Recent News from Campuses
Students in Michael Ratajczyk’s data analysis and business modeling course reviewed notes and discussed tactics as they waited for their turn in front of the judges.
The students, primarily sophomores and juniors, had been given the task of analyzing data from a fictional business, Cardinal Hardware, which utilizes multiple suppliers and uses their own fleet of trucks to save on shipping costs. In return for saving on shipping and overhead, the suppliers give Cardinal Hardware a rebate on their orders. Based on analysis of 10 years of data, teams were asked to forecast whether it would be more profitable for the business to continue to use a fixed rate rebate program or switch to a variable rate rebate program.
Regardless of their findings, students were judged on their ability to present their results in a clear, professional—and understandable—way.
Just to add to their anxiety a bit, their judges included former business alumni professionals, as well as area business professionals (including judges from 3M, Fastenal, Chrysler Winona, and Winona Radio).
“The data analytics course is one of four required in the business intelligence and analytics major,” Ratajczyk said. “While mathematics and business acumen are key ingredients in a successful graduate, it is of greater importance that graduates can communicate well with a variety of audiences. In the field, they will work with people who have a varying degree of data literacy.”
His students, he said, were given a limited set of instructions, a couple of data sets, and a deadline. The students needed to find additional data sets from the government and economic agencies and condense more than two weeks of data science modeling into a 15-minute presentation. Based on techniques used in class, they could utilize decision trees, logarithmic, or linear regression.
Dixon Irwin, a sophomore Business Intelligence and Analytics major, and his group ultimately decided that Cardinal Hardware should continue with a fixed rebate program in 2017.
“First were created a price model that would help us forecast for 2017,” Irwin said. “We considered Gross Domestic Product, CPI Consumer Price Index, and inflation in our forecasting method. Our next task was to use a percent change qualifier to determine how low our percent could drop before the company would have to revise their contracts. My group and I found that, with our model, sticking with the company’s original fixed rebate program would be more profitable for 2017. Along with that, we also found that if the company were to use our variable rebate program from the start they would have seen more profits.”
Junior Tara Nagy, a junior Business Intelligence and Analytics and Finance double major, said her team also ultimately recommended using a fixed variable rate in 2017.
“We audited the financial quarterly reports of Cardinal Hardware and their shipping orders. Along with this, we calculated the fixed rebate amount based off a fixed cost for all suppliers for the years 2007-2016. Following this, we had to calculate the variable rebate cost of the suppliers based off a percent change qualifier per quarter from 2007-2016. After calculating the rebates for fixed and variable, we had to forecast what the rebates will be in 2017. What my group found was that the variable rebate was better over the time span of 2007-2016 compared to the fixed rebate, but the fixed rebate was better when forecasting 2017 compared to the variable rebate. To find this, we used a weighted average over the last three months to forecast the diesel fuel prices and used a percent change qualifier to determine if it was sensible to change the rebate percent per quarter or if having the fixed would be better. Overall we found that a fixed rebate percent gave the company more profit.”
Both students hope one day to get a job in business in the business intelligence and analytics field. For Irwin, this exercise helped solidify that he had chosen the correct career path. “This experience was a great confidence booster for me,” he said. “I always knew I like doing this kind of work, but the communication part of the job was the big question mark for me. If you ask my group members, before the presentation I was extremely nervous, but once it came my turn to present, I effectively communicated our data to our audience. Knowing that I can do this and do a respectable job was the confidence I needed.”
Nagy knows she’s headed into a field that has a shortage of job candidates with the necessary skills in data science and analytics.
“There is such a high demand everywhere for someone who knows how to look at data, manipulate it, visualize it, and ultimately present it in a way that allows people to make decisions based on these findings,” she said. “These classes will make me more valuable as a job candidate because the projects that we do are from the real world.”
Irwin agrees that he’s learning skills that are applicable in any career path he chooses. “I’m not only learning valuable skills that can help a company make better decisions, but I am also learning skills that can help me communicate better. The projects we work on are very similar to possible situations we could see on the job, so it’s beneficial to get this ‘real world’ experience.”
Photo caption: Michael Amelio ’17 presents his findings to the judges.
The City of Winona, home to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and its Winona Campus, again received accolades as a top place to live.
Expedia was on a mission to uncover “the most beautiful places to travel in every state that may not be on your radar,” taking into account “all kinds of aesthetically pleasing characteristics, from historical attractions to natural landscapes.” Expedia called out Winona’s scenic natural setting in the bluffs along the Mississippi River, easy ways to enjoy the great outdoors, arts and culture, and historic downtown architecture.
Students coming to Saint Mary’s in Winona find plenty to see and do.
Echoing those comments was Amanda Baker, a Saint Mary’s senior from Western Minnesota. Baker loves to walk the paths and admire the reflection of the bluffs in Lake Winona. “Coming to school in Winona—even though it’s not large and urban—there are lots of things to do because of the beauty and natural setting.”
