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Xavier Magazine

A Slow Karter Goes Full Throttle

Full disclosure: I like racing. But going fast in a car? Not so much.

My 14-year-old son calls me Mr. Slow. So the day he came home with the fastest lap from a birthday party held at a go-kart track, the challenge was clear. Mr. Slow needs to quit putt-putt-puttering around and pick up the pace. Luckily, Joe O’Gorman offers a solution. 

The 1986 communication arts graduate is a racing enthusiast, self-confessed “serial opportunist” and the owner of Full Throttle Indoor Karting, an indoor racetrack designed to satisfy those with the racing bug and a need for speed. 

But abandon all preconceptions of a mom-and-pop roadside kart track. Full Throttle proclaims itself as “Go Kart Racing Like You’ve Never Experienced.” Built in a 50,000-square-foot structure originally designed as a candy factory, it now satisfies an insatiable speed tooth. Or, as O’Gorman tells me, “We have everything you need. Just arrive and race.”

Watch as author Michael Shaw takes a lap around the track. Slowly.

[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu7Voogovo4&feature=youtu.be”]speedishracer[/lightbox]

And while 95 percent of customers just show up for fun, many professional drivers now get their start behind the wheel of a kart. “Sam Hornish Jr. was up at the Kentucky Speedway for a charity event. NASCAR invited a lot of the press here to run a challenge against Sam. He was pretty quick.”

So who gets behind the wheel? Birthday parties, leagues, aspiring Formula 1 drivers, boy’s-night-outers, even just someone just walking in off the street. “Our customers run from someone who has never done it before, casual customers who love go-karting, to semi-pro and pro drivers.”

The expertly designed, 14-corner track can accommodate all the skill you can muster behind the wheel. The karts can also be remote-controlled by a transponder, so if you’re naughty and get black flagged—racing lingo for disqualified—someone will flip the switch and literally park you. There are three flag stands located throughout the course that allow employees to get to customers quickly, usually to turn a kart around after a spin or perform a tire-wall extraction.

O’Gorman offers me a little rookie advice: “Passing usually doesn’t happen through the straightaway. At the narrowest it’s just over16 feet and it’s possible to go three-wide at any point.”

FullThrottleMemEmailThe secret to speed? Being smooth and finding “the fast line.” I’m informed that the fast line is not always obvious to a beginner but becomes apparent after a few sessions. Plus my propensity for slowness comes from a sense of self-preservation, which is not usually a bad thing, except for a racer. But these karts are fast, small, precise and designed to be driven full-out. The 270cc Honda engines can hit 40 mph.

Up to 10 karts can race at a time making for a pretty full field. And it doesn’t take long to get lapped—or at least it didn’t for me. Basically, the driving technique lives up to the name “full throttle,” with only three or four turns where braking is needed (and even then only optional). “Make sure you get some heat into your tires. And have fun.”

So that’s what I’m doing. Zipped into my racing suit, helmet strapped, gripping the wheel at two and 10, Mr. Slow takes off. As far as my lap time? Hey, what’s a fast time really matter when you’re having a good time?

Check out the Full Throttle website

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Xavier Magazine

Human Trafficking: 21st Century Slavery

Harold and Dancy D’Souza arrived from India in 2003 excited about the future in America for them and their two boys.

But their dreams were soon dashed when they realized the family friend—a man they called “uncle” who promised a great life in America—had no interest in their well-being. To him, they were something else: slaves.

By 2007, out of work, homeless and destitute, the family was turning to charity to get by. Through a local church, they were introduced to Jessica Donohue-Dioh who knew right away what was going on. “They were victims of human trafficking,” she says.

While it’s somewhat hard to believe slavery still exists in the 21st century, human trafficking for sex or labor is the second fastest-growing criminal network in the world. The U.S. is a top destination for sex trafficking; the average age of forced prostitution in the U.S. is 13.

Donohue-Dioh, a 2004 social work graduate who now teaches at Xavier, has become a nationally recognized authority on trafficking and victimization and a sought-out speaker and educator on the subject. She’s also the founder with a local YMCA of End Slavery Cincinnati, a non-profit organization that provides education to the community and services to victims.

“I was blown away with the realization of what was going on in our community,” she says. “I realized a lot of people I’d known in Cincinnati were greatly at risk. The D’Souzas were our first case. The most important thing I did for them was to identify what had happened to them as human trafficking.”

That allowed the Department of Health and Human Services to label D’Souza as a certified victim of human trafficking. Their case was classic: working long hours for no pay; their savings and official papers taken; access only to food from the restaurant where they worked; the constant threat of deportation. When they finally went to the police, the uncle kicked them out.

