Remodeled McMullen Hall ‘a place for business’

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula blesses the remodeled and expanded McMullen Hall during a dedication ceremony April 8 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Formal dedication of the expanded and remodeled McMullen Hall took place outdoors April 8 at St. Ambrose University with steady rain as a backdrop. A tent set up near the building held a limited number of guests, all wearing masks and keeping their distance as they could due to the rain.

Workers completed the $8.6 million McMullen Hall project last summer and it now serves as home to the St. Ambrose College of Business. Classes were held in-person starting last fall in the new facility.

During the opening prayer, Bishop Thomas Zinkula gave thanks to God “for this building that has served us well for many years and will serve us even better for years to come because of these renovations. We thank you for the goodness and generosity of those who have made this project possible. Help us to trust more fully in you and to recognize that we are stewards of your many good gifts.”

St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, in opening remarks, described the state-of-art facility as “a place for business.” McMullen Hall consists of 15,949 square feet of new addition for classrooms and learning labs, with another 22,413 square feet of remodeled interior space housing faculty offices and a dean’s suite. A highlight of the new addition is a two-story, light-filled atrium that serves as a study lounge and gathering space. New classrooms include two seminar rooms, a tiered lecture hall, a computer lab, sales lab, finance lab and co-curricular lab.

Jim Field, a recently retired Deere & Co. executive, and a member of the St. Ambrose University Board of Trustees, said the building “will provide unparalleled opportunities for students, faculty and the entire QC community for generations to come.” McMullen Hall “will afford students an opportunity to develop a deep and broad-based St. Ambrose education which is clearly made richer by our liberal arts and religious heritage.”

Following speeches by other speakers, Bishop Zinkula blessed the building. He asked God to “make it a center where students and professors, imbued with the words of truth, with right thinking, and compassionate hearts, will search for that true wisdom that comes from you and that our world and times most need. May this building and all who will pass through its doors serve as witnesses in the world of your abundant love. We ask this under the patronage of Mary, of St. Joseph, her spouse and patron of workers, St. Ambrose of Milan, and through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

As members of the St. Ambrose University Chorale sang “Ambrosian Oaks,” Bishop Zinkula sprinkled the exterior of McMullen Hall with holy water. The ribbon cutting took place inside the building.

(For further details about the McMullen Hall project, go to

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St. Ambrose to offer face-to-face classes, events this fall

For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University is making plans for a return to “responsible normalcy” for the 2021-2022 academic year, which will begin Aug. 23.

This means students may take a full schedule of face-to-face classes and a normal schedule of curricular and extra-curricular activities.

“We are basing these plans on the growing availability of vaccines and positive public-health trends,” St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, said in a statement to students, faculty and staff. “Of course, among the many lessons we have learned through the past year is the need for careful preparations and readiness to adapt as circumstances warrant. These contingencies are part of our 2021-2022 planning process, too.”

St. Ambrose has been open most of the 2020-2021 academic year but with nearly all courses offered as a hybrid combination of in-class and online learning. The hybrid accommodates social distancing and other safety protocols recommended by public health experts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

University leaders have begun making plans to offer the more standard academic and campus experience that students and their parents both have said they desire. “We have learned many lessons living and working through a year of historic, pandemic-related challenges. One thing we have been especially gratified to rediscover is how our students truly want and value a full St.

Ambrose University education and campus experience,” Sister Lescinski said. “Students want to interact with faculty members and classmates face-to-face, to fully partake in extracurricular activities, and to be immersed in the invigorating growth and self-discovery that is the best part of what St. Ambrose has to offer.”

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St. Ambrose participates in transfer majors program

For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University is the second Iowa private university to join the statewide Transfer Majors Associate Degree program. Community college graduates from across the state can now enroll in 11 St. Ambrose degree programs prepared to succeed and on schedule to graduate by having completed core courses in their intended major while earning their associate degree.

