Recent News from Campuses
Hamline University Campus News - Fri, 12/06/2013 - 12:00am
In the latest edition of the The Piper Report: Professor Melissa Embser-Herbert talks about a new scholarship for a Rwandan girl, Malmstrom Lecture, Words with Werdel, Purple Onion Book Club, Give to the Max Day, and an update about Piper Athletics.
St. Kate's Campus News - Thu, 12/05/2013 - 4:12pm
A St. Kate's student earned a 9th place finish in a national professional sales competition. More »
Gustavus Campus News - Thu, 12/05/2013 - 2:58pm
For 45 years, Michael Johnson, singer, song-writer, storyteller, and guitarist, has delighted audiences at Gustavus Adolphus College. The College is delighted to have him back again this year as Johnson continues the tradition of performing in Björling Recital Hall at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, with favorites from his 45-year career and his newest release, Moonlit Deja Vu. This concert on the Gustavus campus is the only performance the national recording artist will present in southern Minnesota this Christmas season.
Johnson, now living in Minneapolis after residing in Nashville for a number of years, first performed at Gustavus in April 1968 with John Denver as part of the trio of Denver, Boise and Johnson. Following his departure from the trio one year later, Michael spent one year acting with an off-Broadway company and returned to Minnesota and to singing. Since that time, he has studied and toured internationally eight times and has recorded eighteen albums, which include ten hit singles and two #1 country songs of the year. Even those who don’t know his name will recognize his hits: “Bluer Than Blue,” “Give Me Wings,” “Ponies,” and “Rooty Toot Toot for the Moon.”
His web site is simply titled “Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist.” When asked what he would want you to know about him, Johnson replies “Tell them I play guitar and that I am a soloist at heart.” He prefers the intimacy and spontaneity of solo performance, especially in a concert hall like Gustavus’ Björling Recital Hall, where acoustics and closeness to the audience allow Michael Johnson the showman to shine. “I love to talk to people and I love to make them laugh. And of course, I love to move them with my music. Without that, there is no reason to be on stage.”
After the concert, what one remembers of Johnson’s performance is the texture of his voice, the meaning of the lyric and the music of the guitar. Singer, song and sound. And the feeling of being at home with a friend.
With gift support from long-time friends at Gustavus, tickets are available for Michael Johnson’s return concert for only $15.00 for adults and $12.00 for seniors, students and staff. Tickets for Gustavus students are free with a Gustavus ID. Tickets are available online at gustavustickets.com or by calling the Gustavus Ticket Center at (507) 933-7590. Any tickets remaining will go on sale one hour prior to the concert at the Björling Recital Hall box office.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas
Gustavus Campus News - Thu, 12/05/2013 - 2:47pm
Associate Professor of Art and Art History Kristen Lowe will see her documentary film Painting the Place Between premiere Friday at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Lowe and the film are featured in a recent article by Star Tribune writer Mary Abbe. Here is an excerpt from Abbe’s story:
Setting out to make her first feature-length film, a documentary about abstract-landscape painters, Minnesota filmmaker Kristen Lowe knew what she was going for.
“I believe in brevity,” Lowe said. “Too many art films are too long. I wanted it to be informative, intimate and — this is most important — entertaining.”
Enter editor/producer Brian Forrest with the daffy old movie clips, illustrations and comic asides that punctuate the earnest chatter and philosophic musings in “Painting the Place Between,” Lowe’s 60-minute film that premieres Friday at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
Ostensibly the movie is about four Minnesota artists, their self-doubts and aspirations, triumphs and setbacks, bad weather, great light, influences and all the other stuff that creatives mull over while watching the paint dry. But at heart “it just shows what you have to go through to have a lifelong career in painting,” Lowe said.
The featured artists — Betsy Byers, Jil Evans, Holly Swift and Andrew Wycks — are longtime friends or colleagues of Lowe, an associate professor at Gustavus Adolphus College. Byers is an assistant professor at Gustavus. Evans previously taught at St. Olaf College. Swift has taught at various colleges for more than 25 years, and British-born Wycks is an associate professor at Hamline University.
The entire story can be read on the Star Tribune’s website.
You can also get more information about Painting the Place Between by reading a previous article posted on the Gustavus website.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas
Saint Mary's University Campus News - Thu, 12/05/2013 - 2:08pm
St. Kate's Campus News - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 2:42pm
The Catholic Community Foundation named Marjorie Mathison Hance ’70 as one of its new board members. More »
St. Kate's Campus News - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 11:39am
St. Catherine University’s Women’s Choir and String Chamber Orchestra presents their annual Candlelight Christmas Concert this Saturday, Dec. 7. , in Our Lady of Victory Chapel on the St. Paul campu More »
University of St. Thomas Campus News - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 11:18am
President Julie Sullivan has discussed the possibility of a new vision statement for St. Thomas since she arrived on campus last summer, and now she wants to hear from you.
Sullivan asks faculty, staff and students to join her for a brown bag luncheon at noon Monday, Dec. 9, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium on the St. Paul campus to review three vision statement alternatives developed by a task force.
The brown bag will be live streamed to Room 201-202, Opus Hall, on the Minneapolis campus. Bring your own lunch. (Food will be allowed in OEC auditorium.) Beverages and cookies will be provided at both locations. There is no need to RSVP.
“I love our mission statement, and our convictions (core values) are timeless,” Sullivan said. “But I believe our vision statement can be updated to better reflect the university that we aspire to become.”
Sullivan expects the updated vision statement, in conjunction with the mission statement and convictions, to guide the university’s strategic planning process in 2014.
Here is the existing vision statement, which was written in 2004, when St. Thomas also rewrote its mission statement and convictions:
“We seek to be a recognized leader in Catholic higher education that excels in effective teaching, active learning, scholarly research and responsible engagement with the local community as well as with the national and global communities in which we live.”
Here are the three alternative vision statements drafted by the task force:
- The University of St. Thomas, a recognized national leader in Catholic higher education, will prepare students for the complexities of the 21st century through interdisciplinary and multicultural inquiries that inspire them for leadership, work and service vital to the betterment of local and global communities.
- Integrating Catholic social thought with the liberal arts, the University of St. Thomas will be recognized as a national leader in Catholic higher education. It will provide excellence and innovation in teaching, research and learning that lead to the formation of ethical and engaged citizens who will create a better world.
- Educating students for the complexities of the 21st century through interdisciplinary and multicultural inquiry, the University of St. Thomas will be known nationally in Catholic higher education for excellence and innovation in teaching, research and learning, leading to the transformation of lives, communities and society.
The Vision Statement Task Force has met since mid-September. Doug Hennes, University Relations, and Dr. Susan Alexander, President’s Office, are co-chairs. Other task force members are Dr. Jane Canney, Student Affairs; Dr. Corrine Carvalho, Theology; Dr. Michael Cogan, Institutional Effectiveness; Dr. Mari Ann Graham, Institutional Diversity; Sara Gross Methner, General Counsel’s Office and Human Resources; Dr. Terence Langan, College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Mark Neuzil, Communication and Journalism; Dr. Rich Rexeisen, Opus College of Business; and Rob Vischer, School of Law.
