BrewCakes: A tasty blend of business, beer and cupcakes

The taste of a good craft beer is hard to resist. And cupcakes are too. So it makes sense that the two, if brewed together correctly, could make a perfectly delectable dessert.

At least that’s what Emma Royan and Sarah Kinisky thought when they met over a beer one day after work. So they took their thought to the kitchen, and the outcome was the birth of BrewCakes, a business devoted to the irresistibility of cupcakes made with beer. And so far, their plans of world domination by batter and booze have been working out.

Featuring seasonal and traditional flavors, each cupcake recipe is inspired by a different craft beer and includes a shot of liquor in its filling. Royan and Kinisky even have a special place in their ovens for Xavier fans: The Xavier Blue Velvet cupcake is a red velvet Rivertown Hop Bomber IPA cupcake dyed to a perfect Xavier blue. It’s filled with a white chocolate vodka ganache and topped with a vodka-based vanilla buttercream. Xavier’s blue color, the women say, took them hours to perfect.

Together, Kinisky and Royan—like their beer and cake recipes—forge a formidable business partnership. Royan, who works as a special education teacher at a charter school, draws on her communication skills to control the marketing side. And Kinisky, who works as an accountant for Nestle, uses her background in math to figure the company’s financials.

“You know your job is awesome when your bar tab is a work-related tax deduction,” says Royan.


Emma and Sarah’s Favorite BrewCakes

Irish Beer Bomb

A chocolate cupcake made with Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Conway Irish Ale. Filled with a chocolate ganache whisky shot and topped off with Baily’s Irish buttercream frosting.

The Morning After

A light pancake cupcake made with Rogue Voodoo Donut beer and filled with homemade alcoholic blueberry jam and a maple syrup float. Topped with maple buttercream frosting and bacon.



Behind the… Foucault Pendulum

pendulum• The Lindner Family Physics Building was built in 1991 to house a Foucault pendulum—a device named after the physicist Léon Foucault. A dome was included in its construction plans to accommodate the length of the pendulum’s wire.

• The pendulum was installed seven years later after a fundraising drive organized by professors in the Department of Physics.

• According to a 1998 issue of Xavier Newswire, the pendulum’s total cost was approximately $25,000.

• The brass ball that hangs off the wire is technically called a bob and weighs 254 pounds—that’s equivalent to the weight of about one and a half kegs of beer.

• The steel wire is 25 feet long.

• Though the bob appears to swing in a circular motion, it actually oscillates on a single plane while the earth rotates around it.

• Only five other Foucault pendulums operate in Ohio, ranging from Cleveland to Portsmouth.

• The map underneath—which is in proper north-south direction—features the United States and is made up of 133 individual pieces of wood. It was designed and created by former physics professor Raymond Miller.

• The map’s design itself is called an intarsia, which is an art technique developed during the Renaissance that involves inlaid pattern and wooden mosaics.

• The map’s pieces, which are cut at 10-degree angles, are made of different types of wood, including Red Oak, African Mahogany and American Walnut.


Reducing the Stigma: Mental Illness

They say bad things happen in threes. For Debbie Dutton Lambert, it was all too true. She experienced a murder, an attempted suicide and a successful suicide—all in her first semester at Xavier. The experiences left her traumatized. But they also left her more confident in her own resiliency and pointed her to a course of study and a 35-year career as a behavioral health therapist.

Today, Lambert is launching Encompass, a business that jumps into the national debate about gun violence and mental illness by focusing on treating mental illness in the workplace.

“Our society doesn’t want to talk about mental illness,” says Lambert, Class of 1976. “But the shootings and violence are going to continue because the primary issue is the lack of understanding about mental illness. ”

Lambert’s trauma began on a Saturday night in November 1972 when three men entered the campus game room where she was hanging out. They took wallets and cash. When one student looked up, they shot him dead. Weeks later, her roommate attempted suicide over Thanksgiving, and her new roommate ended her life over Christmas. Lambert left Xavier for a semester but came back to study psychology and behavioral health. She also earned an MBA in 1983.

With Encompass, Lambert can help employers mitigate the cost of behavioral health care for their employees through early education and treatment. People get treatment and relief, and businesses reduce the cost of lost productivity. Lambert is excited to be on the cusp of a new approach to improving mental health for workers and feels she’s been preparing for it since her freshman year.

-France Griggs Sloat

Out of the Pool: A Swim School for Starters

Kathleen Keating Hubbard spent a lot of time treading water during her first years at Xavier—alone. She was the only woman in classrooms of men, the only woman swimming laps in the pool, the only woman on the swim team.

She liked it that way. After growing up in all-girls schools, she was ready for a change and enrolled at Xavier in 1968, a year before it officially became coeducational.

