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The Ethics Guy

If you’re known as The Ethics Guy and plan to wade into a room full of bankers, Xavier’s as good a place as any to take the dive. If nothing else, at least there are priests close by to administer Last Rites.

Luckily, if you’re Bruce Weinstein—a columnist for Business Week, regular on CNN, NBC, FOX News, et al, not to mention consultant to the NFL and other big-name clients—his appearance at Xavier’s Distinguished Speakers Series on March 7 was just another gig. But an ethical gig.

The speaker series provided the venue for Weinstein’s distinctive Socratic stand-up wit, presenting a ethics primer in the form for a conversation between him and his audience.

“You wake up one morning with the flu. Raise your hand if you stay home and rest.”

A hand raises and Weinstein instantly channels his inner Phil Donahue wading into the crowd. “Why would you stay home and rest?” he asks a nicely dressed young man. “So I wouldn’t get other people sick,” he says. Seems reasonable.

“Who would stay home and work?” Ah, hah…suddenly just resting seems to have taken a back seat to a more noble alternative. But Weinstein is quick to add to his ethical conundrum. “Who would go to work and avoid socializing with people?” And to that he adds the punch line…”and who would go to work, but only socialize with people you don’t like?”

So it goes in Weinstein’s conversation (as he calls it) on ethics. Honesty, truth, respect, fairness, caring and more get a work out as he works the room. Luckily, the answers to life’s ethical questions both large and small can be subjected to the five basic questions presented in his book Ethical Intelligence: Will this cause harm? Will this make things better? Will this respect others? Is this fair? Is this caring?

And in 45 minutes a gathering of seemingly reasonable and self-evidently ethical strangers have given their own personal code a quick tune up, publically confessing to mostly minor transgressions, culminating in two people willing to admit they sometimes felt unappreciated. For that effort they were brought to the stage and given a 30-second standing ovation from the audience.

“So why should you be caring and compassionate about how you treat people? It’s the right thing to do. But it also makes you feel better.”

And for those two, the bravely underappreciated, dessert was served twice.

Ready to put your own credo to the test? Go to TheEthicsGuy.com and prepare to squirm, maybe just a little.

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Xavier Magazine

Applied Knowledge

The real success of education is not knowledge but applied knowledge—that is, taking what you learn and being able to apply it in the real world. Which is why five sociology students got a great education from a new class. The class was based on the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and done in collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which was hosting an exhibit called “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” The exhibit is about how the worldwide oppression of women is one of the most pervasive human rights causes today, and how creating gender equality can help solve many of the world’s most severe problems—poverty, violence, child mortality. The students took their classroom experience and served as guides and educators at the museum.

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Xavier Magazine

A Smashing Good Time

Benton Farms is a 260-acre working farm located about 30 miles south of Xavier in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Each fall the farm grows patches and patches of pumpkins, which it offers to Halloween fans from around the region. Once Halloween is over, though, the remaining pumpkins need to be chopped up so they can be broken down into compost. It’s a messy and laborious chore.

Enter the Xavier Navigators—and their baseball bats. The Christian ministry club, which is part of a larger international organization, typically meets for Bible studies. But in November, the group took a little trip to Benton Farms and spent a good chunk of the day—and several hours into the night—smashing pumpkins. They left covered in pumpkin mush and joyously chocked up the entire experience to team building.
John “Papa” Benton appreciated the help, even though he may have been confused by the enthusiasm of the students to beat and batter pumpkins until they were covered with seeds and slime. If it helps the youth, he says, he’s glad to do whatever he can.

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Xavier Magazine

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.

 
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Xavier Magazine

A Smashing Good Time

Benton Farms is a 260-acre working farm located about 30 miles south of Xavier in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Each fall the farm grows patches and patches of pumpkins, which it offers to Halloween fans from around the region. Once Halloween is over, though, the remaining pumpkins need to be chopped up so they can be broken down into compost. It’s a messy and laborious chore.

