By Deanna I. Howes, Director of Communications, AJCU



This month’s issue of Connections features examples of stellar student research taking place at five Jesuit institutions: Creighton University, Gonzaga University, Loyola University Chicago, Saint Louis University and The University of Scranton. Across the country, students at all levels (undergraduate through professional programs) are working alongside professors in classrooms and labs; some are even working in their local communities. Their numerous contributions are helping to advance knowledge and benefit individuals both on and off campus.

Our Federal Relations report features the latest appropriations information from Capitol Hill for FY17. With the threat of a government shutdown looming, you’ll want to hear from Cyndy Littlefield, our Vice President for Federal Relations, on how this could affect higher education.

It’s been a very busy spring at AJCU and for all of our institutions, many of which are hosting AJCU conferences. For a full schedule, check out the new online calendar on our website. In the last few weeks of the academic year, we wish all faculty and students the best of luck and look forward to an exciting commencement season ahead!

By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU



Saving Perkins Loans
The undergraduate Perkins Loan program will cease on September 30, 2017 unless it is reauthorized by Congress. The graduate Perkins Loan program expired on December 31, 2016, and it does not appear likely that Congress will reinstate it. Over the years, many Members have said that it is the Federal government’s responsibility to help students obtain an undergraduate education, but not a graduate education. We are not sure whether this Congressional perspective can be reversed.

Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) plan to introduce the Perkins Loan Extension Act, which would extend the authorization of the undergraduate Perkins Loan program for two years. Should this authorization occur, institutions of higher education would no longer be under pressure to return funds to the Federal government from the Perkins Loan program. Institutions could then continue to award Perkins Loans to deserving, needy students.

Why should Congress save Perkins Loans? It is a highly successful program that, for decades, has offered low-interest loans to students of need. After students graduate, they pay back the loans to their institutions, which, in turn, recycle those funds to new deserving students. As with other campus-based aid programs, such as the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program (SEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS), institutions have to contribute 25% to the total in order to participate. Thus, institutions have “skin in the game” and have helped to contribute to the Perkins Loan program’s success for decades.

Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Portman (R-OH), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are but a few who have assisted in prior efforts to save Perkins Loans. AJCU will continue to focus on saving Perkins Loans, SEOG and FWS.

While there are higher education advocates who maintain that the “one-loan one-grant“ concept is the only good policy to choose for the future, the reality is that accepting this policy would mean total elimination of all campus-based aid in the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization. While we recognize the huge challenges ahead in trying to save these critical programs, we know that our students of need are counting on us to do so.

Finishing FY17 Appropriations
On Friday, April 28th, the Federal government will shut down at midnight unless Congress agrees to adopt an Omnibus bill or establish a Continuing Resolution (CR). AJCU hopes that Federal student aid programs continue to receive support, although we remain concerned about the possibility of Pell Reserve funds being used for other programs. We should have this information within the next 72 hours and will share it on the AJCU website.

Immigration Policy Still in Flux
While there have been assurances that the Trump Administration wants to preserve DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy), the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have reiterated the need for those who are here in the United States illegally to be deported. This is of little comfort to undocumented individuals, including those who are students on our Jesuit campuses. AJCU continues to work on these issues to protect our undocumented students and their families.

By Creighton University Communications and Marketing

Caity Ewers (Photo by Creighton University)    

Caity Ewers (Photo by Creighton University)



Caity Ewers arrived at Creighton University “eager to get involved in every way possible.” Like so many others on the cusp of a college career, however, she struggled with pinpointing a major.

Until, that is, she encountered Erin Averett, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Archaeology in Creighton’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Averett met with the freshman and explained how the archaeology program could be the perfect fit for her.

“Archaeology is great, because you can approach it from so many ways – art history, history, excavation, digital imaging, coding, data analysis,” Averett said. “It allows students to embrace that well-roundedness.”

Ewers was convinced, especially when she heard about the opportunities and paths that could be available to her through the program. One of those was a summer research trip to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where a dig site teeming with thousands of fragments of small figurines and statues awaited. 

With Averett’s help, Ewers applied for and received a grant through Creighton’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURAS). CURAS has been supporting and encouraging undergraduate research and scholarship at Creighton since 2013.

The benefits, administrators and faculty say, are significant – and compelling to young collegians seeking a richer experience in their undergraduate years. 

