DJ Berard Named Department Chair of Arts at Chatfield College

DJ Berard has become the Chair of Fine, Creative, and Performing Arts, and Music at Chatfield College.

Previously an instructor at Chatfield, Berard has a wide range of experience in education. She studied ceramics at Arizona State University, earned a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University, and completed graduate work at the University of South Carolina. Ms. Berard also earned a Master of Fine Arts from Lindenwood University. She has been on the Board of Directors for several art organizations and has been featured in magazines like The Artist’s Magazine and American Artist.

Berard has been teaching in both private and public schools for many years, and is familiar with accreditation and assessments at all levels. She has written K-12’s arts curriculum for programs such as the state of Missouri’s Art Assessments and the Getty Institute.

Berard started as a classically trained sculptor using bronze and stone, but became a painter when a Director of the Smithsonian bought one of her first paintings for a museum in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and now her paintings are scattered around places like Scottsdale, Tucson Arizona, St Louis, and now Cincinnati.

She moved east from Arizona to become an Artist-in-Residence in the Smoky Mountains, and was excited to be surrounded by green and mountain streams. This program exists to invite artists for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations. This past summer, Berard completed another term as an Artist-in-Residence with the Foothills College Department of Archeology and Anthropology at Ballintober Castle in Ireland, where she illustrated the castle, as well as worked alongside and mentored students.

“Art is so important because anyone can participate anywhere. I’ve worked with mentally challenged adults, gifted high school students, and autistic adolescents in places all over,” Berard said.

She adds, “I am glad to be at Chatfield and to be part of the growing programs here. The students are excited to be in class and a delight to teach.”

“Chatfield has long history of arts education, and DJ will help us to continue and advance this important component of a liberal arts education,” said Dr. Peter Hanson, Chief Academic Officer and Dean.

DJ and her husband, Kirk, have four children and reside in Milford, OH.




Chatfield College is a private, faith-based, liberal arts college offering the Associate of Arts degree in Brown County and Cincinnati, and is an open enrollment college. The Brown County campus is located at 20918 State Route 251; St. Martin, OH 45118; the Cincinnati campus is located at 1544 Central Parkway; Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, visit the website, at, call (513) 875-3344 or e-mail


The Path That Led Me to Chatfield

My very first blog. Strange, as a writer, I have never written a blog—unless journals count. For my first blog, I want to share with you how I got to Chatfield and how I came to be writing a blog for my fellow students now.

The journey that led me to college started very differently for me than most others. At the start of August of my senior year, we lost our home and had to stay with some family friends. I hated it so much, I was severely depressed and I was losing faith. I had to switch schools, but on top of that, I was fourteen and a half credits behind and as a result, the school put me in a work study program. The work study program allowed me to have four classes: English, Math, and two study hall-type classes to get caught up on my credits. This program also allowed me to leave early, but I had to get a job, hence why it’s called “work study”.

While I was in the work study program, I had a teacher who really encouraged me and helped me to actually graduate. In October, I met this amazing guy, who is now my boyfriend. Being with him made me want to push myself to thrive, and think of my future. Through a school program, I connected with a mentor who provided additional support. The mentoring program gave me someone to talk, to who helped me figure out what I wanted to do in life, and the kind of person I would want to be, and much more. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate everything that the three of them have done for me.

As time went on, I was still trying to figure out what exactly I would like to do for a career.
I became frustrated because I had no clue what I wanted to do and where I would go to college. My teacher was telling me about various colleges, but none of them really peaked my interest. One day, my teacher asked if I’d like to go on a field trip to Chatfield College—the same college my mentor had been telling me about. I told my teacher I’d go and a couple weeks later, we visited. I fell in love as soon as I arrived because Chatfield had a small, historic, and beautiful campus. We toured the campus and when the admissions counselor showed us the Sacred Heart Chapel, my goodness, I loved the place even more!

After visiting and deciding Chatfield was the place for me, I applied and couldn’t have been happier when I was accepted! I had also applied for several scholarships through Chatfield and to my surprise, I received the Knowlton Honors Scholarship. You wouldn’t believe the amount of happy tears I cried; I just could not stop crying! Being accepted and getting in Chatfield was one of the greatest things to happen to me in a long time.

