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COVID-19: 2020-21 academic year plans and student resources ›

Q&A with Chris Stedman ’08 about life online and his new book

Chris Stedman headshotChris Stedman, an activist, community organizer, and writer, is the author of “IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives” and “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.” He has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pitchfork, BuzzFeed, and VICE, and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and PBS. Formerly the founding executive director of the Yale Humanist Community, he also served as a humanist chaplain at Harvard University and is currently Adjunct Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Q: What is IRL about?

Stedman: For years we’ve heard again and again that life online is “fake,” or at least “less real” than the other parts of our lives. But how do we square that with that fact that so much of what we do is now online? And what does “real” even mean, anyway? IRL examines how moving really big parts of who we are and how we live to the internet is transforming our understanding of what it means to be human — to belong, to express ourselves, to find meaning in our lives. I was surprised by what I discovered over my several-year investigation into what it means to be human in a virtual age, and I hope readers will be surprised by what they find in the book, too.

Q: This book seems to speak to the moment society is in now, with work from home and friends and family seeing each other virtually. Was this intentional? How did you decide to write about life online?

Stedman: I think we’ve been moving in this direction for some time, but of course in this year of necessary social distancing we hit fast forward in a really big way. I never imagined that the questions I spent the last few years wrestling with would become some of the defining questions of this year, but I hope IRL can be a useful tool for anyone struggling with how to make life online feel meaningful and “real.” I write to figure out what I think about things, but I only publish if I hope that what I’ve written can be useful for others who are wrestling with similar questions. So if IRL can help make this difficult year a little easier to navigate for someone, I will feel very fulfilled.

Q: You were an Augsburg First Decade Award recipient in 2018. What was the work you did after graduation?

Stedman: After graduating from Augsburg, I went on to get a master’s in religion, then spent the better part of a decade working with people who fall outside of religious categories — a group demographers typically refer to as the “religiously unaffiliated,” or people who, when asked what their religion is, say “none” — as they explored questions of meaning and purpose as a community builder and humanist chaplain at Harvard and Yale universities. But a few years ago I moved back to my home state of Minnesota to do a few things, including work on this book. During my years of supporting the religiously unaffiliated at Harvard and Yale, I noticed a lot of people were moving out of the institutions in which we’ve historically wrestled with questions about who we are, like churches, and shifting that work to digital space. Ultimately that’s a big part of why I became interested in this topic. I wanted to understand how this immense cultural shift out of traditional institutions and into this new, untested institution—the internet—is changing us.

Q: You are now back at Augsburg teaching in the Department of Religion and Philosophy. What is it like being back on campus in a new capacity and during a pandemic?

Stedman: I honestly never imagined I’d end up back at Augsburg! I’m just one semester into teaching, and of course it’s been a challenging semester in all kinds of ways, but being on the other end of things in the department that played such a big role in shaping the way I think about questions of meaning has felt so special. I teach Religion 200, a class I of course took as a student, which is on vocation and the search for meaning. Again, I never imagined while working on this book about what the search for meaning looks like in a digital age that it would end up being so helpful to me not just in navigating this pandemic year but also in teaching a class on the search for meaning. I feel really fortunate in that respect. And I feel even more fortunate to be teaching the students I am; I’ve learned so much from them, both as we’ve explored the themes of RLN 200 together, and also as we’ve navigated these really complex, virtual circumstances. I give them so much credit for all the work they’ve been putting in as we collectively try to figure out this new way of being and learning together. But, as I write about in IRL, I think having to live into these new, virtual ways of being human gives us all kinds of meaningful chances to stretch ourselves. I’ve definitely felt that this semester, and I’m really looking forward to teaching a couple sections of RLN 200 again next semester.

Q:What’s next for you? Do you have plans for another book?

Stedman: It took me eight years between my first book and this one, and while hopefully the next gap won’t be as long, I’m not actively working on a new book just yet. But I do have another big project I’ve been working on this year. I can’t say what it is just yet, but it’s something really different for me, and I think, or at least hope, people will really connect with it. If you want to find out more once I’m able to talk about it, my infrequent newsletter is probably the best place to get updates.

Q: Where can people buy your book?

Stedman: I always encourage people to shop local if they can—independent bookstores need our support now more than ever. Minnesota has so many amazing ones: Subtext, Moon Palace, and Magers & Quinn are just a few of my favorites. You can also go straight to the publisher. I really appreciate everyone who checks out the book and I’d love to hear what you think if you do!

