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Art Therapy Students Provide Day of Service at Vision Loss Alliance

Art Therapy Students Provide Day of Service at Vision Loss Alliance.
Art Therapy Students Provide Day of Service at Vision Loss Alliance
Art Therapy Students Provide Day of Service at Vision Loss Alliance
Art Therapy Students Provide Day of Service at Vision Loss Alliance
Art Therapy Students Provide Day of Service at Vision Loss Alliance

Caldwell, N.J., March 6, 2018 – – Graduate art therapy students used their academic and creative backgrounds to help empower men and women with vision loss in the art-making process at a day of service. Led by Traci Bitondo, a Caldwell alumna and a counselor and art therapist at the Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey, graduate and undergraduate students worked with the clients at the VLA’s offices in Denville on Feb. 22.  They led the clients in making mandalas using a plethora of craft materials and objects such as scrap textiles, fabrics, ribbons, burlap, cotton wool, pinecones, seashells, playdough and more.

Jennifer Albright and Laura Stypulkoski are interning at the VLA and they facilitated the group project. Stypulkoski said it was an incredible experience to see the art therapy process done “almost solely by feel, by how the clients felt when they grabbed materials” or how the materials were described and communicated.“I was thrilled to see how enthusiastic the students were in engaging the VLA students in art-making,” said Bitondo. “The energy in the room was amazing, and all the conversations and art-making were truly inspiring,” said Albright.

Genaya Palmer said the experience reminded her of the multi-sensory quality of art materials and art making. “Art is not only visual but also involves tactile perception and motor skills.”

Graduate student Samantha Castellano’s partner for the assignment was a 97-year-old Army veteran with total vision loss. “He was friendly, kind and excited to engage in the art-making process…because he relied on his sense of touch alone, I offered materials with interesting textures.” The man was extremely proud of his work and expressed to Castellano how he was excited to show his friends what he had made.

In working with a person with visual impairment, Castellano said she experienced what art therapy pioneer Edith Kramer identified as a “third hand.” “I was a support; I did not create the work for him but instead was an aid for him to carry out his art-making process…it was a truly humbling and rewarding experience.”

Since many of the clients had not participated in artwork for years and doubted their abilities, it was particularly empowering for them to realize what they could do. “The clients put a lot of thought and enthusiasm into the work,” said Albright. The graduate students learned quite a bit too. “As an art therapy student I believe that creation is a personal journey, and by allowing my partner to take control of the process, something truly beautiful was created,” said Castellano.

Natashia Collins, LPC, ATR-BC, ACS, ATCS, a faculty member in the mental health counseling and art therapy specialization program, also coordinated the service day.

 

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“Food, Animals, and the Environment” lecture at Caldwell University March 20

Caldwell, N.J., Feb. 23, 2018 – “Food, Animals and the Environment” will be the focus of a talk presented by Dr. Yanoula Athanassakis , director of New York University’s Environmental Humanities Center, 4:30 p.m.Tuesday March 20 in the Alumni Theatre at Caldwell University.

The presentation is part of the Department of Theology and Philosophy Sister Maura Campbell, O.P. lecture series and is being co-sponsored by the university and the Caldwell-West Caldwell Public School District. It is free and open to the public.

Dr. Athanassakis’ will share her research and thought on how the arts are engaging and fraught with ethical issues of environmental degradation, specifically through literary representations of food production and animal consumption. She will address practices of consumption—the implications of the food we eat and the systems we support, and how art aims to disrupt habitual patterns of disengagement.

Dr. Athanassakis, assistant vice provost for academic affairs at NYU, is also author of Environmental Justice in Contemporary U.S. Narratives (Routledge 2017). She teaches in the departments of Environmental Studies, Animal Studies, and English at NYU.

The Sister Maura Campbell lecture series is named after Sister Maura, who was a Sister of St. Dominic of Caldwell. She was a theologian, philosopher, professor, researcher, and national leader in education whose scholarship and teaching spanned 50 years. For further information call 973-618-3931.

