Category Archives: St. Olaf College

Student Profile: Will Lutterman, St. Olaf College

Will Lutterman is a sophomore studying Economics, Environmental Studies and Statistics at St Olaf College.  In his first year at St Olaf, Will wanted to pursue his passion for public policy through opportunities that would give him practical experience.  He explains, “I see my college education going hand in hand with community development work.  They are equally valuable to me.”  In exploring his options, he was connected to a city councilwoman who opened the door for him to get involved in many projects throughout the community.  Among the many projects Will was heavily involved in were Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Northfield Downtown Development CorporWill Luttermanation (NDDC), Northfield Marriage Amendment Opposition, Northfield Anaerobic Digester, and an independent study on job creation in Northfield.  Will says, “[Public policy] is exactly what I want to do when I graduate. I’m using this to build a repertoire of passion, strengths, skills, and experience in order to tackle the larger world head on.”

Through all of his community involvement Will has taken on an incredible amount of leadership roles and pursued many impressive opportunities for civic engagement.  For example, through PACE Will was able to research and present a new style of energy retrofitting program.  He even wrote the Northfield’s documentation and designed the entire program.  Through NDDC Will built a database of local businesses, crunched data on the town’s industry profile and is now working to provide and analysis of the local economy to promote economic development.  He provided the City Council with information about the proposed Marriage Amendment and testified in opposition, which brought the council to approve a resolution to publicly oppose the amendment.  This fall, Will began to do research for an initial feasibility study of a proposed anaerobic digester near Northfield.  Currently, he is preparing for a J-Term independent study for which he plans to do a comprehensive job creation analysis of Northfield based on his previous work through NDDC.  This will ultimately serve an academic purpose as well as advise the city in regards to economic development.

Will has found that after only one year at St Olaf his civic engagement service has connected him with the community on a very intimate level.  He says, “I grew up in the Twin Cities, but Northfield is my real home. After living here only a year, I find joy coming back and I want to make a real and serious commitment to a place where I see people coming together and living their lives in the best ways possible.”


Student Profile: Nicholas Kang, Saint Olaf College

Nicholas Kang


Nicholas Kang, a Saint Olaf student and a MN Campus Compact Presidents’ Student Leadership Award Recipient, is working to bring education to rural Nepal.  Check out the story here.


St. Dominic School: St. Olaf College’s Presidents’ Community Partner Award Recipient

St. Dominic School

St. Dominic School, a Catholic preschool through 8th grade program, offers a quality education that commits to educating each child as a whole and a dedication to service and community. Over the past several years, the school has partnered with St. Olaf students on a variety of academic civic engagement projects to infuse environmental sustainability and nutrition into its curriculum and operations.

During the 2009-10 academic year a group of students from a course titled Ideals to Action worked with administrators to develop a plan for “greening” the school.  Students in the Environmental Studies seminar and a first-year writing course developed and facilitated curriculum related to environmental issues and sustainable agriculture.

The school is currently serving as a core partner on the Food and Nutrition Service-learning Collaborative grant project. In Fall 2010 a student from Ideals to Action worked with the school to develop plans for a school garden. Students in a course on community agriculture are continuing with the garden project and are developing and presenting food-related curriculum to students in fifth grade.

Teachers and administrators provide opportunities for students to apply their skills in service of community and environmental goals. Along the way they provide mentorship that helps to form the next generation of engaged citizens and leaders.

Nick Kang: St. Olaf College’s Presidents’ Student Leadership Award Recipient

Nick Kang

Over the past three years, Nick Kang has consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to civic responsibility through his work with a youth development program, an international foundation, a Northfield care center and multiple student organizations.
Two years ago he developed and facilitated Smart Step Youth Initiative, a comprehensive community service and leadership development for youth in Merrit, British Columbia. Last summer he again facilitated the program in Merrit, while also advising other people who implemented Smart Step in other communities. This upcoming summer Nick will utilize a Davis Project for Peace Grant to further enhance the program by promoting political engagement and by integrating First Nation youth.
Nick has integrated social change work into his academic study through the creation of his own major, Social Innovation and Community Development. As part of his participation in a course titled Ideals to Action, he partnered with Three Links Care Center to develop a program that enables elementary school kids to read to day center participants. He has also completed internships with the School for Social Entrepreneurs in London and the Sarswati Peace School in Nepal. In addition, he has helped to foster social activism on campus through leadership with various student organizations, including OASIS (Oles Advancing Social Innovation and Sustainability).

Dana Gross: Saint Olaf College’s Presidents’ Civic Engagement Steward Award Recipient

Dana Gross

For several years Professor Dana Gross has been integrating academic civic engagement into all levels of the St. Olaf Psychology curriculum and participating in efforts to expand civic engagement on campus.

In Fall 2008, students in her upper-level seminar, Infant Development, in conjunction with Faribault Early Childhood and Family Education, created educational DVD’s focused on language and literacy and on motor development and play.

