Alleviating the Unsettled Nature of Resettlement


Katia at the State Fair this year with friend and colleague Tar Paw.
Katia at the State Fair this year with friend and colleague Tar Paw.

Katia Iverson ’12 has come to embrace her not-so-common desire—an inexplicable desire—to be around people unlike herself. Likely related to her curiosity about culture and her passion for service and diversity, this desire has been nurtured since childhood by parents who she says are “faithful givers with incredible hearts for service to others.” They are her strongest encouragers in her chosen field—work with refugee resettlement—which she still sees as her “dream job.”

Drawn to Augsburg by the authenticity of her first campus visit (less than glamorous, she says), and because she perceived “no barriers between the school and the city,” Iverson became immersed in service-oriented thinking early, particularly as part of the first Augsburg group of Bonner Leaders, a national student leadership program.

Katia in Los Angeles visiting friend Adam Spanier, 2012 alumnus of Augsburg and the Honors Program.
Katia in Los Angeles visiting friend Adam Spanier, 2012 alumnus of Augsburg and the Honors Program.

She was amazed at how her Bonner placements (internships with community organizations) informed and reflected the learning in her classes. By the time she was a senior, she knew it would be important that her placement that year look like a job she’d want to do in the “real world.” Grateful for help from advisor Kristin Farrell, Iverson was pleased to be placed at the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) Refugee Services as a bus mentor. In this capacity, she met newly arriving refugees from Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Thailand, and rode the bus with them to the refugee services office, cultural orientation class, their child‘s school, and English classes. Some of the refugees spoke English well, others not so well, so communication ranged from hearing their poignant refugee camp stories to being present in semi-silence and exchanging gestures and occasional giggles as they tried to understand each other.

Another of her Bonner placements was at the East African Women’s Center, where she worked with newly arrived refugee women and their children through cooking together, English classes, childcare, sewing, weaving, and professional development. A key learning for Iverson from the center’s director was that young mothers are the “cornerstone of the family if successful integration is going to occur…and the sad part is they are getting the least focus.” Unfortunately, the Center closed in 2012 due to lack of funding.

Katia with Salma, former colleague's daughter, who asked Katia to wear a hijab for a picture together in Salma's home.
Katia with Salma, former colleague’s daughter, who asked Katia to wear a hijab for a picture together in Salma’s home.

As an Augsburg student, Iverson found a kindred spirit in Professor Frankie Shackelford, whose cross-cultural courses and “next steps” questions were a guiding force. Another deeply influential aspect of her Augsburg education was a semester in Kenya, which got her thinking about how and why migration happens, both on an individual level and among large groups of people. Her time there was a learning experience about what life can be like when one feels “stuck” in his or her own country. Continue reading “Alleviating the Unsettled Nature of Resettlement”

Measured Impact

Frank Grazzini ’96.

Growing up with an entrepreneurial father planted the seed in his mind that running his own business could make a lot of sense—and was doable. But the idea really took root in his adult life, when Frank Grazzini ’96 realized, after 12 years of working for larger corporations, that this work wasn’t a very good fit for him. He’d much rather create something new than fine-tune an existing structure. So he switched gears. In fact, starting a new business seems to have become a way of life for him, and he sees himself as a serial entrepreneur of sorts. He is now involved in his fourth early-stage business (his third technology start-up), with the potential to scale into a much larger business. The down side? He’d much rather start a new remodeling project than mow the grass!

At Prevent Biometrics, his latest venture, Grazzini is working with two other co-founders and the Cleveland Clinic to commercialize a groundbreaking technology to monitor and measure the force of head impacts to athletes (both male and female) in sports such as football, lacrosse, hockey, and soccer. He says that if a concussion is treated early, it usually results in a full recovery; if not, there is a much greater risk the athlete will suffer permanent neurological damage, even CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) or Second Impact Syndrome, which can cause death.

In spite of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate that over half of all sports-related concussions in the U.S. (approximately 3.8 million each year) are never identified, response has been slow. But now, there finally seems to be a growing awareness that the problem must be taken seriously, as indicated by laws in all 50 states, as well as recent statements by professional sports league representatives. Though some would make the case for ending football altogether (most notably, Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose exposure of the widespread consequences of NFL injuries was dramatized in the recent film, Concussion), Grazzini believes that better monitoring of injuries, plus a few changes to the rules, would likely be sufficient to keep football a healthy sport for kids.

