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City Engagement Day 2019: Connecting Students, Education, and Community

Students sit around tables listening as a woman talks.
Students learn about Trinity Lutheran Congregation from Pastor Jane Buckley-Farlee before beginning their City Engagement Day project.

For over twenty-five years, students have started off their Augsburg education with City Engagement Day. City Engagement Day is the first step on a student’s civic engagement and experiential journey at Augsburg. Along with their professor and classmates from their first year seminar (“AugSem”), students go out into the community for the afternoon to complete projects at community organizations. Each AugSem has a disciplinary focus, and each City Engagement Day site is carefully selected to pair with the discipline of the AugSem. The afternoon serves as an introduction to the communities surrounding Augsburg and the city of Minneapolis more broadly, a key learning aspect for Augsburg students in their First Year Experience. For some students, City Engagement Day is a catalyst to seek out volunteer or internship opportunities with the organizations they visited! The City Engagement Day experience is an important step in student learning as they begin to recognize and articulate their role in multiple communities, and to demonstrate agency to create positive, informed, and meaningful change in the world.

The goals of City Engagement Day have stayed consistent over its long history. The aims of the day include:

  • Students will learn more about the communities and organizations around Augsburg, and practice getting around the city.
  • Students will encounter community engagement and experiential learning as core components of an Augsburg education.
  • Students will build relationships with peers and faculty through shared work.
  • Students will connect with an organization or community that relates to the focus of their course or discipline.

With the arrival of Augsburg’s largest ever incoming class this fall, a significant number of local organizations were engaged to partner with Augsburg for City Engagement Day. While some local organizations have partnered with Augsburg for City Engagement Day from the beginning twenty-five years ago–including The Cedar Cultural Center, Mixed Blood Theater, Brian Coyle Community Center, and Seward Montessori School–a variety of new partners were engaged to participate in City Engagement Day 2019, including Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge, the VOA High School, House of Balls Gallery, Waite House Radio station, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, 826 MSP, and Interfaith Power and Light. 

Organizations who participated as partners in this year’s City Engagement Day reported on the positive impact of the students who came to their organizations. At the Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge, music students helped clean up gardens, cleaned, painted, filled a dumpster with debris, and helped organize a storeroom. Education students moved thousands of pounds of sand into a new sandbox at Anew Dimension Childcare Center, while another, business-focused AugSem moved the entirety of the West Bank Business Association office to their new location in the Mixed Blood Theater space.

Another aspect of connecting students to the communities surrounding Augsburg was transportation for City Engagement Day. Out of this fall’s thirty-two AugSems, twenty-five were able to walk to the site of their afternoon engagement, while the remainder were able to take public transit, due in no small part to the newly accessible Auggie Pass, an all-you-can ride transit pass for Augsburg students. By walking or taking public transit, first year students began to see close-up what our community looks like and what is available in it.

Each year, Mary Laurel True, Community Engagement Director in the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, organizes City Engagement Day sites. True began City Engagement Day (then City Service Day) early during her 30-year tenure at Augsburg, and each year coordinates the event, carefully pairing AugSem classes with organizations and projects. Noting that the AugSems are paired with sites that are relevant to their disciplinary focus, True emphasized how impactful it has been over the years that students start getting involved right away to see how their potential field of study might be living out its mission in the city in creative and profound ways. 

Student reflections on their City Engagement Day experiences indicated that the day did, in fact, impact their understanding of the connection of an Augsburg education and their current and future change-making in the world. When asked about the most important thing they learned during City Engagement Day, students responded: 

“The way that Augsburg connects with its communities, and how we as students can help our local community.”

“The most important thing I learned was actually how important it is to be a part of your community. This is where I will be living, these are the environments and people I will be surrounded with for the next 4 years. So it’s very important not only to care about but to contribute to your communities…”

“I learned that not only did we help this community center, but I realized that just because we are a University within a community does not mean we are separate from the community. As we continue through the years at this University, we should always recognize and help out the community we are in.”

City Engagement Day may be completed for 2019, but its impact will continue to resonate with students as they enter into the fall semester and beyond. We can’t wait to see how the Class of 2023 will continue to engage with our communities through their time at Augsburg.