University of St. Thomas Campus News - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 11:16am
By whom the bells toll
The bells on the campus of the University of St. Thomas may toll for thee, as John Donne has written, but they toll because one man has taken it upon himself to keep them ringing.
Actually, they aren’t bells; they just sound like bells. The sound emanates from a computerized sound system with speakers and an amplifier that are housed in the Rocca-Rutman Tower of the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library. Dan Strojny, a senior central systems administrator for Information Resources and Technologies who has worked at St. Thomas since 1998, has voluntarily maintained the system since 2003, when the bells stopped ringing and the music died.
“I knew we had the bell tower and I knew we had a carillon at some point because I had heard it, and then it didn’t run for a while – I don’t know if it was for a year or so,” Strojny said in a recent interview. “It’s one of those things when you think about it – maybe one of these days it’ll come back. It’ll just show up again. But it never did. I did some digging around to find out who was responsible for it and it turned out that I don’t think any one person was responsible for it.”
“Some said the Physical Plant was responsible, and some said the Music Department. It turned out that there wasn’t a single person who claimed operational responsibility for maintenance,” he added.
It was eventually discovered that Dr. Merritt Nequette and Dr. Chris Kachian were involved with some programming of the carillon in the past, but since Nequette had retired and Kachian’s office was on the south campus, no one was close by to hear (or not hear) what the carillon was doing on a daily basis.
“So I offered up my services. I said I’d like to take a look at it and see what’s going on,” Strojny remarked.
He did, and he discovered that although others had been checking on the system in the control room in the library, and setting it to ring and hearing the bells toll on a small speaker in the room, they never listened to see if the speakers on the outside were actually functioning. They weren’t. Someone, Strojny discovered, had gone into the bell tower and cut the wires to the speakers.
That being the only problem, it was an easy fix. “We reconnected the wiring and made sure that the speakers were good to go and everything worked, fired the thing back up and that system ran relatively well until this last year,” Strojny recalled.
Last spring, the sound processor that generates the bell tones “fried itself,” Strojny said. A new one was purchased and installed in June. The bells rang again but with a slightly different, richer tone.
The old system featured “traditional” sounding bells. St. Thomas’ bells are now referred to as “American” bells. “An American bell … has a few more overtones. They’re a fuller sounding bell. So when you hear the carillon now, the bells should sound richer than they used to sound under the old system,” Strojny said.
The bells of St. Peter’s
The company that installed the new controller here, The Verdin Co., maker of bells and clocks since 1842, is the same company that installed the bells in Strojny’s hometown parish of St. Peter’s in Stevens Point, Wis., where he did a lot of volunteer work and first learned about bell towers, clocks and carillons – and blew a couple of fuses along the way – while he was in high school.
The St. Peter’s bell tower has gear-driven clock faces, and with the tower open to the elements, mechanical problems caused by years of ice storms and other weather began to take a toll on the mechanical workings of the bells and clocks.
Strojny suggested to the pastor to redo the entire tower “to where the clocks work and the bells worked together using a computerized controller, because they weren’t ringing the bells before Mass.”
“That was really my first bell tower work,” he added, “and over time then once somebody in a small town finds out that you know some of these things, other churches then ask questions; so, I think I’ve worked on probably four or five other bell towers besides that one.”
The bells of St. Thomas
When the “bells” toll at St. Thomas, you’re not actually hearing bells, Strojny explained, but a “specialized version of a MIDI keyboard and speakers on a stage.” The bells are controlled by a computer housed in a library room not much larger than a closet. Amplified speakers are located in the open-air section of the Rocca-Rutman Tower and are pointed toward campus and away from the neighborhoods to the north and east.
Daily, the bells first ring at 7 a.m. and strike on the hour and every quarter hour until 10 p.m. Strikes on the hour play the full Westminster Chime of 17 notes and also one strike for every hour – 12 strikes for noon, one strike for 1 p.m., two strikes for 2 p.m., and so on. The first strike is always on the hour.
The system’s computer requires minimal maintenance and factors in the start and end of Daylight Savings Time. Over the course of a month, the clock might gain 15 or so seconds, which Strojny corrects.
“I do have to go up there every so often just to reset it back to where it should be. I like to have it toll right on the hour. The other thing the carillon does is at 12:01 and 6:01 is usually play a Marian tune of some kind. There’s a whole library of tunes up there that are devoted to Mary,” Strojny said. “Traditionally, the Angelus bell is rung at these times, but our system is capable of playing more notes.”
At times, at 12:01 and 6:01 he will play tunes appropriate to the various church seasons or feast days.
Tradition of the bells
Christians for centuries have associated the ringing of bells with worship. Paulinus of Nola introduced church bells into the Christian Church in 400, Pope Sabinianus officially sanctioned their usage in 604, and church bells were common in Europe by the early Middle Ages.
The tradition continues at St. Thomas.
“From my perspective, bells have always been an instrument that has been used to call people to prayer, to raise your minds, and your hearts and your spirits to God,” Strojny said. “I think they continue to remind people to pause and do that on our campus. … I enjoy standing outside and listening to them. I think they’re beautiful. I’ve always loved the sound of bells.”
Gustavus Campus News - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 9:30am
In continuing with its 150 year tradition of preparing students for lives of leadership and service, Gustavus Adolphus College has announced a new comprehensive Wellbeing Initiative that will provide students, faculty, and staff with programs and services focused on fostering the health and wellbeing of individual members of the College and create a healthy organizational culture in which all members of the community can thrive personally, academically, and professionally.
In announcing the program, Gustavus President Jack Ohle said that the initiative has been in the planning process for more than four years with an emphasis on engaging stakeholders and building capacity with both on and off campus constituents. He went on to say that the Wellbeing Initiative is built on the recommendations from the College’s strategic planning process, Commission Gustavus 150, as well as the strategic visioning of the College’s National Advisory Board on Wellbeing. President Ohle, in announcing the program, said “The College has received a $250,000 commitment from Tim ’83 and Elaine Peterson of Wellesley, Mass., that will allow the College to launch the program and fund it for two years.”
“Education has always been a pillar of philanthropy for our family,” Tim Peterson said. “Elaine and I are excited to support this truly innovative program, which will help young people holistically prepare for success in life and benefit the Gustavus community.”
“With the generous support of the Petersons and the commitment of numerous faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the College, we find ourselves on the leading edge of a national movement in higher education,” said Steve Bennett, the College’s Associate Dean of Students who has overseen much of the planning of the initiative to this point. “The programs and services that encompass the Wellbeing Initiative will allow us to better equip our students with skills and capacities to be grounded, healthy, purposeful servant leaders in the world.”
Bennett and the National Advisory Board on Wellbeing have endorsed learning outcomes for the nine different dimensions of the Gustavus Wellbeing Model: emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, relational, financial, career, vocational, and spiritual. Those learning outcomes will be addressed through several different programs and services.
One of the signature programs of the Wellbeing Initiative will be the Be U Wellbeing Group Coaching program. This peer-based coaching program will create a safe, courageous space for students, faculty, and staff to come together in small groups to reflect on important issues in their lives; expand, refine, and build new skills; to be present with one another and ask powerful questions without giving advice; and to learn problem solving techniques from one another with an end goal of creating a vision and action plan for their own personal wellbeing. Forty students and 10 to 12 faculty/staff will be trained as group coaches in January, while the program will eventually cater to 120 students and 36 faculty/staff during the Spring Semester.
