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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.

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!”

Meet the 2019 First Decade Alumni Award Recipient: Tori Bahr ’09

Tori and her family
Tori, her husband Paul Sanft ’05 and their daughter Eleanor

Dr. Tori Bahr ’09, a medical doctor at the complex care clinic of Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, has been awarded Augsburg University’s 2019 First Decade Alumni Award. The presentation will be made at a January 10 event in her honor.

Bahr has always been fascinated by how our bodies work, and she started expressing interest in being a physician as far back as kindergarten when she knew an older student with cancer. Over the years, she was naturally drawn to science classes, and her career plans didn’t veer. When she entered Augsburg to do premed coursework, she settled into a chemistry/biology double major.

However, after her third year as an Auggie, some questions loomed. As she worked on her personal statement for medical school, she realized she didn’t know why she wanted to be a physician.

Mind the gap

Before long, she saw the wisdom in taking a “gap year” to explore those areas that interested her most—teaching and medicine. During this gap, she worked at multiple jobs. As a result of teaching ACT and MCAT prep courses, and tutoring high school and college students in math and science, she learned that not only did she prefer one-on-one teaching over classroom teaching, but that “there are few things better in the world than helping a student struggling to understand a subject to master it and excel.”

During the gap, she also worked as a medical scribe for a company in Shakopee, run by an Auggie, Jaime Kingsley-Loso ‘01. In this setting, she was exposed to multiple patient encounters by Emergency Physicians, which gave her a striking picture of how incredible it is to be able to apply the physiology she had learned in science classes to impact human disease. Already inclined toward compassion and patient-centered care, she was impressed with some physicians there who used their time at a patient’s bedside to educate the patient and family.

And it struck her. She could do both—medicine and teaching.

With her gap-year workload already excessive, Bahr decided, nonetheless, to answer an ad on Craigslist to become a personal care attendant for a young woman (an Auggie) with a neurological condition. It was this experience more than anything else that solidified for Bahr that medicine was the first career she would pursue. Here, she learned how physicians and medicine really impact a person’s everyday life, and she saw the importance of understanding the effects of that which she prescribed and asked of the patient and family.

The gap year had been most instructive in Bahr’s emerging sense of career, and the clarity was further enhanced in the summer prior to her Augsburg graduation, when she spent a month in Ghana, working in a health clinic in a small village.

Transition care and complex diseases

Bahr’s new work at Gillette Children’s Hospital, which began in November, provides a fine opportunity for her to serve in two emerging and underserved areas dear to her heart. The first is seeing patients with medically complex diseases, which often involve technology (such as wheelchairs, feeding tubes, and breathing tubes), neurocognitive delays, and multiple specialists. Integration among specialties isn’t automatic—or even common.

The second area is championing transition care, a relatively new focus that pediatric and adult healthcare systems across the country are struggling to address, now that children born with severe heart defects, cerebral palsy, or other rare congenital conditions are living beyond their childhood and teen years, even into their 40s. Thus, thanks to drastic advances in pediatric care the last couple of decades, many patients require continuing care into adulthood—care which medical schools didn’t expect “adult doctors” to have to study and eventually provide. And more research is needed to understand long-term risks of these diseases, as well as appropriate preventive care.

During her gap year, Bahr caught a glimpse of the problems with this “transition,” and as a result pursued a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency program, in which she was trained for—and is now board-certified to care for—both adults and children. Working at the intersection of both categories gives her opportunities to be innovative in her approach. Gillette’s first grant from the Minnesota Department of Health will give a nice boost as they kick off this new work.

Woman, wife, mother, and physician

Tori and her daughterPrior to her work at Gillette, Bahr served her residency at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, in the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Program, where she took over as Chief Resident in 2018. Her former co-residents there are among her closest friends, confidants, and cheerleaders, and she sees the MedPeds faculty as having been amazing role models and mentors to her, even showing multiple ways to integrate one’s professional life and personal life.

