Grand Opening for The Rosa Deal School of Arts

You are invited to join us for the grand opening of The Rosa Deal School of Arts on Jan. 23rd from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

RDSOAWhen completed, this state-of-the-art educational facility will host the School of Arts offices, multi-modal classrooms, new art studios, the writing center and language lab, psychology lab, and communal spaces for students. You can learn more about the Rosa Deal School of Arts here.

2017 Vanderhaar Symposium Welcomes Shaka Senghor

New Picture (9)

On Friday, March 31st The Gerard A. Vanderhaar Symposium at Christian Brothers University welcomes Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American PrisonThe event is free and open to the public.

Author Photo-Shaka Senghor WebShaka is a leading voice in criminal justice reform and the President and Co-Founder of #BeyondPrisons, an initiative designed to uplift the voices and experiences of those impacted by the criminal justice system. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison, was released in March 2016 and debuted on The New York Times Best Seller List as well as The Washington Post Best Seller List. An unforgettable tale of forgiveness and second chances, Writing My Wrongs reminds us that our worst deeds don’t define who we are or what we can contribute to the world. Senghor’s story has inspired thousands and serves as a powerful testament to the power of hope, compassion and unconditional love.

Oprah Winfrey has referred to her interview with Senghor for SuperSoul Sunday as “one of the best I’ve ever had-not just in my career, but in my life… His story touched my soul.” Senghor’s TED Talk, which he delivered at TED’s 30th Anniversary Conference, received a standing ovation and has been viewed more than 1.3 million times; TED later featured his talk in its “Year in Ideas” roundup, a collection of the most powerful TED Talks of 2014.

Senghor has been a guest on CNN, CBS This Morning, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Good Day New York, NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, and C-SPAN’s After Words. He has also been a guest on numerous radio programs, including All Things Considered, The Lenny Lopate Show, The Maggie Linton Show, and Power 105.1 with Angie Martinez.

Shaka Senghor is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2016 Ford Man of Courage Award, the 2016 NAACP Great Expectations Award, the 2015 Manchester University Innovator of the Year Award, and the 2012 Black Male Engagement (BMe) Leadership Award. He was recently recognized by OWN as a “Soul Igniter” in the inaugural class of the SuperSoul 100, a dynamic group of trailblazers whose vision and life’s work are bringing a higher level of consciousness to the world around them and encouraging others to do the same. Senghor was also a 2014 TED Prize finalist for The Atonement Project, is a former MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and a current Fellow in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network. He has taught at the University of Michigan and shares his story of redemption around the world.

This year’s Vanderhaar Symposium kicks off two days of peaceful fellowship under the banner “Know Justice. Know Peace.” with The Gandhi-King Conference, which will be held at CBU on April 1st, and The National Civil Rights Museum, which will host a guest speaker that Saturday night. We hope you’ll join us as we come together for what promises to be an eventful two days of learning, camaraderie, fellowship and community building. Follow the School of Arts on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with announcements.

In Memoriam: Dr. Roger Easson

Roger Easson In MemoriamDr. Roger Easson (Literature and Languages, Retired) passed away on Saturday, October 22 at Methodist Hospice. He had been suffering for several years from cancer that was diagnosed five months after he retired from CBU and had recently spread to his bones. He chose palliative care rather than an operation that might have interfered with his ability to breathe on his own and to continue writing. His wife, Kay, and his sister, Joyce, had been with him during his hospice stay.

Dr. Easson began teaching in the School of Arts in 1987 and played a seminal role in establishing the still-popular English for Corporate Communications major, which aims to prepare students for careers in professional writing and also directed the Writing Center for a number of years, and guided students through internships at Memphis-area businesses. He retired from CBU in 2013.

Follow this link to read more about Dr. Easson’s life and career, including testimonial from his colleagues at CBU.

Please keep Dr. Easson and his family in your thoughts and prayers. Donations to help pay for Roger’s medical expenses can be made on his GoFundMe page.

