Tag Archives: MMU

Memories of the Class of 2017


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Dr. Ron Feldt, retiring professor of psychology. See you at Half Price Books, Ron.

Commencement weekend at Mount Mercy University has come and gone. The class of 2017 has graduated, even as I still struggle with a mountain of grading for the classes of ’18, ’19 and ’20.

At Commencement, it was a good year for the newspaper staff. The top two honors given at Commencement—the Mary Frances Warde and Mary Catherine McAuley Awards, given respectively to the top transfer student and the top student who started at MMU—both went to MMU “Times” staff members.

Capria Davis, photo editor of the “Times,” won the Warde prize for a whole host of activities, including helping to found the Black Student Union at MMU. Bianca Kesselring, who wrote an entertainment column for the “Times,” won the McAuley honor. She was active many things, including choir and student ambassadors.

The paper also saw the graduation of Anna Bohr, a key staff member. For the past two years, her title—web editor and then multimedia producer—implied work on the paper’s internet presence, which is accurate, but she was always an important and reliable staff member who made important contributions to the print newspaper. Capria was recognized as this year’s outstanding Communication Program student; Anna was the outstanding journalist of 2017.

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Capria Davis, outstanding Communication graduate of 2017, and Anna Bohr, outstanding graduating student journalist, after Friday’s Honors Convocation.

Graduation this year had many highlights, but in particular two other items stand out to me.

On May 19, at the Honors Convocation, the President’s Award was given to Gabriel Acosta. The other two top student graduation honors are voted on by faculty and staff—but this award comes straight from MMU’s president. And Laurie Hamen got a bit choked up when she spoke of Gabby. His life journey put him squarely, if innocently, in one of the hot political debates of the day. As a young child, Gabby was brought, undocumented, from Mexico to Iowa by his undocumented immigrant parents.

And his family is being separated today by the stiffening of American immigration policy.

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Gabriel Acosta, 2017 President’s Award winner.

Throughout it all, Gabby has been open and honest and willing to share his story to help others understand. Sadly, it’s not been enough to turn back the tide of nationalism that trumps any sense on immigration, but I can’t think of a more deserving graduate of MMU for the honor President Hamen bestowed.

Another poignant moment for me was seeing Professor Ron Feldt lead the procession of faculty at commencement today. He is now an emeritus professor, retiring from the full-time faculty this year.

Others also retired, and will also be missed, but Ron was special to me. He was part of my tenure review group. I valued his feedback. He and I have both served as chairs of the faculty, and I think there’s a bond between those of us who have tried to lead this group of independent souls we call a faculty.

More images from the weekend are in my galleries of the Honors Convocation, Commencement Mass and Commencement Ceremony. MMU’s news release about the event is here.

At graduation today, Bianca gave a good speech, Ron and two other retiring faculty members were applauded and many students walked the stage. Monday will be anticlimactic for me; it will be a day spent tying up thousands of loose ends so the spring semester and school year can officially be called “over.”

But it’s over now for the class of 2017. Good luck, and let us know what shenanigans you get in to.

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Hello, Goodbye—Ceremony Season at MMU


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Every party needs cake! I was hoping to time it so I got in line to grab a corner piece. I didn’t quite get the job done, but there was one corner left and Bill cut it for me. Way to go, Bill-Karen!

It was an afternoon of transitions, in each end of the spectrum.

Three long-time MMU professors retired this year, and their reception was held in the library. After that, the Mount Mercy Enactus team presented its report on the year in Flaherty Community Room.

I was going from the culminations of careers, to young people just about to embark on theirs. It’s getting close to the end of the semester, and more transitions are coming. It’s the season of starts and finishes, of beginnings and denouements.

We are watching as Ronald Feldt, psychology; Katryn Coulter, business; and Charlotte Martin, religious studies, move on. They are important faculty members—Ron a former faculty chair, and Charlotte and Kathryn who could sometimes help faculty chair’s hair turn grey. They will be missed.

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Of course there were speeches. I thought one of the best lines was from Kathryn, who noted she has no specific plans, but wants to do what she loves to do, which “isnt’ grading.”

Ron noted that one of his plans is spend time at Half Price Books “where all the cool people hang out.” Since we frequent that store with our grandchildren, I guess that makes it official. We’re cool.

