Posted by: soanstolaf | May 22, 2015

Rachel Murphy Profile


Rachel Murphy has been soanstolaf’s loyal editor for 2014-15. She has profiled many of her fellow seniors, and it seemed appropriate for the site to profile her as well. A recap of our conversation:

Rachel grew up in Columbus, Ohio, which she describes as being like two cities due to the looming presence of The Ohio State University. In fact, her childhood home was only ten minutes from campus. One of the distinctive things she noted about Columbus is the city’s frustrating segregation. Growing up, she lived in a largely white neighborhood but attended schools that were predominantly African-American. She learned a lot about racism and inhabiting diverse spaces.

Such experiences no doubt led Rachel to major in sociology and anthropology, something she intended to do when she enrolled at St. Olaf. But as it turned out, the major proved to be different from what she initially expected. Rachel imagined her work would focus primarily on global issues, yet she came to study in her courses many things quite close to home. She likes that her major made her a better writer and increased her range of interests. She said she is excited to follow up on topics she was introduced to in SOAN.

Aside from SOAN, Rachel also majored in Latin American Studies. This offered a contrast because it drew on courses in a variety of disciplines and included key experiences off campus. Rachel had wonderful opportunities to study for a semester in Ecuador as well as an interim in Cuba.

Rachel is not certain of her next steps after graduation (at the time of our conversation she had just returned from a job interview and was weighing out a job offer in rural Minnesota). She enjoyed the chance to work in the Pause, a fun environment where she also glimpsed the challenge of running a business. She also liked keeping this blog on behalf of the SOAN department, where she learned more about larger developments in the two disciplines and got to know her fellow majors better. Finally, she said has a long list of books that she intends to read, first among them Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. We thank Rachel for all of her great work highlighting the SOAN class of 2015 and wish her, and them, well!

Posted by: soanstolaf | May 13, 2015

Evan Davis Senior Profile

_DSC9997 “I came into Olaf knowing I wanted to do Political Science” Evan Davis says. That was always how he wanted to make a difference and work for social justice. But in a few weeks he will graduate with not just a Political Science degree but also Sociology/Anthropology. He explains his entrance into sociology as looking for a more critical perspective, that he felt he wasn’t getting in his early Political Science classes. “That was naïve because Political Science does offer a critical perspective. He says. “But I feel like the two majors really come together well and kind of challenge each other but also reinforced my ideas.” When he started doing research with So/An, he knew that’s why he wanted to stay. Davis also considered a Racial and Ethnic Studies concentration. He eventually decided against getting the official certification, but took a number of classes in that area, and learned a lot about those issues. Learning to be critical has been a journey for Davis, who says he started out curious, and then got much more cynical, and eventually had to pull back and ask “what’s next?” The effect of this, for him, has been that “It’s reinforced my commitment to the academic side of critique.” He hopes to continue his academic journey with graduate school, but is taking some time off before to work, potentially doing AmeriCorps. He’ll be spending the first two months post-graduation working as a summer camp RA “hanging out with middle schoolers who are smarter than me.” During his time at St. Olaf Davis has done a number of research projects, and this year alone presented at two difference conferences. He and Madison Goering presented their research at the Central States Anthropological Conference, which he says a was more “informal, and had some very strange topics that I’m trying to keep my academic minds open to.” He also presented research done with Professor Ibtesam Al Altiyat, at a Middle Eastern Area Studies conference, which he says is an area he’s less familiar with. The work focused on an analysis of the film Honor Diaries, an controversial film about the oppression of women. Davis explains that as he unpacked the film, it was clear it was using Western Feminist rhetoric, and ultimately became anti-Islam in some ways. While it was hard to take a firm stance on it, he explains “Ibtesam really pushed us to commit to an argument.” Last semester he was a Teaching Assistant for Quantitative Research methods with fellow senior Francesca Sifferlin. “We got to do lesson planning, which was cool. But the extent to which we were helpful I don’t know” he jokes. For future So/An students he advises, to “be critical of the stereotypes” surrounding the major, and says that “it gives you skills, and those are the skills you should focus on.” As a senior, he has seen the many areas of work his classmates are going in to, saying that the major “doesn’t have a one track thing.” As for his time in the department, he says that he has “ really appreciated the professors in the department. I think they’ve really pushed us to think again about stuff… We talk about critical thinking in the liberal arts, but that is at the core of the So/An major. We do it all the time.” If you’d like to contact Evan Davis, you can reach him at

Congratulations to junior Chandreyi Guharay, recipient of the Davis Projects for Peace grant! The grant, for 10,000 is awarded to undergraduates in the Davis United World College Scholars Program who design a summer project with the intention of advancing peace somewhere in the world. Gaharay, a student from Managua, Nicaragua, plans to implement her project on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, an area she first visited when she was eleven.

