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Introducing the 2023 – 2024 Christensen Scholars

Each year we select up to ten outstanding students to spend one year together in a high-level seminar style course exploring a theological understanding of vocation. These scholars build relationships with one another, develop theological acumen, and spend time volunteering with influential organizations in the community. The purpose of this program is to help these students reflect on how their sense of vocation has been formed and how it is forming their future aspirations. Here are some brief introductions to these amazing scholars.

Headshot of Chiara JirilloChiara Jirillo | Class of 2025 | Milan, Italy

Major: New Media Studies, Minor: Graphic Design


I first moved to Minnesota in February of 2021 to be an au pair. I took care of an infant, while living with my host family, and we created such a strong bond that I decided to come back to Minnesota as a student. I am a very devoted person when it comes to my loved ones. My deepest hopes are that compassion and understanding become the foundation of human interactions, allowing empathy and fostering unity across different cultures. My goal is to go to Switzerland for my Master’s degree and start working for the United Nation to help maintain international peace and achieve international cooperation. I love to spend time with my close friends and host family.


A blue mushroom in a forest. Theo Coval | Class of 2026| Robbinsdale, MN 

Major: Biospsychology, Minors: Religion & Creative Writing


I chose Augsburg because of its disability accommodations and small campus. It’s also very close to where I live so as a commuter that is ideal. I have an excessive amount of exotic pets, including pond fish, birds, tarantulas/inverts, snakes, and an iguana roughly four feet long. I suppose I’d like to see a world where people have higher empathy, particularly along cultural lines. I think entertainment plays a big role in how people see different identities with how they are represented and portrayed in media, for example the now-defunct Hays Code made it so that certain television programs could only depict queer characters in a negative or villainous light. As an author I try to include authentic representation of a variety of identities in my work in an attempt to normalize the inclusion of all peoples in our social narrative. One thing I love to do is write. I am constantly working on fiction projects.


Headshot of Marcia FranciosMarcia Francois | Class of 2026 | Brooklyn Park, MN

Major: Psychology, Minor: Sociology 


I came to Augsburg University because it was close to home and also because of the diverse community on campus. One thing that is unique about me is my voice. I have heard it is very unique for a female. My deepest hope for this world is that people learn to understand and accept each other’s differences. As a student leader on campus, I have taken classes such as the Emerging Leaders Program and Leadership Studies to understand better the world we live in and the people who inhabit it. One thing I love to do is pamper myself.



Headshot of Danny HoDanny Ho | Class of 2025 | St. Paul, MN

Major: Finance


I decided to attend Augsburg because I wanted to attend an smaller school with a tight community. I love how diverse Augsburg is and the fact that Augsburg is in the cities. One of my passions is Entrepreneurship. My deepest hope is for everyone to find their true calling in life. I believe one of the most important days of your life is when you find your purpose. I want to become a leader that inspires people to become the best versions of themselves. I love to sing.


Continue reading “Introducing the 2023 – 2024 Christensen Scholars”

Public Leader Scholars Program Applications Open!

Headshots of all 9 Christensen Scholars in small circles with text "Christensen Scholars 2022-23" on top left.Our Christensen Scholars initiative is part of the Public Leader Scholars programs which offer students a unique opportunity to explore how their worldview/faith(s) shapes them as leaders, as well as build their leadership skills.

There are two Public Leader Scholars opportunities being offered this coming academic year: Christensen Scholars and Interfaith Scholars that students can apply for!

Christensen Scholars BENEFITS:

  • Unique opportunities to explore Christian theology & vocation more deeply as a cohort
  • Earn upper division credit (4 credits) in religion
  • Seminar setting that is small and supportive
  • $2,000 scholarship, $1,500 stipend
  • Opportunities to develop skills related to theological reflection & vocational discernment

Interfaith Scholars BENEFITS:

  • Unique opportunities to explore interfaith study and learn about diverse religious/spiritual/worldview identities as a cohort
  • Earn upper division credit (4 credits) in religion
  • Seminar setting that is small and supportive
  • $2,000 scholarship
  • Opportunities to formally develop interfaith leadership skills

If you will be a sophomore, junior, or senior in 2023-2024 you are eligible to apply.

