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Auggie Basics Receives Grant Funding to Support Students

Two maroon Augsburg banners in winter. The left banner is an Auggie the eagle graphic and the right says "We Are Called Auggies." Last week, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education awarded over $900,000 of Emergency Assistance for Postsecondary Students (EAPS) grant funding. As one of 10 Minnesota institutions to receive a grant, Augsburg University will provide additional campus-run emergency assistance to students through Auggie Basics.

Auggie Basics is a series of programs designed to support the academic, social, and emotional aspects of students’ lives. Assistance includes books, food, housing, emergency funding, support services, technology, transportation, and more. The main goal for both EAPS funding and Auggie Basics is to ensure students don’t have to leave college in order to pay for unforeseen expenses. 

The EAPS funding is expected to help an additional 1,400 students at awarded institutions. Augsburg Dean of Students Michael Grewe says, “Our office typically receives hundreds of student requests for emergency funding each year, and this grant will provide aid to students for important resources.”

Read the full Minnesota Office of Higher Education news release.

New York Times Quotes Professor Michael Lansing on Historic All-Female St. Paul City Council

New York Times wordmarkMichael Lansing, professor and chair of history at Augsburg University, was quoted in a January 10 New York Times article about the swearing-in of St. Paul’s first all-female city council. For the first time, all seven city council members are women; they are also younger and more racially diverse than any council in St. Paul’s history. 

Lansing, an active public historian, spoke to the Times about demographic shifts in recent decades that helped lay the groundwork for this historic election. The election of seven women to city council is “a turning point for St. Paul,” he told the Times.

“They’re all under 40, they come from these different backgrounds, they’re probably going to be in politics for a while,” he said. “What do they do? What can they change? How do they see things differently?”

Read the article via the New York Times: “All-Female City Council Marks a ‘Turning Point’ for a Twin City”

‘Humble Listening’: Najeeba Syeed Featured on Interfaith America Podcast

Najeeba Syeed is wearing a pink heaadscarf, round gold earrings, and a purple shirt while posing against a blue and purple background.Najeeba Syeed, El-Hibri Endowed Chair and executive director of the Interfaith Institute at Augsburg University, was a recent guest on the Interfaith America Podcast with I’m Eboo Patel. The conversation explored the ethics and future of interfaith work amid deep divides across religious communities, the impact of global wars and crises on religious communities, and the role of institutions in promoting interfaith understanding through open-mindedness and deep listening. 

Towards the end of the podcast, Professor Syeed reflected on fostering constructive interfaith conversations in the classroom and on campus:

“To me, the confidence that I have in being Muslim and the teachings and the capacity is not impinged upon by being present for people of other faiths,” she said. “I can walk into a space and I have a deep belief that I’m there because of the calling of being a Muslim. It isn’t a threat to me to show up and exhibit rahma or which is compassion. It comes from the root word Rahmah, the same in Hebrew around the idea of the womb to express compassion for others because it isn’t a threat to my own interpretation of who I am. … It’s a position of strength and not a position of deficiency.”

“That to me is a spiritual lesson that interfaith can bring to so many of the dialogues that we’re trying to have on our campus, is that maybe the position of strength is actually doing this humble listening.”

“The position of strength doesn’t mean that we move to a diluted, common understanding of the world where we all accept one interpretation, a universal theology, or one diluted version. Maybe the strength is that we listen to each other.” 

Listen to the podcast via Interfaith America: “How Can We Engage in “Sacred Witness” Amid Deep Conflict?”

‘It Was Just Simple,’ Elsy-Marbeli Cruz-Parra ’27 Tells Forbes About Direct Admissions

ForbesForbes is the latest major media organization to highlight Augsburg’s leadership in coverage of the growing trend of direct admissions nationally. First-year biology major Elsy-Marbeli Cruz-Parra ’27 was interviewed for a Forbes ‘daily cover’ feature in late October. 

“By the end of October of 2022, based on her high school grades alone, she had been automatically admitted to 47 two-year or four-year colleges in Minnesota. “It was relieving,” says Cruz-Parra, the first in her family to attend college,” wrote reporter Emma Whitford.  