The Nontraditional Route to Higher Ed – Anthony Howard ’18

Anthony Howard 2018Anthony Howard ’18 didn’t take the traditional route through higher education. He graduated from high school early and immediately went into the business world as a full time employee at Ponsse in Wisconsin, a forest machinery company headquartered in Vierema, Finland. While on a business trip in Finland, Anthony asked if there were any openings to work in Finland. He was looking for an opportunity to learn more, as well as get outside of his comfort zone.

One month later, he moved to Finland.

Anthony was there for two years, working predominately with international business relations.

“I was alone, young, and didn’t have much support in Finland. So I was forced to grow up, be a self-starter,” says Anthony.

At the end of 2009, he was ready for a new challenge, so he moved back to the United States and after a winter off, he took a job in Michigan with Roland Machinery Company. It was a good job, but he realized that while he’d been successful so far, he needed a higher education.

“I knew I wouldn’t have the ability to keep moving and doing things as I had been up to this point.”

He moved to Minnesota and signed up for an information session at Normandale Community College to learn more about their AA Business program.

“I ended up enrolling for school that night. I wasn’t a big school person so I picked classes that I knew I’d like to keep me interested. And after two years, I got a bug to go after my Bachelor’s degree.”

That’s when he found Augsburg. Anthony discovered his credits from Normandale would transfer well to Augsburg. He also fell in love with the campus and Adult Undergraduate program availability. He needed weekend and evening classes, but still wanted the in-person teaching. Augsburg’s Adult Undergraduate program fit all his needs.

Anthony enjoyed his accounting classes, and took any class he could with Professor Marc McIntosh. However, his favorite classes were the electives, such as book making and theater.

“The liberal arts education at Augsburg helps craft character.”

Anthony’s ethics class used references that he uses today in his workplace. He took two years of Spanish; he doesn’t remember the Spanish now, but he does remember being outside his comfort zone trying to learn another language. And he believes theater helped him learn about preparation, a lesson that circled back a few years later while he was studying leadership as part of the master’s program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business.

“My professor reiterated the importance of a theater exercise: take a note. In theater, students take a note from the director about evaluating their performance. In the business world, you can take a note from leadership that helps elevate your work performance.”

After graduating from Augsburg in 2018, Anthony and his wife had a small group of friends get together for the 4th of July. One of his friends is a career coach and asked what he was going to do next.

“She got my wheels turning, so I looked into specialty Masters programs. I didn’t want a general MBA, I wanted something very specific. I found a supply chain program which brought all my career pieces together. I deferred one year for our second baby. Then I completed my Masters in the summer of 2020.”

Now Anthony is 90 days into his job as COO at Escali, a Minnesota company which manufactures measuring equipment for home and professional settings.

“Joining a new company in midst of COVID is interesting. There are limited people, limited interactions, and it makes for a weird transfer into a new role.”

When asked what advice he has for students, he says when searching for a job, do the resume steps and have an elevator pitch. He also recommends reading The 20-Minute Networking Meeting because it teaches you how to come across as professional in any situation.

He also believes in networking.

“You’ll meet some awesome people, and they may or may not directly help you with a future job. If you do a good job staying in touch, they might be a good resource to have down the road. Get outside your comfort zone, talk to people. I networked my butt off to gain experiences. I had a lot of coffee with a lot of people just to ask questions and really learn about their work. After those meetings, I really reviewed and appreciated what I learned; that’s the goal. Today, I’m comfortable applying COVID rules to a new company with new people because of all the work I’ve done before that took me outside of my comfort zone. It’s not scary now.”

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.

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.”

Five Years of Howling Bird Press

Howling Bird Press

Since its inception five years ago, Howling Bird Press has published five winning manuscripts, all with authors who have gone on to do wonderful things. The press has also been recognized for its work in Poets & Writers, Kirkus, Foreword Reviews, Columbia Journal, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Literary Review, and The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

2020 marks the five-year anniversary of Howling Bird Press, the publishing house of Augsburg University’s Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Started by former MFA Director and Professor Emerita Cass Dalglish, Howling Bird Press is a student-run publishing program that offers an annual book contest where the winner is awarded a $1,000 cash prize along with book publication and distribution.

Students enrolled in the Publishing Concentration, a two-semester course sequence taught by poet James Cihlar, run the press while studying the publishing profession and the book trade. The students handle all the work of running a press, including acquisitions, editing, graphic design, production, marketing, and fundraising. Howling Bird Press books are distributed by Small Press Distribution and are available online and in bookstores nationwide.