The city is a year-round travel destination, and as the Visit Winona website points out, “There is a lot to love about Winona. From its sculpted bluffs to its mighty river and all the places in between, Winona has unparalleled beauty mixed with a cool urbanity and (historic) old-world charm that proves that yes, you really can have it all in one enchanting place.”
Visit Winona also says Winona is a paradise suited for “outdoor lovers, whatever your version of relaxing is—whether it’s swinging on a bench by the lake or tackling a wicked mountain bike trail; whether it’s a tranquil hike in the woods or doing whirlybirds on a wakeboard.
But Winona offers much indoor recreation too. According to Visit Winona, “the arts scene here is as cosmopolitan as you’ll find anywhere. Together with music and film festivals, art shows, and museums for every interest, this extraordinary array of arts and culture leaves no doubt that Winona is not just another pretty face.”
View photos and video of why students, full-time residents, and visitors love Winona.
Visit the Saint Mary’s University Winona Campus—home to undergraduate, residential college students and graduate students as well—and see Winona for yourself. Find more information about campus visits and the state’s most beautiful town.
Photo captions: Winona’s scenic natural setting, arts and culture, and outstanding recreational resources combine to make it Minnesota’s most beautiful town.
Adventure in the great outdoors is easy to find right in the Winona city limits. Saint Mary’s students enjoy the challenge of climbing the Sugarloaf landmark.
Carleton students spend a day cooking in Rabat, Morocco, while on an off-campus study program.
It’s difficult to know whether to call it an inside story when more than 100,000 people are in on it. But with how often you see the knowing smile and nod when someone says, “Tommies hire Tommies,” the secret is probably out.
For decades, the “Tommie network” has been one of the university’s greatest strengths, a foundation of loyalty and pride, and a recognition of the high-level education and career preparation students get at St. Thomas. That manifests itself in a robust alumni network that helps current students with informational interviews, mentoring, job shadowing, and internship and job connections.
The results are profound: 95 percent of both the classes of 2015 and 2016 have reported employment, enrollment in a graduate program, volunteer service or enlistment in the military within a year after graduating; and 65 percent of the class of 2015 reported having an internship while at St. Thomas.
“As a hiring manager you want to put aside your biases, but it sticks in the back of your mind throughout the interviews that you have an expectation St. Thomas students will come through. … St. Thomas students are just more polished and better prepared,” said Brad Meyer ’04, administration, finance and planning manager for St. Paul Parks and Recreation. “Sixty to 70 percent of the internships we’ve hired since I’ve been here have been St. Thomas students … and I haven’t had a bad experience once.”
A powerful combination
With so many contributing factors, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has made the Tommie network as strong as it is today. One reason is undoubtedly the size and range of the alumni network, which spans the state, region, country and globe.
“A lot of schools don’t have that vast network we do,” said Jenna Johnson ’14, who started her career in admissions at St. Thomas and now works in Alumni Relations. “My area [for admissions] was southern Wisconsin and a lot of students wanted to know if we had Tommies in Milwaukee and Madison, so if they wanted to go back home to work they had support there. The answer is yes, we have alumni there. We have alumni pretty much everywhere.”
Locally, the depth of the St. Thomas network is invaluable for current students: Tens of thousands of St. Thomas alumni have remained in the metro area and throughout the state, meaning they’re easily accessible for students in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“There are Tommies at pretty much every company here in the Twin Cities. … You’ll have some connection to every large company here,” said Chad Grossmann ’16, who started a career at General Mills last year by having coffee with a fellow Tommie alum. “Tommies really do help each other. I’m a prime example of how it all worked out.”
The willingness to help one another seems to come naturally thanks to a combination of school pride, recognition of the quality of students and desire to keep momentum going.
“People feel that this network, this school, helped form them into what they are now in the professional world. They want to give back so people can have that same experience,” Grossmann said. “These people helped me, I want to help that sophomore looking for an internship, that junior who doesn’t know their career path, that senior who missed out on some opportunity. I want to be a sounding board for them for advice. You realize the benefits the school has offered you … you want to return the favor and continue this legacy that this network truly does help them.”
“Tommies recognize the value of the St. Thomas education and realize they’re coming from a good, high-level institution,” Johnson added. “And Tommies are nice people. It’s easy to connect with them. Tommie alumni have a large presence, especially in the Twin Cities. If, as a student, you’re looking at doing an internship or job at one of the employers around here, you’re usually going to find a Tommie.”
Jennifer Rogers, associate director of the St. Thomas Career Development Center, works with employers that come to campus to recruit students. She recognizes, on a daily basis, the presence and strength of Tommies looking to hire.
“We have an informational questionnaire for visiting companies, and just this fall, 56 percent – over half the employers that came here in the fall – have management who are alums. The year before, that was 60 percent. That network is out there,” she said. “Another option they can say is, ‘I’ve had success hiring Tommies.’ That number is well over 80 percent. In 2015, it was 90 percent.”
