St. Olaf Campus News
Seven teams of computer science students from St. Olaf College presented papers at the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium hosted by the University of Northern Iowa.
The symposium focused on integrating computer-based technology into the classroom and making it part of the curriculum.
All of the St. Olaf students’ interdisciplinary projects centered on 3-D images and computer vision. Their work stemmed from projects completed as part of the Advanced Team Project and Senior Capstone courses in the Computer Science Department. Projects ranged from a 3-D model of Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences to ways to improve camera calibration and optimization to get better 3-D models from photos.
The symposium also included a programming competition. Teams competed to solve eight programming problems correctly in three hours without the use of the internet. St. Olaf teams placed second, third, and fourth.
St. Olaf College student Emily Sackett ’16 has received a history scholar award that will enable her to spend five days in New York City this summer meeting with prominent scholars and touring some of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s archives.
The Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award recognizes undergraduates who have demonstrated academic and extracurricular excellence in American history or American studies and a commitment to public service and community involvement.
Throughout her undergraduate career at St. Olaf, Sackett has had ample opportunity to expand on her history coursework. When she studied abroad at the University of Oxford through St. Olaf’s Oxford Harris Manchester College Off-Campus Program, she was able to use the university’s archives of the Virginia Company to research women who came to the American colonies.
She worked in the St. Olaf Archives and has also volunteered in several historical societies, guiding tours, working in the archives, and helping with exhibits. Last summer she did a fellowship in Historic Deerfield, a restored colonial town in Massachusetts that focuses on New England material culture.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education and has received awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Organization of American Historians.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from the St. Olaf History Department in applying for this award,” Sackett says. “Professor Hahn and Professor Fitzgerald guided me through the whole process.”
This fall Sackett will begin graduate work at the University of Virginia, where she will study colonial history with a focus on women in the southern United States.
Kelsey Henquinet ’16 knows that St. Olaf College students sometimes wonder where they can find help managing stress, depression, and other mental health challenges. Yet she also knows that these same students have access to a number of mental health resources at the college.
That disconnect between the resources available and the students who need them prompted Henquinet and 20 other St. Olaf students to launch the Greater Than Campaign.
The campaign, which has been gaining momentum on social media since last fall, aims to educate fellow St. Olaf students about mental health resources on campus and change the culture and stigma surrounding mental health.
“We wanted a campaign that would not only reevaluate St. Olaf’s approach to an issue, but also help the larger community be better informed and prepared on such an important topic,” Henquinet says.
Mary Haasl ’16, Julie Johnson ’19, and Abigale Haug ’19 enthusiastically joined Henquinet in the Greater Than Campaign. Johnson, a psychology and exercise science double major, proposed naming the campaign “Greater Than” and using the mathematical sign “>” for the logo. “People can be ‘greater than’ stress, mental illness, and the stigma surrounding mental illness,” she says.
About 20 percent of St. Olaf students report feeling depressed or anxious in a given year. At St. Olaf, students can receive formal therapy from professional counselors and psychologists for no additional cost at Boe House, St. Olaf’s counseling center. Students can also reach out to the college pastors, class deans, and academic advisors for help and support in managing stress. In the residence halls, junior counselors and resident assistants are also trained to help students. The Greater Than Campaign works to increase student awareness of these resources.
“Students at St. Olaf actually have greater access to mental health care on campus than the local community does,” Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser says. “Yet we know we can do better.”
Another goal of the Greater Than Campaign is to create a community in which students feel safe talking about mental health and students themselves know how to help their friends dealing with mental illness.
“Students have been overwhelmingly supportive of this initiative,” Henquinet says. “They want to know how they can become part of the solution.”
St. Olaf faculty and staff have also responded positively to the student initiative. “One of the joint goals of Student Life and Greater Than is to raise the capacity of the campus to help others deal with stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, and other aspects of mental health early on,” Kneser says. “We will be designing training programs on how to step in and help with mental health that will be offered to all members of the St. Olaf community.”
Making an impact
Students have put a lot of work into the Greater Than Campaign and have already begun to see changes. “The thing I am the most proud of is the Mental Health Summit we held earlier this semester,” says Haug, noting that 20-30 college administrators attended.
At the summit, a Mental Health Task Force comprised of faculty, students, and staff from the Dean’s Office, the Pastors’ Office, Boe House, the Piper Center for Vocation and Career and the Academic Support Center was formed. The Task Force meets weekly to discuss and implement ways that St. Olaf can better address mental health, including adding another counselor at Boe House and making a discussion of mental health part of the Week One program for incoming first-year students.
