MBA preps alumna to oversee observatory’s financial operations

December 2, 2014
Margarita Scheffel (MBA ’95)

Margarita Scheffel (MBA ’95)

For decades, Margarita Scheffel (MBA ’95) dreamed of moving to Hawaii. “The aloha spirit just resonated with me,” she says. “The way people respond to each other … it’s just a very nice, welcoming and open environment.” She’d sit with her colleagues, daydreaming during the brutal Chicago winters about how one day she’d live there. They’d laugh off her comments as idle musings, but in 2003, Scheffel did just that. She became the chief financial officer of the W. M. Keck Observatory, one of the world’s foremost observatories, located on the summit of Mauna Kea in Kamuela, on the Big Island of Hawaii. “Living in Chicago, you barely see the stars, but when you come out here, it’s just amazing,” she enthuses.

Scheffel manages the observatory’s $25 million operating budget, overseeing funding from two partner institutions—the University of California and the California Institute of Technology—as well as from NASA, the National Science Foundation and private organizations. “Compliance is a big deal,” she asserts. “We have to make sure that we’re abiding by all the restrictions of the various funds. That can get quite complex.”

To do this, Scheffel scours regulations line by line. “You identify those that you feel are relevant to what you’re doing,” she explains. “Then you ask yourself, ‘Do I have the systems in place to allow the transactions and processes to support that requirement?’ If you don’t, then you look at ways to implement new processes.” This process includes creating new systems to monitor how funds are being spent and efforts are being reported. “Then you cross your fingers and hope you did it the right way,” she laughs.

Failure to comply with regulations, no matter how obscure, may result in loss of funding, so Scheffel often turns to her colleagues for advice. “It’s difficult to do the job on your own, but when you can share what you’ve learned or hear what someone else is doing, you don’t have to make the same mistakes,” she explains.

Scheffel learned the importance of collaborating with her peers while at DePaul. “We would talk about real-life issues we were facing in our careers,” she notes. “It was interesting to be able to share our experiences and get help with them. The MBA program helped me see the value in that.” Her concentration in international studies was an unexpected benefit to her current position. “We’ve got people from different nations, and understanding the cultural aspects of management and how diversity can make an organization better has helped me,” she says. “There is value to their differences, and I use that in how I interact with them.”

When she’s mired down with an overwhelming amount of detail, Scheffel forces herself to take a deep breath. “Sometimes, I have to step back and say, ‘I’m supporting an organization that has the ability to find life in the universe—look at what you’re enabling the scientists to do,’” she says. “We’re just one small planet in the universe. It makes you think about the impact you could be having.”

The Theatre School paves the way for bilingual educator

November 13, 2013
Lauren Carranza

Lauren Carranza (THE ’05)

At any given time during the day, third-grade teacher Lauren Carranza (THE ’05) might be explaining a lesson in English, but answering a question in Spanish. That’s the culture of Denver’s Escuela de Guadalupe, a unique kindergarten through fifth grade dual-language program that stresses the importance of retaining native languages while studying new ones. “We always say we are learning a new language,” she explains. “We never say, ‘I don’t speak English or Spanish.’” A non-native Spanish speaker herself, Carranza learns from her students as much as she teaches them. “The kids correct me all the time in Spanish,” she laughs.

While at DePaul, Carranza took two years of Spanish in addition to her studies at The Theatre School. After graduation, she found herself in Honduras, working at Teatro la Fragua, a theatre run by Jesuit priest Jack Warner (MFA ’78). “I was the only English speaker there besides [Father Warner],” she remembers. “I learned a lot really fast.” It was at Teatro la Fragua that Carranza developed a passion for teaching. “I found that teaching was actually more of what I wanted to do, but theatre led me to it,” she says.

When she returned to the U.S. after spending more than a year in Honduras, her passion for the Spanish language landed her a job at Escuela de Guadalupe, where she has been teaching for the last seven years. “I’m a good model for the kids because I’ve learned a second language,” says Carranza. “I know how much of a struggle it was to get food on my plate or get a ride to work every day in Honduras. I understand both the parents and the kids because I know how hard it is.”

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Carranza received the CenturyLink Leadership in Education Award in March 2013.

