Recent Award Winners 2015-2019

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Tim Howe (History), Leah Ramsey '21
A Further Archaeological Approach: Exploring Daily Life and Worship at Antiochia ad Cragum

Since 2012, St. Olaf students have accompanied Professor Tim Howe to Antiochia ad Cragum near Gazipa​ş​a (ancient Selinous), Turkey for a month-long ongoing excavation of the acropolis, the site of one of the earliest Christian churches and baptistries ever discovered. Historically, teams of researchers and students from Turkish universities and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have excavated other classical components of Antiochia including a temple, tombs, and baths. While these sites have proven rich in historical significance and cultural material, areas concerning everyday living such as the agora (main marketplace) and houses have remained largely untouched. Last year, Leah participated in St. Olaf’s research internship on the acropolis, learned more about Antiochia and the vast nature of the site still unexcavated, and decided she had to return to Gazipa​ş​a to pursue archaeology.

This project will go beyond St. Olaf’s current exploration of the acropolis by extending down the hillside and focusing on excavation of the houses in this area. While these structures most likely contain little in artistic value, the discoveries will go beyond the current research on elite spaces and into the mundane and everyday. Through this, the project aims to provide insight into how the people of Antiochia lived in antiquity, thus deepening understanding of everyday narratives and Antiochia as a whole. Although the proximity of the homes to the acropolis are most likely unrelated to religiosity, this project seeks to make connections between the two sites. How integrated were worshiping practices with everyday life? Is there evidence of Christianity’s burgeoning relevance—as witnessed on the acropolis—within the homes? How do the cultural materials or the integrity of the structures differ between the two sites? By exploring these questions, this research project will shed light on how worshipping practices throughout the early centuries AD evolved on a personal level.

End of project presentation:  or

Rodrigo Sanchez-Gonzalez (Chemistry), Emma Daggett '20
Implementation of a Temperature Measurement Strategy in a High-Speed Wind Tunnel

Part of the research program of Professor Sanchez-Gonzalez involves the development of diagnostic tools to study rapidly evolving fluid flows, particularly those that involve complex phenomena such as strong gradients, non-equilibrium conditions, and chemical reactions. These diagnostic tools involve the use of laser-based measurements that can provide measurements of flow velocities and scalar quantities, such as species densities, pressures, and temperatures. Specifically, the use of Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence (PLIF) methods are based on the homogeneous excitation of an area of interest using a pulsed high-power laser shaped into a sheet, followed by imaging of the resulting fluorescence using a camera. This approach permits obtaining 2-D measurements instead of a measurement at a single point in space. The development of techniques that allow these measurements with high time and space resolution is imperative to understand flows characterized by complex behavior.

The group of Prof. Sanchez-Gonzalez has recently published a feasibility demonstration of a temperature measurement approach that integrates PLIF with an imaging technique called structured illumination. This approach results in a simplified experimental setup compared to a conventional PLIF temperature measurement and has the potential of providing measurements with superior time resolution, in the order of tens of nanoseconds. This previous experimental work to obtain of a temperature measurement using PLIF and structured illumination was developed as a proof-of-principle demonstration, but implementation under realistic high-speed wind tunnel conditions would require of further studies that provide insight into the specific variables that ultimately define the applicability of the technique. The interest in the exploration of flow behavior under realistic wind tunnel conditions of a St. Olaf student [meets] the interest of a St. Olaf faculty member in the fundamental understanding of laser-based diagnostic tools. A student has presented a challenge to a faculty member to prove the viability of a measurement technique while a faculty member will challenge a student to find the limitations of the technique in order to understand the opportunities and limitations that such techniques offer in a realistic flow.


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.

Hsiang-Lin Shih (Asian Studies and Chinese), Sandy Faure ’20, Hana Anderson '20, Sofia Reed ’20, Jay Sandberg ’20
Memories of Agricultural Yilan, Taiwan: An Excavation of Local Literature and Life Stories

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.

This project also received funding from CURI (Collaborative Undergraduate Research & Inquiry) and LIASE (Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment).

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.)

Presentation outline for May 2019 celebration:

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.

This project was also supported by the Steen Fellowship which supported Siriana’s research in Montana in the summer of 2019.

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.

Presentation for May 2019 celebration:

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.


