Dr. Michael Wentzel (Chemistry) received a new grant award of nearly $15,000 from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Toxicity Reduction program. In the two-year project, green chemistry will be developed as a unifying theme throughout the chemistry curriculum at Augsburg University. Non-major courses will have a new introduction component to green chemistry emphasized in unique laboratory experiments. The chemistry major curriculum already has a large number of green chemistry principles woven in it, but this work will unify these into a clear message across multiple courses. Finally, a new course on green chemistry and toxicology will serve as a capstone on this theme. Dr. Wentzel will collaborate with multiple faculty in the Chemistry department, as well as undergraduate students, in order to carry out this impactful project.
Council of Independent Colleges funds a project exploring Augsburg’s historic and future saga
Augsburg University has received a two-year grant from the Council of Independent Colleges’ NetVUE program. In the wake of the sesquicentennial celebration last year, the grant will fund an exploration of Augsburg’s historic saga: the faith, academic, and moral commitments that have shaped the identity of the university. Augsburg’s focus will be on whether and how that saga adequately informs and reflects the university’s aspiration to be an anti-racist, inclusive teaching and learning community. The project will engage twelve members of the community—students, faculty, and staff—in a community of learning and practice that will include conversations, workshops, and public presentations that allow for a wider consideration of the unfolding future saga. The group will write essays that will be combined into a published volume that will be required reading on campus as part of Augsburg’s abiding conversations about its role as a university in the 21st century.
NetVUE has invested $40,000 in the program, which will begin February 2021 and run through January 2023.
National Science Foundation Grants $5 Million to Assist High-Achieving STEM Students
(Minneapolis) – A $5 million award from the National Science Foundation will support the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Augsburg University will receive $3,075,000 of the total award.
The collaborative project will provide scholarships as well as internships and research experiences for nearly 200 students over a five-year period starting this academic year at Augsburg, Century College, Minneapolis College, and Normandale Community College. These institutions will work together to provide seamless pathways for transfer from two-year to four-year STEM programs.
“This award offers students a powerful combination of a scholarship coupled with experience to prepare them for the workforce or further graduate study,” said Paul Pribbenow, Augsburg’s president. “As a member of the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, I know there is strong demand for students with these majors. STEM transfer students enrich our campus and bring talent and wisdom that our country needs.”
Scholarships of $7,500 to $10,000 will be awarded to students pursuing majors in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, food science, mathematics, and physics. These students will be connected to internships and research experiences through partner organizations SciTech, UpTurnships, and MnDRIVE, as well as through Augsburg’s undergraduate research programs.
This is the third phase of a program initiated by Augsburg and funded by the NSF. “Getting the NSF scholarship for my education was an amazing opportunity,” said Radhika Tandon, who will graduate from Augsburg this year with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and is currently a site reliability engineer intern at Thomson Reuters. “Because of the program, I was able to attend various conferences and make connections with many interesting people in my field.”
The overall project will be led by Augsburg principal investigator Rebekah Dupont working in collaboration with principal investigators Jessica Bell and Joann Pfeiffer of Century College, Renu Kumar of Minneapolis College, and Angela Foudray of Normandale Community College. The Augsburg team includes co-principal investigators Alex Ajayi, Ryan Haaland, Amy Larson, and Michael Wentzel. Faculty from all four institutions will work together to create structural supports through mentoring, advising, and improved transfer pathways.
In addition to assisting students who are pursuing STEM-related majors, the project includes an education research component led by Keisha Varma, associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education and Human Development and associate vice provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. The goal of the research is to increase the academic success of students through effective mentoring.
“I see great potential to understand how mentorship can improve the outcomes of low-income, high-achieving students and create positive STEM identities,” she said. “Through shared understanding across institutions, we may be able to increase capacity among all of our faculty to be effective mentors.”
Project evaluation will be led by Xueli Wang, professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who brings expertise in longitudinal, mixed methods research that addresses inequities in access to transfer, particularly in STEM fields. The collaborating institutions will partner with the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) for professional development as well as access to a platform for mentor/mentee assessment across multiple sites.
