Fordham Notes: December 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fordham Student Reaches Out to Needy with Blessing Bag Project

The Tumblr post caught Paulette Thomas’ attention around Thanksgiving. 

“Have you ever come across a homeless individual and felt totally uncomfortable?” it began.  

The post, which has been shared multiple times across the social network, struck a chord with Thomas, a junior majoring in Information Science at Fordham College at Rose Hill.

Inspired by its message of charity and good will, Thomas and five friends will fan out across the city on Dec. 23 to deliver “Blessing Bags” to homeless people they encounter on the street.

Each bag will contain toiletries, snacks, a change of socks, spare change, and other useful items.
“I always have this thing where I just want to give back,” Thomas said. 

“I knew that I had already missed Thanksgiving, so Christmas time was coming, and I thought, ‘Maybe I should do something with my friends.’ It would be better than just hanging out.”

Thomas, members of her family, and Fordham volunteers will assemble the bags at the McGinley Center on Saturday, Dec. 21. On the following Monday they will split into teams that will visit areas around shelters in the Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan at 7:30 p.m.—after the shelters have closed their doors for the night.

That way, Thomas said, the teams can reach homeless late-strayers (who are left out) before they retreat to alternate encampments for the night. The plan is to distribute 100 bags at a total cost between $600-700. Supplies have been purchased with personal funds, along with $200 that Fordham’s Department of Academic Records has donated to the project.

A native of Washington Heights, Thomas commutes by bus to the Rose Hill campus from Parkchester in the Bronx. In high school, she helped pack bags that were distributed in a “Midnight Run,” but this is her first time organizing the Blessing Bag project. Living in the Bronx is enough to spur you into action, she said. 

“I see everything that goes on here firsthand,” she said. “You know, it just hurts that we live here, and we don’t do enough about it, and we have resources enough to do so. So why not, what’s it really going to cost us?” she said.

“At the and of the day, we have constant jobs and we have things that that we’ll be able to replace later on, because we have stability in our lives compared to others who have nothing.”

Anyone wishing to help can contact Thomas at

—Patrick Verel

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CBS Christmas Eve Special to Feature Fordham University Choir

A holiday service of Lessons and Carols, A New York Christmas to Remember, featuring host Regis Philbin, the puppetry of the late Jane Henson (wife of Muppets creator Jim Henson,) and the Fordham University Choir will be broadcast on Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 11:30 p.m. on the CBS network.

The University Choir will be joined by the National Children's Chorus and the St. Paul the Apostle Choir at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, which sits a stone's throw from Fordham's Lincoln Center campus.

Throughout the hourlong special, Philbin will read biblical stories intercut with the puppet performances of the Henson's daughters, Heather and Cheryl Henson. Like her husband, Jane Henson, who died last year, had a long history of working with puppetry. While studying theology, she was taken with medieval three-dimensional nativity scenes. She creatively blended her two interests into a new format, which her daughters will utilize to bring the nativity story to life.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Leading the London Chapter

Thousands of Fordham graduates live outside the United States, but distance doesn’t keep them from staying connected to their alma mater. As Fordham continues to become a more global institution, alumni networks—both formal and informal—are quickly forming around the world.

Holly Donahue, FCRH ’03, senior manager of brand communications for The Economist, is leading the Fordham Alumni Chapter of the United Kingdom, based in London. “It’s an international city, like New York. People come and go, but we have a core group of alumni who come to the events regularly,” she says. “And we are growing it.”
Holly Donahue, FCRH '03,
is president of the London
alumni chapter.

The chapter hosts an annual reception with Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham; networking events; trivia pub nights; and bowling parties. And this past July alumni and family came together at the Fordham London Centre to celebrate the U.S. Independence Day with a barbecue and, in keeping with their British surroundings, some croquet matches.

Housed on the campus of Heythrop College, the Fordham London Centre is home to a variety of Fordham’s study abroad programs, including programs in liberal arts, business, and British classical theater.

“Having students here makes [the chapter] well-rounded,” Donahue says. Alumni, already familiar with the city, offer students some guidance—from navigating the Tube to charting a career path. “Students really like talking with the alumni. They have been reaching out to me to find out more about my job and what it’s like to work abroad.” 

