We Are ND https://weare.nd.edu en Mon, 13 May 2019 08:00:00 -0400 He Works to Empower Foster Children Young alum looks to keep kids from falling through the cracks Mon, 13 May 2019 08:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/he-works-to-empower-foster-children/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/he-works-to-empower-foster-children/ <p>Six months into his job at a therapeutic residential foster home, <strong>Frankie Wamsley ’17</strong> had seen enough fights and bullying to wonder whether he could really make a difference. </p> <p>When he started at the Tampa facility after graduating from Notre Dame, he had high hopes. But months later, he found himself emotionally depleted by the harsh realities of the place, which housed everyone from eight-year-olds to pregnant teens.</p> <p>The atmosphere, he says, could swiftly turn from “kiddie playground” to “kiddie prison.” One hour, children might enjoy a friendly game of tag or an outing to play laser tag. The next, they might be punching each other.</p> <p>“You go into working with kids thinking, I’m going to help these kids out, I’m going to talk to them about their dreams and goals, and you spend most of your day preventing fights,” Wamsley recalls. “There were some days where I thought, I just want to get through this day without any of my kids getting hurt. And I wasn’t always able to accomplish that.”</p> <p>The experience took its toll, and a burned-out Wamsley tendered his resignation. But it helped pave the way for where he is today: working toward a career that will allow him to make a lasting difference for families and children who might otherwise fall through the cracks.</p> <p><strong>A Passion for Helping Children</strong></p> <p>Wamsley traces his interest in helping children to his own childhood. His parents divorced in 2005 and had joint custody, so he and his younger brother went back and forth between them. </p> <p>“I learned a lot about family conflict, about the court system, about what it means to grow up in a family affected by divorce,” he says. “That made me want to give back some day to kids of future generations growing up in a divorced family, because there’s just a lot of hoops you have to navigate and emotional stuff you have to adapt to.”</p> <p>Wamsley took a psychology course his senior year in high school that further piqued his interest. At Notre Dame, he majored in psychology and took several peace studies courses, a combination that showed him how people can communicate and resolve conflicts—whether at the international level or within families.</p> <p>Wamsley also worked as a lab assistant at the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families, and he saw how families, including those dealing with disabilities, handled conflict and encouraged communication. And as part of a class during his senior year, he mentored a nine-year-old boy in foster care. There, he saw how easy it was for children to fall through the cracks. The boy developed behavioral problems at school after his relationship with his foster mother soured, and he was sent to live with an aunt. His caseworker left, and the new one couldn’t seem to provide Wamsley with updates on how the boy he was doing. That experience reaffirmed Wamsley’s desire to make a difference.</p> <p><strong>A Challenge and a New Start</strong></p> <p>Working at the Tampa facility was an eye-opening experience. Wamsley oversaw a cottage that housed boys and girls ages eight to 12 who arrived with a variety of challenges. Some experienced cognitive delays or behavioral issues as a result of past abuse. To top it off, Wamsley says, administrators worked limited hours, and caregivers were left to deal with bullying and fights.</p> <p>“My expectations for what I could do as a foster care giver at a group home just kept getting lowered and lowered,” he says. “I went in thinking I really want to look after the psychological wellbeing, the emotional security, and the happiness of these kids. All those things just got dashed.” And as the months wore on, Wamsley experienced anxiety, depression, and burnout.</p> <p>So he resigned, and went to work for his mom’s wedding rental business in Tampa while he decided what to do next. And he wondered whether he had chosen the right path: “There was a ton of self-doubt. I doubted that I was someone who could work in the mental health field. I thought, maybe I’m not cut out for it.”</p> <p>But after talking things over with family, friends, and former colleagues, Wamsley says, he realized he had just been in a bad situation. And he could still find a way to do good in his chosen field.</p> <p><strong>Making a Difference</strong></p> <p>“I got the affirmation I needed from my friends and family and coworkers,” Wamsley says, “and then realized, I’m going to keep going with this, but I’m going to get my master’s degree because that’s going to help me have more autonomy, and that’s going to give me the skills and self-care strategies that I need to be successful at my next endeavor.”</p> <p>Wamsley enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Cincinnati in the fall of 2018. Classes have helped him build skills and broaden his perspective, and an internship with the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative has allowed him to once again work with foster youth—this time by helping ensure they get the support they need to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education or training that will allow them to succeed.</p> <p>Now, Wamsley says, he is once again excited about using his skills and passion to give back.</p> <p>“I really feel like foster care is something that is just going to keep pulling on my heart. I feel like there’s just such a need,” he says. “The people outside of it don’t pay attention to it or don’t always care enough to get involved, and people involved are so overworked because there’s not enough people to do the job that needs to be done.”</p> <p>After he graduates, Wamsley says, he wants to work for a school or nonprofit. Down the road, he hopes to help advise and shape public policy. Good policy can help give foster care workers the resources they need, he says, and can also help meet the mental health needs of foster children and empower them to become advocates for themselves.</p> <p>And although most people won’t work in the foster care system, Wamsley believes everyone has a role to play in helping foster children succeed.</p> <p>“It’s bigger than any one person,” he says. “It really takes everyone. I think it’s on all of us to do what we can. And nobody has to do everything, but everyone can do something, whether that’s volunteering, whether that’s donating—everyone can do something.”</p> She Embraced a Family Tradition of Adoption "We're the lucky ones," mom says of experience Fri, 03 May 2019 18:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/she-embraced-a-family-tradition-of-adoption/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/she-embraced-a-family-tradition-of-adoption/ <p><em>Photo by Diane Suth Kolacz; design by Matt Fletcher</em></p> <p>For <strong>Annie (Manuszak) Johnson ’01</strong>, adoption runs in the family.