Monday, September 15, 2014

What Does it Mean to Be a Division 3 Student-Athlete?

Last spring, the attempt by Northwestern’s football team to unionize and other events spurred many conversations and debates at Macalester about athletic privilege. Most of the conversations started from non-athlete students who feel that student-athletes on campus have many perks, including being allowed to skip class, have locker rooms and apparel, and just generally enjoy more privileges among staff and facilities. This was not the first time these conversations were generated and will certainly not be the last. However, in the back and forth debate among students about the life of a Macalester athlete, an important question is often ignored: What does it actually mean to be Division 3 student-athlete?
As the phrase “student-athlete” suggests, being an athlete at Macalester and most (if not all) Division 3 schools means developing as a student first and an athlete second. It means that we take all the same classes with the same expectations as other students on campus. It means that we worked hard in high school to get into college and continue to work hard to ensure success later in life.

Showing off our k-tape jobs from our trainer, Alison!

We do not receive scholarships, we do not get personal tutors, we do not get assigned different homework or tests, and we certainly do not  consider it a perk to skip class because, as any student-athlete knows, missing class simply means more work later on. This is different from how athletes in Division 1 and some Division 2 programs are treated, which is where the college athlete stereotypes originate.

So why be a Division 3 student-athlete? What is it all about? I cannot speak for other students, but for me being a student-athlete at Macalester means that I get to play my favorite sport—softball—while receiving a phenomenal education. It means that I get to spend a lot of time with people with similar interests just as student musicians, actors, government leaders, and others do.

Infielders on the temporary stadium turf softball field

The best part is that one community does not define me because along with being an athlete I also get to be a researcher and organization leader on campus, to plan school events and have internships. I get to be Anna the person first and Anna the softball player second.

For me, being a Division 3 student-athlete means that I’m given the opportunity to make lifelong friends, stay in shape, be a part of a community, and have fun playing competitive softball. It means that my teammates and I play softball because it is something we want to do and love to do, not because we have to do it. It means that I am willing to stay up later to finish homework, be sore 50 percent of the time and dedicate myself to a team. Satisfaction comes from team solidarity (three claps, ladies?!) and accomplishing things as a player and a team that we have worked so hard for. It comes from making great friends and having a support system as I prepare for life after college.  

These are the ultimate rewards and the privileges that I value as a D3 student-athlete. We pay for our apparel, we pay for our education, we work for our grades, we coordinate the use of the locker rooms, gym space, and weight room with the campus. These are not our privileges as they are for Division 1 athletes, and even if they were, they are not the ones I would appreciate most.

—Anna Munson ’15 (LaCrosse, Wis.)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Some favorite places...

Hey new students! Some Mac students and a recent alumnus share their favorite places...

To grab a snack:

I am in love with Tea Garden (technically not a snack, but still an amazing place). The staff are super-friendly and willing to advise you on different flavors. My go-to choice for brisk fall days is loose leaf black orchid with milk and almond. - Angela

I'm all about the Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) on University Avenue! - Abbie

Dunn Bros - a huge cup of coffee and an apple fritter is my go to energy boost before a late afternoon class. - Lucy K

Tea Garden!- Ben

For a snack and coffee I usually go to Caribou on Snelling. It is quiet and warm in there, so during the winter I love sitting by a window when it's snowing with a cup of hot chocolate :) - Sara

Breadsmith. It's right across from campus, and they have amazing scones and muffins which are really cheap too. - Joe

To relax (when not in class):

4th Floor Old Main - Abbie

Whole Foods - I find grocery shopping super soothing, and you can't beat the free samples! - Lucy

Surprisingly, I find Cafe Mac very relaxing sometimes. It is a nice way to hang out
with friends and forget homework for a little while. - Ben

The Children's Reading Room, on the second floor of the library, is a great place to relax. Their beanbag chairs are incredibly comfortable and great for a quick power nap. - Joe

Since I don't have much time (like most Macalester students) to go somewhere just to relax, I wanted to find a place where I can be relaxed while doing work. Cahoots is a coffee shop on Snelling and Selby. When I go there I try to work on something that I like, instead of something boring, with a cup of coffee. Sometimes I just sit there and watch a movie or read a book. - Sara

