Just in time for Valentine’s Day, join the Augsburg Associates for a “Sweetheart of a Sale” on February 11th and 12th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Christensen Center. With vintage jewelry, Valentine-themed gifts, and more it will be a great opportunity to pick out unique and special treats for Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air… see you there!
Facing an Unexpected Tragedy
When Michael Rivers graduates from Augsburg this spring, he plans to do some private investigative work for criminal lawyers, and then enroll in law school. His goal of becoming a criminal defense attorney with a private practice would seem like a natural progression, especially since that’s what his father has done since 1998. But his pathway to this decision was a long and painful one—and never a given.
Rivers recalls that growing up in the southwest Minneapolis house once occupied by his great-grandparents, he sensed a strong bond between his parents (both Auggies who went on to earn doctorates), and he enjoyed many childhood pleasures—skiing, baseball, and biking the Minnehaha Parkway weekly to Lake Harriet. Life seemed simple then.
But he remembers a lot of fighting, too. When Rivers was five years old, his parents divorced. In the beginning, that wasn’t very troubling for a five-year-old—it meant two birthday celebrations, two Christmas gatherings, two homes, and several “double events.” But within the year, his mother died and—even though the full impact of having her “gone forever” didn’t really sink in—he managed to continue with sports and many of his other activities, including regular attendance at his dad’s Sunday School class. He also participated in an “amazing grief group” at his elementary school, which helped him talk about death with peers and contributed greatly to healing and an understanding of death.
As Rivers was entering his teens, he was told the truth about how his mother had died. She had not been sick, as he had been led to believe. She had taken her own life—just as his grandfather and uncle had done. This new information—and the intentionality of those deaths—forced him to reconstruct everything on which he felt his life had been based.
Trying to Cope
He began drinking at age 13, becoming intoxicated regularly to calm the chatter in his brain. During his teen years (the “trouble phase”), Rivers quit going to church. He no longer had any interest in academics, and his grades plummeted. He resented and disregarded authority and started lying to his father. Expelled from one high school for possessing a taser, he ended up attending three others. He was arrested four times. He ran away from home four times, once ending up in Omaha where he was arrested for shoplifting and being a runaway, another time in Colorado where the $6,000 he had stolen from his father funded a weeklong drug ride, and twice in Florida. He “went through a lot of friends” and surrounded himself with people who had low expectations of him.
The fire that fueled the animosity he then felt toward the world was his understanding of his mother’s death. He felt betrayed and lied to. He was haunted by the image of his mother in her casket: the lifeless body that once held his life inside of her, and the burn marks on her lips from the gun she used—and the images still inhabit his dreams today.
While in an after-care treatment program, Rivers learned there were school programs that could help him earn a GED—a fact that became enticing only when he discovered he could possibly get into Augsburg as well. Though his high school academic record held little promise, his optimism increased as he recalled nostalgically the stories from his parents about how much they had enjoyed Augsburg. He also learned more about the StepUP program, Augsburg’s residential collegiate recovery community.
When Rivers began his studies at Augsburg, he lived in the dorms. He ended his first year with a 2.1 GPA, a slight improvement from high school. But he knew he could do much better. In terms of the required sobriety in StepUP, he had relapsed the first time and had to join the program again. But soon he began to thrive and discovered that there was great value for him in the communal connection he found in the StepUP community, even with substantial staff turnover in the program and some gossiping that can come from living in close proximity.
The Road Ahead
Throughout his Augsburg years, he has gone through waves of emotions, thinking about his mother and the strong possibility that he has likely sat in the same classrooms as she did, interacting with some of the same professors (like Dr. Nancy Steblay, the psychology professor for whom his mother once wrote a meta-analysis).
And he has changed. His outlook on his mother’s death has gone from intense grief and resentment of her and the world to a fuller understanding and admiration of the person she was, and a respect for the world around him. Now, as he approaches graduation time, Rivers can taste victory. Of the last 15 classes he has taken, he has earned a 4.0 in 13 of them, putting him on the Dean’s List for four consecutive semesters and likely resulting in a 3.5 GPA when he graduates.
In the years ahead, Rivers sees himself working on hard criminal cases, owning property, working at both passive incomes and vacation destinations, and traveling the world with the one he loves. Given his skills in photography, he may even start a film production company. But as he pursues law school and a career, his work in Augsburg’s student government will likely be useful, as will advice and encouragement from his lawyer father, Bruce ’91, who is especially pleased about his son’s progress. Bruce says, “It is only through hard work and perseverance that this fine young man has achieved all that he has.” He must be especially gratified that Michael has chosen to pursue the same career path as he did.
–by Cheryl Crockett ‘89
In 2013, the Augsburg University Archives received fifteen boxes of “reel-to-reel” audio recordings and promptly began an ongoing project to save them. Created from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, these recordings documented everything from commencements and building dedication ceremonies to notable speakers and chapel talks. Lindell Library purchased a refurbished reel-to-reel player and oversaw a student workers’ painstaking inventory of more than 500 tapes in the collection.
“Over the past year, I have supervised a small army of students who have transformed these recordings into a collection of YouTube videos that grows by the day,” said Stewart Van Cleve, digital archives librarian.
