Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Race Talks | Borrowing Cultural Traditions

By Ginger Moshofsky 

In November I had the privilege of attending Race Talks: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism, at the Kennedy School.

A little background: Race Talks is a sort of lecture series that focuses on pertinent issues of race like “Interacial Relationships” or “Race and the Housing Crisis.” Instead of the usual “stand and deliver” format of most lecture series, Race Talks adds a couple of key elements which induce interaction and dialogue between the attendants.  
First of all, there is a panel of experts who speak to the topic. Instead of one person’s take on a topic, you get several points of view. This is not only informative but also sets the tone; different people have different experiences and may have differing opinions- and that is okay.

Next, at every Race Talks, the discussion moves from the podium to the tables. After the panelists have finished,  each table group discusses the topic. Before the discussion, the attendees are prompted to make sure that each table has a diverse mix of people. If not, they ask that a person or two move so each group has different races represented.

The Race Talks that I attended examined “Race and the Arts”.

When we moved to the table discussion portion of the evening, one of the things we did was introduce ourselves and our racial background. Now that’s something you don’t do every day. When we did, I was surprised to find that, despite how things looked at first glance, I was not sitting with only Caucasian people but also American Indian, Japanese and Mexican. We had a very interesting dialogue about “borrowing” traditions from other cultures. We questioned, when is it disrespectful to integrate a dance or an artistic style into American culture, and when is it an honor and a compliment? We talked about “fads”, like “Gangnam Style” or skull tattoos- did that bring to the masses interesting cultural elements from around the world or is it exploitive or something else? We bemoaned the practice of taking ceremonies that are sacred in their country of origin and making them spectacle in the United States. If these sound like heady topics, you are right. We found ourselves discussing these ideas and more with people of different races who we had never met before and it was fun!

The genius of Race Talks is that while everyone admits that talking through race issues with a diverse gathering of individuals is helpful and informative, few have figured out how to do it on a grass roots level and do it effectively. Donna Maxey ’70, founder and director of Race Talks, is the genius behind the “genius” of Race Talks.

Maxey has a history in education, has an extensive network and is a long time resident of Portland. As it explains in the Race Talks brochure, Maxey approached McMenamins Historian Tim Hills “with the idea to partner with McMenamins in a series that stepped out of the box of the typical history lecture into a more interactive realm- where the audience had a participatory role and left with a tangible task toward dismantling racism.”

The result is Race Talks: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism and it is brilliant. Maxey partners with McMenamins monthly to bring interesting topics to the Kennedy School. If you have not been to Race Talks, I urge you to mark your calendar for 7 p.m., the second Tuesday of the month. I hope to see you at Race Talks. 

Moshofsky is the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations at Pacific University. She is a Lewis & Clark alumna, freelance writer, thespian and activist on civil rights issues. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Notes from Under the Oaks | November 2013

By Martha Calus-McLain '03 

I've always been awed by the power of buildings to evoke
emotion. Buildings are simply timber and steel, bricks and
concrete, yet they have the ability to make us feel
I've always been awed by the power of buildings to evoke emotion. Buildings are simply timber and steel, bricks and concrete, yet they have the ability to make us feel.

Even fifteen years after I first laid eyes on Marsh Hall, I still feel an incredible sense of nostalgia and pride when I see those red bricks through the trees.

Although I was not yet alive when the Columbus Day storm raged through town, the photo above has the ability to take my breath largely because I am drawn into it by the glimpse of Marsh Hall behind the destruction.

Here in the Abbott Alumni Center, a cozy and sweet little structure, we’re all positively buzzing about a wonderful Homecoming last weekend when we had a record number of alumni back on campus. It is remarkable how many alumni who returned for Homecoming hadn’t been on campus since graduation and were stunned by the changes that have unfolded in the ensuing years.

If you missed Homecoming and haven’t been back in a while, I’d like to say, “Don’t be a stranger.”

