University of St. Thomas Campus News
The St. Thomas community will again celebrate Global Engagement Week (March 27-April 1). Under the guidance of the strategic themes of Globalization and One University, the events aim to recognize the many global engagement efforts already taking place at the university in teaching, learning, research and service. This celebrations planned throughout the week aim to highlight how each member of our community can engage globally and how we can support the St. Thomas vision for a better world.
Join President Julie Sullivan on Tuesday, March 28, at the One University speaker event featuring Dr. Aaron Bruce, who serves as the chief diversity officer at San Diego State University, and focuses on campuswide global understanding, social justice, and strategies related to diversity and inclusion. He will be delivering the keynote address, “Global Citizen – Engaging the World for the Common Good.” The event begins at 3 p.m. in James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall North, third floor of the Anderson Student Center.
Other Global Engagement Week events include:
- “Wear Your Culture,” a Diversity Activities Board T-shirt-making event for students, March 29, 5:30 p.m. in ASC 202
- The International Celebration Fair, March 30, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Father Dorsey Way, second floor of ASC. The fair is an opportunity for international students, returning study abroad students and ELS students to share information about their home countries or study abroad experience.
- International Eats at T’s and The View: Dining Services will be serving international foods throughout the week at The View’s World Eats Station and T’s LaSalle Action Station.
- Globally Minded Student Association 28th Annual International Dinner will be held April 1 at 6 p.m. Join us for an evening of delicious food and entertainment. The International Dinner theme this year is #YOUAREWELCOMEHERE. The tickets are free but must be reserved through University Tickets.
Please visit the Global Engagement Week website for a full schedule and more information.
Dr. Yohuru Williams, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut, will become the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas on July 17. Williams will succeed Dr. Terence Langan, who has led the college since 2011.
“Yohuru is a proven leader who will provide visionary direction to our College of Arts and Sciences,” said St. Thomas Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb. “His forward thinking will contribute to an environment that supports the intellectual and creative spirit of St. Thomas.” Plumb added that Williams’ experience leading faculty with a strong vision for liberal arts, as well as his deep background in the Catholic intellectual tradition, make him a strong fit for the role.
A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Williams is a graduate of the Fairfield College Preparatory School, a Jesuit school on the campus of Fairfield University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in history from the University of Scranton. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in history from Howard University.
“I am very much looking forward to working with St. Thomas’ world-class faculty and the entire university community in our shared work of forging outstanding young leaders – women and men of character and conscience in the best tradition of Catholic liberal arts education,” Williams said.
Williams began teaching in 1998 at Delaware State University, where he was an associate professor of history and director of black studies. He joined the history department at Fairfield University in 2005, where he continues to teach, and went on to serve as director of black studies and associate vice president for academic affairs. In his current role as dean, he oversees 15 departments, 19 interdisciplinary programs and more than 160 faculty. His research fields include 20th century American history, African-American history, the civil rights and black power movements, and the African diaspora.
In addition to his scholarly work, Williams served as the chief historian and vice president for public outreach and education at the Jackie Robinson Foundation in New York from 2010-14. He is the recipient of the Fairfield University Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award, given to individuals who demonstrate a commitment to the ideals and values of Dr. King, and he was named a 2009 Emerging Scholar by Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
“Yohuru is an inspiring leader with a passion for community engagement and impact,” said St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan. “I am thrilled he is joining our university community and look forward to working with him in furthering our mission to advance the common good.”
St. Thomas Art History Department chair Victoria Young and Dean of the School of Law Robert Vischer co-chaired the search committee that recommended Williams. “The College of Arts and Sciences, with its breadth of disciplines and its focus on the liberal arts and the common good, will be well served and supported by Yohuru’s approach to leadership, scholarship and mission,” Young said. “I am grateful to all the members of our community, particularly those who served on the search committee, for their commitment to this important process and to the continued success of the college.”
“Among his many gifts, what stands out about Yohuru is his ability to bring seemingly disconnected points together to form a coherent and compelling vision for the college,” Vischer said. “Questions about Catholic identity, the relevance of the liberal arts, the role of research in a college that cares deeply about the student experience, the cost-benefit analysis underlying a family’s college choice, the expectations of employers for future generations of workers, the role of fine arts in today’s world – these are not isolated issues for Yohuru. They are part of one story about what a Catholic university is, does and can become. He ‘gets it’ in a way that energizes and inspires.”
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 37 academic departments and interdisciplinary programs.
We are deeply troubled by words that seek to intimidate, divide, or degrade people based on their faith or country of origin. This is not who we are. Hate speech – whether shared out of ignorance, emotion or to advance an agenda – is unacceptable. It is deeply disappointing that the president of our student government or any other member of the St. Thomas community would be accused of anti-Semitic discourse.
Yesterday, the USG president sent a statement to the student body in an attempt to provide context while expressing regret and apologizing for the negative impact his words had on those who read them and members of the St. Thomas community. Further, he stated, “I stand firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, divisiveness and oppression that don’t create an inclusive campus for everyone.”
The University of St. Thomas strongly denounces the 2014 statements that have circulated on social media – and all hateful anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-Muslim posts. Our Catholic intellectual tradition values the fundamental compatibility of faith and reason to foster meaningful dialogue directed toward the flourishing of human culture – culture that respects a vibrant diverse community and works toward an inclusive society.
At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the vitriolic and hateful discourse that targets young voices. Our mission is to educate students to be morally responsible leaders, who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.
In the coming days, our student body and our student government – which have focused on enhancing diversity, understanding and inclusivity on campus – will need to deliberate about their future leadership. The student government is taking this situation very seriously and is seeking input from the student body. Their governance policies have a clearly defined process when the actions of a leader are called into question. The university will respect this process.
Challenging times test the convictions of any community. It is at this time that our convictions of faith, reason, dignity and diversity provide us strength. To Jewish members of our community we extend our full support and acknowledge the pain and hurtfulness this situation has created. We embrace you and all faiths within our learning community.
It pays to be curious. As in life and art, as in science: Sometimes where you think you’re headed isn’t where you end up.
Since Dr. Eric Fort, an organic chemistry professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at St. Thomas, joined the university in 2010, he has been working with undergraduate students on a research project that continues to journey not only onto roads not taken, but roads (pleasantly) unforeseen.
The project’s goals when it kicked off in 2010 were relatively clear cut: find faster pathways for creating azaborines – synthetic organic compounds created by substituting two carbon atoms in a molecule with boron and nitrogen. The second goal was to then determine if those molecules could be used in solar cells and in the design of drugs.
For several semesters, Fort and a flock of full- and part-time student researchers experimented with different methods of building a type of azaborine molecule called pyrene, known for its ectoplasmic glow. The project was moving along smoothly and meeting its objectives. Then in summer 2013, Fort and the students working with him made a game-changing observation. Out of curiosity they held a test tube containing the product under a black light one step early in the “closing” process. (The building of this molecule is considered “finished” once all the chains of atoms close up together to form a ring.) Only with closure will the molecule glow (and become pyrene). To their surprise, the telltale green fluorescence of a closed, stable pyrene molecule lit up the tube.
This discovery, Fort said, built the foundation for the “exciting new frontier” into which the project has morphed: new molecule creation.
How to build a molecule 101
To understand their moment of discovery, it helps to first know a bit about how the molecule is built.
An azaborine is essentially a carbon molecule that has been skillfully tinkered with in a lab by some tools of the chemist’s trade: starting materials, other small molecules and reagents (compounds used to cause chemical reactions). Chemists build azaborines by replacing the two carbon atoms at the center of a molecule with one atom a piece of nitrogen (aza) and boron.
