St. Olaf College

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A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
Updated: 1 hour 18 min ago

Three St. Olaf students earn Rossing Physics Scholarships

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:52pm

St. Olaf student Daniel Hickox-Young ’16 has been named a Rossing Physics Scholar for 2015–16.

St. Olaf College student Daniel Hickox-Young ’16 has been named a Rossing Physics Scholar for 2015–16, and Jordan Dull ’16 and Emily Witt ’17 each earned an honorable mention.

Hickox-Young will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Foundation through the Rossing Fund for Physics Education Endowment. Dull and Witt will each receive a $5,000 scholarship from the foundation.

The award is given each year to outstanding physics students selected from across the nation.

Hickox-Young is a mathematics and physics major. He spent last summer researching spintronics at the University of Minnesota, and this summer he will participate in a research program titled “Optics in the City of Light.” As part of the program, Hickox-Young will spend two months in Paris performing research with a variety of ultrafast lasers. After graduating from St. Olaf, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics or materials science.

St. Olaf students Emily Witt ’17 (left) and Jordan Dull ’16 each earned a Rossing Physics Scholarship honorable mention.

Dull is majoring in physics and mathematics. Last summer he worked at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he developed a simulation of an x-ray microscope with the goal of better understanding image artifacts. This summer he will perform research in particle physics as an intern at the Argonne National Library. Dull plans to attend graduate school for physics or engineering.

Witt is a physics and Latin major. She spent last summer performing research on the South Pole Telescope Project at the University of Chicago. This summer Witt will work on a prototype telescope for the Cherenkov Telescope Array as part of a research program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

Last fall Hickox-Young, Dull, and Witt all presented their summer 2014 research at the Midstates Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Physical Sciences, Math, and Computer Science.

Gifts from Thomas Rossing established the Rossing Fund for Physics Education Endowment in the ELCA Foundation in 2005. The goals of the scholarship program are to encourage top students to attend one of the 27 ELCA colleges and universities in the country, and to consider pursuing physics once they are there. Rossing taught at St. Olaf for 14 years, is a professor emeritus of physics at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, and is currently a visiting professor of music at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

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St. Olaf names director of college relations for music organizations

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 2:08pm

St. Olaf Vice President for Enrollment and College Relations Michael Kyle ’85 has announced the appointment of Jean Strohm Parish ’88 as the director of college relations for music organizations.

Parish, who is currently the general manager of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, has more than 25 years of experience in performing arts administration. In her new role at St. Olaf, she will direct and promote the creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial direction of the college’s music organizations, St. Olaf Records, and the St. Olaf Christmas Festival.

She will join the college May 11.

“I am deeply honored to be offered this opportunity to serve St. Olaf College and its music organizations,” Parish says. “I look forward to working collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students, to further the mission and goals of the college, and to build on the tremendous legacy of the music organizations.”

A vocal performance major at St. Olaf, Parish also earned her master of music degree in choral conducting from the University of South Florida.

She began her career as an arts administrator in orchestra management for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra before moving on to serve as the director of operations for the Chicago Children’s Choir. She then served as the tour and media manager of the New York Philharmonic, where she managed and executed the annual international tours and media activities of the orchestra.

After leaving the New York Philharmonic, Parish spent nearly a decade working as a freelance arts administrator.

Parish has been the general manager of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra since 2009, where, as a senior member of management, she has helped to lead the strategic direction, culture, and evolution of the orchestra. She has oversight of the areas of Operations, Education and Community Engagement, the Liquid Music series, Human Resources, IT, Administration, and Facilities, and throughout her work continually strives to advance the ensemble’s role as a leading advocate for classical music in the Twin Cities.

She will take over at St. Olaf for Bob Johnson, who is retiring this spring after directing the college’s music organizations for 37 years.

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Cell biology research featured on cover of scientific journal

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 8:55am

St. Olaf College Professor of Biology Eric Cole (left), Sasha Dmytrenko ’16 (center) and Adrian Ripeckyj ’17 look at images captured using the department’s new scanning laser confocal microscope (acquired through a Sherman Fairchild Foundation grant). Cole’s research was featured on the cover of a scientific journal, and Dmytrenko and Ripeckyj will present their findings at an international conference later this month.