Guharay says, “I had this idea since I came here” because she was familiar with the program as a student at the United World College in Costa Rica. She also knew she wanted to work on the Atlantic coast, “a very isolated region. The government is really in the Pacific and Central parts of the country, and the Atlantic part sort of gets left out.” The lack of infrastructure, high levels of poverty and corruption, and the existence of drug trafficking in the region cause a lack of resources for youths, pushing them towards crime or violence and crime. “It’s a violent circle. You have poverty, and in order to get out poverty you have to get involved in illicit activities, and drug trafficking is one of the most lucrative.” Guahary, a Sociology/Anthropology and Political Science dual major, hopes to design a project that will help discourage that path.

She praises the Davis program for its flexibility and support of student ideas. “It’s based on your own prerogative.” After returning home in May, she’ll work out the logistics and then implement the project in June and July.

When she visited the Atlantic coast at eleven years old, Guharay and her family encountered a non-governmental organization called FADCANIC (the Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua), which “promotes sustainable human development.” When she returns this summer, she will partner with this same organization to develop her program, working in their agroforest education center. The project, which she calls Preventing Youth Violence through Education for Peace, Strengthening Community Stewardship in Southern Autonomous Caribbean Region of Nicaragua, will consist of classes and programs for high school students in the area. Most of those students will be from various indigenous groups. “They have their own cultures…speak their own languages, which might be a bit of a challenge.” Guharay also acknowledges how ambitious her project is. Despite these challenges, she is more than ready to take on the project this summer. We all wish her the best of luck, and look forward to hearing about her experience in the fall.

If you want to contact Chandreyi Guharay, you can reach her at

Posted by: soanstolaf | May 5, 2015

Professor Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb Retiring


Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb has lived a great many places. Born in Oakland, California, after grade school he moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan. He went to the University of Michigan for his undergraduate work, graduating in 1967. He spent that summer after graduation in Alabama, working on a Civil Rights project in a town called Luverne. He went on to get a masters from Harvard, spent several years working for the American Friends Service Committee and then in Native American communities after going to UC-Berkeley to get his Ph.D. which he received in 1982. The following year he moved to Minnesota from the Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado, to teach here at St. Olaf College.

Bruce Teaching in 1967 in Luvurne, Alabama, perhaps foreshadowing his future career.

Bruce teaching in 1967 in Luverne, Alabama, perhaps foreshadowing his future career.

While here he has continued his travels, leading Term in the Middle East and Term in Asia. In 1997-1998 he taught courses in Lithuania through Fulbright and in 2011 went to Estonia while his wife Barbara taught as a Fulbright Scholar there.

At St. Olaf he has taught classes such as Race and Class in America, Gender in a Cross-Cultural Perspective, and LGBT Lives and Issues (a course he designed and which was one of the first of its kind at St. Olaf). He has taught courses with ARMS, women’s studies, hispanic studies, in the Paracollege and American Conversations. Bruce was also instrumental in bringing anthropology to St. Olaf, shaping the department into the one we know today. This May, he will retire after thirty-one years at St. Olaf.

As a professor Bruce is known for his empathy and understanding, and is well-loved by his students. (They also express love of his Chocolate Chip Cookies.) When speaking about Bruce, commonly used words include “humble”, “caring” and “wise.” In 2014, he was chosen to give the spring Mellby lecture, and throughout the years he has given a number of chapel talks. St. Olaf will miss Bruce, but we all wish him the best of luck!

What follows are excerpts from an interview with Bruce.

How did you first become interested in Sociology?

