St. Olaf College

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A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
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Mayo Clinic internship provides up-close look at world of medicine

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 10:10am

Nicki Youngberg ’15 at Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, where she interned this summer.

Many St. Olaf College students pursue internships as a way of discerning their future career paths. But for Nicki Youngberg ’15, an internship at Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC) affirmed the ideas she already had about life after St. Olaf.

“I have always had a passion to help others and have always known that I want to go home at the end of my day knowing I made an impact on someone’s life,” says Youngberg. “Health and wellness have been ingrained in my lifestyle since I was young, and studying abroad in Denmark — one of the healthiest countries in the world — through a St. Olaf program last semester further solidified my desire to help people on their journey to wellness.”

This summer Youngberg worked as the worksite wellness intern in the DAHLC, an innovate branch of Mayo Clinic that provides state-of-the-art resources and programs to help patients enjoy a positive lifestyle that incorporates the best practices of exercise and nutrition. Mayo Clinic, which is distinguished by its emphasis on integrated care, research, and education, is widely regarded as one of the best medical practices in the world.

Through the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, Youngberg arranged to receive academic credit for her internship, and she worked with Associate Professor of Exercise Science and Volleyball Head Coach Cindy Book to bring an academic framework to her experience.

As part of St. Olaf’s commitment to supporting students as they navigate potential career paths, the Piper Center offers numerous resources to help students secure internships that will enrich their studies and help them hone their professional skills. Last year 151 students earned academic credit for their internships. In addition to providing students with the ability to register their internships for academic credit, the Piper Center offers students funding for unpaid or underpaid internships.

Creating a culture of healthy living
During her internship, Youngberg worked to administer health programs at the Mayo Clinic that create a culture of healthy living in the workplace.

“It was busy!” Youngberg says. “I helped develop and enhance the DAHLC worksite wellness social media sites, provided presentations to different work groups on various aspects of wellness, developed population-based wellness campaigns, maintained all of the resources for the Wellness Champion Program, and worked on many different committees that promote wellness in the Mayo and Rochester community.”

Youngberg says that because of her internship, she now knows with certainty that she wants to work in medicine.

“I had the opportunity to shadow multiple health care providers,” she says. “After St. Olaf, I hope to pursue a career in physical therapy, and when I shadowed physical therapists I absolutely loved their work.”

Finding a new perspective on wellness
Her internship also enabled Youngberg to attend the Mayo Clinic’s Holistic Wellness Conference, which featured Dr. Henry C. Emmons, a consulting psychiatrist at St. Olaf’s counseling center, as a speaker.

Youngberg says the conference, which aimed to show the role of body, mind, and spirit in health and wellness, made her realize that though Western medicine is not to be disregarded, it is not the “end-all-cure-all.”

At the end of her internship, Youngberg helped organize and run the Mayo Clinic Healthy Human Race Weekend, a combined half-marathon and expo event dedicated to preventative wellness and health. The expo featured such guest speakers as Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and eight-time Olympic speed skating medalist Apolo Ohno.

“From these experiences I really honed in on the type of work I like,” Youngberg says. “Being able to walk away from the internship knowing what kind of work I enjoy, the kind of individuals I want to interact with on a day to day basis, and the environment I thrive in is a great place to be at the beginning of my senior year.”

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf Choir television special wins two regional Emmy awards

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 9:13am

A television broadcast of the St. Olaf Choir’s most recent performance in the 950-year-old Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, has won two regional Emmy awards.

PBS aired the one-hour television special, Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir, as part of last year’s holiday programming. Produced by Twin Cities Public Television, the program was filmed during the St. Olaf Choir’s 2013 tour of Norway.

Nidarosdomens Jentekor, the resident girls choir from the cathedral, joined the St. Olaf Choir and conductor Anton Armstrong ’78 in the performance.

Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir won the 2014 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award for Special Event Coverage. Armstrong served as artistic director and conductor for the special; St. Olaf Manager of Music Organizations Bob Johnson served as production/concert manager; and St. Olaf Director of Broadcast/Media Services Jeff O’Donnell ’02 served as audio producer.

The television special also won an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award for the work of its director, Phillip Byrd.

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English professor authors book on indie rock band Cloud Cult

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 8:38am

A new book by St. Olaf College Professor of English Mark Allister chronicles the career of Cloud Cult, a Minnesota-grown indie rock band that has often been called “the most idealistic and least cynical” in the country.

The book, Chasing the Light: The Cloud Cult Story, traces the band’s rise to critical acclaim. Allister describes Cloud Cult’s unique philosophy and principles, including how lead singer and songwriter Craig Minowa created a zero-carbon footprint for the band’s recording and touring well before sustainable practices became mainstream.

Chasing the Light also details the band’s defining moments, beginning with the death of Craig and Connie Minowa’s two-year-old son and the hundreds of songs that grew out of the tragic loss.