</p> <p>She and her three siblings were adopted, and her husband, <strong>Rick Johnson ’99</strong>, has two siblings who were adopted. So when the couple talked about growing their own family, adoption seemed like a natural choice.</p> <p>They adopted their first son, Brady, in 2007 through an agency in the state of Washington, where they were living at the time. Brady was adopted as a newborn, and by the time he turned one, the Johnsons knew that they wanted him to have a sibling close in age.</p> <p>“We waited about nine months when we adopted Brady, so it was actually about the same time as a pregnancy,” Johnson says. “With Brady, it was a relatively straightforward process, but the way my other two children joined the family is a lot more complicated.”</p> <p><strong>Patience Pays Off</strong></p> <p>The Johnsons put their names back in the waiting pool with the adoption agency, but were still waiting for a birth family to choose them three years later, when Brady turned four. By this point, the family had returned to South Bend for Rick to take a job at the Hesburgh Library on Notre Dame’s campus. Twice, they met birth families who initially chose them to adopt a child, only to change their mind. The emotional turmoil of these situations led the Johnsons to consider fostering children instead.</p> <p>“Even if we were never able to adopt through the foster care program, the children could take the love and energy and time that we put into the relationship with them, wherever they might go after they stayed at our house,” Johnson says.</p> <p>Their first foster child, a three-month-old baby, stayed with them for about a month and a half before going to live with family, and the Johnsons still have a friendship with the child and family today. Next, they brought home a four-day-old baby.</p> <p>“By the time she turned one, we knew Tacy was going to stay forever,” Johnson says of her now seven-year-old daughter.</p> <p>Tacy came home with the Johnsons in early December of 2011, and a month later, the couple got the call they had been waiting for from the adoption agency: There was a six-month-old baby that needed a home. After years of waiting for another child, their family grew by two in the span of a month.</p> <p>“Having a newborn and an almost-seven-month-old was sort of like having twins,” Johnson says. “It was just a wild ride—sometimes I look back on the pictures and it’s hard to even remember, because I was so tired and because no one was sleeping."</p> <p><strong>Grateful for Adoption</strong></p> <p>As she reflects on her experience of adoption—from her own adoption as a child to the choice she and her husband made to adopt—Johnson says she feels a deep gratitude.</p> <p>“We feel like we’re the lucky ones to have been chosen by birth families, or to get the lucky call of getting placed with Tacy as our foster daughter,” she says.</p> <p>The Johnsons have an open adoption setup for both of their sons, which means they can have contact with their birth families. Because their daughter was adopted through the foster care system, she does not have contact with her birth family, and Johnson herself doesn’t have contact with her birth family, because open adoptions weren’t an option when she was adopted in 1979. People often ask Johnson if she feels like she is sharing her children, but she says her own personal experience as an adoptee made open adoption an easy choice.</p> <p>“I’m thankful for my birth mom for giving me life, but I know that my mom who adopted me was my mom,” she says. “My mom was the person who helped me when I fell down and got hurt, who was there for me every day. I never feel that my role as mom is threatened by the presence of these other women who love them.”</p> <p>Johnson likens the relationship to having another set of in-laws, and says it can be complicated, like any human relationship. “It’s about learning how to communicate with each other and learning about each other’s values,” she says. “Not only do my sons have medical records and pictures from their birth families, but they can call them if they have questions, or need to know something for a school project. We’re really thankful to have them in our lives.”</p> <p>Johnson’s role as a mom has also led her down a path of advocacy for children with special needs. After seeing firsthand with her own children how difficult it can be to access the services that help children with special needs thrive, she partnered with the <a href="https://www.lotuspreschoolandstudio.org/">Lotus Preschool &amp; Studio</a> and the <a href="https://www.lotuspreschoolandstudio.org/">Children's Dispensary </a>to start a program in South Bend called Family TREE.</p> <p>“We brought together different types of therapists and tools for families to use, from basic parenting skills to helping parents troubleshoot behavioral and sensory issues their kids were facing,” she says.</p> <p>Though the program is no longer funded, Johnson hopes to bring it back someday, and in the meantime, is teaching her children to be proud of what makes them different.</p> <p>“I would like them to feel comfortable in their own skin,” Johnson says, “and to see that their challenges also have the key to their biggest strengths.”</p> Chicago Mom Saved Children’s School from Closing "David and Goliath" fight inspired activism for racial equity Fri, 03 May 2019 17:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/chicago-mom-saved-childrens-school-from-closing/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/chicago-mom-saved-childrens-school-from-closing/ <p>Hanging on the wall at the Greer household on the South Side of Chicago, there are framed photos of<strong> Elisabeth (Heard) Greer ’95</strong> leading protests and speaking out at Chicago school district meetings. Greer, a mom of two, says that she looks angry in all the photos, but that her husband framed them as a Christmas gift to her to celebrate the result of her activism: saving her children’s elementary school from closure.</p> <p>Greer led the charge against Chicago Public Schools when the school district decided to phase out the elementary school her children attended, National Teachers Academy (NTA), and start using the building as a high school instead. NTA educates a predominantly black and low-income population, but the district’s plans for the high school called for changes to the neighborhood zoning, meaning it would draw mostly white students from a more affluent section of the area. </p> <p>Greer likened the plan to gerrymandering, and knew that the students in her community would suffer if it went through. After nearly two years of protesting and a lawsuit against the school district for racial discrimination, Greer not only saved her children’s school but also co-founded a nonprofit, <a href="https://www.chicagounitedforequity.org/">Chicago United for Equity (CUE)</a>, to fight segregation in the Chicago public schools and promote racial justice.</p> <p>Greer says she never imagined this turn of events when she joined the local school council in 2015, when her daughter, Harmony, started kindergarten at NTA. She wanted to get involved and help support the school, which she could tell would be a great environment for her two children.