Author: Paige Miller-Hughes

Ole Night Out builds ties, relationships, appetites

November 18 marked the 13th Annual Ole Night Out, an event geared toward fostering the relationship between current St. Olaf students and alumni.

Ole Night Out started as a way to give students and alumni a way to meet and form relationships.

“It is nice for students to have one calming evening at a home with great food and conversation,” said Kari Swanson ’13, Student Alumni Association SAA coordinator. “It is a little slice of home for Oles in the midst of piling up deadlines.”

This year, 90 students were paired with 51 alumni and parents in 22 homes.

Students signed up to participate in Ole Night Out on Oleville. Before hosts and guests met, each received information about one another including hometown, majors and interests, but as soon as the night started, both students and hosts found they had a lot to talk about, about life both during and after St. Olaf.

Molly McDermott ’13 dined with two more recent graduates, Amanda Furth ’00 and Chris Huot ’01. She was eager to discuss life at St. Olaf before cell phones and Facebook.

She said she was surprised to learn that dorm phones used to be a primary method of communication.

“[Furth] told us how you’d get voicemails […] five hours after they left the message, but that’s just how it went. They planned meals far in advance and had to trust that they’d meet each other when they said they would,” McDermott said.

Over the course of the night, Oles learned what life was like before Buntrock and Froggy Bottoms and how Goodbye Blue Monday used to be open 24 hours a day. McDermott wishes that there were more opportunities to connect with Ole alumni, especially around Christmas Festival time.

“I think it’s important to recognize the ways St. Olaf has remained consistent over the year and also changed dramatically,” she said.

For those looking for additional ways to connect with St. Olaf alumni, next semester SAA is hosting a series of alumni speakers to talk about their time at St. Olaf and life beyond the Hill. In the spring, Alumni Board Connections ABC breakfast is another event where Oles can share a meal with alumni in Stav Hall.

In addition to new connecting outlets, Ole Night Out continues to be a meaningful experience for current students and alumni.

“A few groups this year requested to be with the same hosts as last year, and their hosts requested the same!” Swanson said. “I participated in this event last year and I saw my hosts at the Founders’ Day Banquet this year. They immediately knew who I was, and we had a great time catching up.”

Both Madeline Crowley ’14 and Stephanie Tyler ’13 felt that participating in Ole Night Out was an important reminder of all that life has to offer after St. Olaf.

“It’s wonderful to hear about their life journey and how St. Olaf played a part,” Crowley said.

“At a school where our entire lives remain in a one-mile radius for three-fourths of the year, seeing a bigger picture is incredibly refreshing. We can also learn so much from alumni and be inspired by their stories,” Tyler added.

“I think we all appreciate the bond you share with other Oles who have graduated years before you, but you aren’t often put in a venue to really get to know each other and swap stories,” McDermott said.

Ole Night Out was just the opportunity Oles needed to share stories and remember that all that is learned now in school will be carried with them for the rest of their lives.

Interested in getting involved in SAA? Contact Kari Swanson at

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Mellby Lecture explores Kant’s human side

When I think of Immanuel Kant, I get a little scared. I thought I left the categorical imperative behind as I entered my senior year only to find that my current economics course is also an EIN and we would have to read some Kant. When I first saw the reading list, I panicked, thinking back to a Great Con joke: “I ‘kant’ understand Kant!” But, while completing my reading, I caught myself nodding along. It was almost as if Kant was starting to make sense to me.

I agree with this year’s fall Mellby lecturer, Professor Jeanine Grenberg, philosophy department chair, who said that to understand Kant takes time, but once you are able to grasp his philosophy, you find that it isn’t much different than the lessons you learned about right and wrong from your parents.

Grenberg is an internationally recognized Kant scholar who recently finished her second book, “Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Journal of the History of Philosophy, Kant-Studien, Kantian Review and Mind,” but as she said during her lecture, it is not her study of Kant that has made her a good person – it was her mother’s teachings.

“I learned from my mother what is right and wrong and she taught me to look at myself and pay attention to myself,” Grenberg said in the lecture on Oct. 9.

As John Barbour, religion professor, introduced Grenberg, he described the irony in Kant’s philosophy as overly academic when it is intended to describe the experiences of the ordinary person. Grenberg returned to that idea during her lecture, sharing a quote by another philosopher that comments on the feature that most frequently deters those who pick up Kant: his writing style.

