Derek: Alright my name is Derek Ruff & this is part of Michael Lansing's History 300 class
(Public History). This is my oral history project is to be kept in the Augsburg College archives.
My interviewee today is Dennis Donovan, faculty member here at Augsburg College. Before
we... Show more
Derek: Alright my name is Derek Ruff & this is part of Michael Lansing's History 300 class
(Public History). This is my oral history project is to be kept in the Augsburg College archives.
My interviewee today is Dennis Donovan, faculty member here at Augsburg College. Before
we start, I'd like to say thank you for agreeing to meet and to be apart of this process.
Dennis: You're welcome but I need to clarify something .... I'm not on the faculty so call me
staff at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship. I'm the national organizer for Public
Achievement & I'm part of the adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota.
Derek: Okay sorry about that.
Dennis: No problem.
Derek: Okay good to clear that up early. So I guess my first question would be what brought
you to Augsburg College?
Dennis: What brought me to Augsburg was our center which at that time was the center for
democracy and citizenship five years ago which was located at the Humphrey School of
Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. So our center moved to Augsburg so being apart
of the center, I moved with the center.
Derek: Okay and what do you feel your role is here at Augsburg? Would you describe it in
Dennis: Well my role is very interesting. So at Augsburg, I work with faculty, students, and
departments to help develop leadership skills with people and also to bring our theory and
practice (our being the center for democracy and citizenship), the theory and practice being
public work into the life of Augsburg College. Another part of my work is to make Augsburg
College known world wide as a democracy college. A college that is preparing students to not
only be strong people, but also citizens. So I'm currently working with the special education
department within the education department and nursing department with a variety of different
faculty to integrate the theory and practice of public work into curriculum.
Derek: And are those the core values of Public Achievement would you say?
Dennis: The core values of Public Achievement would be let's say public work, citizens at the
center, and all the citizens are the co-creators of their environment.
Derek: And from what I know, Public Achievement has gone national. Is that correct?
Dennis: It's local, national, and international.
Derek: Does Augsburg have a role in spreading awareness of Public Achievement?
Dennis: Well more than that even. The special education department has integrated public
achievement into education formation. So all teachers graduating with a special education
degree all have to take a course to learn the habits to organizing, which is at the center of
public work, as well as coach Public Achievement for a whole year at a site working with
students with special needs. So what that is doing is creating a whole new way of thinking in
special education delivery in schools and also a different type of teacher which we call citizen
teacher. So it's spreading but also it's giving an example of how public work integrated in
teacher education can create a different type of teacher.
Derek: So it's kind of bringing in aspects outside of the classroom and introducing it to the
students in a way.
Dennis: Yes. Think about it as democracy building. So if the purpose of public education,
which people have forgotten, is to build democracy and to create citizens, then we are
renewing that purpose.
Derek: Have you seen positive results integrating it?
Dennis: Absolutely. I'm seeing Augsburg students develop something we call civic agency,
which is confidence and the ability to navigate the world as it is. Also young people out in
schools are learning how to be public problem solvers. And teachers in a couple cases
integrate public achievement into their curriculums, which is tremendous because it is part of
changing the culture of a school and making more democratic schools.
Derek: For the students of the schools where this has been practiced, I'm sure you see a
change in motivation more than anything.
Dennis: Yes. I see not only motivation, but a little more self-discipline, confidence, able to
work across differences, and they feel like they're contributing to the world through their work
at creating an action to address an issue that they are concerned about and not what the
teacher's concerned about.
Derek: Would you mind giving an example?
Dennis: Sure. One of my favorites was Nelly Stone Johnson. Last year where we had two
Augsburg special education candidates coaching working with an alum who was a teacher,
and working with a classroom of special needs whose needs were all physical disabilities.
They went through the process of identifying something that they cared about. So all the kids
named things. It ranged from gambling to homelessness to pollution. The pollution one won
out, the boy's father died of lung cancer, and his belief was that it was caused by pollution. So
then they had to break it down, do power analysis, do research, meet people, and learn how
to work as a group and make decisions to be accountable to each other. They were able to
get the custodian to do an air quality check in and outside of the school. They went with him
and found that one part of the school property had a lower air quality than the others and that
was because that was where the buses were parked. So then the kids said this is no good
maybe we can plant trees because we learned in seventh grade science that trees can suck
up the bad stuff. So they went on meeting with the principal and getting the right questions
answered by the principal like where are you gonna get the money for the trees? Who is
gonna work with you? Where do you wanna plant the trees? Who owns the property? Is it the
park or is it the school? And the kids were able to find that all out and were able to get twelve
trees donated. And they weren't little saplings, they were five-hundred dollar trees and they
planted these trees on their school property with the help of Minneapolis Park and Rec. and
Tree Trust which is non profit. So imagine how you would feel if you were a fifth grader and
you were able to accomplish that task. You'd have some hope and confidence and maybe a
different outlook on school.
Derek: I'd feel like a difference maker is what I would feel like.
Dennis: Well and that's what these kids did. And many of them were in wheelchairs. So our
society kinda writes off people with special needs.
Derek: So giving more opportunities to the entire student body: that seems like a major goal.
Dennis: Yeah to change education is kind of the large vision that I've had for many many
years. I was in K-12 for twenty four years, nineteen as a principal and my school was the first
one to do public achievement so we created the model. And I saw what it could do and
changed the culture of my school and wanted to give it a shot to see if it could change other
cultures and have people become powerful agents of change and their own destinies.
Derek: And you said you teach at the University of Minnesota and you have a role here. Do
you implement this at any other colleges or universities?
Dennis: Yes. So most of my work is outside of Augsburg. That's because of how my position
is funded. My position is funded through contracts and grants to expand Public Achievement
and promote Public Achievement. I'm hoping to work more inside Augsburg. But currently the
funds are to work outside. So I work with local institutions like the University of Minnesota,
Minnesota Institute and Technical College, St. Catherine's, Metropolitan State, Concordia (St.
Paul), Century (College), and nationally with Lonestar Community College, St. Anslams in
New Hampshire, Northern Arizona University, University of Baltimore, University of Maryland
Baltimore County, a whole variety of schools in New York like Colgate, Buffalo State, Cornell.
So I've worked with a lot of institutions of higher ed. like Castleton in Vermont and also
internationally in over twenty three countries. And two of our latest countries is bringing in the
culture of universities like Japan that want to create citizens that know how to make change
which is right up Public Achievement's alley. So I get to work with those folks. In Mexico, there
is an institution called Monterey Institute of Technology in Higher Education. Last summer I
did a course for faculty on how to do this type of work.
Derek: Do you see any differences in the way Public Achievement is implemented here than
it is anywhere else?
Dennis: Yes it's always implemented in a way that respects the culture of the people. So for
example, in the Palestinian territories in West Bank in Gaza, they don't call it Public
Achievement, they call it Popular Achievement because public in arabic has some meaning or
connection to government. And the people we work with do not want to be thought of as a
government program. They want it to be of the people. That's one example. Another one
would be in Eastern Europe where teachers (classroom teachers) are the coaches and don't
use college students. It's basically part of the school curriculum. That's the way they want it to
do and how to do it. Basically my job is to help people learn about it and then to support them
and work with them and then they adapt it to their culture and their needs. But the bottom line
is the same that people pick issues that matter to them and they do action to address it and
they develop this whole set of thinking about democracy in new ways and do something
called everyday politics. And there's different levels of depth in success.
Derek: Now many years down the road let's say twenty five thirty years from now what do you
see as the future of this program?
Dennis: I'll probably be six feet under but the future I would hope that it would be embedded
in the life of Augsburg. And Augsburg would be the center where people come and learn and
it would be embedded in other professional programs besides nursing and teacher education.
Students would have an opportunity to learn how to do this type of work so maybe more
courses but I think it would be that my hope is that Augsburg becomes the international leader
in this type of work. So it's taking the idea of service to neighbor and having students be
involved in service or civic engagement and being specific at teaching this type of power
pedagogy. And one might imagine in twenty five years from now the way people think of
special education has changed across the country because of the work that was started here.
Nurses would receive this type of course work all over because of the work that was started at
Augsburg. So nurses would have a sets of skills on her tool belt that would help them be
health care agents of change because many nurses wanna change the health care system
but they don't know how or they're too nice or things like that. That's how I see it.