“Cruz was one of the lucky 7,340 students tapped to participate in the first year of Minnesota’s state-run direct admissions pilot program. “Hearing from other seniors who weren’t in the direct admissions program, they were like ‘You have that? God, I have to write essays and get recommendations’ … It was just simple. I had all my top colleges already there.” She’s now a freshman at Augsburg University, nine miles from her hometown of Richfield, following a pre-med track with a major in biology. She chose Augsburg because of its small class sizes, its location (she’s commuting), and because she received a $30,000 a year scholarship to attend.

Read the full piece in Forbes: “Hundreds Of Colleges Now Offer Automatic Admission To Students”

‘A Smoother Ramp and Transition to College’: Star Tribune Highlights Direct Admissions

Star Tribune logoAugsburg featured prominently in a recent article in the Star Tribune about direct admission in Minnesota. In addition to participating in the state of Minnesota’s direct admission pilot last fall, Augsburg became one of the first schools to move to direct admissions for all applicants (including through the Common App and Augsburg’s own application). Unlike many schools that still require traditional, multi-step applications, Augsburg’s application can be completed in under 10 minutes. 

Stephanie Ruckel, director of enrollment systems and analytics, spoke to reporter Liz Navratil about the impact of the direct admissions approach, which launched in Fall 2022 as part of the Augsburg Applies to You platform. 

“It’s not a mad dash to the finish line,” she said. “It’s just a smoother ramp and transition to college.”

According to the Star Tribune, “Ruckel estimated that the change freed up about 1,300 hours of admissions counselors’ time, making it easier for them to answer questions about financial aid, visit high schools or help students with disabilities develop plans for the new semester.”

Read more via the Star Tribune: Minnesota’s Direct Admissions program is changing how students apply to college

MPR Interviews Religion Instructor Chris Stedman ’08 About Award-Winning Podcast and Britney Spears

MPR News logoChris Stedman ’08 joined MPR’s Cathy Wurzer on Minnesota Now on October 25 to discuss his podcast, “Unread,” and its connection to Britney Spears, who recently released a new memoir. “Unread,” which was named one of the best podcasts of 2021 by Vulture and the Guardian, among others, is a four-part series that explores friendship and grief following the death of a close friend of Stedman’s. 

“As I was processing his death and trying to make sense of what happened, I found myself thinking so much about why he loved Britney and the resonances that he felt with her and her story, which ultimately is what led me to make Unread,” says Stedman in the interview with MPR. “And really, that’s one of the sort of things that I explore in that podcast in addition to this Britney-related mystery that he left for me when he died, which was kind of what started my exploration is just, why is it that so many people who seem to struggle in life in some way, as he did, see themselves reflected in the experiences of Britney?”

Stedman teaches in Augsburg’s Department of Religion and Philosophy. In addition to “Unread,” he is the author of “IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives” and “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.” For the 2023–24 academic year, he is also serving as the Augsburg Interfaith Institute’s inaugural research fellow. 

Listen to the full interview via MPR: “Local podcaster shares Britney Spears’ impact amid release of new memoir”

Newsweek Profiles Minnesota Urban Debate League

Red Newsweek logoNewsweek covered the Minnesota Urban Debate League’s 11th annual Mayors Challenge event in Minneapolis this week. The coverage is part of Mightier, a partnership with the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues to illustrate the ways in which debate strengthens the skills young people need to promote civil discourse in a multicultural democracy.

The Mayors Challenge is an annual event at which exceptional high school debaters show off their skills and engage with local and state political leaders before a crowd of supporters. MNUDL, a program of Augsburg University, provides resources and programming to support competitive academic debate for more than 1,000 students at 40 partner schools in the Twin Cities.

“After the event, Abdihafid Mohamed was glowing,” wrote reporter Lauren Giella. “Not only did he feel the adrenaline rush of speaking in front of 200 people, but he also achieved his goal of meeting new people and making connections. Even though his side lost the debate, he said he felt like a “famous celebrity.” He was overwhelmed with people congratulating him on a job well done and exchanging cards, emails and LinkedIns.