One of the many reasons to revisit campus again and again is to integrate oneself in the change. During Homecoming we broke ground on a new residence hall. While enormously exciting, this groundbreaking was a poignant reminder of how progress brings change.

The first stage of construction for this building was the removal of sod on what was left of Tom Reynolds Field, where soccer was played until the addition of new fields at Lincoln Park. Many alumni remember this field as McCready Field, home of Badger (and later Boxer) football for nearly 100 years. In recent years, some of the field was replaced with new tennis courts.

While we’re all very excited about this change, which will eventually lead to the removal of Clark Hall and a complete transformation of this corner of campus, we took a bittersweet moment at the ground breaking to reflect on the long history of this soil.

Although the buildings remain long after we’ve graduated and moved on (or in my case moved on and then came back to work), it is alumni who truly hold the history of the University. McCready Field or Clark Hall or Marsh Hall amid the rubble of the storm mean nothing without the stories from alumni who bring those places to life.

Please, don’t be a stranger!

Come home and share your stories.Whether you join us for Homecoming 2014 or you stop by the Abbott Alumni Center for a cup of coffee on your way through town, we want to see you on campus and hear your stories.

I hope to see you soon!

Calus-McLain '03 is the director of Alumni Relations and was a media arts major at Pacific University. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Help a fellow Boxer

By Kaitlyn Gutierrez '13

You know that moment when you feel like destiny stepped in, tapped you on the shoulder, and said, “Here Kaitlyn, this is exactly what you need?” 

Well, apparently LinkedIn is Destiny’s new cover! 

I had just finished my afternoon run and thought I’d mosey on over to my laptop and check my messages. My mouse was meandering toward Shut Down when I decided to check my LinkedIn account; man oh man, I’m glad I did.

I happened to see a link to an article entitled ‘Is This the Best Job of All Time?’ I’m overly curious, so what could I do but click?

Curiosity turned to excitement, which turned into me nearly self-combusting as I kept reading - eyes growing bigger and bigger, grin growing wider and wider. “‘Help wanted: An "enthusiastic" traveler to fly around the globe for a year, all expenses paid, earning $100,000 salary for blogging about it – and for volunteering to leave each destination ‘a little better than when you found it.’” Cue my faux heart attack….

This couldn’t be real. I did a little digging into the company and loved what I saw. Jauntaroo, a vacation matchmaker, is more than a way to find your next vacation spot. Jauntaroo believes in leaving the world a better place and strives to take traveling to a new level. With Jauntaroo you can “Travel With A Cause,” as the company features and donates to organizations that promote ‘VolunTourism’.

Jauntaroo happens to be looking for a new Chief World Explorer. Requirements include: Always be ready for an adventure, be generous of spirit and help others, be eager to capture local cultures, foods and activities, and share your experiences with the world.

The job was MADE for me!

Volunteering is something I am passionate about, and doing it abroad is icing on the cake. Traveling and blogging about my experience, that is right up my alley; I knew my creative writing degree would come in handy!

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you find yourself in the right place at the right time, and you know you have to throw your hat in the ring because the opportunity could change your life; this was one of those moments.

I’ve tossed in my hat and now I need help getting there. Please go to the link and like my video. Help me become a finalist by watching my video and liking it.

Guiterrez '13 was a creative writing major at Pacific University and needs your help! Support a fellow Boxer and "like" her submission so she can have the job of her dreams. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Notes from Under the Oaks | July 2013