</p> <p>“NTA is an amazing school with an amazing staff,” Greer says, “It has a social justice curriculum, and supports the whole child: socially, emotionally, and academically. They also have music and art and drama, swimming and technology. I was so happy to have my children start there.”</p> <p>The school had the highest ranking in the Chicago Public Schools evaluation system, so when the district announced it was closing the school in February 2018, the community was confused—and upset. So Greer, as the president of the local school council, started asking questions and looking for answers—and other concerned parents and the school community rallied around her.</p> <p>Greer and a team of parent supporters formed CUE as a nonprofit, and then CUE led a <a href="https://www.raceforward.org/practice/tools/racial-equity-impact-assessment-toolkit">Race Equity Impact Assessment (REIA)</a>, a systematic examination of how racial and ethnic groups will be affected by a proposed action or decision, about the decision to close NTA. The REIA protocol, which is used both in the U.S. and internationally, consulted constituents on both sides of the issue throughout the neighborhood community and at the school district. CUE found that the plan would exacerbate existing conditions of racial inequity and was not created with enough input from the local community. When the nonprofit decided to file the lawsuit on the grounds that the school district had violated the Illinois Civil Rights Act, Greer was the plaintiff against the school district.</p> <p>Greer says she was motivated by “adrenaline and rage, and the injustice of it all. There was a moral imperative not to lie down.”</p> <p>The school also filed an injunction to freeze the school district’s plan while the lawsuit was in progress. When the courts granted the injunction, Chicago Public Schools decided to drop its plan entirely. NTA would remain an elementary school.</p> <p>NTA’s supporters found the school was saved in December 2018, and four months later, Greer still gets emotional when she talks about realizing that all their efforts had paid off. Now, CUE is working with other schools throughout the city to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of resources.</p> <p>“Even as we were fighting and not knowing the outcome, we weren’t just fighting for NTA,” Greer says. “We were there to wage this fight, to make a blueprint for how you fight, for all the communities that could come after us.”</p> <p>Greer’s day job is also in education. She is an English professor at the Harold Washington College, part of the City Colleges of Chicago, the city’s community college system. She’s also a second-generation City Colleges professor: her mother, Junemary Heard, taught at another City College for more than 40 years, retiring the semester before Greer joined the faculty.</p> <p>Greer’s daughter Harmony is now nine and finishing up third grade at NTA, where she ran for and was elected to the student congress, after watching her mom make a difference by getting involved in the community and making her voice heard.</p> <p>Her son, Noah, is five, and he also took note of his mom’s role in stopping NTA’s closure. At first, he asked her, “Why are you going to meetings all the time?”, so Greer told him about the efforts to save his school. Then, Noah started walking around at home chanting, “NTA is here to stay,” one of the slogans that Greer herself would chant at protests.</p> <p>Greer acknowledges it was an emotionally draining time, but says she felt compelled to act.</p> <p>“You never know when you’re going to be in a situation where you have to make a choice that can affect the rest of your life. There were so many times that I was terrified to do the thing that I was going to do next, but I felt compelled, like I had to do it anyway,” she says. “NTA is a David and Goliath story. You can go up against the system and you can win. Even though the system will tell you that it’s fruitless and you should just sit down and be quiet. You can do it.”<br>  </p> Sisters Team Up to Prevent Childhood Blindness They draw on their family's experience to educate parents Fri, 03 May 2019 17:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/sisters-team-up-to-prevent-childhood-blindness/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/sisters-team-up-to-prevent-childhood-blindness/ <p><strong>Kara (Lynch) Ciocca ’93 </strong>and <strong>Megan (Lynch) Webber ’90</strong> remember the moment like it was yesterday. The sisters, both mothers of three, had just returned from a Disney cruise with their families when Kara realized something was wrong with Megan’s five-year-old son, Ben. </p> <p>As she looked through vacation photos inside her Kansas City home, Kara noticed a golden glow in Ben’s left eye. At first, she thought nothing of it. Then she saw it again. And again. Worried, she picked up the phone and called her sister in Los Angeles.</p> <p>“I didn’t think much of it until the fifth or sixth photo, and then it just felt like a ton of bricks hit me,” Kara recalls. “I knew something was terribly wrong with Ben. I called Megan and told her, ‘I’m really worried about Ben.’”</p> <p>That fateful call led to several medical tests and a diagnosis: Coats’ Disease. The progressive condition causes partial or complete detachment of the retina, eventually leading to loss of vision in the affected eye. For Ben, the diagnosis came early enough that he could receive treatment without needing to have his eye removed. And although he has severe vision loss in his left eye, he doesn’t let it hold him back. Now 15, he enjoys lacrosse and loves to ski.</p> <p>But if not for his aunt’s concerned call, it could have been much worse, Megan says. And as she and her sister continued to read up on Coats’ Disease, they learned that Leukocoria, the golden eye glow Kara had noticed, can indicate any one of about 20 serious conditions that can cause vision loss or blindness—or even prove fatal.</p> <p>“We realized how lucky we were that this wasn’t one of these other diseases. And we wondered why in the world we didn’t know that this glow in a photograph is something parents need to be mindful of,” Megan says. “If Kara hadn’t called me and I hadn’t gone in for another year or two, the situation could have been dramatically different.”</p> <p>That realization led the sisters and two friends to start <a href="https://knowtheglow.org/">Know the Glow</a>, a nonprofit that aims to help prevent blindness by giving parents the information they need to get dangerous eye conditions diagnosed and treated in time.</p> <p>“We really wanted to build awareness so we could help parents identify these conditions earlier and get them to care,” Megan says. “Most of the time it’s parents that are finding these photographs and bringing them to the attention of their doctors, but it’s often not a direct route. Doctors don’t see it as easily because it’s not really visible to the naked eye. You have to be able to show that you’re finding it regularly in photographs. And once you do, 80 percent of the time these diseases are curable or at least treatable, but they all do so much better if you catch them early.”