I went to college to become an astronomer, to be a science geek. But then there was so much happening, especially in terms of the Civil Rights movement. I arrived on campus just after Martin Luther King gave his big speech in Washington D.C., the I Have a Dream Speech, and there were other speakers coming to campus. There were black students in my classes for the first time, because my high school had been all white. So I started taking some classes in sociology related to those issues and in philosophy about ethics. I just sort of kept on taking more classes, thinking ‘oh this is helping me understand what’s going on at a deeper level’, and I kind of drifted away from physics and astronomy and math and stuff like that, and wound up majoring in sociology.

There were issues about the Civil Rights movement, but also the Women’s Rights movement was starting to come to life, be more visible. So there were those issues, and then the Vietnam War. So there were a number of issues as well as a number of countercultural movements were going on. It was very different than the 50s, when I was a little kid growing up. I was trying to make sense of the changes and sociology was useful for that. It was speaking to some issues that were puzzling and challenging.

What brought you to Olaf?

Read More…

Posted by: soanstolaf | April 27, 2015

Professor LaFlamme Speaks In Chapel

Visiting Anthropology Professor Marcel LaFlamme spoke in chapel last week. Check out his chapel talk, where he talks about the role of work in our lives, vocation at St. Olaf and in the Lutheran tradition, and looking for spaces of non-work in this busy world.

The talk begins around the 6 minute mark. You can watch it HERE or by clicking the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 9.40.20 AM

Posted by: soanstolaf | April 24, 2015

Sierra Napoli Senior Profile

For senior Sierra Napoli, picking Sociology/Anthropology as her major was a quick and easy decision, one she is still glad she made. She knew in high school that she wanted to do something with social services or social sciences, inspired by an aunt with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Although she considered Social Work, she took Introduction to Sociology and fell in love. At the end of her freshman year she declared the Sociology/Anthropology major, along with the History major. Sophomore year she added a Women’s and Gender Studies concentration. Of her majors she says “I think they complement each other really well. Both a lot of theory but with real-world implications.”

Napoli says that her majors have helped shape her worldview, and her activism. Napoli works in the Wellness Center, is on the board of leaders for Student Support Services, and is President of the student group Feminists for Change. (Napoli also keeps busy being Co-president of the historical honor society and a member of the sociological honor society.) “All of those things have shaped my interaction with my major and my major has shaped my interaction with those” Napoli says. She also says that she thinks it’s important to be active in organizations, saying she would advise other students to get involved with organizations on campus “and making a difference in the lives of others.”

The courses she has taken, she says, have helped her with “being able to be more open, and open-minded about a lot of different things. I think a lot of different movements going on right now might claim to be open but are still very ethnocentric.” She gives the example of the recent “Why I Need Feminisms” campaign by Feminists for Change, and the importance of putting the “s” on the end of “Feminism.” This open-mindedness has helped her value the voices of others. “It’s important to hear the points of others even if you don’t agree with them” she says.

The Sociology/Anthropology major, Napoli says, “has so shaped who I am right now and who I want to be in the future.” Napoli traveled outside the United States for the first time with Sociology professor Ryan Sheppard on the trip to Thailand Napoli’s sophomore year, which she says “was a really cool experience and suited me really well.” She has also had various internships, creating an exhibit for the St. Louis County Historical Society, and teaching GED classes, as well as various jobs, all of which she says were aided by her experience in the So/An department.

In the future Napoli hopes to work in the social sector, perhaps through AmeriCorps. She has particular interest in women’s empowerment programs and in working with first generation college students. “I’m looking a lot at education and helping promote education and the possibility of going to college, because I’m a first generation college student so that’s something that’s really important to me” she says. As a student who participated in national TRIO programs and as part of St. Olaf’s Student Support Services, she appreciates the value of supporting those populations. “As someone who has been given those resources and chances to succeed, I want to help other people do that.”

Posted by: soanstolaf | April 22, 2015

Maddie Haakenson Senior Profile

For Maddie Haakenson, choosing a major wasn’t a difficult decision. “The sociology/anthropology major was one of the reasons I wanted to come to St. Olaf” she says, and after taking a class, she knew it was the right choice. She did try other majors, but “none of them were the best fit” and she found that So/An was the one best suited to her varied interests, which include travel and culture.