St. Olaf College Professor of Biology Eric Cole, a group of student researchers, and a microscopic organism are making big news this spring.

Cole’s cell biology research was recently published as the cover article of a scientific journal, and later this month two of his students will present findings related to that article at an international meeting in Boston.

Journal cover story
Cole’s article, “Membrane Dynamics at the Nuclear Exchange Junction during Early Mating in the Ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila,” was featured on the February cover of Eukaryotic Cell, a scientific journal from the American Society for Microbiology.

Its publication marks the end of a six-year scientific quest that involved eight undergraduate students, two college campuses, and one single-celled study organism — the ciliated protist Tetrahymena thermophila.

Tetrahymena thermophila (T. thermophila) is a single-celled organism that acts as a bacterial grazer in freshwater lakes and ponds. It is considered a model organism for molecular and cellular biology due to its rapid growth and possession of key eukaryotic processes.

The research process
In the fall of 2008, Cole spent a semester of released time at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In the university’s electron microscope suite, Cole learned how to perform three-dimensional electron tomography, a process that allows scientists to determine a cell’s three-dimensional architecture.

In 2012 Cole returned to U.C. Boulder, this time to lead eight St. Olaf students in an electron microscopy course.

“At the time, U.C. Boulder was one of only three such microscopy facilities in the country, and nowhere were undergraduates privileged with time on such an instrument,” says Cole. “The site director was so impressed with our students’ passion and commitment that he invited us back again.”

Six students from Cole’s 2012 Interim course continued working with him throughout that spring. They developed 3-D computer models of the cell structures they had captured in January, and two students — Anna Ballard ’13 and Tyler Aronstein ’12 — animated these models. Ballard and Aronstein are co-authors on Cole’s 2015 paper.

The team’s work also caught the attention of a Scientific American weblog, which published a story about the students’ activities.

Results and future questions
“I think there were three notable findings from our study,” says Cole. “First, we captured the moment when two cells initially fuse with one another during fertilization. Second, we identified a new set of membrane structures that anchor cell nuclei to the cell-cell junction and to one another through pores that form in the mating junction. Finally, we discovered tiny membrane-bound packages that are secreted by cells into the mating junction.”

This last discovery led to a new research question in Cole’s lab: are cells communicating with each other through these membrane-bound packages?

Student researchers Sasha Dmytrenko ‘16 and Adrian Ripeckyj ‘17 spent last summer purifying these “packages” from mating T. thermophila cells. Once the packages were purified, samples were sent to the University of Minnesota, where a technique called mass spectrometry was used to identify every type of protein present in the vesicles. They identified a total of 370 proteins, three of which were involved in a process called “RNA interference.”

“This is a new and exciting finding, that our vesicles might be carrying small RNA molecules from one cell to the other, possibly acting as ‘signal’ molecules during mating,” says Cole. “This summer we hope to identify which, if any, RNA molecules are present in our microvesicles.”

Dmytrenko and Ripeckyj will report on their successful efforts to purify these microvesicles at an international meeting in Boston over spring break.

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Percy produces new titles for Starz network and DC Comics

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 4:03pm

St. Olaf College Writer in Residence Benjamin Percy has added two new titles to his ever-growing oeuvre. He is now developing his second series for television, a show for the premium cable network Starz titled Black Gold, and will also write DC Comics’ reboot of its series Green Arrow.

Black Gold, “a modern-day Western set in a Dakotas boomtown that revolves around oil drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing),” will be produced for Starz by FreemantleMedia, known as the force behind shows like American Idol and the popular sitcom The IT Crowd. James Ponsoldt, director of The Spectacular Now and Smashed, is signed on to direct the pilot.

“The North Dakota oil boom feels like the equivalent of the California gold rush,” Percy says. “It’s a new Wild West, a place of fast fortunes and shallow graves, the perfect stage for drama. My characters are lawmen, roughnecks, farmers, prostitutes, politicians, eco terrorists — tangling up the many perspectives on the dramatic changes taking place there.”

Percy has also been hired by DC Comics to write its reboot of the Green Arrow series, the first issue of which will publish in July. Percy, who also wrote a two-issue Batman story for DC, is collaborating with artist Patrick Zircher on the series.

