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No Time Limit on Returning to College

Headshot of Kevin FjelstedKevin Fjelsted ’18, MBA ’20 is one of many Augsburg students who graduated during the pandemic. However, Kevin’s higher education story has a unique beginning. While most of Augsburg’s recent graduates started their higher education in the last four or five years, Kevin started in 1973.

Kevin graduated from high school in the 70’s and as he thought about college, he wasn’t particular about where he would go. He admits he wasn’t heavily involved in picking Augsburg.

“My grandparents wanted me to go to Augsburg. They told me to look at Augsburg and I said ‘fine,’” says Kevin.

He started at Augsburg in 1973 and took a few classes during the fall and January interim semesters. But Augsburg didn’t have what Kevin was looking for at the time, so he transferred to the University of Minnesota in 1974 where he also worked at the U of M’s Computer Center.

Shortly after, Kevin began working full-time as an operating systems programmer at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. Over the next fifteen years, he worked for a few companies – including IDS Financial Services, McGraw-Hill, and American Express – before going out on his own as a systems consulting and programming service provider. He took computer science courses here and there, but never focused on a degree because he was working full time.

In 2010, Kevin decided to go back to school and finish his degree in computer science.

“My default was to go back to the U of M,” says Kevin. “But there were two problems. One, the lecture size. There were over 100 people in my computer science classes. And two, I needed accessibility. I needed books in braille and although the U of M has a large disability resource center employee count wise, they didn’t have the experience accommodating a blind person.”

Kevin knew Kathy McGillivray from the National Federation of the Blind, and knew she was the director in Augsburg’s CLASS Office.

“We talked about smaller classes that were actually taught by the professors, unlike the U of M having Teaching Assistants do a lot of the teaching. Kathy knew what I needed for accommodations as well. She was an ally in the whole process. We worked together through accessibility for both my computer science undergraduate degree and the MBA program. Once we got that solved, it was great!”

Kevin completed his undergraduate computer science degree in 2018 and immediately started in Augsburg’s Master of Business Administration program, graduating in the winter of 2020.

Now he is working with a business colleague on building a couple company’s telecommunications space and Voice over Internet Protocol and Omnichannel call center solutions. Kevin is also excited about starting an A.I. venture in the near future.

Despite the process taking almost 50 years from start to graduation, Kevin is thankful for his time at Augsburg. He’s particularly thankful for the professors he studied with.

“I didn’t have a single negative experience with a professor at Augsburg, even going back to the 70’s. I had a great calculus professor and psychology professors. George Dierberger, the MBA director, has pulled in great adjunct professors who are the best in the industry. You can respect and trust the information from the professor because they have the knowledge and industry experience.”

When asked why others should consider a degree in computer science at Augsburg versus another university, Kevin pointed out that Augsburg uses the same program as the U of M for their undergraduate computer science program.

“They use the same textbooks, the same curriculum. At the U of M, you have 100 plus people in a class, but shrink that down to 25 people at the high end at Augsburg, and that is a significant difference. Yes, Augsburg has teaching assistants and tutors like the U of M, but they don’t have the same concept where the professor pushes all the work onto the teaching assistant. At Augsburg you have direct interface and direct communication with the professors.”

Activism Through Art

 

Silent Fox and Olivia House standing in front of a 3 panel photo banner of an art exhibition they worked on with the U of M.
Silent Fox and Olivia House at an art exhibition they worked on with University of Minnesota Graduate students.
A billboard with the text that reads "we're in a 400-year long war with no end in sight." A prominent black fist is featured in the middle with the word "FIST" running vertically down the forearm. It is accompanied by smaller multi-colored fists and George Floyd's name is shown on a sign one of the hands is holding. In the background are green hills that feature black trees and red and blackened flames. A blue banner runs across the bottom saying Black Artist Collective @13.4 Collective and it also says paid for by Augsburg University
Billboard created by Silent Fox and Olivia House with copywriter Jalen Cannon.