An avid traveler in high school, Haakenson, who also has a concentration in Latin American studies, has continued her international exploration, including an internship in Peru where she worked at a shelter for at-risk youth. While working there, she discovered how being a So/An major helped her be more empathetic, open-minded, and flexible. “It definitely helped me to be more helpful for the organization there and understand the reasons for why they are the way they are.”

Traveling factors in to Haakenson’s plans for after graduation this May as well. She is considering various options, one of which is moving to Singapore to live with an uncle and study design. “I want to eventually work in bigger international companies” she explains, hoping to enact change from within larger corporations. As she points out “you can’t really fix problems unless you work with the people who are causing them.”

For those considering the major, she tells them “take it seriously and don’t be afraid to argue its legitimacy. We’re always scared of people asking us what we’re going to do with our major, and I think we need to be more confident about it, because it’s one of the most useful majors on campus because it’s so adaptable to everything else and you can easily use everything that you’ve learned in any kind of job application.” This realization was important for Haakenson, who says that being in the So/An major has “helped me realize that I can study people and still be useful in the job market” which increased her confidence for future endeavors. However, the benefits of being a So/An major for Haakenson weren’t totally academic. She says that above all else, the major has affected her confidence and has “helped me find my place.”

Posted by: soanstolaf | April 20, 2015

Madison Goering Senior Profile

When Madison Goering arrived at St. Olaf certain she would be a biology major. “I took AP Bio and decided that’s what I was going to do” but when she began the major at St. Olaf she discovered it wasn’t for her. Put bluntly, she says, “I hated it.” She also took Introduction to Sociology, and added the Sociology/Anthropology major in order to take Anthropological Theory, thinking “I’ll just see, I’ll probably end up doing the bio thing. But I signed up for the class, then I signed up for the major, and I never took it away!” Now a senior So/An major with two concentrations in Latin American Studies and Management studies, she has no regrets. Of her areas of study she says that while she considered making her own major, “it was a really great mix for me” particularly with her study abroad on the HECUA CILA Ecuador trip, which allowed her to study in Latin America.

Madison Goering, Class of 2015

Madison Goering, Class of 2015

One area where she was grateful for the major was doing ethnographic research through CURI and the SES program, which she and research partner Evan Davis recently presented at the Central States Anthropological Conference. “It’s been nice because I’ve been able to keep talking about these things longer than the two months of summer.”

Next year Goering will be doing a fellowship in Bolivia, working at a small rural Catholic college as an external relations coordinator. She says it’s a bit of advancements, and a bit like the Piper Center, where she currently works. Most of her work will be coordinating visitors and helping students and alumni network.

The So/An major, she says, has given her the skill “to think critically.” “I feel like I’ve been equipped to think about things from differed perspectives and challenge preconceived notions in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise in some other major.” Furthermore, Goering says, “it’s a great community and a really great place to ask questions” along with being a “great place to consider social justice topics.”

If you have questions for Madison Goering, you can reach her at

Posted by: soanstolaf | April 15, 2015

News and Clips – Changing Relations With Cuba

Cuba has long been a curious political situation for the United States, and culturally important as the Cuban population has grown over the years. Now, with diplomatic relations reinstated, what changes to our nations and cultures will we see?

Airbnb, a new form of tourism, has moved into Cuba. A Latin American Studies professor talks about why it’s a smart business move, and what it might mean for cultural exchanges between the two nations.

With Presidential election talk underway, there’s discussion about the Cuban voting base in Florida. Traditionally Republican, sociologist Guillermo Grenier says that the political position of the community is changing.

Fashion is not exempt from the effects of political actions. The place of Cuba in fashion designers imaginations is significant, and these political and possible cultural shifts will most likely be reflected on the runways.

Also important to consider is the development of Cuba, both economic and in infrastructure. The difficulty of getting internet, for example, is often a hindrance to those who want to start businesses or work in the technology field.

While Havana is the most famous city and the Capital of Cuba, the city of Santiago, located in the eastern part of the country, provides a different perspective on life in Cuba. AP photographer Ramon Espinosa’s photos give an insight into the city.

Posted by: soanstolaf | April 13, 2015

Student Research Presented!

Seniors Madison Goering and Evan Davis presented their research from this past summer at the Central States Anthropological Society conference this past weekend. If you see them around, ask them about it!

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