“My Batman story arc served as a kind of industry audition,” he says. “I ended up in conversation with some editors and artists, and I was one of several writers they tapped for pitches on Green Arrow. I wrote up a 20-page document that detailed a new direction for the series, and thankfully they hired me on as the writer.”

Green Arrow, the alias of billionaire businessman Oliver Queen, is a Robin Hood-esque superhero who uses his archery skills to fight crime. Since the first appearance of the character in 1941, Green Arrow became known as the voice of progressivism in DC’s universe.

“I’m taking on a darker, more literary aesthetic for Green Arrow,” Percy says of the reboot. “Think True Detective with superheroes.”

Percy is also the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Wilding and Red Moon, both of which he is currently developing for the screen, as well as two books of short fiction. He serves as a contributing editor for Esquire, and his work has been published by GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and Tin House. His third novel, The Dead Lands, will be available in April.

“I plan to continue to write across boundaries,” Percy says. “Novels, feature screenplays, TV and comic scripts, magazine writing … I’m a storyteller, no matter the medium.”

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Titus to deliver spring Mellby Lecture on material culture studies

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 2:45pm

At this year’s spring Mellby Lecture, Professor of English and Chair of the English Department Mary Titus will discuss her studies of material culture, the field of material culture itself, and the importance of interdisciplinary thinking.

Her March 24 lecture, titled Thinking Through Things, will be streamed and archived online.

Material culture studies is an interdisciplinary field that looks at the relationships between people and their objects using archaeology, anthropology, history, social sciences, and many more disciplines. Titus will discuss the importance of this field.

Titus was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship to participate in an institute at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City titled American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York. Participants in the month-long program researched and discussed material culture, focusing on New York due to its role as a “national center for fashioning cultural commodities and promoting consumer tastes.”

The institute prompted Titus to share her interest with St. Olaf through teaching an American literature course on money and social class, a seminar on material culture, and a course that brought New York City to students on campus during Interim through a digital project map of the city.

Titus frequently teaches in and has occasionally directed programs in American studies, race and ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies, the Center for Integrative Studies, and the American Conversations Program.

“I believe that the future of higher education lies in interdisciplinary education and am very interested in efforts to revise academic structures so that they may more effectively support complex, multi-dimensional approaches to subject matter,” says Titus.

Titus earned her bachelor of arts degree from Skidmore College in 1978 and her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1986. She joined the English faculty at St. Olaf in 1989. Titus recently returned from co-leading the 2014-15 Global Semester program.

The Mellby Lectures
The annual Mellby Lectures are named in remembrance of St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby and were established in 1983 to give professors the opportunity to share their research with the public. Mellby, known as “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history at the college. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and is credited with creating the college’s honor system.

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St. Olaf celebrates civil rights icon James Reeb ’50

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 10:09pm

St. Olaf College President David R. Anderson ’74 (left), Leah Reeb (center) and Anne Reeb enjoy a lighter moment during the dedication of a memorial for James Reeb ’50.

“A bucolic campus in Minnesota is a long way from a bridge in Alabama, but they are tightly bound by a man named James Reeb,” begins a KMSP-TV news story about the St. Olaf College alumnus who went to Selma to march with Martin Luther King Jr.

It was there, 50 years ago this week, that Reeb — a 1950 graduate of St. Olaf who marched onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge with thousands of clergy members on what became known as “Turnaround Tuesday” — was beaten by white supremacists as he and two other ministers were leaving a diner. He died from his injuries two days later.

Reeb’s death inspired a wave of nationwide protests and served as a catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a fact noted in the new Academy Award-nominated film Selma.

“Fifty years after Selma,” notes a WCCO-TV news story, “Reeb is remembered by his alma mater.”

St. Olaf hosted a daylong commemoration of Reeb’s legacy March 12 that included the dedication of a memorial near the entrance of Rolvaag Library. His daughter Anne and granddaughter Leah were on campus to speak about the role he played in the voting rights movement and how they honor the legacy of his work toward civil and human rights today.

“I think that you can take the story of my grandfather and you can tell it today and you can teach the youth of this country about what he did and what he lived for,” Leah Reeb tells the CBS affiliate.

Anne Reeb believes her father would be proud but not satisfied about the progress the nation has made toward inclusive civil rights.

“I think my father would say the work isn’t over, the work is not done,” she tells reporter Reg Chapman.

