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As Michael Scham is quick to point out, it’s not difficult to understand the appeal of tango: the elegant, smooth movements; the sensual eye contact; the romantic draw of two bodies swirling around each other. For many, tango begins and ends on the dance floor.
Not so for Scham: The St. Thomas Spanish professor has transformed his passion for tango into not only a beloved hobby but also a dedicated area of academic research and teaching. Scham also met his fiancée tangoing, and she gave birth to their son last fall in Vienna.
“I just felt an immediate connection to the music,” Scham said of his first time watching tango in Buenos Aires nine years ago. “Just seeing people dance made an impression on me; people who would never make an impression on you walking down the street, but when they started dancing they had this elegance and charm. I thought, ‘What a wonderful thing to do.’”
Two years later, Scham began taking lessons in the Twin Cities and has been dancing and studying tango ever since. His ongoing work is about the lyrics of tango songs, which “forms a poetic tradition that goes back to medieval Spain, which is my field. My current research project is on the literary context of tango lyrics all the way back to 14th century Spain,” Scham said.
“It’s a fun research project. It’s nice to combine a nonacademic passion with academic research, which is ideal in some ways,” Scham added. “It’s also a great topic for nonacademic talks. I’ve given talks on this in four or five different countries already, sometimes in academic settings and sometimes not. A lot of people are interested in tango … so to give the general public an idea of the lyrics and topics with illustrations and audio is an appealing topic for a lot of people.”
Scham’s research has taken him back to Buenos Aires for month- and four-month-long stays to dance and do research. He and his fiancée continued dancing until about the last six weeks of her pregnancy, he said, and while on parental leave in Vienna recently they danced again for the first time since their son was born. Scham also gave a talk on the figure of Don Quixote as a figure in tango lyrics.
“It really adds a nice dimension to [teaching] that makes it more relevant and real in some ways for the students, who may often see literature and poetry as abstract,” Scham said. “They see this as related to something that people do and has a living tradition in a palpable way, which can be harder when you see it just on the page.”
I caught up with Scham shortly after he returned for the start of spring semester and asked him some of our favorite Humans of St. Thomas questions while also picking his brain about a life of tango.
What’s one thing you cannot live without?
Friends and being engaged socially. That’s related to tango too.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
I would just say my son. That’s what I’m most grateful for.
If you had the option to time travel, would you go forward or backward? And how far would you go?
I don’t think I would dare to go forward right now. It would be fascinating to go backward and see some figures one admires. It would be good to go to a time that still has anesthesia and antibiotics. It would be fascinating to go back to Renaissance Spain, but that would be dangerous as well. To walk the same streets where Cervantes was. … Early modern period, that’s my area, but all these beautiful landscapes you see evoked in paintings that always make me feel a little sad and nostalgic. That was part of their theme even then: the loss of great beauty in nature. That would have a great draw.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
Jane’s Addiction at Seattle Lollapalooza in 1991, I believe.
Describe your ideal day.
It’s kind of mundane: After waking up from a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast with family, doing some reading, then going for a nice walk together, bike ride or a hike. Then having a good meal together with some good wine, good conversation.
What are the coolest shoes you’ve ever owned?
My dos-por-cuatro tango shoes are very cool. They’re from this place in Buenos Aires, dos-por-cuatro, two-by-four, is the brand because that was the time signature for a lot of early tango, although a lot of them are four-by-four now. I have a very cool pair of shoes from there. Tango dancers become obsessed with shoes – men as well, not just the women.
The popular sale takes place Friday and Saturday, June 16 and 17.
Bridget Nelson ’87 remembers the dawn of her comedy career. It was nothing to laugh about. In fact, tears were shed.
Just months after graduating with a degree in communication and theater from St. Thomas, Nelson acknowledged to herself and her family that she simply wasn’t built for the desk job she’d landed as a buyer for Donaldson’s department store.
“I called my dad, crying, and told him, ‘I’m miserable. I think I want to be a stand-up comedian,’” she recalled.
Like most parents who have invested their hard-earned desk-job dollars on their child’s education, Nelson’s dad was lukewarm to her plans. (To be fair, her father actually was a nightclub owner who dabbled in stand-up comedy and once was mayor of Sauk Rapids, Minnesota.) Nelson followed her gut anyway, throwing herself into the local stand-up comedy scene, learning to write sketches through trial and error. Ever since, her life has been, more or less, a living monument to the adage that suggests you follow your bliss and let the rest fall into place.
Nelson is not only a stand-up comedy veteran but she also can count herself among the Peabody Award-winning writing team behind “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” a TV series that made “riffing” (witty commentary spoken at well-timed moments during a movie) famous. The Sci-Fi Channel’s cancellation of the show in 1999 did not stop Nelson from staying the course of her calling – bringing joy to people through comedy, ministry and performance.The unbearable lightness of realizing you’re a comedian
Nelson’s self-revelation in her early 20s didn’t arise from the vacuum of outer space.
“I always knew deep down that I wanted to perform,” she said. Proof of her comedic inklings can be traced to a foretelling comment on her sixth-grade report card: “Bridget is scatterbrained but delightful and refreshing,” declared her teacher.
At St. Thomas, she unwittingly honed her stand-up comedy chops on her unsuspecting professors just by being herself. During one class she drummed up the moxie to toy with one of her journalism professors, longtime (now retired) Star Tribune reporter and columnist Dick Youngblood.
“One day he was telling us some newspaper-man smart-mouth reply that he said to someone in his typical crotchety manner, and for some reason I raised my hand and asked him, ‘Did you have to be such an [expletive]?’”
