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    Photo Robert Thurber

    May 21, 2015

    Why We Do What We Do

    What do a Mark Twain scholar, a biochemist, and a filmmaker have in common? What motivates them – or any of us, for that matter – in their work? And why is that motivation – that thing which moves them to reread one of Twain’s stories (again), return to the lab to study a cell’s development, or continue to search for the perfect shot – important? Those are questions that 16 Le Moyne faculty members recently tackled in an anthology of essays titled Why We Do What We Do. Their answers were honest and personal. They went far beyond what these professors “do.” They spoke to who they are, whom they love, and their hopes for the world we share.

    Why Do I Teach Biochemistry?
    Theresa Beaty, Ph.D.
    It was a rare moment of “perfect clarity” when Theresa Beaty casually opened Molecular Biology of the Cell by Bruce Alberts. She was a 20-year-old undergraduate at Aquinas College; the text was required reading for her cell biology course. Beaty immediately fell in love, and realized within seconds of looking at the “colorful cartoon images of proteins” that she had found her future. She learned that biochemistry is part of everything we do, from walking, to metabolizing food, to waking up. Why does Beaty teach? For the joy she feels when a student has a moment of epiphany and suddenly understands something new about the world around them – and themselves.

    Who Am I? Sociology Has Answers!
    Jeff Chin, Ph.D.
    Jeff Chin discovered sociology thousands of miles away from his Boston, Mass., home – in Hong Kong. His father won a Fulbright scholarship there, and the then 17-year-old Chin boarded a plane with his family with “only a vague idea of how [he] would be spending the next 12 months.” Going to school was what Chin “knew best,” so he took a sociology class. That experience transformed him. It made him “feel less like an outsider and more like [he] belonged.” It also helped him on his journey to answer some big questions, including, “Who am I?” Now as a professional sociologist, Chin helps his students begin to answer that question for themselves.

    Professor of Sorrow
    Maria DiTullio, Ph.D.
    Maria DiTullio never intended to become a professor. During the first 20 years of her professional life, she worked in a variety of counseling and human services settings, and loved it. Yet when she found her way to Le Moyne in 1994, it was like “ [her] soul’s autopilot ultimately took [her] home.” Today she uses the power of personal experience to encourage transformation and learning in the classroom. And what has she learned for herself? First, that “we are always in the process of becoming,” and second, that “learning happens more in the heart than in the lecture halls.”

    The Footprints I Follow
    Fred Glennon, Ph.D.
    Religious Studies
    Fred Glennon does not want his students to be bystanders. He wants them to take an active role in their learning; to wrestle with the “ethical complexities of an increasingly global world”; and to graduate with a stronger sense of themselves in that world. To reach those goals, Glennon works tirelessly to create a classroom environment in which his students’ voices can be heard. He also offers a caring ear when students share their stories. Glennon sees these things as “an essential part of [his] vocation, [his] calling as a teacher and a person.”

    Being Chinese in Greece
    Irene Liu, Ph.D.
    Irene Liu grew up in Atlanta, Ga., the daughter of Chinese immigrants. As a high school student, she chose to study Latin – as opposed to French, Spanish or German – for one reason. She wouldn’t be required to speak it. Ironically that decision made all of the difference in her life. It led her to study and teach classical philosophy. Liu does this work because it is beautiful. She also does it because there is truth in it and because of the commonality that binds all human beings. “Even if our starting points are different, we are all ultimately trying to get to the same place.”

    Finding My Sociological Slacks
    Matt Loveland, Ph.D.
    Sociology and Political Science
    Matt Loveland entered his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater undeclared – and “uncommitted.” He was more passionate about alternative rock band Possum Dixon than choosing a major. Then he took a course in sociology; it was transformative. Loveland found that the discipline, like his favorite music, spoke to him. Both critiqued society and offered solutions to make it better. Intrigued, Loveland continued to take classes that helped him to understand the structure of social power and examine the world around him. Today, in courses in areas as varied as sports in America and social inequality, he teaches his students to do the same.

    Learning and Teaching Academic Writing
    Wen Ma, Ph.D.
    When it comes to writing, Wen Ma wants his students to know something: “If I can do it, so can you!” Ma has been in their shoes. As a doctoral student, he was often struck by “procrastination, frustration, even fear” before writing a paper. Yet Ma faced a challenge that most of his students do not. English is not his native language. He didn’t let that stop him, though. Instead he used it as an opportunity to “revise, rephrase and clarify” his thoughts. Today he encourages his students to do the same. It makes all the difference, both in their writing and their confidence. “It is rewarding to see how my teaching and writing is being picked up by students …,” he says.

