Xavier Magazine

Words to Run By

I run. I don’t run very far, nor do I run very fast. And I try to run early in the morning before the sun comes up so it’s dark and no one can see me sweating and swearing and gasping for breath like there’s only two oxygen molecules left on the planet.

All of which is a long way of saying that I’m a runner, but I’m not a very good runner. A plodder might be more accurate. So doing something like running a marathon rests only on the outer limits of my imagination. Still, I admire those who are capable of accomplishing such a feat. It’s no small achievement.

I recently read an article by a writer who called himself a “runegade” because he jumped into the middle of the masses at the starting line of a marathon and took off running despite lacking the credentials or qualifications to be in the race. He just ran it because he wanted to and thought it wouldn’t be that difficult. Much to no one else’s surprise but his own, it actually proved to be very difficult.

Getting into a race such as the Boston Marathon is even more difficult. You have to qualify by proving that you finished a previous marathon within a certain time limit. The times vary by age group. For instance, someone age 50 would have to run a marathon in less than three and a half hours in order to qualify. That’s pretty speedy by my standards.

Still, 23,000 people not only qualified but actually ran in the marathon. I admire and maybe even envy those people. Which is why I have been following so closely every detail of the bombings and the hunt for the brothers Tsarnaev. Although I’m not the same class of runner, I feel a somewhat kindred spirit to anyone who laces on a pair of shoes and pounds the pavement.

It’s also why on Thursday I broke my mold and decided to run in broad daylight, within full view of a campus full of students, visitors and, gasp, television cameras.

In the current issue of Xavier magazine, we profiled Rabbi Abie Ingber, the director of the University’s Center for Interfaith Community Engagement. In addition to recounting his remarkable life—which has included time at John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous Bed-In, audiences in front of various popes and countless trips to the White House—Ingber creates events on campus that force students out of their everyday college bubble and gives them a perspective on the larger issues of life.

When the bombings happened at the Boston Marathon, some of Ingber’s students approached him with an idea to stage a one-mile run to raise money for, the non-profit organization that is raising money for those killed, maimed or hurt as a result of the bombings. Ingber has never said no to an idea. If a student has the motivation and enthusiasm to come to him with an idea, saying no would cause harm. That’s not in his genetics.

So he said yes. And when I heard about it, so did I. I got out there and huffed and puffed my way twice around a half-mile course. And I was not alone. There was a pilot from Delta who heard about the event on the news and wanted to run. There was a mother pushing a two-seat stroller. There was a woman whose grown children now live in Boston. There were several people who chose to walk the course wearing flip-flops. And there were students—a couple dozen students, in fact.

Before the run started, the crowd gathered around Ingber who sought to put the event into its proper perspective. And he did. “There isn’t a race in Cincinnati and a race in Boston,” he said. “There’s only one race—the human race. And we’re all in this together.”

Words to run by.

Xavier Magazine

A Golfer’s Dream

I don’t golf. My life is frustrating enough.

But I know a lot of people who do. And, as a result, I know a lot of people who are soon going to be drooling over the latest addition to Xavier’s sports facilities.

On April 13, the men’s and women’s golf programs are holding one of those ceremonious ribbon cutting events to officially open their new home away from home at the Maketewah Country Club, just a few miles up the road from campus. The new facility is a golfer’s dream. It’s even impressive to someone who doesn’t golf.RUST2789


• It has several all-weather driving bays. If the weather’s nice, open a garage door and the club’s range sits in front of you. If the weather stinks, turn on the heater, turn around and you can drive into a net.

RUST2642  • One bay has six cameras that are hooked to a computer for immediate swing analysis.

• It has an indoor pitching/putting green.

• It has locker rooms with dark-wood lockers that rival the most luxurious country clubs in the country.

• It has a lounge area with a fireplace, TV and leather couches.

RUST2711   • And, it has a customized Cobra club-fitting area and pro shop with all the Puma gear a golfer might want.

The fact that the pro shop sells Cobra-Puma equipment and clothing is, of course, no accident. Bob Philion, a 1993 Xavier graduate and one-time member of the men’s golf team, is now president of Cobra-Puma Golf and the driving force behind the completion of the facility.

[Xavier magazine profiled Philion in the Fall 2011 issue,  and wrote about the facility in the Summer 2012 issue.]

