Auggies in the City: Waitress

The Augsburg University Alumni team are serving up a slice of fun! Come and join us at Tony nominated musical “Waitress” on Wednesday, November 22 at Orpheum Theater. Featuring music and lyrics by 6 time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, the show is guaranteed to be a great time– and at $34 per ticket, this deal is as sweet as pie!

Starting at 6 p.m. we will be hosting a pre-theater reception at the Brave New Workshop with plenty of pie, soft drinks and a cash bar. At this reception we will be hosting a talk by Theater professor, Darcey Engen ’88, on the significance of “Waitress” serving up Broadway’s first all-female creative team.

This is an event you wont want to miss– described by Vanity Fair as “a black-and-white cookie where the comic and tragic edges touch but don’t mix” where “you’re laughing one minute… [and] you’re engaged with the difficult things these characters are going through the next”.

Tickets for this event are unfortunately sold-out but if you’re interested please call Becky Waggoner on 612-330-1085 to be put on the wait list!

Did You Know? Alumni Behind The Science Building- Fridlund

Week 4: Paul and Maxine Fridlund

Paul and his wife Maxine Fridlund were important donors to “Old Science Hall”.Paul graduated from Augsburg College with a degree in Chemistry in 1942 and then served four years at sea during World War II as a lieutenant with the U.S. Navy. After his service, Paul returned to education and received his Master of Science in 1952 shortly followed by his Doctorate of Philosophy in 1954, both from the University of Minnesota. He achieved distinction throughout his career and research in plant pathology, which included international work and travel to many countries such as South Africa, Australia, and Romania.  He was a long time faculty member at Washington State University and later in life he used his location to his advantage by writing several historical books about Prosser, Washington where he lived  when he sadly passed away in 2000.

As donors to Augsburg College, Paul and Maxine not only started a scholarship endowment for biology majors, but Paul’s financial gift and gift of equipment to the biology department gave students a unique opportunity to pursue and study plant biology at an earlier stage in their academic careers than most other biology students. A plaque honoring this financial contribution to Old Science is still standing and is located near room 214. Paul eventually received Augsburg’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1980 in recognition of significant achievement in his vocation, for outstanding contribution to church and community, and for a life that exemplified both the ideals and mission of Augsburg College. While the records don’t show much about Maxine’s accomplishments, we remember them both today for their generosity.

If you are interested in more of Paul Fridlund’s work with plant biology, he also edited a book called “Virus and viruslike diseases of pome fruits and simulating noninfectious disorders” which you can learn more about here.

Access: It can change your life

Danielle Stellner smiling on a roof in St. PaulAs a child growing up in Chicago, Danielle Stellner ’07 heard mixed messages in her community about the importance of education. But in her family–a family of modest means–there was never any doubt that excelling in school was non-negotiable. Her mother made that clear.

Then, at the age of 18, Stellner herself became a mother. She knew her son was a real blessing. She also knew she yearned for something more in life, but she wasn’t sure what.

As she looks back over the years now, she is impressed at how dramatically access can change one’s life and trajectory. Access to college, access to job opportunities, access to mentors.

Stellner stands with her partner above the ruins of Machu Picchu
Danielle and her partner Herbert on a trip to Peru

One such mentor for Stellner was Erik Nycklemoe, an early supervisor in her career whom she sees as the first person to care about her career and life development. He made it possible for her to earn her B.A. from Augsburg, she says, making her the first in her family to earn an undergraduate degree. Access to evening/weekend study at Augsburg’s Weekend College (now Adult Undergraduate program) was a real break for Stellner, who needed to balance studies with being a working mom.

Moving to Minnesota in search of a safer life for Deion, her three-year-old son, Stellner landed an internship at a 24-hour news station in downtown Minneapolis, then moved on to editing, producing, and hosting. This experience helped hone her skills in content creation and delivery, and she later joined Minnesota Public Radio (a “happy accident”), where she now serves as Managing Partner of Business Planning. She sees public radio as more relevant today than ever. “You can trust public radio to rise above the pack and provide not only relevant news without slant, but arts and cultural programming that consumes you,” she says, and then quotes Thomas Jefferson: “…wherever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government….”

She also found time to complete an MBA from the Carlson School of Management, where she had access to another mentor, Lisa Bittman–a Godsend, and a grounding force through some tough years, she says.

In the whole process, Stellner fell in love with Minnesota and with her now-husband, Herbert Stellner, and they later welcomed two more children into the family, Herbert Stellner IV (9) and Clara Gem Stellner (7).

Stellner poses in cap and gown with her three children
Stellner completed her MBA at the Carlson School of Management

Stellner recalls her student days at Augsburg with gratitude, especially the fantastic lecturing of Dr. David Matz (sociology). In recent years she has reconnected with her alma mater, thanks to Shelby Andress ’56, who introduced her to the Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) group–”the most incredible group of women I’ve ever met,” says Stellner. She is grateful to now be serving as co-chair of the AWE Council.

