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Making an Impact Through Problem Solving

Brynn Watson ’89 is Lockheed Martin’s Vice President in the Digital Transformation Program. As COVID-19 moved most of Lockheed Martin’s work online, Brynn’s work became more important than ever, helping her teams pivot to a digital platform. She has been pleasantly surprised that productivity and efficiency have continued and says her teams have adapted positively to online programs to stay connected. While this has been a big change for most of the company, it’s a change Brynn embraces, especially in her leadership role.

“We’re more empathetic about work-life balance. Parents are teaching their kids. We’ve become more accepting about dogs barking in the background of a phone call. I like that change. It’s a good thing.”

Brynn has an award-winning record for her leadership abilities: Lockheed Martin Space NOVA Full Spectrum Leadership Award; Tribute to Women Honor by the YWCA of Silicon Valley; and Lockheed Martin Space Ed Taft Diversity Leadership Award.

In 2018, Brynn was recognized with Augsburg’s Distinguished Alumni Award for her commitment to helping young women in STEM.

Brynn’s dedication to helping others through community building started long before her work at Lockheed Martin. It started in middle school with the influence of another Auggie: Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding.

Ert graduated from Augsburg in 1969 with a degree in Speech, then moved to Robbinsdale to teach speech and theater at the middle school. This is where Brynn first met Ert and first learned about Augsburg.

“What he had our theater groups focus on was not only our craft, but our community. I got into the focus on service really young.”

Brynn thought Augsburg sounded like the best college from Ert’s depiction. In fact, when applying for college, she only applied to Augsburg.

“I followed in the footsteps of my favorite teacher,” says Brynn. “I was really motivated to go to a place where I could learn and also make an impact on my community.”

At Augsburg, Brynn was involved in campus life as a resident advisor, a cheerleader, and as part of ODK, a national organization that recognized students with responsible leadership and service in campus life skills. And it was in her math class that she developed a love for problem solving. Dr. Lawrence Copes, Chair of Math Computer Science, challenged Brynn and her classmates to think differently about math.

“He opened our minds to what math is, he called it a beautiful language and problem solving language.”

Brynn credits Dr. Copes’ coaching and mentorship for steering her into the aerospace industry. When she thought about what to do with her mathematics degree, she thought about solving hard problems. And the industry growing at the time of her graduation—the industry that presented all the hard problems—was the aerospace industry.

Leadership Through Mentorship

Brynn graduated from Augsburg, then went on to earn her master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of California at Riverside. After a few years at Aerojet Electronic Systems, she attended a job fair where she met a female executive, Amy Flanagan, who was focused on recruiting women to Lockheed Martin. Brynn was so impressed with Amy that she decided she wanted to work for her.

“I honed my focus on service at Augsburg, but when I met Amy, I was introduced to her passion and I wanted to work for her and work for the place she was committed to.”

At Lockheed Martin, Brynn has held a variety of positions, including vice president of Navigation Systems Operations and deputy for the Global Positioning System (GPS) III program for Lockheed Martin Space.

“I have a lot of great memories and experiences of

developing products, launching satellites, those are awesome and amazing things that are doing wonderful things for our country and our world.”

When asked what she is most proud of in the time since graduating from Augsburg, Brynn says raising her daughter to be an amazing young woman. Brynn is also proud of her work mentoring others, especially women.

Augsburg prepared her to go out into the world and make an impact, and Brynn sees this impact in her daughter, in her daughter’s friends, and in others she’s mentored over the years.

“It’s visiting classrooms, it’s one kid that got a spark from that visit. That’s amazing to be able to create those sparks that can solve the next big challenge for the world.”

Brynn has mentored several women in her career, including college students who now work at Lockheed Martin. She is also on the Executive Steering Council for Lockheed Martin’s Women’s Impact Network, and is co-chairing this year’s virtual women’s leadership forum.

“As much as I believe we are making a lot of progress in our quest to improve the diversity metrics—particularly the female to male ratios—there’s a lot of work to do. I always make sure that people surround themselves with mentors and sponsors and champions. You are creating a network of support so as you need to make difficult decisions—whether it’s technical decisions within your day job or it is advice on how to find that next opportunity—you’ve got that support network.”

Brynn’s daily work doesn’t include typing code or doing math problems on the white board like she used to, but she believes her work is still about solving problems and making sure the barriers her teams might be facing are addressed.

“Sometimes you think you have to do it all on your own and that’s never the case. I got to where I am because of mentors and teachers and my parents, all those people are the shoulders that I stood on to get to where I’m at.”

Augsburg Theater Alumni Featured in a Sod House Theater Production

Come and see some Augsburg University Theater alumni from several generations perform this incredibly fun and evocative production!

An Enemy of the People written by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Darcey Engen and Luverne Seifert with music by Brian Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson, will be presented by Sod House Theater and tour eleven rural cities in Minnesota from July 25 – August 26, with a run in Hastings early September (TBA), 2018. The Sod House is teaming with local talent that includes a number of Augsburg University alumni!