“It’s an opportunity to explore different passions, discover something new, and contribute to a field of knowledge,” said Juliane Strauss-Soukup, Ph.D., CURAS Director and Professor of Chemistry. “It’s a uniquely collaborative and incredibly enriching experience, and students have one-on-one mentorship with top faculty.”

CURAS offers eight different types of summer awards for full-time undergraduate students – nearly 40 funded research awards in all – including a new Director’s Scholarship that is available exclusively to Heider College of Business and College of Nursing undergraduates.

Creighton’s efforts in promoting student research have yielded impressive results.

Dr. Erin Averett (Photo by Creighton University)    

Dr. Erin Averett (Photo by Creighton University)



With the CURAS grant, Ewers traveled to Athienou-Malloura, the site of a 2,500-year-old religious sanctuary and ground zero for the dig. Averett is Assistant Director of the Athienou Archaeological Project and has been excavating in the Mediterranean since 1997.

In the summer of 2014, Ewers catalogued artifacts, organized the lab and archives, compiled stratigraphic unit reports, and researched the nature and significance of some of the objects and imagery found at the site.

“Expeditions like these are such poignant growth experiences for students and very keenly demonstrate the value of undergraduate research as a high-impact educational practice,” said Strauss-Soukup.

The following summer, Ewers received a National Science Foundation grant to return to Athienou, this time as a student of the project’s field school. She learned the technical aspects of excavation and took classes from the dig’s staff members, including archaeologists, anthropologists, a conservator, an architectural historian, a chemist and an archaeological illustrator. 

She got firsthand experience in the cutting edge of archaeology, as Creighton’s program embraces digital technology and is helping to pioneer the use of scanning and imaging at dig sites to create three-dimensional models and 3-D prints of artifacts back on campus.

Ewers also pursued her own research – an in-depth study of limestone statuettes depicting the goddess Artemis – and presented a paper on the subject at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in San Francisco in January 2016. 

Averett said that such research experiences at Creighton enable students to learn much more than their chosen discipline. “They learn to take initiative, make decisions, engage in analysis and critical thinking – and that’s applicable everywhere, from the sciences to the business world,” she said.

Ewers agreed. “I got exposure to professors and graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds, and they offered me the kind of invaluable advice that can’t be [obtained] from textbooks or university websites. That helped me to begin solidifying my postgraduate plans,” she said. “I also gained experience working in a team, [which] was more valuable than any group project I had ever been assigned.”

Other examples of student research projects at Creighton include:

Having completed her undergraduate degree at Creighton in 2016, Ewers is currently enrolled in a two-year Master’s degree program in historic preservation at the University of Oregon. She said her research-rich undergraduate experience at Creighton and the accompanying development of time-management and writing skills have given her confidence to do well on this next step of her journey.

By Megan Carroll, Gonzaga University ’18

Dancer in white: Laura Miller re-created the work of famed American interdisciplinary dance artist Loïe Fuller in a preview of the Spring 2017 Dance Performance at Gonzaga (Photo by Edward Bell)    

Dancer in white: Laura Miller re-created the work of famed American interdisciplinary dance artist Loïe Fuller in a preview of the Spring 2017 Dance Performance at Gonzaga (Photo by Edward Bell)



Megan Carroll (Photo by Gonzaga University)    

Megan Carroll (Photo by Gonzaga University)



An outstanding performer and leader, Elaina Pignolet will graduate from Gonzaga University this spring with a Bachelor’s degree in art, minors in dance, interdisciplinary arts and French, and invaluable hands-on research experience in the arts. 

Pignolet has been involved for the better part of the past year in a research project centered on the enduring impact of American interdisciplinary artist Loïe Fuller on dance, visual arts and science. The research was funded by a grant from Gonzaga’s College of Arts and Sciences. 

Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, Ph.D., the University’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says research is a priority at Gonzaga.

“Undergraduate research is alive and well at Gonzaga, particularly in the sciences. Collaborating with a faculty mentor is proven to benefit students from diverse backgrounds and contributes to their success,” said Mermann-Jozwiak. “Elaina’s work with Professor Suzanne Ostersmith is a model for how research works in the arts and humanities. Stimulating research in those other areas is one of the major goals the College is currently pursuing.”

