Category Archives: Alumni

Recent graduate teaches high school students in Slovakia

by Anna Bjorlin
News Editor

Recent graduate Anastasia Pederson is a perfect example of how students from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul are making a difference in the world. After Pederson graduated in May of 2013 with a major in education (specializing in English as a second language) and a minor in intercultural studies, she set out to teach high school classes in Levice, Slovakia as a Fulbright scholar.

After Pederson was encouraged to apply for a Fulbright scholarship by Dr. Feng-Ling Johnson, she filled out a general application and wrote two pages introducing and describing herself and her plans for the country. Then she got a committee of teachers to recommend her to the Fulbright commission. After waiting six months to find out if she had received the scholarship or not, Pederson was accepted and began planning her move.

Anastasia Pederson, who graduated from UNW in May of 2013, has been teaching classes in Levice, Slovakia as a Fulbright scholar. She teaches 12 classes per week, and the ages of her students range from 11 to 19 (photos courtesy of Anastasia Pederson).

Anastasia Pederson, who graduated from UNW in May of 2013, has been teaching classes in Levice, Slovakia as a Fulbright scholar. She teaches 12 classes per week, and the ages of her students range from 11 to 19 (photos courtesy of Anastasia Pederson).

“I was determined to live abroad, so I’m very grateful that it came in the capacity of a Fulbright,” said Pederson. “It’s been a great learning experience.”
Now, Pederson teaches 12 classes per week to high school students.

“My classes vary from 11 to 25 students ranging in ages from 11 to 19. My main work is with the senior students preparing for their final exams,” Pederson said. “I co-teach with Slovak teachers and give input in a variety of teaching approaches, and I also lecture on American systems.”

Although Pederson experienced some initial difficulty growing accustomed to an unfamiliar culture, she soon grew to love her new home.

“Adjusting to a new culture, especially alone as I am the only American in the city, can be really difficult,” said Pederson. “I went through times where I was unhappy and frustrated with the culture, but once I overcame my initial culture shock and made connections and friendships throughout the community, I found it to be wonderful.”

After her move, Pederson started a blog to keep her family and friends updated on her activities in Slovakia.

“I didn’t keep one before and was almost against it for a time,” said Pederson.

“I didn’t think I would be able to write about things I was doing, and I especially thought people wouldn’t want to read it, but I grew tired of telling my family what I had done over the weekends. So I decided to tell everyone in one go with a blog.”

In addition to her high school work, Pederson also teaches a variety of other classes outside of school for other students throughout the community of Levice, such as her conversation classes in which she worked with students of varying ages. She also enjoys exploring the destination cities nearby.

“I also scrimmage basketball, and on the weekends I either spend time with people I know from the church I attend or travel. Throughout the year, I have been to Bratislava, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubliana, Split, Venice, Verona, Vienna and smaller cities throughout the country,” said Pederson.

One of the unique aspects of Slovakian culture that Pederson appreciates learning about is post-socialism.

Pederson helps senior students prepare for final exams, lectures on American systems and co-teaches with Slovak teachers. She also hosts conversation classes outside of school for students of a variety of ages in the community of Levice (photos courtesy of Anastasia Pederson).

Pederson helps senior students prepare for final exams, lectures on American systems and co-teaches with Slovak teachers. She also hosts conversation classes outside of school for students of a variety of ages in the community of Levice (photos courtesy of Anastasia Pederson).

“If I choose to teach ESL in the future, I want to know aspects of the post-communist worldview of my students. I’ve found a variety of viewpoints on socialist ideas, typically depending on age or socioeconomic standing,” Pederson explained. “Additionally, I’ve learned about Slavic languages that will also help me in my future career.”

By the end of her 10-month stay in Slovakia, Pederson will have been gone for over a year.

“I’ll finish up teaching at the end of June. I hope that I can return for some shorter trips in the future because of all the wonderful people I have met in Levice,” Pederson said.

“I don’t know if I’ve made a difference, but the people of Slovakia have definitely made an impact on me. Through them, I have experienced God’s faithfulness, divine plan and church community with all nations. It has been incredible. I don’t know what I’ll take away from the experience, but I’m sure that God will use it.”

 Read Pederson’s blog

UNW musician releasing pop and alternative rock EP ‘Going Somewhere’

Drew Stavers' five-song EP will be available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon March 13 (photo courtesy of Drew Stravers).

Drew Stavers’ five-song EP will be available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon March 13 (photo courtesy of Drew Stravers).

by Katie Morford

Drew Stravers, a sophomore youth ministry major, is releasing a five-song EP titled “Going Somewhere EP” on March 13. The EP is a collaborative project with former Northwestern student Sam McCormick, engineer for the project, and Stravers’ younger brother Clay, who played drums on the EP.

