Karen’s family has a long history with Augsburg. She attended Augsburg, graduating in 1967. Karen’s brother and nephew also went to Augsburg. Her uncle, Conrad Sunde, left his estate to Augsburg after multiple conversations with Jeroy Carlson, a senior development officer for Augsburg known as “Mr. Augsburg.”
“I have always thought of giving to Augsburg,” Karen says.
Philanthropy also runs deep with her family. When Karen was 10 years old, her small town raised money to build a hospital. She remembers her family not having much money, but her parents still made a pledge.
David was the first in his family to go to college. Growing up in Minneapolis, Augsburg was the obvious choice for higher education because he could live at home and still work while in school. David’s parents also regularly gave to their church and supported missionaries, instilling a sense of philanthropy in him at a young age.
The Haugen’s both credit Augsburg’s great education as the start of their successful careers. David went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for biochemistry and felt he was as well prepared as any student.
“The buildings, campus, so many accommodations for people with disabilities, so much diversity. All the emphasis on working with people in the neighborhood is so inspiring. And seeing the new building and labs now is so impressive,” says David.
The couple established the David and Karen (Jacobson) Haugen Endowed Scholarship Fund through a portion of their estate. The scholarship will support students majoring in the sciences.
“For us, giving a large sum of money now is not possible. But, we’re so glad we can do it from our estate, because that is possible. I’m glad this is an option,” says Karen.
Karen and David hope that the scholarship will encourage students to consider a career in science, or at least an opportunity to be literate in science.
A few years ago, Mark Johnson ’75 updated his estate plans to include Augsburg. He wanted his estate gift to honor Professor Joel Torstenson, the “father” of Sociology at Augsburg who started the Metro-Urban Studies program at Augsburg in 1971. Mark was one of the first students to graduate from Augsburg’s Metro-Urban Studies program, now called Urban Studies. He also went on Augsburg’s first Scandinavian Urban Studies Semester trip to Oslo, Norway. Mark’s gift will fund a professorship for faculty in the Urban Studies or Sociology departments.
Mark has been very involved at Augsburg since graduating in 1975. Along with joining the Board of Regents, Mark has been in constant contact with the Urban Studies and Sociology departments. And his connection has gone above and beyond monetary gifts.
“Community involvement is important,” Mark said. “My job was a chance to encourage people to reach out beyond themselves and to seek ways to be a bridge builder of relationships.”
As Mark witnessed the impact of quality faculty in today’s educational environment, he wanted to support the transformational effect of an education rich in experiences. This is why he started the Torstenson Scholars in 2015.
Joel Torstenson came to Augsburg as a history major from rural West Central Minnesota. After graduating in 1938, he worked in education for farmer’s co-ops. He began teaching part-time at Augsburg upon earning a master’s degree in history and sociology. During the war years, he became involved in the peace movement and participated in establishing a cooperative farm community, which led to employment with Midland Cooperatives as an educational director and community organizer. In the fall of 1947, President Christensen invited him back to Augsburg to develop its programs in social work and sociology while completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.
Today, the legacy of Joel Torstenson lives on through the Torstenson Scholars program, sociology and metro-urban studies majors, the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work, HECUA, and the college-wide “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement. Torstenson’s work also gave birth to the college-wide requirement that started as the “Urban Concern,” which was succeeded by the “City Perspective,” and is now known as the “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement.
Students in the Torstenson Scholars program are financially supported for one academic year, which includes a research trip with the Sociology or Urban Studies department. Mark’s funding has been used in four significant trips: a research trip to Vanuatu in September of 2018; two research trips to Williston, North Dakota, in 2017 and 2019 to study the effects of the oil boom on a small town; and a community research project in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Mark’s hometown.
As a Regent, Mark came to understand the significant positive impact of philanthropy at Augsburg.
“The question always has been: How can we manage change for the good of all?” says Mark.
