$1 million donation to math and computer science departments for endowed chair

The Ohio Wesleyan Department of Mathematics and Computer Science has received a $1 million donation from the

Beatrice K. McDowell. Photo courtesy of legacy.com.
Beatrice K. McDowell. Photo courtesy of legacy.com.

estate of the only female from the class of 1940 with a math degree.

Beatrice K. McDowell of Akron, Ohio, died Sept. 25, 2011, according to the Connect2OWU press release.

OWU president Rock Jones said because of legal problems with the estate, the donation wasn’t available to the university until now, four years after her death.

“The provision to [McDowell’s] last will and testament was made 15 years ago,” Jones said.

The donation will establish an endowed chair position within the math/CS department, Jones said. However, Jones said endowed chair positions have no power or authority.

“It’s essentially just an honor to receive the title of endowed chair,” said Jones. “They possess no power or authority. In the future, I’d like to make it so that these chairs have more power, however, right now, this is how it is.”

Jones explained that endowed chair positions are selected by the Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC), and by the Provost each spring.

Mark Schwartz, chair of the math/CS department, and professor of math at OWU, said there are plenty of things the money can be put toward.

The money, which Jones said will be 5 percent each year out of the $1 million, could be allocated to a number of different programs.

“We have several new programs, such as the travel learning course which goes to Alaska to study climate modeling, and this money will guarantee its future,” Schwartz said.

Some of the other programs the money will likely go toward, Schwartz said, include the Summer Science Research Program (SSRP), which is put on by the National Science Foundation.

OWU Provost Chuck Stinemetz said endowed chair positions are selected each spring, but declined to comment on whether or not this meant that this particular endowed chair position will be chosen this spring, as well.

Avant-garde theatre troupe returns to the stage at OWU

An experimental theatre troupe performed at Ohio Wesleyan to a semi-packed Gray Chapel.

It was Bread and Puppet’s second time performing at OWU in the last four years.

The troupe invited OWU theatre students to perform alongside them, giving them only three hours of training and rehearsal before the performance.

Junior Sarah Shulman was one of the theatre students to perform on Tuesday, April 20.

“I love experimental theatre,” Shulman said. “It’s a very invigorating experience.”

“It’s very visceral,” chimed in junior Hannah Simpson, another theatre student who performed in the piece.

The performance is a form of political activism. In it, director Peter Schumann performs a monologue called “Sermon to the Cockroaches,” which is meant to be quintessence of the political activism portion of the performance.

“The cockroach is the symbol for the underneath the above system. It’s a despised little thingy of an animal region that was not much visited by humans and it’s the survivor of many disasters already and possibly of the future, (the) survivor of new events,” Schumann said.

The event was a house project for seniors Noah Manskar and Rob O’Neill, both of whom live in the Peace & Justice (P&J) House. Manskar is on the journalism board at OWU, and has ties to the Transcript.

When asked what he hopes audience members took away from the performance, O’Neill said, “To always question what people in power tell you.”

Manskar and O’Neill said the visit, which cost $2,725, was paid for with donations from academic departments, organizations, clubs, or other Small Living Units (SLUs). According to O’Neill, the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs (WCSA) denied funding for Bread and Puppet’s visit.

“I think it’s great that the students were so resourceful in getting funding all on their own for this,” said Ed Kahn, professor of theatre and dance at OWU.

Schumann, a recent émigré from Germany, is the founder of Bread and Puppet. He began in 1960 in New York City and began touring all over Europe, as well as in the U.S., in places like San Francisco and New England, according to the group’s website.

Family relationships affect personal health

Emily Ahonen. Photo courtesy of pbhealth.iupui.edu.
Emily Ahonen. Photo courtesy of pbhealth.iupui.edu.

Where you live, where you work and even your family relationships all affect personal health.

Emily Ahonen spoke to Ohio Wesleyan students about the social determinants of public health.

Ahonen is a researcher and assistant professor of environmental health science at Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, Indiana University.

