Recent Posts


Playing Safe

In her quest to make the stages and scene shops of America’s theatres just a little bit safer, Abby Ward will resort to any means necessary. Even nagging.

Ward is a senior theatre and finance major from Cary who has taken on one of the least glamorous roles in theatre. She is an emerging theatre-safety expert, an authority on protecting casts and crews from the many dangers lurking backstage. She plays her part proudly.
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Sound Education

John Weber was spending another summer day working in the basement of Daniels Hall, and he couldn’t have seemed more content. Weber, a senior music business major from Park Ridge, is an aspiring recording engineer, and in the Gretsch Recording Studio in Daniels Hall he has found a subterranean playground for audiophiles, a place to practice his craft.

“I’d be down here all the time if I could,” Weber said as he showed a visitor around the studio one recent morning. “I love trying different ways of capturing a performance, seeing what different microphones sound like set up at different angles. When I think about how much I’ve learned here over the last couple of years, it’s amazing.”

Weber is just one of a quarter-century’s worth of Elmhurst students who learned their first lessons in sound recording in this studio. The Gretsch Recording Studio is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. The equipment inside the studio has changed over the years, to keep up with every advance in audio technology, but the one thing that has remained constant is that students have come to the studio to twist dials, to slide faders, and to learn in the process.
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Swing Set

The acclaimed jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Elmhurst College Jazz Band were just one song into the rehearsal for their performance at the College’s 17th annual Summer Extravaganza concert last week, but Bridgewater was ready to begin the ovations early.

“Quite exemplary work you do here,” she said to the band, adopting a mock-posh accent after scatting her way through Duke Ellington’s “Cotton Tail” with their backing. “I’m most impressed.”
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Facing Chicago’s Future


The recent NATO summit set the world’s attention on Chicago for a few busy days this spring, offering an image-building opportunity for civic boosters touting the city as a thriving global player. But in this edition of the Quick Studies podcast, Connie Mixon, director of Elmhurst’s urban studies program, says the city and its suburbs face some pressing problems. Mixon is the co-editor, with former Chicago alderman Dick Simpson, of Twenty-First Century Chicago, a new book that considers the future of the city and its suburbs.


Mussel Bound

One of the tiniest residents of the Schaible Science Center is a thumbnail-sized bivalve called a scorched mussel. Its natural habitat is along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, but it has found temporary quarters in a cabinet inside Kyle Bennett’s crowded lab.

Bennett, an assistant professor of biology at Elmhurst, has spent much of the last decade getting to know the scorched mussel and its close relatives in the genus Brachidontes. In his research, Bennett uses molecular tools and DNA analysis to draw sharper distinctions between species of Brachidontes that appear virtually identical in form and structure. In the process, he hopes to better understand how, when and why species developed and branched off from common ancestors.
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The Way of the Hero

Long before well-muscled movie stars began exchanging gunfire in Hollywood action flicks and Xbox assassins started blowing up buildings in computer games, similar displays of high-testosterone aggression were common in the epics of the ancient world. Audiences, it seems, have always liked their heroes quick-fisted and armed to the teeth.

But, as Tina-Marie Ranalli will tell you, there are exceptions. Ranalli, an assistant professor of French and German, has spent years poring over a little-known 700-year-old manuscript housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. What she has found there, she says, turns traditional depictions of the heroic warrior upside-down. For some classical heroes, as the title of one of Ranalli’s recent papers puts it, it paid “to be a lover, not a fighter.”
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Learning to Lead

Kaiser Aslam was parked at a table in the Frick Center on a recent Tuesday morning with his laptop and, he was pleased to report, no plans to go anywhere for a while.

It was a rare respite for the senior biology major.

Since December, Aslam has spent most of his weekends on the road, logging enough air miles to make a seasoned business traveler proud. If last week was Dallas, next week must be Atlanta. And the week after next must be New York. Or is it Flint, Michigan?

Aslam’s dizzying travel calendar comes with his role as national coordinator of Young Muslims, a nationwide network of Islamic youth groups. Since he was elected to the post last year, Aslam has been busy hustling to conferences and making visits to local chapters of the group.
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Student For Life

In the between-class bustle of the basement corridor of Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, Sam Ostrin is hard to miss.

Ostrin is a white-bearded 72-year-old retired physician in a T-shirt that announces: “The truly educated never graduate.”

For Ostrin, Elmhurst College’s most persistent student, these have become words to live by.

Ever since he walked away from his former life as an emergency-room physician 13 years ago, Ostrin has been taking his place in Elmhurst classrooms alongside students less than a third his age. Like them, he enrolls in literature courses and philosophy courses and religion courses. He is the proud owner of a JayPass student identification card, which he will, unprompted, pull from his wallet to proves his student bona fides.

But Ostrin is not after a degree. He has enough of those, including a medical diploma from Heidelberg University. In Elmhurst’s classrooms, Ostrin will tell you, he has found something more ineffable, more profound.

“Elmhurst has taken me by the hand,” he said, walking through the Chapel after his Friday morning Shakespeare class. “And it has rehumanized me.”
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CSI: Elmhurst

Ricky Dingraudo, crime-scene investigator, was creeping through a bed of ankle-high pachysandra outside Schaible Science Center one afternoon last week when he found what he was looking for. There, partially hidden by the early spring foliage, was a bright white bone: A human femur, Dingraudo guessed.

It would have been an alarming discovery, if the bone hadn’t been plastic and if Dingraudo didn’t have good reason to believe it had been planted there by a couple of his professors.
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No Small Plans

The students who come to see Earl Thompson have big plans. They want to go to Paris and spend a year studying French. They want to join a research team in a biology lab at one of Germany’s top universities. They want to teach English as a Second Language in Ecuador.

So they talk to Thompson, Elmhurst’s major scholarships coordinator. He makes it his mission to help them win one of the big-money, high-prestige scholarships—maybe a Fulbright, maybe a Gilman—that can make their plans a reality.

“So many of the students that come to me are so impressive. They have that special spark,” Thompson said in a meeting room at the Center for Professional Excellence where he often meets with students. This is where he makes his pitch for them to apply for one of the twenty or so scholarships that are considered higher education’s biggest prizes. “I tell them, ‘There’s a time to be humble, and this ain’t it.’”
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Quick Studies is a journal and podcast series about life at Elmhurst College. It is written and hosted by journalist Andrew Santella, who covers the College for its award-winning magazine, Prospect.

Send him your feedback and ideas at