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From Gamer to Researcher

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 9:00am

I have always been drawn to computers and games. Some of the fondest memories of my youth were receiving Pong (to play on a black and white TV), Mattel’s handheld Football II, the Intellivision gaming system, the 2k of RAM Timex Sinclair 100 (I saved files to a cassette player), and later the Commodore 64 (with a big old floppy drive). There were not many opportunities to use computers in the schools. In eighth grade we had a project in which we wrote a computer program using punch cards and in ninth grade I took the one computer course that was available.

After high school I attended St. Olaf College, which has a tradition of graduating robust classes of mathematics majors but did not have a computer science major at the time. I was thinking of mathematics and English as majors but eventually decided on just mathematics.

I enjoyed proving things, as is the brunt of the upper-level mathematics course work. In particular, there was something very satisfying in being able to show that something was absolutely true. My Ph.D. adviser, Jon Simon of the University of Iowa, once said that it’s the desire to take some small bit of the universe and make it perfect that drives the mathematician. Others postulate that coffee and cookies are the main fuel.

At the end of my undergraduate time, I had to figure out what to do with my life. I had toyed with the idea of high school teaching and enjoyed a teaching practicum I had taken at St. Olaf, but it did not feel quite right. In another course, I had done a short research project on sound compression and I enjoyed the freedom of working on something that no one ever had thought about. I imagined that graduate school might be interesting in this same way, so I headed to the University of Iowa. After passing through the qualifying exams, I decided that I wanted to work in topology (which is like geometry for hippies). I met with the different topology professors and eventually teamed up with Jon Simon. Jon had done some work on mathematical problems in chemistry, had a network of colleagues in different disciplines and was not afraid to use a computer in his research. In particular, Jon is a knot theorist (like knots in your shoes) and had been working on studying what knots look like when they are pulled tight. His research sounded like fun.

For my dissertation, I wanted to use a computer to simulate the tightening of knots. But we could not simulate real ropes on a computer since real ropes have, in some sense, an infinite amount of information and computers are finite. However, computers do like polygons, so my first task was to translate this tightening problem into something we could analyze with polygons and then show that what we get from computer simulations would correlate with the real ropes problem. I got to work on the mathematics, took a couple of programming courses, and later started to play around with writing code to simulate knot tightening. I really enjoyed combining computations with mathematics. I went to a couple of interdisciplinary conferences during these years and found the talks by researchers from other disciplines intriguing (even when I did not understand all of the details). I thought it would be enjoyable to do work that might have applications.

When I started my first professor job I did not have plans for a big research career. I thought that I would publish a paper related to my dissertation and maybe one or two follow-up papers. That would give me enough for tenure and then I would be in the clear. Research is a lot of work, with lots of ups and downs and long periods in which you feel like you are putting in a lot of effort and getting nothing in return. Balancing research with a new job, teaching new courses, adjusting to a new city, etc., seemed overwhelming, so the thought of spending a bunch of time on research was not appealing.

At the same time, I wanted to at least try to do research beyond my dissertation. I was afraid that if I did not try it right away then I probably never would. I did not know where to start, so I asked Jon what I should do to get more connected to the research community. He suggested emailing people that I had met at conferences to express interest in staying in touch. I did that.

I received several emails back but one in particular stood out. It came from Ken Millett from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He said he was interested in my work and suggested that maybe we could collaborate on a project. Ken is very well known in the mathematics community, so I was both thrilled and scared. After communicating by email for several months, Ken invited me to visit Santa Barbara over my spring break. I remember getting to the airport and thinking “I do not even know this guy and now I am going to spend a week with him at his house talking math.” But I went and I loved it. In fact, Ken and I are still collaborators to this day.

A couple of years later, Ken and I decided to organize a special session at a math conference. There were upcoming meetings in Hoboken, N.J., and Las Vegas. Ken suggested Hoboken but I thought that Las Vegas would be a better draw for our foreign invitees. We invited the top people in our field from all over the world hoping we could get at least a couple of international participants. To my surprise, nearly everyone said yes. This was one of the best things I ever did. It really connected me to the research community. It has been 12 years since I organized that first meeting and this November will mark the 15th meeting I have organized.

Around the same time as the first meeting, Ken encouraged me to apply for a National Science Foundation grant. I did not think I had a chance but figured that I would get some good feedback and that maybe I would have a better chance in the future. I applied to a program focusing on funding faculty at undergraduate institutions, so in my first proposal I included money to pay undergraduates to work with me. Much to my surprise, the project was funded.

Right now, I am amidst my fourth NSF grant.

This funding has helped to launch my research career. In addition to providing computing equipment and opportunities to travel to conferences to see old colleagues and meet new ones, it has been instrumental in including undergraduates in my research. Through the years, 31 undergraduates have been supported by these grants (many of them for two or more years), including 12 since I arrived at UST in 2006. Over a third of these students have gone on to graduate school.

While it is fun to have the students go on to graduate school, a research experience is valuable for any student. As such, I have worked with students with varying interests, majors, and abilities. It is always satisfying to see these students develop as they tackle difficult problems, and I always learn more from the students than they learn from me. In fact, seven of my publications have undergraduate coauthors.