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Faculty Feature: Kyle Bennett Turning Thoughts into Action

Kyle Bennet, philosophy professor at Caldwell University, giving a brief talk about philosophy.The vast nature of philosophy drew Kyle Bennett to the discipline. “The thing that I love and enjoy about philosophy is that it studies everything,” he says. “I see philosophy as a tool belt that equips us with reasoning skills and how to ask good questions. It helps us do what we want to do in more coherent ways.”

He wants others—including those who have no interest in philosophy—to see how philosophy can improve their daily lives and how everything they do affects others. With that goal in mind, Bennett has published his first book. “Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World” aims to reach a variety of readers and to spark a discussion about Christian practices and their effectiveness for all people, even those with no religious affiliation. The book invites readers to see how spiritual disciplines can improve their interactions with people, animals, the environment and society as a whole. Bennett promotes the idea that spiritual disciplines have a positive influence on all aspects of society and every facet of life, from eating to sleeping. “Can we improve the way we talk and think, and ought we to do so?” he asks.

“There is a profound tension right now in civil society regarding the nature and purpose of religion,” he says, “but I want to ask anyone who’s reading my book, are these good practices period? Do these help us become better human beings?”

Bennett’s path toward an intensive focus on philosophy included a broad range of study and experience across the United States. He received his undergraduate degree in youth ministry and philosophy at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and then worked as a youth minister and associate pastor in Orlando, Florida. He became a pastor but shortly after realized that he didn’t feel equipped to address some of his congregation’s concerns and questions and that he needed more formal education.

A passion for learning and a desire to apply deeper conceptual understanding to personal and professional life took Bennett from the East Coast to Pasadena, California, where he pursued a master’s degree in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He initially believed his education would end there, but his professors had other plans. “I just really wanted to get a little more academic training and continue to be a pastor and work in a church,” Bennett says. But at the insistence of his professors and mentors, he completed a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion at Fuller.

Bennett’s intellectual pursuit solidified his place in the academic sphere. After working as an adjunct professor at multiple institutions in California, he relocated to New Jersey where he is now an assistant professor in Caldwell’s Department of Philosophy and Theology. Bennett’s approach to teaching is anything but ordinary. “I don’t really lecture. I don’t really present,” he says. While he appreciates the atmosphere of rigorous lectures, he does not push his preferred style of learning onto his students. “I realize that a majority of people don’t learn that way.” Instead he employs a pedagogy based upon conversation and personal guidance.

The nature of philosophy as an academic discipline lends credence to Bennett’s unique take on teaching. The subject poses a dilemma: How does one teach how to think and what it means to think? Bennett’s solution is to lead by example. “Intellectually, I like to hold people’s hands and walk with them,” he says. To teach his students how to think, he thinks himself in front of them. He uses modeling techniques to articulate his thinking process in order to show his students how to compose their thoughts and then to articulate them for the greatest impact.

Bennett often encounters students who question the value of the subject in their own fields—from business, to nursing, to English. “One of the reasons I love philosophy is that it attends to all of those things,” he says. His teaching highlights the humanity of his students and reminds them they are not only students of a discipline but members of a much larger political and professional society who can benefit from learning the foundations of thinking and doing. Senior Martin Djikanovic took Bennett’s Introduction to Philosophy course and found it so interesting that he decided to take the Philosophy of Law and Philosophy of God courses. “His teaching intrigued me,” Djikanovic says. “He provides interesting reading material and teaches us to go in depth with it.” Djikanovic, a business finance major with a sport management minor, also appreciates that Bennett has encouraged students to attend the Sister Maura Campbell lecture series with accomplished scholars and theologians. “We write reflection papers and learn to think critically about the topics.”

Bennett wants students to gain a deeper understanding of all aspects of life, and Caldwell University is the right place to pursue this goal. Bennett says his teaching style embodies and aligns with the university’s mission statement. “I believe in the education of the whole person. So it’s not just intellectual, but it’s spiritual, it’s aesthetic—shaping the whole person, professional, and member of political society. That’s how I’m interested in educating,” he says. Besides preparing thoughtful professionals, Caldwell University forms people who make sound ethical decisions. “There are many universities out there that don’t care about moral formation. I love that Caldwell puts that first and foremost, because that’s how people should be educated.”

Bennett’s involvement with the university goes much deeper than his passion as a professor. He is also the program director for the Spirituality and Leadership Institute (SLI), an opportunity for high school students to explore theological foundations and to inquire into the deeper meanings of morality. “The most basic goal we have is helping them see that within religious texts and practices there is wisdom to be found—wisdom about being human and being a good human being,” Bennett says.

The five-day Spirituality and Society Seminar held in July on Caldwell’s campus is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment. Together, Bennett and the SLI staff and students take a close look at what it means to be a virtuous person in daily activities and at how good habits supported by theological texts can form virtuous leaders in society.

During this program, students hear stories from professionals, enjoy fun activities—from ice cream socials to mini golf—and are shown how morality extends into every part of life. Bennett takes this lesson a step further by examining how online interactions can also be avenues for students to cultivate virtuous behavior and to uphold respectable morals. “How do we shop online? How do we talk online?” he asks, emphasizing how his students achieve a wider understanding of spirituality not only from the work world and in everyday tasks but when posting online and texting others. The SLI is a “training ground” to shape students into better persons, professionals and members of political society.

Bennett’s next book will focus on physical gestures. The way people use their bodies in relation to others has a connection to being a good neighbor. From the rolling of eyes to the shrugging of shoulders, Bennett wants to encourage people to think critically about how their presence and presentation help, hinder or harm society with others. “I want to see us become better neighbors. We all want to have good neighbors. And being a good neighbor requires being sensitive to how you present yourself and are received by others.”

—Catherine Stansfield

Things you might not know about KYLE BENNETT

  • He has three children—a 9-year-old, a 3-year-old and an infant.
  • He quit baseball to play basketball at Geneva College.
  • He writes poetry and his favorite poet is Emily Dickinson.
  • He loves playing darts.
  • He loves to read children’s books.
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Students Take Part in Lenten Advocacy Call-In Campaign for Dreamers

Caldwell University students contacting their federal representatives to urge them to support Dreamers.
Caldwell University students contacting their federal representatives to urge them to support Dreamers.
Caldwell University students contacting their federal representatives to urge them to support Dreamers.
Caldwell University students contacting their federal representatives to urge them to support Dreamers.

Caldwell, N.J., Feb. 27, 2018 -Students at Caldwell University had their first experience in advocacy work Feb. 26 when they contacted their federal representatives to urge them to support Dreamers, young people who were brought into the United States by their parents when they were children.

The call-in day was spearheaded by the U.S. Bishops including Archbishop of Newark, Joseph Cardinal Tobin. The bishops encouraged all Catholics to join in the day and spur their representatives to support a bipartisan, common-sense and humane solution for the 1.8 million Dreamers.

CU Catholic Relief Services club members Danielle Shiavone, Yaskayra Gonzalez, Joe Severino, Jessica Cusimano and Brooke McPherson gathered in the call center with Colleen O’Brien, director of Campus Ministry, as they contacted the lawmakers. “Calling our senators and representatives on behalf of Dreamers today is a way of using our voice to advocate for those who are on the margins of our society. This is a simple way of enacting change in our world and we can do it right from our own phones,” said O’Brien.

Although a few of the students said they were nervous at first, once they got into the process they agreed that it was fun making a difference as a group.  “I liked how we were all together,” said Severino. Schiavone said she felt good about standing up for an injustice. “We are supporting fixing it.”  Cusimano said it was important for Congress to hear from students and understand they care about an issue that affects other students. Gonzalez appreciated when there was a live person on the other end of the phone when she made one or two of the calls.

On Feb.26 the Supreme Court ruled that it will not take up the DACA case which means DACA will continue at least temporarily.

For further information go to http://www.rcan.org/archdiocese-newark-participating-226-national-call-day-dreamers or

https://justiceforimmigrants.org/what-we-are-working-on/immigration/daca-resource-page/

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Crystal Lopez: Guiding Students in the “Res Life” Classroom  

Residence Life Director Crystal Lopez 3rd from left with students Lamar Chang, Joshua Santana, Justice Baskin, Aida Osmeni, and Anamika Sharma Paudel.

Residence Life Director Crystal Lopez 3rd from left with students Lamar Chang, Joshua Santana, Justice Baskin, Aida Osmeni, and Anamika Sharma Paudel.

