Celebrating Excellence and Providing Opportunity with Gift to CSBR

RebekahDupontLSAMPGrads14“One of the most exciting things about being an educator is seeing former students come back,” says Rebekah Dupont, Augsburg professor of mathematics, director of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs, and a donor to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR). She’s looking forward to welcoming alumni and other volunteers to the CSBR and thrilled that Augsburg will have a STEM learning environment that reflects the excellence of its students and faculty. “The CSBR is exciting on a lot of levels,” she says. “I can’t wait!”

Welcoming STEM Alumni Back to Augsburg

131031 calc class 315(1)In the 20 years since Dupont joined the Augsburg faculty, she’s seen a lot of students come and go – and come back again. “It’s engrained in Augsburg alumni to give back,” Dupont says. Alumni help prepare students for high-paying, meaningful STEM careers by mentoring students, visiting classes, and arranging for site visits, research opportunities, and internships. “I’m passionate about being able to watch the journey of alumni and work with them collaboratively,” Dupont says. By helping students, alumni also help educate greater numbers of qualified STEM graduates to meet workforce demand and diversify the workforce. Part of faculty, staff, and alumni’s shared work is to ensure that first-generation college students and others master both the technical skills and the “soft skills” they will need to excel in the workplace. “If we can support these students, we’re benefiting them, their kids, their parents, and their families.”

CSBR Will Open Doors to STEM Careers

RebekahDupontConferenceThe design of the CSBR will facilitate both formal and informal interaction between students, alumni, and faculty in different fields. “This interaction will feed their careers,” says Dupont, who helps students discover career paths they may not have considered. “Jobs in STEM sectors are the highest paying and have the highest job satisfaction and security rates of any sector,” she explains. Increasingly, she says, scientists with advanced degrees are going to work for corporations, rather than colleges and universities, so interaction with business students and faculty in the CSBR will be valuable to students as they discern their vocations. As an example, Dupont points to significant growth in the need for highly analytical graduates who have the ability to work with “big data,” the unprecedented volume, velocity, and variety of information available to businesses today. “A STEM degree in a larger liberal arts context helps them understand the implications, ethics, and creativity of their work,” Dupont says.

Honoring Faculty, Students and Alumni with CSBR Gift

Dupont recalls a recent conversation with a 1965 alumni couple who shared how Augsburg faculty challenged them to do their best, but also supported them and gave them the confidence to succeed in their careers in mathematics. She loves to hear stories like theirs. “Our faculty give their all to their students,” she says. “And they’re resilient and resourceful! When you look at the level of work being done, the amazing amount of undergraduate research, and the limited resources and facilities the faculty have, it’s very impressive.” In a way, she says, her financial support of the CSBR is in honor of Augsburg faculty. “This facility will allow them to take their students to even higher levels.”

 

Science, Business, and Religion Keystone Course Inspires Vocation

At Augsburg College, Russell Kleckley, in the religion department, and Larry Crockett, in computer science, developed a keystone course for students to explore the intersections between science, business, and religion. Illustrator Timothy Foss visited the class and saw Augsburg College students making connections between disciplines and finding vocation at the core of their real-world implications.

CSBR Gifts Support Auggie Success on the Mat and in the Lab

Jeff Swenson with distinguished alumni wrestlers at Homecoming 2014

Jeff Swenson ’79 with distinguished alumni award recipients (and wrestlers) Dean Kennedy ’75 and Mike Good ’71 at Homecoming 2014.

“Anytime that Augsburg does something spectacular, it’s time to celebrate,” says Augsburg Athletic Director Jeff Swenson ’79. Whether it’s making the dream of the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) come true or winning the 2015 NCAA Divison III National Championship in Wrestling, it’s all good for Augsburg. “There’s a lesson to be learned for all of us,” Swenson says of the wrestlers’ victory. “You’re never out of it. You never give up. Many people had counted the team out, but the team never counted itself out. They believed anything was possible.” Swenson also supports another one-time underdog, the CSBR, as a donor and fundraiser. Like campaign leadership, fellow alumni and benefactors, he believes in the CSBR.

