Author: Cathrine Meeder

Faculty in Focus: Ariel Strichartz

As her students can attest, Associate Professor of Spanish Ariel Strichartz expresses ideas and herself enthusiastically. Behind this energy is a history of personal growth and learning. Her professional passions and interests clearly translate into her classroom curriculum and teaching style.

Strichartz did not take a linear path to teaching. As an undergrad, she attended Rice University, where she majored in Spanish. To make travel money while she studied abroad in Spain, she taught English classes to young students.

“It was a really hard gig … and I thought, ‘I am never going to be a teacher. Ever,’” Strichartz said.

After college, Strichartz worked as a headhunter for a firm that placed technical specialists. Specifically specializing in placing Macintosh programmers. Realizing the work environment was not a good fit, she went back to school at the University of New Mexico. Initially, she hoped to go to law school due to her interest in immigration policy. However, when the day of the LSAT came, Strichartz realized her interests were heading in a different direction.

“I was immersing myself in history and poli sci classes and lit classes,” Strichartz said. “And once the law school thing fell out of the picture, I could just do literature. And I was so excited. And then I started taking history, to support that, to give me contextualization for what I was analyzing in literary texts.”

The interdisciplinary master’s program in Latin American studies led Strichartz to pursue her doctorate degree in Spanish at the University of Kansas. She credits the opportunity largely to the support and encouragement she received from her family. After teaching Spanish at the University of Kansas, Strichartz applied to teach at St. Olaf. Despite the distance from home, Strichartz feels she found a good fit here in Minnesota and hasn’t looked back since. She teaches intermediate and upper level Spanish courses and has led interim trips to Ecuador five times.

Despite having an initial aversion to teaching, Strichartz now considers the profession a gift.

“It pulls you out of yourself, because you’re interacting with other people,” Stritchartz said. “And ironically, some of the best classes I’ve had are on some of my worst days. You give, but you get so much more back.”

Language classes require a unique pedagogy that often pushes students outside of their comfort zones.

“I think [making mistakes] is a really great way to learn what it’s like to be the other,” Strichartz said. “Maybe [students] will be more sympathetic to groups who are considered the ‘other’ than the dominant majority, because they know what it’s like to suddenly not have the ability to express their ideas, or to cast about for the right word, or worry about whether it’s a formal or informal register, all those things that go into translation.”

Beyond teaching, she spends much of her time researching and writing. Strichartz specifically focuses on theater in Argentina and Chile, literary treatment of food and theater under dictatorship. During her sabbatical over the 2015-16 school year, she studied comparative memory in theater addressing the Armenian genocide, performed in post-dictatorship Argentina. Over the summer, Strichartz attended the National Endowment for the Arts’ theater conference in Buenos Aires, participating in forums and attending 16 plays.

Teaching, researching and traveling occupy much of Strichartz’s time and energy, but she also enjoys keeping active by doing yoga and Zumba. She brings her positive, hardworking attitude to experiences both inside and outsite the classroom.

“It’s important to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s a messy process, but you have to do it to get better,” Strichartz said.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Faculty in Focus: Professor Beth Dow

The St. Olaf Art and Art History Department welcomed Visiting Assistant Professor Beth Dow to its ranks this fall, but it was certainly not the artist’s first time on campus. Dow graduated from St. Olaf in 1987 with a studio art degree and her photography has brought her back to Northfield since then, when Carleton College commissioned her work for a project.

Dow’s interest in photography began early, as her dad worked in experimental printing and photography.

“Some of my very earliest memories were sitting in my dad’s darkroom, watching prints come up in the developer,” Dow said.

The professor explored a variety of interests before returning to photography. She entered St. Olaf as an English major, worked on the Manitou Messenger staff, hosted a radio show and studied in England for a semester. Her time abroad proved so enjoyable that she moved to London after graduation and stayed there for eight years, working as an artist.

Over her career, Dow’s work has been exhibited in America, Britain, Japan, China, Switzerland and Germany, and has received many awards and reviews from a variety of publications, including The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe. Dow has also been awarded fellowships from the McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Dow describes herself as having an artist’s mind, but she has always been drawn to teaching, too. As a young adult, she taught Sunday school, helped at a Tiny Tots program, coached t-ball and hosted workshops.

She attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota and then taught photography classes there, which sparked her passion for education.

“To get our brains working in ways we didn’t think they could work; to make associations in our own lives and with other people’s lives,” Dow said. “Tying your broader life into the medium, and tying the medium into your broader life. To me, that’s the most exciting part of teaching.”

While most students in Dow’s classes probably won’t go on to work as artists after graduation, she hopes that the courses still play an important role in their holistic education.

“My goal is to build a better audience,” she said. “We’re all going to consume images. I’m hoping to create a better audience, so that can carry on with them throughout their lives.”

“I love photography in all its forms, even when the forms are kind of awful, I love that there’s a conversation that can be had around them,” Dow said.

