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Augsburg President Speaks on Systemic Racism and Lasting Change

In August 2020 Augsburg University President Paul Pribbenow participated in a live, virtual forum with other nationally recognized Presidents and Chancellors of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU). A recording of this online event is now available on YouTube.

From the event invitation:

“After the tragic murder of George Floyd, many colleges and universities released strong statements denouncing police brutality and the relentless racism Black Americans face. However, systemic racism has plagued our country for over four hundred years, and it isn’t something that will simply dissipate—it must be met with anti-racism strategies.

Join the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) for a live, virtual event where four CUMU university presidents and chancellors will honestly discuss where we go from here. This critical dialogue will center on how and why higher education leaders need to go beyond rhetoric to combat systemic racism and inequities towards systematic and lasting change.

  • How can we develop proactive agendas that combat discrimination, inequalities, and injustices that are omnipresent in American society?
  • How can we support individual and institutional readiness in addressing racism and inequities?
  • What is our role as engaged anchor leaders in addressing our own institution’s history and role in creating the very systems and structures in place today?

This virtual discussion will highlight ways to center anti-racism into our urban missions and is a space for attendees to think critically about their role within their institution and cities.”

The Man in the Pines – one Auggie’s quest to find a story

The Man in the Pines-NashPer Minnesota tradition, David Nash ’06 first met the giant, talking Paul Bunyan in Brainerd, Minnesota when he was really young, and it left a lasting impression. So a few years ago when picking an American folklore to read to his son, it was obvious to David he should read the story of Paul Bunyan. Unfortunately, his son wasn’t that interested in tales of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox.

David has always enjoyed writing music, so he wrote a song about Paul to sing to his son, imagining if Paul was a real person. He wondered what if Paul’s story was a bit sadder, and perhaps we were taking advantage of his story and turning it into something else to get the happy folklore that it is now.After writing the song, David played it at an open mic and people really enjoyed it. Later, he heard an interview of a musician he listens to who mentioned they wrote a book based off a song.

“It occurred to me: why does my song have to be the end of the story?”

After his kids went to bed one summer night in 2018, David sat down and started writing. Then it was every night when the kids went to bed. He’d sit down in a chair and write and write and write.

“It all came on suddenly, almost to the point that it felt kind of like a sickness. It was like I couldn’t get better until the story was all written down.”

By researching the history of logging in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the great Hinckley fire, David aimed to write a historically accurate novel with American folklore, historical ecology, Native American spirituality, and love.

When a draft was complete, the next step was publication. David’s wife, alumna Sara (Holman) Nash ’06, suggested he reach out to Augsburg’s English Department. Sara is an English major graduate from Augsburg and connected David with Professor Emerita Kathryn Swanson.

“Kathy Swanson and the English Department helped me look for publishers and things to consider in terms of what makes the project marketable, and writing resources.”

Two publishers accepted David’s book: one was from Oregon and the other, Orange Hat Publishing, is located in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

“I went with the Waukesha publisher. Being more local, I felt a good connection with their owner, who went to the same high school as me.”

After rounds of formal editing and book designs, The Man in the Pines was ready to be released. A book launch party was planned for April 2020 at a local brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The party and book tour was going to be accompanied by David’s The Man in the Pines music.

However, the current pandemic prevented the party from happening and canceled the book tour.

“With COVID, self-promotion is hard right now. As a musician, I thrive more off immediate interaction with people, in-person.”

David isn’t giving up, though. He still released the book in March and did an online reading with a few other authors. He also hosted an online concert with one other musician, during which David explained a few stories from book and played songs. When it’s safe to do so, he will tour with his book and accompanying songs, and have a proper launch party in La Crosse.

One surprising thing David learned about himself while writing The Man in the Pines is that he really likes writing.

“If someone would have told me I would enjoy writing a book, it would have been hard to comprehend. I like that you can start with an idea and you may not know your destination. I like writing myself out of problems. It can be frustrating, but also gratifying to discover the journey of your characters as you write.”

Photo from alumna Lauren (Falk) McVean ‘06. Photo credit Lauren B Photography (laurenbfalk.com).

David had an early connection to Augsburg. His mom, Susan Nash, Ed.D., has been a nursing professor at Augsburg’s Rochester campus since 1998, and his older brother, Collin, played hockey at Augsburg. David was a biology major and also played hockey. He met his wife, Sara, their senior year in college, at a mutual friend’s birthday party.

Today, David is a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and Strabismologist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and two children, where they spend most of their time outdoors, kayaking, jogging, fly and trout fishing, hiking, painting, and practicing photography.

