Summer Research Spotlight: African American Military Service in WWII

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.

Grant Berg, a Pre-law Political Science and History double-major with a minor in Communication Studies, conducted research with Dr. Michael Lansing in the summer of ‘17. Dr. Lansing and Berg looked into the history of the St. Paul Rondo community during the early to late 1940’s and the African American men and women who served in the armed forces. Grant shares his summer research experience below.

My research was initially going to focus only on the Montford Point Marines, the first black Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officers that were recruited for WWII. This piqued my interest especially because the Marine Corps had a 200-year ban on African American men from joining the program. Other branches of the armed forces also blocked African American men from combat roles. To broaden the scope of the research, my mentor Dr. Michael Lansing, chair of the Department of History here at Augsburg, suggested we look more into every branch of the military at the time, and to narrow the research to the St. Paul Rondo community. That gave me the amazing opportunity to go into the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society and examine the oral histories of black veterans from the community who either grew up or lived in the Rondo community.

I stumbled upon many interesting finds in the piles, such as correspondence between a Minneapolis military chaplain, turned civilian pastor, and a young U.S. House representative from Texas named Lyndon B. Johnson. Other finds were the seemingly forgotten effort by the Navy and Army Surgeon General to impose a rule against black people from donating blood for the war effort. This was called out by the African American press, who utilized science to disprove the argument that black blood and white blood could not be mixed.

Because racial bias and discrimination drive many current issues, we have to talk about and preserve this nation’s history when it comes to minority groups and their push for basic freedoms that other citizens enjoy. 

Throughout this experience I learned how to be a more informed leader about the communities around me, how the historical injustices of the past directly impact us today, and how to use historical knowledge to change things today. Through this I can be a better student here at Augsburg as well as a better ally to those struggling for justice.

Grant Berg is an honors student who takes pride in cultivating a productive campus environment through community service and political activism. Grant is currently Honors House Hesser co-president, and an intern with the Amy Klobuchar for Minnesota re-election campaign.

The information packet and application for URGO Summer Research are now posted on the URGO website. Now is the time to get started!

If you have any questions about the research program or the application, please contact us at


Summer Research Spotlight: Diversity in MN Book Awards

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.

Gabe Benson conducted research this past summer under the mentorship of English Professor, Sarah Groeneveld.  Gabe shares his reflections on his summer research experience below.

What was your project?

My project focused on fifty Minnesota Book Award-winning novels and how they were (and were not) representative of diversity by comparing it to Census data of Minnesota. I read twenty-five adults novels and twenty-five young adult novels and kept track of primary characters, secondary characters, and tertiary characters. I then kept a list of the gender, race, and sexual identity of these characters.

What did you learn?

I learned that, in most cases, the novels greatly represent minority groups. This was the case for black, Latino, Native American, and LGBTQIA+ people. Women and Asians were both underrepresented.

How did this project help you grow and develop academically?

Reading such a large number of novels in such a short amount of time was immensely gratifying. I feel like I am now more aware of character diversity in the books that I read and how those characters are (or are not) reflective of the diversity of society around me. Also, being held accountable was challenging but gratifying. Working on my own most days was a new experience for me, and I definitely grew from it.

What would you like to see happen with your research?

I would like to continue exploring certain facets of my research (e.g. intersectionality, author identity, etc.) and also continue the research as each year of the awards gives new awards for fiction and young adult fiction. I would like to one day get it published.

What was the hardest part? The easiest?

The hardest part was the point in my research experience where I was faced with a mountain of data from fifty novels, and I needed to turn it into a thesis. That was very intimidating, but it was very gratifying to see it come to fruition. The easiest part was getting to read all day as a full-time job. Reading is my favorite activity, so it was a pretty awesome experience to have gotten paid to read novels all summer.

What advice would you give Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts (SSHA) summer researchers?

My advice to SSHA students is that you will need an overly specific grant proposal. Four-hundred hours in ten weeks may seem plausible to tackle a topic, but I think SSHA students need to focus on how their research idea can fill eight hours in a day. I can propose that I will study Beethoven’s symphonies as my topic, and that could fill 400 hours, but what will you be doing those eight hours of your work day? Will you be listening to music for eight hours? Probably not. You need a plan for each day that is realistic and reachable. You can make a research proposal looking at something that you love, but it can sound plausible to fill 400 hours with something you love, but those eight hours can often be daunting when you begin the day. For me, I read a whole novel each day. This is not something everyone can do, but I went to different libraries, different coffee shops, and different spaces to shake things up and keep me active so I wouldn’t be sitting in my house all day. It may seem hard to make such a detailed plan for your research, but I think it is necessary.

