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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‘Kibbutzing’ in the Middle East

Study abroad program offers SAU students fresh perspective

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
The most important social justice issue in the Middle East today, which also impacts the environment, is the place of women in traditional society and their role as leaders, says Alex Cicelsky of Israel. That issue figured prominently in a study abroad program he led earlier this winter for a group from St. Ambrose University in Davenport. His collaborator was Ryan Dye, the university’s director of International Education and a professor of history. Dye also leads the university’s Middle East Institute, where Cicelsky taught as a visiting scholar last semester.

Contributed St. Ambrose University student Sophie Foreman holds a homemade brick at Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-Jewish community in Israel. A study abroad program provided the students to learn about social justice issues in the Middle East.
Contributed
St. Ambrose University student Sophie Foreman holds a homemade brick at Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-Jewish community in Israel. A study abroad program provided the students to learn about social justice issues in the Middle East.

During the trip Dec. 27-Jan. 11, the group of 10 unpacked the theme “Peace, Justice and Environment in Israel, Palestine and Jordan” while visiting those countries, interacting with Jews, Muslims and Christians and getting their hands dirty in the soil. Eight students, their benefactor, and Dye participated.

“The goal of the course was to examine how sharing the fragile environment of Israel and Palestine will be instrumental in establishing lasting peace in the region,” said Cicelsky, a founding member of Kibbutz Lotan and the collective’s Center for Creative Ecology. He wanted the students to discover “a region with a diverse collection of cultures, historical and religious artifacts, environmental challenges and natural marvels.”

Prior to traveling to the Middle East, the students attended four class sessions to learn about the formation of the State of Israel, the present geopolitical situation, the environmental challenges the region faces, and preparing for travel in the Middle East.

Their journey began in the north of Israel, in Nazareth, where students spent the first few days learning about Jesus’ ministry in the town around the Sea of Galilee. They proceeded to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and then made their way to Jordan. They spent a day in Aqaba on the Red Sea and one day at Petra, described as a famous archaeological site in Jordan’s southwestern desert. Then they made their way to southern Israel, to Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-Jewish community, where the group spent four nights.

“We had so many interesting conversations with so many different people,” Dye observed. He also noted that Alex is a “real foodie.” So the group enjoyed a variety of culinary experiences. “When we ate out, he made sure we met the proprietor of the restaurant. They’d tell us their stories,” Dye added.

He said the experience that most impacted students was a visit to economically depressed Rahat, Israel, a city with the largest Bedouin population in the country. A Times of Israel article published a year before their visit bore this headline: “Is Rahat the Ferguson of Israel?”
Robyn Kincaide, an international studies and political science major at St. Ambrose, said meeting with three young Bedouin women in Rahat had the greatest impact on her. The women “spoke to us about the difficulties they faced by challenging traditional gender roles and pursuing degrees in higher education. We met with many different people throughout our trip, but hearing the stories of these women who are about my own age was particularly moving. They have so many societal factors working against them, yet they continue to push on to better their lives.”

Contributed A group representing St. Ambrose University in Davenport traveled to Israel as part of a study abroad program. Pictured are, front, from left, Nancy Heeren, Andrea Bonetto, Josie DePauw, Sophie Foreman, Jaimi Nelson, Robyn Kincaide; back, Ryan Dye, Joe Barnum, Ryan Noone, David Schoneveld and Alex Cicelsky.
Contributed
A group representing St. Ambrose University in Davenport traveled to Israel as part of a study abroad program. Pictured are, front, from left, Nancy Heeren, Andrea Bonetto, Josie DePauw, Sophie Foreman, Jaimi Nelson, Robyn Kincaide; back, Ryan Dye, Joe Barnum, Ryan Noone, David Schoneveld and Alex Cicelsky.

Cicelsky said he wanted the students to “hear as many women’s voices as possible.” They met Meirav, who left her life as a TV broadcaster to start an organic farm that hosts youths at risk. Another day the students met Anat, who has led the call for equality of access for women to holy sites in Jerusalem. They also met Keren on Kibbutz Lotan, who had worked with poor families in Nepal. She taught them about food security. Three female graduate students in Rahat shared their respect for their culture while working to change their society’s attitudes toward freedoms for women in movement, education and economic development. “To hear their struggles and courage moved me and the students deeply,” Cicelsky said.

“A significant driver of environmental challenges in this region is the increase in population. The flip side of the increased demands for water and energy by the growing population is a vibrant and creative youthful population,” he added.

At the Kibbutz, the St. Ambrose group ate and worshipped with the community and participated in the community’s “green apprenticeship program” where they learned about a system of agriculture and social design principles called permaculture. About 200 people live in the kibbutz, in their own homes on the site. All the work they do is for the good of the kibbutz, Dye said. The community’s cooperatively owned dairy, date orchards and tourism facilities are the main sources of income.

Cicelsky arranged for the St. Ambrose group to have hands-on experience, such as farm labor. Israeli farmers had donated plots of land on which to grow crops that go to charities. Volunteers pick the crops. “We volunteered to pick crops for a few hours and our task was to pick cabbage,” Dye said.

“From my perspective as director, this was the richest study abroad program I have ever participated in,” he continued. “We got our hands dirty in a cabbage patch. We had a lot of conversations with ordinary Jews, Muslims and Christians. We got a feel for what it would be like to live, work and study there.”

Kincaide said she returned to the U.S. “even more confused about my feelings on the political situation in Israel and Palestine than I was before. It’s one thing to theorize about a one-state or two-state solution in the classroom, but quite another to visualize how either could actually come to be when you visit the area and see how intertwined the lands, resources, infrastructure, etc. are.

“The experience was an excellent reminder not to believe everything you see in the news. The media can make it seem as though the region is constantly violent and war-torn, but I never once felt unsafe. Despite political tensions, life goes on. People we met from all communities and all walks of life were very welcoming to us, and very willing to share their stories.”

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