Before her death in 1928, Fuller created one-woman shows combining dance and revolutionary theatre lighting using enormous flowing silks. The 1900 Paris World’s Fair featured her own well-attended stage. A stagecraft innovator, Fuller painted her silks using luminescent salts that created an effect similar to that of the glow-in-the-dark metallic element radium.

Suzanne Ostersmith, assistant professor and director of the dance program, began meeting regularly with Pignolet last summer, and the two traveled to the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington, to interview curators and historians with extensive knowledge of Loïe Fuller ephemera. They viewed Fuller’s uncatalogued, donated letters and photos, and a cover from the 19th century French publication Le Journal that displayed Fuller’s different dresses and dances. 

Pignolet seized the research opportunity after being approached by Ostersmith.

“I thought that this research was made for me with the art history, dance and performing,” said Pignolet. “It seemed too perfect, and it was exactly up my alley. I knew I needed to do it.”   

Guest artist Jessica Coxe visited Gonzaga last fall and reconstructed “Lily,” Fuller’s famous dance with silks, with two students after a night of auditions. Now, Pignolet is leading rehearsals and critiquing dancers prior to the presentation in the Spring Dance Concert from April 27th to 29th.

Elaina Pignolet (Photo by Elaina Pignolet)    

Elaina Pignolet (Photo by Elaina Pignolet)



In a breathtaking visual display, the dancers will perform wearing a white garment made of 70 yards of silk.

Part of Pignolet’s research involved creating – with help from Jundt Director and Curator Paul Manoguerra – the Loïe Fuller exhibition now on display in Gonzaga’s Jundt Art Museum. The exhibition includes bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Theodore Rivière; an acrylic work on canvas by Ostersmith titled “A La Loïe”; and Pignolet’s monoprint, “Seventy Yards of Color.”

Pignolet’s print will also appear on Spring Dance Concert advertisements and T-shirts. She created it in her printmaking class last fall in an effort to re-create a look similar to late 19th century Parisian Follies Bergère posters of Fuller, which were lithograph prints. She sought to highlight the creation of movement, illustrate Fuller’s revolutionary lighting angles and colors of the silk, and incorporate the green and yellow colors found in prints of Fuller.

“I wanted it to be inspired by those posters,” she said. “I also watched the ‘Lily’ video and thought about how I could incorporate aspects specific to Gonzaga and ‘Lily,’ but also illustrate Loïe’s story.”

Pignolet’s favorite part of her research is the ongoing development of what feels like a personal relationship with Fuller. She describes Fuller as an “inspiring woman who didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“Suzanne and I kept saying over the summer, ‘I feel like I know her. I feel like we’re friends,’” Pignolet said with a laugh. “We’d hear a story about something Loïe did and say, ‘That’s such a Loïe Fuller thing to do.’”

For her part, Ostersmith shares Pignolet’s love and appreciation for Fuller’s work. 

“She’s equally as passionate about it as I am and it’s fun to watch her talk to others about it,” Ostersmith said. “She has her own love of the information and work that she’s done. And it’s so fearless and brave of her to take the information she’s found and make it so visual in her exhibit.”

Ostersmith describes Pignolet as “exceptional” in her research abilities. She said, “She is the epitome of an interdisciplinary artist and interdisciplinary thinker.”

Pignolet also serves the Gonzaga community through her position on the Dance Council and through her participation in Dance for Parkinson’s (disease), where students help teach a dance class for members of the Spokane, WA community with the degenerative nervous system disorder. She also dances with Gonzaga’s hip-hop team, the Bomb Squad, and participates in the on-campus organization, Setons.

Throughout the last weekend in April, she will dance for a third time in Gonzaga’s Annual Spring Dance concert. Previously, she performed in three Student Choreography Concerts, including last spring’s show in which she choreographed several dances. As a junior, her study abroad experience in Paris and Florence, Italy offered the opportunity to learn about European art history.

Looking to the future, Pignolet says that the research project has inspired her to pursue paths in arts-based education, promotion and marketing.

“I think I will definitely go into education at some point in my life, and this project has opened that up as an option,” she said. “I like learning new things and sharing that information with others.”

