Clockwise from upper left: Jane Slentz-Kesler ’23, Juan Pineda ’24, Dr. Sonita Sarker, book by Xavier Paulson ’22, book featuring contribution by director and curator of the Law Warschaw Gallery Heather Everhart

Maccolades is a monthly round-up of the most recent accolades and accomplishments earned by members of the Macalester community. Below are highlights from November 2023. 

Comment dit-on “Minnesota Teacher of the Year”?

Dr. Joëlle Vitiello, professor and chair of French and Francophone Studies, earned the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award from the American Association of Teachers of French

“Dr. Vitiello was chosen because of the outstanding instruction, leadership, and advocacy that she has provided for your college, your community, and our profession,” said Maureen Elwell Peltier, the association’s president. “Congratulations to Dr. Vitiello and to Macalester College. This is a great reflection of the high standards and professionalism of both.”

A ticket to Tokyo

Macalester student Kai Martin ’26 received the Gold Prize in the College Ⅱ division in the J.LIVE Talk competition at George Washington University. J.LIVE Talk, which stands for Japanese Learning Inspired Vision and Engagement, is a Japanese language presentation contest aimed at promoting the growth, advancement, and visibility of Japanese language and culture education. Presentations can include audio-visual materials, audience interaction, and other innovations that enhance a participant’s talk in a manner similar to TED talks. 

Martin’s prize includes a scholarship to study in a six-week intensive Japanese language course in Tokyo in summer 2024, roundtrip airfare, a $300 cash award, and a $2500 stipend and housing subsidy. 

Brainy breakthroughs

Juan Pineda ’24 earned an award for Best Oral Presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists. 

“This was my first time giving a talk at a large conference, so it was very encouraging when I heard my name called that I had won the award for Best Oral Presentation,” he said. “I am even more excited that I was able to share with the audience a technology that I am helping develop to understand brain connectivity in neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, ultimately helping us develop therapeutics to treat these diseases.”

The biomedical conference draws thousands of attendees each year. Pineda was selected to present the research he did at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard this past summer. 

Picture-perfect contribution to Native photography

Heather Everhart, director and curator of the Law Warschaw Gallery, contributed to In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890-Now, an exhibition catalog of Native, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit photography from the nineteenth century to the present day. 

“I was lucky to work on In Our Hands as my last major project as a curatorial assistant at the Minneapolis Institute of Art before coming to Macalester,” she said. “The exhibition and catalog are a major achievement in the art museum field. It was an honor to participate in the project.”

Bound for success

Dr. Sonita Sarker, professor of English and professor and chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, contributed to a book that won “Edited Collection of the Year” from the Modernist Studies Association, an international organization of literary scholars who specialize in 20th and 21st century literatures and cultures. Dr. Sarker’s chapter, “The Unsettling Times of Zitkála-Šá and Grazia Deledda,” is part of The Routledge Handbook of North American Indigenous Modernisms.

“I place Zitkála-Ša, Dakota Sioux activist, writer, and music composer, next to Grazia Deledda, Sardinian writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature,” Prof. Sarker said. “They are both early twentieth century thought-leaders and groundbreaking writers who represented their marginalized communities proudly.”

Mapping Madagascar

Jane Slentz-Kesler ’23 earned first place in the undergraduate competition at the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium. “It was a great chance to network and learn more about professional opportunities in the field of geography and geographic information systems,” she said. 

At the conference, she shared about the land systems she studies in Madagascar. “I study protected area management in northeast Madagascar, combining qualitative interview data from local farmers with quantitative GIS and remote sensing satellite data about land cover change,” she said. “I love understanding the complexities of this kind of management system, and having the opportunity to live in the village for six months over two summers allowed me to build relationships with the community.”

An ode to hip hop’s global impact

Dr. Walter Greason, DeWitt Wallace Professor of History, collaborated on a new book, The Graphic History of Hip Hop. The publication explores how hip hop has shaped the world through its influence on culture, politics, and economics.

The Graphic History of Hip Hop combines the art and music of hip hop during the global celebration of its 50th anniversary with 60 years of advanced social historical research,” Dr. Greason said. “It is the only resource of its kind, and it creates an entirely new genre of public scholarship.” He added that the project builds on the work of Macalester students during the Fall 2022 course Black Music, Black History.

