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St. Olaf College
A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
Updated: 31 min 51 sec ago
Nearly 50 years after St. Olaf College alumnus James Reeb was killed for his participation in the civil rights movement, President David R. Anderson ’74 and students traveling through Alabama as part of a history course gathered in Selma to honor him.
The group, which included the 12 students taking Professor of History Mike Fitzgerald’s Creating Southern History course, laid wreaths at two historical markers in the city.
Reeb, who graduated from St. Olaf in 1950, was working as a Unitarian Universalist minister in Massachusetts when he turned on the TV in 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.
The march was scheduled for that Tuesday, but King temporarily called it off amid fears of an ambush. 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. Reeb died from his injuries in a local 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 new Academy Award-nominated 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, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the eulogy.
“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.”
St. Olaf Assistant to the President for Institutional Diversity Bruce King says Reeb symbolizes the idea that one person’s actions can make a difference.
“He was someone who acted on his convictions, and it made an impact,” King says.
Read local news coverage of the event.
Many St. Olaf College students use Interim as a time to study abroad or explore their career interests.
This January, Tea Dejanovic ‘15 is doing both.
Dejanovic is working as an analyst intern at the Stockholm International Water Institute, a policy institute that devises solutions to water-related challenges.
Last fall Dejanovic reached out to Katarina Veem ‘86, a director at the institute, and together they organized a monthlong internship program.
Dejanovic then received an internship grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, which offers numerous resources to help students explore potential career paths and hone their professional skills.
“Katarina gave me the opportunity to experience first-hand the impact that research facilities such as the Stockholm International Water Institute have as an intermediary between international organizations, governments, and local businesses,” says Dejanovic.
During her month in Sweden, Dejanovic is working on a project titled “Water as a Financial Risk.” She is researching how businesses can stay competitive while also acknowledging their corporate responsibility to reduce their water resource demand in emerging markets. The key, Dejanovic says, is in innovation.
Innovation in business has been Dejanovic’s passion ever since she joined Ole Ventures, the St. Olaf student entrepreneurship club, during her first year on campus. The Stockholm International Water Institute gave her an opportunity to explore the development of innovative solutions that promote foreign investment, while simultaneously giving back and helping local communities develop.
“I am applying the analytic skills gained in my economics classes to address the business side of the issue, while critically analyzing the pressing water challenges in a global context from the standpoint of a political scientist,” Dejanovic says.
This use of critical analysis to address real-world problems lines up directly with Dejanovic’s career interests.
“I would like to use my liberal arts education to bridge the gap between the corporate and the non-profit sectors,” she says.
Then she took a St. Olaf College course in health care economics.
McDevitt was drawn in by the course’s focus on federal health policies, current issues and controversies within the U.S. health care system, and the economic factors that lead to changes in the health care sector.
“Coming from a medical family and being interested in policy, I had always been interested in health care and health care policy, but I hadn’t read much of the literature that explains and investigates issues within the health care system,” says McDevitt. “The course was absolutely the reason why I became seriously interested in health care consulting.”
That interest led McDevitt to explore careers in the field, and she recently accepted a full-time position as a senior business analyst for OptumInsight, a health care analytics and consulting firm. The company offered McDevitt a position in the firm’s Leadership Acceleration Program, a developmental program for recent college graduates.
“I’m interested mainly in how the world works — why people do what they do and how we as informed citizens can work to fix problems with society,” McDevitt says.
Before applying to the Leadership Acceleration Program, McDevitt spoke with Nicole Radil ’12, a St. Olaf alumna who works at OptumInsight and is involved with the program. McDevitt also met with Senior Associate Director of Career Education and Coaching Kirsten Cahoon ’98 in the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, who guided her throughout the fall recruiting process.
“They showed me that this program could be a perfect fit for my interests,” says McDevitt.
Shaped by experiences
A wide range of opportunities and experiences have helped McDevitt shape her future career goals.
This summer she interned at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Environment and Natural Resources Division. As an intern, she completed various writing and press projects and worked under several different attorneys, including U.S. Attorney Amy Gillespie ’88.
As a sophomore, McDevitt conducted a monthlong career exploration in which she shadowed various attorneys, including Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Holiday Companies Lynn Anderson ’75.
“I was able to spend time with fantastic attorneys who taught me that success should not be my goal, but rather significance,” says McDevitt.
At St. Olaf, McDevitt serves as a special events coordinator for the college’s Political Awareness Committee, and this fall she was involved with St. Olaf’s Management Consulting Club.
This spring McDevitt will be working at Zipnosis, a health care technology firm founded by Jonathan Pearce ‘01. McDevitt heard about Zipnosis at Ole Biz, a Piper Center event that enables students to meet and develop connections with alumni working for a myriad of companies.
