Feeding community activism
You’re invited to meet some outstanding representatives of the St. Cloud State University community who are reaching out and connecting through community service.
From the President
Celebrating student success, activism
The most vivid memories from my first year as president of St. Cloud State will undoubtedly include the celebrations of student success that occur every spring on our campus.
In April and May our calendar is filled with events that showcase student talent, reward student initiative and honor student achievement.
One of the most stunning of these memories is of the magnificent first local presentation of the Holocaust Oratorio, “To Be Certain of the Dawn.” This ambitious production of our student singers and musicians with their counterparts from Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict was a truly momentous concert.
Another outstanding memory is our Multicultural Student Services awards banquet, during which 74 individual awards were given out for student leadership and achievement. The mood was electric as enthusiastic students celebrated with pride in their academic and activist accomplishments.
Many of these students demonstrated concern this year for the well-being of their colleagues and their university as they got involved with issues surrounding swastika drawings and related incidents on campus. Many responded with positive action, organizing speak-outs and panel discussions and advising faculty
A number of our students have expressed feelings of fear and intimidation as a result of insensitive words and actions of others on campus and in the community. It’s not uncommon for students of color to encounter racist remarks or gestures as they pass others.
These incidents also point out the gap that exists between the targets of these degrading assaults and those who fail to understand their impact. Even though we’re all members of one community, we differ on how the campus should characterize these acts that threaten some among us more than others. For one, I do not think that we can ignore their significance.
During the last several months there has been considerable discussion of these issues, as well as about the university’s response to these troubling incidents. I believe that by listening to the voices of concerned students and openly discussing our options, we have chosen the right path between the rocks of too little and too much attention to the motives behind and the consequences of these actions.
Because our foremost concern is for our students and our responsibility to prepare them for the future, we will continue talking about these sensitive issues. We will not dismiss them by accepting the position of those who say, “Since I am not offended by these symbols, nobody should be offended.” When students question their personal security, their ability to focus and learn is hampered. Their insecurity strikes at the heart of what we are about as a place for teaching and learning.
We don’t claim to have all the answers at St. Cloud State University. We will keep questioning and examining possible solutions. It is not an easy path to take but, I believe, it is the right one.
As we celebrate the accomplishments of our students and the strength of community at the end of this successful academic year, we are reminded that
Non-discrimination efforts recognized
An initiative to provide a welcoming, non-discriminatory environment in Central Minnesota – Create CommUNITY – has been recognized for its ongoing efforts
A spokesperson for the institute said the St. Cloud program, one of four community-based non-discrimination efforts to receive recognition, was chosen as an example for the nation. “We picked St. Cloud because some of the lessons you’ve learned are ones we wanted others to be able to benefit from,” Anne Kubisch, co-director of the Aspen Institute Roundtable, told the St. Cloud Times when the recognition was announced.
Among other initiatives, Create CommUNITY has sponsored a series of interfaith discussions, offered cultural awareness education and developed diversity seminars. An example is the “Continuing the Conversation on Race” seminar held in St. Cloud last fall, an event that attracted more than 600 people.
Create CommUNITY was formed in 2003 as a broad-based collaborative of community organizations, including the mayor’s office and St. Cloud State, to work together to reduce racism in St. Cloud and the area.
St. Cloud State has received continued accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), maintaining the University’s accredited status as a member of the North Central Association.
The HLC said that the next comprehensive accreditation evaluation for St. Cloud State will be in 2016-17. As expected in response to such significant institutional changes as adding a doctoral program, the HLC will require a progress report regarding faculty work load and assessment of learning in the University’s new doctoral program in higher education administration in 2010. The HLC also pre-approved new courses and degree programs at off-campus sites in Minnesota as well as distance education degrees through MnOnline.
The reaccreditation followed more than two years of self-study by the University and a team visit from an HLC accreditation team in April 2007. The University was first accredited with membership in the North Central Association when it was still St. Cloud Normal School in 1915.
Since fall 2007, students at St. Cloud State have had access to U-Choose, an interactive presentation that helps them make informed choices about alcohol use. U-Choose presenters help students understand how high-risk drinking can lead to negative consequences, doing it in a way that is fun, interactive, positive and intellectually stimulating.
U-Choose (www.stcloudstate.edu/uchoose) has been very popular: more than 1,100 students have voluntarily signed up and participated.
The alcohol education and awareness program also has gotten the attention of Greek houses on campus and landlords with area rental properties. Delta Zeta sorority will require completion of the program for students who want to live in the sorority house, and other sororities and fraternities are considering the same requirement. St. Cloud rental property owner Patrick Mastey ’99 will be making U-Choose completion a requirement for renting a unit beginning this summer, a decision that will affect approximately 150 renters a year.
The Delta Zeta and landlord decisions led to extensive media coverage of U-Choose: in addition to newspaper, television and radio coverage in Minnesota, the story made the Feb. 21 online and print editions of USA Today.
Holocaust survivor story spread far and wide
A podcast series developed by student radio station KVSC 88.1 FM to tell a Holocaust survivor’s story in a way that fits the learning style of today’s students is now being used not only at St. Cloud State, but in classrooms in such locales as northern Alberta, Canada.
The podcasts share the story of Holocaust survivor Henry Oertelt’s journey from Berlin teenager during Hitler’s rise through his incarceration in five concentration camps and his eventual rescue by U.S. soldiers liberating Europe in 1945.
Now the series is being used to teach students at Fort McMurray Composite High School, where English teacher Krista Saunders’ ninth-grade students are studying Oertelt’s book, “An Unbroken Chain, My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust.”
This spring KVSC arranged to “bring” Oertelt himself to the Canadian classroom by way of a teleconference. The Holocaust survivor made a presentation to St. Cloud State students – that event was telecast to the Canadian ninth-graders, who then interacted with Oertelt during a Q&A. Find the podcasts at www.KVSC.org.
Regulatory affairs expert heading program
Charles “Chuck” Swanson, recognized worldwide as an expert in medical device regulatory affairs, has been named director of the St. Cloud State Master of Science in Regulatory Affairs and Services (MS-RAS) Program.
During nearly 30 years of leading regulatory affairs at Medtronic, Minneapolis, Minn., Swanson played an influential role in both the establishment of government policies in the area and many of the guidelines and procedures in use today by the Food and Drug Administration.
