Tom Keesee combines ancient and modern in “Drawings from Rome”

"Distant St. Peter's Basilica" by Tom Keesee

“Distant St. Peter’s Basilica” by Tom Keesee

Rome was once the capital of the art world, and the Italian city is behind the inspiration for a new exhibition, “Drawings from Rome,” by Fort Wayne-based artist Tom Keesee. An opening reception is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery, and the exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will be on display through March 15.

Tom Keesee is a plein-air artist specializing in landscapes and travel. His fascination with Rome ties in closely with the city’s beauty as well as its place in art history. Hundreds of years ago, “Rome was where all artists had to go if they wanted to be successful,” Keesee explained.

Keesee’s work has always drawn him to what he calls sublime or awesome subject matter. 

“I’ve always been interested in the idea of grandeur, and you just can’t get much more grand than Rome,” he said.

The drawings from Rome combine ancient monuments, 16th-century baroque and the modern, which Keesee says is intentional. “No matter where you go, even the ancient sites, modern life is all around. That’s the subject matter I tried to put in those drawings,” he said.

Keesee works on location to create pencil sketches, then later applies ink and watercolor to complete his compositions—a practice borrowed from 19th-century painters. The exhibition features a variety of architectural landmarks and everyday street scenes, providing a rare glimpse into the artist’s working process.

"Piazza del Colosseo" by Tom Keesee

“Piazza del Colosseo” by Tom Keesee

Keesee borrows the procedure of beginning his sketches on location partly as an homage to art history, and partly out of convenience.

“Artists always had to carry everything. That’s a long tradition. The more you carry with you, the harder it is to get around. That’s a big part of it, being able to produce a lot of work and then coming back to finish it over time,” he said.

The exhibition also includes five of Keesee’s landscape paintings in oil. He said the process for creating his artwork varies from the quiet nature preserves that inspire the landscapes to the bustling city streets of Rome. He appreciates the opportunity to chat with people from all over the world when he works in public.

“It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable with working in front of the public, but a lot of people come by,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people you meet from all corners of the world.”

Keesee encourages his audience to interact with the art by filling in some of the details as they view his images. While his goal is to draw accurately with regards to proportion and perspective, he deliberately leaves some of the architectural details less defined.

“I’m wanting the audience to become an active participant in the piece, and, either through memory or imagination, to complete the drawing. That’s a big part of it,” he said.

Greg Ballard makes case for energy independence in new book

Disruptive technologies like autonomous or electric vehicles enjoy plenty of media attention. In a new book, University of Indianapolis Visiting Fellow, former Indianapolis Mayor and Marine Lt. Col (ret.) Greg Ballard links those oft-cited buzzwords to unexpected topics: protecting the lives of American troops now serving in the Middle East, and shifting toward an energy-independent economy.

In his latest book, “Less Oil or More Caskets: The National Security Argument for Moving Away from Oil” (Indiana University Press), Ballard explores the impact of moving the United States’ transportation technology to a “post-oil” model. With 70 percent of the oil in the world being used for transportation, the book makes the case for alternative transportation fuels with the goal of saving U.S. troops’ lives, defunding terrorism and reducing the federal budget.

“It should be obvious to everyone that we continue to suffer enormous losses in lives and dollars just to protect the flow of oil for the world. But what if the world did not need that oil? Could we then bring our troops home from the Middle East and defund terrorism at the same time?” Ballard asked. “The current scenario has already cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, but now there’s new technology in how we fuel transportation.”

By changing the fuel in our vehicles and embracing new technologies in transportation, Ballard argues that within two decades our nation and the world could be on the path to freedom from the current dependence on oil-rich nations.

“Most people don’t know that our troops are over there to protect oil,” he continued. “As a veteran of the Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991, a war that was clearly about the availability of oil in order to maintain the global economy, I thought there might be a way for the United States and the world to lessen its need for oil.”

Ballard believes advances in technology that make electric vehicles possible can help change the dynamic in the Middle East so that oil is no longer a critical strategic commodity.

“If we can get oil to that point, then the world changes,” he said. “We have a technology staring us in the face to change that dynamic peacefully and we should be doing it.”

Changing consumer mindsets will be key to making the transition, and as the technology becomes more convenient, Ballard believes broader consumer adaptation will follow. The book also urges state and municipal governments to convert their fleets to electric vehicles.