Bahr will be “forever grateful” for her Augsburg coursework—and to her mentors for not putting her “on the conveyor-belt pathway to becoming a physician.” She specifically mentions Mark Strefeler, Joan Kunz, Sandra Olmsted ’69, Dixie Shafer, Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright, Dale Pederson ‘70, and Doug Green—all of whom encouraged her to honor the process (and pace) of exploring alternate career ideas in order to make absolutely certain that medicine was her true vocation.

Her gratitude to Augsburg extends even further since that is where she met an “incredibly talented, kind, and thoughtful spouse”—Paul Sanft ’05. They met through mutual friends in the Auggie sports network. Sanft owns a video and photography company, Ideatap Studios, and finds time to work at the nonprofit Pacer Center, which helps kids with disabilities navigate everyday life and the school system.

Three-year-old daughter Eleanor is curious and loves to explore, which fits nicely into the family fondness for travel and hiking. And they’ve already gotten a nice head start. After Bahr completed her training to become a physician, the family celebrated by taking a six-week road trip through the Canadian Rockies. Be assured that won’t be their last adventure. Their plan is to visit all 59 U.S. national parks.

—by Cheryl Crockett ‘89

Meet First Decade Award Winner Chris Stedman ‘08

Chris Stedman '08
Chris Stedman ’08

Chris Stedman ‘08 is a humanist community organizer, interfaith activist, and writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the founding executive director of the Humanist Center of Minnesota, a project seeking to explore the viability of a center for humanist life in Minneapolis, through which he and a group of researchers are currently studying the beliefs, practices, and community involvement of the religiously unaffiliated.

One of his nominators, Dr. Lori Brandt Hale, associate professor of religion at Augsburg, says this about Chris, “As a long-standing member of this community, I think we must count ourselves lucky to call Chris one of ours, and even luckier that he has come back to Minnesota, and Augsburg University, to carry on his important work in collaboration with all of us.”

Formerly the founding executive director of the Yale Humanist Community and a fellow at Yale University, Chris also worked as a humanist chaplain at Harvard University, a content developer and trainer for the Interfaith Youth Core, and as the founding managing director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. He currently serves as a fellow at the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University, and previously served as a fellow at Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

Chris is the author of “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious” (Beacon Press, 2012), “an intimate and deeply affecting portrait… [that] proves [he is] an activist in the truest sense and one to watch” (Booklist, Starred Review). The book received widespread acclaim from publications like the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which called it an “enlightening and engaging memoir calling for civil discourse between atheists and the religious [that] couldn’t come at a better time,” and the Houston Chronicle, which named Faitheist one of the best religion books of the year and called it “an exciting and boundary defying introduction to a new world [and] an amazing book that could potentially change the game.”

Chris received a master of arts in religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. A 2008 graduate of Augsburg University with a summa cum laude bachelor of arts in religion (with English and social welfare minors), he is currently writing a book exploring what it means to be “real” in the digital age and writing a monthly column on the same topic for INTO.

He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and Fox News, has spoken at hundreds of conferences and universities, and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pitchfork, BuzzFeed, VICE, The Los Angeles Review of Books, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, Salon, The Washington Post, and others. Details magazine named Chris one of “five next-gen gurus who are disrupting religion’s status quo” and Mic called him “the millennial who’s busting every stereotype about atheists.”

The irony has been noted that Augsburg’s most well known religion graduate is known for the fact that he is an atheist, and it is through this robust civic and ideological engagement that Chris practices the mission and vision of Augsburg.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08

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Killa Marti '08
Killa Marti ’08

Originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08 arrived in the United States in 2004 as a student. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics from Augsburg University in 2008. Shortly after, she left to fulfill an employment obligation in China. After concluding her employment contract with the Hua Qiao Language Institute in Chang Chun, China, Killa returned to the United States to obtain a Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law).

One of her nominators, Zaira Solano, says this about Killa in her nomination letter, “Killa is a relentless advocate, woman of integrity, and leader in everything that she does.”