</p> <p>Because awareness is key, the sisters say, digital tools are crucial for helping parents to get the information they need and to navigate the process of seeing doctors and sometimes getting second opinions. That’s why <a href="https://knowtheglow.org/">Know the Glow’s website</a> is chock-full of information and resources, along with stories from families who have dealt with the shock of a serious eye condition diagnosis. And it’s why Kara manages the organization's <a href="https://www.facebook.com/KNOWTHEGLOW1/">Facebook page</a>, collecting stories and helping to answer questions from concerned parents who have seen a possible Leukocoria and are looking to connect with a medical professional.</p> <p>“I try to capture their stories, Kara says. “We have found that sharing stories of families with glow-related conditions to be one of the best ways to spread awareness. I will talk to these families post-diagnosis and try to get their stories posted on our Facebook page and hopefully those will spread like wildfire.”</p> <p>Awareness is increasing. Megan recalls hearing from a retina specialist she knew who moved from Los Angeles to London. He contacted her when a concerned mother brought her child in after finding Know the Glow online. Others have reached out from a variety of countries, including Israel, New Zealand, and the Philippines. On World Cancer Awareness Day, a woman marching in a parade in Mumbai, India was spotted carrying a “Know the Glow” sign.</p> <p>“We could not even believe it,” Megan says. “It’s so crazy to see how three little words can change the trajectory for children’s vision halfway across the world.”</p> <p>As they continue to expand Know the Glow’s reach and raise awareness, the sisters are grateful they can use their family’s own experience to make an impact. </p> <p>“It’s just an incredible gift for me to be able to talk to these families around the world and realize that at the core, we’re human beings who just want the best for the people we love, and we want our children to be healthy and happy,” Kara says. “There are just incredible stories of parents—we call them superheroes—who fight for their children’s health, and don’t stop until they get an answer that makes sense to them, to get their child to care.”</p> <p>Megan agrees.</p> <p>“There’s something so beautiful about this: children helping children,” she says. “What we love most is once you share a story, people come back and they’ll say ‘I saw that story, and then the next day I looked at my son’s photos and the glow just happened to pop up.’ We have all these crazy glow incidences that keep happening. It’s really what keeps us moving forward, and it reassures us that we are doing what we set out to do, and doing it in such a beautiful way.”</p> Empowering Diverse Voices in Hollywood FTT alum helps agency represent Latino voices in entertainment Mon, 29 Apr 2019 08:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/empowering-diverse-voices-in-hollywood/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/empowering-diverse-voices-in-hollywood/ <p><strong>Roberto Larios ’10 </strong>has always valued community—as a Film, Television, and Theatre major at Notre Dame and now in his job at Verve, a talent and literary agency in Los Angeles. Since he took his first production class at Notre Dame, Larios had a deep appreciation for how important collaboration is in filmmaking.</p> <p>“Everyone that I had classes with—we were an inclusive support network for each other,” Larios says. “I feel like in some other majors, it’s a lot of individual focus, thus more competitive. Versus in film, we were doing these group projects together with four or five or six people. That was really a great experience to see and have this collaborative effort where we all succeed or we all fall short of our goals together.”</p> <p>Larios also found community at Notre Dame through MEChA, an organization aimed at empowering and promoting the rights of Latino students. In addition to being MEChA’s co-president his senior year, Larios served as the leader of the Latino Freshman Retreat his junior and senior year, helping to create a sense of belonging for those who might have felt a bit displaced upon arriving at Notre Dame.</p> <p>“We wanted to build a sense of community, especially for those coming from a different part of the country, where coming to South Bend is a shock to the system,” Larios says. “We wanted to provide a support system of people who either look, think, or remind you of people back home—or yourself.”</p> <p>Now, in his current role as an assistant at Verve, Larios is still working to empower people from diverse backgrounds—this time by helping to ensure they are represented off the screen. He reads material to identify writers who are worth discussing and pursuing as clients. Even when he first started at Verve in the mailroom, Larios knew what sort of voices he wanted to amplify, almost immediately expressing concern about diversity amongst the clients the agency represented.</p> <p>“I started speaking up a few weeks into my time there. I brought it up to agents and then to the partners—asking, what are we doing to grow our client roster, and how can I help?” Larios says. “I wanted to play a part in Verve’s mission of trying to find new and exciting diverse voices. </p> <p>Larios began looking for other avenues to find such voices and to collaborate with those in the creative Latino community. He joined a growing community known as the LAtin Tracking Board, which helps to foster a sense of belonging and support for aspiring Latino creatives, executives, and agents in the entertainment industry. In addition, Verve had already begun speaking with the <a href="https://www.nalip.org/">National Association of Latino Independent Producers</a>, but Larios picked up the conversation and started seriously pursuing a relationship with the organization.</p> <p>Verve now partners with NALIP to host writing seminars, offering feedback on participants’ material with a focus on helping them navigate the process of acquiring representation. The agency provides similar support for writing workshops put on by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. And its agents have spoken on panels and attended events hosted by both groups. In return, the heads of these organizations have offered insight on how Verve can help represent Latino voices in entertainment.</p> <p>Larios’ efforts have paid off in numerous ways. In the fall of 2018 he was named one of <em>Variety</em>’s <a href="https://variety.com/2018/biz/features/10-assistants-to-watch-variety-2018-1202983128/">10 Assistants to Watch</a>, a distinction given to up-and-comers working behind the scenes in entertainment. The honor is rewarding, Larios says, as is his continued work to empower diverse voices. </p> <p>“From a Latino standpoint, it means that we’re more than just maids, gangbangers, and random house staffers—both on and off the screen,” he says. “We can be executives, creatives, and agents too.”