“With autonomous vehicles and transportation fuel changing, people will have to get comfortable with this. It’ll be disruptive, but ultimately it will change people’s lives for the better,” Ballard said.

Ballard will host a discussion about the book at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in the Schwitzer Student Center (UIndy Halls B & C) at the University of Indianapolis. Ted Frantz, professor of history and director of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives, and Laura Wilson, assistant professor of political science, will join him for the discussion. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow, with books available for purchase. Register here for this free event.

International relations students partner with refugees from Burma

Integrating into a new society is no small task. A new collaboration between the University of Indianapolis Department of International Relations and the Burmese American Community Institute (BACI) seeks to make that transition a little easier.

Service_learning_expo_1153 (1)More than 19,000 refugees from Burma have migrated to Indianapolis in recent years, according to the BACI website. The University’s partnership with BACI began six years ago with a vision to create a welcoming, vibrant environment for refugees and the community as a whole.

This semester, seven graduate students and 14 undergraduate students majoring in international relations will provide more than 400 hours of social services to BACI community members, including advocacy, teaching English, tutoring kids for SAT exams and preparing for citizenship exams. Each student chose an area of focus that was meaningful to them.

The opportunity to help the Burmese immigrant community is not only a humbling experience but an avenue to discover the need for continued collaboration within the community,” said Craig-Anesu Chigadza ‘21 (international relations, psychology).

More than 200 people will be impacted by this partnership, said Jyotika Saksena, associate professor and graduate director of the international relations program.

“The majority of the older Burmese community that migrated to the U.S. are not fluent in English and those who do manage to acquire the skills do not understand the American education system or aspects of American society,” Saksena explained. “This leaves a learning gap among the young people in this community, many of whom have aspirations for higher education. Our students will be able to provide much-needed assistance to this community.”

The project will immerse students with BACI, helping them understand how non-profits work and make connections between the role played by international agencies and local refugee resettlement agencies.

It feels very rewarding to help Burmese immigrants. I really admire BACI’s staff and their commitment to assisting the immigrants and refugees and establishing institutional and cultural ties between Myanmar and the United States for the betterment of both places,” said Reagan Kurtz ‘19 (history, political science, international relations), who will be assisting with SAT test preparation this semester.

Discover other service-learning projects at UIndy

“No Belles: Legends of Women in Science” coming to UIndy Feb. 6

Amid the ongoing conversation about inclusivity in academics, a theatrical performance raises timely questions about the disparity of women pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Portland, Oregon-based Portal Theatre brings “No Belles: Legends of Women in Science” to the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, Feb. 6, 2019, to explore the stories of female scientists who have and have not received the Nobel Prize.


The University of Indianapolis is co-hosting the event with the Indiana local section of the American Chemical Society. The evening includes a reception in the lobby from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., followed by the performance at 6:30 p.m. and a chance to meet the cast from 7:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is free for this public event and registration is required.

With just 19 women represented among more than 600 Nobel Prize recipients in physics, chemistry or medicine over the years, “No Belles” focuses attention on female scientists’ work – and how to create more opportunities for women in STEM fields. The Portal Theatre, which created the original work, describes the performance: “‘No Belles’ makes visible the significant contributions of women in science and serves as a powerful catalyst for increased interactions between the sciences and the community.”

Michael Phillips, Portal Theatre artistic director, explained the show is aimed at anyone with an interest in science.

“We want the audience to know who these scientists were. The reason we chose storytelling as the primary mode for the show was so that we could, simply and directly, explore the lives of the women, and understand all they had to overcome to reach their goals,” Phillips explained.

“We wanted to bring this performance to the University of Indianapolis to highlight the contributions of women in science and the value of inclusivity,” said Debra Feakes, dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences.

“No Belles” explores the careers of Rosalyn Yalow, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Rosalind Franklin, merging science, storytelling and broader discussions of equal treatment in academics and the workplace. Creating opportunities for women in science to become role models and act as mentors to those who follow them is a big part of the story.

“The UIndy Chemistry Department is pleased to be able to offer this play, ‘No Belles,’ to the University and general community. It brings to the forefront the particular struggles of female scientists who may not benefit from the same level of support and mentorship as their peers.  The commitment and dedication of these women is an inspiration to all, and I would encourage everyone to go share this experience,” said Kathy Stickney, associate professor of chemistry and executive committee member for the Indiana Section of the American Chemical Society.

