Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stepping Into History - RMU's Civil War Study Tour

My wife took me to Gettysburg for my birthday once. Once. Since then, she has ignored my pleas to return to the historic town, which was the site of one of the most influential battles of the Civil War. You see, my wife doesn’t share my enthusiasm for American history. For that reason, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit Gettysburg again, or for that matter, any of the other major battlefields of the “War of Northern Aggression,” as many Southerners call it.

That’s all about to change.

This Sunday, May 2, I will be joining 16 RMU students as we embark on a five-day tour of some of the most influential and important sites of the Civil War. Led by Associate Professor of History Daniel P. Barr, Ph.D., the Civil War Study Tour class is a mostly online course that includes a tour of Harpers Ferry, W. Va.; Richmond, Cold Harbor, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg in Virginia; Sharpsburg, Md., and Gettysburg, Pa. I’ll be tagging along to document the trip and get some photos and video of our students as they get a close-up look at American history.

Beginning this Sunday night, I’ll be writing a daily post here on the RMU News Blog, where you can follow our progress and read about our experiences as we step into history.

Please feel free to comment on the posts and share any thoughts or stories you have on the locations we visit. You can also follow us via the Robert Morris University Facebook page, as well as on Twitter by following “@RMUNews”.

– Valentine J. Brkich

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stranded in Slovenia

When University Professor Fred Kohun, Ph.D., left for Slovenia on April 11, like most people, he had never even heard of the Icelandic volcano known as Eyjafjallajokull. But now it’s likely he’ll never forget it.

Now, Kohun is stranded in the city of Celje, where was invited by the Ministry of Education to conduct workshops for students and teachers at the International School for Social and Business Studies. Kohun, who also serves as associate dean of graduate programs for RMU’s School of Communications and Information Systems, was certain that the trip would be a memorable experience. And, boy, was he right.

“It’s total chaos over here,” he said this morning via an online Skype conversation. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve spent at least 24 hours on the phone trying to get a ticket home, but there’s just no cooperation in the airline industry over here.”

Fortunately, through a connection with president of Lufthansa, Kohun was able to acquire a ticket and is confirmed for a flight on Tuesday; however, he’s still waiting on the e-ticket.

Kohun says that during the first days of the catastrophe, flights were doubling in price every couple hours, and hotel prices were skyrocketing, too. “Price gouging is out of control,” he said.
Although he knows he’s been very fortunate to have personal connections to help him with housing and acquiring a ticket home, Kohun has certainly had his full of Slovenia.

“I’ve had my global experience,” he said.

We’ll be sure to catch up with Dr. Kohun when he returns to RMU to hear more about his adventure. Stay tuned…

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Honored for Business Excellence

Rande Somma ‘73 fought back tears as addressed a crowd of faculty, administrators, students and their families at RMU’s inaugural Beta Gamma Sigma induction ceremony on March 29. “There is a soul about this university that I didn’t know about,” he said. “I’m not sure if you know about it yet – but you will.”

Somma had just been named an honoree of RMU’s new chapter of the international honor society, which is exclusively for business students in AACSB accredited institutions. During the ceremony, which took place in RMU’s Massey Hall Theater, thirteen juniors and 14 seniors, along with 5 M.B.A. students, 3 M.S. in Nonprofit Management students, and 1 M.S. in Human Resource Management student, were inducted into the honor society, which represents the highest honor a business student can receive.

Derya A. Jacobs, Ph.D, dean of RMU’s School of Business introduced the two chapter honorees. “I am very emotional tonight,” she said, speaking to the students and attendees. “I am so proud of you all.”

“This is really a great accomplishment for the university,” said President Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D. “Our peers have now identified and recognized us as one of the top 5 percent among business schools.”

Somma received his B. S. in Business Administration from RMU and now serves as president and CEO of Rande Somma & Associates, a consulting firm focusing on leadership coaching and development. Previously, he served as corporate officer for Johnson Controls, Inc. He is also the founder of the Rande and Georgia Somma Integrity First Scholarships, $2,500 awards given annually to the four RMU business students who write the best essays analyzing moral or ethical issues in a business case study.

Somma said that the establishment of this new Beta Gamma Sigma chapter "speaks not only to the exceptional quality of the educational experience at RMU, but also to that of the extraordinary commitment to excellence embodied in the leadership of the university and the School of Business." He also thanked the many people who had given of themselves to help him find success in life, and who had inspired him to, in turn, give back to others.

His fellow honoree, Douglas J. MacPhail ‘74, echoed this sentiment. “You have to give back,” he said. “You have to give back to your alma mater, family, community, and religious organization. We are role models and mentors for the next generation. Be willing to volunteer your time and resources.”

MacPhail, a native of New Jersey, said his parents had convinced him to come to Robert Morris, and he was glad he’d listened to them. Now a resident of Pittsburgh, he is in his 30th year with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, where he serves as senior vice president. “This university was willing to give me a chance,” he said. “Because of [RMU], I was able to flourish.”

Joseph DiAngelo, Ed.D., dean of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, awarded the charter to RMU’s School of Business and spoke of its impressive growth. “This is a school that is on the move,” said DiAngelo, “– in step with the goals of a great, student-centered university.” He added, “I know your faculty have been in the vanguard of this movement – this revival of great teaching – by embracing and actively promoting the most progressive trends in education today.

“You are a part of the best that Pittsburgh has to offer,” he said.

– Valentine J. Brkich