Bing tracking

EAST Scholars Testify in Support of Teacher Diversity Legislation

education equity advocates from Augsburg University and Metro State University with Representative Mohamud Noor

Minnesota lawmakers are again taking action to strengthen policies and programs focused on preparing the next generation of teachers in our state.

Thus far this legislative session, three Augsburg University students have testified in support of the Increase Teachers of Color Act of 2019 and other teacher diversity bills. Abdirizak Jama, Leyla Sahal, and Najma Abdille, all members of Augsburg’s East African Student to Teacher (EAST) program, were joined at the capitol by fellow EAST Scholars and by faculty from Augsburg’s Education department.

The EAST Program has been a recipient of the Minnesota legislature’s generous Collaborative Urban Educator (CUE) funding since 2013. EAST is led by Program Director Dr. Audrey Lensmire and Program Manager Hana Salad. EAST scholars pursue Bachelor’s or Master’s Degrees in Elementary, Secondary, or Special Education. Ms. Sahal is pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Elementary Education. Ms. Abdille is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a license in K-12 English as a Second Language. Mr. Jama is pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in English as a Second Language.

Passing legislation to help attract, prepare, and retain more teachers of color and American Indian teachers in Minnesota has been the focus of the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota, a group spearheaded by faculty at Metro State University with support from Augsburg faculty and educators around the state.

Research has proven that a racially and ethnically diverse teacher workforce is crucial to the success and learning of students in our state. The EAST Program stresses the importance of culturally relevant mentorship and leadership in the teacher preparation process as well as tutoring and other direct support. To date, 41 students have enrolled in the program.

Augsburg is particularly grateful to Rep. Jim Davnie, Rep. Mohamud Noor, Rep. Hodan Hassan, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, and Rep. Carlos Mariani, among many others, who have supported teacher diversity legislation during this and previous sessions.

Pictured above are education equity advocates from Augsburg University and Metro State University with Representative Mohamud Noor (center). EAST Scholar Leyla Sahal is pictured at right, alongside Program Director, Audrey Lensmire, and Program Manager, Hana Salad.

River Semester launches with support from Pentair

Participants of the 2018 River Semester
Participants of the 2018 River Semester

Students Spend 100 days on the Mississippi River


On August 24th, 15 students, one faculty member and two guides departed on a 100 day expedition down the Mississippi River. The River Semester provides a high-impact educational experience by combining rigorous coursework and a unique, immersive field experience, with strong partnerships all along the Mississippi River.

Augsburg’s River Semester is a model for education in the 21st Century–highly experiential, connected and wired, with project-based and applied learning opportunities for students in the context of an ambitious expedition down one of the world’s iconic waterways. Students end up paddling close to 1,000 river miles, averaging 70 miles per week. Along the way, they will earn a full 16 credits

“We do this because we think this is the best way to learn both about the Mississippi River, but just the best way to learn in general about what’s going on out in the world,” said Joe Underhill, Associate Professor and director of the River Semester program.

The emphasis of the trip is spending time on the river, not on a given destination, with a slower pace overall and more time for field research and coursework along the way. Weather conditions and encounters along the way will shape the distance covered and the experience of the students.

In addition to rigorous coursework and a unique, immersive field experience, students engage with ecologists, activists, and community members all along the Mississippi River. Back on campus, Underhill expects that approximately 50 students and 10 faculty across 6 courses and 9 departments (Environmental Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Communications, Political Science, American Indian Studies, History, and Psychology) will be directly engaged with the program during the semester.

Thanks to the Pentair Foundation for providing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM fields to participate in this experiential learning opportunity.

Follow the expedition on social media via Twitter, @RiverSemester and Instagram, River_Semester.

Minnesota Urban Debate League Receives Renewed Support from Three Area Foundations

Debate students prepare for competition.

The Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL), a program of Augsburg University, will enter the 2018-19 school year with a full head of steam, thanks to funding and partnership support from three Twin Cities grantmakers. Executive Director, Amy Cram Helwich, is excited to announce gifts from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the Saint Paul Foundation, and the Otto Bremer Foundation.