About a year ago, Olivia House ’20 and Silent Fox ’18 were approached by their art advisor at the time, Christopher Houltberg. He wanted to know if Silent and Olivia would be interested in doing an art project through a grant provided by the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation. For them, it was an easy thing to say yes to.

“Right away, we knew we wanted it [the art] to have more than one output,” said Olivia.

Silent majored in Studio Arts and Graphic Design and Olivia majored in Graphic Design. Their time at Augsburg gave them the opportunity to meet various studio artists, explore their interests, and take a hold of their agency as artists. With graduation only shortly behind them, they are already establishing their artistic careers and sharing their experience about a recent project they completed in partnership with Augsburg.

Both Augsburg and the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation supported Silent and Olivia’s idea to expand their work beyond the singular campaign. Part of the grant went to the billboard art and the other half went to starting a Black Arts Collective, 13.4 Collective. As the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder was approaching, they wanted to create a piece that commemorated that historic moment.

“My goal was to vocalize the black experience in America and show authenticity to our lives,” added Silent.

Translating a powerful message into art may not be innately ingrained in all artists, but for Silent and Olivia, activism is at the core of their work.

“For me, activism is naturally intertwined into my art. It’s part of me, my history, and my community. I can’t imagine it not being part of my work,” reflected Silent.

“I take a lot of inspiration from Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party’s designer,” Olivia added. “He knew how to create messages succinctly and that were accessible to people by using a lot of imagery and minimal words.”

As they created the ad campaign, they aimed to keep the art somewhat ambiguous and make others think about the deeper meaning. The billboards went up for the Juneteenth holiday and will be taken down in mid-July. Check out the locations their art is displayed.

In addition to their billboard campaign, Olivia and Silent shared their excitement about the future of the 13.4 Collective and other work they completed together. They recently wrapped up an outdoor exhibition they worked on with some graduate students at the University of Minnesota that touched on the history of mutual aid in the Twin Cities (top picture). Silent, Olivia, and Jalen Cannon (copywriter for the billboard), serve as contributors to the 13.4 Collective. They hope to continue expanding their reach with each project and sharing the messages behind the stories of the black community.

Augsburg Alumna Joins U of M’s Board of Regents

Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74 (Contributed photo by Mayo Clinic)
Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74
Contributed photo by Mayo Clinic

Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74 has been elected to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, representing the First Congressional District. She credits her time on Augsburg’s board as a major contribution to her being elected to the U of M’s board.

Augsburg University

Ruth had a number of influences that led her to choose Augsburg as an undergraduate. She grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, so she knew of Augsburg. Her family was also active in their large, vibrant Lutheran congregation, where Dr. Ted Hanwick, Augsburg’s first chairman of the Physics Department, was also a member. Ruth sought a college with excellent academics, a Lutheran faith background, with a preference for an urban location. Dr. Hanwick encouraged her to explore Augsburg.

Halfway through her senior year of high school, Ruth’s father passed away. During his illness, she spent time in hospitals with her father. Also, since age 16, she had worked in the hospital pharmacy where her father was Chief of Pharmacy. All these experiences pivoted her interests to pre-med.

“My first love was languages and I planned to pursue a Ph.D. in English or Spanish. But all I saw in hospitals moved me to a career in medicine. There’s so much a person can do in terms of advances in science and in patient care, all of which can make such a difference in people’s lives,” says Ruth.

After graduating summa cum laude with majors in chemistry and biology and a minor in religion, Ruth went on to graduate from Mayo Medical School and completed her internal medicine residency at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.

Ruth was the first woman associate director of the Internal Medicine Residency program at Mayo Clinic and chaired the Bioethics Courses at Mayo Medical School. She later devoted 17 years to the Mayo Clinic MD-PhD Admissions Committee. She founded the Mayo Diagnostic Breast Clinic in 1993. It was shortly after this that then Augsburg President Charles Anderson invited Ruth to join the Board of Regents. Dr. John Holum, an Organic Chemistry professor and one of Ruth’s favorite professors at Augsburg, recommended her.