Chatfield also allowed me to have a work study job here, which helps pay for the cost of school. Working in the Marketing and Communication department is what led me to write this blog for everyone. Between working on campus and the classes I’m taking, I couldn’t be happier with my life right now!

Even though I’m super-stressed taking on two jobs and school all at once, I know I am going to get to where I want to be here soon and that’s what keeps me moving forward. I can’t thank everyone enough, who helped me and encouraged me along the way. After everything, I still can’t believe that I’m at Chatfield earning a degree! After graduating from Chatfield, I plan to go to school to get a degree in the medical field.

I honestly wouldn’t go back to change anything, because through the tragic and depressing moments, I was blessed with something I couldn’t even imagine for myself. I’m so grateful for every person along the way and every experience I have gone through because I don’t believe I’d be who I am and doing what I want to do right now. I’m truly excited and happy, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

A Memo to My Students as the New Semester Begins

To: My Students
From: Your Teacher
Re: A Better Learning Experience

This is just a brief note to let you know how committed I am to making this a good course. But I can’t do my best teaching without your help. So, I thought I’d share a list of things you can do that will make this a better experience for all of us.

Teaching Professor Blog Be there. When you’re in class or online doing course-related work, I need you to be there completely. Yes, this means being physically present, but I’m hoping for more than just your body in class. I teach better when you are mentally present—listening, taking notes, mulling things over in your head, asking questions, occasionally nodding (when you understand), and sometimes looking surprised, confused, or amused (as the situation warrants). And yes, you may even look bored, if that’s how you’re feeling. I need that feedback, too. What I don’t need—and find very discouraging—is having you in class but not really there. Don’t kid yourself: I know when students are doing things with their devices or finishing homework for another class, looking up every now and then and pretending to listen. Trust me, feigning attention doesn’t look anything like attentive listening. You’ll make the course easier for me to teach and you to learn if you are present and engaged in what’s happening in class.

Participate! Yes, I do give points for participation, even though I know that encourages some students to contribute solely to earn them. There’s no need to speak every day. Less is sometimes more. Speak when you’ve got something to say! Ask a thoughtful question, share a relevant experience, respond to another student’s comment, or voice a different perspective—contributions like these make the class interesting for me and everyone else. And thanks in advance to those of you who voluntarily participate.

I know many students find it difficult to contribute in class. I try to make it easier by broadly defining participation. If you’ve got a question about the reading, something I said in class, or an observation that a classmate offered, and you couldn’t quite find the courage to raise your hand, send your question or contribution to me electronically. You also can participate by posting on the course website. Maybe it will be a list of the three most important things you learned in class on a given day, a short paragraph that summarizes the discussion that ended class, or a set of study questions for an upcoming exam.
And everyone can participate in this course by listening and paying attention—especially when another student is speaking. Good listeners respond nonverbally with eye contact and facial expressions. They don’t look close to comatose.

A class that’s participating energizes my teaching. Your comments, questions, and responses feed me. Without your participation, I feel like I’m at a dinner table where all I do is serve the food and never get to eat it. I’d like to be sharing the meal with you instead.

Help me get to know you. Let’s start with names. I am committed to learning yours and do hope you’ll learn mine. Almost everybody struggles with names, including me. If I speak to you without using your name, call me on it. If I’ve forgotten, give me something that will help me remember. Let’s greet each other by name when we run into each other on campus. Stop by my office. I keep a basket of granola bars for hungry students. I know they’re not as good as candy, but they’re healthier. See, we’ve found some common ground already.

I’d like to get to know you beyond just your name. What’s your major? Why did you decide on it? What courses are you taking? Tell me something you just learned in one of your other classes. Why are you in this course? I know; it’s required. I think it’s required for a compelling set of reasons, but I’m probably not all that objective. What would like to learn in this course? What are you finding easy and difficult about this content?

I teach better when I know the students I see in class or chat with online as real people—students with names, faces, and interesting lives. I do my best teaching when I have students who care about learning (and grades); who have dreams, goals, and ambitions; and who want to get out there and fix what’s broken. I do my best teaching when I have students who are serious about getting ready for life—or getting ready to make a better life. I want you to experience my best teaching, and I hope you’ll help me make that happen this semester.

