More IMPACT Stories
Check out more of our IMPACT Stories in the archive below!
Dr. Joseph's Students Conduct DNA Barcoding
Alexandra Bochenek is fascinated by DNA, which is why she conducted botany research under Professor Joseph Dertien. Ally, a native of Burbank, graduated in May 2015 with a degree in biology/health professions. Ally plans to attend graduate school this fall at Rush University in its Generalist Entry Master's in Nursing. So, while plants aren't necessarily her biggest interest, DNA is. Working with Dr. Dertien provided Ally with an interesting opportunity to study DNA. Ally expanded upon work she started in Dr. Dertien's Genome Biology course involving "DNA barcoding." Students in the course collect plant specimens (in the form of leaves), extract the DNA, amplify specific genetic markers using polymerase chain reaction, confirm results using gel electrophoresis and then send their samples to an outside lab that specializes in DNA sequencing. "We actually have the equipment to sequence DNA here at SXU, but with the advances they've made in genomics technology over the past ten years, it's far cheaper and faster to send it off-site" Dr. Dertien clarifies.
When the sequences return from the lab, students use bioinformatics software to compare their data to an online database to determine the species of their specimens and decipher the evolutionary relationships among them. Dr. Dertien is having his students map the trees on campus in order to document the biodiversity, affording students ample opportunity to understand the evolution of plant species.
For her research, Ally worked on building a database of DNA data from several different genetic markers to establish the types of hypotheses that can be tested using different barcoding markers. Ally learned useful molecular techniques in class and expanded on them with continued guidance from Dr. Dertien who remarks, "Ally has the workflow down. She's very good at it." But beyond Ally simply learning a new skill, Dr. Dertien has provided her with an opportunity to do research that strengthened her graduate school applications and may possibly lead to Ally pursuing specialty nursing. "Barcoding and interpreting DNA sequences are good practices for a future in customized medicine" he says. In customized medicine (also known as personalized medicine), patients are given a treatment plan based on their individual genetic profiles. Certain types of cancer and cardiovascular treatments are already benefiting from the personalized medicine model with endless opportunities for future breakthroughs. Perhaps one day Ally will be part of those breakthroughs.
Dr. Dertien has some expansions of his genome-sequencing research in the works, including data from samples he's taken from the wetland on SXU's Orland Park campus. This wetland offers potential for SXU students to participate in a richer study of biodiversity than the Chicago campus can provide. Perhaps a future project near Gilbert, Arizona is on Dr. Dertien's horizon; his doctoral research focused on the DNA and evolution of desert shrub species after all! Regardless of where the specimens come from, SXU's biology students will have no shortage of research possibilities, and with improved lab facilities on their way, SXU will be able accommodate more student/faculty research projects.
After a fire at Maribel (Hernández) Acevedo's house in April 2014, she attempted to rescue many items, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but one possession she was determined to salvage was her framed diploma from Saint Xavier University. She scrubbed the soot off the glass and the frame, and now her diploma is the only thing she has bothered to hang on the walls of the two-bedroom apartment she and her three children are staying in while they continue to wait for their home to be finished.
Maribel's diploma does not merely symbolize her completion of the bachelor of business administration degree; it's also a testament to her hard work, determination and resolve. These values show her children that with dedication, supportive coworkers and family, and sometimes an afternoon cup of coffee; even the most difficult goals are attainable.
When Maribel was a preteen, her parents decided to leave their Chicago home to join relatives back in Michoacán, Mexico, where high school for Maribel largely consisted of rote memorization and pretending to like soccer. Shortly after she returned to Chicago, Maribel married and had three children. When she was in her late 20s, Maribel's husband announced plans to begin a new life without the four of them. She had already completed her associate's degree at Richard J. Daly College where she was working in the TRiO office, but becoming a single parent meant working more hours and putting her studies on hold. However, after five years Maribel began working at Saint Xavier University. She became office manager for the Center for Creating Engaged Learning Environments, which was the Title III grant project at SXU. The grant ran from October 2008 through September 2013, and Maribel managed the program office for its entire run while completing her undergraduate degree at SXU in May of 2013.
At the close of the grant, Colleen Sehy, executive director of Corporate, Government and Foundation Relations at SXU, encouraged Maribel to apply for a newly opened position of post award manager and assistant director of the office. Colleen had observed Maribel's work over the five years SXU received Title III funding, and she was impressed by her knowledge of grants and her impeccable organizational skills.
Maribel is currently in the MBA program at SXU's Graham School of Management. She had to take a break from school and work after the fire turned her life upside down, but she is now five classes away from earning her MBA in financial fraud examination and management. When she completes the degree, there's no doubt that the new diploma will have a place of honor on her newly finished wall in their home where her kids will be reminded daily of the hard work and sacrifice their mother endured to take great care of them -- all on her own.
The Goedke Girls
When twin sisters Allison and Bridget Goedke were growing up in Park Forest, Illinois, they knew that their mom, Linda (King) Goedke, graduated from Saint Xavier University in 1972, but they did not grow up wearing scarlet and gray. (Actually, back when it was still hard to tell them apart, it was yellow for Allison and pink for Bridget). When it came time to apply for college, SXU was on Allison and Bridget's list, but it wasn't necessarily at the top. However, when they received notice of their financial packages (taking into account their brother's tuition at Notre Dame), they knew that SXU was the one.
And Allison and Bridget haven't looked back.
It's not just about the money for Allison and Bridget, who are now seniors at SXU, although they are grateful for the scholarship assistance. Among these scholarships, Allison is a two-time recipient of the Friends of Mike Scholarship, and Bridget is in her second year as a Schmitt Program Scholar.
More importantly, they have made this place their home away from home. You can't throw a stone on campus without hitting someone who knows Allison, Bridget, or the both of them. They enjoyed dorm life the first two years of school, where they were roommates. "Living in SXU's dorms was a good stepping stone to being on my own," said Allison. "The RAs supply all the support we needed staying away from home for the first time, and the small campus made it feel very homey right away." Allison has also been very happy with academics at SXU. "We have great professors in Elementary Education," she said. "The small class sizes really help establish relationships with the professors, and I feel they're helping me plan for the career I want." For Allison, that career is preferably to teach kindergarten through third grade, although she'll also be endorsed to teach math and reading in middle school. She may consider a career change somewhere down the road to occupational therapy. Because her nephew has benefited from occupational therapy, she'd like to help teachers identify students with weak motor skills so they aren't held back unnecessarily.
Education is a family tradition; Allison and Bridget's mother was also an education major, as was their cousin, Collette (Shanahan) Nicolini. Their mom is the principal at Beecher Elementary School and Collette is a high school English teacher in Speedway, Indiana. Bridget has gone a different direction by majoring in communications. Bridget previously wrote for The Xavierite and served as its senior viewpoints editor last year. She is writing for Cougar Diaries again this year, making her one of four official SXU student bloggers. Therefore, many of us see Bridget's face whenever we log onto SXU's website. Bridget came to SXU interested in traditional journalism, but she's become more and more drawn to a career in social media marketing. "Ultimately, I'd like to create social media plans for businesses" Bridget said. In the meantime, she assists SXU's University Relations department in updating its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
On the weekends, Allison and Bridget often travel to their home in Park Forest, and now when they arrive, instead of yellow and pink, they're in scarlet and gray.
Freshman psychology major Frank Scalzo traveled the globe before he started at Saint Xavier University. When Frank graduated from Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do. A couple of years later, Frank was managing a Pizza Hut in Denver (and perhaps partying a bit too much), so it's not surprising he realized he needed to make a change -- a big one. Frank's father had been in the Navy, so he had some idea of military life and Frank was suddenly drawn to that life too. Frank's first choice was the Air Force. Unfortunately, he would have had to wait ten months for a spot in the Air Force, but the Navy welcomed him immediately. Frank joined the Navy and was off to Orlando for boot camp.
Frank served as an Electronic Warfare Technician from 1988 to 1993. He visited nine countries, but his favorite places were Australia and Hong Kong. Frank worked on two aircraft carriers, USS Midway CV-41and USS Independence CV-62. He served on ships in six oceans and seas including the Arabian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea. He can make conversation in such languages as Tagalog, Spanish, Japanese, and even a bit of Swahili.