“I have more interests and hobbies than I have time for!”

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 University News from the Office of the President

President Paul PribbenowThis pandemic has challenged us all, challenged our way of life, and changed, at least for now, our way of educating students. It has not curtailed what is at the heart of Augsburg: our commitment to our students and community. Today Augsburg alumni, parents, donors, and friends are on my mind, and I hope you are safe and finding a sense of steadiness amidst the turbulence. 

As we work to navigate these challenging times together, I have three perspectives on our current situation: as a parent, as a faculty member, and as Augsburg’s president.

As a parent, my priority is to support my children through these difficult times. Last fall, Augsburg welcomed its largest incoming class of freshmen, which included my son, Thomas. He is now moved out of Mortensen Hall and back home with us. Both he and his sister Maya are adjusting to online classes and the loss of their educational environments. It is a challenging situation, but also a unique opportunity for us to learn with and from each other.

As a faculty member teaching a course to seniors on the importance of place in our lives, my priority is to help them achieve their learning outcomes even though we had to quickly switch to an entirely online format. It is a time for us as educators to dig deep—with empathy, flexibility, and understanding—as we offer the support that will help our students navigate to a successful conclusion to the Spring 2020 term.

Like the rest of us, our students are doing their best to adapt to new pressures and stresses. Augsburg serves one of the most diverse and remarkable student bodies in higher education. We have thousands of traditional undergraduates, adult undergraduates, and graduate students. This pandemic is affecting our students in varied ways, so we are doing our best to adapt on a daily basis. Our number one focus between now and the end of the semester is student success. We want them to finish strong.

As Augsburg’s president, my top priority is to advance our mission to educate students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders in a safe and healthy environment. Augsburg suspended in-person classes in mid-March and moved all classes online. We’ve been in close contact with the Minnesota Department of Health and the governor’s office as we reached these decisions.

The Augsburg community has always worked to help our fellow Auggies. In the winter of 1919-20, the 1918 Influenza pandemic hit our campus. It forced the cancellation of choir events, athletic games, and student groups. With the help of the Augsburg staff, healthy Augsburg students organized to care for those who were sick. As the epidemic passed, the school celebrated by hosting an event honoring those who came together to care for their fellow Auggies.

Today, we are again shifting gears to support our community. I am inspired by how Augsburg faculty and staff across the institution have dedicated themselves fully and in earnest to the work that is now in front of us. Faculty have acquired new pedagogical tools and refined old ones to help our students transition online. Staff have pivoted their work with the fast-changing circumstances of this pandemic. Augsburg’s IT team has ensured our students are able to attend class virtually with laptops and internet connection, as well as kept our technology working as the Augsburg community moved online. The custodial staff has worked with impressive dedication to clean and disinfect areas of campus for the nearly 200 residential students still living on campus.

And there are many others working in ways that may or may not be visible to the rest of Augsburg’s community, all working together to ensure Augsburg’s promise to our students is upheld. I’m grateful for everyone’s efforts.

Unfortunately, during our modified operations related to the coronavirus, Augsburg’s revenue is significantly reduced. There are a number of Augsburg employees who are unable to complete their work from home or whose responsibilities are impossible to complete during a stay-at-home order. In these situations, we’ve let individuals know that they will be furloughed from May through August. We value these employees and hope to have them return to campus this fall. We have worked closely with these employees to help them take advantage of unemployment insurance programs and we will maintain health insurance coverage throughout the furlough period.

Among many canceled events this spring, I am heartbroken along with everyone at Augsburg that we cannot celebrate the class of 2020’s many achievements in a commencement ceremony at U.S. Bank Stadium. We will find ways to honor the spirit of these celebrations—and to experience moments of joy as a community. We are planning a virtual commencement in May, and when the time is safe, we promise to invite the community together again to celebrate the Class of 2020’s graduation.

Financial Restructuring

It is an uncertain and highly competitive time in higher education. Prior to our changes on campus related to the pandemic, we were following through on important strategic efforts to address projected flat revenue in the coming years while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our mission. As part of a strategic plan initiative to reduce expenses, we have made the difficult decision to reduce the size of our staff. That decision came out of three years of analysis and planning work that involved faculty, staff, students, and board members. 

In some cases, this has meant eliminating positions as people resign or retire. For approximately 20 employees, this has meant a lay-off. As we were planning this very difficult action, we never imagined it would intersect with anything as stressful and disruptive as the COVID-19 outbreak action, but we concluded that delaying these planned layoffs in light of the outbreak would not help. We did not come to this decision, nor the timing of the action, lightly.  Every member of the Augsburg community is valued, and it distresses me that we have to say goodbye to these individuals who have helped our institution in meaningful ways.