This summer I had a special experience. I took six students to Dennison University in Granville, Ohio, for the UnKnot 2012 Conference. One of my former students, Tom Wears of Longwood University, also participated in the conference. I gave a one-hour invited lecture and three of my students gave contributed talks. It was particularly satisfying to see my current students interact with Tom, possibly peering into their futures.

The focus of my research always has been on studying knotting in objects imbued with some physical properties, beginning with the tightening problem from my dissertation. The tightening work continues today although the focus has changed a little. About 10 years ago, I began a collaboration with Jason Cantarella from the University of Georgia to improve the software to tighten knots, resulting in the program RidgeRunner. Since then, we have written three papers with one more submitted. The most recent work is a collaboration with Jason and two physicists Tom Kephart (Vanderbilt University) and Roman Buniy (Chapman University). Kephart and Buniy have proposed that subatomic particles called glueballs are tightly knotted and linked, tube-like objects. In creating a catalog of tight knots and links, we are (in theory) creating a catalog of these subatomic glueballs.

In the early 2000s, I also shifted my main focus from understanding the structure of tight knots to understanding the structure of polymers. Polymers (like rubber, styrofoam, proteins, and DNA) are long chemical chains and can
be modeled by polygons with some physical properties. We wanted to study what the polymers looked like when they were moving about at random, focusing on knotted polymers. For example, we wanted to know whether the polymers could most easily be placed inside the shape of a pencil, rugby ball, a basketball, M&M candy, etc. This work has been in collab- oration mainly with Ken and Andrzej Stasiak (a molecular biologist from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland who I first met as a graduate student).

A few years ago, I saw a very interesting talk by Joanna Sulkowska (then a physics post-doc at the University of California San Diego and currently of the University of Warsaw) about proteins. Proteins are chains of amino acids that perform many functions within cells. They are created as linear chains and then fold into their functional form (called the native state). These proteins need to fold reprocibly to the same form (some diseases, for example, come from misfolded proteins), and preferably quickly. Some proteins have knotting in their native states. Since knotting should complicate the folding process and make it slower, why would proteins form knots? In particular, is this an accident of nature or does the knotting serve some purpose? The answers to these questions are unknown, so Ken, Andrzej, Joanna, Jose Onuchic (Joanna’s post-doc adviser at UC San Diego, now at Rice University) and I decided to search for answers. Our resulting paper appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a high impact journal spanning all of the sciences. Our paper made a bit of a buzz on the Internet too. After the release of a press statement, the story was covered by

These types of cross-disciplinary collaborations now drive my research and continued learning. My collaborators and I combine our skills to tackle problems that none of us could solve on our own. Indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (which is a tough proposition for a mathematician). These many years later, I am still drawn to computers and games. However, instead of playing Pong on a black and white TV, I now play with supercomputers.

Eric Rawdon is associate professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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

New Lowertown Ballpark in St. Paul will be home field for Hamline baseball

Hamline University Campus News - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:00am
New agreements with the City of St. Paul and the St. Paul Saints give Hamline baseball access to premiere facilities for training, practice, and home games starting in 2015.

Sullivan Outlines Plan to Address Adjunct Faculty Concerns

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:01am

St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan has outlined a plan to address adjunct faculty concerns following the certification of election results against union representation.

The National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday certified the results – 136 opposed and 84 in favor – after a seven-day period in which Service Employees International Union Local 284 did not file formal objections about the campaign or election. The certification allows St. Thomas to resume its work on adjunct faculty concerns.

Sullivan responded to the certification in an email letter to all adjunct faculty, stating:

“I am very proud of our adjunct faculty and of the entire St. Thomas family. It is an honor to serve as your president. We can be a role model for creating and sustaining an academic community through open and transparent dialogue where all members are respected, feel valued, and are focused on student learning and outcomes. . . .

“As I indicated last week after the votes were counted, I am moving forward immediately with an action plan to address the top-level adjunct faculty priorities identified over the past year. I am pleased to share that plan with you today.”

Here are the plan’s primary components:

  • Dr. Richard Plumb, who took office July 15 as executive vice president and provost, will solicit adjunct faculty interest in serving on a new Adjunct Faculty Task Force that will provide input to the administration on the plan over the next few months. The task force will provide recommendations and feedback on proposals developed through the early fall and will recommend voting mechanisms to create an elected Adjunct Faculty Council. The task force will be dissolved when the council is established.
  • The Adjunct Faculty Council will serve as an advisory body involving adjunct faculty voices from across the university. It is anticipated that the council will provide a forum for adjunct faculty to communicate and interact with each other, identify opportunities beyond already-identified priorities, and strategize ways of better integrating adjunct faculty into the St. Thomas community. “Ultimately,” Sullivan wrote, “our goal is to provide adjunct faculty with a variety of participation options to meet varying preferences for levels of involvement.”
  • Michelle Thom, associate vice president for human resources, will work with her staff to develop proposed alternatives for adjunct faculty to participate in the university’s benefits program, taking into account the range of workloads. Sullivan asked her to address health care benefits as the first priority in the analysis, which will be completed this fall, because it is the benefit for which adjunct faculty have consistently indicated the greatest need over the years. The Adjunct Faculty Council will consult with Human Resources on additional benefits priorities.
  • Sullivan will send a letter this week to the chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee (with a copy to the chair of the faculty) requesting that the committee draft policy language for the Faculty Senate to consider this fall to provide for adjunct faculty representation on the Senate.
  • Plumb will begin work this summer with deans and department chairs to ensure there are opportunities within all academic units for differentiated adjunct faculty contracts based on the number of courses they teach and other varying levels of participation.
  • Plumb will lead an effort to develop a proposal for reviewing potential increases to adjunct faculty salaries each year during the annual budget process, beginning with this fall’s planning for the 2015-16 budget. He will work with deans and department chairs to establish consistent timelines for issuing adjunct faculty contracts.
  • Plumb will collaborate with Dr. Ann Johnson, director of the Center for Faculty Development, to design workshops for department chairs to share best practices on fully realizing and recognizing the contributions of adjuncts within their departments.
  • Johnson, with input from adjunct faculty, department chairs and deans, will develop a plan for providing greater funding mechanisms for adjunct faculty development. Sullivan’s office will fund this plan in 2014-15, and it will be included subsequently in the university’s budget.

“I firmly believe the action plan sets the stage in providing an exceptional opportunity for all of us to work together directly and collaboratively to address your concerns while improving the quality of education at the University of St. Thomas,” Sullivan concluded in her email to adjunct faculty.


Rising Junior Bing Shui '16 Awarded Harvard Stem Cell Institute Internship

Carleton College Campus News - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 5:02pm

Bing Shui '16 (China), a rising junior majoring in biology, is one of forty undergraduate students accepted into the 2014 Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) Internship Program, which provides participants with a challenging summer research experience in a cutting-edge stem cell science laboratory.

Since early June, Shui has been working in the Boston Children’s Hospital laboratory of HSCI Affiliated Faculty member Xi He, PhD, known for his research on cell-to-cell communication. Shui’s project this summer is to study how a newly discovered protein controls how genes function in intestinal stem cells and colorectal cancer cells.

Millennials Would Like to Buy a First Home, but are Waiting Longer to Make the Move

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 2:56pm

With the 13-county Twin Cities real estate market in solid recovery mode, researchers at the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business this month decided to see if those in the Millennial generation are as interested in homeownership as their Baby Boomer parents.

“Have the 25- to 35-year-olds changed their outlook on homeownership?  The young people in this category have not necessarily changed their attitude toward owning a home, however they are waiting longer before they buy their first home,” said Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the university.

He noted two reasons that account for this delay:

  • One reason young people are waiting to purchase their first home is that they are waiting until they feel secure in their career situation. “Young people are reluctant to commit to purchasing a home if they think there is a chance that they end up in a different job across town or in another city,” he said.
  • Another is that many young people have student loans. They are waiting longer so they can pay down their student loans in order to qualify for the mortgage they need to purchase the home they want.

Tousley cited a recent Harvard Joint Center for Housing study that compared young renters (those between 25 and 34) in the Twin Cities, Chicago and San Francisco.

He said owning a home in the Twin Cities is still very affordable compared to other cities and there are a relatively high number of 25- to 34-year-olds who could afford to purchase a home.

Minneapolis / St PaulChicagoSan FranciscoShare of renters 25 – 34 yrs. that could afford to own*52%46.9%17.1%Homeownership rate for 25 – 34 yrs.47%38.3%21.5%Overall homeownership rate69.1%65.1%53.3%Median income for 25 – 34 yrs.$42,514$42,006$62,908Median Home Price$193,825$189,200$671,897Monthly ownership costs*$1,184$1,286$3,728

 (* This study was conducted in 2013 and is based on the following assumptions: Payment including taxes and insurance is less than 35 percent of income, 5 percent down, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, 2013 interest rate on a median priced home.)

Tousley said that since the Twin Cities region has a relatively high percentage of Millennials who can afford to purchase a home, these potential homebuyers eventually will be entering the housing market.

“This is an indication of a positive long-term trend for the Twin Cities housing market as these younger buyers get settled in their careers and start thinking about starting a family,” he said.  “The 25- to 34-year-olds have not given up on homeownership. The difference is that they are waiting a few years longer than previous generations.”

Here’s what the researchers found in June’s real estate data:

Existing-home sales

The Shenehon Center tracks the median price for three types of sales: nondistressed or traditional-type sales, foreclosures, and short sales (when a home is sold for less than the outstanding mortgage balance).

“The housing market in the Twin Cities continues to try to make up for a slow start during the first half of the year,” Tousley said.

Overall, median sale prices were up nearly 5 percent compared to a year ago and the median sale price of a nondistressed sale is approaching pre-crash levels.

