Recent News from Campuses
As Kassim Abbanesha Hussein crosses the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota commencement stage on Saturday, June 3 to receive a Doctor of Business Administration diploma, part of his heart will remain in Oromia, Ethiopia.
Hussein fled his homeland 26 years ago—leaving behind an unspeakable level of danger and heartbreak.
At the tender age of 12, his beloved father was executed by the Ethiopian government because of his political beliefs. His oldest brother, his uncle, and two cousins were also killed for standing up against a corrupt dictatorial government. His youngest brother remains missing after 19 years.
“Ethiopia is in political crisis because of what the government is doing to our people,” he said. “People are simply demanding fairness and justice, and the government is responding with bloodshed. Although I came here 26 years ago, unfortunately people are still going through the same life and not knowing what will happen to them when they wake up the next day. As a child, we were suffering. I was afraid the government would come after us. Those who fight for justice and stand up are persecuted or killed. It is dangerous.”
Despite Ethiopia having one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, it remains one of the world’s poorest countries due to a high level of corruption within its government.
When Hussein was determining the topic of his dissertation, his memories weighed heavily in his decision, as did his desire to determine whether or not the United Nations Convention against Corruption legislation, negotiated in 2003, has benefited countries like Ethiopia.
In “Analysis of the Effectiveness of Anticorruption Legislation in Developing Countries: The Impact on the National Well-Being of Adopting Nations,” Hussein closely examined 43 developing countries, using series of well-being indicators.
The results, unfortunately, have shown that there have been no significant improvements in the well-being of the countries he studied. “The intent of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was to improve the well-being of adopting nations by reducing poverty and income inequality through the reduction of corruption, but my research is not showing that has occurred,” he said. “I believe this should be further researched. I found six countries which have been ranked as ‘most improved’ and four countries as ‘least improved’. I would like to explore what these countries have in common in the fight against corruption. Future research may investigate what the under-performing countries have in common. Moreover, it would be interesting to investigate the differences these countries have with the countries that are ranked as ‘most improved’.”
Hussein feels a strong pull to social justice. It was his personal connection to Saint Mary’s mission and core values that brought him to the Twin Cities Campus 14 years ago to begin his studies in the M.B.A. program.
“Saint Mary’s core values are very emotionally appealing for me,” he said. “I saw myself there when I read about Saint Mary’s concern for the poor and for social justice and its respect for all persons. That is very important to me.”
After finishing his M.B.A., he returned to the university for his D.B.A. On June 3, he will become Saint Mary’s first graduate in the D.B.A. program. During his studies at Saint Mary’s, Hussein specialized in business economics and finance.
A compliance analyst for U.S. Bank, Hussein hopes to use his leadership skills in his career but also hopes to teach part-time to help share his passion for social justice.
“My greatest hope for the future is to see justice not only in Ethiopia, but justice everywhere,” he said.
This is an exciting year for Hussein’s family. On April 22, his wife received her doctoral degree, and his son will be graduating June 8 from Minnesota Math & Science Academy (with 49 college credits through Post Secondary Enrollment Options).
Hussein said during his own academic journey, he received support from individuals throughout the Saint Mary’s community—from staff members though administration. “How students are treated, the respect I received personally, and the support I received … I could not ask for more,” he said. “I can say that it was the best experience, and I recommend any student to check out Saint Mary’s.
“I know any program is not easy,” Hussein said. “but the doctoral program was my hardest and longest experience that was made easier by the support I received from my family and from the entire Saint Mary’s community. They really helped me to be where I am today and I am so grateful to all those who supported me.”
Saint Mary’s is hosting three commencement ceremonies on June 3 at its Twin Cities Campus. For more information, visit smumn.edu/about/commencement.
Six members of the Carleton College faculty have been awarded tenure by the Board of Trustees, effective September 1, 2017.
During his career, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Wesley Pearson ’54 guided thousands of Oles through St. Olaf College’s chemistry and pre-health programs. In May, more than 230 alumni and friends gathered to recognize Pearson and the impact of his efforts — and they also announced that they had raised $1.36 million to support the study of chemistry and the pursuit of careers in health at St. Olaf.
The Wes and Rae Pearson Endowed Fund for Pre-Health and Chemistry will help increase student participation in professional pathways programs and faculty-mentored undergraduate chemistry research — elements essential for students to consider and pursue careers in science and health. It will also support updates to laboratory instrumentation and other chemistry department needs.
Earnings from the fund will be matched in part by St. Olaf’s Strategic Initiative Match program; the combined earnings will generate $80,000 annually for these priorities.
These gifts are part of For the Hill and Beyond, St. Olaf’s $200 million comprehensive campaign to advance high-impact academic practices, strengthen community, enhance the affordability of a St. Olaf education, and sustain the college’s mission.
St. Olaf Regent Greg Buck ’77 and his wife Lisa Nave Buck ’77 committed $500,000 to the Wes and Rae Pearson Fund and challenged their fellow alumni to add gifts to match their contribution. Hundreds did, citing the guidance and close instruction Wes provided, especially for Oles working through organic chemistry.
“One alum noted that organic chem is like the ‘sorting hat’ for pre-health majors. That was true for me,” shares Buck, now president at Productivity, Inc. “Two semesters of organic taught me I should study something else. But Wes still took a personal interest in me as he did every student.”
