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Welcome to Millikin Quarterly

Millikin Quarterly, the university's alumni magazine, is produced by the Office of Alumni and Development. Four issues are produced yearly: two printed issues and two digital supplements. Distributed to alumni and friends across the country, the magazine helps keep the lines of communication open between alums and their university home.

Winter 2014-15: A Whole New Animal

Welcome to a whole new animal. Our office calls this publication “DQ” (short for Digital Quarterly), and it is the inaugural issue of an app version of Millikin Quarterly magazine. You can read the entire version below, or better yet, download the app for your iPad.

For this interactive publication, you’ll find that we took a different trail that led us away from our traditional magazine fare. Our path for stories led us to the barn, to the zoo, to the studio – all in search of visual stories about creatures that trot, waddle, crawl, fly and more. We’ve got penguins and alligators, donkeys and dogs, and even a pandoctopus and an octocoon.

How did this focus on furry and feathery creatures happen? Well, by happy circumstance, a herd of these types of story possibilities stampeded our office in recent months from among our alumni and campus community. Alida Duff Sullivan ’06, our associate director of communications, loves a good creature feature and thought our readers would, too. So with her skillful guidance in holding the reins, our new DQ hatched and took flight to rest in your hands on your tablet.

Keep scrolling to read the full issue, or jump directly to a story with the links below:

We hope you purr with pleasure as you make your way through this issue. But if there’s something you need to bark about, you know where to find me.


Deb Hale Kirchner
Millikin Quarterly Editor
Senior Director of Communications

Here's the dirt on the Frank M. Lindsay Field updates.

Renovations, including new artificial turf, scoreboard, lights and a newly re-surfaced track, were completed in September. An official dedication of the improvements was held Sept. 27. The day’s events included women’s and men’s soccer, a dedication ceremony and Big Blue football, all held on the new turf. During the first home night football game since 1928, MU defeated Aurora University 30-9 before a standing-room-only crowd. 

Watch a time-lapse video of the construction process.

Photos by Kevin Krows ’82
Video by Brian Cassidy ’09



 
For An Extinct Bird,
This Pigeon Sure Gets Around!

By Margaret Allen Friend

Did you know that the last wild passenger pigeon now nests at Millikin? The bird’s wings were, shall we say, permanently clipped in March 1901 near Oakford, Ill., and shortly thereafter, the specimen was stuffed and mounted by Oliver Biggs, a taxidermist in San Jose, Ill.

Upon Biggs’ death in 1947, his taxidermy collection was divided between his daughters, one of whom was a 1926 Millikin graduate. Olive Biggs subsequently donated more than 200 of her father’s specimens to Millikin, including owls, eagles and the passenger pigeon now christened “Big Blue.”

Possession of Big Blue is quite a feather in MU’s cap. The last known passenger pigeon, a captive bird named Martha, died in 1914. She is on display in the Smithsonian Institution as part of the exhibit, “Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America.” However, Big Blue can be seen right here at Millikin, in the William Andrew Kuhnke Museum on the first floor of Leighty-Tabor Science Center.
 
Last January, Big Blue traveled to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago with Dr. David Horn, an associate professor of biology at MU. At that event, Horn spoke of Big Blue’s historic significance.

“This was considered to be the most abundant species in North America and possibly globally,” Horn says. “Flocks of passenger pigeons were estimated to comprise more than one billion birds; flocks so large they would block out the sky for hours.”

But by 1914, they were extinct, due to multiple factors including overhunting and habitat loss.

“September 1 marked the 100th anniversary of their extinction,” Horn says. “That’s one reason Big Blue is currently getting so much attention. I think he had more photos taken during that one day at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum than he’d had in his previous 100 years.”

Big Blue flies from his MU coop again next Jan. 18, returning to Decatur’s Rock Springs Nature Center as part of an Audubon Society presentation. Preening for display in the exhibit is the least he can do, since the Decatur Audubon Society provided funding for a vitrine and base for the bird’s exhibit at Leighty-Tabor. (The vitrine is a clear barrier that surrounds Big Blue’s case, providing protection against ultraviolet light.)

