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Twin siblings find their own ways to thrive at CSB and SJU

As twins, Cameron and Carter Hahnfeldt have always shared a similar outlook on things.

So it wasn’t surprising that the current College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University seniors reached the same conclusion when it came to making their college choice.

“I loved the small class sizes here,” said Cameron, a double major in math and computer science at CSB. “I loved the sense of community. I loved being outdoors, so the arboretum at Saint John’s had a huge appeal for me.

“I just loved everything about these two campuses.”

“We were going to make our decision independently,” added Carter, a physics major at SJU. “But when we sat down to talk, both of us said Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s was our favorite of all of the places we looked at.

“I think we made our choice right then and there.”

And the siblings – who graduated from what is now Two Rivers High School in Mendota Heights, Minnesota – have each gone on to thrive during their time on the two campuses.

Cameron has worked as a tutor in the CSB and SJU Math Center and has helped organize the on-campus math festival. She was also part of the CSB and SJU computer programming team that took third place at the 2022 Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. 

In addition, two summers ago, she completed a summer research project in which she worked on an application that uses program synthesis to aid beginning computer scientists in creating test cases for their code. And this past summer, she did research in the math department on an abstract algebra project – work that relates to her current thesis, which she is scheduled to defend on April 8.

“I just like problem solving,” she said. “I like spending time on something and working through the issue with other people – collaborating and coming up with a solution. And I’ve had lots of opportunities to do that here.”

“Working with Cam is more like working with another professor than working with an undergraduate student,” added Bret Benesh, the chair of the math department at CSB and SJU and Cameron’s thesis advisor. “She is creative, responsible and processes information extremely quickly.”

Carter, meanwhile, has been part of the physics club, and this school year is working as a resident assistant (RA) in Bernard Hall. He is also a math minor who has taken a number of computer science courses, so his academic pursuits have – at times – intersected with those of his twin sister.

“The great thing about both of us being here is that we can be independent, but we still have each other nearby,” he said. “We’ve been able to develop our own sense of individuality, but we still have that reassurance and backup.”

“We have some of the same friends and we do homework together a lot,” Cameron added. “We’ve both developed our own support systems on campus, but sometimes it’s just good to be able to talk to family.”

Cameron and Carter are not the only set of twins in that family. Their father Chris and mother Anna are also the parents of 17-year-old siblings Ayden and Adele.

“It’s kind of crazy it worked out that way,” Carter said. “They told my mom it was something about genetics. It’s pretty amazing.”

Cameron is planning to take a gap year after graduation this May before applying to graduate schools, perhaps in the Pacific Northwest. Her career goal is to become a professor in either math or computer science.

“I started out working as a math tutor and from there I ended up becoming a (calculus teaching assistant),” she said. “I just love helping people and making them feel more comfortable. A lot of people think of math as being a hard thing and I really enjoy walking them through it and helping them understand.”

Carter – who wants to pursue a career in engineering – will take advantage of the dual degree partnership the physics department already has in place with Washington University in St. Louis. Under the terms of the program, which began during the 2020-21 school year, students who complete the recommended prerequisites for each type of engineering, maintain a minimum GPA and fill out a short application are automatically admitted to that school’s McKelvey School of Engineering.

He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in either engineering management systems or industrial engineering.

Of course, that means that for the first time the twins will be apart from one another. But each said they are ready for the change.

“It’s definitely going to be different, but being in college, we’ve each had our own schedules and done our own things,” Carter said. “We’ll always be close, but we’re OK with taking the next step.”

Cameron and Carter Hahnfeldt ’24