An Auggie Finds His Calling

Jay Matchett

Photo credit: Zoya Greene.

For Jay Matchett ’08, ’13 MAL in his current job, all the pieces have come together. His long-held interests in politics, sociology, and human rights have coalesced into a vocation that couldn’t feel more right. Since he took on the directorship of Our Neighbors’ Place, a multipronged social service agency in his hometown of River Falls, Wisconsin, he feels he can convincingly say: “This is where I’m supposed to be.”

Our Neighbors’ Place is an organization Matchett watched grow from its infancy to serve a great need in for people who found themselves homeless or in need of transitional housing.

“It’s been exciting, exhilarating,” he says, of his four months as director, serving his community and engaging the complex issues surrounding poverty and homelessness.

Drawn to Justice

His attraction to social justice was born early and instinctively. A lifelong passion to do something about the cause of poverty began as a child. On a trip to Tucson, he saw an older person pushing a shopping cart alone on the sidewalk. He couldn’t understand why that would ever happen. He never forgot it.

His mother was a teacher, and he would volunteer in her classroom. There, he saw that not all kids were equipped for school—they were hungry or didn’t have boots in the winter.

As a young person he knew intuitively, “This is not right.”

Then, in middle school, as part of his preparation for Confirmation, he spent a night and served a meal at a homeless shelter. Even in that short time at the shelter, he saw that they had more in common than differences. “They like the Packers; they’re just like us,” he remembers thinking. “That just changed my world.”

And the idea started to germinate: How can I make things better for folks? In college, he was drawn to sociology and political science because he wanted to change things. Continue reading

Finding Home All Over the World

Sima cropWubitu Ayana Sima ’89, ’15 MBA might never have predicted she would end up as the proprietor of a classic British tea room, but she never expected to spend more than a decade in Geneva, Switzerland, working abroad for the United Nations and the World Health Organization either.

At 54, the dual-degreed Auggie has always been a woman who likes a challenge. She’s happy when she’s busy, and as the owner of Lady Elegant’s Tea Shoppe in the leafy St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, and a part-time MBA student at Augsburg, the mother of three is already thinking about her next adventure.

Serving Tranquility
Lady Elegant’s, which she purchased from the previous owner, is actually two businesses—a tea shop and a tranquil tea room that is perfect for conversation and popular for groups of all sizes by appointment. Ayana Sima does the baking for the formal teas, including croissants and scones with clotted cream. The adjoining tea shop sells more than 80 varieties of tea. Her husband, Admasu Simeso, helps manage the restaurant, from the paperwork to the online shop.

She manages four part-time employees, and everyone works Saturdays, because it is their busiest time.

Each place in the tea room is set with a distinct tea cup. She’s collected cups from all over—they come from the United Kingdom, China, and Japan—and washes each one by hand. They break easily, she warns, especially in the transition from a group service in the morning to a group in the afternoon.

“I’m a coffee drinker,” she confesses. Growing up in Ethiopia, she would pick coffee out of the backyard at her mother’s house and they’d roast it themselves. She learned to enjoy tea while working in Switzerland, and has grown to know the delicate chemistry of time, tea leaves, and temperature of boiling water.
Continue reading

Nothing Retiring About Life after Research

George Johnson ’65 counts his time at Augsburg as “the days of Courtland Agre.” In those days, Johnson was on a mission to pursue chemistry.

Johnson 3Johnson came to Augsburg determined to do something good with his life, and for the cum laude chemistry graduate from Annandale, Minn., science was the path to that goal. He remembers the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as a dicier place than the small town where he grew up, and his urban education was eye-opening. The community work he saw happening on and around campus struck a chord with Johnson, who, growing up, was eager to help people. He pursued a career as a research scientist to do what he could to help better lives.

These days, thanks to a mission of another kind, he keeps up with Pakistani English-language newspapers, and has a new perspective on a world he knew nothing about six years ago. He came to know more—and to teach, another thing he’d never done before—when his church in Bethesda, Bradley Hills Presbyterian, connected Johnson and his wife, Leslye, with Forman Christian College University in Lahore, Pakistan.

In January of this year, he helped organize a workshop on chemical pharmacology in Lahore, Pakistan, after he and Leslye spent the past three-and-a-half years teaching in the sciences, from undergraduates to PhD students.

Both hold PhDs in biochemistry, and though they’d never taught before, that didn’t deter the couple who saw their mission trip there as an opportunity to learn about the world as it really is, through direct engagement.

Road to Lahore

After spending more than 35 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland, where he worked as a laboratory investigator and as a research grant manager in drug discovery and development, Johnson and Leslye, also a career research scientist, were ready for a new adventure.

They weren’t looking for a cruise. Continue reading

Physician Assistant Program is Pathway to Leadership

KeiserClinPicAs a beginning undergraduate student in psychology, Tracy Keizer (MPA 2007) knew she wanted to enter the field of medicine, but she was unaware of the Physician Assistant (PA) programs emerging in the U.S. until a classmate started talking about applying to some of them. Those conversations eventually led Keizer not only to Augsburg for her master’s in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree, but to a fulfilling career and a variety of opportunities as a leader in the field and a strong advocate in the public, legislative arena as well.