The Augsburg Advancement division is one area where we have reduced the size of the staff. While these are particularly hard changes for everyone, I want you to know that the division—led by Vice President Heather Riddle—is 100% dedicated to alumni engagement and programming moving forward. As responsibilities shift from positions that were eliminated to the remaining staff, you will hear directly from that office.

In a period of great change, it can be especially powerful to remember those things that are steady and unchanging. Remember Augsburg’s mission and our 150 years of offering our students an education that equips them for life in the world; remember that we are a community that shows up for each other, with generosity and grace; and remember that we have found ways over and over again throughout our history to navigate difficult challenges—as we will do together in this moment.

In this demanding time, there is still much to be thankful for at Augsburg: remarkable students, 150 years of heritage, dedicated faculty and staff, and committed friends and alumni who continue to show support of our mission.

You all are in my prayers for health and peace.

Be well and keep in touch,

Paul C. Pribbenow

President

Celebrating Donna McLean’s Retirement – December 12

Donna McLeanAfter 34 years, four positions, seven fundraising campaigns, 12 office moves and thousands of conversations with alumni, parents, and friends, Donna McLean has decided to retire from her work at Augsburg. Her last day will be December 20. Her time at Augsburg will be celebrated with a reception on December 12 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (program at 4 p.m.) in the Arnold Atrium, Foss Center. All are welcome to attend.

“I have been extremely fortunate to participate in the exciting growth and development of this special place over the last 30 years,” Donna said. “It has truly been a privilege for me to serve Augsburg. I continue to be impressed by all that is Augsburg of today. I’ve had a most rewarding vocational journey here – the mission has always been my passion and the people my inspiration.”

Donna began her career at Augsburg as the assistant registrar in 1985. A year later she moved into the role of director of annual giving and held this position until 1990 when she became director of alumni and parent relations. She came back to fundraising in 1997 as the director of the Augsburg Fund and has held a number of positions in the advancement office since. Most recently, as a director of leadership gifts, Donna has had the opportunity to work with generous donors who wish to carry on the mission of the University through their philanthropy.

“In her 30+ year tenure at Augsburg, Donna McLean has had countless relationships with donors and alumni and has made a lasting impact through giving her time, talents and treasures to the University,” President Pribbenow said.

“At any Augsburg event, Donna probably knows half the guests and has made family connections with the other half,” said Martha Truax, director of leadership gifts. “Thanks to her incredible ability to build relationships and her genuine, contagious enthusiasm for Augsburg’s mission, she has helped donors create meaningful gifts that have transformed this campus.”

In 2011, she led a team of Auggie women who created AWE – Augsburg Women Engaged. This initiative serves as a catalyst for tapping the potential of Auggie women to connect, learn and give. This impressive group of women has generously supported several of Augsburg’s fundraising campaigns and most recently created the AWE Scholarship Endowed Fund that currently supports two AWE scholars.

One of her most rewarding experiences while working at Augsburg has been raising funds to support the StepUP Program, for students in recovery.  Donna wished to provide a legacy of support to the work of StepUP and in 2016, she established an endowed scholarship named the Donna Demler McLean Endowed Fund, in honor and memory of her son, Matthew, to provide financial support and encouragement to Augsburg students participating in the StepUP Program.

A meaningful way to thank Donna for her years of service to Augsburg would be a special gift to her scholarship fund.

We are collecting photos of Donna and her Auggie friends over the years for a slideshow at her retirement gathering. Please email any photos you would like to share to Martha Truax at truaxm@augsburg.edu by Monday, December 2.

150 Sesquicentennial Norway Arts & Culture trip in May 2020

Led 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.  

Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Gala – Join the Waitlist

Update: This event is now sold out. If you are interested in being added to the waitlist, please follow the registration link and add your name. We will let you know as soon as possible if we have ticket(s) available!

Join us for a once-in-a-lifetime event. On Friday, September 27, 2019, we kick off Augsburg’s sesquicentennial with a gala in downtown Minneapolis. This gala will acknowledge our history of pursuing the calling to serve the community, and it will rally our energetic support for the next 150 years of Augsburg University.

During this unprecedented evening, we will share stories of gratitude and hope for the future. We will celebrate with friends who have been a part of the community: alumni, parents, faculty, and staff. We’ll enjoy moments to reflect, share, and give while surrounded by the relationships that have always been at the heart of Augsburg.
We look forward to seeing you there.

