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,


Philly Teacher Tells Students to ‘Push Through,’ Inspires Global Mantra and Gap Commercial

jasmyn WrightJasmyn Wright (MEd, ’12), a third-grade teacher in Pennsylvania, starts her class each morning with a simple but powerful “call-and-response” with her students. The video of the routine has been viewed more than 3 million times on Facebook and teachers from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Saudi Arabia; and the Cayman Islands have used the mantra in their classrooms. Follow Jasmyn on Twitter @Just_Jasmyn and visit her YouTube page to see her class in action as they recite the full-length talk.

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

Dr. Karyna McGlynn’s “Hothouse” in The New York Times

HothouseHothouse, a book of poetry by Dr. Karyna McGlynn (Literature & Languages), was positively reviewed in the New York Times on August 4 (“Five Poets Offer Eloquent Views of the American Experience”) and was also selected as an Editor’s Choice in the August 10 edition (“9 New Books We Recommend This Week”). According to reviewer Kathleen Rooney, “McGlynn’s first book, the fabulous (and fabulously titled) “I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl,” proved that she belonged squarely in the Gurlesque, a loose group of female poets who — combining the burlesque and the grotesque — approach their femininity in a campy way, skewering gender stereotypes. Now, in her glittery, screwball second collection, McGlynn continues to play with the dark comedy afforded by this girly kitsch.”

Catherine Pena: New Director of Beverly & Sam Ross Gallery

Cat PenaCatherine “Cat” Peña was hired to serve as the Director of the Beverly & Sam Ross Gallery at Christian Brothers University. At the time of her hire, she was the subject of a “Memphis Newsmakers” profile in The Daily News. In the article, Cat states she wants “to create a gallery atmosphere that encourages experimentation while focusing on contemporary artistic practices and theory to inspire our young thinkers and makers.”

In support of that mission, and in partnership with our Visual and Performing Arts Department, Cat introduced Lunch and Learns with artists who exhibit in the gallery. The events afford CBU’s students the opportunity to gain greater insights into various creative processes and the business of being a working artist. This semester students met New Orleans painter Terry Kenney, and local artists Chuck Johnson and Jimmy Crosthwait. Exhibiting artists next semester include Niles Wallace, Claudia Tullos-Leonard, and Cindy McMillion.

Artist Jimmy Crosthwait addresses students at a Lunch & Learn in the  Ross Gallery.

Artist Jimmy Crosthwait addresses students at a Lunch & Learn in the Ross Gallery.

Cat has also been busy outside of CBU. She is currently the Memphis Medical District Collaborative’s resident artist and is working on streetscaping plans for the Manassas street corridor in the Medical District. She and her husband, Professor Nick Peña, collaborated on two of the creative crosswalks: at Madison/Manassas and the midway crosswalk at Health Sciences Park. The two designs play off many of Nick’s geometric patterns found in his current body of work, some of which is now hanging permanently in the Rosa Deal School of Arts building. The project should be completed sometime in February, 2018.

Art Race Violence 2Cat is also one of the artists participating in the Crosstown Arts exhibition titled, Art/Race/Violence: A Collaborative Response. The exhibit is a multi-disciplinary project organized by visual culture historian Dr. Earnestine Jenkins and artist Richard Lou, in collaboration with Crosstown Arts. Through this project, local artists collectively explore intersections of race and systemic violence through the lens of cultural expression. The participants attended a series of workshops and panel discussions, and were given access to a wide array of resources, articles, and media for their research. The eight artist teams — including Cat Peña and Jamond Bullock — have created new installations, which will be on view in Crosstown Arts’ new galleries at Crosstown Concourse through January 14. Yancy Villa (’99) is also included in the exhibition, partnered with Lawrence Matthews.

Student-led Psychophysiology Research Published

T Patrick - P WoodyResearch conducted at CBU on brain activity in people who experience migraines has been published “online first” in the journal, Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. The article, entitled “Auditory event-related potentials in the interictal phase of migraine indicate alterations in automatic attention,” is co-authored by Dr. Jeffrey Sable (Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences), Toni Patrick (Natural Science ’14), Patrick Woody (Psychology ’17), Katelyn Baker (Biochemistry ’16), Stephanie Allen-Winters (Biology ’14), and Dr. Frank Andrasik (Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychology at the University of Memphis). A view-only PDF of the article is freely available and it will be published in print next year.

The researchers measured electrical activity from the brains of both migraineurs and those who do not experience migraines. All individuals watched a silent video while sounds played in the background. Although the study sessions took place between headaches, certain brain responses to these ignored sounds were larger in the migraineurs.

Jeff Sable“It’s well established that migraine headaches are part of a larger cycle in those who experience them,” Sable explains. “Brain activity between headaches is abnormal, and it actually normalizes during the headache. The headache itself seems to be a sort of release valve.” Sable’s team looked at brain responses related to attention.

“The larger responses we saw in migraineurs suggests that they may experience some degree of heightened sensitivity to things in their environment, even when they don’t have a headache. In contrast, if these responses get smaller during headaches, as has been found with other brain activity, the headaches themselves may be accompanied by a sort of ‘mental fogginess’.”

The study was initiated by students in Sable’s Psychophysiology course at CBU, including Patrick, Baker, and Allen-Winters. Patrick and Woody later completed the study. Andrasik, a clinical psychologist and leading migraine expert, helped to finalize the paper for publication. Patrick and Woody have presented the research at conferences, including an international audience at an annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research. Sable said he takes pride in the interdisciplinary nature of this work: “The authors on this paper include students–now alumni–from four different CBU departments. That’s a big deal to me.”