The library has some surprisingly cozy areas where I can curl up and do my
reading for the week. The basement bean bags, the children's reading
room on the second floor, and the window seats spread throughout the
building are good study and nap locations. - Angela

Children's Reading Room on second floor Library - Nora

To go off-campus:

Minnehaha Falls - Abbie

The Midtown Global Market is always fun and always different. The tamale stand is my personal favorite but they also host really unique events there. When I was interning with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency I worked a booth at the Green Gifts Fair, which is hosted at the Market right before the holiday shopping season starts. - Lucy

I love going to the Mississippi River by St. Thomas. Beautiful spot any season of the year. - Ben

When I have time, and the weather allows, I love going to uptown and the lakes. It is fun to spend a day at the beach and then go for dinner or shopping in uptown. During winter, though, I like going to downtown Minneapolis, especially Nicollet mall. The skyways are really helpful during the cold Minnesotan winter! - Sara

The Mississippi River. There are great trails so you can run or bike along the river, and even take them up to Downtown Minneapolis! It's especially beautiful in the fall when the trees start to change color. - Joe


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Abbie and Karen Adventures

So it all ended with two things:

1) A friend  (that’s me on the left and Karen on the right), and here’s a clue about thing number two.

2) A bike (here’s mine, taking a little break in front of Minnehaha Falls, the Twin Cities’ urban waterfall).

So, the backstory: Karen and I lived on the same first-year floor, Doty 5, but weren’t friends at all. Don’t worry! We both had many other friends; we just didn’t happen to cross paths until sophomore year, when we lived together in the Macalester Vegetarian Cooperative. That’s where the first Abbie and Karen adventures started.   

First, in August 2011, a trip to Northfield, Minn., to attend a food justice retreat with the Real Food Challenge. Then some bread baking and other cooking projects, and soon enough, we founded a student org with some other friends. FoodRoots was a student group with the goal of working together with Café Mac and Macalester to achieve more ethical food purchasing on campus. This work, in solidarity with other schools all over the country, took us to a national conference in Santa Cruz, Calif.  (that’s us above on a farm in California!), that February, where our suitcase famously got stuck in a turnstile in San Francisco. 

Over Spring Break 2012 we took a trip to visit friends at Beloit College, with a brief stop in Madison, and the next October, we took an overnight bus to Baltimore for another food conference. 

Being fancy

But anyway, what I’m trying to tell you is that our friend Lily (that’s Lily on the left and me on the right, being fancy) was interning over the summer at Common Harvest farm in Osceola, Wis. And we couldn’t just let her be out there, for a full three months, without a visit. But the thing about Osceola is that it’s 50 miles away by car, and neither of us has a car. THUSLY, the great bike trip to Wisconsin was born.

Karen and I both bike a lot, but I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re true bikers, by which I mean we don’t have spandex suits and there’s no use timing us ’cause we’re pretty slow. But if there’s one thing about me and Karen, we’re game for an adventure. We pumped up our tires and greased our chains, affixed our bikes with racks and crates, planned a route with the least amount of highway riding, and took off on our 61-mile trip to Osceola! This was the first image of the farm as we crested a hill.

So at this point in the blog you might be thinking WHO CARES? To which I say, it’s not just about the adventure. It’s about this: I didn’t know I could bike 61 miles until I tried it. I didn’t know I could move away from my family, start a student org, travel from coast to coast, or make have friends who would hold me along the entire journey, until I came to Macalester.

As we biked for seven hours, we talked a lot about what the past four years had meant for both of us. A lot of studying and tests. A lot of goofy dancing and spontaneous and much-needed coffee breaks. A few well planned jaunts across the country, and some regional travel too.

This is one way to tell the story of my four years of Mac, one grounded in relationship that bled into activism. This is a story about how Macalester fed my passion and gave me the opportunities to make real change in the world and in myself, and in what I thought I was capable of.
Abbie Shain ’14

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Chuck Green Fellowship: Education outside the classroom

For the past seven months, I've been fortunate to take part in the Chuck Green Fellowship. The fellowship, an offering of the Political Science Department, is probably one of the most interesting opportunities Macalester offers. It has certainly been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my Macalester career.

