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.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08

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Killa Marti '08
Killa Marti ’08

Originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08 arrived in the United States in 2004 as a student. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics from Augsburg University in 2008. Shortly after, she left to fulfill an employment obligation in China. After concluding her employment contract with the Hua Qiao Language Institute in Chang Chun, China, Killa returned to the United States to obtain a Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law).

One of her nominators, Zaira Solano, says this about Killa in her nomination letter, “Killa is a relentless advocate, woman of integrity, and leader in everything that she does.”

With the clear objective of working in the field of immigration, Killa took every opportunity to serve the immigrant population in the United States. She served in an internship at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and was a volunteer for Civil Society, a nonprofit that works to help victims of human trafficking. She also completed a practicum at the law firm of Contreras Edin & Associates. Killa represented Hamline in the Inter American Human Rights Competition in Washington, D.C., and worked for the state legislature in Minnesota through its Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. During this time, Killa also worked in the legal publishing division of Thomson Reuters, a global news agency and publisher. Upon graduation, Killa worked for the firm of Cole & Vondra, PLLC in Iowa City, Iowa, where she had the opportunity to litigate in the immigration courts of Omaha and Chicago. She also defended immigrant clients in the state courts of Iowa.

For the last three years, Killa has worked in Georgia, assisting the launch of the Immigration Services program at the nonprofit Lutheran Services of Georgia. During her time there, she worked closely with refugees and sponsors of unaccompanied minor immigrant children. Killa accepted a position at Solano Law Firm, litigating cases before the Atlanta Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. She also serves as the leader of a low-income, volunteer-run legal clinic called Gospel Justice Initiative in the city of Clarkston, Georgia. Killa is licensed to practice law in Iowa, Georgia, and immigration law all over the nation, and is now owner and managing attorney of her own firm, Marti Law Firm, LLC.

Killa is known as a fiercely motivated attorney who works tirelessly for her clients in districts and cases where the decks are stacked against them. In signature Auggie fashion, her career has developed as one which recognizes the needs in our diverse world and takes meaningful action to meet those needs. She served as chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association chapter in Georgia and Alabama from 2016 to 2018, and she continues to pair clients in need of Pro Bono services with local attorneys and mentor lawyers early in their careers.

Killa has been called a person of faith, integrity, intelligence, commitment, and compassion. She embodies the values of Augsburg through thoughtful stewardship, critical thinking, and rigorous pursuit of justice and equity. She is dedicated to ensuring education and financial support are available to girls, and she is working to grow her acts of kindness into a nonprofit where she can empower more students so they can live to their fullest potential.

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.

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.

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

Nominate an Outstanding Auggie

You know some exceptional alums—now tell us how great your classmates are! The Augsburg Alumni office is now accepting nominations for the First Decade Award, Spirit of Augsburg Award, and Distinguished Alumni Awards, which will be presented at Homecoming 2015. Read on for more important details for all award nominations. Send the nomination form to the Augsburg College office of Alumni and Constituent Relations by Dec. 31.

THE AUGSBURG COLLEGE ALUMNI AWARDS PROGRAM

Augsburg College wishes to acknowledge and honor those alumni and friends whose outstanding achievements and commitment to service exemplify the ideals and mission of the College.

The mission of Augsburg College is:

To nurture future leaders in service to the world by providing high quality educational opportunities which are based in the liberal arts, and shaped by the faith and values of the Christian Church, the context of a vital metropolitan region, and an intentionally diverse campus community.

The following awards are selected each year:

Distinguished Alumni Award
Awarded to Augsburg College alumni in recognition for significant achievement in vocation, for outstanding contribution to church and community, and for a life that exemplifies the ideals and mission of Augsburg College. Augsburg alumni (graduates and non graduates) are eligible.

First Decade Alumni Award
Awarded to Augsburg College graduates of the last ten years who have made significant progress in their professional achievements and contributions to the community, and in so doing exemplify the mission of the College: to prepare future leaders in service to the world. Graduates from the day, weekend, and graduate programs are eligible.

Spirit of Augsburg Award
Honors Augsburg alumni or friends of the College who have given exceptional service that contributes substantially to the well being of the College by furthering its purposes and programs. Alumni, friends, faculty and staff, and groups who have served the College are eligible.
Continue reading “Nominate an Outstanding Auggie”