Recent News from Campuses
Longtime professor of psychology and family studies Dr. David Bredehoft is retiring from Concordia University, St. Paul after 37 years of service. Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Science since 1998, Dr. Bredehoft began his tenure at Concordia in 1976 as an assistant professor of psychology.
Throughout his career Dr. Bredehoft has applied his talents as an educator, administrator, and mentor by enriching the Concordia community and empowering his students with knowledge and skills that prove invaluable in their professional and personal lives.
Owner of four academic degrees in the areas of psychology, educational psychology and family science, Dr. Bredehoft has been involved in the fields of psychology and family education since 1974. A licensed psychologist, he first introduced a psychology concentration for education majors at Concordia in 1978. With his guidance the psychology major and minor were approved by faculty and offered for the first time at Concordia in 1980.
In 1992 he and his wife Adena began funding The Bredehoft Family Scholarship Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships to junior and senior psychology majors at Concordia who demonstrate a commitment to the discipline of psychology.
Dr. Bredehoft has published more than 100 articles in journals and magazines and has presented papers at national conferences for psychology, parenting and families. He co-authored a book published in nine languages, titled “How Much is Enough? Everything you need to know to steer clear of overindulgence and raise likeable, responsible and respectful children – from toddlers to teens.”
In 2003 Dr. Bredehoft was named the Certified Family Life Educator of the Year by the National Council on Family Relations.
The University of St. Thomas Minneapolis Health Services, located in Suite 110, Terrence Murphy Hall, will close effective Thursday, May 16, due to decreasing demand. Counseling and Psychological Services and massage therapy will continue to see clients at this location until a different office space is identified.
Appointments can be scheduled with Counseling and Psychological Services staff by phone:
- In Minneapolis call (651) 962-4750.
- In St. Paul call (651) 962-6780.
Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services remain committed to providing high quality care to UST students.
Undergraduate, graduate, law, professional students, faculty and staff previously seen at Minneapolis Health Services can continue their care at the St. Paul clinic. All medical and travel clinic appointments will be made with St. Paul Health Services, beginning on May 16, by calling (651) 962-6750 or signing up online at MyHealthPortal.
The University of St. Thomas celebrated its annual St. Thomas Day Wednesday, May 8. The event honors recipients of the Monsignor James Lavin Award, Professor of the Year, Humanitarian Award, Tommie Award and Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award.
St. Thomas Day recognizes the extraordinary contributions that members of the St. Thomas community have made to the university and the wider community. The awards that are presented on St. Thomas Day were instituted over a period of 60 years.
St. Thomas Day events began with Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas led by Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. A dinner and awards program followed in Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center. More than 500 members of the St. Thomas community attended.
Father Dennis Dease, president of the University of St. Thomas, was pleasantly stunned at the St. Thomas Day awards Wednesday night when he was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
This marked the first year the recipient of the award was kept hush-hush until the night of the ceremony.
Dr. Rachel Wobschall, executive director of Alumni and Constituent Relations at St. Thomas, said, “The Alumni Association Board of Directors unanimously nominated and approved Father Dease. We decided to keep it a secret because of Father Dease’s humility − we thought he might not accept it if he knew about it.”
Dease’s brothers, sisters and other family members showed up at the dinner to surprise him, but he did not read anything into their appearance other than to think they were there to help him celebrate his final St. Thomas Day as president. He also did not read the printed program at his table, listing him as the Distinguished Alumnus Award winner, so when his named was announced he had a surprised look on his face. He received two standing ovations from the capacity crowd In Woulfe – one after his name was announced and the other after a video was played.
Nominations for the Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna, Humanitarian and Lavin awards are welcome throughout the year but are required by July 1 for consideration for the following year’s St. Thomas Day. For forms and more information on how to submit a nomination, visit the Alumni Association website.
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Father Dennis Dease took office as president of St. Thomas on July 1, 1991, but he has a longer association – nearly 50 years – with the university and the St. Paul Seminary.
A native of Corcoran, Minn., he taught theology at the College of St. Thomas and served as spiritual director and dean of formation at the St. Paul Seminary. Ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1969, Father Dease has myriad degrees: a B.A. in Latin and philosophy, a Master of Divinity degree from the St. Paul Seminary, an M.A. degree in counseling psychology from St. Thomas and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
In 1982 he joined the St. Thomas Board of Trustees. He served rector of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis from 1985 to 1991.
The university grew significantly and made many notable achievements during his 22-year tenure, including:
- Establishment of a Minneapolis campus and constructed four buildings for programs in business, law, education and professional psychology
- Construction of a dozen major buildings on the St. Paul campus, including a student center, an athletic and recreation complex, a science and engineering center, a business building, two apartment-style residence halls and a parking ramp
- A new campus in Rome (2000)
- New academic programs in law, Catholic studies, mechanical and electrical engineering, entrepreneurship and Irish studies, and quadrupled study-abroad participation with semesterlong programs based in London and Rome and many opportunities during January Term
- A tripled student-of-color population as well as a tripled number of international students.
- $765 million raised in two capital campaigns – $250 million in the Ever Press Forward campaign, which concluded in 2001, and $515 million in the Opening Doors campaign, which came to a close last October.
- Accreditation from national or international associations for all major graduate programs.
Dease will retire as president of St. Thomas June 30 this year.
Professor of the Year
Dr. Mark Neuzil, a member of the Communication and Journalism Department, will receive this year’s Professor of the Year Award. Neuzil, who joined St. Thomas in 1993, also serves as director of St. Thomas’ Office for Mission and is an adviser to TommieMedia.com.
He is the author or co-author of four books with environmental themes: Mass Media and Environmental Conflict: America’s Green Crusades, co-written with William Kovarik; Views of the Mississippi: The Photographs of Henry Bosse, which won a Minnesota Book Award; A Spiritual Field Guide: Meditations for the Outdoors, co-written with Dr. Bernard Brady; and The Environment and the Press: From Adventure Writing to Advocacy.
Neuzil earned a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Minnesota.
Humanitarian of the Year
Charles Lugemwa ’03 M.M.S.E. will be honored with the 2013 Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work with Hope Medical Clinics. Lugemwa co-founded the Ugandan clinics with Father Dennis Dease.
A native Ugandan, Lugemwa serves as in-country director of Hope Medical Clinics Uganda and is manager of data management in the IT Division of the Uganda Revenue Authority.
Hope Medical Clinics Uganda provides people access to health care services, regardless of income. The organization operates clinics in the Kampala suburbs of Ndejje and Kasubi, and the Ruth Gaylord Maternity and Pediatric Hospital, which opened in January 2012.
Lugemwa lives in Kampala, Uganda, with his wife, Maria, and their three children.
Monsignor James Lavin Award
Don Traxler ’50, retired president of Northern Star Co., is the recipient of this year’s Monsignor James Lavin Award. Established in 1994, the award honors a volunteer for his or her service to the St. Thomas Alumni Association. Traxler has served the alumni community for decades as a volunteer and active participant, most notably as a member of the Old Guard and its annual reunion committees.
As a student at St. Thomas, he majored in business administration – general business management and economics. The parents of nine children, Traxler and his wife, Dolores, have provided scholarship support to St. Thomas students, and Traxler has been a member of the President’s Council since 1986.
Eyo Ekpo of Andover, Minn., was voted recipient of the Tommie Award by St. Thomas faculty, staff and students. He is an entrepreneurship and finance double major. He also is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honor society; Delta Epsilon Sigma, a national scholastic honor society; and Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity; HANA, a multicultural student organization; Practicing Entrepreneurs; Senior Legacy; Real Estate Society; Undergraduate Business Council; and Tommie Ambassadors.
An athlete in varsity football and varsity track and field, Ekpo also served as a representative on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. In track and field, he was named an NCAA All-American four times, to the All-America Academic team three times and a national runner-up for the CoSIDA First-Team All-America.
The Tommie Award is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and is awarded annually to a senior who best represents the ideals of St. Thomas Aquinas through scholarship, leadership and campus involvement.
