Hawaii Is a Living Classroom for Oglethorpe Students

Dr. Roarke Donnelly (center) with eight adventurous Oglethorpe students.

Hawaii is home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in the world, and a trip there can be as exciting as it is eye-opening.

“It has everything,” said Dona Kioseff ’14. “Waterfalls, rainforests, coral reefs… but the native species in Hawaii are going fast, and it’s a fight to keep them alive. ”

Over winter break, Dona was one of eight students to venture to Hawaii as part of the class “Conservation Biology in Hawaii.” Led by Dr. Roarke Donnelly and Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, the students learned about the island’s culture and rare wildlife, and questioned what could be done to protect its endangered species.

“The point is to give biology majors a chance to study biology in the field,” Dr. Donnelly explained. “I’m a conservation biologist, and a lot of my friends work there… I drum up research with them, (and) published an article with Chris Lepczyk, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in order to teach junior scientists how to do peer reviews.”

Students participated in everything from hiking to snorkeling, and were given the chance to see endangered animals, including the monk seal and several species of birds. Dona, who celebrated her 21st birthday on the island, fondly recalled the day that she swam with dolphins.  Heather shared a notebook that she had filled with facts about ecotours and Hawaiian wildlife.

“We went for 13 days, which originally seemed overwhelming,” said Heather.  “But it felt shorter and shorter the longer we were there… the island is so different from anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Thanks to Dr. Donnelly’s efforts, along with the assistance of Dr. Jeffrey Collins, the tour managed to be informative and entertaining while maintaining its eco-friendliness.

“When I go to Hawaii, I try to be as low impact as I can,” said Dr. Donnelly. “We go to places that do not provide luxury accommodations, very old facilities that require minimal maintenance.”

Biology majors were given preference for the trip, but Dr. Donnelly often takes biopsychology students, and even included a physics student this semester.

“Any biology major that has the chance to go should definitely go,” said Dona. “On our way back (to Georgia), we were already talking about our reunion trip back to Hawaii… it was definitely beautiful and a trip of a lifetime for sure, but at the same time, it’s sad… (Hawaii) needs us.”

If you would like to learn more about this trip, and possibly go in the future, contact Dr. Donnelly for more information.  View more photos from the trip here!

Day of Service Celebrates Extraordinary Alumnus Fred Agel ’52

Mr. Fred Agel '52 (center) is surrounded by Day of Service volunteers, gathered in his honor.

Chances are that you’ve met Fred Agel ’52, a devoted alumnus, loving family member, and incredibly generous personhe is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and the Board of Trustees, and you can often find him volunteering his free time in the library archives.  November 19th was a special day for Fred, who celebrated his 85th birthday with friends, family… and a big surprise.  To honor Fred and show how much they love and appreciate him, his entire family planned a Day of Service volunteer event with the OU community at Books for Africa.

“I hoped that we could find a way to work through OU since it has been, and continues to be, such an important part of my father’s life,”  said Laurie Agel Amerson, Fred’s daughter. ”I believe that my entire family has watched my father’s community service, and each and every one of us finds a way to be involved in our communities. He taught by example the importance of giving back, and three generations later, he is still teaching.”

The volunteer event on February 16th brought together more than 40 students, alumni, Center for Civic Engagement staff, and friends of Mr. Agel. Members of the newly established Thornwell Jacobs Society were especially excited to join in, as the project not only highlighted their goals of integrity, initiative, and perseverance, but took place during Thornwell Jacobs’ birthday weekend.

“Celebrating Fred Agel is celebrating Oglethorpe,” said Ruwa Romman ’15, historian of the Jacobs Society. President Antonio Mantica ’15 said with a smile that, if Fred were a sophomore, he would be a prime candidate for membership in the Society. 

In addition to the Day of Service, several departments have sent Fred thank you cards, and the baseball team (of which Fred is a former member) has given Fred a baseball, signed with all of the players’ names.

“This is a great way to celebrate his legacy,” said Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, who helped plan the event. “It’s exciting to see family, alumni, and students working together in his honor.”

“The day was a huge success,” added Laurie.  “My dad spent a lot of time just looking at everybody working and sorting books with a big smile on his face.  The most wonderful thing for me was seeing all four generations of my family working side-by-side with OU students.”

If you would like to participate in future service projects, contact Heather Staniszewski.

Oglethorpe Takes Up White House Campus Challenge

This year Oglethorpe University will participate in President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which challenges more than 300  colleges and universities around the country to promote intentional interfaith dialogue and community service. Oglethorpe will focus specifically on the issues of health and hunger.

To work toward meeting the challenge, OU students and staff created COEXIST Oglethorpe, an effort open to all Oglethorpe students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are interested in this interfaith initiative. Staff from the offices of Admission, Campus Life, and Center for Civic Engagement have met with students Clair Carter ’12, Jimmy Comerford ’13, Emily Sharfstein ’14, Awet Woldegebriel ’14, Zach Robinson ’15 and Ruwa Romman ’15 throughout the summer to pave the road for the next two semesters.

“COEXIST helps us create a culture of understanding and in doing so, allows us to reach out to the community and work towards progress in health and hunger,” said incoming freshman and committee member Zach Robinson ’15.

Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, recalls that when she first started working at Oglethorpe, she was impressed with “the Interfaith Council and collaboration between faith groups to keep the dialogue open and ongoing.”  She joined COEXIST Oglethorpe because it “gives [her] a chance to work with students and fellow OU staff members of different faiths to not only educate the community, but educate [each other].”

The fall semester’s inaugural event, to be held September 11, 2011 in Emerson Student Center, will combine service projects with an educational interfaith dialogue. The day will consist of three different service projects including a healthy nonperishable food drive, a blood drive from 1:00-6:00 p.m. hosted by the American Red Cross, and an opportunity to write letters to soldiers and veterans. From 2:00-4:00 p.m. a panel of various community faith leaders will answer questions and lead discussions with participants.

Please direct any questions or interest in volunteering for these events to the Center for Civic Engagement staff via email at hstan@oglethorpe.edu or call 404-504-1978.  We hope to see you in Emerson on Sunday, September 11.