St. Thomas Campus News
KALIMPONG, WEST BENGAL, INDIA – Fred de Sam Lazaro had anticipated this moment for years, and he waited quietly for it to unfold in the courtyard of Gandhi Ashram School.
Father Paul D’Souza, director of the Catholic elementary school, told the 230 girls and boys sitting in the courtyard that they would hear from a guest, “but she is not really a guest. She is one of our own. And she is all what you can become.”
Kushmita Biswakarma walked in front of the children and paused to wipe away tears. “I’m sorry,” she said, before D’Souza put an arm around her shoulders. She took a deep breath, raised her violin and played “Yo Nepali Sir Uchali” (“Pride of Being Nepali”) to an audience enthralled by every sweet note.
De Sam Lazaro beamed. Biswakarma had delivered – with precision and power. She followed with two more songs and promised to return to play again.
The performance was 14 years in the making. It served as a homecoming for Biswakarma, 27, who first picked up a violin as a 5-year-old at Gandhi Ashram, and as an affirmation for de Sam Lazaro that his 2004 story for “PBS NewsHour” on her and the school had made a difference both for a musical prodigy and a school tucked into the Himalayan foothills.
It wasn’t his most important story in 33 years as a PBS correspondent. It didn’t lead to changes in government policies or regulations, as some stories have, nor did it compel systemic changes in the economies of developing countries. But it did illustrate the impact of an education on a child and a community.
And that is what continues to motivate de Sam Lazaro – what has led him to report from 68 countries and pursue “solutions-based journalism” that advances the common good. It’s also what brought him to St. Thomas, home of his “UnderTold Stories Project” on PBS since January 2016.
De Sam Lazaro is a changemaker.Street-savvy journalism
De Sam Lazaro was born in 1956, the youngest of 12 children, in Bangalore. His father manufactured Sam Lazaro pianos in Shanghai, China, and his mother was a physician. The family returned to Bangalore in 1951 after Mao Zedong took control of China.
One of de Sam Lazaro’s sisters moved to San Francisco after their father’s death in 1972, and he and his mother joined her three years later. He enrolled at the College of Marin and met Kay Drechsler, who was from Cloquet, Minnesota. They fell in love and he followed her to Duluth, where they enrolled at the College of St. Scholastica. He graduated in 1981 with a degree in media arts; she became a teacher.
De Sam Lazaro did an internship after his junior year for Minnesota Public Radio in Duluth and it turned into a full-time job as a senior. “In the early 1980s, the economy was tanking with mining layoffs, and I was on the air a lot on the MPR network, plus I had pieces on National Public Radio.”
De Sam Lazaro caught the eye of KTCA-TV (now TPT) in St. Paul, and the station hired him in 1985 as a field reporter for “Almanac,” a new public affairs show. Two months later, the “MacNeil/Lehrer Report,” predecessor to the “PBS NewsHour,” hired him as a regional correspondent. He spent 1987 on a fellowship at the University of Michigan, where he became interested in the outbreak of HIV and AIDS and covered the automotive industry in Detroit.
He did stories for PBS while on vacation in India and persuaded the network to allow additional coverage from there, delivering “street-savvy, bright pieces for a fraction of the normal cost because I could function as a native and was well-networked.” He continued to cover Minnesota news and grew his international portfolio with trips to Asia and Africa. He became a regular contributor to “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly,” also on PBS, and produced its “Wide Angle” documentaries on farmer suicides in India and democracy in Congo.
During that period, the concept of an “undertold” project germinated, along with the possibility of putting things online, he said. His idea gained traction after he gave the commencement address in 2001 at St. John’s University and spoke with Brother Dietrich Reinhart, the president.
“He was an avid viewer of my work and a very generous spirit,” de Sam Lazaro said. “He told me, ‘It would be nice to have you here on campus.’” He made a successful pitch to the Skoll Foundation, which funded PBS programs and supported social entrepreneurship initiatives (the foundation remains the project’s largest sponsor). As he moved forward, he pondered what to call the new program.
“We had to find something wide enough for content areas not frequently covered by mainstream media,” he said. “We didn’t want to call them ‘Untold Stories,’ because they had been told. ‘Under-Told Stories’ seemed to fit.”Ashoka Changemaker
The “Under-Told Stories Project” began at St. John’s in 2006. Some people scratched their heads when hearing that a national news show had ties to a university, but it made sense to de Sam Lazaro because “we had this capacity to partner with an academic institution to enrich the whole body of work. Faculty could provide scholarly interpretations of what I was writing and use my material as a teaching tool.”
Reinhart died in 2008 and de Sam Lazaro moved the project to St. Mary’s University three years later. In 2012, he met Julie Sullivan, then executive vice president and provost at the University of San Diego, at a conference in Mexico. She became president of St. Thomas the following summer, and they reconnected two years later.
“We had breakfast and I had a suspicion she was interested in my work,” he said. “She is willing to take risks and she asked me, ‘What would it take to get this at St. Thomas?’”
De Sam Lazaro was attracted to St. Thomas because of its ambition to become an Ashoka Changemaker Campus (approved last year). He saw it as an opportunity to blend his stories with efforts to evolve a culture of social innovation on campus and, ultimately, at 40 other Ashoka schools.
“I thought Fred would be a perfect fit at St. Thomas,” Sullivan said. “Fred shares the stories of social innovators around the world who are improving the human condition and advancing the common good. Consistent with our Ashoka status, we are integrating his work into our curriculum. It is important for students to understand the complex challenges faced at home and abroad by our fellow neighbors, to identify areas where they are passionate about making a difference and to be empowered to do so. Through his stories, Fred illuminates inspiring role models for all of us, and particularly our students.”
The last two years, he has taken a St. Thomas communications and journalism major on an overseas assignment. This year, senior Deborah Honore did video work with him in India.
During the 2017-18 academic year, 15 St. Thomas classes across 10 departments used his stories to spark discussions or create case studies.Storytelling
His stories impact in a myriad of ways. They have led to changes in laws, policies and attitudes, and individuals and organizations have received significant contributions after he profiles them.
“All of that is nice,” he said, “but it’s not my fundamental goal. I’m not an advocate. I have always operated within a journalistic mentality, and I don’t think about where a program would ricochet. I want to find good stories and tell them well.”
Lazaro’s Five Favorite Stories
Fred de Sam Lazaro hesitates to choose a “best” or “favorite” story that he has produced for PBS. In addition to his 2004 story on Gandhi Ashram School and violinist Kushmita Biswakarma, here are five others:
- Aravind Eye Hospitals, founded in 1976 in Madurai, India. His 1989 story also was his first foreign story for PBS. The organization has had explosive growth – 32 million patients, including four million cataract surgeries – and is the world’s largest eye-care provider. “I did a follow-up story in 2010,” he said. “I had not seen these people in 20 years. They told me, ‘You have no idea how much you raised our profile. You put us on the map.’ On a personal level, that is satisfying. Yet all I did was to turn over a rock.”
- Sister Cyril Mooney, principal of Loreto Day School in Calcutta, India. The Irish nun, who moved to India in 1956, became principal of the elite school in 1979. Four years later, she opened its doors to underprivileged children “to cut through inequities in society,” de Sam Lazaro said, “and have kids from all stripes sit with each other.” He produced stories on her in 1999 and 2009.
- Father William Cunningham, a Detroit priest who co-founded Focus: HOPE after riots in 1967. The civil and human rights organization worked to resolve discrimination and injustice by feeding and training the urban poor. De Sam Lazaro produced stories on the project in 1997 and 2009.
- Andrew Youn, a St. Paul area native who used $7,000 of his own money to found One Acre Fund in Kenya. The nonprofit offers farmers an acre of land, credit, insurance and good-quality seed and fertilizer, and they repay loans at harvest. The project has grown from 38 farmers in 2006 to more than 500,000 in six African countries.
- Katie Meyler, founder and director of More Than Me Academy, which provides free education for 180 vulnerable girls in Monrovia, Liberia. She went to Liberia 12 years ago to work as a volunteer for six months and is still there. Time magazine named her (and other Ebola fighters) its 2014 Person of the Year for work on the front lines of the epidemic. The weekend after de Sam Lazarro’s story ran on Meyler, viewers contributed $31,000 to her school.