The long purple and gray line
Webster defines “tradition” a half dozen different ways. At the University of St. Thomas, “Tommie Award” defines tradition. On Wednesday, May 8, the Tommie Award will be presented for the 81st time, to Eyo Ekpo, the latest in a long purple and gray line of the university’s best and brightest.
The award has been presented annually (with two exceptions) since 1931, when Ralph Antil edged classmate Don Pates by an 87-82 vote of their classmates. Awards were not given in 1945 and 1946 because of World War II and extremely small enrollments.
The award was titled Mr. Tommy in 1931, and later became the Tommy Award and still later the more gender-neutral Tommie Award.
In a 2007 St. Thomas magazine story, Pat Nemo and Marie Connor ’07 wrote that the “announcement was bold: The Mr. Tommy Award, vowed a 1931 Purple and Gray story, ‘promises to be the biggest event of its kind in the history of the school.’ Hyperbole aside, the College of St. Thomas student newspaper (and predecessor of The Aquin) thought it had hit on a winner in the spring of 1931: a contest to name ‘the representative St. Thomas student’ based on ‘popularity, scholastic standing and extracurricular activity.’”
Voting procedures and criteria for winning have changed somewhat over the years along with the name, but the heart of the award remains unchanged since its inception – recognition of the St. Thomas “senior who, according to UST students, faculty and staff, best represents the ideals of St. Thomas Aquinas through scholarship, leadership and campus involvement.”
In the beginning
The award was initiated in the early years of the Great Depression. According to Joseph B. Connors, author of Journey Toward Fulfillment, a history of the College of St. Thomas, times were tough on campus in the early ’30s.
The stock market had crashed in late 1929, bringing on the Great Depression. On campus, the old Administration Building had been condemned (again) by city inspectors, who gave the administration a month to vacate the building. Archbishop Austin Dowling, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, died Nov. 29, 1930. “It was to be more than a year before a new archbishop would arrive to take over direction of the St. Paul archdiocese,” Connors wrote.
But as Connors pointed out, “Paradoxically, it was a period of accomplishment.” The trustees voted to build a new administration building and a classroom building. Enrollment, which had been 490 in 1930, jumped to nearly 650 in 1931.
Despite the bleakness of the times, morale throughout the student body was good. The students generally felt confident that the school was advancing academically. They seemed, too, to have felt an increased sense of being part of a distinctive collegiate community. The academic year of 1930-31 brought the first strictly collegiate yearbook, the Aquinas. Within that same year, an important campus tradition was started with the election of the first “Mr. Tommy,” a student chosen by the student body as an embodiment of qualities held in special esteem at the College. The first person to bear the title was Ralph Antil, of Maple Lake, Minnesota, a campus leader who had maintained a high scholastic average while starring in football and basketball and being captain of the 1930-31 teams in both sports.
Antil was the first Mr. Tommy, but other historical “firsts” also have been recorded.
This year marked the first time that two students – Bernard Van Demark and Frank Haider – shared the award. A tie vote was recorded again in 1943 when James B. Gergen and Eugene C. Neitge shared the award.
Norbert Robertson was the recipient of the Mr. Tommy Award, but times were different back then. “He was the first Tommie to be married with a child,” said Gwen, Robertson’s wife of 60 years. “It was war time and the war was just over.”
Charles Williams Jr. never paid much attention to being first black award winner. “I understand that I was the first black student to win the Mr. Tommy Award,” he said, “but I never paid much attention to that. I was just a member of the student body and there was no emphasis on black students on campus, though St. Thomas always welcomed students of color. Being named the outstanding senior affected my life by reinforcing the sound moral and personal values instilled in me by my parents.”
Rachel Wobschall, from Waseca, Minn., became the first woman in the award’s 51-year history to win it. It was named the Tommy Award at that point. Today, Wobschall is the executive director of Alumni and Constituent Relations. Interviewed in 1981 by Anne Etzell in The Aquin, the student newspaper at the time, Wobschall said, “I didn’t know until the day of preliminary voting that I was up for the award. It’s the highest honor I could imagine. I was so surprised.”
Wobschall was highly involved on campus. She was president of the All College Council (ACC), a member of the President’s Student Development Council, Spanish Club, Liturgical Choir, the Alcohol and Drug Education Committee and Advisory Council on Religious Affairs; in addition, she was a former ACC vice president for academic affairs and was class representative her freshman and sophomore years.
One year later, William Vouk, from St. Stephen, Minn., became the first St. John Vianney Seminary student to win the award. The Aquin reported that he was majoring in philosophy, was a tutor-teaching assistant with the St. Thomas’ Philosophy Department, and a member and former chairman of the Pro-Life Subcommittee of the St. John Vianney Apostolic Life Committee, coordinator of the seminary’s Christian Children’s Fund, and a member of the CST Democrats.
Aquin staff writer Lou Anne Coyle wrote that Vouk said that as a Tommy Award winner he was “‘very atypical. It’s kind of a fluke that I won. It’s still a surprise, especially since the rest of the guys (the other three finalists) were such great guys.’ Vouk said the seminarians were very supportive and wanted to get ‘one of their own’ elected. He said he feels that the Tommy Award represents the model St. Thomas student.”
Tommies of note
Following graduation, Tommie Award winners sometimes remain on campus or come back to campus. Six award winners are employed by St. Thomas:
- Steve Fritz ’71, director of athletics
- Mark Dienhart ’75, executive vice president and chief operating officer
- Joe Sweeney ’77, head coach, women’s cross country, and track and field programs
- Rachel Wobschall, ’81, executive director, Alumni and Constituent Relations
- Steve Hoeppner ’84, executive director, Development
- Elizabeth (Baniak) Zupfer ’91, manager, alumni systems, Alumni and Constituent Relations
Through the accompanying purple-tinted sidebars, they have shared their thoughts on what it has meant to them to have won the Tommie Award.
If one reads through the entire list of 82 award winners, and soon to be 83 with the addition of Eyo Ekpo, you likely will recognize many who were prominent members of the community in the years following their final march through the Arches. Three of those Tommies are highlighted here:
1937 E. Harvey O’Phelan, M.D.
A former member of the board of trustees at St. Thomas, Harvey O’Phelan served for many years as a doctor to the Minnesota Twins. He often patched up St. Thomas athletes, even going to Cuba with the baseball team in 2000. Two sons, Sean and Edward, graduated from St. Thomas in the 1970s, as did his father, James, in 1906.
1941 James Shannon
The straight-A student graduated in three years with a major in Latin, was ordained a priest and, at age 35, became president of St. Thomas. He served from 1956 to 1966. Pope Paul VI named Shannon a bishop and he served until 1969, when he left active ministry. He later married and served in the administration at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M., before returning to the Twin Cities as president of the Minneapolis Foundation and then the General Mills Foundation.
1955 Francis Mach
Director of athletics at St. Thomas from 1968 to 1992, Mach said his “most gratifying accomplishment was playing a significant role in re-establishing the men’s athletic program to prominence in the MIAC, and the rare opportunity to start an athletics program for women and watch it prosper.” What he liked most about St. Thomas were his fellow students: “The many friends were unpretentious, serious about studies and fun loving.” Three Mach children graduated from St. Thomas.
Back to the future
Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish, essayist, historian, teacher and social commentator, may have been right when he said: “History is the essence of innumerable biographies.”
The University of St. Thomas has been blessed to have had “innumerable biographies” since its founding in 1885 by Archbishop John Ireland, and among them have been numerous Tommie Award winners.
If Tommie history is any indication of the future, generations of Tommie Award winners will continue to be outstanding student leaders and citizens who will uphold the “ideals of St. Thomas Aquinas through scholarship, leadership, and campus involvement.”
A refugee from Uganda who figured out how to save the lives of poor children around the world by collecting millions of used bars of soap from hundreds of U.S. hotels will share his story in an upcoming lecture at the University of St. Thomas.
Derreck Kayongo, whose family fled Uganda during the Idi Amin era and is now a U.S. citizen, will talk on “Tapping Your Power to Create Social Change” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 13, in Woulfe Alumni Hall North of Anderson Student Center, located on the university’s St. Paul campus.
