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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
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Yolanda Villa

Mental Health Check-in – Free Webinar Wednesday, May 13

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Union Institute & University is pleased to present a free webinar on COVID-19 and its impact on mental and physical health, Wednesday, May 13 at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST.

Host Yolanda Villa, LPC, Union alumna and faculty in the M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, will facilitate a discussion centered on these questions:

  • What is the state of your mental health during the quarantine?
  • Have you or someone close to you been impacted?
  • What are some coping methods you have used to deal with the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing?

The presentation will be presented through Zoom call and limited to the first 50 participants. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting on May 13. Registering is fast, easy and free

Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Time: 8:00 pm EST / 5:00 pm PST

Host: Yolanda Villa, LPC - Union Clinical Mental Health Counseling Faculty

Where: Zoom call limited to the first 50 participants. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting May 13.

Registering is fast, easy and free.

Meet the host

Yolanda Villa, M.Div., LPC (or Reverend. ‘Yo,Yolanda Villa’ as she is affectionately called by some) is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and licensed psychotherapist. She earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Union Institute & University. She combines her love of teaching, consultation, and training in the health sector, academic and corporate settings, as well as religious organizations. Her areas of expertise include compassion fatigue/burnout, neuro-counseling, addiction/substance abuse, co-dependency, trauma, informed parenting, women and children sexual assault, spirituality and the journey to overall well-being. Her private counseling practice is in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her work leads individuals, couples, families and groups to a fully embodied awareness of what it means to embrace healthy, holistic living. Learn more about Yolanda Villa at this link.

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

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

Criminal Justice Management Grad on the Frontlines of COVID-19

Sgt. Leonard La France speaking at a virtual Eureka City Council meetingSgt. Leonard La France is serving on the front lines of the COVID 19 pandemic, working to prevent a potential coronavirus outbreak among the local homeless population in Eureka, California.

As the leader of the Eureka Police Department Community Safety Enhancement Team, La France and his department are “working with the homeless community to get individuals connected to resources” he said in a recent interview with the Times Standard.

His team works to ensure the homeless are getting free meal services while maintaining social distancing. They have added a handwashing station to the area and are handing out donated ponchos to the homeless. La France also understands the necessity to coordinate new protocols for sheltering the homeless who have recently been released from jail.

While the pandemic is affecting all populations, the homeless are particularly vulnerable under the best of circumstances. The incidence of psychological issues/mental health, and other underlying health issues exacerbates one’s vulnerability. Combine these factors with the lack of sanitary facilities and the impossible task of keeping six feet apart in crowded homeless shelters and camps, and the incidence of contracting the virus is multiplied.

The Eureka Police Department’s Community Safety and Enhancement Team (CSET) and St. Vincent de Paul are not letting COVID-19 stop their Free Meal outreach. Watch the video to learn more about how things have changed since the pandemic began.

According to WIRED, the homeless have little access to toilets, much less toilet paper. Those places where the homeless could often find shelter or use a bathroom—libraries, gyms, fast food restaurants—are largely closed. Community services like shelters and soup kitchens are running out of room and food, as well as workers, exacerbating the challenges the homeless already face.

Sgt. La France is a 2019 graduate of Union’s Criminal Justice Management degree program developed by and for law enforcement professionals designed to prepare officers to move up the ranks into supervisory, management, and executive positions within the criminal justice system. He is a current student in Union’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) degree program designed to prepare current and emerging managers to take a thoughtful approach to leadership and invent their own invaluable solutions to complex issues. Learn more about the MSOL.

Military Moms Share Breastfeeding Tips During COVID-19

Is it safe to breastfeed during the pandemic? Alumna Amy Barron Smolinski executive director of Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots and her team of volunteers have collaborated with Mattos Lactation to produce a 3-part blog series focused on breastfeeding during the pandemic, pregnancy and birth during this time, and helping breastfeeding service members who may be activated, mobilized, or deployed in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Mom breastfeeding in uniform

Photo courtesy of Mom2Mom Global and Breastfeeding in Combat Boots

The organizations are the only national nonprofit organizations dedicated to information, advocacy, and support for breastfeeding military families.

