ANF Architects Wins National Design Award for Rosa Deal School of Arts

ANF Architects
 was awarded First Place in the 2018 Vision Design Award for Education, a national award, for the Rosa Deal School of Arts at Christian Brothers University. Floor Focus Magazine announced the winners of the ninth annual Vision Design Awards on April 6, 2018. In determination of the award, the Vision Design Jury stated, “This project demonstrates a thoughtful and successful approach to space-making, layered with a clear hierarchy of colors and materials. The creative integration of flooring is an extension of the project’s principal design concepts, and the jury especially appreciated the way that the flooring helped to highlight wayfinding throughout the complex.” 

Read more about the award here and more about the Rosa Deal building here.

Inside Out / Dreamers Bus Tour Visits CBU

Inside Out

The Inside Out / Dreamers tour stopped at CBU just before winter break to celebrate America’s DREAMers and rally our community to support the DREAM Act. Inside Out / Dreamers is a nationwide participatory art initiative (the Inside Out Project), funded by the TED Foundation and launched by award-winning artist JR to create a portrait of America that includes immigrants and the descendants of immigrants alike.

Inside Out BusThe truck, retro-fitted to function as a photo booth, gave hundreds from CBU’s campus community an opportunity to have their picture taken and transform their personal identity into works of public art. The photos are instantly printed and were included in a series of highly visible art installations featuring a group of large-scale black and white portraits.

Inside Out NewsClick on the image above to watch a video news report on the project at CBU from WMC-TV5, which features interviews with President John Smarrelli and Rafaela Minor (Business Administration ’21).

CBU’s participation in the event and our support of DACA students were also the subject of a December 13 article in High Ground News entitled ”Inside Out/Dreamers art project drums up support for Memphis’ undocumented young people.” The article quoted President John SmarrelliTeresa Escobar (Finance ’19), and Mauricio Calvo (’87), executive director of Latino Memphis.

Dean’s Note: What Are You Going Through?

Scott GeisThere are precious few vocations where the freedoms are as great and the responsibilities as grave as that of teaching. And for a Lasallian educator, the call is to live and to love on an entirely different level. More specifically, we are to understand that those entrusted to our care are not simply students, they are neighbors.

In being called to love those who sometimes seem more stranger than neighbor, we are to see our students as individual selves who bear the image and likeness of God, and who thus possess incalculable dignity and worth. But how, in very practical terms? I’m glad you asked!

It stands to reason that if I, as a Lasallian educator, am called to be the face of Love to my students, then one rather obvious implication of that calling is to care about the things they care about, to try to understand why they care about those things as they do, and to encourage in them a greater, deeper awareness of their heart’s desires and the Object of those desires.

Doing so is seldom easy, as it requires time and, most importantly, careful attention. Simone Weil puts it simply: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”; at its best, it is the “same thing as prayer . . . [as] it presupposes faith and love.”

Our students’ lives are often very complicated – sometimes unnecessarily so, but complicated nonetheless. And it should come as no surprise to us that what happens outside of the classroom often influences a student’s perception of their school and impacts their performance in the classroom. In fact, studies show that the quality of students’ relationships on campus – most especially with their teachers – has a tremendous bearing on their decision to leave or stay.

I speak from personal experience, as my daughter’s decision to remain at CBU – after a mostly tumultuous sophomore year – was, by her own admission, tied largely to her relationships with particular faculty members. These teachers – these neighbors, these friends – cared about her, listened to her, spoke the truth to her, encouraged her, walked alongside her, persisted with her, and loved her. They gave my precious daughter the gift of their attention in the midst of her own “dark night of the soul.”

Needless to say, my family will be forever indebted to these individuals who, in myriad ways, embodied what Weil had in mind when she suggested that, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, ‘What are you going through?’” As human beings, we can tolerate or bear a lot of things; being ignored is most certainly not one of them. . . .

