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put their

to work

During a study abroad excursion to the Australian Outback, Tara Kranz ’12 captured the student experience of a dramatic sunset while riding camels at Cable Beach. Students at the College of Saint Benedict and John’s University study abroad in 17 semester-long programs in 14 countries, as well as short-term and service learning overseas trips. CSB and SJU ranked No.1 nationally among baccalaureate institutions with students who participate in mid-length study abroad programs, according to the Institute of International Education.

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2 Student initiatives 6 Student research 8 Global initiatives 12 Service learning 16 Internships 20 Benedictine Service Corps 22 Head of the class 26 Three questions 28 Inside the classroom

Saint Benedict’s/Saint John’s Magazine is published in the spring by CSB/SJU Communication & Marketing Services EDITOR: Glenda Isaacs Burgeson, ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Mike Killeen DESIGNERS: Karen Hoffbeck, Greg Becker EDITORIAL TEAM: Michael Hemmesch, Diane Hageman, Barbara Hein STUDENT EDITORIAL TEAM: Ben Besasie ’12, Melissa DeOrio ’14, Elizabeth Leipholtz ’15, Adam Tucker ’14, Brian Waldron ’15, Jillian Yanish ’13


By Mike Killeen

photo: Dawid Chabowski

action photos by Brace Hemmelgarn

Along the


Student photographer turns pro

Brace Hemmelgarn in action

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer tags out Kansas City Royals infielder Alberto Callaspo at home plate April 16, 2010, at Target Field.

Find a sports event in the area, and you’ll likely find Brace Hemmelgarn. He’s on the sidelines with football coach John Gagliardi and basketball coach Jim Smith at Saint John’s University athletic events. He covered Brett Favre’s last touchdown pass. But you may have trouble identifying the SJU senior at your favorite athletic event. That’s what happens when you have a camera in front of your face. Hemmelgarn has compiled an impressive portfolio in three short years as a professional sports photographer. His pictures have appeared in the 2011 Super Bowl program, magazines like Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, newspapers such as USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, on a Topps 2010 baseball card and websites like, and Yahoo! Sports. He’s worked as a part-time photographer for the Minnesota Twins, and with Icon Sports Media and US Presswire, two photography wire services which deliver digital photos to newspapers, magazines, websites and television stations. Not bad for a 22-year-old communication major who has “never taken a class or anything (in photography). I’ve taught myself everything,” Hemmelgarn says. “It happened very fast. I wasn’t expecting it.” 2


Back up just a bit. Hemmelgarn’s father, Michael, took pictures of young Brace and his brother, Brett, while they were growing up playing sports. “That’s where I kind of got interested in photography,” Hemmelgarn says. In 2006, Hemmelgarn first “dabbled” with a camera, sneaking down to the lower-level seats to take photos at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. One year later, he did the same thing — one day after Hemmelgarn scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning for the St. Cloud Cathedral High School baseball team in the state Class 2A championship game at St. Cloud’s Dick Putz Field. “My dad was standing above the dugout at Putz, and got a picture of me sliding into home as my teammates are running toward home plate (to celebrate),” Hemmelgarn says. “It was a sweet photo, and that picture got me even more interested.” Hemmelgarn started at SJU in the summer of 2008 and soon went to work as a graphic designer in the Institutional Advancement office. His supervisor was John Biasi, a gifted photographer in his own right. “He was my mentor not only in graphic design, but in photography as well. He helped me with everything,” Hemmelgarn recalls. Toward the end of his first year at SJU, Hemmelgarn says he noticed himself taking a bigger liking to photography. “Early on, I was shooting for fun. But I really started getting into it a lot more. I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere big with (playing) sports, and I knew that photography was something to help me get into sports and keep me in the game. I just continued to grow and didn’t stop working,” Hemmelgarn says. Hemmelgarn has built his impressive portfolio through networking. “I started with St. Cloud State University hockey and worked my way up,” Hemmelgarn says. “I emailed the (University of Minnesota) photographer and introduced myself. His niece goes to the College of Saint Benedict. He let me shoot voluntarily for the Gopher football team for its first season (at TCF Bank Stadium). Through that, I met other photographers at games. “Building a reputation is probably the biggest thing in the photo world, because that’s how I got my Twins’ job. I met the Twins’ photographer, met the media relations people and asked a couple of questions. They emailed me and … asked if I would be interested.” He was — with the camera firmly planted in front of his face.

Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts outfielder Marcus Brisker makes a leaping catch at the wall against the Clinton LumberKings in 2009 in Clinton, Iowa. The Lugnuts are a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Saint John’s University forward Aaron Burtzel puts up a shot against the University of St. Thomas Feb. 19, 2011, at Sexton Arena. 3



photo: Adam Konczewski


Bernard Ferguson

By Adam Tucker ’14

Students develop original programming for campus television channel


Long after the last period of the day, all the classrooms are dark, except one. In that room, hands shoot up from among the dozens of students of every age and major, yet there is no professor to call upon them. Students scribble diagrams and ideas on the chalkboard, while others sit in the far corners content to watch the action. What appears to be an eccentric study group or chaotic social event is actually a meeting of the many minds behind Project Eight, a new student group working to reinvent the campus television channel at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. “Our group goal is to have a full-fledged student channel,” Project Eight founder and SJU sophomore Bernard Ferguson says. “We are able to shoot things that are at the quality of other shows you see on television right now.” Ferguson is an employee of CSB/SJU Media Services, which has allowed the group to take control of video content for the channel that previously had no student input. The group lacks no enthusiasm for ideas or membership, as dozens of student volunteers regularly attend the meetings. “I think that everyone at CSB/SJU is very open to trying new things, which is why I wasn’t afraid to start this group,” Ferguson says. The group gathers during the evenings in classrooms to plan and write scripts for shows, film episodes, and discuss new ideas. The collaborative group has almost no leadership or formal structure — a unique design that its founder hopes will be its biggest strength. “My hope is to have people realize how easy and feasible it is to do a television show,” Ferguson says. “There’s nothing we can’t do, and the limits are endless.” “This is just a bunch of students who

think it’s fun to do all this,” said Marie Nilles-Melchert, a CSB first-year chemistry major and actor on one of Project Eight’s shows. “It’s really fun and a great stressreliever outside of schoolwork.” While the ranks of Project Eight may seem to be bursting at the seams, current members encourage other students to consider joining. Currently working out of a storage room in the Art Center at SJU, the group eventually hopes to obtain a studio in which to film news broadcasts and regular programming. Group members hope the excitement present in the design and creation of the content of Project Eight translates into viewer excitement as their shows debut on the channel. The planned shows include news broadcasts, student-hosted talk shows, and a campus-based version of the popular NBC sitcom “The Office” that is still in production. “I would love to have the whole campus tuned in when the content starts to air,” Ferguson says. “I want multiple shows that have everyone buzzing.” At a typical meeting, students volunteer to perform every function from actor to writer — often working late past the meeting hours before reluctantly parting ways. “People should start watching our channel because it’s your fellow students on television, acting out a script that was written by fellow students, and being acted out by other fellow students,” Ferguson says. For SJU sophomore and actor Will Van De Crommert, Project Eight’s interdisciplinary character is part of its appeal. “This (Project Eight) is something I always wanted to exist at CSB/SJU,” he says. “No matter what your interests are, know that you can dabble when you come to Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s.”