PreventBio graphicPrevent’s head-impact monitor, currently being tested by athletes, has been in development for six years and is expected to be officially released for sale in December 2016, though various inquiries to the company have already been made by researchers in the military and the NCAA for earlier sales. Continue reading “Measured Impact”

Chasing Justice: Rachel Engebretson ’98

As an immigration lawyer at Binsfeld & Engebretson P.A., Rachel Olson Engebretson ’98 is fulfilling her dream of “chasing justice.” Though she serves a diverse clientele from around the globe, many who seek her help are attempting to reunite their immediate family members, a process that requires advance permission in order to live their lives together in the U.S. She is passionate about helping them.

Though most people believe it is a crime to live illegally in the U.S., in most instances it is not. Immigration law is civil, administrative law.

Likely, Engebretson’s resolve to help these families can be traced back to her childhood. Growing up as a “PK” (preacher’s kid) in Watertown, S. Dak., she moved with her family to Granite Falls, Minn., in 1978 when her parents felt the call of the soil and the rural suffering community’s need for young blood to find new life. Those were the days when family farmers either “went big” or found another way to pay their bills—so there were challenges. During these formative years, Engebretson also became aware of international relations, and was particularly concerned about the civil wars in Central America and illegal arms-dealings there. The lessons learned from her parents—especially with regard to a commitment to human rights and the value of diversity—fit squarely into what she later learned was required to handle immigration issues. Continue reading “Chasing Justice: Rachel Engebretson ’98”

Celebrating Community with St. Paul

Rosanne-Bump-w-VulcansIf you were planning a pull-out-all-the-stops, 10-day, outdoor party in January for thousands of your friends, where would you hold it? The Caribbean? Arizona? Of course not! You’d plan it in St. Paul, Minnesota! And you’d call it the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

Rosanne2Planning events like the St. Paul Winter Carnival is what Rosanne Newville Bump ’92 does for a living as President and CEO of the Saint Paul Festival & Heritage Foundation—with support from the community, of course—and from plenty of volunteers, who work tirelessly behind the scenes. Honored to be part of the festival’s history, Bump loves brainstorming regularly about what “fun factors” to add to the next year’s event. For example, this year’s event included three parades, a half marathon, an ice- and snow-carving competition, the country’s largest jigsaw puzzle competition, and an outdoors Birthday Bash in Rice Park to celebrate the festival’s 130th birthday. As part of the fun, Bump partnered with Kemps Ice Cream to provide Birthday Cake Ice Cream samples for all attending. In addition, this year’s festival included a performance, also in Rice Park, by roots-rock band GB Leighton. Standing outdoors on a lovely winter evening with 1000+ others, singing along with the performers, near the ice castle and sparkling trees (all lit), was “magical,” says Bump.

StPaul Winter CarnivalBump has learned that, each year, about 20% of the carnival plans are unlikely to go as planned, primarily because of unpredictable weather, so she and her colleagues need to figure it out as they go, making for “some adrenaline-filled days.” Unusually warm weather leading up to this year’s event meant that, in order to build the ice palace (this year, a mini version), ice had to be purchased, instead of harvested from local Lake Phalen. Even so, the palace still included the king’s chair, a light show, and TV monitors. Continue reading “Celebrating Community with St. Paul”

Throwing Weight Around

Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
All photos by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images.

As an Augsburg student, Jon Dahlin ’05 needed to find an event that would enable him to contribute to his track team’s success. His track coach, Dennis Barker, suggested the hammer throw would be a good fit—much better for him than the other throwing events. And Coach Barker was right-on. But neither of them likely suspected that years later, Dahlin would compete in various highland games, both nationally and internationally—and would rank 7th in the 2015 International Highland Games.

While at Augsburg, Dahlin not only set a hammer throw record; he shattered his own record by 14 feet in his senior year, achieving an NCAA Division III automatic qualifying standard in the men’s hammer throw. The new mark that he set—a 58.22-meter (191-foot, 0.0-inch) effort—was the second-longest hammer throw in the country, and his record still stands. He also holds the Augsburg record for the 35-pound weight throw, 16.48 meters (54 feet, 1.0 inches).

Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

In 2007, as he viewed highland games on ESPN, Dahlin decided they looked like a lot of fun. He decided to compete. Scottish and Celtic in origin, highland games include heavy athletics (stone put, caber toss, weight throw, hammer throw, sheaf toss, weight over bar, etc.), as well as dancing, drumming, piping, and other types of Scottish entertainment. Weight over bar is Dahlin’s favorite, and he says the feeling of throwing a large weight more than ten feet above his height and watching it sail over a bar is “absolutely incredible.” At recent games in Arizona, hundreds of spectators stood within feet of him as he prepared to toss the weight, and he could feel the reverberations of their screams and cheers in the soles of his feet. He is convinced that helped him get the winning toss that day. Continue reading “Throwing Weight Around”

Corporate Coach

HawksHeadShotAs one of the first 30 employees at Rollerblade, Inc., Lisa Svac Hawks ’85 was tasked with producing some of the first competitive in-line skating events across the U.S. to showcase the “blades.” Though she had never run a race, her job was to put people on skates, help them get in shape, and encourage them to have fun. She was part of the team that drove in-line skating into the cultural forefront as one of the fastest-growing sports of the time. When she and some ex-Rollerblade execs later launched and marketed “snow skates” in the U.S., these Sled Dogs caught on and were featured in a Newsweek story. The exposure and marketing resulted in Hawks’ traveling to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, to work with the Norwegian Military Ski Team that would put on a dramatic display of the snow skates during Opening and Closing ceremonies.

This marketing success convinced Hawks that she had found her niche in marketing and communication, and that her decision to forego the field of broadcasting—even after an internship at the local ABC-TV station—was the right one for her. At each step in her career since then, new positions seemed to call out her desire to “build” something—whether in terms of products, experiences, relationships, a fine-tuned team, or an unusual market launch. She loved finding undiscovered opportunities, using good communication tools, and assembling a good team—and she still loves the challenge and fun of doing it.

She uncovered such an opportunity at Paper Direct, a high-end specialty paper company, where she was given 45 days to convince the leadership that her alternative idea to existing market launch plans could work. She did so, and the company followed her lead toward specialty retailing to small businesses, setting up distribution networks all across the country at outlets that sold computers and printers.

Hawks later landed at Musicland, where she led the full gamut of communications—investor relations, public relations, employee communications, earnings releases, annual reports, investor reports, etc. Soon after, when the company was acquired by Best Buy, she was invited to take a leadership role in Best Buy’s communications department. She enjoyed some “phenomenal” experiences over the 12 years she worked there, including launches that involved The Rolling Stones, Bill Gates, Usher, and other pop culture figures. Continue reading “Corporate Coach”

Finding Art in Pooling Brokenness

Barb MikelsonThree years ago at Valley of Peace Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, Minn., three parishioners responded to their pastor’s request to take on a Lenten art project, and create a mosaic for their church entry. Led by Barb Mikelson ’71, the committee also included Emilie Moravec ’07 and Jon Daniels ’88—all three Auggies.

full-mosaicInspired by a mosaic being produced by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, they did their homework, learning how to break and cut ceramics and tile, use a tile nipper, and manage grout. They discussed methods, materials, timing, and logistics—and worked on theme and design, eventually deciding to focus on 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” The design, primarily Mikelson’s work, echoed the stained glass window design in the sanctuary, created by an Augsburg professor, the late August Molder, and incorporating the rainbow colors symbolic of a parish that identifies as a Reconciling in Christ congregation. Continue reading “Finding Art in Pooling Brokenness”

We ♥ All Auggies

We hear so many stories of lifelong partnerships found at Augsburg—couples who met in their first year, in class, at the Chin Wag, or working on campus—we’re tempted to call Augsburg cupid. Or just lucky to play host to a lifetime of heart-enriching connections of all kinds—lifelong friendships, mentorships, and partnerships. We put a call out on social media to share a photo with Augsburg Alumni if you met your mate at Augsburg College. Thank you to all who shared your photos and stories. This Valentine’s Day, the Alumni Association sends love to Auggies everywhere!