Derek: You did say it could be implemented in other ways too. Could it be implemented in
terms of business?
Dennis: Yes absolutely.
Derek: Could you give example in that regard?
Dennis: Well think of public work as multi-layers and Public Achievement as way to
operationalize public work. But there are aspects of public work where you don't have to do
Public Achievement. So you can implement the habits of organizing in any profession to
create a citizen professional. So a business person would know how to not only make money
and profit and all that but would also know how to improve a community by working across
differences. That's an example. Right now next week I'm going to Charlotte and I'm gonna be
working with government midlevel city managers, teaching them in a half a day workshop how
to build relationships and to think about things like self-interest and not to do "for" but to do
"with." So often times, people in government positions are responding to needs of people and
thinking they gotta solve their problems all the time instead of convening people and engaging
people with government collectively using resources that people have and knowledge to solve
problems. So that would be another example.
Derek: So Public Achievement could pretty much apply to anyone in any field.
Dennis: Yes Absolutely.
Derek: Do you think Augsburg does a good job of spreading awareness of Public
Achievement to those that aren't really aware of it?
Dennis: Let's say we're just scratching the surface. It's just beginning.
Derek: There's a lot more to come.
Dennis: Oh yes you just stay tuned. There's a lot more to come. The important thing as an
organizer I believe that something has to be developed that people can see, touch, smell, and
taste so that's what I'm focusing in on. I found people in both the nursing department and
special education department that had self-interest that match mine. So I want to change
education. Susan O'Connor wants to change special education. It's a good match don't you
Derek: Yeah match made in heaven.
Dennis So you build relationships. That's part of this work is building a strong foundation. So
Michael Lansing was intrigued by public work and he's a historian and so he wanted to bring
some of these skills into his class. So I worked with him and his class he had last fall and it
was tremendous. And students came out of there learning how to do one to ones and civic
agency was something they were developing and talking about. And they had a better sense
of not only history of organizing strategies, but how to make some change so it was really
cool. So that's an example of a faculty person.
Derek: So you're not a faculty member.
Dennis: Right I'm considered staff.
Derek: You're considered staff but you interact with faculty on a regular basis.
Dennis: All the time.
Derek: What's your opinion of the Augsburg faculty? Through the people you've met.
Dennis: My opinion? The people I've met have been very dedicated to students and very
dedicated to teaching. They are here because of students and they love to teach and engage
with students. That would be my impression. Unlike the University of Minnesota where most
faculty there .... it's not like they don't like students but they are more into research and here
you have a science department with incredible scientists that I never knew anything about
what they're doing my goodness you graduate with a science degree here? You go to the top
universities in the country to continue just because of what's going on and that's because of
the commitment of teachers educating and working with students. Now on the flipside, I think
teachers can learn how to be more public with each other. Do you know what I mean by that?
Derek: Uh ... elaborate.
Dennis: Public means how to hold each other accountable. How to not be victims of
themselves, but how to practice what I've been talking to you about. How do you work across
differences? Not everybody is the same. Don't point your fingers at the administration. If you
have an idea or if there's a problem, then also come up with a solution to the problem. Work
with others to make the place better. Own the mission and vision of the place and engage
with people in ways that go beyond let's say nurturing. So an example would be a lot of
people when the white officers were shooting unarmed African-American men. So what's the
thing people do?
Derek: Well you take interest first of all.
Dennis: Yeah and then what's your action?
Derek: You talk about I would think but you'd also wanna make a difference also and make
sure your opinion is heard.
Dennis: Yeah. But a lot of times people protest so that's like shouting or making noise. So
with Public Achievement it's different you look at how to work with police because if you don't
talk to police, you don't know what they go through and just like in any profession, there are
people that make mistakes and are not good police officers just like there aren't good
teachers. But one of our problems in the country is labeling people: you're white, you're black,
you're a woman, you're a guy, you're transgender. But labels on people means you polarize
people. So one of the things I'm getting at is that this faculty is no different from any faculty
I've worked with. They've never been exposed to some of these ideas that I have been
exposed to in something called Church based community organizing, which changed my life
and helped me learn how to be a public person and how to be a private person and to know
Derek: You said you were Principal?
Derek: Where at may I ask?
Dennis: Well I started my career out after I graduated at the University of Minnesota as a
sixth grade teacher. So I taught at a Catholic school in St. Paul called Maternity Mary which is
located in the Como Dale area and I taught sixth grade for five years and in the sixth year I
became the principal of that school. So I stayed there for three more years. Then I went
probably two miles down the road to a large urban Catholic school called St. Bernard's. So I
was the principal of the pre-8 for sixteen years. Then when I left in 1997, I came to work for
the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, which at that time was located at the Humphrey
School of Public Affairs.
Derek: Now how would you say that whole experience of pre-higher education kind of help
you develop your philosophy as of what you're doing today?
Dennis: Well it gives me an experience and a knowledge that's different than a traditional
path to higher education. I think it feeds my passion because of what I have been involved in
and what I've done and what I've seen and what I wanna do. I've come to learn that higher
education is very important to what I wanna do because of how it impacts young people and
how it develops young people to go into the world and behave, act, create a better world,
complain, or whatever it might be. So I think it's been very helpful.
Derek: There's an old saying I've hear that in order to understand school systems and how
education works you actually have to experience it for yourself.
Dennis: Yeah I believe that in anything. I worked with veterans for three and a half years in a
project we created with our center called Boyer Citizen Campaign, which I worked with the
National Guard, army reserves, politicians, nonprofits, you name it. It's now beyond the
Yellow Ribbon Campaign so not being a veteran, I didn't know much about the culture of
military but I learned by always hanging out with veterans, soaking it all in and did you see
Derek: I haven't seen it yet. I've gotta see it though I hear good things about it.
Dennis: When I saw American Sniper, I could identify because of what I learned from the men
and women I engaged with. That movie is about his reintegration back to his civilian life and
difficulty of reintegrating and why he deployed four times to Iraq and the suffering of the family
when he was gone. So all that stuff I would not have felt or known to the degree that I did had
I not been involved in that particular part. So I think being immersed in different cultures
makes one better. It Creates knowledge and expertise that is helpful in the work that I do.
Derek: So for an education major when they're introduced to culture let's say they're kinda
indifferent about it. Let's say oooh l"m fine with my culture I'm comfortable with it I don't
wanna get out somewhere different. What would you say to that person?
Dennis: Don't be a teacher. I think teachers are so important for the future because they have
these people with them more so than parents in school and not to want to learn themselves is
a mistake. You learn something new everyday. When I say culture, I don't necessarily mean a
person's race. I just mean culture would be the set of rules of an organization or people. So
Augsburg has a culture: there's rules there's ways of operation or people behave certain
ways. That's all part of the culture. So is that what you are referring to?
Dennis: Okay yeah I would say you know you're not going to make that big a difference if you
don't wanna understand culture especially culture with schools and how the schools work.
The politics and school district all that stuff all that plays into teaching. And I hope teachers
want to be change agents. So not only work with improving the lives of young people, but also
communities that they're in.
Derek: Now for let's say more rural areas that aren't know for being very diverse has Public
Achievement been implemented in those areas?
Dennis: Mmm hmm.
Derek: Do you ever struggle with maybe the idea that there isn't a lot of diversity within those
Dennis: No it is what it is and well there is always diversity with age, gender, abilities, all that
kind of stuff.
Derek: Is there a lot of ..... maybe I should've rephrased the question. Is there a lot of diversity
in those schools would you say?
Dennis: No they're pretty much white in rural places but they have to interact sometimes now
more and more with Mexicans and Somalis for example. So what happens if you never saw a
Muslim how do you react to that? So I think part of education, especially in America, is
learning about other people. I never saw a person of color 'till I was in my twenties from a
standpoint of where I grew up.
Derek: What age group do you think Public Achievement implemented? Should it be done
right away starting in kindergarten or should they wait a little bit?
Dennis: I think there are different ways of thinking about it. It really depends on the school and
place. You can bring aspects of Public Achievement into kindergarten, but you want to have
the right teacher and you wanna have the right school support. Basically you wanna start by
having kids realize that there's differences in the classroom and maybe make the rules
together of how we're gonna operate. Maybe have some kids pick what we're gonna learn. So
they start having a voice early on they don't necessarily pick an issue to work on, but I think
there's aspects of Public Achievement that can be brought into any education.
