University of Indianapolis to recognize master musician Béla Fleck with honorary degree

Photo by Alan Messer

Photo by Alan Messer

Béla Fleck, a 16-time Grammy Award winner and world-renowned banjo player, will be recognized with an honorary degree at the University of Indianapolis Commencement on May 5, 2018. Fleck will perform a selection from his extensive repertoire during the Commencement ceremony.

Watch a live stream of the Commencement ceremony at 11 a.m., May 5, 2018 on

Taking the road less traveled comes naturally to Fleck. He has made his name innovating musical styles for the banjo, often defying categorization as he expertly blends various traditions to create his own unique sound. He said this approach to music allows him a certain artistic freedom.

“It’s kind of like being able to speak several languages. Everything you learn informs everything you know,” Fleck said.

Related: Local Rev. Fuquay and Grammy-winning musician Béla Fleck to receive honorary degrees at May Commencement

Fleck became interested in the banjo while watching The Beverly Hillbillies as a boy, and later pursued lessons on his own when he realized his school, New York City’s High School of Music and Art, didn’t offer a banjo elective. He started performing in his first bands as a teenager.

New York’s musical melting pot formed a crucible for Fleck to develop his style of borrowing from different genres. After seeing musicians such as Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke perform, he was inspired to experiment with rock and jazz on the banjo. A series of impressive projects soon followed, with Fleck eventually joining New Grass Revival, a progressive bluegrass band, and later forming Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, along with numerous solo projects.

“Through his unique perspective of transcending musical genres, Bela Fleck’s work connects cultures and enhances communities in a profound way. As an honorary degree recipient, Bela reflects the University’s mission and deep tradition as a community-first institution that welcomes diverse thought and influences to advance its vision through arts and sciences,” said President Robert L. Manuel.

Related: Navigating for a new millennium: Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient Rev. Rob Fuquay

Fleck said the musical community has continued to mentor and support his work, and he gives back in return.

“I am proud to have friends who also serve as teachers and sources of inspiration who are on top of the worlds of bluegrass, jazz and world music. I attempt to do the same for the folks I meet, and I look forward to doing more,” Fleck said.

Fleck and his wife and musical partner, Abigail Washburn, donate the proceeds of their merchandise to local nonprofits as they tour throughout the world.

“This outreach engages us with all the communities we perform in and allows us to give something concrete back,” Fleck explained.

For graduates looking to make their mark, Fleck said it’s a matter of balancing the goal of “being the best in your field and being the best person you can be.”

“I have experienced being considered the best at what I do, and I have worked hard for it. The easiest way to be the best is to find an area that is not glutted with people doing the same thing. Look for an area that you love but one that is not overrun, and find a way to make your contribution,” he said.

Fleck said he was thrilled to learn of the honorary degree from the University of Indianapolis.

“And my Mom is even happier – she wanted me to go to college!” he said.


University of Indianapolis hosts Indiana State Math Contest April 28

INDIANAPOLIS – With calculators in hand, dozens of middle and high school students will compete in the Indiana State Math Contest on the University of Indianapolis campus Saturday, April 28, 2018. Students will take exams in the morning, followed by lunch in the Health Pavilion and an awards ceremony at noon. The Department of Mathematical Sciences and the School of Education are co-hosting the event.

The University of Indianapolis, which is hosting the annual contest for the first time, is one of 12 host sites throughout the state. The Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics organizes the contest, which has been approved by the Division of School Activities and the Indiana Association of School Principals. Students from Hamilton Southeastern High School, Fishers High School and Roncalli High School will be participating at the University of Indianapolis host site.

The tests focus on mathematical problem-solving, including pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and comprehensive. The contest is open to any middle school, junior or senior high school student in the State of Indiana.

“This is an exciting way for UIndy to be involved in the greater mathematical community in Indiana,” said Livia Hummel, interim associate chair and associate professor of mathematics.

Learn about the mathematical sciences program at the University of Indianapolis.

Clayton Roan, mathematics instructor, was keen to bring this type of event to the University to increase the department’s community engagement.