“Consulting and law both appeal to me for similar reasons — you are able to specialize in an area and use your knowledge to help others and solve problems,” says McDevitt. “I’m looking forward to using analytical skills to get to the bottom of a problem and improve people’s lives.”
The Private College 529 Plan gained attention this week with the news that the Associated Colleges of the Midwest — a consortium of academically excellent, independent liberal arts colleges that includes St. Olaf — officially joined the plan.
St. Olaf has been a member of the Private College 529 Plan since its launch in 2003. It is now joined by all of the other 13 ACM institutions.
The Private College 529 Plan enables families to prepay tuition at member institutions, protecting their savings from annual tuition inflation.
“Access and affordability are important priorities for all of the ACM institutions,” says St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74, who also serves as chair of the ACM Board of Directors. “This plan is another tool that families can use in pursuing high-quality college education.”
Owned and operated by more than 275 leading private colleges and universities, the Private College 529 Plan was created by authorization of the U.S. Congress for colleges and their consortia to help families save for college and increase the affordability and accessibility of higher education.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded St. Olaf College a $150,000 president’s discretionary grant. President David R. Anderson ’74 will use these funds to support a new cross-disciplinary institute dedicated to improving the quality of public discourse.
The Institute for Freedom and Community aims to foster intellectual inquiry and meaningful discussion of important political and social issues. The institute is based on the belief that when individuals are free to explore multiple viewpoints and to acknowledge the paradoxes and complexity of today’s problems, they can more effectively challenge presuppositions and engage in productive dialogue. The institute will promote the exercise of this freedom in ways that also preserve and strengthen the common bonds that unite us.
One of the goals of the institute is to promote productive discourse in a democracy. Through its programs and educational offerings, the institute will underscore the value of having free and spirited exchanges on highly controversial subjects in a respectful and constructive manner.
“The need for Americans to engage in informed debate about the relative merits of different theories of government and the different approaches to public policy that would flow from them is self-evident,” says Anderson. “This generous grant from the Mellon Foundation will provide the seed money for St. Olaf to grow a forum for our students and others to participate in those debates.”
The institute will also incorporate the principle of civil disagreement into the academic program and campus life at St. Olaf. An annual symposium will address a significant public policy issue and encourage the exchange of divergent ideas. Through the institute, nationally prominent thinkers, activists, and leaders will be invited to campus during the academic year to learn alongside St. Olaf faculty and students.
St. Olaf College will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a lecture by a civil rights activist who helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The Rev. David Forbes Sr. will speak at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, January 19, in the Sun Room of Buntrock Commons.
The lecture will be streamed and archived online.
Forbes was a student at Shaw University when Ella Baker held a meeting on campus in the spring of 1960 to organize a new group called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. At age 19, Forbes was elected the North Carolina representative of the committee.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee became one of the most important organizations of the civil rights movement, organizing sit-ins and freedom rides and playing a leading role in the 1963 March on Washington and the Mississippi Freedom Summer.
Forbes and other representatives of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee met with Martin Luther King Jr. to share stories of their nonviolent protests.
“We sat the feet of Dr. King and Ella Baker, Ralph Abernathy, and Wyatt Walker,” Forbes told the Raleigh Public Record in an interview last year. “Big names during that time, and they would not so much as instruct us as hear our stories and bring deeper understanding to what was going on.”
After graduating from Shaw University, Forbes became a teacher. While teaching in New York, he began working on a street team to reach out to inner-city youth. He went on to earn his master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University and his doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary. He has also completed the coursework for a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Virginia.
Forbes has taught at the university level and was the founding pastor of Christian Faith Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was appointed dean of the Shaw University Divinity School in May 2014.
At most theatrical performances, audience members are asked to put their cell phones away.
But at a show that will open at St. Olaf College in March, audience members will be asked to take their cell phones out — and use them to control the movements of dancers.
Theatre Engine is a multi-media performance event that combines live dance, electronic music, computer programming, and smartphone technology.
Housed at Michigan State University, the project has drawn together experts from around the country to create a performance that incorporates — indeed, relies upon — the mobile devices that nearly every audience member carries in his or her pocket.
“We live in this very interactive world, and what we wanted to do is find a way to use that same technology we use for video games in a live performance,” says Todd Edwards, the designer and technical director for the St. Olaf Theater Department and one of the experts who began working with the Theatre Engine project two years ago.
As the project got off the ground, Edwards asked the St. Olaf Dance Department to get involved. This fall Artist in Residence in Dance Anthony Roberts worked to prepare 15 first-year students to perform in Theatre Engine when it comes to campus.
“Collaborating with graduate students and faculty from other schools has been a great experience for our students,” Roberts says. “They’re learning how to be creative, and how to think, move, act, and respond in the moment.”