Derek: Just got a few more questions I'd like to bring up. So for an undecided high school
students whose just about to graduate and they're considering Augsburg as a school to go to
and they're think of becoming an education major. Pretty much everything you've said I think
you would sell them on core of those principles.
Dennis: Well I would first like to have coffee with them first to get to know them.
Derek: (Laughing) I should've brought some coffee.
Dennis: I wouldn't try to sell them. I like to get to know people before I give any advice. If
somebody was interested in education I'd want to know why and then if they wanted to be an
educator to help people, I would definitely want to explore what that means. And I think there
needs to be more than help I think there needs to be an empowerment piece where students
feel a sense of ownership and a sense of hopefulness that is often times not there in
education. Again depending on what school you've been in. Every Thursday I go over to
Fairview Augsburg Academy and we have Public Achievement there. Great kids but again
dealing with all kinds of stuff that doesn't always allow them to show up. When you have one
hundred and forty kids and fifty percent are homeless that's a tough one. When you think
about math history and stuff in that setting, how do you get the students to see the value of
education and help them imagine a different life? A life that focuses on their gifts and talents
things like that. So a person that wants to do that I think Augsburg is heading in a direction of
developing these teachers that aren't just good in the classroom, but also good out in the
Derek: Based on what you just said, why do you think most people go into education as a
Dennis: They wanna help people and help kids. Sometimes they don't know anything else.
Their parents were teachers. there are all kinds of reasons. I went into education because I
was always around kids I'm the oldest of seven. I coached sports when I was early in college.
I like performing and I liked my history teacher when I was a sophomore in high school
because he made learning fun and exciting. We laughed we learned and I could relate to that
type of teacher student interaction. So that's kinda why I went into it. It wasn't until I
experienced the classroom, and parents, and family, and the world that I began to imagine a
different way of thinking about education. That has really been my passion.
Derek: Really inspiring passion to be honest.
Dennis: Well thank you.
Derek: It seems like you've done a lot for educators and teachers are continuing to do so.
Dennis: I'm doing the best I can with what we have but the important thing is I love what I do.
And so getting back to that conversation about that person wanting to be a teacher. I have
people telling me they provide a better education for young people than they got. So that
person you want to be a teacher. Or sometimes I had this guy who is currently at Augsburg
and I knew him years ago and he got a degree in political science and he was at a community
college which is where I met him and he was doing Public Achievement in the college which
was part of a health course he was in. He said I think I wanna be a special ed. teacher. I said
why? And he said well I was one of those kids and I wanna make a difference. I say you have
to go to Augsburg. Now why would I say that? Because I know what we're doing in the special
education department I don't know everything going on in the general ed. but I know what's
going on in special ed. So when he said that I told him you've gotta come and he's enrolled.
He's been coaching Public Achievement for two years as a volunteer because it made such
an impact on him when he was in his thirties.
Derek: Good stuff. I don't know I explained earlier I'm an education major so just to hear ways
to get students engaged. School wasn't easy for me as a kid too to kind of hear the results is
really cool stuff.
Dennis: You didn't like school?
Derek: I wouldn't say I didn't like school but it was harder for me than other students.
Dennis: Why is that?
Derek: I'd say I wasn't totally out of it but I was just a little slow gripping on to what was being
Dennis: So teachers need to be more patient with you? Help you along?
Derek: Technically yeah.
Dennis: What do you want to do as a teacher or why do you want to be a teacher?
Derek: I just wanna make sure that every student has an equal opportunity to learn.
Dennis: So you've got to get involved with Public Achievement. Now here's something
seriously too. Mark down March 31st. Write it in your calendar from 4:00 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. My
Colleague Harry Voight who sits here (I'm looking for his book) we're having an event here
featuring Public Achievement at Augsburg in Special Ed. And I want students there I want
students who are going to be teachers. It's democracy education so you need to come.
Derek: Okay March 31st.
Dennis: Write it up in East Commons 4:00 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. I'm sure there'll be people
mentioning it as soon as we get the flyer made.
Derek: One final question. When you leave here let's say when you're done working here at
Augsburg, what do you want your legacy to be? What would you say? If you have one that is.
Dennis: Well that I was able to do what I love to do, was given the opportunity to be creative,
and the space and support to work in a framework that I believe in and that there were people
that I was able to develop to carry on and made some dent into education that provided
opportunities for more students to be hopeful and successful. In 1989-1990 when I was
involved in Church based organizing that's what it is and I had a black Baptist pastor as a
mentor and we would talk and work together. He taught me a lot about African-Americans and
people and I watched him preach and engage with people. Learned a lot and in one meeting
we were having he said you know what you're trying to do is necessary and important (this
was right at the beginning of Public Achievement). He said but you'll never see the results in
your lifetime. So that was very interesting. So I'm not looking for anything. It's an ongoing
piece of work. So if I've had an opportunity to to evolve and help teachers think about their
jobs in different ways so be it.
Derek: Would you say you've made progress on that though so far?
Dennis: Yes I think it's been in different levels and different ways but I think one of the most
exciting for me is the opportunity to work in teacher development here at Augsburg. And
Augsburg is a good size to be able to bring in the ideas of our center to a program that's
already strong and make it better.
Derek: Very good. I guess that's about it.
Dennis: We're good to go?
Derek: We are. I'd just like to extend my best wishes to you and I'll have to circle that date on
Dennis: Well thank you. Well I hope you show up and I hope you bring some people from
Michael Lansing's class.
Derek: I'll have to. Most of them aren't education majors.
Dennis: It's alright anybody can benefit from this.
Dennis: Now do you play football?
Dennis: What position?
Dennis: Fullback. So are you blocking or are you running?
Derek: Most of the time blocking.
Dennis: What high school did you go to?
Dennis: Really? So you guys had a really good team. Didn't you guys win a championship a
couple times or did you win it?
Derek: Uh twice when I was there.
Dennis: You won the state championship? And you were on the team?
Dennis: Well how does that make you feel?
Derek: Well you feel pretty good afterword. Definitely and still playing right now at Augsburg
and enjoying it. Going for that MIAC championship next year.
Dennis: Well I heard you guys are pretty good.
Derek: Little down last year but I think our program is in a good spot right now.
Dennis: So who was the coach at Totino when you were there.
Derek: Jeff Ferguson.
Dennis: Who was the principal?
Derek: We uh don't have a principal or wait yeah we have a principal Julie Michaels. Yeah
Julie Michaels. You don't see the principal too often you maybe see the Dean of students and
that's Jeff Ferguson also.
Dennis: Okay so the football coach is the Dean of students. So he knows how to handle kids.
Derek: Yep good guy to be in charge of that.
Dennis: So how do you do when you play Cretin?
Derek: You know we didn't play Cretin while I was there actually.
Dennis: Now were you there when J.D. Pride was there?
Dennis: J.D. Pride was a student of mine at the university when he was a freshman.
Derek: Really? Very cool.
Dennis: Nice guy we had a good time.
Derek: Yeah he ended up transferring though.
Dennis: Yeah I don't know where he went. He came back to the U I saw him I don't think he's
playing football but I saw him. He left but then he came back I saw him .... where the heck did I
see him? I saw him at a coffee shop. I work with a lot of student athletes and a lot of them are
in my class. It's just the way it has worked over the years so if you want African Americans in
your class at the U, you gotta get football players. And these guys are good guys they
sometimes are in big lecture halls and they sit in the back but in my classes they're engaged
and I love having them in there. So J.D. was one so I do visits with students at the Purple
Onion. I don't know have you ever been over there in Dinkytown?
Derek: Hear of it yeah.
Dennis: Yeah that's where I saw him. I saw him last year I think. Yeah J.D. Pride. Yeah he
was in my class. And that class was a big class that one year I had eleven football players.
Derek: So you're used to kinda mingling with them definitely.
Dennis: Oh yes. Yeah I told them I have seven in my class this semester and spring practice
has started today I think. And I said well boys, I'll be over! So I like to go over there and it's
really quite interesting. I betcha I've had a third of the team in my class. Like everything I'm
saying here I try to still do in my class. And I really enjoy teaching so it's cool. The guys
they're good guys. Like I said I wanna make the experience as real as possible. So we get
some good conversations and I have all different kinds of students in the classroom. Some
Republicans, Liberals, I have a Marxist in there this year and different cultures, Some Eastern
African people, football players, from all over the country, urban areas, and then rural people.