Application are due: FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17TH

If you have questions about the Christensen Scholars program, email Jeremy:

If you have questions about the Interfaith Scholars program, email Jane:

Christensen Scholars 2022-23

Headshots of all 9 Christensen Scholars in small circles with text "Christensen Scholars 2022-23" on top left.

Introducing our 2022-23 Christensen Scholars!

Please check out the students’ bios below to learn more about their hopes for this world and their place in it.

Up to ten students are selected each academic year to participate in the Christensen Scholars Seminar. This program provides a unique opportunity for students to discuss and explore theology, faith, and vocation in a small, supportive cohort. Each Christensen Scholars is also connected with a community-based learning experience designed to enhance this seminar experience. You can learn more about our Christensen Scholars program here. Continue reading “Christensen Scholars 2022-23”

2020-2021 Christensen Scholars

Branwen Jorenby ’23

Major: Biology, Minor: Psychology
Hometown: Prior Lake, MN

branwen smiling in field


Being a Christensen Scholar is an amazing experience! As someone who is not religious but grew up in a Lutheran setting, participating in this program has challenged me to fully dive into questioning my own spiritual beliefs in multiple thought-provoking readings and conversations with my peers. Engaging in Augsburg Health Commons as a volunteer through this program has allowed me to see health and humanity in a new light that I will bring into the care plans of my future patients.

Tofunmi Oteju ’21

Major: Biology
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

tofunmi smilingI have always been fascinated with Interfaith work and how our various beliefs intersect, with the sole purpose of maintaining some sort or unity between our different faith and non-faith traditions. I was able to explore my curiosity by being part of the 2019-2020 Interfaith Cohort. There I explored the religious diversity at Augsburg and the wider Twin Cities but also put on events that explore this diversity as it relates to various facets of our everyday lives (e.g. Faith and Science, Faith and Death). A revelation I had being an Interfaith Scholar, was that there is still so much work that has to be done within our various faith traditions. Currently, there is still not enough unity and understanding between different Christian denominations. Being an international student from Nigeria, I was not as exposed to the various protestant denominations till I started school at Augsburg. I was not even aware we had a wide variety of denominations within Protestantism. I was only familiar with mainly Catholicism and Pentecostalism (which I practice). Coming to a school built on the values of Lutheranism forced me to explore more denominations.
Being in the Christensen Scholars program has been a great way to cumulate my learning of the various ways of being a Christian.

Erik Garcia Gonzaga

Major: Communication Studies
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

erik leaning against rockMy name is Erik Garcia Gonzaga, born in Morelos, Mexico and raised here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am a student at Augsburg University studying Communication Studies. What I want to do with that major is to be in places where I can inspire and motivate teens and young adults to follow their career and educational goals.


Continue reading “2020-2021 Christensen Scholars”

2019-20 Christensen Scholars Profiles

Group photo of 2019-20 Christensen Scholars with Professor Mark Tranvik

Learn more about this year’s Christensen Scholars

Joaquin I. Delgado-Ortiz ‘20

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Major: Psychology

Augsburg has shown me how to engage with my community in a way that is productive, engaging, and meaningful to its members. I choose to be a Christensen Scholar to explore my vocation through discussions revolving around academia, service, and the world.

Eh Soe Dwe ‘20

Hometown: Maplewood, Minnesota
Major: Psychology (Clinical)
Minors: Religion and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies

Augsburg has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone by serving surrounding communities near Augsburg. Not only did I gain new leadership skills, but I’ve also built meaningful relationships that I can reflect on years from now. My connections with community members, students, faculty members, advisors, and staff members have taught me how to interact with people from all walks of life. Being a Christensen Scholar provides me with an opportunity to explore my faith and my vocation, two things that are constantly changing and growing.