“I thought, ‘I love Augsburg and this is a great chance to re-engage in a new way and contribute to the college.’ It was a very meaningful experience,” says Ruth.

Early on in her stint as a board member, Ruth was involved in the fundraising and celebration of the Lindell Library, which opened in 1997. By the late 90’s, she was helping with foundational work that would lead to the creation of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Among the work Ruth is proudest of during her time as a Regent is sparking the idea for Augsburg’s Rochester Campus.

“My work with nurses at Mayo Clinic made me aware that many nurses in Rochester were certificate RN’s without a baccalaureate degree. Because of this, their career advancement was limited and there was no readily available way to complete a BSN. Augsburg’s Weekend College had already had years of experience offering degree programs for adults. I went to then President Bill Frame and suggested Augsburg create a degree program in Rochester.”

University of Minnesota

In 2020, Ruth was approached by the alumni and friends of the University of Minnesota to join their Board. Her educational leadership at Mayo Clinic was well known, as was her 16 years on Augsburg’s Board of Regents.

“When you’re on a board, it’s about governance, higher level, big picture thinking. It’s not managing, that’s the administration’s job. My 16 years with three different presidents at Augsburg meant I knew how a board functions, this was a strong background for me,” says Ruth. “Augsburg also has a really excellent reputation among legislators, they know Augsburg has done good work and they know those values are part of my work.”

Ruth was elected in a joint legislative session held on March 15, 2021 for a six-year term.

Augsburg will always be part of Ruth’s life, though. At Augsburg, Ruth loved getting to know fellow regents, alumni, faculty, and students. Ruth is also married to Phil Quanbeck II, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Augsburg University.

“It’s a great place and a privilege to be involved with such an incredible group of people.”

She is now looking forward to her work with the U of M, and to connecting to the people she will work with over the next six years.

Welcome New Members of the Alumni Board!

A collage of the new members headshots are displayed in two rows. On the upper left is Berlynn Bintengo '21, top middle is Auggie Eagle with the word "Congratulations" repeatedly written out in the back, top right is Arianna Antone-Ramirez ’20, bottom left is Willie Giller ’19, bottom middle is Navid Amini ’19 MBA, and bottom right is Dave Stevens '90
Upper left: Berlynn Bitengo ’21, top right: Arianna Antone-Ramirez ’20, bottom left: Willie Giller ’19, bottom middle: Navid Amini ’19 MBA, bottom right: Dave Stevens ’90

We are thrilled to introduce the newest members of the Augsburg Alumni Board! Please join us in welcoming:

  • Berlynn Bitengo ’21
  • Arianna Antone-Ramirez ’20
  • Willie Giller ’19
  • Navid Amini ’19 MBA
  • Dave Stevens ’90

The Augsburg Alumni Board is an opportunity for alumni from all programs and class years to build relationships with each other and the University today. Members connect with institution leaders, faculty, and students to better understand and support the mission. To learn more go to our Alumni Board page.

Stained Glass with a Purpose

Rodger 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.

Jamil Stamschror-Lott ’16 MSW Alumnus Featured in The New York Times

Jamil speaking with students
Mr. Stamschror-Lott leading a community healing session. Photo credit: The New York Times

In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, mental health experts across the country say they have seen African-Americans, whose skepticism of therapy has been documented by research, seeking it in growing numbers.

Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott, the founders of Creative Kuponya, a mental health practice in Minneapolis, said the demand for therapy had “gone through the roof” over the past year. The couple said 31 percent of their practice’s clients are Black.

“We’ve seen everything that the nation has seen from afar, from folks in civil unrest and devastation, despair,” said Mr. Stamschror-Lott. The couple said that some residents were overwhelmed and exhausted by the events of the past year, and that there remained a “great deal of pain and trauma.”

View the full story.

