Tag Archives: St. Catherine University

Healing as opportunity – One community’s story

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity – Hippocrates

 As we struggle through this season of our political discontent, communities of interest – faith communities, academic institutions, senior residences, schools, neighborhoods, towns and cities – face a mighty challenge to heal the wounds inflicted by the election of 2016. Visionaries see both the pain and the opportunity implicit in the healing process.

One institution that has come to my attention over the weekend is St. Catherine University in St. Paul. Though SCU is my alma mater I share the story not to promote the institution but to suggest a path for others to embrace the opportunity at hand.

The need to heal the campus community came from the Student Senate President who emailed the University President with this question: “Should we do something post-election to help heal the St. Kate’s community?” adding that she was “really worried about how everyone is feeling.”  The administration shared the student’s concern and took immediate and concrete action.

The result:  On Wednesday, November 9, the University community – faculty and students, staff, board and founders will gather for an evening of dinner, dialogue and healing. Sponsors reflect every aspect of the University community — from Student Senate to Campus Ministry to the Muslim Student Association and the Theology Department.

The evening includes a gathering for Interfaith Prayer followed by dinner and dialogue that will focus on the institution’s legacy of service to the common good and the opportunity to heal as community.

The questions with which all will grapple include divisiveness, hurt and anger that have emerged during the election, how to live out the legacy of the founders, bridge building, the true meaning of “respect for all” and personal commitment to the opportunity to heal as a community.

This creative initiative strikes me as an idea that might inspire other communities of interest to acknowledge and act on the challenge to embrace a unique – and painful – opportunity to grow by working as community to heal the wounds that politics has exposed.

Strong Women in the Life of Associate Justice McKeig

On Thursday, September 15, 2016, Anne K. McKeig took the oath of office as the newest member of the Minnesota Supreme Court.   As most Minnesotans know Associate Justice McKeig is the first American Indian member of the State’s highest court.

Along with many MPR listeners I learned more about McKeig when she was interviewed recently by host Tom Weber. (https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/08/02/anne-mckeig) Inspired and intrigued by McKeig’s life story I have been thinking about the powerful women who, I must believe, have influenced her life. Since there exist countless McKeig interviews, features, photos, bios and factoids, I decided to focus here on a few women who almost certainly helped to shape her ideas and support her efforts, women who shared their strength with this promising young jurist.

These are not legal scholars, who obviously had a hand; they are instead strong women who served as role models along McTeig’s path to the Court. Though a realize there are countless others – these are the women who might be overlooked in the official narrative.

The first woman who comes to mind is Ruth Myers, known as the Mother of American Indian Education in Minnesota. A member of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) Ruth broke ground as the first American Indian to serve on the Duluth School Board. She was later appointed by Governor Perpich to serve on the Minnesota State Board of Education, a policy-making board later deep-sixed by the Legislature.   Ruth was my role model and friend – to record her story I submitted a short piece for MnOpedia. (http://www.mnopedia.org/person/myers-ruth-1926-2001) I feel certain that, though she died in 2001, Ruth Myers left a path for the young McKeig to follow.

And then there is Cecilia Wattles McKeig, Anne’s mother. A graduate of the College of St. Catherine, Cecilia went on to earn a Masters degree in History from the University of Minnesota. She settled in Federal Dam, Minnesota, (the town of 110_ residents now made famous by McKeig) where she served for thirty years as Director of Indian Education at Northland High school.

Cecelia McKeig is herself a published author; her history of the Bemidji area was published by the Beltrami County History Center in 2013. (Bemidji: A Snapshot of Bemidji 1940-1960: Arcadia Publishing, 2013) Last Spring Ceceilia McKeig was honored with the St. Catherine University Medal of Distinction, in recognition of her work as educator and historian.

Following in her mother’s education footsteps, Anne McKeig graduated from St. Catherine University, a liberal arts college for women founded in 1905 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The strength and wisdom of early – if undeclared – feminists lives on in the mission, the curriculum and, some would argue, the structures themselves.

