A Note from the Dean

PaulHaught“The mission of the School of Arts at Christian Brothers University is to advance the Lasallian synthesis of knowledge and service by teaching students to think, to communicate, to evaluate and to appreciate.”

If you saw our previous newsletter, you’ll recall that in this space I introduced the new mission statement for the School of Arts. The development of the new statement was motivated by a practical intent: to make it easier to measure the effectiveness of our academic programs, a requirement for sustaining academic quality (not to mention our accreditation). As crucial as it is to sustain excellence, it should almost go without saying that as faculty we are more excited about the spirit of the statement, which invites us to explore creatively how each program is invested in teaching students to think, communicate, evaluate, and appreciate.

Outside academia, these goals are often appreciated for their alignment with so-called soft skills. Increasingly, we hear that employers want to hire people who are are creative, knowledgeable, ethical, and skillful in communicating with others. As educators in fields where these skills are cultivated, we salute the public’s recognition of the practical tools with which we equip our students. At the same time, however, we want students to appreciate the deeper richness of their engagement with the values central to our academic mission.

Take thinking for instance. The Oxford English Dictionary lists at least fifteen distinct definitions for the verb to think. We hear all the time that students need to be trained in critical thinking, but this is only one important mental activity relevant to the education we provide across an incredibly wide range of disciplines within the School of Arts. As a result, it should come as little surprise that a CBU student is likely to encounter all fifteen modes of thinking in her college career, and not only in psychology or philosophy, but in literature, art, history, theatre, and education. And in the School of Arts, her courses may even investigate the OED’s claim that thinking is “essentially predicated of humans, but also (in any sense) in extended or figurative use, as of gods, animals, plants, or natural forces personified.” We’re well beyond soft-skills here, but who knew that thinking (about thinking) would sound so interesting, and aren’t we better off knowing of all the ways there are to think?

Many of these are also highlighted in this newsletter. Among our upcoming events is a lecture by Boston College professor Dr. Shawn Copeland (part of our Distinguished Catholic Lector Series) that will recall for us King’s vision of the “beloved community.” Nic Picou reflects on his experiences in CBU’s theatre program, and we will also have a chance to see him perform in Steven Dietz’s “Private Eyes.” Dr. Karl Leib shares his perspective on a recent discussion of the U.S. Constitution. We learn about the generous grant from the H.W. Durham Foundation that will support the imaginative field work of art therapy students. And Dr. James Wallace helps us picture a symposium of New Testament scholars in Belgrade, Serbia.

It is another exciting year in the School of Arts, and we hope to see you at some of our events. In the meantime, we always want to hear your stories, especially those that reveal how CBU has influenced your own thinking.

Honors Program Ignites CBU


Kaci Murley, ’10, English for Corporate Communications

April 9th was an explosive evening in Spain Auditorium as the CBU Honors Program and Alumni Office sponsored IgniteCBU. Ignite is a worldwide phenomenon in which “presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.” More than a dozen speakers including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees shared their insights on topics that included social media, racism, pet adoption, litter, and education. If you missed this great event or would like to relive the excitement – you’re in luck. These entertaining and intriguing talks are now available on the Honors Program YouTube page!

Art Therapy Grant

The Visual and Performing Arts Department at CBU has been awarded a $10,000.00 grant by the H. W. Durham Foundation to be used in collaboration with the Ave Maria Home.  Students working within this concentration will be a part of creating CBU’s first field study course in the area of Art Therapy.   The course will be led by Art Therapist Sarah Hamil and the VAPA Chair Jana Travis. Students will learn the skills needed to design and execute art therapy sessions for Alzheimer patients while documenting their progress through hands on research.   The course will be taught in spring 2014 and again in fall 2014.  CBU is the only University in Memphis and the surrounding area offering a BFA with a concentration in Art Therapy.

CBU Theatre Offers Perspectives on Acting, Life by Nic Picou

Acting is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute of it and I find no greater joy than that which is afforded me through creating art. But my many years of adherence to the stagecraft has provided me a realization that my art, like so many, is a struggle with forces internal and external. It is a battle to resist that which is false and easy in favor of that which is true and arduous. I say this because, contrary to what caricatures have been illustrated for us, acting is not make-believe. In fact, it is far removed from the realm of pretend. True acting is true life. That is, acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Though I have always held this truth somewhere in my spirit, it did not become so clearly and beautifully articulated until my time at Christian Brothers University.

I must admit I never anticipated saying such a thing. Theatre at CBU is as minimalist as it gets. Look to our productions for evidence. The Turn of the Screw (2011): Two actors, no sets or props. Almost, Maine (2012): Very minimal scene changes with props and costumes from home. Even our upcoming production of Private Eyes (running from 31 Oct. – 3 Nov.) has only two small set pieces and a table borrowed from Canale Café. Austerity has its upside, however. Often lost in the extravagance and proverbial “glitter in the eyes” of a lot of college-level productions, acting takes center stage at CBU.

