Recent News from Campuses

Museum Namesake Rev. Richard Hillstrom ’38 (1915-2014)

Gustavus Campus News - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 4:23pm

A photo of Rev. Richard Hillstrom, taken at Thrivent Financial by Stan Waldhauser ’71.

The Rev. Richard Hillstrom ’38, a generous benefactor of the College and the namesake of the College’s Hillstrom Museum of Art, passed away in the morning hours of Tuesday, Dec. 16 at the age of 99.

Hillstrom majored in English and history at Gustavus and went on to graduate from Augustana Seminary in Rock Island, Ill., in 1942. He took a pastoral position in Gary, Ind., and worked there for five years before returning to Minnesota in 1947 to accept a position at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Hillstrom spent a majority of his pastoral career—a 30-year stint—as the chaplain at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul before retiring in 1982.

Upon retiring from ministry, Hillstrom turned to his other passion: art. He became the art acquisitions curator at Lutheran Brotherhood (now Thrivent Financial) in Minneapolis and went on compile a large religious art collection that at one time was named by Art & Auction magazine as one of the best 101 corporate art collections in America.

Hillstrom also had a large personal collection of art and over the years donated more than 250 paintings, drawings, and prints that make up the permanent collection of the Hillstrom Museum of Art. In addition to donating many works of art, Hillstrom also made significant monetary donations to create an endowment for the Museum, providing funds that allow the Museum to acquire additional artworks. In May of 2012, Hillstrom received the College’s Sesquicentennial Award in recognition of his support for the Hillstrom Museum of Art.

“Rick was remarkably generous, and many institutions benefitted from his donations including the Minnesota Institute of Art, the Weisman, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the American Swedish Institute, the Minnesota Historical Society and others,” said Don Myers, Director of the Hillstrom Museum of Art. “I admired Rick greatly, both for his deep and self-taught knowledge of art and the works and artists in his collection, and also for his supportive friendship.”

A funeral service for Hillstrom will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20 at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church. More details will be posted as they become available.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas

Gustavus Named a 2015 Best Value College by <i>Kiplinger’s Personal Finance</i>

Gustavus Campus News - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 4:09pm

Gustavus Adolphus College has once again been recognized by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance for combining outstanding academics with affordable cost. The publication named Gustavus the 16th best college value in the Midwest and the 42nd best value among liberal arts colleges in the country, when it released its annual rankings on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

“Ensuring that Gustavus students continue to receive an excellent education while maintaining affordability for families is a top priority of mine and the Board of Trustees,” Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman said. “We are proud of the fact that Gustavus continues to be recognized as one of the best values in the country among institutions of higher education.”

Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to measurable standards, including the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for their sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio, and the four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker prices, financial aid, and average debt at graduation. Gustavus has an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio, a four-year graduation rate of 82 percent, and has a freshmen retention rate of 91 percent.

“We salute this year’s top schools,” said Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Balancing top-quality education with affordable cost is a challenge for families in today’s economy, which is why Kiplinger’s rankings are such a valuable resource. The schools on the 2015 list offer students the best of both worlds.”

The Top 25 Best College Values in the Midwest and the Top 100 Best College Values Among Liberal Arts Colleges lists are both available online. More information is also available online at The rankings will also appear in the February 2015 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, which will hit newsstands on January 6, 2015.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas

CSB, SJU both named to service honor roll

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognizes CSB and SJU for fourth consecutive year.

Celebrating a Concordia Christmas Tradition

Concordia College Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:00pm
As Christmas draws near, enjoy this look back at 88 years of Concordia Christmas Concerts.

MPR to Broadcast ‘Healing Through Story’ Program Friday, Dec. 19

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:22pm

A recording of “Healing Through Story,” a program that was held at the University of St. Thomas on Dec. 9, will be broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio News Presents at noon and again at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19.

The program can be heard on MPR’s news and information station, KNOW, at 91.1 FM.

After the program has been broadcast, it can be heard online at the MPR News Presents archives.

“Healing Through Story” featured Kevin Kling, Cathy Wurzer and Matthew Sanford and was co-sponsored by Health Partners, Mind Body Solutions and the Project for Mindfulness and Contemplation at St. Thomas.

