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Laurence Carlin

by Morgan Counts
Student Multimedia Reporter

game face 

Before every class, UW Oshkosh professor Larry Carlin psyches himself up for the next 60 minutes. He mutters to himself as a performer would before stepping on a stage or a football player before he sprints onto the field.

“Here we go,” he says before the clock starts. “There is a challenge before you.”

To his students, it is another hour of philosophy; to Carlin, it’s game on.

Carlin, a 2011 Edward M. Penson Distinguished Teaching Award winner, has been shaping the minds of young philosophers at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh since 2000. He relishes in the A-ha! moments when his students realize that philosophy is not only about dead men talking and that it is an integral part of their everyday lives.


“I say, ‘If you major in philosophy, upon graduation, you will receive a deep six figure salary,’” Carlin deadpans. Then he lets out a big laugh. “No, that’s not true. Here’s what’s true: Contrary to the myths, philosophy is very practical in the sense that it puts our most important beliefs on the table.”

It is easy to fall into Carlin’s spell. He speaks with the passion of a leave-everything-on-the-field coach. “These are the kinds of beliefs you use to confront your most important experiences,” he continues, his voice rising. “These are not the normal, everyday beliefs. These are the critical ones we argue about, the ones we hear about these days, all the political turmoil in Madison.”

Summing the evaluation of these issues into a few lines can be difficult. Carlin winces when asked for a simple explanation of “philosophy” because the definition found in dictionaries always falls short in his world. “If I had to put it in very few words I would put it as this: philosophy is the crucial examination, the critical study of our most fundamental beliefs.”

Carlin defies anyone to label beliefs in religion, morality, politics, society, science, humanity and other hotbed topics as trivial. “They are what motivate you and frame your outlook on life’s most important matters. They determine how you vote, what kind of roommate you will be, how you spend your Sunday mornings, how you raise your children, what kind of friend you are.

“Indeed, they are the very things that make you the person you are,” he stresses. “How could an intense study of those beliefs be a waste of time? What could be more practical than an evaluation of those beliefs?”

Balance Sheet to Socrates

Carlin has not always been a Plato-spewing proselyte. “When I was coming out of high school going into college, I was convinced I was going to be an accountant,” says Carlin, who earned his undergraduate degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., his master’s degrees from the University of Houston and Rice University, where he also had earned his doctorate in philosophy. “Of course I was convinced of no such thing; I thought I wanted to be an accountant.”

The son of a long-time Philadelphia Eagles executive and a registered nurse, Carlin was the one in a family of seven children to question everything. He loved to find out how things worked, why things worked. He read every one of the Encyclopedia Brown books. His toy box was filled with science lab kits.


In this podcast, Dr. Laurence Carlin talks about what sparked his interest in philosophy and the challenges he faces teaching it. Produced by Michelle Peplow.

“I wanted to be a scientist and play with test tubes and microscopes,” Carlin says. “I was a very curious kid, and I had the support around me to nurture that.”

Despite his attraction for asking questions and seeking answers, Carlin headed into college with his sights set on a career of crunching numbers. Or so he had thought.

“Thanks to the general education requirement, I had to take a course in humanities,” Carlin says. “I think it was on the recommendation of a friend to take Intro to Philosophy because he found it rather interesting.”

“Rather interesting” would turn out to be an understatement. “It changed my life,” he said in complete seriousness. “I fell in love with it.”

That course sparked something he hadn’t felt before. 
“I took another course, The History of Ancient Philosophy, and I remember being riveted by the story of Socrates, his arguments for free speech and how he died for 
the cause.”

Three weeks into his second philosophy course, Carlin changed his major. “I traded in my balance sheets, which were never balanced, for the collected works of Plato.”

Now Carlin says he spends his time sharing his love of philosophy with others, many of whom may begin as philosophy skeptics.

He often starts his first day of his Introduction to Philosophy class with these questions: “How many of you, honestly, are here against your will? How many are here because you have to satisfy a general requirement, and the truth is if you did not have to satisfy the requirement, you would not be sitting here now?”

More often than not, more than half the students would raise their hands. Undaunted, Carlin always follows with a line that generates a laugh every semester. “Good, at least little more than half of you are telling the truth.”

In the Beginning

Carlin wastes little time tackling the big questions of our times. On the first day of his Introduction to Philosophy class, he throws his students off guard with a doozy: 
“Is there a God?” From there, he’ll walk the students through the critical arguments for and against.

Carlin is quick to say that he never reveals his personal beliefs. “I tell my students from day one that your professor believes nothing for purposes of this class. I tell them that I am the messenger. It is my job to relay both sides.”

On the Receiving End

Students share with reporter Michelle Peplow what they took away from Dr. Laurence Carlin's classes. Read on. 

The result, he says, may lead to more questions. “We must not mistake not having an answer with lack of progress. Those are two entirely different things,” he says firmly. “If you are forced to re-conceptualize your belief system based in lieu of further evidence, you’ve just been educated, haven’t you?”

No Podium Here: Dr. Laurence Carlin keeps his students engaged by his active lecturing style.

His students, in fact, become more knowledgeable in their uncertainty. “We work very hard at critical thinking, at distinguishing bad arguments from good arguments, at putting a controversial view on the table and saying ‘What’s a good way to weigh the evidence for and against this view?’”

Carlin, who is loath to stand behind a lectern, likens the study of philosophy to a team sport. “It involves an active exchange of ideas. You want as much information as possible if you’re going to engage in critical thinking and look at arguments on both sides.”

During a recent lecture in his upper-division Philosophy and the Scientific Revolution class, Carlin discussed Galileo’s natural philosophy. Teaching, for Carlin, is a physical activity. He prowls back and forth, punctuating points with his hands in the air, pointing at the students. “Are you with me?” he bellows.

Carlin reads excerpts from The Essential Galileo, a letter written in 1613 from Galileo to his former student, Benedetto Castelli, a mathematics professor at the University of Pisa. Even while reading, Carlin is poised for action. Book in hand, arm bent at an angle, Carlin looks like a sprinter ready to take off.

Woe be the student who appears less than totally engaged. At one rare lull point, Carlin stands up 
and says an apparent non sequitur. “What does 
Mrs. Carlin say?” (He later explains that Mrs. Carlin in 
this case was his mother who had an arsenal of sayings for many occasions.)

In unison, the students respond, “If you are going to soar with the eagles, you can’t hoot with the owls.” That meant, get enough sleep so you can be prepared for class.

He smiles and punches the air once again. “That’s right! Now what is Galileo trying to say here?”

The Game of Life

Carlin confronts big controversial issues every class period. However, the issues that plague the non-academic in him are much more pedestrian. Carlin and his wife, Stephanie, are parents to three active children: Nathan, 9; Maxwell, 7; and Sophie, 4.

“Like every parent, we wonder if we are doing the right things,” he shares. “Are we setting the right rules? What will be the consequences here? Like any parent, I think the biggest concern you have in your life is your children. You want to be a good parent, you don’t want to fail your children.”

Carlin knows better than to seek definitive answers for his parenting questions. For now, it is enough to be involved parents and to see that their children are growing up happy, healthy and loved.

  Dr. Laurence Carlin coaches his son's fourth-grade football squad.

In spring of 2011, Carlin coached a kindergarten/first-grade softball team. He currently coaches his son Nathan’s fourth-grade tackle football squad.

Like any coach, Carlin never knows what to expect heading into a new season, especially with youngsters new to a sport.

“The first day of practice you can take nothing for granted,” he says. “If they hit the ball, they start running toward third base carrying the bat. You really have to start from square one.”

Carlin takes the same let’s-start-with-square-one game plan with philosophy neophytes. “When I teach Intro, many are already convinced before I say a word that it is boring,” he says. “Can I change their mind about philosophy? Can I get them interested in something 
that, beforehand, they thought they could never be interested in?”

Carlin takes great joy with teaching successes big and small. Whether a student grasps a difficult concept or realizes how engaging philosophy can be, he sees each accomplishment as another player running toward the right direction.

 The struggle to get there is something Carlin can never give up. “I have never gotten tired of philosophy. I continue to enjoy the challenge and I love interacting with students.”

Mastery of the course material is important, Carlin says, but more important is their ability to be better and more knowledgeable defenders of their own views.

 If Carlin’s students were to walk away from his class with only one lesson learned, he knows which lesson he would want that to be.

 “I hope that they take with them the belief that what we are doing is important, that thinking hard about religious beliefs, political beliefs, these controversial issues, is relevant, is worthwhile,” he says, adding with a big grin, “and frankly, can make your head a happy place to live too.”

Student reporter Michelle Peplow also contributed to this report.

