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Sometimes reading was the culprit. Sometimes, video games. Most often, just social anxiety.
Regardless of what kept Tyler Lifke awake, his middle-school years were dogged by a lack of sleep and depression.
“A therapist suggested that, instead of looking at antidepressants, we look at fixing my sleep,” Lifke said. “’How much sleep are you getting?’ she asked. ‘Like, four to six hours,’ I said. ‘Well, middle- schoolers should be getting closer to 10,’ she replied.
“Before that I didn’t have a concept of sleep being important. But once I realized that when I fixed my sleep my depression went away, [I decided] OK, it’s time to prioritize sleep above everything else,” Lifke said. “I’ve found since then that when I’m getting good sleep I can do everything better.”
By the time he arrived at St. Thomas in 2014, he had better sleep habits than many of his peers, which tended to skew toward the stereotypical behavior associated with college demands.
“Some people say that in college you’ve got academics, social life and sleep, and you can pick two of those, right?” Lifke said.
Opting to neglect the latter of those options has long been a staple of college life for many students, but at St. Thomas, psychology Professor Roxanne Prichard and Associate Director of Health and Wellness Birdie Cunningham are finding just how problematic that choice can be. Through the Center for College Sleep (CCS) and the Wellness Center, they are addressing students’ sleep issues. They provide programming at St. Thomas and resources to other schools across the country with a partnership that is the first of its kind.
“It feels like we can make a positive difference in students’ lives with this,” Cunningham said.A pressing sleep problem
While the Center for College Sleep officially launched in the fall of 2015, its roots go back to 2010, when Prichard first published research on sleep patterns and disruptions in a college environment.
“My background is in the neuroscience of sleep, so studying rat brains [in the lab], which is what I came to St. Thomas to do,” Prichard said. “That first big study on St. Thomas students [after shifting away from rat studies] … had more than 100 citations [in other research articles] in the first year, which was more than all my other articles combined.”
By dedicating her research to college students and sleep, Prichard was delving into an extremely under-studied area; she said college students’ sleep habits are assumed to be bad, so they often are completely overlooked by researchers.
“We wanted to know how bad they are, and what can change,” Prichard said.
In the years since, research at the sleep center has highlighted how big a problem not sleeping well truly is. Findings from St. Thomas studies indicate that a lack of sleep’s effect on GPA is on par with marijuana use and binge drinking. Students not getting enough sleep are three times more likely to attempt suicide. And college-aged students have the highest death rates behind the wheel under the age of 80, according to Prichard.
“I think of it as a silent epidemic, and it’s so prevalent you can’t even see it,” Prichard added. “It’s so impactful.”A unique partnership
Winding back to 2010, Cunningham and Prichard’s coming together proved serendipitous in many ways. Around the time Prichard was looking at St. Thomas students’ sleep, Cunningham was finding alarming results in the university’s annual health survey.
“I noticed sleep was a real prevalent stresser for St. Thomas students and that they weren’t sleeping well,” Cunningham said. “One of the survey questions is, ‘What do you find most traumatic?’ Academics was consistently first and sleep was second or third along with finances. What? Sleep? I couldn’t quite understand it. I started reaching out and trying to figure out what we could do.”
Cunningham quickly learned about Prichard’s work and a rare, possibly unique, partnership was formed.
“My perspective to that point was that all I needed to do was get a paper out. Meeting with Birdie was great because she said, ‘No, we have to get this into action, immediately, and here’s how you do it.’ I had never been in the world of student affairs, so it was great to team up with a group that can use the information to translate what’s feasible and not,” Prichard said, adding that the center’s partnership is the first of its kind between student affairs and research.
Over nearly eight years, that collaboration has continued to grow in scope and produced incredible results, with more than two dozen published research articles and presentations by Prichard, Cunningham and St. Thomas students. Specific programs for St. Thomas students have shown strong results, from the initial pilot program of a breakfast club that helped regulate participants’ sleep over three weeks, to a sleep challenge that now twice a year tracks students’ sleep for a month, to the development of student sleep ambassadors employed by the Wellness Center.
“We’re better when we sleep, period,” said senior Chris Hornung, a sleep ambassador who also started Tommies Unplugged, which works to improve students’ relationship with technology and sleep. Last year Hornung completed a research project correlating cell phone use to sleep deprivation – a prevalent finding in an age when social media and other digital platforms always are ready and waiting.
“Working with [Cunningham and Prichard] has absolutely raised my awareness of the importance of this issue,” Hornung said. “And they’ve given me the leadership by saying, ‘You now understand how important this is. You need to explain to everyone else why it is, too.’”A national hub
The sleep center aims to increase awareness of sleep’s impact on every aspect of college students’ lives, not just at St. Thomas.
