Recent News from Campuses

Theater faculty, recent graduates earn rave reviews for their work

St. Olaf Campus News - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 2:51pm

St. Olaf College graduate Julia Valen ’14 (far right) performs a scene from the Jungle Theater’s “You Can’t Take It With You” alongside (from left) Twin Cities theater veterans Angela Timberman, Cathleen Fuller, Hugh Kennedy, and Nathaniel Fuller.

“Julia Valen maybe doesn’t fully understand it now, but there will be in a time in her life when she will look back on the summer of 2015 and be awestruck,” begins a St. Paul Pioneer Press story that highlights the young St. Olaf College alumna’s new acting role.

“Valen, a recent St. Olaf College grad, plays Essie Carmichael in the Jungle Theater’s current production of You Can’t Take it With You. She and a couple of other young performers have the great good fortune to be surrounded by a veritable Who’s Who of Twin Cities theater. The company comprises one of the warmest and strongest ensemble casts in recent memory in the service of a chestnut from the canon that retains the power to provoke laughter and thought.”

And Valen isn’t the show’s only connection. The production is directed by St. Olaf Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman, who the paper praises for his “wise-eyed handling” of a large and talented cast.

In addition, the Jungle Theater itself will soon be led by another St. Olaf theater alumna, Sarah Rasmussen ’01, who takes on the role of artistic director on July 1. Rasmussen, who has worked in theater venues around the country, tells Minnesota Public Radio that the Twin Cities is “an incredibly dynamic place with such a great ecosystem of theaters.”

That ecosystem provides ample opportunities for St. Olaf theater and dance alumni to demonstrate their talent on stage. Earlier this summer, the Star Tribune took note of the performance Grace Wehrspann ’15 gave in a Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater production just weeks after graduating from St. Olaf.

“Wehrspann’s acting skills demonstrate an understated melancholy and vulnerability,” notes the paper, calling her performance “compelling.”

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

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

Paving the way in research for male school nurses

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

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

That just meant he would have to create his own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACTC Moves to Distributed Model of Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear colleagues and friends of ACTC,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emeritus faculty member Lynn Steen dies

St. Olaf Campus News - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 9:19pm

St. Olaf College Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Lynn Steen, who spent more than four decades making mathematics accessible to all students and shaping the way teachers approach the discipline, died June 21.

Steen was born in Chicago and grew up on Staten Island, New York. In 1965, four years after graduating from Luther College, Steen completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and joined the St. Olaf faculty.

Early in his career, Steen focused on teaching and developing research experiences for undergraduates. One result was the widely used reference book Counterexamples in Topology, co-edited with J. Arthur Seebach Jr. and partly authored by St. Olaf students.

Another was a gradual change in mathematics at St. Olaf from a narrow discipline for the few to an inviting major of value to any liberal arts graduate. By broadening the major and focusing student work on inquiry and investigation, Steen and his departmental colleagues grew mathematics into one of the top five majors at the college — and one of the nation’s largest undergraduate producers of Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences.

As his teaching led Steen to investigate links between mathematics and other fields, he began writing about new developments in mathematics for audiences of non-mathematicians. Many of his articles appeared in the weekly magazine Science News and in annual supplements to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and he penned a groundbreaking report for the National Research Council on the challenges facing mathematics education in the United States.

Steen held numerous leadership posts in national mathematics organizations, serving as president of the Mathematical Association of America and director of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board, a National Academy of Sciences entity that works on improving math education. In 2013 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

In addition to his teaching, Steen served as head of institutional research at St. Olaf and as special assistant to the provost before retiring from the college in 2009.

A memorial service for Steen will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 26, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield.  A visitation will be held one hour prior to the service.

Read Steen’s obituary.

Tommie Traditions: Food for Fines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two St. Thomas Faculty Receive Fulbright Awards

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 2:34pm

Dr. Candace Chou

Two St. Thomas faculty members – Dr. Candace Chou of the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling, and Dr. Heather Shirey of the College of Arts and Sciences – will travel to Taiwan and China during the 2015-16 academic year as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

The Fulbright Scholar Program offers opportunities for American scholars, artists and professionals to conduct research, lecture and consult with other scholars and institutions abroad.

Chou, associate professor of organization learning and development in the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling, will travel to Taiwan for 10 months beginning August 2015. She will carry out research on efforts by the Taiwanese government to bridge the digital divide – such as establishing “digital opportunity centers” in rural areas and creating online tutoring centers for students.

“I’ll be looking at the impact of these digital equity initiatives in education and in society as a whole,” Chou said. “We’ll do focus groups and interview people who are either implementers or recipients of these initiatives. And then my plan is to summarize this data and make recommendations (to the government or nonprofit running each initiative).”

Previously, Chou worked with the Minneapolis Public Schools to create professional development opportunities designed to train teachers using iPads in the classroom.

“I want to find out if there is a vast difference in different countries – or is it the same?” Chou said. “Do people think ‘digital equity initiatives’ are simply putting machines into a room? What can we do to make it better?”

Dr. Heather Shirey

Shirey, associate professor and director of graduate studies in art history in the College of Arts and Sciences, will travel to China to teach American Art through 1980 during spring semester 2016. Tsinghua University in Beijing will serve as her host institution.

Shirey said she is excited that she will be able to teach about how race and ethnicity, particularly in regard to African and African-American art, relate to American art history in a different cultural context.

“In the United States our national dialogue about race and ethnicity is very complex,” Shirey said. “I think it will be a good challenge for me to teach in a new context, where students will have different perspectives when it comes to discussing everything from the Emancipation Proclamation to contemporary race relations.”

Shirey said she thinks teaching abroad will enhance her ability to teach international students or students who don’t speak English as their native language when she returns to St. Thomas.

