Class of 2022

On May 15, 2022, Donnelly staff, faculty, board members, students and families gathered at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, KS to celebrate 98 new Donnelly College graduates. Thirteen students received their bachelor’s degree, 41 earned their Associates of Arts and 44 received a nursing degree or certificate. Seventy-one graduates were first-generation college students and 22 were members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. In accordance with Donnelly tradition, commencement weekend kicked off with an Invocation and Commendation ceremony on Friday, May 13. One custom of Catholic institutions of higher learning is to begin and end each academic year with prayer – starting with Convocation Mass in the fall and concluding with Invocation and Commendation each spring. This year’s Invocation and Commendation ceremony included prayers, student reflections and the presentation of an alumni pin to each graduate. “It is important to start and end the school year in prayer and benediction because God is the source of all the work we do at Donnelly College,” said Campus Minister Aaron Williams, M.Div. “Everything we have is a gift from him: our capacity for knowledge, our desire to know, our ability to communicate and teach, our faith in Christ who unites all things in himself and makes the world a theatre of his beauty. We bookend our academic year by asking his blessing upon these many gifts he has given us.” The class of 2022 has officially made the transition from students to alumni. While commencement is mostly a time for celebration, it also feels bittersweet to many faculty who have watched these students grow and thrive throughout their time at Donnelly. “Every year I look forward to this moment,” said Director of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ana Maradiaga. “Their smiles, their tears, the messages on their caps and the pride showing in their families' faces is the best reward at the end of the academic year. As faculty members, we watch them depart knowing they are off to new adventures and that, soon, new faces will fill our classrooms with new memories to be made.” For additional photos of commencement activities, visit


Meet the longest-serving instructor at Donnelly College: Joe Multhauf

Joe Multhauf always knew he wanted to be a teacher. From a young age, he found a passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which eventually led him to pursue several degrees in related fields. Multhauf graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in the late 1970s
and earned a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in humanities from Cardinal Newman College in St. Louis. Multhauf ’s love of learning didn’t stop there; he then earned a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri – Kansas City while taking additional elective biology courses.

Multhauf joined the Donnelly faculty in 1992, making this his 29th year of teaching at Donnelly, with a total of 30 years teaching throughout his career. During his early years at Donnelly, he also taught as an adjunct instructor at Johnson County Community College. Multhauf recently took some time to reflect on what led him to Donnelly as well as why he has dedicated so many years to teaching here.

Where did your passion for STEM begin?

A passion for STEM learning runs in my family! My father was a surgeon, and I used
to tag along with him when he made house calls and went on rounds at various area hospitals. Many of his patients lived in the neighborhoods around Donnelly and watching him help those in need instilled in me the same desire to help others. I also remember mixing chemicals in the bathroom sink as a child because I wanted to see what would happen. Of course, my mom was none too happy about those experiments. As a youth, I was highly involved with the Boy Scouts and that developed my love for the outdoors. I’ve always enjoyed studying science as well as the wonder and awe of God’s creation.

How did you find Donnelly?

I started teaching as a graduate assistant at UMKC in the late 1980s. In the early 90s, I applied for an adjunct teaching job at JCCC and taught biology, anatomy and physiology, head and neck anatomy, microbiology, pathophysiology and nutrition for a total of 12 years. During that time, I met Gonca Yurteri, a chemistry teacher at JCCC who was also teaching at Donnelly College. She invited me to apply at Donnelly to teach an evening biology course. I was interviewed and hired by Donnelly biology professor Karen Judy in 1992.

You are the longest-serving instructor at Donnelly – what has kept you here?

I love the diversity at Donnelly College and the small class sizes. I love working with students and I believe in the mission of the College. My Catholic faith is the most essential aspect of my life, and I feel the responsibility to serve the community and live out Christ’s gospel message.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time here?

I have so many important memories, but one of the best was moving from the old academic building to the new building. It was a big job, but the faculty and staff all pulled together to make it happen. Everybody is excited to be in our new facility because it is an excellent environment for students to learn and grow. Other fond memories are working with students on various scientific projects during our summer STEM academies and planting and caring for our community garden. One funny story has to do with the old hospital building. From whatI understand, there was an autopsy ward on the lower level where they would take the bodies of deceased patients. Some of the former maintenance crew insisted they saw spirits, but I never saw any Donnelly ghosts. But I do remember looking over my shoulder many nights just to make sure there were no ghosts following me home.

