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”

Designing Sustainability

Glover-for-webWhen Stephanie Glover ’04 was only five, her mother gave her a copy of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree—in French—another of many attempts by her parents to expose her to other cultures and encourage her to try new things. Throughout her childhood, many of her friends came from different backgrounds, and diversity of experience became a given.

That way of life was reinforced at Augsburg, where she discovered that the wide cultural swath of her classmates’ backgrounds was a significant enhancement to her education in International Relations, as was her study abroad, in Aix en Provence, France.

Later, after a four-year stint of teaching in France and South Korea, Glover decided to volunteer in the Republic of Georgia—an experience that she now views as life-changing. Armed with very little knowledge about the country, she spent about a week in foreign language training, then made her way to the home of her host family, high in the Borjomi Mountains. They spoke little English, and Glover’s Georgian was shaky at best, so early days were challenging. But transformation lay ahead.

Trips down the mountain took about an hour, and consequently were infrequent. The host family owned cows, chickens, and pigs—and they grew some crops, so the food Glover ate during that year was primarily homemade and natural. She came to an appreciation for an organic lifestyle, and felt a growing concern for the impact that eating and buying habits have on the environment. Her experience in the Borjomi Mountains would eventually inform her career choice.

Continue reading “Designing Sustainability”

Helping the Young to Do Better and Be Better

Joshua HarrisGrowing up in Chicago, Josh Harris ’08 hadn’t heard of Augsburg before, but when Auggie Coach Aaron Griess recruited him to play basketball, he discovered a smaller school in a big city, diverse, with a sense of community—and it all appealed to him. What he ended up taking with him upon graduation, however, was beyond his expectations.

Today, Harris is working with other community leaders in Baltimore on many initiatives, including one to build a network of individuals, businesses, and organizations who can provide internships, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities for high school students, many of whom may be less than hopeful about their future. He believes that young people who have already enjoyed some level of professional success are those who can best effect change in the likelihood of success for other young people, particularly African-Americans.

Working primarily through Alpha Phi Alpha, a community-service-oriented fraternity, Harris serves as managing editor of The Sphinx, the APA’s journal about what is happening in the African-American community, and how their members impact the world around them. APA has 703 chapters worldwide (both undergraduate and alumni). The fraternity is noted as historically the first inter-collegiate fraternity founded by African-American men. Harris joined while still a student at Augsburg. The fraternity claims alumni such as former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and currently has eight members in Congress. Continue reading “Helping the Young to Do Better and Be Better”

Life Can Be Funny

PHOTO: Jake Stangel, Times of London
PHOTO: Jake Stangel, Times of London

For 12 years, David Raether ’78 wrote for TV comedy sitcoms, including 111 episodes of Roseanne. He absolutely loved it. It was invigorating being in “the Room” with other writers, brutally and honestly dissecting each other’s work to make sure the script was as good as it could be. Did it work? Did it follow what set it up? Did it push the story forward? Was it funny? You could write a completely brilliant draft of a script, he says—one that everyone agrees reads great—and then see it completely rewritten by the group over the week of production. If you find that upsetting or galling, says Raether, don’t go into comedy writing!

As much as he loved the work, however, the time commitment was enormous, and his family life suffered. Many nights, he would work till 3 a.m., which meant that he rarely enjoyed any family time beyond weekends. Something had to give, so he took a couple of years off to help pull the family back together—an effort that met with some success. Then, when he tried to return to TV work in 2007, he found a different landscape. Many sitcoms had been replaced by reality shows, and he had trouble finding a job, even though he had expanded his search beyond writing and editing.