Enter the Xavier Navigators—and their baseball bats. The Christian ministry club, which is part of a larger international organization, typically meets for Bible studies. But in November, the group took a little trip to Benton Farms and spent a good chunk of the day—and several hours into the night—smashing pumpkins. They left covered in pumpkin mush and joyously chocked up the entire experience to team building.

John “Papa” Benton appreciated the help, even though he may have been confused by the enthusiasm of the students to beat and batter pumpkins until they were covered with seeds and slime. If it helps the youth, he says, he’s glad to do whatever he can.

 

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Xavier Magazine

Ethics, honesty and Erin Brockovich

The Cintas Center Banquet Room was packed with students, professors and visitors from off campus on Monday, March 25. They all came to see Erin Brockovich.

Many were disappointed.

Or at least confused.

“It surprises me how many people see me and say, ‘You’re not Julia Roberts,’ ” Brokovich says, eliciting laughs from the audience.

Brockovich was a single mother struggling for a job back in 1993 when she found herself as the driving force behind the largest medical lawsuit in history. Her story of uncovering corruption and upholding ethics was portrayed by Roberts in the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich. The role won Roberts an Academy Award and Brockovich national recognition—although, perhaps, in name only.

Brockovich’s efforts also won her the role of speaker at this year’s Heroes of Professional Ethics Lecture Series, the annual event that has now drawn such ethical dignitaries as whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper and Sherron Watkins, and forger-turned-FBI agent Frank Abagnale.

RUST3269But Brockovich’s quest for doing what’s right hasn’t stopped with the $2 billion lawsuit over Pacific Gas and Electric that pushed her into the spotlight. Since then, she’s continued to hold large companies responsible for their damages to the environment, because, she says, when the environment is harmed, so is the community. Covering up environmental damages causes not only health concerns but destroys any trust the company may have had with the community.

“PG&E’s deceit cost them $2 billion, Brockovich says. “Think about how they could have used that $2 billion had they been honest.”

And that was the heart of the issue. Honesty. And the heart of her talk.

“Our ethics, our choices make us,” Brockovich says. “Sometimes we feel like we have no choice, like when a disaster strikes, but our reactions are choices. And they help us change the course.”

Brockovich believes we have the power to help ourselves, pointing to her “RAM system” as an illustration. RAM stands for Realization, Assessment and Motivation. Realization is to recognize who you are, what you are capable of and then finally taking action. Assessment is to take stock of who you are, assessing you skills, values and beliefs, to determine if you are happy with yourself. If you are not, she says, start over and don’t fear change. The final piece is motivation, which she says is the key to success. Find out what inspires you and reflect.RUST3401

When the three work together, she says, anything can be achieved.

—Sean McMahon

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Xavier Magazine

The Office

When associate professor of English Stephen Yandell was in high school, he began collecting Scandinavian shelves for his ever-growing book collection—shelves that have, as it turned out, followed him to college, then grad school and finally to Xavier where they have taken up residence in his Hinkle Hall office. Cleverly arranged to create an arched doorway just inside the main door, the shelves give him the space to display the 1,100-plus volumes he’s collected over the years, which are neatly arranged by categories: literature (think medieval Beowulf, Tolkien and the Canterbury Tales), language (linguistics) and literary criticism.

The draping plants and welcoming gargoyle on the top shelf help create a homey feel. “I want students to know they’re in a welcoming space,” says Yandell, who was voted Teacher of the Year last year by University students. “The doorway gives me more book space but also when the students come in, we will sit together and talk. They can’t sit by the door.”

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Xavier Magazine

Smile Service

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.”

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Xavier Magazine

Bookmarks: Religious Faith and Reason

Xavier graduate Frank B. Nieman just released his new theological book, Religious Faith and Reason: A Brief Introduction. In his younger days, Nieman took part in an experimental professional evangelist program for the Catholic laity in San Francisco.Although the program ended after Vatican II, Neiman’s experiences and background, including holding a master’s degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology, led him to see how reason was influencing not only his conversion but also his preaching.

