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St. Olaf College
A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
Updated: 2 min 49 sec ago
"There can be no denying that Nelson Mandela was one of the giants of history, a giant who moved heaven and earth to bury the apartheid system of South Africa," St. Olaf College Professor of Philosophy Gordon Marino writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Yet, Marino notes, the question now looms of how best to remember and relate our lives to the iconic leader. He takes a cue from Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who nudges us away from "the slumber of sleepy of admiration" and toward the action of imitation.
"Above all, Mandela was a relentless combatant, a man of action," Marino writes. "He pressed world leaders to stanch their rhetoric and walk their talk about justice and equality. On that score, he would, I think, much prefer being remembered in the language of action than as a face on T-shirts and posters."
Marino is a nationally recognized sports journalist who regularly contributes to publications like the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and New York Times. In addition to his teaching and writing, Marino serves as curator of the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library and co-coaches the St. Olaf Boxing Club with Associate Professor of English Carlos Gallego.
Local CBS affiliate WCCO-TV visited St. Olaf College to ask executive chef Matthew Fogarty a pressing question: Why is the lutefisk tradition so big in Minnesota?
Fogarty and the rest of the staff of Bon Appetit, the college's food service provider, are busy preparing more than 700 pounds of the fish to serve at the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival.
For many of the people attending the festival — one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States — traditional Scandinavian fare like lutefisk and lefse have become as much a part of the tradition as the music.
"It's something that makes the holidays for me," James Johnson '64, who was on campus to plan for his 50th class reunion and enjoy the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, tells WCCO.
With Fogarty's guidance, reporter Heather Brown even gave lutefisk a try.
"It gets a bad rap — this isn't horrible," she tells viewers after taking a bite.
All great improvisers know how important it is to roll with the punches.
So when Laura Bretheim ’14 found a semester program at The Second City in Chicago that was not offered through St. Olaf College, she worked out a creative solution.
Bretheim, an environmental studies major at St. Olaf, is spending her fall semester enrolled in the Comedy Studies Program at Second City through Columbia College Chicago.
While the program isn’t currently affiliated with St. Olaf, the college’s flexibility, along with the help of Theater Department faculty member Dona Freeman, enabled Bretheim to develop a system of credit that would reflect her studies upon her return to campus.
The Second City specializes in sketch comedy and improv and has been the training ground for well-known comedians like Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert. Students take classes in acting, writing, improvisation, voice and movement, and being a professional comedian, as well as complete an independent study.
Bretheim, a self-described “big comedy nerd” who got involved in St. Olaf’s improv group, Scared Scriptless, her first year, found the program at Second City several years ago. But she decided to officially apply after a conversation with a fellow Ole.Bretheim attended St. Olaf’s annual Making it in the Arts Conference and struck up a conversation with Shelly Gossman ’99, a successful comedian who has written for Saturday Night Live. Besides being a fellow St. Olaf alumna, Gossman was also deeply interested in improv and comedy and had even studied at Second City herself. “She encouraged us to come here if we were thinking at all of pursuing improv or comedy in general," Bretheim says. "It really is a fantastic place to hone your skills and your voice.” Like many off-campus study programs, Bretheim is exposed to new ways of learning every day. “Overall, our teachers are incredible,” she says. “They create a place where we can take risks, fail, and then try again. I’ve really learned how to accept that something might not work at first, but there are ways to make it better. Also, my homework is usually, ‘write some sketches,’ or ‘watch this sketch and explain why it’s funny.’ Which is just fun.” While there are certainly times when the creative juices aren’t flowing, Bretheim says her experiences working with successful comedians (including a visit from Saturday Night Live cast member Horatio Sanz), writers, actors, and directors provides the necessary motivation. “The most challenging thing is the roller-coaster ride of feeling good or bad about the work,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll get stuck in a rut for days, or even a week or two, but I’ve learned that if I just keep working, eventually I’ll find the next idea that I really enjoy.” She adds, "We’ve gotten to meet a lot of professionals, and they’ve all told us similar things: do the work, be patient, have fun, and it’s possible.”
