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Marian University Invites You to Discuss Issues

September 15, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

Marian University Invites Community to Discussion of Wider Issues Around Education and Career Development

Can we talk?  Marian University is introducing a new event in this year’s Homecoming schedule and everyone is invited.  Conversations, Connections and Community, which will take place on Thursday, September 21, is a gathering of Marian faculty, staff, students and alumni, along with leaders from the local community and the general public, to discuss issues surrounding higher education and career development.  There will be presentations, panel discussions and opportunities for the audience to ask questions. Topics will include:

  1. The Brain Drain in Wisconsin: How to Keep Talent from Leaving the State
  2. Bridging the Generation Gap in the Workplace
  3. ChatGPT – The Implications for Business and Education
  4. Engaging in Career Conversations

Some of the special guest experts include Sarah Van Buren, Director of Business Intelligence, Envision Greater Fond du Lac; Kayla Gabler, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Church Mutual Insurance; and Anne Zizzo, Founder and CEO of The Zizzo Group, as well as local business leaders from Michels Corp., Naviant, Badger Liquor, Northwestern Mutual, Society Insurance, Edward Jones, Bank First, CliftonLarsonAllen, Fond du Lac County, NAMI of Fond du Lac, Destination Lake Winnebago Region Visitors Bureau and more.

The event is free and open to the public and begins at 9:25 am in the Stayer Center Auditorium at Marian University, and concludes with a Reception from 3:00 – 5:00 pm.  Parking is available in the parking lot next to the building at South National Avenue and East 2nd Street.

One of the topics, ChatGPT, has been contentious at many universities, but Marian University professors have collaborated across departments for a unique approach – to examine how to harness the power of ChatGPT to improve practices in Business and Education, and do so through the lens of Marian’s values-based education. 

"At Marian University, we are exploring the ethical integration of AI to enhance both our community and educational standards,” said Johanna Groene, Adjunct Professor in Education at Marian. “Through the use of ChatGPT, we are fostering environments where critical thinking thrives, laying a solid foundation for a harmonious and inclusive workplace and society."

Marian Professor of Business James Gray sees the event as part of Marian’s efforts to get students connected to the community before they graduate. “As part of our core values here at Marian University, we promise students that we engage in a lifelong learning process of seeking truth, appropriating knowledge and values to transform the individuals, our community and the world,” said James Gray.  “With Conversations, Connections and Community, we’re putting that promise to action, so students can make those connections with people in our community and realize their role in helping make our community better.”

Marian University was founded in 1936 by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, a group of pioneering sisters, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  The university has a rich tradition of dedication to the education of the whole person and offers a variety of undergraduate, masters and adult learning degrees at its main campus and online.

Full Agenda

Conversations, Connections and Community
Marian University, Stayer Center,
45 South National Avenue, Fond du Lac, WI  54935
Thursday, September 21, 2023
9:25 am – 5:00 pm

Session 1 – (9:25 am -10:40 am)

The Brain Drain in Wisconsin: How to Keep Talent from Leaving the State
Host:  Kate Candee, Senior Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations

When educated or highly-skilled people leave our state, it hurts.  This panel will examine how the outflow of people, particularly those with advanced skills and/or education, affects the economy and culture of Wisconsin.  The discussion will include the effect of the brain drain on job opportunities and the impact on the tax base, as well as solutions to stem the tide of outflow.  Panelists will include representatives from academia, industry and government, as well as representatives from the communities most affected by the brain drain.  The goal is to generate an open dialogue that leads to actionable solutions to retain talent locally and in our state.

Session 2 – (10:50 am –12:05 pm)

Bridging the Generation Gap in the Workplace
Host:  Callista Gould, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications

There are as many as four generations working together in today’s workplace.  They think differently, they communicate differently and have different expectations of what their work should be.  How can we all get along?  In this session, our speaker and panel will tackle issues such as effective leadership, communication, productivity, recruiting and retention.
Featured Speaker: Thomas Boyer, Ph.D. Leadership Studies, who graduated from Marian University in May, will present on his dissertation: “The Effect of Authentic Leadership on the Retention of a Multigenerational Workforce.”