It is no coincidence that McKeig’s recent swearing in ceremony took place at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University – or that the students from Northland High School performed a drum circle – or that the White Earth Color Guard posted colors — at that festive, and deeply meaningful, event.

Note: For a touching video of Justice McKeig, in which she expresses thanks for her mentors, including retired Justice Robert A. Blaeser and his wife click here: http://theuptake.org/2016/06/28/live-video-gov-dayton-appoints-a-supreme-court-justice/



Girls Explore Creative Coding at Katie DoJo

Since my return from the Code for America 2014 Summit I have replayed – virtually and literally – the images of the presenters. [One image keeps recurring – the image of creative young women working with users to craft techie tools that solve real-life human needs. For so many of these young women the story was not so much about the tool but about the ways in which the app improved someone’s life. That implicit purpose seemed uniquely explicit in the presentations of dozens of young female coders.

To wit: In Detroit one young woman delved into the water shut-off mess and created an app that group sourced rapid recovery assistance from around the world. A young woman from Chicago developed an app that eased the way for young felons to expunge their criminal record, freeing them to get a job, to find an apartment, to vote. In Somerville, Massachusetts it was a team of young women who created an ethnic festival that engaged all of that diverse community. [ The videos of these and all of the scores of coder presentations are posted online for easy viewing.]

So it’s not surprising that Katie CoderDojo, in spite of the inscrutable title, caught my eye during a recent visit to the campus of St. Catherine University..

The idea behind Katie CoderDojo is that girls and young women ages 8-16 will spread their creative coding wings in a special supportive environment.

Katie CoderDojo is a joint project of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education and the Master of Library and Information Science programs at St. Catherine’s. The CSU project is a partner program of Code Savvy, a Minnesota nonprofit.

The next Katie CoderDojo is set for Sunday, October 19, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Room 19 in the Coeur de Catherine building on the CSU Campus, 2004 Randolph at Cleveland in St. Paul. Future sessions are set for November 16 and December 14. These first sessions will include introductions to Scratch and Appinventor. There is no free for participants. For girls under 13 parents are asked to remain on site.

For more information or to register click here: http://www.codesavvy.org/p/katie-coderdojo.html



Eileen Cooke, A National Library Week Tribute

With a firm hand and a smile that could charm the toughest solon, Minnesota native Eileen Delores Cooke (1928-2000) shaped and steered the legislative agenda of America’s libraries.  She anticipated the role of telecommunications technology, held firm to the principle of freedom of information, and saw to it that there are public libraries in small towns throughout the nation.

Born in Minneapolis Cooke, graduated from St Margaret’s Academy and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Library Science from the College of St. Catherine.

From 1952 until 1964 Cooke served on the staff of the Minneapolis Public Library – working as a bookmobile librarian, branch assistant, hospital librarian and public relations specialist.  For one year, 1957-58, she took a position as branch librarian at Queens Borough Public Library.

It was probably Cooke’s public relations acumen that caught the attention of Germaine Kretek, legendary director of the political arm of the American Library Association.  ALA, with its main office in Chicago, had long maintained a strong presence in Washington, DC.  In 1964 Cooke moved to DC where she held a variety of positions with the ALA Washington Office, serving as Executive Director for two decades, from 1972 until her retirement in 1993.

The early years of her tenure Cooke described as “a great time for libraries.”  The Kennedy administration set a high priority on libraries, which the Johnson Administration continued.  The passage of the Library Services and Construction Act in 1964 marked a time of great library development, particularly support for small and rural public libraries.  The next years saw passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that included generous appropriations for school libraries.  The Medical Library Assistance Act followed in 1966 along with the Higher Education Act of the same year, both of which included unprecedented funding for library support.

Each of these political accomplishments reflects the strategic approach and influence of the ALA Washington Office and of its Executive Director.  Cooke herself described the philosophy and style of the Washington office as being firmly anchored on a commitment to “persistence, persuasion and planning.”