“I just love the process of making music. At the start, a song is just a small idea that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Next thing you know, you’re in a studio recording it,” Stravers said. “The process of getting to the finished product is just so much fun for me.”

Stravers sings and plays the guitar on his EP which will include 4 full band songs and one acoustic version. He describes the songs as falling in the pop and alternative rock genres.

The upcoming EP isn’t the first time Stravers has shown his music to the world. He shares his covers of popular songs such as “Royals,” “Anna Sun” and “Let Her Go” on his Youtube channel, Drew Stravers Music.

“Pop songs are very simple, and the process of making them different, or more complex, is very fun for me. Some songs are loud and upbeat when I wish they were quiet and a bit slower, so I try to put my style on the songs,” he said.

Also available on Youtube is “Face Your Pride,” one of Stravers’ original songs from the upcoming EP.

According to Stravers, recording the EP has been a fun but stressful process. “It’s been awesome to see how much these songs have improved and changed over the last nine months,” he said.

“It was probably a bit tougher than I expected, but it’s been extremely fun working with Sam and Clay,” he added.

Stravers hopes the EP will be a first step toward the production of a full-length album within a year or two.

“My long-term dream is to be able to tour the U.S. I love traveling, and I love performing, and I’d love to be able to travel non-stop for a few months playing songs I’ve made,” he added.

The EP will be available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon after its release.

Alumni discuss the early years of Northwestern’s music program

by Emma Janssen

Although Northwestern’s music department is now strong and well-known, it hasn’t always been that way.

In 1946, Northwestern had no choir, no orchestra and no music program of any kind, and Professor Berntsen (who later became President Berntsen) decided it was time for a change. When he was chosen as the dean of the new music department, he led the way for the organization and founding of a new music program.

Under the direction of Berntsen, Northwestern soon formed a very successful choir that traveled all over Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa to different churches and organizations to perform. One year, as Dr. Ray Smyth (a member of the class of 1954) recalls, the traveling choir took a trip to the West Coast to visit Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Colorado before making its way back to the Twin Cities. The following year, the choir hit the East Coast, going through New York, New Jersey and Florida before heading back once more.

“Some true lasting friendships developed,” said Bud Lindstrand, another member of the 1954 class. “The experience of being together was unique to the purpose for which we were together.”

These trips were just the beginning; this successful a cappella choir was about to spark the beautiful holiday tradition known and loved today as Christmas at Northwestern. Taking place on the original Northwestern campus located in downtown Minneapolis, Christmas at Northwestern soon became the culmination of the holiday season for students and faculty alike.

Another claim to Northwestern fame is Berntsen’s arrangement of “Under His Wing,” which was sang at Christmas at Northwestern performances as well as when the choir was traveling. The choir performed so well that Dr. Smyth said a review in the Minneapolis Star compared Northwestern’s choir to that of St. Olaf, which meant a lot.

“That review is what made me choose to attend Northwestern,” said Smyth.

Today, Christmas at Northwestern is one of the most elegant affairs on campus; rewind several decades, and it was just as classy then as it is now. Lindstrand recalls what it was like when he was a part of the choir: “The men wore black tuxedos, and the women wore long, black, floor-length gowns. After intermission, the men returned in white dinner jackets to sing a couple of numbers, and then the full choir returned. It was a glorious event at the very least.”

Only a select number of students were chosen to be a part of this elite a cappella choir; 90 students got their chance. Dr. Smyth said that through the years, the choir has lost no flair or talent and is holding to the standards of the choirs of Christmases past.

Christmas at Northwestern brings fond memories to everyone in attendance and all the students who performed in it as well. Lindstrand said, “As a student coming from Oregon, one of my fondest memories was that when the last concert was performed, it meant I was on the train the next day to go home for Christmas.”

This glimpse into the past has shown just the tip of the iceberg of this magnificent event. The memories, the history and the establishment of Christmas at Northwestern are all a part of the foundation and testament to what Northwestern stands for: using your God-given talents to bring Him all the glory and to “Light the Way.”

UNW Board of Trustees approves phase one of new athletic complex

by Katie Morford


Phase one of the project includes the new fields and stadium. The start of phase two, the addition to the Ericksen Center is unknown at this time (graphic courtesy of Matt Hill).

Phase one of the project includes the new fields and stadium. The start of phase two, the addition to the Ericksen Center is unknown at this time (graphic courtesy of Matt Hill).

The first stage of the University of Northwestern – St. Paul’s new athletic complex is a go with groundbreaking expected in April or May.