Stellner also serves on the board of Friendship Academy of the Arts, a blue-ribbon school that serves predominantly African American students, and on the board of Isuroon, an organization committed to self-sufficiency of Somali women and their families. Recently elected board secretary, Stellner is drawn to the organization by its dedication to changing the narrative that is portrayed in mainstream media to one that more accurately reflects the true family values of Somali culture.

Even with a demanding work schedule, Stellner and her family manage to keep a garden, and take delight in eating the fruits of their labors. But they wouldn’t mind some additional time with no agenda–time for family play, reading for pleasure–and perhaps a few extra hours of sleep. During Homecoming this fall, Stellner will be honored with Augsburg’s First Decade Award.

–by Cheryl Crockett ’89

The Joy of Circling Back

Awale Osman wears a blue shirt and smiles in front of a hedgeFor a young man born in a Kenyan refugee camp and immigrating to the U.S. at age 12 through the persistent efforts of his hard-working mother, to now be chosen as one of 31 young Fellows from 25 countries to participate in the 2017 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Learners’ Voice Program may seem unlikely. And for Awale (“Wally”) Osman ’15, it is “surreal.” But this opportunity is one of many that have energized him.

And, for him, this year’s conference topic is very close to home—Global Forced Migration and Refugee Crisis.

Osman has just returned from the first residential session, held in Athens, Greece, where the Fellows had a chance to study how Greece was handling its own refugee crisis and the challenges that affect a refugee community. The group heard from established experts on the topic, studied where crises were occurring, and proposed possible solutions. They heard from those working “on the ground” and did volunteer work with individuals having to go through the process of seeking asylum. The session in Athens (“an extraordinary experience,” says Osman) and a second residential session, to be convened during the summer in Madrid, Spain, will culminate in the WISE conference in Doha in November.

As Osman looks back on the many opportunities he has been granted, he is consistently motivated to give back. He mentions his ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers in the U.S., who played a pivotal role in conquering his first major barrier (and that of most refugees)—language. Those teachers also put him in touch with Boys & Girls Club, where he became involved; Upward Bound, which prepared him for college; and TRiO/Student Support Services, which helped him persist in earning his bachelor’s degree. These are part of the Federal TRiO programs funded through the U.S. Department of Education and focusing on providing comprehensive academic support, integrated learning courses, learning communities, academic English enhancement, and leadership development for low- to moderate-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities.

Awale Osman with TRiO studentsOsman sees these TRiO programs as the “main pillars” that helped him grow personally and professionally. They enabled him to set goals and find connections to resources. They evaluated his progress, held him accountable, and served as a source of emotional support. And they kept him connected, even as he worked to support his family (most of whom now live in the States). Continue reading “The Joy of Circling Back”

Healing Waters

Jason Kusiak standing in front of the ocean holding a very large fishJason Kusiak spends late winter and early spring long-lining for cod and haddock, and most of the year catching lobster. Fishing in some of America’s oldest seaports near Gloucester, Mass., gives Kusiak an appreciation for the area’s rich history, and a healthy respect for those who made a living fishing the Atlantic in earlier times. He relishes the hard work, excitement, and competition of constantly driving at something, and “with fishing, you can see the direct result of your work ethic,” he says.

Also, the waters seem to provide the environment for a thoughtful transition. Kusiak is the first to admit that his career plans are still evolving, and that, at 33, he’s not sure what lies ahead. He states with conviction that he always wants to be growing, and “to be present” in his own life in order to experience much and maintain great relationships. Oddly enough, a few years ago, he wondered if he would live to be 27.

Very active as a youngster, Kusiak had earned a black belt by age 9 and had placed first at nationals. In high school he played football, basketball, and lacrosse. He pushed himself to excel. But at the end of his senior year and on the eve of a big recruiting summer for lacrosse, a high school party became the proverbial “fly in the ointment.” Racing through the woods in the dark with a friend, Kusiak ran into a fire-road steel gate, resulting in a double-compound fracture of his leg and the shattering of his elbow.

Jason Kusiak smiles for a selfie in front of a sunset over the ocean. Two birds soar overhead.Kusiak became addicted to painkillers, and it was a struggle not only to discontinue use of opioids but to obtain help from insurance companies to do so.

He eventually sought help and treatment at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Shortly thereafter, he learned about the StepUP® Program, Augsburg’s residential collegiate recovery community, and he began his studies in 2006. “That fellowship of walking through this together” (in the same residence hall as other students dealing with substance abuse) made academic success much more likely, and Kusiak felt as if the “whole school bought into it and that’s why Augsburg is unique.” He is especially grateful to StepUP’s director Patrice Salmeri and former director Dave Hadden and to professors John and Peggy Cerrito for the “great impact” of their entrepreneurial class, particularly the focus on learning through experience and connections. Continue reading “Healing Waters”

Measured Impact

Grazzini-June16
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”