President Paul Pribbenow was quoted extensively in “Private college presidents turn focus from pandemic to insurrection,” an Inside Higher Ed story about how college and university presidents are responding to the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Pribbenow and others learned of the violence during a plenary panel he was leading as part of the Council of Independent Colleges’ virtual Presidential Institute. Among the topics he addressed were concerns about how the historic trauma faced by students of color can be exacerbated by images from January 6 and the need for institutions of higher education “to model healthy democratic engagement.”
The December 17, 2020, MPR news story “‘Who you are is valuable’: How Black male teachers in Minnesota are recruiting others to the profession” opens and closes with the story of Augsburg student Kaiyre Lewis ’23. Because there are so few Black male teachers in Minnesota, the nonprofit organization Black Men Teach is working to recruit Black male high school and college students for teaching careers. Lewis has connected with Black male teachers through the nonprofit and recently decided to change his major from political science to elementary education.
How can Minnesotans face the truth about racism, past and present? Columnist Myron Medcalf explored that subject recently in the Star Tribune and interviewed Augsburg History Professor William Green.
Green said reading a wide range of material about Black history is the key to knowing the steps that have led to this critical moment. Many Minnesotans were surprised that George Floyd could happen here in part because so many hadn’t grappled with the state’s true history of race relations. “Some people throw their hands up and say, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ ” Green said. “The conclusion is they do nothing. But that’s not the solution.”
Mill City Times recently interviewed Augsburg Professor Joseph Underhill about River Semester. Underhill teaches courses in Environmental Politics, International Relations, and Political Methodology, and regularly takes students off campus for experiential and interdisciplinary learning. An experiential education is a hallmark of an Augsburg education and Undehill has been key to helping Augsburg live it out. He has directed the International Relations Program and Model United Nations programs at Augsburg since 1998 and taken students to New Zealand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Egypt, and Tanzania.
For the past fifteen years, Underhill has taken students out on the Mississippi River to study the impact of human activity on the river ecosystem. Students in the program earn a full semester of college credits with a customized curriculum focused on environmental justice and social change in the Mississippi watershed. The River Semester is a regular part of the programming offered by Augsburg University’s Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE).
Read the interview at the Mill City Times website.
For more details about River Semester, visit the River Semester site.
The Health Commons in the Riverside Plaza complex, a collaborative effort of Augsburg University’s Department of Nursing, M Fairview Health, East Africa Health Project, and People’s Center Clinics & Services, is expanding and enhancing its services.
The expanded Health Commons includes clinical space as well as mental health and addiction services provided by a peer support specialist and care coordinator. A full-time Somali-speaking nurse will help coordinate care and refer people to community organizations. The Health Commons also will provide the resources needed for community members to have virtual visits with medical personnel. In addition, there will be indoor and outdoor spaces for health-related classes and other events once it is safe to gather again.
You can read about the Health Commons and other health care efforts in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in the October 16, 2020, MinnPost opinion piece, “Promising steps in the Cedar-Riverside community toward equitable health care.”
Augsburg Psychology Professor Bridget Robinson-Riegler was recently featured on WCCO to discuss the psychology of voting and how can we filter out false claims, conspiracies, misinformation, and lies.
“I don’t think that we do,” said Robinson-Riegler about filtering out false claims.
“So even if it’s inaccurate, there’s research that’s shown the more we hear it regardless of even if we know it’s true or not, the more likely we are to have it influence our behavior,” she said.
Watch the full report at WCCO’s website.
As part of Viterbo University’s annual Viterbo Days alumni weekend, the university honors eight alumni at the Distinguished Alumni awards. This year, Amanda Vetsch ‘17, a graduate theology student at Luther Seminary and Riverside Innovation Hub coordinator at the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University, was awarded the Rising Professional Award.
Amanda joined the Riverside Innovation Hub team in August of 2018 as an Innovation Coach, where she works alongside faith communities as they discern how to show up as a Public Church in a way that is simultaneously authentic to the gospel call for justice, mercy, and most appropriate to their own geographic contexts.
Read the award announcement at WXOW’s website.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press published an opinion piece by President Paul Pribbenow, “Through truth to freedom – by way of reconciliation.” In the article, he reflects on how Augsburg University’s motto, “through truth to freedom,” offers a compelling response to the coronavirus, the economic downturn, and racism. He asserts that Augsburg and other institutions of higher education can play a unique role in exploring the truths of these pandemics. As we seek the truth, he writes, “we will find—always evolving and emerging and transforming—the sins and lies that we tell each other about knowledge and privilege and justice. Only when we face the truths we find, confess our complicity in the sin and lies we tell, and humbly seek to be reconciled with each other and the creation, will we be freed for the work we are called to do.”
After recently sharing his historical expertise on racial injustice in Minneapolis with several news outlets, Professor Michael J. Lansing, chair of Augsburg University’s Department of History, has been cited in “The Infuriating History of Why Police Unions Have So Much Power,” a story in the September/October 2020 issue of Mother Jones.
In the article, Lansing shares historical information about the conflict between Minneapolis Mayor Arthur Naftalin and the Police Officers’ Federation of Minneapolis in 1967. The story ends on a note of hope that in the future police unions will no longer hamper the push for police reforms. In Lansing’s words: “Anything that can be created can be uncreated.”
On August 13, President Paul Pribbenow was one of four leaders from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities who participated in a virtual discussion on confronting systemic racism. The 90-minute discussion, “Where Do We Go From Here? Creating Lasting Change to Combat Systemic Racism and Inequities,” was moderated by PBS NewsHour journalist Fred de Sam Lazaro.
The panelists were asked to deal with hard questions. Will reactions to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor finally generate measurable progress? What do universities need to do to help lead change? What are we prepared to sacrifice? Will white people acknowledge that they cannot in good conscience maintain silence in the face of racism?
In response, Pribbenow declared the urgent need to respond to systemic racism. He spoke of the need for leaders to disrupt the status quo in hiring decisions. He said that as a leader he has been asking, “What are those things that we can do quickly that actually plant a seed, that actually will grow something sustainable for the future?”
A recording of the discussion is available on YouTube.