Note to readers: Be welcome to make this note your own. Use it as a template. Delete or revise what doesn’t fit, add more sections or examples, and change the voice so that it sounds like you and aligns with the things you like to see from your students.

Originally published on Faculty Focus by Maryellen Weimer, PhD

Read other articles in this occasional series:

Need money for college? Here’s how to make a grab for $150,000 in scholarships.

Gabrielle McCormick’s journey started with a fall.

In November of her senior year of high school, she tore her Achilles tendon during a basketball game. The injury simultaneously crushed her dreams of playing college basketball and any hopes she had of earning the athletic scholarship she was counting on.

“My entire high school identity changed because I wasn’t a student athlete,” she said “I really struggled to let my basketball dreams go.”

Fast forward 10 years, and McCormick has completely paid for her education with more than $150,000 in scholarships.

She quickly found out there is a scholarship out there for everything — and everyone — including students with red hair, women over 5-foot-10 and lovers of the game Minecraft.

And now the successful entrepreneur is helping others get on the path to a debt-free education.

“It is possible. You just have to have a system in place,” she said.

Gabrielle McCormick figured out there is a scholarship for everything. She earned more than $150,000 in college scholarships, and now she’s helping others get on a path to debt-free education.

As a result of rising college tuition, student loan debt has reached an all-time high of $1.34 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

At private universities, families have to shell out $33,480 for one year of tuition on average. In-state public schools are a cheaper option, though still a major investment, at $9,650 per year.

Without an athletic scholarship, McCormick wasn’t sure how she could afford it. That’s when it clicked: “I said to myself, ‘Gabrielle, you’ve got to figure out how to win scholarships.’”

McCormick seemed to be the ideal candidate. She was a three-sport athlete, No. 4 in her class, ran her own art business and participated in several extracurricular activities.

But still, her hunt for scholarships came with roadblocks.

McCormick’s research began at a bookstore in her small hometown of Greenville, Texas, 45 minutes outside of Dallas. That netted little. She went to her college counselor almost every day, but she was only “as helpful as she could be.”

“I did not know what I was doing, and because of that I wasted a lot of time,” McCormick said.

She said through trial and error, she developed a winning strategy.  McCormick didn’t qualify for big national scholarships such as the Gates Millennium Scholars program, so she focused on small, local scholarships.

“Everything under $2,000 was what really helped,” she said.

McCormick created a “scholarship profile” for herself, identifying important characteristics that could earn her money.

“I literally typed in everything about myself, added the word scholarship and tried to find out if there were scholarships I could win,” she said.

McCormick also learned that telling her personal story resonated more with scholarship committees than generic essays about her academic goals. She used her scholarship essays like a form of therapy, sharing the pain of getting injured, her grandfather’s death and her mother’s battle with cancer.

“I was so broken as a student,” McCormick said. “Scholarships allowed me to really express myself.”

She applied for more than 50 scholarships, ranging from generic essay contests to merit-based scholarships to one for sportsmanship.

“A good mix is really where the power is,” she said.

In total, she earned well more than 150,000 in scholarship money, but she estimates the true value of everything she received is closer to $200,000. She advised students to be open to any opportunity that can add value to their education, not just money.

She put that money toward her undergraduate degree and her master’s in business administration, all of which she completed in five years. McCormick studied accounting at Texas A&M University-Commerce, where she is now pursuing her doctorate.

“They made me the best offer — which was free,” she said, laughing.

Parents and students alike would come to McCormick for advice on how they could pay for college. She realized that school counselors often weren’t able to give adequate attention to each student.

McCormick worried that students felt vital information was “behind some hidden curtain that you have to pay admission for.”

“It shouldn’t be this difficult,” she said.

Right before graduation, she created a resource for students searching for scholarships. Her free online curriculum walks students through the scholarship application process from start to finish.

“Our free education is more valuable than what some people pay for scholarship courses,” she said.

Once she completes her doctorate next year, she’ll work full time on Scholarship Informer. She has a small team now working remotely across the world, and she said expansion is in the near future.

McCormick, now 27, said she wants students to know that no matter the roadblocks they face, there’s money out there for school. They just need to have a plan.

