Meet Distinguished Alumni Award Winner David J. Melby ‘68

David Melby '68David J. Melby ’68, Ph.D., is a psychologist, executive leader, professional volunteer, and advocate who embodies faithful service in true Augsburg University form.  Melby attended Augsburg, graduating in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and philosophy. Following his graduation, Melby attended graduate school in counseling psychology at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, receiving both MA and Ph.D. degrees.

Melby’s career centered around providing and promoting the development of outpatient community mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities services for people of all ages, as well as adult residential services. In 1974, he joined Mental Health Services of Franklin and Williamson Counties, Inc. (now known as Centerstone of Illinois) as a clinical psychologist. His role expanded the following year to include that of division director of mental health services; he served as CEO of that agency from 1996 until his retirement in 2006. Prior to his retirement, Melby served six years on the board and one year as president of the Illinois Association of Community Mental Health Agencies.

One of Melby’s nominators says, “His professional leadership in community mental health has made the lives of many who struggle with these issues brighter and more hopeful because of his nearly 50 years of service. David brings a selfless approach to volunteerism that inspires and supports those in our community’s efforts to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

For almost two decades, David has served as a volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA).  He twice served as chairperson of the Southern Illinois Heart Walk and once of a Southern Illinois Heart Gala, raising awareness regarding heart-healthy lifestyles and fundraising for heart research, education and life-saving equipment, such as Automated External Defibrillators in public places. He currently serves as a member of the Illinois Advocacy Committee of the AHA, advocating for a heart-healthy state and federal legislation.

Throughout his career, Melby has been influenced by his father’s ministry and involvement in clinical pastoral counseling and the death of his infant brother, who was born with a heart defect and Down Syndrome. He was also motivated by the growing needs of his parents in their last years. He has consistently demonstrated his concern for people marginalized in society, often the poorest, sickest, and most stigmatized among us.

In retirement, David has become more involved in the work of not-for-profit and governmental agencies whose missions he supports. They include multiple terms on the Williamson County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, including as chairperson, and on the River to River Residential Communities Board, providing independent living, assisted living, supported living, and memory care services for seniors in multiple communities across southern Illinois. He has served since 2012 on the Board of Directors of Centerstone of Illinois, one of five Centerstone state service entities that, collectively, comprise one of the largest and most influential not-for-profit behavioral healthcare enterprises in the nation. Since 2014, David has also served as a board member and, now, current board chair of the Centerstone Research Institute (CRI), based in Nashville. CRI is currently developing evidence-based best practices for addressing the national opioid crisis, developing its first Center of Excellence for the treatment of depression, and reducing the “science-to-service cycle” in the treatment of behavioral health disorders.

Melby exemplifies servant leadership and the Augsburg value of being educated to serve.  For decades, he has served his church community in many capacities, including as president of the church council for over 10 years, co-chair of the building committee during construction of a new sanctuary, and delegate to the 2013 ELCA churchwide assembly. Whether through his contributions to the field of behavioral health care or his volunteerism, David has worked tirelessly to serve his community and embodies the values we work to instill in Auggies. In his life as a thoughtful steward and responsible leader, he has used his skills and gifts to impact communities and create healthier, more fulfilling lives for all.

Meet Distinguished Alumni Award Winner Brynn A. Watson ‘89

Brynn WatsonBrynn A. Watson ‘89 is an award-winning leader in the aerospace industry, nationally recognized for her technical expertise, executive leadership, and advocacy for STEM education. She currently serves as Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the Future Enterprise Program overseeing the corporation’s transformational digital technology operations.

In her nomination letter, the Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) Council said, “Brynn’s accomplishments during her career at Lockheed Martin stand for themselves. We are so proud to see an Auggie woman pioneering for other women in STEM.”

Watson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in mathematics from Augsburg University and a Master of Science in applied mathematics from the University of California at Riverside.

In prior leadership roles at Lockheed Martin, Watson was vice president of Navigation Systems Operations and deputy for the Global Positioning System (GPS) III program for Lockheed Martin Space. GPS III is the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation program improving position, navigation, and timing services to all users.  Before that, she was vice president of an engineering organization in the Space line of business leading more than 5,300 engineers, responsible for personnel management and development, engineering and technology strategy, engineering processes, tools and training, and product technical validation. Prior to that assignment, she served as director of software engineering, responsible for the execution and strategic direction over 1,200 software engineers; leading a strategic initiative focused on maximizing digital integration and end-to-end system modeling. Additionally, she served as director of engineering, collaboration, and operations for Corporate Engineering and Technology, and deputy to the vice president of Engineering.