The annual nationwide contest is open to manuscripts of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction on an alternating basis and is judged by the student editors and senior faculty of the MFA program. Along with the prize and publication, the winning author is invited to read at the MFA program’s summer residency in Minneapolis.

This year’s title, Self, Divided by John Medeiros, is the winner of the 2020 Nonfiction Prize.

Previous winning books are Irreversible Things, by Lisa Van Orman Hadley, winner of the 2019 Fiction Prize; Simples, by KateLynn Hibbard, winner of the 2018 Poetry Prize; Still Life with Horses, by Jean Harper, winner of the 2017 Nonfiction Prize; The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, by Jacob M. Appel, winner of the 2016 Fiction Prize; and At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody, by Marci Vogel, winner of the 2015 Poetry Prize.

This fall, students will be reading poetry manuscripts in preparation for the 2021 prize.

First Howling Bird Press Publishing Editors

Students with winning author

The first three students to sign up for Howling Bird Press’s publishing concentration were not only adding a concentration on to their creative writing master’s program, they were helping develop the program for future publishing students. Amanda Symes, Ashley Cardona, and Kevin Matuseski are photographed with Marci Vogel at her book launch party in 2015.

Kevin Matuseski MFA ’16

It was quite lovely to be part of the first Howling Bird Press cohort of editors. The idea was to study everything in bookmaking from the initial manuscript to marketing after publication, so it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor for someone like me who wanted to eventually publish his own book. I even ordered a cake for the book launch! Those are things you don’t really imagine doing when you think of the book business, but there are many little tasks like that in publishing.

The most grueling aspect was the sheer quantity of reading we did to select a manuscript to publish. I was reading poetry manuscripts almost everyday—from right after work until I went to bed—for about a month. Then we came together as a team, with professors as our guides, to decide on the winning manuscript.

This was the most memorable to me—to have several people in one room with different tastes, values, and backgrounds—and to try to agree on the best manuscript. It was no easy task, but I think all of us were proud of our choice, Marci Vogel’s At The Border of Wilshire & Nobody.

Her book is now one of my most cherished possessions. Yes, it’s beautiful work, but it became even more valuable when we sat down as an editing cohort to read through it line by line. I think voracious readers often don’t slow down to do this, but it’s a rewarding process, especially with a text as beautiful and layered as Marci’s. You become more present with the text, you notice things, and you guess (sometimes incorrectly) at the intention of the author. It’s critical reading to the extreme.

Our appreciation for Marci’s work was compounded when we met the person behind the manuscript—a kind, humble, and wise person with a true passion for language. She even recommended a few books that I ordered for my daughter. It’s nice to have made a connection with someone so genuine. I see now that she has another book out, Death and Other Holidays. My copy has been ordered. I can’t wait to read it! It’s gratifying to see her continued success having been part of her first book release.

Ashley Cardona MFA ’15

Being part of the team responsible for creating and running Howling Bird Press is one of those experiences that I’m grateful for in ways that I’m only now fully realizing.

I learned what it takes to make a book happen. Proofing, layout, printing, cutting, binding—it was a fascinating process. And then, seeing Marci’s work finally transform from a PDF into a beautiful, tangible piece of art gave us all such a feeling of accomplishment and pride. To be able to bring her poetry to the page was a gift.

Promoting and celebrating the book came naturally for us. We were excited about sharing her work and ours with the world. Designing a promotional broadside felt like the right way to showcase the beauty of language and image that runs throughout Marci’s poetry. The bird of paradise image (below) plays with the language of the poem and serves as a reminder of place for much of her book.

We felt like we knew Marci before we ever met, and when we finally did meet for the book launch, we were met with warmth and grace—she is truly a delightful person and artist.

Amanda Symes MFA ’15

It was exciting to join the inaugural Howling Bird Press group. We not only got the chance to learn about publishing, we had the opportunity to help design the program. Our first assignment was to come up with the publishing house’s name. That was an exciting task that many other MFA students participated in.

To say we got a crash course in publishing is a bit of an understatement. The three of us in that first cohort had full-time jobs, families, were in different tracks in the MFA program (Nonfiction, Poetry, and Fiction), and were embarking on publishing the first Howling Bird Press book.

We were doing more than just a publishing job, though. And we were doing a few years’ worth of publishing work in two short semesters. We read over ninety poetry manuscripts, had back-and-forth meetings to whittle the list down to ten finalists, worked with professors in an all-day discussion to pick the winning manuscript, drafted a contract for winner Marci Vogel, edited her manuscript, designed an entire book—cover, layout, text—to print, finalized details with a book printing company, developed a marketing plan, implemented that marketing plan, and organized a book launch party.

