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.

Alumni in the Spotlight: Jazmine Darden

Jazmine Darden’13 graduated from Augsburg University with a double major in Mathematics and Physics. During her time at Augsburg, she was passionate about helping people and was heavily involved with the GISE and GEMS program (Girls in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science and Guys in Science and Engineering are after-school and summer programs designed specifically for K-8th-grade girls and boys in the Minneapolis Public School District). After graduating, Darden worked with Minneapolis Public Schools for 2 years.

“Augsburg drew me out of my shell,” said Darden, “I was incredibly shy before I started at Augsburg, but I gained confidence during my time there and the University made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted with my life.”

“Augsburg is such an open-minded place, and one of the key lessons I learned during my time studying was to follow my heart” Darden added.

Darden was unsure of what career path she wanted to pursue, and on a whim, she decided to have a look at Dunwoody College. After taking a campus tour and realizing she was interested in 3D printing technology, she enrolled in the Engineering, Drafting and Design program.

She started the program in August 2015 and was accepted into the Women in Technical Careers scholarship program in her second semester. During her time at Dunwoody, Darden had some internships in the technology sector but soon realized she didn’t envision herself working in the corporate world. She spoke to the dean of her program and told him she wanted to start her own business.

Darden then took a class at Hennepin Tech where they collectively built 3D printers. Recently, she purchased a second 3D printer and began working alongside her mother who runs an embroidery business. Darden now works on custom projects included 3D Printing, screen printing t-shirts, and sublimation printing.

To enhance her printing skill, she decided to undertake a certificate program at Dunwoody specifically for 3D printing. At that time, Dunwoody was looking for someone to teach the class, and Darden was instead offered the instructor position.

“I built this class from the ground up. I got to design the curriculum and make it so that this certification program was unique and cutting edge.”

In a full circle, Darden is currently partnering with the Minneapolis Public School system with the GISE and GEMS program (and eventually other schools) to host a new and exciting project this summer. This summer project will give middle school students a college experience and the opportunity to learn more about 3D printing technology. In this summer project, participants will design and 3D print a Bluetooth speaker, including the outer shell and setting up speaker wiring.

In her spare time, Darden also works as a lead tech hand, makes merchandise and is the website coordinator for Prince Tribute band, Chase and Ovation, and spends her weekend touring the United States (and soon internationally) with the group.

“Chase and Ovation are like family to me. I’m always busy, but I love everything I am currently doing” she added, “There’s no such thing as busy when you’re always having a good time.” said Darden.

As an alumna, Darden makes it very clear that she believes her confidence, ability to follow her heart and only do what she loves, stems from her time here at Augsburg.

“Augsburg creates honest and open-minded people, who are taught that anything is possible, and to always follow your dreams.”

Young Alumni Council: Evan Decker ’12 ’18 MBA

Photograph of Evan Decker

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.

Alumni in the Spotlight: Janeece Oatman

When Janeece (Adams) Oatman ’05 worked with a late-phase clinical research company, she shared some lab results with a potential study participant. Picking up on one indicator that could be a sign of high blood sugar, she urged the woman to undergo a diabetes test. A week later, Oatman found a voicemail from the woman, who had gone to the doctor to be tested and, indeed, received a diagnosis of type 2 Janeece Oatman Photodiabetes. She said the doctor had told her that she should be grateful to know she had the disease so that she didn’t end up having complications, like losing a limb. “You saved my life,” she said in the voicemail.

Oatman contemplated the situation and decided to call the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and ask for a job. As a pre-med graduate, she had both the passion and desire to better the lives of other people and knew that raising money to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes would be a fulfilling career. Although the ADA didn’t have a position immediately available for Oatman, eventually a spot within the Tour de Cure team opened up, and she got the job.

Oatman has now been employed with the ADA for approximately nine-and-a-half years and is currently the Development Director and the Director of the Tour de Cure. She still harbors the same passion for curing diabetes today, as she did the day she started.

“Thirty million Americans have diabetes,” she continued, “and an additional 84 million have pre-diabetes (meaning they are at a significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes within ten years.) Why wouldn’t we want to find a cure for an illness that affects so many people?

It’s a scary reality that every 21 seconds someone will hear the three words that will change life as they know it: You have diabetes.”

“Augsburg was instrumental in shaping my values, including a deep sense of community and stewardship. The fact that my career path brought me to a non-profit is a testament to Augsburg’s emphasis to serve others” said Oatman, regarding her time working with the ADA.

Oatman has remained active within the Augsburg University community and is a member of the Alumni Board. When asked what she loves the most about Augsburg, Oatman replied “Augsburg is a second home to me. It’s a place I love to go back to as in my mind it represents faith, family, and friends.”

On Saturday, June 2, 2018, the Tour de Cure will take place at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis. Tour de Cure is a fundraising event, where participants bike-ride, run or walk to raise money and show support for all people living with diabetes.

For more information on how to sign up for the Tour de Cure, click here, contact the Augsburg Alumni Office at alumni@augsburg.edu or Janeece Oatman directly at joatman@diabetes.org.

 

50 Years Ago: One Day in May

On May 15, 1968, administration and faculty at Augsburg College (now Augsburg University) canceled class for “One Day in May” and invited speakers to discuss racism in and beyond Minneapolis following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and subsequent riots in major American cities.

