During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims place extra emphasis on spiritual disciplines such as fasting, prayer, and reciting scripture. Those who are able fast between dawn and dusk and gather after sunset for a communal evening meal called Iftar. “What’s really lovely about Islam in America is that we’re the most ethnically diverse and racially diverse religious community in the U.S.,” Syeed told Jacob Aloi from MPR. She also noted that Ramadan and Iftar meals offer a unique opportunity for hospitality, interfaith work, and peacebuilding, “which is based on food and breaking bread together, for sitting at the same table. It’s really hard to fight afterward.”
Najeeba Syeed, El-Hibri chair and executive director of Interfaith at Augsburg, recently joined “State of Belief,” Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, to speak about her background and what the broader interfaith and American community can learn from the teachings of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“I think the most beautiful thing about [Ramadan] really is the emphasis on building our social fabric with one another, gathering and thinking about, “what is the power of self-regulation and self-control?” Self-control over food and also our capacity to not express anger,” she said.
“While it is a deeply spiritual practice for Muslim, it’s also one where we spend a lot of time in community … It is a time where we want to be open to other communities. This is often our interfaith season. It is meant for doors to be open.”
Professor Michael Lansing was recently quoted by the Toronto Star in a major exploration of the dynamics around policing and public safety in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd. Lansing and University of St. Thomas historian Yohuru Williams are the co-founders of Overpoliced & Underprotected in MSP, a public history project that explores the history of policing in the Twin Cities in order to contribute to community conversations about the future of public safety.
Lansing’s comments contextualize the failed public safety ballot measure in Minneapolis in 2022.
Neighbourhoods that voted most strongly against the measure were in the city’s southwest — a white, upper-middle-class area — followed, to a lesser extent, by those in the predominantly Black North Minneapolis,” wrote reporter Wendy Gillis. “It was a “very odd combination” that was rare in American political history, said Michael Lansing, history professor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
“Not just polarized, because that suggests two poles. Minneapolis in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the uprising became a place that was deeply fragmented,” he said.
In 1997, Augsburg University was one of just four colleges and universities with a formal collegiate recovery program. Today, StepUP® at Augsburg University is one of the oldest and largest residential collegiate recovery programs in the United States accompanied with sober living. More than 700 students have graduated from the program, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022.
The Phoenix Spirit recently published a piece by Nell Hurley, recruitment and outreach coordinator for StepUP, tracing the program’s history and impact.
“StepUP is so much more than a sober dorm,” Jon Stentz, one of StepUP’s Licensed Alcohol and Drug counselors, told Hurley. “It’s the connection and the community that students find here that makes all the difference. It’s been said that connection is the opposite of addiction. The StepUP connection is where the magic is. Our students support each other and hold each other accountable. They’re all in this together, both the college journey and the recovery journey.”
StepUP offers a robust program of support and accountability that includes clinical support, random drug testing, weekly meetings, recovery service opportunities, and optional but regular social outings like rock climbing, camping trips, and game nights.
MPLSART.com recently interviewed Khadija Charif and Yasmin Yassin, two Soomaal House of Art fellows whose solo exhibitions are on display through December 14 in the Augsburg Galleries.
Photographer Yasmin Yassin’s show, “Should Be Good Times,” explores her journey towards motherhood during quarantine, taking viewers physically through a womb-like space with photographs hung from the ceiling.
“I thought, ‘What if you have to go in and experience the exhibit by using your body and moving through it?’” she told MPLSART.com. “You start at the beginning of this hallway-like gallery space and go all the way down, but you have to move through the pieces as well, and it gets narrower as you go. I wanted to provide that darkness and enclosure, to try and recreate the feeling of spending all that time in my apartment.”
Artist and Poet Khadija Charif’s show, “Strangers of My Sight—In Truth and In Trial” explores “the kindness, love, and short companionship that strangers provide.” The exhibit includes a private space with two chairs and a set of cards which present compelling quotes and questions for visitors to explore.
“What I hope is that this space allows others to explore conversations with a stranger,” said Charif. “Grab someone you’d like to know, invite them to the table and ask questions. Not the light questions that bore us but the questions that excite us and allow us to deconstruct the barriers we naturally set when we meet strangers.”
The Soomaal Fellowship is a collaboration between Augsburg Galleries and Soomaal House of Art, a Somali artist collective in the Seward neighborhood, that aims to harness the power of art as a tool for intellectual and civic engagement by advocating and advancing the creative development of Somali visual artists. The partnership will continue with new fellows showcasing their work on Augsburg’s campus every 18 months.
