BY AMY GAGE
EVERY COLLEGE CAMPUS has its in-jokes and lore. At the College of St. Catherine, President Andrea J. Lee, IHM, has a favorite saying that goes something like this: "St. Kate's is not a girls' academy. It's a college for women, with men who get it." What is it that they get, exactly? Call it empathy, the ability to walk in someone else's shoes. Call it too an appropriate degree of humility and acceptance, the willingness of men to play down the alpha role that our society tends to teach them is their birthright.
"It's a necessary part of working in the community here," says Greg Morrissey, production manager of The O'Shaughnessy. "I've worked in other organizations that have the top-down, male variety of leadership. It is a different dynamic here, and one that I appreciate."
Many faculty and staff members describe St. Catherine's as a place where listening to and respecting other people's viewpoints are important. As staff advisor to the Graduate Student Advisory Board, Lindsay Kendall says she works with men who understand that "they're going to be a different voice" in meetings. The stereotypical male communication style - bandying for position, stating opinions as firm facts - is not the norm at an institution where women are in charge. "It's a wonderful opportunity for men and women," Kendall explains.
The call of the liberal arts to think critically, embrace differences and search for truth is a goal that resonates with most men on campus, says Associate Professor of Geography Jack Flynn. "The group of people selected for this article is only a sample," he says."The discrimination in the past in our society, whether sex or ethnicity or race, was unjust and it was also unwise. Many of us are working to make this a better world."
Pride of PLACE
Ask male St. Kate's professors what it means to be a man who "gets it" at a liberal arts college for women and a few will look puzzled. Others will chuckle. But many, including the gentlemen pictured here, will speak of their pride and gratitude in being associated with this special place.
"To me it means you understand what sexism can be like for women," says Mike Baynes, associate director of student life on the Minneapolis campus and a teacher whose courses include "Power and Social Change" and "The Reflective Woman."
"I see the possibility and the reality of something happening here that isn't happening in the world," says Bill McDonough, associate professor of theology. "If I get it, whatever it is, it's because I've been taught it by watching women support each other in education here."
For Robert Grunst, chair of the English Department, being a respectful and effective teacher of female students is as simple - and thoughtful - as resisting the use of masculine pronouns when talking about humanity at large. "Over the 18 years I have been here, I've developed a real sensitivity to that," says Grunst. "If I'm making a general point, the writer is always she."
As a teacher at a co-ed college early in his career, Grunst witnessed the classroom games that men can play, which often serve to silence women. "If they didn't wreck the class outright, they did put a damper on really intelligent women by showing off and saying stupid things," he explains.
Dave Luedtke, chair of exercise and sports science, says the Sisters of St. Joseph model the very leadership that professors strive to develop in their female students. The Sisters' founding mission, he says, continues to this day - which includes opening the College gates to single parents, first-generation students and others who might not otherwise have a chance at higher education.
Professor of Chemistry Brady Williams attends his students' sporting events and other activities, reasoning that it motivates them to pay attention in his classroom. Associate Professor of Biology John Pellegrini tries to model the "feminist pedagogy" that he's learned from his female peers. "I'm impressed with the grants my colleagues have written on feminist pedagogy," he says, "teaching that is theme based, not a recitation of disconnected facts, and relevant to students' lives."
Learning to LISTEN
As production manager of The O'Shaughnessy, Greg Morrissey sees it as his job to listen carefully. "We're a service organization," he says. He needs that skill in the classroom as well, where this year he's teaching "Stagecraft," "Production Design" and an intro to theater course. "The more successful teachers are those who have the information that needs to be conveyed but are comfortable enough in it that they can listen to how students are reacting," he says.
A 23-year veteran of St. Catherine's, Morrissey says the women's college environment has made him a better communicator - and colleague. "In this culture there's a lot more need for conversation and sharing of ideas before developing a course of direction," he explains. "The ability to listen to everyone is a big part of it."
Custodial Supervisor Shawn Field has worked at St. Kate's for 14 years. His two daughters currently are students at the College. An artist at heart - he's been carving wood since his early teens and has contributed several pieces to the Chapel and Coeur de Catherine - Field coaches his male employees about how to tread carefully in women's residence halls. He appreciates the natural beauty of the St. Paul campus, where he is pictured holding his black walnut carving of a giant musky. But the people are why he stays. "I'm cool with the electricians as well as the professors. It just seems like I fit here."
"High school girls don't know a world where they don't have the same opportunities as boys in sports," says Athletic Director and St. Kate's tennis coach Eric Stacey. And that's just fine with him. When he joined the College a decade ago, Stacey was struck by the accomplishments of the student-athletes, not only their academic performance but their extracurricular activities and willingness to gain work experience in their fields.
Collaboration tends to come naturally to female athletes, he says. Stacey works with them to develop tough competitive instincts, too, such as the ability to face off against a teammate and still walk off the court as friends. Those life lessons are taught throughout campus, he says, by professors and coaches who are dedicated to helping young women succeed. "That's the bottom line for everyone here."
Trustee Emeritus Charles M. Denny, Jr., known as "Chuck" to his many friends in the St. Kate's community, has a special place in his heart for the College he has served lovingly and well for decades. It's not only that his late mother, Eleanor McCahill Denny '26, was a beloved alumna. Or that Denny, a former board chair, received an honorary doctorate from the institution.
As a retired corporate chairman and chief executive officer, he knows that society needs more women to assume leadership roles. And he believes that the College of St. Catherine serves a vital role in accomplishing that goal. "It's the fulfillment of the original and ongoing mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph to provide young women a first-rate education and, through that education, economic opportunities that might not otherwise be available," Denny says. "I believe that the personal dedication of our faculty to each and every student is what distinguishes a St. Kate's education."
Lessons in LEADERSHIP
As an associate degree graduate of the College of St. Catherine, Lahens Lee St. Fleur '05 is among a growing number of men who are earning two-year or graduate degrees from the College, where traditional baccalaureate programs remain for women only. But he holds a unique position on campus, too. St. Fleur is the 23-year-old son of St. Kate's President Andrea J. Lee, IHM, who adopted him at age 11 from a Catholic orphanage in Haiti.
"It was a new culture. I didn't know how to speak English. I had spent half my life living with all boys," he says - and then he landed at a women's college two years later, when Sister Andrea assumed the top job. "I would never make St. Kate's co-ed," says St. Fleur, who cites his mother as his role model and hard-working hero. "Here we're teaching women to be good leaders."