Recent News from Campuses

New medical school student finds undergraduate research experience invaluable

Jose Castellanos is hitting the books this summer, trading fun and sun for round-the-clock studying.

Fueled by a desire to help others, the 2015 biology graduate is already applying the skills he learned at Saint Mary’s in a summer program at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. Castellanos will do his first year of medical school at the Urbana-Champaign campus and then his second through fourth at the Peoria campus.

His goal: to graduate from medical school in four years and become a surgeon.

“I’m confident,” he said. “I can see how I’m performing in comparison to other students who went to bigger universities. I’ve developed good study skills and that has translated well into the medical school pace,” he said.

Castellanos did extensive lab research in his Saint Mary’s undergraduate program, and presented those findings publicly. And that experience already gives him an advantage. “I’m finding that’s not something everyone does during their undergraduate years,” he said. “Very few students from bigger schools were able to do research alongside someone with their Ph.D. If they did research, it was with another student.

“For me, that’s a big deal, to be able to work with professors who teach you their techniques,” he said. “I enjoyed applying the things we learned in the classroom, seeing how things actually work.”

Castellanos’ senior project involved the effect of over-expression of TBX2 in Mus musculus epidermal cells and migration.

“We know this gene has been linked to melanoma, a very invasive type of skin cancer,” he said. “There are a lot of factors that can contribute to the cancer. We wanted to know specifically what triggers the invasive characteristics. We put the gene in the skin cells of mice and measured the migration. We found significant migration of the TBX2 gene, compared to the control, so we were able to conclude the overexpression of that gene in skin cells led to more cell migration.”

Castellanos says he was exposed to operating rooms at a young age since his father is an anesthesiologist in the Dominican Republic.

After moving to Chicago in 2006, an inspirational biology teacher at Noble Street College Prep, reaffirmed his desire to go into the medical field.

Coming from a small high school, Castellanos said he found a good fit with Saint Mary’s. “Saint Mary’s provided me with a good amount of space to grow,” he said. “Everyone was very friendly. It felt right.”

Castellanos said he valued the personalized attention he received from Saint Mary’s faculty. “Classes could be tough, but professors there to guide us through it,” he said.

He also took advantage of the university’s close proximity to Mayo Clinic. “We’re only 45 minutes from one of the best hospitals in the country,” he said. “I had the opportunity to volunteer with patients in the heart and lung transplant unit. It definitely helped me during the medical school application process. And it made me more open to the healthcare aspect of medicine, the whole idea of caring for the person.

“I love working with my hands—and this is very black and white—but I like the idea of helping good people having bad days,” he said. “Being able to surgically help a patient who is sick is something that drives me.”

Alumnae inducted as fellows of American Academy of Nursing

St. Kate's Campus News - 15 hours 36 min ago
Pamela Johnson ’80 and Erin Murphy MAOL’05 are among the six inductees from Minnesota. More »

Cambodian Summer

Concordia College Campus News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 11:00pm
This summer, Andie Palagi '18 is returning to a country for which she has found a great passion. She is one of five American students chosen to take part in the Center for Khmer Studies Summer Fellowship Program.

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Senior Stride

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 2:20pm

Graduation provides these eight seniors with time to reflect on past accomplishments and look forward to what the future may hold.

Nick Ronnei, Chanhassen

Even after interviewing for the position Nick Ronnei didn’t totally understand what he would be doing. It didn’t sink in what a big deal this was until after Ramsey County offered him the chance to lead its Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.

“The minute I realized the full scope of what I was doing, it really hit me,” Ronnei said.

That full scope included conducting an assessment of how vulnerable certain populations in Ramsey County are to the effects of climate change. It’s the first such study on the scale of a single county in, as far as Ronnei knows, U.S. history. Such studies usually are done on much larger scales with many more people; Ronnei’s summer and fall of research represented a genuine first.

“To get this kind of experience at this point in my career, I feel very blessed,” Ronnei said.

Ronnei said his work likely will set a precedent for similar studies in Hennepin County and at the city level, specifically an initial study in Duluth. Ramsey County has offered Ronnei more work after graduation on studies involving lead levels and organic recycling, which he hopes will help his appeal to graduate schools.

Plans for next year: Attend graduate school at University of California Santa Barbara, Michigan State University or Oregon University.

St. Thomas Student Anna Nolan to Join Gov. Dayton on Economic Mission to Mexico

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 3:20pm

Many St. Thomas students dedicate parts of their summer to mission trips, traveling around the state, country and world to volunteer building homes, to serve the poor and to dedicate manual labor. Junior Anna Nolan is putting a different twist on the idea of summer mission work.

From Aug. 9-14 Nolan will join Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and a group of business, education and cultural leaders on a mission to Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico, aimed at promoting economic ties with our nation’s southern neighbor. As the sole college student invited to be part of the delegation, Nolan, an economics major, will represent Minnesota, St. Thomas, college students and herself on what she described as “such a cool opportunity.”

“It is so exciting. I’m just really honored to be invited to go on this trip,” Nolan added. “It will be a really packed six days and a great learning experience.”

Dayton’s office detailed the mission’s goals to “promote Minnesota exports and key industries as well as help Minnesota companies establish and build relationships with potential buyers, distributors and partners. The Governor will also showcase the opportunities and market advantages that exist in Minnesota for Mexican companies looking to expand operations into the United States.”

Nolan described the mission’s three pillars – agriculture, education and manufacturing – and the role she is expected to play representing the educational aspect in particular.

“I’ll be attending all the roundtables dealing with education, although I am interested in the economic portion as well,” she said. “I’m just wildly excited. Mexico is our second largest export market, so strengthening these ties is crucial to our economy. I’m so excited to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.”