More options than ever
With such a well-established tradition and loyalty already in place, St. Thomas has taken more steps in recent years to make it as easy as possible for students and alumni to meet and help one another. Alumni Relations has answered the call of President Julie Sullivan to raise the number of student-alumni connections: Last year the Student-Alumni Mentoring program – which has been around for almost 20 years – nearly doubled in participation, with more than 1,400 students and alumni connected. Alumni Relations also has created a more formal young alumni network to help those one to 10 years out from graduation, so “that value proposition of support continues well out of school,” Johnson said.
“This network is more developed and prevalent. The tightknit nature of the St. Thomas network is just there. It’s inherent,” Grossmann said. “With other schools, are students using their four years to get their degree and be done? Or to be part of this lifelong community? With St. Thomas, it’s lifelong, and that’s much more the case than other schools you see.”
Resources like webinars, virtual networking and national visits are growing in number and scope, Johnson said, and will continue growing as Alumni Relations shifts to new and improved online platforms. Increasing options and accessibility are all about making it possible for everyone to do what they want to do: Help fellow Tommies.
“We all are for the common good here. We say that and it’s true, but we really all are for the common good and that includes for each other,” she added. “Not everyone has financial means to give back as young alums, but everyone can give back their time and expertise. That’s a good way to start.”
When health and human performance professor Lesley Scibora stressed to students that cellphones were not to be used during class, something about that emphasis stuck with junior Chris Hornung.
So, after reading a book about reclaiming conversations and considering doing research on how cellphone use by students at St. Thomas fit in, he approached Scibora for direction. Not because it was directly in her field (“I didn’t know if it was something she would go for at all,” Hornung said) but because he had gotten to know her throughout the semester and felt comfortable approaching her.
“It really just kind of clicked,” Hornung said.
Since then Scibora has helped Hornung connect with other resources on campus to kick-start his ongoing research project, which has continued under her guidance. Looking back on how the whole process played out, it was surprising to Hornung how organically such a strong mentor-mentee relationship flourished.
“I was looking for a mentor, but I don’t think when I got into conversation with Lesley that’s anything I had in mind. … It kind of just happened. I just got a mentor. It’s great,” he said. “I don’t feel I had to necessarily work to try to find one; it kind of came out of nowhere. It was in the back of my mind, and I didn’t think I had a mentor until I realized I had one.”
Countless similar relationships have cropped up between students and faculty at St. Thomas, especially when research can be a catalyst for more time together outside the classroom.
“You get to see them grow and learn something in an area that totally interests them. It’s what jazzes them, and you can get behind it and support it,” Scibora said. “You see them grow and learn and take responsibility and leadership. What’s better than helping provide an opportunity and letting them run with that?”
Scibora said it’s no accident she ends up with multiple students asking to work with her in any given semester; she “plants seeds” in class and makes a point to be available to everyone if they want to pursue something with her.
“I try to show up to class early, talk with them, get to know them. And I make it a point the first day of class to let them know that I’m here to help them succeed. I’m here to help you learn and be successful. They always know I’m on their side, and to me that’s important they know that,” she said. “That has made for good relationships with my students.”
“I didn’t think I would be doing research, but the ability to have a relationship with your professors is there, here at St. Thomas. You get in contact with them, they’re always there before classes to talk about the course or talk in general,” Hornung said. “Conversation opened up the avenue to build a relationship and then to do research and have other opportunities in general.”
Scibora said she has been impressed with Hornung’s ambition and independence, while Hornung pointed out the benefit of having someone like Scibora in his corner.
“I just think it’s awesome, and I think the school does allow those relationships to grow. It allows that mentor relationship more so than other schools,” Hornung said. “The idea you can get in contact and have off-the-cuff conversations and not be intimidated, and that you can talk with professors and not a [teacher’s assistant] or something; you can go right to the person with all that knowledge. It’s great.”
Editor’s note: One of the most common benefits students cite about their St. Thomas education is the ability to connect personally with faculty members, which supports students’ academic work and their growth as people; the value of knowing they are “not just a number” is immeasurable for students. With the “Tommie Mentors and Mentees” series, the Newsroom has sought to illustrate what that value means for specific student-faculty pairs.
Dr. Corrine Carvalho, professor of theology and executive adviser to the president at the University of St. Thomas, will become interim dean of the School of Social Work, effective July 1. Dr. Barbara Shank will begin a year’s administrative leave before retiring at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.
Carvalho received her B.A., magna cum laude, with a major in Latin and a minor in theology at the University of San Francisco in 1980. She received an M.A. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, in 1984 and received a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Old Testament studies from Yale University in 1991.
After beginning her teaching career at Florida State University, she joined the St. Thomas Department of Theology faculty in 1996. She served as director of St. Thomas’ Luann Dummer Center for Women from 2006-12, when her faculty peers chose her Professor of the Year.