With a $25,000 grant from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, MNUDL will launch a new program centered on building financial literacy skills. Studies show that young women are most at risk for financial illiteracy. Cram Helwich and MNUDL are grateful that the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota is prioritizing this issue. Using the format of academic debate, young women will learn financial literacy concepts and then debate important financial literacy issues. Making sense of finance can be daunting, but the debate process breaks down abstract concepts and makes them relevant. Funding will also provide the opportunity for a women and gender-nonconforming student cohort at The Advocacy Unit, an advocacy skill training summer camp which takes place on the campus of Augsburg.

In May, the St. Paul Foundation approved a grant of $40,000 grant to help MNUDL reach even more students in St. Paul Public Schools. MNUDL will add four middle school programs over the next two years, including Ramsey Middle School, Parkway Montessori & Community Middle School, Farnsworth Aerospace, and Hazel Park Preparatory Academy. Funds will also make it possible to expand culturally-specific debate programs for Spanish-speaking and Somali students.

A $40,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation, received in March, will provide general operating support, helping MNUDL expand a variety of priorities. MNUDL plans to increase summer camp opportunities for middle and high school students. Cram Helwich also hopes to grow the program’s support staff. “Our wide range of programming requires many volunteers for support,” said Cram Helwich, herself a former debater, “so we are excited to also apply funds to hiring a volunteer coordinator for Fall 2018 with this recent funding.”

Thanks in large part to the philanthropic grants and donations, MNUDL was able to deliver high-quality debate programming at 14 high schools and 24 middle schools during the 2017-18 academic year. A total of 825 students (576 in Minneapolis, 249 in Saint Paul) participated across our middle school, high school, Spanish, Somali, and summer camp programs. MNUDL staff also trained and provided ongoing support for 35 high school coaches, 29 middle school coaches, 15 Spanish language coaches, and 5 Somali coaches.

To learn more, please visit the Minnesota Urban Debate League website.

Sneak Peak at the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Forum – Minneapolis


The 30th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum is only two months away. This year’s theme is the “Paradox of Peace” and will honor the work of President Juan M. Santos of Colombia (2016 laureate; pictured above)
and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (2017 laureate).

Featured laureates along with global and local leaders will offer insights, inspiring messages, and opportunities to take action in response to some of the most pressing issues of our time—from the peace process in Colombia, to nuclear disarmament, to water conflict in the age of climate change. Participants will be invited to explore the tensions between conflict and reconciliation, between justice and forgiveness, between hope and fear.

Featured guests and moderators include:

  • Asle Toje, Member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
  • Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
  • Marco Werman, host of Public Radio International’s The World
  • Peter Agre, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry (2003), Physician and Molecular Biologist
  • Maya Soetoro-Ng, President of the Matsunaga Institute (President Barack Obama’s sister)
  • Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Indigenous Activist, Musician and Youth Director of Earth Guardians
  • Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Professor at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific
  • Peter Gleick, Co-founder of the Pacific Institute
  • Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab
  • EcoPeace, Organization active in environmental peacemaking in the Middle East

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum – Minneapolis will take place September 13 – 15 on the campus of Augsburg University. For more information, please visit For sponsorship details, please contact Lee George at or 612 330-1629.

Nobel Peace Prize Forum – Thank You Sponsors

Nobel Peace Prize Forum Inspring Peacemaking


The 29th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum — Minneapolis took place on September 15 and 16, 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Augsburg University’s campus, and honored and advanced the important accomplishments of the 2015 laureate, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, recognized  “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”  The 2017 Forum focused on dialogue and strengthening democracy in divided societies.


Each year the Nobel Peace Prize Forum — Minneapolis brings together Nobel laureates, world leaders, and accomplished peacemakers with students and community members to work on building a world in which people can live full, rich, meaningful lives.  Originally formed as a consortium of the five Norwegian Lutheran colleges in the upper midwest (Augsburg University, Augustana University, Concordia College, Luther College, and St. Olaf College), the Forum operates under the auspices of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and is the only such program or academic affiliation outside of Norway. Today the Forum is permanently hosted and presented by Augsburg University  in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information on the history of the Forum, please go to our history overview.


In additional to the founding schools, academic partners now include the University of Minnesota, University of Denver, California State University-Sacramento, Pacific Lutheran University, Juniata College, University of St. Thomas, and the University of Hawaii, Manoa, among others.  Community partners include Global Minnesota, youthrive, the Norway House, and the American Swedish Institute. Thank you to these academic partners and all the sponsors of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, you support helps to advance peace around the world.