“Wes was the best teacher I ever had throughout my education,” says chemistry major Dan Syrdal ’68, who contributed similarly to the fund. “He was also the most important person to my professional development — all the way through my Ph.D. in organic chemistry, my J.D., and my legal career in environmental law and biotechnology development.”
In addition to organic chemistry and mentored research, pre-health vocational training was a strong priority for Pearson. When he joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1958, no pre-professional program existed for pre-health majors. In response Pearson founded the college’s Health Professions Committee, and its unified letter of recommendation was widely adopted by schools nationwide. He also devised and launched The Physician in Clinical and Hospital Health Care, an Interim shadowing and vocation program presented in partnership with Fairview Health Services. Following Pearson’s model, St. Olaf provides similar opportunities at Mayo Clinic, Hennepin County Medical Center, and Allina Health. Additional programs were launched in 2016-17 at Northfield Retirement Center and Three Links Care Center.
These programs are especially important as they increase inclusion in the health field. Historically such opportunities were only available to students who had physicians in their family or social networks — this often excluded first generation, working class, and multicultural students.
“We felt the need to help students who are interested in the health profession,” Pearson has said. “I don’t think anyone should go to a professional program like medical school and not be absolutely sure that it’s for them.”
Through these programs, Oles are well-sought by professional schools — within three years of graduation, 75 percent of Oles applying to medical school in 2011-16 were admitted, outpacing a national average of 47 percent. According to the National Science Foundation’s most recent Survey of Earned Doctorates, St. Olaf ranks 12th overall among 263 baccalaureate colleges by the number of graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees, ranking very high in biology and the life sciences, medical sciences, and chemistry, among other fields.
“This fund will make a tremendous difference for our students — absolutely,” says Leslie Moore ’77, director of the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, which coordinates the pathways programs.
Chemistry Department Chair Beth Abdella ’82 says “We deeply appreciate the support so many Oles have provided. This will allow us to teach in the best-equipped academic laboratories we can provide and engage more students as researchers.”
As of April 30, donors have generously given more than $147.7 million to For the Hill and Beyond. Anyone who would like to add to the Wes and Rae Pearson Endowed Fund, or make another gift of their own, can contact St. Olaf’s Development Office or go to its giving site.
The Board of Trustees recently approved the promotion of four faculty members, from associate professor to professor, effective September 1, 2017.
As University of St. Thomas community members celebrated the school’s designation as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus, junior Mohamed Malim took up the microphone. Malim was asked to share his story, which started as a baby in war-torn Somalia and brought him to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya as a young boy, to Minnesota and, now, St. Thomas.
“Many of us living in America, the land of the free and home of the brave, have probably never experienced the challenges and trauma that stem from the disaster of a civil war,” he said. “We often find ourselves trying to understand but are not fully able to comprehend the refugee experience, but I have lived this life and I’m grateful for the lessons it has taught me as a Somali-American.”
Audience members listened as Malim described the memories his mother has relayed to him and his siblings as they’ve grown older: fleeing to Kenya, listening to the cries of babies who didn’t have enough to eat in the Dadaab camp, venturing out by herself at night to try to pull together enough food and water to get their family through another day.
“Nights of starvation, fear and hopelessness were the everlasting theme,” he said. “Basic necessities such as clean running water, food, medications, proper schooling and a future seemed so out of reach.”
When Malim was 4 years old, his family arrived in Minnesota, and he went on to attend an all-Somali charter school and then Edina High School. Throughout his early life, he saw the challenges his parents continued to negotiate as they worked hard to adapt to their new home, all the while stressing the importance of education as the pathway to a good life to their children.
“I’m now the first in my family to go to college. My little brother is a sophomore at North Dakota, majoring in air traffic control, and my little sister is going to Hamline next year,” Malim said. “[My mom] now has three children on their way to college, so she’s very happy, very proud.”
Stories like his family’s are the kinds Malim has known growing up. Because the political conversation in the United States recently has focused on a different depiction, Malim felt he had to act. Last year, Malim and fellow St. Thomas business student Amin Mahamoud began Dream Refugee, a nonprofit “whose mission is to begin to tackle today’s most relevant and troubling themes of exclusion, xenophobia and apathy by connecting refugees with disparate communities in unique ways.” They used advice from judges at the St. Thomas Opus College for Business Fowler Business Concept Challenge while creating Dream Refugee.
“We can change people’s minds from negative to the fact we are hardworking people; we are contributing to society,” Malim said. “We have the same common ground and are the same human beings who want to have a better life.”
Sharing stories and making connections
Their initial idea was to develop refugee-themed clothing to raise money. When Malim and Mahamoud began discussing the power of storytelling as a tool to help shift the narrative around refugees, that idea become the centerpiece for Dream Refugee. They seek out success stories that articulate positive examples of the many refugees in Minnesota.
“Storytelling is compelling. You can pull up a scholarly article and it doesn’t really capture the audience or change people’s minds unless they’ve really set out on changing their perspectives or belief,” Mahamoud said. “We all have similar story lines: I was born here, I faced these challenges, I don’t deserve to be categorized by the actions of a few. Those are universal, and storytelling is a great way of merging those two [refugee and nonrefugee] communities.”
Initial stories have centered on fellow Somali refugees, including a local business owner and a specialist in the U.S. Army. Malim and Mahamoud both said, as their efforts continue, they hope to include stories from many different refugee communities.
As they’ve explored ways of finding and sharing stories, Mahamoud said the experience has helped him flesh out his own family’s history: His mother immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia before he was born.
