Meet First Decade Award Winner Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08

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Killa Marti '08
Killa Marti ’08

Originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08 arrived in the United States in 2004 as a student. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics from Augsburg University in 2008. Shortly after, she left to fulfill an employment obligation in China. After concluding her employment contract with the Hua Qiao Language Institute in Chang Chun, China, Killa returned to the United States to obtain a Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law).

One of her nominators, Zaira Solano, says this about Killa in her nomination letter, “Killa is a relentless advocate, woman of integrity, and leader in everything that she does.”

With the clear objective of working in the field of immigration, Killa took every opportunity to serve the immigrant population in the United States. She served in an internship at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and was a volunteer for Civil Society, a nonprofit that works to help victims of human trafficking. She also completed a practicum at the law firm of Contreras Edin & Associates. Killa represented Hamline in the Inter American Human Rights Competition in Washington, D.C., and worked for the state legislature in Minnesota through its Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. During this time, Killa also worked in the legal publishing division of Thomson Reuters, a global news agency and publisher. Upon graduation, Killa worked for the firm of Cole & Vondra, PLLC in Iowa City, Iowa, where she had the opportunity to litigate in the immigration courts of Omaha and Chicago. She also defended immigrant clients in the state courts of Iowa.

For the last three years, Killa has worked in Georgia, assisting the launch of the Immigration Services program at the nonprofit Lutheran Services of Georgia. During her time there, she worked closely with refugees and sponsors of unaccompanied minor immigrant children. Killa accepted a position at Solano Law Firm, litigating cases before the Atlanta Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. She also serves as the leader of a low-income, volunteer-run legal clinic called Gospel Justice Initiative in the city of Clarkston, Georgia. Killa is licensed to practice law in Iowa, Georgia, and immigration law all over the nation, and is now owner and managing attorney of her own firm, Marti Law Firm, LLC.

Killa is known as a fiercely motivated attorney who works tirelessly for her clients in districts and cases where the decks are stacked against them. In signature Auggie fashion, her career has developed as one which recognizes the needs in our diverse world and takes meaningful action to meet those needs. She served as chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association chapter in Georgia and Alabama from 2016 to 2018, and she continues to pair clients in need of Pro Bono services with local attorneys and mentor lawyers early in their careers.

Killa has been called a person of faith, integrity, intelligence, commitment, and compassion. She embodies the values of Augsburg through thoughtful stewardship, critical thinking, and rigorous pursuit of justice and equity. She is dedicated to ensuring education and financial support are available to girls, and she is working to grow her acts of kindness into a nonprofit where she can empower more students so they can live to their fullest potential.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Dr. Brian Krohn ‘08

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Dr. Brian Krohn
Dr. Brian Krohn

Brian Krohn ‘08, Ph.D., is a passionate innovator, entrepreneur, and Augsburg’s first Rhodes Scholar. Switching from an Augsburg degree in film to one in chemistry was only one component of a rapidly expanding career that includes experience in renewable technology, mobile app development, local food, and medical devices.

In a joint letter nominating Brian for this award, the Chemistry Department at Augsburg says, “Brian is an alumnus who typifies the best of Augsburg’s liberal arts education; he weaves together his care of creation and humanity with his technical prowess and creative insight to make the world a better place.”

While at Augsburg, Brian was named a Goldwater Scholar, founded the Honors Review journal for student scholarship, and created an Honors course on home brewing. He researched the production of cleaner biodiesel fuel in collaboration with Augsburg’s Professor Emeritus Arlin Gyberg, Ph.D., and alumnus Clayton McNeff ’91, which spurred a new patented catalyzation process and physical plant, Evercat Fuels, that produces more than 8 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Some of Brian’s research has been featured on “Good Morning America” and the National Council on Undergraduate Research Session.

Watch the KARE OnLIVE segment on his research below:

 

Brian earned a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Sciences and Management from the University of Minnesota as an Environmental Protection Agency Fellow, as well as master’s degrees from the University of Oxford in Environmental Change and Management and the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine as a Rhodes Scholar. He co-founded several companies including Mighty Axe Hops, which is the largest producer of Minnesota hops for local craft breweries.

He was an Innovation Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center, where he worked on projects ranging from a new tool to assist neurosurgeons to remove brain cancer to an app to improve sleep. He is currently the CEO of Soundly, an app-based therapy to reduce snoring, which is a technology funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. His company, Magic Wizard Staff, displays his technical brilliance and playful creativity. Most recently, he joined Modern Logic, an innovative digital product development company. Brian has also served as an adjunct instructor at Macalester College and Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has garnered numerous academic honors and entrepreneurship awards.

