St. Olaf Campus News
College students have a lot of junk. As summer break approaches each year, dormitory trash cans and dumpsters overflow with items that were great at the time of purchase but don’t seem to fit for the car or plane ride home. It’s a lot of waste produced at one time.
In 2013, entrepreneurial St. Olaf College student Corey Ruder ’16 and few classmates found a simple, sustainable resolution to the waste problem. A group of students will collect unwanted items a few weeks prior to the end of the academic year, store them in containers over the summer, and when the students come back in the fall, there will be a big sale. Ruder and her team received the startup funds from the Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant in 2012, successfully marking the birth of Ole Thrift Shop. Ruder then pitched her idea at the Ole Cup, the student entrepreneurial competition hosted by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career. She won a third-place cash prize to help expand operations of Ole Thrift Shop.
Today, Ole Thrift Shop lives on a sustainable business model that turns one Ole’s junk into another’s treasure, all while saving a few bucks for students, St. Olaf, and the Northfield community. Kalen Doyle ’18, events coordinator for Ole Thrift Shop says, “Students and parents have come up to us with piles of clothes and thanked us for the amount of money they’ve saved.”
Ole Thrift Shop saves more than money for students and parents on a budget. It also saves St. Olaf College Facilities overhead costs for storage, removal, and labor. “They no longer have to bring in an outside trash collection company to remove the wasted clothes, mini-refrigerators, or other things that students don’t want or can’t bring with them,” says James Wheeler ’18, Ole Thrift Shop’s business development coordinator.
Speaking of mini-refrigerators: As most college students know, the smaller cooling units built for dorm life are a hot commodity. Ole Thrift Shop will collect these and sell them at a fraction of a cost. “We had a broken mini-fridge once,” says Doyle. “We were selling it for something like $2. A physics student came up and asked for the price. I told him it was broken, but he said that wasn’t a problem.” And with that, one less appliance went to the landfill.
The Ole Thrift Shop model not only fills a need for St. Olaf students, but provides a service for the surrounding community through excess supply. Anything that doesn’t get sold in the fall is either held for one of the smaller sales throughout the academic year or brought to a local organization that accepts donated items.
In addition to creating an environmentally friendly service free of charge to departing students and graduates, Ole Thrift Shop is also a sustainable business model. Revenue from each event throughout the year goes back into the business to pay for expenses and expansion goals.
Ole Thrift Shop is committed to giving back to the community, too. The Ole Thrift Shop Sustainability Grant awards $3,000 in grants each year to St. Olaf students or student groups pursuing opportunities they would otherwise would not have the ability to afford.
The Ole Thrift Shop business model is so successful, simplistic, and cost-saving that other schools are beginning to make their own thrift shops. A school in North Carolina has even contacted Ole Thrift Shop for advice on setting up their own operation. “We’ve been considering a set plan to help out other schools who are interested in starting their own Ole Thrift Shop,” says Wheeler.
Whether you need to get rid some clothes and that fridge that won’t fit in your car, get a new jacket at fraction of retail costs, or just want to help save the environment, Ole Thrift Shop is there to help and have some affordable, sustainable fun.
Six St. Olaf College seniors have been named Fulbright fellows for 2018–19.
Three will use the prestigious award to conduct research, and the other three will take on English teaching assistantships.
Four members of this year’s graduating class and one 2017 graduate 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:
Tim Bergeland ’18 will examine how practitioners at the Jambi Huasi intercultural clinic in Otavalo, Ecuador, collaborate with one another amid their distinct understandings of health. Bergeland and his collaborators will conduct and analyze interviews with practitioners and surveys from patients. He also hopes to use dance as a site of cultural engagement with his host community, and eventually plans to pursue a doctoral degree in medical anthropology. Bergeland is a sociology/anthropology major with a Latin American studies concentration.Jasmine Bolden received a Fulbright award to teach English in Thailand, where she hopes to gain cultural and linguistic experiences that will help her excel as a social studies teacher in the U.S.
Jasmine Bolden ’18 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Thailand, where she hopes to gain cultural and linguistic experiences that will help her excel as a teacher in the U.S. She will engage with the local community by participating in Muay Thai “boxing” classes and learning about Thai delicacies. Upon returning to the U.S., she plans to become a social studies teacher and eventually would like to create social studies curricula highlighting histories of communities of color that could be taught in middle and high schools. She is a social studies education major at St. Olaf.
Olive Dwan ’18 will study children’s rights and immigration policy at the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism in Bergen, Norway. Through interviews with immigration professionals and analysis of court documents, she will investigate how the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to migrant and non-migrant children in Norway. To engage with the larger community, Dwan will teach art classes for children at the Children’s Culture House in Bergen. Upon her return to the U.S., she plans to pursue graduate studies in migration. Dwan is a sociology/anthropology and studio art major at St. Olaf.