Nolan said she also will represent formally Study Minnesota, an organization St. Thomas is part of that is dedicated to promoting Minnesota as an educational destination for students around the globe. As an Aquinas Scholar who speaks Spanish and has mission work experience in Ecuador, Nolan was a prime candidate to be Minnesota’s collegiate representative on the trip.

“We are thrilled Anna was chosen for this opportunity,” said Karen Lange, St. Thomas vice president for student affairs. “We know she will do a great job representing the University of St. Thomas and the state of Minnesota. She will be a great ambassador.”

Nolan was granted a professional development grant from the St. Thomas Luann Dummer Center for Women for her trip, and Student Affairs contributed to Nolan’s mission support fee. Looking forward to a full itinerary, Nolan said she was most excited to “learn about the merging of two vastly different cultures and how they come together to reach one economical deal. It’s a really interesting relationship we have with Mexico. On a business level I’m excited to see how I can impact and help this situation.”

After returning from Mexico, Nolan is slated to be the inaugural resident adviser for St. Thomas’ Aquinas Scholars Honors Living Learning Community.

Finding Answers – and Questions – Through Teaching and Research

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 1:16pm

When I originally came to St. Thomas over 30 years ago, I was not expected to be involved in substantive business and legal research, but over the past decade I have truly developed and enjoyed my research. As a faculty member at St. Thomas I believe my role encompasses teaching, research and service – balancing all three is just a matter of dedication and time management. I also believe that both faculty and students are researchers and learners. I am fortunate in that the courses I teach are aligned with my research interests. It is those courses that, in turn, further develop and deepen these interests. My research helps me because it is way of checking my ideas and seeing if I can make them practical and meaningful to my students.

Since becoming a faculty member at St. Thomas, I’ve developed three primary research streams: a) legal issues and performance-enhancing drugs in sport; b) legal issues in sport and risk management; and c) legal issues dealing with employment and trade secret law.

The business of sports is a multibillion-dollar global industry. My interest in legal issues and performance-enhancing drugs in sport comes from serving as one of the few members from the United States on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Often referred to as “Sport’s Supreme Court,” the CAS is an institution independent of any sports organization, which provides services to facilitate the settlement of sport-related disputes. The CAS does this through arbitration or mediation, by means of procedural rules adapted to the specific needs of the sport world. With less than 300 arbitrators from 87 countries throughout the world, these arbitrators are chosen for their specialist knowledge of arbitration and sports law.

While being part of the CAS has made it logical for me to conduct research in this area, I also have chosen this stream because I firmly believe that doping is a dangerous health risk for the youth of the world today. Doping is contrary to the basic principles of sport and fair play. Most recently I have been working on the need to consolidate and harmonize the fight to protect clean competition for athletes throughout the world. It is essential for the integrity of sport. From conference presentations and citations of my work, I have seen that my research has raised an awareness of the problem and has stimulated discussion and debate.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world … it has the power to inspire.” At the same time – as seen from the tragic events at the 2013 Boston Marathon – because sports are so strongly associated with American economy and culture, they have been considered significant targets of terrorism attacks. The heroic “Boston Strong” recovery showed that sport can truly inspire and unify. Yet I also believe it showed that there is a need for sport event managers to create a risk management plan. Risk management is more than just looking at potential losses; rather, it is important to emphasize that modern risk management is now structured around a comprehensive process for assessing and addressing risks.

In order to fully comprehend their legal responsibilities, event managers must gain an appreciation for the development of risk management plans specific to their activities. Risk management should be used to assist sport event managers in providing a reasonably safe environment for their contestants, guests and sponsors. As such, risk management may be perceived as constituting a fundamental way in which decision-makers solve problems. By possessing this awareness, event organizers may minimize the likelihood of future potential litigation that negatively impacts the reputation and financial considerations of the organization. Best practice models provide access to event processes that appear to describe the best ways of preparing, organizing and conducting an event.

My third area of research and teaching interest – employment and trade secret law – comes from my personal experience in business and law. I have been fortunate to be a member of a family business that is the premier source for structural steel bending in the United States. Additionally, in my private practice I had the opportunity to provide legal advice and counsel to clients in the areas of employment and business law.

I have been extremely fortunate to have the support of my chairs, the deans and the college to continue to expand my research. It is also exciting because my research is interdisciplinary and has given me the opportunity to work not only with colleagues in the Opus College of Business, but also with colleagues throughout the country – crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries of inquiry.

Finally, I firmly believe that my research has and will continue to enrich my teaching just as my teaching enhances my research. When I first came out of law school and graduate school and started teaching, I was foolish enough to think I knew the answers. Over the years, I have learned from my students and my research that I still may not know the questions. Life is a journey, so we can enjoy the ride.

Professor Dr. John Wendt teaches in the Opus College of Business Ethics and Business Law Department and has served as MBA director for Sports and Entertainment Management. 

From Exemplars, a publication of the Grants and Research Office.

Inspired by Educational Change

Concordia University Campus News - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 11:09am

When Layla Albdr (M.A. ’15) graduated from Concordia University, St. Paul with a degree in Education Leadership, it was a cause for celebration. While the degree itself is a huge accomplishment, it alone is not what sets Layla apart from her peers. Layla Albdr is from Saudi Arabia and is one of the first Saudi Arabian women to graduate from Concordia’s Education program. To earn her master’s degree, Layla had to travel thousands of miles from her home and family. She also had to learn English when she arrived in the United States. Only after she had accomplished these was she able to begin earning her degree – a degree that she feels will help her change the way Saudi Arabia educates its students.