He didn’t want to wait for the day when the estate gift would arrive at Augsburg’s door. Instead, he decided to launch the Torstenson Professorship now so he can actively participate in the things that will be supported by gifts in his estate plan. Mark also wants to encourage his fellow Auggies to join him in honoring Professor Torstenson.
Mark has seeded the endowed professorship fund with a gift of $50,000 and an available match of another $100,000. He hopes others will join him by giving to the fund to remember Joel’s legacy.
“Joel touched many lives and I think a contribution to the professorship is a great way to commemorate that. All contributors to this fund – a small gift or large gift – will be acknowledged equally,” says Mark.
Until the endowed fund reaches $250,000, Mark is funding the professorship annually.
“We are so grateful to Mark Johnson for his generosity and vision in honoring the Torstenson legacy at Augsburg with this professorship,” says President Paul Pribbenow. “It is particularly meaningful to me that Professor Tim Pippert will be the first incumbent of the Torstenson Endowed Professor. I have had the privilege to teach with Tim and to witness his commitment to our students.”
Professor Timothy Pippert joined the Augsburg faculty in 1999. He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His teaching interests center on family systems, juvenile delinquency, homelessness and affluence, statistics, research methods, and race, class, and gender. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Excellence in Teaching Award.
If you would like to donate to the Torstenson Professorship, or are interested in funding a new professorship, please contact Amy Alkire at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-323-4844.
Dennis King ’70 credits Augsburg with helping him develop the tools and mind-set needed to succeed in life.
“I did not fully realize this during my professional career. It hit me when I retired and looked at my life in retrospect.”
His career, first in Spanish Language Education and then International Business in Latin America, stretched his mind to work successfully in other cultures, languages, and with divergent points of view.
Dennis studied at Augsburg in the late 60’s when the Canadian Philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, was widely read regarding media. He coined the phrase “Global Village” and in many respects predicted the World Wide Web and the inevitable move toward globalization.
“All of this transformed me along the way.”
Dennis established the Dennis and Anita King Endowed Fund to honor his wife, Anita. Dennis met Anita at Augsburg before she transferred to the University of Minnesota. Anita supported and participated in Dennis’s professional journey throughout their 42 years of marriage. Dennis hopes that this gift will help other Auggies on their path to find the same kind of fulfillment that he found.
“I believe the Study Abroad Program at Augsburg University is the vehicle to do this.”
When alumna Naomi ’81 and her husband, Steve, updated their will this past April, they knew Augsburg University would be part of their legacy.
“Augsburg and the people who have become my lifelong friends – both fellow students, alumni colleagues, and faculty – have been a large part of how my life continues to be molded and shaped.”
Naomi grew up in a family dedicated to faith. When she was a child, her father would often speak about stewardship and using what God gives us to continue God’s purposes here on earth.
“I recall a small white church coin bank that I received as a child. I collected my coins in that bank until it was time to make the gift to the church. Emptying the whole thing was exciting. I can see it as cathartic now, liberating in a way.”
Naomi graduated from Augsburg in 1981 with a degree in Elementary Education. As a student, she was captivated by Leland B. Sateren’s dedication to all things Augsburg music, especially in the context of sacred texts.
She reflects that, “singing for Lee made the scriptures come alive!” That experience, as well as 40+ more years of singing in several metro area choirs, is the reason she and Steve made a significant gift to the Leland B. Sateren Choral Music Scholarship.
Naomi also fondly remembers working for both President Oscar Anderson and President Chuck Anderson. “Despite their leadership responsibilities, both presidents made a point to have a working relationship with me as a student.” In addition, she was spellbound learning from and about Bernhard and Gracia Christensen through their devotion to the institution. These examples of leadership are inspiration to Naomi, enlightening how to best approach relationships of all sorts and informing the legacy gift to the Bernhard Christensen Center for Vocation.