After serving in the Navy, Frank did various jobs and ran his own business in California. In 2007, he moved to Chicago to be closer to family (although he hates the cold). He found out by luck one day this past spring that his neighbor in Beverly is a veteran's benefits counselor. She sat down with him last year to help him discuss the benefits available to him as a veteran, including a college education. After several meetings with VA counselors, Frank was given the necessary recommendations and dove right in. Initially, Frank considered SXU because of its proximity to home, but ultimately, he decided on SXU because of our outreach to veterans. His first meeting with Transfer and Veteran Admissions Counselor John Kelly, was a nice welcome to SXU, and he has nothing but praise for Sheri Gross, the compliance advisor for veterans at SXU: "She's a wonderful advocate for our needs and gives us wonderful advice," he says. "She helps all of us so much."
In his summer philosophy course, Frank met fellow student veteran Brett Mango. Brett has encouraged him to become involved with VFW Post 2580 in Midlothian. Frank was recently appointed to officer on the board of the post. He's happy to serve other veterans and has quickly become an important member of the nearby veteran community and SXU alike. SXU's John Kelly says, "Although I meet and speak with many students on a daily basis, our student veterans always stand out. Their determination, discipline and attitude cannot be matched. One student that stands fresh in my mind is Frank Scalzo. Frank has impressed me since he first walked into the Office of Admission determined to join our student body."
Frank has the determination John is talking about, but he's also the first to acknowledge the importance of receiving information and support, that's why he wants to become a veteran's benefits counselor. Simply put, Frank wants "to help fellow vets receive the benefits they earned and deserve." And Saint Xavier is happy to assist Frank receive the education he deserves.
I'm a Different Person Because of SXU
Maria and Joe IMPACT Stories The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word chance as "something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause." True to the meaning of his name, Chance Cutrano could not have predicted how his life would be transformed by his experiences at Saint Xavier University.
"My time at SXU has been so life changing. I don't know what would have happened without Saint Xavier University," Chance said.
When choosing a university after high school, it made sense for Chance to stay close to home. It allowed him to help coach the speech team at his former high school and assist with the theater program. However, the transition from high school to college was not an easy one for Chance. He felt pressured trying to juggle multiple commitments, including school, family and friends, working at a marketing company and running a small local entertainment company.
"I thought about dropping out after my first semester," Chance recalls. "But, Dr. Judith Hiltner (then-director of the Honors Program) encouraged me to come back. She told me to complete one year, finish strong, and then see how I felt."
He followed Dr. Hiltner's advice to return for the spring and enrolled in a philosophy class taught by Dr. Molly Sturdevant. This was a turning point for Chance.
"The class focused on Plato and Socrates but with a modern twist. It highlighted the theme of our Honors Program cohort -- our place in the global community. We learned about fossil fuels, the food we eat, how it's prepared. The class was amazing and I fell in love with the material. It really rekindled my love for education," Chance said.
As a result of this experience, Chance added a philosophy major to his previously declared political science major. He decided he wanted to pursue a career in environmental policy and law or sustainability.
Next, Chance participated in the Philosophy of Yellowstone course with Dr. Tom Thorp. This course combines classroom instruction with an opportunity to engage in policy-oriented fieldwork under the direct supervision of naturalists, ecologists and environmentalists who live and work in the Greater Yellowstone Area. The ten days he spent in Yellowstone were "incredible" and demonstrated to him that he had made the right decisions.
The work Chance did in Yellowstone formed the basis for his political science capstone project. He conducted a policy analysis of Montana's interagency bison management plan. He parlayed that project into an internship with the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C., where he worked on the "Beyond Coal" campaign.
"As an intern, the work I was doing was more involved than I thought it would be. There was policy work and activism for the Keystone XL pipeline. I was ghostwriting newspaper articles and managing state teams from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Georgia," Chance said.
In the fall of 2014, Chance was selected for a unique study abroad program through the School for International Training and the International Honors Program. It focused on climate change and the politics of food, water and energy. Chance and his peers spent two weeks in San Francisco studying basic climate science and California's renewable energy sector. Four weeks in Vietnam followed, where he learned about the effects of rising sea levels and dam building on the country's agriculture economy. Then, it was on to Morocco for four weeks to research wind farms and water developments. Finally, Chance and his peers spent five weeks in Bolivia investigating the contrast between the country's strong social movements with the economy's dependence on mining and exportation of natural gas.
"Through my internship with the Sierra Club and the program, I met many college students from large, more prestigious universities. But their professors don't know their first names. They've never been in a room with their University president like I have. They can't walk into their university and be greeted by close friends who support them in everything they do. Saint Xavier is such a tight-knit community. You can't get left behind here."
"With the help of my family, friends and Saint Xavier University, I am turning my dreams into reality. I never thought I'd be in this place. From my freshman year to today, I'm a different person," Chance said.
As one of more than 500 undergraduates who participated in spring commencement exercises last weekend, Chance has set his post-SXU sights on a job related to renewable energy finance because he wants to do something for future generations.
While he could not have planned how his Saint Xavier University experience would impact his life, Chance will leave the halls of academia with a roadmap and commitment to change the world.
The Coolness of Conducting Experiments
As anyone who has taken her class knows, SXU chemistry professor Bindhu Alappat, Ph.D., loves to teach. One of her biggest goals in teaching is to help students not just to understand the material, but also to actually enjoy chemistry. However, unless they are required to take chemistry courses for their majors, few students actually have a chance to see the inside of a lab or do chemistry experiments. Dr. Alappat is doing her part to fix that problem on our campus and in the greater community.
"Chemistry is everywhere," Dr. Alappat says, "but the math often scares people away. This is unfortunate; too many students are denied the coolness of conducting experiments."
Dr. Alappat's approach is a favorite among students. "Her passion for what she teaches is contagious," sophomore Raymond Baniewicz says. "Now, I go to class each day eager to learn about our world."
Expanding her approach to reach outside the walls of Saint Xavier, Dr. Alappat created Chem 150: Connecting the Dots to Community, which enhances the University's general education program in community-based learning and creates an appreciation for chemistry among students of all majors and interests through hands-on activities. Even better, students use what they learn in her class to develop demonstrations and activities to communicate the material (and its undeniable coolness) to elementary school audiences. This semester, her Chem 150 students are working with students in afterschool programs at Donoghue Elementary, a University of Chicago Charter School; Sutherland Elementary, a CPS school in Beverly; and the Maria Kapaus Center in the Marquette Park neighborhood. Dr. Alappat's class is directly impacting approximately 75 elementary-aged students with hands-on chemistry demonstrations.
It's not surprising that students of all ages and ability appreciate Dr. Alappat's approach; she is already well-versed in creating cool chemistry experiments geared at engaging young people. When her teenaged sons, Haroun and Harith, were in elementary school, Dr. Alappat began a science club in their basement. Over the course of five years, she designed and carried out experiments with her two sons and their friends on most Saturdays. The science club got so popular that she had to expand it from just a handful of kids to 15 of her sons' classmates. These days, Dr. Alappat runs a different kind of science club; she now spends her Saturdays at Syro-Malabar Church in Bellwood working with young girls who are interested in science, building upon her massive collection of activities and using equipment and chemicals that she supplies from her own pocketbook.
Dr. Alappat loves teaching and working with young people, but her work is not self-seeking. She says, "I hope some of the students and kids I work with adopt an attitude of inquiry, pursue higher education and consider careers in science."
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have identified homicide as the leading cause of death for African-American males between the ages of 10 and 24. Here in Chicago, we've heard one tragic story after another--senseless violence, unfathomable grief and lost potential.
Lack of access to education is a predominant risk factor associated with gun violence. Saint Xavier University is diminishing the power of that risk through its deep and longstanding commitment to diversity and by enrolling Chicago youths most at risk.
One of the University's newest programs in support of this commitment is Successful Teaching Related to Overcoming Negative Generalities (STRONG). Michael Clark, Ph.D, associate professor of political science, chair of the History and Political Science Department and STRONG program director, said the program was created to improve enrollment, retention and graduate rates among African-American males.
