About Magnus the Good Collaborative Fellowships

The “Magnus the Good” endowed fund, established by friends of the former Paracollege, supports a series of awards to encourage student-faculty collaborations in scholarly research, or in exploration of innovative applications of learning.

Established in 2003, the fund honors several important values of the college, including (1) that faculty and students learn well when they collaborate in one-on-one partnerships for research and/or reflection, and (2) that students learn well through having opportunities to apply and extend classroom learning.

Thus, the fund supports projects that provide opportunities for collaborative work between students and faculty, and that situate the proposed project in the context of the student’s interests and work, and also in the context of the faculty member’s interests and work.

Congratulations!

Announcing the 2018-2019 Magnus the Good Collaborative Fellowships

(Read project descriptions by clicking on each title.)

Francesca Anderegg (Music), Olivia Munson ’20, Hawken Paul ’20, Emerson Clay ’20, Mason Tacke ’20
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Music's Role in Environmental Education
This project will seek to explore the emerging field of ecomusicology and its applications in the K-12 classroom. We will design a curriculum that combines developing musicianship skills with environmental awareness through presentations in the Northfield Public Schools. Led by our teaching team, K-12 students will write songs expressing their views on environmental issues and perform them in collaborative settings. We will document our project via a website and present the results, including lesson plans, to serve as a resource for teachers and/or anyone interested in presenting environmental concepts through music.

Arthur Cunningham (Philosophy), Alex Cavender ’19
An Alternative Possibility for Solving the Foreknowledge Problem
Our project is to develop an original response to a perennial problem in philosophy of religion known as the problem of free will and divine foreknowledge. This puzzle arises from a clash of competing intuitions. On the one hand, there is a seemingly straightforward argument for the conclusion that if an infallible God has already foreknown everything I will ever do, then I am powerless to do anything else and my free will is an illusion. On the other hand, it seems quite strange to say that God’s merely knowing what I am going to do could really limit my freedom.

Surely foreknowledge by itself would not cause or compel me to do what I do; but if no compulsion is at work here, how is divine foreknowledge supposed to bind me to a particular course of action?

This puzzle has been a front-burner issue in academic philosophy of religion for the past few decades. It has drawn considerable interest from non-theists as well as theists, because in addition to its religious salience, the foreknowledge problem provides an arena where philosophers can examine contested ideas about the nature of free will. A handful of prominent responses to the foreknowledge problem exist in the literature, but none has gained the assent of a majority of philosophers. Most of these responses are rather technical, and lack the intuitive support one might hope for.

Our project is to formulate an original and intuitively satisfying response to the foreknowledge problem. Our approach is to focus on a well-known principle which says that free will requires “alternative possibilities”; that is, free will requires that when I am deciding whether to perform a particular action, both alternatives—performing it and not performing it—are genuinely open to me. This “principle of alternative possibilities” has figured prominently in debates about the nature of free will for over forty years, and it plays a key role in many formulations of the foreknowledge argument. Our central idea is (1) to use the foreknowledge problem to distinguish two different notions that tend to get lumped together under the heading of “alternative possibilities,” and (2) to show how, by disentangling these two notions, we can provide a tidy resolution of the foreknowledge problem. (In brief, our idea is that although “alternative possibilities” of a certain sort are indeed ruled out by divine foreknowledge, they are not the “alternative possibilities” that free will requires.)

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs (RACE and English), Lamar Gayles ’19
“We Built the Field on the Hill:” How St. Olaf’s Black Action Committee Pioneered Ethnic Studies in the Liberal Arts
The textbook history of Ethnic Studies goes like this: In 1968-69, San Francisco State University’s Black Student Union; minority student groups organized as Third World Liberation Front; and faculty, staff, and students united to speak against institutional racism at SFSU. Among their demands, the establishment of four separate departments—American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Black Studies, and La Raza Studies—within a College of Ethnic Studies would address the neglect of indigenous peoples and persons of color in SFSU’s curriculum. This mother college gave birth to today’s interdisciplinary field of Ethnic Studies and the hundreds of Ethnic Studies departments and programs in colleges and universities worldwide.

What’s missing from this official history is this: In 1968-69, St. Olaf’s Black Action Committee requested the formation of an interdisciplinary program to accompany Asian Studies, which had just changed its name from Oriental Studies. In 1969, St. Olaf established American Minority Studies authorized to offer a concentration and open to students from other institutions affiliated with the American Colleges of the Midwest. Five years later, the program added a major. Today’s Race and Ethnic Studies is the current iteration of this heritage program.

Our collaborative project places these two contexts in dialogue to ask: What is RACE’s significance to the pioneering of Ethnic Studies as a field, particularly among liberal arts colleges? Toward constructing a more complete history, we will explore the inceptions of other Ethnic Studies programs during 1968-1975, paying particular attention to the field’s development at liberal arts colleges. Our work will require travel to community archives in Chicago and San Francisco and to permanent collections at institutions where Ethnic Studies first emerged. Through archival research and oral and visual historical methodologies, we will develop a 50 th anniversary exhibition and photo book detailing the distinctive history of St. Olaf’s RACE program as a liberal arts leader in the field’s formation.

Louis Epstein (Music), Siriana Lundgren '19
Music, Race, and Gender Identity in American Frontier Culture
Musicological scholarship on the American West often focuses on musical constructions of the frontier and the impact of those often imagined constructions on American identity. Rarely does scholarship focus on the music actually created and performed on the frontier. This project posits that sustained exploration of documented frontier music clarifies how music-making by women in particular helped establish American identity in the late nineteenth century. Focusing on newspapers, diaries, and ephemera found in archives, historical societies, and museums, we plan to curate a digital exhibit that examines the ways music created and performed by women helped reinforce and establish burgeoning American identities on the Western frontier.

