Norway Now — one of the most peaceful nations in the world?

I am from Norway. I grew up there and spent my first 20 years of life in a country that many consider being the perfect place to live. Norway ranks the lists of countries that inhabit the happiest people. We are known for a wonderful supportive healthcare system, long and paid maternity/paternity leave, free dental care (first 18 years), sick leave and good pensions as well as at least 6 weeks of vacation each year. 

 

Not only is Norway good on the homefront, on the international stage, Norway has become increasingly known for its global peace efforts: both through the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize but also through peace processes outside and inside of its borders. Since 1993 Norway has made an active contribution to peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, Israel/Palestine, The Philippines, Somalia, and Sri Lanka to name a few. 

 

Not easy to top, right?

As a native Norwegian, it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of these facts. And as an employee of Augsburg, it adds another dimension to my pride that I am so fortunate to work for a Norwegian founded institution that—on an ongoing basis—highlights and celebrates Norway’s accomplishments through our 30-year history hosting the Nobel Peace Prize Forum; our long history of teaching the language and culture; hosting students from Norway; our new partnership development with the Oslo Freedom Forum; and through our collaboration with local and national Norwegian initiatives and programming through our very own Norway Hub

 

For most of you, the information above is common knowledge. You have lived and breathed the Augsburg air and you are an Auggie after all, right? But wouldn’t you want to experience this first hand? Like go to Norway and participated in a uniquely planned itinerary that will take you to places you normally wouldn’t go? I would. 

The May 2020 trip—Norway Now—provides amazing opportunities to experience our deeply rooted ties, history and contemporary connections with this unique country. You will indeed visit and experience where and how some of these peace efforts take place and see how deeply Augsburg University has been engaged and still is. 

 

In Oslo, you will have a chance to visit the City Hall where 

the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony takes place each year and where the walls are covered (literally) in Edvard Munch’s murals. You will also have a chance to tour the Norwegian Nobel Institute where the Nobel Committee each year picks a winner to receive one of the most prestigious prizes: the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Center, down by the gorgeous Aker Brygge (harbor), will share with you several interesting exhibits including past Nobel Peace Prize winners, and the most current laureate (announced in October 2019) will be on display!

In Lillehammer, we will visit and experience the work of the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue a center that “has become an international hub for dialogue work focused on interethnic dialogue, conflict transformation, reconciliation, inclusive communities, and democracy.” Steinar Bryn, a longtime friend and supporter of Augsburg and a mentor to our Peace Scholars Program, will lead the way and provide us with a lecture about current work, pedagogy, and programs. Heck, we may even engage in a dialogue as we hike down the Olympic Ski Jump’s 936 steps together (hint: one of Steinar’s tools)? 

 

And wouldn’t you want to be able to answer the following questions upon your return? 

Are Norwegians indeed happier than others? 

Why is the Nobel Peace Prize given out in Norway?

Who is Bertha Von Suttner?

Why is Fritfjof Nansen considered a peacemaker?

What are some of the peace processes Norway uses? 

 

Can you tell how excited I am to bring you to Norway to discover, discuss and see the actual sites where this important work takes place? I am. 

 

Join me in Oslo on May 10, 2020. I have ordered blue skies and about 20 degrees celsius. 

Vi sees i Norge! 

—Bettine 

 

150 Sesquicentennial Norway Arts & Culture trip in May 2020

Lead by Darcey Engen ‘88 & Luverne Seifert ‘85

About five years ago, I fell in love (again) with Henrik Ibsen. As an Augsburg graduate, theater artist and Professor, I’ve been reading his plays for over 30 years, but after re-reading An Enemy of the People, my passion for Ibsen’s plays gave me a big mid-life boost. 

It happened shortly after hearing about the Flint Michigan’s water cover-up. My husband, Luverne Seifert who is also an Auggie and a professional actor in the Twin Cities said: “do you remember that play about contaminated water that Ibsen wrote”? Sure enough, after reading our little weathered paperback version, we were forever changed. Turned out that Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People had an uncanny similarity to the contaminated water problem that occurred in Flint Michigan. 