This University-wide effort will bring together the offices of Academic Affairs, Records and Registration, Advising, Financial Aid, Student Life and Career Planning and Placement, as well as the Learning Center, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graham School of Management, the School of Education and the School of Nursing in an effort to create an environment and academic experience that meets African-American males' needs.
Now in a pilot phase, 15 second-semester freshman students will benefit from the additional support of a network of African-American faculty and staff members who will provide advice, guidance and mentorship. Furthermore, STRONG students will have an opportunity to attend monthly skills workshops focused on topics like study skills, information literacy and time management. Other topics to be covered at the workshops will be related to emotional health and financial literacy.
Another important element in the program is peer support. In fact, Dr. Clark and Dr. John Jackson, an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University, identified peer support as one of three essential external factors for success in a study they conducted entitled "African American Males' Opinions on Factors that Contributed to College Completion." To that end, the STRONG program will incorporate activities that allow participating students to build connections and foster reassuring relationships.
Looking ahead, Dr. Clark hopes to work with a cohort of 15 STRONG students each year. Following their graduation, the University will offer one-year of post-graduate support to help those students extend their success in the post-graduate realm. Students will work with faculty and staff mentors to develop post-graduate career goals and action plans, with a monthly check-in system to monitor and revise action plans. The program will also include experiences to prepare participants for interviewing for jobs, professional culture or other post-graduate experiences. Dr. Clark anticipates recent graduates will become advocates and future mentors for the STRONG program.
In the near future, Dr. Clark foresees expanding STRONG programming to offer summer and Saturday enrichment experiences for high school students that will prepare them for the challenges of both university level study and the university application process.
The STRONG program will allow Saint Xavier University to contribute to the dialogue concerning one of the most unrelenting national problems. It could even yield a model around which other universities and colleges could structure their efforts to address this issue. This not only allows SXU to make substantive contributions to the common good, but the project helps the University fulfill its mission, which makes the STRONG program both highly relevant and significant to Saint Xavier.
In a back room at Respond Now, a line of chest-high metal filing cabinets flank the west wall, now useful only for stacking things on top. After more than 40 years, the social service agency that serves over 12,000 families annually from Chicago's poorest suburbs has joined the computer age, thanks to computer science students and administrators at Saint Xavier University.
In three months, students turned the information on 2,000 sheets of paper into an online database, creating a new website that enables Respond Now to keep track of everything it provides clients, from groceries to vouchers for prescription medication. More importantly, it captures data essential for applying for grants, raising funds and running the day-to-day operations in a way that stretches every dollar.
Computerization at Respond Now also means food pantry clients can pick the groceries they want from a menu of available items; volunteers fill the individual requests to order. "It enables the clients to choose their own food, which is important in helping them maintain their dignity," said Carl Wolf, executive director at Respond Now. "And it gives us number to explain the impact we're having on the community."
At the Chicago Heights-based agency, serving as many clients as possible has been the top priority since it opened its doors in 1970. The 22 south suburban communities Respond Now serves are among the hardest hit by economic woes, from the highest levels of poverty and unemployment in all of suburban Chicago to food insecurity rates as high as 48 percent. Foreclosure rates in its service area are some of the highest in all of suburban Cook County. Dollars that come in, go toward immediate, short-term assistance so that families -- many of which are the working poor -- can meet their basic needs and focus on looking for more long-term solutions.
The offer of help from SXU seemed almost heaven-sent. With a mission that encourages students "to serve wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good," SXU asks all students to take one course in community-based education. In Computer Science, the software engineering class fills this requirement and students have typically worked on small projects around the university.
In 2012, Dr. Jean Mehta, chairman of the Computer Science Department decided that working with a nonprofit agency was a better idea, combining SXU's mission of doing good with real-world experience for students. When administrators looked for ideas from Community Service Partners, a resource-sharing organization for charities, its CEO Bryan Dunlap, said he thought Respond Now could use the help.
In January 2013, Wolf traveled to SXU to explain what Respond Now needed. Students headed to Chicago Heights to see for themselves how the agency operated, formed teams, agreed on tasks and got to work. Dr. Mehta appointed two team leaders, Alex Lukasik and Brother Vito Martinez, a Capuchin Franciscan monk who joined the order six years ago and began working on his Computer Science degree at SXU. They had three months to build the system, enter all the data, make sure it worked and train two dozen staff members and volunteers.
The students met their deadline, creating a website that's easy to use and captures information the agency needs. "We've been telling the story about the people we serve with anecdotes," Wolf said. "Now we can do it with numbers." Students also developed a template of the database that is available free of charge to other nonprofits with limited funds. "I recommend it to other agencies all the time," Wolf said.
Brother Martinez stayed on as a volunteer after the system was launched, providing daily IT help. When Dr. Mehta sent a second group of students to the agency in the spring of 2014, Brother Martinez worked with them to make significant upgrades to the database, creating a feature that prevents client duplication. They also put a Christmas assistance program on the site to help the agency manage distribution of toys, clothing and food for nearly 1,500 children and families.
Brother Martinez will continue to help Respond Now remotely, making more changes to the website from off site, an effort that matches his own mission in life. "This way, instead of paying for a web developer, they can spend the money on food," he said. "For me, this is an IT ministry."
A Squirrel Ate Her Homework
In the S Wing of Warde Academic Center, senior biology education major Maria Pittos enters the animal lab, walks gingerly past Dr. Randy Krohmer's snakes (safely housed in terrariums, fortunately), and enters a closet-sized room with a sign outside that reads "leave door closed." Inside the tiny room are racks where Maria's lettuce, germinated just a week prior, sprout up from squares of rockwool. One tray of 32 individual plants is set atop water that is to be aerated for twelve hours a day for the duration of this part of the experiment, approximately five weeks. An identical tray with tiny lettuce plants rests over water that will not be aerated.
Maria's award-winning research seeks to determine if the hydroponic system she designed under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Dertien yields the same results as more traditional deep-water culture methods used in many botany labs today. Depending on the results of Maria's next round of experiments, the teaching of botany and the scientific method could be streamlined and perhaps even conducted in regular classrooms instead of dedicated lab space, as current deep-water methods use loud pumps that disrupt instruction time.
When Maria transferred to SXU from Moraine Valley Community College, she was an elementary education major with a minor in English. She had no particular interest in science until she took Dr. Joseph Dertien's botany class because it was a requirement for her education major. "He has such an effective way of showing how important plants are," she says, "and I was immediately drawn to research." Dr. Dertien soon became her research mentor. Now Maria plans to teach high school biology courses and eventually hopes to earn her PhD in botany. For now, she wants to promote botany education, which she feels is underrepresented at the high school level. "Plants give us so much of what we use -- oxygen, clothing, and food," Maria says. "It's important to be appreciative of plants and to understand them."
An earlier phase of her research involved growing and drying kale. To assist with the project, Dr. Dertien repurposed a black electronics tower into a drying oven through the clever use of plywood and a space heater. The unorthodox methods were successful -- until someone left the window of the classroom open one night and a squirrel literally ate Maria's homework. "I knew something was wrong that morning when I kept seeing signs all over the S Wing reading 'Please keep windows closed,'" Maria says, "I was upset but all I could do was laugh." Luckily, they were able to salvage enough of the kale to conduct her experiment, but it was a close call.
Maria and Dr. Dertien presented the preliminary results at the 2014 National Botany Conference in Boise, Idaho in July. She found that as far as growth and dry weight of the kale, aeration had no significant effect. She's taking the experiment further; when her current plants are mature, she will extract their RNA (the molecular instructions that the plant is sending out to its cells). Next comes the trickiest part: Maria will perform a technique that will convert the RNA back to DNA so she can determine if the plants are responding differently to the aeration treatments on a genetic level. Dr. Dertien and Maria were recently granted funding from Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society for the purchase of enzymes to conduct this RNA testing.
The room where Maria's plants are housed is not ideal; it's small and Maria is not crazy about sharing space with snakes (she has a slight phobia), but she loves doing research. "More equipment and lab space would be fantastic," Maria says. "But I would not trade the faculty at SXU for more labs. Their support is amazing."