SOA Alumni Making News

Not a StrangerCBU alum Dennis Foley (’82) wrote and produced not a Stranger, a drama about a down-and-out, 50-year-old former high school teacher with a dark secret who befriends three 12-year-old boys, and helps one come to grips with his father’s death. Problems arise when police suspect the teacher of wrongdoing. The film was directed by and stars James Russo (pictured left).



Our Grass Our RootsMichalyn Easter (History ’13), a recipient of a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, has returned to the Memphis area to teach high school Social Studies and to unite education with community activism in the city. She is the founder of Our Grass Our Roots, “a grassroots, non-profit movement to assist in transforming the North Memphis neighborhood into an economically sustainable, community focused, cultural capital that will be the grounds for fighting gentrification and citizen displacement, involving the community, structures and businesses already present, and nurturing the individuals within the community to help make Memphis a better place.”

Danielle Hobbs (Psychology ’13) was recently named Embarker of the Week by The New Memphis InstituteEmbark is bringing together and shaping Memphis’ next group of young professionals. Our Embark alum are high-performing twenty-something change-makers who work together to make a meaningful mark on our city. We recognize those Embarkers making ripples in their professions and communities.

Bryan Williams (MAT ’03) was named as one of Memphis Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40.

David Vaughn (Psychology ’12) and Kara Jones (Psychology ’12) were joined in marriage on Oct. 22.

Galleon Buzz

New Picture (4)

CBU’s digital news magazine, The Galleon, which takes its name from the University’s former yearbook, has been up and running for a year now. Curated by CBU’s Marketing and Communications Office, the magazine draws on contributions from CBU’s students, staff, and faculty. Stories are written and selected by an editorial board, which is composed mostly of faculty and students from the Department of Literature and Languages, including junior Morgan Harper and sophomore Chase K. Encalade, who are both English for Corporate Communications majors, and sophomore Berlin Howell, who is a Creative Writing major.

Over the course of this past semester they’ve written dozens of articles including Berlin’s reviews of David Bowie’s Blackstar, and Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight; Morgan’s essays on autism awareness and the diversity of digital media content; and Chase’s investigation of the pervasiveness of sexual assault in our culture and a survey of CBU’s students asking them, “What’s it like being black?”


Credit: Mary Campbell

Members of our School of Arts faculty have also contributed some great articles including Dr. Leigh Johnson’s (who serves on the Galleon Editorial Board) dissection of the current political landscape; an excerpt of Dr. Ben Jordan’s new book: Modern Manhood and The Boy Scouts of America: Citizenship, Race, and The Environment; Dr. Neal Palmer’s take on the Memphis media’s storytelling responsibilities during Black History Month; and Dr. Emily Holmes and Dr. Mary Campbell’s reflection on their time in Cambodia.

We’re very proud of this partnership with the Marketing and Communications Office and thankful to them for providing a platform on which the CBU community can express our diverse ideas and experiences, and on which our writing students can hone their skills. Considering the quality of the work during the inaugural year, the future of the magazine looks bright.

A Note from the Dean

Scott GeisI received an email last month that began this way: “Hi Dr. Geis: You probably don’t remember me but I took your Providence, Suffering, and Freedom class at St. Norbert College in the Spring of 2005.  My name was Becky Zehr then.  I truly enjoyed your class and valued your insight.  I know this may be completely out of line and would not be upset if you did not respond, but I recently buried my infant daughter, and I find myself in a very difficult place. . . . During this turmoil, I am searching for answers or insight and thought of your class . . . and didn’t know if you could guide me in any way.  Thank you, Becky.”

Although I don’t recall ever having had any extended conversations with Becky, I recognized her name immediately, and remember her face and beautiful smile quite clearly.  This was my first contact with her in nearly 11 years, but I wasn’t at all surprised that my remembrance and recollections of Becky were so vivid.  You see, she was a member of one of the most exceptional and memorable classes I have ever taught – and I’ve had a number of pretty exceptional and memorable classes in 23 years of teaching.  There were about 30 students in this class which, to a person, changed my life forever, and for good.  And that happened in spite of the instructor; it usually does.