</p> <p>Larios saw some of his own life reflected in Disney’s 2017 film <em>Coco</em>, which tells the story of Diego, a young boy from Mexico who follows his dream of becoming a musician despite his family’s intense disapproval.</p> <p>“My parents for a while were always telling me, ‘You need to get a career. You need to be a doctor or a lawyer.’ Interestingly enough, this was motivated by what was seen on screen as we typically spent Sundays at the movie theater when I was growing up,” Larios says. “So, when I told them I wanted to do film, their initial reaction was, ‘Why? Don’t do that.’”</p> <p>But like Diego’s family, his parents eventually came around, voicing their wholehearted support when he decided to move back home to Chicago to pursue an MFA in Screenwriting from DePaul University. </p> <p>“I give credit to my father for the push back into film as I was working in Dallas for a few years and he knew how unhappy I had grown,” Larios says. “He was the first to say, ‘You were so excited and happier when you were in college, when you were around film. Come back home and find that again.’” </p> <p>Larios believes films like <em>Coco</em> have the power to show Latino youth the world of possibilities before them. “When they see characters who look like Diego they think, ‘Oh, he’s playing the guitar. I want to play the guitar,’” he says. “And then they tell their parents, ‘Look, he is doing it so I believe I can too.’”</p> <p>But it’s not all about inspiring. “We have clients who have had certain successes, certain failures, certain pitfalls, certain obstacles,” Larios says. “They can write to it and be able to express it to others in a way that no one else can.” That authenticity, in his view, is why diversity behind the camera is so vital for making all people feel represented.</p> <p>“From a viewer’s standpoint, you want people who are actually like the individuals facing that narrative in their life every day,” he says. “From a creative’s standpoint, you want the viewer to see it, watch it, and say, “That’s my story, too.’”</p> Sustainable Seafood Advocate Builds Opportunities for People She sees how a healthy marine ecosystem provides food, jobs Mon, 22 Apr 2019 08:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/sustainable-seafood-advocate-builds-opportunities-for-people/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/sustainable-seafood-advocate-builds-opportunities-for-people/ <p>When <strong>Susan Jackson ’86</strong> sat down at a Pittsburgh seafood restaurant and perused the menu, she was surprised to read that all the offerings were “local and sustainable.” Not convinced this was the case, she engaged the restaurant's management in a conversation about sustainable seafood practices.</p> <p>It was a natural move for Jackson, who has served as president of the <a href="https://iss-foundation.org/">International Seafood Sustainability Foundation</a> since its inception in 2009, a role that allows her to promote a healthy marine ecosystem through extensive collaboration, research, and practical initiatives.</p> <p>Under her leadership, the ISSF has brought together scientists, industry professionals, environmental NGOs, and government stakeholders to promote initiatives that encourage long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna fisheries. And Jackson has worked to dialogue with and balance the interests of all these groups to ensure that sustainability measures are enacted wisely and efficiently.</p> <p>“I always say that our organization is like a water balloon,” Jackson says. “You push on one side and it comes out the other. If any one stakeholder is feeling too happy, then somebody else is about to explode. That tension is really healthy. It is that tugging and pulling between the different groups that really helps to make sure that the work we are doing is meaningful, being done as quickly as it can be, and will achieve the right results.”</p> <p>Jackson got her start in the seafood world as an executive for StarKist after earning an economics degree from Notre Dame and a law degree from Duke University.</p> <p>“That’s how I first got to know the tuna industry—from the legal side,” she says. “It got me exposed to the far-flung places where they had plants, and I got to visit Ghana and work with lawyers in London and Paris. I was really intrigued with the international aspect of it. Doing the contractual and compliance legal side of things was something so much more interesting because of the richness of the tuna industry.”</p> <p>Jackson’s extensive and varied background at StarKist made her the perfect fit for the leadership role when the ISSF was founded. Her job requires policy, legal, and business knowledge beyond just the science, all areas of expertise for Jackson. The foundation’s goal is that all tuna stocks become capable of achieving Marine Stewardship Council certification, an international sustainability standard for seafood.</p> <p>“The council has very concrete standards and metrics, a constant feedback loop with its stakeholders to improve, and it is a comprehensive, very clear scoring system against which you can benchmark fisheries,” Jackson says. “It is obviously aspirational—we’re not there yet. But it gives a clear end point.”</p> <p>The ISSF’s board takes input from three other groups when making decisions about how to achieve seafood sustainability: its Scientific Advisory Committee, which is made up of leading marine and fisheries scientists; its Environmental Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which is comprised of environmental NGO representatives with a focus on seafood; and its Implementation Team, which draws from industry participants. And while the foundation primarily works with businesses and NGOs, Jackson acknowledges that consumers can play an important role in working towards a sustainable tuna industry.</p> <p>“The most important thing the public can do is make it obvious that they care,” she says. “They can read, educate themselves, and ask questions when buying seafood because businesses aren’t going to care unless their customers care. People need to remember that every dollar you are spending is a vote on whether or not you care.”</p> <p>Ultimately, whether she is pursuing an initiative with the foundation or conversing with a restaurateur, Jackson sees her work as an opportunity to make a difference by supporting a sustainable food source that can build opportunities for people around the world.</p> <p>“One of the fun things about tuna is that it is international,” she says. “It provides food security. It provides economic security for countries. It provides jobs. It provides opportunities for women. Sustainable seafood is not just about keeping large corporations and multi-million dollar fishing boats in business. It is about keeping people fed, keeping people employed, and keeping governments solvent. No matter what your interest is in making the world better, tuna is going to touch it.”</p> Celebrating and Creating Opportunity for Women Filmmakers Festival director draws on love of film, passion for equality Mon, 15 Apr 2019 13:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/celebrating-and-creating-opportunity-for-women-filmmakers/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/celebrating-and-creating-opportunity-for-women-filmmakers/ <p>Women account for half of all movie audiences, yet men still make most films: In 2017, San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that women directed only 11 percent of the year’s top 250 films.