“We’re excited to host this competition to celebrate and showcase students with academic talents in mathematics from these schools,” Roan said. “We’re also excited to expose them to our campus, to interact with them and their math team sponsors, and to provide an experience that may inspire students to consider UIndy as a college choice and/or a career in the mathematical sciences,” Roan said.

Hummel added, “With the groundwork Dr. Roan has laid this year, we hope to be able to attract additional students from other schools in coming years.”

The top three students in each category will be honored with certificates during the noon ceremony. Students scoring 75% or better receive scholar certificates. The top scorers from all sites combined are recognized by the Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics at a Final Awards Ceremony at 1:00 p.m., June 15th, 2018, in the Atrium of the Indiana Statehouse.

New community garden project at University of Indianapolis enhances healthy options for neighborhood

Community gardenWith gloves and shovels in hand, volunteers got to work on a community garden on the University of Indianapolis campus, with the goal of bringing access to fresh produce to the surrounding neighborhood. The UIndy and CHNw Community Garden (Serve360°) project is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network to provide health- and wellness-related opportunities to the Indianapolis southside.

The garden is located on the west side of the United Methodist Church at 4002 Otterbein Ave. From 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 20, volunteers from the University of Indianapolis, Community Hospital South, Purdue Extension and South Indy Quality of Life Plan cleaned nine raised garden beds, glued the bed’s cement blocks, shoveled and spread dirt, pulled weeds, and did some planting. 

“We know that social determinants, like a lack of access to nutritious food, can affect overall health and well-being,” said Priscilla Keith, Executive Director of Community Benefit for Community Health Network. “We are proud to work with our partners at UIndy to offer this pilot program which will not only provide access to fresh and affordable food; but educate students and those living in neighborhoods around the UIndy campus how to start and maintain their own gardens.  Our goal is to find ways to reach beyond our sites of care to impact the health and the quality of life of the communities we serve.”

Gurinder Hohl, who directs the partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network, said the project is highly focused on meeting community needs, including a planning committee that involves local residents. Hohl said food grown in the community garden will be available to community members and gardeners at no cost. While University of Indianapolis students will manage the garden for the first year, Hohl said community members are encouraged to take on leadership roles as the garden becomes a focal point for the neighborhood.

“The location of this garden was chosen based on its proximity to the proposed Red Line station on Shelby Street. The more you decrease access-related issues, the more people will get involved,” Hohl said.

Project planners hope to expand activities to include a farmer’s market, cooking classes, health assessments, musical performances and art displays.

“It’s about placemaking where you try to create opportunities for neighbors to mingle and have access and options related to food and health that they would not otherwise have,” Hohl explained.

The University and Community Hospital South are working in collaboration with the South Indy Quality of Life (QOL) Plan on the garden project, which ties into the Plan’s Health & Wellness initiative (and is one of 173 action steps identified by the Plan to create thriving households and healthy communities in eight neighborhoods on the Indianapolis southside). Michelle Strahl Salinas with the South Indy Quality of Life Plan explained that the Health & Wellness action team aims to bring healthier food options to residents, and to make sure they are accessible, affordable and locally sourced.

“The University of Indianapolis has been very intentional about working with the neighborhoods around the University. We believe that having UIndy as a lead and collaborating partner on our action teams brings us a knowledge base and diversity that we would not have otherwise,” said Salinas, who added that the QOL plan depends on volunteer and partner-led projects like the community garden.

Rhapsody in Blue: April 26

Rebecca SorleyProfessor of Music Rebecca Sorley will be featured along with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, conducted by Vu Nguyen, in George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on Thursday, April 26th at 7:30 p.m. Also on the program is the UIndy Chamber Orchestra led by Ariel Rudikov.

Event details

Gershwin’s “Rhapsody,” originally composed for piano and jazz band, premiered in 1924 with the composer as the piano soloist.  The work blends classical elements in a jazz style and has become a standard in the piano repertoire with accompaniments arranged for orchestra, jazz band, wind quintet and even brass choir.

Dr. Sorley first performed the piece as a junior in high school with her school band.  She looks forward to the opportunity of presenting it this season not only with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, but also on April 22nd at 4:00 p.m. with the Indianapolis Brass Choir at First Baptist Church of Mooresville.