Research Matters

Discovering New Worlds
Video Podcast

In this podcast, Professor Carlin discusses the importance of studying abroad as well as his own study abroad programs in Scotland. Produced by Morgan Counts. Original music by UW Oshkosh music composition student Grace Hennig. Photos courtesy of Laurence Carlin. For more information about Dr. Carlin' s upcoming study abroad program, please visit Reason and Religion in 18th Century Scotland.







Before every class, UW Oshkosh professor Larry Carlin psyches himself up for the next 60 minutes. He mutters to himself as a performer would before stepping on a stage or a football player before he sprints onto the field. “Here we go,” he says before the clock starts.

Read This Story …

Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks

Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks

The making of Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks.

The Making of Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks

Group lake

On Ice (from l-r) Radio-TV-Film student Mark Mazur, ice rescuers and brothers, Colin and Perry Lee, and student Trent Hilborn on Lake Poygan. Photos by Shawn McAfee/UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.

By Katie Holliday
COLS Special Reports Intern

Grace Lim loves a good story. She loves hearing them. She loves telling them. When she heard about the Lee family and their quest to keep the community safe through an airboat named Rescue 1, she knew she had the ingredients for a great story.

Grace and Mark, Trent
 Airboat Rescue 1 Film Crew: Radio-TV-Film students Mark Mazur (left) and Trent Hilborn with  journalism instructor Grace Lim  at the Poygan Waste Water Treatment Plan

A longtime newspaper and magazine journalist, Lim is now an adjunct instructor in the Department of Journalism and the producer/editor of COLS Special Reports at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Her greatest skill, she likes to say, is finding other people with skills. In the telling of the Lee family story, Lim teamed up with students Trent Hilborn and Mark Mazur, both radio-TV-film majors, who shot, lit and edited more than 16 hours of video and 8 hours of audio. They then trimmed 24 hours of material into a compelling 16-minute documentary. Lim wrote, directed and produced the documentary. Shawn McAfee, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Art and a coordinator in the University Learning Technologies, was the still photographer and designer of a 28-page full-color companion magazine. Andre Gaskins, Director of Orchestral Activities & Cello, scored original music that he and his students Amanda Martin (flute) and Callie Soddy (piano) played on the CD soundtrack.
In this Q & A, which has been compiled, condensed and edited from multiple interviews (in person and via e-mail), COLS Special Reports Intern Katie Holliday talks to Grace Lim, Shawn McAfee and the two young filmmakers about this multimedia cross-discipline collaborative project.

What is Airboat Rescue 1: 
When the Ice Breaks about?

Grace Lim: It is a story about a family of heroes, particularly about a man named Norm Lee, who lost a son, Brian, to a tragic snowmobile accident in 1977. Brian Lee was 20 years old when he and three of his friends decided to cross Lake Poygan after the first lake freeze. Lake Poygan is about 20 miles west of Oshkosh.

Trent Boat
Freeze Frame: Students Trent Hilborn and Mark Mazur shot and edited more than 16 hours of footage for a 16-minute documentary.

People who know lakes and Wisconsin winters know that the ice can been unpredictable. All four fell through the thin ice. Only one was saved. At that time there were no ice rescue vehicles readily available that could cut through both water and ice. That meant that family, friends, neighbors, public safety folks all stood on shore that day, knowing that the guys were only about a mile away, and they couldn’t get to them. Can you imagine how awful that must have been? Rather than let his grief overwhelm him, Norm, along with another victim’s wife, purchased the area’s first ice rescue airboat. Now that act would have been enough, but Norm decided he had to do more. He didn’t want any other family to go through what his did. He decided to become a ice rescuer. In fact, he and his sons, Colin and Perry, Brian’s brothers, have been rescuing people off Lake Poygan and surrounding lakes for more than three decades. They do this as volunteers. Norm is now 87 and his wife, Joyce, is 85. Even Joyce is involved. Every time Rescue 1 is called on a mission, she’s logging everything she hears on the scanner. Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks is about this amazing family of heroes.


 In this video Grace Lim, director of Airboat Rescue 1: When the Ice Breaks, and Shawn McAfee, principal designer and still photographer, and student filmmakers Mark Mazur and Trent Hilborn, share the story behind the story of this multimedia project. The video is directed by Wayne Abler of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.





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Grace Lim loves telling stories. When she heard about the Lee family and their quest to keep the community safe through an airboat named Rescue 1, she knew she had the ingredients for a great story.

Read This Story …

Green Medicine


As an editor and journalism instructor, I often hear this from well-meaning people: “Hey, you and your students should do a story on 

More often than not, the idea falls flat as a story because of several things - it lacks focus, it lacks purpose, it lacks heart. That wasn’t the case when Dr. Teri Shors, a biology and microbiology professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, told me about her biology student Sitha Thor. She told me about Sitha’s goal to document the “green medicine” that is used by Hmong people for health, wellbeing and healing and to screen the dried roots/bark and plants for antiviral properties in a virology laboratory.

Read more here.

Video from the May 8 Green Medicine Opening Event

From the mountains of Laos to the labs at UW Oshkosh


by Emily Romatoski and Dan Hager

He peers intently into the microscope, hoping to see quantifiable evidence in the traditional healing plants, roots and bark used by his parents and their parents and their parents.


Sitha Thor waters plants in a greenhouse.

These are steps that could very well help preserve the Hmong culture. Through these methodical steps that University of Wisconsin Oshkosh biology major Sitha Thor discovered a link between his family’s spiritual culture and the science that is the focus of his desired future as a research scientist or physician. This link reaffirmed what he had thought his whole life: Hmong herbs and plants have healing powers.

When Sitha works with the samples, he does not see only a few leaves or roots; he sees the stories of his family’s journey to America.


As Sitha slices apart the herb, his mind drifts to his family’s past. The slicing of the herbs reminds him of how his ancestors’ lives were torn apart by a war that they barely understood.

The Secret War

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. recruited, armed and trained Hmong men to fight what is now known as the Secret War in Laos against the rise of Communism and North Vietnamese. However, when the Vietnam War ended, and the Americans left the region, Laos fell into Communist hands. The Hmong were left to fend for themselves, against a regime set on eradicating the Hmong people. Many, including Sitha’s great--grandparents, perished as they fled from the Viet-Cong. The jungles became a new capricious home of sorts, sometimes welcoming, other times, with the Viet-Cong in pursuit, frightening. However, it was in this new home among the lush greenery that offered healing powers and became a welcomed tradition in the Thor family.

Sitha learned the role the herbs and plants played in his family’s survival through the stories of his parents’ escape from the Communists in the jungles. Sitha’s mother explained that, because of the Viet-Cong pressure, her family had to flee into the jungles with only the clothes on their backs. They had no time to gather any prized possessions, or much of anything. As a result many people fell ill in the unforgiving jungles. Rashes and fevers became a common occurrence in these makeshift jungle villages. It was at this time the refugees turned to herbal remedies to survive.

“One of them knew what kind of plants might help to ease those conditions and they actually used some plants from the wild,” Sitha said. “Those plants saved a lot of lives.”


Sitha grinds samples from the herbs. He destroys the herbs, as the Viet-Cong once tried to do his family. 

Survival was the first part of much tougher journey that ground down the Hmongs’ spirits and beliefs. The daily grind of life was given a new meaning. Sitha reflects on all of his parents’ sacrifices. “It makes me have more insight and gives me more motivation of what I’m doing to make sure I made use of myself so it wouldn’t waste my parents’ effort of going through all that,” he said.

These herbs opened the gateway for many Hmongs to survive and to gather the strength to escape.


Sitha sets up his experiment just as his parents set up a new life for the family in America. Sitha’s experiment will open new doors for future Hmong just as his parents’ journey did for him. His efforts in preserving his culture will pose a long journey, but that is nothing new for the Thor family, who live in Appleton, Wis., where Sitha, his wife and children share a large duplex with his parents and other extended family members.

Sitha can’t fathom how different this world of easily attainable food, shelter and comfort is to his parents and older relatives who have moved to the Fox Valley from Southeast Asia. For years, Sitha knew few details of his parents’ hard lives during the Vietnam War. He knows of their escaping to Thailand. Sitha’s mother, then with three young children, was eight months pregnant when the family fled Laos. Tragically, she lost the baby before it came to term. She blames the death on the lack of food and the constant struggle to find drinking water. “It was a boy,” Sitha said.

As Sitha’s mom tells the story, her face remains impassive. She talks of the treacherous rainy season in Thailand, where the Hmongs were placed in refugee camps. Drops from the sky represent the tears shed for what was lost and left behind. Sitha is often reminded of his mother’s tears when he waters the herbs and plants in the University greenhouse on the top floor of Halsey Science Center.

