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Augsburg LEAD Fellows Explore Equity and Justice through a Virtual Lens

Augsburg students and staff posing in front of the REM5 studio backdrop.

This year the Leaders for Equity, Action, and Democracy (LEAD) Fellows have been reflecting critically on social issues of justice and equity, and discovering how they can use their own agency to organize and influence change. In the fall of 2021, the students engaged in organizing to raise voter participation and civic education on campus, and connected with Minneapolis City Council members to grow their understanding of community issues and policy. 

This Spring the LEAD Fellows ventured off campus to REM5 Virtual Reality Labs to experience the ways that REM5 and partners at RFTP (Rooftop) are using storytelling through technology in order to create learning experiences and build awareness.

Upon first sight REM5 is a large, warehouse-looking building. As you enter the space you are drawn in by an array of different technology- from big screens to small QR codes that transport you into augmented reality through your phone’s camera- which makes it a very creative space. The group started out by participating in a VR experience using REM5’s headset technology, the experience is titled “Traveling While Black,” and transports participants to different places to better explain what it is like to travel as a Black person in the Jim Crow-era (and beyond) in the US. The experience references the Green book: The Black Traveler’s Guide to Jim Crow America, a publication that referenced safe establishments for Black travelers.

Traveling While Black is an immersive experience that takes participants into well known establishments like the historically popular Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC, sitting them right across the table from people giving accounts of their own travels across the US. Students were able to reflect on what it means to be able to walk into restaurants and shops without fear of discrimination and physical violence, and the fact that the spirit of such discrimination and violence is still very much alive today in many spaces and systems.

A group of students sitting in a circle of chairs, each student is wearing a virtual reality headset.

The VR experience was paired with a live storytelling session with RFTP, a consulting group that creates space for deep reflection through storytelling, active listening and group dialogue. RFTP facilitated discussion about how we view safety in different areas in our lives, and how we all have a responsibility to not only proclaim the spaces we hold and create to be safe, but to intentionally change our environments so that when people enter spaces they actually feel safety, belonging and protection, physically and psychologically. 

“The more you are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes the more you are able to understand and connect with others. This makes other people feel welcomed and understood, makes them feel heard and that makes them feel safe. That is why it is always important to hear what others have to say and listen with an open heart.” – Barbara Sabino Pina (’23)


Students were invited to explore other VR games and activities offered inside the REM5 studio. Below are some of the responses students gave when asked about future topics they would like to see addressed through this platform:

“Success while dealing with trauma, healing from the sociological trauma within BIPOC community, how to cultivate generational wealth with real estate, stocks/bonds, ntfs, etc.” -LEAD Fellow, class of 2023

Hope Kannare (’23) sitting, wearing a virtual reality headset, is engaged in a VR experience.


“Mental health and mental disorders. Understand better the perspective of a person who is differently abled.” -LEAD Fellow, class of 2023

The LEAD Fellows look forward to continued learning and integration of technology to leverage social justice.

Happy Constitution Day ~ September 17

Happy Constitution Day!

Every September we celebrate Constitution Day to learn more about the Constitution of the United States of America and understand its importance in history and our lives today.

“The Constitution acted like a colossal merger, uniting a group of states with different interSeptember 17th Celebrate the Birthday of Our Government Constitution Dayests, laws, and cultures. Under America’s first national government, the Articles of Confederation, the states acted together only for specific purposes. The Constitution united its citizens as members of a whole, vesting the power of the union in the people. Without it, the American Experiment might have ended as quickly as it had begun.”

Did you know that 2021 is the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the national voting age to 18 and banned age discrimination in voting?

This is just one of many issues that are covered in this country’s founding document. Voter discrimination and voting rights are critically important issues in our democracy today, just as they were 50 years ago. To learn more about the 26th Amendment, join the Students Learn Students Vote coalition on Constitution Day — Friday, September 17 — with a virtual celebration of the 26th Amendment hosted by the Center for Youth Political Participation at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.

Constitution Day 2021: Fulfilling the Promise of the 26th Amendment

Friday, September 17, 2021    12:30 PM CT     Register here

Lastly, if you live in Minneapolis, make a plan to vote on November 2.

The League of Women Voters hosted a Mayor Candidate forum on September 13, you can watch a recording of it here. If you need help with registration or figuring out where to vote, contact us at the Sabo Center. You can find out more about what’s on the ballot here.

Bill Ogren Donates to Augsburg Campus Kitchen

Bill loved donating any money he had to SABO and helping with dishwashing, singing and sharing his joy for living. 

He was quite the interesting character so I wanted to share some background on him, especially for any interested students and to expand people’s understanding and appreciation of mental illness. 