Teaching in the Age of the Jetsons

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:49pm

When we talk about the future, it’s easy to fall back on jokes about jet packs and flying cars. But in the real world, how do we know when the future has arrived, particularly when it comes to learning environments? We know that it should be different from the inflexible old models of the past: no more rigidly structured rooms with rows of seated students, passively receiving information from an instructor standing at the front. But beyond that, what does a “classroom of the future” look like?

The business landscape of 2014 looks very little like that of 1980; consequently, business education in 2014 should look different, too, to suit the new world of networked, collaborative creativity.

Imagine a space that is designed to encourage an exchange of ideas – everything is maximized for interaction and to foster creativity. The chairs and walls are colorful and complementary, giving the space a feeling of energy. The instructor’s podium is on wheels and is placed at the center or off to the side because there’s no longer a formal front of the room. Students move seamlessly among presentations, large group discussions and small group work, sliding chairs or work stations on casters into new configurations. Rows are banished in favor of clusters of desks or even a giant X formation for better sight lines to classmates and screens. Students have access to whiteboards, huddleboards (markerboards on easels) and multiple screens placed at different vantage points throughout the room or at their own tables.

Working independently is the exception, not the rule, because this new environment is maximized for group analysis and problem-solving. Everyone is expected to contribute.

These learning centers are now a reality in two newly redesigned classrooms and a lab in the Opus College of Business. Formerly configured as traditional classrooms, they have been transformed into spaces that foster active, peer-to-peer learning, freedom of movement for instructors and quick transitions.

The project was a collaborative effort among faculty from each academic department in the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, and staff from Steelcase, General Office Products and A/V partner Marco. Planning for the classrooms began in October 2013 and installation was complete by January 2014, making the rooms available for the first day of spring semester.

In Schulze Hall, two undergraduate entrepreneurship courses and four graduate courses in finance, economics, operations and management were held in the “low tech” room, and the Entrepreneurship Lab offered three undergraduate entrepreneurship courses. The “high tech” classroom in Terrence Murphy Hall hosted two sections of a graduate course in new venture finance as well as a graduate elective in marketing and business communication.

The classrooms are a direct response to the way workplaces, and the world, are changing, becoming collaborative and networked environments that often rely on a team approach to solving complex problems. The days of employees spending the majority of their time working independently at desks is already an outdated notion at some innovative companies.

“The classrooms were developed in response to surveys – one focused on technology use and the other on teaching style – in which faculty shared concerns about current classroom configurations,” said Lisa Burke, director of technology in the Opus College of Business, who was part of the planning effort. “There needed to be spaces for innovation that would allow us to determine which elements in them are the most successful and transfer them to the design of other learning spaces.”

The group decided it was imperative that the rooms be geared toward sharing and group work, disrupting the old model of an instructor standing in front and lecturing to students. Here, podiums are on wheels and can be raised or lowered so they work anywhere in the room. Students can slide mobile work stations together or stand at huddleboards to capture ideas and easily share them with the rest of the room. The screen of any laptop or mobile device can be shown on the digital screens at tables in the “high tech” room, as well as to the projectors at the front of the room. Whiteboards can be displayed on rolling carts or hung on the wall. In one room, students write directly on a wall covered with IdeaPaint, essentially making the entire surface one giant whiteboard.

Laura Dunham, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Entrepreneurship Department, who taught in the classrooms last spring, noticed that the boards greatly altered the dynamics of her classroom activities. “Now, instead of having small groups hovering around one student with a notepad, all the students are up and working together to add their ideas on the whiteboards,” Dunham said.

“Their work is much more visible. For the group, this stimulates more discussion and debate. The end result is that their analysis becomes much richer and there is more active engagement among all members of the group. As an instructor, it means I can keep better track of each group’s work. I can see who is struggling and needs a little extra guidance, as well as those who are sailing through it.”

Of course, technology plays a key role in each of the rooms. A control station (hub) is placed at the side of the room so its presence is supplemental to learning, not front and center. Stations include document cameras, Sharp 3-D Blu-Ray Disc players, Crestron Digital Media Presentation Systems, wireless keyboards and high-definition Crestron tabletop touch screens.