Union Institute & University’s is one of the few universities in the country that offers an online degree in Maternal Child Health in Human Lactation at both the bachelor’s and master’s level. Amy serves on the UI&U Pathway 2 Lactation Studies Advisory Panel. She is also an Advanced Lactation Consultant and Certified Lactation Counselor. She is a graduate of Union’s Masters of Arts History & Culture major.

If you have a passion for lactation and counseling expectant mothers and mothers of young infants about feeding and caring for their children, be sure to check out the Maternal Child Health in Human Lactation degree.

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
Share connect with us on SHARE YOUR STORY

Dr. Chris Voparil

Faculty member supports students with donation to Alumni Association COVID-19 Emergency Fund

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Dr. Chris Voparil, faculty in Union’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, was among the first donors to give to the new emergency fund established by Union’s International Alumni Association Board to assist Union students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Grants of up to $300 will be issued to students in need. Read Dr. Voparil’s reasons behind his generous contribution.

Dr. Chris VoparilQ: Thank you, Dr. Voparil, for your substantial gift in support of Union’s Alumni Association COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund. Can you share what motivated you to make this generous contribution?
As we know, so many have been impacted directly and severely by the pandemic. Fortunately, I am, as yet, not one of them. I would be working from home anyway and, thankfully, have not lost my income. Imperfect as it may be, I am pleased that our government was able to pass a stimulus package to begin to address the enormous economic impact. After receiving a payment myself, I simply felt that there is no reason for it to go to me; it should help someone in need. The fund established by Union’s International Alumni Association Board is the perfect vehicle to get it to students who are being impacted.

Q: As faculty in Union’s Ph.D. program, you teach courses that bring into focus Union’s value of social justice. Did that play a role in your decision to give?
In the seminar I teach on Ethics and Social Justice, we were just reading about how in times of crisis it is natural to tighten our circle of moral concern to just ourselves and those closest to us. For understandable reasons, the first priority becomes ensuring our loved ones are safe. We see people hoarding supplies, personal protective equipment, even toilet paper! A social rather than individual approach to ethics demands that we also take active measures to extend care to strangers and people we don’t know. Even doctors and health care providers have reported that the pandemic has changed the practice of medicine from doing everything possible for the individual patient to having to conserve resources to take care of the whole community.

Q: Can you describe how your students are being impacted by the pandemic? How are the conversations changing within their studies?
It is hard to generalize, but for sure everyone is feeling the psychological strain of fear and anxiety, which reduces the intellectual bandwidth we have to devote to reading, thinking, and writing – all critical to the Ph.D. program. Amazingly, many students have been able not only to keep up with assignments but also to do some of their best work. Others have been rendered unable to study at all under the weight of emotional and financial impacts and caring for family members. At least one student likely contracted the virus but, without health insurance or savings, never sought medical attention. (The student is now OK.) Thinking about my students and all those Union students I don’t know motivated me as well.

Union’s Alumni Association COVID-19 Emergency Fund was established to support Union students in challenging financial or physical circumstances during the global coronavirus pandemic. To contribute, please give online and designate COVID-19 Emergency Fund or send a contribution to Union by mail to: Alumni Office/Union Institute & University/440 E McMillan St/ Cincinnati OH 45206. Questions? Contact Carolyn Krause at 513-487-1165 or carolyn.krause@myunion.edu

Dr. Jay Keehn

So, this is where we are

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Dr. Jay Keehn, Union Institute & University’s Executive Director, Student Support Services, shares an essay reflecting what many of us are dealing with during these uncertain times, and some good news and advice for Union’s model of distance learning.
Share your reflections with your fellow Union alumni and the university community to alumni@myunion.edu or to carolyn.krause@myunion.edu or post your information on SHARE YOUR STORY.

Dr. Jay KeehnCOVID-19 has turned the world upside down and shuttered everyone in. Businesses are closing. Restaurants are literally starving for customers. Unemployment seems to have found the right conditions to thrive. Movie theatres, parks and playgrounds, barbershops, libraries, museums, etc. are all empty. Even churches and synagogues have shut their doors and developed policies for praying alone. The lights of Broadway are out. This virus has, with its global disruption, plagued society in a way where rebounding from it won’t be as smooth as the initial shot was.

