Tag Archives: professor

Professor Bryan Whaley’s New Book on Communication in Healthcare Goes Beyond Good Bedside Manner

Rita McNeil
Contributing Writer 

USF Communication Studies Professor Bryan Whaley was in the oncology unit at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland back in 2004 with his then nine-year-old daughter, facing a situation he never thought possible. His daughter had been sick for weeks, and Whaley was told she might have colon cancer. As he sat in the waiting room, he watched as another young girl went in for chemotherapy and thought to himself, “I don’t believe I’m living through this.” Continue reading Professor Bryan Whaley’s New Book on Communication in Healthcare Goes Beyond Good Bedside Manner

Open Love Letter from a Former USF Professor

Cuttler dons African garb while attending Father Godfrey’s homily, dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Cuttler)
Cuttler dons African garb while attending Father Godfrey’s homily, dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Cuttler)

Editor’s note: In an effort to keep the piece as is, the author has permitted me to clarify the context of the sort of love referenced below, for the reader. It is unusual for men to talk about non-romantic love. He talked of a love that is rarely discussed: agape. 

   Agape is not only known as a love for God, but can be described as a brotherly and sisterly love. As he stated during our chat, “There is more than one kind of love in the world…[including] non-sexual love. I am all about reclaiming that love.” 

   He intends to have understood that “… it is a force that people should claim and use as a tool in their work.” Sasha believes this sort of love can be a powerful force for political transformation.  

I love Reverend Donal Godfrey S.J. At first blush, it may seem peculiar that I am professing my love for Donal Godfrey. After all, I am a Jew, and Donal is a Catholic. I am a nurse, and Donal is a priest. I was born in the U.S., Donal was not.  On the other hand, as a Jesuit, Donal has the initials “S.J.” (Society of Jesus) while my initials are also S.J. (for Sasha Jonathan). I like to think that it also represents the ideal of “social justice” which Donal and I both support.

My love for Donal is an expression of solidarity as well as affection. While I taught in the School of Nursing at the University of San Francisco, Donal was the Director of University Ministry. One day, a student asked if she could make up an examination because she was going with Donal to demonstrate outside the U.S. military’s School of the Americas. I was happy to oblige, as one of my dear friends lost her husband and brother to death squads in El Salvador. It is possible that the killers received their training at this school and I was glad that Donal was leading a non-violent protest that honors the memory of my friend’s family and the martyred Jesuits in the same small country.

I also love Donal because he made my students cry. I asked him to come speak with my students, many of whom had lost friends to the AIDS epidemic. Donal had compiled a marvelous oral history of the Most Holy Redeemer parish, in the Castro, which was at the epicenter of the outbreak. Rather than lecture, Donal suggested that we each talk about how the epidemic affected us as individuals and as nurses. Our salty tears of loving memory transcended the many differences between us at that class session.

I was really touched and honored that Donal posted a photo on social media of the two of us together, he in clerical robes, me in African garb. I came to hear Donal give a homily in honor of the late Nelson Mandela. Is this cultural appropriation? I do not think so; my intention was instead to celebrate the life of another man who fought for social justice against terrible odds. Donal and I are certainly more similar to the other than either  one of us is to Nelson Mandela. Imitation may not always be the sincerest form of flattery, but at times it certainly can be.

My love of Donal is a challenge to those who may be uncomfortable with warmth and love between two men. What’s to stop me from shouting my affection from the rooftops? After all, I love both my father as well as Father Donal. Homophobia is of course part of the answer. But I think there are other reasons. Does my love for Donal mean that we agree on everything? I would hope not. Indeed, no one would question my love for my partner or my daughters yet we disagree on many things. People like Donal Godfrey will not settle for mere tolerance of superficial differences among human beings. I love Donal because he is a pragmatic idealist working to create, nurture and embrace a better world. This is not the sort of love that is born from exchanges of candy and flowers, but it makes me smile as though it were.

Transgender Professor Speaks About Relationship With God


Dr. Joy Ladin, an English professor from the Jewish Yeshiva University, was at USF last Wednesday to discuss her intricate, lifelong, relationship with God and her transition from living as a man to living as a woman.
She read portions of her essay, “The God Thing,” and then told of her journey to find her true self. She explained that since birth she had always had “an unshakable lifelong sense that [she] was female.”

A large portion of Ladin’s presentation was centered on her family—the wife and three kids she ended up losing, at the cost of finding herself. There was palpable emotion as she talked about her relationship with them, especially her son. She alluded to her children’s expectations when she said she was supposed to help them grow up, not have them watch her grow up. Her presentation was rife with brutally honest anecdotes. However, she summarized those experiences by saying that her gender quandary “sucks.”

In spite of all this, relating to God was always a refuge for Dr. Ladin. As a child she found many similarities explaining, “Here’s somebody else who doesn’t have a body and doesn’t know how to get along with people.”