Loie Fuller: Portrait of Loïe Fuller (By Frederick Glasier [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons)    

Loie Fuller: Portrait of Loïe Fuller (By Frederick Glasier [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons)



By Erinn Connor, Anna Gaynor & Drew Sottardi, Loyola University Chicago

Jon Barber and Jason Moon conduct research on microgreens in the Ecodome greenhouse at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability (Photo by Heather Eidson)    

Jon Barber and Jason Moon conduct research on microgreens in the Ecodome greenhouse at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability (Photo by Heather Eidson)



Throughout the year, Loyola University Chicago students conduct research to advance their education and gain valuable hands-on experience. This work is celebrated every April during the Weekend of Excellence, which includes a program of research symposia, awards ceremonies and a student performance. 

In virtually every corner of the University—from medical labs to outdoor gardens, and even art museums—Loyola students are making a difference with their research.

Taking on Cancer
The world of cancer research is constantly looking for fresh ideas in the ongoing fight against the disease, which is the second leading cause of death in the United States. For the first time last year, undergraduate students from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus had the opportunity to contribute to research through the Oncology Research Institute’s internship program at the Health Sciences Campus.

Their internships involved intense lab work alongside graduate and Ph.D. students—valuable hands-on experience for science undergraduates still considering their post-graduation options.

“This was an opportunity to build strong bridges between campuses,” said Michael Nishimura, Ph.D., co-director of the Oncology Research Institute and professor of surgery at the Stritch School of Medicine. “We always think students from the Lake Shore Campus will never come here, but these are students who are motivated and [will] do what they need to do to get valuable experience.”

For their projects, students took on a small piece of ongoing research in their mentor’s lab. This ranged from learning more about the mechanisms behind a type of leukemia to figuring out how to harness T-cells.

Undergraduate student Thomas Bank worked in the lab of Wei Qui, Ph.D., an assistant professor of surgery in the division of surgical research. Qui’s lab focuses on hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer that causes an estimated 27,000 deaths each year.

Bank’s project involved studying the role of ATP6V1C1, a gene that helps to regulate the pH level of a cell. It is also thought to play a role in cell transformation, tumor formation, and cancer cell metastasis. Bank found that by knocking down ATP6V1C1, or reducing the gene’s ability to express its function, liver cancer cell growth and invasion could be decreased. This research could eventually lead to the development of a new treatment drug.

Internship organizers are hopeful that the program will eventually be available every summer.

“We really wanted to get together with the basic sciences students and improve their opportunities for research,” said Patrick Stiff, M.D., co-director of the Oncology Research Institute, division director of hematology and oncology, and Coleman Professor of Oncology. “We wanted them to be able to use the knowledge they gained in the classroom to do real-world, first-class cancer research.”

Jon Barber trims microgreens inside the Ecodome as part of his research for a STEP course (Photo by Heather Eidson)    

Jon Barber trims microgreens inside the Ecodome as part of his research for a STEP course (Photo by Heather Eidson)



A Sustainable Solution
Research the problem—and then go solve it.

If it sounds challenging, that’s because it is. Yet students each semester in the Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) class study, develop and enact a service project to address a local environmental issue.

“It’s not like a lot of other classes I’ve taken in that it’s not really about taking tests or writing papers,” said Jon Barber, an environmental science major. “You have freedom to actually choose what you want to do and pursue that.”

During his freshman year, Barber noticed that much of Loyola’s outdoor urban agricultural spaces go unused during the cold months on campus. So he decided to research ways to extend the growing season into winter.

With a group of students, he experimented with simple crops like sprouts and microgreens to learn how they could grow in different spaces—from small indoor areas like a home kitchen to large greenhouses like the University’s Ecodome. The group hopes its research will shed light on easy and affordable methods to grow fresh produce at home during the winter.

“I don’t think there’s any other class, especially if you’re an environmental science major, that’s like it,” said Jason Moon, Barber’s group partner. “Most classes are lecture-based. [Here], you get to be more hands-on in creating change in the world because you get to do your own project to try and solve the problem.”

The class’s other projects include raising student awareness of Loyola’s composting initiative and developing a curriculum for a local elementary school’s healthy living program. Many changes on campus have originated from STEP, which has served as the catalyst for the Biodiesel Lab and the Loyola Farmers Market.

Tamara Franco, a student in Loyola’s Department of Anthropology museum studies internship course, works on the upcoming exhibition, Wayang: The Art of Indonesian Puppetry at Loyola University Museum of Art (Photo by Natalie Battaglia)    

Tamara Franco, a student in Loyola’s Department of Anthropology museum studies internship course, works on the upcoming exhibition, Wayang: The Art of Indonesian Puppetry at Loyola University Museum of Art (Photo by Natalie Battaglia)



Bringing Art to Life

Thanks to the work of several students, the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) and the Department of Anthropology will make you rethink puppetry.

