Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Morgan Harrison nibbled her dry slice of bread, watching longingly as just a few feet away, others dined on lasagna, breadsticks, and salad, served on china.

Hunger Banquet, Homecoming 2014The Hunger Banquet in Alumni Hall. See more pictures on Flickr.

It was a poignant reminder of the plight many people in north central Indiana face, as they live paycheck to paycheck, oftentimes having to decide which bills to pay or not pay, in order to put food on the table.

As Indiana University Kokomo celebrates Homecoming, student planners did not want to forget about this week's hunger and homelessness awareness week, offering the Hunger Banquet to focus on the issue.

"You can't tell who is struggling," Harrison, a junior from Kokomo, said. "It's important for people to understand this can happen to anyone, anywhere. It's not just the poor people, it's middle class people too."

As participants arrived, each one was randomly assigned a social class. Those assigned to upper class sat at a round table, set with china, silverware, and cloth napkins, and ate a substantial, hot meal. Middle class participants sat at a square table, covered in red paper, and ate half a cold deli sandwich. Those assigned to the lower class sat in rows of folding chairs, receiving a slice of bread and a cup of water.

Abbie Smith president of the United Way of Howard County, demonstrated how hard it can be to make ends meet, giving students placemats with various family expenses, and a budget of 15 Smarties candies. Each person budgeted one, two or three candies for items including health insurance, housing, utilities, transportation, and meals for their family of four.

"These are choices people make every day, people who are working," she said. "These are people who are one tough decision away from a financial crisis."

Smith then asked who had not budgeted for health insurance for their family. Those who did not had to take away two candies to pay for medical care for a sick child, and reallocate their remaining candies. Then, all participants had to remove four candies, representing one family member losing his or her job, and then try to cover all expenses again.

This is the dilemma faced by approximately one quarter of Howard County residents, who are considered to be asset limited, income constrained, and employed, she said.

Harrison's experience in the lower class made her appreciate the efforts her mother made to keep food on the table.

"Growing up, we were probably borderline lower class," she said. "Sitting in that seat took me back to times we went to food banks. Knowing how my mother did it makes it more real for me."

She hoped everyone understood that while statistics are important, "you have to understand that there are real people behind those numbers, living this experience in their real lives. We need to have empathy for them, and do what we can to help."

Kazi Jami, a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) student who grew up in Bangladesh, hoped the exercise inspired students to give to those in need.

"The way the tables were organized showed us how discrimination is going on in our society," he said. "We can buy some food and donate it somewhere to help people."

Raisa Hale, a junior from Kokomo, found the experience to be eye opening. She was assigned to middle class.

"This was reality," she said. "We can give the information and statistics all day, but the Hunger Banquet gave us the experience. It wasn't just talk."

She thinks people don't realize how hard it is to work yourself out of poverty, and how quickly you can slip back down.

"It's important to know there are people who are hungry, and it's not just poor people," she said. "Many working people don't have much of a safety net, and they live in fear. If you're on the edge, all it takes is one incident to knock you back down."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Anthony Willman creates the next generation of energy production, with what appears to be a pane of glass.

Solar energy- outdoor classKasem Kasem, professor of chemistry, instructs students on the use of a Fresnel lens. See more pictures on Flickr.

On a slightly overcast day, Willman and his classmates in an energy and green chemistry class set up a Fresnel lens in front of Hunt Hall on the Indiana University Kokomo campus, experimenting with the ability of the solar heat concentrator to produce energy.

Willman, a senior from Peru, is excited about the possibilities.

"This is the next generation of energy production," he said. "We're trying to figure out better ways to create energy with less pollution. This is a great class."

Their experiment demonstrates just one use for solar power, he said, and added that in one South American country, low-income people receive a similar solar cell to use to heat water and cook food.

His class demonstrates that use, using the Fresnel lens to heat some chicken strips for a student passing by their experiment.

Energy and green chemistry, taught by Kasem Kasem, professor of chemistry, introduces topics in existing and potential renewable energy sources, including hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wind, and solar energy.

"Energy is one of the most important subject nowadays," said Kasem, who conducts extensive research in green energy. "There are a lot of jobs available in the field of energy production and distribution. Students from many majors can benefit from having working knowledge in this area."

With his dual major in chemistry and earth and sustainability sciences, Nick Daanen has enjoyed learning about alternative energy sources.

"We're so focused on fossil fuels, so it's interesting to learn about the alternatives," he said. "Some of these are very powerful energy sources. It helps you understand the current and future possibilities of energy sources."

Daanen, from Kokomo, encourages more students to take this class and others in the earth and sustainability sciences program.