Theatre department presents “I and You” by Lauren Gunderson

“I and this mystery, here we stand.”

The University of Indianapolis Department of Theatre presents “I and You,” written by Lauren Gunderson and inspired by Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, April 20-28 in the Studio Theatre.

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While the play has been done at Phoenix Theatre in recent years, the UIndy production will have a new spin. Director James Leagre contacted the playwright to request a gender change for one of the two main characters. Gunderson granted the request, and as a result, the upcoming production is being billed as “two casts, two stories, too good to miss.”

Thirteen students are directly involved in the production process: four student cast members, a student assistant director, a student stage manager, a student lighting design, a student sound design and a student costume design, plus four backstage crew. Another 15-20 students are involved in preparing all the elements of the show.

“Expect to be taken on an interesting, powerful, and heartfelt journey of discovery on how we are all connected and compatible beyond our understanding,” Leagre said.

Purchase tickets.

Journalist Dawn Paley shines light on Mexico’s “disappeared” with April 12 lecture

Dawn Paley

Dawn Paley

An internationally-acclaimed journalist will speak at the University of Indianapolis in April about community-led efforts in Mexico to locate the bodies of disappeared citizens. Dawn Paley will present “Grassroots Searches for the Disappeared in Mexico” at 6:00 p.m., April 12, UIndy Hall B in the Schwitzer Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Since the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico, in September 2014, family and community-led groups have begun to carry out land searches for the bodies of disappeared people in areas throughout the country. In this talk, Paley explores the crisis of enforced disappearance in Mexico and takes a detailed look at how one group of family members of the disappeared in the northern state of Coahuila has organized to carry out searches.

Dawn Paley is the author of “Drug War Capitalism,” which traces the “Drug War” story from Latin America to U.S. boardrooms and political offices. Paley, who is based in Vancouver, Canada, has written for magazines and newspapers including the The Guardian, Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, BC Business Magazine, The Nation, The Dominion, Ms. Magazine, The Tyee, the Georgia Straight, Briarpatch, NACLA Reports, This Magazine, Canadian Dimension, Counterpunch, The Vue Weekly, Watershed Sentinel and Upside Down World. She is currently a doctoral student at the Autonomous University of Puebla in Mexico.

This event is being organized by the student members of FOUND (Forensics at UIndy). Krista Latham, director of the University of Indianapolis Human Identification Center and associate professor of biology, is their faculty advisor. Paley contributed a chapter to Latham’s most recent book, The Sociopolitics of Migrant Death and Repatriation, co-edited with Alyson O’Daniel, assistant professor of anthropology. Latham said the talk will be a fascinating look into forensic science, social justice, Latin American issues, journalism and more.

“The topic is not only interesting and relevant, but Dawn is a young person, a woman and a student. It really shows how you can use your education to do amazing things,” Latham said.

Four years after 43 students from a teacher’s college were forcibly disappeared in the Mexican state of Guerrero, there are no clear answers as to why security forces attacked and detained the students or where their bodies may be located, Latham explained.

While Paley’s talk will focus on this particular instance of forced disappearance, Latham said it’s important to understand that such incidents are not rare in global populations.

“Forced disappearances are on the rise globally as governments try to avoid accountability for their actions,” Latham explained. “In the United States, this crisis unfolds along the southern border as thousands are disappeared as they try to make their way from Latin America to the U.S.”

Latham leads a team of graduate students to the Texas borderlands every year to identify the remains of people who died crossing the border so that their families can be notified. She sees many parallels between Paley’s work and her own – as citizens step into the role of investigators and activists when authorities won’t act.

“Not only does it focus on disappearing and silencing voices, but it also focuses on ways in which science can be considered an act of rebellion,” Latham said.

Read more about Dawn Paley.

University of Indianapolis honors legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

kennedykingstoryThe University of Indianapolis is a proud partner of the Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative, which is organizing events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, and his lasting legacy.

The Initiative was established to elevate and preserve the values and legacy of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by raising awareness, provoking thought and inspiring action to eliminate division and injustice. April 4, 2018 will mark 50 years since the loss of Dr. King, and Robert F. Kennedy’s historic Indianapolis speech.