“Although a 5 percent increase is less than the double-digit gains seen in the previous two years, it is a much healthier, sustainable rate of growth that will not result in another housing price bubble,” Tousley predicted.

Inventory of homes for sale

June saw a significant increase in the inventory of homes available for sale and a large decrease in the percentage of distressed homes that were sold.

“The increase in the number of homes for sale will result in a better balance between buyers and sellers. Buyers will have more choices as the market moves from a seller’s market to a normal equilibrium,” Tousley said.

The percentage of distressed sales has markedly decreased in the last several months. During the early part of this year the percentage of distressed sales was hovering near 30 percent. Over the last two months the percent of distressed sales has dropped to 12.7 percent, a level not seen since mid-2007.

“More importantly, the number of new foreclosures continues to drop resulting in even fewer distressed sales in the next 12 to18 months,” he said.

The UST composite indexes

Each month the Shenehon Center tracks nine housing-market data elements, including the median price for three types of sales, and creates an index for each: nondistressed or traditional-type sales, foreclosures, and short sales.

The composite index for traditional sales continued its upward trend in June and set a new high for the year at 1073. This is a 23-point gain from May. The index is .2 percent higher than June of last year.

The composite index for short sales was 910 in June, up 14 points from May. It also is up 5.4 percent compared to one year ago. “Look for the short sale index to play a less significant role in our analysis as the number of short sales drops below 3 percent of the total monthly sales,” Tousley said.

The composite index for the foreclosure market moved from 781 in May to 798 in June. The index is 1.6 per cent higher when compared to June 2013.

More information online

The Shenehon Center’s charts and report for June can be found  here.

Research for the monthly reports is conducted by Tousley and Dr. Thomas Hamilton, associate professor of real estate at the university. The index is available free via email from Tousley at

Network Update-Tuesday afternoon

St. Kate's Campus News - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 1:40pm
The University Information Technology department reports network hardware failures that they are working to repair. More »

Alumnus to lead Bush Fellowship program

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 10:18am
G. Bryan Fleming, a 2000 graduate of the Master of Arts in Educational Administration program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, has been appointed by the Bush Foundation to lead the Bush Fellowship and Leadership Network Grants programs. Prior to being named to this Bush Foundation position, Fleming served as director of admission for The

Carleton hosts inaugural Jesse James Film Festival

Carleton College Campus News - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 3:33pm

In collaboration with the Northfield Historical Society, Carleton is pleased to host screenings of the first annual Jesse James Film Festival. All showings will be in the Weitz Center for Creativity Cinema and are free and open to the public (although donations are appreciated). The five films included in the festival were chosen because they depict the 1876 attempt by the infamous James-Younger Gang to rob Northfield's First National Bank.

Catholic Studies: Working in Education

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 3:00pm

Catholic Studies is particularly well suited to serve the mission of Catholic schools. Our students develop a way of thinking that strives to see the deep ways in which their faith integrates all aspects of learning and life. Many have brought this to their work in Catholic schools where they strive to create a rich and vibrant Catholic culture for their colleagues and their students.

We are especially proud of three of our graduates who were appointed principals of Catholic grade schools this past fall: Allison Frank (M.A. ’09) at St. Peter’s in North St. Paul, Tina Monosmith (B.A. ’05; M.A. ’08) at St. Rose of Lima in Roseville and Zack Zeckser (B.A. ’00) at St. Mark’s in St. Paul. In addition, two of our alumni have long worked in education: Michael Adkins as academic dean at St. Agnes in St. Paul (M.A. ’10) and Jason Slattery as a longtime principal at Ave Maria Academy (B.A. ’03). He currently is pursuing doctoral studies at Creighton University. We have asked each of them to speak about how Catholic Studies has helped shape their vision and lives as leaders in education.

Michael Adkins Academic dean, St. Agnes School, St. Paul

Looking back on my old CSMA files, I found a personal statement I submitted as part of my application in which I reflected on how I was first inspired to pursue a CSMA degree: “As I thought to myself during Dr. Thompson’s presentation [an RCIA talk on the moral teachings of the Church], I decided that ‘I wanted to be able to speak like that’ about the Catholic faith; his presentation was both accessible to the common person as well as piercingly deep into the Catholic theological tradition.” In that moment I was able to see how a proposal of the value and depth of the Catholic faith can be truly edifying and transformative for everyone, especially when presented at a level appropriate to the audience. This encounter got me excited about the opportunities the CSMA program could offer me. My hope was that I could, as Dr. Thompson had shown, better engage my own students in the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness; in hindsight, the CSMA program had afforded me this along with many other skills and opportunities to grow.

I learned the essential principles of Catholic doctrine and Catholic thought, and I believe I am able, thanks to the modeling of peers and professors in the CSMA program, to apply those principles in just about any context − but most importantly in my field of continuous school improvement.