“The Audubon Society graciously provided Big Blue with long-term protection so he will continue to be here for the next hundred years,” Horn says.  



The Pigeon Connection:
MU alumni apparently have a love for pigeons.

In 2009, Lucas Martell ’03 hatched the animated short film, “Pigeon: Impossible.” Join the 10+ million viewers who have watched it on YouTube.

This June, Laramie Street ’10 and Rayanna Martin ’12 opened Sincerely Pigeon Studio, a home décor and furniture business in Mt. Zion, Ill. 



Margaret Allen Friend is associate editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine.


By Margaret Allen Friend

When the late Carl Head, professor emeritus of engineering, first referred to Millikin’s 1916 undefeated football team as “Big Blue,” he created a quandary. What type of creature could serve as the official university mascot? The obvious choices in the animal kingdom — bluebirds, bluegills, etc., — are not sufficiently intimidating. It’s hard to imagine a football team called “The Fighting Bluegills,” isn’t it?

So the search for a mascot has waxed and waned over the years. Occasionally, a group of students will tackle the issue, determined to find an official mascot for the Big Blue. In 1960, a nominating committee spearheaded a student vote among six potential mascots: bull/ox, ram, bear, fox, falcon and Scottie dog (in honor of James Millikin’s Scottish ancestry). The falcon eventually won the vote, but the bird of prey never managed to hook its talons into MU’s heart. In fact, just a short time after winning the vote, the falcon mascot seemed to be as extinct as the passenger pigeon.

But like the legendary phoenix, the falcon rose again, appearing at the 1983 Homecoming football game (see photo at right). As you can see, he was christened “Big Blue,” and appropriate license was taken with the color of his plumage. But Big Blue apparently flew off into history and has not been seen in quite some time.

In 2007, a group of spirit-minded students — the Big Blue Spirit Crew — raised the mascot issue once again. Yet despite their proposal recommending that an official mascot be named, Millikin remains mascot-less.

Perhaps an appropriate mascot has not yet been proposed. Some think we should be looking closer to home for this university representative. In fact, rumors abound that university founder James Millikin might be drafted into service, with a student wearing an oversized “Jimmy M” head crafted to look like the university’s namesake. This would presumably lend itself to promotional activities and lively interaction with fans at home games. If you find this concept hard to picture, watch this video. The Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball stage a footrace during the fourth inning of every home game featuring the “racing presidents,” as caricatures of former presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt and, inexplicably, William Howard Taft, struggle to balance their huge domes while running.

Another uniquely Millikin possibility is a replica of the Bronze Man statue, complete with oversized head and “bronze” body. Presumably, he’ll be doing something more lively than reading “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

So what do you think? Is it time for students to take up the Big Blue banner and select an icon to rally around? Take our survey, and weigh in on the issue!  



Margaret Allen Friend is associate editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine.

Mary Ellis Barnes ’09 feeds the Scovill Zoo penguins in the new exhibit that opened this spring in Decatur.

The office really is a zoo for this ’09 alum, who spends her days with penguins, meerkats and wallabies.

By Amanda Hamilton ’14
Photos by Alida Duff Sullivan ’06


A normal day at work for Mary Ellis Barnes ’09 can include being followed by a penguin named Chief, his neck up and wings outstretched, begging for his favorite snack of trout. Barnes, a Decatur native, is a zookeeper at Scovill Zoo tending the colony of Humboldt penguins, a new exhibit that opened in April.

Barnes’ first encounter with penguins began after she graduated from MU with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She headed for Chicago for a five-month marine mammal internship with Shedd Aquarium.
During her time there, while caring for dolphins, sea lions and more, she completed a research project with penguins. She conducted enrichment studies where she would provide penguins with a new object, then observe and report on their behavior. “When animals are in the zoo, they don’t have the same environment,” she says. “We give them sounds, smells and things they have to manipulate to get food.”