“Whenever I’ve asked my mom these questions in the past she has shied away, and I don’t want to bother her … but she came here when she’s 19 and now has four kids. How was your experience?” he said. “It has been fulfilling to fill in those things. … It was intriguing and fun to learn the tidbits of this story that has become her life, and my history, in America.”
Beyond storytelling, Dream Refugee is in the midst of launching a mentoring program to pair newer refugees with more established refugees who have similar professional or educational interests.
“Most refugees have a common ground of struggling. The tools are here in America to help but the guiding through it isn’t always there, so having a guide is huge,” Malim said.
As they continue to develop programming and find more stories to share, Malim said he is inspired by his own family’s experience and others he learns more about.
“I’m proud to be a refugee. I’m happy. Refugees are hardworking people; with our current president and everything he’s labeling, it’s sad and disappointing. But look at all the successful refugees contributing to society; it’s amazing. It’s a beautiful thing. Coming through this struggle and being successful? Wow,” he said. “It’s hard when people don’t understand each other. … But growing up in America is a great opportunity, a great privilege. It’s unfortunate that people are left behind and don’t have those same opportunities. I’m doing this for those people. I don’t want to waste my opportunity; there are other people who want this spot to come to America.”
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded St. Olaf College student Colin Scheibner ’17 a three-year Graduate Research Fellowship that will support his doctoral work in physics at the University of Chicago.
NSF Graduate Research Fellowships support the most promising graduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Fellows are expected to become experts in their field who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.
Past recipients of the award include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.
Scheibner, a physics and mathematics major at St. Olaf, is one of 2,000 students selected to receive the 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship from more than 17,000 applicants. He will enroll in the physics Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago this fall.
During his time at St. Olaf, Scheibner was a part of a research team at the University of Michigan that analyzed images collected by the Dark Energy Camera, a powerful digital camera on a four-meter telescope in Cerro Tololo, Chile. As part of this project, Scheibner helped develop a web-based tool for examining distant objects in the images collected by the camera, which was originally commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy. With his tool, Scheibner identified the earliest known observation of a new planet, officially known as 2014 UZ224 and nicknamed DeeDee, short for “distant dwarf.”
Scheibner also analyzed ultrafast electron images as a member of the University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. In addition, he was named a Rossing Physics Scholar for 2016–17 — an award given each year to outstanding physics students selected from across the nation.
Four recent St. Olaf graduates — Megan Behnke ’16, Jennifer Crawford ’16, Alexandra Harris ’14, and Sophia Magro ’16 — also received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships this year.
Behnke, a chemistry major at St. Olaf, is pursuing a doctorate in chemical oceanography from Florida State University. She will use the fellowship to support her research with Rob Spencer of the Arctic Great Rivers Observatory on Arctic river biogeochemistry of vulnerable high latitude carbon stocks in Russia and Alaska.
She will also be working for the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry this summer in Northeastern Siberia, and while there will have the opportunity to run incubation experiments for her dissertation.
Behnke’s long-term goal is to return to Alaska to study climate change and aquatic carbon chemistry at a research institute, and to work with local Alaskan communities to further science education and to understand what information and assistance communities would like to be receiving from climate change researchers.
Crawford, who majored in chemistry and mathematics at St. Olaf, is pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Utah. “My research involves developing new methods for the synthesis of molecules and using multivariate correlations to gain insight into how these types of reactions work and structure-function relationships in catalytic systems,” she says. “The NSF funding supports me during my graduate work and gives me freedom to pursue avenues of research that interest me. It also provides access to more opportunities as I continue my education as a chemist.”
Harris, who majored in psychology at St. Olaf, is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Georgia. Her research is centered on using quantitative methods to provide concrete solutions to abstract business challenges, focusing largely on psychometrics, individual differences (e.g., personality and intelligence), and selection assessments.
“My NSF research proposal is a good example of my commitment to sound methodology for sound answers. By reevaluating and updating the methodology used in prior studies, I am reviving a relatively overlooked area of research: the joint relationship of personality and intelligence on job performance,” she says. “The fellowship will allow me to explore this area, as well as pursue even more ambitious topics such as the measurement of personality in teams to better understand team performance.”
Magro, who majored in music and psychology with a concentration in educational studies at St. Olaf, is pursuing a doctorate in clinical and child psychology at the University of Minnesota. Since September 2016, she has been living in Kiel, Germany, on a Fulbright fellowship that supports her research on how communication between native German teachers and Syrian refugee students is related to the development of students’ self-control.
She is currently in the final months of her Fulbright fellowship, and is completing a research article detailing this project and preparing to submit it for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Her research has been accepted for presentation at the Association for Research in Personality Biennial Conference, which will take place in Sacramento this June.
The inaugural season for the Minnesota United FC is underway and for now home field is TCF Bank Stadium. But that will soon change as construction on a new stadium—just across Interstate 94 from the Concordia University, St. Paul campus—is expected to be completed next year.… Read More
The post Sports Management Grads Pitch Excitement for Minnesota United FC appeared first on Concordia St. Paul.
Abha Laddha ‘17 wanted to experience all the things that she didn’t have the chance to explore while growing up in India.
Dr. Barbara Shank, who is retiring as dean of the School of Social Work at St. Thomas and St. Catherine, received the St. Thomas Distinguished Service Award Saturday at graduate commencement exercises.
President Julie Sullivan surprised Shank, who sat on the platform to greet her graduating master’s and doctoral degree students, with the award during the ceremony in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex field house.
