2017 Day of Service Review

dancemarathon-FIU copy

O∆K member Melissa Cancio lead Florida International University's Roarthon, a 17-hour student-run dance marathon. The event raised $96,000 for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals program, an organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for 170 children's hospitals throughout North America.

Melissa said, "To be a leader, we need to show the reason behind what we do and share with those around us so they are aware and desire to do the same. A leader is well rounded, takes initiative but also allows for individuals in their team to develop and share their thoughts, and is always willing to give their time and efforts to service."



Fontbonne University Circle members, along with faculty, staff, and alumni, added new garden beds and helped refurbish a community garden in Brentwood, Mo. Gateway Greening, a local nonprofit, in partnership with a local church, created and planted the garden to supply fresh vegetables and strengthen the community.



Juniata copy


Juniata College students partnering with their local community to help plant 250 trees in honor of town's anniversary.







SFA - Leaders of Tomorrow



Stephen F. Austin State University Circle members worked with 8th graders in a group called Leaders of Tomorrow. As part of the largest day of service in Nacogdoches, Texas, they helped a historic village spruce up their ground and prepare for their annual community Easter egg hunt.





University of Kentucky



University of Kentucky Circle members made sandwiches for families at The Ronald McDonald House in Lexington, Ky.






UR National Day of Service (4) copy


The University of Richmond Circle worked with the James River Parks system to clean up Huguenot Park in North Chesterfield, Va.







WagnerCollege copy









Wagner College Circle members collected cans for donation to local hunger relief efforts.



MTSU - Leadersship Day


The Middle Tennessee State University Circle held True Blue Leadership Day. Students heard from Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeff Bivins, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, Lindy Boots, human resources manager with an area firm, and other leaders about careers, job interview tips, writing a professional resume, and how to leverage a competitive advantage in a job hunt.







University of North Carolina Wilmington students value the upkeep of their beaches, and picked up trash on the beach.

Member Feature: Changing Oceans

How Jodie Rummer, PhD, is leading the research on how fish react to changing oceans

When we think of stress, we think of longer and longer to-do lists, traffic when we have an important morning meeting, or perhaps hosting gatherings for our extended families.

For Jodie Rummer, stress is trying to determine what the oceans will look like in the next 100 years. The pH levels are declining as oceans absorb one-third of the carbon dioxide in the environment. Water pollution from development and agriculture is increasing water turbidity, and climate change is increasing water temperatures.

Rummer, Senior Research Fellow and Discovery Fellow at the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia, is studying the effects of these changes on fish in the tropics. She researches how fish change their behaviors in relation to changing water conditions.

Though Rummer grew up in land-locked Illinois surrounded by cornfields, she was always obsessed with the water. “I grew up with a mask and a snorkel as a kid, watching National Geographic and the BBC Underwater Life. I was good at math in school. I loved picking apart problems and seeing how things worked,” she said.

Rummer, a 2001 initiate of the University of West Florida circle, earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and a master’s of science in biology from the same university. The experience that solidified her goal of a career in marine life was a field course in Jamaica studying damaged reefs and sea urchins.

She was fascinated by the world of fish—this group constitutes 28,000 species found on all seven continents. Fish are one of the most evolved and oldest types of animals, having lived on this planet for the past 400 million years. When you compare this to humans—one species, roughly 200,000 years of evolution, you can see how Rummer became captivated by these creatures. Many fish have adapted to very specific niches in their environments; however, they are naturally highly adaptable, which makes them an important group to study.

“The diversity of fish is astounding to me,” Rummer explains. She tells stories of how if the bluefin tuna were to enter the 100-meter race, it could beat Usain Bolts’s 9.58 second world record by six full seconds. Pacific salmon travel 1,000 kilometers to their spawning grounds to reproduce, and clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites, which means all young are born male, and immature males can transform into a female if the dominant female of the school dies or becomes injured.

While conducting research projects to determine just how fish are using their athleticism to adapt to changing ocean conditions, Rummer found her career path. “I realized research is what made me happy; it’s what makes my brain click,” she said. Rummer choose to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia where she began to study how fish’s biological processes change as their environments change. Although fish have adapted to nearly every environment on the planet—will they be able to adapt to one changed by humans?

