A Purdue Fort Wayne initiative is using technology for good, keeping nearly every student informed and involved on campus.
Students may recall getting frequent texts from an anonymous- and encouraging- chatbot. The weekly messages check in with how classes are going or what kind of help students might need to succeed during the semester.
So far, 98% of enrolled students at PFW have opted in to receive this encouragement.
The mystery man behind the chatbot is Mitch Davidson, the associate vice chancellor and chief information officer at PFW. Davidson said he was looking for a way to keep students in touch with the campus community on a more engaging level than a generic email with a feedback survey.
Together with a team, he was able to make that connection happen in October.
Davidson is responsible for the technology on campus. Esports and computer labs are just a few of the places he works behind the scenes to help everything run smoothly. He has worked in higher education for 20 years, and eight of those at PFW.
He met with Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Carl Drummond and Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and the Student Experience, Krissy Creager. The two were impressed, and Davidson went on to get the service approved by Ronald Elsenbaumer, the chancellor himself.
There are representatives from many departments involved, including student life and leadership, advising, marketing, and more. The variety of input makes for a wide range of contributions for the details of the chatbot messages.
One text from February asked students what area they would like the most support in for the spring semester. Options included academics, finances, social engagement, and wellness. The chatbot sent a list of resources based on what area each student picked in response.
The chatbot has a 24/7 individualized response to students’ replies- and in multiple languages.
Many of the texts allow a reply of yes or no, or a corresponding number. But some students have taken it a step further. Davidson shared a few of the responses gone rogue: “You’re my new buddy, don. Welcome to the family.” “Hi don, will you marry me?”
“I like people with a sense of humor,” Davidson said, adding that feedback has been positive– which would account for the high percentage of students that are opted in and actively engaging with the texts.
More than 9,000 students enrolled at PFW have responded to the texts in the past three months alone, and over half of those that opted in reply consistently each time a text is received.
The end goal is to keep the text chain going as an immediate resource for students who are seeking help with school, campus life, or even just want someone to talk to. “We want to do anything we can do to assist you,” Davidson said, adding it is his intent to continue the chatbot after the full pilot year this coming fall.
It’s safe to say this service isn’t going away any time soon.
Members of the Fort Wayne community can mark their calendars for the grand re-opening of Cinema Center this weekend which will open with a viewing of Archenemy, an independent sci-fi film by director, Adam Egypt Mortimer.
Director of Archenemy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, will be making a virtual appearance to discuss the film, Haylna Hutchin’s work as a cinematographer on Archenemy, as well as to participate in a Q&A with the moviegoers.
Executive Director Art Herbig explained the reasoning behind the decision to re-open the weekend with this particular film, “part of the reason this film was selected, and part of the reason he’s so apt to come in is because this is one of the last films done by Halyna Hutchins, who was just shot on the set of Rust. She’s the cinematographer on this film, and one of the things we were hoping to talk about is her as an artist, because there’s been a lot of talk of her as a victim of this shooting.”
Cinematographer and journalist, Halyna Hutchins, was fatally wounded during the production of the western film, Rust. Herbig emphasized the importance of discussing her work and the art she left behind.
“To get to see her art on the screen, and to talk about her as a filmmaker, along with the film itself with the director, we thought was a great way to open up cinema center again, and to show the kinds of events we want to do, along with the kinds of conversations we want to have as part of these showings”.
To purchase tickets to this event, or for more information, visit cinemacenter.org.
H2H has the perfect accessories to add comfort and style to any interior with modern flair. Home décor is a great gift for your work-from-home family and friends who are beginning to get stir crazy and needing something liven up their space. Whether it’s a private office, a tiny corner of the living room, or in my case, a windowless walk-in closet, a soy candle from Calyan Wax Co. will transform the dreariest spaces into a luxurious study. My favorite scent is Apples + Maple Bourbon, but House to Home also stocks Aspen + Fog, Home + Holiday, and Oakmoss + Amber. Candles make great supplementing gifts, too. A Calyan Wax Co. candle, a bottle of wine, and a soft fleece blanket make for a relaxing evening at home.
