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Just a different vocabulary

Steve Charles—I stopped by math professor Mike Axtell’s office last week to see how much he’s enjoyed working with the Department’s Algebra Institute students this summer ("a lot") and how the experience differed from teaching the rest of the year ("I’m working with them on problems I may not have the solution to, so students have to get used to my being a colleague and advisor, not necessarily the guy with the answers").

I told him I’d enjoyed photographing the group, both as they worked one-on-one with Mike, and during their presentations. I loved the energy and camaraderie among the students.

"Of course, all it was way over my head," I added

"It’s just a different vocabulary," Mike said. And he’s right. The teaching I saw in Mike’s office was the same intense, one-on-one interaction I’ve seen here in the offices of professors of biology, chemistry, philosophy, religion, political science, economics, and history.

Chemistry professor Scott Feller calls it "working one-on-one with a student on a problem with an unknown answer." He says it’s the heart of learning in science and research. It’s not far from the artistic process I’ve watched art professor Doug Calisch work through with his students. It was just a different vocabulary.

My friend Joe Warfel ’04 wrote a piece for Wabash Magazine in 2003 entitled "Why I Math." It was a wonderful essay about the beauty he saw in mathematics. I think I caught a reflection of that beauty in the eyes of these students.

The Algebra Institute ends today with a talk by the president of the Mathematical Association of America—a nice capstone on six-weeks of research these students from all over the country have done. We’ll have more about it in the Fall 2006 WM.

Photos: (top) President of the Mathematics Association of America Carl Cowen enjoys his visit with Algebra Institute students. (middle) Anne Duarte and Michael Martinez take a juggling break in Professor Axtell’s office. (Middle) Professor Axtell and Katy Haymaker work together on a problem.

Wabash Student Trying to Leave Lebanon

Howard W. Hewitt – Labaki returned to campus July 27, safely making the trip from Beirut to Damascus. Read more about it here.

7/24/06 – Wassim Labaki ’08 a Lebanon native is struggling to leave his home country and return to Wabash. The country has been war-torn for weeks now as the Israeli air force pounds Hezbollah strongholds trying to root out the Islamic terrorist organization. 

Labaki has been in communication with David Clapp, Director of International Students. In his e-mail correspondence, Labaki describes the situation near Beirut as “extremely difficult” and “dangerous.”

Wassim lives in the mountainous suburbs of Beirut, in a village called Baabdat. He went to the U.S. Embassy trying to gain help returning to the states but reports he was turned away.

Clapp also contacted Sen. Richard Lugar’s office seeking some sort of assistance but got no reply to an inquiry for help. On his own, Labaki has found a flight out of Damascus, Syria, later this week.

“Although the road from Beirut to Damascus in not 100 percent safe, I have decided to take the risk,” Labaki wrote to Clapp last week. “Many people here are doing the same. It might be better to take risks now than later. I am leaving Beirut Wednesday and should be in Indy Thursday if nothing bad happens. I will be traveling alone without my family because it is extremely difficult to find tickets now. It is so sad to leave them in such a bad situation but I have no other choice.”

We’ll update this blog entry later in the week with a report on Wassim’s attempts to leave Lebanon and make his way back to Crawfordsville.

Internship Been Great for Student, Alum

Howard W. Hewitt – Bloomington, Ind. – The summer road trips to visit current students and Wabash alums is always another great story waiting to be told.

Pat East ’00 graduated from Wabash College with what he calls “an almost accidental” degree in English. What has he done with Warren Rosenberg’s inspiration? He’s turned his degree into an internet marketing and business consulting business, of course!

East’s path is not unlike many Wabash graduates, he’s using his liberal arts education as a foundation for growing a successful business. He started Hanapin Marketing three years ago and its recent growth has him thinking about expansion. Part of that success this summer has been Wabash intern, Ben Esbaum ’07.

Esbaum is a Hamilton County native who spent the first part of his summer as a participant in the Ecuador program. It seems rare to find one of these internships where both parties aren’t satisfied, but Thursday in East’s small downtown office neither could gush adequately about the other.

East said he’s treated Ben as he would any full-time employee, giving him any task that needs completed on a given day. Esbaum has learned the level of commitment it takes for one man to start a new business.

Hanapin Marketing helps companies with websites increase the number of hits directed to their site. But then the business consulting portion of the small company kicks in and Pat helps the company turn the increased internet traffic into new customers and more business.