St. Ambrose has more than 60 undergraduate programs. The programs included in the statewide agreement are Business, Chemistry, Communications, Criminal Justice, English, History, Mathematics, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology.

The Iowa Board of Education introduced the Transfer Majors program in 2018 to ensure that graduates of Iowa community colleges could transition smoothly to four-year state institutions, with all credits fully accepted and the opportunity to affordably graduate in four semesters.

Iowa community college graduates will take at least 18 hours of core curriculum courses in their four-year major and then enroll in upper-level courses on arrival at St. Ambrose. The university has had a Major Transfers agreement for two years with nearby Scott, Clinton and Muscatine community colleges — the collective members of Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.

Now, SAU can offer the same advantage to graduates of 10 additional community college systems — Des Moines Area, Hawkeye, Iowa Central, Iowa Lakes, Iowa Valley, Kirkwood, North Iowa Area, Northeast Iowa, Northwest Iowa and Western Iowa Tech.

“These students will start at the third-year level and on the same path to graduate as students who started here as first-year students,” said Maureen Baldwin, St. Ambrose dean of student academic services and community college relations. “There is a definite affordability advantage in that they can graduate within four semesters.”

St. Ambrose also offers a Dual Admission Program to community college students who enroll prior to completing their associate degree work. The benefits include a $1,000 dual admission scholarship; early access to academic advising; an SAU student ID to access to the SAU Library; use of the Wellness and Recreation Center; access to events at the Galvin Fine Arts Center and guidance from the Career Center while they are still enrolled in community college.

“Transfer students are St. Ambrose students, even before they get here,” said Paul Koch, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. “We value and welcome them, and encourage them to get to know the campus and the SAU community as soon as possible. We want them to maximize their Ambrosian experience.”
For additional information, please visit

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KALA, SAU theatre department win national award

For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — A spirit of innovation and collaboration in the face of an unprecedented challenge helped the St. Ambrose University Theatre Department and KALA-FM, the public radio station on campus, earn a first-place national award.

During its March 6 conference, the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System presented an award for Best Radio Drama to St. Ambrose for its fall 2020 performance of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, “An Enemy of the People.”

The St. Ambrose submission won first-place honors over nominated performances by the University of Virginia, Kansas University, DePaul University, Montclair State University and Chapman University. It marked the second straight first-place award for KALA, as Sharon (Adasme) Bentley, ’20, won the Best Newscast award a year ago. St. Ambrose’s radio play also was honored as an invited submission at the virtual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region IV in January.

“An Enemy of the People” aired on KALA radio during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic protocols led theatre professor Corrine Johnson to accept a longstanding invitation from KALA station manager Dave Baker to perform a play as a radio broadcast.

“We’re delighted,” Johnson said of the national honor for her actors, who adapted to a new way of performing and learned new ways of conveying characters and emotions. “It was a wonderful experience.”

In casting for the radio play, Johnson said she turned her back to the actors to better understand the range of voices and to be certain each voice was distinctive enough to be recognized in character by listeners. The cast included December graduate T.J. Green ’20, seniors Luke Peterson, Anthony Duckett, Tyler Hughes and Niki Dewitt and sophomores Peyton Reese and Quinnie Rodman.

The award is especially welcome for a theatre department in transition. The theatre major will be discontinued, but Paul Koch, PhD, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, said theatre education will be ongoing and annual performances will remain a staple St. Ambrose activity.

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SAU wine festival to support restaurants

For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Quad-Cities restaurants have “added flavor” to the St. Ambrose University Wine Festival series since its beginning 20 years ago. In 2021, as those local businesses work to recover from the impact of the pandemic, the Wine Festival committee is returning its support with March and April events, a news release states.

March: This month, the Wine Festival Restaurant Appreciation Program will present a complimentary bottle of wine to patrons who make a reservation or place a to-go order and mention the Wine Festival at eight local restaurants on specified days and while supplies last. The program will be in effect from March 7-11, March 14-18, and March 21-25. Participating restaurants are Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, Lunardi’s Italian Restaurant, Me & Billy Kitchen & Bar, Tantra Asian Bistro and The Phoenix Restaurant, all in Davenport; Trattoria Tiramisu in Bettendorf; and in Illinois, The Combine, Bass Street restaurant in East Moline and Siracha Thai Bistro & Oyster Bar in Moline.

