Sociology Students Attend 110th ASA Annual Meeting in Chicago

Augsburg sociology students with Professor James Vela-McConnell
Augsburg sociology students with Professor James Vela-McConnell

From August 22-25, 2015, five Augsburg sociology students received URGO funding to attend the 110th American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Chicago. According to the association’s webpage, “Nearly 600 program sessions are convened during the four-day meeting held every August to provide participation venues and networking outlets for nearly 3,000 research papers and over 4,600 presenters.”

Keisha Barnard, a senior, presented her paper titled “Moprivation: the Motivation and Deprivation Produced by Social Media Usage” during the conference.

“This was my first time at an ASA conference. I did not expect the conference to be so large. It was amazing to be surrounded by some of the most prestigious sociologists,” said Barnard. “If I had the opportunity to attend the conference again in the future, I would pick ‘random’ presentations to sit in on instead of picking topics I am familiar with. I went to several presentations that included information I’ve previously studied; thus, instead of learning new information, I was refreshed on familiar topics.”

When asked how attending the conference would affect her studies in the coming year, Barnard replied, “Throughout the conference, I heard critique about the discourse of sociology. Many expressed the urgency to make sociology public. Instead of taking public action, many sociologists stick to producing research paper after research paper. Though these research papers are important and needed to provide crucial information, I am more motivated to take the provided information and transform it into public action. Thus, my future studies and career path will hopefully involve action-oriented work.”

Students Devin Wiggs, Hannah Bech, Duina Hernandez and Courtney Terry also attended and presented at the conference.

URGO offers up to $850 in travel funding for Augsburg students who wish to present research at a professional conference.  These funds can mitigate the high costs of travel such as airfare and lodging, and can contribute to students’ professionalization. To learn more and to find the URGO Travel Application, click here.

Written by Mary Cornelius ’16


URGO Alum Spotlight: Alison Rapp ’11

Photo courtesy of Alison Rapp '11
Photo courtesy of Alison Rapp ’11
Photo Courtesy of Alison Rapp '11
Photo Courtesy of Alison Rapp ’11

Alison Rapp graduated from Augsburg in 2011 after studying communications, international relations, and Japanese. While at Augsburg, she participated in independent research, academic year research through URGO, and the summer research program in 2010, where she partnered with Prof. Kristen Chamberlain.

For her Masters, she headed across the river to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in communications and critical media studies. Now, she’s a Product Marketing Specialist for Nintendo of America. Below, she answered some questions for us about her research experience as an undergrad and how it helped her get to where she is today.

How did you first get involved with research as an undergrad? Was it something you were expecting to get involved with, or something that developed from your other experiences at Augsburg? 

My first big research project wasn’t even through URGO—it was an independent study with Martha Johnson. I’d gotten back from a study abroad in Japan, and wanted to keep studying the onnagata (men who play women in traditional Japanese theater), so I did. I’d always enjoyed asking questions, soaking up info, and figuring out stuff on my own, so research was probably a natural fit.

Then, I figured I’d apply for a summer URGO grant to study archetypes of femininity in The Legend of Zelda video game series—I’d always loved video games, and I was super into gender and sexuality studies…except I actually got turned down for the grant. It was a pretty big blow to my ego. But I kept pursuing it and ended up getting two academic-year grants, and a summer grant before all was said and done.

What tools did you learn as an undergrad researcher that you carried into your graduate research and your career?

My URGO summer research project was a look at the relationships and representations of couples in yaoi and yuri manga, which are Japanese comic books about gay and lesbian relationships, written for heterosexual women. I continued that project during grad school.

More generally, after doing multiple URGO programs and writing all those huge papers and so on, I went into grad school knowing I could handle it. I mean, grad school is a whole other beast and is definitely really tough and time-consuming, but I knew that I’d done it all before, so I could do it again. A lot of it was a confidence thing.

Now, I work at Nintendo, and a lot of my job is about being a game expert. People from other teams come to me to learn about games that the company’s making, and it’s my job to know everything there is to know about the game I’m assigned to, and to be able to make it make sense to everyone else. Of course, a big part of that is collaborating with the other people on my team—we share knowledge and teach each other so we can all be experts on as much as possible. My job is like being a researcher and a teacher! Not to mention one of my URGO-funded research projects was on The Legend of Zelda…it feels pretty neat to have joked with people in college about how I was studying video games, and now I’m working at the company that made the games I studied. I’m definitely very lucky.

Briefly describe your current research interests (and what your URGO summer project was!).

 Now that I’m out of academia and in industry, a lot of my research interests are dominated by my work, which is games. I’m not complaining! But I still try to keep an eye on communication research more generally. The Pop Culture Association—I presented my Legend of Zelda research to them a few years ago—is hosting their 2016 conference in Seattle, so while I won’t be presenting any original research there this time, I’m still planning to go and see what cool work other people are doing.

 What’s the most exhilarating part of your current job at Nintendo? (Or—what does your average work day look like?)

 People like to joke that my job is just playing video games all day, and while there are days I do that, the vast majority of my time is actually spent educating other people about the games, writing about them, giving feedback on things people create for the games, and so on. I also do quite a bit of traveling. I wear a lot of hats, and I stay very busy, but it’s super rewarding. I get to meet a lot of Nintendo fans, and hearing them talk about how much a game or character means to them is the best—I mean, I grew up a Nintendo fan, too!

 What tips do you have for current Auggie undergrad researchers about how they can make the most of their time in college?

I had the most success when I was sassy. People who are older than you or have more education than you aren’t gods — they’re fallible and the materials they assign are fallible. If you have an issue with something, or you don’t like a book, say so. The stupidest and the smartest thing I ever did in college was actually the summer before I started. I got my books a couple months early and started reading The Question of God for Larry Crockett’s intro Honors Program course. I hated the book, so I emailed him—before I’d ever met him—to tell him so. I ended up getting a 4.0 in his class. That’s when I realized that doing good schoolwork isn’t everything—showing you’re not someone who just automatically internalizes what other people tell you is also really (if not more) important. You can be gutsy and successful—they’re not mutually-exclusive, and sometimes they’re directly related.

The 2015-2016 URGO Academic Year Research Grant application is now posted under the “research” tab on the right. Talk with a faculty member today and get started on your own research path!

Written by Mary Cornelius ’16


Featured Researchers: History Scholars Caitlin Crowley and Greg Lewis

150526 Caitlin Crowley 017
Caitlin Crowley; photo by Stephen Geffre
150526 Greg Lewis 020
Greg Lewis; photo by Stephen Geffre

Augsburg is nearing a very important birthday: 2019 will mark our “sesquicentennial” or 150th year. To commemorate this event, history professor Phil Adamo is working on a book about the history of Augsburg with the help of undergraduate student researchers. Caitlin Crowley and Greg Lewis are two summer researchers involved with the project. Read on to hear about how they became history majors and what it’s like to work as part of a humanities research team.

