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Alumni Spotlight: Cole Seidl

We connected with Cole Seidl, a Communication Studies, Film & New Media department alumni. He graduated in 2012 with a major in Film, on the Production track. He answered several questions letting us know about his experience at Augsburg and what he is doing now. 

Tell us about yourself. Where do you currently work, live, etc.

I currently live in Rochester, New York. I moved here just recently from Bethlehem, Palestine, where I was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Al Quds Bard College. I returned to the U.S. to take a tenure track position with Monroe Community College.

What was your major and what year did you graduate?

I majored in Film, on the Production track.

What are you doing now?  Describe what your job entails.

I am currently a professor of Cinema and Screen Studies. I teach film history, critical analysis, and video production courses. I also advise Senior Thesis Projects virtually at Al Quds Bard College for the students graduating from the Media Studies program there.

How are you using what you studied in the Department of Communication Studies, Film, and New Media Studies in your current job? 

I teach film and media studies, so my background studying it at Augsburg was the base knowledge I used to build my understanding of the concepts and films I currently teach.

What was the most memorable part of your experience at Augsburg? In our department?

I received an URGO grant to shoot a feature film, which functioned as the crash course to managing a feature film set. The film I made during that grant became a key part of my resume for my graduate school applications. The most memorable part of the department was the relationships I built with other students. I still keep in contact and work on film projects with several of them.

What advice do you have for current students majoring in Communication Studies, Film, and/or New Media Studies?

Make as much work as possible and foster relationships with those who are making interesting work. Once you leave school, it’s difficult to find a large number of passionate, creative people. You can get a jump start right now.

Is there anything you’re currently working on (inside/outside of work) that you would like to share with us?

I’ve started pre-production for a feature film to shoot in Palestine with some of my former students.

Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 8)

Written by David Lapakko 

Ray Anderson: the one-man department

For four decades, the communication major at Augsburg was really the domain of just one person: Ray Anderson.  Ray taught at Augsburg from 1949 to 1989 (yikes!), and it’s not an overstatement to say that for all those years he single handedly ran the program, with only modest help from a few adjunct instructors and faculty who floated in and out of the department.


Needless to say, with only one full-time person, the curriculum was much more limited; out of necessity, the major needed to be interdisciplinary.  So Ray’s pragmatic solution was to require the following courses as part of a communication major:  PHI 130 (Logic), PSY 105 (General Psychology), SOC 121 (Principles of Sociology) or SOC 336 (Cultural Anthropology), SOC 375 (Social Psychology) and either ENG 223, 225, 226, or 227 (an advanced writing course).  Then, to round out the major, students would take Public Speaking, Mass Communication, Argumentation or Persuasion, Interpersonal Communication, and an internship.  In other words, it was a ten-course major, but only five of the courses were in the department!  But thanks to Ray’s steady hand, the major survived and in many ways thrived. 


Ray’s entire family has left a large imprint on Augsburg.  His wife Margaret worked at our library from 1967-1990 and was its director for her last thirteen years here.  Ray’s son Stuart is now a retired Auggie physics professor, and his son Brian is a class of ’82 alum.  His surviving family members recently donated $50,000 to endow a scholarship in Ray and Margaret’s name. 


Ray died in 2013, and Margaret passed on in 2017 at the age of 92.  But countless alumni will always remember them.  According to his son Brian, Ray once said that “he loved his job so much that he felt guilty getting paid to do it.”  And Ray was a real Renaissance man with many interests, including trumpet, piano, painting, woodworking, and writing.


I was fortunate enough to get to know Ray in his last years on the faculty, and I will always remember his modesty, civility, gentle humor, and wisdom.  We all stand on his shoulders!

Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 7)

Written by David Lapakko 

Times when there was a little more trust

Both young and old can make fun of many things out of the past–for example, the fact that I had to learn how to do math in high school with something called a slide rule, because personal electronic calculators were still not quite a standard part of our lives.  But at the same time, despite the lack of sophisticated technology, there was a sense of trust–bordering on naivete, I suppose–that I still sometimes miss.