This third phase of the program is funded by the NSF’s S-STEM program under award number 2030638. Grants in the prior phases (award numbers 1565060 and 1154096) funded scholarships for 111 STEM students, 100% of whom graduated and went on to pursue careers or are continuing their education in STEM fields.
Media Contact: Gita Sitaramiah, Director of Public Relations and Internal Communications
Riverside Innovation Hub’s Work With Congregations to Expand With $1 Million Grant
(Minneapolis) – Augsburg University has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help expand the work of the Riverside Innovation Hub within the university’s Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV).
The program is funded through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.
Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations such as the Christensen Center for Vocation as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.
The Christensen Center plays an integral role in stewarding the university’s commitment to, and exploration of vocation, the unique way God calls and equips us—as individuals and as communities—to work towards a better world for and with our neighbors. The Thriving Congregations Initiative grant will enable Augsburg’s CCV to expand and solidify the future of this work with congregations. We will walk with our partners through two consecutive two-year learning communities consisting of leadership teams from twelve congregations. Our hope is to develop an ecumenical network of twenty-four congregations over five years who are becoming more deeply engaged in the proclamation of Christ’s good news in transformative ways in their neighborhoods.
“The Christensen Center for Vocation is creating an innovative model for how a university of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can be a learning partner with local congregations and ministry leaders for the sake of the world,” said Paul Pribbenow, Augsburg’s president. “These partnerships will create exciting learning opportunities for our students, staff, and faculty, who wrestle with what it means to live faithfully in the church and in the world in the midst of the various challenges our communities are facing: COVID-19, growing economic inequality, climate change, and the prevalence of racist systems.”
Augsburg University is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as non-denominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.
“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.
Media Contact: Gita Sitaramiah, Director of Public Relations and Internal Communications. 651-353-0061-cell
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.
Augsburg Receives Two GEER Grants for Equity in Education and Remote Learning Needs
The Education Department (Dr. Audrey Lensmire) and the Information Technology Department (Scott Krajewski) are the recipients of two new grants from the State of Minnesota which total $250,000. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grant awards will address equity in education and technology and remote learning needs among students of color, Indigenous students, and those who are disabled or low-income.
Lensmire’s GEER grant will provide direct aid to teacher candidates who have a need to defray unexpected costs posed by the pandemic during their student teaching semester and coursework. Krajewski’s GEER grant will ensure that students receive the hardware and software required for meeting course learning objectives, and will provide captioning on instructional video recordings in order to make them more accessible.
The grant awards will result in students and faculty being able to weather changes to their plans for learning and teaching a bit more smoothly. We owe thanks to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education for administering the competitive selection process this summer. We also wish to thank Dr. Lauren Causey for her skillful guidance in creating two high quality GEER proposals.
The GEER grant program is a redistribution of federal CARES Act funds.
Dr. Mark Engebretson Receives 30th Grant from National Science Foundation to Study Space Weather
Dr. Mark Engebretson, Professor Emeritus of Physics, has received a five-year grant totaling $805,744 from the National Science Foundation to continue operation of the Magnetometer Array for Cusp and Cleft Studies (MACCS) as well as analyze and disseminate its data. This grant represents the 30th research study on which Dr. Engebretson has served as the Principal Investigator via National Science Foundation funding.
MACCS is an 8-station ground-based array that records and disseminates important magnetic field measurements for scientific analyses. It is the only longitudinally-spaced cusp-latitude array in existence and will continue to provide critical data for studies of geospace phenomena including solar wind-magnetosphere and magnetosphere-ionosphere interactions, geomagnetic storms and substorms, and localized instabilities that produce large geomagnetically induced currents which can cause power grid blackouts on Earth.
Engebretson and his team (Dr. Laura Simms, Dr. Slava Pilipenko, and Dr. Erik Steinmetz) will continue to maintain the MACCS array and conduct detailed observational and theoretical studies using both ground-based and satellite data. The MACCS project has provided research experiences to over 50 students since its installation in 1992. The team’s most recent undergraduate co-author of a refereed paper, Lidiya Ahmed (’20), will begin graduate study in Physics at Harvard University after spending 2020/2021 doing research at work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington, D.C.
