In 2013, the Augsburg University Archives received fifteen boxes of “reel-to-reel” audio recordings and promptly began an ongoing project to save them. Created from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, these recordings documented everything from commencements and building dedication ceremonies to notable speakers and chapel talks. Lindell Library purchased a refurbished reel-to-reel player and oversaw a student workers’ painstaking inventory of more than 500 tapes in the collection.
“Over the past year, I have supervised a small army of students who have transformed these recordings into a collection of YouTube videos that grows by the day,” said Stewart Van Cleve, digital archives librarian.
Van Cleve shared that some of the most significant and fascinating recordings come from a single day: May 15, 1968. President Oscar Anderson canceled classes on this “One Day in May,” and the Augsburg community listened to leaders of Minneapolis’ black community as they detailed the racism, sexism, economic and geographic segregation, and other problems that continue to affect Minneapolis’ black community.
The University Archives preserve Augsburg’s legacy and make its historical information available to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and researchers. The archives include information related to the university’s history and provide limited information about administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Every fall, students from the Multicultural Student Services & International Student and Scholar Services organizations gather off campus for a Fall Leadership Retreat to build community, engage in important discussions, and gain leadership tools. During the retreat, students affiliated with the Augsburg Asian Student Association (AASA) have the opportunity to participate with AASA alumni in the Refugee Odyssey, an intense simulation that AASA started back in 2008.
Alumnus Cheemoua Vang ‘16 took part in the Odyssey as a student and has volunteered the last two years to help run the event. He says his first experience was indescribable, but a moment from which he bloomed and grew emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That’s why he and other AASA alumni choose to come back to volunteer.
“I call it the cycle of giving back,” he said. “Alumni volunteers who take part in the Odyssey have all participated in it before at least two to three times. This is important because those who have personally gone through the Odyssey will be able to connect with the student participants. They’ll understand the impact of it on a personal level and know the sensitivity of the event and what it takes to be involved with it.”
The sensitive nature of this event comes from students simulating the experience of immigrants running from their homes during wartime, fleeing from soldiers, to find safety. The simulation is meant to help students explore their history.
Senior Cam Thu Pham has participated in the Refugee Odyssey the past three years and says “the Refugee Odyssey is a learning experience of rediscovering one’s history or awakening an interest in learning one’s parent’s raw history and sacrifices. It is a frightening experience, and you would not know what to expect while laying in the pitch black grass and thorny bushes waiting with your adrenaline rushing as you try to get to a safe place.”
In her first two years, Cam was a runner during the simulation and last year she chose to be a soldier, whose job it is to catch the runners. These experiences have led Cam to further explore her personal family history.
“I finally came to the realization that my parents stories that they had always told me were not because they were bored and had nothing to talk about, but because it was all they had to talk about. It was their history and their roots. I never took the time to appreciate those stories until I sat down with my parents after [the Refugee Odyssey] and asked them to tell me those stories once again. I think these stories have led me to recognize my privilege to be where I am today from the upbringing of my parents, to not ever forget where I originally came from, and to appreciate my identity as a proud Vietnamese woman.”
For both Cam and Cheemoua, the Refugee Odyssey and AASA have helped to shape their experience at Augsburg.
“AASA is not just a platform of support, but to me it feels like a family that has lifted me up through my hard times throughout my experiences here. AASA members are empowering people who have so much influence on me as an individual,” Cam said.
Cheemoua feels a similar connection to the group.
“I first got involved with AASA during my first year of college,” Cheemoua said. “I was eating lunch all by myself and a group of AASA members invited me to eat with them. They were very welcoming and friendly. After joining them for the Fall Leadership Retreat, I found the leadership in me that Fall and I just kept growing ever since.”
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.
Stewart Van Cleve is a librarian and digital archivist at Augsburg University’s Lindell Library, where he is responsible for Augsburg’s Digital Archives (library.augsburg.edu/archives). His passion for archiving began while studying toward a degree in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota when he had a student position working with the renowned Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies. The Tretter Collection is a vast collection of books, photographs, films, and other historical artifacts that Van Cleve calls “one of the most comprehensive accounts of international queer history in the world.” After receiving his master’s in urban studies from Portland State University, Van Cleve decided to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science at St. Catherine University, in St. Paul.
In 2012, Van Cleve published his book, Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota, a wide-ranging illustrated history of queer life in Minnesota. The book contains more than 120 historical essays exploring the earliest evidence of queer life in Minnesota before the Second World War—from Oscar Wilde’s visit to Minnesota, riverfront vice districts, protest and parade sites, bars, 1970s collectives, institutions, public spaces, and private homes. This rich history is illustrated in more than 130 examples, including images of annual “pride guides,” a number of archival photographs, and advertisements from local queer bars.
Having worked at Augsburg for nearly a year, Van Cleve says he loves the “student-centric” nature of the University. On Thursday, April 5, he will be joining the Augsburg Alumni office at its Auggies in the City: Kinky Boots, pre-theater event to discuss his book, and to provide more details on the history of queer life in Minnesota.
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!
Join the Augsburg community on Saturday, January 27 for the grand opening festivities of the Hagfors Center. The public is welcome to attend the alumni and community open house from 3.30-5 p.m. Enjoy food stations, building tours, and activities.
Please allow for extra travel time as we expect extra traffic due to pre-Superbowl activities.
Free valet parking will be provided in the roundabout in front of the Hagfors Center on 21st Avenue.
Throughout the afternoon, students and faculty will be on hand to provide laboratory tours and to share the transformational difference this new facility makes to their educational experience.
Food and refreshments will be available throughout the afternoon including a mac and cheese bar, roasted vegetables and dip, a dessert bar with choke cherry ice cream, meringue and fruit purée, mini lemon tartlets, and more.
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.”
The Augsburg Religion Department and Institutional Advancement are now seeking student and alumni input for artwork to be installed in the new Hagfors Center. The artists Greta McLain and Stanton Sears and Andrea Myklebust are seeking your best ideas on text passages that could accompany three artworks designed for the new building. Selections of text may come from any literary work or religious text of any faith tradition, as long as they are inspiring and fitting with the spirit of the artwork. For students, display boards depicting the artwork designs will be posted around campus, where anyone may fill out a slip and drop it in the submission box. Or check out the link to see more information about the artists and submit your ideas by April 6!