Irwin Mallin: Embracing the Joy of Teaching

Irwin Mallin is truly an unforgettable man. Throughout his time on campus, whether it was known as Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne, he has always had everyone call him Irwin. No matter what relationship he had to the person, he was always just Irwin. It would feel wrong to call him anything other than that. Being on a first name basis with everyone speaks to his character and overall personality very well. In spite of his doctorate in communication and law degrees, Irwin never felt that he was above anyone else and made sure that everyone felt like they belonged when they were around him or his beloved department of communication.

Now, 20 years after he first arrived, Irwin is set to leave the university. Irwin has been battling cancer for nearly two years now. His diagnosis is terminal and as of this writing, he has transitioned to hospice care.

Irwin was born June 20, 1962 in Syracuse, New York. According to Irwin, Syracuse was a good place to be a kid, but not so much fun as an adult. His father and uncle taught him his sarcastic and unapologetic sense of humor, and he described himself as a very ordinary high school student who enjoyed watching sports and goofing off.

Growing up in Syracuse was something special for Irwin. “Syracuse was designed as a place to be a kid.”

 

Irwin’s senior photo from Nottingham High School in 1980.

After high school, Irwin went to Syracuse University where he studied communication. He found communication to be very interesting. “Communication allows you to be a part of people’s lives in ways that you otherwise wouldn’t,” Irwin said. After graduating with a degree in communication, Irwin went back to Syracuse University to get a law degree.

Irwin has always loved being able to help people through difficult times. After getting his law degree, Irwin spent five years as a bankruptcy lawyer. During that time, he estimated that he assisted around 70 people. He enjoyed his time as a lawyer because he was able to spend some time helping people. Helping people was always Irwin’s strong suit.

In 1999, Irwin continued to find ways to help people during challenging and transitional periods – this time as a college professor and head advisor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He no longer found joy from his career as a lawyer and wanted to do something more fun.

“I wanted to teach because it was easy and seemed fun,” Irwin said. For Irwin, the excitement and passion for teaching never faded.

For the better part of 20 years, Irwin has devoted himself to his students and his work. His level of expertise and ability to connect with anyone he met set him apart from every other professor on the Purdue Fort Wayne campus. He genuinely cared about each and every student he interacted with on campus and would do anything to make sure they would succeed.

Dr. Marcia Dixson, Professor of Communication and Associate Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at PFW, was the chair of the Communication Department for nine years from 2006-2015. As Irwin’s former department head, Dixson experienced many years of Irwin’s sometimes-awkward social abilities, sarcastic humor and commitment to student success.

“For the most part [being Irwin’s boss] was easy. Unless he was really fired up, he just works hard and does what’s best for the students and the department. He was always doing what’s best for the students and he was always willing to put the effort in,” Dixson said. For Irwin it was never hard to go above and beyond at his job, because it was fun for him.

One of Dixson’s most unforgettable Irwin moments was back in the early 2000s, when checks were still printed and picked up in an office. Dixson recalled Irwin walking down the hallway holding his check high while loudly saying, “Can you believe we get paid for this?” This statement really showed Irwin’s character. His sarcasm, humor and genuine personality have always made him someone that was easy to connect with on campus, no matter who you were.

Irwin receives his Featured Faculty for Service Excellence award from Carl Drummond, Vice Chancellor of Purdue Fort Wayne.

 

In February, Irwin was recognized for his commitment to the campus and his service to its students with the Featured Faculty for Service Excellence award for the 2018-2019 school year. The award recognizes those who “demonstrate extraordinary and sustained dedication to engagement with the community,” according to the nomination form.

“He fought to have advising recognized as a part of student success. He changed the culture of the campus in terms of how much we value advising and its recognition of his importance to student success,” Dixson said.

Irwin addresses the audience at the 2014 Communication Symposium.

“This institution became part of his soul – the students, faculty and place. It’s what he wanted to do with his life and he did it,” said Dr. Michelle Kelsey Kearl, Chair of the Communication department.  “I admire that Irwin made this place part of who he is, and his commitment didn’t waver. He is enduringly optimistic. He has faith in this institution and people that is profoundly unique.”

“Irwin will be remembered on campus as a person with a strong commitment to students and advising with an odd sense of humor. He was passionate about his students and about teaching,” said Dixson. “Whatever he did, it was always going to be good for students. He does things that he thinks matter and matter to other people and he loves that.”

Irwin would update his office hours each week, sometimes daily, on his website so that students knew when he was around. He always welcomed students and would do anything he could to make their experiences better. At the beginning of a class, he asked his students how they felt and a student answered “hungry.” Irwin immediately left the room without saying a word and came back shortly after with a Snickers bar. Irwin did whatever he could to make his students enjoy their time, even if it was just a silly gag.