“All of my teaching (in Beijing) will be in English, and the students are well-equipped to do their research and writing in English,” Shirey said. “I’m excited about having the experience of teaching students who choose to take a class in another language in order to work on their language skills – it will be fun.”

For more information about the Fulbright Scholar program, visit the Grants and Research Office website or the official Fulbright Scholar Program site.

Music lover discovers English is his forte

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 8:55am

Paul Schmitt advises incoming college students to “leave yourselves open to experiences.”

The jazz musician and music aficionado discovered he had a profound interest in writing and studying literature. For a little extra spending money, he’s mapping wetlands with the GeoSpatial Services at Saint Mary’s. And he’s not too shabby at ceramics.

“You don’t need to have your life mapped out,” he said. “It became evident right away that I could be involved with everything I wanted to at Saint Mary’s, and my interests were very broad. This was the place where I could explore my passions, even if it wasn’t for my profession.”

The self-proclaimed “band geek” from Sebeka, Minn., originally thought music was his forte. With blue-collar working parents, Schmitt said he was raised to be practical. His parents encouraged him to think about his potential profession, and not just about getting a degree. Schmitt thought that the music industry program would provide him with the specialized training and job outlets he would need.

Through performing with the jazz band and the Oldie Moldie All-Star singing group, taking leadership roles in the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and getting on stage for the school’s music variety shows, Schmitt became immersed in the music scene. And although he credits the strength of the music program, he came to realize that English, and in particular literature and writing, was his true calling.

Always pragmatic, Schmitt first dabbled in public relations and copywriting, working for the Cardinal student newspaper as well as interning with an advertising agency in La Crosse, Wis.

“(English Department faculty member) Dr. Carolyn Ayers has been one of the most pivotal figures in my life,” Schmitt said. “She has helped me develop my interests by always pushing me and encouraging me, but also helping me to decide what I liked doing.” Once Schmitt decided to attend graduate school and become an English professor, he said Ayers helped him prepare for his GRE and provided professional advice on where to apply.

It was Ayers who first showed him his talent for writing. After taking her Russian literature seminar, he wrote a presentation titled “The Otherworldly Bureaucracy in Gogol’s Petersburg Tales” and took second place at the Interdisciplinary Student Research Symposium, held at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.

For another English class, Schmitt examined 1920s modernist author Gertrude Stein’s “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” which uses the voice of Stein’s lover to talk about her in an interesting first-person, autobiographical twist. Schmitt presented a paper on this topic at the Sigma Tau Delta International Honor Society conference in Albuquerque, N.M.

After Saint Mary’s short-term study abroad to England last year, Schmitt stayed behind and traveled to Germany and France, retracing Stein’s footsteps in Paris. For his senior thesis, he is focusing on “Paris France,” in which Stein, by describing life in France just before World War II, anticipates the effect the war will have on modernism. “She struggled with how to continue to be relevant, as both her creative space of the French countryside and her social space of Paris were threatened by the impending war,” he said.

Dr. Carolyn Ayers said Schmitt’s senior thesis on modernist author and art patron Gertrude Stein “taps into a recent resurgence of interest in Stein’s writing in the context of autobiography and war writing. The project, which incorporates an impressive amount of research on Stein’s life, times, and critical reception as well as direct textual analysis, developed from a course paper into an independent investigation that took him from Fitzgerald library through numerous bookstores in the U.S. and abroad and even to visit some of Stein’s haunts in Paris. His work has particular relevance and has generated interest wherever he has presented it because it points to some interesting parallels between Stein as a self-promoter and reputation-maker and our contemporary culture of celebrity writers.”

Merging both of his loves, a Saint Mary’s professor connected Schmitt with editors of “The Current” public radio in the Twin Cities so he could write music-related stories. Over the summer, Schmitt served as a research assistant in the English Department helping faculty with their personal academic research, and he enjoys tutoring other students in Saint Mary’s writing studio.

At the beginning of his senior year, he started working for the university’s GeoSpatial Services on national projects simply because it piqued his interest … and he needed a job. And, he squeezed in a jazz tour of Ireland over spring break.

“Saint Mary’s provides opportunities for you to try out new things,” he said. “This is just a great place where you can find those outlets. And it exudes friendliness, and belonging, and a sense of home.”

St. Thomas, Community Work Together to Bring Fresh Produce to North Minneapolis Corner Stores

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:20am

The problem: Convenience stores in north Minneapolis don’t sell that much produce, so they can’t buy it in bulk at affordable prices. Instead they’re forced to buy produce retail and increase the prices in their own stores, essentially leaving consumers paying more money for lower quality produce.

The solution: Brightside Produce, a collaboration between University of St. Thomas students and biology associate professor Adam Kay, Community Table – a Minneapolis nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs that contribute to a local food system – and convenience store owners. Brightside delivers wholesale, high-quality produce to convenience stores in the quantities and prices they need, and the leftovers each week fuel a CSA-style offering at St. Thomas, where students, faculty and staff buy all the extra produce in $3, $5 and $10 packages.

“To our knowledge it’s the first economically sustainable model for distributing low-cost, fresh produce to corner stores,” Kay said. “I think we’re really onto something.”

Growing problem

In 2008 Minneapolis became the country’s first city to enact a Staple Foods Ordinance, which required licensed grocery stores to have certain levels of quality produce available for purchase at all times. Minneapolis increased those requirements last year, and in April 2016 they will be enforced.

That increased urgency spurred Kay and 2015 environmental studies graduate Carly Dent to re-examine the problem last spring. They were connected with Community Table, who had the idea of renting out space in corner stores and selling produce there. Brightside Produce grew out of this idea and featured Dent – supported by a St. Thomas grant – working with local youth to buy produce wholesale and begin distributing it to six north Minneapolis stores using a Biology Department vehicle.