Read more on MPLSART.com: Connection/Isolation: Soomaal Fellowship showcases pandemic work of two emerging artists
Augsburg University experienced the largest percent increase in nonwhite students among any college or university in Minnesota over the past decade, according to data analyzed by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. The analysis looked at institutions with more than 1,000 students using data from the Department of Education.
Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow was interviewed about the changes. “We are still a predominantly white institution in terms of structure and leadership, though that’s changing,” he said. “So we’ve had to do a lot of important training and intercultural work, knowing that these students are coming to us [with] a very different life experience. And they come to us with different kinds of needs and expectations.”
He attributed much of the growth in Augsburg’s diversity to its relationships with local high schools. Nearly 70% of Augsburg’s most recent entering undergraduate class identified as nonwhite.
Read more from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal: With college affirmative action in the balance, these Minnesota schools have made big strides in diversity
Robert Gould, vice president for strategic enrollment management, and Stephanie Ruckel, director of admissions operations, joined host Jay Fedje as featured guests on a recent episode of the Enrollment Edge podcast by enrollmentFUEL.
The episode focused on the power of direct admissions—a simplified approach in which students are admitted based on high school GPA, in some cases before they have even applied—to break down college access barriers.
“Essentially, what we’re trying to do is remove as many barriers as we can for students, and give them the most options to enroll in whatever institution is a good place for them,” said Ruckel. “When you start thinking about the student’s perspective, you can start questioning the [admissions] process a little bit differently. Why are we requiring these things? How are we using this data? Are we using this information?
“The challenge in doing this is really stripping down the application—making sure we are collecting what we need to collect, but keeping it as simple as possible.”
Augsburg’s participation in pilot programs with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the Common App, as well as significant changes to the Augsburg application itself, puts the university at the leading edge of this new policy movement.
“I want to credit the whole team,” said Gould. “We’ve literally taken the admissions process and the system and changed it in one cycle. We had some good thoughts about how it fulfilled our mission as an enrollment division, but I think more importantly, people had the appetite for it—wanting to build deeper relationships and wanting to eliminate barriers for all students.”
Listen to the episode here: Direct Admission: Unpacking College Access
“Augsburg University in Minnesota is participating in direct-admission pilots with the Common Application and with the state of Minnesota, and cut its own application to be completed in an average of seven minutes,” noted reporter Melissa Korn.
The piece quotes a Richfield high school senior who received several college offers through Direct Admissions Minnesota, the state’s pilot program. Augsburg has already connected with 184 students through the state pilot, nearly half of whom weren’t previously on the school’s radar. As of early November, the shift to direct admissions has accompanied a 44% increase in applications over last year.
Read the full article in: More Colleges Offering Admission to Students Who Never Applied
Inside Higher Ed recently featured Augsburg in a piece on the growth of direct admissions. While the article cites Minnesota as one of the states with the most movement toward direct admissions this year, Augsburg stands out for its comprehensive move away from traditional admissions practices.
“Augsburg admissions counselors are shifting their time from reviewing applications to talking to those admitted about the university and what the students hope to accomplish there. Those are the discussions that motivated many of them to become admissions counselors,” according to Robert Gould, vice president for strategic enrollment management.
“It’s a dream come true,” Gould said.
The piece was the latest in a series on direct admissions in higher education. Read the full article in Inside Higher Ed: Direct Admissions Takes Off.
Learn more about Augsburg Applies to You, Augsburg’s new belonging-centered enrollment approach.
Local media have turned to Augsburg professor Michael Lansing for historical context as the city of Minneapolis prepares to hire a new police chief.
“Given the recent events, the murder of George Floyd as well as the uprising here in Minneapolis, there’s no question that the selection of a police chief is intensely important,” Lansing told reporter Jay Koll on KSTP’s Nightcast last week.
The three finalists for Minneapolis police chief all come from outside of Minnesota—a rarity in recent decades. “Not only is it unusual, it’s noteworthy because that only tends to happen when the city has been through some kind of intense experience around policing and public safety and police-community relations,” said Lansing, who is writing a book on the history of policing in Minneapolis. He is also the co-founder, with Dr. Yohuru Williams at the University of St. Thomas, of the “Overpoliced and Underprotected in MSP” project.
“History never repeats itself, but sometimes it rhymes,” Lansing told TPT’s Almanac. “This is one of those examples when we’re hearing some rhyming: the call for outsiders, the desperate pleas for help to change the culture that you find across the city, in communities of color, in advocacy organizations, on city council, and in the mayor’s office. And yet what’s different is that you have a rearrangement of the actual administrative structure,” with the city’s newly-appointed Commissioner of Public Safety in place.
“I think this is ground zero for police reform in the United States.”
Read more from Michael Lansing: “Policing Politics: Labor, Race, and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, 1945–1972” (Minnesota History magazine, 2021)