Please join us at one of URGO Summer Research Information Sessions to learn more about the program, hear from past summer researchers, and get the inside scoop on the application process.

Tuesday, November 28th @3:30 in the Marshall Room

Wednesday, November 29th @6pm in OGC 100

Interview conducted by Grant Berg

Star Tribune Article On Augsburg Alum and Rhodes Scholar Brian Krohn

Check out this Star Tribune article on Augsburg Alum Brian Krohn; the article talks about his legacy at Augsburg and Oxford, and what he is doing now. Way to go Brian!

St. Paul inventor Brian Krohn combats snoring, creates wizard tools

From wizard staffs and surgery tools to sleep apps, this Minnesota genius applies science to real life 

St. Paul inventor Brian Krohn has developed brain surgery tools, pioneered biodiesel innovations and briefed members of Congress on how to turn waste oils into energy. But the young serial entrepreneur with some impressive academic credentials also does lots of not-so-serious stuff, like an analysis of the safest place to survive a zombie apocalypse (answer: Borneo). Or writing a 10,000-word essay on “the perfect food unit”: a nine-ingredient “inexpensive, convenient and environmentally friendly” burrito that Krohn ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner for six months while he was writing his doctoral theses.

He’s CWO (Chief Wizard Officer) for a startup that will make “a wizard staff that actually does wizard stuff.” Like shoot flames. Or spew fog. Now, Krohn, 31, is launching a cellphone app called Soundly. Developed with funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, it’s designed to help people who snore by getting them to play a voice-activated game that will strengthen the muscles in their upper airway. Colleagues and mentors have described Krohn as a “renaissance talent.” But the former Rhodes Scholar also embodies a typical Minnesotan vibe: enthusiastic, but unassuming. Earnest, but sometimes a bit goofy. Like his search for the perfect food that led to an unpleasant experiment in a “sardine-based fish bread.”

Oh, he also wants to create million-dollar companies from scratch, particularly if that involves “identifying needs and giving people value” using science and technology. “You can do it for snoring and magic wizard staffs and brain surgery,” he said. In a way, Krohn is still the same curious, creative kid who grew up in Cloquet making go-carts, potato cannons, trebuchets and claymation videos. Except now his inventions are being supported by government grants, academic fellowships and crowdfunding.

“He’s just one of those people who are naturally innovative,” said Davis Fay, an engineer working with Krohn on the Magic Wizard Staff project.

“He follows unmet needs,” said Steven Thomalla, another engineering colleague. “Brian is not biased in what he might work on. His next project might be in space development.”

Scientific silliness

Krohn’s path to becoming a useful mad scientist started when he switched from majoring in film to chemistry while at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. His undergraduate research on producing biodiesel from waste oils contributed to a new process developed (with the help of an Augsburg chemistry professor and an alum) to produce fuel in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way. Krohn appeared on “Good Morning America” to talk about the process, which was commercialized in the development of a $9 million pilot plant in Isanti, Minn. Also while at Augsburg, Krohn founded the Augsburg Honors Review, a place for undergraduates to publish their research papers. And he started the Agre Challenge, named after Peter Agre, an Augsburg alum and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Agre Challenge was a contest to see who could build a machine that would fling a three-pound sandbag various distances. Krohn went on to become the first Augsburg student to win a Rhodes scholarship, studying environmental policy and the philosophy of science at Oxford University. After which he developed Cycle Coach, an app with 80,000 users that provides audio of instructors to lead users through indoor cycling workouts.

Next stop was a doctorate in environmental science from the University of Minnesota. But he also found time to co-found Mighty Axe Hops, a 2015 joint venture that raised $4.6 million in financing and resulted in one of the largest hops farms in the Midwest.

“I like beer, and I like entrepreneurship,” said Krohn, who also taught beer brewing and recruited guest lecturers for a course he created at Augsburg on the art, history and science of brewing.

From wizardry to surgery

While at Oxford, he married Kari Aanestad, a fellow Augsburg student who he met during freshman year. They now have a 16-month-old daughter, “the best project of all,” Krohn said. His latest project, the Soundly app, was started while he was an Innovation Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center.