While working with the Scovill penguins this past winter, Barnes attempted to offer them snow for enrichment. They were terrified. “They all ran as far away from it as possible and huddled in the other room,” Barnes says. “They would not come out, even for fish. I had to get rid of the snow before they would eat.” Since they are native to Peru and Chile, they are warm-weather penguins acclimated to cold water from the Humboldt cold current (for which they are named), but they are not familiar with snow.

Aside from administering enrichment activities, Barnes also trains the penguins for certain behaviors. Although Chief is friendly and doesn’t mind being handled, most of the penguins keep their distance, and Barnes wants to get them used to being touched.

She also weighs the penguins regularly and would like to scale train them. “It’s nice to put the scale in the doorway, let them step on it, reward them and let them go on their way,” she says. Right now, they all crowd around her to get the fish reward for being weighed.

She learned many of her training techniques through research articles, but she’s also visited other zoos to see how they handle their Humboldt penguins. “I asked a lot of questions,” she says. “They showed me how to hold penguins, how to feed them, the kinds of fish they enjoy, the best way to clean the exhibits, how to scale train them, how to recognize illness, what vitamins to give them.”

Caring for penguins may be one of her main responsibilities now, but Barnes didn’t begin her career planning to work with birds. “I always wanted to work with big cats,” she says. “I wasn’t sure how I would feel about animals that swim in water, and then I fell in love with them. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about birds, and then I fell in love with them. I could probably work with anything.”

Her Scovill Zoo position also gives her the opportunity to spend time with a wide variety of animals, including wallabies, meerkats, emu and a sloth. She says she enjoys working at a smaller zoo where all the zookeepers know each other well and there is more interaction among the areas. For Barnes, being a zookeeper is more than taking care of animals, it’s also an educational role: “We show people what they can’t see in the wild and bring awareness to conservation.”

Whether she’s watching meerkats play, socializing wolves or feeding penguins, Barnes enjoys seeing the variety of characters in the zoo: “It’s really cool to see all the personalities in the different animals. With my penguins, they all have little quirks. It’s fun to see that come out.” Some of the penguins are curious, waddling after lights or reflections on the floor and rocks. They even showed interest in visitors at a recent zoo event by following glow sticks along the glass. As social animals, if one gets in or out of the pool, they all follow. They take turns carrying around a rubber doorstop, sometimes getting impatient and trying to grab it from each other. A couple of the males are also very vocal.

Noticing their personalities comes not only from her observations as a zookeeper, but also from a simple enjoyment of visiting the animals. She may work with them every day, but Barnes still likes to watch the animals. She enjoys seeing the penguins “porpoise” out of the water when they work up speed swimming in the pool, or how they stretch their necks way out with wings flapping. She and her husband, Zach (who loves that she works at the zoo), visit other zoos and occasionally stroll through Scovill Zoo together. “It doesn’t get old,” says Barnes, “It’s still exciting.”  



Amanda Hamilton ’14 was a writing intern for the alumni office during spring semester and continued to write for Quarterly part time.

Annette Russo ’80 sculpts a ceramic alligator, as part of her ongoing series of animal-inspired artwork.

Assistant Professor of Art Annette Russo ’80 tames a creative cyclone to produce a menagerie of animal-inspired artwork.

By Amanda Hamilton ’14
Photos and video by Alida Duff Sullivan ’06

Watch an interview with Annette Russo.

On the outside, MU’s 3D arts building looks like an unassuming warehouse. Step inside, however, and it becomes clear that this is no ordinary warehouse full of pallets and boxes but instead a warehouse for ideas. Across the room, large pots and stacks of plates wait to be glazed while a clay creature born from a student’s imagination glares from a high shelf. Unformed clay, works-in-progress and finished pieces stand as evidence of the ideas constantly swirling around. Assistant Professor of Art Annette Russo ’80 stands in her own mass of ideas, thinking about how to improve the design of clay pots she pulls from the kiln. Tiny sea turtles swim around the rims and lids as they take their place on a shelf beside an elephant and a llama with curls of clay wool.

