St. Olaf College

Syndicate content
A private liberal arts college of the Lutheran church in Minnesota
Updated: 58 min 28 sec ago

Film created by professor, students tells story of Japanese Americans after WWII

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:20am
Hikari Sugisaki ’17 and Paul Sullivan ’17 interview Jim Kirihara for ‘Beyond the Barbed Wire.’ The documentary film project, led by Associate Professor of Chinese Ka Wong, tells the stories of Japanese Americans who came to Minnesota after the Pacific War.

Beyond the Barbed Wire: Japanese Americans in Minnesota, a documentary film created by St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Chinese Ka Wong and several student researchers, explores an emotional and challenging chapter in perhaps one of the darkest moments of 20th-century American history.

The film, which Wong worked on for nearly two years with the assistance of Hikari Sugisaki ‘17 and Paul Sullivan ’17, presents the unique experiences of Japanese Americans who came to Minnesota after the Pacific War. Approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced into internment camps after Pearl Harbor, and some of them relocated to and restarted their lives in Minnesota in part because of education opportunities at schools that included St. Olaf.

“The purpose of this film is to preserve this part of history as well as present these individual stories to inform and educate the newer generation, who might not have much knowledge about it,” Wong says. “The film will be distributed through educational channels, and perhaps several Asian American film related programs.”

The next showing of Beyond the Barbed Wire will be at the Northfield Public Library on Saturday, January 20, at 1 p.m. in the Bunday Meeting Room.

“The story of the interment and its aftermath is not just about the struggles and sufferings of the Japanese Americans but also the courage and comradeship of others who stepped up, spoke for, and helped them during such difficult times,” says Associate Professor of Chinese Ka Wong.

The project began as a Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) summer project in 2015 and gradually developed into a documentary film with the generous support of funding from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), Digital Humanities on the Hill (DHH), as well as the Interdisciplinary and General Studies and the Asian Studies departments at St Olaf.

Wong was inspired by Yoshiteru Murakami ’51, a second-generation Japanese American (Nisei) from the internment camp who attended St. Olaf and later served in the military.

“His story made me want to explore this unknown part of Minnesotan history and, of course, in the context of the larger yet seldom discussed WWII experiences of Japanese Americans,” Wong says.

Both Sugisaki and Sullivan wanted to further explore the history behind the internment camps and the stories that came after.

“I thought this was a good subject to research because the attitude in the United States today toward some minorities, especially Muslim Americans, is unfortunately reminiscent of how the Japanese American community was viewed pre-internment,” Sullivan says.

Initially the film was not meant to be a documentary, but after hearing the stories of their interviewees the group was moved to help their voices be heard.

“Generally they were happy to share their experiences,” Sullivan says. “I think most of them were open to being interviewed, despite their stories being full of hardship, in hopes that through sharing nobody else would have to go through what they went through.”

The group hopes the documentary will bring awareness to a series of events that is both often forgotten and, unfortunately, incredibly relevant today.

“There are rich and untold stories about Asian Americans everywhere, even in an unsuspected place like Northfield or St. Olaf, that we should not overlook,” Wong says.

“The story of the interment and its aftermath is not just about the struggles and sufferings of the Japanese Americans but also the courage and comradeship of others who stepped up, spoke for, and helped them during such difficult times,” he adds. “The fight against injustice is never simply about, or can it ever be reduced to, just race/color. Under the current political climate, both on campus and nationwide, it’s crucial to give more thought and time to discussing the past, so we can better prepare for present challenges, and hopefully work toward a better future.”

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf offers new, easy-to-use financial aid calculator

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 8:58am

Want to know how much financial aid you could receive from St. Olaf College? Thanks to a new tool available on the college’s website, you can find out by answering six simple financial questions.

The online tool, MyinTuition, enables prospective students and their families to get an estimate of their financial aid award from St. Olaf through a process that takes less than five minutes.

After users provide answers to basic, readily known financial questions (total family income, value of their house, any remaining mortgage balance, cash in the bank, and savings held in retirement accounts and other investment accounts), MyinTuition will provide an estimated cost for attending St. Olaf.  

“We know that many students rule out particular colleges based solely on sticker price. In less than five minutes, they can have an estimate of their cost to attend St. Olaf, answering one of the key questions in the college search process — and leaving more time to discover the tremendous opportunities available to them through a St. Olaf education,” says Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Chris George ’94.

The new tool was featured in a Washington Post story and mentioned in a New York Times piece, which notes that “the calculator is remarkably easy to use, far easier than other financial-aid tools.”