On a practical level, CSMA provides excellent training in essential intellectual habits of mind. This is accomplished through the rigor of classroom discussion, the level of outside reading and the demands of independent course work. In addition, I found that all CS professors modeled exceptional integrity, scholarship, pedagogy and Christian hospitality. I was fortunate to be able to participate in opportunities to work with undergraduates and leadership interns as an administrative assistant to one of my professors, gaining new leadership, organizational and administrative skills. As a full-time teacher while in the CSMA program, I believe that I benefited from the simultaneous work of teaching and pursuing my degree because I was able to apply immediately (even the next day) the content knowledge, dialectical skills and teaching abilities that I gleaned from my courses and professors.

On a philosophical level, the CSMA program effectively emphasizes a proper Catholic anthropology, which is absolutely essential in the field of education, and this was emphasized by many of my classes providing a common theme for my studies. I witnessed how the program successfully forms Catholic minds: a way of seeing the world and synthesizing truth in the light of Christ from every imaginable perspective. The program also does a great job of offering a truly liberal arts experience, forming free and independent thinkers; once one has developed the essential skills and habits of mind afforded by the program, gradually he no longer needs to rely on instructors or col- leagues to form sound opinions and draw conclusions. This approach effectively creates Catholic leaders who will serve as a desperately needed leaven in the realm of modern education.

CS helped me to see and respect more fully that “Catholic identity” is not merely the externals: stained glass, liturgy, prayer, art, etc. Those things are key, but a school’s Catholic identity is one that fully embraces the Logos – the Word. The Christian faith is by its very nature an intelligent faith, and it demands that believers engage in a dialectic with the Word, both in its written and spoken forms. I learned, through the example of my professors and the CS program itself, to understand that Catholic educational institutions ought to develop a “culture of the Word,” as Pope Emeritus Benedict has called it; one where all can, in a community of scholarship and charity, embrace the pursuit of what is true, good and beautiful regardless of our abilities and interests. Everyone is enriched by a culture of the Word; a rich engagement with the Scriptures, Catholic literature, philosophy and theology is for the plumber, pediatrician, pipe-fitter, president and piano player.

With that in mind, I could see that St. Agnes School already possessed a healthy external Catholic identity, but the internal Catholic identity needed strengthening: the curriculum itself needed the benefit of infusing a culture of the Word. To do so, I and my colleagues focused on the Catholic intellectual tradition: for example, we oriented the English program to the classics of Western literature; we required all freshmen to take an introduction to logic and philosophy; we aimed to integrate all subject areas in order to unify the pursuits of faith and reason; we offered studies in Greek and Latin; we changed the Social Studies Department to “History, Philosophy and Economics,” for example. In summary, we infused the Catholic intellectual tradition back into the curriculum and by doing so the external Catholic identity of stained glass, devotionals, beautiful liturgy and prayer now harmoniously resonate with the internal identity − the new curriculum − creating a seamless education and formation of the whole person that speaks to the heart and the mind.

Alison Frank Principal, St. Peter’s Catholic School, North St. Paul, Minn.

As a graduate Catholic Studies student I was able to immerse myself in the world of Catholic thought and culture. Through my classes at St. Thomas, and in a unique way my experience in Rome at Bernardi and the Angelicum, I learned to think with the eyes, heart and mind of the Church. My formation gave me a vocabulary for what I always knew to be true and provided a solid academic foundation to share with others.

Catholic education is essential in the evangelizing life of the Church. Everything that is done in Catholic schools should show young children that they are called to be saints in the world. It is absolutely imperative that Catholic Schools are imbued with all that it means to be Catholic. This cannot be an add-on that occurs by hanging a picture of Pope Francis or having students memorize the Hail Mary. In order for a Catholic school to participate in the mission of the Church, the leadership, faculty and staff must all share the same vision. St. Thomas gave me words for that vision, and it is now my job to share it and form others in the same way.

A small example of how Catholic culture can be alive and vibrant in a preschool-8th grade school: This year we have placed much focus on being called to holiness, to sainthood. The students hear stories of the saints. We discuss the virtues, and at every opportunity we are reminded of how we are called to do more. The seventh grade girls were talking about this at lunch one day and one of them informed me that she is working on being holier. The others talked about what that meant and how she was doing it. She cited a number of ways that St. Peter’s has helped her to see why holiness is desirable for a 13-year-old girl. This is what Catholic Schools should hope to do along with provide an excellent academic experience. Catholic Studies models this through study, community and prayer.

Jason Slattery Principal, Ave Maria Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.

Catholic Studies provided for me and many others in education the freedom for excellence. For nearly two decades, we have been reading and hearing about excellence in education. Many schools have even enshrined the notion of excellence in their mission statements with the catch phrase “a school of academic excellence.” One might on occasion be led to conclude that excellence and education are synonyms. After all, what else should schools be about?

As schools are places where learning takes place, it naturally follows that they should be academically focused; however, are lessons in mathematics, science, literature, rhetoric and the arts the only things students learn in school? What about lessons in virtues like honesty, friendship, sincerity, prudence, justice or fortitude? Ought not a school seek excellence for every student in all areas of their young lives?