Charlotte, a cat lover, noted that cats seem to spell done “D-U-N” and declared “make it D-U-N” at the end of her remarks.

“We’re not quite D-U-N yet,” noted Provost Dr. Jan Handler before giving gifts to the retirees and noting that after graduation they will be emeritus faculty members.

One of the nice things about this annual event is seeing all who come back to MMU—Will and Jay and David and John and Chuck and Bulane. It’s quite a party.

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And then, after the handshakes and cake, then came Enactus—scrubbed youth shining with pride as they report on service projects completed by the business club. It was another nice program, and the club did a lot this year.

So, best of luck to all team members at the national Enactus competition in Kansas City right after graduation. And best of luck to all emeritus professors—hope I see you again before next year’s reception.

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#ICMA2017: And Connor Does It Again


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Connor Mahan, who repeated as winner of best news photograph in the annual ICMA contest. He is, I assume, texting his family the good news.

Kudos to Connor Mahan, Brooke Woolley and Madison Coates. The MMU students won first-place awards in various categories of the Iowa better newspaper contest announced Feb. 2 at the Iowa College Media Association Convention in Des Moines.

It was interesting that, of the four first-place awards going to the MMU Times, the three that were won by Connor and Brooke all were related to the flood of 2016. Connor was a repeat winner in one category—last year, his photograph of a young boy at the replica of the Vietnam Wall at MMU won best news photograph of the year, and he did it again this year with an image of Father Tony Adawu and an MMU student sandbagging during the September flood.

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Winning page, with winning photo and story.

Both Connor and Brooke shared the first-place award for best news story of the year for their jointly written coverage of that flood. And Brooke got best front page for the edition of the Mount Mercy Times reporting on the flood.

In addition, Madison Coates’ staff editorial last school year defending journalism won first place for best editorial leadership.

I had hoped to write several posts about ICMA today—there was a lot of think about from day 1. But, it’s getting late and I’m tired.

So here are just a few notes. Victoria Lim, who does PR for Brandman University, but who until recently was a multimedia PR storyteller for Disney and a multimedia journalist before that, was an excellent ICMA keynote speaker.

I thought her “zoo” idea to demonstrate storytelling was very good. And she made a key point to students, one I’ve often stated, but it’s good to hear someone else make. She asked the students what is the most important skill needed to be a multimedia storyteller. They listed attributes such as imagination and creativity, which she conceded were important.

But to her, the number-one skill is what I tell all communication students their number-one skill has to be: Writing.

“If you can write, you can do content, stories, whatever you call it, on any platform,” Lim noted.

Anyway, here is a list of the awards won by the MMU Times this year:

  • First place, best news photograph, Connor Mahan.
  • First place, best news story, Connor Mahan and Brooke Woolley.
  • First place, best page 1, Brooke Woolley.
  • First place, best opinion/editorial leadership, Madison Coates.
  • Third place, best profile story, Todd Cross.
  • Third place, best headline writing, Bianca Kesselring.
  • Honorable mention, best opinion writing, Billie Barker.
  • Honorable mention, best sports photograph, Sam Techau.

    Job well done, students. More images. And now I’m going to bed.

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MMU students Capria Davis, Connor Mahan, Brooke Woolley and Anna Bohr with prizes won by the MMU Times at the ICMA convention in Des Moines.

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The Bottom Line? It’s Complicated, but Good


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Dr. Amyan Amer, associate professor of economics at Mount Mercy University, speaking Nov. 15 on the economics of immigration.

So, is immigration a net plus or minus for our economy?

It depends on who you ask and what you’re asking about. There is no single, simple answer.

“It’s complicated,” said Dr. Ayman Amer, associate professor of economics, who spoke Nov. 15, 2016 as part of the Mount Mercy University series on immigration. “You can’t just say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ to what?”

Still, after an extensive analysis of the many winners and losers, both in the U.S.A. and other countries, I think Ayman reached a conclusion about this country.

“GDP is my proof,” he said near the end of the presentation. “Two hundred years of GDP growth.” The U.S.A. has become the richest nation in the world partly due to the dreams, desires, energies and aspirations of her immigrant peoples.

