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Wildcat soccer's Liesl Wolf featured in MIAC Profile of Excellence

Liesl Wolf '13, left, and Cirien Saadeh '12 lead food justice activities at St. Catherine University in November 2011.
Liesl Wolf '13, left, and Cirien Saadeh '12 lead food justice activities at St. Catherine University in November 2011.
Photo by Kristine Lee '13.

Thanks to the intense competitive nature of its games and matches, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is a sports fan's dream conference. But what makes the MIAC a truly special conference is the way so many of its student-athletes become involved in their campus and the larger community around them.

One such student-athlete and campus leader is St. Catherine University Athletics soccer player Liesl Wolf. In addition to being a team leader, Wolf maintains a 3.79 grade point average (GPA) as a Nursing and Sociology major, yet she also immerses herself in a passel of activities on campus and beyond.

“Liesl contributes in so many ways on the field,” states Wildcats Coach Chris Citowicki. “She has been a big factor in the turnaround here, and is such a leader. The younger players look to her like a big sister or mother-figure. She leads by example in all areas: academics, on the field and off it. She goes above and beyond in every aspect of community and campus involvement.”

Wolf has been active in a number of community service programs, including People Helping People. Through that organization, she was paired with a homeless shelter in Minneapolis. “For five weeks this fall, I volunteered there,” she said. “One of my objectives was to help educate the homeless on various health programs.”

Also involved in Campus Ministries at St. Catherine, Wolf has participated in a number of volunteer programs, including Volunteers in Action, for which she is a coordinator. “We do a variety of community activities ranging from Get Out the Vote to visiting the retired nuns on campus,” she said.

She has also been involved in three Justice Immersion trips through Campus Ministries over the past three years. “We went to Denver with a focus on the homeless, El Paso for border issues, and the Twin Cities, where we looked at food issues and food workers' rights,” she explained. “Each trip was for three days.”

Wolf and classmate Cirien Saadeh co-founded the St. Catherine Food Justice Coalition, which works to improve food choices made by members of the SCU community, in terms of healthiness of those choices, choosing food options that are environmentally friendly and a cultural diversity in food options. One way they do this is by hosting Food Week, which has exhibits to help raise awareness and provide information to the community.

Last spring, Wolf was named the Communications Director of the Minnesota Student Nurses Association (MSNA) for the 2012-13 school year. She is responsible for producing the MSNA's newsletter, which is published three times a year, and works with the board of directors in planning and hosting the annual state convention, which will take place in February.

She also serves as the scribe for Advocating for Animals, a student group on the SCU campus. “I take the minutes of our meetings, “she said. “I've been a member of the group for four years.”

Of the programs Wolf has been involved in, perhaps the most prestigious is her involvement in the selection of the recipient of the Opus Prize. The prize is given annually to a deserving organization set out to help others by giving power to the disenfranchised, providing opportunities to the poorest and inspiring others to pursue lives of service.

Wolf's involvement is the result of St. Catherine being chosen by the Opus Prize Foundation as its collaborating college. As such, SCU was responsible for organizing and overseeing the selection process for the 2012 recipient and for hosting the awards ceremony.

“Donna Hauer of the Multiculture Center at SCU recommended that I apply for a position in the process,” explained Wolf. “Jenny Donohue from the cross country team and I were chosen to be part of the due diligence team that visited the St. Luke Foundation in Haiti.”

The St. Luke Foundation, founded by Fr. Richard Frechette, was one of the three finalists for the $1 million award. Each due diligence team reviewed their assigned finalist and spent five days observing the program on-site. “Fr. Rick is a priest and doctor who has spent 25 years in Haiti, providing the less fortunate there with schools, health care, orphanages and other opportunities,” Wolf said. “Seeing what he and his organization do there is amazing.”

The Opus Foundation was as impressed as Wolf was, and awarded its grand prize to St. Luke.”I'd like to go back to Haiti and volunteer with St. Luke's,” Wolf said.

She was chosen to attend the MIAC Student-Athlete Leadership Conference in August 2011 as one of the representatives from St. Catherine. Not surprisingly, she earned the St. Catherine Abigail Quigley McCarthy-Center for Women Student Leadership Award in May 2012.

This past January, Wolf spent the month studying in India, as part of a J-term class at SCU. “The program was called Global Search for Justice and focused on women and work,' she explained. “We were mainly in Delhi abut also visited different cities and villages.”

Wolf is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Nursing honors society and was recently named Academic All-District.

On the pitch, Wolf plays defender/midfield, and as such, does not compile an array of scoring stats. The Wildcats have struggled throughout her career, finishing in the lower portion of the MIAC standings each year, but her career ended on a high note of marked improvement. Two years ago, Citowicki was brought in as the head coach. He was given the task of building the program into one that can compete for the MIAC title.

After a 1-17 season in Wolf's junior year, Citowicki overhauled the team, bringing in 13 first-year student-athletes and two transfers to team with Wolf and three other seniors.”She understood where we were and what we were planning and trying to achieve,” Citowicki said. “Liesl stepped up into a leadership role. She's not a vocal leader, but the others look to her for guidance and direction.”

The Wildcats beat MIAC power Carleton in the conference opener and they amassed four MIAC wins, tied for the school's best showing ever. They closed the year with a 9-8 record overall, tying the St. Catherine record for wins in a season. Wolf and her fellow seniors are the first SCU class to post wins over Carleton, Macalester and St. Olaf in their careers. They became the first SCU team to ever be ranked when they achieved a No. 9 ranking in the NSCAA Division III Women's Soccer North region in mid-September.

Citowicki feels that the class of 2013 has helped lay a foundation on which he can build a successful program and is grateful to them for all they have done. He knows Wolf's leadership played a tremendous role in the turnaround and that she has left the SCU program in far better shape than when she arrived on campus. He is impressed with her many accomplishments and will definitely miss her.

“There is only one Liesl Wolf," he said.

For more information, visit the St. Catherine University Athletics website.

Jan. 2, 2013 by Rich Mies, Special to the MIAC

See also: Leadership, Students