What is a good piece of advice for students?

I would encourage students to work hard, study hard and follow their dreams. I would also encourage students to take care of their environment, to serve their community and to use the talents God has given them to the best of their ability.

Alumnus and Adjunct Faculty Member Serves in White House

Jonathon Westbrook ’07, ’13 can claim a lot of titles. Husband and father are certainly among the most important, but he is also a Donnelly College alumnus (for both bachelor’s and associate degrees), a member of Donnelly College’s Adjunct Faculty, a Kansas City Kansas Police Officer, and, most recently, a White House Fellow. 

In August 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic and tense political environment, Westbrook moved to Washington DC with his wife and five children to begin work as a White House Fellow. While witnessing history, including a transition in presidential leadership, Westbrook took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his most recent experience.

Q: The appointment to a White House Fellow is very competitive and highly respected. Why did you want this job, what gave you the courage to apply, and what was the hiring process like? 

 -While completing my MPA at the University of Kansas, Reggie Robinson who was a professor of mine told stories of his experience as a White House Fellow working for Janet Reno. On my last day of class, he said it was something I should consider exploring. He gave me the advice to navigate the daunting application process and I gave it a shot! I wanted this position because it grants the individual access to the highest levels of governance. To observe how the federal government works and its effect on the lives of not only Americans but lives across the world is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The program is designed for exposure and learning, and the opportunity to bring that back home to make a difference.
Q: What are your day-to-day duties? 
 -The fellowship program has been an amazing experience thus far. As a White House Fellow, you see the innermost workings of the federal government as well as educational opportunities. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on top-level meetings with executives across the federal government, advise on policies, meet and speak with elected officials, and work on projects that have a direct effect on people across the country.

Q: What has been the most interesting learning experience? 
 -The most interesting learning experience thus far has been the complexity of the federal government and how to address the needs of our nation. The founding fathers laid an amazing foundation and witnessing the valiant efforts of individuals working towards building on that foundation has been encouraging and inspirational.

Q: What is most humbling about the experience? 
 -The most humbling experience is that I was even selected among others across the nation to be working at the White House. The individuals who have walked these halls and sat in these offices have made significant contributions to our society. Knowing that God has given me this short time to learn and contribute has been humbling, and I’m thankful for this opportunity.
Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about working for the executive branch or for the White House specifically?
 -Having the opportunity to see the humanity and sincerity of those working in the government has been the biggest surprise for me. Many have dedicated their lives to working for the American people. Too often messages become convoluted and personal/special interests dominate social media and news. The individual people who have made it their mission to see that resources are available to states, municipalities, and individuals are amazing and are among the unsung heroes of America.
Q: What has the transition from the former administration to the current administration been like from your seat? 
 -Having the rare experience of witnessing the transition of power from one administration to the next has been an amazing experience. The federal government is a large entity with many moving parts, and to see the transitioning of people and priorities while addressing the needs of a nation has been incredible. Overall, it has been a smooth process with many qualified individuals taking the lead.
Q: What would you say to Donnelly students interested in public service at the local level or the national level? What’s the difference?  
 -Public service is a broad topic and something that more individuals should invest their time in. My recommendation to students at Donnelly would be this: if there is something that you see not working…fix it! History has shown that all it takes is one person to make a difference. It may not make the news or be recognized, but it is not about that. It is more important to make a difference where you are at by being a champion for change where you are. Whether it be a local, state, or national issue, it is up to you to build interest, synergy, and awareness to address the issues that affect you and those around you. I’d add to take the risk, pursue your passions. It will be difficult; you will face adversity and it will appear that it’s not worth it. But it is!  Also, apply for the White House Fellowship!
 Q: Your fellowship is a one-year appointment. What is your plan afterwards?
 -The program is an investment in individuals who are expected to pay it forward. I intend to return to Kansas City, Kansas, and do just that. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve our community in a variety of ways and plan to continue to do that with the lessons learned during my fellowship experience. I cannot say what that will look like moving forward, but I know that God will guide me.