“This program is particularly exciting because Gustavus will be one of the only colleges in the country using a comprehensive approach to group coaching,” said Scott Gilyard ’83, who chairs the College’s National Advisory Board on Wellbeing. “This is a unique opportunity for students to invest in their own personal and professional development and acquire the skills that will distinguish them as a leader both now and in the future as graduates entering the workforce or graduate school.”
The Wellbeing Initiative will also fund a faculty development component that includes a Faculty Fellows program. An application process will identify three faculty members who will receive stipends to develop scholarly projects related to wellbeing that will benefit students. These projects will include new courses, the redesign of existing courses, and the development of research opportunities. There will also be a summer Wellbeing Faculty Institute where leaders of the initiative will engage additional faculty members who are interested in wellbeing programs, courses, and scholarship.
Other distinctive components of the Wellbeing Initiative include an on-campus Wellbeing Roundtable, a working group of nine faculty and administrators representing each of the dimensions of wellbeing charged with advancing a comprehensive and integrated approach to wellbeing programs and services. A Gustavus Wellbeing Assessment instrument is currently being developed with the goal of providing baseline assessment that will assist community members in identifying and accessing the programs, resources, and services that will enhance personal and community wellbeing.
The College will open a Wellbeing Center, which will be centrally located in the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center. A new Director of Wellbeing will be hired to oversee the various Wellbeing Initiative programs, as well as the Gustavus Employee Health Promotions program, and the Peer Assistants, a nationally recognized student organization committed to promoting healthy and productive lifestyles at the College.
More information about the Gustavus Wellbeing Initiative can be found online at gustavus.edu/wellbeing.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Matt Thomas
University of St. Thomas Campus News - Wed, 12/04/2013 - 7:32am
A focus on international education and photography
The International Education Center at St. Thomas congratulates this year’s winners of its annual Study Abroad Photo Contest.
The contest attracted 68 student-photographers who submitted 388 photos. The “Sense of Place” category received the most submissions with 169. By comparison, the contest in 2012 attracted 40 contestants and 190 photo submissions, with a “Sense of Place” receiving the most submissions with 80.
The winning photos are on display in O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library in Coffee Bene and on the university’s Study Abroad Facebook page.
First-place winners received $100, second place received $50, and third place received $25. Tommies who have studied abroad in fall 2013, or who will study abroad in J-Term 2014 or spring 2014 are eligible for the annual Study Abroad Photo Contest in October 2014.
In addition to “Sense of Place,” the contest also included two other categories: “Intercultural Experience” and “Tommies Abroad”:
- “Intercultural Experience” – this is about interactions between people; the meeting
and mixing of cultures (students and the cultures they visit).
- “Sense of Place” – this is about places and scenery; capturing the unique atmosphere
of the country in which a student is a guest.
- “Tommies Abroad” – this is about UST students; group or individual student imagery that
encapsulates the study abroad experience.
Winners for 2013 are:
“Sense of Place”
- “Returning Home”
Catholic Studies in Rome (fall 2012)
- “Fire Ceremony”
UMAIE: English Language and Literature in India: Goddess, Muse, Stairway to Power, Barrier to Success
- “Majdanek Concentration Camp”
Comparative Politics of the New Europe (J-Term 2013)
- “Floating Market”
The Political Economics of Thailand (J-Term 2013)
UMAIE: English Language and Literature in India: Goddess, Muse, Stairway to Power, Barrier to Success
- “Fire Ceremony”
UMAIE: English Language and Literature in India: Goddess, Muse, Stairway to Power, Barrier to Success
- “A Day’s Travel”
Meno A Kwena, Botswana
Public Health in Botswana (J-Term 2013)
- “Building Fire With the Bushmen”
Meno A Kwena, Botswana
BIO in Botswana, Africa (J-Term 2013)
- “Mapuche Elder and Student Connecting through Nature”
Nueva Imperial, Chile
SIT Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, Community Empowerment
- “The Little Vampire”
Tamil Nadu near Chemai, India
UMAIE Indian Art and Music (J-Term 2013)
- “Elephant Kisses”
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Political Economy of Thailand (J-Term 2013)
- “Tour de France 2013″
UMAIE Archeology and History in Rome (J-Term 2013)
- “Tommies at Jama Masjid”
UMAIE Indian Art and Music (J-Term 2013)
- “Santorini, Greece”
Catholic Studies Rome Program (spring 2013)
- “Pride Rock – La roca de Orgullo”
Valle de la Luna, San Juan Province, Argentina
CC-CS Spanish Studies Abroad: Argentina (spring 2013)
Saint Mary's University Campus News - Tue, 12/03/2013 - 1:42pm
University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 12/03/2013 - 9:00am
Strong, washboard abs. They’re on many people’s wish lists. But there’s more to a tight stomach than just vanity.
Athletes in particular rely on abdominal strength to excel in their sports.
Exercise science majors Rachel Britton and Marysa Meyer teamed up to see if abdominal strength plays a role in figure skaters’ ability to complete jump rotations.
“We know from our own experience that in figure skating, maintaining a strong core is key for holding one’s position while rotating midair in a jump or in a spin,” Rachel Britton explained.
For their 300-level biomechanics course, Britton and Meyer, who have been figure skating since they were in kindergarten, tested between 15 and 20 regional figure skaters ages 18 and older. The mix was comprised of “a jumble of athletes,” Meyer said, including members of the University of Minnesota hockey cheer squad and one 18-year-old elite skater from Britton’s home rink in Rochester, Minn.
Subjects voluntarily submitted recordings of themselves completing the most difficult jump they were able to land. Most fell into the single- and double-rotation range. Britton and Meyer then reviewed the footage to confirm the number of rotations each skater was able to complete.
There are six styles of jumps that ascend in difficulty: salchow, toe loop, loop, flip, lutz and axel. Axels are the highest of jumps in figure skating and the only jump in which the skater takes off forward. (Fun fact: Japan’s Midori Ito broke ground in women’s figure skating when she became the first female to land the prized triple axel in both professional competition in 1988 and at the Olympic games in 1992, earning the 4-foot-10-inch skater the nickname “the jumping flea.”)
The Rochester figure skater was the only subject in their study who could complete a triple jump (loop, toe loop and salchow). The pair admitted their greatest research challenge was tracking down skaters who could complete more than a single rotation.
“Most skaters are only able to complete single or double jumps; those who can land triple jumps are often at the elite or professional level. And very few elite competitors are able to land quadruple jumps,” Britton said.
To test for abdominal strength, they used what’s called a Layfayette manual muscle tester – a hand-held tool that measures the force a muscle exerts. They pressed the tool to each subject’s outer left and right clavicles to test left and right oblique (side abdominals) strength and one on the chest to test rectus abdominis strength (the washboard muscle). Then they asked subjects to lift and hold a basic crunch while they measured the subjects’ highest level of resistance.
What they were looking for was not how many sit-ups a subject could complete but “the highest level of opposition” the subject was able to resist while attempting a crunch, Meyer explained. “Maximum sit-ups measures endurance and that’s not what we were looking for,” she said.