Russo originally wanted to be a veterinarian but made the switch to art along the way. Animals, however, are still an  important part of her work. And her inspiration comes from all corners of the animal kingdom. For example, a recent visit to the Baltimore Aquarium roused her curiosity about sea life – especially jellyfish. Her childhood pet pig and love of horses inspired her to explore barnyard animals as an artistic subject. She once set out to re-create all the animals from Noah’s Ark. And recently, large families of ducks on a pond near her home attracted her interest.  

Inspired by a visit to the Baltimore Aquarium, Annette Russo ’80 created this mixed-media coral reef sculpture featuring jellyfish and other marine life.


As an artist, Russo looks for details when she examines animals and insects, intrigued by the juxtaposition of round body shapes with the straight lines and angles of legs. With the help of junior art major Jessica Brooks ’16 of Decatur, Russo filled Decatur’s Dennis Elementary School with a variety of metal and clay creatures of all sorts this summer, including giant butterflies and dragonflies made from fan blades. “I recently went to Dennis during school hours,” says Brooks. “I saw kids touching the fish on the walls and pretending to be butterflies as they passed the massive ones in the hallway. It was cool to see that they simply get to enjoy it every day as they walk from classroom to classroom.”

For Russo, the art she creates comes from a lifetime of memories and thoughts. She imagines a conglomeration of experiences being stirred in her mind while she works.
    
“It’s like a big tornado. I can pull from any part of it I want. It keeps swirling until something knocks on the door and asks to come out,” says Russo.

Often when she answers the door, it’s an animal. She works with mixed media, using clay, metal, wood, stone and found objects that she repurposes to breathe life into a variety of creatures. In that artistic cyclone of her mind, a pair of large light globes could serve as a pair of eerie, giant eyeballs. Sometime soon she will pull them from the whirlwind and see if that’s what they become.

Her ideal project, Russo says, would be creating several versions of one animal, to bring out different characteristics. This process would be similar to an experiment she once performed by making 100 “identical” bowls. Forming one bowl daily and carving something different into each one, she observed how she was affected by the creative process. “I’m trying to start with nothing and work toward ‘allowing’ to see what happens,” she says. Even though her art reflects how a person changes every day, she finds that “your ideas about beauty don’t change.” 

Art, Russo says, “is finding ways to solve problems. Art comes from exploration of the unknown. You can’t stop exploration because you fear it.” She stays curious about everything, she says, and whether the project is commissioned or not, she always finds something in it she enjoys.

Russo seeks to impart her artistic freedom of spirit to her students, whom she sees as among the influences stirring her personal creative storm. She encourages them to examine the simple shape and contours of an object. She has discovered that people will recognize the subject even if she omits certain features. Seeing the world this way releases her creativity and provides the wind that makes her ideas swirl.

Russo’s students are often concerned about making something perfect, she says, noting that desire can restrict them artistically. “Their tightness has made me looser,” she laughs. “There is no such thing as perfect.”

In her work, a lack of perfection becomes the art itself. “The imperfections are what make it beautiful,” she says. 



Amanda Hamilton ’14 was a writing intern for the alumni office during spring semester and continued to write for Quarterly part time. She is a marketing specialist for HSHS (Hospital Sisters Health System) Medical Group in Springfield, Ill.


Who let the dogs out? MU students give abandoned dogs a chance to have families and fur-ever homes.


By Caitlin Husted ’16
Photos by Alida Duff Sullivan ’06


An hour of a student’s time to play with a furry friend may seem inconsequential, but the benefits reaped by both animal and student are significant.

Many Millikin programs and organizations require participants to volunteer a minimum number of service hours each semester. Those hours add up, says Pam Folger, director of the Career Center. Folger has oversight for student service hours.

For example, during the 2012-13 academic year, student organizations at Millikin volunteered 12,156 hours of co-curricular service, Folger says.
Delta Sigma Phi is one student organization that makes a commitment to service. In addition to helping with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a Rock Springs Environmental Center clean-up, they are now branching out to assist the Decatur Macon County Animal Shelter.

