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Building Trust in Divisive Times: Augsburg University to Offer Second Annual Interfaith Symposium

Manu Meel is smiling at the camera against a backdrop of trees and water. He is wearing black glasses, a dark jacket, and blue shirt.Augsburg University will offer its second annual Interfaith Symposium at 11 a.m. on March 7, 2024, featuring keynote speaker Manu Meel, CEO of BridgeUSA. The Interfaith Symposium is an annual invitation to students and community members to learn about religious, spiritual, and worldview diversity; participate in enriching dialogue; and network with exceptional interfaith leaders. 

Meel’s keynote will focus on “Building Trust in Divisive Times,” the symposium’s 2024 theme. BridgeUSA is a youth-led, multi-partisan student movement that creates spaces on high school and college campuses for open discussion between students about differences. By engaging America’s youth in constructive discussions, the nonprofit organization is equipping the next generation of leaders with the skills necessary for navigating conflict, finding solutions across differences and building bridges in their communities.

“We are thrilled to welcome Manu Meel to Augsburg for this year’s Interfaith Symposium,” said Najeeba Syeed, El-Hibri Endowed Chair and executive director of Interfaith at Augsburg. “BridgeUSA’s efforts to help young people resolve conflicts and navigate difficult conversations aligns closely with the work of Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute. His message of building trust across different perspectives will be incredibly valuable during the U.S. election cycle and as conflict continues to play out across the world.”

Following the keynote address, a luncheon and panel discussion will take place at 12:30 p.m., featuring conversation with Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, Mount Zion Temple; Martha Stortz, professor emerita of religion at Augsburg; and Joffrey Wilson, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Mortenson Construction. 

For information and to register, visit the 2024 Interfaith Symposium website.

About Interfaith at Augsburg

Situated in a neighborhood home to numerous immigrant communities and with an increasingly diverse student body, Augsburg University is uniquely positioned to facilitate building bridges in a polarized world. Augsburg’s commitment to interfaith engagement is central to its mission, identified as a key outcome of its strategic plan, and rooted in its Lutheran theological heritage. Through interfaith education and intentional opportunities to strengthen interreligious communication, understanding, and relationships, Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute advances peacemaking on campus, in the community, and beyond. Learn more at augsburg.edu/interfaith.

Congratulations to Auggies Named to the 2023 Fall Semester Dean’s List

University SealMore than 950 Augsburg University undergraduate students were named to the 2023 Fall Semester Dean’s List. The Augsburg University Dean’s List recognizes those full-time students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.50 or higher and those part-time students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.75 or higher in a given term.

View the 2023 Fall Semester Dean’s List.

Students who wish to notify their hometown newspapers of their achievement can do so at their discretion using a news announcement template.

Central Corridor Anchor Institutions Share Lessons From 10 Years of Partnership Along the Green Line

Central Corridor Anchor Partnership logoThis month, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership (CCAP) will celebrate 10 years of local place-making investments along the Green Line corridor with an Anchor Summit featuring Dr. David Maurrasse, leader of the national Anchor Institutions Task Force. 

Since 2012, CCAP members organizations—including colleges, universities, health systems, and other partner organizations—have sustained a commitment to the shared health, prosperity, and growth of Central Corridor neighborhoods. Anchor institutions are defined as stable, enduring organizations that are rooted in their localities, whose resources can be leveraged as agents of community and economic development. The CCAP anchor partner capacity comprises 16 ZIP codes, 60,000 employees, and 112,000 students with $2.5 billion in annual spending. Through CCAP, these “eds and meds” have focused on procurement spending, workforce development, and transit use in the ZIP codes along the Green Line in Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

Augsburg University was a founding member of CCAP, which is chaired by President Paul Pribbenow. Examples of Augsburg’s commitment to neighborhood vitality in recent years include:

  • The Cedar-Riverside Health Commons drop-in center, which opened in 2011 in collaboration with CCAP partner M Health Fairview, the East Africa Health Project, and People’s Center Health Services.
  • Urban Scrubs Camp, an annual summer camp for metro students to get hands-on exposure to health care careers and experience a college campus.
  • Augsburg Local, an initiative to leverage Augsburg’s institutional and individual purchasing power to support local businesses.
  • Inclusionary contracting in the construction of the Hagfors Center for Business, Science, and Religion, including over $3 million to Twin City Glass Contractors, a woman-owned business located in the Central Corridor geography.