That’s where he also worked on a new tool that uses electrical sensors to allow a surgeon to precisely tell the difference between healthy and cancerous brain tissue. In between developing new medical devices, he created a Halloween prop, a wizard’s staff that uses compressed air to shoot out puffed cheese balls. Some engineers at the Medical Devices Center were so impressed with the gadget that they decided to start a company with Krohn, selling wizard staffs.

“We don’t have a background in the magic wizard staff space,” said Thomalla, lab supervisor at the Medical Devices Center. Still, he’s been moonlighting with Krohn to build fog and flame spewing prototypes with names like the Chaos Staff. Their startup company has gotten about 2,500 likes on Facebook from live-action role playing enthusiasts, cosplay fans and renaissance festival attendees who collect wizard staffs.

“A lot of times I get a little bug about something,” Krohn said of his diverse ventures. “I kind of just do things and see where they go.”

Meet the 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholars


Dustin Parks ‘17

  • B.A. in Economics and Finance
  • 2016 URGO Summer Researcher with Dr. Stella Hofrenning in Economics
  • Mayo Innovations Scholar
  • Fluent in Spanish

Traveling to Peru to conduct research on entrepreneurial education.

Dustin’s project will investigate the strengths and limitations of entrepreneurial coursework at the secondary level in the national, Peruvian education. He plans to use his experiences as a Fulbright Scholar to pursue a PhD in economics after his time in Peru.




Hannah Schmit ‘17

  • B.A. in Sociology and Religion
  • Minor in Biology
  • 2015 & 2016 summer research assistant with Dr. James Vela-McConnell in Sociology
  • Honors Program graduate
  • Choir member

Traveling to Czech Republic to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Hannah plans to engage with the Czech community with her musical skills and through volunteer work at a community outreach center. On her return, she plans to pursue a master’s in Public Health or Administration.



Hannah Frey ‘15

  • B.A. in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­International Relations and History
  • Honors Program graduate
  • Currently employed by AmeriCorps as a Digital Literacy Coordinator
  • Fluent in Korean

Traveling to South Korea to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Hannah plans to connect with the community by speaking their language and participating in dance and cooking classes. After her time in Korea, she plans on enrolling in a graduate program for International Affairs or Foreign Service and then working for the State Department of the United States.




Rachel Frantz ‘17

  • B.S. in Biology
  • 2014-2015 academic-year researcher with Dr. Kevin Potts in Biology
  • Two sport athlete (lacrosse and cross country), captain, and coach
  • Choir member
  • Also accepted to PhD in Marine Biology at USC-Los Angeles (full-ride)

Traveling to Malaysia to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Rachel plans to bring her skills from tutoring, coaching, and docenting and her passion for the environment into the classroom. She will attend six months of graduate school, teach for a year in Malaysia and then return to her PhD studies.

On Campus Research- Learn More about the Opportunities Available for SSHA majors interested in Research!

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.


Chau Nguyen ’17 is an Accounting and Management double major who conducted research with Dr. Walley in the summer ‘15. Nguyen’s research was focused on understanding monetary policy shock in emerging economies with a focus on Brazil. Nguyen is an active member of the Augsburg Community, serving as Vice President of the International Student Organization ’14-’15, as well as being a strong academic student.

It is not uncommon for students to struggle with the decision of when they want to partake in research and why they may be interested in it. “I went to the Orientation and was inspired by the success stories of many students who have done research before. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, but after speaking to my advisor, she thought I should apply for the experience and to figure out what I’m interested in in the process. It was a great opportunity to obtain new skills, such as researching, and data collection that have become extremely helpful for my academic career.”

Research may be a challenging experience. The process of choosing a project you are interested in, as well as the process of learning to ask the right questions, and learning to work independently can often be a daunting aspect. However, it doesn’t come without benefits. “We had weekly meetings where we talked about our progress and findings. I loved it because it’s the only time I get to sit with a group of peers and talk about the project (most of the time I worked on my own, which is different from STEM). I also developed a strong relationship with my research mentor. As the project progressed, Dr. Walley got to know me as a student, as well as, as a person. This relationship has been pivotal in honing down where my passions lie. Having a chance like this to do something you are interested in or passionate about is a great experience that you can’t easily get later on in your career.”