Life has changed. We did not ask for this. Sure, there were people, perhaps many people, who spent most of their employment hours fantasizing about being home. They said to themselves, “Why did I fight traffic to get to my office only to have phone/video meetings that I could have taken from my pool deck?” These same people are craving those moments when they meet their colleagues at the morning coffee pot and share the cuteness of their kids’ / grandkids’ talents, scrutinize each other’s weekend plans, moan about the horrible call their team’s manager made, or whether the Game of Thrones ending was bad or epic bad. Now, they are at their own Keurig wondering: “how much is this affecting the productivity of my work team? How much is this affecting my own productivity?”

Almost as soon as the words “social distancing” became embedded in our new lexicon, colleges and universities across the country started shutting their campuses. School administrators were rushed into the unenviable position of policymaker in times of health crisis. Sure, they had some policies for an outbreak on campus. But, no one alive has seen anything like this. What do they do with students from different states/countries who now reside in their dorms? What about athletic teams? What about commencement? And, most importantly, what about classes?

Millions of students (from preschool to medical school) are now acclimating themselves to a new educational landscape, one in which many are woefully ill-prepared. Some K-12 (public and private) have employed technology as part of their classroom experiences, and moving students online was an easy transition. But, most have not. Additionally, many children in low-poverty areas can’t afford computers or WIFI to be in their classes at home (some school districts should be applauded for supplying their students with laptops). Then, there are the questions around feeding children whose only viable meals come from school. Yet, to help flatten the curve during this pandemic, school systems across the country closed their doors, and the new educational landscape contains the contents being Zoomed directly to their bedroom.

Online education is not new in higher education. It is now decades since the Internet played the classroom role for many colleges and universities. The technological advancement of learning management systems has allowed professors to mirror the instruction they were providing in the face-to-face classroom. Consequently, the more traditional brick and mortar colleges now offer many of their classes online. For the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to work for a university that has been social distancing before it was trendy – or mandated. Since 1964, Union Institute & University has been perfecting distance education. As technology advanced from snail mail correspondence to fax machine syllabi deliveries to professor/student e-mail communication to our highly interactive learning management systems, UI&U has advanced along with these educational models. For 56 years, UI&U has been doing what many universities are now scrambling to do.

With the economic struggles accompanying the pandemic, many may be asking, “Now what am I supposed to do?” Many may be thinking, “I wish I had finished my degree. I would be in a better place to get back out there after this crisis passes.”
UI&U’s experience with distance education may be more vital now than ever before. Now, as we are being sheltered in place, jumping down rabbit holes of YouTube videos, getting stuck on our couches while watching Rocky I – VI marathons, or reliving our childhoods by setting up old model trains, perhaps the Internet can bring you something more valuable – a degree from Union Institute & University.

But, this essay is not meant to be a commercial for this stellar university. I want to look at one specific piece – student support services.

Once the instructional hours are appropriately rationed online, it would seem simple to also provide support online. Student advisors, academic tutors, career coaches, disability services, etc. can call or FaceTime the student for individual attention. For some, that is good enough. But, for most, this may very well be where the personal connection is missed most. Most universities have a tagline somewhere in their admissions literature emphasizing community – “be part of our community,” or “you are community here at _____U.” People want the community members who are supporting them through their college dreams.
In 2015, I had the privilege to be a presenter at the NASPA annual conference. The title of my presentation was: Connecting Students to Services and Services to Students in an Online Environment.

Since 1964, the way one would define “community” has changed significantly. There has been a sociological shift that has paralleled the academic shift. The tsunami of technological advancements has displaced the traditional notion of education. But, it is my stance that it also has made us more connected than ever before.

There are so many social media apps that universities can use to keep connected and to include in their services portfolio. Imagine a Facebook group only open to a specific class, where the professor can interact, post, and tag academic content. Imagine an Instagram page from a student advisor to share social activities such as book club or pet grooming. Imagine a Twitter feed from the library team or academic tutors that push out study and research tips. Imagine a LinkedIn page run by executive career coaches. All this assists with the sense of community, even when the members are spread across the globe.

This is useful for colleges to make their online students feel part of the community even when they are not on campus. They can livestream guest speakers, Snapchat from campus ceremonies, and YouTube sporting events.

