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St. Olaf College
A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
Updated: 1 hour 51 min ago
Three St. Olaf College faculty members have received grants that will help them bring their newly created artistic works before an audience.
Professor of Music Timothy Mahr ’78, Professor of Music James McKeel, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Media and Film Studies Cecilia Cornejo each received funding from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council.
Mahr will use the grant to compose a work based on mythological creatures or characters for the Pavia Wind Quintet, a Twin Cities-based semi-professional ensemble. The multi-movement composition will be presented at an afternoon school residency recital at Northfield Middle School, and later that evening in recital at St. Olaf College.
McKeel will use the grant to compose a serio-comic operetta titled Fabrizio’s Comet in collaboration with critically acclaimed Canadian author Mark Frutkin. The two-hour operetta, featuring a cast and orchestra comprised of St. Olaf students, will be based on Frutkin’s novel, Fabrizio’s Return. The author will travel to campus to participate in final rehearsals for the October premiere.
Cornejo, who teaches at Carleton College as well as St. Olaf, will use the grant to complete a feature-length experimental documentary film titled With the Skateboarders.
The documentary chronicles the efforts of skateboarders in Northfield, Minnesota, to secure a permanent place to skate. It will premiere at Carleton’s Weitz Center for Creativity and will then be more broadly distributed.
The Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council exists to encourage, promote, and assist regional arts development by providing leadership, outreach, advocacy, mentorship, grants, and services.
Hauck has co-led the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at St. Olaf alongside his father, Dave Hauck, for the past 25 years. He has led 13 women’s teams and 16 men’s teams to conference championships. Under his guidance, the men’s team has had 11 top 10 finishes and the women’s team three top 10 finishes at the NCAA Division III National Championships.
Hauck has also coached nine NCAA Division III individual national champions and 131 All-American swimmers and divers.
In 2009 Hauck and his father were named the NCAA Division III coaches of the year for men’s swimming, and they have earned coach of the year honors from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference seven times.
In addition to his coaching, Hauck was a record-setting and champion swimmer at the age group, high school, college, national, and masters levels. He swam at St. Olaf, where he was an All-American 23 times, won seven national championships, set three national records, and won the NCAA Division III Swimmer of the Year Award in 1987.
He graduated in 1987 and continued to compete at the national and international level until 1993. During these years Hauck was a United States Senior Open Finalist for seven years. He also was a member of the United States Post-Graduate National Swimming Team and the Athletes In Action Team.
“I have been so fortunate to have been surrounded by tremendous people like my father, my club coach Reed Wahlberg, and my high school coach Skip Boyum,” Hauck says. “They directly influenced my competitive career but also continue to impact my coaching career in positive ways. I have been incredibly fortunate to coach at St. Olaf, where we have the ability to attract and work with such high-level and committed student-athletes.”
St. Olaf College student Lucas Sletten ’15 has been named a Rossing Physics Scholar for 2014–15, and Owen Puls ’16 and Adam Wood ’16 each earned an honorable mention.
Sletten will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Foundation through the Rossing Fund for Physics Education Endowment. Puls and Wood will each receive a $7,000 scholarship from the foundation.
The award is given each year to outstanding physics students selected from across the nation.
Sletten is majoring in mathematics and physics. He has spent two summers and a semester conducting physics and material science research with St. Olaf Associate Professor of Physics Brian Borovsky ’94 through the St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry program. Sletten has presented research in a variety of settings, including at a Gordon Conference on tribology and at the SeaGate headquarters.
In addition to being named a Rossing Physics Scholar, Sletten also received an honorable mention for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in experimental physics.
Wood is majoring in mathematics. This summer he will continue to advance the research he began last year through a CURI program on geophysics and glaciers with Professor Emeritus of Physics Robert Jacobel and the St. Olaf Center for Geophysical Studies of Ice and Climate. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in physics.
Puls is majoring in physics. He has worked with St. Olaf Professor of Physics Amy Kolan to study the rigidity of triangular spring networks. This summer he will examine soft condensed matter physics at the University of Pennsylvania through a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program hosted by the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter. He plans pursuing a Ph.D. in physics.
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.
“Many institutions of higher education in America don’t need more regulation to help or force them do their job. Some do,” St. Olaf College President David R. Anderson ’74 writes in Inside Higher Ed. “Regulation that starts from that simple fact is most likely to be good for students, good for higher education, and good for the country.”