When Crystal Lopez helps students fix their academic regalia at graduation, she is celebrating more than their degrees. Many see commencement as a chance to pay tribute to student academics, says the residence life director, and she and her staff share in that, but they are also reveling in how the students have grown in their life skills. “We teach outside the classroom; that’s what student affairs is.” That education can include anything from conflict resolution to understanding cultural differences to how to work out a roommate disagreement or learning to do laundry properly. “Yes, I have had some students walk around with pink attire” (from dye bleeds), she says.

College is a time to learn responsibility, independence and how to become a global citizen. “By instilling the core values that we teach at Caldwell,” respect, integrity, community and excellence, students are building skills that will benefit them in their jobs, in their communities and within their families, says Lopez. “I think that is what is different about working at a Catholic higher education institution—being able to instill those kind of ideas, morals and values.”

With 600 beds in three residence halls, Lopez oversees a residence life program that encompasses four areas: residential education, including programming, student policy, training and development; conduct, including examining and adjudicating violations; operations, including maintenance and preventive measures; and security, including emergency response.

Lopez began her career as a resident assistant while studying criminal justice as an undergraduate at Rutgers University-Newark. By the time she was a senior, she was an assistant area director. “I was running a 385-person freshman hall, and it was an awesome experience.” Planning to become a lawyer, she applied to graduate school and received a fellowship to study for a master’s in criminal justice and a graduate assistantship to work in residence life. As she became more immersed in residence life, Lopez realized she wanted to pursue a career in student affairs rather than in law. Early on when she had to work through feelings of apprehension because of being in a leadership position at a young age, she would remind herself that God had a bigger plan for her. “Those were things that I had to get over because it was about my students.”

After receiving her graduate degree, Lopez worked in residence life at Georgian Court University and then at St. Peter’s University where she was the assistant director of housing operations.

With a “nontraditional” academic route, as she describes it, her criminal justice background has given her a unique perspective since much of her work focuses on safety and security for students. “It allows me to be vigilant and at the same time compassionate while working to ensure that students get due process. I am understanding and knowledgeable about a system and how it works, which allows me to teach my students.”

Lopez deals with many issues “rooted in conduct,” providing her with teachable moments to engage with students and to help them mature in their decision-making.

Sister Kathleen Tuite, vice president of student life, says one of Lopez’s strengths is her desire to educate students in how they make choices. “She has a genuine, compassionate heart and wants to see students succeed.” In addition, says Sister Kathleen, “she has a great strategic mind” and works well with parents.

Lopez is passionate about sharing best practices with her colleagues at other institutions and has served on national boards. She was the youngest president in the history of the Mid-Atlantic Association of College and University Housing Officers and is still on the organization’s board.

In October, she traveled to the University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia, where she was a representative for the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International and presented on a panel at the first international congress of student affairs led by the National Association of Student Personnel–Latin American Caribbean Commission (NASPA-LAC). She joined others on
a panel including NASPA President Dr. Kevin Kruger on “High Impact Practices: Strategies for Student Success,” focusing on retention issues. The topic was “second nature” for her since she sits on Caldwell’s retention strategic planning committees and has been involved in the sophomore retention program. She spoke about Caldwell’s special-interest housing, which includes the service wing in Rosary Hall where students regularly participate in volunteer projects.

The workshops in Colombia provided professional development. The trip was a welcome spiritual experience too; she deeply appreciated the country’s Catholicism and had the chance to visit the famous Montserrate, a church in the mountains, with a shrine to El Señor Caido (the Fallen Lord), built in the 1600s.

A native of Bloomfield, New Jersey, Lopez is a second-generation Hispanic. “I’m super proud of my heritage, being a Latina woman, and understanding what that means and what that beautiful culture brings to America.” She has found it heart-wrenching to talk with her relatives in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. She has been collecting coupons to put together care packages to send to her aunts, uncles and cousins on the islands. “It’s difficult to hear about your family not having access to everyday things. I’m blessed to be in a situation where I can help them significantly.” Her “couponing” started out as a fun project to buy things for her apartment but became a mission to purchase items for those in need. “When I talked to my aunt in Puerto Rico, she told me the pop tart I sent in the care package was the best-tasting food she had in a
long time.”

