DWN Fall Faculty Forum: Who do you know?

By Kris Gallagher, associate editor, Alumni Communications

As chair of the Faculty Advisory Council of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Marie Donovan regularly walks the hallways of the state capital, buttonholing legislators to discuss issues that impact higher education. Donovan, who is also an associate professor of early childhood teacher education in the College of Education, is particularly worried about the rising percentage of Illinois high school seniors who choose to attend college outside the state. In fact, Illinois is now the second-largest net loss leader, behind New Jersey.

At DWN’s Fall Faculty Forum, Donovan spoke about trying to talk with a state senator about this issue. He shrugged it off, saying “Let some other state pay to educate them. It’s not our problem.”

Ah, but it is, Donovan told attendees. She expanded on the issues discussed by DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban, PhD, during his State of the University address in September 2017. Demographically, the number of college-ready potential undergraduates is declining, while enrollment in graduate degree programs is dropping at most universities. Budget issues are exacerbated when more students leave Illinois, leading to program cuts, layoffs, reductions in service and more. More importantly, it becomes harder to fulfill the Vincentian mission of providing a quality education to students on the margins.


“What small things can each of us do to help turn this around?” Donovan asked participants. “Who do you know, how can you influence them, how can you advocate for students to stay in Illinois?”

Participants brainstormed a variety of ideas, including:

  • Talking with teens and their parents about the importance of attending college
  • Talking with teens and their parents about ways to make college more affordable, including taking general education requirements at a community college and transferring to a larger institution to complete their degree
  • Reminding teens and parents to think about transportation costs and challenges when they are considering universities
  • Coaching parents of teens on how to expand their search for financial aid
  • Find ways to strengthen support for at-risk students already enrolled, increasing retention
  • Lobbying legislators to allow for student-loan consolidation programs
  • Asking everyone they talk with, “What are you going to do?”

In closing, Donovan noted that many small efforts lead to larger changes, a phenomenon often described as the “butterfly effect.” (Mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz coined the term after discovering that minor changes in conditions, which he likened to the flapping of butterfly wings, influenced the formation of tornadoes.) “Flutter your butterfly wings,” Donovan said. “Decide what you can do and do it.”

Faculty Forums provide an opportunity for faculty to share their research or present on a topic on interest, and are open to the entire university community.

DWN Spring Faculty Forum: “Acting as if Black Lives [Really] Matter”

By Kris Gallagher

I feel like I shouldn’t be the one writing this blog post.

I’ve spent most of the past year working on DePaul’s B.U.I.L.D. diversity certificate, so I was immediately drawn to the topic for DWN’s Spring Faculty Forum, cosponsored by DePaul’s Black Leadership Coalition. What I heard was powerful, revelatory and often painful. I was acutely aware that I was a racial minority in the room, a feeling much too familiar to people of color.

The speaker promised us a safe space, and it was. She also said that safe spaces are frequently uncomfortable, and it was that, too. I came to listen and learn. I did, and I’m glad I attended.

About two dozen people gathered to listen to Derise Tolliver Atta, associate professor and self-proclaimed Chief Happiness Officer for the School for New Learning. She pointed out that the opinions she was about to share were her own and not DePaul’s. She then opened the forum by sharing with several African traditions, including seeking permission from her elders, sharing libations for thanksgiving and healing, and encouraging us to be warriors, healers and builders. She drew us in with a table full of items from her past, including family photos, gifts, a pair of boots for stomping on some toes, and a cheering toy elephant.

The real elephant in the room, she said, is the question that hovered over us all: “If we say Black Lives Matter, what’s the issue? Why is there push back?”

Accompanied by supportive murmurs from the attendees, she explored the emergence of #BlackLivesMatter since 2013 while noting that the actual movement predates it by centuries. The hashtag erupted from the highly publicized killings of unarmed men, women and children and the lack of consequences for the shooters.  Tolliver Atta pointed out that detractors call the movement militant, anti-police, reverse-racist, terrorist, and anti-white, but #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t say anything against others.  She encouraged us to think about why people turn a positive statement into a negative one.

“Why is there fear around these things, and what can we do about it?” she asked.