</p> <p><strong>Kate (Mather) Herrmann ’88</strong> aims to change that. </p> <p>Herrmann is executive director of the <a href="http://highfallsfilmfestival.com/">High Falls Women’s Film Festival</a>, which has celebrated and advanced the work of women in film for 18 years—long before Hollywood A-list women protested disparity at the 2018 Golden Globes with black dresses on the red carpet as part of the Time’s Up movement.</p> <p>“The festival has been doing this since 2001 for the same reasons that the Time’s Up movement exists and why it has gained so much prominence,” she says. “We like to say that our films are made by women but for everyone.”</p> <p>Over the years, the festival has screened more than 700 films, including features, documentaries, and shorts, as well as children’s and young adult programs. Past films have gone on to win at the Oscars and Golden Globes, and the likes of Candice Bergen, Kerry Washington, and Philip Seymour Hoffman have all appeared on stage at the annual event. The festival also offers screenings of short films made by female students at the nearby Rochester Institute of Technology, as well as training and networking opportunities for female filmmakers.  <br>  <br> Herrmann, a finance major at Notre Dame who started her career in management consulting, says she often found herself outnumbered by men—whether it was as the younger sister of five brothers or in the male-dominated finance industry. It’s part of what inspires her work with the festival today.<br>  <br> “As a woman who worked in a culture dominated by men in the late 80s, I saw the white male power structure in evidence in corporate America—and it still is in place. And being the mother of a daughter and wanting everything possible for her, when I see these environments that women still have to deal with in the 21st century, that makes me passionate about wanting to change that,” she says. “I believe in equality for all—that’s what drives me.”<br>  <br> Herrmann started working with the High Falls Women’s Film Festival in 2015, as director of development, and then took over as executive director in 2017. After spending a decade as a community volunteer while raising her two children—<strong>Alex Herrmann ’15</strong> and <strong>Liv Herrmann ’19</strong>—she worked at health care and arts and culture nonprofits. She says joining the festival in 2015 was a natural fit with her love of film and passion for women’s empowerment.<br>  <br> The festival’s Rochester location gives it unique ties to both the birth of film and the women’s movement, Herrmann notes. George Eastman founded the Kodak film company in Rochester in 1888, and the city was also home to legendary women’s voting rights advocate Susan B. Anthony. The festival theater is just a few miles from where Anthony was arrested for trying to vote.<br>  <br> In an era where movie attendance is down because of at-home streaming services, Herrmann says that one of the best parts of the festival is that the experience goes beyond watching a film. After screenings, there are Q&amp;As with directors and panel discussions with Rochester-area experts on topics related to the films—something viewers won’t get if they watch from their couch. <br>  <br> Planning the annual event is a yearlong process that begins with fundraising and establishing partnerships with film distribution companies. The festival also accepts submissions from individual filmmakers from April through August. Summer is dedicated to promoting and advertising, while organizers finalize the lineup and events in the fall. <br>  <br> Herrmann, who is also treasurer of her local Notre Dame club, says, “I’ve been asked whether our festival will be necessary in the future, if we reach gender parity in the film industry. And while we hope gender parity is achieved, the festival will still be relevant, because women make films from a different perspective than men. Whether we’re telling a woman’s story or a man’s story, having a female director, producer, writer or cinematographer brings a different shade to the work.”<br>  </p> Helping Newtown Heal after Sandy Hook Local resident draws on business expertise to support counseling nonprofit Mon, 08 Apr 2019 13:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/helping-newtown-heal-after-sandy-hook/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/helping-newtown-heal-after-sandy-hook/ <p>As <strong>Scott Buchanan ’79</strong> describes it, Newtown, Connecticut, was an anonymous small town. Then, on December 14, 2012, a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary with a gun and killed 20 first-grade students and six educators.</p> <p>The lives of those 26 families were forever changed. But so too were those of the survivors—students and staff from the school, police officers, emergency responders, funeral home directors, neighbors, and pastors. Everyone in the tight-knit community knew someone impacted, Buchanan says. Overnight, the quiet town of about 27,000 people was thrust into the media spotlight while trying to grieve and understand a horrific and traumatic event.</p> <p>Hundreds of reporters flooded the town with a need to fill a 24-hour news cycle. Quickly after, hordes of volunteers—some qualified, others less so—overwhelmed the town. And then, as suddenly as they arrived, the strangers disappeared.</p> <p>“You have this initial influx of all these people who come in, but then they leave,” Buchanan says. “As a community, we have to figure out what to do in the aftermath. And of course, nobody knows. There’s no book on how to deal with a tragedy like that.”</p> <p>What he did know was the solution had to come from inside the community. Newtown has been Buchanan’s home for more than 26 years. There, he raised his children and led a successful career at PepsiCo, retiring at the end of 2011 as the senior vice president of procurement. So in the wake of the horror at Sandy Hook, he knew he needed to serve his friends and neighbors. When a call came from a former PepsiCo colleague asking for his business expertise as her sister-in-law started up a nonprofit called the <a href="https://resiliencycenterofnewtown.org/">Resiliency Center of Newtown</a>, he jumped at the opportunity.</p> <p>“To me, it was the hand of God that laid this opportunity and said this is what you need to go do,” he says.</p> <p>The Resiliency Center, the brainchild of founder and executive director Stephanie Cinque, was designed to offer creative therapies and community wellness to anyone struggling with the trauma of the shooting. Notably, the Resiliency Center would focus on alternative therapies, including art, music, and play, in order to best serve the children and families impacted by the tragedy who might not benefit from traditional talk therapy.