“What matters is someone has the right attitudes and the right mind-set to focus on the strategies and do the work.”

Content originally posted on USA TODAY
N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY Published Aug. 18, 2017

Make sure to check out Chatfield’s scholarship page as well! 98% of our students receive financial aid.

To speak with an admission counselor on how to get started at Chatfield, click here.

5 Tips to Ensure You’re Ready For Your First Day of Classes

College can seem like a never-ending stream of new experiences: new school, new friends, new classes. But instead of being overwhelmed, these five tips will go a long way toward making sure your first day of college starts off right.

Even if this isn’t your first college experience, it could be beneficial to you to skim over these tips, too:

1) Take a tour of your classrooms.

You might know where your class buildings are, but where is Room 216A? Make sure you check it out before your first class.

Finding the right room for each of your classes on your first day of college can seem like navigating a maze – and nothing screams “freshman” like wandering the hallways with a confused expression.

Instead, take a quick tour the day before classes start to find out exactly where you need to be. You’ll be stress-free on the first day, and what’s more, you’ll be sure to arrive to class on time and snag a good seat!


2) Bring a notebook.

On the first day of college, your professors will probably review the syllabus and talk about the plan for the semester. They’re also likely to list their office hours and contact information. Keep a notebook handy to record this important information. Some professors also start lecturing on the first day, so it’s critical to come prepared.

Sometimes you’ll know the required books for your classes ahead of time – you might get an email or letter after you’ve registered for your classes with assigned reading for the first day of college, or your syllabus might be available online. But it’s also possible that you won’t be sure what books or specific editions your professor requires.

Unless you have reading assigned for the first day of college, wait to make notes in your books or tear off the plastic wrap. If your professor has a specific request, you’ll want to be able to exchange those expensive textbooks!

3) Be open.

One of the best ways to meet people on your first day of college is simple –be open to new things!

Lots of newcomers mill around campus in the first few days of college looking to meet new people and make new friends. But even if you’re ready to mingle, clamming up suggests that you’re busy or don’t want to be disturbed. College is a great time to meet all kinds of different people with different experiences and beliefs, welcome it!

4) Start work before it’s due.

The homework you’ll get on your first day of college can be a world away from the high school assignments you’re used to. Start some of your assignments right away on the first day of college, so they’ll be sure to be done by the deadline.

College professors tend to assign bigger amounts of work over longer periods of time, so you’ll lack the daily deadlines many high school courses provide. This makes it seem like you have plenty of time, but don’t be fooled!

You’ll probably need a while to get used to the change in workload and discover the best way for you to study for college classes. Consider making a schedule on your first day of college that breaks down the bigger assignments day-by-day.

For example, if you’re reading a 350-page novel in one week, break it down into 50-page segments and read one each day. It’s much easier than trying to skim all 350 the night before class!

5) Take a break.

Your first day of college will be packed with exciting classes, meetings and events – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all of the things going on. Make sure you take time in your day to relax and enjoy it!

Meet new friends for lunch in the Welcome Center or take a scenic walk around campus. Your college will probably have you pretty busy throughout the first few days of college, so take the opportunity to chill and share stories of your first day with new friends who just went through the very same thing.

Content originally published on University Language Services

Real Life Isn’t Like Harvard: Why Open Enrollment is a Better Choice

There’s a simple truth that many Americans tend to overlook when it comes to furthering their education— not all colleges are created equal and finding the right kind of college or program can be tough.

Plenty of people out there think that getting into an Ivy League university is the only way to guarantee their success in life, but it’s just not true.

The fact is that open enrollment colleges may actually be a better choice for most students— whether heading off to college after just graduating from high school or if you’re going back to get your degree to improve your professional life.

So, why choose open enrollment?

While the Ivies do offer students the chance to study the Humanities and learn skills that are sorely missed in many American workers today, you don’t need to rack up debt at an expensive private university to get this kind of liberal arts education when there are plenty of open enrollment liberal arts colleges out there.

Your decision to go to college should mean that you’re in for a future filled with freedom and opportunity—not unemployment and mountains of debt.

Open enrollment colleges like Chatfield College offer students the financial aid they need (so you don’t have to go into debt to get your degree) and a liberal arts education that gives you the chance to flex your creative muscles to develop effective analytical and critical thinking tools and skills.