Currently a PA in the inpatient psychiatric intensive care unit at Regions Hospital in downtown St. Paul, Keizer says she finds every day both challenging and gratifying. She feels privileged to walk alongside patients while they go through periods of crisis and stabilization, and she continues to be impressed with the resilience of patients who face the chronic struggle of mental illness. She is appreciative of the interdisciplinary team-based approach in PA work, which in her case brings together psychiatrists, nursing staff, social workers, pharmacists, and occupational therapists.

Augsburg’s PA program, the first in Minnesota, admitted its first class in 1995. It is a 31-month, full-time program that includes academic and clinical education. The PA concept, set in motion in the mid-1960s in response to a shortage of primary care physicians, was pioneered in 1965 at Duke University Medical Center with a class comprised of former military corpsmen. Now, state law defines the PA’s scope of practice, and the supervising physician helps determine the PA’s role. Keizer says that, as health care costs rise and PAs continue to work efficiently as members of the healthcare team, the PA’s role will continue to expand. She has enjoyed forging a path for more PAs to enter and thrive in the mental health field, and strives to fight the stigma that mental illness poses and break down the barriers of access to needed care. Continue reading

Capturing the Imagination

KariLoganWhen Kari (Eklund) Logan ’82 agreed to assist a client in raising public awareness of the value of trees, she decided to hang huge price tags on the trees in the front yard of Minnesota’s State Capitol. The client, the Minnesota DNR’s Division of Forestry, was pleased. In fact, the rush of media attention that followed resulted in the act’s replication by foresters across the country and even other parts of the world.

At CEL Public Relations (Plymouth, Minn.), where Logan heads up the media relations team, capturing the public’s imagination is the norm. With eight years’ prior experience in TV news and programming (WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV), Logan is well-connected and can pull out all the stops (websites, newsletters, TV coverage, campaigns, and numerous other marketing communications) in order to assist CEL clients. Primarily a writer, she especially enjoys the diversity of subjects that cross her desk every day, including CEL’s signature areas of service—education, urban forestry, financial services, and the arts.

Having joined the firm in 1990, when it was only two years old, Logan has helped increase awareness in numerous areas, including pregnancy and infant loss, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eldercare. She has worked and dined with famous chefs, including Ina Garten and Andrew Zimmern. In 1993 she became a partner in the firm.

Kari Ren Fair-2When she isn’t writing, you may find her singing in a theatrical production. Logan recalls her first visit to Augsburg, as a junior high student, to see Godspell with her older sister, Lori (Eklund) Quello ’77, then a student at Augsburg. That night, Logan knew she “had to be part of Augsburg Theater.” Continue reading

Jane Austen on Wheels

Devoney Looser '89.

Devoney Looser ’89. Photo credit: Jennifer Roberts of Moonshadow Studios.

If Jane Austen were magically to come back to life and appear in Devoney Looser’s ’89 English classroom at Arizona State University, she would undoubtedly be charmed by the lively discussion of her writings from two centuries ago, pleased that they had survived and continue to be relevant among college students. If she decided to hang out after class, however, she would be in for quite a surprise, learning about Looser’s athletic alter ego. For the past five years, Looser has played roller derby as Stone Cold Jane Austen.

A Twin Cities native, Looser first encountered Austen’s novels as a teenager (thanks to her mother, who had not read the novels herself but sensed their importance). Looser loved the opportunity to read them then—and loves to teach them now—along with other favorites from that era, like Frances Burney, Mary Hays, and Maria Edgeworth. She also is intrigued by other truly unusual women from that period who led fascinating lives: Harriette Wilson, Lady Hester Stanhope, and Anne Lister.

Now, Looser is following their example. She is editor of a recently released volume, The Cambridge Companion to Women’s Writing in the Romantic Period (Cambridge University Press). As much as she enjoys spending time around people who’ve written fascinating books (one of the “great gifts” of her professional life), she is likely surrounded by many who feel the same about her. Find more information on her numerous publications and background at devoneylooser.com. Continue reading

Curt Rice ’84 Named President at Norway’s Largest University College

Curt Rice '84

Photo: Sonja Balci / HiOA

 Curt Rice ’84 was appointed the new president of Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA). Rice is the first non-Norwegian head of a Norwegian institution for higher education.

The University College is Norway’s largest, and is unique owing to its wide range of professional programs and close ties between research and corresponding fields of practice.

Rice, a philosophy major at Augsburg, and wife Tove I. Dahl ’84 jointly received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.

“I look forward to meeting the faculty, staff and students and working closely with them and our other partners to write HiOA’s next chapter,” says Curt Rice.

Rice comes to the University College from a position as professor at the Department of Languages and Linguistics at the university in Tromsø. He earned his PhD in general linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. Rice will assume his new position on August 1st. Continue reading