Most people think of children’s television shows when they hear the word “puppet,” but in reality, the Indonesian pieces on display at LUMA are part of a tradition dating back to the 10th century.

“It’s fun because this isn’t something, at least from my experience, most people really know about,” said Liz Bajjalieh, an anthropology major. “I’m taking this little shadow puppet from a little corner of the world, so an entire other world of people can experience it.”

In addition to shadow puppets, known as wayang kulit, the new LUMA exhibit will showcase wayang golek, hand-carved wooden puppets. Students have taken on every aspect of putting together the exhibit—from researching the pieces, writing display text, and designing displays.

“Part of me is excited because this is the first time that a project I’ve done in an academic space isn’t just within the confines of the classroom,” Bajjalieh said. “This is applied. This is somewhere where Loyola students and LUMA’s neighbors will actually see my work. I get to educate people.”

LUMA’s curator, Natasha Ritsma, first approached Catherine Nichols, Ph.D., a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, about having students create and develop an exhibit featuring pieces from Loyola’s May Weber Ethnographic Study Collection.

Christian Franck, a student in the Department of Anthropology’s museum studies internship course, holds a puppet that will be in Loyola University Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition on Indonesian puppetry (Photo by Natalie Battaglia)    

Christian Franck, a student in the Department of Anthropology’s museum studies internship course, holds a puppet that will be in Loyola University Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition on Indonesian puppetry (Photo by Natalie Battaglia)



“This has been a wonderful opportunity for a nice partnership between our department, this collection and LUMA,” said Nichols, who instructs the course, Internship in Anthropology: Museum Studies. “Many of these objects have been displayed in museums before, but now our students have the opportunity to become the curators.”

The big challenge is what Nichols calls “contextualizing” each piece. That means understanding the character as well as its role in Indonesian culture and storytelling. Teaching lessons about history and morality, these performances are a normal part of social life in Java, the island where these puppets came from.

Meg Ruddy, an art history major who wanted to learn more about art conservation, hopes that she can make the wayang pieces more relatable to museum visitors.

“It’s very cool how much effort went into [their] detail and color—the color especially,” Ruddy said. “When they’re in use, you’re not going to see the color. You see the shadow that it gives. I love seeing that so much time and care went into the construction of something that viewers may not even ever see. I think that shows a real passion of the artist, which I appreciate.”

By Maria Tsikalas, Editor, Saint Louis University School of Law

SLU Law Student Alex Lindley (Photo by Saint Louis University)    

SLU Law Student Alex Lindley (Photo by Saint Louis University)



At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote that “Love is expressed more in deeds than in words.” Every once in a while, the same can be said for student scholarship.

A few years ago, second-year Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Law student Alex Lindley did not anticipate becoming a mental health advocate. When one of his close friends took her own life in 2012, their freshman year of college, he and his friends did not know how to deal with the tragedy.

“To be quite frank, we didn’t grieve, we didn’t allow ourselves to delve in and talk about the stigma behind mental illness,” he said. “So we all kind of bottled it up. We all went through it, including my best friend, Ryan, who had been a dear friend of mine since we were 12 or 13 years old. We all grieved kind of to ourselves. And in 2014, he did the same thing and took his own life.”

Lindley says that after 2012, he tried to be hyper-vigilant in observing his friends’ behavior for warning signs and had not seen anything worrisome in Ryan.

“Ryan kind of personifies that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. He was the most popular kid I ever met. At his wake, [we were told] there’d never been anywhere near those numbers – thousands of people. Everybody loved Ryan, and he was battling anxiety behind the scenes. He had understood what it did to a group of friends and how hard it was for those left behind, yet he still couldn’t reach out. So that stigma associated with mental illness can be so strong.”

Reflecting on that stigma compelled Lindley to focus his attention on researching mental illness resources. Initially, he simply wanted a way to get through the grief, and tossed around the idea of making a documentary with Ryan as a central figure, both to keep his memory alive and combat the stigma surrounding mental illness. But it quickly evolved to become bigger than he had ever imagined.