Burbank '09 rubbing Boxer's nose for good luck. 
By Rachael Burbank '09 
Traditions are precious no matter their significance.
Sometimes they include something silly like grandma always bringing the potato salad to the Fourth of July barbecue. Other times it’s more heartfelt like visiting Uncle Joe’s headstone Memorial Day weekend or returning to your wedding venue every year on your anniversary.
I think we each hold on to the uniqueness of our traditions because they define us. But what happens when we have children, we get married, we relocate for work, we lose a family member or we are stuck in a rain cloud and we have to adjust our plans? We start telling the stories of how things used to be to the next generation in hopes that one day history will repeat itself.
I frequently forget that the Pacific I know, isn't what all alumni know. There wasn't a dress code to eat in the University Center in the 2000s. Old College Hall, the library and the football field have changed locations multiple times. And most importantly, Boxer wasn't always the mascot.
After graduating in 2009, I’ve already seen changes made to the Pacific I know. The ‘PAC’ is now the Stoller Center. There are dorms and academic buildings I’ve never set foot in. And sadly, students are graduating without seeing the Boxer statue on campus nor are they participating in any sort of Boxer tosses, flashes or Olympics!
Times have changed and will continue to change on the Forest Grove campus, but also in Hillsboro, Eugene and Portland. I can already imagine the conversation I’ll have with staff or students at my 30-year reunion. I know it’ll start with “when I was a student here, everything was different.” But will it really be different?
I believe Marsh Hall will still be standing in 2039. I believe the Noise Parade will still be the loudest tradition during Homecoming. And I believe that Boxer will live on by word of mouth if there hasn't been a third statue already made by then.
What was your favorite tradition during your days at Pacific? What traditions do you miss? What do you envision for your 30-year reunion or 50-year reunion?
If you wish to write about your memories, please submit photos and a 400-word piece for the Boxer and Badger Notes blog to
I hope you come back to where all these traditions began for Homecoming 2013, if not before. Give us a heads up and you can stay in the Abbott Alumni Center guestrooms during your visit or we can take you on a campus tour and explore how things have changed since you’ve been on campus.
You can contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 503-352-2057 or
In the meantime, cherish the memories and traditions you made while at Pacific because they define you as alumnus/a of the University. 
Burbank '09 is the assistant director of alumni relations at Pacific University. You can reach her at 503-352-2969 or 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Story behind Boxer becoming Mascot

Jolley '68, OD '70 
By Jerry Jolley '68, OD '70 

Bruce, you are all wrong about Boxer……

Yes, Bruce Bishop '68,  I mean you….

Now keep in mind that no one is working harder than Bruce to make the Class of ’68 Reunion a fun event for us all. But he has the Boxer Mascot issue ALL WRONG.

Bruce recently sent me an email suggesting this article should mention the leadership role of the ’67-’68 ASPU Student Council in changing Pacific’s mascot from “a moth-eaten Badger to a brassy Boxer.” 

That part is very accurate, but Bruce went on to say that the switch to Boxer in 1968 is “important history for our class (and the entire University community) to celebrate. Who would have thought 45 years ago that the change would still be symbolizing Pacific's quirkiness?”

There it is, that word “quirkiness.” How can Bruce use it to describe our University and our beloved Boxer mascot? Okay, I will agree today’s student may think it a little quirky that in 1968, Friday’s dinners in the dining hall required dresses for women and ties/long pants for men. And maybe it was a little quirky by today’s standards that men’s and women’s dorms were strictly segregated, not even allowing coed visits. And looking back in the ’67 yearbook, the fact that Mike Staples was “Standards Chairman” and Craig Stout was “Cultural Chairman” may also have signaled a bit of early quirkiness.

But how could Boxer becoming Mascot be considered “quirky?” Boxer represented, and I trust still represents, the best of each Pacific student’s fighting spirit and stamina. Boxer represents strength, having been cast in the Ming Dynasty in about 1580, surviving the Boxer Rebellion in China and being gifted to Pacific in 1896. 

Wow, in my mind boxer still represents extreme strength. In one boxer fight I wormed my way into the center crunch to finally get a hand on him/her, only to be squashed like a bug by some bulky football player. Remember how the yelling of “Boxer Flash” on campus would get everyone’s blood boiling. And a “Boxer Throw Out” would often result in an on-campus rough-and-tumble fight which could last many hours. I believe the Thetas once even beat up the optometry students (by breaking their glasses) to gain control of Boxer in front of Marsh Hall, but you will need to check that fact with Don James at the reunion.

