“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.

Cultural Connections: A (Literal) Marriage of Cultures

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 provides an inside look at TA Aori Rodriguez’s wedding, which combined elements of Japanese, Mexican, and American wedding traditions for a truly international celebration!

aori-wedding1Recently, our Japanese teaching assistant, Aori Inoue, became Aori Rodriguez. Aori married her long-time boyfriend officially on October 26th, 2014 in small wedding ceremony that was an amazing collage of cultures. While Aori is from Japan, Arturo, her new husband, is originally from Mexico, and the United States has become their home. This wedding was an intersection of all three cultures.

Many of Aori’s and Arturo’s wedding activities represented the merging of Japanese, Mexican, and American wedding culture. During the wedding ceremony, the couple each presented their country’s flag, in addition to playing games from their respective countries. Such activities included a common Japanese quiz game about the bride and groom, a Mexican line dance, and many Mexican wedding games. They also created new versions of old traditions.  Single ladies were able to catch bouquet, while men tried to catch an afro wig! Aori said that she really wanted all guests to have an enjoyable time.


Kokeshi (bottom) and rabbit dolls made by Aori and her grandmother (top)

One Japanese tradition that was displayed at their wedding was the presentation of bride and groom dolls. Several Asian cultures also observe this tradition of having the couple represented by dolls. Aori’s wedding had both a kokeshi and a rabbit couple doll. Kokeshi are Japanese wooden peg dolls which are carved and painted in simple patterns; they are also often given to married couples. One of Aori’s friends from Japan sent her a wedding gift of a hand-carved kokeshi. More special to Aori was a rabbit couple doll that she and her grandmother crafted together. The bride rabbit wore a kimono, while the groom had traditional Mexican wedding clothes. The dolls were rabbits to represent the pet bunny that Aori and Arturo have together.

Although Aori and Arturo included many traditions into their wedding from their respective cultures, some were left out. They decided not to practice the Japanese tradition in which the guests are required to bring money to attend the wedding. It usually costs between $300-$1000 depending on your relationship to the bride and groom. The American and Mexican tradition of a wedding registry was also an idea that they opposed, as they were happy to just have their friends and family. Although they did not register, many guests brought them gifts anyway. In addition they disliked the tradition of having a maid of honor and best man,  as they felt it mean to rank their friends. Japan does not have this kind of tradition, instead they group guests at tables based on how well they know the bride and groom, such as guests from university, work colleagues, etc. In Mexican and American weddings, the garter game is played in which the bride sits in a chair and the groom is blind folded. He then proceeds to try to remove the garter with his mouth, which is not something the couple was comfortable with.


Aori in one of her wedding kimonos

As Aori and Arturo have family and friends across the globe, they will be taking their wedding to multiple locations. This will give Aori the opportunity to practice another Japanese tradition: multiple wedding dresses. In Japan brides wear at least two different kimonos and two to four different colored dresses in addition to the main white wedding dress. For each of her weddings, Aori has had a different dress and she plans to continue this trend with her future weddings. So, although Arturo was reluctant to buy so many dresses, this is a tradition which Aori is really excited for.

By traveling to be with their friends and family, Aori and Arturo will be able to have their Japanese ceremony at the Shinto shrine in Kobe where Aori was baptized as a baby. There are many rituals in a Japanese wedding. For example, the couple takes nine sips of sake (three sips from three cups) in order to become husband and wife. The reason why it should be three is that it cannot be divided in two, just as the couple cannot. The major Japanese wedding superstition is the concept of a lucky or unlucky day for events. The date on Aori’s marriage license is October 26th, which is considered the luckiest and most ideal day of marriage. Different levels of luck are assigned to days as indicated on the Japanese Rokuyou calendars and it varies each year. There are also many words and gifts that are unacceptable for a Japanese wedding as they symbolize the separation of a couple. Bad luck items include things to cut with and breakable items, such as kitchen knives and mirrors respectively. These items and words remind people of cutting the connection between two people or breaking the relationship. Therefore, in a Japanese wedding they do not say “cutting the wedding cake,” but rather, “placing the samurai sword into the cake.”


Placing the samurai sword into the cake

Aori and Arturo’s wedding was a wonderful celebration of not only their time together, but also the union of many different cultures. The International Languages and Cultures would like to wish Aori and Arturo a long and happy marriage. We hope that they continue to take the best from the culture that they are in and combine them in a way that is best for them.

Global MA Spotlight: Josh Lange

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Each term, the College of Arts & Sciences highlights one of its Global MA students from the International Relations or International Nongovernmental Organizations programs.

Josh Lange is originally from Collinsville, Illinois. He has been interested in international relations since his sophomore year of college and his interest has only grown since then. Though he is interested in many of the different aspects associated with the IR field of study, his top 3 include international law, human rights, and environmental policy. We checked in with Josh in London, where he’s wrapping up his second spring term as a Global.


What is your current city, and what’s your next stop?

I’m currently in London and my next stop is Leiden, The Netherlands.

Global MA Interview Photo 2

What has been your best experience so far in the GMAIR program?

