Recent News from Campuses
When Rachel Larson ’15 touched down in Liberia, Africa, just two weeks after graduating from St. Thomas, Ebola was still an international concern. Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by Ebola, had just experienced a small resurgence of the virus after having been previously declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization in May 2015.
Larson described the media coverage at the time as “very hysterical,” which led to some of her friends being concerned for her safety.
But Ebola, in one sense, was precisely why Larson had left her home of Apple Valley, Minnesota, and moved more than 5,000 miles to Liberia, a country of around 4 million people located on the West African coast. She works with Last Mile Health (LMH), an organization partnering with Liberia to repair its health infrastructure.
While LMH was started before the Ebola outbreak, the epidemic highlighted the intense need for such work.
Larson, who double majored in justice and peace studies (JPST) and global health while she was at St. Thomas, was so captivated by LMH and its mission that she decided to graduate early to accept her position.Traveling as a Tommie
While making a move to Africa so soon after graduation might intimidate some people, Larson, who is known for her impeccable organization skills, put her St. Thomas time to good use so she could, in her own words, “immediately contribute” upon graduation.
While applying to colleges, she knew that studying abroad would be a priority for her, and even though she was concerned that it would be too expensive through St. Thomas, she did her due diligence anyway. She came across the Keri Kohut Memorial Scholarship, which is named after a 1993 St. Thomas graduate, that helps psychology, JPST or social work majors study abroad.
She contacted the JPST Department to inquire if she could study in Northern Uganda and have the credits apply, which led her to the new chair – Amy Finnegan.
“I don’t think I ever told Amy this, but I went home that night and looked up the articles she’d published and was really inspired and excited about her research interests and her work in [the area of] health equity,” Larson said. “Amy’s background … led me to assume that JPST would probably be a good fit for what I hoped to learn about.”
Larson ended up majoring in JPST, as well as doing an individualized major in global health. She spent fall 2013 in Northern Uganda and followed that trip – with the help of the aforementioned Keri Kohut Memorial Scholarship – with homestays in India, Argentina and South Africa through the International Honors Program on Health and Community: Globalization, Culture and Care.
She said those trips were beneficial because she was surrounded by people who reminded her to deeply examine what she was experiencing and to not forget the privilege that allowed her to be where she was.
“Gently, [faculty and mentors] challenged us to think critically about the impact we might be having on the people whose homes and communities we were visiting, and the ways in which we might be projecting our own assumptions and experiences on what and who we were learning about,” Larson said.
Alongside her peers, Larson analyzed the complexities of engaging in work to address social, political and environmental challenges both at home and abroad, and how to thoughtfully bring about change. She’s carried that mindset with her, and said that her year abroad greatly informed her decision to move to Liberia.
Finnegan added that she saw Larson flourish while she was abroad. So, when Larson showed up in spring 2015 asking for advice on whether or not she should apply for a job with LMH – one that she would have to graduate early to accept if offered – Finnegan, who knows one of LMH’S founders, Raj Panjabi, was able to confidentially say she thought
Larson should be a good fit for LMH, and that LMH would be a fit for Larson.
“She had all these different paths she could take and was very organized in exploring each of them,” said Finnegan, crediting Larson’s planning skills for her ability to travel so much and still be able to graduate early. “It just made me so happy to think about her there, and what she can bring to Last Mile Health, but also for her, that one of her first jobs would be with an organization that’s so committed to social justice.”Serving the Last Mile
LMH started in 2007 under the name “Tiyatien Health” – which means “justice in health” in a local dialect – and was organized by American health workers and Liberian survivors following the Second Liberian Civil War, which devastated the country’s health care infrastructure. Quickly, the burgeoning organization realized that the greatest needs were in Liberia’s so-called “last mile,” where some people couldn’t access a health care worker because of distance and poverty, and were often dying from treatable diseases, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition.
“Many Liberians have to go to great lengths, including crossing log bridges and hiring canoes to cross rivers and streams, in order to reach the nearest health facility,” Larson said. “Those who can’t walk due to illness, injury, pregnancy or disability are carried in hammocks. In the most remote communities, there’s no electricity to charge a phone to call for support during an emergency – let alone cell service – and often no proper road for an ambulance to drive on, were it possible to call one.”
Travel is complicated, Larson emphasized, because so many of Liberia’s roads are unpaved. The rainy season then results in “unfathomable quantities of mud everywhere,” compounding travel challenges.
