Recently, WBUR 90.9 FM (NPR) spoke with María Belén Power ’07, Augsburg University alumni and associate executive director with the Chelsea-based environmental group Green Roots, about the groundbreaking work her organization is doing to tackle climate change.
“That [starting small] has really been an approach that we take in a lot of our projects,” says Power. “Piloting small scale and ensuring that we can replicate those models to really have a much broader impact.”
Green Roots is a community-based organization dedicated to improving and enhancing the urban environment and public health in Chelsea and surrounding communities. We do so through deep community engagement and empowerment, youth leadership and implementation of innovative projects and campaigns.
Caryn 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.
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!”
Karim El-Hibri ’06 will be one of the newest members of Augsburg’s Board of Regents. He is the President of East West Resources Corporation, a small investment firm, as well as a trustee for the El-Hibri Foundation, a philanthropic organization that empowers Muslim leaders and their allies to build inclusive communities.
Karim is also a graduate of Augsburg’s StepUP program.
Karim’s path to a higher education was not clear-cut from the beginning. After a year at American University, he was forced to drop out due to failing grades. Knowing he needed to enroll in a treatment program, Karim sat down with his parents and discussed his options. They discovered the Wilderness Treatment Center, a place Karim found to be a very positive experience. After successfully completing that program, Karim was encouraged to go to a halfway house in Minneapolis called Progress Valley.
“I had no idea where Minneapolis even was, but I was learning that I needed to follow my higher power’s goal, so I went to Progress Valley for three months. They recommended I move on to Sober Living and I believe God speaks through the people around us, so I followed that recommendation. Sober Living is where I heard about Augsburg’s StepUP program,” says Karim.
Karim met Dave Hadden, former assistant director of StepUP, and Patrice Salmeri, former StepUP Director, both whom he credits as instrumental to his recovery. He says Patrice helped him become the student he wanted to be, but more importantly the person he wanted to be.
“Because I had failed engaging in school before, there was this drive to return to academia and thrive. I wanted an opportunity to prove that I deserved this second chance,” says Karim. “I was blown away by StepUP and having a community of peers who were sharing similar challenges, providing this counter-culture to the typical college partying experience. That network provided structure, and we didn’t want to let the community down.”
Karim took a variety of classes in his two years at Augsburg, including two that left lasting impressions.
“There was the Medieval Studies class with Phil Adamo, where we dressed up in medieval attire and walked around campus. And my biology class with Bill Capman experiencing the saltwater tanks with live coral and clownfish laying eggs, I’ve never seen anything quite as impressive.”
He was also a student fundraiser for the Oren Gateway Building. Karim spent a lot of time making sure that the building’s fundraising campaign was a success, knowing Augsburg would be able to house StepUP students in a safe and sober living space.
Karim graduated from the StepUP program in 2005 and in 2006 he transferred back to American University’s School of International Service to graduate with a degree in International Studies. Despite not graduating from Augsburg, Karim continued to stay engaged with the university.
“Augsburg’s culture and values align with our family’s values and has been a major motivator to stay engaged.”
In 2012, Karim brought his mentor, Professor Abdul Aziz Said, to the 24th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Professor Said was a professor at American University, teaching the value of peace and ecological balance, dignity, political pluralism, and cultural diversity.
“Augsburg is such a beautiful example of what a collegiate community can be. Augsburg has a culture of peace, which makes sense why the Nobel Peace Prize Forum was hosted on campus. Professor Said told me, ‘Why not expand Augsburg’s curriculum to teach peace?’ which has been a personal passion of mine ever since.”
Karim served on StepUP’s Advisory Board for a few years and is excited to begin his work on Augsburg’s Board of Regents this fall. He believes his work with East West Resources and the El-Hibri Foundation have prepared him for this new role.
“I’m fortunate because I get to work with my family; my father is the chairman, my mother and sister are on the Board of Trustees of the El-Hibri Foundation. And at East West Resources I love that I get to focus on so many different opportunities, and we get to bring our values into every business in which we engage. I am proud to say that East West Resources only focuses on businesses that have a humanitarian dimension – enhancing people’s lives in one way or another.”
Karim is grateful to Board Chair Matt Entenza and President Paul Pribbenow for the opportunity to become a Regent on Augsburg’s Board and deeply appreciates their confidence.
“I am deeply honored to participate in any way at Augsburg. I didn’t graduate from Augsburg, but the two years I was a student had such a profound impact on me,” says Karim. “StepUP saved my life. It is more than just an education; Augsburg really had an impact on who I am today.”
Kevin 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.”
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.
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, whereDr. 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.”
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.
On June 8, 2021, Augsburg held an in-person commencement ceremony for the classes of 2020 and 2021. After a difficult year of virtual learning and social distancing, the community was able to come together and celebrate the achievements of our Auggie grads!
The event recognized 857 graduates from our undergrad, graduate, and doctoral programs. 4,000+ attendees watched as their loved ones crossed the stage and received their diplomas. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar also had a special message to share with the graduates. You can watch it on our Facebook page.
To all of the new alumni, congratulations and we hope you stay connected with us!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
1 ticket $5
3 tickets $10
6 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.
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.”
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?”
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 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.