The Nurses’ Nursery is an online business started by two intensive care unit nurses in Fort Wayne with a passion for gardening. Orders can be made via their Facebook and their new website. The Nurses offer a variety of house plants, ranging from those that require little indirect light to those that are tropical, needing bright direct light. For a first-time house plant owner, I would recommend going with a jade pothos. They are relatively low maintenance, requiring indirect light and can even grow under standard fluorescent lights. Follow the Nurses’ Nursery social media accounts for holiday discounts and plant care tips.
If you’re picking up a house plant from The Nurses’ Nursery, be sure to also visit Honey Plant boutique, as well. Not only do they also offer a wide assortment of house plants in their boutique and online, they also carry a diverse selection of pots and containers. Many of these ceramic pieces are made by Indiana artists, such as Sarah Thompson owner of Sarahmics. Honey Plant owners Cassandra and Logan Braman are always friendly and helpful in choosing the correct plant and type and size of container for your plant’s needs, too. For those whose thumbs are more black than green, Honey Plant also designs plant art from mosses and dried flowers. This option is a step up from fake plants, but doesn’t require the same maintenance as living plants.
Before you even reach the door, you’ll catch a whiff of that universal “old book smell” drafting through your COVID-19 mask. The shelves of Hyde Brothers Booksellers are stacked floor to ceiling, housing over 150,000 books. Browse the selection, and you’ll find new reads and plenty of classics. For socially distant shopping, the bookstore will host its Midnight Sale this year in two sessions, lasting two hours each, on Saturday, Dec. 19. This extravaganza requires a ticket to participate, and you can reserve one for free via Eventbrite. On this special night, you will receive a 20 percent discount on your entire purchase and a gift if you wear your pajamas! If you are not able to make the sale, you can also shop the online book packages, which are specially curated with the help of the staff. Buyers can fill out a preference form based on their desired genre and previously enjoyed books. Can you imagine, getting The Sam Hyde Family Package, and everyone getting their book on Christmas Eve, reading and sipping hot cocoa? #goals.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am a gift wrap snob. While most often gift wrap is ripped to smithereens, I aim to use gift wrap that will cause the receiver to pause at its glory and appreciate the artwork that goes into it. Fancy & Staple not only carries gift wrap, bags, stickers, and tags for a myriad of occasions, but also has an eclectic supply of goods from creators—both local and all over the world. Follow Fancy & Staple on Instagram and stay tuned for updates regarding their upcoming toy store, Hopscotch House. It’s all the fun and wonder that can be found in Fancy & Staple, but for your favorite littles!
CWOW’s Wide Silk Rainbow bracelet is an awesome group gift. Friendship bracelets are timeless, and it is an extra reminder of your love when you can’t be near. These bracelets are small, but meaningful, like work done by the ladies of CWOW, a shop and nonprofit that specializes in empowering female entrepreneurs all over the world to use their creative and artistic talents to support their families and communities. Each bracelet is handmade by a Guatemalan artisan, so no two are exactly the same. Along with the Friendship bracelets, CWOW features a wide variety of sustainably sourced gifts for men and women alike, including clothing, accessories, home décor, baking kits, coffee, and essential oils! Visit their shop downtown next to J.K. O’Donnell’s Irish Pub or browse their selection online.
Steamed buns aren’t the only thing Coney Island is peddling. While you’re taking a break from the many hours of shopping, grab a couple of Coney dogs—sauce and cheese only for me. Then walk over to the Coney Island Gift Shop next door. This tiny shop is full of Coney Island inspired apparel, but the gift that takes the cake is the Coney Island dress socks. What better way to wear your local pride than with this iconic Fort Wayne restaurant keeping your feet cozy all winter long?
At some point this year, most of us have yearned for nights out with our friends, but instead, have settled for nights stuck at home to stay safe. But thanks to Camp Craft DIY Cocktails available at The Find, you can learn how to make artisanal cocktails yourself—no professional bartender required. While the cocktail kits require three days for the alcohol of your choice to infuse into the ingredients, at least you know there won’t be a long line to pour yourself a glass! You can get two uses from the ingredients included in each pack. Cocktails come in four flavors: Hot Toddy, Hibiscus Ginger Lemon, Sage and Turmeric, and Pineapple Jalapeno. While you’re at the Find, be sure to shop around, too. They carry a wide range of goods ideal for homebodies and kitchen aficionados. You can transform your house into a high-end restaurant!