It's just a lot of fun when we start talking about stuff.
Derek: It was fun talking to you also.
Dennis: Well thank you. So you're a junior or sophomore?
Dennis: Okay you're a junior then so you went to Totino. Where did you go to grade school?
Derek: Chippewa Middle School I don't know if you've heard of it.
Dennis: I know where that is. Mounds View right?
Derek: Yeah that school district. And then I decided public school wasn't for me so thought I'd
try private high school.
Dennis: What do your parents do?
Derek: My dad owns his own business an abstracting company and then my mom works as a
Dennis: Mom is a banker?
Derek: Lake Elmo Bank.
Dennis: Alright. So do you live out there in Fridley?
Derek: No Shoreview.
Dennis: Shoreview okay. So how'd you like Totino?
Derek: Great school. I loved it there. Part of the reason I came into education was because
they knew I struggled in school and I got good teachers that really helped me out got me
Dennis: So how are they working with you here? Are you taking advantage of the help in like
CLASS and things like that?
Derek: I would hope so. Yeah definitely.
Dennis: Yeah you're taking advantage of that because it's one of the best in the country.
Derek: Yeah I mean I'm they're not going to be around all the time so get their input and
advice while you can.
Dennis: Are you going into secondary or what do you want to teach?
Derek: Secondary social studies is kinda the goal for me.
Dennis: Well you have to learn some more of what we talked about because you can make a
difference in your classroom because a lot of the curriculum will be just helping the kids learn
about the government or you could help them learn about how to be the government and hold
the government accountable and not just wait for somebody to fix it but I think that'd be great.
So what are some instructors in the education department that teach classes you're involved
Derek: Rachel Lloyd I don't know if you know her, I asked if she knew you and she didn't so,
Dennis: I've heard of him I know who he is but I don't have relation with him.
Derek: Joe Erickson?
Dennis: I know Joe.
Derek: I've had Joe for three semesters.
Dennis: Yeah I know all the special ed. and I know Audrey Lensmire.
Derek: I've had Audrey.
Dennis: And then do you know Greg Krueger?
Derek: Uh no.
Dennis: I think you should visit him sometime. He teaches kindergarten but before he retires,
go visit with him. And he's retiring this year he taught kindergarten for like thirty years in
Minneapolis at Marcy and I just got to know him last year and he's somebody that you need to
pick his brain about why did you go into teaching? Why are you involved in preparing
teachers? What's some advice for me? And tell him that school is hard and you had to take
your time and people helped you out. Just say what is your advice for me as a teacher. Greg
Dennis: And when you do the things like that it's kinda what I teach is how to help students
meet people, and learn from them, and build relationships that down the road you can call on
these relationships when you're in the classroom or whatever. Well good luck hopefully this
was helpful to your project in the class.
Derek: Very much so. Michael's gonna be real happy.
Interview with Mary Laurel True
Interviewed on 3/16/2015
Augsburg College Oral History
Project Interviewed by Bethany Brown
MT – Mary Laurel True
BB – Bethany Brown
BB: Hello, my name is Bethany Brown, I’m here with Mary Laurel True
at the Sabo Center, at 624 21st Avenue Sou... Show more
Interview with Mary Laurel True
Interviewed on 3/16/2015
Augsburg College Oral History
Project Interviewed by Bethany Brown
MT – Mary Laurel True
BB – Bethany Brown
BB: Hello, my name is Bethany Brown, I’m here with Mary Laurel True
at the Sabo Center, at 624 21st Avenue South. [Um] Mary works
here...has worked here for about 20 years–
MT: –Five, twenty five.
BB: Twenty five years [um] and I will be interviewing her today. [Um] the
date is March [MT whispers date] sixteenth, 2015, and the time is 12:07.
[Um] so my first question is, where did you grow up?
MT: I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, in [ah] Central Mass, from
the time I was six until I was eightteen, when I came to the Twin Cities to
go to St Catherine’s University.
BB: Oh, I also went there!
MT: Oh, you did, ok!
BB: Ah, what years did you go to St Kates?
MT: I went there from ‘77 to 1981.
BB: And what did you study while you were there?
MT: I studied [um] Spanish and Communications, and [um] I actually was
a student [um] in Cuernavaca through Augsburg College, through the
Center for Global Education. And I, and I studied Spanish in Sevilla,
BB: So your trip to Mexico was through St Kates, or through Augsburg?
MT: It was an Augsburg trip, but through St Kates, so [false start] it was
the very first year of the Augsburg Center for Global Education–
MT: –in which students could [um], you know, they could get credit
through their own institution, but it came, [uh] it was an Augsburg
BB: So is it kind of like [um] I don’t remember if the status of those two
schools were kind of the way they are now these days–the Associated
MT: Yes, mm-hmm, right.
BB: Okay! That’s awesome!
BB: [Um] So, in your...tell me about your trip to Mexico, in ‘79.
MT: Sure. Well, I [um], [false start] I thought about this a lot because it
had a huge impact on the rest of my life, and what happened was I, you
know, I was interested in Spanish and I saw this table in the, you know,
you think these tables are not that important and, and like, we have them
in Christensen, and someone was advertising for a trip to Mexico. And it
just so happened to be Augsburg, I didn’t really know much about
Ausgburg at all, signed up for the trip, and I was with [um] sixteen other
students from around the country, mainly Augsburg students. But [um]
[false start], so we loaded up, Augsburg had a van, and all of us got in the
BB: You drove down?
MT: –and we drove down with the director of the program Joel Mugge,
who [um] was a professor here at Ausgburg who started the program, and
his wife and their 2-year-old–
BB: Oh, wow.
MT: –and [um] we spent the whole semester there, and it was a crazy
semester because it was, you know, 1978, it was [um]...there was a lot
going on in Latin America, but it was an-it was a life changing
experience, it was incredibly good and [um] that program’s still in
existence here at Augsburg, it’s gotten really well known, and [um] I still
know a lot of the people that were on my trip, and [um], it-it was just–and
I learned a lot about Augsburg, I learned about its commitment to
experiential education, which I’m involved with now [um], and I learned
how much students knew about the whole workings of the college, which
I–the students at Augs- [corrects herself] at St Kates really didn’t know,
you know, they didn’t know the president, they didn’t know the director
of financial aid, and all the Augsburg students knew everyone at the
college, and-and I learned about all the other cool things students got to
do for credit, you know, it was just, it was am-amazing, so [um] [false
start]...When I came back from Mexico, I spent a lot of time on the
Augsburg campus, and [um] on the West Bank, ‘cause I was really
interested in social justice issues, and the West Bank is much [um] more
robust for issues going on than [false start] the area around St Kates, and
so...so I got to know [um] like the North Country Co-op was here, [um] I
lived with some friends in a house, a lot of the houses were [um], are no
longer–ALL of them are no longer here, and including– these are the last
two [referring to Sabo Center and the former Center for Counseling and
Health Promotion] that are going to come down in a couple months, so
BB: So was that, with-with the North Contry Co-op [false start] were
these houses, these two houses, in that vicinity?
MT: Yeah, well the Co-op was right where [um] the Library is, well
actually OGC [Oren Gateway Center] is on the corner of 22nd, yeah it
started there, and [um] it was the first location of the Co-op, that’s the
mother of all the other co-ops in the Twin Cities, too, North Country. And
[um] so it was on the Augsburg campus for years, we owned the building,
and so people, a lot of students would got there and it was really great to
be here in the [uh] late seventies or early eighties.
BB: Why did they decide to tear that building down, or any of the other
buildings? I mean, just to expand the college?
MT: All the houses, yeah, a lot of the houses were in disrepair because
students could live in them, like you could, it was like Anderson, that’s
why they modeled Anderson the way it is now, in town house model,
because students, like 8 or 15 students would say, let’s get a house and
they’d get a house and they‘d have the greatest parties and trash the
houses [laughing] so I went to great parties here, even though I was a St
Kate’s student. And [um] so I got to know the Seward neighborhood too,
and around that time the Seward Co-op was coming, and I worked there,
and then I actually had a boyfriend from Augsburg so there was a house
right out [false start] it was called the Chi House, a lot of guys, all the
guys, crazy guys lived there [laughing] and so they, they had like stolen
the pictures from the, the pictures that are now in the [um] I think they’re
in the Marshall Room, but we [stutter] all the Augsburg presidents in the
frames, th-they stole like some of those and put them up in this room, they
had this rubber couch up there, and it was just like, [BB laughing]
insanity. Throwing garbage out the second story window into the
dumpsters, I mean it was fun times around here, and then eventually each
one of those houses was just in so much disre[stutter] disrepair, it couldn’t
be fixed, and little by little they came down, but that was sad, yeah. It’s
funny too, because there was a house called the Jane Addams house,
BB: That sounds familiar.
