St. Olaf College

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A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
Updated: 2 hours 28 min ago

St. Olaf senior awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 8:48am

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded St. Olaf College student Corey Ruder ’16 a three-year Graduate Research Fellowship that will support her work in aquatic biogeochemistry at Washington State University Vancouver.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships support the most promising graduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Fellows are expected to become experts in their field who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.

Past recipients of the award include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

Ruder, an environmental studies major at St. Olaf, is one of 2,000 students selected to receive the 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship from more than 17,000 applicants.

She will enroll in the environmental and natural resource sciences Ph.D. program at WSU Vancouver this fall, studying the interactions between physical mixing of water and nitrogen processing in lakes and reservoirs, with special emphasis on the factors regulating the production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. She plans to take the following year to conduct research in Japan before returning to WSU Vancouver to finish her doctoral work.

As a Beckman Scholar at St. Olaf, Ruder independently designed an 18-month research project assessing the utility of Chironomidae (Diptera) as indicators of nitrogen loading in lakes under the guidance of Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Charles Umbanhowar Jr.

She also studied abroad in Australia for a semester with Associate Professor of Biology Steve Freedberg, where she was involved in several smaller research projects, and has spent two Interims in Japan — one with Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak and the other with Associate Professor of Chemistry Paul Jackson ’92. As part of the Directed Undergraduate Research (DUR) Interim course led by Jackson, Ruder designed and completed a project that examines cesium transport through forest soils.

She is currently in another DUR course led by Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies John Schade, where she is continuing a project investigating nitrous oxide production in lake sediments that she began the previous semester when she was a teaching assistant in Schade’s biogeochemistry course.

Ruder will also be traveling with Schade to Siberia this summer as part of the Polaris Project, which investigates the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic ecosystem.

In addition to her research projects, Ruder received the Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career during her first year on campus and co-founded the Ole Thrift Shop LLC with Lyla Amini ’14 and Sudip Bhandari ’14.

The student-run small business combats campus waste by collecting donations of clothes, books, and miscellaneous belongings in the spring, then selling the secondhand items during the first week of the following school year. Ruder’s team has grown in size to 11 students, who are now in the process of transitioning the business to nonprofit status and establishing a grant to fund environmentally minded student projects with the revenue that is generated.

Categories: Colleges

Former St. Olaf President Melvin George dies

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:26am

During his tenure as president of St. Olaf, Melvin George led the college’s highly successful VISION campaign, which raised nearly $73 million for the endowment and several major construction projects, including doubling the size of the library and adding a new athletic field house.

Former St. Olaf College President Melvin D. George died April 25 at the age of 80.

A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 3, at Holden Lutheran Church in rural Kenyon, Minnesota. Visitation will be Monday, May 2, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Benson & Langehough Funeral Home in Northfield, Minnesota, and one hour prior to the service in the church.

George assumed the presidency at St. Olaf in March 1985, becoming only the eighth president in the college’s history and the first who was not a member of the clergy.

During his tenure, George led the college’s highly successful VISION campaign, which raised nearly $73 million for the endowment and several major construction projects, including doubling the size of the library and adding a new athletic field house.

During George’s presidency, the college also implemented a new curricular structure and significantly increased the diversity of the student body.

A native of Washington, D.C., George was a graduate of Northwestern University and earned a doctorate in mathematics from Princeton University. He held a joint appointment in mathematics at St. Olaf.

George came to St. Olaf from the University of Missouri, where he was vice president for academic affairs for 10 years. During his final year there, he served as interim president. He also served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska for five years and as a faculty member in mathematics at the University of Missouri for 10 years.

While serving as St. Olaf’s president, George was active in state, regional, and national education organizations. He wrote a number of articles on mathematics, mathematical economics, and higher education, and served as a consultant-evaluator for the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. He was knighted by King Harald V of Norway, receiving the Knight’s Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit in honor of his efforts to strengthen and maintain the close relationship between the United States and Norway.

Melvin George’s final visit to the Hill was last summer during the Class of 1990’s 25th reunion.

In 1989 the Minnesota Legislature asked George to head the Regent Candidate Advisory Council to review and recommend candidates for the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents. He became the only private college president chairing a group that helped select the governing board for a state’s major public university.

Shortly after retiring from St. Olaf in 1994, George was asked to serve as the University of Minnesota’s vice president for institutional relations — a role he took on full-time after first leading a National Science Foundation study of the status of undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education in the United States. He held his post at the University of Minnesota for two years before returning to Missouri in 1996 to serve a second time as interim president of the University of Missouri.