In the “low-tech” classroom, students sit at tables and chairs outfitted with casters so they can move into various configurations for group work or make it easier to watch presentations on one of the three screens in the room. Projectors are ceiling-mounted along with eight speakers. The “high tech” classroom features Steelcase’s media:scape technology, which allows students to sit at one of five tables with a shared digital display and pucks for plugging in laptops to share content, creating a “walk up and connect” environment.

“With displays at every table that could show my lecture slides with the touch of a button, I felt more free to walk around the room as I was lecturing without feeling like I was forcing students to decide between watching me versus looking at what was at the front of the room,” said Aaron Sackett, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, who taught in the “high tech” classroom last spring. “More importantly, it allowed more flexibility when we broke into teams or groups for discussion or assignments.”

In Sackett’s persuasion class, each graduate student is required to present once during the semester and then lead a discussion for about 20 to 30 minutes. Two or three of these presentations per week take up a considerable amount of class time, but the technology and organization of the room allowed him to run multiple student presentations at one time. “Students could still use their laptops or tablets to display visual aids on-screen at their station, and I was able to move from station to station easily,” he said. “The end result was a more intimate presentation and discussion setting for students, and a much more efficient use of class time.”

The classrooms can be seen as incubators, providing a place where students can both sharpen their ability to analyze problems and information and make meaningful contributions to group work. “Because the format in these classrooms is so much more transparent (each group’s analysis goes up on small whiteboards that are readable throughout the room)[students] push themselves harder,” Dunham said. “They dig deeper to understand the problem and think through their analysis and recommendations. And I can track their work and intervene sooner to provide feedback if needed or help explain a tool or framework they are using.” Dunham added that it also makes everyone more accountable – the visibility of working with whiteboards or sharing laptop screens means no one can opt out of contributing without it being apparent to their team and to the instructor.

Sackett agreed, saying, “I think the technology allowed for students to work more collaboratively with each other on many assignments and tasks, and it allowed for smaller, more intimate discussion groups. As a result, they spent more time developing their problem-solving skills with others as a team, rather than working independently.”

As with any endeavor, the classrooms are a work-in-progress. Student and instructor feedback after the first semester called attention to many positives as well as chances to improve functionality and comfort. Casey Arends, a UST MBA student who had classes in two of the remodeled rooms, said that, for him, technology remains secondary to a professor who actively engages students and provides opportunities for them to share their experiences and learn from each other. However, he added that he “enjoyed the small-group tables because I really got to know the people I was sitting with much better than I would in a traditional classroom. In terms of the technology, I thought the ability of students to display their desktops was helpful and made group work much easier.”

The process of bringing the future to the classroom is an iterative one. Issues in the rooms with media:scape and wireless presentation technology already have been addressed and further refinements to furniture and ways to use the spaces are planned. “The expectation is that we will refine what’s in these rooms as technology evolves and assess their effectiveness and impact as we go,” Burke said. “We want to provide the optimal experience for both our students and instructors.”

Read more from B. Magazine.

A Christmas Tradition

It wouldn't be Christmas at Saint John's University without a giant white spruce tree in the Great Hall. This video gives an inside look at what it takes to make the Christmas tradition come to life.

Sales program senior to deliver student commencement address

St. Kate's Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:11am
Sasha DeMarre will deliver the winter 2014 commencement student speaker address. More »

Urban Flower Field Wins 2014 Great Places Award

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:59am

Art and science came together to create an award-winning project.

Urban Flower Field, a collaboration between Public Art St. Paul and the environmental science program at the University of St. Thomas, received a Great Places award Wednesday, Dec. 10, from the Sensible Land Use Coalition. The award recognizes places open to the public in the seven-county metro area that are memorable, transformational and elevate function to art.

Urban Flower Field was designed by Public Art St. Paul artist-in-residence Amanda Lovelee . It is located on the corner of Robert and 10th streets in downtown St. Paul. Other award winners were the IDS Crystal Court, the St. Paul Farmers Market, the Midtown Greenway and Wirth Beach.

