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.

10th Annual Women of Spirit & Action Awards: Finding Balance and Community

By Lauren Kriz

On November 6, the DePaul Women’s Network celebrated its 10th Annual Women of Spirit and Action Awards with the support of staff and faculty from across the university. Despite the fact that I have worked at DePaul for more than five years, this was my first time attending the event, and I was pleased by the number of people in the audience, both men and women, who had gathered to honor an impressive list of DePaul women for their service to the university.

The atmosphere in the room was inviting and celebratory, making the event an exciting highlight at the start of DWN’s year. Jen Fox, the president of DWN, began the event by asking the audience to join her in honoring the “modern-day Louises in our midst—the women faculty, staff and students who help move this great university’s mission forward” and who are leaders across campus.

WSA Awards 1
Before the keynote speaker took the stage, Fox also spoke about the 2014-15 DWN theme, “Women’s Ways of Wellness,” and how DWN will offer a number of programs meant to help DePaul women find balance in six different aspects of wellness: emotional, physical, vocational, spiritual, community and social. To kick off this year’s theme and to honor St. Louise and the DePaul recipients of this year’s awards, DWN picked a special speaker: Dr. Vie Thorgren, the founder and director of the Center for Spirituality at Work, where they aim to “unite diverse people for spirituality and social justice.” Dr. Thorgren came to DePaul from Denver to speak from a Vincentian perspective about holistic wellness, how it applies to our lives at DePaul and how belonging to a community can help us on our path to wellness.

Dr. Thorgren began by talking about the center and how it invites professionals to act as mentors for women who are re-entering the workforce from prison. These professional mentors are trained by women from the prison, who are also members of the board, a format that is uniquely Vincentian in that everyone participates in every aspect of the organization.

Dr. Thorgren then gave a brief biography of St. Louise and how it now seems clear that for Louise’s entire life she had a “yearning for belonging.” After many years of searching, she eventually found that she belonged to God and thus to her brothers and sisters, an idea that was instrumental to her founding of the Daughters of Charity, who provide outreach to all communities, whether rich or poor. Dr. Thorgren spoke about how St. Louise can give us perspective on wellness today related to the idea of belonging. She said that having a sense of belonging can lead to health and lacking a sense of belonging can lead to unease; finding our own sense of belonging is important for establishing balance in our lives. Belonging keeps us centered and gives us life. We begin using “we” when we interact with the communities around us—instead of only focusing on “I”—and that new focus is enriching and empowering and healthy. She spoke about how belonging “makes claims on us.” People in the communities to which we belong know that we have each become “one of the primary resources of [our] brothers and sisters,” and this knowledge lays the foundation of trust and security necessary to maintain a strong community of support.

Dr. Thorgren gave us four areas that she thought were important as we begin to develop our communities.

  1. Each of us needs two types of relationships in our lives. The first is supportive and is with people who have always nurtured and cared for us. The second is a relationship we must develop with “sandpaper people” or people who do not always like us or think like us, but are the people that help us grow.
  2. There is a difference between “do-goodism” and real service, which is about how the act of someone giving service and someone receiving service should be mutually transforming and leave us energized, instead of burnt out like many do-gooders.
  3. There is great importance in having “fallow time” or down time, when we must help ourselves remember the difference between being productive and being fruitful.
  4. We should take problems and really see them and then receive them as gifts. Though we may not always feel like we have the tools to cope with the problems that are presented to us, if we stop and recognize those problems, we may find that though the tools are not always what we expected, we can find them in ourselves. Here she gave us the example of someone she knows from the center, who took skills she had learned in her criminal past and turned them into marketable skills, working hard in her job until she was trusted enough to be put in charge of her office for an entire month.

Dr. Thorgren challenged many of us to think not only about developing our sense of belonging and community, which we have learned is important to our wellness, but also to be aware of the ways in which we go about developing that sense. The perspective of community and belonging that Dr. Thorgren provided in her keynote, along with the knowledge she gave of St. Louise, was a perfect way for DWN to kick off our year and assist DePaul’s women on their ways to wellness.

After Dr. Thorgren spoke, the group celebrated 105 DePaul women for their roles as modern-day Louises. I left my first Women of Spirit and Action Awards with a newfound respect for St. Vincent’s right-hand woman, and also for the many women working beside me, who continue to emulate and develop the community that St. Vincent and St. Louise began hundreds of years ago.

Lauren Kriz is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team and the Operations Coordinator in the Office of Student Records at DePaul University.


Inspiring Connections: Fall 2014 Faculty Forum Highlight

By Nadia Alfadel

Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta
Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta

“It’s never about me—it’s about us and our connectedness,” said Dr. Derise Tolliver Atta, Professor in the School for New Learning at DePaul.

At our DWN Faculty Forum held Oct. 15, I was excited to learn about the Tangaza Project, a degree program that connects DePaul with Tangaza College in Nairobi, Kenya. Students who complete this program receive a DePaul degree, and Dr. Tolliver Atta was instrumental in making this project a reality.