“The highlight of the program, he said, was talking face to face with Mayor Frey. Sharing the stage with Frey, Attorney General Ellison, the governor and the first lady made Mohamed feel like he could one day be a leader in his community.

“”Being part of this [MNUDL], seeing them all, means that we’re not far from each other,” he said. “I have the opportunity and possibility to be in their shoes.””

Read the full article from Newsweek: “Minneapolis Mayor Inspired By ‘Intellectual Battle’ At Debate Fundraiser”

Augsburg Ranked as Most Ethnically Diverse Regional University in the Midwest

The class of 2027 poses outside of Old Main at the start of the 2023-24 academic year.Augsburg University is the most ethnically diverse regional university in the Midwest, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2024 rankings. U.S. News & World Report also ranked Augsburg #2 in undergraduate teaching, #3 for both social mobility and innovation, and #17 overall among the regional universities in the Midwest this year. 

To identify colleges where students are most likely to encounter undergraduates from racial or ethnic groups different from their own, U.S. News factors in the total proportion of students who identify as non-Hispanic African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, Asian, non-Hispanic white, and multiracial (two or more races), as well as the overall mix of groups. The data for this year’s rankings was drawn from each institution’s fall 2022 total undergraduate student body. The formula produces a diversity index that ranges from 0 to 1, with a high number indicating more diversity. Augsburg’s diversity index in this year’s ranking is 0.73. 

MPR Highlights Growing StepUP Partnerships

MPR News logoA leader in the collegiate recovery movement for more than 25 years, StepUP® at Augsburg University is now poised to reach more students through new partnerships with Twin Cities-area colleges and universities. Minnesota Public Radio recently featured StepUP Director Ericka Otterson, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Nell Hurley, and Ethan Laugen ’24 in a story about the need for recovery support in higher education. 

StepUP provides an array of support services for students in recovery, including sober living college experience in Oren Gateway Center, weekly meetings with alcohol and drug counselors, and access to a strong alumni network. With new partnerships forming post-COVID-19, including a formal agreement with the University of St. Thomas, these resources will be available to more students from across the Twin Cities metro. 

“There’s no shortage of need, and students time and again will say the community has been the most valuable aspect of participating in this program,” Otterson told MPR. “So the larger the community is each year, the more opportunity there is for that.”

“This is my community,” said Laugen. “Instead of a student group or a frat, it’s StepUP. These are my people who get me, who understand me, who I get along with. And it has given me the college experience in the way that I needed a college experience.”

Listen or read more via MPR: “Amid addiction need, Augsburg’s student recovery program seeks more participants”

Making College Accessible to Foster Youth

Professor Tim Pippert talking with two students
From left to right: Madelyne Yang, Donovan Holmes, and Tim Pippert

Professor Tim Pippert and Madelyne Yang ’26 were recently interviewed by The Imprint about Augsburg Family Scholars, a program to narrow the opportunity gap for students with foster care backgrounds.

Augsburg Family Scholars builds on Minnesota’s Fostering Independence Higher Education Grant. This “last dollar” program provides state funding to cover tuition, fees, room and board and other expenses related to the cost of attending college. Pippert told The Imprint that the state grants are “a game changer,” but aren’t enough on their own. 

To bridge the gap, Augsburg Family Scholars supplements the state grant with comprehensive academic and community support. Last year, a dozen Augsburg students participated in the program, which provides help moving to campus, laptops, access to year-round housing, a dedicated lounge space on campus, community outings, and more. Pippert, the Joel Torstenson endowed professor of sociology, directs the program and serves as an advisor to the participants, helping them strategize how to navigate the demands of higher education. 

“If you’ve made it to college, you’ve overcome so many hurdles already,” he said. “If you’ve made it this far, it’s our responsibility to help students finish the job and get a degree.”

Read the full story from The Imprint or learn more about Augsburg Family Scholars