News - 1/12/10

Peace symposium, history professor win MLK awards

Valpo's annual Peace and Social Justice Symposium and Dr. Alan Bloom, associate professor of history, will be honored as recipients of the University's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award. The award is presented annually to recognize a person or group that has made significant and lasting contributions to the improvement of the racial climate on campus and in the surrounding community.

The winners will be honored during the University's 2010 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration with an awards presentation taking place at the Jan. 18 MLK Convocation, which starts at 10 a.m. in the Chapel of the Resurrection.

The award honoring the Peace and Social Justice Symposium will be accepted by event co-founders Dr. Delphina Hopkins-Gillispie, assistant professor of education, and Jane Bello-Brunson, director of multicultural programs. The annual symposium promotes civic engagement, social responsibility and social action and encourages participants to incorporate this commitment into their respective faiths and vocations.

"The event started as an action plan from the Study Circles on Race Relations class," said Dr. Hopkins-Gillispie. "After Sept. 11, 2001, the students were asking 'What can we do to bring about a more peaceful and just world?'"

In response, a group of multicultural students, led by Dr. Hopkins-Gillispie and Bello-Brunson, brainstormed and developed a symposium that would provide an avenue for the discussion of issues affecting peace, equality and social justice in their communities, on a national level and globally.

"The intent is to inspire students to become involved as responsible citizens," said Dr. Hopkins-Gillispie.

The symposium began in 2002 thanks to a one-time Peace, Justice and Integrity Grant. The event has continued over the years with sponsorships from numerous University departments, student groups and Valpo's Cultural Arts Committee. Last year, the symposium offered participants three days of guest speakers, panel discussions, workshop sessions, training seminars and interactive programs.

"It has grown to be a campus-wide labor of love," Bello-Brunson said.

Topics for the symposium over the years have included poverty, race relations, violence, global conflict, inequality and social injustices and inequities.

Dr. Bloom's commitment to diversity and making Valpo a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds included his participation on the University's Diversity Concerns Committee, co-founding and co-directing the Pact Mentoring Program for African-American Males and facilitating Study Circles on Race Relations classes.

Dr. Bloom's efforts extend into the wider community as well. He serves on the city of Valparaiso's Council on Human Relations. He also has been involved with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Valparaiso, Civic Reflections at City Hall and the Coalition for Affordable Housing in Porter County.

"This award is very personal to me," said Dr. Bloom, whose family is multinational with two of his three sons adopted from Asian countries.

"I hope to help create the kind of world and the kind of Valpo I want them to grow up in," he said.

Dr. Bloom said a transformative moment in his life occurred as an undergraduate in an African American history class when he was surprised and confounded by the fact that it took 95 years to implement the 15th Amendment, which granted American citizens, regardless of race and color, the right to vote.

"We are supposed to be a country based on law and order, said Dr. Bloom. "This was a blatant violation."

Dr. Bloom teaches a class on African-American history and is planning to offer a course on African-Americans in film. In his other courses he is committed to incorporating a variety of racial perspectives so his students can learn about people and cultures that have traditionally been written out of history.

The University's annual celebration of Dr. King's legacy includes numerous activities that are open to the public Jan. 15 to 28. For more information about activities, visit the MLK Web site.

Strategic Planning Committee members to draft plan

Dear Colleagues,

The start of the spring semester always is an exciting period of the academic year, with faculty, students and staff invigorated by new opportunities for learning, service and leadership. This January is a particularly important time in Valparaiso University’s history, as we continue charting the course to our most desired future. Since November, this process has advanced with Valpo’s Strategic Planning Committee reviewing hundreds of ideas generated by three task forces composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. These task forces worked throughout the fall to generate goals and objectives that will help Valpo achieve three strategic priorities: (1) to offer a compelling education, (2) to ensure the future success of the campus and community, and (3) to enhance a community of belonging and engagement.