Regional domination

Macalester dominated the regional tournament for the American Moot Court Association at Loyola University Law School in Chicago. Mac’s three two-person teams advanced to the octafinals as the 2nd, 6th, and 7th seeds, and then cleared to the quarterfinals. Ultimately, two first-year students, Sayuri Cumaranatunge ’27 and Hayden Arko ’27, were runners up in the final round. 

Seniors Severin Chmielewski ’24 and Calvin Blessing ’24  bowed out in an all-Mac matchup in the semifinals, after winning a narrow decision over Willow Albano ’26 and Ainsley Meyer ’26 in another all-Mac faceoff in the quarterfinal. All told, Macalester secured at least two bids to the national tournament in January in Ft. Lauderdale. To top it all off, Cumaranatunge was awarded the top overall speaker at the tournament. 

Student prowess in economics

Macalester students excelled in the 2023 Minnesota Economics Association Undergraduate Paper Contest. In the term paper category, Paige Stevenson ’23 won first place with “Intangible Capital in Collateral Constraints.” 

In the senior thesis category, first place went to Cheikh Fall ’23 for “Desert Locust Invasions and Farmers’ Adaptation,” while Valeska Fresquet Kohan ’23 took third place for “How do Highways Contribute to Racial Disparities in Air Quality?”

The students were advised by Prof. Mario Solis-Garcia, Prof. Amy Damon, and Prof. Gabriel Lade, respectively. 

Designing the way for 3D learning

Dr. Bret Jackson, associate professor in math, statistics, and computer science, earned a grant from the National Science Foundation for a three-year collaborative research project with the University of Minnesota. Professor Jackson’s research focuses on helping people work effectively and creatively in future computing environments, which include real-world settings, virtual reality, and spaces that combine digital and physical elements. The project aims to develop innovative interfaces that allow users to make observations from multiple perspectives and transform them into hand-drawn 3D forms using augmented reality.

The project involves collaborating with experts in art and design to create college courses and educational materials. These resources will train students in new ways of working across different realities and help prepare potential instructors in teaching observational 3D drawing in augmented reality. Additionally, the work includes a plan to train 11 undergraduate students from Macalester in research methods through participation as research assistants.

No debate over win at Harvard

Kat Northrop ʼ27 and Jonah Daniels ʼ27 took first place at Harvard’s 2023 Policy Debate Tournament in the junior varsity division. After six rounds, the duo advanced to elimination rounds, winning quarterfinals and semifinals before making it to the final round versus Samford University. After two hours of rigorous debate, the judges decided in favor of Macalester. This year’s topic was about U.S. nuclear policy.

“It says a lot about how hard Mac students work to prepare for competition,” said Director of Forensics Beau Larsen. “It was their first college policy tournament, so to win the first tournament really just sets great footing for the rest of their debate careers at Macalester.”

“Feeling the support of the team was really meaningful for me,” Northrop said. “It feels really nice to find a space here that isn’t just about competing, but also about how the team feels like family.”

Debut sci-fi novel begins orbit

Macalester graduate Xavier Paulson ’22 published a novel titled “Orbiting What Remains.” In the book, college student Skye Calvert’s three-month internship on the International Space Hotel becomes a fight for her survival following a nuclear war on Earth that leaves everyone on board stranded in space. The book originated from a creative writing class at Mac.

“It’s something I’d been wanting to write for a while,” Paulson said. “There are countless science fiction stories in space and likewise stories about the end of the world. I thought it would be a unique take to combine elements of both. Throw in drama, character development, and elements of mystery and I thought it would be a story that has to be told. It’s the first book I am sharing with the world (and definitely not the last).” 

Charting a course to excellence

Macalester student Cecelia Kaufmann ’24 was named the Marble-Boyle Undergraduate Achievement Award winner by the American Association of Geographers. The award recognizes excellence in academic performance by undergraduate students from the U.S. and Canada who are making a strong effort to bridge geographic science and computer science as well as to encourage other students to embark upon similar programs. Kaufmann will receive her award in person at the association’s conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, this coming spring. The award includes a $1000 prize.

How to be considered for future Maccolades

If you or someone you know recently earned an award, fellowship, or honor and would like it to be considered for inclusion in next month’s Maccolades, please let Communications & Marketing know by filling out this Maccolades form. For recent book publications, please use this book publication form

November 30 2023

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