Something very special happened in that class where, in my humble opinion, “heaven and earth came closer.”  In Celtic spirituality, this “distance” is spoken of in terms of “thin places” – where the outermost “edges” between heaven and earth, between eternity and time, almost “touch.”  “Thin places” are those “points” at which we encounter the really real.  We don’t go looking for these “thin places” so much as they are dis-covered.  I read somewhere of an Apache proverb that says: “Wisdom sits in places.”     

“Thin places” are often sacred ones – St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is one such place for me – but not necessarily so.  These “thin places” can be as disparate as the lonely peak of Mt. Everest and a noisy, crowded bar – or even an ordinary classroom.

I have a sort of ritual I’ve observed, for as long as I can remember, at the end of the last class of each semester.  After the last student has left, I walk around the classroom and reflect on some of the sweet, special things that happened, as well as some of the awesome truths we discovered together about the world, about each other, and about ourselves.  I’m consistently struck by how this ordinary space was, in truth, extra-ordinary: a cathedral of sorts.

And as I walk slowly from seat to seat, placing my hand on the back  of each chair, whispering a prayer for each of my students, by name,  I thank God for making the “thin places” a little thinner, and my life a lot richer for having known them.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for their having allowed the God who creates and inhabits these “thin places” to love me through them – realizing that they, too, have changed my life forever, and for good.  What a gift; what a Grace.

Faculty Making News

Wendy Ashcroft

Left to right : Angie Delloso, Wendy Ashcroft, Anne Marie Quinn

Dr. Wendy Ashcroft, Ed.,D, BACB-D presented at the international conference of the Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Ashcroft and her public school colleagues have presented at this prestigious conference regularly since 2001.

This year’s presentation, entitled Social Skills for Exceptional Children: Effective Instruction With Tiered Interventions, was developed through collaboration with Angie Delloso, M.S, BCBA, and Anne Marie, Quinn, M.A. Both Ms. Delloso and Ms. Quinn completed their Beginning Administrative Leadership licences at CBU and are now Exceptional Student Education Coordinators for the Germantown Municipal School District.

This three-member team has also authored both a book (Social Skills Games and Activities for Kids with Autism, published by Prufrock Press, Inc.) and a laminated guide for teachers (Social Skills: Effective Instruction for Exceptional Learners). As a part of April’s Autism Awareness Month, they were actively involved in sharing their work and in learning about the latest evidence-based practices at the CEC conference in St. Louis.

Dr. Karen B. Golightly presented her paper “The Writing on the Wall: an Analysis of Dublin Street Art” as part of the “Visualizing Dublin in the 21st Century” panel of the American Conference of Irish Studies on April 15. Her paper examines the rhetoric of Dublin murals and how they are both a reflection of and an influence upon Irish past and present.

On January 10, Dr. Emily Holmes (Dept. of Religion and Philosophy) gave a lecture on “The Meaning and Practice of Mindfulness in the Christian Tradition” at the Harpswell Symposium for Mindfulness in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Dr. Holmes and Dr. Mary Campbell (Dept. of Behavioral Sciences) visited Cambodia as part of a partnership between CBU and the Harpswell Foundation, whose mission is to empower a new generation of women leaders in Cambodia and the developing world.

Dr. Kristian O’Hare has been accepted into Lambda Literary’s Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. Lambda’s Retreat is among the country’s most competitive writer’s residencies and the only one specifically for LGBTQ writers. Lambda Retreat Fellows have a remarkable reputation of publishing, winning other fellowships and awards, and of active involvement in local and national literary communities. The Retreat will be held July 24– July 31, 2016 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In addition, Dr. O’Hare and Dr. Golightly recently took several of our Creative Writing students to the Southern Literary Festival at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN, where students participated in workshops and master classes in screenwriting, playwriting, memoir writing, and bookbinding.