2018-2019 Year in Review

neighbors eating at garden partyThe Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship had a whirlwind 2018-2019 school year. From workshops and lectures to community-based collaboration, campus-wide initiatives, and hosting a national conference, in addition to our day-to-day programs like LEAD Fellows, Campus Kitchen, and Public Achievement, this past year was full to the brim. We are thankful for all of our partners and collaborators in this ever-changing and exciting work. As we look ahead to the new school year, we are proud to share some highlights from 2018-2019:

Democracy Augsburg:

During the fall of 2018, the Sabo Center hosted 18(!) workshops and teach-ins on topics ranging from community organizing basics to the opioid epidemic, democracy in South Africa, citizenship and community agency, and more. Sabo Center staff invited candidates from across the political spectrum to campus for tabling and outreach prior to the 2018 midterm elections, and significantly increased our center’s visibility with students, staff, and faculty.

Student Employment Pilot:

Led by Sabo Center Director Elaine Eschenbacher, the Sabo Center initiated a student employment pilot program that worked closely with supervisors and students to make on-campus student employment more meaningful and useful, both for departments employing student workers and for students in their own career preparation. Twenty students and their supervisors went through orientation, training, and structured reflection throughout the course of the school year, and a report on the results of the program are forthcoming.

Environmental Stewardship:

The intern team of three undergraduate students, one graduate student, and a MN GreenCorps member hosted several events throughout the school year exploring the intersections of equity and sustainability, including a “Sip-Sustain-Stories” discussion series and a “Sustainability is No Joke” storytelling event facilitated by RFTP. In collaboration with Campus Kitchen, students began work to set up a campus “Share Shop”–a space created by and for students to reduce consumption, mitigate student costs by providing access to things like tools, and creating a community space where students can take part in informal learning around sustainable practices and skills sharing. The Share Shop and Campus Cupboard (student-run food shelf) are excited to co-locate in the basement of the Old Science building in the fall of 2019.

Campus Kitchen:

Campus Kitchen saw the exciting addition of two new staff members, LaToya Taris-James and Natalie Jacobson. The Campus Kitchen student leadership team deepened the Campus Kitchen partnership with the Brian Coyle Community Center youth program, beginning weekly cooking sessions in the Augsburg Food Lab and in the Brian Coyle kitchen. Another highlight of the year was a garden party event featuring local food activist La Donna Redmond and storytelling facilitated by Mixed Blood Theater.

Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute:

The Sabo Center was thrilled to host our colleagues in the Place-Based Justice Network for the network’s annual conference. Read more about the PBJN Summer Institute it the blog featuring highlights of the conference. 

Undoing White Body Supremacy Pilot Project:

In partnership with Augsburg’s Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, staff members at the Sabo Center are leading a pilot cohort of white faculty and staff learning to undo the ways white supremacy shows up in our bodies, not just in our minds. Selected applicants will meet and learn together throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. This is body-based racial justice work, informed by Somatic Experiencing®  and Interpersonal Neurobiology. You can read more about this exciting project on the Sabo Center Blog.

LEAD Fellows:

The 2018-2019 LEAD Fellows cohort had innovative programming, including a session about radical self-care, a vocation panel of recent graduates, and leadership styles exercises, including a town hall meeting simulation. New community partners hosting LEAD Fellows this year included OutFront MN and Inquilinxs Unidxs. And, best of all, we welcomed LaToya Taris-James, an amazing new staff member who brings a wealth of experience in youth and leadership development to supporting both the LEAD Fellows program and Campus Kitchen!

Interfaith @ Cedar Commons:

Once a month, Interfaith Scholars and community members meet together for food and interfaith conversations on a variety of topics. Topics for 2018-2019 included Wellness and Faith, Intersection of Culture and Religion, Religion as a Tool for Oppression and Liberation, and Interfaith Perspectives Post-Election.

Community-Based Learning:

Director of Community Engagement Mary Laurel True collaborates with faculty across the University to connect their classes to community organizations and projects. Some highlights from 2018-2019 included co-hosting a national conference on Cuba with faculty in the Spanish department, and bringing Spanish classes to the Mexican consulate in St. Paul to learn about their work with immigration and new immigrant communities in Minnesota. In collaboration with Religion department professors, students completed 12 visits to diverse places of worship (mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples), connecting their visits with study of interfaith topics.