The study will focus primarily on the music made by women living on the Montana frontier in the 1890s. Several large cities on the frontier, including including Butte, Helena, and Virginia City, have preserved substantial archival collections that illuminate women’s musical lives. The aforementioned cities were both mining towns, meaning that by virtue of a limited economic system, each city had a uniquely stratified society that highlighted difference in gender, class, and race. Women in these cities offer a specialized window into the way music contributed to the stratification of society, especially between upper class women and sex workers (sex work was often the only form of employment given to young, single women in Montana during the 1890s). Additionally, we chose this decade, the 1890s, because during this time, the newly minted state of Montana nearly doubled its population. All of these factors offer a compelling backdrop against which music worked to reinforce and challenge common Victorian gender ideologies and identity traits.

Jeremy “Sequoia” Nagamatsu (English), Maddie Thies ‘19, Anders Mattson ‘19
Turning the Page on Undergraduate Literary Publishing: A Pedagogical and Editorial Assessment of Undergraduate Literary Publications in the Midwest and at Peer Institutions
This project is designed to improve and envision new editorial and pedagogical possibilities for campus publishing at St. Olaf from campus publications such as the Quarry Literary and Fine Arts Magazine to courses such as Literary Publishing that offers hands-on experience with editorial practices via course specific exercises and founded Bifrost Review, a new St. Olaf national online publication that showcases author interviews, reprinted work, and journal spotlights. Specifically, this project will conduct an in-depth assessment of undergraduate literary publications, an important and early training ground for writers and editors, at Midwest schools generally and at St. Olaf peer institutions (criterion-based groups and consortiums).

The breadth of this research, which would be infeasible for any current campus publication, single semester independent study, or literary course, will help provide an overall landscape of undergraduate editorial and publishing pedagogical practices and serve as a tool for students and faculty in both creating publications and planning for long-term sustainability of publications. The study will also provide valuable insight into the creation and management of literary publications to student collaborators as they consider graduate school pathways and careers in the literary sphere.

Anna Kuxhausen (History), Alisha Chaudhry '19, Amrita Bhagia '19
Examining gender disproportionality in the medical field from childhood to adulthood: a regional study
Despite some recent improvements in gender equality in certain STEM fields, women still only constitute a third of all practicing physicians in the United States. 1 Women in the medical field are likely to populate certain specialties that are viewed by society as ‘easier’ and less intense and, on average, make up to $44,000 less than their male counterpoints. 2,3 These women dominated fields include the areas of primary care, psychiatry, and obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). However, women continue to be underrepresented in male-dominated specialties like ophthalmology, radiology, and urology

This study will evaluate the problematic, disproportional relationship between women in the medical field and the specialties they choose to pursue through a multi-faceted study of elementary school girls, middle/high school girls, pre-med women in college, and women within the medical field, specifically focusing on the Southern Minnesota region. Furthermore, this study will aim to gauge the age at which girls and women start to think that females belong in certain medical specialties or do not belong in the medical field at all. These aims will be accomplished in a two-fold process. First, girls from kindergarten, 3 rd grade, 7 th grade, 11 th and grade will be surveyed to determine the extent of girls’ interest in pursuing of a career in the medical field. As a part of this, surveys will also be used to obtain data regarding the perspectives and the ambitions of pre-med women at St. Olaf College. Secondly, this study will examine the types of professions within medical institutions that women pursue compared to the types of professions that men pursue in order to discover current representation statistics.

Overall, these results will provide insight to how disproportionate gender roles indicate what areas of the medical field are viewed as more advanced or specialized and how these specialties are gendered as masculine or feminine, revealing the prevalence of gender based power dynamics in medicine. Understanding these results will be imperative to deconstructing the hierarchies and power structures that prevent equal representation of women in the field of medicine. In addition, these results allow for investigation into what barriers, perceived or structural, exist in the medical fields women are not represented in. In particular, the results of the survey will be influential in further examining the correlation between age, gender, other external factors and the lack of women in professions within the medical field. Through these results, an age period can be extrapolated where educational intervention and exposure of young girls to possible careers in the STEM field can be instigated to improve equal representation and success.

Hsiang-Lin Shih (Chinese), Anthony Faure ’20, Sofia Reed ’20, James Sandberg ‘20
Memories of Agricultural Yilan, Taiwan: An Excavation of Local Literature and Life Stories
Yilan, an agricultural county of Taiwan, was the original home of Taiwan’s aboriginal people. The Han Chinese first traveled on foot through the mountains to Yilan in the 18th century, and Japanese colonizers later reached it by railway. The Hsuehshan Tunnel was opened in 2006 to increase safety and access, and this has increased traffic and population. Once an agricultural utopia plotted on alluvial fans, much of Yilan’s farmland is now populated by a rapidly growing number of “farmhouses,” a euphemism for B&Bs and luxury homes. The looming issue of urbanization of farmland affects Taiwan’s environment and food self-sufficiency.

Our student-faculty team aims to “excavate” the collective memories of agricultural Yilan in order to understand how these memories have influenced and should be factored into current economic policies. The research question the team seeks to answer is: What lessons from the past can positively influence Asian agriculture in the future? They will draw on traditional and nontraditional sources to explore the question. The team will conduct on-site interviews, study different genres of literature, and learn about Taiwanese writers of several generations. This project emphasizes a humanistic approach to economic and political issues in an increasingly global world.