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Andy Aoki Named Augsburg University’s Hawthorne Professor

Headshot photo of Andrew Aoki, who is an Asian man wearing a gray pullover over a collared shirt. In the background is a tree with bright pink flowers.Andy Aoki, professor of political science, has been named to the M. Anita Gay Hawthorne professorship of critical race and ethnicity studies, effective June 1, 2022. He succeeds Professor William Green, the inaugural holder of the professorship, who retires at the end of the current academic year. Recently elected to chair Augsburg’s Department of Critical Race and Ethnicity Studies, Aoki’s work as Hawthorne Professor will focus on building a strong foundation for the new department and strong connections with aligned disciplines.

A prolific writer and speaker on Asian American identities and racial politics, Professor Aoki joined the Augsburg faculty in 1988. He holds a BA in political science from the University of Oregon and an MA and PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At Augsburg, he teaches courses on American politics, political theory, and racial and ethnic politics. He has served as department chair of Augsburg’s political science department for a combined total of 18 years and as a senior fellow in the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship since 2014. He is currently serving as Faculty Senate President, a member of the faculty’s Budget Working Group, and chair of the workgroup charged with reviewing implications of the proposed “two college” structure for faculty governance. He co-founded the Asian Pacific American Caucus, bringing together scholars and community leaders, and has twice been president of the American Political Science Association’s organized section on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.

The M. Anita Gay Hawthorne professorship of critical race and ethnicity studies was created in 2020 on the recommendation of a working group of students, faculty, and staff who advanced, simultaneously, a vision for the creation of a new academic department in critical race and ethnicity studies at Augsburg. The professorship honors senior faculty with extensive records of achievement as well as demonstrated commitments to critical race and ethnicity studies. It seeks to embody the student and community orientation embedded in this interdisciplinary field of study, and it expresses Augsburg’s commitment to culturally-responsive pedagogy in the undergraduate and graduate curricula. It honors the legacy of Margaret Anita Gay Hawthorne (“Anita”) who drew upon the concept of Pan-Afrikanism to create a program at Augsburg unique to any college in the country.

President Paul Pribbenow offers these comments: “It is a great privilege to appoint Professor Aoki to the Hawthorne Professorship. His appointment, following Professor Bill Green’s inaugural tenure in the position, illustrates that Augsburg’s commitment to critical race and ethnic studies—now ensconced in a new department—has deep and abiding roots across the entire span of our academic mission. I am delighted to witness the many ways in which our focus on research and teaching that engages the lived experience of all our students is being taken up by faculty and students across the entire university.”

Jeremy Myers Appointed to the Bernhard M. Christensen Chair in Religion and Vocation at Augsburg University

Headshot of Jeremy Myers wearing a gray button-down shirt over a black t-shirt against a background of windowsAugsburg University announced today that Jeremy Myers, associate professor of religion and executive director of the institution’s Christensen Center for Vocation, has been appointed to serve as the next Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation, effective on July 1, 2022. Myers will succeed Martha Stortz, PhD, who retired and was granted emerita status in 2020.

“It is a remarkable testament to Augsburg’s leadership at the intersection of faith, learning, and service that we have in our own faculty ranks a scholar so well prepared to continue the work begun by Marty and her predecessor, David Tiede,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “Jeremy is an innovative problem-solver, a collaborative colleague, and a creatively critical theologian.”

The Christensen Chair was established in 2005 to honor the legacy of Bernhard M. Christensen, who served as president of what was then known as Augsburg College and Seminary from 1938 to 1962. The chair provides public leadership in interpreting and advancing Augsburg’s educational mission, pursues scholarship and teaches in the religion department, and serves as counsel to the president and Board of Regents.

“Jeremy has thought deeply about President Christensen’s legacy at this university and the lessons his leadership continues to have for Lutheran higher education in the current age,” Pribbenow said.

“Dr. Myers’ vision for the Christensen Chair is grounded and shaped by the five lessons of Bernhard Christensen, the Augsburg University mission statement, and the realities and challenges of the 21st century, especially the 21st century church,” said the members of a faculty and staff discernment committee that met with Myers about the role. “This vision aligns with his innovative work guiding churches in ‘place-based vocational discernment’ and will help guide our Augsburg community in new and rich reflection on our own—individual and communal—vocational discernment. In candid conversation with Dr. Myers, we explored the expectations and opportunities of this position and his ability to meet those expectations and expand the opportunities. We think he is the right person for the job.”

Myers, who earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and his master’s and PhD from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a distinguished scholar in vocation and congregational ministry. In addition to many articles and chapters, he is the author of Liberating Youth from Adolescence published by Fortress Press and a sought-after speaker at conferences and in congregations. He has secured millions of dollars in grants to support the work of the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg and has served on the steering committee of the Association of Teaching Theologians and on the board of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.

Myers said the concept of vocation is a critical lens for thinking about transformational solutions to the problems we face in today’s world. “The key ingredients of vocation—the neighbor, the self, the common good, and God (or something larger than us all)—give rise to a method of discernment and discovery that is different from any other method currently being used to address society’s biggest issues. These ingredients produce a creative tension that leads to innovation, accountability, mutuality, and hope, and this approach to public life cannot be reserved for those who claim to live a religious life. The tables where vocation is being discussed and discerned need to become long and wide.”

Myers will offer his inaugural address as the Christensen Professor at a symposium at Augsburg in September.