Kadifa family makes leadership-level gift to the Office of Scholarly Engagement

The Kadifa Family makes leadership-level gift to the Office of Scholarly Engagement

President ReBecca Koenig Roloff ‘76 announced today that Sally and George Kadifa have made a leadership-level endowed gift toward the Office of Scholarly Engagement as part of LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence. 

The Office of Scholarly Engagement (OSE) was created to enhance engaged learning opportunities — the ties between community and academic excellence that form the unique St. Catherine experience — by creating a centralized hub for five of our hallmark departments: Antonian Honors, Community Work and Learning, Collaborative Research, Competitive Fellowships, and Global Studies.

This gift marks the beginning of a new phase for OSE. Says D’Ann Urbaniak Lesch, strategic director of the Office of Scholarly Engagement, “Thanks to this gift, we can now enter the second phase for the OSE: ensuring access and meaningful experiences across all of our programs for the holistic benefit of our students while they are at St. Kate’s and beyond.”

Just one month ago, the OSE moved to its new centralized space in Coeur de Catherine, where it provides a physical hub for students to visit, ask questions, and discover programs that will help them build powerful resumes and explore life-changing experiences. The new space also offers collaborative research and work spaces for students while celebrating everything they have already accomplished, including displays of student research, work, and art as well as community collaboration projects. For example, thanks to St. Kate’s multiyear work with Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) on the film Citizen for the Suffrage Centennial, TPT has generously long-term loaned local artist Leslie Barlow’s Suffragists portraits for display at OSE.

What does an OSE experience look like? It varies based on one's major and interests, but one powerful example is Josi Aguilera ’25, currently in her second year at St. Kate’s. Aguilera came to the University from Bemidji, Minnesota, excited to study political science and international relations. She quickly connected to the OSE through Antonian Honors and her work in community events. Last year, she participated in the Community Work and Learning (CWL) Community Leaders program with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) Social Justice Office. Caring deeply about social justice and advocacy, Aguilera also joined the St. Kate’s Civic Engagement Fellowship cohort, working to educate the campus community on legislative issues. This summer, she will be in Tbilisi, Georgia to study Russian through the U.S. Department of State's Critical Languages Scholarship. In the next two years, Aguilera looks forward to studying abroad (hopefully in Estonia during spring semester 2024), conducting research on immigration issues, and applying for post-graduate fellowships. 

Summarizing her experience with the OSE thus far, Aguilera had this to say: “I feel empowered by the connections I've made and the experiences I've gained through the OSE. Now, I am excited to encourage more students to become involved, and am particularly motivated to support students in becoming civically engaged."

This year, the OSE made huge strides in supporting the student experience. Antonian Honors graduated the largest class of seniors yet, with 27 students completing senior honors projects. More than three dozen students presented research at national conferences across the country, with some students winning in their categories. Many students completed labor-intensive competitive fellowship applications with successful results. As COVID-19 restrictions decreased around the world, Global Studies facilitated study abroad for numerous students in several countries. Throughout the year, CWL continued to employ students in on-campus and off-campus leadership programs, supporting St. Kate's nonprofit partners and expanding connections across the Twin Cities.   

In the next academic year, CWL will expand the community-engaged learning (CEL) designation to all The Reflective Women (TRW) courses. Integrating CEL into this signature course will ensure that 100% of students within the College for Women participate in a community-engaged learning experience in pursuit of their degree. The office will also pilot resources for students in the College for Adults, with the goal of eventually providing CEL courses in all sections of both colleges. 

OSE and the University encourage all undergraduate students at St. Kate’s to participate in community work, just as our founding Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet did centuries ago when they rolled up their sleeves and set to work helping others without cloister or habit. Building on their experience in a TRW course, a large percentage of our students will have more opportunities to take another CEL course in their discipline or area of interest. In all TRW classes, students will learn about other ways to get involved in OSE programming, allowing them to start thinking early about how they want to craft engaged learning experiences in their academic years ahead.

Additionally, the OSE will work in collaboration with St. Kate’s Teaching Hub this summer to host opportunities for faculty development on facilitating research and creative inquiry (RCI) courses, CEL courses, and Antonian Honors and Global Studies courses. Thanks to the generosity of this gift, St. Kate's will be able to expand on opportunities throughout the OSE, ensuring that all students enjoy access and support. 

“This is what St. Kate’s is all about,” says Dianne Oliver, PhD, senior vice president for academic programs and faculty affairs/co-provost. “Academic excellence, community, integrity, social justice, and reflection — these are our institutional values, and the OSE is a critical tool that will help our students live out these values for themselves as they create their own paths at St. Kate’s and beyond.”


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