Donahue, who has lived in London for nearly three years, first stepped foot on English soil when she studied at the London School of Economics as a Fordham undergraduate. The political science major (and economics minor) found the school to be a good fit for her. “I wanted to be at a challenging university [for my junior year abroad]. It was a great experience. And I loved the international feel of the city, all the different nationalities,” she says.

“I’ve always been obsessed with British culture. I fell in love with the city and wanted to come back.”

She found the opportunity to do so when she landed a position with the Economist Group, the company that owns one of her favorite publications, The Economist. “It’s a British newspaper, so the chances of me getting to London were greater,” she says.

Donahue started in the company’s New York office, doing business-to-business marketing in the Economist Intelligence Unit for a few years before moving to the group’s headquarters in London, where she helps to manage advertising, PR, and branding for The Economist.

After her study abroad experience, the Smithfield, R.I., native participated in one of Fordham’s Global Outreach service trips. Just after graduating, Donahue spent a month in and around Bucharest, Romania, working in orphanages that housed physically and mentally challenged children.

“The kids really enjoyed our company; we helped keep their spirits up,” she says. “It’s a very poor country that has a long way to go for finding homes for their children. We were put in some challenging situations, but it was a phenomenal experience.”

For Donahue, who went to a Christian Brothers high school, an interest in service and social justice is deep-rooted—and part of her decision to attend Fordham.

“I always felt there was a sense of community involvement in a Catholic school. That Jesuit tradition appealed to me too,” she says. “And I wanted to go to a school that had great access to a city for internships and entertainment. I wanted the best of both worlds, and Fordham had that.”

Through the alumni chapter in London, Donahue is keeping that sense of community. With nearly 300 alumni living in the United Kingdom and students coming and going each semester through the London Centre, she’s rarely far from a Fordham presence.

Donahue says she’s grateful to “be a part of Fordham” even when she’s not in New York City. “I’m glad to spread the news about Fordham any way I can and say what a great university it is.”

Find more information on Fordham's regional alumni chapters.

—Rachel Buttner

Fordham Professor Discusses the ‘EuroMaidan’ Protests

UCU students protest at Madian square.
(Photo courtesy of Ukranian Catholic University)

The European Union suspended all negotiations with Ukraine on Dec. 15 over a historic trade pact, as 200,000 converged on the main square in Kiev to demand the government align itself to Europe rather than Russia.

Demonstrations have been ongoing for more than two weeks in Kiev’s main square, known as Maidan, in an effort to put pressure on President Viktor Yanukovich. Because the call for European integration sparked an initial wave of protests, the demonstrations are being referred to as “Euromaidan.”

Olena Nikolayenko, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science and Ukranian native who has a good handle on the political climate in Kiev, gave us her take on the situation. 

“A group of Fordham students went to the Ukrainian Catholic University in March 2013, and another group of Fordham students is scheduled to participate in Global Outreach project in the  Ukraine this coming March,” she says. “The Ukrainian Catholic Church condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters and some priests even joined the protest events, acting as human shields between protesters and the riot police or reading prayers in front of the police cordon to reduce the likelihood of violence.”

The Fordham student trip to the Lviv, Ukraine, last spring was part of Nikolayenko’s interdisciplinary course, “Youth and Politics,” in which students compared patterns of political behavior among American and Ukrainian youth.

Nikolayenko’s book, Citizens in the Making in Post-Soviet States (Routledge 2011), examined political attitudes of adolescents in Russia and Ukraine. Her current research project focuses on nonviolent youth movements in five post-communist states: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

Here’s our Q & A with Nikolayenko:

1) Why are Ukrainians protesting?

Initially, Ukrainians poured into the street to put pressure on the incumbent president Viktor Yanukovych to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. This trade agreement gives Ukrainians, especially the young generation, some hope of living in a more democratic and less corrupt society. But the government showed utter disregard for citizens’ political preferences and unleashed violence against peaceful protesters. The riot police ruthlessly dispersed protesters in the capital city’s main square at 4 am on November 30, and scores of people, including mostly university students, received head injuries. Images of blood-stained youth caused a public backlash against the current regime. The number of protesters grew and they expanded the list of their demands, calling for the resignation of the incumbent government, end of political violence, and implementation of democratic reforms in the country.

2) They are also protesting the country's "frayed and corrupt political system." Has this been boiling for a while now? 

