Sports stadium economics in two cities

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium+Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena – how did these two landmarks contribute to the cities they call home is the focus of Matthew Monsour’s ARP.

You started out with a much bigger scope of studying the economic prosperity of both cities, but narrowed it down to a more digestible look at each city’s sports stadium. Walk us through your research.
Sure. I decided to focus in on three areas of interest: funding, impact on housing, and other workforce issues. I found the funding part of this very interesting, and learned that the majority of Little Caesars Arena (LCA) funding came from private sources, and the rest came from tax incremental funding, or TIF, on city buildings. As the building taxes increase, a portion will go to finance the arena, and will pay it off over 30 years, and also fund other projects. In Atlanta, they used a simple extra service tax on hotel rooms, and some private funding.

In Detroit, no housing was displaced because LCA was built on a vacant lot owned by the Illitch family, the owners of LCA. As part of the agreement, two buildings will be made into affordable housing, the Eddystone, and the United Artists Theatre Building, which will be mixed residential and office space.

Workforce was most impacted by LCA. By executive order, more than 50 percent of workers on the project had to be Detroit residents, and 30 percent of contracting firms had to be based in Detroit. More than 60 percent of the firms were located in Detroit, but only 27 percent of workers came from Detroit, so $3 million in fines were levied by the city. The fines contributed to training programs to kickstart the workforce.

Your brother and sister were also lifers at Liggett. Did they do ARPs?
My sister was the second class to do an ARP, and she focused on obesity in the U.S. I don’t know all the details, but I’m sure she still does! My brother did an internship instead.

What are your favorite Liggett classes?
American Government and the American Electoral Process were my two favorites. I’m really interested in the political process and I had a great time taking those classes last year. It was great how they lined up with the election. I’m currently in a class on the Middle East, and we’re learning about the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s so complicated, so I’m interested to sit and learn what is going on. I really enjoy it.

What else do you like to do?
I’m a drummer, and in college, I’ll probably expand on this. I love to play golf, hang out with my family, exercise, and keep as busy as I can throughout the day. In college, I’m hoping to study business, real estate or business law…and work on music.

What benefit have you enjoyed from attending Liggett?
Liggett has helped me make connections outside the community, and encouraged me to stretch out and be independent. Liggett allows you to take that step to initiate discussions and ask questions. I like how they let you have your own voice and lead things. Having that responsibility prepares me for the coming years, and it’s great to have the trust of the faculty to do the very best you can.

Tenth Graders Navigate Detroit’s Borders and Boundaries

The Academic Research Program develops the necessary skills, resources and knowledge for students to perform an independent project with the clear goal of contributing to an ongoing scholarly discourse. Across four years of study, students learn what scholarly research is and how it functions in educational conversations. They practice the research process in their coursework and acquire a broad spectrum of credible sources to tap during problem-solving. They create outcomes and share their results with peers and the community. Students graduate with a project they initiated and completed over the course of four years.

Tenth Grade students practice the research and writing protocol across the curriculum as part of ongoing sessions devoted to pragmatic topics situated in the landscape of Detroit. Moving beyond the classroom, students immerse themselves in local and contemporary situations, experiencing an environment ripe for investigation. Interactions with the arts, natural resources, city government, ethnic neighborhoods and other Detroit features train students to apply the skills and processes they possess.

The Sophomore class began their second session of the Academic Research Program (ARP 10) on Thursday, January 23 at The Detroit Historical Museum. Tours encompassed various exhibits: Frontiers to Factories, America’s Motor City, The Arsenal of Democracy, and The Underground Railroad. Students also participated in an activity to provide them with strategies for viewing artifacts as primary sources when conducting historical research. “It was a great day,” explains Jack Ninivaggi, “I learned a lot.” Rita Sidhu appreciated the Motor City exhibit “because it showed a lot of the history of a part of Detroit we know and take great pride in.” Alexander Dow thought “the exhibit donated by Kid Rock was really cool.” For most of the students, this was their first trip to the Historical Museum, which has preserved our region’s rich history through the collection and conservation of artifacts.