Conner Kerrigan ’15 rewards shelter dog “Pringle” with a treat for sitting on command. The pair have formed a strong bond through Kerrigan’s visits to the Macon County Animal Shelter.

“We’re learning to help train dogs,” says Delta Sig’s Conner Kerrigan ’15 of Frankfort, Ill (at right, with shelter dog “Pringle”). “Since many of these pets come from abusive homes, they’re often malnourished and some can be rambunctious. We’re going in to help curb that.”

Kerrigan began volunteering at the shelter on his own as a Millikin junior. Passionate for their cause, he donated $1,600 raised through his participation in the Bank of America’s Shamrock Shuffle 8K race.

“Volunteering is a really good feeling because when you’re working with animals, you’re not just helping an animal, you’re also helping a family,” says Kerrigan.

This summer, Beth Wallace, a Decatur Macon County Animal Shelter board member and local dog trainer, approached him about a program that focused on training individuals to work with shelter dogs.

“One of the top reasons owners surrender animals is because of behavioral issues,” Wallace says. “If we can get [dogs] trained before they leave, or help their new owners with the problems they are having, we can help keep [the pets] in their homes.”

This fall, Delta Sig members are learning basic training techniques, such as teaching a dog to sit, lie down and walk calmly on a leash. Instilling these commands in the dogs’ minds trains them to accept discipline with obedience.

These traits are not insignificant. According to Wallace, animals that receive attention and training from volunteers are adopted more quickly. Being able to follow commands makes them more appealing to potential families.

Although the training is important, the love and attention these furry creatures receive is far more significant, Kerrigan says.

“You see dogs that are jumping and running around ... [until] they see that one individual who can pet them and calm them down,” he says. “That connection is just so real.”

Even though this is Delta Sig’s first semester assisting the program, Kerrigan hopes that the fraternity’s work will continue after he graduates.

“We’re taking dogs and putting them into better situations while providing happiness to the families that adopt them. Because that’s what a pet brings,” Kerrigan says. “A pet brings happiness to [a] family.”  



Finding a Fur-Ever Home
If you’d like to adopt a pet or volunteer at a shelter in your community, visit the shelter finder at humanesociety.org.

Tell Your “Tail”
Have you rescued a pet and want to share your “tail?” Send us an email at millikinquarterly@millikin.edu, and we’ll include your story and pet photo on the MU Alumni Facebook page. Include the Big Blue in your photo and receive a special MU prize.



Caitlin Husted ’16, an English writing and English literature double major from Germantown Hills, Ill., grew up immersed in the world of pets found in her own backyard. However, she has begun to see the importance of helping animals who have no home to call their own.

Dr. Marianne Robertson displays one of her classroom critters, a rose-hair tarantula named Claire.

For more than 20 years, Professor of Biology Dr. Marianne Robertson has shared her love for all living things with Millikin students.

By Deb Hale Kirchner
Photos and video by Alida Duff Sullivan ’06

Watch an interview with Dr. Marianne Robertson.

Twenty years later, Dr. Marianne Robertson’s enthusiasm never wanes. Just ask the devoted professor of biology, who has taught at Millikin since 1994, about her students, her teaching, and – as she calls them – the “critters” that surround her at home and at work in Leighty-Tabor Science Center. On any of those subjects, her passion for teaching and learning comes roaring out.

“I enjoy teaching students at all levels,” Robertson says, after leaping up to sit on a counter in the biology lab. “I especially love teaching freshmen and helping them with the high school to college transition.”

Robertson never stops teaching. Students are welcome to hang out in her office, and often do. Ostensibly they are there to study or consult her as their adviser, but while there she encourages them to set up the baby gate and open the door to her ferret house. Then, the students and Nelson Mandela (the ferret) engage in some hands-on learning as she explains ferret attributes, such as their highly developed sense of smell and tendency to hoard shiny objects. After one playtime session, it took her three days to find her keys, hidden behind her window blinds by Nelson, who also likes to nap in an open file drawer.

“Nelson is a rescue,” she says of her friendly ferret. “He makes guest appearances in the classroom, and students will ask if he can come to the lab.”   