George led several St. Olaf Study Travel programs in his retirement, including a Santa Fe Opera program in 1999 and an exploration of King Arthur’s England in 2002.

He resided in Columbia, Missouri, and is survived by his wife, Meta, and two daughters.

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St. Olaf student named Rossing Physics Scholar

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 2:53pm

St. Olaf College student Colin Scheibner ’17 has been named a Rossing Physics Scholar for 2016–17.

Scheibner will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Foundation through the Rossing Fund for Physics Education Endowment.

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

Scheibner, who is majoring in physics and mathematics at St. Olaf, analyzed ultrafast electron images last summer as a member of the University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

“Working with passionate graduate students inspired me to dig deeper into questions, take bigger risks in trying new ideas, and reflect more thoroughly on successes and failures,” Scheibner says. “I learned the importance of perseverance, clear communication, and, quite often, asking for help.”

This summer Scheibner will continue his physics research by working on a project called Find Planet 9 with the University of Michigan Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. As part of that project, he will analyze data from the Dark Energy Survey project.

After completing a bachelor’s degree at St. Olaf, Scheibner plans to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and become a professor.

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, and is currently a visiting professor of music at Stanford University.

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Students present their work on cup library at national conference

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 11:45am

Liam Hannan ’18, Studio Art Technician and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Kate Fisher ’00, and Emily Tani-Winegarden ’16 pick up cups at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Hannan and Tani-Winegarden recently presented their work on St. Olaf’s cup library at a national ceramic art conference.

How do you create a library of 62 cups handmade by 54 artists nationwide that anyone from a community of more than 3,000 people can check out?

Just ask Liam Hannan ’18 and Emily Tani-Winegarden ’16.

The St. Olaf College students, along with Studio Art Technician and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Kate Fisher ’00, helped establish the Ron Gallas Cup Library, a lending library of handmade ceramic cups that is available year-round for the St. Olaf community’s use.

They recently spoke about the process of creating the unique library at the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference. The annual conference, held in Kansas City, Missouri, marked the 50th anniversary of the organization of potters.

A view of just some of the handmade ceramic cups available to the St. Olaf community through the Ron Gallas Cup Library.

Accomplished ceramic artist and St. Olaf alumnus Sam Chung ’92 introduced the students’ presentation, titled A Cup Library: Engagement Through Tactile Observation. The presentation detailed their effort to provide the St. Olaf community with the experience of using handmade objects through a physical lending library. The library opened last semester and has been popular with students and faculty.

“We presented on the process, on making a logo, and on the logistics — how it was doing and how we plan to sustain it,” Tani-Winegarden says.

The purpose of the presentation was to inspire other students to make cup libraries at their schools. “We want to bridge that gap between artists and people, get them used to and aware of the medium of ceramics,” Tani-Winegarden adds.

Tani-Winegarden and Hannan relished the opportunity to become part of the tightly knit community of ceramists at the conference.

“We know all these artists because we’ve seen their work, but they don’t know us, and for them it’s a big family reunion,”  Tani-Winegarden says. “It was so awesome getting to meet people you study and learn about, and put a face to that work. They’re just another normal person, and you feel like you’re their colleague.”

The conference was attended by more than 6,000 people from across the country, making this experience all the more meaningful for Hannan and Tani-Winegarden.

“Everyone has this common interest and has this passion toward the medium that’s not super common,” she says. “It makes you feel part of something bigger.”

Categories: Colleges

Advocate for women survivors of war to speak at St. Olaf

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 3:57pm

Humanitarian, author, and media commentator Zainab Salbi, a survivor of war who is dedicated to helping women in war-torn communities rebuild their lives, will speak at St. Olaf College April 21.

Her lecture, titled The Other Side of War: Women, Wartime, and the Dream of Peace, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Tomson Hall 280. Sponsored by the St. Olaf Political Awareness Committee, it is free and open to the public. It will be streamed and archived online.

At the age of 23, Salbi founded Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of wars. Under her leadership as CEO from 1993 to 2011, the organization grew to help more than 400,000 women in eight conflict areas around the world, distributing more than $100 million in aid and loans and impacting more than 1.7 million family members.

Salbi is the author of the national bestseller Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny — Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam (with Laurie Becklund). Salbi has also authored The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope and If You Knew Me, You Would Care.

She currently serves as editor-at-large at Women in the World Media, a news platform in collaboration with the New York Times that is hosted on the paper’s website.

