St. Olaf Campus News
St. Olaf College student musician Hannie McGarity ’19 won first prize in the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota String Competition.
As the winner of the competition, she will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Bergen, Norway, in late October. She will perform in the home of Grieg, the celebrated Norwegian composer and pianist, in connection with a seminar titled “Romantic Piano Meets the Hardanger Fiddle: Edvard Grieg’s Chamber Works and Solo Piano Music.”
Each of the finalists in the string competition played a whole Grieg sonata, another piece by a Scandinavian composer, and a Grieg miniature.
McGarity played Grieg’s Sonata in C Minor, Christian Sinding’s Suite in A Minor, and Ved mannjevningen by Grieg.
“I feel so lucky to have the amazing opportunity to travel to Norway for the first time, and I am looking forward to continue learning about Scandinavian music as I study Grieg’s and other Scandinavian repertoire,” McGarity says.
McGarity, who is majoring in violin performance, is a member of the St. Olaf Orchestra. She toured with the orchestra in Argentina and Uruguay last summer, and next spring she will study music in Vienna, Austria. She is a native of Bellingham, Washington.
“Electricity was shot through the wire, lighting up the dark room. It ran through the veins of the plant and lit up its architecture.”
St. Olaf College student Rachel Robison ’17 had discovered her passion.
When she responded to an ad about a studio internship, posted by photographer Mark Roberts, Robison was just looking for a creative outlet.
“I knew I wanted to do something more that summer than I was doing already,” she says. “I had a job, but it wasn’t really meeting my artistic desires.”
On her first day in the studio, Robison learned about kirlian photography, an alternative photographic technique that involves the application of a high-frequency electric field to an object, which radiates a characteristic pattern of luminescence that is recorded on photographic film.
Roberts showed her how to put large sheets of film on a metal plate, then place a leaf or a branch on top of the film. After the plant was attached to an electrical generator, electricity would be shot through the wire and through the plant.
“We would take the film, which was now exposed to the light from the plant and develop it in the dark room, and slowly the image would emerge from where the electricity made contact,” Robison explains.
Although Robison had taken several art courses at St. Olaf, she had almost no experience with photography before beginning her internship.
“This was my first experience in the dark room,” she says. “But the fact that I hadn’t taken all digital or all physical media classes in the art department meant I had a certain flexibility.”
In addition, Robison brought technical expertise to her work with Roberts that proved essential. Her Photoshop skills enabled her to clean up and color the kirlian images once they were scanned onto the computer — “a fun, new technique for me because it was a marriage of digital art and painterly art,” she says.
With her graphic design skills, Robison designed the cover of a portfolio case for another series that Roberts had completed. She says that “the courses that taught me how to do graphic design were essential for this internship because they gave me a skillset that complemented Mark’s vision.”
Even her English major informed Robison’s experience in the studio: “I think it helped me with thematic things, it helped me embody what Mark’s series are about, and it helped me really understand everything from start to finish, rather than just churning out a product.”
Because of her interdisciplinary background, “I wasn’t interested in just learning about photography from Mark,” Robison says. “I was interested in everything that comes with his being an artist.”
Shortly before returning to St. Olaf for her senior year, Roberts and Robison exhibited their kirlian photography series, titled The Secret Life of Plants, at the Vine Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“That was a very rewarding experience — to see the images that I had colored, that I had clicked on so many times, actually on the wall and about a foot wide,” says Robison.
Now, at the end of her college career, Robison has “really come to value Mark as a mentor and a friend.”
Roberts has encouraged her “to look into doing things that seem radically out of my league and to think outside-the-box. He also has said that when I end up doing this, he wants to be a part of it.”
The two are continuing their work together now that Robison has graduated from St. Olaf, putting together a book of The Secret Life of Plants series that will be sold in botanical gardens nationwide. Roberts has handed over the design of this book to Robison.
“I like the role that I’ve had with Mark, the marketing, the design, the putting-together of the art,” says Robison.
And the interdisciplinarity that has guided her experience from the beginning “is a big part of the future too,” says Robison. “It’s given me the opportunity to embrace ambiguity and make my own combination of things as I go forward.”
