Biology professor Annie Ray clicks her pen, closes her spiral notebook and snaps the trap shut, feeling satisfied with her catch. She’s not exactly sure what kind of beetles are crawling in the Portland warehouse on this spring morning, but she knows that the ones in her trap will bring her closer to saving the world—parts of it, at least.
When Ray’s not on campus, she’s probably not at home or on vacation, either. In fact, she likes to keep busy on her days off. Ray, who has a doctorate in entomology (that’s the study of bugs), spends her extra time partnering with customs agents and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to understand how invasive insects, specifically the longhorned wood-boring beetle, thrive in foreign habitats. Basically, international pest-control.
Not much is known about the beetles that Ray studies. What scientists do know is that there are an estimated 35,000 species of longhorned wood-boring beetles, and that they’re found on all continents except Antarctica. What scientists don’t know is how the different species of longhorned beetles affect individual ecosystems. That’s where Ray’s research comes into play.
“Invasive insects have huge impacts on ecosystems and land values,” says Ray, citing the Asian longhorn beetle infestation in North America as an example. First spotted in New York City in 1996, the beetle, which is native to Asia, has now spread to states as far away as Illinois and Ohio. Left unmanaged, the infestation could result in more than $650 billion in damages to forestry and landscape,according to a recent report commissioned by the USDA.
Ray’s work begins when the USDA receives a report of a foreign beetle infestation. With the report in hand, she travels to nearby offloading warehouses and sets traps using pheromones, which are chemicals beetles release to attract potential mates. She then records how the beetle populations grow, eat and reproduce in their new habitats. Scientists use her research to compile databases that help them quarantine and eradicate invasive bug populations.
According to Ray, the longhorned wood-boring beetle’s trip abroad starts when goods like auto parts, tiles and furniture are packed into fresh-cut wood crates for overseas shipping. Wood-boring beetles eat, reproduce and burrow in trees, so many of them end up hitching a ride with the wooden crates. When the beetles arrive in the states, they crawl out of their burrows and start looking for a fresh-wood meal in their new habitat.
“The truth is that we just don’t know what we’re up against,” says Ray, after returning home from a trip to Portland. “There isn’t much data that associates larvae and beetles in their adult stages. So when a warehouse worker finds a larva burrowed in a crate, we’re not sure what kind of longhorned beetle it will turn into. I collect DNA samples from the larva for barcoding purposes and identify the types of wood that are likely to house certain species of wood-boring larvae.”
The work is demanding, but for Ray, it’s not all about getting rid of pests: Her time spent outside the classroom also includes research on the conservation of endangered beetle species, like the Valley Elderberry longhorned beetle, a species native to the Central California region.
Similar to her work with pest control, Ray uses phermones to study the endangered beetle populations. And she is the proud owner of 11 pet tarantulas who also reside in a foreign habitat—her office.
Ray, who participates in the biology department’s annual Costa Rica study abroad experience, says she wishes that her students could experience field research with her more than just once a year. Hands-on research, she argues, is necessary for the development of the whole self.
“A liberal arts education makes you a better scientist, but it also makes you a better person as well,” she says. “It’s so nice to watch the students interacting with the outdoors and experiencing the world. They just blossom and turn into different people out there.”
Andy Fleming leans back in his chair inside his Schmidt Fieldhouse office, finally able to catch his breath.
It’s been less than a week since the end of the 2011 spring exhibition season, and the end of his first full season as head coach of the men’s soccer program. The short time since he took over the moribund program has been, to say the least, a whirlwind. The program won just five games in the previous two years, yet Fleming came in and through some magical mixture of talent, luck and hard work managed to convince essentially the same group of players to claw out 10 wins, win an Atlantic 10 Conference title and claim Xavier’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Life’s been good so far.
There is, of course, still a lot more to do. There’s always more to do. Recruiting is never done. There are player evaluations to complete. Summer camps to plan. Still, for the moment at least, there’s time to do it. May is a slow time in the collegiate soccer world. No games, no practices, no life on the road.