Anderson’s column analyzes the appropriate reach of government regulation into higher education by drawing from his experience leading St. Olaf and serving on the Board of Trustees of the Higher Learning Commission.
Institutions like St. Olaf, which have a high level of performance, may not need extensive regulation, he argues. But Anderson notes that his work on the Higher Learning Commission has opened his eyes to instances of institutions that have gone awry and may need more regulation.
“So, how much is just right?” he asks. “Here’s an answer: the minimum amount necessary to ensure that students are well-served and that tax dollars are well-spent.”
A nonfiction piece by Anders Nienstaedt ’12 that was first published in St. Olaf College’s literary and fine arts journal has received the Bennington Prize for Nonfiction.
The story, “Jump,” headlines the April 2014 issue of plain china, an online anthology of undergraduate literature and visual art. Nienstaedt wrote the piece while a student at St. Olaf, and it debuted in The Quarry.
Adjudicator Jack Beatty, the senior editor at The Atlantic, says the work is “beyond praise,” noting that “it is so accomplished … it rises above its facts through its art.”
Nienstaedt, who majored in English and studio art at St. Olaf, was a three-year editor of The Quarry and a fifth-year art apprentice. He wrote “Jump” during his senior year in Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Diane LeBlanc’s Advanced Nonfiction class and submitted it to The Quarry during his apprentice year.
During his fifth year on campus, Nienstaedt stayed focused on writing in conjunction with art, printing a book of essays and illustrations.
“Jump” focuses on Nienstaedt’s personal experiences with cross-country running, the death of his first dog, and the way the deaths of a group of local teenagers affected the small-town community he grew up in in northern Michigan.
“It’s a really coincidental story — it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t come back for an extra year as an art apprentice,” Nienstaedt says. “The Quarry published it and [editor Ben Olsen '13] sent a copy of the book to plain china. I think sometimes you have to wait for the right time to write a story, and let the story grow from there.”
The art apprenticeship program is a fifth year of independent studio experience for studio art students upon graduation from St. Olaf. The objective of the apprenticeship program is to offer graduates of St. Olaf an intensive studio experience in their area of expertise to better prepare them for graduate school or a professional career in the arts.
The debut album by a musical trio that includes St. Olaf College Artist in Residence Dave Hagedorn and Instructor in Music Phil Hey “will delight the jazz cognoscenti,” notes a story in the Star Tribune.
But, the paper adds, the self-titled album by the Good Vibes Trio, which also includes Chris Bates, has a reach far beyond jazz aficionados.
“There is something inherently charming and accessible about the shifting, sifting trade-off of lead and supportive roles among the trio, which turns a potential weakness — three essentially percussive instruments without the harmonic versatility of a horn or piano — into a signature virtue,” states the Star Tribune.
The album features 11 songs — a mix of original pieces by each member, along with fresh takes on tracks by well-known artists such as Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, and Freddie Hubbard.
Bates also talks about the trio’s new album on Minnesota Public Radio’s State of the Arts blog.
St. Olaf College student Carlos Rivera ‘15 won a second-place award for his presentation at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in Washington, D.C.
Rivera was one of four chemistry students honored out of the more than 200 undergraduate students nationwide who participated in that section of the conference.
The conference aims to help underrepresented students enhance their science communication skills and better understand how to prepare for science careers in the global workforce. It is centered around student presentations, with workshops focused on strategies for success in graduate school, career preparation, and examining STEM careers in a global context.
Rivera’s poster presentation focused on the progress of his 15-month Beckman Scholar research project. Under the guidance of St. Olaf Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeff Schwinefus, Rivera studied the effect of various solutes on the stabilization of the DNA backbones inside the body.
One of the main applications of Rivera’s research involves fighting cancer and aging. By figuring out how to shorten or lengthen certain parts of the DNA, researchers will be able to understand what parts of the DNA contributes to the stability of the structure.
This is Rivera’s second year attending the ERN conference. Last year, his presentation focused on the population fluctuations between walleye and largemouth bass on Fish Lake Reservoir in Duluth, Minnesota.
This summer Rivera will continue his research with Schwinefus as a part of the grant received from the Beckman Foundation. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in physical chemistry.