As director of St. Cloud State’s MS-RAS, he will chart the direction and continued evolution of the program, which was launched in September 2007. Along with developing and refining the curriculum, he will manage delivery of the program and with his reputation is expected to attract the best and brightest regulatory affairs professionals as adjunct instructors.
Classes in the master’s program continue to be held on nights and weekends at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.
St. Cloud State’s student newspaper, the University Chronicle, was honored with 14 college division awards during the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s annual convention in January. The newspaper took a first place in typography and design, an honorable mention for general excellence, and second-place honors for its editorial page, advertising excellence and use of photography.
Nine award winners are:
The University Chronicle, funded with student activity fees through Student Government, has been produced by students since 1924.
Musicians to premiere Holocaust oratorio in Europe
Choirs and orchestras from St. Cloud State, Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, the St. Cloud State-sponsored Cantabile Girls Choir and faculty soloists and instrumentalists will present the European premiere of “To Be Certain of the Dawn” to audiences in Germany, France and Switzerland during a cultural exchange tour May 20 to June 4.
The exchange, which will include a performance at Natzweiler-Struthof, a former Nazi concentration camp in France, is the result of collaboration by music departments at the three universities, the St. Cloud State Department of Jewish Studies and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education.
“To Be Certain of the Dawn,” by composer Stephen Paulus and librettist Michael Dennis Browne, was commissioned in 2001 by the Rev. Michael J. O’Connell of the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, to honor Holocaust victims as well as survivors and their descendants. The group that will be performing in Europe also presented the oratorio in two free concerts for the Central Minnesota community in April, when the Boys’ Choir from Saint John’s University joined them.
Performers on the exchange tour will participate in a curriculum guided by the St. Cloud State Department of Jewish Studies and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education that includes visits to churches, mosques, synagogues, museums, universities and the European Union Parliament.
St. Cloud State was well represented when the city of St. Cloud was honored during the presentation of the LivCom Awards in London last December. The city received a Gold award in “The Most Livable City” category as well as the “Planning for the Future” award. President Earl H. Potter III and his wife, Christine Marshall Potter; faculty professors Debra Leigh, Dick Andzenge and Howard Bohnen; and alumni Teresa Bohnen ’81 ’84, president of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, and Dave Kleis ’89, mayor of St. Cloud, were present for the celebration.
Assistant Professor of English Trista Baldwin, who joined St. Cloud State in 2007 to teach playwriting, is one of 12 members of the Workhaus Collective, founded to fully produce original plays under the artistic leadership of each playwright. The Workhaus Collective’s inaugural production was Baldwin’s “Doe,” which later went on to the Tokyo International Festival. Baldwin’s work has been produced by The Guthrie, Chicago Dramatists, Stark Raving Theatre, Urban Stages and other groups around the country; she wrote the award-winning “Patty Red Pants”; and she was commissioned by The Guthrie to create “Wade the Bird,” first read at the Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis. Her newest work is “Sand,” about three young American soldiers in the Middle East.
Professor of Economics Mary Edwards, director of the master’s program in applied economics, addresses economic cause and effect in a new college textbook published by Auerbach Publications. “Regional and Urban Economics and Economic Development: Theory and Methods” is designed to teach students how to analyze varying factors as they relate to the economic progress of a region or urban area. Contents range from measuring income inequality and “government hierarchies and local game playing” to assessing transportation congestion issues.
Professor Glen Palm, child and family studies, has been teaching parenting classes at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud since 1995. His goal is to help incarcerated fathers establish and maintain healthy relationships with their children. Fathers in the weekly classes discuss such topics as communicating with children from a distance. The men can also create DVDs of themselves reading a children’s book, which are sent to their children.
Professor of Art Bill Gorcica was chosen to design the 2009 Minnesota State Parks Annual Vehicle Permit, now on sale. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which awarded the project to Gorcica, expects approximately 300,000 vehicles will carry the permit in a year’s time. The four-color permit features Mille Lacs Kathio State Park on Mille Lacs Lake.
Gorcica, who has taught multimedia art and graphic design at St. Cloud State since 1996, also has received a Bush Foundation Visual Artist Fellowship in Three-dimensional Art and won a Fulbright Scholarship in painting and graphic arts that was used for a 10-month residency in Krakow, Poland. Find a portfolio of his artwork at www.billgorcica.com.
Professor Richard Hansen, director of bands, has been invited to present a document, “American Musical Culture in a High Tech Society: Advancements or Demise,” for the 20th anniversary Oxford University Round Table of Scholars July 23-28. He will join invited presidents, governors, education ministers, congressmen, businesspeople and scholars from around the world to dialogue on the topic of balancing science and technology culture with arts and humanities.
Hansen, who has taught at St. Cloud State since 1983, also conducts the SCSU Wind Ensemble, which is performing with the Michigan State University Wind Symphony on a CD, “American Connections,” to be released by the Innova label in June.
Sorority tops in service
Fraternity member named peer mentor
Senior Kyle Hartman, St. Cloud, was chosen to participate as a mentor in the national Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) Future Quest camp, a leadership development program for new fraternity members, in Brookston, Ind., in January.
Hartman was selected because of his experience as a leader in the St. Cloud State chapter, Theta Rho, of TKE. He has been chapter president, recruitment chairman and historian, was president of the St. Cloud State Greek Council and helped lead his chapter in successfully lobbying for creation of the Greek adviser/leadership director’s position in the St. Cloud State Center for Student Organizations and Leadership Development. Hartman is majoring in political science with a minor in public administration.
Peace begins with communication
During spring break Eddah Mutua-Kombo flew halfway across the world to deliver the same basic message in her native Kenya that she offers in her classroom and her community: Peace-building begins with communication.
Invited by the Commonwealth Secretariat communication and public affairs office, London, to address journalists and leaders in a country healing after a period of political crisis and violence, the St. Cloud State assistant professor of communication studies encouraged them to give greater voice to women, children and other traditionally disadvantaged groups. "Allow them to express their pain in their own language and terms," she told her audience. "Do not dehumanize them by ignoring them."