Lopez is excited to be a part of CU 2500, the university’s initiative to reach an enrollment of 2,500 by the fall of 2022. Serving in leadership has enabled her to work effectively on Caldwell’s plans. “I understand the process of decision-making at a cabinet-like level and therefore find it easy to implement changes expressed to me by my supervisor, Sister Kathleen.”

Even when she faces challenges, Lopez knows God is at the center of her work. “He often guides me when I have to make tough decisions since most of them don’t just affect one person but an entire community.” On tough days, her students and her faith keep her going. “God is a constant reminder to me of why I do my job every day.” He has a plan, she says, for her to lead and serve students and guide them through their development as young adults. “I am humbled and grateful for the calling.”

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“What Good Can Come from Bayonne? Reflections on the Amazing Life of Sister Maura Campbell” March 22

Sister Barbara Krug, O.P. will present on “What Good Can Come from Bayonne? Reflections on the Amazing Life of Sister Maura Campbell.”

Caldwell, N.J. – “What Good Can Come from Bayonne? Reflections on the Amazing Life of Sister Maura Campbell, O.P.” will be presented by Sister Barbara C. Krug, O.P., professor emerita of Theology, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 10 , 2018, in the Alumni Theatre on Caldwell University’s campus. The program is free and open to the public.

Sister Maura’s scholarship, teaching and dynamic charisma spanned 50 years in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. She was a theologian, a philosopher, a professor, a researcher, and an international leader in education who served on committees at the United Nations. Her favorite position was that of teacher; many alumni fondly remember her as a woman who reflected, studied, and practiced what she taught and preached.

Sister Barbara C. Krug, O.P., was professor of Theology from 1992 to 2016. She served with distinction as department chair from 2000 to 2006 and from 2013 to 2016. Sister Barbara taught almost every course in the department’s catalog and created several courses. She is currently a theology adjunct professor working with Theology majors.

The presentation is part of the Sister Maura Campbell lecture series, which features leading theologians and academics. The Department of Theology and Philosophy hosts the talks throughout the academic year. For further information, call 973-618-3931.

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Faculty Feature: Kendall Baker: Educator, Artist, Gallery Director

Art Professor Kendall Baker with art major Natalia Gonzalez.

Art Professor Kendall Baker with art major Natalia Gonzalez.

For Professor Kendall Baker, the new Mueller Art Gallery is an affirmation of the university’s mission. The centrally located space, named for Sister Gerardine Mueller, O.P., artist and professor emerita, “underscores the university’s commitment to arts and culture” and increases the type and quality of artwork Caldwell can now share with the community, he says. “Some people may not be aware that the word ‘aesthetic’ is one of the core parts of the school’s mission,” says Baker.

This past fall, shortly after the unveiling, the gallery hosted an art exhibition by recent alumni, featuring the work of many of Baker’s students. “It’s a tremendous pleasure to have been a part of their education and then, as gallery director, invite them back to celebrate their accomplishments as independent artists.” Baker is ebullient about the creation of the Mueller Gallery and about the opportunities it now has to bring in the works of well-known artists due to the increased security provided by a door. “Museums and galleries that would previously not have loaned us artworks will now do so,” he says.

The expansion, made possible by the New Jersey higher education state bond, includes an administrative suite and two new classrooms for the art therapy program, a dedicated printmaking and photography studio and studio spaces for seniors majoring in art. These changes will allow for accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, which is beneficial for graduates competing for employment and “communicates to prospective students considering Caldwell that its already rigorous programs meet or exceed the national standards,” says Baker.

The Art Department is dedicating the first solo show to the work of colleague and art professor Judith Croce, who passed away unexpectedly last summer. “She was an amazing painter and had such a sensitive eye for color,” says Baker. Croce had initiated the push for an improved gallery as a cultural centerpiece for the school, which makes it appropriate and poignant that the first solo exhibition is dedicated to her artwork. Earlier in the semester, Baker worked with his colleagues, Croce’s friends and family members to create a “life celebration.” “It was an honor,” Baker said, “to be engaged in an occasion that recognized a colleague’s life in teaching and shaping the Art Department.”