Patti Parson, a “PBS NewsHour” producer since 1983, said de Sam Lazaro is an excellent storyteller who brings several qualities to his work: “He cares about his craft and people, and he has a deeply embedded ethical sense. People trust him, and that’s why he has such great access.”
Nikki See collaborated with him as a producer from 1999 to 2016. He amazed her with his ability “to find something unusual in a story – something to catch the viewers’ imagination. And, above all else, he is such a good writer.”A trip to India
A trip to India in March illustrated the challenges, frustrations and exhilaration de Sam Lazaro regularly experiences.
On the trip, he wanted to write about how drought-stricken farmers in southern India have adapted in arid, soil-poor farmlands east of Bangalore.
He also took a trip into the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, where hundreds of farmers committed suicide in recent years because of drought losses.
He interviewed climate scientists and lawyers in Delhi and Bangalore and recruited the CEO of the Foundation for Ecological Security to spend a day in the fields with him. He found a success story in how the foundation worked with farmers from several villages to restore forests, desilt bodies of water and manage scarce water resources by rotating crops in fields aided by drip irrigation. But he still didn’t have the right angle – the right person – to bring the story alive.
And then it happened. While a translator helped interview three farmers, one of them stood out. He had earned a degree at a Bangalore university but didn’t want to live in the big city. Neither did his college-educated wife. They settled on a 5-acre farm where, with 11 dairy cattle milling around them, they talked about how they wouldn’t trade their experience. “We are so happy,” she said.The power of music
The story was easier to identify in Kalimpong, home of Gandhi Ashram School and the alma mater of violinist Biswakarma.
De Sam Lazaro first reported about them in 2004. The late Father Edward McGuire, a Jesuit from Canada, founded the free school in 1993 for children who lived in poverty. He insisted students speak only English at school, an hour’s walk each way for some.
McGuire also provided dozens of violins, because he believed in the power of music. Every student learns to play the violin, and some pursue the viola, cello or piano. Biswakarma remembered her first day of school more than 20 years ago.
“I didn’t want my mother to leave me and I was crying a lot,” she said. “Father McGuire gave me a violin to distract me. I was so fascinated that I didn’t realize my mother was gone and then came back to pick me up. I loved going to school because of the violin.”
At age 13, Biswakarma enrolled at a music conservatory in Munich, where she studied for four years, before six more years and a performing arts degree at Nuremberg University of Music.
“My whole thrust, since I went to Gandhi Ashram, was to play in a professional orchestra,” she said. “But I came to realize that no longer was my dream. I wanted to create my own musical career.”
And she has. She returned to India, settled in Mumbai to freelance with orchestras, is involved in Bollywood productions, has a YouTube channel and teaches violin. Teaching allows her “to share my knowledge with students and give them direction on what music can do for their lives,” she said. “In India, many think music is just a hobby, but it can be much more.”
She typically doesn’t get nervous before a performance, but she was this day.
“When Father Paul introduced me, telling them who I was, that took me back to my days here,” she said, “and I got a little emotional.” Her comment drew a smile and a squeeze from her husband Tilak KC, a high school teacher in Mumbai.
On this day, the younger students gather for an opening assembly and sing the school anthem, and D’Souza leads them in the “Our Father.” Most are Hindu and only 20 percent are Christian, but D’Souza has not received objections to the prayers. “We have an openness here,” he said, “and we have to pray wherever we are. The ‘Our Father’ is a universal prayer in many ways.”
At the end of a day in which she tutored students and met with faculty, Biswakarma sits on a terrace for an interview. She marvels at what transpired with the students and speaks fondly about growing up in a home with a loving family, attending Gandhi Ashram and playing the violin. She calls de Sam Lazaro “an inspiration to us all” and a good listener who “has built a platform for stories which create awareness around the world. In doing so, he initiates positive change.”
He probes softly with his questions and elicits smiles and laughter. The interview over, the entourage moves to her parents’ modest stone home built into a nearby hillside for tea and biscuits in a small, softly lit kitchen. After returning to the hotel for dinner, he reflects on how stories like Gandhi Ashram and Biswakarma make his job rewarding and bring him back for more.
“When I stop having fun, I’ll be done,” he said. “I want to create an institution that survives me. There are roles for these kinds of stories. I don’t want to see them get lost in the shuffle.”
He paused and smiled: “And I’m still having fun.”
Read more from St. Thomas magazine.
The University of St. Thomas is pleased to announce the appointment of Amy McDonough ’93 to the position of chief of staff and liaison to the Office of the President effective July 16. A Tommie alumna, McDonough currently leads governmental relations for the Minnesota Private College Council and brings 25 years of experience in developing policy positions, building coalitions and advancing leader’s priorities.
McDonough emerged as the front-runner from a very large and talented pool of more than 100 candidates.
“From her experience as director of government and community relations at the Minnesota Private College Council, Amy is very familiar with Catholic higher education, as well as higher education in general,” President Julie Sullivan said. “As an alumna, she understands and embraces the mission and values of St. Thomas. In addition, she has very high emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal skills. As one of her references noted, ‘Amy smiles and laughs a lot.’ I look forward to working closely with her.”
“I am excited to have the opportunity to join President Sullivan’s team at the University of St. Thomas,” McDonough said. “My time as a student at St. Thomas had a profound influence on who I am as a person and on the opportunities that I have had professionally. I am dedicated to advancing the common good, admire the great things happening at St. Thomas and am grateful to be able to return to campus and share my skills with this very special community.”
As chief of staff and strategic adviser to the president, McDonough will serve as a trusted adviser to Sullivan, be a representative of the president to internal and external constituencies, and will facilitate the organization of leadership and strategic priorities. The chief of staff position combined two previously vacant positions within the Office of the President – executive adviser to the president and director of external relations, as well as other responsibilities. McDonough also will facilitate the organization of leadership and strategic planning meetings; support trustee engagement; and enable the president’s donor and alumni engagement efforts.
McDonough’s leadership, policy and communications experience spans 25 years in the public and private sectors working on behalf of elected offices, nonprofits and higher education. Prior to joining the leadership team at the MPCC, she served as the associate state director for AARP (2003-2014), where she developed and managed strategic plans and budgets for the long-term and short-term goals of the organization, led communications and managed coalition efforts with diverse partners. Prior to that, she worked for the state of Minnesota in the governor’s office during the Ventura administration. As a policy manager, she represented state agencies and the governor before the U.S. Congress, federal agencies and the Clinton administration. Her career began when she earned an internship working for U.S. Rep. David Minge and rapidly advanced as a congressional staffer, working for three congressmen in Washington, D.C., before returning to Minnesota five years later to work for Weber Shandwick. Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and international studies from St. Thomas and was a Hubert H. Humphrey Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota.
As part of the expanding services and programming of the St. Thomas Veterans Resource Center, Director of Veteran Services Norm Ferguson is offering Green Zone training (GZT) for interested faculty and staff.
“We have found that those who have attended are committed to helping student veterans at St. Thomas,” Ferguson said. “We have already seen changes due to GZT – such as changing office layouts or going further in learning about veterans.”
Green Zone training is for faculty and staff who wish to learn more about the military-affiliated student experience. The goal is to train members of the St. Thomas community to know more about the issues and concerns faced by military-affiliated students and to identify individuals who are available to support these students. The goal is not for individuals to become experts who can ‘solve problems,’ but to be individuals who can lend a sympathetic ear and help the student veteran identify and connect with the appropriate resources.
There are several goals with Green Zone training:
- Identify key aspects of military culture.
- Describe characteristics of the student veteran.
- Discover the issues potentially facing student veterans.
- Identify questions and comments that student veterans find offensive.
- Identify referral resources on campus and within the community available to student veterans.
Trainings are in a one- to two-hour session. Once the training is complete, each participant receives a card to post in his or her office or on his or her door. It shows any student veteran who may see it that this individual has taken the time to learn something about student veterans and is willing to take the time to listen.
Departments interested in taking part in Green Zone training can contact Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A not-so-secret St. Thomas fact – that Tommies get hired – is getting a major shout-out: Zippia, an online career company, named St. Thomas the best in Minnesota as part of a nationwide study to determine the top colleges and universities in each state for graduates securing employment. With a placement rate of 94.38 percent, St. Thomas is among the best institutions in the nation in preparing students for their post-undergraduate careers.