With the clear objective of working in the field of immigration, Killa took every opportunity to serve the immigrant population in the United States. She served in an internship at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and was a volunteer for Civil Society, a nonprofit that works to help victims of human trafficking. She also completed a practicum at the law firm of Contreras Edin & Associates. Killa represented Hamline in the Inter American Human Rights Competition in Washington, D.C., and worked for the state legislature in Minnesota through its Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. During this time, Killa also worked in the legal publishing division of Thomson Reuters, a global news agency and publisher. Upon graduation, Killa worked for the firm of Cole & Vondra, PLLC in Iowa City, Iowa, where she had the opportunity to litigate in the immigration courts of Omaha and Chicago. She also defended immigrant clients in the state courts of Iowa.

For the last three years, Killa has worked in Georgia, assisting the launch of the Immigration Services program at the nonprofit Lutheran Services of Georgia. During her time there, she worked closely with refugees and sponsors of unaccompanied minor immigrant children. Killa accepted a position at Solano Law Firm, litigating cases before the Atlanta Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. She also serves as the leader of a low-income, volunteer-run legal clinic called Gospel Justice Initiative in the city of Clarkston, Georgia. Killa is licensed to practice law in Iowa, Georgia, and immigration law all over the nation, and is now owner and managing attorney of her own firm, Marti Law Firm, LLC.

Killa is known as a fiercely motivated attorney who works tirelessly for her clients in districts and cases where the decks are stacked against them. In signature Auggie fashion, her career has developed as one which recognizes the needs in our diverse world and takes meaningful action to meet those needs. She served as chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association chapter in Georgia and Alabama from 2016 to 2018, and she continues to pair clients in need of Pro Bono services with local attorneys and mentor lawyers early in their careers.

Killa has been called a person of faith, integrity, intelligence, commitment, and compassion. She embodies the values of Augsburg through thoughtful stewardship, critical thinking, and rigorous pursuit of justice and equity. She is dedicated to ensuring education and financial support are available to girls, and she is working to grow her acts of kindness into a nonprofit where she can empower more students so they can live to their fullest potential.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Dr. Brian Krohn ‘08

Register now for Homecoming!


Dr. Brian Krohn
Dr. Brian Krohn

Brian Krohn ‘08, Ph.D., is a passionate innovator, entrepreneur, and Augsburg’s first Rhodes Scholar. Switching from an Augsburg degree in film to one in chemistry was only one component of a rapidly expanding career that includes experience in renewable technology, mobile app development, local food, and medical devices.

In a joint letter nominating Brian for this award, the Chemistry Department at Augsburg says, “Brian is an alumnus who typifies the best of Augsburg’s liberal arts education; he weaves together his care of creation and humanity with his technical prowess and creative insight to make the world a better place.”

While at Augsburg, Brian was named a Goldwater Scholar, founded the Honors Review journal for student scholarship, and created an Honors course on home brewing. He researched the production of cleaner biodiesel fuel in collaboration with Augsburg’s Professor Emeritus Arlin Gyberg, Ph.D., and alumnus Clayton McNeff ’91, which spurred a new patented catalyzation process and physical plant, Evercat Fuels, that produces more than 8 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Some of Brian’s research has been featured on “Good Morning America” and the National Council on Undergraduate Research Session.

Watch the KARE OnLIVE segment on his research below:

 

Brian earned a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Sciences and Management from the University of Minnesota as an Environmental Protection Agency Fellow, as well as master’s degrees from the University of Oxford in Environmental Change and Management and the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine as a Rhodes Scholar. He co-founded several companies including Mighty Axe Hops, which is the largest producer of Minnesota hops for local craft breweries.

He was an Innovation Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center, where he worked on projects ranging from a new tool to assist neurosurgeons to remove brain cancer to an app to improve sleep. He is currently the CEO of Soundly, an app-based therapy to reduce snoring, which is a technology funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. His company, Magic Wizard Staff, displays his technical brilliance and playful creativity. Most recently, he joined Modern Logic, an innovative digital product development company. Brian has also served as an adjunct instructor at Macalester College and Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has garnered numerous academic honors and entrepreneurship awards.

