The Young Alumni Council was formed to specifically represent the interests of young alumni in service of Augsburg University’s mission and goals. Each council member helps connect and engage young alumni by planning and executing networking, fundraising, social, and volunteer events and programs. Click here for more information about requirements and qualifications.
As part of a new weekly series, we will be profiling members of the Augsburg Young Alumni Council (or YAC). This week, we spoke to Evan Decker ’12, ’18 MBA, who is currently the YAC President.
Name and Graduation Year?
Evan Decker ’12, ’18 MBA.
Time spent as a YAC council member?
3 years .
What made you want to be a part of the YAC?
I wanted to give back to the University, network, and develop my leadership skills. The council has provided many opportunities in all of these areas.
What is your favorite YAC memory or event?
Picking just one is hard. If I had to, I’d say my favorite event each year is the networking event. It’s not necessarily a YAC event but YAC is heavily involved, and I enjoy the opportunity to network with students and other alumni.
Favorite memory from studying at Augsburg?
It’s also difficult to choose one. I really enjoyed living in Mort – nothing like living on the same floor/in the same building as all your friends.
Why should other young alumni join the YAC?
Why not? I feel like for the amount of time and energy I put into it I get much more in return. It’s an amazing opportunity to practice skills that are applicable in many other areas of life while hanging out with cool people. The networking opportunities are endless, and we get to plan and attend fun events!
Interesting random fact about you?
I had a pet tarantula growing up. She only managed to escape her cage once!
Are you interested in learning more about the Young Alumni Council? Visit http://www.augsburg.edu/alumni/leadershipboards/yac/ for information on applications and eligibility.
It’ graduation weekend at Augsburg University, and we are excited to celebrate the hard work of our 2018 graduates! Augsburg is in the midst of our Tassel Challenge, our way of honoring this year’s graduates and supporting future Augsburg students.
The Tassel Challenge is an online giving event, with all donations supporting the Sesquicentennial Scholarship fund. We have reached our goal of $10,000 and we are excited to see how much we can surpass our goal by with donations from generous Auggies!
The Tassel Challenge is a great way to recognize your favorite graduating Auggie, give back to Augsburg, and help make sure an Augsburg education is accessible to all. If you choose to donate in honor of a student, we will make sure they know they were recognized, and send you and the student an Augsburg tassel keychain as thanks.
Augsburg is excited to announce our Tassel Challenge fundraising campaign. This online giving event is an opportunity to celebrate all of Augsburg’s 2018 graduates, and help support future Auggies by donating to the Sesquicentennial Scholarship fund.
A donor has generously offered to match any donation dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. Our goal is to fully utilize that matching gift and raise $10,000 for student scholarships!
The Tassel Challenge is a great way to recognize your favorite graduating Auggie, give back to Augsburg, and help make sure an Augsburg education is accessible to all. If you choose to donate in honor of a student, we will make sure they know they were recognized, and send you and the student an Augsburg tassel keychain as thanks. More information can be found and donations made on the Tassel Challenge Donation page. The Tassel Challenge will run from today through May 2nd. If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student questions following presentations by reps from Fishbowl Solutions yielded some interesting conversation in Professor Larry Crockett’s computer science class, April 5. For example, “As a software consultant, how often do you feel the need to go online to find answers to your own software challenges?”
The answer from Fishbowl’s Jake Ferm ’12 may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but then again, maybe not: “Every ten minutes.”
Fishbowl Solutions, a Twin Cities-based software company, creates packaged software and develops custom technology solutions using the latest Oracle, Google, Mindbreeze, and PTC technologies. The company of 40+ employees, founded in 1999, has offices in both the U.S. and the U.K., and serves an international clientele.
The Fishbowl reps, invited to visit two sections of Crockett’s CSC/PHI 385 class (Formal Logic and Theory of Computation), included Noah Bodner (Recruiting), and three Auggies: Amy Bowar Mellinger ’97 (Fishbowl’s Director of Services), Jake Ferm ’12 (Software Consultant), and Carmen (Crockett) Williams MBA ’12 (Account Executive, Sales).