The ways in which a chemist can build an azaborine are limitless. Fort likened the building of organic molecules to an artist’s work, recognizing that amidst the weeks and months of monotonous lab work, an element of surprise is always possible.
“Being an organic chemist is a lot like being a sculptor who says, ‘That’s not just a rock, that’s going to be the Pieta,’ or something like that,” Fort said. “For us, we know that our end goal is in three dimensions, we know the shape and the size it needs to be and how the bonds need to come together; we choose small molecules, starting materials and reagents that build that framework up.” The two central atoms aren’t so much “plucked out,” and replaced he said, but rather laboriously and creatively built in “piece by piece in the proper order with the right chemicals to get everything to talk to each other,” in a process that requires patience, skill and imagination.
In the end, at least in Fort’s project, “the last step is one fell swoop where everything locks up (shape shifts from an open ring to a closed ring of atoms) and the final product is really stable.” The molecule remains the same size and shape as with carbon atoms but its overall properties are changed fundamentally. One of the more dazzling transformations that can happen is that the azaborine can become fluorescent, as is the case with pyrene, which is a flat structure with four fused rings.
An organic chemist’s playground
With the rules they believed to govern the molecule (pyrene) turned upside down, Fort knew he had to redirect his course of action. He and his future student teams would focus on uncovering why their closing mechanism worked. Once that groundwork was laid, they could develop new reactions and new molecules. Soon after the serendipitous discovery, Fort applied for, and received a year later, a $50,000 grant from the American Chemical Society to undertake his new, expanded endeavor.
They succeeded, proving that their molecule didn’t need the catalyst because of the boron-nitrogen bond.
“Putting the boron and nitrogen in changes how the molecule reacts by making the energy needed to close much lower than we had thought,” Fort said. “So, not only does it change the molecules in the final product, but on the pathway to that product it’s changing how the bonds form and break.”
Solving that mystery and laying a fundamental framework meant his students wouldn’t be confined to one specific end goal of creating their azaborine as quickly as possible; they could have different end goals based on their interests. While they will continue working with azaborines to make new molecules, Fort’s lab has expanded to building more complicated structures of the compound. Recently one of his biochemistry students built a biologically looking molecule, while another one of his chemistry majors made an electronically structured molecule, and in doing so found another unexpected reaction product and another new mechanism to explore.
“Once we learned those steps to this new way of closing the molecule, in the middle of the process we could say, ‘Instead of putting a swing here, we could put a monkey bar instead and build a whole new playset,’” Fort said. “That’s where we’re at now. We can make molecules! It’s like making playgrounds that kids have never seen before. That was a really exciting development the last year.”
This fall Fort co-wrote (with help from his recent team of students) a paper – the third to come from the study – on their findings, which was published in January.
His students’ ability to run with the new finding is important, he noted, because it further proves that undergraduates can do good science.
“We don’t have the funding or man hours to do huge projects but what we do is find these fundamental things that … helps the entire chemistry community,” he said. “We are finding results that though small or incremental in their own right, their implications are grand. Until our paper was submitted, we were the only people who knew the knowledge behind the closing mechanism … We discovered that.”
For senior biochemistry major Sam Madden, who worked on the project last summer, his outlook on the research took a leap forward after just three months in Fort’s lab.
“Being able to conduct research has brought life to my studies in a way that I could not have imagined. Suddenly my mind was searching for connections between the things I would experience in the lab and the new things I learned in classes,” he said. Madden also noted that his experience helped him appreciate the larger process involved in conducting research, such as doing preliminary readings of primary literature, writing a grant proposal (a Young Scholars Grant), learning correct safety procedures, becoming accustomed with lab techniques and always searching for ways to improve reactions.
Fort believes he’s just stepped foot into this area of research and plans to carry on with it into the foreseeable future. The project is on a yearlong hiatus while Fort takes a sabbatical to work in 3M’s hydrogen fuel cell program. But when he returns, he will move forward again, not knowing what new things he and his students will create, only that there will infinite roads waiting for them to discover.
One organization and two individuals will be honored at the 29th annual Forum on Workplace Inclusion, the nation’s leading conference on diversity and inclusion that will take place March 28-30 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The forum’s diversity awards are sponsored by U.S. Bank and are given annually to organizations or individuals who show exemplary effort in addressing workplace diversity issues. Recipients will be honored during a special luncheon Thursday, March 30.
The 2017 recipients are:
Michele Meyer-Shipp: Winds of Change Award, Individual
Michele Meyer-Shipp is vice president and chief diversity officer at Prudential where she leads and supports her company’s diversity and inclusion efforts and ensures compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity and affirmative action laws.
Meyer-Shipp is an extraordinary leader who launched her company’s three-pillar diversity and inclusion strategy, promoted an employee disability self-identification campaign, leads equal employment opportunity and unconscious-bias education training efforts for management, and leads employee discussions on topics such as gender in the workplace, remembering Orlando, and navigating through race and police-shooting issues.
A graduate and former adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, Meyer-Shipp is an employment-law expert who is sought to speak at industry and professional association conferences. She approaches inclusivity as a personal mission, mentoring employees and community members and serving on numerous national boards, such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the National Organization on Disability, and the Women’s Presidents Organization. For three consecutive years she made the Black Enterprise List of Top Executives in Corporate Diversity.
Meyer-Shipp has raised awareness and has been a catalyst for change for diversity and inclusion issues, both within the financial services industry and on an organizational and community level. Her experience, passion and advocacy for equality in all forms embody the essential values of integrity, excellence and work ethic. For her broad and deep support of diversity and inclusion issues, the forum’s awards committee is proud to present Meyer-Shipp with the 2017 Winds of Change award.
Department of Citywide Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity for the City of New York: Winds of Change Award, Organization
New York City’s Department of Citywide Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity (CDEEO) has been at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity and promote inclusion in the workforce of New York City, the largest municipal government employer in the country and the most ethnically and culturally diverse city in America. Of the 360,000 people employed by the city, 58 percent are women and 61 percent are racially diverse.
This nine-member team has responsibility for the approval of annual diversity and EEO strategic plans and quarterly workforce dashboards across 40 mayoral agencies. The execution of those plans has accomplished training for more than 50,000 city employees in less than three years. Areas of focus include unconscious bias, LGBTQ inclusion, disability etiquette and EEO workplace rights. Additionally, women and people of color now represent the majority of city officials and administrators, a first in the city’s history of reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In October 2016, CDEEO hosted a historic gathering of diversity and human-resource practitioners from the public sector. This national colloquium for public-sector thought leaders convened 140 participants representing 67 agencies across 12 municipalities. The City of New York repeatedly has secured a score of 100 on the HRC’s Municipality Index for its inclusive LGBTQ policies such as Executive Order 16, which affirms the rights of the transgender community to use same-sex facilities in city-owned or -operated buildings based upon their gender identity and/or expression. Executive Order 21, also issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio, places a ban on salary inquires during employment offers, a policy directly focused on gender equity.
With these clear examples of exceptional work, the forum is happy to present CDEEO its 2017 Winds of Change award.
Jordan Roberge: Friend of the Forum Award
Jordan Roberge, manager of individual accounting for Minnesota-based HealthPartners, has been a forum volunteer since 2008, shortly after moving to the Twin Cities from New Hampshire.
He has served on the forum’s program and logistics committees with current responsibility for the efficient operation of the Marketplace. He had developed relationships between the forum and regional nonprofits, advocated national sponsorship of the forum across multiple industries and promoted exhibit sales.