President Julie Sullivan appointed her co-chair of the university’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee in 2013 and co-chair of the Strategic Planning Oversight Committee the following year. She served as chair of the faculty in 2014-15 and in that role served as a member of the President’s Cabinet. She also served on the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate from 2013-16.
The two university presidents and provosts are committed to a strong, vibrant, joint School of Social Work. The intent is to begin a nationwide search for a permanent dean once the provosts update the affiliation agreement.
Gustavus Adolphus College junior Katie Aney is the recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the premier undergraduate award for students pursuing careers in mathematics, sciences, and engineering.
Nearly 1,300 talented students are nominated annually by campus representatives from 2,000 colleges and universities across the country. Of the group, only 240 undergraduates are selected each year for the prestigious award. Recent Goldwater Scholars have gone on to receive other top-tier academic awards including 89 Rhodes Scholarships, 127 Marshall Awards, 145 Churchill Scholarships, 96 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.
“It’s an incredible award that I am honored to accept.” Aney said. “It is humbling to think of level of support I’ve received from Gustavus and the depth of gratitude I owe to the many mentors that have helped me throughout my academic journey.”
Aney, who holds a perfect 4.0 grade point average with majors in biochemistry and mathematics, will spend the summer conducting research at Harvard University through the Amgen Scholars Program. During her 10-week research program, the Rochester, Minn. native will work under Dr. Stephanie Dougan of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on a project centering on immunology and pancreatic cancer.
“Immunology is a big field in cancer research right now,” Aney said. “The project explores how we can find ways to use the body’s immune system to fight cancer instead of relying on some of the older, more traditional methods. Specifically, my role will be in generating fluorescent versions of pancreatic cancer cell lines to use for future experiments and imaging.”
Throughout the Amgen Scholars program, Aney will conduct hands-on, innovative research using novel methods to detect immune responses to tumors in mice. In addition, she will join Harvard’s other Amgen Scholars for intellectual pre-professional development, including a National Amgen Scholars Research Symposium at UCLA.
“Katie’s research internship at Harvard this summer will provide her with the opportunity to further immerse herself in high impact research in a way that will be incredibly valuable for her future career in biomedical research,” Gustavus biology professor Laura Burrack said. “As a researcher in my laboratory and during her summer internship at the Mayo Clinic last summer, she has taken intellectual ownership of her projects in a way that is truly remarkable.”
Outside of the classroom and lab, Aney is involved at Gustavus as a key contributor on the Gustavus women’s tennis team, the Student Athlete Advisory Council, and Tri-Beta honor society vice president. She’s also dedicated time to the Mayo Clinic Volunteer Program, presented at the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science Conference, assisted in publishing a paper on concussion risks in youth hockey players, and completed a Mayo Clinic Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship focusing on neuroblastoma cancer.
“My academics are very important to me and at Gustavus, I’ve definitely received a world-class education.” Aney said. “But Gustavus has also really helped me become well-rounded. Through balancing academics, athletics, and social activities, I feel like I’ve truly experienced what it means to be a ‘Gustie.’ This balance is supported by the Gustavus faculty members, who make each student feel like they are a priority, foster our passions, and strive to help us achieve our dreams.”
“The first time I met Katie, I was struck by her genuine curiosity, intelligence and desire to learn. All of my interactions with her over the past two years have confirmed these initial impressions,” Burrack added. “In the classroom, Katie is inquisitive, analytical, and a leader in small group work.”
And with the Goldwater Scholarship and Amgen Scholar experience as an undergrad, the sky is the limit for the well-rounded Gustie.
“Graduate school is definitely the next step for me.” Aney said. “I’m very interested in clinical cancer research, backed by intrinsic motivation and life experiences, but I suppose the honest answer is that I’m still figuring things out. Two things that will never be a waste of time are loving and learning and my vocation will lie where these meet. I enjoy the challenge and creativity required from science courses, but I’m also trying to live with love and kindness and enjoy the rest of my time at Gustavus. I just want to be the best teammate, friend and person that I can possibly be.”
For more information about the Gustavus Fellowships Office and the support it gives to students, please visit the fellowship website.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
A few weeks ago, Sean Heaslip ’16 briefly stepped away from his work on the United States Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to talk to current St. Olaf College students about working in Washington, D.C.
The St. Olaf students were visiting the nation’s capital as part of the D.C. Connections Program, which brings students into alumni workplaces to explore careers and broaden their perspective on what they can do with a liberal arts education.
For Heaslip, the program is personal — he was a participant himself before he graduated last spring.
Now, as an alumnus working on Capitol Hill, he wants to provide current students with the same valuable insight he received through the program.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to gain insights into how Ole alumni have applied their skill sets in the wider world,” says Heaslip, who spoke as part of the program’s panel on domestic policy making. “Mostly, I shared the strategy that I developed for getting a job in D.C. My strategy highlighted the importance of face-to-face meetings and the value of previous internships in the D.C. area.”
