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Alumni Spotlight: Karim El-Hibri

Karim El-Hibri HeadshotKarim El-Hibri ’06 will be one of the newest members of Augsburg’s Board of Regents. He is the President of East West Resources Corporation, a small investment firm, as well as a trustee for the El-Hibri Foundation, a philanthropic organization that empowers Muslim leaders and their allies to build inclusive communities.

Karim is also a graduate of Augsburg’s StepUP program.

Karim’s path to a higher education was not clear-cut from the beginning. After a year at American University, he was forced to drop out due to failing grades. Knowing he needed to enroll in a treatment program, Karim sat down with his parents and discussed his options. They discovered the Wilderness Treatment Center, a place Karim found to be a very positive experience. After successfully completing that program, Karim was encouraged to go to a halfway house in Minneapolis called Progress Valley.

“I had no idea where Minneapolis even was, but I was learning that I needed to follow my higher power’s goal, so I went to Progress Valley for three months. They recommended I move on to Sober Living and I believe God speaks through the people around us, so I followed that recommendation. Sober Living is where I heard about Augsburg’s StepUP program,” says Karim.

Karim met Dave Hadden, former assistant director of StepUP, and Patrice Salmeri, former StepUP Director, both whom he credits as instrumental to his recovery. He says Patrice helped him become the student he wanted to be, but more importantly the person he wanted to be.

“Because I had failed engaging in school before, there was this drive to return to academia and thrive. I wanted an opportunity to prove that I deserved this second chance,” says Karim. “I was blown away by StepUP and having a community of peers who were sharing similar challenges, providing this counter-culture to the typical college partying experience. That network provided structure, and we didn’t want to let the community down.”

Karim took a variety of classes in his two years at Augsburg, including two that left lasting impressions.

“There was the Medieval Studies class with Phil Adamo, where we dressed up in medieval attire and walked around campus. And my biology class with Bill Capman experiencing the saltwater tanks with live coral and clownfish laying eggs, I’ve never seen anything quite as impressive.”

He was also a student fundraiser for the Oren Gateway Building. Karim spent a lot of time making sure that the building’s fundraising campaign was a success, knowing Augsburg would be able to house StepUP students in a safe and sober living space.

Karim graduated from the StepUP program in 2005 and in 2006 he transferred back to American University’s School of International Service to graduate with a degree in International Studies. Despite not graduating from Augsburg, Karim continued to stay engaged with the university.

“Augsburg’s culture and values align with our family’s values and has been a major motivator to stay engaged.”

Karim presenting at the El-Hibri Foundation’s Marshall Ganz Public Narrative workshop.

In 2012, Karim brought his mentor, Professor Abdul Aziz Said, to the 24th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Professor Said was a professor at American University, teaching the value of peace and ecological balance, dignity, political pluralism, and cultural diversity.

“Augsburg is such a beautiful example of what a collegiate community can be. Augsburg has a culture of peace, which makes sense why the Nobel Peace Prize Forum was hosted on campus. Professor Said told me, ‘Why not expand Augsburg’s curriculum to teach peace?’ which has been a personal passion of mine ever since.”

Karim served on StepUP’s Advisory Board for a few years and is excited to begin his work on Augsburg’s Board of Regents this fall. He believes his work with East West Resources and the El-Hibri Foundation have prepared him for this new role.

“I’m fortunate because I get to work with my family; my father is the chairman, my mother and sister are on the Board of Trustees of the El-Hibri Foundation. And at East West Resources I love that I get to focus on so many different opportunities, and we get to bring our values into every business in which we engage. I am proud to say that East West Resources only focuses on businesses that have a humanitarian dimension – enhancing people’s lives in one way or another.”

Karim is grateful to Board Chair Matt Entenza and President Paul Pribbenow for the opportunity to become a Regent on Augsburg’s Board and deeply appreciates their confidence.

Karim and his family golfing.

“I am deeply honored to participate in any way at Augsburg. I didn’t graduate from Augsburg, but the two years I was a student had such a profound impact on me,” says Karim. “StepUP saved my life. It is more than just an education; Augsburg really had an impact on who I am today.”

Stained Glass with a Purpose

Rodger Erickson holding stained glass Augsburg logoRodger Ericson graduated from Augsburg in 1966. He initially chose Augsburg for a simple reason: his brother was an Auggie. But in a short amount of time, Rodger found his calling.