While many forum participants have seen him announce drawings and other events at the conference, you most likely would find him behind the scenes making sure forum logistics are running smoothly. His organizing efforts include signage throughout the convention center and covering all forms of social media, including his insightful tweeting.
A resident of Minneapolis, Roberge is a New England native who studied at the University of New Hampshire. He relocated to the Twin Cities in 2007 to lead diversity and inclusion for Supervalu.
Because of his willing spirit, can-do attitude and limitless commitment, the forum is pleased to present its 2017 Friend of the Forum award to Roberge.
About The Forum on Workplace Inclusion
Housed at the University of St. Thomas, the forum will bring together 1,300 participants from 40 states, 11 countries and more than 300 organizations.
Registration is still open for the conference, including the March 30 diversity awards luncheon.
Participants can choose to attend the full three-day conference from March 28-30, or just the first day March 28, or the second two days on March 29 and 30. Special rates for travel and accommodations also are available. For more information and to register, visit the forum’s website here.
Quick: Can you find Estonia on a map? Extra credit if you can point it out on a map without country names. Got it? It’s that one just across the Baltic Sea from the eastern border of Sweden, tucked between the northern border of Latvia and the western border of Russia.
If you’re not overly familiar with the country of about 1.3 million people you’re probably not alone. But, in recent years, Estonia has become one of the European Union’s fastest-growing startup hotbeds. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit that drew two Tommies, Bjorn Lapakko ’05 and Courtney Smith ’09, to live and work in the country’s capital, Tallinn, more than a year ago.
“Estonia, I never would have thought of as somewhere to go, but it’s an awesome place. It’s good to think outside the box of England, Italy or France, Germany, those big places you think of [to work abroad],” Smith said. “Estonia just [regained] their independence in 1991, so you’re there to see all these changes. You feel you’re on the cusp of really cool things happening.”
Many companies in Estonia (and increasingly around the world) coordinate with online services to draw English speakers to work for their companies, often in marketing, writing and developing roles. One such service, Jobbatical, drew Lapakko to Tallinn, where Smith joined him shortly afterward.
“It’s always kind of been my endgame goal to end up somewhere overseas working internationally,” said Lapakko, a Minnesota native whose father exposed him to global work with his career in international sales.
Both Smith and Lapakko had international travel experience before moving to Estonia; Smith spent her junior year at St. Thomas studying in Italy. Even so, it was surprising, Smith said, how little culture shock they felt moving to Estonia, which shares many geographical and ancestral similarities to Minnesotans’ roots in northern Europe.
“You kind of see these practices and celebrations and these days that are familiar, and they even have some of our personality quirks, which I think is just our cultural norms from our great-grandparents coming over and being instilled in us generation after generation,” Lapakko said. “You see stuff like, if there’s a dessert or even a meal that’s being shared by everybody, there’s always that one slice of that one bit left because nobody wants to be that person; nobody wants to be the person to be so bold to take the last piece. And so you just see these similarities all over the place and, man, that’s kind of crazy.”
At the same time, Tallinn’s emphasis on drawing people from around the world has created a cultural melting pot for Lapakko and Smith to immerse themselves in: “I work with a couple Danish people, Maltese, Estonians, Finnish, Russian, British, Australian,” Lapakko said.
“All the different cultures are such a gift, so to be able to experience them, go out of your comfort zone and figure out how people live and do things and relate to one another, is really important,” Smith added. “It really helps in understanding the world; the world is bigger than the community you’re in. It helps with compassion, being open-minded.”
The two ex-pats said they hope to encourage other Tommies to consider overseas work as part of their career path, both for the experiences of living and working abroad, as well as for the professional opportunities to make an impact with up-and-coming companies.
“The idea of someone being able to work as a global citizen in the digital age, there’s so much more opportunity if you’re willing to be more bold and willing to go to these places,” Lapakko said. “There are a ton of things out there.”
Dr. Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and author of several award-winning books – including Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning – will give two lectures in the Twin Cities on Thursday, April 6, one at the University of St. Thomas and another at the University of Minnesota.
- His St. Thomas lecture, based on his book Bloodlands, begins at 11:45 a.m. in Room 100 (the Great Room) of McNeely Hall, located on the university’s St. Paul campus at Summit and Cleveland avenues. Pizza will be served.
- His University of Minnesota lecture, “The Politics of Mass Killing: Past and Present,” begins at 7 p.m. in Coffman Theater of Coffman Memorial Union on the university’s Minneapolis campus. A reception and book-signing will follow. This program, which also serves as the keynote lecture for an international symposium on “Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust,” is based on his most recent books, Black Earth and On Tyranny.
Both lectures are free and open to the public. Those attending the evening lecture at the University of Minnesota are asked to register beforehand here.
Snyder, who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in modern East European political history, is a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar.
His publications include these eight books: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1998, second edition 2016); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (2008); Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010); Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (2016); and the just-released On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Feb. 28, 2017).
Bloodlands won 12 awards including the Emerson Prize in the Humanities, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Leipzig Award for European Understanding and the Hannah Arendt Prize in Political Thought.
Black Earth has been a bestseller in four countries and has received multiple distinctions including the award of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.
Between 1933 and 1945, some 14 million civilians were killed by the Nazi and Soviet regimes as matter of deliberate policy in the lands between Berlin and Moscow.
In a New York Times review of Bloodlands, Joshua Rubenstein, writes that “it was in German-controlled Soviet territory that the Nazis carried out the full logic of their murderous intentions. Within a half-year, the Wehrmacht succeeded in occupying all of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States. And it was here, with the murder first of Jewish men and then of the entire Jewish populations of small towns, that the Germans began the systematic open-air massacres that resulted in the slaughter of 2 and a half million Jews in German-occupied Soviet territory, a proportion of the 6 million that remains hard to grasp.”
Jewish Book World reports that “Snyder’s book forces us to frame the Holocaust within a wider landscape of genocidal policies by both the Nazis and the Soviets without diminishing the uniqueness of Hitler’s war against the Jews.” The Soviet policies of mass murder included the Holodomor, the state-orchestrated famine in Ukraine, which took the lives of more than 3 million. In his St. Thomas lecture, Snyder will describe and explain the policies that made the lands touched by both Nazi and Soviet power the most dangerous on the planet.
Black Earth draws on new archival sources from Eastern Europe and on a vast historiography. As a reader of 10 European languages, Snyder is the first historian to master this hugely diverse collection of source material and to depict the entirety of the Holocaust in such accessible terms.
British historian Ian Kershaw writes of Black Earth that “Timothy Snyder’s bold new approach to the Holocaust links Hitler’s racial worldview to the destruction of states and the quest for land and food. This insight leads to thought-provoking and disturbing conclusions for today’s world. Black Earth uses the recent past’s terrible inhumanity to underline an urgent need to rethink our own future.”
In his most recent book, On Tyranny, Snyder argues that today our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the 20th century, and that we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or communism. Our one advantage, Snyder argues, is that we might learn from their experience. Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, writes that “We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves.”
The two lectures have been organized, co-sponsored and/or supported by the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Center for Austrian Studies, all at the University of Minnesota; by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Aquinas Chair in Theology and Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences, and the Grants and Research Office, all at St. Thomas; and the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of the Minneapolis Foundation.
The Jay Phillips Center is a joint enterprise of St. Thomas and Saint John’s University, Collegeville.
This entry was curated by Jim Rogers, director of the Center for Irish Studies and editor of New Hibernia Review.