Ivie is a junior Spanish and psychology pre-health major from Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood. She is involved on campus as an orientation leader, resident peer minister, women's retreat peer minister, treasurer of Chi Alpha Bible study group, a Student Ambassador, and a Public Safety Student Desk Officer. She also volunteers at her home church in the nursery and with the youth group. Ivie wants to become a pediatrician and specialize in children with mental, developmental and physical disabilities.
"As a third year student here at Saint Xavier, I have had the privilege of a wonderful college experience. While at Saint Xavier, I have had many opportunities to serve, grow and learn. I went on the international service trip to Belize and built a home for a family in need."
"Additionally, I have gone on a number of different retreats through Campus Ministry which have encouraged my spiritual growth and I hope to encourage that growth in others as this year's peer minister for the women's retreat. Most recently, I had the opportunity to learn about leadership in Dublin, Ireland, hosted by the Sisters of Mercy."
Then there's Michelle. A senior accounting and finance major from South Holland, Michelle is a member of Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society, the Career Services Advisory Board, the Vice President of Diversity for the Accounting Student Organization, and a student worker in the Office of Financial Aid. Michelle has plans to sit for the CPA exam and pursue a career in forensic accounting.
"This University has believed in me in so many ways. I first started studying accounting here, given my first job, given my first internship and given countless memories shared with friends and professors who I will cherish for a lifetime. I have plans to pursue a career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. I did an internship there this summer and was given the opportunity to continue working there part-time during my senior year."
"I will be the first college graduate on both sides of my family when I graduate from this amazing school that cares about all aspects of my life. Not only am I the first college graduate, but I am a role model for my siblings and other family members. I am turning my goals and dreams into a reality."
And Jason, a graduate student in the school counseling program offered by the School of Education. Jason works as a college and career advisor with Chicago Gear Up Alliance. A first-generation college student himself, Jason worked hard to earn a bachelor's degree but never imagined pursing advanced studies.
"My mentor encouraged me to push the limits of my education. I chose Saint Xavier University because of the strength of the counseling program. During my time at Saint Xavier, I have had the opportunity to learn exponentially about the counseling field and responsibilities that come along with the title of counselor. The staff and professors have been extremely supportive and have contributed much to my learning. I am able to immediately utilize the skills and techniques I learned in the classroom in my current position helping adolescents shape their futures."
"Throughout my career, I hope to make a positive impact on the education field while bringing light to key issues that affect students in the inner city."
Saint Xavier University is proud to offer these kinds of transformational opportunities for students like Ivie, Michelle and Jason. In the years ahead, we look forward to continuing to share stories from the University community that demonstrate our commitment to honoring the legacy first started by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." This scripture passage from Colossians 3:23 is a source of daily inspiration for Pamela Schwer, associate professor and chair of the Graham School of Management's Accounting Department, especially when it comes to how she teaches her students.
Schwer mentors her students to be the best at what they do and challenges them to reach their full potential. "One of the keys to keeping my students engaged is by relating accounting principles to a variety of real world situations," Schwer says. "My goal is for students to understand how accounting is a useful tool for any field of work. For my accounting majors, I teach them to become skilled and ethical decision makers."
Like many of the students she teaches at Saint Xavier University, Schwer was a first-generation college graduate. She understands that graduating from college means more than simply earning a degree -- it is a transformational opportunity. "For many of my students, an education is their ticket to make their life better, and I am teaching them the skills needed to change their life," Schwer says. "I am helping write those tickets!"
One of those tickets belongs to Jose Silva, a junior finance major from the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. When Jose thinks about what his Saint Xavier education will make possible for him, he simply states, "A whole new lifestyle."
Jose always knew he wanted to attend college. "I have been working towards this goal for a long time," Jose shares. "I am the first person in my entire family to attend college and I want to be a positive influence to my other family members." Plus, Jose realized a college education would allow him to help his family achieve financial stability for the future. Beyond providing for his family, though, Jose feels he is also "representing [his] high school peers, of which only around 13 percent go to college."
Jose knew Saint Xavier would be the perfect fit for him. "What really made the decision for me to attend SXU was the student-to-faculty ratio. There is no anonymity at Saint Xavier University. The professors here really work with you and help you," Jose says. "In fact, the classes I took with Professor Schwer are among my favorites. She is an excellent teacher and an expert in her field. She did everything step-by-step when needed, and was open to any and all questions. I really was actively engaged in her class. I feel prepared to seek and obtain an internship and, later, a full-time job in the field of finance or accounting because of Professor Schwer and the other professors at SXU."
As individuals, our experiences influence our actions. Pamela Schwer draws upon her experience as a first-generation student to inspire her students to pursue their goals and think critically about the world around them. Jose Silva, motivated to be the first in his family to earn a college degree, is making the most of the educational experience offered to him at the University. When you combine the two, the impact is something special. We call it the Saint Xavier experience.
Contrasted against a brilliant, sparkling blue Caribbean Sea is the extreme poverty of Belize. It is estimated that between 30% and 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. Many families are in need of decent shelter.
For one week in May, 11 Saint Xavier University students, accompanied by faculty and staff members and a Sister of Mercy, participated in the seventh annual International Mercy Service Trip to Belize, sponsored by the Office for Mission and Heritage. They were there to work with Hand in Hand Ministries to build a simple home for a family in need.
Amanda M. Lopez, Ph.D., associate professor of history and faculty leader on the trip said, "One of the questions on students" minds before we left was, "Can we really build a house in a week?" It turns out we only needed three and a half days!"
For Vicky Villagomez '14, the decision to participate in this year's trip was easy. "Belize was calling me. I had previously gone on a spring break service trip and found the experience to be very meaningful. At the same time, I also had heard other students talk about the positive impact the Belize trip had on them. I was hoping for a similar outcome," said Vicky.
"I have found Saint Xavier students to be optimistic, good-hearted and hopeful," said Dr. Lopez. "They are ready to work, contribute and learn. A trip like this expands their horizons and allows them to connect service and our other core values to the larger world."
The Saint Xavier group was able to construct a simple 16x16 two-room structure for the Ah family; Catarina, her husband, their daughter and their late son's two small children. Catarina worked alongside the Saint Xavier students on the home. During a house blessing ceremony, Catarina expressed her sincere thanks and gratitude for this miracle from a group of wonderful strangers.
"This was such an amazing experience. Often times, students and young people get caught up in their own lives. We don't always pay attention to the bigger picture. I feel a greater understanding of the world around me now," Vicky said. "I also gained a lot of self-confidence. The work was hard at first, but I like to challenge myself. By the end of the trip, I had earned the nickname "the hammer queen." I would encourage all Saint Xavier University students to participate in the Belize trip. In fact, I want to go back myself!"
The International Mercy Service Trip to Belize continues to be a life changing experience for students like Vicky. Many of the participants had never been on an airplane, let alone outside of the country. Students also encountered realities that prompted new thoughts about life in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
"I was surprised to see how happy all the children were despite living in such poverty," said Vicky. "It also made me realize that if you have the ability to help others, you should. When students can share an experience like this, it builds -- no pun intended -- community between the Saint Xavier community and the larger global community. It speaks directly to one's ability to have global impact, as well."
Social researchers often cite the Millennial Generation's desire to make the world a better place. Because of programs like this, Saint Xavier University students are making the world better for families in Belize and bringing to life the words of Mahatma Ghandi: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Saint Xavier University would like to thank all of the generous donors who help make an experience like this possible for our students, including the Sisters of Mercy in Belize, the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community and a grant from West Midwest Mercy Ministry.
A Modern Story -- Driving Innovation in Education
From the cars we drive to the way we communicate with friends and family, technological advances touch virtually every aspect of our lives. Yet, much of our nation's educational system is rooted in centuries-old methodology of lecture and exam. How will this change in the future? Is there room for innovation in education?
Saint Xavier University lead the conversation about innovation in the classroom during the Third Annual Technology Day: A Modern Story, which was held on August 18.
"It's actually less about the technology than it is about pedagogical changes," said Dr. Christopher Zakrzewski, assistant provost for Technology and Instructional Innovation and director of the SXU Center of Instructional Design and Academic Technology.