She told several personal stories illustrating how Blacks had been threatened or mistreated by whites. All of us then read the names of some of the unarmed Black people who recently were killed by police. I think it’s ironic that some white people react with fear-based anger over #BlackLivesMatter when it is so clear that the people who have the most reason to be afraid are people of color.

The development and wellbeing of each of us is important to all of us

“Black lives are systematically, intentionally targeted for demise. That’s a hard thing to hear,” she said. “It’s about spirit killing if it’s not body killing. It’s about annihilating someone psychologically, spiritually, physically, emotionally.”

Tolliver Atta explained that BlackLivesMatter is an ideological, political movement committed to resisting, unveiling and undoing the history of state-sanctioned violence against black and brown bodies.

She talked about a concept new to me: Maafa, the African Holocaust, a centuries-old and ongoing form of genocide against the mental and physical health of people of African descent. Slavery was baked into the United States when it was founded, and the systems that were put in place then continue today.

“Modern-day policing is descended from the slave patrols,” she said, “so it’s natural for police to use violence, to be overly aggressive, because that’s what they did when they started.” People need to understand history to start making change.

History transformed into present day when she and others started telling stories of what they had experienced at DePaul. I love working here and I want to believe we’re better than this, but I winced over and over again.

Black students being asked for ID in the library right after white students were not. Colleagues being surprised at prestigious degrees. Limited leadership opportunities for people of African descent. Racial profiling of faculty, staff and students. Low recruitment, retention and graduation of students of African descent. The lack of an African-American resource center. White faculty members arguing they should be able to use racial epithets.

“Privilege says that I have the right, under the guise of free speech, to say something that I know is disrespectful,” she said. “The message that is communicated is that your life doesn’t really matter.”

The problems are both systemic and institutional, she says. For example, leadership should be looking at the proportion of Black students and faculty in any program being considered for elimination.

What do we do?

So, what can white people like me do?

  • Learn about whiteness. Even if I think I am opposed to racism, I may unwittingly support systems of racism.
  • Work on discovering and countering the ideas of privilege and supremacy that we all have internalized.
  • Learn about the systems that kill Black lives—mind, body, soul and spirit
  • Become aware of how you might be silencing others by dictating the conversation.
  • Buy from black businesses.
  • Call for changing structures in the organizations you belong to.
  • Hold your colleagues responsible for the things they are saying and doing.
  • Use your own influence to work for positive social change.

“Doing the work is not necessarily going to be comfortable. Don’t expect people of African descent to carry you out of racism,” she said.

She also called people of African descent to get to work:

  • Develop oneself and don’t allow others to dim your light.
  • Recognize that you may not receive outside endorsement. Know that you don’t need it.
  • Give up hearing people who are oppressing you.
  • Affirm your own mental and spiritual self and those of others
  • Resist the myths of superiority and inferiority.
  • Reflect on your own identities.
  • Accept your Black-nificent being and celebrate personhood without oppressing others.

Then, she called for change she would like to see at DePaul:

  • Mandatory cultural competency training for faculty and staff
  • More resources and effort put into recruitment and retention of Black students and faculty
  • Town hall meetings promoting diversity discussions
  • A diversity section in the annual mandatory compliance test

“I am calling for a revolution. I am calling for a revolution at the personal, societal, global scale,” Tolliver Atta concluded.

“We have to do this. We have to do this work. Doing this work and enduring this pain”—she raps the stiletto boot heels on the table—“will get us to a place where we don’t simply say that Black lives matter, we don’t simply act as if Black lives really matter, we will actually live the reality that Black lives do matter. It will be who we are.”

That’s a future I want to be part of.

Click here to watch the full video of the event.

Kris Gallagher is a member of the DePaul Women’s Network marketing and communications team, and an associate editor in the Office of Advancement at DePaul University.

What to be a contributing writer on the DePaul Women’s Network blog? Click here for more information.

How I Celebrate Earth Month, Every Month

By Jennifer Long


My Appreciation for the Earth is Constantly Growing

I grew up in Tokyo, Japan. The city had green spaces, but my existence there was mostly one surrounded by concrete. Luckily for me, our family trips were frequent, but they never included exploring nature or any outdoor adventures. And so I came to prefer urban environments.