And business is good. East hopes the three-year old company will double from three employees to 8-10 in another three years. And has the internship been beneficial. East said he’s going to have to put someone on full time when Ben leaves because of the company’s growth and the intern’s contribution.

That’s quite a testament to Wabash interns!

God’s Gentleman

Steve Charles—When Jim Czarniecki ’71 was editor of The Wabash yearbook his senior year, he did away with many of the cliches of the genre—what he called the "old gray coat-and-tie-and-stand-in-a line" photos.

He hoped to "capture something that is actually YOU," he told his classmates. "If not your face, at least something you can relate to, because that’s what Wabash is—you."

Not content with having his classmates’ images all uniform and squeezed into a box like the fraternity composites we use today, Jim used senior photos that are fascinating environmental shots that tell you something different about each person. They must be fun for members of the Class of 71 to look at today (and to try to explain!).

The living unit photos are informal group shots atop fire engines, bridges, trees, boxcars—photos that, no doubt, have their own stories.

As yearbook advisor, I often hold up Jim’s book as an example of what an editor with a vision can do.

And Jim’s desire to capture the essence of others’ experience, to envision what they could be and how the arts could nurture that, grew even stronger. The same man whose vision shaped a college yearbook went on to shape the arts in Minneapolis (as director of the Museum of American Art, among other venues) and change for the better the lives of high school students battling addictions in that city (as the co-founder of Sobriety High School).

That vision dimmed July 9 when Jim died at home after a long battle with cancer.

Jim’s courage, wisdom, and vision during that battle was equally inspiring, and with its own vision. I began to read about it in a journal that he kept at the Caring Bridge website. Some of those entries carry a wisdom and unforgettable images I hope I will always carry with me. Envelopes of light that will come in handy in a dark time.

After his death, scores of Jim’s friends and those who had met him through the journal posted their condolences to his family and their own words of praise for the man. "God’s gentleman," one reader called Jim. Can there be higher praise for a Wabash man?

They’re having a celebration of Jim’s life this Saturday in Minneapolis from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. It should be beautiful. You can read Jim’s obituary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Of course, we’ll have a remembrance in Wabash Magazine.

Here’s a photo of the back page of the Wabash yearbook Jim edited. It was dedicated to his friend, Pat Brannigan ’71, who had died the previous summer. I think Jim’s words and his decision to so dedicate the book reveal the man he was becoming. God’s gentleman.

Summer Research Beats Mowing Lawns

Jim Amidon —Times sure do change. Ten years ago, summers at Wabash were pretty low-key; not much was going on. But today — even though no regular classes are held — there seems to be as much activity as any other time during the year.

We have students on campus doing research with faculty. We have students involved with the Business Immersion Program. We have students involved in the Wabash Algebra Institute. And we have students working dozens of internships on campus.

Then there are the 50 or more students who are using Wabash internship finances to travel, study, and conduct research all across the country and around the world.

We’re starting to hear back from a few of them, especially our science students, who are involved in high level, cutting edge scholarship at major research institutions.

This week we heard from Steven Rhodes, a versatile chemistry major and the son of a couple of Purdue University professors. We knew early on that Steven would be a great student of the liberal arts when he won the Pre-Law Society’s Moot Court Competition, an honor usually captured by political science or rhetoric majors.

Rather than attempt to summarize the work Steven is doing this summer (as if I could), I’ll just let his words describe the unique opportunities available to Wabash students during the summer months away from campus:

“This summer, I am working in the Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) / National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in Bethesda, Maryland.

“I am performing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) studies of proteins and their interactions with biomembranes. This technique uses high magnetic fields to elucidate the physical, chemical, and structural properties of molecules.

“My goal for this summer is to study the interactions of the human peripheral cannabinoid receptor protein (CB2) within artificial biomembranes of controlled composition.”

[Jim’s translation: how the compounds in marijuana permeate or are absorbed within human cells. The CB2 protein is commercially important as a potential target of pain relief, appetite, stimulant, and glaucoma drugs; about half of all newly developed drugs target similar proteins.]

“Working in a national laboratory has been very exciting for me. The atmosphere is quite different from academia, where graduate students pursue independent projects and set their own goals and objectives. Here at the NIH, doctors and researchers work as cohesive units to tackle problems on all fronts. This feeling of being part of a larger team has been one of the greatest aspects of my summer experience. Living in the Washington, D.C. area is nice too!

“Working at the NIH/NIAAA this summer has been a wonderful opportunity for me to participate in cutting edge research in an environment that is truly at the interface of laboratory science and clinical medicine."