Take a publication called The Auggie.  Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, The Auggie came out every fall.  It was a printed campus directory for faculty, staff, and students.  For students and professors, it included each person’s campus address, home address, and phone number–and it also included a personal photo, since most of us opted to include one (taken by a campus photographer).  In its own way, The Auggie was kind of charming–you could see what a professor looked like, find out who was from Iowa, or be able to call someone on a moment’s notice, because you had their number.  But–and you probably know where this is going–to make such a wealth of personal information available to anyone put the school as well as its students in a vulnerable position.  Sleazy people could and possibly did take advantage of it.  So, the right to be known was replaced by the right to privacy, and The Auggie bit the dust.


In a similar vein, you may remember that before COVID hit, many different types of vendors normally occupied tables during the lunch hour in the Christiansen Center lobby.  This could include a woman hawking jewelry, an organization selling roses for Valentine’s Day, or a military recruiter.  But it was pretty much a “find a table and set up shop” kind of operation–why would you need to regulate something like that?  Well, one time in the early 2000s, a woman saying she was a nurse was offering low-cost flu shots.  I remember Chris Kimball, our dean at the time, talking up this marvelously cheap and convenient way to get the vaccine; he was among those who took the woman up on it.  But then, the bad news: she was a nurse, but the “flu shots” she was offering were largely saline solution; in other words, it was a scam.  Now you know why ever since, any such vendor in Christiansen needs to post a permit to conduct their business.


Finally, don’t get me started on locked doors.  Suffice it to say that campus buildings and rooms were much more accessible, both day and night.  The word “fob” had hardly been invented yet, and it was mostly used in the context of keyless entry systems for cars.  The ramping up of campus security was no doubt necessary and inevitable, but I miss the days when it was assumed that most everyone could be trusted.  It was a simpler time, when Auggies went to the Chin Wag grill (now the Admissions Office), grabbed a burger and fries, studied the photos of all their classmates, and felt a little more free and invincible.

Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 6)

Written by David Lapakko 

The pre-digital era of paper

Throughout almost the entire 20th century, digital, electronic communication simply didn’t exist.  But thanks to our abundant forests, there was plenty of paper!

Until the dawn of the 21st century, campus mailboxes were a buzzing hub of messaging.  Whether you were a student or faculty, if you wanted to know what was going on, you went to Christiansen and checked your mailbox.  That included everything the Registrar might want you to know, everything about special campus events, and pretty much what every campus organization wanted to announce to the Augsburg community.  If you ignored your paper mail for a few days, you might return to a little box stuffed to the gills with such messages.  When Foss Center opened in 1988, for example, we wanted to host an open house for the entire campus on a weekday evening, and so the department ran off 2000 photocopied invitations to the event–only to find, after stuffing them all, that the flyer didn’t include the date!  You can guess what that meant: a follow-up mailing!

There’s a reason why such messaging is referred to these days as “snail mail.”  If a faculty member wanted to get a transcript for one of their advisees, they would need to fill out a form, put it in campus mail to the Registrar, and then wait a couple of days for a paper copy of the transcript to be returned via campus mail.  Now, of course, we can get electronic transcripts of any advisee in less than 60 seconds.  And since there was no Moodle on which to put handouts or other documents, the campus copy center was another venue that was often crazy-busy–especially since there were, at best, only a handful of photocopiers available elsewhere on campus.

In the end, if it wasn’t on paper, it didn’t exist.  But that was our “normal” at the time, and it seemed just as normal as needing to find a telephone attached to a jack on the wall (what we now call a “landline”) in order to call a friend.  Those were the smartest phones we had.

Pedagogy at a Crossroads

A Student Perspective of the NCA Convention

Written by Peter Sands

Having attended the National Communication Association’s annual convention for my first year as a student, I was intrigued by the variety of topics covered in different calls. Being that I had primarily signed up for areas specific to what instructors at Augsburg were involved in, I spent the majority of my time sitting in for synchronous/asynchronous Zoom sessions focused on teaching.