Retired St. Olaf College faculty members Paul Fjelstad '51 and John Treon, each of whom served the school for more than two decades, have died.
An alumnus of the college, Fjelstad was the only Ole ever to graduate with majors and departmental honors in five fields of study: physics, mathematics, chemistry, German, and philosophy. He went on to earn his doctorate at Harvard University.
He joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1967 and served as an associate professor of natural sciences until retiring in 1988. Fjelstad was one of the founding members of the Paracollege, a tutorial program that offered an alternative to the structured liberal arts curriculum. He creatively applied the science of mathematics to all facets of human life.
Fjelstad died December 3. Funeral plans are pending.
Treon, an assistant professor of history at St. Olaf who went on to serve as the registrar for more than a decade and then as director of academic events and alumni abroad programs for several years, died November 23. He was 73.
Treon joined the St. Olaf faculty as an assistant professor of history in 1968. He left in 1974 to work in the financial industry, but returned to the college in 1984 to serve as the registrar.
In 1997 he was appointed the director of academic events and alumni abroad programs at St. Olaf. In that role, he coordinated major public ceremonies such as Commencement, Honors Day, and the Peace Prize Forum. He also worked to create new academic outreach services such as study abroad programs for alumni and friends of the college. He retired from St. Olaf in 1999.
Treon earned his bachelor's degree at Lambuth University and his master’s degree at the University of Arkansas. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, and he was also named a research fellow at Newberry Library in Chicago.
Read more in Treon's obituary.
A cancer research internship this summer opened numerous doors for St. Olaf College student Brandon Khor '15: the possibility of having a paper published, an opportunity to gain valuable insight into a future career in medicine, and even the chance to return next year to finish the lab work he started.
Khor was one of three out-of-state students — and one of 14 total — selected to participate in the Nathan Schnaper Internship Program at the University of Maryland.
Through the University of Maryland School of Medicine, students were paired with a faculty member at the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center to conduct research.
Khor worked alongside University of Maryland doctoral candidate Tiha Long and faculty mentor and primary investigator Bret Hassel to examine whether adding RNase-L, an enzyme in the immune system, to colon cancer cells could serve as a treatment for the disease.
Throughout the summer, Khor's team discovered that when there is a large quantity of RNase-L, certain cancerous cells can be pushed toward a state that makes them unable to multiply — and therefore unable to develop into a tumor.
Khor enjoyed the rewarding nature of this medical research, which he'll compare this January to a St. Olaf service-learning course in Peru focused on giving students medical experience.
“The biggest reason why I’m drawn to medical research is that it would allow me to help a large number of people,” Khor says. “However, I’m more set on becoming a doctor that does clinical duties, so Peru will give me a great experience that I can juxtapose with my research internship and a chance to get more hands-on experience in the medical field."
During the Interim course, Khor and his classmates will work with the communities of Cusco and Arequipa, Peru, to assess medical and dental needs and examine emerging and existing health care issues.
The course is one of a number of experiential learning opportunities St. Olaf students can use to explore a career in medicine. Others include the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, an internship program at Hennepin County Medical Center, and a new networking program that brings students together with alumni physicians. The medical school acceptance rate for St. Olaf students is more than 20 percent higher than the national average.
And, as Khor has found, the opportunities for hands-on medical experience don't end there.
With the success of his summer research findings, Khor has been invited back to the University of Maryland to continue his research and, if the findings are significant, have it published.
“I made great connections with my coworkers and my primary investigator there,” he says. “I’m also really interested in cancer research in general, so I’m definitely looking at going back and picking up where I left off."
That’s the question St. Olaf College Assistant Professor of English Rebecca Richards aims to answer through her contribution to the newly released book Political Women: Language and Leadership, edited by Michele Lockhart and Kathleen Mollick.
