Four Auggies and a Nonprofit

In her birthplace of Cartagena, Colombia, Eloisa Echavez (BS ’94, MAE ’98) started teaching elementary students when she was only 19. Soon after, she joined five others to establish an elementary school in a low-income area there, and her leadership skills became evident. When she began her studies at Augsburg in 1990, having been in the U.S. for only two years, she approached then-President Charles S. Anderson about the need for a Eloisa Echavezstudent support program for Latino students. He agreed and asked her to create and direct it since “it was [her] idea.” She did so for six years, while also serving as the teachers-of-color program coordinator and multicultural recruitment coordinator for the admissions office. After completing her MAE, she and her husband were also busy raising their boy, now 19.

In 1998, she was approached by the board president of Minneapolis-based La Oportunidad to serve as the nonprofit’s director. Though she “absolutely loves Augsburg,” she knew it was the right decision to leave Augsburg and accept the offer to serve a broader Latino population. She has served as executive director for 15 years.

Since its inception in 1987, when the organization’s focus was on domestic abuse, La Oportunidad has continued to broaden the range of programs it offers, responding to identified needs in the community and assisting low-income Latinos of all ages to achieve educational success, improve financial stability, and maintain supportive, peaceful families. Four core programs are the Children’s Program, the Youth and Young Professionals Programs, the Parenting Program, and the Domestic Violence Program (which helped over 1,000 Latinos in 2013). Their cable TV program “En Familia” (“In the Family”) has reached over 20,000 individuals.

The organization partners on a variety of projects with the Minneapolis Public Schools, community agencies, media organizations, and other nonprofits. It has collaborated for five years with Augsburg’s Latino Student Services program, which hosts La Oportunidad’s Latino Youth Peace & Leadership Conference, an annual all-day event held at Augsburg that helps Latino middle and high school students learn to share peace through leadership. Most recently, it has also been collaborating with Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Citizenship & Learning, as well as other college departments, to recruit and place volunteers and interns at La Oportunidad.

In addition to Echavez, La Oportunidad has been blessed with the service of three other Auggies, all serving on the board: Alex Gonzalez, Brian Grande, and Maria (Ramirez) Johnson.

GonzalezAlex Gonzalez ’90, a native of South Minneapolis, currently serves as an advisory board member, after having served from 2005 to 2013 as a regular board member. He owns a financial planning practice with Thrivent Financial in Bloomington, Minn., along with two business partners, one of whom is Auggie Mark Morton ’89. In addition to his work on La Oportunidad’s board, Gonzalez also serves on the Augsburg Board of Regents (since 2008), and has assisted several other nonprofits, either by volunteering or by helping them manage their endowments. He and his wife Simone (whom he met at Augsburg) have three sons: Jake, Karsten (who just toured Augsburg), and Joshua.

Brian GrandeBrian Grande ’11, a data analyst associate for the Community Health Department at Fairview Health Services, moved with his family to Minnesota from El Salvador in 1997. His first involvement with La Oportunidad was at age eight, when he attended the El Camino children’s after-school program. That program not only eased his transition into a new culture, but taught him the importance of obtaining an education and maintaining family values and traditions. His first-hand experience of El Camino provides useful insight in the discussions at monthly board meetings. Grande grew up in North and South Minneapolis and graduated from Roosevelt High. A volunteer in his community, he recently assisted at La Oportunidad’s 2014 Latino Youth Peace and Leadership Conference.

Maria (Ramirez) Johnson ’94 has served on La Oportunidad’s board for 15 years. As an Augsburg student, she helped establish and was actively involved in Augsburg’s Latino Student Association, which was part of the Latino Student Services program Echavez created in 1992. After earning her elementary education degree at Augsburg, Maria JohnsonJohnson taught in the Minneapolis Public Schools for many years, retiring as a bilingual (English/Spanish) teacher. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren.

Johnson, Gonzalez, and Echavez have all served as mentors in Augsburg’s Scholastic Connections program, designed to assist high-achieving undergraduate students of color to succeed in completing their undergraduate degree and prepare them to be engaged, successful citizens of the world.