Anika Hodel ’18 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Uruguay. She will engage with the community by singing in a church, community, or university choir, as well as using singing in her teaching. She may also work to form a community children’s choir to help students learn English. Upon returning to the U.S., she plans to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and hopes to find a position in a school that uses both Spanish and English. Hodel is a Spanish major, with concentrations in educational studies and linguistics.
Alexandra Hunt ’18 will work as an English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia — a country she chose because of the Islamic focus on community, the fusion of cultures, and the opportunity to work with children in a rural Malay kampung. To engage with the community, she plans to create a weekly artistic creative learning club for her students and other community members. Upon her return to the U.S., she hopes to pursue a career in healthcare policy with a strong focus in providing culturally sensitive care to patients who are recent refugees or immigrants. Hunt is a biology major with a management studies concentration.
Olivia Sullivan ’18 will investigate possible correlations between prenatal maternal behaviors and risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) development in children in Tianjin, China. She will join an existing research team analyzing data from Tianjin Women and Children’s Health Center, and will use observations, interviews, and data analysis to fill the research gap that exists on ASD in Asia. To engage with her host country, Sullivan plans to take knitting classes at local yarn stores in Tianjin to improve both general conversational Chinese and knitting-specific vocabulary. Upon her return to the U.S, she plans to earn a graduate degree in public health, focusing on maternal and child health. Sullivan is a Chinese and biology major with an education concentration.
Oles named Fulbright alternates include:
Joseph Burkhart ’17
Caroline Grubbs ’18
Maddie Leh ’18
Anna Perkins ’18
Linden Smith ’18
It’s a dream for any musician: lights centered on a legendary stage, an audience filling the velvet seats in front of them, and the thrill of creating music in a pristine acoustic environment. The St. Olaf Orchestra will get to live that dream at Carnegie Hall on February 2, 2019.
Performing with the orchestra will be Sarah Chang, a world-renowned violinist and veteran of Carnegie Hall. For St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson, the Robert Scholz Professor of Music at St. Olaf, this is an unforgettable opportunity.World-renowned violinist Sarah Chang will perform with the St. Olaf Orchestra on February 2, 2019.
“I’ve long dreamt of featuring a big name performer with the St. Olaf Orchestra. When the chance to perform at Carnegie became a reality, I thought this is the perfect time,” says Amundson. “Sarah Chang has a wonderful reputation, not only as an incredible violinist, but also as a human being. I’m excited for our students to have this opportunity to learn from an artist of her caliber. ”
Recognized as one of the foremost violinists of our time, Chang has performed with the most esteemed orchestras, conductors, and accompanists in an international career spanning more than two decades. Since her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of eight, Chang has continued to impress audiences with her technical virtuosity and refined emotional depth.
For this collaboration, Amundson has selected the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Opus 47.
“Sibelius’ Violin Concerto has long been my favorite violin concerto. It’s much more than a violin solo with accompaniment. The orchestra parts are substantial in this colorful, dramatic, and passionate score. The opening of the first movement is magical and features a huge, virtuosic cadenza for the soloist. The slow movement is one of the composer’s most beautiful melodies — truly sublime! The finale dances with fiery rhythms. It’s an amazing showcase for the soloist supported by the power of the full symphony orchestra. This is one of the most famous violin concertos in the repertory, and is definitely a crowd-pleaser.” – Steven Amundson
Erica Rempert ’20, a St. Olaf Orchestra bassist, is excited to play Carnegie Hall and get her first glimpse of the East Coast. “Playing in Carnegie Hall is something that I have only dreamt about. To be able to say that I am going to play in one of the most famous music halls in the world is hard to believe,” says Rempert. “I’m from the Twin Cities and have never seen the East Coast before. The opportunity to see a new part of the country with my orchestra friends is very exciting.”
Chang will also appear with the St. Olaf Orchestra at the ensemble’s performance at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The tour will feature additional stops throughout Virginia, including Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Charlottesville.
The Carnegie Hall performance will be followed by a reception for alumni and parents. Concert tickets and reception reservations will be available in the fall.
“I am looking forward to engaging in challenging, honest, and fruitful discussion with my peers, and to critically analyze the role we each have to play in moving power to create an inclusive and justice-centered movement,” says Pearl McAndrews ’19.
St. Olaf College students Pearl McAndrews ’19 and Ulises Jovel ’20 have been named Smaby Peace Scholars.
The Peace Scholars Program is designed to expand students’ awareness of current issues relating to peace, justice, democracy, and human rights through a series of educational experiences in Norway. Two students from each of the six Norwegian-American Lutheran colleges — Augsburg, Augustana, Concordia, Luther, St. Olaf, and Pacific Lutheran University — are chosen to participate.