Immediately after, “there was that horrible silence every comedian loves and dreads before the joke lands,” she said. She held her breath as Youngblood’s eyes widened, the corners of his lips lifted and finally he broke the dreaded silence with a hearty laugh.
“It was a big deal to me because it was such an example of trusting your comedy instincts,” she said. “You think, ‘This is risky, but it just might work!’ Then the joke lands and the target laughs and you gain confidence.”
Developing her comedic instincts at St. Thomas, however loosely, may have helped instill in her the confidence she needed to follow her bliss, or at the very least stand beneath a spotlight telling jokes to a roomful of strangers. Through her early comedy acts she met many of the people who sparked the next big phase of her career at “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (MST3K).
A fellow comedian also new to the stand-up scene named Michael (Mike) J. Nelson would become her co-pilot not only in her career but also in life. While the club in which they met, That Comedy Place, no longer stands; Nelson and Mike do. The two married in 1989, and shortly after he was offered a writing position with MST3K, soon becoming the series’ head writer.
Nelson started as a “home writer” for MST3K, watching tapes of bad movies at home and writing jokes. In 1991, she signed on as an official member of the small, tightknit writers’ group – many of whom, such as Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl and Kevin Murphy, she knew from her stand-up days.
For those unfamiliar with MST3K, the show’s deliciously wacky premise revolved around a character named “Joel” (played by MST3K’s founder, comedian Joel Hodgson), and later “Mike,” who is held captive on the Satellite of Love and forced to watch awful B movies by mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester, who is focused on discovering that one movie horrible enough to drive humans mad. Mike took Hodgson’s place as host in 1993.
The centerpiece of each episode was a horrendous 90-minute movie viewed by Joel, a janitor employed by the fictitious Gizmonic Institute, and “Tom Servo” (Murphy) and “Crow” (Trace Beaulieu and later Bill Corbett) – two of the four robots he built to keep him company. The trio appeared in silhouette – the show’s hallmark visual – as they roasted movies, scene after horrible scene, from their front-row seats.
Nelson made several eccentric cameo appearances as “Nuveena, Woman of the Future,” “Darlene” the space child, “Mr. B. Natural” and others.When good things happen to bad films
Fast forward to 2017 and you’ll find Nelson, on a balmy March day, watching another bad movie … and loving it.
After years of writing jokes for others, she began performing her own riffs with longtime MST3K friend Pehl for “Rifftrax” – an online service co-created by her husband and his friend David Martin that offers audio roasts of bad movies in the spirit of MST3K.
Mike, Murphy and Corbett perform most of the roasts. Nelson and Pehl, who joined “Rifftrax” in 2015 and riff together exclusively for now, contribute roughly one recording per month.
Today, she and Pehl are watching “Angels’ Revenge,” circa 1979, starring Jack Palance, Peter Lawford and seven genetically gifted female vigilantes on a small flat-screen TV in a tiny bedroom that’s been converted into a recording studio. All tracks are recorded at Murphy’s place, a cozy mid-century house nestled in Minneapolis’ western suburbia.
The movie is the kind of “campy, woman-y stuff” both women love to riff. The vigilantes, dressed improbably in matching low-cut white jumpsuits, huddle conspiratorially near a wooden fence, plotting their ambush on an outpost of bad guys. Their lines are stilted. Their lips are glossed. And their plan doesn’t make any sense. Luckily, Nelson and Pehl have the chops to make this 90-minute slog of scenes effervesce with new life.
Joining them in the studio is Murphy, who mans the recording controls while the women riff, sing and laugh their way through the film. The three are a veritable who’s who of MST3K history by the standards of any MSTie (the self-ascribed pet name of MST3K a aficionados). Pehl had a recurring main role as Pearl Forrester, the campy, diabolical mother of Dr. Clayton Forrester.
“Bridget’s smart and funny, and I like smart and funny people because they make me a better writer,” Pehl said of her old friend.
Their humor, Nelson said, is more lighthearted than what they wrote for MST3K, and like the show, all the roasts are “PG,” though they sprinkle in a little “naughty, fraternity-type humor.”
For all the laughs and fun, both women take their performances seriously and strive to create their best work.A God-given gift
Riffing isn’t the only talent in Nelson’s repertoire. One role close to her heart is talking about Jesus to church groups, large and small – a calling that came after some soul searching. Though she was raised in a devout Catholic family, and attended Mass every Sunday in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas as a student, her Christian identity began to ebb once she achieved success.
It started to flow back in 1996, when she and her husband became “committed Christians,” she said. MST3K was in its seventh season and transitioning from Comedy Central to the Sci-Fi Channel. The show had been nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy Writing Award and a feature film, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie,” was released. By all appearances the Nelsons were living the good life.
“We had an ideal life,” Nelson said. “Two healthy sons, loving siblings, money to spend and we laughed our heads off every day surrounded by creative, funny people writing for an award-winning TV show.” Meanwhile “a profound emptiness” had begun to invade their marriage, she said.
What happened? “We realized our sinfulness,” she said. Then “one weekend, by some miracle, we began to pray together! We spent time confessing to God, going to church, and we began to study our Bibles daily. I also began to do a daily devotion study given to me years earlier by Jim Kellen, who worked in the [O’Shaughnessy-Frey] library.”
Nelson decided the time was right to do something new that blended her comedy and performance skills with ministry.
“Besides, how many puppet shows like MST3K are there to write in Minnesota?” Nelson joked.