"Energy and the environment are issues that impact everyone," he said. "Information like this is going to be important. We don't think about where the energy comes from when we turn on an appliance. As we become more knowledgeable, we can be qualified to make policy changes in the future."

As chemistry major, with the interest in green energy sources, Jayesh Lalla, Kokomo, said the class provides viable career options.

"We're identifying the emerging technology of the contemporary world, learning about different forms of energy."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo will observe the Thanksgiving holiday this Wednesday, November 26, Thursday, November 27, and Friday, November 28. Classes will not be in session Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and all campus offices will be closed Thursday and Friday.

Turkey BowlingHappy Thanksgiving

Regular class schedules and office hours resume at 8 a.m. Monday, December 1.

The Cougar Country Café will be closed starting Wednesday, November 26. The bookstore will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, and then closed until Monday, December 1.

The Cole Fitness Center will be open 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and then will be closed Thursday and Friday. It will be open regular hours Saturday and Sunday.

The IU Kokomo Library will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, then closed until Monday, December 1. Online and electronic resources are available when the library is closed, at

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Cheer for the Indiana University Kokomo Cougars, as they take on the Titans of IU South Bend Saturday, November 22, in the annual Homecoming game.

Men's Basketball vs Point Park UniversityKingston Cougar greets fans at Homecoming 2013.Homecoming festivities kick off Monday, November 17, and continue up to the game at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Cougar Gym, 507 E. Superior St., Kokomo.

Students look forward to Homecoming as part of the traditional college experience, said student Josselin Schafer, Kokomo, who helped plan the week’s activities, with the theme “TearinUpTheTitans.”

“Homecoming is a good way for student groups to get together and support our teams and our campus,” she said. “This year’s game is especially exciting because it’s against another IU regional campus, so there is a natural rivalry there. The students’ energy will give the team an extra boost.”

Cristin Clark, who served on the Homecoming planning committee, said she’s pleased that many student organizations are participating, and have already completed their entries for Monday’s sheet banner competition.

“It’s a great way to be involved in our school, and to get IU Kokomo’s name out in the public eye,” she said. “I expect the points competition among student organizations to be fierce.”

Each activity during the week provides a chance for the organizations to earn points. The top three will be announced at the basketball game, and the winning organization’s name will be included on a plaque, which will be displayed in the Kelley Student Center.

The student organization banners go on display in the Kelley Student Center Commons Monday. Each one will have a texting code, so voters may support their favorite.

Tuesday, Homecoming focuses on the issue of hunger and homelessness, with the Hunger Banquet, at 5 p.m. in Alumni Hall.

“This week is also hunger and homelessness awareness week, and we wanted to include that,” said Schafer, who is vice president of event sponsor Cougar Advocates for Diversity. Admission is two canned goods.

Those attending will be randomly assigned a social class — lower class, middle class, or upper class — which determines where or if they have a seat for the meal. Abbie Smith, president of the United Way of Howard County, will speak about food insecurity in north central Indiana, as part of an effort to focus on the needs in the community.

Student organizations will collect canned goods through 4 p.m. Thursday, to earn additional Homecoming points. The food will go to Kokomo Urban Outreach, which runs food pantries throughout Kokomo.

“We can have fun with Homecoming, but also give back to the community with this program,” Shafer said.

Wednesday includes another opportunity to give back, with a blood drive from noon to 5 p.m., sponsored by Ribbon Warriors.   Click here to sign up.

Also Wednesday, IU Kokomo intramurals hosts a single elimination dodge ball tournament at 6:30 p.m. in Cougar Gym. Teams of students, faculty, and staff may register on IMLeagues .

Student Union Board offers a free movie, 22 Jump Street at 7 p.m. Thursday in Kresge Auditorium.

Friday, the Student Union Board hosts the annual semiformal Homecoming Dance, from 8 p.m. to midnight at Elite Banquet and Conference Center. Cost is $10 per person, or $15 per couple. It is open to IU Kokomo students, who may each bring one non-IU Kokomo guest. Tickets are available in the Student Activities Office, or at the door. The campus radio station, Radio Free Kokomo, will serve as DJs for the event.

Saturday’s events kick off by honoring graduates, at the annual Alumni Hall of Fame Lunch. Dr. Kathleen Golightly, John Hughey, George Plotner, and Tom Sugar are the inductees for 2014.

The basketball game against the IU South Bend Titans kicks off at 1 p.m. Admission is free to IU Kokomo students, faculty, and staff, with your Cougar Card. General admission is $5. Children 10 and younger are admitted free.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.