Robertson eagerly jumps down from the counter to show you just how much the two rescued chinchillas housed in the biology lab enjoy their daily dust bath, laughing with you while the furry pets twitch and roll about like towels in a dryer. But all the while, she’s explaining how this bath is essential to remove excess oils from their coats and noting how a flap covers their nasal passages to keep them from inhaling dust as they merrily toss and turn.

Two minutes later, she hops back on the counter to open an aquarium and coax out a rose-hair tarantula (at right), tenderly holding the slightly pink arachnid while explaining how spiders, especially tarantulas, have an undeserved negative reputation. Insects and spiders are her area of expertise.

“Movies like ‘Arachnophobia’ give spiders a bad rap. Spiders are actually very beneficial to humans, because they eat the insects that would destroy our crops,” Robertson says.

To help dispel some of the rampant incorrect notions about spiders, Robertson leads educational spider programs at elementary schools, on campus visit days and whenever she gets a chance. She especially enjoys serving as a teacher and adviser for Millikin students conducting research projects on spiders and other creatures.

“In biology, all Millikin students are given the opportunity to do research, either independently or through class,” she says. Students, she feels, learn more when research is combined with classroom experience.

In her spring honors seminar, each student is charged with the care, study and naming of a baby rose-hair tarantula for the semester. “The rose-hair is the perfect pet for a first-time tarantula owner,” Robertson says.

For example, one student researched scavenging, studying the effects of eating live versus dead prey among spiders. In another study, a student researched female spiders who “chomp down,” as Robertson put it, on their mates during or shortly after copulation.

Robertson’s enthusiasm and passion for entomology are apparently contagious.  At the end of the semester, the seminar students – many of whom may have been uneasy at first about the prospect of working with baby tarantulas – find it hard to say goodbye to their tiny subjects.

“We’ve had some tears at the end of the semester when they’ve had to leave them behind,” she says.

Robertson is proud to note that a number of her former students studied entomology in graduate school, including a former student who recently received tenure as an entomology professor at his university.

She delights when students have that “aha” moment confirming that a research project has grabbed their whole-hearted attention. A moment just like that changed her life’s direction. As an undergraduate at Clemson University, Robertson’s field of study was mammal and bird behavior. During her senior year, she decided to take an elective on insect behavior that required spending the entire semester on one research project.

“I picked a spider to research, and the professor let me even though a spider isn’t technically an insect,” she says. That one spider study spun a web around Robertson’s imagination and wouldn’t let go.

“I loved it so much,” she says. “I spent more and more time on that class at the expense of my other work.”
 
When her professor suggested that she might want to consider making entomology her graduate field of study, Robertson was stunned. “No way! This is too much fun!” she told her professor.

Twenty years later, she’s still having fun. 



Spider Savvy
Impress your friends with these spider facts, courtesy of Dr. Marianne Robertson, MU professor of biology.

  • Of the more than 45,000 species of spiders, fewer than 30 are toxic to humans.
  • In order to grow, spiders shed their exoskeletons.
  • Spiders have eight legs and most, but not all, have eight eyes.
  • A bite from the Brazilian wandering spider, also known as the banana spider, can cause hours-long erections. As a result, its venom is being studied as a possible solution to erectile dysfunction.
  • Some spiders can walk upside down on ceilings; it varies depending on the type of spider.



Deb Hale Kirchner is senior director of communications for the alumni and development office and editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine. She gained a new respect for spiders following her conversation with Dr. Robertson and hopes to hold a tarantula very soon.

Poetry by Dr. Stephen Frech
Video by Alida Duff Sullivan ’06

Clucking, crowing and braying had featured billing at last spring’s performance of Saint-Seans’ “Carnival of the Animals,” a family concert given by the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra.

The 19th century French musical suite is known world-wide for charming children young and old by mimicking the sounds or personalities of various animals, including lions, elephants and tortoises. MDSO Director Michael Luxner sought to add a Millikin touch to the free performance with the addition of some original poetry written for and read at the concert by Dr. Stephen Frech, associate professor of English. The result was Frech’s “Hens and Roosters” and “The Donkeys,” both written to complement two of the musical piece’s 14 movements.