It wasn’t until a two-week canoe trip near Quetico, Canada in 2009, where I portaged through lakes and over land, that I truly experienced wilderness (or at least, relatively untouched-by-humans land). The water in certain areas was so pure; you could fill up your water bottle in the lake and drink it safely without purifying it.

The trip left a huge impact on me. In addition to giving me a higher tolerance for mosquitos and leeches, and leaving me physically stronger from all the heavy lifting, it gave me a much deeper appreciation for our Earth. It got me thinking critically about how we treat our Earth.

Why is it that Quetico is one of the few places you can still drink water directly from the lake? I starting thinking about the language we use to connect with the Earth, and our detrimental practices against it.

Because of that trip, and for many other reasons, I try to celebrate the Earth all the time—with a special emphasis during Earth Month.


Thoughtful Conservation and Sustainability

According to one source, if you imagine the earth’s 4.5 billion years in the timeline of one week, then modern human existence would only be the last six seconds of the Saturday evening, at 11:59:54.

In this scenario, “one-eightieth of a second ago, we discover[ed] oil, thus accelerating the carbon blowout started by the industrial revolution.’’ [Avlonas, Nassos, 4]

Humans have had such a direct, negative impact on carbon dioxide emissions and nonrenewable natural resources (and consequent global warming), that we are forced to be reactive to a problem we have caused.

To keep conservation and sustainability top of mind personally, I do whatever I can to find peaceful moments to enjoy the Earth: hikes, walks by the lakes—whatever nature I can access.

I strive to reduce my waste by recycling at home and at work.

I try reusing items by repurposing or donating, instead of just throwing things out and adding to the growing landfills.

Buying locally grown food can also help, as grocery stores’ food transportation adds to emissions. Being mindful of dietary and shopping choices can also make a difference. Food that we throw out ends up decaying in landfills and producing methane, which is more harmful than CO2 emissions.


Composting with Worms

Most recently—I’ve begun composting with worms!

Red wigglers, shipped from Europe, and provided by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, are hard at work in a five-gallon plastic tub (with air holes) underneath my kitchen sink. They consume approximately half a pound of food every day.

The worms consume the food before it decays (so no smells other than that of dirt!) and turn it into soil through their digestive processes. I can then use the soil (which they migrate away from, making it easier to scoop up) to grow herbs from the porch attached to my walk-up apartment in Chicago.

If I had more space, I would be able to have a more sophisticated system and do outdoor composting (where you can throw all food scraps, no worms). I would probably grow my own plants and perhaps save money on vegetables.

Composting with worms is a skill I acquired and have taught in workshops as a Chicago Conservation Corps Leader, through a program run by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. In this program, people can train on major issues affecting Chicago (water, food, transportation and more) and then create projects in communities where they are stakeholders to spread awareness of conservation and sustainability.

I’ve found this opportunity to be rewarding and have enjoyed finding a place to learn and practice new skills. It has also made me more aware of celebrating Earth Month—and conservation and sustainability—in the context of Chicago.


Water Conservation Efforts

Water is a growing concern.

While the Earth’s surface is 71 percent water, only 3 percent of that water is without saline. Of that 3 percent, more than 99 percent is unavailable in the form of ice caps, glaciers or groundwater. This leaves us with only 0.10 percent of water (which happens to reside mostly in lakes, swamps and rivers) for industrial, agricultural and human use. [Avlonas, Nassos, 10].

For this reason, I began assisting with fundraising strategies for an organization called Surge for Water, which provides water sanitation and hygiene solutions to developing countries through community-based relationships around the world. Their mission is to ensure that everyone has access to water, as it is becoming more and more scarce!

Actively participating with your time, treasure or talent in an issue you feel strongly about is one way to make a positive impact on the Earth.


What Earth Month Means to Me

Sustainability should be a mindset at all levels: at the individual level and at the systemic level with governments and corporations.

We have the opportunity to influence larger systems and institutions, such as the agricultural production industry, with the products that we purchase. We can also make a difference with our lifestyle choices and habits. We just need to keep conservation and sustainability in mind. I believe that all the small steps that we each take will have a large impact over time.

Earth Month reminds me of the powerful impact we can have, and do have, on the Earth. It reminds me to celebrate the Earth’s many wonders and to participate in its preservation.

By finding meaningful ways to celebrate the Earth on a daily basis, and especially during Earth Month, we can help combat climate change and be a part of the solution to protect our planet’s natural resources for generations to come.