The screenshot sequence above is from a Project Eight ad comparing the merits of a chicken basket versus a cheeseburger at a campus dining hall. In the screenshot sequence at left, a student mugs for the camera in a Project Eight promotion.


STUDENT research

A Major with Distinction Innovative nursing program pairs students with older adults

by Diane Hageman

Their faces beamed when their favorite nursing student walked in the door. Norman and Julia Blasius of Richmond, Minn., couldn’t wait to get the latest update on Katy Torchia’s races as a member of the College of Saint Benedict cross-country team. The CSB senior has been paired with the Blasiuses for a year, thanks to an innovative program in the CSB/SJU nursing department called “Distinction in the Major – Gerontology.” “It’s definitely safe to say that this program is unique in the state of Minnesota and very likely unique in the nation,” says Christine Mueller, professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota and chair of the Adult and Gerontological Health Cooperative Unit Long-term Care. The main goal of the program is to provide extended clinical time for nursing students to learn about real-life experiences of aging directly from older adults. While Torchia doesn’t provide hands-on health care, she does conduct research on health-related questions that the Blasiuses may have. She has helped them to develop a family tree of health patterns and conducted a home safety assessment. Yet, the biggest benefit that both the Blasiuses and Torchia see is the socialization aspect. “I felt real at home with her right away,” Norman says. “It’s really meant a lot to have her company. She likes to hang around with us, and it makes a big difference.” Julia agrees. “We’re grateful to have the time with her.” Norman, who worked for Cold Spring Granite for 42 years, suffered a stroke a few years back, and Julia has had a hip replaced so they don’t go “out and about” on their own very often. Torchia has taken them on several field trips including attending Mass at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, followed by brunch at the Gorecki Dining and Conference Center at CSB, as well as a visit to the woodshop at Saint John’s Abbey. “They really liked being around the younger people at brunch,

and, since woodworking has been Norman’s hobby, he absolutely loved the tour of the woodshop,” Torchia says. When Torchia does spend time with the Blasiuses at their home, they catch up on each other’s lives. They also talk about any health issues they’re experiencing and then plan activities they’d like to do. For Torchia, it’s a way to observe how they interact and the caregiving that goes on between them. “It’s been important for me to see how a change in one person’s life can really affect the other partner,” says Torchia, a native of Rochester, Minn. “I see how they’ve adapted and made changes.” The program is the brainchild of nursing faculty members Denise Meijer and Kathy Twohy, who both received the Outstanding Faculty Learning About Geriatrics (FLAG) Award in 2010 from the Minnesota Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing for their efforts with the program. “The program is a model that can be used by other colleges and universities. It’s something that can be done more easily at smaller liberal arts colleges than at large public universities like the U,” Mueller says. “It’s really a unique way to hold up to students the specialness of geriatric nursing.” It was developed in response to a growing need to provide opportunities for nursing majors to be involved with older adults. The program started in 2010 with an inaugural group of four students, including Torchia. Students are paired in their junior year with a senior couple living in a community setting. They report back to their professors on their experiences with their clients through written reflections and monthly meetings. In addition, they are required to write a thesis with a focus on gerontological research. Once the students complete four semesters of clinical experience and write the thesis, they will graduate with a “Distinction in the Major – Gerontology.”


STUDENT research

During home visits, Torchia and the Blasiuses catch up on each other’s lives.

photo: Paul Middlestaedt


Global Initiatives

S 8

ark Student calls research ‘an experience of a lifetime’ Some people would shy away from the idea of baiting sharks. Nick Zweber jumped at the research opportunity. The SJU senior took the initiative to secure a research internship at Oceans Research in Mossel Bay, South Africa, before beginning his study abroad program in South Africa last spring. Already enrolled in the study abroad program for the spring semester, Zweber arrived early to gain a valuable biology research experience as an undergraduate. As part of a research team, he conducted photo identification to establish and monitor the population and abundance of great white sharks in Mossel Bay. “My favorite experience was being on bait rope and seeing two great white sharks breach out of the water,” Zweber says. “Seeing these powerful predators come flying out of the water and attack the bait was an experience of a lifetime.” Zweber has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to go back to South Africa to conduct his own project on the impact of shark cage diving on great white shark behavior.

Global Initiatives


By Ben Besasie ’12

While conducting research, Zweber (wearing black shirt) got to see the great white sharks up close and personal.


Global Initiatives

“I do hope that everyone will have awareness because this is a global community.” – Clement Dai

Global Initiatives

Connecting the Dots Saint John’s senior builds East-West ties By Glenda Isaacs Burgeson and Melissa DeOrio ’14

photo: Adam Konczewski

To understand global citizenship is to know Clement Dai. The Saint John’s senior from Shanghai, China, defies easy stereotypes. An economics major, his favorite class was in philosophy. A self-described atheist when he arrived at SJU in 2008, he now describes himself as spiritual. Educated through his first year of college in Mainland China and later Hong Kong — with its rigorous emphases on science and math — he has embraced the liberal arts educational experience at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. He credits a variety of influential people in his life — his father, mentors, professors and Benedictine monks. He also finds life lessons from books and from highly successful individuals, like Steve Jobs. One of his mentors, Richard Bohr, CSB/SJU professor of history and director of Asian Studies, calls him both a leader and a visionary. “He is one of those indispensable bridge builders,” Bohr says, referring to Dai’s understanding of both the West and the East. Through that understanding, Dai has developed a growing network of students across campuses in Minnesota who share a commitment in building positive ties between the United States and China. The network began in 2009 with the

