• Familiar Roles with New Faces

    Program Coordinator, Department of Catholic Studies

    Maggie Gikling joined the staff of the Center for Catholic Studies in June as the program coordinator for the Department of Catholic Studies. The University of St. Thomas is a friendly and familiar place to Gikling. Growing up in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul, she attended St. Mark’s elementary school and then Derham Hall (now Cretin-Derham Hall). Her older brother, Joe Horan, graduated from St. Thomas in 1976 with a degree in history. Continuing in that tradition, Gikling’s son, Andy, matriculated at St. Thomas this past fall and plays on the university’s varsity soccer team.

    The program coordinator works closely with both graduate and undergraduate Catholic Studies students during their years at St. Thomas to help ensure a rewarding experience and a smooth path toward the degree. Duties include assisting prospective students, enrolling new students, confirming graduation requirements are met, and facilitating with commencement activities. The program coordinator also supports the department chair and the graduate program director with classroom needs and event planning. At the moment, says Gikling, “I’m focused on learning as much as I can. I’m just beginning to understand the many facets of the Center for Catholic Studies. But the more I learn, the more impressed I am at the positive impact the program is making on its students, both academically and in helping to shape their personal faith.”

    Gikling comes to St. Thomas with more than 25 years of program coordinator experience. After graduation from the University of Wisconsin–LaCrosse, she worked for the St. Paul financial printing company Merrill Corporation. Most recently, she has been managing her family’s remodeling business. Gikling is thrilled to be at St. Thomas and surprised by the diversity of offerings the Center provides. “I’m finding the Center for Catholic Studies to be an energyfilled place with many extracurricular activities such as seminars, lectures and discussion groups, along with an impressive academic program. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this unique environment.”

    Project Coordinator, Beyond Career to Calling

    In 2001, the University of St. Thomas received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment as part of a nationwide effort to stimulate a theological exploration of the idea of vocation on college campuses. Dr. Mary Reichardt takes over this year as coordinator of the grant, a position first held by Dr. Robert Kennedy.

    St. Thomas’ Lilly grant program is titled Beyond Career to Calling. This program supports faculty and staff projects that help students discern a vocation to the religious life, that consider vocation in a larger sense in which all the major choices students make about their lives can be seen in terms of a call, and that focus on the vocation of St. Thomas itself as a Catholic university. Besides overseeing these universitywide efforts, Reichardt specifically directs two such projects: the Aquinas Fellowships, which awards fellowships to undergraduates, and the Ireland Fund for New Initiatives, which funds faculty and staff proposals.

    Reichardt sees this position as a natural evolution in her interests and skills. “I’ve always had a strong sense of ‘calling’ versus ‘career’ in my life,” she states. “A tail-end baby boomer who grew up in the otherwise unsettling times of the late 1960s and 1970s, I’m nevertheless grateful to have absorbed the prevailing attitude of the period — that our life’s work shouldn’t be directed toward mere material goals but be an end to which we can devote ourselves with passion and integrity, making use of God-given talents and inclinations. Beyond Career to Calling is meant to encourage all of us in the St. Thomas community — students, faculty, staff — to make life choices wisely and reflectively.”

    Reichardt received a master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Illinois- Champaign and a doctorate in literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She has taught at St. Thomas since 1988. A specialist in Catholic literature, she is the author of seven scholarly books, including Catholic Women Writers (2001), Exploring Catholic Literature (2003), and the two-volume Encyclopedia of Catholic Literature (2004). She is currently co-authoring an anthology of early Catholic writing.

    The Graduate Program in Catholic Studies welcomes Dr. Paul Wojda as its new director. Wojda is the program’s second director, taking over from Dr. Mary Reichardt, who helped established the program and guided it through its first four years. A member of the Theology Department since 1992, Wojda teaches in the area of Christian morality with a special interest in biomedical ethics. He holds a master’s degree in religious studies from Yale University Divinity School and a doctorate in moral theology from the University of Notre Dame. He has published articles in a number of scholarly journals and is currently working on a book on the Christian moral life. He and his wife, Keely, have five children and live in St. Paul.

    Involved in Catholic Studies for many years, Wojda sees in his new position an opportunity to shape and expand the growing program in ways that best serve students’ needs and use faculty resources. In particular, he brings to the position a strong belief in the integration of knowledge through interdisciplinary study. “I have never been fond of the contemporary academy’s forced distinction between the ‘love of learning’ and ‘the desire for God,’ or its tendency toward ever greater fragmentation of knowledge,” Wojda states. “My current scholarly work in moral theology and biomedical ethics constantly forces me to occupy interdisciplinary ground. Because of its interdisciplinary focus, because of its refusal to bend to the intellectual fragmentation of our times, and above all because of its insistence that the pursuit of truth is a form of service to both God and neighbor, the Catholic Studies master’s program is very much a natural home to me. I am both excited and privileged to direct it.”

    The graduate director serves as the students’ primary adviser throughout the duration of their degree program. Students normally complete the program in two years, or four semesters. The master’s degree currently enrolls approximately 50 students.

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