University of Minnesota, Greater MSP, Pacific Lutheran University, Sanford Health, 3M, American Institute of Architects, Augustana University, Concordia College, EGG Music, El Hibri Foundation Sacramento State, Juanita College, Luther College, McGough, Minnesota Peace Institute, More Believe, Norway House, Norwegian Embassy, Seward Co Op, The Thor Hyerdal Institute, Minnesota Transportation Museum, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, University of Denver, Winds of Peace Foundation, YouThrive, Changemaker, MPR News, University of St. Thomas
Thanks to all of our sponsors: University of Minnesota, Greater MSP, Pacific Lutheran University, Sanford Health, 3M, American Institute of Architects, Augustana University, Concordia College, EGG Music, El Hibri Foundation Sacramento State, Juanita College, Luther College, McGough, Minnesota Peace Institute, More Believe, Norway House, Norwegian Embassy, Seward Co Op, The Thor Hyerdal Institute, Minnesota Transportation Museum, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, University of Denver, Winds of Peace Foundation, YouThrive, Changemaker, MPR News, University of St. Thomas



Augsburg Awarded $475,000 to Help Infuse Sustainability Into All Facets of College Life

Augsburg University College and Career Partnership Programs Director Janet Morales in Community Garden

This fall, Augsburg University will launch initiatives to build capacity for integrating environmental sustainability across all curricular, co-curricular, and operational aspects of campus life.  

The initiatives are made possible by a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The Minnesota-based foundation believes that college and university campuses can serve as models of operational sustainability to the society at large, testing practical solutions that others can adopt.

Augsburg will provide students with additional opportunities to pursue internships and other experiences at sustainability-focused organizations, help strengthen and expand course offerings in Environmental Studies, and work to integrate sustainability and wellness across the academic curriculum. Funds will be made available for student and faculty research, curriculum innovation, and more.

Projects will be supervised by Allyson Green, Augsburg University chief sustainability officer, Associate Professor Joe Underhill, Program Director of Environmental Studies, Emily Schilling, assistant professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, and Christina Erickson, associate professor of Social Work and Environmental Studies and Batalden Faculty Scholar in Applied Ethics.

“The next breakthrough in sustainability could come from a student majoring in communications, philosophy, or education,” said Green, who also serves as director of the Campus Kitchen program. “For all of us to live on this planet sustainably and equitably, we need all perspectives, experiences, types of knowledge, and skill-sets to be part of the work. The breadth of this challenge is daunting, and an interdisciplinary approach opens immense opportunities.”

Augsburg University President Paul C. Pribbenow believes that efforts to achieve sustainability must give consideration to the environment, the economy, and issues of equity.

“As a college of the Lutheran Church, we’re called to prepare our students to address and overcome global challenges such as climate change, hunger and food insecurity, and limited access to clean water,” said Pribbenow. “As a liberal arts institution embedded in a diverse, urban environment, we’re accustomed to collaboration across disciplines and beyond the classroom. These important initiatives will better position us to meet these challenges head on.”

This is the second recent grant the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation has awarded Augsburg. In 2015, the foundation contributed $1 million to the campaign to build the Norman and Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Photo: Janet Morales, director of College and Career Partnership Programs, plucks vegetables from her plot in the Augsburg University community garden. The garden, which has about 80 plots, is open to members of the Augsburg University community and the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

Join Augsburg in Welcoming Global Peacemakers to Minnesota

Augsburg College invites regional and national businesses and charitable foundations to consider sponsorship of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Sponsors of this annual event will have a unique opportunity to send a delegation of leaders within their organization to engage in meaningful conversation with leaders and peacebuilders from across the globe.

The 2017 Forum will take place September 13th-16th on the campus of Augsburg College. This year, we welcome Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet, the group awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to establish a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia. Other featured guests include Norwegian Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, explorer Ann Bancroft, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Global Health Corps’ co-founder Barbara Bush, and Yale University professor Elijah Anderson.

Through plenary sessions, workshops, and other events, the Forum will engage in national and international dialogues around the most pressing issues of our time. Dynamic speakers from across the globe will be invited to address the Forum’s five pillars:

* Human Rights and Social Justice
* Environmental Sustainability
* Food Security and Economic Development
* Global Health Systems
* Disarmament and Conflict Resolution

More information can be found at

Please contact Lee George at or 612 330-1629 for more information on sponsor benefits, levels of participation, and more.