St. Olaf College student Halima Ingabire ’18 believes in the healing power of art.
This summer, she will use traditional Rwandan artwork to promote peace and reconciliation among young people still grappling with the effects of the country’s infamous genocide.
Ingabire received the Davis Projects for Peace grant, an award given to students who use creativity and innovation in the development of a project that both promotes peace and addresses the root cause of conflict among groups.
Rwanda is one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world. Its history was devastated by the 1994 genocide that lasted 100 days and took the lives of over 1 million innocent people. The genocide was due to the long-standing conflicts between two ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis.
“Growing up in a small village in the Bugesera district located in Eastern Rwanda, one of the areas that was most affected by the genocide, I was exposed to its detrimental effects,” Ingabire says.
Bugesera has the highest number of orphaned children, widowed mothers, and those suffering from trauma and psychosocial problems in Rwanda.
“It is still very hard for the orphans, under the pressure of poverty and other problems that resulted from the genocide, to forgive the families of the perpetrators,” Ingabire says. “In my personal experience, I have witnessed threats between Rwandan high school students originating from hatred inherited from their families.”
Ingabire’s project will start with a summer camp of 20 students and young adults from both ethnic groups who grew up in the Gisimba orphanage and are now living in Bugesera. She hopes to bring youth from the two ethnic groups together to reconcile and live together in peace. Ingabire also hopes to create reconciliation ambassadors for the future generation of Rwanda.
“The essence of the project is preparing youth and student leaders to foster peace and reconciliation through artwork such as weaving, painting, and music, as art is central to Rwanda tradition and cultural pride,” Ingabire says.
Partnering with Bishop John Rucyahana, the president of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission of Rwanda, and the Inema Art Center, one of the leading art centers in Rwanda, Ingabire hopes that through art and community, youth will learn to forgive each other and not live with the past of their parents.
These youth will then become facilitators and launch peace clubs with weekly gatherings in five high schools. On top of this, partner organizations will work with the 20 youth facilitators to sell the artwork to raise funds for future school clubs in other high schools.
“As a Rwandan youth, and a social work major, I want to take initiative to change the future of my country,” Ingabire says.
St. Olaf College students Ross Nevin ’17, Anna Kruskop ’18, and Julianne Stewart ’20 will spend the summer in an intense learning environment abroad after receiving a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS).
The CLS Program, among the most competitive scholarship competitions in the country, is a fully funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program for post-secondary students from the United States. The goal of this program is to broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries.
Nevin will travel to Tajikistan, Kruskop to Russia, and Stewart to China.
Ross Nevin ’17
Though Nevin’s father was born in Iran, when his family moved to the United States they emphasized assimilation and did not teach their children Persian.
Now, a generation later, Nevin hopes to reconnect with his culture by learning the language and traveling to Tajikistan. This past summer, Nevin began studying his heritage language at the University of Wisconsin-Madison through the Arabic Persian Turkish Language Immersion Institute.
“St. Olaf most influenced me to do this program through its community, the study abroad opportunities, and my friendships with international students,” Nevin says. “Having friends from all over the world who came to another country and culture to learn inspires me to do the same.”
Students will spend at least 20 hours a week learning Persian Farsi in a formal education setting. Farsi, the Iranian dialect of Persian, will be emphasized while students also study the local Tajik dialect. Students will also engage with local culture and language through cultural excursions, lectures, and a home stay.
Nevin looks forward to bringing back stories and experiences from his time in Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia that many couldn’t point out on a map.
After returning from Tajikistan, Nevin will explore careers in diplomacy, possibly with the U.S. State Department or international business. He sees the value of Persian both in connection with his family and in his professional goals.
Anna Kruskop ’18
Kruskop studied French for about 10 years before coming to St. Olaf, but on the Hill she decided to make a switch. “I was drawn to Russian originally because of its alphabet and my general interest in languages,” Kruskop says.
This general interest in languages is what lead Kruskop to be a double major in both Russian and French. She notes that there is a stark difference between the two languages and cites that as a reason she finds them interesting to learn.
