It comes as no surprise that a school like Augsburg College, with its commitment to opening doors to first-generation and under-served students, would attract former staff members from the Admission Possible program. Over the years many of Augsburg’s staff members, in particular those who have joined our admissions or student service teams, have come from Admission Possible (AP).
Admission Possible is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping promising low-income high school students prepare for and earn admission to college. Admission Possible works to make college possible by providing their students with ACT and SAT test preparation, intensive assistance with college applications, help in applying for financial aid, and guidance in the transition to college.
The newest Augsburg staff members to come from AP are Justin Nash, an undergraduate admissions counselor, Andy Haug and Steve Fenster in the Enrollment Center, and Kelly Strang, the new Luther Hall director. All four finished their AP terms of service in June and were quickly hired by Augsburg. Janet Bertok, another undergraduate admissions counselor and Michele Kidwell, Augsburg’s director of retention, are also former AP staffers. (pictured L to R: Justin Nash, Janet Bertok, Michele Kidwell, Andy Haug, Steve Fenster)
Steve Fenster — Enrollment Counselor
Steve came to Augsburg this summer with the other members of the “AP Army” (Steve’s special term for the group). He worked at Admission Possible for two years as a coach with students at Patrick Henry High School.
Steve said working for AP was an incredible experience, one that greatly impacted his life. “I went in to the job with aspirations of changing the world, but it quickly became much more simple. I realized that what was really amazing about the job was changing the lives of 35 high school students.”
Like other AP alums, Steve enjoys seeing his students become Auggies. Six of his students will be first-years at Augsburg this fall, and he was able to meet all of them at summer orientation in July. “It was really exciting to see them coming on campus and experiencing it as a college student. They were excited to see me as well, and repeatedly came to visit me at the office,” he said. Steve hopes his students will remember to visit him again when it comes time to apply for financial aid in the spring.
Justin Nash — Senior Admissions Counselor
One of our newest staff members, Justin joined the undergraduate admissions office in July. He worked at AP for two years at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis. The first year he was a junior coach, helping students learn about the college process and prepare for the ACT. Justin held after-school sessions to review English, math, reading, and science. He also taught test-taking strategies.
In his second year at AP, Justin was a senior coach and continued working with the same group of students. He helped them apply to and then prepare to go to college in the fall. His responsibilities included helping the students find college, fill out applications, find scholarships, write college and scholarship essays, fill out and submit the FAFSA, and compare financial aid packages.
Justin says his work at AP got him interested in and helped him prepare for a career in higher education. “I became very familiar with the process of applying to college, mentoring students, and promoting higher education. I never thought about a career in higher education until I started working for Admission Possible.”
Five of Justin’s students from Patrick Henry are in the first-year class at Augsburg this fall. He says it has been rewarding to see them, first at summer orientation and now beginning classes. “It was great to see the students’ and our hard work become reality.”
Andrew Haug — Payment Counselor, Student Accounts
Andy has been with Augsburg since early July. After graduating from college, he served with Admission Possible for two years as a junior and senior coach at Arlington High School in St. Paul. As a junior coach, Andy guided 30 students through intensive ACT test practice and joined them on campus visits and at college fairs. Andy is proud that after the practice tests and countless coaching hours, his students achieved an average ACT score increase of more than 20 percent.
In his second year at AP, Andy stayed with the same cohort of high school students for the college application and financial aid process. “I helped my students send the strongest applications they could put together,” he said, “and each of them was accepted to college! Thirty of my 31 seniors were accepted to four-year colleges.”
Andy says his service with Admission Possible gave him a deeper appreciation for the challenges that low-income and first-generation college applicants face as they try to prepare for college. “I had extensive experience helping students interpret all the communications they receive from colleges. The volume and complexity of all those papers is pretty intimidating!” he said.
It was Augsburg’s commitment to access for under-represented groups that encouraged Andy to apply for a job on campus. He hopes his AP experience will be helpful in his new role as a payment counselor in the Enrollment Center.
Janet Bertok — Senior Admissions Counselor
At AP, Janet was the AmeriCorps*VISTA events associate and planned all the campus visits, practice ACT Tests, community service day, and a graduation event. “I felt honored to work at AP with such idealistic, motivated, and talented students and staff,” she said. “We really made it our mission to get our kids into college.”
Janet says working at AP helped her understand the challenges faced by high school students in trying to attain a college degree. This understanding compelled her to help make college more accessible, a goal that eventually brought her to Augsburg. She was impressed with Augsburg’s commitment to serve students as represented by support programs like StepUP, TRiO-SSS, CLASS, ACCESS, and the ethnic student services. She said, “I thought, clearly here is a progressive school which seeks to help each student reach their full potential, and that’s something I can support wholeheartedly.”
Now Janet finds an immediate bond when she meets prospective students and shares her connection to Admission Possible. “AP students come to know that the program is an advocate for them in the college application process,” she said, “and my experience with AP lessens the intimidation they might experience when meeting with an admissions counselor.”
Michele Kidwell — Director of Retention
An AP counselor from 2001 to 2004, Michele has been with Augsburg as an employee since April of 2005. She is also a 2005 graduate of the Weekend College program and was a McNair scholar during her undergraduate education. Michele plans to complete her thesis work in Augsburg’s Master of Arts in Leadership program this fall.
Michele was part of AP’s first group of AmeriCorps volunteers, working at Roosevelt High School. “My kids were such a source of inspiration to me,” she said. “I’m positive I learned more from them than they learned from me.” Michele said she gave her students the tools to get into college, but they gave her a new path for her life’s journey.
In her third year with AP, Michele met a bright, motivated young woman whose story she remembers well. “She was very driven to go to college because she was an emancipated minor and knew she would be on her own when she was 18,” Michele said. The young woman worked hard prepping for the ACT but came down with a serious infection and was hospitalized for a period of time. “When I heard she was in the hospital,” Michele said, “I went to visit her and she had her AP materials at the hospital. That really impressed and inspired me.”
Without her AP experience, Michele said she would most likely be working in the corporate world. “I fell in love with the idea of working in higher ed through AP and as an Augsburg student,” she said. “I started my career search here because it felt like home.”
Michele’s experience with AP and exposure to the work culture has given her guiding principles for her work and life in general. “They have a very strong organizational culture that can be summed up in the word ‘delightfulness,'” Michele said. “Corp members and full-time staff always do more than is expected of them and are happy to do it.”