So Fleming starts digging into the stack of work that got set aside during the season when his cell phone begins to buzz. It’s Amy, his wife, who’s nine months pregnant with their second child.
“I’m going into labor,” she says. “I called an ambulance. It’s on its way. Get home. Now.”
She isn’t due for another 10 days. They’ve had a baby before, so Fleming knows the routine. Still, the burst of adrenaline, the stress of the situation and the excitement of anticipation all hit at once. Fleming hangs up and makes a beeline to his car. The house is just seven minutes away, but it feels like it’s taking forever to get there.
After a few harried minutes, the two climb into the ambulance and head to the hospital. Coming to a stop just outside the emergency room entrance, the EMTs begin to wheel Amy toward the doors. Noticing that Amy’s not carrying her overnight bag, Andy jumps back into the ambulance to grab it.
By the time he gets the bag in his hands, he hears a baby cry. Before they can get Amy inside and settled into a delivery room, the delivery’s already over. She gave birth in the parking lot.
Fleming is both surprised and ecstatic. It’s a girl. Daddy’s girl.
It takes an hour or so to get Amy treated and settled into a room, so while they wait, Fleming takes out his phone and starts sharing the news on Facebook.
Devin Fleming born in ambulance very quickly at 418pm. Momma and baby are great. Dad is already worried about having a daughter LOL. More info (including middle name) to follow.
As Amy is recovering, Andy sits in a chair alongside the bed. They banter about what toppings to order on their pizza while simultaneously texting their relatives about their newborn daughter.
She’s going to grow up to be a lacrosse player. And get a scholarship to a top-tier school. Notre Dame? Maybe she’ll meet and marry a guy who goes to Harvard.
Fleming pictures himself snapping photos at her graduation and sees himself walking her down the aisle on her wedding day.
Then a nurse opens the door and enters the room. She looks down at Andy.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asks quietly.
Andy and Amy glance at each other, puzzled.
“We see some markers that are consistent with Down syndrome,” she says. “We need to do some more testing, but it looks like…”
Fleming doesn’t even hear the rest of the sentence. Her voice is drowned out by the noise of his world crashing in on him. The hope of taking pictures of her during her college graduation crumbles. The vision of cheering her on at lacrosse practices disappears. The dream of walking her down the aisle shatters. All he can do is hold his head in his hands and cry.
After a few hours of tears, confusion and trying to process the news, Fleming drives home while Amy continues her recovery in the hospital.
He walks in the door, picks up his 2-year-old son, Brady, and crawls into bed.[lightbox link=″http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p03yYpBJBhE&feature=youtu.be″][/lightbox]
My god, I’m 36 years old, and I’m afraid to sleep alone because I feel like the world is ending, Fleming thinks. I’m just going to wrap my arms around this child, and he’s going to give me strength.
“When I woke up the next morning, Brady says, ‘Dad, Dad how is Mommy and the baby?’ That’s when I knew that I had to face this head on. An attitude is something you can choose, and starting that moment, I had to take it on.”
If there is a positive side to any of it, it’s that Fleming’s always been a determined soul. The oldest of three children from the Boston suburb of Braintree—a blend of blue collar urban and upper middle class suburban—Fleming excelled at every sport he tried. But he was a little more driven than most. He loved practices. He rode his bike to the local high schools to watch the older kids practice and study the coaches. He went to games with his dad, picking out the seats closest to the coaches and team.
When he was 15 years old, he chose to leave his local school and enroll in a nearby Catholic school. It was, he says, an effort to improve his own game and put himself in a better position for a college scholarship. He also admits he preferred the dress code and discipline imposed by the nuns—not the mindset of your typical high-school freshman.
Ultimately, it worked. He set school records for goals, was named conference MVP and is still the only player from the school to earn a full soccer scholarship to a Division I school—Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
While he found some success on the field at Marist, he more importantly found his calling. By his senior season, he was not just the team captain, he was going on scouting and recruiting trips with the assistant coaches. The coaching bug had bitten him. It bit him so bad, in fact, that after graduating, he returned to Boston, lived at home and worked for two years as an assistant coach at Boston University—unpaid.