“Twice the amount of students [nationally] say they want more information about sleep than the amount who are getting it,” Prichard said. “That’s a big discrepancy.”
Enter the College Sleep Questionnaire (CSQ) and the College Sleep Environmental Scan, which are the lynchpin tools the sleep center has developed to give schools across the country the ability to understand their students’ sleep patterns and what they can do better to help them. The CSQ is an extensive survey given to students that assesses sleep schedule, physiological impediments to sleep and behavior impediments to sleep. It then offers customized feedback with information and direction to resources at that students’ school or nearby. About a half dozen schools around the country are testing the CSQ and providing feedback to the St. Thomas center; eventually it will be a packaged product for schools to purchase and use.
The free College Sleep Environmental Scan was developed in 2014 and offers an assessment for residential schools about how institutional policy, programming and structures contribute to or impede healthy sleep. More than 50 schools have used the tool, which also offers a wide range of ideas of how to address issues and implement best practices. Cunningham hopes one day to have a rating system similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)’s, which would signify a school’s priority of sleep as an important factor of life for its students.
“The scan is really strategic for how to address sleep on your campus, from easy fixes to five-year plans,” Cunningham said.
The center collects all the data into one sleep information hub for higher education to use as a resource. An executive summary each July is one way Prichard and Cunningham have made sure schools are learning from one another and finding ways to help their students sleep, and be, better.Bigger and bigger
Especially since the sleep center’s launch, demand for Prichard and Cunningham’s expertise has grown. At St. Thomas, they have partnered with many athletic teams to help ensure sleep is factored into practice and traveling schedules. Prichard’s neuroscience sleep capstone course is a coveted experience for undergraduate students, dozens of whom also have contributed research.
Prichard and Cunningham have traveled around the country presenting their work, from a TedX talk to sleep forums – six-hour-long crash courses in Sleep 101 on Campus, which they have presented at institutions such as University of California-Davis and University of Arizona. They also work with the Minnesota Sleep Society and Minnesota Governors Highway Safety Association, helping both groups make policy decisions that address the sleep epidemic.
Most recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association tapped Cunningham and Prichard to help develop its guidelines on sleep for college athletes, with Prichard’s research and Cunningham’s program development knowledge working hand-in-hand with leading sleep experts. “Those who work with the NCAA are the who’s who of the sleep world,” Cunningham said.
Prichard and Cunningham have years of experience working with college athletes due to their early emphasis on partnering with St. Thomas teams: Hundreds of athletes across several programs have benefited from partnering with the sleep center.
“Our players think the world of Dr. Prichard and Birdie Cunningham,” football coach Glenn Caruso said. “(Prichard) is a phenomenal specialist who also has tremendous common sense, and that’s something that is often lost in translation. You can find people who are very, very good at what they do in an academic setting, and that’s very important, but when you can translate that into real-world experience that actually will show results, that’s where you have something special. That’s what we have in the sleep center.”Powerful sleep impact
As eager as Lifke was to talk about the sleep center and his research, tracking him down during the summer required some technological aid: He spent his break doing research at Washington University in St. Louis with a former student of Prichard’s, learning to spin electrodes and better measure the firing of neurons in the brain. Over Skype, Lifke described how, all these years after finding the personal importance of sleep to his own health, he can contribute to research that helps others.
“From an academic perspective, there are times researchers get away from the human side of what’s going on. The topic [of my research] is looking at the statistics that 1 percent of students are attempting suicide as a baseline rate, and when students aren’t getting their sleep, that climbs up to 3 percent of students. That’s a terrible statistic. It’s hard for me to separate the research aspect from the personal aspect in that case,” Lifke said.
“It is very humbling to realize the research I get to be part of will most likely get published, get out there and help inform people that sleep is something that matters. To me, the research is a means to an end, the end being the help for kids whose lives are really bad and want to end it.
“If a couple people read this paper on sleep and suicidality and think, ‘Maybe we should do a little bit better. In a college environment, what can we do to help people sleep?’ our research suggests that could save lives,” Lifke said. “That’s powerful. And it’s something I’m getting to be part of as an undergrad. It’s pretty incredible.”Why sleep matters
• U.S. college students with excessive sleepiness are twice as likely to abuse prescription drugs.
• A person with insufficient sleep is nine times more likely to experience depression and 17 times
more likely to experience anxiety symptoms.
• A student experiencing sleep difficulties is 3.7 times more likely to seriously consider suicide than
a student with healthy sleep.