On Friday, January 24, the tenth-graders returned to The Walter P. Reuther Library to explore the borders and boundaries in and around Detroit and the advantages and challenges of these demarcations. Using a protocol designed to include time to read, collaborate, reflect, and summarize, students looked primary and secondary documents with maps, stats, articles, photographs, and literature. Isaiah Hines Bailey explained, “The question about borders lends itself to different ways of looking at it. Our group started out stating that race creates borders, but then Molly [Murphy] noted that religion also determines where a family might live. So, we came up with labels that define socio-economic status, way of life, level of crime, and friendships: money, neighborhoods, jobs, and education.” Groups presented their ideas on the most important border or boundary to a panel consisting of Mr. William LeFevre, reference archivist at the Reuther Library, Stacey Stevens, Freda Sampson, Theresa Tran, Jessica Best from The Michigan Roundtable, and Mr. David Nicholson a member of Wayne State’s Board of Governors and a trustee of the Detroit Historical Society. Associate Dean of Faculty, Mr. Bart Bronk, “liked that the students had to grapple with difficult questions posed by the panel.” The panel also provided historical and political contexts for further explorations to consider. Brett Abdelnour compared this experience to September’s when they were asked to identify Detroit’s three most important icons or institutions, “This time I understood the expectations so I chose to be more engaged and I found the question to be more interesting.”

Written by: Shernaz Minwalla, Director of the Academic Research Program

Sixth-graders rapt by mummies

Bright and early this morning our sixth-grade students visited the Penn Museum without leaving the Liggett campus. Students participated in a virtual field trip to the museum where they learned about the ancient practice of mummification through discussion with museum staff and an actual demonstration of the mummification process on a life-sized model.

Continue reading only if you are not faint of heart, and if an appropriate amount of time has passed since lunch!

The demonstration started with a very life-like looking model called, “Mr. Penn.” Students helped walk the museum leaders through the mummification process of Mr. Penn by answering questions like, “how do you remove the brain from a mummy?” The answer of course was a resounding, “through his nose!” Facts were shared throughout each piece of the process such as the history of mummification, a process devised to create a preserved vessel for one’s departed spirit, information on Egyptian culture and information about the human body’s organs.

Penn Museum put on quite a show! They had a camera set-up to demonstrate the mummification process and a separate close-up camera to demonstrate different principles of the process, such as a little experiment done with a raisin and a grape that showed how mummies shrink when the water is removed from their bodies. It was very interactive. Students were asked questions about what they were observing on the screen throughout the process, and slides were interspersed throughout the presentation to read and discuss.

Enjoy photos from the presentation below!

Yes, you can have two desserts at lunch!

Today the fifth-graders visited Middle School for an initial glimpse into the lives of their future sixth-grade selves. It was quite an exciting afternoon!

First, the students met with Mr. Brewer and Mr. McTigue for a presentation on student life in the Middle School. They spoke about the block schedule and advisory period, and all about electives, which you can imagine was a topic that caused a ton of excitement! There was talk of sports like volleyball, basketball and baseball, and questions on morning meeting.


Sixth-graders answer questions about the Middle School

After an initial overview of next year, a panel of current sixth-graders were asked to join the group for a question and answer session. This is where the real fun began as a flurry of hands swung all over the place with burning questions like “how many desserts can you have at lunch?” and “how wide is your locker?” For inquiring minds who want to know the lockers are 17 inches wide! Have no fear though, the topics took a more serious tone too as students shared which classes were their favorite and how many hours of homework they have each night. It was a fun and informative panel who left their new fifth-grade friends all the more excited about the transition to Middle School.


Fifth-graders raise their hands when asked, “who’s ready to start sixth-grade tomorrow?”

The last stop of the day was a 25-minute excursion to a real Middle School class. Students participated in language classes including Spanish and Chinese. They had a blast, and the proof is in the picture at the right. It was taken when Mr. Brewer asked, “who’s ready to start sixth-grade tomorrow?” We think the hands say it all!

Coming together as a team

The one thing everyone can agree upon is that University Liggett School needs new athletic facilities.

The fields are not in the best shape and a few of them need better drainage. Plus, they’re not always easily accessible for people who need wheelchairs or walkers and, now that we’re on one campus, we need space for the Middle School athletes.

Our gym is being used at capacity now and our programs would benefit from more space for teams to practice and play games.

Yesterday and today, architects from 360 Architecture of Kansas City were on campus leading a series of discussions to understand our concerns and help us realize our hopes. At this stage we have created a small number of site plan options and initiated the discussions of what kind of athletic building would enhance our campus.

It’s their fourth visit to campus. They have met with students, parents, trustees, coaches, teachers, administrators and alumni to develop a plan for this major upgrade of our athletic facilities. It’s important, says Douglas A. Barraza, with 360, to collect the ideas of those who have a history with the school and those who expect to be part of its future.

When they conducted the student workshops, the architects had large aerial drawings of the site without any buildings and gave the students blocks to place the soccer, football and field hockey fields, two baseball diamonds, one softball diamond and a fieldhouse. It was, for the students, a bit like a Rubic’s Cube, but their enthusiasm for the project was boundless, as were their ideas for what they wanted to see in the field house. Meetings with the adults used similar hands-on tools and the enthusiasm was just as palpable.