After seeing his acumen for the game, BU finally hired him full time. Nine years later, though, he was recruited away from the Terriers by perennial powerhouse Northwestern University. After three seasons of helping push Northwestern to new heights, he was placed on the soccer world’s potential head coach carrousel. Xavier took notice. Knows how to win, plays clean, students get good grades. He fit the Xavier mold. He was interviewed on a Tuesday and offered the job on Thursday.
Today, three years later, Fleming unzips his blue windbreaker and plops down on the couch in his office, resting his elbows on his knees and massaging his head with his fingers.
He just finished lifting weights with the team and is equal parts sweaty and sleepy. He spent the night in a pastel-colored hospital chair because his 1-month-old daughter, Quinn, is sick. Brady is now 3. Devin is 18 months.[lightbox link=″http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIcyzB9sgtM&feature=youtu.be″][/lightbox]
“I slept for three hours in a hospital chair, the doctor was running late and I had to be in the weight room by 10:00 a.m.” he says. “But I made it in time because I want to show my team how to excel as adults. You know, the players might have to deal with something like this someday. Part of my job is to make sure that they grow up to be good husbands, parents and employees.”
To do that, he needs to lead by example and not break his own rules, specifically Rule No. 1.
When Fleming took over the soccer program, it was a mess. The team was best known for underachieving and having its players issued red cards by the officials for bad sportsmanship. In the previous five years, the team lost two thirds of its games, and its road record was an embarrassing 3-36-3. There was no structure, no organization, no discipline. On Fleming’s first day of practice, only two players were on the field on time. The rest came out late and not properly dressed.
Two things became immediately obvious. One, he needed to lay down the law. So he instituted some basic rules. “If you want to play, you have to know and follow these rules,” he says. “If you can agree to those terms, then you’re in.’’
Rule No. 1: Be on time. Which means being in the locker room 30 minutes prior to practice and on the field 15 minutes before practice.
It also became obvious that he had nothing on which to build and needed to start from scratch. “Welcome to the South Pole,” he told the team. “Every destination from here is upward and pointing north.” He brought a picture of a bus into the locker room. “I’m driving the bus,” he said. “Some of you will get on the bus. Others will be pulled onto it. Some will be denied entrance. Some will watch it go right on by.”
He started referring to the “old Xavier” and the “new Xavier.” He hosted a mandatory Super Bowl party so his players would begin to spend time together off the field. They went to basketball games together. When the athletic department held a contest selling raffle tickets, he demanded they win. “Winners win at everything,” he said.
Too much of the “old Xavier,” he discovered, was all about individuals and not enough about team. Players wore Mohawk haircuts and different color cleats so they would stand out. He put a stop to that.
Rule No. 2: All players must wear black cleats. No exceptions.
Rule No. 3: The players aren’t allowed to wear earrings during team functions.[lightbox link=″http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE8b-Sw4pHg&feature=youtu.be″][/lightbox]
He also instilled discipline. When the players run “suicides”—a torturous conditioning exercise in which players run in a zig-zag pattern, bending down and touching a designated line before heading off in the other direction—they must actually touch the line. No shortcuts.
Michael Mulcahey, a faculty member of the Department of Sports Studies, saw them practicing and decided to watch for a few minutes. Afterward, he approached Fleming.
“Keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing,” Mulcahey said, “because I’ve never seen all the players run suicides and touch the lines every single time.”
And it’s all paid off.
In his three seasons, the team has won 36 games, been A-10 champions twice, made the NCAA Tournament three times, been ranked in the Top 10 nationally, led the nation in fewest yellow cards and topped it all off with a team average 3.25 grade point average.
“You have to be oblivious to what’s going on in college soccer,” wrote the College Soccer News, “or without a pulse to not know what’s transpired at Xavier University over the past three years.”
In a mess of blonde hair and giggles, Devin and Brady wrestle each other to the ground. Brady easily lifts himself up and looks around the room for the next best spot to play. He runs toward a dark hallway and inspects it, deciding that it’s worth exploring.