St. Thomas students Liz Scherber and Hunter Gaitan played central roles in the development of Urban Flower Field. Along with their faculty collaborator Dr. Adam Kay, Scherber and Gaitan developed an environmental science experiment that is embedded in the public art. The research is testing whether plant biodiversity increases “phytoremediation” – the ability of plants to remove soil contaminants. Urban Flower Field contains several species of wildflowers, including blue indigo and crimson thriller sunflowers.

The work is funded in part by a Young Scholars grant to Gaitan from UST’s Grants and Research Office. In addition to the research, UST students helped develop numerous community engagement activities, including stone painting, art-science discussions and a film showing.

The Urban Flower Field project is set to continue through summer 2015. Read more about it.

Fairview executive to deliver commencement address

St. Kate's Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:51am
Nationally-recognized health care leader Carolyn Wilson will deliver the address at winter commencement ceremonies. More »

Theology Faculty Member Named Lautenschlaeger Award Recipient

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:03am

Mark McInroy, assistant professor of theology in the Theology Department at the University of St. Thomas, has been named a recipient of the 2015 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, formerly known as the John Templeton Prize for Theological Promise.

The annual award is presented to a select group of young scholars in recognition of outstanding doctoral or first post-doctoral works that address God and spirituality.

The Lautenschlaeger Award will be presented at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) in May 2015 to 10 scholars from around the world. The presentation will be followed by a colloquium at the Internationales Wissenschaftsforum of the university.

McInroy and other award recipients will present and discuss their upcoming projects with Heidelberg colleagues and members of the board of external evaluators, which consists of an international, interdisciplinary board of distinguished scholars from different countries and disciplines. Award winners also will have the chance to propose an international and interdisciplinary colloquium on an academic topic.

McInroy joined the theology faculty at St. Thomas in 2011. His research and teaching focus on 20th century Catholic theology, especially the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner, as well as ecumenical theology, including Christian understandings of salvation.

McInroy’s book, Balthasar on the Spiritual Senses: Perceiving Splendour, published by Oxford University Press in 2014, addresses a neglected aspect of Balthasar’s theology, namely the role of transfigured human perception in his theological aesthetics.

Fall Issue of <i>Firethorne</i> Released

Gustavus Campus News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:42pm

The cover art for the Fall 2014 issue of Firethorne is titled “Yurtview” by first-year student Tyler Brower.

The Fall 2014 issue of Firethorne—the student literary and graphic arts magazine at Gustavus Adolphus College—was released Friday, Dec. 12 at a release party in the Courtyard Café.

The 54-page issue highlights 20 different works from 11 different authors and artists. The issue also includes an interview with Gustavus Professor of English Joyce Sutphen, who is also Poet Laureate for the State of Minnesota. Students published in this edition of Firethorne include Lily Benge Briggs ’17, Tyler Brower ’18, Katie Feterl ’15, Laura Isdahl ’17, Max Mlinar ’16, Luk O’Connor ’18, Sophie Panetti ’17, Joel Stremmel ’16, Mikaela Warner ’16, Elizabeth Weiers ’15, and Julie Xiong ’15.

Firethorne encourages a variety of submissions, including poetry, short stories, memoirs, nonfiction essays, photographs, drawings, graphic short stories, spoken word, lyrics, dramas, short screenplays, excerpts of novellas, creative essays, images of student sculptures, and other fine art. Submissions are reviewed and evaluated anonymously by Firethorne staff based on creativity, originality, and artistic value. The staff received more than 90 submissions for this fall’s issue.

Firethorne staff members this year include Managing Editor Elisabeth Krane, Organizational Manager Elizabeth Lutz, Layout Editor Thi Hoang, Promotions Assistant Erika Clifton, Prose Section Editor John Poblocki, Poetry Section Editor Aaron Lawrence, Art Section Editor Blake Van Oosbree, Prose Editors Avery Maijala, August Jasnoch, Laura Isdahl, Kjerstin Piper, and Sydney Seewald, Poetry Editors Molly Butler, Max Mlinar, Lauren Pauley, Emma Schmitke, and Jack Laingen, and Art Editors Rebecca Vick, Erika Clifton, Cameron Jarvis, Maren Legeros, Allie Wetterlin, and Thi Hoang. The Firethorne faculty advisor is Associate Professor of English Baker Lawley.