RUST2700I would also suspect Philion will have Xavier’s golfers well armed with customized Cobra clubs and well dressed in Puma clothes from this point on, as well. Imagine that as a selling-point for recruits.

Xavier’s golf program has steadily grown through the years, now reaching a level where Golf Digest ranks it 19th best in the country and No. 1 in the Midwest. Success usually breeds success, but once a program reaches a certain level it’s tough to find something that has such a profound impact that it pushes everything up a notch or two. The indoor practice facility should do just that. It gives Xavier everything the warm-weather college golf programs have—with the possible exception of azalea-lined fairways.

Xavier Magazine

I once sat next to James Buchanan at a lunch. James is the director of Xavier’s Edward B. Brueggeman Center for Dialogue and one of those people who knows just waaaay too much. He’s got degrees from Yale and Chicago. He’s studied and taught in Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Hong Kong. He can talk over your head on just about any subject.

Once we finally got him off his favorite subject, music, we began talking about the Brueggeman Fellows Program, one of the most unique student programs at Xavier, which is endowed privately by the Winter/Cohen family. The program, which he oversees, has no set curriculum, no boundaries, no single purpose outside of learning. Students are asked to submit an idea for a research project they would like to do anywhere in the world.


If Buchanan likes the idea, he gives them a $3,000 travel grant and sends them on their way.


Unlike other study abroad programs that offer some comforts of having someone else do the planning and guiding, it’s up to the student to arrange for boarding, travel in the country, meetings, food, water, whatever they need. The language barrier is theirs to hurdle. They spend a year researching their topic and doing the planning, but then they’re literally on their own.

Which is incredibly uncomfortable for the students since many of them travel to places that aren’t politically stable, safe or on any kind of beaten path. Nepal. Iceland. Iran. Syria. Colombia. The Yukon Territory.

susanLloydIt’s also incredibly uncomfortable for Buchanan, as I found out during lunch. I asked him how he sleeps when the students are bouncing around the globe completely on their own. He doesn’t, he said. They’re required to check in via email every so often. Otherwise, he sweats it out until they arrive back on campus, which can stretch anywhere from  five weeks to nine months.

Not sleeping can take its toll. But, he said, it’s worth it. The end result is a student who is completely transformed in a way unlike anything else they can get in college.

Brett%20sutton1This will be Buchanan’s eighth summer sleepless in Cincinnati. The program has established itself pretty firmly, and through an email I received this morning, it has also established a new presence on the web—

The website offers profiles of Fellows and their projects, news, details about the program, yadda, yadda, yadda. But it also has a really fun feature: a map of the world that marks the locations of where the Fellows have traveled. So far, they’ve landed in 40 different countries.Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 2.27.20 PM (2)

The world is supposedly flat now. Small, and getting smaller. But as I look at the map I can’t help but think that it’s still a pretty large place. And venturing out into it—especially as a college student, alone—would be a journey filled with fear and fascination. But isn’t that, after all, what college is all about? Xavier offers many ways to achieve that. But it seems to me this is by far the best.

Xavier Magazine

Snow, Suffering and the Human Soul

The human soul is a marvelous thing. Although outside of the abilities of science to pinpoint, its existence is hard to deny. We’ve seen too many times the terrors of its tormented dark side—Sept. 11, Columbine, Newtown. Such reckless disregard for humanity goes beyond any anger capable of being produced by the mind and can only be regurgitated out of a hateful, hurtful soul. Yet we’ve also seen the compassion capable of being produced by a light and loving soul.

urlWhy else would first responders run into the World Trade Center towers? Why else would someone risk their own life to save another? When faced with those situations, everything in the rational mind says no. Something else must say yes.

I bring this up because of a story I just read by Rob Walsh, a 1991 graduate who makes a living as an English teacher in Stratford, Conn., teaching young adults how to write. He also practices what he preaches as a columnist for two local newspapers—one is the Stratford Sun, the other is the Fairfield Star. All he’s missing is the moon, but that’s another story.

This story is about how he spent his Saturday morning two weeks ago when the East Coast got buried by several feet of snow. It’s a story filled with a string of either remarkable coincidences or minor miracles, I’m not sure which. It’s also a story that, well, warms the soul. In the end, decisions were made and a life was saved. I won’t bore you with my rendition of what happened. I’ll simply let him tell it by providing a link to his column.

Xavier Magazine

I do. A lot.