The citation that accompanied the award calls Shank the “impassioned and fiercely driven leader” of the school, where she has taught or served as an administrator for nearly 40 years. Colleagues described her as a “visionary” and “an inspiration to social work educators everywhere … unfailingly loyal to your students, faculty, staff and profession.”
Shank’s career as an educator began in 1978, when she was hired for an adjunct faculty position that turned into a full-time position. She became department chair in 1982 and served as associate dean from 1990-96, when she became dean.
During her tenure, she established a master’s degree program and co-founded the Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services with the St. Thomas law and professional psychology programs. Three years ago, she launched a Doctor of Social Work program, the nation’s first online DSW program to focus on preparing social work faculty for leadership in higher education.
When Shank started to teach, there were four faculty members and 50 students in social work at St. Thomas and St. Catherine. Today, the program has 4,000 alumni, 31 faculty and 600 students who, the citation says, have “a singular purpose. ‘They want to make the world better,’ you say. ‘They want to make a difference in people’s lives.’
“The exact same words can be said of you,” the citation continues. “On this day, Barbara Shank, as we wish you the best in your retirement as dean, we also take time to thank you for your many contributions to make this world – and this university – a better place, and we proudly confer upon you the St. Thomas Distinguished Service Award.”
“This is all super exciting. I brought champagne, so I’m not sure yet where we’re going to pop this! It’s a weird feeling finally being done. I’m going to be an actuary starting in June, so it’s been a nice stress reliever having that lined up.” – Alex Haag, graduate “It’s a big moment! I’m the youngest kids so I’m the last to graduate. I just hope I don’t trip! That’s the goal of the day. It’s sad, though, too. I was sitting in the library the other day and looking at campus, and it’s hard to think I won’t be here any more.” – Jessica Menden, graduate “Wow. I can’t put into words how good it feels to get her here. We’re so appreciative of everything St. Thomas has done for her.” – Susan Peterson, mother of graduate Bekka Peterson “This is huge for me. I’m a (Air Force) veteran and took my first college class 15 years ago. … I came to St. Thomas in the fall of 2014 and it was the best decision I ever made. I’m the first family member on either side of my family to get a four-year degree. … I finished in December so I have the diploma on the wall, but it wasn’t complete until I walked across that stage.” – Michael Wimperis, graduate “I love watching their faces and seeing the maturity that’s grown. We’ve often seen these kids when they first come in to declare their major … and the change in them over four years is amazing.” – Amy Muse, English department chair “It’s exciting, but sucks. How have I been here for four years already? I feel like I just moved into my freshman dorm room yesterday.” – Kate Spangenberg, graduate “Ditto.” – Claire Spangenberg, graduate “It’s been really exciting, but it hasn’t sunk in until just now as we’re ready to walk. … It’s overwhelming, and there’s so much that comes next.” – Brooke Finch, graduate “It’s mixed feelings. We’re happy and proud, but we’re leaving! Starting next week we won’t have all of our best friends all living within a few blocks.” – Jose Munne Caceres, graduate “This is my favorite day of the year, no matter what the weather. … Please continue to remember to wear purple on Tuesdays. Go, Tommies!” – President Julie Sullivan “It’s unreal. Four years went by so fast. There are so many smiles today, so many excited people.” – Mayzer Muhammad, graduate “It’s incredible. To be part of this is really a privilege.” – David White, M.B.A. admission staff “I feel awesome. It’s a great accomplishment. … I’m excited, and more than a little proud.” – Grace Sinisalo, graduate “It’s a nice accumulation of four years. It’s a great celebration. … Having it inside really captures the emotion. It’s a nice, relaxed event before we head out into the world.” – Jack Lund, graduate “These are often great milestones, and in a sense there’s great gratitude. … These are great achievements by these students, but they’re actually the achievements of many people around them, too.” – Michael Naughton, Director of Center for Catholic Studies and father to graduate Mary Naughton “It’s all just right there! I’m basically a deer in the headlights today. … It’s going to be fun.” – Ben Dahl-McGlone, graduate “It’s really exciting! I transferred (from the University of Minnesota), so it’s great to have all this come together after four years.” – Jenny Stierns, graduate “It won’t soak in until fall rolls around that we’re not coming back here. … I’ve developed so many great relationships here.” – Thomas Gorrilla, graduate “We’re proud. We’re finally here. This is our only daughter, so this is a big day.” – Heidi Thom, parent of graduate Anna Thom “Ridiculous! It hasn’t really hit me yet. Next week will be when I realize and feel that all these people that I’ve seen every day here will be all over the world.” – Hanna Tilstra, graduate “I’m excited, and glad to be done. I’ve had enough mid-terms, finals and papers for a while. It’s a sense of freedom, but also now the pressure to go out and work hard.” – Jim Hogan, graduate “I’m relieved. I’m an engineering major so it’s been a lot of hard work here! It’s bittersweet.” – Gabriel Meza, graduate “We’re pretty honored. Megan is our oldest; she’s done an amazing thing.” – Lisa Herdering, mother of graduate Megan Herdering “I’m just super excited and proud to be done. Also, I got a job in December so that’s been a great relief to have that taken care of.” – Maija Clausen, graduate “It’s kind of surreal that four years have gone. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, but it’s hard to explain (what I’m feeling.)” – Brett Gunderson, graduate “I volunteer because of the energy of the day. … The grads have worked so hard to get here.” – Kelsie Edwards, financial aid staff “There are definitely mixed emotions. I’m excited for what’s next but sad to move away.” – Emily Holscher, graduate
“It’s bittersweet. It’s been a big journey and I’ve met a lot of great friends here. I’ll miss them and all the memories I’ve made here.”