The Staruch’s are photographed here with an Augsburg Water Droplet. Benefactors who choose to invest in an endowed scholarship receive a handmade glass water droplet crafted by Anchor Bend Glassworks.
Becky Bjella Nodland ’79 was once a young person yearning to put her passion for music into practice but lacking the means to do so. Being able to face and overcome that challenge changed her life, just as she hopes the endowed music scholarship that she and her husband, Jeffrey Nodland ’77, are donating will change other young lives.
Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Becky was one of the “middle kids” in a family of eight. All were musicians, but college funds were lacking. Without a “great scholarship—all four years” and robust work-study program, Becky, who played string bass and organ and sang in the Augsburg Concert Choir, could not have attended Augsburg at all. She chose the school because it was then one of only two in the country that offered a music therapy program, which intrigued her.
“Augsburg was so innovative that way,” she recalls. “But the program was so new that it scared me. I talked to the seniors, and they were not finding jobs. I really needed a job when I graduated, so I switched to music education.” Today, of course, music therapy is a vibrant field. “There is a real need for it in the world,” Becky adds, although she has no regrets. Music education proved a flexible and rewarding choice; she taught for 10 years before her son was born. She is a choral arranger, organist, and accompanist as well as a music educator, has directed adult and youth church choirs, and currently serves on Augsburg’s Music Advisory Council. She has also instilled a love for music in her son and daughter, Emily Nodland ’18, an elementary education major.
Her years on campus were a “very positive experience. I made lifelong friends. The professors were incredible and very strong mentors for me,” says Becky, citing choir with Leland Sateren, organ with Stephen “Gabe” Gabrielsen, and orchestra with Robert Karlén, all now deceased but renowned for their decades of service to Augsburg’s music department. She was also involved in Lutheran Youth Encounter, and, as a freshman, met transfer student Jeffrey Nodland, a junior business major immersed in campus leadership activities. After graduating, Jeff attended night classes to earn his MBA at the University of St. Thomas. He and Becky married in 1980.
Jeff spent the first 17 years of his career in various management positions with the Valspar Corporation, which transferred the young family out of Minnesota in 1982. He recently retired as the president and CEO of KIK Custom Products (CIP), one of North America’s largest manufacturers of national-brand consumer products, such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and L’Oreal. Although the Nodlands have lived in The Woodlands, Texas, since 2001, Jeff joined the Augsburg Board of Regents in 2010 and is happy to once again be involved with their alma mater.
“I have been extraordinarily impressed with President Paul Pribbenow’s leadership and how they have leveraged themselves in the marketplace,” Jeff says. Such innovative programs as CLASS (Center for Learning and Accessible Student Services) and StepUP are “very inspiring. It’s so great to see the commitment. Paul has done an amazing job.”
When the couple began talking about endowing a scholarship, music made perfect sense. “Becky got her music degree at Augsburg, and music is a part of my life, too,” says Jeff. Adds Becky: “I am so happy to be able to do it. Hopefully it will help someone else the way someone helped me.”
Many who benefit from an Augsburg education say thanks by designating a gift to the University in their estate plan. But only a few pepper their lives with intriguing thank-you stories along the way. Lars Sandven ’69 is one of those.
The son of Norwegian farmers, Sandven was completing his compulsory service with the Norwegian air force in 1965, stationed north of the Arctic Circle at a base that also served American soldiers training in the frigid elements. At night he taught English, capitalizing on the year he had spent as an exchange student in Pennsylvania, for extra pay. During the day he worked at a desk job, “shoveling paper.” One of his duties was to file government newspapers, each issue a four-page compilation of name changes, divorce decrees, and other essential ephemera.
“I was supposed to just put them away, but I had plenty of time. So I read them. I happened to see an ad from the American-Scandinavian Foundation about a new Augsburg scholarship in honor of Norway’s Crown Prince Harald V. I was fluent in English, so I applied,” Sandven recalls. His application was accepted; the scholarship was his.
