‘World Conversations’ features international scholarship

A series of panel discussions and special guests marked a two-day symposium highlighting the work of the Wang Center for International Programs in February.

“World Conversations: Voices from Around the Globe” featured presentations by students and faculty recently returned from J-Term study away courses. The roundtable discussions were intended to help students synthesize their off campus experiences with life at home, and to make connections between what they learned away from PLU and their regular studies.

The event also featured tributes to key players in PLU’s international education programming. A special luncheon was held to recognize Peter ’60 and Grace Wang with the 2007 Peace Builder Award and to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Wang Center, which was established in their name in 2002. Immediately following the luncheon, former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale spoke about “the changing world conversation” (see Life of the Mind).

Later that evening, the campus came alive in a salute to the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago is one of five “international gateways” in PLU’s global studies programming. A large contingent of government officials, artists and performers came to campus for World Conversations to celebrate the relationship between their nation and PLU and to perform music and dance to showcase their vibrant culture.

“It was exciting to hold an event that gave us the opportunity to mine the depths of international experience we have right here on campus,” said Neal Sobania, director of the Wang Center. “Our faculty, staff and students are excellent sources on so very many global issues because, to a large extent, they've really been out in the world and know what they are talking about.”

Also during the event, the Wang Center announced the theme and dates for its next major public symposiam. February 21-22, 2008 will mark a series of panels and speakers on the topic of global health.

UC undergoes major renovation

The University Center closed in mid-March for its first major renovation since the building opened in 1970.

The construction forced UC offices to relocate until the anticipated re-opening at the end of the summer. Dining Services is serving meals out of the Columbia Center on lower campus, and the bookstore is operating out of the pro shop at the golf course. The offices of Student Involvement and Leadership, Campus Ministry and Conferences and Events, among others, were also relocated to allow the building to be completely shut down.

“People are in good spirits,” said Mark Mulder ’93, ’00, director of auxiliary services. “Our eyes are all on the end product and completely focused on what will be a fantastic University Center when the doors open.”

The renovation will bring improved meeting and conference space to the UC, along with a large new convenience store and an improved commons dining area. The convenience store will replace the café that was located on the bottom floor in favor of to-go food items along with other essentials like personal-care products and school supplies. Meanwhile, the commons will serve several items a la carte, so former café patrons will still be able to get a hamburger or hot sandwich from the grill.

During the renovation, Dining Services has had to be creative in its approach to serving students. The Columbia Center space is much smaller than the UC commons was, so Dining Services opened a small, temporary restaurant on Garfield Street called Old Main Grill. Dinner is also being delivered via “room service” to one residence hall per week to help reduce traffic in the Columbia Center.

Students serve others on spring break

Over spring break, more than 60 students embarked on service-oriented trips to work with social service organizations around the country.

Student Danielle Krogh pulls weeds in the community garden at Spanaway Elementary School as part of a service-oriented spring break project.

The trips were part of the first-ever “Service Project Runaway: Alternative Spring Break Trips,” a collaborative effort by various offices across campus to give students the opportunity to serve. Students and PLU employees traveled from the streets of downtown Tacoma, to the United States-Mexico border and beyond.

For the past several years, Campus Ministry has offered service-oriented spring break projects, most recently sending 16 students to New Orleans in 2006 to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. More than 80 students applied to participate in that project, which signaled a growing interest among students to give back to others, said Elisabeth Pynn Himmelman ’03, program specialist in Campus Ministry. A larger program was developed to give students more opportunities this year.

Many students said they chose to participate in the service projects because it was a more productive way to spend the break. Freshman Mike Engh, who participated in the Habitat for Humanity project in Spokane, said he was excited to immerse himself in the project and see the fruits of his labor.

“I figured I’d take advantage of the opportunity and get something positive out of it,” he explained.

This year’s opportunities included a trip to the United States-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to volunteer at Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey, a Lutheran church that ministers to people on both sides of the border; a trip to Spokane, Wash., to work with Habitat for Humanity; volunteering at Holden Village, a Christian center located in the Cascade Mountains near Chelan, Wash.; and a visit to the Heifer International Ranch in Perryville, Ark., where students helped the organization’s efforts to find sustainable solutions to global hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.

New leadership announced

PLU recently named a new vice president of development and university relations, a dean for the School of Education, and a new director for the Choir of the West.

Steve Titus is the new VP of development, and began work at PLU on June 1. Titus comes to PLU from Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Neb., where he was president for the last five years. Titus holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southwest Minnesota State University and a juris doctor degree from Marquette University Law School. He earned a doctorate in higher education and strategic leadership from the University of Virginia, where he was a Governor’s Fellow.

John Lee is the new dean of the School of Education. Lee received his doctorate from the University of Illinois-Chicago and comes to PLU with a proven record of administrative leadership at the University of Maryland-Baltimore and at Long Island University. Lee received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy from UIC in 1987 and his doctorate from the same school in 1994.

Associate professor of music Richard Nance was recently named director of Choir of the West, PLU’s most prestigious touring musical ensemble. Nance is PLU’s director of choral activities and also leads Choral Union and the University Singers. Nance has been a member of the music faculty since 1992. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) and a doctorate from Arizona State University.

Student makes mark in unusual subculture

The Rubik’s Cube clicks and clacks as Chris Hunt ’07 deftly twists and turns the three-dimensional puzzle. After just 17 seconds, each face displays a single, solid color.

Chris Hunt ’07 is an internationally ranked “speedcuber.”

According to the World Cubing Association’s Web site, Hunt is ranked 75th in the world in “speedcubing,” which refers to solving the puzzle as quickly as possible, and 60th in the world for solving the puzzle while blindfolded.

At a recent tournament in Boise, Idaho, Hunt’s fastest time was clocked at 15.6 seconds, but his world ranking is based on the average of five solves at the competition, which for Hunt was 17.75 seconds.

A computer science major and math minor, Hunt said his prowess with the cube developed through an “insane amount of practice time.” His cube is constantly with him, and he regularly manipulates it while walking to class or hanging out at home.

“It’s really easy to be good at,” Hunt said. “I’m pretty sure anyone can do it.”

Hunt received his first Rubik’s Cube for Christmas in 2003, and scoured the Web for help solving the puzzle. After practicing throughout the break, he could solve it in eight minutes, an impressive feat, he thought.

“It’s really addicting, especially because you make huge progress so quickly in the beginning.”

Hunt’s blindfolded time stands at 5 minutes, 40.36 seconds, which he clocked at the World Championships in 2005. The time includes the minutes he spends studying the cube and memorizing all the moves he has to make to solve it, as well as the actual time he spends solving the puzzle, he said. The world record for blindfolded solving is currently 1:20.30.

Hunt maintains a Web site dedicated to speedcubing: http://strangepuzzle.com

Commencement features former labor secretary Reich

Spring commencement for the class of 2007 was held at the Tacoma Dome on May 27, and featured former labor secretary Robert Reich as the keynote speaker. Student speakers included Jennifer Henrichsen ’07 and Jessica Holden ’07, who were both nominated to speak by faculty and staff members.

Reich is currently a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He served in three national administrations, most recently under President Bill Clinton. An accomplished author and scholar, Reich spoke at PLU in May 2006 at the dedication of the Morken Center for Learning and Technology.

This year marks the second year that commencement has been held off campus at the Tacoma Dome, allowing students to bring an unlimited number of friends and family to the ceremony.

The graduating class of 2007 included 460 undergraduates and 52 graduate students.

MFA students earn national recognition

Two current students in PLU’s Rainier Writing Workshop, the master of fine arts program, recently had their work honored nationally.

The American Library Association named Kathleen Flenniken’s first book, “Famous,” as one of three “notable books of the year” in poetry. Flenniken’s poems were published last year after she won the Prairie Schooner Prize in Poetry in 2005, an honor that included publication of her manuscript.

Her poetry collection focuses on a woman’s domestic life and how women find meaning and significance. The collection will be going into a second printing in the near future, which is a rare feat. Poetry tends to lose money for publishers, and they print it simply for “humanitarian reasons,” she explained.

“The fact that it’s going into a second printing is a big deal,” Flenniken said.

Kelli Agodon is the other MFA student who recently received top honors when her poem, “How Killer Blue Irises Spread,” placed first in the Atlantic Monthly’s national poetry-writing contest for student writers. It will be published in the journal’s summer issue.

“It’s one of the top five journals you want to get into,” Agodon said.

Agodon didn’t expect to win. Two years ago, she missed the contest’s submission deadline, and last year, she submitted a poem that the magazine rejected. She learned of her first place finish this year in a letter.

“When I got the letter, it was on really nice stationary, and I thought, ‘It’s so high class of them to reject me with such nice stationary,’” she said.

After realizing she’d placed first, Agodon said she was both shocked and honored. She said the best part is that her poem will actually be published in the journal, which winning the contest doesn’t necessarily guarantee.

Agodon began her writing career at the University of Washington and planned to write fiction. However, after a class with poet Linda Bierds, she switched her attention to poetry.

“I think, for me, I was just really impressed with what poetry could do in such a small space,” she said. “You take a bigger thought and make it smaller and more precise. It’s a lot more challenging than fiction because you use fewer words.”