The Beckman Foundation provides a stipend to students to conduct research over the course of two summers as well as funding for 10 hours of research each week during the academic year. The highly prestigious grant was awarded to only 10 institutions.
While taking part in a St. Olaf College study-abroad program in Peru, Emily Olson ’14 and her classmates worked alongside medical and dental professionals throughout the country.
Under the supervision of physicians and dentists, the students assessed patients, recorded vitals, and provided assistance with medical records.
“Having the opportunity to compare local health care and health on a global scale allowed me to redefine health and medicine,” says Olson, who was traveling as part of the Peruvian Medical Experience study-abroad course. “Despite budgets, language barriers, and cultural beliefs that restrict work, I realized healthcare — both in Peru and in the U.S. — empowers the patient.”
This type of global perspective is exactly what administrators at the Association of American Medical Colleges are looking for in prospective medical school students.
The 2015 version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which has not been changed since 1991, features a new ‘critical analysis and reasoning’ section that will require students to evaluate and apply information from texts from a wider range of disciplines, including cross-cultural studies and ethics.
An additional section, focusing on psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior, will test students’ understanding of the behavioral, cultural, and socioeconomic determinants of health.
“These changes reflect a wealth of new research that indicates that the health and well-being of patients can benefit from better educating medical students in these areas,” says St. Olaf Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Health Professions Committee Kevin Crisp.
A tradition of global engagement
St. Olaf’s long-standing commitment to study-abroad programs and global engagement makes it an ideal baccalaureate college for students planning to pursue a career in medicine. For nearly half a century, St. Olaf has been a leader in sending students overseas to study. Today, more than two-thirds of St. Olaf students study abroad in one or more countries before they graduate.
The college currently offers study-abroad programs in 54 countries, including nearly 80 semester or year-long programs and nearly 30 off-campus courses during Interim.
“A St. Olaf education emphasizes the development of cross-cultural understanding, but our extensive international studies programming offers a particularly unique and powerful opportunity for student development,” Crisp says.
St. Olaf consistently prepares its students for a successful application process to medical school. In the past five application cycles, 68 percent of St. Olaf juniors and seniors who applied to medical school gained admission, compared to the national rate of 46 percent of all applicants who are admitted.
“I see immense improvement and growth in my pre-med students who return from study abroad,” Crisp adds. “These experiences are transformative. They change you, challenge you, and compel you to learn and grow more.”
Petra Hahn ’14, who participated in St. Olaf’s Term in Asia study-abroad program, which travels to China, Thailand, and Vietnam, agreed that the experience expanded her own understanding of health.
“I learned firsthand about the countless factors that affect a person’s health, especially in a developing country,” she says. “Among them socioeconomic status, living situation, and discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Pre-med students often find that study-abroad programs not centered on medicine can influence their perception of global health care. Matt Seitzer ’15 traveled to Paris to study French and took the opportunity to draw comparisons between health care at home and abroad.
“This experience spoke to me and my aspirations of becoming a physician because it showed me the importance of relating to and understanding cultures other than my own, especially in today’s time when different cultures are interacting ever more frequently,” he says.
Cory Baughman ’14 says the lessons he learned in Peru could not have been taught in a classroom.
“My biggest takeaway, in terms of my being pre-med, is that being a physician has much less to do with medicine than I previously thought and has much more to do with interacting with, and learning from, people than I could have ever hoped,” he says. “I cannot claim to understand what any one person has been through, but through my study-abroad experiences, I gained the awareness and tact to interact with people who differ from me.”
St. Olaf College students Zoey Slater ‘14 and Elise Erickson ‘14 earned top honors in the 2014 Associated Colleges of the Midwest Nick Adams Short Story Contest.
Slater was named co-winner of the contest alongside Knox College student Alex Zimay ‘15.
Slater says she has always loved reading, but didn’t seriously consider taking up writing until she took St. Olaf Writer in Residence Benjamin Percy’s Intermediate Fiction Writing class.
Her winning story, “The Fawn,” is the tale of a woman who receives a surprise phone call from the daughter she had given up for adoption.
“The story itself is important to me because it is the first time I’ve creatively expressed my emotions and thoughts surrounding my experience as an adoptee,” says Slater. “The reception the story has received is extremely encouraging.”