Bill, William Kenneth Ogren, was born April 6, 1950 in Washington D.C. to proud parents Marjorie and Ken Ogren. Bill, and his two younger siblings James and Jan grew up in Northern Virginia. His father worked as an agricultural diplomat and the family moved to Paris, France in 1967. Bill graduated from the American School of Paris in 1969. While in France he explored The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and worked a summer at Heathrow airport in London, England. He loved art and became friends with artists and enjoyed showing people around museums. 


Both of Bill’s parents grew up on farms in Minnesota and so he chose Augsburg College to be near his beloved grandmother Emma Ogren. He went to Augsburg College in MPLS from 1969 to 1973. He was so well-spoken and well-liked that family and friends thought he might become a diplomat, like his father, or maybe a curator of a museum or art gallery. 


But in 1972 his life radically changed. It became apparent that he had some kind of illness that changed his brain function. He couldn’t communicate or process information they way he used to. He was homeless for a while and lost contact with family. Nevertheless, Bill managed to come through this time with a focus on being kind, generous, and helpful. He rarely used a phone, no longer drove a car, and never used a computer in his life. But he could wash dishes, set up tables for banquets, and make people happy. He worked at restaurants and hotels, often receiving recognition as Employee of the Month and in 1977, Employee of the Year for the Registry Hotel in MPLS. 

He reconnected with Augsburg College and was active in the campus ministry and the campus kitchen. He delivered meals with a song and enthusiasm. He loved getting to know visiting students and could remember everyone’s name and something significant about them. 

When his mind no longer functioned as it used to, he opened his heart.  

He died peacefully in his sleep on March 10, 2021 just shy of his 71rst birthday.

Campus Kitchen Alumni Highlight

Nell Gerke

Graduated in 2019 – environmental studies major with an urban studies minor


Nell Gerke (2019) holding and speaking into microphone at outdoor food event.

What sparked your interest in Campus Kitchen?

  • I joined Campus Kitchen through the LEAD Fellows Program; I talked with a woman who worked with Campus Kitchen at the time, and she talked about how much she got to work in the community, and I think that’s what really got me interested in it in the first place. I was already pretty interested in food systems, but the whole community aspect really sold me on CK.

What were the biggest challenges you faced working with Campus Kitchen?

  • Finding students to do shifts with me! When there wasn’t a social work class where students needed to fulfill hours or something like that, I didn’t see a lot of people signing up for Campus Kitchen volunteering.

  What were some of the highlights of your time with CK?

  • I can say that usually if I went into a meal shift feeling funky, I usually felt out of the funk after the meal shift, so it was always very healing. I love working in the community garden– that was always a highlight. It felt really good to have that connection with the community, and I had never gardened before. So I learned so much from everyone around me all the time, which was very cool. I loved the garden. I loved hosting the Garden Party food storytelling event too.

Skills you gained?

  • I learned how to build community and relationships.
  • I learned to be pretty scrappy with making food, just because we would always wind up with random stuff, and that would be my dinner. Making something out of what you have around is a great skill- that’s how I still cook my meals.

What are you currently up to and does it connect to CK?

  • I work at a food Coop in Northfield, but I am also running for the Board of Directors, because I want to be more involved in my community and have a larger presence. 

Other things involved you were involved with at Augsburg?

  • I played softball. I was a LEAD fellow. I was an RA briefly.

Campus Kitchen Alumni Spotlight

Many incredible student leaders have worked with Augbsurg’s Campus Kitchen (CK) program over the years. Current CK student leaders Alana Goodson and Chouneng Khang interviewed several CK alumni to learn more about their experiences with the program.


Britta Andress

Britta Andress tosses pizza dough in the food lab.

Majored in sociology, graduated 2019 


What sparked your interest in Campus Kitchen?

(Andress): I was in the LEAD Fellows program.


What were the biggest challenges you faced working with Campus Kitchen?

(Andress): Having to work within our budget was a challenge. We wanted to give the youth at the Brian Coyle Center better quality food but we were not able to afford it. 


 What were some of the highlights of your time with CK?

(Andress): The people, especially everyone on the Campus Kitchen student team working together and not being individualized/separated due to roles or titles.


Takeaways/Skills you gained?

(Andress): CK taught me that even small acts of awareness and change can have lasting impacts.

Giving back to the community is something I learned to really value.


What are you up to now? How does it connect to CK? 

(Andress): Meal prep is definitely something I still use and will always use to this day. So don’t underestimate its value. 


Other things you were involved with at Augsburg?

(Andress): I had a job outside of campus and was also a student research assistant for two of my professor independent research projects. 

Advice for current, future, past CK interns/volunteers?

(Andress): I learned to enjoy the process and not to participate just for the result. A lot of times when people volunteer, they do it to have it on their resume or for class credit. With Campus Kitchen, it’s important to stay in the present and see the impact and change happen over time because making a difference isn’t always a linear process. 