Ukraine has seen a large wave of mass mobilization against the regime during the 2004 presidential elections. But the newly elected president – Viktor Yushchenko – failed to deliver on his campaign promises and drastically overhaul the political system. Now another cohort of young people is coming of age and demands democratic change.

3) Are the demonstrators mostly young people or are diverse groups of demographics also protesting?

University students constitute a large share of protesters. They grew up in the post-communist period and they defy the idea of living in a repressive political regime. A number of the middle-aged also support closer integration with the European Union because they want their children to have a better future and live in a “normal” country free of corruption and repression.

4) Can this potentially turn into an Occupy Wall Street, where although they had numbers, they didn't have a focused leadership, so the police were able to shut demonstrations down?

Lack of a single political leader facilitated, rather than inhibited, mass mobilization against the regime. No political party could have brought so many people into the street, and leaders of the opposition political parties still cannot figure out how to capitalize upon this outbreak of public outrage and extract concessions from the current regime. Unfortunately, it will be incumbent upon these inept political leaders to find a political solution to the problem.

5) What should the Ukranian president and his administration be doing?

Protesters articulated a few specific demands, including the resignation of the incumbent government, the prosecution of officials responsible for political violence, and the release of political prisoners. Moreover, Ukrainians demand taking steps toward signing a trade agreement with the European Union. 

Rather than entering negotiations with protesters, Yanukovych decided to use violence again. On December 11 the riot police again attacked protesters in downtown Kyiv. The President of Ukraine should resign because he lost any shred of legitimacy in the eyes of Ukrainians.

6) What should the United States play, if any?

The United States can help Ukrainians in their struggle for democratic change by becoming a more active player in Eastern Europe. Since the collapse of communism, only three out of fifteen former Soviet republics consolidated democracy and became members of the European Union. Most citizens in the post-Soviet region still live in non-democracies. And President of Russia Vladimir Putin is obsessed with the idea of establishing the Eurasian Union and pulling the former Soviet republics back into his sphere of influence. As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States can serve as a champion of democratic values in the region and obstruct Russia’s systematic efforts to reassert its supremacy in the international community.

More specifically, American can sign one of the petitions created by a group of concerned citizens: A number of petitions request the imposition of sanctions on specific members of the Ukrainian government. 

There is also a call for the US boycott of the Winter Olympic Games, to be held in Russia in February 2014. The United States boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow to protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan so it might take a clear stance in defense of democratic values and condemn authoritarianism in Russia through such action.

-Gina Vergel

Friday, December 13, 2013

January Panel to Discuss Future of Commonsense Gun Regulation

One year ago this week, the nation reeled from tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and six adults. As Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, bid farewell to students leaving for the 2012 holiday break, he said that we would normally celebrate this time of year with great joy, "but not this year."

The event galvanized a nationwide debate on guns, as gun control advocates seized the moment to reframe the conversation and gun advocates reasserted their right to bear arms. National attention on the issue waned as the year's news cycle played out and a congressional law that would have expanded background checks was defeated in the spring.

In light of the tragedy, vigorous communities of both pro-and anti-gun advocates have sprung up online in what Saul Cornell, Ph.D., the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History and leading expert on the Second Amendment calls “a new sphere of cyber space where they can continue to advocate."

On Jan. 21, 2014, at 6 p.m. Fordham University’s Department of History will get involved in the conversation when it sponsors “The Future of Commonsense Gun Regulation: Where do We Go From Here?” The event will take place in the Corrigan Conference Center on Fordham's Lincoln Center Campus. 

Cornell will moderate the conversation of panelists who include:
  • Robert Spitzer, distinguished service professor and chair of political science at SUNY Cortland, a leading authority on the politics of gun control, the presidency, and congress.
  • Kristin A. Goss, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, an expert on the gun control movement, woman’s political activism, and philanthropy.
This session will take stock of the current situation and offer some insight into the future of the gun debate in America.

"It's been about a year and legislation is stalled at the federal level and all too predictable at the state level where states with high gun controls got tighter restrictions and states with low gun controls got more lax," said Cornell. "The problem is we're in a nation where there’s not a unified gun market. We'll look at what the options are, what is politically feasible, and what needs to be done."

