Amanda Stramer ‘12 was named recently to the Florida High Tech Corridor’s 2018 “Faces of Technology,” which represents more than 252,000 scientists and technologists. Stramer earned this distinction through her innovative work in the development and commercialization of cancer immunotherapies.
For three years, Stramer has worked at Iovance Biotherapeutics in Tampa, FL. Currently a process development associate scientist, she works to develop immuno-oncology therapies, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), to fight aggressive cancers.
Stramer says she chose to study at Augsburg because it was the most diverse private school in Minnesota*, and was small enough to provide for enhanced learning that can result from significant relationships with professors and classmates alike. Stramer graduated with a BS in Biology and Philosophy and was a lead volunteer at the Campus Kitchen. She has found that she can thrive in a small and intimate work environment, such as the one at Iovance Biotherapeutics, thanks to the study habits she developed at Augsburg.
Within a week of graduating from Augsburg, Stramer was offered a job. She immediately moved to Florida, where she started her career as a microbiologist at a small biotech company in Sarasota.
When asked if she could offer any advice to current Auggies, Stramer said, “Although there is always talk about academic careers following STEM programs, the science industry is so huge and versatile; Auggies should never fear to branch out.”
Stramer is a fantastic example of an Auggie making a difference, and Augsburg can take pride in its diverse alumni base, which includes a wide range of professions and accolades.
Do you know a great Auggie who should be in the spotlight? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Augsburg University was the most diverse private school in Minnesota at the time of Stramer’s application.
Many special moments took place at the Grand Opening of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Thanks to more than 1,200 donors and alumni, Augsburg is providing today’s students with new laboratories, study rooms, flexible classrooms for hands-on learning, and open places for dialogue and debate.
Please enjoy these photos of the new spaces in the Hagfors Center where Auggies will develop into scientists, business people, and believers who make a positive impact on our community and in our world. You will sense a deep connection to Augsburg’s foundation and core identity of deep traditions: durable faith, inclusion, and experiential learning.
Augsburg has always been a college sustained by people like you, who care deeply about this place, and who generously ensure it can embody its mission. Please consider continuing that tradition and getting involved in Augsburg’s next campaign. To find out how to be a campaign insider, please contact Heather Riddle, Vice President for Advancement, email@example.com.
Many adults would likely freeze in place if asked to teach a middle school class, much less try to interest those students in theater. Then there are those special people for whom such work just comes naturally. Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding ’69 was such a person.
Ert’s Augsburg mentor, the late Ailene Cole (who taught theater at Augsburg for 29 years), saw it early on, insisting that his talent was definitely with the younger kids—the high-schoolers, sure; but more so, the younger ones. It was at Augsburg that Ert knew he wanted to be a teacher.
Football and Theater
When Ert found an opening for a speech teacher at Plymouth Junior High in the Robbinsdale, Minn., school district, he jumped at the chance because it gave him the opportunity to also coach football. As a speech/communication teacher and football coach in Robbinsdale for 34 years, Ert endeared himself
to countless junior high (middle school) and high school students, and many of them went on to pursue interesting professional careers due to his strong influence. His students included Darcey Engen ’88 (Theatre Arts professor at Augsburg), Mad TV’s Mo Collins, and actor Steve Zahn, who once donned a curly wig in junior high and did a memorable, gut-splitting impersonation of TV exercise personality Richard Simmons.
“Herm,” as he was affectionately known by his students, found ways to interest athletes in the drama program, and speech students in the football program, increasing the pool from which to draw and surprising many students who may not have otherwise considered such involvement.
Herm was, most notably, the first to teach improvisational theatre at the junior high level, creating a new model that was replicated in many other schools. When he died suddenly in a one-vehicle motorcycle accident two years after retiring, the online posts from former students said it all—“Brought me out of my shell.” “Favorite teacher.” “Made learning fun.” “Creative and passionate.” “I was fat and unpopular…he cast me in the lead…he lit me up.” “Great mentor to so many kids.”
Herm’s students would often sit together at school lunch to write their own plays. With parental permission to miss some school, they would crowd into a conversion van to take their shows to local elementary schools. Using only milk crates as sets, and maybe a mic for the narrator, they often drew huge groups of youngsters.
When asked how her late husband came to have such a heart for young people, Pat Jones-Hermerding says she isn’t sure how you can understand what’s at someone’s core, but she knew Ert had found his calling. He opened up his ideas to his students, and he had the kind of personality to which they gravitated—a big personality that could take over a room. Everything became a story, says Pat, and it usually grew into an even bigger story. He was energetic and funny—and fit right in with the kids. She takes special pleasure in reminders of Ert’s legacy, particularly when encountering former students who have gone into theater, or played sports for a college, or become teachers.
The Apple Tree
In October, when more than 20 family members and friends of Ert gathered next to Foss Center to dedicate a young apple tree in his memory, those attending were unaware of the tree’s interesting history. They were just grateful for the tree’s healthy start, and for the opportunity to designate a different tree on campus since the tree they had originally dedicated to Ert’s memory in 2009 had become diseased and died.
The history of the replacement tree, they later learned, was tied to Augsburg student Emily Knudson ’15, who had planted three apple trees as part of her senior Keystone p
roject. With this project, and through the Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program, Knudson was able to enter the network of hundreds of other tree owners and volunteer gleaners statewide who donate tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit each year to local food shelf partners. The newly placed plaque by the tree honors both Knudson’s project and Jones-Hermerding’s memory.
The Auggie Friendships
Among those who gathered at the tree’s dedication were two of Ert’s long-time Auggie friends, Glen J. Peterson ’69 and Karl Sneider ’71. All three had been members of Gamma Phi Omega, a campus/community service fraternity active on campus in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Though participation in athletics was not a requirement for membership, many Gammas were involved in sports, which served to deepen many of the friendships. Peterson says that he and Ert were dorm mates as freshmen, and decided to join a third friend to live in a house by Riverside Park for their remaining three years. Peterson chuckles as he recalls that, since there were only two beds in the house when they moved in, Ert was content to sleep temporarily on a mattress on top of the kitchen table.
As Peterson reflects on those college days, he is reminded of how diligent a student Ert was, studying long hours for his language course. He was introspective, hard-working, and intense—in the best sense of that word—and those qualities applied to all areas of his college life: academics, football, track, and theater. He also exerted outsized influence in the life of his young brother, Mike.
If Peterson were to summarize Ert’s legacy in a few words, “integrity” would quickly come to mind. Ert was honest and trustworthy, says Peterson, and dedicated as an educator and as a person. Then he adds, “People would strive to be like him because Ert was adamant about caring about people.”
Augsburg celebrated the holiday period in true Norweigian style, and nearly fifty Augsburg Associates volunteered at the 2017 Velkommen Jul festivities on December 1. Many volunteers were busy putting in extra days to make special Norwegian treats, and arrived early to help butter bread and lefse, and ensure that the event was a huge success.
There was exceptional student participation, including the Associates scholarship students who served waffles to hungry patrons. The event celebrated long-standing Augsburg friendships, and encouraged guests to create new friendships from our diverse community. Guests expressed their appreciation with kind words and contributions, and the scholarship baskets gathered a superb $1190.
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!
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.
As 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.
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 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.
For 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.
Osman 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”→
Jason 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.
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”→
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.
Prevent’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”→