In working to help put together all of the admissions materials, it becomes apparent that Xavier—in some subtle but evident ways—helps self-select its students. That is, we make it apparent that these are our values and beliefs, and if they don’t line up with what you, as a prospective student, are looking for, then perhaps Xavier isn’t your best choice. And that’s OK.

unknownThat helps some students avoid the frustration of dealing with things like Xavier’s Core Curriculum or emphasis on ethics. It helps Xavier retain its students and know that the ones who are here are interested in becoming men and women for others. It also helps explain why so many Xavier students end up marrying each other.

Or so it seems. As the person who edits Class Notes in Xavier magazine, the number of wedding announcements submitted from alumni seems to be endless. And growing. (If that’s possible.)

Yet another one found its way to may email box this week—Jon and Elizabeth Baker. The couple, as it turns out, met in their final class—a management course held on, of all times, Saturday mornings. I’m sure they looked their best for the class. The class isn’t offered every semester, and they both needed it to graduate. They got placed in the same small group in the class to do a project, and before they knew it they were spending more time together out of class as they were in class.

“My father always asked why I was dating a UC student when starting school at XU,” says Elizabeth. “He always said, ‘You need to find yourself a good Xavier man, Elizabeth.’ Well he got his way you could say.”

Jon and Elizabeth aren’t alone. There are dozens of stories of Xavier couples. Some have been known to propose on the X in the middle of the Academic Mall. Some have been known to get married in Bellarmine Chapel or have a Xavier Jesuit officiate. Some have even been known to hold their wedding reception at the Cintas Center and have their wedding photos taken on the X on the basketball court. (Now that’s hardcore.)

Maybe it’s something in Xavier’s water. Maybe it’s something about Xavier’s campus. Or, just maybe, it’s something in the subtle way Xavier attracts its students. Hmm.

Xavier Magazine

Going Retro

For a number of years, I had a Xavier basketball sitting on the bookshelf in my office. It was light blue with the old sports logo—the one where the Musketeer is decked out in knee-high boots and feathered hat, and is dribbling a basketball as its cape blows in the wind.

I call that old school. Others call it retro. The sports marketing world calls it a throwback. Throwbacks are big these days. Hats, jerseys. Some people are really into throwback gear because it brings back memories. Really, though, the purpose of throwbacks is marketing and money. Teams wear the gear once and then it’s sold at a premium afterward, its uniqueness making it valuable.

The fact that the gear is sold is not much of a surprise. If you want to know why anything in the world of sports (and in life) is done just follow the money.

The question, though, becomes what happens to the money? Most often it goes back into the budget. Occasionally, however, it goes to a greater cause. Such as the case of Xavier’s latest sports marketing effort.

In a game on Jan. 12, the men’s basketball team wore special uniforms. They weren’t throwbacks, but they were unique and were created with the intention of auctioning them off after the game to make money. What made them unique is that instead of saying “Xavier” across the chest, the jerseys were all inscribed with the words “Sandy Hook”—the name of the grade school in Connecticut where 20 children were gunned down in December. The uniforms were trimmed in the school’s green colors and included the school’s mascot, an eagle, on the shorts.

The idea of the uniforms and auction came from Xavier’s coaches and players, and it caught the attention of Scott Zimmer of Frankenmuth, Mich., some 300 miles north of Cincinnati. Zimmer is a member of the city’s school board and a longtime neighbor of Brad Redford, Xavier’s senior shooting guard. Redford used to babysit Zimmer’s sons, and Zimmer thought buying the uniform would be a good way to honor both Redford and Sandy Hook. So he sent out a few emails explaining his idea.

Within 10 minutes the responses—and contributions—started rolling in. Over the course of the next two weeks, he collected $4,000 from 34 families and businesses, who donated anywhere from $20 to $500.

On Jan. 12, a group from Frankenmuth came down to attend the Xavier game against George Washington University, collect their jersey and return it to Michigan, where it will be put on display in Redford’s old high school.

In all, 26 Sandy Hook items were purchased (the jerseys and shorts were sold separately) and $10,250 raised. The money was donated to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

In today’s society, it’s easy to get a bit cynical about all the gimmicks and promotions and money-making efforts that take place in sports. Which is why, I think, it’s even that much more refreshing when efforts like this take place—where decisions are made and actions are taken not for profit but for the greater good. And where the results make a difference to the lives of others in places like Frankenmuth, Mich., and Newtown, Conn.