“We’re in the early planning process and we want to know what the priorities are,” Barraza said. “It’s important to listen to everyone so we can address the athletic and physical education needs.”

These priorities help the architects create a vision that leads to a final plan. That should happen in the early parts of next year.  We hope to begin construction during 2014.

You can hear more about the subject at a Town Hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Auditorium, where you’ll also hear about the results of our recent survey of parents. Come on out and share in the vision of Liggett’s future.

By Ron Bernas

The importance of becoming a patron

If you love the arts, Liggett has a great way for you to help our student artists reach their full potential: Become a patron of the arts.

The cast of the fall comedy "The Butler Did it" rehearses. The show goes up in November.

The cast of the fall comedy “The Butler Did it” rehearses. The show goes up in November.

Our Patrons Program started in the 1980s but fizzled out after a while. When the performing arts department started encouraging students to attend and showcase their talents at state and national festivals, the program returned, stronger than before.

“We wanted the students to be able to attend these festivals, and we thought we could help raise funds for that and at the same time treat some of our good friends to something special,” said Dr. Phill Moss, chair of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts.

So patrons get reserved seats at the school plays and concerts and will have voting rights for our arts awards at the end of the year. This year, a pre-show dinner is included for the fall comedy, “The Butler Did It” and the spring musical, “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” You also receive invitations to all the art exhibits in the Manoogian Arts Wing. What does the school get? Funds to allow students to attend events like state and national festivals.

There is a third play being presented this year and in many ways it’s a direct result of the Patrons Program.

Aaron Robertson was one of our Liggett scholars who discovered a love of theater while here. He appeared in a couple productions and started writing for the stage. He took his play, “The Christian Soothsayer,” to a state competition, where he received such accolades, it went to the national festival where it was one of only a few student-written productions to receive a full staging.

Without the money raised by the Patrons Program, the state festival would have been out of Aaron’s reach.

And, of course, Aaron’s not the only one touched by their experience with the arts at Liggett. Moss recently received this email from an alumni who lives out of state, but wanted to become a patron for personal reasons:

“My time in Liggett theater was both affirming and enriching.  I am sure as a petulant teenager, I never adequately expressed the appreciation I had for all you did for me.  The email would quickly turn boorish if I were to share all of the stories from the past 30 years that I reflected on wisdom you gave me and how you influenced me.  Just know that you gave me one of the single most important insights into myself, and that as I work with my own daughters and their friends, I reflect on how you worked with and motivated me.  You were truly one of the guardian angels that made me who I am today.”

Download the form here and help keep Liggett arts strong.

By Ron Bernas

Not really a day off

So the kids are off school today and it may have been a bit tricky to line up daycare and babysitters, but we want to assure you, there is a good reason. Our entire faculty is participating in continuing education with the staff and faculty from all other independent schools in Michigan at a conference sponsored by the Association of Independent Schools of Michigan.

What’s more, eight members of our faculty are presenting at the conference held at Detroit Country Day School and Roeper. They will showcase their training, received at conferences and classes across the country during the summer. And, most important, they will be sharing the results of our work with the Curriculum for Understanding. It is the biggest contingent of presenters from one school at the conference and we’re very proud of that fact. It shows that AIMS recognizes our work here as being on the leading edge, something we strive for every day in every classroom.

Here’s a quick list about who’s presenting and about what.

Middle School social studies teacher John Farris is presenting: The Tarnished Mirror of History: Issues of Pedagogy and Practice in Holocaust Education: What are the “lessons of the Holocaust?” How can a study of the Holocaust promote social justice? How can we teach this material to our students safely and responsibly? Participants explore the potential for Holocaust education to prompt students to act as moral philosophers.

Social Studies Simulations – Place Out of Time – Anne Frank Confronts
Queen Isabella: Coming to a Classroom Near You is the title of the presentation by Adam Hellebuyck. This session discusses a way of engaging middle and upper schoolers into a discussion of history or language arts in a Facebook-style, web based “courtroom” where your students become the characters in a case of major importance to today’s world. In collaboration with university educators and college student mentors, this program integrates history, technology, creativity and writing while encouraging higher level thinking.

Modeling Good Work is the topic of a session by Shernaz Minwalla, director of the Advanced Research Project and Dr. Phill Moss, chairman of the Fine and Performing Arts Department. It’s not the first time they’ve presented on this topic that explores ways to use the philosophy of Harvard’s Project Zero, Good Work, to train our students and faculty to do high quality work that is ethical and personally meaningful in independent research, theater and faculty meetings.

