St. Olaf Campus News
St. Olaf College may be ranked No.1 in the number of students who study abroad, but the opportunities for world travel and meaningful global engagement have never been limited to just students. Study Travel has been providing trips for alumni, parents, families, and the public for decades, and has been recently renamed Alumni and Family Travel.
“As the parent of a first-year student, I know most families are focused on study abroad opportunities for their Ole children,” says Alumni and Family Travel Director Heidi Quiram. “With our name change, we wanted to cut through the confusion and differentiate Alumni and Family Travel from student study abroad.”
For each of the destinations, Alumni and Family Travel provides lodging, transportation, and the camaraderie of an Ole community in groups no larger than 25 travelers. Most trips are led by a professor knowledgeable about the destination, giving a unique educational spin to vacations.Travelers on the “Divas and Delights: An Opera Tour of Italy” program, led by Instructor in Music Karen Wilkerson and Pastor Gary Wilkerson, enjoy the sights during their March 2017 trip.
“Alumni and Family Travel makes it possible for you to change the way you see the world,” Quiram says. “Indulge your curiosity, grow your knowledge, and experience more.”
Destinations range from Minnesota’s own Boundary Waters to countries like Cuba, Jordan, Switzerland, or New Zealand.
“It’s your desire to continually change the way you see other cultures, to remain curious, and to always be learning that makes it possible for us to do what we do,” Quiram says. “Thanks for letting us share the world with you.”
For many people, the celebration of the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season begins with the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, a century-old tradition of the college.
The theme of this year’s Christmas Festival, held on campus November 30–December 3, was “Ris’n With Healing in His Wings.” Thousands of visitors flocked to campus for the renowned festival, and viewers from around the world watched the college’s livestream of the event. Audio and video downloads are also available on the Christmas Festival website.
Enjoy photos of this year’s festival below.Click to view slideshow.
Colin Scheibner ’17 remembers the exact moment when he and his fellow researchers realized they had discovered a new dwarf planet. All they saw was a small smudge on their monitor, but they knew it represented a big find.
“Suddenly, there was an intimate sense of connection between our circle of collaborators and this small icy world on the distant edge of our solar system,” says Scheibner, a Rossing Physics Scholar who majored in physics and math at St. Olaf.
Scheibner was part of an undergraduate research team headed by University of Michigan physics and astronomy professor David Gerdes, a member of an international group of scientists working on the Dark Energy Survey (DES) to better understand why the universe’s expansion is accelerating. The team analyzed countless images collected by the DES-built dark energy camera, a powerful digital camera on a four-meter telescope at Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.
Scheibner’s role in this research was the development of a web-based tool used to examine distant objects in the images. Using it enabled Scheibner to identify the earliest known observation of the new dwarf planet, officially named 2014 UZ224 and nicknamed DeeDee, short for “distant dwarf.” DeeDee is approximately 330 miles across and 8.5 billion miles from the sun — about half as big and twice as distant as Pluto.
The dwarf planet’s discovery received national news coverage, mainly focused on how it might impact future research. Scheibner explains, “If you look at the most distant objects in our solar system, like DeeDee, you notice that their orbits are aligned in such a way that suggests that they are being pulled by a massive, distant, slow-moving body.”
This hypothetical body, known as Planet Nine, is thought to be about ten times more massive than Earth, but it has never been directly observed. “Such an object, if spotted,” says Scheibner, “would be the astronomical discovery of the century.”
This fall, Scheibner entered the physics Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago with a three-year graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which will support his doctoral work in theoretical physics.
St. Olaf College sent more students to study abroad during the 2015–16 academic year than any other baccalaureate institution in the nation, according to the Open Doors 2017 Report on International Educational Exchange.
This marks the ninth straight year the college has ranked first among its peers in the total number of students studying abroad.
“St. Olaf values off-campus studies together with other high-impact practices,” says Director of Off-Campus Studies Jodi Malmgren ’92. “Our faculty and partner institutions offer programs in all regions of the world that amplify the liberal arts learning that occurs on campus and enhance students’ global engagement. Our No. 1 ranking demonstrates our commitment.”St. Olaf students (from left) Henry Miller ’20, Jack Schoephoerster ’19, Kathryn York ’19, Cookie Imperial ’19, Kelsey Halverson ’20, Chaz Mayo ’18, Samantha Roback ’19, and Sam Carlson ’19 at the Solfar (Sun Voyager) Sculpture in Reykjavik.