Old Fort Tee Co. is an online shop that makes tees in Fort Wayne and for Fort Wayne. Not only do these shirts make a great gift for locals, but even more so for your out-of-town relatives who may not be able to visit this year. My Nana is a snowbird. Usually, she’ll spend the spring and summer months here, and then leave for Florida as it gets chillier. Lucky her, right? Of course, this year has been different, for all the obvious reasons and for her safety, she hasn’t visited. So why not send a little piece of Fort Wayne her way?
As cabin fever rises during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m sure you’ve already exhausted your typical hobbies. But thankfully, a small business owner downtown is creating fun ways to keep you busy and help you create something extra special for your loved ones this holiday season—or share the gift of crafting with others. The Hedge, a fine art print shop studio on Broadway, has created Workshop at Home kits, which make great gifts for craft-lovers ages 10 and up. Each craft is highly useful and appeals to adults, too, like a faux leather mini clutch or a linoleum print. The Hedge’s owner, Julie Wall, includes all of the necessary items for each craft in the kit, as well as instructions and notes about where additional supplies may be obtained. While you’re visiting The Hedge, check out their great selection of locally made items and gifts with city spirit, like Fort Wayne ornaments!
That’s all for now, folks. But there are so many more places to shop local in the Fort Wayne region, so if you do venture out to do some holiday shopping, consider visiting a new small business.
Supporting local businesses will always be the gift that keeps on giving in our local economy. Keep in mind, during this holiday season, many of our Fort Wayne merchants are offering gift cards, online shopping, and curbside pickup and delivery options, too. (See a full list of local deals and discounts here!)
Stay safe, and be merry!
Editor’s note: This story was produced in partnership with Input Fort Wayne and originally published on that digital magazine. This collaboration features the work of PFW students and provides a positive outlook on what pulses through the cities in the area, promoting inspirational stories that spark conversations and help us break new ground into the future and promote better communities.
Jeremy Blackman’s shirt choice has the sole purpose of showing support and raising awareness during National Suicide Prevention Month.
Blackman, 46, is a Fort Wayne native and hair stylist at 6002 The Salon at Professional Village. He makes connections and talks with over 100 people each month. On Sunday afternoon, he made a new connection and shared the story behind his shirt.
Blackman’s shirt is grey with an outline of the state of Indiana in a green, white and blue combination. The imagery and coloring inside the outline are what could be described as galaxy with the purple, green and splashes of white. Also inside the state outline is a large semicolon with the words Hoosier Buddy Project.
“The representation of the semi colon is why I wear it. It means something in my group of family and friends,” Blackman said.
According to the Project Semicolon website, the symbolic meaning of the semicolon is to show support for those that suffer from mental health issues, have attempted suicide, or have lost a loved one to suicide. Survivors have embraced the symbol as a reminder that their story is not over but a pause before continuing with their story.
Blackman explained that this is just one of several shirts he wears to show support to those who have lost loved ones to suicide or attempted suicide. It is a purposeful thought because September is National Suicide Prevention month.
“Many of our family members have been affected by it,” Blackman said.
Blackman and his wife attended the 2019 Breastfest at the Fortlandia Brewing Company in Fort Wayne. The event is held to raise awareness and funds to help fight breast cancer. His wife, Emily, is a breast cancer survivor.
“My wife and I go every year to the event to try new beers and donate to a good cause,” Blackman said.
That year the Hoosier Buddy Project group also participated in Breastfest. The Hoosier Buddy Project is an Indiana-based suicide prevention program. According to the organization’s Facebook page, they are a group of Indiana brewers that come together to make beers, form support groups, talk about suicide, and help fund existing non-profit groups.
Blackman’s wife is the one who purchased the shirt at the fundraising event. She wanted to add to his collection of meaningful shirts that raise awareness.
