Author Archives: Allison Gall

Ursuline College’s Eastern Bluebird Trail

Written by Sarah Preston, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Summertime is a quiet time here on campus with many of the students and faculty away for summer break, but it’s also a time bursting with new life, bird life. June and July have produced many Mallard ducklings dabbling in Lake Elissa and a family of KilPhoto 1ldeer chicks running around on their too-long legs. Multiple broods of Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds have hatched and fledged from the nest boxes placed all over campus last year by the Ornithology class.

It all began when my chemistry colleague, Mary Kay Deley, and I decided to take Glenn Hanniford’s Ornithology course for fun in spring 2014. Mary Kay has her own bluebird nest boxes in her yard and has been a volunteer bluebird trail monitor for the Holden Arboretum. She recognized Ursuline’s campus, with its expanses of short grass bordered by wooded areas, as perfect Eastern Bluebird habitat and suggested that we create our own bluebird trail.

The project became a collaboration between the biology department, chemistry department, and facilities and maintenance. One of the lab periods was used to build the nest boxes. Wally Bursic, from maintenance, cut the wood, provided the power tools, and assisted with assembly. Each of the 18 students in the course had the opportunity to build her own bluebird nest box and we proudly put our names on them.

We placed 14 nest boxes in pairs around the campus and eagerly waited to see who would move into them. After the students leave for the summer, the boxes are monitored by Ursuline faculty and staff volunteers who remove the nests of the non-native, invasive House Sparrows to keep their population in check and record species, number of eggs and young, and approximate age of the young for each nest box.

DSC_0206It’s exciting to monitor the nest boxes because you never know what you’re going to find when you open the box. Sometimes it’s empty. Occasionally a messy House Sparrow nest needs to be removed. Often it contains the Tree Swallow eggs or young and the parents will protect the nest, swooping down on the monitor causing her to don the ridiculous umbrella hat. A few nest boxes contain the stick nests of House Wrens, which for some reason include hairy, black spiders, which have been known to make a monitor (who shall remain nameless) scream. Every now and then we open a box and find what we’ve been hoping for, the pale blue eggs of the Eastern Bluebird in a neat nest of pine needles, and we rejoice.

Although most of our nest boxes have been occupied by other beneficial species, we have had moderate success attracting Eastern Bluebirds to our boxes. Last year one nest box, #9, successfully produced 4 Eastern Bluebird fledglings. This summer that same box had another brood of four, most likely produced by the same pair of bluebirds since they are known to return year after year to the same nesting site. With the donation of additional boxes this year, we placed six more boxes in three new locations. It was one of these new boxes that housed a second bluebird family this year; they fledged three chicks within the past two weeks and just laid two more eggs, which, if they successfully hatch and fledge, will bring our Eastern Bluebird fledgling total up to nine for 2015.

Counseling and Art Therapy students go to South Dakota on service learning trip

Written by Katherine Jackson, assistant professor, Counseling and Art Therapy department

photo 8From June 21 – 27, 2015, graduate students, alumnae, one undergraduate student, a few community members and three faculty members journeyed to Eagle Butte, South Dakota, to work with Lakota Sioux youth at the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) which is located on the Cheyenne River Native American Reservation.

Graduate students in the Counseling and Art Therapy program had suggested about a year ago that we do a service learning trip with impoverished and at risk populations in our own country, and we discovered a wonderful opportunity at Cheyenne River Youth Project. CRYP was founded in the 1980s to help give youth and teens a place to congregate where they could enjoy healthy snacks, activities and socialize. CRYP was a big success from the start, and soon after opening they were able to secure grants and funding to build a new center that could accommodate almost all of the youth in and around the Eagle Butte area. At present, CRYP serves hundreds of children, providing sports, art, tutoring, a youth run coffee shop, a sustainable organic garden, a graffiti art park and a healthy eating program which offers whole food meals every evening for any child in the community.

The Coordinator of Volunteer Service, Tammy Eagle Hunter, explained the philosophy at CRYP, which is “Don’t feel sorry for us and try to help, but rather join with us and together we will make things better.” This statement, although simple, sums up the attitude at CRYP. Everyone is encouraged to help side-by-side with the Lakota Sioux to maintain the community, work with the kids and pitch in wherever needed.