After the Fishbowl guests described the nature of their company and work, as well as their take on various current trends in technology, students raised numerous questions. The resulting interaction provided good advice on many issues, such as these comments on interviewing from Williams: (1) Prepare wisely for an interview (always plan on a glitch; arrive ten minutes early); (2) Think ahead about what questions to ask the interviewer (remember, you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you); and (3) Ask what further education and training the prospective employer is willing to provide.
Mellinger stressed the importance of keeping an open mind when deciding on an employer, giving attention to the importance of matching one’s work-style with the anticipated projects. For example, she recalled working on one seven-year project at an earlier job, which, she said, may not have been as appealing to someone who enjoys working on a variety of projects or technologies.
Fishbowl reps emphasized how valuable a liberal arts education is in their work, since the broad scope of the classes they took continues to provide flexibility and greater opportunity in their work, and in the marketplace in general.
The Fishbowl visit to Augsburg was an excellent opportunity for students who are eagerly seeking internships or employment to connect with a company that is just as eager to find talented interns and employees. As Bodner explained, given the current Twin Cities unemployment rate in the area of computer science (less than 1%), students are in a strong position to find several appealing opportunities, and their thoughtful preparation for interviews can make an offer much more likely. A look at the website for Fishbowl Solutions says, “We’re looking for innovators with a passion for technology and learning to fill a variety of technical and non-technical roles.”
Mellinger, who worked for many years as a consultant prior to taking on her leadership role at Fishbowl Solutions, was surprised to discover recently that her colleague at Fishbowl, Williams, is the daughter of Crockett, who had taught two of her classes at Augsburg.
In the April 5 forum, about 50 students had a chance to interact with former students to compare and contrast pre-graduation education with in-field work experience, and to consider how one’s education must continue in the workplace. Ferm stressed that, especially as a software consultant, he is learning new things daily—online and in person—as he encounters new challenges that push him to continue educating himself. And when new interns come on board, they learn from the staff’s collective experience, and staff pick up new things from the interns. Nothing like a win-win situation!
The April 5 event was also an opportunity for three Auggie alums to take in the new Hagfors CSBR facility; they left deeply impressed.
Amanda Stramer ‘12 was named recently to the Florida High Tech Corridor’s 2018 “Faces of Technology,” which represents more than 252,000 scientists and technologists. Stramer earned this distinction through her innovative work in the development and commercialization of cancer immunotherapies.
For three years, Stramer has worked at Iovance Biotherapeutics in Tampa, FL. Currently a process development associate scientist, she works to develop immuno-oncology therapies, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), to fight aggressive cancers.
Stramer says she chose to study at Augsburg because it was the most diverse private school in Minnesota*, and was small enough to provide for enhanced learning that can result from significant relationships with professors and classmates alike. Stramer graduated with a BS in Biology and Philosophy and was a lead volunteer at the Campus Kitchen. She has found that she can thrive in a small and intimate work environment, such as the one at Iovance Biotherapeutics, thanks to the study habits she developed at Augsburg.
Within a week of graduating from Augsburg, Stramer was offered a job. She immediately moved to Florida, where she started her career as a microbiologist at a small biotech company in Sarasota.
When asked if she could offer any advice to current Auggies, Stramer said, “Although there is always talk about academic careers following STEM programs, the science industry is so huge and versatile; Auggies should never fear to branch out.”
Stramer is a fantastic example of an Auggie making a difference, and Augsburg can take pride in its diverse alumni base, which includes a wide range of professions and accolades.
Do you know a great Auggie who should be in the spotlight? Let us know by emailing email@example.com.
*Augsburg University was the most diverse private school in Minnesota at the time of Stramer’s application.