And attending an open enrollment college couldn’t be easier.

Because of their “open” policy, students are given the opportunity to prove time and again how much they value their time at school. But just because it’s easier to apply and attend classes, it doesn’t mean those classes won’t offer you a challenging learning experience.

It may be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort.

College is challenging. And it’s supposed to be. But in those challenges, you’ll find a willingness to learn, the drive to do your best, and the chance to find the right job.

Open enrollment colleges like Chatfield College are designed around programs specifically geared to help students develop the skills you need to succeed in your career, like critical thinking.
After you graduate, you’ll find that getting your degree from an open enrollment college has prepared you to be a well-adjusted adult living in the real world. You won’t find that isolating “college bubble” experience here. We strive to keep our students connected to their community while they’re getting their degrees because real life isn’t like college.

We offer prospective students real world opportunities while they’re still in college.

Challenging programs, campus activities, and community outreach means you’ll graduate with the experience you need and the tools you’ll use, to make a positive impact on the job or career of your choice.

Take things one step at a time.

Having a degree from an open enrollment college can provide you with the necessary skills, tools, and experiences you need to face the real world head on. It’s important to remember, though, that no matter how much you’re looking towards the future, you can’t forget about the present.

The time, attention, and focus you give to your classes will only help you after you graduate if you’re willing to put in the effort now. You’ll be better prepared to deal with any situations that come your way after graduation when you approach everything as a learning experience.

• Take the time to get to know your teachers and the students you’re taking classes with.
• Devote time to studying and making sure you’re as prepared as possible for tests.
• Research the papers you’ll be asked to write.
• Volunteer, work, mentor, or tutor whenever you get the chance.

When you choose the right college, all of your experiences can help prepare you for life after a earning a degree.

Think Chatfield may be the place for you? Get started today bu clicking here to schedule a visit.

From Chatfield to the Ivy League

Growing up in rural Tennessee where there was very little focus on academics, Martin Smith never thought about going to college, let alone graduating from one.  He certainly never dreamed that he could one day attend an Ivy League school and earn not only a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree as well.

But, he is the first one to tell you that with education, and determination, there is no limit to what you can do.

Smith graduated from the University of Pennsylvania this spring with dual degrees – a BA in History and English and an MA in English.  His journey wasn’t easy and it took 12 years to get there.

The journey began in 2003, when he enrolled at Chatfield College – the first time.  He was a newly married 19-year-old with his first child on the way, and his first term GPA was a whopping 1.102.  He left after his first year, completing just 19 credit hours.

“I didn’t have the discipline,” said Martin.  “I didn’t know how to be a student.  I was working full-time and had family responsibilities.  I didn’t have the foundation that was necessary to succeed in college.”

For 10 years, he worked in retail, mortgage underwriting, and even ran his own business.  He had another child.  He got divorced.  Then he got laid off from his retail management job.

That’s when he decided to try Chatfield College for the second time.

“I had nothing to lose if I tried and everything to gain if I succeeded, so I thought… why not?”

This time, he felt like he had a better chance at success because he had learned to better budget time and juggle work and family responsibilities.

And, he says, Chatfield gave him everything he needed to succeed.

“The way that Chatfield stresses knowing how to write and communicate, the way classes are small enough that you can learn and interact – not just sit there and listen, the way every faculty member and staff person made it his or her mission to help me perform at the best of my abilities.  All of these things provided an environment for my success,” said Martin.

After graduating from Chatfield in 2015, he was accepted to three incredibly competitive Ivy League schools – the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Brown.

He chose Penn, where in two years he not only earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but also wrote and published a novel, two children’s books, and three local history books – all in his “spare” time!

Martin says he was prepared for the rigors of Ivy League academics because of the foundation he got at Chatfield.

“Being able to write and speak effectively makes a huge difference in your success at Penn,” he said.  “Chatfield goes above and beyond to prepare students to be good writers at the college level.  Because I had been well-prepared at Chatfield, I was able to focus on the upper level courses and was able to sub-matriculate and get my bachelor’s and master’s at the same time.