A Flaten Art Museum exhibit that documents the Selma-to-Montgomery march through 45 photographs from the archives of Stephen Somerstein will be open until April 12.

The photographs in the exhibit, titled Selma to Montgomery: Marching Along the Voting Rights Trail, reveal the nonviolent discipline of the marchers and movement’s leaders, and depict the Alabama onlookers who found themselves at the heart of a national battle.

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Economics professor talks to KARE 11 about sale of Green Giant

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 8:25am

St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Economics Anthony Becker tells KARE 11 news that it’s not surprising that General Mills may be looking to sell Green Giant.

“A sizable segment of consumers are moving away from things that are canned or frozen if they can … They want fresh. They want local, if possible,” Becker tells the NBC affiliate.

As for what the potential sale may mean for the Minnesota economy — which has seen its share of concerning headlines this week — Becker says there’s no reason to worry.

“We’ve got 3M. We’ve got Medtronic. We’ve got a lot of dynamic companies that are doing very well. And I think if you look at the picture overall, the state is in really good shape,” Becker says.


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New York Times highlights documentary on James Reeb ’50

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 5:30pm

A photo of James Reeb ’50 as shown in the documentary by filmmaker Andrew Beck Grace.

As St. Olaf College begins hosting a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the voting rights marches, the New York Times has published a moving documentary about the role alumnus James Reeb ’50 played in the civil rights movement.

Reeb, a Boston minister who had answered Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for clergy to march with him in Selma, was one of three clergy members attacked by white supremacists as they were leaving a diner. He died of his injuries two days later.

In the documentary, the Rev. Clark Olsen, one of the two ministers who was with Reeb during the attack, shares his memories of what happened that day — and how it shaped the course of history.

“Thousands of people gathered in various cities — Washington, Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco — and it made headlines all across the country about this attack on a white clergyman,” Olsen says.

“I began to realize that we were the center of attention — that this was a big event.”

On March 15, 1965, four days after Reeb’s death, President Lyndon Johnson invoked his memory — “that good man” — as he introduced the Voting Rights Act to a joint session of Congress.

“I believe that Johnson was moved by the attack on us and by Jim Reeb’s death,” Olsen says. “The president realized that this was the moment to urge passage of the voting rights bill.”

St. Olaf is hosting a series of events, A Long walk Home: 50 Years of Climbing the Hill to Freedom, that pays tribute to the role Reeb and other alumni played in the civil rights movement.

The events include:

  • An art exhibit that documents the Selma-to-Montgomery marches through 45 photographs from the archives of Stephen Somerstein.
  • A discussion with St. Olaf alumni Jeff Strate ’66 and Sheryl Anderson Renslo ’66, the producers of a documentary film titled Alabama Return that chronicles the experiences of 65 St. Olaf students who volunteered for the Tuskegee Institute Summer Education Program in the summer of 1965.
  • Screenings of the Academy Award–nominated film Selma.
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St. Olaf commemorates legacy of slain civil rights activist

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 9:17am

St. Olaf alumnus James Reeb ’50

In one scene in the Academy Award-nominated film Selma, St. Olaf College alumnus James Reeb ’50 is shown lying on a dark street, having been beaten by white supremacists.

He would die from his injuries two days later.

A Boston minister who had answered the call of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma and raise his voice in protest, Reeb’s death became an important milestone in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As part of the national celebration marking the 50th anniversary of that legislation, St. Olaf will host a daylong commemoration of Reeb’s legacy March 12. His daughter Anne and granddaughter Leah will be on campus to speak about the role he played in the voting rights movement and how they honor the legacy of his work toward civil and human rights today.

The Rev. Gilbert Caldwell, an activist who traveled with Reeb to Selma, will also be on campus to speak about their experiences and the continuing struggle for inclusive civil rights.

‘We must substitute courage for caution’
James Reeb was a Unitarian Universalist minister working to improve housing opportunities for low-income black residents in Boston when he turned on the TV on the evening of March 7, 1965, and saw the coverage of Selma’s “Bloody Sunday.”

As someone who had spoken out for civil rights, desegregation, and an end to Jim Crow laws, Reeb was inflamed by what had happened in Selma. So when Martin Luther King Jr. called on clergy of all denominations to join him for a peaceful march in the city, Reeb left Boston and headed south.