Today, Carranza uses many skills she mastered at The Theatre School in her classroom. “I constantly have the kids use voices and visualizing techniques,” she says. Additionally, she credits her ability to think outside the box to her time at DePaul. “Every single day something comes up where I can’t go by the book, but I have to deal with it,” she explains. “[At The Theatre School,] I learned that you do not need to do something the way that it’s written … there are rules, but you can do anything you can think of.”  Carranza’s efforts earned her a CenturyLink Leadership in Education Award in March 2013. The award, which came with a $1,000 gift to the school, was especially meaningful because she was nominated by her students’ parents and her peers. “With theatre, you get to stand up and get applause and awards, but you don’t get that with kids,” she says. “It’s incredibly validating to know I am on the right track.”

Carranza stays the course by remembering two things: “All shall be well” and “Be content where you are, but always look for progress.” That way, her teaching methods remain fresh, and she remains energized for the work ahead. “I’m proud of our school,” she enthuses. “We worked hard to develop a respectful and dignified program. It’s a unique place that’s making great strides with different communities. It’s a good start to a young person’s legacy.”

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DePaul University and Gordon Tech College Prep Announce Partnership

November 9, 2012

On Oct. 17, DePaul University and Gordon Tech announced a new partnership designed to enhance the prep school and elevate the North Side of Chicago’s Catholic high school options. DePaul will work closely with Gordon Tech on strategic planning initiatives, including offering support and guidance as Gordon Tech conducts a principal search for the 2013-14 school year.

The announcement comes after DePaul led a market study to explore Gordon Tech’s current position in the high school landscape and to research how their position could be strengthened. During this strategic planning year, both institutions will focus on enhancing Gordon Tech’s academic curriculum, college counseling services, technology and facilities. Additionally, DePaul will continue to research and analyze market needs to help Gordon Tech eventually compete with both Chicago’s selective enrollment prep schools and the city’s top-tier Catholic high schools.

Gordon Tech currently serves 540 students, which is a significant increase from last year’s enrollment of 434. The coed school, founded in 1952 by the Congregation of the Resurrection religious order, hopes to build on this recent growth to eventually enroll more than 1,000 students. “A partnership with DePaul University will ensure access to educational opportunities for young men and women seeking a high-quality, faith-based, college preparatory experience,” noted Kelly Jones, Gordon Tech president. “We are thrilled to be part of such an exciting initiative that will allow us to better serve students and families on the North Side of Chicago.”

DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., echoed Jones’ enthusiasm. “DePaul believes that strong Catholic education benefits an entire community,” he said. “We welcome the opportunity to support a Catholic institution with a rising academic profile like Gordon Tech.”

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DePaul University participates in national arts-alumni survey

August 17, 2011

DePaul University is participating in the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), a one-of-a-kind survey that explores the lives of arts alumni nationwide. After three years of field testing, SNAAP is launching its first national survey of arts graduates this fall, with the participation of many institutions nationwide.

All of DePaul’s arts alumni for whom the university has a valid e-mail address will receive an invitation to participate in this online survey (

Alumni can verify that the university has their correct e-mail address by visiting By updating their information, alumni can be sure not to miss their chance to share their experiences and help shape the future of arts education across the country and at DePaul.

When alumni complete the SNAAP survey, they will have access to a site where they can see how their experiences compare with those of other survey participants. They can see where arts graduates live, where they work, what they earn and how their arts educations have influenced their lives.

The time DePaul alumni spend sharing their experiences will help participating arts institutions across the country better prepare students for success, whether they stay in the arts or use what they’ve learned in other professional fields.

SNAAP is supported by grants from the Surdna Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other foundations.

DePaul Breaks Ground on Pelli-designed Theatre School Building

June 1, 2011

The Theatre School at DePaul will break ground June 1 for a new home – a 175,000 sq. ft. multipurpose facility designed by internationally renowned architectural firm Pelli Clarke Pelli.

Founded by Cesar Pelli, former dean of the Yale University School of Architecture, Pelli Clarke Pelli has designed some of the world’s most recognizable buildings, including the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the World Financial Center in New York and the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong. The firm has a strong portfolio of performing arts centers affiliated with universities, including those at Vassar College, Grinnell College and the University of Minnesota. Pelli Clarke Pelli was one of seven firms asked to submit designs for the building.

As yet unnamed and with a tentative price tag of $69 million, the airy, five-story building is designed to showcase the varied and dynamic activities that characterize the school, its students and faculty.  It will house a 250-seat theatre, a flexible 100-seat black-box theatre as well as administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, rehearsal spaces, design studios, workshops and the school’s script library.  The flexible theatre will be named for longtime DePaul supporters Sondra Healy (a 1964 alumna of the Goodman School) and her husband, Denis.