Brian’s time at Augsburg was marked by exploration of not only chemistry, biology, and mathematics, but also philosophy, film, and literature. Paired with thoughtful consideration of calling and community, this cultivated his pursuit of knowledge, art, and technology in service to the world. His work demonstrates the power of Augsburg’s intersection of liberal arts education and professional studies to enable others to be more healthy, happy, and fully human. He continues to stay connected to Augsburg and is generous with his time, encouraging and offering advice to students since his return to the Twin Cities.

Homecoming Auggie Talk: The Baby Boom Effect – Hosted by the Class of 1968

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Auggie Talks photo from Homecoming 2017On Friday, Oct. 12, from 3:30 – 4:15 p.m. in the Sateren Auditorium, Anderson Music Building, five members of the class of 1968 will discuss “The Baby Boom Effect: How Four Years Affected 50.” Alumni will each present a three to five minute description of how their time at Augsburg influenced what they have done personally and professionally over the past 50 years. Each has pursued different paths since leaving Augsburg while impacting the world in meaningful ways.

About Auggie Talks:

They’re back by popular demand! Join us for 30-minute, insightful sessions presented by professors and fellow alumni on topics spearheaded by your class reunion groups. Talks will be published as they become available on social media and in upcoming communications.

Space is limited. Please register today for Auggie Talks.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Joshua Harris ‘08

Joshua Harris in Baltimore, Maryland.
Joshua Harris ’08 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Joshua Harris’ life and work in the last ten years of his young career have been devoted to public leadership, building connections and making a difference in his community.

As one of Joshua’s nominators, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter says, “When I think of Joshua, it makes sense that he is an alumnus of Augsburg, as he truly lives the mission of being an informed citizen, a thoughtful steward, a critical thinker, and a responsible leader.”

Joshua is the co-founder of the Hollins Creative Placemaking, a non-profit fostering urban revitalization by including the use of art and the creative processes. He sits on the board of the Charles Village Urban Renewal Project, Pauls Place Community, Baltimore’s Promise Mentoring Task force and Baltimore’s Southwest Partnership.

Joshua ran for Mayor of Baltimore in 2016 becoming the youngest person ever to run for mayor. He ran as a Green Party Candidate and in a one party town Josh took 10% of the vote, more than any third party candidate in history. He is dedicated to creating attainable solutions for the challenges Baltimore and similar urban cities face around the nation.

Joshua is a brand and communications expert and currently is a Deputy Director of Communications for a national women’s reproductive rights organization where he monitors policy and guides communication strategy for more than a dozen state chapters and affiliates.  He also sits on the board of directors for the NAACP Maryland State Conference and the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance. He has previously worked for an international non-profit that provides mentorship and scholarship opportunities to young African American boys and men and is the former director of communications for Black and Brown People Vote. Joshua has been a featured speaker on urban renewal and education disparities at the “Imagine America Conference” and the “Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference”. Joshua is has a passion and commitment to empowering people and for progressive policy solutions.

Continuing to stay active in his community, Joshua is currently running to be the delegate for District 40 in Baltimore, Maryland.

While attending Augsburg University from 2005 to 2008, Joshua played basketball, was on student government, was a residence life advisor, an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Co-chair of The Pan-African student Union for two years. Joshua majored in communication studies with a double emphasis in broadcast journalism and marketing, and a film studies minor.

As a communication studies major, Harris learned the theory and skills to create sound public policy, argue effectively for meaningful change, persuade diverse audiences. In true Augsburg fashion, Harris has channeled his education and professional experience to reduce inequity and fight for social justice as a responsible, informed, and active citizen leader.

Refugee Odyssey: Exploring The Past Through Simulation

AASA at the Fall 2017 Leadership Retreat
AASA at the 2017 Fall Leadership Retreat

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.”

Mike Matson ’06 to serve as Chaplain to Marine Special Operations Training Command

Having served a commission in the Naval Reserve since 2009, Mike Matson is now called to active duty as a Chaplain to Marine Special Operations Training Command at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Anyone who’s met Mike Matson ’06 will notice his qualities of curiosity, calm, and spiritual presence. Mike’s history with Augsburg began as a student and athlete. He then served for over five years as a chaplain to student athletes and as a coach. For the past year and a half, he’s served as Assistant Director of Leadership Gifts in the Advancement office.

Now he is taking on a new role: having served a commission in the Naval Reserve since 2009, he’s been called to active duty as a Chaplain to Marine Special Operations Training Command at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Mike, his wife Helen, and their five children (June age 8, Francesca and Theodore age 6, Charlie age 4, and Josephine 4 weeks) will move on August 26 and serve there for one year. He’s happy his whole family will move with him as these are high priority orders and the reserves requested his immediate departure to service.

“Since we just had our fifth child, Helen and I are especially glad we can all relocate together. Helen’s been a medical receptionist for two surgeons. This call will allow her to stay home with our kids full time while I serve our Special Forces.”