Kay was soon left with the leftover produce, which, one day, literally stacked up in his office. A colleague offered to buy some from him, and that snowballed into the UST Buyers Club. Today, about 60 Tommies are signed up to buy packages each week and – most importantly – close the loop on an entire model of business that is sustainable.

“In general it’s a complex model, but the pieces are all necessary to get the system to work,” Kay said. “The delivery system alone isn’t economically viable. And a CSA at St. Thomas would have no purpose without that connection to an external program. Everything makes sense if they’re all connected.”

Group effort

Junior Emma Button stepped into the role of business manager last fall, helping with everything from store feedback and delivery coordination, to the development of potential new aspects of Brightside Produce, such as sidewalk carts and placement at a farmer’s market in Minneapolis. Like Dent before her, she’s working full time this summer through a grant from St. Thomas to help this project continue to grow.

“Working with Brightside has been one of the most challenging, and empowering, things I’ve done at St. Thomas,” Button said. “There are times where it’s so easy to get bogged down in all the chaotic emails; there’s always something going on we have to fix. But the times where I can step back and look at the bigger picture of what we’re doing … it has been really worth it.”

A work study award allows St. Thomas student Parker Hewes to be paid to drive the delivery vehicle, and he goes with two 17-year-old entrepreneurs – who are in charge of working with store owners – to deliver. Those store owners’ feedback helped inform a video Brightside Produce made last year.

“It’s fair for everyone, and no one feels like they’re getting a handout,” Kay said. “It’s that link between the community and an institution that allows this to work.”

Others already are taking notice of just how well it has worked: Button said Brightside Produce took third place in last year’s Fowler Business Concept Challenge, and Kay said the project has made it to the finals of the Aspen Ideas Festival.

“We’ve been getting some really good feedback,” Kay said.

Next steps

Brightside Produce now delivers to 14 stores, and had a delivery all 52 weeks last year, including Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. Kay said the Minneapolis Health Department estimates  60-70 more stores in Minneapolis could use this service, and some 270 stores will be affected by the new Staple Foods Ordinance.

“We’re working every day to figure out how we can scale this up, get more people from St. Thomas involved, get more youth involved,” Kay said. “Our main fundraising effort at this point is another vehicle, and if we could get that I think we could scale up right away.”

Kay said Brightside is looking for more academic partners at St. Thomas as well; about 40 students already are involved through communication journalism, English and social work classes. Everyone can say they’re part of something big – and getting bigger.

“I would like to hand it off to someone, have it be in good shape … and have them be similarly empowered and challenged,” Button said. “I hope that it’s something that will continue for a really long time.”


University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 9:32am

Alejandra Chavez Rivas has never met President Barack Obama, but he certainly had young women like her in mind when he stepped into the Rose Garden on June 15, 2012, to speak about his new executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The now 25-year-old woman, born in Mexico and raised in Minnesota, is one of 1.4 million people brought into the United States illegally at a young age by their parents. As an undocumented immigrant, she always would be at risk of deportation, and that didn’t seem fair to the president.

“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag,” Obama said. “They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way except one: on paper. … Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life, studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class, only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.”

Tired of waiting for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation, Obama took action on his own with DACA, which allows adults like Alejandra to remain in the United States. She obtained a Social Security number, a Minnesota driver’s license and a renewable two-year work permit.

Just as importantly, she found herself emboldened to pursue a college education. Two years later, her circuitous journey led her to the University of St. Thomas, where she has thrived, found new purpose in her life and come to realize what she once had viewed as an unattainable dream was within her reach after all.

Alejandra Chavez Rivas

“I never thought in a million years I would go to St. Thomas,” said Alejandra, who takes three classes a semester, works four jobs, cares for a 5-year-old daughter and has a two-hour round-trip commute to school every weekday. “It has been the right decision. Yes, I am tired in the morning, I work many hours and my homework load is hard. But I would not change any of it for the world.”

Alejandra was born in 1989 in Mexico City, and her parents separated when she was a toddler. Her mother was a social worker who could not find a job in her field but sold chickens and sandwiches to make ends meet. She decided in 1993 to move with her two sons and Alejandra to Minnesota, where they would live with her parents.

They flew from Guadalajara to Tijuana, where a man hired by Alejandra’s grandfather smuggled them across the border. The harrowing experience – hiding in fields, waiting in ditches and running across a highway – “made us fear for our lives,” her mother said, “but I was determined to have a better life for myself and the children.”

Reunited in Minnesota, the extended family lived first in Crystal before moving to Monticello in 1999, when Alejandra’s father rejoined them. He since has worked in a factory, and her grandparents returned to Mexico several years ago after retirement. Her brothers also have returned to Mexico; one went on his own and the other was deported after a DWI arrest.

Alejandra graduated from Monticello High School in 2008. She grew up knowing she was a Mexican citizen but wasn’t knowledgeable about her status as an undocumented immigrant until she was 15. She couldn’t obtain a driver’s license because, not having been born in the United States, she didn’t have a Social Security number.

“We kept ourselves in the shadows,” she said. “We stayed out of trouble and never had any issues with the law. Once I was 15, my mom told me, ‘You can’t tell people your background. Just tell them you are from here.’ I spoke perfect English and no accent, so I fit right in.”

Alejandra’s first job was doing front-desk work at a community center. She made plans to attend the University of Minnesota in hopes of becoming a doctor, but weeks before classes began she learned she was pregnant.

“My mind was consumed with the thought of becoming a single mother,” she later wrote in an essay. “The father of my child did not want anything to do with me. I would have to raise my child on my own. My relationship with my parents was so distant that I kept my pregnancy a secret. I had no idea what my future would hold. I could not disappoint my parents any more, so I kept it all in and tried to figure things out on my own. I was scared for my future, angry because I had never felt so alone, and frustrated that I let myself get this far.”