“Cloud Cult’s story engages some of the great issues of any time: How do we overcome loss and move through grieving? How do we understand human life through the frameworks of spirituality, of life and death? How do we create positive messages through art? How do we spread love? Readers of the book will, I believe, contemplate such issues through the band’s story,” Allister says.

“I’d like to see readers come away with a renewed sense of hope that doing good in the world is possible, and that despair can be turned to affirmation.”

In addition to English, Allister also teaches environmental studies and American studies at St. Olaf. He hosts a weekly radio show on KSTO called Prof Rock with Mark Allister.

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St. Olaf welcomes Class of 2018

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 1:48pm

St. Olaf College recently welcomed the Class of 2018 — a talented, diverse group of 775 first-year students from 458 high schools in 45 states and 32 countries.

They include 130 domestic students of color and 68 international students, as well as 25 Davis United World College Scholars (the most the college has ever enrolled in a single class).

Most of these new Oles — 56 percent — hail from outside of Minnesota. The class also includes 10 students who were admitted last year and deferred, spending a gap year studying in places like Russia, China, Nepal, Wyoming, New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, and Laos, or — in one case — playing junior hockey in Canada.

And while these numbers provide some insight into the incoming class, each new group of students is more than just a compilation of statistics and figures. The Class of 2018 also includes:

  • One student who already has a licensed computer game with Yahoo
  • Six students who have a black belt in a martial art
  • One student who appeared in an episode of the Beverly Hills, 90210 remake
  • Two sets of twins

“I’m thrilled to welcome the Class of 2018 to campus,” says Vice President for Enrollment and College Relations Michael Kyle ’85. “They are energetic, dynamic, and accomplished. I very much look forward to watching them grow and develop as Oles — they are already making their mark on our community, and that is exciting for all of us to see.”

Watch a video of members of the Class of 2018 settling in on campus:
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Students team with tech company to study the physics of friction

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 2:48pm

This summer Associate Professor of Physics Brian Borovsky ’94 (right) and student researchers Lucas Sletten ’15 and Emily Johnson ’16 used a machine called a probe-quartz resonator apparatus to simulate the amount of friction that is created when very small contacts rub at high speeds — a technique used by only a few other research groups in the world.

This summer a team of researchers at St. Olaf College partnered with hard disk drive manufacturing company Western Digital to investigate the underpinnings of friction at the molecular and even atomic level.

The project, part of the college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program, was led by Associate Professor of Physics and Department Chair Brian Borovsky ’94.

Along with student researchers Lucas Sletten ’15 and Emily Johnson ’16, Borovsky worked with Western Digital to research ways of minimizing the impact of friction on micromachines.

“Micromechanics and even nanomechanics is a broad area of technology that is in a developmental phase right now,” Borovsky says. “There are certain kinds of micromachines that are now ubiquitous, and they’re around us every day even if we don’t know it.”

“Like the accelerometer in your smartphone,” Sletten adds, “or in the motion sensors that trigger the airbags in your car.”

But, Borovsky explains, accelerometers are relatively simple machines, with few moving parts that rub together. In order to build more complex micromachines, friction — or rather, the wear that it causes — is still a significant obstacle to be overcome.

“There has been no micromachine commercialized that allows for rubbing contacts,” he says. “Those tend to be very high friction, very high wear, and the machines don’t tend to last more than a day or two on the bench.”

Bridging the gap between theory and practicality
In larger-scale mechanics, mitigating the effects of friction is as simple as ensuring that the machine is well lubricated. But when the scale is measured in micrometers or even nanometers and space is at a premium, there simply isn’t enough room for a traditional lubricant.

To find a way around this design problem, companies like Western Digital are researching experimental lubricants that can efficiently minimize the effects of friction even when only the thickness of a single molecule. This summer Borovsky and his students worked to test the different experimental lubricants that Western Digital has been developing for its hard drives.

“Hard disk drive manufacturers are at a key point in their technology where they have gotten them to be so small and have so much data on them by reducing the distance between the reader and the disk,” Borovsky says. “But they’re at this key point where they can’t get much closer without actually starting to rub the reader against the disk. Yet they may need to do that if they’re going to compete with other memory storage technologies, like flash storage. So they’re seriously trying to figure out, ‘How do I get a fraction of a nanometer closer?’ Every fraction of a nanometer can really count for a competitive industry like this.”

In this summer’s research project, the St. Olaf team used a machine called a probe-quartz resonator apparatus to simulate the amount of friction that is created when very small contacts rub at high speeds — a technique used by only a few other research groups in the world. This enabled them not only to test the different lubricants being developed by Western Digital, but also to collect data that may lead to a greater understanding of the way friction works on such small scales, bridging the gap between theory and practicality.

“Ever since the modern study of friction began in the 1980s, researchers have been revealing surprising ways in which the simple laws of friction for everyday objects fail to describe the physics of ultra-small machines,” Borovsky says.