As a result, in 2013, “Last Mile Health” emerged with a more focused mission: Close the health gap by bringing health care to these last-mile communities. At the local level, LMH recruits, trains, equips, manages and provides monthly pay to more than 300 Community Health Workers (CHWs) who function as health professionals in their remote communities by providing primary health care services to their neighbors. LMH also currently supports the Liberia Ministry of Health in preparing a program to ensure that, by 2021, the 1.2 million Liberians who live more than 3 miles away from the nearest health facility will have access to a CHW.
Panjabi was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in April 2016, and his work with LMH was profiled by Bill Clinton.
It was LMH’s mission that resonated with Larson.
“I really value that the organization is dedicated to values of health equity and recognizes that health care is something that all people need to live dignified lives,” Larson said.
The outbreak of the Ebola virus that began in March 2014 highlighted the need for such work, especially in Liberia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were around 28,000 cases of Ebola across the world during the epidemic. Liberia and its neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea were the hardest hit. Liberia, with 10,000 cases, had the second-highest number of cases, and the highest death toll, with nearly 5,000 casualties.
A January 2015 report from the World Health Organization noted the lack of doctors in West Africa – at a ratio of one or two to every 100,000 people – as one of the potential reasons for the spread of Ebola. Many facilities also did not have isolation wings, protective equipment or staff trained in infection control.
When Larson arrived in summer 2015, the worst of the Ebola outbreak was over but health workers continued to contain individual occurrences and survey the situation. And while Ebola was a serious threat in Liberia, Larson noted that the “country continues on” and that what was happening on the ground was more nuanced than what was portrayed in the media.Capturing Powerful Images
As a partnerships and development associate with LMH, Larson supports business development, fundraising and communications. She collaborates with various teams to keep up to date on programming, solicits new financial partnerships, maintains relationships with existing donors and communicates with external audiences – including writing grant proposals and reports.
She said that one of her favorite aspects of her job is the variety of it, and that it has grown in ways she hasn’t expected.
In particular, she’s put her photography skills to good use.
“She has a beautiful eye for photography,” said Amy Walburn, the director of national partnerships for LMH. “She has captured some really powerful images of the way our work impacts the communities and beneficiaries we serve.”
Larson said that one of her most memorable experiences was when she traveled to Rivercess County in December 2015 and photographed CHWs completing a training module on child health. As they departed, they received their medicine kits.
“They filed out of the classroom with big blue plastic bags carried on their heads, under their arms, and were walking out of the school and going out into the community,” Larson said. “Some were walking, some were on motorbikes, all going back to villages to provide health care services to the children in their communities.
“I was able to catch a few of them and ask basic questions about how they felt and why it was important to be trained in child health, and heard several stories about how, for a long time, children in their communities have been getting very ill, and, in many cases, dying of these easy-to-treat conditions the CHWs can now treat themselves. It was really exciting to see their excitement, and that this is the beginning of a change for these communities.”‘Make the Impossible Possible’
Larson said she’s grateful for the ways her St. Thomas education – particularly her JPST major – allows her to look critically at large-scale problems, such as the quality of the health care infrastructure in Liberia.
“My education at St. Thomas … taught me the importance of looking at the diverse contributing factors that create and sustain patterns of inequality and marginalization,” Larson said. She cited the situations that have led to damaged health care infrastructures in Liberia as an example. While travel difficulties are an easy problem to point out, she said, to truly understand what is happening, it’s important to look at complex and historical dynamics, such as slavery, the colonization of Africa and politics from the Cold War.
“My pathway helped me to understand the tools and skills to dissect those things,” Larson said. “It’s one thing to know there’s a lot of factors that influence justice and peace, and it’s another to start to have the skills and to think critically.”
Her abilities haven’t gone unnoticed: Finnegan and Walburn both praised Larson in that regard.
“In resources-poor areas, things often don’t go as planned,” Walburn said. “She’s an amazing critical thinker, which gives her the ability to [make contingency plans]. ”
“We’re lucky to have Rachel as a critical member of our partnerships department in Monrovia, [Liberia,] and she’s already made an impact on our work in a short time,” Panjabi said.
For Larson, her ability to make an impact with LMH is why she chose to join them in the first place.