His talk, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the University Lectures Committee at St. Thomas.
Kayongo came up with the idea for his Atlanta-based Global Soap Program in the early 1990s when he first arrived in the United States and stayed in a Philadelphia hotel. Puzzled by the new bar of soap left in his bathroom each day, he tried to return it to the concierge because he thought he was being charged for it. “When I was told it was just hotel policy to provide new soap every day, I couldn’t believe it.”
He told the story to his dad, a former soap maker in Uganda.
“My dad said people in America can afford to throw it away. But I just started to think, ‘What if we took some of this soap and recycled it, made brand new soap from it and then sent it home to people who couldn’t afford soap?’” he told CNN, which two years ago named him one of its Top 10 CNN Heroes.
Kayongo started the Global Soap Program in 2009 with his wife, friends and Atlanta-based hotels. Now 1,100 hotel properties around the country are collecting up to 7,500 pounds of used soap bars weekly that are shipped to an Atlanta warehouse where volunteers clean, reprocess and package the bars.
“We do not mix the soaps because they come with different pH systems, different characters, smells and colors,” he told CNN. “We sanitize them first, then heat them at very high temperatures, chill them and cut them into final bars. It’s a very simple process, but a lot of work.”
The program is producing up to 30,000 new bars of soap per week. They are distributed for free, along with hygiene education, to refugees, disaster victims, homeless families and people living in extreme poverty in the United States and nearly 30 countries around the world.
While Kayongo has become a U.S. citizen and college graduate, he knows from experience that many refugees, in Africa and elsewhere, lack access to basic sanitation.
Washing hands, he says, is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and respiratory infections that take the lives of more than 2.4 million children each year.
“Our innovative model means our hotel partners can save money on disposal costs and receive a tax deduction, all while helping people in need around the world,” said Sam Stephens, executive director of the Global Soap Project. “It’s a win-win for the environment, global health and business.”
In addition to his work with soap, Yayongo has worked as a program director for Amnesty International, American Friends Service Committee and CARE International.
More information is available at the Global Soap Project website.
Peace Engineering, a program of the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, will celebrate its 10th anniversary Thursday, May 9, in the Great Room (Room 100) of McNeely Hall on the university’s St. Paul campus.
The event, open to members of the St. Thomas community, begins with a 4:30 p.m. reception. The program runs from 5 to 6 p.m. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP here.
Highlight of the celebration is the premiere of the documentary “Field to Fork,” a film is about Dr. Camille George’s work to engineer the post-harvest processing of breadfruit in Haiti.
“My five-year goal is to feed 100,000 Haitian school kids a day,” she said.
In 2003, George, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, led student-teams from the School of Engineering, French Department and Communication and Journalism Department to St. Vincent and collaborated on preliminary designs for shredding and drying breadfruit.
Later, another team of students studied the entire process of using breadfruit, from harvesting to shredding to drying to grinding it into flour. And in 2012, the School of Engineering, along with Minnesota-based nonprofit Compatible Technology International, held a “Peace Engineering” contest to build and deliver a breadfruit-drying device to the Breadfruit Institute, a subdivision of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawaii.
Breadfruit is an underutilized staple crop long recognized for its potential to provide food security in tropical regions. The fruit, named for its bread-like fragrance, is high in carbohydrates and contains many minerals and vitamins. A significant challenge in taking advantage of this food source, however, is its short shelf life once picked.
In addition to the breadfruit project, George and the Peace Engineering program have worked on a low-power cooling system, solar-powered water-pasteurization system and a method to produce shea butter more efficiently.
A goal of each project is to use engineering to help empower impoverished women and enabled them to profit from their countries’ natural resources.
The May 9 event also celebrates the collaboration of the St. Thomas School of Engineering with the Fetzer Institute, Compatible Technology International, Satag Inc. and the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.
More information can be found at this Peace Engineering website and in this article, “Dr. Camille George Engineers the Future of Breadfruit.”
A triple-bill evening of bluegrass and old-time music – featuring The High 48s, The Roe Family Singers and Becky Schlegel – is coming to the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Friday, May 10.
- The High 48s is a traditional bluegrass band from the Twin Cities and winner of the RockyGrass Bluegrass Band Competition.
- The Roe Family Singers is described as a good-time, old-time hillbilly band from the Mississippi-headwaters community of Kirkwood Hollow, Minn. The band blends old-time sound with a rock-and-roll influence.
- Becky Schlegel grew up in little Kimball, S.D., and followed a career in music rather than ranching. She’s a veteran of The Prairie Home Companion and winner of the Old Time-Bluegrass Artist of the Year Award from the Minnesota Music Academy.
Tickets for the pre-Mother’s Day show are $12 for adults and $8 for moms and students. Kids are free. There are no advance sales.
As a dean, I often hear talk about the “return on investment” from a college education, especially for students majoring in the liberal arts. As an economist, I do not have a particular problem with this concept, so long as the returns on education are measured broadly and completely enough. For example, if one looks only at the pecuniary benefits of an education one is missing some of its most important outcomes and would be greatly undervaluing the return on investment. A discussion of the many nonpecuniary benefits of a liberal arts education could easily fill several more columns. I will leave that discussion to a later date and focus here only on the financial benefits.
Even when discussing the financial benefits, many people, including the national media, make a serious error in focusing exclusively on the first job for which the college senior is prepared. While everyone is relieved when the graduate finds that first paid position, the most important thing about that job is that it leads to a second one, which leads to a third and so on. I am reminded of this fact on the many happy occasions when I run into a former student. Among other of their life’s details, I am always interested to learn where their career paths have taken them. While I never could have predicted in advance where their paths would lead, I am never surprised by even the most unexpected of outcomes. This is because I know that their liberal arts education has prepared them for just about anything.
As a result of their liberal arts education, students do not receive only a limited body of knowledge with which they might practice a profession. Were that the case, many people who graduated 20 years ago would no longer be employable, since the profession for which they might have thought to be training no longer exists. That they still are employable, and that students of today will continue to be employable 20 years in the future, has little to do with any job-related information they may have received and much more to do with important skills they learned. These would include critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills and the ability to consider new ideas on one’s own – to become a lifelong learner.
I believe these learned skills, and others, are the ones that lead our students successfully along their career paths. I was reminded of this fact while reading this year’s Star Tribune feature on 10 Minnesota business leaders to watch in 2013. For those featured, the single most popular college major field of study was history, a major chosen by three of the 10. Other majors included psychology, political science and philosophy.
Obviously, liberal arts graduates do not begin their careers at the top, but the skills they learn in college help lead them there. Let’s be sure to include that fact when calculating the return on investment.
Read more from CAS Spotlight.
To what degree is each of us a good person? Most of us probably see ourselves as a generally good person while recognizing that we occasionally behave in morally or ethically questionable ways. None of us is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Right? Well, researchers of moral psychology want to know not only the degree to which each of us is a good person but also how we generally become good people.
Consider for a moment two extreme historical examples: Martin Luther King Jr. and Adolph Hitler. The degree to which each was a good person is a rather stark contrast. One worked to alleviate gross societal injustices and oppression while the other worked to instigate it. How did each get to be such a person?
We can look to historical biographical sources, of course, to help answer this question. Yet we also want a more general answer that applies not only to these two individuals but also to you and me, and our young generation in particular. How do infants become morally upright adults? Ultimately, psychologists studying morality, such as myself, want to understand moral development so that we can inform teachers how to facilitate, strengthen and support future generations’ moral character. Some psychologists (e.g., the late Lawrence Kohlberg) dedicate their entire career to advance our knowledge of moral development so that we can educate our young to be more like King and less like Hitler.
One of the first generations of psychologists studying moral development (e.g., Kohlberg) focused on understanding how our reasoning about right and wrong changes from childhood to adulthood. The psychologists believed that adults who grow to reason in morally principled ways will behave morally. Plato once said, “To know the good is to do the good.” If we know the morally principled thing to do, then we will do just this. Right? Certainly this early generation of psychologists believed as much. Many studies since have shown that the psychologists weren’t necessarily wrong – there is a positive correlation between moral reasoning development and moral behavior; however, the correlation, even though it is statistically significant, is pretty small, meaning that knowing the right thing to do does not always lead to the person doing the right thing. We have countless examples of this from history as well as from our everyday lives. We regularly see news stories about politicians and Hollywood stars who do things they know are wrong. If we look closely at ourselves, we see that we also sometimes do things we know are wrong, except that unlike the politicians and stars, our wrongdoings are not usually news headlines.