Originally hoping to pursue a career in mathematics, Rodger was recruited his freshman year at Augsburg to participate in a summer residency in New Jersey which was geared towards students attending Lutheran colleges. That experience helped Rodger realize his strength was not in math but in being a pastor. He switched to a Religion major with a minor in Philosophy. Rodger joined the student government and spearheaded Augsburg’s Spiritual Life Commission as a Senior before continuing on to seminary school.

“I cherish my experience at Augsburg. I’m grateful for the education I got and the way in which it molded me. Augsburg truly turned my life around.”

Stained Glass Art

The art of stained glass making came into Rodger and his wife, Margaret’s, lives quite accidentally. “I was in the parish for 10 years, and ended up going into the Air Force,” says Rodger. It was during his assignment in Florida when he had his first encounter with making stained glass. “We found a house on the corner, that when you drove straight towards it, you could see right into the master bathroom!” After being told by the builders that they couldn’t install frosted windows, Rodger discovered some stained glass classes being held at a local shop and asked if that was a possibility. To his delight, it was, and he and Marge took a handful of classes where they made a 5’ X 6’ window for their bathroom. 

Stained glass piece of Santorini, Greece. Since that first window, Rodger and Margaret have continued making stained glass art. For each house they’ve lived in, they create an original piece to go in one of the windows. One of Rodger’s favorite pieces is of Santorini, Greece. “It was a lot of work trying to get the angles and coloration right.” What makes stained glass art so intricate is having to buy specific sheets of glass that come in the color you want and fitting all the pieces together. Rodger often gets asked if he simply paints the glass he buys, but it’s actually quite methodical to connect all the pieces. 

Augsburg Art

Rodger and Margaret consider themselves fortunate to live a comfortable life. Remembering what he learned at Augsburg about supporting your neighbors, the couple donates their works of art to help raise funds for different organizations. They are a long-time supporter of Jaltepec Educativo, a Mexican school that empowers low income high school age girls who have great potential with scholarships to obtain skills and confidence. “Over the past year we raised about $5,000 that all goes to them.” 

So when Augsburg’s Vice President for Advancement, Heather Riddle, reached out to Rodger about joining the Auggie Connections Facebook page, Rodger wondered how he could connect his glass making to support the university. 

He had made a stained glass Minnesota outline with the Augsburg ‘A’ for an old classmate and liked how the piece turned out. He decided to make another piece and donate it to Augsburg, with explicit instructions that the piece be used to raise money for Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Fund Scholarship.

“It’s a win-win-win. I win because I get to make something. [An Augsburg student] wins because they get something, the scholarship. And someone else wins the artwork in the raffle.”

Rodger hopes that his stained glass donation will encourage people to participate in the raffle, and continue donating into the future.

A Raffle for the Augsburg Sesquicentennial Scholarship Fund

Stained glass ornament in the shape of Minnesota. The state is white and is overlayed with a red Augsburg 'A'The Auggie Community has the chance to win this hand-crafted stained glass piece to show off your Auggie pride! And two runner-ups will have a chance to win a stained glass hummingbird, also hand-crafted by Rodger. 

Tickets:

1 ticket $5

3 tickets $10

Two stained glass hummingbirds. On the left is a yellow, green, and red figure. On the right is a navy blue bird with a light blue head. Both come with planters6 tickets $20

Drawing will be held on August 31, 2021.

To enter, mail in a check or cash to:
Augsburg University
Attn: Institutional Advancement
2211 Riverside Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55454.

Players must be at least 18 years old. Mail a check or cash with this slip; credit cards cannot be used for this raffle.

Print off insert containing instructions on how to enter and mail in payment. All instructions listed in blog text.
Print off insert and mail in with your payment.

Reflecting on 50 Years – Wayne ’69 and Pam (Bjorklund) ’69 Carlson

Pam and Wayne CarlsonAugsburg University holds a special place in the Carlson’s hearts. Wayne ’69 and Pam (Bjorklund) ’69 Carlson met on campus over 50 years ago, and two of their children attended Augsburg. So when they were approached about helping organize their 50th reunion, Wayne and Pam welcomed the opportunity.

“The most interesting thing about being on the committee was reconnecting with some people we haven’t seen since graduation,” says Wayne. “But also meeting new people who were at Augsburg at the same time as us but we didn’t know.”

Both enjoyed reconnecting with classmates and learning about what was new – and what was still the same – on campus.

“One thing I liked when I was at Augsburg and has expanded now is how Augsburg reaches out to the community, and how over the years they’ve been able to include students of color, students of all economic ranges, and the fact that they accommodate students with special needs. It’s only expanded more and more over the years,” says Pam.

The Carlson’s also had the opportunity to attend Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Gala the night before their 50th reunion and homecoming celebration. They enjoyed seeing people from other graduating classes, and enjoyed finding new Auggie connections.

