Category Archives: Gustavus Adolphus College

Five Questions For: Tane Danger

Having grown up in South Florida, the first question Tane often gets is, “Why would you move to Minnesota?!” This question has grown from a mild irritant to an infuriating disappointment. The people, landscapes, and culture in Minnesota, in Tane’s opinion, make it a terrific place and the real question ought to be why more folks haven’t figured that out.

 Tane majored in Communication Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College. There he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper, The Gustavian Weekly. He also founded and directed the college’s only improv comedy troupe, LineUs, which thrives to this day.

Following college, Tane maintained parallel lives; one foot in the improv theater world and the other in nonprofit or government work. In 2011, Tane began toying with the idea of marrying his two passions, unscripted comedy theater and big public policy ideas. Tane and fellow improviser and Gustavus alumnus Brandon Boat launched the Theater of Public Policy later that year. In early 2012 they founded their own company, Danger Boat Productions L.L.C. And as if the two didn’t see enough of each other as it was, they were recently tapped by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to serve as artists in residence bringing improv into the museum.

Learn more about the Theater of Public Policy and their new project, the Civics Grand Prix, happening at colleges and universities this fall!

1)      What about your college experience influenced where you are today?

I served as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper for my junior and senior years at Gustavus Adolphus College. During that time, I felt part of my responsibility was to get students and community members engaged with the decision-making processes of the institution and beyond.

All too often students would share an apathetic hopelessness towards engagement. Many were convinced that their participation would make little difference one way or another. I believed the institution was suffering, as students were the largest basin of energy and enthusiasm, were leaders simply willing to tap them.

Infuriatingly, many old-guard faculty and administrators were delighted to reinforce this assumption, barring students from even entering important conversations about the future of the institution. During my tenure at Gustavus, the secretary of the Faculty Senate actually prohibited non-faculty from making records of their meetings. How were students supposed to engage without even a window into the ideas and debates of faculty and administrators?

A huge motivation for the creation of The Theater of Public Policy was to pull back the curtain on policy-making. I hope we give those who wouldn’t normally consider themselves “policy people” a foot in the door of some really important conversations. At the same time, I hope we demonstrate to thought leaders that even those outside their regular circles have valuable perspectives and energy. Bringing these groups together is our best hope for addressing some serious issues.

 

2)      What is the most exciting thing that you do in your job?

I am extremely fortunate to converse with some brilliant people on each show. Our guests are government leaders, industry insiders, and folks with a passion for changing the world. Better than that, I get to joke around with these individuals, and engage their issue with levity and humor. There is nothing more exciting than talking to someone after a show who says something to the effect of, “You know, I’ve never thought about that issue like this before.” I’m thrilled by the power of comedy to humanize and relate issues across perspectives and demographics.

 

3)      What book should everybody read, and why?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. It’s a brilliant parable on the power of arbitrary rules and bureaucracies to stifle change and drive literally anyone to madness.

4)      Who or what is inspiring your work these days?

The relatively young organization, InCommons, is working to connect people and communities in novel ways. They’re willing to put time and energy into new endeavors in hopes of building connections, though without the guarantee of success. Taking risks is easy for any organization to talk about. But few are willing to actually accept that this inherently involves occasional failures. InCommons is bravely willing to take real risks in order to affect change, including the wild notion of an improv comedy show about public policy issues.

5)      What are you passionate about?

We all have a responsibility to keep abreast of the important issues and questions in our communities and beyond. At the same time, those in positions of authority or disseminators of information have an obligation to make those debates accessible in fair and honest ways as widely as possible.  I’m passionate about getting everyone talking and thinking about big ideas, in diverse ways. There are too many problems on too grand a scale for anyone to sit on the sidelines.

Also cheeses. I’m passionate about really good cheeses.

Five Questions For: Brandon Boat

Brandon BoatOriginally from Iowa, Brandon graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2008 with a BA in History. He taught English in Busan, South Korea, returned to Minnesota to serve with AmeriCorps, and after two years of service, he co-founded the Theater of Public Policy with Tane Danger. He is currently an Artist in Residence at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Learn more about the Theater of Public Policy and their new project, the Civics Grand Prix, happening at colleges and universities this fall!

1)    What about your college experience influenced where you are today?
My college was located in a small city, which often meant that we needed to create our own opportunities or invent new organizations when we wanted to accomplish something. The school and staff were very supportive of these initiatives which helped me understand the mantra, “We are the people that we’ve been waiting for.”

 
2)    What is the most exciting thing that you do in your job?
It’s my job to make things fun. While the process can be irksome at times, the results are always entertaining. What I love most is the range of requests. Someone might ask to make a meeting more fun or to make biofuels more interesting. The more difficult requests are best because when I deliver, people enjoy it the most. Nothing gets my adrenaline pumping more than being surprised 5 minutes beforehand that I’ve got to present an entertaining and motivating activity for the next 30 minutes.