“It’s really rewarding to be working in Liberia at a time when the country’s leadership has made a bold commitment to strengthening health systems. This could really be a turning point for Liberia,” Larson said. “Making the impossible possible. That’s what these folks are doing. There’s so much work left to do, but transformation is already happening in small ways.”
Read more from St. Thomas magazine.
General John W. Vessey, Jr., a great leader and friend to Concordia University, passed away Aug. 18 at the age of 94. A lifelong Lutheran, General Vessey served over 46 years of active military service beginning in 1939 when he enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard and concluding in 1985 as Chairman of the U.S.… Read More
The post CSP Mourns the Loss of General John W. Vessey, Jr. appeared first on Concordia St. Paul.
Visit Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in the education building on the east side of the State Fair grounds between 9 a.m.–9 p.m. to speak with knowledgeable staff about undergraduate, bachelor’s completion, and graduate programs and to meet with academic deans on select dates.
Each of Saint Mary’s academic deans will visit the State Fair booth to speak with prospective students about their school’s programs. Visit on one of the following dates to speak with a dean about new things happening in their areas:
- Michael Charron, M.F.A., School of Arts and Humanities: Saturday, Aug. 27, 2–4 p.m.
- Tom Marpe, Ed.D., School of Business and Technology: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2–4 p.m.
- Rebecca Hopkins, Ed.D., School of Education: Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2–4 p.m.
- Todd Reinhart, Sc.D., School of Sciences and Health Professions: Saturday, Sept. 3, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
iPads will be available for visitors to browse Saint Mary’s programs, extracurricular activities, financial-aid packages, and more. The booth will be staffed daily from 9 a.m.–9 p.m. with Saint Mary’s employees from both Winona and Twin Cities campuses eagerly waiting to answer questions.
Prospective students for all programs are invited to stop by the booth to register in a drawing for a Saint Mary’s sweatshirt. Alumni wearing Saint Mary’s gear can pick up window clings and tablet stands.
Former Gustavus Adolphus College Athletic Director James “Moose” Malmquist ’53 died Wednesday morning at the age of 85. Funeral arrangements are being made and will be announced soon.
Malmquist, a 1949 graduate of Grand Rapids High School, enrolled at Gustavus in the fall of ’49 and joined the football team. He was a three-year starter on three MIAC Championship teams under the direction of legendary coach Lloyd Hollingsworth. He started at fullback in 1950 and then moved to linebacker in both 1951 and 1952 and captained the ’52 squad. He earned all-conference honorable mention in 1951 and received both all-conference and all-state honors in 1952. In his senior year, he was honored with the College’s Langsjoen Medal, given to the senior athlete with the highest grade point average. Malmquist is one of a select few players who can boast never having lost a football game to a conference opponent.
Moose graduated in 1953 after having been selected for the College’s Guild of St. Ansgar. He returned to Gustavus in 1957 as a hockey coach and an instructor in physical education. Malmquist left Gustavus in 1958 to become athletic director and head football coach at Texas Lutheran University where he remained for three years before becoming the athletic director and head football coach at Augustana College of South Dakota in 1962. In 1969, Malmquist moved back to northern Minnesota to become the head football coach at Bemidji State University. After five years at Bemidji, he returned to his alma mater in 1974 to become the athletic director and chairman of the Department of Physical Education and Health. He also served as an assistant coach for football and track and field.
Malmquist served as Gustavus’s athletic director from 1974-1997. During his tenure, the Gusties won 82 conference championships and 13 national championships. Under his guidance, the College’s athletic department grew from sponsoring 11 varsity athletic programs to 23. Moose was at the forefront of the growth of women’s intercollegiate sports and supported coaches regardless of their gender or which sport they were involved in. One of the highlights of Malmquist’s tenure directing the athletic department was the planning and construction of the $9 million Lund Center for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, which was completed in 1984. Malmquist served as Chair of the Building Committee and headed a three-person administrative team which oversaw the entire project. Malmquist was also highly regarded by his peers nationally as he served as the president of the NAIA Athletic Directors Association for the 1982-83 school year and was also the chair of the NCAA Division III Football Committee in 1993-94. He was inducted into the Gustavus Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984.
At the time of his retirement in 1997, Malmquist left these parting words: “I have been richly blessed. In my mind’s eye I see the faces of my former players. I recall both their troubles and their triumphs. I revel in their accomplishments and their successes. I remember the big wins and a lot of tough losses. I remember best the friendships, the laughter, the fulfillment and the love.”