MyinTuition’s estimate breaks down to show a family’s expected contribution, work-study funds, available loans, and grant assistance. The estimate usually comes within a few thousand dollars of a student’s actual cost. However, MyinTuition does not replace the school’s more specific, in-depth net price calculator.

St. Olaf is one of just 80 colleges in the country that meets 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of every student it admits. At St. Olaf, 93 percent of students receive financial aid or scholarships.

“The financial aid application process is involved and includes language that can be unfamiliar. The usability of MyinTuition helps a family understand that is worth the effort to apply for financial aid,” says St. Olaf Director of Financial Aid Carly Eichhorst.

St. Olaf joins 30 other colleges and universities in using MyinTuition. These schools include Boston College, Johns Hopkins University, Dartmouth College, Mount Holyoke College, and Wellesley College. MyinTuition was created at Wellesley in 2013 by Phillip Levine, Katharine Coman, and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics.

Categories: Colleges

Art professor’s stop-motion animated film picks up festival awards

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 2:42pm
The poster for ‘Intruder Man,’ which won First Prize at Square Lake Film & Music Festival and the Audience Award at the Altered Esthetics Film Festival.

A collaborative project led by St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Art Peter Nelson has culminated in a stop-motion animated film, Intruder Man, that has won several awards as it plays at film festivals across the country.

Nelson worked with a team of St. Olaf students — Daniel Bynum ’15, Eileen McNulty ’16, Jon Tiburzi ’16, Matthew Johnson ’16, and Andrew Cannestra ’20 — on the film over the last several years as part of the Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program. CURI provides opportunities for St. Olaf students from all academic disciplines to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular subject through working closely with a St. Olaf faculty member in a research framework.

The project was supported by a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, an Individual Artist Grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, and the CURI Program at St. Olaf College funded by the Olson Endowment for Marriage and Family.

The film shows Jessie as a young home economics teacher who faces the wrath of an authoritarian superintendent.

Intruder Man is inspired by the life of Nelson’s grandmother Jessie. As a young home economics teacher, Jessie faces the wrath of an authoritarian superintendent who blacklists her from teaching. As an elderly woman, Alzheimer’s disease makes Jessie paranoid of an “intruder man” who haunts her apartment. Slipping back and forth between these parallel periods, Jessie maintains strength and persistence in the face of sexism, loss, and dementia.

“Even the most flexible curriculum cannot replicate the constant problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity necessary to produce an animated film,” Nelson says. “I think it’s great professional experience for students and incredibly helpful for me, both in completing the piece and as a learning experience.”

Jon Tiburzi ’16 works on set pieces for ‘Intruder Man.’

Bynum, McNulty, and Tiburzi collaborated with Nelson on creating the story and characters, building puppets and sets, and shooting test animation sequences, while Johnson assisted in the animation aspect of the project and Cannestra wrote and recorded the musical score that accompanies the film.

“Working with Professor Nelson on Intruder Man was an awesome experience, and it was definitely one of my highlights of being at St. Olaf,” says Johnson. “I thought we worked well together. Professor Nelson did a great job of conveying what he was imagining and provided good guidance if I had any questions or wasn’t sure how to go about animating something, and he welcomed any suggestions I had, trusted my judgement on adding details and embellishments while animating, and provided encouragement in tackling some tricky scenes.”

Cannestra says working with Nelson was, from the start, very much a two-way street of communication.

Daniel Bynum ’15 works on creating the characters for ‘Intruder Man.’

“We started out with a rough draft of his animation for Intruder Man, both getting to know the overall arc and the excerpt that I specifically composed the film score for,” he says. “After months of work, we made a professional recording of the music. Finally, after that, he was able to apply the recordings to the animation itself, leading to a final product months in the making we could both be very proud of.”

The film received First Prize at Square Lake Film & Music Festival and won the Audience Award at the Altered Esthetics Film Festival. It is currently screening at film festivals across the country, most recently at the Austin Film Festival, the New Hampshire Film Festival, and the D.C. Shorts Festival. The film’s West Coast premiere will be at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival in March.

“Working collaboratively with students on a project like this is both intense and rewarding,” Nelson says. “The relationship between professor and student is elevated: constructive feedback goes both ways, a common goal is defined and shaped collaboratively, and you have to put in an extraordinary amount of time together to make sure the project is successful.”

Watch the trailer for the film below.

Categories: Colleges

Professor’s new book highlights ‘Poetry Wars’ of American Revolution

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 11:52am

St. Olaf College Professor of English and Department Chair Colin Wells recently released his new book Poetry Wars: Verse and Politics in the American Revolution and Early Republic.