Lower School Spanish teacher Vanessa Rivera and Lower School science teacher Kristie Jones are discussing Global Connections in the Modern Language Classroom. Their presentation describes three global projects in which University Liggett School students participated. Read about two of them here and here. Each project involved a multi-disciplinary approach that brought a real world connection to the classroom. These projects include applications in Spanish, science, art, language arts and communications.

Second-grade teacher Jodi Coyro and Assistant Head of the Lower School are presenting Visible Thinking in Early Childhood, which describes ways to implement thinking routines into daily classroom life.

It’s a pretty impressive slate of presentations by a pretty impressive group of educators.

By the way, staff development is funded, in part, by donations to our Annual Fund. Take a minute to make a secure online donation to keep our teachers leading the field. Our students are the beneficiaries. And if you want to know what AIMS is about, visit their website.

By Ron Bernas

The caveman cometh

OK, he’s not really a caveman, but with his beard and long hair John Durant could play one on TV. If, of course, cavemen were reasoned, polite, well-spoken and charming.

Students kept asking John Durant questions long after his speech to the Upper School ended.

Students kept asking John Durant questions long after his speech to the Upper School ended.

Durant, who graduated from Liggett in 2001, returned to speak to Upper School students about his first book, “The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health,” which came out last month. He is on a nationwide book tour to promote it and will be signing books from 1-2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Barnes and Noble at Pointe Plaza at the intersection of Mack Avenue and Moross.

What is the Paleo lifestyle, you may ask? Well, it’s a way of living that mimics, as much as it can in these tech-centered days, the way man once lived. Its tenets include the importance of being an omnivore, of cutting out processed foods and whole-body exercise and the cleansing values of fasting. That’s an oversimplification, but the idea is that we are unhealthier now than we have been in generations, so maybe there’s a way for us to draw wisdom from the past.

“It’s just common sense in how to keep a human being healthy,” Durant told the students.

In the book, Durant uses evolutionary theory to present the science behind the Paleo lifestyle and explains how and why it worked for him — and for many others. What he does not do is push it on people. He presents the facts in an engaging way and lets the readers decide whether it’s something they want to try. It’s not a diet book — he’s quick to point out there are no recipes in it — he simply wants to prove, scientifically, that there are lessons to be learned from nature, from science and from ancient man, with whom we share DNA.

For the record, Durant knows what he sounds like. When asked how long he’s lived a Paleo lifestyle (seven years), he adds “I’ve been a weirdo for a long time.”

Durant took several questions then stood answering questions in the hallways from students intrigued by his premise. One student came by and said he thought Durant’s talk would be too weird, but he ended up liking what he heard. He especially liked the fact that the Paleo lifestyle is not necessarily about what you can’t eat, but what you can eat. He adds that his diet has broadened since he started seriously watching what he ate.

Read a full story on Durant’s road to where he is today — and stories of other alumni who found themselves off the beaten path — in our latest edition of Perspective.

By Ron Bernas

A sneak peek at Perspective, coming to your mailbox soon

Each week we devote one day to news for and about our alumni, such a vital part of live at Liggett.

Perspective Fall Cover 2013-14Hey alumni, make sure to check your mailboxes next week. Perspective, the alumni magazine, is on its way to you, and this issue is filled with interesting articles, a ton of photos from Alumni Weekend, class notes and much more. Here’s a small peek inside the magazine.

The feature story is an expanded version of our regular feature Cool Jobs. Five alumni are profiled in the piece, and their careers span from travel writer, Broadway carpenter, government service officer, organic farmer and even Liggett’s only (probably) professional caveman, John Durrant ’01. John’s new book about the Paleo diet and lifestyle titled “The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health” was released September 17. Currently on his book tour, John will stop by school next week to talk with Upper School students. Check out this article featuring John, and our other

John Durant

John Durant

alumni with cool jobs, and look for a follow-up post next week about John’s visit to school! (And if you think you have a cool job, let us know, you may be profiled in a future Perspective.)

If you keep yourself informed about the school, you’ve no doubt heard the term C4U. It stands for the Curriculum for Understanding, the hallmark of Liggett’s educational model. We encourage students to take ownership of their learning in an area of their choosing. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our Upper School’s Academic Research Program (ARP). The ARP projects from last year — the first year of the program — are also featured in this issue of Perspective, and chronicle the process of the ARP for last year’s 23 students enrolled in the program. Check out the article for a great snapshot of what’s going on in our Liggett classrooms today! Learn more about the Curriculum for Understanding at our website here.