Now, from the perspective of a student, you might not think that listening to a bunch of academics discussing their differences in pedagogical approaches to teaching during a pandemic would be all that interesting, but I was enamored with the amount of thought that goes into crafting our learning experience here at Augsburg and in other universities across the country. 

The theory that is poured into behavioral reinforcement of our learning practices as students is astonishing. From listening to Professor Groven distinguish our departments Senior Keystone course(s) from the likes of other institutions, to hearing Professor McNallie discuss different concerns/approaches of teaching public speaking courses online; there is definitely a divide amongst teachers as to what the most effective tactics are when mediating online learning in the midst of a pandemic and beyond. 

When making further distinctions concerning adaptations to online pedagogy, it was riveting to hear Professor Hanson discuss the idea of how these mediums, “perpetuate inequitable learning experiences,” especially amongst more privileged demographics. That is to say that many teachers might have to consider a students technological access and literacy when assessing their educational needs.

Seeing as how I have been adapting to remote learning practice since the beginning of the pandemic last March, I too was intrigued by the leadership and innovation necessary to persevere in the midst of these unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, as a student participating in these events, I thought about the importance of providing effective feedback when asked to review a course or teaching practices. We share just as much of a responsibility in shaping pedagogy as students, especially in the face of extreme technological change. So, be sure to fill out your Student Evaluations during the end of the semester!

I would highly recommend this event to future students as we continue to navigate an ever changing academic landscape. Having adapted to such immense change over the past year really gave meaning to the convention’s title, Communication at the Crossroads.

During one of the sessions, Professor Pat J. Gehrke of the University of South Carolina described the need to place more emphasis on teaching to these technological mediums as they continue to evolve. With no clear end in sight, these digital mediums will become an integral part of how many of us continue to communicate within our professional spheres. 



Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 5)

Written by David Lapakko 

When Augsburg was a 4-1-4 school

During the last one-third of the 20th century, all five of the ACTC schools were on a 4-1-4 academic schedule. That meant students took four classes in the fall, four classes in the spring, and one class during the month of January, which was called “Interim Term” or “J-Term.” During Interim, students took only one course which often met for 10 or 12 hours a week, usually for 3 ½ weeks. To this day, Hamline, St. Thomas and St. Catherine’s still have a J-term, but Augsburg bowed out in 2002.

The idea behind Interim was to give students the opportunity to explore things that the standard academic calendar could not accommodate.  For example, as a first-year at Macalester, my Interim course was “Advanced Debate Study Tour,” which was a fancy way of saying we debaters traveled around the nation during the month of January going to speech tournaments. Travel was often a part of J-term courses; it was not uncommon to see a course such as “Discovering the Flora and Fauna of Hawaii,” the sort of thing that was, not surprisingly, a popular option for shivering Minnesotans. And other courses were “topics” courses that weren’t offered at any other time; my second J-term course at Macalester was “Marx on Politics and Religion,” and we met for long stretches at the professor’s home on a frozen lake discussing the works of Karl Marx.

However, over time, that “adventurous” feel to J-term got lost, at least at Augsburg. Rather than offering unique courses–for example, a course in communication ethics or political communication–departments felt squeezed. Students needed their required courses to graduate. And so many departments simply offered their regular courses in a very concentrated 3 ½ week session. After a while, all of this felt like a burden; only a few days separated J-term from spring semester, and students and faculty alike felt pretty stressed. More importantly, it wasn’t the original goal of J-term to provide the same old courses that are offered in the fall and spring. So Interim term went away, and we are now on a schedule that enables spring semester to begin fairly early in January, therefore getting us to commencement in early May, weeks before other 4-1-4 schools such as Hamline, St. Thomas, or even Gustavus and St. Olaf. And, the number of required courses for a bachelor’s degree dropped from 35 to the current 32.