Devin gets back on her feet by using Fleming’s leg for leverage. She takes two steps to the right and loses her balance, falling down on the floor again. She smiles. Fleming does, too. He puts his hands underneath her armpits, lifts her up and straddles her on his knee. He fixes the crooked bow in her hair and tickles her neck with kisses.
The love is obvious. So is his growing understanding of being the father of a daughter with a disability. She struggles, sure, but she’s still Daddy’s girl. If only others could understand. Which brings up Rule No. 4
Rule No. 4: Don’t ever use the word “retard.”
As Devin and Brady run around with the energy adults can only envy, Fleming reflects on how his life has changed.
Two months after Devin entered the world, Fleming was still processing the news about her condition. Not that he wished her any other way—something he is quick to point out—but he was unsure how to move forward. He had been Xavier’s head coach for just 18 months, and he began to wonder how he could use his struggles to set an example for his players.
“I wasn’t thinking ‘Devin, I don’t love you because you have Down syndrome,’ but I was mourning the loss of the child that we were expecting,” Fleming says. “Then I thought, ‘Wow. I’m a coach in a small town, on a small campus and with a bunch of young men who I’m supposed to teach lessons about life to. And what a platform I have, so let’s do something with this, to raise awareness, to tie my family in the team and the community.’ ”
The thought turned into Devin’s Team, a group that raises money and awareness for Down syndrome. Fleming threw himself into the idea with the same zeal as everything else. He wanted to host a soccer game/fundraiser, so in order to boost attendance, he invited the University of Akron, former NCAA champions. The game broke the single-game attendance record and raised $3,000. Akron’s coach, Caleb Porter, personally purchased 100 tickets—a $500 donation.[lightbox link=″http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQnUgan4kUw&feature=youtu.be″][/lightbox]
When the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati held a 5K, the entire team showed up and ran as one. At the organization’s annual “Buddy Walk” fundraiser along the riverfront, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams as well as the men’s basketball team showed up to support Fleming and his family. The Xavier athletes wore their uniforms, while other supporters sported Devin’s Team T-shirts, which feature a circular logo with her handprint in the middle. More than 150 people attended in support of Devin, raising more than $20,000.
Fleming puts his elbows back on his knees, resting his jaw on his hands.
“I feel like for that one day, during the Buddy Walk, the players became my support. They took care of me. They made me feel like my life was normal.”
He pauses to consider the moment, his life, his job as coach and father. How much everything has changed. How fortunate he really is.
“The athletes here just blow me away,” he says. “I never thought I would learn so much from a group of young men and a little girl.”
Col. Paul Fellinger Jr. Bachelor of Arts in international affairs, 1990
Garrison Commander for the U.S. Army Garrison at Presidio
Army Brat | Paul Fellinger Jr., has been moving since before he had motor skills. His father, Paul Fellinger Sr. (see Paul Sr.’s profile on page 41), was an Army man. So they moved from base to base, house to house. “I was born in Cincinnati and probably within six months had moved for the first time. I’ve probably lived in 30-35 different houses throughout my lifetime. My favorite places growing up were Germany and Virginia.”
International Education | As a lover of both academics and athletics, Fellinger enjoyed high school. For his first three years, he studied at the International School of Hamburg, in what used to be West Germany. There, he befriended students of different backgrounds and was exposed to cultures from places as far away as the Middle East and Asia.
Going Back | Later in life, Fellinger returned to Germany, but this time, it was for his assignment—not his father’s. He spent two years there with his wife and two daughters. “We lived in southern Bavaria and spent a lot of time in town interacting with locals, buying their food and practicing their language. I’m glad that my girls spent some time living there and getting to know the lifestyle. I don’t know how much they appreciate it yet, but they will when they get older.”
Active Duty | Since 2004, Fellinger spent nearly three and a half years on assignment in the Middle East. While in Afghanistan, he assisted in establishing local military and police forces. He also assisted the Department of State to develop rural and war-torn areas, which included involvement in the construction of schools and roads.