The theatre program has nurtured my creative lifestyle, and I have Matthew Hamner, professor of Speech and Acting at CBU, to thank for my revelations and discoveries in acting. His ability as an educator and experience as an actor himself allows for something unique and coveted among those studying the craft: a chance to work with the Sanford Meisner approach to acting. It was Sanford Meisner’s philosophy that actors “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” and that philosophy was passed to Hamner by his instructor Larry Silverberg. I cannot further explain here the ideas and techniques behind the philosophy, but instead reiterate the effectiveness and genuineness of it. My ongoing studies in acting under Hamner at CBU have placed me, sudden and welcome, in the realm of all those who have learned precisely what I am studying: Sandra Bullock. Gregory Peck. Robert Duvall. Steve McQueen, to name a few.

Living truthfully is not easy, even in our daily lives. We often think we know how we will react to certain situations based on past behaviors and based on things we witness and file away every day. This is simply not the case. None of us knows exactly how we could react to anything. This is where acting holds the potential to teach us about life: that all our behaviors, all our emotions hold unexpected and hidden, sometimes explosive capabilities that we know very little to nothing about. That is why people come to the theatre.


Nic Picou (right), English, ’14

Alumni News

Jennifer Bonds-Raacke (Psychology, ’00) is now president-elect of the South Western Psychological Association.

IMG_20131003_175147_958On October 3rd, CBU alumna Olivia Blow (Psychology ’13, pictured on the left) presented a research poster at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in Florence, Italy. Co-authors on the poster, entitled “Unpredictable trains produce atypical ERP changes to sound repetitions”, included former CBU students Kimberley Gardner (Psychology ’13) and Savannah McGahey, current and former students from the University of Memphis and Rhodes College, Dr. Frank Andrasik (Chair of Psychology at the University of Memphis), and Dr. Jeff Sable (CBU Behavioral Sciences). The poster was one of two produced by Dr. Sable’s undergraduate research team, which relies on equipment in Dr. Andrasik’s lab at the University of Memphis. The other poster, “ERPs show differential sensitivity to omission-induced rhythms”, was presented by Breya Walker from the University of Memphis. Dr. Sable also participated in a panel discussion focused on identifying resources for non-traditional psychophysiology labs. Abstracts for both posters and the panel were published in a supplement to the society’s journal, Psychophysiology.

On August 23rd, Hannah Nelson (Visual Arts ’13) showcased her visual and performance work with RAWartists, a non profit that organizes events for artists of different mediums to showcase together. Each showcase is funded by the last and each artist who is showcased gets tons of promotional material like photographs and a video interview.

Faculty News

Dr. Brendan Prawdzik (Literature and Languages), the SOA’s Milton scholar, has been hard at work. He has two newly released publications and one forthcoming. The article “‘Look on Me’: Theater, Gender, and Poetic Identity Formation in Milton’s Mask,” was published in Studies in Philology, (October, 2013). An abstract is currently available online and the collection will be in print circulation later this month. His review of a book on Structures of Feeling in Early Modern Cultural Expression was published online and is due for release in print in the December issue of The Seventeenth Century. Also due in December in the journal Notes & Queries is his article “State-Building in Harrington’s Oceana and Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bks. I-II,”


Dr. Kristin Pruitt and Dr. Brendan Prawdzik

During the weekend of Oct. 17th, he also attended the biennial Conference on John Milton, in Murfreesboro, TN. While there, he met with CBU Profressor Emeritus and former SOA Milton scholar, Dr. Kristin Pruitt and presented his paper “Theater of Vegetable Love and the Occult Fall in Paradise Lost“. The conference is the premier Milton event in the U.S. Dr. Prawdzik presented at the previous conference in 2011.

Faculty from the Education Department have been busy traveling across the region attending and presenting at various conferences. Dr. Ric Potts, Dr. Cort Casey, Dr. Samantha Alperin, & Mrs. Rita Ranisczewski attended the Tennessee Association of Colleges of Teacher Education Meeting in Nashville on September 26th and 27th. Dr. Ric Potts & Dr. Samantha Alperin then presented at the Diocese Fall Professional Conference at Christian Brothers High School on October 18th.

Coming up, Dr. Wendy Ashcroft & Dr. Samantha Alperin will be presenting at a Special Education Inservice for Martin Institute at PDS on November 15th. And then Dr. Samantha Alperin will be presenting at and be on the steering committee at the Huether Lasallian Education Conference in New Orleans November 20th – 22nd.



Jana Travis (Chair, Visual and Performing Arts Department) has work on display at ANF Architects, 1500 Union Ave, as part of the River Arts Fest Invitational Exhibition. The show runs through Oct. 21st.