Layla’s motivation to earn her degree from an American school stemmed from the learning environment at her Saudi university. According to Layla, a large problem with Saudi Arabian higher education is that many of the professors and doctors at the university are not Saudi citizens, but rather foreign teachers. Layla felt that her foreign teachers lacked understanding of her and her classmates and didn’t know how to effectively teach them. Cultural sensitivities and certain background knowledge of students are better understood by native teachers, such as the history of the nation or basic background about the religion of the students they taught. As she continued to attend school, Layla decided she wanted to get her degree in Education with the goal of instigating change.

Driven to obtain a better learning opportunity, Layla stayed in the city with her uncle through the summer while her family went on vacation, applying for workshops and seminars, and studying daily from 8:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. Her parents supported her dedication, and when she was accepted into the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) – a program that pays the majority of the cost of studying abroad for those who are accepted – her father “almost started crying, he was so happy and proud of me.”

Layla’s arrival at Concordia gave her a new experience. While her Saudi professors rarely acknowledged her contributions to classroom discussions, she said Concordia professors always made comments and made her feel like a welcome addition to the classroom environment. Layla plans to introduce the same style of inclusive teaching when she returns home. She has already been hired to start teaching at a university in Saudi Arabia as soon as she receives her PhD. 

Layla is excited to join other teachers at the university, including a handful of other female instructors, and to teach the Education program how she experienced it at Concordia. She will first continue her education in the United States in a doctorate program. Layla said that when she begins teaching, she will try to shift the focus of teaching to the students, making them the center of the education process. “They are a part of the community and should be treated that way,” she said. “The focus should be on them.”

Thanks to the support of Concordia, her professors, and her family, Layla not only overcame cultural, language, and learning style differences, she was also able to balance school and her growing family. Layla gave birth to two children while attending college, in what Layla agreed to be incredibly challenging timing. She gave birth to her first child during her first semester of studying English, and the second second arrived during the finals week of Layla’s first semester in the master’s program. Despite the additional challenges of balancing her growing family on top of the already-strenuous education process, Layla was able to succeed because both were so important to her. 

The unwavering support and encouragement of her family – especially her parents and husband – meant everything to Layla. “I don’t know how to thank them, especially my father,” she said. Though her family was thousands of miles away, they watched the entire commencement ceremony live online, cheering her on as she became a Concordia alumna and the proud owner of a master’s degree.

Written by Jaclyn Martini, CSP Marketing & Communications Intern

Top Authors for Children and Young Adults to Read at Hamline

Hamline University Campus News - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 12:00am
Prestigious children's authors from around the country, many of whom also teach in Hamline's Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, will offer free, public readings as part of the program's summer residency.

Nearly 350 alumni return to Winona during Reunion Weekend 2015

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:43pm

The stories got more interesting and the laughter got louder as the weekend went on. About 350 attendees enjoyed reconnecting with each other, as well as their alma mater during Saint Mary’s Reunion Weekend June 26-28.

A group of ’85 alumnae pose during Saturday’s picnic.

Alumni who hadn’t seen each other for decades reached out for firm handshakes and heartfelt hugs. Several alumni who hadn’t seen the Saint Mary’s campus since they graduated were amazed to see the growth of the university, as well as its extensive educational presence.

The weekend included tours of the bluffs and campus, a fun run for all ages, a canoeing excursion, a community luau picnic, a chance to build a mosaic masterpiece, trolley rides through Winona hot spots, and more. Winona alumni also held class reunions all over campus, throughout the downtown, and beyond. A lively Golden Reunion class gathered Friday evening, and Brother William presented them with special diplomas proclaiming mastery of “the art and science of life experiences.”

Brother William congratulates Bill Jungbauer

Saturday evening, special honors were given including: Distinguished Alumnus Award, William G. Jungbauer ’75, J.D. of North Oaks, Minn.; the Alumni Appreciation Award, William Herzog ’70 of Lakeville, Minn.; and the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Jennifer (Folgers) Baertsch ’05 of Winona.

Regardless of age, major, or location, alumni shared similar memories of excellent education, caring faculty, lifelong friendships, and a sense of community and belonging.

It was a weekend of rekindling friendships, telling (and occasionally embellishing) stories, and celebrating the successes of Saint Mary’s and its alumni.

Thanks go to all those who worked hard to prepare campus for these events. And thanks to everyone who attended; we hope you enjoyed your time with us, and we look forward to welcoming you home again soon!


Dr. Noel Shuell ’55, M’63 and and Brother Finbar McMullen ’46 reconnect after many years.

See more photos from the weekend!

Listen to this year’s alumni award recipients:





St. Kate's joins TPT-TV initiative to create new programming

St. Kate's Campus News - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 9:34am
ST. Kate's faculty are part of a new Twin Cities Public Television initiative awarded a $1.5 million NSF grant. More »

University of St. Thomas Wins Eureka! Award

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 8:24am

The University of St. Thomas has won a Eureka! Award through the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal in the category of Education for Squishy Circuits. Squishy Circuits, created through the Playful Learning Lab at St. Thomas, helps children learn about electronics and create circuits through dough. AnnMarie Thomas, associate professor in the School of Engineering and Opus College of Business, and director of the Playful Learning Lab, along with many St. Thomas undergraduates, spearheaded the project.

“It is a great feeling to watch my students, and our lab, get attention for their work,” Thomas said. “The Eureka! Award gives us a great excuse to pause and celebrate all of their hard work. … I am just so incredibly proud of the amazing students I get to work with.”

The 2015 Eureka! Awards highlighted 26 Minnesota organizations that bring “new ideas to the table to better serve their clients, employees and communities.” This is the second year Eureka! Awards have been distributed.

Squishy Circuits began in the Playful Learning Lab in 2009. The circuits, made with homemade conductive and insulating dough, can light LED lights, run motors and even create sound – so children using Squishy Circuits can learn about series and parallel circuits. Squishy Circuit’s website includes information on how to make the dough, build the circuits and also has the publications from the first students working on the project, including Sam Johnson ’12, who created the original recipe.