Nguyen participated in the URGO Summer Research in the Summer of 2015, and proceeded to work in the accounting department as an Intern at a local Minneapolis company. “The on-campus research experience was invaluable. It gave me applicable skills that I can use in other courses, as well as better equipped me for my future career. Interestingly enough, it influenced me to switch my major to Accounting. I’m applying for my Master in Accountancy and will continue to use the skills that I learned during research in future work.

We, the Augsburg Community wish Chau the best as she prepares for graduation and the next steps in her career!

URGO provides full-time summer researchers (400 hours) with a $4,000 stipend and housing discount while half-time researchers (200 hours) receive a $2,000 stipend. The program runs from May 15th – July 28th.
URGO also provides funding for students to work for a professor as a research assistant on an ongoing research project. This is a 100-hour commitment over the course of the summer and comes with a $1,000 stipend. This is an excellent opportunity to try out research for the first time or focus on a specific aspect of a research project.
Phase 1 of the applications are due February 1st!

URGO applications for 2017 summer research are now available on the URGO website at

All fields of study welcome! If you have any questions, email us at

The URGO office is located on the first floor of the Science building, SCI 152.


On-campus Research- Learn more about Auggie who participated and thrived in on campus research!

The URGO Summer Research Program is an 11-week, on-campus program where students are funded to conduct research with a faculty mentor. Students receive support throughout the research process from their faculty mentor, a Speaker Series, and weekly seminars with fellow researchers.


Ellie Peters ’18 is a Chemistry major and Biology minor who conducted research with Dr. Wentzel in the summer ‘16. Peters’ research focus was broadly in Organic Chemistry. After enrolling and excelling in Organic Chemistry, Dr. Wentzel and Ellie made a connection. “It turned out that we were both thinking that I might be a good addition to his research team for the summer.”

Peters’ is a highly active member of the Augsburg Community. She is both a student athlete as well as a board member of the Augsburg Chemistry Society (ACS) ‘16 and will serve as the President of ACS in the 2017-2018 academic year.

“It is definitely difficult to balance a rigorous academic schedule with jobs, volunteering, and other commitments. Adding research into that list stretched me pretty thin, but I can’t think of anything more worth my time. As for a social life, it was already hard to keep up an active social life, but research honestly helped me with this aspect. Not only did I gain valuable, really great relationships with Dr. Wentzel and other professors through research, but I also got to know and become good friends with other student researchers inside and outside of my group. These relationships and friendships have continued to grow long after the summer and I am positive that many will continue for life.” Although it may be a challenging experience, and requires time management skills, summer research experiences have always shown to be both beneficial to forming relationships with professors as well as honing down where ones interests lie beyond ones undergraduate career.

Peters’ conducted research at the end of her sophomore year, and continued with it during the 2016-2017 academic year. “Before doing research, I was planning on applying to medical school. After doing research, I am honestly undecided about what I would like to do. I am still planning on applying to medical school, but am also considering going to graduate school or working in industry and am hoping to have a research aspect in any future possible medical career. What this experience has really influenced regarding my future career goals is that it has made me know that I could be happy following a number of different paths.”

It is important to reach out to professors early on in your academic career in order to build relationships with professors as well as students within your selected major. Such experiences provide a plethora of opportunities beyond on campus research, based primarily on your interests. URGO provides full-time summer researchers (400 hours) with a $4,000 stipend and housing discount while half-time researchers (200 hours) receive a $2,000 stipend. The program runs from May 15th – July 28th.
URGO also provides funding for students to work for a professor as a research assistant on an ongoing research project. This is a 100-hour commitment over the course of the summer and comes with a $1,000 stipend. This is an excellent opportunity to try out research for the first time or focus on a specific aspect of a research project.
Phase 1 of the applications are due February 1st, so start talking with your faculty before break to learn about what research is going on in your department!

URGO applications for 2017 summer research are now available on the URGO website at All fields of study welcome! If you have any questions, email us at The URGO office is located on the first floor of the Science building, SCI 152.



                                                                                                                                            Wentzel research ‘16 research team


Off-Campus Research Programs: Pursue your goals, meet new people, explore a new city

Each year students apply to participate in off-campus summer research programs, where they are paid to conduct research with some of the nation’s top academics at universities, labs, or institutes. There are programs designed for students in the sciences and social sciences and they often include a research stipend and housing. These off-campus research opportunities provide students with the chance to meet and work with faculty who are in the top of their field. It additionally provides students with the opportunity to explore a new city, whilst exploring possible career routes post-graduation.