</p> <p>“We didn’t want to be a duplicate of what existed. We wanted to put in therapies that would provide different avenues for different people to find ways for healing,” Buchanan says. “We were trying to provide as many opportunities as we could for people to find ways to deal with the tragedy.”</p> <p>In 2016, a community survey would note that several of the therapies provided exclusively at the Resiliency Center were some of the most effective intervention techniques. The center has also put on summer camps and community events, and has space for people to visit, gather, or work in a safe environment. Buchanan says the center’s leadership was keen to staff it with people from the community who would have a particular sensitivity to the needs of the town.</p> <p>While Buchanan is quick to note he is no therapist, his business acumen was critical to the success of the center, which still sees more than 500 people each year. His longtime work with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council in Washington, D.C., provided helpful experience in the launch and maintenance of the Resiliency Center.</p> <p>“It was a matter of understanding how things worked, putting a board together, getting by-laws in place, getting the 501c3, making sure the board was meeting on a routine basis, dealing with strategic planning, all those things that go into making the backbone of the Resiliency Center operate and stay in business, rather than the day-to-day,” he explains.</p> <p>Buchanan and Cinque, the center’s executive director, have also helped it partner with other organizations from the beginning. The center formed an agreement with Tuesday’s Children, a group of 9/11 survivors who could partner with and help shape the center. Cinque’s conversations with survivors from the Columbine high school massacre and the Aurora theater shooting were also instrumental in designing it as a place anyone in the community could come to process trauma. The Resiliency Center has also worked with organizations related to successive mass tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing, the Parkland shooting, and the church shooting in Charleston.</p> <p>But Buchanan notes there is still much to do in Newtown, even more than six years later.</p> <p>“You don’t just get over it, and it doesn’t just go away in a year or two,” he says, providing examples of people who have just recently come to the center for treatment, finally ready to cope with the trauma. Others are just now experiencing trauma triggers, even years later, or are jolted by news of similar shootings like the one at Parkland. Many of the children, too, are now at a point where they need to reprocess the event as they enter adolescence.</p> <p>“The children we helped when they were six and seven years old, now they’re 12, 13 and 14 years old. Now you have to help them reprocess because now they’re adolescents. The brain is changing, their life is changing,” he says. “That may happen again when they go to college or something. There’s an ongoing need to help people process the trauma and go through it.”</p> <p>With such a long-term mission, there seems to be inherent risk of burnout. But Buchanan says motivation remains high.</p> <p>“You realize you’re making an impact—a big time impact—because it’s a small town. You see the people. You know the people. And you get the feedback directly,” he says. And, he adds, when the going gets tough, he remembers the 20 children who died that day in 2012.<br>  </p> Dayton Alumni Group Funds Good Works across the Community Alum has led organization to grow and contribute Mon, 01 Apr 2019 13:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/dayton-alumni-group-funds-good-works-across-the-community/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/dayton-alumni-group-funds-good-works-across-the-community/ <p>The group has raised money for foster children. For veterans. For the homeless. And each time its members gather, they seize new opportunities to address pressing needs throughout their community.</p> <p>That's why <strong>Joe Krug ’59 </strong>started the <a href="http://dayton.undclub.org/s/1210/clubs-classes/2col-grid1.aspx?sid=1210&amp;gid=337&amp;pgid=4096">Brigade of the Concerned Fighting Irish</a>, a group of Notre Dame alumni who serve the greater Dayton and Miami Valley area. Since its founding in 2010, the Brigade, which Krug leads, has grown to about 65 members and raised more than $168,000 for a variety of causes.</p> <p>The group meets four times a year, inviting its members to nominate charities or situations in the community that are in need of financial aid and prayer. Members then listen to presentations from each of the nominated causes before voting on one to support for the quarter.</p> <p>“We just thought there ought to be some activity in the club that supports Notre Dame’s greatest tradition, which is faith, learning, and service,” says Krug, who credits fellow alumnus <strong>Ron Zlotnik ’60</strong> with helping to launch the group. “We wanted to form a group of alumni just in our Dayton community focused on this tradition.”</p> <p>Krug asks Brigade members to commit to contributing $100 at each meeting, ensuring that the selected cause receives ample donations. Combining faith, charity, and fellowship, the group often attends Mass at St. Albert’s Parish in Kettering, Ohio, together before proceeding to a local cafeteria to hear the project proposals over lunch.</p> <p>“The work of the Brigade is a great source of pride for the Notre Dame Club of Dayton,” says <strong>Beth Ling ’97</strong>, who serves as co-president of the club along with her husband, <strong>Jamie Ling ’96</strong>. “When we think about how the club is charged with being a force for good in the community, this is really the Brigade's mission in action.”</p> <p>At a meeting in November 2018, the Brigade chose to help the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization that matches foster children who have been abused or neglected with safe adult advocates who stay with them throughout their time in the system.</p> <p>“It’s a group of individuals who volunteer their time to help the court system as intermediaries between the court and foster families,” Krug explains. “We were able to gather more than $4,000 for the CASA group so they can educate volunteers that go out and help these kids.”</p> <p>The Brigade is currently planning a project at the St. Vincent dePaul Society that recalls the group’s faith-based mission inspired by Notre Dame.</p> <p>“Every hall at Notre Dame has a chapel in it,” Krug says. “We have a homeless shelter here in town through the St. Vincent dePaul Society that houses upwards of 200 women and children, and one of our Brigade members thought it might be a good idea to put a chapel in this facility. There is a couple who has decided to anonymously fund all the outfitting of a chapel, but before that St. Vincent dePaul Society has to prepare the area.” And at its last meeting in February, the Brigade donated $20,000 to pay for preparing the area in which the chapel will be located. Krug says that chapel should be finished by summer of 2019. </p> <p>Over the years, the Brigade has supported a multitude of causes, including Oasis House, which helps women trying to escape human trafficking; Brigid’s Path, which provides inpatient medical care for drug-exposed newborns; Fisher House, which houses military patients and their families when they require medical care; and Shoes for the Shoeless, which gives footwear to children in need.