Peace like a river,


Donor To Match First $1,000 Toward Student Travel Fund

T Patrick - P WoodyChristian Brothers University and the Rosa Deal School of Arts have recently established a Student Travel Fund to support students in the RDSOA who wish to travel regionally, nationally, or internationally to participate in professional development workshops or to present original work at conferences, including research or creative work, in their chosen field. Such journeys provide students with invaluable experience and networking opportunities, and previous trips have included research presentations in SeattleMinneapolis, and, most recently, Vienna, Austria (link to be added).

A gracious anonymous donor has agreed to match the first $1,000 in donations. So far, we have raised $300 for the fund, which has been matched by a $300 gift from the donor. Additional gifts will enable the university to access the remaining matching funds and offer more student travel grants. While we do our best to support our students, we (and they) still need additional support. Every little bit helps: for example, if ten people give $10 that means an additional $200 for our students to travel, which is equivalent to a night or two in a hotel or meals during their travel.

Grants from the fund will be made available to full-time students at the undergraduate or graduate level who are majoring in any discipline in the Rosa Deal School of Arts. The application and award process will be overseen and administered by the Academic Vice President, and the Dean of the School of Arts.

Anyone interested in making a gift to the Rosa Deal School of Arts Student Travel Fund can donate online at our donation page and choose the RDSOA Student Travel Fund in the designation drop-down menu. Checks can be made out to Christian Brothers University with “RDSOA Student Travel Fund” in the “for” line and mailed to:

Office of Advancement
Christian Brothers University
650 East Parkway South
Memphis, TN 38104

Daring To Dream: Associate Professor Nick Pena’s Convocation Speech

Pena ConvocationThe growth of our campus and community was apparent on Monday as my colleagues walked from our newly minted Rosa Deal School of the Arts Building to gather for lunch in our newly renovated dining hall. It was even more apparent when we left Alfonso to bear witness to the sun, moon, and earth beginning their alignment for the solar eclipse.

While we stood outside of the Thomas Center, each taking turns to marvel at the interactions before us, both The Great American Eclipse and our re-aligning CBU community – I felt a difference on our campus.

EclipseI don’t know if you felt it, but I was very aware of the palatable excitement found around each corner of our campus, an excitement that was beyond the celestial phenomenon.  Later, as I reflected on that feeling, I was reminded of my first visit to a university campus.  I was a junior in high school, not much younger than you are now, visiting Morris Library on Southern Illinois University’s campus to begin research on a paper for a biology class.  I vividly remember the buzz of students congregating in the quad, while I walked, unsure of the direction to the library I witnessed students walking with purpose from building to building.  At that moment, I was enamored with the energy, excitement, and collective buzz. Monday’s atmosphere on campus reminded me of my younger self – daring to dream that one day, I would walk with purpose.

“Daring to dream,” I know, it sounds like a motivational speaker’s catchphrase, along with “Your smile is your logo,” or “Your personality is your business card.” Yet, when preparing my remarks for this evening’s address, the expression “Daring to dream,” really is the most appropriate expression I could think of when presenting my theme.

What that theme is will need some priming, so a little historical context is needed. I was born in 1978 so I am not quite Generation X and not quite Generation Y or “a Millennial”. I am a product of a “mixed-race” family. My mother’s family is of English and German descent and my father’s family is of Mexican and Spanish descent.

I look like I should speak Spanish, but I cannot. Needless to say, this has caused some confusion for others throughout my life. Many Latino Americans make assumptions and start speaking Spanish to me and when they realize I cannot, I feel they are left with noticeable disappointment. On the flip-side, many Caucasians also make the same assumption. In the end, I believe it’s because I am, and look, Latino.

I was a “jock” throughout my childhood and in High school, but I hung out with, and was, a punk skateboarder who loved art classes. I was born and raised in the Midwest. For those of you unfamiliar with life in that part of the country, allow me to elaborate. I think the actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key hit the nail on the head when, during an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, he described that being Midwestern was always assuming that you have to think badly of yourself, because that’s being humble.

“I’m from the Midwest,” Key said, “so I always assumed: Well, I have to think badly of myself, because that’s being humble. And where I’m from, you get points for being humble and you get an extra special big house in heaven. That’s the rule, right? Now, you have these dirty dreams in the back of your mind: … What if there was the first black James Bond, and it was me? You’re going to hell. You’re never allowed to dream that big.”