James Reeb’s murder garnered national media attention and inspired a wave of protests, memorial services, and calls for federal action.

That Tuesday, Reeb and the other marchers — led by King — started over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and stopped at the site of the Bloody Sunday attack. There they knelt, prayed, and sang “We Shall Overcome” before retreating to Selma.

That evening, Reeb and two other ministers visited a diner run by local black citizens. As they were leaving, four white men attacked them on the street with clubs. One of the attackers hit Reeb in the head, fracturing his skull. Reeb died from his injuries in a Birmingham hospital two days later.

Reeb’s death inspired a wave of nationwide protests, memorial services, and calls for federal action, helping to create the political groundswell that President Lyndon Johnson needed to introduce new voting rights legislation — a fact referenced in the film Selma.

On March 15, 1965, four days after Reeb’s death, Johnson invoked his memory — “that good man” — as he introduced the Voting Rights Act to a joint session of Congress.

At Reeb’s memorial service, held in Selma that same day, King delivered the eulogy.

President David R. Anderson ’74 and students traveling through Alabama as part of a history course gathered in Selma in January to lay a wreath at the memorial to James Reeb ’50.

“In his death, James Reeb says something to each of us, black and white alike — that we must substitute courage for caution, that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered him, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murder,” King told mourners.

“His death says to us that we must work passionately, unrelentingly, to make the American dream a reality, so he did not die in vain.”

A campuswide commemoration
In addition to the celebration of Reeb’s legacy, St. Olaf is hosting a series of events to commemorate the role alumni and others played in the civil rights movement.

The events — collectively titled A Long Walk Home: 50 Years of Climbing the Hill to Freedom — include:

  • An art exhibit that documents the Selma-to-Montgomery marches through 45 photographs from the archives of Stephen Somerstein.
  • A discussion with St. Olaf alumni Jeff Strate ’66 and Sheryl Anderson Renslo ’66, the producers of a documentary film titled Alabama Return that chronicles the experiences of 65 St. Olaf students who volunteered for the Tuskegee Institute Summer Education Program in the summer of 1965.
  • Screenings of the Academy Award–nominated film Selma.
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History professor talks to national media about civil rights landmark

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 11:48am

St. Olaf College Professor of History Michael Fitzgerald

St. Olaf College Professor of History Michael Fitzgerald tells the Associated Press that the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a landmark synonymous with the civil rights movement, is undoubtedly named for a white supremacist.

As the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches approaches this month, the story about the bridge’s namesake — and a petition by Selma students to rename the landmark — has been featured in outlets ranging from NBC News to Business Insider.

Voting rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge were violently beaten by law enforcement officers on March 7, 1965, in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The following Tuesday, Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands of clergy members — including St. Olaf alumnus James Reeb — onto the bridge, where they knelt, prayed, and sang “We Shall Overcome” before retreating to Selma. Several weeks later, marchers crossed the bridge as they began a successful 50-mile march to Montgomery to protest voting laws.

Because of that history, a group of students in Selma would like to see the bridge renamed. Built in 1940, the bridge is named for Edmund Winston Pettus, a Confederate general and U.S. senator who lived in Selma after the Civil War.

Fitzgerald, who is researching a book on Reconstruction-era Alabama, tells the AP that he hasn’t found “persuasive evidence” that Pettus was a Ku Klux Klan officer or even member. But, he says, Pettus was “almost certainly” involved with the White League, a later terrorist organization.

“What I would say is Edmund Pettus is definitely a strong white supremacist,” Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald specializes in southern history, teaching courses on African American history and the Civil War era as well as topical seminars on slavery, civil rights, and related topics. This January, his Experiencing Southern History course examined how Alabama’s official sites of memory — museums, monuments, and memorials — reflect the competing demands of politics, public attitudes, schools, and tourism.

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Program gives students hands-on experience in international consulting

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 4:49pm

This year’s Norway Innovation Scholars are (from left) Camille Morley ’15, Janna Jansen ’15, Sarah Elder ’15, and Joe Briesemeister ’16.

As part of a program that gives St. Olaf College students hands-on experience in international consulting, four Oles spent Interim working with a Norwegian cardiac device company in Oslo.