She said that since her transition her relationship with the Jewish community has diminished but continues to have strong faith.

Dr. Ladin’s life story is readily accessible on Google. That can be attributed in part to the New York Post, which published a vilifying story about her return to Yeshiva University after her transition. By Ladin’s count she is the only known transgendered professor at an orthodox university. In the summer of her transition, Dr. Ladin was notified she had received tenure. However she had applied while she was still a man, putting university administrators in an unprecedented position when Professor Jay Ladin came back as Joy.

The scandal has now settled and Dr. Ladin feels grateful in her present situation. She said, “I feel seen and I think that’s a gift”. With a small smile Ladin told of the first time she realized she “had made it” as a female, when an auto mechanic tried to rip her off.

Sophomore Jewish Studies and Social Justice minor Chelsea Mandell said, “It was really eye opening to listen to her talk not only about transgender issues but about transgender issues in the Jewish community, because that’s a whole other element that you never really hear about.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies and Social Justice Program as well as the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

Organizer of the event and Jewish Studies Professor Aaron Hahn Tapper said, “As someone without awareness regarding gender variance issues prior to the last few years, I am committed to focusing some of my social justice activism on this important issue.”

Female Scientists Encourage Next Generation

Students Bethany Goodrich and Noelle Brodeur welcomed Dr. Margaret Tempero, Millianne Lehmann, and Marjorie Balazs at the Women in Science panel. A large crowd turned out to see the prominent Bay Area scientists reflect on their careers and advise female scientists of the future. Photo Courtesy of Brandon Brown

USF took time to celebrate women who entered the male-dominated fields of math and science last Thursday, offering inspiration for the next generation of female scientists.

It was a room full of women, with a few men sprinkled in the crowded McLaren Hall as well. Sitting on the panel in the front of the room were five female scientists: two undergraduate science students and three professional scientists and mathematicians. A packed crowd of university and high school students listened intently to learn more about the role of women in science.

“Historically, women have been underrepresented in all science fields,” said junior Bethany Goodrich as she introduced the event. “Men and women are equal, but they offer very different perspectives.”

The scene at the panel, From Classroom to Career: Success Stories of Women in Science and Technology, held last Thursday, looked nothing like the picture painted by national statistics. As Goodrich noted, even though women earn the majority of bachelors degrees overall, they fall behind men in both the number of science degrees earned and the number of careers held in the sciences. Most would consider this figure problematic.

The USF College of Arts and Sciences is employing a number of methods to increase female enrollment in the sciences, including hiring more female professors and hosting events like the one last Thursday.

This effort began 45 years ago, when the university hired its first female professor in mathematics, Millianne Lehmann. Lehmann, who came to speak on the Women in Science panel, recalled, “When I joined the faculty in 1965, I was entering a world of men. I had no social peers.”

Lehmann served as the only female mathematics professor until 2004, when she retired. She said of her gender, “It turned out to be no problem at all. At no time did I feel hindered by my gender.” Lehmann ended up serving as the first female chair of USF’s mathematics department, paving the way for women to enter the math and science fields.

But not all women on the panel viewed their gender as a non-issue in their careers. When Marjorie Balazs attended college in the 1950’s, she had a male chemistry professor tell her, “You’d might as well stop now,” implying that, as a woman, she would never make it far in science.

Defying his projection, Balazs went on to have an a prosperous career, founding Balazs Analytical and becoming the first female CEO in the semiconductor industry.

The words of discouragement Balazs heard from her professor did not ultimately hold her back. “As a person who faced a lot of adversity and had people tell me I couldn’t do it, I really challenge you to believe in yourselves,” she told the audience.

The panel was sponsored by the Women in Science club, an undergraduate organization that encourages young women to pursue careers in the traditionally male-dominated fields.

Noelle Brodeur, junior biology major and Women in Science club president, has worked with her group to encourage other young women to go into science-related careers. Inviting Bay Area high school girls to watch the speakers on the panel and become inspired was part of that mission.

Brodeur explained the personal importance of having strong female role models in science, especially at her university.  “Seeing so many successful female science faculty at USF definitely makes my future dreams seem more tangible,” she said. “And it helps make the difficulties of being a biology major seem as if they will pay off in the long run.”

In recent years, USF has improved its faculty gender ratios significantly, with female faculty now making up 25-percent of the total in the math, science and computer science majors according to an article in the Fall 2009 issue of USF Magazine. Increasing the number of women professors, in theory, will encourage more female students to enroll in the majors.

For Lehmann, this could not be more true. It was a female high school teacher who ultimately inspired her to study mathematics and go on to teach. All these years later, she remembered fondly, “It is the memory of her that helped me to succeed in my career at USF.”