Alejandra considered adoption or even abortion before, “for some reason – a beautiful, mysterious reason – my child became my everything,” she wrote. Her parents learned of her pregnancy and, while initially shocked and angry, told her they were happy they would be grandparents. They also insisted she enroll in a community college, saying her daughter should not be “an obstacle, but my motivation.”

She took courses at Anoka-Ramsey Community College before giving birth in April 2009 to Daniela Alessandra, who today is a happy kindergartner living with her mother and grandparents. Alejandra continued to work, first at Aeropostale and Adidas stores and more recently at a J.C. Penney store.

But she felt she had hit a “plateau,” with little education, an unsatisfying job and an unhappy marriage in Arizona, having married in hopes of obtaining citizenship. She decided to divorce and return to Minnesota. “I needed to go and find peace,” she said, and she sought solace in faith formation courses at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Monticello.

“She found her faith,” said Father Tony VanderLoop, pastor of St. Henry’s. “It’s amazing how young people like Alejandra find their faith when it is presented in ways that resonate with them. She has become a new person.”

Chavez Rivas participates in Professor David Deavel’s Catholic Studies Class in Sitzmann Hall. (Photo by Mike Ekern ’02)

A St. Henry’s catechist teacher connected Alejandra with St. Thomas alumnus Vincenzo Randazzo ’12, who worked at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in south Minneapolis. He had been involved in the St. Thomas Center for Catholic studies’ Latino Leadership Program, which now helps prepare students for confirmation at St. Stephen’s, and suggested Alejandra join a young adults group at the parish. She met other students and staff from St. Thomas, including Laura Stierman, a Catholic Studies staff member who directs the Latino program.

“I try to help lead people to our Lord,” said Randazzo, who has been a residence hall director at the University of Mary in Bismarck since September. “There’s a camaraderie at St. Stephen’s – a friendship in Christ – and Alejandra was introduced to that community.”

Stierman, Randazzo and others persuaded Alejandra she should enroll at St. Thomas. She didn’t think she could afford it, but she worked with financial aid counselors and cobbled together several scholarships from St. Thomas and St. Henry’s. She received a boost from the Minnesota Dream Act, enacted by the Legislature in 2013 to provide financial aid to undocumented students who have graduated from a Minnesota high school. More than 360 students at Minnesota colleges received Dream Act funds in 2014-15, including six at St. Thomas.

Support also came from Jean Gray ’51 who serves on the Catholic Studies board. He became aware of the Padrino (Godfather) Program, a St. Thomas-St. Stephen’s effort to match students identified as Latino leaders with people who can help cover expenses.

“I’m an old FBI agent and I worked in embassies, and I don’t approve of people passing over the border,” Gray said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved.” He became “hooked” after reading Alejandra’s essays on rediscovering her faith and wanting to major in Catholic studies. “Here is a student who can help people, motivated by her faith. How could I not help her?”

“I have met students who have graduated from St. Thomas and the way they live their life and grow their faith in God has inspired me,” Alejandra wrote in one essay. “I have realized that with God all of my struggles up to this point have been for one single purpose and that is to serve Him because He is my rock and He has never left my side.

“I am convinced that … God has a plan for me and this opportunity to study at St. Thomas is the direction I need to be heading to help Dreamers (Dream Act students) like me who need to find the hope they have been longing for. I want to be able to be an example to other students.”

Alejandra’s first year at St. Thomas tested her in many ways – intellectually, emotionally and physically – because of an exhausting schedule. She was up by 5 every morning for the 45- mile drive to campus, where she took spring semester classes in ethics, Spanish and Catholic studies. She worked in the Catholic Studies Department two days a week, at St. Henry’s on Saturdays as coordinator of Hispanic ministry, at St. Stephen’s on Sundays with confirmation classes and at J.C. Penney 25 hours a week.

Her professors, fellow students, church workers and parents all deserve credit for helping Alejandra, but she circles back to one person when asked to describe her motivation.

“Daniela has had the most profound impact on my life,” she wrote in an essay. “Daniela is goofy; she tries wearing my clothes. Daniela is beautiful; she looks like me. Daniela is intelligent; she can speak two languages. I love my daughter intensely, inexplicably, and unconditionally. Daniela has taught me that there is no greater gift than to become a mother, and be reborn with her.”

Alejandra admits she had a “rebellious nature” as a teenager, but that she changed during her pregnancy. She took care of her body, ate appropriately and read about how to care for infants.

“My daughter became my motivation, my inspiration to change my inner and outer being,” she wrote. “The day my daughter was born will be a memory I will cherish in my heart forever. I was taken to the hospital and all I could think about was holding her in my arms. When I first saw my daughter and held her close to me I realized that God blessed me with His greatest gift. Having my heart walking outside my body was the greatest feeling, and no one could take that away from me.”

Where Alejandra once feared a new-born daughter might be an “obstacle,” she became “my greatest teacher” and “the catalyst that changed me forever.”

“My daughter has shaped me to be the person that I am today,” she wrote. “She continues to teach me to enjoy life’s greatest treasures. These are values that we should never forget. My daughter has taught me to always laugh and smile. She teaches me to be patient, to always slow down and admire the beauty that life has to offer. I strive for perfection to become the woman she will look up to and be proud of.”

Alejandra is uncertain what profession she will pursue. She remains intrigued about becoming a doctor, but reminds herself she needs to be patient and focus on her studies. She traveled to Washington, D.C., in February for a Catholic social ministry conference, and she would like to study abroad, ideally in Rome for a semester if travel restrictions for DACA students are relaxed.

Her attorney, David Wilson, a 1993 St. Thomas alumnus, calls Alejandra the “embodiment” of DACA in the ways she takes full advantage of the program. He is impressed with her drive and her aspirations and believes Obama would feel the same way.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do because I’ve been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what’s best in America,” Obama said about DACA in his 2012 speech. “I know some have come forward at great risks to themselves and their futures in hopes it would spur the rest of us to live up to our own most cherished values. And I’ve seen the stories of Americans in schools and churches and communities who stood up for them and rallied behind them, and pushed us to give them a better path and freedom from fear.”

