St. Scholastica awarded major federal support for innovative rural health initiative

The College of St. Scholastica has been awarded a $1.4 million, two-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to fund the Rural Academic Practice Partnership (RAPP) for Northeastern Minnesota. This is one of 50 grants HRSA planned to award in the nation through the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce initiative.

“The School of Nursing at St. Scholastica is honored to receive this highly competitive national grant,” said Dean Julie Anderson of the School of Nursing at St. Scholastica.

“RAPP is the culmination of ongoing collaboration between St. Scholastica and Essentia Health and will improve the region’s health and well-being. Meeting the healthcare needs in rural and under-served areas requires innovative responses. That is what the RAPP initiative epitomizes and it is an excellent fit with our mission,” said Dr. Colette Geary, President of The College of St. Scholastica.

The RAPP initiative will improve access to care, quality of care, and ultimately health outcomes for people living in rural communities of northern and central Minnesota through enhanced placement of nurse practitioner students in rural settings and expanded educational opportunities for rural primary care providers.

St. Scholastica and Essentia Health will collaborate to recruit preceptors and deliver professional development, expand student engagement in rural clinical experiences, and incorporate training around relevant topics such as rural health needs, health disparities, diversity, and cultural competence.

Essentia Health CEO Dr. David Herman said, “Essentia Health is proud to partner with The College of St. Scholastica on this important initiative. Access to healthcare in rural America is dependent upon having great individuals who are engaged and understand the complexities of health in rural areas. This initiative will facilitate our organizations in building that engagement and understanding among our future professionals.”

Essentia Health is an integrated health system network of physicians, healthcare providers, hospitals and clinics, with more than 1,900 physicians and advanced practitioners. It serves 38 rural communities in a region characterized by geographic isolation – some with issues of poverty and major health disparities between different ethnic and racial groups.

The College of St. Scholastica has the second-largest nursing program in Minnesota, with just over 1,000 students. Its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is a terminal degree in nursing practice that prepares nurses for advanced practice within the context of both clinical and systems roles. Students develop complex leadership skills within organizational and systems levels of practice.

The College of St. Scholastica is nationally recognized for quality. Rankings by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Money magazine classify it as one of the Midwest’s top regional universities. Learn more at

Diver new faculty fellow at St. Scholastica

The College of St. Scholastica today announced the appointment of Karen Diver as Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence with a specialization in Native Studies.

Diver is a former Special Assistant to the Obama White House on Native American Affairs and former Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

St. Scholastica President Colette Geary established this new position as a means to develop the programmatic and relationship infrastructure that will advance the College’s ambitious strategic plan for inclusive excellence.

Dr. Geary said that, “engaging Diver’s broad expertise in Native Affairs signifies the College’s primacy of commitment in this inclusive excellence work to the local region and thus to tribal communities.”

The Faculty Fellow in Native Studies will be actively involved with faculty, staff and students in a variety of initiatives that emphasize student support, and that engage faculty and staff in cultural fluency and overall inclusive pedagogies.

Diver said she is eager to join the St. Scholastica community.

“I’m pleased to be joining The College of St. Scholastica, and being a part of their broad organizational commitment to Inclusion, especially for Native Americans in the region,” she said. “It is heartening to see an educational leader in the region build on its mission and values through a strategic vision for equity.”

Diver’s record of accomplishments includes serving in the Obama White House from November 2015 to January 2017 as Special Assistant to the President in Native Affairs. As a member of the Domestic Policy Council staff, she advised President Obama on issues impacting Indian Country.

She was the first woman to serve as Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, spending eight years in that role. She also served as Vice President of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe; a member of the Board of Directors for the Corporation for Support of Housing; a two-term Chair of the Boards of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota; and as a Presidential appointee to the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resiliency, co-chairing the Natural Resources Committee.

Diver holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and a Master in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“This appointment will significantly strengthen The College of St. Scholastica’s work in Native American studies as well as our commitment to inclusive excellence,” said Chris Dolan, chair of the St. Scholastica Board of Trustees. “We expect Ms. Diver’s work to provide insights and momentum that can also help in our engagement with other communities underrepresented in higher education and at St. Scholastica.”

Founded in 1912 by the Benedictine Sisters, The College of St. Scholastica is a co-educational, independent, comprehensive institution of higher learning offering undergraduate and graduate programs, online and on-site, to over 4,400 students. The General Education program provides students a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences cultivating a conscientious use of knowledge that prepares them for responsible living in a global community.