How did you decide to be a history major? What is your interest area within the field?
CC: I would like to say I decided to become a history major because I have always enjoyed history and I immediately was drawn to it. It didn’t quite happen like that. I started at Augsburg as a transfer student and I had planned on majoring in English literature. I ended up becoming a history major after taking a class with Phil Adamo. I liked the class so much that first I decided to become a Medieval Studies major. Then, I switched to History after about a year. History classes have always been my favorite classes. I am still especially interested in ancient and medieval history, but after studying more modern history I am realizing I just love it all.
GL: I always knew that I would end up being a history major because I always loved the past, mainly because it is the greatest story ever. It has all of the fun that you could ever expect to see: romance, mystery, sci-fi to a degree, and of course stories of revenge. All in all I have always found it interesting. My favorite time period to study is ancient or medieval, because  I am consistently amazed at the revelations that those people came up with.
Describe your summer research project and how it fits into the larger History of Augsburg project as a whole.
CC: We are helping Phil research and write about objects related to Augsburg’s history for the school’s sesquicentennial (150 years). Each of us picks 1-2 topics a week to study, and our goal is to write about four pages per topic by Friday, when we get together and share what we’ve written with each other. The purpose of studying Augsburg’s history in this way is to add interest…We want to write about things current students and future generations will really be interested in. It certainly makes researching more fun, at the very least.
GL: I am studying different aspects of Augsburg’s history; ranging from Peter Agre’s Nobel Prize to commuter students.
What’s the most interesting Augsburg tidbit, fact or story you’ve learned so far?
CC:  Augsburg used to forbid dancing. Basically, think of the plot of “Footloose” and you have a good idea about how people felt about it. One of the books they cited that detailed the perils of dancing was called “Jitterbugging Your Way to Hell.”
GL: That is like choosing a favorite child. However, the one that I got the most laughs out of was hearing an unconfirmed rumor that Peter Agre got a “D” in his chemistry class with his dad teaching.
How is working on a collaborative project like this different from previous research you’ve done in classes (if it is different at all)? Have you learned any new skills in the process?
CC: It’s different because we provide each other feedback at the end of the week. It can sometimes be rather brutal and honest, but we talk about our strengths and weaknesses as writers and that really helps us all grow to be better at it. I’ve already noticed a difference in my writing because of it.
GL: It is pretty nice, I have to say. The benefit comes when I need a person to bounce ideas off of and my team is right there to help, and it helps that they are all experts too.
What’s your dream job?
CC: Currently (emphasis on currently) my dream job is to be an exhibit curator or designer of some kind. I would like to work in Public History in some way, but I think it would be really interesting to write content for exhibits. I’ve always loved seeing the multitude of ways exhibits communicate information. It can teach people a lot more than a research paper in some ways, because there are so many mediums that exhibits use to communicate history.
GL: That would be the million dollar question. However I would love to be the CEO of some company or an executive of some sort. Also I think the President of the US would be a pretty good gig too.
Written by: Mary Cornelius

URGO Alum Spotlight: Megan Steffl

photo courtesy of Megan Steffl '12
photo courtesy of Megan Steffl ’13

Megan Steffl graduated from Augsburg in 2013 with a degree in sociology. She did research with Professor James Vela-McConnell during summer 2011. She is now a law student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she just completed her first year of study.

We caught up with her about what she’s up to now, how the skills she learned as an undergraduate researcher still help her today, and what tips she has for current Auggies.

How did you first get involved with research as an undergrad? Was it something you were expecting to get involved with or something that developed from your other experiences at Augsburg?

When I first came to Augsburg I wasn’t even sure what my major would be, and research was something I had not thought about much. However, I had friends that participated in URGO the summer before me, and what they were able to accomplish really inspired me. By the time URGO applications came around I had decided on a degree in Sociology, and so I sought out a professor that would be willing to work with me.

What tools did you learn as an undergrad researcher that you carried into your current position as a legal intern and student at GWU?

Time management and discipline! I met with my professor weekly, but much of my project was on my own time and required me to stay on top of things without someone telling me what to do and when. This is very similar to law school, because all of your grades are based off a single exam at the end of the semester. It taught me how to break down a project, or a semester, into smaller pieces instead of cramming at the end. This also helped me in my job before law school, because employers want to see that you are a self-starter who will get things done without being micromanaged.

Briefly describe your current research interests/law specialties (and what your URGO summer project was!).

Currently my research centers around my legal internship. Most recently I have researched legal issues surrounding employment law, collective actions and criminal welfare fraud in the District of Columbia. As a second year law student I will be on a journal and write a note, where I will research a legal issue in depth and suggest a legal solution. I am interested in the intersection of technology and law, as well as our laws surrounding maternity and paternity leave. Naturally, I will incorporate my Sociological background into any study I do.

My URGO summer project was a study on friendships between Christians and Muslims. It consisted of a literature review, and interviews with sets of friends where one was Christian and the other Muslim. There has always been tension between the two religions, but especially so since 9/11. I saw that our own community was struggling with this tension as the Somali population grew in Minneapolis, and I wanted to learn what made friendships between the two parties work, and how we could create more positive relationships.

I am still interested in fostering peaceful relationships between people of all beliefs, but now my tool is the law. I hope to become an employment law attorney and protect individuals from employment discrimination.