“It was so funny—they called from the palace! It was a big deal. I have an image of the lieutenant, my boss, standing at attention while he talked to the royals in Oslo,” he says. Returning home on leave, he discovered that they had first contacted his small town in fjord country. “It sounded like a fairy tale. The ladies at the switchboard were all abuzz. It was very humorous.”
Sandven knew little about Augsburg, of course, and having just lost his father to a farm accident, lacked travel funds. When the ASF “asked sweetly” whether he might need some help, he accepted. Passage on a boat shipping out of Bergen was negotiated, as long as he was willing to join the crew, loading fruit, aluminum bars, and other cargo as necessary. After navigating the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence Seaway, he disembarked in Montreal and took a Greyhound bus to Detroit and then St. Paul.
“I got there in the morning, very disoriented. I never got a sense of direction in the Twin Cities. It was so flat—no Eiffel Tower, nothing,” Sandven, then 21, remembers with a chuckle. He moved into freshman housing, where he secreted Wonder Bread and margarine (it melted) in his metal locker to help stretch his limited finances. To supplement his one-year scholarship, he taught Norwegian as an “instructional assistant” while the Augsburg professor was on sabbatical, worked summers at the Concordia Language Camp, dug ditches, painted walls, translated for pastors, and donned a Beefeater costume to wait tables at the Sheraton Ritz Hotel’s Cheshire Cheese Olde English Beefe House. He was paid $100 to join three other foreign students and two American drivers on a six-week, cross-country, Ambassadors for Friendship road trip. Organized by Macalester College and underwritten by American Motors, the experience was “eye-opening,” memorable and meaningful, with homestays in locations ranging from Salt Lake City and New Orleans to Las Vegas (where he got lost) and Nogales (where he slipped across the border for a beer). He also worked in the kitchen at the Minikhada Country Club; his colleagues there served him and his mother a fancy dinner when she visited Minnesota. Thanks were in order on all fronts.
After finishing his Spanish degree in three years, Sandven (and his skis) shipped home to the University of Bergen, where he met his California-born wife, Ann. It was during a celebrity-studded World Cup event, at an intimate party of about 20, that he got the opportunity to thank Crown Prince Harald directly for his scholarship. “We came full circle. After I got home, the staff sent me a Christmas card from the palace with a picture of the royal family and a note that said, ‘come and see us while you are in Oslo.’ I was feeling very ‘close’ to royalty for a while,” he jokes. (He had met and been photographed with Norway’s King Olav V during the king’s 1968 Augsburg visit.)
Following a rather common path of first-generation farm kids becoming teachers, says Sandven, he taught elementary school in Oslo. He also worked in television before he and Ann headed back to America, two small sons in tow. In 1982, the growing family settled in Boise, Idaho, where he worked as an educator and school counselor before retiring. His sons graduated from Stanford and his daughter from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin; all have thriving careers, and two of them have settled their families in his home country.
With their planned gift, Sandven sums up his gratitude and expresses appreciation for his philanthropically inclined wife. “It’s a thank-you to Augsburg, and a way to help others who were like me,” he says. “It’s wonderful to be able to share our blessings, both of us.”
The Agre legacy at Augsburg University is well-established. The late Courtland L. Agre accepted the position of chairperson in the chemistry department in 1959 and became a beloved professor, inspiring hundreds of admiring students to stake out careers in science. His lessons were not lost on his three sons, all of whom majored in chemistry: Nobel prize winner Peter Agre ’70, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute; Jim Agre ’72, professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Minnesota; and Mark Agre ’81, a rehabilitation medicine specialist in St. Paul. (Their sister, Annetta Agre ’69, majored in elementary education and taught in the Minneapolis school system.)
So when Jim Agre and his wife, Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick, designated a planned gift of $1.25 million to Augsburg in their estate, it certainly fit the family tradition. But this couple also has deeply personal reasons for committing their funds to the StepUp program. Alcoholism contributed to the early deaths of Jim’s first wife and Brenda’s sister.
