It’s an Amazing World! The Importance of Studying Abroad

Maren Stoddard Mack & Lucy Hardaker, Center for Global Education and Experience

by Maren Stoddard Mack & Lucy Hardaker

Center for Global Education & Experience

College is so much more than a degree. It’s a time to explore new ideas, meet new people, find your calling in life, and figure out your place in the world. Study abroad is the same – it’s so much more than a travel experience.

Study Abroad & Study Away in the USA offers Augsburg students a chance to meet the world outside their own backyard, and delve into the cultures and lived realities of others. Explore South Africa & Namibia while learning about the struggle for freedom from apartheid while building a national identity; study the beliefs and practices amongst different groups of Himalayan and Tibetan people in mountainous Nepal; travel to Paris to study French language and culture – the possibilities are almost endless to what one can learn, travel, and do on a study abroad adventure. Auggies can choose from more than 300 programs in over 90 countries–we have a program to fit every student!

Study abroad is an adventure, a unique part of the college experience, and great preparation for life beyond graduation. Here are just three of the many ways study abroad will benefit you:

Personal Growth.  Countless students return from study abroad saying “It changed my life!” Going to a new location, getting outside of your comfort zone, and learning in a new environment with new people gives you a chance to find your inner strengths and to accomplish something you may not have expected.  You will be able to see, from a new perspective, how you are connected to the world and vice versa. Going abroad is a perfect time to reflect on yourself, your purpose, and your future.

Enhanced Communication Skills.  How to greet others, the meaning of silence in conversation, what facial expressions mean, etc.  Learning to communicate in another culture or in another language can be funny and frustrating, but it helps you become an agile, perceptive, and effective communicator. Good communication is essential in every field of work. With every conversation, interaction, new connection and friend made abroad, you become a better communicator!

Career Possibilities. Did you know that approximately 64% of employers say they value a study abroad experience from recent college graduates? That’s because employers have started to recognize that individuals who have studied abroad are more open minded, creative problem solvers, think outside the box, and can work well with people of different backgrounds, just to name a few attributes. When you study abroad you can take courses for your major, minor, or even pursue an internship.  The possibilities are endless!

The bottom line: study abroad is an important and transformational experience for every student.

How can you study abroad?  Visit our website to find out.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Space Camp…and Beyond: Behind the Scenes

Solveig Harren pictureSolveig Harren lives in Warroad, Minnesota, where she works remotely with Space Camp as the Education Special Programs Coordinator. Prior to moving to Warroad, she lived in Huntsville, Alabama, where she worked on-site at Space Camp. Solveig and her husband, Jackson, have three children. They enjoy the outdoors, love to read, play games and attend St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Solveig graduated in 2002 with a B.A. in Youth & Family Ministry and Elementary Education.


Click. Click-click.Type-type-type-type-type…..type-type. Click. Click-click.

Those are the sounds I hear in my work these days. I type, click here and there with my mouse, double check spreadsheets, send emails, call or text colleagues, count participant lists, review forms and then click and type some more.

It doesn’t sound all that glamorous. These are certainly not tasks that should be associated with such a dynamic name as Space Camp, right?

In my first five years with Space Camp, I had the extraordinary opportunity to work on-site in Huntsville, Alabama. I met astronauts. I trained on simulators similar to those the astronauts train on. I met authors and attended book signings. I took groups of students and teachers on tours through the largest spaceflight museum in the world – the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. I walked in Rocket Park and stood next to a Saturn V rocket by moonlight. I donned a flight suit on a weekly basis. It was magical. Continue reading “Space Camp…and Beyond: Behind the Scenes”

Rethinking Children’s Sermons

by Rev. Justin Lind-Ayres

pastor_justin_installPastor Justin is the Associate College Pastor at Augsburg College and is an excellent mentor to our students preparing for ministry. He has been serving at Augsburg College since August of 2013.  Justin received his Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and his Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. Justin is passionate about liturgical studies, preaching, social justice issues, and the power of biblical metaphors in the lives of the people of God. When not working with the wonderfully talented Campus Ministry staff at Augsburg, Justin can be found spending time with his family, cooking, reading, drinking coffee, watching sports and an occasional movie, and fly fishing for steelhead and trout.


I have to confess that I haven’t always been a fan of children’s sermons. I questioned their efficacy and wondered if they were more of a distraction from worship than a component of worship. It is a challenge to teach/preach to a cadre of kids in a few minutes without sinking into the mire of moralistic mantras. Or, on the other side of sermonic spectrum, fall into the trap of sharing a message every week with the children that inevitably ended with, “Jesus loves you!” Incidentally, the latter was often the case for me!