But what I took away from Dr. Tolliver Atta’s forum was more than just a lecture on the project and how DePaul came to be affiliated with it.

Dr. Tolliver Atta invited us to peer into the African world view—the perspective that we are all connected, in one way or another. This notion of interconnectedness, of relationships, is central to the African culture and mind-set, she explained. One’s identity depends largely on the whole to which one belongs.

Dr. Tolliver Atta spoke about family and ancestry, the importance of remembering and honoring the larger whole, the bigger picture, the greater community. “I am because we are and we are because I am,” was one of the many proverbs she shared. And it was this notion of connectedness that called her to work on the Tangaza Project.

It was clear that Dr. Tolliver Atta didn’t want this forum to be a show-and-tell of her work, but rather to focus on the importance of giving back to that larger whole of which one is a part. And so she called on us, her audience, to think about what our larger whole is, and how we can give back to it.

The Tangaza Project truly exemplifies DePaul’s mission and values by providing educational access to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. And the spirit in which it was founded—that of contributing to the larger community—wonderfully reflects St. Vincent’s legacy of working to build a better future for those who may not be able to build one themselves.

I think St. Vincent would be proud.

Nadia Alfadel is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team, and an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Residential Education at DePaul University.

DWN Faculty Panel Reveals Lessons for All Working Women

On April 25, the DePaul Women’s Network hosted “Faculty Service Opportunities and Career Development Panel.” DWN Communications Team Member Laura Durnell recaps and reflects upon what participating in the event taught her.

Laura Durnell

Right before the DePaul Women’s Network’s final event of the 2013-2014 year, The Atlantic published an article called “The Confidence Gap.” In the article, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman presented evidence that showed women in the workforce shortchanging themselves through not pursuing opportunities or broadcasting accomplishments simply because of a lack of self-assurance.

DWN’s event reflected the issues mentioned in the article. “Twenty percent of full professors are women,” said panelist and English Professor Anne Clark Bartlett, who also serves as Special Assistant to the Provost for Innovation and Academic Planning. This revelation regarding women in academia also relates to the number of women in the workforce outside the Ivory Tower who do not often pursue or hold positions of leadership.

Even though this panel was specifically marketed to full-time faculty on the tenure track and focused on the role service plays in tenure decisions, much of the advice presented also applies to adjunct faculty, DePaul staff and all women in the workforce. Overall, the panelists provided advice and suggestions about taking initiative, strategically planning activities, and being thoughtful with time commitments regarding work advancement—all activities that would not only help build careers in and outside academia, but also build confidence.

During the panel, the accomplished and inspiring panelists used those effective strategies to discuss the role service plays in tenure decisions. The panelists also shared their stories and advice about the best way to plan and participate in service. Roxanne Owens from the College of Education, who now serves as Chair for the Department of Teacher Education, said she has served on some committees she didn’t want to, but serving allowed her to get her name out to her department and DePaul.

“But don’t be a martyr [with volunteering],” Owens warned. “Yet if you agree to serve on a committee, show up!”

Mona Shattell from the College of Nursing, who is now Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, said service has given her opportunities to serve on committees outside of her nursing field and to better get to know DePaul and its students. For example, she served as the faculty advisor to the DePaul Women’s A Cappella Chorus.
When she started on the tenure track, Shattell said she looked at her career goals and didn’t join a service opportunity unless it matched her goals, emphasizing, “It helped me write my narrative and align my service.”

Like Shattell, Bartlett made her service align with her goals. Until she received tenure, Bartlett devoted most of her service within her research concentration of medieval literature, specifically medieval women’s literature. During her early years on the tenure track, Bartlett organized conference panels in her field, participated in professional organizations, and spent the rest of her energy and time on research and teaching. Once she became an associate professor, Bartlett began serving on university committees, including a stint as the Faculty Council President. However, Bartlett believes a lot of service early in a professor’s career can be “a disaster. Service opportunities are always going to be there.”

Slightly disagreeing with Bartlett, Judy Bundra from the College of Music, who is also Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, encouraged professors on the tenure track to grab the service opportunities that are available and to pick ones that have a wide impact. “To not do any committees university-wide is not wise,” said Bundra. Since her adjunct days, Bundra has risen to the rank of associate professor and served as a Faculty Council representative and department dean.

Maggie Oppenheimer from the Economics Department in the College of Business echoed other panelists in stressing the importance of making contacts within one’s own field as well as at DePaul. “Get on conference programs or organizations,” Oppenheimer said. Through her service inside and outside DePaul, Bundra said she “got her name out” as well as DePaul’s.

Regarding collegiality and reputation, all of the panelists advised not just signing up for service but truly fulfilling the responsibility of serving. “It’s not in the handbook, but being a good colleague and doing your share is important,” Oppenheimer said. Current Faculty Council Chair and College of Communication Professor Michaela Winchatz agreed, mentioning the frustration regarding the noticeable absence of others when the same people repeatedly volunteer and other faculty lay low.