As La Oportunidad continues to fulfill its vision of creating a community in which Latinos (whether long-term residents or new arrivals) thrive and contribute to the strength of the greater community, the greatest challenge it faces is funding, and the search for potential funding sources and individual donations is ongoing. To learn more, or to find avenues for involvement, visit www.oportunidad.org.

Alumna Receives Award for Excellence in Teaching

In July, alumna Amy Vatne Bintliff ’01 was the recipient of the Teaching Tolerance Excellence in Teaching award. Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which aims to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences for children. The project also provides free educational resources to teachers and school practitioners to support its mission.

Amy is an accomplished educator and author. In 2011, she released a book on the topic of social justice teaching; Re-engaging Disconnected Youth: Transformative Learning through Restorative and Social Justice Education (2011).

Alumna Runs for Judge

Augsburg College alumna Beverly “Bev” Benson ’81 announced this summer that she will be running for Judge in the 4th Judicial District of Hennepin County. Supporting her in the campaign are many other Augsburg alumni, including Kristine Johnson ’81.

 

Official Announcement to Augsburg College

Bev BensonBev Benson, Augsburg Class of 1981, has announced she is running in November, to fill an open Judicial Seat on the Hennepin County Bench.  This means that there is no incumbent.   Former Augsburg graduate Kristine Johnson, Class of 1981, is a member of her campaign staff.   She has numerous other Augsburg graduates supporting her campaign.

Ms. Benson has been a prosecutor for 28 years, 25 years in Hennepin County, and 3 years in Stearns County.  She has specialized in the prosecution of domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and homicides.

She has been a presenter and trainer at the national and state levels.  She has also been a member of groups funded by the US State Department to do training for judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and police in two of provinces, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

She has 15 years of experience moderating League of Women Voter candidate forums, as well as being a former President of her local Wayzata/Plymouth League of Women Voters.   Other personal volunteer service activities include presenting trainings on domestic violence at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Center and the Rape and Sexual Assault Center.  She has volunteered as a reader to second graders at the Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School.  She volunteered her time and energy toward various projects at Oak View Elementary School and Cedar Island Elementary School in the Osseo-Maple Grove School District.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact her by way of this email address:  bevbensonforjudge.@gmail.com and on Facebook at:  “Bev Benson For Hennepin County Judge”.

 

 

“Claim Your Trophy” to Be Broadcast on Fox

SwansonAAt a very young age, Nick Swanson ’09 BA, ’12 MBA took a keen interest in hunting, fishing, and the outdoors in general—an interest he shared with the most influential person in his life, his grandfather, Richard Hoffmann. Even last year, the two sat in the woods together for a full day during Wisconsin deer hunting season, in hopes of harvesting a good-sized buck. They were not disappointed—plus, the “great buck event” was all captured on film!

Swanson, who spends his workweek as supervisor of business services at the Hastings (Minn.) Medical Clinic, Allina Health, has long been interested in traveling and a variety of outdoor adventures, and spends most evenings and weekends in that world. But, over the years, his difficulty in finding good, reputable resources to assist him in his planning has usually left him frustrated. Finally, he decided to create a website (www.claimyourtrophy.com) and produce/host a TV show to do just that. His hunting/fishing outfitter directory helps you find reliable guides and outfitters for that once-in-a-lifetime event—to enjoy hunting (deer, elk, moose, bear, turkey, caribou, birds, antelope, sheep) or fishing (bass, musky, northern pike, salmon, salt water, trout, walleye).

Particularly pleased about having captured “the great buck event” on film, Swanson looks forward to sharing the footage with millions this fall on his television show. Recently picked up by Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Wisconsin, “Claim Your Trophy” will run for 13 weeks, on Sundays and Thursdays at 8:00 a.m., beginning on August 24. It will also be found on YouTube (www.youtube.com/claimyourtrophy). “Having traveled across North America hunting and fishing with some close friends and capturing it all on film has been a dream come true,” says Swanson, “not to mention having our adventures shown on TV—well, that’s just icing on the cake!”