Changes are also evident in campus culture. “As a result of the campaign, I have noticed that many students have felt more comfortable voicing their personal passion or interest in mental health,” Johnson says. “Friends of mine have been less hesitant to talk to me about issues they have had with mental health.”
Students have also worked to ensure that both the Mental Health Task Force and Greater Than Campaign become a permanent part of St. Olaf’s fabric. “We have set a structure in place to elect leadership for next year, so these discussions and task force continue,” Haasl says.
“Obviously, we still have a long way to go,” says Johnson. “However, the momentum of the Greater Than Campaign is slowly making a difference, and I am ecstatic to see what we can do as we move forward.”
St. Olaf College will welcome alumnus Craig Hella Johnson ‘84 and his award-winning choral ensemble Conspirare to campus May 17 as part of their Minnesota and Canada tour Stephen Paulus: A Lyrical Life.
The concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in Boe Memorial Chapel, will be streamed and archived online.
The concert is a tribute to the late Stephen Paulus (1949-2014), a well-known composer from Minnesota, and will feature his work. Conspirare will perform Poemas de Amor — a five-movement Conspirare commission — and will perform for the first time Turn by Tarik O’Regan. Featured musicians include renowned pianist Faith Debow, percussionist Thomas Burritt, and the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal harpist Kathy Kienzle.
Read more about the tour in this Minnesota Public Radio preview.
Johnson began Conspirare in 1991 in Texas as the New Texas Festival celebrating classical music. Conspirare has received numerous awards, including the Best Choral Performance Grammy in 2015, and has become internationally recognized. The choir’s name comes from Latin and means “to breathe together.”
Johnson has guest conducted many other music ensembles both domestically and internationally, including the Austin Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony. He also serves as the music director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and served as the director of choral activities at the University of Texas at Austin from 1990 to 2001, where he oversaw the choral conducting graduate program. He is an artist in residence at the Texas State University School of Music and speaks often at the American Choral Directors Association’s conferences.
In addition to conducting, Johnson also composes and arranges music. His arrangements and compositions have been published by G. Shirmer Publishing and Alliance Music Publications.
Johnson studied at the Juilliard School and the University of Illinois, and earned a doctorate at Yale University.
Two textbooks written by St. Olaf College classics professors have been chosen to share the Ladislaus J. Bolchazy Pedagogy Book Award for 2016.
Forty-Six Stories in Classical Greek by Professor of Classics James May and Professor of Classics and Department Chair Anne Groton shared the award with Ovid, Ars Amatoria Book 3 by Assistant Professor of Classics Christopher Brunelle.
The award, given by the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, honors distinguished works of pedagogy. It is named in memory of Ladislaus J. Bolchazy in recognition of his long career promoting classical scholarship and pedagogy.
Forty-Six Stories in Classical Greek features entertaining and thought-provoking passages from some of the great authors of Classical Greece, including Plato, Xenophon, Aesop, Aristophanes, and Thucydides.
Ovid, Ars Amatoria Book 3 is the first volume in the Oxford Greek and Latin College Commentaries series.
St. Olaf College Assistant Professor of Philosophy Mike Fuerstein has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions grant to fund a course centered on the question “What is value in the marketplace?”
The course, which will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2017, will explore the complex intersection between economic value and moral value in the exchange of goods and services. Drawing on texts from economics and philosophy, it will trace and assess the connection between these two ways of valuing, from the ancient world to modern stock markets to bitcoins.
The Enduring Questions grant program supports the development of courses that foster deep and sustained engagement with fundamental concerns of human life. These courses encourage faculty members and undergraduate students to explore such enduring questions through encounter with influential ideas, works, and thinkers across the centuries.
The questions that Fuerstein’s course will push students to ponder include those ranging from “What makes a price fair?” to “What is priceless?”
Fuerstein’s interest in developing this course arose from his participation in an interdisciplinary group of social philosophers, economists, and business executives called the Society for Progress. “The primary aim of the group is to rethink the theory and practice of business in a way that better aligns profit with social progress,” Fuerstein explains.
In the case of market values, “public discussion tends to be dominated by polarizing, unreflective ideologies that mask the true significance and complexity of what is at stake,” says Fuerstein.