Read more from St. Thomas magazine.

Discover Hamline During Minnesota Private College Week

Hamline University Campus News - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 12:00am
Minnesota Private College Week is a perfect time to discover Hamline, one of Minnesota's featured private colleges. Whether you visit in the morning or afternoon, June 22-26, you'll be welcomed warmly and introduced to all Hamline has to offer.

The New Dawn of Title IX

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Sun, 06/21/2015 - 1:35pm
“No person in the United States Shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

With this brief sentence, Title IX reshaped the landscape of women’s athletics and, more recently, has become the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s fight against sexual harassment and violence on college campuses.

St. Thomas has remained committed to staying ahead of changes Title IX has inspired – not only for the sake of complying with the law, but as Emily Erickson, the campus’ new sexual misconduct prevention coordinator, put it, because “there’s this deep thread of care and concern for people’s dignity and their ability to feel safe, comfortable and welcome in the community.”

Welcoming women on campus

Following Title IX’s passage, universities struggled to understand, and sometimes fought against, how Title IX impacted their athletics departments.

St. Thomas, an all-male institution until fall 1977, faced a different issue: When women stepped on campus for the first time that September, the college not only had to handle sports, but every aspect of going coeducational. While many universities altered antiquated sports models, St. Thomas’ entire campus was transforming.

The changes were pronounced more outside the classroom, as St. Catherine students already had been attending classes. The oddity of female presence was felt most in the dining room, the residence halls, clubs and sports.

Eight sports were fielded for women: cross country, track, softball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, swimming and golf. JoAnn Andregg, as the new women’s volleyball and tennis coach, said she was aware of the curiosity directed toward women. But more importantly, she said she felt women and women athletics were accepted as equal partners from day one.

She and Steve Fritz ’71, the current athletic director, largely attributed that to then-athletic director Frank Mach ’55.

“He only knew the men’s model. … He took what he knew, and said, ‘This is how the women are going to do it too,’” Andregg said.

John Wendt, professor of ethics and business law, who has an extensive background in sports law, including being named to Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2013, said support from the administration and leadership from individuals such as Andregg and Fritz couldn’t be overstated.

“They’ve taken such incredible leadership to ensure gender equity, to promote a balance of academics and athletics,” Wendt said. “That, to me, has been remarkable and is leadership at its fundamentals.”

The Athletics Department faced many of the same challenges as the rest of campus, including renovating old buildings intended for an all-male school. The college created restrooms and locker rooms for both sexes, and sometimes had to reformat the flow of a building.

“We had to make a lot of new spaces and had to make some spaces that already existed work for both genders. But really, that was campuswide,” Fritz said.

The women’s tennis team in 1978.

Minor stumbling points occurred as the department adjusted: The volleyball team started in old men’s soccer and basketball uniforms, according to a 1978 issue of The Aquin, and the women’s tennis team had no budget the first year because the program was approved after budgets were set.

Cathy Bremer Lombritto ’81, who swam, golfed and later coached at St. Thomas, said the transition was still “seamless.”

“We never had any excuses thrown at us,” Bremer Lombritto said. “They put the teams out there and built as they could and let the teams grow.”

Andregg pointed out how quickly women’s sports achieved success. In 1981, women’s cross country won a national championship with the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), which provided championships for women before the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“It was an amazing and phenomenal thing. In only four years, women brought a national championship,” Andregg said. “I am proud we have one of the few national championships (with the AIWA). Not a lot of schools can go over to their trophy case and see that.”

Debra Thometz Leyden ’83, one of the first women added to the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989, won the individual cross country championship in 1981. She echoed Andregg, saying St. Thomas strove to meet the needs of the women’s teams.

“That it wasn’t apparent the school had been coed for only a few years really said a lot,” Thometz Leyden said. “Girls wanted to come to St. Thomas because of the success of the program.”

Title IX in sports today

Being a Division III school makes a difference, according to Wendt, especially when it comes to money and scholarships, which bring additional issues for Division I.

At this level, Wendt said schools focus on providing a quality program that benefits the entire individual, a mentality he attributed to the success of women’s athletics and the strength of the Athletics Department.

“Here, especially in academics and athletics, you’re part of the St. Thomas family,” Wendt said. “That’s a cultural thing here. You want people to succeed.”

When it comes to sports, budgets are the easiest way to go afoul of Title IX, Wendt, Andregg and Fritz all agree.

“If a donor came to you and said, ‘I want to build you a new baseball field,’ the athletic director would have to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, we have a softball team here,’” Andregg said. “You couldn’t just let gifts go in one direction. Gifts had to be spread between both genders.”

With a much wider pool of male alumni, Andregg said St. Thomas has been vigilant about fundraising.

While Wendt pointed out a still-existing gap between opportunities for men and women in school, Title IX has resulted in more overall opportunities for women.

“What would have happened if I was five to seven years older?” Bremer Lombritto said. “I really wonder what it would be like if Title IX had come along later. I know a number of opportunities would have been different for me.”

Softball in 1978.

A new focus

Within the last decade, the emphasis has fallen away from athletics and new issues have stepped into the spotlight: sexual harassment and violence. In 2014 in particular, the federal government gave new strength to Title IX: Vice President Joe Biden headed up the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault; the White House launched the #itsonus campaign, which encourages bystander intervention, particularly from men; and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began publishing lists of colleges with Title IX investigations for possible violations in handling sexual violence and harassment complaints.

As with athletics, St. Thomas is committed to being at the forefront. In 2011, St. Thomas began reviewing its sexual misconduct policy, which was approved in summer 2014. With federal developments in mind, the new policy was intended to clarify, educate and prevent sexual misconduct. Revising the policy, much as Title IX is enforced on campus, was done by a variety of people spread across the university.