Squishy Circuits has grown in leaps and bounds since. Matt Schmidtbauer ’13 played a particularly important role in that growth. Schmidtbauer started, and still runs, as CEO and president, the Squishy Circuits Store. He has sold Squishy Circuits kits to more than 20 countries around the world.

“Although no longer a student researcher for Squishy Circuits, I continue to be a proponent of the program and am a firm believer that learning can be accomplished through playing and self-discovery,” Schmidtbauer wrote in 2014.

Squishy Circuits also was presented by St. Thomas students at the first National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C., in early June, and by students at the American Society for Engineering Education conference in Seattle, where Squishy Circuits was shown to PK-12 teachers.

Thomas said she hopes more people will continue to try Squishy Circuits and support Schmidtbauer in building his company, so that Squishy Circuits will be more accessible to people everywhere. She said they soon plan to unveil new products, projects and curricula.

Read the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal’s article on Squishy Circuits.

Introducing Runestone Literary Journal, Volume One

Hamline University Campus News - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 12:00am
Read the outstanding work of undergraduates from across the country in the premier issue of Runestone, an online journal compiled and edited by Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) students in The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline.

Saint Mary’s University GIS students to help find missing Minnesota fort

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 4:20pm

WINONA, Minn. — Today’s geospatial technology will soon be applied in the hunt for a 300-year-old historically significant site in Minnesota.

The Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota M.S. in Geographic Information Science (GIS) program has been awarded a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant in the amount of $8,800. The Minnesota Historical Society awarded the grant as part of efforts to find the historical location of Fort L’Huillier, believed to be located near Mankato, Minn.

Fort L’Huillier was founded by Pierre-Charles Le Sueur around 1700. Le Sueur had begun mining along the Blue Earth River, only to discover what he thought was copper ore was “blue” clay. When Le Sueur returned to the fort, he found it attacked and abandoned with no sign of the 20 original settlers.

As the years passed, the location of the fort was lost. Numerous attempts to locate the fort, between 1835 to 1987, have been unsuccessful. The site is considered historically significant because this French Contact Phase location is important in the early history of Minnesota and the Upper Minnesota Valley.

Last summer, Saint Mary’s students in the Advanced Modeling and Analysis GIS class, researched the fort’s location for about a week. The project fit perfectly with the course objectives: to explore “real-world” modeling scenarios with practical and applied scholarship.

This summer, as part of the MHS grant, students will begin validating and expanding upon previous research, examining historical oral accounts and written documents for spatial clues.

“We plan to bring some newer technology to this project,” said John Ebert, assistant professor and GIS program director. “We will go through historic documents to find any special components that provide tangible mapping clues such as unique elevations or descriptive accounts detailing the fort’s location, such as ‘southern exposure located on the west side of the Blue Earth River near an inner bank corner.’ If we can effectively correlate as many of these clues together in one location, it will give us the best information to determine where to conduct new site visits for archeological digs.”

Once Saint Mary’s GIS graduate students identify the greatest potential locations for the site, archeologists will begin field investigations, which could occur in mid fall. Bear Creek Archaeology of Cresco, Iowa, is assisting with the project.

Several Saint Mary’s graduate students will continue to work on the project beyond the class.

Ebert said the likelihood of finding the fort depends on a variety of conditions. For example, he said, flooding may have erased evidence of the area or it may now be a developed subdivision or industrial area where limited or no digging may be possible. Additionally, many historic documents contain contradictions, and in more than 300 years, stream paths and geologic sites have changed significantly, adding to the complexity.

“We could find it. We could find nothing at all. Or we could find evidence that leads to further investigation. I’m hoping for anything except that we do not find anything.

“It’s not a needle in a haystack, it’s a calculated needle in a haystack,” Ebert said. “But I’m hopeful.”


Photo caption: John Ebert, assistant professor and GIS program director of Saint Mary’s University, and GIS student Zaid Alkhayyal review documents.

University joins TPT initiative to create gender equity focused programming

St. Kate's Campus News - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 2:48pm
St. Kate’s faculty are part of a Twin Cities Public Television initiative awarded a $1.5 million grant. More »

A Welcome Change in Cuba

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 1:08pm

On Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, I was in my room in Hotel El Presidente in Havana, Cuba, when the scroll on CNN International read “Obama to announce Cuba policy overhaul at noon.” Wow, what timing!

My husband, Bill Flanigan, and I were in Havana to participate in a series of discussions with Cuban and U.S. scholars on “The Future of U.S.-Cuban Relations in the Last Two Years of the Obama Administration.”

The discussions recessed at noon to listen to the parallel speeches by President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro. The afternoon meetings were canceled in celebration. Many of us said it was a good thing the announcement was made on the final day of our meetings, because it immediately made everything said obsolete.

Was this a surprise? You bet. Just the evening before we all had attended a tribute to Wayne Smith, the head of the U.S. Interest Section in Havana from 1979-82, who had resigned from the Foreign Service during the Reagan administration to protest U.S. policy toward Cuba (and has worked since to change it).

The evening was organized by Josefina Vidal, the director general for the United States in the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations. Vidal is now the lead negotiator for the Cuban side in the bilateral talks to normalize relations. One of the (many) speakers at the tribute was the wife of Ramón Labañino, one of the Cuban Five still in prison in Florida who would be released in the prisoner exchange the next day.

During a lengthy evening of speeches by Cuban dignitaries, only one small, vague and largely unnoticed hint was dropped about the possibility of change in the near future. Our meetings were hosted by the Center for Research in International Politics (CIPI), the academic arm of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations, but our Cuban counterparts seemed as clueless about these unfolding events as we Americans.