Session 3 – (12:15 pm – 1:30 pm)

ChatGPT – The Implications for Business and Education
James Gray, JD, Professor, Sports and Recreation Management
Johanna Groene, Adjunct Professor of Education and Ph.D. Candidate
Therese Gedemer, Assistant Professor of Business

It’s banned in some places.  But can it be a force for good?  This panel will define and discuss ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer), a chatbot that uses Artificial Intelligence to generate content.  Panelists will consider uses for ChatGPT in Business and Education, ranging from producing “human-like” responses from customer inquiries through life chat integration, to copy for websites, emails, flyers or similar visual advertising or electronic marketing media.  Discussions will address the effective use of ChatGPT question phrasing as well as the pitfalls, and how to distinguish between accurate facts and reliable research vs. content that has incorporated misleading information.
Guest Speakers: Ethan Heck (Marian student), Johanna Groene, Gina Possin (Assistant Professor, Psychology), Therese Gedemer

Session 4 – (1:40 pm –2:55 pm)

Engaging in Career Conversations
Jessica Little, Chair of the Business Department, Associate Professor of Marketing
Teri Passow, Director of Career & Professional Development
Therese Gedemer, Assistant Professor of Business

How do we get university students more involved in our community?  In this workshop, businesses in the community will give short presentations on their business’ impact on the community and opportunities for students. Then we’ll move to a roundtable format, where students will have an opportunity to engage with businesses (including other panel members from previous sections).  There will be time limits, so students have an opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with the businesses, alumni and other speakers from the day.

Reception – (3:00-5:00)

Time to converse about the topics, network and connect!

GLC Conservation Connection

September 15, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

On Saturday, September 9, the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes welcomed guests to the motherhouse for a Glacial Lakes Conservancy fundraising event. Attendees were treated to a discussion of biodiversity in our own backyards by Dr. Gary Casper, a nature hike focused on CSA stream health by naturalist David Kuckuk, plein air art creation by seven different artists, a raffle, and a delicious meal. 

Gary Casper at the podiumGary Casper shared facts about the monitoring currently in progress at Willow Creek Preserve in Sheboygan and the value of recognizing what is currently in place in an environment, what is missing, and why that may be the case. This data can be used to adjust how land is managed to protect habitats of species already in place or adjust habitats to invite new species in.

Dave Kuckuk with tour group near streamIn the hike immediately after Casper's talk, David Kuckuk led a small group in monitoring the macroinvertebrates in the streams that run through CSA's property. This group determined that while the streams are not pristine, they are supporting species that are only able to live in minimally polluted waters. 

artist painting on CSA groundsOther attendees spent time after the talk visiting the plein air artists that were scattered throughout the property, exploring the prairie and forest paths, or learning more about the spiritual resources on the grounds, such as hermitages or the labyrinth. 

It was a day of enrichment for sisters, associates, and other guests. 

View more photos from the day.

Sign up to bring your group for a guided tour of the CSA conservation easement or solar array.


Kestrel Banding at CSA

September 08, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

In July 2022, Jennifer Rutten, Director of Glacial Lakes Conservancy, contacted CSA regarding a program being conducted by Danny Erickson of the Cedar Grove Ornithological Research Station asking if CSA would be willing to assist with an ongoing Kestrel project.

The opportunity to assist with this kind of project is in line with the CSA Corporate Stance on Care for Creation and our commitment to the tenets of Laudato Si'.

Two bird boxes on poles were installed on August 3, 2022,—one on the Ledge and one in a western corner near highway 151.

In late June, a breeding pair who took residence in the box on the Ledge were successful in hatching four nestlings. On July 7, 2023, less than one year after the boxes were installed, sisters, associates, staff, and Glacial Lakes Conservancy volunteers, joined Danny Erickson to place bands on the ankles of the nestlings. As noted in the original proposal (below), "Kestrels are highly tolerant to nesting site disturbance, handling, and individual capture and marking by researchers." 

View all the photos from the day here.

According to the Cedar Grove proposal:

American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) are a widespread raptor in North America, but recent trends show a population decline (Smallwood et al. 2009, Sauer et al. 2013, McClure et al. 2017), prompting many studies on this decline. Kestrels may be experiencing different threats at regional and local scales (McClure et al. 2017 and Ruegg et al. 2021), and research is lacking for eastern Wisconsin. Kestrels use natural cavities in trees in open areas for nesting, but a shortage of suitable nesting habitat may be a contributing factor to declines of this species (McClure et al. 2017). To aid this species, many nest box monitoring programs across North America have been created. Kestrels are cavity-nesters that readily adapt to human-made nest boxes (Smallwood 2009 and Smallwood and Bird 2020), making observing Kestrel reproduction relatively simple. Kestrels are highly tolerant to nesting site disturbance, handling, and individual capture and marking by researchers (Smallwood 2009).