Human Resources, General Counsel and the Dean of Students Office play integral roles in supporting Title IX compliance. Nora Fitzpatrick, who served as the interim Title IX director, said having a decentralized structure infuses Title IX throughout the organization.

“It really sends the message that it’s everybody’s business to ensure we have a safe campus,” Fitzpatrick said.

Clarity and transparency

Rachel Harris, associate dean of students, said clarity and transparency were key when revising the policy. The policy now provides definitions for situations the Dean of Students Office had dealt with but weren’t defined specifically, such as stalking, dating violence and domestic violence.

Having clear definitions for sexual assault and consent is vital; not having those definitions makes it easy for schools to run into trouble with Title IX. Associate general counsel Abigail Crouse, who provides legal guidance regarding Title IX, said they examined state law regarding criminal activity and also other institutions’ policies, but ultimately looked to create definitions easy for students to understand and that fit St. Thomas standards.

St. Thomas has had an affirmative consent policy for approximately 10 years. Such a policy means actively gaining a “yes” before participating in sexual activity, instead of assuming a lack of a “no” is consent.

“Instead of asking, ‘How did you say no? How did you resist?’ now we put the burden on the person being accused: ‘How did you get permission? What was said or done that means the sexual activity was consensual?’ It really shifts how we think about and how we make decisions about sexual misconduct and sexual assault,” Harris said.

Erickson said an affirmative consent policy fits better with the definition of consent.

“You would never borrow someone’s car without their permission or use their desk or textbook without their permission,” Erickson said. “Of course we should ask for permission to get an affirmative yes when we’re doing something as intimate as being sexual with someone.”

For the goal of transparency, face-to-face training was done. Students need to know available resources and what the procedure would be if they file a complaint, and staff and community members also need to understand their responsibilities.

Every employee attended a “Creating a Culture of Understanding and Prevention” training, with more advanced training for investigators or first responders. Freshman and first-year students had a 45-minute session during orientation.

The trainings were crafted to be interactive, with case studies for staff, and to introduce members of the Office of Student Affairs so people would be comfortable working with them if they needed to report a case, Crouse said.


Time and effort went into making the university’s system comfortable and fair for everyone; however, the ultimate goal is to prevent needing such a system. Erickson’s part-time, permanent position as sexual misconduct prevention coordinator strives toward that.

Erickson’s background includes working with Sexual Offense Services for Ramsey County and on the board of directors at the Sexual Violence Center of Hennepin, Carver and Scott counties. Through those organizations, she decided she wanted to do more prevention work. That’s how Green Dot came onto her radar.

Green Dot is a bystander intervention program that encourages anyone who sees a potentially dangerous situation to intervene in a way he or she finds comfortable. Bystander intervention programs are proving promising: A study of Green Dot in Kentucky high schools, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found a greater than 50 percent reduction in self-reported incidents of sexual violence, while schools that did not receive the training saw a slight increase.

Green Dot towels line the bench chairs at a men’s basketball game in 2015. The game was a designated “green out” with fans encouraged to wear green clothing to support the Green Dot program.

Erickson now coordinates Green Dot, which has been on campus for several years and was what drew her to St. Thomas.

“What I love about Green Dot is that it meets people where we all agree: We all agree that violence is bad and we should do something about it,” Erickson said. “It’s not just one person. It’s everyone doing small acts to make the campus safer. Over time, the culture starts to shift to where we don’t make a space for sexual violence or domestic violence.”

Harris added that Green Dot is valuable because it addresses individuals without the labels of victim or perpetrator.

Junior Therese Coughlan is on the Green Dot marketing committee at St. Thomas and works with Erickson to create events promoting Green Dot. Coughlan said she likes Green Dot because it makes it easier to start otherwise difficult conversations.

“You talk about sexual violence, and it’s so big,” Coughlan said. “There are so many different categories and it’s scary. And then you talk about bystander training and how one action can make a difference. … You should care for everyone around you and it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone’s OK.”

Senior Mark Hill, former president of Sigma Chi, was inspired by Green Dot after attending one of Harris’ trainings. He asked Harris to do additional training sessions for Sigma Chi, and said he has seen his fraternity brothers use the tools they gained. He added that he’s happy Erickson is on campus because of the continuity she will provide.

“To have someone own that story and understand it in the broader context of the university … is going to benefit us going forward in preventing these assaults,” Hill said.

Measuring success

With national changes likely to continue, and new faces and initiatives working alongside policies and people who have been at St. Thomas for years, how is success to be measured?

For Harris, that answer comes through knowing people are comfortable using St. Thomas’ system.

“If we have a culture of reporting, and they feel comfortable and trust the system, we’ll do a better job of adhering to Title IX in making sure our education is available, comfortable and safe for all students,” Harris said. “The better the culture around reporting and trust, the better we’ll live out the values of Title IX. Everybody has a right to an education and feeling safe within that.”

Read more from St. Thomas magazine.

Visiting artist Rina Yoon gives free public lecture

St. Kate's Campus News - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 3:51pm
Presented by the Women’s Art Institute, Korean-born print artist Rina Yoon will speak on Tuesday, June 23, at 7 p.m. More »

Katie Sexe-Talbot ’00: A Leader in Healthcare Administration

Gustavus Campus News - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 2:06pm

Katie Sexe-Talbot ’00

When the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal recognized 51 local women this spring, including industry-leading executives and entrepreneurs for their professional achievements, leadership qualities, and contributions to the broader Twin Cities community, Gustavus Adolphus College alumna Katie Sexe-Talbot ’00 was among those honored.