While we were there, we workphoto 4ed on cleaning, landscaping, gardening and organizing the center in the morning. In the afternoons, 30-40 youth arrived to participate in art therapy, nature activities, games, yoga and loving care from the Ursuline group. We provided support, care and lots of fun. Not only did the kids get to do art therapy and create many beautiful art creations, but they got their first taste of yoga. Yoga was a hit with many of the kids because it was so different than anything they had ever experienced.

While we were at the center, we learned first hand how alcoholism, drug abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, low socioeconomic status and poor dietary habits affect this vulnerable population. Many of the children got their only meal of the day at the CRYP center and endured parental neglect and abuse at home. Despite these hardships, the resiliency of these Lakota Sioux children is remarkable. The children embraced us with open arms and hearts, and we found a welcome home away from home at the center and in the reservation.

photo 13

We were fortunate enough to have a Lakota artisan, a bead worker, and a native storyteller and dancer work with us for an afternoon. We learned that the Lakota language is an oral language and thus is almost extinct. The Lakota people are attempting to put the language in written form to help preserve it and also to maintain important Lakota traditions. For example, in Lakota there is no word that means war, and this peaceful tradition is built right into rituals and community gatherings. Most quarrels are handled by compromise, with harmony being a prized value in the population.

One week did not seem like enough time to fully visit and get to know the people at the CRYP center and on the Cheyenne River Reservation. We are hopeful that we can return next year and make it an annual service learning trip to help the Lakota Sioux youth and continue to forge and build relationships with both the CRYP and the Cheyenne River Reservation.


Health Policy Intensive course focuses on homelessness

The Breen School of Nursing offered a new course for undergraduate students this year – titled the Health Policy Intensive (HPI). The course was available for Junior level nursing students. Unlike regular courses, this intensive began just after finals ended, and included adventures around Cleveland and in Washington, D.C.

Comprised of eight students and two faculty members, the group learned what homelessness is like here in Cleveland. The group specifically worked with Bellefaire JCB to discover what homeless youths experience. In addition, the pre-trip portion of the intensive also included learning about life at the Lakeside Men’s Shelter.

The class traveled to Washington, D.C. for a four-day whirlwind trip that covered a wide range of informational activities and meetings. On the first day, the group began the trip with a discussion on public policy and how it relates to homelessness. The group was also able to meet with two legislative aids to discuss some of the public policy issues relating to homelessness. One of the students on the trip, Rachel Jalowiec, said, “I was shocked at how people paid such little attention to homelessness. When we were talking to the congressmen, they were throwing out these ideas, and from what we’d learned, we knew that they would never work.”

The second day of the trip was a tour of Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, VA, where the class met with a public policy analyst and a lobbyist from Catholic Charities over a lunch meeting. The third day of the trip got more hands-on, with the class taking a tour of the National Institute of Health. There, they met with representatives from the nursing department as well as toured various wards. This gave the students the opportunity to see the nursing end of healthcare for those in difficult situations. In addition, the group met with Brian Carome, one of the leaders of an organization called Street Sense, which puts out a bi-weekly newspaper written by and for homeless people. This organization also helps to give the homeless marketable skills and employment by helping them contract for graphic art and other similar projects.

The HPI group at Christ House in Washington, D.C.

The HPI group at Christ House in Washington, D.C.

The final day of the trip was the one that hit the hardest. The group of students went to Christ House, which according to Mary Lind Crowe, one of the faculty members on the trip, is “a men’s only facility that accepts and provides care for homeless people that have chronic and/or debilitating illness once they are discharged from the hospital.”

About the trip to Christ House, Jalowiec said, “That was my favorite part, because it was more emotional than I thought it was going to be. The people were so kind, and they’ve lived hard lives.”

When asked about why it is important for students that are looking to go into healthcare, and especially nursing, to learn about homelessness, Crowe said, “The concept of homelessness is very relevant for nursing – we could encounter these people every day in our job and not realize it unless we pay attention to details, like if the address they give is a homeless shelter. It’s also key to remember that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, and that being in our care means that they and/or their families see what their going through as a financial burden.”

