Three graduate students in Augsburg University’s health professions programs have been awarded competitive scholarships to encourage their future plans to serve in rural communities. Michaela Althaus ’24 MSPAS, Evan Bloyer ’27 PsyD, and Gwen Hermanson ’24 MSW will each receive $25,000 to support their studies this academic year.
Provided in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, each scholarship includes an agreement with MDH to practice in a rural area of Minnesota for two years following graduation. The funding for the scholarships is a new opportunity for Augsburg students, in addition to a larger health equity grant awarded to Augsburg’s Physician Assistant Program in 2023 to train students to practice in rural and underserved communities. When students train in rural and underserved settings, they are more likely to return upon graduating.
For each of the three scholarship recipients, the commitment to serving rural communities represents a return to their roots. “Working in rural healthcare settings over the past 10 years with underserved populations as both a nursing assistant and counselor for adolescent mental health and addiction has provided me with a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities inherent in these areas,” said Althaus. “From remote clinics to close-knit communities, I have witnessed the resilience and cultural richness that define rural Minnesota and the health systems within.”
Associate Professor and PA Program Director Vanessa Bester applied for the grant on behalf of Augsburg’s health professions programs. “We are proud to support outstanding Augsburg students like Michaela, Evan, and Gwen in their journey to address healthcare disparities in rural Minnesota,” she said. “These scholarships are more than just financial assistance; they are a testament to Augsburg’s collective commitment to ensuring equitable access to healthcare for all. With this program, as well as several additional Minnesota Department of Health grants, Augsburg’s health professional graduates are set to make a real difference, shaping a healthier future for everyone in Minnesota.”
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.”
Michael 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?”
More 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.
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.”
“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.
Augsburg 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.”
Chris 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.
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.
More 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.