• A student diagnosed with insomnia is 11 times more likely to have attempted suicide than a student
without an insomnia diagnosis.
• On average, each additional day per week a student experiences sleep problems raises the probability
of dropping a course by 10 percent and lowers the cumulative GPA by .02.
• 85 percent of U.S. college students with sleep problems have not received help from their university
National statistics gathered by the St. Thomas Center for College Sleep
Minnesota higher education leaders raise alarms about GOP tax plan | Star Tribune | November 14, 2017
As part of the celebration surrounding the 53rd Nobel Conference, Reproductive Technology: How Far Do We Go?, senior dance and philosophy major Allison Retterath choreographed Out, Behind, Overlooked to explore the balance between rapidly advancing technologies and inequities in availability. The piece was created through research, discussion, and movement exploration. Each dancer that participated in the piece played a vital role in the creative process.
Here, Retterath explores the concept, creation, and execution of the piece.
I developed Out, Behind, Overlooked for Nobel Conference 53 with the hopes of portraying the ethical implications of reproductive technology through dance. Translating such a large, complex topic into movement involved a lot of abstracting. Although dance is traditionally described as a medium in which movement tells a story, I believe dance is more about communicating a small essence of a larger whole—with the larger whole in this case being reproductive technology. However, in order to get clear about what that essence is, I first had to narrow down exactly what I was trying to communicate.
I began the research process by gathering books written by the speakers in the Nobel Conference. I was especially drawn to Dr. Ruha Benjamin’s book, People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier. I was particularly fascinated with how Dr. Benjamin challenged the dualistic nature of debates surrounding reproductive technology. She highlighted the complexities of reproductive technology traditionally considered relevant only in a scientific context. Rather than discussing reproductive technology in a purely scientific manner, Dr. Benjamin argues for a social reading of reproductive technology that emphasizes inequities in both development and access. She ultimately humanizes reproductive technology, which is a natural consequence of communicating reproductive technology through human bodies in dance.
After reading Dr. Benjamin’s work, I decided to focus on communicating the concept of making decisions—of being forced to choose when you have limited options and people influencing what ultimately should be a very personal choice. Every person using reproductive technology has a different social history and experience with the technology that shapes their decision-making. Additionally, portraying a lack of equitable say in what technologies are developed, how those technologies are used, and who has access to those technologies was a fundamental goal in the creative process.
In addition to using Dr. Benjamin’s research surrounding the social concerns in reproductive technology, the performance space itself had a huge influence on the development of Out, Behind, Overlooked. Anderson Hall is made up of multiple platforms at different heights, a staircase with two different offshoots, and a counter space across from the stairs. Although I originally planned on using just the main staircase, the diversity of locations offered too unique of an opportunity to pass up.
The ability to use the different spaces in Anderson Hall was instrumental in the spatial portrayal of the difference in experience between dancers. While a dancer performed a solo on one of the lower platforms, a trio stood at the highest platform quite literally looking down on her. The shallow counter space provided the spatial manifestation of feeling as if you don’t quite have enough room to make a decision. The dancers, either as a solo, duet, or trio, performed individually in different areas of the space.
Each grouping portrayed different aspects of the overall concept while simultaneously showing the multiplicity of experiences with reproductive technology. Just before a grouping completed their movement, the next grouping would begin. The transitions between each grouping involved a sense of observation carrying judgment of some sort. The dancers looked in on the experience of the others, not quite seeing the whole story, yet choosing to pass judgment or ignore one another.
When the individual groupings were finished, all of the groupings returned to their corresponding areas in the space and repeated their movement with more urgency and skipping certain movements. This condensed, second-appearance of the groupings provided a sort of summary of their experiences. The simultaneous performance of each grouping showed how all of these individual experiences happen at the same time: we all have different stories and experiences even though we are living in the same world in the same time.
Another mode of showing the dancers’ differing experiences within the same world was the costuming. All of the costumes matched in terms of color scheme and general style, but the costumes themselves differed greatly. While some dancers wore long pants and long-sleeve shirts, others wore skirts and sleeveless shirts. Although every dancer’s costume fit together, each individual was different—showing how reproductive technology affects people differently depending on their identities and experiences.
The costuming, use of space, and movement reflected the multiplicity of experience involving reproductive technology. Ultimately, Dr. Benjamin’s work inspired the creation of a piece focused on the application of a broad scientific topic onto the lives of people. My project was one of humanization—an attempt to put a face on the differing experiences of people affected by a narrowly viewed science.
