A Conversation with First Lady Gwen Walz and Gay Rights Advocate Randy Florke on March 26

Randy Florke will speak about the gay rights movement in a conversation with Gwen Walz, an
advocate in her own right for equality, public education, and prison education. Walz is the wife of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and recently began working at Augsburg. Walz and Florke met when they were both Congressional spouses. Florke is married to New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

When: Tuesday, March 26, 2019
6:30 p.m. Registration
7:00 p.m. Program with Q and A
8:30 p.m. Reception

Where:
Sateren Auditorium, Augsburg University
2200 7 1/2 Street S., Minneapolis

Get tickets at this link. Admission is free.

See Facebook event here.

*Video taping is prohibited to maintain a safe space for dialogue.

Minnesota First Lady to support Augsburg government relations, public service

First Lady Gwen Walz greeted Randy Anderson, a board member with the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition.
Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune | First Lady Gwen Walz greeted Randy Anderson, a board member with the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition.

The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota’s first First Lady in years is aiming to be unlike any other in state history, including her new role as an independent contractor at Augsburg University.

According to the Star Tribune: Gwen Walz is the first First Lady with an office in the Capitol. From there, she’s begun to craft an ambitious policy portfolio that includes education and corrections, though she’s quick to point out that housing and health and other issues are all interrelated.

At Augsburg, she’s serving in two roles: as Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Partnerships and as a Fellow in the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

The announcement by Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow said that Walz is a long-time friend of the university. “We specifically focused on issues of diversity and equity in the Rochester area,” Pribbenow noted. “We also joined with Mrs. Walz in promoting a program to offer college courses in Minnesota prisons.”

Read the Augsburg announcement.

View the Star Tribune story

Inside Higher Ed Highlights National Debate About Academic Freedom and Inclusive Learning Environments

Important conversations are taking place in higher education nationwide about how learning is affected when racial slurs are spoken in the classroom. This recent Inside Higher Ed article references a variety of opinions on the topic—including perspectives from Augsburg faculty and students.

While the article’s lead paragraph focuses on a specific classroom incident, the inclusivity review currently in progress at Augsburg is based on a broader scope of reported concerns, not on the single event named in the story. Because of Augsburg’s commitment to respecting confidentiality of student and personnel information, the university does not intend to publicly share factual details about the full scope of the concerns reported and under review. See the university’s public statement for further information.

“This is a complex issue, and I’m proud to say that Augsburg’s student newspaper, the Echo, has done an excellent job covering the topic with nuance and accuracy,” said Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow. “Our student journalists have provided a platform for a range of voices reflecting an array of views and perspectives related to the campus conversation.”

Last year, Augsburg’s faculty affirmed its commitment to academic freedom in the context of equity and inclusion; this affirmation is now part of the university’s Student-Faculty Bias/Discrimination policy.

AUGSBURG UNIVERSITY STATEMENT REGARDING ONGOING INCLUSIVITY REVIEW

(Updated March 5, 2019)

This week Augsburg University concluded a review, initiated in October 2018, of student reports about the leadership, culture, and environment of specific classes and in a specific program area. This review involved a wide-ranging set of issues beyond the single classroom incident that was the subject of public discussion and news coverage.

Because of its commitment to respecting confidentiality of student and personnel information, the university does not intend to publicly share factual details about the full scope of the concerns reported, but confirms that its actions during the review process were not based solely on the publicly reported classroom incident.

The conclusion of this review resulted in changes to the instructor’s leadership and teaching assignments in the specific program area, while affirming that future course assignments and instructional load would remain in alignment with the contractual obligations between the instructor and the university.

The following statement outlines the process and conclusion of this review.

Process and resolution

On October 31, 2018, Augsburg leadership began to receive reports related to a classroom incident and to the experiences of students in a specific program area at the university. In response, the university immediately set in motion the process for investigating such situations.

