Augsburg University is proud to announce the winners of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award, First Decade Award, and Spirit of Augsburg Award. These outstanding alumni will be recognized at a special ceremony and reception on October 13 as part of Augsburg’s 2023 homecoming and reunion weekend. Learn more about the 2023 alumni award winners.
Distinguished Alumni Award
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes significant achievement in vocation, for outstanding contribution to church and community, and for a life that exemplifies the ideals and mission of Augsburg University. The 2023 honorees are:
Jan Nelson Meslin ’72, immigration justice activist and community organizer (Cayucos, CA)
James Rodde ’74, choral conductor and professor, Iowa State University (Ames, IA)
Devoney Looser ’89, author, Jane Austen scholar, and professor of English, Arizona State University (Phoenix, AZ)
Tsehai Wodajo ’97, social worker and founder, Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives (St. Paul, MN)
First Decade Award
The First Decade Award is presented to Augsburg graduates of the past 10 years who have made significant progress in their professional achievements and contributions to the community, and in so doing exemplify the mission of the university. The 2023 honorees are:
Kacie Lucchini Butcher ’13, public historian and director, Rebecca M. Blank Center for Campus History, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Madison, WI)
Andre Creighton ’19 MBA, co-founder and chief financial officer, TurnSignl (Buffalo, MN)
Spirit of Augsburg Award
The Spirit of Augsburg Award honors alumni and friends of the university who have given exceptional service that contributes substantially to the well-being of Augsburg by furthering its purposes and programs. The 2023 honoree is Paul Mueller ’84, Mayo Clinic Health System regional vice president, former Board of Regents member, and chair, Great Returns: We’re All In campaign (LaCrosse, WI).
Today Augsburg University announced the close of its Great Returns: We’re All In comprehensive fundraising campaign. The largest campaign in Augsburg’s history, Great Returns raised over $128.8 million, surpassing the campaign goal of $125 million.
“I have had the privilege of meeting many Auggies during my time as chair of this campaign and it’s evident how much people love Augsburg,” said Regent Emeritus and campaign chair Paul Mueller ’84, MD. “The investments made by Great Returns benefactors will yield transformational results for Augbsurg students and faculty for generations to come.”
Nearly 15,000 alumni and friends of the university made more than 55,000 gifts over the course of the campaign. Campaign priorities included endowed funds for scholarships, teaching and programs; campus improvements; athletics; and unrestricted operating support to provide flexibility in responding to students’ needs in an ever-evolving higher education landscape.
$6.1 million raised to support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives
$1.6 million raised for the President’s Strategic Fund
“We are humbled and grateful for the extraordinary show of support for Augsburg’s mission and vision from the thousands of alumni and friends who participated in the campaign,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “These investments will transform the lives of our students, who go on to lead and serve in their communities and throughout the world. From all of us at Augsburg: thank you.”
On January 21, the Augsburg Art Galleries will open a new exhibition featuring nine local, Black women and femme designers. TO ILLUMINATE ABUNDANCE, curated by Olivia House ’20 and Silent Fox ’18 of 13.4 Collective, explores what it means to live a life full of love, freedom, and light.
TO ILLUMINATE ABUNDANCE brings together nine Black designers at various stages in their careers. House and Fox invited contributing graphic designers to reflect on and illuminate a text, quote, or lyric that helps imagine what it could look like to move forward and towards more; to help envision what life is like when it feels full. The exhibition features work by Ashley Koudou, Kelsi Sharp, Leeya Rose Jackson, Marcia Rowe ’22, Olivia Anizor, Sabrina Peitz, and Terresa Moses, as well as House and Fox.
“This show is meant to express what our world should be: a world in which Black femmes are able to live a life without pain or suffering; a life full of light,” said House.
An opening reception for TO ILLUMINATE ABUNDANCE will take place on Saturday, January 21. The curators and artists of the show will gather for an artist talk on Thursday, February 2 at the Hagfors Center to contextualize their work and their view of the exhibition within a broader landscape of making, community, politics, and futurism. This event is featured as part of The Great Northern festival, happening January 25–February 5 around the Twin Cities metro area. The Great Northern celebrates Minnesota’s cold, creative winters through 10 days of diverse programming that invigorate mind and body.
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.
For more than four decades, Augsburg University has ushered in the Advent and Christmas seasons with Advent Vespers, a magnificent experience of music and liturgy, focusing on the theme of preparation and culminating in the joyful celebration of the Incarnation.
The 43rd Advent Vespers will be held in person at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis, with one livestream option available.
Thursday, December 1, 2022 at 8 p.m. (open dress rehearsal)
The event is free, with a suggested donation of $30 per person. Seating envelopes are required for entry and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. They can be requested online, by mail, or in person at the Augsburg Music Office. Seats are going fast—reserve your spot today.
Towering over Hennepin Avenue, the black-and-white photograph of a journalist with fist raised stops people in their tracks.
The artist behind this complex, arresting image? Reggie Agyen-Boateng ’21.
Agyen-Boateng majored in sociology at Augsburg and now works professionally under the name Kusi Photography. He is one of seven artists featured in “It’s the People,” a public art installation in downtown Minneapolis coordinated by the Hennepin Theatre Trust. His portrait of independent journalist King Demetrius Pendleton was chosen to anchor the project with a multi-story billboard on 900 Hennepin Avenue for the next year.
“My participation in “It’s the People” is my way of honoring the countless victims who have lost their lives to police violence,” said Agyen-Boateng in his artist statement. “It also allows me to give back to my community in a meaningful way after the suffering that Minnesota has endured over the years.
“Working with King Demetrius Pendleton to capture his lived history in a single portrait challenged me to think about the complex layers and intersectionality of Black identities and lived experiences. This way of examining identity moved my work as an artist forward into new territory. It also became a way to document and truth-tell through images.”
Now in its fourth year, the 2022 project also features large-scale photos oftheatre artists, arts leaders creating programming with youth experiencing homelessness, concert venue staff, Indigenous restauranteurs, student artists, and queer leaders. Learn more about “It’s the People” from Hennepin Theatre Trust.
A new audio documentary from APM Reports highlights how four Indigenous college students are using higher education to strengthen ties to their Native roots and support their people. One of the students the project follows is Reuben Kitto Stately ’22. In his segment, Stately also interviews Associate Professor Eric Buffalohead, chair of American Indian, First Nations, and Indigenous studies.
“I was pretty dead set on American Indian studies by the time I was in 10th grade,” says Stately. “I knew that American Indian studies would help me fill in the gaps for all the times in which I don’t understand colonization here in America—how have Native people from all these different nations all become American, in what ways have we totally assimilated, in what ways have we resisted?
“For my whole education, I have known that whatever I learn here at Augsburg, I’m going to take back to my people. To me, it’s an act of resistance because you’re able to indigenize new space or you strengthen the space that your people are already in.”
María Belén Power ’07 was recently featured in a WBUR story that also aired on All Things Considered from National Public Radio. Belén Power is associate executive director at GreenRoots in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The environmental justice organization is collaborating with the city and Boston University to pilot a host of cooling strategies on a densely populated Chelsea block, from planting trees to replacing asphalt with lighter-colored material.
In addition to improving local residents’ well-being, the Cool Block project serves as a template for other cities as climate change brings longer, hotter summers, increasing health risks in urban heat islands.
“Some days we feel like—what?—are we really having an impact? Like, is this really going to prevent the climate crisis?” Belén Power told WBUR’s Martha Bebinger. “And then I think, ‘It’s no longer about preventing it. It’s about protecting the most vulnerable communities.’”