Catholic Studies helped me understand the role of market theory in education. Parents choose schools. Identity is key in discerning market choices. In the shrewdest sense, an authentic, joyful commitment to Catholic identity is job security. A school grounded in a commitment to an encouraging and safe environment transformed by faith, reason, and virtue is a choice parents can make for their children. Faith, reason and virtue are gifts from God. Many schools lack the freedom to even acknowledge God, let alone teach about the gifts He has given us. Many schools and teachers lack the freedom to acknowledge or speak to the reality of the soul. Could it be that simple that in Catholic education we can admit our students have souls?

Catholic Studies provided an integrated and complete vision of a school dedicated to unfettered excellence for the good of its students, which is not the product of accident or chance. Animating Catholic education is the virtue of charity. Catholic education has at its heart the virtue of charity. The exceptionality of students wells up from their deepening practice of charity. In an environment of love almost anything is possible. Students teach us daily in many ways, but none greater than the care they show for God and one another.

Tina Monosmith Principal, St. Rose of Lima School, Roseville, Minn.

As the principal of a Catholic elementary school, my degree in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas is an asset each and every day. As an undergraduate student, majoring in Theology and Secondary Education, I chose to minor in Catholic Studies. The experience in the Catholic Studies program was the perfect companion to my theology degree and allowed me the opportunity to see the various ways I could infuse all of the aspects of Catholicism into my teaching.

After teaching only a few months I was certain that I would be a better teacher and better prepared to be an administrator someday if I enhanced my experience in the Catholic Studies program. Through my master’s degree in Catholic Studies I had the opportunity to explore the history of Catholic education, Catholic literature and the development of the Catholic musical tradition. My own educational experience in the Catholic Studies program enhanced the education I was able to provide for my students and provided me with a fuller understanding of the Roman Catholic tradition.

Today, as a school administrator, the deepened understanding of Catholicism provided by my Catholic Studies degree guides me as I strive to be a successful leader of a Catholic school. Selecting curriculum, human resources management, liturgy planning, marketing, admissions and event organization are all processes that require a full understanding of the Catholic educational tradition, and I call upon my Catholic Studies degree every day. As an administrator, my background in Catholic Studies helps me to create and foster a Catholic culture in the whole school community, and not just within the confines of our religion classes.

Zachary Zeckser Principal, St. Mark’s School, St. Paul

The educational and spiritual formation that the Catholic Studies program provided me helped me develop a disposition of discernment. My first semester in Catholic studies sparked my heightened reflection process not only on day-to-day matters but also, and especially, on the big picture of my vocational path. Relationships with professors like Dr. Don Briel and Dr. Michael Naughton really helped me, even after graduation, in prayerfully and actively considering where God is calling me. This has led me to marriage, fatherhood, teaching and now education administration.

My background in Catholic Studies, to a significant degree, has set me on a trajectory of goodness while seeking greatness. The high standards, academic, spiritual, social, ethical and so on, have helped to instill in me a desire to do things with a sort of magnanimity (a word I learned in Catholic Studies). At the same time, I know that the focus, even more than excellence, is goodness − virtue. I do not, however, think of the benefits of the degree as much as I think the hard work, the community and the attitude that it represents.

From experiences like those of Catholic Studies, my paradigm of Catholic education has shifted such that I do not simply consider Catholic schools to be just one of the many options people in Minnesota have from which to choose; rather, I see Catholic education as a primary ministry of the Church. As such, the work I do in my office, in the cafeteria and in the classrooms is one of ministry. Canon law tells us that we need to be at least as academically excellent as our public school neighbors down the street, but our call to “Aim Higher” means that academics are only the beginning of what we do. Our Catholic schools are, in fact, ex corde, or “from the heart” of the Church.

Click to See Catholic Studies Alumni Working as Teachers, Administrators in Catholic Schools

Elementary (K-8)

Audrey (Anderson) Moorhouse, B.A. ’12, 6-8 science, St. Croix Catholic, Stillwater, Minn.

Oscar Echandi, B.A. ’04, teacher, Country Day School, Escazú, Costa Rica

Mary Eilen, B.A. ’13, third grade, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Alison Frank, M.A. ’09, principal, St. Peter School, North St. Paul, Minn.

R. Nolan Gutierrez, B.A. ’13, K-8 Spanish, St. Mark’s, St. Paul

Sheila (Keeling) Gutierrez, B.A. ’11 fourth grade, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Sara Joyce, B.A. ’11, sixth grade, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Tina Monosmith, M.A. ’08, principal, St. Rose of Lima, Roseville, Minn.

Beth Reopelle, B.A. ’98, fifth grade, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Jason Slattery, B.A. ’03, president, Ave Maria Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.

Kristin Vasko, B.A. ’12, third grade, St. Croix Catholic, Stillwater, Minn

Gabriel Yurko B.A. ’13, K-8 physical education/athletic director, Spiritus Sanctus Academy, Plymouth Mich.

Zachary Zeckser, B.A. ’00, principal, St. Mark’s, St. Paul High School (9-12)

Michael Adkins, M.A. ’10, academic dean, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Gretchen Amigon, B.A. ’01, theology/technology, Academy of Holy Angels, Richfield, Minn.