Watson began her aerospace career as an engineer at Aerojet Electronic Systems in Azusa, Calif., where she held positions in a variety of systems and software engineering areas.

Watson is a member of Women in Aerospace, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Lockheed Martin Women’s Impact Network.

She has been recognized for her leadership, receiving the 2013 Lockheed Martin Space NOVA Full Spectrum Leadership Award; the 2012 Tribute to Women Honor by the YWCA of Silicon Valley; and the 2008 Lockheed Martin Space Ed Taft Diversity Leadership Award. In 2015, Watson’s essay, “A Look Inside Lockheed Martin’s Space-Age Operations,” was published by the Harvard Business Review.

Watson’s enterprising spirit and accomplishments mirror the tenacity of Auggies around the world, who, through study, experience, and hard work, ascend to prestigious positions among today’s leading companies.

Watson credits her time at Augsburg as helping her to think big and believe that she can accomplish anything with hard work and perseverance. She also feels that her strong advocacy for women was built by the dedicated women she interacted with during her time at the university.

Homecoming Auggie Talk: The Study Abroad Experience, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow – Hosted by the Class of 1978

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Auggie Talks, Auggie Eagle abroad in GermanySaturday, Oct. 13 from 1 – 1:45 p.m.

Auggies from the class of 1978 have traveled the globe studying in places like Norway, Central America, and London. The opportunities to study abroad while at Augsburg have shaped their lives and the lives of many of its graduates. Join the class of 1978 as they reflect on their own study abroad experiences and examine Auggie global education of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

About Auggie Talks:

They’re back by popular demand! Join us for 30-minute, insightful sessions presented by professors and fellow alumni on topics spearheaded by your class reunion groups. Talks will be published as they become available on social media and in upcoming communications.

Space is limited. Please register today for Auggie Talks.

Meet Spirit of Augsburg Award Winner Grace Kemmer Sulerud ’58

Grace Kemmer Sulerud '58Grace Kemmer Sulerud ’58 has displayed faithful service to Augsburg University across her time as a graduate, librarian, faculty member, and alumna. She personifies Augsburg’s deep sense of calling to humbly serve others in a variety of ways, with joyful dedication.

As a dedicated volunteer, her nominators say, “You will find her wherever an extra hand is needed.”

Determined to gain a full education, Sulerud worked and saved money to go from her hometown, Williston, North Dakota, to Augsburg, as it was the college of the Lutheran Free Church. Sulerud’s Augsburg education and excellent professors prompted her to experience life in the Twin Cities, exploring the state capitol and fine arts like symphony concerts and plays. She made lifelong friends and enjoyed being on the staff of the student newspaper, The Echo.

After graduating from Augsburg in 1958, she was an elementary librarian and junior high English teacher in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. From 1961 to 1964, she was an elementary librarian in U.S. Air Force Department of Defense Schools in Tokyo, Japan; Tripoli, Libya; and Wiesbaden, Germany. This gave her an opportunity to travel around the world with a stop in India to visit a friend, Maxine Berntsen, another distinguished alumna of Augsburg. After returning to the United States, Sulerud studied for a master’s degree in Library Science (1968) and later received a master’s degree in English (1970), each from the University of Minnesota.

During her many years as Augsburg’s Collection Development Librarian and faculty member, she was committed to the learning of students. She served two terms as the treasurer of Augsburg Associates, from 2003 to 2007 and 2011 to 2017, ensuring they raised funds for Augsburg student scholarships. Her interests and energy lead her to participate in travels to Cuba with the Delegation For Friendship Among Women, and to Ethiopia supporting the efforts of REAL, Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives, an organization that helps girls stay in school.

In Minneapolis, Sulerud is a member of Trinity Lutheran Congregation located on Riverside Avenue, a congregation associated with the founding of Augsburg, where she sings in the choir, leads the monthly quilter’s work session and has participated in activities with Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing.

With her late husband Ralph, long-time Augsburg biology professor, Sulerud has remained a supporter and enthusiast for all things Augsburg. Though she retired from Augsburg in 2003, she continues to stay involved at important university events: the recent grand opening of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion; Homecoming festivities; Velkommen Jul; and Advent Vespers.