First Impressions Matter

“I took classes in our current science building in 1975, and it was old then,” Swenson says, pointing out the simple truth that Augsburg doesn’t have enough labs and science classrooms to meet students’ needs. He admits that coaches hoping to recruit student athletes often skip the science building on tours for fear that it will make a bad first impression. If facilities are inadequate, some students assume that the institution doesn’t care about a particular academic discipline or activity. That couldn’t be further from the truth in the case of science at Augsburg. “There’s some incredible work that goes on in that science building,” he says.

40 Years of “School”

Swenson says he’s gone back to school—not work—at Augsburg every fall since 1975. He keeps learning how to make the student-athlete experience a little bit better every day. “That’s what fuels me,” he says. “It might have to do with providing them with more coaches, or better-lit facilities, or more locker rooms. Whatever the project is, we always want to be moving forward.”

His job is about much more than athletics, though; it’s about Augsburg’s mission. “At Augsburg, we’re preparing our students to be future leaders. Once you’ve been a student athlete and you’ve managed classes, studying, practices, and competitions, then everything else is easy.” Continue reading

Untying the Colt: The Beauty of Generosity

Mike Good '71Our Augsburg capital campaign received some very good news this past month. We’ve been notified of a multimillion dollar estate gift from one of our alumni, who recently passed away unexpectedly.

We’ll share details with you about this magnificent gift very soon. Meanwhile, because it comes to us as something of a surprise, I’m drawn to explore the beauty and mystery of such generosity. For me it connects with the way a special holiday can lead us to see things in a new way, to hear a story and understand it in a new light.

That’s what happened to me on Palm Sunday.

I’ve been spending some time in Florida with my wife Ann and our daughter Mandy, my son-in-law Joe (both Auggies), and our two granddaughters. They attend the Sun Coast Community Church in Sarasota. It’s a non-denominational big box church and the first half hour consists of the congregation standing and singing along with the musicians to (loud) gospel rock music. Then the “teaching pastor” gives an inspiring sermon, many times using video to support his message.

That morning a song caught my ear. It’s by the News Boys, off their CD called “Restart.” The lyrics that stayed with me are:

“We believe in the resurrection.

So let our faith be more than anthems

Greater than the songs we sing.

In our weakness and temptations, 

We believe, we believe!”

Since most of you reading this message know me pretty well by now, you’re probably not surprised that these lyrics truly spoke to me. I hope you’ll listen to it in its entirety.

On Palm Sunday, the pastor had a message that caused me to reflect about giving and our campaign for the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion … and how we are getting so close to its successful completion.

The Lord needs it

The story he shared with us that morning is the familiar Palm Sunday story from Luke 19: 28-42. But this time, the Pastor shared a new way of looking at the first part of that jubilant ride into Jerusalem. It gave me an insight that I’d never really thought about.

His first point was this: “When challenged with our resources, remember the phrase, the Lord needs it.” (v31) Continue reading

Faculty Member’s Gifts Support Augsburg’s Commitment to Vocation

Russell KleckleyRussell Kleckley got hooked on the study of Johannes Kepler when he was working on his doctoral dissertation in theology at the University of Munich in the late 1980s. Kleckley, Augsburg associate professor of religion, became fascinated by the work of the sixteenth-century scientist and theologian, as well as the role of religion in shaping the world that led to the rise of modern science.

“Part of my interest in the CSBR is my own background in the history of science and religion,” Kleckley explains. “The new twist for me is the business connection.” He has participated in several CSBR Summit panel discussions among faculty and alumni; co-developed a course on science, business, and religion; and is a CSBR donor himself. “The CSBR is a chance to invest not just in a building but in an idea,” explains Russell. “This idea, that science, business, and religion all benefit when they engage each other, can empower our students to think more deeply, to act more responsibly, and to believe more boldly than conventional approaches make room for. That’s something worth a commitment of dollars as well as mind and spirit.”

Science + Religion + Business = Vocation

Kleckley thinks that Augsburg’s take on integrating the three academic disciplines makes a lot of sense, historically speaking. “When you go back to the Reformation there is a great deal of interest in understanding the world from a science point of view, but, more importantly, understanding what use we make of it to promote human good.”

It also makes a lot of sense for Augsburg, in particular. “Augsburg’s commitment to vocation is at the center of what we do; it’s the hinge, the key that pulls science, business, and religion together… We need to be thinking about science, business, and religion not strictly in terms of academic dimensions, but in terms of what affects people’s lives,” Kleckley explains. Continue reading