Daniel Berthiaume, B.A. ’04, Latin, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Father Robert Bolding, B.A. ’05, president rector, St. Mary’s High School, Phoenix, Ariz.

Kevin Clemens, M.A. ’10, Latin, Northridge Preparatory School, Chicago

Peter Dahdah, B.A. ’00, history, St. Agnes High School, St. Paul

Laura Eusterman, M.A. ’13, Trinity at River Ridge, Eagan, Minn.

Courtney Gregar, M.A. ’12, history, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Jillian Gubash, B.A. ’04, advancement associate, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Per Hansen, M.A. ’12, mathematics, Chesterton Academy, Edina, Minn.

Mark Jahnke, B.A. ’04, M.a. ’07, junior high dean, Holy Family Academy, St. Louis Park, Minn.

Jonathan Janz, M.A. ’12, science, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Sister Elizabeth Marie Kalscheur, O.P., B.A. ’05, religion, Mount de Sales Academy, Baltimore, Md.

Rachel (Koskey) Kemp, B.A. ’08, guidance counselor, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Hank Kemp, B.A. ’08, science, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Katie Lahti, B.A. ’10, coordinator of communications, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Angela Lambert, B.A. ’00, M.A. ’13, religion, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Zita Larson, B.A. ’12, religion, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Laura Leonard, M.A. ’12, English, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Matthew McQuillan, B.A. ’11, mathematics, DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis

Katherine Moosbrugger, B.A. ’12, theology and German, St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Sleepy Eye, Minn.

Stephanie Monson, B.A. ’06, assistant director of Campus Ministry, Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Milwaukee, Wis.

Father Mark Moriarty, M.A. ’99, pastor and superintendent, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Dan Nguyen, B.A., ’03, M.a. ’13, Theology Department chair, St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Phoenix, Ariz.; theology adjunct, University of Mary, Tempe Ariz.

Michael Olson, B.A. ’99, English and literature, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Brittany Ostlie, M.A. ’13, English and literature, Holy Family Academy, Manchester, N.H.

Karl Pederson, B.a. ’01, Latin, logic and theology, St. Agnes, St. Paul

John Rogers, M.A. ’10, English, St. Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights, Minn.

Justin Shay, B.A. ’10, M.A. ’13, religion, Ave Maria Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.

John Stauble, B.A. ’02, 7-10 Catholic doctrine and Latin, Trinity at River Ridge, Eagan, Minn.

Miriam Stella, M.A. ’11, 9-12 mathematics, St. Bernard Preparatory School, Cullman, Ala.

Stephen Sylvester, B.A. ’12, religion, Christ the King High School, Daphne, Ala.

Paula Thelen, B.A. ’12, religion, McDonell Central Catholic High School, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Gregory Westerhaus, B.A. ’12, religion, Holy Trinity High School (ACE program), Chicago

Laura Pederson Zeckser, M.A. ’09, 9-12 theology, Holy Angels, Richfield, Minn.


Matthew Gerlach, Ph.D., B.A. ’97, Catholic Studies Department, University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Eric Johnston, Ph.D., B.A. ’00, Theology Department, Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.

Robert Koerpel, Ph.D., B.A. ’99, Theology Department, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul

Lindsey (Adornato) Mayernick, B.A., ’10, admissions coordinator, University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Gregory Murry, Ph.D., B.A. ’03, History Department, Mount St. Mary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Amanda Osheim, Ph.D., B.A. ’98, Religion Department, Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa

Marta Pereira Vindas, B.A. ’04, Campus Ministry, St. Catherine University, St. Paul

Thomas Schulzetenberg, B.A. ’05, Rome program director, University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Robert Staudt, Ph.D., B.A. ’03, M.A. ’05, assistant professor, Augustine Institute, Denver

Mathew Sutton, Ph.D., Theology and Religious Studies Department, St. John’s University, Jamaica, N.Y.

Many of our graduates now are working as teachers or administrators in Catholic grade schools and high schools around the country (listed on pages 22-23). If we have managed to omit someone you know, please let us know.

Read more from Perspectives Magazine.

‘Academic Research Has Taught Me Patience’

University of St. Thomas Campus News - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:39pm

I was raised in a small village in South India surrounded by our mother’s family members who kept careful watch over my brother and me. Their debates and discussions on a variety of topics enveloped us constantly even though we paid scant attention to the topics themselves. Career choices in India those days were limited and the most lucrative jobs were in the engineering and medical fields and hence I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in the sciences. After finishing my undergraduate degree in chemistry, I went on to work for a few years as a manufacturing chemist. The economic conditions in India then were tough, and I realized that the opportunities for furthering my career were limited.

My father, who was an accountant, suggested that I consider professional accounting as an alternative. I joined the program for public accounting certification and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, which is the Indian equivalent of a Certified Public Accountant. Later, I joined a consulting firm in Mumbai, India, and was sent to Africa on an assignment in 1980. A year later I joined a firm in Nigeria and worked there for six years, initially as financial controller and later as the CEO of one of their mid-sized manufacturing firms. During this time, and as part of my assignment, I was able to travel extensively in Africa and Europe.