MT: Yeah, it was on the corner down over here [points out north-facing
window to behind the house] and [um] Jane Addams, you know, is the
President Pribbenow’s [um], the pers-you know, the focus of his
dissertation, a lot of his work is on Jane Addams, it’s [uh] kind of ironic
that that house existed and now it doesn’t. But, anyway.
BB: That sounds like you had a lot of fun here.
MT: I did. And I had a lot of fun in all the West Bank bars, too, because
there was so much good music mainly, you know, it wasn’t the drinking, it
was more the–and there was a little bar right here [um] if you go to
Jimmy Johns and take a left going toward downtown, there was a little bar
called Cullough’s, and there was a woman named Ma Cullough who
owned it, and all the Augsburg students knew here, and she was like their
mother, and they loved her. Ma Cullough, yeah. And it was–
BB: Did you guys call her that?
MT: Yeah, they did! Everyone did! And, and people played pool and it
was a three-two joint so [um], but people use to crawl home from
Cullough’s, you know, it was so close to campus, but it had like old
wainscoting, it was a really cool bar, and that was torn down probably in
the mid-80s, maybe, yeah. And then Willie Murphy, the great [um] jazz
and blues musician, you know, who started with Bonnie Raitt years ago,
he-he was on her first album, he lived next door to Cullough’s, in this
really entang-it had all this-it was like the woods, practically. Right next
door. So, there were a lot of characters, you know, a lot of counter culture
and West Bank hippies and, and still some-a lot of those, I mean some of
those people exist but it was, yeah, so.
BB: It seems like it’s definitely...not died down...a little bit from where–
BB: But, you know, it’s–maybe those people have gotten older and things
have, like, simmered down? Or…and plus a lot of the...
MT: Yeah, you can still seem ‘em in Palmers and [um] [BB assents]
mainly Palmers is the one you can still see–
BB: Like the one haven that’s leftover?
MT: The Nomad, but not as much. And then 400 closed, and the Viking
was the best, though.
BB: Yeah, that’s been closed for a while.
MT: Uh-huh. Actually it was an Augsburg student who’s parents owned
that, ‘cause I was doing a Aug-Sem tour one time, of the neighborhood,
and I was talking about the Viking, and how I was there on the night it
closed and everything, and one of the students piped up and she said “My
parents own that bar,” and I knew her parents, too, from going to the
Liquor Pigs there on Friday nights.
BB: That sounds like fun, I wish I was alive at that point.
MT: Yeah, I know!
BB: And of age!
MT: Yeah right, right
BB: That would have been wonderful.
BB: So, after you graduated in ‘81, [um] how did you kind of make the
transition to getting involved in Augsburg’s [um] like their [um] service
learning program? Or was that something that already existed ‘cause it
sounded like it was with your Mexico trip. So how did you become
involved in that?
MT: Well [um], actually when I, in the late 70s, early 80s the internship in
cooperative education program existed, under the direction of Gary
Hesser, [um] the great socialogist, who is also just retired [um], so when I
left [um] St Catherine’s, ‘cause I was still a St Kates student even though
I’d taken a lot of classes here, [um] I, in fact, I took a course with Don
Gustafson, the historian here, and on India, it was an interim course and it
was so great, so when I came back years later it was just funny to see him
and talk with him again. And he just retired! But anyway, [um] so I left St
Kates and I immediately went to the Minnesota Cuban Refugee
Committee, in ‘81, and [um] that was in West St Paul, and it was at the
time that Cuban refugees were coming, the-the Mar-they called them
Marielitos in the Mariel boat lift in the early 80s, and [um] one of my
professors was on the board, and he said “This would be a good job for
you,” and so it was crazy because I was translating for [um] you know
new Cuban arrivals in, like, [false start] Immigration, in the courts, people
having babies. I didn’t-I didn’t have a car, I lived in uptown at the time,
and I took the bus, it took an hour and a half to get to West St Paul. And
then I worked in the basement of this, this church [um] and then I did that
for several years. And then [um] I left, in ‘83 and went back to
Massachusetts. And I, and I at the time didn’t think I was coming back to
Minnesota, I thought I was going home. [Um] so I went back to
Massachusetts and I stayed there for 6 years, and I got married, and I had
a baby, and my husband, who’s now my ex-husband, decided to go,
wanted to go to chiropractic school. And there were only about 10 schools
in the country, one of them was here in Minnesota. And he was a
midwesterner too, and he said, “Let’s go to Minnesota!” and I said
“Great!” You know, and it seemed like it was a lifetime ago that I had
been here in Minnesota, ‘cause it was, it was six years, but it seemed like
it was forever, ‘cause I had a whole life in between. You know, and when
you’re twenty, ah, three years old, it is part, you know, thirty, you know
it’s like a huge part of your life.
BB: It is.
MT: Yeah. So anyway, so we landed back here in 1989, and I saw this
[uh], so my husband was in chiropractic school, I had a two and a half
month old baby, and we had no money, of course. Still don’t, but anyway
[laughing] [false start] We didn’t have, so, it was like, well, Mary you
have to work, you know, because of course. So I was looking for a job
and [um] I just happened to open the newspaper one day, I feel like it’s
divine intervention, ‘cause I opened the newspaper, and it said Augsburg
College, and I was like “I love Augsburg!” you know, I had such fond
memories. I was living in way South Minneapolis [um] down by 49th
and Bryant. And, yeah, because we had to be close to Bloomington,
that’s where the chiropractic school was. So, it was January of 1990, and
I saw this job, and it said, “coordinator of community service learning”
and I said, what in the world is service learning? I’d never heard the
term, it was a new term at that time, and [um] and it said, you know, the
skills, it was, in the mean time, I forgot to say that I went to graduate
school in Mas-in Conneticut. So when I was in Massachusetts I-I went
and got an MSW [um] in community organizing when I came back and I
had worked at U-Mass Medical School [uh] with medical [um] with
residents trying to get them involved with the community. So, it really
was service learning, I didn’t know the term then, but the idea was get
[um] these future doctors to understand the homeless community, ‘cause
that was around the time when [um] homelessness was becoming more
and more prevalent because of, you know, federal laws about-and federal
housing decisions. And so there are all these people in the streets and all
these homeless shelters are being developed. And so U-Mass students
[uh] that were medical residence, I was setting up [um] clinics in the
shelters. And so, they were getting involved, so I was working part time
for the medical school and part time for the shelters, kind of getting the,
making this [uh] opportunity available for students. And so when I got
here, and I saw this position, I didn’t know what service learning was,
but I did know that, the kind of things they were asking for, I had done,
you know. And I was excited about Augsburg I was excited that [um]
you know that it was here in the West Bank and so I applied, and [um] I
didn’t hear, I don’t think I-I don’t know if I got a rejection letter, but I
didn’t hear, and so I thought, well, [sigh], I was sad, and then one night,
at like 10:30 at night, Gary Hesser calls me up, and he says, “Hey can
you come in for an interview tomorrow?” [BB laughing] And I said,
“Sure! Yeah, I’d love to!” And so, [um] I-I came in the next day, and I
guess what had happened is the person they had wanted to hire, had a
PhD and you know, and she ended up going to the education department,
she’s no longer here, but to be in the education department and then the
position was open again. And so, like, people that were, like, Nancy
Gibauld, the director of counseling and health promotion was on my
hiring committee, Pastor Dave Wold, who just retired, was on the
committee, [um] who else was, Gary of course was on that committee.
There were two students that started the Link, the student community
service organization, and that doesn’t exist anymore, [um] it hopefully
will be revived again but, so, [um] so there’s a big huge team of people
and they liked I think what they liked was they liked that I’d been at
Ausgburg, you know, connected with Augsburg [BB assents] and-and
anyone who goes through that CGE program is-is going to know a lot
about justice issues and, and really be savvy about what Augsburg up to,
so that and then, the MSW was important, I had done the community
organizing and this position was a lot about community organizing. So
anyway, that’s [um] I was hired and the rest is history as they say, yeah,
so [um]...So that was January of 1990 and I’ve been here since then. So
that’s–if I–that’s about 25 years.