The contest’s final judge, nationally acclaimed author Bonnie Jo Campbell, said Slater’s piece is “built of wonderful material, and I found that its images stuck with me. [The main character] works for a taxidermist and has taken up the study and practice of taxidermy as a hobby … [Slater] does a great job of describing and making sense of the northern Wisconsin winter, and we are affected by the gruesome and sterile faces and figures of the animals she stuffs and poses.”
Erickson’s piece, “Our Lady of the Wilderness,” earned an Honorable Mention. The story focuses on a sister in a rural convent whose best friend, a fellow nun, has disappeared into the wilderness without a trace. Like Slater, Erickson composed her piece during Percy’s Intermediate Fiction Writing course.
“I think it’s a wonderful reflection on the St. Olaf English Department, and I’m grateful to Ben Percy and the other faculty members who have encouraged me in my writing,” Erickson says.
Slater and Zimay will be recognized for their winning stories April 11 at an ACM student symposium in Chicago.
The Nick Adams Short Story Contest, named for the young protagonist of many Hemingway stories, was established in 1973. Judges in past years have included such literary luminaries as Jane Smiley, Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Anne Tyler, Maya Angelou, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Hamilton, and Stuart Dybek.
A passion for using education to foster tolerance and respect throughout the world has earned Sudip Bhandari ’14 a Humanity in Action Fellowship.
Humanity in Action is an international organization that brings young international professionals and students together together to promote human rights, diversity, and active citizenship. The highly selective fellowship aims to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination, as well as to create a forum where potential solutions can be considered and discussed.
Bhandari was one of 40 students around the country selected for the fellowship from a pool of 605 applicants.
His work founding and directing the Anne Frank Project Nepal has given him insight into the process of promoting tolerance and respect through education. Bhandari created the Anne Frank Project to inform Nepalese students about the events of the Holocaust and World War II, a section of world history that is often left out of the nation’s curriculum. His notable work with the project will serve him well during his fellowship, as Humanity in Action includes a component that focuses on the relevance of the Holocaust in modern-day Europe.
“For the past four years, Humanity in Action has been on my radar,” says Bhandari, who first heard about the fellowship from fellow Ole Subhash Ghimire ’10, who completed the program four years ago. “I really like its model, which includes three parts: educating fellows, building a network, and inspiring action. “
Through the Humanity in Action Fellowship, Bhandari will be spending the summer in Warsaw, Poland, where he will attend workshops and seminars, visit concentration camps, write reports, and work on a research project.
“I am excited to learn about Polish politics, culture, and its history of human rights and resistance to intolerance,” says Bhandari, who also received an internship grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to support his work. “Such understanding will serve as a case study that I can use as I develop and advance my Anne Frank Project Nepal initiative in my home country. I think the most rewarding aspect of the fellowship will be the network of passionate advocates of human rights fellows I will be interacting with during the program.”
Earlier this year, Dan Lilly ’15 traveled to Kenya to work on a solar-powered irrigation project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
One month of the work wasn’t enough, however, and this summer he’ll return — with several other St. Olaf College students by his side.
Lilly spent this Interim helping his dad, Brian Lilly, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois, build solar-powered irrigation pumps out of car parts that are given to subsistence farmers in Africa.
At the same time, the St. Olaf junior was interning for Living Positive Kenya, an organization that works to provide aid to women with HIV.
The two projects began to intertwine, as the father and son team learned that they could provide food security for the women in Living Positive by setting up farms for them to operate.
“It ended up being a better fit than we could have ever expected,” says Dan, a pre-med student majoring in biology and chemistry at St. Olaf. “Proper nutrition, which is not easy to obtain in the areas we are working in, is a key component to successfully living with HIV. The primary issue the farms face is irrigation, which is currently done by hand and can take many hours a day.”
Dan spent much of his time doing both the day-to-day work at Living Positive, which included checking on the mental and physical health of the women in the program, and traveling throughout Kenya to search for sites that could serve as demos for the pumps. Dan also wrote a blog detailing his activities throughout the month, which spread awareness on the project while functioning as a status report for the Gates Foundation.
Now that they have returned home, both Dan and Brian are busy working toward their next trip to Kenya. They plan on returning in the summer with a group of students to install the pumps on the selected locations.
Accompanying Dan will be Nick Hopkins ’15 and John Koehl ’15, as well as Eric Fritzsche, an engineering student from the University of Illinois. The team will remain in Kenya for the entire summer, supported by a grant from the Gates Foundation as well as funding from the University of Illinois and Professor of Engineering Andrew Singer, where they will monitor the sites and engineer solutions to any problems that may arise.