Sulerud lives out the Spirit of Augsburg Award and exemplifies Augsburg’s historic mottos consistently: “Education for Service” and “The Truth Shall Make You Free.” Her loyalty, dependability, and generosity enable Augsburg to carry forward with hearty conviction, intellectual rigor, and relational connectedness.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Chris Stedman ‘08

Chris Stedman '08
Chris Stedman ’08

Chris Stedman ‘08 is a humanist community organizer, interfaith activist, and writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the founding executive director of the Humanist Center of Minnesota, a project seeking to explore the viability of a center for humanist life in Minneapolis, through which he and a group of researchers are currently studying the beliefs, practices, and community involvement of the religiously unaffiliated.

One of his nominators, Dr. Lori Brandt Hale, associate professor of religion at Augsburg, says this about Chris, “As a long-standing member of this community, I think we must count ourselves lucky to call Chris one of ours, and even luckier that he has come back to Minnesota, and Augsburg University, to carry on his important work in collaboration with all of us.”

Formerly the founding executive director of the Yale Humanist Community and a fellow at Yale University, Chris also worked as a humanist chaplain at Harvard University, a content developer and trainer for the Interfaith Youth Core, and as the founding managing director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. He currently serves as a fellow at the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University, and previously served as a fellow at Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

Chris is the author of “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious” (Beacon Press, 2012), “an intimate and deeply affecting portrait… [that] proves [he is] an activist in the truest sense and one to watch” (Booklist, Starred Review). The book received widespread acclaim from publications like the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which called it an “enlightening and engaging memoir calling for civil discourse between atheists and the religious [that] couldn’t come at a better time,” and the Houston Chronicle, which named Faitheist one of the best religion books of the year and called it “an exciting and boundary defying introduction to a new world [and] an amazing book that could potentially change the game.”

Chris received a master of arts in religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. A 2008 graduate of Augsburg University with a summa cum laude bachelor of arts in religion (with English and social welfare minors), he is currently writing a book exploring what it means to be “real” in the digital age and writing a monthly column on the same topic for INTO.

He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and Fox News, has spoken at hundreds of conferences and universities, and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pitchfork, BuzzFeed, VICE, The Los Angeles Review of Books, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, Salon, The Washington Post, and others. Details magazine named Chris one of “five next-gen gurus who are disrupting religion’s status quo” and Mic called him “the millennial who’s busting every stereotype about atheists.”

The irony has been noted that Augsburg’s most well known religion graduate is known for the fact that he is an atheist, and it is through this robust civic and ideological engagement that Chris practices the mission and vision of Augsburg.

Augsburg Alumni Office Offering Tickets for the Church Basement Ladies Production of “You Smell Barn”

The Church Basement Ladies in You Smell BarnThe Augsburg Alumni Office has set aside a number of tickets for Auggies to see the Sunday October, 14 showing of “You Smell Barn by the Church Basement Ladies at 2 p.m. in the Ames Center Black Box Theater (12600 Nicollet Ave., Burnsville, MN). Tickets are $33 and can be purchased at https://advancement.augsburg.edu/2018-homecoming-registration

This new musical comedy is based on a novel by alumnae Janet Letnes Martin ‘68 and Suzann Nelson ‘68 and features Janet Paone ‘83 reprising her role as Vivan Snustead.

 

About You Smell Barn

From the basement to the barn, your beloved Church Basement Ladies are back and getting busy with life outside the kitchen. After the last of the hotdish is served, the coffee pot is emptied, and the Jello molds are put away, these steadfast, sturdy women head to their farms, peel off their good girdles, and get on with their daily chores. In between picking eggs, milking cows, and dusting knickknacks, they congregate with some of the other lovable folks who inhabit this rural community: Earl, who delivers the mail up and down Rural Route One; Fergus, the hired man; and Tillie, who chronicles the action for the Fish County Weekly.

With plenty of crazy antics, loads of fresh laughs, and spanking new original songs, “You Smell Barn” celebrates rural life in the 1950’s. And, at the center of it all, are your favorite Church Basement Ladies. Whether you’ve seen several versions, or are new to the world of the basement, the 7th in the Church Basement Ladies series is a musical treat for all.