St. Olaf currently offers study abroad programs in nearly 50 countries, including more than 70 semester or year-long programs and 30 courses each Interim. Faculty-led semester programs include Global Semester and Environmental Science in Australia and New Zealand.
According to the Open Doors report, St. Olaf also ranked first in short-term study abroad numbers for baccalaureate institutions.
St. Olaf students routinely cite studying abroad as among their most formative college experiences. Johnny Goodson ’20, who recently traveled to Iceland as part of a Media and the Environment course led by faculty members Linda Mokdad and Bjorn Nordfjord, says it was “truly eye-opening and the best experience of my life.”St. Olaf students (from left) Johnny Goodson ’20, Henry Miller ’20, and Sam Carlson ’19 in an ice cave on Vatnajökull Glacier.
The 16 St. Olaf students on the program studied the media and its role in portraying environmental issues, specifically global warming. As the students visited sites ranging from the Kirkjufell Waterfall to the Vatnajökull Glacier, they worked together to write, direct, and edit four different documentaries. The students held a screening of all four documentaries for the entire campus community this October.
Open Doors is the comprehensive information resource on international students in the United States and on the more than 200,000 U.S. students who study abroad as part of their academic experience. The Institute of International Education publishes the Open Doors report annually with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
More than 100 St. Olaf College singers descended on Southdale Center Sunday for a joyous pop-up performance that provided onlookers with a preview of this year’s St. Olaf Christmas Festival.
Conducted by music faculty member Mark Stover, the students sang a mashup of Oba Se Je (Here Comes the King) and Joy to the World while hundreds of people looked on. Many said the performance offered a much-needed moment of beauty and grace in their lives as they anticipated the holiday season. Watch the performance below.
“Our desire is share our joy and a message of faith, hope, and unity through music, especially in times like these where the news headlines and twitter feeds can so overwhelm our world with negativity and division,” Stover says.Conductor Mark Stover leads St. Olaf students through Southdale Center as they begin their pop-up performance.
The 2017 St. Olaf Christmas Festival will run Thursday, November 30, to Sunday, December 3. There are still a few tickets remaining, and they are available for purchase online. St. Olaf will present a live video stream of the 2017 St. Olaf Christmas Festival on Sunday, December 3, at 3 p.m., and downloadable audio and video files are also available. Find all that and more at the Christmas Festival website.
The theme of this year’s Christmas Festival, “Ris’n with Healing in His Wings,” aims to serve as a balm of healing in our broken world inspired by the light and life to all Christ brings this Advent Season.
First held in 1912, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival is one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States. It features more than 500 student musicians who are members of five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra.
The festival features a rich repertoire of classic Advent and Christmas compositions, familiar carols, hymns from around the world, and contemporary pieces, including those from non-traditional composers and cultures. It traditionally closes with the hymn Beautiful Savior.
BURR: The Constitution’s a mess
HAMILTON: So it needs amendments!
BURR: It’s full of contradictions
HAMILTON: So is independence!
— Non-Stop by Lin-Manuel Miranda (2015)
This excerpt of Hamilton lyrics is not a typical epigraph for a political science book, but then again Hypocrisy in American Political Attitudes: A Defense of Attitudinal Incongruence is not a typical political science book.
“I’ve been told the book is a good representation of my teaching style, which makes sense: It has a lot of weird references, and draws on a cross-section of academic disciplines throughout,” says St. Olaf College Visiting Assistant Professor in Political Science Tim Collins ’10. “I believe it’s the only political science book to reference the Ninja Turtles, the Venture Brothers, quantum mechanics, and the films of the Coen brothers.”
The book examines the scope of hypocritical attitudes in American politics, and claims that they are much, much more prevalent than people assume and are not linked to just one political party.
