Johnnie alumnus launches into space

SIERRA LAMMI • [email protected] • Audience members look on as Mark Vande Hei is launched into space.

Space: The Final Frontier. One that is now being explored by a St. John’s University graduate Mark Vande Hei of the class of 1989.

On Sept. 12, 2017 the first Johnnie astronaut was launched into space from Kazakhstan at 3:17 a.m. To celebrate this event, the CSB/SJU Physics Club hosted a viewing of the event in Pellegrene Auditorium, although the time difference allowed for a 4:17 p.m. viewing.

Vande Hei has spent decades working toward this achievement, starting with his time on campus. While at SJU, Vande Hei was a physics
major and prominent member of ROTC.

After graduation, Vande Hei was commissioned by the military, and later became an assistant professor of physics at West Point Academy. He became involved with NASA in 2006, and in 2009 was selected to be a member of the 20th NASA astronaut class.

Throughout his 5 months living on the International Space Station he will join several other NASA astronauts, and the crew will conduct research into the effects of microgravity on manufacturing and will attempt to slow muscle atrophy in low gravity environments.

Vande Hei is also creating an opportunity for students at CSBSJU to learn more about his experience by offering a NASA Inflight Education Downlink session from the International Space Station. This session will be offered on Jan. 29, 2018 and will be open to students and the public. Through this event, the physics department is hoping to encourage students to choose CSB/SJU for the integrative liberal arts education as well as the opportunities of the physics program.

“Mark Vande Hei has inspired students in CSB/SJU physics classes because now students feel a connection for the hard work we are putting in and the results of our fantastic curriculum, since he was in our position learning physics from the same profs and using the same equipment,” sophomore physics student Hugo Virgen said.

Although Vande Hei has had an accomplished career in his field, he never aspired to be an astronaut while at CSB/SJU; however, this was one of benefits of his integrative college experience.

“I think if you were to ask him, the experience that he had here was more of a springboard for his life than for anything specific in it. [His education here] gave him the foundation, the confidence, and the inspiration to do everything he did post-graduation—not just becoming involved with NASA,” said Dave Deland of Institutional Advancement.

CSB/SJU is one of the few liberal arts school in the midwest to boast an astronaut alumni, and hopes to encourage current and future students to work to achieve prestigious positions such as this, particularly with the benefit of a liberal arts education.

“[Vande Hei] is demonstrating to prospective students that Bennie and Johnnie alumni are doing fantastic things all around the world,” Virgen said.

Vande Hei is proving that not even the sky is the limit for Bennies and Johnnies.

The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library receives largest grant to date

COURTESY OF HMML WEBSITE • The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML) contains various physical and digitized manuscripts. After recently receiving a large grant, HMML will have the resources to develop Virtual HMML (vHMML) 3.0.

By Samuel Butterfass
[email protected]

Unknown to many students and visitors to the SJU campus, the lower level of SJU’s Alcuin Library is home to the world’s largest virtual manuscript preservation project.

For over five decades, the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML) has been photographing and more recently digitizing manuscripts for preservation from high-risk areas around the world. And the project just got even bigger.
This past summer, HMML was awarded an grant of $323,958 outright and $42,430 in matching funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a federal agency.

“They gave us the full amount that we requested so that was great,” Fr. Columba Stewart, a monk of the Abbey and Executive Director of the HMML since 2003, said. “We applied in an opened competition. It was a very complex process, complicated application. You need lots of letters of recommendation and so on, but we were successful.”

Only about 17 percent of the applicants for the NEH grant were funded.
“The fact that the NEH chose us really helps to boost our
national profile,” Stewart said.

The money will help the HMML to accomplish several of its online development goals.

“This grant will help us improve both [our manuscript education resources and web gallery], keep them current and add a lot of features we couldn’t do in the first round,” Stewart said.

Specifically, the funds will be used to develop Virtual HMML (vHMML) 3.0, a platform for the virtual preservation and study of manuscripts.

After creating the first version of vHMML in 2012 and developing it over the past five years, the virtual library is now home to the largest online collection of resources for the study of manuscript in both Western and Eastern cultures.

The manuscripts are often photographed by local people working with their own heritage. The images get sent back to the HMML where the data is
archived and put online.