Dow doesn’t just work with photography; she also enjoys drawing, writing and craftsmanship. Part of her work at St. Olaf includes serving on the Folk School staff, where she teaches spoon carving and leatherwork. She additionally sings in the Prairie Fire Lady Choir, a women’s choir in Minneapolis and plays ukelele in weekend musical jam sessions.

Whatever she’s doing, the artistic process informs both Dow’s professional work and personal life. She noted being particularly drawn to certain objects, such as trees, without knowing the reason why. Pointing to a pile of negative slides on her desk, the artist described how she tends to hold on to objects that interest her without knowing the reason. This tendency allows her to remain open to the unexpected.

“Something excites me, and grabs my interest somehow … I store it away in my house and my mind, and I find context for it later,” she said. “I will need those things someday and use them, but I don’t know how yet.”

While Dow values setting goals, she also emphasized the value in distraction. In her photography, she often sets out to create a certain project, but will find something new along the way that holds a certain magic.

She related the open-minded artistic process to the importance of college students seizing the variety of opportunities that St. Olaf offers.

“If there’s something that even just remotely interests you, look into it,” Dow said. “Join that club, or join that group and follow that interest. Because if it grabs your attention in some way, … [it might] really figure into your lives,” Dow said. “So meet those people and make those connections while you’re here. Keep your eyes open for things that might surprise you, because that’s how you grow.”

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Visiting professor leads allyship conversation

When the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE) chose discussion topics for the Cultural Conversations program, no one could have predicted just how appropriate it would be to center November’s talk on “Discerning paths of solidarity” in a tense post-election atmosphere.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow Suzanne Wint gathered with a small group of students on Wednesday, Nov. 30 to explore the idea of being an “ally.” She opened her presentation with a disclaimer, stating that she did not consider herself an expert on the topic but had been involved with various protests and rallies. Wint provided an illustration of her personal experience as a student at the University of Chicago, where men were criticized for demanding representation at the Women in Engineering Club meetings. Her example set up the discussion of how people can respectfully and productively participate in civil rights movements and protest movements organized by those outside their own identities.

The topic proved understandably difficult to navigate, as the actions of well-meaning people have proven problematic. Students in attendance brought up criticisms of outsiders who hold patronizingly sympathetic attitudes or insert themselves for attention. Gestures of solidarity, such as wearing a safety pin, sometimes come across as more focused on the individual than on the issue. Indeed, dominant groups are often part of the problem being protested against.

Many opinions articles in national media have targeted the apathy of dominant groups in civil rights issues. Protests often take place in response to societal issues caused or contributed to by majority groups. Wint explored this.

“Whose problem is it to solve? [A good argument] might be that white folk need to be working with white folk to change,” Wint said.

Wint also brought up the criticism aimed at Beyonce’s performance at the recent Country Music Awards. Two white, male non-country singers performed last year with little to no pushback, but the black female artist brought many negative reactions from country music fans. The media and representations of different groups emerged as a recurring theme throughout the hourlong discussion. Conversation eventually turned to the responsibility of consumers in reading and interpreting news.

The group generally agreed that it was important for dominant groups to listen to protesters and seek understanding, even if they could never fully relate. Wint shared an article published on the American Friends Service Committee web site entitled “Note to Self: White People Taking part in #BlackLivesMatter Protests.” The author suggested remaining respectful toward authorities, avoiding self-congratulatory social media posts and staying involved after the event ends. Wint also brought up articles from other sources, which took a variety of stances on the issue, giving students fodder for discussion.

Wint closed the discussion with a personal story of participating in an anti-nuclear protest walk to the European Union headquarters in Belgium. She described the difficulties in navigating differences between the protesters, some of which prevented people from taking direct action.

“There are support roles that you can play as well. For instance, figuring out for someone’s family where they’ve been taken if or when they’re interested. Or maybe getting them their medication,” Wint said.

She offered ideas about concrete actions allies could take, including listening to nondominant groups’ stories, supporting protest efforts, writing letters to government officials, taking part in quiet activism movements and discussing issues with people who have different backgrounds or beliefs.

“This conversation became all the more important as the political situation became more confrontational throughout the fall, but regardless of the political temperature, this conversation will continue to be important as long as there are groups of people who feel unsafe in this country due to their identity,” Wint said.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Students swing into social dance

Until 1961, dancing was banned at St. Olaf College. Today, campus embraces this form of art and socialization through a variety of departments, events and organizations. Among student groups celebrating dance are the Lindy Hoppers, the St. Olaf Swing Club.

St. Olaf started hosting Lindy lessons with a small group of students in 2003, shortly after the re-emergence of swing dance in American culture. Since then, the club has become quite popular on campus. At this year’s first meeting, close to 100 students showed up to try out their moves. Instruction usually centers around the Lindy Hop, but other forms of swing dance are also explored from time to time. The club is open to anyone interested, although students may have difficulty joining late in the semester as the lessons tend to build progressively as the year goes on.

