Remembering JFK

As the country remembers the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death, we share the stories of two Concordia alumni connected to this historic event.

Clint Hill ’54 is a former Secret Service agent who was in the motorcade in Dallas on that day.

John Tunheim ’75 chaired the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.

Read and view their stories

Concordia alumni John Tunheim and Clint Hill


Sustainability Takes Centerstage in Concordia’s “Urinetown” Production

For cast members in Concordia’s production of “Urinetown,” it’s impossible to not think about sustainability and water consumption issues.
“The show gives a very poignant, clear, and thought-provoking message that if we as a society don’t do something to change our over-consuming ways, this humorous, yet tragic world portrayed in ‘Urinetown’ is inevitably our not-so-distant future,” says assistant director Hannah Wehlage ’14, Lakeville, Minn.
In the musical, a 20-year drought brings the end of private restrooms and the rise of Urine Good Company. Fueled by greed, UGC forces people to pay to use toilets. Failure to pay lands full-bladdered souls into the arms of the police force and the depths of the feared Urinetown.
A dark comedy, its themes are serious.
This is one reason Concordia Theatre and the theatre honor society are raising funds for River Keepers of Fargo after each performance. River Keepers is an organization that works to preserve the local Red River.
Tonight (Nov. 21) there also will be a panel discussion led by campus sustainability leaders and director Dr. Jennifer Thomas. They will explore how the show’s themes connect to modern society. The discussion begins after the 8 p.m. performance.
“‘Urinetown’ reminds us that our actions have consequences not only on those around us but also on the world that sustains us,” Thomas says. “Perhaps we won’t be as unfortunate. Or, like the people of ‘Urinetown,’ we will end up coughing, gasping and searching for the river much too late.”

Concordia Percussion Ensemble to Perform at National Event

Concordia musicians will be in the international spotlight this week, as the Concordia Percussion Ensemble performs at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention.
The ensemble, directed by Dr. David P. Eyler, will present the “New Literature for Percussion Ensemble” at PASIC, which is held in Indianapolis.
This is the first time the percussion ensemble has been invited to perform at the international convention and the first opportunity most Concordia students have had to experience this event.
“Being selected is a remarkable achievement for the percussion program. Professor David Eyler has established a program with a truly national reputation,” says Dr. John Roberts, chair of the music department.
The purpose of Concordia’s presentation is to showcase new percussion ensemble music available. Eyler and the Concordia musicians selected literature representing original works and arrangements for young ensembles and challenging compositions for advanced university groups.
PASIC has been an annual event for more than 40 years, providing educational and performance opportunities to thousands of percussionists from all around the world. Last year more than 6,000 percussion enthusiasts attended the convention.

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Others

Concordia students and children from a Soweto orphanage

Volunteering at a Lutheran AIDS ministry in Soweto, South Africa, gave a group of Concordia students a personal view into global challenges.

The 23 students participated in a religion, sociology and global studies summer school led by Dr. Nick Ellig, Dr. Elna Solvang and Dr. Jan Pranger.

“Our goal was to introduce our students to a multiracial, multiethnic society,” says Pranger. “South Africa is a microcosm of the social, economic and environmental issues that our global community faces today. We gained personal experiences from people directly affected by racism, poverty and injustice.”

Students spent mornings in class, then met with local experts or did volunteer work in the afternoons.

Pranger’s class focused on the religious response to the struggle against apartheid, the process of reconciliation and the building of a democratic post-apartheid state that is racked by economic inequality and the world’s highest infection rate of HIV and AIDS.

“South African churches that led the movement against apartheid are now in the middle of the AIDS fight,” Pranger says.

“The spread of HIV/AIDS is one of the legacies of apartheid, and churches realize they must practice a theology of compassion instead of retribution,” he says.

At a Soweto orphanage for children of AIDS victims, one group of students led activities at an after-school program that included cooking, tutoring and playing with children of various ages, while another group accompanied healthcare workers on home visits.

“Our time together gave us a glimpse into the struggles and joys of their everyday lives,” says Rebecca Asheim ’15, West Fargo, N.D., about the school children she met. “We learned so much more from them than we were able to teach them.”

Those experiences brought global issues to a personal level.

“By being with people nearly their own age, our students began to see the world through the eyes of others,” Pranger says. “Our hope is that our students will discover passions and talents that will have them continue to help others in less fortunate situations.”

Ogre Achiever: Shrek Makeup Time-lapse

Heather Hurner ’14, Moorhead, Minn., is a Psychology major with vast interests, including theatre. This summer, she played an integral role in putting together Shrek the Musical at Trollwood Performing Arts School.

What exactly do you do at Trollwood?
I am the hair and makeup designer for the main stage musical, Shrek, and in June, I taught a stage makeup class.