Both Flenniken and Agodon are part of the pilot class of the Rainier Writing Workshop and will graduate this August. The MFA curriculum includes mentorships with nationally known writers and editors, and both women have spent the last year working with their mentors on a creative thesis.

“It’s made a huge difference to have one person for the year devoted to you, to my interests and my projects,” Agodon said. “By working closely with one person, they understand your projects and your writing, so their comments tend to be better for your work.”

For more information about the Rainier Writing Workshop, visit www.plu.edu/mfa.

Friendly rivalry helps raise money for research

Student organizers of the second annual Relay for Life event at PLU capitalized on a powerful motivator on the way to raising more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society: the Lutes’ rivalry with the University of Puget Sound.

It was all in good fun, according to PLU co-chair Elizabeth Lamb-Ferro, who along with student Tova Emry, two Puget Sound co-chairs and a cozy committee of 64, planned and organized the joint fund-raising event.

“We feel funding cancer research is a cause bigger than individual universities, and we thought that teaming up would get more energy and enthusiasm behind the cause,” Lamb-Ferro said.

Sixty PLU teams registered to participate, representing more than 600 PLU students, faculty and staff. UPS registered 28 teams, representing 189 members of their campus community.

The Relay for Life is an annual event held in communities and at universities in spring and early summer to honor cancer victims, raise money for cancer research and build community awareness of cancer-related issues.

The event originated at Puget Sound in 1985, when a Tacoma doctor walked around the Loggers’ track for 24 hours straight to raise money for cancer research.

PLU held its first Relay for Life event in 2006, and raised $42,000. The school was named the Top Rookie Relay in the Great West Division and received the Top 10 Per Capita Award at the national level.

Lamb-Ferro is the 2007 Miss Spokane, and will be competing for the Miss Washington title in July. She chose the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life as her pageant “platform.”



The National Science Foundation awarded chemistry professor Dean Waldow a three-year grant of $175,000 for research he is conducting with students on high-performance plastics. The funding will support wages for Waldow and three students over the course of three summers, as well as allow students to work during the academic year to continue the research conducted during the summer. The grant comes just months after another NSF grant Waldow received along with chemistry professors Paul Davis and Myriam Cotten. The earlier, $181,000 award paid for the purchase and installation of an atomic force microscope, which was delivered to Rieke Science Center in March.

Education professor Stephen Woolworth was selected by the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education to receive its Scholar Award at the association’s annual meeting in New York in February. Woolworth will use the $2,500 award to further his research related to the impact of social policy and community structure on the public school system.

Denison University’s Goodspeed Lecture Series featured professor of religion and humanities dean Douglas Oakman in March. Oakman’s lecture was titled “The Perennial Relevance of St. Paul: Paul’s Understanding of Christ and a Time of Radical Pluralism.” The Goodspeed Lecture Series features scholars whose work is in the field of religion or is related to religious issues. It was Oakman’s second time lecturing at Denison as part of the Goodspeed series.

Rona Kaufman co-edited a new book called “Placing the Academy: Essays on Landscape, Work, and Identity,” with Jennifer Sinor. The book looks at the impact of landscape – in this case, the landscape of academe – and its impact on writers and teachers.

The Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy named marriage and family therapy professor Charles York as its 2006 Educator of the Year.

President Loren Anderson was one of 12 university presidents selected to represent independent colleges and universities at the U.S. Department of Education’s “Summit on the Future of American Higher Education.” Convened by education secretary Margaret Spellings, the summit focused on the federal government’s priorities for higher education.

Elizabeth Brusco, a cultural anthropologist in the Division of Social Sciences, delivered two lectures in Sweden in April. Brusco was invited to give Uppsala University’s annual “Lucy Farrow Lecture,” named for a Los Angeles woman known as the “mother of Pentecostalism.” Brusco then traveled to Stockholm to lecture during the international “Religion on the Borders: New Challenges in the Academic Study of Religion” conference at Sodertorn University College.


Retiring Faculty

James Brink, professor of computer science and computer engineering, hired in 1970

Richard Farner, associate professor of music, hired in 1976

Larry Hegstad, associate professor of business, hired in 1979

Richard Jobst, associate professor of sociology, hired in 1967

Patricia Gaspar, professor of nursing, hired in 1991

Cheryl Storm, professor of marriage and family therapy, hired in 1985

Patricia Chastain, clinical assistant professor of education, hired in 2000


Photo Top: Performers from Trinidad and Tobago thrilled the audience with high-energy traditional dances during the final evening of “World Conversations: Voices from Around the Globe” in February.