“It was telling that you get to an event like that and there’s a small number of people you connect with, that you know really well. Ninety-five percent were strangers, but you all have a common goal or common interest in Augsburg,” says Wayne.

Both Pam and Wayne have fond memories of their time on campus. And while much of Augsburg is the same, they also witnessed big changes over the years.

“It was the same Augsburg in a lot of ways, but with improvements to the buildings. Some of the housing has changed dramatically! I lived in one of the old houses my senior year, but that one is gone now,” says Pam.

“Something that’s different, listening to our daughters talk about their experience as students, is the close relationships with the teachers. Our daughters both received presidential scholarships and they had these special discussion groups. It was neat to hear but I never got into that kind of thing as a student. It’s so different to hear our daughters were friends with their professors. Back then you looked up to the professors but you didn’t get to be friends with them,” says Wayne.

When Wayne applied to Augsburg, he knew he wanted to go to medical school and play sports. In the 60’s, it was a bit of a challenge because he felt like he was the only football player taking chemistry and physics classes.

“I felt like I was an outsider, but I wanted to be part of both programs and it worked out. Back in my day no one helped work out schedules with practice and labs. There was no pre-med club but I felt well prepared for medical school with the quality of the science courses and the broad range of courses I had in the humanities.  I was thrilled to be accepted to medical school and had a 43 year very satisfying career in family medicine.”

Wayne was happy to hear that today, Augsburg does a lot to help balance academics, lab time, and practice time with the student athletes.

As an Elementary Education major, Pam had more communication with her professors. She felt they were always creative and helpful. When she returned to Augsburg in the 80’s to expand her education degree to include Early Childhood Education, she was pregnant. At the end of the semester, the class threw a baby shower for her.

“That doesn’t usually happen in your college classes! It’s that personal touch that was nice,” Pam says.

That personal connection, along with Augsburg’s mission of service to the community, is what keeps Pam and Wayne connected to their alma mater. Both of their daughters who attended Augsburg ended up in service-type careers.

“Those seeds of service to the community are planted with your family and highlighted when you’re at a school that emphasizes that,” says Pam. “50 years ago they had us going out to the neighborhood schools for observation and to help out a bit, so Augsburg’s service started a long long time ago.”

In recognition of Augsburg’s service to the community, and gratitude for the education they and their daughters received at Augsburg, Pam and Wayne Carlson feel fortunate to be able to give to Augsburg now and they have included Augsburg in their will for future giving.

Class of 1969 50th Reunion
Class of 1969 at their 50th Reunion during Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Homecoming in 2019.

Video Playback: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way with Rachel Engebretson ’98 and Alex Gonzalez ’90

Simple advice from Auggies. Make a will and make a difference.

If you missed our “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way” series this summer, you now have the opportunity to watch a replay the virtual conversation with host alumna Rachel Engebretson ‘98 and alumnus Alex Gonzalez ’90. As a financial consultant at Stonebridge Group of Thrivent, Alex shared his expertise in financial and estate planning and answered questions about wills, why everyone needs one, where to start, and how you can create your own will for free.

We get it…times are uncertain right now. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all of us, and raising questions about what if? These discussions can be overwhelming, but making end-of-life plans now will give you more control and ease the burden on family if the worst should happen.

Your Gift will be Matched for the Student-Driven Scholarship Campaign

student led scholarship video, linked

Exciting news, Auggies! A dollar for dollar matching donation has been made by an anonymous donor for the student-led fundraiser for the Pan-Afrikan Center and future scholarships for the newly announced Critical Race and Ethnic Studies department. Make a difference for Auggies right now with double your donation.

About the Student Driven Scholarship Campaign

“What side of history do you want to be on?” 

Dear friends:

Our names are Zakariya Abdullahi and Mallory Ferguson – seniors at Minnesota’s first university where the majority of students are people of color. Augsburg University serves our community and we are proud to be a part of this student-led fundraising effort.

Why are we excited to do this?

Like many of you, we’ve experienced firsthand the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our administration, faculty, and staff are working to offer some semblance of normalcy, but campus life is peculiar right now.

Like many of you, we’ve experienced the social unrest following the death of George Floyd. Our campus is minutes away from the destruction the world witnessed during the unrest in Minneapolis. Many of our fellow students, their families, and their friends call the Twin Cities home and are facing difficulties due to violence, lost jobs, and disrupted communities.

Like many of you, we believe that it’s vital right now to do our part in creating immediate and systemic change.