Allison Retterath is a senior dance honors and philosophy double major from Rosemount, Minn. She is especially intrigued by feminist philosophy and American Pragmatism, and enjoys exploring how those facets of philosophy intersect with movement and choreography.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
Robert Galinsky teaches writing and performance at Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex, and is head speaker coach for TEDxTeen. In support of the upcoming performance of Our Country’s Good (the story of prisoners on their way from Britain to the penal colony of Australia in the 1700s), Galinsky will meet with Gustavus Adolphus College students and participate in a talk-back with students and audience following Thursday night’s opening performance. Tickets are still available for all performances.
We asked Galinsky a few questions about his work…
Gustavus: Describe your work with incarcerated young people at Rikers Island—what do you do?
Galinksy: Because incarcerated youth have so much working against them, they have to work much harder than the average teen in order to experience success. They are the opposite of the worst of the worst, they’re “the best of the best.” So, I enter their space with books, magazines, word games, paper, pencils, scripts, exercises, and improvisations, and we all find our place with the materials and we create, speak, play and debrief—in any order. We have discussions around global crisis and local issues and then we write, rewrite, and recite. “The best of the best” — absorbed and inspired.
Gustavus: For young people who are incarcerated, how does writing and performing change their lives?
Galinsky: Writing, reading, and/or performing lets the barricaded voices of my students come out into the open. The majority of incarcerated young people are constantly being told they’re wrong. In my workshop, one of the first things I say to my students—loudly to the entire group—”You are not wrong. No one in this room is wrong.” Every kid that’s ever heard me say that looks at me like I’m crazy, like there’s something wrong with me, because they are always hearing how wrong they are. The sound of the words “you are not wrong” reignites dormant connections that are in the kids’ brains. Hearing the words over and over gets them believing the truth: That they aren’t wrong.
Gustavus: What are the parallels in Our Country’s Good to your own work with those who are incarcerated?
Galinksy: There is a lot of “make-believe” going on amongst people who are incarcerated, staff included. Everyone is bound by the fact that they’re equals, fully owned and bonded by “the man”—staff included. The characters in Our Country’s Good are all maneuvering just like those I work with in incarceration settings. When you’re not allowed to be your own person, you’re a slave, and the people in Our Country’s Good are finally being allowed to explore themselves by playing someone else. So, the parallels are layers that contradict sometimes, and at times dovetail with one another: being true to one’s beliefs, posing and posturing, knowing your “role” and surviving, “acting the part” and thriving, perhaps even finding a clearer approach on how to live a positive present in order to feed a bountiful future.
Gustavus: What do you hope is the takeaway for audiences who come to see Our Country’s Good?
Galinsky: I hope the audience sees each performer’s emotion, truth, and talent and is moved to change something, anything, in their lives. I hope because the audience saw Amy Seham’s group of Gustavus student truth-seekers making art and allowing us to be witness, that they let more love and hope grow.
Gustavus: What do you hope is the takeaway for the Gustavus students who are producing and performing in it?
Galinsky: I wish that the Gustavus students value and enjoy the time that they spent researching around the play’s text, its history, and what other audiences and productions over time have to say about the show. I hope they never forget the burning excitement that Amy Seham brings to the activity of learning and being a servant of the theatre. Lastly, I hope that everyone involved, from crew to cast, found something inside of themselves they didn’t know existed prior to the process of putting on the production. And that it will help change the world we live in for the better.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
Today’s #TommieGiveDay marks the third annual 24-hour, digital fundraiser for St. Thomas. Thousands of people have donated over the last two years, and this year’s matching gifts are focusing on supporting scholarships that increase financial access for St. Thomas students.
The Newsroom’s Sarah Pranadjaja hit campus to talk with students about what scholarship means to them and their St. Thomas education.
Nicholas Vance, senior: Receiving aid from so many donors reminds me that my education is not my own. I am part of a community that has chosen to invest a lot of money in me because they think I can do real good. Regardless of what field I work in or where I go there will be opportunities to help others. I am here to try and make the world a better place.
Katie Swift, junior: I wouldn’t be able to go here if I didn’t have scholarships. St. Thomas is my dream school. Scholarships have helped me be able to come here and thrive because if I didn’t receive a scholarship to come here, I maybe would have ended up somewhere else and not as happy. I wouldn’t have enjoyed my college experience as much. I think that scholarships really help people be happier in general when it comes to education.
Nick Hayes, junior: Having a scholarship is a great opportunity for kids to get that little bit of extra that makes it feasible for them to go here.
Destynee Wendt, senior: I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for receiving the Class of 1972 Endowed Scholarship. If not for your generosity, I would not have been able to attend school. … Without generous donors, I would not have been able to afford going to the college of my dreams. I am truly grateful.