A Higher Degree of Excellence

Today’s college students have a lot of choices when looking for the best program and institution of higher education. Depending on their career goals, they can enroll in associate or bachelor’s degree programs, work toward specialty skill certificates or seek vocational licenses. And once they choose an educational credential to pursue, in many cases they can also select from traditional classroom study, online learning or hybrid offerings as they seek to balance school and life.

The vast array of choices available to students also has implications for the institutions themselves.

Due to online learning opportunities, colleges like Donnelly are no longer competing just with other colleges and universities in their city or region. They must now compete with institutions across the country and even across the globe. To continue attracting students and serving them effectively, institutions of higher education must constantly evaluate their program offerings and delivery methods in light of best practices and trends. They must consider not only the wants and needs of their students, but also the 21st century skills and competencies that employers want in the graduates they hire.

“Our bachelor’s degree programs focus on preparing students for in-demand opportunities.”
Richard Wallace, Ph.D.
Director of Baccalaureate Programs

Although Donnelly continues to offer some courses online and is examining the possibility
of adding more distance-learning options in the future, we know that our first-generation students are most likely to excel in a classroom setting.
In terms of program offerings, we also know
that bachelor’s degrees are now the entry-level requirement for many professional positions in business, government, education and non-profit


Retirement Announced 

Fr. John Melnick SSA, has announced his retirement after more than 40 years of faithful service to the Catholic Church as Priest, including 11 years serving the Donnelly College community as Vice President of Spirituality and Mission. While at Donnelly, Fr. John touched the lives of countless students through campus ministry programming, R.C.I.A., theology courses and assisting with daily Mass on campus. He also provided friendship and counsel to all faculty and staff including the President and Board of Directors.

In an announcement to Donnelly faculty and staff, Monsignor Swetland said, “We will greatly miss Fr. John, who has served Donnelly College so very well for these past 11 years. On a personal note, he has been an outstanding friend and colleague to me since I arrived six years ago. We are eternally grateful for his service to Donnelly College.”

Thank you, Fr. John!

Fr. John with Students

You may send well wishes to:
Fr. John Melnick c/o Donnelly College
608 N. 18th Street
Kansas City, KS 66102


New mascot

We Are the Dragons

On January 24, 2019, the Donnelly College community welcomed the Dragon as the new mascot for the institution. At the unveiling celebration, student Ian Suarez Chavez talked about the meaning of the dragon, “Dragons have been viewed as a symbol that stands for pride, heroism, boldness, self-confidence, power, excellence, perseverance, nobility, vitality and happiness. The same can be said about the Donnelly family. [Donnelly] has given us our wings, meaning that it has given us the tools we need to reach great heights. To be a Dragon means to think big, to do great things, and above all, to persevere with kindness, love, courage and faith.”

Each year in January the Donnelly community will celebrate Dragon Day.

“The Donnelly mascot is a unique member of our community which will unify our students and staff. The Donnelly Dragon is a way to show our pride in this great institution of faith and learning,” said Lisa Stoothoff, vice president of academic and student affairs and dean of the college.

Go Dragons! 

Higher Learning Commission

Full Accreditation Reaffirmed

Donnelly College has been accredited since 1958 and, in February 2019, its accreditation was again reaffirmed by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent corporation that accredits postsecondary educational institutions in 19 states. Donnelly’s next comprehensive evaluation for reaffirmation of accreditation will be in 2022-23.


Ken Illgunus book cover

Author to Visit Campus

Each academic year, one book is selected as a “common read” for the Donnelly community. The selection is integrated into every class during the academic year, and related activities and service-learning opportunities are scheduled. When possible, the author visits campus.

Ken Ilgunas, author of Trespassing Across America, this year’s common read selection, will discuss his book and present a talk about the Keystone XL Pipeline and environmental ethics as a cooperative presentation between Donnelly College and American Public Square. 

According to Penguin Random House, the publisher of Trespassing Across America, the book is “both a travel memoir and a reflection on climate change, filled with colorful characters, harrowing physical trials, and strange encounters with the weather, terrain, and animals of America’s plains. A tribute to the Great Plains and the people who live there, Ilgunas’s memoir grapples with difficult questions about our place in the world: What is our personal responsibility as stewards of the land? As members of a rapidly warming planet? As mere individuals up against something as powerful as the fossil fuel industry? Ultimately, Trespassing Across America is a call to embrace the belief that a life lived not half wild is a life only half lived.” 