Pink plant
One of many plants Sitha Thor studies.


Coming to America

In 1986, more than 11 years after the Vietnam War, Sitha’s family joined a third wave of Hmong refugees to come to America. It was in this wave of refugees, when some of the Thor family herbs crossed into the American Territory, packed in banana leaves. The Thor family first landed in Seattle, Washington and then moved to Wisconsin in 1987. They’ve lived in Appleton since 1999. Sitha’s dad, Cherpheng, and mom, Seng, and their eight children joined other members of the Thor (also known as the Thao) clan which number about 300 in the Fox Valley.


Sitha peers through the microscope at the herb’s effects towards the viruses. He remembers observing his mother using herbs as a treatment in his past, when he was feeling ill (from a fever of many days) at from his pre-teen years to present.

It was at this early time that Sitha’s mother made him truly recognize the healing powers of the plants, bark and herbs. In Hmong, such remedies are called Tshuaj Ntsuab, which is loosely translated in English, “green medicine.”

Sitha’s mother would boil the tea and have Sitha drink the remedy. At the same time she would massage his body with the herbs believing the bad blood would be forced out. She would then poke his finger with a needle releasing one or two drops of this bad blood. “The interesting thing is that every time she does that, I get better,” Sitha said.

Even then, the healing powers of these herbs fascinated Sitha. These herbs were an integral part of Sitha’s life, yet he had very little understanding of their healing powers. His beliefs were based off what he was told and the effects he felt after using the herbs. His mother is known as an herbalist in the Hmong community. Her “green medicine” comes from her garden. Some dried roots and bark come from the mountains of Southeast Asia and are carefully stored in plastic bags. Her knowledge was passed from her parents, who learned from others and from a network of other Hmong herbalists. For Sitha’s mom, there is a remedy for practically any malady. And all it takes is a special herbal tea or specially made chicken soup.

Taking a Closer Look

Sitha never even thought to study the herbs until Dr. Teri Shors, biology and microbiology professor at UW Oshkosh, suggested he do so. Shors introduced Sitha to the McNair Scholarship program, a federally funded program at UW Oshkosh that aims to encourage underrepresented groups such as first generation college students or minorities to continue to graduate level studies. It is through this program that Sitha’s dedication to culture and passion for science crossed paths.


Terri Shors encourages students to take on research projects for reasons more than to bolster resumes.

Read her story here.

As Sitha holds these herbs, he cannot help but be thankful for the sacrifices that were made by his family that led to the opportunity afforded to his studies today. Sitha collected the plants, herbs and roots from his mother and several aunts and uncles. Sitha’s mother fears that these sacrifices have been made for nothing as she feels the tradition of herbal healing will die with her generation. “It makes me sad inside to hear that from her,” Sitha said.


Sitha records the results of his experiment. The recording of these results not only benefits science but also the Hmong history. A history of oral beliefs has the possibility to be written into scientific proof.

Sitha began studying his family’s herbs in Fall 2011 and was excited to form a collaborative project between the traditional healing practices of the Hmong culture and modern advances of Western science. “I feel that I get a chance to have a deeper understanding about the values of the Hmong medicine... and also the Western views of some of these beliefs,” Sitha said.

Put to the Test

In order to build this bridge, Sitha must undergo the tedious task of a repetitious experimental process. He first slices the fruit or plant he wishes to test. After, he grinds the sliced sample to a pulpy mixture that resembles minced garlic. He then sets the pulpy mixture into a sample tray.

Sitha leaves the lab and walks down a long hallway to retrieve the Vaccinia virus, a virus similar to smallpox (other viruses used were Influenza H1N1 virus and Herpes Simplex Virus 1). He then must return to the lab and flash boil the virus to prepare it for the experiment. 

He must now measure four precise but different concentrations of the herb to be pitted against the virus in a battle similar to Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed in Rocky; the unknown underdog Hmong herbs versus the powerhouse Vaccinia virus. 

Sitha must now watch four rounds of this battle. He watches hoping his herbs stand their ground against a virus with a renowned reputation for destruction. The venue for this battle: the African Green Monkey Cell, a cell that has the potential to relate humans to other mammals. The African Green Monkey Cell acts as a different type of boxing ring. Instead of the fighting being merely in the ring, the fight is for the ring; the virus fighting for the destruction and the herb fighting for its preservation.

The first round, the least level of concentrated herb, is overtaken by the virus. This virus’ domination over the herb is illustrated by the holes it punches through the ring. The next two rounds see a small reverberation of the underdog herb. Despite the herb’s improvements the virus still stands stronger.

In the fourth round, the Hedychium coronarium herb rallies back with a vengeance. The virus does not stand a chance against some of these prepared Hmong herbs that are backed by thousands of years of Hmong tradition and supported by millions of Hmong people.

Sitha observes this victory when the Hedychium coronarium herb he tested knocks out the Vaccinia virus. A victory for Sitha’s herbs meant a victory in the revival of the Hmong culture.  As Sitha sees the positive results of the experiment, he cheers in his head. This cheer is not just for Sitha though, it is for the many Hmong people who have used and continue to use these natural healing methods.

Sitha records this victory in the books.


Sitha cleans his station and chooses the next fruit or plant sample to test. He must tediously repeat this experiment. Repetition is nothing new to Sitha. This entire understanding of the Hmong culture is based on the retelling of an oral history. Sitha hopes to preserve this history by transforming the oral beliefs into a scientific written document.

It is imperative to the Hmong culture that Sitha records the Hmong tradition not only to preserve the history but also to further its endeavors in the future. Sitha has two children with his wife, Sandy, a UW Oshkosh student studying social work.

Their son, Kaio, 7, and daughter, Kyla, 2, are two major forces behind Sitha's determination. He feels these plants can foster the continued practice of the Hmong culture by younger generations in the Thor family.

"At some point my children or their grandchildren will be wondering about their grandparents or great-grandparents about their origin" Sitha said. "These plants can tell us a lot about the past."

So until this gap is bridged and until the tradition of these herbs are preserved, Sitha's journey will continue forward.



Update: As of March 2013, Sitha Thor has grown approximately 80 plants from his mom and relatives in the University greenhouse. He has tested over 70 herbs, plants and bark. More than a dozen have shown anti-viral properties. Sitha plans to attend graduate school in Fall 2013 at an institution that will allow him to continue his research on "green medicine." Sitha is also a recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence for Spring 2013.

Sitha Thor’s mom Seng Vang Thor is an herbalist in the Hmong community. She is the mother of 10 and the grandmother of 17. Her garden, host to many of her “green medicines”, reminds her of the home she left more than 25 years ago. When she brings out the tools of her trade – roots, bark, herbs – she smiles, remembering a happier past in a place that exists now only in her memory. Read her story here.

Sitha Thor’s aunt Ma Xiong Thao is a shaman, a healer, who lives in Appleton, Wis., with her husband, Chong Ge Thao, and their children and grandchildren. In this interview, Ma Xiong shares the long arduous journey she took to become a spiritual healer in the Hmong community. Read her story here.

A prominent Hmong clan leader now living in Appleton, Wis., Chong Ge Thao lives life by leading the Hmong community and volunteering time to guide his clan in a positive religious path. However, Chong Ge did not always live in the land of the free. He was born in a small village named Hoi Thah. By the age of 6, he was working on the family farm to help his family make a living. When Laos was targeted by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, Thao became a young soldier, fighting for the Communists. As a child, Chong Ge played a Chinese musical instrument called a qeej, which is made of bamboo pipes and a hardwood blowing tube, and sounds similar to bagpipes. Thao now plays the qeej during Hmong ceremonies throughout the Fox Valley. Read his story here.
Sitha Thor’s aunt Bee Xiong contributed the most samples to his research. In her home in Appleton, Wis., home are two tables covered in plants. The bigger, older plants are planted in their own containers; the smaller plants and sprouts are individually planted in Styrofoam cups. Bee learned her gardening ways from her parents in Laos, a skill she hopes she can pass to her own children. Read her story here. 

Ya Mee Xiong is the soft-spoken, great-aunt of Sitha Thor. She lives comfortably with her family in Appleton, Wis. In her charming home full of family portraits and lively grandchildren, she reminisced on the longest journey of her life. Ya Mee was born in 1924 in Xab Maj Phwv Tees, a quiet mountainside village in Laos, located in Southeast Asia between Thailand and Vietnam. She was the third youngest of four brothers and four sisters. In this rural area, she did not go to school. Instead, she became accustomed to her family’s traditions and practices—gardening. Her entire family practiced gardening and found it to be essential to sustaining their lives. Read her story here.