She joined Bloomington, Minnesota-based Family Fest Ministries, a multi-denominational Christian ministry that partners with churches and families to provide camps, retreats and presentations for families, couples and youth. Nelson presented extensively, telling faith stories on various topics that she crafted from her personal stories.
“Whether Bridget speaks to kids or adults, she simply draws in her audience, first with her amazing sense of humor, then with her heartfelt message,” said Pete Larson, executive director of Family Fest Ministries. “To listen to her talk about life, love and faith using her incredible sense of humor is a gift.”
Mike believes, “Bridget is better equipped to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it actually applies to human families, here, now, on earth, than almost anyone I know.”
Nelson discovered that “it’s important but also fun for young people to see that you can be a committed Christian and still be funny, or still be creative, or whatever it is, and you don’t always have to be so serious,” she said, emphasizing that she didn’t alter her jokes to be Christian themed after she recommitted to her faith.
In her talks, whether with adults, couples or teens, Nelson always brings up the need to confess sins, repent and be free.
“God gives you gifts, and they’re not contingent on you doing other things,” she said. “How you’re going to be a good steward of it or not is up to you.”Riffing into the future
The sweet thing about shows such as this is what their fan bases lack in numbers they outdistance their chart-busting counterparts in devotion. Eighteen years after MST3K, Netflix revived the show with 14 new episodes in April. Though the Nelsons are not affiliated with it, they are supportive of the project, which was funded by more than $5.7 million by fans through Kickstarter – the most successful crowdfunded film or video project of all time.
Likewise, online discussion boards are brimming with stories from viewers of how MST3K got them through a tough time. Nelson is well aware of this, and believes the series’ unfailingly good-natured humor has a lot to do with the persistence of its fans’ devotion.
“In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis said, ‘Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another, “What? You, too? I thought that I was the only one.”’ MST3K had that effect on people,” she said. “Especially people suffering with loneliness and depression. I think people feel as if they are right in there with the writers, cracking up and ‘getting it’ in the way that friends do.”
Nelson thinks it’s a distinguishing feature carried on through “Rifftrax” as well. She’s grateful to be back bringing joy into people’s lives through the comedic roasts that launched one of the great joys of her life. And she’s grateful to the people who have trusted and continue to trust her for a good laugh.
Then, like any good comedian, she closed on a light note.
“I’d also heard many stories of mothers saying, ‘Turn off that stupid show!’ To that I say, it’s a kid’s job to annoy their parent, and I’m proud to have helped out in a harmless way!”
Read more from St. Thomas magazine.
It was a lovely morning on the Bald Spot, as Carleton celebrated its 143rd Commencement Ceremony. Congratulations to the Carleton Class of 2017!
Kristen (Schmidt) Soukup (’06), who helped lead Concordia’s softball team to three straight NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances and a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight, has been selected for induction into the 2017 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Hall of Fame class.… Read More
The post Kristen (Schmidt) Soukup becomes CSP’s third NSIC Hall of Fame member appeared first on Concordia St. Paul.
For students like Carla Guillen, a scholarship means more than an opportunity to attend college, it means a lifetime of opportunities—including the ability to make her childhood dreams of becoming a veterinarian come true.
More than $100,000 was recently raised for the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota First Generation Initiative (FGI)—an innovative program that ensures academic success for high-need, high-potential first-generation students. Guillen—a sophomore double majoring in biology: pre-veterinary science and Spanish—is one of 40 FGI Scholars enrolled at Saint Mary’s for the next academic year.
The FGI Initiative has two parts, a four-year summer college preparation program for middle- and high-schoolers called Countdown to College (C2C), and the FGI Scholars program, which provides programming and scholarship support for students who come to Saint Mary’s Winona Campus from partnering Lasallian and Jesuit high schools.
Saint Mary’s recently raised $100,000 via the university’s fifth annual FGI S.O.A.R. (Support, Opportunity, Accountability, and Responsibility) Breakfast, held at Saint Mary’s Twin Cities Campus in Minneapolis.
More than 110 people attended the fundraising-breakfast event where two FGI Scholars, Guillen—as well as 2016 graduate Martin Quintana—spoke about their experiences.
As a Countdown to College student, Guillen had an opportunity to apply for the FGI Scholars program and receive a full scholarship. She remembers the day she learned she received the exciting news that she had been selected for the Saint Mary’s FGI scholarship.
“It was after school when I came home and found a giant white envelope with the Saint Mary’s emblem on the front in my sister Daniela’s hands,” she said. “I remember feeling a hope rise in me, a hope that my dream of attending and making my goals a reality at Saint Mary’s would be true. But I also recall a part of me saying not to get my hopes up because it could also be a letter offering an apology and a ‘thank you’ for my interest. But that part of me left when I opened the envelope and read the word ‘Congratulations.’
“I cried. I sat down and cried. Daniela kept asking me if I had gotten the scholarship or not and all I could muster was a nod. I called my parents right away and they were so proud of me. I could not have asked for a greater feeling. I was on top of the world.”
Guillen credits the program for also providing her with a community of support. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to make my family proud and make my dreams come true,” she said.
Saint Mary’s founded the FGI initiative in 2010, and positive results are reaffirming the program is headed in the right direction. Countdown to College has graduated four classes totaling 81 scholars; 100% have graduated from high school and 80% are enrolled in college. This summer Saint Mary’s will welcome 91 C2C students to Saint Mary’s Winona Campus.
The FGI Scholars program has graduated four classes, totaling 32 graduates. FGI Scholars have an 80% graduation rate within four years, which is 15 percent higher than the national average.
