June 2010 cover SCAN"St. Catherine University St. Catherine University
February 2011
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Scholarly Rewards

Four newly tenured faculty members — Emily Blanchard West, Mark Blegen, Daron Janzen and Jill Welter — bring singular skills, passion and insight to the University community.


Hover on each picture to advance through the slideshow.

  • Emily Blanchard West Emily Blanchard West
    Classics and history

    Latin and Greek may be dead languages, but there is nothing ancient about Associate Professor of Classics and History Emily Blanchard West's attitude about antiquity. "You never really understand your own culture until you visit another," she says, sitting under the marble busts that watch over her office behind Jeanne d'Arc Auditorium. "Studying the ancient world with its atrocities and oppressive roles for women puts so much perspective on our own lives, for good and bad."

    West's infectious enthusiasm is certainly part of the reason the study of Latin is booming at the University, but she brushes away any credit. "St. Kate's is the easiest place to teach on earth," she insists. "Our students are ready to learn, interested and fun. They're grateful to be here."

    While her primary research interests include Greek and Sanskrit epics and the relationship between ancient Greece and Persia, West's work extends into the modern world. She has created computer fonts for ancient Iranian languages and is hoping to start a summer program in Sanskrit for people already studying Greek and Latin.

    An avid rock climber and windsurfer, West enjoys traveling to Red Wing or Taylors Falls to scale cliffs. When she can't go that far, she heads indoors to the Vertical Endeavors climbing gym on the other side of downtown St. Paul. Ironically, her periodic trips to Nepal to study Sanskrit don't include her favorite pastime. "I take flak that I go there and don't climb mountains," she says. "But I'm too busy working on Sanskrit and going to temples."
  • photo Tom Thieman Mark Blegen
    Exercise and sport science

    The importance of a healthy lifestyle isn't just a lecture topic for exercise and sport science Associate Professor Mark Blegen. "I'm a firm believer in living in the community where you work," he says of his decision to settle with his young family in a neighborhood adjacent to the St. Paul campus. "I bike to work — even during the winter. I like to support local shops and businesses." Blegen's commitment to fitness doesn't stop with his commute. He also grades papers and composes lectures on topics ranging from exercise physiology to nutrition while standing at a tall desk in a sunny corner of his office in the Butler Center for Sports and Fitness.

    The diligent work required to rewrite St. Kate's exercise and sport science curriculum means that Blegen has spent a lot of time on his feet. The University recently won accreditation for its exercise and sport science program — the only program of its kind in the state to do so, thanks largely to his efforts.

    A native Minnesotan, Blegen has distinguished himself academically in his field and was named a Fellow by the American College of Sports Medicine in 2008. His current research projects include the role that massage therapy may play in weight management and whether outside factors influence how much water athletes consume during practice.

    That doesn't mean Blegen's entire life is devoted to fitness. In fact, his passion for historical biographies shocks some of his colleagues. "It surprises people that I teach pre-professional classes but can also have an in-depth conversation on history," he says with a laugh. "But I'm just doing what's expected of teachers at a place like St. Kate's."
  • Daron Janzen Daron Janzen

    Although his research interests include x-ray crystallography and air-stable organometallic complexes, Associate Professor of Chemistry Daron Janzen can boil down his work into one easy sound bite. "I'm an inorganic chemist, so I'm interested in everything on the periodic table," he says with a chuckle. "Organic chemists only work with the right side."

    While he spends much of his professional life making molecules, one of Janzen's chief passions is presenting students with graduate-level research opportunities. Through his leadership, St. Kate's was awarded a $150,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2009 to help buy a research-grade spectrometer — an instrument that's used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. He's also reshaped the University's chemistry curriculum and served as a resource for development officers who raised nearly $300,000 for the NMR Spectrometer and Curriculum Development Fund.

    Janzen's office is decorated with drawings made by his three young children. He devotes almost all of his free time to family life, from exploring the banks of Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis to camping in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area. His wife, Monica Greenwell Janzen '97, is an O'Shaughnessy Scholar who has worked in the Department of Philosophy as an adjunct professor. Having completed his graduate work at the University of California–Berkeley and the University of Minnesota, Janzen says he loves the intimacy of St. Kate's, particularly the opportunity to know and collaborate with students throughout their four years. "It's gratifying to see students go on to medical school, law school and graduate school," he says. "Our students don't just disappear."
  • Jill Welter Jill Welter

    Each summer, biology Associate Professor Jill Welter packs up her car and heads west, snaking through scenic routes in Montana, Utah and Washington.

    The Oregon native is a devoted mountain lover, but her road trips also have an academic purpose. Welter spends a chunk of every summer providing research opportunities for St. Catherine undergrads to do field work with her at the Heath and Marjorie Angelo Coast Range Reserve in northern California.

    Welter is one of five principle investigators on a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that funds watershed and food-web research at Angelo. "To spend 10 weeks in the red- woods changes you," she says. "To see my students' growth in confidence in critical thinking and to see their joy in their work energizes my teaching."

    The passionate ecosystem ecologist — she researches the movement of water and the movement of materials in water — had her own a-ha moment when she lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, after completing her bachelor's degree at the University of Oregon. "I was bored in one of the most beautiful places in the world," she says. "So I got involved in environmental justice issues. I realized that they are not only the issues of our age, they are also connected to all the other important issues, including race and class."

    That passion for the environment led Welter to join the President's Climate Commitment initiative in 2008, which was charged with making the University carbon neutral. Science majors and non-majors alike collected data to assess St. Kate's carbon footprint. "We're fortunate because the footprint is fairly small," she says. "I'm really excited to have an impact on campus and to develop a climate action plan."