“We saw how awful the disease of addiction can be. Now we are in a position to be able to give back,” says Jim, who also serves on StepUp’s board of directors. “The StepUp program offers recovering students an opportunity to regain control of their lives and become fulfilled and productive citizens.”
Health and wellness have long been a touchstone for him. He majored in biology and chemistry and participated in team sports; both he and Peter joined Augsburg’s original men’s soccer team in 1968. After graduating at the end of soccer season a few years later, Jim spent five months in Hamburg, Germany, where he played on a Hamburg soccer team, brushed up on his German language skills, and worked at a light fixture manufacturing plant.
He came home to attend the University of Minnesota medical school, then one of the few in the country that offered a specialty in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He recalls being drawn to that specialty because its treatments were focused on the recovery of individuals who had experienced severe loss of function due to medical illness. Becoming part of the medical team that restores function and quality of life to those individuals proved very fulfilling.
“As I look back on my career, I am very happy with the decision I made,” he says.
Jim plans to retire this spring but has no plans to slow down. He takes Swedish classes and returns often to Sweden and Norway to visit family and participate in cross-country ski competitions; he and his wife are both avid skiers. At home, he takes part in Loppet Nordic Racing at Theodore Wirth Park.
He also remains connected to Augsburg. Back in medical school, he coached men’s soccer after his classes and labs were done for the day. Last fall, he volunteered as an assistant coach. “It was nice to see those young boys so full of enthusiasm and energy,” he says.
The supportive environment he encountered on campus 50 years ago has not changed, he adds. Although he had considered attending the University of California, Berkeley, where he lived with his family while his father was on sabbatical, he feels blessed to have chosen the smaller school. “Even as a freshman, I knew my professors, and I could go to them if I had questions or a problem. They knew me as a person, not just a number in a class. That personal touch was very helpful.”
The sense of caring still pervades the campus, creating a firm foundation for StepUp, one of the first comprehensive programs in the country to emphasize and support students in recovery. Services range from sober living space to sobriety pledges to counseling as needed. “They are helping folks who have various challenges that the average student doesn’t have. It makes me feel good to be a part of Augsburg,” Jim says, “and doing wonderful things to help folks along also helps our society.”
A serial entrepreneur who relishes new challenges and opportunities to share his leadership expertise, John Fahlberg ’68 has not forgotten what it is like to work hard, play hard, and struggle to afford a college education. He and his wife have designated $375,000 as a planned gift to establish the John A. and Martha C. Fahlberg Scholarship, which will support students who have financial need and enjoy participating in extracurricular activities.
Extracurricular activities marked Fahlberg’s early life, but they were not always the fun kind. Yes, he played sports as far back as he can remember, and he was happy to serve as student council president and captain of the football team. But he also started pumping gas at his father’s filling station at age 13, shoveled snow, and did whatever odd jobs needed doing in the small town of Alexandria, where his family moved when he was in the third grade. He also spent a college summer as a spot welder on the assembly line at the Ford plant in St. Paul.
“I learned about the world of hard work at a very young age, and it stuck with me my whole life. I was very lucky. I chose the right parents,” says Fahlberg, who is now a business consultant and executive coach in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “My dad was a stoic Swede and my mom an outgoing Norwegian. They married in the early ‘30s, during the Depression, and they had a rough life. They never got a chance to finish college, but they taught me great values.”
One of those values was education, of course. Sportsmanship was another. Both Fahlberg and his brother, ten years his senior, were very competitive and became outstanding athletes, following in their father’s footsteps. Fahlberg’s prowess in football and baseball attracted offers from several good liberal arts colleges. He chose Augsburg because he wanted to live in the “big city” and “hit it off immediately” with the late, legendary coach Edor Nelson ’38. A scholarship paid his tuition.