Spending those few years in the tumultuous and often risky political environment in Nigeria had me reassessing my future goals once again. One of the choices that opened up to me was further study and so I joined the graduate business program at Baruch College, City University of New York. After completing my Ph. D., my wife and I were looking for a suitable place to settle down and raise our young children. We had two choices: To continue in New York City or join the UST faculty. Even though my first visit to the Twin Cities was in chilly January, the warm and welcoming atmosphere at St. Thomas was enough to persuade us to come to Minnesota.

During these years at UST I have had the opportunity to teach in China, Taiwan and Russia and to be associated with some of the finest and reflective scholars in the field. The Russian assignment was a U.S. State Department-funded project to help the Novosibirsk State University establish a business education program. There, I was assigned to teach an introductory finance course and found that there were no published finance textbooks in Russian. What began as a set of teaching notes eventually morphed into a textbook. With the help of Russian colleagues this was translated into Russian and continues to be used as the textbook for the introductory finance class at the Novosibirsk State University.

My Ph.D. dissertation topic involved mathematical modeling of complex financial derivative instruments. At Baruch College, I also had the opportunity to study under the Nobel Prize-winning financial economist, Professor Harry Markowitz. His insightful analysis of financial markets and investigations on how investors allocate their funds into various asset classes encouraged me to delve into the area of asset allocation. Some of my research also is focused on how “shocks” in one market are transmitted to other markets; I also study why asset prices change. A common misconception about financial markets is that their movements are based on empirical models, analysis and established economic ties between countries. Market co-movements cannot solely be attributed fundamental economic linkages between countries. Herding behavior is yet another explanation for financial market co-movements. Herding happens when information asymmetry exists between informed and uninformed investors. The latter may not have the resources to acquire the information and hence mimic the actions of the informed investors or in some instances investor behavior may be construed as informed by domestic investors. The prices of financial assets are often results of an unconscious and subjective evaluation process, which to a certain degree depends on the overall mood of the market. When market participants are optimistic about the future, as in the case of the tech bubble of the 1990s, the stock prices tend to increase. The reverse is true when the market mood is pessimistic.

Some of our research ideas also have been serendipitous. Recently when I analyzed the behavior of Russian stocks during the trading day I observed that they exhibit very high trading activity and price volatility around 4:30 p.m. (Moscow time) with no plausible reason for this flurry of activity. That is, none of the other markets are active at that particular time. It was during a visit to the Novosibirsk stock exchange that one of the stock traders pointed out that the increased activity corresponds to the opening of the futures markets in Chicago. This opened up a new area of investigation, namely, the impact of the foreign futures market on Russian stock markets.

During the past 20 years at St. Thomas I have collaborated with some of the finest scholars and thinkers in the field and have also learned a lot from the students I teach. Academic research has taught me patience. It has to be pursued, I have learned, for its own sake!

Thadavillil (Nathan) Jithendranathan is professor of finance in the Opus College of Business.

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

Civil rights internship inspires Vaughn’s career path

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 8:00am
As an African-American student at Saint Mary’s University, Manire Vaughn ’15 has worked hard to make other students of color feel more comfortable in their academic surroundings, and as a volunteer through Campus Ministry, he worked to serve underprivileged communities. Looking back, Vaughn realizes his passion has always been advocating for civil rights and human

EWO student research explores public speaking issues

St. Kate's Campus News - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 3:56pm
Issues unique to women in public speaking are being researched by an award-winning Evening/Weekend/Online student. More »

Grad puts creative faculties into practice at first job

St. Kate's Campus News - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 12:32pm
Our second Friday Feature of recent grads highlights studio arts and French major Hilary Stein ’14. More »

Take a look at Saint Mary’s!

Saint Mary's University Campus News - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 8:00am
Real-World Experience When it comes to getting experience that will help you get a great job, you can do it at Saint Mary’s. Our students and faculty work very closely together to develop research projects or find internships that give you knowledge you can only gain by EXPERIENCE. The Winona area has many opportunities for

Chrysalis Stage: Presenting the 2014 MFA Fall Exhibition at Whittier Gallery

MCAD News - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:28pm

PDF Version of Press Release

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) is pleased to present Chrysalis Stage, the upcoming 2014 Master of Fine Arts Fall Exhibition at Whittier Gallery.

Thu, 2014-07-24 - Sun, 2016-07-24

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Auditions for St. Catherine Choral Society 2014–15

St. Kate's Campus News - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 4:02pm
Choral Society Director Patricia Connors will start hearing auditions for the coming season beginning August 1. More »

Mechademia: Conference on Asian Popular Cultures

MCAD News - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 9:44am

PDF version of Press Release

This internationally recognized three-day conference explores the global innovations and creative and cultural implications of Japanese anime and manga. The session combines the vibrancy of fan practices, the fashion show, and anime screenings with the presentations and discussions of academic papers, resulting in an enriching and unique experience.

Wed, 2014-07-23 - Sat, 2016-07-23

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