Associate Professor Nick Pena’s work was selected, by the board of LOCATE Arts, for inclusion in their online registry. LOCATE Arts serves Tennessee by anchoring and spotlighting the contemporary visual art scenes in each region and fostering a unified statewide art scene. Our programs promote art dialogue between the different cities in the state, and between the state and the world. You can find the online registry at to find contemporary artists of Tennessee including Professor Pena’s located on the first page of the registry.

Professor Peña also recently participated as a panelist for Hustle: Fine Tuning your Studio Practice, on Tuesday, April 12 at Crosstown Arts. The talk highlighted ways to make your work needs the highest item on your priority list – how to get there and keep it there with all of the other pressures and obligations in your life.

Hustle: Professional Development for Artists is a series of free programs organized by ArtsMemphis, UrbanArt Commission, and Crosstown Arts. The series will provide visual artists with information, resources, and opportunities to support them in the development of their professional careers. Workshop topics will range from positive studio practices to pricing work and navigating gallery representation.

Dr. Jeff Sable, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences, took part in a session on Teaching Neuroscience at the Southeast Conference on the Teaching of Psychology (SETOP) in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 5, 2016. He and three colleagues were invited to plan and conduct the session, which included hands-on activities they conduct in their classrooms. Dr. Sable led the attendees through “The Quad is a Neuron”, an activity he does in PSYC 225 Biological Psychology, in which students spread out in the Buckman Quad and each plays the role of a single input to a nerve cell. The activity demonstrates some of the characteristics of communication inside a nerve cell.

Dr. Sable also recently attended the International Conference on Nutrition and Growth in Vienna, Austria. He presented a poster, Development of Event-Related Brain Potentials in a Pig Model of Preterm Birth and Nutrition Support, which he co-authored with collaborators at the University of Memphis and Enzymotec Ltd. (Kfar Baruch, Israel). The research was also presented along with other results as a poster, Brain Development after Preterm Birth is Enhanced by Including Phosphatidylserine in Formula: Evidence from Preterm Pigs, at the recent Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, California.

A volume entitled The Holy Spirit and the Church according to the New Testament, co-edited by Dr. James Wallace, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, containing the papers from a Symposium he attended in Belgrade, is now out.

It contains his essay, “Spirit(s) in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.” The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is an ancient, pseudonymous text that was probably written by Jews but later edited and preserved by Christians. It offers rich discourse about “spirit” (Greek: pneuma) from around the time of the birth of Christianity. The essay explores the text’s presentation of human spirits, evil (demonic) spirits, and benevolent spirit, focusing on the last of these. Dr. Wallace argues that ultimately, despite various terms for a good spirit (e.g., “Spirit of Truth,” “Spirit of Understanding”), the author(s) of the text ultimately understands there to be only one good, divine spirit. The essay explores the role of this divine Spirit in promoting virtue and obedience to God’s law, as well as the eschatological role of this Spirit. In the essay, Dr. Wallace also examines the influence of Stoicism on this text and the similarities between the Testament’s discourse of “spirit” and what we find in certain Dead Sea Scrolls, especially the Rule of the Community. Finally, the essay offers conjectures as to why the pneumatology of the text may have been one factor that led early Christians to treasure and preserve this text.

As far as the edited volume as a whole, it contains papers around the central theme (“The Holy Spirit and the Church According to the New Testament”) from Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox perspectives. Topics include the Holy Spirit in: Luke-Acts, Paul, the Gospel of John, the Church Fathers, and the liturgy. Typically, there is one essay from a “Western” (Protestant or Roman Catholic) perspective, and one from an “Eastern” (Orthodox) perspective. There are also papers from the seminars on the Holy Spirit in: the Gospels, the second-century Christian writings, and ancient Judaism (my paper was from this last seminar). Other highlights include an essay (with illustrations) on the Holy Spirit in Orthodox iconography and essays on New Testament Scholarship in Serbia. The volume also contains an essay by N. T. Wright: “The Glory Returns: Spirit, Temple and Eschatology in Paul and John.”