What Key is pointing out, and the reason why it resonates, is that many of us, Midwestern or not, find ourselves culturally conditioned by old-fashioned underpinnings.  It took me a long time before I realized the amount of cultural conditioning thrust upon me growing up in a single-parent household. My parents divorced when I was six. The aftermath of that separation meant relocating to a small, rural Southern Illinois town were my brother and I were two in a handful of minorities. For many years, I bought into the idea that I was supposed to stay in my lane.

However, what I realized during my journey through adolescence was that despite our fractured foundation and relocation, my mother, without telling me, consistently dared me to dream. She did so because she was multifaceted and exceptional – it just took me awhile to accept it, with her being my mother and all.

Growing up on a farm during the 1950s, she was one of nine children and the only person in the family to receive her high school diploma and years later, while I was entering high school, she became the first person in her immediate and extended family to receive a college degree. My mother showed me, by example, how someone dares to dream. To better yourself no matter your situation, keep learning, keep failing, have faith, educate others, and keep an open heart.

The other revelation appeared around the time I mentioned earlier, my junior and senior year in high school, and it was because I was equipped, by my mother, with a foundation in daring to dream. I began finding and being drawn to other individuals who left their “prescribed lanes” to pursue their dreams.

Nick PenaGloria Jones, who immigrated to the U.S. to study art education, was my high school art teacher. When our paths crossed in 1995, she changed the trajectory of my life forever. While helping me build the foundation I needed to receive a full scholarship to study art at the university level, she dared me to dream. Without her example, I would not be standing here today.

The list continues: Erin Palmer, Assoc. Professor, in Painting/Drawing at Southern Illinois University; William Hawk, Professor Emeritus, in Painting/Drawing at the University of Missouri; Jana Travis, Associate Professor and my Visual Arts colleague in the Rosa Deal School of the Arts; Dr. Paul Haught, former Dean of the School of the Arts and current Vice President of Academics at CBU; and finally, Cat Peña, my wife and my partner in crime in daring to dream.

Dreaming and living for your dreams is not something that can or should be done by yourself. My advice to you, class of 2021, is, as you embark on your journey at CBU, to take a minute to think about the amazing position you have put yourself in. You are at a University that was founded by a dreamer, which embraces DREAMer’s, and which hires dreamers. I know, because I am one of those dreamers.

In closing, I wish you many fantastic changes during the next four years. It is without doubt that each of you are remarkable and I would like to congratulate you on your academic prowess. You have all had a multitude of successes throughout high school. You have already established your strengths and you will always be the wonderful person you are today.

However, at CBU, we believe you can do better – we dare each of you to dream while we help you build your foundation.

Thank you.

Nick Peña is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts. You can see more of his work on his website. This speech was given at Community Convocation on August 17, 2017.

Student Spotlight: Destiny Bell

cathedralRecently, I was granted the honor of traveling to Austria to present research that a few upperclassmen recruited me to help with. When I first came to CBU, I would have never thought this would be in my cards, but as I stood there staring at the huge plane carrying us to our layover in Spain, I knew it was all too real.

So what do you do when you travel to another country to a conference completely filled with graduates and professors? If you answered, “Cry,” you are partially right, at least on my mother’s part. I am pretty sure she tracked my plane throughout the whole ride. However, as much as I love my mom, the story lies in what happened once I finally got to Vienna, home to many glorious people like Sigmund Freud, Hans Asperger, and Wolfgang Mozart. How in the world was I going to do this?

After sleeping off the inevitable jet lag, the adventure carried on. The conference was held in The Hofburg, a place where it looked like Kings and Queens would vacation. Once again, it struck me that I was an undergraduate travelling the world with research I had worked so hard to complete. I was only involved in the data collection and analysis part, so I can only imagine how it felt for the authors of the project. As we finally walked through the doors, I got a badge with my name on it that clarified what institution I was from and the name of the conference, “Society for Psychophysiology Research.” This was the third conference I’ve attended, but this one was so much more, because I was out of my element. When the conference finally started, I was surprised at how much I could recall. I was able to sit there and defend the thought process and reasoning behind our poster, all while also drinking in the knowledge of others. You would not believe how many people approached us to simply spitball ideas for a new project.