Dick Brown (Computer Science), Chris Hinton ('18), & Omar Shehata ('18)
PDC through PL: Interactive Text Materials for Teaching Parallel and Distributed Computing through Programming Languages
We intend to create an online, interactive textbook segment for introducing parallel and distributed computing (PDC) to undergraduate computer science students through the viewpoint of programming languages. This online resource would be a proof of concept enabling students to learn through hands­ on experience with actual PDC resources, conveniently and ubiquitously available through a browser, with immediate feedback. Our programming­ language approach to introducing PDC is novel, and could be presented as a three­ week unit in a programming languages course, or early in a PDC course. This project depends directly on the special expertise and experience of all three members of the team.

Karen Peterson Wilson (Theater), Iain Carlos ('20), & Aaron Lauby ('19)
Resurrecting the Playwright: A Practical Exploration of New Play Development through Collaboration between Playwright and Performers
Guided by an in-process handbook by Artistic Director of The New Colony, Andrew Hobgood, we seek to deconstruct the classic theater model; instead, beginning a year-long collaborative process between playwright, director, and performers to conceptualize, synthesize, and produce a world premiere original play. This project seeks to shatter a few common misconceptions about theater: First, that good theater is old theater by dead playwrights. Second, that the typical theater model (playwright to director to performers and designers) is the most successful model for reaching modern audiences. Third, that theater is an art and craft – not a science – and so, requires little theorizing, testing, or exploration. New Plays are particularly necessary on this college campus because they provide a window into the unique experiences of St. Olaf’s students, faculty, and staff through an accessible medium. The benefits of this project will extend far beyond its immediate members: it will include an entire cast of performers, a team of designers, numerous feedback-audiences for mid-process staged readings, members and patrons of the CTAM conference at which we will present, and the all members of the St. Olaf body who able to experience the finished product. In Hobgood’s words, “Every artist who goes through this experience comes out the other side more confident and more in love with this art form than they ever imagined. The Process feels much more akin to having a baby than making a play. And something like that sticks with you forever.”

Cindy Book (Exercise Science), Jenny Holbein (Exercise Science), Jordan Lutz ('18), & Randall Rude ('18)
Synchronized EEG, EMG, and Video Analysis of Walking Gait at Various Levels of Weight-Bearing While Performing a Cognitive Task
During the summer of 2016, faculty from the dance, psychology, neuroscience, and exercise science departments were given funds to purchase a portable 32-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) machine (see attached photo and description; the psychology department owns eight of the caps seen in the picture).  With advances in technology, this system allows us to measure brain function while people are moving freely in space. Previous versions of EEG machines required participants to be attached to the machine via a series of wires, thereby limiting the activities a participant could do while being measured. With the new portable EEG machine, we can attach and synchronize other measurement devices (an electromyography machine [EMG] and a video camera, for example) in order to view brain and muscle action simultaneously. When we announced this new piece of equipment to the majors in exercise science, Jordan Lutz and Randall Rude immediately asked if they could collaborate on a two-year research project using the portable EEG system in conjunction with the EMG technology. They will use EEG, EMG, and video analysis to examine walking gait at various levels of weight load while performing a cognitive task.


Louis Epstein (Music-Musicology), Valerie Wilk '17
Playing the Music History Game: Measuring Learning through Gamification
“We propose to improve and measure students’ learning in the music history classroom by harnessing the pedagogical insights of educational gaming. In the last 30 years, numerous disciplines within higher education have developed games to help students learn content and acquire skills, but music history has yet to explore this promising area. One reason may be that music historians have only recently begun to receive formal pedagogy training and are just beginning to conduct classroom research. It is in part for that reason that we have chosen to collaborate on this project…” Valerie and Carolyn bring interdisciplinary experience from their majors in Music, Psychology, and French and insight gained from having taken the music history sequence at St. Olaf; Louis brings expertise in music history pedagogy and classroom research. Together, they will design a computer-based, educational game that students in Music 241 and 242 will play in upcoming semesters.