The collection aims to examine the ways in which women have used political rhetoric and political discourse to provide leadership at a national level. Richards’ article, “Averting National Crisis: Women as Heads of State and Rhetorical Action,” traces the history of the contemporary circulation of the idea of needing to be “ready” in relation to electing a woman as head of state.
"The underlying assumption of such discourse is that something is about to change or shift with the election of a woman," says Richards. "I argue that this ‘something’ is the doxa — the unstated belief in the eternal, inevitable, and patriarchal nature — of the nation-state. The election of a woman into executive national leadership puts this doxa into crisis."
Richards sees this essay as a complement to her forthcoming book, tentatively titled From Daughters of Destiny and to Iron Ladies: Transnational Feminist Rhetorics and Gendered Leadership in Global Politics.
"I am really honored to be published with other contributors who are significant scholars in my fields of rhetoric and composition," she says.
Her academic areas of focus include transnational and feminist rhetorics, professional writing, political rhetoric, multimodal writing, cyberliteracies, writing program administration and assessment, gender studies, and critical pedagogies.
St. Olaf College cross country runner Noelle Olson '17 finished second at the NCAA Division III Championships Saturday.
The St. Olaf women's cross country team finished 26th.
Olson is one of three members of the women's team — along with Jorden Johnson '15, who finished 74th at the national championships, and Michaela Banz '15 — to earn United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Region honors last week.
Olson also won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference individual title earlier this month.
Read more at St. Olaf Athletics.
The St. Olaf College men's cross country team won the NCAA Division III Championship Saturday afternoon.
The team had four All-America finishes, led by Grant Wintheiser '15 in third and Jake Brown '15 in eighth, on its way to claiming the first NCAA team title in school history.
Wintheiser, the two-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion, was just five seconds off the winning pace. Brown was about 30 seconds off the winning pace.
Read more at St. Olaf Athletics.
A research project between St. Olaf College Professor of Philosophy Charles Taliaferro and Christophe Porot ‘13 has produced three papers accepted for publication about everything from the philosopher Donald Davidson to the popular television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The duo’s first paper, titled “A Davidsonian Life After Life,” was accepted in August as a chapter in the forthcoming book Death and Anti-Death, Volume 11: Ten Years After Donald Davidson.
Their next article, titled “The Theater of Deceit: What Homeland Reveals About the Ethics of Hypocrisy and Deceit,” was accepted into the book Homeland and Philosophy later that month. And at the end of September their piece “The Hidden Sun: How it Can Always be Sunny in a Wintry, Dark City" was accepted for the book It’s Always Sunny in Philosophy.
Both books, which focus on the television shows Homeland and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, respectively, are part of Open Court Publishing’s “Popular Culture and Philosophy” series, and will be published in 2014.
A triumphant collaboration The professor and student got to know each other outside the classroom during Porot’s senior year, when Taliaferro hired him to edit his writing.
“I edited for his book The Image in Mind and did editing work for the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” says Porot, who is currently studying at the University of Oxford. “I considered this a tremendous honor. That's how we started a working relationship before getting to co-write pieces.”
The idea to collaborate stemmed from long discussions about philosophy that cropped up while the two were working.
“I really started to believe that we could distill the best parts of our conversations to write some pieces that would be very philosophically strong,” Porot says. “I was staying around campus for the summer and so I let him know that, if he was ever interested, it would be a dream come true to write some papers with him. He instantly replied with an emphatic ‘Yes!’ and we literally started working on a project that very day.”
“It was a real partnership,” Taliaferro says. “I just trusted him completely.”
Ongoing research Porot’s work with Taliaferro isn’t his first collaboration with a St. Olaf professor. He has also worked with Associate Professor of Political Science Douglas Casson on a project examining the ways in which religious assumptions influenced the emergence of science in 17th-century England.
With support from St. Olaf’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry program, Porot was able to spend the summer of 2012 at the University of Oxford (where he had already been studying during his junior year through St. Olaf’s International and Off-Campus Studies program), while Casson carried out his portion of the research in the U.S. at Calvin College with former Oxford faculty member Peter Harrison.
