Graduation 2009

Congratulations to USP's 2009 Graduates!  We wish you much success in all that you do.

The Humanities Department held a breakfast at the end of April honoring the graduates who earned a major in Humanities and Science, as well as the students who completed a minor in one area of Humanities.


Top Row (left to right):

Alice Tran (Music Minor), Courtney Cavalieri (Humanities Minor), Michael Maiden (2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major), Andrew Gangemi (2009 Humanities Minor), Rob Niescier (2009 Writing Minor), Carson Adams (2009 2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major)

Bottom Row (left to right):

Tam Nguyen (Writing Minor), Danielle Smetts (2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major), Kellie Hegarty (2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major), Pia Leone(Spanish Minor)


They are a very serious group of scholars...


...dedicated to the highest intellectual activities...   We're so proud of you.



Rome Journal #3

Some quick updates:

2 altemps ceiling 

It's Culture Week in Rome, which means the state-run museums and archaeological sites are all free. Across from the conference is the Museo Nationale Romano Altemps, filled with sculptural treasures. Of course, I'm in awe of the walls and ceilings (above photo)--here I thought I was a housepainter.

5 castel view atop

(left) A view from atop Castel Sant'Angelo of the Tiber River. The conference keeps me busy--we're in sessions from 9 am until 8 pm every day, with a break from 12-3 pm. That's just enough time to see a quick sight and grab my new favorite food, carciofo (artichokes).

5 baileys roma cousin

Bailey's Roman cousin.



Another "minor" detour: around the corner from the conference was the Church of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio. It seems every church contains something by Caravaggio (1569-1609).

15 caravaggio

Took a stroll through Villa Borghese, the Fairmount Park of Rome.

Rome 4.23.09 109 

...And then walked to Northern Rome, to the Priscilla Catacombs--over 10 km of underground passageways where approximately 40,000 Christians were buried.

20 catacombe




Rome Journal #2

Reason, Fiction and Faith: An International Flannery O'Connor Conference
20 April 2009
Today's highlights:


Pontifica Universita Della Santa Croce (the university hosting the conference) is the "new kid on the block"--the newest Pontifical University in Rome. The conference organizer, Prof. Fr. John Wauk (a former Pennsylvania resident) is a vibrant professor here in Rome.

Rome134 William Sessions (left) and Rosemary Magee (right) are among the O’Connor scholars here, along with Ralph Wood and Susan Srigley. Special guests Ughetta Fitzgerald (the daughter of Robert and Sally Fitzgerald) and Davide Rondoni (a poet and dramatist from the University of Bologna, founder of their Center for Contemporary Poetry) are terrific additions. I’ve met scholars from Buenos Aires and Portugal, Canada and Georgia. We sit in conference sessions wearing headsets like we’re at the United Nations—behind us, there is a wall of tinted glass where the elusive translators sit.


Rome12(Left) Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a Southern writer known for her harrowing novels and short stories, which fuse orthodox Catholicism with transformational violence. Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Quentin Tarantino cite her as an influence; Conan O’Brien and Tommy Lee Jones each wrote their senior thesis on O’Connor’s work. Her most popular stories include those from the short story collections A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Her writing is vivid and ferocious—and widely misread and misunderstood.

And, Flannery O'Connor was very funny. 

“Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers,” O’Connor once said (when discussing fiction writers). “My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

O’Connor traveled to Notre Dame to present a talk to writers in 1955. When she arrived home to Milledgeville, Georgia, she found that her mother had hung new frilly curtains in her bedroom. “The curtains have to go,” O’Connor said, “lest they ruin my prose.” T

Today's food report: Cappucino, Gelato, Tomato/Basil/ Mozarella sandwich (in that order). There was a "coffee break" at the conference, and I spent ten minutes looking for the coffee. Then, I realized that tiny plastic cups (like thimbles! the size that holds a swig of mouthwash!) were there for us to serve ourselves espresso.