    The Light of the Guiding Moon
    Joseph Mullins, Ph.D.
    Even as a child, Joe Mullins loved science. Mullins’ Christmas list included children’s telescopes and chemistry sets. He was fascinated by “the physical changes that arose from chemical changes.” He froze insects in water to see if he could revive them. (He couldn’t.) He also knew that he loved the environment of a college. “This is where learning occurred, where first footsteps were taken and where the mind gained stamina and trained to run.” He realized that was his destiny and, as a teacher at Le Moyne, he fulfills that destiny every day.

    Studying Abroad
    Orlando Ocampo, Ph.D.
    Foreign Languages and Literatures
    Orlando Ocampo was 17 years old when he traveled from Argentina to Connecticut to study abroad. He left behind his “graduating class, a busy café life, and [his] rugby team ...” Once he arrived in the U.S., Ocampo expected to see places he’d only glimpsed at in photos or on movie screens. However, he did not expect to look at himself, his country, and his culture in an entirely new way. But he did. Today Ocampo leads Le Moyne students on their own journeys of self-discovery. He teaches courses in Spanish language and Latin American literature and has traveled with students to the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. “ … I always remember my own growing pains and hope that, like me, the student will also … learn something about the world and the self, ” he says.

    Other Voices Heard From
    Holly Rine, Ph.D.
    A teacher. A historian. A “crazy dog lady.” Holly Rine owns each of these titles. Rine was drawn to history because she was, and is, “fascinated by why people act in certain ways and make certain choices.” She was most interested in Colonial America, though, and began studying the role animals played in that period. She knew she wanted to uncover the past – but whose? Rine posed these questions to an unlikely confidant – her dog, Shelby – during long walks and drives. The answer she came up with was this: to use her work in Colonial history to bring other “nonhuman characters” into the fold by writing about their experiences. Shelby approves.

    Dan Roche, Ph.D.
    Communication and Film Studies
    Dan Roche believes that writing is almost never solely about what it appears to be at first. It’s almost always about something deeper. His essay for Why We Do What We Do is a case in point. It chronicles Roche’s decision to pursue a career as a writer after being trained as an engineer. It’s also about the distinct ways he and his late father, who spent his career in the military, saw the world. Today, Roche teaches his students “that writing is as much about imagination as it is about how to form sentences and paragraphs.”

    What I Do, and Why I Do It at Le Moyne
    Ann Ryan, Ph.D.
    Ann Ryan’s Le Moyne adventure began more than 30 years ago. She took a seat on public bus, with a lunch packed by her mother, and headed to her first day of classes. It was not the picture of college life she had painted for herself. That version included marble halls, statues, and medieval looking libraries. Le Moyne felt “closer to a cross between [her] high school – West Genesee High School – and (her) parish – St. Michael’s.” It didn’t look like colleges she saw in pamphlets or in films. But something happened that overcame any initial disappointment she may have felt at being a commuter student at a college in her hometown: She “fell in love with learning.” That love sustained her through her time at Le Moyne, as a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, and as an English professor at Le Moyne for the past 20 years.

    Lessons Learned
    Mary Springston
    Physician Assistant Studies
    “What are you going to do for this community?” The question caused Mary Springston to take a deep look into herself. She was interviewing for a physician assistant studies program in Harlem, something she’d been dreaming of doing. That question jolted her into reality, though. It caused her to ask herself, “ What was [she] going to do for this community – or any other community [she] might want to serve later in her career? Had [she] even thought that far ahead?” Since that day, 25 years ago, Springston has cared for thousands of patients and trained hundreds of physician assistants. She has learned that while medicine grows with each generation, the “core of [the] practice remains the human heart.” That is what she brings to every community she touches.

    A Person Made Out of Words
    Miles Taylor, Ph.D.
    Miles Taylor is a professor of English. As such, he works in words. He loves words – their complexities, their origins, their idiosyncrasies, their ability to “move” and “pierce” him. It’s not surprising that this man of letters chose a metaphor when reflecting on his work: “You are married to your job.” In work, as in a marriage, you must accept that there will be challenges as well as joy. You must reaffirm your commitment to your profession every day. And whatever you do, you can’t forget to ask questions, Taylor advises. “Inquiry is a symptom of love.”

    Why I Love Making Documentaries
    Communication and Film Studies
    Communication and Film Studies
    There is a moment that Robert Thurber has long carried with him. The filmmaker was shooting the prizefighter Roy Edmonds as the boxer worked the heavy bag at Gleason’s Gym in Manhattan. Camera in hand, Thurber moved around for three minutes – the length of a round of boxing – carefully capturing Edmonds’ movement while avoiding any blows. It was, he recalled, a moment “where your mind isn’t working, but your body is.” When Thurber shoots and edits a documentary, whether for Frontline on PBS or with his students, he works “to transport the viewer’s imagination to a place it never expected to be, to meet people he or she never expected to know, and to come away with an insight into human experience that had never before been considered.” That’s his idea of a TKO.

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