The 28 St. Olaf students on this year’s D.C. Connections Program explored career opportunities and connected with alumni working at places like the Library of Congress, the World Bank, SKDKnickerbocker, and POLITICO.
The trip, organized by the college’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career, focused on careers in government, nonprofit, education, and international organizations. It was the final trip of this year’s Connections Program, following similar programs in Chicago, Madison, and San Francisco.
During their stay in D.C., students delved into the fields of domestic policymaking; international relations and development; national security (including defense, cybersecurity, and resource security/scarcity); social issues advocacy; economic and monetary policy; and political reporting. In each of these subjects, students had the opportunity to meet with alumni like Heaslip and learn how they ended up working in D.C.
“A memorable part for me was talking with alumni about how they got to where they were. It really put a human face on many of the challenges that I’m facing as I look to the future. It was awesome to hear their stories about how they navigated their way to D.C., and emboldened me to do the same,” says Griffin Edwards ’17.
Over three dozen alumni provided information about the workings of their fields and spoke of how they came to establish their careers in D.C.
“From this program I learned the importance of face-to-face interactions when searching for jobs. Networking is an essential part of the job search process, and it is not one of those things that naturally occurs to people,” says Guillermo Gorrin ’17, who particularly enjoyed meeting with Mark Dimunation ’74, chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, and Anthony Aldwell ’72, director of global security policy at Lockheed Martin. “Their stories really show how far an Olaf education can take you.”
Ethan Johnson ‘18 also found the trip to the Library of Congress to a memorable part of the program.
Johnson was thrilled when Dimunation showed students the Bible used by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama at their inaugurations, as well as one of the very first copies of the Declaration of Independence. “It was an honor to get to be with him and see how much to this day he cares about connecting with Oles,” says Johnson.
Aside from the many ventures into different career opportunities, students were also able to experience the capital first hand.
“It’s one thing to listen to people talk about D.C., but to be able to contextualize it by actually being in the city is entirely something else. I think that’s one of the strengths of the Connections programs all around — for a lot of us it’s not just about wanting to work in government or public policy, it’s about wanting to do it in Washington, D.C.,” says Aidan Zielske ’18.
Heaslip can testify to this and he hopes by giving back to the program that students will see the value in St. Olaf connections.
“The understanding that ‘Oles help other Oles’ isn’t something that ends once you get your diploma. These students have our names, our business cards, and our stories. If they decide to pursue an employment opportunity in Washington, they will have plenty of us to reach out to,” says Heaslip.
For students like Johnson, this message rings true.
“I know first hand that there is a vast network of Oles who are out there waiting to help me along my journey and who know that I am a qualified and capable candidate wherever I may go,” says Johnson.
Another entry is checked off on the Senior Bucket List compiled by Jennifer Kwon and Charlotte Duong.
Karin and Bob Moe P ’90 so strongly believed in the Great Conversation program at St. Olaf College that they established the Moe Family Endowed Fund to deepen its impact.
With this funding, program director Douglas Casson and his fellow Great Conversation educators are now integrating new opportunities to expand student learning.
The Great Conversation is a two-year, five-course sequence. Students and faculty together tackle the major epochs of Western Civilization to trace its development from the ancient Greeks and Hebrews into the modern world. Conversation students live and study together to form an inclusive learning community to extend their examination of art, culture, history, philosophy, politics, and religion beyond the classroom.
“The Moe’s gift has been critical in sustaining and improving this program,” Casson says. “We are now able to think creatively about what we could do to enrich students’ encounter with these great works. For example, we are now planning an Interim course in Europe to see ancient objects that we have learned about like the flood tablet from Gilgamesh and think about why institutions like the British Museum continue to hold them.”
Faculty also increased access to expert lecturers and off-campus excursions, and integrated new historical resources on Christian/Islamic interactions during the Middle Ages. This helps build rich context and multiple pathways for students to consider how the development of Western Civilization impacts their world today.
“The Great Conversation is about gaining an appreciation for an established record of human achievement. Yet it is also about engaging that tradition thoughtfully and critically,” says Casson.
This collective investigation appealed strongly to the Moes. “We just believed it is a wonderful opportunity for young people to get that kind of background in great works with experts in the field and their fellow students — speaking, thinking, and learning together,” says Karin. “I think that really has to have quite an impact.”
The Moe Family Endowed Fund for the Great Conversation is part of St. Olaf’s $200 million For the Hill and Beyond comprehensive campaign to advance high-impact learning, strengthen its vibrant residential learning community, enhance the affordability of a St. Olaf education, and sustain the college’s mission.
A 1956 alumna of the University of Minnesota, Karin was the only female accounting major in its business school at the time. She took quickly to business, working summers in actuarial research for an insurance company, and augmented her required courses by taking history, sociology, and statistical psychology — classes she absolutely loved.
“I like business. I started reading my dad’s Business Week magazines growing up — but you miss some things when you settle quickly into your track,” she says.