In January 2011 Dana debuted a new service-learning course, Community Applications of Psychology, in which 16 students explored approaches that psychologists use to address social problems and community needs. Throughout the term, students applied psychological research, provided community service, reflected on their experiences and explored their own vocational interests.

Currently, Dana is incorporating civic engagement into Research Methods. For their major project in the course, students are conducting research projects either as part of the Food and Nutrition Collaborative Grant or in partnership with the Northfield YMCA.

In conjunction with St. Olaf’s Center for Experiential Learning, Dana has been a participant in the Bringing Theory to Practice grant assessment project, and for the past three summers she has been involved with the Civic Engagement Institute as a participant or presenter. She has been an integral part of the academic civic engagement initiatives since the beginning and has helped to shape it as a program that can reach and teach a wide range of students.

Want to hear from Dana and other civic engagement stewards? Sign up for MNCC’s Annual Summit!

St. Olaf Students Study Psychology inside the Classroom and Out

“Getting a glimpse into the non-profit world” is how St. Olaf student Hannah Westholm described her experience in the course Community Application of Psychology. The month long January course coupled academics, an intensive internship and reflection.  As a result, the students gain valuable insight into their future career aspirations and community partners receive talented students working intensively to build the organization’s capacity. Faculty member Dana Gross designed and taught the course and it was supported by the Bringing Theory to Practice grant project created by Nate Jacobi, St. Olaf’s associate director of civic engagement.   A snap shot of just three of the students’ projects show the variety and depth of the course:

Hannah Westholm, a junior, worked with Growing Up Healthy, partnering with a MN Campus Compact AmeriCorps College Health Corps VISTA.  She helped prepare for a large event, the Mental Health Collective.  For the project, Ms. Westholm researched the populations in Rice County with a focus on underserved and minority groups.  Her research included the risk factors for mental health issues and measurement of effectiveness that currently exists in the county.  She developed a baseline measurement and assessment tool for the entire county which was presented at the Mental Health Collective.

Sara Nobbs, a senior, partnered with the Northfield Area YMCA.  Ms. Nobbs created a program evaluation for the YMCA.  Throughout the month, she designed five different surveys to evaluate several of the Y’s programs.  She was able to launch three of them, analyze the data and write up reports about two of the survey’s findings.

Eric Teachout, a sophomore, interned at Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA).  Mr. Teachout completed several projects and tasks with LBSA.  He researched and compiled behavioral records and worked with clients through music therapy.  He also collaborated with other St. Olaf interns to present to the LBSA faculty on genetics, characteristics and therapies/approaches for Prader-Willi Syndrome.

The course was both challenging and rewarding.   Ms. Nobbs felt that her work in the community impacted her experience in the class.  She noted that “we read several articles each week and wrote responses papers in which we reflected on how the content of the academic paper was reflected in our internship site.”  She also saw the value of the experience for the group overall, “We had great discussions in class because everyone was doing something different in their internship so they could add a different piece to the puzzle in our discussions.”

Mr. Teachout noted that there were challenges as well. “Prior to this course I often approached certain tasks, like school papers, with an easy and slow method, for I enjoy digesting information slowly as I progress through work.  However, my real-life experience at my internship, searching through client behavioral records and summarizing data, helped me understand the importance of speed and efficiency when gathering information.”

Overall, it’s clear that the course provided much more than the average class.  Community partners throughout Northfield benefited from the work and talent of the students and in return, in the words of Ms. Westholm, the students “had the opportunity to gain such valuable experience and to get a glimpse into the realm of non-profit work.”  For more information on the course, see the story here.

Campuses to Address Food-Related Issues through STEM Service-Learning

By John Hamerlinck

Folks in Duluth and Northfield can plan on efforts to get them eating a whole lot healthier. Students at The College of St. Scholastica, University of Minnesota, Duluth, St. Olaf College and Carleton College will all be engaging in multiple service-learning projects focused on food-related concerns.

The campuses and their communities are all benefitting from grants recently awarded by a Midwest Campus Compact consortium established to increase service-learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses. The consortium was made possible through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service through the Learn and Serve America Program.

The program focuses on multi-campus collaborations organized to address local food security and related issues. In Northfield, Classes in biology, environmental studies, and other disciplines from both colleges will work with two local elementary schools and local nonprofits, to develop and facilitate food and nutrition-related activities, with a special focus on children at higher risk of obesity and nutrition-related illnesses.

The Duluth campuses are partnering with the University of Wisconsin, Superior on projects designed to strengthen and sustain community commitment to the production, distribution, and consumption of regionally and locally-produced food; and increase the amount of nutritious foods individuals consume, in an effort to reduce the Body Mass Index numbers of people that are overweight.

Congratulations to these campuses for their grant awards. Be sure to check back here for future progress reports on these innovative projects.