Interfaith at Cedar Commons Fosters Connection, Understanding

People sitting around tables in Cedar Commons sharing a meal.
Attendees at an Interfaith at Cedar Commons event share a meal and conversation.

Twice a month, students and community members gather in the Cedar Commons space adjacent to Augsburg’s campus, intentionally coming together to build relationships across faith and non-faith traditions and learn from each other’s experiences, stories, and convictions. Coordinated through the Sabo Center for Democracy & Citizenship, Interfaith at Cedar Commons is one of many initiatives based at the Sabo Center that connect the Augsburg campus and the wider community. Gathering around a topic and often a meal, participants discuss subjects ranging from Islamophobia to religious holidays, human rights, political activism, and creation stories. The inter-generational group involves faith communities from the Augsburg campus and the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, and integrates the Interfaith Scholars program, cultivating student and community-based leadership.

Shoshana Freund and Bethany Keyl are two Augsburg students who have been involved with Interfaith at Cedar Commons as current or past interns with the core team of students and community members that plans the gatherings. They described the interfaith events as open, welcoming spaces where topics and faith and non-faith perspectives are understood to be complex. For Shoshana, an atheist, the complexity of these discussions were refreshing. Speaking from her experience on the planning team, Shoshana described how the topics chosen for the events are designed to help people from all paths–including those who do not practice a religion–to find common ground through storytelling and experience sharing. Often this leads to new, profound understandings of people and communities who might otherwise have remained “Other.” Interfaith is an opportunity for students and others to see that “people of other belief systems are not antagonists,” Shoshana said. “Their beliefs don’t exist to contradict yours.” Bethany noted that the gatherings are an opportunity to find “common ground” and to “foster understanding” through the experiences and stories of people who come from different traditions.

Beyond story-sharing and relationship-building, Interfaith at Cedar Commons is also focused on building skills for inter-faith organizing. Activities such as power-mapping, one-to-one trainings, and other aspects of community organizing have been regular additions to the 2016-17 school year interfaith meetings. These skill-based sessions, along with the practice of having nuanced and complex conversations about meaning, core commitments, and the role of different faith traditions in the world with community members from campus and beyond, makes Interfaith at Cedar Commons a program that embodies the Sabo Center’s commitment to “create a culture of civic agency and engagement among students, faculty, staff, and our broader community so that graduates are architects of change and pioneers in work of public significance.”

Curious to learn more? Learn more about Cedar Commons using the following link:

http://www.augsburg.edu/cedarcommons/

Learn more about Interfaith @ Cedar Commons by using the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/914923151875489/

Sabo Center Collaboration: Cultivating Civic Skills for Community-Centered Healthcare

When most people think of nursing, the first association that comes to mind is not usually “political.” But the Nursing Department at Augsburg College, in partnership with staff at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, is encouraging their students to think of nursing as just that: public, change-making work, focused on relationship-building, public dialogue, and grassroots efforts in local context.

Beginning in 2009, the Augsburg College Nursing Department began collaborating with the Sabo Center, bringing in Public Achievement Organizer Dennis Donovan to teach graduate students about beginning organizing skills, such as one-to-one relational meetings. In the years since, the Augsburg nursing program has turned to social change-making as a key component of its course curriculum, focusing on the social barriers to health in addition to bedside care. After receiving a grant from the Augsburg College president’s office in 2014, the Nursing Department worked with Sabo Center staff to train department faculty about civic skills, and to subsequently embed these concepts into curriculum and coursework. Such core civic skills include one-to-one relational meetings, formulating public narrative, deliberative dialogue, power mapping, and public evaluation.

Katie Clark, Nursing Instructor and Director of Augsburg Central Health Commons and Health Commons in Cedar-Riverside, incorporated these civic skills into a graduate-level class focused on unique models of care and communities as the foundation of health, utilizing a social justice lens. For their final project, students had to apply civic skills in the context of their care site. The impact on student’s professional self-understanding was immense, according to Clark. Because of the incorporation of civic-focused strategies in their nursing practice, “students think about how they can create change in different ways. I don’t think people in nursing really think of themselves as political,” Clark said, “Nurses are more caregivers…(but) students get out of that mindset and think, ‘Oh, I could have a one-on-one (relational meeting) with that person.’ I see students thinking about engaging in their community differently.”

The collaboration with the Sabo Center has complimented the nursing department’s commitment to transcultural nursing, a model for nursing that holistically considers culture, life patterns, and other social factors while providing culturally competent care. Health and people are viewed not as discreet cases, but as individuals who are incorporated into webs of relation and inhabit different ways of being in the world. Nursing thus becomes concerned with community health, examining how and where people belong, the strength of human connections, and health inequities. Rooted in community-based praxis, nursing professionals know not only how to administer direct care, but how to build relationships, formulate a public narrative about community health, and advocate for change.

The community-based, transcultural focus of Augsburg’s nursing program has also intersected with another Sabo Center program, Campus Kitchen. For the past 4 years, the Nursing Department and the Sabo Center have partnered to host an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, with a particular focus on the intersection of the Health Commons and the Campus Kitchen-run Augsburg Community Garden. Through the relationship between the two programs, more Cedar-Riverside residents have been engaged with the garden; additionally, the relationship between Health Commons and Campus Kitchen has been key to the success of the farmer’s market gleaning project, with a neighborhood health liaison hired by Health Commons spreading the word about the program and distributing food.