It’s not east making a list of essential books when you’re talking about a country the size of Indiana that has produced four Nobel winners in literature and scores of other fine writers. But here’s a shortlist of 20th century titles that all Irish-minded readers ought to know.
10. The Weaver’s Grave by Seumas O’Kelly (1918)
This seemingly slight story, which is about two old men quarreling in a cemetery about where a third man’s grave is supposed to be, proves in the end to be a novella that unexpectedly ramps into a vision of life and death.
9. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen (1929)
In the midst of the Irish Civil War, a cluster of Irish aristocrats try to go about their daily business as if their world was not crumbling before their eyes. Bowen was a master of the poignant detail; her novel abounds with heartbreaking images of the vanishing Anglo-Irish world.
8. Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney (1966)
The first collection of poems from the future Nobel laureate, these poems describe a child’s entry into the world of adults, and create something universal and mythic out of the small place in the Northern Ireland countryside where the poet was raised.
7. The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien (1960-64)
Actually three novels that trace the lives of two school girls, their strict upbringings and their disappointments in sex and marriage. Daring at the time (enough to get them banned in Ireland), O’Brien’s books gave – and continue to give – the experiences of Irish women a fictional home.
6. John Bull’s Other Island by George Bernard Shaw (1904)
A hilarious play in which a fat-headed Englishman persuades himself that he understands Ireland – only to find that everything turns upside down once you scratch the surface. Shaw’s commentaries on Ireland were much too solemn to be presented in anything but high comedy.
5. Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (1948)
On anyone’s shortlist of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Yeats wove together folklore, mysticism and ruminations on love and old age – all of it in magnificently crafted verse.
4. An Only Child by Frank O’Connor (1961)
The autobiography of one of the greatest short story writers of modern times, O’Connor’s childhood in Cork has all the stock characters – the saintly mother, the alcoholic father, the eccentric neighbors – but also a joyous discovery of life’s possibilities.
3. Translations by Brian Friel (1980)
A play that rewrote Irish history by dramatizing a central event in the life of the nation: the literal changing of the map from evocative place-names in Gaelic into arbitrary words in English. Friel’s play puts both language and the history of being a colony at the center of Irish life.
2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916)
The semi-autobiographical story of a young man’s rebellion against the nets of family, religion and nation – all the more remarkable because the arrogant young artist really did do what he said he would: write “the uncreated conscience of [his] race.”
1. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)
There was never a book like this before: a novel in which borrowed and purloined fictional characters from other books yammer away in Irish backchat, eventually turning on their own author. A strong candidate for the title of the funniest book ever written.
More and more single-family rental homes – a trend that has been developing locally and nationally since the start of the Great Recession in 2008 – means fewer and fewer single-family homes are available for purchase.
According to the most recent market analysis by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business, this increased percentage of rental homes is yet another factor contributing to a historically low supply of homes for sale in the 13-county Twin Cities region.
In earlier reports, the center examined other causes that contribute to the shortage: low or negative equity during the recession, concerns about job or financial situations, and a trend of keeping homes longer than in the past. Earlier this year, the center predicted that the persistent low availability of homes for sale, coupled with strong demand, will result in a 5 percent increase in the median sale price of Twin Cities homes this year.
“On a national and local basis we have seen the formation of companies and funds such as Blackstone’s Invitation Partners and American Homes 4 Rent that are buying large numbers of single-family homes for investment purposes,” said Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the university.
“Blackstone is the largest of single-family investors; they currently own about 50,000 homes across the country,” he said. “Their strategy was to purchase single-family homes at deeply discounted prices during the recession, rehab the property and then hold the property long term as a rental property. Even though home values have increased since the end of the recession, many of these companies are still actively buying.
“Institutional investors have largely figured out how to maintain and efficiently operate ‘scattered-site single family rentals’ on a professional basis. Most of these homes are in established neighborhoods. Renovation and a regular maintenance schedule preserves the housing stock and maintains the quality of the surrounding neighborhood,” Tousley said.
This is a trend that is not only occurring in the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul: It is happening all across the Twin Cities metro area. The total number of single-family homes being rented in suburban neighborhoods has increased from 12,000 in 2000 to over 28,000 in recent years, according to data compiled by the Metropolitan Council. Of the 93 cities that were tracked, all but 32 saw their single-family rentals grow by at least 100 percent between 2000 and 2013.
Below are the top five cities around the Twin Cities by percentage of single-family rentals.City Single-family Homes as Rentals in 2000 % of Rentals in 2000 Single-family Homes as Rentals in 2013 % of Rentals in 2013 Minneapolis 5,864 8% 10,278 14% St. Paul 3,976 7% 7,416 13% Brooklyn Center 193 3% 867 12% Columbia Heights 153 3% 610 12% Anoka 177 5% 449 11%
Meanwhile, the number of homes available for sale that are priced between $150,000 and $350,000 has been steadily declining since 2008.
Tousley said that homes in this price range are very attractive to the large institutional investors because they make good rental properties that provide a good return to their investors. However, homes in that same price range also are the most attractive to first-time homebuyers and first-move-up buyers.
“The homes that are purchased by the institutional investors are going to be held long term as rental properties so they in effect would be ‘off the market’ and will not be available for sale for a long period of time. The institutional ownership of large numbers of homes as single-family rentals is a relatively new development in the housing market and it is one more factor that is contributing to the chronically low number of homes available for sale,” he said.
February market summary
The housing market in the Twin Cities continued on its normal seasonal pattern in February. As expected the overall median sale price was essentially the same as January at $223,000. The traditional, nondistressed median sale price was $230,000, a 4.2 percent increase compared to February 2016.
The number of homes sold in February was 2,696 compared to 2,814 in January and 2,716 in February 2016. The percentage of distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) ticked up slightly in February at 9.2 percent, however that percentage should continue to decline to pre-recession levels as we move into the spring selling season.
As noted earlier, the continued shortage of homes available for sale continues to be an issue. As buyers become more active in the spring-summer selling season, the shortage will create additional upward pressure on sale prices.
“The concern is that if this continues over a long period of time … where median sale prices are increasing faster than wages and income … it will begin to create affordability issues especially if interest rates begin to rise,” Tousley said.
The St. Thomas indexes
Here are the Shenehon Center’s monthly composite index scores for February 2017. The index, which tracks nine data elements for the three types of sales (traditional, short sales and foreclosures), started in January 2005. For that month, the center gave each of the three indexes a value of 1,000.
- The February 2017 index score for traditional sales was 1,114, down .4 percent from January 2017 and up 4.1 percent from February 2016.
- The February 2017 index score for short sales was 993, down 2.5 percent from January 2017 and up .1 percent from February 2016.
- The February 2017 index score for foreclosures was 842, up .2 percent from January 2017 and up 7.5 percent from February 2016.
More information online
The Shenehon Center’s complete online report for February can be found on its website.
The report is available via email from Tousley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most people in the Western world know the story of Eve, right? Created from a rib of Adam; the blissful existence in Eden; the snake; the apple; the fall; the eviction; toil thereafter and the pain of childbirth. Pretty straightforward story for people to understand throughout history.
Except it’s not. Thanks to a St. Thomas Young Scholars Grant, senior English major Joe Molohon dedicated this past summer to investigating how we take for granted the idea that Eve’s story is static and that we relate to it in the same ways people always have.
“There’s a lot more to the Bible than you think of; it’s not the inflexible text that a lot of people think it to be,” Molohon said. “The Bible is everywhere and I’ve always wondered about its interpretation. So much is based off what it says; it’s such a large influence still. I was curious to see where these ideas came from and how it works.”