Students at St. Olaf receive funding to participate in the program through the Philip C. Smaby Peace Scholars Endowed Scholarship, which was established in honor of the late Philip Carlyle Smaby, a Minneapolis-St. Paul philanthropist who attended St. Olaf and three of whose children are alumni (Mark Smaby ’66, Gary Smaby ’71, and John Smaby ’76).
The Peace Scholars Program takes students to the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer, where the scholars will participate in dialogue sessions. They then move to the University of Oslo International Summer School, where they will spend six weeks deepening their understanding of the history and theories regarding conflict, war, and peace.
McAndrews is a political science and sociology/anthropology major, and is studying abroad in Denmark this semester. Jovel is a political science and economics major with concentrations in statistics and Latin American studies.Ulises Jovel ’20 was inspired to apply for the Peace Scholars Program after having experienced the long-term effects that war has had on his home country.
Jovel says he was inspired to apply for the Peace Scholars Program after having experienced the long-term effects that war has had on his home country.
“I am from El Salvador, a country that has been socioeconomically damaged by the 13-year civil war that ended almost 26 years ago — a civil war that caused a continuous deterioration of our civil society,” he says. “This deterioration comes in the form of violence, insecurity, and corruption.”
The country is experiencing increasing polarization that is created, he says, by a lack of communication, a lack of dialogue, and a lack of understanding from the parties involved. He hopes that the Peace Scholars Program will provide a platform to learn about nonviolent conflict resolution alongside students from different countries, cultures, and religions.
“I have seen through my own eyes what violence does to my country,” Jovel says. “I believe we must give dialogue a chance.”
“I have seen through my own eyes what violence does to my country. I believe we must give dialogue a chance.” — Ulises Jovel ’20
McAndrews says she has been inspired by past participants of the Peace Scholars Program and the engaged and thoughtful work she has seen produced via the program. She is looking forward to examining the concept of peace and challenging her own given notions.
“I believe that while the hope for peace is an important ideal towards which to strive, there must also be a critical reflection in an application of any supposedly ‘universal’ concept; just as there may be numerous experiences of what it means to be ‘at war,’ we must take into account differing narratives of what peace entails for various individuals, states, or communities,” she says.
McAndrews hopes this program will help her bridge the gap between academic theory and everyday practice.
“I am looking forward to engaging in challenging, honest, and fruitful discussion with my peers,” she says, “and to critically analyze the role we each have to play in moving power to create an inclusive and justice-centered movement.”
Jakob Hofstad may only be a sophomore, but he’s already participated in six math competitions during his time at St. Olaf College.
A mathematics and physics double major, Hofstad’s love for numbers is part of what brought him to the Hill.
“My dad went to St. Olaf, and I learned it had good math and music programs. I also liked the idea of going to a liberal arts college because of the inclusive community and being able to get to know professors,” he says.
Hofstad first joined a high school math team as an eighth grader. Since then, he’s never looked back. Hofstad says he started math competitions because “it was fun to do challenging problems and fulfilled my desire to do math since my classes were easy.”
When it came time to go to St. Olaf, Hofstad knew he wanted to keep doing competitions. In pursuit of that goal, he joined the St. Olaf Problem-Solving Group. The group meets regularly to work on practice problems, and members can attend three competitions a year, two local and one national.
For Hofstad, the Problem-Solving Group lets him keep doing what he loves. His favorite competition has been the Putnam Competition, which is the preeminent mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. “Putnam problems are a lot harder and I like the challenge,” Hofstad says.
But he also found his interests expanding since coming to St. Olaf. Hofstad, it turns out, really likes physics: “Physics involves lots of math. But physics also includes topics like the structure of the universe and all that weirdness. I find it fascinating.”
He also joined the Science Conversation, a year-long series of three linked courses. St. Olaf students read primary texts by influential figures along with secondary sources while engaging in seminar-style discussions. The program brings together students and faculty with a broad range of academic interests for a critical exploration of science within its historical, cultural, and social contexts. “It’s a lot of reading, but it’s also a lot of fun,” Hofstad says. “We have good discussions, and I’m learning about science through other lenses.”
As much as Hofstad enjoys the mathematical realm, his other passion is music. Throughout middle school and high school he played a variety of instruments including piano, trumpet, and French horn. Now an Ole, Hofstad sings in Chapel Choir and says that “sometimes I still find time to play piano and I play keyboard on the worship teams.”
And in true Ole tradition, next year Hofstad will spend a semester abroad in Budapest. Studying what, you ask? Why, mathematics, of course.
The winners of the fifth annual Ole Cup, the student entrepreneurial competition at St. Olaf College, all had one thing in common: style.
Shaquille Brown ’19 took first place, and a prize of $10,000, for her plan to launch a line of stylish designer lunch bags for the modern career woman. Her business, Willinda Constantine, “was borne out of a desire to provide career women with affordable, luxury lunch bag options.”
