HNU Event Highlights National Steinbeck Center Project


Executive Director of the National Steinbeck Center Colleen Bailey

When the staff at the National Steinbeck Center gathered to decide what to do for their annual festival, which would mark the 75th year since the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, they were struck by the parallels they saw between modern events and the setting of John Steinbeck’s legendary tale.

There was a drought in California, terrible storms across the country, and national discourse about immigration and health care, Executive Director of the National Steinbeck Center Colleen Bailey said during an HNU panel on March 5.

“What we decided to do is to embark on a journey … into the United States to ask people what was happening for them and to connect that up with John Steinbeck’s work—to look at what has changed in these 75 years and, most importantly, what are our struggles and what are our sources of resilience during these difficult times,” Bailey said.

The HNU event detailed the October 2013 journey made by center staff, a film crew, and three artists, following the path of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, from Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to Bakersfield, California. The 10-day trip collected more than 70 oral histories from people around the country and included 17 workshops and programs.

“I think there’s an eloquent way, there’s a powerful way, there’s an effective way to make your voice heard and to inspire,” said Patricia Wakida, the block-print artist on the trip. “I think that’s what this book does incredibly well, and I hope that by actually going around and collecting people’s stories and encouraging them to tell from themselves that they go through that similar process.”

The artists commissioned for this project—a block-print artist, a filmmaker, and a playwright and director—were asked to take what they learned from the trip and create new works of art. The full works commissioned by the artists will be unveiled at the 2014 Steinbeck Festival in May. The festival will also include presentations by Susan Shillinglaw, a specialist in Steinbeck’s work, and Rick Wartzman, who will discuss the banning and burning of The Grapes of Wrath in Kern County in August 1939.

“The book, although it’s set in the 1930s, it’s really not about the 1930s. It’s still so true in 2014. And it’s not just an American book—it’s about people and about America in the 1930s—but people who are dispossessed … (are) all over the planet,” filmmaker P.J. Palmer said. “It’s happening now. So I found the book timeless in a way.”

The HNU event also featured music by Arwen Lawrence and Jorge Liceaga of Cascada de Flores.

Octavio Solis, a playwright and director commissioned by the National Steinbeck Center, talks about his experiences traveling from Oklahoma to California with other artists and center staff.

Octavio Solis, a playwright and director commissioned by the National Steinbeck Center, talks about his experiences traveling from Oklahoma to California with other artists and center staff.

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Series Prepares Students for Life After College

The Backpacks to Briefcase series, a collection of workshops and events focused on the transition to life after college, is taking place throughout the spring semester. Organized by Director of the Career Center Sam Rodriguez and HNU Experience Coordinator Andrea Melrose Guimaraes, series topics range from writing a strong resume, to managing finances, to finding a place to live.

Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life Justin Vacca and Melrose Guimaraes led the My First Place workshop on April 1, which they designed to address issues students have in renting their first apartments. They covered rental searches, lease agreements, renters’ rights, and money matters, such as household budgets and deposits.

“Our students are unclear about what their rights are in terms of … need(ing) 24-hour notice before a landlord enters their apartments, what their rights are in terms of contracts, … what are reasonable first and last month’s rent,” Melrose Guimaraes said. “I think a lot of our students don’t have that knowledge because it is a new process for them—so (the workshop is important for) making sure that they’re … looking at their contract, and they’re asking good questions, and they’re doing comprehensive walkthroughs.”

Several workshops have focused on career development, teaching students strategies for developing effective resumes and cover letters, using social media for employment opportunities, and conducting successful job searches. The February 19 workshop featured Judson Walsh, the director of business development for the San Francisco Business Times, who discussed utilizing local market information to identify prospective employers, job leads, and networking opportunities.

Three forthcoming events continue the series’ emphasis on professional development. The Destination Law School Diversity Panel will take place on April 9 and feature a number of practicing lawyers who will speak on overcoming adversity and their educational experiences. On April 15, students will have the opportunity to talk with numerous employers at the Career Fair. That evening, the Etiquette Dinner will provide guidance to students on the basic skills of business communication. The event, which will include a presentation by Manager of College Recruiting and Training for Northern California Greg Clefisch from Southern Wine & Spirits, is being organized with the assistance of Frances Renty Williams, director of alumnae/i relations at HNU.

“It’s important for graduating students to plan and prepare for their next steps after graduation,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve invited speakers to talk about the job search and how to plan it strategically.” The Career Fair and Etiquette Dinner are signature events that provide networking opportunities and help students with their transition from college to work, he added.

Additional workshops included two financial planning sessions led by Nikki Beasley, branch manager of Citibank in Oakland, who talked to students about saving money and getting out of debt.