Zoe Huebner ‘21

Hometown: Neenah, Wisconsin
Majors: Philosophy and Urban Studies
Minors: Religion and Sociology

The most important thing that I have learned at Augsburg is to put your heart into everything that you do. Not only will you get more enjoyment from the classes and activities you participate in, but so many more doors will also open to you. From doing this I have created so many connections outside of Augsburg and have surrounded myself with people with goals and aspirations that are like my own. I chose to be a Christensen Scholar because of the opportunity to discuss religious topics in a small group setting. In this setting, everyone is able to share their ideas and a true discussion can be had.

Kali Kadelbach ‘20

Hometown: Cloquet, Minnesota
Major: Theology and Public Leadership with a Concentration in Youth Studies

I’ve now been at Augsburg for three semesters and I’ve learned so much about myself, and about others.  At Augsburg, I have learned what it means to live in a community. I’ve also learned so much about different cultures and their beliefs. It also has got me thinking more about my own culture, too. I chose to become a Christensen Scholar to learn how I can help be a leader on campus and be a good role model in my community. Another reason why I chose to become a Christensen Scholar is meeting other people that are also passionate about their faith too.

Christa Kelly ‘22

Hometown: South St. Paul, MN
Major: Technical Theater Major and Directing, Dramaturgy, and Playwriting Major

I have learned a great deal about the world around us at Augsburg. Some of the most fascinating things that I have learned are about religion. Augsburg has given me insight into the religious practices and beliefs of different groups of people. Having an informed understanding of the world and the people in it helps build relationships and communities. I wanted to participate in this program to keep learning and growing both in my faith and as a person. Faith has always been a large part of my life, but as an LGBT person, it’s also been something that I’ve struggled with. It took me years to come to terms with my identity both as a Christian and a lesbian. Even now I’m bombarded with messages from the media and even family members saying that I have to choose between identifying as one or the other. This hasn’t driven me away from Christianity but has instead furthered my resolve to learn more about my religion. The Christensen Scholars Program was an opportunity for me to continue doing this.

Paul McCoyer ‘22

Hometown: Washington, DC
Major: Music Performance (B.M.)

Augsburg has taught me to be a more independent and critical thinker. I chose to be a Christensen Scholar because I wanted to discuss social and ethical issues while expanding my understanding of the world through the lens of faith and vocation.

Michael Olderr ‘20

Hometown: Honolulu Hawai’i
Majors: Computer Science and Film Production
Minor: Religion

At Augsburg, I have learned to be a well-rounded scholar as well as an individual. It has been essential in my ever-changing journey to become a better person. I became a Christensen Scholar to challenge myself to not only become a better scholar but a better Christian. So that I can better serve and guide my community.

Matt Svestka ‘20

Hometown: Northfield, Minnesota
Major: Theology and Public Leadership with a concentration in Youth Studies

I have learned the importance of creating and executing ideas for change and ministry with many diverse people at Augsburg. I am a Christensen Scholar because it allows for a place of dynamic conversation regarding theology in literature, history, the arts, and really enhances the way that I perceive God in the context that Augsburg is in.

Sadie Werlein ‘20

Hometown: Cambridge, MN
Major: Social Work

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my place in this world while being at Augsburg. I chose to be a Christensen Scholar because I wanted to make some more meaningful connections on campus and having a small group of people to have serious conversations with was something I wanted to seek out.

Amanda William ‘20

Home country: Malaysia
Major: Psychology
Minor: Gender, sexuality and women’s studies

I have learned a lot throughout the years at Augsburg. I have become more aware of my values and goals as an individual, and with the experiences and skills I have developed I would like to bring that back to my community and my people back home in Malaysia. I have initially chosen to be a part of the Christensen Scholars because it was suggested by one of my closest friends. But as I was going through the application and getting more information about it, I realized that it is a great way for me to engage in my faith and spirituality and also being critical of the current issues that are going on around Christianity in a more global context.