Snapshot | “Many people in Afghanistan, at least where I was in 2010, lived in mud huts. They’re good at building these structures, but it’s a lifestyle that we as Americans don’t think is possible. Many people there don’t have electricity. They’ve got no sewage, no plumbing. Very
different from the world that we live in. But that’s their life and that’s just how they live. It’s not bad or worse than ours, just different.”
A Good Sport | “I’m a huge fan of sports and have been my whole life. When I was deployed, Xavier basketball was my connection home. I would have a bad day in Afghanistan, and if I was lucky enough to have a cable TV, at the end of the day I could pull up a Xavier basketball game. It’s something that was and still is important to me.”
There’s No Place Like Home | “During one deployment I was the commander of a squadron of just under 1,000 soldiers. My school spirit must have rubbed off on them at some point, because many became fans of Xavier basketball. Whenever I visit Cincinnati, I pick up some Skyline Chili and buy Xavier garb for them. They love it.”
Lt. Col. Paul Fellinger Sr.
Bachelor of Arts in history, 1967
Blue Bloods | Four generations of Fellinger freshmen have now passed through Xavier’s doors—Raymond Fellinger, an English student who went on to become Xavier’s registrar; Paul Sr., a history major; Paul Jr., an international communications graduate; and Hannah, a current theology student.
Xavier Roots | “I remember when I was little and would go to the basketball games in Schmidt Fieldhouse with my dad. The building only held like 3,000 people, but it was a fun place to be during a game. The students would line the floor on temporary benches, and we would stomp on it and drive the place crazy.”
Service | When Fellinger Sr. started college, Xavier was still a field-artillery school that required all incoming students to join the ROTC program for at least two years. For his junior and senior years, Fellinger decided to stay enrolled in the program. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the U.S. Army and soon after was sent to Vietnam. After returning from his tour in Vietnam, he accepted an assignment in Germany—where his wife and children joined him.
Found in Translation | “Coming back to Cincinnati after living in Germany, you gain an appreciation for traditions from other cultures. For example, people in Cincinnati often say ‘Please?’ instead of ‘I didn’t hear you.’ That’s a total German thing. When German-speakers can’t hear what you’ve said they respond by saying ‘Bitta?’ which is the German word for please.”
Military School | Fellinger Sr. moved to Philadelphia to earn his master’s degree while simultaneously teaching for Widener University’s ROTC program. “The course I taught was called Ethics in Military Environments, and most of what I taught had to do with leadership. The class showed the theory of leadership, and I actually made the students make decisions. It might be as simple as marching a group of people, but they figured out how to navigate a group of men by practicing.“
Boot Camp Advice | “Before they enlisted, I told my two sons that, one, the officers aren’t intentionally trying to kill you, and, two, if the person to your right can keep going, and if the person to your left can keep going, then you can keep going, too.”
Soldiering On | Fellinger Sr. retired this spring from his second career as an administrator at Shriver Co., a tax firm based in Cincinnati. “I’m enjoying retirement and staying busy. My wife and I still have friends in Germany, and my son (see Paul Jr.’s profile on page 43) just moved to California. So I’m sure we’ll be doing some traveling.”
It’s 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night in February, and the bass from the stereo booms off the walls, muffling the mass of conversations inside the Gallagher Student Center. Sean McMahon, a sophomore English major who lives on campus, is standing halfway through a long line with a few of his friends, inching their, way toward two tall, orange coolers resting on a foldout table. He’s from Rhode Island, which at the moment is under four feet of snow. Over the music, he’s teasing his friends who think it’s cold outside at 27 degrees.
“When it’s their turn, they walk up to the coolers and fill their cups. Sean tosses his head back and downs his entire drink in one gulp. “It’s so weird to be in Gallagher when it’s this late,” he says. “Let’s get some more water and go downstairs. I think I heard that there was a blackjack table.”
As they walk downstairs, they filter past more students who are walking into the building in groups of three and five. As the doors close behind them, they’re greeted by Student Activities Council representatives who sit at a table just inside the main entrance. They hand out party schedules and a map to activities—first floor: blackjack and an inflatable obstacle course; second floor: food and live music; third floor: more food and magicians. An arc of balloons towers over the students, spelling out the party’s name: Muskies After Dark.