“I was the only woman swimmer the first year,” says Hubbard, a 1972 graduate. “There were more women my second year. They hired a coach and he started coaching us as a team.”

Today, more than 40 years later, a lot has changed for Hubbard. For one, she’s never alone—not with a family of eight children and a business that puts thousands of children into the water each year. And she rarely swims. For her, swimming is now a business.

After moving to Phoenix in the late 1970s, Hubbard began teaching lessons at the Phoenix Swim Club, which trained young athletes for competition. By 1998, Hubbard and her husband, Bob, a 1973 graduate, had formed their own business focused entirely on children. Tapping into a growing movement to teach swimming basics at ever-earlier ages, the Hubbard Family Swim School started with one pool in Phoenix and now has three sites serving more than 4,000 children a week. And in August they opened a program in Blue Ash, near Cincinnati, with more than 600 students.

The lessons include babies as young as 8 weeks old in a splash class and “Little Snappers” and “Hammerheads” ages 6 months to 3 years. Children learn to float, then to jump in and roll onto their backs, and finally how to use arms and legs. The pools are small, four-feet deep and always 90 degrees.

“My argument is learning to swim is not optional,” Hubbard says. “It’s a life-saving skill. Children can learn to swim and be amazing swimmers by the time they’re 3.”

On frequent trips to Cincinnati to visit grandchildren and the swim program, she still takes time to check out Xavier’s Athletic Hall of Fame, into which she was inducted in 1985 as the University’s first female athlete. It’s an honor she’s happy to have all to herself, even if she doesn’t get in the water anymore.


Mapping Peace: The Peace Corp Volunteer Who Painted the World

Marissa Schaefer was looking for something bigger than a classroom when she graduated with a master’s degree in education in 2010. Now, some 3,000 miles, 15 months and one giant map of the world later, she says joining the Peace Corps has turned into the largest—and most rewarding—adventure she’s ever been on.

Ecuador, where Schaefer volunteers, is a small country on South America’s west coast. There, her job is to help teachers become better English speakers, and to help make English classes more effective and fun.

Her latest venture, the World Map Project, has captured the attention of both students and teachers in the school where she works. The world map, a tradition among Peace Corps volunteers, outlines and labels every continent and country on the globe. It took Schaefer, the students and others a week to construct and paint on a wall outside her office. The group finished off the project by bordering the map with their handprints, and the area now serves as a hangout spot for the students.

“My students have seen maps before, but their geographical knowledge was low. Many of them were not able to identify where countries on the same continent were,” she says. “They really loved the idea of the project. They threw themselves into the work and came in early everyday. Their dedication was astounding.”

With one year remaining in Ecuador, Schaefer hopes to accomplish a few more things before coming home. She plans to start a school-wide recycling program, and she wants to organize more teacher training workshops.

And, maybe, she can look at the map on the wall and convince others that life is an adventure and there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored—just like she’s doing.

Green Acres: Life on a Sheep Farm

Are your tomatoes the talk of the neighborhood? Co-workers manifest the obvious signs of zucchini-envy every time you drop a load off on the kitchenette counter? Then you’ve probably imagined elevating your agrarian talents to that most seductive of stages—a hobby farm. And like most reveries, the reality of running a farm can be far from dream-like.

But there are those few brave and intelligent souls who successfully combine farming with a conventional life. Enter the world of Dr. Carey Pigman. The 1980 Edgecliff graduate owns a small, flourishing farm in central Florida where he grows grapes that he stomps into wine and raises, of all things, sheep—an odd choice for someone named Pigman. “I know it’s a little ironic, isn’t it?” What’s even more astonishing is that he does all this in addition to his two day jobs—as an emergency medicine physician and a state representative in the Florida House.

This is a doctor who does not dither—but he did dream of a farm of his own one day. “I grew up in rural Ohio and raised sheep through 4-H,” he says. “When my wife and I moved to Florida, we had our eye on a small farm. We bought it. And I mentioned to her there was no way I was going to mow pasture. So I came home one day and somehow she had gotten a ram from a friend of ours.”

What began with one ram soon became a flourishing enterprise on just 10 acres. “We can sell everything we raise and we typically have 20-30 ewes at a given time and may have one-and-a-half to two lambs per ewe.”

One would think, that the Sunshine State would not be kind to animals that carry around their own sweaters. “These are not shearing sheep, they’re hair sheep. They’re hot-weather tolerant, parasite resistant and they shed.”