In 2014, Lindley and his friends created an organization called Project Wake Up (which is now a federally recognized 501(c)(3)), and set up a GoFundMe page to fund the production of a documentary. They hit their initial goal of $10,000 within 20 hours, and funds still continued to pour in: to date, they have raised more than $200,000. Using connections, Lindley was able to collaborate with a film company in Los Angeles, hire a director and delve into the business of film-making. The documentary is scheduled for filming in November and December, with an anticipated release date of Spring 2018.

“For the sake of our director’s career, we are going to push it out to film festivals. We want to get as many eyes on it as we can,” he said. “But I’ve always seen it as a film that we want to [have shown] at colleges, universities, high schools [and during] orientation programs and mental health weeks. We want to make a film similar to Blackfish, which got people up in arms about killer whales. There are serious inadequacies killing humans, and if we can get people fired up about mental illness without having to experience a loss like we have, that’s our goal.”

Lindley plans for the video to feature prominent scientists, professors, legislators and awareness groups in addition to personal stories like Ryan’s. He is also seeking a politician to champion the cause and push for mental health legislature, which he says should be a bipartisan issue. 

“There are so many hurdles in the way of a better mental health care system,” he said. “But we’re going to try our best to further chip away at them, as long as we keep making people realize it’s something anyone can go through, and [that] it’s more common than you think. [Mental illness] can be treated, and you can beat it if it’s treated properly.”

Project Wake Up is also planting seeds for post-documentary projects. The group started an organization during their undergraduate years at the University of Missouri – Columbia in which students receive response training certification to recognize warning signs and learn crisis intervention. They hope to install these chapters across the country. They’ve also decided to establish a scholarship in Ryan’s name for students in graduate school working to become psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers because, as Lindley says, there just aren’t enough. 

“I have been incredibly interested in seeing how the risk of suicide is much higher for people in law school and medical school and how [huge a problem] alcoholism [can be],” he said. “I’ve experienced it. It’s a high-pressure, high-stress situation. In the legal profession as a whole, it’s something everyone should be open to discuss. There’s so much anxiety and stress that comes with this field of work.”

As far as SLU LAW goes, Lindley says the community has wholeheartedly embraced the project.

“I love the way this school supports me,” he said. “It’s close-knit. Professors will be understanding if something conflicts, giving extensions for papers if I have a fundraising event the weekend [that] something’s due.” He especially appreciates Professor Sue McGraugh, who does pro bono work for mentally ill criminal defendants, and who always asks him about Project Wake Up after class. 

Lindley also attributes his six years of Jesuit educational formation in high school [De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, MO] and law school as making a big impact on him. 

“Our [high school] motto was to be ‘men for others.’ And I certainly think the work we’re doing is something to try to help and care for people and, in a creative way, try to make a difference.”

Lindley does not know how his research will tie into his legal career, but he is certain he’ll be working with Project Wake Up for the rest of his life. This summer, he plans to work strictly on Project Wake Up rather than interning at a firm, a decision he hopes he won’t regret. He simply views it as too important, as the group anticipates filming in November and December.

“We only have one shot at this. I just hope it’s all done before I have to study for the Bar.”

For more information on Project Wake Up, visit

By Christa Howarth, University of Scranton ’17

Christa Howarth (Photo by The University of Scranton)    

Christa Howarth (Photo by The University of Scranton)



Christ’s call of love. Jesus, in answer to a scholar of the law, gave these two greatest commandments: to love God with your whole heart, being and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. These commandments of love, seen in Jesus’ example throughout the Gospels, inspire the call to live for and with others: a call for solidarity with those who are vulnerable, which is fostered at the University of Scranton.

Directly after giving these commandments (featured in chapter ten of Luke), Jesus suggests the kind of relationship we should have with our neighbor. Upon encountering a stranger, the Good Samaritan allows himself to be moved with compassion by the man’s need. That experience of compassion predicates all solidarity and requires seeing the one who is vulnerable as a person with knowledge of her or his own needs.

Students participating in Scranton’s undergraduate Honors Program encounter different ‘neighbors’ as they study, serve and live. The Honors Program, one of Scranton’s programs of excellence, challenges students of all majors with a rigorous education that stresses independent work and intense engagement with faculty, culminating with the student’s defense of a cumulative research or creative project.

Often, students’ scholarship reflects their solidarity with those they encounter; many design research projects in response to needs they have witnessed in their community. The following projects by four graduating seniors exemplify their response to the call to live for and with four different populations.