Mutua-Kombo believes individuals need to learn how to build trust in each other through interaction and to develop one-on-one friendships before they can create the kind of connections that make a difference in community, national and world relations. "It’s in the mind that we construct war, but it’s also in the mind that we construct peace," Mutua-Kombo said. Getting students to think about how they can help construct the ideals of peace is a powerful lesson she offers in a variety of ways.
For students in Mutua-Kombo’s intercultural communication classes, the Communicating Common Ground Program in local public high schools provides a unique opportunity to get personally involved in applying their teacher’s philosophy with a racially and culturally diverse group of local young people.
Mutua-Kombo developed the grant-supported program with St. Cloud school district administrators after hearing first-hand from her neighbors the challenges that immigrants face in the community. Worried parents are asking for help with children who are sometimes driven to anger and frustration by harassment and discrimination they experience in local schools, she said.
Participation in the program is giving Mutua-Kombo’s St. Cloud State students tremendous insight into the intercultural problems that exist in many Minnesota communities. Sitting down to converse with the diverse mix of young people is giving them the tools to understand and tackle these issues. "I didn’t realize there was this much conflict between cultures and ethnicities," said Nicole Lemmer, a sophomore communication studies major from Lindstrom, Minn. "I can tell we’re impacting the kids. They need someone to talk to about these problems."
During the series of six afterschool sessions aimed at fostering conversation and problem sharing, the Technical and Apollo high school students talk about barriers they encounter and the mocking and verbal abuse they experience from other students who lack understanding and sensitivity to people who look and dress differently from them. But this diverse group is clear about why they’ve come together.
"We’re here to share what we have in common," one said. "We’ve come so we can diminish racism and coexist although we have different backgrounds and opinions," said another.
"I try to teach them to be a little bit smarter," Mutua-Kombo said, "to try to work out a strategy for how to change things – to engage others more. If you
"She’s very, very committed," Lemmer said of Mutua-Kombo’s efforts to foster community and global intercultural communication through her teaching. "I’m learning so much. It’s made me stop and think before I say things – to be sure
Mutua-Kombo is not only a teacher and a mentor to the different communities she touches, she’s a role model. "Education will set you free" is advice she has lived.
"I tell my students I have to pinch myself that I’m a professor standing before students in the greatest nation in the world."
Her journey to St. Cloud State began humbly in rural Kenya. "Mother couldn’t afford to keep me and sent my sister and me to live with our grandfather," she said. "I walked barefooted the 10 kilometers to and from school and did homework by natural sunlight, as the single lamp was reserved for times when I would be preparing for national examinations."
"That background is in my mind all the time," said Mutua-Kombo, who studied hard and at 14 got into a missionary girls’ boarding school – a place with electricity and opportunity. "I did well and proceeded to go to national school where substantive academic preparation paved my way at the University of Nairobi. It was an exciting time – the ’80s movement for women’s rights, UN meeting in Nairobi, people fighting for an end to apartheid."
Mutua-Kombo, who went on to earn her master’s degree at the City University of London and doctorate at the University of Wales, thought about all the possibilities for what she could do with her education. But in the end she said she was honored, privileged and blessed to become what her grandfather always encouraged her to be – a teacher. A teacher whose message just might change the world.
What a garden can grow: Sociology and the Global Politics of Food
For Associate Professor Tracy Ore, food is far more than something to be consumed. In her teaching, she uses food as a main ingredient for enlightening students about global political, environmental and economic issues. In her community advocacy, she employs it as a significant tool for building community and sharing culture.
Through her "Sociology and the Global Politics of Food" course and its outgrowth, a community garden that’s building connections between campus and community, Tracy Ore helps students examine societal issues connected to the growing, production and distribution of food.
"Through food a lot of things can be seen," said senior Dawn Mikkelson, a sociology major from Shoreview who took Ore’s class. The course helps students explore a range of topics, including how globalization affects farming communities and how to make discerning food choices at the grocery store. "She makes you see food in a different light," Mikkelson said.
Ore helps her students apply something as common as food to issues as complex as politics and economics of society, said senior Deanna Tatro, Little Falls, who as a class project researched sugar cane – a food item she took for granted – and discovered how it affects the people who grow it and how political agendas affect its production. "Sociology classes always give me aha moments,
It’s important to Ore that her students understand where food comes from and how it’s connected to people’s surroundings and their health.
"We have problems with people getting access to food," she said, pointing out that for those without resources, food pantries are not a long-term solution. Some of her students have gotten involved in studying people’s accessibility to food in St. Cloud, including identifying pockets in the community where grocery stores and bus routes to food sources are not readily available. The project has produced a 30-page document that will be sent to city leaders, asking for an assessment of food accessibility in Central Minnesota.
Ore contends that when people have more connection with their food and understand where it comes from, it can change their relationship with food. She takes her students to a poultry processing plant and to the community garden on campus to expand their thinking about the sources of food.
As the driving force behind the successful community garden on Fifth Avenue, north of the St. Cloud State Women’s Center, Ore has given faculty and staff, students and neighbors a way to come together and connect as they plant, nurture and share food and flowers. Volunteer gardeners get down and dirty as they till and weed and harvest, but they also have fun sharing summer cookouts and taking home fresh-picked produce.
Creating a sustainable garden on a piece of land on campus that for years had been just a place to dump snow has been a learning experience. It also has been an enjoyable journey for Ore and her fellow gardeners, including Assistant Professor of English Catherine Fox, who has been a faithful volunteer from the beginning, and "garden ambassador" Holly Santiago, a university videographer.
Three years ago when she first put a shovel into the ground of the garden, Ore hit rock-hard soil one inch down. "You couldn’t find a worm," she said. But with the right planning and care, the spot that Ore calls a "perfect location right there on the front door of the campus" has flourished.
"The garden is my connection to the University," said St. Cloud resident Chris Kerr, who has been involved with the community garden for three years. "It brings all kinds of people with similar interests together," he said. "It transcends race, generations." When Ore mentioned it would be nice to have a compost bin, he responded by building one for the garden and turning it into a fun project for a group of willing volunteers.
"Everybody’s equal in the garden," said Ore, who has become a student of every aspect of producing, preserving and using food. "I got into it more as a way of meeting people. It’s been pretty amazing how people have come together to plant things and to grow not just food, but to grow community."