Through this process, Augsburg leadership heard from more than 30 individuals, some of whom who had submitted non-anonymous reports through a variety of available mechanisms, including personal interviews and the university’s Student-Faculty Bias/Discrimination reporting process. The information gathered raised a variety of issues relating both to the particular classroom incident as well as to student experiences beyond that specific event.

In early January, it was concluded that the informal resolution process was insufficient for achieving an appropriate resolution in this case, and the university’s chief academic officer initiated the formal resolution process. As outlined in Augsburg’s Faculty Handbook, the formal process requires consultation with the university’s faculty-elected Committee on Tenure and Promotion and provides a means for faculty to review the administration’s actions as well as to provide input on appropriate next steps.

Based upon all of this input, the university determined outcomes taking into account the broader set of concerns raised by students. As noted above, the outcomes included changes in leadership and instructional roles in a specific program area. Any personnel discussions related to this process will remain confidential.

In addition to the faculty process, Augsburg’s chief academic officer charged a team of faculty, students, and multicultural student services staff to review the specific program area about which concerns had been raised. That review is focused on the program’s vision, structure, and curriculum, and is expected to extend beyond the current academic year.  

Throughout this process, Augsburg remained committed to supporting students’ academic success. Augsburg’s equity commitment, approved by the Augsburg Board of Regents in April 2018, states that “Augsburg must fully embrace the challenge of being the institution its students need today, creating culturally relevant learning spaces and opportunities that build students’ agency to lead change at Augsburg and in their communities.”

Beyond the specific reviews described above, Augsburg leadership recognized that the experience raised important questions about inclusiveness at Augsburg more generally. A variety of institution-wide efforts are underway as a result—including student-led initiatives, faculty-led discussions, and more. A student survey was launched as part of a curricular inclusivity study. A faculty and staff work group was formed to review proposed general education requirements to support intercultural learning. Time was dedicated on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for workshops and intercultural competence development across campus.

“We know that the work of fostering an inclusive learning environment is ongoing, and we are fully committed to it,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “We are grateful to the students, faculty, and staff who have spoken courageously to raise campus awareness, who have engaged in actively listening to the issues being expressed, and who have called for changes that advance our equity work. Augsburg will address this important topic like it has many other critical issues in our 150-year history: We will acknowledge and engage the topic, not shrink from it, and work together to make the university better.”

Star Tribune Explores Diversity at Augsburg University

Star Tribune photo

The Star Tribune showcased Augsburg’s work to build an inclusive learning community as the student body has become increasingly diverse.

There is much challenging work underway, and we are grateful for the many student voices and perspectives helping shape Augsburg’s response to the very real issues of discrimination in our world.

View the article.

 

30th Annual Forum at Augsburg Spurs Media Coverage

The Star Tribune previewed the 30th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum, interviewing guest speaker and Nobel laureate Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Read the editorial: Abolish nuclear weapons? Idealistic. Worthy.

The September 14-15 forum at Augsburg University featured Nobel Peace Prize laureates who have navigated the paradoxes between conflict and reconciliation, between justice and forgiveness, between hope and fear. The event drew other media coverage as well:

Star Tribune — Project brings together Minneapolis police, black men in quest for understanding.

Star Tribune Business Columnist Neal St. Anthony — Business warming to greener economy that combats climate change

MPR Presents — Peter Gleick on ‘The World’s Freshwater: From Conflict to Peace’

ADVISORY: World Leaders Meet September 14-15 for Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis

The Paradox of Peace is focus of leaders, activists

(MINNEAPOLIS) — The 30th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum will explore the tensions between conflict and reconciliation, between justice and forgiveness, between hope and fear.  Join us September 14-15 in Minneapolis to honor Nobel Peace Prize laureates who have navigated these paradoxes.