Minnesota – China Business Opportunity Conference (MCBOC). Dai organized the conference to focus on understanding and maintaining ties between the United States and China. MCBOC completed its second conference last fall at SJU and is now established on four other private college campuses in Minnesota: Carleton College, Macalester College, Gustavus Adolphus College and St. Olaf College. These chapters will take turns hosting the conference in future years. Dai hopes the conference will build awareness about the importance of the relationship between the United States and China. “I don’t expect that they will necessarily work with Chinese relations or even go to China,” Dai says. “But I do hope that everyone will have awareness because this is a global community.” As one example of global connections, Dai points out the important trade links between Minnesota and China. “Minnesota alone accounts for one third of the trade that happens between the U.S. and China as a whole.” MCBOC inspired Saint John’s junior management major Josh Smith to get involved after attending the first conference. “Before MCBOC 2010, I had no interest in China. I went to the conference because I was interested in business,” Smith says. “But fast forward a year, and now I’m applying for internships in Hong Kong for


summer (2012) because I realized what an important relationship this is.” Dai had never considered studying in the United States, until his first year in college in Hong Kong, when he read a book, “Stepping to Harvard,” about the American Dream, an idea not well understood in China. The book made such an impression, he decided to apply to American universities. His search of top 100 liberal arts colleges friendly to international students led him to CSB and SJU. The liberal arts education at CSB and SJU has exposed Dai to many areas of study that he would not have encountered in China. His favorite class was Philosophy of Human Nature with the Rev. Rene McGraw, OSB. He also enjoys taking piano lessons from Professor Wim Ibes. He was named a Brandl Scholar, which provided him with leadership opportunities, and he has served on the SJU Senate. Looking back on his journey from China to CSB and SJU, Dai says that “everything is connected,” a concept he borrowed from Jobs. Dai finds inspiration in that idea, because it helps him make sense of his past and prepare for his future. To explain, he says the quote by Jobs “really encouraged me because he said ‘Looking forward, there are no dots being connected with each other, but looking back every dot is connected within each other.’ ”



Finding Purpose

Student finds rewarding work with ex-convicts By Elizabeth Leipholtz ’15 photos: Paul Middlestaedt



On a brisk Friday afternoon, men line up to receive their dinner amid the aroma of freshly cooked potatoes while Christian music plays in the background. College of Saint Benedict senior Merideth Erusha exchanges banter and easy laughter with each of the men. Erusha volunteers her time at the Dream Center in St. Cloud, Minn., a nondenominational Christian facility that works to provide emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual support to men recently out of prison and on parole. Erusha began volunteering at the Dream Center in January 2011 as a service learning project for a course called Mediation and Conflict Resolution. She was trained how to interact with the men through a video made by the pastor at the center. After she fulfilled her required hours, she continued working over the summer. During fall semester 2011, she enrolled in another course, Criminology and Corrections, which required 20-40 service hours. By the semester’s end, Erusha had dedicated over 70 service hours. “Service learning students often build very strong relationships with the people they are serving with,” says Marah Jacobson-Schulte, service learning coordinator at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. “We have had students start with a service learning course and continue to volunteer after the semester, intern at the site, or even become employed. Many students find that they themselves are the ones who benefit from the service.” That was the case for Erusha.

Merideth Erusha at the Dream Center

“I’m researching about 80 counties in Minnesota to find housing, education and Social Security, basically anything that would be needed when someone gets out of prison,” she says. During her time at the Dream Center, Erusha quickly eased into a comfortable routine. “I’ve never, ever felt unsafe there,” she says. “I promised myself I would never ask these men why they are there because the reason why was never the point. These men are here because they want to move past their history and reach acceptance without knowledge of their pasts.” Although Erusha kept her promise to herself, there were still instances in which men would approach and confide in her. “There was one man who was very tough, tattooed and not personable,” she says. “One day he asked if he could talk to me. We spoke in Spanish and ended up talking for over three hours about his history with gangs and schizophrenia.” This was Erusha’s first in-depth conversation with any of the men. She left feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle all of the information she had been given, but was able to discuss it with her classmates and professor the following week. “That first conversation has stuck with me, and I will never forget that man,” Erusha says. “Since then, I have learned how to deal with that type of information, but it never gets any easier for me to hear.” Erusha will graduate in May as a peace studies major and Hispanic studies minor. She hopes to move to Chile and pursue a career in social work, continuing to work with ex-convicts and anyone else who may need assistance. “If I’ve taken anything away from my service learning experience, it’s that we need to take the time to listen and give people a chance,” Erusha says. “We never know who can teach us something valuable. Everyone has something to offer, whether it be to you, society or the world.”

“If I’ve taken anything away from my service learning experience, it’s that we need to take the time to listen and give people a chance.” “I went there thinking I didn’t have preconceived notions, but realized I did,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot about how ‘real’ these men are. A lot of them are felons and are thought of as big and frightening, and they have a tendency to be ignored when they really don’t need to be. They are regular people.” The Criminology and Corrections course has proven especially helpful for Erusha when spending her time at the Dream Center. “In class we talked about theories behind criminal behavior,” she says. “After talking about it, I could see aspects of different theories in the men by the way they talk about their lives. I use my experiences at the Dream Center in class, and my class experiences at the Dream Center. It goes both ways.” When Erusha began volunteering, she answered phones and assisted with meals and cleaning. She gradually progressed and spent time socializing and helping the men set a plan of action for their lives. She also became involved in the Greater Minnesota Reentry Coalition project.


‘Teachable moments’

photo: Adam Konczewski


Katie Ergen

Service work helps student relate to classroom learning By Brian Waldron ’15

Classroom learning helps students prepare for real-world experiences. CSB senior Katie Ergen combines the two. The psychology major brings real-world examples from her service work as a youth counselor back to Professor Sheila Nelson’s Criminology and Corrections class for discussion. Her counseling work meets the service learning requirement for the course. Service learning allows students the opportunity to apply skills learned in class to help others in the real world. Ergen’s experience takes place at St. Cloud Children’s Home in Cottage 2, a secure, co-ed residential treatment center. The nine students there ranging in age from 13 to 17 have behavioral issues that have gotten them in trouble with the law. As a counselor, Ergen works with these students on Wednesday evenings and receives additional training throughout the week. Her goal is to help the students deal with their behavioral and emotional issues to prepare them for healthy and productive lives. “I hope to be a good counselor and available for all of the students,” Ergen says. “It is important to find teachable moments with both my actions and my behavior that the students can benefit from.” Her work has its challenges, and Ergen welcomes them, she says. “It is a learning experience every day. It is a challenge seeing the students come from very difficult and diverse backgrounds. The opportunity to help them is why I chose this project.” Ergen has observed a common element in the lives of the students — lack of structure. The students come from homes that did

not stress the importance of organization and focus. Simple things such as sitting down for dinner can be a challenge. Ergen views the challenges she encounters as an opportunity to grow and learn, and she sees connections between what she learns in class with her service experience. For example, students in her class read a book by Elliott Currie titled “The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence” that discusses an attitude of carelessness prevalent among today’s youth. Ergen observes that attitude firsthand at the children’s home and shares her observations with her classmates. “You can read as many textbooks as you want, but until you relate those experiences to the real world, you can never really grow and improve as a student.”