Ilgunas has worked as an elementary school tutor, an Alaskan tour guide, and a backcountry ranger at Gates of the Arctic National Park. He has hitchhiked 10,000 miles across North America and paddled 1,000 miles across Ontario in a birch-bark canoe. Ilgunas has a B.A. from SUNY Buffalo in history and English, and an M.A. in liberal studies from Duke University.

Ilgunas will visit campus on Friday, September 20, 2019. The free public talk and book signing will begin at 2:00 p.m. in Donnelly’s Community Event Center.


Graduating class of 2019

Celebrating the Class of 2019

At Donnelly we look forward to the different seasons of the academic year that bring new students to campus and celebrate the accomplishments of graduates who complete their degree and become part of our growing community of proud alumni. 

Donnelly College’s graduating class of 2019 was honored on Saturday, May 11 at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas during the college’s Commencement ceremony.  

“Commencement is a time of celebration,” said Lisa Stoothoff, vice president of academic and student affairs and dean of the college. “It is called Commencement for today marks your entry into a life well-lived – a life of ongoing education and formation.” 

Each year at Commencement, the Delta Award is presented to an individual whose contributions to the community embody the mission, spirit and values of Donnelly College. Sr. Grace Malaney, OSB, of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, was this year’s honoree. 

Sr. Grace was recognized for her leadership in the field of education. With more than 55 years of teaching experience, Sr. Grace taught mathematics in primary, middle and secondary schools, and at Donnelly College from 1981-2011. 

Ramón Murguía, owner of Murguía Law Office and chair of the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund, gave the commencement address where he issued a challenge to Donnelly’s most recent graduates. “I challenge you to take the next step in your career,” he said. “Work hard and keep an eye out for your passion. You will find it.” Murguía, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, spoke about his family upbringing and the impact it continues to have on his life.  
“The lesson from my parents, just like those from a lot of your parents, is to stand up for what is right while also taking time to care for the people around you. Whatever you do professionally, I challenge you to live as proud, caring and hard-working people. Your community and your country depend on it.

Following Commencement, Donnelly College’s nursing graduates were recognized in a pinning ceremony, which is a traditional rite of passage for nursing school graduates across the country.

The ceremony was led by Brianne Ford, Ph.D., director of nursing, who congratulated the 43 Practical Nursing graduates and the 15 Associate of Applied Science – Registered Nursing graduates, for their many accomplishments.

The college provided live streaming video for the commencement and pinning ceremonies. To view both in their entirety and to see photos from the weekend, visit


Henry Bloch with students and family

Wasiba Hamad '17 (left) is greeted by Henry W. Bloch at an annual luncheon. 

In Memoriam: Henry W. Bloch
Remembering His Legacy 

Donnelly College warmly remembers longtime friend and generous supporter Henry W. Bloch. A Kansas City entrepreneur and philanthropist committed to providing higher education opportunities for underrepresented students, Bloch’s legacy helped to shape Donnelly College and our students through support from the H&R Block Foundation, the Marion and Henry Bloch Foundation and Bloch’s personal involvement as Honorary Co-Chair of our Transformations Capital Campaign. “The generosity of Mr. Bloch as a philanthropist was unmatched in Kansas City, and specifically in the field of higher education,” said Monsignor Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College.          

Perhaps the most transformative impact Bloch had on Donnelly students was his direct involvement with Henry W. Scholars and the wisdom he shared. Bloch always made time to attend the annual luncheon for Bloch Scholar graduates, and he attended student workshops throughout the school year whenever possible. The scholarship program was given as a gift to Bloch from the H&R Block Foundation in 2000 when he retired as chairman of H&R Block. The scholarship, which aligns with Donnelly’s mission of providing accessible education to those that need it the most, provides the opportunity to earn an associate degree from Donnelly College and then transfer to the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) to earn a bachelor’s degree. "I am beyond grateful to be part of the Bloch scholarship family. There are people holding you accountable for your own success. The Bloch Scholarship has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise imagined for myself. I am able to dream without any financial barriers," said Wasiba Hamad '17, Henry W. Bloch Scholar. 

Donnelly was blessed to have Bloch as our 2013 commencement speaker. In that address, Bloch challenged the graduates to “Always reach higher,” and Donnelly presented Bloch with an honorary associate degree to recognize his commitment to our mission.