“As the unemployment rate continues to shrink to figures not seen for nearly half a century, it’s becoming more and more important for college graduates to prepare for a competitive workforce. This means picking the right major, having great internship and work experiences, but most of all, choosing the right college to attend in the first place,” the study’s authors wrote.
St. Thomas earned its spot among that list in a study that used figures from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), looking particularly at employment rates for students 10 years after graduating, the authors wrote.
“As a Tommie living in California I believe my education at [St. Thomas] has helped my career,” wrote Laura McKinney on LinkedIn. “I don’t get the same advantage of networking and school reputation as I would if I lived in Minnesota still, but the quality education and critical thinking skills I gained at [St. Thomas] have definitely helped me in my career.”
“As a Tommie, I can attest to to this!” wrote Amy B on LinkedIn. “[St. Thomas’] executive MBA program helped me to earn a promotion prior to program completion.”
The Forum on Workplace Inclusion (FWI) at the University of St. Thomas announced its open call for presentations for its 31st annual FWI Conference. Selected proposals will go on to present at the annual conference – a nationally recognized and globally attended workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) conference – April 16-18 in downtown Minneapolis, Minn.
With more than 200 proposals submitted last year from all over the world, FWI anticipates a similar number of submissions this year with organizers selecting around 90 proposals for the 2019 conference.
The open call for presentation closes July 13, 2018. Visit ForumWorkplaceInclusion.org/CFP for a full timeline and for more information on submitting a proposal.
FWI also announced its 2019 conference theme, “Bridging the Gap.”
“The Forum [conference] looks toward the horizon to choose themes, which resonate throughout the year, and this year, old fault lines are widening, and new fault lines are appearing in our social, political and workplace environments,” said FWI Executive Director Steve Humerickhouse.
The 2019 conference promises to lead the discussion on “Bridging the Gap” by raising awareness and measuring progress.
“The ability to bridge these gaps is essential to an inclusive global community,” Humerickhouse said. “We at FWI believe bridging these gaps hinges on being aware of them, developing skills to close them and crafting measurements to show our progress.”
For more information on submitting a proposal or the 2019 conference theme, visit ForumOnWorkplaceInclusion.org
As Mount Kilauea continues to spew lava across Hawaii’s big island, observers around the world are being reminded of the terrible destructive power volcanoes possess. For Shoreview, Minn., native Jill Schleicher ’11, the past six years of her life have been dedicated to understanding that power.
To do that, she has had to look much further back than Hawaii’s current eruptions to another phenomenon: earthquakes. More than 150 years ago, devastating earthquakes rocked Hawaii’s Big Island. On April 2, 1868, the largest earthquake in Hawaiian history – a 7.9 magnitude – completely destroyed Ku’a in the southeast part of the island. In the following days, several landslides and a tsunami were triggered, adding dozens of deaths to the devastation.
Standing watch over all this was Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, which has erupted 33 times since 1843, including an eruption about four days after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake.
As a volcanologist, Schleicher has been dedicated to unearthing lessons to be learned from that eruption. In the process, she has compiled a rarified knowledge of science so complex it borders on magic: Schleicher lives in a world of magma crystals, subterranean mixing events and computer simulations.
It’s worth acknowledging that volcanoes are pervasive – all of the 1,900 active volcanoes on Earth are likely to explode again, and one in 20 people live within an active volcano’s danger range. They also truly, incredibly powerful: According to National Geographic, in 1883 the volcano Krakatau in Southeast Asia erupted and released 200 megatons of energy, the equivalent of 15,000 nuclear bombs. Plus, volcanoes are just really, really hot: After magma reaches the surface and becomes lava it can still reach nearly 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Much like the volcanoes she studies, Schleicher’s research work has bubbled to the surface. If the publication of her groundbreaking research in late 2015 was the eruption event of her academic career, the magmatic buildup goes back to her time as a Tommie, when she developed a dynamic, crossover skillset between geology and physics.
Growing up in Shoreview, Minnesota, Schleicher was one of those kids who “was just curious about everything.” Along with advanced math courses, seemingly every new science class in high school brought with it a future career transition into that field.
That meant when she visited St. Thomas the science buildings were a must-see, and her ears perked up when her family’s tour guide pointed out the many labs where undergraduates did research with faculty.
“I thought, ‘What? That’s a thing?’ That got me really excited about coming to St. Thomas,” she said.
It took even less time than she imagined: During an introductory physics class her first semester with Professor Marty Johnson, he suggested she check out Geology Professor Tom Hickson’s J-Term camping trip in Nevada.
“I went over to talk to Tom about camping, and he was so excited: ‘A physics and geology double major would be huge!’” Schleicher said. “Within two days on the trip I was ready to do the double major.”
Hickson recalled immediately being struck not just by Schleicher’s brightness, but her curiosity, which led to her willingness to double down on seemingly disparate majors.
“The kinds of questions that geologists ask about the environment and about the Earth really depend on understanding physics, understanding chemistry, understanding a whole range of things. And so, if someone can work in multiple fields, they can write their ticket in geology. She’s done that,” Hickson said.
“That combination was great for her,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the strengths of our institution: We’re small enough that I know my colleagues across the hall, and we’re not so focused on, ‘Oh, you’re a physics major; I’m not going to share you with anyone else.’ She took the skills of a physicist over to geology, which was big.”Mixing and … matching
Schleicher continued developing skills in both disciplines through classes and nearly constant research, including dedicating the summer after her freshman year to research with Hickson, and summer after sophomore year to research with Johnson. As the first person in her family to earn a college degree, Schleicher took advantage of every opportunity St. Thomas’ faculty helped provide.
“St. Thomas faculty have a love of research, but it’s more about their love of teaching and interacting with students,” Schleicher said. “I definitely understood that as an undergrad, but didn’t fully appreciate it until coming to [University of Washington for my Ph.D.], where we have 40,000 people. I see undergrads who are lucky if they get a quarter [of a year’s worth] of research. [Hickson] invited me to do research my first summer. That was so huge for me. … It was a lot of eye-opening experiences and them seeing I was interested, and going all in to get me places. It helped so much having them as mentors.”
For Hickson and Johnson, helping students take their next steps after St. Thomas is what it’s all about.
“We work really hard to create an environment where students at any level [have] a foundation to go wherever they want to go. I felt like Schleicher just thrived in that,” Hickson said. “We wanted to give her the most, the biggest breadth of experience and possibilities that she could have to go on and do whatever she wanted to do.”
Schleicher’s expertise and resume continued to build into her junior year, when she received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, a lofty academic feat for any undergraduate student. At the same time she was taking a geology course that featured studying basalt flows along the shores of Lake Superior.
“These are basalts from volcanoes millions of years ago. That’s just so cool! That really got me interested in volcanology,” Schleicher said.
Soon afterward she joined Hickson and classmates at the Geological Society of America conference and attended a session called, “The Physics of Volcano Eruptions.”
Schleicher’s path forward was suddenly crystal clear, and over the following summer during a research program at Oregon State University, she began to understand even more how dynamic her mixing of geology and physics truly was. After graduating, she set off for the University of Washington, where over her six-year Ph.D. program she dug into some seriously hot stuff.Getting into the flow
The scientific community is relatively good at predicting eruptions. “Relatively” being a key word, because there is so little knowledge of what’s actually going on inside the volcano; external signs make up the backbone of predictive modeling.
For the vast majority of past study, the inside of volcanoes was seen as an extremely viscous liquid (think crazy-thick molasses). Physically speaking, though, the majority of the time it’s in a solid state, with hundreds of thousands of tiny crystals frozen within it and liquid magma moving around it. As mixing occurs and the crystals move, their compositions change and – thanks to an incredible high-spatial study – they can be studied after eruptions for information about what occurred inside the volcano (similar to studying tree rings).
The problem, Schleicher said, is that “We don’t really know the mechanical properties of these mixing systems.”
That leaves a pretty sizable knowledge gap in what goes on inside a volcano, and how that knowledge could help determine if and when one will erupt. If only someone could bring a high-level physics mindset to those systems…
The results of Schleicher’s years of work on this are complex, but the gist is this: By creating numerical simulations (based off code for fluidizing particles from the National Energy Technology Lab), Schleicher can model every individual crystal in a very simple system. She can then put that system into a container (volcano) and inject it with fluid (magma) to create a simulated mixing event. Then she can crank that system up to, say, 300,000 crystals and let a supercomputer chew on it for five months or more.