—Darcey Engen ’88 and Jeff Swenson ’79
Sesquicentennial Committee co-chairs

Event Details

Friday, September 27, 2019

4:30 p.m. Reception, 6 p.m. Program

Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot

225 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55401

This event will likely sell out. Order today to reserve your place.

Learn more about the Sesquicentennial and subscribe to our calendar.

Sad news about Jeroy Carlson ’48

Jeroy CarlsonWe are deeply saddened to share the news that Jeroy Carlson ’48 passed away yesterday. Jeroy spent more than 60 years at Augsburg. He was a student, parent, grandparent, volunteer, alumni director, and a senior development officer for Augsburg. Known as “Mr. Augsburg,” he spent much of his life inspiring, connecting, and mentoring Auggies.

Jeroy embodied everything about Augsburg and knew its history by heart. His dedication to the University was seen most in the way he connected to its students and alumni. During his long tenure here, he helped countless students get their careers off the ground by picking up the phone and calling someone he knew.

He built relationships with hundreds of people through Augsburg and raised millions of dollars to help build the chapel, library, fitness center, football field, and theater, to name just a few. Carlson’s efforts can be seen all over campus and his legacy along with his wife, Lorraine, was recently honored through the dedication of the new Jeroy ’48 and Lorraine Carlson Religion Department Home in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Jeroy Carlson as a studentSports were always a passion for Jeroy. He played baseball, basketball, and football as a student at Augsburg and was part of four MIAC championship teams. After graduating, Jeroy spent 15 years teaching and coaching. During this time, he served on the Augsburg Alumni Board before returning to his alma mater as the alumni director.

Our prayers and sympathies go out to Lorraine “Ainy” Carlson and their family. Jeroy was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather.

Visitation and Funeral

A visitation will be held at 10 a.m. with the funeral following at 11 a.m. on Dec. 13 at Mount Olivet Church, 5025 Knox Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419.

Meet Spirit of Augsburg Award Winner John R. Holum

Dr. John Holum
Dr. John Holum and his daughters, Kathryn and Ann

John R. Holum, Ph.D., is a beloved Augsburg University retired professor whose legacy spans over 30 years as faculty. He is a prolific writer who has published dozens of books and peer-reviewed papers, which have inspired not only generations of students who read his chemistry textbooks, but also thousands of researchers and teachers around the world.

One nominator says this of Holum in a letter of support: “In his life and work he embodies the very ethos of Augsburg’s commitment to the education of the whole person…Dr. Holum’s approach to pedagogy was both engaging and inspiring…he made the material accessible to all and exciting to learn. He was articulate and patient.”

After serving in the Army, where he enjoyed a community of fellow scientists, Holum briefly taught chemistry at Pacific Lutheran University on the West Coast. Drawn to Augsburg in 1957 because it was at the center of population density for Lutheran students in the United States, Holum had a vision to empower the next generation of science and medicine students to be faithful Christian witnesses in a variety of industries and locations.

He came to Augsburg with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and began to teach chemistry to nurses and pre-med students. Holum continued to work at Augsburg until his retirement in 1993, also teaching advanced organic chemistry and environmental chemistry, which students said should be required for all their classmates.

The more students he got to know—including one exemplary Augsburg student, Peter Agre ‘70, who later won a Nobel Prize for chemistry—the more he realized the caliber of their character, intelligence, and diligence. This deepened sense of appreciation for his students transformed into a drive to write textbooks that better suited the needs of students learning in his classrooms and others studying the alluring complexities of chemistry. Through discussions with traveling textbook salespeople and a summer of long days researching with a grant from the National Science Foundation, his creation of a single textbook developed into a successful writing and publishing career that complemented his teaching in the classroom.

Holum’s lifelong passion for academic excellence and support of students on their educational journey reflects Augsburg’s anchoring principles of robust liberal arts and professional studies, guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran church. Generations of students can attest to the transformational power of learning embedded within Holum’s life and career. He was kind and generous as a professor, and is a man who lives a life of faith and service beyond the classroom.

Augsburg University Associates Host Their Annual Fall Brunch

On Saturday, Sept. 15, the Augsburg University Associates hosted their annual fall brunch. The Associates conducted their business meeting, heard Leif Anderson give greetings from the University, got an update on admissions from Devon Ross, and enjoyed fellowship together. They also welcomed new board members and thanked members who are ending their time on the board.
View an album of the brunch below:
Augsburg Associates Fall Brunch 2018
Later this fall, the Associates are looking forward to welcoming new members and hosting Velkommen Jul!