Just in time for Valentines Day join the Augsburg Associates for a “Sweetheart of a Sale” February 13th and 14th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Christensen Center. With vintage jewelry, homemade candy and one of a kind scarves it will be a great opportunity to pick out unique and special Valentines Day gifts! Love is in the air… see you there!
Many adults would likely freeze in place if asked to teach a middle school class, much less try to interest those students in theater. Then there are those special people for whom such work just comes naturally. Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding ’69 was such a person.
Ert’s Augsburg mentor, the late Ailene Cole (who taught theater at Augsburg for 29 years), saw it early on, insisting that his talent was definitely with the younger kids—the high-schoolers, sure; but more so, the younger ones. It was at Augsburg that Ert knew he wanted to be a teacher.
Football and Theater
When Ert found an opening for a speech teacher at Plymouth Junior High in the Robbinsdale, Minn., school district, he jumped at the chance because it gave him the opportunity to also coach football. As a speech/communication teacher and football coach in Robbinsdale for 34 years, Ert endeared himself
to countless junior high (middle school) and high school students, and many of them went on to pursue interesting professional careers due to his strong influence. His students included Darcey Engen ’88 (Theatre Arts professor at Augsburg), Mad TV’s Mo Collins, and actor Steve Zahn, who once donned a curly wig in junior high and did a memorable, gut-splitting impersonation of TV exercise personality Richard Simmons.
“Herm,” as he was affectionately known by his students, found ways to interest athletes in the drama program, and speech students in the football program, increasing the pool from which to draw and surprising many students who may not have otherwise considered such involvement.
Herm was, most notably, the first to teach improvisational theatre at the junior high level, creating a new model that was replicated in many other schools. When he died suddenly in a one-vehicle motorcycle accident two years after retiring, the online posts from former students said it all—“Brought me out of my shell.” “Favorite teacher.” “Made learning fun.” “Creative and passionate.” “I was fat and unpopular…he cast me in the lead…he lit me up.” “Great mentor to so many kids.”
Herm’s students would often sit together at school lunch to write their own plays. With parental permission to miss some school, they would crowd into a conversion van to take their shows to local elementary schools. Using only milk crates as sets, and maybe a mic for the narrator, they often drew huge groups of youngsters.
When asked how her late husband came to have such a heart for young people, Pat Jones-Hermerding says she isn’t sure how you can understand what’s at someone’s core, but she knew Ert had found his calling. He opened up his ideas to his students, and he had the kind of personality to which they gravitated—a big personality that could take over a room. Everything became a story, says Pat, and it usually grew into an even bigger story. He was energetic and funny—and fit right in with the kids. She takes special pleasure in reminders of Ert’s legacy, particularly when encountering former students who have gone into theater, or played sports for a college, or become teachers.
The Apple Tree
In October, when more than 20 family members and friends of Ert gathered next to Foss Center to dedicate a young apple tree in his memory, those attending were unaware of the tree’s interesting history. They were just grateful for the tree’s healthy start, and for the opportunity to designate a different tree on campus since the tree they had originally dedicated to Ert’s memory in 2009 had become diseased and died.
The history of the replacement tree, they later learned, was tied to Augsburg student Emily Knudson ’15, who had planted three apple trees as part of her senior Keystone p
roject. With this project, and through the Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program, Knudson was able to enter the network of hundreds of other tree owners and volunteer gleaners statewide who donate tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit each year to local food shelf partners. The newly placed plaque by the tree honors both Knudson’s project and Jones-Hermerding’s memory.
The Auggie Friendships
Among those who gathered at the tree’s dedication were two of Ert’s long-time Auggie friends, Glen J. Peterson ’69 and Karl Sneider ’71. All three had been members of Gamma Phi Omega, a campus/community service fraternity active on campus in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Though participation in athletics was not a requirement for membership, many Gammas were involved in sports, which served to deepen many of the friendships. Peterson says that he and Ert were dorm mates as freshmen, and decided to join a third friend to live in a house by Riverside Park for their remaining three years. Peterson chuckles as he recalls that, since there were only two beds in the house when they moved in, Ert was content to sleep temporarily on a mattress on top of the kitchen table.