The American Chemical Society hosted a performance of “No Belles” in 2017 at the Fall National Meeting as an adjunct to a symposium on the under-representation of women in chemistry. The Portal Theatre debuted the performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2014 and the Canadian Fringe Festival in 2015 to rave reviews.

Register here for free tickets.


The Indianapolis Quartet brings unique musical language to Indiana Landmarks Center Feb. 2

The Indianapolis Quartet, the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Indianapolis, brings their unique musical style to the Indiana Landmarks Center at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. The Center’s Grand Hall provides an ideal setting for the Quartet’s program, which includes works by Beethoven, Frank Felice and Debussy.

Founded in 2016, The Indianapolis Quartet (Zachary DePue and Joana Genova, violins; Michael Isaac Strauss, viola and Austin Huntington, cello) is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Indianapolis, reaching audiences through its unique musical language and emotional performance style. In addition to concerts, masterclasses and open rehearsals at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, The Indianapolis Quartet performs frequently throughout central Indiana, the Midwest and Vermont, exercising its mission to gradually expand its reach not only regionally, but also nationally and internationally, as it continues to build its repertoire of world-class music.

Beethoven’s String Quartet in B flat major opens the concert with an energetic first movement, followed by a beautiful adagio and a playful scherzo, ending with “La Malinconia” – the famous dark introduction of the otherwise joyful finale.

Frank Felice’s “Five Whimsies for Non-Grownups,” composed in 2010, is based on five of his favorite children’s books by Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Chris Van Allsburg and J.R.R. Tolkien. The music is fresh and fun, witty and whimsical.

Debussy’s only string quartet filled with stunning melodies, exotic harmonies, drama and vigor will be featured after intermission.

In Debussy words, “I am more and more convinced that music, by its very nature, is something that cannot be cast into a traditional and fixed form. It is made up of colors and rhythms. The rest is a lot of humbug invented by frigid imbeciles riding on the backs of the Masters – who, for the most part, wrote almost nothing but period music. Bach alone had an idea of the truth.”

Suggested donation is $10, students are free. For more information, please contact Grace Labens at or 317-788-3255. Click here to learn more about The Indianapolis Quartet.

‘Packing away hunger’ on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

University of Indianapolis students, faculty, staff and their families packed 55,000 meals for people in need today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. About 300 volunteers participated in the University’s annual “Pack Away Hunger” event to package the meals, which will be distributed to Indianapolis-based organizations serving families in need.

About 300 volunteers helped "Pack Away Hunger" in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More than 50,000 meals were prepared & distributed to Indianapolis-based organizations serving families in need.

Posted by University of Indianapolis on Monday, January 21, 2019

Pack Away Hunger works to battle hunger in Indianapolis and all over the world. The focus of Pack Away Hunger is to provide nutritious meals for families. Each Nutri-Plenty™ meal that is produced provides vitamins and minerals, and contains a healthy mixture of rice, soy, vegetables and flavorings.

UIndy School of Education sends large contingent to Kappa Delta Pi Convo

KDPconvo3Nearly a dozen School of Education students from the Sigma Omicron Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi attended the 2018 Kappa Delta Pi International Convocation in Indianapolis in November, led by Nancy Steffel, professor of teacher education. School of Education Dean John Kuykendall also attended, along with other faculty and alumni.

As the Lucinda Rose Award winner for Counselor Excellence 2017, Steffel presented the counselor regional awards. Steffel served as counselor of UIndy’s KDP Sigma Omicron Chapter for 20 years, an achievement which also was acknowledged by her induction in 2017 into the Eleanor Roosevelt Society. The two new counselors who will take her place, Brittany Dyer, career navigator with the Professional Edge Center, and Jennifer Grace, assistant professor of teacher education,  joined Steffel at the KDP Convocation.

“With the Convo being held in Indianapolis this year, I felt it was important that our KDP members be Indy conference ambassadors and co-present in workshop sessions alongside our outstanding faculty. UIndy teacher candidates continue to be some of the most attractive students for jobs in the teaching profession. Dr. Steffel and Dr. Grace are doing an exceptional job creating high-impact opportunities for our KDP members,” said Dr. Kuykendall.

Chapter officers included elementary education seniors Marissa Ellsworth, Mackenzie Atto, Cassidy Smith, Grace Kinsey and Leanna Leatherbury ’19 (history). Chapter officers-elected included elementary education juniors Kiley Tompsett, Teyler Siples, Brianna Brechbuhl, LaShonica Smith, Olivia Page and Jacqueline Krall. Other participating faculty included John Somers, Department of Leadership & Educational Studies co-chair, Angie Ridgway, professor of teacher education, Deb Sachs, Teach (STEM)³ program director and Donna Stephenson, instructor.