Boxer definitely represented strength. During a boxer throw out, you could even come in late and muddy to Dr. Reif’s ethics class and not get much more trouble than a disapproving look over the top of his glasses.
So in ’67 when funding for a new Benny Badger mascot uniform came before Student Council, we decided not to replace the moldy old weasel who had been bloodied and bruised by several recent team losses. I think it was Student Body Vice President, Scott Pike, who came up with the idea of making our new mascot the beloved Boxer.

My first stop was with Dean Charles Trombley, a wonderful man and sage adviser  who shrugged and said something like “sounds good if you can get it done.”

In retrospect, I think Dean Trombley was just very happy that I was not telling him we were planning to burn down Forest Grove city center or Old College Hall to protest the Viet Nam war. The late 60’s were a tumultuous time for our country, and many students were taking activist roles. I would get calls weekly from other student body presidents across the nation asking me to fly somewhere for a peace rally.

My reasons for staying home from student peace demonstrations were:

1) As a guy fresh-off-the-Idaho-ranch, I naively and incorrectly figured our country’s leaders always knew what was best,
2) Our student body was divided on the war, all of us having both anti-war friends and friends who had military school funding,
3) I knew the Index editors would rip me to shreds if I used ASPU funds to fly to D.C. to a protest rally,
4) I couldn’t miss work or give up study time for that next mid-term, and
5) There was a cute California girl on campus I wanted to ask on a date. (Her parents were so conservative they made Richard Nixon look like a liberal, and I knew if I trotted off to a protest somewhere, my chances of a farmer-from-Idaho like me getting a date with her would be completely dead.)

So we turned our energy to adopting Boxer as mascot. We took the idea to fraternities, sororities, administrators and other key groups for discussion. Finally the ASPU Student Council, after some heated discussion, gave us a unanimous vote to make the change to Boxer on December 13, 1967.

Members of the ASPU Student Council
Bruce, 45 years of Boxer cannot be considered “quirky” but rather “brilliant.” Even the Heart of Oak editors wrote in the 1968 yearbook, “all of us can be proud our Temple Dog Boxer tradition, and with this change in mascots our pride in that tradition can become even greater: now the Boxer can truly serve his calling as the SPIRIT OF PACIFIC.”

So all of us should let the BOXER SPIRIT move us. Let’s get together for Homecoming, October 10-13. All of you, including fellow optometry-types, please come for some fun and bring your golf clubs.

By the way, I was able to date that pretty California girl.  We married 43 years ago. Peggy Spencer Jolley and I will both be at Homecoming. Please introduce yourself and say hello.

If you like the idea that we changed to the Boxer mascot 45 years ago, when I see you at Homecoming please give me credit. If you think the change was a bad move, please discuss your complaints at length with Scott Pike.

Even though I have been giving Bruce Bishop a bad time with this article, please know that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Bruce and the other Homecoming Reunion Committee members for the Class of 1968: Judy (Engdall) Bishop, Monica (Wolf) Marvin and Scott E. Pike.

Jolley '68, OD '70 was the ASPU President for the '67-'68 school year and will celebrate 45 years since graduation during Homecoming 2013. This piece was originally used for the Class of 1968 Reunion Newsletter. He is currently living in California and practicing optometry. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Notes from Under the Oaks | June 2013

By Rachael Burbank '09
Outside Burbank's desk window | 9 a.m. 

I am fortunate to have a desk with a window at the Abbott Alumni Center. All year long, I watch the weather change by the hour.

I watch the rain pour down and try to predict the best time to run errands across campus. I watch flurries fall down in the winter and guess how many abandoned cars I’ll pass on my drive home. 

I watch the sun break through the clouds and smile knowing it’s finally the Oregon summer weather that’s worth waiting for.