“Attendance usually drops later in the semester, as people get busier and think they can’t come back if they’ve missed a meeting or two, which isn’t true,” Swing Club “Emperor” Elaine Grafelman ’18 said.

The Swing Club officers typically teach a lesson every Tuesday from 9 to 10 p.m., followed by an hour of free form swing dancing, during which students get to have fun and dance with a variety of partners. In addition to the weekly meetings, the club offers additional opportunities to learn and practice. Carleton College’s Swing Club welcomes St. Olaf students to its Monday dance nights and often attends events hosted at St. Olaf.

This year, the St. Olaf Swing Club is hosting open dances on the last day of classes each semester and will collaborate with the jazz bands for a swing fest in March, similar to the recent Halloween event. Group members often venture off campus to dance with other swing enthusiasts. Over interim, the group plans to send students to Minneapolis to take lessons from professional swing dancers who studied under the famous Lindy Hop instructor Frankie Manning. St. Olaf swing dancers attend swing festivals around the Midwest, from St. Paul to Iowa.

Most students who join the Swing Club do not have a background in the activity but are interested in learning something new and meeting a variety of new people along the way. For many, the club is a place to get away from the usual routine and enjoy some good old-fashioned socializing.

“I really, really love that it’s social,” Grafelman said. “It’s a new way to relate to people. I can get dinner with my friends, and that’s one way to relate to people, but I like that there’s this physical way of relating to people through the dance. And it’s not such a strenuous way of dancing that you can’t talk to people while you dance, and it’s not so strict that you feel uncomfortable. It’s a very laid back and comfortable way of dancing that really lends itself to being social.”

In true liberal arts fashion, Swing Club offers an opportunity for students to go beyond their usual studies in the classroom and build intentional community with their peers. However, the unique group also expands beyond Northfield and college years, as the skills learned are globally relevant and useful. Some members have connected with other swing dance groups while studying abroad or have gotten involved with community dance groups post-graduation. The Jitterbug, West Coast Swing, Jive and aerials serve as the building blocks for lifelong activity and relationships.

Swing Club meetings are held every Tuesday from 9 to 11 p.m. in Dittman Studio One. Contact President Serena May Calcagno at with any inquiries.

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Eaves set to bring new life to St. Olaf hockey

The St. Olaf athletics department welcomed new leadership in several sports this school year, perhaps most notably men’s hockey coach Michael Eaves. Division I sports fans may recognize Eaves from University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served as head coach for the past 14 years, leading the Badgers to an impressive 267-225-76 record. His arrival at St. Olaf marks a significant change not only for the coach, moving from the nationally recognized Big Ten conference to a small Division III school, but also for St. Olaf’s hockey program as a whole.

Eaves himself played hockey for UW-Madison before playing professionally in the NHL for the Minnesota North Stars and the Calgary Flames. A head injury knocked him into retirement at 28 years old, but he came back to play for the Flames during the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs, playing in eight games and helping Calgary to the Western Conference title.

He permanently retired after that season and has been coaching full-time for the past 30 years. Eaves’ career has taken him and his hockey-loving family all over the country and abroad, from Canada to Pennsylvania to Finland to Michigan, until landing them in Madison for the past 14 years. Eaves brings plentiful experience and connections to Northfield.

“The hockey world makes the world seem a lot smaller; I can walk into almost any rink, and I can guarantee you I’ll run into someone I know,” Eaves said.

The Eaves family isn’t completely new to the area; in fact, they are long-time owners of a cabin in Faribault where Eaves and his wife worked at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. His son Ben Eaves has served as St. Olaf’s strength and conditioning coach and will be joining his dad in leading the men’s hockey program this year, along with two volunteer assistant coaches.

“[Ben and I] had always talked about working together one day, and when the opportunity came up to do that here, we were very excited,” Eaves said.

St. Olaf certainly presents a different set of challenges and advantages compared to Madison. The team averaged a 43 percent win record over the past five years under former coach Sean Goldsworthy ’94. The biggest challenge for Eaves so far has been scheduling practices to accommodate players’ busy schedules, full of labs and work study jobs. A hockey rink on campus in the future will solve some problems and dividing the large squad into two teams has helped make practices more flexible for the busy student-athletes.

Eaves said he admires how the players “get it done. These guys have to balance school work, work study and intercollegiate athletics. It’s crazy.”

Excitement surrounds the upcoming hockey season, but it is still too early to say how the team will perform in the MIAC.

“At this point, it’s like we just picked up our cards and are looking at them,” Eaves said. “When we first started practicing, I actually had all the guys write their names on their helmets, because there’s 47 of them, and there’s a lot of names to learn. It’s been great getting to know them and focus on what we’ve got now before we look at recruiting.”

Regardless of how the season plays out, Eaves feels confident his players will grow, both on and off the ice.

“To coach, like the old English term, means to take someone from one place to another. And that’s what we’re trying to do with our players – take them somewhere farther, somewhere new.”

× Featured

Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote