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College of St. Catherine: Beyond November’s elections, St. Kate’s adviser advocates hands-on democracy

COLLEGE OF ST. CATHERINE

No one is anticipating this November’s elections more than Ann Redmond, coordinator of the Economic Justice and Public Policy program at the Centers of Excellence for Women, if only to show her students how democracy works and why it is important to become involved.

“We have a responsibility to society as educated women to give back,” says Redmond, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “It involves our faith, our values and how we will work for the common good.”

The mission of the College of St. Catherine’s Center for Economic Justice and Public Policy is to engage all of the women at the college in developing a greater understanding of national public policy issues, particularly as they relate to economics and social justice. Much of the leadership for this effort resides with some eight to 15 students in the St. Kate’s Votes Committee, chaired by Student Assistant Program Coordinator Rachel Toenjes ’10, a biology major.

“It’s all about civic engagement and taking students beyond just voting on election day to talking to and working with legislators in their communities,” says Redmond.

A long-time social justice advocate, Redmond says it was her passion for social justice issues that led her to the religious life and the Sisters of St. Joseph. As a religious sister, she felt freer to pursue her calling and became a teacher because she saw education as a justice issue.

She initially taught the middle grades in elementary school and made it a practice to conduct civics lessons and discuss current events on a regular basis because “I always wanted them to know what was going on,” she says.

From there, she went on to become an English professor at St. Kate’s, a position she retired from in 2005 after 30 years. Now, she provides guidance and counsel to the students at the Centers for Excellence.

In addition to the program’s academic curriculum, Redmond encourages hands-on involvement in the democratic process.

In 2000, she instituted the St. Kate’s Votes Program, which gets students involved in voter registration and provides transportation to local polling places on election day. The core group of students will typically recruit other students on campus to engage them in these pre-election activities.

Another facet of the program are Candidates and Issues Forums. The first candidate forum was held on campus in 2002 during the gubernatorial elections and sponsored by both the College and Minnesota Public Radio.

This year, the College and Highland Public Library are co-sponsoring a forum at the library featuring candidates in districts 64A and 64B (where the College resides) running for the state legislature.

The Issues Forums have been an ongoing part of the College’s traditions, and Redmond has made them a critical part of students’ education, especially during non-election years. Forums have dealt with a range of issues, including immigration, the Iraq war and healthcare.

Students have also been involved in debates and giving speeches on opposing sides of the same issue. Redmond hopes the current St. Kate’s Votes Committee can engage in debating the points of view of the two presidential candidates as well as any independent candidates who may choose to run.

“The issues and debates have been an important and successful part of the program,” says Redmond. “That is measured by the interest of the students and the leadership roles and risks they’ve taken in order to better understand what it means to live in a democracy.”

Lecture series continues
The Center for Women, Economic Justice and Public Policy is also sponsoring the Fourth Annual “Faith, Values, Women, and Politics Series: How Do We Act for the Common Good?” Tuesday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m. at The O’Shaughnessy on the College’s St. Paul campus, 2004 Randolph Ave.

Featured speaker Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ, will address “Standing at the Edge: Envisioning Tomorrow.” She is a federal lobbyist for NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby in Washington, D.C.

This program is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Tickets are available on the College of St. Catherine’s St. Paul campus at the Centers of Excellence, room 210, Coeur de Catherine or at The O’Shaughnessy box office, open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday noon–5 p.m.

The event has been endorsed and tickets are also available at the Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, 1890 Randolph Ave.

A limited number of tickets will also be available at the door. The event will be American Sign Language interpreted.

For more information, call the Centers of Excellence at (651) 690-8847.

St. Kate’s at the RNC
Physics professor Terry Flower, Ph.D. is a delegate to the Republican National Convention and Campus Republican Committee Co-Chair Renee Zeman (Class of 2010) has been working with a consulting firm to the Republican Host Committee.

Arline Datu is a St. Paul freelance writer, social justice activist and corporate communications consultant.

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