This classic play examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin. It will be performed at site-specific locations that are important to the historical narrative of each community.  Performance locations include town halls and river parks. “We’ve chosen communities to perform with that have recently experienced water pollution issues and whose lakes and rivers are a major contributor to their tourism economy,” said Luverne Seifert, co-artistic director of Sod House Theater. After each performance, water experts from local organizations will facilitate conversations centered on local water issues in hopes that the play and community dialogue will inspire water conservation.

 

About Sod House Theater:

Sod House Theater is a Minneapolis based theater whose mission is to perform in venues that serve historical significance in small-town communities. The works they choose to perform are relevant to the small-town atmosphere. Their goal is to be interactive in the communities by performing with local actors and at historical sites. They have been touring greater Minnesota since 2011.

Tickets for “An Enemy of the People” are $15 for adults; $10 for Children, Students, and Seniors.

Tickets are available at www.sodhousetheater.org. For show information call 612-414-2032.

Alumni who are leading the project:

Co-Artistic Director, Luverne Seifert ‘83; Co-Artistic Director, Darcey Engen ‘88; Production and Tour Manager Del Logeais ‘18.

Alumni who are performing in the Taylors Falls Production:

Peter Skjervold ‘83, Jenny Nordstrom Kelly ‘84, Lisa Pestka Anderson ‘86, Ali Fitzpatrick ‘11

Current students performing in Taylors Falls:

Madeleine Rowe ‘19, Hannah Dyson ‘20

6 Quick Questions With the New Conductor of The Masterworks Chorale

Mark Sedio ’76 has been the transitional conductor for the Augsburg choir for the past two years. Mark has recently accepted a new role as conductor for The Masterworks Chorale. We had the chance to chat with Mark about all things Augsburg and music. Check out these 6 Quick Questions with Mark Sedio:

Favorite memory as a student at Augsburg:

Conversation with friends in the old “Chin Wag” before Augsburg Choir rehearsals.

What makes singing in a choir so great/powerful/exciting?

The act of making something beautiful together – a true act of community.  The joy of performing a piece – the final result of hours and hours of rehearsal.  Then, of course, all the non-musical things wrapped up in it all – singing with friends, the performance spaces, the stories about the history of a piece – all coming together.

What excites you about working with Masterworks?

The caliber of the singing is so very high and the possibilities are endless.

What are you looking forward to with Masterworks?

Over the past four years, it’s been great fun for me to have worked first with Cedar Singers and then the Augsburg Choir.  Osmo Vänskä, the conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, says it’s all about the music – and it is.  How we form a phrase together, how we mold sound – not necessarily a pre-conceived notion of what an ensemble should sound like – but rather what we do with the sound we have.  That’s the concept I used with both Cedars and Augsburg Choir – it works – and the outcome can be really thrilling.

Share something about working with the Augsburg Choir:

It’s hard to put into words what the 50-plus singers in the Choir came to mean to me.  Again, it’s all about community.  It was a joy to be able to make music together – and I think it showed in each and every performance.  We had great fun – and it showed in their singing.  I am extraordinarily proud of those wonderful musicians (some whom I knew since they were first-years in Cedar Singers).  Their musicianship and growth over the years.  To work with them was both an honor and sheer joy.

Share a Mark Sedio fun fact:

If I wasn’t able to do what I am doing (choral music, organ, composition), I’d LOVE to have a talk-show.

 

If you are interested in joining The Masterworks Chorale, the gatherings are open to anyone interested in singing! The first gathering is Tuesday, September 4th from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the Choir Room (M2) in Augsburg University’s Anderson Music Hall. For more information visit the Augsburg University Masterworks Chorale Facebook page here.

For the Augsburg University Music Department website, click here.

Young Alumni Council: Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12

The Young Alumni Council was formed to specifically represent the interests of young alumni in service of Augsburg University’s mission and goals.  Each council member helps connect and engage young alumni by planning and executing networking, fundraising, social, and volunteer events and programs. Click here for more information about requirements and qualifications.

As part of one of our series, we will be profiling members of the Augsburg Young Alumni Council (or YAC). This week, we spoke to Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12, who is currently the YAC Vice-President. 

  • Name and Graduation Year?

Lauren (Grafelman) Lesser ’12

  • Time spent as a YAC council member?

2 years
.

  • What made you want to be a part of the YAC?

I enjoyed my time at Augsburg and I wanted to find a way to stay connected to the community. Additionally, I want to help others get re-connected with the Augsburg Community.

  • What is your favorite YAC memory or event?

My favorite event was the brewery tour. It was so fun to see so many familiar and new faces. Everyone really enjoyed hanging out as a group and it was a beautiful day!

  • Favorite memory from studying at Augsburg?

The summer after my freshman year, the band went on a trip to Romania. It was an amazing 10 day experience filled with new cultures, new foods, and new friends!

  • 
Why should other young alumni join the YAC?

People should join YAC to help their classmates re-connect to Augsburg and to help plan fun events that bring people together.

  • Interesting random fact about you?

I have lived in 7 states and went to 3 different high schools.

Are you interested in learning more about the Young Alumni Council? Visit http://www.augsburg.edu/alumni/leadershipboards/yac/ for information on applications and eligibility.