What’s the most exhilarating part of your current job? (Or—what does your average work/school day look like?)

Right now I am working in Washington, D.C. in what is called Judiciary Square, as it is home to most of the city’s courthouses. Every morning I come to work in Abraham Lincoln’s former office, half a block from the spot on which he gave the Emancipation Proclamation. The location and the buzz of people alone are exhilarating, but what happens in the courthouse is even more fun.

I love dissecting cases, researching the law, and writing briefs, but the best part of my job is going to court. Not only do I get to see attorneys in action, and see what my career might be like, but some wild things happen in criminal court. By the end of this summer I will have a whole collection of stories.

What tips do you have for current Auggie undergrad researchers about how they can make the most of their time in college?

Be engaged and get to know your professors. Be engaged by participating in activities that demonstrate your interest in a particular subject. You do not have to be a member of every group, and the organization does not need to be completely on point, but it’s great to be able to show an employer or graduate institution that you really are passionate about something by pointing to an organization you participated in.

Get to know a few professors well. Again, don’t spread yourself too thin, pick a few professors that specialize in your area of interest or can give you advice, and go talk to them in office hours. Tell them what you want to do and ask for their advice. They are there to help and they will! This especially applies to the professor you are working with on your research project. If you don’t have a class with them next semester, go talk to them anyway!

Make sure to maintain those relationships after graduation as well, you never know when you might need a letter of recommendation, and it is hard for a professor to write one if they don’t remember you because they haven’t heard from you in years. Another small piece of advice, if you plan to apply to graduate school, ask your professors to write a letter of recommendation while you’re still in school. It’s much easier to write a letter when you’re still in class with the professor and your performance is fresh in their mind.

Kuramoto ’15 Named Fulbright Teaching Assistant to South Korea

RecTaylor Kuramotoent graduate and mathematics major, Taylor Kuramoto, has been selected to serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Korea for the ’15-’16 academic year! Fulbright receives thousands of applications each year, and Taylor was selected by both U.S. and South Korean committees.  Taylor will be working with elementary or secondary students and will have the opportunity to live with a South Korean family in a home-stay. In her time outside of the classroom, Taylor plans to create English talking circles like those she participated in at the local Jane Addams School for Democracy as a Bonner Leader and hopes to use her experience as an Auggie soccer player to connect with students and peers through the sport.

Taylor is a natural fit for the Fulbright ETA program having spent much of her time here at Augsburg teaching and engaging youth in nearby communities. Through the Bonner Leaders Program, she has tutored K-8 students at Kaleidoscope Place, helped immigrants study for the U.S. citizenship test at Jane Addams School for Democracy, and worked with St. Paul’s ELCA youth urban gardening program.  Taylor has actively sought out additional opportunities to serve others as an Augsburg student and athlete, volunteering at youth soccer camps, going on two Campus Ministry service trips, and helping with Campus Kitchen meals.

Taylor has a passion for learning and a desire to use that knowledge to effect change. As a mathematician, she spent last summer at the National Institute of Math and Bio Synthesis at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville conducting research on the transmission of bovine respiratory disease among cattle and this summer was accepted to the University of Minnesota’s Summer Institute in Biostatistics (although she will already be overseas for her Fulbright ETA at the time of SIBS).  She is also a Sabo Scholar and served as an URGO statistics research assistant on Professor Nancy Rodenberg’s social work research on cultural competence education.  We are looking forward to hearing all that Taylor is able to learn and experience during her time in South Korea.

If you are an upcoming senior, recent graduate, or Augsburg alum and would like to learn more about the Fulbright Program, please contact URGO at or 612-330-1446 to set up an appointment. URGO works with individuals throughout the summer to explore Fulbright’s offerings, select a destination country, and prepare a competitive application.

Tips to Current Auggies from a Graduating Senior

Today is senior Anna Romskog’s last day at URGO. She graduates tomorrow. Here are a few tips she has for students at Augsburg.