The end result? “We were surprised that we did not find a correlation between abdominal strength and number of jump rotations a skater could complete,” Britton said. Both she and Meyer acknowledged that their sample size was a determining factor. She also noted that recreational figure skaters, in her experience, tend not to focus on core conditioning.
She added, “We knew it would be difficult to get conclusive results if we weren’t able to recruit enough skaters from each (single, double and triple jumpers) ability level.”
However, they also employed vertical jump height tests to gauge if there was a correlation between vertical jump height and whether a skater could complete a single or double jump. Unlike the abdominal strength tests, the jump-height results showed a correlation, though it was minimal.
“We tested for a correlation using a Pearson product-moment correlation test (a measure of the linear dependence between two variables) on Minitab 16 (statistical software used for analyzing data) between three groups of data: single vs. double jumpers, double vs. double-axel jumpers, and double-axel jumpers vs. single jumpers. No significant correlations were found for the latter groups, but a slight correlation was indicated among the single vs. double jumpers,” Britton said.
Though their study didn’t reveal significant results, Meyer said, “Our field is so hands on, so it’s important to get experience with all the technology our department is investing in. It’s really helpful in the learning process.”
Both Britton and Meyer will pursue advanced degrees in physical therapy after they graduate this spring.
Gustavus Campus News - Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:43pm
Artist, teacher, and youth mentor Iris Dawn Parker will give a free public lecture at Gustavus Adolphus College at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5 in Wallenberg Auditorium. Parker’s presentation is titled “Africans & Photography: We wish to tell our own stories, now!”
Parker was born in North Carolina and now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa as a teacher and mentor to emerging photojournalists and documentary photographers exploring issues of identity formation, gender, family, and community. She will discuss her work with these emerging South African photographers as well as her own current projects, including the Apartheid Archive Book Project, done in collaboration with Witwatersrand University.
Parker manages the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Programme at Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg and has been an active volunteer and photographer with the Rivers Foundation, working on projects in communities such as Alexandra Township and Soweto. She has been active in residencies and curatorial projects for Wits University, the Africa Gender Institute, UCT, Human Science and Research Council, and exhibitions in South Africa and the United States. In 2010 she was curator of an exhibition by celebrated photojournalist Peter Magubane titled “Mandela: Man of the People” at Primitive Gallery in Chicago.
Parker’s appearance at Gustavus is sponsored by the Lyceum Lecture Series, the Art and Art History Department, and the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Program. For more information about Parker’s appearance at Gustavus, contact Associate Professor of Art and Art History Priscilla Briggs at email@example.com.
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University News - Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:00pm
The second annual celebration of “Christmas as Saint Ben’s” will be Tuesday, Dec. 3 on the College of Saint Benedict Mall. All students, staff, faculty and Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict are welcome.
University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:02am
Food matters. If I ever had any doubt, this semester has changed my mind.
It first became obvious when I whined about there never being enough chocolate chip cookies. I did suggest a reasonable remedy – bake only chocolate chip cookies.
I immediately heard from every chocolate chip aficionado who I have mowed down in my dash for the last of the best cookies. That’s quite a few people.
Then a Snickerdoodle fan accused me of attempting to ruin St. Thomas. Geez, who would think anyone could be so attached to Snickerdoodles?
In a totally unrelated complaint, there were the people who ranted that we did not stock enough Diet Mountain Dew, and what could I do about that? Since I always have thought of Mountain Dew as a beverage best sipped from a Mason jar, I don’t think I’m the right standard bearer for this group.
Well, no sooner had the cookie and Mountain Dew flap died down than people started lobbying about coffee. Dining Services ran blind tastings to try to settle the matter. Fisticuffs did not break out, but there were strong and divergent opinions. Gayle Lamb refereed … er … ran the tastings. She tells me that Alakef Coffee Roasters from Duluth was the general favorite, and its brew will be available at Summit Marketplace, T’s, Beaker’s Coffee Cart and the Brady Coffee Cart. I’m still not sure about those coffee plantations in Duluth.
Minneapolis, as usual, did not agree with St. Paul and will slurp Starbuck’s. In keeping with ranked-choice voting procedures, Peace Coffee will be served in The Loft and The View in St. Paul. If this doesn’t make sense to you, try voting in Minneapolis.
No matter the brew, there will be no satisfying the Coffee Bené faithful who are bemoaning the loss of Traves Lundberg.
And if T’s Action Station chef Michael Torres leaves, I am sure people will transfer! People have made enrollment and employment decisions on the basis of less important issues than stir fry.
University of St. Thomas Campus News - Sun, 12/01/2013 - 6:43pm
The Shenehon Center for Real Estate examines why the Twin Cities continues to have so few homes on the market.
Home prices in the Twin Cities real estate market continue to run above last year, but the inventory of homes for sale is still quite low, according to the Residential Real Estate Price Report Index, a monthly analysis of the 13-county metro area prepared by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business.
Each month the Shenehon Center tracks nine housing-market data elements, including the median price for three types of sales: nondistressed or traditional-type sales, foreclosures, and short sales (when a home is sold for less than the outstanding mortgage balance).
“Improving market health”
In his analysis for the month of October, Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the university, said that “from September to October, most of the market indicators for the Twin Cities housing market continue to exhibit the normal seasonal pattern that we expect to see in the fall.”
In October, median sale prices and pending sales were essentially unchanged, and the number of closed sales and new listings were down slightly from September.
Compared to a year ago, the numbers show a healthy increase, he said, adding that the number of foreclosures and short sales, at 22 percent of all sales, remain well below last year. Tousley characterized that as “a continued indicator of improving market health.”
The median price of a nondistressed home (not a foreclosure or short sale) in October was $218,750. That’s up from September’s $217,000 and up 2 percent from $214,350 in October 2012. Tousley feels the annual rate of increase in the price of traditional homes will moderate from the double-digit gains seen earlier this year and will remain in the 3 percent to 5 percent range through the first quarter of 2014.
Meanwhile, he feels the percentage of distressed sales will continue to decline in the first quarter of 2014 as the number of newly foreclosed properties declines and the number of nondistressed homes on the market begins to increase.
Why so few homes on the market
The number of homes available for sale has been at historically low levels for months. A chart on the Shenehon Center’s website shows that back in November 2007 there were as many as 14 homes for sale for every one sold. The number was still over 10 in November 2010, but it has been going downhill since.
In October 2013 there were 15,669 homes for sale in the Twin Cities area. That represents just 3.6 homes on the market for every one sold.
The low ratio contributes to a seller’s market, Tousley said, and the unmet demand creates upward pressure on home prices.
“One of the reasons the inventory of homes for sale remains persistently low is there is still a historically high number of homeowners who have negative equity or effective negative equity,” he said.
Negative equity means that a homeowner owes more on his or her mortgage than the home can be sold for at today’s market prices. Homeowners in that situation are not in a position to put their homes on the market.
“Effective negative equity” is when the loan-to-value ratio is more than 80 percent, which makes it more difficult for the homeowner to come up with a down payment needed for the purchase of the next home.
An example of this is someone who owns a home that could be sold for $200,000, and owes $190,000 on the mortgage. “In this case, the homeowner is not underwater, but the $10,000 that would be left after the sale might not be enough for a down payment on a larger home. As a result, they do not put their homes on the market, either,” Tousley said.