Whether it was in the classroom or in his office with a student, Irwin was extremely passionate about his job and made sure other people felt the magic that he did. He walked into every class with an excited “Stars!” and the class would chime back “Hi, Gene!” as a homage to an old cheesy game show. Each and every class felt special with Irwin. He made you feel like you were supposed to be there, no matter your age or how much expertise you had on the subject. As you walked out of the classroom or his office, he would simply say “peace.” Irwin said he appropriated this saying from a Lutheran girl he dated 30 years ago. He always made students and colleagues feel welcome.

“Here in this department, my experience of him is he wanted everyone here to feel like they belonged. Every time a student would become a communication student, he would introduce them to everyone in the office and would root for them down the hallway ‘you’re one of us,’” Kelsey Kearl said. “It gave the students a sense of belonging. It did good work for the students and was great morale for the faculty. His rooting made it clear what our value was to the students.”

For many current students, alumni and faculty, Irwin has made an extremely lasting legacy.

“He has been a champion of teaching. There is no way to articulate it in a quantitative way. His award for outstanding advising is a career’s worth of effort into changing the entire culture of this campus,” Kelsey Kearl said.

“This campus will lose his passion for advising and his high valuing of advising. We have to hope that the culture has changed and that he has made a lasting legacy,” Dixson said.

Described as a “gem of a professor,” by his students, a photoshopped image of Irwin greets visitors to a student-created Facebook fan page.

The communication department and PFW in general will lose a phenomenal faculty member and stellar advisor upon Irwin’s departure. Everyone that encountered Irwin learned something – even if they didn’t know it at the time. He is genuinely a wise and down to earth man that never stopped sharing his knowledge with students and colleagues.

“You can’t have a conversation with Irwin and not take something out of it that is helpful or purposeful. He was so focused on students, making their experience here productive and a meaningful part of their lives,” Kelsey Kearl said. “He always seemed persistently invested in helping people do better. You would have to try hard not to learn something from him or find some productive tool that he knew about.”

As Irwin’s time at PFW draws to a close, he will greatly miss the university and its students. Irwin’s wish for the university is that it will continue to thrive and take care of students. He left a lasting legacy on this campus and on anyone that has ever encountered him; one that will hopefully continue to impact PFW for many years to come.

When asked what advice he has for students he simply said, “Do well.” As an educator and as a person, Irwin’s lasting impact has set the example for what it truly means to “do well.”

Editor’s note: This article was submitted for publication several days prior to Irwin Mallin’s passing on May 6, 2019.

Cancel Culture

Anyone and anything can be cancelled in our pop culture crazed social media culture that we exist in today.

Urban Dictionary defines “canceled” as dismissing someone or rejecting an idea or individual. Keeping that in mind, cancel culture is the recent trend of canceling individuals, organizations or products when they do something that the public does not approve of.

“When you have celebrities who have done problematic or harmful things, you have to cancel them,” said Sylvia Rust, a Women’s Studies student at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Rust went on to explain that we have created a society that is more critical of others who’ve done problematic things. “It has helped our society and has been a beneficial piece of today’s pop culture.”

Comedian Kevin Hart is a very recent example of cancel culture in action.

“Kevin Hart was about to host one of the biggest nights in television when he was deemed canceled. Nothing can stop cancel culture,” Rust said. After Hart was announced to as host of the Oscars last December, several of the comedian’s homophobic tweets resurfaced online. Twitter users began deeming Hart as canceled and he ended up backing out of the hosting gig.

Purdue Fort Wayne student and president of Campus Feminists of Solidarity, Jenn Reeve, explained that Black Twitter should be credited for cancel culture. Black Twitter, the active Black network of Twitter users, has been a large part of how Twitter has remained such a large platform.

“It really is a great thing that was born out of Black Twitter as a way to boycott problematic celebrities,” Reeve said. “Cancel culture and Black Twitter reaffirmed Twitter’s base, it would have failed without it.”

Secretary of Women’s Studies, Hayley King, was not familiar with the term cancel culture, but was familiar with the ability to call out celebrities or organizations that are in the wrong. “The #MeToo movement has given people power that they are not normally used to having,” King said. “It all highlights other parts of history that people aren’t used to hearing or sharing,” Reeve added.

The trend of canceling problematic people and organizations has created an even larger trend of transparency. With information being so readily available, more and more organizations are centering their advertising campaigns and social media platforms around creating a transparent and honest perception of themselves. If a company seems secretive, it will not be as easy for consumers to engage with and connect with them. If a company doesn’t own up to their mistakes, they may become canceled among consumers.