Rummer attempts to answer this question every day. She oversees a lab of ten doctoral students, five masters students, and another handful of undergraduates and staff members, and a list of research projects that is daunting to keep track of. At the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Rummer and her team can increase water temperature, decrease oxygen, or change a number of water quality controls on small tanks, and observe fish for changes in their physiology.

She explains, “We can measure how much oxygen fish use at rest, and require for growth, digestion, and reproduction. We are monitoring cellular responses like pH, oxygen transport, ion-regulation and water balance under environmental stresses.” Rummer and her team then measure how these functions are affected by warmer temperatures and ocean acidification.

One of the most important measurements Rummer employs to track fish success is how fish transport oxygen in their bodies. Oxygen is much less readily available in water than in the air, so you might think fish expend more energy just to breathe. However, due to the way fish use hemoglobin, they’re able to deliver oxygen to tissues 50 times more efficiently than air breathers such as humans. It could be this ability that determines how fish adapt to oceans with less available oxygen.

Rummer’s research studies on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world, discovered that just a two- or three-degree water temperature increase adds to fishes’ basic maintenance cost to survive. As temperatures increase, gill filaments become covered in mucous and protective cells which reduces their efficiency and capacity for swimming. Warmer temperatures also decrease vegetation, which means fish spend more time looking for their next meal and have less energy for growth and development. This change has implications on the next generation of the species and also effects the entire ecosystem. As oceans continue to change, Rummer and other scientists expect a mass redistribution of species towards higher latitudes seeking refuge from warmer temperatures.

Rummer also studies how fish react to the combination of increased carbon dioxide with ocean acidification—the decrease in pH levels of the water due to this uptake of CO2. As pH levels climb, fish are using more energy to balance pH in their gills. Some fish are less able to smell predators and appear disoriented, which increases their likelihood of being eaten.

With funding from the National Geographic Society, Rummer collaborated with a team of ecologists, biologists, and fish experts to investigate the effects of long-term exposure to elevated carbon dioxide in fishes living in natural carbon dioxide seeps in Papua New Guinea. They found that the fish living in reefs near volcanic seeps exhibited some behavioral impairments, but were seemingly resilient to these conditions. They showed no major difference in numbers, diversity, or physiology than populations on nearby reefs unaffected by the CO2 seeps.

However, overall results from Rummer’s findings are troublesome. Scientists estimate that one-third of coral reefs have already been lost; ocean acidification and carbon levels could eliminate drastic numbers of species. How does Rummer process these often dire predictions?

While she admits that it is sometimes difficult, she is grateful for her career to help make a difference. “I have the freedom to pursue my dreams. I’m very lucky. I go by that saying that ‘luck is preparation meeting opportunity.’ I work really hard and then look for opportunities,” she says.

With a prestigious post at a major university, field projects around the globe, and multiple publications to her name, Rummer isn’t holding back on her dreams or her goal to make a difference. In 2014, Rummer spoke at TEDx in Queensland at the Cairns Institute and urged us all, “Can we devote the time, passion, energy and excitement that we have for human athletes to the rest of the world and the rest of the planet? Can we create and maintain these biological facilities where species are participating in the race for survival? No matter how athletic the athlete, they deserve the very best.”

Member Feature: An Insect’s View

Fueled by a sense of adventure, Matthew Cicanese partnered his love for the outdoors and environmental studies degree with a passion for art.

You might find Matthew Cicanese laying on his back, in the woods, inspecting a decomposing log covered with moss and lichen. His subject clearly laid out before him, he gets to work documenting the intricate filaments of the fungi with his camera. He might also find an ant feasting on a fly, a beetle perusing the wood, or a spider ready to pounce on prey.

Matthew, a 2011 initiate of the Florida Southern Circle, photographer, artist, and former National Geographic Young Explorer approaches the entire forest, but especially these small organisms, with a mix of curiosity, excitement, and awe. “Sometimes hikers will see me there, on the ground, and wonder what I’m doing,” he said with a laugh. “But, I love the sense of discovery when you flip over a rock.”

With millions of species to elect as ones’ focus—the majestic species of the African plains, the cute and the cuddly category of panda bears and seals, the downright bizarre creatures found on social media like the star-nose mole—his concentration on insects and primarily lichen, a mere fungus, begs the obvious question, why lichen?