Sarah Schuler, senior: I think it’s a reward for doing well in high school and keeping it together and getting it done. I’ve definitely had a lot more time to do more things since I didn’t have to work as much. … Having that additional merit-based scholarship was really great. I can join student government, Tommie ambassadors, get involved in Residence Life and many other events on campus that I would have missed out on if I had to work all the time.
Nick Przybilla, senior: A scholarship to me means a reward for doing well in school and I think also having an impact on the St. Thomas community. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities to get involved on campus, honestly. I don’t have to work another job. I can be involved on campus and make impacts here. It really means a lot, especially looking back over the past four years as a senior. That’s kind of the thing that I look forward to. It’s not just the classroom stuff it’s also the stuff you do outside of the classroom. That’s provided me with a lot.
Billy Lemire, junior: Scholarships mean not having to pay as much. Less financial burden for myself and my parents. It’s huge. It also allows me to do other things [while I’m here].
William Johnson, sophomore: Scholarship are an opportunity for your education. Especially if you’re limited in what you can do and what you can pay for. Scholarship is kind of like that extra opportunity to do what you want to do, and to learn and develop.
It’s given me the opportunity to pursue different clubs and stuff on campus I wouldn’t have been exposed to had I not come to St. Thomas. So, I think mostly it’s just given me that extra breathing room to not worry about what I can and can’t pay for. I can really just focus on what I want to do and learn about.
Jadelyn Schack, sophomore: There are so many opportunities I’ve had at St. Thomas I am so thankful for. This [J. Benz Millard Scholarship] has made college possible.
Briana Johnson, junior: It’s been nice not having to worry about so much of the financial burden. My classes and grades will set me up for the future.
Change a Tommie’s life and give to Tommie Give Day today!
The Gustavus Adolphus College Society of Physics Students was recently awarded the Blake Lilly Prize by the national Society of Physics Students organization for engaging the local community in physics learning. The Gustavus chapter is one of 13 from across the country recognized for making “a genuine effort to positively influence the attitudes of school children and the general public about physics.”
The group was selected based on their participation in “Science on Saturday,” an annual event in which the Society of Physics Students partners with other Gustavus student groups to lead a variety of science demonstrations and experiments for area youth. The elementary students learn basic scientific principles through fun, hands-on experiments with supervision and guidance from Gustavus students.
“Our physics majors have the opportunity to take rigorous courses and interact one-on-one with professors through research,” Gustavus physics professor and group adviser Jessie Petricka said. “What makes the department special, however, is the community. The prize recognizes the extraordinary effort of the students to build that community both on and off campus.”
“The variety of academic and social activities organized by the Society of Physics Students help students build strong relationships with their peers and professors,” said senior physics major and club co-president Elise Le Boulicaut, a native of Angers, France. “We are very happy to have been recognized with this award, as it acknowledges our efforts to promote the physics department and build a strong community.”
The Blake Lilly Prize is named after and given in honor of the late Blake Lilly, a physics student at Georgia Tech in the late 1980s. The prize is selected each year by the national council of the Society of Physics Students, which considers public service, community engagement, outreach efforts, and audience interaction before making award decisions.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
Study Abroad Participation up to Sixth in Nation; St. Thomas Ranks Second in International Enrollment for Minnesota Doctorate Schools
The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2017 recently released its annual report on international enrollment and U.S. students who study abroad during college.
St. Thomas jumped from eighth to sixth in the nation for undergraduate study abroad participation at doctoral schools. St. Thomas is fourth in the state for international enrollment, and second for international enrollment in doctorate schools in Minnesota.
“The Office of Study Abroad is thrilled with St. Thomas’ highest ranking ever in the doctoral category, and keeping excellent company with other national Catholic universities,” said Sarah Spencer, director of study abroad. “This ranking is a testament to the strong collaboration with staff and faculty in support of all students’ global engagements. We are also proud to contribute to our One University and the St. Thomas 2020 strategic goals.”
Minnesota saw a decrease in study abroad participation, sending 8,577 students outside the United States in 2015-16, down from 8.958 the previous academic year.
Nationally, study abroad participation was up 3.8 percent with 325,339 American students studying internationally in 2015-16. The top countries of destination were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
Total international enrollment across the country grew by 3.4 percent to 1,078,822 students, while the number of new international students enrolling for the first time in U.S. institutions fell by 3.3 percent (from 300,743 new students in 2015-16 to 290,836 in 2016-17).
Open Doors Report 2017 reports recent results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 15,389 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2016-17 academic year, Minnesota again ranked 19th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 3.0 percent increase over the previous academic year.
St. Thomas’ international student enrollment continues to grow