Volcanos, Birds and Ballet on Horseback: What We Did on Our Summer Vacations


Caution: Career advisors may be bolder than they appear in the mirror.

Stephanie (Loncarich) Gronowski '14 MOL stands an even 5-feet tall and speaks, whether indoors or out, with what can safely be described as her inside voice.

Inside of her, however, lives a bold spirit. An intrepid adventurer. A fearless seeker of thrills. A roaring volcano!

OK, the volcano bit might be borderline hyperbolic. Yet, if Gronowski, the internship coordinator and a career advisor in the SAU Career Center, is not internally volcanic, she sure has a knack for finding volcanos.

In 2011, Gronowski visited Ecuador. And the Tungurahua Volcano erupted. And, this year, shortly after she and her husband, Eli, scheduled a trip to Hawaii's Big Island, the Kilauea Volcano began pouring molten rock and lava across the island's landscape.

Did the Gronowskis retreat? Oh no. They boarded a helicopter and flew over the fire-breathing mountain instead.

"Am I nuts? Gosh, no," she said. "I like to do sort of daring things, though. I'm afraid of heights but not afraid of being in an airplane. I've gone skydiving. I like roller coasters. I'm not afraid of some things people think are scary."

Gronowski's volcanic overview may have been the most daring Summer '18 adventure shared by St. Ambrose faculty and staff, but she wasn't alone in seeing the world and confronting danger.

Sayonnha Mandal, PhD, an assistant professor in the Computer and Information Sciences Department, trekked to Yellowstone, fished for trout, and found herself being chased by bison and a black bear at separate junctures.

"A bunch of us saw the bear and stopped on the roadside to take pictures," she said. "When the bear started chasing us, everyone ran, including me. I was first to the car."

In other words, she didn't have to outrun the bear. Just her fellow gawkers. (Editor's note: No tourists were harmed in the making of this vacation story.)

Summer of 2018

Submitted photos from our contributors: Dr. Alfredo Mac Laughlin in England; Stephanie's Hawaii volcano; Ron Ferrill with his catch; Dr. Susa Stonedahl's saffron finch; Ann Garton on horseback

Then, there is Tracy Schuster-Matlock, PhD, associate vice president of assessment and institutional research. She and her husband took an Alaskan cruise, and, during one stop on shore, went rafting on the ocean.
"It was fun until we were stranded at sea," she said, explaining the engine on their motorized ocean raft simply quit. "The long float back to shore gave me plenty of time to reflect on my love of land."

Why is the verse " ... a three-hour tour" playing over and over in our heads, Dr. Schuster-Gilligan?

Other summer getaways were less fraught with peril.

Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing Ann Garton, MSN, RN, advanced to regional competition with her horse, Calum, in competitive dressage, an equestrian sport she likened to "ballet on horseback."

When a wise guy wondered how one convinced a horse to stand on his toes, Ann kindly responded: "Good one. I use to compare it to the compulsory tests in ice skating, but nobody remembers those anymore."

The wise guy didn't bother to ask how one might put ice skates on one's horse.

Sales Program Adjunct Tom Hosmanek '16 MBA wrote a short e-book for students in his classes explaining the interview process in the form of a story, called "The CINCH Sale." He wrote 500 words a day for 16 days in a row. He then spent the rest of the summer gathering comments and suggestions on the drafts from students and colleagues and revising it numerous times. The e-book will be distributed to students at no cost.

Assistant Professor of Physics and devoted "birder" Susa Stonedahl, PhD, spent time in 16 states, saw mountain goats in Idaho, monk seals, manta rays and dolphins in Hawaii and, ultimately, "reported" 280 species of birds in what would the movies might describe as her "Big Year." (Check out Susa's bird photos here.)

First-year Assistant Professor of Biology Dale Broder returned to her native Colorado and belly-dancing roots as a backup dancer in a pair of shows featuring comedian Hannibel Buress.

Professor of Accounting Allison Ambrose, PhD, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Rhiannon Seneli, and Assistant Bookstore Manager Sherry Sinnott scratched off bucket-list items by visiting multiple national parks all with spouses, one with kids.

