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Staff Feature: Rachel Svanoe

Get to know the Sabo Center!Rachel Svanoe

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Rachel Svanoe, Director of LEAD Fellows and Cedar Commons Coordinator.

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

I have two primary roles in the Sabo Center, in addition to other Sabo Center initiatives that my work allows me to be a part of. First, I direct the LEAD Fellows program, a work-study/leadership program through which a cohort of about 30 Auggies work in community organizations and learn together about leadership and social change throughout the year. Second, I organize around the use of Cedar Commons, a campus-neighborhood collaboration space on the edge of our campus that Augsburg supports.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

To eat good food with people that I love! And to catch up about life.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Reflective, spunky, genuine.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

I grew up near Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis. Not only is it my favorite place to go when I need to think or be refreshed, but so many important moments in my life have happened there! Someday I want to organize an event where people tell stories about all of the major life moments that have happened in that park.

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?

This year, I’ve been learning deeply from the work of Resmaa Menakem (“My Grandmother’s Hands”) and Rachel Martin (his mentee). Their work explores racialized trauma and the ways in which the bodies of those of us raised in this country carry the impacts of racism, whether we have a body of color that is targeted by it or a white body that is complicit in carrying it out. Resmaa and Rachel’s work provides a model for healing these deeply embedded patterns in our bodies and I’m hoping to bring this work to Augsburg, helping us to become a campus where everyone can be in more authentic relationship with each other with greater safety and less fear.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you consider a “must-see.”

Besides Powderhorn Park, I’ve really been enjoying St. Anthony Main and the Stone Arch Bridge lately. It’s a pretty magical place to walk around, in every season!

Cedar Riverside Youth Workers Collaborative.

Last week was the first convening of a Cedar Riverside Youth Workers Collaborative (facilitated by the Youth Coordinating Board), a collection of individuals who live or work in the neighborhood and work directly with young people here. This group, which we hope to host at Cedar Commons sometimes, will gather every month to discuss ways that our youth work connects, ways that we can collaborate to strengthen each others efforts and ways that we can support each other. There are many exciting ways that Augsburg students might be able to connect to the youth work represented at these meetings, and I (Rachel Svanoe) was there to explore the possibilities. Connectedness and collaboration is growing and we look forward to seeing what new initiatives will emerge, connecting Auggies with important neighborhood work!

First Cedar Riverside Newsroom Cafe at Cedar Commons

Last Wednesday over the lunch hour, we hosted the first Cedar Riverside Newsroom Cafe at Cedar Commons. Newsroom Cafes, hosted by the Twin Cities Daily Planet in a different location each week, are opportunities for community members to meet with editor Allison Herrera, other staff, and neighbors to engage in a conversation about stories they would like to see covered in the Daily Planet. Ideally participants step up to help report those stories (this could take the form of an assigned article, a community voices piece, a video, a photo essay, etc.) but they can also join the conversation just to highlight important happenings in their community that deserve the attention of the press!

Just as the Northside Newsroom Cafe has been framed as an opportunity to counter the negative narratives about North Minneapolis and uplift all of the positive things happening everyday, this Newsroom will be an opportunity for us to shift the narratives about our neighborhood which is similarly stigmatized. This gathering is open to anyone who may want to write for the Daily Planet, learn about the story publication process as well as to anyone who would like to contribute story ideas for someone else to do a story about or just meet your neighbors! The first Newsroom Cafe included the neighborhood business association, a neighborhood youth worker and publisher, a neighborhood organizer and a student writer from the Echo.  The next one will happen on Wednesday April 8th, 12:30-1:30pm. Feel free to bring lunch!

Cedar Commons (2001 Riverside Ave. S, below Trinity offices, across from Afro Deli)

Breaking the Bahá’í Fast during Tuesday Night Interfaith Gathering.

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Tuesday night’s Interfaith meal, a celebration of the Bahá’í fast over delicious Persian food and tea, was the fullest interfaith gathering yet! Our Bahá’í friends shared their experiences with this nineteen-day fast, compared notes with folks who fast during Ramadan, answered the many questions that we had about the founder of their faith, the texts that Bahá’ís look to for guidance and, when the sun when down, we broke the fast with a few prayers and a beautiful song. This interfaith community is growing and if you haven’t come out on a Tuesday night yet, we hope you will do so soon!

This Tuesday (St. Patrick’s Day) from 6:30-8:30, we will drink tea and talk about the people that we look to as saints or honored spiritual leaders within our own lives or faith traditions.

Legendary Somali singer visits Cedar Commons mentorship program!


West Bank College Bound, the mentorship program that we’re hosting in partnership with Somali Youth Link, had a surprise visit from legendary Somali singer Ahmed Naji on Tuesday! Our piano wasn’t in tune enough for him to share a live song, but we looked him up on youtube and we were very impressed. Afterwards we did some “speed-dating” style networking practice before walking over the the Muslim Student Association’s networking event where the students got to meet with Muslim professionals from around the Twin Cities. It was a great night and our high school mentees are looking forward to hearing about college from a panel of Augsburg student leaders next week.

Weekly Interfaith Gathering Kick-off


Feb 10th was our first monthly interfaith meal at Cedar Commons (this one connected to Lent) and we’re happy to report that the discussion was lively and the cheesecake was particularly delicious. We all had a lot of questions about “Lent” – folks who are unfamiliar with Christian practices and folks who grew up in churches themselves! The dialogue will continue as we gather each Tuesday night from 6:30-8:30, but we’ll be moving on to new questions and topics – the March 10th meal will be connected to the Ba’Hai fasting tradition. Join our Facebook group for weekly updates and come on out any Tuesday if you’re free!