The structure will be located on the southwest corner of West Fullerton and North Racine avenues, and serve as the western gateway to the university’s Lincoln Park Campus.

DePaul announced its intention to build a new Theatre School facility – as well as new and renovated facilities for its School of Music – in fall 2009. Funds for the buildings’ construction will be raised in part through the Many Dreams, One Mission Campaign for DePaul University, a $250 million effort which was announced in spring 2010.

“These facilities represent history in the making,” said DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. “For the first time, The Theatre School and the School of Music will be housed in facilities that are specifically designed to serve the work and artistry of our students, faculty and staff.”

DePaul’s theatre and music schools both are ranked among the country’s top conservatory-style programs in their respective disciplines, despite having been housed in inadequate facilities for decades.

According to John Culbert, dean of The Theatre School at DePaul University, the new facilities were specifically designed to support, engage and share the work of theatre artists with the DePaul community, the Lincoln Park community and the city of Chicago.

“The people in our audiences are not just spectators,” he said. “They become part of the training process for actors, designers, stage managers, directors – everyone who is part the performance.” He adds that the idea of engaging the audience in such a way is facilitated by the building’s design.

“The Pelli concept takes a very sophisticated approach to organizing the pieces of the building so that it engages and energizes the entire Theatre School community,” Culbert explains. “When you attend a performance at the new building, you won’t just step off the street into the theatre. You will actually journey through the school, see its inner workings, be immersed in an experience not available anywhere else in Chicago.”

Many of those inner workings will be visible from the street too, he continues, noting that pedestrians will have clear views into the scene-building, painting and other usually “behind-the-scenes” workshops that make every theatrical performance tick.

The Theatre School stages 10 productions of contemporary and classic works each year – at little or no cost to the public – at various venues. The school’s Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences Series also presents three unique productions each season to more than 30,000 theatre lovers of all ages at DePaul’s historic Merle Reskin Theatre in the South Loop. Additional performances occur throughout the season at various levels of production, housed in The Theatre School’s current facilities in Lincoln Park.  (The new Pelli-designed theatre building’s Merle and Harold Reskin Lobby is named for the longtime Theatre School supporter and her late husband.)

DePaul’s new music school complex will be constructed along the west side of North Halsted Street between Fullerton and Belden avenues. A new Music Center building will anchor the complex, housing the 550-seat William E. Hay and Mary Pat Gannon Hay Concert Hall, a large 150-seat recital hall and a smaller 80-seat recital hall. The current music administration building will be substantially renovated and will continue to serve as the school’s administrative hub, housing offices, classrooms and teaching studios on its existing three levels. The Chapel, current used as the concert hall, will be substantially renovated to accommodate an opera hall.

The largest fundraising effort in DePaul’s history, the Many Dreams, One Mission Campaign seeks $100 million in new scholarships as well as an additional $150 million for facilities, faculty and programs.  The Campaign, which has already raised some $200 million, is expected to conclude in June 2014.

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About DePaul University

With an enrollment of more than 25,000 students on two Chicago and four suburban campuses, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the nation and the largest private, nonprofit university in the Midwest. DePaul is an innovative and diverse university offering pragmatic educational programs that instill values, including a commitment to community service. Learn more about the university at and more about giving to DePaul at

The Theatre School Mission Statement
The Theatre School at DePaul University educates, trains and inspires students of theatre in a conservatory setting that is rigorous, disciplined, culturally diverse and that strives for the highest level of professional skill and artistry.

A commitment to diversity and equality in education is central to our mission. As an integral part of the training, The Theatre School produces public programs and performances from a wide repertoire of classic, contemporary and original plays that challenge, entertain and stimulate the imagination. We seek to enhance the intellectual and cultural life of our university community, our city and the profession.


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James Jenness Elected to Chair DePaul University’s Board of Trustees

May 26, 2011

Kellogg Co. Chairman James M. Jenness (COM ’69, MBA 71), a devoted DePaul University alumnus who has remained engaged with his alma mater in a variety of capacities, has been elected to chair DePaul’s Board of Trustees. Jenness, 65, who joined the board in 2002 and has been its vice chair, succeeds Chicago Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, who completed her three-year term.

“I love DePaul,” Jenness said. “The education and values I received here have been the biggest enablers of my life. DePaul opened possibilities I never dreamed of growing up on the South Side of Chicago.”

The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., DePaul’s president, respects the experience and perspective Jenness brings to his new role. “Jim understands what it means to be a part of a great company and has distinguished himself on both corporate and nonprofit boards for many years. Most important, he understands how significant DePaul is to Chicago. I’m proud to be working with him.”