Outside Burbank's desk window | 11 a.m. 
Growing up in Massachusetts, I didn't expect that reaching a temperature of 100 degrees in the summer would be bearable. I was acclimated to 90 percent humidity on an 80 degree day and lounging as close to the coastline as possible for cool down dips. Now, I relish in the hot arid summers in Oregon but I know I don’t have it that bad.

I couldn't imagine being in anywhere else in the Unites States right now because of the extreme weather over the last month. Oklahoma was blindsided by tumultuous tornadoes. 

Texas suffered both spectrums with twisters and flash floods with a month. West Virginia trapped in massive floods. Chicago struck by unforeseen lightning storms.

Outside Burbank's desk window | noon
Colorado and California fought forest fires early in the year than normal. An ice tsunami crept up on Minnesota and an ice wall formed in Alaska causing flooding. The Mid-Atlantic States were thrashed by wind and rain causing sinkholes and power outages.

The worst part is that these events aren't specific to the United States. We all know someone who is affected by the recent extreme weather.

I’ll say it again. I’m fortunate to be in Oregon where my only typical worry is rain clouding our summer skies—but know that I don’t take it for granted. Members of my family in New Jersey are still struggling to rebuild their home and their business after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

Outside Burbank's desk window | 2 p.m. 
To the more than 26,000 alumni worldwide, please know my heart goes out to you especially if you have struggled with issues relating to these weather extremes this year. As members of the Pacific family, we care about your safety and your whereabouts. Please know we are always here to assist in any way we can.

If you wish to write about your experiences with the extreme weather for a guest blog for the Boxer and Badger Notes blog, please submit photos and your 400-word submission to

If you need to update your contact information, please visit

Be safe where ever you are and best wishes. 

Burbank '09 is the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations at Pacific Univer
sity. Notes from Under the Oaks is originally published in the monthly Alumni eNews. To subscribe to the Alumni eNews, email her at 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A Farming Legacy

First Generation Farmers
By Dana Zurcher

I live on the property where my Grandfather, George, and Great-Uncle, Fred, started farming decades before I was born. In the Late 1940’s they purchased the property. 

Crops and cows were their livelihood. My grandmother, Gwen moved to the farm as a cook for George and Fred. Then she and my grandfather fell in love and married. My father, Gary and Aunt Sherry were also born and raised on this land. My father took over the farming for my grandpa when he became unable to.  

Zurcher's goats, Coco and Eleanor

Some of my favorite memories are of the times I ‘helped’ with the farming and daily chores. I would help my Dad feed the cows and ride in the tractor as he tilled the ground, planted seed or cut hay. My favorite time of year was harvest time, the cucumbers were ready.  My dad used to pick me a cucumber, cut the skin off with his pocket knife and hand it over! 

A cucumber from the grocery store will never taste like one straight from the field. The essence of my childhood summers was waking up to my mom working in her garden or riding her horses, my sister sleeping until one in the afternoon, roosters crowing, sun shining.

Today, nearly seventy years after my Grandfather started farming this land, I live here with my two dogs, Kayne and Travis and my two goats, Coco and Eleanor. My life is very different from my grandfather’s, but I see him in everything around me. 

Zurcher with her dogs, Kayne and Travis
A regular day for us is to walk around the property, to the pond and river; my camera almost always in tow. I am a photographer; it is wonderful to have such a wide canvas right at my fingertips. We look for signs of wild life; a Bald Eagle frequents an oak tree on the edge of the pond. 

The goats eat things along the way, blackberry leaves are their favorite. The dogs smell everything; they must see who’s been out since the last time they were here. Sometimes I take the canoe out on the pond, or take my fishing pole and lounge chair. 

Photo by Zurcher
The season I can’t wait to arrive; our summers are spent exploring the property, reading in the sun. Taking care of the garden; always looking for tips from my green thumbed parents. Mowing, endless hours spent mowing. Riding my quad on the trail by the river and cutting firewood for winter. 

The winter months are spent watching the flood waters change the landscape.  Trees fall, the ground washes away. It’s really beautiful when it gets cold enough for the pond to freeze over.

I've never appreciated something as much as the legacy my grandpa created. I like to think he and my grandmother are proud I didn't go far and still enjoy what they left behind. I feel very fortunate to have the history of my family right under my bare feet.  

Zurcher is the Gallery Director at Pacific University. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Wait | Importance of Networking

Powers '13
By Leilani Powers '13

With only a month left to go here at Pacific University, I have found there are an infinite amount of life lessons people will tell you throughout your college years, and even your high school career, that you find to be all too true. 

Sometimes, when it’s too late to act on the advice. 

One of the lessons I caught on to just in time through my time working in the Office of Alumni Relations was the importance of networking. 

At first, I didn’t truly understand what networking really was or its importance. 
Why would knowing somebody who has been in education for the past thirty years have any influence on my career in marketing? 
Why would keeping business cards or in contact with people I hardly know be useful to me as a sophomore in college?  
What could talking to somebody for only five minutes ever do for me in the future?
Well, as many of my fellow graduating seniors may know, it’s now all about who you know when it comes to looking for work in this extremely competitive job market. In many cases, it’s about who people in your network know that may be more important. 

Because they may act as a great referral to someone in your dream employer, making a connection you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make on your own.
As I got older a common message was that building your professional network is key to being successful in this day and age. Having a vast professional network is even more important for recent graduates. The people in your network may be able to help you get your “foot in the door,” sometimes the hardest part of getting a job. 
Remember, you could have a great resume and fantastic interview skills, but if the employer’s key word search doesn’t find what it needs when scanning your resume, they won’t even look at it and you definitely won’t get an interview. However your friend, family member, or colleague who works in that firm (or similar ones in that industry) may be able to get your resume to the top of the list and personally read by the right person in the company you’re going for.

Powers '13 networking at an alumni event
While interning for the Office of Alumni Relations, I quickly learned that the people who you may meet at events like Pacific’s Speed Networking, Portland Networking Breakfast, etc. are not just people who have become successful in their field (whatever that field/industry may be), but they are alumni of Pacific University, same as I will be soon, and they truly care about students and are willing to help in anyway they are able.
In almost all the events I’ve gone to, there have been at least a handful of alumni who wouldn’t hesitate, if not insist, they connect me with a member of their network in the field or company they think would be of value to me. 
My advice I hope you heed sooner than later: if something as simple as meeting people can possibly get you the leg up when trying to advance your career, why wait? Go to as many networking events as you can wherever you are in life. Believe me, they’ll come in handy later, and if you don’t start early, you’ll kick yourself later.

Powers '13 is a business major at Pacific University and has worked in the Office of Alumni Relations as a Marketing and Communication Assistant during her time at Pacific. Powers is also the Co-President for Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring | A Time for Revitalizing the Events Calendar

Moshofsky at Patton Valley Winery
By Ginger Moshofsky

Now that I have been here all of four months, I am more excited than ever to plan, implement and create interesting and fun events that will get all of us together.
I have loved getting to know many of you and I loved meeting the Alumni Board and the Trustees a few weeks ago. I also had a wonderful time with the Golden Guard on March 14 and am already thinking about how I can get together and visit with them again.
I heard of an event done successfully at another school that I would love to do here. It is an event that would bring the 1960s to life as a theatrical experience through the reading of letters and journals written to and from students while they were in school at Pacific. It's called the Pacific Letters Project. If you come across your journals from college, please consider submitting them to or by postal mail.

Alumni Relations staff at Patton Valley winery
I am thinking about ways to integrate more family friendly events and opportunities at Homecoming and throughout the year.
How about a croquet game where the wickets are costumed theater students who may or may not stand still as you try to play through.
You and your family can look forward to the Boxer Bingo game we are creating for Homecoming 2013.
The Alumni Relations staff recently visited local wineries to plan the wine tour during Homecoming weekend which sparked many ideas on possible events we can plan throughout the year.