“I’m going to take a page from Dixie’s book here: you actually have 11 semesters here at Augsburg, three of them are summers, use them wisely. URGO has helped me do that, with funded research between my sophomore and junior year. That opportunity opened doors for me to do other research and it is part of the reason I’m going to graduate school in the fall.

Use the resources available to you. That’s my biggest piece of advice. URGO will help you get ready for grad school and fellowship interviews, they will help you write your CV and your personal statement. They will tell you about opportunities that they think will be good for you or that you might be interested in. Kirsten, Dixie, and Catherina will help you along the way.

I have loved spending the last two years here working for URGO. I have seen how deeply they care about students and how much they want to help people reach their goals, whether that’s grad school, research, traveling to present research or fellowships. URGO helps you achieve. Dixie, Kirsten, and Catherina give their all to help students and they drag you into the URGO family. I’m sad to leave them but I’m looking forward to the next opportunity they have help me achieve.”

Augsburg’s Best Showing In Goldwater Competition

Juniors FikGoldwater close upre Beyene (Physics) and Lyle Nyberg (Biology and Chemistry) have been selected as Goldwater Scholars, and junior Andris Bibelnieks (Math, Physics & Computer Science), as Goldwater Honorable Mention.  The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type for students pursuing research careers in STEM.

Winners receive up to $7,500 for undergraduate education costs.  More valuable than the monetary award is the moniker “Goldwater Scholar,” which serves as a shorthand to graduate and fellowship programs that these STEM students are among the nation’s top undergraduates in their respective areas. For example, recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 86 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Awards, 123 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

Lyle, Fikre, and Andris were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,206 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Each college, regardless of the size or kind of institution, can nominate only four candidates. Candidates are carefully vetted by each sponsoring institution so the resulting field is formidable.

This year, among Minnesota private schools, Augsburg had the highest number of scholars (Augsburg with two and St. Olaf and Gustavus each with one), and when honorable mentions are included Augsburg rose to the top as well.

All Augsburg nominees participated in research on campus under the guidance of faculty mentors. Augsburg’s STEM departments are dedicated to creating opportunities where students can play a significant role in the research process.  These experiences helped students develop a deeper understanding of their projects and their fields, as was evident in the quality of their applications.


Fikre Beyene (Sundquist Scholar, McNair Scholar, Rossing Physics Honorable Mention ’14, Rossing Physics Scholar ’15, and AugSTEM scholar) has worked in Dr. David Murr’s space physics lab and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Cosmology and conduct research investigating dark matter and the early stages of the universe. He will continue his research with Dr. Murr this summer.

Lyle Nyberg (Lindstrom Scholar) has worked with Dr. Vivian Feng at the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology housed at the U of M. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and enlist in the Air Force where he hopes to conduct research aboard the International Space Station. Last fall he was selected to participate in an informational weekend at the famous Scripps Research Institute in Florida In April, he co-presented (with Augsburg student Hilena Frew) his research on nanotechnology at Harvard University. This summer he will be conducting research at University of Pennsylvania.

Andris Bibelnieks has worked with Dr. Ben Stottrup and Dr. Pavel Belik and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics  and conduct research to create new composite materials. This summer he will return to the Boundary Waters as an outfitter, where his interest in composite canoe materials first was sparked.
URGO wants to thank the applicants for their hard work, the faculty letter writers who took great care to write meaningful and convincing letters, and research mentors  and classroom teachers for developing these students as researchers.
It’s a great time for science as Augsburg.

Zyzzogeton 2015

This year’s Zyzzogeton was a huge success! We had 85 presenters from 21 different departments on campus present their research. It was an excellent event and it was great to see what students had been working on. Check out the gallery below to see some of the posters that were presented at Zyzzogeton.

Fulbright Spotlight: Rose Sybrant

Rose Sybrant, Augsburg Masters of Education student served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ecuador from 2012-2013.  She is now using her Spanish skills to teach 5th grade at at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School. Fulbright does not require teaching experience, but for those majoring in education, it is a great way to get experience abroad!

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?
I was interested in an opportunity to travel and teach abroad. I had heard of the Fulbright program and knew that my participation in the program would help me in my future career. Having studied abroad as a high school student, I also knew that living in another culture provides experiences that cannot be matched here at home!