Hens and Roosters
The hens, a clucky brood,
peck-peck, tisk-tisk,
and croon their “yoo-hoo’s.”

The roosters puff and boast,
they brush their combs,
and waddle their wattles,
crow their triumphs, their cock-a-doodle-do’s —
he’s not shy, that rooster.

But truth be told, neither are hens.
They like what they like,
and they might take a look
at that fine-looking rooster again.

Watch Dr. Frech read “Hens and Roosters.”

The Donkeys
The donkey, yes the donkey,
scatter-brained and loud,
the donkey, silly donkey,
what cause to be so proud?

What cause? Why not?
Silly filly, funny mare,
any jack or jenny …
Scatter-brained? That’s fair.

But remember, the donkey’s name
comes from the Spanish “don” —
he is royalty, perhaps a king.
If this silly jack,
then why not me?

Watch Dr. Frech read “The Donkeys.”




Dr. Stephen Frech, associate professor of English, has taught at Millikin since 2003. He has earned degrees from Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Cincinnati. He has published three volumes of poetry: Toward Evening and the Day Far Spent (Kent State University Press), If Not For These Wrinkles of Darkness (White Pine Press, 2001), and The Dark Villages of Childhood (Midwest Writing Center, 2009). His fourth volume titled A Palace of Strangers is No City, a sustained narrative of prose poetry/flash fiction, has been published by Cervena Barva Press in 2011. In 2012, he published a translation of poetry from the Dutch: Menno Wigman’s Zwart als kaviaar/Black as Caviar. He is founder and editor of Oneiros Press, publisher of limited edition, letterpress poetry broadsides. Oneiros broadsides have been purchased by special collections libraries around the world, among them the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the University of Amsterdam Print Collection.

Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Ngozi Onuora finds herself most at home surrounded by the imagination and creativity of children’s literature. In the latest edition of “Zooming In,” Professor O shares a look inside her Shilling Hall office and reads one of her favorite books.

1.) BEANIE BABIES: Strategically placed among groups of books, Beanie Babies keep Professor O company in her office. Onuora began collecting in the mid-90s, when she taught second grade. Many students brought the cuddly critters to class, and when she started collecting a few toys of her own, students and parents offered her Beanie Babies as presents. Her collection now includes an owl, donkey and elephant, just to name a few!


2.) FANS: Professor O is a fan of fans. Throughout her travels, she has collected several fans as souveniers. One of her favorite fans (at right) was purchased during her 2008 trip to China and features pandas.


3.) DELTA SIGMA THETA COUCH: This miniature couch is a keepsake from the centennial anniversary of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, of which Onuora is a proud lifetime member. She joined the sorority as an undergraduate student at Illinois State University.


4.) GLOBE: Onuora loves to travel. She keeps a globe on her desk as a reminder of the places she’s been and hopes to go. She’s traveled with students to China, Japan and Taiwan. Next on her travel bucket list? Professor O hopes to visit India with students, backpack throughout Eastern Europe or visit her father in Nigeria.


5.) PHOTO OF CHARLIE: A self-proclaimed “cat woman,” Onuora displays a photo of her beloved pet, Charlie. Though he’s no longer with her, Charlie holds a special place in her heart and on her shelf.

Upon graduating from Millikin with a degree focused in painting and drawing, Jess Black ’12 moved to Springfield, Ill., and found her place in a local artist collective known as “The Pharmacy.” She has participated in several exhibitions and maintains a studio. Her original illustrations are featured in the chapbook, “Map to the Multiverse” by Emma R. Wilson ’14, and on the album cover of “Hunter” by Good Safari, featuring 2013 MU graduates Jake Pearson, Ryan Martini and Jeffery Bensmiller.

“Searaffe” Post-It Notes and Ball Point Pen on Paper

“Pandoctopus” Post-It Notes and Ball Point Pen on Paper

“Octocoon” Whiteout, Crayon, Pen on Graphing Paper

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