EAST Scholars Testify in Support of Teacher Diversity Legislation

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.

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

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate President Santos of Colombia

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 peace.augsburg.edu. For sponsorship details, please contact Lee George at lgeorge@augsburg.edu or 612 330-1629.

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 nobelpeaceprizeforum.org.

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

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.

Foundation Gift Helps Auggie Veterans Develop Leadership Skills


Thanks to a grant from the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota (Chapter 1, Minneapolis), Augsburg College will offer two $5,000 fellowships to benefits-eligible veterans who enroll in the Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL) program or the Master of Arts in Leadership/Master of Business Administration (MAL/MBA) dual degree program.

Veterans will enhance their leadership skills and résumés through the new DAV Fellow in Public Scholarship program, which focuses on translating military skills into civilian leadership experience.

“We recognize the unique leadership skills that student veterans bring to their academic studies,” said Augsburg College President Paul Pribbenow. “We also recognize that even though VA benefits offset most or all of tuition costs, there are still financial barriers to pursuing a graduate-level degree and securing a high-impact internship or job.”

One of the key elements of the program is its focus on experiential learning.

“By carrying out a mentor-supported action project, fellows will hone both their leadership strengths and their ability to affect change in their communities,” said Alan Tuchtenhagen, director of the MAL program. “From public speaking and research to coaching and mentoring, fellows will have opportunities to apply their knowledge through real work and experience.”

U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Augsburg one of the Best Colleges for Veterans, acknowledging the College’s participation in federal initiatives that assist  veterans and active service members as they apply, pay for, and complete their degrees. Augsburg also has been named a Military Friendly® School for each of the past two years. Military Friendly Schools are recognized for going above and beyond to provide transitioning veterans the best possible experience in higher education.

“One of the DAV’s primary goals is to support the reintegration of veterans into society,” said Jim Kline ’01 MAL, Senior Vice Commander of DAV of Minnesota (Chapter 1, Minneapolis) and an Augsburg alumnus. “This fellowship will help veterans recognize how the skills they earned in service can be put to use in a business setting.”

More than 120 Augsburg students identify as military members or veterans, and more than half of these individuals are eligible for full VA education benefits. These students are enrolled in Augsburg’s traditional undergraduate, adult undergraduate, and graduate programs at its locations in Minneapolis and Rochester.

Happy Veterans Day to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who have served.

Pictured Above (L to R): Mark Jaruszewski (Adjutant, DAV of MN, Chapter 1, Minneapolis); Ray Gabrau ’18, Augsburg Student Veteran Representative; Ann Garvey, Vice President of Student Affairs; Jim Kline, ’01 MAL, DAV of MN, Chapter 1, Minneapolis; Jenna McMorrow, ’18 MSW, Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) intern; Alan Tuchtenhagen, Director, Master of Arts in Leadership Program.

Photo taken in the U.S. Bank Veterans’ Lounge, Oren Gateway Center 110.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Celebrates the Success of Midnimo Partnership

Earlier this month, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation published a spotlight on the Cedar Cultural Center’s Midnimo project.

Midnimo, the Somali word for “unity,” showcased Somali artists from Minnesota and around the world in residencies and events that were designed to increase the public’s understanding of Somali culture through music. The project was launched by the Cedar in 2014 in partnership with Augsburg College by way of the foundation’s Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement fund.

Below is an excerpt of the profile. Click here to read the full article.

“Over time, the relationships between the Augsburg College students, Somali community members, and visiting artists and audiences have moved forward through the arts, which Dorn calls “a stepping stone” into conversations with new and maybe still unfamiliar neighbors. In the midst of myriad misconceptions and stereotypes about Somalis, Midnimo has provided the platform for often disparate groups to connect and get to know each other in authentic ways. One student trumpeter at Augsburg was moved when a Somali musician told him that “you’re one of us now.” His experience in Midnimo, said the student, had been “the best five months of my life, being able to do this work with the Somali musicians.

The lasting effects of this program extend beyond the students and Somali musicians and into Somali cultural heritage, as well. Early on, the Augsburg Music Department had realized that to best accompany the Somali musicians, they needed to create written sheet music not present in Somali culture. This compelled the Augsburg Music Department to embark on transcribing as much of it as they could, inadvertently beginning a process of documenting and preserving Somalia’s musical tradition for generations to come.”

Photo courtesy of The Cedar Cultural Center. 