“If someone is doing something wrong, they will be held accountable now. We are more critical of others and are willing to try to put a stop to them,” Rust said.

Facebook went through a rather large privacy scandal this past year and has been working to increase transparency with its users to avoid any further issues. They publish “transparency reports” rather frequently, but it still has been difficult for the company to fully gain back the trust of the public. Even while publishing pieces about transparency, the company is still seen as rather secretive and as a big machine.

Becoming more aware and critical as a society plays a large part in the creation and growth of cancel culture. With so much information at our finger tips, it is easy to observe celebrities and large organizations. If someone or a company is in the wrong, it is hard for them to get away with it. When Facebook went through its privacy scandal, their stock fell more than 20%. They also experienced the slowest quarterly user growth since 2011. While Facebook was still widely successful, it did experience many problems due to their lack of honesty.

There are more people listening and observing now than ever before and they now have the power to speak up. Cancel culture will continue to thrive in a social media minded society that still gives platforms to problematic people and companies.

Gluten-free: The way to be or just trendy?

Reading the nutrition facts label – it’s a common thing to do in the grocery store when starting a new diet. Calorie, carbohydrate and fat content are the usual suspects during this endeavor.

But wait a second.

There’s a neatly-packaged and healthy-looking food container sporting a “gluten-free” label sticking out against the others. Didn’t Karen at work mention the other day trying the gluten-free diet and feeling better afterward? The gluten-free food is more expensive than the others. Inevitably the gluten-free food finds its way into your cart and out of the store.

So what’s with all this talk about gluten-free diets? More importantly, what is gluten and why has it suddenly become a problem for so many in the last 10 years?   

First, it’s important to know exactly what gluten is and where it can be found. According to Robert Shmerling of Harvard Health Publishing, gluten is a protein that can be found in many grains, with the most common being wheat, rye and barley. Foods like bread, pasta, pizza and cereal are all sources of gluten. The condition that is most commonly responsible for gluten intolerance is celiac disease. It is a condition that causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine when gluten is ingested and it is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans, or about 0.75 percent of the population, suffers from it. If someone with celiac disease eats something that contains even small amounts of gluten, they can experience symptoms like instant gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headache, trouble concentrating, and fatigue.    

So why do one in three Americans, many of whom don’t suffer from celiac disease, have a desire to reduce their gluten intake? There has to be more to the gluten-free fad than meets the eye. The issue that has gained traction is something called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” Adam Gehring, a clinical dietitian from Parkview Lagrange Hospital, said it is not known from a medical perspective if non-celiac gluten sensitivity exists.

“Whenever we get into that realm that’s whenever we start to leave research,” Gehring said. “We start to actually enter into the realm of speculation.

According to Beyond Celiac, a national organization focused on raising awareness for celiac-related illness, there are an estimated 21,000,000 Americans needing a gluten-free diet. Additionally, celiac disease is commonly misdiagnosed in as many as 83 percent of those suffering from the condition.

Gehring said many individuals who don’t have celiac disease but report feeling better after eating gluten-free food likely didn’t have the best diet in the first place. Foods such as meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy are already healthy gluten-free options. Gehring said as a result, it’s no surprise people begin feeling better when they begin eating these foods. This scenario of correlation not equaling causation, as well as people not following a strict gluten-free diet, is why Gehring said non-celiac gluten sensitivity is speculation even though research says it might be real.

“It’s almost like a lot of people today just do a gluten-reduced diet and they feel a lot better from it.” Gehring said.

According to Robert Shmerling of Harvard Health Publishing, there are many reasons the gluten-free diet has become popular. One reason is the intuition that it just seems like a good idea. Other convincing reasons to adopt a gluten-free diet include celebrity endorsement and logic. If gluten is bad for those with celiac disease, maybe it’s bad for other people too. Testimonials from other people and marketing also contribute to convincing people to reduce their gluten intake. With there being hundreds of gluten-free meal and snack ideas on the internet, it’s clear that many people are now considering their gluten consumption.

A 2014 study from the International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition said there are people that say they experience digestive problems but not a severe reaction when eating gluten. The study went on to say the next chapter of gluten sensitivity is more clinical research since a larger amount of data are needed to confirm these stories. Even though experts say non-celiac gluten sensitivity is currently speculation and research on it is sparse, gluten intolerance is still a very real issue for those with celiac disease.

Jessica Reynolds, 27, said she was diagnosed with celiac disease when she was 17 and had to make tough lifestyle changes.