Not one to rest on the organization’s political laurels Cooke worked with library leaders to anticipate and hold at bay the changes that were to come with the next administration.  One notable accomplishment was establishment of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science in 1970.  NCLIS led in time to two White House Conferences on Library and Information Services, both of which engaged a inclusive  public of library users and supporters, along with administrators and board members.

Cooke’s approach was to emphasize the importance of not only engaging but also training staff, board members and the public in the tools of effective politics.  Today library buildings and networks thrive because of the groundwork Cooke laid decades ago.

Still, her legacy far exceeds bricks and mortar.  Among other commitments, she was a formidable supporter of the Copyright Revision Act of 1976, working tirelessly for fair-use provisions of the copyright law, which required revision to respond to demands of evolving media.

In 1978 when the future of the Internet and the role of telecommunications was a gleam in the eye of futurists, Cooke was elected the first woman president of the Joint Council on Educational Telecommunications.

Perhaps best known for her encyclopedic knowledge of the facts and her dependability as a resource, Cooke was also an excellent communicator.  Her public relations background and innate ability led her to write extensively for a host of library-related journals, including the ALA Washington Newsletter, a timely and habitually read information pipeline.

In addition Cooke recognized the way that libraries could collaborate with organizations and projects set on parallel paths – listening to their goals and pointing out the overlap of interests, whether with the needs of older Americans, school media professionals, literacy providers, proponents of library services to American Indian tribes, the National Periodicals Center, services for people with disabilities, preservationists or scholars.

On the occasion of Eileen Cooke’s retirement in 1993, former ALA President and Director of the District of Columbia Public Library, Hardy Franklin, described her as the “51st State Senator on Capitol Hill.”

After her retirement Cooke returned to her birthplace in Minneapolis.  There she found time to enjoy the arts, including her own watercolor painting.  She participated in activities at her alma mater, the College of St. Catherine.  And well into her 70’s Cooke took on the awesome challenge of learning to drive for the first time in her life!

Cooke died April 30, 2000.  On June 30 of that year Congressman Major Owens (D NY) rose to pay tribute before his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives:

As a result of Eileen Cooke’s efforts the library profession moved into the mainstream of the political process.  She demanded that the federal government recognize and respect libraries as universal institutions in our democratic society which deserve greater and more consistent support….

With indefatigable optimism Eileen Cooke worked with Members of Congress, staff assistants, educational and cultural organizations, and all others who supported education and libraries… 

She was a fighter capable of hard-nose analysis but always focused and deliberative.  She was a coalition builder who won both fear and admiration from her adversaries.  Above all she had vision and could see far ahead of the government decision-makers.  She understood the nature of the coming “information superhighway” and could predict the vital role of libraries and librarians as the traffic signals on this expressway into the cyber-civilization of the future.

The work of Eileen D. Cooke benefits all Americans.  She has won the right to be celebrated and saluted as a Great American Point-of-Light.

In commemoration of Eileen Cooke’s commitment to open government the American Library Association continues to sponsor the Eileen Cooke State and Local Madison Award, conferred on Freedom of Information Day, held each year on March 16 to honor the birth date of President James Madison.

Chautauqua at St Catherine University Kicks Off August 8

Lively learners of every vintage have a chance to kick off (literally) the Summer Chautauqua series that will burst forth for a second year on the campus of St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph in St. Paul’s Highland area.  On Wednesday, August 8, 7:00 p.m. the music ensemble Bara, with dance caller Ann Wiberg, will host a Ceili (pronounced KAY-lee), the traditional Irish gathering of fun, fellowship, laughs and a chance to trip the light fantastic.

The merriment takes place on the SCU campus in Rauenhorst Ballroom, Coeur de Catherine hall (student union/library).  Registration for the Kickoff Bara is $10 for adults, $5 for children who have a special invitation to participate.

The Ceili kicks off the week-long Chautauqua program  (August 8-15,) targeted to adult learners who have lots to learn – about everything from “Hmong Culture and Shamanism in Today’s Society” to “From Gene Kelly to Generation X: The Transformation of American Musical Theater,” to “Human Trafficking in Minnesota.” Sessions meet throughout the day and evening .  The week wraps up with a well-deserved Ice Cream Social featuring “musical stringman” Paul Imholte on Wednesday, August 15, 7:00 p.m.