“That is one of the reasons people have modeled them as viscous liquids: They’re extremely intensive computationally,” Schleicher said. “Because I had the physics, engineering and math background with geology, I could say, ‘We can do this,’ and really figure out how these systems work.” And, in the process, offer an understanding of the inside of a volcano that predictive modeling to this point has never accomplished.
As Hickson pointed out, Schleicher’s work essentially combines high-level geology, physics, chemistry, programming and computational analysis.
“And this is all applied stuff, to the real-world situations of volcanic eruptions,” he added. “Wow.”
While doing research work, Schleicher said she didn’t have much appreciation for the contributions she was making to the field of volcanology. Once her research was published her adviser revealed the great feedback they were receiving, but it wasn’t until she presented at a conference that it sunk in.
“People were like, ‘What are you doing? This is amazing! This is what we’ve been waiting for. We just hadn’t had the right people to do it,’” Schleicher said. “That was a really cool feeling for me, realizing the work I’ve been doing for so long was important. There wasn’t outside validation of the work at the time [of my research]; I was just doing my thing.”
That attitude is fitting for Schleicher, who, while at St. Thomas and Washington, maintained the importance of balance while pursuing exceptional academic study. Former St. Thomas physics classmate and close friend Ann Lanari spoke of Schleicher’s sense of humor, love of singing (Schleicher was in choir at St. Thomas and is now in the Seattle Women’s Choir) and interest in others.
“She’s kept one foot in the real world, which is really incredible to do while accomplishing a Ph.D., where [one] can have a tendency to become one-dimensional, and then a one-dimensional adult as well. That’s not Jill,” Lanari said.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Schleicher plans next to try something new outside academia, perhaps “something that’s helping people or helping think about how we impact the environment,” she said.
“She’s just an inherently curious person. She doesn’t allow herself to be stuck in the boundaries that society says, ‘This is what you’re supposed to do.’ That’s pretty cool,” Johnson said.
Whatever comes next, it’s clear the same curiosity that helped Schleicher thrive at St. Thomas will continue guiding her.
The University of St. Thomas is demonstrating its commitment to interfaith dialogue and the common good by holding the Eid Carnival event on June 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the lower quad on the John P. Monahan Plaza. Students, staff, alumni and community members are invited to this free event.
The Eid Carnival is the first event being organized by the Center for Campus Ministry’s new Associate Chaplain, Islamic Faith, Sadaf Shier, PhD. Shier is a native of Lahore, Pakistan, and first came to the United States in 2007 on a Fulbright program. She has lived in the Twin Cities since 2009, when she began a doctoral program in second language studies in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, supported by a fellowship from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She completed her doctorate in 2016. She has played a leadership role in the Twin Cities interfaith movement.
The Eid Carnival is supported by the Diversity Activities Board, Saudi Students Club and Muslim Student Association. It caps the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and is the second Ramadan-related event supported this year by the Diversity Activities Board and the Center for Campus Ministry. The first event was an iftar dinner, an activity of the Muslim Student Association that was held in Anderson Student Center to mark the beginning of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the lunar month when Muslims from around the world celebrate the holy month with food and water fasts from predawn until sundown. They break their fasts, known as iftar, by eating dates and drinking water, the way the Prophet Muhammad used to break his fasts long ago. The end of Ramadan, and the month of fasting is Eid al-Fitr, one of the greatest holidays for Muslims. Eid celebrations revive the lessons of mercy, compassion and social justice learned during the holy month of Ramadan. In many countries in the Muslim world, Eid goes on for three days. Even though the Eid Carnival at St. Thomas will not go on that long, it should be a good opportunity for international students to celebrate this religious holiday away from their home countries. The event will feature a henna artist, a bouncy castle and fun games for children, a photo booth and a zabiha halal dinner.
Every senior in high school experiences a time when they find themselves sad to leave the past but excited to move to the future. Although exciting for some, others dread the anticipation. As a senior in high school transitioning to their first year in college, there are a lot of questions that can cause you to be anxious about the next part of your life. As nerve-racking as the thought of experiencing college can be, there are resources to ease the transition. We took a list of questions from current high school students and answered them below. Using my own experience, as well that of other college students and faculty, here are answers that hopefully can ease your nerves.
Is college the right fit for me?
College is the right fit for anyone who seeks to learn; it’s just about choosing the right one. The college search is a long and sometimes tiring process, visiting multiple colleges and sometimes not liking any of them. This can be frustrating when you just want to jump into your future right away, but as you are deciding where you will live your life for the next four years, this should take time. Careful consideration and questioning can lead you to your future school. The real excitement arrives when you finally figure out the right college for you and – after a few months – you will wonder why you ever even doubted the process.
Will I waste money going into college undecided?
No – college is a time of exploration and investigation of one’s identity. Throughout your four years you will learn more about who you are and what you like to do. If you are undecided, I recommend exploring your interests in your first two years of college. By fall of your junior year you should be able to decide which major you want to study. Although going into college without your major in mind can be stressful, you will not waste your money going in with an undecided major.
How will I get accustomed to the college environment?
Getting accustomed to the college environment is something colleges and universities make fairly easy during the first few weeks. During welcome week, first-year students are encouraged to immerse themselves in the college culture. This week is packed with events you can participate in to get to know people and become a part of your college environment. Along with that, if you are staying on campus, making friends with people who are in the same residence hall with you is another way to connect with people. Also, getting involved in clubs and activities are great ways to get to know people. Getting accustomed is not as hard as you would imagine. Although the adjustment to the new environment can be tricky, you will hopefully come to love this place you can now call home.
Do faculty care about their students?
Knowing whether your professor cares about their students is essential when attending a college. Often it depends on the class size and the professor. Class size plays a huge role in professors tending to a student’s needs. The bigger the class, the less likely this is to happen. To be a student whom the professor cares about, you will have to be a student who goes out of their way to get to know them. There are a few things that will make getting to know your professor a lot easier:
- Attend class regularly.
- Be involved and participate.
- Introduce yourself to your professor the first day of class.
- Do your best work.
- Go to office hours.
These things can go a long way in impressing your professor, and they can be essential on days when you have to miss class or need an extension on a due date. Professors do not have to care about their students, so going out of your way to make sure you are one of the students that your professor knows is huge in any class.
Will I actually learn useful material or will it just be about making the grade?
In high school you may have felt some of your classes are insignificant. College, to say the least, is a lot different from high school. This is not to say that you will always have classes you are interested in, but college classes are more engaging. Also, you do not have to worry about being uninterested too much because you pick the classes. Most of them will be required to get your degree, but getting into your major field can make the classes more likable. You won’t always love the classes you are taking but if you can work hard and get through the ones you don’t love, you will be exceedingly successful in college.
What will be the hardest part about being on my own?
The hardest part about being on your own in college at first is that you may miss your friends and family. Although many seniors long for that independence and are ready to pack their bags as soon as possible, when you don’t see your family for long periods of time you begin to miss their annoying habits. Over time you will adopt a new crowd of people into your life, and experience the next four years together. They will become like family. So, don’t be afraid to open up to people because you miss life at home. Remember, you spend most of your year at school and you will need to have people you can count on. There will always be the summer to spend time with your hometown family and friends.
When Jason Utgaard ’07 talks about landfills overflowing with the tons of waste Americans produce, he sees beyond the heaps of trash; instead, he sees endless potential.
In a TEDx talk a few years ago, Utgaard asked people to stop thinking of themselves as consumers and start considering themselves temporary users.
On stage, the ecopreneur pointed to his clothing and explained the uniqueness of each garment – his shirt and pants made from recycled polyester, a belt designed from recycled inner tubes, sunglasses crafted from discarded CDs and shoes created from recycled rubber. Even his socks, he pointed out, were once plastic bottles. Recycling unlikely things such as fishing nets, cigarette butts and used denim is as much about innovation as it is about preservation, he explained.