For those of you who need a little reminder, Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin. 

The re-read inspired us so much that we created our own adaptation and produced it. Supported by the MN 

State Arts Board, our Sod House Theater Company (Luverne and my theater company we formed in 2011) has performed our unique bluegrass music-infused adaptation to over 15 communities in greater MN. 

Our renewed love of Ibsen also spurred our interest in traveling to Norway in order to experience not just Ibsen’s artistry but all the arts that Norway has to offer!  We are so delighted to be asked to lead the 150 Sesquicentennial Norway Arts & Culture trip in May 2020! Both Luverne and I, as Augsburg Theater graduates (’85 and 88’), find it so meaningful to have the chance to explore our institution’s origins. Both Luverne and I had life-changing experiences at Augsburg—we, like you, had professors that significantly influenced who we are today.  We’re humbled to be leading this trip, for Augsburg, together. Full circle. 

We’d love for you to join us in experiencing all of the amazing activities we have planned in Norway! We’ll visit The National Theater, the Ibsen museum, the incredible Opera House that seems to emerge from the ocean, The Viking Ship Museum, a Stave Church and celebrate Syttende Mai Festival! Come join us in the land the inspired one of the greatest playwrights of all time.  

What You Need to Know about the Oberammergau Passion Play

Oberammergau Passion Play
Source: https://www.parkhotel-bayersoien.de/en/offers/passion-plays-2020/

I’ve recently subscribed to the Oberammergau newsletter.

This might seem odd that a person living in Minneapolis, Minnesota would develop such an interest with a town of a little over 5,000 people located in the Bavarian Alps, but believe me, this place is truly fascinating.

2 years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with Augsburg to Germany/Lutherland and as a pastor’s kid and grandchild of German immigrants, I left Germany with amazing experiences, new friends, and a deeper understanding of myself.

I’m downright giddy as I look toward traveling again in July 2020 with some of the same friends, to places I’ve never been before and to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play.

I graduated from Augsburg with a Theater degree and all of my work previous to my time at Augsburg has been in theater. I met my husband when we were both on staff at the Guthrie Theater.

To me, the Oberammergau Passion Play is an ultimate theatrical event. It’s impressive, unique, and moving…its like seeing Ibsen in Norway. Oh wait. That’s another blog post.

Since subscribing to the newsletter, I’ve learned the following about this town-wide production:

  1. When the cast list is announced, their names are PAINTED on a sign outside the theater.
  2. On Ash Wednesday, the “-9 year” before the passion play, the BEARD DECREE goes into effect. Many of the men who have been cast in the play get their last haircut and shave.
  3. Each performance has an audience of 4,700 people composed of theatergoers and pilgrims from all over the world.
  4. Not only will we see the Passion Play, but we will be staying in Oberammergau. I heard that the hotel is close enough to the theater that at the intermission we can use the bathrooms in our own hotel. Also, rumor has it that one of the actors portraying Pontius Pilate is the proprietor of the hotel!
  5. 2,000 people are involved in the Passion Play each year. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I worked with a cast and crew of 75 members!
  6. Augsburg is fortunate enough to have 40 tickets to a performance on July 23, 2020, and 20 of them are already spoken for. Once they are gone, we cannot get any more.

katie code travelingThis trip to Germany as well as three trips to Norway, are truly uniquely Augsburg experiences. I would love to tell you more about this and all of our Sesquicentennial Heritage trips. Please look for subsequent blogs about the trips, check out the itineraries which can be found on the Alumni Travel Web Page, or feel free to reach out to me directly, I would love to chat with you about any of the trips codek@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1178.

Happy Travels!

Katie (Koch) Code ’01
Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations

Follow the Alumni Instagram for Work Study Wednesday

One of the many Augsburg students who shared on our Instagram a bit about their on-campus jobs.

Alumni often reminisce about their student jobs, co-workers, and bosses. Augsburg parents are interested in what their students are experiencing.  Because you are interested, we want to share how on-campus work at Augsburg has evolved, and, how it hasn’t really changed at all.