Muskies After Dark—better known as MAD—is a late-night party designed to offer students an alternative to high-risk weekend activities. Organized and run by the Office of Student Involvement, MAD events happen monthly during the school year. Taking over the entire Gallagher Student Center, the students set up Twister stations, inflate the inflatable obstacle courses, invite live bands to play and wait for the fun to ensue.
“Not everyone who goes to Xavier has money to go out on the weekends,” says Dustin Lewis, the associate director of student involvement. “And not everyone on campus drinks alchohol, either. That’s why it’s important for us to provide students with safe, free, fun on the weekends.”
Not only is the program great for students, it gives the resident assistants and hall janitors a break from the normal weekend duties. During MAD nights, the residence halls have less reported damage, injuries and incidents than normal weekend nights.
Lewis first heard of late-night, alternative programs during a conference in October 2010. When he returned to work, he proposed that Xavier create and organize a late-night program unique to the campus. The idea sounded great, but there was only one problem: funding. Because the pervading thought was that college students—whether of legal drinking age or not—will always choose a keg of beer over a cooler of water, it was difficult to get others on board with the idea.
But, with the conviction that late-night alternative programming is something every college should provide its students, Lewis
persisted and the first MAD trial run took place four months later. Nearly 200 students showed up, a promising number, so Lewis decided to continue the program.
Now the program is in its second year and the number of attendees averages around 500 per event.
“It’s great for us to be able to provide students an alternative to drinking,” says Lewis. “There’s a trend of good, clean weekend activities across college campuses, and it’s something that we’re proud to be part of.”
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
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.
When Dr. John Wakelin operates on children in Third World countries, he’s more than a plastic surgeon. He’s a teacher, sharing surgical procedures with local nurses and physicians. He’s a volunteer, giving time to those in need. And he’s a role model, showing his son the value of service and giving.
“Sometimes, all it takes is one hour,” says Wakelin, referring to an operation that reconstructs the faces of children born with cleft lips. “What a gift it is to be able to transform a life in such a small amount of time.”
Mission and service work has always been on Wakelin’s agenda. He studied philosophy at Xavier on a full scholarshipas a service fellow. While completing his degree, Wakelin volunteered at a hospital, where he educated HIV positive patients about disease prevention.
Immediately after graduating in 1996, Wakelin went on to medical school where he learned about Operation Smile, an international charity organization that helps treat facial deformities like cleft lips and pallets.
Travelling to countries as far away as Peru and Honduras, Wakelin and thousands of other surgeons from Operation Smile attempt to create a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the communities. They focus on teaching local doctors surgical procedures that fix facial deformities, with the hope that the community will someday have a large enough team of professionally trained nurses and physicians.
When he’s not working medical missions, Wakelin keeps his schedule busy. In addition to being a father and husband, he’s a surgeon at Columbus Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery and is also part of Ohio State University’s clinical faculty.
And though Wakelin’s résumé gives him bragging rights—Sky magazine named him one of the best plastic surgeons in America and his fellow physicians voted him the top plastic surgeon in Columbus—he views himself as a link in the chain of greater good.
“I’m doing just a tiny bit of the work—Operation Smile is a huge team,” Wakelin says. “It just doesn’t come together without passionate and dedicated humans.”
Five-by-five inch tiles cover a wooden table in Brazee Street Studio, a bright and airy artist community in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood. Melted on each tile are colorful representations of animals—elephants, butterflies, turtles. Thin rods of pigmented glass, which look like raw spaghetti noodles, line the spaces between the squares. From far away, the animals reflect the colors of the rods and resemble a community working in harmony.
The tiles are the work of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital employees and their kids, who are creating part of a community-engaged mural that’s going to be installed in the hospital next summer. The project is being pieced together under the watchful and artistic eye of Sandra Gross, the studio’s owner and visionary of the mural’s end design. While she gets final say, she is, as she puts it, “open to letting any and all things happen in between.” This is, after all, art.
