universities to share best practices. It is expected that more than 150 students each year will participate.

“The Affordable Care Act means more access to care and increased opportunities to provide preventive services in the community,” says Susan Schmidt, director of the School of Nursing. “A health care workforce grounded in collaboration is best prepared to provide access to services across settings, to break down the silos of fragmented care and provide care in the least expensive environment using futuristic technology. This project substantially benefits underserved populations, rural populations and serves health care shortage areas.”

(Ful)Bright Future

Shaye Worthman, valedictorian of the Class of 2009 who majored in both psychology and Spanish, is now pursing a master’s degree at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. And she just got some help. This summer Worthman received a Fulbright Full Graduate Degree Grant to study political economy of development at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, during the 2012-2013 academic year.

 

Unified for UNIFAT

The summer before her freshman year, Meghan Marth traveled to Gulu, Uganda, to visit a friend. Her name was Atoo Irene. She was 7 years old.

Marth wanted to see how Irene was doing. She wanted to see for herself that Irene had not become one of the country’s “invisible children,” the kind who are scarred inside and out as a result of the brutal civil war activities perpetrated by Joseph Kony, the notorious warlord and head of the guerilla group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Marth and her family began sponsoring Irene at a special school created for the war’s child survivors, and she wanted to calm her fears about Irene before starting college.

Sitting on Marth’s lap, Irene’s light blue school uniform contrasted brightly against her smooth dark skin. Marth studied her face intently. Irene sat quietly and tentatively but happy to see Marth again. It was the second time in two years Marth made the long journey from the United States to see her.

For Marth, though, the trip provided more than a calming reassurance about Irene. It also solidified her decision to attend Xavier as a Community-Engaged Fellow and the direction she chose for her life.

“The trip affirmed that this is what God wants me to be doing and that my choice of college was the right one because Xavier

would value what I was learning,” says Marth, who’s now a junior.

“The students taught me so much about life and they’re full of wisdom about the way they approach life.”

It all began when Marth was a freshman in high school. Her church showed the “Invisible Children,” a documentary about the Ugandan children who were affected by Kony and his guerrillas. Some were forced to become soldiers or sex slaves. Others were injured during raids on their homes. Still others became orphans when their parents were killed or homeless, like Irene’s family, after their homes were burned by the LRA.

Marth was profoundly impacted by the film and wanted to help. Enter Abitimo Odonkara, a Ugandan woman who years earlier started a school for child victims of the civil war. She named the school the Upper Nile Institute for Appropriate Technology, or UNIFAT. During a trip to the United States, Abitimo met with Marth and other students and suggested they help pay for the children’s schooling.

So the students organized Unified for UNIFAT (U4U) at several area high schools. Marth ran the chapter at her high school, and when she came to Xavier in the fall of 2010 she brought her efforts to campus.

The club’s first event in spring 2011 netted $600, enough to sponsor two children. For $300 a year, a child receives books, school supplies, two uniforms, a pair of shoes and tuition, which includes a meal of rice and beans every day. U4U is now sponsoring eight children.

The club also won recognition as student club of the year last year for its work raising awareness about Uganda and UNIFAT.

In September, Unified for UNIFAT brought the UNIFAT Primary School’s lead mentor, Opiyo Denis, to Cincinnati to make fundraising presentations at local high schools and colleges. The mentors make sure the sponsored children receive the academic and social services paid for by their sponsors.

“I know what the children go through,” Denis told chapter members. “I work hard to make sure their school work improves and help them to forget the past.”

For Marth, Denis’ visit assured her that Irene is making progress and has a good chance of graduating from high school. That alone is an important step forward for a little girl whose life was changed forever by a war she knew nothing about.

Gaming Strength

Imagine not being able to use one of your arms. Imagine how hard it would be to take out the trash, tie your shoelaces or eat a steak. Imagine how difficult it would be to wrap a holiday gift or unload the groceries.

Yet that’s a reality for thousands of stroke survivors. According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, with survivors suffering from a range of injuries from impaired eyesight to slurred speech to decreased motor coordination.

Flaccidity, or weakness on one side of the body, is the most common issue, though.

So what does one do? Turn on the Xbox, of course.

From 2006-2007, occupational therapy students Amy Whetstone and Sarah Schuck researched the effects of playing video games on post-stroke survivors at the Drake Center, a long-term rehabilitation facility in Cincinnati.

The patients met with Whetstone and Schuck three times a week for three weeks where they played video games as part of their rehabilitation.

The video game, developed by Performance Health Technologies, is a computer program similar to the “Pong” game of earlier days. Instead of twisting knobs or pushing buttons on a console, though, a sensor is attached to the patient’s affected limb. When the limb is moved, the sensor sends a wireless signal to the computer, which tracks the patient’s accuracy rate and progress.

One of the study participants was a woman who, before her stroke, enjoyed traveling overseas and was able to drive herself to and from work. After her stroke, she was unable to perform house chores or drive herself anywhere.

She continued her physical therapy after the three-week study, and she eventually relearned how to drive and later was able to resume travelling.

Typical stroke treatments include physical therapy and electrical stimulation to the brain. The concept of using a video game to increase motor activity, however, is relatively new to the field of occupational therapy.

But, says Valerie Hill, a clinical faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy who oversaw the study, the treatment seems to be effective. It aids in the patient’s physical rehabilitation, plus it’s fun.

“Having as many tools as possible at our disposal gives our clients more opportunities to regain that strength,” says Hill. “Treatment is about learning mobility applications in a positive and encouraging way.”

While traditional occupational therapy techniques are effective, the unique feature about the video game is its real-time, encouraging assessment of the patient’s progress, says Hill.

“If something is able to give positive feedback, it’s more fun and encouraging for the patients. Rather than repeating exercises and motions, the video game acts like an incentive.”

By the end of the study, Schuck and Whetstone concluded that both participants experienced an increase in their quality of life, as well as a higher inclination to use their affected limb.

The participants also noted that the game proved more motivational than traditional rehabilitation techniques.

“These people struggle with things every day that you and I don’t even think twice about,” says Whetstone, referring to the study participants. “Strokes are debilitating both mentally and physically, but treatment is changing and improving quite a bit.”