The Right Fit

Internships help students chart career paths Intern conducts energy study for Mille Lacs Band By Diane Hageman There was lots of lively discussion in the room — just as CSB junior Mary Wood had hoped. Wood, an environmental studies and psychology major from Rochester, Minn., was presenting her carbon footprint research findings to a group of community leaders of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians at their government center in Vineland near Onamia, Minn.

Mary Wood with tribal leaders Andy Boyd (left) and Scott Hansen

As she gave her presentation, questions and comments focused on what more they can do for the future and how they can improve their data collection processes. Wood worked on the study while interning in the CSB sustainability office during fall semester 2011. Judy Purman, CSB director of sustainability, had worked previously with the Mille Lacs Band and approached band leaders about the possibility of a student developing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for them. “This is a great example of the type of community partnerships


we want to develop through our office,” she says. One of the main learning goals of Wood’s internship was to “gain a greater understanding of the work world in regard to sustainability and how to apply my course work to the working world.” “As we were discussing my findings during the presentation, I thought to myself, ‘I am learning so much. This is so real,’” she says. “It made me realize how important and how powerful it is to do a project like this.” For the project, Wood completed a greenhouse gas emission limited inventory (carbon footprint) of six tribal government buildings in District 1 (Vineland area) including a community center, assisted living facility, the main government center, a clinic, an upper school (grades 5-12) and lower school (K-grade 4). With assistance from several members of the Mille Lacs Band leadership, Wood was able to gather data on demographics, building square footage, heating oil and natural gas, refrigerants, electricity consumption, fertilizer, solid waste and waste water. The final report documented the methodology used to determine the footprint as well as an analysis of the data for the calendar years 2005 and 2010. Overall, the carbon footprint decreased 115.5 metric tons (mtons) CO2℮ (carbon dioxide equivalent) over the six years. The decreases were seen in the areas of heating oil/natural gas usage and solid waste. Band leaders speculated that new, more energy efficient cooling systems, light bulb changes, the addition of light sensors and more insulation contributed to the drop. The band members were happy to give Wood some handson experience. “How else can she grow as an individual than to give her real-life experience?” says Scott Hansen, environmental programs manager in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of the Mille Lacs Band. “We need to develop more green building strategies and renewable energy options. This could be the start of a nice partnership. We’d like to get together again in April or May to exchange information so we can learn how to apply and manage these strategies.”


CSB graduate takes a chance and lands dream job By Ben Besasie ’12 A little over a year ago, Abbie Dunham’s dream had come true. She had watched a live taping of the “Dr. Phil” show as a member of the studio audience. Then, with her backstage pass, she had gone behind the scenes to meet the man himself. Upon leaving, she stopped, spun around and took a chance. She told Dr. Phil she had always wanted to work for the show. “All I could do was be outgoing and put myself out there,” she recalls. “The worst that he could say was no.” Six months later, Dunham ’11 moved from St. Joseph, Minn., to Hollywood, where she now works full time for the number one daily talk show. She began last June as an intern at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles during the show’s three-month hiatus. She worked daily on the website, tracked down potential guests, and read through hundreds of stories every day to choose the one that would best fit the show. “I would read through every single letter and story that was sent to me,” Dunham says. “I thought it would only be a three-month thing, but now I’ve helped produce four shows and am ready for more.” Now working full time as a production assistant, Dunham selects a story for each segment and interviews subjects to get every

Abbie Dunham with Dr. Phil

detail of their lives. Sometimes she calls them up to 20 times a day. At the end of the day, things can change within a minute as Dr. Phil decides if he wants to see the story on stage. “The amount of work that goes into an hour segment blows my mind,” Dunham says. “But at the end, having a person from the show give you a hug and say ‘You have changed my life,’ really means a lot to me.”

Internship at Mayo Clinic opens doors of discovery By Ben Besasie ’12 Erin Karl ’12 entered the doors of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last summer and encountered a world of discovery. Neither a patient nor a student, she was selected to work as a lab technologist intern in the lab of medicine and pathology through the Summer Lab Science Program. In her experience, she was able to help ensure a healthy start for newborns. In addition, she developed confidence in both her abilities and her career choice. For three months, Karl applied her skills from her chemistry major in a clinical lab setting. Every day she prepped samples that were being screened for inborn metabolic errors in babies. By looking at the results from the tests, she was able to detect metabolic diseases in the liver, kidney, or brain, which can cause death if not spotted early enough. “My position allowed me to get a sense of where my major could possibly take me versus what I could be doing after medical school,” Karl says. Every newborn in Minnesota gets a metabolic screening. Karl not only learned new lab techniques but she had the opportunity to help these patients.

Also while interning in the Mayo system, she was able to do more than her laboratory work. Multiple days included shadowing doctors in varying specialties, including surgery and obstetrics. “My shadowing experiences at Mayo were amazing; all the physicians I shadowed not only explained what we did throughout the day, they were also willing to give me invaluable advice about the application process, medical school, residency and life as a doctor,” Karl says. “After talking with them, I knew medical school was the right choice for me.” After graduation, Karl plans to take a year off, then apply to medical school to pursue a career as a rural family practice physician. Although she will not be working in a laboratory setting, she learned that it was important to make connections with all the people she met while interning. “I did clinical work, but it was more than that. It made me more confident.” She says. Now, after exiting the doors of Mayo, Karl has more connections, relationships and confidence than she imagined.