For more information about the First Generation Initiative at Saint Mary’s, or to support students like Guillen, visit smumn.edu/fgi.
Riding astonishing energy and consistency, CUT claimed its first USA Ultimate Division I Men's National Championship since 2011 and its fourth national title overall.
St. Olaf College student musician Hannie McGarity ’19 won first prize in the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota String Competition.
As the winner of the competition, she will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Bergen, Norway, in late October. She will perform in the home of Grieg, the celebrated Norwegian composer and pianist, in connection with a seminar titled “Romantic Piano Meets the Hardanger Fiddle: Edvard Grieg’s Chamber Works and Solo Piano Music.”
Each of the finalists in the string competition played a whole Grieg sonata, another piece by a Scandinavian composer, and a Grieg miniature.
McGarity played Grieg’s Sonata in C Minor, Christian Sinding’s Suite in A Minor, and Ved mannjevningen by Grieg.
“I feel so lucky to have the amazing opportunity to travel to Norway for the first time, and I am looking forward to continue learning about Scandinavian music as I study Grieg’s and other Scandinavian repertoire,” McGarity says.
McGarity, who is majoring in violin performance, is a member of the St. Olaf Orchestra. She toured with the orchestra in Argentina and Uruguay last summer, and next spring she will study music in Vienna, Austria. She is a native of Bellingham, Washington.
“Electricity was shot through the wire, lighting up the dark room. It ran through the veins of the plant and lit up its architecture.”
St. Olaf College student Rachel Robison ’17 had discovered her passion.
When she responded to an ad about a studio internship, posted by photographer Mark Roberts, Robison was just looking for a creative outlet.
“I knew I wanted to do something more that summer than I was doing already,” she says. “I had a job, but it wasn’t really meeting my artistic desires.”
On her first day in the studio, Robison learned about kirlian photography, an alternative photographic technique that involves the application of a high-frequency electric field to an object, which radiates a characteristic pattern of luminescence that is recorded on photographic film.
Roberts showed her how to put large sheets of film on a metal plate, then place a leaf or a branch on top of the film. After the plant was attached to an electrical generator, electricity would be shot through the wire and through the plant.
“We would take the film, which was now exposed to the light from the plant and develop it in the dark room, and slowly the image would emerge from where the electricity made contact,” Robison explains.
Although Robison had taken several art courses at St. Olaf, she had almost no experience with photography before beginning her internship.
“This was my first experience in the dark room,” she says. “But the fact that I hadn’t taken all digital or all physical media classes in the art department meant I had a certain flexibility.”
In addition, Robison brought technical expertise to her work with Roberts that proved essential. Her Photoshop skills enabled her to clean up and color the kirlian images once they were scanned onto the computer — “a fun, new technique for me because it was a marriage of digital art and painterly art,” she says.
With her graphic design skills, Robison designed the cover of a portfolio case for another series that Roberts had completed. She says that “the courses that taught me how to do graphic design were essential for this internship because they gave me a skillset that complemented Mark’s vision.”
Even her English major informed Robison’s experience in the studio: “I think it helped me with thematic things, it helped me embody what Mark’s series are about, and it helped me really understand everything from start to finish, rather than just churning out a product.”
Because of her interdisciplinary background, “I wasn’t interested in just learning about photography from Mark,” Robison says. “I was interested in everything that comes with his being an artist.”
Shortly before returning to St. Olaf for her senior year, Roberts and Robison exhibited their kirlian photography series, titled The Secret Life of Plants, at the Vine Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“That was a very rewarding experience — to see the images that I had colored, that I had clicked on so many times, actually on the wall and about a foot wide,” says Robison.
Now, at the end of her college career, Robison has “really come to value Mark as a mentor and a friend.”
Roberts has encouraged her “to look into doing things that seem radically out of my league and to think outside-the-box. He also has said that when I end up doing this, he wants to be a part of it.”
The two are continuing their work together now that Robison has graduated from St. Olaf, putting together a book of The Secret Life of Plants series that will be sold in botanical gardens nationwide. Roberts has handed over the design of this book to Robison.
“I like the role that I’ve had with Mark, the marketing, the design, the putting-together of the art,” says Robison.
And the interdisciplinarity that has guided her experience from the beginning “is a big part of the future too,” says Robison. “It’s given me the opportunity to embrace ambiguity and make my own combination of things as I go forward.”
“I feel like I’m at home.”
2017 Gustavus Adolphus College graduate Kendyl Landeck’s father heard these words over the phone during his then-high-school daughter’s 1,500 mile trip from their hometown in Moscow, Idaho to southern Minnesota.
“I walked on campus and felt instantly welcomed by every person we met on the tour,” Landeck reflected. She had travelled to Minnesota to attend a soccer camp in a different city, but after meeting Gustavus women’s soccer coach Laura Burnett-Kurie during one of the camp’s practices, she and her mother made a last minute schedule adjustment to add Saint Peter to their long route back home. “I also remember the extreme wind during that tour, but it made me realize I was going to be more than okay here if I had fallen in love with Gustavus even after knowing its flaws,” she laughed.
Four years later, Landeck has made her own mark on the Hill, splitting her time between the classroom, the field, and numerous organizations. A testament to her academic success, she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society last spring before graduating Magna Cum Laude. Outside the classroom, Landeck was a four-year member of the Gustavus women’s soccer team, the St. Lucia Choir, and the Gustavus Habitat for Humanity Chapter, a group dedicated to affordable housing. She also served on the Gustavus Habitat Board for two years, leading the organization as a co-president and as a coordinator during the annual spring break service trips. Traveling to work sites across the country, Landeck joined a group of Gusties each year to build houses, help in ReStores, and develop relationships with future homeowners.