– Spencer Flaten, graduate
“It’s amazing. Megan has worked really hard. My wife and I are extremely proud. She’s going to law school next year, so even better!”
– Tony Speltz, father of graduate Megan Speltz
“It feels great to look around and see the faces I’ve gotten to know over the last four years. I’m excited.”
– Tony Hren, graduate
“She’s the youngest, so last to graduate. I’m so excited for her and her future. She’s had the most incredible experience here at St. Thomas. … It’s an honor to be here today to see her.”
– Liz Brothers, mother of graduate Melanie Brothers
“I just don’t know how to feel. It’s kind of surreal. I still have eight credits to go this summer … so it hasn’t fully hit yet, and it probably won’t until further down the road.”
– Austin Luecke, graduate
“It’s just incredibly exciting. There’s a positive energy on campus, and it’s always an honor to send off our graduates.”
– Ariene Willkom, alumni giving staff
“I’m just happy. There’s relief that it’s over and I’m ready to be moving on to what’s next.”
– Luis Chavez, graduate
– Bekka Peterson, graduate [View the story “St. Thomas Commencement 2017” on Storify]
Gustavus Adolphus College senior Carolyn Del Vecchio was recently named a winner of the Fulbright English Teacher Assistant (ETA) grant and will teach in Vietnam during the 2017-2018 academic year.
Fulbright’s ETA program places recent college graduates and young professionals as English teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools or universities overseas. ETA participants improve foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while increasing the U.S. students’ own language skills and knowledge of the host country.
A political science major who hails from Bismarck, N.D., Del Vecchio’s interest in the opportunity springs from her study away experience in Tanzania last spring. “I didn’t realize what it meant to be an American until I studied abroad,” Del Vecchio said. “Basically all of my identities were challenged when I went somewhere where I looked different and was in a different environment.”
At Gustavus, Del Vecchio has been involved as a Gustie Greeter orientation leader, member of the Handbell Choir, on the Building Bridges committee, and through Gustavus Women in Leadership.
“Carolyn is one of the most altruistic and authentic people I’ve ever worked with,” Gustavus Director of Campus Activities Andrea Junso said. “There is a sincere depth to her caring that is apparent in everything that she does, and she’ll be a tremendous representative of the United States and Gustavus next year.”
“I am applying for the Fulbright because I find joyful fulfillment in being and education and pushing my students to think crucially and seek broader connections while affirming their potential,” Del Vecchio wrote in her application essay. “I am specifically drawn to Vietnam for its political history that led to a prominent position in the world market with a rapidly advancing economy. I’m interested in how Vietnam’s relatively young population has been influenced by Western culture and how that intertwines with the country’s ancient history and traditions.”
After returning to the United States, Del Vecchio hopes to work in state government before continuing her education in graduate school. Eventually, she hopes to serve in the U.S. Foreign Service before teaching in a higher education setting.
For more information about the Gustavus Fellowships Office and the support it gives to students, please visit the fellowship website.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
College athletes always are looking for an edge, which can lead to any number of seemingly strange, out-there practices for finding how to perform best. At the University of St. Thomas, athletes and coaches have turned more and more to perhaps the most obvious, yet underappreciated, element of athletic preparation: the health benefits of sleep.
“So often, sleep isn’t something we focus on; it’s last on our minds at the end of the day,” said women’s soccer goalie senior Tarynn Theilig, who finished last season with the best save percentage in Division III and has twice been named the conference’s defensive player of the year. “It really shouldn’t be. Sleep is amazing.”
Theilig is one of many athlete sleep converts of psychology associate professor Roxanne Prichard, who – along with director Birdie Cunningham – helps run the St. Thomas Center for College Sleep. The center researches and promotes the health benefits of good sleep habits for college students, and has found “the detrimental effect of poor sleep on GPA is on par with marijuana use and binge drinking.”
With academic performance at a premium for individuals, it’s perhaps no surprise that the benefits of sleep to athletic performance started to draw some attention at St. Thomas, too. About five years ago Prichard began connecting with athletic teams, and in the time since has provided dozens of presentations and specific guidance on training schedules based around healthy sleep habits.
“When the coaches … see how many detailed and specific questions their players have about sleep and they see how far off their own thinking has been about sleep, it’s pretty interesting,” Prichard said. “[Coaches] will ask, ‘Which night is the important night for sleep? The night before a game or two nights before?’ It’s like, ‘No, no, it’s continued sufficient sleep that’s important.’”
Theilig took a class with Prichard and had to log her sleep habits for a month, which made her more aware of what differences in sleep did to her waking hours.
“It really helped everything,” she said. “I started scheduling my sleep first, eight hours set aside, so it’s, ‘What can I do with that time to practice, have class, eat, do homework?’ That just helps you reorganize your life and prioritize where you want to put focus.”
An increased focus on sleep showed its benefits early and often to Theilig, who soon made it part of her job as a team captain to hold her teammates accountable too.
“It’s something that’s so easy to fix. You can’t force your teammates or the players to go get eight hours, but you can monitor it,” she said. “One example was when we played UW-Whitewater last season, people were tired and asking if we could nap on the way before the game. … Half the team napped and we ended up losing, played terrible, and afterward that stuck and people saw the difference when they didn’t have as much sleep. That actually helped.”