The mood in Havana was one of cautious optimism, with unmitigated joy over the return of the remaining members of the Cuban Five, who are regarded as Heroes of the Revolution. Conversely, we recognized other potential policy openings in the past have come to naught.

In St. Thomas’ 16-year engagement with Cuba, we have been through some of those ups and downs, with varying consequences for our activities and programs.

Tommies in Cuba

In January 1999, then-President Father Dennis Dease and Miriam Williams, associate vice president for academic affairs, led a delegation of 17 St. Thomas faculty and administrators to the University of Havana and the Polytechnic Institute José Antonio Echevarría.

These initial contacts led to fruitful individual connections, some of which continue today, and it also set the stage for the “baseball exchange” that occurred a year later. The St. Thomas baseball team traveled to Cuba in January 2000 and the University of Havana team came to Minnesota the following May. Dease and University of Havana Rector Dr. Juan Vela Valdés also signed a formal academic exchange agreement during the January 2000 trip.

Jake Mauer poses with a Cuban baseball player during the Tommie baseball teams’ 1999 trip to Cuba. (Photo by Roger Rich)

The next four years saw vigorous activity in the exchange program. During that time, nine J-Term, summer and embedded spring break undergraduate and graduate classes were conducted in Cuba by St. Thomas faculty – in computer science, biology, history, theology, education and Spanish. St. Thomas faculty members offered lectures and workshops in GIS systems and software engineering. The Concert Band included Cuba in its performance tour of the Caribbean. Trustees and donors took medical supplies to Cuba and explored the art and architecture of Havana and other Cuban sites. Numerous Cuban scholars visited St. Thomas for a few days or as long as a semester. (Four Cubans, in the United States for meetings of the Latin American Studies Association, were stranded at St. Thomas for several days after Sept. 11, 2001.)

This robust activity reflected, in part, the state of relations between the United States and Cuba at that time. Cuba just was emerging from its Special Period, occasioned by the fall of the Soviet Union, a time when the economy was near collapse. The Cuban government looked to increase tourism and introduced a dual currency to attract and control the use of hard currency.

Even though the U.S. Congress had passed, and President Bill Clinton had signed into law, the Helms- Burton Act in 1996, further cementing the U.S. embargo against Cuba, migration talks had resulted in agreements to return fugitives to their countries.

The Elián Gonzalez episode, although a tense time – during which both halves of the baseball exchange took place – found ordinary Cubans pleased the U.S. government ultimately did the right thing and returned Elián to his father.

Carrying on academic exchange in this climate was not easy. The U.S. embargo required a number of conditions that had to be complied with or worked around. There was no direct mail service to Cuba; all financial transactions had to be in cash; telecommunications were primitive; and educational activities, sports activities and other economic transactions required special licensing from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Still, licenses were applied for and granted, and the exchange flourished.

A sudden, challenging shift

The 2004 election, with Florida’s electoral votes in play, possibly played a critical role in the June 2004 changes. The Bush administration tightened the regulations under which the Treasury Department allowed travel to Cuba for educational purposes.

The new requirements specified that courses offered in Cuba needed to be at least 10 weeks in length (eliminating J-Term courses, summer courses and week-long study abroad opportunities embedded in semester courses at the home institution).
All students in such programs were required to be degree-seeking students at the institution offering the course (eliminating all programs run by consortia of schools).

Together, these two provisions effectively shut down all academic courses offered by U.S. institutions. No institution reliably could find 15 to 20 of their own students interested in a full quarter or semester to study in Cuba.

The other half of the exchange – the flow of Cubans to the United States – also was effectively turned off. The Cuban government always had been reluctant to allow undergraduate students to come to the United States under the exchange. (The baseball exchange had been an exception – but the defection of the Cuban second baseman from the team illus- trates the reason for the Cubans’ concern.) But, as noted above, Cuban faculty members regularly had come for periods up to a semester to give lectures or do research at St. Thomas.

Along with the tightening of regulations by the Treasury Department, the State Department began to regularly deny visas to Cuban scholars coming to U.S. universities or attending international conferences such as the Latin American Studies Association’s meetings.

In this environment, St. Thomas tried to keep the spirit of the exchange alive. We kept our Treasury license for educational activities in Cuba current, even though it was virtually impossible to have any such educational activities. We continued to offer official invitations to Cuban scholars, despite knowing their visas would be denied. We cooperated in developing a lawsuit challenging the regulations, even though it was ultimately decided not to become a party to the suit. I made several trips to Havana to give talks on U.S. politics, to meet with Cuban colleagues and administrators at the University of Havana, and to remind them they were not forgotten.

As time went on and more Cuban scholars were denied visas, the Cuban university officials began to deny permission for them to apply – an interview at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana costs $100 U.S.; the average monthly salary of a faculty member is the equivalent of $30 U.S. The University of Havana simply couldn’t throw away that kind of money on a process that seemed destined to fail.

When this happened, St. Thomas – and I believe we were the only university to do this – offered to pay the interview costs for those scholars we wanted to invite to visit us. An insurmountable cost for the Cubans; a small price for St. Thomas. As a result, when, in August 2008, the State Department issued visas to Cubans again, St. Thomas had two invited scholars in the pipeline able to be on campus fall semester 2008.

A welcome change

Why the abrupt change? Who knows? Perhaps the State Department saw the handwriting on the wall for the November election. In any event, in 2009 the Treasury Department issued new regulations regarding travel to Cuba. The biggest changes had to do with family visits, greatly increasing the ease and frequency with which Cuban-Americans could visit family in Cuba. These new regulations also relaxed restrictions on travel for educational purposes.

Gone were the onerous requirements that prevented short courses and consortia arrangements. Accredited institutions now could conduct educational programs under a general license from the Treasury (that does not need to be applied for), rather than applying for a specific license that might be subject to bureaucratic delays or denials. Full-time and part-time faculty and administrators may travel under the general license for allowed educational purposes.