“In the soccer program, we preach about being the best individual you can be in all areas of your life and Kendyl embraced this with open arms. This is what drove her every day and it showed in her success,” Burnett-Kurie said.
A history major and sociology and anthropology minor, Landeck’s capstone paper focused on the intersections of race and class in the history of segregated housing in Hennepin County. After spending the summer visiting historical archives in St. Paul, her semester-long investigation into housing imperfections culminated in both a completed thesis and a transformed perspective.
“The opportunity to write my own research was an amazing experience because history professor David Obermiller provided the perfect balance of support and independence. He pushed me to see the greater implications as well. By looking at the other side of history and by showing the voices of the underserved, it was clear that affordable housing is a massive part of society that needs to be addressed,” Landeck said.
Hoping to eventually study law – specifically housing law – Landeck accepted an internship with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services during January 2017. But she quickly realized that her true path led elsewhere. After searching for jobs with the potential to revitalize low-income housing and discovering she would need further education, Landeck immediately applied to the Regional and Community Planning graduate program at Iowa State. A month later, she was one of a handful of students across the nation to be admitted to the prestigious program.
“I took a leap of faith, and I am very excited to be able to continue my education. I fell in love with Habitat’s mission long ago, but this program allows me to have an intentional impact on a broad scale,” said Landeck. “Afterwards, I hope to be able to work with a non-profit or with a city’s housing department in order to develop affordable and fair housing in small towns and cities.”
“Kendyl leaves a massive legacy with our program and at Gustavus,” Burnett-Kurie said. “She cares deeply about others’ success and strives every day to have an impact on the lives of those around her. I believe Kendyl will be able to utilize these strengths and passions in her future career, and I am very excited to see her change lives for the better.”
Sitting in the Courtyard Café as her final year came to a close, two younger students spotted Landeck and their faces instantly lit up. Laughing, the trio reflected on their recent spring break trip together to Georgetown, Delaware, Landeck’s final undergrad service trip with Habitat for Humanity. The two students waved goodbye, wished her luck, and jokingly called her “Mom” one last time.
Landeck found a new home when she moved across the country to Saint Peter, and as she prepares for another move, she leaves feeling dedicated and empowered to make “home” a possibility for others as well.
“I didn’t have any clear trajectory when I started here, but I knew I wanted to help others,” Landeck said. “The idea of affordability and a home has become the main focus of everything I want to do, and now, looking back, I can see that passion developing with each step along the way. Every class I took and every conversation with my professors, coaches, and mentors contributes to what I am pursuing, and that is the awesome part of being here and being at a liberal arts college. ”
After graduation on May 28, Landeck moved to Ames, Iowa in order to begin her classes in August. Until then, she will spend the summer volunteering with the Greater Des Moines Habitat Chapter and preparing her new home with her fiancé, Evan Larson ’16.
“I look back at all my essays,” Landeck said. “As I read them I can say that I still truly believe every word I wrote, whether it was about my views on affordability and policy or about my hopes for my impact on others. Now, I get to go make them a reality.”
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
College campuses take a lot of effort to keep beautiful and welcoming to humans. A group of St. Thomas community members have been working on opening the campus to more guests – many of the insect variety – by creating the Pollinator Path.
The Pollinator Path sprawls across the St. Paul campus and is made up of around a dozen sites with plants to attract pollinators like bees or butterflies.
Greenhouse manager Catherine Grant and Doreen Schroeder, senior laboratory coordinator and adjunct Biology faculty member, are at the heart of the network that helped build the path. While the primary goal of the path is to provide a food source for pollinators, Grant and Schroeder also want it to be an educational opportunity for people to learn more about plants and pollinators, and how they support one another.
“On the most simple level, we’ve asked people to notice the presence or absence of pollinators,” Grant said. “Then people can go home and take that to their own gardens.”
Starting out on the path
When was the last time you encountered a bee – or multiple bees? For some that answer may be easier to recall than others, but the fact remains that many of the flowers planted in gardens aren’t attractive to pollinators.
“The general public is used to not seeing bees around,” Schroeder said. “They think that’s the norm, when in fact it shouldn’t be.”
While neither Grant nor Schroeder proclaim to be bee experts, they dove into this project with support from the St. Thomas grounds crew. St. Thomas neighbors also donated about 100 native plants to establish a pollinator garden, which is now the highlight of the Pollinator Path. Since then, Grant and Schroeder have paid attention to what plants work well and planned out new sites accordingly.
“[Bees] have never been a focal point for me until the last three or four years,” Grant said. “Once you pay attention, I feel like there’s no going back. Then you look at a plant and go, ‘Sure, it’s pretty or has beautiful leaves, but will it bring the bees?’”
Even in its early stages, the Pollinator Path has provided opportunities for student work and research. One of Schroeder’s recent Conservation Biology classes spent time counting the number of pollinators they came across on campus south of Summit Avenue. They compared their data to other classes’, reaching back five years, and saw a threefold increase in bumblebees and a six-fold increase in honeybees in the area. (While Schroeder is quick to point out that most of the numbers probably have increased because the surrounding St. Paul community has more managed hives, the Pollinator Path is providing those bees with a food source.)
Schroeder plans to regularly collect scientific data over the next year for a better understanding of what pollinators enjoy what plants to better inform what to plant in the future.
A new habitat
Unsurprisingly, Schroeder and Grant, as well as their students, have learned a lot about bees through this project. Much of their efforts have centered around native bees, whose hardships are less frequently discussed than those of honeybees’.