Naps are actually one of the biggest sleeping misnomers for students in general, Prichard said.
“A nap should be 30 minutes. Longer than that can make it harder for you to sleep at night and your sleep won’t be as restorative,” she said.
The center has created a more accessible digital version of the College Sleep Questionnaire – the standard measurement tool for gathering information about sleep from college students – and is developing a program that provides feedback and information about helpful resources on campus. (The program is being tested currently at several universities across the country, Prichard said.)
For athletes in particular, that kind of feedback and assistance off the field has coincided with positive results, even if the correlations are kind of “squishy.”
“What can you say for sure [about connecting it to athletic performance]? The first year we presented to the men’s soccer team they made it to the NCAA semifinals. Coincidence? I don’t know,” said Prichard with a smile.
Theilig, for one, is sold.
“It’s amazing. I love sleep. Learning more [about its benefits] has been great,” she said, adding that she had a job with the St. Thomas Wellness Center last summer as a sleep indicator and is helping with the April sleep challenge. “If I’m not getting enough sleep I feel it so drastically. People don’t realize it unless they change it. Once you get those eight hours you’ll be hooked on how much you need and want to get it.”
As a freshman at St. Thomas, Stephanie Garcia participated in a J-Term field research internship in Maui where she studied humpback whales. Since then, she has known she wants to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience.
Throughout her four years here, Garcia, who graduated this year with a B.S. in neuroscience, dedicated herself to the pursuit of her goal, taking full advantage of the plentiful research and grant opportunities St. Thomas has to offer, as well as the small class sizes that allowed her to get to know her professors and develop mentor-level relationships. Equipped today with an impressive resume of formal research and presentation experience, Garcia is bound for Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, which offered her a fully funded scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in its Biomedical Sciences program.
Tell us more about your research interests and what your next year will look like.
After I returned from a summer spent studying primates in the Peruvian rainforest, I realized I wanted to make a larger contribution to the scientific community. I felt that I could better attain that in the biomedical industry, so I switched from strictly behavioral science to the molecular neuroscience track.
At Rutgers, I will be on the Molecular Biology Genetics Cancer track of the multidisciplinary Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program. I do three laboratory rotations with different professors before I start working on my thesis. My current research interests include tumor metastasis, beta-amyloid plaque formation in Alzheimer’s Disease and the preventative benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, and neuroendocrinology. In that regard, Rutgers is an excellent fit for me because I’ll have the freedom to pursue any of my many interests in biomedical research.
How did St. Thomas prepare you to get a full scholarship for your Ph.D. program?
With our small class sizes, I have been able to get to know professors very well. I have learned about different research projects and I took every opportunity given to me to get involved. The Excel! Research Scholars program trained me to be a professional researcher, Grants and Research Office funded me, and my mentors gave me advice and guidance.
Getting fully funded for a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences is a rarity and extremely competitive, especially as an undergraduate jumping right onto the Ph.D. track. The best thing I did was take advantage of research opportunities by reaching out to professors, inquiring about their interests and asking if I could join their research group. The next best thing I did was take advantage of the funding opportunities here at St. Thomas and the research programs, in my case the Excel! program and Collaborative Inquiry. The last thing I did that really aided me in getting funded was presenting my research every chance I could at every conference I could! I was able to meet the director of my current Ph.D. program, and putting a face to a name really makes your application more competitive.
What kinds of research and/or extracurricular activities were you involved in at St. Thomas?
I have been an educational assistant in the Psychology Department (neuroscience program) for two years now, and I was also a laboratory assistant for general chemistry. Freshman year the internship studying whales in the field led me to pursue research with Dr. Tim Lewis (Biology Department) where I was a part of “Team Turtle,” on which I tracked turtles one winter.
I then branched off and expressed my interest in conservation research to Dr. Sarah Hankerson in the neuroscience program. That led to my gorilla project, funded through Excel!, in which I examined the impact visitors have on the endangered species. I presented that research at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (a prestigious research conference for individuals interested in pursuing a graduate degree in biomedical sciences). I also presented my findings at the International Primatology Society research conference where I had the opportunity to meet and talk about research with Jane Goodall!
After these experiences I helped Dr. Hankerson with various projects and ended up taking a serious interest in evolutionary neuroscience. Our next project was examining the coevolution of snakes and primates. Essentially snakes and primates coevolved over 60 million years ago and researchers think the reason primates are able to detect fast-moving and threatening stimuli is because snakes were a huge predatory threat. I submitted a Collaborative Inquiry grant, received the funding and, with a psychology student, carried out this multidisciplinary research project in the fall of 2016.
In addition to the plethora of research experience I’ve had here at St. Thomas, I was a part of the Boxing Club and UST Sustainability Club.
Who has been an influential teacher?
Two professors who influenced my career are Dr. Hankerson and Dr. Afshan Ismat (also in the St. Thomas neuroscience program). I would not be as prepared for graduate school as I am now without Dr. Hankerson, who really has taken me under her wing and took a vested interest in my research career. She cultured me into the researcher I am today, giving me the freedom to conduct independent research, analyze it and present at conferences around the world.
Dr. Ismat opened my eyes to the endless possibilities in cellular and molecular biology and made the four- to five-hour labs running blots and immunohistochemistry really fun. I think having a professor who gives the students freedom to explore the techniques we discuss and apply learned material, and also is full of energy and passion, makes for an extremely positive and beneficial learning environment.