Dr. Margaret Tempero, a USF alumna, also spoke at the panel. Tempero said she kind of stumbled into a career in sciences when she began working at a hospital and wanted to get her medical degree so she could understand what was going on. She emphasized being open to opportunities to find the right career. “You may not understand your mission in life now,” she told the crowd, “But you have one.” Tempero is now the Deputy Director of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

Brodeur was pleased with the outcome of the panel. She said, “One of the main points I took away from the event was how lively and happy those women seemed. When I see women like that, it makes me so excited to find a career I am passionate about.”

Students Protest: Popular Adjunct Professor Not Rehired

Students gathered in Harney Plaza last Thursday to fight for the job of Professor Andrej Grubacic, who has not been rehired for next school year. Organizers of the protest held signs, distributed fliers, and encouraged passersby to sign their petition. ( Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

A petite blonde clutching a megaphone larger than her head steps up on a table in the middle of Harney Plaza. A crowd of students, most waving posters and distributing leaflets, silences at this action. She shouts into the megaphone and the crowd below shouts back.

On this Thursday, April 16, during dead hour at USF, students are out protesting not the latest international war or human rights injustice; rather they are fighting for the job of an adjunct sociology professor named Andrej Grubacic, who, after one academic year with the University, has not been asked to return next fall.

The young woman with the megaphone, a sophomore named Madeline Scarp, shouts, “He’s not coming back and it’s a shame!” The crowd erupted in response.

Grubacic was signed on as a temporary professor in the sociology department with a one-year contract in fall 2008. His contract, he said, was revised sometime thereafter, under what he called “somewhat mysterious” circumstances. He taught two classes as an adjunct professor this spring, as well as advising nine directed studies.

Despite being told his student evaluations “were very impressive,” and being nominated for both professor and mentor of the year awards, he was informed in February that there would not be a space for him next year. Grubacic was surprised; he had turned down two job offers at other universities believing he would continue employment at USF. Students, who had grown to love his style of teaching and mentorship, were shocked as well.

Many students would feel apathetic about fighting for a professor’s job. What makes this professor different, the protesting students said, is his manner of teaching, leading interactive discussion courses and mentoring them on how to become involved with political processes.
Senior Jennifer Herrera, one of Grubacic’s students, said, “He’s very passionate. It’s a pleasure to hear someone talk passionately about issues.”

Sophomore Madeline Scarp speaks out to a group of concerned students last Thursday in Harney Plaza about the decision not to renew sociology professor Andrej Grubacic’s contract. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

After taking multiple forms of action to express their feelings about Grubacic’s job, including repeatedly meeting with Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Jennifer Turpin and Sociology Department Chair Steven Zavestoski, presenting their case to the ASUSF Senate, gathering signatures on a petition, forming a Facebook group, distributing literature around campus and holding the protest last Thursday, students were met with the same response from the administration: that there is simply not a spot for him. Herrera said, “I think this is really about a bigger issue: students should have a say.”

Grubacic echoed this statement. “What [the students] are asking is, I believe, a question of the first order: what is the role of students in collective life of the university? Shouldn’t their collective voice account for something more? What does that famous phrase ‘student power’ mean?” He asked. “I believe that this whole ‘movement,’ if we can call it that, is about something far more important then keeping one professor.”
Turpin, who helps oversee the staff in the College of Arts and Sciences, maintains that there simply is not space or funding to keep Grubacic at the University. She said, “Mr. Grubacic was meant to serve as a temporary instructor while others (full-time faculty in Sociology) were on leave. But all of the excellent faculty who were on leave last year will be returning in the fall, and thus we have to resume paying their full time salaries.” These professors not only require the salary that would go to Grubacic, but also will be instructing the classes he would teach, she explained. “All of them teach in globalization – Mr. Grubacic’s main specialization and the area in which he’s been teaching for us.”

Still, many students maintain that in a case where so many students are pleading for a professor to stay, the University should take note and make things fit somehow.

Junior Megan Langley, a student of Grubacic who participated in the protest, said, “We understand that his contract expired, but we’re asking for a re-hire. We’re the students, and we should get some say in who teaches us. It’s just logical.”

Turpin addressed this point, “Student opinion is very valuable. When USF recruits new full-time continuing faculty, students are included in the hiring process. They also play a role when they evaluate faculty at the end of each semester. Student opinion is not the only variable involved in creating new positions at USF, however.” She said there were too many logistical impossibilities with this case: no money designated to pay his salary and no classes open for him to teach.

Some still do not accept this answer. Rumors arose that Grubacic was not being rehired because of his radical political ideology. Chair of Sociology Department Steven Zavestoski said this had absolutely no influence on his not being rehired, but Grubacic said he believes this with certainty. “Do I believe it? Yes. Do I have proof? No,” he said. Grubacic said in fall when he began teaching, other professors accused him of “organizing” his students, and molding them into a “cult” following.

But if Grubacic did help his students learn to organize, he says he had no part in their latest cause. “It came as a surprise, a beautiful surprise. I am very happy to have been able to encourage it, by teaching students to think for themselves.” He said, “It is one of the most heart-warming and moving experiences of my life.”