"When we hosted the first Technology Day in 2012, much of the conversation was focused on the tools. What is Panopto?* How can Blackboard be effective?* Does an iPad really belong in a classroom? This year, we shifted the conversation to the ways faculty are using technology in the classroom -- how they are incorporating technology and what they are seeing as a result. What's more, our faculty has responded so positively to Technology Day, felt it was such a powerful day, that they thought we needed to look beyond our own campus."
This year, for the first time, registration was open to teachers, faculty and administrators from K-12 school districts, local community colleges and area universities. "We decided to welcome educators outside of the SXU community because we believe strongly we have something positive to share. This kind of faculty development needs to be happening everywhere. We're here to provide a much-needed service to those who are interested."
"Besides, if we're going to talk about pedagogical innovation, we need to look at the whole K-20 spectrum. Not just the K-12 school districts and not just in higher education. By joining forces, so to speak, we can confront this challenge together and create better learning opportunities for our students. Technology Day positions Saint Xavier to be at the forefront of this movement."
At Saint Xavier University, examples of innovation are plentiful. Dr. Megan Alderden, assistant professor in Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, flipped her classroom. She asks students to listen to pre-recorded lectures outside of class, leaving more time in class for discussions. In the Religious Studies Department, Dr. Michael Bathgate uses iPads in his teachings of God and faith. Dr. K.C. Rakow, assistant professor in the Graham School of Management, uploads on-demand video tutorials to explain accounting principles. Dr. Graham Peck, associate professor of history, and Nathan Peck, associate professor in art and design, are collaborating on a cross-disciplinary course that will explore the making of historical documentaries.
"Overall, it's a move away from the didactic method and toward using technology to engage students in the learning process in a new and different way. Technology Day allowed our faculty and other educators to continue discussing how this is can be done. We're grateful to our corporate sponsors -- Pentegra Systems, Conference Technologies, Inc., ShareStream, KI, McGraw Hill and Follett -- for supporting this meaningful dialogue," said Dr. Zakrzewski.
There's no doubt technology is impacting the way students of all ages learn -- from the way they find information to the way they synthesize it. The Third Annual Technology Day: A Modern Story at Saint Xavier University is another example of the University's leadership ensuring that educators -- both within our own learning community and those outside -- are prepared to leverage the advantages that come with technology to engage learners in this new environment. The result will be an empowered, informed, and responsible student capable of negotiating the inevitable differences in a diverse society.
(Panopto is a software company that provides lecture recording, video streaming and video content management software and Blackboard is an online learning management system.)
Dr. Steven J. Murphy: Four Decades of Passion for Saint Xavier University
On Dr. Steven J. Murphy's first day at Saint Xavier University, he was told, "Bring your wife, Barbara. Wear old clothes. We are cleaning the lake."
Thus began a career that has spanned nearly four decades. Dr. Murphy has filled many roles on campus. He started as the first lay Director of Campus Ministry in 1975 and went on to provide leadership for the areas of student affairs, athletics and enrollment as the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services, and later, alumni relations, development and grants as the Vice President of University Advancement.
"I've been blessed to be involved in a lot of things at Saint Xavier -- from facility renovations and construction to developing programs meant to engage our students in the life of the University. I remember the period in Enrollment and Student Services when Saint Xavier University was among the fastest growing colleges in the Midwest. We were growing in academic quality, ethnic diversity, and geographical diversity. I fondly recall the construction of the Shannon Center and McDonough Chapel, the residence halls, and, more recently, the Library transformation project. It's been wonderful to be a part of so many wonderful success stories."
Dr. Murphy has a strong conviction for Saint Xavier University and the work done with first-generation college students. His passion for our mission starts with his mom and dad. His father was a horse and wagon milkman who left school in the tenth grade and went to work when his father died; his mom was proud of her high school diploma but never dreamed of going to college.
"When I got to this campus, I discovered I had a strong connection to the students. I knew that my calling was to work with first-generation college students. In them, I saw that what my parents wanted for me -- a college education -- was what their parents and families wanted for them. Everything is possible with education."
"That's what is special about SXU: the mission. For the Sisters of Mercy to have the vision in 1846 to get a charter that would allow them to grant bachelor's degrees to women who were really without other options is incredible. To reach out to the people who didn't automatically have access to higher education and to afford them that kind of opportunity decades before anyone else was doing it is remarkable. And today, that same mission carries on in new forms with new populations. But, what's the same is that if we weren't here, our students -- who represent the demographic of the 21st Century -- would not have access to higher education."
After a long and distinguished career, Dr. Murphy retired from Saint Xavier University last month. He will continue to contribute to the Saint Xavier community as he plans to assist in efforts to secure the University's future through planned gifts.
Dr. Murphy's impact can be felt far and wide on campus. He started a number of retention programs 30 years ago that are still assisting students today -- the Learning Center, which offers a variety of academic support services; the Student Success Program, a federally funded TRIO program that serves students who are first-generation, low-income and/or have disabilities; and the Transitions first-year seminar. Additionally, he started the football program, the men's and women's soccer teams, cross country, and women's basketball program. Dr. Murphy hired Jonathan Brandmeier's brother, Jimmy, to be the Director of Student Activities. Together they went to Beverly Records, bought two vinyl L.P. records of college fight songs, and Dr. Murphy asked Jimmy to write "We Are Saint Xavier." He opened Pacelli Hall to students after years of the space being used as a halfway house. Dr. Murphy even once hired a helicopter to photograph the campus for the Admission viewbook and hosted a talent show won by Athletic Director and women's basketball coach Bob Hallberg on roller skates!
Reflecting on his career, Dr. Murphy takes "great pride in knowing that my staff and I always kept the focus on student learning through every new program and every new space. Students go to college to learn, and it is a documented fact that much of what they learn is outside the classroom. We very consciously created learning centered programs. Students learn about themselves through Counseling, Career Services, and student leadership experiences. Students expand their world through internships, Campus Ministry and residence hall living. Students learn to be healthy at the Shannon Center. All of our coaches emphasize winning, but our student-athlete GPA and graduation rates are exceptional. And the spaces we created or improved all support student learning. Of course, the millions of dollars people have generously given to student scholarships directly support student learning. This is what I am most proud of."
Few people have an opportunity to impact as many people as Dr. Steve Murphy has during his tenure at Saint Xavier University -- upwards of 32,000 alumni over the last 39 years. He has worked tirelessly to support students in their educational aspirations and has significantly molded the Saint Xavier University we know today.
Zach Dolph '14 didn't let any grass grow under his feet. He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and marketing on Saturday, May 10 and started his new job on Monday, May 12.
"I'm very fortunate. My new boss offered me the chance to have a week off to relax and get situated, but I said, 'No, I just really want to get started on my career.'"
Zach will be an outside salesman for American Precision Supply, Inc., a distributor of pipe/valve/fittings and actuated valve packages with locations in Hampshire, Ill. and Coal City, Ill. The company is owned by Teri Sharp, whose son Tyler was a teammate of Zach's on the Saint Xavier University football team. As part of an extensive orientation, Zach will spend his first two months working at the APS warehouse in Coal City so he can learn about the products he'll be selling. Then he will spend 6-9 months with the inside sales team in Hampshire getting a broader perspective of how the company operates. After that, he will return to Coal City to handle outside sales.
Securing a position before graduation was exciting for Zach, but the process was a bit stressful. "I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was interested in a sales career, but I was also thinking about group or individual life insurance. Even financial advising for a bit."
His job search process included making new contacts and reconnecting with at least one person every day. He participated in a Graham School networking event sponsored in conjunction with the Office for Alumni and Parent Relations and Career Services annual job fair. Additionally, he let friends and family know he was looking for a job. His efforts paid off -- he had to decide between multiple job offers.
"I consulted my parents and decided the best opportunity for me was at American Precision Supply. The Coal City office is new and there's a lot of potential. Plus, if I work hard, there might be a possibility of moving into a management position in the future. That's important to me."
Zach is eager to put the skills he learned in and out of the classroom to use. "My advisor, Laura Earner, and all my coaches and professors have helped me develop time management skills, relationship building skills and the ability to communicate with diverse sets of people."