“Gluten-free food is actually more expensive than regular food because of the way they have to process it and make sure nothing gets in it,” Reynolds said. “You kind of have to cut expenses from other places to be able to afford the food.”

Another lifestyle change Reynolds said she had to make was changing the lip balm she used. Reynolds said she discovered something called “hidden sources of gluten” from her dietitian when she found out her lip balm was made with wheat germ.

“I just kept getting sicker and sicker and sicker and couldn’t figure out why,” Reynolds said. “I checked the packaging of the chapstick I was using and wheat germ was used as a binding agent in the chapstick.”

Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, Reynolds said the lifestyle has become second nature to her but she doesn’t understand why the gluten-free diet became so popular.

“I actually think it’s completely ridiculous that it’s a diet because unless you need it, it’s not as healthy for you,” Reynolds said. “It’s generally higher in carbohydrates and fats because of all the substitutes you have to use and wouldn’t cause anyone to lose weight.”

So the next time you’re reading the nutrition facts label during a trip to the grocery store, you’re welcome to try gluten-free foods – but Reynolds recommends finding research on gluten intolerance from reputable sources, and Gehring recommends visiting a registered dietitian if you think you have gluten intolerance. After all, non-celiac gluten sensitivity still lies within speculation and needs research to determine its existence.

 

The Healing Power of Music

Many individuals today struggle with facing challenges in their lives. These challenges can range from past traumas and current stressful situations, to the inability to express oneself.

The result of these challenges or problems occurring in one’s mind can lead to what we call mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, research has shown that mental illnesses affects tens of millions of people each year in the United States.

Individuals that struggle with a mental illness often seek treatment in the form of counseling or medication to overcome their personal barriers. However, one doesn’t typically think of music when talking about receiving therapy but, according to Forbes website, music therapy is on the rise and is growing more diverse in its practice.

Dr. Peggy Farlow of Purdue University Fort Wayne is a specialist in exactly that. She is a music therapist on and off-campus and has an extensive medical background that has helped her hone her craft in the field to best compliment her clients. Farlow teaches on campus for four days out of the week while also operating her own private practice one day out of the week. According to Farlow, the format of a music therapy session is different to that of a normal therapy session.

“It all depends on the setting,” Farlow said. “What we do is we would go to the clients home and meet with the client and the family, just get to know the client, figure out what they like to do, what kinds of things they have problems doing, and find out what their musical preferences are.”

Farlow explains that many of her patients tend to have a mental disability that can range from the inability to form sentences to coping with a past trauma. Once Farlow figures out a patient’s musical preference and the challenge they are facing, she will then proceed to create a music activities plan that will help the patient tackle what is bothering them.

A common exercise that Farlow has used is asking her patient a question in the form of a song. Over an extended period of time the patient becomes familiar with the song and questions and will sing back the proper responses.

According to the Speech Pathology Graduate Programs Organization website, the same technique that Farlow uses has been shown to help aphasia patients learn to speak again. With a connection music, individuals have the ability to memorize the words to a song on a commercial that they heard ten years ago but struggle to memorize information for a test that they spent many hours studying for.

Farlow explained that after getting know her client, the next part of this process allows for her to give the client options for their answers. Farlow then follows this by changing the questions so that the client must then think and respond on their own. Over time, her client had practiced the exercise so much that they eventually stopped singing and became able to deliver structured sentences normally. Farlow explained that this was due to how music accesses all of the brain’s attention.

Farlow also explained that the parts of music that most impact an individual can vary. “Some people relate more to the rhythm, some relate more to the harmony, some relate more to the melody. Everybody has their own preference,” Farlow said.

Musician Tom Mayes echoed some of Farlow’s takes on music as a form of expressing oneself. “For me, I learned to play guitar when I was really young,” Mayes said. “Something about playing chords and singing gave me my first real gateway to communicating what I wanted to say.”

“Now that I’m grown up, I find that music tends to provide me with comfort during difficult times,” Mayes added.

Karen Hammons, of Van Wert, Ohio, stated that she finds music to be comforting, especially in her church. “Worship music really tends to speak to me and provides me with a warm feeling when I’m participating in it.”

Hammons also stated that music in general is a common way for her to relieve stress and other worries, citing that it helps her slow life down when it becomes too fast.

Farlow explains that worship music is often a common choice from a large number of musical therapists’ clients, but it isn’t the only choice. Farlow encourages those looking to get into music therapy to understand that music is not universal.

“So yes, we all respond to music, but the kind of music is not universal,” Farlow said. That said, Farlow believes that music is essential to human existence.

“Music is an important part of our lives for sure,” Farlow said. “It’s something that we can relate and react to naturally”.