In the middle of a foreign country, with a bunch of new people, I found myself and felt at home in the little bits around me; I found solace in the knowledge everyone came to share. As I wandered through the different posters, new ideas popped up, and I realized this is what I wanted to keep doing for the rest of my life. I want to travel and experience the commonality of knowledge in a room filled with total strangers.

illusion museumIf you think all the academic stuff was cool, you should have seen the adventures afterwards. We found new places to dine where they served us juicy sausages for a small price. We experienced the Natural History Museum and found more creatures than we cared to know were out there in the world. We got into trouble at the Museum Der Illusionen. We were able to see how the locals lived by taking the U-Bahn (subway). We had so much fun in that small week we were there. We exercised our intellectual curiosity by visiting the Freud Museum and learned about one of psychology’s founding fathers. I would go back every time and relive those awe-inspiring moments.

Destiny Bell
Psychology ’18
Cognitive Neuroscience Minor

Dean’s Note: Lost and Loved

Scott GeisThe past two weeks have been exemplary of life’s highs and lows – at least, in my life that’s certainly been the case. Two weeks ago I had the distinct privilege of delivering CBU’s tenth annual “Last Lecture.” I’ve told people I’ve spoken with since that that was, without a doubt, one of the most special days of my life. Simply being invited to do so was a real joy, but what made it truly special and unforgettable was the love I received before, during, and after speaking – especially from students; I honestly can’t recall the last time I felt so loved by so many people (outside of my family).

I spoke about the importance of friendship – not only in terms of the vital role it plays in who we are, but also in our ability to envision and forge the kind of future our hearts most desire – but I experienced the gift or grace of friendship in and through these students.

The following Monday – last Monday, May 1 – I was pulled out of a meeting in Student Life and told my dad had suffered a massive heart attack, and was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Minneapolis; he died four days later. Last Friday, I lost my hero, my rock, my confidant, a veritable fount of knowledge and wisdom who taught me how to be a man, a husband, a father, a friend, a person of goodness and integrity. It’s thrown me completely off-balance.

In my lost, disconsolate, disoriented state, I reached out to one of my very best friends, who lives in Green Bay, and told him I wasn’t really sure how to live now (if that makes any sense). My friend, Denver, is not only one of a handful of best friends, he’s also a clinical psychologist who works closely with veterans suffering from PTSD. This is what he told me:

“Hi Scott, what you said makes perfect sense to me since, as you know, I lost my own father this past November. When your dad passed away you lost a part of yourself. Your sense of self and worldview heretofore included your dad, and the pain you feel is the deep inner tear and vacant place where he once was. And now you must navigate forward without his physical presence. Something that may seem very difficult initially, which is why you’ll need your friends; they will be the comfort you need and will help to re-orient you.”

I read a recent article in the “wellness” section of The New York Times titled, “Friendship: In Sickness and in Health,” that begins this way: “A silver lining in the dark cloud of serious illness – your own or a loved one’s – is the help and caring offered by friends, and the way that help can deepen friendships.”

While I was touched deeply by my students’ love after my (hypothetical) “Last Lecture,” the outpouring of care, concern, kindness, and love I’ve experienced since my dad’s death has been absolutely overwhelming. This entire community has embraced me, cried with me, walked with me and beside me, prayed for me, and condoled with me: that is to say, you haven’t tried to take my pain and sense of lost-ness away; rather, you love me enough to want to share it. In short, you’ve been the face of Love – the human face of God – to me, and that is an immeasurable gift, an ineffable Grace.

I read a few years ago of a study done at the University of Virginia. Researchers studied 34 undergraduates at UVA, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. The students were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill.  Some students stood next to friends during the exercise, while others stood alone. This is what they found: The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

The researchers concluded that people with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to, and that every life in which friendship plays a part is, undoubtedly, a better life than one without it. I knew this before, but now I believe it.