Malmquist is survived by his four children – Mike ’77, Casey ’79, Lauri, and David ’83.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
Minnesota had an obesity rate of 27.6% in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gregory Dodd ’15 aims to improve that statistic in Saint Paul.
As the health and fitness coordinator for Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, Dodd develops and manages fitness programs that collaborate with local businesses and aim to be accessible for the entire community.
“I work with a lot of health maintenance organizations, like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Health Partners, developing strategies to directly hit areas that most suffer from the obesity epidemic,” said Dodd, who completed his B.S. in Healthcare and Human Services Management at Saint Mary’s University.
The fitness programs offered by Saint Paul Parks and Recreation are held in a large number of locations and are low-cost, often free. The convenience and affordability of the programs make them accessible to all population segments.
Dodd’s most popular program, Fitness in the Parks, offers a wide variety of free fitness classes in 18 parks throughout the summer and early fall. Community members can try something once or attend every week, with opportunities to learn everything from yoga, to running and biking, to kickboxing. Every age and skill level can find a class suitable to their unique needs. The program generates over 1,000 hours of free fitness and sees large participation numbers—between 15,000 and 20,000 people in 2015. Dodd is currently working on a proposal to expand the program into Minneapolis parks.
A new program being implemented this October will bring low-cost fitness classes to businesses throughout Saint Paul. According to Dodd, Fitness on the Go will partner with local fitness and exercise organizations, such as Tula Yoga and the Saint Paul Athletic Club, to bring classes and wellness plans to businesses that want to offer their employees an opportunity to stay active during the work day. The organizations will work with each individual to determine their unique health and fitness needs.
Dodd values the real-life lessons he learned in class from professors and peers as a bachelor’s degree student at Saint Mary’s University.
“Listening to other people’s real-life experiences has helped me make decisions about my programs,” Dodd explained.
Saint Mary’s professors work in the field and teach classes concurrently, so they understand the struggles and responsibilities of adult learners.
“The professors don’t separate school from the real world,” Dodd said. “They realize you have a job as well as being a student and understand your responsibilities in the real world. There is a good blend of education and life outside school. That’s why I’m going straight through and continuing classes.”
After completing his bachelor’s degree, Dodd enrolled in the M.A. in Organizational Leadership program. His motivation to make a difference as a good leader inspired him to learn more about the subject and hone his own leadership skills.
“I’m learning about leadership from new perspectives and looking at it in different ways,” Dodd said. “I manage several businesses and organizations for each of my fitness programs, so I’m applying what I learn in class to my work every day.”
WINONA, Minn. — The Saint Mary’s University Volunteer Mentors are encouraging individuals, organizations, and churches in Winona to submit requests for service for the New Student Volunteer Day event.
New Student Volunteer Day is an annual fall event where new students volunteer and engage with the Winona community. Volunteers will be available from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, to help with fall cleaning, rake leaves, paint, or assist with other chores. The students are ready to work if you supply the materials needed (paint, brushes, rakes, tools, etc.).
Requests must be made by Friday, Sept. 2, to the Office of Campus Ministry at Saint Mary’s University at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email request, please include contact information, a description of the work you need students to do, your address, and the estimated amount of time the work will take to complete with three students.
WINONA, Minn. — The Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts will hold auditions Saturday, Sept. 3, for its holiday production of The Nutcracker, to be performed at Saint Mary’s University Nov. 30 through Dec. 4. Auditions will begin at 1 p.m. at the Valéncia Arts Center, 1164 West 10th St.
The Nutcracker tells the timeless tale of Clara as she is taken into a magical world filled with dancing candy, daring sword fights, and beautiful fairies.
There are numerous opportunities to become involved in this production, from performing in the spotlight to assisting behind the scenes. Roles are available for actors, dancers, and community members ages 5 and older (including adults) at all levels of experience.
The Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts is a nonprofit arts organization, which offers programming in dance, music, visual art, and theatre, year-round. Classes, lessons, workshops, and camps are offered for youth ages 3 and older through adults at the Valéncia Arts Center.
MCA’s 9th biennial production of The Nutcracker will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 3, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. A special abridged performance geared towards families with young children will be on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m. with all tickets set at $5.
For more information, visit www.smumn.edu/MCA, e-mail email@example.com, or call 507-453-5500. Auditions are free and open to the public.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
CAPTION: MCA student Megan Lynch as Clara in a former production of The Nutcracker.