Fahlberg pitched baseball for the Auggies throughout his college years and earned several division honors as football quarterback. He was inducted into the Auggie Hall of Fame—a surprise he was not expecting—in 2001. “In retrospect, it was a great four years, and the late ‘60s was an interesting time, to say the least,” he says, recalling Seven Corners and the funky Cedar-Riverside neighborhood during that turbulent time. “I got a good education on all fronts.”
A business administration major, he grew fond of assistant professor Bruce Budge, who “really looked after us, really cared about us,” and treasured his connection with the late Jeroy Carlson ’48, “one of those genuinely great, warm human beings who supported any and all of us. He made the Augsburg experience a real plus.” These and other faculty members became a community of friends who shared the value system his parents had instilled in him: treating people fairly and well, respecting honesty and diligence, admitting mistakes, trying again after failing, doing the right thing no matter what.
Those values would also serve Fahlberg well in the business world. Getting a job was difficult in the late ‘60s, but a chance opening in the University of Minnesota’s MBA program gave him a degree and 15 job offers from around the country two years later. His financial planning and analytic skills took him to Exxon in Houston before friends eventually convinced him to move back to snow country. He joined Target, where he met his wife, Marty, and became director of accounting by the time he was 31. Preferring scrappy start-ups to large corporations, however, he quit to embark on an eclectic entrepreneurial journey that took him from freight services (Murphy Transportation) to supercomputers (Zycad, where he became CEO), retail signage (Insignia Systems), and golf courses (LinksCorp).
Tired of long winters at last, Fahlberg and his wife decamped to Chapel Hill 19 years ago, although they return to Alexandria every summer. He stays busy as an angel investor, a member of several boards, and a coach who helps young executives plumb their strengths and weaknesses.
“We all have our ups and downs, but I have always felt that if I do it right, even if I fail, then I will be all right. My Augsburg experience really helped me solidify my values and live my life. I have never wavered from that,” says Fahlberg. “I can’t think of anything better than to help students get into and get through Augsburg University.”
With his planned gift to Augsburg University’s music department, Duane Esterly ’75 has come full circle in his musical life, helping to ensure that future students who share his passion can pursue similar dreams.
By the time he reached fourth grade, Esterly had teaching goals clearly in sight. A church choir director had named him a boy soprano and instilled in him a love for music, and his parents sang in the senior choir at Calvary Lutheran Church of Golden Valley, where he took organ lessons as a high school sophomore from the church organist. The senior choir at Calvary was directed by Dr. William Halverson, professor of philosophy at Augsburg from 1959 to 1967, and often performed anthems by Leland Sateren ’35, who headed Augsburg’s music department from 1950 to 1973 and directed the choir until retiring in 1979. By the time Esterly was ready to choose a college, it was evident that Augsburg was “a good place to get a music degree.”
Such a pursuit was “challenging then. They had nowhere near the facilities they do now,” Esterly recalls. In those days the music department was housed in a group of renovated churches deeded to Augsburg by dwindling congregations. Recitals were held in an old white church where one could also hear toilets flushing throughout the building. The organ studio was housed in a converted grocery store, and the band building was located across the freeway on Franklin Avenue in another former church with a questionable heating system during the winter months.
“By the time I graduated in 1975, I figured the college had better do something about their facilities in order to stay competitive,” says Esterly.
His music education, however, was top-notch. He took voice lessons, sang in the choir, and learned much about choral technique, conducting, and interpreting text through music. As a senior, he directed the student production of Oklahoma, facing the formidable task of turning the old music building into a theater in a mere three weeks. He made good friends, such as Peter Hendrickson ’76, who became artistic director of the Masterworks Chorale and recruited Esterly, who sang for the Chorale from 1996 to 2015. “I’m very appreciative of the tools I learned while at Augsburg. They taught me quality, first and foremost,” he says.