So if people know the right thing to do, why don’t they just do it? This question has inspired some psychologists studying morality to turn their attention away from moral knowledge and reasoning to a concept called moral identity. What is moral identity? It is generally defined as the degree to which moral concerns (e.g., justice, caring, generosity) are a central part of one’s identity (i.e., your sense of who you are). It is a somewhat new concept, with psychologists starting to develop slightly different conceptualizations. Regardless of how psychologists are conceptualizing moral identity, they all assume and are interested in individual differences, meaning that some individuals have a strong moral identity while others have a weak one. Individuals with a very strong moral identity prioritize moral commitments over all other nonmoral commitments, obligating themselves to live consistently with their respective moral concerns; thus, one who has a strong moral identity would feel compelled to be a good person, at least respective to his or her prioritized moral commitments. Theoretically, then, these people would not only know the good but also prioritize and consistently do the good. A person with a weak moral identity, on the other hand, would highly prioritize nonmoral commitments (e.g., having wealth, being attractive, being popular) over moral commitments; thus, he or she would be more likely to know the right thing to do but not act accordingly with their knowledge, presumably because they are more driven by their highly prioritized nonmoral commitments.
Being a psychologist who studies morality, I of course find this notion of moral identity to be quite fascinating. My particular interest in this area surrounds two specific questions: How do we think moral identity is developed over time? How do we best assess people’s moral identity? Given that psychologists are still working on their theoretical conceptualizations of moral identity, there is a lot of work to be done on answering both of these questions. I’ll briefly sketch out some of the ideas and challenges that lie ahead for us.
If psychologists presume that individuals vary in how strong their moral identity is, then they should have some idea about how these differences emerge over time; currently, it seems we have some very general ideas. Some psychologists mention the importance of parenting in early childhood, describing how parents who frequently, consistently and jointly attend to the moral dimensions of situations with their young child will help them to not only build mental images of what it means to be a moral person but also construct memories of morally relevant events and interactions.
Other psychologists have focused on the importance of moral identity formation in adolescence. According to them, adolescence is a time of unique growth in cognitive, social and personal understandings. Individuals in their teens (and early 20s) become better able to construct more complex notions of who they are, now being able to incorporate abstract ideals and traits, possibly moral, into their sense of identity. To date, the most specific theory of moral identity formation argues that individuals must simultaneously develop and increasingly prioritize the values of (a) benevolence and (b) achievement. As the theory goes, these two values are initially independent from one another. As they become increasingly prioritized, the person cannot allocate his or her attention and resources to both – the person either needs to choose one over the other or integrate them. According to this theory, those who integrate the values of benevolence and achievement in their goals and commitments are those who have the strongest moral identity. Initial research has supported such a developmental model, but there is a long road ahead to more fully verifying it. It is hoped that additional explanations and models of moral identity development will also be advanced in the near future to paint a more complete picture of moral identity development from birth through old age.
My other interest in moral identity is how we should best assess it. The currently existing assessments have faced some rather serious criticisms. A few paper-pencil surveys of moral identity exist. The advantages of this type of assessment are that they are very easy for researchers to use and participants to complete. For example, one assessment has several virtues listed at the top of the survey (e.g., caring, fair, generous). Participants are then asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree with several statements about the importance of these virtues. Not surprisingly, all participants rate these virtues as being important to who they are. Individual differences exist, but they are very small.
The main criticism is that surveys such as these underestimate the individual differences in moral identity because, well, who would want to acknowledge that these virtues are not important to them? Psychologists call this social desirability bias, and it is a frequent issue in any research that deals with morality.
The other type of moral identity assessments are lengthy, intensive individual interviews. Social desirability is less of an issue because researchers ask rather general open-ended questions about how the interviewees describe themselves. The main disadvantage, though, is the time and energy it takes psychologists to not only conduct the interviews but also reliably code and analyze the data. Few researchers use this method, and when they do, it takes a rather long time to complete the entire research process.
These are just a few examples of the issues and challenges that researchers currently face in studying moral identity. I am quite confident that exciting theories and research are yet to come. I am most curious about how important researchers will find moral identity to be in doing the good. Maybe one day we can modify Plato’s saying to read, “To prioritize the good is to do the good.”
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Miles Trump ’11 had been on the job at the Waseca County News only a few weeks when a phone call came that no reporter wants to get.
Five teenagers had been on a Saturday morning duck hunt on Lake Elysian in southern Minnesota. Their boat had capsized, and one was missing. Trump, the paper’s sports editor, sports reporter, sports photographer, sports columnist and sports-page designer, soon found himself in the middle of a heart-wrenching story about an athlete dying young.
Brady Hruska, 17, was a wide receiver for the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School football team that was to face Medford that night in the state playoffs.
“I was the one who found out that he died that morning,” Trump said. “Then I was the first one to go out to the scene, and authorities were still looking for his body in the lake.”
Trump posted reports of Hruska’s death on the paper’s website, with pictures of the search effort. After the playoff game that evening, he wrote about the community’s tribute to one of its children. His story, including a photo slide show, was a tribute as well to the small towns he serves around Waseca and to the art of community journalism.
In the next two days, he added a news story about the accident – full of the details and quotes that are the hallmark of good reporting – and a touching column about how proud he was to be part of the Waseca County community. A close reading of those stories shows why Trump deserved to be honored in January by the Minnesota Newspaper Association as New Journalist of the Year for a weekly paper.
Trump is the third TommieMedia veteran in three years to win the award. Jordan Osterman won in 2011 when he was at the Waseca County News, and Shane Kitzman was honored in 2010 when he was the Northfield News sports editor – the job Osterman now holds. They all worked together at TommieMedia in various leadership roles, and in the small world of Minnesota journalism, their lives remain intertwined.
That October Saturday, Trump did not write his usual “gamer” about WEM’s playoff victory.
“What they wanted me to do was write a community reaction story for the football game,” Trump said, “and then they needed someone to actually cover the game, because it was a playoff game. So Jordan came down.”
The Northfield News and the Waseca County News are owned by the same company, Huckle Media, and often share resources.
“You kind of have to, because for sports, especially, it’s only one guy per place,” Osterman said.
But Osterman’s stake in the story was personal, too.
“I’d covered that kid and that team the whole year before, so I knew him pretty well,” Osterman said.
As the story broke, Kitzman was working a shift as Web producer for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. One of his practices was to monitor Twitter for breaking news.
“We only found out because I was reading (Miles’) tweets that were retweeted by Owatonna,” Kitzman said. “When I saw that come down, I thought, ‘Oh boy, oh boy.’”
WCCO sent a satellite truck and reporter Reg Chapman to cover the story.
Trump grew up in Mankato, 30 miles from Waseca. Kitzman is from Northfield, and Osterman is from St. Paul. With their ties to the area and their experience at TommieMedia, the three are well-suited for the do-everything duties of community journalism. For Trump, those tasks have their own special rewards.
In a column he wrote shortly after Hruska died, Trump told about an incident at a Waseca High School volleyball game. A chant started in the student section:
“WE LOVE MILES, CLAP-CLAP, CLAP-CLAP CLAP.”
“That, I can honestly say, was one of the higher points in my life,” Trump wrote, adding that he wasn’t telling the story to brag.
“I feel blessed to have a job that’s appreciated in the community,” he wrote.
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A popular place for undergraduates on a sticky August afternoon in St. Paul might be the trails near the Mississippi River at Hidden Falls or the shady parks around Lake Como. But a summer stroll into Owens Science Hall finds a group of students contemplating some of the deepest mysteries of life: Is the mind separate from the physical structure of the brain? How are memories formed and forgotten? What happens during sleep? These students are not idly musing about such matters; these are neuroscience students, working in laboratories using modern scientific tools to explore how the brain controls thought, learning and behavior.