What a person’s public health means, Ahonen explained, encompasses everything from where they live, their education and even their family relationships.

A good relationship with your spouse or parents can play a role in how healthy you are, Ahonen said.

“Whether or not you have a job, where you work, and if it is dangerous, or if you’re exposed to certain chemicals all influence and affect your health and wellbeing,” Ahonen said.

Ahonen also added that whether or not you are in the country legally can affect your health. In addition, a person’s literacy skills also play a role in their personal health.

Ahonen referenced two case studies which show how public policy can be changed to improve public health.

The main case study was a three year study in which she looked at the differences between different government funded housing in Chicago. One group of study subjects lived in newly renovated “green” housing – which means the houses were made with far fewer harmful chemicals. The other study group was still living in the older government funded housing, buildings made with more chemicals.

What Ahonen and the other researchers found was the people living in the “green” houses were in better general health. One glaring statistic they found was 61 percent better asthma control from subjects living in the “green” houses versus those living in the older housing units.

Ahonen and her team’s research helped to pave the way for more equal housing for all income ranges in Chicago.

“If we better understand the ways in which housing impacts health, we can recommend building housing with characteristics which better support the health and well-being of the people who live there,” Ahonen said.

 

Junior Valentina Marginean was one of the 20 students at the lecture.

“I think the main point that [Ahonen] was trying to make was that environmental factors in both developed and under-developed societies are significant contributors to one’s health,” Marginean said.

OWU professor’s first book is a coping mechanism

Amy Butcher. Photo courtesy of owu.edu.
Amy Butcher. Photo courtesy of owu.edu.

Shortly before the end of her undergraduate career, Amy Butcher went out for drinks with some friends, including a close friend named Kevin. He walked her home, told her a joke about a John Denver song and said goodnight. Less than two hours later, Kevin’s 19 year old ex-girlfriend, Emily Silverstein was dead in his bathroom.

This story is the basis of Ohio Wesleyan University assistant professor Amy Butcher’s first book, Visiting Hours, which was released nationally on April 7, 2015.

Butcher teaches creative nonfiction in the English department.

In her book, Butcher writes about how she coped with losing her friend, Kevin.

“It is taboo to say that I grieved for the erasure of Kevin as much as I grieved the loss of his victim,” Butcher said. “But it’s the truth.”

“Kevin was a history major, the president of the college radio station, a kid who wore skinny jeans and green tennis shoes and form-fitting t-shirts in hipster shades: crimson, baby blue, magenta,” she says. “In short, he was one of the most innocuous and responsible people I knew, and this made the incident all the more horrifying.”

Butcher said she had written him letters every month for three years.

“Because Kevin would not talk to me about any of this – not the crime, not what really happened,” said Butcher, “I eventually drove back to Gettysburg and sought this information myself by way of a request for all public documents related to the case.”

The "Visiting Hours" book cover. Photo courtesy of amazon.com.
The “Visiting Hours” book cover. Photo courtesy of amazon.com.

This is when Butcher learned the truth about what really happened that night.

“I learned Kevin had been trying to take his own life when Emily physically intervened,” she said. “When someone is so overcome with the desire to kill themselves, they kill the person who gets in the way.”

Butcher says she wrote this book not only as way of coping with the loss of her friend, but to open a discussion on mental illness.

“Depression and suicidal ideation is incredibly common,” Butcher says. “In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death nationally for those ages 15-24.”

Butcher said she began writing the book during her third year of graduate school at the University of Iowa.

In her first version of the story, Butcher found, through help from her mentors (Robin Hemley and Meghan Daum), that the book was really about how she was obsessed and traumatized.

Butcher says when she finished the book, “It felt like the most pressurized valve had been turned, and I could breathe again.”

As for what’s next for Butcher, she has three works in progress.

“I’m generally not one to talk about my work until it’s done, because I think it can create a false sense of success that I’ve in no way earned,” she says.

Several of Butcher’s students are encouraged by the amount of success she’s had at her age.