Danielle E. Miller ’11 didn’t set out to be an artist. Instead, art found her at a time in her life when she needed it most.
And now her art is inspiring others. Miller, joined by 22 international artists, is currently exhibiting at The Chelsea International Fine Art Competition in New York City. The show, which runs through Aug. 23, is on display in Agora Gallery, located in the heart of the famous Chelsea Art District.
“It’s always been one of my dreams to show in New York,” Miller said. “It’s a big stepping stone in my career.” At the opening reception, Miller was told that thousands of artists applied to be in the show.
Miller is showing a series of mixed-media sculptures—called the “Cat Eye Marble Series”—made from chicken wire, soft organic paper from books, and organza fabric.
According to the gallery website, Miller’s “mixed-media sculptures are works of exquisite balance. Miller creates small-scale pieces that are compact yet airy and graceful in composition. She manipulates her materials to create new and thought-provoking textures. All the while her editor’s eye allows for beautifully clear lines.”
The Inver Grove Heights native has shown her sculptures at a number of galleries since graduating from Saint Mary’s with an art studio major. She was part of a Saint Mary’s alumni show in 2013 in Winona and has exhibited in St. Paul, California, and North Dakota.
Her dream is to one day give up her day job and become a full-time artist.
“People may say you are crazy for being an artist,” she said. “It may not pay the bills but it’s worthwhile and if it makes you happy, that’s what you should be doing.”
Once considering a career as a veterinarian, Miller changed her major course of study after taking a drawing class her sophomore year—as well as receiving ongoing support from the faculty in the Department of Art and Design. She’d always been interested in art, but when she took a sculpture class her junior year, she especially found her niche.
“All artists love being creative and finding new avenues to work with, and I like texture and color and shapes and that’s what brought me to sculpture,” she said. “This book art I’ve been doing actually started at Saint Mary’s. My professor handed me a book, said to just carve into it; it was an open assignment.
“I like reusing different materials,” she added. “That’s why I kept up with using book pages. I like the texture, and each book I’ve found has a different color and tint to the pages. The fabric idea I got from my mom who taught me how to sew.”
Faculty and staff at Saint Mary’s who taught and worked with Miller call her a Lasallian success story.
Miller is quiet when she hears the label. She admittedly shies away from praise, but it’s a title she has proudly earned. “I had a hard time my freshman and sophomore year in college,” she explains.
A Cardinal track and field athlete, Miller found herself going through some difficult family changes, all the while working hard to excel, despite a learning disability.
Diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorders), Miller says she learns a little bit slower than other people. Though articulate, she pauses, choosing her words carefully.
“It was a dark time,” she said. “But then I found art. That lifted me up out of the darkness, and my professors helped me out. My favorite year at Saint Mary’s was my senior year; I got more into my Art Studio Major classes and was spending more and more time in the art building—more than most, I confess. I skipped out on a lot of sleep and skipped a lot of meals to work on art. I thought at that time it was all for my senior show, but now I think it was because I loved working on new art pieces and discovering new ideas.”
Miller said professors like Rob McColl and Preston Lawing had an open-door policy, and she frequently went to them to ask questions. And they always found time to answer them all.
Additionally, the Student Success Center, she said, helped her overcome learning obstacles, and she is grateful to them and to all her cheerleaders at home and at Saint Mary’s.
McColl has followed Miller’s career with interest. “Since graduating, Danielle has kept all of us in the art department updated on her art work, so, as exciting as it was, it was no real surprise when the postcard for her New York show arrived in the mail this summer. The art faculty is so pleased that Danielle’s creative work is getting such notable recognition.”
Miller is eager now to focus on creating new art. “I have hundreds of ideas of taking this series to a different level,” she said. She lists her next goals as: work on more art, show more art, get her own studio, show in a different country, show at the Walker Art Center, have a solo show, have an art piece in a major art collection and an art museum, and give back to the Saint Mary’s Department of Art and Design.
She tells other young artists to follow their dreams. “Do not listen to anyone who may detour you from reaching them,” she said. “Life is tough sometimes; you just have to remember who you are and remember your dreams.”
Karen Hemker, director of Saint Mary’s Disability Services, said that Miller serves as an inspiration to others who face challenges in life. “Danielle was not afraid to seek support, and therefore, was able to find her passion,” she said. “Pursuing her dream, which has led to a career, is a testament to her strength and resilience.”