KDPconvo`Students and faculty presented poster sessions and had the opportunity to hear renowned educators speak on a variety of different topics including STEM education, literacy strategies and sustainability. Mackenzie Atto ’19 said she appreciated the chance to network with educators ranging from Indianapolis to international locations like Nigeria and Uganda.

“This conference opened my eyes to the diversity of education around the world. There is so much variety in teaching around the world, yet we all share the same passion for education,” Atto said.

KDP President-elect Kiley Tompsett ’20 found the breakout session on student teaching particularly informative.

“The idea that stuck out the most was that I might have a different teaching philosophy or teaching style than my cooperating teacher, but I will still learn so much about what to do or even what not to do in my future classroom,” Tompsett said.

For Nancy Steffel, the convocation capped off a career of inspiring excellence in the University of Indianapolis School of Education.

“My hope is that I have laid a history of Kappa Delta Pi Sigma Omicron excellence that can be continued by future members, faculty, and counselors,” Steffel said. “Over the past twenty years, our chapter was awarded & consecutive ACE (Achieving Chapter Excellence): 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 and received the top award, Dr. Florence B. Stratemeyer Award for Chapter Excellence 2013. We have become one of the top chapters of the over 660 chapters worldwide. Although we are a small chapter, we are mighty!”

UIndy students and faculty presented the following poster sessions:

“ACE to ACE: Accentuating Chapter Experiences to Achieve Chapter Excellence” Presenters: Kiley Tompsett, Teyler Siples, Brianna Brechbuhl & Oliva Page, Sigma Omicron Chapter

“Profit through Personalized Posters” Presenters:, Leanna Leatherbury, LaShonica Smith, Cassidy Smith, Jacqueline Krall, Sigma Omicron Chapter.

“Teaching Coding with SCRATCH and Seesaw” Presenters: Mackenzie Atto, Marissa Ellsworth, Grace Kinsey, Seniors, and John Somers, Sigma Omicron Chapter.

“Engagement, Connections, and Motivation: Designing Effective Lessons for All Content Areas” Angelia Ridgway, Donna Stephenson, Deb Sachs, Sigma Omicron Chapter.

“Adolescent Brain: What’s Going On In There?” Deb Sachs, Sigma Omicron Chapter.

Learning Lab for all undergraduates on Education for Sustainability, co-presented by Nancy Steffel and Faye Snodgress.

“Secrets of the Dead” forensic expert Scott Warnasch to speak at University of Indianapolis Nov. 16

Scott Warnasch

Scott Warnasch

A nationally known forensic archaeologist will share secrets revealed by the discovery of an iron coffin in a talk at the University of Indianapolis Nov. 16.

During “American Mummies: The Industrial Birth of the Eternal Dead,” Scott Warnasch will speak about his most recent episode of “Secrets of the Dead – The Woman in the Iron Coffin” that aired in October 2018 on PBS. The event will be held at 5:00 p.m. in Lilly Performance Hall in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. A question and answer session will follow the lecture.

Krista Latham, director of the University of Indianapolis Human Identification Center, is organizing the talk. Latham’s work to identify the remains of migrants who died while crossing the southern border has been nationally recognized.

Register here for this free, L/P event.

Warnasch, a consultant who conducts field and lab work in forensic archaeology, will discuss the investigation surrounding the identity of a woman found inside a Fisk iron coffin that was disturbed by construction crews in New York City in 2011. The woman was identified as a descendent of the St. Mark AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church community, and the discovery shed light on early African-American history and the development of the AME Church.

The iron coffin, which was responsible for the woman’s remarkable level of preservation, was expensive yet very practical during the early years of steam travel. Many historical figures were buried in these coffins; however, in this case the coffin contained an ordinary citizens, Warnasch said, and a well-preserved body can reveal details about the overall health and customs of a particular social group in that historical period.

“The clothing and how they were prepared for burial speak volumes about things that don’t get recorded for everyday people,” Warnasch said. “The people who were represented in these early iron coffins are like time travelers from the beginning of the modern world.”

Originally reported as a potential crime scene, investigators in New York realized they were in fact dealing with an archaeological site more than 150 years old. The deceased was identified as Martha Peterson, who died of smallpox around 1851. Warnasch said the case highlights the expertise that archaeologists can contribute to the forensic field.