(L-R): University of Scranton students Christa Howarth, Kathleen Reilly, Kaitlyn Jones & Kyle Rodgers (Photo by The University of SCranton)    

(L-R): University of Scranton students Christa Howarth, Kathleen Reilly, Kaitlyn Jones & Kyle Rodgers (Photo by The University of SCranton)



Immigrants: Senior criminal justice and Spanish major Victoria Spagnolo became sensitive to the challenges of the Hispanic community during her time volunteering at the University’s Leahy Medical Clinic, which provides non-emergency health care for the uninsured in the area surrounding Scranton, PA. She said, “Often, the needs and opinions of non-English speaking immigrants in the United States go unheard because of language barriers.”

Spagnolo combined her criminal justice background with her Spanish language skills to address “a substantial gap in research on the criminal justice system and Hispanic immigrants.” She has conducted qualitative interviews in Spanish to record how Hispanic immigrants’ perceptions of the criminal justice system differ from those of native-born citizens, research that could inform the workings of the local justice department.

Language barriers are one, but by no means the only, reason why the needs of certain populations are not heard. Academic researchers stand in solidarity with any of these silenced populations by listening to their experiences and, as Spagnolo said about her own work, by “giving voice” to those experiences.

Disabled Veterans: Kaitlyn Jones, a senior occupational therapy major, was motivated to pursue her research after meeting two veterans who had lost all four limbs in combat. Both veterans chose to receive cadaver arm transplants, which Jones has studied to determine how they affect the veterans’ functional ability, social participation and body image.

“They are both incredible people who inspire me every day,” said Jones, who hopes her research will “provide insight to those who may be considering a limb transplant (a ground-breaking surgery) in the amputee community and shed light on the difficulties and perseverance of disabled veterans.”

Disabled persons are often left to the civil and social fringes of society. The more work that can be done to raise awareness about the quality of life of the disabled veteran community, the more their place in society will change. And as they become more able to perform basic tasks, participate socially and feel comfortable in their bodies, disabled persons will have more opportunities to inspire others.

Timothy Foley, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at The University of Scranton, and student Kyle Rodgers (photo by The University of Scranton)    

Timothy Foley, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at The University of Scranton, and student Kyle Rodgers (photo by The University of Scranton)



Cancer Patients & Families: The suffering caused by cancer, and the pain of invasive cancer treatments, affects far too many people. The work of senior biochemistry and philosophy double major Kyle Rodgers, who is also in Scranton’s pre-med program, contributes to the current research aimed at creating alternative, less-invasive cancer treatments.

Rodgers’ project studies the “biomechanisms of natural dietary cancer therapies to allow further research to metabolically engineer effective and non-invasive cancer therapies.” These dietary cancer therapies “target and slow tumor growth with impressive specificity.”

Compassion for the suffering of the patient and the patient’s family lies at the heart of all cancer research, especially that of less invasive treatments. Rodgers said, “By creating a paradigm shift in cancer research toward a metabolically-inclusive model, I hope that we can provide non-invasive treatments for our cancer victims, restoring their health and quality of life.”

University of Scranton Women, Past, Present & Future:  The opportunity to participate in research like that of these students has not always been available to a large population – women. Like most universities, the University of Scranton was once all-male. The research of senior history and philosophy double-major Kathleen Reilly chronicles the effects of her institution’s transition to co-education.

While editing newspaper clippings for the Weinberg Memorial Library’s Digital Services Department, Reilly discovered “a slew of articles about the debate over whether or not to admit women to the all-male University of Scranton College of Arts and Sciences.”

This sparked her research interest: Reilly has since studied the rising enrollments, higher academic standards and increasing selectivity marked by co-education, as well as the creation of women’s athletic programs, the Jane Kopas Women’s Center, and the Women’s Studies program, all of which continue to foster representation of women at the University. She explained that her work will “benefit the University community by [shedding] light [on] an important part of its history that has thus far not been given as much attention.”

To Be Scholars For & With Others: The call to live for and with others has formed the education of Victoria, Kaitlyn, Kyle, Kathleen and their fellow students at the University of Scranton. Beyond service, this call means choosing to orient all aspects of one’s life toward the ‘neighbor’ one meets in need. For Scranton students, this means creating academic research that listens to, voices, and answers these needs – being scholars for and with others.

Christa Howarth is a senior theology and philosophy double-major and a member of the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Scranton.