While his legacy will live on at Donnelly through the Henry W. Bloch Scholars program and many other gifts, initiatives and relationships, Bloch will be dearly missed and will forever hold a special place in the heart of the Donnelly College family.

Henry W. Bloch Scholars: 2018-19 Snapshot 

  • 13 incoming freshman became new Bloch Scholars at Donnelly College 
  • 5 Bloch Scholars graduated from Donnelly with associate degrees 
  • 12 Donnelly alumni/Bloch Scholars graduated with bachelor’s degrees from UMKC



The following articles were published in 2018 Winter Issue 

Donnelly students get ready for trip to Costa Rica

Donnelly Students Travel to Costa Rica

Two Donnelly students and a Donnelly faculty member will be traveling to San Jose, Costa Rica, January 2-13, 2019 as part of a travel writing-focused course offered through the University of Kansas Honors Program. 

“I look forward to exploring Costa Rica with two of our Donnelly students,” said Paula Console-Șoican, assistant professor of English. “We will be traveling, taking notes and reading. These are three of my favorite things to do – I usually do them with my writer husband and my two children, and now I get to do them with two of my favorite students.”

According to the KU study abroad webpage, this Spring 2019 course and overseas 12-day program offers students the opportunity to investigate a variety of current issues in Costa Rican politics, culture, ecology, and tourism through lectures, field trips to sites of interest and individual research projects.

“My students have already learned about the history and genre of travel writing, which is a core component of this study abroad opportunity,”Console-Șoicansaid. “They have also examined the interdisciplinary range of the genre from botanical classification and cartography to adventure account and personal reflection. Next, I hope they will study everything from urban culture to ecotourism as they get to know Costa Rica.”

The program itinerary includes site visits to Monteverde Cloud Forest, Manuel Antonio National Park, Irazu Volcano, Hacienda Orosi hot springs, and a variety of museums and national landmarks.

Upon return, the Donnelly students will complete coursework through KU under the guidance of Console-Șoican. 

“They will be reading, writing, and working on research assignments relevant to both travel writing and Costa Rica,” she said. “There is a final project that will combine the two aspects of the course and students will present in the spring both at KU and at Donnelly.”

Campus master plan

Donnelly Receives $1 Million Challenge Grant from J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation

In October 2018, the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma awarded Donnelly College a $1 million challenge grant to support Phase III of our Transformations campus master plan. The Mabee Foundation has supported Donnelly College in several previous campus renovation projects, but this is the largest gift Donnelly has ever received from the Foundation. 

In Phase III, Donnelly will build a new 72,000-square-foot main academic building, replace the parking lot, and create green space and a campus quad. The new building will be the first academic building ever designed and built for Donnelly College. 

The Mabee Foundation issues their grants as “challenge grants,” and Donnelly must complete remaining project fundraising, totaling $10 million, within one year to receive the funds. 

“We are thrilled and honored with this grant,” said Monsignor Stuart Swetland, president. “The Mabee Foundation has affirmed just how important the mission of Donnelly College is to this community. This pledge also brings additional momentum and an important fundraising deadline for Phase III—the most comprehensive and ambitious phase of the plan.” 

The Transformations plan calls for three phases of improvements. Phase I was completed in 2013, with the construction of the Donnelly College Event Center – Donnelly’s first new building construction in more than 50 years. 

Phases II and III were re-envisioned in 2017, when Donnelly’s Board approved a revised master plan to comprehensively address College needs. In Phase II, the College completely renovated two floors of Marian Hall, which houses Donnelly’s Licensed Practical Nursing and Registered Nursing programs. Marian Hall also houses general classrooms and the Gateway to College Program, a dual credit high school completion program offered in partnership with the Kansas City, Kansas Public School District. Phase II renovations were completed in early 2018, and Marian Hall re-opened in January 2018.

The College worked with architects at Burns & McDonnell and our external project manager, MC Realty, to finalize Phase III plans and work through the Unified Government of Kansas City Kansas and Wyandotte County’s approval processes. Final project plans for Phase III were approved by the UG unanimously in late October. 