“Here we’re providing them food, but if we don’t account for habitat, then we’re not doing everything we can,” Grant said.
Native bees are also often less social than honeybees and their nests are different from the stereotypical hive we think of. The hives made for them, instead, usually are reeds bundled together or blocks of wood with holes drilled in them, where the solitary bees then lay their eggs. Enter two students who work for Grant in the greenhouse, Jacob Grow ’18 and Matthew Cox ’18: Grow and Cox designed and created four native-friendly hives, which will soon be put on campus. (Note that solitary bees are unlikely to sting.)
Grow and Cox said they have enjoyed hands-on work where they can directly make a positive difference.
“It’s really nice to see the fruits of my labor,” Grow said, laughing at his pun. “Any time you’re having a wide variety of insects like that, you’re going to have a wider variety of healthy plants, and having more diversity in an ecosystem makes for a healthier ecosystem.”
Both take what they learn in their jobs home with them: Grow said he feels comfortable planting at his own home now and has a better understanding of when and what to buy when it comes to produce; Cox said he takes the sustainability tips that come from the greenhouse and applies them in his life.
Cox, who is an environmental science and philosophy major, intends to work in conservation science after graduation, and said the practical education he gains from the greenhouse is invaluable.
“Every day, I get the advantage of learning a new plant, a new skill, a new sustainable practice of taking care of plants in the greenhouse,” he said. “I’m exposed to other people who are in that kind of field, who maybe are starting a new urban farm.”
They added that tending to the gardens can be hard work – but there’s an obvious satisfaction that comes from it.
“I handpicked [Japanese] beetles off of plants and dropped them in soapy water for a week-and-a-half last summer,” Cox said. “You don’t put that kind of work and dedication into every project.”
“I’ve spent just five hours weeding,” added Grow, who is a business law major. “And that’s not very fun, but it needs to be done or else it will hurt the plants. Doing that and being able to see why I do things, even if it’s not enjoyable, I think I’ll be able to take that into everything else that I do.”
The Pollinator Path will greatly extend its reach next year because it will be a partner for the Sustainable Communities Partnership. SCP works with entities, often cities or governments, to integrate partner-identified sustainability projects into St. Thomas courses. In the upcoming year, SCP, led by Maria Dahmus, will collaborate with Grant and Schroeder to help develop the Pollinator Path as a platform of discovery and learning for both St. Thomas students and the broader community.
While Dahmus, Grant and Schroeder still are brainstorming all the course connections, Spanish and theology paired courses are already on board. Through the theology lens, the students will read Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and identify quotes that explain why the Pollinator Path is important.
“The community can then understand [the path] from a Catholic social teaching perspective, which I think is important coming from a Catholic university,” Dahmus said.
Through the Spanish lens, students will do some translation work, opening the path up to an even broader community.
Dahmus, Grant and Schroeder also hope to partner with a teacher education course to develop K-12 curriculum for the Pollinator Path, particularly for younger children, so the path becomes an easily accessible asset. To that end, they already have partnered with geography students who created an online Story Map for the path that will be available soon. The Story Map helps visitors navigate the path and has information about what might be observed along the way. The physical signs on the path also will be expanded.
Dahmus said she is particularly excited about working with the Pollinator Path because it is an on-campus project that students can easily get involved with and see the results of their actions. One of the goals from SCP’s view is to integrate projects into classes from many different disciplines, to show how every discipline has something unique and important to contribute to sustainability.
“Often when you think of what you can do for sustainability, it’s that you need to stop doing certain things, right?” Dahmus said. “But that’s not really what it’s about. What it’s really about, for us, is how we can create better systems through innovation and creativity and collaboration to promote and restore human and environmental well-being. … Students get to see the results and be innovators.”
For Cox, that certainly has rung true.
“People really influence what you do and make a positive change,” Cox said. “When [neighbors] donated the plants for the pollinator garden, those plants are still growing, making a positive difference. That’s something really valuable. … Anyone on campus can come up with an idea and make a difference.”
Two weeks ago Bailey O’Hare ’19 didn’t know that much about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and she knew even less about regenerative medicine.
As part of a new summer workshop at Saint Mary’s University, O’Hare is getting an in-depth look at how the emerging field of regenerative medicine could one day help patients suffering from ALS—as well as a multitude of other diseases and ailments.
O’Hare and 18 other select undergraduate sophomore and junior science majors from seven colleges are participating in Saint Mary’s first Advancing Regenerative Medicine (ARM) grant-funded workshop May 29-June 9 on the Winona Campus.
O’Hare, a junior Biology major at Saint Mary’s, said that she hopes to pursue a career in medicine, and she knew that learning more about the fast-growing field would be beneficial. “In many cases traditional medicine is limited to treating the symptoms of a disease and unfortunately not solving the root cause of the problem,” she said.
The groundbreaking and evolving discipline of regenerative medicine has tremendous potential to impact the treatment of diseases affecting various organ systems—from tissue growth for burn victims to growing new vital organs, such as hearts and kidneys.
“The potential for self-repair can lead to an improvement in the quality of life—and even sustain life—for many patients,” O’Hare said. “Major breakthroughs are just around the corner. In many cases researchers are working to be able to take cells from a patient suffering from a disease or condition, treat them to become an induced pluripotent stem cell, and inject them back into the same patient. This is very important because it alleviates the risk of rejection due to the need to suppress the immune system when cells from another individual are used.”