Political science major makes the most of internship By Mike Killeen Life, as we all know, is full of detours. Saint John’s University junior Ian Goldsmith found the same to be true of internships. In 2011, Goldsmith attended a “Transportation Tour” to several venues in the Twin Cities offered through a class taught by Jim Read, professor of political science at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. After visiting Metro Transit on the tour, Goldsmith was interested in pursuing an internship with the organization. That opportunity ultimately fell through. But when one door closes, another door often opens. The political science major — who was also taking a class on community organizing — found out a for-profit grassroots consulting firm in the Twin Cities was looking for interns. That internship became a perfect fit for Goldsmith. Last summer, Goldsmith interned at Grassroots Solutions, a for-profit grassroots consulting firm based in Minneapolis. He worked on a project for a national public charity that conducts research, education and advocacy around a number of issues, including clean energy. His duties were split into two parts. Goldsmith first created a business network list for state companies in the clean energy field. Then, he selected about 10-15 businesses that had expressed interest in the project to visit and research, and to ask them if they wanted to be in a clean energy business scrapbook. “The scrapbook was developed to highlight clean energy businesses from across the state in order to lift up their stories and promote their efforts to provide quality services to their customers while creating jobs and demand for increased clean energy technologies,” says Diane Tran, project manager at Grassroots Solutions and Goldsmith’s supervisor. “We were able to share that scrapbook with our mem-

Goldsmith transferred his teamwork skills from the football field to his work as an intern.

bership, congressional leadership and the media.” For Goldsmith, clean energy and urban transit issues are more than just about


reducing carbon emissions. He views both fields as growth industries. “Urban transit — especially in Minneapolis — and clean energy throughout the

photo: Brace Hemmelgarn


country are two areas that I see are going to be growing massively throughout the next decade,” Goldsmith says. “Solar panels — and the solar industry — was the

largest growing industry in the last year. “From the people we talked to, there are so many smart scientists out there who are working to innovate it. You need that savvy community organizer with a political mindset to help get their message across and tell people how great this is. I think there’s a need for those people,” he says. “He was a highly dedicated and thoughtful intern who often went beyond the basic responsibilities of an intern to be thorough in his work,” Tran says. “He conducted extensive research into the Minnesota clean energy business landscape, developed a monthly newsletter as part of our communications and public education strategy, and spent time in outreach to allied businesses and organizations where we saw potential for partnership.” Goldsmith is a two-year starter at safety for the SJU football team, making 96 total tackles in 20 consecutive starts for the Johnnies. How did his training on the football field come into focus with the internship? “The cliché, but true, answer would be teamwork. You’re always in a team setting — especially in community organizing, when you are working with people,” Goldsmith says. “In school and in studies, I’m an independent person. I like doing things my own way. But that doesn’t quite work in a setting as an intern, especially when the group depends on all the cogs working together, instead of each one pushing their own agenda.” Goldsmith says his internship experience “exceeded” his expectations. “I really had no idea what I was going to be working with,” says Goldsmith, noting that Grassroots Solutions’ clients cover a wide range of social and political issues. “It was kind of neat I got put on the project that I did, because that transportation study tour — the light rail and the new buses — are all focused on being energy efficient, reducing carbon emissions from passenger vehicles by taking public transportation. So, there was actually quite a bit of crossover from the transportation tour to working for the project I did.” Tran says Grassroots Solutions tries to provide interns with hands-on experiences in grassroots organizing and strategy. That


Ian Goldsmith

said, organizing work can also entail less glamorous tasks like developing and managing lists or making phone calls. “Ian took these on with ease, and also showed a genuine interest and passion for deeper involvement,” Tran says. “Because of that, we were able to invite him to participate in meetings with different community leaders, gave him responsibility for the clean energy scrapbook project and could entrust him with managing the clean energy business network newsletter during his time with us.” His experience left Goldsmith a big fan of internships. “I believe that internships have had a higher value among our generation than they have in the past, simply as a résumé builder,” Goldsmith says. “But I think it’s important because within each concentration of academics, there’s just a plethora of possibilities and occupations you can go into — especially in political science, which I’m majoring in. “Why not sample some areas that you’re interested in before you commit yourself and dedicate yourself fully to a career that might not, later down the road, suit you?”


Volunteer service makes an impact on the volunteers By Jillian Yanish ’13 Daily encounters with 4-, 5- and 6-yearolds changed the career plans for Sarah Schwalbach ’11. She was among a group of classmates who chose volunteer service after graduation. For many CSB and SJU students, a commitment to service that begins in their undergraduate years continues after graduation. For example, among the 2010 graduating class, 10 percent of Bennies and 8 percent of Johnnies entered the volunteer field. Fr. Bob Koopmann, SJU president, believes that volunteering can change students, and he has seen the change in past students who have volunteered. “You make a difference in the people you work with, and you open up your own perspective and your own sense of compassion,” Koopmann says. “You realize that we all have a responsibility to serve the wider human family.” Volunteering changed Schwalbach. When she graduated last May, she had a solid career plan. That changed when she journeyed to Puerto Rico in August. Schwalbach works as a kindergarten English teacher in Puerto Rico as a member of the Benedictine Women’s Service Corps, a volunteer organization through the Saint Benedict’s Monastery. She Daily hugs are among the rewards of teaching.



originally planned to work in public relaFood Pantry in Chicago, Ill., as a voluntions, marketing or consulting once she teer coordinator through the Saint John’s completed her 10-month service commitBenedictine Volunteer Corps. He manages ment. However, she discovered a passion volunteers and helps run the daily activifor teaching through her service work. She ties of the food pantry, including client is now applying to graduate schools to get a master’s in education with hopes of getting licensed to teach English as a second language and Spanish. Being in a classroom with 46 kindergartners, or “little monsters” as she calls them in an endearing manner, has helped Schwalbach find her calling in life. “I’d have to say some of my most rewarding moments as a teacher have been the “aha” moments I’ve seen in my students when they finally understand something,” Schwalbach has found her calling in the classroom. Schwalbach says. “Also, getting so many 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds’ hugs, kisses intake, food distribution, food packaging and “Teacher, I love you’s” in one day is and deliveries. pretty rewarding.” Swanson graduated with a major in Schwalbach believes that volunteerbiochemistry. Although his volunteer ing after graduation is a great learning work differs from lab work, he believes his experience. Although she plays the role of volunteer work is just as challenging but a teacher, she is the one learning from her more rewarding. service experience. “I probably could not convince most of “I’ve learned that while the world needs my friends that running the food pantry both charity and justice, charity needs to or any social service can be just as mentally work in the name of justice if it’s going to challenging as organic chemistry,” Swando any good,” she says. son says. “My work has definitely been a Charlie Swanson ’11 is doing work in challenge that I have enjoyed solving a lot the name of justice at the Saint James more than a molecule in lab.”