Winter break is the perfect time to check out URGO’s list of off-campus summer programs to find those that best fit your interests, and to start on the applications.

Then, join URGO for our Off-Campus Summer Research Application Workshop, Saturday, Jan. 14 10a.m.-2p.m in Sverdrup 201 to get individualized feedback and make progress on your applications. URGO staff will also be available for appointments to advise you through this process.

Michael Alves ‘17
“Met Mario Molina today. He’s the guy who got a Nobel Prize for co-discovering the impact of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer.”

Auggie conducts summer research at UC San Diego: After a competitive application process, Michael Alves ‘17, was accepted into a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) funded by the Center for Aerosol Impacts on the Climate and the Environment (CAICE).

“My interest lies broadly in Atmospheric Chemistry, leading me to dedicate a lot of my time to literature reviews in this area. This led me to a couple names fairly frequently. Dr. Kim Prather and Dr. Vicki Grassian are prevalent figures in the atmospheric chemistry field and I genuinely wanted to work with both of them. Thus, I applied and received funding to attend the 2016 American Chemical Society Conference in San Diego from Augsburg College so that I could meet with the Grassian Research Group and learn more about the work done at the labs in UCSD. My intuition about these labs was correct and I ultimately decided that it was a great opportunity for my development as a researcher.”

Alves transferred to Augsburg College after receiving his Associates degree from Minneapolis Community Technical College in the spring ‘15, and, after deciding against applying to bigger schools like the University of Minnesota, applied exclusively to Augsburg. “Without AugSTEM, I wouldn’t be coming to Augsburg,” said Alves. “I really like it here. I would rather choose this over anything else.”

Alves is currently working with Professor Dave Hanson in a project related to atmospheric chemistry. Identifying his passions and interests allowed him to receive mentorship from Dr. Hanson early on. “I got hired by Dave for the both the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic year, from his own funding,” said Alves. “When I am not in classes, I fill my time working about 10-20 hours a week for Dr. Hanson on a few projects during the academic year, namely the building of a mass spectrometer and the conducting of sulfuric acid nucleation measurements.”

Additionally, Alves is a McNair Scholar, as well as an AugSTEM scholar. “Sitting in my courses at Minneapolis Technical and Community College (MCTC), I never would have imagined that I would be trying to get my PhD in chemistry at the University Of California San Diego (UCSD). As a first-generation college and low-income student, the option of a PhD was not a real option until I transferred to Augsburg College as a McNair Scholar and had the opportunity to devise my own research proposal.” Alves also serves is the President of the Augsburg Chemistry Society where his main goal is to do outreach events at community colleges and public high schools in order to provide information on opportunities that they may be unaware of.

Alves will be graduating from Augsburg in the spring of 2017, with a Bachelor’s of Science and Honors in Chemistry. We, at Augsburg collectively wish him the best as he continues with his journey towards a PhD in Chemistry!

Written by Hilena Frew ’17

Michael Alves and the Augsburg Chemistry Faculty
Michael Alves and the Augsburg Chemistry Faculty


Pre-Health Profile: Kayla Roberge ’15, Physician Assistant Program

KaylaRobergeKayla Roberge graduated in spring 2015 with a degree in biology and a plan to apply to the three Physician Assistant (PA) programs located in the Twin Cities. As she explains, “A Physician Assistant is a medical professional who works under the supervision of a Physician. They can diagnose and prescribe medicine, develop treatment plans, perform procedures, as well as assist on surgeries. Their flexibility allows them to be able to be a part of a vast amount of specialties and experiences.”

Kayla will start the MPAS program at St. Catherine University in Fall 2016. We caught up with her to learn more about how she chose her PA program and what advice she has for students looking to apply.

Q: What led you to apply to the program you chose?

A: When I began thinking about applying to a program, it was important for me to stay close to home. I had already tried leaving the twin cities area once as a freshman in college before I transferred to Augsburg, and I knew it wasn’t for me. So ultimately, since there were then only 3 PA schools in Minnesota, I applied to all of them. I really had my heart set on St. Kate’s, though, because I had heard so many great things about their program.

Q: What activities (volunteer, work, clubs, research, shadowing, etc.) did you pursue during your undergraduate career that helped you focus your application and give you experience?