Under the advisement of English professor Martin Warren, Molohon developed the idea to investigate Eve from one of Warren’s classes.
“He was really fascinated with how culture and text speak to each other, that dialogue between them, and how various literary texts are clearly born from and influenced by the culture and speak back to it,” Warren said. “The idea was to look at Eve and see how the figure, the image of Eve, is changed across time. The figure of Eve becomes a way of revealing how the culture is perceiving Eve and, through her, gender relationships and women.”
A major starting point was examining the Biblical language itself. This gave Molohon the chance to dig into Hebrew and it quickly became clear how much the understanding of what a word means can change your ideas about a text, even one like the Bible.
“The word ‘Adam’ is a big one. In the Bible the name is taken to mean ‘man’ and ‘him,’ … It works better, actually, in the plural neuter form in referring to humankind,” Molohon said. “So the cases where ‘Adam is made’ and it’s taken to be ‘Man is made in God’s image,’ it’s actually probably ‘humankind.’ It seems small, but it’s big. It represents the unity of humankind; we don’t know who was made first. Both share this image of God.”
Beyond language, Molohon found the applicable literary tradition of having just two characters in a scene speaking at once; since she ends up being the only one speaking, Eve unfairly ends up at the center of “the fall” by herself.
“There’s this idea that Adam was actually present the whole time and was speaking the whole time with the serpent, too, but Eve is written as talking because just two characters speak,” Molohon said. “The serpent takes up a spot, so there’s just one of the two people to speak and it doesn’t really matter which one; they’re there together and he’s a reason just like Eve for the fall.”
Molohon and Warren also poured through examples of how different cultures throughout time perceive Eve, highlighted by material from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” and Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve.
“There was always the history of patriarchy, obviously, so there was a lot of reading into the Bible [by past authors] what they wanted to see. They thought women were less than men and can find [what they want to see subconsciously] in the Bible,” Molohon said. “I tried to stay objective as a scholar, which was difficult at times. I obviously disagree with Milton [whose “Paradise Lost” is often viewed as misogynistic]. The trouble is keeping that outside perspective and looking at it as an outside issue and reporting on what people are seeing.”
By summer’s end (and a little into the fall semester), what was originally a 20-page paper turned into 60 pages.
“That says a lot about him, but also the richness of this topic. Once he got into it and saw how this figure of Eve goes across time and what the figure of Eve means across time, it was just fascinating,” Warren said. “I was really impressed. It’s great scholarship. Part of the joy was working with Joe and watching him grow as a scholar, which is the whole point of the Young Scholars program.”
Molohon said he hopes to use the experience while attending graduate school next year to focus on creative writing.
“It was fun to apply creative writing to a scholarly project like this. Both things are very important,” Molohon said. “Creative writing is not done in a vacuum with just what you come up with in your head. You need to know about the real world to write. All writing is in a sense coming from the world and you, so you need as strong a sense as possible of all those things.”
The third floor of the Anderson Student Center isn’t small, but while I was talking with senior Patrick Fisher it felt like a cramped space. Outside would have been much more fitting, because a conversation with this guy can include some pretty big ideas, and this one did.
Of course, that’s not surprising considering Fisher is a triple major(!) in philosophy, Catholic studies and mathematics, and through five different research grants and plenty of classes has dove into some pretty deep territory surrounding that big question of “Why?”
“It’s just insatiable,” Fisher said of his own curiosity level. He recently wrote his senior philosophy paper on the intersection of math, philosophy and God. “It keeps me up at night. I’m thinking about, ‘Is math ideas in the mind of God? Is it not? And if it’s not, how do you figure that out?’ I’ve always sought answers to those kinds of things.”
Fisher credits his dad, who teaches high school mathematics, with instilling in him a desire to seek out answers and dig into topics he’s curious about, a process he plans to continue next year at graduate school. When we talked Fisher had just finished sending out his first round of applications, which included applying for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at University of Oxford in England. Wherever he ends up studying next, Fisher hopes to continue through to a Ph.D. and teach philosophy.
“I’m never going to run out of things to figure out. [I know] this curiosity to get at the fundamental truths of the world must lead to and be a part of imparting that on others and sharing it with others,” he said. “Aquinas talks about how true wisdom is simultaneously practical and speculative science. That when one seeks wisdom, it is truth for itself and also a guide for life. With philosophy and mathematics I think people often miss that. It’s more, ‘What’s the practical application of this? What’s the point of this?’ My thought is that in one sense it’s teaching you how to think, but if you know and seek after the truth of the way the world is, you must be transformed by that. That idea has to become part of you and guide you, because the way you think the world is guides how you act.” (Again, an outdoor setting would have been great.)
Fisher’s quick laugh helped him slide from topic to topic throughout our conversation, including as we transitioned from the mile-high views of his studies to the get-to-know-ya-“Humans of St. Thomas”-style questions.
What’s one thing you cannot live without?
A really fun read. I just finished this play called “Waiting for Godot,” and it was so captivating. When I came home to my apartment and was eating lunch, I had to have that book open. If I don’t have a good novel, play or poetry to read for fun, my energy is just gone.
You have 20 minutes to pack for a trip for a year, but you don’t know where you’re going. What are the first things you would pack?
Besides the essentials, I would want my Bible, a book light, a notebook and that good, fun book I mentioned earlier. Probably Lord of the Rings – I’ve been meaning to read that forever. And then probably the pictures of my family from my desk.
If you could choose any place in the world to go right now where would you go?
I’m going to Rome this spring, so I might just get there early.
What are the coolest pair of shoes you’ve ever owned?
These. Right now. [Puts his Converse Chuck Taylors up on the table.] Everyone does Chucks, but these are new – sweet leather laces, the dark cherry color; I haven’t owned any cooler shoes than this.
What’s your biggest goal in life?
To glorify the Lord in the best way I can. Given the character and gifts I’ve been given, to humbly grow in virtue that I might not get in the way of what he’s trying to do in my life and in other’s lives.
What’s your ideal day?
I wake up, have a whole hour for prayer time; I then have hours to read. It’s going to come across that I’m a bookworm, which isn’t really true. I do other things too. All the food throughout the day would be delicious, and then I would hang out with friends and play board games. I would probably win. Then we just hang. Those things would be about all I need for a great day.
Award-winning National Public Radio legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg spoke to a full crowd in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium as this year’s Women History Month speaker. The event was sponsored by the Luann Dummer Center for Women.
Totenberg joined NPR in 1975 and has made a career out of revealing the inner workings of the Supreme Court. She has broken a number of momentous stories, including former President Richard Nixon’s secret list of Supreme Court candidates, Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee William Rehnquist’s opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against then Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Totenberg’s reports air regularly on NPR’s critically acclaimed programs “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Weekend Edition.”
Totenberg proved why she is recognized as a master storyteller, weaving humor, history and personal anecdotes. She focused on Sandra Day O’Connor’s and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s roles as the first women on the Supreme Court and then discussed President Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and how he fits into the history and hopes of conservatives.
Here are five observations from her talk.
Judges are people too
Totenberg kicked off her talk by reminding the audience that Supreme Court justices “are very smart folks, but they’re still people, with all the foibles and virtues that real people have.” She shared several bench notes that Henry Blackmun had saved from his tenure, including one from O’Connor commenting on his hearing aid and one that he received during the Nixon scandal, which shared that former Vice President Spiro Agnew had resigned – and also the score of a Mets vs. Reds game.