For Gross, though, the project is more than just art. It’s education as well. Gross added a master’s degree in Montessori education from Xavier on top of undergraduate and graduate art degrees from Miami. She always knew she wanted to be an artist, but it wasn’t until recently that she discovered she could combine her artistic nature with her love of teaching by showing children how to create art out of glass.
“I love working with kids, because they’re more enthusiastic about the process than they are about the end result,” says
Gross. “When I teach children, I show them how to work with the materials, then we brainstorm together. I usually let them have control of the final product. By the end, it’s almost like we’ve become this little community in the studio.”
It all started with her first ArtWorks project, back in 2009. ArtWorks, a small non-profit based in Cincinnati that coordinates community-engaged public art, had partnered with Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House for a project. The house was expanding, and staffers were looking to incorporate a community-engaged art installation into their new space.
“I was really excited when ArtWorks approached me, so I got right to work with the student apprentices,” says Gross. “We started with the concept of day and night, and then we talked about what animals might live there and what stories might happen within that space. One of the apprentices designed a moon, one of them designed a mother and child.”
The glass canopy, which turned out to be a 22-foot-long piece, took Gross and five apprentices four weeks to complete. But
their hard work paid off. It was so well done, other glassmakers took notice and showed interest in working with her on other public projects. Since then, she’s installed community-engaged glass pieces in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Santa Fe, and she’s signed on to talk at a National Art Education Association conference this spring.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for me, knowing that it’s going to benefit children,” she says. “That for me is pretty powerful.
And it’s an interesting exercise to have the art not be just about me. I get to witness something amazing happening during the process of making these pieces. Plus, the kids come up with much better ideas than I do.”
Scoliosis. It’s a disease characterized by abnormal curvatures in the spine. Nearly three out of every 100 people have some form of it. Worldwide, it affects more than 12 million.
Most who have the condition live relatively normal lives, minus the occasional extra doctor’s appointment. But for some, the curvature of the spine is so severe that it requires a fusion, which is an extensive and often risky surgery that few surgeons in America specialize in.
In the future, though, there may be another option. MBA graduate Joe Reynolds built a company, SpineForm, around a new medical device that corrects spinal curvatures without the risks that a fusion poses. Fusion requires connecting metal rods to both sides of the spinal column. Reynold’s device, called HemiBridge, is a series of implants that correct severe cases of scoliosis by putting pressure on the outward side of the curve.
“Fusion creates a whole segment of the spine that doesn’t move or bend,” Reynolds says. “Our device allows the growth of the spine to correct itself, without disc removal, bone grafts or a lengthy hospital stay.”
The device underwent its first clinical trials last year, yielding positive results. The company’s now planning to introduce the device in Europe and eventually worldwide.
MBA student Alex Burkhart was on a sports binge with his friends—two college football games and one professional football game in just two days—when an idea hit him like a blitzing linebacker.
“I work in loyalty marketing for Macy’s, so I have a good knowledge of how reward systems work,” he says. “I sort of combined my love for sports with my work at Macy’s and thought, What if there was a site that let ticket holders post their unused tickets for reward points that they can, in turn, use on other tickets?”
About 20 percent of purchased sports tickets go unused each year, Burkhart says. That means, out of about 200 million tickets sold last year, 32 million of them went unused. Ticket holders don’t have many options when they can’t make a game, he adds. They can sell the tickets at a discounted price, give them to a friend or let them go to waste.
So one week after hashing out the initial concept in his head, he enlisted the help of a few friends and entered his business idea, which he named Tixers, into the Startup Weekend Cincinnati contest, a business competition sponsored by Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
Out of the 75 submissions, Tixers won first place and secured Burkhart free legal advice, $1,000 worth of web-design, six months of free office space and the attention of potential investors and users alike.
“All of this happened within the first few weeks of the Tixers idea occurring to me, so I’ve been busy getting the right people on board,” says Burkhart, who is currently working on building the site. “But I’m up for the challenge of starting this business. I’m a firm believer in execution, but sometimes the idea is just as exciting.”