The Restaurant Appreciation Program replaces the “Wine at the Warehouse” event, typically held in March at Dimitri Wine and Spirits, Inc. The May Wine Festival Wine Tasting has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

April: The Preview Dinner will take place April 10 as a to-go affair. Patrons can experience a three-course gourmet meal, and wine from a featured vintner to enjoy at home, where they may also participate in the annual live and silent auction via Facebook Live. This year’s dinner will celebrate Brian Larky and Kristin Milles of Dalla Terra and their selections from four family-owned wineries in Italy. A silent auction of boutique wines will be conducted via a text-messaging app.

Money raised from the event goes toward scholarships. For more information about the events and scholarships, visit

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The meaning of ‘sass’ in the lives of the oppressed

By Lisa Powell

I recently asked students to explore Jesus’ claim that he came “to proclaim release to the captives.” We considered the imprisonment of Peter, John and Silas and the fact that at least 40% of Paul’s letters were written from jail. Despite these examples, some found it difficult to hold together the imprisonment of saints and the experience of inmates in the U.S. prison system.


The saints were imprisoned not simply because they were Christian in a pagan empire, but because they were defiant. The empire required their submission, demanded that they hang their heads and meekly obey: marry this person, make this sacrifice, take this pledge; but the saints rebelled. They refused to deny what they knew to be true.

Similarly, when Black, brown and indigenous people demonstrate their commitment to their God-given worth and dignity in the face of systems that would deny it, they are penalized, sometimes with citations or arrests, often with demotions and dismissals. Black people are still punished for resisting the empire logics that demand Black deference to whiteness, that require a form of tribute, extracted in fear and humiliation: pulled over again, searched again, followed again. In shopping malls, classrooms and boardrooms, on sidewalks and streets.

People are arrested for refusing to hang their head low in submission, for boldly looking someone in the eyes, for daring to disagree, for speaking their rights, declaring their innocence or naming the injustice. People are jailed for defying the structures that demand they give deference in spite of injustice, a deference not dissimilar from the days of an extracted “yes massa” to any and all demands.

At age 16, Kalief Browder was falsely accused of stealing a backpack, but spent three years in jail awaiting trial because his family couldn’t raise the $3,000 bail required. He refused to be bullied into the false confession of a plea deal; he wanted his innocence vindicated. Browder was beaten frequently by inmates, resulting in the psychological torture of two years in solitary confinement.

Not long before the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence or witnesses, he was offered immediate release for admission of guilt to two misdemeanor offenses. Still he refused. He would not take a plea that denied the truth of what had occurred: he was an innocent Black teenager arrested out of convenience and forgotten in jail. The system got him still, the damage was done; he died within a few years of his release. People who die because they stand up for their humanity, their God-given dignity in the face of brutal and persistent persecution are surely martyrs.

In 2015, 28-year-old Sandra Bland drove from Chicago to Texas, excited to start work at her alma mater. The day after her arrival, a police officer pulled her over for failure to signal a lane change as she moved into the empty right lane to allow him to pass. While he processed her citation in his car, she lit a cigarette, stressfully awaiting a ticket she couldn’t afford. When he returned, he asked her why she looked upset; she told him, not disrespectfully, but flatly. She didn’t speak in obsequious tones, which clearly irritated him. He told her to put out her cigarette. She refused, saying there is no law against smoking in your own car. This was too much, and he ordered her out of the car, which she also refused. He tried to drag her from the car and repeatedly put his Taser in her face, saying he would light her up. She stepped out of the car and once out of camera range, he forced her to the ground. She died in prison three days later, having been unable to secure the $5,000 cash bail set for her release or the $500 she would have to relinquish to a bail bond company.