“Due to the aging state of Donnelly’s main academic building, we are looking forward to meeting the Mabee challenge and completing necessary fundraising so that we can begin construction on our new academic building as quickly as possible,” said Swetland. “Donnelly will be celebrating its 70th anniversary next fall, and I can imagine no greater testament to our mission and legacy than beginning construction on a new academic home that will be the foundation for future decades of service to this community. Our students are first-rate, and they need and deserve a first-rate academic environment.”

If you are interested in learning more about helping Donnelly meet the Mabee Foundation challenge by October 2019, please contact Emily Buckley at (913) 621-8731 or

Donnelly students in class

Donnelly Named Most Diverse College in Midwest for Second Year in a Row

For the second year in a row, Donnelly College has been named the most diverse college in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.

U.S. News & World Reportannually ranks colleges and universities on campus ethnic diversity. Donnelly attained a diversity index of 0.71. The closer the number is to 1, the more diverse the student population. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Donnelly’s student body was 83% students of color. More recently, the 2018 graduating class consisted of 79% students of color and included 77% first-generation college students. 

“We are very happy to receive again this national recognition highlighting one of our strongest assets – our diverse student body,” stated Donnelly College President Monsignor Stuart Swetland. “Students come to Donnelly for many reasons – our affordability, our urban location, our nurturing campus environment, and especially our academic programs. However, decade after decade, students tell us that student diversity is a top factor that helps them find success here.

It is rare to find a college that has a majority of minority students, especially in this region. As a Catholic college, we believe in the innate dignity and worth of each person, and that is something we strive to make tangible to our students each day in their campus experience. We know our students find comfort, security and confidence in that.”

Donnelly’s classification reflects the college’s status as the region’s only federally-designated Minority-Serving Institution and Hispanic-Serving Institution. The diversity found at Donnelly represents the institution’s commitment to serving the urban core since its founding in 1949. 

Of the top ten most diverse colleges in the Midwest, six institutions are in the state of Kansas. The full list can be found here

Sister Susan Wood

Theologian to Speak on Campus

As part of a grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sr. Susan Wood, SCL, Ph.D., a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas and professor of systematic theology in the Department of Theology at Marquette University, will offer two talks on campus, one for students and one for the public. 

Dr. Wood teaches courses on ecclesiology, Henri de Lubac, the nouvelle théologie, ecumenism, and sacramental theology, as well as more general courses in systematic theology. She is an associate editor of Pro Ecclesia and serves on the editorial advisory board of the journal Ecclesiology.Most of her writing explores the connections between ecclesiology and sacramental theology. 

Dr. Wood will offer a free public talk on April 4 at 7 p.m. in the Donnelly College Event Center.

Published in 2018 Summer Issue 

Rendering of future academic building

$5 Million Committment From Sunderland Foundation Is Largest in College History   

In June 2018, the Sunderland Foundation pledged $5 million to the support the third phase of Donnelly’s campus master plan.

“We could not be more grateful for the Sunderland Foundation’s extremely generous gift,” exclaimed Monsignor Stuart Swetland, president. “It is the single largest gift in our 69-year history and an affirmation of our mission. We are honored that the Sunderland Foundation is supportive of our vision and so committed to help us serve our wonderful students.”

The Sunderland Foundation has supported Donnelly’s mission since 1976 and has been especially instrumental in advancing our current master plan projects. The foundation supported the first two phases with gifts totaling $700,000. Phase I was completed in 2013 and Phase II in 2017.

“We are pleased to be able to help Donnelly provide its students with this new learning environment,” said Kent Sunderland, president and trustee of the foundation.

The Sunderland Foundation’s pledge continues momentum generated by several previous donors. In 2010, an anonymous alumnus pledged Donnelly’s first $1 million gift. In 2013, our sponsor, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, commited $4 million and another friend of the college committed $2 million.

The Sunderland gift also came just a month after an anonymous new individual donor committed $1 million.

“The College has a bold vision to become the most accessible and transformative Catholic college in the country, and these investors are helping us make significant strides towards meeting that goal,” Monsignor Swetland added. “As a private college committed to quality and affordability, we depend on our philanthropic partners to help us achieve both our short-term campus improvements and our long-term vision. We are humbled by the faith these cornerstone contributors have placed in us to execute this mission and impact our students and community more fully.”

Graduates Celebrated At 69th Commencement Ceremony 

Donnelly College hosted its 69th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 12 at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., honoring the graduating class of 2018. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer was in attendance, providing a charge to graduates during the ceremony. This was the first time a sitting Governor has attended a Donnelly College commencement ceremony.