As part of the hands-on workshop, students have been broken into teams for theoretical and practical learning experiences. O’Hare’s team is researching, writing, and presenting about ALS. Students are also working on two lab projects in the cell culture labs of Saint Mary’s new Science and Learning Center.
“We are currently working on cells that were extracted from a mouse liver and we are working to turn them into an induced pluripotent stem cell. Induced pluripotent stem cells are cells taken from adult tissue and then dedifferentiated back into a stem cell state,” O’Hare said. “We are also working with splenocytes, or spleen cells, from a mouse. B and T cells are specialized cells found within a spleen. We have had the wonderful opportunity to work with a flow cytometer, which identifies and potentially isolates cells based on molecules they express on the cell surface or intracellularly. Our cells were analyzed by the flow cytometer to determine the percentage of B cells and T cells in the splenocyte population.”
Each day guest speakers—from an orthopedic surgeon, to a physician scientist, to a medical ethicist—have been brought in to speak with participants. Students also will have the opportunity to tour the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“Although I am focused on direct patient contact, this workshop has helped me realize how much of a team aspect medicine really is,” O’Hare said. “Many people work behind the scenes to take these therapies from lab bench to bedside.
“I am so thankful for this opportunity,” O’Hare said. “The workshop has exceeded my expectations. I’ve enjoyed working on diseases or conditions with potential regenerative medicine treatments. They keep us busy, but we are all very excited each day to go back.”
The Advanced Regenerative Medicine workshop at Saint Mary’s is funded by a grant of nearly $100,000 from Regenerative Medicine Minnesota.
Participants in the workshop include:
Elizabeth Atneosen / Woodbury, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Katherine Banovetz / Dusseldorf, Germany / College of Saint Benedict
Lucas Campbell / Stillwater, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Christelle Cayton / Madison, Wis. / Macalester College
Kaitlin Geisenhof / Little Falls, Minn. / College of Saint Benedict
Madeline Gibson / Neoga, Ill. / Illinois Wesleyan University
William Gillach / Lindstrom, Minn. / Saint John’s University
Alexander Holm / Red Wing, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Zachary Kinney / Johnsburg, Ill. / Illinois Wesleyan University
Siri Larsen / Duluth, Minn. / Hamline University
Channelle Ndagire / Stamford, Conn. / Macalester College
Bailey O’Hare / Rushford, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Madlyn Perry / River Falls, Wis. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Madeline Reding / St. Paul, Minn. / Hamline University
Erica Ristow / Lindstrom, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Andrea Speltz / Rollingstone, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Raelynn Speltz / Altura, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Daniel Velazquez / Chicago, Ill. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Ching-Tzu (Jeanie) Yu / Milwaukee, Wis. / Wisconsin Lutheran College
Photo caption: Saint Mary’s biology student Bailey O’Hare, right, works in the lab as part of the university’s Regenerative Medicine Workshop.
Gus Leinbach ‘17 knew from the start that he wanted to attend a liberal arts college.
On May 12, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota dedicated its new, $19.7 million Science and Learning Center on the Winona Campus. More than 400 joined us for the festivities. Get a first-hand look at the excitement from the day.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dr. Ben Pauli of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is collaborating on a four-year, $1.7 million grant to study the effects of climate change on American kestrels. The grant, awarded to Boise State University by the Department of Defense (DoD), will be used to monitor migratory connectivity, population change, and the impacts of climate change on the American kestrel and other migratory birds.
As part of the grant, Dr. Pauli will develop a computer model that can be used to predict how kestrels and other avian species will react to changes in weather patterns—an increasingly pressing need within DoD, as well as the broader scientific and conservation community.
The study will be led by Boise State University biological sciences professor Dr. Julie Heath.
“The DoD manages about 28 million acres of land across the country that support biodiversity and provide a variety of environments to support testing and training missions. To best manage this biodiversity, we need to understand whether and how species will respond to climate change,” Dr. Heath explained. Dr. Richard Fischer of DoD’s Environmental Laboratory added that “the DoD must adhere to all federal laws and regulations, and understanding climate change impacts to flora and fauna provides direct support to maintaining the ability of the military services to train and prepare (personnel).”
Heath and faculty members from Boise State’s Geosciences Department are collaborating with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; Hawkwatch International; The Peregrine Fund; and the Environmental Laboratory of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. The grant is administered by the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.
The research team thinks the project will have broad implications for science and conservation. The multi-phase project is beginning this summer with a large-scale investigation of the environmental and genetic factors underlying nesting and migration patterns among American kestrels, in partnership with The Peregrine Fund, Hawkwatch International, and UCLA. The team will use genetic tools and tracking technology to identify how breeding, migration, and wintering areas for the birds are interconnected.
Dr. Pauli from Saint Mary’s, with help from modelers from Boise State’s Geosciences Department, will then combine genetic and migratory research with regional and local weather variables. They will develop an individual-based model capable of testing hypotheses about the causes and consequences of phenology shifts for other avian species in response to climate change. The video game-like model, called SCOPE (Simulation of Carry-Over and Phenological Effects), will allow other researchers to simulate real environments and weather patterns, and test how these variables affect the behavior of migratory birds. While similar modeling systems have been used to study ecological systems, this project represents the first time it has been used to connect how cyclic events, like migration and nesting, are affected by warmer winters or earlier springs.
Dr. Pauli said by creating a virtual environment, his team can conduct experiments that would be impossible in the real world. “We can tinker around in ways that you can’t in real life,” he said. “I create this virtual world so we can use it as a virtual laboratory. By combining field and lab research with computer modeling, we can make predictions about how a species of concern will or will not adapt to potential future climate changes. We live in a world with a changing climate that can have wide-ranging, significant impact on lots of wildlife species.