Through the garden and through her teaching, Ore spreads awareness and understanding about investing in the earth and investing in people, about preserving the environment and preserving community.
"Any class with her is just amazing," Tatro said of Ore’s ability to relate the common threads in sociology. "Family, money, food – it’s all related."
At his personal best
Two years ago Husky hockey forward and three-time All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association Academic Team designee Marty Mjelleli dropped by a practice session of the St. Cloud Slapshots adapted floor hockey team. He was hooked – in a good way.
"At the end of the game one of the kids leaned over and asked if I would be back tomorrow," said Mjelleli, who had visited because two of his Husky teammates were helping to coach the Minnesota High School League team of cognitively impaired seventh-through-twelfth graders. "I thought, I can’t lie to him, and it’s nice to be wanted. Next thing I know I’m going every day to practice."
As a volunteer assistant coach, he joined the Slapshots as they experienced the disappointments and joys of two full seasons, including the celebration of a 2007 Minnesota High School League championship.
For Mjelleli, a spring graduate from Faribault and the son of teachers, the community service habit was instilled early. Volunteering was a given at home and mandatory at his high school, Shattuck St. Mary’s. He considers it a way to thank the people who’ve mentored him. "I’ve been blessed with good teachers, good coaches and good parents," he said. "I want to carry the torch, … make the circle complete."
And so he has. Mjelleli was honored as a finalist this year for two coveted national awards – the National Collegiate Athletic Association Hockey Humanitarian Award and Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. When he volunteers, he doesn’t just show up. "I love hands-on experiences," Mjelleli said. "I like to be involved." And while he admits sneaking in a little ESPN at lunchtime, his schedule keeps him running.
The dedicated athlete and student with a double major in marketing and communication studies has done a variety of service projects with kids, including volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, St. Cloud’s Great River Regional Library reading program, and Goodwill and Clothes for the Blind. As vice president of the Student Athlete Advisor Council, he participated in food drives for local organizations.
But it’s his work with the Slapshots that has been a significant commitment and most rewarding experience for Mjelleli, who plans to return to St. Cloud State to earn his MBA after pursuing post-graduate hockey opportunities. For the past two years, from November to March, he worked with the team four days a week for hour-and-a-half practices, plus games and post-season tournaments.
"These kids really look up to Marty," said Therese Todd, who works in the National Hockey Center office and whose son Patrick is a veteran six-year Slapshot player named to the Wells Fargo All-Conference team last year. "They follow the Huskies as much as the Huskies follow them. It’s really something for them to have a REAL hockey player show them what to do. The kids just idolize him."
"Marty’s contribution has been tremendous," said Todd, who has been the conduit for connecting Husky players with Slapshots. "He’s coach, mentor and a role model – whether he’s helping them put on their helmets or showing them moves."
The Adapted Athletics Program is part of the Minnesota State High School League and includes teams of high school students who are either physically or cognitively impaired. "Being part of the Slapshots is more than a varsity sport for the players," according to Todd, who credits Mjelleli and former Husky teammates Grant Clafton ’08 and Andrew Gordon ’07, Washington, D.C., with making a tremendous impact on their lives.
"A lot of these kids don’t have a lot of other opportunities for friendship and bonding," said Todd. "You put them together, and they become a team. Sometimes they get to stay overnight in a hotel, go out for pizza with the team – the same things other kids their age get to do."
Mjelleli, who well understands the significance of such bonding, works with other high school students at summer hockey camps to earn income. But the Slapshots are special.
"Many people think I’m teaching them, but in actuality they’re teaching me," he said. "I’m learning how to conduct myself in front of a team. I’m learning patience. This is a perfect avenue for exploring coaching … the experience is really rewarding."
Build your resume. Serve your community. Learn conflict resolution skills. Problem solve. Practice team building. Learn leadership skills.
All are good reasons for students to sign up for one of the trips the University’s Volunteer Connection office offers as an alternative to the beach trips many choose for their annual one-week spring semester break. But there’s an even better reason, according to Tim Sahli, who was one of two student leaders for this year’s volunteer service trip to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Lame Deer, Mont.
"Instead of sitting on a beach drinking a Corona," said the junior Spanish education major from Sartell, "I wanted to do something that was meaningful." That was Sahli’s motivation in 2007, when he took his first trip to Lame Deer to work with young people. The experience was so worthwhile, in fact, that this year he applied to be one of two student leaders for the trip – the only way to be certain he could participate a second time.
Alternative spring break trips are so popular with St. Cloud State students that there’s a competitive application process and first-timers are typically given priority, according to Jim Knutson-Kolodzne, staff trip advisor for the last two years and director of the American Indian Center on campus. "They want as many students as possible to get this opportunity," Sahli said of the Volunteer Connection interest in bringing a new group of students to Lame Deer every year. This year 10 students, including Sahli, had that opportunity.
The group’s assignment was straightforward: participate in activities such as crafts, games and sports with children in grades one to six and join high school students for open gym nights, all at the community center. "We’re not going out there to save anyone or change their lives," Sahli said before the trip. "We’re just going to help the community."
Sahli and his classmates came away with more than team building, problem solving and leadership skills. "These are some pretty awesome kids," Sahli said of the youngsters he’s met during two trips. "They’re really loving, they’re thankful for what they have, they appreciate what comes into their lives."
Each time the visitors returned to the community center, Sahli said, "You could see the kids’ faces light up … they really tried to get to know us, they asked if they could stay later, they wanted us to hang out with them."
The children also taught the college students the difference giving of one’s time and attention can make: "Most of the kids don’t have all the opportunities someone in St. Cloud would have – so when we do what we think is simple, it means a lot to them," Sahli said. "You realize that even small things can be a big deal."
Sahli said he and his classmates are in complete agreement on what they didn’t like about the week: "The hardest part was seeing the injustice" in the lack of opportunities available, the financial, political and institutional limitations put on children on the reservation, Sahli explained for the group. "That really bummed us out." That’s part of the learning experience, said Knutson-Kolodzne. "It’s a culture shock," a shock that left the St. Cloud State students with a better understanding of the meaning of "white privilege" – and a desire to continue to explore diversity and confront inequity.