“These strategies not only make our organization stronger, but they contribute to more prosperity for the Central Corridor and the whole Twin Cities region,” said Pribbenow.

The Anchor Summit will be held from 8–10:30 a.m. on November 16 at the Fairview Community Health & Wellness Hub in St. Paul. David Maurrasse will deliver a keynote on the power and potential of anchor partnerships, followed by a panel discussion on creating shared value and community health and safety in the central corridor. For more information, visit centralcorridoranchorpartnership.org/anchor-summit.

Urban Debaters Tackle Economic Inequality Before State and Local Leaders

The Minnesota Urban Debate League, a program of Augsburg University, is proud to present the 2023 Mayors Challenge: The Great Prosperity Debate at the American Swedish Institute from 5–8 p.m. on September 21. 

In this year’s debate, four students will split into two teams and debate issues related to the 2023–24 national policy debate topic of economic inequality. This topic engages students nationwide about the role of the U.S. federal government in fiscal redistribution, including policy proposals like a federal jobs guarantee, expanding Social Security, and providing basic income.

The debate will take place in front of a community of local education supporters, including special guests Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Governor Tim Walz, First Lady Gwen Walz, and a VIP panel of economic policy experts. 

Abdihafid Mohamed of Edison High School, Minneapolis, and Adai Truong of Central High School, Saint Paul, will argue the affirmative at the 11th annual Mayors Challenge event. They will face off against Lily St Dennis of Highland Park High School, Saint Paul, and Sabrena Thao of Tartan High School, Oakdale, arguing the negative. All are members of their schools’ debate teams, hosted by the Minnesota Urban Debate League. 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will receive the 2023 Champion of Change Award at the event. This award is given annually to a community changemaker who models courageous leadership and inspires students. Previous recipients include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. 

Since 2012, the Mayors Challenge has brought together education advocates from across the Twin Cities to watch an empowering, informative showcase debate and invest in the future of urban debate. Debate has been shown to positively impact literacy, self-esteem, critical thinking, attendance, and test scores. Students who participate in debate develop the capacity to engage in civil disagreement and civil discourse, skills that are essential for citizenship in a multicultural democracy. 

Registration for the 2023 Mayors Challenge is available now.

About MNUDL

The Minnesota Urban Debate League is a program of Augsburg University that provides resources and programming to support competitive academic debate in Twin Cities high schools and middle schools. The mission of MNUDL is to empower students through competitive academic debate to become engaged learners, critical thinkers, and active global citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities. Currently, MNUDL serves more than 1,000 students at 40 partner schools and has seen sustained growth in student participation since its inception in 2004, in programs including national topic policy debate, middle school debate, Spanish Debate League, East African Debate, Financial Literacy Leadership Debates, and MDAW Summer Speech & Debate Camp. 

For more information, contact: Minnesota Urban Debate League, Amy Cram Helwich, (612) 359-6467, cramhe@augsburg.edu.

Congratulations to Auggies Named to the 2023 Summer Semester Dean’s List

University SealMore than 95 Augsburg University undergraduate students were named to the 2023 Summer Semester Dean’s List. The Augsburg University Dean’s List recognizes those full-time students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.50 or higher and those part-time students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.75 or higher in a given term.

View the 2023 Summer Semester Dean’s List.

Students who wish to notify their hometown newspapers of their achievement can do so at their discretion using a news announcement template.

Augsburg University Named Among Nation’s Most LGBTQ-Friendly

White Auggie eagle on rainbow backgroundAugsburg University has been named one of the top 30 colleges and universities for LGBTQ+ students, according to Campus Pride, the leading national organization dedicated to building future LGBTQ and ally leaders and creating safer communities at colleges and universities. Augsburg is the only institution from Minnesota to receive Campus Pride’s Best of the Best recognition in 2023.

“Earning a spot on Campus Pride’s Best of the Best list recognizes an institution’s efforts to create a safe and welcoming campus for their LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty,” said Campus Pride Founder, CEO and Executive Director Shane Mendez Windmeyer. “In the current climate, in which LGBTQ+ identities have become political talking points and laws are being weaponized against LGBTQ+ people, the commitment to creating campuses that welcome and protect LGBTQ+ students can not be taken for granted. The colleges and universities that made our list this year deserve this recognition for the efforts they have made and continue to make.”