After its initial performances at Michigan State, Theatre Engine will travel to St. Olaf. It will then continue on to Brigham Young University.
And at each stop — in fact, at each performance — audience members will see something entirely unique.
How it works
Using an app developed by computer scientists at Michigan State, audience members will have a small avatar of a performer on their smartphone. If the avatar is wearing a green costume, then that audience member controls the performer wearing a green costume.
As audience members move their phone, the computer program takes the GPS/accelerator data from the device to a server. There the program translates that into audio cues for the performers, who translate them into various moves.
“It gives the performers a lot of creative interpretation,” Edwards says.
As the performance evolves, the app invites audience members to take a more active role by doing things such as changing the lighting, making sounds, or striking a pose.
Through all of it, a composer will be creating a computer-generated soundscape, in real time, to match what is evolving with the performance.
As audience members become more involved in the piece, Roberts says, there’s a subtle shift. They have gone from being the “controllers” of the dancers to being invited into the piece. As the environment evolves, the cues get more cryptic.
“The idea is that we get them to the point that the phone is set down and they are brought into the space,” Edwards says.
That, he says, is perhaps the most significant hurdle that smartphones present.
“One of the biggest challenges the piece has is treading the line between being in the moment and not in the technology, with heads down staring at screens,” Edwards says.
An evolving performance
The goal is that by the time Theatre Engine leaves St. Olaf, the performance will contain elements it didn’t have when it arrived from Michigan State. Each institution will continue to build on the piece by reacting to the actions of audience members, Edwards says.
“There’s no completion, no ‘finish’ to this piece,” he says.
Yet he notes that after seeing a few trial runs of Theatre Engine in Michigan, he’s mesmerized by the possibilities.
“We saw everyone from little kids to elderly adults participating,” he says.
Although the audience will eventually be drawn into the piece, the initial performers will be the first-year dancers taught by Roberts.
Christy Dobbratz ’18 has enjoyed the cross-department collaboration of this project and the opportunity to explore the innovative side of dance.
“It has been interesting to explore my own capacity to work on the fly and develop my improv skills,” Dobbratz says. “I am a little nervous for the performance, but as long as we as dancers keep an open mind and give it our best shot, the audience will enjoy it.”
Cosimo Pori ’18 says despite the ubiquity of smartphones, he had never considered using technology to literally control dancers. Such a complex concept is exciting to participate in, he says, and has provided a valuable lesson in teamwork and trust.
“It is exhilarating to be part of a project that is taking audience participation and interactivity to an entirely new level,” he adds.
Theatre Engine performs at the Wagner Bundgaard Dance Studio One in Dittmann Center on Saturday, March 7, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 8, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The performances are free and open to the public, with general seating and no ticket required.
Pope Francis welcomed “students from Northfield, Minnesota” — in this case St. Olaf College students taking Professor of Religion Eric Lund’s Catholic Rome, Lutheran Wittenberg Interim course — during his Epiphany address in St. Peter’s Square.
Lund regularly takes students in the course to the papal Epiphany mass. The pope welcomed the students as he addressed the crowd in St. Peter’s Square (you can hear it just after the 11-minute mark in this recording).
The Catholic Rome, Lutheran Wittenberg course examines religion in Italy and Germany at several decisive turning points in the past and today. Students analyze Catholic theology and church practices, from ancient times to the Renaissance, through site visits and events in Rome and Florence. They also examine the emergence of Protestantism through activities in the region around Wittenberg, birthplace of Martin Luther’s Reformation, and then compare the influence of religion in Italian and German culture.
St. Olaf offers a wide variety of off-campus programs during the January Interim, a four-week period of intensive study in one area. This January 536 St. Olaf students are spending Interim on 21 international and six domestic programs.
The Fulbright Scholar Program supports more than 800 U.S. faculty and professionals each year to teach or conduct research in 125 countries around the world. To increase the diversity of the scholars who participate in the program, the Institute of International Education launched the Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Program.
Each year, Alumni Ambassadors are selected competitively to present information on their Fulbright experience at campus workshops, academic conferences, and other venues. Over a two-year period, they play an important role in raising the visibility of the Fulbright program.
Walter received a Fulbright scholar grant to spend the 2009-10 academic year as a visiting lecturer in the Zoology Department at Madras Christian College in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
One of the key reasons Walter applied to teach in India is because she is the advisor for St. Olaf College’s Biology in South India program, which each year offers 10 students a chance to work on two independent research projects at several sites in southern India. Research topics range from rural health care and diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis to wildlife and mountain ecology.
Walter, the Paul and Mildred Hardy Distinguished Professor of Science, joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1994. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Grinnell College, her master’s degree at the University of British Columbia, and her doctorate at Duke University.