Prices for individual classes vary.  For a full schedule of classes, faculty, times and sites and a campus map, email stkate.edu/Chautauqua or 651 690 6666.

* * *

NEW FOR 2012 at Chautauqua is a Girls Leadership Track set for Friday, August 10 through Monday morning, August 13.  Geared to girls entering 6th through 8th grade in Fall 2012, the program requires that youth be accompanied by an adult “champion” –  mother, aunt, grandmother, friend or another “mentor.”

The program will provide tools and resources for girls to “carry their leadership journey forward.”  Participates may attend any or all of the classes in the track; cost for the Girls Leadership Track is $40.

Booked for an Evening – Good Reads for Good Kids November 7

Now that the experts have confirmed that TV harms kids (!) the fallback for some parents, grandparents and caregivers just may be as old fashioned as books!  Catch up on the latest with a panel of experts, children’s librarians who live and breathe children’s literature.  Check out Booked for the Evening, an evening of children’s literature at the Red Balloon, is now celebrating its tenth year as a venerable tradition for those who want to learn what’s new and special and irresistible to young readers and their reading partners.


Sponsors of this unique collaboration include the Red Balloon, MELSA, the regional public library system, and the Library and Information Science program at St. Catherine University.  The books are from the Red Balloon and the panelists are graduates of the Master’s program at St. Catherine University.


The tenth annual Booked for the Evening is Monday, November 7, 6:30 p.m. at the Red Balloon, 891 Grand Avenue (Grand and Milton) in St. Paul.  Cost is $13 – checks payable to St. Catherine University.  Mail to Alumnae Relations, SCU, Mail F-33, 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul 55105.


This is just one of scores of programs related to children’s literature – writers, illustrators, publishers and more – sponsored by the Red Balloon and other area bookstores.  Take some time to peruse the magnificent array of books for young readers – you’ll be amazed at the treasures.  If you haven’t read with a child recently you may want to revisit the delight.  A good read with a good kid can brighten the longest and coldest winter evening!



MPIRG at 40

MPIRG – Minnesota Public Interest Research Group MPIRG Board Chair Kathy Dekrey testifies against lifting the nuclear power moratorium in the house environment committee.


When Kathy Dekray, current Board Chair of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), and a senior at Augsburg College recently testified before the Legislature she argued against the removal of the nuclear moratorium in Minnesota.   She was the most recent in an endless list of MPIRG representatives who have expressed the position of MPIRG student members on scores of issues facing the state.

More than 150 members, former members and supporters of MPIRG gathered on Friday, January 21, to celebrate four decades of advocacy and involvement through this “grassroots, non-artisan, nonprofit, student-directed organization”.  The occasion gives Executive Director Josh Winters pause to reflect on the origins and future of MPIRG.

What Winters sees is change.  The Minnesota public interest research group, along with Oregon, were the first two campus-based public interest research groups.  Though the beginnings are often associated with Ralph Nader, Winters is quick to credit others, including Don Ross, who took a good idea and made it happen.  “A good idea is a good idea, but it takes people to do it,” Winters observes.

An intriguing question Winters raises is just how did a small cadre of students, volunteers and others create a statewide – actually national – network in a pre-social media environment.  The answer, he affirms, must be based in a deep commitment to grassroots organizing coupled with a shared vision to give voice to everyone.  That commitment is expressed in the mission of MPIRG to “empower and train students and engage the community to take collective action in the public interest throughout the state of Minnesota.”

Today some 70,000 Minnesota college students are members of MPIRG;  the ranks are augmented by hundreds of community volunteers, including many MPIRG alumni.

MPIRG operates on nine campuses throughout the state:  Augsburg College, Carleton College, St. Catherine University, Hamline University, Macalester College, U of M-Duluth, U of M-Morris, U of M-Twin Cities, and William Mitchell College of Law. The individual campus-based websites reflect a wide range of individual campus activities.