What began as a simple story of a young man and his research turned into a heart-rending and inspirational tale about science, family traditions, honor, sacrifice, peace and war. This is Green Medicine: From the Mountains of Laos to the Labs at UW Oshkosh.

Read This Story …

Nazar Kulchytskyy

Nazar Kulchytskyy

Nazar Kulchytskyy. Photo by Alex Beld.

By Noell Dickmann
Multimedia News Intern


the final countdown

Nazar Kulchytskyy is two points up with 55 seconds left in the match. He sees the exhaustion in his opponent’s face but doesn’t let up. Too much is at stake. They are the last two men standing in the 165-pound class of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championship. The wrestlers twist each other around a big white circle painted on a blue mat, grappling and grunting like ogres.

With the clocking ticking down… eight, seven, six… his opponent lunges, aiming for Nazar’s legs, but Nazar fends off the last-ditch effort. Seconds later, the crowd goes wild. Nazar grins broadly and celebrates with a backflip.

A junior at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Nazar has just become a two-time NCAA DIII Champion. He’s made history, as no one from the university has won the title before, and no one has won it two years in a row.

It hasn’t been an easy journey. Just over a decade ago, Nazar was living in Ukraine, dreaming of the day he would be called the world’s greatest wrestler.

Though winning a couple of national titles may be a dream come true for some collegiate athletes, Nazar is only warming up.

humble beginnings

Nazar Kulchytskyy [nuh-zar kull-chit-skee] was born in Sosnivka, Ukraine, a small, rural town of about 15,000. His parents were both music teachers whose only wish for their three children was to have better opportunities than what Ukraine could provide.

Nazar, age 8, and his coach, Leonidas. 

Nazar started wrestling when he was 7. New to the mat yet, he lost the first tournament he went to. A few months later he tried a second tournament and won. It was then Nazar gained confidence and realized he could win; he beat older boys with experience.

He continued to wrestle older boys because he placed into their weight class. He got so good he can’t remember a time since that first loss he’s placed lower than third.

Nazar's adolescence was dominated by wrestling. Instead of playing soccer with friends for fun like other eight-year-old boys in Ukraine, his strict father limited him to two activities, school and wrestling. Nazar didn't mind.

His coach, Leonidas, saw his dedication and potential early on. He liked that Nazar never gave up, even on the tough days. Leonidas challenged the young wrestlers with hard training exercises that left some unable to breathe. "If you want to be a champion, do it," he’d tell them. "If not, you can leave."

Nazar was one of the few who never left. In fact, he’d stay after practice to train more. Before he was 10, he had already made a lifetime goal: Nazar Kulchytskyy would be a world wrestling champion.

A goal like that meant a lifetime of work, and Nazar soon learned how hard that work would be.


When he was 12 years old, Nazar moved to Odessa, Ukraine with his coach and one other young wrestler to be in a wrestling club and train. Odessa was more than a thousand miles away from home.

If missing his family wasn’t hard enough on him, the training was. Every day Nazar woke up at 5 a.m. to run at least three miles before wrestling practice. Then he’d attend school and after-school wrestling practice. By the time he completed his homework it was time for bed. The next day the cycle repeated.

When the weekend came, he was usually too tired have fun with friends. "All you want is to sleep, and just relax and get ready for next week," Nazar said.

The discipline paid off. Nazar won five Ukrainian National Wrestling Championships and placed third in the European Wrestling Championship - all before the age of 17. In the meantime, back home his parents were trying to move their family to America, seeking a better life for their children.

He also tried to find a way out of Ukraine. With his older sister’s help he began contacting coaches in Germany and America to see if he could move and wrestle there.

They found Larry Marchionda of Fond du Lac, Wis., a former international wrestler who now runs his own wrestling business called World Class Wrestling Enterprises. Marchionda was conducting business online when he received a one-sentence email from Nazar:

“I want to come to America and learn English and wrestle can you help” (sic)

Marchionda liked Nazar’s priorities. “I liked it because he said learn English first, and then wrestle,” said Marchionda, who is also the wrestling administrator at UW Oshkosh. “So that meant to me that he really did want to learn.”

Nazar with dad and Larry
Nazar with Larry Marchionda (left) and his father, Arkadiy Kulchytskyy (right).

It took about 2 ½ years, but Nazar’s family got lucky. In 2008 they won the Green Card Lottery, or Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The annual U.S. program makes 55,000 visas available worldwide by drawing from a random selection of entries from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, according to the U.S. Department of State website.

According to statistics from the Diversity Visa Program website, the odds of the Kulchytskyy family winning were about 1 in 500.

Before he could move to America, Nazar needed one more thing: his high school diploma. He didn’t want to leave Ukraine just shy of graduating high school, so he studied even harder and took exams early. His Ukrainian diploma now proudly hangs next to his American one.

That spring Nazar, 16, his mom and dad boarded a flight to America, ready to start a new life in a land where endless opportunities awaited. 


Leaving Ukraine was bittersweet. Nazar couldn't wait to see what America would be like. He imagined a life free of worries and financial struggles.

However, Nazar was leaving loved ones behind - his brother and sister who couldn't come because they were too old to qualify for the visa, as well as many relatives. He had to leave wrestling friends, the people of Odessa who had come to love him as a local celebrity and Leonidas, his beloved wrestling coach for the past five years.

“Do your best, and always remember what I’ve taught you,” Leonidas told him right before he left for America.

His parents, too, were faced with big changes. They knew coming to America would give their youngest more opportunities to be successful. But it also meant they would trade their love of teaching music for working in a factory. They don’t mind, because a factory job in America has provided more financial stability than teaching in Ukraine.

the land of opportunity

When they arrived in Wisconsin, they finally got to meet Marchionda, who’d kept in close contact. He got the family settled in Prairie du Chien, Wis., and set Nazar up with a new wrestling coach and team at the local high school. Even though he had already graduated from high school in Ukraine, the American system was different and he still had to go to senior year.

However, Nazar couldn’t wrestle competitively. He was considered a professional at the high school level because of the championships he’d won. But he took it to his advantage and worked on his English skills instead.

The first year in America was rough. Nazar had already learned English for 10 years during school in Ukraine and thought he would be in good shape to speak. His first conversation was with his coach, he said, and it was a rude awakening. He couldn’t understand a word.

“That was a really tough year for me,” Nazar said. But he didn’t give up; instead he immersed himself in conversations as much as possible. “I just like to communicate with people,” he said. After a year he learned more words, then how to build a sentence and the rules of the English language.

Everybody in his high school liked Nazar because he was so different. “I didn’t have a tough time making friends,” he said. “Tougher time was to talk and talk well.”

Sometimes words weren’t needed, especially on the sports field. He and his new friends broke through the language barrier by playing basketball and soccer - they made a connection without words.

Nazar in front of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Already in 2010, Nazar had caught the U.S. Olympics Committee’s attention. He was invited to - and did - train at the Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also caught the eyes of many Division I schools. He would soon be choosing a college to attend, and the best of the best were wooing him.

Unfortunately, an injury changed his plans. He nearly tore his ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] during practice three days before a national tournament. Still, he competed and placed third, which ranked him second in the country. He practiced through the pain of his knee for almost a year before undergoing surgery.

He was sidelined after knee surgery in June 2011, so he enrolled at UW Oshkosh to recuperate. The plan was to stay a year, then move to a Division I school.

Even then Nazar couldn’t be kept out of the wrestling room at UW Oshkosh. He met coach Christopher Stratton and began practicing with Titan wrestlers as soon as he could. Nazar quickly became a team leader and arguably, the most dominant wrestler in the country.

“It’s just a pleasure being on his team cause he’s so good,” Stratton said. “He is an elite athlete.”

Nazar knows what it takes to be a winner. “When you see results, you keep working even harder,” he said. “You enjoy it because you want another medal, you want to win another tournament.”

To non-wrestlers, brute force may be the key to winning, but Nazar compares wrestling to chess - it’s all about brains. “The best guys in the country and the best guys in the world.. they’re fast, their technique is well, they’re strong, they’re powerful,” he said, “but strategy is number one.”


Before a tournament there are headphones in Nazar’s ears. Sometimes he listens to classical music if he needs to clear his mind, sometimes European techno if he needs to pump up. But just before a match, Nazar can be found alone. No noise, no people, no music, just Nazar.

“I think about [the] match and make a strategy,” he said. “And then I’ll just go in and do it.”

He’s racking the wins, including the Freestyle World Trials in April 2012, which qualified him to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics in London. But because he is not yet a naturalized American citizen, Nazar could not participate. He’s received the 2012 and 2013 WIAC Wrestler of the Year award, and dons countless gold, silver and bronze medals around his neck in a picture posted on Facebook.