lovebird-collage2016Auggie lovebirds include: Kari Aanestad ’08 and Brian Krohn ’08, with Sean Stanhill ’08, Krista Costin ’08, and Ryan Lisson ’08; Alissa Blood-Knafla ’07 and Patrick Knafla ’04; Anjie (Tonolli) ’93 and Tac ’91 Coplin; Carol (Pederson) ’72 and Wayne ’71 Jorgenson; Caitlin Hozeny ’09 and Seth Lienard ’11; Abby (Johnson) ’05 and Zac ’03 Schnedler; Alisha Esselstein ’15 and Tyler Dorn ’15; Simoné (Johnson) ’91 and Alex Gonzalez ’90; Shannon Connaughton ’13 and Erik Grindal ’13; Cherie (Elliott) ’03 and Brad Christ; Ross Murray ’00, MBA ’09 and Richard Garnett ’07, MBA ’09; Joanne (Varner) ’52 and Harvey ’52 Peterson; Heather Johnston ’92 and Jason Koch ’93; Lisbeth (Jorgensen) ’70 and Earl ’68 Sethre; Joan (Moline) ’83 and John Evans ’82; Hayley Thomas ’12 and Emerson Ball ’14; Becky (Bjella) ’79 and Jeff ’77 Nodland; Barbara (Beglinger) ’63 and Dean ’62 Larson; Laura Schmidt ’11 and Patrick DuSchane ’13; Pam (Hanson) ’79 and Mark ’79 Moksnes; Christine ’09 and Cody ’09 Tresselt-Warren with Noah; Denielle Johnson ’11 and Tim Stepka; Jennifer (Feine) ’94 and Erik Hellie ’93; Molly (Fochtman) ’92 and Greg Schnagl ’91; Bev (Ranum) ’78 and Dennis ’78 Meyer; Nancy (Mackey) ’85 and Paul ’84 Mueller; Emily Crook ’07, MAE ’15 and DJ Hamm ’08, and many hundreds more!

Opening Doors and Paying It Forward

RathmannThis year’s Auggie Networking Event on February 9 is the perfect opportunity for graduates of all class years and majors to connect with fellow Auggies, support student success, and build your Auggie network. This event is open to all students and alumni, and features pop-up speakers, free headshots, refreshments, and more. Beyond expanding your own alumni network, the event offers the chance to open doors for current students.

When Nick Rathmann ’03 made his way to the Augsburg campus last February for the Auggie Networking Event, he encountered blizzard conditions. But the Blake High School athletic director—not inclined toward defeat—arrived safely, only to find 250 others there as well. The popular annual event offers an evening full of connecting opportunities both for students seeking work and for alumni who can help, as well as for alumni seeking new positions.

KendallCSometime that February evening, Rathmann was introduced to Kendall Christian ’15, an Exercise Science major who was about to graduate. He discovered that she had played hockey all four years, as well as club lacrosse for two. Impressed with her professionalism and polish, as well as the description of her journey through hockey, he saw in her an ability to understand the value of the process. Her passion for sports and development was obvious to him, and he could sense she had learned some incredible life lessons, and possessed remarkable leadership skills. As Rathmann says, “Credit to Augsburg, both teachers and coaches, for her preparation. Credit to her for her motivation and focus on professional development.”

Rathmann mentioned a girls lacrosse coaching position opening up in the spring, so Christian followed up with an email, and was soon invited to the school for further discussion. Soon after, she was offered the position at Blake School, where she found amazing support for athletes and students among coaches and teachers—“professional and personable.”

Christian says, “It can be intimidating to market yourself, but Augsburg alumni are invested in helping students.” She hopes all students will use this extensive network to their full advantage.

Rathmann believes Augsburg students are inherently competitive and motivated—competitive just to get into the school, and motivated by the best traits of other students, teammates, faculty, and coaches. Those traits “rub off on you,” and you take them with you.

From the point of view of a professional alum, Rathmann says, “We have all been helped and mentored. It’s important to pay it forward when we can. A cup of coffee and a 30-minute conversation can go a long way. Augsburg grads are everywhere—and that is a great thing!”

See Kendall Christian at this year’s Auggie Networking event on February 9. As one of the evening’s pop-up speakers, she’ll share more about her story and experience as a young alumna.

—by Cheryl Crockett ’89


6 Quick Questions with the New Director of Auggie Engagement

Katie-KochKatie Koch ’01 joined the Alumni Relations team as Director of Auggie Engagement in January. We’re so excited to welcome this wonderful Auggie on board. She’s here to listen to you, plan alumni events, and find more ways for alumni to stay involved in the life of the College. Why not hear it straight from Katie?

What does it mean to be the Director of Auggie Engagement?
In this position I have the opportunity to connect with alumni, parents and friends of Augsburg. It’s my hope that we can continue to connect Auggies to the college, to their classmates and to fellow Auggies. As an Auggie you are important to the College, and we want to find ways to engage you, help to continue your learning, grow your network and use your talents to the benefit of Auggies.

What’s your favorite memory from your time at Augsburg?
I was involved in The Augsburg Choir, Augsburg Band and Jazz Band. I have some strong memories of times that we spent together on various tours. One that stands out to me is our joint band and choir tour to Arizona where we were snowed in in Flagstaff.

I loved being a part of Advent Vespers, especially standing all around Central Lutheran holding our candles and singing Silent Night. It still stirs up quite a bit of emotion in me.
Continue reading “6 Quick Questions with the New Director of Auggie Engagement”