Guest speakers include:

  • Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel laureate.
  • Environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
  • Maya Soetoro-Ng, President of the Matsunaga Institute and President Barack Obama’s sister
  • Nobel laureate Peter Agre, an Augsburg alumnus
  • Members of EcoPeace, including Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian activists, who are using water as a peacemaking tool
  • Bill Dougherty of the University of Minnesota and his Police and Black Men Project participants
  • Ecolab CEO Doug Baker

Friday’s program will kick off with discussion of the peace process in Colombia and the ongoing challenges of implementing the peace accord. In 2016 Colombia’s President Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end.”

Saturday’s program will focus on the challenges of ridding the world of the nuclear weapons that threaten the very existence of life on earth and feature Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

For more details about the program and speakers, go to http://peace.augsburg.edu/

 

LOCATION

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Forum will be held at the Augsburg University campus, 2211 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454. Information and tickets are available at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum website.

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Gita Sitaramiah at sitarami@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1476.

 

ABOUT THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FORUM

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, hosted and presented by Augsburg University, brings together students and community members with Nobel Peace Prize laureates, world leaders and accomplished peacemakers to work on building a world in which people can live full, rich, meaningful lives. Under the auspices of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum inspires peacemaking by focusing on the work of laureates and international peacemakers and peacebuilders. More at Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

 

ABOUT AUGSBURG UNIVERSITY

Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degrees to nearly 3,600 students of diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the Twin Cities and the Rochester site. Augsburg educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. An Augsburg education is defined by excellence in the liberal arts and professional studies, guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran church, and shaped by its urban and global settings.

Media Advisory: River Semester students hike Mississippi on Thursday, launch Friday to canoe for 100 days

Media invited to interview students at Thursday sendoff from Augsburg and Friday’s launch ceremony at Fort Snelling

(MINNEAPOLIS) — Augsburg University River Semester students will paddle the Mississippi for 100 days starting Friday.

The 15 students will learn about history, politics, the environment and more as they canoe the Mississippi. They will paddle from Fort Snelling to Memphis in this unique semester-long experience. In addition, they will be joined by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian activists from EcoPeace Middle East following Augsburg’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Sept. 14-15. View the full River Semester itinerary at this link: http://www.augsburg.edu/river/river-semester-itinerary/. For more details about River Semester, go to http://www.augsburg.edu/river. This is the second-ever River Semester. The first was in 2015.

Media Opportunities:

Thursday, August 23: The group will gather at 9:00 a.m. on the front steps of the Christensen Center at Augsburg University, and hike about 9:30 a.m. the nine miles to Fort Snelling State Park. The group of 15 students, two faculty, two staff, and family and friends who will hike with them, will walk along the river gorge, stopping at Minnehaha Falls park for lunch before continuing on to Fort Snelling and their first camp site at Picnic Island.

Friday, August. 24: The group will have a short ceremony, send-off and “blessing of the fleet” at 7:30 a.m. at the boat ramp adjacent to Picnic Island at Fort Snelling. The gate to the park opens at 7:00 a.m., and there is a $7 entrance fee (unless you have a Minnesota State Park annual pass). Once in the park, follow signs to Picnic Island. There is ample parking there and the group will be easily visible once you are in the parking lot.

Media Contact: Gita Sitaramiah, Director of Public Relations and Internal Communications, sitarami@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1476.

Support for Associate Professor Mzenga Wanyama

(Updated 9/5/2018)

Augsburg University is sharing this background about the immigration case involving Associate Professor Mzenga Wanyama to keep our campus and the public informed.

Status with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The Board of Immigration Appeals has granted a stay of removal. As a result, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can’t deport Mzenga Wanyama and Mary Mzenga until the Board issues a decision on the merits of the motion to reopen his asylum case.

ICE had previously informed Dr. Wanyama and his wife Mary Mzenga that they were required to depart the United States on September 9. That had been extended another 30 days, before the stay of removal was granted late August 31.

“We are saddened that Dr. Wanyama continues to face this difficult situation,” said Paul Pribbenow, president of Augsburg University. “We value his scholarship and skill set and are exploring options for him to continue working in Augsburg’s global operations if he can’t stay in the U.S.”