Campuses offer a mix of membership options, most in the refusable/refundable range, thus avoiding past conflict re. mandatory membership that at times have pitted campus conservative groups against MPIRG which they perceived as too far left of center – or organization that reject mandatory memberships out of hand.

The current statewide identified issues on which MPIRG members and volunteers are working include green transportation, health care for all, and affordable higher education. The roster of scores of issues tackled over the years range from solar tax credit to car lemon laws to a 2006 production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

An ongoing priority for MPIRG members is voter registration and involvement.  Clearly, students are focused on, but not limited to, youth engagement in the political process.

In Fall 2010 MPIRG was one of several organizations involved with what Star Tribune journalist Eric Roper referred to as “a minor battle of generations” brewing in Minnesota politics.  College students gathered at the State Capitol to express their concerns. Speaking as an MPIRG representative Carleton College student Ben Hellerstein raised the question “With only half as many people turning out to the polls, is everyone’s voice really being heard?”

Roper reflects on a number of factors students perceive to leave college students left out of the political arena.  The moved-up primary, for example, meant students were at work or out of the country.  Another issue cited by students is the fact that candidates’ tendency to court over-60 voters may ignore attention to students.

Winters overflows with ideas as he looks to the future – how to harness today’s social media without losing the essential “hands on” essence of the organization.   He speaks enthusiastically about community/campus based initiatives, e.g.  a research-based approach to mandatory business recycling in Minneapolis.

Another priority for tomorrow’s MPIRG is research, particularly in-depth and long-term research. At present, for example, MPIRG is initiating an extensive survey of photo ID on voting.  Another ongoing longitudinal survey focuses on a statewide survey of sexual violence and assault on campus; the report of that study is due out next fall

The recent 40th anniversary recognition offered an opportunity for today’s students and advocates to reflect on the legacy of MPIRG.  Students could learn about the roots of the organization, its accomplishments, changes and intent.  For alumni the event was an occasion to see how their legacy is being carried forward by ambitious and committed students equipped with new tools and putting them to the task of sharing a the vision of “common sense good policies.”

Saint Catherine University Master of Library and Information Science Program Accredited

There is good news this week for a brilliant and committed cadre of information professionals, aka librarians.   The basic announcement is brief and to the point:

January 12, 2011

The Master of Library and information science (MLIS) Program faculty and staff of St. Catherine University are delighted to announce that we have received initial accreditation from the American Library Association. We want to thank all of our students, alumnae/i, friends, and colleagues for their ongoing support and encouragement. To say that we are ecstatic would be an understatement. All of the St. Kate’s community has worked hard to make this happen for all of us. Please stay tuned for more.

Not mentioned here is that essential fact that this is also great news for this community that appreciates and needs the contribution these professionals will make..  The St. Catherine University Master of of Library and Information Science program is the only graduate professional library school in Minnesota.  As of now the program and its graduates are accredited and recognized by the American Library Association.  To some, that is a blip on the screen, to the students, graduates and the profession – not to mention the community – this is good and essential news.

For several years I served on the Committee on Accreditation of the American Library Association.  I know what an accomplishment accreditation is.  I applaud those who played a role and appreciate the work they have done to create a solid and sustainable program that deserves accreditation.  Most important, the St. Catherine University program looks to the future of life in the information age.

My primary concern is that we might well perish for lack of the skills, attitudes and deep understanding that the graduates of this program will contribute to this community.  It means clashing with the outrageously outdated stereotype of librarianship, carving out a niche in overpowering information age, understanding the organization of information and, far more important, the needs (today and future) of users.

Traditionally, the graduates of the SCU Library Science program have set a pace of excellence and service.  The graduates of this accredited program will have an easier row to hoe because they will have “the accredited degree.”  This augurs well – they’ve accomplished rung one, and from that vantage point they will rise high and contribute essential wisdom and class to the information age.

Full disclosure – I was once a librarian, not a graduate of the St. Catherine University MLIS program.  I fell into the profession, a plummet I have seldom regretted.