Augsburg’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) Student Services office works to improve the campus environment for all students, staff, faculty, and visitors by developing and supporting inclusive understandings of gender and sexuality. Activities include:

  • Advising, advocacy, mentorship, and support for LGBTQIA+ -identified students;
  • Development of student knowledge and leadership skills;
  • Promoting awareness and visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community on campus;
  • Providing networking and social opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ and allied campus community;
  • Training students, staff, and faculty about gender and sexual equity to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment;
  • Advocating for change in policies, practices, and procedures across the campus to be more equitable to LGBTQIA individuals.

Two LGBTQIA+ student organizations, Queer Pride Alliance and Queer Indigenous People of Color, host a number of events for the Augsburg community throughout the year. At the annual Lavender Celebration, graduating LGBTQIA+ and ally students are honored with a rainbow cord to wear at commencement, and the community recognizes outstanding individuals for their work and contributions for queer and trans students at Augsburg.

Campus Pride’s 2023 Best of the Best LGBTQ-friendly list includes 30 four-year public and private colleges and universities from around the country. Each institution achieved 5 out of 5 stars and the highest percentage scores on the Campus Pride Index (CPI), the premier national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices on college and university campuses. The Campus Pride Index rates colleges and universities based on self-reporting of LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices, such as non-discrimination statements inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, gender affirming health care, LGBTQ+ peer mentorship programs, campus safety training on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ-specific major and course offerings, and the presence of LGBTQ & ally student and faculty organizations. The full Campus Pride 2023 Best of the Best list is available online at CampusPride.org/BestoftheBest.

Learn more about programming and support resources available through Augsburg’s LGBTQIA+ Student Services.

Continuing Ed Series Equips Teachers to Support Students’ Mental Health

Teachers play an increasingly critical role in supporting mental health needs among children and youth. A new set of continuing education courses from Augsburg University aims to ensure that they have the resources and training to do so in a transformative and culturally responsive way.

The Certificate in Supporting Student Mental Health for K-12 Teachers, offered by Augsburg’s Center for Adult and Continuing Education, provides K-12 educators an equity-based approach to mental health, trauma, and social-emotional learning. Each self-paced, online, on-demand course meets state continuing education requirements for maintaining licensure.

The three modules can be taken individually (4 hours each) or altogether (12 hours total). Teachers who complete all three courses will receive the Supporting Student Mental Health for K-12 Teachers certificate.

  • Understanding Mental Health and Suicide Prevention provides an overview of the history of mental health care; signs and symptoms of mental illness in children and adolescents; how to recognize and minimize mental illness stigma; and resources available for teachers, students, families, and caregivers focused on recovery and suicide prevention.
  • Trauma-Informed Practices for K-12 Classrooms helps teachers build a foundation to create a safe learning space for students who have experienced chronic stress and trauma; recognize the symptoms of trauma and its relationship to mental illness; and promote healing in the classroom.
  • Transformative Social and Emotional Learning guides participants through a social and emotional learning framework that is rooted in equity, identity, belonging, and community justice. It is designed to help teachers move beyond teaching and modeling competencies to a place of reflective practice that focuses on examining educational conditions.

The series honors the legacy of the late Claudia Murray, a sophomore psychology major and midfielder on the Augsburg women’s soccer team who passed away unexpectedly in 2022. Generous support from the Murray family will provide a 50% discount to the first 100 participants.

“We were offered a beautiful opportunity with this gift and we aimed to create enriching courses by collaborating with both on and off campus experts,” said Jennifer Diaz, associate professor and chair of Augsburg’s Department of Education. “We are excited about what the courses have to offer educators working to value and meet students where they are across their diverse and complex lived experiences.”

Drawing on Augsburg’s outstanding faculty and centers of expertise, the Center for Adult and Continuing Education offers a growing number of live, online, and on-demand courses. For more information or to register, visit the CACE website.

Augsburg Health Commons Bring Drop-In Care to New Locations

PA faculty member Vanessa Bester is seated on a stool providing foot care at a Health Commons location.The Augsburg Health Commons is expanding to bring its proven model of accompaniment-based care to more neighbors through new partnerships and locations.

Late last year, an agreement with M Health Fairview and Redeemer Center for Life formalized a partnership at the Living Room in the Harrison neighborhood of north Minneapolis, where a drop-in site based on the Health Commons model had operated since 2012. Following a disruption of in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the site was re-opened in October 2022 under the leadership of Augsburg Physician Assistant Program Director Vanessa Bester.  