Swanson believes that he has grown as a leader from the challenges he has overcome while serving the community. “Volunteering after college has been one of the best decisions of my life,” Swanson says. “It’s a year where you don’t have to worry about the normal stresses in life, and you can focus on doing good for the world. It has been fun, challenging and rewarding all at the same time.” After his ninemonth service commitment is completed, Swanson will pursue a career in industry sales, which involves selling large chemistry testing equipment. Heidi Harlander, director of CSB/SJU Career Services, believes CSB and SJU instill a passion for service among students. Many campus clubs and organizations provide opportunities for service, as do courses with a service-learning component that integrates volunteer service with classroom learning. Study abroad programs and short-term trips through Campus Ministry are service oriented as well. “It’s a strong statement about these places — that if you come here, service is part of our ethos,” Harlander says. “It’s important for everyone to think about social justice and the common good. These are real actions that our campuses take to live that; it’s not just something we say.”


Brown reacts to news of his teaching award. At right, students, colleagues and Brown are all smiles.



Teacher learns about $25,000 national award at school assembly

By Adam Tucker ’14

Seth Brown thought he was finished with clapping students and smiling teachers when he walked up the Saint John’s Abbey Church aisle during his 2002 graduation ceremony. Nine years later, the Wayzata West Middle School math teacher leapt to his feet with a huge smile and arms raised in victory amid applause from students and fellow faculty — following the surprise announcement on last fall of his reception of the national Milken Educator Award — commonly referred to as the “Oscars of teaching.” “I was so caught off-guard, I didn’t think I was going to get the award,” Brown says. “There are no words to describe it; I was just so overwhelmed.” The $25,000 award, sponsored by the Milken Family Foundation, is given annually for excellence in teaching, but Brown was the only recipient this year in the state of Minnesota. “I try a lot of new things, and many times I fail,” he says. “I try to do a lot of things outside of the classroom, and attempt to find what really works.” Brown, a mathematics major who was involved with student teaching while at SJU, has a reputation that seems to precede him in more than just the classroom. “Seth Brown is probably one of the most highly requested teachers in our school system,” says Wayzata Middle School principal Susan Sommerfeld. “We start getting calls to request his class for next year in the spring. He’s very popular.” The innovative teaching style Brown uses in the classroom, such as having students stand in class or use iPods as study tools, is what many believe makes his classes so effective and in demand. “He’s a role model, and kids love to learn from models like Seth,” Sommerfeld says. He attributes his time at CSB/SJU as essential to his success as a teacher both in and out of the classroom. “Saint John’s really pushed me to provide a welcoming classroom, and it’s really something I’ve tried to implement,” Brown says. “As a whole, (CSB/SJU) showed me how to foster a learning environment.” Brown has spent all of his nine-year teaching career at Wayzata and credits the classroom observation during his time at Saint John’s for helping to find his dream job.

“I fell in love with teaching eighth grade during my time at Saint John’s,” Brown says. He also believes his adviser and mentor Dr. Robert Dumonceaux, Regents Professor of mathematics at CSB/SJU, helped inspire the early professional success.

“He was always there for me,” Brown says. “He’s absolutely amazing.” But for others, the recognition for Brown’s award is closer to home than the young teacher believes. “We’re really proud of Seth,” SJU Director of Alumni Relations Adam Herbst says. “The award clearly speaks to the fact that he’s an excellent teacher.” “He’s exactly the profile that the Milken Foundation is looking for,” Sommerfeld says. “He’s young and talented, and people like Seth Brown are a rare find.” The Milken Award has been presented since 1987 to young teachers who use technology and exceptional effort to encourage students to consider the teaching profession. For Brown, he said that the reality of the award has yet to sink in. “The best thing about this award has been all the messages from former students,” Brown said. “I’ve just been very blessed to represent the entire staff and all the schools I’ve attended.” (This article first appeared in the Nov. 4, 2011, issue of The Record, the CSB/SJU student newspaper.)



‘Pearls of Wisdom’

Professor shares experience with students By Diane Hageman Broken necks and paralysis have made major headlines in Minnesota and national media recently due to the life-altering injuries of Jack Jablonski and Jenna Privette, two high school students injured this season in hockey games. Sympathetic cries have echoed across the state, expressing care and concern about what the future of these two players will be. Switch gears to the campuses of College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, where you’ll find Bob Bell, assistant professor of accounting and finance, is proof there is life after a spinal-cord injury. Bell, who hails from Pensacola, Fla., came to SJU as a student in the fall of 1989. Tragedy struck early in his college career. Two days before Thanksgiving, Bell was goofing around in the hallway of his dorm with one of his classmates. The other student put Bell in a full-Nelson wrestling hold which broke his neck and damaged his spinal cord at the C-5/C-6 level. In that instant, Bell became a quadriplegic. Bell returned to Florida but re-enrolled at SJU in the spring 1992 and graduated in 1994, one year behind his classmates. Following graduation, he became a certified public accountant, worked in Arthur Andersen’s Minneapolis office in its tax department and obtained a law degree from the University of Minnesota. He then moved to Washington, D.C., to work at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Next came New York, where he fulfilled his dream of working on Wall Street as a securities lawyer. But returning to CSB and SJU was always on his mind. Bell felt a desire to

give back to the CSB/SJU community which he says gave so much to him, and “to do something with my life that I feel good about.” So during his second summer of law school, “when I was working on ‘the Hill’ for Sen. Bob Graham (DFla.), I hatched a 10-year plan to be back here teaching,” he says with a smile.

“His class wasn’t just focused on the nuts and bolts, analytical stuff. He provided more real-life applications and wisdom.” – Kevin Abbas During the long cross-country road trip from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C., that summer of 2000, Bell talked through his idea with his caregiver/driving companion. The 10-year plan would begin when he graduated from law school in 2001. “I figured it would take me 10 years to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish,” Bell says. “I wanted to have ample experience to bring to the classroom. I decided to do public service, government work first with the SEC, and then gain Wall Street


experience in New York.” Sure enough, Bell reached his goal in just under 10 years. In the fall of 2010, he began his teaching career at CSB and SJU. He teaches corporate finance, corporate financial analysis, financial accounting, and business writing. During the fall 2011, he also taught a first-year seminar (FYS), a class designed to help incoming students develop their skills in critical thinking, speaking and writing. Bell looked forward to the FYS class. “I enjoyed the spirited discussions we were able to have and felt like I really got to know the students better,” he says. “It was amazing to teach this class. I put a lot of myself into it.” Bell wrote about one of his FYS experiences which was posted on the Christian blog “Mockingbird.” “He’s so genuine and was willing to share his experiences and his story,” says Sarah Ober, a first-year CSB student from Burnsville, Minn., who was in Bell’s FYS class. While Ober appreciates that Bell taught her how to construct a more effective argument in a paper or speech, she appreciates even more that “he taught me about expectations in college and how to challenge myself now and for the next four years.” “He really offered us insights no other professor could offer, with all the personal and professional experiences he’s had,” Ober says. Kevin Abbas, a senior accounting and finance major from Eagan, Minn., who took Bell’s corporate financial analysis class in fall 2011, enjoyed Bell’s “pearls of wisdom,” where he shares a personal story