Upon graduation, Karin was hired by IBM to write and oversee programming for a new mainframe machine purchased by the same insurance firm she worked for in previous summers. She left, though, when she had her first child. “Back then, there was absolutely no way you could work for IBM if you had a baby,” she says.
Her husband, Bob, worked and advanced through consecutive leadership roles at Polaris Industries, and retired as executive vice president and treasurer after working at the company for 22 years. He died in 2016 following complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Expanding horizons for students was important to them both. The Moes similarly supported the construction of Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, the renovation of Tomson Hall, and Psychology Department research — all in recognition of the positive experiences their daughter Kathryn ’90 had at St. Olaf. She took part in mentored summer research, as well as international study in Spain and Latin America.
“Kathy got really good mentoring. The faculty were instrumental in helping her select the right graduate schools that would further her interest — after St. Olaf she went to Carnegie Mellon and got her master’s degree in public policy and administration. It was just an all-around good experience for her,” Karin says. “I really believe in education — I think educating more women might bring peace to the world.”
Art Cullen didn’t want to sound cocky or overconfident, but he had a hunch – the classic gut hunch of a good reporter – that he would win a Pulitzer Prize this year.
The 1980 St. Thomas journalism alumnus and editor of the Storm Lake Times, a twice-a-week newspaper in northwestern Iowa, sat in his newsroom on April 10 and watched a livestream telecast of the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes announcement.
“I felt I was going to win,” he said. “I just knew I had a winner. There were 21 categories, and editorial writing was No. 18 to be announced. My heart was just about coming out of my chest. But the closer we got, the more confident I was.”
And then the announcement came: Gerald Arthur Cullen of the Storm Lake Times, circulation 3,000, won the Pulitzer Prize – the highest honor in American newspaper journalism – for editorial writing:
“For editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”
Cullen exploded at the news. “We won! We won!” he exclaimed, with a colorful cuss word tossed in. His brother John, founder and publisher of the newspaper, “sits about 5 feet away from me, and we gave each other a big hug. It was so cool.”
The news reverberated around the country as newspapers with far larger circulations tried to define the iconoclastic and “sarcastic” editor described by one writer as having “Mark Twain’s hair and Sam Elliott’s eyebrows.” A sampling of headlines:
- The Poynter Institute, a school for journalism: “Tiny, family-run newspaper wins Pulitzer Prize for taking on big business.”
- New York Times: “Iowa town’s editor wins Pulitzer Prize for taking on farm groups.”
- Los Angeles Times: “In a small Iowa town, a Pulitzer-winning editor defends immigrants and tries to bring a community together.”
The winning entry was a 2016 series of 10 editorials. They accused drainage districts in three countries of funneling high levels of nitrates into the Raccoon River and said agricultural groups secretly funded the counties’ legal defense against a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works. The result, Cullen wrote, was that Iowa “has the dirtiest surface water in America.”
Several days after the Pulitzer announcement, Cullen took time to take a call from his collegiate alma mater and talk about what he said had been a crazy week. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “But it sure has been fun.”
Cullen never expected to become a journalist. The youngest of six children, born and raised in Storm Lake, he told his mother he intended to go to the University of Iowa. “The hell you are,” he recalled her saying. “You’re going to St. Thomas.”
His mom had gone to the College of St. Catherine and had harbored wishes that at least one of her children would go to St. Catherine or St. Thomas. That didn’t happen with the first five, so when it came time for No. 6 to go to college, St. Thomas was it.
He enrolled in 1975 and intended to major in music, “but it was explained to me that I couldn’t play the piano.” He considered theater and then business, but gave up the latter when he flunked out of an 8 a.m. accounting class.
His next choice: journalism. It took him more than four years to earn his degree, and he gave credit to several professors. His best courses were Persuasion in Writing, taught by Father James Whalen, and what he called the required “philosophy sequence” of Logic (Dr. Harry Austin) and Ethics (Dr. Fred Flynn). His best professor? Dr. Lon Otto of English.
“Lon taught me how to write,” Cullen said. “I took a creative writing class from him and it opened up the world to me.”
He wrote briefly for The Aquin, the student newspaper. One of his stories was about how the college’s associate housing director alleged he was fired because he was gay. Cullen was proud of the story – and that The Aquin was willing to publish it.
After graduation, he returned to Iowa to take photos and write for the Algona Upper Des Moines and Kossuth County Advance, where his brother (John) was editor. His first stories were for a special 96-page section on the town’s 125th anniversary, and on the night the presses ran, Algona was hit by a tornado “that destroyed half the town. It was my baptism by fire,” he said, “and we covered the hell out of it.”
Once he became a professional journalist, Cullen changed his byline. Known as “Jerry” in college, he switched to his middle name. “It was a better byline,” he said. “Jerry” reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, and “Art” brought memories of columnist Art Buchwald.