Campus Kitchen Alumni Spotlight: Yasmin

Many incredible student leaders have worked with Augsburg’s Campus Kitchen (CK) program over the years. Current CK student leaders Alana Goodson and Chouneng Khang interviewed several CK alumni to learn more about their experiences with the program. 


Yasmin ‘2015: Biology Major and Religion Minor

Student holding CK sign

What sparked your interest in Campus Kitchen?
  • I wanted to be a part of helping our neighbors in need. 
  • I love what Campus Kitchen stands for! I admire its mission to serve the community that surrounds the campus by making healthy food accessible.
What was your role with CK?
  • My role was to help build sustainability and capacity building. I recruited volunteers, organized events that educated others about food equity and provided ways people could access healthy foods.  
  • I attended food deliveries at sites like Ebenezer Towers and Brian Coyle. 
  • I hosted an event where I invited special speaker LaDonna Redmond, a food justice advocate to discuss issues surrounding food equity. 
  • I helped with fundraising through Give to the Max for Campus Kitchen. 
  • I explored different modalities for volunteers to participate in reflection so that volunteers get a chance to understand the impact of their volunteering. 
  • I worked in the community garden. I coordinated with gardeners about their plots and addressed any issues that they had.  
 What were some of the highlights of your time with CK?
  • I attended the Food Waste & Hunger Summit in Arkansas. I learned about different ways we can combat ending hunger and poverty. It was a fun road trip! At the end of my year of service, I also presented at the 2016 Nonprofit Leadership Conference about my experience with Campus Kitchen and Health Commons. The theme of the conference was courageous engagement across differences which fit perfectly with my experience!
  • I learned leadership, communication, time management, planning & organizing, teamwork, conflict resolution, empathy, adaptability & flexibility, networking, and cultural awareness.
What are you up to now? How does it connect to CK?
  • I’m attending the American University of Antigua School of Medicine. I’m currently in my 3rd year of clinical rotations in New York.  
  • Working with Campus Kitchen solidified my pursuit in working in community health and focusing on serving underrepresented communities. 
Advice for current, future, past CK interns/volunteers?
  • Get to know the community you’re serving by building relationships. Take time to listen to community members’ stories– their stories matter.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any cultural or religious differences when making food and delivering food with the community members. They love having conversations with students. 

Sabo Scholars 2022-2023

Yearlong student seminar exploring civic and public life.

The Sabo Scholar program provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in civic life, study the political process, work on public policy, and explore careers in public service. The cohort meets on Thursday nights for academic seminar and civic engagement project work with the cohort.

Current Augsburg students (any level) who plan to study on campus both fall and spring semester next year and who have an interest in politics, community, and civic life are encouraged to apply. To be enrolled in the Sabo Scholars course you must plan on studying on-campus for the entire school year (i.e. not going abroad or student teaching for part of the year) and be available for the class period on Thursday nights. Any eligible student is welcome to enroll in the course whether they receive the scholarship or not.


  • Unique opportunities to explore civic engagement and politics as a cohort
  • Earn upper-division credit (4 credits) in the Political Science Department
  • Seminar setting that is small and supportive
  • 2500 scholarship (this has been increased from the previous $2000 amount)
  • Opportunities to formally develop civic leadership skills

Apply here to be a member of the 2022/2023 cohort.

Ask your recommenders to fill out this recommendation form.

The Sabo Scholars is one of three public leadership scholars programs at Augsburg. Email Professor Andy Aoki with questions about Sabo Scholars.

Also, please check out the Christensen Scholars and the Interfaith Scholars.

Campus Kitchen receives grant for food security

Grocery bags filled with fresh produce, ready to be delivered to community partners.
Grocery bags filled with fresh produce, ready to be delivered to community partners.

In November, Augsburg was awarded a grant through the Minneapolis Health Department’s COVID‐19 Community Food Security Supports program, for Campus Kitchen in partnership with People’s Center and West Bank CDC!

Campus Kitchen at Augsburg is a food access program that is part of the Sabo Center. The program addresses food access on our campus and in our surrounding neighborhood. We’ve worked with our community partners in Cedar-Riverside since 2003, serving, eating, and growing food with neighbors. In March 2020, the Sabo Center launched the Neighborhood Food Initiative in partnership with M Health Fairview. The Neighborhood Food initiative brings together a variety of community partners to support collaborative approaches that increase access to healthy food in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Our ability to quickly respond to the City of Minneapolis grant opportunity is a great example of how collaborative efforts supported by the Neighborhood Food Initiative can result in positive outcomes for the community.  

Boxes of diapers and other household supplies stacked up in the Sabo Center/Food and supply hub storage.