How long have you been involved in Trollwood?
This is my 8th summer involved with Trollwood, but it’s my third summer working there. I also designed hair and makeup for Legally Blonde (2012) and Music Man (2013).

How much work did you put into this musical?
Any hair that’s seen during the music is synthetic. No one’s real hair is ever showing. There are over 80 wigs in the show, specialty makeup, and prosthetic pieces, so there’s a lot going on! I also got to put together the Pinocchio nose, which grows on stage.

What was your favorite part of designing for Shrek?
I liked the fantasy aspect, because that was something totally new for me. In Legally Blonde and Music Man, there weren’t those fantasy creatures and that opportunity to be so artistic and creative.

How long does it take to get Shrek prepared each night?
It averages about 2 hours for the prosthetic application and makeup application.

Have you ever been involved with theatre at Concordia?
Yes. I was on costume run crew and hair and makeup crew for both Grease and Into the Woods.

What have you taken from this experience?
I’ve learned a lot of new techniques, like the prosthetic application. I’ve also learned how to manage such a large show, and how to make sure it runs smoothly.

Is this something you’d like to pursue after you graduate?
It’s a thought I’ve toyed around with – it’s not something I’ve entirely ruled out. At this current moment, Trollwood is a good way for me to be involved in something that I love in the summer, and still be able to focus on my academics during the school year.

Manning Co-authors Research on Mars’ Atmosphere

Dr. Heidi Manning, professor of physics, is the co-author of an article on Mars that ran in a recent edition of Science magazine. manning

Printed in the July 19 issue of the journal, the article discloses the first measurements of the composition of the Mars atmosphere made by the instruments on NASA’s Curiosity rover.

“It’s an honor to be among the first scientists to disseminate what we’ve learned about Mars,” says Manning, who is one of 10 authors on the article. “The fact that the most prestigious and desirable scientific journal chose to publish our data just emphasizes the noteworthiness of our results.”

The analysis of data sent back by Curiosity provides clues to how Mars lost its original atmosphere, which Manning and her colleagues believe was much thicker than the one left on Mars today, Manning says.

Curiosity’s suite of Sample Analysis on Mars instruments, the rover’s cornerstone lab, measures the presence of different gases and isotopes in samples of Martian air.

Measurements showed that heavy isotopes of carbon and oxygen were more abundant in today’s thin atmosphere compared with the proportions in the raw materials that formed the planet.

“The data shows atmosphere was lost to space and not reacting to the ground, where we found the heavier isotopes,” Manning says.

She has spent six months analyzing data with the NASA Curiosity team and the designers of the Rover’s instruments. The work coincided with a sabbatical leave from Concordia, which enabled her to travel to labs in Maryland and California to work with the teams.

Manning expects her analytical work will diminish when she returns to teaching full time this academic year, but she plans to resume working with the NASA teams next summer.

“I feel so fortunate for being able to participate in these experiments,” she says. “All the equipment is working well and we’re getting great results. The data coming back to us is telling us far more than we ever knew about Mars.”

Concordia Professor Follows Arizona Firefighter Tragedy

Scott Olsen spent summer 2012 studying fires. Big fires. Fires that call for smokejumpers, air tankers and hotshot crews. And while Olsen, a Concordia English professor and author, is fascinated by the fire and the path it takes, he’s more fascinated with the people whose lives revolve around those fires and the stories that run with them.

This summer he’d moved on to hurricanes. He’d written the collection of stories about the people who fought those western wildfires. Finished it, so he thought. He’d been waiting for a call from the Hurricane Hunters to get his chance to fly with them during the duration of a storm. And then the tragedy near Yarnell, Ariz., happened. Nineteen firefighters were killed by a fire that changed directions with the wind. Olsen changed directions then, too. This was too big to say his original work was complete. He got in his Jeep and headed to Arizona.

Read The Forum’s article on Olsen in Arizona.
Read Olsen’s piece in The Huffington Post on one firefighter’s narrow escape.


Alumna’s Love of Food Turns Competitive

A former triple major at Concordia, Sonya (Nelson) Goergen ’99 knows how to balance time. Today, she’s juggling ingredients in the kitchen as well. Despite lacking professional culinary training, she’s cooked her way to the semifinals of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, one of the world’s greatest cooking contests.

Read our Q-and-A session to get a taste of the passion behind her award-winning mini Italian shepherd’s pies.

Q. How did you get into competitive cooking?

A. My sisters and I have been competitively cooking against each other since 2001 (both are Cobber grads). When our dad was diagnosed with cancer, we would get together on Sundays to fatten him up after he had lost a lot of weight due to chemo treatments. Our brother once told me that my sister made a recipe better than mine. So we started family “festivals” to outdo each other.

