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Dr. Chris Voparil

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

By | Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students | No Comments

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

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.

Rea Waldon

Pay it 1964WARD – Why I give back: My degree changed my life

By | Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students | No Comments

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 goes 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.

Rea Waldon“Why wouldn’t I give back to the university that changed my life,” asks Rea Waldon. “I know Union changes lives. I am one of those lives.”

The business woman and two-time alumna earned her B.A. in 1988 and returned to earn a Ph.D. in 2003. She credits Union for propelling her career.

“I didn’t fit the typical college mold, but Union had confidence in me. I was the non-traditional student, a single mother with skills, but companies wouldn’t take a chance on me because I didn’t have a degree.”

Her degrees led her to successful careers in banking, workforce development, and economic development.

“A degree is the ticket to entry for most professional careers. Union’s innovative approach is the right fit for adults with life challenges that don’t allow them to pursue education in a classroom setting. My message is you can work and complete your degree.”

Union was founded on the core principle of expanding access to higher education for non-traditional and underrepresented groups within a context of social responsibility.

“I have been able to leverage my education to provide solutions to businesses and non-profits trying to make the world a better place.”

Dr. Waldon invests in students with her donation to Union. “I am paying my degree forward by supporting individuals and making their dreams come true.”

Donor support is critical to continue to Union’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower adults to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

Pay it 1964ward today. Click here to donate.

About Rea Waldon

Dr. Waldon is the founding executive director of the Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council. She served at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati for eight years, first as senior vice president and then as chief operating officer. Prior to joining the Urban League, she was assistant vice president/community development officer for PNC Bank.

She also served Union Institute & University as a faculty advisor and affiliated faculty from 1995-2006 and Cincinnati Executive Director from 2018-2020. Dr. Waldon has been recognized as a Cincinnati Business Courier Mentor of the Year and is the recipient of the Women of Color Foundation’s ISIS Award. She is also one of Fifth Third Bank’s Profiles in Courage recipients. She is a coach and mentor to business owners and students. She is also the owner of KDDK Legacy Group that provides coaching and training to owners seeking to grow their firms.

Randy Danielsen

Pay it 1964WARD – Why I give back: My Union degree got me a seat at the table

By | Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students | No Comments

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.

Randy DanielsenRandy Danielsen, Ph.D., 2003, knows one thing for sure. He would not be where he is today without his Union degree.

“I was an older student, already settled in my career, when I realized that a degree, particularly from Union, would enhance my trajectory in higher education. As a result, I was able to move into the deanship of a private, not-for-profit, post-secondary health science school and lead that program for over 14 years. My degree from Union prepared me to be open to many academic and personal changes, and to make a difference wherever I am.”

Dr. Danielsen’s career started in the Air Force, where he was given the choice of becoming a medic or a cook.

“I chose the medic route. My training as a medical corpsman would lead to my career as a physician assistant (PA), clinician, educator, author, and editor. The PA profession is a relatively new profession that started a little over 50 years ago. I was fortunate to be among the first group of PAs to receive certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) in 1975, remaining clinically active for over three decades. I maintained my certification through 2017 and then was able to attain the PA-C Emeritus status. My Union degree opened paths for me to serve in the classroom and administration. A higher education degree gets a person a seat at the table. I would never have been a dean without my Ph.D. from Union.”

Dr. Danielsen pays his degree forward by investing in students and the future of Union.

“I am a first-generation college student and certainly the first in my family to attain a Ph.D. I appreciated my educational experience at Union, and feel it is important to do whatever I can do so others will have a similar experience. Union students come from all walks of life, and many share similar stories of being the first in their family. That is why I invest in Union.”

Another reason Dr. Danielsen supports Union is its social justice mission that is interwoven in the curriculum.

“The concept of fair and just relationships between the individual and society, measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privilege is something I have felt from a very early age. This is probably why Union appealed to me from the very first day I sought information about their programs.”

Dr. Danielsen’s generosity, and that of other Union donors, supports student scholarships, veteran’s services, innovative programming such as the Maternal Child Health program, the new and emerging Union Institute for Social Justice, and is critical in supporting Union’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower adults to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

“Randy is a shining example of how Union’s alumni have developed personal missions to make a difference,” said Carolyn Krause, VP of Advancement for Donor Relations and Alumni Services. “Not only is he a monthly donor, he also serves as president of the International Alumni Association Board. In that role, he welcomes the newest class of alumni every year at National Commencement. He tells them three things: 1) to display their Union diplomas with pride and let everyone know of their Union education; 2) to recruit a new student to Union and to be a Union ambassador; and 3) to make a gift to support Union – at whatever level they can. His contributions support and encourage our adult, nontraditional students to complete their higher education dream to make a difference in their communities and the world. He leads by example.”

Make a difference with your donation. Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today. Click here to donate.

About Dr. Randy Danielsen

Dr. Randy Danielsen, (Union Ph.D., 2003) is professor and director of the Doctor of Medical Science Program at the Arizona School of Health Sciences. Dr. Danielsen began his healthcare career as a medical corpsman in the U.S. Air Force in 1970, serving 28 years with the Air Force and the Army National Guard, retiring in 1998 as a Desert Storm veteran with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

A graduate of the University of Utah, Randy earned his MEDEX PA Program degree in 1974 and Bachelor of Science (cum laude) in 1978. He earned a master’s in PA Studies (MPAS) from the University of Nebraska with an emphasis in Internal Medicine in 1997. During his doctoral program at Union, he worked closely with other students and had a leadership position on the Graduate Learner Council.

Dr. Danielsen has served in a number of leadership positions throughout the Physician Assistant profession. He has participated on a variety of publication advisory/review boards and has been a prolific writer. He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed articles, 20 journal editorials, and four book chapters. In 2011, Dr. Danielsen published his first book, The Preceptor’s Handbook for Supervising Physician Assistants. He and his wife split their time between homes in Arizona and Michigan.