The University’s Office of Equity & Inclusion has been working closely with the Initiative with the goal of becoming a catalyst to move conversations and action forward in Indianapolis.

“As a higher education institution, the University of Indianapolis serves as a model for social justice, a think tank for social consciousness and a space for intellectual discourse and debate. As such, we are uniquely positioned to help convene conversations that extend the work of Dr. King and others who have fought tirelessly for the inclusion, equity, and equality of all people,” said Sean Huddleston, vice president for the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

University of Indianapolis students will be volunteering at events throughout the city this week.

See all events here.

On April 3rd, for National Service Recognition Day, the University will join communities across the country to host the annual AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps National Service Day Recognition Luncheon, sponsored by the Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative and the Mayor’s Office. The Deputy Mayor will attend on behalf of the office, and President Robert L. Manuel will provide remarks. The luncheon will be held in UIndy Halls B & C in the Schwitzer Student Center at the University of Indianapolis.

Off-campus events:

April 3: A Ripple of Hope
5:30 p.m.: Reception, 7 p.m.: Screening, 8 p.m.: Panel

Eugene And Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 West Ohio Street

This acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Don Boggs sheds light on the fateful night of April 4, 1968 in Indianapolis. If you’ve seen this definitive take on this historic moment, now is the perfect time to revisit the powerful true story. If you’ve never seen it, now you can. Enjoy a pre-film reception and the film,  A Ripple of Hope (2008, 55 mins.) — followed by a panel discussion.

April 4: Still We Reach: Community Reflection & Conversation
10:30 a.m.
Landmark For Peace Memorial, 1702 N Broadway Street

Congressman, author and civil rights pioneer John Lewis joins with Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and daughter of RFK, and other national and local dignitaries, for reflections on the lasting influence of these two men.

April 4: Still We Reach: KKMI 50th Commemoration Ceremony
5:00 p.m.
Landmark For Peace Memorial, 1702 N Broadway Street                    

Join national and local dignitaries for the official commemoration event, featuring songs, remarks and remembrances by civic leaders, religious leaders, artists, and more.

*Tickets to both 50th anniversary commemoration events on April 4 are sold out. You can live stream the 10:30 a.m. event from any computer or mobile device using this link:

UIndy Artist-in-Residence Drew Petersen receives prestigious grant

University of Indianapolis Artist-in-Residence Drew Petersen is one of four recipients of the Avery Fisher Career Grant worth $25,000. Petersen is also the 2017 American Pianists Awards winner and a Christel DeHaan fellow.

The grants give professional assistance and recognition to talented musicians who have been identified as having great potential for solo careers, according to the Lincoln Center website. Recipients of 149 Career Grants awarded include pianists Jonathan Biss and Yuja Wang, clarinettist Anthony McGill, violinists James Ehnes and Hilary Hahn, and the Dover Quartet.


A cum laude graduate of Harvard University in social sciences, Petersen pursued undergraduate and graduate studies in music at the Juilliard School. He also has been a prizewinner in major international competitions and has been profiled in the New York Times, New York Magazine and the documentary Just Normal.

He was last on campus in February 2018, where he hosted a masterclass with University of Indianapolis students and performed a solo repertoire and concerto collaboration with the University of Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

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Petersen said interacting with the talented music students on campus has been one of the biggest rewards of his new connection to the University.

“Whenever I interact with the students and faculty, I am reminded that each day at UIndy is an opportunity to explore great music together and examine and innovate the best ways we can share it with the community. I’ve been having a great time, and I look forward to all that lies ahead,” Petersen said.

Read more about Petersen’s partnership with the University.

Wanderlust: Spring Break style

Students embarked on educational & service-learning trips during Spring Break. Here’s a look at some of their adventures and lessons learned along the way:

Savannah, Georgia

Six students from the Student Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) made the 12-hour drive to help Coastal Empire Habitat For Humanity for the second consecutive year. They gained muscle mass and so much more during the service-learning experience.

“This year’s trip was special because we helped build a house for a woman and her son. She was a veteran who served in Iraq, and it meant a lot to give back to someone who sacrificed everything so we can live in this wonderful country,” said Alyssa Goen ‘20 (sports marketing), who planned and participated in the 2017 and 2018 trips.