“He wrote against the scholars in favor of popular prejudice, but for scholars and not for the people,” Friedrich Nietzsche said.

Grenberg believes that the reason that many people find Kant difficult to understand lies in a fundamental lack of understanding and misinterpretation. For the past 200 years, scholars have focused on the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative, and Grenberg believes that it is this focus that has prevented us from being able to see the true moral task at hand. Grenberg pushed her audience to engage in some Kantian moral reflection, while at the same time asking us to trust our natural moral intuitions.

“Everything that is important in the so called formulation of the categorical imperative can be revealed . . . through a common, felt. . . first personal experience of how moral demands press upon us,” she said.

Throughout Grenberg’s lecture, she worked to make Kant both accessible and relevant, which was a message that resonated with the audience.

“I always think that it is important to understand that you are not an exception to the rule and that everyone including yourself deserves respect, but no one more than anyone else,” said Kate Bjorklund ’13, who, by the time she graduates, will have read Kant in four different classes.

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Bike tour introduces consumer and producer

On Saturday afternoon, I gathered outside of Buntrock with many other Oles to participate in the first annual Farm Bike Tour. The hardworking Oles who planned the event couldn’t have picked a better day; in practically 80-degree weather, I was pleased to be wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sunglasses.

At registration, I received a tour map for recreational bikers opting out of the 50-mile road warrior route and information about the activities at each farm. I was also able to rent a bike and helmet for free. The tour visited seven local farms in Northfield at four different locations: STOGROW, the Carleton Student Farm, Spring Wind Farm, Little Hill Berry Farm, SEEDS Farm, Laughing Loon Farm and Rural Enterprise Center REC.

The Farm Bike Tour was organized by several student groups at St. Olaf in partnership with Bon Appetit Management Company.

“The 2012 Farm Tour was an exhilarating success,” according to Isaac Behrens ’14, a student organizer of the tour. “More than 300 people found their way to seven different Northfield farms, mostly by bike, getting to meet and talk with the people who grow the food we eat.”

Bikers could choose the order of the farms they visited, and at each of the farms, participate in different activities led by student organizations and meet the farmers. Activities included making cornhusk dolls, screen-printing, lawn games, face painting and painting with potato stamps. At the end of the tour, riders were treated to a gourmet meal, featuring local foods donated by Bon Appetit and great live music. A free shuttle from both St. Olaf and Carleton to SEEDS Farm ran throughout the late afternoon and early evening, attracting more visitors to the festival as the evening progressed.

The idea for this event was hatched last year at the Wendell Berry House, a St. Olaf honor house that focuses on creating community through food, but they didn’t know how to make their vision a reality. Early this summer, Sarah Piper, the Midwest fellow for Bon Appetit, contacted returning members of the Wendell Berry House and said that she wanted to help make the event happen. Piper’s job is to help connect the people who Bon Appetit serves to their food, and she routinely meets with Carleton and St. Olaf students.

“We decided that we wanted it to be free so anyone who wanted to go could attend,” said Emma Cornwell ’13, an organizer of the event. “We wanted it to be for donations so that people who had money could give, and the charity we chose was Dayna Burtness [of Laughing Loon Farm] because this was the first year she farmed on her own farm, and she lost $15,000 worth in crops from the flood in the beginning of the summer.”

Cornwell was on campus this past summer when damaging floods severely impacted Laughing Loon and SEEDS Farm, and she admired the way the Northfield community rallied around the farmers to help clean up the damage and replant in time for harvest.

“I know that the Northfield community is really connected to their local food shed, and they are really in tune with the needs of their community,” Cornwell said. “I’m excited that St. Olaf students and Carleton students who take part in this event get to be part of that community, too.”

All the farms on the tour sell food to Bon Appetit, and as a student, it was amazing to visit the farms where so much of our food at St. Olaf comes from.

“I didn’t realize the extent to which local farms are involved in sustainable food and how much Bon Appetit supports those farms,” said Stephanie Tyler ’13, who took part in the bike tour and the festival.

In what is sure to become a Northfield tradition, the Farm Bike Tour allowed participants to peer into the hardworking lives of farmers breaking away from large-scale agricultural production.

“Continuing to tell the stories of the growing Northfield local foods network will best guide people to reconnect with the food web that feeds us all,” Behrens said.

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