Written by Dr. Roxana Cazan
Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Roxana Cazan, has recently returned from a trip to Seattle, WA. Her travels to the West Coast have been arranged through the Society for Values in Higher Education (SVHE) who organized its annual Fellows' Meeting at the University of Washington and awarded Roxana a Mary Jo Small Fellowship to attend. Several SFU faculty are SVHE members and former fellowship recipients: Drs. Denise Damico, Stephen Baker, Olivia Pethtel, Eric Ecklund, Kyle Thomsen, Kent Tonkin, Art Remillard, Bill Strosneider, and Father Joseph Lehman.
Cazan planned and guided a four-day morning group—a group of participating SVHE fellows interested in a particular topic, who spends three hours a day for the duration of the conference discussing a proposed topic. Invited by Dr. Stephen Baker, Cazan was delighted to lead a morning group in the study of the bio-poem. The topic of her morning group—Writing Memory, Writing Life: The Crafting of Bio-Poetry—hints at the objectives Cazan set for the participants. During the four days of the meeting, the participants in Cazan's group discussed the ways in which bio-poetry or the poetry of identity can be deceptive, labyrinthine, involved, and testimonial. We all tend to wonder who we are at different moments of our lives, in order to understand where we are going or what we can produce. Instead of trying to pin down this elusive form, Cazan's group examined several manifestations of bio-poetry that enhanced their understanding of this sub-genre. The group read and discussed examples of bio-poems written by acclaimed national poets, Philip Metres, Ross Gay, Mihaela Moscaliuc, and Ocean Vuong; they visited Seattle in order to discover something about the intricate and difficult biography of the place and its diverse population; they wrote their own bio-poems; and they discussed and revised them in preparation for publication.
While the participants in the morning group were pleased with the time spent in the classroom, they truly valued one particular experience. With the help of SFU's own Ms. Marie Young (Director of Marketing and Communications) and Mr. Bob Crusciel (Vice President for Advancement), Cazan was able to set up a meeting with SFU alumnus, successful business leader, and generous benefactor, Mr. Bill Adamucci.
Adamucci, board director at FareStart, shared the organization's model for blending philanthropy and entrepreneurship with Cazan's group. FareStart began as necessity: to help homeless people in Seattle live better lives. FareStart offers culinary training to the homeless and prepares them for employment in the food industry, thus breaking the chain of poverty and suffering.
The SFU Magazine has published an article featuring Adamucci, where he discussed FareStart's core values.
“Everybody has a right to a safe place at night, to have food to eat, and the opportunity to change their lives for the better," he said.
After savoring a delicious meal cooked with sustainable and organic local produce at the FareStart Restaurant by the trained students, the group also toured the facility. Aided by Adamucci’s warm personality and hospitality, the group participants were truly beginning to see how stories like these energize the lives of many and inspire young entrepreneurs to use their creative skills for the common good, thus embracing a Franciscan attitude.
One particular moment during the group’s visit with Adamucci stood out to Roxana. While Adamucci admitted to his lack of experience with literature and poetry, he also confessed that after the opening of FareStart, he himself wrote a poem to express his gratitude for seeing his dream come true. Adamucci’s acknowledgement that poetry is sometimes the only way we can express incredible emotion truly inspired the entire group because it indicated that beyond race, ethnicity, education, class, levels of health, careers, or geography, all humans have the potential to coexist harmoniously in the realm of the artistic. Artistic expression gives embodiment to FareStart’s mission to help “people transform their lives, create value for our community, and offer a way for everyone to play a role doing something that matters” (FareStart.org). Adamucci’s gesture underscores that we can gain so much from thinking about the relationship between the humanities and practices of business design and management.
The morning group gathered a very lively community—while half of the participants were academics, half were physicians! The medical professionals shared with the group the importance of literature in establishing a humane medical practice and allowing medical professionals to explore their humanity in their relationships with patients and with illness. While the success of the morning group symbolizes the hope that all is well with our hearts, it also implicitly recognizes our university. Long-standing SVHE member and poet, Lynore Banchoff, wrote in an e-mail “thank you [Roxana] for … being such a thorough and well organized facilitator. All of that in addition to your generous and welcoming nature. I wish we had more time, but with what we had you did so well. The special restaurant and meeting with Bill [Adamucci] was a unique and fascinating experience. Thank you for it all.” SFU offers courses and experiences that allow students to engage with poetry writing and with communication that explores identity formation, history, community engagement, and the common good.
Along with Cazan, several other SFU faculty participated in the SVHE Fellows’ Meeting. Dr. Eric Ecklund (Management), an SVHE board member, facilitated a discussion of Ada Palmer's novel Too Like the Lightning during the Pop Culture Morning Group meeting. Dr. Olivia Pethtel (Psychology) was awarded a Mary Jo Small scholarship. Dr. Kyle Thomsen (Philosophy) presented a paper, "Addressing Alt-Right Students: Fixing the Red Pill Problem," via videoconference in a session titled "Issued in Education." Dr. Denise Holladay Damico (History) was conference program co-chair and facilitated a group discussion of the National Issues Forum's "Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?"