A: I did various activities throughout college that were all vital to strengthening my application. I was the captain of the cross country and track teams at Augsburg, and the Vice President of the Tri Beta Club. In addition to this, I spent time volunteering at U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital, and working part time as a Medical Scribe in ED and Urgent Care. I also spent some time researching with Matt Beckman and travelling to present my research. One of the most beneficial volunteer work I did was becoming a Research Associate in the Emergency Department at HCMC. Overall, some of the other useful jobs I did was in home care for the elderly and for special education.

Q: If you could go back and give yourself advice on the application process with what you know now, what would you say? Would you have done anything differently?

A: There are MANY pieces of advice that I would give myself. If I could, I would go talk to my freshman-in-college self and advise her to focus on 2-3 big, long-term volunteer/work experiences that I could do in order to gain more hours at the same job. I ended up taking on way too much and in the end it made my application look slightly less impressive. Also, I would advise myself to start EARLY. I was so caught up in my last year of college, as well as trying to gain the most experiences that I could, that I really was not prepared for the application process and how much writing was involved.

Q: What are you most looking forward to as you begin your graduate studies?

A: I am so excited about beginning my program! I am excited to meet all of my classmates and to get through the first phase of being in the classroom to move on to the clinical phase. I cannot wait to experience different specialties and really figure out where I belong in the healthcare field!

Written by Mary Cornelius ‘16


Fulbright Spotlight: Katie MacAulay ’09


Join URGO on April 5 at 2 p.m. and April 6 at 10:30 a.m. in Sverdrup 102 to learn more about how to apply for Fulbright.

Katie MacAulay graduated from Augsburg in 2009 with a degree in International Relations She is currently working in Uganda with as a Research Associate with Innovations for Poverty Action doing research in food security. Katie did her Fulbright work teaching English in Malaysia. Here she talks about her experience with Fulbright.

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?

I studied International Relations, so the opportunity to live abroad for a year and participate in a fully-funded and prestigious fellowship was enough intrigue for me to apply!

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter?

The world is big and the human condition is similar everywhere you go.

How did you change or grow from the experience?

I would like to think I became a more patient, thoughtful and empathetic person and that I have more permanently embodied these traits. Being the de facto expert on all-things-English-related certainly challenged me to take on roles and responsibilities I would not naturally feel qualified for. My year in Malaysia cultivated a deeper sense of self-reliance and confidence that has permeated all areas of my life. Further, my Fulbright experience has informed all career decisions I have made since, drawing me towards international development issues, ultimately leading me back abroad.

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?

Smiling. It’s the international language. I spent the year incredibly conscious of my outward attitude and expressions. Just appearing warm and inviting goes a long way in making people feel comfortable enough to approach you. I very much felt like my year there was ‘fake it ‘til you believe it’ – that I could teach over 1,000 students English, that I could give an impromptu speech in front of 3,000 community members and dignitaries, that I could advise the State Government and U.S. Embassy in educational areas. Despite what I was feeling internally, smiling and being warm led to the most welcoming invitations from my host-culture, resulting in some of my most memorable moments—sitting cross-legged on the ground, breaking fast during Ramadan with a teacher from my local school; driving along the Terengganu coast and pitching a tent on the beach with one of my students’ families; discussing US pop-culture trends with my students and encouraging debates. Smiling, being curious and asking lots of questions undoubtedly helped me assimilate into my host-culture.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?

I am currently living and working in Kampala, Uganda as a Research Associate with Innovations for Poverty Action, evaluating the impact of an agricultural project. After Fulbright I lived in Washington D.C. for three years working in microfinance, before moving to Uganda, and now intend to pursue an MBA with a concentration in Social Enterprise.

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?

Do it! Give yourself as many options and opportunities as possible, post-graduation. At the very least, the application process is incredibly reflective and will prepare you for all of the cover letters and applications you’ll likely be writing in the near future anyway. At the very best, Augsburg is a top producer of Fulbright fellows, which speaks volumes about the amount of thoughtful and constructive attention and support you will receive from the URGO office staff, throughout the process. Give yourself enough time to put forth your best effort, research countries you would like to live/study and/or teach in, do your research, ask lots of questions and start drafting your essays.