2017-18 Christensen Scholars

Sandra Eguida ’18Sandra Eguida

Hometown: Lome, Togo
Major: Accounting

Augsburg gave me the tools to become a leader of my community. I was inspired by a lot of Augsburg professors and advisors. They inspired me to do more and to be more. I am so grateful for all the advice and feedback I heard. Outside of class, I am the president of the International Student Organization of Augsburg. In addition, I am the Treasurer of the Accounting Club of Augsburg. This year I work as a lead staff for Augsburg residence life. Last summer, I interned for the Twin Cities Public Television. I was their accounting intern for three months. I really enjoyed their company and the work I did for them. After graduation, I want to go to grad school and get a Masters in Accounting. I really want to be an expert in my field.

Benjamin erickson ’18Benjamin Erickson

Hometown: Andover, Minnesota
Major: Finance, Economics, Marketing

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the one-of-a-kind community that is here on campus. I also love how connected the alumni are to the school. I think that shows the lasting mark Augsburg leaves on the students that come here. Outside of class, I’m a captain on the Augsburg Cross Country team, a member of the Track and Field team, and the Treasurer and a member of various student groups. Last year, I went to Peru with the Augsburg Cross Country Team and volunteered by restoring ancient Inca ruins for a non-profit organization. My proudest academic achievement was being awarded the Academic All-American Award by the NCAA for Track and Field. After graduation, I plan to have a job with a bank or financial institution as a financial analyst where I can learn and gain experience.

Demey everett ’19Demey Everett

Hometown: Brooklyn Center, Minnesota
Major: Biology and Secondary Education
Minor: Religion

Augsburg has shaped me in many ways. The most influential part though, would be having an open mind in all things, meeting new people, and having new experiences. Without attending Augsburg, I would not be the person I am today. Outside of the classroom you can find me playing lacrosse for Augsburg, running, biking, kayaking, and exploring all over the wonderful state of Minnesota. I love to be outdoors and take it all in. In addition, for the past six years I have actively volunteered at the church I attend, serving on the production team on Sunday mornings. After graduation, I plan to go into the education field and teach life sciences for middle school or high school, as well as coach lacrosse and be actively involved in a youth ministry either connected to the school or the community around it.

Zachery Juaire ’18Zachery Juaire

Hometown: Belle Plaine, Minnesota
Major: Exercise Science

Augsburg has made me a global citizen by experiencing multi-cultural opportunities within the campus community. My favorite thing about Augsburg is the community connection. The campus provides a setting in which students can cultivate many deep friendships. Outside of class, I have volunteered at TRIA Orthopedics Center in Bloomington over the past summer and now I have secured a position volunteering at Methodist Hospital in their physical therapy department. After graduation, I plan to apply to graduate schools for physical therapy.

bethany keyl ’19Bethany Keyl

Hometown: New Haven, Connecticut
Major: Cross-Cultural Studies and Religion
Minor: Spanish

I love Augsburg’s emphasis on “vocation.” I feel very passionately that the work I end up doing in the world should be something I feel called do. I am still very much figuring out what that will be, but with every passing year I feel I have somewhat more of a direction than I did the last year. And I feel so supported by Augsburg’s faculty and staff members who continue to encourage me to figure out what is best for me, but also, along the theme of vocation, to explore where my gifts best meet the needs of the world. I feel so privileged to have been able to study abroad twice during my time at Augsburg (so far!). I went to Amman, Jordan for a semester last year to study Arabic and Middle Eastern Culture. I met so many incredible people there, and had experiences I will never forget, such as walking around Petra, riding a camel through the desert, harvesting olives, and rappelling down a waterfall. Then, this summer I went to Norway to study peace-building and interfaith work. I was impressed by Norway and Norwegians’ commitments to peace, but I also was inspired to realize that if even they still have work to do, the rest of the world really needs to roll up its sleeves. In my first year I interned at Trinity Lutheran Church. While there, I was the Program Assistant for their tutoring program and had the opportunity to be a member of the planning committee for the bi-monthly interfaith conversations hosted in Cedar Commons.