Out of a plethora of great experiences I’ve had during this program, I would have to say my best experience so far has been being able to go skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland one weekend during my term in Geneva.  Apart from looking like the location that most Christmas cards are based on, Zermatt is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been.  Also, being able to ski (poorly) in the Swiss Alps was something I never though I’d get to do.

Which city has been your favorite so far in the program and why?

This is a tough question seeing as I’ve immensely enjoyed every city.  But if I had to pick one it would be Geneva, Switzerland.  Though Geneva may not be as large as some of the other cities I’ve studied in, it is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  Being able to view the mountains any time I want is not something I’m used to back home.  Furthermore, the campus is located in a beautiful spot with a great view of the mountains.  I also liked the fact that Geneva isn’t too large of a city.  Getting around was very simple and the public transportation system was exceptional.  Geneva being one of the most international cities in the world was also something that appealed to me.  With many international organizations located either in or around Geneva, the city is full of people from all around the world.  Lastly, I was treated very well in Geneva.  The people were friendly and very helpful whenever I had a question about anything.

What has been your biggest challenge as you adapt to different cultures during your travels?

Though many challenges exist, I would have to say my biggest would have to be moving from place to place every 2 months.  It seems that once I get comfortable in one place, it is time to move on to the next one.  Though I expected this aspect of the program to be a challenge before the program even started, having to move to completely different places with new cultures and different societal norms has been challenging.

Global MA Interview Photo 1

What is the best part about the GMAIR program, academically speaking?

Academically speaking, the best part of the GMAIR program has been being able to learn from many different professors all with unique backgrounds.  I have yet to have a professor I haven’t liked or learned a great deal from.  Each professor has his or her own distinct views and methods of teaching, which provides for more enjoyable class sessions.  Also, the emphasis on writing throughout this program has helped me hone my writing skills significantly.

What are your plans for the future after you complete the GMAIR program?

After completing this program, I plan on returning to the U.S. with hopes of acquiring a job with an NGO of some kind.  Throughout the program, I’ve written a few papers within the environmental policy realm so getting a job with an NGO in the environmental sector would be ideal, though I do have interests outside of this area.  Additionally, I believe working for the United Nations would be very satisfying.  While there is no doubt obtaining a job at the UN would be difficult due to the competitive nature of the organization, working with many dedicated professionals who are passionate about the work they do would be a great opportunity.

Global MA Photo 3

The Global MA program is still accepting applications to join our 2015-16 cohorts. For more information, visit webster.edu/global, or contact Sarah Nandor at nandor@webster.edu.

Interview by Gracie Gralike.

A&S Bids Fond Farewell to Graduate Assistant Gracie Gralike

graciegralikeApril 13 – 17 is National Student Employment Week, and the College of Arts & Sciences is lucky to have a number of fantastic student employees whose hard work supports the College’s mission in myriad ways. In the dean’s office, we’re particularly grateful for Gracie Gralike, our marketing and communications graduate assistant since January 2014. Gracie has helped immensely in the College’s communications efforts over the past year and a half, creating posters for events, writing stories for Global Thinking, taking photos of Webster events, compiling the scholarly achievement booklet, and more — all while earning her graduate degree. She’ll get that hard-earned diploma next month, and while we’re sad to see her go, we know she’s headed toward a bright future. In her honor, we’re turning the tables on our blog and focusing behind the scenes on Gracie herself with a quick Q&A as she wraps up her time at Webster.

What graduate degree are you pursing at Webster, and why? 

I am pursuing a degree in Communications Management. I decided to pursue this degree to take my career a step further. I received my BA in Advertising and Marketing Communications at Webster and loved the experience. I always knew that I wanted to get a Masters and the program seemed to fit my needs well. I’m also hoping to be a professor eventually and I would like to pursue a Doctorate.

What’s the best thing you have gotten out of your graduate education here? 

I would say that I have learned how to do more things that I will be able to apply to my career. I have written communication plans, business plans and have done projects that will help me in the future with my job.

What role has your assistantship played in your education? 

My graduate assistantship has played a huge role in my education! When I got this job, I was so thrilled that I cried. I was able to pursue my Masters full-time and have it paid for. The job has allowed for me to focus on school and have the funding to be able to do so. I also love having a job through my graduate program because I can apply what I do at work to the classroom. A lot of the classroom discussions involve talking about work experience, so it helps that I am working in my field right now.

Do you have a favorite memory from your graduate experience at Webster? What is it? 

There are so many great experiences, it would be hard to choose one! I think I have loved going to the events on campus most. In my job, I get to take photographs of these events. I loved attending them and getting to know my fellow students/faculty.

What are you most excited about post-graduation? 

I think I am most excited about working my first full-time job. I haven’t worked full-time yet, so I am so excited to get my career started. I hope to work at a nonprofit or a university setting. This will be the first time in my life that I won’t be in school, so it will be an interesting change for me.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

I see myself working in marketing management hopefully or becoming a full-time professor.


Thank you, Gracie, for all your contributions to the College! We wish you the best!