Patrik Stefek ’18 took second place, and a prize of $5,000, for his plan for Texima Group, an online marketplace, merchant, and distributor of high-quality, affordable, and customer-specific suspenders.
Wael Awada ’19 and Kenzi Laumann ’19 took third place, and a prize of $3,000, for Gay Apparel, a hand-embroidered clothing brand made by LGBTQ people for LGBTQ people. A percentage of Gay Apparel’s revenue goes to LGBTQ empowerment organizations.
The winners were among the 11 St. Olaf students/teams pitched their plans to a panel of entrepreneurs, business executives, and former recipients of the award.
An additional $5,000 is awarded to the student with the top social venture — this year that was Anna Wolle ’18. Her organization Teranga Strings, is a music program in Dakar, Senegal, that allows students of any age to study violin.
The Ole Cup was conceived by the late Brad Cleveland ‘82, CEO of Proto Labs, who wanted St. Olaf students to realize how much fun it can be to be an entrepreneur. In its first five years, it has helped launch successful businesses like JonnyPops and the Ole Thrift Shop.
Each year the winner of the Ole Cup automatically qualifies for the semi-final round of the Minnesota Cup student division. Brown will pitch her plan for Willinda Constantine alongside entrepreneurs from across the state.
To prepare student entrepreneurs for the Ole Cup, Piper Center for Vocation and Career Associate Director for Entrepreneurship Roberto Zayas provides business plan advising and feedback on students’ pitches. He connects teams to a loyal network of Ole entrepreneurs and investors — like Tina Rexing ’95, owner of T-Rex Cookie Co., who served as the keynote speaker at this year’s Ole Cup — as well as service providers in accounting, finance, legal, marketing, payroll, and human resources.
In addition to being a great experience for students, the Ole Cup is also a fun event to watch. Take a moment to watch the archived stream of the competition below.
St. Olaf College held its annual Honors Day on Friday, May 4, a celebration of student academic accomplishments, a time to express gratitude for faculty members, and an opportunity to say “thank you” to alumni and friends of the college who provide scholarships.
“St. Olaf College dedicates the first Friday of May to recognizing the outstanding academic achievements of our students, and it’s a celebration that we call Honors Day,” President David R. Anderson ’74 said as he welcomed students, families, faculty, staff, and the St. Olaf Board of Regents to the Honors Day Convocation held in Boe Memorial Chapel.Read the complete list of students recognized at the May 4 convocation in the Honors Day program.
Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor opened the convocation by congratulating students named to dean’s list and academic honor societies, as well as those who had received special honors including Fulbright fellowships, Rossing Physics Scholarships, and Boren Scholarships.
“St. Olaf College dedicates the first Friday of May to recognizing the outstanding academic achievements of our students, and it’s a celebration that we call Honors Day.”
St. Olaf Professor of Art and Art History Meg Ojala and Professor of Religion John Barbour delivered an Honors Day address titled Honor and Coming of Age.
Listen to their address, and watch the entire Honors Day Convocation, below.
In a way, every single pixel in the virtual reality game Luna belongs to Glenn Hernandez. As the game’s art director, he was responsible for crafting the overarching look for the fantastical game in which a character named Bird enters and navigates a mysterious world.
At a glance, Luna is pure children’s book whimsy, filled with rich colors and geometric designs. It is complex, beautiful, and utterly irresistible. But there is also a hint of darkness and melancholy in its otherwise spectacular landscapes.
Hernandez spent countless hours crafting the feel of the world. He spent years developing thousands of sketches and paintings, he built prototypes with the 3D software, and he helped direct others on the game’s team to create the larger reality from his vision. Reviewers have called the game “gorgeous,” and “[a] standout.”
In creating Bird, a character who travels to an alternate dimension, solves a series of celestial puzzles, and ultimately returns to its previous world, it’s not hard to see the parallels between Hernandez and the Bird he brought to life. Hernandez is someone who has made an unexpected journey in to an unfamiliar world, who has challenged himself to learn and grow, and who has found a way to bring everything he’s learned from his explorations to visual stories that hit very close to home.
* * * * *
Hernandez had admittedly modest beginnings. He was born to immigrant parents who made their way to California from Guatemala before he was born. Neither had more than a sixth-grade education. Once, his father was deported on an immigration roundup on his way to work, when Hernandez’s sister was just a toddler. After significant complications, Hernandez’s father was ultimately able to return to the United States. Today, both of Hernandez’s parents are U.S. citizens.
The couple worked tirelessly to build a better life for their children — but it was rarely easy. “After the bills were paid and the food and clothes were bought, they were often left with just $10 between them,” Hernandez recalls of his family’s limited means. “But they never once relied on government assistance. And they always encouraged me to pursue what I loved — not what society deemed most practical.”