Playing the Music History Game Video Summary:

Catherine Rodland (Artist in Residence-Organ), Isaac Drewes '17
Organ Improvisation Curriculum for the Undergraduate Organist
“We propose to create a course of study for organ improvisation targeted toward undergraduate organists, with the goal of creating a practical, multipurpose curriculum aimed at developing the whole organist, both through historical and modern approaches. . . . Historically, improvisation has been expected of organists, and has been taught alongside the performance or established repertoire. Over time, the practice of making music spontaneously at the organ has fallen out of favor, and as a result, many students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees, or even graduate degrees, are not equipped with the necessary tools to improvise. . . . Our finished product will be an organ improvisation curriculum directed at skilled undergraduate organists, for use by college professors with their students.”

Hsiang-Lin Shih (Asian Studies-Chinese), Leah Shumei Suffern '17
Mapping Taipei from the Colonial Period through Modern Times: A Digital Representation of the Shifting Cityscape in Chu T'ien-hsin's Novella The Old Capital
Hsiang-Lin Shih and Leah Suffern will perform a close reading of The Old Capital by Chu T’ien-hsin, and travel to Taipei, Taiwan, in order to create digital maps and virtual tours for the events in the novella. This project is consistent with other digital humanities work and will seek to enhance information and data about the “impacts of urbanization on Taipei’s landscape and people.”

“The idea for this mapping project originated from Modern Chinese Literature and Society (ASIAN 237) course, which used Chu T’ien-hsin’s novella The Old Capital (1997) as one of the texts.  The author’s unique perspective, as a second-generation mainland émigré to Taiwan, and her nostalgia for a bygone Japanese rule reveal various layers of memories of Taipei. . . . Her lament for the absence of her old friends, both literally and figuratively, displays a Taipei that can be easily forgotten by insensitive hearts and neglected by its visitors.  The protagonist’s criticism of the mangroves being blocked out by the Taipei Metro, and her sense of loss for the hundred-year-old nightshade trees being transplanted, for example, further show a deep connection between human beings and the environment.”

Ka Wong (Asian Studies-Chinese), Tracy Xiong '18
Breaking Silence, Making History: Stories of Hmong American Women in Higher Education
“Minnesota is home to over 250,000 Asian Americans, of which Hmong constitutes the largest share. However, Hmong also comes last compared to their Asian American counterparts in attaining high school or higher degrees in education and per capita income; their statistics actually resemble more closely those of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, than Asian Americans in aggregate. . . . This makes those Hmong college students extraordinary in many ways, in particular, female students who often need to fulfill the familial obligations and cultural expectations of Hmong traditions along with facing academic challenges and social responsibilities as modern American women.

Indeed, the majority of these young Hmong American women are making history, being the first generation in their families to attend college. It is time for them to break their silence and share their stories, which, we hope, are informative and inspirational. . . . Through an ethnographic study on Hmong American women in higher education, we can start to shed some light on not only this prominent yet quiet Asian American community in Minnesota, but also the pressing issues of race, gender, and class in the United States as a whole.”


Becca Richards (English, Women's and Gender Studies, Media Studies), Skye Macrae Curtis '16
Expanding the Conversation: Expanding the Women's and Gender Studies Curriculum on St. Olaf Campus for Greater Awareness
This project is intended to innovate and invigorate a strong Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) curriculum and co-curricular interest at St. Olaf. It will help instructors develop new pedagogical materials and allow students to have better educational and professional opportunities. PrRichards and Curtis plan to travel and participate in the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) conference. They will apply what they learned to the St. Olaf campus by discussing changes to be made in the WGST course objectives with other faculty and by holding workshops with student organizations. In the spring, a teach-in will be held to convey what was learned at the NWSA conference.

Ka Wong (Asian Studies), Harrison VanDolah '16
The Presence and Practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Minnesota
If medicine encompasses the science and art of healing, it also embraces the cultures, traditions, and beliefs of the community in which it is being practiced. The goal of this project is to gain a new perspective on the unique stories, histories, and practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Minnesota. This project entails both ethnographic fieldwork and cultural studies analysis. Through an ethnographic study of the Minnesotan TCM community, we can start to better understand issues of cultural exchange, interaction, and integration in the U.S. Wong and VanDolah will conduct original interviews with TCM practitioners in Minnesota, both ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese, as well as on-site observations in different clinics and institutions of practice and education. They plan to share their findings in a variety of channels, including a formal report and web publishing.

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