Jennifer Long is a DWN member at large and an assistant director of development for DePaul’s Richard H. Driehaus College of Business.

What to be a contributing writer on the DePaul Women’s Network blog? Click here for more information.

Celebrating the Spirit of St. Louise at DWN’s 12th Annual High Tea

 By Nadia Alfadel Coloma

On March 28, DePaul women faculty and staff gathered for fellowship, networking and service at DWN’s 12th annual High Tea with St. Louise. This yearly celebration marks two occasions: Women’s History Month and St. Louise’s feast day, both of which occur in March.

So who was St. Louise anyway? Why does DWN hold this event each year to commemorate her?

One terrific metaphor I heard once from someone explaining the significance of St. Louise, in her relation to St. Vincent, is that if St. Vincent were the president of our university, then St. Louise would be the provost.

St Louise de MarillacFrom 17th century France, St. Louise was St. Vincent’s most trusted and key collaborator. She dedicated her life to the service of others, serving the poor alongside St. Vincent and educating women to help those most in need. St. Louise was also a wife (then widow), a mother (to a son with special needs), a nurse, social worker, teacher and community organizer. She founded the Daughter’s of Charity, a community of religious women that still exists today.

St. Louise’s spirit of service and action inspires us to take our beliefs,  ideas, passions, dreams, our vision for a better world—and put them into action. And it is because of her inspiring legacy that DWN honors her each year, not with one event, but with two: the other being our annual Women of Spirit and Action Awards.

17458234_10212052718136305_3478190085345872810_nBut this year’s High Tea with St. Louise was different. In addition to providing a space and opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea and treats with fellow DPU women, our 2017 High Tea included a service activity.

All this talk about St. Louise inspiring us to action, well, what better way to honor her than to put our inspiration to action and do service in her name?

The event kicked off with keynote speaker Barbara Sims, a DePaul SNL graduate student who talked about her experiences facing poverty, her struggles as a first-generation college student and single mother, and her climb to a six-figure corporate job that, while it filled her pockets, didn’t satisfy her soul.

“Knowledge is power,” she shared, reading a quote from Kofi Annan that inspired her. “Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress in every society and every family.”

Barbara ended up leaving her six-figure job to pursue her passion for singing. In fact, she sang a song just before beginning her address, mesmerizing everyone with the delightful surprise of her voice that echoed through the lofty ceilings of Cortelyou Commons. (Not every keynote speaker spontaneously breaks into song…) You can watch the 40-second clip of her singing here.

Barbara spent a few years traveling around the country singing, but she still felt a restlessness in her soul. She had a calling toward education, and so decided to go back to school, enrolling at DePaul to pursue a PhD that focuses on culturally relevant education in the neo liberal era.

“I wanted to be in some service,” she said. “Our African American students are either underemployed or unemployed. They’re not walking away from school prepared or inspired.”

sarahscircleAfter Barbara’s keynote, the local nonprofit that we would be serving that day was introduced. Sarah’s Circle, located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, serves women who are homeless or in need of a safe space. Last year the organization served roughly 793 women in the community.

But there was one more special guest before the service portion of the event: the Depaul (yes, lowercase p) USA’s Dax Program, which helps our students facing homelessness by matching them with host families and giving them resources and support so they can complete their education at DePaul.

20170328_161128“There are at least 50 students at DePaul who are homeless, or housing insecure, as we prefer to say, during any given quarter,” shared Sister Judy Warmbold, the Dax program coordinator. “The problem is… we don’t know who these students are. The best thing you can do to help is know that this program exists, help spread the word and help identify students who you suspect might need this program.”

“There are at least 50 students at DePaul who are homeless during any given quarter. The problem is… we don’t know who they are.” – Sister Judy Warmbold, Dax program coordinator

I had heard about the Dax Program a couple of years ago, but admittedly, it had slipped from my mind since then—which made me feel awful, considering that one of the main points Sister Judy stressed to everyone was to simply be aware. Be aware of the program and be aware of the students you work with or teach on campus, as students facing homelessness are often too ashamed to come forward. You can read more about Dax in Newsline.

After a brief Q&A between the attendees and guest speakers, the energized frenzy of the service activity finally began.

