Putting Our Words On Trial: Study Abroad, Language, and Social Change
Charlotte is a Senior History major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a particular interest in issues of national identity, racism, and conflict through a cultural historical lens. Charlotte is fascinated not only with studying human actions and motivations over time, but also how those experiences are represented and contested within a historical discourse. Her time spent abroad in Thailand, Namibia and Norway have prompted her to think deeply about the power of these discourses and how they manifest on an everyday level. Given these preoccupations, her STO Talk will explore the language of social change, with a focus on how students discuss intercultural interactions experienced abroad.
Nuanced Living in a Wold of Binaries
Dan and Kristen have been good friends since they met on their first day at St. Olaf. The assumed contradictions between their religious, political, and personal identities force them to consider daily the effects of binary categories and develop methods for confronting them. Cultivating varied interests in social justice, four-square, handbells, creative writing, and Jewish hip-hop, they obviously exist outside the binary of pretty darn cool and profoundly dorky. Dan’s studies in English Education, and Kristen’s majors in Sociology/Anthropology and Religion have cued them in to the widespread prevalence of binary categorization within a range of societal realms. Their STO Talk will explore the dehumanizing nature of binary categorization in our everyday lives and challenge us to adopt a more nuanced worldview in order to deconstruct these binaries.
Escaping the Script
Sean Gilbertson is a junior Math Education and Theater major at St. Olaf. He began improvising five years ago at The Brave New Workshop in his native Minneapolis. Sean is intrigued with the routines upon which people so heavily rely in their daily lives. He attempts to break away from these patterns with the principles he has learned in improvisation and his STO Talk will challenge us to do the same. He claims that only by breaking out of our scripted lives can we fully engage with those around us and develop intimate and consequential relationships. Improvisation theory can introduce us to preliminary steps toward meaningful interactions with others at St. Olaf and in the world.
From Destructive to Constructive: Lessons from Atrocities
Sudip Bhandari, a CIS (self-designed) Public Health major, founded The Anne Frank Project in his native Nepal. The project is an initiative to teach middle and high school students about the atrocities of the Holocaust through the inspirations of Anne Frank. For the last two summers, he has traveled to five districts in Nepal, reaching out to more than 5,000 students, established a peace library, and lobbied for amendments in school curriculum to include the lessons of the Holocaust and Anne Frank, topics that are currently missing in Nepalese textbooks. Through the project, Sudip hopes to instill a message of hope, mutual respect, and tolerance among Nepal’s youth. His STO Talk will propose the idea that in historical discourse, we ought to make the conscious decision to focus on positive, rather than negative, aspects of an individual event.
Programming: Off the Pedestal and Into the Classroom
Eileen King has deeply enjoyed exploring her passion for the intersection of people and language, both human and machine, through her computer science major, linguistics concentration, and ESL teaching licensure. After student teaching in Minneapolis/St. Paul next fall, she will teach special education for two years in her native Chicago through Teach For America. Eileen’s STO Talk will discuss the gap between technology-heavy jobs and the lack of an educated workforce to fill them. She advocates integrating high-quality and innovative technology instruction into K-12 curriculum through already existing programs targeted at children. In her STO Talk, Eileen will discuss the importance of this idea for the future of the United States as an economy and as a community.
The Perks of Being a Bystander
Kris Thalhammer researches, teaches, and writes about human rights with a focus on understanding efforts to resist injustice. She earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1995 and has conducted research on political tolerance and resistance to injustice in the United States, Argentina, and Colombia. She is the coauthor of the book Courageous Injustice: The Power of Ordinary People and numerous articles and book chapters. Kris’ STO Talk will draw upon examples of people who chose to take action in the face of injustice in order to help us critically examine our own role as bystanders. Her STO Talk will challenge us to harness our inherent power and capacities to challenge injustice and be more effective voices for what we value.
Fear the Fembot?: Feminisms, Rhetoric, and Technology
Becca Richards is a rhetorician and composition specialist, whose academic focuses include: transnational and feminist rhetorics, professional writing, political rhetoric, multimodal writing, cyberliteracies, writing program administration and assessment, gender studies, and critical pedagogies. Becca’s work appears in scholarly journals like Feminist Teacher and Feminist Formations, scholarly collections like Political Women, and textbooks like Writing Public Lives. Before teaching at St. Olaf, Becca was a K-12 teacher, a freelance writer, and a children’s book editor. In her STO Talk, Becca will investigate women’s lack of participation in, and objectification through, technology and computer culture and demonstrate how feminist movements can reclaim cyber space through the creation of a cyborg, or an ironic fembot. This playful, technologized hybrid creature is an agent of social change, working to end sexist oppression.
Paul Jackson ’92
Inspirations and Innovations in the Backyard
An environmental scientist and chemist, Paul enjoys engaging fellow citizens in topics related to surface water quality, ecosystem functions, green chemistry, and progress toward a more sustainable future. He conducts local watershed assessments in partnership with Olaf students, local government, NGOs and citizen volunteers. Paul directs the Environmental Science in Australia program and chairs the Environmental Studies Department. In his STO Talk, Paul asks us to get inspired by nature, and see ourselves as part of a globally interconnected “backyard.” Paul will challenge us to see what innovative and actionable ideas might arise from paying attention to, and participating in, our local and global backyards.