This study aims to better understand Kestrel population trends in eastern Wisconsin through banding effort and nest box surveys. We will observe nest box occupancy, productivity, and juvenile dispersal as well as the wintering habitat use of this population. We aim to generate Kestrel nesting data to connect to broader monitoring programs across the hemisphere. Understanding these relationships will enable a more complete picture of the American Kestrel’s life history and provide information to support conservation of Kestrel habitat and populations.


Supporting Marian University’s Working Families

August 27, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

This article appears in the August Issue of Reflections and Connections

On May 9, 2023, SSM Health Greater Fond du Lac gave a $50,000 gift to Marian’s Working Families Grant program. The Marian University Working Families Grant (WFG) Program provides tuition, along with stipends for rent, childcare, and food to economically disadvantaged single parents and is co-sponsored by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes and an anonymous donor,

“We’re proud to be a part of this tremendous program, which has benefited so many families over the years,” Katherine Vergos, president of SSM Health St. Agnes Hospital says. “It is important to us to support the communities we serve in so many ways, and to help provide individuals and families with the resources they need to live healthier and more productive lives.” 

Kerry Strupp, Director of the WFG program, expressed her gratitude for the donation, stating, “This not only helps our students, but it helps their children, too. We’re very blessed to have partners like SSM Health and their generous donation.”

The WFG program blossomed from a simple seed of an idea from Sister Deb Walter in 1996 and was ultimately supported by the entire congregation. The Education Grant for Women and Children program, as it was originally called, initially began in response to changes in welfare programs that almost entirely eliminated opportunities for economically disadvantaged women to pursue higher education.  The groundwork laid by this program grew into a partnership with an anonymous donor, resulting in what is now the Working Families Grant program.

Participants in the Working Families Grant Program are literally working hard every day. Eligible recipients are single parents who have primary placement of their children. The grant provides stipends for monthly rent and childcare, monthly grocery gift cards, tuition assistance, budget/credit counseling, academic counseling, career counseling and workshops on life skills. Students are expected to be full time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and complete 20 hours of community service per semester.

Pictured above (left to right): Katherine Vergos, president of SSM Health St. Agnes Hospital; Kerry Strupp, Marian University’s director of the Working Families Grant; and Michelle Majewski, president of Marian University.

Read the full issue of Reflections & Connections here.

Subscribe to Reflections & Connections here.

Welcome New Staff: Schwibinger & Waller

August 26, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

This article appears in the August Issue of Reflections and Connections

Kyle SchwibingerCSA is pleased to welcome Kyle Schwibinger as Maintenance and Land Steward and Jane Waller as Housekeeper for the CSA Motherhouse.

Kyle works with the maintenance team to do general repairs and upkeep of the property. Additionally, in his role as CSA’s Land Steward, he monitors and manages the land held in conservation easement with Glacial Lakes Conservancy. Born and raised in Plymouth, Wisconsin, Kyle recently completed his bachelor’s degree in environmental science and management at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. He loves to spend his free time hunting, fishing, and camping in the north woods of Wisconsin. Since joining CSA’s staff, Kyle has enjoyed working with the land, seeing what it has to offer and what he can offer to it.

Jane WallerOriginally from Fond du Lac, Jane comes to CSA after serving as a switchboard operator at Aurora Health Care for the past 15 years. Her skills managing more than 700 callers per day are now being used to prioritize housekeeping tasks to ensure a peaceful and tidy environment for the sisters at the motherhouse. When she is not cleaning, Jane spends time crafting, volunteering at her church, and playing her flute.

Read the full issue of Reflections & Connections here.

Subscribe to Reflections & Connections here.

Sister Dennis Joins the Centenarian Club

August 24, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

This article appears in the August Issue of Reflections and ConnectionsSister Sharon pins a rose on Sister Dennis

2023 marked a particularly auspicious year for Sister Dennis O’Connor. Born May 15, 1923, and professed in 1943, she had the joy of celebrating her 100th birthday and her 80th Jubilee this summer. 

Sister Dennis was born in Milwaukee and was taught by the Sisters of St. Agnes at St. Florian’s School. She moved into the convent at 15 and made her first profession at age 20. She quickly became an asset to sisters throughout the country as a homemaker. She made meals, drove sisters who could not drive, and did the many tasks necessary to ensure that households where she served were well kept and happy homes. She was never given much time to sit still, moving 13 times in 43 years with numerous moves back and forth throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Wisconsin. She settled in Fond du Lac in 1986, but her moving adventures weren’t quite finished.

After living in the staff area of Nazareth Heights for eight years, she discovered that it was time to move again as the sisters living there were all relocated to the newly built Nazareth Court & Center. True to her homemaker-spirit, she partnered with another sister to pack all the boxes for the other sisters and ultimately moved herself out last. Since that move in 1998, she has finally had a chance to stay in one place!