Dr. Wallace also attended the Society of Biblical Literature conference in Atlanta back in November. I attended some great sessions, including one on “Luke-Acts and Ethnicity” and one on biblical interpretation in C.S. Lewis, as well as a session on the Gospel of John. While there, I caught up with our former colleague, Dr. David Dault, who continues to thrive in Chicago as president and CEO of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club. He also continues to run his radio program, “Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith.”

Fr. Bruce Cinqeugrani and Dr. Wallace both attended Dr. Walter Brueggemann’s lecture here in Memphis entitled, “How Do We Read the Bible Faithfully Amidst a Predatory Economy?” They both report to have found the lecture engaging and inspiring, as Brueggemann elucidated the ways the Bible offers resistance to “economies of extraction” that seek to transfer wealth from the common people to the wealthy. He highlighted the Christian liturgy of the Eucharist – a term which means “Thanksgiving”! – as an alternative script for church communities, because the Eucharist highlights God’s abundance (as opposed to the rhetoric and fear of scarcity) to foster communities of neighborliness instead of competition.

The following faculty were awarded promotion effective starting the 2016/17 academic year:

Dr. Ben Jordan, promoted to Associate Professor of History and Political Science
Dr. Jeffery Gross, promoted to Associate Professor of Literature and Languages
Dr. Samantha Alperin, promoted to Professor of Education

The following faculty were awarded tenure effective starting in the 2016/17 academic year:

Dr. Ric Potts, Associate Professor of Education, Director of MSEL Program
Dr. Jeffrey Sable, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences

The following faculty were awarded tenure effective starting in the 2017/18 academic year:

Mr. Matthew Hamner, Assistant Professor of Visual and Performing Arts
Mr. Nicholas Pena, Associate Professor of Visual and Performing Arts
Dr. Benjamin Jordan, Associate Professor of History and Political Science

A Note from the Dean

Scott GeisWhen I look back on my life, I realize that, in spending far too much time bemoaning the failures of the past and fearing the uncertainties of the future, I’ve overlooked – and sometimes missed entirely – the joy, hope, and grace to be found in the present moment. (I’d like to think my ability to recognize this pathology in myself is evidence that I’m not too far gone; this, too, is grace.) Now, given this “confession,” you can only imagine the level of anxiety and trepidation I experienced in anticipation of the responsibilities associated with my appointment as Interim Dean of CBU’s School of Arts this Fall. Suffice it to say, I’ve been surprised by hope. . . .

Working and serving alongside such caring, compassionate, devoted, supportive colleagues has made my transition from department chair to dean surprisingly smooth (at least from my perspective), and has reminded me of both the utterly unique character of our faculty and the collaborative nature of our enterprise as educators. The support and encouragement I’ve experienced and enjoyed these past few months is something our students have also come to expect from our faculty, which explains, at least in part, why the second floor of Barry Hall is almost always bustling with young women and men who recognize the face of love – the face of hope – when they see it.

This, according to CBU’s founder, is the essence – the very heart – of our vocation as Lasallian educators. And even though I’ve been a part of this graced community for over ten years, I must confess (here I go again) that I’m still, from time to time, surprised by the hope that is so much a part of the ethos, if you will, of the School of Arts.

I’m reminded of something one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, wrote in a December 2012 Facebook blog entry; a hopeful note, to be sure, on which to end:

“This is the time of year when in every wisdom tradition and religion, we ask ourselves, Will there REALLY be Spring? Left to my own devices, I think, Probably not, or 50-50, but faith tells me that no matter how sick and in trouble the trees look, things will be okay, that we are all connected, that if we light a few candles, scatter some seeds, plant some bulbs, try to help as we can, stick close to each other as we prepare for the end of despair, that there will be enough light, buds on the trees, hope. And hope always catches us by surprise.”