In addition to content liability, there is an unspoken pressure to be funny or cute with the children so as to keep the listening adults of the assembly entertained. I suppose this was the piece that bothered me most. I have said more than once, “We don’t call all the worshippers over 65 years forward, make them sit on the floor, ask them questions that test their bible acumen, and then laugh at them when they summon the courage to speak.” I’m not sure this was the best argument for dropping children’s messages from the liturgy, but I have seen many kids physically deflate when their earnest responses conjure the cackles of the congregation. Worship leaders, Sunday teachers, youth minsters, and pastors must be careful not to unintentionally and ever so publically shame our children. For many reasons, then, I have tried to worm my way out of delivering children’s sermons.

But then I had children of my own and I began to see worship through their eyes! Continue reading “Rethinking Children’s Sermons”

Ministry Skills and College Orientation

by Becky Kaarbo (’06)

Becky RBecky Kaarbo works in the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development as the Orientation and First Year Programs Director at Hamline University. She holds a B.A. in Youth and Family Ministry from Augsburg College (’06) and a MA in Leadership and Student Affairs from the University of St. Thomas. Her favorite part of her job is working directly with students and utilizing their talents to create a warm and welcoming community for new students to our campus.

When not at work Becky enjoys spending time with her lovable pet rabbits, Leonard and Ellie, playing board games, and watching entirely too much TV

At the time of entering Augsburg I knew I wanted to be a Youth and Family Ministry major. I enjoyed the community and fellowship of my time as a youth growing up in the church and wanted to foster a similar community. I could have entered college and focused solely on my bubble of faith and religion and left with the same goals I entered – to be a youth director for a few years, get married, have babies and simply volunteer to lead youth group from time to time. However, Augsburg pushed me in the most remarkable way to step outside my comfort zone and think critically about who I was and who I wanted to be when I grew up. Please note that I did not say WHAT I wanted to be when I grew up, but WHO I wanted to be. Continue reading “Ministry Skills and College Orientation”

Making Halloween Matter

by Hans Wiersma

wiersmaHans Wiersma has been a full-time member of Augsburg’s Religion department since 2004. He teaches courses with titles like The Life and Work of the Church, Religion at the Movies, Ministry and Media, The Lutheran Heritage, and Theology of Marriage and Family. Formerly a parish pastor, he has served congregations in Minnesota, California, and The Netherlands — each time with an emphasis in youth and family ministry. He has a PhD in Church History and is presently working on a new edition of a biography of Martin Luther.



Making Halloween Matter

All Hallows Eve falls on a Saturday this year, which is perfect for trick-or-treaters — no school the next day! The next day is, in fact, All Hallows (or All Saints) Day on many church calendars. In my congregation, we observe All Hallows with the lighting of candles in memory of our dearly departed. So, in terms of emotional processing, it could be a challenging weekend for my children: (1) dress up as ghouls, (2) get candy, (3) eat candy, (4) go to church, (5) light a candle for Oma, my mom who passed away in 2007, (6) share memories of Oma after church, perhaps while (7) eating more candy. Continue reading “Making Halloween Matter”

Helping Congregations Build Digital Platforms

by Michael Gyura (’08)

Mike Gyura HeadshotBorn in Michigan, raised in Minnesota, and lived in New Jersey.  Currently I spend my time between Minnesota, Tennessee and Colorado. BA in Youth and Family Ministry from Augsburg 2008, MA in Youth Ministry and MDIV from Princeton Theological Seminary 2012.  I am the owner of Gyura Communications which runs Poka Yoke Design, Worship Times, and Ski Town Web Design.  I am an equal opportunity mainline worshiper, my membership is with Germantown Presbyterian Church PC(USA) in TN, I also worship with Bethel Lutheran Church ELCA in MN and UMC of Steamboat Springs in CO.  Married to Susan Gyura, and together we have five amazing young boys. I’m a lover of all things outdoors, but not in a hippie kind of way.

