An update from the president to alumni and parents

Campus projects serve many purposes

The path to Saint Yon’s Hall in Winona has been replaced with safer steps, lighting, handrails, and callboxes.

The path to Saint Yon’s Hall has been upgraded with safer steps, lighting, handrails, and callboxes.

The campus was humming and clanging with the sound of summer construction projects as we strive to keep our facilities safe, attractive to new students, and effective for learning and teaching. The new Science and Learning Center is on schedule to open June 1, 2017. Other notable summer projects included transformation of Saint Yon’s Hall and the former Brothers’ residence into a variety of desirable apartments and rooms; replacement of steps to Saint Yon’s; renovation of the ice arena boards and glass; refinishing of the gym floor; installation of emergency callboxes and campus lighting; and more.

Students assist with tick research

Brandi Blattner and Jordyn Messling assisted Dr. Jeanne Minnerath with summer tick research.

Brandi Blattner and Jordyn Messling assisted Dr. Jeanne Minnerath with summer tick research.

Collecting ticks might not sound like a great summer job. But two students had the opportunity to perform real-world field research alongside one of their professors, and to contribute data that will be analyzed by the state in its effort to control the disease-carrying insect. Helping Dr. Jeanne Minnerath of the Biology Department last summer were two Biology Pre-Physical Therapy majors, Brandi Blattner and Jordyn Messling.

The work involved the invasive Japanese barberry plant, a prickly species that creates a habitat that the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Agriculture suspects is desirable for ticks. Dr. Minnerath and her students conducted a pilot study in barberry-infested sites in Wabasha and Houston Counties. Additional sites without barberry infestations were also surveyed for comparison.

Dr. Minnerath considers this kind of research a win-win situation. She depends on student help—and students make good contacts, gain valuable experience, and build their résumés.

Winona named safest college town in America

safest-ranking-fixWinona has been awarded the No. 1 spot on SafeWise’s ranking of “30 Safest College Towns in America.” Winona is home to three higher-education institutions including Saint Mary’s. Winona was also named No. 18 on SafeWise’s list of “100 Safest Cities in America.” SafeWise security experts based their rankings on the most recent FBI crime statistics and also identified safety-related programs and initiatives in college cities across the country.

Winona was noted for its low crime rates and community involvement in crime prevention and awareness. The town was also recognized for its commitment to the health and wellness of its community members through various programming, and its colleges were noted for their proactive efforts to keep students safe.

Science students intern at Cascade Meadow

cascade-meadow-interns-fixBiology students Sarah Sieracki and Angela Soto spent their summer internships at our Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Learning Center in Rochester, controlling invasive plant species in the wetland and prairie restorations, establishing and sampling vegetation plots in the restored prairie area, collecting data from the site’s lake, and even assisting with educational programs. The interns were challenged by mosquitoes, thorny plants, and the weather, but they enjoyed regular encounters with wildlife.

The pair helped to design and implement a vegetation monitoring protocol and documented 130 plant species at the site. They’re preparing a poster with the initial sampling data for a conference later this fall. The work was guided by Dr. Moni Berg-Binder and Dr. Josh Lallaman of the Biology Department; GeoSpatial Services staff member Kathy Allen; and Cascade Meadow staff.

Saint Mary’s debuts new website and calendar

website-fixThe university launched a new website in July that makes learning about Saint Mary’s a more pleasing and satisfying experience. The new site utilizes a mobile-responsive design to work well on any device—large or small, from computer and tablet to cell phone.

In addition to being technologically current, the site features all-new navigation for ease of use. The content was rewritten to be concise and compelling, and the visual design and imagery throughout is bold and beautiful, while reflecting our heritage and identity. Visitors and the broader Saint Mary’s community will appreciate the full-featured and comprehensive calendar of university and student events. Check out the new site at

The sky’s the limit with summer NASA program

Ben Preusser took measurements during the NASA Student Airborne Research Program.

Ben Preusser took measurements during the NASA Student Airborne Research Program.

Physics and Math major Ben Preusser landed a spot in the NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) eight-week summer immersion in California. He was notified of the opportunity and recommended by Saint Mary’s physics faculty. SARP provides students with hands-on research experience in all aspects of a major scientific campaign, from detailed planning on how to achieve mission objectives to formal presentation of results and conclusions to peers and even NASA officials.

The 32 students were broken into multidisciplinary teams that studied surface, atmospheric, and oceanographic processes. Preusser’s group looked at land imagery. In Palmdale, Calif., they took measurements at field sites and flew onboard the NASA DC-8 laboratory, from which they sampled, collected, and measured gases at different altitudes. For the next six weeks, teams worked at the University of California, Irvine to analyze the data and present individual research projects from the data collected.

National recognition for quality, growth

Saint Mary’s is continually recognized for excellence by students, graduates, and external audiences—including ranking organizations. Such rankings verify that the university meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our students at every level, from undergraduate and bachelor’s completion to master’s and doctoral degree programs. Graduates consistently say their experiences at Saint Mary’s were transformational—empowering them to achieve goals and set new ones to help their families, their communities, and the world.

Here are some accolades the university has recently garnered:

  • Saint Mary’s is once again ranked a top-tier institution in the “U.S. News & World Report” ratings of best colleges and universities in the nation. Saint Mary’s is 49th in the Best Regional Universities of the Midwest category.
  • Princeton Review has listed Saint Mary’s in the Best Midwestern category of its “Best Colleges: Region by Region” report.
  • Saint Mary’s M.B.A. program was selected by Online M.B.A. Today as one of the top 15 online M.B.A. programs in environmental sustainability.
  • “Washington Monthly” ranked Saint Mary’s twice in its college guide: 183rd out of 634 on its National Universities-Master’s list and 84th of 367 in its Best Bang for the Buck Midwest category.
  • And, Saint Mary’s was ranked among the fastest-growing Roman Catholic colleges by “The Chronicle of Higher Education” during the 10-year span from 2004 to 2014.