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter?
I learned to be flexible, take things as they come and be open to new experiences. While my time in Ecuador certainly had its ups and downs, I wasn’t afraid to try new things and that made my time richer and much more beneficial. I met lots of different people, many of whom I am still in contact with to this day.

How did you change or grow from the experience?
I learned a lot about Ecuador, the culture, its education system and had the chance to improve my Spanish. I now teach in a Spanish immersion school – I would not be here if not for the Fulbright program!

The Fulbright program is designed to be an inter-cultural exchange. How did you get to know those in your community? How did you learn about your host country and its culture?
During my first several months in Cuenca, Ecuador, I lived in a boarding house for college students. I got to know a lot about student life there. I think it can be easy to live with other Americans, but you don’t learn as fast as if you live with a family or in a boarding house like I did. I worked with the Foreign Languages department at the University of Cuenca where I taught English classes and became acquainted with the faculty there.

I learned about Ecuador and its culture simply by participating it. I attended holiday parties and other celebrations at the boarding house. I went to festivals with friends, I tried everything (except for guinea pig, I admit it).

I am a big knitter and I also joined a cross-cultural knitting group. I just found people knitting in a cafe one day and asked if I could join! There were Canadian, American, and Ecuadorian knitters in the group. It was a lot of fun.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
I am known as Sra. Sybrant at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School. I teach fifth grade and my plan is to keep doing so for as long as they will let me! I am a graduate student at Augsburg, I obtained my teaching license in Elementary Education and Middle School Math in January 2014. I plan on finishing my master’s degree during the next school year.

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?
My advice is to go for it! The application process is long, but for such a life-changing opportunity, it was totally worth it! I learned a lot about myself while applying and even more during my amazing experience.


To learn more about Fulbright, join us at our Information lunch today, March 27th at 12:30 in Lindell 301!


Fulbright Spotlight: Katie Edelen

Bangladesh_boatsKatie Edelen graduated from Augsburg in 2011 with a triple major in environmental studies, biology, and chemistry. She won a Fulbright to do research at the Oslo Peace Research Institute. Since then she has also won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to earn her masters in water science at University of Oxford (England) and, been  named a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow, and is currently working as Legislative Associate for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C..

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?
Get paid to go abroad, explore, meet amazing people from all around the world, do research. Um, yes, yes, yes, and yes!

But in all seriousness, I was looking for a unique opportunity that would let me address the chasm between science and policy in the global community. Fulbright not only offered the opportunity to fund my research at a top-tier research institute that boasted international scholars that focused on environmental factors of conflict, but also the opportunity to explore the world, engage in the local community work, and expose me to new ideas and perspectives.

I got all of this! I made amazing, life-long friends in Norway that were both from Norwegian and from around the globe. In fact, a German friend that I met in Norway has been staying with me in DC during her Ph.D. exchange.

While in Norway I traveled extensively in the country and across Europe and was able to travel to Bangladesh to do field research as a result of an additional Fulbright grant.

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter (or the application process)?
1. Patience
When you’re abroad not everything works the way you expect and when you are in a country that seems at least on the superficial level very similar to the US, this reality can sometimes be even more challenging as you don’t anticipate it.

2. Go with the flow/Being able to adapt
This kind of relates to the first, but it so important I repeated it. Whether it’s cultural or related to your Fulbright, patience and a go with the flow attitude helps. Coming into the experience, I had certain expectations, despite not all of those expectations being met, others were met if not hugely exceeded. Be willing and open to adapting will not only bring you experiences and lessons learned that you would never expect, it is a lifelong skill that few people have, but is so crucial for many jobs.

3. You only get as good as you give
You will only get out of the experience what you put into it. If you push yourself to put yourself out there you will be surprised about the outcomes and the amazing experiences you will have. This, of course, is hard even when you are in familiar circumstances and that much more daunting when in an unfamiliar environment, but trust me it is so worth it.
Some of the Fulbrights during my year had a difficult time with the cultural differences and really retreated into their work or their friends that shared cultural similarities. We had very different experiences and they really didn’t enjoy their experience.