“This species is particularly interesting because kestrels exist across the U.S., and in different parts of the country, kestrels have different strategies related to their breeding and behavior,” Dr. Pauli added. “Some kestrels migrate and some don’t, and this varies by population. They are interesting to study because of this variability. They have the potential to change. Ultimately what we learn and develop through this work on kestrels will be broadened to other bird species and to other wildlife species. From this we can begin to make predictions about what will happen in five years, 10 years, or 100 years to determine whether we expect the behavior and location of kestrels and other species to change due to climate change. The ability to make these types of predictions is key if we want to be able to fully understand the impact that climate change will have on our world in the future.”
More information about the project can be found at www.fullcyclephenology.com.
It was a sunny and warm reunion weekend—literally and figuratively. For the first time, Reunion Weekend occurred in early summer, with Gustie alums reliving their dorm days with dorm stays, and all reunion year classes celebrating together.
From Friday’s 50 Year Luncheon to Sunday’s closing brunch, Gusties from across decades and eras—from 2012 to 1947 (Marion Anderson Redman was the oldest)—reconnected with friends and fellow Gusties from across the globe and the years.
On Friday, President Bergman officially welcomed the class of 1967 into the 50-year ranks. Then Gustie alums from throughout the years enjoyed the campus and the surrounding area of Saint Peter-Mankato. They golfed, toured the campus and the tunnels with student ambassadors, and took Alumni College classes from professors and staff in su
ch topics as the Gustavus Acts Strategic Plan, the College’s Scandinavian roots, and the changing face of Minnesota.
“I haven’t been back for 25 years,” said John Kellen ’82, who came from Tucson, Ariz. He toured the Linnaeus Arboretum with interest; it has changed significantly since his college days. But some things haven’t: “You get here, and you start telling stories, and it feels just like yesterday,” he said.
Many of those stories were told on Friday night, after alums sang the Rouser together in the Evelyn Young Dining Room. Stories flowed at the “Barn” tent and the Pittman Hall fire pit (Class of ’77 and ’82), at the Complex fire pit (Class of ’07 and ’12), in Beck Atrium (Class of ’67), at the Flame (Class of ’87), and at Patrick’s (Class of ’97), among other locations. The party at Patrick’s was particularly poignant as it was a benefit for classmate Wes Schuck who died of cancer.
On Saturday morning, the early risers made Swedish kringle, ran a 5K, and did relaxation yoga in the Arb. Despite graduating 35 years apart, Sam Hemmerich ’12 and Dave “Ole” Olson ’77 finished one and two in the 5K. (Olson had just come off a 50K two weeks prior: “I want to make every day count,” he said.) Hemmerich enjoyed the weekend’s easy, flexible vibe. “I love how it’s so relaxed. Do everything, or do nothing. Have fun and pretend you are a college student again.”
Dorm stays amplified that fun. Gustie alums brought their favorite pillows and friends into dorms rooms in Southwest, Norelius (Co-Ed), Pittman, North, and Sorenson. “The dorm stays really encapsulated the whole experience,” said Joel Jensen ’97. Lorie Rutter Anderson ’81 drew Co-Ed 206A for the reunion—her exact room from freshman year. But this time she bunked with her husband, JC Anderson ’82, whom she met her sophomore year in front of Sorensen.
The weekend continued with a student panel on today’s Gustavus, brewery and winery tours, shopping in Saint Peter, donor and professor appreciation, and Chapel remembrances for members of the Classes of 1957 and 1967. Saturday night ended with class dinners and a street dance in Saint Peter, where Gusties past and present—and President Bergman herself—danced to the music of Big Toe and the Jam (with the President’s son, Matthew ’07, on saxophone.).
Throughout the weekend, talk often turned to frost-your-owns, mandatory Chapel, library antics, tray-ing, the Barn, the tornado, and—as always—Ma Young, the legendary director of food service whose influence spanned 30 years of hungry Gusties. Alums laughed about the College’s “nice” reputation; how they were taught to be friendly and to pick up any trash on campus. “My husband once asked me, ‘Did you go to the nicest college in America?’” said Erica Brown Ramer ’07. And alums laughed about their own epic stories. “Eve
ry time we tell them, they’re just as funny,” said Kari Swanson Anderson ’92.
Alums also expressed tremendous gratitude for their college. Said Jeanne Mingus Tolzmann ’67, “For a lot of us, we were here because other people got us here.” Said classmate Ken Dragseth ’67, “We need to make sure all high school students continue to have access to Gustavus.”
For the many student ambassadors on campus, that gratitude showed how the values of Gustavus must be passed on. “I just loved hearing all of the stories,” said student ambassador Madi Sinclair ’20. “It confirmed for me that Gustavus is a special place where people truly care about each other.”
“This weekend was about being with our classes,” said Gustavus director of church relations and alum Grady St. Dennis ’92, “but it was also about being with people who love Gustavus, the people whom Gustavus loves too.”
Said President Bergman: “Gusties, you’ve been home. And I hope you have felt welcomed home.”
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
WINONA, Minn. — The Saint Mary’s University Office of Student Activities is welcoming the pubic to a new summer concert series, to be held at the plaza amphitheater, in the center of the Winona Campus. All concerts—featuring local talent—are free.
Upcoming concerts include:
- Sunday, June 18, 6 p.m. — Light 45 with Christian rock
- Saturday, June 24, 6 p.m. — Wingdam Jammers with bluegrass
- Friday, July 21, 6 p.m. — Yet to be announced