BB: January is when you got hired here?
MT: Mm-hm, January 22nd, I think it was.
BB: Could you describe community service learning a little bit–
BB: –in general what that looks like?
MT: Mm-hm, sure, so…
BB: That’s probably a very large term to kind of cover [laughing]
MT: It is! That’s true. No, it’s really, it is. So, in the mid 80s, I think I’m
correct in saying this, the term came into being because people had done
a lot of work, and especially Augsburg was already good at experiential
education. So this idea of learning from experience, you know, of
engaging, and then reflecting on [um] being engaged in the world. And
so, you know, we had a pretty sophisticated system of, already, of co-op
ed, which involves work related to what you’re interested in. That term
isn’t used as much anymore, and then internships because of Gary and
Lois Olson was a really important person too, she just retired, she was
here for over 25 years [um] doing internships. And [um] so, the idea that
you could integrate these mini-experiential components, or that–it
wouldn’t have to be many–but in courses, in course-embedded service
learning. So, the idea is that [um] my task was to work with faculty to
figure out what they were teaching, and then help them do something
related to that, that has to do with the community. And what I-what my
task was to find out, first of all, figure out what was going on here at
Augsburg already, there was a strong student movement, they were
working a lot with, actually with Our Savior’s Shelter, and with [um]
some other groups here in the neighborhood, and then figure out what
was going on in the community, and kind-bring those two things
together. And then bring them together through courses and faculty, not
[um] [false start] students doing things outside of the classroom. And so,
that was [um] my task, and because Gary was here and he was [false
start] also really connected with the National Society for Experiential
Education, which was the national organization that was really [um]
knowledgeable about this field, and kind of cutting edge around the
country, what people were doing, and Gary was connected with a lot of
faculty and a lot of the gurus in the field. Very quickly we were able to
jump on board with service learning nationally, and [um] we had some
of the first conferences in Minnesota related to service learning, we had
some really good faculty that started doing th–well Gary was one of
them, and then Norm Ferguson in Psychology, Cass Dalglish in English,
[um] let’s see who were some of the early pioneers…
BB: Was it mostly people in the humanities that kind of started doing it?
MT: Mm-hm, and Social Work, uh-huh, but quickly we got other [false
start]–Bob Stacke in music, we got a lot of good people involved, and
[um], and then...so then I–but I was involved with student group the
Link, I was involved with [um] the faculty, and then I kind of, being a
community organizer, I got involved in all kinds of things related to the
college, you know, and the community, ‘cause I really had to get
engaged, and at that time, the Somali community wasn’t here, you know,
w–the Somali community’s so prevalent–but it was really an immigrant
neighborhood, but it was mainly [um] [false start]–the Vietnamese and
East Asian community, and [um] of course the Native American
community was here at the time, we were working with the Native
American community, with the Latino community, and [um] worked
always with the Brian Coyle Community Center, they’ve been our
partner for actually over a hundred years…
BB: Where is that community center located?
MT: It’s, it’s here in Cedar Riverside, and it’s [um] you go on Riverside
and then it continues into 4th St, [um] which is [uh] where Mixed Blood
is, and then you turn the corner, it’s right there, on the right hand side.
And so, it actually at the time it wasn’t even–that building hadn’t been
built, it was called the Currie Center, and it was part of Pillsbury United
Communities, and Pill House was the first settlement house here in the
Twin Cities, and that was here in Cedar Riverside, and so it was [um] it
was–I don’t know when it was changed to Currie House, but it was
changed to Brian Coyle and named after a [um] city councilor, who
actually died of AIDS, and [um] was really well-loved by this
community, and so they named that neighborhood center after him. And
so, we were working with Our Savior’s Shelter, ‘cause it had-we had-it
had the Lutheran connection, [um] and it’s located in Phillips on Chicago
and 22nd, we were working [um] always with Trinity Congregation,
because they’re right here on 20th and Riverside, and actually Trinity
brought Augsburg College to Minneapolis, over a hundred and...twenty
five maybe, thirty years ago?
MT: [Uh] Yeah, and so, we worked a lot with Trinity, and [um], I should
look up the list of all the places we were, but we worked with pretty
much anyone we-who wanted to work with us in the neighborhood, and
slowly developed these deep long-lasting relationships. We started City
Service Day, so we started working with neighborhood organizations
around that, and [um], started the Halloween Safe Block, in the early
90s, and a lot of these things got started and still are part of what we do
BB: So, [um] just even listening to how you even talk about Augsburg’s
relationship to the community back then, it seems like it was pretty
strong, would you say? Even before you started working here?
MT: It was...it was getting stronger, you know, when I was here in the
late 70s, [um] there were a lot of, [um] you know, organizers because of
the Riverside Plaza and the urban redevelopment, that idea, and a lot of
counter culture hippies and people who were frustrated with the way
things were going in this neighborhood, and that the city was, you know,
[false start] kind of trying to take over, and redo things and tear a lot of
housing down, and build–that, that Riverside Plaza was supposed to be
five times the size it is right now. And so there were a lot of activists that
were trying to make change, and they were really frustrated with
Augsburg because of all of the dilapidated housing we owned. And
because [um] we were taking [false starte] more–we kept taking more
houses or buying them, and then taking over, and then students trashing
them, and being really rowdy in the neighborhood and then saying we
were a slum lord and stuff like that. So there was a lot of that going on.
BB: Sounds like a lot of tension.
MT: Yeah, it was, it did feel like tension, but I’m sure, you know, Gary
lived, always lived in Seward, and so he was working on a lot of good
community things at the time. And so were other people. [Um] but it...I
think it’s, as Gary–there’s a great chapter in a book [um] called Standing On
the Shoulders of Giants that you could probably see if you want to–[um]
that Gary wrote about Augsburg’s history of experiential education, which
really started in the 60s [um]. I mean it...it...it really ramped up I should say
in the 60s, but that started, most of that work is done on the North side of
Minneapolis, and that’s really interesting history, in and of itself. But in this
neighborhood, I would say, there were good internships and things going
on, with internships and co-op ed, but [um] it started getting better, I would
say, in the mid-80s and then after that I feel like it just keeps getting deeper
and better, so.
BB: Do you feel like [um] like the, er I mean, there’s one side which is the
college’s view of the-the community around it, and then there’s the
community’s view of the college. Do you feel like at this point there’s
mutual positivity or [false start] is it, you know, is it well balanced?
MT: That’s a really good question, yeah. It depends on who you ask, you
know, I think. Like, I mean some examples I could give of the ways that,
you know, I really feel like we have this...I, I like to think of it as a, this
really long standing, reciprocal [false start], you know, grassroots and
committed way that we’re involved in the neighborhood. One example is
just, you know last year when the [um], that building burnt down on
January 1st, and three people died, and the mosque was damaged, Dar AlHijrah Mosque, which is one of the most important mosques in the
BB: And that’s right next to Palmer’s, right?
MT: Mm-hm. [Um] We rent the space in the basement of Trinity that was
the old Saint Martin’s Table, and so the mosque has its offices there. We just
said, we wanna share with you, ‘cause, you know, you’ve suffered this loss
and you need space in the neighborhood. So, there’s that. There’s [um] we
have the after-school [false start] tutoring program at Trinity, that is a
majority of the students there are students along with the U students but
[um] so kids in the neighborhood are tutored there everyday. The Midnimo
project at the Cedar, which is this great project of bringing back Somali
music from all around the world to-to people here in the neighborhood who
live here. The work [um] going on at Coyle, we helped to start the
Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf, which is the new thrift store.
BB: I saw that across the street.
MT: Yeah, yeah, it’s great, yeah, so.
BB: I haven’t been in there yet, I’ve been meaning to.
MT: Uh-huh, yeah, it’s fantastic. In fact, I have a car full of stuff for that
right now [laughing] literally I can’t even practically see out the windows,
‘cause a friend of mine just unloaded a bunch of stuff. But, for instance,
with that, just to give one example, you know, the MBA students wrote
the business plan to get that building, I mean to get that business going.