photo: Paul Middlestaedt


Bob Bell with Sarah Ober and Kevin Abbas

or event from his life. “His class wasn’t just focused on the nuts and bolts, analytical stuff. He provided more real-life applications and wisdom. He tells us stories of what he did wrong and right — and how to learn from mistakes,” Abbas says. Abbas says he really no longer “sees” the wheelchair. “Yeah, the wheelchair is there, but it doesn’t inhibit him or hold him back, but it must present challenges to him every day,” he says. Bell, who is a believer in the Biblical phrase “thy will be done,” hasn’t looked back since making the decision to leave the corporate world and return to the schools

where he was educated. “In my mind, the CSB/SJU model provides the best of both worlds. The students definitely receive the full coeducational experience. But the separate campuses provide ample time and opportunity for men to be men and for women to be women,” he says. “Coming back here to teach only solidifies my view that this is a unique environment that truly brings out the best in men and women.” “I’m very happy with my decision and proud of what I’m doing,” Bell says. “I have a strong faith and believe that this is the life I’ve been given, and I intend to make the most of it.”


As for the two high school hockey players, Bell certainly empathizes with them and their families. In fact, Bell shared a letter he recently wrote to Mike and Leslie Jablonski. In an effort to offer them hope and support, Bell describes to them some of what he’s accomplished since his injury. In part, it reads, “I detail all of this for you so that you know there is much possibility left for Jabby. I have traveled to over 40 countries since my injury. I have amazing family and friends. … And finally, a year and a half ago, I returned to Saint Ben’s/Saint John’s as a professor; a dream come true for me and a job I absolutely love.”



Questi ns CSB and SJU faculty and staff answer questions in their area of expertise By Mike Killeen

Athletic and recreational opportunities are important to students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. How important? When asked on the 2011 admitted student survey (specifically looking at students who went on to enroll at CSB and SJU) how important athletic or recreational opportunities were to enrolling at CSB and SJU, 81.6 percent of admitted students at SJU said they were either “very important” or “somewhat important,” while 76.3 percent of admitted students at CSB said they were either “very important” or “somewhat important.” Steve Kimble, coach of the CSB soccer team, and Bob Alpers, coach of the SJU golf team, were each asked three questions about athletic and recreational programs at their schools.

Steve Kimble 2011 turned out to be a “sweet” season for Steve Kimble. Kimble led the Blazers to the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2011 NCAA Division III National Tournament. The Blazers also captured both the regular season and playoff Min-

nesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles. For his efforts, he was named the MIAC women’s soccer Coach of the Year and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Mondo Regional Coach of the Year. His success wasn’t limited to the Blazers. Kimble coached the USA Division III Women’s Soccer All-Star team in a four-game tour of Brazil in May, posting a 1-2-1 record. Before coming to CSB, Kimble was the head girls’ soccer coach at Brainerd (Minn.) High School from 2002-08. The Warriors made five consecutive appearances in the Section 8AA title game and twice advanced to the state Class AA tournament. The 1999 Saint John’s University graduate was a decathlete for Coach Tim Miles during his collegiate career, and was a twotime national tournament qualifier and an All-America selection. Kimble, who also serves as an assistant athletic director (events and promotions) at CSB, was asked about how CSB prepares student-athletes for the future. CSB coaches are specifically trained to assist women with both athletic development and personal growth. How do you as a coach foster both athletic development and personal growth in your student-athletes? I’ve been fortunate to have some success coaching female athletes. A large part of it is the ability to build confidence and work ethic in the girls and women on my teams. I see a lack of confidence in many young ladies, especially within athletics. Many of

Steve Kimble 26

my athletes come in with a real fear of failure. That fear leads to conservative athletic performance which leads to ... well, nothing. My approach is to somehow get the women I coach to be comfortable, or at least willing, to put themselves out there, to challenge their capacity, to find pride and confidence in what they accomplish. Then repeat the process until they develop an unbreakable sense of self-belief. If I had to pick one quote to live by, it would be Aristotle’s “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” That’s been the underlying life lesson in sports forever. I’m just making an honest effort to coach to it. What lifetime skills have studentathletes told you they’ve learned through athletics that have helped them in their professional careers? I’ve had a lot of athletes stay connected and come back to reconnect. That says, to me, they found some value in our experience together. If they left with anything, I hope it’s a powerful confidence in their individual ability, and an elevated standard for how they go about life, career and family. I can attribute where I am right now professionally and personally to some very special high school and college coaches. CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger touts CSB’s high quality academic and student development programs and the sense of community when coaches ask her to help recruit a student-athlete. What qualities do you tout when you are recruiting a student-athlete to attend CSB?  The College of Saint Benedict will offer a college experience unlike any other

college in the country, especially for female athletes. Our athletes are No. 1 on our campus every day. My team of women has its very own facility. We don’t share with the men’s soccer team, have early or late practices, or have any extra wear and tear on our field. We get the prime practice time and full use of the soccer facility at all times. Our female athletes are also cared for by certified athletic trainers who specialize in working with female college athletes. After classes, they walk into their very own training room where our trainers are ready to serve them immediately and completely. I believe we win games because our women have access to immediate, highly qualified and gender appropriate athletic training services. The same goes for strength and conditioning. My team’s strength program is conducted by staff that has incredible knowledge and experience in the appropriate strength training techniques for female college athletes. My team also conducts our strength training in our own fitness center, an environment where our athletes are comfortable and confident. In our strength program, I see gain and improved performance; my athletes see tone and feel great. We are both confident in the process and look forward to each session. Saint Benedict can also offer a four-year highly respected degree, a high percentage of job or graduate school placement, an alumnae network as strong as any college in Minnesota, and a true college community of students and staff. There really isn’t a comparison to all the unique advantages of being a studentathlete at Saint Benedict.

Bob Alpers To a generation of SJU sports fans, Bob Alpers ’82 is coach of one of the most highly successful Division III golf programs in the nation. After all, he has taken the Johnnies to 12 consecutive NCAA Division III golf tournament appearances. Saint John’s has finished in the Top 10 of the national tournament 10 times, including back-to-back national championships in 2007 and 2008, and third-place finishes in 2003 and 2011. Alpers was the 2007 Eaton Golf Pride National Coach of the Year and a 2010 inductee into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame.