Chris and Lindsay Brownell

Chris and Lindsay Brownell

Additional articles include one from current Liggett parent Shelli Elmer, a student perspective written by Taniesha Williams ’13 about her work at Focus: HOPE, and a story about Lindsay ’06 and Chris ’09 Brownell’s summer adventure on the El Camino de Santiago.  The magazine also has a plethora of class notes! Many notes focus on the fun had at reunion, summer trips, like alumnus Jody Jennings ’61 GPUS’s trip to Italy, and new baby announcements from alumni like Leython Williams ’03. You may remember that we featured a “pre-baby” post on Leython earlier this year. Read it here!

We hope you enjoy the fall issue of Perspective next week! In the meantime, catch up on the past issue of Perspective on our website here, and on the Alumni Facebook page here.

By Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager

Meet Liggett’s New Faces (Part 3)

We continue to introduce the new faculty and staff to our Liggett community. Today, we focus on the Upper School.

Bart Bronk, Associate Dean of Faculty

Bart Bronk

Bart Bronk

Bart Bronk has been working in independent schools since 2007, most recently as Director of Admissions at The Church Farm School, a grade 7-12 boys boarding school in Exton, Pa. In addition to admissions responsibilities, he taught SAT prep, coached JV tennis, served as an advisor, ran the Trivia Club, and was on the administrative council. Before working at CFS, he was the Director of Institutional Giving and Government Relations at The Franklin Institute, which he calls one of our nation’s great science centers and Pennsylvania’s most-visited museum, where he was responsible for generating $5 to $8 million annually in corporate sponsorships and philanthropy and government and foundation grants for annual funding, capital campaigns, and special projects. He has a B.A. in English and an M.S. Ed. in Educational Leadership, both from the University of Pennsylvania.

His educational philosophy is best summarized, he says by these words of noted Quaker educator and Guilford College Professor Cyril Harvey:  “Education is the process of one human being, coming together with other human beings, to discover the true meaning of being human.”

“Indeed, we educators are not only preparing students for college and career, but to live complete lives of meaning and purpose,” he says. “As such, I am heartened by the focus of the Curriculum for Understanding in developing in students’ vital skills like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and life-long curiosity. I am excited to be in an educational community where understanding is prioritized over information, enduring lessons over fleeting familiarities, hard questions over easy answers, and relevance over rote.”

Originally from the greater Philadelphia area, he and his wife Chrissy moved to Grosse Pointe in June. They have a daughter, Emilia, 9, and a son, Charlie, 5.  Emilia is a new Liggett fourth grader and Charlie is just down the hall in kindergarten. Beyond spending time with family, he enjoys tennis, reading, and crossword puzzles.

Beth Freedman, Upper School Spanish

Beth Freedman

Beth Freedman

Originally from Rochester, NY, Beth earned a master’s degree in Spanish education from the University of Rochester. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine from Central Michigan University where she played Division 1 field hockey, as goalie.

Beth has taught Spanish for grade six on up, and into college and worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer in high school in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Most recently she taught a course called Focused Inquiry at Virginia Commonwealth University. The course centered around critical thinking, ethical reasoning, public speaking and writing arguments, which led her right into the Curriculum for Understanding.

“I teach because I love to learn,” Beth says. “To be able to work with the future of our society is exciting. It is wonderful to see a student figure out something with which they have been struggling, the satisfaction they achieve makes me smile. Learning is something we all need to do, in our own fashion. It is my passion to facilitate the process. To have second language proficiency in today’s world will open many doors and allow students to lead themselves down a more varied path within their chosen profession.”

Beth has been married for 19 years to Alan, whom she met in Rochester after she finished college. Because he’s from Virginia, they settled there and had two children, Miranda and Samuel. Her third child is their dog, Tillie.

In her spare time she works out, spends time with her family, stays connected with friends all over the world and cooks. She spreads her message of healthy eating after school as a Pampered Chef consultant.

Gail Harley, Upper School Administrative Assistant

Gail Harley

Gail Harley

Gail joined Liggett in late summer – a busy time for the Upper School – and has kept things moving smoothly since then.

She attended Michigan State University and spent many years working for the Rockford Public School District Rockford, Michigan. She and her husband moved to Grosse Pointe to be closer to their children.

Gail loves what she does because, she says, she’s a people person. “I love being with and interacting with the community, parents, students and staff,” she says.

Gail and her husband have three children who, like her, all attended Michigan State at various points during their college careers.  She enjoys reading, walking her dog Colt (short for Coltrane) and, of course, cheering on her beloved Spartans.