Fighter in Recovery

Justin Garman’s kitchen smells like coffee. He’s brewing the coffee that his aunt brought back from Hawaii. Garman says he likes to serve his guests this coffee because it’s his personal favorite.

“It has a hearty and well-rounded taste, with a hint of sweetness.”

The living room is lit up by the many candles that Garman’s girlfriend, Andrea White, had picked up from T.J. Maxx. Garman says the place looked completely different until White moved in and changed things. One change he’s not a big fan of is the different scents from the candles – but he accepts it .

“It’s her place now,” Garman jokes.

White stands in the kitchen preparing their vegan dinner. Even though neither of them are vegan, Garman’s doctor suggested that he adopt a vegan diet after he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

 

Growing up in a family where everyone likes sports helped Garman “learn many lessons in life.”

Growing up in Kimmel, Indiana, Garman lived with his mother, Staci, and stepfather, Andy. At the age of 16, Garman moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to attend high school and live with his father, Dan, and stepsister, Janelle. As a kid, Garman enjoyed playing all kinds of sports but his favorite was wrestling. Garman’s entire family shares a passion for the sport of wrestling and it was one of the reasons that he began training as a boxer during his senior year of high school.

“I was always into combative sports and happened to segue into the core of combat, which is boxing,” Garman said.

Garman had his first fight in Toledo, Ohio, at the Golden Gloves Tournament. It was a nerve racking moment for him.

“I ended up losing the fight by decision. It wasn’t even close,” Garman said. “I had all the confidence in the world but when the time came and the gym was full of people, I froze up and had more energy than I knew what to do with.”

It isn’t hard to believe that Garman’s first fight wasn’t his favorite. In fact, Garman’s favorite fights don’t really involve his opponents – they involve his sparring partners when training at the gym.

“You have beat yourself up for hours next to a guy and at the end the coach tells you to get in the ring and see who still has the most energy to come out on top.”

The training itself is a battle of endurance. A normal day of training for Garman starts with a three to five-mile warmup run before the more intensive work begins.

“There is stretching, jump rope and shadow boxing. And then you lace up and do bag work, working combinations and footwork for an hour or so. And if you are lucky you get to spar.” According to Garman, sparring is his favorite part of training because he can put what he has been working on to the test.

While the training is demanding, there are other challenges outside of the gym. For Garman, cutting weight and sticking to a strict diet all the time presents the biggest challenge. According to The National Collegiate Boxing Association, boxing is a challenging sport that requires dedication, focus and time management skills to achieve a peak level of physical and mental fitness. Garman knows that very well, so he has put in the effort needed to achieve many goals in his boxing career.

Even though Garman hasn’t won many big fights or awards in his seven-year boxing career, he has learned integrity and persistence. Duncan Hale, Garman’s coach from the Hurricane Boxing Club, appreciates Garman’s hard work as a boxer and as an individual.

“When he puts his mind to something he can always accomplish it. He has a strong passion for things he cares a lot about. I believe that helped him with his boxing career.”

Boxing experiences have helped Garman to develop a unique personality.

Garman has been waiting for an opportunity. However, when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2017, it impacted his plans in boxing. According to Mayo Clinic, Crohn’s disease causes an inflammation of bowel tissue that can be both painful and potentially life-threatening. Garman is still upset about the disease since it has affected his life in many ways.

“My Crohn’s disease came unexpected, but I found out it is something that I have had for a very long time. I had to have surgery to have three and a half feet of my lower intestine removed.”

Garman had to miss several weeks of training, as well as work, to recover after the surgery was performed in October 2017. Despite the surgery being performed over a year ago, Garman hasn’t fully recovered yet and still cannot resume training. He has been going through different treatments and tests in the past year to find the best way to cope with the disease.

Having Crohn’s disease is not only affecting Garman’s life – it’s also affecting that of his girlfriend, Andrea, who has had to adjust to the changes as well.

“Crohn’s disease has affected Justin’s and my life tremendously. We had to change our lifestyle entirely. I have to become aware of what his new diet should be, which requires a lot more thoughts and efforts.” White said. “Justin’s exercise routine had to change and he can’t over work his stomach because it’s now more sensitive. When recovering from surgery he handles it as strong as he could, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Even though Garman doesn’t know how much longer he has to wait until he can get back to boxing, he’s looking forward to going back to the gym to start training again.

“Boxing has helped me achieve many personal goals that have helped me mentally day to day. It lets you see confrontation in a different perspective.”

For now, Garman continues the vegan diet he’s been on for the last four months in the hopes that he can recover and get back to training sooner. Wishing he was eating his favorite food, fried chicken, he puts the last bite of his avocado salad in his mouth.