“Butcher’s book inspires me to be an effective writer while still pursuing my own career, just as she has,” senior Lauren Moore said. “To me, balancing both her job search and her personal publishing is an amazing accomplishment.”

Senior Paul Priddy shared these sentiments.

“From a student’s perspective, I don’t know that I can say enough about the value of having a highly recognized and award-winning author as my professor,” Priddy said. “It’s really amazing to have the opportunity to have our work critiqued in as thoughtful and intelligent a way as professor Butcher does.”

Confidence leads to success on field

The men's lacrosse team celebrates together. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.
The men’s lacrosse team celebrates together. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.

Confidence is one of the reasons the Ohio Wesleyan men’s lacrosse team is seeing more wins this season compared to last season.

This season, the team has been ranked number seven in the nation among other division three schools, coach Mike Plantholt said.

Three of the team’s ten seniors are scoring a high amount of goals compared to last season.

Senior Kyle Foster said another reason the team has been so successful is the addition of assistant coach Trey Keeley.

“Coach Keeley’s main suggestion is to play fast,” said Foster. “But a lot of our success has been building off last year’s success.”

Plantholt said the team only lost three seniors at the end of last season, so mostly everyone returned.

“With such a huge senior class, we have a highly experienced team that has been here all four years,” senior Brenden Bouchard said. “When you have the majority of your starting offense, it’s kind of easy to just build off what you’ve already got.”

Bouchard and Foster said they think the team has been so successful this season is because of the new coaching staff, combined with a large amount of seniors on the team.

“We were a very talented team last year,” Bouchard said. “But we weren’t having the success that we are having this season. If you look at our record and the teams that we were playing, we were losing by one goal. We were losing to these very competitive top ten teams that we’ve had, but I think now you will see that we are just winning those games.”

Senior attacker Tommy Winkler seizes up his opponents. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.
Senior attacker Tommy Winkler seizes up his opponents. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.

Winning games translates to confidence on the field, which then results in more wins.

“Once you start to see success, you can feel it in the locker room now, you can feel the energy, people are excited to be at practice, people want to get better,” Foster said.

Senior John Umbach said this confidence stems from the team’s first big game of the season.

“After that first big game of the season, the [Franklin and Marshal] game, what we did there in third quarter,” Umbach said. “When we saw we had eight goals in one quarter, I mean, John had five goals in the span of two minutes, that’s when people started realizing what we had and what we were capable of doing.”

“The confidence started to build off of that, and in the Roanoke game we saw what we could do in four quarters of lacrosse, and that’s when we started to realize that when we put in four quarters of good lacrosse then we could start doing some damage to these other teams,” Umbach added.

“Psychologically, I think it’s nice to see yourself beating those teams cause then you know you can beat them, as opposed to trying to convince yourself in your head that you can beat them,” Foster said.

Bouchard said the team isn’t always confident.

“You definitely get nervous before those big games, because there is nothing like playing a top ranked opponent,” Bouchard said. “But it’s a number that gets put on their back, it’s a giant, all of a sudden, so it’s natural for an athlete to get nervous before those games, but after winning that game, I think everybody is excited at the opportunity to maybe just demoralize or smash another opponent. Now you are on the other side of it. You know, you are now no longer the underdog.”

Low enrollment numbers forcing budget cuts

Ohio Wesleyan’s budget is suffering cutbacks because enrollment is not as high as school officials want.

According to an email sent to school faculty by OWU President Rock Jones, the projected budget deficit is going to be $4.5 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. As a result, the university is looking for ways to save money.

Chris Wolverton, a professor in the botany department and head of the university governance council, said the council was tasked by the president to come up with ideas to save money.

“Bottom line, we’re down a lot of students, not just this year, and not just last year, but in general, the school’s enrollment is really low, and as a result, the school just isn’t making as much money,” Wolverton said.

Susan Dileno, vice president of enrollment at OWU, said the 2013 freshman class had 572 students, while the 2014 freshman class had only 484 students.