Casson and Porot’s research together is a continuing endeavor. Currently, the two are working on a paper titled “John Locke and the Problem of Information Overload,” which will examine how Locke tried to respond to what he saw as one of the great intellectual problems of his day: too much data.
And while being abroad may keep Porot from working more with Taliaferro, their collaboration may lead to other projects in the future.
“Taliaferro has said that he wants to hook me up with some professors at Oxford, especially Daniel Robinson, renowned in the fields of Philosophy of Mind and Science and Religion,” says Porot. “So, [Taliaferro’s] influence may extend to the next chapter of my life.”
St. Olaf College Professor of Philosophy Gordon Marino, a nationally recognized sports journalist, recently reviewed Mike Tyson’s new memoir for the Wall Street Journal.
Calling the book, titled Undisputed Truth, “raw, powerful and disturbing — a head-spinning take on Mr. Tyson’s life that captures his peculiar, sometimes ranting voice,” Marino goes on to paint a realistic picture of Tyson’s story touching on both its triumphs and its pitfalls.
“Unlike other sports memoirists, he doesn’t pull punches, offering up slashing comments on people who were once close to him,” Marino writes.
“His narrative reminds us of just how far he has come from his rough beginnings, and, in a way, how close he remains to them. He had a punch like a thunderbolt from Zeus, but there have been a lot of big bangers in boxing; Mike Tyson’s came with a pulsating story line like few others.”
After walking the reader through Tyson’s telling of his life, Marino concludes that “to judge by the pain and implicit self-reproach in Undisputed Truth, the man [Tyson] lost to most often was himself.”
In addition to his teaching and writing, Marino serves as curator of the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library and co-coaches the St. Olaf Boxing Club with Associate Professor of English Carlos Gallego.
The students of Associate Professor of Asian Studies Karil Kucera’s Visual Culture of Modern China class were brought together this fall by a unique opportunity: to help curate the Flaten Art Museum’s newest exhibit, Mixed Messages: 20th Century Chinese Prints.
Drawing from a rich collection of prints donated to St. Olaf College by Associate Professor Emeritus of Chinese and Asian Studies Richard Bodman, the selected works illuminate China's evolution from Confucian philosophies to Communist ideologies through the present day.
Mixed Messages explores the multiple readings embedded in a single work by featuring informational placards in both Chinese and English, making it the first bilingual exhibit in Flaten. As curators, Kucera’s students worked to create a cohesive exhibit that showcases a complex historical moment for viewers of all backgrounds, emphasizing what is grasped and lost in translation by inviting visitors to experience each piece from multiple perspectives.
“Mixed Messages represents the best of what a college art museum can do in partnership with students and professors. It's thrilling to see our collection being used at the core of coursework,” says Flaten Art Museum Director Jane Becker Nelson '04. “As a curator, it's exciting to watch students research this rare collection and make collaborative choices for the exhibition.”
Getting students involved Bodman’s donation gave Kucera’s class, and Assistant Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies Ka Wong’s Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum (FLAC) component, the opportunity to combine their interests in art history and the Chinese language to share their expertise with a larger audience.
“This class is the perfect blend of my two areas of study at St. Olaf: art and Chinese,” explains Ida Sobotik ‘15. “I am also taking a Chinese language class and a printmaking class this semester, so Visual Culture of Modern China allows me to tie the two subjects together.”
Kucera and Wong’s students worked with everything from traditional Chinese New Year’s prints to Communist propaganda posters that provide visual evidence of China’s response to modernity. However, their classes quickly realized that appearances are deceiving.
“The art displayed does not represent the realities of China during the 20th century,” says Sobotik. “If you go into the gallery just to look at the art, it will seem like a very happy time period, as many of the people in the prints have smiling faces and are greeting each other. However, many of the prints in the show are ideals of that time that actually hide the extreme suffering many people endured.”