Speaking of kids, an adjunct professor whose name we shall withhold to protect the not-so-innocent shared: "I can't resist. I drank vodka tea in my children's kiddie pool all summer long. (Insert smiley face here.) Hope you get some exciting options from people who have traveled the world!"

Well, as a matter of fact:

• Professor of Psychology Katie Trujillo: "I went to Amsterdam, Milan, Florence, and Rome. While in Milan, we went to the Basilicia di Sant'Ambrogio, but then while in Florence, we found a restaurant called Sant'Ambrogio and when I showed our waiter my business card to show him I worked at a university with the same name, he brought out a complimentary bottle of limoncello. The waiter was so excited about that -it was pretty funny."

• Assistant Professor of Philosophy Alfredo MacLaughlin: "I was a few days in England this summer. As a die-hard fan of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, I went to visit Lewis' house in the outskirts of Oxford, right where he wrote "The Chronicles of Narnia" and many other books. A student living there gave us a tour of the house. Then I followed the path Lewis would take to his workplace in Magdalen College, a beautiful trail, easy to get lost. (Lewis was big on hiking, and would leave his friends often exhausted and complaining.) We ended our walk, conveniently, at the Eagle and Child, the Oxford pub where Tolkien, Lewis, and their friends would meet to discuss their works in progress and push each other to finish them (there would be no Lord of the Rings without Eagle and Child); and finished with a pint of ale aptly named Three Swords."

• Professor of Nursing Juleann Miller, PhD, RN: "I had a couple of interesting experiences this summer. The first was singing in the first choir tour of First Presbyterian Church of Davenport in Germany. We sang in 5 concerts and several church services from Berlin down to the final stop of Kaiserslautern. Kaiserslautern was our final concert and we were hosted by our sister city. After the concert series, our family went to Italy for the week. We visited several cities in Tuscany but in particular, Assisi where we participated in a walking tour and learned a great deal about St. Francis of Assisi. My husband is a Presbyterian pastor and this was a particular educational experience for him as our church has a Blessing of Animals service each summer which is linked to St. Francis."

• Professor of History Sandy McKinley, PhD: "I spent 10 days this summer studying kendo at Fukuoka University of Education. I practiced with University kendo team instructed by Honda-Sensei nana dan (7th degree blackbelt) and Sumi-Sensei hachi dan (8th degree black belt). I am presently a san dan (3rd degree blackbelt) in Kendo, a Japanese martial art of the sword. I have been studying kendo for 11 years. I am an assistant instructor for the Moline Kendo Club and the faculty sponsor of the SAU Kendo Club. I have also taught a kendo course in the kinesiology department."

• Professor of Philosophy Tadd Ruetenik presented a series of philosophy lectures to students at Beijing Normal University. He spoke about "William James and Psychical Research," "Jane Addams and Anti-War Pragmatism," and "Cornel West and Prophetic Pragmatism." In between lectures, Professor Ruetenik shared, he spent the days walking the beautifully chaotic streets of Beijing, learning about Confucian culture, communist/capitalist politics, and Buddhist religion.

• Professor of Philosophy Joe McCaffrey went to Chernobyl to "get a sense of what happened and what might happen again" He will use what he discovered in an MBA course. Joe found "fascinating history in Kiev as well as Lviv in Ukraine." He also "tracked the Polish revolution of the 1980s" through Gdansk, Warsaw, and Krakow and made "another grim visit to Auschwitz/Birkenau."

On a brighter note back in the States, Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor Michael Puthoff, PT, PhD, rafted, kayaked and zip-lined with his kids in Wisconsin after watching them compete in youth sports in the pool and on the diamond.<

And speaking of diamonds, SAU softball coach Ron Ferrill had a productive working month of June, winning a second straight title at the helm of the Davenport Assumption High School Lady Knights. He spent a large chunk of the rest of the summer fishing for blue catfish, culminating with a late summer catch of a 50-plus pounder.

And one more thing about mighty Stephanie Gronowski. While it wasn't technically a third honeymoon, their trip to the Hawaiian Islands was scheduled around their third anniversary. And they saw a spewing volcano. Yes. We came all the way back around just to say this: Hawaii is for lavas.

— Craig DeVrieze is solely to blame for this article.

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