Like many Youth and Family Ministry students, I imagined most of my work after I graduated would be within a congregation. I even went to seminary after 10 years working as a youth director and graduating from Augsburg, feeling called toward possible ordination, and certainly into continued church work. It can be hard to imagine fully utilizing this education outside of a ministry or social service setting. Continue reading “Helping Congregations Build Digital Platforms”

Young People in Recovery: A Messy Road to a Beautiful Life

by Scott Washburn

ScottWScott Washburn is the Assistant Director of the StepUP Program, a leading Collegiate Recovery program, at Augsburg College where he has worked since 2008. He is also a Psychology Instructor at Augsburg where he teaches courses on addiction and recovery related topics. In addition to being a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, he has a M.A. in Counseling Psychology and is an Ed.D. Candidate with specialty emphases in Educational Leadership and Critical Pedagogy. He has worked in the fields of mental health and chemical health counseling, prevention and treatment for over 25 years.

Beginning to Understand Addiction

Young people who have found their way out of addiction into a life of recovery are living examples of human transformation at its deepest and most profound levels. Many have gone through experiences that are disconcerting if not outright terrifying to themselves and their loved ones alike. They have transformed from being ill-functional, overly self-centered, impulse-driven and developmentally delayed young people to beautifully intelligent, caring, creative and consciously deep human beings in recovery beyond their chronological years. However, the pathway to becoming such is messy. In this article I will summarize some of the dynamics and key markers along this journey as well as what concerned others can do to help facilitate the process. Continue reading “Young People in Recovery: A Messy Road to a Beautiful Life”

Ministry & Mental Health

by Fabien Dubbe


Fabien was adopted from Montego Bay, Jamaica and grew up in New Prague,  Minnesota. He graduated from Augsburg College in May 2015 with a Psychology major and a Youth and Family Ministry minor. He is not working as a Mental Health Practitioner and is a member of Hosanna! Church in Lakeville, MN. In his free time he loves drawing and riding his motorcycle.

Christians often believe they have to do something inside the church in order for it to be ministry. This is not true. There are many forms of ministry beyond the church. For example, I am a Mental Health Practitioner and I can see God working through me in the lives of the boys I work with on a daily basis. Continue reading “Ministry & Mental Health”

On Being a Great Youth Minister

by Kate Verlautz



Kate graduated from Augsburg College’s Youth and Family Ministry program in 2012. She has been serving as the Senior High Youth Director at Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, MN since January of 2012.



When I first began my youth & family ministry career in 2012, I was determined to be overzealous, people pleasing, early and over prepared for everything I did. While these are mostly admirable qualities for a youth director; I quickly realized are not my true qualities.

I came home from work, drained, exhausted, and barely recognizable because I was trying to be a “Great Youth Director.” Everything I was doing, who I was presenting myself as at work; a well put together young woman, who was confident and knew her role in the church, as someone who could be a positive influence on the lives of youth in her new congregation…it wasn’t an authentic me. Now, there is nothing wrong with those ideals. But they are not even close to who I am at my core, who I am as a real follower of Christ or I’ve actually been called to be to the youth in my community. I acted contrary to who I was when I was with my students. Praise Jesus they saw through my act and were able to accept me even though I wasn’t who they needed. To be blunt, I am not overzealous. I am generally making people more uncomfortable (in a good way) rather than pleasing them, and I am lazy.

Is that crazy?

No. My students want to see my flaws. Continue reading “On Being a Great Youth Minister”

Faith On This Side of the Grave

by J.D. Mechelke


JD Mechelke is currently pursuing a B.A. in Youth and Family Ministry at Augsburg College (ELCA) in Minneapolis, MN. JD grew up in Stillwater, MN and is currently living in Minneapolis. He is passionate about racial equity and LGBT reconciliation in the Church. Traveling and camping is what he looks forward to most, but also enjoys the early mornings and late nights when he gets to read a favorite poet or novelist. JD is a drifter and a screw up who forgets that God’s grace is sufficient. Thankfully grace isn’t dependent on memory.


The plateau came into view. And the dirt road we were walking on faded into tall grass. A white overcast sky covered the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that morning. We had made it to the top of the hill.

It was easy to find Red Cloud’s grave. Huge, taller than me (but that doesn’t take much). An old white fence surrounded his tombstone. On the base, large capital letters spelt his name. Then above was a wide section that held a sculpted image of his face. Overshadowing was a large stone cross. You could tell it was visited often. Mementos and objects of gratitude were laid all around the grave. When I was walking around nearby I nearly tripped over a wooden cross. Overgrown grass had hidden it.

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I remember standing there, comparing the grave of Red Cloud and the grave of the unmarked, overgrown cross. It was hard not to be moved by the reminder this scene gave to my own mortality. For most of us, there will be nothing the world can remember us by but an unmarked, overgrown cross. Continue reading “Faith On This Side of the Grave”