According to the email, the school administration is considering several options to save money. These ideas include “operations reductions, compensation adjustments, staff reductions and frozen vacant faculty lines.”

Wolverton explained that frozen vacant faculty lines are when a professor retires or is fired by the university; that position is called a faculty line. So keeping those lines frozen means not hiring new professors to a certain position to save money that would otherwise be spent on their salary.

“The size of the faculty is actually very difficult to change,” said Wolverton. “Right now, we have around 145 full-time faculty members.”

There are also the discretionary expenses that Wolverton said the council has considered cutting. These are the amount of basic office supplies like printer ink, staples, pens, and pencils and other similar items.

Wolverton also explained one of the main options the council is considering to save money – which he says many faculty members have been in support of – is to forego the salary raises which were planned and budgeted for the next fiscal year.

Another option being considered is increasing health care premiums.

“There are lots of different salary tiers at OWU, some people are paid on hourly wages, and some people – the administration members – make six figures,” Wolverton said. “So not everyone pays the same premiums for health care. We are considering increasing how much the higher tiers have to pay for health care.”

The council on university governance – which is made up of six faculty members – will present the administration with money-saving ideas by the end of March, and the administrators will then make a decision by May 15.

Director from education institute educates educators

Terrell Strayhorn. Photo courtesy of nbgsa.com.
Terrell Strayhorn. Photo courtesy of nbgsa.com.

Terrell Strayhorn has several suggestions for school faculty to improve relationships with their students.

Strayhorn, the director at the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at the Ohio State University, spoke to about 30 Ohio Wesleyan University faculty members on March 3, offering up his findings on how to improve teacher and faculty relationships with their students.

“What is one of the most important parts of our job?” Strayhorn asked the crowd gathered in the Benes rooms Tuesday morning.

“They need to know that they deserve success, that we want them to succeed,” chimed in one faculty member.

Strayhorn discussed the importance of inter-departmental communication.

“How often do you communicate with students?” Strayhorn asked of a faculty member who worked in the university’s writing center.

“All the time,” replied the faculty member.

Seeming pleased with this, Strayhorn asked a follow up question.

“How often do you communicate with the counseling department?” Strayhorn asked. “Or other departments on campus?”

The faculty member in the writing center hesitated a moment, then admitted, “Not that often. Hardly ever,” he said.

Strayhorn emphasized that faculty members need to consider all the departments which a student may be going to see every day. That they need to consider what it is like to be in their student’s shoes.

“How do we intentionally connect what a student goes through on a daily basis?” asked Strayhorn.

Strayhorn went on to talk about the importance of a good mentor.

“I had a good mentor,” said Strayhorn. “He showed me that he cared about me, and not in a creepy way. He gave me a book which was copyrighted the year I was born. That little gesture showed me that he knew me, that he cared about me.”

Strayhorn suggested that OWU faculty really take the time to get to know their students.

“How effective are you as a mentor?” Strayhorn asked.

He added something seemingly obvious, though important, in his opinion, to remember that a good mentor knows something that their protégé does not.

“I had a good mentor because I knew that I mattered to him,” he added.

Strayhorn listed the numerous accolades which OWU has received over the past several years, and ended the lecture by asking one last rhetorical question of the crowd.

“How do we make students realize this place is special?”

After the keynote lecture, Sally Leber, the director of community service learning at OWU, said, “For faculty and staff – knowing ourselves better allows us to get to know our students better.”

Levi Harrel, a residential life coordinator (RLC) at OWU, and friend of Strayhorn’s, mentioned that faculty needs to, “Focus on the fact that everyone’s sense of belonging is different so that everyone can feel as though they belong.”

Strayhorn, according to his profile on the OSU website, has given a now popular TEDx Talk in Columbus, authored over 50 book chapters, and more than 300 international, national and state conference papers, presentations and keynote addresses.

House of Thought not returning to campus next year

House of Thought. Photo courtesy of the OWU website.
House of Thought. Photo courtesy of the OWU website.