Global Food In A Farm-To-Table World


Conversations On The Creative Economy

Increasingly, consumers seek out food grown with sustainable environmental practices and a connection to the farms and growers. According to the USDA, the number of farms that sold food at
roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, on farm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements increased 24 percent between 2002 and 2012. While many consumers purchase goods locally, there is still demand for food produced globally.

In this market, how are large agribusinesses adapting global food production to meet the demands of today’s consumers? And how are businesses succeeding in balancing social, cultural, and environmental responsibilities with a financial commitment to stakeholders, growth, and profit?

Join Chris Farrell from MPR as he interviews three leaders working on food security and sustainability:

Mike Robach, Cargill’s Vice President of Corporate Food Safety, Quality, and Regulatory Affairs
Jessica Hellmann, University of Minnesota’s Director of the Institute on the Environment
Dr. Ruth Petran, Ecolab Inc.’s Vice President for Food Safety and Public Health

Business leaders are invited to join Global Food In A Farm-To-Table World, a Conversation on the Creative Economy at Augsburg College, to consider the role businesses can play in caring for their community while taking care of business.

Date:  February 21, 2016

Time:  8–9:30 a.m.

Location:  Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center, Augsburg College

Get your complimentary ticket today.

Sponsored by Greater MSP and the Bush Foundation. Presented by the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work at Augsburg College in Association with Minnesota Public Radio

About the panelists

Jessica Hellman Jessica Hellmann is the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. As director, she provides overall strategic leadership for the Institute, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges, while promoting interdisciplinaryresearch, teaching and leadership across the university, and engaging external partners andstakeholders. She is also the Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences. Hellmann’s research focuses on global change ecology and climate adaptation. 

Ruth Petran

Dr. Ruth Petran is vice president, Food Safety and Public Health for Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources.In her current role, Dr. Petran provides technical expertise and consultation to internal and external customers on food safety and public health issues, by identifying and tracking emerging food safety trends and new control strategies. To be most impactful, these span the food supply chain from farm to manufacturing processes and to food service and retail. 

Mike Robach

Mike Robach is Vice President of Corporate Food Safety, Quality & Regulatory for Cargill based in Minneapolis. He joined Cargill in January of 2004 to lead the company’s corporate food safety and regulatory affairs programs. Since that time, he has increased the department’s scope to include animal health and quality assurance. He continues to refocus the department toward global efforts in line with Cargill’s vision of being the global leader in nourishing people. Mike has worked with the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on harmonized animal health and food safety standards. He has worked closely with the USDA and FDA regarding food safety policy, HACCP, and regulatory reform based on science.

New $1.5 million grant connects Augsburg, congregations, young adults to explore journey of faith


Helping faith communities reconsider, reshape, and engage young adults in meaningful questions about their spirituality are core goals at the heart of a program that just received a nearly $1.5 million grant from the Young Adult Initiative of Lilly Endowment Inc.

Augsburg will use the grant to establish an innovation hub for Twin Cities urban congregations seeking to engage people ages 23-29 in ministries that support and enrich their spiritual lives.

Under the leadership of Rev. Mark Hanson ’68, Director of the Christensen Center for Vocation, and Dr. Jeremy Myers, Associate Professor of Religion, Augsburg will leverage its urban location and deep community connections to help review, assess, and evaluate young adult engagement with congregations and faith communities in the Twin Cities.

“As a university of the Lutheran church committed to serving and living out our mission in one of the most diverse ZIP codes in the nation, we will seek to help our ELCA churches grow in our shared understanding of faith formation among young adults while creating rich opportunities for young adults to explore new opportunities for learning and leadership available to them within a variety of faith communities,” said Augsburg College President Paul Pribbenow.

The program will involve collaboration between the office of the President, the Youth and Family Ministry department, Campus Ministry, and the Christensen Center for Vocation. Augsburg will focus on four pathways where it has strong experience and expertise: faith and the arts, faith and environmental issues, faith and political activism, and interfaith living.

