From Wigs to Magic to Art for Toddlers: Story Ideas From Carlow University

Students or Faculty – and Sometimes Students AND Faculty – Doing Great Things in the Community

Press Release Details

University Communications & External Relations For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director of Media Relations October 29, 2013
412.578.2095 (phone)
412.260.6807 (cell)
Pittsburgh, Pa. – Carlow University is always at the center of some interesting happenings. Here are three subjects for your consideration.
Sometimes It’s Not Just a Bad Hair Day
Most people think of cancer treatments as the primary reason why women might lose their hair, but LaToya Johnson-Rainey, who will graduate from the MBA program at Carlow University in December, says that that’s not all.“Other medical issues, as well as stress, age, and heredity can also cause women’s hair to thin or fall out,” says Johnson-Rainey, who adds that many times a woman’s confidence or self-worth can be affected by hair loss.
She decided to do something about it. In September, Johnson-Rainey launched her Shadyside business, A Hair Boutique, with the mission to help any woman who experiences hair loss. A Hair Boutique is a designer wig shop that seeks to provide a personalized experience for its customers. “There is no such thing as a bad hair day,” she says. “Our mission is to help our customers just be beautiful.”

Johnson-Rainey credits the Carlow MBA program with giving her the knowledge and confidence to open her business. “Carlow really cares. The professors, the students, the networking opportunities, and coursework are all a reflection of the University’s core values,” she says. “I would like to encourage anyone with the passion to start a business to do it. Trust your instincts and believe in yourself. All of the experiences will begin to show in your work.”
Using Magic to Teach Special Education Students
The uninformed might think it takes magic to get through to some students. A Carlow University professor is using magic as a starting point for teaching special education students.
Susan O'Rourke, EdD, the chair of special education and coordinator of Instructional Technology at Carlow University, has done research into how to excite and motivate at-risk students by using magic as both an incentive and an instrument to develop problem-solving skills. To that end, she has two projects being implemented at the Propel School in Braddock Hills. 

In the first project, a group of gifted students – special education also encompasses gifted programs – will have a magic trick that hinges on math and science principles performed for them by magician Kevin Spencer of Spencer's Magic in Lynchburg, Va. The Propel students will be paired with engineering students from CMU (Dr. O'Rourke's son is one of the CMU students), as they attempt to analyze the math and science principles behind the trick, which will then become the basis of exploring math and science concepts for the next few weeks at school.  This project was started on October 22.

In the second project, students from Propel who are more commonly viewed as special needs children, will be linked with students at Belmont School in Derry, Northern Ireland, via video conferencing, and Spencer will introduce magic/illusions to students at both schools. After this introduction, students in each class will develop a range of skills including communication, fine motor, motor planning, memory, etc. by first learning a trick and then teaching it to peers via video conferencing. These students will meet on six occasions over the next several months beginning on November 6th. Dr. O'Rourke says they hope to measure and analyze student growth over the life of the project and determine the effects of video conferencing on the outcomes.
An Introduction to Art at the Toy Lending Library
This semester, every Thursday through mid-November, children from birth through age six at the Toy Lending Library in Shadyside have received a lesson in art from Carlow students from the School of Education. 

The art classes were the brainchild of Elisabeth Moyer, a 2005 Carlow graduate with a degree in early childhood education and special education. Moyer worked for Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s DART program before giving birth to her daughters. 
Moyer wanted to find a way to offer art classes to toy lending library visitors, so she called one of her professors, Rae Ann Hirsh, director of undergraduate early childhood education at Carlow. The toy lending library would supply the location, supplies, and preschoolers. Carlow students could come up with lesson plans and guidance.

Hirsh jumped on the idea—a perfect opportunity for students in her Integrated Art class.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” says Hirsh. “Hands-on experience is so necessary. You can create lesson plans all the time, but until you actually do it, you have no idea.”

Christi Howell, president of the Toy Lending Library’s board of directors, is also thrilled.
“I am especially excited to have education students from Carlow offering the classes because of their passion and commitment to education. Personally, I love it because my kids love art, and I can bring them here to do it!” 

Carlow junior Angela Marshall from Cranberry, says it’s all about the process. 
“Instead of directing kids to create a specific product,” she says, “it’s about letting the creative process happen.”

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in finding out more about the people or places in any of these stories, please call Drew Wilson at (412) 578-2095 or via e-mail at

About Carlow University
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929. Offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, Carlow University is a comprehensive master's institution dedicated to learner-centered education at the collegiate levels and at the elementary school level in the Campus School of Carlow University.