I would love to design an arts season where for one price and one registration, you could attend a variety of musical and theatrical performances and gallery exhibitions by current Pacific students, with a dessert reception before or after the show.

I am busy planning the Trivia PUB Night featuring Byron Steiger at the Lucky Lab in May. There will be rivalry, revelry and prizes. You can view all of the upcoming events at

I would love to know your thoughts. Do you like any of these ideas? Do you have ideas of your own? Please share with us. Call, email or come by and visit. The Abbott Alumni Center, 2209 Cedar Street, is your home on the Pacific campus in Forest Grove.
You are always welcome to come home!

Moshofsky is the assistant director of alumni relations and can be reached at or 503-352-2828. In her spare time, Moshofsky enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, volunteering as vice president of Mask and Mirror Community Theatre and writes stories about her hometown of Tualatin for The Oregonian.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sensible Career vs. Dream Career

Calcaterra '99

By Garrett Calcaterra '99 

When my creative writing instructors at Pacific University explained to me that making a successful career as a writer was extremely difficult, I happily disregarded their warnings. 

I took my minor in creative writing and went off to California to get my MFA in fiction writing where I heard more of the same from my new professors: it takes years, usually decades, of persistence and honing your craft to make it as a writer. No twenty year old wants to hear their dream could be decades away, so again, I happily ignored those warning and went about my business.

My instructors were all right, of course, but if I’d heeded their warnings and taken on a sensible career I don’t know that I would have had the heart to stick with writing for so long. As it was, I kept at it, working whatever jobs necessary to make ends meet and writing, writing, writing. 

There were a lot of small successes along the way—short stories, essays, and articles that got published here and there—but an author judges his or her success with books. The explosion of small independent publishers over the last several years gave me the opportunity to publish two books of novellas, but I was still hunting for that first publication of a full fledged novel.

Fourteen years after graduating from Pacific, it’s finally happened. Dreamwielder isn’t the first novel I’ve written, but it’s the first of mine to be published, and it’s my favorite. 

The soundest advice I received from my writing instructors was to write what you love to read, and so that’s what Dreamwielder is—high fantasy adventure, very much in the vein of Tolkien and Le Guin and contemporary fantasy writers like George R.R. Martin. 

It’s rooted in this fantasy tradition I grew up loving, but not derivative of it. Instead, I made a huge effort to make Dreamwielder very much an American fantasy novel and also challenge the stereotypical gender roles of popular fiction. Certainly, it’s a book I’m very proud of, and I hope it speaks to readers.

In the meantime, it’s more of the same for me. I’m writing like a maniac and have even taken on the role of a writing teacher. When young writers ask me what it takes to make it as a writer, I tell them the same thing my instructors told me: it takes years of hard work and honing your craft, and if you’re crazy enough to stick with it, then you have exactly what it takes to be an author. 

Calcaterra ’99 was an applied science major with a minor in creative writing at Pacific University. He teaches writing at Chapman University and the Orange County School of the Arts. His new novel, Dreamwielder, is available in e-book format at all major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Friday, March 08, 2013

A New Lesson Plan Discovered Abroad

By Erin Shepard MAT '05

Since graduating from Pacific in 2005, with my Masters in teaching, I have been incredibly fortunate to work for the Hillsboro School District. I’ve been navigating the teaching world in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades since 2006. The daily challenges and triumphs of teaching are very inspiring to me. I’ve feel as though I’ve truly found my niche in education. Adapting and growing with this ever-evolving field, brings me a lot of joy. 

Teaching has also provided me with some pretty incredible learning opportunities! I am a firm believer that the best teachers are life-long students themselves. I also think that one of the most powerful ways to learn about the world around us and to inform our teaching practices is through travel. Getting out of our comfort zones and learning about other places in the world can often lead to a greater understanding of the students we teach in our classrooms.