This summer, the first Health Commons in St. Paul opened in the Conway Community Center through a partnership with M Health Fairview, the Sanneh Foundation, and the East Side Health & Well-Being Collaborative. Health Commons Executive Director Katie Clark and Augsburg Board of Regents Chair Dennis Meyer will join St. Paul community leaders on August 16 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Health Commons East

These new locations join long-standing Health Commons sites at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis and in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood

“Our nursing and physician assistant faculty, along with our students, are committed to the vision of a drop-in center that focuses on the needs of the communities we serve to address health inequities and other deep-rooted issues faced when seeking care,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “Augsburg is especially pleased to extend our efforts to the East Side St. Paul neighborhood.”

Augsburg’s Health Commons sites are health-focused drop-in centers led and organized by nursing and physician assistant faculty members, Augsburg students, volunteers, and community members. Developed by Augsburg nursing faculty in the early 1990s, the Health Commons model is founded on principles of hospitality and relationship development that leads to transcultural understanding and health benefits for all participants. 

The people who come to the Health Commons are from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and many are unhoused or marginally housed. Health concerns might include nutrition, medication, stress management, respiratory conditions, injuries, skin problems, and chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension. Everyone is welcome, and all services are provided free of charge, without proof of need or time constraints. 

Augsburg’s PA program has taken on a growing role as new partnerships and locations have developed. The PA program has led the expansion of services at the Cedar-Riverside Health Commons, connecting with community members providing foot care, a need across many marginalized communities. 

“The PA program is humbled and honored to bring the model of accompaniment-based care into our curriculum and medical practice. Faculty, staff and students are able to build connections, meet people where they are at in their health journey, and learn how health inequities are impacting the people we care for every day. The Harrison neighborhood, Cedar-Riverside, Central Lutheran, and now East St. Paul are the paradigm of what providing health and care should look like in every community,” said Bester. 

To learn more, volunteer, or support the Health Commons, visit augsburg.edu/healthcommons.

Augsburg University Statement on Supreme Court Decision to Strike Down Race-Conscious Admissions

Three students walk under leafy trees on the Augsburg campus towards a maroon banner that reads "Augsburg University"The Augsburg community is committed to intentional diversity in our life and work. This commitment aligns with our use of holistic application review and our direct admissions approach, launched in fall 2022. Because direct admissions does not consider race as a factor, Augsburg’s current admissions processes are unlikely to be affected by the SFFA v. Harvard/UNC ruling—despite potentially far-reaching impacts for higher education.

Augsburg’s experience with direct admissions may serve as a useful case study on alternative strategies to lower barriers for historically underrepresented and marginalized student populations following this decision. 

Media contact: Rachel Farris, farrisr@augsburg.edu

Augsburg Receives 2023 Eduventures Innovation Award

A woman and two men stand in front of a brick wall. The man in the middle is holding a plaque and smiling.Augsburg was among three universities recently honored for making bold moves to improve access, equity, and inclusion in higher education. Encoura, an educational data science and research organization,​ announced the winners of the annual Innovation Awards Program at Eduventures Summit 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Augsburg was recognized for the Augsburg Applies to You enrollment management approach, implemented in Fall 2022. This multi-pronged initiative seeks to create a more equitable and sustainable college admissions system through direct admissions, student success coaching, and inclusive academic belonging.

“Augsburg Applies to You aims to lower barriers, foster a culture of belonging, and ultimately change systems to address historically rooted inequities in higher education,” said Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow. “I want to recognize the courage and commitment of our strategic enrollment management division staff, every one of whom took ownership of the project and contributed to its successful launch this year.” 

Now in its seventh year, the Eduventures Innovation Awards Program honors organizations and teams that are shaping the future of higher education. Eduventures received a record number of submissions that showcased innovative and transformative projects this year. Entries are designed to identify higher education institutions that have demonstrated significant innovations when developing and deploying programs that impact enrollment, student experience, or outcomes. 

“More than ever, global society relies on innovation to help evolve humanity and make our lives more productive, healthy, and equitable,” said Cara Quackenbush, Encoura’s executive vice president of research. “We are thrilled to be honoring the institutions that have created new, actionable, and innovative programs that are changing the landscape for higher education and their shared commitment of serving their student bodies and the larger community.”

Read the full announcement from Encoura or learn more about Augsburg Applies to You.