“Today as you walk off the stage, you are at a crossroads,” Gov. Colyer said. “You aren’t just making decisions, you are making choices. And these choices only come by opening your heart, opening your mind and your soul to all the growth and discovery and possibilities that’s there.”

The 2018 Donnelly College graduating class consists of 96 students – 35 students who received a Practical Nursing certificate, 11 students who earned a bachelor’s degree and 50 students who earned an associate degree. Of these graduates, 72 percent were first-generation college students.

During the commencement ceremony, two student speakers, LaCherish Thompson and Todd Kinney, addressed their fellow graduates.

Thompson spoke about how everyone has been talked out of dreams, dreams that have potential and are worth pursuing.

“Take back your dreams,” Thompson said. “So when I tell you the sky is the limit, tell me, ‘I’m ready to fly.’” And when I tell you to dream as big as the ocean, tell me, ‘The largest body of water cannot contain what I can do,’ and when I tell you that the possibilities are endless, as far as the East is from the West, tell me, ‘I can do all things through Christ (who) strengthens me,’ and when I tell you the world is yours, tell me, ‘I already have it in my hands,’ and when I say, you can be anything, absolutely anything you want to be, tell me, ‘I know I can and I will be.’”

During his student commencement speech, Kinney told the graduates that as long as they continue to fill their souls, they will be successful in life. 

“You have filled your souls with knowledge and grace and it will never die,” he said. “We can fly people to the moon and back in one piece, but even with all that, no human being can or ever will be able to touch, take away, create or destroy a living soul - only God can do that. Our souls (are) God’s everlasting gift to us. And that is why, as long as you continue to fill your soul with knowledge and grace, today is only the beginning. Only the first of your life victories.”

Donnelly alumna Dr. Liza Rodriguez ’01 provided the commencement address. Rodriguez challenged graduates to remain true to themselves, respect others and give back to the community. “I challenge you to one day stand on this podium and inspire future generations of college students to find their drive and fight for what they are passionate about,” she said. “The hardest mathematical equation and the toughest challenges in life help you grow strong and realize your truest potential. And never forget to help others on the way.”

Donnelly’s Commencement Ceremony also celebrated seven graduates from the Gateway to College program, a high school completion program partnered with (USD 500) Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, where students earn their high school diploma and receive college credit from Donnelly.

Following the Commencement Ceremony, Donnelly College’s Practical Nursing (PN) graduates were recognized in a pinning ceremony, which is a traditional rite of passage for nursing school graduates across the country.

The ceremony was led by Sandra Tapp, director of nursing, who congratulated the graduates for their many accomplishments during the 16-month program.

Graduates were pinned by a nursing faculty member or a nursing friend from the community who inspired them to pursue and finish the PN program. Donnelly’s PN graduates lit lamps and recited the traditional Florence Nightingale pledge to close the ceremony. 

Transforming Student Engagement

In the most recent Winter issue of the Donnelly Digest, we highlighted a professional development opportunity through the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) for Donnelly College faculty, which was made possible through a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. This academic year, faculty participated in ACUE coursework, where they learned about new teaching techniques to improve student learning and engagement. This piece was originally written for the ACUE blog by Melissa Lenos, Donnelly College associate professor and chairperson of liberal arts and sciences, and has been adapted for use in this publication.

I held up a paperback and met 13 pairs of uneasy eyes. It was hard to keep the excitement out of my voice as I explained, “We’re going to read Bleak House together and we’re going to read it as it was originally released—in serial form. We’ll do one installation a week over the course of the semester.” My excitement was two-sided: Bleak House, a 900-page novel, is one of my favorites, and I was nervous. I typically teach freshman writing courses, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to teach a hefty novel. I felt rusty, and also worried that the scale of the text might intimidate my students.

Reflecting back on my first semester of the ACUE course, I decided to build regular “Fishbowls” into the syllabus. In the ACUE course, Dr. Tara Lineweaver describes the Fishbowl activity as a “close-knit conversation among four students” seated in the center of their classmates, who form a circle around them. The students in Dr. Lineweaver’s class prepare a short paper based on the readings, and then during class, she pulls four names from a fishbowl, and those students discuss the assigned articles for 20 minutes. The rest of the students listen, take notes, and have an opportunity to comment after the discussion has ended. In my Comp 2 course, every Friday the students came prepared to discuss one serial segment of the novel. We randomly selected three or four students to discuss the novel for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the length of that week’s segment) and then we regrouped for a whole-class discussion. I also created a large, adaptable concept map to help keep track of the novel’s 50-some characters and myriad intertwined themes.