Auggie Starts National Hockey Award

Charles "Chuck" Bard '50
Charles “Chuck” Bard ’50

Growing up, Chuck Bard was an all-around sports enthusiast. He played football, basketball, baseball, and even won a few championship titles in beanbag toss and horseshoes. At Augsburg, Chuck was a letterman in football and baseball and received an athletic sweater with recommendations from the athletic director and football coach in 1948. He played second base on Augsburg’s 1947 and 1948 MIAC Conference Baseball Championship teams. However, the sport that Chuck loved most – and the sport that gained him the most notoriety – was a sport he never played: hockey.

Hockey was a relatively new sport when Chuck was in school. By the time he started college, Augsburg had a hockey team, however Chuck was already playing football and baseball and student-athletes were allowed to only join two sports at the time. This did not hinder his love of hockey, though. Chuck attended as many Auggie hockey games as he could and enjoyed watching the players out on the ice.

Chuck had a successful athletic college career in football and baseball at Augsburg, as well as a successful academic career. After graduating in 1950 with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in Journalism, Chuck went into banking.

“I was active at the YMCA, where I met two bankers one day. They were asking for army guys such as myself to come in for training. I figured as long as I’m here, I might as well interview. I interviewed and that evening I got a call from Northwestern Bank offering me a job. I took it! I was a banker for twenty years,” says Chuck.

Chuck continued his passion for sports by co-founding the Decathlon Athletic Club in the late 60’s. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, it was the first private athletic club in Minnesota outside of downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul.

“We had the former executive of the St. Paul Hotel with us for six months to help with strategy, but he said the club would never run in the suburbs because all the clubs were downtown.”

Chuck made sure the athletic club opened and he spent the next twenty years turning it into a success.

In 1978, Chuck was the CEO of the Decathlon Athletic Club. He was still an avid hockey fan and a proud owner of Minnesota North Stars hockey season tickets. But he noticed hockey didn’t have a collegiate award to honor the best collegiate hockey players in the nation like other sports.

“Football had the Heisman Award. Basketball had the Wooden Award. What about hockey?”

Hobey Baker Award trophy
Hobey Baker Award trophy

Chuck decided his athletic club would start a nationally recognized hockey award. After consulting with the Los Angeles athletic club that started the Wooden Award, Chuck established the Hobey Baker Award, named after hockey legend Hobey Baker. Chuck was captivated with Baker’s athleticism. Baker was an All-American football and hockey player, and was the first American hockey player to be enshrined in the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 1981, the first Hobey Baker Award was given to Neil Broten. Broten played Center for the University of Minnesota and the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team, which took gold at Lake Placid in 1980.

Since that first award, The Hobey has been awarded to 40 hockey players from around the country. The award is given to a player who best demonstrates “teamwork, dedication, integrity, exceptional play, humility, and above all, character.”

In 2007, Chuck returned to his alma mater to honor Augsburg men’s hockey coach, Ed Saugestad, as a Hobey Baker Legends of Hockey honoree.

In the early 2000’s, Chuck took a deep look into his program to evaluate how things were going. One step he took to ensure the award’s longevity was to hire a new marketing and public relationship programmer, Wally Shaver. Wally was no stranger to hockey and was an ideal candidate according to Chuck. Wally has been the voice of the University of Minnesota’s Gopher hockey for years, following in the footsteps of his father, Al Shaver, who was an announcer for the Minnesota North Stars.

“I got a phone call from my friend, Herb Brooks, who was a member of the Decathlon Club. The Hobey Baker people wanted a change with their marketing. It was all in-house with Chuck in the beginning,” says Wally. “Herby gave me a call and said I should talk to them. I said, ‘Geez I’d love to help any way I can!’”

Incidentally, Wally also had a connection to Augsburg. His son, Jason Shaver, was a hockey goaltender for Augsburg in the early 90’s.

“The Hobey Baker Award is a fun project to work on. It’s unique. What the Heisman is to football, the Hobey is to hockey,” says Wally. “It’s a prestigious award and everyone loves it. Especially the kids, they appreciate recognition for all their hard work during the season.”