Jalowiec said that the HPI experience really changed her perspective on homelessness and healthcare. She stated that she learned that “whether it be mental illness or drug addiction, it’s important for the homeless to get healthcare without being judged. One of the reasons that they end up waiting so long to get healthcare, besides not being able to afford it, is that they are afraid of being judged.” She added that, “there are so many stereotypes with the homeless, and hearing about their pasts really helped us learn not to judge them.”

The HPI trip definitely made a lasting impact on all of those involved. Jalowiec stated that although she’d always wanted to make a difference in the world, “this trip has gotten [me] to look into things more. On our way to Christ House, I was discussing everything with my professors, and we wondered if there were any similar programs in Cleveland. This trip made me want to get my degree and look into working for a program like Christ House after I graduate. This class made me want to make more of a difference.”

Q&A with Marissa Nalani Dean and Julie Shuman, Psychology Major Field Test high scorers

We interviewed two of our recent graduates, Marissa Nalani Dean and Julie Shuman, because they scored in the 99 percentile of all students that took the Major Field Test for Psychology. We wanted to know what they did to prepare for the test, and what they’re doing in the future!

Marissa Nalani Dean

Marissa Nalani Dean

What is the Major Field Test (MFT)?

Dean: The MFT is a standardized national exam to test a psychology major’s understanding of core concepts.

Shuman: The major field test in psychology is similar to the psychology GRE. It covers all psychology topics and is designed to test the efficiency at which the program has trained the students. Students who score in the higher percentiles have grasped the main content associated with a degree in Psychology.

How did you prepare for the MFT?

Dean: I had previously studied for the Psychology GRE Subject Test, so I did no additional preparation for this. I studied seriously for all of my classes at Ursuline and had built up a solid base of knowledge.

Shuman: I prepared by going through both a general psychology textbook and the Psychology GRE practice book. The most effective way for me to prepare was by going out with friends and bringing my study materials. This prevented me from falling asleep while studying and also provided an opportunity to explain the topics to someone else. I found that explaining to my friends the different theories helped to create solid memory pathways for the information.

Julie Shuman

Julie Shuman

Describe the experience of taking the MFT

Dean: I felt calm and prepared, so I did not overanalyze the questions or agonize about my responses.

Shuman: Taking the MFT was a very stressful experience. It took me a little over an hour and I was mentally drained by the time the test was over.

Discuss how the Psychology program at Ursuline helped you to succeed on the MFT

Dean: Dr. Edmonds’ classes taught me all the core concepts I needed to know. I had to prepare for challenging exams and perform independent research.

Shuman: The Psychology program fully prepared me for the MFT by teaching me most of the relevant information directly and giving me the tools to learn the rest independently. The professors lecture thoroughly on the topics and both know their strengths. Dr. Edmonds and Dr. Frazier pay close attention to the way their students learn so that they can best assist them on their path. They best helped me by encouraging me and giving me extra tasks to help me stay motivated in class.

How did you feel when you realized how well you scored?

Dean: Elated. I was so thankful and I took time to really appreciate what I had achieved.

Shuman: I was very excited when I first found out my score. I did not think I had done well at all on the test and when I got my score I thought it was a mistake. Once it sank in, I told anyone who would listen.

What is your next step toward your career?

Dean: I am attending a doctorate program in Clinical Psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California.

Shuman: At this time I am looking for a job relating to young adults going through a traumatic event. I hope to spend the next year working in that community then go on to get my PhD in Clinical Psychology with a focus on anxiety, depression, and relational PTSD.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Dean: I would not be where I am today in my journey as a Psychology student without the tremendous mentorship of Dr. Edmonds.

Shuman: The Psychology program at Ursuline was instrumental in my success as a student. The professors encouraged me to learn things that were interesting to me and to pursue my passion. I can tell that they will continue to be helpful as I look for a graduate program.

Sustainability in Food Sources

By Kyle Jackson

Sustainability is something that I never really knew about or understood the importance of until I got to college. I wasn’t completely like that person who thinks global warming was a myth and that the environment just takes care of itself, but I definitely lacked an understanding of the pressing environmental issues that are at our doorstep. Since learning the basics about living responsibly and sustainably, I have made some efforts to live my life accordingly.

