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'Fall Symposium Day: Transformation' set for Oct. 11

Symposium Days include invited speakers, alumni, advising sessions and opportunities to practice the liberal arts and be involved with the community. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend sessions throughout the day.

This year's fall Symposium Day theme is Transformation.

Transformation manifests in all shapes and forms — from the mutation of genes, to the twists and turns of a person's life and career, to the broadest social and political revolutions. Can a person — or an organization or college or culture — truly change? What is the difference between deep and needed transformations and the many novelties that too often distract us? How do we transform our world, our communities and ourselves? What small transformations can have sizable contributions? How can big transformations result in smaller-scale effects? What transformative experiences can help each of us grow in mind, body and spirit?


(Click a session name for the detailed description.)

Advising sessions: 9-9:45 a.m.

Students meet with their academic advisors in assigned rooms. Continental breakfasts will be set up in eight academic buildings nearby. Please bring your own beverage. See schedule.

Session I: 10-11 a.m.

Featured session: 

Concurrent sessions:

Session II: 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Featured session:

Concurrent sessions:

Drop-in session: 12-4 p.m.

Session III: 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Featured session: 

Concurrent sessions:

Session IV: 2 p.m. (various ending times)

Featured session:

Concurrent sessions:

Session I: 10 a.m.

Lauren Kaeseberg

Transforming Justice: The Long Road to Righting Wrongful Convictions

Augie Reads Featured Presentation
The Gerber Center for Student Life, Gävle rooms

Presenter: Lauren Kaeseberg, co-director, Illinois Innocence Project

Description: The 2023-24 Augie Reads book, "Just Mercy," tells the story of Bryan Stevenson’s work with those trapped in America’s sometimes unjust justice system, including those such as Walter McMillian who are wrongly condemned.

Lauren Kaeseberg — like Stevenson — found her vocation after being inspired by the work of attorneys who freed innocent men from death row. Having felt this deep calling to justice work, she changed career paths to go to law school in 2004. Ever since, she has been working to bring justice to the wrongfully convicted.

Having helped achieve two dozen exonerations and releases of innocent men and women, and after fighting for hundreds of clients, Kaeseberg has seen the highs and lows of the American legal system. She will share her perspective on the transformation of the system through new understandings of forensic science, as well as the transformation in society accepting the fact that wrongful convictions occur more frequently than previously thought.

Additionally, Kaeseberg will share her experience learning from her clients and how important it is to give voice to and empower impacted and incarcerated individuals and their families.

About the presenter: Lauren Kaeseberg is co-director of the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield, a pro bono legal organization that works to free innocent men and women from Illinois prisons and seeks to prevent wrongful convictions through policy work and education. Based in Chicago, Kaeseberg oversees the legal staff and works on legislation and statewide policy reform. She has extensive expertise working on cases involving DNA and forensic sciences. Her work has helped obtain the exoneration or release of 25 innocent clients. 

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Concurrent session: The Transformative Power of Students on the Political Scene

Wilson Center

Presenters: Allie Anderson, political science; Chloe Baxter, political science and MJMC; and Julia Gromm, philosophy

Description: College students and other young people can not only participate in, but also help shape American politics. Two presentations in this panel will focus on (1) the Federalist Society, which started as a group of conservative law students and transformed into one of the most influential legal groups on the modern conservative legal movement and national politics as a whole; and (2) media literacy, which — when integrated into traditional civic education — would transform how we process the media, empower students to identify biased media, and engage with differing viewpoints, transforming participation in American politics.

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Concurrent session: Help Transform our Campus and Community! Public Health Focus Groups

Lindberg Center, second floor

Presenters: Rebecca Arnold, public health, and students from PUBH 350: Health Behavior and Promotion

Description: Public health has the power to transform individuals, communities and societies. Students in PUBH350: Health Behavior and Promotion are crafting health promotion projects that aim to transform health and well-being on Augustana’s campus and in our surrounding community. When you participate in one of seven focus group discussions facilitated by PUBH350 students, you’ll have an opportunity to share your thoughts on health topics, and the relevance and feasibility of proposed solutions.