“In one chapter, I show that the proportion of Americans who have purely logical and non-hypocritical attitudes is almost zero; if people have more than a handful of stances on issues, there’s a very, very high probability that that they’ll have stances that logically contradict other ones,” Collins says.
After Collins graduated from St. Olaf in 2010, he attended graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His dissertation on contradictory sets of attitudes in politics was a topic that had fascinated him since childhood, and he was thrilled when a publisher approached him to turn it into an academic book.
“It’s the ironies on top of more ironies that helped keep my interest in the topic of attitudinal hypocrisy — I think readers of the book will find that interesting, too. Hypocrisy in general is an attention-grabbing topic, and irony is inherently intriguing and amusing, too.”
The book is available at most major bookstores and the publisher’s website, and Collins also has a copy available for interested parties to borrow.
“I couldn’t have written anything close to its quality or substance if not for the all-encompassing liberal arts education I got at St. Olaf, and the support I got from professors in those formative years or the support I got from those same professors who became my colleagues upon returning to St. Olaf to teach,” Collins says.
Forbes has named Connor Wray ’14 and Erik Brust ’14 to its “30 Under 30” list of young entrepreneurs for their work with JonnyPops, a company that has gone from a dorm room startup to the shelves of national retailers.
The business magazine says its list includes “600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers,” selected from more than 15,000 nominations.
“It’s a personal milestone for us,” Brust tells CBS affiliate WCCO-TV. “But we’re excited for the team because it’s a much bigger effort here than just the two of us.”
Wray and Brust started JonnyPops by trying different recipes in a blender in the basement of their St. Olaf dorm. Their goal was to create better tasting frozen bars — or “smoothies-on-a-stick,” as Twin Cities Business magazine says — with just natural ingredients: fruit, cream, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.
They received an entrepreneurial grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to help get JonnyPops started, and their business plan led them to take first place at the inaugural Ole Cup competition.
Today, JonnyPops produces about 80,000 of the frozen fruit and cream treats out of their facility in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. JonnyPops come in seven flavors, with four more on the way. Once a popular feature in Minnesota farmers markets, JonnyPops now stock shelves in national retailers like Kroger, Target, Walmart, Costco, and more.
At 25 years old, Brust and Wray are still dreaming. In 2015, they decided to make the perfect addition for a healthy school lunch. Their Smart Snack JonnyPop has real fruit as the primary ingredient. Smart Snacks have been a hit in Minnesota schools. Brust and Wray plan on expanding Smart Snacks beyond the state.
Each popsicle stick has a message. “We call it a better pop for a better world. It’s a really big program for us in the Minneapolis schools,” Brust tells NBC affiliate KARE 11. “We’ve basically spun it into this anti-bullying, pay it forward message, to get kids engaged with random acts of kindness.”
A recent article in the Star Tribune highlights The Architect, a dance performance choreographed by Mathew Janczewski and St. Olaf College alumnus Timmy Wagner ’11 of Arena Dance.
Wagner, a dance major at St. Olaf, performed the piece solo “as homage to the collaboration between head, heart, and body,” notes Caroline Palmer, a dance critic writing for the Star Tribune.
Intense visual elements form vital components of the performance. Wagner danced in a white space often filled with colorful bands of fabric, stretched so tight individual fibers could be seen. Music, gentle lighting, and projected text completed the vibrant, thoughtful atmosphere.
Throughout the piece, Wagner moved in conversation with his surrounding environment. Palmer describes how “When a piece of fabric drifted to the ground, [Wagner] improvised another way to hold it aloft — some of the falls were opening-night surprises, but they worked. Seeing Wagner thinking on his feet — literally and figuratively — provided a source of tension but also satisfaction.”
The Architect aims to show audiences the complex nature of bringing an artistic vision to life. The performances succeed in granting viewers a “a glimpse into the creative mind at work, a loving ode to the neurons that make it all possible,” Palmer writes.
Many of the skills Wagner possess today were built during his time with the St. Olaf Dance Department, which gives students a strong basis in physical, creative, and analytical skills. The department prepares students to flourish beyond college by teaching them to perform and manage, and work as freelance artists or as part of professional companies. Many dance graduates also go onto rewarding careers in fields from arts management to dance therapy to teaching.