But to another, dare we say slightly older generation, his name conjures up another image as a post player for the Johnnies’ basketball team. Alpers was the Johnnies’ Most Valuable Player during the 1981-82 season, and then served as an assistant coach under Jim Smith for 20 years. Perhaps that multi-sport success accounts for his versatility within the Johnnies’ athletic department. Besides his duties as golf coach, Alpers serves as SJU’s assistant athletic director and director of intramural and club sports programs. Alpers was asked about the Johnnies’ high participation rate in varsity, intramural and recreational program. Approximately 90 percent of SJU students participate in some sort of athletic activity while on campus. Why are both varsity and intramural/recreational athletics so important to SJU students? The national average for participation in recreation — including varsity, intramural and club participation — is around 75 percent. Our participation numbers at Saint John’s are astonishing. Varsity, intramural and club sports give our students the chance to play, compete, build and strengthen relationships, be part of a team and just have fun. We have 12 varsity sports, offer over 20 different intramural activities, and a great variety of club sports to try and meet student needs. Our guys like to stay active, they like being part of a team and they love to compete. Our strong varsity programs give our students the chance to push themselves to excel and play at an elite level. Our competitive club sports often do the same, while intramurals allow students to continue competing in sports they enjoyed in high school while also giving them the opportunity to maybe try new things or play games they haven’t played since they were kids, like kickball or wiffleball.     How will the new or renovated athletic facilities at SJU expand opportunities for students? The new and enhanced facilities will be amazing for our students. Bettering our students’ experience is what really drives this project. The new facilities, particularly the seasonal dome, will give us the chance to expand our offerings, give the clubs consistent practice opportunities and really enhance the student experience here. They


will also be a terrific help in recruiting students. There will be a real “wow” factor to the dome and to the new baseball, tennis and soccer facilities. The dome can accommodate indoor soccer leagues, fullfield softball games, a golf driving range and probably Bob Alpers a ton of different activities we haven’t dreamed of yet. The baseball field will hopefully have turf and lights so we can use it for intramural games in the fall and the spring, extending our seasons. The turf and lights will give us at least two extra weeks for students to play. Our facilities are going to be unbelievable. SJU student-athletes routinely receive conference and national academic recognition. How do coaches play a role in student-athlete academic success? I think our coaches see our athletic programs as co-curricular instead of extracurricular. We are committed to being a part of our student-athletes’ educational experience. Our coaches try and establish a culture where success in the classroom and on the athletic fields and courts are not mutually exclusive. Our job as coaches at Saint John’s is to help our guys to grow and to succeed, and helping our guys do their best academically is critically important to our mission. Our golfers have earned recognition as an All-American Scholar team each of the past three years, or as long as the award has been in existence. They would have done it the previous 16 years had there been an award for it. Earning a team academic award is really important to the guys on our team. They know that it is part of our athletic culture at Saint John’s and that there is no reason you can’t combine great academics with great athletics. That’s a great reason why guys choose to attend Saint John’s — you don’t have to compromise.


germs gone



Student research unearths the dirty details on hand washing By Ben Besasie ’12 Editor’s note: Ben Besasie took a virology course last fall to fulfill a requirement for his biology major. He discovered a world most of us never see. Here is his account. If you knew what I know about germs, you’d scrub a little harder when you wash your hands. Germs can cause disease, and that is one thing a college student doesn’t want during finals week. Last semester, I enrolled in the course Virology, the study of viruses, eager to complete my biology major. I had no idea what to expect or even what the course encompassed. I was as clueless as a doctor in a mechanics shop. As in any biology class, laboratory was an important facet where I designed an independent research project. This is when I began to alter my hand-washing efforts tenfold. A virus is a scientific term for a specific type of germ. It is the ultimate form of life; however, it is barely a life form. It goes into a cell and completely takes over its machinery for its own uses. It’s a hostile takeover. It’s like going into an Apple store and telling them to make a PC. Not even visible to the human eye, a virus can still wipe us out. If you doubt the power of this microscopic bug, consider this. In 1850, life expectancy was 39.5 years. Today, it is 77.5 years. In 1850, infant mortality was 22 percent. Today, it is 0.6 percent. How? We know more about infectious diseases, specifically what causes them — viruses. For my research project, I created an experiment relatable to my everyday life. Will washing my hands actually remove something that can kill me? To begin, I first needed my potential murderer, a virus. How hard could that be? Well, knowing that around 20,000 viruses can fit on the head of a pin, I needed to be a bit selective. I wanted to use a surface that hands touch regularly. What better than a bathroom sink? Not to my surprise, I found a virus. After purifying and amplifying my virus, I was ready to start my experiment. Since viruses need to use the machinery of a cell, I selected a bacterium, E.coli, as a host for my virus. To illustrate, if I were to go into a Pepsi factory and ask if they can make Coke for me, they’ll say “no.” However, a virus would respond, “I’ll just

use your factory to make myself one.” Without E. coli, my virus would not survive. I designed my experiment to test three different hand-washing techniques: using only water, regular soap, and antibacterial soap. I wanted to test the effectiveness of removing both the virus and bacteria. Using rubber gloves for protection, I blindly placed my bacteria and virus on a randomly selected finger. After washing using all three techniques, I also tested for differences in drying my hands with a towel and leaving them wet. I should mention my investigation was inspired by Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who was the first to explore the benefits of hand washing in 1850, in a series of experiments that showed that hand washing decreases infectious disease. As a physician delivering babies, he reported that within the doctor’s ward, 15 percent of mothers died after delivery from child-bed fever. If delivered by a midwife, only 7 percent of mothers died. Why were more women dying in the doctor’s ward? He noticed that medical students worked on anatomy in the morgue, then used the same medical tools in the delivery room. Semmelweis instituted beneficial sanitation techniques, including hand washing and sanitizing the medical instruments. Instantly, he saw a decrease in deaths of mothers after delivery. In an attempt to further understand my own sanitation efforts from these little deadly assassins, I found by using any washing technique and drying my hands with a towel afterwards was the most effective way to remove a virus and bacteria. However, as any scientist knows, one experiment does not always yield significant results. In the future, I’ll have to continue to replicate this research. Today, from smallpox to measles to influenza to HIV, there are more than 5,400 viruses known to be harmful. And 150 years later, we continue to use hand washing as the most inexpensive form of sanitation and prevention in the transmission of infectious diseases. The simple activity of frequent hand washing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. So there you have it. To keep your hands germ-free, wash and dry.


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Saint Benedict's / Saint John's Magazine Spring 2012  

Saint Benedict’s/Saint John’s Magazine is published in the spring by CSB/SJU Communication & Marketing Services.