Augsburg Awarded $50,000 to Expand Recycling and Composting Program

Augsburg College Green Campus

Earlier this month, Augsburg College was awarded a $50,000 recycling grant through the Hennepin County Environment and Energy Department. The grant will help the College complete an effort, begun in early 2015, to increase the amount of organic and compostable items diverted from trash and other recycling. Funds provided by the county will be used to purchase indoor and outdoor bins, rolling carts, and signage to encourage increased recycling of organic materials as well as other mixed recyclables.

Submission of the proposal was a collaborative effort between Augsburg’s Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC), facilities and custodial staff, and the Augsburg Day Student Government’s Environmental Action Committee. This marked the first time that these three groups have worked together on a campus issue.

“Recycling is near and dear to the entire community,” said Christina Erickson, associate professor in the Department of Social Work and program director in Environmental Studies. “And, yet, it’s surprisingly hard to do well. Bins and signage are an important component of helping this process along, but they are also extremely expensive. This grant allows us to think through this process and make purchases that will work for the entire campus community.”

In 2015, Augsburg’s Custodial Services department converted all paper towels to a compostable and more sustainably manufactured option. It also began using bath tissues made from non-tree fibers containing 65% recycled fiber content. The coreless 100% solid tissue rolls create less waste and reduce transportation costs.

With this grant, custodial staff will install new interior and exterior bins across campus, post new signage, and place specialty containers across campus to collect used batteries, plastic bags, and small electronics.

Michelle Nies, custodial services manager, noted that her team will share information on the expanded program with all current and incoming students, as well as their parents, so they can incorporate recycling and composting into their campus homes.

The ESC since 1999 has guided Augsburg’s efforts to integrate environmental stewardship into all aspects of campus life. Comprised of students, faculty, and staff, the ESC engages in various projects and outreach initiatives including curriculum review, workshops, transit fairs, energy and waste audits, lectures, green purchasing audits, and more.

The grant furthers the Augsburg 2019 strategic plan which outlines a commitment to be “Green by 2019”. In September of 2010, a task force submitted a climate action plan for Augsburg’s Minneapolis campus to reduce carbon output by 2019, the year of its sesquicentennial.

The Student Government’s Environmental Action Committee voted in March to provide the necessary contribution of matching funds required to secure the county grant. Erickson was grateful that students embraced the idea and took an active interest in the proposal. Committee members also will carry out volunteer-led projects and campaigns to educate Augsburg’s undergraduate and residential population about the expanded organics program.

Amber Lewis, a graduate student in the Education department and an Environmental Stewardship Fellow, is hopeful that the grant will increase recycling in three high-traffic areas of campus: Si Melby Hall and Kennedy Center; Event and Conference Planning; and the various residence halls.

“From commencement ceremonies and sporting events to convocations and conferences, thousands of people touch the campus in some way during the course of one year,” Lewis said. “Sustainability is something that Augsburg wants to present as a central characteristic of our diverse body of students, faculty, and staff. It’s important to all of us that anyone who visits our campus has access to recycling and composting. This grant has provided us with the funding necessary to see that vision move forward.”

“There is a growing awareness of the need for sustainable living among those who spend their days and nights on this campus,” said Nicholas Stewart-Bloch ’17, who leads the student Environmental Action Committee. “Much of this is manifested in small decisions such as recycling or using public transportation. There is still much work to be done to fully consider all the various ways in which we affect our environment, but there is a growing interest among students in helping reduce our carbon footprint.”

To learn more, please visit the Environmental Stewardship Committee website.

Corporate Sponsors Help Make Scholarship Weekend a Success

Burton - Students

Twin Cities PBS, Wells Fargo, Mall of America, Beckman Coulter, and Lerner Publishing joined forces to present a matinee appearance by actor, director, and educator, LeVar Burton, best known as the host and producer of Reading Rainbow.

Scholarship Weekend is an annual event during which bright students from around the country visit campus to compete for Augsburg’s top scholarships. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, prospective students met with their future classmates and professors, explored labs and classrooms, and got a brief taste of life as an Auggie.

In his opening remarks, President Paul Pribbenow thanked the sponsors for making it possible for over 500 high school students to attend a special appearance by Mr. Burton.

In an hour-long address, Burton covered a wide range of topics ranging from literacy and technology to youth development and mentorship. Burton urged attendees to consider the role of reading and creativity in the process of innovation and career development. He also quoted Jazz singer Dianne Reeves, saying “Be Still. Stand in love. And pay attention.”

In addition to attending Burton’s keynote address, sponsor representatives also took part in a special VIP Educator’s Brunch, toured a student research poster show, and learned about Augsburg’s River Semester – the nation’s first ever college semester taught entirely on the Mississippi River.

To learn about other sponsorship opportunities at Augsburg College, please contact Jay Peterson, Assistant Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, at 612 330-1592.