After majoring in Economics and earning an MBA at Augsburg (experiences which he says brought clarity to his vocation and helped shape him as a person), and doing additional studySwansonB at University College Cork, Swanson pursued medical school, even enjoying a stint as a Mayo Clinic Scholar in 2011-12. However, with his other foot in the business world as a broker, consultant, and marketing manager, it soon became obvious that his vocation was in the business side of health care. He now says that wearing the “health care administrator hat” on weekdays overlaps nicely with his evenings and weekends, when he switches over to the “outdoors hat.”

Swanson, who lives in Prescott, Wis., also finds time to serve on Augsburg’s Alumni Board—involvement that he enjoys. “I’m not sure they’ll ever get rid of me,” he says.

Laboring for the Medically Underserved People in Burundi

The video Rachel (Selle) McLaughlin ’01 saw at age 16, featuring women who would walk for two days to reach a doctor, left quite an impression on her. Because pregnancy and its complications continue to be a leading cause of death in the developing world, she chose to focus on obstetrics in her medical education because of the great potential to help such women.

Now, as a medical doctor at Kibuye Hope Hospital in Burundi, McLaughlin has abundant opportunities to provide medical care to many, while also serving as professor and clinical faculty at nearby Hope Africa University, a Christian university that is growing explosively. With only 300 doctors in a country of 10 million, the needs are great. Though Burundi is quite fertile, it is still one of the 10 poorest countries in the world and is not big enough to support 10 million people and their farms. Most Burundians are subsistence farmers, earning less than $1/day on average, and the unemployment rate is about 40%.

McLaughlinFamWhat led McLaughlin to this East African country? During her residency in Ann Arbor, Michigan, McLaughlin and her husband Eric had ended up in the same congregation as two other medical couples, the Cropseys and Faders—and they became close friends. All six felt called to medical missionary work, and in 2009, they traveled to Africa for a two-year fellowship at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. They all sought a place to invest themselves long-term, a place that truly needed them and their medical education, and where there was African leadership and vision. They found it all in Burundi.

Their team (“the McCropders,” an amalgamation of their names), consists of doctors in six different specialties. They started work at Kibuye Hope Hospital in January 2014, in a facility that had no running water, empty shelves in the pharmacy, and only a few nurses. Little at a time, progress is being made, and thanks to an organization called Friends of Hope Africa University, they now have running water. However, the rusted-out pipes in the hospital need to be fixed, and essential medications are scarce. Most days, McLaughlin and her two OB nurses perform 3–5 deliveries, and care for an average of 30–40 inpatients—plus newborns. The hospital usually runs at 100% capacity (80–90 beds), with some patients sleeping on the floor or sharing mattresses. They lack medications, staff, and tests, and many days their X-ray machine is broken. But McLaughlin is excited about their 30-year plan, which calls for an eventual expansion to 300 beds. She knows, however, that they must manage the growth responsibly, confident that the necessary infrastructure is in place.

During her student years at Augsburg, McLaughlin took several mission trips to Mexico, her first few of many such trips. Having been very active in Augsburg’s campus ministry, she was especially pleased to return to campus in 2012 to speak at a Vocational chapel (“All Shook Up:  The Call to Change”), and to meet with students and staff. Just as she has been blessed, over the years, with many mentors, she now feels honored to advise and mentor students who are interested in medical or mission work.

Supported entirely by individuals and churches, McLaughlin and her team are seeking people with whom to partner in their hospital development and building projects. Several McLaughlinBabywebsites provide more information about the McCropders’ work—blog and articles (www.mccropders.com), an article on Hunger Culture (http://mccropders.blogspot.gr/2014/02/hunger-culture.html), an article on Poverty (http://mccropders.blogspot.gr/2014/01/first-impressions-poverty.html), and Rachel’s award-winning story about Burundi (http://thewell.intervarsity.org/in-focus/living-out-gods-pursuing-love-burundi).