Gathered in the tiny living room inside House of Thought (HoT), all 10 Small Living Unit (SLU) residents got together to express their grievances.

The subject at hand: HoT’s application for renewal was denied, and as a result, the SLU will not be returning.

Senior Todd Zucker, a resident of HoT, said they were told by Residential Life (ResLife) staff that there were several problems with their application.

“We felt that the house has struggled to meet occupancy and complete house projects this year, which indicate their lack of sustainability as a community,” said Wendy Piper, director of ResLife at OWU.

These occupancy concerns, according to the residents of HoT, are unfair.

“We had all of our spaces filled,” said senior Felicia Rose, the house moderator. “Two of our new members had not officially ‘checked-out’ of their old dorms, so they weren’t ‘officially’ residents of HoT when we submitted the application for renewal.”

Rose added that the two new members had tried to contact their Resident Assistants (RAs) to check out of their dorms, but their RAs had not responded to them.

Zucker said the house had seven people last semester.

“We have 10 people living here this semester, and 10 people were lined up to live here next semester,” said Zucker. “Despite all new members knowing that this house was going to be razed, and we wouldn’t have a house.”

Levi Harrel, a residential life coordinator (RLC) and a member of the SLU selection committee, said all SLUs are required to have 100 percent occupancy throughout the entire year.

HoT had only completed two of the required 11 house projects at the end of last semester.

“It was expected that they complete at least half of the required house projects by the end of the first semester,” Harrel said.

Rose says ResLife told her that the house had the entire year to complete their house projects.

Rose said it is hard to know the rules or what ResLife expects from them when there are no written guidelines or rules for SLU members.

Harrel said every member of the SLU community is required to perform one house project per year. House moderators are required to complete two.

Junior Sarah Richmond, a resident of HoT, brought up the point that SLUs are the only non-dorm living option for women.

“Men get to live in a fraternity or a SLU, but women are not allowed to live in the sorority houses, so this is the only place I can live if I don’t want to live in a dorm,” Richmond said.

Replacement SLU?

“Each year, Small Living Units must submit a proposal for renewal and be selected as a SLU for the following year,” said Piper. “Students also have the opportunity to propose new SLUs each year.”

In addition to the HoT’s denial of renewal, a proposal for a new SLU was accepted by ResLife for next year.

The House of Spiritual Athletes (HSA) will be joining the OWU community in the fall, Piper said.

Freshman Conner Brown, one of the founders of HSA, said they will be one of the first SLUs to be completely substance free.

“We will strive for a high standard of maturity and morality, and, as a group, we believe that a substance-free environment is the best way to help us achieve that goal,” said Brown.

The last time a SLU’s application for renewal was denied, according to Piper, was the Creative Arts House in 2010.

“In 2010, the Creative Arts House submitted an application that we initially did not renew on account of our concerns for their physical structures that were located at 110 and 114 Rowland Ave.,” Piper said in an email. “Ultimately, we worked to keep Creative Arts House open amidst certain plans to raze the structures in 2011.  The Creative Arts House submitted an application in 2011 but was not renewed. Coincidentally, the last time that we had a SLU that was not renewed and a new SLU that was accepted in its place was when the House of Thought replaced the House of Spirituality in 2003.”

Duplexes on Rowland Ave.

In June of this year, Piper said the university has plans to raze the structure at 118 Rowland Ave.

“We are currently surveying the property and working with a team of architects to determine what the best location will be for newly constructed SLUs,” said Piper. “We hope to have a confirmed site very soon so that we can make plans for construction to commence over the summer.”

Many SLUs are in poor physical condition, according Zucker.

“It usually takes the school about a month to fix something in the house when it is broken,” Zucker said.

Harrel agrees the structures are in poor physical condition.

“It is just time to update the structures, they need it desperately,” Harrel said.

Harrell said the university plans on building a series of duplexes over the next several years to which the SLUs on Rowland Avenue would be relocated.

