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Dr. Shekhar Mitra

Pay it 1964WARD: Why I give back: Shekhar and Anu Mitra Honoring my parents’ spirit by supporting the next generation of leaders

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Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships go directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union donors – alumni, trustees, friends, and others – who support Union and our goals to transform lives and communities. Please join them through Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today.

Read how Dr. Shekhar Mitra and Union professor Dr. Anu Mitra established the M.K. and Kamala Mitra Scholarship Fund to honor the memory of his parents.

Dr. Shekhar MitraQ: We are launching the Pay it 1964Ward campaign to raise $1,964,000 to support our students achieve their dreams. You have been a longtime giver. Can you tell us why you give to Union? Why do you choose to invest in Union’s students?

A: Union fills a unique need for motivated adults who not only want to advance their careers but also are deeply passionate about serving their global communities. Both Union faculty and students are focused on understanding the world from an interdisciplinary standpoint; to explore new ways in which to engage the inquiry and experiential processes. Union represents a distinctive learning model where future generations of leaders practice open inquiry, inclusion, and dialogue to make an impact in the real world. We strongly believe in investing in Union and its students.

Q: Tell us about your parents and what inspired you to link the scholarship fund at Union to their memory.

Both my parents were an inspiration to Anu and I. They met as refugees from the partition of Bengal in India in the late 1940s as the British ended its colonial rule in India. My parents escaped the ravages of the riots as they fled from their home in Dacca to Calcutta. They had no permanent home for years and were sheltered by distant cousins who supported their livelihood and education. This allowed my father, M.K., to fulfill his career dream. He became one of the Indian government’s top economist and revenue officer.

However, my parents never forgot their roots and chose to support numerous refugee families and young adults to get their education in high schools and colleges. Anu and I wanted to honor their spirit by inspiring the entrepreneurial instincts of our Union students.

Q: Union is known for its commitment to social justice. Does that aspect of the university influence your decision to invest in Union and its students? If so, how?

I knew Union was the right university to establish the fund. Union’s commitment to social justice parallels our background and upbringing. We believe that the values of social justice, pluralism, and inclusion are important ground rules in our democratic society. We want to promote these ideas in our support of organizations and institutions. As an innovation leader of a major multinational for many decades, I have seen how diverse perspectives, multicultural teams, and globally diverse consumer inputs are able to shape breakthrough designs and drive the development of innovative products and services to meet customers’ needs. Anu believes that social justice principles are a central vision of human-centered learning. This, coupled with one’s desire to manifest into action what one knows, is the basis of a good life.

Q: Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. You recently had an opportunity to meet a few students who have been awarded scholarships. Can you share your response to them after listening to their stories?

A: I was so impressed with the scholarship recipients. What is extraordinary is how they interweave their life’s experiences with the construction of hypotheses in their scholarly work. They lead as they learn, focusing on the practical ramifications of their scholarly work to touch and improve lives in the real world.

I would urge all stakeholders to consider their own way of supporting our deserving students and the unique place of learning at UI&U. Union students deserve our support.

Support the next generation of leaders with your donation.
Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today. Click here to donate.

About Anu and Shekhar Mitra

Anu Mitra, Ph.D. is a professor in Union’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. She holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in English Literature and Women’s Studies. Dr. Mitra is drawn to interdisciplinarity and the idea that all problems are capable of being solved, but only if we are able to view multiple solutions through different lenses. She is the recent recipient of UI&U’s Herbert L. and Dr. Beth Alswanger Gopman Research Fund award and was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Award for 2020-2021. She has served as a docent at several museums and as a trustee on several arts-related boards, including the YWCA, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and Cincinnati Ballet.

Shekhar Mitra, Ph.D. is passionate about enabling younger generations of scientists and engineers across all cultures, companies, and businesses to achieve their full potential as professionals. The life scientist spent 29 years at Procter & Gamble, retiring as senior vice president, Global Innovation. He holds more than 50 patents, and now, post-retirement, serves as a member of the UI&U Board of Trustees, works as a board member and strategic adviser to several Fortune 500 companies, new ventures, and a private equity company. In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and is listed in the U.S. Congressional Record for his contributions to improving lives through his impact on consumer meaningful innovations and community service. You may read more about his illustrious career here.

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!

Jocelyn Rainey

Pay it 1964WARD – Finding Mona Lisa

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The Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964ward campaign is underway and is already making a difference in the lives of our students. At Union, 100 percent of funds that donors designate to scholarships goes directly to the student. Read how a scholarship is impacting the life of a doctoral candidate and the young students she serves in the feature below.

Her LinkedIn profile lists her current position as dean of Student Services at Wayne County Community College District, but if you live in Detroit, you know Jocelyn Rainey as an artist and art teacher, and as the founder of a gallery. But she is probably best known for creating the Finding Mona Lisa Program 313: Urban Students Become Global Scholars.

Jocelyn RaineyWhile teaching art and art history at Loyola High School in 2007, she asked her students if they wanted to see Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “Mona Lisa” first-hand, not just in a book. Their enthusiasm sparked the creation of Finding Mona Lisa, the innovative travel program that has provided students (aged 14-19) with the opportunity to visit 10 countries to view famous art works and immerse themselves in other languages and cultures.

Rainey makes sure the students earn their opportunity to expand their lives. They work for a year, training in the areas of language, culture, and how to travel. They are responsible for fundraising to pay for their trip. They must learn about the country they will be visiting, learn the fundamentals of photography so they can document the trip. And, they perform one community service project of their choosing.