Hernandez had always been drawn to both music and fine art. He’d been drawing as long as he could remember, creating sketches of King Kong after visiting Universal Studios as a child, for example. And at his high school in Nevada City, an old gold-mining town near Lake Tahoe, he was a standout choral singer.
While there were plenty of great colleges that he could have attended closer to home, the choral director at Hernandez’s school talked up St. Olaf’s music programs. When it came time for Hernandez to look at schools, St. Olaf climbed to the top of the list.
After arriving as a student on the Hill, the pull of the visual arts became even stronger for Hernandez. Janis Hardy, associate professor emerita of music, voice, says that Hernandez brought discipline and curiosity to all of his work. “He was a serious person, always questioning, always striving to learn and improve,” she recalls. “He had an exceptional voice, [but] it became clear that art was his true calling.”
Hernandez decided to major in studio art, trying everything the major offered and pulling in the ideas from other courses as he developed his artistic voice. “What St. Olaf taught me was to be interested in a lot of different subjects: religion, psychology, performance music, art — it was such a well-rounded experience,” he says.
Like many young alumni, Hernandez was ready to make his mark on the world the second he tossed his cap at graduation.
But the world had other plans. “My parents and I, we all had this idea that when you get out of college, you’re going to be super successful because you have that degree,” he says. “But the reality is that while [people in college] can point you in the right direction, a lot of that success is up to you.”
He landed a retail job at Wet Paint, an art supply store in St. Paul, Minnesota. If it was not the job he dreamed of while he was at St. Olaf, he realized it was an important training ground nonetheless. “I learned a lot about materials, and I became the resident pen and ink expert,” he says. But he knew he wouldn’t be there forever.
He returned to California, determined to find a new path for his artistic side. It was a challenging time, especially as the economy started to tailspin. He worked at another art supply store, spent some time living back at home with his parents, and struggled to figure out his next steps.
Eventually, he saw opportunity in the burgeoning animation field. He landed a job as a lab technician at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, taking illustration courses and working on his own projects as his schedule allowed. At the same time, he furthered his technical skills in stop-motion animation by helping other students with their projects. Art directing a couple of graduate stop-motion projects set him on the path towards concept art for animation and games.
One longtime collaborator, stop-motion artist Jim Capobianco, says Hernandez’s uncompromising, singular vision makes him invaluable on a team. “Glenn is focused on quality and originality,” he says. “He does tons of research and then has wonderful ideas that come out of that research. He isn’t trying to copy what others are doing but instead finds his own voice.” Adds Chris Sasaki, an art director at Pixar and former instructor of Hernandez’s, “Glenn applies a timeless sensibility to fresh concepts. He has a natural ability to bring history and personal experiences to his whimsical graphic compositions and characters. He has a craftsman’s eye for detail and subtlety.”
Each animation project helped Hernandez see his path more clearly. He built a toolbox of skills, knowledge, and processes. And eventually, he realized what was missing was not another technical capability or course: it was the narrative. He needed to knit together the beautiful visuals he created with something that made them meaningful. “I realized that what I liked was the idea of visual storytelling,” he says. “It had always been a part of who I was — it had just revealed itself to me slowly.”
But finding the place where he could use those skills wasn’t easy. Hernandez interviewed at Pixar and other top companies, but nothing panned out. So he decided to pursue a one-in-a-million strategy. He had long been impressed with the indie video game Journey for PlayStation 3. The game, in which players travel to a distant mountain, had earned numerous Game of the Year honors. He decided to send a cold email to Journey’s producer, Robin Hunicke, to see if she might be interested in working together.Many of Hernandez’s personal drawings and paintings, including The Fall of Smaug (above) depict scenes from J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of The Rings books.
To his delight, she wrote back almost immediately. “She told me the idea of Luna,” Hernandez recalls. “I did a couple of very rudimentary concept paintings, and from that point on, we’ve been working together.” He joined her company, Funomena (pronounced “phenomena”), as a concept artist in 2013.
Hernandez’s new job demanded intense research, and he closely studied the works of many artists as he developed the aesthetics for the virtual reality game that would become Luna. Among his inspirations were Mary Blair, a Disney animator who did concept art for Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland, and Lee Bontecou, an artist best known for her abstract sculptures and drawings.
Hernandez also spent months developing the backstories of the game’s characters. Then, with those ideas in his head, he set to work creating a magical interactive fable: Owl persuades Bird to swallow up a piece of the moon, which knocks Bird into an alternate world. Only through exploring the new world, and solving a series of puzzles and riddles, can Bird make its way home.
“I’ve taken to recording every story my parents tell me about their childhood in Guatamala. Their immigrant experience greatly influences the stories I tell.”