The Pan-Afrikan Student Union Center (PASU) was formed shortly after the “One Day in May” with the purpose to provide student leadership development for Pan-Afrikan students at Augsburg through a wide variety of co-sponsored activities and opportunities to help plan an event. The Pan-Afrikan Center also provides student leadership training and resources to Pan-Afrikan students at Augsburg University. PASU hopes to enlighten the students with their cultural identity and the roles that they play in the surrounding communities and in the world. Furthermore, it is the intent of the organization to provide leadership formats and assist in the adjustment, and transition of people of Afrikan descent into the college life.

For access to exclusive “One Day in May” archived footage please click here.

Below, Auggie PASU alumni speak about their experience:

 

Agnes, Greg, Paris and Grayson

 

“I’m grateful to have been part of PASU during my years at Augsburg. Serving as an officer gave me a chance to be a leader and build relationships I wouldn’t have elsewhere. Putting my self in a leadership position really helped me grow and allowed me to reach other students and uplift them in their journey at Augsburg. I would do it all again.”- Agnes Kigwana ’09 (pictured right with husband Greg, and children Grayson and Paris)

 

 

 

 

“Thankful for PASU teaching the values of giving back to your community. Those are the same values that I use each day and share with students as a school counselor.”- Derek Francis ’08 (pictured left with student)

 

 

 

 

 

“I feel that PASU has initiated my journey to understanding who I am as a Black man in this world.”-  Nick Ward ’11 (pictured right).

An Auggie Love Story

 

Beth Florence ’08 was an Augsburg golden girl, from a family filled with Auggies, with a glowing reputation as both a campus leader and a hard worker. Florence, a Spanish major, made such an impact in her time at Augsburg, she received the Marina Christensen Justice Award for her civic engagement when she graduated. Florence later attended the Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies.  She is currently employed at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

Aaron Wells ’08 was recognized around campus for being incredibly funny.  In addition to writing many hard-hitting stories for The Echo, he also penned the popular, joke, horoscopes which caught the eye of Florence (“I just thought they were hilarious”).  Wells balanced his love of fun, by working hard and completing his Political Science degree in 2008.

He later attended Washington and Lee School of Law and is a partner at STG, a policy and public affairs consulting firm.

Wells and Florence were introduced eventually through a mutual friend and developed their own friendship at Augsburg. This friendship eventually blossomed Beth and Aaron engagedinto a romantic relationship in 2013.

When the time was right, Wells knew the perfect location for the proposal to Florence was the Christensen Center on August 12, 2017.  She said yes! The couple now live together in Washington D.C. and they embody the true spirit of Augsburg both individually and as a couple.

“All we do, we credit to Augsburg,” they agree. “We credit our strong moral and personal compasses to the time we spent at Augsburg. Nothing else measures up to it.” Both Wells and Florence acknowledge that the time and effort they spent searching for perfect jobs stemmed from the emphasis on vocation at Augsburg. They are both in careers that are service focused and continue to serve the community around them.

Augsburg University wishes Wells and Florence all the best for the future, and we are touched that Augsburg University has played such an integral part in their story.

Both Wells and Florence will be attending our exclusive regional alumni event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Washington D.C. We invite you to join Augsburg, President Paul C. Pribbenow, members of Augsburg staff and Wells and Florence for this evening of exciting conversation and connections. For more information on this event click here.

 

National Volunteer Week Surprises!

As part of National Volunteer Week, the Augsburg Alumni Office decided to surprise some Auggie volunteer organization leaders with treats and balloons to show them how much we appreciate them!

Click here to watch us surprise Evan Decker, the President of the Young Alumni Council.

Click here to watch us surprise Butch Raymond, the A-Club President.

Click here to watch us surprise Nick Rathmann, the President of the Alumni Board.

Click here to watch us surprise the Augsburg Associates.

Click here to watch us surprise Cindy Piper, volunteer for the StepUp Board.

Auggie Eagle holding baloons

Augsburg included on list for producing the most 2017-2018 Fulbright students

Augsburg is proud to be included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2017-2018. Fulbright U.S. Students recently announced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Four students from Augsburg received Fulbright awards for the academic year 2017-2018: Dustin Parks (Peru – Research Grant), Hannah Schmit (Czech Republic – English Teaching Assistantship), Hannah Frey (South Korea – English Teaching Assistantship), and Rachel Frantz (Malaysia – English Teaching Assistantship). You can read more about them on URGO’s blog (http://www.augsburg.edu/urgo/2017/06/26/meet-the-2017-2018-fulbright-scholars/).

The Fulbright Program provides participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Over 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English, and conduct research abroad each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in over 140 countries throughout the world.

The Mutuality of Internship

One of the two presentations led by Fishbowl Solutions reps on April 5 (from left: Jake Ferm, Carmen Williams, Noah Bodner, and Amy Bowar Mellinger).
One of the two presentations led by Fishbowl Solutions reps on April 5 (from left: Jake Ferm, Carmen Williams, Noah Bodner, and Amy Bowar Mellinger).

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.

A photo of (from left) Jake Ferm, Larry Crockett, Carmen Williams, Amy Bowar Mellinger
(from left) Jake Ferm, Larry Crockett, Carmen Williams, Amy Bowar Mellinger

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.

Larry Crockett with former student Amy Bowar Mellinger
Larry Crockett with former student Amy Bowar Mellinger

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.

—by Cheryl Crockett ’89