Modeled after the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, the Norway Innovation Scholars Program enables students to spend four weeks performing a market analysis, evaluating intellectual property issues, and creating strategic development plans in an international business setting.

This year’s scholars — Sarah Elder ‘15, Janna Jansen ‘15, Joe Briesemeister ‘16, and Camille Morley ‘15 — come from a wide range of academic interests and majors, including chemistry, economics, nursing, mathematics, and business, but were brought together by their collective interest in health care innovation and business.

“I am very interested in small businesses and the unique organizational challenges they face. I also have a strong interest in the health care industry,” says Morley, who has previously interned for the U.S. Commercial Service and the Northfield Enterprise Center. “This program allowed me to explore research- and consulting-based work and also gave me a good perspective on living and working internationally.”

Throughout the month, students conducted biotechnology market research and completed a case study for Cardiaccs, a small medical device company in Oslo.

“I feel as though our recommendations and conclusions may ultimately be valued more by a small company with limited resources as opposed to a large entity,” says Briesemeister, who also participated in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program. “I’m glad that our work has the potential to directly influence the company’s decisions.”

While in Oslo, the students collaborated at NLA University College, a private Christian college in the city.

“We read a lot of articles from scientific databases and spent a lot of time getting a sense for the medical device market — size, products, prices, etc. Since most corporate information is kept private, we had to get creative to find this kind of information,” says Elder, a chemistry major with an interest in intellectual property.

Each afternoon the students met with their on-campus advisors, Associate Professor of Biology Kevin Crisp and Associate Director of Entrepreneurship Roberto Zayas, over Skype to discuss the day’s work.

They were also guided by a Norwegian advisor, Professor Magne Supphellen of both the Norwegian School of Economics and the Hauge School of Management. As one of the leading brand management and marketing experts in Norway, Supphellen helped the students through the marketing and management aspects of their project.

When they weren’t researching their product’s place in the market or reading up on regulations, the students were out exploring Oslo, immersing themselves in Norwegian culture and forming relationships with Norwegian students.

“I loved exploring different neighborhoods and spending time with the Norwegians we met,” says Jansen, a senior nursing major interested in health care innovation. “One of my favorite nights was one of our last. We invited all the Norwegian students we had met to our apartment for food, including delicious Norwegian chocolate. It was a great night celebrating the new friendships we made over the past month.”


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Lecture series looks at ‘Community, Race, and Policing in America’

Mon, 03/02/2015 - 11:41am

Victor Rios will deliver a March 4 lecture questioning the “broken windows” theory of policing.

Does preventing small crimes — such as vandalism and public drinking — prevent more serious crimes from happening? Or does it contribute to the over-policing of America? And what effects do these criminal convictions have on communities?

These are the questions that will be examined in a St. Olaf College lecture series titled Community, Race, and Policing in America.

The series, hosted by the college’s new Institute for Freedom and Community, will bring three highly regarded academics to campus to discuss their research and engage in thoughtful conversation.

George Kelling ’56 will deliver an April 14 lecture examining the “broken windows” theory and its role in American policing.

The first two lectures examine the “broken windows” theory of policing. The theory, co-authored by St. Olaf alumnus George Kelling ’56, uses the analogy of a broken window — “If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken”— to argue that preventing relatively minor crimes prevents more serious crimes from occurring.

The theory has come under sharp criticism recently from observers who think it has contributed to over-policing in America.

Traci Burch will deliver an April 20 lecture that examines the effects of the criminal justice system on low-income communities.

University of California, Santa Barbara Associate Professor of Sociology Victor Rios, the author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys, will deliver a lecture March 4 questioning the “broken windows” theory. He will discuss his research, which tracks the effects of policing and the criminal justice system on low-income young people of color.

Kelling, now a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, will deliver a lecture April 14 examining the “broken windows” strategy and its role in American policing. Kelling and others contend that it has led to crime reductions in New York and other places. He will develop the theory during his lecture and then invite questions.

In the third lecture — which is organized by Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society — Northwestern University Associate Professor of Political Science Traci Burch will examine the effects of the criminal justice system on low-income communities. Her April 20 lecture is titled The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. Burch, who is also a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, is the author of the award-winning book Trading Democracy for Justice: Criminal Convictions and the Decline of Neighborhood Political Participation.

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