When asked where the idea for this combined service came from, Mike commented, “I believe every corner of the world needs an Auggie in it. I was shaped by my Augsburg education to go out and do more in the world. Staying in the reserves was one way to do that. I was able to contribute to the mission of Augsburg and use the values and skills Augsburg shaped in me to serve the community.”

Mike’s been serving as chaplain to the 1st Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department which is the downtown area. Sometimes it’s been hard to shift between his roles of staff, father, husband, and chaplain.

“I’ve learned through my roles there are all kinds of people in the world. And I’ve faced the polarization we are experiencing head on. I’ve learned to appreciate how gently we have to hold the space and come to each moment with sincere appreciation. I practice seeing the holy in all of it. It is always there.”

The Matson family at the headwaters to the Mississippi.

 

He goes on, “I approach it all with curiosity. If I can’t believe the holy is there in each person and experience, then what’s the point. Jesus always showed us his curiosity. Without our curiosity I don’t think we can make any progress. My approach is to figure out how to connect with people. I am motivated by it.”

In his time serving in Advancement he’s learned some things, too.

“One big thing I’ve learned is, what a gift it is to be a student! It’s not something to take for granted. So many students receive some form of scholarships. Usually those scholarships don’t come from someone with lots of income and assets. It comes because of a belief the donor has in the value of an Augsburg education. It comes from generosity and belief in the importance of investing in students. There’s a community behind every student. I never want to take that for granted.”

As he turns his attention to the year of service unfolding before him, he will be carrying some of these lessons with him.

“I am called to the gray areas of life. And to do so vulnerably. I go with an openness to enter into those spaces. That is where the transformative can emerge.”

He’s especially energized by the call to the Special Forces.

“So much of the military focus now is on specialized teams and special forces. The training of these elite forces is crucial. As we can imagine, it’s a grueling experience to go through this training. It peels back the layers of a person’s character and reveals our make-up. It’s a key time in a service member’s life. The military is doing all it can to offer support to the trainees.”

On this high priority mission Mike will be participating in some of their training and in the same spaces with the Marines and special forces.

Mike Matson ’06 has served Augsburg University as chaplain to student athletes, as a coach, and in alumni development.

 

He smiles, “I’m going to get my jump wings! Yes, that means he will learn to parachute!

As he travels with Helen and his children, he feels the strength of her support and her willingness to put the family through such a big experience.

“She has given me courage to be even more curious. And to mess up, too. We don’t always get things right. She’s helped me show eagerness to go out and seize the day. The greatest gift in all this is to say yes to life.”

Mike and his family will return to Augsburg in a year.  “I feel very supported by this Augsburg community!”

—-By Catherine Reid Day

 

Augsburg Theater Alumni Featured in a Sod House Theater Production

Come and see some Augsburg University Theater alumni from several generations perform this incredibly fun and evocative production!

An Enemy of the People written by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Darcey Engen and Luverne Seifert with music by Brian Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson, will be presented by Sod House Theater and tour eleven rural cities in Minnesota from July 25 – August 26, with a run in Hastings early September (TBA), 2018. The Sod House is teaming with local talent that includes a number of Augsburg University alumni!

This classic play examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin. It will be performed at site-specific locations that are important to the historical narrative of each community.  Performance locations include town halls and river parks. “We’ve chosen communities to perform with that have recently experienced water pollution issues and whose lakes and rivers are a major contributor to their tourism economy,” said Luverne Seifert, co-artistic director of Sod House Theater. After each performance, water experts from local organizations will facilitate conversations centered on local water issues in hopes that the play and community dialogue will inspire water conservation.

 

About Sod House Theater:

Sod House Theater is a Minneapolis based theater whose mission is to perform in venues that serve historical significance in small-town communities. The works they choose to perform are relevant to the small-town atmosphere. Their goal is to be interactive in the communities by performing with local actors and at historical sites. They have been touring greater Minnesota since 2011.

Tickets for “An Enemy of the People” are $15 for adults; $10 for Children, Students, and Seniors.

Tickets are available at www.sodhousetheater.org. For show information call 612-414-2032.

Alumni who are leading the project:

Co-Artistic Director, Luverne Seifert ‘83; Co-Artistic Director, Darcey Engen ‘88; Production and Tour Manager Del Logeais ‘18.

Alumni who are performing in the Taylors Falls Production:

Peter Skjervold ‘83, Jenny Nordstrom Kelly ‘84, Lisa Pestka Anderson ‘86, Ali Fitzpatrick ‘11

Current students performing in Taylors Falls:

Madeleine Rowe ‘19, Hannah Dyson ‘20

6 Quick Questions With the New Conductor of The Masterworks Chorale

Mark Sedio ’76 has been the transitional conductor for the Augsburg choir for the past two years. Mark has recently accepted a new role as conductor for The Masterworks Chorale. We had the chance to chat with Mark about all things Augsburg and music. Check out these 6 Quick Questions with Mark Sedio:

Favorite memory as a student at Augsburg:

Conversation with friends in the old “Chin Wag” before Augsburg Choir rehearsals.