On-campus jobs play a meaningful role in preparing students for future positions; not only do they help financially, but they help students network and learn valuable skills they can take with them into their jobs outside of Augsburg.

As we enter the new school year, The Augsburg Alumni Instagram will be taken over by students…in a good way! See for yourself by following Augsburg Alumni on Instagram.

Check out our Augsburg Alumni Instagram posts from:

April Johnson ’18  from admissions

Bridget Donovan ’20 from the grounds crew

Justice Jones ’20 from the art department

Destyn Land ’19 from residence life

Make sure to connect with us at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

Augsburg Theater Alumni Featured in a Sod House Theater Production

Come and see some Augsburg University Theater alumni from several generations perform this incredibly fun and evocative production!

An Enemy of the People written by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Darcey Engen and Luverne Seifert with music by Brian Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson, will be presented by Sod House Theater and tour eleven rural cities in Minnesota from July 25 – August 26, with a run in Hastings early September (TBA), 2018. The Sod House is teaming with local talent that includes a number of Augsburg University alumni!

This classic play examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin. It will be performed at site-specific locations that are important to the historical narrative of each community.  Performance locations include town halls and river parks. “We’ve chosen communities to perform with that have recently experienced water pollution issues and whose lakes and rivers are a major contributor to their tourism economy,” said Luverne Seifert, co-artistic director of Sod House Theater. After each performance, water experts from local organizations will facilitate conversations centered on local water issues in hopes that the play and community dialogue will inspire water conservation.

 

About Sod House Theater:

Sod House Theater is a Minneapolis based theater whose mission is to perform in venues that serve historical significance in small-town communities. The works they choose to perform are relevant to the small-town atmosphere. Their goal is to be interactive in the communities by performing with local actors and at historical sites. They have been touring greater Minnesota since 2011.

Tickets for “An Enemy of the People” are $15 for adults; $10 for Children, Students, and Seniors.

Tickets are available at www.sodhousetheater.org. For show information call 612-414-2032.

Alumni who are leading the project:

Co-Artistic Director, Luverne Seifert ‘83; Co-Artistic Director, Darcey Engen ‘88; Production and Tour Manager Del Logeais ‘18.

Alumni who are performing in the Taylors Falls Production:

Peter Skjervold ‘83, Jenny Nordstrom Kelly ‘84, Lisa Pestka Anderson ‘86, Ali Fitzpatrick ‘11

Current students performing in Taylors Falls:

Madeleine Rowe ‘19, Hannah Dyson ‘20

6 Quick Questions With the New Conductor of The Masterworks Chorale

Mark Sedio ’76 has been the transitional conductor for the Augsburg choir for the past two years. Mark has recently accepted a new role as conductor for The Masterworks Chorale. We had the chance to chat with Mark about all things Augsburg and music. Check out these 6 Quick Questions with Mark Sedio:

Favorite memory as a student at Augsburg:

Conversation with friends in the old “Chin Wag” before Augsburg Choir rehearsals.

What makes singing in a choir so great/powerful/exciting?

The act of making something beautiful together – a true act of community.  The joy of performing a piece – the final result of hours and hours of rehearsal.  Then, of course, all the non-musical things wrapped up in it all – singing with friends, the performance spaces, the stories about the history of a piece – all coming together.

What excites you about working with Masterworks?

The caliber of the singing is so very high and the possibilities are endless.

What are you looking forward to with Masterworks?

Over the past four years, it’s been great fun for me to have worked first with Cedar Singers and then the Augsburg Choir.  Osmo Vänskä, the conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, says it’s all about the music – and it is.  How we form a phrase together, how we mold sound – not necessarily a pre-conceived notion of what an ensemble should sound like – but rather what we do with the sound we have.  That’s the concept I used with both Cedars and Augsburg Choir – it works – and the outcome can be really thrilling.

Share something about working with the Augsburg Choir:

It’s hard to put into words what the 50-plus singers in the Choir came to mean to me.  Again, it’s all about community.  It was a joy to be able to make music together – and I think it showed in each and every performance.  We had great fun – and it showed in their singing.  I am extraordinarily proud of those wonderful musicians (some whom I knew since they were first-years in Cedar Singers).  Their musicianship and growth over the years.  To work with them was both an honor and sheer joy.