A current doctoral student at Union, Rainey says, “What happens is [the students] learn to respect differences, but they also learn how to embrace the similarities that we all have as human beings.” The community and the parents… fund these trips. They want to see these kids go out. And the biggest takeaway is that they understand that anything that they dream and anything they want to do can come true. Because if you’re walking around Detroit, and then the next day you’re riding camels next to the pyramids? Or swimming in the Nile? I mean, c’mon. Your dream can come true.”

Since the inception of Finding Mona Lisa (FL313), Rainey has ushered more than 100 Detroit teens on trips to visit China, Japan, Egypt, South Africa, and Costa Rica. In 2016, FL313 was among the first American high school students to visit Cuba. Some were able to speak Spanish to their hosts, many of whom knew of Detroit because of the Tigers baseball team.

Jocelyn has an amazing story herself; one of surviving gun violence and overcoming paralysis and rejuvenation through the creation of art. She has made a deep impression in Detroit through the art world and through her TedX Detroit presentation. Jocelyn is transforming lives and communities, just as her scholarship is transforming her educational experience as a Ph. D. candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Ethical & Creative Leadership.

Jocelyn is a recipient of the Virginia Ruehlmann Women in Union Scholarship grant from the Helen Steiner Rice Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The scholarship was created by alumna Virginia R. Wiltse, Ph.D. (2000), who helped to secure the gift to honor her mother, the late Virginia Ruehlmann of Cincinnati. “This scholarship is a tribute to my mother’s decades of service. Her life and how she personified the value of higher education mirrored the value of higher education of Helen Steiner Rice, the poet,” Dr. Wiltse said. “My experience at Union was, in every way, transformative, and there is a clear link between what I studied at Union and who I have become since my graduation from the Ph.D. program in 2000. I love Union. The experience of Union changed me. For that I will be forever grateful.”

For Jocelyn, the scholarship validates her transformative work in her community.

“Union and its donors invested in me. I wouldn’t have received the scholarship if they didn’t think I could change the world.”

You too can change world by supporting the next generation of students fulfill their educational dreams. Please donate today to the Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD campaign.

Dr. Vargas

Noted scholars to keynote 2020 January Ph.D. Residency

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Union Institute & University is honored to welcome two distinguished scholars to Cincinnati to speak to students, faculty, and guests at Union’s 2020 January Ph.D. Residency.

Residency begins with the Opening Dinner/MLK Legacy Presentation by Dr. Jeanne Theoharis, distinguished professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, on Sunday, January 5 at 6 p.m.

Dr. Vargas

New College of Florida Assistant Professor of Caribbean/Latin American Studies and Music Dr. Viera-Vargas poses for a portrait on campus in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Dr. Viera-Vargas’ research focuses on the intersection of race and musical expressions in Puerto Rico. He is an associate research professor for the Department of Humanities, Universidad Metropolitana San Juan, Puerto Rico. His research and teaching interests include Afro-Caribbean musical expressions, Latin American and Caribbean History, Historical Thinking and Cultural Politics. He is also active as a percussionist. New College is a top Fulbright producer with a waterfront campus on Sarasota Bay. / (August 21, 2018; Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

Dr. Hugo Viera-Vargas will present a Lunch & Learn lecture: Race & Music in Latin America and the Caribbean on Friday, January 10th at 12:45 p.m.

“The Ph.D. Residency is a transformative experience for students. The week offers the students the opportunity to further their studies, explore ideas, and connect with faculty and peers,” said Dr. Nelson Soto, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Union Institute & University. “The UI&U doctoral program is distinguished internationally for its commitment to social justice. Students choose Union for its diverse and inclusive community that incorporates interdisciplinary study in leadership, public policy, social change, ethics, creativity, innovation, design thinking, and beyond.”

Dr. Theoharis is the author or co-author of nine books and numerous articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements, the politics of race and education, social welfare and civil rights in post-9/11 America.

Her book, A More Beautiful and Terrible History; The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History, won the 2018 Brooklyn Public Library Award for Nonfiction. Her biography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, won the 2014 NAACP Image Award and the 2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians. She Dr. Theoharis has published in national journals and media outlets, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, The Nation, Atlantic, Slate, Salon, the Intercept, the Boston Review, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dr. Theoharis is a graduate of Harvard College with an A.B. in Afro-American studies and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Viera-Vargas is assistant professor of Caribbean/Latin American Studies and Music at New College of Florida. He is a cultural historian, whose research focuses on the intersection of race and musical expressions in Puerto Rican and Caribbean societies. His teaching interests include Afro-Caribbean musical expressions, Latin American and Caribbean history, race relations in the Caribbean and historical thinking.

His publications include “A son de clave: la dimensión afro-diaspórica de la puertorriqueñidad, 1929-1940” in Latin American Music Review Fall/Winter, 2017, 38:1, “La colección John Alden Mason (1914-1915): Una documentación sonora para el estudio de la historia cultural y musical puertorriqueña” in Musiké, 2015.Vol. 4, núm. 1., “La colección John Alden Mason: una documentación sonora para la historia de Puerto Rico” in Caribbean Studies, Vol. 36, No.2., (2009) ,161-168, “Too Familiar to be Entirely Alien,: The Political and Cultural Effects of Granting Puerto Ricans American Citizenship” in Diasporic Ruptures: Globality, Migrancy, and Expressions of Identity. Edited by Alireza Asgharzadeh,ed. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers, 2007.

Dr. Viera-Vargas received his Ph.D. and master’s from Indiana University, Bloomington, and his B.A. from the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.

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