I entered a cooking contest in 2007 on a whim after watching a TV show and thinking, “I could do that.” Since then, it’s been a good hobby because my family has to eat anyway. We might as well make it interesting. Sometimes things turn out weird and then we have something to talk about. My siblings get sick of me talking about food, but everyone I know likes to be a judge. My husband, kids and siblings are the most honest critics. Everyone else is too nice.

Q. Where did the inspiration for mini Italian shepherd’s pies come from?

A. I have been entering the Pillsbury Bake-off Contest since 2008. Around the time of submissions, I get a little crazy thinking about how I could put any ingredient in Pillsbury pie crust or dough or unique ways to use Pillsbury products. My family gets sick of hearing about the Bake-Off. I even made lemon chicken with lemon frosting. Unbelievable, but it was good.

I was eating dinner with my family and was eyeing my daughter’s meatball, thinking about what crust it would fit into. I tried it a few different ways, including stuffing it into a crescent roll and then thought that if I put something on top of it, it would taste good. I experimented a bit, submitted it both with a meatball and ground beef and Pillsbury picked the mini Italian shepherd’s pies. They’re easy and awesome. I entered eight recipes in this round of the contest.

Q. What do you love about cooking/baking?

Sonya with Guy Fieri in the Food Network Kitchen

A. Cooking is how I relax. I like cooking because you really can’t mess up (you just add something else) and it gives me an outlet for creativity.

Entering cooking contests has been a great hobby because I have been invited to places I would likely have never visited such as South Pittsburg, Tenn. If you’re ever in the area, check out the National Cornbread Cook-Off. It’s a great festival and a beautiful part of the country! I’ve met a number of famous chefs, learned some new techniques, won a large number of products and cash, and have met some great friends who are as obsessed with food as I am.

Q. As a semifinalist, what would winning the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest mean to you?

A. Of course, I would love to win the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Who wouldn’t want to win a million dollars? But just getting to “the” Bake-Off has been a goal of mine for five years. It’s the greatest cooking contest that exists. Participating in the contest will also allow me to meet up with cooking friends I have met over the years at cooking contests all over the U.S. and to cook alongside the Doughboy. How fun!

I think the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is also a measure of credibility as a recipe writer. I didn’t go to culinary school, but I have some “chops.” I can taste things and recreate them and I have unique ideas.

Goergen lives in Moorhead with her husband, Troy, and two children, Olivia, 5, and Gabriel, 2.

Vote for Sonya and her Mini Italian Shepherd’s Pie

Mini Italian Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Concordia College Global Service: Learning in Santorini

Concordia students are taking to the dogs this summer on a Greek island – and learning from the experience.

The goal is for students to live responsible engagement by “owning” one of the pressing social issues in their host community on Santorini, says Dr. Peter Schultz, associate professor of art and program director of Concordia’s Summer School in Santorini.

This mutually beneficial experience for students and the community is a new service-learning project offered during the program. Students earn credits while gaining useful insights into local community values.

On Santorini, the issue is unwanted stray dogs and the challenges faced by the local shelter. The Santorini Animal Welfare Association cares for the dogs and strives to find owners for them, in spite of sometimes negative perceptions of stray dogs from townspeople, who view them as a nuisance.

Students are working with shelter staff to create a fundraising plan, develop a multimedia awareness campaign, and publicize favorable views of neglected dogs.

“We want to raise awareness in our host community and help promote the idea that strays can, in fact, make great pets,” says Schultz. “We’re also trying to come to a better understanding of how tourism impacts Greek society and how the ‘dog problem’ may be seen differently by tourists and local residents.”

All of the Concordia students in the Santorini summer program have participated in a massive “dog walk” one day on the beach and bought new leashes for 38 lucky dogs.

Charles Tirey ’13, Rapid City, S.D., and Alison Kessler ’14, Arden Hills, Minn., are two of the students working on the pilot program to generate public support for the dog shelter.

It’s been an eye-opening experience for them, and they are impressed by the passion and dedication of the shelter staff.

“The shelter is only able to function due to concerns by tourists for the animals,” says Kessler. “We see numerous feral cats and dogs hanging around restaurants, hotels and markets. I see a moral responsibility to help these innocent animals by advocating for sterilization and better treatment.”

Tirey says the active role he’s playing on Santorini has given him a sense of personal responsibility for the community he lives in, and the need for people to be involved in how a community functions.

“We clean, feed, walk and administer medicine at the shelter every day, and teach the dogs to behave on leashes,” says Tirey. “While working here is a fun experience, it is also heartbreaking to know the brutal reality many of these unwanted animals face.”