How did you change or grow from the experience?
I really found myself in unexpected ways. Fulbright set me on a path that I could not imagine otherwise. With every new amazing opportunity I experience, I still think about where I came from, this young girl from Wisconsin that otherwise would not have such an opportunity. I want others to know that this is possible for them too. It opened my world to a whole new and other set of possibilities and challenged me to work across areas and disciplines that are so often siloed and made me think about things more holistically, and while this is still challenging in my professional career in a world made up of silos, I could never imagine not pushing those boundaries. I met people that awakened me to areas of myself, my interests, and my life path that I would have otherwise not known were even there or possible. I cannot emphasize more how life changing this experience was, beyond this it provided me with a network of people that make me feel like I am home every time I get to see or talk to them. It gave me a sense of purpose and belonging in my journey.

The Fulbright program is designed to be an inter-cultural exchange. How did you get to know those in your community? How did you learn about your host country and its culture?
First, I would be wary of assuming a “single” homogeneous culture within any country. The longer you are there, the more you realize the slight differences or heterogeneous sub-cultures that exist in a single country and how these differences can complement each other, but also challenge held perceptions and norms, which can lead to conflict (but as we know conflict is a reality of a free and open democracy). During my time, I had a foot in two very different Norwegian worlds, one an ethnically-Norwegian academic world (apart from the visiting scholars and those that were there because their partner was Norwegian), and the other a first-generation, recent immigrant community in Norway. If you make an effort to learn more about the cultures and experiences of people outside the dominant narrative it will help you have a much more complete understanding of the country and its current challenges and opportunities.

I said yes to everything……literally everything. Whenever I was invited to do anything I did it. For every cringe-worthy embarrassing or self-doubting moment I experienced I had seven amazing stories. And honestly, if nothing else, it teaches you to take yourself less seriously, which is such an important lesson. Also, as a foreigner, people let you get away with a lot of stuff……as long as you are humble and willing to learn and admit your ignorance all while doing it with a smile.

Apart from the Norway I experienced with my co-workers and fellow international friends, I volunteered with an NGO that worked on issues related to diversity and inclusion and a Somali-Norwegian youth group. This gave me an entire different understanding of Norway and exposed me to a different dimension of the Norwegian culture and experience.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
I am working for the oldest and largest peace lobby in the United States based in the D.C. I work on issues at the nexus of environmental peacebuilding and diplomacy, natural resource governance, and counterterrorism efforts. My job includes writing and advocating for U.S. policies that promote conflict-sensitive, climate-resilient development strategies in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Plans for the future: get back abroad and back to the field. Continue to address entrenched cycle of poverty, violence, and environmental crisis by promoting the importance of inclusive and sustainable management of natural resources for the promotion of peace within and across communities, institutions, and governments.

Side note: I just finished moderating a briefing at the U.S. Senate on the role of natural resources in the CAR crisis and opportunities for these same resources to assist in promoting peace. One of the fellow panelists was a fellow Fulbright Scholar (Professor) also based at PRIO (the research institute I was based at for my Fulbright).

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?
Do it, but only if you are willing to push yourself, are not easily daunted (I’m pretty sure I wrote 20-30 drafts of my statement/research plan) and know exactly how this experience will lend itself to your personal and professional growth. We as an Augsburg Community are so blessed with an embarrassing abundance of faculty/staff members that are not only talented, but also extremely generous and kind with their time. If you are willing to put yourself in the sometimes uncomfortable position of having your work critiqued, you will learn so much about writing and general good etiquette for drafting applications that can last you a lifetime. Please remember that your first go at your application will be nowhere where it needs to be and if you are open to the constructive advice of faculty and put in the work yourself, you will come out with an amazing application. And whether you are or are not ultimately selected, you will learn so much about yourself in the process. The process can be daunting at times and know that you are not alone in writing what will feel like 1500 drafts. One more note on that, for Fulbright selection committees, personality and passion often play a far greater hand in their selection than grades alone. Let yourself come out in the application and you won’t be disappointed!