“Man…I hate avocados.”

Converting to Catholicism

Evan Thomas came right from work. The sun shone through the window, which gave his white shirt what almost looked like a glow.

He was excited. He loves any opportunity to talk about Catholicism.

The 20-year-old LaGrange, Ind. native is a student at Purdue University Fort Wayne and also works two jobs: one on campus, as a resident assistant; and the other off-campus, as an intern with Regal Beloit, an electric motor company.

“I like to work out,” he said, regarding how he spends his very limited spare time. “I like to practice faith, play sports, watch movies.”

Of these things, one has become much more important to Thomas than the rest.

“Evan is this very joyful person,” said Nicole Rudolph, an acquaintance of Thomas. “He’s really gotten into his faith on the Summit Awakening retreat last year and then he converted recently.”

Summit Awakening, according to Rudolph, is a retreat for college-aged students in Fort Wayne to learn more about the Catholic faith. It lasts for three days, many of the details are secret, though some things are still allowed to be discussed . Staff and participants alike are under instruction not to reveal what happens on the weekend.

“He’s participating in the retreat this year, but as a leader. And he’s giving a talk on the retreat about the Eucharist.”

The Eucharist, more commonly referred to as communion, is the most important part of Catholic worship and it is the final stage in a person’s being accepted as a full member of the church, according to flameoffaith.org, a website run by the Archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia.

“At my church, it was very liberal,” said Thomas, regarding a misunderstanding between he and his Catholic girlfriend prior to his conversion. “And their communion beliefs, it was not quite transubstantiation, Jesus was not completely present in communion when we took it.”

He said this church, which was non-denominational, did not require its members to take communion; however, they did offer it.

“I went up, and she refused to take communion at my church,” Thomas said. “I got pretty upset with her at the time, you know, thinking that she was stuck-up in her faith and, you know after my formal training, then I came to understand exactly why she would not want to take communion there.”

Thomas was raised in a Methodist home until he was 14 years old, when he stopped going to church altogether.

“I think there were a lot of members of my church who influenced me in a negative way,” Thomas said. “They were what I saw as negative influences of the church, people who claimed the faith and didn’t live it. And so, for me, I thought that was very detrimental to my faith life.” Thomas said many of these people were members of his own family. He said he was also told a lot of negative things about the Catholic church.

“That priests were people that held power above the layman, as you may call it. That they had an organization that was very corrupt; a very political and hierarchical society just integrated into what it meant to be a Catholic.”

He also said he viewed Catholics as more people who claimed the faith, but did not live it.

“I don’t think I really knew anything about it,” said Thomas about the Methodist theology. “I didn’t look deep enough into faith to distinguish between the different points of what each denomination believed compared to another so I didn’t learn a lot about that until maybe this previous year or two.”

Thomas said before that, he saw Christianity in terms of Catholics and Protestants, and the Protestants were the correct side.

Protestantism began in 1517 when a German monk named Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church over practices he deemed could not be found in the Bible; chief amongst them the buying and selling of indulgences, which promised the purchaser would go straight to Heaven when they died. Since then, a degree of enmity has existed between those who stayed with the Catholic Church and those who followed Luther and formed their own churches.

Thomas began dating his girlfriend who got him to look into Catholic theology.

“I think it wasn’t necessarily one point,” Thomas said. “It was several points building up. I would look into a question and I would find that the Catholic church had the — to me — correct answer. And this process would happen again, and again, and again and eventually I believed it without already knowing the Catholic answer.”

Thomas said once he realized this was the case, his decision became obvious. When he made the decision, his family had mixed attitudes.

“My mom is Catholic, she was very excited. My girlfriend is Catholic, she was also very excited. The rest of them didn’t quite understand. I think a lot of them thought I was doing it because of my girlfriend was Catholic.”

Thomas said they commonly responded by making jokes, but eventually learned to accept it.

Next for him came the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA for short. RCIA is the process where one is accepted into full communion with the Catholic Church, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To begin the process, the prospective convert must talk to a priest or an RCIA director. This comes after the Period of Evangelisation, in which the convert must partake in a period of deep personal reflection.

This process is difficult for many converts, including Thomas.

“I think it was because I was such a big opponent of the Catholic Church in my own mind. To owning up to that and accepting it proudly and then also dealing with the fact a lot of people thought I was converting because of my relationship.”

Thomas is a man who wants his peers to see him as someone deep in his faith and does not want that perception to change. At the end of this period, he began RCIA classes at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne.

These classes are just like any at a college campus. You have the instructor, usually a priest or a nun, running through the different points and aspects of Catholicism while the students take notes and ask questions. Students are generally also joined by their sponsors.