“It makes sense to start building at 118 Rowland Ave.,” said Harrel, “As it will be the first building to be demolished.”

Politics professor discusses Brazil’s future

James Franklin. Photo courtesy of owu.edu.
James Franklin. Photo courtesy of owu.edu.

Despite making great deal of progress over the past several decades, Brazil still faces many challenges in its future as a global leader.

James Franklin, professor and chair of the politics and government department at Ohio Wesleyan University spoke about the changes Brazil has seen over the last 50 years in the latest installment of the Great Decisions lecture series.

One challenge Brazil faces is the high level of inequality throughout the country.

“Some people are living in favelas and in slums, and some have walled houses, armed guards and commute to work in a helicopter,” Franklin said.

Franklin said there are high amounts of chaos in the government, likely because its Chamber of Deputies, the Brazilian equivalent to the United States’ Congress, contains more than 28 different political parties.

The government of Brazil had a very authoritarian start; however, it is working toward a successful democracy, he said.

Another contemporary challenge Brazil faces, Franklin said, is the extreme fractionalization of the political parties. “Some political parties don’t even take a stand on many issues,” he said. “They are there because they want power.”

Corruption is another of the challenges Brazil faces. Kickbacks to the oil industry recently, leads many Brazilians to not trust their government.

One connection many South Americans share is their passion for politics, Franklin said. Everyday citizens in Brazil and other parts of South America are much more involved in politics than citizens in the United States.

Another challenge Brazil faces is the protection of the Amazon rainforest.  Franklin said the country’s president has reduced deforestation, so much so that the impact on carbon emissions would be “if the entire European Union stopped driving for a whole year.”

But government enforcement in the Amazon is actually quite weak, Franklin said. Until former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the government didn’t do anything to stop deforestation.

“President Lula actually put in place incentives for Brazilians to not promote the deforestation of the Amazon,” said Franklin. “I might even say Brazil has done the most out of any country to combat global warming.”

Franklin said with poverty being such an extreme issue throughout the country, the issue of protecting the environment is often swept under the rug.

“Economic and financial issues are given far more importance than environmental issues are,” Franklin said.

The biggest challenge Brazil faces now is determining what its role in the world will be as a developing global power.

The next Great Decisions lecture will occur on Friday, Feb. 27, from noon to 1 p.m. at the William Street United Methodist Church. The subject will be “U.S. Policy Toward Africa,” which will feature OWU professor Randolph Quaye.

Theology professor dispels myths about Satan

Ryan Stokes with fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Photo courtesy of Ryan Stokes.
Ryan Stokes with fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Photo courtesy of Ryan Stokes.

A visiting scholar set out to determine where the idea of Satan came from in the spring lecture for the Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Studies program (AMRS).

Speaking at Ohio Wesleyan University on Feb. 9 to a packed Benes Room, Ryan Stokes of the South Western Baptist Seminary entertained the audience of students and faculty with charisma and interesting facts which he has learned from his studies on the origin of Satan.

Stokes said he wanted to determine whether or not there are stories from the Bible about how Satan came to be who people know as the devil today.

“In the old testament, Satan was just some obscure figure of relative insignificance,” Stokes said.

In the New Testament of the Bible, Stokes said the character of Satan is much more prominent, appearing in 19 different books.

“During that time between when the two testaments were written, Satan teams up with evil spirits, Satan becomes the ‘deceiver’ and the ‘tempter’, he becomes the leader of wrecked nations, and he became the enemy of God’s people,” Stokes said.

Stokes also cleared up several common misconceptions about Satan and the Bible.

“In the Old Testament, he was called ‘The Satan,’ it was a title, not a name,” said Stokes, “and The Satan actually worked for God.”

Stokes also taught that the Hebrew Scriptures actually contain no origin story for The Satan.

One audience member asked about how the number 666 relates to the devil.

“There is honestly no discernible correlation between the number 666, and the Satan,” said Stokes, “The number six hundred sixty six, not six-six-six, had connections to a beast, but that beast was never identified as The Satan.”