Background
On April 5, Dr. Wanyama and his wife were informed in a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that ICE would allow them 90 days to depart the United States. During a June 29 meeting ICE confirmed that it had extended their departure date from July 4 to August 3. The ICE office had asked them to return to the office on July 25 for a check-in.

On July 25, ICE then informed Dr. Wanyama and his wife Mary Mzenga that they would have to depart the United States on September 9. He was required to bring his plane tickets with a September 9 departure data to a check-in appointment with ICE on September 4. His September 9 departure was later extended 30 days.

Meanwhile, a motion to reopen Dr. Wanyama’s asylum application based on changed country conditions and a stay of removal was filed earlier this summer with the Board of Immigration Appeals. Once ICE was unwilling to use its discretionary authority any longer, his attorney requested the emergency review of the stay of removal that was granted August 31. If the stay had not granted, he and his wife would most likely have had to leave the U.S. in October.

Dr. Wanyama is teaching fall semester 2018 classes in the English department.

Augsburg University statements
Augsburg issued a statement from Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow following the Wanaymas’ April 5 ICE meeting, as well as statements before and following the previous ICE meeting, on March 9. These statements are posted below:

Augsburg University Faculty Senate statement
The Faculty Senate of Augsburg University wishes to express our unanimous and unconditional support for our friend and colleague, Professor Mzenga Wanyama. We urge all those who care about Professor Wanyama to consider signing the petition on his behalf at https://www.change.org/p/augsburg-university-support-augsburg-professor-mzenga-wanyama.

Augsburg University faculty statement
The Augsburg University faculty calls on the U.S. government to halt plans for the unjust deportation of our colleague Professor Mzenga Wanyama and his spouse and Augsburg nursing student Mary Mzenga and to permit their continued work and residence in the US. We stand against the anti-immigrant sentiment that is prompting the current wave of deportations and proudly affirm our status as an institution that supports the many immigrant and refugee members of our academic community.

Website
A website, www.mzenga.com, has been created by friends and supporters of Mzenga and Mary Wanyama. The site includes a statement from the Wanyamas, information about the next Immigration and Customs Enforcement meeting, and information about getting involved and providing support.

Work authorization and sponsorship
Augsburg University complies with federal law that requires employers to verify that employees are eligible to work in the United States. Dr. Wanyama has authorization to work in the United States, issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Sponsorship for permanent resident status is not an option at this time due to a restriction related to a J-1 two-year home residency requirement. The two-year home residency requirement means that those who come to the U.S. in J-1 status cannot become permanent residents in the U.S., change status, or get work or family-based visa status until they return to their country of last permanent residence for at least two years cumulatively. A request to waive the two-year home residency requirement was filed several years ago, but the waiver was denied. Augsburg is working with legal counsel to pursue all options available to us under the current scenario.

Augsburg Names Robert Gould Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management

Robert Gould began July 1 as Augsburg’s new vice president for strategic enrollment management. With a background in both the liberal arts and professional studies, Robert brings a wealth of experience in strategic planning for traditional undergraduate enrollment as well as recruiting adult learners in undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs.

He is deeply committed to student access, inclusion and success. He has a strong track record in financial aid strategy, recruitment analytics, and equipping campus faculty and staff partners to effectively support the recruitment effort and serve as ambassadors of the institution.

Most recently, Robert served as vice president for enrollment management at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he held cabinet-level positions in enrollment and in finance and operations at Green Mountain College in Poultney and Killington, Vermont, and at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, New York, and Colchester, Vermont. Robert began his career in admissions, with progressively greater enrollment management responsibilities at several New York institutions: Iona College in New Rochelle, Ithaca College in Ithaca, and Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. 

Robert holds a master of science in corporate communications from Ithaca College and a bachelor of science in business and public management from State University of New York at Utica. He has presented at national higher education enrollment conferences and has served in volunteer and leadership roles for non-profit science, pharmacy, historical society, and children’s services organizations.