He predicts that as long as interest rates remain steady, “these conditions indicate that the supply of homes will continue to be tight through fall and winter into early spring.”
The Twin Cities is fairly close to the United States as a whole when it comes to both “negative” and “effective negative” rates. In the United States, 21 percent of owner-occupied homes have a mortgage in negative equity (or underwater); in the Twin Cities, it’s 21.1 percent.
For mortgages in the “effective negative equity” category, it’s 39.2 percent nationally and 41.5 percent in the Twin Cities.
And for homes with “negative-equity” mortgages, the Shenehon Center reported how far those mortgages are underwater. For the United States, it is 41.8 percent. The Twin Cities is doing somewhat better, at 35.3 percent.
New home construction
The pace of permits for new-home construction, while slowing a bit, still remains well ahead of last year. For most of 2013, permits in the Twin Cities area were running about 30 percent ahead of 2012; in October it decreased to about 26 percent ahead of last year.
Through the end of October 2013, the Twin Cities saw about 4,300 permits for new homes; that compares to 3,374 permits in October 2012.
The St. Thomas Indexes
The St. Thomas Traditional Sale Composite Index, the one that tracks nine data elements, stands at 1057 for October. It took a 13-point seasonal downturn from September but is 4.8 percent above October of 2012.
Composite indexes for the distressed sales also are improving over last year. The foreclosure index for October 2013 of 764 is up 8.7 percent from October 2012. The short sale index for October 2013 of 878 is up 10.9 percent from October 2012.
More information online
The Shenehon Center’s report for October can be found on its website.
Research for the monthly reports is conducted by Tousley and Dr. Thomas Hamilton, associate professor of real estate at the university. The index is available free via email from Tousley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
History is among the oldest programs of study at the University of St. Thomas – our first collegiate catalog (1888-1889) lists history among its offerings – but today it seems to be one of the newest, too. In just a few short years, we internationalized our History Department by hiring a core of new full-time faculty who come from the best doctoral programs in the country and who specialize in areas of the world such as the Middle East, East Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Atlantic World, as well as the United States and Western Europe. We expanded our core curriculum offerings and refocused our efforts in teaching critical thinking skills for all learners. We revised our major curriculum so that it better serves students who want to pursue a history-related career or complement another major. We also made it easier for students to minor in history for personal or professional enrichment.
Please meet today’s historians and learn what they hope to accomplish in their classrooms and in their research.
How is teaching history different today from when you arrived at St. Thomas?
Anne Klejment: My first year at St. Thomas was 1983. Thirty years ago, professors lectured for the entire class period, while students took copious notes. Essay exams and quizzes were the preferred way to evaluate students. History focused on political events as the framework for understanding the past. Today, history textbooks tend to start with social history, focusing on the experiences of ordinary people of the past, gradually weaving political, social and economic developments into the narrative.
In today’s classroom, you will find much more discussion than 30 years ago. Professors use interactive slide, audio and video presentations to better engage learners. They want their students to know how to analyze and interpret primary source materials (historical documents and artifacts of the period under investigation) and to evaluate historical research writing so that they can become informed consumers of historical information. Today’s historians also want their students to understand how global events have shaped a particular part of the world like the United States and how an event in one part of the world impacts the rest of the world.
If the teaching of history has changed over the last 30 years, have the students who come to UST changed, too?
Tom Mega: The most obvious answer to your question is that there are a lot more students enrolled in St. Thomas today than 30 years ago. When I first arrived at UST (then, the College of St. Thomas) in the spring of 1983, it was a college with about 2,500 students. Today, it is a vibrant university with approximately 6,300 undergraduates and nearly 4,000 graduate students.
My first impression of St. Thomas students in 1983 was that they were friendly, committed to getting the most from their college experience, and willing to put up with a “rookie” teacher. I think I would describe today’s students in much the same way. One thing that has changed is that we have a much more diverse student body today. For example, we have seen a rise in the number of first-generation college students and students of color, and, in recent years, an increasing number of international students. This diversity is a good thing, because it more closely reflects the world that we live in, and because these students bring fresh perspectives to the classroom. Faculty are challenged to think in new ways about how they teach their courses, and students encounter views of the world that are quite different from their own. Everyone benefits!
With today’s computers and smart phones, historical information is available at the click of a button. Do students really need to study history anymore?
David Williard: Many people think history is just about memorizing facts, but I want my students to learn to think critically about why people – whether presidents or ordinary, run-of-the-mill citizens – made the choices they did by paying careful attention to the economic, cultural, social and political dimensions of the world in which they lived. In so doing, my students can begin to see the past as a complex relationship between broader societal influences and individual choices. Since this same dynamic affects our lives today, I hope they will become more reflective about the way they relate to their current world. If they leave my courses recognizing that we cannot make informed, meaningful choices without understanding the context of our own lives and society, and have some grasp of how we can do this, then my students will have met my most important learning goal.
History professors often talk about the importance of writing, but isn’t it just a lot of work?
Ann Brodeur: Writing for a history course is hard work! We place a lot of emphasis on training students not only to write beautifully but also thoughtfully. Students in our courses practice the science of engaging historical evidence and the art of crafting a compelling, logical argument based on that evidence. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing students work hard to interpret evidence and express their ideas in writing, and then finally experience the real joy and reward of a well-earned “A.” More importantly, learning to analyze evidence to solve problems and write clearly and thoughtfully are essential skills for whatever you do in life.
As an archeologist and professor of ancient history, what have you loved most about your work and what challenges do you face?
Vanca Schrunk: As an archeologist and teacher, I share the joy of descending with students to 20 feet or more below the streets of present-day Rome and stepping on the cobblestones of the imperial metropolis, or gazing at the tomb of St. Peter. In a collaborative project, we share the excitement of digging up floors and walls, pottery shards and lost coins of a once vibrant Roman rural estate on a small Adriatic island off the coast of Croatia. The challenges come when we attempt to interpret ancient behavior and ideas from the fragments of material remains and texts. The full, complete narrative is unattainable, yet we learn that the ancient worlds were diverse, connected and human, just like our own.
Professors are always doing research in addition to their teaching. What are you currently working on?
Zsolt Nagy: I am currently revising my dissertation for publication. My manuscript is tentatively titled Grand Delusions: Interwar Hungarian Cultural Diplomacy, 1918-1941. It looks at the development of Hungarian cultural diplomacy in the period between World War I and World War II. After the First World War, the victorious Allies granted 71.5 percent of Hungary’s territory to its neighbors. In order to re-establish itself as a proper European nation and to gain invaluable international support for its foreign policy aims, the Hungarian political elite devised an all-encompassing cultural diplomatic campaign. In cooperation with the country’s intellectual and industrial elite, they mobilized and deployed the country’s cultural capital – real and imagined – in order to influence international public opinion. My book examines this campaign as it unfolds in three areas: academia, the tourist industry, and motion picture and radio production.
My second project is a biography of a fascinating Jewish- Hungarian-American woman, Rosika Schwimmer. Her life story, with its connections to major events and personalities of the first half of the 20th century, is remarkable in and of itself, yet this project would allow me to gain insight into the issues and problems associated with ideas of gender, feminism and pacifism on both sides of the Atlantic.