Growing up my family always recycled whenever it was available, but this was mostly out of convenience since a lot of times recycling is free and trash services cost money. In Michigan, almost all products in disposable plastic bottles and aluminum cans cost an additional ten cent deposit which can be retrieved by recycling them at the local grocery store. This in particular has served as an extremely effective method of cleaning up the environment because people are less likely to throw their cans and bottles away and definitely less likely to throw them out of their car while driving. Even if cans and bottles become litter, there is incentive for random strangers to pick them up and cash them in, which many do.

One other way in which I live a more sustainable life is by hunting and consuming the meat from the abundant whitetail deer population. As opposed to industrial farm raised beef, pork, or chicken, venison is a much leaner and cleaner meat to consume. Plus, the lack of effective natural predators in this region of the country has spawned massively overpopulated communities of deer. By humanely hunting and consuming their meat, it can both help control the deer population as well as keep money out of the pockets of the corporate farms responsible for so much animal abuse as well as meat contamination.

Recycle for Sustainability

By Bea Indurain


Many years ago, at my home in Spain, we started recycling. At home we have five different trash receptacles. The brown one where we throw away food, the yellow one where we throw away plastics and cans, the blue one where we throw away paper, the green one which is just for glass, and the grey one where we throw away things that cannot be recycled or composted. There are two reasons we started doing this: first, the town where we live has mandatory recycling, and, second, because of my mother.

Anyone that does not recycle in our town gets a fine from City Hall. There is a company that stops at each house every day to pick up a different kind of trash. Mondays and Wednesdays are plastic day, Tuesdays and Thursdays are organic day, Fridays are glass day, Saturdays are paper day, and Sundays are for all other trash. Also, if someone takes out the wrong trash, the company does not pick it up, and they leave a note saying “wrong trash”.

My mother is a biologist and she cares about the environment. I like recycling because it is one thing that humans can control and do for nature and for the environment. I think everyone should recycle. When people do not recycle, we waste a lot of material that could be reused. Also, not recycling leads to cutting down more trees and using more natural resources. When I recycle, I feel like I am helping the environment. Recycling is something that everyone should do. It takes very little time or effort. Instead of putting all of the trash together, you only have to separate it!​

Sustainability and Local Farming in Cleveland

Written by Kelly Stenger

I am working towards sustainability by supporting a local farm in Cleveland through service learning volunteer hours. For my service learning project, I volunteered at the Blue Pike Farm, which is located just off of the exit of 72nd street if you are heading into Cleveland from the east. I visited Blue Pike Farm five Wednesdays this past summer and contributed five hours each day as a part of my education for a Service Learning Credit. While at the farm, I participated in weeding, picking berries, transplanting, laying grass seed, harvesting, and sewing seeds.

blue pike farm


Blue Pike Farm – Photo by Kelly Stenger

I became interested in service learning at Ursuline because I was missing a credit hour to be able to graduate. I then searched and searched for a location that would fit into my schedule and was of interest to me. I knew I wanted to do something with urban agriculture because it involves the environment and relates to the outlook of philosophers in the Eco Philosophy course I am taking. I have a garden in my backyard and have always been conscientious about what I eat. Urban farms grow plant based foods which are nutrient dense products that meet the needs of the systems within our bodies. I became interested in Blue Pike Farm because it would be a hands-on experience producing foods that I enjoy and the hours worked with my schedule.

Urban agriculture benefits communities in many ways such as providing healthy, affordable food and green space for residents. It is important to me to support local farms because they play a big part in creating a sustainable community, and provide healthy foods we all can benefit from. My experience at Blue Pike Farm taught me a lot about the importance of making healthy foods available to everyone. More than one third of the United States is obese. Urban Farms provide education on healthy foods and where they can be found to surrounding communities.

By volunteering at Blue Pike Farm I learned a few farming techniques and skills that I can use in my backyard. This experience allowed me to see the process from the seed to the harvest. I also have a reference now if I have any questions about different foods or gardening techniques. I like to know what I am eating and where the foods I eat come from. I am now aware of the importance of local farms and food markets in our area and have developed an interest in how they produce and sell their crop. I also learned about Community Supported Agriculture programs.   As I finish up my undergraduate education, I will be searching to find places to buy my groceries and this farm could be an option.