This is because, he explains, when an object is small enough, nearly all of its atoms are on the surface. With relatively few atoms stored inside, the machine has almost no bulk (inertia and cohesive strength) that could allow it to withstand the destructive effects of surface forces. Machines this small simply don’t behave the way much bigger objects do, and this creates an opportunity for scientific understanding to help guide the development of new technologies.

Paving the way for future research
The results of this summer’s work are promising, Borovsky says.

“We’ve had an excellent summer in the lab,” he says. “We upgraded our equipment for improved ease of use. Lucas and Emily automated our data acquisition scheme, and now we see data coming in faster than ever. More data means better statistics and ultimately better science. The first fruits of all this is a very large data set on the frictional behavior of two hard drive coatings provided by Western Digital.”

Borovsky says that although the experimental lubricants showed high levels of friction, they did exhibit less friction per area than uncoated control surfaces. The group’s next step, he says, is to use the frictional data they gathered to find ways of modifying the lubricants to cut down on friction even more.

“We are at the beginning of our collaborative effort here,” Borovsky says, “and it will be interesting to see how hard drive technology develops to stay competitive with other high-density storage media in the future.”

Categories: Colleges

Alumnus tells magazine why top tech CEOs want liberal arts majors

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 4:02pm

David Rose ’89 in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, where he teaches and conducts research.

Liberal arts training allows people to think about technology itself in fundamentally different ways, St. Olaf College alumnus David Rose ’89 tells Fast Company magazine.

He’s one of several industry leaders quoted in an article titled “Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees With Liberal Arts Degrees.”

The piece notes that “tech CEOs across the country agree that liberal arts training — with its emphasis on creativity and critical thinking — is vital to the success of their business.”

Rose, CEO of photo analytics company Ditto, agrees. He is pushing for companies to reimagine the role that technology plays in people’s lives — and the magazine points out that his recently published book, Enchanted Objects, “is peppered with ideas from literature, fine arts, and philosophy to prompt the reader to think about technology as the kind of magic that humans have always been longing after.”

Rose notes that his experience at St. Olaf enabled him to take a broad range of courses and study abroad.

“For a young mind, that is the very best thing you can do, because it allows you to come at questions about the world and new technologies from radically different perspectives,” he says.

Read more about Rose’s work in the St. Olaf Magazine, and watch him talk tech with Jon Stewart earlier this week on The Daily Show.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf names new dean of admissions and financial aid

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 2:30pm

Chris George ’94 has been named the new dean of admissions and financial aid.

St. Olaf College Vice President for Enrollment and College Relations Michael Kyle ’85 has announced the appointment of Chris George ’94 as the dean of admissions and financial aid.

George will oversee a staff of 29 Admissions and Financial Aid professionals. The Admissions and Financial Aid offices are part of the college’s Enrollment and College Relations division.

“I am delighted to welcome Chris George to St. Olaf. He brings a wealth of experiences in higher education, a deep understanding of the increasingly complex field of financial aid, and a personality that really resonates with the identity and mission of St. Olaf,” Kyle says.

George, who currently serves as the assistant vice chancellor for enrollment and director of financial aid at the University of Denver, will begin at St. Olaf October 1.

A mathematics major at St. Olaf, George went on to earn his master’s degree in higher education student development from the University of Denver. He has worked there since 2001, holding positions in housing operations; institutional research; budgets, research, and analysis; and enrollment and financial aid.

George says he’s looking forward to returning to his alma mater.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me to lead a team that shares my passion to enroll and graduate young women and men from a college that truly changes people’s lives,” he says. “Over the coming months, I look forward to getting to know the students, the faculty, and the staff of the college and can’t wait to meet the next crop of talented high school seniors who want to join the St. Olaf family.”

Categories: Colleges

Emeritus faculty member Graham ‘Stan’ Frear dies

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 11:31am

Graham “Stan” Frear ’47 with one of the many collage boxes he sold throughout the country.

St. Olaf College Associate Professor Emeritus of English Graham “Stan” Frear ’47, who supervised and helped teach more than 2,000 English education majors during his 24 years on the Hill, died August 17.

Deeply interested in art, Frear first studied biology and then chose English as his profession. After teaching high school biology and English for 15 years, he earned his graduate degree from the University of Minnesota and joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1962.

In addition to English education, Frear taught rhetoric and American literature; offered the first course focused on African American literature; and founded St. Olaf’s Irish studies program. He also published two books of poetry.

Throughout his career, Frear was passionate about art — especially collage boxes, an art form he began pursuing in 1957. He sold many throughout the nation, earning a number of commissions for his work. Particularly popular was his work dealing with literary figures, such as boxes depicting the writing, life, and times of William Faulkner.

A memorial service for Frear will be held Wednesday, August 27, at 11 a.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield. A visitation will be held one hour prior to the service.

Read Frear’s obituary.

Categories: Colleges

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