At each round table, DPU women assembled sandwiches and packed them into bagged lunches for the women who benefit from Sarah’s Circle. Each table had loaves of bread, slices of deli meat and cheese, clementines and bags of chips. Also dispersed around the tables were index cards on which we could write a personal message to the woman who would receive the bagged lunch.

It was wonderful to be in the company of so many DePaul women who gave the gift of their presence that day to help women that they would never meet. Hands were reaching across tables, people were calling out “Is there more cheese?” and “Does anyone have an extra bag?” The connection and solidarity I felt with those around me was such a rejuvenating way to end my work day.

By the end, the 50 women who participated made 100 sandwiches for 100 bagged lunches. The representatives from Sarah’s Circle expressed their gratitude and amazement at how fast and efficiently we put the lunches together. Many looked up from the tables as if thinking, “Aren’t there anymore sandwiches to make?”

The spirit of St. Louise truly shone through the windows of Cortelyou Commons that afternoon.

I’m so glad that the DePaul Women’s Network offers these opportunities to come together, learn and give back to the larger community. It makes me proud to be a part of the Network. I hope we made St. Louise proud with this event that bears her name. I have a feeling we did.

Visit our Facebook page to view more photos from the event!

Nadia Alfadel Coloma is the director of marketing and communications for the DePaul Women’s Network, and a communications and workforce specialist in Enrollment Management and Marketing at DePaul University.

Apply Now and Never Look Back!

By Jennifer Long

croI joined DePaul in the fall of 2013 in the Office of Advancement, on a team that works to develop special gifts from individual donors by encouraging philanthropy to a variety of initiatives. As you might guess, this externally facing job is rather autonomous and does not require much engagement across the university.

Though you never forget you’re working to support students and programming through fundraising, you can sometimes feel disconnected from the DePaul community while traveling to meet donors. Being housed in an administrative building in the Loop doesn’t help either, as it’s not strictly a DePaul building.

The DePaul Women’s Network was just what I needed to feel more connected.

It took me too long to discover it. I believe the first email that caught my attention was one regarding an improv session on public speaking. I wasn’t bold enough at the time to attend, but I did quickly start my application for the Service and Outreach team and added the Women’s Convocation—honoring 10 years of DePaul Women’s Network—to my calendar.

DWN quickly allowed me to grow in my understanding of the amazing university I had been fundraising for, to understand the breadth of experiences of DePaul women, to learn about how other women were managing their careers, and to learn new skills myself.

The Service and Outreach team—one of five you can serve on as a team member or director—plans events such as the High Tea with St. Louise de Marillac. Joining this team made me feel like I was making a direct impact on the DePaul and surrounding community, and gave me the opportunity to develop additional skills in event planning and coordination. It only required a few more hours monthly than the members-at-large membership group (no team designation). I was pleased my application was accepted and that I was able to participate for the next year. My connections quickly grew through my collaborations with other team members and members at large.

Unfortunately, due to enrolling in a graduate program, I decided to step back from the team role to serve as a member at large in late 2015. However, I’ve still remained connected by participating in a variety of DWN events, including the annual High Tea and the Interactive Art events, and I look forward to attending the more casual ones, such as the regular coffee and happy hours.

In November of 2015, one of the tragic bereavement notices we all receive in our inboxes, referenced a loss I was experiencing. When I returned to the office, I had interoffice mail in the form of letters and gifts from women I had met through DePaul Women’s Network, and even the Service and Outreach team, from which I had recently stepped down. That outpouring of support is yet another example of the benefit of connecting with the beautiful, wonderful women at DePaul and in DWN.

I would encourage every woman to consider what the DePaul Women’s Network might offer their DePaul experience (and beyond!), and how they might like to participate. DePaul University is a place where people grow, and DWN helps connect women throughout that process. Apply now and never look back!

Recruitment for 2017-18 team members and directors is open until April 7, 2017. Click here to apply.

Jennifer Long is a DWN member at large and an assistant director of development for DePaul’s Richard H. Driehaus College of Business.

Why DWN? I’ll Tell You…

 Great WallBy Deirdre Laverdiere

In the autumn of 2015, I started working at DePaul as a temporary employee while a woman was out on maternity leave. When I was offered a position to stay on full-time, I was thrilled. I loved working at DePaul but did not know anyone outside of my department.