IN.gov says Indiana’s suicide rate has been higher than the national suicide rate since 2000. In addition, around 1,000 Hoosiers are lost to suicide every year and have been since 2016.
For more information on the Hoosier Buddy Project, go to their Facebook page: Hoosier Buddy.
Editor’s note: The names in this story have been altered to protect the subject’s identity.
“Imagine living the past 18 years in fear of whatever you do wrong you get kicked out of your own home,” he said.
For the many children who are not officially documented citizens in the United States, this is a very real fear. Despite not holding American citizenship, immigrant children often live like average Americans. They go to school, they spend time with their friends, and they eventually get jobs. Yet for these immigrant children, the persistent fear that anything they do wrong, no matter how inconsequential, could result in the deportation of them and their families, is an always looming concern. This is the reality that Esteban, 22, has lived with for more than 18 years.
On the surface, Esteban’s life seems to be that of a normal American.
“I really enjoy watching shows on Netflix like Daredevil, and playing NBA 2K games on my PS4 when I have some free time,” Esteban said. “I also try to keep a healthy fitness routine by going to the gym and doing some weight lifting several times a week.” Since 2015, Esteban has been pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “I was immediately drawn to programming because I saw it as using digital Lego blocks. I was into Legos at a young age so it was very appealing to me,” Esteban said. Currently, Esteban is an intern at Lenovo Software, applying and expanding his programming education as a member of their build and install team. None of this however, is indicative of the daily burden he carries regarding his citizenship status.
Born in South America, Esteban has been living in the United States with his family since they immigrated to the U.S. in 2001. “I do have some memories of living in South America, but living here is the only life I have a real memory of,” Esteban stated. “I remember feeling confused at the time. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on at first.”
Although it was only his second visit to the U.S., Esteban and his family would not return to South America. At that time Esteban would have fallen under the proposed DREAM Act, which according to the American Immigration Council meant that as a young immigrant he would have eventually been eligible for citizenship through a three-step process. This however is no longer relevant to Esteban’s circumstance since he now has a U visa.
Ever since moving to the United States, Esteban and his parents have been making efforts to become official citizens. However, in early 2013, Esteban’s journey to citizenship took a dramatic, although unfortunate turn. Esteban’s mother was victim to a robbery and stabbing. His mother’s injuries required her to undergo many extensive surgeries and the effects of the attack have stayed with her ever since. As a result of the attack, Esteban’s mother became eligible for a green card, per a section of U.S. immigration law. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. immigration law allows non-citizens who have been victims of certain crimes to get a Green Card. Esteban and his parents are now residing under a U visa which allows them to apply for residency.
During Esteban’s junior year of high school, his family met lawyers who offered their services at no cost to him and his family, eventually getting them official work visas. They are currently in the process of applying for residency; a process that requires many documents and much patience. For this process, the government needs proof of residency, passports, pay stubs, tax records, school records, medical certificates/ examinations and any other identifying documents the applicants may have. Presently, Esteban is in the process of getting his Documento Nacional de Identidad, or DNI, which is a national identity document for citizens from South America. After getting his DNI, Esteban then must go to Chicago to renew his passport. Once that is complete, Esteban and his parents present their documents to their lawyers, who then continue the process by presenting the documents to the immigration center.
“After that it’s pretty much just a waiting game,” Esteban said. His citizenship status is still working against him. “I was taught that life is always going to kick you in the butt, especially since you’re from another country, but you have to make the best of the worst situation.”
In spite of the difficult process, Esteban says he wouldn’t change anything since his efforts are worth the reward. “I’ll be one step closer to living a normal life.”
A normal life like that of his younger brother Theo, 17, who is an American citizen by birth. Theo thinks very highly of his older brother.
“Esteban is a great guy. He likes to help people a lot and lends a hand when it’s needed. He’s a happy guy in general with an overall positive outlook and a family first mentality,” Theo said.
Theo, currently in his junior year of high school, looks to Esteban for wisdom and guidance. “Esteban is my biggest role model in life. He is very relatable because he’s gone through the same things that I am going through. He would drop everything and help me out if I needed it.”