It was one thing to develop the concept for Luna. Turning that concept and related sketches into a virtual reality game required a Herculean four-year effort, which culminated in its October release. Virtual reality is just beginning to get traction in the gaming world, and Luna is a seductively beautiful introduction to it.
* * * * *
Hernandez enjoys working in the world of virtual reality, but he says he’s fascinated by any art form that allows for storytelling, whether through advanced technology or simpler tools, like clay or pencil. “To me, they are all just tools,” he says. “A concept for a game might just as easily be communicated in a poem, a short story, or a song.”
Indeed, his spectacularly popular Instagram account helps showcase his multimedia fascination. It’s attracted some 10,000 followers, who gobble up his pen-and-ink sketches, watercolor paintings, and even clever pumpkin carvings.
The account is also home to fragments of his most recent fascinations and stories. Even as he worked on Luna, he kept busy with his own projects. “I started to come up with spec work for myself,” he says. “I might say, ‘Here’s a book idea that I have. I want to start to write it out and illustrate it,’ and then go through the process of making a book on my own, and do the work.”
He dreamed that he might one day land a publisher for his ideas, but visits to editors at industry conferences fizzled. “If someone you’re trying to work with is not excited about what you have to bring forth, it’s not worth trying to convince them,” he says. “It’s better to keep doing your own work until someone sees it and wants to work with you — someone who sees that you have something new to bring.”
That someone turned out to be an editor from Penguin Random House named Anna Membrino. In September 2016, she sent Hernandez an email asking if he was interested in children’s books. He couldn’t say yes fast enough.
“I was completely arrested by his style,” says Membrino, who adds that it’s easy to fall in love with Hernandez’s work. “He has a fabulous sense of color, movement, and humor, and his shapes and lines are at once unique and perfectly suited to the world of children’s books.” Penguin Random House signed him to a two-book deal, with his books coming out in the spring and summer of 2019.
As Hernandez mined his memories and experiences to come up with stories that he could tell in clear and irresistible ways to kids, he kept circling back not just to his own stories but to his family’s history. The tales of their immigration felt freighted with importance and meaning in ways he may not have fully recognized before. “I have been thinking a lot about how people build walls around themselves: they isolate themselves from other people and other ideas,” he says.
Out of those musings grew a story about a bricklayer who gets exasperated when a neighboring tortoise comes to play in his garden. Hoping to keep out the pesky visitor, the bricklayer builds a wall, isolating himself in more ways than he can imagine.
In an era infused with the rhetoric of building walls, Hernandez knows that people will see the story as something more than just a tale of a bricklayer and a visitor, or even a more general allegory about the importance of openness to others. “These days, I’ve taken to recording every story my parents tell me about their childhood in Guatemala,” he says. “Their immigrant experience greatly influences the stories I tell, and I hope to add their voices.”
There’s something both unlikely and essential in Hernandez’s journey. The gift his parents gave him — the blessing to choose his own path, wherever it might take him — ultimately led him back to his family. He uses every tool he’s picked up along the way to tell their stories, and ultimately his own story, in the most compelling and beautiful ways.
By Erin Peterson, a Minneapolis freelance writer and a regular contributor to St. Olaf Magazine.
Art on Instagram
Glenn Hernandez admits he came late to the social media scene. He credits his wife, Vanessa, “a source of unyielding support during the more uncertain points in the last seven years,” for keeping him grounded and focused on what’s important. “I didn’t grow up with the social media stuff,” he says. “It was my wife who told me to try it.” He did, and quickly found fans. More than 1,400 posts have attracted 10,000 followers to his page, which you can find at @glenndergarten.
(Left to right) Institute for Freedom and Community Director Edmund Santurri (moderator), Joan Tronto of the University of Minnesota, and David Craig of Indiana University-Purdue University during the April 19 forum on campus.
Minnesota Public Radio will air the St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community’s recent forum featuring two leading scholars of health care policy and ethics, Joan Tronto and David Craig, on May 3.
The “MPR News Presents” program will broadcast the lecture, titled What Kind of Health Care System Should the U. S. Adopt?, at noon and 9 p.m.
Listeners can hear the broadcast live or listen to the archive on the MPR News broadcast web page.
Craig is a professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the author of Health Care as a Social Good: Religious Values and American Democracy.
Tronto is a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and the author of Caring Democracy: Markets, Equality, and Justice.
The Institute for Freedom and Community held the discussion between the two scholars, moderated by Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community Edmund Santurri, April 19 in front of a packed auditorium on the St. Olaf campus.
The event was part of the Institute for Freedom and Community’s spring series on “Freedom, Community, and Health Care.”
At the beginning of the year, just 33 percent of waste was recycled or composted in Rolvaag Memorial Library and Boe Chapel, two of the college’s most heavily trafficked buildings.