 
3)    What book should everybody read, and why?
I’m one of those cranks who think that there’s enough classical literature for people to pour through before they start reading modern works.  I will admit that I break my own rule, but I do think many of the older works challenge you in a way that’s lacking with more modern works. I read John Grisham in the 7th grade and even then it was easy.

 
4)    Who or what is inspiring your work these days?
Social satirists are the people I often turn to when looking for inspiration. Whether it’s Shakespeare, Voltaire, Twain, or someone more contemporary like Stephen Colbert, I find these giants’ shoulders a comfortable place to stand.

 
5)    What are you passionate about?
Whether you’re at a restaurant, cooking at home, or enjoying libations I think people should appreciate food at its highest levels. Good ingredients aren’t hard to come by and Julia Childes showed us that even those who drop a chicken on the floor can still make great food.

Five Questions For: Laura Riehle-Merrill

Laura Riehle-Merrill is Director of Acting in the Community Together (ACT), a key program within Carleton College’s Center for Community & Civic Engagement.  Laura first served as a VISTA at Carleton from 1998-1999 and has held her current position since 2005.Originally from the Twin Cities, she holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. Laura lives in Northfield, Minnesota with her husband and their two young daughters.

1)    What about your college experience influenced where you are today?

My Gustavus education helped me appreciate diverse perspectives–there was a lot of dialogue on campus and it helped me respect and appreciate views different from my own and begin to understand my own privilege. Our campus was struck by a tornado the year in which I graduated and I was profoundly impacted by the outpouring of support the Gustavus and St. Peter communities received. Before that point, I had been very involved at Gustavus but not outside of the campus bubble. It was a turning point for me and led to my decision to serve as a VISTA (through MN Campus Compact!) the following year.

2)      What is the most exciting thing that you do in your job?

Our center sponsors a community-wide garage sale called Lighten Up. Rather than tossing items into a dumpster, Carleton students donate clothing and household items. Three local non-profits partner with us, provide volunteers, and receive all of the sale’s proceeds. Seeing high-schoolers, Special Olympics athletes, and retired community members volunteering together for a common purpose is powerful. I love the excitement when the sale opens at 8 am–hundreds of shoppers are lined up waiting for our doors to open! Last year our sale raised $26,500.

3)      What book should everybody read, and why?

It’s called Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood by Sandra Steingraber. Steingraber spoke at Carleton several years ago when I was pregnant and, after hearing her speak, I immediately ran to the library to check out her book. I love the way she weaves her own narrative with compelling arguments about environmental toxins and the need for stricter regulations.

4)      Who or what is inspiring your work these days?

Really and truly, my students inspire me. A month or so ago I received an email from Libbie Weimer ’10, who’s now working on a documentary addressing the need for meaningful civic engagement in the United States. To hear her credit our center for giving her “a strong foundation to know how to serve and be served by others” made me incredibly proud. When the brilliance of Carleton students meets community engagement, anything is possible.

5)      What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about the potential of Carleton’s Center for Community & Civic Engagement to create a unique place in which idealistic students, dedicated staff and faculty, and committed partners all collaborate to deepen learning while meeting the needs of the community. In my role as Director of Acting in the Community Together, I help students develop as leaders by giving them opportunities to reflect on how they may use their strengths to create self awareness and social change. Last year, 100% of our student coordinators reported that their role in ACT made them more likely to be engaged in their community for the rest of their lives. I feel a great deal of pride in knowing that I am helping our students graduate with the skills to be healthy, engaged citizens.

Service Leadership Cohort: Gustavus Adolphus College’s Presidents’ Student Leadership Award Recipient

Service Leadership Cohort

The Service Leadership Cohort (SLC) is a service group consisting of 6 students that conducts community based research in the co-curricular arena. The Cohort works in partnership with other students, staff/faculty, and community partners to examine challenges that further the access to and quality of service for Gustavus student-led programs that impact the community of St. Peter. The SLC is in its pilot year, and has participatory qualitative research projects regarding Benchmarks of Service – examining high standards of service that directly impact the service programs and set the standard to be achieved; Learning Outcomes – establishing explicit learning outcomes for students who participate in the on-going service programs offered by the Center for Servant Leadership; and Internal Partnerships – exploring how the on-going community service programs can work more intentionally in partnership to share best practices and support each other in providing quality service. All of the research conducted by the Cohort results in proposals supplied to the Center for Servant Leadership. The Cohort conducts research through interviews with program coordinators, program volunteers and participants, and community partners to ensure equal voice for all vested parties in the development of proposals.
Through their work, the SLC increases the capabilities of students engaged in service and deepens their own ethic of service and commitment to the community. By the nature of their efforts, the SLC engages in a reciprocal partnership with the community – each side has a voice in the process and the outcomes are mutually beneficial; the community receives a better quality of service, while the students deepen their understanding of partnership, increase their own leadership capabilities, and serve the community to create a more just and peaceful society.