Visiting scholars teaching classes at CSB and SJU

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February 12, 2014

By Mike Killeen

Henrik Bohlin

Gerhard Zecha and his wife Walburg

The CSB and SJU campuses have welcomed two visiting scholars for spring semester, Sweden's Henrik Bohlin and Austria's Gerhard Zecha.

Bohlin is the American Scandinavian Foundation's Swedish Visiting Lecturer. He is teaching an ethics seminar course, "Sympathy and the Invisible Hand," this spring at CSB and SJU.

Zecha is a Fulbright Scholar who has taught moral philosophy to CSB and SJU students studying abroad at the University of Salzburg. He is teaching two classes in environmental ethics this spring.

A Nobel Prize in the family

Bohlin's maternal grandfather, Arne Tiselius, was the winner of the 1948 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

"I remember having the Nobel diploma hanging over the sofa in our sitting room," Bohlin said. "But for us he was mostly just a grandpa — a friendly old man that we felt safe with and could rely on and look up to. I think knowing that grandpa was a famous scientist gave me a sense that an academic career is possible and can lead far if you have a spark of originality and work hard. Sometimes, it can feel like a burden, though - it's difficult to beat a Nobel Prize!"

However, the person that influenced Bohlin the most to become an academic was his father.

"He was a professor of theology, and used to give us mini-lectures at the dinner table on Luther's teaching on sin and the divine grace, and their relation to Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex. We were just kids and understood practically nothing, but it made a deep impression on us and made us do lots of thinking. And, once you start thinking deeply, it's impossible to stop."

Bohlin came to CSB and SJU after John Hasselberg, associate professor of global business leadership at CSB and SJU, and Catherine Stoch, director of external grants at CSB, wrote a grant. Bohlin is the first American Scandinavian Fellow to visit here since Chris Butters in 2009.

"I met Henrik when I was on my Fulbright in 2009, at Gotland University (in Sweden)," Hasselberg said. "My Fulbright was focused on this liberal education model that was the first university-wide liberal education model to be attempted in Sweden. That's where we met, and we essentially stayed in touch."

Bohlin spent spring semester 2010 at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but "thought it would be useful to experience a liberal arts college that is more similar to what we have back home. When John mentioned his plans to apply for funding from the American Scandinavian Foundation, I was really happy. Besides, I love Americans and the U.S. I find people here open and welcoming and less stuck in their old ways than Europeans often are."

Bohlin's wife, Marianne, is a psychiatric nurse and hopes to meet with members of the CSB and SJU Nursing Department and visit local clinics. Their daughter, Helena, is taking a painting class while here.

A familiar face in the classroom

There's a reason Zecha might look familiar to CSB and SJU students — he has taught study abroad students at the University of Salzburg for 20 years.

"In my estimation, I have taught — on average — 12 students per year, altogether probably around 200 to 250 students from Minnesota in Salzburg," Zecha said.

"My overwhelming opinion with CSB and SJU students is that they are open-minded, keen youngsters with a wide heart for the many cultures that they want to see and visit during their semester in Salzburg," Zecha said. "I really like their tolerance and understanding, politeness and finally also their attitude of 'Minnesota kindness.' "

"He's probably taught more of our students than some of the professors we have here," said Joe Rogers, director of the Center for Global Education at CSB and SJU who helped arrange Zecha's visit to central Minnesota. "It has been our hope that we could rotate through faculty who have taught for us for significant amounts of time abroad. It gives them a chance to come to our campus, learn more about what we're about so they can be better teachers for our students abroad. The whole campus can also be the beneficiary of their wisdom, their unique cultural background."

Zecha said he wanted to get to know CSB and SJU.

"It is always a great experience to work and study with young people - especially in the classes here, the students come from various majors and minors," Zecha said. "They contribute substantially to our moral discussions of ecological problems. It is a vast variety of insights, answers, attitudes and even discussions with colleagues here at CSB and SJU."

Zecha's wife, Walburg, is on the trip with the professor.

"She is a retired general physician and a great mother of five," Gerhard Zecha said. "As I had a number of serious health problems last year, she wanted to accompany me, take care of me and make sure that my teaching and possibly my research will be a success in Minnesota."