Firethorne was first produced by Gustavus students in 1973, but the history of a literary arts magazine at the College dates back as far as 1928. From 1928 to 1930, Gustavus students produced a literary arts magazine titled The Lion’s Tale. From 1940 to 1941, students produced Embers: A Literary Magazine. From 1948 to 1971, the student literary arts journal was titled Prospects.

Copies of Firethorne are free and can be picked up at several locations on campus including inside Confer Vickner Hall and the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center outside of the Evelyn Young Dining Room.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas

Engineering Team Competes in International Drone Competition

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:16pm

Four School of Engineering students were among the 18 teams of young engineers-in-training that competed for the right to call themselves world champion drone builders at the 22nd annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition finals last month at the International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exhibition in Montreal.

The St. Thomas ASME Club earned entrance into the international competition by placing second among 27 teams at the regional competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Team members included Sean Lipinski, Benjamin Stassen, John Miller and Anthony Jaworski.

In addition to the 11 institutions from the U.S., the Montreal event included universities from Pakistan, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Turkey, Mexico and France. Each team was tasked with designing and building an original drone, and then piloting it successfully through a series of high and low obstacles, completing a targeted payload drop and returning to the start.

The St. Thomas team performed admirably, guiding the largest drone of the competition through some very tight spaces, according to School of Engineering Dean Don Weinkauf. “This is an impressive group of students, who have given an incredible amount of time outside of their normal classwork, to design, build and compete for the University of St. Thomas at a very high level,” Weinkauf said. “I could not be more proud of their commitment and accomplishments.”

Watch a video of the St. Thomas drone in action.

In 2013, the St. Thomas team placed first at regionals and attended the international ASME competition in San Diego.


2014 - The year in review

Although 2014 wasn't a presidential election year, it was a big year for items associated with presidents at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.

WCCO Features Legendary Men&#8217;s Tennis Coach Steve Wilkinson

Gustavus Campus News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:59am

Steve Wilkinson

WCCO Sports Reporter and Anchor Mike Max recently spent time talking with legendary Gustavus men’s tennis coach Steve Wilkinson. Max and Wilkinson talked about Wilkinson’s career, his new book Let Love Serve, and his battle with cancer. The story aired on Sunday, Dec. 14 on WCCO-TV’s Sunday evening show Rosen’s Sports Sunday. You can watch the story in its entirety on the WCCO website.

Wilkinson  served as the head men’s tennis coach at Gustavus from 1971-2009 and retired from the school as the winningest coach in the history of men’s collegiate tennis with 923 victories.

Wilkinson’s squads won two NCAA Division III titles (1980 and 1982) as well as 35 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles. In addition, his players claimed six national doubles titles, and four national singles titles. He coached 46 players to 87 ITA All-America honors (including current ATP tour player Eric Butorac), 103 players to 226 All-Conference honors, and five CoSIDA Academic All-Americans. Wilkinson has also played a key role in the fundraising and construction of the Gustavus Adolphus College’s tennis facilities, which are considered to be among the finest in the nation.

The former coach has been involved in numerous national tennis organizations, having served on the executive committees of the USPTA, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and the USTA. He was inducted into the U.S. Professional Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame in 2013, the Iowa Tennis Hall of Fame in 1974, the Northern Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1983 and the USTA Missouri Valley Hall of Fame in 1999.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas

Tommie Traditions: January Term

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:01am

If St. Thomas January Term could talk as it approaches the over-the-hill marker of 40 years old, it very well might draw from Rodney Dangerfield, tie askew, handkerchief in hand, lamenting, “I get no respect.” Like a bad printer or vacuum deal, January classes at St. Thomas are a “two-for-one-special” kind of Tommie Tradition: You get the tradition itself of January Term at St. Thomas. And then you get the tradition of talking about whether January Term at St. Thomas should be a tradition.

January Term – “J-Term” to everyone but the course catalog – has been in the curriculum since the 1975-76 school year. Kind of. It started out known as “January Interim.”