The point? We have to think about designing for the future using recycled materials.Offsetting our environmental impact
Utgaard has taken his passion for the environment in many directions. He is the founder of The Spotted Door, an e-commerce website featuring goods made from recycled materials. At Momentum Recycling in Salt Lake City, he spearheads marketing projects and community outreach. And, as an active member of the Al Gorefounded nonprofit, The Climate Reality Project, he helps educate people on how to reduce their environmental footprint.
“There’s really nothing that we can do these days that doesn’t leave some type of impact on the environment,” said Utgaard from his home in Salt Lake City. “What we can do is work to offset that or to minimize that.”
Utgaard, who double majored in entrepreneurship, and leadership and management at St. Thomas, grew up in Maplewood and relocated to Salt Lake City after graduation to work for his family’s nationwide chain of sporting goods stores, Sportsman’s Warehouse. There he learned firsthand everything from supply chain management and product lifecycles to market strategy and merchandising. Unfortunately, not long after his move, the company shuttered many of its stores and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
With his entrepreneurial dreams still in tow, Utgaard moved onto fresh endeavors including stints at Overstock.com and CommerceInterface. He decided to pursue a career embracing sustainability after a combination of events.
“It was a snowball effect leading to the intersection of my enhanced awareness of the sheer volume of material I was responsible for nationally distributing through my roles as a buyer/VP, and this surge of sustainably made products I saw while doing sourcing work,” he said.
When it came time to launch his own venture, The Spotted Door, he wanted to make sure the products he featured were unique, environmentally friendly and had a story behind them.
“I had this huge, long spreadsheet – it was literally 700 lines long – with all these different companies I kept in mind for when I started the website,” Utgaard said. “Finally, I just said I’m going to try my own thing. I took my little severance when I left CommerceInterface (which was bought by Groupon) and put it into starting a website, and that was that.”
Some of the first recycled items that caught his eye were messenger bags and wallets that his colleague’s wife had bought in Colombia.
“I was wowed by the ingenuity it took to create them, and the unique markings on each made them all so cool,” he said. “It wasn’t like seeing 10 of the same item; they were similar but each unique. I loved it. Later on, I actually ended up working directly with that same artist in Colombia to update the designs and I placed a large order for The Spotted Door.”
Currently, Utgaard works with more than 70 suppliers, mostly from across the United States, with the hope of eventually adding global products to his inventory. The site includes an eclectic array of hundreds of items, including armchairs constructed from recycled and repurposed steel drums; tables made from reclaimed wood and scrap metal; jewelry created from old whiskey bottles; dog pull toys made in Minnesota from rubber tubes previously used on cow milking machines, and much more.
“I knew all these products were out there, but they were just so hard for me to even find,” he said. “As a buyer looking for them, I couldn’t imagine any consumer just stumbling upon them. At The Spotted Door, we are selling products that many times people have never heard of. If you’ve never heard of sunglasses made from recycled CDs, you’re not going to go home and say, ‘I think I’ll Google “sunglasses made from CDs” and see if anything comes up.’ That’s not going to happen.”
One of The Spotted Door’s most popular pieces is a floor mat made from recycled fire hoses. Sourced from fire departments in the Midwest, the mats include a tag indicating the fire department that used the hoses and when the hoses were decommissioned. Ten percent of sales from the mats go back to the fire department that donated the hose.
Products featured on The Spotted Door have to be made from at least 50 percent recycled content, said Utgaard, who is drawn toward compiling an inventory of innovative, under-the-radar items.
“Overall, I’m really looking for stuff that wows me,” he said. “You look at it, and you can’t help but click into reading about its story. Or it might be something that I haven’t seen before. There are certain types of materials that I’m looking for, but usually I’m just looking for somebody who seems to have something that’s innovative but also fits an everyday need. We don’t want to create waste from these things that we’re making from recycled materials. We want them to be functional in nature, too. I want to get into their story. I want people to connect with the products.”A cause, passion and curiosity
While the entrepreneurial seed was planted early for Utgaard thanks to his family’s business, he started to hone his skills while attending St. Thomas. Utgaard vividly recalled pitching business ideas in class to a panel of local entrepreneurs as a memorable and tough challenge he described as “brutal yet beneficial, and surprisingly entertaining.”
The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship’s Alec Johnson remembered Utgaard as always being curious, having a can-do attitude and wearing a giant smile.
“When I saw he had launched his current business, I was not surprised,” said Johnson, who teaches entrepreneurship. “He’s an intellectually engaged, positive person with a cause, passion and curiosity.”
Years after graduation, when looking into starting his own business, Utgaard recalled revisiting notes from his entrepreneurial classes with Johnson and Jay Ebben.
“I actually have a page of notes that, across the top in big letters, says, ‘creating new market space.’ When I graduated, I went back and put all my important class notes together,” Utgaard said. “I still look back at this when I need to figure out, ‘Why is this not working? Why have things flatlined?’”
It’s not unusual, said Johnson, that budding entrepreneurs reference classroom lessons postgraduation.
“Maybe that simply speaks to the practical nature of our program,” he said. “That we are doing the right thing because they are walking out and saying, ‘I can use this. Not only can I, I need to and I want to.’”
“There is absolutely nothing easy about being asked to start a business,” Johnson continued. “They are easy words to say – ‘start a business.’ It’s not physics; it doesn’t have the same abstract thinking or math skills, right? It’s a different kind of difficult. I think what is wrapped in there is, ‘Do I know the right questions to ask? Do I have the courage to answer the hard questions?’ The questions are not complicated, but answering them can be hard.”
Utgaard is the first to admit running a startup hasn’t been easy. With plenty of ups and downs in the business, he is able to break even at this point.Improving his community
Along with his duties at The Spotted Door, Utgaard is also marketing director for Momentum Recycling. Thanks to an awareness campaign he spearheaded, the company has added 7,000 residential subscribers across Salt Lake City to its optional glass recycling program. Last year, the company recycled 13,000 tons of glass at its Salt Lake City plant.
“Jason already had been very involved in the sustainability community in our area,” said John Lair, president and CEO of Momentum Recycling. “We are a social impact business – that’s how we think of ourselves. We need to make a profit, but we also have this important part of our mission to improve the community. Jason was doing that already through other projects, so we knew there was a great alignment with his passions and ethics and ours.
“He’s always able to understand the different initiatives and opportunities that come up and look at those through the lens of, ‘How is this going to move the mission forward? How is this going to increase our profitability or increase our exposure?’” Lair added. “Because of his entrepreneurial background, he is able to look at all of these things through that lens, which is really powerful for us.”
Educating people about the environment is Utgaard’s passion. He is as excited to spread the word about Momentum’s work as he is about adding new products to The Spotted Door, such as swimwear made from 84 percent recycled plastic bottles. He calls himself an everyday alumnus “trying to do something different.
“It’s a challenge to be more sustainable and to not do what everybody else is doing just because it’s easy, cheap and accessible,” Utgaard said. “Any company can do something. Every company has to try. Because if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going down the wrong path. That’s why I abandoned ship after my first couple of years in generic retail and said, ‘I’m going to try something that nobody else is doing, and if it fails, it fails. But at least it keeps me going.’ I’m encouraged to keep trying to make a difference, instead of just trying to make money.”
Read more from St. Thomas magazine.
Curriculum, technology, assessments, standards, etc. are important parts of any kind of education, but one of the most critical questions for today’s schools is “What makes a good teacher?” Paul VI suggests that it is one who is both a teacher and witness.
This resonates with Ben Vasko ’15, a teacher and assistant principal at Ave Maria Academy in Maple Grove, Minnesota, who holds that to be a good teacher “you actually have to know what you believe.” For Vasko, this is his Catholic faith. At the heart of his work is not an ethic or a theory but a person, the Logos, the Christ, who is all and in all (Col 3:11).
This vision is not uncommon among the Catholic Studies lay people, clergy and religious alumni who work in education and related ministries – nearly half of all current Catholic Studies undergraduate and graduate alumni.
Vasko’s principal at Ave Maria Academy, Katie Danielson ’08, leads with this Christ-centered approach. She considers the role of the school as helping children “understand their senses and passions, inform the intellect and form the will, and to keep these things directed toward Christ and the truth. I’ve really been able to articulate these things, to take them on as my own and wrestle with these ideas, through my studies.”
