“My ticket to go and see the world”: Global MA Graduates Reflect on a Life-Changing Year

Meet Starrlett Johnson, Joe Henley, and Ann Ngyuen — three Webster Global alumni who recently earned a Master of Arts in International Relations while traveling to 5 different countries in only 11 months. Check out what they have to say about their Global classes, the faculty they met, and what it’s like to travel around the world with a group of classmates:

Cultural Connections: Students Set to JET to Japan

cultural connections bigger

Each month, Global Thinking features a “Cultural Connections” guest post written and curated by a member of the Department of International Languages and Cultures (ILC). This month’s post celebrates two students studying Japanese at Webster who have been accepted to teach English in Japan.

Webster University students Melissa Bufka and Lindsay Ohlemeier have been accepted into the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program in Japan. As one of the most recognized programs in the world for teaching English as a foreign language, JET is extremely competitive and has had over 38,000 U.S. participants in 27 years.  All teachers work full-time as an Assistant Teachers in either public or private school, instructing students that range from first graders in elementary to seniors in high school. The mission of the JET program is to promote foreign languages in the Japanese education system and encourage corporation between participating countries.

Melissa Picture


Melissa Bufka has been studying Japanese for five semesters at Webster University. Melissa said that anime sparked an interest Japanese culture in grade school, and that she started studying Japanese after high school. Although Melissa doesn’t have a specific favorite class, she remarked that all of the classes that she has taken have been fun and engaging in their own way. When Melissa thinks about her future, she is excited to teach English in Japan because it is the ultimate experience for her.

Lindsay Ohlemeier is an English major at Webster University and has only started studying Japanese since the beginning of the Spring 2015 semester. Lindsay started learning Japanese informally from her Japanese friends last summer as they wished share their culture with her. Lindsay is currently an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor for new immigrants in the U.S. and believes this experience will help her greatly in Japan.

Lindsay Picture

Ohlemeier (left) with Japanese exchange student Anyu Okamoto, dressed in yukatas for the International Student Association Fashion Show.

Although Melissa and Lindsay have been studying Japanese for different periods of time, they both have qualifications that will lead them to be successful in the JET program. They are both thankful that Webster gives academic and extra-curricular opportunities that will support their professional ambitions. Professor Maki Shiwachi says that Melissa and Lindsey’s passion for Japanese language and culture will lead them to be strong teachers and ambassadors.  We wish Melissa and Lindsay an outstanding year with the JET program.

Webster Remembers Dr. Van Krieken

pvkIt is with great sadness that the Webster community announces the passing of Dr. Peter Van Krieken, beloved former Webster University — Leiden professor of international relations.

Dr. Van Krieken joined Webster as a faculty member in 1996 and taught for the institution for seventeen years. Teaching primarily at the Leiden campus, Dr. Van Krieken also lectured at the St. Louis campus as a visiting professor in 2001 and 2003, and in Thailand in the summer of 2005. He served as a faculty fellow for Webster’s Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies, lending to the Institute his expertise  in human rights subjects such as asylum, migration, torture, hijacking, statelessness, family reunification, migration, health, terrorism, and repatriation.

Dr. David Carl Wilson, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, warmly recalls Dr. Van Krieken’s keynote speech at Webster’s first Annual Human Rights Conference.

“His speech was truly unforgettable. He concluded his keynote by presenting me with two books for Webster’s library — a copy of his own just-released book on The Hague and an antique book by the famous 17th Dutch jurisprudence thinker Hugo Grotius.”

In 2010, Dr. Van Krieken was honored with the University’s William T. Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching — a recognition that students and colleagues alike agree was well-deserved.

“He was an electric teacher,” said Dr. Kelly-Kate Pease, Director of International Relations Worldwide.

“I don’t know of any other professor whose students more regularly said that he changed their lives,” said Wilson.

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“Joy, joy, joy!”: 2015 Outstanding Alum Betty Birney Addresses College’s Graduating Class


Decorated author, advisory board member, and 2015 College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Alum Betty Birney addressed this year’s graduates at the College’s Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 9. Each student received a signed copy of Birney’s first Humphrey the Hamster book, The World According to Humphrey, and Birney passed along to our graduates some words of wisdom from Humphrey himself: “JOY-JOY-JOY to the whole wide world (and that includes you!)” Click here to view a pre-taping of Betty’s remarks.

