New academic year brings faculty changes

The beginning of the school year means a new pack of first-years and the return of the upperclassmen. The same is also true for faculty. According to the Dean’s office, nine faculty members have been promoted this year, in addition to the 41 brand new faculty appearing this semester.

Here is a sample of just some of the new faces – or old faces in new places – that students may see around the Hill this fall:


Doug Beussman

This professor of chemistry specializes in the analytical area of his field, including mass spectrometry, bio-analytical chemistry and forensic science. Students interested in television shows such as CSI or Bones will be interested to learn that that he has conducted research in FBI labs. Rumor has it that he enjoys shattering the fantasies of would-be David Carusos in favor of more legitimate scientific method, which he believes to be a much more fascinating, albeit slower, process.

Paul Roback

This year, Regents Hall of Mathematical Sciences crowned a new king: Professor Paul Roback, Director of the Statistics Program. Roback teaches to students of many levels, whether they be new students in Principles of Statistics, or more advanced learners in the Statistical Theory course. When not working, he can often be found engaging in various athletic activities around campus, such as basketball, tennis or soccer. Roback also combines his loves of sports and statistics in pursuit of Fantasy Football victories.

David Castro

From the deserts of Arizona came Associate Professor of Music David Castro; he specializes in music theory pedagogy and post-tonal analysis. Castro reports that he is still coming to terms with his promotion, but students in his Theory and Aural Skills class are sure that he is up to the task.


Matt Wiebold

New to the physics department this year comes Assistant Professor Matt Wiebold. Wiebold has already managed to engage his pupils with his unbridled enthusiasm for the subjects he teaches.

“He’s fun and energetic,” said physics student Haakon Pederson ’18. “In his class, even intro work is fun and involved.” Wiebold’s research includes “developing a helicon plasma source for novel, gridless electrostatic propulsion systems” and “building a high-voltage pulsed DC argon plasma pencil for biomedical applications.”

Linda Mokdad

Gracing the halls of Rolvaag Library for the first time is Linda Mokdad, a new assistant professor who specializes in film studies. Her courses have proven popular and engaging. Will Ibele ’18, a student in her First Year Writing: Writing About Film class, said: “She’s cool, and she likes movies.” From Introduction to Film, Paige Dahlke ’18 reported that “having [Mokdad] as my film professor is great; I can easily tell that she’s passionate about what she teaches.”

Björn Nordfjörd

Sporting what is arguably the catchiest-sounding name on the Hill, Nordfjörd joins the St. Olaf faculty as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English. However, do not be fooled into thinking that means he only focuses on works in the English language.

Nordfjörd teaches about literature and film from many areas around the globe, including Russian and Nordic cinema. In the English-speaking world, he is primarily known for his research into the aforementioned Nordic cinema, whereas in Icelandic circles, he is known for his writings on American films. For European football fans, his favorite team is Aston Villa, an English club in the Premier League.