Van Cleve shared that some of the most significant and fascinating recordings come from a single day: May 15, 1968. President Oscar Anderson canceled classes on this “One Day in May,” and the Augsburg community listened to leaders of Minneapolis’ black community as they detailed the racism, sexism, economic and geographic segregation, and other problems that continue to affect Minneapolis’ black community.
Of the fifteen original sessions from that day, thirteen recordings have survived. You can listen to those recordings here.
About the Augsburg Archives
The University Archives preserve Augsburg’s legacy and make its historical information available to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and researchers. The archives include information related to the university’s history and provide limited information about administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni.
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.”
On May 15, 1968, administration and faculty at Augsburg College (now Augsburg University) canceled class for “One Day in May” and invited speakers to discuss racism in and beyond Minneapolis following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and subsequent riots in major American cities.
The Pan-Afrikan Student Union Center (PASU) was formed shortly after the “One Day in May” with the purpose to provide student leadership development for Pan-Afrikan students at Augsburg through a wide variety of co-sponsored activities and opportunities to help plan an event. The Pan-Afrikan Center also provides student leadership training and resources to Pan-Afrikan students at Augsburg University. PASU hopes to enlighten the students with their cultural identity and the roles that they play in the surrounding communities and in the world. Furthermore, it is the intent of the organization to provide leadership formats and assist in the adjustment, and transition of people of Afrikan descent into the college life.
For access to exclusive “One Day in May” archived footage please click here.
Below, Auggie PASU alumni speak about their experience:
“I’m grateful to have been part of PASU during my years at Augsburg. Serving as an officer gave me a chance to be a leader and build relationships I wouldn’t have elsewhere. Putting my self in a leadership position really helped me grow and allowed me to reach other students and uplift them in their journey at Augsburg. I would do it all again.”- Agnes Kigwana ’09 (pictured right with husband Greg, and children Grayson and Paris)
“Thankful for PASU teaching the values of giving back to your community. Those are the same values that I use each day and share with students as a school counselor.”- Derek Francis ’08 (pictured left with student)
“I feel that PASU has initiated my journey to understanding who I am as a Black man in this world.”- Nick Ward ’11 (pictured right).
Beth Florence ’08 was an Augsburg golden girl, from a family filled with Auggies, with a glowing reputation as both a campus leader and a hard worker. Florence, a Spanish major, made such an impact in her time at Augsburg, she received the Marina Christensen Justice Award for her civic engagement when she graduated. Florence later attended the Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies. She is currently employed at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
Aaron Wells ’08 was recognized around campus for being incredibly funny. In addition to writing many hard-hitting stories for The Echo, he also penned the popular, joke, horoscopes which caught the eye of Florence (“I just thought they were hilarious”). Wells balanced his love of fun, by working hard and completing his Political Science degree in 2008.
He later attended Washington and Lee School of Law and is a partner at STG, a policy and public affairs consulting firm.
Wells and Florence were introduced eventually through a mutual friend and developed their own friendship at Augsburg. This friendship eventually blossomed into a romantic relationship in 2013.
When the time was right, Wells knew the perfect location for the proposal to Florence was the Christensen Center on August 12, 2017. She said yes! The couple now live together in Washington D.C. and they embody the true spirit of Augsburg both individually and as a couple.
“All we do, we credit to Augsburg,” they agree. “We credit our strong moral and personal compasses to the time we spent at Augsburg. Nothing else measures up to it.” Both Wells and Florence acknowledge that the time and effort they spent searching for perfect jobs stemmed from the emphasis on vocation at Augsburg. They are both in careers that are service focused and continue to serve the community around them.
Augsburg University wishes Wells and Florence all the best for the future, and we are touched that Augsburg University has played such an integral part in their story.
Both Wells and Florence will be attending our exclusive regional alumni event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Washington D.C. We invite you to join Augsburg, President Paul C. Pribbenow, members of Augsburg staff and Wells and Florence for this evening of exciting conversation and connections. For more information on this event click here.
As part of National Volunteer Week, the Augsburg Alumni Office decided to surprise some Auggie volunteer organization leaders with treats and balloons to show them how much we appreciate them!
Student questions following presentations by reps from Fishbowl Solutions yielded some interesting conversation in Professor Larry Crockett’s computer science class, April 5. For example, “As a software consultant, how often do you feel the need to go online to find answers to your own software challenges?”
The answer from Fishbowl’s Jake Ferm ’12 may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but then again, maybe not: “Every ten minutes.”
Fishbowl Solutions, a Twin Cities-based software company, creates packaged software and develops custom technology solutions using the latest Oracle, Google, Mindbreeze, and PTC technologies. The company of 40+ employees, founded in 1999, has offices in both the U.S. and the U.K., and serves an international clientele.
The Fishbowl reps, invited to visit two sections of Crockett’s CSC/PHI 385 class (Formal Logic and Theory of Computation), included Noah Bodner (Recruiting), and three Auggies: Amy Bowar Mellinger ’97 (Fishbowl’s Director of Services), Jake Ferm ’12 (Software Consultant), and Carmen (Crockett) Williams MBA ’12 (Account Executive, Sales).