Under the liberalized 2009 regulations, St. Thomas’ engagement with Cuba began to revive. In January 2014, professors Don Miller and Sonia Rey Montejo of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages led 18 students in an Ethnicity, Multicul- turalism and Globalization in Cuban Society J-Term course in Havana. Professor Adam Kay of the Biology Department and professor Father Jean-Pierre Bongila of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Administration have traveled to Cuba to explore the possibility of conducting courses there.

In 2013, the Raul Castro regime eliminated the requirement that Cubans apply for exit visas to leave Cuba. This change swiftly led to St. Thomas welcoming our first undergraduate exchange student from Cuba and the first Cuban recipient of the Lee and Penny Anderson Scholarship for Caribbean Students, Giselle Garcia Castro, who attended St. Thomas for the 2013-14 academic year.

Potential and caution

The announcements of Dec. 17, 2014, and new regulations issued by the Treasury quickly thereafter, didn’t change the situation for our exchange programs much – except perhaps to make the competition for seats on the few charter flights to Cuba more intense. Faculty will be able to attend conferences in Cuba more easily – and they will now be able to bring back $100 worth of Cuban cigars and rum! The greater significance is in the signaling of a changed mindset – in Washington, in the media, in the business community, in the general public – that it’s time to think differently about this neighbor 90 miles to our south, and to engage with that nation in a different way.

Havana in 1999. (Photo by Roger Rich)

The road ahead certainly will have some bumps and detours. President Obama’s announcement and the executive actions he can take have changed the conversation and can lift a number of restrictions on commercial and financial transactions. Removing Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism was a significant move and will en- able financial institutions to conduct transactions with Cuba without penalty. What President Obama cannot do is formally lift the embargo on Cuba or allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for tourism purposes. Those items are specified in statute and only can be changed by Congress. Given the intense opposition held by Cuban-American legislators and their key positions in the House and Senate and in both political parties (most critically, the Republican Party), don’t expect to be basking on the beaches of Varadero any time soon.

Short of action by Congress, other steps can be taken to improve relations and are the subject of the bilateral talks between the two countries. Cooperation in areas such as drug interdiction and hurricane warn- ing systems quietly have been going on for years, and current talks on migration issues and human traffick- ing are in the interests of both countries to resolve. Providing better access to telecommunications is a two-edged sword for the Cuban side – important for economic development but undermining the govern- ment’s ability to control access to outside sources of information.

In the U.S. press, the opposition of the Cuban- American hardliners is portrayed as the biggest roadblock to the normalization of relations. The issue of national sovereignty is less often acknowledged, but perhaps just as likely to derail negotiations. Ever since the U.S. Congress passed the Platt Amendment in 1901, the U.S. government believes it has the right to tell Cuba how to conduct its domestic affairs, including what kind of government it should have and how to carry out elections. If you are Cuban, you don’t have to be a Communist hardliner to resent that attitude. The longstanding U.S. commitment to a policy of “regime change” in Cuba may lead to one side or the other pulling back from normalizing relations.

In the meantime, Cubans view the future of U.S.-Cuban relations with cautious optimism, and the University of St. Thomas looks forward to continuing re-engagement with our Cuban partners.

When I returned to St. Thomas from Havana in December, I brought back many expressions of appreciation – to Pope Francis for hosting and encouraging the conversations leading up to the Dec. 17 announcement; to Dease and many among the U.S. clergy and hierarchy for their support of better relations between Cuba and the United States; and to St. Thomas for keeping the faith and maintaining our contacts through difficult years.

Read more from St. Thomas magazine.

Saint John’s Abbey receives Getty Foundation grant to support Abbey and University Church

The grant will assist in drawing a comprehensive plan for the restoration, preservation and maintenance/upkeep of the Abbey and University Church.

Paving the way in research for male school nurses

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 11:29am

When Tom Stinson began the literary review for his doctoral dissertation topic—male school nurses working in public schools—he found almost no existing research to study.

That just meant he would have to create his own.

As just one of three males out of 130 school nurses serving the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Anoka school districts, Stinson is nearly one-of-a-kind. He knew why he enjoyed his job—the daily challenges, the independence, the chance to help young people—but he wanted to find out the motivations of his colleagues as well. And after interviewing 10 male school nurses and creating a phenomenological study for his Ed.D. in Leadership, he found that their reasons for getting into the field were very similar to his.

“I could see myself in their answers,” Stinson said. “I didn’t interject my view into the dissertation. But I could tell why people do this: the daily challenge, the independence, the opportunity to work with kids.”

His study also revealed that the challenges are similar among “urban school nurses,” a term that Stinson coined himself. Poverty, language and cultural barriers, and increasing medical needs are making urban school nursing a challenging profession.

“Lower-income kids see nurses more than anybody,” Stinson said. “Lack of insurance, transportation, those are big factors. The language barrier can be a struggle, too. In my school, it would not be uncommon to need an interpreter to speak four different languages all in the same day.

“Then you have the increasing needs,” he said. “I’ve been an urban school nurse for 20 years, and 18 years ago I never saw diabetes in my students. Now, I might have to give insulin at school, and I might have to give students diabetes treatment 100–150 times a year, while they’re seeing their doctor just three times a year. There’s a part in the dissertation that connects these three core challenges, all reiterated by my study participants.”

With more needs comes more frequent care, but Stinson embraces it. He became a school nurse because he wanted to make a direct impact with the student population, and that impact was reflected in his research.

“We all build relationships with students over the years, and that helps us provide better care to the kids,” Stinson said. “After 100 visits, I can call a student’s parents for the 20th time. Every year I get 500 new kids and it starts over again.”