Rome Journal

Rome, Day 1
18 April 2009 ~ Saturday

Rome1 Here I am in Rome, presenting a scholarly paper on short story writer Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) at “Poetics and Christianity: An International Flannery O’Connor Conference,” sponsored by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. I arrived at 8.45 am at Leonardo da Vinci airport after sleeping fitfully on a crowded plane from Philadelphia. I’ve never been to Rome, but it was easy enough to take a train from the airport to the Termini Rail Station downtown. From there, I grabbed a taxi. (“Everything will be all-a-right,” my driver said, as he sped over bumpy streets, swerving wildly past tour buses and cutting off scooters. I enjoyed his fearless driving, but decided right then that I would not rent a scooter in Rome.)

Rome2 Hotel Due Torri is my home for the next week. It’s a small place, with narrow hallways and small, clean rooms. My 5th floor room has a terrace that overlooks the terra cotta roofs of the Piazza Navona area.

Though tired—and though I need to do some thinking and research before my conference presentation— I walked to nearby Piazza Navona.

Rome3 Neptune and sea nymphs swim in the fountain there; artists sell paintings in the sun. I ate my first gelato (chocolate) and circled the piazza.

Rome is otherworldly. 

Rome5 When you travel or when you write, tangents and detours often lead to unexpected rewards. Along the way home from Piazza Navona, I discovered a little church called Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi on Via dei Portoghesi. It’s not on any map or in any tour book. I noticed the front gate open and walked through it. Inside, I found a stunning church. A silver-haired man with slender fingers played the organ, and the music charged through the air. This, I learned, was organista Jean Guillou, practicing for that evening’s free concert. For now, there were four of us in the church, and we strolled the aisles and gasped at the ceilings as Guillou played.


Rome6 I exited the church and continued to walk. The late afternoon sun cast a yellow glow on people walking toward the Pantheon. I followed. I ate pizza on the steps of the fountain next to the Pantheon, then wandered through the solid Corinthian columns among the throngs of tourists. There I was, in one of the oldest buildings in the world, wearing an iPod and listening to a downloaded Pantheon tour. (I think I heard Hadrian groan from the afterlife.) 

Rome10 I wanted to see the tomb of artist Raphael and the oculus—the round opening in the ceiling that created a column of light between heaven to earth.

I walked back to Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi on Via dei Portoghesi for Jean Guillou’s concert. Now, the church was full. I stood in the back and listened to Guillou play Handel.



Beyond Science

What you hear is true: the science programs at USP are phenomenal. But here in the deep dark recesses of the East Building (home to the Humanities Department), we're keeping big secrets.

Katie and Justin are two of our department's newest majors! We have a Bachelor's of Science degree now in Humanities and Science. That means you can earn a science degree while taking literature, art, music, foreign language, history, classics, and more. It's so much fun to tell students that they CAN have it all. Our majors are the coolest people on campus. Of course, I'm biased. :) 

Okay, okay. The students who are minoring in the Humanities department are amazing, too. Today, Courtney and Rob are in Utah, presenting papers at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference. Rob (a microbio major) is finishing a Minor in Writing this semester, and trying to decide which of his 17 short stories he should include in his thesis (the first novel isn't quite finished yet). We literally can't bind all his creative writing--there's too much of it. Courtney (a PharmD major) is finishing her Minor in Humanities. She's combining her love for American history and literature (esp. Hemingway) with her passion for music (protest songs of Vietnam and Iraq wars) and photography. Don't ask me what THAT thesis will look like.

Aali (a PharmD/Bio double major) is in Indianapolis--I can't even remember what conference he's attending, since he presents at so many now. Aali always balances his love for science with his love of exploring new places. He'll be hiking in Zion National Park one year, then renting a bike in San Francisco and riding to Alcatraz another year--so of course he's the one who would find something interesting to do in Indianapolis. He just sent me an e mail telling me about a "chocolate cafe" he just visited. Aali writes: "Even my Insulin pen told me I'd be crazy not to indulge...  They had chocolate turtle cheesecakes!  And every possible kind of nut covered in fresh made chocolate. Milk shakes, ice cream, hot chocolate oh my!"

Aali is the production manager for The Elixir, USP's literary journal. Next week is our publication party, when we give out cash prizes in fiction, drama, poetry, and nonfiction. Every year people read the journal and say, "I didn't know we had such great writers on this campus!" We do.

Writers and readers, travelers and eaters. Don't tell anyone that USP has much more than science. It'll be our little secret.

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