Salbi is known for bringing international women’s issues to mainstream attention in the U.S., making philanthropy accessible to women at the grassroots level, and pioneering microcredit programs to post-conflict areas. Her mission had always been to build programs that combine access to knowledge with access to resources.

In 2010 former President Bill Clinton nominated Salbi as one of the 21st century heroes featured by Harper’s Bazaar. She has been named among the 100 most influential women in the world by Newsweek, The Guardian, and Fast Company, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Salbi has been featured by media outlets around the world, including CNN, The New York Times, and Financial Times, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show 10 times.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf student awarded Humanity in Action Fellowship

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 11:02am

A passion for human rights, a commitment to meaningful dialogue, and an enthusiasm for connecting with others who hope to create change has earned St. Olaf College student Merve Mert ‘17 a Humanity in Action Fellowship.

Humanity in Action is an educational organization that has established an international network of leaders, young professionals, and students who are committed to promoting human rights and democratic freedom.

The organization sponsors a summer fellowship that brings together students from Europe and the United States to study histories of discrimination and resistance as well as contemporary challenges to human rights and democracy.

Mert, who first heard about Humanity in Action through information provided by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, was drawn to the opportunity to explore these issues, particularly those related to minority rights, as well as to study with like-minded students.

“Having the chance to meet passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds who care about human and minority rights and who are willing to take action to help fight discrimination is one of the things that excites me most,” says Mert, who will spend the summer in Amsterdam as part of the program.

As a co-captain of the St. Olaf Debate Team, a moderator of Sustained Dialogue, and an Inclusivity Advocate, Mert is deeply involved in the St. Olaf community. These commitments speak to her dedication to meaningful dialogue and her belief that “interaction is one of the first steps to understand the ‘other’ and meaningfully live together with people who are not necessarily like us.”

In addition, Mert has accumulated influential professional and academic experiences that will serve her in the fellowship program. Two summers ago, she interned at a think tank in her home country of Turkey called the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, where she worked with minority rights issues. And last summer, Mert was a Peace Scholar studying peace, dialogue, and conflict in Norway.

“Humanity in Action is the perfect next step for me after the Norway Peace Scholars program,” says Mert, who hopes to earn her master’s degree in a field related to international relations or human rights.

“I’m hoping that Humanity in Action will allow me to broaden my perspective, expand my knowledge on the rights issues pertaining to minorities, and connect with passionate young people who want to make a change in the world.”

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf student wins national music competition

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 1:58pm

St. Olaf College student Samuel Viguerie ’17 won first place in the string division at the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Young Artist Competition in San Antonio, Texas.

Viguerie, who studies cello with St. Olaf Professor of Music David Carter, will receive a $3,000 award from the MTNA Foundation Fund. His accompanist for the competition was pianist Matthew Harikian ’16, who studies with St. Olaf Professor of Music Kent McWilliams.

In addition to winning the MTNA competition, Viguerie recently won first place in the college strings division of the 2016 Thursday Musical Competition.

A member of the St. Olaf Orchestra, Viguerie was featured as a soloist on the ensemble’s 2015 West Coast tour.

His performances have also been featured on Minnesota Public Radio and National Public Radio. In addition, he has performed at the Ordway Concert Hall in St. Paul as a winner of the 2015 Schubert Club’s Bruce P. Carlson Scholarship Competition.

Last summer, Viguerie attended the the Centre d’Arts Orford in Quebec and the Heifetz International Music Institute in Staunton, Virginia, where he studied with renowned musicians Richard Aaron, Laurence Lesser, and Amit Peled.

Viguerie is a music performance and computer science major at St. Olaf, and he also serves as secretary of the student Honor Council.

Categories: Colleges

Students have IMPACT in Mayo Clinic research program

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 1:55pm

Five research teams from St. Olaf College were recently recognized for their work at the Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies (IMPACT) Symposium at Mayo Clinic.

Five research teams from St. Olaf were selected to present their work at the Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies (IMPACT) Symposium at Mayo Clinic.

IMPACT, a competition sponsored by Regenerative Medicine Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic Office of Applied Scholarship and Education Science, aims to encourage students to pursue research or careers in medicine.

Faculty-mentored student research teams from Minnesota select one of several given topics, make a research plan, and submit a paper with their findings. From this pool of papers, eight teams per topic are selected to present their research at Mayo Clinic — and this year, five of those teams hailed from St. Olaf.

Research topics this year included causes of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), ovarian cancer, and non-genetic causes of bipolar disorder. St. Olaf research teams investigated ovarian cancer and HLHS, which is a congenital disease causing an underdeveloped left heart.