Questions of how the nervous system influences human behavior can be traced to 3,000 years B.C., when an Egyptian surgeon noticed that soldiers suffering particular head injuries displayed specific kinds of behavioral changes. Nearly 2,500 years later, Hippocrates taught that the brain was the origin of all intellect and emotions. But without the ability to directly observe its complex inner workings, medieval physicians and philosophers discounted the impact of the brain, and attributed thoughts and emotions to other internal organs. Depression, for instance, was said to be caused by an excess of black bile in the liver. This perspective was highly influential, and it persists in some aspects of the modern world, where a Valentine’s Day card evokes feelings of love by showing a heart, rather than a brain.
Although philosophers, poets and playwrights through the centuries could draw upon introspection to gain insight into the mind, the scientific study of the brain was not possible until technology helped to solve key mysteries of its fundamental nature. At the turn of the 20th century, a few scientists applied techniques borrowed from photography, electricity and biology to carefully study the brain and nervous system. Further technological breakthroughs in physics, chemistry and computing during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s allowed nerve cells and brain circuits to be examined directly, and the seeds of neuroscience were planted.
True to these roots, modern neuroscientists approach some of the most intriguing questions in biology and human behavior from a wide range of perspectives. Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary endeavor in which scientists weave webs of collaboration through seemingly distant fields. Molecular biologists who study DNA collaborate with psychologists who use carefully crafted behavioral experiments to explore how genes affect memories. Even the Dalai Lama has paired with functional anatomists to help investigate how meditation impacts the brain. Such a wide range of perspectives and collaborations can bring about insights into human thought and behavior that would not have been possible a decade ago; however, this complexity also can make neuroscience a difficult subject for undergraduates to explore.
Evolution and Growth
At the University of St. Thomas, undergraduate study in neuroscience can trace its origins to a “behavioral neuroscience” concentration first offered by the Psychology Department in 1990; however, this early program did not reflect the interdisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience. As psychology professor Roxanne Prichard noted, “The major did not require much biology, chemistry or advanced math.” Upon being hired in 2006, one of Prichard’s first tasks was to make sure the program addressed the breadth of the field and prepared students to compete for positions in top neuroscience graduate programs. The result was the creation of a new interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, jointly administered by the Biology and Psychology departments. The program began in 2008, offering a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience. Three faculty members were officially affiliated with the fledgling program, and one student graduated with a neuroscience major that year.
The low initial numbers masked tremendous growth the program would soon face. Two more faculty members were hired in 2009 (one each in biology and psychology), and as word spread about the new program, it quickly gained popularity for its interdisciplinary approach. Sibel Dikmen, now a senior, recalled being attracted to the program her freshman year: “I liked that the neuroscience major adds diversity to the sciences. From an educational standpoint, the Neuroscience Program forced me to broaden my horizons.”
Evan Eid, a 2010 graduate who is now a researcher with the Environmental Protection Agency in Duluth, Minn., said the Neuroscience Program provided him with the motivation and focus to complete his studies. “When I heard about the neuroscience major, I jumped at the opportunity. Neuroscience opened up such a fascinating world for me,” Eid said. “I saw my professors’ passion for the subject and that really motivated me to try harder.”
Appealing to a group of students whose interests span traditional disciplines, the program now counts more than 200 degree-seeking students, making neuroscience the university’s largest interdisciplinary program and one of the most popular majors in the College of Arts and Sciences.
In response to this rapid growth, several changes were made to the Neuroscience Program. In 2012, the faculty approved a new structure for the major that brings more cohesion to a body of interdisciplinary coursework that might otherwise feel disconnected. This curricular overhaul also added eight new courses to the neuroscience major that strengthen the program by helping students unify their foundational coursework in biology, chemistry, math and psychology within the framework of neuroscience. The breadth of coursework might seem overwhelming, but Prichard sees it as a clear advantage, particularly for students interested in the health professions. “The program has really given students more choice in their course plan,” she said. “Many students are interested in the body and human health not just from a biological standpoint but also from chemical and psychological perspectives. The Neuroscience Program exposes students to multiple ways of investigation and problem solving.”
Students agree. Adam Wieckert, a senior who transferred to the University of St. Thomas after learning about the Neuroscience Program, said, “The program adds an interdisciplinary approach to understanding life. I think the program is headed in the right direction.”
The rapid increase in numbers of students and courses has raised some challenges. Almost immediately, the Biology and Psychology departments had to hire several new faculty members to support the program. For these newly hired professors, the Neuroscience Program was a significant reason for joining the College of Arts and Sciences. Sarah Heimovics, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist hired by the Biology Department in 2012, was particularly attracted by the opportunity to help build a strong Neuroscience Program. “I was thrilled to join a university where student interest in neuroscience has grown,” she said. “There is a community of faculty trained in the neurosciences, there is strong support for the program at the administrative level, and there is a large pool of bright, motivated students. These are the primary reasons why I accepted a position here.”
The Neuroscience Program also attracted Sarah Hankerson, a behavioral ecologist who joined the Psychology Department in 2012. “The presence of the program and the strong support by the administration showed a lasting commitment to interdisciplinary education,” she said. “It also demonstrated the ability of the university to adapt to the rapidly changing face of science.” Hankerson, whose own work encompasses both biology and psychology, pointed out the value of this interdisciplinary approach: “Our students gain an understanding of how biological processes impact our daily lives, social interactions and mental health. Being a part of the Neuroscience Program allows me to fully embrace the interdisciplinary nature of my work.”
The College of Arts and Sciences faculty affiliated with the Neuroscience Program reflect the diversity in modern neuroscience. For example, Heimovics might be out in the field observing birds one day and in the lab looking at neurons under a microscope the next. Students benefit from this diversity in approach. As Heimovics remarked, “Moving forward, our students will understand the nervous system at multiple levels of analysis, making them better prepared and more competitive in their chosen careers.”
Making Connections Through Student-Faculty Research
As a result of recent hiring, 10 faculty members from the Biology and Psychology departments are now associated with the Neuroscience Program, and it is an active group. These professors conduct cutting-edge research, attract external scientific funding and publish their work in prestigious scientific journals. But most importantly, these faculty members are committed to involving undergraduate students at every stage of their research programs. Each year, dozens of undergraduate students gain research experience by working alongside professors in labs and during field studies. These opportunities give students the chance to experience modern neuroscience as it happens, often in the role of a scientific colleague. Jadin Jackson, a computational neurophysiologist who joined the Biology Department in 2011, emphasized the quality of these experiences: “The laboratory experience that students gain is on par with specialized graduate student workshops offered at the national and international level. Students gain hands-on experience with neuroscience techniques that deeply enhance and enrich the topics covered in the classroom.”
In addition, some students earn competitive research grants awarded by the University of St. Thomas to conduct their own projects in collaboration with a professor. Chloe Lawyer, a junior who conducts research in neuroscience, has experienced all aspects of scientific projects. But when she started, she wasn’t sure she was interested in research. “When I started working in the lab, I was uncertain about my future,” she said. Lawyer began working on a project in Kurt Illig’s lab in the Biology Department, investigating whether the chemical dopamine impacts memory formation in the brain. Dopamine is widely known as the neurotransmitter that is activated during pleasurable events, like eating chocolate.
Dopamine also is activated by drugs of abuse such as cocaine, and this activation may be the reason such drugs are addictive. After working on this project, Lawyer’s uncertainty cleared. “I quickly realized that I had a passion for research,” she said. Lawyer continued to collaborate with her professor to conduct experiments to discover how the dopamine system changed during adolescence. With experience on two projects, she was ready to design and carry out experiments of her own that would help determine whether the changes in the dopamine system during adolescence might contribute to the prevalence of drug addiction in teenagers.