While the award remains true to its original vision – to recognize the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player in the nation – it has evolved over the years. What started as one trophy for college hockey’s most outstanding player has grown into a first place winner, three Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalists, The Hobey Baker High School Character Award, Legends of College Hockey, and a TV show that airs on the NHL network the Friday before the Frozen Four begins.

Even in retirement, Chuck is still a major supporter of the Hobey Baker Award. And he continues to watch as much hockey as he can.

1947 MIAC Championship Team
Team members from the 1947 and 1948 MIAC Conference Baseball Championship Teams recognized at Hall of Fame banquet. Charles Bard ‘50, Ken Walsh ‘48, Art Marben ‘47, Roger Leak ‘50, Marvin Johnson ‘49, Jennings Thompson ‘51, Jeroy Carlson ‘48. Back Row: Edor Nelson ‘38 Coach, Ralph Pearson ‘49, Duane Lindgren ‘48, Arnold Henjum ‘49, Robert Howells ‘50, Bobb Miller ‘48.

Nursing in the Community

David Clark ’18 – Doctor of Nurse Practice Program

Katie and David Clark

David Clark had been in nursing for a few years, working as an intensive care nurse in hospitals. In an ER, nurses and doctors try to medically diagnose people to fix a problem. But David wanted to know more about why people were coming to the ER – especially the “frequent flyers” – and if there was a way to better help them. He’d never seen nursing in the community, never seen how nursing practice was serving marginalized communities.

So when his friend and colleague from ICU at Fairview, Katie Clark, invited him to volunteer at Augsburg’s Health Commons in Minneapolis, he jumped at the chance. And it was here that David learned about Augsburg’s nursing program.

Augsburg’s Health Commons is a nursing-led drop-in center, led and organized by nursing faculty members, nursing volunteers, students, and community members.

Ruth Enestvedt was the director then, and the wonderful nurses volunteering had an amazing connection with the community, with people who had disappeared from society and were homeless,” says David. “These folks came to the commons to be part of a community. This was inspiring to me, to cast a new way nursing could serve a community.”

When talking about the Health Commons, Ruth Enestvedt said, “We assume that people are experts in their own lives. We provide useful, relevant service that respects what the person brings to the situation.” David took this statement to heart and decided to finish his graduate degree at Augsburg because of the program’s emphasis on marginalized people.

“I was working in an intensive care and ER in downtown St. Paul at the larger of the trauma centers for the inner city. It was like being at two ends of the pipe: I saw how community issues from the Health Commons translated into why people ended up in my ER frequently. I saw the connections to the complex story.”

David earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. While he says the U of M is a great school, when looking for a doctoral and nurse practitioner program, he wanted something focused on community outreach. He found this at Augsburg.

“Augsburg is unique in what it’s trying to do with community.”

David is now an emergency room nurse practitioner. He wanted to stay on the ER track, but also wanted to carry on his doctoral work. He works in the St. Croix Falls area, at a smaller medical center with an ER.

“I ended up here in part because of where I live, but also it serves marginalized rural communities. It’s incredibly hard to get health care access in rural communities, and Polk County is near the top of the lists for struggling for health care access.”

This medical center serves a lot of the River Valley in western Wisconsin. They deal with a fair amount of people in poverty – who live in trailers and on farmsteads – so David and his colleagues work closely with the state to increase access.

“I’m still training, I’m kind of a resident right now, still getting on my feet, but I’m able to do graduate work and work with people who experience poverty. It’s a smaller volume than I am used to, but I’m finding a lot of hallmarks between the city and the country, just different kinds of challenges.”

While David appreciates the education he received at Augsburg, he is also thankful for Augsburg because it was his volunteering at the Health Commons where he discovered another great love: his wife, Katie Clark.

“It was great to find Katie!”