Another student, Trayton White, is conducting research with Wabash chemistry professor Ann Taylor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He wrote last week, too, about how Wabash has prepared him for the intense research he’s conducting there.

“Despite my lack of coursework in biochemistry or genetics, I have been using both of those fields in this new area of research. Though the summer started off shaky, it steadily got better as I learned more of the vocabulary and read more papers.

“My experience at Wabash helped prepare me for this. I am particularly thankful to my science professors for the integration of journal papers into the curriculum. Doing so allowed me to jump right into this branch of science because of my experience in the basics."

Both Steve and Trayton are excellent examples of how Wabash prepares its liberal arts students for their work after Wabash. In Steven’s case, he values the collaborative aspects of work at the National Institutes of Health. For Trayton’s summer internship, it was the ability to use what he’s learned in the classroom and apply it to new areas of study that has been most beneficial.

The opportunities now available for hundreds of Wabash students are nothing short of remarkable, and allow them to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to real world problems.

Sure beats the heck out of mowing lawns or waiting tables.

Karibuni!

Steve Charles—Drivers on CR 700 East must wonder why a  sign inscribed with the Swahili word for "Welcome" adorns the entry to Bob and Lea Ann Einterz’ home in Zionsville, Indiana.

I found out exactly why last weekend when I accompanied photographer Chris Minnick for an afternoon photo shoot. We were there to illustrate an upcoming Wabash Magazine article about the innovative medical partnership that the Class of 77 Wabash grad co-founded between Kenya and Indiana University.

Bob had told me earlier that his goal for the IU-Kenya Partnership transcends medicine—that it’s ultimately about "dignifying relationships." He wasn’t too eager to be photographed, but when I joked that it was too bad we couldn’t bring together the IU and Kenyan students he’s worked with in the program and photograph those relationships, Bob was suddenly more enthusiastic.

"Great idea!" he said, "We’ll have a get-together."

Two weeks later, there we were—Bob and his family and about 20 of his friends,†colleagues, and students from Kenya and the U.S., all hanging out at Bob’s house. Most of the folks gathered there has at least one thing in common—they’d all lived at the Einterz home for days, weeks, months or years, either recuperating from an illness or surgery or just because they needed a place to stay. For these friends, the sign over the front door is no decoration. They feel at home here. Even as we waited for two hours for the weather to clear so Chris could shoot our cover photograph, Bob and Lea Ann’s gift of hospitality kept everyone feeling welcome, like family.

"Welcoming" seems the†theme for the past two weeks as I’ve taken photographs of the Wabash community.

During a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology workshop, I was allowed to photograph intense discussions between teachers of theology as they confronted some of the issues—theological, social, and emotional—that divide them. Associate Director Paul Myhre led this particular workshop, and I was amazed at the honesty, candor, compassion, and, ultimately, the understanding that transpired there.

I found myself yearning for such a safe and trustworthy environment for Wabash faculty members to discuss the differences that sometimes divide us.

One week later I photographed a joyful session during another Center workshop’s Saturday night karaoke session (a first for the Center, I believe). I’ve never had more fun behind the camera. Earlier in the day, these same people had been earnestly discussing issues during lunch; now here they were, cutting loose. It’s not everyday you get to photograph professors and religious scholars belting out "YMCA", complete with hand motions. There were even a couple of more solemn, moving†moments—the sort of fun and emotional risk-taking that occurs when people feel welcome and safe. Like family.

Wabash Center Director Lucinda Huffaker, her colleagues, and the Center staff have made Wabash an extraordinarily welcoming and safe place for teachers from across North America to be challenged, inspired and renewed in their vocations. Lucinda is moving on at the end of the year, but someone needs to sit her down and find out how they’ve been able to create such a place. We need to find out how Wabash College can benefit—emotionally and intellectually, individually and as a community—from the gifts and wisdom of the Wabash Center.

For those scholars attending Center workshops, that first glimpse of the Wabash Chapel is a lot like that sign over Bob and Lea Ann Einterz’ door: Karibuni. Welcome, friends. You can feel at home here.

Photo at right: Dr. Bob Einterz ’77 and his daughter, Abigail.
Photo by Chris Minnick

Summer Months Have Strong Focus on Business

Howard W. Hewitt – Indianapolis, Ind. – Any young man considering Wabash as a foundation for a career in business should have tagged along this morning to Indianapolis.

Lu Hamilton, of the Alumni Career Office, was visiting Lilly Endowment interns working for Wabash graduates. I joined Lu to write a couple of student profiles about the unique business experiences the College can offer.