Now he’s headed to Pine Manor College in Massachusetts for a Master of Fine Arts before he goes on to earn a PhD. He’s already been accepted at doctoral programs at Penn and Columbia. After that, he wants to teach and continue to write. He may even find the time to teach online classes at Chatfield.

All of this, he says would never have been possible without the start he got right here in Brown County at Chatfield College.

“I would have not been as successful at Penn had it not been for Chatfield,” said Martin.  “They gave me the support system I needed to be the best I could be.”

His advice to anyone thinking they may not be college material?

“If I can do this, you can too!  I’m not the only one who can go to an Ivy League college.  Just come to Chatfield.  They will help you get started.  They will help you succeed.”

Lucia Castellini: A True Sister to Everyone

The needy arrive sporadically. We didn’t know this place was here, they say. They lay out their stories of jobs lost and lengthy illness, of hungry kids, painful holidays and turned-off electricity. They are embarrassed and guilty and sheepish. Symbols of a stretched social fabric.

“My husband doesn’t know I’m here,” a woman might say.

“I never thought my kids wouldn’t have a Christmas,” a man might say.

“There but for the grace of God …” Lucia Castellini always says.

She is a sister to Reds owner Bob Castellini and a Sister to everyone else. A repairer of the safety net, for those who need food, clothing and things as simple as dish soap and toothpaste. And other things, less tangible, more important.

“How can we help you?” Sr. Lucia will ask.

“I need prayers,” comes the answer.

Lucia Castellini, 55 years a Sister, is co-director of the Hope Emergency Program in Lynchburg, Ohio, a dot on the farmland map in Brown County. She and Dianne Vollman run the place, along with more than 50 volunteers.

“If they don’t come back, that’s a success,” Sr. Lucia says of the 230 or so families Hope Emergency services each week, from four counties. “They have food for their kids, they’re not sleeping in their cars. If we can get the very, very poor to a level where they can be on their own, we have succeeded.”

It’s not just a loaf of bread or a box of macaroni and cheese. It’s the security in opening a pantry door and seeing the shelves aren’t empty and the grace that comes with knowing there are good people in the world.

At the Hope Emergency Program in Lynchburh, Ohio, Wednesday is pick-up day. Folks can load their carts with bread, pasta, rice and cereal. Fresh produce and diapers, soup and frozen chicken parts. If they need a mattress or a pair of socks, a toy for Christmas or a new book to read it’s there, in three plain buildings on eight acres.

On this most recent Wednesday, Dianne surveys the scene in Building One and says of her clients, “There’s a dignity there, to be respected.”

Ursuline sisters started Hope Emergency in 1975. Sr. Lucia took over in 2001, after teaching elementary school at Guardian Angels in Anderson Township for 28 years. “When I turned 50, I didn’t know if I could teach 9-year-olds the rest of my life,” she explains.

They served 75-100 families a week then. It’s almost tripled since. “A paycheck away” is not simply a saying. It’s a fact of life.

Sr. Lucia entered the Order at age 20, after spending one year attending Creighton University. She says the choice was easy. She grew up in a religious household, her mother was active in community service. “And I just loved the Ursulines,” she says. “It was kind of like falling off a log.”

What she might have missed – a husband, a family, an ability to see the world – has been replaced with the satisfaction of service and the joy, she says, of a close relationship with God.

“I believe I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she says. “That’s a comfort.”

Downtown, her brother tends to the Reds. “Our father died when I was 9,” Sr. Lucia says. There were eight Castellini kids . Bob was the only boy. “When Bob was 10, he was told he had to be the man of the house,” says Sr. Lucia. “He took that to heart.”

While Bob was rolling up his young sleeves – attending Wharton Business School and eventually reviving and building the family produce business – Lucia was learning to serve others.

Her work at Hope Emergency is the culmination of that career. “I have been able to use my gifts, and with that I get the satisfaction of accomplishing something with my life,” she says.

We all want to know we’ve mattered. That we have been more than simply the product of our own desires. Smart people know the perfect little secret of charity: It helps the givers as much as the recipients.

The produce and food arrive on Mondays from a Walmart in Amelia, as do other essentials from a Target in Milford. Klosterman’s sends pallets stacked with bread. And so on.