“I thought that the IMPACT program would be a great opportunity for me to get my hands on an actual problem in the science world,” says Daniel Hogan ’18, who researched HLHS with Jack Goldstein ’18 and Abhishek Chandra ’18 with the guidance of St. Olaf Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dan Everson.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipa Kalyani mentored Brock Carlson ’18, Claire Smith ’18, Eleanor Arnold ’18, Matthew Ramsey ’18, and John Vajgrt ’18 in their research on HLHS. The research projects were student driven — as research teams they created their own hypotheses and research designs.

“The IMPACT program led me to interact with authentic scientific documents, create conclusions based off the accumulated literature, and share our results with the broader scientific community,” says Leah Andrews ’19, who worked with Liamitantsoa Rakotomahenina ’19, Thomas Olson ’19, Andrew Salij ’19, and Pete Smith ’19 under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology and Department Chair Kim Kandl to investigate HLHS. They earned third place at the IMPACT Symposium.

Kandl also mentored Charlotte Elwell ’17, Zachariah Tritz ’17, Caitlin Van Lith ’17, and Zachary WareJoncas ’17 in their research on ovarian cancer, which tied for second place.

Andrea Studer ’17 teamed with Emily Facile ’17, Megan Braun ’17, Whitney Zenz ’17, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Beth Abdella ’82 to research ovarian cancer. “The complexity of the question grabbed my attention,” Studer says.

The IMPACT experience was valuable to these students because they want to pursue careers as researchers or in medicine. “IMPACT gave me a taste of the medical field and solidified my choice of doing medicine,” Rakotomahenina says.

For Facile, IMPACT was a unique experience in developing a hypothesis and research design. Her research on ovarian cancer is especially meaningful to her.

“I want to be a doctor and the IMPACT project was an interesting way to learn about a real health problem and contribute in some way to the larger world of science,” Facile says. “IMPACT gave me a unique experience to study and learn a lot about a disease that I may one day treat.”

Categories: Colleges

Award-winning journalist to lecture on politics and community

Mon, 04/11/2016 - 2:48pm

Award-winning political journalist Dante Chinni will deliver a lecture at St. Olaf College April 18 titled American Fault Lines: Politics, Community, and the 2016 Election.

His talk, which will begin at 4 p.m. in Viking Theater, is free and open to the public. It will be streamed and archived online.

Based in Washington, D.C., Chinni has covered politics and the media for more than 15 years. He is the director of the American Communities project, a collaboration of The Wall Street Journal, PBS NewsHour, and WNYC radio that “correlates economic and demographic data to election results and consumer data to see how changes in technology and economics have redefined the social, political, and cultural fault lines” of the United States.

Chinni also writes the regular Politics Counts online column for The Wall Street Journal and is the creator of Patchwork Nation, which won a 2009 Knight Batten Award for journalistic innovation and is the focus of the book Our Patchwork Nation published in 2010.

A native of Detroit and a graduate of Michigan State University, Chinni has worked as a reporter-researcher at Newsweek and a senior associate at the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He has written for publications including The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, and the Washington Post Magazine.

Chinni’s visit to St. Olaf is sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society, and St. Olaf’s Institute for Freedom and Community, which aims to foster intellectual inquiry and meaningful discussion of important political and social issues.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf student earns State Department scholarship

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 10:55am

St. Olaf College student Abbigail Hull ’17 will travel to China this summer to participate in an immersive language program after receiving a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

The program, among the most competitive scholarship competitions in the country, sends U.S. students to language institutes around the globe as part of an effort to increase the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.

Hull will be studying at the Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China. In addition to 20 hours a week of structured language class time, she will live with a Chinese host family and participate in cultural excursions.

She will also take an optional environmental course that will focus on Chinese climate change and environmental policy — a learning opportunity that builds on Hull’s experience last summer studying the environmental and social effects of a government water and soil conservation station in Northwest China through St. Olaf’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program and the Luce Foundation Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment grant.

Hull also participated in the Asian Conversations program at St. Olaf, a learning community that introduces students to some of the key texts of Asia as well as key historical, cultural, political, and linguistic constructs through an integrated sequence of three courses. During Interim, students in the program travel to Japan and China to learn about the culture and practice the language firsthand.

“This opportunity with the Critical Language Scholarship program would not have been possible without the incredible study abroad experiences I have had through St. Olaf,” Hull says.

Participants in the Critical Language Scholarship Program are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

An Asian studies and psychology major at St. Olaf, Hull plans to pursue a career in an international nonprofit organization that focuses on either the environmental sector or women’s empowerment and education in China.

Categories: Colleges

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