 

Interested to join us for 2019-2020? Check out the Calendar and Events page, and be sure to like the Sabo Center of Facebook (@sabocenter) for all the latest on workshops, events, and ways to plug in!

Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute Highlights

Three people sit on stage as a panel, while an audience sits at round tables listening.
Panel discussion with Avi Viswanathan of Nexus Community Engagement Institute and Tyler Sit of New City Church.

On July 10-12, 2019, the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University hosted the Place-Based Justice Network for its annual Summer Institute. 

The gathering is an essential learning and networking opportunity for the Place-Based Justice Network, a group of twenty member institutions that are committed to transforming higher education and our communities by deconstructing systems of oppression through place-based community engagement with a racial justice lens.

Place-based community engagement is a focused approach to university-community engagement that emphasizes long-term, university-wide engagement in community partnerships in a clearly defined geographic area, and focuses equally on campus and community impact. Engaging with stakeholders from across the university and neighborhood community, a place-based approach aims to enact real and meaningful social change through partnership and co-creative work.

While the PBJN has held annual Summer Institutes since 2014, 2019 marks only the second year that the Summer Institute has taken place at an institution other than Seattle University. In 2018, the Summer Institute was held at Loyola University Baltimore, and in 2019, it was held at Augsburg University.

The two-and-a-half-day conference was packed with opportunities for learning and networking with local and national leaders and scholars in place-based community engagement. Some highlights included:

  • Welcoming remarks by Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow, and an introduction to Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside with Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of CAIR-MN.
  • Keynote address with Dr. Tania Mitchell, Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Mitchell’s scholarship focuses on service-learning as a critical pedagogy to explore civic identity, social justice, student learning, race and racism, and community practice.
  • “Nothing About Us, Without Us, is For Us,” a panel discussion with Avi Viswanathan of Nexus Community Engagement Institute and Tyler Sit of New City Church, moderated by Rachel Svanoe Moynihan of the Sabo Center.
  • Site visits to community partners in Cedar-Riverside, including Sisterhood Boutique, the Cedar Cultural Center, Brian Coyle Community Center, and Health Commons.
  • Workshops with presenters from participants on topics ranging from community voice, local purchasing and hiring, school-university partnerships, and more!
  • Racial healing discussions and group circles.
  • A wonderful evening reception sponsored by the McKnight Foundation.

The Institute was a rich opportunity for learning and connecting with our colleagues from across the country. Some of the Augsburg team’s takeaways included:

  • The importance of centering community voice. This work takes constant attentiveness and intention.
  • Every institution is in a different place with this work–and that’s ok! There is so much to learn from where different universities and communities are in the partnership building process, and all of the successes and failures they’ve experienced. Learning from our colleagues from across the country has allowed us in the Sabo Center to view our place-based work in Cedar-Riverside with fresh eyes.

Interested in learning more about Augsburg’s place-based community engagement? Visit the Engaging Community page on the Sabo Center website, and contact us to learn more.

Special thanks to the McKnight Foundation for their support.

 

 

 

Sisterhood Boutique to Hold Fashion Show at Augsburg

Sisterhood Boutique is a small thrift store with a big heart.Sisterhood Boutique storefront

Located across the street from the Augsburg University campus, the Sisterhood Boutique stands as a symbol of empowerment for women. Started by young women who lived in Cedar-Riverside, the Sisterhood is described by shoppers as the “hidden gem” of the West Bank neighborhood. Donated clothing and jewelry is sold in a polished retail space, with all sales go towards a leadership program designed to help young women prepare for a career. The program includes various paid internships at the boutique where interns learn the skill sets necessary to run a business and become an entrepreneur. Augsburg students in the Sabo Center’s LEAD Fellows program have also worked at the Sisterhood.

One of the main events at the Sisterhood Boutique is their annual pop up fashion show. It is a collaborative, student-run event. Augsburg students, along with students from the U of M and St. Kate’s come together to coordinate the venue, models, and decorations, and to design the outfits. In the past, all items at the show were donated or altered by a fashion class at St. Kate’s. This year’s fashion show is coming up soon on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019, at the Augsburg University Hoversten Chapel, located in Foss Center. Doors open at 6, and the show begins at 7. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free of charge. Attendees are encouraged to bring along gently used clothing items to donate to the Sisterhood!

Learn more about the event by visiting the Sisterhood’s Facebook event page: Sisterhood Fashion Show