Xavier Magazine

A Glimmer of Hope

There’s a photo hanging in our office, just outside my door. It’s the cover of a Xavier magazine, actually, although not one that ever saw the printing press. It’s a mock-up those of us in the office created to give to one of our former writers, Jacob Baynham, on the day he left Xavier to move back to Montana. In the photo, Jacob is sitting on a yak. His size 12 shoes are squeezed into tiny stirrups dangling from a tiny saddle. He’s holding on to a single rope, which is attached to a ring in the yak’s nose.

“Westward,” the headline reads. “Jacob heads home to Montana, turning his yak to the sun to spend his days with family, friends and fish.”

Jacob has led an interesting life—at least in comparison to most of us. In addition to having ridden a yak, he chose to attend high school in India, where his family lived through part of his youth. He returned to the U.S. to attend college at the University of Montana—so chosen not for academic reasons but because there was good fly fishing near campus. After graduating, he ventured back into the world without a job or money, exploring parts of Asia, India and the Middle East. That trek took him to Afghanistan, which is where the yak photo was taken.

From time to time, as news of the country made the headlines because of the war, he would tell us stories about his stay in the region. The stories were almost always about the people—about how good they were, which seemed to contradict the messages the grew from the war. No Taliban. No Al Qaeda. No terrorists. Perhaps he just didn’t hang out in the right places.

I was reminded of Jacob and the yak photo recently because of an email that arrived in my inbox. I get a lot of emails each day, and sometimes the effort to reply to all of them gets to be a bit overwhelming. But this one caught my attention. It came from a woman who was corresponding with a young man in Afghanistan, who told her he has never known anything in his country but war. She was shocked and saddened by this, so she created a page on Facebook where people could upload pictures of how Afghanistan used to be when, as she says, “his country was open to the world.”

What she wanted from Xavier was contact information for two alumni who wrote a story for the magazine’s website about their experience in Afghanistan. After a dozen years worth of magazines, I couldn’t recall the specific article she was referring to, but a site search quickly revealed the story. “Afghanistan Revisited,” was the title. It ran as a web exclusive with the Winter 2002 issue, the first issue after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.

The alums, Elana and Michael Hohl, recalled their days in the country and how little has changed in the 30 years since they were there. But then they offered a glimmer of hope. “Perhaps something good can still come from this death and destruction. Events since Sept. 11 have served to put Afghanistan and indeed the while Middle East, on the map. [Hopefully] the country may yet have a chance to build a stable, prosperous and terrorist-free future, a goal which would be in the best interest of the entire world.”

I forwarded the email to the Hohls, as well as to Jacob, thinking they might have something to contribute to the Facebook site—something that offers a picture of the Afghanistan they once knew and give a boy a glimpse of a world he has never known: one without war.

Xavier Magazine

The Monk Next Door

For a year and a half I lived next door to a Tibetan monk. While this might not be unusual in Tibet, it’s not what one expects in suburban Cincinnati. Still, it was an interesting—if not enlightening—experience.

Consider, for instance, the first time we met. After standing on the sidewalk and talking for about 15 minutes, he looked at me and nonchalantly summed me up:

“I can see you’re a good, average man,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said. “I think.”

He went by the name Gexe—pronounced Gee-she—which really isn’t as much of a name as it is a title. Gexe literally translates into “knowledgeable,” but it’s more like an academic title for someone who earned a religious doctorate. Kind of like calling someone with a Ph.D. a doctor.

Every day I would see Gexe in his burgundy and gold clothes walking to or from the library down the block. Sometimes I would see him outside snipping a bud from a row of wild flowers to take inside to symbolize nature for his prayers. When I would get up early in the morning to run, I would always see his light on and I could hear him ringing the bell that is part of the Buddhist prayer ritual.

“Why do you ring the bell?” I once asked.

“Oh,” he said with a laugh. “That’s just to keep me from falling asleep when I pray. Ah ha ha ha ha.”

We came to be neighbors when the elderly woman who lived next door died, and her son and daughter debated what to do with the house. It was the home they grew up in. He wanted to sell; she didn’t. So while their debate raged on, they agreed to at least have someone watch the house. Interestingly, she had heard at her parish of a Buddhist monk from Tibet who was in the area and needed a place to stay. A week later there was a monk next door.