For me, this process was terrifying and also one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing life. I didn’t have a background in poetry or in publishing, so everything was new. And while it was daunting, I was reassured working with Ashley, Kevin, and Marci, all who are phenomenal writers. We found a way to work together, and work with the professors, to publish what has turned into one of my favorite books: At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody.

In the end, I learned more than I could have dreamed about the publishing process. It’s helped shape my writing and prepared me for what to expect when my manuscript is finished. It’s also been deeply rewarding to see the great things Marci has done with At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody, and her continued success since.

Howling Bird Press – Five Years of Accomplishments

Howling Bird Press authors have accomplished so much in the short time since winning the annual publication award.

  • Still Life with Horses by Jean Harper, Simples by KateLynn Hibbard, and Irreversible Things by Lisa Van Orman Hadley have all been finalists for the Midwest Book Awards.
  • Simples was a finalist for Lyricality’s One Book Minnesota pick.
  • Irreversible Things won an Association of Mormon Letters (AML) book award.
  • Author Jacob M. Appel is the subject of a Netflix documentary and his Howling Bird Press winning book, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, is mentioned. This book has sixty ratings on Amazon averaging 4.5 stars.
  • Howling Bird Press has reprinted both Irreversible Things and The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street due to popular demand.

    

Howling Bird Press authors are not the only success story, however. The publishing alumni have gone on to great things as well!

  • Tracy Ross published her books Broken Signals and James Dean and the Beautiful Machine.
  • Colin Mustful founded his own press, History through Fiction.
  • Ashley Cardona and Amanda Symes have won writing contests, publishing poetry and fiction (respectively) as part of anthology collections.
  • Three students have continued their studies in Georgetown University’s publishing program (Gabe Benson), the University of Minnesota’s MFA program (Brad Hagen), and Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s graduate program in Counseling with a focus on creative writing in Art Therapy and trauma (Ciara Dall).

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The Master of Fine Arts program at Augsburg University is designed to accommodate writers who work full-time, live outside of Minnesota, or simply desire the flexibility of a low-residency experience. This two-year program—run jointly by Stephan Eirik Clark and Lindsay Starck—offers one-on-one work with mentors throughout the year, features an annual ten-day summer residency, and provides the opportunity to join a lifelong community of writers.

Students typically begin the program with a ten-day summer residency in Minneapolis, participating in daily workshops, readings, and mini-courses that focus on literary craft as well as career skills in teaching, editing, publishing, book arts, and advertising. The program includes three summer residencies in Minneapolis.

The first and second residencies are each followed by two off-campus semesters of work with faculty mentors in virtual classrooms that make use of online and other technologies. Each semester, MFA candidates register for a Mentorship and Creative and Critical reading course. In addition, students complete a craft paper during their third off-campus semester and prepare a craft talk in the fourth. Cross genre work is encouraged. By their third and last residency, students are expected to have produced a bound creative thesis.

Students are also given the opportunity to specialize in one or more career concentrations: Teaching and Publishing (Howling Bird Press). Classes are planned with a 5-to-1 student-to-mentor ratio for the close relationship needed throughout the course of MFA studies.

Upcoming Facebook Live Events: Author Chris Stedman ’08, Musician Dua Saleh ’17, and a Panel for Augsburg Parents

Over the next two weeks, Augsburg will be featuring two alumni and a panel of Augsburg staff in Facebook live events.

On Tuesday, May 19, author and alumnus Chris Stedman ’08 will be joining us at 3 p.m. for a conversation about his new book “IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives.” Then on Tuesday, May 26 at 5 p.m., recording artist Dua Saleh ’17 will be sharing some music from their new EP, ROSETTA. Both of these live events will be streamed on the Augsburg University Alumni Association page.

For parents of future and current Auggies, there will be a special Facebook live event on the Augsburg University Facebook page Wednesday, May 27 at 5 p.m. to answer questions about the fall semester and the new Augsburg Bold plan. Panelist include Director of Campus Life Mike Grewe, Director of the Center for Wellness & Counseling Nancy Guilbeault, and Financial Aid Counselor Uriah Ward.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Bethany Johnson ’19 Lives Out Augsburg’s Mission with Augsburg Central Health Commons

Bethany loading water bottles into vanDuring class the last week of April, Auggie Bethany Johnson, a current DNP-FNP student, wondered how she could help her local community during the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted to volunteer her time at Augsburg Central Health Commons, a common practice for Augsburg nursing students. However, due to safety precautions, students cannot be on-site right now. Bethany asked Katie Clark, her professor and Director of Augsburg Central Health Commons, how the community is doing.