This disconnect between image and reality, and the Visual Culture class’s experiences curating the pieces, inspired the exhibit’s provocative name.
“I personally came up with the title 'Mixed Messages' when I was originally working with the students in the class and came to recognize that what those who couldn't read Chinese saw in the imagery of the prints was very different from those who could read Chinese,” says Kucera. “Hence, the notion of 'mixed messages,' where image does not necessarily reflect text.”
For Wong’s FLAC students, curation presented their language skills with unique obstacles.
“My language background definitely enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the pieces in the exhibition,” says Alisha Jihn ‘15. “As one of our assignments, we had to read excerpts from Mao's speeches, as well as translate the large character poster on display in the exhibition. The colloquial Chinese vocabulary and grammar we’ve learned can be quite different from written Chinese, so that was a definitely a challenge.”
Translating posters into art Early in the semester, Kucera’s students visited the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts with Becker Nelson to explore exhibition design — how curators craft the narrative flow of an art show, use wall color strategically, and create innovative educational opportunities to provide visitors with the richest possible experience.
To recreate the experience of how these prints were first experienced, the class carefully designed the exhibit space to resemble their natural setting. For example, they came up with the idea of using a magnetic system that leaves the prints exposed in a fashion comparable to how they would originally have been presented.
“The idea of presenting an exhibition of prints is intriguing because, back in the day, these posters were simply hung on walls — like posters we have hanging in our dorm rooms,” explains Jihn. “I think this, in itself, is a ‘mixed message’: there are many contradictions in so many of the pieces, starting with the fact they were originally just mass-produced posters, not art.”
Prints include a striking floor-length woodblock print of Mao Zedong and miniature figurines of prominent Chinese leaders. The students decided on painting select walls of the exhibit gray to mimic building walls and draw attention to the posters.
“One of my favorite pieces is titled ‘I Am Chairman Mao’s Little Red Soldier,’” says Jihn. “The slogan at the top of the print says ‘Study well and improve day by day’ — which I find ironic, yet fascinating since during the Cultural Revolution education was essentially abandoned.”
The exhibit features an interactive activity as well, inviting visitors to pair propaganda posters with their original captions. Despite the Chinese captions being translated, the images rarely correspond with what would appear to be the obvious choice; this, in effect, embodies the exhibit’s goal of creating an exhibit that can be interpreted from vastly different perspectives.
“My own hope is that the themes we presented in the show open up some new perspectives for people when thinking about China," Kucera says. "Hopefully they also make visitors aware of what incredible changes have occurred in China over the past 100 years and what those changes have meant for the Chinese people.”
Mixed Messages will be featured in the Flaten Art Museum until December 8.
Both teams will compete at the NCAA Division III Championships in Hanover, Indiana, November 23.
Second and third place finishes by Grant Wintheiser '15 and Jake Brown '15 led the men's team to victory. Noelle Olson '17 and Jorden Johnson '15 led the women's team with second and fourth place finishes.
Read more at St. Olaf Athletics.
Many college seniors are currently busy applying to jobs and programs, but what about students who dream of creating their own company?
The St. Olaf College Piper Center for Vocation and Career recently invited a small group of students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation to visit CoCo Minneapolis, a coworking space that provides small companies with offices and meeting rooms they can use as the base of their operations.
The students, who had each received a Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant or had been selected for the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, were invited to CoCo as part of the St. Olaf Entrepreneurial Internship Program. The visit to the coworking space enabled them to engage in discussion with, and offer their services to, the small business owners who are currently making use of the facility.
They also heard from entrepreneurs who used CoCo to jump start successful companies, including Jon Pearce ’01, the CEO and founder of Zipnosis, a diagnostic site that connects clinicians and patients online.
“Taking even a couple hours to see, nuts and bolts, where and how entrepreneurs live and work, is a vital experience to have,” says Pearce. “It expands young minds, and hopefully instills a realistic expectation for what it takes to be an entrepreneur.”
The Entrepreneurial Internship Program is based on a similar program created by the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management for its MBA students.