Betty is an award-winning TV writer and children’s author. After earning her BA in English from Webster University (then Webster College) in 1969, she moved to Southern California, working at Disneyland in the advertising department and eventually writing and producing television and radio commercials and theatrical trailers at Disney Studio in Burbank. Betty is the recipient of a Writer’s Guild of America Award and three Humanitas Prizes, as well as a Daytime Emmy Award and a Christopher Award. Her most well-known works are the Humphrey the Hamster series of children’s books, the Madeline children’s TV series, and the made-for-TV family movie Mary Christmas.

“Life is what you make it”: Commencement Reflections from Marilyn Osei ’15

Osei gives her Commencement address at the College of A&S ceremony

Osei gives her Commencement address at the College of A&S ceremony

Students from the College of Arts & Sciences and across Webster University were all smiles despite the rain this Saturday, May 9 as they celebrated the end of their academic journeys. English major and 2015 Student Commencement Speaker Marilyn Osei addressed her fellow Arts & Sciences graduates at the College ceremony, congratulating her peers for their hard work and asking them to consider what it will mean for them to make their own lives as they move on from Webster. The full text of her address is below.


“When I was younger, my mother constantly said the words: “Life is what you make it.” Over the years as I lost my first tooth, learned to ride a bike, and graduated from high school, these words went from background noise, to a cliché, and today, a daily mantra. My mother’s words sparked some questions that I would like to share with you: What does it mean to make your life? What exactly constitutes the creation and careful calculation involved in “making” your life?…

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Ethical Practice, Quality Care: Webster Celebrates National Nurses Week

Webster students learn collaboratively in a Nursing Leadership and Management course.

Webster students learn collaboratively in a Nursing Leadership and Management course.

National Nurses Week is May 6-12, 2015, and the College of Arts & Sciences is proud to honor our nurses — faculty and students — for the critical role they play in supporting the health of our communities.

NNW2015_WebAd_300x250pxIn recognition of the impact ethical nursing practice has on patient outcomes and the quality of care, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has designated 2015 as the “Year of Ethics.”  Keeping with this focus, the theme for National Nurses Week is “Ethical Practice, Quality Care.” — a theme central to Webster University’s nursing programs since their inception.

“Ethical principles are integrated throughout our nursing curricula, knowing that nurses face moral issues everyday.” said Dr. Jennifer Broeder, Associate Dean of Professional Programs and chair of the Department of Nursing.  “Our faculty discuss with our students the ethical obligations of nurses as providers and designers of care.”

The ethical concerns of today’s nurses are varied and complex, and require nurses to consider both abstract ethical concepts and the immediate needs of patients and families.

Mary Ann Drake, PhD, RN

Mary Ann Drake, PhD, RN

“Our practice,” explained nursing faculty member Mary Ann Drake, “is guided by the Code of Ethics for Nurses” — a guide developed by the ANA for carrying out nursing responsibilities in a manner consistent with quality in nursing care and the ethical obligations of the profession.

Not surprisingly, the public associates nurses with high ethical standards, and nurses are highly trusted as a result. An annual Gallup survey shows that the public has ranked nursing as the top profession for honesty and ethical standards for 13 straight years.

This does not come as a surprise to Drake, yet, she noted, “nurses are often unsung heroes.”

“This year, as we celebrate National Nurses Week, take the time to thank a nurse.”

Rosenblum Partners with St. Louis High School for History Education

Maplewood Richmond Heights students examine a display at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center

Maplewood Richmond Heights students examine a display at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center

History professor Warren Rosenblum brought his expertise in German history and the Holocaust to students at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in St. Louis this spring.

“I’ve been mainly working with Christine Henske’s world history class and with the jointly taught History/English class called 20th century studies classes,” Rosenblum explained.

His involvement began in February, when he spent a day leading a role-playing game with students to illustrate the Munich Agreement of 1938, and wrapped up at the end of March with a trip to the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in Creve Coeur. Over 70 students participated in a discussion of racism and violence in German history, then toured the exhibit and heard Holocaust survivor Sara Moses give a riveting address.