As clinic administrator for the Edina-based obstetrics and gynecology practice Clinic Sofia, Sexe-Talbot is responsible for key operations such as accounting, payroll, public relations, and marketing. She also oversaw aspects of a new clinic building when Clinic Sofia expanded into Maple Grove. Clinic Sofia is fully staffed by women and is inspired by the Greek goddess Sophia—a symbol of women’s wisdom, life stages, fertility, monthly cycles, and nurturing.

“Five years ago, I made the leap from a finance/accounting role to health care operations and it was the best decision I ever made,” Sexe-Talbot said. “I absolutely love what I do and I have the great fortune to work with an incredible team of women. Our staff is amazing—kind, cohesive, and all there for the same mission: to take care of our patients. It’s true that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Sexe-Talbot began preparing for her current career back in 1996 when she came to Gustavus as a freshman from Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

“My time at Gustavus prepared me well for my current role as a healthcare administrator. What I appreciate most about my time at Gustavus was having the opportunity to explore my interests, in the classroom at out,” she said.

While she initially pursued sports medicine/physical therapy coursework, Sexe-Talbot says she soon fell in love with the business of medicine after taking courses in finance and accounting. She was also able to hone her business acumen by participating in the College’s Investment Club and Student Senate.

“At a small, liberal arts college, I was able to easily transition from a science track to a business one,” she said. “I like to say that I received the ultimate liberal arts education, as I majored in business management, minored in sociology and anthropology, and completed the pre-physical therapy core coursework.”

After completing a summer internship in Washington, D.C. at the Department of Health and Human Services, Sexe-Talbot was able to secure a highly regarded healthcare consulting position straight out of college. Before moving to her current position at Clinic Sofia, Sexe-Talbot spent several years building the internal audit department from the ground up at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and education I received at Gustavus,” Sexe-Talbot said. “I went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and one from the University of St. Thomas, but I am always and forever a Gustie!”

Sexe-Talbot is active in several community activities focused on health care, children, and families. She is on the finance committee of Fairview Physician Associates and has served on the leadership council and development committee for the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Katie and her husband Kevin live in St. Paul with their two children.


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

Hans Gustafson selected for national interfaith teaching seminar

Gustafson, associate director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and adjunct professor of theology, has been selected to participate in the Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar June 21-25 at Boston College.

Looking Ahead to the 51st Nobel Conference

Gustavus Campus News - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 9:43am

For fifty years, the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College has hosted preeminent scientists, theologians, and ethicists to discuss deep questions at the intersection of science and society. The 51st Nobel Conference, which is titled “Addiction: Exploring the Science and Experience of an Equal Opportunity Condition,” will take place Oct. 6-7, 2015. Tickets for this year’s Nobel Conference are now on sale and can be purchased online at or by calling 507-933-7520.

The 51st Nobel Conference will bring together experts in medicine, neuroscience, sociology, economics, and philosophy to explore the science and experience of addiction.

“The definitions and descriptions of addiction are contentious. Some see it as a brain disease, some others as a psychological condition, some as a consequence of environmental factors, and others as a spiritual crisis. It may be all of these or some combination—no one knows for certain,” said Gustavus Professor of Philosophy Peg O’Connor. “What is certain is that the substances and behaviors to which a person can become addicted continues to grow as different experts argue the inclusion of food, sex, the internet, and exercise.”

The following individuals will speak at the 51st Nobel Conference:

  • Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor and Faculty Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University
  • Anne M. Fletcher, author of Sober for Good and Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth about Addiction Treatment and How to Get Help That Works.
  • Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University; director of Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Labs at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
  • Denise Kandel, professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; research scientist and head of the Department of Epidemiology of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
  • Eric Kandel, 2000 Nobel laureate in physiology/medicine; University Professor, Kavli Professor of Brain Science, and professor of biochemistry and celluar biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University; Senior Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
  • Marc Lewis, professor of developmental psychology at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands; author of Memoir of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines His Former Life on Drugs.
  • William Cope Moyers, vice president of public affairs and community relations at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; author of Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption and Now What? An Insider’s Guide to Addiction and Recovery.
  • Sheigla Murphy, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Studies, Institute for Scientific Analysis.
  • Michael V. Pantalon, senior research scientist in emergency medicine and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.
  • Mark Willenbring, founder of Alltyr Clinic in St. Paul; former director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research of the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

Reserved seating tickets are $120 apiece, while general admission tickets are $75 apiece. High school and college student delegation tickets can be purchased in groups of 10 for a total of $60. Tickets are also available for the buffet lunches at a cost of $12.50 per person. A separate ticket ($30) is needed for the closing banquet, which will feature presenter Marc Lewis on Wednesday evening. More information about the Nobel Conference, including the entire schedule for this year’s conference and archived video of previous conferences, is available online at

About The Nobel Conference

Following the dedication of the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science in 1963 at Gustavus, the Nobel Foundation granted approval for an annual science conference to be held at the College. For five decades, Gustavus has organized and hosted The Nobel Conference, which draws about 6,000 people to the college campus in St. Peter, Minn. The Conference links a general audience, including high school students and teachers, with the world’s foremost scholars and researchers in discussion centered on contemporary issues relating to the natural and social sciences. The Nobel Conference is the first ongoing educational conference of its kind in the United States. It is made possible through income generated by a Nobel Conference Endowment and the support of annual conference contributors.


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

Saint Mary’s University honors Brother Gerard Rummery with honorary degree

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Thu, 06/18/2015 - 5:23pm

FARMINGTON, Minn. — In recognition of a lifetime of faith-filled service, Brother Gerard Rummery, FSC was presented with an honorary doctorate by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota June 18 in Farmington at a Lasallian Summer Retreat for Saint Mary’s faculty, staff, and students.

Brother Gerard was awarded a Doctor of Humanities degree, honoris causa, for his years of service to the De La Salle Christian Brothers as leader on the international level.