By mid-semester, each student participated at least once in the Fishbowl. We’d spent time discussing contradictory perspectives on the text. Several of the students wrote term papers addressing some aspect of the representations of women in Bleak House.The students found sources that argue for Esther Summerson’s powerful agency and determination, while other sources dismiss her as weak and uninspiring.

During one Fishbowl, participants drew a previous conversation into their discussion, identifying moments that could be interpreted as supporting each point of view and considering how their perspectives of Esther had changed halfway through the novel.

They debated what Dickens intended the audience to think or feel about Esther based on how Esther, in her first-person chapters, describes herself and how other characters speak to and about her. The students then helped each other sort through one particularly confusing scene in the week’s reading and spent the rest of the Fishbowl debating developments in the overarching mysteries threaded through the novel.

Based on Fishbowl participation, wholeclass discussions and reading quizzes, I could tell that every student was current on the reading. In a typical section of Comp 2, 10 percent to 15 percent would be dangerously behind, consistently absent, or otherwise struggling at this point in the semester. More than that, when I came into class at 9 a.m., they were often already chatting about the week’s developments: Lady Dedlock’s shady behavior and Mr. Tulkinghorn’s ominous looming. They were particularly outraged by Mr. Guppy, greeting me with “Esther has a stalker!” Another warmed my heart, grumbling, “I wish Esther wouldn’t act so dumb when she’s not.” My students are pulling out interesting themes (Dickens’s portrayals of marriage, philanthropy, the legal system), noticing narrative trends, and asking compelling, complex questions.

As we approached midterms, I had the students reflect on their Fishbowl experience in a 10-minute “Exit Ticket” for the class, essentially a prompt they must respond to before leaving. I asked them what they felt was working well with the Fishbowl exercise and what they might change or do differently through the end of the semester. They all agreed that we should continue with the exercise—that it keeps them accountable to themselves and their classmates. Several mentioned that keeping up on the reading and taking thorough reading notes feels more important if you know classmates “might be counting on you” to help lead a discussion. At such a small school, most of these students have multiple classes together and check in with each other during the week. 

I found that every week’s content in the ACUE course impacted my teaching, but nothing has disrupted my personal pedagogy as much as the Fishbowl. I realized that I too frequently underestimate my students, that I jump in to “help” them too quickly, and that given control of class discussion, students will generate smart, provocative conversations. In restructuring the rhythm of my classes, my students have been given additional space to approach ideas from multiple perspectives. Every time we had a Fishbowl this semester, my students surprised me. 

Donnelly students on Black History Justice Journey trip

Student Explore Black History In Missouri and Beyond

A group of Donnelly faculty, staff and students embarked on a three-day Black History Justice Journey in March to experience historic sites related to slavery, the Civil War and the African-American experience.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to see the recorded history of our country’s past,” said Jose Marquez, Donnelly student. “We were able to travel to different locations and see sites and how they tied together from a historical standpoint and an ethical standpoint.”

Students visited the Lincoln Museum and home in Springfield, Ill.; the County Courthouse in St. Louis, Mo. where the Dred Scott case was tried; the town of Ferguson, Mo. which gained national attention in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown; and a home in Quincy, Ill. that belonged to Augustus Tolton, a Missouri man born into slavery, who escaped to freedom and became the first black Catholic priest in the U.S.

“I have always been passionate about travel and learning about other cultures and I love to share these interests with others,” said Gretchen Meinhardt, interim director of success first and trip leader. “College is a time of exploration for students, which makes it the perfect time to learn both in and out of the classroom. Learning about history in the classroom is great, but that learning is enhanced when we can get out of the classroom and see and experience history firsthand. One of our values at Donnelly is “truth,” and learning about other cultures is an important way to help students develop their own views based in a true understanding of others.”

Future educational travel opportunities through Donnelly may include both domestic and international destinations, including the possibility of a Latino Justice Journey to Chicago in 2019.

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