Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring is time to look back and forward

March at Saint Mary’s University is a time to take stock of the academic year; reflect on the great number of achievements the year has brought and prepare for its fast-approaching close. Indeed April, dissected this year by a late Easter, is nearly all that remains of what has been another extraordinary year at Saint Mary’s. I am pleased share with you some of the stories of achievement and honor that I have observed this spring.

Outstanding Seniors are honored at Founders’ Day ceremony

Outstanding Seniors Amy Spitzmueller and Miles Dunna.

Saint Mary’s presented awards to two outstanding seniors at the Founders’ Day celebration today at the Winona campus. Outstanding Seniors are recognized for demonstrating the ideals of scholarship, character, leadership and service. Above all, these men and women show genuine concern for meeting the needs of others. Founders’ Day is a highpoint of the annual De La Salle Week activities. Each day’s events illustrate one of the themes of Lasallian education and they invite the community to learn, reflect, discuss and connect with others.

The Outstanding Female and Male Senior awards were presented to Amy Spitzmueller and Miles Dunna. Miles, the son of Wokie Dunna of Saint Paul, Minn., is a psychology major, and Amy, daughter of Kathy and Bill Spitzmueller of New Brighton, Minn., is a biology major. The other eight Outstanding Senior finalists included: Dylan Ethen, son of Todd and Lucinda Ethen of White Bear Lake, Minn.; Evan Shockley, son of Steve and Lisa Shockley of Omaha, Neb.; John Soucheray, son of John and Kate Soucheray of Woodbury, Minn.; Matthew Traxler, son of Tim and Jeanne Traxler of LeCenter, Minn.; Lisa Obasi, daughter of Queen and Cyprian Obasi of Woodbury, Minn.; Abigail Osborne, daughter of Roger and Pam Osborne of Winthrop, Minn.; Marilyn Yennie, daughter of Tom and Kim Yennie of Grand Meadow, Minn.; and Katherine Zuzek, daughter of Mark and Janet Zuzek of Hastings, Minn.

Celebration of Scholarship puts student research and talents on display

Saint Mary’s University will host the second annual Celebration of Scholarship on Friday, April 11 to highlight and celebrate the diverse talents and skills of SMU students across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines. The event is organized into four sessions; the first three will consist of various presentations or performances, followed by a poster presentation session. 
More than 130 students will present their work at locations around the Winona campus. Sessions run from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with a break from 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. for lunch and Mass. A reception at 4 p.m. will be followed by the Honors Convocation at 4:45 p.m. in Page Theatre. Parents are welcome to attend.

History and current issues come alive on pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Brendan Dolan, director of student life, with Saint Mary’s and Lewis students in Nazareth.

A group of seven Saint Mary’s students did something different with their holiday break — they joined two staff members to visit the Holy Land on a pilgrimage in collaboration with Lewis University. The two Lasallian universities organized the journey so that students could engage in spiritual development, academic discourse and interfaith dialogue in the home of the three Abrahamic religions.

This “place-based learning” involved visiting the historic cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth, Caesarea Maritima and sites along the Sea of Galilee. In the evenings, the students were joined by speakers from various political and religious organizations to discuss the present-day conflicts in the region of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

SOUL mission takes students to India

Eight of our students and Dr. Jeanne Minnerath gained new global perspective and insights into the international Lasallian world on a SOUL mission to India over the holiday break. SOUL – Serving Others United in Love – is a campus ministry program that offers students opportunities to learn, serve, reflect and get to know new places and diverse communities. One of the underlying goals of the India trip was to ignite a call for service leadership in participants as they begin to understand the experience of the poor and transform compassion into appropriate social action.

Past international SOUL trips have ventured to Guatemala and the Philippines. On this first trip to Southern India, the group did service work and interacted with students at the Christian Brothers-sponsored St. Pius X Boys Town trades school in Madurai. The Saint Mary’s group visited other schools and a farm administered by the Christian Brothers.

Christmas made brighter for local family by Living Learning Community

The freshman ArtsAlive! Living and Learning Community (LLC) made Christmas brighter for a local family of five girls and their mother. The ArtsAlive! students decided to use their class fund ($200) to support SMU’s Gifts for Winona program. They were paired as a sponsoring organization with a family of girls ranging in age from 3 to 18, and their mother.  The students divided themselves into groups and each shopped for their child, and the class enjoyed a wrapping session on study day before final exams.

The Saint Mary’s Gifts for Winona program accepts donations of money to purchase Christmas presents and food for more than 1,550 area individuals and families.

Living Learning Communities are groups of freshmen with shared interests, living together and participating in themed programs that combine outside-the-classroom academics with residence life activities. The other three LLCs at Saint Mary’s include Well Inc., Global Faith, and Wide World and Sports.

Chamber Singers premiere composition by music professor

Our Chamber Singers performed with the Twin Cities-based critically acclaimed choral ensemble “The Singers” on two pieces this winter, including the world premiere of a new work, “Nocte fletuum angelis” by music faculty member Dr. Patrick O’Shea. His choral composition commemorates the lives lost in the tragic school shooting in Connecticut.

Social justice conference delegates speak to national politicians

Sen. Michael Johanns, Ena Moats, Emily Weber and Chris McClead in Washington, D.C.

Our Lasallian Catholic heritage and mission is to prepare students for lives of service and leadership. Two undergraduates attended the Young Leaders Initiative at the 2014 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington D.C. Ena Moats and Emily Weber, along with Chris McClead, director of campus ministry, learned methods to bring social justice advocacy back to campus settings. The conference was focused on Pope Francis’s message of “A Church that is Poor and for the Poor.”

