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St. Olaf announces faculty promotions, tenure

By Becca Heistad '09
March 11, 2009

St. Olaf Provost and Dean of the College Jim May recently announced that four St. Olaf faculty members have been promoted to full professor and nine have been granted tenure this year.

The faculty members promoted to full professor are Linda Berger '73, Jill Dietz, Kristina Thalhammer and Mary Walczak.

Joining the ranks of tenured faculty are Brian Borovsky '94, Shelly Dickinson, Kristina Garrett, Timothy Howe, Anthony Lott, Gregory Muth, Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak, Mary Trull and Thomas Williamson '86, who were also promoted to associate professor.

Promoted to professor
Berger taught in public schools for more than 20 years before joining the St. Olaf College music education faculty in 1997. She received a bachelor's degree Phi Beta Kappa from St. Olaf and master's and doctorate degrees in music from the University of Minnesota. In 1990 Berger was named Minnesota Classroom Music Educator of the Year. She is an active keyboard performer and music education presenter. Her teaching interests include contemporary music methods and the child voice.

Dietz earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics from Brandeis University in 1986 and her doctorate from Northwestern University in 1991. She spent four years at the University of Washington in Seattle and one year at Gettysburg College before returning to her Minnesota roots. She joined the St. Olaf Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department in 1996. Dietz's main mathematical interests are in algebra and topology, and she has long supported undergraduate research in these and other areas.

Thalhammer has been a member of the St. Olaf faculty since 1991. Her teaching and research specialization is in Latin American politics and development. She has published numerous articles on political tolerance and opposition to repressive regimes in Argentina. In addition to her on-campus courses, she has supervised a variety of internships and independent study projects and recently co-authored the book Courageous Resistance: The Power of Ordinary People. She also serves as the coordinator of Peace Studies and the Kloeck-Jenson Endowment for Peace and Justice, and is the faculty adviser for the St. Olaf chapter of Amnesty International.

Before joining the chemistry faculty at St. Olaf in 1992, Walczak was a postdoctoral fellow in the chemistry department at Iowa State University. There she began working with self-assembled monolayers, the broad area of research she still pursues. She has long been an advocate for alternative teaching methods that increase student learning.

Granted tenure
In 1998, four years after graduating from St. Olaf, Borovsky returned to his alma mater to spend a year as a visiting assistant professor of physics. After completing terms at North Carolina State University and Grinnell College, he was welcomed back by the St. Olaf Physics Department in 2005. Last year he and researchers from two other institutions received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study a new type of lubricant film for microelectromechanical systems. He also helped create the new Science Conversation program that St. Olaf will launch in the fall.

Dickinson has been an influential member of the St. Olaf faculty as director of neuroscience and as a member of the Science Conversation development group. She hopes to further develop the neuroscience concentration into an interdisciplinary major that combines coursework in several disciplines with a wide range of laboratory experiences. Her goal is to teach students that the scientific method is not discipline specific and that the best way to answer a "psychology" question might be with a "biology" experiment.

Garrett did her undergraduate study in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she enjoyed playing both rugby and basketball. In 2001 she earned a doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and she joined the faculty at St. Olaf in 2005. Her research interests are in the areas of combinatorics, special functions and orthogonal polynomials, and she has published extensively on these and other topics.

During his graduate school study at Pennsylvania State University, Howe was able to combine his two interests, ancient history and agriculture, in a dissertation analyzing the animal production strategies of the Ancient Greeks. Since coming to St. Olaf in 2003 he has demonstrated his wide interests, teaching a range of classes about the ancient Mediterranean world. He is especially interested in warfare, agriculture, law and religion, and has written several articles on these topics. Howe is also the faculty adviser for the St. Olaf Society of Ancient History, the History Honors Society and the Society for Creative Anachronism, and he has led two Interim trips to Greece.

Lott joined the political science department at St. Olaf in 2005 after teaching at Portland State University, Hamline University and the University of Glasgow. He is the author of Creating Insecurity: Realism, Constructivism, and U.S. Security Policy, and he has written numerous articles published in political science and law journals. He is also the faculty adviser for the St. Olaf mock trial team. His research interests include cooperation in global environmental politics, international relations theory, and national and international security policy.

Since coming to St. Olaf in 2002 Muth has taught a variety of courses in the field of biochemistry to both majors and non-majors. In 2008 he led the Interim program to Jamaica that examined medicinal chemistry. He is committed to working in an atmosphere that is intellectually, economically and environmentally sustainable.

For two years between college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduate school, Tegtmeyer Pak worked at Toshiba Corporation's Tokyo headquarters. She returned to the U.S. to earn her master's and doctorate degrees in political science from the University of Chicago, but spent 16 months in Japan during graduate school performing field research. At St. Olaf Tegtmeyer Pak has worked with the Fulbright Advisory Committee and the Political Science Honor Society, and she serves as director of the Asian Conversations program.

Trull has been a member of the English Department since 2003. She has taught courses in English, women's studies and American studies at St. Olaf. Her teaching interests include Shakespeare, film, poetry, Medieval and Renaissance literature, and women's studies. In the summer of 2005 she was selected as the college's visiting research scholar to the Summer Research Institute at Oxford University's Harris Manchester College.

Aside from many years living and traveling in Asia, Williamson taught at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Minnesota prior to coming to St. Olaf in 2001. He earned his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Michigan based on research he conducted in Malaysia. He enjoys writing and teaching about the social transformations of colonial and postcolonial Southeast Asia.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or