Thus began what Raether calls an “incredible experience” that has shaped him in many ways. He sold off cars and other valuables to make ends meet, but sending out 2,541 resumes and applications was to no avail. Eventually, he found himself homeless. He lost his house, his career ended, his savings vanished, and his family (wife and eight kids) broke apart. The fall was tremendous. In a recent TEDxAmherst Talk, Raether talked about what it felt like not knowing where (or when) he would find the next meal, or where he would sleep that night. But in the process, he says, he discovered that he was far more resourceful and resilient than he had ever dreamed. He also learned that it is not shameful to be poor. Devastating, vulnerable, difficult, and painful, yes—but not shameful. Continue reading “Life Can Be Funny”

Teaching Must Be in the DNA

Jane Bracken and Jenna Held
Jane (Catlin) Bracken ’71 and Jenna (Bracken) Held ’05

Things have changed a lot since Jane (Catlin) Bracken ’71 began teaching first grade in Cannon Falls back in the early ‘70s. Handouts done on ditto machines (with that distinctive purple print), filmstrips, and simple newsletters have given way to iPads, Smart Boards, and classroom blogs. And though most of the tools have changed, the supreme satisfaction of teaching little kids how to read has remained constant for Bracken. For 41 years, she taught first grade (all in the Cannon Falls district), and in 2009, she was named Cannon Falls Teacher of the Year. She says it has been “so cool” to watch students grow up and have kids of their own, then meet with them as parents during conferences. One year not too long ago, one-third of her students were children of earlier students.

Bracken’s daughter, Jenna (Bracken) Held ’05, is now following in her mother’s footsteps, attracted to not only the joy that a teacher’s lifestyle can provide, but the opportunity to do something she loves—work with children. And last year, after having taught fourth and fifth grade for eight years, she copied her mother again and switched to first grade. Teaching at Lincoln Center in South St. Paul is especially sweet for her, as it allows her to work in the community where she lives, and to see her students around town. Continue reading “Teaching Must Be in the DNA”

Paying It Forward, with Gratitude

Kathryn Lange ’72 and Dennis Sonifer in Salzburg
Kathryn Lange ’72 and Dennis Sonifer in Salzburg

A few years ago, Kathryn Lange ’72 and her husband, Dennis Sonifer, decided to update their will, a process that tends to open up a variety of possibilities that aren’t necessarily on our daily radar screens. They realized it would be possible to reach out beyond family members, and agreed that supporting a college made sense, particularly since they both had enjoyed great experiences at small, church-related, liberal arts colleges. Determined to reciprocate the favor of the substantial financial aid each had received as a student, they decided to “pay it forward” and set up an endowed scholarship at Augsburg.

Currently serving as associate dean of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University in Boston, Lange has spent her entire career in higher education, including a six-year stint as director of admissions at Augsburg. Originally planning to find work directly related to her Social Work degree, she reassessed her plan when she found herself accepting various positions in higher education. Lange stresses, however, that she uses her Augsburg Social Work education every day in her work with students and faculty. At St. Olaf, she worked in housing for three years, followed by her admissions work at Augsburg, and then at the University of Minnesota, first in financial aid and then in student services in the College of Pharmacy. While at the U, she realized she liked working in the college environment and decided to earn a Master’s degree. In 2002, she and Sonifer moved to Boston for their next adventure.   Continue reading “Paying It Forward, with Gratitude”

Alum is Among Twin Cities Finest

Josh ’08 and Chelsea Krob
Josh ’08 and Chelsea Krob

It may be a bit unusual for such a young alumnus to be as active in volunteer work as Josh Krob ’08 is, but he readily admits that his employer, Wells Fargo, provides ample opportunity to do so. In addition to volunteering for charitable organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and Feed My Starving Children, he has coached and supported various sports organizations as well. He has naturally gravitated toward hockey, the sport he played and loved most growing up; and he has helped the Eastview hockey team, Kansas City Stars, and Blake School hockey program.

Recently, another opportunity captured his imagination and passion—raising research funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He and 19 other likeminded individuals took on the challenge individually and raised more than $120,000 for CFF. Krob and the other 19 were each granted the prestigious “Twin Cities Finest” award, in recognition of their community volunteer efforts and professional growth in their fields. Continue reading “Alum is Among Twin Cities Finest”