According to Fuerstein, market values are simultaneously the solution to and the source of many of the world’s greatest challenges today. For example, market efficiency and market freedom can raise the standard of living for people around the world while at the same time threatening local cultures and engendering global inequality.
“This course aims to give students a basis for critically discussing and investigating these ideas, which at present figure in so many pressing political, social, and personal decisions,” Fuerstein says.
St. Olaf College student Nick Tomhave ’18 has been selected to participate in the Fulbright-Scotland Summer Institute, a five-week cultural and academic program for U.S. students held at University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde.
The Fulbright-Scotland Summer Institute is one of several programs offered through the US-UK Fulbright Commission, which was created in 1948 to promote leadership and foster mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between the US and the UK.
Tomhave learned about the Fulbright UK Summer Institutes through his participation in the First Steps to Fulbright Program, a new initiative that the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career launched this year. The program provides coaching and support for first-year and sophomore students interested in pursuing nationally competitive fellowships.
The theme of the Scotland Summer Institute is Scotland: Identity, Culture, and Innovation, and Tomhave says he’s looking forward to learning about the country.
“Like many people I have this romantic notion of lochs and castles, but I wanted to learn more about the Scotland of today in all its complexities — like the referendum for independence in 2014 for example,” he says. “We will spend time learning about the culture, heritage, and history of Scotland in a variety of ways.”
He’s looking forward to the chance to visit some of Scotland’s historical sites, especially the St. Andrews Links, which is considered the birthplace of golf.
“I’m most excited to meet new people and hear their stories,” he says. “I want to take advantage of the different perspectives I’ll be exposed to and learn as much as possible from those around me.”
St. Olaf College student Pedro Monque ’16 says true social change starts with people in local communities seeing problems and having the resources to address them.
“It’s not about coming from outside the community, but rather finding the people who already care about these issues, are already working on them, and giving them the tools to make this change happen,” he says.
Monque and fellow St. Olaf student Maggie Schenk ’16 worked to provide young people in Latin America with those tools as part of the Empoderando a Latinoamerica (Empowering Latin America) program.
Monque and Schenk served as facilitators during the three-week course in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this past Interim. The program, which was originally created by alumni from United World Colleges consortium, seeks to empower Latin American students ages 16 to 18 “to become powerful agents of social change” as well as “engaged and effective citizens that… tackle social problems in their communities, their countries, and the region in general.”
The course included nine facilitators and 34 participants from nine different Latin American countries, and included workshops on civic engagement, project development, and peace agency.
Monque led the peace agency workshop and a workshop called Bodies, Identities, and Discrimination dealing with identity-based oppression. Schenk led a theater workshop and also helped out with a variety of workshops on issues like the environment, immigration, and social inequality.
Empowering Latin America came into Monque’s life during the spring of 2014, when he was at a personal crossroads. After hearing stories of friends and family facing harassment for taking part in student protests amidst political unrest in his home country of Venezuela, he reconsidered majors and long-term life goals.
He decided to shift his career ambitions from music and neuroscience to addressing the social issues he cared about — and Empowering Latin America was a natural leap for him as a project in which he could help form communities to tackle these important social issues.
Monque, along with Marcus Schweiger ’15 and Steph Hagan ’16, worked with Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean for Humanities Corliss Swain during the summer of 2015 to develop curriculum for the project’s peace agency workshop, using insights from peace studies and philosophy such as feminist and education theories. The project was funded by the St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program and was the first CURI research project in the field of philosophy. Monque was also able to finance his participation in the project with money from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career and the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund.
Schenk, who was also on campus last summer teaching music to middle schoolers, came to listen to Monque’s final CURI presentation and immediately wanted to be involved. A music major, Schenk started college at a conservatory but transferred to St. Olaf after her first year in part to have the opportunity to take part in programs such as these.
“I wanted to be able to study more broadly, and think about and put into action ways of learning and living that I felt like had a more direct impact on the issues I care about and people I care about,” she says.
“St. Olaf lets you think critically and doesn’t let you rest on just getting a great education, but pushes you to do stuff that helps people,” says Monque, who will begin working for Empowering Latin America after he graduates this spring.
Although Schenk and Monque had a great time at the program, they stress that community engagement and empowering local leaders is intense work — work that is “fun, hard, impactful, and worth doing.”
St. Olaf College Associate Professor Emeritus of Music Robert Kendall, 83, passed away at the Minneapolis Veterans Home on March 20.