Giving freely, freely giving
"Don’t do it because you think it would look good on your resume," said Gina Palmer, a senior special education major from Coon Rapids, Minn. "Do it because you want to. Do it because you want to do something good for someone else."
Service by St. Cloud State students may total as much as a million hours in a year, according to Beth Knutson-Kolodzne, coordinator of Volunteer Connection. That estimate is extrapolated from a 2006 SCSU Survey of 502 randomly selected students who reported averaging five hours of volunteering or service-learning work per month. Volunteer Connection supports and promotes volunteering and academic service-learning on campus.
Palmer, a 22-year-old senior, dug lawn irrigation trenches for Habitat for Humanity. She worked Hurricane Katrina relief in Mississippi during 2007 spring break. She mentored disabled 18- to 21-year-olds participating in the Community Options 2 collaborative between St. Cloud State and the St. Cloud school district. She works with disabled teenagers at Technical High School in St. Cloud.
"I absolutely love it," Palmer said of her service in Rodney Schindele’s special education classroom at Technical High. Palmer is a member of the campus chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), a professional organization that promotes the advancement and education of children with special needs. Palmer and two or three CEC colleagues volunteer at Technical High on alternate Wednesdays. The after-school visits are largely social, with plenty of visiting, snacking and card playing. But the high school students also ask questions about life at college and living away from home, Palmer said.
Jason Finstad, a senior marketing major from Richfield, says volunteering offers a means of getting out into the community.
"I like building relationships with people in the community," said Finstad, 22. Last fall Finstad joined Into the Streets, Volunteer Connection’s 115-student service blitz at four St. Cloud locations. Shovel in hand, water bottles tucked into the rear pockets of his jeans, Finstad dug lawn irrigation trenches in a Habitat for Humanity twin homes neighborhood in south St. Cloud. His goal this summer is to volunteer with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, he said.
Knutson-Kolodzne notes that improved campus-community relations are a key part of President Earl H. Potter III’s vision for St. Cloud State. Few things, she adds, can bridge the town-and-gown divide and enhance the University’s standing in the region better than community service.
Coach, athletes flood ravaged community with donations
The storms and floods that ravaged southeastern Minnesota in August 2007 hit close to home for St. Cloud State University softball coach Paula U’Ren, whose parents have lived in the hard-hit town of Rushford since 1995.
“The entire area where my parents live was hit very hard by the floods, and there was a great need for basic resources to make it through a very tough time,” U’Ren said.
In an effort to help the cause in southeastern Minnesota, U’Ren was the driving force behind a St. Cloud State drive to collect household and personal supplies to assist victims of the August floods. In addition, school supplies were collected for the area’s children since many would soon be starting the new academic year without the basics for those first days of school.
U’Ren and members of her softball team collected supplies at a Huskies home volleyball game and donations at a Husky football game.
The two donation events helped generate two truckloads of supplies that included a wide range of items such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, paper towels, school supplies and cash donations. The St. Cloud State athletic department also donated a supply of fleece Husky sweatshirts for flood victims.
U’Ren then drove the supplies to Rochester, where she met up with her father to transfer the supplies. She was unable to drive directly to Rushford since access to the town was still closed due to flood damage. U’Ren’s father brought the supplies to St. Joseph’s Church in Rushford, which served as a Red Cross distribution point.
“I was very impressed by the outpouring of support and donations from St. Cloud State and the community,” U’Ren said. “Athletic administrators and staff and our student-athletes were very willing to help and were so supportive of this cause.
“St. Cloud State really reached out to a community in need, and helped them make it through a tough time. I know the people down in the Rushford area really appreciated the help and assistance as they worked to rebuild.”
U’Ren will begin her 11th season at St. Cloud State in 2008. Her squads have compiled an overall record of 400-178 since 1998 and have captured three NCC titles during that time. A six-time National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament qualifier, U’Ren’s 2004 squad placed third in the nation at the Division II championships.
Professor's passion fuels adapted aquatics program
It’s a passion that has led to tears of joy for many parents and guardians and great satisfaction over the years for Professor Ruth Nearing. That passion is the St. Cloud State adapted aquatics program that Nearing has directed since she arrived on campus in 1970.
It started in the Veterans Administration Hospital pool as a Red Cross program and evolved into annual swimming lessons at Halenbeck Pool as part of the Developmental Adapted Physical Education (DAPE) licensure program in the SCSU Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Sports Science.
Nearing has been the driving force in a program that has assisted hundreds, even thousands (once you consider the ripple effect of those licensed in DAPE) of young people with disabilities. Last summer, more than 90 children signed up for swimming lessons but there was room for only 45. The reason: the pool can safely hold a limited number of participants and there have to be enough St. Cloud State students and volunteers to assist the swimmers. The program teaches swimming to children 3-14 years of age.
In order to offer the swimming classes, Nearing has a group of volunteers, many who come back year after year, and St. Cloud State students who are enrolled in the adapted aquatics course to help her each summer. The children come for eight sessions that run 45 minutes each. They are assigned instructors according to their swimming ability and, in some cases, their disabilities. Some can be taught in small groups and some need one-on-one or two-on-one assistance.
Children with disabilities, like other children, may push themselves and some are very competitive. Nearing tells the story of one young boy, Riley Johnson of Waite Park, who was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that occurs at birth and causes multiple joint contractures or immovable joints. When he came to adapted aquatics last summer, the young man’s goal for the eight swimming sessions was to be able to swim one length of the pool by himself despite having limited leg movement. He reached his goal the first day. "Later, we put fins on him and every day he would swim a few more laps," said Nearing. By the time the swimming sessions ended, he could swim ten lengths without stopping and turn at the ends of the pool without any help. "Now, there’s a young man whose self-determination allowed him to be successful," said Nearing. "How he swam made no difference – the bottom line was that he was successful and that’s what it’s all about."
St. Cloud State students who take the adapted aquatics course as part of their DAPE teaching licensure also benefit by teaching the children. "Unless you apply the book knowledge learned, unless you get your hands wet, so to speak, and work with children with disabilities, connections are not made," Nearing said. "Prior to taking the course, many of the college students have never interacted with a person with a disability; their first instinct is fear and they tend to be timid. Finally, they realize that these young people are just like those of us without significant disabilities, with the same needs and desires. That’s the point at which they relax and begin to treat the young swimmers like they would anyone else."