Working with two other undergraduate students in the lab, Lawyer examined the brains of developing laboratory rats, which are used as a model for human brain development. The students started out by looking at the levels of dopamine receptors – the part of a neuron that receives messages from other cells – and found that these levels were low in juvenile and adult rats, but were very high during adolescence. Genes that encode these receptors were activated more during this time, too. But did this spike in receptor levels have any behavioral relevance? To complete this project, the students conducted two more sets of experiments. In the first, they showed that adolescent rats had a more difficult time learning new information than juvenile or adult animals. In the second, they showed that learning in adolescent rats could be improved by using low doses of drugs that specifically target the activity of dopamine receptors. Finally, in February 2013, the paper detailing their work was published in the high-profile, peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS One. Lawyer and the two other undergraduates are co-authors on the study.
The project took almost two years to complete, but the hard work paid off in a number of ways. Lawyer reflected, “Research has allowed me to form close relationships with the faculty at St. Thomas, and also has connected me with neuroscientists throughout the country.” Neuroscience students make these connections by presenting their findings at national and international meetings, including the Society for Neuroscience and the Association for Chemoreception Sciences conferences. Lawyer plans to use these connections next year as she begins to identify programs where she can pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience, but she said the experience has been about more than networking: “Most of all, it has been an incredible learning experience, and the St. Thomas faculty do a fantastic job at developing students’ skills as researchers.”
Betsy Smith, a junior neuroscience major, also conducts independent laboratory research. She said this has been her best experience at the University of St. Thomas. “It is an incredible opportunity that has allowed me to learn more than I would have in a classroom alone. The collaborative student-faculty research programs are unique because they focus on students being the primary investigators in the lab, allowing them to explore their own interests.”
By working closely with professors on innovative research, students learn how to critically analyze problems and pursue innovative solutions with modern scientific tools. Many recent graduates of the Neuroscience Program have continued their education in medical, dental and graduate schools. Brittni Peterson, a 2010 graduate and co-author on the PLoS One study, is now a Ph.D. student in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. She credits the research experience she had as an undergraduate with helping her find her career path. “The research experience at St. Thomas is exquisite, because it allows for direct, one-on-one interactions between students and faculty,” she said. “At a larger university such as the University of Minnesota, it is uncommon to have these close interactions. I would not be where I am today without the St. Thomas Neuroscience Program and its faculty members.”
In just five years, the Neuroscience Program has made a positive impact on CAS students. With new courses in the curriculum and a larger, more engaged community of faculty and students, the program is in position to support further collaborative learning; however, new challenges can limit these opportunities. As Prichard said, “We have expanded with new faculty hires, but we really need to expand our teaching and research space to provide a high-quality experience.” Psychology professor Uta Wolfe agreed: “Most of us temporarily set up our projects in shared spaces. More research would get done if rooms could be set up permanently.”
Another challenge is that faculty members in the program are split between two departments that are housed in separate buildings at different locations on the St. Paul campus. This physical separation limits the opportunities to work together to foster cross-disciplinary relationships. As Hankerson said, “A closer connection between departments would enhance our communication and collaboration, both in the classroom and in the lab.” Such enhanced collaboration would lead to more and better opportunities for students; “the closer the connection among faculty, the stronger the program.”
The ongoing challenges and changes facing the Neuroscience Program do not diminish the strength of its approach, however. “The future of the program looks bright,” said Dr. Greg Robinson-Riegler, chair of the Psychology Department. “Interdisciplinary study holds the key to answering the ‘big’ questions, and there really are no bigger questions than the nature of the biological mechanisms underlying consciousness and behavior. The Neuroscience Program puts students on the cutting edge of science. I’m proud that UST is one of only a handful of comparably sized institutions to have a rigorous Neuroscience Program.”
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Since you graduated from St. Thomas with an economics major and theology minor, you’ve completed four additional academic degrees – a master’s in theology from Harvard, a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Vienna and a master’s in classics and Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. That’s impressive. Why did you do it?
It wasn’t really planned. The first degree was a product of wanting to continue my education and see where things would end up. Then I got a fellowship from Harvard to study in Vienna for a year, and so I decided to pursue that a little further and ended up staying for personal and professional reasons longer than expected. When I started the joint Ph.D.-M.A. program at Boston University, I knew that I wanted to be in academia, and I knew that I wanted to be in philosophy. Throughout this time, the studies were never really a burden; I was just happy to wake up each morning doing what I was doing. I’m glad where I ended up.
Did your St. Thomas experience help set you on the path to this advanced study?
Yes, it most certainly did. In addition to the kind of skills and knowledge that I acquired at St. Thomas, my experience with the liberal arts and my study of economics really just ignited a classical desire to know. The nice thing about St. Thomas is that I also had an environment where I could take risks and maybe even make some mistakes and pursue this quest in an environment that was ultimately supportive.
You are a professor of philosophy at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university in Pennsylvania that enrolls some 6,000 students. Does your experience there remind you of St. Thomas? How does it feel to be teaching the liberal arts now, instead of studying them?
It very much does remind me of St. Thomas. It’s about the same size; the students come with a similar background, interest, perhaps potential capacity, etc. Perhaps the people who brought me here saw or kind of felt that there might be some similarities in my undergraduate education and the education they offer here. In terms of teaching versus studying, I would almost undermine the distinction a little bit and just say that I still feel as though I am studying the liberal arts. I’m just leading the group that’s studying them in the classroom and, on occasion, I do the same here with the faculty in various interdisciplinary seminars and reading groups.
Which aspects of your St. Thomas education do you wish to pass on to your own students?
Well there are the basic things; you just want to have them be more knowledgeable about your subject matter and learn the skills of critical thinking and writing and expressing oneself. But what you are really trying to do is get them to open up to the pleasures of both learning about themselves and the world, and to link that in some sense to a project of self-development as not just, let’s say, a basketball player or musician or an engineer, but as persons and then to take that project of self-development and link it up to something greater than themselves like the surrounding community, the world or even God. I say at the beginning of my syllabi that I’m trying to make each of my students a philosopher in the original sense of the word, which is ultimately a lover of wisdom, and so maybe that’s my goal.
As your former economics professor, I was of course interested to watch on YouTube a talk you gave at the University of Scranton that focused on self-interest, greed and corruption from ancient to modern times. Do you think your interest in this topic can be attributed to your training in economics?
What was interesting was the interplay that I would get between my training in economics, which seemed to rely on certain assumptions about what human beings pursue, and then to read philosophers who presented alternative ways of thinking about the human being. In the end, I learned that it is important to think economically about buying butter, flat-screen TVs, cars and so on, but what a long tradition of philosophy suggests is that we might want to resist applying this type of thinking to all aspects of our lives.
Your first book, Reading Nietzsche through the Ancients: An Analysis of Becoming, Perspectivism, and the Principle of Non-Contradiction, is scheduled to be published this year. Congratulations. How are you linking Nietzsche to the ancient Greek philosophers?
The purpose of the book is just trying to figure out what Nietzsche is up to and to clarify what his philosophical positions are. What the book ends up saying is that Nietzsche’s philosophy is largely a revival of views that can be found in the pre-Socratic philosophy and poetry of ancient Greece. One important upshot of this reading, I think, is that the debates that Nietzsche’s philosophy has initiated are not actually that new, but rather very, very old, and therefore it turns out that the study of the history of philosophy is always a timely and relevant affair.
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Highlights of the event include the announcement of inductees to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honors fraternity; the selection of students to the Guild of St. Ansgar, named in honor of the first Christian missionary to Scandinavia; and the announcement of 15 female juniors to the Guild of St. Lucia, in honor of Gustavus’ Swedish heritage. Both guilds recognize academic, extra-curricular, and leadership achievements.
In addition, eight seniors and five juniors will be honored as this year’s Albert G. Swanson and Gerhard T. Alexis Scholars. The Swanson and Alexis awards are given annually to the seniors and juniors who have achieved the highest cumulative grade point average through the 2012-13 academic year.
The Honors Day Convocation speaker will be Associate Professor of Political Science and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Alisa Rosenthal, who last spring was named the 2012 recipient of the Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching, the faculty’s highest accolade for teaching excellence.