The overarching motivator to join the profession for Stinson’s study participants was a chance to work with kids. For Stinson, after initially planning to become a principal, he realized how nursing better fit his goals—and how pursuing an Ed.D. would make him even more skilled.

“I thought I could run a school pretty well,” he said. “I got my master’s in Educational Administration from Saint Mary’s, and I realized that I wanted the most impact possible. As a nurse, I get to have the one-on-ones with students as well as the group- and classroom-based interactions. Everything I did with my Ed.D. was around school nursing. I wanted to become a better nurse who could make my profession better.”

After completing his dissertation in 2014, Stinson’s project has become a model of excellence for both nursing students and Ed.D. students in general. That kind of recognition is extremely rewarding for someone who put so much work into his studies.

“There are some students who call me and they want to read my dissertation—that’s humbling,” Stinson said. “For me, for someone to look at my work in order to do their work, that’s so cool. My sweat and blood is in that document. I was told that my dissertation would be read throughout the world, and that’s pretty powerful.’”

Looking back, Stinson insists that he owes much of his success to his adviser, Dr. Rich Germundson, who provided him with close guidance through the entire doctoral process.

“(My adviser) and I met on a regular basis from the day I started to the day I graduated,” Stinson said. “I wanted the individual attention, and I got it; we had a phenomenal relationship.”

Literary Archaeology: Uncovering the Lives and Works of Victorian Women Writers

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 8:29am

In 1845, Eliza Lynn Linton, age 23, persuaded her father to provide the funds necessary to spend a year in London writing her first novel. As she departed from her Cumberland home, she reflected, “My choice was made. … And thus and forever broke down my dependence on the old home and set my face towards the Promised Land – the land where I was to find work, fame, liberty, and happiness.”

I always have been fascinated by the women who risked everything to pursue the literary life during the Victorian era. Some, like Linton, found success: By 1848, she had published two novels and was working as a staff writer for the Morning Chronicle. Other women writers toiled in obscurity, writing articles, stories and poems for a largely anonymous periodical press. Over the years I have been inspired to tell their stories – to illuminate the barriers and opportunities women encountered as they negotiated a male-dominated literary marketplace.

My first book, First-Person Anonymous: Women Writers and Victorian Print Media (2004), explored the lives and works of five of these writers: George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Harriet Martineau, Christina Rossetti and Christian Johnstone. As I researched their stories, I was struck by the significant role periodical journalism played in enabling their careers. Eliot and Johnstone served as editors of major periodicals, and Gaskell, Rossetti and Martineau published their first works in small-circulation journals.

The convention of anonymous and pseudonymous publication enabled them to write on topics usually off-limits to women writers of the period, including politics, economics and science. When publishing their fiction in periodicals, they adopted many of the narrative strategies associated with the periodical press. For example, Elizabeth Gaskell’s early stories published in Howitt’s Journal have much the same radical perspective and philanthropic zeal as the other contents of the magazine.

The periodical press not only provided women with new venues and narrative strategies for their work but also enabled them to market themselves as literary celebrities. My second book, Literary Celebrity, Gender, and Victorian Authorship (2011), explored the ways in which women were able to use the expansion of celebrity media to further their own careers and retell British history on their own terms. I also examined the role of male and female literary celebrities in the formation of British national identity. As Victorians toured the homes and haunts of famous writers, they developed a sense of shared national heritage. At the same time, by reading sensational accounts of writers’ lives, they were able to reconsider conventional gender roles and domestic arrangements.

I discovered that literary celebrity was utilized for other purposes as well, including the professionalization of medicine, the development of the open space movement and the formation of the literary canon.

My interest in the intersections between Victorian literature and journalism led me to a long-running association with the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals. In 2012, I was elected to edit the organization’s journal, Victorian Periodicals Review, a peer-reviewed scholarly publication founded in 1968.

Assuming an editorial role has enabled me to deepen my understanding of the field and has provided new opportunities for mentoring colleagues and students. Each spring VPR hosts a lecture by an emerging scholar whose work has appeared in the journal. Last semester, for example, Dr. Erika Berisch Elce, from the Royal Military College of Canada, gave an engaging lecture on shipboard periodicals edited by sailors on Victorian polar expeditions. Each year VPR also offers a paid editorial assistantship that gives graduate students the opportunity to gain practical experience in the editing field.

I integrate study of Victorian journalism into many of the courses I teach. For example, in my graduate Victorian literature course last spring, students studied Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861) in relation to its serial publication in All the Year Round, using full-text electronic databases to explore intersections between the novel and other contents of the magazine. This semester, each student in my women’s literature undergraduate course is researching a forgotten woman writer – one of the multitude of Victorian authors whose stories are waiting be told. My mission is to inspire the next generation of literary archaeologists, helping them uncover rare cultural materials while teaching them new strategies for interdisciplinary inquiry.

I will of course be researching and writing right along with them. This year I am at work on a number of projects, including an article on Eliza Cook, a working-class woman poet who was immensely popular from 1845 to 1865, though she is rarely remembered today. Cook founded her own journal in 1849 and played an instrumental role in facilitating the careers of fellow writers and artists. I am inspired by her prolific literary output, her outspoken feminism and her commitment to mentoring others. I look forward to sharing my discoveries with UST students and the wider scholarly community.

Professor Dr. Alexis Easley teaches in the Department of English at UST. 

From Exemplars, a publication of the Grants and Research Office.

ACTC Moves to Distributed Model of Collaboration

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 1:30pm

As of July 1, 2015, The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities will move to a distributed model of collaboration relying on the participating schools, rather than a central office, to coordinate and foster academic and business collaborations.

