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/

Jane Addams School for Democracy comes to a close

After twenty years of democratic education and practice, the Jane Addams School for Democracy met for the last time earlier this month. From the beginning, its founders sought to free and cultivate the talents, cultures, and interests of people from diverse backgrounds and traditions and engage in a minimally structured, non-hierarchical way that allows participants to shape the agenda. The Jane Addams School for Democracy brought immigrant families, college students and other community members together to do public work and learning. It was inspired by the vision of democracy, productive citizenship, and popular education held by settlement house pioneers like Jane Addams, who created Hull House in Chicago in 1889.

As we consider the current state of our democracy, the principles and practices of Jane Addams School are a much needed antidote to the polarization and division that colors public discourse. We have faith that the lessons of Jane Addams School can continue to support a more just and democratic world. In 2007, the Kettering Foundation published a book called Voices of Hope: The Story of the Jane Addams School for Democracy which features 22 essays by 12 Jane Addams School participants, including non-native English speakers, and more than 75 photos.

Citizens as Co-Creators

By Harry C. Boyte

I like your question to students, “how are decisions on various levels of importance are made?” I agree that the capacity to “throw the rascals out” is essential.

But I also am convinced democracy is not only about decision making. It is about co-creation and a feeling of ownership – where “culture” comes in.

Some years ago I had an exchange with two distinguished academics, Eric Olin Wright and Archon Fung, about their “Deepening Democracy” essay, later published in Politics and Society (my response, “Reconstructing Democracy,” is also on the Havens site).

They were interested in developing “transformative democratic strategies,” larger than local experiments or single issue movements. Drawing lessons from large scale examples which they called “empowered deliberative democracy,” from habitat conservation planning under the Endangered Species Act to participatory budget discussions in Brazil, they developed a model which  could be adapted to schools.

They distilled three principles: Issues have a practical focus on specific, tangible problems; all involve ordinary people affected by the problems and officials close to them; all rely on deliberative development of problem solving. They noted three design features – decentralization of state decision making to local units; creation of formal linkages that connect local units to each other and to more central authorities; and ways to support and guide problem-solving efforts.

Continue reading “Citizens as Co-Creators”

My Passion for New Adventures

As a way to further reflect on their experience with Campus Cupboard, polish their communication skills, and explore new topics related to food and sustainability, Campus Cupboard volunteers will be publishing weekly blogs this fall. Below, Malia kicks off the “Food and Sustainability Series” by exploring new food adventures. Check back each Monday for new musings from the students!

By Malia Thao (’16)

Living in a big and dynamic world, I have a strong passion to travel across the globe, for new adventures and to learn more about the various cultures out there. Food is always a big part of that learning.

Last semester, I was fortunate enough to studied abroad in two countries: El Salvador for a short term winter break, and South Korea for a semester long. Both of these international experiences were wonderful and awesome learning abroad experiences. The biggest highlight of everything was the authentic foods from these places. One of my favorite foods in El Salvador was Pupusa which is a thick tortilla bread stuffed with a bean paste. On the other side, my favorite food in South Korea was Kimbap and Dakbokki. Kimbap, is a steamed rice wrapped with all kinds of vegetables and Dakbokki is a spicy rice cake stew. Just thinking about these foods makes me really want to go back to visit El Salvador and South Korea. Continue reading “My Passion for New Adventures”

Food Waste, Hunger, and You – By Emily Campbell (’17)

Recently, Campus Kitchen students joined peers from across the country at the 2015 Food Waste & Hunger Summit, where we networked, shared insights, learned new ideas, and were honored with a “Going Beyond The Meal” award.  Check out Emily Campbell’s (’17) reflection and call to action below, and stay tuned for more student reflections!

The United States wastes 40 billion pounds of food each year. 40 billion. That statistic is staggering, but it’s even more unsettling knowing that 1 in 6 Americans do not consistently know from where their next meal is coming. Some throw perfectly edible food in the trash while others go hungry. It’s a paradox: in a decade, our landfills will be so full of food and other organic material that we’ll have to start exporting our trash and yet there are still people who are food insecure. I could go on with statistics about hunger and about wasted food, but I’ll cut to the chase: What can we do about it? Continue reading “Food Waste, Hunger, and You – By Emily Campbell (’17)”