“Archaeologists are specifically trained to do exactly the meticulous documentation and step-by-step process of investigation and body recovery that most law enforcement officers are not trained to do,” Warnasch explained.

Warnasch said his mission is to teach people how much more there is to understand about grave investigation than “just grabbing a shovel and getting the body out of the ground. I add a layer of context to that crime scene that other people don’t focus on.”

Warnasch’s professional experience includes leading the human remains recovery operation at Ground Zero in the wake of the World Trade Center attack on September 11th, 2001.

“There were valuable lessons learned on what worked the first time around and what didn’t,” he said. “It proves that archaeological methodology is solid and a vital tool in mass disaster responses.”

While the topic is a favorite of film and television programs like “Bones” and “CSI” as well as a plethora of documentaries, the reality of a thorough investigation is a far cry from the grave-robbing so breezily depicted in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (which incidentally was released the same summer that Warnasch did his first field school.)

“I don’t do a lot of excavations with a whip!” Warnasch joked. “There’s a method to it. There’s a lot of thought and research that goes on. Context is so important – you have to understand the environment that you’re working in.”

Warnasch hopes to see even more convergence between the fields of crime scene recovery and archaeology. For students interested in pursuing a career in the field, he recommends being “open-minded about what you’re willing to work on.  Digging in Europe teaches you things you’d never learn digging in California. To get a well-rounded experience will leave you open to opportunities.”

Learn more about Scott Warnasch

Register here for this free, L/P event.

Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact with your campus news.

Alumni Award recipient Judge Michael Shurn ’71 to speak at UIndy Nov. 5

Judge Michael Shurn was honored with the 2018 Education for Service Alumni Award.

Judge Michael Shurn was honored with the 2018 Education for Service Alumni Award.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Michael Shurn ’71 will provide a lecture on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018 as part of the Pre-Law Student Association (PLSA) Judicial Lecture Series. The free event, which is presented by the University of Indianapolis Pre-Law Student Association, takes place at 7 p.m. in the Schwitzer Student Center, UIndy Hall A. L/P credit is available.

Judge Shurn will discuss his broad range of experience, including civil, criminal, administrative, juvenile and probate law, and his familiarity with the many aspects of life that the law touches.

“As judge of a court in rural Indiana, I’ve seen cases from splitting Tupperware to first-degree murder.  You see it all. The good, the bad, the ugly, and all the secrets blowing in the winds of Hoosier cornfields,” Judge Shurn said.

Judge Shurn graduated from the University of Indianapolis in 1971 with a degree in English and later earned his J.D. from Indiana University. He was recently honored with the University’s Education for Service Award, which recognizes an alum whose life work exemplifies a fulfillment of the philosophy underlying the University’s motto “Education for Service.”

“With over 40 years of experience in the law, many of them sitting on the bench, Judge Shurn is a wealth of knowledge not just for those interested in pursuing a legal career, but for any student who plans on entering the professional workforce,” said Dr. David Root, assistant professor of political science and pre-law advisor.

Dr. Root explained the need for legal professionals in rural areas, and noted that lawyers working in those locations tend to take on a bigger role in the community compared with their urban counterparts.

“Because of their education, professional position and representation of people in the community and government offices, they have access to important information and connections that spread deeply through their locale,” Dr. Root said. “Additionally, because of the nature of rural practice, such lawyers tend to see a lot more variety in the cases and matters that they handle on a day-to-day basis.”

About Judge Shurn
An avid community volunteer, Judge Shurn has worked extensively with the Pulaski County Historical Society, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Winamac Kiwanis Club and his church, which earned him the 2011 H.J. Halleck Award for community service. He also served six years on the University’s Alumni Board of Directors and remains active in UIndy events. Michael and his wife, Mary, have two children. Their daughter, Megan, is a 2003 UIndy graduate.

The lecture is free of charge. Registration is encouraged. Contact Dr. David Root at


Visiting Fellow Greg Ballard joins a national discussion on prosperity

Delaware_Co_Ballard_Summit_26703University of Indianapolis Visiting Fellow and former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard visited Washington, D.C. this week to participate in a Politico panel discussion, Geography of Opportunity, about ways the federal government can help cities prosper. The group was focused on finding practical, concrete solutions that have the potential of being supported by policymakers in Washington and beyond.

Learn about other examples of Mayor Ballard’s civic engagement

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