You are a British historian, but you teach world history. How does that work?
Kelly Donahue: Within the last 20 years or so, the scope of British history has expanded exponentially. It is no longer just the history of a small island off the northern coast of Europe. It is the history of the largest empire in the history of the world. That old saying, “The sun never sets on the British Empire,” was fact until after World War II. From North and South America, to Europe, to the Middle East, to huge swaths of sub-Saharan Africa, to the Indian subcontinent, to parts of China, all the way to Australia, Britain had a hand in shaping the modern world. I sometimes joke with students that if you want to understand why the world is so messed up look no further than the British Empire. From my point of view, in order to understand the world we live in, one must learn about the history of this tiny island, its vast empire, and how the two shaped each other.
You teach about Latin America and the Atlantic World. How do you help students become more comfortable with unfamiliar cultures?
Kari Zimmerman: I rely on a variety of primary sources (historical documents and artifacts of the time) to introduce students to an unfamiliar culture. Reading about a particular place or society in the first person highlights both similarities and differences with the students’ own experience. It also creates a direct connection to the unknown.
This was exactly how I became interested in the history of the Atlantic World. After reviewing the personal account of a female abolitionist in 19th-century Brazil, I realized that she sounded very similar to the women advocating for the end of slavery in the United States during the same period; however, her arguments also revealed particular nuances to Brazilian culture. I was struck by how she described slavery within a very different social reality where racial lines and relationships were quite blurred.
By asking my students to start with their individual, and informal, impressions of primary materials I open a dialogue about how different societies are interconnected throughout the Atlantic World. Analyzing primary sources together as a class also helps give students the confidence to understand how history is written, how assumptions are made, and how we might better appreciate the link between divergent pasts and modern global exchange.
Why did you want to teach East Asian history at UST?
Patti Kameya: I was attracted to UST because of its urban, cosmopolitan location and its commitment to the humanities and social sciences as a foundational part of intellectual life. When I saw Sriracha sauce at Scooter’s, I knew there was potential for interest in Asian history here because it demonstrates a visible Asian community and interest in Asian food. The humanities and social sciences provide the content and skills to link familiar with unfamiliar societies. I am hoping I can help students make connections between the Sriracha sauce at Scooter’s to events such as the Vietnam War and the broader historical trends such as globalization that make up the world we see every day.
Why study the history of the Middle East or any other part of the world? Students might say these faraway places don’t really affect them.
Hasan Karatas: The benefits of studying history of the Middle East ranges from gaining a better perspective on the relationship between the United States and the Middle Eastern countries to re-evaluation of our energy and foreign policies. But I believe the most significant outcome of the study of the Middle Eastern history is a greater understanding of ourselves. We as human beings most often tend to dehumanize the people who are not like ourselves. It is an instinct that exists in all of us in varying degrees and gives us the illusion of safety. This instinct automatically takes over, especially when those people are separated from us by time, geographical distance and culture.
By offering courses on Middle Eastern, East Asian, Eastern European and Atlantic World histories, our department aims to examine our tendency to dehumanize the societies of the past or of distant regions by underlining their respective historical contexts. In this way we hope to make clearer the link between us and them and underline the common humanity in all of us. For example, I always tell the story of Muslims encountering the Greek philosophy in the ninth century. Instead of outright denial as the work of pagans, Muslim scholars embraced and challenged the ideas of the Greek philosophers because they were confident in their own values. We come across different perspectives almost every day in our lives. If we are confident in our values, why be scared of those who are different from ourselves and shut down our minds? We are all richer for learning about our connectedness to others.
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On a brilliant January morning, I am leading a small group of students onto a frozen lake in the middle of a Nevada mountain valley. We are pulling two boats full of gear with us. Although I have led expeditions like this many times before, this situation is different. The lake is only partly frozen, and we all know it. The ice is visibly thin, and we are going against our hard-wired northern instincts by walking on it. As we move forward, we all sense the ice beginning to fail under our collective weight. In a few steps the cracks quickly grow, and our legs crash through the ice and into the lake water below. Soon we have created a channel full of inch-thick ice floes that collide with our shins as we progress toward open water. The water is cold and the going is slow, but our spirits are high and we enjoy the feeling of the unknown that accompanies an adventure.
The lake is in arid southern Nevada and it is very shallow – not more than a foot deep anywhere – and we are all safely clad in chest waders. The only conceivable threat to us is getting stuck in the mud. My students and I will eventually reach open water and achieve our objective: the collection of a lake sediment sample. Our work here in the shallow lakes of the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is part of an ongoing research project for Regional Geology and Field Methods in the American Southwest, a January Term course taught by faculty colleagues in the Geology Department.
On this morning, the ice was a surprise, but the students were undeterred. On a nearby lake, another instructor and set of students use kayaks and their paddles to break the ice and form a long pathway extending from the shore to work into the lake to obtain samples. Meanwhile, two other student groups will document and sample soils on dry land and investigate remnants of a lake that dried up nearly 75 years ago during the Dust Bowl years of severe drought. Faculty and students will closely inspect all of these samples on our return to campus, and use the results to understand the history of the Southwest and a series of lakes that existed more than 10 million years ago to the south of this area.
Wading through ice to sample lake sediment is one of many memorable episodes from my eighth and most recent January in the desert as a co-director and instructor of this course. Over these years, many students, my co-instructors and I have mapped out the geology of canyon walls, mountains and desert floors. We have hiked across major geological boundaries, examined evidence for a global glaciation, and reconstructed past events from our observations at roadside rock exposures and shallow lakes. Nearly all of this work has occurred in the midst of unforgettable scenery, such as the fiery red Aztec Sandstone near Lake Mead or the river-carved canyon lands of Zion National Park.
If you ask geologists about a formative experience in their education, you are likely to get at least one story about their time in a field geology course or more simply “field camp.” In field camp, students quickly learn the difference between the neatly drafted and easily distinguishable geological features of their textbooks and the more nuanced and complicated reality waiting for them on an outcrop. Good field programs are far from being a simple exercise in “geo-tourism.” They challenge students to make detailed observations and then piece together a story from available evidence. Our course is a three-week field experience that takes students from the complex geology surrounding Las Vegas to the desert features of Death Valley National Park. For the students, this is a unique and intense experience where new intellectual interests are formed and friendships grow. With few exceptions, they love this course.
Our course was developed and first run in January 2001 by St. Thomas geology professors Lisa Lamb and Tom Hickson, who recognized the importance of good field skills for all geology students and saw the opportunity to involve students in their own research. The course has been run each January since then. While some field camps lodge their students in an established field station, this course from the start was designed to have students camping out under the stars. As former summer camp directors, professors Lamb and Hickson instituted a number of successful routines that continue to be used in our course, such as the use of small student-led food groups that alternate planning and preparing meals for the whole group in camp. Another routine is “the big grocery shop,” in which we all arrive at a supermarket, and students participate in the biggest shopping spree they have ever taken part in, buying a week’s worth of food for 20 or more students and instructors.