This may very well seem too simplistic. No one needs to be told this. Everyone uses social media. Students who feel more connected, take advantage of services provided to them at a higher rate, and exhibit higher levels of success. That is why it is important to understand the sociology of education, and more so now, the sociology of online education.

What happens when our world returns to a sense of normalcy? Will businesses see that they did not lose vital productivity by having employees working remotely? Will universities feel the economic decline for months, years? Will more universities offer more courses online? Or, full programs? Perhaps, universities will look to have more pieces online. For example, student support services. Perhaps, not.

So, this is where we are.

Our sense of connectedness has weakened and strengthened at the same time. We all are taking the precautions necessary to get us past this Corona pandemic. Maybe that becomes a new reality. No one ever will shake hands again, and even when we return to offices, we will make sure to stand six feet away. We are all recognizing the heroics of nurses and doctors. They are truly amazing. All the time. Maybe we will always have that heightened level of appreciation.

And, maybe when the world returns to a new sense of normalcy, we might better understand what community means today. Both, the people who live nearby and can help with shopping and a comfortable face-to-face six feet away wave, and the people who you now connect with daily on Zoom.

And, for us, student affairs professionals, whether this is a new way of connecting or not, let’s use all at our disposal to connect with all of our students and ensure that they are safe and healthy and they are getting all the support they need. Let our policies (especially those surrounding assignment flexibility) reflect the seriousness of the pandemic we are experiencing. Students have come this far, it is our responsibility to help them to the finish line.

Yes, distance education is not new. It just seems new for many. It was common before “social distancing” was. But, we do not have to be distant. We can be connected now more than ever. It is when we can’t be together on campus and in offices, that our connections become much more important.

That’s just where we are.

Explore how UI&U’s distance education model can help you on your educational journey, by clicking here.

Stay Connected: Union alumni respond to Covid-19

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In response to President’s Webb’s message to Stay Connected during the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing information, helpful tips, and encouragement, we are pleased to share how several Union alumni are responding to the new realities.

Dr. Christopher Nemeth Conducts Research to Mitigate a Shortage of Respiratory Protection Devices During Public Health Emergencies

Alumnus Christopher Nemeth, Ph.D. 2003, is working on respiratory protection devices (RPDs) in an effort to mitigate a shortage during a public health emergency. Dr. Nemeth has also written a paper in the Journal of Patient Safety on hospital acceptance of UV decontamination to extend the life of respirators.

Dr. Nemeth, principal scientist at Applied Research Associates in Chicago, studies human performance in high hazard environments (healthcare, military, aviation/aerospace, ground transportation) to learn about the effects of technology, and how technology can be improved in order to benefit human performance.

Read about Dr. Nemeth’s work here.

Free Nutrition & Integrative tips during Covid-19

Alumna Leslie Korn, Ph.D. 2006, is offering 10+ keys to prevention and to enhance the capacity of the body and mind to respond effectively to stress and Covid-19. Dr. Korn is a renowned expert in natural and integrative medicine specializing in the treatment of trauma, chronic illness and optimal wellness. Enroll for the free course here.

Poem for First Responders

Alumnus Dave Farson, Ph.D. 1977, shares the following poem in tribute to the first responders working endlessly during the COVID-19 crisis.

God sends angels to help us
along our way.
When we are in need
an angel is there.
When we are lost
an angel helps us
find our way home.
An angel is God’s hand in our lives.
Do not expect wings.
Expect warm hearts,
gentle hands,
authentic concern,
true courage.
An angel is not found where
the applause is loudest.
An angel is found where the need
is greatest.
Let’s praise the angels God sends!

Stay Connected during COVID 19 by sharing information, helpful tips, and encouragement.