Regardless of its title, it always has been accompanied by conversation of whether it should be kept, tweaked or ditched altogether in favor of a different academic model. That healthy, longstanding debate has prompted several changes throughout the decades. It also has laid the framework for more examinations at St. Thomas as a new strategic plan is put in place.

“Educational experimentation”

Like many traditions, J-Term can trace its roots back to the 1960s. Or at least ideas from the 1960s. January Interim became somewhat common in higher education throughout the 1960s and 1970s: “Students may take any interim course offered on the St. Thomas campus, any course on the other campuses in the five college cooperative association (i.e., Augs-burg, Hamline, Macalester, and St. Catherine) or an interim course at selected other colleges around the nation,” read the 1975-76 St. Thomas course catalog.

“That was a period of educational experimentation in this country, the 1960s and 1970s,” said Michael Jordan, current associate vice president of undergraduate studies and academic advisement. “We offered innovative courses that were not part of the regular curriculum. Faculty would develop various courses that gave students the chance to explore different aspects of a subject or the world that weren’t necessarily covered (in traditional classes).”

Non-credit, free classes were offered on everything from canoe building to meteorological education focused on the cold, with undergrads required to complete two courses before they graduated (transfers only needed one and special projects could qualify as substitutes). Even with those flexibilities, early on, January Interim had documented struggles capturing its target audience: “Despite topics covering birth, death and just about all the other games people play in between, many students say the courses offered don’t appeal to them,” a February 1980 The Aquin article said.

Santa delivers change

Other schools dealt with similar feedback, prompting many – including St. Catherine in 1983 – to drop their interim offerings altogether. In that same year, according to The Aquin, St. Thomas tasked a subcommittee with taking a comprehensive look at how the school should handle its winter-month future. Those pointed discussions led to a major overhaul in 1985, prompting the headline, “Faculty vote in new January Term” in a Dec. 13 The Aquin article, which featured the drawing of a faculty member dressed as Santa presenting a wrapped box labeled “January Term” to a happy-to-accept student body.

In reality, the name swap was just the beginning; the biggest change from the 90-68 faculty vote was the move to credited classes in January, either full-credit courses (48 hours) or half-credit courses (24 hours) over four weeks. This also meant a new graduation requirement of 33 courses (132 credits), up from 32 (128).

Not everything changed, though: These new classes would still be free, and students were allowed to take a full-credit or two half-credit classes each January term.

“Students need not come during January, if they choose not to,” then-academic dean John Nemo told The Aquin at the time. “We hope some will because the one course or two half-courses will be free.”

Another makeover, revitalization

As one with the clarity of retrospect might think, students were more than willing to come during January for free credited classes. It took just three years before academic affairs determined the J-Term classes should require payment like normal courses, according to The Aquin.

That decision far from set J-Term’s status at St. Thomas in stone, however. In 1989 the ACTC schools gathered to discuss changing their academic model entirely, considering options that included keeping the current system; going to a different 4-1-4 (J-Term as an open period with no classes); two 14-week semesters (no J-Term); two 15-week semesters (no J-Term); or a 4-4-1 (a four-week class period in May). Summing up the need for the conversations, Nemo said, “The novelty of J-Term may have simply worn off.”

Much like Mark Twain’s famous quip, reports of J-Term’s death at that point proved to be an exaggeration. A February 1990 Aquin headline stated, “Students satisfied with J-Term setup,” and highlighted the start of a decade that saw several reports of increasing enrollment in courses, especially to study abroad. Those stories also timed with St. Benedict’s and St. John’s dropping J-Term in 2001, leaving St. Thomas – along with Hamline – as one of just four Minnesota institutions to keep its January Term.

Continued discussion

More recently, a 2005 curriculum task force at St. Thomas again revisited the overall presence of J-Term. Jordan, a member of that committee, said – then and now – the perceived positives (study abroad popularity, a chance for students to work outside of school, volunteer on VISION trips, take an extended break to travel or recharge between semesters, etc.) always coincide with perceived negatives (not enough offerings for all students, large parts of the student body disengaged from the school for too long, etc.).

“It’s been difficult to reach consensus,” Jordan said.