Baker is an accomplished artist himself—a sculptor and photographer—who has had his work on display in galleries from New York to Berlin. A recent work, “Broken Line,” uses site-specific installation to invite the viewer on a journey. “Broken Line” is installed at I-Park in East Haddam, Connecticut, where Baker transformed several acres of woodland with plywood panels fastened to dozens of trees along a sloping path. The panels are shaped according to the angle and thickness of each tree and, when intuited, form a horizontal plane when the viewer “connects the dots.” “It’s a work that brings the viewer into an awareness of place and space while walking through it,” explains Baker.

Learning how environments condition visual experience is a theme Baker has reflected on quite a bit after having spent considerable time outside the United States. As a child, he lived in Italy and Czechoslovakia due to his father’s State Department career. The direct experience of what he could touch and engage with his hands laid the groundwork for his art. “I was always making things, but it wasn’t art until I was much older.”

His grandmothers had a formative influence on him; one was an amateur artist and the other was a published poet, author and United Nations women’s representative. He became interested in literature and art, which led him to take courses in those disciplines, including mythology, modernist writers and sculpture, as an undergrad at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

After two years at Clark, Baker took time off to hitchhike, work odd jobs and visit museums while traveling in Europe. Following a year of working and traveling, he enrolled in art and art history classes in Florence, studied wood carving with an instrument-maker and learned mold-making and casting at a plaster fabrication facility that duplicated works such as Michelangelo’s “David” at full scale.

By the time he returned to Clark, he had enough courses to qualify for a bachelor in fine arts degree. After receiving the BFA, he began preparing a portfolio to apply for the master’s program in sculpture at Yale University. In his second year, Baker came upon a book in the Yale Library on Indian cave-temple architecture and it inspired him to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to study this art form and Eastern ways of seeing. He enrolled at MS University of Baroda in India and spent the year visiting cave-temple sites and producing a series of large sculptures made of cast paper, clay and tapioca, from a recipe taught to him by a maker of toys and life-size deities. “The encounter with cultural and philosophical frameworks so different from my own was an extraordinary experience and one I urge my students to reach for.”

Back in the United States, as a young artist, he hadn’t planned on a career in teaching. He was supporting himself in New York City as a freelance interior construction specialist, so he could take three or four weeks off at a time to work on his art. By chance, a friend recommended him and he was hired by then-chair Croce.

In his 20-plus years at Caldwell, Baker has contributed greatly to the expansion of the department and has served on numerous campus committees. Next year he will take on the role of chair, a position he has held in the past.

Today, Caldwell’s Art Department has roughly 80 majors, making it one of the larger departments at Caldwell. It offers a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of fine arts, programs in graphic design and studio art, and double majors in art and education and art and psychology, a major that feeds the rapidly expanding graduate program in counseling/art therapy. Baker is working with his colleagues to expand the program to include new media courses in interactive multimedia platforms, 3-D modeling and animation to prepare students for new opportunities in the marketplace.

Sean Puzzo ’17, an alumnus of the graphic design program, collaborated with Baker to create the exhibition “Belize: Beyond the Blue Skies and Clear Waters: A Reflection on Short Term Service Trips.” “Professor Baker is a breath of knowledge,” says Puzzo. “His way of thinking pushes you outside of the box and outside of your comfort zone.”

Baker also finds it gratifying to teach those not majoring in art who take his classes, helping them see art’s relevance in their lives. He recently took his drawing class to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. “I’d say 80 percent of them had not been there before, and their eyes were wide with delight from the experience.”

He encourages his students to “see” beyond what they “think.” Despite his love of literature, he says reliance on verbal language often obscures direct experience. “Once they step back from verbal language to look at the ways in which visual experience is conditioned, students begin to recognize a very different world.”

There is a thread between his life as a sculptor, teacher and gallery director that stitches together the way “seeing” is understood. He suspects his perspective stems from feeling like a bit of an “outsider” while growing up in other countries. As an educator, that has given him insights into his students’ outsider view of art, “because art is a foreign country in many ways, even if a student is interested in it.”

