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Summer upgrades keep campus on the high-tech front line

The information superhighway cut through the middle of campus this summer, in the form of a 5-foot-deep trench from Mortvedt Library to lower campus and the new Morken Center for Learning and Technology.

It was the most conspicuous of the many summer projects on campus, which was called by many “The Big Dig.” It included installation of nine 4-inch conduits that will soon hold fiber optic and telecommunications cables. Amanda Miller, project coordinator for Facilities Management, said the project was needed to get the Morken Center connected with the rest of the campus, but planners used the opportunity to upgrade the entire communication infrastructure.

By mid-August, the ditch was filled in and disrupted landscaping was restored. The project, which was paid for with construction funds for the Morken Center, was completed before students returned to campus in the fall. The Morken Center itself remains on schedule for an early opening in spring semester of 2006.

For a list of ongoing campus projects, go to the Facilities Management Web site at For an ongoing look at the construction of the Morken Center, visit


Wang Center welcomes new director with broad international experience

A history professor with broad experience in international education is the new executive director of the Wang Center for International Programs. Neal Sobania, formerly director ofInternational Education and a member of the history faculty at Hope College in Holland, Mich., started in August.

He replaced Janet Rasmussen, who is pursuing seminary studies in peace building. Sobania also was appointed to the history faculty.

“We look to Neal to help the university achieve our vision of educating for a just, healthy, sustainable and peaceful world,” Provost James Pence said.

Throughout his 24 years at Hope College, Sobania helped position the college as a major player in the field of international education. An African specialist whose teaching and research areas include both history and culture, he has researched and written articles and books, curated exhibitions and filmed documentaries. He brings his experiences, especially those in Ethiopia and Kenya, into his classes in history, anthropology and art history.

One of his major accomplishments at Hope College was to increase the number of science students studying abroad. He also initiated campuswide workshops to orient faculty and students to the responsibilities and risks of studying in other countries.


Pastor and alum chosen to head development division

The Rev. Stephen Cornils ’66, a pastor with extensive experience in management and stewardship, was named vice president for Development and University Relations.

“Steve is a distinguished PLU graduate who shares a deep commitment to the university’s mission,” PLU President Loren J. Anderson said. “He has remarkable leadership and communication skills and brings extensive experience within and beyond the congregational setting.”

Cornils joins PLU as the university moves forward with a campaign to renovate the historic Eastvold Hall into the new home for the Division of Humanities and a stunning venue for music and theater events, and embarks on fund raising for a new building to house KPLU, the award-winning NPR and jazz station.

Cornils’ ministry began with calls to three churches in California. He lived in Minneapolis for 18 years, serving as senior pastor, as a communications consultant and as associate pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran, a congregation of 13,500.

Jim Plourde, who has served as acting vice president the past year, led the university to a record year in gift income. He will continue in his role as executive director of development.


PLU welcomes diverse group of new faculty members this fall

This fall, PLU welcomed more than 40 new faculty members, including 25 in tenure-track positions.

“It is an impressive group,” Provost Jim Pence said. “They bring a broad range of academic experience from around the country and the world.”

Nearly all divisions will see new faces in the classroom this year. Pence said he was impressed with the new professors’ commitment to PLU and their desire to choose to work here.

“They bring a real enthusiasm for the mission and educational values that are our trademark,” he said. “We’ve hired a group of people whose highest priority is teaching.”

The large number of incoming faculty is largely due to retirements of longtime professors.

“This is part of the generational change at PLU and within the faculty,” Pence said. “It is an intentional effort to build the faculty for the future.”

To read more about the new faculty members, go to


Graduates earn prestigious fellowships, military honors

Four May graduates received Fulbright Scholarships to study abroad.

Sara Bergman will travel to Trinidad and Tobago to pursue women’s studies, and Sarah Larson will go to France to participate in the teaching assistant program. Maja Pedersen and Heather Short were both awarded Fulbrights to study in Norway, where Pedersen will explore the Norwegian efforts to combat obesity and Short will study Norwegian approaches to teaching language to new immigrants. Only 10 Fulbrights were available in the nation for study in Norway.

Among PLU’s more than 600 graduates so far this year, were the first cohort of the Washington Achievers program that helps students from schools with low-income and minority student populations. One was Thu Nguyen, PLU’s first Pickering Scholar, chosen to attend graduate school at Princeton and then serve four years in the Foreign Service. Other Washington Achiever graduates are Chrystina Bowlin, Wendy Fowler, Sang Han, Wajiha Mahboob, Amie Miller, Chenda Minn, Lam Nguyen, Ian Ric Pulido, Morgan Virivong and Bethany Munch (graduating in December).

Also, 13 first lieutenants who started their college and military careers with the 9-11 attacks were commissioned. For most of them, their first full day of class was Sept. 11, 2001. This ROTC class performed above national averages in comparison to other ROTC programs, allowing almost all of the graduates to get an assignment in the Army branch of their choice, and produced three Distinguished Military Graduates: Brett Bartell, Chester Boyles and Myra Waldher. Other graduates are Joy Bleckman, Lisa Bolos, Amy Bowen, Lynn Box (commissioned in July), Lawrence Ebel, Jacob Estrada (commissioned in August), Ricardo Ferrell, Travis McGrann, Alexis Melendez, James Phillips, William Sherrell and Jessica Sorano.


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© Scene 2005  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Fall 2005

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