Please come to the second floor of the Lindberg Center; from there, you will be directed to the focus group in which you choose to participate: (1) student access to health care on campus, (2) college men's mental health, (3) access to food resources on campus, (4) mental health stigma among college students, (5) teen pregnancy prevention, (6) iIncreasing awareness for disability-inclusive post-secondary institutions, and (7) campus sexual assault awareness and resources.

Some of the projects proposed in the past in this class have actually been implemented on campus! This speaks to the transformative power of public health students to imagine a different scenario, gather evidence and communicate their solution in a compelling way.

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Concurrent session: Using Psychedelic Drugs to Treat Mental Health Disorders

Hanson 334

Presenters: Shara Stough and Austin Williamson, psychology and neuroscience

Description: Traditional treatments such as psychotherapy and psychiatric medications are helpful for many individuals with mental health difficulties. However, many other people do not derive as much help as they need from those interventions. Recently, psychedelic drugs, such as ketamine, psilocybin and MDMA have been shown to improve symptoms of disorders including anxiety disorders, major depression, substance use disorders and PTSD. Psychedelic treatments hold the potential to transform the lives of people struggling with their mental health; they also come with some unique risks and limitations.

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Session II: 11:15 a.m.

Jenny McBride

The Transformative Power of Public Friendship with People Society Condemns: The Story of Kelly Gissendaner

Reasoned Examination Featured Presentation
The Gerber Center for Student Life, Gävle rooms

Presenter: Jenny McBride, public theologian and Episcopal priest

Description: The Rev. Dr. Jenny McBride introduces us to Kelly Gissendaner, the only woman on Georgia’s death row until her execution in 2015, and highlights the multiple facets of transformation present in her story.

After reading the work of Jürgen Moltmann in a course taught by the Rev. Dr. McBride at the prison, Gissendaner began a five-year correspondence with him. When she was denied clemency, a local and international advocacy movement arose that was rooted in her theological studies and friendship with Moltmann. The advocacy campaign challenged Christians who support the death penalty to re-examine basic truths of Christian faith, including that radical transformation is possible even for people who have done great harm.

As it was unfolding, the story of Gissendaner’s personal transformation transformed people’s thinking not only about her case but also about the death penalty and prison system as a whole. Our social systems can be transformed, the Rev. Dr. McBride inspires us to see, because nothing is inevitable, anything is possible.

About the presenter: The Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. McBride (Ph.D. University of Virginia) is associate rector for formation at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Previously, she served on the faculties of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and Wartburg College in Iowa. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University, the Rev. Dr. McBride directed a theology certificate program at a women’s prison in Georgia, where she met Kelly Gissendaner, the subject of her talk and her book "You Shall Not Condemn: A Story of Faith and Advocacy on Death Row." She is the author of three books about church-communities engaged in situations of social concern, and theological insights from people directed impacted by injustice. Her work has appeared in popular publications like The Christian Century and and has been featured in The New York Times.

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Concurrent session: Ch-ch-ch-changes: The Peaks and Valleys of Human Development

Hanson 304

Presenters: Megan Lorenz and Jamie Nordling, psychology and neuroscience

Description: Humans change each and every day — our physical bodies become stronger with weightlifting and wrinklier with age; our brains become strengthened by studying for an exam and weakened after pulling an all-nighter; our social interactions advance with practice and decline when trust is lost.

Would you consider these changes, and those like them, transformation?

In this session, Drs. Megan Lorenz and Jamie Nordling will discuss the developmental science behind milestones, peaks and major life events, and how transformation is happening in smaller ways every day. Participants will be asked to take part in the conversation.

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Concurrent session: Augie Film Student Showcase & Awards

Olin auditorium

Presenters: Stacy Barton, film, and students from FILM 250 and FILM 270

Description: Please join Augustana’s new film program for an exciting 45-minute lineup of the highest achieving short video coursework from the 2022-2023 academic year. Juried and awarded works were created in FILM 270 Documentary Filmmaking J-Term 2023 and FILM 250 Production Fundamentals Spring 2023.

The overall program as well as the individual films truly convey the concept of transformation in different ways, including a short documentary on how Nest Cafe in Rock Island is transforming the idea of a restaurant and how one can truly "serve" the local community, as one example.

The screening will conclude with a 15-minute awards ceremony where craft and overall achievement prizes will be recognized in multiple categories, including an Audience Choice Award voted by the viewers.