Baker feels privileged to work with talented and committed faculty members in the Art Department who share the goal of expanding the understanding of art. And as for his work as gallery director, he adds, “To whatever extent visitors and students are able to make connections due to the ideas, new relationships and content presented in the exhibitions, I’m very grateful to be an agent for discovery.”  n

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Discovering true joy in an impoverished Belize village

Marissa Haynes, associate director of student engagement, helping in building infrastructure.
Caldwell University Student playing with the school kids of Belize Village.
Belize Village student trying to see their pictures on the camera.
Caldwell University student playing with the kids from the Belize village.
The Lyndhurst, New Jersey, resident and six other Caldwell students on the annual volunteerism trip to the Central American country
Caldwell Student photographer showing photos to the school kids.
Caldwell University students on the annual volunteerism trip to the Central American country.
Marissa Haynes, associate director of student engagement helping in building the infrastructure.
Caldwell University student on the annual volunteerism trip to the Central American country

For senior Daniela Sirio, the most important thing about her recent mission trip to Belize is what she and the other students do with the experience now that they are back home. “In trying to talk to friends and family about it, I try to pick out specific pictures,” ones that tell the stories of the local people, the children, and the lifestyle in the impoverished communities where people have little materially but are rich in joy.

The Lyndhurst, New Jersey, resident and six other students, along with their chaperones, spent Jan. 7-15 on the annual volunteerism trip to the Central American country. They rebuilt a playground, painted a fence and played with the children in the village of Crique Sacro. “It made me appreciate more of what I have, the simple things, like family,” said Amber Raines, a sophomore from Millville, New Jersey.

When the Caldwell team finished the work on the playground, it was a gift to see the exuberance on the children’s faces as they whisked down the slide. “It was as if there was no greater joy in their lives at that moment,” said Colleen O’Brien, director of campus ministry at Caldwell, who led the group.

The members of the Caldwell group stayed at a guesthouse in Punta Gorda associated with the Jesuit-run St. Peter Claver parish, and each day they drove along bumpy dirt roads for two hours to get to their work locations. Many of the people they served in the village had never left their community. “They were very appreciative of the work we did and showed us a lot of kindness and compassion,” said Raines. Seeing the poverty and their way of life was “culture shock” for her. “People don’t understand until they are there.”

In the evenings the Caldwell group ate meals together and shared experiences. The students were mostly off the technology grid, “constantly talking to each other,” said Sirio. O’Brien led them in nightly reflections, something she had done on campus in the weeks prior to the trip. “It helped how Colleen led us through the whole experience,” said Sirio. She particularly liked the project O’Brien assigned of sending affirmation letters to their travel companions.

At the end of the week they were treated to a festive home-cooked meal made by the local parents.

They also made side trips, visiting  the Guatemala border, a national park and Mayan ruins and taking a boat to the cayes off the coast of Punta Gorda. Adding to the excitement was the “nail-biting” tsunami warning they received one night, said O’Brien. “We had to evacuate for a bit; thankfully it was just a warning.”

The other chaperones were Sister Marge Jaros, O.P.; Marissa Haynes, associate director of student engagement, and Marisa Juliano, a graduate student who attended for the second year in a row. The other undergraduates who attended were Kristal Cannici, Eva Kenfack, Shelagh Kerrisk, Theoniki Makras and Madison Perry.

The mission trip to Belize was started by Caldwell President Nancy Blattner and her husband, Tim. Dr. Blattner knew Jesuit Father Dick Perl who was stationed at St. Peter Claver in Punta Gorda, from her days at Fontbonne University where she and Tim ran a book drive for children in Belize. Through the help of a shipping company, they were able to have 30,000 books sent for distribution throughout 30 villages in Punta Gorda.  When she began her role as president of Caldwell, Blattner was determined to start a service trip to Belize, and she did. The first year of the mission trip, the Blattners traveled with the students and spent a week building a church; they reaped beautiful benefits including being able to attend Mass in that church at the end of the week.

Over the last several years the Caldwell University community has built relationships with the people in Belize with students often expressing how they want to go back for another service trip and how they feel blessed to be actively living out the Catholic Dominican pillar of service.