"Dr. Joyce Hunter, associate professor in the Graham School of Management, was one of my favorite professors. She was good at putting marketing concepts into perspective and incorporating real life situations in her teaching. She also told us we needed to attend every class or she would call and wake us up. She did everything she could to make sure we got as much out of our education as possible. I've had the same experience with all my professors."
"Saint Xavier University became my home for four years. I am so grateful I was not just a name in a grade book, but a person the professors wanted to teach and help learn."
Zach is just one of our newest alumni -- nearly 700 students participated in spring commencement -- whose skills and talents have been nurtured in our caring campus community and who are ready to tackle the challenges that await them.
As a 17-year employee at Columbia College Chicago, known for its arts and media education, Yvonne Sode thought she could take advantage of its tuition waiver benefit when her only child, David, was ready to go to college. "But David was interested in becoming a veterinarian, so Columbia was out of the question," she said.
As Yvonne and David began looking at other options, it was quickly apparent that they wanted a university with an excellent academic reputation and roots in Catholic teachings. "David and I visited many universities, but when we attended an open house at Saint Xavier, we both knew this was the right place for him. Reading the bios of the faculty at Saint Xavier, you could definitely say many of them can compete with faculty from the Ivy League schools. The staff is just as extraordinary," Yvonne remarked.
She continues, "In addition to their impressive vitae, the faculty and staff at Saint Xavier genuinely care for their students. The sense of community resounds throughout Saint Xavier. From the moment you step foot on campus, you are greeted by every individual with the same welcoming demeanor. David and I knew this was the perfect university for him."
David has a vivid recollection of the day he received his acceptance letter. "My mom was very worried at the time because she did not know how we would pay for college. To make matters worse, my dad passed away that year. In addition to the emotional stress, my mom took on financial stress as the sole provider for our family. The day I received my acceptance letter, I called her at work and told her the good news and shared that I would be receiving a $10,000 per year scholarship," he said.
"I can still remember the scream of joy she let out, probably because it left me deaf for a good five minutes. She began crying and uttered the most sincere 'Thank you God' that I have ever heard. That was the first time in a very long time that I felt that everything was going to be okay. Despite my dad's passing, there was finally some happiness in our lives. I would be the first person in my family to go to college and I would have a great scholarship to relieve some financial stress off of my mom," David said.
Yvonne added, "As all parents, my desire was for David to be at the best possible University; fortunately, David received this scholarship. It made the difference in his being able to attend. It is a blessing to have this assistance."
Now a sophomore, David is excelling in his biology/pre-health major and maintains a 3.6 GPA. In addition to his studies, David is engaged with the Saint Xavier community and the many academic, social and volunteer activities they host, days, evenings and weekends. He is involved with the Office of Admission's Student Ambassador program; a member of the Student Success Program, a federally funded program that provides support to students who are first generation, low-income and/or students with disabilities; a drummer and singer for the Chapel Choir; a peer minister; and a member of the Pals for Change student organization. Plus, David was recently named "Mr. Gray" during the Ms. Scarlet and Mr. Gray talent and fashion show. "David has always been a mature young man, but I see him more comfortable in social settings now," Yvonne said.
Saint Xavier University has developed curricular and co-curricular programs that encourage students to grow intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually. This commitment to educating the whole person is a leading reason generations of parents and students like Yvonne and David have chosen Saint Xavier University as the right place to pursue higher education.
Yvonne advises parents involved in a college search with their children to "give yourself and your son or daughter the opportunity to get to know Saint Xavier. You may come to love it as much as David and I do."
Like many students, Kati Romanowski came to Saint Xavier University because of the convenient location. Kati was drawn to the small class sizes and liked the more intimate setting for education. "When I visited the campus, I really enjoyed seeing how the professors interacted with students and their concern for the students. This is what really sealed the deal for me in choosing SXU."
As a communications major, Kati enjoyed her time at the University. When asked what sets it apart from other institutions, she said, "It felt like family here. The professors and staff care about you, are invested in you, and know you as a person." During Kati's time at SXU, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. Communications professor Eugenia McAvoy was Kati's advisor and stood by her through this difficult time.
Some of Kati's most memorable experiences at the University were being able to meet influential and dynamic people, such as ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen. "I could actually meet those who are shaping and changing the world, and could have opportunities arise from that!" Kati describes her time at SXU as an immersive experience and valued the interaction with the professors, the community and her stimulating classes. "The University helps to make you a well-rounded individual and have an understanding of the world around you."
Kati was not only impacted by her experience here, but her time at SXU helped transform her into the person she is today. Kati received an exceptional education, but also left infused with the University's mission to serve wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good. One example is Kati's philanthropic efforts. "I want to do anything I can to help others. I believe it is important to give back, even if it is just a little bit, because times may never be perfect, but there are still people who deserve the opportunities you had."
The mission of SXU is important to Kati and she wants to see it continue to inspire students well beyond her time. "There are people at SXU who were in the same situation as me, talented people, people who will make a difference. I want to pay it forward and help those people so they are able to make a difference." One way Kati is paying it forward is through her membership in the X-Club Advisory Committee. As a member, Kati is helping engage other alumni and keep them connected to SXU by supporting the University's mission and contributing to the Saint Xavier Fund.
Kati was impacted by her time at Saint Xavier University, and now as a graduate, she is trying to make an impact on others. Kati is an example of our exceptional alumni. Even though she is only one person, she understands that her actions can set an example and help make a difference for those around her.
For Sean Hickey, career inspiration came from his family. "Two of my uncles were priests and another uncle was an accountant," he said. After graduating high school, Sean began his studies to become a priest at Niles College. Two years into the program, he realized religious life was not his calling. Soon after he left the seminary, he crossed paths with some former high school soccer teammates. They told him about the new men's soccer team at Saint Xavier and encouraged him to join the team, too. That chance meeting, combined with Saint Xavier's faith-based curriculum and small class sizes, was what attracted Sean to the University.
Sean wanted to change his major to accounting upon enrolling at Saint Xavier so he could follow in the footsteps of his other uncle, but with two years of college credit toward a philosophy degree, "my parents just wanted me to finish." Sean graduated from Saint Xavier with his bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1993.
How does one go from a philosophy degree to an accounting career? Before he graduated from Saint Xavier, Sean met with the staff in the Career Services office. They helped him map out a plan to achieve his goal. It involved taking accounting classes at Governors State University at night, while working at a bank during the day. Eventually, Sean earned enough credits to sit for the CPA exam. Once he passed, he was able to advance his career plan. He worked for a couple large public and small accounting firms, and then joined McGladrey, a leading provider of assurance, tax and consulting services focused on the middle market, eight years ago.
Sean credits his success to the liberal arts education he received at Saint Xavier and the critical thinking skills he developed. "Some of the business classes I took focused solely on teaching facts or processes. Except, the majority of business decisions are made by analyzing facts and figures to determine their meaning. Throughout my career, I have been able to draw on the critical thinking skills I developed as a philosophy student to better advocate for my clients," said Sean.
When thinking back to his SXU days, Sean still remembers sociology classes with Vivian Tellis-Nayak, Ph.D. because of the interactive projects he assigned. It was also helpful that Dr. Tellis-Nayak made a point of relating the course topics to the students' everyday lives.
In 2008, another chance meeting with a Saint Xavier alumnus changed the course of Sean's connection with the University. "Through a professional client relationship, I met Jose Garcia '91. Jose was a member of the National Alumni Board at the time and encouraged me to get involved. The time was right in my life to do something more to give back, so I joined the board. The rest, as they say, is history," Sean recalled.
Sean currently serves as the President of the National Alumni Board. In this role, he has three clear goals:
- Make SXU alumni aware of the variety of social, educational and service activities available to them,
- Open the door to welcome alumni back to campus -- whether they are coming from across the street or around the globe, and
- Encourage alumni to give back to the Saint Xavier community by supporting the Saint Xavier Fund or any of the numerous restricted or endowed funds.