Augsburg College, Hamline University, Macalester College, St. Catherine University and St. Thomas jointly founded ACTC 40 years ago to provide opportunities for a students enrolled at one institution to take classes at any of the others. The association expanded to provide other opportunities for collaboration, including joint procurement of supplies as a cost-saving measure.

In recent years, it has become more challenging to financially sustain the centralized ACTC business model. The association’s board of directors decided recently to eliminate a central office and have individual campuses coordinate on-going and future collaborative programs.

Four essential functions will remain among the schools – cross-registration for classes, academic units sharing resources to enhance programs, tuition remission for children of faculty and staff, and joint procurement efforts.

“We are committed to continue programs that have been the backbone of ACTC for more than four decades,” said St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan, a member of the association’s board. “Our new business model will allow us to do this in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.”

Below is a letter from Sister Andrea Lee, president of St. Catherine and chair of the ACTC board, explaining the decision:

Dear colleagues and friends of ACTC,

More than 40 years ago, the five founding institutions of the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities joined together to create expanded academic opportunities for students, while allowing them to remain fully enrolled at their home school. ACTC also made other collaborative opportunities available for faculty and staff, as well as for the institutions themselves. Today, this longstanding partnership remains a strong draw for admission and retention of students and continues to benefit faculty and staff. At the same time, the ACTC business model has become increasingly unsustainable from a financial perspective. To make our broad array of courses and programs available to all students while conserving limited resources, we must look forward … and we must change.

Over the last few months, at the request of the ACTC Board of Directors, the ACTC Joint Councils and the Executive Director developed and proposed a new operating model. After careful deliberation, the Board – the presidents of the five participating institutions – approved the recommendation of the Joint Council of Chief Academic and Chief Financial Officers to transition ACTC to a model of distributed collaboration.

With this new model, current ACTC-sponsored programs and any future collaborative programs will be coordinated at individual campuses instead of by a central office. Individual institutions may choose to participate or not participate in any program. These changes will afford each institution greater autonomy and flexibility regarding participation and expense sharing in that:

  • Institutions can opt-in or opt-out of programs based on mission, vision and strategic priorities;
  • Programs will continue to be coordinated by inter-campus committees, with administrative support coming from one of participating campuses, including that institution’s Academic and/or Business office as needed; and
  • Institutions will pay only for the programs in which they participate. Direct expenses will be minimized through the use of in-kind or bartered transactions and overhead costs will be reduced.
  • This new model will open doors for our associate members to participate in existing programs and to work with participating Chief Academic Officers to develop new initiatives.

While many questions, decisions, and actions remain, one thing is certain: the four pillars of our collaborative activities will continue, as envisioned four decades ago and sustained today. Those pillars are:

  • Cross registration: affording students greater access to courses, programs and majors than they have at any single institution;
  • Academic collaborations: sharing resources to enhance high-quality academic offerings;
  • Tuition remission: providing significant cost savings to faculty and staff; and
  • Joint procurement: optimizing financial resources for all participating institutions.

Transition into this new, distributed collaboration model will begin July 1, 2015 with direction and assistance from the ACTC Executive Director, Carole Chabries. Faculty and staff currently engaged in collaborative activities will receive a direct message from the ACTC offices about the status of their programs and next steps.

I want to take this more public opportunity to thank Dr. Chabries and her dedicated staff. Their work, their good energy, and extraordinary professionalism over these past several years, and especially during these last few challenging months, have been admirable. In addition to celebrating their years of exceptional service, I applaud their innovative spirit and support in building strong rapport across the campuses. The presidents have ensured that the ACTC staff will receive appropriate transition assistance as we move to a new model of collaboration. We wish each the brightest of futures.

The leaders who envisioned ACTC forty years ago were women and men of vision and foresight. May this moment of change bring to the participating institutions, and to each person and program that is or has been part of ACTC’s long years of success, as yet-unimagined opportunities for growth and graced evolution.

Most sincerely,
Andrea Lee, IHM
President, St. Catherine University
Chair, ACTC Board of Directors

Tommie Traditions: Food for Fines

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 7:00pm

While St. Thomas libraries have a long, rich tradition of researching, writing and reflecting within their walls, students still often check out books – yes, real paperbound books. As most people can empathize, research papers require more hours than anticipated, resulting in quickly accumulating fines on overdue books – an unfortunate scenario for college-kid budgets.

Nathan Wunrow, St. Thomas libraries billing coordinator, noticed these accumulating fines, and so, in spring 2009, he led the launch of what has become a Tommie tradition: Food for Fines.

The idea is simple, yet poignant: Patrons donate non-perishable food items to satisfy any outstanding fines on their library account. The annual collection typically begins at the beginning of Library Week – around mid-April – and runs through the end of the spring semester. The collected food is donated to neighborhood charities, which have included the Franciscan Brothers of Peace and the Francis Basket Food Shelf. Since spring 2013, Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul (formerly known as Saint Paul Area Council of Churches) has received the donations.

Food for Fines originally was conceptualized as graduating students’ last chance to alleviate their overdue fines through donations, in which every can given relieved $2 in fines. This year, St. Thomas libraries emphasized that all – not just those with fines – could (and should!) donate.

Wunrow advertises Food for Fines through the library’s social media outlets, signage in departments and dorms around campus, digital advertisements in the Anderson Student Center and an email sent to all current UST library patrons with outstanding fines. Students (as well as faculty and staff) deliver their food to collection boxes in either the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library or the Archbishop Ireland Memorial Library. In recent years, students have rallied their peers with donation boxes in their residence halls.

In the past seven years, St. Thomas libraries and their patrons have donated more than 3,700 pounds of food.

Rebecca Harstad of Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul, 2015’s Food for Fines recipient, recently told Wunrow: “O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library is amazing! … We are very fortunate to have you as our neighbor!”

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