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Concurrent session: Generational Transformation as Seen in the Olsen-Brandelle Collection

Thomas Tredway Library, first floor (near study room)

Presenters: Megan Quinn, art

Description: The Native American ceramics that are part of the Olsen-Brandelle Collection were collected by an Augustana alumnnus, Kent Olsen, with an emphasis on finding work from many generations of families, famous for their work in clay. Many Puebloan communities have deep and well-developed cultures involved with creating ceramics. Often there's an aesthetic consistency to the work in each pueblo. In this walking tour of the collection housed in the Tredway Library, we will consider the various sorts of creative transformations seen through the shift in the work of generations of potters.

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Concurrent session: The Penguin Project: Transforming Lives Through Theatre

Wilson Center

Presenters: Jeff Coussens, theatre arts; Lisa Oliger, communication science and disorders

Description: Since 2017, the Penguin Project of the Quad Cities has been transforming the lives of children with special needs by providing them with opportunities to perform in revised versions of Broadway musicals. Each young artist works with a peer mentor who guides them through the rehearsal process and shadows them in their public performances. The result is a transformative experience for the artists, their mentors, their families and everyone who witnesses the production. In this session, we will examine the positive impact that the Penguin Project has had on its local participants and on communities across the nation.

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Concurrent session: Augustana's Remote Observatory: Transforming Students' Understanding of the Universe

Hanson 334

Presenters: Bill Peterson, physics, engineering, and astronomy

Description: Augustana recently helped to form the MACRO consortium, which manages The Robert L. Mutel Telescope — a remote, robotic telescope stationed at Winer Observatory in southern Arizona. The RLMT transforms students' understanding of space as being just "really cool stuff to look at" into also seeing it as a laboratory for learning how the universe works. The session will include a talk explaining how the telescope works, a bit of its history, and some example classroom activities and projects that will be used as part of the proposed astronomy minor. This will be followed by a breakout session in which groups of attendees will pick a celestial object that will be observed by the telescope and emailed to them as images.

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Drop-in session: 12-4 p.m.

National Coming Out Day

The Gerber Center for Student Life, You Belong Here lounge

Presenter: Ashley Allen, student inclusion and diversity, and Gender & Sexuality Alliance 

Description: National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 is a day to recognize and celebrate those who "come out" about their identity. The Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity along with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance aim to bring awareness to educate our campus community about this historic event. This is also an event to support those who are or ever felt silenced.

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Session III: 12:30 p.m.

Christine Harb

The Politics of Health and its Call for Justice: Transformation of a World in Crisis

Distinguished Alumni Featured presentation
The Gerber Center for Student Life, Gävle rooms

Presenter: Christine Harb, Doctor in Residency, DO, MPH

Description: The health of our bodies is largely determined by the politics that govern us. In a world gripped by crisis, establishing justice within the political landscape of our ever-transforming nation has never been more pressing. As societies grapple with existential challenges ranging from global pandemics to social inequities and geopolitical tensions, the need for a concerted and thoughtful approach to political transformation is paramount.

But every political transformation begins with a personal one.

Dr. Christine Harb describes their shift at Augustana from theatre major to pre-medicine and public health as she witnesses the structural violence of apartheid in Palestine and poverty in Nicaragua. She then details her transition into transgender health and reproductive justice as she contends with the discriminatory policies created to deny genderqueer and birthing people of their basic and fundamental human rights.

Dr. Harb also discusses the most pressing public health issue in human history — climate change — and our desperate need for a social, political and environmental transformation if we wish to save our planet. Calling for a profound reevaluation of existing power structures, policies and norms that determine who lives and who dies, Dr. Harb posits that community empowerment, collective hope and a commitment to a politic of justice is the crucible upon which our future hinges and is the key to transforming our world.

About the presenter: Dr. Christine Harb (she/they) is a queer Palestinian human rights activist, physician and public health practitioner. She is currently a second-year resident in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota and is training in full-spectrum family medicine, gender-affirming care and reproductive justice. She graduated from A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, where they completed a pre-doctoral academic fellowship in Medical Education.

Additionally, they received their Master of Community and Behavioral Health from the University of lowa, specializing in refugee/immigrant health, rural medicine, and transgender health care access. Dr. Harb published one of the first articles from the Midwest investigating the motivators and barriers to transgender health care access in rural settings.