This goal is present not only in the classroom, but also in Danielson’s administrative style. When she needs to reprimand students, she tries to first consider their emotional and mental maturity insofar as how free a particular student is. This helps her weigh the justice of a disciplinary action a particular child may receive. Her faculty is encouraged to “go down to [a child’s] level, they see your eyes looking at them, that encounter is important because it communicates true concern for the other.” It is in these small, daily ways that she sees the recognition of the sacred go beyond the classroom to shape the mission of the school.
This vision of education is at the core of the Catholic Studies student experience, which itself is deeply informed by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Newman explained that at the heart of education is not only an accumulation of knowledge or simply career credentialing, but what he refers to as a “Unity of Knowledge.” One can learn the skills of classroom management and how to deliver content to help address these concerns, but there is more to an education, and certainly to a Catholic education.
To explain this principle of a unity of knowledge, Newman uses the metaphor of the curriculum as “a circle of knowledge in which all the disciplines depend on a certain mutual correction and completion – in which the absence of any discipline weakens all disciplines.” Education should enlarge the mind’s capacity to connect different subjects in search of a more holistic view of the world.
For Newman, the teacher’s work is to help students develop a habit of mind to see things in relation to each other, so as to form right judgments about the world they encounter. Teachers engage students in subjects such as literature, math, science, music, history and religion – all of which help the student to see not merely discrete isolated facts, but a deeper yet inexhaustible unity of knowledge. This unity of knowledge, which must first be desired by the teacher, helps students to put parts inside of a whole, to see the link between the particular and the universal, and to recognize the relationship between the secular and the sacred.
Anne Morath ’16 CSMA, who teaches at Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan, Minnesota, looks back on her own educational experience through this lens.
“When I got to college, I was so ready to specialize and do the things for which I thought I had a natural talent. But, I didn’t really appreciate how the different disciplines interact with each other,” she said.
She credits Catholic Studies in giving her “the appreciation of interdisciplinary thought and study.” Engaging in this unity has been transformative for her own teaching. She explains that while teaching entails lots of work, at its heart, education is about receiving an order to creation, created by God whose final word is love. Morath’s desire for her teaching is to “form people who are awake, who will love the world, in all of its complexities and nuances and be able to think about it well, and love well.”
Seeing how things are related to each other, especially how the secular is related to the sacred, is not about imposing faith or the Catholic tradition into schools, Vasko said. It is about revealing what is intrinsically sacred about how subjects are taught, how they connect, and ultimately how they can teach students about God and their own humanity. Vasko approaches his teaching with the goal of “freeing the mind and the will so the person can choose truth, goodness and beauty, which all reside in the mind of God.” He thinks that this goal is what should distinguish a Catholic school at its finest. “When you say a school is Catholic, [the meaning of education] transforms,” he said. “It is still math, but it is math transformed.”
Take Vasko’s geometry class. He sees the relationship of 30-, 60- and 90-degree triangles and exclaims to his students, “These are always the same, we can figure out this line and this angle, and figure out the way the world is ordered and created. … We live in an ordered universe because of God, and that is amazing!”
Vasko’s approach is nothing new; it draws from history. Hindu mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan famously said that, “an equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” And Einstein said: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”
“When you see the world with wonder it awakens something in the hearts of your students and yourself, it awakens you to the divine and the sacred,” Morath said. Education is more than pedagogy and good classroom management. At its core, it is about teachers who share knowledge with students that fills the longings of the human mind and heart to live well.
Vasko has come to the conclusion that “anyone who wants to [advance] the common good must master themselves. … Self-knowledge leads to self-discipline, leads to self-denial, leads to self-gift.” It is in this self-gift – this witness – that the “good in common” begins to grow.
It was a simple conversation. University of St. Thomas public safety manager Bill Carter and his staff talked with a woman who was graduating with a master’s degree. She was determined to walk across the stage on the evening of Saturday, May 19, even though she had just given birth the night before. Carter told the Marketing, Insights and Communications (MIC) public relations team, who jumped on the story, taking video of Zeinab Abdalla walking across the stage and then interviewing her. The end result was an edited video for the university’s Twitter account.
Since that tweet, Abdalla’s story has gone viral: The video had a combined 114,590 views across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; the Tweet has also garnered 1,198 retweets and 165,344 impressions.Instagram Twitter Facebook 2,197 views 92,225 views 20,168 views 348 likes 1,198 retweets 1,100 likes 4,724 reach 36,410 engagements 39,332 reach 6,881 impressions 165,344 impressions 315 (total) comments and shares
Media outlets from the Twin Cities and around the world have reached out to feature Abdalla, resulting in 1.6 million impressions across coverage from dozens of outlets, including:
- FOX News
- Inside Edition
- Hollywood News
- Yahoo! Entertainment
- KARE 11
- Mogadishu Times
- KXLY Spokane
- KVVR (FOX) Fargo
- KMBC-KC (ABC)
- College and University
- Latest Nigerian News
- Nigeria ’70
- Flourish Africa
- Detik News
- Radio Dalsan
- La Opinión
- Thanh Niên
- The Shade Room
- The Buddy
- Last Minute Stuff
- Hello Giggles
People around the world are amazed by Abdalla’s determination and strength. The university’s MIC team appreciates Carter and his staff for pointing out such a positive and uplifting story on a busy commencement day.
The Master of Arts in Catholic Studies (CSMA) Online program will launch this fall with the goal of reaching a new generation and creating more flexible learning opportunities for nontraditional students. The launch follows the University of St. Thomas launch of STELAR, a state-of-the-art technology center that is working closely with Catholic Studies faculty to develop a heavily interactive online program designed to foster strong faculty/student engagement and community.
“We’re excited to be able to meet the needs of our graduate-level students in a new way, and we also recognize that the distinctive integrated learning experience of St. Thomas Catholic Studies – one that integrates the intellectual, spiritual and social life – cannot be lost as we grow,” said program director Erika Kidd, PhD. “This consideration has been at the forefront of how faculty are designing the courses, which will emphasize robust dialogue and personal engagement with students.”
The fall 2018 course offerings are History of Western Education with Michael Naughton PhD in a blended learning format, and Catholic Thought and Culture I with John Boyle PhD.
“The deep educational roots of the Catholic tradition creates a rich, eye-opening and accessible historical narrative, which is why I think the History of Western Education course has been a perennial favorite of our graduate students,” said Naughton, Koch Chair in Catholic Studies. “I’m looking forward to taking this course online. We’re developing a blended learning structure that makes the course material more accessible, without losing the human community that comes from the intimacy of classroom conversation.”
While online offerings will include courses that have long been popular with the variety of students the Catholic Studies graduate program attracts, the program has also developed a blended learning two-course sequence of study in the Mission and Culture of Catholic Schools, which is specifically tailored to meet the needs of Catholic school educators. The study sequence was developed in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis Office for the Mission of Catholic Education, and is being offered at a special educator rate through the support of the College of Arts and Sciences and St. Thomas benefactors.
“The history of the first thousand years of the encounter of faith and culture is a dramatic one,” said Boyle, chair of the Department of Catholic Studies. “I look forward to bringing this alive for students in new ways through the opportunities afforded by online learning.”
The application deadline for online Catholic Studies graduate courses and the Mission and Culture Two-Course Study for Catholic School Educators is Aug. 1.
Step into Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan’s office, and the first thing you see is an homage to his hometown – line art of Heckscherville, Pa., originally known as The Irish Valley, “just a little patch in the coal-mining region,” he says.
One framed drawing shows St. Kieran’s Church, named after the Irish patron saint of coal miners, its narrow windows and faded stones set against barren trees. “The parish,” Monsignor Callaghan says, his eyes shining, “that was your life.”
Another drawing lays out a snug row of faith formation: the convent and rectory nestled between the little church and school. “The nuns took the place of your folks when you were with them,” he says. “The community was so tight knit. Everyone knew you so you couldn’t get away with anything.”
A third drawing captures the town’s skyline, a coal breaker towering above the school, coal miners like his grandfather toiling in overalls and hard hats with lamps.
They tell Monsignor Callaghan’s origin story, a map of his 1950s childhood – hundreds of lines etched into his mind just as surely as the creases on the palm of his hand – the place that first directed a bright-eyed altar boy to the priesthood.
