“Incubator. Hub. Thoroughfare. The new Center for Science, Business, and Religion will be all these things,” says Marty Stortz, who has pledged an estate gift. And one more: “It’s a place-based symbol of the good work that is already happening here.”
Martha Ellen Stortz brought along the benefits of an outsider’s perspective when she was named Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation in 2010. “I left graduate education for undergraduate education; I left theological education for higher education; I left California for Minnesota,” says Stortz, who was previously professor of historical theology and ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, where she spent nearly three decades. “I could see that many of my colleagues in other higher education institutions were reaching for an urban experience for their students. But Augsburg was already there and already providing that.”
In her move to the Twin Cities, she drove herself across the country in time to join her new science, business, and religion colleagues on a field trip to visit the new science center at St. Olaf. “When we all left at the end of that day, we had envy for their building. But they had envy for our faculty and collegiality,” she recalls.
So within her first week, she was already considering what it might be like to have an office next to a social science professor, or share midmorning coffee with a business maven. “We’re not waiting for this building to be built: we’re already working together. The conversation is already forming. We have the faculty, the collegiality, and the interdisciplinary focus in place to move forward, especially with our connections to the community and the corporate world,” she says. “I think it’s extraordinary.”
The new building will be “a meeting place, a hub for a lot of what the College stands for. Augsburg has never had a closed academic quadrangle. What I love about the architecture is that it is meant to be a thoroughfare for the campus, for the communities, for the city and beyond.”
Stortz describes a class that her colleague, physics professor Ben Stottrup, taught this past semester. Stottrup combined business and science by bringing in acclaimed chefs from three Twin Cities restaurants—Victory 44, Borough, and Haute Dish—to discuss the physics of food. Because the local food scene is a hotbed of youthful creativity, inventiveness, and vibrancy, its appeal to students is apparent.
“I see the CSBR as a resource to the college but also as an incubator for the city. It invites corporate sponsorship and draws people in,” says Stortz, who believes that the notion of an applied liberal education is in Augsburg’s DNA. “We have business students doing internships, but what if we had science students interning in restaurants? Those kitchens need what Augsburg students and faculty have to offer.”
Through another of Stottrup’s panels, this one on beer and entrepreneurship, Stortz met Jacquie Berglund ’87, the founder and CEO of FINNEGANS, a Minneapolis brewery that donates 100% of its profits to local food banks. Stortz invited Berglund to a keystone course for business majors, which she team-taught with marketing professor Bill Arden. There, Jacquie explained that she’d been “bitten by the service bug” at Augsburg. She shared her belief that righting society’s wrongs is a responsibility that belongs to everyone in every corner of the city, not just churches, nonprofits, or municipal governments.
“By the time she finished talking, all of my students wanted to do internships with her. That’s the kind of synergy you get here. That’s what’s happening now, and this building is going to make it happen more,” Stortz says. “Who wouldn’t want to support that?”