Although he was outgoing, quick to laugh and as harmless as one would expect from a monk, people from the area would stare at him as he walked or carefully avoid making any kind of contact. Perhaps one of the reasons we got along so well while he was here was because I would take the time to say hi and talk.

When he found out I worked at a Catholic university, he would ask, “What’s the latest news from Rome?”

I would simply shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know. The pope didn’t call today.”

“Ah ha ha ha.”

Our proximity to the local library was ideal for him, as his life was about learning and enlightenment, particularly as it related to the Dalai Lama. Gexe was an ardent follower of the Dalai Lama and would search the Web daily to find out the latest news about the exiled Tibetan religious leader.

Once during a backyard conversation that had, inevitably, turned to the Dalai Lama, he ran back to his house and returned with one of his most prized—and only—possessions: a framed 3×5-inch photo. Those who earn the title of Gexe must defend their dissertations before a 16-member panel of high-ranking lamas, and the day he defended his, the Dalai Lama showed up. So there he was, this young monk in the middle of his defense, with the Dalai Lama seated a few feet away.

While our religious beliefs were vastly different, we never let that get in the way. I even felt somewhat privileged when he asked me to help him meet some of his Buddhist needs. The Buddhists have a tradition, for instance, of going to the highest ground on a certain holy day and spending time in prayer. He wanted to do this in Eden Park and asked if I would take him. I did. I later helped him e-mail a letter to a newspaper defending the Dalai Lama.

One other time he came over all upset. His hair clippers had broken and his hair was getting too long. Since most of the time when we saw each other I was outside trying to fix something on our old house, I guess he figured I might be able to fix his hair clippers as well. If nothing else, I had a lot of tools. So he brought the clippers over and, somehow, I managed to get them working again. He was most grateful.

Then, one day, Gexe was gone. The sister finally decided she was ready to sell the house, so he had to leave. I haven’t seen him since.

I was reminded of him, though, when I learned about the Brueggeman Center bringing Tibetan monks to campus from April 10-14. The monks are spending the week in the library creating a Mandala—a large, highly detailed picture made with millions of grains of colored sand—as well as teaching such arts as butter sculpture and sand painting.

Buddhist monks are not all the same, I once learned during one of our conversations. Some don’t follow the Dalai Lama. These particular monks do, though. They’re brothers in the cloth, sort of. So I’m wondering if Gexe will be there. I’m hoping so. It’s always nice to catch up with old neighbors.

Xavier Magazine

Serving Others Fit to a T

When I was in high school, we had a “College T-shirt Day,” in which those who were going to college were encouraged to wear a T-shirt showing the school they were attending. The chosen day was around the same time as students on the yearbook staff were walking around the hallways and classrooms searching for anything and everything to take a picture of in order to fill the book’s pages.

All of this came flooding back to me not too long ago after I received an invitation for a class reunion. The event marked a certain milestone for our class year and was set to take place in a hotel ballroom not too far from the scene of the crime. .

For several days I kicked around the notion of attending the event—or not. My college of choice was located some 500 miles away, and upon packing my bags and stepping into the next level of my life, I never really returned to the area. Winter vacations were spent elsewhere and summers were typically spent on campus. And unlike today, when students keep in contact with their high school friends at other colleges via text messaging and cell phones, I quickly lost touch with the people I knew. They were, essentially, strangers now. So I debated. Would I remember everyone? Would I forget memories that were supposed to be burned into my brain? Did I really want to dig up those embarrassing moments of youthful stupidity? .

Eventually, sanity overruled fear, and I decided to go. It was great fun. Before I went, though, I went digging through the dusty locker where all of my yearbooks, pictures and assorted memory-joggers are stored. I pulled out my senior class yearbook and began thumbing through it, recalling names and faces and, just for the moment, reliving pieces of my past. .

It was then, while looking at the photos, the memories of “College T-shirt Day” came back to me. I’m sure the school’s administration came up with the idea in an effort to show a little pride in how many seniors decided to continue their education. As I looked at the photos, though, what I remember most was the pride each student showed on that particular day in his or her college choice. The college they chose became, in a way, a part of them. .

And in many ways, that never ends. We are, and will forever be, the college we attended. To some, the connection is stronger than with others. But it’s there. And it’s something that continues down through the generations. Last week I returned from vacation out West, and while sitting in the airport waiting to return home, I glanced up and noticed a family walking toward me. What caught my attention was the college-age son was wearing a Xavier T-shirt. .