But the story does not end there. The next chapter is also on prominent display. Throughout his office, images of the Rome years recur: reminders of his seminary days, his ordination at St. Peter’s Basilica and his service to the Vatican; tributes to Mother Teresa, a close friendship forged in Italy; his framed canon law degree. Beginning in his early 20s, these were formative years that turned the Pennsylvania boy into a Roman man, fluent in Italian, finger on the pulse of the throbbing universal church.
Only then do you have a complete understanding of the rector of one of the nation’s top seminaries. These are the twin strands that animate Monsignor Callaghan, uniquely preparing him for leadership and lending an unusual range: blue-collar coal-mining town and gold-leafed Eternal City. Street smarts and book smarts. Grit and elegance.
Both strands are steeped in Catholicism, and woven together, they form a priestly identity so strong that, nearly half a century after ordination, a childlike zeal for his vocation remains, making him the ideal man to inspire the next generation of priests.
“He is a priest from his head to his foot,” says Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, a close friend, “and that is the greatest compliment that could be attributed to anyone.”
The two strands inform all that Monsignor Callaghan does. One tempers the other; other times, they work in tandem.
His devotion to the Blessed Mother, for instance, was first cultivated in Heckscherville, where he prayed the rosary with the nuns at school, on his grandma’s lap and piled into the family’s 1946 Dodge, each member leading a decade. At the annual May procession, the town’s Marian devotion perfumed the air just as sweetly as the cherry blossoms.
That devotion deepened in Rome – at chapels dedicated to the Blessed Mother, in the heart of a maturing priest far from home, in conversation with Mother Teresa, who urged Monsignor Callaghan to be “pure and humble like Mary so as to be holy like Jesus.”
It was the coal miners whose example made Monsignor Callaghan industrious, a doctorate student poring over cannon law and later a rector whose office light illuminates the courtyard until 9 or 10 at night. “I learned discipline from him,” says Father Matthew Quail, a Saint Paul Seminary graduate ordained in 2017. “You work until it’s done.”
It compels Monsignor Callaghan on Monday mornings to join the seminarians at the Binz Refectory on campus for coffee. “He would always be full of life, even when you could see he was tired,” recalls Father Jayson Miller, a fellow 2017 graduate. “He would say, ‘Gentlemen, it’s the best day of the week!’ He had a love of Mondays.”
It’s why he prepares for every appointment, prefers an advance agenda and begrudges pointless meetings. “He wants to be useful,” says Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of the University of St. Thomas. “He has a desire to serve – that’s what fulfills him most.”
He never complained last year when pressure on his sciatic nerve caused hip pain and forced him to use a cane. At a wedding reception, when Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” was played, he got up and danced, using his cane to tremendous effect and delighting the guests.
Of course, Irish mirth was also learned in Heckscherville, where families found levity amid poverty. It was often expressed in song, uniting and uplifting, and it explains why Monsignor Callaghan calls on the seminarians to pipe up at Mass. “Men, you need to be singing in the Communion line!” he’ll say.
In his hometown, fraternity was the glue among the coal miners and the teachers, who chose to work one school year with no pay. Years later it was reinforced in Rome, from the close-knit seminarians in black to the College of Cardinals, a sea of red.
Cultivating fraternity at The Saint Paul Seminary was a priority for Monsignor Callaghan, who encouraged community meals, now a Monday-night tradition among the men. It is also fostered in communal prayer, which has become the heartbeat of the seminary: 6 a.m. Holy Hour, 7 a.m. Morning Prayer, 11:35 a.m. Mass, 5 p.m. Evening Prayer and 8:45 p.m. Rosary.
Monsignor Callaghan leads by example: He is in Eucharistic Adoration every morning at 6 am. “That’s what I needed to see,” Father Quail says. “It all starts there.”
Life can be messy, and the ruptures that played out in Heckscherville helped prepare him to do sensitive, insightful work for the Allentown diocese as Secretary to the Diocesan Tribunal in the early 70s, as Adjutant Judicial Vicar in the late 70s and then as Judicial Vicar beginning in 1984. It also enabled him to appreciate the sacrifice demanded of the military, equipping him for his tenure as Vicar General of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, a position that felt like meaningful service to both God and country.
It was in Pennsylvania, too, that Monsignor Callaghan learned to be direct, “to call a spade a spade.” It set him up to be an effective decision maker, bringing an East Coast clarity to a boardroom of polite Midwesterners.
This was refined in Rome, where he developed the skill set for diplomacy: to listen well, to learn the person behind the issue, to build consensus.
Combined, you have a rector who can get things done – as evidenced by his governance of the remodel of the seminary chapel. “It had been discussed over and over and over,” Archbishop Flynn recalls, “and so finally he took care of it, and he did it in a New York second, as they say, and he did it very well.”
Monsignor Callaghan was at once respectful and decisive, Archbishop Flynn says: “a steel hand in a velvet glove.” Heckscherville and Rome.
The latter was a major influence, inspiring Monsignor Callaghan to add color to the white-washed space, to return the tabernacle from the side chapel to the main chapel, to establish a central crucifix and to commission statues made by Italian sculptors to fill the empty alcoves. The goal was to transport the beauty of the universal church in Rome to St. Paul. “There’s a vibrancy to that,” he says. “It’s something you can bring with you.”
He also signaled the seminarians’ return to wearing clerics, a move that strengthened their sense of identity and their visibility in the community.
All the while, there were two fixed points in his mind: little St. Kiernan’s in the valley, St. Peter’s Basilica on the hill.
“He strikes a balance between practicality and alluring people with the beauty of our Church,” Father Quail says. “Our rituals are exceptional. Yet you can’t be so rigid in all things, so he’s going to show you the beauty of the rituals but also say, ‘Boys, you probably won’t have this in your parish, to this extent, but what can you take back to your church?’”
The rector has both an attention to detail – using italics in a document, adjusting a crooked wall hanging – and a sense of humanity, of the grand scheme of things. Are these men healthy? Are they getting enough sleep? He alternately challenges the seminarians, spelling out his high expectations, and advocates for them, occasionally calling for a three-day weekend because they get so few breaks.
As a member of the University of St. Thomas’ president’s cabinet and through his monthly sit-downs to report on the seminary, Monsignor Callaghan’s diplomacy impressed Dr. Julie Sullivan. He deftly navigated tasks that were fraught with strong opinions, such as reconfiguring the curriculum and re-examining the calendar. “He has a lot of wisdom and a way of putting things in perspective to help people not react too emotionally and minimize the personality differences,” she says.
She has witnessed the steel hand and the velvet glove. “He finds a way to get things done but he doesn’t create unnecessary waves or conflicts. He maneuvers in a way a gentle, empathetic way to minimize disruption.”
And he does it all with good cheer, which inspired Dr. Sullivan, the university’s first non-priest president. “My visits with him were always fun, even if we had to talk about difficult things,” she says. “He has a bright spirit, a twinkle in his eyes. I just love his joyfulness. You can’t let all the swirl suck you down. You have to rise above it. You have to exude the joyfulness and focus on the bigger picture.”
The effect has been remarkable: As rector, Monsignor Callaghan has boosted the seminary’s stature and scope, elevating it to a position of national renown. When he arrived in 2005, there were 59 seminarians and 70-some students in the lay program. Now there are more than 800 people in a variety of formation programs for lay and ordained any given year.
The surging quality preceded the quantity. Monsignor Callaghan had a vision for the seminary, making an important distinction between the lay and clergy formation, making the case for its acclaimed study abroad program and projecting confidence in prospective donors to help make it all a reality.
He was “master sergeant” of the “I Will Give You Shepherds” capital campaign (2004-2011) that surpassed its goal of $22 million by $3 million, says longtime board member Bill Reiling, chairman of Sunrise Community Banks.
“Instead of just being an in-house administrator, he saw his role as reaching out to the region and beyond, to the bishops and the vocations directors,” Reiling says. “He had a broader vision of things, and it set the table for what’s going to come in the future.”
Monsignor Callaghan won over sending bishops across the country. “A lot of it boils down to trust in the rector,” says Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who was a new seminarian when he first met Monsignor Callaghan in Rome. “He was a model priest,” Archbishop Hebda recalls. “He was so affirming of seminarians even at that point. He had such a positive attitude about everything in the Church.”