Share a Mark Sedio fun fact:

If I wasn’t able to do what I am doing (choral music, organ, composition), I’d LOVE to have a talk-show.

 

If you are interested in joining The Masterworks Chorale, the gatherings are open to anyone interested in singing! The first gathering is Tuesday, September 4th from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the Choir Room (M2) in Augsburg University’s Anderson Music Hall. For more information visit the Augsburg University Masterworks Chorale Facebook page here.

For the Augsburg University Music Department website, click here.

Brett Batterson ’80 Shines Bright on Tony Night

Augsburg alumnus Brett Batterson ’80 had big shoes to fill when he took the job as President and CEO of Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to his arrival,the theatre had been recognized at the Tony Awards on three different occasions. Under Batterson’s leadership, as part of the Independent Presenters Network, the Orpheum Theatre Group can now claim a share of the 2018 Tony Award for Best Musical! The Independent Presenters Network is an above-the-title producer of the 10-award winning show, The Band’s Visit.

In high school, Batterson was an actor in his school’s theatre productions. When he came to Augsburg, one of his theatre professors, Michael Beery, showed Batterson his potential to create the scenes on the stage itself as a set designer.

“I had wonderful professors at Augsburg including Julie Driver and Ailene Cole, but Michael Beery had the most profound effect on my career.” says Batterson.

Beery helped guide Batterson onto a path where he could find great success. He did perform in one show at Augsburg, but spent the rest of his time behind the scenes creating and designing sets.

While still a student at Augsburg, Batterson had the opportunity to work at The Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Jazz Dance Company and Minnesota Opera Company. Following Augsburg, he took the skills he learned and advice from Professor Beery and obtained his M.F.A. in set design from Tulane University. For 15 years he continued his stage design career until he discovered another passion – arts management. Batterson spent 10 years at Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Then another 11 years as the Executive Director of the national historic landmark Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. He has been in his current position as President and CEO of Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis since 2016.

“Theatre education, like I had at Augsburg, builds better people,” said Batterson, “Whether they go into theatre or not, they will go into the world better prepared to succeed.”

Young Alumni Council: Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12

The Young Alumni Council was formed to specifically represent the interests of young alumni in service of Augsburg University’s mission and goals.  Each council member helps connect and engage young alumni by planning and executing networking, fundraising, social, and volunteer events and programs. Click here for more information about requirements and qualifications.

As part of one of our series, we will be profiling members of the Augsburg Young Alumni Council (or YAC). This week, we spoke to Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12, who is currently the YAC Vice-President. 

  • Name and Graduation Year?

Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12

  • Time spent as a YAC council member?

2 years
.

  • What made you want to be a part of the YAC?

I enjoyed my time at Augsburg and I wanted to find a way to stay connected to the community. Additionally, I want to help others get re-connected with the Augsburg Community.

  • What is your favorite YAC memory or event?

My favorite event was the brewery tour. It was so fun to see so many familiar and new faces. Everyone really enjoyed hanging out as a group and it was a beautiful day!

  • Favorite memory from studying at Augsburg?

The summer after my freshman year, the band went on a trip to Romania. It was an amazing 10 day experience filled with new cultures, new foods, and new friends!

  • 
Why should other young alumni join the YAC?

People should join YAC to help their classmates re-connect to Augsburg and to help plan fun events that bring people together.

  • Interesting random fact about you?

I have lived in 7 states and went to 3 different high schools.

Are you interested in learning more about the Young Alumni Council? Visit http://www.augsburg.edu/alumni/leadershipboards/yac/ for information on applications and eligibility.

Alumni in the Spotlight: Jazmine Darden

Jazmine Darden’13 graduated from Augsburg University with a double major in Mathematics and Physics. During her time at Augsburg, she was passionate about helping people and was heavily involved with the GISE and GEMS program (Girls in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science and Guys in Science and Engineering are after-school and summer programs designed specifically for K-8th-grade girls and boys in the Minneapolis Public School District). After graduating, Darden worked with Minneapolis Public Schools for 2 years.