Med School Perspective: Dave Bergstrand ’14

Completing medical school applications is a notoriously arduous process, but this winter, Augsburg alum Dave Bergstand ’14 received the answer he’d been waiting for. “I will be attending the U of Minnesota for medical school, starting Fall 2016,” wrote Bergstrand, “I applied to, I believe, 20 medical schools (13 MD programs, 7 DO programs).I decided which schools based upon where I felt I’d fit best in terms of the missions of the schools, and took into consideration average acceptance MCAT scores and the number of out-state applicants the schools accepted.”

We asked Dave a few questions to learn more about his med school application experience and his tips for other Auggies considering the path.

Describe how you became interested in the medical field and what direction you’re leaning toward in your career.

My interest in medicine first began as an intellectual curiosity. I was initially very interested in psychology, and when I began learning about psychological disorders I became fascinated with the human brain. It was at that point, once I became interested in brain physiology, that I started to consider medicine as my interest began to shift from psychology to biology. After that, once I started taking science classes at Augsburg, I was hooked.

It’s very difficult at this point to say where I’ll end up practicing in medicine as my exposure has been limited to Emergency and Primary Care settings. I have some knowledge of other fields, but no first hand exposure. With that said, however, I really see myself ending up as a Primary Care physician, likely in Family Medicine. I’m really attracted to the longitudinal care aspect of primary care and being able to form strong relationships with patients over time.

How did your experiences at Augsburg inform your desire to go to med school?

I had several very meaningful experiences at Augsburg that continued to drive me toward medical school:

Major – Biopsychology. My academic/classroom experience at Augsburg was very meaningful in terms of strengthening my interest in science in general and providing a strong foundational knowledge.

Research – I had several different research experiences. I was an URGO researcher for one summer and worked at the Brain Sciences Center with Dr. David Crowe doing neurobiology work. This further strengthened my interest in science/biology, but it also showed me that working in a lab, while very rewarding and intellectually stimulating, was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I missed human interaction, to put it simply. I was also a Mayo Innovations Scholar. This broadened my view of the medical field to include the business and economic side, and deepened my fascination with medicine and the science of medicine.

Volunteering – I volunteered as a Crisis Counselor at a crisis hotline center. This was an incredible experience for many reasons, the most important of which was that it showed me the power of being and reward of serving others and directly impacting lives. This strengthened my desire to become a physician as I envision a similar reward serving patients in the future.

What was the most challenging part of the application process, and how did you approach that challenge?

The application process is arduous and difficult. For me, the biggest challenge was the personal statement. To address this, I sought the help of an advisor with personal statement experience (namely, Catherina).I think this is crucial. I probably went through 15-20 drafts of the statement (not sure what a “normal” number of drafts is), and we met almost every week or two for 2-3 months to go over things and review. Be comfortable taking constructive criticism.

Secondaries are also a tremendous amount of work, but the same process was applied: Write responses, review with Catherina, repeat.

Interview preparation can also be very daunting, but I worked with several different people (Catherina, Dale Pederson in Biology, a physician I know, my Mom, and a family friend) to prepare and did a number of practice interviews to get ready. Lots and lots of practice.

What advice do you have for other Auggies seeking medical school acceptance or a career in the health field?

Start your application early. Start your application as early as you possibly can. Start thinking about what and how you will write your personal statement. Document your experiences as you are experiencing them.

Gain as much direct medical experience as possible. Medical scribing is a tremendous opportunity for this. Inform yourself on what doctors do on a daily basis. Saying you want to become a physician is much more meaningful if you have direct experience to draw upon. Your personal statement and interviews will be so much stronger if you have lived experiences to draw from to explain your desire for medicine.

Start MCAT prep very early. Understand that the MCAT will be the hardest exam you’ll have taken to that point in your life, and it is unlike any test you’ve ever taken. A strong MCAT score is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. It’s certainly not everything, but it is very important. So, start prep early, and be prepared to spend several hundred hours getting ready.

Have something unique. You will be one of literally thousands of applicants with the same MCAT and GPA scores. Try to make your application unique somehow. Learn a second language. Study abroad in Africa. Spend a summer vacation on a service trip.

Grades and MCAT are very important, but so is compiling a compelling range of experiences. The more experiences you can have as an undergraduate, the better, but make sure they are meaningful and that you’ll be able to describe why and how they were meaningful. One of my regrets is that I didn’t volunteer more and didn’t have more experiences in general. It’s much easier to cut experiences out of an application if you have too many than to try to come up with experiences to list that don’t have much meaning.