Crosstown High School Receives XQ Grant

Crosstown HighIn late August, Crosstown High School received a $2.5 million, five-year grant from XQ Institute, a national education reform group founded by former U.S. Education Assistant Secretary Russlyn Ali and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Pictured above left, Dr. Smarrelli’s portrait is laid out on the Concourse Plaza along with those of other attendees at the XQ Block Party celebration at the site of the future high school on August 24. Check out some interviews with other local Crosstown High supporters at the XQ SuperSchool website — and some cool footage of the XQ School Bus in Memphis. CBU is a founding partner in Crosstown High, a public charter school in the Shelby County School system, scheduled to open in 2018.

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

Student News: Fellows, Flood Waters, Awards, and More…

Allensworth Fellow AwardAlison Allensworth (Psychology ’18) was selected a CBU Lasallian Fellow, Class of 2018. CBU Lasallian Fellowships are presented annually to five members of the senior class based upon the reflection of Lasallian values in their scholarship, leadership, and service. Each student was nominated by a member of the CBU faculty or staff because of academic excellence, commitment to social justice, the active nature of his/her faith, and an inspired approach to change-making. Upon graduation, the Fellows will be awarded $10,000 as a means of perpetuating their work in the community. The Fellowships are made possible through the creative generosity of Joyce Mollerup and Robert Buckman. 

2017 Fellows


NCHC 2017 fun photo 3CBU Honors Program students Brigid Lockard, Theresa Havelka, Chelsea Joyner, Gabriela Morales Medina, Elizabeth Parr, and program director Dr. Tracie Burke (Behavioral Sciences) attended the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conference November 8-12 in Atlanta, Georgia. Brigid Lockard and Theresa Havelka presented Media Exposure and Stigmatization of those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Chelsea Joyner presented Crying Beowulf: What Happens When We Don’t Know the Truth. Gabriela Morales Medina presented International Nerds: How The CBU Honors Program Makes Our City And University More Accessible To International Students and The Intersection of Hitler and Rhetoric, which was awarded second place in the NCHC Arts and Humanities category. Elizabeth Parr and Dr. Burke presented Take the journey. Change your life. The CBU Honors Odyssey Mentoring Program, and Dr. Burke co-presented Honorvation: 21 Innovative Honors Programming Ideas That Will Energize and Inspire with Dr. David Coleman from Eastern Kentucky University and Dr. Kathy Cooke from University of Southern Alabama. It was a productive and adventure-filled conference, including a keynote address from Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.


Sustainability LLCMembers of the Sustainability Living Learning Community class look on as CBU freshman Josiah Brown helps Shelby County Historian and Peabody Duckmaster Jimmy Ogle change the Mississippi River’s official, 90-year-old engineering water gauge sign from “7 feet Falling” to “10 feet Rising.” Mr. Ogle guided CBU Sustainability students, Dr. Ben Jordan, and Joseph Preston from Campus Ministry on an annual walking tour of downtown history and urban revitalization. In addition to the traditional stop at the historic 1949 Main Street Peanut Shoppe for a snack, two unexpected bonuses of this year’s tour were being invited in to see a pioneer downtown resident’s condominium building renovation, and a visit to a modern art installation at the new Madison Avenue Park with the park’s designer!


River Arts WinnersLuis Martinez (left) and Taylor Bling (right) were both recipients of the 2017 River Arts Fest Art Scholarship Award. The organization’s community reinvestment program has, over the years, awarded more than $30,000 in scholarships to deserving and talented students. The scholarships are funded with money raised from the festival, sponsors, and individual donors. The River Arts Fest believes appreciation for the arts extends beyond the festival, and is proud to support these education initiatives.


History HonorsPhi Alpha Theta (National History Honor Society) students attended a tour of “Coming to America” at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, an exhibit of four modern artists who came to the US as immigrants from pre-World War II Europe. Pictured (l-r) are Alison Crisp (Physics ’18), Jackson Brumfield (History ’18), and Laura Garza (Early Childhood ’19).


Mary Clark (English for Corporate Communications, '18)

Mary Clark (English for Corporate Communications, ’18)

Dr. Clayann Gilliam Panetta, Writing and Communications Corner (WCC) Director, along with students Mary Clark (ECC, ‘18), Ariel Earnest (Civil Engineering, ‘19) and Erin Aulfinger (Creative Writing, ‘19), who are all Lead Consultants in the WCC, attended the International Writing Centers Conference in Chicago, IL, November 10-13.

Representing CBU’s WCC, Mary Clark conducted a round table session entitled The Room of Requirement: Finding the Balance. In her presentation, she explored with audience members the struggle over whether or not courses should make WCC services mandatory. Citing pros and cons and sharing our own experiences, she conducted a thought-provoking conversation with a standing-room only audience.

Ariel Earnest and Erin Aulfinger presented a poster entitled Our Work is Formed by Our Identity. In their presentation, they explored the seemingly unfamiliar territories consultants face based on personality, learning style, school, experience, and major. They shared results of their recent study that revealed ways these differences play a role in learning and consulting in the WCC.

Dr. Panetta gave a presentation entitled Safe House Design: The Rhetorical Role of Architecture in Writing Centers. Using our newly-designed space in the Rosa Deal School of Arts as a model and rhetoric as a theoretical stance, she explored the shifts in design requirements in writing assistance programs and made suggestions for implementing changes, while still incorporating important scholarship.