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alumni spotlight Archives - Community | Union Institute & University

Stay Connected: Union alumni respond to COVID-19 (Third Edition)

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Welcome to the third edition of Stay Connected where we share how Union students and alumni are responding to the pandemic.

Stay Connected during these challenging times by sharing information, helpful tips, and encouragement to your fellow Union students and alumni. Send your updates, ideas, comments, and questions to: alumni@myunion.edu or to Carolyn.Krause@myunion.edu or connect with us on SHARE YOUR STORY.

Alumna incorporates videoconferencing platforms so students and incarcerated youth don’t miss a beat

Alumna Tamara Alexander. Ph.D. 2015, co-director of the Fowler School of Law Mediation Clinic at Chapman College in Orange, California, knows distance learning works. She experienced it first-hand when earning her doctoral degree at Union through its rich online learning environment. Alexander’s focus was on public policy and social change.

When state mandates required everyone to stay at home to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, she quickly created a platform for her students and the incarcerated youth they serve to meet virtually. “There is absolutely no reason why our learning and delivery needs to hiccup,” said Alexander in a recent interview with the Chapman University newsroom.

Alexander is co-director of Fowler School of Law Mediation Clinic that incorporates real-world understanding for law students to develop and practice mediation skills under the supervision of experienced attorney mediators. Students may participate in the Mediation Clinic at the Riverside or Orange County Superior Courts, the Riverside County Criminal Justice Dispute Resolution Clinic, or the Riverside County Restorative Justice Program. These valuable services are provided pro bono to the community.

Her law students have been able to continue their important work with incarcerated youth in the Restorative Justice Program delivering conflict resolution skills.

Dr. Alexander’s Union dissertation research investigated the convergence of evidence to understand how a church advanced itself as a moral entrepreneur within the policy arena to align against LGBT equality. Her dissertation is titled, “Exploring the LDS Church’s Wins in Two Same-Sex Marriage Elections: Mobilizing Members, Election Strategies, and Message Framing,” and was completed under the supervision of Mary Ann Steger, Ph.D.

Read more about Alexander and her important work at this link.

The show must go on

Alumna Dafna Moriya, Ph.D. 2015, was in the second week of her solo art exhibition, “Hidden details/ Dafna Moriya” when the pandemic hit and everything began to close.

“The disappointment was huge. Inspired by my studies at Union, I was looking for a way to turn this into an act of resilience. I created a video and invited people to a virtual tour of my show. The response was amazing. People found it to be “a moment of tranquility” and a “healing experience.”

Moriya credits her philosophy to turn adversity into advantage to her Union experience.

“Studying at Union influenced my thinking in many ways. Coming from a more traditional approach to research, the notion that the personal can and should inform academic thinking was new to me. As a result, my daily work, my workshops, and my book, Navigating Visual Imagery and Verbalization, now integrate my personal, artistic and academic thinking.

My personal experience with the exhibition led me to share the video with the world and also inspired me to conduct an international survey regarding other people’s experiences with art during “Corona-time.” (The survey is still open. To participate please write to dafna@abrch.org)

Dr. Moyira also reflects on seeing her story through her peers’ eyes, which gave her a new appreciation to the importance of resilience for her family, country, and humanity.

“My experience as the only Israeli student in my cohort, and sometimes the only Israeli person my peers have met was eye-opening too. While my family’s story is very common in Israel, at Union, I had the opportunity to tell it “from the outside.” This is the story of refugees who were fortunate to escape Europe in time before World War II. Others in my family, who stayed were all killed in the concentration camps. My grandparents, a young couple with two children, left everything behind and came to Israel. There is no stage in our narrative that even includes the word refugee. The history books have a chapter for the holocaust, and then for revival.”

Dr. Moriya is the founder of the Center for Art-based Research and Change. An artist, independent scholar, and educator, she gives lectures and leads workshops around the world. She teaches and supervises art-based researchers, art therapy practitioners, and supervisors, is involved in art-based activities for social change, and exhibits her own art work.

View Hidden Details/Dafna Moriya at this link. To participate in the international survey regarding other people’s experiences with art in “Corona-time” email dafna@abrch.org.

Stay Connected during these challenging times by sharing information, helpful tips, and encouragement to your fellow Union students and alumni.

Send your updates, ideas, comments, and questions to: alumni@myunion.edu or to carolyn.krause@myunion.edu
OR
Share connect with us on SHARE YOUR STORY

Nancy Lynne Westfield

Alumni Spotlight – Alumna is new leader at prestigious Wabash Center

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Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Nancy Lynne WestfieldFeatured this month: Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D.
Education: Union Ph.D. 1999
Profession: Director Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D. 1999, is the new leader at Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

“The mission of the Center is to enhance and strengthen education in theology and religion in North American theological schools, colleges, and universities. All of our programs are funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.,” said Dr. Westfield. “We support teachers of religion and theology in higher education through meetings and workshops, grants, consultants, a journal and other resources to make accessible the scholarship of teaching and learning.”

Dr. Westfield credits her Union doctoral experience for giving her the freedom to think on her own. She also calls her program at Union transformative.