Jenness, who also previously served as Kellogg’s CEO, is one of four trustees who oversee the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust, one of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations. His association with Kellogg, the world’s largest cereal maker, dates back to 1974.

Jenness is involved in wide-ranging civic and philanthropic interests. He serves on the boards of Kimberly-Clark Corp., the Schwarz Paper Co., Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.

Jenness received his bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in marketing from DePaul in 1969 and his MBA, also from DePaul, in 1971. He was awarded a doctor of humane letters from DePaul in 2006, and he has been a member and chairman of the College of Commerce Advisory Council. In 1995, he received the College of Commerce Alumni Award of Merit and currently serves on the trustee steering committee of DePaul’s Many Dreams, One Mission fundraising campaign.

Jenness is an accomplished long-distance runner, having run in the Chicago Marathon each of the past 20 years and often participating alongside DePaul faculty and staff in many other races and marathons. Fr. Holtschneider observed, “I suspect this means I’ll be getting in better shape.”

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DePaul University Announces New College of Science and Health

May 20, 2011

In response to the growing demand for well-educated professionals in the rapidly growing health care and scientific fields, DePaul University has established a new College of Science and Health (CSH).

CSH—the university’s 10th college/school—will encompass programs in biology, chemistry, physics, nursing, psychology, environmental science, mathematics and statistics that were previously located in DePaul’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. An immediate outgrowth of the new structure will be the creation of a new degree in health sciences, which will begin this fall, while other new programs and degrees in the sciences and health will also be actively explored.

“DePaul has always strived to make certain its academic offerings and structures align with the needs of the communities we serve,” said DePaul provost Helmut Epp. “This move will better support the development of programs to educate students for emerging career paths—many that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. It responds to the dynamic pace of scientific innovation and employment and the need for generalists and specialists who are well-grounded in the basic sciences.”

Labor trends and growing student interest in health care careers support the creation of the college. Health care is expected to generate 3.2 million new jobs in the United States by 2018, more than any other industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, health-related science is the top area of academic interest indicated by college-bound high school students in the United States who complete the ACT college entrance exam. In Illinois, interest in health science as an educational focus grew by 53 percent from 2007 to 2009, while interest in biology/physical sciences grew by 83 percent during the same period.

At DePaul, undergraduate enrollment in the sciences, health-related programs and mathematics has increased a combined 29 percent over the past five academic years. At the graduate level, those programs have increased enrollment 30 percent over the same period. DePaul has responded nimbly in addressing this demand through expansion and enhancement of numerous academic programs and the significant improvement of its facilities in recent years, including the opening of a second major science-focused building in 2009.

CSH will take a multidisciplinary approach to preparing students for careers in the evolving health care field, which is being radically reshaped by numerous technological, social and economic factors. In addition, CSH will be better able to serve the needs of students transferring from the many health care programs at community colleges and other four-year institutions.

With the formation of CSH, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been renamed the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (LAS) to better reflect the more refined orientation of its academic programs. LAS also had strong growth in recent years, with graduate enrollment up 41 percent over the past five academic years. Jerry Cleland, chair of DePaul’s Department of Psychology, will serve as interim dean of the CSH. Charles Suchar, who has served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will continue to serve as dean of LAS.

“The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences will remain the heart of the DePaul undergraduate experience and home to a number of renowned graduate and interdisciplinary liberal arts academic programs and centers,” said Epp. “The realignment allows DePaul to build an even stronger program of liberal arts studies by better focusing on these disciplines, while at the same time responding to the emerging educational needs of the communities it serves.”

CSH and LAS will work closely to achieve interdisciplinary integration at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. No reduction in programs, degrees, faculty or staff is expected as a result of the change. As CSH grows, it is expected that new degree programs and faculty and staff positions will be added.

“By educating future scientists, mathematicians, health care providers and caregivers, science educators, researchers, managers, and administrators—all with a firm foundation in a liberal arts education and strong commitment to social justice and civic engagement—the College of Science and Health will strengthen DePaul’s expression of its Vincentian, Catholic and urban identity,” said the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., DePaul’s president.

About DePaul
With more than 25,000 students, DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the United States and the largest private, nonprofit university in the Midwest. The university offers 275 graduate and undergraduate programs of study on two Chicago campuses, four suburban campuses and several international locations. Founded in 1898, DePaul remains committed to providing a quality education through personal attention to students from a wide range of backgrounds. For more information, visit

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