After seven years, Cullen moved to Ames, Iowa, and served as managing editor of the Ames Tribune for three years. He spent a year at the Mason City Globe Gazette before he took a call from his brother that he was starting a paper in their hometown. They joined forces in 1990 and since have been together in Storm Lake.
The newspaper is truly a family affair. Cullen’s wife, Dolores, is a feature writer and photographer and his son Tom is a writer. All four of the couple’s children have worked one time or another at the Times, and Cullen gives credit to Tom’s stories about agricultural runoff problems for providing the grist that led to the Pulitzer editorials.
“Tom deserves the Pulitzer as much as I do,” Cullen said. “His name should be on it too.”
Cullen expects the Pulitzer excitement to die down soon, and then he can get back to the daily grind of editing his newspaper. He expects to take a larger role in management as his brother nears retirement but expects to be around for a while. He will turn 60 on May 10.
“Look us up,” he said. “We’ll be here.”
Gene McGivern, sports information director at St. Thomas, worked with Cullen 30 years ago at the Ames Tribune and has stayed in touch with him. McGivern wrote about his former colleague in Gene’s Blog in TommieSports.com.
WINONA, Minn. — Galleria Valéncia at Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts (MCA) is filled with unique pieces of artwork created by Jeffery Morgan’s art students at Winona Area Public Schools. The selected pieces are from kindergarten through fourth-grade art classrooms at Washington-Kosciusko Elementary, Goodview Elementary, and Rollingstone Community schools. Galleria Valéncia is located at 1164 W. Howard St.
During the month of April, visitors to the gallery will enjoy colorful artwork that was created using a variety of mediums and elements of design. Morgan has been teaching elementary art for over 10 years, and he enjoys seeing the great perceptual and developmental growth in his students. “Along with the Minnesota standards in visual arts, art classrooms teach problem solving, divergent thinking, responsibility and appreciation for the creative expression of others different from ourselves,” Morgan said.
Visitors are encouraged to sign the guestbook, so that the young artists know who attended the show. MCA is in the process of setting up art shows for the upcoming school year. If schools or artists are interested in displaying their work in Galleria Valéncia, contact Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts, an affiliate program of Saint Mary’s University, is a nonprofit organization offering programming in dance, music, visual art, and theatre. Classes, lessons, workshops, and camps are offered for youth ages 18 months and older through adults at the Valéncia Arts Center. For more information, go to smumn.edu/mca, email email@example.com, or call 507-453-5500.
Quirky and funny, with a penchant for the dark side, Jack Walterman ’17 dreams of being the next Tim Burton.
After graduating from Saint Mary’s this spring with a theatre degree, Walterman is ready for his academic sequel at one of the top film schools in the nation, the University of Southern California’s Division of Film and Television Production MFA program.
Burton once said, “Anybody with artistic ambitions is always trying to reconnect with the way they saw things as a child.”
Looking back at his life, Walterman may have always been pre-destined for a career in the film industry because his love for video production started as a kid.
“My parents had a camcorder with those little compact tapes,” he said. “My friends and I would write scripts and make videos.”
By high school, Walterman took classes that taught him some videography basics and by his senior year of high school, his parents bought him a camera of his own.
Self-defined as “quirky and funny,” Walterman likes to combine his humor with the horror genre. His first true stint behind the camera was when he convinced his friends back home to star in a two-part horror comedy called Jitters.
Then Walterman tucked his camera away for a bit, focusing on his college career, acting and directing in several theatre productions, performing in the Oldie Moldie All-Stars through Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, serving as president of Alpha Psi Omega, and coordinating the 50th anniversary of the Blue Angel musical variety show on campus.
Walterman again got the film production bug, after connecting with fellow student musician Darvell Jones ’17 (who uses the stage name Sain Levrad). The two combined talents to complete several YouTube music videos, with Walterman behind the scenes (sometimes playing backup on piano), and Jones as the star. “Over senior week, we filmed 13 music videos in four days. We’d be up until 3 a.m., take a nap, and then go again,” Walterman said. “We had a $200 camera and no budget.”
What they lacked in budget, they made up for in creativity. Each video is unique. The two lit a fire atop a piano, set a piano on a flatbed trailer and performed while moving, and filmed in the Mississippi River, in the bluffs, and even in a building under construction. Sometimes they filmed in the dark.
With the success of these videos, the two again collaborated on a Thriller video this past fall, starring Saint Mary’s students as Jones’ zombie backup dancers.
Not surprisingly, Walterman’s adviser Judy Myers encouraged him to consider pursuing film school.
Walterman already thought his career path was in the can. He had directed St. Charles High School students in one-act competition, coached Cotter High School speech students, and taught at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
But the possibility intrigued him enough to apply to the top film schools in America, including the University of Southern California’s Division of Film and Television Production MFA program. Knowing he was competing against students from across the nation and beyond, he sent in a personal statement and résumé, a graduation film project proposal (Jitters), and Thriller.