Scheduled events for the day are as follows:
- 9:30 a.m. / Coffee reception / Johns Courtyard
- 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. / Books in Bloom Exhibition / Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library
- 10:30 a.m. / Honors Convocation / Christ Chapel
- 1 p.m. / Communication Studies Honors Reception / Torrey Atrium, Beck Academic Hall
- 1-6 p.m. / Senior Studio Art Majors’ Exhibition / Hillstrom Museum of Art
- 1:30 p.m. / Senior Honors Recital 2013 / Jussi Björling Recital Hall
- 1:30-3 p.m. / Political Science Research Symposium / Old Main, second floor
- 7:30 p.m. / Gustavus and Vasa Wind Orchestras Spring Concert / Jussi Björling Recital Hall
For more information about Honors Day events, contact the Gustavus Office of Marketing and Communication at 507-933-7520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Contact: Media Relations Manager Matt Thomas
Last summer I witnessed the arrival of the Dolly Fiterman art collection on campus. Now retired, Fiterman was an influential dealer, collector and benefactor in the Twin Cities art scene. Each work from her collection had been carefully protected with bubble wrap and cardboard for its journey. As student assistants unwrapped the art, they revealed works by famous modern artists and intriguing pieces by new names, too. As an instructor of modern and contemporary art, I recognized a great opportunity in this generous donation: to lead an exhibition seminar for graduate students in art history using the works in the Fiterman collection.
An exhibition seminar differs from a regular graduate seminar in that, in addition to working on individual research projects, students produce a coherent exhibition with that research. Unlike typical graduate courses, having an exhibition focus in a course provides opportunities for student research to find a real-world audience beyond the classroom – the exhibition visitors who see the artworks, read the wall labels, and peruse the catalogue.
In 2007 I led a similar seminar on national identity and the historical design of printing types. The students’ research for that course resulted in a 2008 exhibition held at Minnesota Center for Book Arts titled “Face the Nation: How National Identity Shaped Modern Typeface Design, 1900-1960.” Their research is still accessible at the exhibition’s website (www.stthomas.edu/facethenation). I knew from that experience that another exhibition seminar would be a rewarding experience for students and teacher alike.
The objective of a seminar built around the Fiterman collection was for students to undertake original research and share what they found, both in the scholarly format of a journal article and in the functional format of wall labels and exhibition catalogue entries. Putting this in practice would lead us to ask this fundamental question: How does one undertake and present research about modern art effectively, engaging with complex ideas yet producing a report that is of practical use and limited length, and is coherent for a given audience? This is a question of great importance for the two traditional subdomains of the art history discipline: the academy and the museum. Neither is served by the notion that intellectual and pragmatic approaches to talking about art are strangers to each other. We would need to develop strategies and skills for integrating these approaches.
From Handling Artwork to Writing Museum Labels
For students to experience the full spectrum of research challenges, I required that each investigate both well-known and lesser-known, or even unknown, artists. For well-established artists, a bulk of existing scholarship should be consulted and synthesized in order to advance knowledge on the topic. On the other hand, for little-known artists, the challenge is not too many sources to consult but too few.
Whether there was a wealth or dearth of available information about a particular artist, students had the extraordinary experience of having direct access to the artworks themselves. Once the artists were assigned, preliminary research conducted and best practices for the physical handling of artworks reviewed, the seminar moved from the classroom to the art storage space that had been set aside in the Murray-Herrick Campus Center. For three weeks in the middle of the semester, students took turns presenting their research-in-progress and showing their works to the class.
Working with artworks directly is a special opportunity. In typical art history classes, students experience works of art as digital images projected on a classroom screen. With the actual art in front of us, we could perceive subtleties of color, texture and, of course, scale that are lost in a photo on a screen. In addition, as unique artifacts of human creation, artworks have what German cultural critic Walter Benjamin famously called an “aura,” which is lost or compromised in photographic reproductions. This artistic presence also added to the excitement of our class meetings in the storage space.
After conducting preliminary research on three artists, each student chose two artists to pursue further. I encouraged students to build persuasive arguments for their projects using ideas first advanced by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams in their book The Craft of Research. Analyzing the key parts of a research argument – the claim that the author wants to prove, the reasons for believing the claim, and the evidence that can demonstrate the persuasiveness of those reasons – we discussed how these parts manifested not only in scholarly articles but also in other formats: lectures, exhibition labels and exhibition catalogue entries.
Using feedback from me and from each other, students refined their arguments and entered the last stage of the seminar: expressing their research results in very different formats. For each project, students were required to write an essay suitable for an academic audience, and also a museum label and catalogue entry that would be suitable for an on-campus exhibition. Faced with this challenge, students acutely felt the differences between these two worlds. Readers of academic journals expect exhaustive research, clear citation of sources and a patient layout of a complex argument. Exhibition visitors, on the other hand, seek engaging and accessible written guidance for viewing the work of art in front of them. They are likely to skip labels that do not provide that guidance concisely. While the academic articles could each be 12 pages long, the museum labels could be no more than 150 words each.
Museum label writing is a specialized skill. The brevity and straightforwardness of the resulting text belies the effort required to make it work well. One of my favorite seminar meetings happened late in the semester, when Erika Holmquist-Wall, a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (and a 2006 graduate of our master’s program) visited our class to consult students on professional practices of writing effective museum labels. In small-group discussions that resembled professional label-editing workshops, Holmquist-Wall guided students in revising their texts to speak more effectively to museum visitors.
The research projects that the seminar students accomplished were remarkable, and hearing about their findings made me doubly excited about the gift of the Fiterman collection to St. Thomas. I was introduced to new artists and learned more about familiar ones from the diligent historical exploration my students undertook.
Fiterman played a major role in the Twin Cities art scene, and so it comes as no surprise that some of the creators represented in the collection were artists of local renown. I enjoyed learning more about the paintings of Aribert Munzner, the prints of Eugene Larkin, and the sculptures of Harriet Bart, for example. The hard-edged, high-saturation prints by Peter Busa looked familiar in style to me, and then student Marquette Bateman-Ek explained why: Busa also painted the bright, crisp murals on the Valspar building in Minneapolis.
Several projects expanded my understanding of the artworks by decoding their subject matter and symbolism. What was going on in Miriam Schapiro’s silhouetted version of a “Punch and Judy” puppet show? Student Kate Tucker deciphered the work, noting references to artist Frida Kahlo and unveiling the collage as a feminist effort both to address domestic violence and to point to an ancestry of female artists. What accounted for the spiraling shapes in the prints and drawings of Nigerian artist Uche Okeke? Student Lauren Greer discovered that those shapes were derived from uli, an art form used by women of the Igbo culture for body decoration and wall painting. Was there purpose to the seemingly random objects – nails, shoeprints, sunglasses – that appear in Pop artist James Rosenquist’s print in the collection? Bateman-Ek explained that they actually reflect an autobiographical story of a traumatic era in the artist’s personal life.
In addition to these decryption keys, student research uncovered the processes employed by artists whose works are in the Fiterman collection. French photographer Georges Rousse is represented in the collection by several photographs of messy, graffitied interiors. Student Carin Jorgensen explained Rousse’s method of entering a building slated for demolition, painting figures on its walls, and taking a photograph as the enduring memory of the doomed space. Student Barbara Quade-Harick traced the source of Nancy Graves’s brightly dotted abstract prints from the early 1970s to NASA maps of the moon. Artist John Raimondi is represented in the collection by two very different works: a realistic color drawing of wolves and a tabletop-size model of his monumental abstract sculpture “Cage.” In interviews with the artist, student Brady King discovered his manner of addressing human emotional concerns through a process of moving from realistic animal imagery toward ever more abstract visual language.
Some students particularly impressed me with the originality of their research. Alyssa Thiede learned that one of her artists, local painter Ta-Coumba Aiken, thought of his art-making as a healing process. Thiede considered this idea not only through typical art-historical methods, such as decoding the traditional symbolism of the paintings; she also looked into the very different field of health studies to gauge whether forms such as those in Aiken’s paintings fit with what current studies have concluded about the therapeutic effects of art in health care settings. Abby Hall looked into a late print by painter Milton Avery, and made a persuasive case that it reflected influence from his fellow New York artist and former student Mark Rothko, the noted abstract expressionist; heretofore, scholars had observed influence that Avery had on Rothko, but Hall proposed that late in his life it appears the influence went in the other direction as well, as indicated by both visual and biographical evidence. Would I believe that Avery the teacher could learn something from Rothko the student? After learning so much from the students in this seminar, I had no doubt that was possible.