After the Fishbowl guests described the nature of their company and work, as well as their take on various current trends in technology, students raised numerous questions. The resulting interaction provided good advice on many issues, such as these comments on interviewing from Williams: (1) Prepare wisely for an interview (always plan on a glitch; arrive ten minutes early); (2) Think ahead about what questions to ask the interviewer (remember, you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you); and (3) Ask what further education and training the prospective employer is willing to provide.
Mellinger stressed the importance of keeping an open mind when deciding on an employer, giving attention to the importance of matching one’s work-style with the anticipated projects. For example, she recalled working on one seven-year project at an earlier job, which, she said, may not have been as appealing to someone who enjoys working on a variety of projects or technologies.
Fishbowl reps emphasized how valuable a liberal arts education is in their work, since the broad scope of the classes they took continues to provide flexibility and greater opportunity in their work, and in the marketplace in general.
The Fishbowl visit to Augsburg was an excellent opportunity for students who are eagerly seeking internships or employment to connect with a company that is just as eager to find talented interns and employees. As Bodner explained, given the current Twin Cities unemployment rate in the area of computer science (less than 1%), students are in a strong position to find several appealing opportunities, and their thoughtful preparation for interviews can make an offer much more likely. A look at the website for Fishbowl Solutions says, “We’re looking for innovators with a passion for technology and learning to fill a variety of technical and non-technical roles.”
Mellinger, who worked for many years as a consultant prior to taking on her leadership role at Fishbowl Solutions, was surprised to discover recently that her colleague at Fishbowl, Williams, is the daughter of Crockett, who had taught two of her classes at Augsburg.
In the April 5 forum, about 50 students had a chance to interact with former students to compare and contrast pre-graduation education with in-field work experience, and to consider how one’s education must continue in the workplace. Ferm stressed that, especially as a software consultant, he is learning new things daily—online and in person—as he encounters new challenges that push him to continue educating himself. And when new interns come on board, they learn from the staff’s collective experience, and staff pick up new things from the interns. Nothing like a win-win situation!
The April 5 event was also an opportunity for three Auggie alums to take in the new Hagfors CSBR facility; they left deeply impressed.
—by Cheryl Crockett ’89
Amanda Stramer ‘12 was named recently to the Florida High Tech Corridor’s 2018 “Faces of Technology,” which represents more than 252,000 scientists and technologists. Stramer earned this distinction through her innovative work in the development and commercialization of cancer immunotherapies.
For three years, Stramer has worked at Iovance Biotherapeutics in Tampa, FL. Currently a process development associate scientist, she works to develop immuno-oncology therapies, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), to fight aggressive cancers.
Stramer says she chose to study at Augsburg because it was the most diverse private school in Minnesota*, and was small enough to provide for enhanced learning that can result from significant relationships with professors and classmates alike. Stramer graduated with a BS in Biology and Philosophy and was a lead volunteer at the Campus Kitchen. She has found that she can thrive in a small and intimate work environment, such as the one at Iovance Biotherapeutics, thanks to the study habits she developed at Augsburg.
Within a week of graduating from Augsburg, Stramer was offered a job. She immediately moved to Florida, where she started her career as a microbiologist at a small biotech company in Sarasota.
When asked if she could offer any advice to current Auggies, Stramer said, “Although there is always talk about academic careers following STEM programs, the science industry is so huge and versatile; Auggies should never fear to branch out.”
Stramer is a fantastic example of an Auggie making a difference, and Augsburg can take pride in its diverse alumni base, which includes a wide range of professions and accolades.
Do you know a great Auggie who should be in the spotlight? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Augsburg University was the most diverse private school in Minnesota at the time of Stramer’s application.
The Norman and Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion hosted its grand opening ceremony in style on Saturday, January 27, 2018. Approximately 1000 guests attended the celebration, which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, remarks by President Pribbenow and Campaign Chair Mike Good ’71, live music, gourmet food stations on each floor, and exclusive access to many parts of the new, four-level building. Some of the Hagfors Center artists who contributed to the Art and Identity campaign also attended and were available to discuss their artwork in detail with attendees. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey joined the celebration and expressed his admiration for the building.
The open house began at 3 p.m., and guests were able to visit a multitude of classrooms and laboratories, where they could view the impressive state-of-the-art communications and scientific equipment, and participate in a variety of activities, including liquid nitrogen ice cream tasting, a chemical instrument tour, and a fruit-leather-making demonstration.
Dr. Peter Agre ’70 was celebrated with placement of a replica of his Nobel Prize award just outside the suspended Hagfors Center Gundale Chapel. A number of other people who have been integral in making the Hagfors Center a reality were also celebrated with mini-receptions throughout the building.
Guests had plenty of opportunity to socialize with alumni, staff, donors, and other friends of the College, while enjoying the gourmet food stations, which included a fresh vegetable-and-dip platter, a build-your-own macaroni cheese stand, and a delectable dessert station.
The event was a resounding success, and a good spirit prevailed among all who came to celebrate Augsburg University’s newest building.