Tuesdays through Thursdays, Sr. Lucia and Dianne Vollman make it all work. And are glad when it works so well, people don’t come back.
“I believe I’m where I’m supposed to be,” Lucia Castellini says. “That’s a comfort.”

“I never thought I’d have to tell my kids we wouldn’t have Christmas,” Sr. Lucia recalls a laid-off construction worker telling her last December, as he picked out a few toys. Not long after, he was back to tell her, “I got a job. You won’t see me again.”

“It’s amazing how generous people are,” she says.


Story originally published on

Soapdish: Meet the modern “pioneers” of OTR’s Wade Street

Almost seven years ago, in this very virtual column, we took up the mantle of Walt Whitman’s 1865 ode to manifest destiny in surveying a few of the urban pioneers staking their proverbial claim on our city’s fair landscape. With the passage of time, and the white-hot speed of redevelopment in the basin, it makes sense to check in on a few more pioneers — and in this case, they are actually next door neighbors.

At first glance, Pat McCafferty and Vada Hill seem like an unlikely pair of urban homesteaders, particularly when you view their Over-the-Rhine block of choice: the previously abandoned and forlorn-looking section of Wade Street that spans from the Elm/Liberty streetcar stop to the Central Parkway protected bike lane.

These two settlers arrived on the Western fringes of OTR from vastly different points of origin — McCafferty, a CPA living in suburban Montgomery, and Hill, a former bi-coastal marketing wunderkind who resided in a D.C. brownstone for 15 years — and seemed an unlikely pair of stylish urban newcomers on a desolate street once better known for impromptu stoop drinking and illicit drug use in abandoned breezeways.

Scratch a bit below the surface, however, and these new residents start to look, as Hill asserts, like “two of the smartest guys in the city right now.” And their timing could not have been more perfect.

Full disclosure: As vice president at Urban Expansion, an OTR/West End real estate development and construction company, and the developer for both renovation projects, it behooves me to disclose my fairly intimate knowledge of Hill and McCafferty’s homes, from the initial purchase in Dec. 2013 to the final sale of the two renovated 1870s-era townhomes.

It also behooves me to say that if I were asked back then to speculate on who would end up owning these two homes, I’m not sure I would have envisioned either Hill or McCafferty.

Sitting down for lunch in the soaring, three-story main area of Hill’s home, however, not unlike the puzzle of Wade Street itself, things start to make more sense. Hill informed me at the outset that it was my story in the Dec. 2014 issue of Soapbox that piqued his interest in the project.

“Someone has to be a little visionary to move here,” my quote went. “All you have to do is look at how much OTR changes in a span of months. Places you thought no one would live are now occupied.”

Hill is a Walnut Hills graduate who started his career at Procter & Gamble before moving on to politics, advertising and CMO positions at Taco Bell, Fannie Mae and Jackson Hewitt, among other posts. He’s a self-described “comfortable urban homesteader,” who, in the course of relocating back to his hometown (primarily for family reasons) was “solving for artwork, furniture and wine.”

He could see himself as the “visionary” described in that article. When he saw the soaring renovated space at 221 Wade, he admits, “I got it.” It didn’t hurt that the three-story main living area offered a perfect setting for his collection of African American fine art and Israeli sculpture.

McCafferty, on the other hand, was a single dad in a sprawling suburban home in Montgomery. When his last child graduated and his kids left the family nest for the more urbane locales of downtown L.A., Manhattan and Boston, he figured moving to OTR was the best way to get them to visit. Add to that the inherent walkability, the streetcar (“a big attraction”) and the ability to avoid the depressing slog of commuting via I-71, all of which — combined with the historic architecture — was too good a deal to pass up.

Both homes are LEED Silver certified, which means they are built to provide cleaner indoor air, use less energy and water and lead to savings on utilities. LEED-certified homes also maintain better value over time and afford the owner a tax abatement to the pre-improvement value of the property for 10-15 years.

In addition to the two Wade Street properties, Urban Expansion has renovated a number of LEED-certified, single-family homes in OTR; two more LEED Silver townhomes (at 1008 and 1010 Elm) just hit the market, with another project in the pipeline in Pendleton.

Hill was quick to emphasize the value inherent in these homes. He has friends familiar with historic renovation projects in D.C. and New York, but what he found here amazed him.