Building upon the critical work of Augsburg alumni involved with “One Day in May” following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we invite you to join our efforts to raise funding for scholarships for students involved with the Pan-Afrikan Center and future scholarships for the newly announced Critical Race and Ethnic Studies department.

Your support will have an impact on students to help shape a diverse university that honors, respects, and advocates for the lives, histories, and traditions of all.

In solidarity,

Zakariya Abdullahi ’21 & Mallory Ferguson ’21

Help Welcome the Class of 2024 by Sharing Your Community Service

Augsburg’s commitment to community service and engagement is long-standing and deeply held. Since 1992, day undergraduate students have participated in service projects on City Engagement Day, even before they’ve had their first class.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires us to press pause on City Engagement Day this year, but our commitment to community building is unwavering. Instead of sending hundreds of incoming students out to serve Minneapolis neighborhoods and organizations, we are encouraging students, faculty, and staff to engage with their local communities in ways that are meaningful to them personally.

You can help by sharing with Augsburg your community service work. Where to do you volunteer? What do you want today’s students to know about the place where you do your service?  Fill out this short online form where you can upload a photo to encourage others to build community through service. This form requires that you are logged into a google account so you can easily upload a photo.

For those looking for volunteer opportunities, the Sabo Center has compiled this list of local opportunities for community service. This list will be updated as we learn of new opportunities. The University has not vetted every one, so take care in considering COVID-19 safety practices, the organization’s capacity to host groups, and other key questions.

Making an Impact Through Problem Solving

Brynn Watson ’89 is Lockheed Martin’s Vice President in the Digital Transformation Program. As COVID-19 moved most of Lockheed Martin’s work online, Brynn’s work became more important than ever, helping her teams pivot to a digital platform. She has been pleasantly surprised that productivity and efficiency have continued and says her teams have adapted positively to online programs to stay connected. While this has been a big change for most of the company, it’s a change Brynn embraces, especially in her leadership role.

“We’re more empathetic about work-life balance. Parents are teaching their kids. We’ve become more accepting about dogs barking in the background of a phone call. I like that change. It’s a good thing.”

Brynn has an award-winning record for her leadership abilities: Lockheed Martin Space NOVA Full Spectrum Leadership Award; Tribute to Women Honor by the YWCA of Silicon Valley; and Lockheed Martin Space Ed Taft Diversity Leadership Award.

In 2018, Brynn was recognized with Augsburg’s Distinguished Alumni Award for her commitment to helping young women in STEM.

Brynn’s dedication to helping others through community building started long before her work at Lockheed Martin. It started in middle school with the influence of another Auggie: Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding.

Ert graduated from Augsburg in 1969 with a degree in Speech, then moved to Robbinsdale to teach speech and theater at the middle school. This is where Brynn first met Ert and first learned about Augsburg.

“What he had our theater groups focus on was not only our craft, but our community. I got into the focus on service really young.”

Brynn thought Augsburg sounded like the best college from Ert’s depiction. In fact, when applying for college, she only applied to Augsburg.

“I followed in the footsteps of my favorite teacher,” says Brynn. “I was really motivated to go to a place where I could learn and also make an impact on my community.”

At Augsburg, Brynn was involved in campus life as a resident advisor, a cheerleader, and as part of ODK, a national organization that recognized students with responsible leadership and service in campus life skills. And it was in her math class that she developed a love for problem solving. Dr. Lawrence Copes, Chair of Math Computer Science, challenged Brynn and her classmates to think differently about math.

“He opened our minds to what math is, he called it a beautiful language and problem solving language.”

Brynn credits Dr. Copes’ coaching and mentorship for steering her into the aerospace industry. When she thought about what to do with her mathematics degree, she thought about solving hard problems. And the industry growing at the time of her graduation—the industry that presented all the hard problems—was the aerospace industry.

Leadership Through Mentorship

Brynn graduated from Augsburg, then went on to earn her master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of California at Riverside. After a few years at Aerojet Electronic Systems, she attended a job fair where she met a female executive, Amy Flanagan, who was focused on recruiting women to Lockheed Martin. Brynn was so impressed with Amy that she decided she wanted to work for her.

“I honed my focus on service at Augsburg, but when I met Amy, I was introduced to her passion and I wanted to work for her and work for the place she was committed to.”

At Lockheed Martin, Brynn has held a variety of positions, including vice president of Navigation Systems Operations and deputy for the Global Positioning System (GPS) III program for Lockheed Martin Space.

“I have a lot of great memories and experiences of

developing products, launching satellites, those are awesome and amazing things that are doing wonderful things for our country and our world.”