As official victims, however, the family became eligible for services such as rent support, food stamps and Medicaid. During their ordeal, the D’Souzas never gave up hope, and Harold eventually got permission to work and is now celebrating more than five years at Children’s Hospital. This spring, the whole family received permanent residency status.

Most important, though, they are now free.

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Xavier Magazine

Educating Youth…and All That Jazz

Kathy Wade is a jazz icon. For proof, you need look no further than the logo created for the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival. The highly stylized chanteuse bears a striking resemblance to her.

“Everyone tells me that, but only the designer knows for sure.”

This also is one diva with advanced education—a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in art administration. “I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old. I always sang. It is nice to have a talent. It’s better to have some degrees.”

And to put those degrees to use. Which she does. In 1992, Wade combined her passions for the arts, education and community development by co-founding Learning Through Art, a non-profit using art as a means of creating community engagement and understanding. That serves as her day-to-day vocation.

Learn about Learning Through Art
Learn about the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival

She also helped launch the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival, a two-day outdoor festival in Cincinnati celebrating the history, legacy and joy of jazz—including a jazz camp for high schoolers organized through Learning Through Art. That serves as the showcase for the talent that helped lift her into the spotlight—her voice.

When Wade first launched the festival in 1996, it was a one-night-only, black-tie, sit-down dinner cabaret featuring vocal luminaries the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Eartha Kit, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn and others. In the past few years, though, the festival itself has undergone an impressive metamorphesis, evolving into a two-day, multi-venue music festival. Wade sees this as part of her mission not only to keep jazz alive, but also to thrive.

“In growing anything, you have to keep the audience growing.”

For Wade, jazz and education produce a parallel passion. As CEO of Learning Through Art she has helped to produce Art Books Alive for Kids, a nationally recognized performing arts literacy program. Proceeds from the festival help fund these programs while promoting a “global jazz village for literacy.”

 So while the “crown jewels” evolve with the times, Wade’s devotion to jazz and education remains fundamental. “For me, in the evolution of music, jazz will always influence the mainstream. It’s America’s classical music.”

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Xavier Magazine

Girl Geeks: Computing Education

A funny thing happened to Jill Pala on her way to becoming a high school math teacher. She found out she was a computer geek. And she liked it. A lot. Better than math.

“I had no idea what it was before I took it, but the logic was so interesting.”

Naturally, she wanted to ditch the math and study computer science. Trouble was, the classes at Xavier were guy-heavy—which was only sort of a problem—but mostly she was at a huge disadvantage because her all-girls high school in Chattanooga, Tenn., never offered computer science. 

So she took extra classes at Xavier to catch up with the boys and joined a small group of like-minded girls majoring in computer science as encouragement. And it worked. She graduated in 2001 and landed a job right away in private industry.

Not giving up on her original desire to teach, though, Pala is now in the classroom at that same all-girls high school she attended, only teaching computer science instead. And doing quite well. Of the 71 girls in Tennessee who took the AP computer science test in 2013, 30 were from her class.

“It’s sad that one school can make such a difference. I wish more schools taught computer science
so that one school could not skew the data so much,” she says. “It’s great that our program has grown so much, but it shouldn’t be such an anomaly.”

Learn more about girls and the computer gap.

It wasn’t always the case, though. After a slow start, she began recruiting girls in honors classes and held computer contests and demonstrations to raise the image of girl geeks. Her numbers jumped. Suddenly computers were cool.

The school eventually made computer science its own department, which Pala now chairs, and now offers a range of courses. Pala says computer science should be required for graduation to increase the diversity of students going into the field, where jobs are plentiful and pay is good.

“In some sense, every girl that goes into computing has to be a little bit of a pioneer because today, only 17-18 percent of computer science degrees awarded are to females,” she says. “The computing field recognizes diversity is important because a diverse set of people finds a diverse set of solutions.”

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Xavier Magazine

A Career of Amusement: Life on the Merry-go-round

Back in the day, most kids wanted to be president when they grew up. Or run away to join the circus. Vic Nolting managed to do both. Sort of.

The 1970 business grad grew up to become president of Coney Island amusement park, making him commander-in-chief of one of the region’s most popular playgrounds as well as one of the softest spots in Cincinnati’s collective heart.

And don’t even think of it as a job, he says. “It’s kind of a calling. Most everybody that works here are not just workers, but keepers of the flame.”

For most Cincinnatians, the flame that has attracted them to Coney for so many generations hasn’t been work but play as they sought the cooling refuge from the summer sun beating down on them in the park’s famous Sunlight Pool. It’s the center of the park’s attractions and the bulk of Nolting’s business.

But Nolting’s typical day doesn’t begin with turning on the pool spigot or making sure chlorine levels are up to spec. “When I arrive, I take a quick tour of the park and see what’s going on, see if all is right with the world. Then it’s back to the office. I kind of bounce back and forth all day long.”