“This was a contemporary renovation with preserved historic detail and square footage that you cannot find anywhere else,” says HIll.

Hill looked at other neighborhoods in Cincinnati, including Walnut Hills’s Woodburn and North Avondale’s Rose Hill, but he felt a connection with OTR that other places just did not have.

“A lot of Cincinnatians crave safety, security and nothing changing,” he notes. “That’s not me; that’s not this area. And while some are explorers, others like to stay close to home. OTR is a way to keep those explorers closer to home.”

Hill found the diversity at Walnut Hills High School critical in preparing for his experience in a multicultural and vastly spread out socio-economic corporate world. Leaning in, he says: “If you find diversity threatening or if you don’t like unpredictability, then OTR is not for you.”

The pair of residences on Wade are buffered to a certain extent by the Elm Street Health Clinic to the south and Chatfield College to the north — pillars of health and education, respectively, in a rapidly evolving urban neighborhood.

Chatfield recently renovated, relocated and reopened its campus in the restored 1870 Windisch-Muhlhauser Lion brewery stable.

On the other side, Hill notes that the health clinic, housed in a converted 1890s-era public school, is an “excellent neighbor.”

While some might view proximity to these very public-facing institutions with hesitation, both McCafferty and Hill see it a draw, not a drawback. McCafferty even teaches classes at Chatfield (as well as at Miami University), to many first-generation college students.

It should be noted that Hill has assumed with gusto his unofficial role as a Wade Street ambassador; he is currently preparing to host a brunch for up to 200 fellow Walnut Hills alumni as part of their 40th reunion. The event will, in part, introduce a whole new demographic to this part of the city. Later this year, he will host a wedding in his home for a niece from D.C.

While McCafferty and Hill are currently the only residents on this block of Wade, both having arrived in late 2016, the pair’s solo status may not last long.

Brothers Rob and Luke Bennett, via their group Karvoto Construction, are putting the finishing touches on the Hillman Point development, whose buildings were in rough shape when they acquired them in early 2016. “Rough shape” is pretty much par for the course for many on this block: missing roofs, rotted ceilings and joists, wholesale missing floors, etc.

The first phase of Hillman Point consists of 10 total units — five new builds and five historic rehabs. The total cost for the project is $5.96 million, and two of the units are currently pending. Every unit will be LEED Silver certified.

McCafferty and Hill both appreciate the fact that, although still in the heart of OTR, their little pseudo-side street offers them a modicum of privacy that they would not have if situated on something of a more main drag.

Even with another 10 units coming online, that dynamic won’t be threatened anytime soon; also uncontested will remain the duo’s status as the modern-era “Pioneers of Wade Street.”

Content originally published on SoapboxCincinnati

Click link above for more pictures.

Chatfield College Named a Best Value School for Fourth Consecutive Year

For the fourth consecutive year, Chatfield College in St. Martin (Brown County) and Cincinnati, OH has been designated a Best Value School by University Research & Review, a company dedicated to improving the process of how a student selects a post-secondary school.
The Best Value award committee selected Chatfield from the nearly 8,000 eligible postsecondary schools throughout the U.S. Chatfield College was chosen by the committee because it passed rigorous standards, including a combination of cost, accreditation, variety and quality of school programs, and student satisfaction with the institution.
The award committee is made up of former university presidents, CEOs, provosts and professors. Eligible schools must be nominated by a third-party to be considered for the Best Value School designation and then undergo a rigorous review process by the committee to be selected. Award recipients must re-qualify every year.
“It’s an honor to receive the Best Value School designation for the fourth year in a row,” said John P. Tafaro, Chatfield College President. “Chatfield continually strives to provide the best value to our students and the community, and we are thrilled to receive the award again this year.”
A complete list of Best Value colleges can be found at

Chatfield College is a private, Catholic, liberal arts college offering the Associate of Arts degree in St. Martin and Cincinnati. Chatfield is an open enrollment college. Prospective students need only to have a High School Diploma or GED to attend and will be guided individually through the enrollment and Financial Aid application process. The St. Martin campus is located at 20918 State Route 251; St. Martin, OH 45118. The Cincinnati campus is located at 1544 Central Parkway; Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, visit the website, at, call 513-875-3344 or email