Catholics from across the country brought Catholic social principles to life as they went to meet with their political representatives. Our delegation met with Saint Mary’s alum, Sen. Michael Johanns ’71, Rep. Tim Walz, and the offices of Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. They spoke about the need to increase minimum wage, a desire for comprehensive immigration reform, an increase in foreign aid especially in Syria, peace talks in Iran, and the establishment of a two-state system between Israel and Palestine. The trip to Washington was supported by Student Senate, the Peace and Justice Club and the Office of Campus Ministry.

Students and business owner benefit from analysis class exercise

The “winning” team of Scott Zengri, Marissa Jacobs, Cody Sprague and Elizabeth Rodriguez with the salon owner and class instructor Michael Ratajczyk.

Students in the Information Systems for Business Intelligence class got some hands-on experience with small-business consulting, and in the process gave a local Winona business owner information and a tool she can use to grow her business. The “client” for the class project was the co-owner of the Hair Gallery salon in downtown Winona.

Four groups of students were given hand-written raw data about customer names, frequency of appointments, and services and products purchased at the salon. Their task was to customize a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for the business, and perform a business analysis to identify trends and opportunities for business growth. The salon owner was pleased to receive executive summaries of each report, and she will incorporate one of the CRM spreadsheets directly into her business management.

Psychology students present research at prestigious national conference

The quality of undergraduate research at Saint Mary’s University continues to attract national attention. Three students from a collaborative lab in the psychology department attended the annual conference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Austin, Texas. Danielle Pues, Rim Woldeslassie and Ryan Diak (shown above, left to right) presented research on the relationship between death anxiety and interpersonal attachment, from their paper titled “From Cradle to Grave: Does Mortality Salience Facilitate a Preference for Our Own Attachment Styles?”

The prestigious national conference typically invites only graduate students and professional psychologists to present their work. Those same individuals (and an additional student — Mandy Lindholm) will also present the research at the Minnesota State Capitol on April 8.

Students raise money for solar panels

Saint Mary’s students are hoping for a surge of supporters — and $20,000 — to help bring solar panels to the Winona campus. Organizer Conner Ellinghuysen says the addition of a 16.4-kilowatt system will reduce the university’s carbon footprint, save the university money, and provide educational experiences for students. The student-led fundraising initiative began with Student Senate members Reikel Biechler, Katie O’Leary, Peter Hegland and Ellinghuysen spending a year developing the idea and proposal.

The group is partnering with another organization called Minnesota Student Energy Project, which has agreed to fund two-thirds of the $60,000 project. That leaves a $20,000 fundraising goal. Ellinghuysen said the group would like to raise the money by the end of the school year, so the panels could be installed before school resumes next fall. For more information, you can e-mail Ellinghuysen at or check out the students’ fundraising website on Razoo:

Ski trails at Saint Mary’s benefit from community partnership

One of the region’s best ski trails has gotten even better, with new features that allow skiing in almost any condition except summer. The challenging 14.5 km Saint Mary’s trail system winds through the scenic bluffs and valleys on campus and alongside the Gilmore Creek trout stream.

The trail now boasts snowmaking equipment and trail lights, thanks to a partnership with the Winona Ski Club. Another recent addition is the Brother Jerome Rademacher Nordic Ski Center, a warming house and utility room built into the basement of the university’s newest dorm, Brother Leopold Hall.

Women’s basketball wins MIAC, makes NCAA tournament

There was quite a buzz around campus as the women’s basketball team completed a spectacular season. The Cardinals clinched the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship after posting a 21-2 regular season record. The women lost to Saint Thomas in the championship game of the MIAC tournament held before an enthusiastic crowd in Winona . . . but they still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. Their performance made us all proud before bowing to UW-Oshkosh in the regional semi-finals. The women finished with a school-record-tying overall record of 24-4.

Many Cardinals earned post-season honors, including Courtney Euerle, who was named MIAC player of the year and honorable mention All-American. Bridget Pethke was named first-team All-MIAC, and Coach Mandy Pearson earned a second-straight MIAC coach of the year honor.

Baseball team examines relationships with God, self and others on retreat

The baseball team and coaches spent three days on retreat in Watters Hall to examine more deeply their relationship with their God, self and others. The retreat was coordinated and facilitated by the Christian Brothers on campus, as well as Brother Armand Alcazar, a theologian from Lewis University near Chicago.

The retreat included presentations by Brother Armand, large- and small-group discussions, morning and evening prayer and reflections, journaling, meals in Watters Hall (and one at the Brothers’ residence), a film, a two-hour service project at the YMCA, and an affirmation service.

National recognition for student-athletes’ volunteer efforts

The “Strong Is The New Beautiful” 5K run/walk brought 600 people to campus to support Sabrina Bushlack (right).

The Saint Mary’s University athletic department learned that it was honored — twice — for its volunteer efforts during the previous academic year with National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA)/Jostens Community Service Awards.

To commit to these significant hours of community service — given the tremendous time constraints and busy lives of student-athletes — shows the well-rounded experience of our students and the true spirit of Division III athletics.

Saint Mary’s student-athletes donated over 3,000 hours of time to projects including — but not limited to — painting buildings, working with Winona area youth, Special Olympics young athletes program, Spruce Up Winona and Make a Difference Day. The awards program singled out the “Strong is the New Beautiful” 5K run/walk benefit to support senior volleyball player Sabrina Bushlack in her recovery from a car accident.