On the occasion of her 80th Jubilee, Sister Dennis took a moment to reflect on her experiences and offer insight to those who continue to carry CSA’s charism: “I am deeply grateful for my 80 years as a Sister of St. Agnes. Day after day I trusted in God and was faithful to prayer and community life. If people needed me, they knew they could call upon me. I never said ‘no’ to a request for help. My advice to you who wish to live CSA’s mission today: You are all God’s people and God’s servants. Use your own common sense. Follow your heart and it will take you where you should be.”  

Read the full issue of Reflections & Connections here.

Subscribe to Reflections & Connections here.

August 2023 Issue of Reflections & Connections

August 23, 2023
By CSA Sisters of St. Agnes

Cover of Reflections and Connections

The August 2023 issue of Reflections & Connections is now available online for your viewing.

This letters appears in the August Issue of Reflections and Connections

Dear Friends,

Celebrating Journeys of Gratitude and Grace, the theme of Jubilee 2023, expresses so well the spirit prevalent at our recent CSA Days and each day forward. The June gathering of our sisters and associates provided the opportunity to strengthen the bond that unites us and to explore our unfolding future with gratitude, grace, and hope.

Jubilee is a time of rejoicing and giving thanks for sisters and associates who have responded to the call to further God’s Mission and have done so faithfully for many years. We, and many others, have been blessed by their lifetime service and witness to the Divine Love. In this issue of Reflections and Connections, we honor our Jubilarians including Sister Dennis, one of our centenarians. Their presence, wisdom, and spirit inspire us each day.

Marian University, a CSA sponsored ministry since 1936, is also highlighted in this issue. Marian holds a special place in our hearts, since it is the Alma Mater of most of our sisters and that of many students who used their education and values from Marian to make a difference in this world.  

As we continue our CSA journey, we give thanks to you and all our Partners in Mission. We are grateful to be recognized for our efforts to be good stewards of God’s creation, which you can read about in the coming pages. We are also delighted to welcome two new staff people to help us on the way, Kyle Schwibinger and Jane Waller, who are introduced in this issue.

Grounded in the Mystery of the Divine, we are bonded and strengthened by our vision and love, and continue to have graced encounters that reflect the goodness and love of an amazing Creator God.

Sisters Sharon Pollnow, Peg Spindler, Madeline Gianforte, and Lael Niblick
CSA’s General Council, 2022-2026

L to R: Sisters Sharon Pollnow, General Superior; Lael Niblick, General Councilor; Madeline Gianforte, General Councilor; and Peg Spindler, General Vicar



Read the full issue of Reflections & Connections here.

Subscribe to Reflections & Connections here.

Marian University Welcomes Nurses Home with a “Bash”

August 04, 2023
By Marian University

The nurses are coming home and Marian University is celebrating with a Bash… a bash through walls, that is.

The Bash, which took place earlier this week, had Marian University executives, faculty, students, and even Sisters of St. Agnes, the order that founded Marian, taking part in the demolition.  The event kicked off a renovation by C.D. Smith Construction that will transform the first and second floors of the Stayer Center on Marian’s main campus. The new home of Marian’s Nursing Program will feature state-of-the-art simulation laboratories, classrooms, and study areas for Nursing and other health professions.  (Click the poster image below to see it at a larger size.) The previous location for Nursing was Marian’s Center for Health Professions building in downtown Fond du Lac.

“This move will be a significant convenience for nursing students, because it puts them just steps away from the Ridenour Science Center, where they have many of their core-curricular sciences courses,” said Cheryl Seelig, Program Director for Nursing at Marian University.  “This helps us focus even more on providing students with a high-quality education in one place.”

Marian University, which has been training nursing and nurse leaders for almost sixty years, has one of the highest NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) passing rates in the state of Wisconsin at 96.67 percent.

The bash will also be an inauguration of a new program at Marian University – Construction Management.  Marian President Michelle Majewski likes the idea of involving students in the bash.  “We’re having both nursing students and construction managements students take part in the demolition, to symbolize Marian University’s many breakthroughs in higher education,” said Majewski.  “The Nursing program shows our longevity and the Construction Management program shows we are constantly innovating.”

With the move, Marian University will put the building at 30 South Main Street in Fond du Lac up for sale.  “That building had its time for us,” said Majewski, “But it will be better suited for a new owner.”

Marian University was founded in 1936 by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, a group of pioneering sisters, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The university has a rich tradition of dedication to the education of the whole person and offers a variety of undergraduate, masters and adult learning degrees at its main campus and online.

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