Because they are camping and working outdoors, the students are always especially interested in the weather. January in the Southwest is less painful than January in Minnesota, but this is not as advantageous as one might think. The desert experiences a much larger daily temperature range than we are used to, and it is not unusual to rise in the morning in chilly mid-30 degree weather and to then progressively shed layers of clothing as temperatures climb into the mid-60s or even low 70s by midafternoon. We also have had our share of wacky weather over the years. J-Term 2010 occurred during an El Niño event that resulted in flooding, road washouts and a temporary lake in Death Valley. Our most recent course, in J-Term 2013, was characterized by unusually cold temperatures, with nightly lows in the teens that made things feel a little too much like Minnesota.
Building Field Skills
We stress two essential skills in the field: making good observations and recording those observations as detailed notes. Before they leave campus, students are given a field notebook and instructed to record everything. Along with rock hammers and compasses, these bright orange field notebooks are a nearly constant sight throughout the students’ time in field camp. Typical student notebooks will include descriptions of specific characteristics of the rocks and other earth materials they work with, sketches and labeled diagrams of rock layers and their relationships to each other, and a number of different measurements, including the orientations and thicknesses of rock layers and the precise locations where the work has been done. Students record their thoughts about what they’re observing, and some even treat their notebooks as a sort of diary, jotting down the events of the day or goofy quotes from their professor.
Students face new challenges in this course, and a lot of those challenges come on the first mapping project in the small area of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area known as the Bitter Spring Quadrangle – or simply, the BSQ. An immediate concern is location. Imagine that you were driven to an unknown destination armed only with a local map, then asked to take stock of your surroundings and to mark your precise location on it. In the city it is easy to use street signs and other identifiable landmarks to do this. Not so in an undeveloped desert landscape. Students must learn to read other “signs,” such as the appearance of nearby landforms and their distances, and they must be able to “read” these features on a topographical map to continually track their progress through the field area. A bigger challenge for students is penciling in the first few geological features on their maps after an introduction to the BSQ and a little practice. Students have many questions as they make these first marks on their maps, but they all boil down to one big one: How well does what I have drawn on my map conform to reality?
Students do not simply complete canned exercises with known answers in this course; rather, they contribute to ongoing research projects designed by geology faculty in which outcomes are uncertain and discoveries are yet to be made. My colleagues, professors Lamb and Hickson, have been completing a highly detailed geologic map and reconstructing the geologic history of a large part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area with student contributions over the full life of this course. I have led another project that explored the evidence for large changes in ocean chemistry at the end of one of several ancient “Snowball Earth” global ice ages. Work on lakes in the Pahranagat Valley, described at the start of this article, is part of a more recent collaboration among Lamb, Hickson and me. These projects have resulted in numerous student-faculty conference presentations, as well as published research papers with student authors.
Seeing the Scope of Earth History
Students cannot complete our course without developing a greater appreciation for the incredible range of events that have shaped our planet’s history and how long and diverse that history is. On one of the last days of the course, I often take the students on a hike in the Grapevine Mountains near the eastern boundary of Death Valley National Park. The hike is steep and requires plenty of water stops on the climb to our destination. I know we have reached it when we cross the second of two distinctive barrier-forming limestone ridges. Here, in a sequence of ancient mud stones, students can find the markings of simple worm-like creatures that once burrowed through the mud more than 540 million years ago. The markings, which look something like strands of braided rope, give evidence of a life form that had just enough intelligence to be able to move in a wide variety of directions – something that had not been achieved before and evidence for which cannot be found in the older rocks below us.
From this same spot, the view out north into Death Valley is spectacular. Gazing at the huge salt flat below with bathtublike mountain walls on all sides, the students and I can almost imagine the truly great lake that once filled much of the valley during the last glaciation. We find it much harder, however, to visualize the infinitely slow changes occurring in the Earth’s crust that have stretched and tilted the rocks around us on such a massive scale to form this great valley. This view inspires us to try anyway. The students enjoy the view, take pictures, gulp down some water, and ready themselves for the hike back to our vans. We know that out in the valley and tucked away in the many canyons that feed into it are many more stories of earth history waiting to be explored.
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If you had been passing by the biomechanics lab on the second floor of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex on a recent cold April morning and glanced in the window, you might have stopped for a longer look. Students in that morning’s Kinesiology class sat at tables while perched on big blue stability balls. Most students gently moved back and forth and side to side atop the balls. A few students in the back row, however, bounced up and down a bit more enthusiastically, as they listened to a lecture about angle of muscle pull on bone.
Exercise science major and 2013 graduate Ann Goding could explain why the class was sitting on stability balls rather than sitting in chairs.
“Exercise both enlarges and increases plasticity of the hippocampus, allowing for increased neural activity and improved memory,” Goding says. “While the positive effects of an active lifestyle on the brain are well-known, little research has assessed the immediate influence of low-intensity, long-endurance exercise on the memory of an individual. When chairs were replaced with stability balls in kindergarten classrooms, on-task behaviors and comprehension rates improved. College students have not been as extensively tested to determine the connection between exercise and cognitive function so the goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between low-intensity, long-duration exercise and cognitive function through the use of stability balls in the college population.”
Goding’s research study is just one of many hands-on activities that take place during the academic year in the very busy Health and Human Performance Department. The current emphasis and increased level of student research is just one reflection of the many changes the department has experienced over the past five years.
Those changes include the development of five different yet related majors that focus on health and wellness, physical activity and exercise, as well as an explosion in the number of students selecting those majors, the hiring of new faculty, and a move into new classrooms and offices in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex upon its opening.
“This department is not the old Physical Education Department from years past,” says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Terence Langan. “While we are fortunate to be able to continue to educate future teachers of physical education and health education, as well as personal trainers and health club managers, as we always have, more and more students are coming to us to study exercise science. Students are finding it to be a good preparation for entry into professional study in the health sciences, including especially physical therapy and occupational therapy, among others. As a result, the department is becoming more science-oriented.”
The most popular of the department’s five majors is exercise science, which prepares students for careers in allied health-related fields or graduate school programs in areas such as physical therapy, athletic training, exercise physiology or biomechanics. The health promotion major readies students to work in the wellness and fitness industry or to enter occupational therapy graduate programs. The community health major prepares students for positions that deal with prevention of illness and disease or to seek a graduate degree in public health. Both the physical education and health education teaching majors train students to become certified K-12 teachers.
The exercise science major grew from 22 majors in 2003 to 160 in 2013. Drawing on allied course requirements in the departments of biology, chemistry and physics, HHP’s exercise science students also complete major field courses in kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, human anatomy and human physiology. All these courses are grounded in practical skills.
Robb Poutre, a 2013 exercise science graduate who intends to pursue a career as a physician, found that grounding useful.
“My favorite part of being an exercise science major at UST was the potential for practical application of everything I learned,” Poutre says. “The human body is such an incredible thing, so resilient, intricate, adaptable, delicate and tough all at the same time. Acquiring the knowledge and learning the methods necessary to understand the function of the human body is truly an invaluable thing. The ability to understand the different aspects of the human body across broad health situations is a base of knowledge that I get excited about.”
Not far behind exercise science in growth in number of majors is the health promotion major. This major jumped from 22 students in 2003 to 61 in 2013. One of the reasons for that increase has to do with career opportunities that now exist in the fitness industry. Programs that emphasize wellness, exercise and fitness for the elderly and the large baby-boomer populations that did not exist 25 years ago now are widespread and have created jobs for well-trained exercise science and health promotion majors.