Bashiru “BK” Korman ’18

Hometown: Maple Grove, Minnesota
Major: International Relations/International Business
Minor: Political Science, Spanish, Leadership

My proudest academic achievement was becoming the student body president. I have had multiple internships. Through UpTunships and the Strommen Center, I interned at Breakthrough Twin Cities as Student Services Specialist. This past summer I interned with the Metropolitan Council as an Office of Equal Opportunity Urban Scholar. Outside of class, I participate in Augsburg Men’s Soccer, Student for Racial Justice, Student Government, and LEAD Fellows. After graduation, I plan to work for U.S. Foreign Service and go to graduate school.

Katie Jane Kvilvang ’18Katie Kvilvang

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MN
Major: Youth and Family Ministry
Minor: Psychology

My proudest academic achievement was taking all-team athletic academic achievements, while working, playing lacrosse, and attending school full time. Outside of class, I play women’s lacrosse, and volunteer each Wednesday as a youth leader at an Assembly of God youth group. I work in most of my other free time, with a work-study job, as well as an EMT back up north on the weekends. After graduation, I plan to continue with my part time job as an EMT, as well as work as a pastor, for starters. Eventually, I would like to become a hospital chaplain and work to help people through grief and loss, as best as I can, all while showing God’s love. This might entail continuing education and getting my masters degree, but that is something I plan on just having God guide me through.

Kassandra Quintero Diaz ’19Kassandra Quintero Diaz

Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota
Major: Accounting

Augsburg has taught me to look with in myself. It has taught me to use more empathy towards my neighbor and just to be a good person in our community. At Augsburg, I have had several study abroad experiences, including going to Belgium and to Germany with my Lacrosse team and getting to learn about World War II and see some of the museums they have. Outside of class, I am a two sport athlete here at Augsburg. I run Cross Country and play Woman’s Lacrosse. I also volunteer with the Campus Kitchen along with just creating fun games for the kids from Riverside. After graduation, I plan to find my vocation while traveling the world.

tiffany widseth ’19

Tiffany WidsethHometown: Aurora, Minnesota
Major: Exercise Science (Pre PT route)
Minor: Religion and Biology

My favorite thing about Augsburg is that the community here is so welcoming and full of amazing people. I meet new people all the time and am constantly learning from them. My proudest academic achievement was presenting research as a McNair Scholar at the University of California Berkeley in 2017. I have worked with faculty on validating a modified version of a tool called the Functional Movement Screen. It is used to assess imbalances and compensatory movements in athletes that may lead to injury. Outside of class, I had a summer internship in 2016 at Northern Pines Hospital in Aurora, Minn. I have also shadowed many Physical Therapy offices around the Iron Range. I have also studied abroad in Nicaragua for a class on Liberation Theology. After graduation, I plan to go on to graduate school and earn my Doctorate in Physical Therapy.


Kasibu “Jondi” Zanzu ’18

Kasibu Jondi ZanzuHometown: San Diego, California
Major: Exercise Science
Minor: Religion and Biology

My proudest academic achievement is being able to attend a University, and also being a first generation college student in my family. Augsburg has made me more knowledgeable and more aware of the different culture, diversity, and religion this institution has. I currently volunteer with Bridging in Roseville, Minnesota. After graduation, I plan to go Madagascar and teach during the summer of 2018, then attend grad school at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for Physical Therapy.

2016-17 Christensen Scholar Profiles

VISION BAGONZA ’17Vision Bagonza

Hometown: Karagwe, Kagera, Tanzania
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry and Religion

My proudest academic achievement is excelling in classes and then being able to provide academic support for new students by tutoring and mentoring incoming first-year students.

NOAH BROWN ’17Noah Brown

Hometown: Bloomington, Minn.
Major: Biology

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the community of students and professors who are active and engaged in their communities.

KAYLA GROVER ’18kayla-grover

Hometown: Blanding, Utah
Major: Sociology
Minor: Religion

Augsburg has shaped me by encouraging me to open my mind and pursue a wide variety of interests. After graduation, I plan to work with AmeriCorps for one year.