When asked what she is most proud of in the time since graduating from Augsburg, Brynn says raising her daughter to be an amazing young woman. Brynn is also proud of her work mentoring others, especially women.

Augsburg prepared her to go out into the world and make an impact, and Brynn sees this impact in her daughter, in her daughter’s friends, and in others she’s mentored over the years.

“It’s visiting classrooms, it’s one kid that got a spark from that visit. That’s amazing to be able to create those sparks that can solve the next big challenge for the world.”

Brynn has mentored several women in her career, including college students who now work at Lockheed Martin. She is also on the Executive Steering Council for Lockheed Martin’s Women’s Impact Network, and is co-chairing this year’s virtual women’s leadership forum.

“As much as I believe we are making a lot of progress in our quest to improve the diversity metrics—particularly the female to male ratios—there’s a lot of work to do. I always make sure that people surround themselves with mentors and sponsors and champions. You are creating a network of support so as you need to make difficult decisions—whether it’s technical decisions within your day job or it is advice on how to find that next opportunity—you’ve got that support network.”

Brynn’s daily work doesn’t include typing code or doing math problems on the white board like she used to, but she believes her work is still about solving problems and making sure the barriers her teams might be facing are addressed.

“Sometimes you think you have to do it all on your own and that’s never the case. I got to where I am because of mentors and teachers and my parents, all those people are the shoulders that I stood on to get to where I’m at.”

Augsburg Women Engaged Sponsors a Campus Cupboard Drive

With no safe housing alternatives for many Augsburg students during COVID-19, they remain on campus this summer. It’s also anticipated that many students will have similar issues in the fall as they return to school. Currently, many nearby stores are temporarily closed and transportation outside of the area isn’t always reliable. As a result, Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) is sponsoring a drive for the Campus Cupboard and ShareShop to support these students now as well as in the future.

Items can be dropped off June 25 from 3 to 6 p.m., in Lot D at Augsburg. You can also make an online donation which Augsburg will use to purchase small appliances, household items, tools, food in bulk, and gift cards to local businesses such as Seward Coop so our students can be supported with the goods and services they need. Please use the designation: Other and in the “Other” field, enter Campus Cupboard.

A recommended list of items to donate is below.

Campus Cupboard Donation List:

Non-perishable food such as

  • Mac & cheese
  • Ramen
  • Canned tuna/chicken
  • Canned soup (Preferred: more complex soups, i.e., not ‘cream of’ or tomato )
  • Rice
  • Protein supplements (chia, flax, veg protein, whey)
  • High quality granola bars
  • Canned beans

Hygiene and cleaning supplies such as

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Menstrual products
  • Shampoo/ Conditioner
  • Band-Aids
  • Laundry Detergent (Preferred brands: Seventh Generation, Meyers, Method, Biokleen)
  • Dish Soap (Preferred brands: Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Dr Bronner’s)

ShareShop Donation List:

  • Empty spray bottles for homemade non-toxic cleaning solutions
  • Tea Kettles/water heaters
  • Sewing machine – Fully functional, up to 2 machines total – we will turn away donations if necessary
  • Power strips
  • School supplies (bulk packages are welcome):
    • Notebooks (look for recycled paper and companies with sustainability/ethical/fair trade commitments if possible)
    • Folders
    • Pens
    • Pencils
    • Highlighters
  • Scissors
  • Baking sheets
    • Multiple sizes, including smaller sizes
    • Prefer naturally non-stick like Nordic Ware® brand rather than Teflon™-coated
  • New Twin XL bedding
  • Reusable water bottles – durable and clean (can be used)
  • Thermos (portable coffee containers) – durable and clean (can be used)
  • Small fans for dorm rooms

Thank you for considering a donation!

AWE

Auggies Take Action: Urge Congress to continue support for college students and higher ed institutions

In March, more than 200 Auggies spoke up with their members of Congress on behalf of college students and institutions across the nation. Congress made an important first step at that time, passing the CARES Act legislation that provided critical funding for college students and their institutions, but more federal support for higher education is needed.

The national associations that represent higher education, including the National Association for Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), have a new request for Congress as the body considers further action to support those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAICU and the Minnesota Private College Council have asked us to encourage individuals who are concerned about our students and institutions to reach out to your elected officials. Please consider making your voice heard with your representatives. Many of our faculty and staff have already written on behalf of our institution, as it’s especially powerful for members to also hear from their constituents individually.

You can find out more and take action here:

https://secure.everyaction.com/rJ227g0BL0CxxE212Sk2Gw2

A Sweetheart of a Sale – February 11 and 12

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!