My first DWN event was High Tea with Louise where I met some wonderful women who shared their experiences in and out of the university.  Right then I decided to see how I could become more involved.

I have a history of volunteering for women’s business groups; in my previous career I served on many different levels of an organization and enjoyed every minute. I found it very fulfilling to give a portion of my time to helping bring women together. I knew DWN would give me the same satisfaction and the women at DePaul have not let me down.

I started my DWN experience on the Programming team. In my first year, I helped put together the fitness event and Women of Substance event. For the fitness event, a fellow Programming team member and I were able to attach the event to HR’s Vin-cent$ Program. A wonderful campaign designed to help put money back in employee’s wallets for healthy activities.

In November 2016, while on the Programming team, I was approached to step up and head the Membership and Engagement team, which focuses on events designed for DWN members only.  (While anyone can attend an event, only members receive the invitation.) I was excited for the opportunity and since taking the lead as director, the team and I have held a night at the theater showcasing the students’ production of “We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia”. In the spring of 2017, we will be hosting a wine tasting event, learning from a sommelier how to pair wine and food together. Keep your eye out for the details coming soon.

One of the things I love about DWN is there is something for everyone, no matter your interest. Your level of involvement is up to you. The first step is joining the league of spectacular women who make up DWN. There are five different teams and I know there is one that will be a great fit for all women at DePaul –

  • Programming
  • Membership and Engagement
  • Operations
  • Service and Outreach
  • Marketing and Communications

There are three levels for you to consider: Member at large, great for the woman who wants to dip her toe but not sure of her time commitment; Team member, join one of the terrific teams and help out in your area of interest; Director, lead one of the teams and meet with the other directors on a monthly basis. Registration is now open for 2017-18 team members and directors.

It is extremely easy to apply and should only take a few minutes to become part of this phenomenal group. As a reminder, current team members must reapply if they wish to stay on their team next year, try out a different team or step up to one of the two director positions that are currently open.

Please click here to sign up today – DWN Team Member or Director. Applications to be a team member or director will be accepted until April 7, 2017.

Deirdre Laverdiere is the director of membership and engagement for DWN and the program partner director for the Center for Sales Leadership at DePaul.

DWN Book Club: ‘Lab Girl’ Sheds Light on Life as a Scientist

By Kris Gallagher

labgirlLab Girl, a memoir by Hope Jahren, surprised and delighted me with its mash-up of basic plant science and the dirty, chaotic mess that is both research and life. It tells the story of a bright, reclusive and committed scientist, alternating between loneliness, the thrill of discovery and the quest to find her place in the world. It showcases the best non-romantic male-female relationship that I’ve ever read about. And, it’s left me standing under trees this spring, wondering what’s going on in there.

Attendees at the Loop discussion praised how the book alternated between bite-size bits of science and Jahren’s life. The science snippets also served as a metaphor, starting with seeds and Jahren’s childhood and following the growth of the tree and the woman until maturity. It also talks about the importance of family, both the ones we are born with and the ones we make. The accessibility and support of mothers and fathers figure prominently in the lives of the main characters.

One of the most evocative moments in the book is when Jahren discovers a previously unknown substance inside seeds (we won’t tell; you’ll have to read the book). She writes about how mind-blowing it is to be the only person on the planet to know it. None of us could imagine that happening in our lives. Her discovery made us all yearn a bit to be scientists.

Then there is the flip side. Even though we all work in academia, we were struck by how scientists live grant to grant. Highly educated, experienced scientists (like Bill, her long-time assistant) live hand to mouth, sometimes in spare broom closets, when grant money slows to a drip. They are working at nationally renowned universities, picking through abandoned equipment and celebrating the retrieval of a package of unused gloves. This is a crazy way to fund science!

The book ends with a request that readers plant at least one tree, and we all talked about our options for doing so. I think we’ll all look at spring differently this year.

Note: One participant listened to the audio book, which is narrated by Jahren, and didn’t appreciate how emotional the author becomes in some sections. This may help you decide how you want to engage with this book.

Kris Gallagher is a member of the DePaul Women’s Network marketing and communications team, and an associate editor in the Office of Advancement at DePaul University.