The event is sponsored by the Department of History, Office of the Provost, Office of the Dean of Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Dean of Fordham College Rose Hill.
For more information contact Kirsten Swinth, Ph.D. at swinth@fordham.

-Tom Stoelker

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fordham Fetes Longtime Employees

Recipients of the 1841 medal pose with members of the administration who presented them with award.
Photo by Michael Dames
The year 1993 turned out to be a good year for Fordham’s custodial services office. That year, Santiago Baustista, Leka Gazivoda, Domenico Lucciola, and Isidro Marrero joined the department. 

It was also the year that Jerry Jackson, aka “Father Jay,” decided that, having worked for the department for 20 years, he would stick around a little longer.

On Dec. 11, the Fordham community honored them and four other employees for their combined 220 years of service to the University.

The annual 1841 Award Medal for Service ceremony recognizes members of the support staff who have worked for the University for 20 years or longer. It was held at Butler Commons on the Rose Hill Campus.

Also honored with 20-year medals were Francesca Falciano, senior secretary for the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, Roderick Henry, from Safety & Security, and Lucia Venusio, a representative in Enrollment Services. Josephine Fallon, switchboard operator at Fordham IT, who, like Jackson, has worked at Fordham for 40 years, was unable to attend.

Isidro Marrero, center, with his wife Carmen and sons
(l-r) Matthew, Daniel and Marcus.
Photo by Michael Dames
In a short and festive program that drew friends and family of the honorees, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, described the gathering as “Fordham’s Thanksgiving,” and an opportunity to give thanks for the people who work behind the scenes to keep the University clean, safe, and organized. 

He noted that many of them emigrated from countries that include Italy, Montenegro, and the Dominican Republic, and that many of their children also attend Fordham.

“You are the strength of the University. You do extraordinary things every day. You make miracles happen, you make difficulties disappear,” he said.

“This city has strength because it draws strivers and seekers to itself. Immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants, that’s who we are, and I rejoice in that—as the grandson of an immigrant,” he said.

For Isidro Marrero, a temporary position that he landed in the summer of 1993 led to a fulltime job at Fordham. Over the years, he has worked in Martyrs Court and Loschert, Alumni, and Dealy Halls. Currently he is assigned to the Lombardi Center.

Jerry "Father Jay" Jackson accepts his medal from Father McShane.
Photo by Michael Dames
Joining Marrero for the celebration was his wife, Carmen, his granddaughter, Ariana, and his three sons Matthew, Marcus, and Daniel, all of whom attend Fordham.

“The University has treated my family and my co-workers so well. It’s like a family here,” he said. 

Jackson, who began working at Fordham in 1973, joked that he could probably find his way around the Rose Hill campus blindfolded. The secret to lasting 40 years, he said, is dedication and respect for the students, staff, and fellow co-workers. 

“I love the campus. At the 20-year mark, I said ‘This is my home, this is my house,’” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

—Patrick Verel

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fordham Faculty Weigh in on Time’s ‘Person of the Year’

Time’sPerson of the Year” is Pope Francis. 

As they wrote in their Dec. 11 announcement:

“He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.” 

Some members of the Fordham faculty shared their thoughts on the magazine’s pick of the compassionate Jesuit from Argentina.

"A year ago, very few would have suspected that the leader of the Catholic Church would become Time magazine's ‘Person of the Year.’ Since his election on March 13, Pope Francis has mesmerized those inside and outside the Catholic world with his personal simplicity, commitment to the poor, and emphasis on the joy of the gospel. It is no surprise that they named him Person of the Year. What remains to be seen are the next steps that Pope Francis will take—the world will have to wait until 2014 to discover if substantive changes in Roman Catholic life and practice will follow upon what has certainly been a striking shift in tone at the highest levels of the Vatican.” – Patrick Hornbeck, Ph.D., chair of the theology department. Hornbeck was on Al Jazeera America recently discussing the Pope’s recent comments on capitalism.

"First and foremost, [Pope Francis] exemplifies a radical prioritization of the poor. In so doing, he combines prophetic modes of leadership with the traditional priestly ones. Pope Francis has shown that he prioritizes the concrete—each person—over an abstract principle. And he maintains the capacity to surprise everyone, even those closest to him. In all these ways, he imitates the most popular leader ever to have lived, Jesus." – Michael Peppard, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology.