In January, he received a phone interview with a film-editing professor who asked him why he wanted to attend USC. “I conquered Guthrie as a sophomore undergrad,” Walterman said. “I told him, ‘What can I do if I take a chance and face a fear and chase a dream?’ ”
In his subsequent admittance letter, Walterman was told, “The Cinematic Arts faculty identified you as one of the more talented applicants in this year’s applicant pool.” He will begin in spring of 2018, potentially earlier.
Designing his own happy ending, Walterman would love one day to direct in the comedy/horror genre. He specifies that when Jones becomes famous, Walterman will film his music documentary.
“Saint Mary’s helped me find my artistic voice, be a leader on campus, and provide me the space to make these videos,” Walterman said. “And I formed close relationships with faculty who helped me get internships and jobs. I’ve grown so much. I wanted to be an individual, not a number. I wanted to be known. It definitely happened here.”
Perhaps it was in part because my wife and I had been binge-watching “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix in the days leading up to my meeting junior Jonathon Shields, but several things about the music performance and music business major reminded me of the show’s musician character, Andy Dwyer.
Last summer Shields, who was born in Canada and grew up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, created an alias, Whitney James, so he could more comfortably make music different than the acoustic- and folk-based material he has developed for years under his own name. Shields, a “Parks and Recreation” fan himself, and I laughed about how much harder it was for him to come up with a new name than it was for Dwyer, whose band performed under more than a dozen names.
Besides the names, though, both men express heartfelt joy at their music’s ability to make others happy: Dwyer finds his passion is hosting a musical kids show, and Shields talked about the great feeling that comes from performing with Harmony Crew, a St. Thomas group he leads that plays at elderly homes and children hospitals throughout the school year.
“We usually play jazz and people just light up, sing along to all these great old songs they know,” he said. “It’s really cool to see.”
Raised in a musical family alongside two brothers and with a mom who taught piano, Shields switched to guitar from piano when he was 11 and hasn’t looked back since. At St. Thomas he has dove into musical theory and honed his performance skills as a member of the jazz band and through playing around the Twin Cities on his own. With a music business major and as president of the Music Industry Club, he is sharpening skills to support his own performance career or to have other options in the music industry.
“Since coming here I’ve learned a lot more about how music works and how I can use that for my own career,” Shields said. “It has given me a better idea of how to conduct myself, why to conduct myself the way I do.”
Dressed in black T-shirt and a jacket for a performance later that day, Shields was more than happy to jump away from the topic of music to discuss his biggest fear, the best vacation he ever had and a very special Canadian rock.
What is the best money you’ve ever spent?
This last spring break one my of high school buddies who goes to Northwestern and I road-tripped down to Florida – took us 22 hours – to see one of our other high school friends who’s in the Navy and is stationed down there. That was the trip of a lifetime.
What is your biggest fear?
Growing old and looking back and having a regret, wishing I would have taken a chance on something I didn’t.
What’s the most difficult assignment you’ve ever had to complete?
I have to go back to high school for that one. Freshman year I was in principles of engineering … and we were tasked with building a boat out of … tinfoil. It was me and two other guys. The hardest part was working with those two other guys. We just didn’t click. I love collaborating; it’s a great way to get results. Just not with these two guys.
Who’s your favorite teacher ever?
[St. Thomas music professor] Chris Kachian. I have pretty good relationships with my other teachers, but his is just a whole different level. He’s so relatable, such a down-to-earth guy. He really is just looking out for the best for his students.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
The spring break trip was a good one, but my best vacation was as a senior in high school where my family decided to take a cruise with some other family friends who also had seniors. So, like a senior last vacation thing. Went down to Florida and had a day before the cruise left. I’m the biggest Disney nerd you’ll ever meet, so we went to Disney World for the day. My little brother woke up sick so my dad stayed with him at the hotel, so it was just my mom and me at Disney World for the day. It was the best day ever.
What’s one thing you’re really curious about?
I’m interested in psychology. I find – I’m more introverted unless I’m up on stage where you need to be extroverted – that people watching is one of my favorite things to do. Or talking to people and thinking back on why they said something or acted a certain way. That’s very interesting to me. If I had another four years I might study psychology.
What was your most prized possession as a kid?
When I was in Canada when I was 11 [and we had moved back for a year before coming back to Grand Rapids], I really didn’t want to go to a new school. We were going to walk to school, about a mile every day, and I met this guy from Finland; we were neighbors and our dads worked at the same company. There was a rock we kicked to school every day. I still have that rock, so that’s probably my most prized possession from when I was a kid.
Concordia St. Paul student Jordan Bruss (’17), art faculty Cate Vermeland and community partner The Lexington-Hamline Community Council were all honored at the annual Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards luncheon April 5.
The awards provide an opportunity for member presidents to give statewide recognition to effective leaders in the development of campus-community partnerships.… Read More
The post Campus Compact Awards Recognize Leaders in the Community appeared first on Concordia St. Paul.