Today, 69 percent of the waste in those buildings is recycled or composted.
The driver behind this impressive increase? St. Olaf College students.
This January, the student-led Environmental Coalition (EC) started a campus compost program. The 15-member Compost Crew started by introducing compost bins in Buntrock Commons, which houses all of the campus dining spaces as well as many popular spots for socializing. In just the first month of introducing compost bins in Buntrock Commons, composting increased by 22.8 percent.Coffee purchased at the on-campus shop, the Cage, comes in compostable cups that can be placed in bins set up by Environmental Coalition members.
Led by EC organizer Matthew Douglas-May ’19, an environmental studies major, the crew has worked to set up new compost bins, along with signs explaining what materials are to be composted, recycled, or landfilled. Throughout the academic year, EC has also hosted events on composting and maintaining a sustainable life.
These efforts have been met by a campus community eager to participate. Students, faculty, and staff have increased their composting and recycling habits. Associate Professor of Chemistry and Department Chair of Environmental Studies Paul Jackson ’92 provided support in organizing the efforts, and Assistant Director of Facilities Steve Rasmussen and the college’s facilities team helped set up and manage the new bins in collaboration with Mitchell Miller ’18 and Addie Poore ’21.
The overwhelming reception to the composting initiative in Buntrock Commons during January led EC to expand its efforts to Rolvaag Memorial Library and Boe Chapel in March, with an end goal of campus-wide composting and overall campus conscientiousness. If perfectly executed, roughly 85 percent of these buildings’ waste could be recycled and composted.
“We hope to make students more aware of their consumption habits and their waste production as they sort their trash in order to compost, recycle, or landfill it,” says Kristen Eiswerth ’18, an organizer for EC. “Sorting waste helps students to think more about the full life cycle of an item and the environmental impact of that item.”
“We hope to make students more aware of their consumption habits and their waste production as they sort their trash in order to compost, recycle, or landfill it.”
The dedication of Environmental Coalition and its Compost Crew has raised awareness of the importance in properly sorting waste. “With that success in mind, we must note that our work has just begun,” says Douglas-May, pointing out that the efforts could be expanded to more than three dozen other buildings on campus.
Leidy Rogers ’18 acknowledges that it can feel paralyzing trying to address issues as big as environmental degradation. “I was so impressed with how much people in EC were ready and willing to try to make change happen despite the challenges,” she says. “This dedication pulled me in. I’ve realized that for me, such camaraderie and support is crucial for sustained activism — so finding this community has made me more committed to long-term environmental work.”
In order to protect the earth and also the land on which the college stands, this group of students continues to use its ambitious spirits for advocacy. The Environmental Coalition exemplifies what it means to start taking initiative in your own backyard. These Oles understand how the sum of their actions on campus can add up to an even greater cause.
“Our composting initiatives have the potential to protect the environment and support the local economy,” says Douglas-May, “and the bigger our composting program is on campus, the bigger positive impact we will have.”
Watch Environmental Coalition member Kirsten Koerth ’19 explain how to properly dispose waste in the new bins on campus.
Like most Oles, Iris Burbank’s studies and work reflect her passions — the environment, art, Asian studies, and community engagement. To an outsider, an intersection between these four areas could be hard to imagine, but to Burbank, it couldn’t make more sense.
Burbank is an environmental studies and studio art double-major at St. Olaf who also participates in Asian studies classes, with six semesters of Japanese language courses under her belt. “I’m really interested in Asian cultures, and I’m so lucky to have been able to go to Japan three times with St. Olaf,” she says. “It’s been extremely rewarding using the language skills and environmental perspective I’ve learned to make lasting friendships with Japanese university students and communicate with grassroots rural leaders and change-makers.” She has been focusing on rural issues for the past two years, through her art and studies at St. Olaf.Hidden opportunities
Outside the classroom and her travels to Japan, Burbank works in the St. Olaf Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) office, a high-impact educational approach that encourages students to learn in community contexts. Often referred to as community-based research, service-learning, community-based learning, and public scholarship, ACE facilitates the development of skills, habits of mind, and relationships that prepare students for future internship, research, civic leadership, and work roles.
Burbank found the opportunity by chance when asking around for student work opportunities. Once started, she quickly noticed something about the community-engagement projects.
“No one was really recording or keeping track of the of all the groups and engagement initiatives around campus,” says Burbank. “One of the things I was in charge of was creating an inventory of all the community partnerships on campus. We discovered that a lot of groups and efforts were going unnoticed.”
By creating this list and learning more about what the campus organizations did, Burbank was able to gain insight and learn about engagement opportunities that previously remained in the shadows.
“I didn’t know there were so many organizations and partnerships happening around St. Olaf,” she says. “My hope is that we can continue to grow our connections because there are many ways Oles can benefit from the community off the Hill in a tangible way, and community partners also gain from collaborating with students who have fresh passion and dedication to develop specialized skills.”