One of Esteban’s close friends, Scott, 22, related how Esteban inspires him. “He inspires me to do better in life because he has it harder in life and has lived in fear of being deported. I admire his willpower. He pushes through a lot to get to what he wants to do,” Scott said. “Esteban is also extremely reliable and I like that in a friend. I enjoy his humor, wit, athleticism and he is just an all-around good guy.”
Although Esteban and his parents are in the process of applying for residency, their non-legal status remains a lingering concern. Fortunately for Esteban, his U visa allows him to continue to legally work in the United States. Ultimately, Esteban is not someone who is defined by his citizenship status. His brother Theo certainly agrees.
“I don’t think it will slow him down in any way. Esteban is determined. He is a hard worker in general and since he isn’t a natural citizen it makes him more determined to succeed. I feel that it may be a driving force behind his success.”
Planned Parenthood has been providing a range of health services to men and women for 100 years.
The clinic offers much more than abortion services, including birth control, general health care, HIV testing, LGBT services, STD testing, and men’s health care. In fact, men make up 11 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients according its website. In 2015, nearly 650 Planned Parenthood centers served 2.4 million men, women and youth.
This is despite an effort to defund Planned Parenthoodsin the U.S. In 2015, nine states eliminated Planned Parenthood from public health programs, according to its website.
The opposition also hits home. Abigail Lorenzen is the operationsand media director for Allen County Right to Life, which coordinates the 40 Days for Life campaign in Fort Wayne.
The campaign has three pillars: prayer, presence, and community awareness. Lorenzen said the presence aspect requires participants to be present and pray in front of an abortion clinic.
She said there is at least one person praying at an abortion clinic every day during the campaign and that their presence raises awareness about the issues behind abortion.
Lorenzen said they protest in front of the Fort Wayne Planned Parenthood because although the location does not provide on-site abortions, they refer patients to other Planned Parenthoods that do. Yet according to the Planned Parenthood website, only three percent of their services nationally are abortions.
IPFW senior Sylvia Rusk, a communication and political science major from Fort Wayne, has used these other services offered at Fort Wayne’s Planned Parenthood. Rusk said she went to Planned Parenthood to get contraception after her general practitioner refused to provide her birth control based on their religious beliefs.
Rusk said she had a positive experience at Planned Parenthood, as they were informative and explained the process to her.
IPFW senior Nicole Sanders is an English and women’s studies major from Fort Wayne and is the treasurer for IPFW Generation Action, formerly IPFW Voices of Choice. They are a Planned Parenthood affiliated group that is working to educate students about reproductive health.
IPFW Generation Action hosts events such as “condoms and candy,” where they hand out contraceptives and informational pamphlets about services that Planned Parenthood provides.
Nicole said she advocates for Planned Parenthood because she had a negative experience at her family doctor after getting a pap smear when she was only 16.
“I wish I had had information about Planned Parenthood,” Sanders said. “If I was able to go there, they would have been more gentle, more understanding, and they would not have put me through a physical examination that I was not ready for.”
The party ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and had activities like miniature golf, photo booths, and face-painting.
Community Member Erin Brady, who lives near the North Anthony Corridor, attended the block party for the first time this year to see the live local music.
“The development of this neighborhood over the last two years has really started,” Erin said. “The nice sm
all, little local shops that we have here gives people a chance to come and really see what’s in the neighborhood.”
Long-time local record store, the Wooden Nickel, hosted three bands in front of their North Anthony location from 2 to 6 p.m.
The Windows, a group of teens with one member as young as 13, began their set at 3 p.m., and played a variety of covers, including songs from The Velvet Underground and original songs.
All of the members of the band are in high school, and one is still in middle school. Dylan Record, singer and rhythm-guitarist, said they play post-punk and new-wave, and are currently working on new original music.
Bob Roets, owner of the Wooden Nickel, has hosted different bands at the block party all four years.
Bob said they pick teenage and college-age bands for the block party, to draw in more families.
Bob said there were about 200 people in attendance at one point this year, and sales were way up from last year. He plans to continue hosting the bands.
“I’m really happy with where it’s going,” Bob said. “It gets bigger and better every year.”