Her relationships with several of the justices, and particularly friendships with Antonin Scalia and Ginsburg, highlighted both the realness of the justices and the longevity of Totenberg’s career. (During the Q&A, she even wondered, and slightly theorized, over what Scalia would have thought of Trump.) She spoke a few times of personal interactions, reminding the audience that these relationships were necessary to her career. “You don’t find things out by staying above the fray,” she said.
O’Connor and Ginsburg are women to be admired
Totenberg outlined both O’Connor’s and Ginsburg’s backgrounds as the first two women to be appointed to the Supreme Court, touching on their struggles to find employment and Ginsburg’s hiding her second pregnancy so it wouldn’t hurt her career. “Both women traversed quite a journey before reaching their exalted status. They began their careers at a time when women, simply because they were women, could legally be denied jobs, mortgages … even the right to serve on a jury,” Totenberg said.
She pointed out that although O’Connor and Ginsburg had different backgrounds and different approaches to judging, they appreciated having an ally on women’s rights as well someone who understood the experience of being a woman. She added that in the three years Ginsburg was the only female on the Supreme Court, she missed having another woman.
Conservatives care deeply about the Supreme Court and are frustrated with how some recent cases have turned out for them
Totenberg focused on how and why recent judges have been nominated and picked for the Supreme Court. She paid particular attention to President Barack Obama’s attempt to appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court while Republicans controlled the Senate, and also discussed Gorsuch’s background. She believes it is likely that Gorsuch’s appointment will go through.
She added that throughout the 20th century, conservatives who have been replaced on the court always have been replaced by someone who leans even further right, citing the example of former Justice Paul Stevens, who was considered a moderate when elected and was seen as liberal by the end.
“Conservatives are very clear about what they want on the court. Democrats and liberals care, but they don’t with the same fervor. They haven’t been deprived as long as conservatives,” Totenberg said. “Even though the court has gotten more and more and more conservative, it hasn’t yielded on a couple of a issues conservatives care most about: abortion, same-sex marriage or gay rights … and religious rights.”
It is hard to predict what is going to happen
Totenberg earned a few laughs when she said she is “loathe to make political predictions” in the current environment and more seriously discussed the difficulties of predicting what will play out in the Supreme Court over the next few years. She said that retirement, illness and death are always an uncertainty on the Supreme Court and reminded audience members that three justices are over 70: Ginsburg will be 84 this month, Stephen Breyer is 78 and Anthony Kennedy, sometimes known as being a swing vote in the court, is 80.
While sticking to not making predictions, she acknowledged that it’s possible Kennedy might retire and that some have seen Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch as a nod to Kennedy that it is safe to do so. Totenberg said that even one slot would move the court “dramatically” to the right and three would allow the conservatives to dominate. With such a change in the composition of the court, Totenberg said we could expect to see increased hostility to environmental rights, voting rights, civil rights and unions, and that Roe v. Wade might be overturned.
Be an educated citizen
During the Q&A, Totenberg was asked if she thought it was true the courts and press would be able to “save us.” Totenberg responded, “You have to save yourself,” and to do that she said each person should be an educated citizen. She emphasized reading things that you don’t agree with, particularly if they’re well reasoned and well written.
“Being in an echo chamber is bad for democracy and boring,” said Totenberg, adding that it doesn’t help people to grow how they think.
She added that it is her job, as a reporter, to inform people and to tell great stories.
“I wanted to be a witness and to tell people great stories and do it with a narrative and vividness that they would remember,” Totenberg said as she finished up the Q&A.
Volunteers are needed for the Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN) Spring Games, which will be held March 24-26 at St. Thomas. More than 2,800 SOMN athletes with and without intellectual disabilities from across the state will compete in state tournaments in basketball, powerlifting and swimming. Volunteer positions include running a scoreboard, officiating, presenting awards and more.
Volunteers must be at least 15 years of age. All volunteers will receive a T-shirt.
Two widely known commentators, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and professor Dr. Cornel West, will discuss “Christianity and Politics in the United States Today” in a program Friday, April 7, in James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall of Anderson Student Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.
The evening begins with a 5:45 p.m. reception; Douthat and West will begin their conversation at 6:45 p.m. The program, free and open to the public, is sponsored by St. Thomas’ Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy. Those attending are asked to make a reservation here.
Moderator for the evening will be Elizabeth Schiltz, a St. Thomas School of Law professor, the Thomas. J. Abood Research Scholar and co-director of the Murphy Institute.
Douthat, 37, joined The New York Times in 2009 and is the youngest regular op-ed columnist in the paper’s history. Douthat replaced Bill Kristol as a conservative voice on the Times’ editorial pages and writes every Wednesday and Sunday about politics, religion, moral values and higher education. A convert to Catholicism during his teen years, he is a 2002 magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University. Prior to joining the Times he was a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine and has been a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He is author of Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics and Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.
West, 63, has served as an adviser to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and currently holds a joint appointment as Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard’s Divinity School and African and African-American Studies Department. He formerly taught at Princeton, Yale, Union Theological Seminary and the University of Paris. Like Douthat, West is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, and later obtained his master’s and doctorate in philosophy from Princeton. A prominent political activist, he has written more than 20 books and edited 13. Much of his work deals with race, gender and class in American society. He is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.
The Murphy Institute is a collaboration between St. Thomas’ School of Law and Center for Catholic Studies.
Additional support for the program is provided by St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Sciences, Black Empower Student Alliance, Black Law Student Association, Catholic Students Incorporated, Center for Catholic Studies, Christian Legal Society, College Democrats, Lex Vitae, Minnesota Justice Foundation, Office for Mission, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, St. Thomas More Society, School of Law, Students for Human Life, and Students for Justice and Peace.
Four undergraduate University of St. Thomas students have been named University Innovation Fellows by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school).
Last semester Murad Abduselam, Hannah Brodersen, Annabelle Hamilton and Paige Huschka were selected as St. Thomas’ University Innovation “leadership circle” after first applying individually and then interviewing together as a team. This past fall, the group completed a six-week online training course aimed at empowering them to become agents of change at their school.
With training in the bag, their fellow status became official earlier this month, and together they recently began crafting plans to embody the UIF program’s core belief “that students can be partners with faculty and administrators to help lead change in higher education,” according to Humera Fasihuddin, co-director of the UIF program.
Huschka, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, agreed wholeheartedly with how the program places great value in the student perspective.
“I have a more personal view of what I feel needs changing,” she said. “By becoming a fellow … I can now pair up with faculty and use my student knowledge to help implement ideas in ways that benefit the whole campus, keeping students directly in mind.”
During their training phase, they learned how to analyze their campus innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems and gained an understanding of the needs of stakeholders – with the goal of discovering ways to enrich educational possibilities for their peers. They’ll use these tools to ensure that their fellow students gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to compete in the economy of the future and make a positive impact on the world.
As part of the application process the team conducted a survey that mapped St. Thomas’ campus landscape, identifying the opportunities for innovation already available to students (i.e., the STELAR lab in the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library and the Makerspace on the first floor of Anderson Student Center) then providing suggestions for improvement. Their acceptance was contingent on photographic evidence of their formal presentation to the university’s stakeholders, which included the Opus College of Business’ Stefanie Lenway, Ph.D.; Don Weinkauf, Ph.D., professor and dean of the School of Engineering; and St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan, among several more St. Thomas faculty and administrators.
Throughout this semester and fall 2017, the team will work to bring their ideas to life. Their term as fellows will culminate at the UIF program’s Silicon Valley Meetup in California in November. There, they will participate in immersive workshops at Stanford’s d.school, Google, Microsoft and other organizations. They’ll focus on topics such as movement building, innovation spaces, design of learning experiences and new models for change in higher education.