The title of the new study is Collaborative Research: Ground-Based Studies of High-Latitude Magnetospheric and Ionospheric Dynamics Using the Magnetometer Array for Cusp and Cleft Studies (MACCS) and the NSF Award number is 2013648. The University of Michigan (PI Dr. Mark Moldwin) is a key partner on the MACCS 9 project, which will span 8/1/2020 – 7/31/2025.
TRIO SSS Wins U.S. Department of Education Grant Competition
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that Augsburg University has been awarded a federal Student Support Services (SSS) five-year grant of $294,722 annually to help more students succeed in and graduate from college. This is the fifth consecutive SSS grant awarded to Augsburg University, which has hosted the project since 2001. Augsburg TRIO SSS serves an annual complement of 160 undergraduate students from admission through graduation, to consistently meet its objectives in good academic standing, persistence and graduation.
TRIO SSS helps college students who are low income, first generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree) or students with disabilities. The comprehensive array of services the grant will provide include academic skill development and tutoring, financial aid advice and financial literacy, academic advising, and other forms of assistance. Such services enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will persist and graduate with the lowest possible debt.
“Augsburg TRIO/SSS has established a reputation for helping students navigate higher education to achieve their academic goals. Students know their TRIO advisor is looking out for their best interests and helps them through the tough decisions of college life. We are thrilled to be able to continue this important work at Augsburg!” said Aly Olson, Director of Augsburg TRIO/SSS since 2001.
The project is funded by U.S. Department of Education (Award Number P042A200305). The grant will fund 70% of the overall project. An additional amount estimated at $125,000 (or about 30% of the overall project) will be contributed annually by Augsburg University to ensure the successful implementation of the Student Support Services program.
For more information visit https://www.augsburg.edu/triosss/.
Dr. John Zobitz awarded NSF grant to study mathematical models of soil carbon cycling
Dr. John Zobitz, Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, has received a new three-year research grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology, to study mathematical models of soil carbon cycling. Dr. Zobitz will collaborate with Dr. Naupaka Zimmerman in the Biology Department at the University of San Francisco.
Together they will lead undergraduates to measure and mathematically model rates of change of soil carbon dioxide in response to environmental and climatic effects (soil microbes, weather, and other physical processes). They will also validate data collected by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON, www.neonscience.org) and other databases in the scientific community. Additionally, they will lead a faculty training cohort in a suite of training and professional development to address the diverse identities of undergraduate students and researchers. The title of the project is “Collaborative Research: Development and Validation of a Continuous Soil Respiration Product at Core Terrestrial NEON Sites.” Dr. Zobitz’s grant award totals $100,427. The grant number for this award is NSF 2017829.
A short video linked here describes the importance of NEON for ecology researchers, and the public.
Dr. Vivian Feng receives grant to continue analytical chemistry research
Dr. Vivian Feng, Associate Professor of Chemistry, has received a new research grant that will allow her to conduct another five years of research in analytical chemistry. She will assess the molecular-level interactions between bacterial species, such as Shewanella oneidensis and Bacillus subtilis, and engineered nanoparticles.
Dr. Feng will lead undergraduate researchers to collect and analyze the resulting measurements. This work is a key component of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN), which recently received a five-year renewal to continue its research, education, and public engagement activities, at a sum of $4M per year. Among the ten other collaborating universities within the center, Augsburg is the only primarily undergraduate institution. Dr. Feng’s grant award totals $400,000.
Read more about the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology here: https://susnano.wisc.edu/ (This is supported by the National Science Foundation under award number CHE-2001611.)
Dr. David Crowe awarded funding to continue mental health research
Dr. David Crowe, Associate Professor of Biology, has received a new subaward from the University of Minnesota, allowing him to continue his research about cortical system dysfunction in psychiatric disease. Dr. Crowe will be responsible for the processing and analysis of data associated with the NeuroPlasticity Research in Support of Mental Health (NeuroPRSMH) center at the University of Minnesota Medical School. NeuroPRSMH received a Silvio O. Conte Center grant valued at $15M from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which will fund Dr. Crowe’s work, totaling $95,000, until spring 2025. The title of the impactful new research study is “Dysfunctional State Representations in Psychosis: From Neurophysiology to Neuroplasticity-based Treatment.” More about the overall project can be found here: https://med.umn.edu/news-