Nolting’s earned his privilege of “managing by wandering around” after bringing Coney back from the brink of extinction. Because of its location along the Ohio River, the park regularly flooded, so its owners, Taft Broadcasting, decided in the early 1970s to all but give up on the park and develop Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. Rides were relocated and shows were shifted. The pool continued to operate, but Coney Island was all but forgotten.

In the mid-1980s, the park was sold and the new owners brought in Nolting to bring it back to life. “I got here in 1983 and we started renovating in 1984. By 1988 we had renovated the entire grounds. And we started to add rides back. Today we have 23 rides.”

The growth has, Nolting admits, made work like a circus sometimes. “In 2000, we had a millennium party and brought in Nick Wallenda who walked a tight rope over the pool before he ever attempted Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. We also had a trapeze act and Benny ‘Boom Boom’ Koske, the human bomb, who blew himself up three times a day.”

Still, even though his job has an amusement value, Nolting borrows a phrase from Joe Nuxhall when considering what’s next: “I’m rounding third and heading for home.” Even to the point of grooming his own replacement to ensure a smooth passing of the flame—although, he admits, it won’t be one-time headliner Santini Demon who set himself on fire, swallowed swords and made the insanity of amusement parks just another day at the office for Nolting.

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Xavier Magazine

Behind the Alter Hall Renovation

Dedicated in December 1960, Alter Hall was Xavier’s class of the classroom.

It was called “the million dollar building” because it featured air-conditioning, a 300-seat lecture hall and 33 classrooms.


Now, rising from the original concrete bones, a new Alter Hall is emerging, even more innovative than the original. One of its key components is its environmental friendliness. One of the principal architects of its transformation, Nestor Melnyk of MSA Architects, presents a quick tour:

[lightbox link=”http://xuxtraprod.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/AlterHall2-300×203.jpg”]AlterHall2[/lightbox]• “Reflective roof materials and a high-performance wall system insulates the building.
Overall, it will consume just half the energy of the average building on campus.”

• “An energy recovery ventilator draws outdoor air into the building to maintain air quality. Carbon dioxide sensors calculate the number of occupants in various rooms within the building and adjust environmental controls accordingly. Plus many windows can actually be opened.”

• “Water from roof drains flows down through several tiers of rain gardens including a bog garden with its own native ecosystem that will be maintained as a biology student project. Using all native plantings means no dedicated irrigation will be installed, just the natural flow of water from the drainage system.”

• “Light sensors measure the amount of daylight coming in the windows and adjust the interior lights accordingly.”

[lightbox link=”http://xuxtraprod.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/alter3.jpg”]alter3[/lightbox]• “The way buildings meet the sky on campus is rarely a straight horizontal line. Alter was transformed so that there’s a lot of articulation at the roofline—ups and downs and cutouts. Glass is used to create an expansive sense of space while stone creates the accents. We’re picking up on the visual grammar of the campus, but using a more sophisticated vocabulary.”

• “Subspaces within the landscaping around the building create natural environments for an outdoor class.”

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Xavier Magazine

Urban Farming: Taking Root

It’s a chilly morning in early May. Amy Matthews pulls a knit cap over her auburn hair as she moves among the rows of fruits and vegetables on South Circle Farm.

The strawberries are blooming and the kale is coming up. It’s a typical spring day on the farm. But Green Acres this isn’t.

[lightbox link=”http://xuxtraprod.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/AmyMatthews_orig.jpg”]AmyMatthews_orig[/lightbox]On the other side of the white picket fence that borders the farm is the clanging of a metal recycling operation and a worn-out series of city blocks. The farm is just south of downtown Indianapolis, a two-acre urban farming oasis grown from abandoned city lots. It also has put Matthews on the forefront of the latest environmental craze and made her a budding rock star in the urban farming community. 

Using strictly organic techniques, she cultivates the space to grow everything from eggplants to onions. Oh, and bees. “Just by growing the food the way I do, I’m doing something healthy,” Matthews says as cars whiz by behind her. “You can’t solve all inner-city problems with an urban farm, but it can be a pretty impactful place in a city.”

She ducks inside the greenhouse. Her calloused fingers are black with soil and her boots are caked with dried mud. But her still-young face looks happy. The location, she says, was perfect for her first farm.

She leases the land from a non-profit community development organization, and they support each other in ways that support the community. A community center up the street brings children to the farm to learn about healthy eating, gardening and cooking. On special days, they bring their parents out to enjoy a healthy meal. Neighborhood volunteers work in exchange for fresh produce.

What she doesn’t cook she sells to a city market, co-op groceries and downtown restaurants. Her Community Supported Agriculture program—members pay for a weekly supply of produce—is growing faster than she can fill orders.