They plan on teaching the women involved in Living Positive how to assemble and use the pumps, and to collect information on both the reception of the pumps and how they hold up under continuous usage.
“The grand vision is that the women in the HIV rehabilitation program can assemble and distribute the pumps as a way to generate income for themselves,” says Dan. “Hopefully we can demonstrate this summer that the pump more than pays for itself via the increase in crop yields compared to less efficient irrigation methods.”
If all goes well this summer, Dan plans on taking a gap year between college and medical school in order to return to Kenya to expand the project throughout the country and help set up the necessary distribution networks.
“This project has really opened my eyes to the social good that engineering can achieve,” says Dan.
St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Sociology Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb will use the spring Mellby Lecture to share his research on evangelical megachurches.
His April 7 lecture, titled “Dilemmas of Faith and Family among Megachurch Evangelicals,” will be streamed live and archived online.
Nordstrom-Loeb spent a year studying 16 conservative Protestant megachurches in Minnesota, looking at their concerns about marriage and family in general and same-sex marriage in particular.
“The study was during the same year that Minnesotans voted on whether to ban same-sex marriage and the legislature later made same-sex marriage legal in the state, so it was a time when marriage and families were much on people’s minds,” he says.
Only a third of the megachurches Nordstrom-Loeb studied were actively involved in the conversation about same-sex marriage, but nearly all had extensive programming to encourage marriage and family life in general.
“My sense was that they are worried about the decline of the traditional family in the U.S. and that their efforts are much more often put into supporting traditional heterosexual marriage than working against same-sex marriage,” he says.
He hopes that his lecture will give audience members a clearer idea of what evangelical megachurches are like; how worries about same-sex marriage have been important in recent decades in the political arena; the social trends that are making it more difficult for people to have a more or less traditional marriage; and some prospects for the ways conservatives and liberals who are concerned about families might work together.
Nordstrom-Loeb earned his baccalaureate degree from the University of Michigan and spent a summer with a Quaker-based civil rights project in Alabama before earning his master’s degree from Harvard University in 1968. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the St. Olaf faculty in 1982.
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.
St. Olaf College junior Jorden Johnson recently presented her research at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Johnson’s presentation, titled “Novel Synthesis of Lipoic Acid Derivatives for Biosynthetic Pathways” was based on summer research she conducted as part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Johnson worked in the organic chemistry lab under the direction of Professor of Chemistry Patrick Dussault and a graduate student mentor.
Johnson and her lab team were interested in lipoic and dihydropoic acids, which may be beneficial in lowering high blood lipid levels, a leading cause for cardiovascular disease. Johnson was responsible for synthesizing two new specific chemical derivatives of lipoic and dihydropoic acids, which required a large amount of time spent researching chemical literatures and exploring procedures and synthesis pathways.
At the end of the summer, Johnson presented her research at REU’s departmental chemistry symposium and was awarded a travel grant. She submitted an abstract of her research to the American Chemical Society conference and was accepted to present a poster at the undergraduate research poster session.
“Having the chance to attend and be a poster presenter was a great experience,” says Johnson. “The meeting allowed me to network with other chemists, attend talks about up and coming research in different divisions of chemistry, and learn about nontraditional careers you can have with a chemistry major.”
An article by St. Olaf College Professor of German Karen Achberger is included in a new German anthology titled Die Waffen nieder! Lay down your weapons!
The book’s title comes from an 1889 novel of the same name by Bertha von Suttner, an author and peace activist in Germany. Like the original novel, in which Suttner explores the relationship between peace and war, this new anthology comprises essays and articles of the same themes.
The article, titled “Ingeborg Bachmann: Composing after Ausschwitz,” details her writing against war and violence. Achberger connects Bachmann’s specifically musical way of “composing” literary texts to her relentless struggle against the kind of thinking that leads to war and atrocity.
This article is not the first time Achberger has written about Bachmann. Her book, Understanding Ingeborg Bachmann, examines Bachmann’s works and its themes of war and the absence of women in patriarchal society.
The Die Waffen nieder! Lay down your weapons! anthology is bilingual and published by Koenigshausen and Neumann in Wuerzburg, Germany.