“Owners of these companies at CoCo believe our students are as good as those getting their MBAs at the University of Minnesota,” says St. Olaf Associate Director of Entrepreneurship Roberto Zayas. “Needless to say, we are very proud of our students' skills and achievements.”
The visit to CoCo was an opportunity to connect students to internships that will provide hands-on experience in the world of start-up companies. The trip also gave many of the students an up-close look at the reality of being an entrepreneur.
“It’s easy to envision becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates,” says Patrick McWilliams ’14. "But little thought goes into the enormous sacrifices, dedication, and absolute confidence that everyday entrepreneurs must achieve. The entrepreneurs at CoCo showed me this through real personal stories and examples.”
Abdi Musse '15 says visiting CoCo made him realize the power and importance of networking.
"Whether you enjoy networking or not, it always helps to find out as much as you can about a sector," he says. "Learning to have conversations with a wider group of people is a relatively small step, but it will still make a big difference.”
According to Pearce, these small steps are crucial to the success of an innovator.
“It’s not about the idea, but making the choice to start walking, heading toward the change and vision you see,” he says. “I challenge all Oles to think broadly about their own experience and how they might share with the next generation.”
This Thursday 140 St. Olaf College students interested in medicine will gather at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis to meet with nearly 70 alumni physicians.
The goal of the new event, dubbed Ole Med, is to enable students to hear directly from alumni the many ways a liberal arts degree can translate into a career. Led by Mill City Clinic founder Jon Hallberg '88, the program will feature a wide array of "pop-up speakers" — from a pediatric oncologist to a neurosurgeon to a family practitioner — who will speak for two minutes about their life in medicine.
Ole Med will be modeled on two similar programs, Ole Law and Ole Biz, that have been started over the past several years by Lynn Anderson '75 and Thomas Nelson '69 with the support of the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career.
"As we have all found, the opportunity to establish relationships with alumni mentors is of critical importance to current students discerning their career paths," St. Olaf Associate Director of Career Education and Coaching for Pre-Health Sandra Malecha '01 says.
The Ole Med program will add a networking element to the college's successful Pre-Health Program. St. Olaf students already have access to experiential learning opportunities like the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, an internship program at Hennepin County Medical Center, and the Peruvian Medical Experience Interim, and the medical school acceptance rate for St. Olaf students is more than 20 percent higher than the national average.
Nelson says one of the most remarkable things about the networking events he's helped create has been "the immediacy with which busy alumni professionals and business people from all over the country have literally jumped at the chance to pitch in and participate."
Students attending Ole Med will hear from alumni about the importance of a liberal arts education and its ability to create a variety of career paths from the multitude of majors; the flexibility and creativity of finding one’s way through the maze of career opportunities; the helpfulness of networking; and the availability of alumni support for student career explorations.
St. Olaf College sent more students to study abroad during the 2011–12 academic year than any other baccalaureate institution in the nation, according to the Open Doors 2013 Report on International Educational Exchange.
This marks the fifth straight year the college has ranked first among its peers in the total number of students studying abroad.
St. Olaf currently offers study-abroad programs in 54 countries, including nearly 80 semester or year-long programs and nearly 30 off-campus courses during Interim. Faculty-led semester programs include Global Semester, Term in Asia, Mediterranean Semester, and Environmental Science in Australia.
Open Doors is the comprehensive information resource on international students in the United States and on the more than 200,000 U.S. students who study abroad as part of their academic experience. The Institute of International Education publishes the Open Doors report annually with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Wintheiser, who recently won the MIAC Men's Cross Country Championship for the second straight year while leading his team to back-to-back MIAC championships, is the league's top academic and athletic performer in the sport.
The MIAC Elite 22 Award recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the conference championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers.
Modeled after the NCAA Elite 89 Award, the MIAC Elite 22 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade point average in each sport who meet similarly high, sport-specific athletic requirements.
Read more about Wintheiser's award at St. Olaf Athletics.