"The key to continued growth for the University is fully engaged alumni. That's what we're trying to do through the National Alumni Board. There are so many ways for alumni to be involved and contribute to the vitality of the University community. I am proud to be a Saint Xavier alumnus." he said.
More than twenty years ago, when Sean set out to find an institution at which to continue his education after leaving the seminary, he wanted a university where he wouldn't be a number. Sean found that and more at Saint Xavier University. He found a home.
Creator of the Pilsen Community Small Business Owner Education Workshop Series
Small businesses are the embodiment of the American dream. Monica C. Gavino, Ph.D. has been doing her part to cultivate small business through an initiative of the Graham School of Management, which supports the University's commitment to serve our community.
Dr. Gavino, associate professor in the Graham School of Management, developed the Pilsen Community Small Business Owner Education Workshop Series last year to provide training and education to Latino and minority business owners in the Pilsen community.
Dr. Gavino has her doctorate in Human Resources Management as well as over 20 years' experience in the HR field as a human resources executive, consultant and researcher. Her areas of interest and research include small business owners and Latino entrepreneurs, diversity and inclusion in organizations, and the impact of HR practices on organizational performance.
Entrepreneurship research shows there are various factors that influence a business's performance including the entrepreneur's demographic, psychological, and behavioral characteristics as well as managerial and technical skills. For example, research finds minority and female owners have little pre-business ownership experience. Dr. Gavino's own research finds that minority business owners are less likely to have access to resources or to utilize them.
Attending training workshops and seminars is one approach to further developing the skills and competencies necessary to be successful. She designed this program to provide small business owners with tools and resources they need to increase the success of their businesses and the vitality of their community.
Built in conjunction with the Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association, LISC Chicago and the Resurrection Project, and sponsored by First Midwest Bank, Best Buy, St. Aubin Haggerty and Associates, Groupon, Star Diamond and Great Lakes Financial Partners, the first workshop series was held in November 2012. Twenty nine business owners worked with program faculty to conduct needs assessments and received hands-on practice and feedback on writing a business plan. The workshop also covered other critical aspects of sustaining a business, including financing and lender options, compliance, taxes and record keeping, use of technology and social media, marketing and promoting their businesses and hiring and getting the most from their employees.
"They helped me think about how to focus on what people are interested in at the store, what makes us special," said Leticia Rodarte, proprietor of Reciclarte Studio in Pilsen. "The economy is bad; it might be hard to pay for a painting. But they like coming in and seeing what we have. So we've added bookmarks with my art, and we're offering classes too, for people who are interested in doing hand arts. My business has done a 180-degree turn for the better."
Many of the same small business owners returned in November 2013 for a follow-up series of workshops, again in association with the Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association and sponsored by First Midwest Bank, The Private Bank and The Resurrection Project. Because small business owners often times do not have the ability to judge the financial situations of their businesses in order to make the most effective decision for their money management, participants focused on building their financial literacy. Presenters stressed understanding credit scores and offered tips for improving them, explained what lenders look for on balance sheets, cash flow statements and income statements and provided details on managing taxes.
"We've gotten such amazingly positive feedback from the businesses," Dr. Gavino said. "What's really awesome, though, is that everyone keeps coming back...that's how we know the workshops are working."
The Pilsen Community Small Business Owner Education Workshop Series is just one of the ways Saint Xavier University impacts the greater community and serves as a resource to help people achieve their dreams.
What were you doing at 2 a.m. yesterday? Sleeping would be the most logical answer for many. For Andrianna, a junior from Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood, the answer was "studying for calculus."
Such dedication to her studies is nothing out of the ordinary for Andrianna. She is routinely up early in the morning, or late at night depending on your perspective, reviewing her notes for calculus, organic chemistry or biology. It's all a part of Andrianna's dream to become a neurosurgeon.
"Since 7th grade, I've talked about becoming a neurosurgeon. Two doctors talked to our class during a career day. Their stories about finding their passion in life served as an epiphany for me. I've always liked helping people and had an interest in first aid. After hearing the doctors I thought to myself, 'Yes, I can do this. I can be a doctor.' It just seemed like the perfect fit."
"I love the brain -- how it controls every function in the body. It fascinates me, so I knew I wanted to do something related to the brain. Also, I grew up watching medical dramas like ER, so that influenced me, too. People have told me that I may change my mind, but I've never wanted to do anything else than become a neurosurgeon."
The middle of three children, Andrianna's parents always pushed her to go to college because they didn't have the same opportunity for themselves. They wanted her to get a good education that would lead to a long lasting career and allow her to support herself. In fact, it was Andrianna's mother who strongly advocated for her to attend Saint Xavier University.
"I was accepted to a number of universities and wanted to go out of state, but my mom felt staying closer to home would be the best decision for me. I'm really glad I decided to come here. I've gained so much more than I thought I would. The faculty and staff really care about students. It's not just going to class and going through the motions to get a degree. I feel like I've really grown up and matured and I've been exposed to so much more than I thought I would before I got here."
"I expected college to be as it is portrayed on TV and in the movies -- lots of parties, not much studying -- but it has been the exact opposite at SXU. Here, it's really academically focused. The courses are rigorous."
Two of the most challenging classes Andrianna has taken, a biology course with Dr. Tatiana Tatum-Parker and an English class with Dr. Shannon Ambrose, have turned out to be among her favorites.
"I've never been pushed as much as I was in those classes. They're my favorite because I felt like I learned so much about myself and what I could do. Now, whenever I have a difficult class, I think back to what I learned in those classes and how I persevered."
Outside of her studies, the biochemistry major is involved with activities on campus, with her church and in her community. Andrianna is a member of the Chemistry Club and the Student Success Program, a program federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education to provide assistance and support to students who are low income and first-generation or low income students with disabilities. She actively participates in Campus Ministry through service trips and women's retreats.
Andrianna is involved with the Apostolic Church of Christ's health and wellness ministry and its monthly health seminars. As it relates to her professional goals, Andrianna is a volunteer at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She has spent time working in both the emergency room and the pediatric intensive care unit.
Like 95 percent of Saint Xavier students, Andrianna relies on scholarships, grants and loans in order to pay tuition and pursue her professional goals.
"Thank God for donors. I thank them for all the assistance they provide to students at SXU. They are truly making a difference for students like me each and every time they donate to our school."
Saint Xavier students are an exceptional group of women and men who are passionate about what they do, concerned about our world and committed to making a difference for others. Andrianna is a wonderful example of our mission and core values in action.
Each year, generous alumni and friends support our talented and hardworking students. Without your support, our students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, would not be able to afford a Saint Xavier University education or college in general. Your gifts matter.
Below, Rosie shares her story of why she chose to attend Saint Xavier, what her education means to her and what she plans to do after graduation.
Rosie is a sophomore studying clinical psychology and her goal is to earn her Ph.D. in this growing field. She chose to attend Saint Xavier because it is close to her home and, given its size, she knew she could expect one-on-one interactions with her professors.
Rosie has taken advantage of the numerous opportunities to get involved on campus. Currently, she is serving as an Orientation Leader and a Transitions Peer Mentor. She is also a member of Mercy Students for Peace and Justice, Alpha and Omega, and volunteers for the S.T.A.T. projects on campus.
But, without the support of donors, like you, Rosie would not be able to attend Saint Xavier. Like so many of our students, Rosie and her family rely on financial assistance to pay for tuition, books and other fees that come with a Saint Xavier education. Rosie explains the importance of her financial support quite simply, "Scholarships decide whether I attend college or not. They honestly determine my future."
Rosie would like all of our donors to know how truly grateful she is for your support:
"I would like to thank you for all you have already done to help. Also, I would like to encourage you to continue. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I need all the help I can get. Lastly, may God bless you."
Greg and Adrienne Jablonowski are the proud parents of Adam, a 2010 Saint Xavier University graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Grace, a junior in the Graham School of Management.
If you were to speak with Greg and Adrienne about their children and the experiences they have had at Saint Xavier University, you will likely hear of the accessibility of professors, community-feel of campus, and the overall approachable attitude of each person on campus.