Faithfully, gratefully, and hopefully yours,

Dr. Scott D. Geis

In Memoriam

Ellen FaithDr. Ellen Faith (Education) passed away on October 30th. She leaves behind her husband and love of her life of 45 years, Mack Faith. Mack sends this message: “We had an idea for a memorial which she liked a lot. I’ll share as soon as I can. We both fully expected we had months and maybe even years, so many things ‘in progress.’ She wanted and will have cremation. There will be no funeral. More on that later. Meanwhile, do what your own practice in integrity asks you to do. Thank you all for providing me so many wonderful little messages to deliver to her as Death’s Stalker closed in on her. Blessings to you all. Live bravely.”

The memorial activities will take place between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at First Congregational Church, 1000 S. Cooper St., Memphis, TN.

The sanctuary at First Congregational has an excellent indoor labyrinth. The first 45 minutes or so will be silent (voices) with a meditative musical accompaniment allowing those who wish to quietly walk the labyrinth as their form of memorialization to have that opportunity. It should be possible for participants to walk at any time during the service. Memorializing remarks will be more conversational in tone and less rhetorical than is sometimes the case.

Memories can be shared on a dedicated Facebook memorial page. Too, donations in Ellen’s honor may be made to Doctors Without Borders and/or the Church Health Center. Please keep Ellen and Mack in your thoughts and prayers.

A Note from the Dean

This is the fifth and final installment in a series of “Notes from the Dean” that focuses on the School of Arts’ recently adopted mission statement: “The mission of the School of Arts at Christian Brothers University is to advance the Lasallian synthesis of knowledge and service by teaching students to think, to communicate, to evaluate and to appreciate.”

Paul MountainsAs I indicated in an earlier dean’s note, one of the motivations for revising the School of Arts’ mission statement is to provide greater clarity and consistency in measuring the effectiveness of the school’s academic programs. For three of the goals—thinking, communicating, evaluating—it is relatively easy for faculty members to identify assignments and course elements that meet specific criteria to fulfill them. Students routinely use and hone their skills in reasoning, speaking, writing, and argument in their School of Arts courses, and we can determine quickly how well they perform. Yet, as important as these goals are, we believe skill development by itself is insufficient for learning. Lasallian education, after all, aims at teaching the whole person. What good is a skill, in other words, without knowledge of its value?

How much and whether a student appreciates something, of course, is difficult to measure. Fortunately, appreciation is not mere taste. Nor is it a measure of one’s excitement about a topic. Appreciation, rather, is the ability to recognize the value of the part in a greater whole. In literature or ethics, this might be a matter of context. In psychology or art, it could be a matter of method. In short, when students really engage in/are engaged by their courses, they should be able to connect what they’re learning to the academic and social achievements or historical events that have made their studies relevant.

By recognizing that appreciation is often a matter of contextualization, we are able to make the assessment of appreciation practical—through writing assignments, exams, and other instruments. Moreover, it’s good that we’re able to gauge how well our students pick up on the value of what they’re learning. That said, I think all of us also hope our students gain a sense of appreciation for their entire CBU experience that goes well beyond the goals of any specific course. Students acquire a greater sense of the worth of that experience especially by participation in the wide variety of enrichment experiences supported by CBU and the School of Arts.

For example, through the Honors Program, students recently gained the intangible benefits of committing daily acts of kindness. Every spring semester, psychology students learn what it means to have their research recognized and critiqued by an outside audience when they present their findings to the public. And we all get to take pride in Taylor Flake’s accomplishments both as the recipient of this year’s Vanderhaar Student Peace Award and for founding CBU’s chapter of the NAACP. Through acts of public art or in attending lectures from invited scholars in religious studies, CBU students have abundant opportunities to expand their worlds, to have their hearts touched, and to remember the presence of God. We also hope they leave CBU with an appreciation for the value of those experiences.

Dr. Paul Haught