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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.

Refugee Odyssey: Exploring The Past Through Simulation

AASA at the Fall 2017 Leadership Retreat
AASA at the 2017 Fall Leadership Retreat

Every fall, students from the Multicultural Student Services & International Student and Scholar Services organizations gather off campus for a Fall Leadership Retreat to build community, engage in important discussions, and gain leadership tools. During the retreat, students affiliated with the Augsburg Asian Student Association (AASA) have the opportunity to participate with AASA alumni in the Refugee Odyssey, an intense simulation that AASA started back in 2008.

Alumnus Cheemoua Vang ‘16 took part in the Odyssey as a student and has volunteered the last two years to help run the event. He says his first experience was indescribable, but a moment from which he bloomed and grew emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That’s why he and other AASA alumni choose to come back to volunteer.

“I call it the cycle of giving back,” he said. “Alumni volunteers who take part in the Odyssey have all participated in it before at least two to three times. This is important because those who have personally gone through the Odyssey will be able to connect with the student participants. They’ll understand the impact of it on a personal level and know the sensitivity of the event and what it takes to be involved with it.”

The sensitive nature of this event comes from students simulating the experience of immigrants running from their homes during wartime, fleeing from soldiers, to find safety. The simulation is meant to help students explore their history.

Senior Cam Thu Pham has participated in the Refugee Odyssey the past three years and says “the Refugee Odyssey is a learning experience of rediscovering one’s history or awakening an interest in learning one’s parent’s raw history and sacrifices. It is a frightening experience, and you would not know what to expect while laying in the pitch black grass and thorny bushes waiting with your adrenaline rushing as you try to get to a safe place.”

In her first two years, Cam was a runner during the simulation and last year she chose to be a soldier, whose job it is to catch the runners. These experiences have led Cam to further explore her personal family history.

“I finally came to the realization that my parents stories that they had always told me were not because they were bored and had nothing to talk about, but because it was all they had to talk about. It was their history and their roots. I never took the time to appreciate those stories until I sat down with my parents after [the Refugee Odyssey] and asked them to tell me those stories once again. I think these stories have led me to recognize my privilege to be where I am today from the upbringing of my parents, to not ever forget where I originally came from, and to appreciate my identity as a proud Vietnamese woman.”

For both Cam and Cheemoua, the Refugee Odyssey and AASA have helped to shape their experience at Augsburg.

“AASA is not just a platform of support, but to me it feels like a family that has lifted me up through my hard times throughout my experiences here. AASA members are empowering people who have so much influence on me as an individual,” Cam said.
Cheemoua feels a similar connection to the group.

“I first got involved with AASA during my first year of college,” Cheemoua said. “I was eating lunch all by myself and a group of AASA members invited me to eat with them. They were very welcoming and friendly. After joining them for the Fall Leadership Retreat, I found the leadership in me that Fall and I just kept growing ever since.”

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.

Velkommen Jul is December 4

Velkommen Jul scholarshipVelkommen Jul is Augsburg’s annual Christmas celebration for all. Attend Chapel featuring Scandinavian Christmas music at 10:40 a.m. At 11, head to the Christensen Center lobby to shop in the boutique for unique gifts and goodies. All proceeds benefit student scholarships. Join us for a festive celebration in the Commons with Scandinavian treats, holiday music, and traditional Norwegian costumes and sweaters. Gift baskets will welcome donations for Augsburg scholarships. Add to the celebration by wearing your Norwegian sweater! 

Paying It Forward, with Gratitude

Kathryn Lange ’72 and Dennis Sonifer in Salzburg
Kathryn Lange ’72 and Dennis Sonifer in Salzburg

A few years ago, Kathryn Lange ’72 and her husband, Dennis Sonifer, decided to update their will, a process that tends to open up a variety of possibilities that aren’t necessarily on our daily radar screens. They realized it would be possible to reach out beyond family members, and agreed that supporting a college made sense, particularly since they both had enjoyed great experiences at small, church-related, liberal arts colleges. Determined to reciprocate the favor of the substantial financial aid each had received as a student, they decided to “pay it forward” and set up an endowed scholarship at Augsburg.

Currently serving as associate dean of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University in Boston, Lange has spent her entire career in higher education, including a six-year stint as director of admissions at Augsburg. Originally planning to find work directly related to her Social Work degree, she reassessed her plan when she found herself accepting various positions in higher education. Lange stresses, however, that she uses her Augsburg Social Work education every day in her work with students and faculty. At St. Olaf, she worked in housing for three years, followed by her admissions work at Augsburg, and then at the University of Minnesota, first in financial aid and then in student services in the College of Pharmacy. While at the U, she realized she liked working in the college environment and decided to earn a Master’s degree. In 2002, she and Sonifer moved to Boston for their next adventure.   Continue reading “Paying It Forward, with Gratitude”