Nestled among overgrown evergreens and deciduous trees on the south side of campus sits Mueller Hall — home to Christ College, one of the nation’s oldest honors colleges. Since its doors opened in 1970, the brick walls have housed conversations of discourse and discovery.
Much like Mueller Hall, every building has a story — a rich history of time and place and the people who studied, worked and lived inside. Sparked by conversations inside Mueller, Emily Royer ’12 and Jacob Just ’12 listened for these stories during their time as Christ College students and continued this work through their collaboration on a story-telling project.
The Valpo grads currently research and document Central Stories for the Porter County Museum of History, which highlights the rich connections between historic architecture, memory, and community in one downtown Valparaiso, Ind., neighborhood.
Michael Seger initially marveled as the storm developed in what the 2005 Valparaiso University graduate referred to as “textbook” fashion. Later, he watched in awe as a majestic tornado spun from the dark, low-hanging clouds and dropped from the sky, beginning a slow and eerie dance across the horizon.
But as the twister grew, churning away at the earth below it, Seger felt a pit form in his stomach. The heavily populated Oklahoma City suburb of Moore stood in the path of the monster storm. The realization had begun to set in for Seger — this was going to be devastating.
And it was.
Seger reported live for FOX23 News in Tulsa, Okla., on the afternoon of Monday, May 20. He and a storm-chasing team from the station followed the massive tornado as it marched across the countryside and into Moore, where it left historic destruction in its path, leaving 24 dead and injuring nearly 250 people.
“It’s the most violent tornado I’ve ever witnessed,” Seger said. “It was a sickening feeling.”
The tornado registered as an EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, the highest rating possible for a storm, with winds peaking in excess of 200 mph.
Seger began his day by reporting the weather on the FOX23 morning show, where he predicted an active day with the potential for dangerous storms and possible tornado formation. Later, as he sometimes does after the morning shift, he and a crew took to the Oklahoma roads and chased storms.
Seger and his team came upon the Moore tornado after abandoning a chase of another storm that was weakening. This new storm, though, was strengthening.
“It just turned into a monster,” Seger said. “I couldn’t believe how quickly it went from a cone to a 1.3-mile wedge.”
Michael Grogan, a 2008 Valpo graduate, was north of Oklahoma City that afternoon, chasing storms for KOTV News On 6 out of Tulsa. As the tornado hit Moore, Grogan was chasing storms that also produced tornadoes. In all, there were 12 reported tornadoes in Oklahoma that day.
“It’s such a tragedy,” Grogan said. “We knew there was a threat that day, particularly for strong tornadoes. Unfortunately, we never hope or expect them to encounter a major population center like Moore and a city that has such an astonishing history with tornadoes.”
In 1999, a major tornado on a similar path killed 36 and injured nearly 600 and caused $1 billion of damage.
“As we were tracking our own tornado, I saw that tornado on the ground and I knew it would be taking people’s lives and property and sparing nothing in its path,” Grogan said. “It’s a horrifying feeling you get as a storm chaser to see something so fascinating and powerful that has such a dramatic impact.”
Both Seger and Grogan studied in Valparaiso University’s renowned meteorology program. And both took part in the meteorology program’s Convective Field Study, which takes members of the Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team on a storm-chasing tour each spring and summer of Tornado Alley in the Great Plains. Valpo’s Storm Intercept Team left campus Monday and is currently conducting studies in the Plains.
“Storm chasing at Valpo produced some of my most memorable times,” said Grogan, who took part in two storm-chasing trips as a student. “Valpo is very dear to me.”
Seger enrolled at Valpo after earning a degree in computer art from the Savannah College of Art in Georgia. He grew up with a love of meteorology, but at Valpo that love flourished into a vocation.
“I felt like by learning from Bart [Wolf, associate professor of meteorology,] and Teresa [Bals-Elsholz, chair of the Department of Geography and Meteorology], you could feel their passion for weather,” Seger said. “It made your passion grow even more.
“I loved every minute of my time at Valpo. I tell people my choice to attend Valpo was the best decision ever made in my life.”
Allison Meyer found a muddy shoe. Another student found a garden trowel. Valparaiso University’s biology club members made several unlikely discoveries to expand on classroom knowledge while restoring the region’s rivers this spring.
The club was working at the Elkhart Conservation Club property on Cobus Creek, five miles west of Elkhart, Ind., when Meyer found the discarded footwear on her first restoration trip. While there, Valpo students gained invaluable hands-on experience to further develop lessons learned in the classroom.
Biology club members partake in a variety of tasks on their restoration trips. Over the years, students have helped the Elkhart Conservation Club to deliver fish and maintain the hatchery. They also monitor the river for flow, chemistry, macro invertebrates, bank stability, and habitat. Other river restoration activities include removing log jams; stabilizing the river bank with stone, logs, mesh, or plantings; narrowing the channel; redirecting flows; and building trout and macro invertebrate habitats.
