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Nine Augsburg University Alumni Publish a Book Together with Crystal Lake Publishing

An image with text at the top that reads, "Who are we?" Below, there are black and white headshots of all the alumni. From left to right: Judy Niemi Johnson, Kate Tremaine, Jesse Lawrence, Jen Shutt, Amanda Symes, Jayne Carlson, Patricia Fox, Jen Kain, and Andrew MarksSince graduating from Augsburg University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, a few alumni have gathered monthly for a writing group. They affectionately call themselves the Dead Birds Writing Group, a name derived from the master’s program publishing house, Howling Bird Press. The group shares stories, studies writing techniques, and offers constructive criticism, all with an end goal of helping each other publish their writing.

“One of the best take-aways from the MFA program was that we were able to build a community of writers, with a variety of different talents in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, memoir, and publishing. The fact that we’re still meeting in person, over online chats, and emailing each other to workshop, is a testament to the teamwork habits we formed during our residencies and classes. It feels wonderful to still be collaborating on team projects together after nearly ten years,” says Jen Shutt ’13, MFA ’15

Last summer, the group worked on a unique writing prompt to write a flash fiction piece that contained the statement, “It could be anyone’s leg.”

“We ended up with a great collection of stories – ranging from humor to horror – and we decided to put them together in a book. We acted as editors for the stories, getting together to read through and discuss the collection. We were able to use many of the techniques our professors taught us in the MFA program,” says Amanda Symes ’09, MFA ’15.

The group queried a few publishers and quickly received interest from Crystal Lake Publishing.

“This has really been a fun romp through the writing, editing, and publishing process. It was sort of magical to see the writing prompt come to life in so many different stories. Going deeper into each one through editing them with Amanda and Jen [Shutt] drew on the workshopping skills we learned in the MFA program, and—confession—it may have been my favorite part. The group enjoyed the writing and publishing process so much that we are already discussing plans for our next writing prompt and publishing options,” says Jayne Carlson MFA ’16.

Knowing their professors would be excited to hear about the upcoming publication, the group also reached out to Professor Emerita Cass Dalglish – the MFA program’s founder – and asked her to review the collection. Professor Dalglish has this to say about their book:

"It Could be Anyone's Leg" book cover. The title of the book is against a black and red background that symbolizes dripping blood. A big black question mark is centered in the middle of the cover.It Could Be Anyone’s Leg” is an anthology of eerie tales – flash reactions by a flight of writers after each has discovered bones lying so very near their writing desks. Did the bones belong to a human? A neighbor? A friend? A beastie of the insect species? Or some other creature who has become only a fraction of itself? These authors call themselves the Dead Birds Writing Group. Is it any wonder that we call a pack of crows a murder?”

The eBook is available for order on Amazon!

Alumni included in the collection are:

Amanda Symes ’09, MFA ’15

Jayne Carlson MFA ’16

Jen Shutt ’13, MFA ’15

Judy Niemi Johnson MFA ’16

Jesse Lawrence MFA ’16

Kate Tremaine MFA ’16

Patricia Fox MFA ’17

Jen Kaine MFA ’17

Andrew Marks ’21

Finding Strength in Trials and Tribulations

Colleen sitting on the floor in a smock. Her artwork is displayed on the floor behind her.Colleen (Carstensen) Peterson aka “CeCe” graduated from Augsburg University in 2004 with a double major in Psychology and Religion and a triple minor. She has made it her life mission to help others see their strength through their trials and tribulations, something that she is infinitely familiar with. From being diagnosed with dyslexia at eight, being an Olympic-trained figure skater and enduring the abuse of her coaches, losing her brother at 25, to having a severely disabled son, CeCe has founded a non-profit and used art to find strength in challenging times. 

 

The birth of CeCe’s son and her frustration with not getting the right adaptive equipment to learn, play, and grow inspired the creation of her non-profit, Children’s Organization of Lending Equipment (The COLE Foundation). This mission of COLE is “connect costly adaptive equipment from children with disabilities who outgrow the equipment to other children who need it, at no cost. COLE provides a resource for families to browse and then Lend from our library of equipment.”

An image promoting her exhibitAnother outlet for CeCe has been her artwork. Her most recent work will be exhibited at Hallberg Center for the Arts (Wyoming, MN) from March 24 – April 16, 2022. Her intentions for her series, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, are to reveal the struggle and loneliness but also the strength of womanhood. CeCe’s bold color palette creates the female form representing light, shadow, and space. Taking a closer look at each shape and stroke, the big and small events in life become a harmonious dance on canvas. 50% of the profits from each purchased painting will go to the COLE Foundation. Check out CeCe’s website: Www.CeCegallery.com.

A Spotlight on Environmental Engineering

Caryn Quist headshotCaryn Quist’s (’09) passion for science began in high school, “I had a teacher named Mr. Rogers, I kid you not!” Caryn laughed. “It was during this class that I fell in love with chemistry. Everything came to life for me in the lab.” When it came time to decide where to go to college, Augsburg was the perfect fit. “I loved the well-rounded aspect of a liberal arts education in the heart of Minneapolis,” Caryn shared. She graduated in 2009 with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Biology.

Caryn on the cover of the Fall 2007 Augsburg Now magazine
Caryn featured on the cover of Augsburg Now in 2007

At Augsburg, Caryn participated in a research project through the Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) program. “I worked with the Biology Department where we studied orchid cloning in partnership with a local greenhouse.” Caryn shared. Her involvement with URGO and working as an assistant to Dixie Shafer, Director of URGO, made a lasting impression. “Dixie strikes the difficult balance of holding very high standards yet leading with empathy,” Caryn said.