Dr. Emily Holmes (center)


Dr. Emily Holmes (Religion and Philosophy) was a panel speaker St. John’s Methodist Church for The Memphis Center for Food and Faith Presentation of The Spirituality of Eating with Dr. Norman Wirzba, Professor of Theology and Ecology Duke Divinity School.


Congratulations to Dr. Jeffrey Sable (Behavioral Sciences) for being recognized as the Outstanding New Academic Advisor for 2012-2013!

Dr. Neal Palmer (Chair, History and Political Science) presented a paper at the Ohio Valley History Conference in Bowling Green, KY on October 11th. The paper, called “The Nineteenth-Century Origins of the Supermax,” presents the basic argument that supermax prisons, now operating in over 33 states and several foreign countries, are typically presented as a new solution to the new problem of dealing with a violent and unruly prison population, but in truth both the solution and problem have precursors that date back to the early and mid-1800s. Knowing the true history of the supermax can move us towards seeing its true purpose, which is to cover up the widespread problems within the current prison system that spark prisoner disobedience and violence.

WLB_Distruptive_PatternNick Pena (Visual and Performing Arts) has an exhibit at Lyon College from November 4th – December 13th. In his recent series What Lies Beneath, Peña’s artwork culminates in a more serious, social or political inquiry about family structures and how society struggles to define and redefine what that structure looks like in an increasingly fragmented society. These inquiries culminate into paintings that strive to raise questions rather than provide answers and percolate with a mysterious abstract underlying component. The exhibition for Lyon College will showcase a series of paintings and a site-specific installation. Opening Reception is Thursday, November 14th, 5-7 p.m. Visit his website for more info.

Student News

1235134_314895665317150_1719407202_nStudents in Biological Psychology (PSYC 225) participate in the first course lab using psychophysiology equipment acquired during the summer. Shannon Joyce (Biomedical Science), Jes Schneider (Biology), and April Collins (Psychology) record electromyographic (EMG) activity from Kristian DeRidder’s (Psychology) forearm. This is the first of seven labs that are now part of the course. In future labs, students will record and analyze stomach contractions (EGG), brain activity (EEG), emotion (facial EMG), and stress (EDA and EKG).

MONW50thInstructor Eliza Warren (Literature & Languages) and 26 of her CBU students attended the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the National Civil Rights Museum on August 28. There were performers, bands, speakers–including a man who was at the March in ’63, a recitation of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and much, much more.

Study Abroad in Rome!

Study Abroad 14Religious Studies Trip • May 19 – 27, 2014

Join our walking classroom as we experience the sights and sounds of ancient, medieval, and modern Rome, the Eternal City. Experience the darkness of the catacombs, see the wonders of St. Peter’s Basilica, and appreciate the masterpieces of the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. Explore medieval streets and visit early Christian churches. Celebrate with Pope Francis, and reflect on the many martyrs, monks, pilgrims, and mystics who passed through Rome. Take your own pilgrimage on a day trip to the beautiful Umbrian towns of Assisi, home of Sts. Francis and Claire, and Foligno, home of Blessed Angela. Wrap up your week with optional visits to the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Villa Borghese Gardens, or the Roman Forum, and enjoy the sights, sounds and flavors of Rome.

Study Abroad 2B

What does it mean to be “spiritual”? To be “religious”? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? How are Christian beliefs put into practice? How do practices, and places, shape beliefs? This course examines the historical development and contemporary expression of Christian spirituality through four different ways of life: martyrdom, monasticism, mysticism, and pilgrimage. To deepen our understanding of these forms of Christian spirituality, we will read primary texts from the history of Christianity: martyrologies, the Rule of St. Benedict, the Memorial of Angela of Foligno, the works of Sts. Francis and Clare, and descriptions of medieval pilgrimage. The course will culminate with a (required) visit to the sites of our study in Rome, Foligno, and Assisi.

RS 294: Special Topics: Honors Christian Spirituality
RS 324: Honors Christian Spirituality
GER Pending • Open to non-honors students with permission of the Honors Program Director.

Requires permission of Honors Program director to enroll in honors sections. Questions about the courses offered should be directed to Dr. Emily Holmes at eholmes1@cbu.edu.

Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence – Daryl Stephens, ’14, Psychology

Daryl_Stephens_PicThis semester I am working as an undergraduate intern at the Exchange Club Family Center (EC) on Union Avenue, as part of the Psychology Practicum. The Exchange Club provides services for women and children victims of domestic violence, as well as anger management, life skills, and parenting classes. This past week my supervisor called me and asked me to join her on a special errand. A woman had been the victim of a nearly fatal domestic assault, and she and her child had to flee from their home and seek police protection. She was being housed at an undisclosed location while police officers looked for the offender, and because she was unable to leave, she was unable to get food for herself and her child.