“Poetry Wars offers an erudite and engaging account of the surprisingly instrumental role of verse in U.S. nation formation,” Edward Cahill of Fordham University says in his review of the book, noting that Wells is “capturing a time when poetry was both a vital force in public life and a dynamic means of effecting political change.”

Penn Press describes the book by saying “The pen was as mighty as the musket during the American Revolution, as poets waged literary war against politicians, journalists, and each other. Drawing on hundreds of poems, Poetry Wars reconstructs the important public role of poetry in the early republic and examines the reciprocal relationship between political conflict and verse.”

Wells joined the St. Olaf English Department in 1995, where he has taught courses in 18th-century and early American literature, comedy, satire, the novel, and Marxist literary theory. His areas of interest include the literature of the American Revolutionary and Early National periods, 18th-century English poetry, and the relations between literature, politics, and religion.

Tell us a little about your book. Are there key messages that you want to come across to your readers?
The main goal for the book is to recover for contemporary readers a sense of the cultural and political importance of political poetry in America’s founding period. This is a time when hundreds of amateur poets submitted political poems to newspapers (usually anonymously) as a way to respond to the news as it was unfolding – and particularly the news related to the events that preceded the Revolution (such as the Stamp Act), the Revolutionary War itself, and then – after the war – the intense struggle over the political direction the new republic should follow. Most of these poems have been forgotten in the ensuing centuries. My book attempts to re-examine the hundreds of poems that were published and, more particularly, recover the atmosphere in which rival poets waged “poetic warfare” against political leaders and each other during this time.

What did you draw inspiration from as you wrote this book?
I was inspired to write this book because, when I was doing research on an earlier book, I kept coming across satirical poems and songs that were directed at other printed texts: sometimes they were directed at official proclamations or declarations (including the Declaration itself); sometimes they were directed at articles from the  newspapers or speeches and writings by people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton; sometimes they were directed at other poets. So often I saw this dynamic in which poets were attacking and counter attacking each other so that their party or group could gain the upper hand politically.

Is there anything in your book that you think the St. Olaf community might find of particular interest?
So many of us have fallen in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton because it recreates this period in the form of music and rap. What Poetry Wars reveals is that “rap battles” were fought over politics and policy during Washington’s administration, but they were fought out in the poetic forms of the time. In fact, I recently wrote a blog post on the Penn Press Log discussing the similarities between poetry wars and rap battles.

Categories: Colleges

A Dialogue on Sport, Protest, and the NFL National Anthem Debate

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 4:37pm
Alan Page, whose illustrious career has included time spent as a Hall of Fame defensive tackle with the Vikings and as a justice with the Minnesota State Supreme Court, is one of the panelists who will visit St. Olaf January 23.

On January 23, less than two weeks before the Super Bowl comes to Minneapolis, the St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community will host a town hall–style forum on sport, protest, and the controversies surrounding the NFL and its players taking a knee during the national anthem.

The St. Olaf community will be joined for this conversation by Justice Alan Page, whose illustrious career has included time spent as a Hall of Fame defensive tackle with the Vikings, as a justice with the Minnesota State Supreme Court, and as the founder of the Page Education Foundation. Joining Justice Page will be Jackie MacMullan, an award-winning sports journalist, and Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and NFL athlete who played a key role in convincing Colin Kaepernick to kneel rather than sit during the national anthem.

The event, which begins at 7 p.m. in Viking Theater in Buntrock Commons, is free and open to the public. It will be streamed and archived online.

Read more about forum and speakers on the Institute for Freedom and Community’s event page.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf to begin ice arena construction

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 12:02pm
An architectural rendering of the St. Olaf Ice Arena; the public entrances will open into the Tostrud/Skoglund entry corridor.

St. Olaf College has surpassed its $6 million funding threshold to initiate construction of its on-campus ice arena. The Boldt Company will start building this winter; the project will be completed by spring 2019.

This project is being made possible by more than 125 alumni, parents, and friends of the college who have committed $4.5 million in capital gifts and pledges in support of the project, in addition to $1.5 million in capital expenditures from the college. St. Olaf will continue to fundraise for the $8 million arena as part of its $200 million For the Hill and Beyond comprehensive campaign.

The ice arena will be located inside Skoglund Fieldhouse — directly accessible from both Skoglund and Tostrud Center main entrances. The updated design includes an NHL-size rink, seating for 800 fans, locker rooms for varsity hockey, and other ice-related program spaces. New locker rooms will also be built for St. Olaf’s varsity baseball, softball, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer programs. Courts inside Tostrud Center were already resurfaced last weekend to accommodate St. Olaf’s varsity tennis teams who currently use Skoglund Fieldhouse.