According to Nearing there probably isn’t another program in the Upper Midwest like this one. The adapted aquatics summer program is a win-win situation for the children with disabilities, for SCSU students, for the University and for the St. Cloud community. St. Cloud State and the community also benefit because it’s an opportunity to see, respect and accept children with disabilities.
Nearing said she finds a great deal of joy in working with children with disabilities. "This is absolutely my favorite thing to do," she said. "You do the smallest thing for them and they and their parents and guardians are so thankful. I guess it has to do with the bodies in which we live versus the personality and spirit of the person," said Nearing. "There is a personality in each child, regardless of ability, that a lot of people don’t see. I get to see those little personalities, and that is the fun part of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better job!"
St. Cloud State students, faculty, staff and alumni are making a difference around the world
St. Cloud State students, faculty, staff and alumni are making a difference around the world, giving of their time, expertise and resources to improve the lives of others.
Stories of Campus Life
The big chill: Geologist serves science and students
It’s Sunday morning and Kate Pound is kneeling on the ice at the west end of Big Lake.
She and her crew need to pull a second sediment core from the bottom of this Sherburne County lake and then Pound is off to pull sediment core samples from Crooked Lake in neighboring Anoka County.
This is life at a dead run for a Minnesotan just returned from Antarctica. This is life for a scientist dedicated to helping the world understand climate change from a geologic perspective. This is life for an educator committed to sharing her knowledge with students and teachers at a dozen Minnesota and Wisconsin schools.
Pound, an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, is expert at analyzing sediment on ocean and lake floors. Her 2007 work in Antarctica included curating samples of a 3,734 foot long sediment core from the floor of McMurdo Sound. The samples are being analyzed by scientists worldwide.
Sediment cores retrieved from Minnesota and Wisconsin lake floors in 2008 will be studied by K-12 students, as well as by students in Pound’s college geology courses. They’ll also be stored in a national repository at the University of Minnesota’s Limnological Research Center.
“We’re deducing a history of climate change as it’s recorded in Antarctica,” Pound said of her work for the 80-member ANDRILL (ANtarctic geological DRILLing) team. “We’re using all the tools in the geoscientist’s toolkit.”
The tools include radiometric dating, fossil study, sediment description and magnetic character analysis. Scientists will compare their findings to seafloor samples from more frequently drilled areas near the Equator. The result will be a better understanding of the world’s evolving climate, going back tens of millions of years, Pound said.
Closer to home, Pound is sharing her knowledge of sedimentology and stratigraphy with teachers such as Adam Pelot ’05, a geology and astronomy teacher at Big Lake High School in Big Lake. Pelot will use cores collected Feb. 24 from Big Lake in his two geology classes. Students will discuss why the core collected from beneath 6.3 feet of water holds coarse sediment, while the core collected from 14.8 feet is finer grained and more silty. The students will search the shallow sample for evidence of agriculture. That portion of the lake was a hay field during dry years, according to Pelot.
The biology teacher down the hall from Pelot will have his students search the samples for small crustaceans called copepods and microscopic creatures called diatoms. The samples will be shared with classes at Big Lake’s middle school, too.
“It’s going to have a huge, huge impact, not only on my classroom, but, I would venture to say, on the whole school district,” Pelot said.
Mike Steiner’s students pulled a five-foot core from Lake Chetek and a similar-sized core from Bass Lake Feb. 19. The Chetek, Wis., science teacher and his middle school students hope to date sediment layers in the Lake Chetek sample by pinpointing the effects of an 1863 dam on the Chetek River.
“I’m pretty excited and the kids are excited to get the samples,” said Steiner.
Serving the world’s scientists with seafloor samples from the Southern Ocean. Helping students in Minnesota and Wisconsin learn about limnology, the study of lakes. Not bad for a professor teaching a full course load at Minnesota’s second-largest university.
Co-teaching a best practice
More than 25,000 Central Minnesota students in 17 schools have been touched by an innovative co-teaching model developed by the St. Cloud State College of Education. Now in its fifth year, the program has received the Best Practice Award in Support of Teacher Education Quality and Accountability from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
The co-teaching program pairs classroom teachers with St. Cloud State teacher candidates to collaboratively plan, organize, deliver and assess instruction in the classroom. “The needs of today’s children are so great,” professor and program director Nancy Bacharach has said, “that it doesn’t make sense to have either the classroom teacher or the teacher candidate sitting in the background when both can be helping children.”
Research indicates that the co-teaching model has a statistically significant positive effect on reading and math scores along with significant decreases in unexcused absences and classroom disruptions.
Students teaching in China, Africa
Seniors Raunn Finley, of San Antonio, Texas, and Elizabeth Loch, Big Lake, who are majoring in special education, are student teaching this spring on the other side of the world. The two are spending March and April at Shanghai Special Education Consulting School in Shanghai, working with students in grades K-6.
The program is one of several clinical experiences developed by the St. Cloud State College of Education as a cost-effective way to prepare students to teach young people in a global world.
As the result of similar partnerships, elementary and secondary education majors will be able to teach in Beijing, China; child and family studies majors will be able to teach in a bilingual early childhood program in Xi’an, China; and all education majors will be able to student teach in South Africa.
Volunteer Connection at St. Cloud State, in partnership with St. Cloud school district, will be building bridges thanks to a $20,000 grant awarded by the state-funded Post-Secondary Service-Learning and Campus-Community Collaboration Grant Program.
“Building Bridges: Campus-Community Connections” will facilitate service-learning partnerships between the University and St. Cloud school district. Initiatives may include St. Cloud State students serving as reading tutors and mentors for students, helping staff coordinate an employment skills seminar for English language learners in grades 10-12, and serving as co-educators in new kindergarten Spanish and Chinese immersion programs. An additional outcome will be fostering college aspirations among local students.
Providing access, opportunity
St. Cloud State will create one of three Minnesota centers dedicated to improving high school graduation and college participation rates among students of color and other underrepresented groups after winning a competitive grant from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
The University will receive $2.2 million over two years for a center designed to improve high school graduation rates among underrepresented students in grades 8-12 in the St. Cloud school district. St. Cloud State also will partner with St. Cloud Technical College to help students assess their academic skills and plan educational paths to careers.