That, more than anything else, may be the best way to describe the tradition of J-Term and J-Interim at St. Thomas. For many it has contained some of the fondest memories of interaction with their school, whether in a trip abroad or in a particularly engaged, condensed course on campus. For others it has contained seemingly never-ending days and weeks away from school in the heart of another Midwest winter.

With a strategic plan in place and another examination of the overall curriculum coming with it, J-Term will likely soon get another close look, Jordan said. The tradition of debating the tradition will log another chapter and, perhaps, bring about more changes.

Or not. Some say 50 is the new 40, anyway. J-Term may very well be around to find out if it can reach that birthday.

2015 Tommie Award Finalists Announced

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 10:35am

Harrison Aslesen, Chad Berg and Mariann Kukielka have been voted finalists for the 2015 Tommie Award.

Preliminary voting for the 18 nominees ended Wednesday. Finalists were selected by a vote of students, faculty and staff. The vote to determine the Tommie Award winner will be held Feb. 9-11. To review resumes and testimonials for each finalist please visit the Tommie Award website.

The 15 other nominees include: Joshua Corbin, Kara Gamelin, Michaela Hughbanks, Brittanie Hundt, Kody Kantor, Megan Lauzon, Joseph Lewis, Heather Meeks, Jennifer Murtha, Christine Robbins, Caroline Rode, Peter Scheerer, Jade Schleif, Lisa Thao and Tanesha Williams.

The Tommie Award has been presented since 1931 to a UST senior. It recognizes achievement in scholarship, leadership and campus involvement, and represents the highest ideals of the university.

The Tommie Award is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs. For more information, contact Vern Klobassa, (651) 962-6464.

St. Thomas Real Estate Analysis: Sale Prices for Nonforeclosed Homes in the Twin Cities Have Been Unexpectedly Flat Since April

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 9:49am

An analysis of the 13-county Twin Cities real estate market data for the month of October 2014 found a 7.1 percent overall increase in median sale prices compared to October 2013. However, virtually all of the increase has been due to higher prices paid for homes with foreclosed mortgages. Traditional home sales, which are those not affected by foreclosures or short sales, were up only .7 percent over October 2013.

Each month the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business looks for real estate trends in the Twin Cities and tracks the median price for three types of sales: nondistressed or traditional; foreclosures; and short sales (when a home is sold for less than the outstanding mortgage balance).

Since April 2014, the median price for traditional sales has been tracking very close to last year’s levels.

“For all three types of sales, we had been expecting an annual median sale price increase in 2014 of 4 percent to 6 percent. However, we expected the majority of the increase would come from traditional sales dues to an improving economy and continued low interest rates,” said Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the university.

He added that in the Twin Cities the median price of traditional home sales by October had recovered to the pre-housing-crash levels of the second quarter of 2005. “With an improving local economy and a relatively low supply of homes for sale we are expecting that the median price of traditional homes should be running about 4 percent to 5 percent above the previous year’s level.”

While their sale prices have been going up, the number of foreclosed and short-sale homes on the market is expected to decrease. That’s because the number of new foreclosures has been decreasing steadily throughout 2014. In October 2014, for example, the percentage of distressed sales was 12.5 percent, compared to 21.5 percent in October 2013. Tousley predicts that the percentage will decline to 6 percent to 8 percent in 2015.

While the number of homes on the market has increased recently in the Twin Cities, by historical standards that number is still low. In October 2014 there were 17,132 homes for sale; normally there are 20,000 to 25,000 in any given month.

Tousley suggests several reasons for the persistent low inventory, even though more homeowners are considering selling now that values have rebounded over the last couple of years:

  • The question is what homeowners will do after they have sold their home. That would turn them from sellers into buyers in a market that offers them limited choices for their replacement home and the fact that obtaining a new mortgage is still relatively difficult.
  • Although the number of homeowners who are “under water” has decreased significantly, there still are a considerable number who are near negative equity. Even if they are not under water, they have very little equity and when they sell their home they do not have enough money to buy a new one.
  • Two additional factors that could be keeping potential sellers on the sidelines are more restrictive credit standards and little-to-no wage growth in the last several years.