Peace like a river,


Dr. Colby Taylor: Jeopardy Champion

Colby_Taylor_AD_01-10-17_SN7442Behavioral Sciences professor, Dr. Colby Taylor’s run on the TV game show “Jeopardy!”, in which he was a one-day Champion, was covered in several outlets in the local media. The Commercial Appeal ran three articles and WREG Channel 3 aired this report. After incorrectly answering “Hey Jude” to the final question on his first day — the name of the Beatles’ song sung by Ringo Starr that charted the highest — Dr. Taylor said his students reminded him of it the next morning. ”They all came in humming ‘Yellow Submarine,’” he told the CA.

New Rosa Deal School of Arts Building Open For Business

32352358412_d1224131be_z (1)The opening of the Rosa Deal School of Arts was covered widely in local media. The Memphis Daily News published an article entitled “CBU Opens New School for the Arts” which included quotes from Dr. Paul Haught, Vice President for Academics and Student Life. Dr. Haught was also quoted in an article and photo gallery in the Memphis Business Journal entitled “See Inside: CBU’s $11 million Rosa Deal School of Arts.”

Dr. Haught and Dr. Tracie Burke (Behavioral Sciences, Honors Program Director) appeared on the Local Memphis Live morning show on WPTY to dicsuss the new building, and WMC-TV Channel 5 also covered the opening in a report.

Local Memphis Channel 24 covered the new Rosa Deal School of Arts opening in a report entitled “New Arts Building Moving CBU Forward.” The report featured an interview with Dr. Paul Haught, Vice President for Academics & Student Life.

High Ground News published an article on the upcoming opening of CBU’s new Rosa Deal School of Arts building in the Development News. The article, entitled CBU’s oldest building replaced by top-modern school of the arts,” features quotes from Bill Ferguson of ANF Architects.

A Note from the Dean

Scott GeisThe last few months of 2016 have been interesting, to say the least. For many, the gratitude and joy typically associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to have been replaced by anger, fear, and hopelessness. This is one of the reasons I’m especially grateful for the Advent wreath in our SOA hallway – a generous gift from our friends in Campus Ministry – symbolizing as it does the promise of hope, peace, joy, and love. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about hope, as of late, and, in this note, I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts as they relate to this Advent season.

When Christians are asked about their favorite holiday season, they’re fairly evenly split between Christmas and Easter – though, at least in my experience, Christmas usually gets the nod. After all, Christmas is about joy, light, and life, and there’s no slogging through the despair, darkness, and death of Good Friday to get to Easter. Indeed, the Christmas “equivalent” to Good Friday, Christmas Eve, is, for many, the most anticipated day of the year (unless, that is, you’re into Black Friday sales). For most children – or, as the song goes, “for kids from one to ninety-two” – this is the “coming” or “arrival” at the center of the Advent season. And yet, I’ve come to realize there are some striking parallels between the Holy Week of Easter and the season of Advent.

This realization has been inspired in part by a wonderful collection of Advent meditations I’ve been reading, based on G. F. Handel’s beautiful and provocative oratorio, Messiah. One movement in particular, the ninth, has really haunted me the last couple of weeks; it’s based on Isaiah 40.6-9 and titled, “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.” In this passage, the author likens humans to grass and their beauty to flowers, and then sharpens his point by writing, “The grass withers, the flower fades.” Well, that’s certainly hopeful and uplifting, isn’t it? Ultimately, yes, but only when the entire passage is read (or heard) against the often cold, dark, bleak background of lived human experience.

Rest assured the point of this note is not to dampen our holiday spirits. On the contrary, I want to encourage us to see, and to understand, why the light that guided the Magi – who, like us, were living in a dark and deeply divided world – shone so brightly. The tiny baby they sought – believed by Christians to be the human face of God – arrived on the darkest night in human history and, several years later, had the audacity to call himself the “Light of the world.” Or, as Lucy Pevensie, one of the children in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, put it, “In our world, too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

May the hope, peace, joy, and love of this truly wonder-full season be yours in abundance and in profound, altogether new and surprising ways!

Hopefully yours,