So what drew the McLaughlins to Burundi? Friends have suggested “an amazing life experience,” or “an adventure,” or being “world travelers,” or doing “meaningful work.” But Rachel and her husband Eric agree, nothing captures the heart of it for them quite like this:  When we were far away, alienated and suffering, God pursued us with His love. And there is nothing other than this which will sustain our motivations. Laboring for the medically underserved people is a picture of the pursuing love of God for the world.

Tyler Phillips ’12 – Chasing Dreams with Innovative Minds

Tyler Phillips '12 - Totally CommittedIn April of 2014, while playing professional football for the Frankfurt Universe of the German Football League, Augsburg College alumnus Tyler Phillips ’12 was profiled by Timothy Miscovich.

The article focused on Phillips’ recent start-up, TOTALLY COMMITTED, “an inspirational/motivational company that encourages everyone to follow their dreams.” Phillips states in the article that “Football is a huge part of my life, but I have always had the mind of an entrepreneur.  I excelled in all of my business courses in college because it is a true interest of mine.  I credit my well-rounded education to my advanced knowledge of business concepts.” and provides a bit of advice for current Auggies: “My advice to any student would be to study something you’re interested in!

 

Ross Murray ’00 Shares About His Visit to the White House – Advocating for the LGBT Community

Ross Murray '00 at the White House Forum on LGBT Human RightsAugsburg alumnus Ross Murray ’00 recently attended the inaugural White House Forum on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Human Rights. Ross currently serves as the Director of News for GLAAD, a non-profit media advocacy organization for the LGBT community. Murray has also been listed by Mashable as one of 10 LGBT Rights Activists to follow on Twitter. Following the visit to the White House, we caught up, to ask Murray a few questions.

About Ross
Through my advocacy as Director of News at GLAAD, the nation’s media advocacy organization for the LGBT community, I spend a lot of time sharing the stories of a wide range of LGBT people. One of those areas has been labeled Global Voices, a program that shares the stories of people all around the globe advocating on behalf of LGBT causes, in addition to building media attention around the draconian anti-gay laws in places like Uganda, Russia, and Nigeria.

How did your invitation to the White House Forum on LGBT Human Rights come about?
The White House used the fact that June is celebrated as Pride Month, to hold a convening on LGBT and international human rights. I was invited, along with leaders from the nonprofit, advocacy, corporate, and international community. We listened to Ambassador Susan Rice and notable guests describe what the Obama administration is doing to advance LGBT and human rights abroad. We also participated in panels and breakouts to tell the administration what other steps are needed.

Ross Murray '00 with VP BidenHow did you prepare for this event?
My preparation was mainly my background working on LGBT issues globally. I felt good that I was aware of all the steps that the U.S. has taken, and what actions our leaders are still considering. I also thought that the most valuable part was listening to the LGBT advocates from Uganda, Kenya, Russia, Argentina, and China. In fact, one LGBT leader, whose work I have admired for so long, made the most memorable statement in a breakout session: “If Obama says that Uganda should not persecute gay people, then it will be seen as Western imperialism. But if celebrities like Christian Renaldo, Jay-Z, or Rihanna say the same thing, then the young people will follow what they say.”

How did your education at Augsburg College prepare you for your role at GLAAD?
My passion for advocacy really was sparked in my time at Augsburg College. My undergraduate degree in Youth & Family Ministry has been a foundation for the work that I do. I resisted being an advocate, but my time with faculty like Doug Green, Janelle Bussert, Mark Tranvik, Robert Groven, and Pastor Sonja Hagander really helped me integrate my learning and apply it out in the wider world. Then, later, when I did my MBA at Augsburg, I learned to think strategically and act smartly.

What advice would you give to current Auggies about advocacy work?
Augsburg already puts a great emphasis on engagement with the community and the world. I think that Auggies need to look inside themselves to see where that passion lies…where they are called in the world. It takes time, and no one can do it alone. I’ve been blessed to be able to follow my passion, and I encourage others to find ways that they can help make the world better for others.