“Katie said they need water. I thought that seems so elementary,” says Bethany. “But everything is closed, none of the regular bathrooms or shops where a marginalized person can fill up water are open. My husband’s coffee shop has slow business right now so I called him and asked how much water he had.”

Bethany’s husband, David, owns UP Coffee Roaster and told her he’d order a pallet of water.

One week later, Bethany loaded up her daughter, her husband, and 1800 bottles of water in the UP Coffee Roaster’s delivery van and headed to the Health Commons.

“I think everyone in the community is shocked to hear people need water because we don’t think of things like this. It’s a basic, basic need,” says Bethany.

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected everyone, but it has particularly affected the marginalized communities in the Twin Cities.

“Encampments are being torn down and individuals coming to the Health Commons are saying they have no water,” says Dr. Joyce Miller, Chair of Augsburg’s Nursing Department.

Bethany finished her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Augsburg in 2019 and is now part of the Doctor in Nursing Practice program.

“Their mission is what brought me to Augsburg,” says Bethany. “To reach out and be so inclusive in their neighborhood and the greater community. Augsburg felt like my people. Felt like home.”

It’s no surprise to her professors, then, that Bethany jumped at the chance to help.

“Bethany’s generous donation to the Augsburg Central Health Commons was truly moving. Not only is Bethany working on the frontlines, but she is caring for those who are marginalized. Healthcare for the Homeless, St. Stephens Outreach, and AICDC also took portions of our water donation to distribute to the unsheltered population,” says Katie Clark.

“I have two kids in college, plus I’m in college, and Augsburg is the only one not closing everyone out. Not everyone has a safe home to go home to, so Augsburg is staying open to take care of people. It blows me away, I love it,” says Bethany. “They walk the walk and talk the talk.”

While she waits for approval to volunteer at the Health Commons, Bethany and her family are already planning to donate more water. They have also generously offered to help others donate water to the Health Commons.

If you would like to donate, please contact Bethany directly at johns173@augsburg.edu.

 

Augsburg’s Health Commons

The Augsburg Central Health Commons is a nursing-led drop-in center that is dedicated to building relationships based on mutual benefit and understanding with those who utilize our space. Nursing faculty members and students from Augsburg University lead, organize, and participate at the Augsburg Central Health Commons in hopes to create changes in our healthcare system to honor the wisdom of all people as they seek to reduce bias, increase compassionate based care, and discover what it means to be a citizen nurse.

The Augsburg Central Health Commons was founded in 1992 (previously called the Nursing Center). It has provided an opportunity for faculty and students from the Nursing Department at Augsburg to become involved in independent practice. Through the years, Augsburg nurses have met community members who have welcomed their service. In the relationships that have developed, nurses continue to experience the mutuality of health–when someone grows stronger, that strength helps everyone in the community.

Alumni Spotlight: Jon Dahl, Captain U.S. Army National Guard MNARNG, MFA ‘16

John Dahl in uniformJon Dahl has many roles in life. He’s a husband, father, screenwriter, director, marathon runner, and a Captain and Logistics Officer for the Army National Guard. His current role as Contract Specialist in the National Guard is what is keeping him extra busy right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Contract Specialist working for the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, Jon is one of a dozen people in Minnesota authorized to recommend federal vendors, vendors who usually bid on government contracts, to fulfill the State of Minnesota’s medical supplies needs.

Dahl joined the National Guard and went to basic training in 2004, commissioned as an officer in 2007 and still serves today. In his time since joining, his favorite job was contracting for Moral Welfare and Recreation in Camp Buehring in Kuwait in 2018. It allowed him to indulge in his love of movies and entertainment while stationed in Kuwait.

“If it wasn’t in Kuwait, I’d still love to be doing that job,” Dahl says.

Dahl worked with the USO and MWR, the restaurant and clothing vendors, the movie theater, basically all the entertainment directorates at Camp Buehring. He was also in charge of all the talent who visited camp, including The Couples of Comedy, the Blizzard Call of Duty team, and the band Joyride.