“Holocaust education captures students’ attention like few other topics can,” Rosenblum said. “It is important that students understand how and why genocides happen. As they learn about the systematic, mass murder of European Jews, they also get introduced to a range of topics in world history, international relations, and human rights.  Holocaust education thus inspires students to read broadly and think critically about history (and the present).”

Cultural Connections: 2015 Rosita Awards Honor Exemplary Language Students.

cultural connections biggerEach month, Global Thinking features a “Cultural Connections” guest post written and curated by a member of the Department of International Languages and Cultures (ILC). This month’s post covers the department’s annual Rosita Awards celebration.

For Rosita Winners 2015: ILC department representative Maggie Dankert (left) and Spanish professor Silvia Navia (third from left) with this year’s Rosita Award winner Taylor Snead (right) and Kira Webster (represented here by Rachel Ainsworth, second from left).

For Rosita Winners 2015: ILC department representative Maggie Dankert (left) and Spanish professor Silvia Navia (third from left) with this year’s Rosita Award winner Taylor Snead (right) and Kira Webster (represented here by Rachel Ainsworth, second from left).

On Friday, April 3, 2015 the International Languages and Cultures Department hosted its 16th annual Rosita Awards. Beginning in 2000 with the hard work of Consuelo Gallagher, this annual event takes its name from Consuelo’s late mother, Rosita. The Rosita Awards was created to recognize the achievements of language students. To be a candidate, one must have taken a minimum of four language courses; if all requirements are fulfilled, the student’s name is entered into a drawing. Then two students’ names will be pulled from the drawing, receiving a Rosita Award and a monetary prize of $250.

ILC TAs lead a trivia game for this year’s Rosita Awards attendees.

ILC TAs lead a trivia game for this year’s Rosita Awards attendees.

This year the winners of the Rosita Awards were two graduating seniors, Taylor Snead and Kira Webster. Taylor, a German major, attended the awards for the first time. Taylor says that she feels both excited and lucky to have won, as it was completely by chance. She plans on putting the award money directly into her savings, since she is graduating soon: every penny counts! Kira is a psychology major who has studied both Japanese and French. She has attended the Rosita Awards twice before, but unfortunately this year she was unable to be in attendance. Therefore, her friend Rachel Ainsworth represented her at the awards. Kira, who, recently went on the Nice, France trip, will be using the award money to pay off related expenses.

Former ILC department representative Mary O’Donnell draws the names for the 2015 Rosita Award winners.

Former ILC department representative Mary O’Donnell draws the names for the 2015 Rosita Award winners.

One of the most fun things about the awards, according to Taylor, were the activities. The games were very much audience participation based. The whole room was active, wracking their brains for the knowledge that would give them the upper hand in winning the prize. Each of the TAs represented their home countries, while a student worker filled in for the position of the Japanese TA, who was unable to attend. The point of the activity, which was a trivia game, was to try and collect as many Popsicle sticks as possible. To answer, you had to stand in front of the correct TA whose country of origin represented the answer to the question, and for each correct answer you would receive a Popsicle stick. The winners of this game were a French student, Valerie Martin, and a Spanish student, Vasif Durarbayli.

The event was an outright success and the International Languages and Cultures Department looks forward to their 17th annual Rosita Awards next spring! We hope for even more applicants and participation in the future.

Uxa Wins 2015 International Relations Thesis Award

Congratulations are in order for graduate international relations students Molly Uxa, whose paper titled “Post-Conflict Justice: Discovering Truth and Fostering Reconciliation in South Africa, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone” has earned her the 2015 Award for Best Graduate Thesis in International Relations. Uxa earned her Global Master of Arts in International Relations from Webster in 2014.

The International Relations program gives the annual thesis award to the student who produces the best graduate thesis in the field. Theses are nominated by international relations department heads from across Webster’s global network of campuses, and a committee of three faculty members reviews the nominations. Submissions are evaluated according to the originality of the thesis, the quality of the writing, the extent and strength of the thesis’s engagement with theoretical literature, the work’s methodological rigor, and the thesis’s contribution to the discipline.