Brian’s time at Augsburg was marked by exploration of not only chemistry, biology, and mathematics, but also philosophy, film, and literature. Paired with thoughtful consideration of calling and community, this cultivated his pursuit of knowledge, art, and technology in service to the world. His work demonstrates the power of Augsburg’s intersection of liberal arts education and professional studies to enable others to be more healthy, happy, and fully human. He continues to stay connected to Augsburg and is generous with his time, encouraging and offering advice to students since his return to the Twin Cities.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Joshua Harris ‘08

Joshua Harris in Baltimore, Maryland.
Joshua Harris ’08 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Joshua Harris’ life and work in the last ten years of his young career have been devoted to public leadership, building connections and making a difference in his community.

As one of Joshua’s nominators, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter says, “When I think of Joshua, it makes sense that he is an alumnus of Augsburg, as he truly lives the mission of being an informed citizen, a thoughtful steward, a critical thinker, and a responsible leader.”

Joshua is the co-founder of the Hollins Creative Placemaking, a non-profit fostering urban revitalization by including the use of art and the creative processes. He sits on the board of the Charles Village Urban Renewal Project, Pauls Place Community, Baltimore’s Promise Mentoring Task force and Baltimore’s Southwest Partnership.

Joshua ran for Mayor of Baltimore in 2016 becoming the youngest person ever to run for mayor. He ran as a Green Party Candidate and in a one party town Josh took 10% of the vote, more than any third party candidate in history. He is dedicated to creating attainable solutions for the challenges Baltimore and similar urban cities face around the nation.

Joshua is a brand and communications expert and currently is a Deputy Director of Communications for a national women’s reproductive rights organization where he monitors policy and guides communication strategy for more than a dozen state chapters and affiliates.  He also sits on the board of directors for the NAACP Maryland State Conference and the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance. He has previously worked for an international non-profit that provides mentorship and scholarship opportunities to young African American boys and men and is the former director of communications for Black and Brown People Vote. Joshua has been a featured speaker on urban renewal and education disparities at the “Imagine America Conference” and the “Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference”. Joshua is has a passion and commitment to empowering people and for progressive policy solutions.

Continuing to stay active in his community, Joshua is currently running to be the delegate for District 40 in Baltimore, Maryland.

While attending Augsburg University from 2005 to 2008, Joshua played basketball, was on student government, was a residence life advisor, an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Co-chair of The Pan-African student Union for two years. Joshua majored in communication studies with a double emphasis in broadcast journalism and marketing, and a film studies minor.

As a communication studies major, Harris learned the theory and skills to create sound public policy, argue effectively for meaningful change, persuade diverse audiences. In true Augsburg fashion, Harris has channeled his education and professional experience to reduce inequity and fight for social justice as a responsible, informed, and active citizen leader.

Practice Yoga on the Lawn Sept. 29 with Halen Bower ’08

Alumna and yoga instructor Halen Bower
Yoga instructor Halen Bower ’08

On Sept. 29, 2018, the Young Alumni Council will host Yoga on the Lawn of the beautiful new Hagfors Center for Science, Business & Religion from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The Council is excited to bring alumna, and renowned yoga instructor Halen Bower back to campus to instruct a stimulating hour!

Bower graduated from Augsburg in 2008 with a BA studying international relations, and got a taste for travel when she studied abroad her junior year. As an athlete most of her life, (she played volleyball for Augsburg from 2004-2007) Halen initially came to yoga as a gentler way to stay in shape. In 2010, she was able to combine both her love for travel and her love of yoga when she completed her 200 hour training in Guatemala. She has been traveling with yoga ever since. Halen has taught yoga in Switzerland, Alaska, California, Minnesota, and Vermont. She is trained in Adapting Yoga for Disability, in Yin Yoga, and in Restorative Yoga. Bower has been a certified Children’s Yoga teacher since 2011, and is now in the process of completing her 95 hour certification with Radiant Child Yoga.

Bower epitomizes true kindness and a heart-centered zest for life. Her presence and classes will leave you both energized and relaxed. Her hope is to teach yoga in a playful, and approachable way to help promote healing, connection, and openness in mind, body, and spirit. She looks forward to bringing what she has learned over the years back to Augsburg to connect with her Augsburg community. Bring your mat and join her on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Please register for this event. Limited to 30 participants.