The Chuck Green Fellowship is named for a now-retired political science professor who has long believed in the importance of students working in communities and with nonprofit organizations to create social change. After he retired, a group of his former students endowed this fellowship to ensure that his teachings and philosophy would live on.

Only 12 students a year are selected for this fellowship, which ensures that a close-knit community is formed as we go about our work. The fellowship consists of two parts: a spring-term class in which we learn about organizational social change and a summer work component in which we apply the knowledge to a project at a Twin Cities nonprofit.

The class was nothing like none other I've taken at Macalester. It was small: just the 12 of us plus a faculty facilitator. Throughout the semester, we learned about different theories and methods of enacting social change, and how to apply them to nonprofit organizations. Plenty of guests came to offer their wisdom, including Macalester President Brian Rosenberg and even Chuck Green himself.

We students were given an incredible amount of control over the direction of the class. At the beginning of the semester half the syllabus was blank, allowing us to propose our own assignments and topics and work them into the syllabus. This freedom resulted in some incredibly engaging classes and thought-provoking conversations, many of which were led entirely by our fellow students.

Each of us had to connect with a nonprofit organization that worked in an area we were interested in, an organization we would then work for over the summer. We all received assistance from the the Internship Office and Career Development Center in finding these organizations, as well as help and advice from political science professor and Chuck Green fellowship facilitator Julie Dolan. Many of the skills we learned in the process, such as professional networking and developing contacts, will be useful later as we look for jobs.

After finding an organization to partner with, we began developing an action plan outlining the scope of our summer work. Then for ten weeks, we worked full time at our partner organizations. Each of us received a generous stipend to cover our living expenses, and we had the option of living in free campus housing.

I worked at a nonprofit called Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), an organization that advocates for improved public transit systems, bike trails, and other sustainable development in Minnesota. I worked mostly on the Move Minnesota campaign, which is pushing for increased transportation funding from the state legislature. I helped develop their summer field plan, coordinated volunteers, staffed events, and researched various topics for the campaign. TLC was the perfect fit for me, since I’m a geography major interested in urban studies and transportation. Through this experience I learned how nonprofits and organizers work to change public policy, and how many layers of politics and bureaucracy must be impacted to create meaningful change.

Once a week, all 12 fellows gathered for dinner with Professor Dolan to discuss our projects and give one another support and advice. Perhaps the most valuable component of the fellowship was learning from each other. Our group members had a wide variety of academic backgrounds, interests, and projects, which made for a rich experience when we shared our perspectives. Other projects this summer included human rights education in schools, Latina economic empowerment, food accessibility and security, and refugee resettlement. Hearing about everyone else's projects and why they were passionate about them was eye-opening.

At the end of our 10 weeks of work, we gathered for a banquet at the Alumni House with our organizational partners, giving us a chance to thank them for this wonderful opportunity, and to gather together as a cohort one last time.

I was drawn to Macalester largely because of its urban location. Over the past two years I've fallen in love with the Twin Cities and become aware of how the metro area is a kind of classroom. The courses that have forced me to leave campus and explore the Twin Cities have been my most rewarding ones, and have taught me the most about how to become an engaged community member. The Chuck Green Fellowship reinforced this.

Two of Macalester’s core values are academic excellence and civic engagement. The Chuck Green Fellowship perfectly meshed those two values, and that experience will definitely shape the rest of my time at Macalester.

- Joe Klein ’16

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer at Macalester: from classroom to real-world

Just as important as doing hands-on learning is reflecting on the experience. Because Hanson believes interpersonal reflection is important, the IGC recently began hosting events for students staying in the Twin Cities over the summer to do internships, volunteering, jobs, and research. She believes these gatherings “give a natural space for students to think about and reflect on various things: What do I want to do outside the academic setting? How is my summer experience relevant to academic purposes and real-life ones? What am I learning about myself through these experiences?” 