The award has been on hiatus since 2013, so this year’s award honors Uxa’s work as the best of submissions from 2012 – 2014. Uxa’s classmate Elizabeth Reynolds received honorable mention for her thesis titled “Oil and Political Stability in Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa.”

“Both [Uxa’s and Reynolds’s] theses were of exceptional quality and made an original contribution to the scholarship,” said Robert P. Barnidge Jr., chair of this year’s thesis committee. “They reflected themes of critical global importance, befitting a global university such as Webster.”

Congrats, Molly and Elizabeth!

Psychology Student Ryan Metzger Wins Award for Senior Thesis Research Project


Ryan Metzger, a psychology senior at Webster University, had his senior thesis research project selected for the CUR psychology division award in March from the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). CUR aims to support faculty and undergraduate students engaged in research. CUR and its affiliated colleges, universities, and individuals share a focus on providing undergraduate research opportunities for faculty and students at all institutions serving undergraduate students. Ryan will be presenting his work as a poster at the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) conference in May.

Metzger’s senior thesis is titled “Does student employment affect mental health? A comparison between working and non-working college students using Jahoda’s latent deprivation theory” and focuses on the effects that working can have on college students. Through secondary research, Metzger was able to find that unemployment can have devastating effects on the well-being of individuals and these unemployed individuals were more depressed/anxious than those who were employed. However, these results were not replicated in all of the populations without a job. Working students reported having higher levels of anxiety and stress than their peers who did not work a job throughout college.

Metzger predicted that the reason non-working students do not experience the same diminished mental health problems as other unemployed individuals is the latent deprivation theory. This theory suggests that mental health problems associated with unemployment result from the loss of the hidden or latent benefits of employment. Some of these benefits include time structure, social contact, collective purpose, status and enforced activity rather than the loss of income.

Researchers have suggested that students have access to these latent benefits while going to school where as other unemployed individuals do not. Metzger tested this hypothesis through his senior thesis, comparing the well-being and access to the latent benefits of working and non-working students.

Metzger invited current students to complete an online survey. Within his survey, questions were included about the participants’ employment status, as well as scales measuring participants’ life satisfaction, mental health, and access to latent benefits and to see if greater access to latent benefits would predict well-being across both groups.

Metzger found that working and non-working students did not significantly differ in their life satisfaction, depression, stress or anxiety. Working students did show higher levels of collective purpose, social contact, and status, with multiple regression analyses revealing that greater levels of collective purpose predicted lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress within the two groups. The result of the study was not expected. It implied that working and non-working students’ different access to several latent benefits did not have a direct influence on their well-being.

Metzger was ecstatic when he found out that he had won.

“I was honored and surprised in equal measures,” Metzger said. “I had applied for the award to help reimburse some of the costs of presenting research in another city, but I didn’t know what chance I stood at actually receiving the award. Sure, I put a lot of thought and effort into my thesis, but so did everybody who applied for this. Student research isn’t exactly a cakewalk. But at the same time, I’m extremely grateful that my thesis was recognized by the CUR, and equally grateful for the individuals around me that put me in a position to be able to receive this award in the first place.”

Dr. Goedereis

Dr. Goedereis

Metzger’s mentor, Webster associate professor of psychology Dr. Eric Goedereis, is happy about his student’s accomplishment. “Ryan’s accomplishment in winning a competitive Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Award for Psychology is truly impressive and reflects the high-level of thoughtfulness, creativity, and commitment he demonstrated throughout the Senior Thesis experience,” Goedereis said. “The honor is well-deserved.”

The particular award that Ryan will receive is presented to students attending seven different regional psychology conferences across the country. Ryan’s thesis was the winning submission for the MPA conference. To get the award, he had to fill out an online application that includes an abstract of his research, a longer summary or abstract that covers the research in more depth, a summary of his role in project, and proof of both his acceptance into one of the seven conferences and the name of his mentor, who has to be a member of the CUR for the student researcher to be eligible. The selection process is based on the overall quality of the work submitted and Ryan’s was chosen as the winning piece of work.

Article by Gracie Gralike.