At the end of this academic year, Bob Kennedy will step down as the chair of the Department of Catholic Studies and John Boyle will take his place. Kennedy has twice served as chair for a total of 10 years.
“Bob Kennedy has done an extraordinary job of shepherding and guiding the department and fostering its growth,” Boyle said. “He is stunningly able. We would all have happily seen Bob do another four years.”
Kennedy himself is a St. Thomas graduate, having earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1972 and an MBA in 1990. Kennedy has been part of the Department of Catholic Studies for around 15 years and taught professional ethics and general management in the college of business before that.
Kennedy said that out of the departments he has been a part of throughout his career, Catholic Studies is among the most congenial – a strength that Boyle credited Kennedy as helping to foster.
“One of the unique gifts Bob brings to his role as chair is that he seeks to create conditions for people to succeed,” added Mike Naughton, director of the Center for Catholic Studies. “As the manager of the department, Bob has taken on a good deal of administrative tasks because he wants his faculty to develop in teaching and research. He delights in seeing his colleagues flourish.” Kennedy said that in his tenure as chair he’s enjoyed seeing an increase in the number of students and the strength of the faculty and staff.
“I’m enormously proud of our students. Every year, fully half of our students graduate with Latin honors. … They’re great students to work with,” Kennedy said. “We’ve done exceptionally well over the past 10 to 12 years in the people we’ve hired for the department. They’ve been very fine additions.”
Hired in 2013, Dr. Erika Kidd said that Kennedy’s leadership has been a tremendous gift to the department.
“His attention to details, large and small, has kept our program running smoothly, and his imagination for how Catholic studies can continue to thrive and grow has been an inspiration and guide to all of us,” Kidd said.
Kennedy said he is looking forward to being able to focus on teaching and producing scholarship.
“The world will be a better place having the scholarship of Bob Kennedy,” Boyle said.
Boyle was hired by the Theology Department in 1990 and was part of the original group that set up the Catholic Studies program at St. Thomas. Boyle is the current director of the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies program, manager of the Rome program and associate editor of Logos. Boyle played a pivotal role in the recent shift in the Rome program. When the Rome program was opened to the entire university, Boyle helped find a place for the St. John Vianney seminarians at the Irish College, guaranteeing the same number of spots remained for Catholic studies students in Rome and a more seamless integration of a semester abroad for the seminarians.
“He sees opportunities in problems, and his optimism and attention to detail have led him to oversee some of our most successful programs,” Naughton said. Kennedy also praised Boyle for his creativity in finding solutions and added that he is well organized.
“He is eminently trustable and likable. … We feel very confident that he’s going to do the job seriously,” Kennedy said.
Boyle said his goal as chair is to try and maintain the good work Kennedy has done. He hopes to continue the organic growth of the department, both in terms of number of students and of faculty members.
“Students are first,” Boyle said. “We need to make sure we always serve our students well.”
Boyle said that Catholic studies provides a robust program by collaborating with many groups across campus, while remaining true to its vision. Students have many ways they can become involved in Catholic life on campus, whether that means majoring in Catholic studies, traveling to Rome, being a part of Residence Life’s Catholic Studies Living Learning Community, participating in Tommie Catholic or in other countless cross-disciplinary activities and events.
Boyle highlighted that students who major in Catholic studies are actively encouraged to have a second major. In turn, Catholic studies students wind up with varied interests that they share with one another, resulting in a rich intellectual life.
“We’ve produced a remarkable group of graduates who are in every conceivable walk of life who are leading remarkably rich lives,” Boyle said.
Seeing more and more students connect with the Catholic Studies project on campus has been one of the most rewarding parts of his career, he said.
“The first year, all the faculty and students fit on my porch,” Boyle said. “The end-of-the-year barbecue was in my backyard. Now the end-of-the-year banquet is in Woulfe Hall. Three hundred students won’t fit on my porch.”
Local historian Susan Hvistendahl will tell the story of the College’s annual festival at a special downtown event.
The annual celebration awards the academic accomplishments of Carleton students and faculty.
We’ve written a lot about you, Class of 2017, and that’s because you’ve given us plenty of great reasons.
In the ranks of seniors graduating this weekend, we have students who earned the Chief’s Award from the City of St. Paul for helping a woman in distress in 2014, a student who served as an ambassador on a Minnesota trade mission to Mexico and a student who performed with Circus Juventas.
The Class of 2017 has done research on how cynical college students are when it comes to politics, if eye patches helped pirates see in the dark, if writing notes by hand or on a laptop helps students remember them better and how to dry breadfruit. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Below is a roundup of some of the stories the Newsroom has written about graduating seniors.
Joseph Allison, an engineering major and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) cadet, received a joint award between the School of Engineering and Department of Aerospace Studies for being the top AFROTC cadet at St. Thomas. Starting this June, he will serve as a developmental engineer at Edwards Air Force Base, just an hour north of Los Angeles. As part of the Engineering Senior Design Clinic, Allison worked on a robot for Pentair.
Molly Amundson, who also was featured as being part of AFROTC and an engineering major, won a Campus Compact Award for her work during a January Term class on global health immersion. She traveled to Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Amundson will be stationed at the Edwards Air Force Base after graduating, where she’ll serve as a developmental engineer and member of the 31 Test and Evaluation Squadron, which helps build top-notch operational systems.
Michaela Andrews and Vang Xiong researched how best to dry breadfruit, a superfood found in Caribbean nations.