Historically, underrepresented students have had significantly lower high school graduation rates than white and Asian students. In 2006, for example, high school graduation rates for Minnesota’s American Indian, black and Hispanic students were 19-29 percentage points lower than for whites and Asians, according to the Minnesota State Department of Education. The underrepresented groups also have significantly lower rates of college participation.
The initiative augments existing St. Cloud State programs that have led to seven years of steady growth in the number of students of color at the University, where they represent 7.6 percent of the student body.
Narrowing the culture gap
It’s easy to understand why Valeria Silva ’90 ’91 and Armando Camacho ’97 have been rapidly rising stars in the highly diverse constellation of St. Paul’s public school district. They’re smart, passionate role models for a multicultural student population they connect with very well.
Neither Silva nor Camacho knew English when they arrived in Minnesota in the early 1980s. Each has vivid memories of flying into America on a frigid December day – she from Chile at age 24 and he from Puerto Rico at age 6. Both ended up at St. Cloud State University, graduated summa cum laude and quickly found their niche in Twin Cities education circles – effectively teaching, leading and reforming achievement rates for immigrant and special needs students.
“They have an aligned vision for what’s important for our district,” said St. Paul Superintendent Meria Carstarphen of Silva and Camacho. “It’s an extraordinarily diverse community, serving a population of more than 70 percent students of color. We’re fortunate to have people working for the district who look like them and can talk to them about their culture and relate to them,” adding, “With Valeria and Armando, we believe we just scored.”
No wonder. Because of Silvia’s work, St. Paul is a district nationally recognized as closing the gap for English language learners, Carstarphen said. “More than 40 percent of our students come to us without English at home, and she’s helped us cut through the barriers of culture and language.”
As assistant director of Alternative Learning Programs, Camacho has lead St. Paul’s new Gordon Parks alternative high school and six other alternative offerings, plus extended day and summer school programs. He was recruited last year from the Minneapolis school district, where he did what, according to Carstarphen, is “the toughest thing to do – reform an entire school.” He gained national attention as principal of Whittier International Elementary School in Minneapolis, a job he took in 1999 at age 29. In November a case study was published by him and Stanford University educator Angela Eilers called, “School Culture Change in the Making … Leadership Factors that Matter.”
Whittier, which had been put on academic watch under the terms of the No Child Left Behind Act, was turned around under Camacho’s leadership, growing from 280 to 500 students and dramatically improving their performance. “I’m very proud of what we did,” he said.
Coming back to St. Paul in a leadership capacity was the fulfillment of a dream for Camacho. It was there that his life in America began. He remembers coming from Puerto Rico with the grandparents who raised him to their new home in West St. Paul. When he looked out the window as the plane landed and saw snow for the first time, he said, “I thought it was salt.”
Camacho attended West Side schools until junior high, when his grandparents took him back to Puerto Rico. At 15 he returned to visit his St. Paul friends and made the decision to stay in Minnesota on his own, supporting himself and living with the families of his friends. “I kind of went from house to house those four years, and sometimes I was homeless.” He credits those families with being the mentors and educators he needed to help him learn American culture and take advantage of what the schools had to offer academically and socially.
Camacho started college and played football at the University of St. Thomas, but after two years he had developed a desire to go into special education after working at a group home to earn his living. Visiting faculty and advisors at St. Cloud State helped him decide he could make it by living in St. Paul public housing and filling in some of his classes at Twin Cities community colleges and the University of Minnesota. “I found my professors at St. Cloud State to be very knowledgeable, caring and understanding,” he said. “They were very accommodating, and they did a wonderful job preparing us to succeed. The program was rigorous but very practical.”
One of Camacho’s most influential faculty mentors was Special Education Professor Mary Beth Noll. “I remember him as being not only very personable, but very goal oriented, bright and motivated,” she said. “It was a joy to have him in the classroom, to recommend him for a scholarship and to see him go on to make a difference in the field of education.”
Making a difference is what drives both Camacho and Silva, a leader who this year earned the coveted honor of a Broad Foundation Fellowship for training urban school superintendents. Only four percent of those who applied were chosen for the academy, which includes 10 months of weekend training at sites across the country. The 2008 class includes 12 prominent education, military and government leaders – including a former U.S. congressman – from around the United States.
“I hope to see her as a superintendent,” said Carstarphen, who nominated Silva for the fellowship. “She has really put St. Paul on the map, and we’re already thinking about future leadership roles.”
Silva was already a teacher when she came to Minnesota from Santiago, Chile. Her sister was at St. Cloud State on a six-month faculty exchange to work on
Working at a Sartell nursing home she learned English language and culture from the residents, including a couple of retired elementary school teachers. “They were very good teachers.”
Silva entered St. Cloud State to earn her teacher licensure and the 90 credits to complete a bachelor of elective studies degree, which she did in 1990. “I was one of the few international students at that time to come with a degree from another country,” she said. But the team formed by the international students helped open her mind in new ways. “I totally learned how to appreciate other cultures. St. Cloud State gave me confidence.”
Learning in a new country wasn’t without frustrating situations and challenges. Not having the knowledge of culture and language that American students take for granted can be a detriment to learning. “For example, what does ‘raining cats and dogs’ mean to someone just learning English?” she said.
Her experiences as an international student gave her the perspective to empathize with immigrant students in St. Paul. “I see the world differently because I’ve experienced these situations,” she said.
Both Silva and Camacho understand the importance of helping students from all cultures retain their pride in where they came from and who they are. “Our society is changing,” Silva said. “We need to take our roots but also welcome another world when we go to a new country.”
Just as these two leading Minnesota educators have seized opportunities and worked hard to invest in accomplishing their own goals, they know the responsibility they have for helping
St. Paul students succeed. “We get one shot with every kid to engage them in school,” Silva said. “We need leaders prepared to do the work that affects directly the life and possibilities of a student. We’ve got to do it well. There’s no option of failure.”
“This is not a job … it’s a passion and a lifestyle,” Silva said. “I never forget I’m a role model.”
“It’s nice when someone stands in front of a classroom and says they didn’t always speak English, when as an immigrant student you can see someone who looks like you and knows your culture,” Camacho said. “There’s a lot of power to that.”