As important as service is, Owens cautioned tenure-track faculty members from using service as a way to avoid research. In a post-panel email, Owens wrote, “I believe people need to contribute to the university, their college, their department and their professional community through service activities—but they also need to be aware of when they are overcommitting themselves to service as a way to avoid something they might struggle with a bit more (such as writing).”

Finally, one such piece of advice that any academic and professional can embrace came from Shattell via Twitter: “Keep your CV not only up-to-date but up to the minute!”

Read more about the Twitter conversation during the panel in our Storify recap.

Laura Durnell is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is an adjunct in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Department at DePaul University.

Community Is My Ultimate Reward

For Women’s History Month this March, DWN invited a variety guest authors to share their insights. Read on to see why #DePaulWomenRock!

Laura Durnell
Laura Durnell

By Laura Durnell

Since Autumn 2000, I have taught at DePaul as contingent part-time faculty. I enjoy teaching at DePaul and am inspired by its intelligent and remarkable faculty, student and staff body. As a bonus, DePaul treats its adjunct faculty better than many higher education institutions. Yet even though DePaul made me feel welcome and I had made friends with adjuncts, one feeling remained: isolation.

Adjuncts are jokingly referred to as “Roads Scholars” because we often teach at more than one college. Since graduating with my MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute, I have taught at Roosevelt University, the Graham School of General Studies at the University of Chicago, and Wilbur Wright College in addition to DePaul. Because of the lack of job and income security for adjuncts, teaching at other institutions or working at other jobs is a necessity. And because of not being secured to one university or college, it’s too easy to become disconnected from not only other faculty members but staff and administration as well. Too many times over the past 15 years, I have had other faculty members, part-time and full-time, in my departments ask, “Who are you?”

When I received DWN’s email last year inviting me to apply for membership, I knew DWN would provide the community I needed. In addition, I became excited that DWN would recognize and let me apply my talents and knowledge. Months before DWN’s invitation, I had attended the DWN events “Life on the Academic Ladder” and “Yes, You Can!” with financial planner and author Julie Murphy Casserly. Not only did these events provide fellowship and collegiality  (at “Life on the Academic Ladder” I even reunited with my fellow American Society of Magazine Editors intern who is now a tenure-track English professor at DePaul, Rebecca Johns-Trissler), but they recognized what female faculty and staff offered and needed in terms of professional and personal development.

I am a member of DWN’s Communications Team, which allows me to utilize and further develop my writing skills, most notably writing for the digital age. This year I have written a promotional email and a blog post for “Image/ing Gender.” I invited some of my fellow adjuncts to the event, and one who attended plans to apply for DWN membership for the coming year. One of my application’s goals for 2013-14 stated that I wanted to welcome more adjuncts into DWN. I think I am fulfilling my objective.

Yet community is my ultimate reward. In addition to working with my team, I have met and worked with staff and faculty on other teams and members of DWN’s directorate. Two members who work outside my academic department even requested that we meet for coffee to discuss writing. If I had not applied to be part of DWN, I would have never met these amazing women, and they definitely would not have asked me out for coffee to talk shop. As our Twitter hashtag proclaims, #DePaulWomenRock!

Laura Durnell is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is an adjunct in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Department at DePaul University.

(Learn more about being part of the DePaul Women’s Network during recruitment for 2014-15. Applications are being accepted now until April 4!)

Identity & Inclusion: When Difference Makes the Difference

DWN President Joy Boggs
Joy Boggs, DWN President 2013-14

Happy Black History Month!

I am old enough to remember when celebrating Black History was limited to the third week in February. Despite the limitations, Black History was a special time at Mark T. Skinner School. Preparations for our weeklong celebration would begin in January with MLK Day (Illinois was the first state to adopt the day as a state holiday). We were never taught the “I Have a Dream” speech; instead, we studied The Movement as a textbook in transformation. We learned how to step beyond the limits of circumstances into new fields of action. What I remember and cherish most about those days was how teachers, administrators, and staff set aside hierarchy and title to hold open an intergenerational dialogue with us students. They created a context for us to embrace our difference as a power instead of a handicap.

Something similar is about to happen on our DePaul campus on Tuesday, February 25. You may heard or seen the invitation to the Diversity Forum on February. For the first time ever in the history of our university, all five affinity groups (DPUBLC, LEAD, ELEVATE, and the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Network), are coming together to open up a dialogue between faculty and staff about what it means to be a member of the DePaul family. The forum, “Identity & Inclusion: When Difference Makes the Difference,” will feature opening comments by DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., followed by a keynote address delivered by Patricia Arredondo, president of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

The opening reception will be followed by concurrent sessions that will focus on:

  • Identity development through social media
  • Religious diversity in the workplace
  • Constructing allyship across identity lines
  • Vincentian personalism for the classroom

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to participate in a conversation for transformation. The forum, which is free and open to DePaul faculty and staff, runs 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Park Student Center. Space is limited, so please register by February 19.

We can’t wait to see you!


Joy Boggs is President of DePaul Women’s Network for 2013-14 and is Business Manager for the Office of the General Counsel at DePaul University.