Nazar wears some of the many medals he's won. 
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In this audio-only podcast, Nazar discusses the hard work involved with wrestling. Produced by Noell Dickmann. 

The plan to transfer to a bigger school has been all but forgotten. “I just can’t transfer,” said Nazar, who turned down a scholarship to UW Madison. “There’s just such nice people here who help me. I’m really close to graduation, so I don’t want to go somewhere else.”

That doesn’t mean he has dropped his main goal. He will participate in the Ukraine World Trials in the summer. If he wins he will go to the World Championship.

“My biggest dream is to be Olympic Champion,” Nazar said. “So all these tournaments are just good experiences before that biggest dream.”

He plans to become an American citizen in summer 2013 and graduate that December. Then he hopes to move to the Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and compete in the 2016 Olympics.

fish out of water

Even off the mat, Nazar’s determination can be seen in everything he does.

At UW Oshkosh, he took a swimming class as a general education requirement for his major, human services and leadership. The class did a timed, 500-yard swim at the beginning and end to see how much they improved over the semester.

Nazar took one last glance at his old time before diving into Albee Pool. He didn’t have to beat the old time, it wouldn’t affect his grade, but he wanted to.

Minutes later he touched the pool wall in completion. He heard his classmates chatter over their improvements. Then Nazar heard his new time from Titan Swimming Coach Jon Wilson.

He was the only student who didn’t beat his old time. Without a word, Nazar got out of the water, grabbed his towel and walked away.

Later that day Wilson heard a knock at the door during the Titan Swim Team practice. He knew who it was.

“Can I try again?” Nazar asked.

“Of course,” Wilson smiled.

This time, everyone in the pool cheered him on, including the Titan Swim Team. “Go! Go! Go!” they shouted as he glided past in the water.

He again touched the pool wall. Nazar had beat his previous time by 30 seconds, an incredible feat for any training, competing swimmer, let alone a wrestler. 

off the mat

Nazar seems just the opposite of a dominant athlete off the mat. A friendly smile and bright “Hello!” always appear when he sees a friend or meets someone new.

He is still known in Ukraine for his success, and some of his fellow wrestlers are actually happy he’s left because they have a better chance to be No. 1 in the country. Nazar humbly laughs it off; he’s just happy they can be successful too.

Nazar uses Lucas Peters, 6, to explain a move during a Mat Rats practice at UW Oshkosh. Photo by Alex Beld.

For now Nazar is happy where he is, but he’s not standing still. He helps coach the Mat Rats, an Oshkosh-area youth wrestling program that uses the UW Oshkosh mats to practice. An idol to the young boys, they all want to be the best.

One boy, Lucas Peters, is somewhat of a mini-Nazar. The 6-year-old had barely any experience on a Thursday, and then Nazar gave him some tips. Lucas won a tournament that Saturday.

At a Tuesday practice, Nazar noticed another boy. “He’s hurting me!” the boy whined, his face red and eyes tired as he was held down by his opponent. Nazar chuckled from afar as he mimicked the boy under his breath; champions don’t complain.

Nazar didn’t have any idols when he was a little kid; he just wanted to be the best wrestler ever. “I just want to be who I am, and keep improving and having fun,” he said.

Someday he will open his own wrestling club and start an exchange, where he will send wrestlers to different countries to learn and train. He’s already doing the latter, and will bring UW Oshkosh wrestlers with him this summer to train in Ukraine. After, he’ll stay behind and visit his siblings and extended family.

Nazar is thankful for his family. His wish for his parents is to not have to work anymore; to be able to relax in a Jacuzzi and do nothing, he said. He wants to repay them, for he knows how lucky he is to have parents who have made such incredible sacrifices to better their child’s life and how much they support his wrestling endeavors.

Ultimately, wrestling is not just a sport to him, Nazar said. It’s a part of life. It’s molded who he is and guides him in everything he does.

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Nazar Kulchytskyy competition highlights. Produced by Noell Dickmann. 

“I could be in Ukraine right now on a farm and have nothing, and now I’m here,” Nazar said. “It’s all because of wrestling.”

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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh junior Nazar Kulchytskyy claimed the 2012 and 2013 NCAA DIII Wrestling Championship - but he's only just warming up.

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Ryan Steiskal

Ryan Steiskal

UW Oshkosh art student Ryan Steiskal

By Noell Dickmann
Student Multimedia Reporter

Leaving Dinosaur Prints

Like any budding artist, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior Ryan Steiskal had always hoped his artwork would someday gain widespread attention, but he never expected it would happen within the course of his college career.

A fortuitous encounter with a professor resulted in Steiskal’s artwork being featured on the Discovery Channel website, MSNBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

While on campus over summer, Steiskal ran into art professor Gail Panske and showed her some of the pieces he’d been working on. Little did he know, Panske knew another professor who was looking for an art student to create dinosaur illustrations for a paleontological study on dinosaur behavior. 

Panske recommended Steiskal to Dr. Joseph Peterson, assistant professor in the geology department. Peterson could have gone to a professional dinosaur artist, or paleo-artist, but he wanted this art project to be a learning experience, not just another gig for the illustrator. “I wanted someone who would learn from the science, and then put those facts into their work,” Peterson said. 

When creating dinosaur illustrations, or paleo-art, paleo-artists rely on what is known to science to frame their reconstructions, and then they add their own touches to bring the animals to life, Peterson said. But he felt for this particular dinosaur, the pachycephalosaurus, which had only been known to science through fossils, the artist should be someone who didn’t have any previous experience.

Steiskal started the project not with pen and paper, but with a camera. He studied fossils and casts and took many pictures of them, then used his imagination to fill in the blanks, he said. “It feels like you’re almost working for a CSI,” Steiskal said.

Head Hitting size 500

 Two pachycephalosaurs hitting heads, created by Ryan Steiskal.

The first illustration of two pachycephalosaurs crashing into each others’ heads was finished over the span of a few days. Peterson was blown away at how well the artwork demonstrated the results of his study.

When he got the image, Peterson immediately contacted his co-author, student Collin Dischler, who is a senior studying geology at UW Oshkosh, and said, “Ryan did it.THIS is how pachycephalosaurs used their heads!”

As a professional in the paleontology field, Peterson has high hopes for Steiskal’s work. “My hope is that this will give Ryan and his talents the attention they deserve, and that the work he is producing for us will be the image scientists see when they think of dinosaurs such as pachycephalosaurs,” Peterson said.

The illustration was shown at the UW Oshkosh Dean’s Symposium in September, where Peterson was a featured speaker, and showcased in Raleigh, N.C., where Peterson’s study was featured Oct. 17 at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP).

Next it will be submitted for peer-review and publication to the scientific journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica and last - but certainly not least - the Discovery Channel, which features a story and the artwork on its news website, Discovery News.

Peterson said The Discovery News article has been picked up by a variety of other news outlets worldwide, including MSNBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Steiskal's artwork is featured in all versions of the article.

Peterson’s research has also been featured in Nature News, Scientific American and others.

Jennifer Viegas, the reporter for Discovery News who wrote the article featuring Steiskal’s artwork, was impressed with the drawings . “The image has a unique 3D quality to it, given the angles of the dinosaurs' bodies,” Viegas said. “That makes it even more compelling.”

Steiskal had no idea his drawings would garner such attention and is gratified to have had the opportunity to showcase his skills.  “I feel like I’m transitioning from the art student to a professional,” Steiskal said.

Hip Hitting size 700
Two pachycephalosaurs hitting hips, created by Ryan Steiskal

To access the article on Discovery News, please click this link:

To access the article on MSNBC, please click this link:

To access the article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, please click this link:

In this audio podcast, student multimedia reporter Noell Dickmann sits down with Ryan Steiskal to discuss what it’s like to be in the shoes of a paleo-artist.
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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior Ryan Steiskal created artwork of dinosaurs that had been unseen to science - until now.

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Marty Robinson

The Sound of Jazz

By Brad Beck
Student Multimedia Reporter

Dr. Marty Robinson on trumpet with The Marty Robinson Quartet.

Every once in a while Marty Robinson is struck by a piece of music. The music may come from a snippet from a radio commercial or a theme song to a TV show. Then Robinson remembers why the tune gives him pause - he had composed it.

Robinson is an associate professor of trumpet and jazz at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. In addition to teaching applied trumpet students, Robinson directs the jazz ensembles and teaches “The Evolutions of Jazz,” a jazz history class offered through the Music Department. Robinson holds degrees from Lawrence University (B.M. in trumpet performance), the Eastman School of Music (M.M. in jazz studies), and Florida State University (D.M. in composition). Prior to coming to UW Oshkosh in 2004, Dr. Robinson served for 10 years as an associate professor of trumpet and jazz studies at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, where he was recognized as “Teacher of the Year” in 2001.