Meet Omar Mansour ‘15: He’s a junior from Salt, Jordan. This summer Omar decided to stay in the Twin Cities to assist with a research project led by Dr. Christy Hanson, Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship. “It’s been a great experience working closely with Christy,” said Omar. (On a side note, faculty members at Macalester often urge students to call them by their first names to lead to more engaging relationships.) 

He reaffirmed his academic passion for global health by doing summer research with Professor Hanson, says Omar. Having planned to major in chemistry, he found “a new passion in Global Health that I had never considered before coming to Macalester,” he continues. He got interested in global health after taking courses such as Medical Geography, Spanish, and ultimately Hanson’s class in global health.

Hanson wants the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC) to help more students like Omar. “The IGC is a place where students can find ways to engage in a new idea, passion, line of thinking, or vocational aspiration through hands-on experiences and leadership training,” said Hanson. Emphasizing the importance of experiential learning, the IGC offers various avenues of opportunities for students to engage in learning outside of classroom: the internship office, the study away programs, civic engagement center, and more. “The Institute complements what happens in the classroom. It’s a chance for students to explore how to connect their liberal arts foundation to how they engage in the world now, and to explore how they might use it in the future. They may discover lines of study or work that they wouldn’t have thought of before coming to Macalester by engaging with communities off  campus.” Plus, international students like Omar can find opportunities to explore new ideas and ways of thinking different from those back home.

The summer research project that Dr. Hanson has been leading offers this kind of experiential learning by allowing students to apply classroom knowledge to real-life matters. She is working closely with the government of Kenya and the World Health Organization (WHO) to critically analyze Kenya’s Tuberculosis and HIV programs, and to help shape the country’s next three-year plan for dealing with these leading killers. Says Hanson,  “We have a team at Macalester and a team in Nairobi working together to identify and solve problems.”
Her summer team at Macalester includes four students, who have diverse cultural and academic backgrounds.  “The students are working with me in lots of different ways, each drawing upon the student’s interests and skills but all adding to one overall body of work,” says Hanson. “It’s the liberal arts in action. The Kenyan government has been excited by what we’ve been able to bring to the government in terms of our creative thinking, problem solving, and analytical work.”

Omar has been contributing his statistical skills by working on in-depth multivariate analysis, which has provided ways of understanding the barriers to care for people with stigmatized diseases in Kenya. He has been analyzing two years of patient data to gain insights not only into patients, but also into the entire health system of Kenya in order to determine what needs to be improved. “I’ve been getting a lot of help from Vittorio Addonna, an associate professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. I learned a lot from working with him through this project.”

Macalester offers students many ways to engage in global issues with open minds and critical perspectives. So don’t be afraid to try new things and venture out of your comfort zone. As Omar puts it: “Try new things until you find what you really like. You may fail a lot, but don’t stop trying.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Summer: Vet team to Guatemala

I went to the Career Development Center one day hoping to get some help finding something productive to do with my summer.  I was looking into doing something veterinary medicine related, something that would help build my résumé for vet school.  But I never expected to find what I did: A program that involved traveling to a foreign country to play with animals, learning a little Spanish and faking a lot more, cliff diving, horse riding, staying with a host family who spoke a Mayan dialect, and having one of the biggest experiences of my life.

Vida is a nonprofit program based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. They run pre-health programs (dental, medical, veterinary) out of Central America. I did a medical/veterinary program in Guatemala and had an unparalleled experience with 15 other people from the U.S. and Canada.

This is Guatemala from the sky. This country is filled with gorgeous landscapes.

We all travel together and set up clinics in the same areas (we were mostly in schools). It’s announced in the village that we are coming so people can bring their children and animals to our clinic.

This is that super awkward first group picture, taken before we really got to know each other. This is the vet team—nine from West Virginia University, one from the University of Minnesota, one from Allegheny College, and one—me—from Macalester College. 

The clinic offers owners the chance to spay/neuter their cat or dog. We would see on average about 30 animals a day. We worked in teams of two to three and followed the patient from the time it was brought in until it left recovery. Our first patient came and left in a creative way. This is her post-operation. It was more common for animals to come to us in baskets and feedbags than in a wheelbarrow—whatever works!