Many of our domestic violence referrals come from the Family Safety Center, which is located not too far from the Exchange Club and is currently under the direction of Melissa Farrar, a licensed clinical social worker at EC. My supervisor was asked to go collect groceries for this woman because she was unable to do so, and I was fortunate enough to ride along with her and see how this process worked. We were sent by Melissa to a food bank-style setup housed in a church in Frayser. We presented a letter explaining our needs for the victim, and within twenty minutes we were given bags full of fresh produce and meats, canned foods, and other dry goods. We were told that their food was mostly provided by the Mid-South Food Bank, but they were also given free goods by local shop owners who could not sell them.

I was unable to help my supervisor deliver the groceries to the victim, but it was truly amazing to see that in a city so plagued by domestic violence against women and children we are still able to provide these types of services for the families. Although Memphis only has one women’s shelter for victims of violence and abuse, it was refreshing to see that other organizations throughout the city are willing to provide for these victims and help improve their lives in any small but meaningful way.

The Spirit in Belgrade by Dr. James B. Wallace

Belgrade from the Sava River, with the steeple of Holy Archangel Michael Cathedral in the background.

Belgrade from the Sava River, with the steeple of Holy Archangel Michael Cathedral in the background.

The Balkans – and Belgrade in particular – have long been a meeting place of East and West. In the long and tragic history of conquest, subjugation, and revolt, this meeting has often been violent. But it has also led to more irenic blends of East and West, most obviously in Eastern Orthodox churches in Belgrade and surrounding areas. Like almost every Orthodox church, the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Belgrade contains an iconostasis (or wall of icons) that separates the people from the altar, where the clergy officiate. The style of the iconography, however, is thoroughly Western. The icons resemble Western paintings in their realism and detail, and are not like the more idealized images of saints typical of Byzantine and Russian iconography. And yet, one need not travel far to find Orthodox churches built in a different style.  The small chapel next to St. Sava’s Church – one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world – displays a return to more traditional forms of iconography.  Every inch of the interior walls, from floor to ceiling, is painted with icons more reminiscent of the Byzantine style.

St. Sava’s Cathedral, Belgrade, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world.

The author. St. Sava’s Cathedral, Belgrade, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world.

I was in Belgrade for another meeting of East and West. From August 25-August 31, I attended the Sixth International Symposium of New Testament Scholars. These conferences bring together Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox New Testament scholars to discuss a common theme.  This year’s theme was, “The Holy Spirit and the Church According to the New Testament.” For each session, the organizers paired a paper by an Orthodox scholar with a paper by a Western scholar on the same subject, such as “The Holy Spirit and the Church in the Gospel of John.” Although debates about finer points of interpretation always followed the papers, we often reached agreement in our interpretation of major points. It was said more than once that the “Western” paper was “more Orthodox” than the “Orthodox” paper. We were thus reminded that our constructs of “East” and “West” are often rather artificial.In the afternoons, we held three concurrent seminars. I was one of three co-chairs of the seminar, “The Spirit in Ancient Judaism.” During the Tuesday session, I presented my paper, “Spirit in The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” which explores a fascinating blend of Old Testament, Persian, and Stoic concepts of “spirit” in a non-canonical, Jewish text.

The Holy Spirit has often been regarded as the most difficult Person of the Trinity to write and speak about, even though, ironically, the Spirit is the Person most intimately linked in the New Testament with the human experience of the divine (especially in Paul’s letters) and the disciples’ ability to understand and interpret Jesus’s ministry (especially in John’s Gospel). Just as the Spirit eludes the grasp of language, the most profound dimensions of the Symposium resist easy formulations. The heart – indeed, the joy – of this conference was the opportunity to connect with colleagues from other parts of the world.

This image comes from the frescos that cover the interior of a small chapel at Kovilj Monastery. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and the book symbolizes Scripture. This icon was taken as the official symbol for our symposium.

This image comes from the frescos that cover the interior of a small chapel at Kovilj Monastery. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and the book symbolizes Scripture. This icon served as the official symbol for our symposium.

The hospitality of our Serbian hosts seemed boundless, and the collegial spirit of the Symposium made it one of the richest professional experiences of my life thus far. During the long, multi-course meals, I might find myself with a Belorussian colleague to my left, a Romanian colleague to my right, and a German colleague in front of me. While sitting outdoors at a restaurant in the countryside, surrounded by orchards and enjoying the copious amounts of food we were served, we discussed church life and our intellectual pursuits, as well as the challenges of balancing family life with our careers. We listened to Serbian folk music and enjoyed traditional Serbian food. I conversed with a Serbian bishop committed equally to the spiritual life of the Serbian Orthodox Church and to rigorous engagement with the Western intellectual tradition. These opportunities for learning from one another and exchanging ideas were where I felt the Spirit most fully.