The [um] we have a full–we have an intern over there who’s a Great
Lakes intern who started a thrift store in St Paul when she was 16, and she
business management major, Stella Richardson, she’s over there working,
we have an alum who’s [false start] the business manager for the
Sisterhood now, [um] Yasmin Shadidi [unsure spelling], she’s fantastic.
[False start] You know, I helped, and the president helped, to find that
building and get that building for the Sisterhood, [um] from Faith in the
City this tour we were doing and the President initiated this and a lot of
the Lutheran leaders and it just so happened that the CEO of Fairview
was on the tour. And I said, “I need a building for the Sisterhood,” ‘cause
it was in the African Development Center down, down here, and it was
tiny, and [um] and so a couple days later the CEO of Fairview called the
President, President Pribbenow, and said “You can have that building”.
MT: Yeah, I know! So I mean it’s just all these ways that we..you know,
and then Steve Peacock, who’s the Director of Community Relations here
has done a lot of amazing work with the [um] like the West Bank
Business Association, the West Bank Community Coalition, the President
is the–President Pribbenow–is the chair of the [uh] Cedar Riverside
Partnership. I mean, it’s just, we’re just, you know, like, in deep. And,
and, I think because there are people that have been here for, you know, a
quarter of a century, you know, like me, and Gary, who really, and other
people, who, and we have the Campus Kitchen, too, that [um] the
Campus Kitchen serves a meal at Coyle 4 days a week in the evenings.
BB: Is that all volunteer based? Like, the way its run?
MT: Mm-hm, yeah, it’s all of our food in the cafeteria that doesn’t get
MT: Yeah, and Allyson Green, who’s office is right over here, is the
director of that. And [um] so we serve at least twelve hundred meals a
month, from food that would have gotten dumped from the cafeteria.
BB:That’s really awesome. Like, not just, I mean on so many levels.
Because, you know, you’re being resourceful, you’re not letting things
go to waste, so you’re preventing food waste, you’re helping people that
maybe would otherwise not have any food, and you’re building
relationships with those people.
MT: Yeah. So we serve at Peace House over on Franklin near the Electric
Fetus [um], we serve at Ebenezer Towers, which is [false start] for
seniors and they didn’t have any congregate dining, they never had a
meal together, all those, and you know, they’re isolated seniors, until
Friday nights now, [um] a meal’s served every week, and our students are
there [um]. So, [false start] that’s, I think, that’s been a great
contribution, ‘cause also Alysson’s job [um] as the director of Campus
Kitchen is to be in charge of this [false start] community garden. That
was started [um] with 80 plots, and thats for the neighborhood, and
there’s a lot of neighborhood gardeners, there’s not [false start] a lot of
green space in this neighborhood, and so [um] we have that, and we have
a gleaning project through the Campus Kitchen that [um] students save
38 thousand pounds of produce that would have gone from [um]
Farmer’s Markets, gotten dumped, that they brought to food shelves and
other places. So, yeah, no it’s incredible [um] this [false start]...I mean
I’m just always amazed and I’m not surprised but I’m amazed at the
work that gets done through this place, you know? The Health
BB: [Um] my next question is gonna kind of examine how you would do
something like this elsewhere, ‘cause specifically I’m thinking about
your time at St Kates, and [um] what you think it be like to try and
establish this kind of a system between a college and its community and
whether you think that it is viable at another school. Like, you know, I
look at St Kates and I’m like, it’s not as diverse of a community, so
maybe there’s not as much of a need there but, for other schools, do you
feel like you guys serve as a model [um], and do you think that, you
know, setting up this kind of a relationship with your community is
MT: Mm-hm. Actually, I have to say, St Kates came on to the scene a lot
later than we did. But they are doing amazing work with–under the
direction of Martha Malinski [um]. They have...I think it’s interesting
how different [false start] how similar in our approaches we are, I mean
we’re doing similar kinds of things, but [um] they have a very
sophisticated system, they’re [um] as far as how they work with partners
and things like that, I would say. [Um] [false start] It’s less grassroots and
it’s less neighborhood based, ‘cause that neighborhood, like you said, but
they–each institution takes on this work in different ways. [Um] And I
think St Kates is one of the best, I have to say. Yeah, so [um]...but, but
[false start] you know, it is different, and they don’t, they’re not based in
a neighborhood like we are and I think that has a lot to do with how we
do our work, because also it’s such an immigrant neighborhood. You
know, some schools are able to work with more [um] organizations that
are very [um] established and have volunteer coordinators, and have all
the, you know, everything in place. And in our neighborhood, we’re
dealing much more with [um] building, or you know [uh], working with
organizations to build their organization and don’t have all this, you
know, capacity with all these fancy volunteer coordinators and places that
have, you know. And so, we’re doing things much more directly, I think,
like, I’d say [um] you know, like we’re on committees to organize [false
start] Women’s Night Out at the Neighborhood Center, I’m on that
committee, I mean and I’m not saying other people don’t do that, but I
think it takes on the flavor of Augsburg, which is very informal and very
grassroots and, and I love that about this place. And then other places are
very sophisticated, and there are websites, and there, you know, how they
do things, and that’s another way to do things that is good but–
BB: It’s a different strength?
MT: Yeah, it’s a different strength, and-and so–but I do think we have–what
we have to offer is a, also, is a whole institution that gets around this. Some
people have offices that do that, you know specific offices that that’s their
job. Because of the-because of President Pribennow’s interests and because
of his attention to community [false start] we do it at all levels, I would say,
you know what I mean, every–and we have–someone did a report, actually
Doctor Andy Furco over at the U who’s a guru in this field, he had his
graduate students do this whole huge project on analyzing different offices
of community engagement around [false start] the Twin Cities, and the
students came up with, in the end, Augsburg lets a thousand flowers bloom,
that whole idea, it’s like we’re all over the place, we have a million
different things going on, and sometimes that’s good and sometimes it isn’t,
but you, I think, because we allow–like for instance, first we brought
the Urban Debate League here, we brought the Center for Democracy
and Citizenship here, that does this, you know [false start] related but
other work, we brought, well, the Center for Global Ed. We have so
many different layers, and it’s the continuum and also the breadth and
the depth of this work is what’s I think really powerful. So [false start]
from the time students get here, to do SOAR, they’re grouped by
neighborhoods, you know? And so they get to know a neighborhood in
the city, and that’s how their [false start] their group is [um] the
identity of that group is a neighborhood. Then they do City Service
Day, the first day they get here, you know, and they’re involved with
the city and we say, this is how we, you know, this is how we do
education, as engaged with our city and our neighborhood. Then they
hopefully do Engaging Minneapolis, as part of their Aug-Sem, and and
they do [false start] hopefully a service-learning course [um], you
know, if a faculty member chooses. That’s part of, for me, that’s one of
the issues is that faculty and departments are able to choose whether
they’re going to have a service learning course or not, and I’m not
saying it should be mandatory, but I’m saying we should have more
courses with service learning components. And how to get that done is
the question. But [um] then students can, you know, do a really [false
start] an internship, a lot of times a paid internship a lot of times, which
is not that easy to find in a lot of places. They can do the Bonner
Program, and get involved in the community, and get paid their work
study dollars off-campus. Hopefully, they take advantage of HECUA,
the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs, which actually
started at Augsburg was one of the founding colleges, really important
[uh] experiential program based here in the Twin Cities, but it’s all
over the world. And then if they go through Center for Global Ed, then
they really got the whole deal, you know what I mean? And I think one
of the things we need to do more of is help students understand the
continuum, and that all these things are available, they’re all available,
but a lot of times, they don’t see them–and it’s hard to tell a student,
“Kay, these are all the kinds of experiences you can have.” But I think
it adds up to this–and then there’s the Augsburg Experience and the
Engaging Minneapolis part of the curriculum. And those happen in a
variety of different ways. But anyway, I think, I call it the Augsburg
Advantage because I see, you know, if you come in here as a first year
student, and you’re awake to all the possibilities, and you’re...and you
take them, it’s just this incredible [um] experiential-plus-goodacademic-rigor and the combination is just like...and also being in such
a diverse community as a student, not only on campus but off campus
right here. [Um] So, and that’s why I stay here, ‘cause I love this place,
and I see each year us getting more engaged, and you know, I think it’s
the coll–really,I think it’s the college of the 21st century, because of
the focus on diversity, the focus on experiential, the focus on, [um]
you know, working with students of color, [um] and really having to
change because of [false start] how society is changing, like being
forced to in many different ways. And it’s not easy, and we’re
learning. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m saying we’re in the thick of it.