Esterly worked in sales administration, market research, training, and finance with such companies as Sandoz, Novartis, and Nestle for 35 years, but he never left music behind. For 27 years he taught privately—adults mostly, whom he deems often more difficult than elementary or high school students. He has held church music positions with various congregations throughout his working life, and, since retiring from the business world in 2016, he claims he is now “down to one job.” That means working with three different churches at present, fulfilling principal organist duties at each on alternating Sundays, directing a vocal choir and a handbell choir, and being on call for plenty of weddings and funerals.
When he is not working on choral arrangements for his choirs in his home office in Plymouth, Esterly fills his time with books, concerts, plays, flower and auto shows (in season), and dining out with friends. Because he has no children to inherit his financial legacy, he has chosen Augsburg’s music department as one of its worthy recipients. “I am so pleased to see what’s happening there now. Almost all the professors I had are no longer living and my contemporaries are retiring, but I am very impressed with what I currently see,” he says. “Their degree of dedication is deep, and I believe in all the possibilities they can offer to the students to come.”
Checking your email can get tedious, right? But for two Augsburg students, the digital chore yielded unexpected benefits. Informed that they had been selected as recipients of this year’s Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) scholarships, they registered both shock and delight.
“I was very, very surprised. It was not something I had applied for, so I was very excited to hear I got it,” says Nayra Rios ’20. After earning an associate degree at Century College in White Bear Lake, she decided to transfer to Augsburg to major in biopsychology, the next step on her way to becoming a physician’s assistant. Unfortunately, the deadline for obtaining a transfer scholarship had passed.
“I was disappointed, but I figured I would just have to find other ways to pay for school. Then a month later, this email arrived,” Rios says. She was familiar with financial challenges. Her parents are laborers who grew up in Mexico but immigrated to California, where they met, married, and had three children. They moved to Minnesota when Rios was seven years old. She attended a charter school for Hispanic students before transferring to Tartan High school in Oakdale, a transition that carried its own culture shock. But Rios found friends and pursued academic success.
Although her older brother is now pursuing a degree in law enforcement, she was the first in her family to attend college. As a child, she had encountered health issues that scared her, but compassionate treatment relieved that fear; she has wanted to pursue a career in health care ever since.
“My parents always supported my dreams,” she says. They had their own dreams—her mother wanted to be a nurse and her father a lawyer—but lacked resources. In Mexico, she points out, families had to pay for everything related to school: books, uniforms, etc. These days, Rios helps support herself through her off-campus work with STAR Services, which supports young people with disabilities.
She has enjoyed meeting the women involved with AWE, which was formed in 2009 to unite women with shared interests and passions through events, mentorship, and philanthropy. “They are very kind, and they made me feel important,” says Rios.
Her sentiments are echoed by Sydney Fields ’22, who describes her benefactors as “really cool.” She, too, was surprised by the scholarship award, although she recalls meeting the person who recommended her through a multicultural diversity engagement group. A graduate of Champlin High School in Brooklyn Park, she chose Augsburg for its diversity, its proximity to home, and a chance to play on the basketball team. She is #10, a guard.
“I love playing at Augsburg. It’s such a welcome and supportive program,” she says. And although she got good grades in high school and was expecting to work hard at college, she was not quite prepared for the amount of schoolwork she would encounter. Studying, on top of basketball practice and her work as a housing specialist, “gets really exhausting!”
With four older and two younger siblings, all of whom have or are pursuing some sort of college degree, Fields did come to Augsburg prepared with goals. Currently a finance major and management minor, she wants to launch two businesses. One would be a college prep class for teens, to help them prepare for the onslaught of responsibility she is discovering. The other would be a nonprofit 24-hour childcare center, designed for low-income families who need extra help because they work nights or have other scheduling challenges.
As she navigates her college years, Fields is grateful not only for the financial support AWE has provided, but also for the connection to people who understand the various situations she will experience at Augsburg. “We participants know we have a resource in this group of women. They will help us with anything we need.”