In the end, I don’t miss the burdens of Interim term, but I do miss the adventurous spirit that was its signature component. But we all have more time off between terms, and it’s hard to complain about that!


Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 4)

Written by David Lapakko

Five schools in one

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, and even into the early 2000s, one precious document was distributed each spring to every student at Augsburg, Hamline, Macalester, St.Thomas, and St.Catherine’s. Why these five schools? Because they were, and actually still are, members of the ACTC (Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities), a consortium of these five institutions.

The document we all received was a thick tabloid newspaper called the ACTC Joint Class Schedule. This newspaper contained a list of what would be offered for the following year at all five of these schools, as well as in every academic department. (For example, the communication studies offerings for all five schools, complete with times, instructors, and classrooms, were listed for both fall and spring semesters.) So, if an Auggie wanted to take a communication course at St. Thomas, or a course in Chinese at Hamline, or a Women’s Studies course at St. Catherine, all they needed to do was check the Joint Class Schedule–and when the time came, they would simply cross-register for those courses. It was a way to share resources and provide more options and more flexibility for students.

In its heyday, cross-registration was much more common than it is now. Hundreds of students from each campus would cross-register, with the biggest pipeline running between St. Thomas and St. Catherine’s. I am always fond of mentioning that I had a student–we’ll call her Yumi, since that was her name–who was a Hamline student. She took Argumentation from me at Hamline, Intercultural Communication from me at Augsburg, and Persuasion from me at St. Catherine’s. Three comm courses at three different schools! (Back in those days, I took adjunct teaching slots when I could to pay the mortgage and provide for the family.) There were even ACTC shuttle buses with regular schedules that took students from one campus to another.

Although you wouldn’t know it, today you can still take courses at these other four schools. Check the Augsburg catalog–it explains in a couple of paragraphs how you can do that in certain unique situations. But the ACTC cross-registration program is at best a shadow of what it once was: a vibrant, exciting opportunity to shop for courses and in essence, become a student, at least temporarily, at any of five different schools. It was a real selling point for each of the schools, and I mourn the loss of classes at Augsburg that included frequent visitors from these other campuses.

Next time: Augsburg’s J-term–life in a 4-1-4 world


APA Resources

Written by Peter Sands

Hey Auggies, as many of you are aware, the department uses and requires the American Psychological Association (APA) style for assignments. Being that APA is the one of the most common guidelines for written work within the academic world, we thought it would be helpful to provide students with some APA resources.

Proper utilization of APA Style is an important skill to have; it helps make your writing more clear, while also maintaining transparency about your source material. For those of you who are more familiar with APA Style, the American Psychological Association recently updated their style guidelines from the 6th to 7th edition, so this might be a useful refresher.

Helpful Resources:

For a thorough overview of the style and citation resources check out the American Psychological Association Website.

If you’re looking for more concise documents focused on specific elements of APA the American Psychological Association Instructional Aids/Guides provides reference documents, sample papers and more.

Purdue OWL In-Text Citation Basics is another great resource for learning the fundamentals how to cite sources within your text, such as how to cite multiple authors.

Purdue OWL Formatting and Style Guidelines provides a comprehensive overview of the foundational principles of APA Style and more. Margins, font, and major paper sections are all explained here.

And lastly, here is some sound advice advice regarding APA Basics from the University of Southern California Libraries. This page is packed with helpful resources, examples and advice regarding citations and formatting.

Groven Says, First Presidential Debate Was No Debate At All

Written by Peter Sands

“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” said CNN’s Jake Tapper when describing the first presidential debate. And Tapper’s description was tame compared to some other online reactions! So, we decided to catch up with our own Professor Robert Groven to better understand how this political spectacle challenged an important part of the democratic process.

Professor Groven has been involved in debate, argumentation and political communication for years as a director/coach and is highly regarded within the community. His dedication to the social practice of debate showcases what some might consider to be an increasingly important function of public argumentation. For more information on his work, check out the Minnesota Urban Debate League Website.