The 2002 social work graduate learned the importance of food to the community at non-profit and foodbank jobs in Cleveland, Arizona, Chicago and Washington, D.C. It complemented the basics of farming she learned about in such out-of-the-way places as Alaska, Montana and even Nepal, where she went during an academic service-learning trip. 

“I saw firsthand how they were using food and agriculture to do social work. It really struck me,” she says. “That’s where I saw my first urban garden.”

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Xavier Magazine

Touched by an Angel Island

In the late 1970s, all the buildings that remained on Angel Island were going to be demolished because they were in such disrepair.

Then a park ranger wandered inside one of teetering wooden structures and made an amazing discovery—poetry on the barracks walls. Not written, but carved into the wooden walls using classical Cantonese techniques.

Local scholars and preservationists found out about the discovery and organized a committee to preserve the buildings—and the island with its dark history.

[lightbox link=”http://xuxtraprod.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/McKechnie-682×1024.jpg”]McKechnie[/lightbox]Angel Island is the largest island in the San Francisco Bay and the lesser-known West Coast counterpart to Ellis Island in New York. But while Ellis was welcoming to immigrants from Europe, Angel Island became an unwelcoming place of interrogations, detention and denial for those from Asia.

In 1882, the U.S. passed The Chinese Exclusion Act that was designed to keep immigrants from China out of the United States—unless, of course, they had money.

“If you were Chinese and came in by boat travelling first class, they let you right in,” says Michael McKechnie, executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and 1980 MBA graduate. “Second class, you were taken over to Angel Island and interrogated.”

While the actions of Angel Island aren’t a highlight of U.S. history, the site is an important marker of the country’s growth and worth saving. Today, Angel Island—located within view of both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge—is a state park like few others. And it’s McKechnie’s goal to save it.

“We’ve raised $40 million to renovate the immigration site,” he says. “And we’re finishing the second large building transforming it into a museum and The Center for Pacific Coast Immigration.”

Learn about Angel Island and McKechnie’s effort to save it.

It’ a challenge, he admits, but he credits the same spirit of perseverance that first brought the Chinese to America with saving the site that was created to keep them out decades earlier. “The Chinese were fearless about working hard. The members of our board are five and six generation Chinese Americans and now top attorneys in major firms.”

McKechnie can’t share their past, but thanks to the art carved from misery that has had a much bigger impact on McKechnie’s own sense of mission, he can help preserve it.

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Xavier Magazine

Changing the World by Design

Kate Hanisian was in her office the first time a goat walked in. The same with the chicken. They just meandered in off the street.

It definitely wasn’t typical, but then again nothing in her life at that particular moment was typical. In 2009, Hanisian left her job at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center in Cincinnati to move to Tamil Nadu, India, a rural town in the country’s southern-most state, in an effort to focus on starting a new nonprofit she and her husband created called Design Impact. The business’s mission: Find ways to use design to create social change.

[lightbox link=”http://xuxtraprod.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Kate1.jpg”]Kate1[/lightbox]“We were interested in embedded design,” Hanisian says. “What happens when you live and work with the community you’re designing for over time—not parachuting in, interviewing and going back to design in the comforts of a design studio.”

They were embedded to the point where goats and chickens interrupting the day became no big deal. But Hanisian knew that by working internationally she could make a bigger impact. And she did.

Local residents were suffering health problems because they were using wood and kerosene stoves to cook with—indoors. So she and her team set out to design a safer, less toxic alternative. But it wasn’t easy.

The “design studio” Hanisian worked in was an old stone building with a broken cement floor, across from an ancient temple. And something as simple as building a prototype took days instead of hours because the team had to rely on a shopkeeper in the nearest town to produce it.

[lightbox link=”http://xuxtraprod.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/brickette.jpg”]brickette[/lightbox]“The city was 90 minutes away,” Hanisian says, “and it took 10 days of going every day, sitting on a stoop in a dusty alley in the middle of the city, all day, in the heat.”

Hanisian calls that “great relationship-building time.” She was able to get to know people in the community and their needs, and in the midst of challenging conditions, her team successfully built a smokeless charcoal briquette stove to replace the wood-burning stoves. They also made it sustainable by designing a process to manufacture the briquettes locally, establishing distribution channels and training a group of women in producing and selling the product.

Watch Hanisian’s TedX talk about her experience in India.

[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IFbV5PDnvE”]katehvideo[/lightbox]“We didn’t just design the stove,” Hanisian said. “We designed an entire social enterprise.”

The process took two years, and Design Impact has been making a difference ever since by sponsoring social design fellows and programs in locations from California to China. Now back in Cincinnati, Hanisian spends most of her time teaching others in the nonprofit and social sector new ways to tackle what she calls “big, hairy, complex social problems,” because, she says, “we’re passionate about getting other people passionate about this.”

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