A Letter from the President
How often we use scientific ideas to describe everyday feelings or relationships. “There was good chemistry in the room,” “She improved the ecosystem we are living in,” “Nothing he said added up,” “The team’s DNA came through loud and clear,” “It took off like a rocket,” and the list goes on.
From the arrival of our first chemistry teacher (a man!) in 1921 to the building of Mendel Hall in 1926 and launching undergraduate scientific research about 30 years later... and our participation in Minnesota’s March for Science (see inside front cover) this spring, Katies of all ages prove that science remains a strong example of what education in the liberal arts really means.
Yet, when I reviewed this “Good Chemistry” issue, I was quickly reminded that the true meaning of this phrase has very little do with the hard sciences. Yes, you’ll read about 2008 alumna Bridget Newman’s inspiring work as a chemist and you’ll be proud of our students’ 100 percent acceptance rate to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and how our faculty leverage the latest in technology to advance educational experiences. But when you dive a little deeper into each story, you will find that all our work — students, faculty, staff and alumnae alike — is about something much bigger.
It’s about learning who we are, what higher purpose we are called to, and how we stretch our minds and hearts to change the world around us. It’s a transformation that doesn’t happen in a single discipline or field of study; it can only happen through learning steeped in the broad liberal arts.
Your St. Kate’s education was purposely infused with the liberal arts. It wasn’t added as an afterthought; it was the foundation the Sisters of St. Joseph chose as the strategy on which every other facet of this University was built. It was their way of announcing to the world that, in no uncertain terms, St. Catherine would be a launching school — not a finishing school.
And so it was. And so it is. And so it ever will be.
Last night, a classmate asked me, “What can we do to help besides being donors?” I told her to stay connected with other Katies, help us recruit and be an example of what a well-educated, passionate woman can do to make the world better. I wish I added, “Defend and explain the liberal arts to those who dismiss them as fluff or impractical, because they are anything but.” The liberal arts teach us to think critically, to inquire, to theorize, and then to choose our course. They inspire us to forever remain students of the world and all those around us.
I close with this quote from our own Sister Marie James Gibbons, a longtime chemistry teacher and dean of students.
“No student who follows the course in chemistry with any degree of attention can fail to appreciate the achievement of human culture, gain an orderly notion of human truth and its relation to Divine truth, and develop on the basis of this knowledge the ability to judge with maturity and responsibility; as well as have a reverence for God and all creation.”
I don’t think we could find a better description of “Good Chemistry.”
I hope all of you can take some time to enjoy family, friends and all creation during these summer months.
Support the sea of purple at the YWCA Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon, August 13, Lake Nokomis. Go to stkate.edu/tri to volunteer —and there’s still time to register if you want to race with me.