Augsburg College student Kitana Holland ’19 has been named to the inaugural Student Advisory Board for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room campaign, which celebrates education and elevates the voices of Gen-Z students. As one of only five college students selected to the 17-person board, Holland will advise a new public awareness campaign designed to improve college access, college persistence, and college graduation on campuses nationwide.
Holland and her fellow board members traveled to the White House on Friday, January 6, to attend the First Lady’s School Counselor of the Year Ceremony.
Holland is a first generation college sophomore from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, majoring in sociology and a minoring in religion and leadership studies. While at Augsburg she has served as a senator in the Day Student Government, an URGO research assistant, a LEAD Fellow, an Auggie tour guide, and as a member of College Possible and TRIO. Through these experiences, she has used her creativity, relationship-building skills, and process-thinking strengths to positively influence her community.
According to a news release about Better Make Room, Holland is driven by her motto, “If the opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” and aspires to help first generation, low-income, and underrepresented high school and college students push through barriers to attain a college degree.”
Associate Professor Lars Christiansen teaches courses in Augsburg’s Department of Sociology and Urban Studies Program. Christiansen puts his scholarship into practice as director of the Friendly Streets Initiative, a St. Paul-based organization that facilitates community organizing through creative public engagement events. The group aims to help communities envision positive change to public spaces, collect and analyze data, and assist neighbors in navigating city planning processes.
Christiansen described the successes of the Friendly Streets Initiative to author Jay Walljasper for a chapter of the new book, “America’s Walking Renaissance: How cities, suburbs, and towns are getting back on their feet.” Walljasper serves as a senior fellow in Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and his writing explores how new ideas in urban planning, tourism, community development, sustainability, politics and culture can improve citizens’ lives.
An excerpt from “America’s Walking Renaissance” was published by MinnPost and included a photo of Darius Gray ’15, a community organizer with FSI.
MinnPost recently published an article covering efforts by the City of St. Paul to more strictly enforce crosswalk laws and change a driving culture that places drivers and vehicles ahead of pedestrians. State crosswalk laws dictate that drivers should stop for pedestrians at every crosswalk, marked or unmarked, but drivers in the city rarely comply. This has led to fatalities and, more recently, sting operations designed to ticket drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians.
Lars Christiansen, associate professor of sociology and urban studies at Augsburg College, feels that the problem is larger, and less easily addressed, than simply ticketing individuals. “This isn’t about an individual flouting the law, it’s a very real feeling of pressure from motorists,” he said. “One feels the heat of the other cars around you as you’re moving, so to do something unusual [like stopping for a pedestrian] feels dangerous.”
MinnPost recently included an interview with Lars Christiansen, associate professor of sociology at Augsburg College, in an article examining the importance of civic engagement in city planning. The article cites ongoing controversies such as the proposed soccer stadium in St. Paul as indicative of a problematic lack of both transparency and residential participation in public processes. Earlier this year, Christiansen published an article in the Journal of Education Planning and Research detailing his study of the St. Paul Friendly Streets Initiative and its public process for a bike lane project.
Moving beyond public processes that merely pay lip service to community inclusion takes time, according to Christiansen. The MinnPost article quotes him as saying, “The community organizing approach to public engagement [that I prefer] takes a lot longer. Like any other community organizing, it involves trust building, relationship building, and lengthy listening. It’s really aiming for co-creation.”
In the article, Christiansen stresses that one important aspect of processes that successfully engage the public in city planning projects is timing. The earlier that planners can involve the public and establish communication with them about a project, the more likely it is that their involvement and communication will see a project through to completion. “The holy grail is the notion of inclusion. How do you do it for the whole duration of the project?” Christiansen says in the article.
Tim Pippert, associate professor of sociology, was among the first sociologists to visit the Bakken oilfield region in western North Dakota and to research the social effects of the area’s rapid growth. Pippert contributed his expertise to a series of stories by the Forum News Service about sex trafficking in the Bakken, and the articles have been republished by media ranging from the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn., to the Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D.
Timothy D. Pippert, associate professor of sociology, was quoted in an NPR story on the manner in which colleges shape their image while marketing to prospective students. Pippert discussed findings from the review of more than 10,000 images and research conducted with Augsburg undergraduate students. Read or listen to the story on the NPR website.
Each year, Augsburg College honors the legacy of an individual who helped shape the College’s mission by hosting the Torstenson Lecture in Sociology, and—for the first time—the 2013 presentation will highlight the important work of a current Augsburg faculty member.
The Torstenson Lecture is an opportunity for a sociologist from the Twin Cities area to share with the Augsburg community the contemporary scholarship, research, and thinking on a sociological topic.
Augsburg College President Paul C. Pribbenow recently announced the appointment of Garry W. Hesser as the College’s first Sabo Professor of Citizenship and Learning. Hesser’s work in this new role will lay the groundwork for the establishment of the endowed Martin Olav Sabo Center and Chair.
As Sabo professor, Hesser’s activities will include collaboration with the Center for Service, Work, and Learning concerning student civic engagement and leadership; leadership in campus initiatives to practice democracy and civic engagement, such as issues forums and student programs; collaboration with Augsburg’s annual convocation series, and connections with the Christensen and Batalden symposiums; and identification of new opportunities to develop the Sabo Scholars Program and community outreach programs. Continue reading “Hesser named Sabo Professor of Citizenship and Learning”→
The Augsburg community mourns the death of Joel Torstenson, professor emeritus of sociology. He died Oct. 18 at the age of 94. On Saturday, Oct. 27, a memorial service will be held in Hoversten Chapel at 5 p.m., with visitation 1 hour earlier.
So much of Augsburg’s identity today as a college of the city stems from Torstenson’s work at Augsburg. He founded the sociology and social work departments, and the metro-urban studies program. He developed urban programs in Minneapolis that launched HECUA (the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs) and that led to the work of our Center for Service, Work, and Learning, including Engaging Minneapolis, which requires all students to connect with the city in their studies. Continue reading “Augsburg Mourns the Death of Joel Torstenson”→
As Augsburg’s Department of Sociology celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, it is a good time to look back at how the program began. Or, rather, at who began it.
Joel Torstenson came to Augsburg as a history major from rural West Central Minnesota. After graduating in 1938, he worked in education for Farmer’s Co-ops. He began teaching part-time at Augsburg upon earning a master’s degree in history and sociology.
During the war years, he became involved in the Peace Movement and participated in establishing a cooperative farm community, which led to employment with Midland Cooperatives as an educational director and community organizer. In the fall of 1947, President Christensen invited him back to Augsburg to develop its programs in social work and sociology while completing his PhD in sociology at the University. Continue reading “The "Father" of Sociology at Augsburg”→