 

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Nursing Blessing of Hands Ceremony

Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien giving a speech to the Caldwell University junior nursing students.
Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien giving a speech to the Caldwell University junior nursing students.
Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien giving a speech to the Caldwell University junior nursing students.
Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien giving a speech to the Caldwell University junior nursing students.
Caldwell University Nursing student having an interactive talk with a professor.
Caldwell University Nursing student engaging themselves in some interactive program during the program.
Caldwell University Nursing student participating in Nursing Blessing of Hands Ceremony.
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Caldwell University Nursing students participating in Nursing Blessing of Hands Ceremony.
Caldwell University Nursing students participating in Nursing Blessing of Hands Ceremony.

Caldwell, N.J., Jan.25, 2018 – Future nurses at Caldwell University reflected on the sacredness and importance of their hands at the Blessing of Hands Jan. 24.

The annual tradition was held in the Motherhouse on campus for junior nursing students who are beginning their second semester of clinicals when they will work in hospitals. Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien explained how the ceremony focuses on nursing students who will use their hands to heal the sick and suffering and “to bring forth the mission of Caldwell University and the Sisters of Saint Dominic in our world.”

In her opening remarks, Dr. Brenda Petersen, associate dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, said it was important that the students always remember the healing nature of their hands. She said that “with each patient you encounter, as you wash your hands to prepare for the care you will render, may you always be blessed. As a nurse, your hands will heal others.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Barbara Chesler shared how the university’s core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence will be with students as their hands interact with their patients, families and colleagues. “Your hands will bring healing to patients, for God’s hands work through your hands.”

The Nursing Department faculty members blessed the students’ hands.

Nursing Professor Dr. Kathleen Kelley offered the closing comments and prayer.  The blessing, she explained “celebrates the symbolism of hands as extensions of ourselves, appendages with which we can show love, and compassion, and [which we can] use to embrace those around us.”  She invited the nurses and nursing students to stand and look at their hands as she said:

“These are the hands of an advocate for the vulnerable, a soother of pain, a lifeline for the lonely or forgotten, a haven for the scared.  These are strong hands, empowered by the passion of our profession.  These are the hands that will cradle a newborn, steady the aged, calm the frightened and heal the troubled.And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrung out with exhaustion, wrinkled with age or frustrated from juggling too many tasks at once, will never be too preoccupied or too busy to reach out to our patients with unspoken tenderness that nurses can convey with just a touch.”

Junior Sarah Torres of Montville, New Jersey, appreciated how her teachers worked to make the ceremony exceptional for them. “It is a special connection to them and makes us feel closer to the nursing community and to God.”

The ceremony made junior Danielle Schiavone of Monroe Township, New Jersey, realize how fortunate she is to be able to help those in need the way a nurse does. “I’m now realizing how special it is that I have the capability of doing that.”

It was an empowering ceremony for the students as they take the next step in their fieldwork. ”It made me confident that I can go forward,” said Torres.

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Nursing faculty member elected to NJ State Nurses Association board

Mary Ellen Levine, adjunct faculty member in the School of Nursing & Public Health, has been elected as vice president of the board of directors for The New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Caldwell, N.J., Jan. 10, 2018 – Mary Ellen Levine, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Nursing & Public Health, has been elected as vice president of the board of directors for The New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Levine teaches Fundamentals Lab and the Community Health Nursing Clinical for Caldwell.

Brenda Petersen, Ph.D., associate dean and assistant professor in the School of Nursing & Public Health, congratulated Levine on “this well-deserved” elected role.  Peterson says they are grateful for Levine’s many contributions to the students and academics.   “Professor Levine is a shining example of nurse leadership and professionalism.”

Levine says she is blessed and honored to represent all nurses in New Jersey including the nurses at Caldwell University. “I appreciate the support and interest in my endeavors with NJSNA that I receive from the faculty, staff and administration at the university.”

She says it is her goal to promote NJSNA organization membership and professional involvement with regards to the direction of nursing practice and health care policy. “I look forward to serving during this exciting time and having an impact on all New Jersey nurses, the practice of nursing and patient care.”

Levine also serves as a hospice nurse at Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice in Sparta.

“We are looking forward to having our new officers with their fresh ideas and passion for nursing and the practice of nursing join the NJSNA Board,” said Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP, APN, president of New Jersey State Nurses Association.  

 To learn more about the New Jersey State Nurses Association, please visit njsna.org.