The award recognizes Brother Gerard’s 65 years of service to the worldwide Lasallian Family. Brother Gerard has been committed to the continuation of the Brothers’ shared mission with Lasallian partners, especially within his role as a teacher at the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies and at the Lasallian Leadership Institute, facilitator of Lasallian Summer Retreats at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Saint Mary’s College of California, and presenter at countless local, national, and international Lasallian retreats and conferences. He has also contributed greatly to the quality of Lasallian resources and publications and to a deeper appreciation of catechesis and religious education in the modern world.

Brother Gerard has been committed to the continuation of the Brothers’ shared mission with Lasallian partners, especially within his role as a teacher at the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies and at the Lasallian Leadership Institute, facilitator of Lasallian Summer Retreats at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Saint Mary’s College of California, and presenter at countless local, national, and international Lasallian retreats and conferences. He has also contributed greatly to the quality of Lasallian resources and publications and to a deeper appreciation of catechesis and religious education in the modern world.

Brother Gerard has been recognized by the Catholic Church as a renowned leader, scholar, historian, and teacher who has touched the hearts of those he encounters by willingly and graciously sharing the love of Christ and by inspiring his learners with the vision of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the De La Salle Christian Brothers.

The Catholic Church in 2015 celebrates those religious like Brother Gerard Rummery who have embraced the task of living publicly the gospel life of Jesus, being responsive to the needs of others, and serving the Church and the people of God.

Photo caption: Brother Gerard Rummery, an inspirational leader with the De La Salle Christian Brothers, left, received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Brother William Mann, president of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Sister Mariella Gable Award winner honored again

Claudia Rankine, the 2014 recipient of the College of Saint Benedict Literary Arts Institute's Sister Mariella Gable Award, has won the PEN Open Book Award for her book, "Citizen: An American Lyric." The PEN American Center is dedicated to defending writers and free speech on an international scale.

Cultivating Collaboration in the School of Engineering

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 7:00pm

The University of St. Thomas School of Engineering is relatively unique amongst engineering programs as it is rooted in the liberal arts and much of the research is carried out through faculty collaborations with undergraduates.

These characteristics, in addition to a passion for teaching, are what initially drew both of us to UST, where our personalities and research interests quickly formed into a strong collaboration. The common threads between our two research areas are that they both involve experimental fluid mechanic phenomena and that these phenomena can be examined using high-speed imaging systems.

Our focus on this method of exploring fluid mechanic phenomena comes from our background of each using high-speed imaging systems in our respective Ph.D. research projects that involved spray and bubble formations.

Within our first five months of working together we received a National Science Foundation grant to purchase a high-speed camera system capable of taking color videos at speeds up to 675,000 frames per second. This new equipment has allowed us to extend our research beyond our initial areas of expertise into projects ranging from chip formation in machining on the micro-scale to timing of basketball shots in collaboration with UST’s Department of Health and Human Performance.

Shepard grew up in Winona, Minnesota, and spent much of his time observing fluid’s ability to be a force for destruction, creation, recreation and endless curiosity. He spent a significant amount of time interacting with wind and water (technically both are fluids) while swimming, fishing, boating, sailing and windsurfing. His passion for research stems from his innate fascination with fluids combined with interest in energy issues.

His current research projects include examining fundamental issues in the formation of sprays by first injecting the liquid with bubbles, as well as studying the forces on objects as they impact water. Sprays have immediate implications in a variety of energy issues such as combustion of liquid fuels and pollution control in exhaust gases. Sprays have an auxiliary role in regards to energy in that energy is required to break a liquid up into a spray. This required energy grows for many fluids that have properties that make them difficult to spray; thus better understanding of how these difficult liquids break up may lead to more efficient spraying technologies. The primary application for studying forces on objects impacting water comes from the current technology used for measuring ocean temperatures. In this process small torpedo-shaped sensors are dropped from ships and report the ocean temperature as they fall. As these are dropped from ships of various heights, an uncertainty results in the depth at which one assumes the sensor is at for a given measurement. This creates problems for oceanographers and climate change scientists who require an accurate picture of the global energy balance.

Wentz initially started working with fluid spray behaviors while a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign. There he became interested in the problem of extending the life of cutting tools in the creation of micro-sized features, such as those found in miniaturized medical devices. The tools used to machine these parts have frequent breaking and wear issues, as may be expected for drills and mills about half the diameter of a human hair. His research has focused on creating a cutting fluid mist through ultrasonic vibration and applying it to a micro-cutting process through a specialized nozzle.

At UST, Wentz’s work with undergraduate research assistants has yielded probabilistic and computational fluid dynamic models of the system with experimental validation of extended tool life.

Being engaged in research has proven to be of tremendous value for us in both the classroom and the academic community. Conducting research requires continuous learning, writing, confusion, critical feedback, revision, and the organization and presentation of technical material. These experiences are similar to those faced by undergraduate students. Not only can we share some lessons learned from our process, but empathy comes more easily in dealing with our students.

Additionally, by publishing and attending conferences we are able to keep abreast of many cutting-edge advancements that are then shared in the classroom and instructional labs. This helps us to strengthen the connection between our lecture material, the expanding limit of science and the practical application that our students will use in their careers. We also have enjoyed the experiences of interacting with other academics at conferences and the different perspectives toward research and pedagogy that we have found in talking with these colleagues.

A big part of the joy we feel in conducting research comes directly from the enhanced interactions with curious and talented students. In our research students ranging from first-year to seniors have been engaged in the various aspects of the projects from literature review to writing and presenting papers and everything in between. The skills and experiences the students gain help them to land engineering jobs and gain acceptance from top-tier graduate programs while providing them with the skills necessary to excel once they are there. We feel grateful to be a part of their growth and feel that the joy of discovery in research is amplified by their participation.

Clinical professor Dr. Thomas Shepard and assistant professor Dr. John Wentz both teach in UST’s School of Engineering. 

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

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