Mina Halling ’12 Publishes

Mina Halling ’12 sent the English Department the following news and testimonial:

“First off, (a very abridged version of) my Departmental Honors project, ‘Adventures in Time, Space and Community College: Narrative Structure and Thematic Depth,’ has been featured in A Sense of Community: Essays on the Television Series and Its Fandom. Colin [Irvine] helped put me in contact with the editor of the collection over a year ago, and the book is finally ready to go. (And my essay is first! Exciting.) Here’s a link: http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-7590-2

“I also have a personal narrative piece, ‘Trivia Weekend: The Less Cool (but no less great) Minnesota Get-Together,’ that is about to be included in an e-book called Bright Lights, Twin Cities: A Collection of Stories from Real Minnesotans. Here’s a link for that one: http://thetangential.com/bright-lights-twin-cities/

“… I’m sharing this stuff with you as a delayed part of Thank A Teacher Day. I’d like to say a huge thank you to each of you for making me a better writer, editor, thinker and person. I feel like I’m making steps on the long path to Making A Living By Writing, which is pretty awesome, and it wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for your influence.”

Have you recently published? Received a promotion? Won an award? Started a business? Got married or had a child? If so, share your exciting news with us and submit an Auggie class note.

Called to Serve. Taunya Tinsley ’90

For years, Taunya Tinsley ’90 had used basic counseling skills in the field of higher education (admissions, career, academic, administrative, and athletic counseling), but it wasn’t till she lost her brother Ethan suddenly and traumatically that the “light came on.” She was struck by the new awareness that God was calling her to the field of professional counseling as part of her ministry, both inside and outside the four walls of her church.

drtinsleyNow, as professional counselor and owner of Transitions Counseling Services and Life Skills Program, in Pittsburgh, Penn., she derives deep satisfaction from enabling clients to recognize and/or develop their skills and strategies to successfully manage life transitions, and to become increasingly aware that their expertise in doing so in one area of life may well be transportable to another arena as well. Tinsley specializes in organizational development, multicultural training, spiritual and Christian counseling, sports counseling, and development through sports, and she is committed to the psychosocial development of the whole person.

One client describes a time when she was “fragile, scared…no, petrified” during the bleakest time in her life, then sought counseling help from Tinsley. Now, she sees each new day as a testimonial that counseling is a vital tool. Without Tinsley’s counseling, she says, she “would be dead—period.” Another client feels that Tinsley’s counseling helped her look deep inside herself and recognize issues she had suppressed, and then provided strategies to face them, “returning me back to myself.” Tinsley’s help gave her more confidence to handle what life sends her way.

In addition to workshops, presentations, and clinical counseling work with individuals and groups, Tinsley is a professor at California University, in California, Penn., where she is also program coordinator for Graduate Certification in Sports Counseling. She says there are numerous benefits to being both a counselor educator and a clinician, as each experience informs the other.

As an Augsburg student, Tinsley found a mentor and spiritual mother in M. Anita Gay Hawthorne, former director of Pan-Afrikan Student Services at Augsburg. Her guidance and encouragement were steadfast, even after Tinsley Natl Girls and women in sports dayTinsley’s graduation, and Tinsley recalls accompanying the Iowa Swim Team to Minnesota (as their athletic academic advisor) in November 1997, primarily to seek Hawthorne’s advice on a job opening at the University of Pittsburgh. With strong encouragement from her mentor, Tinsley accepted the offer in December 1997—an excellent decision she sees as pivotal in her career. A month after their visit, Hawthorne passed away, and Tinsley was especially grateful she had made the trip.

In the early ‘90s, Tinsley was on staff at Augsburg, as women’s athletic recruiter and volleyball coach in ‘92, and as an admissions counselor and coordinator of multicultural recruitment for two years before that, where she worked with then-admissions director Sally Daniels Herron ’79, currently director of family and constituent relations. “I love her tremendously…and would not be where I am in my career had it not been for Sally in my life.” They worked together to support the integration of diverse cultures in the admissions process, a clear step in the pathway to her current work.

Currently, Tinsley is enrolled at United Theological Seminary in the Doctor of Ministry program, with a focus in sports chaplaincy. Find out more about her counseling business at www.transitionsaalp.com.