Dixie instilled the importance of networking which led Caryn to connect with a variety of professionals in her field. “I got lucky and met with a Chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota who was doing collaborative work in civil and environmental engineering. He picked up on my curiosity and told me to look into that area further,” Caryn reflected. She went on to earn her masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 2011.

 

CLEARING THE AIR

Caryn accepted a job offer in California after grad school and has remained there since. She spent the first few years working on several soil and groundwater cleanup projects in California’s Central Valley. “It was a great experience, but I eventually realized it wasn’t something I wanted to become an expert in,” Caryn said. This led to her transition to the industry side where she focused on environmental compliance at an Intel semiconductor fab. Later she pivoted to a local government agency strictly focusing on regional air quality. She applies all this experience to her current position as an Environmental Manager at Meta (formerly Facebook). “I took this job because I wanted to have a say in how data centers were being designed from an air emissions perspective and make sure we are being good stewards of local and regional air quality.”

 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

The connection between air emissions and digital-driven corporations may not be given much thought by people, but it’s an extremely crucial component to operations and the decisions made now will weigh heavily on the future. “The data center sector is growing at a very fast clip and it’s very important to be cognizant of the environmental footprint they have during their entire life cycle,” Caryn stated. 

Climate change and environmental justice are two interconnected issues that are central to the future trajectory of the civil and environmental engineering field. “Environmental justice is the concept that while everyone has a right to be protected from environmental pollution and live in a clean and healthy environment, studies show a strong disparity of who has access to that along lines of race, income, national origin, and language proficiency. Environmental justice populations continue to be vulnerable to the health risks associated with living in polluted areas and are also commonly disenfranchised to do anything about it politically. Climate change is projected to exacerbate all of this.” Although we have a long way to go in confronting these issues, the good news is that many are stepping up to collaborate in government, the private sector, nonprofits, and academia. Consumers have also become more savvy about greenwashing tactics and are starting to understand the lifecycle footprint of our everyday lives.

When asked what kind of legacy she wants to leave behind, Caryn simply stated: “Creating tangible changes on the road to a more sustainable future for future generations. For example, the data center industry, like many others requiring 24/7 operations, still heavily relies on backup diesel generators. I’d like to eliminate that need some day and work myself out of a job!”

Surrender Salmon: A Family Business

From left to right: Blake, Mark, Grant, and Bryce.
From left to right: Blake, Mark, Grant, and Bryce.

Grant Niver graduated from Augsburg in 2013 with a degree in Communication Studies. He credits the decision to make the transition to Minnesota from his home state of Alaska as the top three decisions he has ever made. “Moving allowed me to experience living in a new state and I met my wife down here,” Grant shared. He also has strong family ties in the state with both his parents growing up in Prior Lake. Although he only spent two years at Augsburg, he developed lasting friendships and discovered his entrepreneurial drive through the courses he took. “In the more advanced communication classes, we talked a lot about marketing, business, and how to build your brand,” said Grant. And it was in these classes that the idea to start a business with his family began. 

Starting when he was 11 years old, Grant has fished in Bristol Bay, Alaska on his family’s boat, Surrender. “I would always get seasick growing up, so fishing was never a favorite activity of mine,” he reflected amusingly. As he found his sea legs, Grant’s passion for catching fish (specifically salmon) and educating others on sustainable fishing grew. “One year, I brought back around 200 pounds of salmon for friends and family in Minnesota and it grew progressively from there.” Surrender Salmon was established in 2017 with the goal of bringing the world’s best wild salmon to Minnesotans, directly from the fisherman. Grant’s father, Mark, runs the boat and Grant and his two younger brothers, Blake and Bryce, make up the crew on deck.  

Freshly cut salmonSUSTAINABLE FISHING

Sustainability is a core tenet to the Surrender Salmon business. “We work closely with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.” Grant said. Bristol Bay is heavily regulated since it is the world’s largest sustainable salmon run. It accounts for roughly 75% of the world’s sockeye salmon supply. “They literally count each and every salmon that escapes up the river to spawn in the lake. Once they reach the targeted “escapement number”, the fishing season is open and we are fishing around the clock.” There is a short window to catch fish, and a typical run is from mid-June through the end of July. Flash freezing the salmon within 12-24 hours of catching it is crucial in making sure it stays fresh for consumers for up to two years. “If you’re buying salmon in the Midwest, it’s best to buy frozen and even better to know who caught it,” Grant said. On top of sustainability, all of the packaging they use to ship their salmon is 100% recyclable! 

 

OPERATING A SMALL BUSINESS

A picture of the Niver family boat, Surrender.
The Niver family boat, Surrender.

Surrender Salmon previously worked with local businesses such as Lunds & Byerlys in 2018-2019, as well as other local restaurants, but they have since switched to e-commerce. “It was a hard pivot to make, but it has allowed us to have a more robust business where we could be in more control,” Grant said. Since transitioning to online-only purchases, they have been able to expand to nationwide shipping. “Our first shipping with FedEx is something I am extremely proud of. We’ve come a long way since tabling at farmers markets, gyms, and hand-delivering all of our orders,” Grant said. “Starting a business can feel insurmountable, but for anyone interested in pursuing this path, I recommend two things: 1) find a good mentor, and 2) find someone you can trust as a business partner. Having those resources will make a huge impact.” In fact, one of Grant’s high school friends, Stuart Krueger, moved to Minnesota in 2016 and has taken the lead on helping Surrender Salmon’s marketing and reach. “We definitely would not be where we are today without him.” 

 

Now that Grant’s business has grown in recent years and he has found himself shipping salmon to some Auggies, he is thrilled to share his family’s story with more people in the community. “I am so grateful to Augsburg and I’m appreciative of any opportunities to pay it forward and make more connections by raising awareness about what Surrender Salmon is all about.” 

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

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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.