“…there are many ways Oles can benefit from the community off the Hill in a tangible way…”Don’t forget the art
Burbank also takes care to remember and include her love of the arts and environment with her community engagement work. Last February, she interned with the Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP). She worked alongside Thomas Hardy ’20 and Assistant Professor of Art Peter Nelson in a partnership with CRWP to curate and publicize international and local environmental films for the Downstream Film Festival, an event that brought artists, environmental topics, and the community stakeholders together.
Perhaps the paragon of Burbank’s intersection of passion and studies is her current Senior Studies Project, a 16-piece series of oil portraits of international grassroots leaders. Her inspiration for this work comes from her reflection on environmental and rural narratives, largely shaped by her time living, farming, cooking, and learning at Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan.
Founded in 1973 by Rev. Dr. Toshihiro Takami, ARI is a local grassroots leader and sustainable agriculture training school that hosts a nine-month training program for established international rural leaders, primarily hailing from developing nations in Africa and Southeast Asia. Burbank’s daily life included cooking breakfast and dinner for 25-80 people, community workshops, organic farming demonstrations, community discussions, worship with global Christians, and tending to crop and vegetable fields, chickens, goats, and fish.
Burbank designed her senior thesis, “Portraits of Rural Strength,” to feature grassroots leaders, subverting the tradition of portraiture being “high art” exclusively for affluent, aristocratic people. Utilizing reference photos self-selected by ARI participants, her project acknowledges the agency of rural people, who are too often reduced to images of poverty, hunger, and “backwardness.” The portraits challenge traditional assumptions that rural leaders are just farmers — they serve as teachers, students, non-governmental organization coordinators, financial experts, and exemplify brilliance, resilience, environmental vision, and community power.Countless opportunities
Through her engagement and passion, many doors are opening for Burbank. After graduation, she hopes to develop professional experience in international relations, sustainable agriculture, sociology, anthropology, and political ecology, with a goal of becoming a professor. She is currently contemplating a master’s program related to rural sociology, international agriculture, and sustainable development. She is also hoping to keep her love for art fresh through some potential artist-in-residence programs in the United States and Japan.
Burbank also wants to bring the lessons she learned from serving in Japan to other parts of the world. “Someday way in the future, I think it would be really awesome to establish a similar international rural leader training school in the U.S. for leaders from Latin America,” she says. “The school’s mission would be centered on principles of creativity, sustainability, the dignity of labor, self-sufficiency, and the innovative use of local resources.”
She’s also working with ARI to plan a continuation of her senior project to return for a summer to teach oil painting to a new class of participants. “My dream would be for the participants to spread my shared passion for creative self-expression back at home after returning from the training program,” she says. “I would love to organize a community showcase of portraits of rural strength, where we would all use our own creativity to tell our stories untold.”
While looking to the future, Burbank thanks her experience at St. Olaf for opening so many opportunities. “I’m very grateful for being able to study at a place where I can learn unconventional academic intersections,” she says. “This was easier to realize with the help of some really encouraging faculty and interdisciplinary programs I participated in, like Environmental Conversations and Asian Conversations.”
“I’m very grateful for being able to study at a place where I can learn unconventional academic intersections.”
With help from a few philosophical heavyweights, St. Olaf College Professor of Philosophy Gordon Marino offers readers an opportunity to face life’s struggles.
His new book, The Existentialist’s Survival Guide (HarperOne), has just been released. In it, Marino thinks alongside philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Albert Camus. Together they provide some much-needed insights on everything from love to death.
“I’ve been hanging around with these guys for 30-some years, and it seems to me that I ought to be able to distill some of their wisdom,” Marino says. “I’ve suffered from anxiety, depression, and all kinds of troubles, many of them self-inflicted. More than articulating abstract theories, I try to provide personal examples of the ways in which this motley crew of thinkers, known as existentialists, have positively impacted my life.”
He hopes his book stands as an honest reflection of philosophy’s teaching power and that his readers might come away with some new perspectives on their own lives, how they want to live, and what kind of person they want to be.
“The main reason that I was attracted to Kierkegaard and company was that they, more than any other group of philosophers, seem to address our inner obstacles such as anxiety and the funk more directly and perceptively than anyone else.”
“Most people find it easy to be a decent human being when they have all green lights. But it is not so easy to be a kind and upstanding person when we encounter the suffering that is inevitable in life,” he says. “Maybe the main reason that I was attracted to Kierkegaard and company was that they, more than any other group of philosophers, seem to address our inner obstacles such as anxiety and the funk more directly and perceptively than anyone else.”
Marino is an internationally recognized journalist who regularly contributes to publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In addition to his teaching and writing, Marino also serves as curator of the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library.