“Augsburg drew me out of my shell,” said Darden, “I was incredibly shy before I started at Augsburg, but I gained confidence during my time there and the University made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted with my life.”

“Augsburg is such an open-minded place, and one of the key lessons I learned during my time studying was to follow my heart” Darden added.

Darden was unsure of what career path she wanted to pursue, and on a whim, she decided to have a look at Dunwoody College. After taking a campus tour and realizing she was interested in 3D printing technology, she enrolled in the Engineering, Drafting and Design program.

She started the program in August 2015 and was accepted into the Women in Technical Careers scholarship program in her second semester. During her time at Dunwoody, Darden had some internships in the technology sector but soon realized she didn’t envision herself working in the corporate world. She spoke to the dean of her program and told him she wanted to start her own business.

Darden then took a class at Hennepin Tech where they collectively built 3D printers. Recently, she purchased a second 3D printer and began working alongside her mother who runs an embroidery business. Darden now works on custom projects included 3D Printing, screen printing t-shirts, and sublimation printing.

To enhance her printing skill, she decided to undertake a certificate program at Dunwoody specifically for 3D printing. At that time, Dunwoody was looking for someone to teach the class, and Darden was instead offered the instructor position.

“I built this class from the ground up. I got to design the curriculum and make it so that this certification program was unique and cutting edge.”

In a full circle, Darden is currently partnering with the Minneapolis Public School system with the GISE and GEMS program (and eventually other schools) to host a new and exciting project this summer. This summer project will give middle school students a college experience and the opportunity to learn more about 3D printing technology. In this summer project, participants will design and 3D print a Bluetooth speaker, including the outer shell and setting up speaker wiring.

In her spare time, Darden also works as a lead tech hand, makes merchandise and is the website coordinator for Prince Tribute band, Chase and Ovation, and spends her weekend touring the United States (and soon internationally) with the group.

“Chase and Ovation are like family to me. I’m always busy, but I love everything I am currently doing” she added, “There’s no such thing as busy when you’re always having a good time.” said Darden.

As an alumna, Darden makes it very clear that she believes her confidence, ability to follow her heart and only do what she loves, stems from her time here at Augsburg.

“Augsburg creates honest and open-minded people, who are taught that anything is possible, and to always follow your dreams.”

Young Alumni Council: Evan Decker ’12 ’18 MBA

Photograph of Evan Decker

The Young Alumni Council was formed to specifically represent the interests of young alumni in service of Augsburg University’s mission and goals.  Each council member helps connect and engage young alumni by planning and executing networking, fundraising, social, and volunteer events and programs. Click here for more information about requirements and qualifications.

As part of a new weekly series, we will be profiling members of the Augsburg Young Alumni Council (or YAC). This week, we spoke to Evan Decker ’12, ’18 MBA, who is currently the YAC President. 

  • Name and Graduation Year?

Evan Decker ’12, ’18 MBA.

  • Time spent as a YAC council member?

3 years
.

  • What made you want to be a part of the YAC?

I wanted to give back to the University, network, and develop my leadership skills. The council has provided many opportunities in all of these areas.

  • What is your favorite YAC memory or event?

Picking just one is hard. If I had to, I’d say my favorite event each year is the networking event. It’s not necessarily a YAC event but YAC is heavily involved, and I enjoy the opportunity to network with students and other alumni.

  • Favorite memory from studying at Augsburg?

It’s also difficult to choose one. I really enjoyed living in Mort – nothing like living on the same floor/in the same building as all your friends.

  • 
Why should other young alumni join the YAC?

Why not? I feel like for the amount of time and energy I put into it I get much more in return. It’s an amazing opportunity to practice skills that are applicable in many other areas of life while hanging out with cool people. The networking opportunities are endless, and we get to plan and attend fun events!

  • Interesting random fact about you?

I had a pet tarantula growing up. She only managed to escape her cage once!

 

Are you interested in learning more about the Young Alumni Council? Visit http://www.augsburg.edu/alumni/leadershipboards/yac/ for information on applications and eligibility.