For the time being, they are only a few weeks into their fellowship but already are at work, brainstorming ideas.
“One big goal of ours is to bring students of different majors together, as we found many clubs and classes are geared toward one specific major, and interdisciplinary collaboration is a great thing! When we looked at our campus as a whole, we also found that many events have little to no advertising or only advertise to a specific major or group of people,” said Hamilton, a sophomore mechanical engineering major. “The four of us are figuring out a way to collaborate with other groups on creating an app that would have all of the events and information in one location.”
Brodersen, a senior double majoring in electrical engineering and physics, is excited to add entrepreneurial skills to her engineering tool belt. “It’s really important to be able to think creatively and sell your ideas,” she said. “UIF helps students gains these skills then pass their skills to others on their campus. I’m excited to support this mission.”
Abduselam, Brodersen, Hamilton and Huschka are the first St. Thomas students to become UI Fellows, but the team’s adviser, St. Thomas School of Engineering professor Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman, Ph.D., wants the four to be the first in a long succession of St. Thomas UI Fellows to come.
“The most exciting thing, as faculty, is that we always see the things we’re trying to do to enhance environment, so it’s great to see the students themselves taking ownership of their destinies and empowering themselves, asking ‘How we can make this work for us?'” said Nelson-Cheeseman.
Their work at St. Thomas is sponsored by a grant the School of Engineering received from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) last year. Funds from the grant are used to promote entrepreneurial thinking in the undergraduate engineering experience, specifically curriculum development and support for engineering students and faculty to help drive an entrepreneurial culture across St. Thomas.
Team member Abduselam is a second-year junior majoring in computer engineering.
Jeannine Hill Fletcher, professor of theology at Fordham University in New York City, will present “The Oneness of God and the Diversity of Religions: A Christian Perspective” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, in Room 100 (the Great Room) of McNeely Hall on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.
The lecture, sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, is free and open to the public.
“The earliest Christians experienced the reality of God as creator beyond human comprehension, but they also gave witness to the experience of God in Jesus Christ and the Spirit among them,” Hill Fletcher said.
In her St. Thomas lecture, Hill Fletcher will address the question: “How might a trinitarian faith open out into the belief that the diversity of religions is a sacred gift?” She will explore what she called “a contemporary approach to Christian faith that affirms religious difference while affirming also the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.”
Hill Fletcher earned her doctorate in theology at Harvard Divinity School in 2001, the same year that she joined the faculty at Fordham. Her publications include the books Monopoly on Salvation? A Feminist Approach to Religious Pluralism (2005) and Motherhood as Metaphor: Engendering Interreligious Dialogue (2013).
Among Hill Fletcher’s primary areas of research is the intersection of religious diversity with other forms of difference, including gender and race.
“Professor Hill Fletcher has made major contributions to the understanding of the connection between feminist religious thought and theologies of religious diversity,” said John Merkle, director of the Jay Phillips Center.
“I am confident that her current research on the connection between racism and religious intolerance will be just as enlightening,” Merkle added.
Hill Fletcher’s lecture is a part of the Jay Phillips Center’s three-semester series “The Oneness of God and the Diversity of Religions: Perspectives from Five Traditions,” which began last fall with lectures by Hindu and Sikh scholars and will continue next fall with lectures by Muslim and Jewish scholars.
The Jay Phillips Center is a joint enterprise of the University of St. Thomas and Saint John’s University, Collegeville.
Senior Jonathan Santos spent a lot of time looking at memes on the internet last summer. But while most internet users spend a couple of seconds interacting with a meme, Santos studied how race can influence certain memes.
“It solidified my belief that the internet and memes and what we’re sharing can be very important,” Santos said. “People are starting to take this more seriously and starting to think about it in more of a scholarly sense rather than just writing it off as a trend or a fad that we’re going through. The internet is obviously sticking around.”
Santos, an English major with a writing emphasis, had the idea for this project while in assistant professor Chris Santiago’s Creative Writing in the Media class, which covered all sorts of “hybrid” texts and considered how a digital component to any text can change the reader’s experience. While memes weren’t a focus for the class, Santos said they kept coming up during digressions.
“It was really interesting that it can just come up now, and it’s such a normal topic of conversation,” Santos said.
His interest piqued, he applied for the Excel! Research Scholars Program, which prepares undergraduates who are first-generation college students, military veterans or are of an underrepresented race for graduate school. A key portion of that is research alongside a mentor – a selection that was easy for Santos: He approached Santiago.
“He’s very proactive, so the project was fully formed by him,” Santiago said.
Santos began by reviewing scholarly literature about memes. Because much of the research around memes is qualitative, Santos decided he wanted to challenge himself and go for a quantitative approach: He selected a certain type of meme to see what common characteristics he could draw.
He went with stock character memes, which are stock images that have humorous text at the top and the bottom. They are often animals, but for the purpose of his study, Santos worked with images of humans only.
Typically these memes are created on a website such as Reddit or 4chan and then are shared on social media websites, such as Facebook. Because the demographics of the websites that memes originate from tend to skew white, Santos hypothesized the memes would reinforce white centrality (or looking at the world from a white point of view) and seeing individuals of color as somehow “other.”
Just reaching this point in his research presented unique challenges to Santos, who had to define what is considered a meme (his definition: “digital content that is shared and transformed by many users on the internet”) and because many of the websites sourcing the origins of stock character memes weren’t scholarly, he had to cross-reference different meme databases.
He ended up looking at 360 different memes, and examined them based off the character’s name and if race was referenced; the character’s caption and if race was referenced; if the character’s race was identifiable in the image; and if the character was a notable celebrity or public figure.
What he found is that 89.5 percent of the time race is referenced, it’s in regard to a non-white person. Often, these stock character memes also are playing off racialized stereotypes.
“Although I looked at a very specialized subsection of memes and of the internet itself, I think it still is representative of the internet as a whole and the way that we are handling race,” Santos said. “In some ways, just through the sharing of these memes and the fact that they can go so viral and that they so often are assuming that people on the internet are white and have a white point of view, I think that reflects something bigger on the internet. I think [it] is just a good reminder … that you can second guess what you’re looking at when someone shares something or if you’re about to share something. It can often be very, very subtle notions of stereotyping or white centrality.”
Santiago said he was proud to support Santos’ work, particularly because he was willing to do “a lot of crunching numbers” for the quantitative work.
“It’s not something we usually do in literary studies,” Santiago said. “But he thought that needed to be done.”
One area for further research Santos is intrigued by is gender representation in memes and how race comes into conversations for photo-sharing applications, such as Snapchat.
Santos presented his research in early fall at St. Thomas alongside the other Excel! scholars. Santos and Santiago currently are looking for other opportunities for Santos to present his research, and Santos also is applying for MFA graduate programs. He said, overall, he was pleased that he had the opportunity to grow his research and writing skills together.
“This has opened me up to the idea that research can go into the creative writing portion as much into formal writing,” Santos said. “They say write what you know. … If you don’t know anything, you’ve got to do some research first.”
The University of St. Thomas Selim Center: Learning for Life has announced its schedule of March, April and May programs that are tailored for those 40 and older.
The center, which first began offering programs in 1973, will offer multi- and single-day programs that meet at the university’s St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses. Fees range from $20 to $90.