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Catholic Sisters Week Celebrated at HNU

To celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week, Holy Names’ Sisters presented an excerpt of the film Band of Sisters, which chronicles the lives of Catholic nuns after the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). At each of the three film presentations that took place this month, in conjunction with Women’s History Month, two Holy Names’ Sisters described their own experiences after Vatican II.

The film focused on changes within the Catholic community after Vatican II took place in the early 1960s. In response to Pope John XXIII’s call to engage with the world and devote oneself to the needs of the poor, Sisters broadened their commitment to service, focusing on issues that had not been addressed by the Catholic Church previously. Sisters had long played a role in nursing and teaching, but in the 1960s many Sisters became involved in grass roots activism that focused on unions, housing rights, and a more expansive view of human rights.

“We’re the risk takers in the church. We are down there with the people. We know what the needs are,” said Sister Lillian Murphy in Band of Sisters. Sr. Lillian, a member of the Sisters of Mercy order, is the chief executive officer of Mercy Housing, which provides affordable housing for low income families, seniors, and people with special needs.

Sisters Maureen Hester and Carol Sellman talked about how Vatican II affected them at the March 21 presentation of the film.

Sr. Maureen Hester said that Vatican II was not planned when she entered the order in 1954, but it created a “great, rich environment” for her. She talked about the significant changes that took place on the Holy Names campus after Vatican II—becoming coeducational and increasingly diverse—and her own role as a faculty member and head of the psychology department. “It opened up a new way of thinking,” Sr. Maureen said.

Sister Carol Sellman, who entered the SNJM community in 1965, said at the time they were “just beginning . . . to understand what the changes in religious life might be.” She said that some Sisters found these changes—from wearing a full habit to a modified version, to dropping the habit’s headpiece all together, to returning to their given names rather than their religious names—to be difficult, while other Sisters welcomed the changes. Sr. Carol emphasized that the work of Vatican II took place during a period of great social activism that provided a fresh “opportunity for women who felt called to social service,” so that Sisters who had real skills for justice and peace work were able to use their gifts in new ways.

Sisters Donna Maynard and Sophia Park also discussed their experiences at a presentation of the film on March 17, and Sister Chris Patrinos presented with Sr. Carol on March 19.

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Cipriani Featured in Video for Guide Dogs for the Blind

HNU Writer-in-Residence Belo Cipriani is featured in Harnessing the Power of Partnership, a new video released by Guide Dogs for the Blind. See the video here:

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Alumnus Profile: Ryan DeCoud ’06, MBA ’08

Ryan DeCoud ’06, MBA ’08

Ryan DeCoud ’06, MBA ’08

Ryan DeCoud earned a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and a Master of Business Administration concentrating in management and leadership from Holy Names University. DeCoud now works as a contracts specialist in the Purchasing Department of the Alameda County General Services Agency. The department is responsible for procuring goods and services for all county agencies and departments—from preparing purchase orders and drafting contracts to conducting competitive bid solicitations.

How do you feel your HNU education has changed your life? Your point of view and perspectives?
The education I received at HNU has changed my life by instilling certain values and confidence within me. From the education and experience I gained while attending HNU, I feel as if I can be a solid contributor on any task given to me. My education has also taught me, and provided me with the tools, to step outside my comfort zone and take chances. I have gained knowledge that has allowed me to think strategically through different processes in both my professional and personal life.

Did HNU influence your decision to work in local government?
My choice to work in local government was definitely influenced by attending HNU—an institution that is very involved in community activities.

What made you decide to attend HNU?
HNU offers a learning environment that allows you to fully understand and develop the skills that are needed when you face the job market. I enjoyed the tightknit community of students whom I attended school functions with and was able to work with in study groups and on projects. All students and instructors at HNU really work together to achieve the common goal of learning.

What excites you most about HNU?
I am excited by how HNU strives to create a diverse student body.

Who is the person who influenced you the most at HNU?
The late James Durbin, former chairperson of the Business Department, had a way of explaining complicated material and making it understandable for his students. He truly cared about his students learning the material he presented.

What did you enjoy the most about your time at HNU?
I really enjoyed the relationships I built with fellow students. It was great how everyone came together to study for tests and complete complex projects. I also enjoyed the way the instructors pushed us to be the best we could be and make what seemed impossible, possible. The lessons learned during my time at HNU made it easier to transition from college to my professional career.

How do you see HNU changing in the future?
I see HNU being a place that continues to adapt and produce students that will be great contributors to society.

What advice would you give to a new student?
Take advantage of every opportunity while at HNU. Volunteer, try and get internships, do everything you can to get experience in the employment field you plan on pursuing. Experience is such a valuable asset when you leave college and enter the job market.

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