Phase one includes a new football field, baseball field, softball field, tennis courts and a 1,400-seat bleacher stadium with locker rooms, restrooms and concessions. The fields will have artificial turf and will be lighted to allow for increased practice and playing time.

UNW President Alan Cureton notified the faculty and staff of the Board of Trustee’s approval in an e-mail sent Jan. 15.

So far, the SOAR fundraising campaign has raised $8 million in gifts and pledges for phase one. The total cost of the phase will be $10.7 million. According to the e-mail announcement sent to staff and faculty,  “The remaining amount will be carefully financed or covered by the potential sale of assets.” Additional contributions are being sought and will be used to lower financing needs.   

The e-mail also stated, “Moving forward with these improvements for the athletic facilities expands our varsity student athletics and student recreation programs, a necessary development in order to grow and maintain a competitive standard locally and regionally.” 

With completion of the new facilities UNW is hoping to launch two new varsity programs, men’s and women’s lacrosse.

President Cureton expressed excitement about moving forward with the project. “We believe the redesign of our outdoor athletic fields will be a positive factor in helping to attract an retain current and future students. Also, having outdoor lights for the athletic fields will help our students be protective of their classroom time during their competitive season,” he said.

UNW participates in art tour with Bethel, MCAD

by Rebecca Rehm

On Oct. 5, the University of Northwestern – St. Paul’s art department braved temperamental weather and unpredictable Wi-Fi to participate in the College Art Gallery Collaborative’s Fall Art Tour—an annual event celebrating community and collaboration among Twin Cities liberal arts institutions. Sharing the gallery with two other schools, UNW students explored the way other local universities see and create art and made new acquaintances both inside and outside of the art world.

The patter of rain on the tent’s roof and the smoky scent of charcoal wafting from one piece was a world away from the UNW art department’s clean, bright home at Denler Art Gallery, but the offbeat setting for the Fall Art Tour seemed to fit the show.

“It definitely was different than I thought it would be,” said gallery assistant Riki Cummings, a sophomore art major at UNW. “The location of the show wasn’t where we originally counted on, and there was a scary moment when we lost our internet connection”— something absolutely vital to one piece. “But it just worked out,” she added.

The gallery—a temporary installation on University Avenue shared with Bethel University and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design—represented a tremendous opportunity for the school, art students, and Denler Art Gallery director Luke Aleckson.

“We don’t always get invited into things like this because we’re out of the way,” Aleckson said. “It’s fantastic to just have a spot in that social circle (alongside the schools of the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities). We can see how other institutions think about art, how they think about community, and just have this direct kind of show-and-tell.”

By collaborating with Bethel and MCAD to make a temporary gallery, UNW students are able to be involved without asking attendees to stray too far from the schools that started the tour ten years ago.

“It’s one of those rare circumstances where we can be on a level playing field, connecting with all these other people who are interested in similar things,” Aleckson said.

To further promote unity and a “culture of collaboration,” ACTC chooses an overall theme each year for the participating galleries to follow. This year, the theme was sculpture.

The droning speakers of Adam Hamilton’s “Transmit & Transmute” and the curls of smoke from Trevor Knott’s campfire-style piece created an atmosphere that set the UNW, Bethel and MCAD gallery apart from other schools, as did a mind-reading performance by Matt McAuliffe.

While not exactly sculptural, McAuliffe’s performance (called “The Remote View”) was made memorable by the fact that he was hundreds of miles away from the gallery at the time. The routine was conducted over a phone call from a Chicago hotel room, with Aleckson assisting at the gallery in Minnesota. The act required audience participation, and attendees like UNW sophomore Taylor Fritchley gladly stepped up to volunteer.

Fritchley, who is studying nursing, said, “It’s interesting to see how people come up with things I would never have thought of.” Her favorite piece was Skye Gilkerson’s video installation “All My Ghosts,” a ring of Mac computers that played time-lapse videos of places the artist has lived, including Scotland, Aspen and New York. “Initially, I liked it because I’m interested in traveling, but I thought it was so cool that she used technology in that way,” Fritchley said.

People who weren’t even part of the tour stopped by, and Cummings said that “it was a great turnout, especially considering the rain.” Aleckson encourages everyone to check out next year’s show—even students who claim they aren’t “art people.”

“I think it’s important for people who don’t ‘get’ art to go to events like this,” Aleckson said. “Art is tough. It’s like learning a language. At first it seems like nonsense; maybe you pick up things here or there, and some things universally translate, but it takes time and effort. You need to immerse yourself in art to appreciate a lot of those things that aren’t really there on the surface. You have to invest in it for it to give as much back to you as it does.”


Share Button