"It's an honor that seems fitting for a pope who's shaping up to be a game-changer when it comes to Catholicism's place in the world today." – James P. McCartin, Ph.D., associate professor and director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture.

Being that Fordham is the “Jesuit University of New York,” we even had one of our Communications and Media Studies faculty members weigh in:

Time's choice sometimes involves a conflict between their criterion of choosing the individual who had the greatest pact on world events and the potential negative response of their readership. In 1979 they chose the Ayatollah Khomeini and lost subscribers and sales. In 2001 they decided against the obvious choice, Osama bin Laden, knowing how negative the reaction would be. The editors must truly be in heaven to have before them such a clear-cut candidate who is not only a very positive figure, but an exceptionally inspirational one, not to mention someone who transcends nationality and even religious affiliation.” – Lance Strate, Ph.D., professor of Communications and Media Studies. 

-- Gina Vergel 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mass and Celebration Kick Off Advent

The Mass of Gaudete Sunday will be celebrated at both the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses on Sunday, Dec. 15. The Mass will include a service of light and song.

The Lincoln Center Mass will take place at 7:30 p.m. at The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, West 60th Street and Ninth Avenue. John Shea, S.J., director of Campus Ministry at the Lincoln Center campus, will preach and preside.

The Rose Hill Mass will take place at 8 p.m. at the University Church. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, will preach and preside. The Fordham Jesuit community will join him in the sanctuary.

There will be a procession to the church lawn for the blessing and lighting of the United Student Government (USG) Christmas tree after the Rose Hill Mass. Following the tree lighting, there will be a holiday reception complete with refreshments and caroling in the McGinley Center Ballroom, sponsored by USG.

For more information, contact the Office of Campus Ministry at (718) 817-4500 or

-Jenny Hirsch

The Joy of the Holidays, Fordham-style

A shimmering curve of Christmas trees lined the apse of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Dec. 7, setting a festive tide for one of Fordham’s holiday-season staples. The annual Festival of Lessons and Carols was performed by the University choirs and the Bronx Arts Ensemble in the Manhattan venue first, and again on Dec. 8 in the University church at Rose Hill. Both venues were filled to capacity. 

Blended harmonies and sweet string and woodwind sounds swelled throughout the spaces, bringing to life the story of that newborn child the shepherds hailed. (Photos by Dana Maxson)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lauren Carter, PCS '12, "Blends" Learning

Lauren Carter attended three Fordham campuses and took online classes to get her degree.
When Lauren Carter, PCS '12, graduated from high school, she was accepted at New York University. She spent two years in college, but then life happened. She gave birth to twin girls. For a moment she tried to return to school, but she quickly realized that working, raising toddlers, and taking classes was too much.

"I don’t regret my decision, it shaped me into the person I am today," she said.

She carried on with her career, eventually rising to the position of deputy city clerk with the City of Mount Vernon's planning office. It was only after her girls approached middle school age that she decided to go back.

She went to Fordham's new Westchester campus in West Harrison through the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS), majoring in English.

Carter's degree exemplifies Fordham's approach to blended learning, which brings together the three New York area campuses and online coursework to help students achieve their goals in a rich and timely manner.

"The campuses have three personalities," she said, describing Westchester as perfect for adult learners, in contrast to Rose Hill's vibrant student life and Lincoln Center's urban pace. But it was the online campus that touched her in surprising ways.

"I took a philosophical ethics class online, and I was so fascinated by the subject matter that I even thought about getting my master's in philosophy," she said.

Carter said the online version of common core courses like Faith and Critical Reasoning required intense concentration. 

"You absolutely have to be focused and you have to use the discussion board," she said. "You get to see other peoples' views--not necessarily in the classroom--but you are in on the conversation."

As she neared the end of her degree, professors and professionals, on- and off-campus, began to tell her that she had "lawyer potential." Initially she shrugged it off. She debated getting a master's degree in public administration (MPA), in urban planning, economic development, and, of course, philosophy.

"I really vacillated between an MPA and a master's in philosophy, but I decided on law," she said. "You can do anything when you go to law school."

With her twins now 14 years old, she said she's trying to keep her law school options local. There is one Jesuit institution that tops her list . . . but for now, she's concentrating on the LSATs.

Tom Stoelker