The College of St. Scholastica is nationally recognized for academic quality. Rankings by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Money magazine classify it as one of the Midwest’s top regional universities. Learn more at

Science-themed summer camp returns to St. Scholastica

Professors from The College of St. Scholastica will engage middle-school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject matter next week.

The Shoot for the Stars: Launching into Math & Science program is geared toward getting middle school students interested in STEM fields. This year, St. Scholastica will host 40 students on campus for the weeklong camp during the week of June 12. Participants are sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade Lincoln Park Middle School students.

Starting Monday, June 12, the camp will feature a week of science and math lessons and activities, with topics including rocket aerodynamics, and a variety of activities such as scavenger hunts, campus tours, and group bonding games. The camp will last from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day, on the St. Scholastica campus.

The project is a collaboration between St. Scholastica faculty and Lincoln Park Middle School principal Brenda Vatthauer, Community School Coordinator Rachel Thapa, and other LPMS staff members. The program is funded in large part by a grant from the Duluth YMCA with 21st Century Funds.

School administrators report that in its inaugural run last year, the program succeeded in generating interest in additional STEM study and careers. Organizers exceeded their goal of 20 participants, and 88 percent of students who took part in Shoot for the Stars expressed interest in taking part in a STEM club. Sixty-two percent reported increased interest in STEM careers and fields.

“One of last summer’s participants told me that he wanted to go to college after being on campus and experiencing the program,” Thapa said. “He had never been on a college campus before and did not know that there was one right in our community.”

Vatthauer said that several of the students had “come out of their shells” to become engaged leaders in their school.

The camp will be followed by a math/science club during the academic year to cultivate long-term engagement and enthusiasm. Donna Kirk, a math instructor at St. Scholastica and co-director of the club, said the middle school years are a critical time to create student interest in STEM fields. Even if students do not end up pursuing math or science specifically, she said, the skill sets and problem-solving techniques that are strengthened through studying STEM topics can aid students in other academic areas.

“This concept was developed with specific aims to address a STEM opportunity gap for local students during their critical middle school transitional years, helping them see these topics as fun, interesting, accessible, and applicable to their current lives and future education and employment,” added program co-director Tim Trygstad, associate chemistry professor at St. Scholastica.

Additional Shoot for the Stars partners/supporters include: Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, Enbridge, Upward Bound, Advantage Emblem, and Aly Jean Photography.

The College of St. Scholastica is nationally recognized for quality. Rankings by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Money magazine classify it as one of the Midwest’s top regional universities. Learn more at

College students to learn about refugee resettlement during Germany trip

By Bob Ashenmacher

Students from three area colleges will get an up-close experience with refugee resettlement and gain a fresh global perspective during a trip to Germany this spring.

Seventeen students from The College of St. Scholastica, the University of Wisconsin-Superior and the University of Minnesota-Duluth will take a two-week trip to Germany later this month. They’ll leave on May 21, and return on June 2.

The trip leader is Connie Gunderson, associate professor of social work at St. Scholastica. She will be assisted by Michelle Robertson, assistant social work professor; Karen Rosenflanz, associate professor of Global Cultural & Language Studies at St. Scholastica; and Lynn Goerdt, associate professor of social work at UWS. Goerdt and other UWS staff members organized the logistics and financial aspects of the trip, including writing and receiving a grant to defer student costs for the program.

“We wanted to focus on a human rights perspective; a European perspective on the refugee situation,” said Gunderson, who lived and taught in Germany for 23 years and has extensive contacts there. “How do we look at the challenges and opportunities facing communities and refugees that are getting to know each other and living with each other?”

The trip is a follow-up to a visit to Duluth last fall from two of Gunderson’s German contacts who are active in building an assistance network for refugees in their community of Schwerin, Germany. They came to learn about social work practices in the United States, and share their own experiences.

The itinerary, developed by Gunderson, will include visits to Berlin and the Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin (university), named for a major pioneer of social work in Germany. Other stops will include Bremen and Oldenburg. A trip to Schwerin will feature meetings with the mayor, community members, and refugees.

Gunderson said a recurring theme for the trip will be St. Scholastica’s Benedictine values.

“It’s a wonderful fit of how we practice radical hospitality and a sense of community and respect, a love of learning about cultures and each other,” Gunderson said. “I think it’s so important that the students are getting an international perspective on how people approach refugees, people who are different and who are in need.”

The American students will also have a chance to interact with their German counterparts. A visit to the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven will be a highlight, Gunderson said, helping the students make a connection between refugee resettlement throughout history all the way up to the Syrian refugees of today.

“What we’re wanting to do is also grasp a historical perspective,” Gunderson said.