As with most of our career choices, the answer involves a few windy paths that stem from something close to our hearts. One is that Cicanese thinks of lichen as the forest’s underdog, a position he found himself in early in life. He contracted penicillin-resistant meningitis as a baby and nearly died before he reached his first birthday. He lost all of the motor skills he had learned up to that point, and his doctors expected that if he survived, he would live with severe disabilities for the rest of his life. Luckily Cicanese surpassed all expectations and survived his illness with limited damage. His recovery and therapy required large hearing aids, bi-focal glasses, and an eye patch to strengthen his weak eye throughout childhood. He also received a cochlear implant, an electronic device that acts as an inner ear. He said he was determined “to do everything the other kids did,” so he played soccer, learned karate, and was a Boy Scout.

But what captured his focus was his Florida backyard and a two-megapixel point and shoot camera that his uncle gave him when he turned 14. He spent most of his childhood playing outside, climbing trees, and catching bugs and snakes with his siblings. The slight deprivation in sight and hearing actually made his senses sharper. With the camera he could begin to capture his life—his unique way of experiencing the world. He says, “[the camera] was my missing link. It allowed me to connect with the world in new ways.”

That connection to the world centered around nature. There, he discovered species large and small, but what he came to love most are the surprises—the often overlooked plants and tiny creatures—that Cicanese believes “are as interesting as pictures of open fields that everyone loves.”

Though Cicanese will invoke the magic of these small plants, he’s also inspired by their real and true purpose. While plants are often overlooked, they are also the building blocks of the entire ecosystem. Cryptograms, the category of seedless vascular plants including moss and lichen, consume dead matter and absorb heavy metals to create rich soil, which creates the vast plant life that supports the entire ecosystem.

“My curiosity about nature as a kid drove me to learn about what I was experience and seeing,” he said. Cicanese majored in environmental studies at Florida Southern College. There, his photography took a backseat to more traditional media studies and an environmental education, followed by field internships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, and then with Duke University’s Lichen Laboratory.

It was during this project documenting lichen that connected Cicanese back with his photography and to the idea of using his camera as an instrument to give people access to another world—one that is quite literally right under their feet.

His “photographic obsession” as he calls it, and his unique perspective, landed him a spot in Duke University’s MFA program in experimental and documentary arts. The program gave him technical instruction but also gave him the freedom to make whichever type of art he wanted.

While his peers were focused on art careers, Cicanese set his sights on National Geographic. “My friends told me to quit dreaming of Nat Geo and worry about getting on the walls of the gallery. But that wasn’t my goal.”

While studying for his masters, he became an intern for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative – and his foot was officially in the door. In 2015, National Geographic awarded him a grant to document the biodiversity of lichen species and culture surrounding lichen in Iceland. Their Young Explorer program provides one-time grants of up to $5,000 for people under 25 leading the intersection of conservation and media. Last summer, as part of that program, he partnered with the camera company Cannon and took off for Iceland.

Cicanese spent three weeks traveling 1,500 miles around the country documenting lichen and the sites. “When most people think of Iceland, they think of sweeping landscapes, dazzling waterfalls, and cultures with history as old as the Vikings. When I think of Iceland, I think of those things too; what excites me more are the hundreds of species that are always in sight just not in focus.”

This year, Cicanese is gearing up for more international travel. He spent the month of May in Sri Lanka volunteering on a lichenologist’s National Geographic Grant project to tell her story and document lichens across Sri Lanka’s ecosystems. This summer, he travels to British Colombia to help document three species of moss. His bryologist colleagues consider these species at risk, though they are not officially listed as threatened or endangered species—a fact they hope to change.

Cicanese gets back to cryptograms with two additional trips—a visual photographic survey of the species in the Choco Rainforest in Ecuador and in the Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama.

In his spare time, Cicanese continues to spearhead the idea of “mapping the microcosm” as he calls it. He seeks to capture small ecological microbiomes (like a log) using gigapixel imagery. He takes a series of high resolution images in a grid pattern, stiches them together, and presents an interactive image of a small area. For example, a recent macro image of a log appears to simply be a log covered with lichen. Yet, with this transformative photography, the viewer is able to zoom in to inspect a pair of beetles, an earth worm burrowing into the log, an inchworm curled into moss, and a handful of other insects. Or, you can also zoom in to see the intricate details of the mosses, fungi, or fibers of a leaf.