While the Health and Human Performance Department has enjoyed the increase in number of students, the rapid growth has created challenges for the department, not least of which has been the need for more faculty. Adding urgency to this need was the unusual set of circumstances that engulfed the department from 2009 to 2011. In fall 2008, health educator John Rohwer was hired to serve as department chair and help longtime professors Dan Carey, an exercise physiologist, and Bridget Duoos, a biomechanist, move the department forward. Within two years, however, Carey was diagnosed with and died of a brain tumor, and Rohwer died in an accident.
“When John and Dan tragically died within a couple of months of each other it was a real blow to the department and to the College of Arts and Sciences,” recalls Langan. “However, given the rapidly growing student demand for health and human performance classes we needed to move quickly to hire new faculty. We have been fortunate to hire four excellent new full-time faculty members in the past three years, along with some very good new part-time faculty members.”
The department moved quickly in spring 2011 to hire Timothy Mead, who teaches physical education methodology courses, as well as personal health and wellness. His current research interest is in studying the effectiveness of exercise on the academic performance of school children. In his courses, Mead minimizes lecturing and emphasizes hands-on active learning, a practice that is increasingly a keystone for all of the department’s courses.
Jolynn Gardner joined the department in fall 2011, specializing in community health. Her areas of research include stress management, obesity, and coping with grief and loss. Gardner frequently uses a project-based approach in the courses she teaches since one challenging aspect of a public health career is translating scientific research into information and advice that are readily understood by community members. To practice this skill, Gardner’s students create blogs that translate current public health research into relevant, realistic information and advice for the public.
“Public health is an exciting, growing field, and the professional opportunities abound,” Gardner says. “Public health is also very broad, so there are opportunities for virtually every student’s area of interest as well, whether it be obesity prevention, infectious disease control, drug abuse prevention, promotion of fitness or health care policy reform, to name just a few.”
Paul Mellick began teaching exercise physiology courses in the department in fall 2012 and established a laboratory that allows him to pursue research into the hormonal regulation of glucose metabolism. His primary research involves high-intensity exercise such as sprinting, weight training or short-term exhaustive exercise and metabolism, and he studies how this type of exercise affects metabolism, specifically blood glucose regulation and insulin action. This includes the relationships between high-intensity exercise and diabetes as well as high-intensity exercise and performance-enhancement.
This fall, Lesley Scibora joined the department to teach human anatomy courses. Scibora’s areas of expertise include being a health care provider as a doctor of chiropractic and work as an exercise physiologist. Her primary research interests involve the interaction of body weight, physical activity and bone strength.
“I am interested in understanding what factors influence bone health in overweight and obese individuals, and how bone strength is affected by weight loss through traditional behavioral and surgical methods,” Scibora says. “It is important to find ways for individuals to become physically active in ways that are sustainable and beneficial to both their bones and overall health.”
Hiring well-qualified faculty has made it possible for the department to continue curricular revisions in all of its majors, a process that had been initiated in 2010 and will continue through spring 2014. Except for pre-professional physical and health teacher education majors who do a student teaching experience, all HHP majors now must complete a 100-hour internship experience that places them in a variety of career-related settings. Those internships range from working with a professional athletic team to assisting disabled individuals with training programs. Another curricular revision involves adding laboratory requirements to courses in biomechanics and advanced physiology that will have students actively engaged in learning and practicing skills with state-of-the-art equipment. The faculty believe that the addition of lab time to these courses will not only have an impact on students’ learning in the courses themselves but also will have the effect of expanding the scope and depth of the research that students conduct in the required exercise science research methods course.
Helping to make lab requirements possible has been the commitment of the College of Arts and Sciences to provide funding to buy research-quality equipment. Peter Parilla, a longtime sociology professor and former associate dean who is currently serving as the department’s interim chair, says, “The increased emphasis on lab-based courses and on student research places added pressure on making sure that the department has state-of-the-art-research equipment. We are still building these resources but have made significant progress, thanks to the support of Dean Langan.”
Several years ago the department purchased access to a sophisticated program called Anatomy TV. In laboratory classes in the human anatomy and human physiology courses, students are now able to do virtual cadaver dissection and access MRI, X-ray and CT scans through this program. Students can study the structure of bone from the inside out, add layers of muscles to a skeleton, rotate the structure and see the origin and insertion of the muscle. Students also can watch skeletons performing fundamental movements such as walking and sitting and see how a muscle functions throughout the movement. Students are further able to analyze movement in their kinesiology and biomechanics courses by using video cameras and motion analysis programs available to them. In the department’s computer lab, students can download video and then watch movements in slow motion, measure joint angles and provide feedback regarding the movement. Students can digitize movement to get velocities and accelerations of limbs and joint angles.
Another recent equipment addition to the department are pedar-x pressure insoles that can be slipped into any shoe, such as a running shoe, hockey skate or golf shoe, to measure pressure changes over the entire foot surface as a person progresses through a movement. This program can be synched with video to provide students an even more thorough analysis.
In the biomechanics lab, Nintendo Wii platforms and software from AgileMedicine allow students to learn how to measure postural sway in athletes who have experienced concussions. The exercise physiology lab added a treadmill and metabolic cart that allow students to learn how to conduct a maxVO2 test that determines the maximal amount of oxygen a person is able to consume and get to the working muscles during exercise. A freezer at minus 80º Celsius (minus 117.40º F) recently was added to the lab so blood and tissue variables can be studied and stored without degradation or metabolic activity.
The faculty eagerly anticipates the addition of the Bod Pod as well as the computed tomography (CT) machine next year. The Bod Pod uses whole-body densitometry to determine body composition of an individual. In approximately five minutes of sitting in the BodPod, the amount of fat and fat-free mass that makes up a person can be determined. The computed tomography machine will allow for an X-ray scan to be done of a body part. HHP faculty anticipates using it to determine the effect of exercise on bone.
“The enthusiasm that the faculty has for research has clearly been contagious,” Parilla says. “Students are clearly motivated and excited to participate.” The access to research-quality equipment makes it possible to engage larger numbers of students in conducting that research with real life applications.
If you were to visit the HHP department, you could work your way down the hallway and read student research posters that are the culminating results of research studies conducted in biomechanics and exercise science courses. While the exercise science major has a long history of conducting undergraduate research, the addition of dedicated faculty and research quality equipment means the department can help students conduct studies that can be presented at national conferences and submitted for publication in professional journals.
When Goding tested her fellow students sitting on the large stability balls in their Kinesiology class, she found they experienced slight improvements in reaction times but no improvement in verbal or visual memory, cognitive efficiency index or impulse control.
Duoos, a long-time proponent of student research, says, “Participating in such experiences in exercise science is virtually unheard of at the Division III undergraduate level. I am thrilled to see the addition of faculty and equipment to the program and am eagerly looking forward to the high level of research more students will be able to undertake.”
The HHP faculty share that vision, imagining a day when the program will be recognized as a leading undergraduate program nationally. Scibora speaks for the faculty when she says, “We hope that students will continue to be drawn to the program because of excellent learning environments, from the classroom to hands-on experiences and high-level research opportunities that provide both the HHP department and its graduates a competitive edge.”
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