Partnerships and collaboration are a hallmark of the Sabo Center’s work, and the relationship with the Nursing Department embodies our mission to foster civic agency, to help cultivate public, change-making skills, and to forge connections with the local community. Read more about our mission and purpose.

Want to learn more? Visit the Health Commons website, the Augsburg College Nursing Department website, the Augsburg Campus Kitchen website, and the Sabo Center website.

Profile: Grace Corbin, Campus Kitchen Student Leader

Photo of Grace Corbin
Grace Corbin preps a meal for one of Campus Kitchen’s partner sites.

For Grace Corbin, food justice is not just about making sure everyone can eat. As a participant in Augsburg College’s Campus Kitchen program throughout her four years at Augsburg—this year as a student leader—Grace has come to understand the sharing of food as an essential aspect of breaking down social and cultural barriers. Whether it is through serving food to elders at the Ebenezer Towers, gleaning food from the Mill City Farmers Market, or growing food in the Augsburg Community Garden, Grace sees all of the aspects of Campus Kitchen as opportunities for relationship building with community members, fellows students, and staff. Relationships, she says, are key to building equity when it comes to food access, and health and community well-being more generally.

Grace’s time with Campus Kitchen has also allowed her to develop skills and interests that she might not otherwise have explored. Grace credits her experience with Campus Kitchen—particularly learning about food systems and food waste—as inspiring her interest in environmental sustainability and ultimately her interest in pursuing faith-based environmental work after graduation. Co-leading a student plot in the Augsburg Community Garden and our weekly gleaning efforts this summer provided her with an experiential learning opportunity that quickly pushed her out of her comfort zone to learn about vegetables, event planning, the logistics of food distribution, and the diverse community that surrounds Augsburg’s campus. Grace took on the challenge: “I learned a lot of things about myself…(and) how willing I am to challenge myself.” Participating in Campus Kitchen was even a physical feat: over the course of last summer, Grace and a fellow student lifted over 5,000 pounds (!) of leftover produce from the Mill City Farmers Market and distributed it weekly to elders in a nearby apartment complex.

Augsburg Campus Kitchen is part of the national Campus Kitchens Project, which focuses on

  • Strengthening Bodies by using existing resources to meet hunger and nutritional needs in our communities
  • Empowering Minds by providing leadership and service-learning opportunities to college students, and educational benefits to adults, seniors, children, and families in need
  • Building Communities by fostering a new generation of community-minded adults through resourceful and mutually beneficial partnerships among students, social service agencies, businesses, and universities

Campus Kitchen at Augsburg focuses on four aspects of food justice: Food to Share (free meals, on-campus food shelf, and gleaning), Food to Grow (community garden), Food to Buy (farmers market), and Food to Know (food education).

Interested in learning more about the work of Campus Kitchen through the Sabo Center at Augsburg College? Take a look at our website or check out our day-to-day on Facebook. And you can always volunteer! Contact Campus Kitchen director Allyson Green by emailing greena@augsburg.edu.

Sabo Fellow Rep. Frank Hornstein: The Use of Holocaust and Nazi Analogies in American Politics

Photo of Rep. Frank Hornstein (MN House District 61A)
Rep. Frank Hornstein (MN House District 61A)

When Frank Hornstein began serving as a representative for Minnesota House District 61A in 2002, he started to notice an unsettling phenomenon. From references to smoking bans to the conduct of teachers unions, Hornstein observed colleagues on the floor of the Minnesota House comparing a variety of issues to the Holocaust or to Nazi control. Nazi and Holocaust analogies, Hornstein found, were proliferating in wider American political discourse as well, with Nazi comparisons made in debates on issues such as abortion, climate change, and gun control.

These flippant and ahistorical analogical uses of Nazi and Holocaust terminology worried Hornstein. As survivors of the Holocaust die and there are no eye-witnesses left, what damage might casual use of Nazi analogies do to the historical memory and interpretation of the Holocaust? When we normalize the language of Nazism by using it in reference to a bill or political debate, do we lose sight of its horror—especially when Nazi symbols are being used today as genuine threats? What are the consequences for civil discourse when Nazi and Holocaust analogies are used, and when are they legitimately warranted? How might these references weaken democratic discourse?

Hornstein had an opportunity to explore these questions in-depth as a Sabo Fellow with the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College. Sabo Fellows are community-based leaders and scholars interested in exploring a question of public significance while engaging with students and the Augsburg community. In the past year, Hornstein’s time as a Sabo Fellow led to research, writing projects, and presentations about the use and misuse of Nazi and Holocaust comparisons in American politics, culminating with a public presentation and conversation at Augsburg College on Tuesday, November 29, from 2-3 p.m.

The presentation and discussion, entitled, “The Use of the Holocaust and Nazi Comparisons in Contemporary American Politics,” was moderated by Rep. Hornstein, and featured a presentation by Dr. Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Professor of History and Director of the Undergraduate Program in Judaic Studies at Fairfield University. Dr. Rosenfeld’s scholarship focuses on the history and memory of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany in popular culture, and his scholarship provided a theoretical foundation for Hornstein’s exploration of Holocaust and Nazi analogies in the American political sphere.

In a fraught political climate in which Nazi analogies are on the rise, Hornstein’s research is timely and increasingly important for those who strive for a democratic society and institutions.

Missed joining us in-person or online? Watch the presentation and discussion from the event.