Just last spring, I was awarded a Fulbright-Hays educator travel grant to study in Mexico and Colombia. My trip began mid-June 2012 as I met up with my new travel comrades, 15 elementary teachers from across the United States, in Austin, Texas for a few days of orientation at the University of Texas. It was such a unique and special opportunity to connect with other educators and share experiences! 

The title of the travel seminar was “Mexico and Colombia: Beyond the Headlines.” The media coverage from both countries that we see in the states is often very negative. This experience was aimed to highlight the incredible richness of culture and diversity of people in Mexico and Colombia; to show the other side that often goes unnoticed. We visited local schools, traveled to rural villages, attended lectures and experienced ancient cultures, cuisines, arts and music. 

One of the most powerful experiences for me while in Mexico, was visiting a small village outside Puebla, called Tlaplanala. This community experienced some of the highest rates of immigration to the U.S., and its residents’ income was primarily from remittances from family members living abroad. This village, among so many others like it, was not providing enough economic opportunity to live off of. 

In response, local leaders applied for several small grants from both the public and private sector that supported families in raising chickens and pigs and growing their own vegetables. Kids from the village learn the entire process from purchasing the chickens, tending to them and even profiting from selling their very own chicken-sausage. Efforts are also being made to document language, folk stories and art from the community to preserve their rich culture. These economically tangible changes combined with feeling proud of ones’ heritage are supporting younger generations and giving them reasons to stay in Mexico. It seems to be a very powerful combination. 

In Colombia, we began our travels in Bogota. This sprawling city of just over 7 million people, sits high at 8,612 feet. I highly recommend bringing along altitude sickness medication if you plan on visiting! We toured the Universidad de Los Andes and visited a preschool there that focuses on whole child education. Bogota served as our “base camp” as we would fly out from there to the other cities on the itinerary including Medellin, Armenia, Cartagena and Santa Marta. 

Colombia’s mountainous and lush landscape is breathtaking! Our trip went up through the coffee-growing country and finished on the beautiful Caribbean coast.  The people we met along the way were so welcoming and eager to share their culture with us. Much like Mexico, the traditions, music and food vary greatly depending on what region you are in. 

Over the past ten years or so, major efforts have been made to help create access to jobs and education for all Colombians. A very emotionally moving experience for our group came in Medellin which was once ravaged by violent drug cartels. We walked in a neighborhood which most would describe as a slum, called Comuna Trece. It is traditionally the most violent area in all of Medellin. 

The people here live in a sea of tightly packed and poorly constructed houses. In Medellin, the most economically disadvantaged areas sit precariously on vast hillsides surrounding the thriving city. Knowing the hardships of the past and need to change the situation, funding for a project called the “electric stairs” helped build outdoor escalators that extend most of the way up the hillside. The escalators, also patrolled by security guards 24 hours a day, have provided better access to jobs, healthcare and schools for the residents here. 

They have also greatly reduced criminal activity and helped people feel safer in their own community. It’s an amazing success story and so inspiring to see first-hand. 

Through my travels, I learned there are many Mexicos and many Colombias. Each region, city, village and neighborhood has its own unique culture, history and traditions. My five weeks of travel left me with many things; new friendships, life-changing experiences and most of all, the desire to keep on traveling and learning. 

My teaching will forever be changed from this experience and I can’t encourage other educators enough to travel as a means of informing your practice. During the fall, I completed my curriculum project, titled, “Discovering Diverse Mexico: A Culture Box Adventure!” designed for 3rd graders. This can downloaded soon at

In the meantime, you can browse through many incredible units of study all prepped and ready to be taught that were designed by former Fulbright-Hays participants. If you are interested in educator travel grants, I am would be happy to speak with you. I’d also love to come to your classroom and talk with students about my experiences. Now, on to the next adventure!

Shepard MAT '05 currently works in the Hillsboro School District. To see the trip in its entirety, please visit her travel blog at,