That positivity stems from his certainty of God’s love, an unequivocal embrace of Church teaching and a steadfast prayer life that has always helped him discern the next step, always putting the others’ needs ahead of his own.
It is a positivity enriched by a lifetime of friendships, the kind of rich, layered social network that the Irish Catholics of Heckscherville seemed so well suited to build.
“Monsignor Callaghan has this charm about him,” says Vice President for Institutional Advancement Tom Ryan. “It’s the monsignor ‘pixie dust.’ It works internationally.”
Earlier this year, Ryan recalls, Monsignor Callaghan recognized a waiter at a restaurant in Rome – a waiter who had begun serving there in 1966, Monsignor’s first year as a seminarian. The reunion was joyful.
“There are not many people like him anymore,” Ryan says. “He’s old-school church with many formalities. But at heart, he’s a blue-collar, hardworking guy from the coal mines of Pennsylvania. It’s a great blend.”
And if you bring up the Rectors’ Bowl, that hotly contested annual football game between seminarians of The Saint Paul Seminary and the archdiocesan minor seminary, Saint John Vianney, he’s likely to pull out his iPhone and show you a picture of himself at the latest showdown, hoisted on the men’s shoulders after scoring an end-of-game touchdown.
That knack for relationships manifests itself wherever Monsignor Callaghan goes – making the rounds through the hallways, bringing a personal touch to each staff member, stopping to visit with seminarians, seizing a bus ride on a seminary pilgrimage to inquire about their vocation stories.
In this highly regarded rector, you can still see the altar boy who was awed by his front-row seat to the consecration, who clamored to hold the communion plate at St. Kieran’s and who – glory to God – years later lay prostrate in St. Peter’s Basilica to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.
He chuckles to think how his path kept returning to vocations work: being chosen for a newly formed vocations committee in Allentown, serving as adjunct spiritual director for Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., culminating with his leadership in the Heartland. “I guess God never wanted me to get out of the seminary,” he says.
Being rector, as he sees it, is a profound joy and solemn responsibility. “You’re like the father of the family. You have to lead, with all of your flaws. The seminarians look to you. If you don’t try to model [priesthood], you’re not going to succeed. I was always aware that I owed it to them and to the Church to not mess it up. That energizes you when you’re with young people. I see the young men come in each year. It reminds you what you felt like the first time, it renews you. You might not be able to run as fast as they do, but you can keep up.”
The gift of his priestly vocation has never diminished. Each opportunity to celebrate Mass, he says, is a marvel and miracle, “that God would allow you to act in His person and be Christ for others. It’s the summit and source of all we do. If you do it with all your heart, you know that you keep people close to the Lord.”
AnnMarie Thomas, PhD, a professor of engineering in the School of Engineering and associate professor of entrepreneurship in the Opus College of Business Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, is the 2018 Professor of the Year.
As a professor, artist, engineer, entrepreneur, designer and maker, she has created countless opportunities for her students. She is the founder of the Playful Learning Lab through which students have developed a wide range of innovative projects, and worked in collaboration with the Long Now Foundation, Alinea group, Higher Ground Academy, STEM education, Cantus singing group and the band OK Go. She is also the co-founder of the St. Thomas Center for Engineering Education, which supports teachers who integrate STEM into their curriculum through multiple degrees and certificates. Her classroom topics across dual appointments in engineering and entrepreneurship are on topics such as engineering graphics and design, machine design, dynamics, toy design, product design for an aging population, technology prototyping, environmental sustainability and innovation, and brain machine interfaces.
“The depth and breadth of Dr. Thomas’ work with undergraduate and graduate students is incomparable,” said Deb Besser, Ph.D., Thomas’ colleague in the School of Engineering. “Her teaching focuses on creatively engaging learners as AnnMarie continues the journey of understanding how the full variety of people learn and create – essential characteristics of an exemplary engineer and entrepreneur.”
For the fifth year in a row, the Appellate Clinic at the University of St. Thomas law school has won a civil rights appeal on behalf of a prisoner in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On May 24, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of a California inmate’s claim that a correctional officer violated his constitutional rights by throwing the prisoner’s Quran to the cell floor and stomping on it. Reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment against the prisoner, the court of appeals held that the prisoner had shown a substantial burden on his exercise of religion under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment because the desecration of the Quran prevented him from continuing his daily practice of reading from the holy text. The court also reinstated the prisoner’s Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim arising out of the same episode. The decision is available online here.
The case, Darrell Harris v. S. Escamilla, was argued on April 12 in San Francisco by third-year law students Lindsey Rowland and Francine Kuplic, who worked on behalf of the school’s Appellate Clinic led by Professor Gregory Sisk. The appellate team began working on the case in the summer of 2017, writing opening and reply briefs over the course of several months.
The case was brought by Darrell Harris, a California state prisoner and leader of Muslim prisoners, whose Quran was desecrated by a correctional officer while Harris was away at vocational training. Four prisoner eyewitnesses report they saw the officer search Harris’s cell, seize his Quran, angrily throw it to the floor, stomp on it for the prisoners to see and kick it under the bed. Finding his most sacred possession on the floor when he returned, Harris was heartbroken and unable to continue his daily duty to read from the Quran because it had been desecrated.
Video of Rowland and Kuplic’s argument before a panel of three U.S. Court of Appeals judges is available online here.
The University of St. Thomas law school’s Appellate Clinic is a year-long course that charges students to study written and oral advocacy, appellate courts, appellate jurisdiction and the rules of appellate procedure. Clinical students represent a client pro bono under faculty supervision, briefing and arguing appellate cases on their behalf.
Support from Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic
A separate St. Thomas clinic also participated in the case in support of Harris’s position. The Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic, directed by Professor Tom Berg, filed a supporting amicus curiae brief on behalf of several national Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslims Public Affairs Council). The brief set forth Muslim teachings on the fundamental importance of the Quran, the value of reading it daily, and on harms done to individual believers and the Muslim community when officials intentionally desecrate it. Thomas Wheeler ’19, a student in the clinic, did the initial drafting of the amicus brief.
The Appellate Clinic and the Religious Liberty Clinic worked on the case separately, as distinct law firms. The fact that one clinic led by a St. Thomas professor played a role as counsel for Harris, and another as counsel for amici, shows the various appellate-advocacy opportunities that are available to St. Thomas students, and that happened to overlap in this important case about religious liberty and equality for all faiths.
University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan and St. Catherine University President ReBecca Koenig Roloff have issued the following statement regarding the School of Social Work:
In 1976, after decades of cooperation, the Bachelor of Social Work programs at St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas became a formally accredited joint program. The joint Master of Social Work followed in 1990 and the joint Doctorate in Social Work received approval in 2014.
During that same period, spanning almost 40 years of formal partnership, the two host universities also continued to develop and grow independently from each other. Both moved from colleges to universities, but both prioritized their resources into programs that fit their own mission. As a result, the two universities look quite different today than they did when the joint program was launched, and the two colleges were more alike.
We have engaged in a two-year process discerning what this means for the ongoing joint nature of the Social Work program. We have consulted with faculty, administrative leadership and outside consultants to see if we had the resources, both financial and human, to sustain the partnership as it was initially constructed. We have mutually come to the decision that it is the best interests of both universities to end the formal collaboration as originally configured. This change will take place no sooner than fall of 2019. While we know that this news may cause sadness for many of you, we do this in the best interests of our institutions and our students.
We will spend this next year working on the structures that will need to be put into place once the affiliation ends. Each institution will review resources and curriculum to decide how best to function within the strategic priorities of their university. We will engage in sustained dialogue with all stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, clinical partners, alumni, etc., in order to articulate new mission and vision statements. We will work with the Council on Social Work Education to make sure that new accreditation will be in place to provide our students a smooth transition.
We ask that you maintain patience as we go through this very long process. Current students will graduate from the program into which they matriculated. This gives us the time to do the careful and deliberate decisions that need to be made. Our goal is that the two programs will remain cooperative in spirit, so that we can maintain the friendships and partnerships that we have built up over these past 40 years.
We are sure that many of you will have questions at this time. Throughout this coming year of continued partnership, we will maintain our dialogues about the best next steps as we keep stakeholders informed of decisions as they are made. We appreciate your continued support of and interest in the School of Social Work as we look forward to the next stage of Social Work programs at the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University.