Send your ideas, comments, and updates to
alumni@myunion.edu or to carolyn.krause@myunion.edu


Post your information on SHARE YOUR STORY

Dr. Randy Danielsen

Student COVID-19 emergency fund established

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Union Institute & University’s International Alumni Association Board (IAAB) has allocated funds to help students who are in need of emergency funds as a result of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

Examples of emergency need include:
• being laid off or furloughed and unable to make housing payment
• unanticipated health or dental expenses
• car repair, computer repair

Dr. Randy Danielsen

Dr. Randy Danielsen

“As alumni, we are particularly sensitive to the challenges our students face during normal times, juggling school, career, family, and community obligations. The pandemic has impacted all facets of our lives and our goal is to help current Union students persist in their degree program and work toward graduation,” said Dr. Randy Danielsen, Ph.D. 2003, IAAB president. “The mission of the IAAB is to be of service to the university, to promote its interests, and to perpetuate good fellowship among students, former students, graduates, friends, faculty, and staff. The fund is just one example of fulfilling our mission.”

The student COVID-19 emergency fund provides a one-time maximum grant of $300 for impacted students. The process to apply is simple and streamlined. All degree levels are eligible to request assistance.

Union President Karen Schuster Webb is grateful to the IAAB and urges all alumni to join the effort to assist current students by making a contribution to the fund. “This is a unique and unprecedented time for the world, and for Union. We’re already hearing of how Union students and alumni are working in their communities to overcome the crisis. This fund provides a boost to help students persist, graduate, and go out into the world to make a difference.”

To donate to the student COVID-19 emergency fund, click here.

If you have comments or questions, email alumni@myunion.edu.

A Ph.D. student responds to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing portable hand-washing stations to the homeless in Atlanta

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Terence Lester saw a need. He anticipated that the coronavirus could rage among the homeless population because of the lack of handwashing facilities.

Lecrae and Terence deliver portable hand washing station.

Lecrae and Terence deliver portable hand washing station.

His idea was to put portable handwashing stations throughout Atlanta, but he only had the resources for one. That’s when Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae called and asked how he could help. Together they have put 15 sinks throughout the Atlanta area where the homeless are concentrated.

Lester, working towards his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Policy & Social Change, is also a minister and draws a parallel between washing hands and Jesus’s actions of washing feet. “We have a responsibility to help others with dignity and humility. Jesus said, ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’”

Homeless man uses new portable hand washing station

Homeless man uses new portable hand washing station

Lester and his wife Cecilia founded Love Beyond Walls in Atlanta in 2013 to advocate for the invisible and voiceless. “Our vision is to provide dignity to the homeless and poor by providing a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency.”

The nonprofit provides many services.

The Lester Family

The Lester Family

“We provide mobile makeovers to the underserved, temporary shelter, groceries for 300 to 500 families a month, clothing for the community and students, free laundry services, free water bins for those who don’t have running water, awareness campaigns to educate the community, a leadership program, and we work with other organizations in other countries to solve problems.”

His advocacy for the poor was highlighted in the Coca-Cola “History Shakers” Black History Month campaign.

He also launched the “Dignity Museum,” this past January. The museum is housed in a shipping container with the flexibility to be a traveling exhibit. The interactive experience immerses the visitor in the feeling of being trapped in poverty. Lester hopes the museum dispels stereotypes of homelessness and galvanizes people to action. One visitor explained that she lives paycheck to paycheck and could see how homelessness could happen to the average person.

Lester, a scholar practitioner, chose Union to pursue his doctorate on a recommendation. “I was teaching a class on the evil of poverty for Morehouse professor Dr. Vicki Crawford. I had chosen another university for my Ph.D. when Dr. Crawford encouraged me to check out Union,” said Lester. “I was so impressed with Union and its social justice mission and the opportunity to supplement the Public Policy & Social Change major with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization.”

Also important was the opportunity to take courses online.

“Union offers distance learning which greatly appealed to me because of my responsibilities and my need to work fulltime. That, coupled with two residencies and similar-minded students, made Union the perfect choice for me.”

He is fulfilling a lifetime dream by pursuing his Ph.D.

“Education saved my life. I was a high school dropout. I know education changes lives because it changed mine.”

Lester is also an activist, speaker, and author of four books. His most recent is “I See You.”

But he describes himself as a husband and father first.

“I credit my wife Cecilia and our two children, Zion Joy and Terence II, for their continuing support. Together we continually raise awareness and mobilize an army of people who dare to get involved in breaking down barriers and dreaming up new solutions.”

Let us know what you are doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic by emailing Teresa Wilkins at Teresa.Wilkins@myunion.edu.