Augsburg’s interfaith programming was the subject of a recent commentary in The New York Times by award-winning author, columnist, and professor Samuel Freedman. The piece, “Muslim College Chaplains Extend a Hand Across Religious Divides,” highlighted the work of Muslim Student Program Associate and Chaplain Fardosa Hassan ’12.

Augsburg College was one of five national finalists in the United States named to the prestigious President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction in the interfaith and community service category in both 2014 and 2015. The College has been named to the top tier of recognition—the honor roll with distinction—for this prominent national award six times.

Augsburg is one of 12 colleges, universities, and theological schools taking part in Lilly Endowment’s Young Adult initiative. The organizations are located in 10 states and the District of Columbia and reflect diverse Christian traditions – Mainline Protestant, evangelical and historic African American denominations, as well as Roman Catholic, Orthodox and independent congregations.

“Congregations can easily slip into old practices of ministry that are unhelpful or even push away young adults rather than engage them and draw them into ministry and service opportunities,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president of religion.

“A significant part of this work will focus on helping congregational leaders understand young adulthood today and the changing contexts that shape what young adults value and expect.”

Later this year, Augsburg will begin forming a cohort of congregations to study and partner with. In 2019, the college will issue subgrants to select congregations to carry out programs, projects, and activities that are designed to meet the specific goal of young adult engagement.


About Lilly Endowment Inc.: Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company.  The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.  Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

How We Can Solve the Addiction Crisis

Guest post by Kevin Kirby, CEO, Face It TOGETHER

Close to 70 percent of those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction go to work. Another three to four family members are affected at home. But only 10 percent of those who need help will get treatment in a given year. Most continue to hide their disease due to stigma, shame, and fear, driving tremendous costs in the workplace. Unfortunately, employers historically have been ignored or perceived as adversaries by many in the traditional addiction recovery movement. But because employers and the private sector bear some of the greatest costs when it comes to addiction, they’re also positioned to affect the greatest change.

  • In 2010, excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion, mostly due to reduced productivity, crime, and the cost of treating related health problems.Living In Recovery - Working In A Culture of Alcohol
  • On average, untreated addiction in the workplace costs employers $1,700 per employee per year.
  • Addiction problems annually cost business 500 million workdays.
  • People with an alcohol problem use twice as much sick leave and are five times more likely to file workers’ compensation claims.
  • Health care costs for employees with addiction problems are twice those for other employees.
  • Individuals with addiction problems are far more likely to have worked for three or more employers in the previous year.

Since 2009, we’ve been working in partnership with employers to help their employees and family members get well from addiction. Our innovative program brings culture change and peer support to the workplace to improve the bottom line.
We offer employers a powerful value proposition: we help them address one of their most pressing and costly workforce issues. Our work leads to stronger employee engagement and productivity, as well as reduced attrition and operational costs.


Our focus is culture change. We help employers integrate addiction into their chronic disease management or wellness programs. The goal is to remove stigma, fear, and other barriers to seeking help.


The program is customized and easy to implement. Key elements include:


  • Workplace education and outreach
  • Coordination with Employee Assistance Programs and wellness and benefits programs
  • Supervisor training and human resources support
  • Peer recovery coaching and navigation to services (virtual or in person)
  • Coworkers in recovery peer support programs
  • Outcomes measurement

An example of the initiative in action is with Raven Industries, a publicly held technology company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. During the past 4 years, our work with Raven has led to more than a dozen employees coming forward for help. Raven invested $44,000 in the program and estimates a return on investment multiple times that sum due to employee retention and other costs savings. Learn more from our case study on the partnership.


People suffering from addiction spend about one third of their lives at work. As we tell the employers we work with, solving addiction will not only get people well, it is good for business. And it’s also good for our communities. Real and meaningful solutions to addiction will only come when we face these challenges together.


Hear from people we’ve helped. Watch a video on our workplace partnerships.


Kevin Kirby is a long-term addiction survivor and successful business executive, using his skills and experience to help transform what communities think and do about the disease of drug and alcohol addiction. 


Face It TOGETHER is a nationally focused nonprofit that began in 2009 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; this year they will expand their network to six states. Their mission is to get drug and alcohol addiction sufferers well. Face It TOGETHER is dedicated to fostering system change around the disease of addiction. A key focus of their work is peer recovery coaching, with a major emphasis on data, technology and outcomes measurement.