I will continue to buy healthy foods that are plant based because it is a part of my support towards conserving, recycling, and sustaining our environment. One acre of land is all it takes to produce an abundance of foods we can enjoy and helps the environment, and it doesn’t get much better than that!

Counseling and Art Therapy Takes on Zimbabwe

Values. Voice. Vision. The Ursuline College mantra is on most of the College’s marketing material. It is, then, crucial for those ideals to become part of the curriculum in every discipline. For the Counseling and Art Therapy Department, it’s even more important to incorporate values into their work, to give voice to those that don’t have one and to have a vision for the future. This past January, the Counseling and Art Therapy Department was able to connect with Rebekah Chilcote ’07, who is currently in Zimbabwe for three years working with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Assistant Professor Katherine Jackson was able to organize a trip for the Counseling Art Therapy Department to put their skills to the test.


That’s why a group of 15 Ursuline College students, faculty and alumnae traveled to Zimbabwe on January 2 of this year. The group consisted of nine undergraduate students, two faculty members (Katherine Jackson and Megan Seaman) who are assistant professors in the Counseling and Art Therapy Department, three alumnae, and one husband of a student. Due to the grueling 23-hour travel time, the trip took place from December 29 through January 12; however, only 10 of those days were actually spent in Zimbabwe.

The group lived and worked at the Peniel Centre, an orphanage for children that are victims of HIV/AIDS as well physical and sexual abuse, which is run by Gideon and Jennifer Chisamba, along with their son, X (a nickname), and his wife, Privilege. Very camp-like in appearance, the orphanage is not much, with thatched roof huts, cold well-water only and outdoor cooking over big pots. The trip was an immersion experience for the group of Ursuline College representatives, due to the fact that they ate and lived with the children of the orphanage.

Luckily for the Ursuline College students, alumnae and faculty, a good portion of the students in Zimbabwe could speak a bit of English, as all schools in Zimbabwe are English-speaking. The children at Peniel Centre took part in mental health counseling and art therapy, and, as YWAM is a nondenominational Christian organization, they were taught that they are “royalty of God,” so they got to make crowns, and draw pictures of castles and the houses they want when they grow up. Other art projects for the children included masks, puppets and meaningful jewelry, such as friendship bracelets.

Of course, the mission of the trip wasn’t simply to do art projects with the children. It was to help them and care for them. According to the professors along on the trip, “We tried to bring love, that’s all you can really do.”

“The experience impacted both the children and us in a great way,” Jackson and Seaman said, adding that “we did more than what we thought we could do.” According to the professors, everyone on the trip adapted well and rose to the occasion, even the students that had never been out of the country before.

Overall, the trip changed the perspective of all of the participants. “We grew to love the children, and we felt that we touched them,” Said Jackson. In addition, they learned that the basic human experience is the same, in that everyone wants the same things: love, a purpose and solid relationships. The College group also realized that everyone is connected. The professors added, “If someone is hurting in Zimbabwe, it hurts us here, it affects everyone. It is not us or them, this or that, and although that may be human nature, we must try not to think that way.

Chilcote will be in Africa for three years, which lends the Counseling and Art Therapy Department a chance to build a bridge and maintain a connection to the children in Africa that they have worked with on this trip.

The Department is going on another trip June 20-27 to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, where they will be working with Native American children from both the Lakota and Sioux tribes on the expression arts, including drama, fine arts and participating in an art show.

In addition, the Counseling and Art Therapy Department is also hosting a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal from May 23 through June 2, 2016. The trip is a partnership with United Planet, a non-profit organization, which plans and facilitates humanitarian and mission work around the world. The Nepal trip will include working with women and children that have been victims of physical and sexual abuse. While this trip will have an art component, it will be very specific to mental health and counseling; therefore, those going on the trip must have a high competency in mental health work. This is a chance to use not just art skills, but also counseling skills. The deadline to sign up for the trip is in September 2015, and there will be more information coming soon. Up to 30 people will be accepted to go, and the cost for the trip will be $5,000.