In response to COVID-19-driven food insecurity, Campus Kitchen has expanded our partnerships with Health Commons, West Bank CDC, and People’s Center. This summer, we began distributing food weekly to the West Bank CDC and People’s Center. We regularly receive feedback from our neighbors and partner organizations that the groceries we provide make a difference for residents’ ability to access high-quality, healthy foods. Over recent months, Augsburg’s food distribution program with West Bank CDC and People’s Center has strengthened and grown. Many households in Cedar-Riverside now see this service as a key piece of meeting their basic food needs.

In order to expand this work, we sought funds to purchase food and personal hygiene and household items, as well as refrigerators and other infrastructure to support this ongoing work. Because our program operates on a small budget, we rely primarily on recovered food items, which limits choice and thus our ability to meet residents’ specific needs. This new funding has enhanced our ability to provide our neighbors with the specific staple foods and other items that they request on a regular basis. New equipment, including shiny new refrigerators and freezers, will allow Campus Kitchen, People’s Center, and West Bank CDC to expand our respective capacities so that we can continue to work together to provide basic food and supplies to our neighbors in the long-term.

Campus Kitchen: Student Experience

Photo of Yamile

My name is Yamile Hernandez, I am a junior pursuing a degree in Finance. I came into Augsburg as a transfer student my sophomore year. I was completely new to campus and to the city, I’m from a small town called Northfield, so it was a bit nerve racking moving to the cities, but I was excited for the change. I wanted to make sure I got involved in programs that allowed me to engage with the community that I now live in. That is exactly what I found and was able to do with Campus Kitchen. 


I started working with Campus Kitchen in fall of 2019. Right off the bat I felt very welcomed by all the staff members, it didn’t take long for me to become comfortable with them. Through Campus Kitchen I was able to engage with other students, staff, and community members. I started off with produce distribution, which was a weekly event where we would set up in Christenson Center with boxes of produce that students and staff could come choose from. I enjoyed this very much. It was always nice to hear about the new recipes folks were going to try, or see their excitement when we had a fruit they had been craving. 


Not only was I able to engage with the Augsburg community but also the community outside of campus. One example is delivering meals to seniors at Ebenezer Tower apartments. We would start off by packaging meals from surplus dining hall food, we would then head over to Ebenezer and go door to door delivering their meals. This would always take me awhile because I loved hearing about the residents and their day or a new story they had to tell me, and I could never miss heading out on the balcony once I reached the 15th floor and just enjoy the view for a second. This is definitely one of the places I miss most. 


Due to covid we had to change and adjust a lot of ways we used to distribute, but our mission and goal to give to the community never changed. We are still able to give groceries to students such as non-perishable goods, produce, hygiene products and more. We no longer get the interaction with students, it is now an order online and delivery system, but it still feels just as good knowing that we are helping in any way possible. These deliveries also go to those in Ebenezer. Although it is very different I still enjoy the work I do, it allows me to get out and move around after sitting on my laptop all day, while still being engaged with the community from a distance.

Student Experience: Campus Kitchen

Photo of Nick with mask on
Nick Keener (2020), Campus Kitchen Student Leadership Team member.
The Campus Cupboard and Food Distribution During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Nick Keener


In late March, when quarantine shut down school and businesses, food sourcing for students and families became more difficult. With our resources and partnerships throughout the Twin Cities, we’ve been able to help provide dozens of families with donated produce from Mill City Farmers Market and Twin Cities Food Justice, as well as surplus essentials and groceries from the Loaves and Fishes warehouse and the North County Food Alliance on a weekly basis for the past few months of quarantine. 

Our outreach starts with our students who remained on campus during quarantine with twice-weekly grocery drop off, then to students and staff living in the Twin Cities with a weekly grocery home delivery, finally out into the community with weekly produce drop-offs and collecting surplus donations, groceries, and self-care products to the neighborhood community center and food shelf, Brian Coyle, as well as The People’s Center Clinic, West Bank CDC, and Health Commons.

We’ve had to adapt and grow how certain elements of our program operate in order to stay safe on all ends. We have been committed to wearing masks, gloves, and sanitizing our hands and surfaces throughout the process. We developed an online ordering system for students on campus to use to request groceries– one we hope to continue using as classes resume and students move back onto campus. Our goal is to make healthy food safely accessible to everyone, be it at our university, in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, or throughout the Twin Cities.  

On a personal level, I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to keep busy and be able to work and help during this confusing and anxiety-inducing time. Thankfully. most of our work takes place outside so we’ve still been able to make connections with new volunteers and community members. In Campus Kitchen, we tend to think of food as a way of bringing people together and connecting with one another. I think this is more important now than ever.


Produce from community partners Loaves & Fishes to be distributed.