“[vHMML] is now up to about 22,000 manuscripts online, and we’re adding hundreds of them every week,” Stewart said. “Eventually it will have well over 100,000 complete manuscripts online—the largest online collection in the world.”

HMML has been preserving manuscripts across the world for over 50 years, but Stewart thinks the HMML’s project has taken on a new significance since he began overseeing the library.

“I became director just as we were starting to work in the
Middle East,” Stewart said. “We’ve spent all these fifty-plus years photographing manuscripts around the world, and many of them are from places the manuscripts have been lost, destroyed, moved and [made] inaccessible, like Syria and Iraq. Now they’re all available online.”

Additionally, Stewart thinks the diverse religious content of the manuscripts has a particular relevance in our modern setting.

“In most of these traditional societies, back in manuscript days, most of what they wrote down was somehow related to religion,” Stewart said. “They’re both Christian and Islamic. It’s an example of how we can work across that great divide.”

Stewart noted that religious texts are not the only types of manuscripts being preserved by HMML.

“There’s also history, scientific treatises, dictionaries and grammars—really anything that [traditional societies] thought was worth writing down,” Stewart said.

Campus leaders release statements concerning DACA

CSB President Mary Dana Hinton

SJU President Michael Hemesath

By Sierra Lammi
[email protected]

On Sept. 5, 2017 President Trump announced an end to funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA offers protection from deportation for people who came to the US as immigrants.

Removing it will leave many people who came to the US as children
vulnerable to deportation. Shortly after this announcement, CSB President Mary Hinton and SJU President Michael Hemesath released a statement to the community announcing their support of continuing the
program, and extending that support to those on campus affected by DACA.

The statement made by the presidents was followed by
similar statements from both the CSB and SJU Senates. All three statements have expressed support for members of the CSB/SJU community affected by DACA, as well as clearly stating that all students, whether or not they are personally affected by DACA, are welcome at CSB/SJU.

“My goal in signing the letter on behalf of St. John’s University was to signal to our community and especially our students that we support DACA students,” Hemesath said via email. “I think the most important thing we can do for DACA
students, and all students is to recognize and respect the humanity of every person we encounter, to offer authentic support and encouragement, and, to think about how we can use our individual and collective voice to
advocate passionately with, and on behalf of, others,” Hinton said via email.

Members of the CSB Senate also released their statement in the hopes of fostering a welcoming community here at CSB/SJU.

“We felt that it was our place to release a statement to the entire student body saying that we don’t condone [the discontinuation of DACA],” CSB Senate President Mary Catherine Steenberge said. “And that we do want to provide support to all of our students on campus. No one has to feel ashamed or hidden on this campus.”

In addition to calling for a welcoming community, statements from Presidents and Senators alike have drawn attention to the importance participation in government, and called for members of the community to support Dreamers by working directly with legislative representatives.

“I think the best way to support anyone affected by DACA is to contact members of Congress directly,” Hemesath said via email, “I think it is well understood that Representatives and Senators care about what their constituents think about various political issues.”

Hinton agrees and plans to be more directly involved in legeslation to protect students.

“College presidents’ have access to our legislative leadership and we will utilize that access, individually and collectively through our work with the Minnesota Private College Council, to support strong legislative action that supports students,” Hinton said via email.

The reaction to these statements has generally been positive, and the community seems willing to come together to support those affected by DACA. Leader of Intercultural and International Student Services Brandyn Woodard plans to help DACA students in a more personal and private manner.

“DACA students want to know and feel that they are safe here,” Woodard said. “They don’t want to be harassed, and they don’t want the weight of something that probably 95% of students here don’t have to think about.”

DACA will begin getting phased out in March of 2018, and Congress has until then to come up with another solution for Dreamers.

Abbey settles sexual abuse suit

By Sierra Lammi – [email protected]

A sexual abuse case filed against the St. John’s Abbey in 2014 was recently settled.

The sexual abuse survivors sued the St. John’s Abbey on the charges of negligence relating to Rev. Richard Eckroth, who passed away in 2015. The lawsuit claimed that Eckroth allegedly sexually abused two boys who were parishioners at the church of St. Joseph in the 1970s. (more…)