We had two large-animal clinic days. This was the chance to work with cows, chickens, horses, pigs, rabbits, and a goose named Billy. It’s different handling these animals because most of them don’t get handled a lot, let alone get poked with needles. We didn’t do surgery on farm animals, though. Large-animal days were also days when we did house calls. Four of us would travel to a home where we vaccinated 75 chickens. And yes, I did get to hold and vaccinate 13 day-old chicks! (See image above)

In addition to doing vet work, we got a few days off. On one day we toured Antigua and wandered the city a bit. I know English, a bit of French, but Spanish—not so much. While I did learn enough Spanish to survive in the end, it was mostly touristy Spanish.
There were street vendors everywhere selling colorful clothes, but as tourists with limited money, the phrase “No gracias” quickly became our staple phrase. This is at a bartering market in Antigua where everything’s colorful and a vendor called me crazy, but I did get coffee and chocolate for about $12

We did a home stay in the mountains of Guatemala. The families spoke a little Spanish, but mostly spoke a Mayan dialect called Quiché. Communication with my host family involved a lot of gestures and looking up words in a dictionary.  The kids in my host family attend a school taught in Spanish, which helped. And I got really lucky because one of the kids understood some English and French. They were fascinated with our technology—iPhones and cameras.  This is our selfie taken with our host family’s kids.

This is one of the many rewards of doing what we do.  In addition to providing care to animals, we get to play and cuddle with puppies and kittens.

After all of our clinic days were over, we had three days of relaxation and fun in Panajachel.  The first day, we went cliff jumping here with volcanoes in the background.  The group also did zip lining and had fun being in a tourist city. 

We did six clinic days. By the fourth day, we undergrads were taking an animal in, doing a
complete examination of it, calculating and administering anesthetics, doing catheter and endotracheal tube insertion, vaccinating, monitoring animals during and post-surgery, writing prescriptions, and even  doing some of the surgery. For an undergrad, this is definitely an unparalleled hands-on veterinary experience. And I never would have found it if the CDC hadn’t helped me find something productive to do with my summer.

-Tae ’16 (Rockport, Indiana) 

Monday, June 30, 2014

From Farm to City


I grew up on a farm nestled in central Iowa. When I was looking for colleges, I was ready for another kind of adventure—a city! Of course there were some adjustments. For example, during Orientation week, while we were visiting the Minnesota State Fair, all my new friends complained about the animal smells, which I thought were mild and rather clean and smelling. Nevertheless, I soon adjusted and fell in love with Macalester’s urban location.
Of course, getting out and about in the Twin Cities requires transportation, which for most of my time at Macalester has been buses, biking, and walking. The Twin Cities public transportation infrastructure has recently developed into something even easier and more accessible with the opening of the new intercity light rail—the Green Line.  
During the grand opening of the Green Line on June 14 there were celebrations across the Twin Cities. A few of my friends and I were planning to ride the Green Line to the downtown St. Paul farmer’s market for our weekly vegetable run. We took a combination of bikes and bus to downtown St. Paul (having left too early in the day to ride the Green Rail on opening day). While we waited for the light rail to start running we strolled through the farmer’s market, picking up broccoli, green onions, and cheese.
Soon we wandered over to the light rail station. Each of the light rail stations had some sort of celebration going on—artists, music, dance, games, and food! Unfortunately, the weather was quickly turning cold and rainy.
But we live in Minnesota! We can deal with wet and cold, no problem!

Here are the beautiful brand new light rail cars waiting at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.

And of course, we had to have a selfie on the new light rail! It was so exciting to be a part of this special day, even though we got soaked!  According to Metro Transit, more than 45,000 people rode the light rail on opening day.
Since the light rail opened, getting around St. Paul and Minneapolis has become so much easier. I’ve been able to move between the cities so much faster to attend art festivals, baseball games, music festivals, and more. I plan on taking full advantage of light rail all summer, which will really enhance my enjoyment of these months in the Twin Cities. I’m confident that my summer will be full of all sorts of adventures—ones completely different from those I had on the farm. 

- Claire '14