</p> <p>In addition to making financial contributions to organizations, Krug says, the Brigade assists individuals and families as members learn of their needs. And it has helped members to discover causes they can support, leading them to build relationships with others looking to make a difference.</p> <p>“The result of our meetings is often that the members become aware of what they can do to go out and volunteer at these different organizations,” Krug says. “Various things have come up that ordinarily people wouldn’t know about. There’s a lot of areas of the community that aren’t well known, but we can help them out.”</p> <p>Krug believes the work of the Brigade supports Notre Dame’s concern for the common good, and for making a difference.</p> <p>“That’s what Our Lady’s University advocates for—helping others,” he says. “It’s part of our education at Notre Dame. Besides the accounting, engineering or whatever one might be studying, they always advocate for helping the human family that is out there in all our communities. Notre Dame makes you aware of your responsibility to help in those situations.”<br>  </p> Navajo Architect Builds Future on Heritage ND-Navajo collaboration boosts Catholic school Mon, 25 Mar 2019 15:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/navajo-architect-builds-future-on-heritage/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/navajo-architect-builds-future-on-heritage/ <p><strong>Deswood Etsitty ’93</strong> comes from a family of builders on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Growing up, he looked up to many of his family members, including his maternal uncles, who worked as masons, carpenters, and engineers. And when he arrived at Notre Dame in the fall of 1988, he chose architecture as his major because of those builders, the people in his family whose work brings architectural designs to fruition.</p> <p>Just as he was drawn to architecture, Etsitty also felt the pull of home. But there weren’t any jobs as an architect on the reservation when he graduated from Notre Dame.</p> <p>“My only goal was to help plan, design, and build something important with my people,” Etsitty says, but he wasn’t sure the opportunity would present itself.</p> <p>Then, in the early 1990s, the federal government funded a wave of health care projects on the Navajo Nation, which would become the opportunity Etsitty sought. Since then, he has worked in the design and construction administration of health care facilities in the private sector and across the Navajo Nation. His work includes the nation’s largest medical center, Tse’hootsoo’ Medical Center; a health center in his hometown of Pinon; and a recently completed hospital in the community of Kayenta. He says it has been “the dream” to raise four children with his wife and to to create buildings that have a positive impact on the community.</p> <p>“The essence of our traditional Dine’ (Navajo) healing ceremonies, the ones that are medicinal, or about preventative health, growth, and happiness, is that they all happen in the home, in the hooghan. So the designs are about taking that home setting and bringing those elements into the health care facility,” says Etsitty, who lives with his family in Phoenix. “Over the years, we have proposed our concepts to the communities and wanted them to know that they were part of the discussion of trying to fuse the two together. And out of that experience, the question I carry with me is: ‘Where is Navajo architecture going in the future?’”</p> <p>In an attempt to address part of that question, he has teamed with a fourth-year architecture studio at Notre Dame on a collaboration with St. Michael Indian School, a Catholic school on the Navajo reservation. During the spring 2019 semester in Associate Professor Lucien Steil’s studio class, nine architecture students are working on a campus master plan, as well as creating designs for a new sports facility. Steil is spearheading the project, along with Dot Teso, president of St. Michael Indian School; Michael Lykoudis, the Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean of the School of Architecture; and the Rev. Richard S. Bullene, C.S.C., assistant dean and academic director of the School of Architecture’s Rome studies program.</p> <p>Etsitty is serving as an adviser to the class as well as a resource on Navajo history and culture. His goal is to help the students develop viable design responses to the school that reflect an understanding of the land and the Dine’ people. He led the group during a January 2019 visit to St. Michael’s campus, and returned to Notre Dame’s campus in March to sit on the jury that assessed the class’s master plan.</p> <p>This studio course provides an opportunity for the Notre Dame students to research and develop design work with real-world applications, while also learning about and incorporating elements of the Navajo culture, he sees. St. Michael has already begun utilizing the students’ planning and building design work to advance its capital campaign for new facilities in the coming years. More broadly, Etsitty hopes the class will influence a new crop of architects in how they incorporate historical and culture considerations in their work. Someday, he says, one of them may be designing new facilities on the Navajo reservation, or other Native American lands around the country.</p> <p>Not only does Etsitty want to have a hand in guiding the future of Navajo architecture, but he also wants to open doors for Native American students at Notre Dame. He began serving as a volunteer leader with the Notre Dame Alumni Association in 2004, and currently serves as the Alumni Relations Assistant Director of the Native American Alumni Board.</p> <p>“The thing I cherish most about Notre Dame is the shared understanding I experienced as an undergrad, fostered by Fr. Malloy,” Etsitty says. “It wasn’t just tolerance for Native people—it was an openness and love. That’s part of the reason for giving back, to help people see beyond the Native stereotypes, for who we really are, and for indigenous cultures to add value to Notre Dame.”</p> <p>The Native American Alumni Board has started a scholarship fund for Native American students at Notre Dame, Etsitty says, adding that he would love see more Native American students attend the University and enter the field of architecture. In addition, he hopes that the students at St. Michael Indian School will be inspired by their interactions with Notre Dame architecture students.</p> <p>“The fact that Notre Dame’s classroom now includes part of the Navajo Nation is a thrill,” he says of the studio class, and he hopes it is a collaboration that continues into the future. </p> <p><em>To support Notre Dame’s <a href="https://app.mobilecause.com/form/6QMXdg?vid=ki9i">Native American Scholarship Fund,</a> select “other” in the online form’s designation box, then type in “Native American Scholarship Fund” in the box beneath it.</em></p>