Alex Beaulier assisted a research project that looked at whether wearing an eye patch during the day would help humans see better in the dark.
Lindsey Bollig, a mechanical engineering major, taught us just how 3-D printing works. She should know: She made her own 3-D printer by printing parts of it.
In the 2016 Fowler Business Concept Challenge, Jessica Bremseth and Emma Koller took second runner-up in the undergraduate division; Keller Knoll and Derek Ogren took first runner-up in the social venture division.
Isabel Braga-Henebry traveled to Peru with the Festival Choir to perform.
Katherine Connelly is doing research on urban agriculture alongside biology faculty Adam Kay and Chip Small, who were just awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Nicholas Cox was featured as an engineering major and part of AFROTC. He is one of 45 Air Force ROTC cadets selected nationally for the Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, which prepares pilots for NATO missions.
Nicholas Dahlen was featured for his performance in “Neverland” with Circus Juventas, the largest youth performing arts circus in the country.
Mitch Dietrich participated in the World Series of Wiffle Ball here at St. Thomas, where Saint John Vianney seminarians go head to head during finals week of spring semester.
Thao Do, through the Excel! Research Scholars program, researched whether students remember notes better when they take them by hand or on a laptop.
Hannah Drazenovich was featured in Humans of St. Thomas. She and her St. Thomas roommate met because their grandmothers had been roommates together while they were in college.
Claire Dunford and Gabriel Swanton worked with Pentair on a robot protect as part of the Engineering Senior Design Clinic. As part of the same clinic, Cody Merrell and Nathan Osborne worked with 3M.
Ahmed Eshmawy was featured as a Senior Stride. Eshmawy has been working with General Dynamics Missions Systems part time since February and will become a full-time employee of the company after he graduates. He also will remain a Tommie when he returns this fall as a student in the M.S. in Manufacturing Engineering program in the School of Engineering.
Rachel Haas started a chapter of Chi Alpha at St. Thomas, a Pentecostal Christian group that has chapters on college campuses around the United States.
Jiwoon Hur is part of a cross-departmental team at St. Thomas that is testing a robot with the overall goal of addressing the world crisis of food shortages and the development of new technologies to grow healthy crops using less man-made and natural resources.
Lauren Keller and Maura Shea were awarded the Chief’s Award from the City of St. Paul for their actions when they encountered a woman in distress in spring 2014.
Cory Kemp recommended renaming Campus Way to Father Dorsey Way to honor a pioneering African-American priest of the early 20th century and St. Thomas’ first African-American student. After graduation, Kemp will work for Enterprise in the management fellowship program.
Laura Kvasnicka was featured for the work she does with her mentor, Amy Finnegan. Kvasnicka was also the recipient of the Sapientia Award for Scholarly or Creative Work Focused on Women, given by UAWE.
Francesca Ippoliti, a chemistry major, was awarded a 2016-17 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Emily Vecchia, a mathematics major, earned an honorable mention the same year.
Nicole Leland and Natalie Thoresen did training for VISION trips on a farm owned by St. Thomas alumni.
Gavin Linnihan was featured as a Senior Stride. Linnihan has been a part-timer at In The Groove Music, an audio production company that writes and produces music for advertising, film and television, since his freshman year. He was hired to work full time in catalog administration for the firm in April.
Maria McQuillan analyzed tidal debris – streams of stray, mostly young, stars and gas clouds that shoot out from the core of their main galaxy. She also was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2015-16.
Michelle Miller is the 2017 Tommie Award winner.
Anna Nolan served as a delegate during a four-day trip to Mexico alongside Gov. Mark Dayton.
Mallory Patrow researched how cynical college students are about politics.
Angel Paucar did research on first-generation students as part of a team made up of St. Thomas and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School students. The group was funded by a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) grant.
Rebekka Peterson survived a life-changing hit-and-run in 2013. (The Newsroom staff wishes her special congratulations on graduating!)
Hadley Ryan shared her experience as a student in Business 200, which helps business students learn about nonprofits by volunteering.
Jonathan Santos, through the Excel! Research Scholars program, did research on how race is portrayed in internet memes.
Bryan Steinsapir was on a team that won the St. Thomas Hult Prize challenge and traveled to San Francisco to compete. The business idea was to employ local residents of India to collect and sort plastic trash that is then melted into injectionable machines and molded into valuable products to be sold in First World markets.
Michael Stevens was featured as a Human of St. Thomas. As a St. Thomas student, he was president of the Theology Club and studied abroad Rome.
Mitchell Sullivan, a triple major in German, international studies and political science, was selected as a Fulbright scholar. Sullivan will travel to Germany under the Fulbright program’s English Teaching Assistantship. Sullivan’s term begins early September of this year and runs through late June 2018.
Shannon Twiss was featured as a Human of St. Thomas. She and her St. Thomas roommate met because their grandmothers had been roommates together while they were in college. She was also a leader of FemCom and a recipient of the Good Sister Award from UAWE.
Lauren Vallez met engineering professor John Abraham at a fortuitous moment that led her into engineering at St. Thomas. She recently was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, an extremely competitive fellowship that recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education.
Benjamin Waterfield was featured as an engineering major in AFROTC. His career goal is to work on one of the Mars missions. He worked on a flowmeter for 3M as part of the Engineering Senior Design Clinic.
Andrea Westlie shared how doing research in the Chemistry Department has helped her.
Anthony Winters put his baseball skills on display for this photo shoot.