CLS covers the equivalent of one academic year of university-level Russian study during an eight-week period. In addition to classes, students participate in an active cultural program that includes excursions, lectures, and hands-on activities interacting with the culture. Kruskop will also be exposed to the culture through living with a host family, meeting with a language partner, and everyday exposure.
After a summer of intense language immersion, Kruskop will return to Russia in the fall for a semester-long study abroad program in Veliky Novgorod, Russia.
Though Kruskop does not have a concrete professional plan post-graduation, she has considered working for the U.S. State Department in some capacity or perhaps working with Russian immigrants.
Julianne Stewart ’20
After studying Spanish and French in high school, Stewart traveled abroad to Thailand to learn Thai and took a gap year before college to live in Beijing.
Now Stewart is continuing her passion for learning languages in Xi’an, another city in China, where she hopes to further develop her ability to speak Chinese.
“Learning a foreign language in an immersive environment is so different from a classroom because the language is transformed from an abstract concept into a tool for daily life,” Stewart says.
Formal language instruction in the classroom will be supplemented by opportunities for conversation and exploration of culture.
Outside of class, students will learn Taichi and calligraphy, among other cultural activities and classes. On weekends, students will engage in cultural excursions throughout the city to deepen their understanding of the culture and language through interaction with locals. Stewart, with other CLS students, will live on campus with a Chinese roommate. These opportunities will allow for natural language acquisition through interactions.
While Stewart is not fully decided on what career to pursue, she is contemplating working as a foreign service officer. She is interested in American cross-cultural communication, and the idea of being able to live abroad in different countries appeals to her.
“I think it’s easier to work on reading and writing in a foreign language in the U.S., but to improve your speaking ability there’s nothing comparable to immersion,” Stewart says.
St. Olaf College ranks in the top one-third of schools included in the New York Times’ annual College Access Index.
The list of “Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream” ranks schools based on their commitment to economic diversity.
In order to be included on the list, colleges must have a five-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent. Out of 170 schools across the country that qualified, St. Olaf placed 53rd.
The ranking is based on the number of lower-and middle-income students that a college enrolls and the price it charges these students.
Over the last several years most states have cut their spending on higher education, some drastically. Many public universities have responded by enrolling fewer poor and middle-class students, replacing them with affluent students who can afford the tuition.
St. Olaf has a long tradition of meeting the demonstrated need of all admitted students — a commitment that ensures the college will continue to attract and educate a diverse student body from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
“In the past five years we have seen a 56 percent increase in the number of first-generation college students enrolling at St. Olaf,” says St. Olaf Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Chris George ’94. “Even with rising tuition costs, we continue to invest in our students through our financial aid program with a focus on reducing indebtedness while continuing to provide an experience that includes remarkable teachers, study-abroad programs, great facilities, and high-impact learning opportunities.”
St. Olaf College’s For the Hill and Beyond comprehensive campaign has surpassed 75 percent of its $200 million goal. As of May 31, donors have generously committed more than $153.1 million.
For the Hill and Beyond seeks to raise more than $159 million in endowed funds and $41 million in current gifts to advance high-impact learning, strengthen community, enhance affordability, and sustain St. Olaf’s mission. These priorities reflect the promises St. Olaf has long made to its students — to meet their financial need, help them find their purpose, and best prepare them to lead productive, fulfilling, and purposeful lives.
“We are grateful for the generosity that Oles, parents, faculty and staff, and friends have shown, and for the impact their generosity is making for our students,” says St. Olaf Vice President of Advancement Enoch Blazis. “For example, donors have committed more than $47 million for financial aid, which has added 215 new annual scholarship awards so far, as well as 84 endowed funds to increase access to learning opportunities inside the classroom, across campus, and worldwide. They have also committed more than $4.8 million to the St. Olaf Fund this past year alone — this is the most donors have given in a single year.”
Gifts have helped increase access to international and off-campus study, faculty-mentored student research, professional internships, and St. Olaf’s Conversation programs. Others are adding opportunities to strengthen community and campus life, including the Institute for Freedom and Community and an indoor ice arena.