Kendall came to St. Olaf in 1965 and taught music theory and organ before retiring in 1992. During his tenure at St. Olaf, Kendall also directed the Organ and Choir Workshop, held during the summer, for several years.
Before coming to St. Olaf, he taught public school in East Syracuse, New York, and served as the director of music in New York, North Carolina, and Michigan. While teaching and performing at St. Olaf, he also served in Minnesota churches. He was the church organist at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Northfield.
Kendall earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Syracuse University, where he studied under renowned organist Arthur Poister.
He is survived by his wife, Beth, children, and grandchildren. A musical tribute was held May 7 at the St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul.
Read Kendall’s obituary here.
The St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Professor of Music Anton Armstrong ’78, will welcome Magnum Chorum to campus this Sunday, May 1, for a joint performance of the passion oratorio Pietá.
Composer John Muehleisen will discuss Pietà, his epic new work, in a talk that begins at 3 p.m. in Boe Memorial Chapel. The St. Olaf Choir and Magnum Chorum performance of the work will begin at 3:30 p.m.
The concert, which will be streamed and archived online, is free and open to the public.
Muehleisen’s dramatic oratorio explores themes of compassion, forgiveness, mercy, justice, and love as a means to heal and restore human relationships. It touches on the love between mothers and sons through scenes from World War I, the end of the life of Jesus, and modern stories of loss.
Pietà draws on chorales by Bach, Biblical texts, and poets Wilfred Owen, William Blake, and Violet Fane, as well as excerpts from the funeral homily of Matthew Shepherd.
Founded in 1991, the 60-voice ensemble Magnum Chorum has been recognized for its expressive singing and inspired programs that brings artistry and spirit to a cappella choral music. The ensemble’s artistic director is St. Olaf Instructor in Music Mark Stover ’01, who also serves as the conductor of the St. Olaf Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus. Magnum Chorum has been featured at regional and national conferences of the American Choral Director’s Association, Chorus America, American Guild of Organists, American Hymn Society, and College Music Society.
The St. Olaf Choir, with 75 mixed voices, is the premier a cappella choir in the United States. For more than a century, the choir has set a standard of choral excellence and remained at the forefront of choral artistry.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded St. Olaf College student Corey Ruder ’16 a three-year Graduate Research Fellowship that will support her work in aquatic biogeochemistry at Washington State University Vancouver.
NSF Graduate Research Fellowships support the most promising graduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Fellows are expected to become experts in their field who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.
Past recipients of the award include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.
Ruder, an environmental studies major at St. Olaf, is one of 2,000 students selected to receive the 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship from more than 17,000 applicants.
She will enroll in the environmental and natural resource sciences Ph.D. program at WSU Vancouver this fall, studying the interactions between physical mixing of water and nitrogen processing in lakes and reservoirs, with special emphasis on the factors regulating the production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. She plans to take the following year to conduct research in Japan before returning to WSU Vancouver to finish her doctoral work.
As a Beckman Scholar at St. Olaf, Ruder independently designed an 18-month research project assessing the utility of Chironomidae (Diptera) as indicators of nitrogen loading in lakes under the guidance of Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Charles Umbanhowar Jr.
She also studied abroad in Australia for a semester with Associate Professor of Biology Steve Freedberg, where she was involved in several smaller research projects, and has spent two Interims in Japan — one with Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak and the other with Associate Professor of Chemistry Paul Jackson ’92. As part of the Directed Undergraduate Research (DUR) Interim course led by Jackson, Ruder designed and completed a project that examines cesium transport through forest soils.
She is currently in another DUR course led by Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies John Schade, where she is continuing a project investigating nitrous oxide production in lake sediments that she began the previous semester when she was a teaching assistant in Schade’s biogeochemistry course.
Ruder will also be traveling with Schade to Siberia this summer as part of the Polaris Project, which investigates the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic ecosystem.
In addition to her research projects, Ruder received the Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career during her first year on campus and co-founded the Ole Thrift Shop LLC with Lyla Amini ’14 and Sudip Bhandari ’14.
The student-run small business combats campus waste by collecting donations of clothes, books, and miscellaneous belongings in the spring, then selling the secondhand items during the first week of the following school year. Ruder’s team has grown in size to 11 students, who are now in the process of transitioning the business to nonprofit status and establishing a grant to fund environmentally minded student projects with the revenue that is generated.