Students lobby for undergraduate research at State Capitol

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February 21, 2017

By Mike Killeen

Scholars at Capitol

Left to right: Libby Cronican, Paige Merwin, Tim Immelman, Kevin Curwick, Paul Cerkvenik ’81, president of the MPCC; and Ben Hodapp.

Kurt Daudt with student presenter

Paige Merwin '17 speaks with Rep. Kurt Daudt, the Speaker of the House. Daudt represents Merwin’s home district of Isanti, Minnesota.

Photos: Stephen Geffre

Lobbyists come in all forms at the Minnesota State Capitol. On Feb. 15, five students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University lobbied for undergraduate student research while displaying their posters at the Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul.

They were part of the 2017 Minnesota Private College Scholars at the Capitol event, which brought together 52 student researchers presenting 32 research topics from 16 Minnesota private colleges.

CSB senior Libby Cronican presented research on preserving dignity for a dying individual, and was able to speak to legislators, different professors and even someone who ran a nursing home. “I’m one of those people where I’m just flattered that anyone would come up to hear about my research,” she said.

“What’s really interesting about a liberal arts school is that my research can be completely interdisciplinary,” said Cronican, a philosophy major from Springfield, Nebraska. “If you think of a pure research school, you’re stuck in that one (discipline) – the microbiology field, or the biology field.”


SJU seniors Kevin Curwick and Ben Hodapp presented their research on the psychosocial effects of students studying abroad in South Africa and after their return to the U.S. Both Curwick and Hodapp studied abroad in South Africa in spring 2016.

“What’s so amazing is you’re not just representing the sciences, you’re just not representing the humanities,” Curwick said of the event. “Here, you have a representation of really everything.

“If you were to do a presentation like this at the University of Minnesota or one of the larger public institutions, you’d have to have a separation for everything. You’re stationed in one discipline,” added Curwick, an integrative science major from Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Hodapp thought the event “was a little more professional, and a little more intense” for being at the Capitol.

“But it’s good – it shows that all the private colleges are capable and willing to contribute to the growing body of knowledge,” said Hodapp, an integrative science major from Duluth, Minnesota.

SJU senior Tim Immelman took the lobbying in stride.

“We’re trying to show the state, and specifically legislators, what the private colleges can offer to students,” said Immelman, a psychology major from Sartell, Minnesota. “It’s difficult for students at larger schools to do undergraduate research, because most of the faculty are consumed by the graduate students. 

“There’s small class sizes and there’s 1-on-1 contact that you get at these private colleges. And, a number of profs in the department will help and would know what I’m doing generally,” said Immelman, who presented research on the idea that people with a broader and more diverse friendship network should have more autonomy in their everyday lives, be happier and be less stressful.

Paige Merwin, a senior at CSB, had the opportunity to speak to Rep. Kurt Daudt, the Speaker of the House. Daudt represents Merwin’s home district of Isanti, Minnesota.

“We talked about my research project first,” said Merwin, an elementary education/music major whose project looked at art integration in the elementary classroom through folktales and classical music. “I told him my biggest takeaway was that I saw the importance of honoring the diversity of learning needs and styles of elementary students by bringing back in arts as a way to teach the core subjects such as literacy and math.

“Lastly, we talked about research as an undergrad at a liberal arts school,” Merwin said. “I told him how supportive faculty were and how the liberal arts experience allowed me and other students to pull across multiple disciplines in our research.”