Circadian photoreceptors, Light Pollution, and the Diminishing Power of the Dark Side
As a neuroscientist, Jay studies the function and development of neural circuits in the vertebrate retina. Since coming to St. Olaf in 2009, his work has focused on the retinal neurons that regulate circadian rhythms. Humans, as the vast majority of organisms, evolved to function in a world that alternates between bright days and dark nights. Now, 135 years after the commercialization of the light bulb, humans have largely destroyed a critical element of their own habitat: the night. In his STO Talk, Jay will review our current understanding of how humans, and other animals, sense environmental light levels to control their circadian rhythms. He will share scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of light at night to humans and challenge us to reduce light pollution.
Dr. Henry Emmons
The Science of Hope
Henry Emmons is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and Buddhist teachings, and compassion into his clinical work. Henry developed the Resilience Training Program, which is currently offered at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. This holistic program focuses on the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of mental health and teaches people suffering from depression and anxiety to draw on their natural capacity for resilience through changes in diet, positive thinking, and mindfulness. This unique program is based upon the ideas developed in his books, The Chemistry of Joy and The Chemistry of Calm, and has helped many restore balance, foster meaningful relationships, and rediscover joy in their lives. Using story, metaphor, poetry and recent findings in neuroscience, Henry’s STO Talk will elaborate on the scientific basis of hope for the millions of people who suffer from common emotional issues like depression and anxiety.
Rethinking Democratic Citizenship
Michael Fuerstein’s research focuses on the relationship between political institutions and the institutions that produce socially vital knowledge (i.e. scientific institutions). He studies how societies can gain the knowledge required to govern justly and effectively, and how this bears on our responsibilities within a democratic system. Michael’s work has appeared in scholarly venues such as The Journal of Political Philosophy and Episteme, as well as public ones such as The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Michael’s STO Talk will examine what it means to be a good democratic citizen in the United States. The common definition of a “good citizen” is one who is well versed in current events and can rattle off the Bill of Rights; but this citizen fails to fully address the great moral questions we confront as a democratic community, such as environmental degradation or crushing health care costs. Michael claims that we must embrace an idea of citizenship as democratic empathy, in which we recognize and seek to understand those experiences, beliefs, and identities different from our own. He will challenge us to leave our social comfort zone and challenge our public institutions to do the same.
Magdalena Wells ‘08
College Material: Changing How We Think About Access and Success
After graduating from St. Olaf with majors in History and American Studies, Magdalena taught middle school math in Kansas City through Teach for America. Working in this high-stakes environment schooled her in the urgent need for sustainable solutions to educational inequity. Now, Magdalena works for College Possible, a college access and success program for low- income students, as a High School Program Manager.
Today, family income is a primary determinant of college success; this is both unjust and unnecessary. Informed by her experiences in the classroom and at College Possible, Magdalena believes that in order to change this we need to challenge our societal aversion to help and support. In her STO Talk, she urges us to foster a more active and collaborative approach to college access, one in which getting into college, graduating, and using a college degree are understood as both an individual and communal responsibility.
Timothy Thompson ‘72
Lessons from 30 years of social justice advocacy
With over 30 years of experience practicing public interest law, Tim Thompson has worked in as Twin Cities, as well as Washington State, to increase access to affordable housing for low-income families, families of color, and tenant and community organizations. In the 1990s, Tim led a class action lawsuit that resulted in sweeping changes to housing in the metro area, with millions of federal dollars going to eradicate discrimination in low-income housing. Tim now serves as the President of the Housing Preservation Project (HPP), a St. Paul-based public interest law firm focused on preserving and expanding the supply of affordable housing both in Minnesota and across the country. Tim works in conjunction with local governments and the Metropolitan Council to expand the affordable housing supply and thus increase access to opportunity. In his STO Talk, Tim will draw on his expertise to share what he has learned about effective advocacy and how to maintain optimism through setbacks and slow change.
Nathan Dungan ‘87
Owning Your Money Narrative
Nathan Dungan is the founder and president of Share Save Spend®. For over 20 years, Nathan has been an industry leader in helping individuals and families align their values with their money decisions. He is also the author of three books including Money Sanity Solutions: Linking Money + Meaning. Nathan has been widely quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Business Week and has been a featured guest on public radio’s Marketplace Money and Speaking of Faith. In his STO Talk, Nathan will explore the effects of the constant barrage of advertisements and marketing messages on the Millennial Generation and their money habits. He will shed light on the effects of consumer culture on your financial health and offer pragmatic ideas for taking control of your money narrative. He reminds us that our spending power can yield positive benefits not only for ourselves, but for the community at large.
Ward Sutton ’89
I Fear Your Success
Ward Sutton is a cartoonist and illustrator whose work appears in many books and publications including The New Yorker, New York, GQ, The Onion, Mad and, The Village Voice. He has designed posters for Beck, Pearl Jam and Phish, John Leguizamo’s Freak on Broadway, and the Sundance Film Festival. Ward has created animation for HBO, VH-1, and Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert quips, “Ward Sutton’s satire doesn’t just bite, it maims. He’s the perfect cartoonist for our discordant times.”
Ward’s STO Talk will challenge the way our culture and society views success. There is enormous pressure to rapidly move forward, to compete and succeed, a pace of life that is only accelerated by new technology. Drawing from his professional and personal experience, Ward will remind us that we have the power to redefine success for ourselves, to live in an intentional, thoughtful, and balanced way that places professional achievement alongside meaningful personal relationships. He suggests that this balance may be the best chance we have to trigger social change.