Scheduled to open in January 2018, the Hagfors Center will be Augsburg’s newest and largest academic building. The facility — designed by Minneapolis-based HGA Architects — features a student-centered layout that will foster intersections among areas of study and encourage collaboration. As the Finance and Commerce article noted, the Hagfors Center was the focus of a successful $50 million fundraising campaign that exceeded its goal.
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.
Award-winning author, columnist, and professor Samuel Freedman featured five Augsburg College community members in a commentary for The New York Times’ On Religion section. The piece, “Muslim College Chaplains Extend a Hand Across Religious Divides,” highlighted the work of Muslim Student Program Associate and Chaplain Fardosa Hassan ’12.
As Freedman reported, Hassan is among dozens of chaplains on college and university campuses across the U.S. to “play a vital dual role: helping Muslim students feel welcome, and introducing Islam to non-Muslims.”
This work, according to Hassan, has the potential to assist students during their college days and positively influence individuals’ lives long after graduation.
“My role is to help students negotiate this multifaith, diverse environment,” Hassan explained to Freedman. “I’m going to give them a tool for when they go out of this institution, so they know how to be respectful of others. A lot of times, people are afraid even to ask the questions of people who are different. So I say, begin with friendship. Start by saying hello.”
In his column, Freedman acknowledges that interfaith conversations are meaningful and necessary not only on Augsburg’s campus but also just beyond its borders in Minneapolis.
Augsburg “is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has traditionally attracted the vast majority of its students from white Protestant denominations,” he writes. “Yet its campus directly abuts the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood that is the epicenter of Minnesota’s population of 31,500 Somali Muslims. Perhaps nowhere else in the United States does a hockey rink sit so close to a halal meat market.”
While Augsburg has been a collaborative neighborhood partner for many years, President Paul Pribbenow has deepened that commitment in an effort to help the College fulfill its calling to foster conversations between the diverse residents of its vibrant community.
The story touches on interactions between Hassan and Augsburg College students whom Hassan has helped reflect on their spirituality to consider how it shapes their interpretations of the world. In this role, Hassan partners with College Pastor and Director of Ministries Sonja Hagander in individually supporting students as they navigate highs and lows, challenges and opportunities, faith and even their final exams.
Person-to-person efforts, according to Hassan, are at the heart of her work.
Augsburg College music therapy students created original compositions to help patients and families at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital get better sleep, and MinnPost recently featured the students’ collaborative endeavor.
During the 2016 spring semester, students in the Music Therapy Senior Seminar course taught by Annie Heiderscheit, director of the Master of Music Therapy program, wrote lullabies as part of a community partnership.
The music therapy students worked with music business students and their advisor, Augsburg Instructor Dain Estes, to produce high-quality recordings for use on the hospital’s network of digital, interactive health care features. Individuals can choose to play the calming tunes using devices in their hospital rooms. The Auggies’ compositions also are part of a pilot study that is exploring whether listening to music helps improve sleep quality in patients and families who use it in the pediatric intensive care unit.
“We had to spend time talking about how we use music for sleep and styles of music and specific elements within the music that we really need to leverage to help young patients fall asleep,” Heiderscheit explained to MinnPost.
Next the students began creating their original pieces, which was a complicated task, according to Estes, because the compositions included substantial tempo reductions to guide listeners into a relaxed state.
“This was an extremely difficult assignment because of how the heartbeat works,” Estes said. “Starting every song at 120 beats per minute and bringing it down to 40 beats per minute is not as easy as it sounds.”
“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.
A recent report airing on WCCO radio noted that as students of all ages returned to school this fall, “Augsburg welcomed the class of 2020, with staff greeting students as they walked into the chapel for convocation. However, the class of 2020 had a special distinction – they are the most diverse class the college has seen, with more than 45 percent of them being students of color.”
As Augsburg College President Paul Pribbenow explained, ““For Augsburg, that means that our commitment to diversity, to inclusion and [our] commitment to justice is actually being lived out by the students who come here to be part of our community,”
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.
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.
KARE 11 television recently interviewed a group of 5th graders who created a multicultural cookbook as a way to promote diversity and tolerance. The students are part Public Achievement, an Augsburg College program designed to teach democracy and citizenship through service projects.
The segment also featured program director Dennis Donovan. “There are a lot of issues in the world, and we need people to come together and solve these problems,” he said. “Having young people participate in public achievement gives them a skill-set and process that normally they would not have.”