Just as one sheepish misconception is cleared up, though, another agricultural misassumption crops up. Because on this Florida farm, orange juice isn’t the beverage of choice. Wine is. “I’ve got like 90 vines producing about 500 pounds of grapes a year. The vines are about 6 years old and starting to show some maturity. It’s just another labor of love. Like everything else, you wish you had more time.”

So what’s harder—herding sheep or politicians? “They both can involve bellwethers,” he says. “Periodically when that term comes up I like to remind people, ‘You know we are talking about a castrated sheep, right?’ ”

As far as next season’s forecast, Pigman is seeking a good red wine to pair with those lamb chops. “I was a chemistry major, and with Florida’s climate and soil conditions, it’s all about getting the ph levels and micronutrient levels right. My wife has granted me a room to tinker in. It’s a combination wine room/laboratory. I’m not there yet. My whites have reached a really good flavor, but my reds I’m not quite satisfied with yet.”


Decoding Math

Quick. Decipher this code:

Bnpv. kp’t slp yiyuhlsy’t enilukpy tqxayzp, nsm bnpvybnpkzt juleyttlu mysn blupls wsldt kp. pvnp’t dvh tvy’t zuynpym bnpv elu pvy zuynpkiy bksm, n zontt mytkrsym nulqsm pvy kmyn pvnp bnpvybnpkzt zns xy xynqpkeqo nsm uyoyinsp pl yiys pvy bltp ukrvp-xunksym ksmkikmqnot. Yiyuh ekepyys dyywt, dkpv nttkrsbyspt kszoqmksr n dvlmqskp bhtpyuh, ns yszuhjpkls nsm myzkjvyubysp nttkrsbysp nsm ns liyuikyd le rnby pvyluh, blupls tvldt n syd rulqj le tpqmyspt pvy xynqph ks sqbxyut.

Can’t figure it out? Dena Morton can. In fact, it probably wouldn’t take the associate professor of mathematics any longer than five minutes to decipher it. And she’s happy to share her secret.

That’s actually the first thing she teaches students in her course, Mathematics and the Creative Imagination—how to encrypt and decipher
secret messages.

Doesn’t sound like your typical math class, does it? Well, that’s kind of the point. By incorporating hands-on, creative projects into the syllabus, Morton has found a way to turn even the most right-brained individuals into math enthusiasts within the 50 minutes of allotted class time.

“Here, look,” she says, picking up a piece of paper from her desk. “I show this to my students during the first week of class. There is no way anyone can see this and not think it’s cool.”

Morton takes the scrap of paper and cuts it into a long, skinny strip. She twists one side of the paper and connects the two ends with
tape, creating a loop known as a Mobius strip. She then takes a pen and draws a line down the middle, and, without lifting her pen the line
ends up on the other side of the loop.

“Even though this looks like a two dimen-sional loop, it really only has one side, see? This is topology—it’s math.”

In addition to including creative projects that illustrate the principles of cryptology and topology, Morton also includes logic and game theory into her class. One of her assignments involves a murder-mystery game, while another project involves plotting outcomes of a game
onto a graph and then turning those plotted points into colors, creating a painted image for the end result.

Tim Holliday, a junior history major and former student of Morton’s, signed up for Mathematics and the Creative Imagination in the fall semester of his sophomore year. Before taking Morton’s class, Holliday says he thought math was tedious and useless. But, he says he found a new respect for it. He even went so far as to describe math as an elegant and interesting subject.

“My advisor suggested I take the class, partly because she said it was a good one for non-math majors,” says Holliday. “And it was great for me because it created a dialogue between disciplines, like history and math. It opened my eyes to how math affects history, as well as other things, too.”

Morton created the course after teaching a similar class as a master’s student at Johns Hopkins University. She says that the language of math is in everything, and she’s happy she gets the chance to change the way students feel about the subject.

While the course has many components, cryptology may be the most fun. It’s also a perfect intersection of language and math. The art of studying, writing and breaking codes requires a strong knowledge of language and letter frequencies. Codes can range from simple substitution cipher systems (A=D, B=E, C=F) to complex computer coding.

“Cryptology is kind of romantic because you get to talk about wars and spies, and stuff like that,” Morton says. “It’s the art and science of making and keeping secrets. It is hard with some students because they are so convinced that they hate math. But their minds change when they see how beautiful and fun it really is. That’s what I try to show them in my class.”

By the way, here’s the answer to the problem:

Math. It’s not everyone’s favorite subject, and mathematics professor Dena Morton knows it. That’s why she’s created Math for the Creative Imagination, a class designed around the idea that mathematics can be beautiful and relevant to even the most right-brained of individuals. Every 15 weeks, with assignments including a whodunit mystery, an encryption and decipherment assignment, and an overview of game theory, Morton shows a new group of students the beauty in numbers.