Katie is an Assistant Professor at Augsburg and took over as Executive Director of the Health Commons when Ruth retired. After working at the ICU at Fairview together, and then volunteering at the Health Commons together, Katie and David started dating and after a short time got married. Together, David and Katie continue to work with marginalized communities in hopes that they can help others look at a new way to practice and see patients.

Augsburg’s Health Commons

Health Commons tree logoThrough 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.

Since its opening, the Health Commons has been supported by donations of both time and supplies from people of many backgrounds who want to help. The original partners continue to support the Commons, and nurses from the wider nursing community also assist in its operation.

Alumni Spotlight: Max Marcy ’03

Max Marcy headshotAt the beginning of December 2020, Max Marcy was promoted to Global Corporate Treasurer at H.B. Fuller. He started with H.B. Fuller over eleven years ago, initially managing foreign currency and investor relations. His leadership skills were quickly noticed and by 2018, Max was recognized as a top investor relations professional by Wall Street analysis.

From a young age, Max knew he wanted to go to school for finance.

“My goal was always to be an investment banker; I’ve always been a finance guy. I’ve always been interested in numbers.”

Max is a graduate from 2003. After spending one year at Luther College in Iowa and one year off, he found Augsburg’s StepUP program and began in the fall of 2000. StepUP was a relatively new program at the time, but Max fell in love with the program and with Augsburg, particularly the fitness center.

“Being in StepUP wasn’t like what it is today, it was a new program. The fitness center was a level playing field where we were all out there trying to do the same thing, trying to stay active. It was a great meeting ground, and I met a lot of people from all over campus,” says Max.

Max also had the opportunity to play in Augsburg’s Jazz and Concert bands. He enjoyed playing at Sunday gospel praise group and had the chance to travel to Ireland with the Concert Band under Professor Bob Stacke.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a minor in Management Information Systems, Max joined Valspar Corporation. Max had the opportunity to go back to school with Valspar’s education benefits and earned his MBA in Corporate Finance at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in 2008. This degree, along with his experience as a Senior Treasury Analyst, got Max on H.B. Fuller’s radar.

“Corporate treasury is the finance you study in undergrad and in business school. Learning how to issue bonds, operating bank accounts, projecting cash flows around the world. That’s what I do, that’s what I like to do.”

Today, Max is the Corporate Treasurer for H.B. Fuller.

“I’m the company piggy bank!”

Max is responsible for oversight of the funds his company generates, which can get very complicated when operating businesses in over 100 countries.

When COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, Max spent most of his time studying a multitude of scenarios to make sure the company could weather the pandemic. Now, his focus has shifted to looking more at how to work remotely while bringing back some of the engagement lost in a virtual landscape.

“I’m not your typical finance person. I’m very analytical, but I don’t sit behind a desk all day. I like talking to people and socializing, and that’s more difficult when you can’t run down the hallway to talk to them. People now are scheduling all sorts of calls all the time, booking calendars up, so instead of the two-minute hallway conversation we are having long meetings. How do we fix that? We need to figure out how we connect more efficiently through all this remote working.”

When looking back at his time at Augsburg, Max believes the best thing he did and the best thing students can do today is to take in the full experience of class.

“The easiest thing you can do is go to class, learn what you’re paying to learn. I wasn’t always the best at spending time with homework and studying, but my butt was always in the chair. Get in your chair or on your computer and just listen.”

Max also credits talking to others and asking questions for helping him get to where he is today.

“Reach out, ask questions. Ask what people do in their job. Figure out what it means to be a business analyst, what it means to be an IT professional, what it means to be a Treasurer, so that you have a little more direction.”

Max had a clear direction of where he wanted to go – finance – so he put himself in career opportunities to learn. He wanted to understand what jobs actually entailed before he just took a position.

“It’ll give you a leg up to know more. You’ll have more of a work/life balance, and more job satisfaction. Take the opportunities, and that will go a long way versus being frustrated with what you’re doing and always waiting for a payday.”

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!