In its review of the task force reports, the Strategic Planning Committee has focused on narrowing numerous ideas down to a smaller number of goals and objectives that will be most critical for Valpo to address during the next five years. The SPC first divided itself into working groups to examine each of the three task force reports, and prior to Christmas each of these groups presented those goals and objectives identified as Valpo’s top priorities. After the working groups completed their presentations, a group of six SPC members began to reconcile these top goals and objectives into a single document.

Valpo’s strategic planning will continue its progress next week, when SPC members convene for an intensive retreat Jan. 13 to 15. During this retreat, the committee will finalize a first draft of the strategic plan. That draft will be presented to the Board of Directors for discussion during its January meeting. Release of the plan’s first draft to the campus community is anticipated to take place during the week of Feb. 8.

As we eagerly await this first draft of the strategic plan, I commend those members of the campus community who have participated in the process thus far. The number of faculty members, staff, students, alumni, and community members who have participated in the strategic planning process is impressive – approximately 130 individuals served on the strategic planning task forces, another 180 people participated in the University Summit in October, and 27 people serve on the Strategic Planning Committee. I have no doubt that their efforts will strengthen the future of Valparaiso University. I encourage faculty and staff to read the forthcoming draft carefully and to actively participate in the important discussions that will take place throughout this semester as we continue to evolve this plan and present it to the Board of Directors for its adoption.

In the midst of the ongoing strategic planning process, we continue to carry out our collective commitment to help Valpo students grow in mind, body and spirit. This first week of the semester sets the stage for the remainder of the spring, and there is much we look forward to in the months to come. I encourage you to do all that you can to make Spring 2010 a semester that our students will remember with affection. May God be with you in your work.


Mark A. Heckler

Professor's poetry book called 'scenic and intimate'

A new book of poems by Dr. Edward Byrne is being lauded by critics for its lyricism and deep exploration of life and nature.

“Seeded Light,” Dr. Byrne’s sixth collection of poems, is the most extensive book of the English professor’s career.

“‘Seeded Light’ contains a fairly comprehensive scope of poetry,” Dr. Byrne says, “that expresses, through imagery written in accessible language, a variety of views on subjects as diverse as nature, art, literature, music, memory, imagination, friendship, family, love, loss, life, maturity and mortality.”

Dr. Byrne says lyrics in his newest collection connect the past to the present, raising readers’ awareness of their own worlds.

Noted poets have offered praise for the book.

Award-winning poet David Baker writes “Edward Byrne shows the lyric couplet to be a form with its own remarkable flexibility and narrative capacity. ‘Seeded Light’ is memorial and social, scenic and intimate, by turns, providing a humane pathway of one gentle man’s passage through the world in all its weather and worry.”

“Seeded Light,” poet Alfred Corn writes, “offers abundant evidence of a mind’s alertness to the world of nature and to modern urban reality….The fineness of Byrne’s perceptions and the musicality of his lines make following his journeys an instructive pleasure.”

“Seeded Light” is available now at online booksellers. Editions signed and numbered by the poet can be obtained at a 10 percent discount with free shipping by sending a check (payable to Edward Byrne) for $16.20 to: Edward Byrne, Department of English, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN 46383.

Dr. Byrne’s previous poetry books have received numerous honors and awards. His first full-length collection of poetry, “Along the Dark Shore,” was a finalist for the Elliston Book Award, offered by the University of Cincinnati to the best volume of poetry published in the United States by a small press; “The Return to Black and White” was selected by Library Journal as one of its Best of the Small Press Publications; “Words Spoken, Words Unspoken,” was awarded the Cape Rock Prize for Poetry in 1995; and “East of Omaha” was nominated for a Midland Authors Award in 1999.

Dr. Byrne has had poems and essays appear widely in literary journals, serves as the editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review ( and writes articles regularly for the VPR editor’s blog, “One Poet’s Notes,” and his personal blog, “An Author’s Assemblage.”

More information about Valpo’s Department of English can be found online.