OWEN HARRISON ’18Owen Harrison

Hometown: New Hope, Minn.
Major: Psychology
Minor: Studio Art

My proudest academic achievement is making the Dean’s List every semester. I am also involved with the StepUP Leadership Team and the Mindfulness Club.

LEAH MCDOUGALL ’17Leah McDougall

Hometown: Arden Hills, Minn.
Major: Youth and Family Ministry
Minor: Spanish

Augsburg has made me more aware of the world I live in. My proudest academic achievement was studying abroad in Central America and after graduation I plan to work with youth at a camp, church, or other organization.

HANNAH SCHMIT ’17Hannah Schmit

Hometown: Tomahawk, Wisc.
Major: Religion and Sociology
Minor: Biology

Augsburg has helped me to become a critical thinker and engaged both in my community and on a global platform. My proudest academic achievement is publishing research on Sustainable Human Development in Nepal.

REBECCA SCHROEDER ’18Rebecca Schroeder

Hometown: Giddings, Texas
Major: Management; Social and Artistic Entrepreneurship

My favorite thing about Augsburg is how diverse and well-rounded the curriculum is. I’ve been able to tailor my college experience to what I feel I’ve been called to do after college and to my future career.

BLAIR STEWIG ’18Blair Stewig

Hometown: Oakdale, Minn.
Major: Biology and Chemistry
Minor: Environmental Studies, Physics, and Religion

I love Augsburg’s welcoming community and value Augsburg’s diversity. My proudest academic achievement is completing the River Semester and learning about the connectivity of the river.

HANNAH THIRY ’17Hannah Thiry

Hometown: Stanchfield, Minn.
Major: Biology
Minor: Religion and Psychology

Through various experiences, debates, discussions, and philosophical thought, I’ve come to find a home in the ‘grayness’ of life—there’s no distinct ‘black and white’ side to anything. People, opinions, feelings, and passions are fluid, flexible, and unique.

2015-16 Christensen Scholar Profiles

NORA BARR ’16Nora Barr

Hometown: New York, New York
Major: Urban Studies

My favorite thing about Augsburg is the small class sizes, wonderful professors, and the care that is put into my education. With my experience here I feel I am becoming who I am. I hope to go to grad school to become a School Counselor or Psychologist.

CHELSEA CREGO ’17Chelsea Crego

Hometown: Lakeville, Minn.
Major: Finance and Management
Minor: Management Information Systems

In my free time, I hang out with friends, do homework, volunteer with the M.S. community, and play on Augsburg’s golf team. After graduation I want to work in the Finance Department at a golf course.

HANNAH DAVIDSON ’17Hannah Davidson

Hometown: Virginia, Minn.
Major: Elementary Education
Minor: Youth and Family Ministry

My father, an elementary teacher, has inspired me to pursue my current career path of teaching. The love and patience I’ve seen him give to his kids has inspired me to do the same.

JAY KIEL ’17Jay Kiel

Hometown: Little Falls, Minn.
Major: Youth and Family Ministry

Augsburg has helped me and encouraged me to think, how to question and search. After graduation I’d like to continue my education at Luther Seminary and work towards a Master of Divinity.

BLAKE MILLER ’17Blake Miller

Hometown: Staples, Minn.
Major: Biology
Minor: Religion

My proudest academic achievement was being accepted into the summer Dental School Experience at the University of Minnesota. I have further pursued my career in dentistry by taking an internship shadowing several dentists. After graduation I plan to attend dental school.

DEVIN WIGGS ’17Devin Wiggs

Hometown: Oakdale, Minn.
Major: Sociology
Minor: Metro Urban Studies, Religion

My proudest academic achievements have been being accepted as an American Sociological Association Society honors student and completing my summer research project with Professor James Vela-McConnell about the sex scandal of the Catholic Church. After graduation I plan to go to graduate school for my PhD in Sociology.