Editor’s note: Armando Camacho begins a new position as president of Neighborhood House, St. Paul, May 19.
Anonymous generosity, easily identified benefits
An anonymous pledge and subsequent gifts have brought the Centennial Hall fund-raising campaign to near conclusion. St. Cloud State is within a few thousands dollars from raising the final $360,000 which qualifies then for a $250,000 challenge grant from an alumnus of the University, according to Eric Kautzman, associate vice president for development.
The two amounts would complete the need for private gift support of $2.2 million for renovation of the former library, Kautzman said. The State of Minnesota is funding the balance of the $15.2 million project.
Centennial Hall houses the G.R. Herberger College of Business and academic student services such as the Advising Center, Career Services, Student Disability Services, Honors Program and the Multicultural Academic Center. An expanded Husky Bookstore occupies nearly half the first floor. The philosophy department and the Center for Information Systems, an administrative department, are on third floor.
Renovation of the five-floor building was completed this spring. Already the massive, etched-glass entryways to office suites and two-screen smart classrooms are drawing rave reviews. The east conference room on fourth floor is one of the spaces improved by larger windows. Conferees enjoy a sweeping vista of east campus, including an eye-level view of the cupola atop historic Lawrence Hall.
“I’ve given tours of Centennial Hall to many business and community leaders,” said Diana Lawson, dean of the college of business. “They have all been impressed with the corporate-style atmosphere created by the renovations.”
The Foundation supports St. Cloud State by gathering gifts that ignite student learning and discovery. View a photo slide show about the renovated Centennial Hall at www.stcloudstate.edu/foundation. You can make an online contribution at the same site, or contact Terri Mische at 320-308-6675.
Donations fund Delta Sigma Pi space
Delta Sigma Pi has raised its profile as it raised money for renovation of Centennial Hall.
Alumni and student members of the business fraternity have collected more than $100,000 in donations, pledges and corporate matches so that Room 301 in the five-floor building can be named the Delta Sigma Pi Room.
“This room will recognize the fraternity as an organization of prominence, the premier business fraternity at St. Cloud State,” said Brian Johnson ’79, who leads the fundraising effort. Johnson credits the fraternity with helping him through the University’s demanding accounting program.
Johnson and other alumni, including members of the 1970 pledge class that founded the chapter, spawned the room idea. “It’s a challenge to get current students into a professional organization because students are so busy these days,” said Bruce Busta ’79, accounting professor and Delta Sigma Pi faculty member. “This will give the chapter visibility and help the chapter recruit.”
Student leaders have discussed creating a display in the room that would describe the purpose and history of the fraternity, according to Cory Stopka, from Andover, president of the 40-member chapter. Stopka, a junior majoring in business management and marketing, hopes to organize a room grand opening.
Arizona luncheon with president Potter
Above: St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III addresses alumni and friends at Cowboy Ciao in downtown Scottsdale on Feb. 16.
Left:Michael Levenhagen ’04, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Erin Ouren ’03, Scottsdale, Ariz., attend their first St. Cloud State Alumni Association event.
SCSU Alumni Mentoring Program winter event
Ryan ’03 and Rob Weber made a presentation at the St. Cloud State Alumni Mentoring Program winter event. The brothers were student entrepreneurs who started a company, W3i, out of their dorm rooms that has grown to $27 million in sales, focusing on Internet and mobile media solutions.
Colorado Huskies Alumni events
Aaron Rothfolk ’03, Houston, Texas, celebrates his prize win, a
Alumni class notes
McKnight Award winner
Instructor, mechanic, author
Bronze Star recipient
Phy ed teacher of the year
Warm memories spark property gift
With that extraordinary recall actors are known for, R. Keith Michael and Marion Michael spin story after story about the wonderful years they taught at St. Cloud State.
So warm are their memories, that the retired Indiana University theater professors are endowing a St. Cloud State theater scholarship. The Bloomington, Ind., couple has given the University an acre of lake property southeast of St. Cloud. Valued at about $185,000, the 500 feet of shoreline on Pickeral Lake will be sold to fund a single, annual scholarship, according to R. Keith.
“Acting students are like wine. You have good years and mediocre years,” said R. Keith.
“We had 10 years of terrific students at St. Cloud.” The Michaels recall the period 1960-71 as collegial and supportive. “The entire university was like a great family,” said Marion. “It was a wonderful place for the two of us to start.”
The Michaels decided to make their mark quickly, helping found the summer theater program at Lake L’Homme Dieu near Alexandria. Begun in 1961, the Theatre L’Homme Dieu continues today as a partnership between St. Cloud State and Alexandria theater supporters.
Among the most memorable experiences at St. Cloud State was a 1964 USO tour of military bases in Germany. R. Keith and students staged the Adler and Ross musical “The Pajama Game” for homesick, nervous soldiers stationed on the front lines of the Cold War.
Six years later the Michaels were providing outside-the-classroom support to students troubled by American military involvement in Southeast Asia.
“It was a really hard time,” said Marion. “Our kids were usually pretty liberal and they wanted to march. We did an awful lot of counseling and talking with the kids.”
In 1971, R. Keith was offered the chair of a new department of theatre and drama at the Indiana University in Bloomington.
Among the pearls of wisdom gathered during a half century in the theater is one shared by a Stewart Hall maintenance worker. “You measure a show’s success by the number of programs on the floor of the auditorium,” recalled R. Keith. “If they like the show, they’ll take the program home with them.”
Giving the gift of real estate
When you give property held for more than a year, you obtain an income tax charitable deduction equal to the property’s full fair market value. The deduction reduces the cost of making the gift and frees cash that would otherwise be used to pay taxes.
By donating the property to St. Cloud State, you also avoid capital gains tax on its appreciation. The transfer is not subject to the gift tax and the gift reduces your taxable estate.
Example: Mary gives the Foundation a vacation cottage she no longer uses. It originally cost $50,000 but is now worth $150,000. She gets a $150,000 charitable deduction, which represents a tax savings of $42,000 in her 28 percent tax bracket, and she completely avoids tax on the $100,000 of appreciation.
Learn more at www.stcloudstate.edu/foundation, or contact Eric Kautzman, associate vice president for development, at 320-308-4998.