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Two faces in the audience.

And, Ayman said, it makes a big difference where you start and stop your analysis. For example, if you are talking about immigrants themselves, their net economic impact seems to be either a wash or slightly positive. There are many who benefit and many who do not—for example, because of how taxes work and what the different levels of government pay for, the immigration population is a net plus to the federal government, but a drag on the state and local fiscal picture.

That’s the tax question, not net economic impact. As Ayman said, most analysis seem to indicate that immigrants themselves don’t have a huge economic impact one way or another—but that’s ignoring an important reality.

image-of-logo-colorYou also need to consider the next generation. The children of immigrants are parented by driven, motivated people who came across the world to make a new home and a better life—for their children. Those children tend to inherit their parent’s drive to work hard and succeed—and that first American generation is more educated than their parents or the population as whole, less likely to use social services than their parents or the population as a whole.

If you expand the analysis beyond the immigrants themselves to that first American generation raised by immigrations, it’s much harder to argue that America isn’t much richer due to the “teeming masses” that have been welcomed to these shores.

I felt that Ayman gave a very careful, balanced analysis. But he finished with poetic lines that cre carved in the base of the Statue of Liberty and an image of that statue. It was a fitting way to end. The bottom line may be complicated, but I think it’s still accurate to say that the U.S.A. has greatly benefited, and continues to benefit, from immigration. They don’t come here to take our jobs, they come here to build lives, and that life-building process grows our economy, and our culture.

And that’s to our benefit. As we argue over the right balance in our immigration policies, that’s a key point to keep in mind.

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Dr. Amer answers questions–final slide was fitting, showed Statue of Liberty. He noted that immigration is more than an economics question, and is important from an ethical point of view. An immigration from Egypt himself, Dr. Ayman Amer is an example of how this country benefits from immigration.

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The Rhetoric of an Immigrant Building


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Dr. David Klope speaks.

The Mother Mosque, the oldest standing mosque in North America, was built in Cedar Rapids in 1934, used as a house of worship until the early 1970s, and then fell into disrepair until it was renovated as a historic building in the 1990s.

And, according to Dr. David Klope, the building “speaks” to Cedar Rapids. That is, the associate professor of communication at Mount Mercy University made the case Nov. 1, 2016, buildings can be thought of as a medium of communication that send messages.

For example, he noted the new African American Museum in Washington, D.C, communicates by its design and location that it represents an important and integral part of the American experience.

The mosque is in a quiet, modest residential neighborhood south of the Cedar River. The way it is designed and located, Klope said, communicates that Muslims are long time neighbors in Cedar Rapids, part of the immigrant quilt that built Iowa’s second city, an integral and accepted part of the fabric of our community.

image-of-logo-colorThe presentation tonight, part of the MMU Fall Faculty Series on immigration, was attended by about 40 people—a good turnout for a Tuesday night. It also brought the first reporters to one of our series events—which is a bit of a surprise to me. The Gazette, KCRG, KWWL, KGAN, WMT, Mediacom—they all have had material about our series, but primarily small announcements of upcoming events, or, in the case of The Gazette, guest columns by speakers. Here is a link to Dr. Klope’s column.

While I’m grateful that the fall series has generated some local media buzz, I’m a bit taken aback that the first journalists to attend a series event are from Japan. Julia Masuda, from Yokohama, and Akihiro Yamamoto, an NTV production coordinator from Japan but based in New York, were at the forum tonight. I don’t know for sure what story they are working on—they actually were speaking with Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque when they learned of the MMU event—but there you have it. Journalists have arrived. I guess I just assumed when that happened, they might be from KCRG or The Gazette before they were form Yokohama.

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Akihiro Yamamoto, a production manager, listens. Two journalists attended the presentation tonight–both from Japan.

Anyway, I found Dr. Klope’s presentation to be engaging and interesting. I had not thought of the way a building itself is the convener of messages, but I think he makes a valid case. His rhetoric sold me.

But the best line of the night, I think, was from Imam Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque, who spoke after Dr. Klope finished. Tawil recounted a bit of his personal journey from Jerusalem to Cedar Rapids, and reviewed, as did Dr. Klope, some of the history of the Mother Mosque. He also invited all of us to call him someday and tour the Mother Mosque, something I hope to do soon.