Produced by Curt Wollan, Troupe America, Inc., “You Smell Barn” is written by Greta Grosch, with music by Dennis Curley; lyrics by Greta Grosch and Dennis Curley; and inspired by the new book “Growing Up Rural, You Smell Barn” by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Dr. Brian Krohn ‘08

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Dr. Brian Krohn
Dr. Brian Krohn

Brian Krohn ‘08, Ph.D., is a passionate innovator, entrepreneur, and Augsburg’s first Rhodes Scholar. Switching from an Augsburg degree in film to one in chemistry was only one component of a rapidly expanding career that includes experience in renewable technology, mobile app development, local food, and medical devices.

In a joint letter nominating Brian for this award, the Chemistry Department at Augsburg says, “Brian is an alumnus who typifies the best of Augsburg’s liberal arts education; he weaves together his care of creation and humanity with his technical prowess and creative insight to make the world a better place.”

While at Augsburg, Brian was named a Goldwater Scholar, founded the Honors Review journal for student scholarship, and created an Honors course on home brewing. He researched the production of cleaner biodiesel fuel in collaboration with Augsburg’s Professor Emeritus Arlin Gyberg, Ph.D., and alumnus Clayton McNeff ’91, which spurred a new patented catalyzation process and physical plant, Evercat Fuels, that produces more than 8 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Some of Brian’s research has been featured on “Good Morning America” and the National Council on Undergraduate Research Session.

Watch the KARE OnLIVE segment on his research below:

 

Brian earned a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Sciences and Management from the University of Minnesota as an Environmental Protection Agency Fellow, as well as master’s degrees from the University of Oxford in Environmental Change and Management and the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine as a Rhodes Scholar. He co-founded several companies including Mighty Axe Hops, which is the largest producer of Minnesota hops for local craft breweries.

He was an Innovation Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center, where he worked on projects ranging from a new tool to assist neurosurgeons to remove brain cancer to an app to improve sleep. He is currently the CEO of Soundly, an app-based therapy to reduce snoring, which is a technology funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. His company, Magic Wizard Staff, displays his technical brilliance and playful creativity. Most recently, he joined Modern Logic, an innovative digital product development company. Brian has also served as an adjunct instructor at Macalester College and Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has garnered numerous academic honors and entrepreneurship awards.

Brian’s time at Augsburg was marked by exploration of not only chemistry, biology, and mathematics, but also philosophy, film, and literature. Paired with thoughtful consideration of calling and community, this cultivated his pursuit of knowledge, art, and technology in service to the world. His work demonstrates the power of Augsburg’s intersection of liberal arts education and professional studies to enable others to be more healthy, happy, and fully human. He continues to stay connected to Augsburg and is generous with his time, encouraging and offering advice to students since his return to the Twin Cities.

Homecoming Auggie Talk: The Baby Boom Effect – Hosted by the Class of 1968

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Auggie Talks photo from Homecoming 2017On Friday, Oct. 12, from 3:30 – 4:15 p.m. in the Sateren Auditorium, Anderson Music Building, five members of the class of 1968 will discuss “The Baby Boom Effect: How Four Years Affected 50.” Alumni will each present a three to five minute description of how their time at Augsburg influenced what they have done personally and professionally over the past 50 years. Each has pursued different paths since leaving Augsburg while impacting the world in meaningful ways.

About Auggie Talks:

They’re back by popular demand! Join us for 30-minute, insightful sessions presented by professors and fellow alumni on topics spearheaded by your class reunion groups. Talks will be published as they become available on social media and in upcoming communications.

Space is limited. Please register today for Auggie Talks.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Joshua Harris ‘08

Joshua Harris in Baltimore, Maryland.
Joshua Harris ’08 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Joshua Harris’ life and work in the last ten years of his young career have been devoted to public leadership, building connections and making a difference in his community.

As one of Joshua’s nominators, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter says, “When I think of Joshua, it makes sense that he is an alumnus of Augsburg, as he truly lives the mission of being an informed citizen, a thoughtful steward, a critical thinker, and a responsible leader.”

Joshua is the co-founder of the Hollins Creative Placemaking, a non-profit fostering urban revitalization by including the use of art and the creative processes. He sits on the board of the Charles Village Urban Renewal Project, Pauls Place Community, Baltimore’s Promise Mentoring Task force and Baltimore’s Southwest Partnership.