What makes singing in a choir so great/powerful/exciting?

The act of making something beautiful together – a true act of community.  The joy of performing a piece – the final result of hours and hours of rehearsal.  Then, of course, all the non-musical things wrapped up in it all – singing with friends, the performance spaces, the stories about the history of a piece – all coming together.

What excites you about working with Masterworks?

The caliber of the singing is so very high and the possibilities are endless.

What are you looking forward to with Masterworks?

Over the past four years, it’s been great fun for me to have worked first with Cedar Singers and then the Augsburg Choir.  Osmo Vänskä, the conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, says it’s all about the music – and it is.  How we form a phrase together, how we mold sound – not necessarily a pre-conceived notion of what an ensemble should sound like – but rather what we do with the sound we have.  That’s the concept I used with both Cedars and Augsburg Choir – it works – and the outcome can be really thrilling.

Share something about working with the Augsburg Choir:

It’s hard to put into words what the 50-plus singers in the Choir came to mean to me.  Again, it’s all about community.  It was a joy to be able to make music together – and I think it showed in each and every performance.  We had great fun – and it showed in their singing.  I am extraordinarily proud of those wonderful musicians (some whom I knew since they were first-years in Cedar Singers).  Their musicianship and growth over the years.  To work with them was both an honor and sheer joy.

Share a Mark Sedio fun fact:

If I wasn’t able to do what I am doing (choral music, organ, composition), I’d LOVE to have a talk-show.

 

If you are interested in joining The Masterworks Chorale, the gatherings are open to anyone interested in singing! The first gathering is Tuesday, September 4th from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the Choir Room (M2) in Augsburg University’s Anderson Music Hall. For more information visit the Augsburg University Masterworks Chorale Facebook page here.

For the Augsburg University Music Department website, click here.

Brett Batterson ’80 Shines Bright on Tony Night

Augsburg alumnus Brett Batterson ’80 had big shoes to fill when he took the job as President and CEO of Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to his arrival,the theatre had been recognized at the Tony Awards on three different occasions. Under Batterson’s leadership, as part of the Independent Presenters Network, the Orpheum Theatre Group can now claim a share of the 2018 Tony Award for Best Musical! The Independent Presenters Network is an above-the-title producer of the 10-award winning show, The Band’s Visit.

In high school, Batterson was an actor in his school’s theatre productions. When he came to Augsburg, one of his theatre professors, Michael Beery, showed Batterson his potential to create the scenes on the stage itself as a set designer.

“I had wonderful professors at Augsburg including Julie Driver and Ailene Cole, but Michael Beery had the most profound effect on my career.” says Batterson.

Beery helped guide Batterson onto a path where he could find great success. He did perform in one show at Augsburg, but spent the rest of his time behind the scenes creating and designing sets.

While still a student at Augsburg, Batterson had the opportunity to work at The Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Jazz Dance Company and Minnesota Opera Company. Following Augsburg, he took the skills he learned and advice from Professor Beery and obtained his M.F.A. in set design from Tulane University. For 15 years he continued his stage design career until he discovered another passion – arts management. Batterson spent 10 years at Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Then another 11 years as the Executive Director of the national historic landmark Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. He has been in his current position as President and CEO of Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis since 2016.

“Theatre education, like I had at Augsburg, builds better people,” said Batterson, “Whether they go into theatre or not, they will go into the world better prepared to succeed.”

Young Alumni Council: Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12

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 one of our series, we will be profiling members of the Augsburg Young Alumni Council (or YAC). This week, we spoke to Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12, who is currently the YAC Vice-President. 

  • Name and Graduation Year?

Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12

  • Time spent as a YAC council member?

2 years
.

  • What made you want to be a part of the YAC?

I enjoyed my time at Augsburg and I wanted to find a way to stay connected to the community. Additionally, I want to help others get re-connected with the Augsburg Community.

  • What is your favorite YAC memory or event?

My favorite event was the brewery tour. It was so fun to see so many familiar and new faces. Everyone really enjoyed hanging out as a group and it was a beautiful day!

  • Favorite memory from studying at Augsburg?

The summer after my freshman year, the band went on a trip to Romania. It was an amazing 10 day experience filled with new cultures, new foods, and new friends!

  • 
Why should other young alumni join the YAC?

People should join YAC to help their classmates re-connect to Augsburg and to help plan fun events that bring people together.

  • Interesting random fact about you?

I have lived in 7 states and went to 3 different high schools.

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.