With the offices of the national alumni association just down the hall, I hear stories regularly about people who run into Xavier grads all over the world—usually identifying them by a piece of clothing. I once got a letter from a gentleman who received a Burnes of Boston picture frame for Christmas, and the picture that came with the frame was of a young couple, one of whom was wearing a Xavier hat. .

One of the many things that make Xavier so special, though, is that it can take something as simple as a piece of clothing and turn it into something more. Last year some folks at the University bookstore came up with an idea to create an annual Xavier T-shirt contest. Students would submit design concepts, and the winning design would be made into a T-shirt, which would become the collector’s item of the year. .

The end result was the “Xavier Nation” T-shirt that featured a photo of the University’s first basketball team on the back. Students bought them in hordes. And wore them with pride. But the end result was also $6,400 in profits. Rather than keeping the money, though, it was given to Matthew 25: Ministries, a local non-profit organization. Suddenly a T-shirt wasn’t just a T-shirt. It was a T-shirt for the greater good. And that’s worth being proud about.

Xavier Magazine

Loftier Dreams of Dorm Living

Early in my freshman year, my roommate, John, and I pooled together what little funds we had, trekked off to the local home improvement store and picked up some lumber, a handful of bolts and some wood stain. We had a plan.

The rooms in this particular residence hall were long and rectangular, with built-in closets at one end, built-in desks at the other and a couple of beds sandwiched in between. The room was cramped, sterile and barely left enough room to walk down the middle. What we were after with our collection of building materials was a little space. The way I saw it, the architect who drew up the blueprints for the residence hall was only interested in the economics of the building—squeezing in as many rooms and people as possible so the University could make as much money as possible. He had absolutely no interest designing for comfort or quality of life. And why not? After all, he didn’t have to live there.

We did, though. So we hauled our building materials back to our room and put our plan in motion. Our plan wasn’t original. It was one of those hand-me-down ideas from some previous generation of students that you hear about when you first move in and wonder how in the world you are ever going to live in such tiny, cramped quarters. Others in the hall built bunk beds to alleviate the limitations, which was fine. That freed up space in half the room. But our plan was more ambitious. Our plan was to build an A-frame-shaped loft that would raise both beds off the ground and free up all the space underneath.

So we found an old handsaw and an auger to drill the holes (power tools were out of our price range) and began construction. We moved our beds out into the hallway, laid out the wood and started building. Blueprints or any type of printed plans were, of course, nowhere to be found. We just winged it based on someone else’s description, making adjustments and alterations as we went along.

It took the better part of a day, but in the end it worked. We found a piece of carpeting, plugged in a mini-refrigerator, plopped down a couple of beanbag chairs and were living large.

That structure served us well. A lot of people commented on it. Some people copied it. Some really didn’t care, shaking their heads in disbelief and preferring to just live with what they got. For us, though, the loft made life in the dorms much more tolerable. Why suffer through the confines of what you’re given when a little ingenuity and effort can dramatically improve matters? Your home is your home, after all, no matter if it’s in a college dorm or a mansion on a hill.

And that’s one of the thoughts that led us to create the “Extreme Makeover: Dorm Edition” story in the summer issue of Xavier magazine. Xavier’s dorms are typically much nicer and accommodating to student life than they were back in the day—and they almost have to be since students today are used to a certain standard of living and will use the quality of their rooms as a factor in deciding where to go to school.

We had heard some stories about how students at other universities go to great lengths and expense to fix up their rooms. Some international students fixed theirs with a flair from their homeland. Others just brought in expensive accessories. We wondered if that was the case at Xavier, too, so we put out a call for dorm photos.

We also wondered what it would take to move a room from normal to nice, so we called a couple of Xavier grads who work in the home decorating business. We gave them $300—a reasonable expense account—and a list of regulations on what can and can’t be done with dorm rooms. “See what you can do,” we told them. They went to town and made over two dorm rooms, one for a pair of guys and one for a pair of girls. The end result? You’ll have to see for yourself. With photos from photographer Greg Rust and audio commentary from associate editor Caroline Purtell, we put together a slide show documenting the transformations. How did the rooms turn out? You be the judge. Click here to watch.

The students liked them, though. And why not? After all, your home is still your home, even if it’s in a college dorm.