“We are excited by the progress we have made together,” says Blazis, “and for the conversations we continue to have with alumni and friends who want to make a lasting, positive impact on the Hill.”
Eight recent St. Olaf College graduates have been named Fulbright fellows for 2017–18.
The recipients of the prestigious award include five members of this year’s graduating class, as well as three 2016 graduates.
Three will use their Fulbright awards to conduct research, and the other five will take on English teaching assistantships.
Three members of this year’s graduating class were also named alternates in the prestigious program.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is sponsored by the Department of State and awards more than 1,500 grants to U.S. students every year. The program operates in more than 140 countries, seeking to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries” and “contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.” Program participants are chosen based on many factors, including leadership potential and academic merit.
The St. Olaf Fulbright recipients and their projects:
Rinnah Becker ’17 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Asturias, Spain. She also plans to join or create a musical ensemble that she hopes will allow for intercultural collaboration and understanding. She majored in music and Spanish at St. Olaf.
Wendy Bindeman ’16 will work with a laboratory at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas in Madrid, Spain. Her project investigates the role of specialized cells called “reactive astrocytes” in the growth of cancer cells that have metastasized to the brain. Outside the lab, she hopes to volunteer in English-language classes and join a cycling or running group. While at St. Olaf, she majored in biology and Spanish. Since graduating, she has been working in a Mayo Clinic research lab.
Sophie Breen ’17 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Argentina. She also plans to organize a pen-pal project between the school there and a school in Minnesota where she worked. After studying abroad in Argentina her junior year, she is thrilled to go back and dive deeper into the culture. She majored in Spanish with concentrations in educational studies, linguistics, and race and ethnic studies at St. Olaf.
Serena Calcagno ’17 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan. She will teach and learn at the intersection of education, China studies, and biology. She will volunteer in Taiwan’s national parks, where she will learn about the peoples of Taiwan through a lens of the island’s mountainous coastal ecology. She will also join and create dancing communities in which to teach Lindy Hop and learn about the traditional dances of Taiwan. She majored in biology at St. Olaf.
Olivia Haines ’16 will return to Dehradun, India, to work as an English Teaching Assistant at an all-girls boarding school for students from underprivileged families who have earned a scholarship to attend the rigorous school. She also plans to lead a girls choir and volunteer with a women’s empowerment organization, teaching financial literacy and assisting with micro-banking initiatives. At St. Olaf, Haines majored in social studies education and concentrated in English as a second language education, receiving licenses in both areas. Since graduation, she completed two student-teaching practicums — one in India at a school just 40 minutes from her Fulbright placement school — and one in St. Paul. She is currently substitute teaching in St. Paul.
Susan Hoops ’17 will be conducting research and teaching English at a secondary school in Linz, Austria. She is the recipient of the Fulbright Program’s Combined Award, which involves both teaching 13 hours a week and conducting a research project. Her research is titled “Visualization of the Scientific Workflow.” She will collaborate with a computer scientist, Professor Marc Streit, at Johannes Kepler University in creating a data visualization tool to describe the scientific data analysis process. She majored in mathematics at St. Olaf.
Hannah Lemberg ’16 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Sofia, Bulgaria. While in Bulgaria, they will use their time in the school and community to gain greater knowledge of Bulgarian culture and the multiple identities that this encompasses. Additionally, they hope to volunteer with an NGO working with the Roma population in Bulgaria. They majored in political science at St. Olaf.
Mary Studer ’17 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Mexico. During her time there, she also plans to volunteer with a service organization where she can work alongside community members. In both the classroom setting and the volunteer setting, she hopes to use the skills and knowledge she has gained through her social work major. She majored in both social work and Spanish at St. Olaf.
Elaine Macon ’17 (alternate) submitted a proposal to conduct research in Melbourne, Australia, at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. She majored in biology at St. Olaf.
Mary Katherine Maney ’17 (alternate) submitted a proposal to work as an English Teaching Assistant in Thailand. She majored in vocal music education at St. Olaf.
Madison Okuno ’17 (alternate) submitted a proposal to conduct research on urogenital tract infections at the University of Buea, Cameroon. She majored in biology and French at St. Olaf.