Our first stop was at Connecta Corp, owned by Alan Pyle ’67, a manufacturer of precision turned parts. Pyle is in his 18th year in the business with customers like Lilly, Boeing and AirBus.

Tyler Gibson ’07 and Udayan Chattopadhyay ’07 are working for Pyle this summer. They help with office work and special projects. 

Last summer Pyle hired Derek Turner ’06 as a summer intern. He was so pleased with Derek’s work he asked him back this summer though he graduated from Wabash this spring.

Turner has applied to medical school and is awaiting word on his acceptance. He was thrilled to go back to work for Connecta Corp this summer where he is using some of his biology skills in Pyle’s business.

Eric Rowland ’86 is chairman of Rowland Design Inc., one of Indianapolis’ most prominent architectural firms. His company has had a hand in designing or renovating many Indianapolis landmarks. Rowland was the architectural firm that designed Trippet Hall.

Will Clarke ’07 is the third Wabash student to work with Rowland during the summer months. Clarke is entering his senior year as an art major.

The alums and students both talked about the benefit of gaining such business experience during the summer months. Both business owners lauded the students’ liberal arts education as a strong foundation for approaching tasks with an open and inquisitive mind. 

Our final stop was a brief visit to the two-day Entrepreneurship program presented by Indiana University’s Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Dr. Donald Kuratko led a group of Wabash students and alums through two days of evaluating business plans and ideas.

The bottom line to such an interesting morning is the wide variety of business opportunities presented to Wabash students. And as we wrap up this week, I should note the 8-week Summer Business Immersion program is wrapping up while the high school-oriented Opportunities to Learn About Business (OLAB) program runs July 9-15.

So we might not offer a “business program” at Wabash College, but we offer unique business education and opportunities for students hoping to pursue such a career.

In photos: Top left, Turner explains a chemical process used on Connecta Corp parts. Lower right, Kuratko listens to a class participant’s presentation. On homepage, Alan Pyle holds one of the finished parts his company makes in his Indianapolis plant.

New Administrators Begin Wabash Tenure

Jim Amidon —Dr. Patrick White (right) was elected the 15th president of Wabash College at the end of January. About a month later Dr. White worked with President Andy Ford and an on-campus search committee to appoint Dr. Gary Phillips the academic dean of the college. About a month after that, Larry Griffith was named Wabash’s chief financial officer and treasurer.

This is the week when the three new administrators finally take office, and each greeted the Wabash community at a reception on Friday.

If you think about it, that’s a lot of transition for one summer: three of the six senior administrators have boxes stacked floor to ceiling in their offices (not to mention a few boxes on the floors of their new homes). And less than six weeks remain before students start returning to campus.

It’s been an emotional few months since all of the pieces fell into place. Knowing the three new members of the administration had been selected, the notion that the Ford era was coming to an end became reality.

Wabash experienced a prosperous 13 years under Andy’s leadership, and the college is now poised to build on those remarkable successes.

For example, it is President White’s hope to make the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts — founded during Andy’s presidency the place where higher education turns for research and data on the efficacy of the liberal arts.

While the Malcolm X Institute is 35 years old, its new building was part of Wabash’s Campaign for Leadership. With a new leader in Tim Lake, President White hopes to make the MXI more than a cultural center; to make it a nationally recognized center for serious study of the African American experience.

The new construction and renovation of Wabash’s nine fraternity houses was begun under President Ford and will be completed by Pat White and his team.

Immersion Learning programs — from weeklong study abroad trips to the Ecuadorian Studies Program — will be further developed and funded by President White and Dean Phillips (photo left).

The national climate regarding single sex education has changed greatly in the last 10 years. Research indicates that the percentage of men on liberal arts college campuses is dropping; more than six in 10 college students are women. Wabash, which has steadfastly remained a college for men, is poised now to play a powerful role in the national conversation on how to best educate young men.

Much of the heavy lifting — fund raising and construction —†was completed in the Ford era. It will be President White’s opportunity to take what Wabash is and make it stronger; to make the Wabash Center, Center of Inquiry, and MXI nationally recognized institutes of research and study; to further develop innovative teaching and learning programs; and to be an active player in the exceedingly important discussion of the education of young men.

And using their imagination, President White and his team will no doubt develop programs we’ve not yet considered.

Indeed, it is an exciting time at Wabash. There will be a few bumps in the road, but there also is widespread enthusiasm and support for the new leadership and the opportunities such change provides.