He is the composer and trumpeter on numerous recordings that have been aired in recent years on national television and radio, including music for HBO’s The Sopranos, ABC’s 20/20, Fox’s NFL Films, PBS’s National Geographic, and CBS’s U.S. Open Tennis Coverage, as well as national campaigns for NBC’s ER, Hershey’s Chocolate, ADT Security, Gillette, and Burger King. 

Audio Only Podcasts

The following podcast interviews were conducted and produced by student multimedia reporter Brad Beck.

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Dr. Robinson speaks about why he enjoys teaching The Evolution of Jazz and the connections students make to history and culture during the class. The Evolution of Jazz will be offered in the Fall of 2012 as a part of the Music Department.

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Dr. Robinson touches on his career as a commercial composer for various corporations as well as the major television networks.

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Dr. Robinson talks about the afternoon he shared with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie.


Dr. Marty Robinson on trumpet at the Fox Jazz Festival with The Marty Robinson Quartet.


Audio Recordings

The following audio excerpts are taken from UW Oshkosh Jazz Ensemble with permission from Marty Robinson.

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"Beijo Innoncente" (featuring Marty Robinson on trumpet)

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"Prelude to a Kiss" by Duke Ellington

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"The Dance Denial"

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Every once in a while Marty Robinson is struck by a piece of music. The music may come from a snippet from a radio commercial or a theme song to a TV show. Then Robinson remembers why the tune gives him pause - he had composed it.

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Time for Change

Time for Change

Mary Anne DeZur with her invention Time for Change

Time for Change photo
Time for Change:
The time tracker for diabetics is invented by Mary Anne DeZur, Office Manager of Facilities Management at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. (photo by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.)

by Noell Dickmann
Student multimedia reporter

When Mary Anne Dezur’s son Lou was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she had little knowledge about the lifelong chronic disease that affects children and young adults. To regulate his sugar levels, Lou, then 14, had to be given insulin shots three times a day, every day. Like any good parent, DeZur, who is the Office Manager of Facilities Management at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, worried about her son's health.

In 2008 Lou started using an insulin pump, which works by delivering insulin to the body through a small tube that feeds into a needle placed under the skin. The insulin pump requires Lou to change where the needle is placed in his body every three days to prevent infection and calluses. With Lou living the busy life of a teenager, the family struggled to remember when to change the site. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of all invention,” and their frustration led the mother-son duo to invent a timer to keep track of the days when the infusion site needs to be changed. The device, as named by Lou, is called Time For Change.

DeZur felt that Time for Change could help other families with diabetics and others who need to take medication on a schedule. She entered the invention in Walmart’s “Get On The Shelf” contest in hopes of getting it to market. The contest consists of voting for a product over a series of rounds. The winner will have their product sold in Walmart stores all over the country, and the runners-up will sell their products on the Walmart website. Time For Change is competing against 4,000 contestants.

The first round of voting is from March 7-April 3, 2012. Ten winners of the round will then proceed to the final round of voting from April 11-24, 2012.

“This is so incredibly important to me, not only to make my son’s life a little easier, but also to bring this invention to other diabetics,” says DeZur, who added that if Time For Change goes to market, she and Lou, who is now 21, will donate a portion of the sales to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

To support Time For Change, please visit or to access the Facebook fan page, visit

In this audio-only podcast, student multimedia reporter Noell Dickmann talks with Mary Anne DeZur about the story behind Time For Change and its potential to impact the diabetes community.


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Mary Anne DeZur and her son Lou, who has juvenile diabetes, invented Time for Change, a device that could help make lives easier for people with diabetes. DeZur is the Office Manager of Facilities Management at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

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Midwest in the Far East

Midwest in the Far East

UW Oshkosh students trek up the Great Wall of China.

Update: If you would to order prints or a DVD from The Midwest in the Far East event, please click here.

The Midwest in the Far East on Oct. 12 is a celebration of study and travel at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. It will include a multimedia presentation in the Steinhilber Gallery and Reeve Union Theatre. Audio and video podcasts conducted in China by UW Oshkosh journalism students and multimedia interns Tom Hanaway and Kristen Manders will also be available for visitors at the gallery exhibit.

Light refreshments* will be served at 6 p.m.
Presentation in Reeve Union Theatre will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Join us for this free event on the third floor of Reeve Union.

Click on the magazine covers to read more about the two trips.

Midwest Biz Mag Cover Midwest Math Ed Mag Cover 
Business and Economics in China Math Education in China

Event Trailer

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On the Great Wall of China with Tom Hanaway

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* Courtesy of the Pepsi Fund

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For three weeks, two groups of UW Oshkosh students -- math education and business/economics -- ventured to China on a journey that changed the way they look at the world. Join us for an evening of discovery as the students share their stories.

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9/11 Remembrance Concert

9/11 Remembrance Concert

Andre Gaskins conducts the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra

9/11 Remembrance Concert at the Leach

by Grace Lim

On a gorgeous sunny day, thousands poured into the Leach Amphitheater to listen to music that lifted the American spirit. The Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, led by the newly tapped music director and conductor Andre Gaskins, played numerous songs including the hauntingly poignant Adagio for Strings and the rousing God Bless America. During the second half of the concert, the orchestra played with the popular Vic Ferrari Band.

At the concert, Gaskins acknowledged the pain and sorrow that came from that fateful day in September 2001. However, he urged the audience to also remember that despite the horrors of that time, the American spirit remains true and strong. He promised the throngs that he'd lift their hearts with music.

Gaskins kept his word.

John Koker, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, joined the orchestra for Liberty for All, an orchestral piece with narration that uses quotes from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The composition is by James A. Beckel, principal trombonist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The combination of Koker's passionate readings and the soaring music swept the audience members into a patriotic frenzy. By the end of the song, the crowd, many of whom with tears streaming down their cheeks, sprang to their feet and cheered.

Highlights from Liberty for All

The Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Andre Gaskins, performed Liberty for All, a composition by James A. Beckel. The narration is by John Koker, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

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The highlights clip was edited by Andre Gaskins, with permission from composer James A. Beckel. The audio recording is courtesy of Aaron Zinsmeister of Nitecrawler Recording Studio


Scenes from the 9/11 Remembrance Concert

Andre Gaskins 9/11 Rehearsal

Conductor Andre Gaskins and the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra a few hours before the concert began at the Leach Amphitheater.

John Koker in 9/11 Concert

John Koker, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, narrates portions of Liberty for All.

Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra

The Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra rehearsing under the direction of conductor Andre Gaskins at the Leach Amphitheater.

9/11 Crowd

Thousands at the 9/11 Remembrance Concert at the Leach gave the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra a standing ovation.


Photos by Angela Piechocki and Grace Lim. Photo composite by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.

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Patriotic songs and the American flag filled the air at the 9/11 Remembrance Concert. Led by music director and conductor Andre Gaskins, also the director of Orchestral Activities and Cello at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, the concert attracted thousands to the Leach Amphitheater.

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Stoking the Fire

Stoking the Fire

Stoking the Fire


Teresa Lind

by Kristen Manders and Grace Lim

 Fired Up on Art

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Teaching with Fire: Student pour master Kelley Gierach (l) and sculpture instructor Teresa Lind (r) get ready to light  the furnace for the bronze pour. Photo by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.


Cast Iron Demo
What: Make Your Own Iron Cast Tile Art
Where: behind the Kolf Sports Center by the UW Oshkosh Aquatics Research Center
When: Saturday, April 9 From 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
The furnace will be lit at noon and the pour will be at 1 p.m.
Cost: $12/Students; $15/others/per tile
Contact: Anna Olson at

In Teresa Lind's Advanced Sculpture class, students are taught to respect the power of the flame, especially during a metal pour when the liquid bronze gets upwards of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

At a December pour, the heat is oppressive in the foundry, which is located in the basement of the Arts and Communication building at UW Oshkosh.

The pour team gets ready for a sauna-like, yet profound, experience. Lind, who has taught in the Department of Art since 2007, keeps a close watch over the operation. The pour is run like a well-oiled Broadway production. Everyone has a role and everyone must be in sync. Unlike a play, however, a misstep in a metal pour could mean a trip to the ER.

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 Feeling the Heat: Teresa Lind and student pour master Kelley Gierach prepare the crucible full of liquid bronze. Photo by Shawn McAfee/UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies.

Pour master, Kelley Gierach, takes a torch to light the furnace that would heat solid bricks of bronze to liquid. Intense heat fills the room only minutes after the fire ignited. Students opens a large door to the furnace, heat radiating out of it like everyone in the room had stepped in to an oven. The ceramic molds made by advanced sculpting students are placed in the kiln to prepare to be filled with bronze.

Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine artists and the effort they put in to creating a thought-provoking piece of art. Donning a fire-resistant suit, student Caitlin Leu help pour the liquid bronze in to models that were casted by her and her classmates.

The work that Leu puts in to her work is well worth the literal blood, sweat and tears that go in to working in the foundry and melting down metal. In this pour, Leu burns the front of her sweatshirt, but isn’t upset because she gets to show her concept to others.

On April 16, Lind and her students will be showing off their casting skills at a community cast iron art demonstration. Those who wish to make a iron tile will be able to carve their own design into a block of sand; the art students will pour the iron and cast the tiles.


In this video interview, UW Oshkosh art instructor Teresa Lind talks about her love of the metal pour and how that act of pouring empowers her students. The interview was shot by Wayne Abler of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies and conducted by COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim.




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In Teresa Lind's Advanced Sculpture class, students are taught to respect the power of the flame. The pour team gets ready for a sauna-like, yet profound, experience.

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Testing the Waters

Testing the Waters header

Photos by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies

by Grace Lim
COLS Special Reports


 Combing the Beaches

To the casual eye, Linsi Whitman is wading in thigh-deep waters at Sunset Beach in Sturgeon Bay.  But what the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh student is actually doing is playing detective.
This past summer, Whitman and three other students combed 34 beaches in Door and Kewaunee counties to uncover what may be lurking in the waters.

Whitman is not at all squeamish about what she may find. “I really like bacteria,” says Whitman, who is majoring in medical technology. “I like learning what is the cause of the bacteria, why is it in the water, why it’s higher in certain beaches than others.”

Woman testing water
 Playing Detective: Linsi Whitman collects water samples at a beach in Sturgeon Bay.

The Sturgeon Bay site is one of five laboratories in which UW Oshkosh students are hired as interns to collect and analyze water quality in 10 counties. The findings are then reported to county health officials and the Environmental Protection Agency. This beach monitoring program is part of a large Environmental Microbiology Collaboration, headed by Drs. Colleen McDermott and Greg Kleinheinz of UW Oshkosh. Both have been long-time faculty members in the Department of Biology and Microbiology and are associate deans in the College of Letters and Science.

Students hired to sample the beach water are required to get their hands dirty, or in this case, dirty and wet. “We are growing our own crop of scientists here,” McDermott says. “ My goal for them is to have them have a great research experience.”

What the students do on the beaches and in the labs have great ramifications, McDermott says. “It’s not play data, it’s real data that’s going to affect citizens around Wisconsin,” she says, adding, “they are going to be the ones who are saying the beach is open or closed. It’s real-life work that has importance.”

The hands-on experience gives students  a fresh perspective in their studies, Kleinheinz says. “They get laboratory experience. They get field experience. They get to figure out and develop critical thinking skills because things are never cut and dried like they are in a textbook,” he says. “There is no substitute for actual real-world experience no matter how many labs or lectures you have in an academic setting.”


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Testing the Waters Video

In this video, Dr. Greg Kleinheinz and Dr. Colleen McDermott and their students talk about lessons learned in the beach monitoring program. This video is produced by COLS Special Reports editor Grace Lim and directed by Wayne Abler/UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies. Testing the Waters Video


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Lisa Whitman and her students have combed 34 beaches in Door and Kewaunee counties to uncover what may be lurking in the waters.

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Filmaker & Teacher: A chat with Troy Perkins

Filmaker & Teacher: A chat with Troy Perkins

Filmaker & Teacher


by Grace Lim
COLS Special Reports


Teaching by Doing

Filmmakers make films.

Those three words could sum up Troy Perkins' teaching mission at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he is an associate professor in the radio-TV-film department.

Perkins is aware that most film programs insist on students producing a film of their own as a rite of passage. However, he is also aware of the great difference in quality between student-produced films and professionally produced films.

P1 Perkins Direction

A director's vision:  Filmmaker Troy Perkins discusses a scene with actor Justin Bricco in the film Brothers, which is about a farm family grappling with the decision to sell their home.

His solution to bridge the quality chasm? Put his students on production sets where they learn from and work alongside industry professionals. With real deadlines and tight budgets, he says, students can truly experience the highs and lows of a professional film production.

"Sure, it would be a lot easier working with just professionals," says Perkins, who has written and directed Tractor For Sale (2006), Brothers (2008) and recently finished production on two new short films Birthday Girl (2010) and Billfold (2010).  "But I see us having a profound impact on the students when they go off and do their own productions. They are so much better prepared for the professional world just by working  on some of these productions."

Perkins' gambit has paid off. The summer faculty/student professional collaborative productions have been showcased at national and regional festivals and won numerous awards including a Gold Remi from Worldfest Houston, a Faculty Juried Screening Finalist Award at the 2008 UFVA National Conference and the Central Wisconsin Film Fest Audience Award. Brothers has also been an Official Selection at the Charlotte Film Festival, Minneapolis/St. Paul Int'l Film Festival and the 2009 Sedona Int’l Film Festival.


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In an interview with COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim, Troy Perkins, filmmaker and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, talks about how collaborating with his students on professional films has affected his teaching and filmmaking and what he has in store for future productions.


The video is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh iTunesU (requires iTunes).


 Working and Learning Together

His advocacy for such collaborations is borne of his own undergraduate experience in the very department where he is now teaching. "What I remember the most was the opportunity that radio-TV-film provided me to get on productions and to work with advanced students immediately," says Perkins, who graduated from UW Oshkosh in 1994 and earned his M.F.A. in Film Production from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He then worked for several years in New York City and Milwaukee on independent features, music videos, television, commercials, corporate videos, and concert tour video and animation design for Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, and the Beastie Boys.

 P1 Boom

Students at work: Sound recordist Jon Stricklin captures actress Liz Lohuis's footsteps for the short film Brothers (2008).

Now as the coordinator of the RTF department, Perkins aims to keep the tradition of collaborative learning going. "Hey, if you are a student, and you want to see what it's like to be on a film set, be in a studio television production, work in a radio station, you can get involved immediately."

RTF student Brittney Berna appreciates the real-world experience that Perkins brings to class. She says instructors who lack real-world know-how suffer from what she calls the "driver's ed syndrome," or all theory but little application. "You get the classroom portion of driver's ed," she says, "but until you get the hands-on behind-the-wheel thing, that's when you can really pass along that knowledge."

A Love for Stories

Growing up in Medina, Wis., a tiny rural one-stop-sign town 30 minutes north of Oshkosh, Perkins didn't dream of becoming the next Scorcese or Spielberg. The love for films and filmmaking came later. He grew up honing the art of good storytelling.

"I grew up in a family of farmers, and they all happen to be really good storytellers," he says. "I just spent a lot of time with them. I was lucky that way."

When he left Wisconsin for graduate school in the Big Apple, Perkins described that move as "an awakening." While he appreciated what the big city had to offer, he longed for the comforts, sights and sounds of home.  "When I moved to New York City, I realized almost immediately that I wanted to move back to the Midwest," he says. "It was at that that time there that I truly appreciated being from Wisconsin and what Wisconsin has to offer."

His film professors also helped him see the value of what he had left behind. "They said, 'You've had an unique experience because most of our students are coming from the coasts, coming from the East coast or coming from California, but your experience growing up in rural northern Wisconsin, that is unique.'"

He took their words to heart. "I wanted to develop real characters that I knew growing up and that people in the Midwest could relate to, instead of the Hollywood version, which is usually a stereotype," he says. "It was really exciting to develop these personal stories and these personal films but yet turn it into collaboration with our students."

Trailer for "Brothers"

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three farm brothers face an uncertain future as they confront a landscape that is rapidly changing around them.

22 Minutes - Color

written & directed by Troy Perkins
produced by Frances Perkins
cinematography by Mike Hartzel
edited by Mike Buck & Troy Perkins
sound design by Chris Felts & Tom Freitag
music by Blake Thomas, The Honky Tonk Twisters 


starring:  Justin Bricco, Jon Hanusa, Jeff Straus, John Koker, Liz Lohuis, Fran St. Andre


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Troy Perkins, associate professor in the radio-TV-film department, puts his students on production sets where they learn from and work alongside industry professionals. With real deadlines and tight budgets, students truly experience the highs and lows of a professional film production.

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The Grand Plan

 The Grand Plan


photo illustration by Shawn McAfee/Learning Technologies

By Katie Holliday
COLS Special Reports Intern

 Go Grand

As part of a class project, two groups of journalism students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh were given a real-life client – The Grand Opera House. Their task? Figure out how to attract college students to the restored Victorian theater, which has been an arts and entertainment hub in downtown Oshkosh since the late nineteenth century.