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Taha Tawil, Imam of The Mother Mosque.

Anyway, Tawil finished the night with some thoughts about American Muslims and politics. He noted that Muslims in America are a diverse group whose members have more political opinions than “the colors of the rainbow.” And he noted that it’s a terrible error to paint all Muslims with the same brush—to say, for example, that ISIS, which he condemned, is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.

“It’s like saying the mafia represents Catholics,” he said.

Yeah, that was it. Valid rhetoric, I think.

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What Does Collaboration Mean?


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Had a nice sized crowd for the collaboration session I moderated Wednesday morning.

Grant Wood’s American Gothic never looked like this before.

Not that I will tell you what it looked like. Some Mount Mercy University art students and professors are participating in a public art project that involves decorating statues representing the couple in Wood’s famous American Gothic painting.

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Art students give preview of what is coming May 8.

On MMU’s Scholarship Day I moderated a panel on collaborations. Two of the staff members of the MMU Times described their work with IowaWatch.org, and a student who has written about human trafficking with a social work professor described the article that they will have published.

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Two MMU Times journalists who have worked with IowaWatch.org.

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MMU Times managing editor talks about First Amendment project she worked on.

As for showbiz value, however, nothing beat the sneak peek at the art project. It’s not going to be unveiled until May 8, so you won’t see it here before then.

Scholarship Day is always a mixed bag, for me. I like going, but usually can only touch base with the day, attending one session or so, due to the busyness of this time of the semester. I love seeing all of the good academic work that others are up to, however.

Wednesday’s event didn’t disappoint. And there was cake, too. Collaboration is a beautiful thing, and working with students on these kinds of projects is something I think almost any faculty member enjoys. I know helping the journalists with IowaWatch.org projects is always pleasant for me.

And on May 8—well, we’ll see what crops up on campus on May 8!

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And So I Issue Some Corrections …



If you’ve been following this blog (and who in the universe has not been following my garden blog? No need to answer that …) you know I was recorded for a Mediacom news video last week.

Well, by Friday they had posted it. You can click on it above. Comments are disabled on YouTube, but not on WordPress, so feel free to comment on the video on this blog post if you loved it. Anyway, a few corrections:

In the video, in the heat of the moment, I messed up the dates. I state that it’s the 60th anniversary of the US Marines landing at Da Nang and the 50th anniversary of the war’s end. I’m 10 years in the future—it’s the 50th anniversary of American combat troops entering the war in the great numbers, and the 40th anniversary of the war’s end. My apologies to all the immediate post baby boomers who are only in their 40s, not their 50s.

I also think I didn’t handle well the question that Karol asks about costs. In retrospect, she was probably asking about buying tickets—what the cost to the public is to attend events. Later, I do get around to noting that the events are free, but it took me a while to get there.

Mount Mercy University's logo for the 2015 Fall Faculty Series.

Mount Mercy University’s logo for the 2015 Fall Faculty Series.

Finally, in the video, I say that the replica of the Vietnam Memorial, the famous “Wall,” will be on the MMU central green space. Actually, the location has not been finally determined. It will be on campus, although the MMU campus has more than one location, but it’s a matter of where will work best to place the wall—it’s largely a question of slope. The big V needs some flat land. Anyway, the wall will be somewhere at MMU, just not necessarily near the Rohde Plaza as I had stated.

The corrections are details. I hope the main message was still clear, and I think the biggest omission was not noting that the idea for the series came from Dr. Joe Nguyen—so, again, thank you Little Joe for all the heart you’ve put into the fall series this year.

You all click on the link and go to the MMU web site and get details on the series and then go to all of the events. The series will, I think, be very illuminating. And it’s all free, there will be cookies, so come on down. And tell people you read about it on CRgardenjoe. Start a movement.

Also, for comparative purposes, this is the second time I’ve been recorded for local cable TV. Compare how I fare now with last year when I spoke on the World War I series. At least I think my shirt looks slightly better this year. I think I ramble quite a bit in both—in neither does Karol have to say much to get me talking.

I think professors are like the donkey in “Shrek.” Getting us to talk is not the problem. Getting us to shut up is the trick.

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