Joshua ran for Mayor of Baltimore in 2016 becoming the youngest person ever to run for mayor. He ran as a Green Party Candidate and in a one party town Josh took 10% of the vote, more than any third party candidate in history. He is dedicated to creating attainable solutions for the challenges Baltimore and similar urban cities face around the nation.

Joshua is a brand and communications expert and currently is a Deputy Director of Communications for a national women’s reproductive rights organization where he monitors policy and guides communication strategy for more than a dozen state chapters and affiliates.  He also sits on the board of directors for the NAACP Maryland State Conference and the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance. He has previously worked for an international non-profit that provides mentorship and scholarship opportunities to young African American boys and men and is the former director of communications for Black and Brown People Vote. Joshua has been a featured speaker on urban renewal and education disparities at the “Imagine America Conference” and the “Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference”. Joshua is has a passion and commitment to empowering people and for progressive policy solutions.

Continuing to stay active in his community, Joshua is currently running to be the delegate for District 40 in Baltimore, Maryland.

While attending Augsburg University from 2005 to 2008, Joshua played basketball, was on student government, was a residence life advisor, an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Co-chair of The Pan-African student Union for two years. Joshua majored in communication studies with a double emphasis in broadcast journalism and marketing, and a film studies minor.

As a communication studies major, Harris learned the theory and skills to create sound public policy, argue effectively for meaningful change, persuade diverse audiences. In true Augsburg fashion, Harris has channeled his education and professional experience to reduce inequity and fight for social justice as a responsible, informed, and active citizen leader.

Refugee Odyssey: Exploring The Past Through Simulation

AASA at the Fall 2017 Leadership Retreat
AASA at the 2017 Fall Leadership Retreat

Every fall, students from the Multicultural Student Services & International Student and Scholar Services organizations gather off campus for a Fall Leadership Retreat to build community, engage in important discussions, and gain leadership tools. During the retreat, students affiliated with the Augsburg Asian Student Association (AASA) have the opportunity to participate with AASA alumni in the Refugee Odyssey, an intense simulation that AASA started back in 2008.

Alumnus Cheemoua Vang ‘16 took part in the Odyssey as a student and has volunteered the last two years to help run the event. He says his first experience was indescribable, but a moment from which he bloomed and grew emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That’s why he and other AASA alumni choose to come back to volunteer.

“I call it the cycle of giving back,” he said. “Alumni volunteers who take part in the Odyssey have all participated in it before at least two to three times. This is important because those who have personally gone through the Odyssey will be able to connect with the student participants. They’ll understand the impact of it on a personal level and know the sensitivity of the event and what it takes to be involved with it.”

The sensitive nature of this event comes from students simulating the experience of immigrants running from their homes during wartime, fleeing from soldiers, to find safety. The simulation is meant to help students explore their history.

Senior Cam Thu Pham has participated in the Refugee Odyssey the past three years and says “the Refugee Odyssey is a learning experience of rediscovering one’s history or awakening an interest in learning one’s parent’s raw history and sacrifices. It is a frightening experience, and you would not know what to expect while laying in the pitch black grass and thorny bushes waiting with your adrenaline rushing as you try to get to a safe place.”

In her first two years, Cam was a runner during the simulation and last year she chose to be a soldier, whose job it is to catch the runners. These experiences have led Cam to further explore her personal family history.

“I finally came to the realization that my parents stories that they had always told me were not because they were bored and had nothing to talk about, but because it was all they had to talk about. It was their history and their roots. I never took the time to appreciate those stories until I sat down with my parents after [the Refugee Odyssey] and asked them to tell me those stories once again. I think these stories have led me to recognize my privilege to be where I am today from the upbringing of my parents, to not ever forget where I originally came from, and to appreciate my identity as a proud Vietnamese woman.”

For both Cam and Cheemoua, the Refugee Odyssey and AASA have helped to shape their experience at Augsburg.

“AASA is not just a platform of support, but to me it feels like a family that has lifted me up through my hard times throughout my experiences here. AASA members are empowering people who have so much influence on me as an individual,” Cam said.
Cheemoua feels a similar connection to the group.

“I first got involved with AASA during my first year of college,” Cheemoua said. “I was eating lunch all by myself and a group of AASA members invited me to eat with them. They were very welcoming and friendly. After joining them for the Fall Leadership Retreat, I found the leadership in me that Fall and I just kept growing ever since.”