Activities included nailing sheaths to the frame of the house, adding trusses to the roof and working in the ReStore, where they unloaded truckloads of donated furniture and household items and prepared them for resale.


“This trip was such a humbling experience. It was so rewarding to see how our hard work moved the house further along in the construction process. Meeting the homeowner really opened our eyes to how just a week’s worth of work made such an impact in her life,” said Olivia Vormohr ‘19 (finance), who was an integral part of making the trip a reality.



Students from the Politics in South Asia class visited India for a closer look at Indian economy and society. Led by Milind Thakar, associate professor of international relations, and Paul Levesque, assistant professor of German, a dozen students traveled to the capital city of Delhi, the southern state of Kerala and other cities and towns to experience the contrasts between India’s wealth and poverty, as well as the country’s ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity.

India spring break trip

Melissa Kapsalis ’18 (political science and psychology with pre-law concentration) said she was impressed with how the trip managed to encompass so many aspects of Indian culture and life in a short time span.

“India is a little bit of everything. It has wealth, poverty, religion, beauty, destruction, and it could change each time you cross the street,” Kapsalis said.

Hong Kong and Vietnam

A group of 19 students, faculty, staff and alumni involved in the MBA program visited Hong Kong and Vietnam to explore business relations in those countries. Many of the students who participated in the trip were members of the MBA 652 Global Business Seminar class taught by Kathy Bohley, Professor of International Business & Marketing.

Students had a business meeting in Hong Kong with Fidelity Investments, then traveled to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam for a cultural tour, including a day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Mekong Delta, where they learned about the rice paper industry and other manufacturing in Vietnam. They also met with Intel Products leadership and toured Intel’s manufacturing facility, and met with the U.S. Commercial Services to discuss American business in Vietnam with a commercial officer. 


A small group of students teamed up with Intercollegiate YMCA and four other schools for a service trip to Mandeville, Jamaica where they volunteered at the Hanbury Home for Children. It was the first time Isabel Tintera ‘20 (criminal justice) had been out of the country, but that didn’t interfere with her excitement.

“Kids have always had a soft spot in my heart, so I was eager to hang out with them and hopefully impact their lives in a positive way. The experience was remarkable,” she said.

Jamaica spring break trip

Danielle Hendricks ‘18 (social work) hadn’t been involved in a service trip before, but said she was excited for the chance to get outside her comfort zone.

“I hope I impacted the children in the orphanage and made their day brighter than usual,” she said.



Students from the Scottish Literature class spent the week across the pond, visiting sites related to this semester’s readings, including the home of Sir Walter Scott (after having read his novel Waverley) and the Isles of Mull and Iona, which are referenced in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped.

“Having the opportunity to visit and explore the landscapes that inspired these authors really helped me and my classmates connect with the readings and heighten the level of our in-class discussions,” said Kara Wagoner ’19 (finance, professional writing). “In addition to all of the beautiful places we visited, I also enjoyed drinking delicious tea every morning and getting to know our bus driver, David, who had a wealth of knowledge to share with us.”

Scotland trip

Talk about a hands-on approach to learning!


Interested in service-learning opportunities? Learn more.

Interested in study abroad opportunities? Learn more.

University faculty present ‘A Holocaust Remembrance’

A Holocaust Remembrance: Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, April 16th at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Indianapolis.
The stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska and Manfred Lewin are brought to life through music, as they share the haunting experiences they endured. Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have created a triptych of pieces that deftly describe only a few of the horrific atrocities to come out of this tragic period in human history.

The evening begins with Words on Music at 6:45, as second generation Holocaust survivor Susan Stiasney shares the experiences of her parents and her aunt and uncle. The 90-minute concert will begin at 7:30, followed by a dessert reception to allow for discussion to round out this evening of remembrance.

Performers include: Kathleen Hacker, soprano; Daniel Narducci, baritone; Mitzi Westra, mezzo; Mark Gilgallon, actor; Eli Eban, clarinet; Tamara Thweatt, flute; Shoshana Kay, violin; Kurt Fowler, cello; Emmet Hanick, bass; and Sylvia Patterson-Scott, piano.
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