Chatham University

Chatham Views


first-year students address identity and values

Patel with students
Dr. Katie Cruger, Eboo Patel and Chatham Student Government President, Sarah Jukovic ’16

As colleges around the country grapple with issues of diversity and tolerance, first-year students at Chatham have been addressing the subject head-on through a new First-Year Communication Seminar—Dialogues: Identity and Values. The course aims to challenge students’ beliefs and facilitate discourse around issues such as gender, faith, race, and how they contribute to identity. An experience shared by all first-year students, it helps establish a sense of class unity that will persevere regardless of their eventual fields of study even as it fosters respect for differences.

According to Katherine Cruger PhD, Assistant Professor of Communications who directs the Seminar, “It was a challenge determining how to help students practice communication skills like writing, engaging in respectful discussion, and giving oral presentations while also grappling with difficult course content about identity and difference. Bringing Patel to campus seemed like putting that last piece of the puzzle into place.”

Cruger is talking about Eboo Patel —founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm—whose book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation is required reading for the Seminar.

Patel came to Chatham on December 2 to give a lecture entitled Sacred Ground: Interfaith Leadership in the 21st Century. The talk was sponsored by the Karen Lake Buttrey ‘67 Chair in Religion and Society, established to honor the legacy of the late Karen Lake Buttrey, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Chatham College in 1967 and served on the Board of Trustees. Patel also met with students and administrators during his visit and instructed an interfaith training session.

“The students were very impressed by Patel, which made the significance of that part of the course more personal and profound,” says Elisabeth Roark, PhD, Associate Professor of Art, one of the professors who teaches the seminar. “His humor and ability to pull in personal anecdotes made his talk very relatable. The students also embraced the feeling that, though the lecture was open to everyone, his purpose there was to connect with them and their work in the course.”

After Patel’s talk, first-year students were asked for feedback about what would improve the Dialogues Seminar. The consensus was that Patel’s book was an essential element to the course, and that having him come to campus really brought the material to life.

Patel was named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009 and served on President Obama’s inaugural Faith Council. For over fifteen years, Eboo has worked with governments, social sector organizations, and college and university campuses to help realize a future where religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.




“Starbucks was not started by a guy in a nice suit with gray hair,” says the man in the nice suit with gray hair. This is Zev Siegl, and, to be fair, it’s been a couple years since he and two friends started Starbucks in 1970. Since then, the success of Starbucks may be best encapsulated in a 1998 headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion: “New Starbucks Opens In Restroom Of Existing Starbucks.” On January 22, Siegl shared some thoughts on entrepreneurship with Chatham students.

A few highlights:

Pick the right type of business
“We had an unfair advantage,” says Siegl. “Caffeine makes for a lot of repeat customers.” Until 1983, Starbucks – which started as a retail shop selling ground coffee, equipment and spices – gave away cups of coffee in the stores. “There were no gourmet coffee stores in Seattle in 1970,” he says. “We wanted to build affection for coffee that’s thoughtfully produced.”

Starbucks gradually expanded into roasting their own beans, then making beverages. The first coffee bar opened in 1983. “Now we were in three businesses,” says Siegl. “Roasting, retailing, and selling beverages.”

Grow slowly.
“The idea is anathema these days, because of the window of opportunity,” Siegl admits. “But we grew slowly. After ten years, we had six stores. Right now, there are 12,000 in the U.S. alone.” Siegl also mentioned that growing slowly allowed them to manage their costs too, citing postponing purchases until the business is profitable as one way to reduce expenses.

Consider alternate sources of funding.
“There’s a tendency for the first-time entrepreneur to get bogged down in the business plan. You need to focus on the Excel spreadsheet – the financial forecast,” says Siegl. “You’ll probably be stunned by how much money you need. But you can take advantage of grants and other government programs, get customers to prepay before opening day, do trades and exchanges of services or equipment, or just do it yourself.”

Find a mentor.
“Find a mentor who really has the keys to the kingdom and say ‘let’s go have dinner,’” says Siegl, who cites Alfred Peet of Peet’s Coffee & Tea as his mentor.

Be strategic about product development.
In the late 80’s, Starbucks introduced Frappucinos to fulfill a marketing need. People who came in for their morning coffee now had a reason to come back in the afternoon.

Add value.
“Get involved with a social good,” Siegel says. “Collect money from customers for organizations doing good in the community. Think of it as an opportunity to give back.”


“It wasn’t my plan to run,” Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deborah Gross told the roomful of women following the casual wine and cheese networking reception. “It came as a surprise when the councilman retired. I was holding the phone with one hand and writing a list of all the people I knew who could run, 150 or so, with the other. And then I thought I want to be the one to do this.

On October 22, the women of Pittsburgh City Council – Councilwoman Gross, Councilwoman Darlene M. Harris, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak – spoke candidly about their experiences running for office and serving as councilmembers at A Night Out with the Women of City Council, an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

“Sometimes being on City Council is like being in the CIA. You can prevent bad things from happening without anyone knowing.”
– Councilwoman Darlene Harris

“During my run, I had the feeling that I was an outsider,” said Rudiak. “No one was tapping me on the shoulder and telling me that I should run. The hardest part was knowing people my whole life and seeing them not support me because they didn’t think I could win.”

The councilwomen’s remarks were followed by a question and answer session, during which one woman asked: Is it time for us as women to think about a different kind of political party?

“I struggle with that, as a Democrat,” said Rudiak. “Right now, I think there’s an unprecedented effort to get new people to run in our party. It is really energized. Sometimes working within the system provides the best opportunities for change.”

“There will always be someone to manipulate you, no matter what party you’re associated with,” agreed Kail-Smith. “Do what it takes to work within your community.”

The councilwomen also offered advice for women who were considering entering politics, much of which centered on fortitude: Keep on moving and doing what you think is right. You need to be in a place where you’re okay with people not liking you, and you need to keep going anyway. They also encouraged interested attendees to register for Ready to Run™ Pittsburgh, a day of bipartisan political training to encourage women to run for government leadership positions held at Chatham on January 31, 2015.

The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University is a non–partisan center devoted to fostering women’s public leadership through education, empowerment, and action.