“We are incredibly excited to start building — I am grateful for the generous support we have from donors to do this now,” says St. Olaf athletic director Ryan Bowles. “In a little over a year, St. Olaf will have an operating ice arena that benefits a number of our athletic programs and our campus community.”

St. Olaf is initiating construction in advance of rising material and labor costs due to post-hurricane reconstruction. Locating the rink inside Skoglund reuses an existing building envelope that already has the required utility infrastructure. The project utilizes other strategies supporting cost-efficiency and sustainability such as a multistage ammonia refrigeration system and heat reclamation. Funds formerly used to rent ice will cover rink management.

The arena builds on other facility updates recently supported by donors including Holland Hall, Klein Field at Manitou, Tom Porter Hall, and a new golf training facility.

The Bring Ice Home initiative has reached 75 percent of the college’s funding goal and construction is starting. Be a part of the final push to the goal! Learn more about making a gift as well as naming opportunities for seats and other spaces.

Categories: Colleges

St. Olaf to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with series of events

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 9:11am
Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) Executive Director Andrew Williams will speak on campus January 15.

St. Olaf College will celebrate and honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a series of events January 15 centered on the theme “Bridging the Gap, Catching the Dream.”

The events, hosted by the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE), will begin at 10:10 a.m. with a chapel talk by Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) Executive Director Andrew Williams. The chapel service will also feature a special performance by the St. Olaf Gospel Choir, conducted by Paulo Gladney ’19.

Williams will speak again later in the day as he offers a public lecture titled “Epistemologies of Healing: Race, Reconciliation, and Radical Hope in Higher Education” in the Sun and Gold Ballrooms in Buntrock Commons. There will be a reception with Williams from 3:30 to 4 p.m., and then he will speak and answer questions from 4 to 5 p.m. The lecture will also be live streamed and archived online.

In his lecture, Williams will challenge common notions of colleges and universities as open, liberal, and tolerant spaces and argue that racism is deeply entrenched in higher education policies, practices, discourses, and epistemologies. Therefore, that racism is often invisible to those who share cultural and institutional power. He will look at past and present waves of student color activism to map a path forward toward reconciliation, individual and collective healing, transformative justice, and the decolonization of higher education.

He believes that the path higher education chooses will have significant implications not just for college students, but also for our nation’s capacity to develop an authentic and vibrant multicultural democracy.

There will also be several other events on campus throughout the day.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., members of the campus community are invited to a poster-making session in the Buntrock Crossroads focused on the theme “To Engage and Empower.” Participants can use provided materials to express what the Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations mean to them. The posters they create will first be displayed in Buntrock Commons and later in a campus hallway.

From 12 to 1 p.m., a student-faculty panel will discuss “Inclusivity and Excellence in the Classroom” in the the Valhalla Room in Buntrock Commons. Those interested in joining the discussion are welcome to bring their cafeteria trays.

The day will conclude with a spoken word event from 7 to 8 p.m. titled “Still I Rise,” hosted by the Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE) in the Lion’s Lair in Buntrock Commons.

Categories: Colleges

Globetrotter: Claire Mumford ’18

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 9:54am
Claire Mumford ’18 says her liberal arts education “gives me the tools to ask questions and analyze critically, and that differentiates me from others in my field.”

Italy. Bulgaria. Ireland. Turkey. Claire Mumford ’18 has been pursuing archaeology in field schools across the globe.

She first discovered her love for archaeological field work while on a St. Olaf summer course in Turkey with Professor of History Tim Howe. “Without this experience, I likely would never have discovered my passion that has opened so many doors for me,” she says.

One such door was Mumford’s opportunity to present her research at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. Another was using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to record half a mile of Dakota religious carvings. She will work with fellow Oles on campus to develop a website so the petroglyphs they recorded using RTI can be viewed interactively.

Mumford has found just as much to do on campus as off campus. She is currently a member of three choirs, including the renowned St. Olaf Choir, and has participated in six choral ensembles over her college career. She also serves as an RA in Mohn Residence Hall and has helped coordinate Ole Spring Relief, a spring break service trip that provides aid to areas affected by natural disaster. She’s majoring in sociology/anthropology and French while also pursuing a concentration in management studies.

None of this would have been possible without support from St. Olaf. Mumford says that the meaningful relationships she formed with professors here “have enriched my college experience in so many ways.” St. Olaf also provided crucial funding for her archaeological studies through the Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry program and the Piper Center for Vocation and Career.

Mumford believes that her liberal arts education “gives me the tools to ask questions and analyze critically, and that differentiates me from others in my field.”

Categories: Colleges