When Caleb Kortokrax ’11 transferred to Valparaiso University during his junior year, he had anticipated majoring in art history. But a conversation with Bob Sirko, chair of the Department of Art, changed Kortokrax’s thinking.
“I was telling him that I would also like to take painting and drawing classes,” Kortokrax recalled. “He was like, ‘Why would you want to study the history of art when you can make art? If you can make art, you should study art.’ ”
It was an option Kortokrax had not seriously considered. But it was a path he ultimately chose, later adding education as a second major.
While Kortokrax came to Valpo for a particular area of study, one from which he ultimately deviated, he instead began a journey. It was a journey of self-discovery that has continued at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting, where Kortokrax is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts.
Micah Shields ’11 came to Valparaiso University with a desire to help others, inspiring his decision to study psychology as an undergraduate student. Valpo further cultivated that spirit in Shields, and he’s taken it out into the world.
In March, Shields, of St. Louis, spent a week building a new home for a family in Haiti. He traveled with a student group from Palo Alto University, where he is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology. The team’s trip to Haiti was made possible by The Fuller Center for Housing’s Global Builders program.
Nearly 30 Valparaiso University students, faculty, and staff seized the opportunity to travel to Selma, Ala., during spring break to learn more about the civil rights movement of the 1960s. To highlight the trip, the group was fortunate enough to participate in the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee with thousands of marchers from across the country.
In 2012, Valparaiso University President Mark Heckler and Provost Mark Schwehn visited Concordia College of Alabama in Selma to discuss developing a relationship between Concordia and Valpo. As a result of this trip, Alan Bloom, associate professor of history, coordinated a spring break trip this year to Concordia, as well as other locations in Alabama and Tennessee, to give Valpo students an opportunity to visit the locations of important moments in United States civil rights history.
“I am delighted that both students and faculty from Valparaiso University had a chance to be part of the commemoration of a vitally important moment in the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., to strengthen ties between Valpo and Concordia, Selma, and to learn through experience and inter-personal engagement about the past and the ongoing struggles to end racism in this country,” Schwehn said.
Many Valparaiso University students could easily spend their entire two-week spring break on a sunny Florida beach, skiing in the Rockies, or relaxing at home and simply recharging for the remainder of the academic year. But each year, groups of hard-working individuals choose to give back by traveling with their peers to assist communities in need.
The Chapel of the Resurrection, including the Social Action Leadership Team (SALT), is teaming with the Union on five spring break service trips. Traveling on those trips are 64 volunteers — including nine chaperones and 55 undergraduate, graduate, and international students. The locations they will be traveling include: Harvey, Ill.; Detroit; Pine Ridge, S.D.; New Orleans; and Hicksville, N.Y. For many of these trips, Valpo will be continuing work in the same communities they worked in during past spring breaks. Follow these students along the way on Twitter at #ValpoSB.
Rachel Rockey has a clear vision of what she wants to do with her life: to teach mathematics to high school students and to be a motivational leader for them.
“I want to become the teacher that is a light to her students and inspires them to learn — not only teaching mathematics, but inspiring them to live and love life,” Rockey said. “I believe that I am being called to do this through teaching math.”
Rockey, from Wildwood, Fla., is a freshman secondary mathematics education major at Valpo. However, she was originally considering attending another university closer to her hometown. Fortunately, Robert Clark, assistant professor of chemistry, called to tell her about the MSEED (Mathematics and Science Education Enrollment and Development) program at Valpo and its focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). After a lengthy one-hour conversation, Rockey’s perspective had changed.
“I was hooked on MSEED — what it stands for, what it could do for me, how it will help bridge the gap between STEM and education — most of all how it would allow me to help high school students in math and science,” Rockey said.
Bonded by their passion for service, Chris Weber ’04, Ellie (Goetsch ’05) Eichman, and Lisa (Holmes ’04) Zittergruen are currently working for Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, providing care to underserved locations in Milwaukee. Originally named the Health Contact Center, the name of the clinic was eventually changed to the Sixteenth Street Clinic in 1971, given its location on the corner of South 16th Street and Greenfield Avenue.
These future health care practitioners’ paths first crossed during their membership in Valpo’s pre-med club and continued to intersect throughout their professional experiences, crossing most recently at the Sixteenth Street Clinic.
The Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers serve predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, requiring bilingual staff members. For Chris, Ellie, and Lisa, the clinic not only sparked their philanthropic interests, but also let them utilize their backgrounds in Spanish. Lisa took multiple Spanish classes during her time at Valpo while Chris and Ellie minored in the language.
The Peace and Social Justice Symposium will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16, and Thursday, Feb. 28. The purpose of the Peace & Social Justice Symposium is to actively promote civic engagement and social responsibility toward strengthening peace, justice, equality, equity, and unity on campus and in our local and global communities. The Symposium provides an avenue for discussion of global and domestic issues affecting world peace, human rights, race relations, justice, and other social concerns.