Nieman believes human reason is the greatest gift the Creator has given us. As a result, he claims religion’s origins, content and effects on the world should be subject to a rational analysis. Religious Faith and Reason: A Brief Introduction introduces the concept of rational analysis, which Nieman demonstrates through Christianity. Although he warns there may be a few heresies within his approach, he welcomes reader feedback.

The book can be ordered at AmazonBarnes and Noble and other bookstores.

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Xavier Magazine

Mike and a Bike

Professor of computer science Michael Goldweber has a head for numbers and a backside born for a bike saddle. Consider this equation: Goldweber has a wanderlust rivaling the most far-flung of Jesuits. Add to that a certification as a professional bike tour guide and what do you get? A bottom line of Goldweber logging more recreational miles on two wheels than most of us have achieved within the cozy confines of a car. Not that he’s counting.

But a few quick calculation reveals impressive numbers.

“My first real trip, in 1982, was from Albuquerque, N.M., to Golden, Colo. (460 miles). Then I rode from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Cleveland (913 miles). In 1985 I spent six months touring from Colorado to Fairbanks then down to Anchorage (around 3,400 miles), then headed back until I ran out of money.”

Next came career, marriage and family—but the biking bug proved incurable.

“So I’m in a real job and I wanted to continue doing trips, but my wife was uncomfortable with me riding alone. So I became a professional tour guide. A tour group is typically 10-12 people. It’s whoever has signed up for the trip. It’s a nice mix—male, female, young and old. People have different reasons for going on the trip. There’s never been a trip that I’ve led that had someone who couldn’t handle it physically. If they stick with it for three or four days, then they can handle it. If they’re not in shape, they’re going to get in shape really quick.”

When Goldweber extolls the virtues of bike touring, one does feel the urge to take notes, because there just may be a test at the end of the trail.

“Biking is a great way to travel,” he says. “It’s fast enough that you get someplace and slow enough that you see everything. It’s not like the Tour de France. It’s really touring. We take a bicycle, put a front and back rack on it, then add saddlebags—two in the front and two in the back and you load them up with everything you’re going to need—so we’re talking tent, sleeping bag, food, clothing, stove, fuel. Fully loaded you’re carrying 40-50 pounds of gear and you can go forever. You just have to stop and buy food.“

Provided that you can actually stop.

“Downhills are fun. You’re loaded with fifty pounds of gear screaming down a hill. You can get fast if you want to be fast. I do know that one time I’m coming down this road in the Canadian Rockies called the Ice Fields Parkway. It’s between Jasper and Banff. We’re coming down out of the Continental Divide and it’s sleeting. So there’s a lot of this icy rain kind of thing. I’m passing cars because I’m just screaming down the hill.”

Although he can’t say how fast he was really going.

“I don’t have a speedometer. I don’t have a odometer. I’m not a techy person that way. I’m not into the miles. I’m not into the numbers. Anything that has to be plugged in or buy a battery for, I’m not really keen on that— except for flashlights. Flashlights are a good thing. Everyone says I’m a luddite when it comes to gadgets. I’m not really keen on that kind of technology. I’d rather see the stars.”

And whatever else there is to see—or run from.

“I’ve had grizzly encounters,” he says. “Grizzly’s are different from black bears. They’re opportunistic feeders and we’re not on the menu. First thing to do is too move slowly so the sun is behind you to make yourself appear as large as possible. They have very bad eyesight. They have a very keen sense of smell though, so you want to figure out if you’re upwind or downwind. You want to get the sun behind you and cast as big a shadow as you can. And you want to talk in a very low voice. I said ‘I’m a scrawny little Jewish guy and I don’t taste very good.’ ”

These days, Goldweber’s touring is family focused but still ambitious. “My son and I are going to do a two-week trip in Alaska. It’s the same one I led many years ago. “

Not that his group touring days are over, they’re just becoming a bit more refined.

“I’d love to do a Xavier alumni inn-to-inn tour on the bourbon trail. Every night you end up at a nice bed-and-breakfast. During the day you ride and stop at a distillery, take the tour, then a nice dinner at night. I’d love to do that. As I get older, my need to be sleeping on the hard ground in the wilderness is still there, but I don’t mind a bed.“

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