Now, Dahl spends most of his day processing vendor offers to get medical supplies to Minnesota during the current pandemic. He leverages the federal system – System of Award Management – to manage vendors around the world who are interested in selling medical equipment to the State of Minnesota. And the items Dahl is working hardest to get are Nitrile Gloves; N95, BiPap, PAPR, and disposable face masks; face shields; and medical gowns, hoods, and coveralls.

“3M, Boston Scientific, there are lots of large Minnesota businesses we’re talking to in order to get medical supplies,” Dahl says. “There are a lot of local people doing a lot of things!”

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of criminals trying to take advantage of the high demand for medical equipment, so Dahl is working extra hard to make sure legitimate vendors are selling correct supplies to the state government. After sorting through hundreds of offer sheets each day, Dahl picks the top vendors based on delivery schedules, terms, and price. He then checks with state and federal databases to make sure the vendors have a clean record and are quality vendors. Once verified, Dahl recommends vendors to the state and negotiates specifications to make sure the vendor and their product fit what Minnesota needs right now.

Jon and his familyMost of the time, Dahl is able to work from his home in Big Lake, where he lives with his family. When he needs to go into the office, he drives to Camp Ripley or to the State Emergency Operating Center. His temperature is checked at the door and he’s questioned about any symptoms of illness or people he’s been in contact with before he’s allowed in the facility.

“They’re following guidelines because there are a lot of critical people in a closed space,” Dahl says. “Overall, we’ve tripped and fallen through the whole process. But we’re tripping and falling forward. We’re getting the process done.”

Augsburg University

Dahl spent two years at Metropolitan State University, earning second his Bachelor’s Degree in Screenwriting, before coming to Augsburg.

“I was looking for a film or screenwriting master’s program to apply to just as I was graduating from MSU and Cass Dalglish (the MFA’s first director) and her team started up the program at Augsburg. Between meeting her and Stephan Eirik Clark (the MFA’s current director), I knew this would be the program for me,” Dahl says.

He was part of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing’s inaugural cohort, specializing in the Screenwriting program. He graduated in 2016 with the makings of two feature length screenplays. After graduation, he has stayed in contact with a few of his professors, and he is looking forward to the day people can gather in groups again so he can start auditions for one of those screenplays, ironically titled “Matter of the Apocalypse.”

This Week on Facebook Live: Paul Mueller ’84 and Chemistry Professor Michael Wentzel

Paul Mueller and Michael WentzelThis week, we are looking forward to two Facebook live events with Dr. Paul Mueller ’84, Regional Vice President for Mayo Clinic Health System, and Dr. Michael Wentzel, Associate Professor of Chemistry.

Dr. Mueller will be in conversation with President Pribbenow on Tuesday, April 21 at 5 p.m. CT to discuss how the Mayo Clinic Health System has been responding to COVID-19 and the research being done in that area.

Then on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT, we invite you to join us for a beer or nonalcoholic drink to hear about “The Art, History, and Science of Brewing” and how it relates to the liberal arts education with Dr. Wentzel and Chris Bogen ’09.

About Dr. Paul Mueller ’84

Dr. Mueller has been a consultant in general internal medicine for Mayo Clinic since 1998 and chaired that department 2009-2018. He is a professor of medicine and biomedical ethics for the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. In January 2019, Dr. Mueller was named a Fellow of The Hastings Institute, an internationally-renowned center for bioethics. Dr. Mueller has authored or co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and hundreds of book chapters, abstracts, letters and columns. He is an associate editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. Paul is a Regent Emeriti of Augsburg University, is a past chair of Augsburg’s Board of Regents and currently serves as Chair of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign.

About Dr. Michael Wentzel

As an organic chemist, I am interested in developing new synthetic reaction methods. I was trained as an organometallic chemist using transition metals to develop new catalytic methods. These methods involved nitrogen containing heterocycles and boronic acids as well as C-H and C-C sigma bonds. I have been at Augsburg since 2013 and worked here part-time before that while doing graduate and post-graduate work across the river at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I am passionate about teaching and mentoring in the classroom, laboratory, and in research settings. I have been influenced greatly by my own liberal arts education and the wonderful professors I was able to learn from and work with. I appreciate that we train our students to be strong chemists with a sense of purpose and service to others.

My research group is focused on the development of green synthetic methods. Currently, we have projects using a heterogeneous catalyst in a flow system, silylation of amines for alkylation, and the synthesis of biodegradable polymers for the educational laboratories. The polymer research has been done in collaboration with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities NSF-funded Center for Sustainable Polymers. Finally, I am extremely proud of the success of all my former group members as they continue to be successful following graduation in their lives.