As Peterson reflects on those college days, he is reminded of how diligent a student Ert was, studying long hours for his language course. He was introspective, hard-working, and intense—in the best sense of that word—and those qualities applied to all areas of his college life: academics, football, track, and theater. He also exerted outsized influence in the life of his young brother, Mike.
If Peterson were to summarize Ert’s legacy in a few words, “integrity” would quickly come to mind. Ert was honest and trustworthy, says Peterson, and dedicated as an educator and as a person. Then he adds, “People would strive to be like him because Ert was adamant about caring about people.”
Mike Scott ’71 admits that talking about friendship isn’t his strongest point, but he’s more than happy to acknowledge that his Augsburg friendships were the best part of his Augsburg experience. Mike and four of those Auggie friends—Larry Stewart ’72 , Tim Casey ’71, Mike Good ’71, and Bruce Santerre ’71—have maintained communication since graduation, and their friendship has survived the test of time. As a group of five, the men have put a priority on keeping in touch; they have celebrated marriages together, consoled each other in difficult times, and gotten to know each other’s children. As far as friendships go, these men share a connection so strong they consider themselves ‘almost’ family.
When Four Became Five
In the fall semester of 1967, the academic year was pushed back for a short period of time to accommodate the completion of Urness Tower. All non-commuting football players were accommodated in Memorial Hall until the semester started and they could be placed in permanent residence halls. It was there that Mike Scott met his very first college roommate, Larry Stewart, as well as Tim Casey and Bruce Santerre, who roomed next door. Besides playing football, the men shared another common thread; they were all from rural out-state. The four men connected as teammates, as neighbors, and by their rural upbringings—and they became friends. When the fall semester eventually started, the four were moved to Mortensen Hall where they would be living on a full-time basis. As chance would have it, on moving day Mike Scott encountered a familiar face and an old acquaintance, Mike Good. The young men had met years earlier through coincidence, when Mike Good was visiting family in Mike Scott’s hometown of Renville. If this was not surprising enough, the men discovered that Mike Good had been assigned to be Tim Casey’s roommate. This sealed the deal; the initial group of four quickly became five and a friendship blossomed that would span the course of the rest of their lives.
As the delayed academic year trickled into summer, on one lazy afternoon when they were feeling bored and desperate for entertainment, the five men, along with some fellow Mortensen Hall buddies, decided to take a hilariously posed photograph where they flexed their arm muscles or “guns.” Little did they know at the time that this photograph would be the start of a picture-taking tradition that would mark the significant times of their lives, like weddings and reunions.
Throughout college, the five either lived together, or within one house of each other. As life took them on their individual journeys, they continued to support each other and strengthen their friendship. From babysitting one another’s children, to taking on important duties for each other (Larry is the godfather of Mike Scott’s son, Kelley), to incorporating spouses and ‘special’ friends – their friendship has never wavered.
Today, although the friends are not physically together (due mainly to career paths that led each to his own location), the group continues to share an incredibly strong bond. At the 2017 Augsburg University Homecoming in October, the five men reunited for another photograph. Although time has changed the faces in the photographs, the deep friendship of these funny freshmen who were inspired by boredom to take a silly photograph in 1968, lives on.
Celebrate and respect our veterans and our men and women in service by joining the Augsburg University Alumni Association for the 6th Annual Minnesota Wild Beyond The Yellow Ribbon Awareness Night at the Xcel Energy Center on Thu, Nov 2 at 7:00 p.m.!
The Wild take on the Montreal Canadiens in a game that shouldn’t be missed… tickets include a new custom designed Grunt Style T-Shirt and entry into a raffle for autographed items.
Ticket collection will take place in the lobby of the Xcel Energy Center at 6:00 p.m on Thursday, November 2. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased at: http://www.augsburg.edu/alumni/events/