Biblical scholar Mitzi Smith identifies Sandra Bland’s response to the officer as “sass,” which she describes as “verbal and nonverbal gestures of defiance and resistance.” Sass can be back talk or nonverbal action “like placing one’s hands on one’s hips, rolling one’s eyes.” Sass is a term historically applied to women (or children) who step out of line, who speak when silence is expected, particularly if the recipient is a man. It is a demonstration of one’s self-knowledge: of one’s worth, intelligence, competence, rights and strength of will.

Smith explains, “For black women, talk-back and/or sass has been and remains in some situations the only means of agency.” Sass carries the risk of retribution, but the absence of sass in the face of dehumanizing experience carries its own risk — internalizing the lies of one’s worthlessness and subjugation.

Sass is a refusal to be bullied into lies against one’s humanity, not dissimilar to the acts that brought martyrdom upon Archbishop Oscar Romero and others in El Salvador arrested and tortured for denouncing the systems that strip the dignity and agency of the poor and indigenous. They died rebelling against dehumanizing forces and in the name of the God of Life.

(Lisa Powell is associate professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)

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New SAU addition is open for ‘Business’

Anne Marie Amacher
A student studies in the new addition of McMullen Hall at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. McMullen Hall is now the home to the College of Business.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The College of Business programs at St. Ambrose University are together in one home, following several years of discussions, planning and construction of an addition to McMullen Hall.

St. Ambrose University (SAU) leaders began talking about a central site since at least 2016, said Maritza Espina, dean of the College of Business. Prior to the 2020-21 school year, business college faculty had offices in Ambrose Hall but taught classes in several buildings. The business college offers eight undergraduate majors and four graduate degree programs. “We didn’t have a sense of community,” she said. Mike Poster, vice president for finance, agreed. “They didn’t have a place of their own.”

McMullen Hall, built in the 1940s and renovated in the 1990s, was chosen for the business college’s home. Work began in spring of 2019 on the $8.6 million renovation and a 15,600-square-foot addition.

The addition features an atrium, six classrooms to accommodate new methods of learning and teaching, two computer labs, a finance lab, sales lab, co-curricular lab and lecture hall. Multi-functional classroom space and a commons area fill out the rest of the addition. The original building underwent renovation for office space for faculty and staff and larger, more adaptive classrooms.

Work continued on the building over the winter, spring and through the coronavirus pandemic, Espina said. Faculty and staff had been working remotely during the second half of the spring semester after classes moved to online format because of the pandemic. When permissible, workers moved offices and classroom materials and furniture to McMullen Hall following the close of the 2019-2020 academic year and over the summer.

The move “helped us through COVID-19,” Espina said. It gave the faculty, staff and students something to look forward to when they returned to campus in August. “We have new technology, new equipment and new classrooms.”

She said students make good use of the commons area while maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks. “It’s great to see them here.” In the early weeks of the new academic year, students participated in a contest to name the commons area. Faculty and staff are reviewing the 40 contest submissions before narrowing the list and making a final selection, Espina said.

Many of the classrooms are larger than the business college department’s previous classrooms, so social distancing has not been a problem. Espina appreciates the mix of old and new between building sections and the way they flow together.

The exterior brick wall of the original building has been incorporated into the atrium area wall. “They blended modern and old together and preserved history,” Espina said. The College of Business has wish list of items it hopes to purchase in the future. As donations come in, more items can be added, she noted.

The Professional Development Center, which offers a non-credit program that trains people in area businesses, also has moved into McMullen Hall. “We can do training and seminars for them.”

The north campus facility on 54th Street in Davenport offers additional training. That site formerly housed the graduate programs. The social work department has moved some of its resources to that campus building.

The next Master of Business Administration evening session begins in October and applications have started coming in. Enrollment in the College of Business has increased this academic year, Poster noted. “It’s a great place for businesses to meet with our students in a modern facility. It looks like a professional building inside.”

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