The faculty at Saint Xavier, in many ways, shaped Adam's future and are doing the same for Grace. Greg and Adrienne explained that when Adam and Grace came home, they would rave about their instructors. They knew their children were being challenged. This challenge and accessibility of professors brought out the best in Adam and Grace -- it bestowed a confidence upon them that they may not have gotten at a larger university.
Greg, Adrienne, Adam and Grace also love that Saint Xavier feels more like a community than a University. As parents, Greg and Adrienne believe that the great friends their children have made are a reflection of the environment they are in on campus -- warm, inviting, safe and helpful.
The Jablonowski family is also among the loyal supporters of Saint Xavier. After paying tuition and other college expenses, many people may wonder why the Jablonowskis support SXU. Their answer is quite simple:
We see the positive impact Saint Xavier University had on Adam, and continues to have on Grace, both intellectually and spiritually. SXU has brought such joy to our family, and we want future students and families to experience this, also. Donating to the school is our way of saying thank-you for all our children gained.
Greg and Adrienne's advice to future students is to get involved! The experiences that Adam and Grace had thus far on campus would not have been possible if they had not been involved and active.
And, for future and current parents, realize that no matter what size of contribution you make, you are helping someone -- a student, a family or both.
Amber Prskalo, a junior in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program chose SXU for those exact same reasons and has loved Saint Xavier since her first day on campus. A very involved student, Amber is President of the Resident Housing Association, a Transitions Peer Mentor, a FOCUS leader, and a Resident Peer Minister. She sits on the board for the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association and is helping to form the Best Buddies Organization on campus. Ambitiously, she is also training to serve as the Student Ambassador Special Visit Coordinator.
While hard work, impeccable time management skills, and determination have enabled her to balance a hectic schedule, Amber credits scholarships and donors for her successes. She says, "Without having the scholarship I received, I truly believe I would not be here today. My scholarship definitely made a difference in my life, and without receiving one I would not have succeeded as well in school."
Amber is hopeful that she will be admitted to Saint Xavier's highly competitive graduate program in Communication Sciences and Disorders. After graduate school, she plans to work in a hospital as a speech pathologist, and eventually pursue her Doctorate degree after raising a family.
Amber would like everyone, donors and non-donors, to know this:
"Saying 'thank you' to the donors is not enough. Words cannot even match the feelings I have for the donations they have made to Saint Xavier University. They impact the lives of so many students here in more ways than one can imagine. They have given the chance to so many first generation college students, like myself, to pursue anything we want in life. Without their donations, this would not be possible. So, to them, thank you for making a difference in the lives of the students here at Saint Xavier, like myself, and God Bless!"
Natalie Hoffman '06 was the first official member of the newly formed X-Club Giving Society at Saint Xavier University. The X-Club recognizes undergraduate alumni who graduated in the past 10 years and who support the Saint Xavier Fund with an annual gift of $30 or more.
Natalie made her first gift to the University in Fall 2012. She supports the University because, as she says,
"I had such a great time while at SXU. I received an education that opened so many doors for me. During nursing interviews when I mentioned Saint Xavier University, I knew I had that job! It is also where I made amazing friends that will last me my lifetime."
Natalie, a School of Nursing alumna who was very involved on campus, enjoyed her time at SXU. She appreciated the "tight knight community" and that teachers actually knew and recognized her as "Natalie" instead of just knowing her as a number.
Her wonderful experiences are only part of the reason she decided to support Saint Xavier. To Natalie, giving to SXU means, "I am allowing someone to have the same and maybe even better experiences than I did. Those experiences are invaluable."
For current students, Natalie has some words of wisdom:
"This is going to be the best and hardest time in your life. All that you do now will help to shape you as a person and allow you to make an impact in the world. Don't waste it! And don't forget to enjoy the journey."
If you are an alum who is considering making your first gift, Natalie says to donate to "help students put their footprints on SXU -- just as you were allowed to do!"
Dale Fast, Ph.D., holds many titles at Saint Xavier University. His administrative and teaching responsibilities are not the only way Dr. Fast supports students. He is also a long-time donor, and a member of the President's Club -- Saint Xavier's leadership giving society. He is the Associate Provost, Dean of Graduate Education, and a professor of biological sciences. Each of these positions has allowed him to interact with Saint Xavier University's most valuable assets: our students.
Growing up, Dr. Fast's parents instilled in him a philanthropic spirit that has stayed with him throughout his life. He supports Saint Xavier because "the dollars have a direct impact on students' lives."
As a man who has spent 30 years teaching in the Biological Sciences Department and 7 years in administration, the students are what continue to fascinate and inspire Dr. Fast. When describing Saint Xavier's students, he explains, "Many of the students who come to Saint Xavier are average students but they leave as more than average members of society." Saint Xavier gives these students the opportunity they need to become contributing members of our communities.
But, Saint Xavier cannot provide these opportunities without the generosity of our donors, like Dr. Fast. Saint Xavier's donors help to provide 94 percent of undergraduate students with the financial assistance they need to finish their college education. If you are considering making a gift, of any size, to the University, take Dr. Fast's advice:
"Don't look at giving as something you do when you get to the end of the year and have some time or money left over. Start with a commitment to donate time or money and make do with the time and money that is left."
Opportunities and dreams. Here at Saint Xavier University, these words are taken very seriously. We work relentlessly to give our students the opportunity to achieve their dreams.
Take, for example, Brittany Jones. She is a senior psychology major, biology minor. Her goal is to earn her Ph.D. in dolphin cognition and communication, leading to a career as a research director at a marine mammal facility or as a college professor. Even with such a focused passion, Brittany has found the opportunity at Saint Xavier to make her dreams come true.
Brittany was selected to intern at Dolphins Plus last summer in Key Largo, Florida. In her position, she worked on a multitude of research projects on Atlantic bottle nose dolphins. She got to swim with the dolphins weekly as she helped train them, and was even present and transcribing notes for the birth of a dolphin! During her internship, Brittany was mentored and recently found out that she has been accepted into the University of Southern Mississippi's Experimental Psychology Ph.D. program for Fall 2012. Saint Xavier University opened the doors for Brittany's future career in marine mammal behavior and cognition.
Brittany is active both in and out of the classroom, demonstrating the flexibility and dependability of our students. She is a starting forward and record-holder for the women's basketball team, president of the Student Government Association, and a biology research assistant for Dr. Appelt and Dr. Carey. These activities have provided her with many fond memories at Saint Xavier, but the two she holds closest to her heart are speaking at President Wiseman's inauguration ceremony and beating Union University (Tennessee), a #1 ranked team, her sophomore year.
Brittany is also a scholarship recipient. When asked what scholarships mean to her, Brittany's first answer was very simple -- "Everything." She explained that if she did not receive scholarships, she would not have been able to afford to attend Saint Xavier. Furthermore, her ability to graduate in a stable financial position, because of her scholarships, is the only reason she will be able to further her education and continue on to graduate school.
And, for our donors and future donors, Brittany has a very special message:
"I would first of all like to thank you, and tell you that every dollar you donate truly does make a difference. There are students at this University that want to be successful that will put their heart and soul on the line to follow their dreams, and it is only because of your generosity that they can succeed!"
Why do I give back to SXU?
"As president of the SXU National Alumni Board, I meet many SXU students and find that many of us share a common story. We wouldn't have been able to attend college without some sort of monetary assistance. I can attest there are many costs associated with getting a college education (literally and figuratively) but it would be a shame to see excellent students forfeit their ticket to greatness because they can't afford the tuition. Although I have many student loans that I am repaying, I donate because it is my privilege and responsibility to help give someone else their ticket to greatness and reach their full potential with a college education from SXU."
"If you're contemplating donating for the first time, I recommend attending one of the many events on and off campus to meet fellow alums as well as SXU students and learn about how even a few dollars go a long way for a student eager to learn and succeed. Thank you. I hope to see you there!"
--Candace N. Ramirez '02, '04, '05
"Continuing my education in an area with extensive clinical [opportunities] for experience was always a goal and dream of mine and I would like to thank you [scholarship donors] for assisting me in accomplishing this. I truly believe that the education I am receiving at Saint Xavier in the nursing program is above and beyond any other I would have received [at a different university]."
Senior Nursing Major
Cross Country Runner