“This was the first time in my academic career I was asked to form my own thinking. I was encouraged to explore my own curiosity,” said Dr. Westfield. “While I was asked to think on my own, I was never alone in my thinking. The faculty and my peers were communal and nurturing.”

Dr. Westfield explains why religious education is important.

“Religious education is an interdisciplinary approach to the bigger questions in life. The study of religion and religious people is an important lens on history, culture, and community,” said Dr. Westfield. “The formation of faith is important especially where society is fractured and people are divided.”

Dr. Westfield is an ordained deacon of the United Methodist Church.

“I was raised in church as part of the African American tradition. My parents, Nancy and Lloyd, encouraged curiosity. Spiritual questions were not frowned upon. We read the Bible critically and maturely.”

She embraces the womanist approach and is passionate about sharing the religious, educational and spiritual experiences of African Americans, especially women.

Her new position as Director of the Center is exciting and humbling.

“I am humbled to continue this life-giving, critical work for scholars of theology and religion. The work of leading the Center is my joy.”

Dr. Westfield is the author, co-author or editor of several books. Among her works are Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies (Abingdon Press, 2008), Black Church Studies: An Introduction (Abingdon Press, 2007), and Dear Sisters: A Womanist Practice of Hospitality (Pilgrim Press, 2007).

In addition to her Ph.D. from Union, she is a graduate of Murray State University in Kentucky. She earned a master’s degree in Christian education from the Scarritt Graduate School in Nashville, and a master’s degree in theological studies from the Drew Theological School, Madison, New Jersey.

Today is the day to explore how a Union Ph.D. will expand and deepen your knowledge and career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

Dr. Ronis

Alumna awarded Fulbright Specialist Award

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Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Dr. Deri Ronis, Ph.D.1987, has received a Fulbright Specialist Program award.

Dr. RonisShe is the founder of The Conflict Resolution Centre specializing in mediation, consultation, training and seminars to facilitate peace and conflict resolution.

Dr. Ronis is excited to share and explore ideas.

“My reaction is and was one of great gratitude, humility and my last hurrah! I’m thrilled to be able to share a half century of knowledge, observation, and experience with the next generation studying peace and conflict resolution. I was so fortunate in the ’80’s to be able to study my passion at Union, when the field of peace psychology and conflict resolution wasn’t even a recognized science or discipline.”

She hopes her experience of 30 years can be helpful to the other participants.

“This is an opportunity to interact with students from many different countries, engage in dialogues relevant to their research, and help them understand what is possible and doable, as well as what isn’t and how to accept the things they have no control over to avoid burnout.”

For her Fulbright, Dr. Ronis will complete a project at Uppsala Rotary Peace Center in Sweden with the goal to exchange knowledge and establish partnerships benefitting participants, institutions, and communities both in the U.S. and overseas through a variety of educational and training activities within Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Union has a proud tradition of Fulbright awardees including recent awardees Dr. Anu Mitra and Dr. Woden Teachout, and alumna Dr. Paula Royster.

Dr. Ronis is one of over 400 U.S. citizens who share expertise with host institutions abroad through the Fulbright Specialist Program each year. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, demonstrated leadership in their field, and their potential to foster long-term cooperation between institutions.

According to the Fulbright website, the program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 the Fulbright Program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding shared international concerns.

Today is the day to explore how a Union Ph.D. will expand and deepen your knowledge and career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

Cecil Thomas headshot

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight – Police Officer, Council Member and Current Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas is a tireless supporter of community and the underserved

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Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Management in 2012, is a servant leader, influenced by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

In this video, Senator Thomas discusses the impact Dr. King had on his life and the importance of Black History Month.

Cecil Thomas headshotBorn in rural Alabama, Cecil came to Ohio as a young boy, and did not realize his potential to serve until he connected to a program that would provide college tuition if he went through police academy training. A 27-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department, Senator Thomas worked in every district, including all 52 Cincinnati neighborhoods. During his tenure, he worked on behalf of minorities and women, earning them the right to be promoted. He fought to increase minority representation, especially in policy-making decisions. His actions increased the percentage of African Americans and women on the force to 40 percent. He is credited with winning a federal ruling still in place today that mandates that the department’s demographic must mirror the city’s population.

As the head of the city’s Human Relations Commission from 2000 to 2005, Thomas instituted a community and police relations program, recognized as one of the top human relations organizations in the country. Focusing on repairing citizen/police relations across the city, he organized festivals in each police district, sponsored study circles for police officers and citizens to connect, and produced a public service announcement about what to do when stopped by the police. In 2001, when the city erupted in race riots after the killing by police of an unarmed black man, Thomas organized pastors and walked the streets with them, serving as a calming influence.

In 2005, he was elected to the Cincinnati City Council, where he created the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, an anti-violence program credited with reducing homicides after an all-time high in 2006. The program reduced crime and improved community and police relations and is modeled nationally and internationally. He worked on voter suppression issues, and an environmental justice ordinance to monitor pollution.

Senator Thomas was elected to the Ohio Senate in 2014, representing Ohio’s 9th Senate district. He was elected Assistant Minority Leader by his peers and has been appointed to serve as ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee for the 133rd General Assembly. In addition he serves on the government oversight, health, insurance and local government committees.

Today is the day to explore how a Union degree will expand your career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!