Meanwhile, many homeowners are opting to stay and renovate or add on to their current homes as an alternative to moving. According to the Keystone Report, the number of permits for residential remodels and additions through the end of October are both up 46 percent.

“Most remodelers remain confident that the market will continue to improve as more homeowners undertake renovations and additions,” Tousley said.

While 2014 has been good for remodelers, it hasn’t turned out as well for those who build single-family homes. “Many builders were expecting 20 percent to 25 percent gains in 2014 and are now struggling to build the same number of homes they built last year,” he said.

This year, the number of single-family building permits issued through the end of October was down 9.5 percent and the dollar value of those permits was down 4.5 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

In 2013 there were just under 6,000 single-family housing starts. At this point we are on pace for about 5,500 single-family starts for the year.

One reason for the slower pace, Tousley said, has been the difficulty for builders to find quality lots in desirable locations. Another is that the median sale price of new homes has been increasing more rapidly than the median sale price of existing homes. This has been blamed on a significant increase in the cost of building materials in recent years and a trend to building larger, higher-price homes.

“The gap between the median sale price of new construction and existing single-family homes has been widening steadily since 2007, creating an affordability gap between new homes and existing homes,” he said.

The UST composite indexes

Each month the Shenehon Center tracks nine housing-market data elements, including the median price for three types of sales, and creates an index for each: nondistressed or traditional-type sales; foreclosures; and short sales.

The October composite index for traditional sales is 1055, which is the same as October 2013 and a decrease of 1 percent from September 2014 when the index was 1065. The decline is blamed on the decrease in the number of homes on the market and a significant drop in the number of new listings in September.

The October composite index for short sales was 993, down slightly from the 934 recorded in September. This index has increased 6.2 percent compared to one year ago.

The October composite index for the foreclosure market decreased 1.7 percent, moving from 795 in September to 782 in October.

More information online

The Shenehon Center’s charts and report for October can be found here.

The index is available free via email from Tousley at

Hamline Named to National Community Service Honor Roll

Hamline University Campus News - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:00am
Hamline has once again been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

$1 Million Gift to Help Attract National Merit Scholars to Gustavus

Gustavus Campus News - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:16pm

Bob and Cindy Peterson sign the official paperwork for the Robert A. Peterson Distinguished Student Scholarship Fund alongside President Bergman and Vice President for Finance Ken Westphal

Gustavus Adolphus College is pleased to announce that Bob “Stick” Peterson ’74 and his wife Cindy have generously given $1 million for the creation of an endowed scholarship fund intended to attract and retain National Merit Scholars to the College. The fund will officially be known as the Robert A. Peterson Distinguished Student Scholarship Fund.

“This is an exciting and important gift to the College for many reasons,” Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman said. “This gift not only builds momentum toward our $150 million goal for Campaign Gustavus, but it will also help our admission staff continue to recruit the most intelligent, talented, and motivated students.”

Peterson, known by most of his Gustavus friends and classmates as “Stick” due to his slim build as an 18-year old freshman, graduated from Gustavus in 1974 with degrees in economics and environmental studies. After working for two years in the College’s business office, Peterson went on to earn his MBA in accounting at the University of Southern California. He worked for several years in public accounting, private bank management, and venture capital before entering the transportation industry. Since 1991, he has served as President and CEO of Melton Truck Lines, Inc., one of the nation’s leading flatbed trucking companies, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bob “Stick” Peterson ’74

“I have always appreciated the fine liberal arts education I received at Gustavus, where I developed many lifelong friends among classmates, professors, and administrators,” Peterson said. “My 40-year affiliation has forged a strong connection with Gustavus and its mission. Cindy and I feel very fortunate to make this gift and lend our support to the College.”

The National Merit Scholarship Program began in 1955 as an academic competition for recognition and scholarships. Approximately 1.5 million high school students across the country enter the National Merit Program each year by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), usually during their junior year. Of those 1.5 million entrants, approximately 7,500 become National Merit Scholars.

“National Merit Scholars have demonstrated strong academic promise as high school students,” said Tom Crady, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “This new scholarship fund will be a wonderful conversation starter when we sit down with National Merit Scholars and their families to talk about Gustavus Adolphus College.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas

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