A sponsor, according to the USCCB, is a person chosen by the convert to help them through the process; one who exemplifies how to live the faith and answer questions the convert may have.

“I would say my sponsor Philip Litchfield was very helpful,” Thomas said. “It was nice to be able to turn to him and get an intellectual answer to faith.”

“People question things like the papacy and different things Catholics do,” said Ruth McMahon, a sponsor in another diocese in the 1980s.
According to McMahon, many Protestants question Catholic obedience to hierarchy, which she said is also present in Protestant churches to some degree.

The Hierarchy, which many Protestants are hesitant to get behind, is the Catholic Church’s leadership which is based in Vatican City, just outside of Rome.
It is headed by the Pope, who every Catholic around the world considers to be infallible and incapable of teaching anything wrong.

This explains why, even in the midst of accusations that the current Pope covered up a sex scandal, Thomas’s faith remains unshaken.

“I think that it motivates me to be a stronger Catholic,” said Thomas, matter-of-factly. His confidence justified his tone.

“Now more than ever, there needs to be good representatives of the faith and I think it’s important for people outside of the Catholic church to look at what we have and to see that we’re still proud, that we’re not shaken or hesitant at all, that I’m not reserved, that I’m still confident I made the right decision.”

A Guide to Dungeons & Dragons

So you want to play Dungeons & Dragons? You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen your uncle’s bag of oddly-shaped dice. You may have even seen it played on shows like “Community” and “Stranger Things.” But what is it?

What is Dungeons & Dragons?

The Player’s Handbook describes Dungeons & Dragons as a “childhood game of make-believe,” but with structure and consequences decided by dice.

According to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, D&D is a game of swords and sorcery. It’s a collaborative story telling game with heroes and villains, dragons and zombies, magic and politics. It can be anything you want it to be.

To an outsider, a game of D&D might look like a group of people sitting around talking about swords and dragons but that’s only because it’s primarily made up of imagination.

Jarod DePew, the Dungeon Master (DM) for his game, defines D&D as a game of imagination with three different parts: “the explanation of the surroundings, the players reacting, and the DM explaining the effects of their actions.”

According to DePew, a game of D&D may sound something like this:

Dungeon Master: You walk into a pitch black room. There’s a scent of smoke, but no fire. What do you do?

Player: I light a torch and investigate the area for clues.

Dungeon Master: You find a half-burned treasure chest and a pile of bones.

 

What do I need to start playing?

The two main components of a D&D game are the player and the Dungeon Master. The Player’s Handbook suggests a game consist of four players and a Dungeon Master chosen before game night for ample preparation time.

When it comes to game night, the players and Dungeon Master will need character sheets, writing utensils, and dice.

Perhaps one of the most iconic things is a Dungeon Master’s screen. A Dungeon Master’s screen can be something as simple as two binders or folders propped up in front of the Dungeon Master so the players can’t see their rolls or statistics of the monsters they’re fighting, according to DePew.

Another necessity for a game of a D&D game is food. Considering a game may last anywhere from two to eight hours on average (some play as long as 12 hours), being able to replenish calories burnt from fighting a dragon is a must, DePew said.

 

How do I become a Dungeon Master?

The Dungeon Master is “everything the players are not,” DePew said.

They are responsible for outlining a narrative, possible encounters, and potential situations for the players to react to.

There are several styles of Dungeon Mastering. Many Dungeon Masters like to prepare for any situation the players may wind up in. This means creating maps, characters and situations for anywhere the players may go.

Other Dungeon Masters find this method to be redundant.

“I prefer improv. Don’t get me wrong, I have papers full of information, but I like to improv,” DePew said.

“I like being a DM because I have a very insane imagination and I’m able to see things a majority of people can’t. I enjoy explaining to my friends and cohorts what’s going on in my imaginary world,” Depew explained.

 

How do I become a player?

The first thing you need to do as a player is create a character. This consists of choosing a race and class you think will be fun to play. For example, you could be Darius, the gnome fighter from the lost island of Loraxia, or you could be Hirron, the elvish warlock who once slayed a red dragon – with hundreds of character combinations, you can build any type of character you’d like.

Jordan Kortenber, who is primarily a player, said he likes being able to “run in, beat people up, and kick doors down, but some people like to cast a bunch of magic and spells. Some people prefer to be sneaky.”

During the character creation process you and the rolls of your dice will decide different attributes of your character like hit points, items and spells.

Game night is primarily about roleplay and pretending to be someone else, but there are many styles of play.