The spring offerings and professors are:
- Ripped From the Headlines: Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice with Dr. Tanya Gladney, Dr. Amy Levad and Dr. Charles Weinstein
- American Politics and the Fairness Culture with Dr. Steven Maloney
- Globalization 1.0: The World after 1492 with Dr. Will Cavert
- Summit Avenue: Past and Present with Dr. Kristin Anderson
- The Search for God in 20th and 21st Century Film with Father Jan Michael Joncas
- Classical Music Exploration and Appreciation with Susan Anderson-Benson
- Plagues and Peoples with Dr. Chester Wilson
- Lent: Journey of Sorrow, Journey of Love with Susan Stabile
- Clemency, History and Mercy with Mark Osler
- Unraveling the Mysteries of the Sleeping Brain with Dr. Roxanne Prichard
- An Economist Discusses the Headlines with Dr. Robert Riley
- When Politics was Not a Bloodsport with Walter Mondale and David Durenberger
- Summit Avenue, Past and Present bus trip with Dr. Kristin Anderson
The center will host learning circles for five to 15 participants on the topics of Spanish conversation, politics, writing and “Discerning My Place in the Second Half of Life.”
For more information call the center at (651) 962-5188 or visit the center’s website.
Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing set of features of student-athlete Kyle Reid, which are the result of nearly one year of reporting on a unique student and his experience at St. Thomas. With so many elements to Reid’s story – as well as the complex and sensitive nature of many of them – we knew capturing everything in a single story would be a difficult task. Our profile of Reid for St. Thomas magazine is the product of those efforts, but due to spatial constraints we couldn’t dig as deeply as we would have liked for certain aspects of Reid’s story. With the goal in mind of providing more detail in some of those key areas, we are publishing these supplemental features in the Newsroom. To read our original story, click here.
Kyle and Andee Reid strolled into an aerobic room in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex (AARC) on a Wednesday afternoon in July, Kyle in a blue Under Armour T-shirt, blue shorts and red-and-white Nike tennis shoes, Andee in a pink “Unleash the Beast” T-shirt, gray leggings and tie-dye shoes. They hooked an iPod into the room’s sound system and – as the beat’s bass began to throb against the floors and mirrors – started jumping rope.
Physical activity long has been a “saving grace” for Reid, a 2011 Afghanistan veteran, and current junior and member of the diving team at St. Thomas. He has struggled to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and conversion disorder since his return from overseas.
“When I’m lifting or working out I just focus on what I’m doing and don’t really think about too much else,” Reid said. “It takes my mind off of things and internally I reduce my own stress.”
To spend time with Reid as he works out is to see a body relax even as its muscles flex and swell with effort, to see eyes straining with focus and to see a partnership flourishing under the demands of added weight.
Reid has built workout plans for the St. Thomas diving team since November 2015, and is studying in the Health and Human Performance Department with plans of eventually becoming a personal trainer, specifically helping veterans.
“I can’t say enough about him as a student. He has been a lot of fun to work with,” said Reid’s academic adviser, Brett Bruininks. “I was unsure when we got him, coming back to school as a transfer [from Montana State University], how much we would have to accommodate him because of transfer credits, visits with the [Veterans Affairs] but he is an on the ball man. Some of the things he’s been through in his lifetime, the fact he’s doing what he’s doing? Wow.”
This day in the AARC provided a one-on-one opportunity with his wife, Andee, to practice being a personal trainer.
“Come on, now, that’s two, just one more,” he encouraged as she rose from another squat. “Yes!”
His eyes lit up and he pumped his fist as she racked the weight after a final rep. Matching smiles flashed across their faces as Andee stepped away from the bar. It was an interesting dynamic for the pair: Reid spotting Andee and making sure she’s OK with the weight pressing down on her shoulders. The rest of their lives are the inverse, with Andee omnipresent as a wife and full-time caregiver making sure he’s emotionally, physically and mentally OK at any given moment.
These workouts are a crucial part of Reid staying OK; he learned a long time ago his well-being is impacted directly by his physical fitness. His PTSD symptoms, including hallucinations, haven’t necessarily improved since he returned from Afghanistan, but his ability to cope with them clearly has benefited from including physical activity in his day-to-day life.
“It has helped increase my overall view of life,” Reid said. “It doesn’t only improve my mental health but also, obviously, my physical health.”
Reid and Andee schedule every day in the summer around working out, and even during the busier school year not going to the gym is rare. Those exceptions come almost exclusively from times when Reid’s in particularly bad shape mentally; sometimes he just knows he needs to go home and rest, he said. Otherwise, the consistency of his dedication to staying physically active is simply a way of life, every day.
“Whenever you go down there you can’t help but be inspired,” said Bruininks, a former Division I athlete himself. “You can’t help but go, ‘Wow.’ He sees the influence of exercise, weight lifting, the benefits for him, and he’s found a great balance of competition, being a husband, professional and student.”
Sharing those benefits is incredibly important to Reid, and St. Thomas has proven to be the perfect practice grounds for doing just that. Along with stepping into a leadership role by planning and overseeing workouts with his teammates, Reid trained his diving coach, Mark Dusbabek, over several months and helped him drop 20 pounds.
“I had no idea what I was getting into last January when I said yes to [training with] him,” Dusbabek said. “But he does it right. He does it right by his teammates … and that’s the Marine in him.”
During his own workouts, Reid’s face and body transform: visible signals of the process he later describes as his mind concentrating on the task at hand and shutting down thoughts about anything else. Joy and physical exhaustion seem to go hand in hand as he works through his full routine and narrows in on the feeling of accomplishment that leaves him feeling good about himself.
Like almost every workout, this particular day he eventually strapped on a weighted vest to give his body that much more to handle. When that extra physical weight comes off, the extra emotional and mental weight of everything he deals with comes right in to replace it.
“There’s about two hours of the day dedicated to working out. Forty-five minutes for cardio and core, the rest for lifting,” he said. “That leaves about 22 hours to fill.”
Read more from St. Thomas magazine.
The University of St. Thomas’ School of Engineering will begin offering a civil engineering major in fall 2017.
Civil engineering will join mechanical, electrical and computer engineering as major options in the growing School of Engineering, which has grown by nearly 80 percent in credits generated over the last decade.
“The excitement from around the community, the data showing the need for this, mission fit, what students are saying – it all seems to be coming together and pointing in the right direction,” Dean Don Weinkauf said.
Center for Engineering Education Director Deb Besser helped lead a lengthy market and curriculum analysis over the last year-plus, which included developing the curriculum with advisement from a working group of professional engineers from government and private sectors. Weinkauf said meeting with regional CEOs helped solidify the idea that there is a large desire for civil engineering graduates with a St. Thomas education.
“We looked at the market, current degree production, and there’s a pretty good argument for opportunities for our students in the future,” he said, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show strong growth projections and a dearth of projected degrees compared to the number of jobs needed.
“There truly is a need for this,” Besser said.
Besser will join two newly hired faculty members as the program’s founding teaching core. Weinkauf said a huge benefit to expanding to include a civil engineering major is the strong overlap with the existing mechanical engineering curriculum, so – outside of a freshman survey course – the new curriculum isn’t that different until students reach the end of their sophomore year.
“There won’t be the extensive starting over because it’s so well coupled to mechanical,” Weinkauf said.
The new program will make St. Thomas the only private school in Minnesota offering a B.S. in civil engineering, and it will join Marquette University as the only other private school in the Midwest region.
“The brand that we offer will be pretty distinct in this market,” Weinkauf said. “And with mission fit, if you talk about what civil engineers do, they build the things that people touch and depend upon. What better degree is there for a university that is founded on the ability to impact society and improve the community? It’s right in the wheelhouse of our mission.”