The first group, taught by Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen, took the Research and Strategic Communication class in fall 2009. In this class, they conducted research on who exactly is coming to the Grand. Through focus groups and online surveys, the students learned that the Grand’s primary audience skewed to a crowd either younger or older than the college-age group.

Students in the second group took Strategic Campaigns in Advertising, which was taught by journalism adjunct instructor Dana Baumgart in spring 2010. These students took the first group’s findings and used them to generate advertising and marketing methods that would draw an audience like themselves – college students.

In the end, they produced a marketing plan for the Grand Opera House that included the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter and a new slogan for The Grand Opera House – “Go Grand.”

Market Research

The journey from research to final presentation to clients was long but worthwhile, students say. 

Prior to this assignment, senior Dan Mast realized he had little knowledge about the 180-year-old building. “I thought it was actually at a different location,” he says. (For the record, the Grand is at 100 High Ave. in downtown Oshkosh, Wisconsin.)  Hard hats

To learn more about their client, the students in the research and communication class used methods employed by professional advertising companies. Through SurveyMonkey, a website that allows users to create personalized surveys, the students received input from respondents of all ages about the Grand Opera House. In addition, the students also conducted a focus group of college students that gave them some insight into what their peers think of The Grand and its patrons.

“We mainly focused on college students who hadn’t been to the Grand or had only been [there] a few times,” said senior Hilary Simon, who was in both classes.

With the help of the young marketers, the Grand Opera House hopes that more of the UW Oshkosh community will explore what the theater had to offer.

The Grand Opera House closed its doors in 2009 for renovations with the intention of revitalizing the venue for the Sept. 16, 2010 re-opening. The repairs to began in mid-October of 2009, primarily to the theater’s 100-plus-year-old ceiling. While renovations and repairs are being made to the building itself, Grand officials felt it was a good time to refresh the venue’s presence in Oshkosh with new marketing and branding ideas.

“One of the issues we always have…is attracting younger audiences,” said Jeff Potts, development and community relations manager at the Grand. “Being able to work with the students to develop a marketing and branding campaign really gives us some great insight into why they would come and maybe why they’re not coming.”

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Learning by Doing

In this video podcast, students and journalism instructors Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen and Dana Baumgart talk about the year-long Grand Opera House project in which the students used research to develop a comprehensive, strategic campaign for the Grand Opera House. (Grace Lim, Producer; Wayne Abler of UW Oshkosh Learning Technologies, Director)

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As part of a class project, two groups of journalism students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh were given a real-life client – The Grand Opera House. Their task? Figure out how to attract college students to the restored Victorian theater.

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Lessons from the Inca Trail

Lessons from the Inca Trail

Lessons from the Inca Trail

 Inca header

Math Education in Peru

Inca jungle


Dr. Eric Kuennen wanted to take his students, all future teachers of math, out of their comfort zone. He wanted them to view the world of mathematics from a different perspective. This desire to shake things up led Kuennen and 16 of his students to the mountains, jungles and deserts of Peru.

"We really need to go someplace that's different from the U.S.," said Kuennen, an assistant professor of math at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, who along with Dr. Jennifer Szydlik, led the students on a study tour in Peru last summer. "We need to take them out of their comfort level."

A Different View

In this four-week course "International Comparative Mathematics Education Seminar," (Math Education in Peru), students spent the first week of class in Oshkosh, where they studied theories and conditions of learning and the theory and practice of teaching. The next two weeks took place in Lima, the capital of Peru, where the students attended class at the Universidad del Pacifico and visited public and private elementary and seconInca castledary schools. The students were also given an opportunity to teach a class to Peruvian students. The last week was spent traveling Peru where they stayed at a jungle lodge in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, explored the Inca ruins and hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Kuennen said going to Peru, for many of his students, was a journey in discovery. "It is completely different from what they are used to in Oshkosh, in Wisconsin," he says. "The city of Lima is a huge sprawling city with lots of lower-income, kind of Third World neighborhoods. It was an eye-opener for our students to see that so much of the world lives in a completely different standard of living than what we're used to."

Two math professors and 16 students embarked on a four-week journey that started in the classroom in Oshkosh and ended in the Peruvian Andes mountains.  In an interview with COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim, professors Eric Kuennen and Jennifer Szydlik and their students Erica Prosser and Ben Ward talk about the lessons learned on the Inca Trail.

The video is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh iTunesU (requires iTunes).
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Cities, Jungles and Mountains

Ben Ward, a senior majoring in education, said he knew little about Peru before venturing there. "I heard of the Incas, I've heard of the Andes and I knew that it was in South America," said Ward, who has never traveled outside the United States prior to this trip .

Ward was humbled by what he saw -- from the deplorable conditions in the slum cities to the majestic mountains. "I didn't really expect the slums to be that bad and to be able to see it forever," he said. "But there were also parts that were really beautiful, the sand dunes, the rainforests were amazing, and Machu Picchu was breath-taking."

Fellow student Erica Prosser, who is majoring in elementary education, was equally enthralled. She says the experience of teaching a lesson in the Peruvian schools will help her become a better teacher. She is student teaching in Cameroon this spring.

Inca classroomShe said the students in Peru weren't used to working in groups. "There wasn't much student-centered there at all. It  was more of the teacher-transmitting the knowledge to the kids."

Prosser and her classmates decided to switch things up. They gave the Peruvian kids a group-work activity to tackle. "They were very taken aback," she says. "They weren't used to the idea of mathematics coming from them."

But toward the end of the day, Prosser said the Peruvian kids were getting the hang of this different style of teaching and learning. "They were really catching on, really enjoying the interactive way of learning mathematics."

Prosser said studying abroad has proven invaluable in her quest to be a teacher. "You have to be more sensitive to different cultures to different ways of living," she says. "It’s just so much better to not live underneath a rock and think that your way of living is the right way, or that your way of thinking is the only way. Anytime you can broaden your mind is absolutely beneficial to you and to anybody that you come in contact with."Inca students sitting

Szydlik, who has taught in the math department since 1995, agrees. "It’s very difficult to see your own culture, your own world from the inside only," she said. "And many of these students have never been anywhere but on the inside of their world." 

But the study abroad program gave the students another view of the world. "This gave us the opportunity to see things from the outside, to stand somewhere else," she said. "The math education in Peru trip gave us that, allowed us to see not only that culture, but our own in a different way."


Peru photos courtesy of the instructors and students. Photo composite by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Media Services. For more information about the math edu in Peru trip, please visit Dr. Eric Kuennen's Web site.



The UWO Math Ed in Peru group riding dune buggies near Huacachina in Ica, Peru.

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Dr. Eric Kuennen wanted to take his students, all future teachers of math, out of their comfort zone. This desire to shake things up led Kuennen and 16 of his students to the mountains, jungles and deserts of Peru.

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War: Through Their Eyes



Grace Lim, lecturer, journalism


Writing for the Media


While the Iraq War is being fought halfway around the world, the students in Grace Lim's Spring 2009 Writing for the Media class found relevancy right here on campus. They found students and alumni who have already seen the war firsthand in the Middle East or are awaiting the order to serve abroad. In one semester, these student journalists produced the War: Through Their Eyes multimedia project, which included an 80-page full-color book, a series of podcasts and a photo exhibit. War: Through Their Eyes gave 16 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh student soldiers and Marines a forum to tell the world why they enlisted during a time of war, what they did and what they felt at the front lines. The project garnered state and national attention and culminated with a May 15, 2009 exhibit opening, which showcased the photographs taken by UW Oshkosh student photographer Amber Patrick, the podcasts, the articles and the videos. The exhibit runs through September 2009 at Steinhilber Gallery's site in the second floor of Reeve Union.

The following videos are also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh iTunesU (requires iTunes).



On Sept. 18, highlights of the War: Through Their Eyes student journalism project were exhibited at the 2009 WACADA Conference. The exhibit included 15 photographs and a video about the making of the project. About 200 people attended the Going Global: Advising Our Diverse Students conference, which was held at the Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis.

Watch what Angela Victor, WACADA conference planning committee member and UW Oshkosh Academic Advisor,  had to say about the exhibit.


The project reached an audience beyond campus grounds. Three students wrote articles that were published on and Oshkosh Northwestern devoted a Sunday frontpage to the War: Through their Eyes project.




ABC War Stories (PDF)

Northwestern Article
Northwestern Article (PDF)

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Grace Lim






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While the Iraq War is being fought halfway around the world, the students in Grace Lim's Spring 2009 Writing for the Media class found relevancy right here on campus.

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