Professor Groven wasted no time when asked for his reaction to the first presidential debate: “That was not a debate. There was a lot of social conflict, but almost no actual argument that took place.”

He went on to voice concerns about the impact of this kind of public spectacle masking itself as true argument. He fears that when people encounter this sort of performance, they often turn away from debate—often in “well intentioned” ways, as the professor puts it—to minimize conflict. His fear is that disdain for debate and public argument “emboldens people to speak only from within their bubbles,” as Groven describes it. A one-sided mentality can encourage extremism and a lack of empathy for others.

Professor Groven says challenging ideas through the process of argumentation is “crucial to testing these ideas within a democracy.”

“If we don’t test ideas, what we tend to get is more and more hyper-polarization, and eventually dangerous authoritarian rhetoric,” he added; something he believes will threaten democracy and free expression. More political displays like the first presidential debate will only cause people to become further, “disillusioned with public argument.” His fear is that if the public views debates as part of the problem instead of the solution to polarization, it will tear at the fabric of our democratic process.

As for the separate Town Hall Meetings that took place after the first debate, Groven was disenchanted that some people found these events to be a satisfactory replacement for a debate. “The town halls were only another platform for one-sided political stumping,” he commented. “They do not allow voters to compare the candidate’s ideas to each other, or to the facts.”

As we race to towards one of the more important elections in modern history, it is increasingly important for us all to watch and participate in these events using a more critical lens.

Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 3)

Written by David Lapakko

During the ‘80s and ‘90s, many of our faculty often worked six days a week. Why? Because in the early ‘80s, Augsburg created Weekend College, a school for “working adults,” with 3 ½ hour class sessions on either alternate Friday nights, Saturday mornings, Saturday afternoons, or (gulp) Sunday afternoons. WEC, as it was called, was a huge financial success; during its early years, WEC and a similar program at St. Catherine’s pretty much owned that market of 30-year-olds with full-time jobs in the Twin Cities–and beyond! (We had WEC students who commuted from as far away as western Wisconsin and northern Michigan.) And although the average age for a WEC student was in the low 30s, one WEC student–a retired airline pilot–finished his degree at Augsburg at the age of 69.

In its heyday, (especially through the mid-‘90s,) total WEC enrollment was in the 1,500 range, and the presence of non-traditional age students on campus was evident; Augsburg became their weekend home, especially since many of them took more than one course each trimester. At one point In our department, we had 150 WEC majors and 150 traditional day school majors! It was quite a task to manage, since the only full-time faculty available to advise these 300 people were Deb Redmond and David Lapakko. Suffice it to say that we didn’t schedule half-hour meetings with each of them!

Augsburg Weekend College Catalog ’92-93

WEC students tended to be very good students. They were old enough to have both the skill-set and the motivation to succeed in college.  According to data collected by Augsburg at the time, WEC students had GPAs that averaged half a grade higher than day school students. In most cases, day school students were able to cross-register and take a certain number of WEC classes. We often thought that was a good thing: those thirty-somethings were good role models for our traditional age students, even though sometimes the WEC students seemed to prefer being in class with only people in their age range.

By the turn of the century, WEC was facing many challenges–most notably, an increasingly competitive marketplace in which many schools were offering options for working adults.  WEC enrollment started to dip, and that dip became a slow and steady downward slide. As a result, in the last five years, WEC has now become “AU,” or the Adult Undergraduate program. And rather than being a weekend program, AU is a weeknight program, with only a few hundred students and a reduced number of majors, including the elimination of Communication Studies as one of those majors.

For at least three decades, though, WEC provided an important boost to Augsburg in a number of ways, and we all have those WEC students to thank for keeping Augsburg vibrant and financially solvent. Every time you walk into an Augsburg classroom, thank a WEC student! The main reason we now have tables and chairs in every room instead of those individual student desks is that WEC students thought the individual desks were too confining and reminded them too much of high school. That alone is reason to worship their memory.

Next time: When Auggies took lots of courses at St. Thomas, or Hamline, or Macalester; the ACTC cross-registration years.