The donation of artworks from Fiterman has added valuable, beautiful and interesting works of contemporary art to the collections of the University of St. Thomas. The “Insights into Modern Art” exhibition (on display in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center lobby gallery through May 26) offers a chance for the public to see choice works from this collection. At the same time, it serves as a showcase of the pedagogy that this gift has enabled. The students in my seminar learned valuable lessons about working directly with contemporary art, a kind of professional training that was made possible by the donation. I look forward to future opportunities both to display the university’s modern collections in dynamic ways and to teach future students via such hands-on learning.
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Ela Gandhi, a renowned peace activist and recipient of numerous awards for her work in promoting nonviolent political change, will appear at Carleton College on Wednesday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall. Entitled “The Challenges Facing Post-Apartheid South Africa,” Gandhi’s presentation is free and open to the public.
Carleton Announces its 2013 Lindesmith Lecture, “A Buddhist Imagines Islam: Gendün Chöphel in India”
Carleton College will present its 2013 Lindesmith Lecture on Thursday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Boliou Hall Room 104. Entitled “A Buddhist Imagines Islam: Gendün Chöphel in India,” the lecture will be given by Donald S. Lopez Jr., Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies and the Department Chair at the University of Michigan. This event is free and open to the public.
Six senior studio art majors at Gustavus Adolphus College will have their work displayed at the College’s Hillstrom Museum of Art beginning May 4 through June 2. The exhibition, !Look At That, Art Attack! Senior Art Majors Exhibition 2013 will hold an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 4.
The exhibition is a culminating event in the studio art major’s curriculum and a required component of the major. The exhibition demonstrates the diversity of styles and approaches taken by the student artists, some of whom intend to continue studying or working in art after graduation.
On display will be works by Miranda Bickett (North Mankato, Minn.), Margit Bren (Chatfield, Minn.), Karl Brudvig (North Oaks, Minn.), Leif Erik Estenson (St. Peter, Minn.), Olivia Thao Nguyen (Mankato, Minn.), and See Thor (St. Paul, Minn.).
Their works were created using a variety of different media such as painting, digital design, sculpture, ceramic, or mixed media. Each artist is represented by artwork and by a personal statement reflecting her or his artistic goals and aesthetic philosophy. Faculty from the College’s Department of Art and Art History served as jurors for the exhibition, selecting the strongest works from a group of submissions by each student. The exhibit was installed with the assistance of the student artists, and a number of the works on view are being offered for sale.
The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. The Museum’s regular hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Museum’s website at gustavus.edu/finearts/Hillstrom.
Media Contact: Media Relations Manager Matt Thomas
Gustavus Adolphus College senior Sarah Lucht ’13 has been awarded a Fulbright Study/Research Grant to Iceland for 2013. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Lucht’s Fulbright Grant will allow her to work in Dr. Jórunn Eyfjörð’s laboratory at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. Dr. Eyfjörð primarily studies cancer genetics and genomic instability, with a focus on breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Lucht says that she will be researching full-time on a few different studies in the laboratory, most likely related to breast cancer gene mutations.
“I am really excited about gaining hands-on experience doing cancer research, as I plan to attend Harvard School of Public Health after completing the Fulbright to obtain a Masters in Epidemiology focused on cancer epidemiology and prevention,” Lucht said. “I am hopeful that my experiences in Iceland will supplement my graduate studies well and provide me with an important base of knowledge as I go forward.”
Lucht has spent the past four years at Gustavus building up that base of knowledge. The Brooklyn Center, Minn., native is scheduled to graduate this spring with a double major in biochemistry & molecular biology and chemistry. Lucht says that one of the advantages of attending Gustavus has been the close and quality interaction she has received from several of her professors.
“Dr. Amanda Nienow from the Chemistry Department has been incredibly supportive of my learning here at Gustavus since my first semester when she taught my section of General Chemistry,” Lucht said. “I have profited greatly from her wise advice as a mentor, professor, and academic advisor. Dr. Jeff Dahlseid from the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Department really encourages me to consider my role in the world, inside and outside of science. His love of vocational reflection has rubbed off on me, and I am grateful for every conversation I have had with him.”
Besides spending a considerable amount of time in the laboratories of the Nobel Hall of Science, Lucht is a Gustie Greeter, a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, the Elders’ Adopt-A-Grandparent program, and the Tri Beta National Honors Society.
“With her work ethic, intelligence, strong background, and deep interest, I have no doubt Sarah will be successful,” Dr. Nienow said. “Not only does Sarah excel inside the science classroom, she has a true liberal arts mind and loves to learn. She has especially had interest in learning languages and has taken classes in Spanish, Latin, German, and Arabic. In addition to a pursuit of language, Sarah has been involved in our Peer Mentoring program, working with first-year chemistry students to teach them about science and college in general.”
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program awards approximately 7,500 new grants annually and currently operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.
Media Contact: Media Relations Manager Matt Thomas
Dr. Massimo Faggioli, Theology Department, College of Arts and Sciences, is the author of four articles:
- “Is Vatican II Still Relevant?” in Visions of Hope. Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church, ed. Kevin Ahern, Maryknoll, NY, Orbis, 2013, pp. 7-19
- “Chiesa-istituzione e chiesa-movimento: la sfida del secolo,“ Limes. Rivista italiana di geopolitica, 3/2013, pp. 79-86
- “Tendenze in atto nel dibattito sul Vaticano II (2002-2012), Cristianesimo nella Storia XXIV/1 (2013), pp. 1-14
- “Laicita,’” Nuova Informazione Bibliografica, X/1 (2013), pp. 65-83
Dr. Michael Hollerich, Theology Department, College of Arts and Sciences, is the author of two articles:
- “Eusebius of Caesarea,” in James Carleton Paget and Joachim Schaper, eds., The New Cambridge History of the Bible: From the Beginnings to 600, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 529-553
- “Eusebius of Caesarea,” in The Literary Encyclopedia, http://www.litencyc.com/ (London: The Literary Encyclopedia Company, 2013).
Dr. J. Thomas Ippoliti, Chemistry Department, College of Arts and Sciences, had a chapter published March 19, titled “Overcoming Problems Incorporating NMR into the Organic Chemistry Lab,” Chapter 6, pp. 83-90, in the ACS Symposium Series book NMR Spectroscopy in the Undergraduate Curriculum.
On April 27, the University of St. Thomas Geography Department attended the ninth annual Minnesota Undergraduate Geography Symposium hosted by Macalester College. Eighty participants attended from five Midwest colleges that have geography programs. Eleven UST geography students presented the following original research to their colleagues:
- Joe Mueller: “Access to Medical Devices: A Case Study of Florida”
- Joseph Molin: “Quality of Life in the Twin Cities and Nice Ride”
- Chad Miller: “Where Should I Live? Analyzing Neighborhood Quality of Life in the Twin Cities”
- Fartun Dirie: “Measuring Quality of Life in the Twin Cities: Third Space and Traditional Neighborhood Institutions and Mental Maps: Gaining Insight Into the Diverse Somali Perceptions of Residential Desirability in the Twin Cities”
- Mitchell Schaps: “Wind Power Potential in Minnesota”
- Frederik Bjoenness: “Neighborhood Quality in a Global Context”
- Ryan Burke: “Alternative Transportation Clusters in the Seven-County Metropolitan Area, Minnesota, 2013”
- Nicholas Ronnei: “Mapping Isolation in Minnesota: The New Sunshine State”
- Jay Kidd and Emily Jorgensen: “Analyzing Changing Patterns of Carbon Sequestration in Scott County, 1992-2006”
- Chia Lee: “The Rise of Obesity and Its Affect on the Increase of Fitness”