Cicanese continues to follow his sense of discovery and brings us along with him to the forest floors across the world. Describing his experience in Iceland gives us a sense of why we too begin to care about lichen. He writes, “Each photograph I take has a different journey as its backstory and all are rich with sensory experiences that lead up to the singular moment of the photograph.”

Collaboration on My Mind

Since the elections last fall, it has been difficult not to think about some of the challenges facing our country.  One that particularly concerns me is the seeming loss of individuals from differing perspectives and backgrounds being able to collaborate on matters of mutual interest.
Facilitating the collaborative efforts of leaders from different aspects of the collegiate experience is the hallmark of Omicron Delta Kappa. The motives that guided our founders sprang from the desire to bring together one body for the general good of the institution and its community, leaders from all parts of the college or university to cooperate in worthwhile endeavors.
By encouraging collegiate leaders to work together on matters of shared interest, O∆K supports our members in developing an appreciation for civility, varying perspectives, contrasting strategies for problem-solving, and conflict resolution. In this contentious period of American history, now – more than ever – there is a significant need to bring together leaders with differing viewpoints, skills and talents, and resources to address campus, community, national, and global concerns.
I often like telling the story of how the members of the circles at Georgia Tech and the University of Kentucky championed the building of the student centers on both campuses.  While the Fred B. Wenn Building at Tech opened in the early 1970’s, the Student Union Building at Kentucky opened in the 1930’s.  The websites for both of the buildings note the important role that the O∆K circle at each school had in championing the construction of both facilities.
There is a delightful mural which shows how the members of O∆K at UK – athletes, writers, artists, researchers, performers, and other volunteers – worked to raise money to provide seed funding for the development of the union.  Each group of involved students utilized their skills and talents to garner resources in support of a shared passion.
Circles across the country still bring together leaders from all aspects of collegiate leadership to complete service projects, support one another, and improve their campuses and communities.  At Omicron Delta Kappa, we will continue our work to facilitate the development of collaborative collegiate leaders so that they will have the skills to be effective collaborate community leaders in the future.  Our country will need their passion as well as their willingness to work with individuals of different perspectives and points of view in making a better world.
Tara S. Singer, Ed.D.
Executive Director

This Time, Next Year

Omicron Delta Kappa held its first national convention in 1920 in Baltimore. By 1920, O∆K had four circles located on the campuses of Washington and Lee, Johns Hopkins, Pittsburgh, and Davidson. While our modern conventions cover three days, the first only lasted one. As is still our practice, the first convention included the election of the National President and other officers.

From 1920 to 1925, O∆K held conventions annually. However, complications of cost and coordination made hosting an annual convention challenging. At the 1925 convention in Williamsburg, our leadership made the decision to hold conventions on a biennial basis instead. The years during World War II were the only period in which conventions were not held.

For many decades, conventions were held during the academic year. The 1968 Atlanta convention was held in the days immediately after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The delegates passed a resolution, which recognized, in part, Dr. King’s “unparalleled contribution to the peace and freedom of his people, his country, and of his world.” The resolution also acknowledged Dr. King’s “outstanding and ceaseless efforts on behalf of human dignity and justice are representative of the devotion to high ideals that are basic to the Omicron Delta Kappa tradition.”

The first formal discussions about potentially initiating women into O∆K were also held at the 1968 convention. In 1970, the University of Alabama Circle proposed an amendment to the constitution to include women in our organization. The “Alabama Amendment” was defeated at the 1972 convention, but it was ultimately approved at the 1974 meeting.

In 2018, we have the special occasion to celebrate the 50th biennial convention in O∆K’s history in Nashville. We already have several confirmed speakers to announce soon. Our host institution, Belmont University, and the circles at Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and Vanderbilt are already making plans to host a high-quality experience for our collegiate members, circle advisors, and volunteers.

Through the years, in addition to elections, conventions have also included votes on constitutional and bylaws amendments, conversations on the structure of our organization, and discussions on matters of circle administration. Also, our conventions have always included opportunities for fellowship, friendship, and collaboration between our members.

Modern conventions are held during the summer months to help contain costs by having the delegates stay on campus. Regardless of the timing of our national gatherings, these meetings always reflect the concerns of the times and planning for the future of O∆K. I am looking forward to presiding over our 50th Biennial Convention and Leadership Conference next summer. Please consider joining us in Nashville, May 31 – June 3, in 2018!

Yours in O∆K,
Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President