Read more about the “U.S. News” and other rankings on our newsblog.

Saint Mary’s honors current, former athletes

During Cardinal ‘M’ Club Weekend Sept. 9-11, the university celebrated the accomplishments of current and former student athletes, who came together to discuss their shared experiences, reminisce about those game-winning plays, and to hear the accomplishments of today’s Cardinal athletes.

Saint Mary’s 2015-16 postseason award-winners were honored, including 2015-16 Outstanding Male and Female Athletes Willie Doll ’16 (baseball) and Macki Fadness ’16 (volleyball), and Outstanding Scholar-Athletes Emily Loof ’18 (soccer) and Brett Giesen ’18 (tennis). Three former student-athletes were also honored for their many accomplishments, as Chuck Richards ’71 (baseball), Julie (Macko) Lentz ’91 (women’s soccer), and Katie (Meissner) Oberfoell ’92 (women’s soccer) became the Saint Mary’s Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

Read more about the accomplishments of our alumni and current student athletes. Take a look at the photo gallery from ‘M’ Club Weekend or watch the video from the event.

Bystander workshop for hall staff

Saint Mary’s is committed to providing an environment that is free from the physical and emotional threat of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. As a Lasallian Catholic institution of higher education, the university believes in the inherent dignity and worth of every student and employee. The university strives to create an environment where the dignity of each person is respected and honored. Sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct violate the dignity of the person and are inconsistent with the mission and values of the university.

Bystander intervention is one promising component of sexual violence prevention. It is based on the idea that both men and women can interrupt behaviors to prevent sexual violence. Bystander intervention training is designed to change social norms and encourage people to find ways to intervene.

In August, Winona Campus hall directors and resident assistants participated in a five-hour bystander intervention training provided by the RE Initiative at Winona State University. The program educated our residence life staff on consent and gender-based violence and trained them to be active bystanders, thereby helping to foster the sense of community at Saint Mary’s where people help one another. New and current students receive bystander intervention training through the university’s online sexual misconduct training program.

Looking back and moving forward

Summer at the Winona Campus is filled with a different sort of activity, as we host a variety of camps and workshops, community events, and our alumni reunion. This is also the time to freshen the campus and facilities before we welcome students in fall. Even so, I reflect back on the spring semester and why we are really here: to prepare graduates who have the advanced knowledge, skills, and critical thinking abilities necessary to be lifelong learners, successful workers, good neighbors, and ethical citizens. Please enjoy this sampling of stories about what our students are doing.

— Brother William (Summer, 2016)

Scholarship and talents on display

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Students presented research and showed their artistic and performance talents.

The research and talents of our students were on full display during the annual Celebration of Scholarship. The day-long event featured 109 presentations by 142 students, highlighting academic research projects and demonstrating performance and artistic skills. Three sessions were held across the campus, capped by a poster session in Saint Mary’s Hall. And that night at the Honors Convocation, students were recognized for outstanding activity by their membership in honor societies, completion of the honors program, and departmental awards. View more photos of the day.

Education major receives Minnesota award

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Hooper Award-winner Kiya Virgin with Drs. Melissa Luedtke, Scott Sorvaag, and Karen Sorvaag of the Education Department.

Senior education student Kiya Virgin was selected to receive the prestigious Hooper Award, sponsored by the Minnesota ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). This award, which honors an exceptional student in the field of education, is given to only one teaching candidate from all participating teacher preparation programs in Minnesota each year. Virgin was recognized for her scholarship, leadership, integrity, and enthusiasm for teaching and learning. As a Hooper Award-winner, she will also receive a one-year membership in Minnesota ASCD.

Novel business ideas in 90 seconds

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Students gained skills in succinctly proposing business ideas.

Ten students made short but sweet presentations during the annual Elevator Pitch Competition, sponsored by our Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in aspiring young businessmen and women. Elevator pitch participants are challenged to imagine that they’re in an elevator with someone who has the funding and connections to help make their business dreams become reality. The goal is to pitch that dream creatively and convincingly in just 60-90 seconds. Any undergraduate student in any area of study can compete. Judges are professors from different departments including business, art, and science. This year’s winner, Nicole Johnsen, made the case for a potential on-campus food delivery system. Read more about the event.

Conference on infectious disease research

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Science majors heard about the latest research on infectious diseases.

Eight science majors, joined by Dr. Jeanne Minnerath of the Biology Department, attended a conference on infectious disease research at the University of Minnesota. Hosted by the Minnesota Academy of Science, the event included a presentation by Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and former state epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health. Our attendees included Joscelyn Buchwald, Isaias Trujillo, Kathryn Frye, Danielle Patterson, Emily Bonner, Angela Sota, Jenna Phelps, and Pamela Lago.

Student education leaders present to international ASCD audience

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Education majors presented research at an international conference.

Four of our education majors—Jessica Bjick, Emily Blaser, Katie LeTourneau, and Allison Warmka—made a presentation to an international audience at the ASCD annual conference in April. The students discussed “Are You the Teacher You Intended to Be?” at the Atlanta gathering, with Dr. Scott Sorvaag serving as the group’s adviser. ASCD is an international organization of 125,000 members focused on promoting the work of teaching, learning, and leading for educators.

Our ASCD student chapter leadership team reflected on the journaling they each did while serving as student teachers, contemplating their developing identity as educators and their commitment to student learning.

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