“A lot of people get embarrassed because they don’t want to say something embarrassing, but sometimes that’s the point. Our stories can be really dark and edgy sometimes, but more times than not, it will end up being funny,” Kortenber said.

 

Why should I play?

Kortenber explained that while there dozens of books and guides, the rules aren’t what matters. The game is really about friendship and storytelling.

“It’s a way to make new friends and even get closer to the friends you already have. Like, you’re playing for hours sometimes and getting to know a person on a whole different level because they’re expressing themselves through their character,” Kortenber said.

 

So you’re interested? Now it’s time to roll up some cool characters and get ready to dive into some dungeons. Have your dice ready and snacks prepared. And most importantly — May your swords be sharp and your rolls be high…

Staying Secure Online

Before she stopped going out alone, before she changed her phone number and before she began looking over her shoulder everywhere she went, Jessica Hostetler used Facebook like everyone else.

She thought it was just spam when the first account appeared. It used one of her photos and began sending her friends friend requests on Facebook. She reported it. It was removed. She moved on.

But then the phone calls started. They came from a blocked number and were filled with heavy breathing on the other end. She began to worry.

“I thought it was stupid a prank at first, but then it kept happening,” Hostetler said. “For the longest time, just hearing the phone ring made me nervous.”

Then, just as more fake accounts began appearing, she found herself locked out of her Facebook profile. This was when she realized she had been hacked. Hostetler has since turned to Facebook and law enforcement in the hopes of finding a way to end the harassment.

Today, cases like Hostetler’s are common. According to the 2017 Internet Crime Reportcompiled by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, over 60,000 complaints about personal data hacks and stalkings were received throughout the year.

In order to stay safe online, here are some helpful ways in which you can protect your accounts, your privacy and yourself while living in this digital age.

Two-Factor Authentication

Mandi Witkovsky, manager of security and identity at Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Information Technology Services, said a popular way to secure accounts today is by using two-factor authentication.

Once activated, users’ accounts will require an additional step before they can successfully log on. Typically, this confirmation step is in the form of a four-digit pin code, sent via email or text message, which users will have to enter before being granted access.

“It is a little bit of a pain, especially if you get a new phone, but it’s the cost of being safer,” Witkovsky said.

Spotting Phishing Emails

One way hackers will try to access students’ accounts is through phishing attacks. These are emails sent to people under a variety of false pretenses to trick them into giving up passwords, credit card numbers and other important personal information.

Dennis Ratliff, a staff member at Purdue Fort Wayne Information Technology Services, said students are often targeted by hackers trying to access their bursar accounts to steal financial information and redirect refunds.

According to the Better Business Bureau, people ages 18-24 are most likely to be scammed online, with 34 percent of those targeted losing money to scammers and hackers.

In August, Purdue Fort Wayne students were sent a phishing email from nonexistent employee “Tracy McDonald,” who worked at the incorrectly named “IT Department.” The somewhat clever email told students about a fake previous phishing email and urged them to change their passwords by clicking a link which brought them to a replica My.PFW.edu login page, designed to capture their credentials when students attempted to login.

This phishing email was sent to Purdue University Fort Wayne students in early August.

“It’s not so much with phishing that people are dumb,” Witkovsky said. “It’s about getting so many dang emails in a day, and being in a hurry.”

According to Witkovsky, you can easily spot most phishing emails by looking for these qualities:

  • Many grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • A generic greeting, such as: “Dear student.”
  • A demand for immediate action, like urgent notice of your account being deleted.
  • Suspicious links or URLs.

Privacy Settings

“While I love the concept of social media, I hate it because it promotes oversharing,” Witkovsky said.

Witkovsky recommends people check that their privacy settings on Facebook and other social media are set to “friends only.” Additionally, while it might be fun to share information about yourself, your family or your pets on social media, it’s important to make sure that the information you’re sharing doesn’t correspond to your security questions. Making this information publicly accessible can make it easier for hackers to guess the answers to your security questions and gain access your account.

Know Your Vulnerabilities

Even though you may have taken precautions when online, your data could still have been exposed in a third party leak or hack, similar to the leak at the credit agency Equifax, which exposed the data of 14.5 million customers.

To check if your data may have been leaked or stolen, Witkovsky recommends HaveIBeenPwned.com. There, users can enter their email addresses and search the internet for any associated usernames and passwords that may have been leaked.

But whether or not you have enabled two-factor authentication or limited all of your privacy settings in order to keep your data and information safe, Witkovsky urges caution at all times online.

“The internet is like an amusement park. We want it to be fun and have a good time,” Witkovsky said. “But not all the rides are safe and it’s hard to tell what rides are safe; so you have to treat it like none of the rides are safe.”