This fall, Augsburg College hosted alumni, faculty, staff, and community members for an international travel experience that took participants to the Czech Republic and Germany, which is in the midst of a tourism boom accompanying the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The travelers visited Wittenberg, the long-time home of Reformation catalyst Martin Luther, and ventured to historic sites to learn about the origins of the Lutheran faith from Augsburg College Religion Department faculty members Hans Wiersma and Lori Brandt Hale.
Star Tribune reporter Jean Hopfensperger and photographer Jerry Holt accompanied the group to chronicle how Minnesotans are observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in the “Land of Luther” in addition to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” given that religious, arts, and cultural organizations across Minnesota are planning special events and exhibits to mark the occasion.
As Hopfensperger wrote, “Luther’s legacy is particularly deep in Minnesota, and not just because of his followers’ enduring embrace of hymn fests — often followed by Jell-O and hot dish. One in four residents trace their namesake faith to the monk from Wittenberg.”
In a Star Tribune story, Augsburg alumnae Carol Pfleiderer ’64 and Kathleen Johnson ’72 described their excitement with the trip itinerary and the ways it reflects and builds upon their understanding of their faith.
The Rev. Mark Hanson ’68, the College’s Executive Director of the Christensen Center for Vocation, was among other alumni quoted in the article. He described some of the ways the Lutheran church is using the Reformation anniversary to foster Lutheran-Catholic dialogue and to make the church accessible to all people.
“You’d never expect to find a leafy arboretum in a high-density, high-diversity, high-traffic neighborhood,” says MinnPost writer Jay Walljasper. “But that’s exactly what Augsburg College is planning for its unmistakably urban campus in the heart of Minneapolis, which borders Fairview Riverside Medical complex, the high-rise Riverside Plaza towers, two freeways, two light rail lines, busy shopping districts on Franklin Avenue and Cedar Avenues, plus one of the largest Somali communities outside of Africa.”
Walljasper, a senior fellow for the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, described Augsburg’s ambitious plan to transform its campus into a living laboratory in a recent article on the history of the urban college, its intent to plant native Minnesota species, and its brainstorming and decision-making processes for the landscape design project.
President Paul Pribbenow met with leaders of the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board to discuss Minnesota’s educational achievement gap among children and youth of diverse backgrounds. The state has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, and Augsburg is working to ensure all students of academic ability have access to higher education. The College’s pledge to this work includes limited debt pathways to graduation, setting aside dedicated housing for homeless students, increasing financial aid literacy, supporting faculty in creating inclusive classrooms, and increasing access to course materials.
The editorial explained that Minnesota is rapidly diversifying, but increasing student diversity on college campuses involves more than waiting for more nonwhite Minnesotans to enroll. “As Augsburg College is demonstrating, academic institutions can do much to adapt their own policies and practices to educate what previously has been an underserved share of the state’s population,” the editorial explained.
Augsburg has sought to reduce barriers to college success that often impede students of color, and the College aims to not only to enroll a larger share of nonwhite students, but also to see them through to graduation.
Associate Professor Lars Christiansen teaches courses in Augsburg’s Department of Sociology and Urban Studies Program. Christiansen puts his scholarship into practice as director of the Friendly Streets Initiative, a St. Paul-based organization that facilitates community organizing through creative public engagement events. The group aims to help communities envision positive change to public spaces, collect and analyze data, and assist neighbors in navigating city planning processes.
Christiansen described the successes of the Friendly Streets Initiative to author Jay Walljasper for a chapter of the new book, “America’s Walking Renaissance: How cities, suburbs, and towns are getting back on their feet.” Walljasper serves as a senior fellow in Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and his writing explores how new ideas in urban planning, tourism, community development, sustainability, politics and culture can improve citizens’ lives.
An excerpt from “America’s Walking Renaissance” was published by MinnPost and included a photo of Darius Gray ’15, a community organizer with FSI.
Augsburg College Professor William “Bill” Green studies and writes about Minnesota history and law. He recently was quoted in a Minnesota Public Radio article that examined the roles non-black activists play in furthering the Black Lives Matter movement’s agenda.
In the article, Green called on the history of the U.S. Civil Rights movement to analyze current demonstrations and protests. He also discussed the ways “protest fatigue” could impact the movement’s progression.
As a local dentist, Augsburg College alumnus Dr. Pat Patel ’75 served the small communities of Clarkfield and Cottonwood, Minnesota, for decades. The Advocate Tribune of Granite Falls and Clarkfield recently published a story detailing Patel’s career and the unusual way he’s leaving his business upon his retirement. Instead of selling his dental practice property, Patel opted to donate his assets to the city of Clarkfield so that they could be awarded as an incentive for young dentists seeking to start their own practices in the area.
According to the article, Patel did not want Clarkfield to be without a dentist after his retirement and sought a way to “give back to the community that he spread his roots in.”
A recent report airing on KARE 11 television noted that, “Augsburg College is located in the heart of Minneapolis in one of the most diverse zip codes in the city.” And, the College’s graduating class reflects that diversity.
As the story explained, “Under President Paul C. Pribbenow‘s leadership, the college has more than tripled the percentage of minorities in the full undergraduate body. In 2006, there were 11 percent compared to 33 percent in 2016.” The traditional undergraduate graduating class of 2016 is comprised of more than 42 percent students of color — a record achievement for the institution.
Pribbenow said Augsburg has been committed to attracting and supporting students from minority populations for more than a decade and has partnered with college readiness programs to achieve its success.
The broadcast report also included an interview with Robert Harper ’16, an alumnus who described why he values his college experience and the diverse makeup of his graduating class.
The Star Tribune recently covered the start of construction on the Norman and Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion — Augsburg College’s much anticipated interdisciplinary academic building scheduled to open in January 2018. The article notes that the capital campaign for this building project was the most successful in the College’s history and so far has generated $54 million, which is eight times more than Augsburg has ever raised.
The story also acknowledges the generosity of the building’s lead donors, describing Norm Hagfor’s career success and the decades-long connection the Hagfors family developed with Augsburg.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently included a statement by Sam Graves ’16 in an article covering a large donation to the PACER Center, which specializes in creating technology designed for children and young adults with special needs. The $1 million donation was given by the Otto Bremer Trust.
Graves, a recent Augsburg College graduate who lives with cerebral palsy, credits the Center’s library of software and adaptive devices as part of his educational success. “Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to be independent,” he said.
Graves graduated with honors April 30 and was awarded the first-ever Youth Leadership Award by the Otto Bremer Trust later that evening.
The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal recently published an article covering the revelation that a previously unidentified $10 million donation toward the naming of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion had been given to Augsburg College by Norman and Evangeline Hagfors.
The donation originally was announced in early 2015, with the donors remaining unnamed until the recent groundbreaking ceremony. In a statement on the Hagfors Center website, Evangeline Hagfors said, “Adding our name signals that we stand with Augsburg. We support the CSBR project and the many benefits it will provide faculty, students, and the Augsburg community.”