But I think a lot of colleges are going to have to get to this point, at
BB: You can’t be in a bubble anymore.
BB: You have to actually engage with their communities on some
MT: And you can go to–away to a place like St Olaf or Gustavus and
be in your little world and probably learn a lot but I don’t think you’re
probably ready for 21st [laughing] for the diversity of the world and
what it’s going to ask of you if you live in–especially if you live in an
urban environment. And most people will end up in urban places, so.
BB: So what do you think are some of the difficulties that you’ve
encountered in you’re 25 years here?
MT: Yeah, [um] I would say [false start] the biggest difficulty, and
continues to be, is, and I had this discussion with Tim–Professor Tim
Pippert in sociology this week, and I said, “Tim, what can I do,” and
I’m continuously trying to figure this out, “what can I do to get faculty
more engaged in this work?” And students, but mostly faculty. He
said, “Mary, what they need, you can’t give them,” and I said, “Wow,
what’s that?” “Time.” Time! They don’t have time to…[false start] and
this takes a lot of time, even with my support, [false start] and it’s a
different way of teaching, so, you know, we were, most of us, were
taught in a manner where the teacher stands up at the front of the room
and you know imparts some wisdom, right?
BB: Stand and deliver.
MT: Yeah, yeah, right exactly. And, so once the students are engaged
in the community, they’re learning from a different place, you know,
and it is an adjustment, but our faculty are very open to, I think, new
methods of teaching, and so forth. But it’s more about...they don’t
[um] it takes time to figure these things out, it takes time to integrate
into your course, [um] they’re on a million different committees,
they’re learning to teach to different populations that they didn’t, you
know, there’s a whole myriad of [um] learning styles and students
whose first language wasn’t English growing up, all kinds of things
that make it harder to teach, I think. And they’re asked [false start]
their asked to do a lot outside the classroom. And so they’re also
learning how to do hybrid courses, which is whole new…yeah, so
that’s the hardest thing is that–students have the same issue. Students
are working 20, 40 hours a week to be able to go to college. They
have, so they have jobs, they have [um] lives, you know, outside–it
used to be, I think, at least when I was in school, I didn’t do much
besides go to school and then you know go home–
BB: Go home and study.
MT: –or party and hang out, you know? Like, it was like this whole
kind of experience of, it’s a [false start] four years of separation, from
the real world. That’s not true anymore. And [um] sometimes you
think, oh yeah right, they say “I’m busy,” you know? And then they
say, “Well, let’s get together,” and the open, students open their
calendar, and I’ll say, I’ll look through, you know, I mean they’ll just
say “Well, I have this, and then I have this,” and a lot of our students
are also either in music, which takes up three, four days a week, or
their in sports. A lot of–we have a lot of athletes, you know, and that
takes up every day of the week, especially in season. And those
seasons last three or four months. So, they have internships, they
have...I mean, it’s...well, you know ‘cause you’re a student, but it’s
like, this is amazing! So, that’s why I think the course-embedded is so
important. And it’s hard on students in some ways, because then they,
you know, they have to fit it in, but it’s in lieu of something else. And
I always tell the faculty, you can’t just plop this extra component on, it
has to be in lieu of some other huge project, that students are involved
in the community. But…
BB: ‘Cause you don’t want to add more to what they’re already
expected to do.
MT: Right, right, but you wanna add something that’s what would say
that that component is life-giving, it’s [um] it’s...it enlivens the
material, the classroom, it gets students out into the community,
understanding what’s going on in the world–a lot of our students
know, I mean are already part of the community. Like, I’m sure your
life is like that. But some people’s lives, you know, and plus, if you’re
going to study education, well, be involved with education. If you’re
going to social work, if you’re going to study business, get involved
with the non-profit world around us. We have some of the most
interesting entrepreneurial businesses anywhere in Minnesota right
here in the neighborhood, you know. If you’re gonna be involved with
science, get–So, that’s what [um]...that’s why I think it’s important to
do and so do a lot of other people, make learning relevant. [BB
assents] Right? And plus the way the world is and the way [uh] and
how much our communities need us to understand what’s going on,
we can’t afford just to sit in classrooms all the…[laughing] I don’t
think! You know what I mean, just to sit around. And, okay, so,
anyway, this project that you’re doing is experiential. Like, you could
talk about in class how to do this. It would be very different than
actually what we’re doing in this very moment, you know, so. It
doesn’t always have to be, I would say, it’s not always about service,
although this is a service to the college, and maybe to someone in the
future, too, so.
BB: I would say so. And you have, I feel like, you have a lot to offer
to people who want to learn about this, so.
BB: [Um] My last question [um] it’s kind of twofold: [um] what do
you see in the future for Augsburg and this community, and where do
you see yourself in five to ten years?
MT: Oh, good question. Well, I see Augsburg being more and more
[um] part of the community, I mean as far as that we can’t exist
without this community and this community can’t exist without us.
You know, that we’re just [false start] inextricable, that’s the right
word! And that [um] we find…my hope and my dream is that we find
more and more ways to engage with each other. Not in the idea that
we have something...that we have something to give each other, that
it’s not about, you know, like, we have all the knowledge here, and
we’re gonna tell you or help you. It’s more about, how are we going to
be together. Like, this [false start] Midnimo project at the Cedar
Culture Center is a good example. [Um] I don’t know if you’ve
encountered it much, but the Cedar got this grant to bring Somali
music to the neighborhood because [false start] after the Civil War in
‘91 the musicians scattered all over the world, they didn’t have their
instruments, the bands broke up, [um] you know, and here in
Minnesota we’ve only had, you know, at weddings and things, some
Somali music where people are listening to tapes or lip synching or
doing. And so the idea was get these musicians from all over the
world. And so the Cedar’s done that, and they needed a higher ed
partner in order to make it happen. And they also needed to do
residencies with musicians in classrooms. And so, also Bob Stacke,
from the musc–the jazz band director for years, who just retired–
BB: Oh, he just retired?
MT: Yeah! Developed a band that understood the music and now is
the backup band for all these people coming that don’t have any
bands. They can–they have wonderful singers and maybe some
drummers and musicians but, so there’s this put together and
transcribed all the music [um] from tapes, you know, ‘cause there’s no
music, written music.
BB: That sounds very difficult!
MT: I know! [false starts] It’s going–some of our alums are doing it
too. It’s just amazing, and so, now we’ve contributed a ton back with
the community, and the students have learned about Somali music. So,
[um] so and as far as my own future, [um] in ten years hopefully I’ll
be retired [laughing]. No, I won’t be retired, but I’ll be redirected, I’ll
say no, redirected into, you know, and in the mean time, I’m not, I’m
not sure. Each year, I think, is this what I want to be doing, you know?
And it is, you know. I make this conscious decision, I don’t think, oh I
should just hang out here. You know, I say, am I valuable here? Am I
useful? And is this [false start] you know, is this good for my life?
And so far, that’s what...what [um]–and having this new Sisterhood of
the Traveling–’cause I’m a thrift fanatic, this has been a great addition
to my life. And I think college, life of the college and students, and
also the Cedar is [false start] I think my favorite cultural organization
in the Twin Cities. And so those two things have really revved it up for
me this year and last year. But [um] there’s always something coming
BB: Yeah it sounds like it.
MT: –Yeah, my next project for the summer is working with [um] the
business department with Professor Marc McIntosh on [um] figuring
out how business can get more involved with the [um] local [uh]
businesses and doing financial management and stuff with people near.
So, always a new project.
BB: That sounds, like, really exciting, like everything’s always moving
forward, everything’s always growing. And it’s always for the most
MT: Yeah, and consistent. And I have to say that I think, you know,
Paul Pribbenow’s been a huge gift to this community and to this
college, in his vision of where we’re going. and what we’re up to.
[Um] And when I really think about all the different steps we’ve taken,
it’s like he’s had a hand in almost every one of them. And, so, anyway,
I [um]...so I love this place, it’s been, you know, one of the greatest
joys of my entire life, is to have been here and to still be here and to be
able to be a part of this, because I think this place is on fire in the best
BB: Well, thank you for your time Mary, [um] thank you for allowing
me to conduct this interview, and hopefully we will hear a lot more
MT: Okay, great! Thank you!