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Concurrent session: Transformed and Always Transforming: Augustana Accounting Alumni Panel Discussion

Olin auditorium

Presenters: Nadia Schwartz, accounting, with Augustana alumni Douglas M. Hultquist '77, co-founder (retired), QCR Holdings; Kirk Anderson '93, Augustana College; Michael Baugh '16, Ruhl&Ruhl Realtors; Michelle Alano '18, Deloitte; and Michael Hickey '18, HNI

Description: Have you ever sat in class, in a meeting or been at practice thinking to yourself, "This is interesting, but when will I actually use this in my life?" Join a group of Augustana accounting alumni for a panel discussion on just that! The alumni panel will discuss how their transformative experiences in class and in extracurricular activities have led to intriguing and unexpected opportunities at work and in the community after graduation.

Find out how these alumni have leveraged their quantitative skills from accounting and qualitative skills from the liberal arts into careers in industry, public accounting and the nonprofit sector. This is an interactive discussion so please come prepared with your questions! Note that while accounting alumni are leading the session, members of all disciplines are encouraged to attend.

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Concurrent session: Vocational Twists and Transformations in the College Years

Wilson Center, Brunner Theatre

Presenters: Chaplain Melinda Pupillo with past Augustana Leaders in Vocational Exploration (ALIVE) fellows Kara West, Amanda Gravelle and James Caprio

Description: Hear upperclass students tell compelling stories about the twists and turns — and transformations! — that they have navigated throughout their young lives, including their time at Augustana. Hearing such stories can help all those present reflect on their own vocations, so that all can more intentionally and courageously answer the poet Mary Oliver’s profound question: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/With your one wild and precious life?"

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Concurrent session: Using the Comic Frame to Transform Political Rhetoric 

Hanson 304

Presenters: Meg Kunde, communication studies

Description: The Final Report by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capital, released in January 2023, presents an opportunity to analyze the transformative power of rhetorical responses to political crises in the wider U.S. public discourse. The presentation will explore how rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke's comic frame be used alongside a tragic frame to not only hold people accountable for the tragic acts committed but also open a space for the rehabilitation and transformation of democratic social relationships and discourse.

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Concurrent session: Travel for Transformation

Hanson 334

Presenters: Megan Havard-Rockwell, Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Description: Pilgrimage, or travel to a place that is considered sacred by a given community, has been called "travel for transformation." This session will explore how certain types of travel can transform people, and how people in turn transform the routes we travel, with particular focus on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) in Spain.

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Session IV: 2 p.m.

Jean Seberg: Actress, Activist, Icon

Featured film screening and discussion: "Jean Seberg: Actress, Activist, Icon" (2021)
Olin auditorium
2-4:15 p.m.

Presenter: Kelly Rundle, Tammy Rundle, Jane Simonsen, Stacy Barton (introduction)

Description: The film program presents the Emmy-winning "Jean Seberg: Actress, Activist, Icon," the first documentary film to focus on the private side of the Marshalltown, Iowa, native. Seberg's transformation from small-town Midwestern girl to internationally known actress and civil rights activist led to her untimely demise.

Selected from among 18,000 applicants at age 17, Seberg made her acting debut in Otto Preminger’s 1957 "Saint Joan" and starred in Hollywood films "Lilith," "Paint Your Wagon" and "Airport." She is best remembered for her performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s French New Wave film "Breathless."

Seberg’s offscreen civil rights activism made her a target of the F.B.I.’s COINTELPRO. The F.B.I.'s plan to "neutralize" Seberg initiated a downward spiral that ultimately resulted in her mysterious death in Paris at age 40.

The film includes exclusive on-camera interviews with Seberg’s family, first husband, film colleagues, and friends, including former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown. It also features never-before-seen private photographs, home movie footage, and rare movie and behind-the-scenes film clips. Directed by Kelly Rundle and Garry McGee. Written and produced by McGee, and Kelly and Tammy Rundles. 

About the presenters: Husband and wife Kelly and Tammy Rundle are Emmy-winning filmmakers and the owners of Fourth Wall Films, based in Moline, Ill. The Rundles have completed 23 documentary films and one docudrama. Most of their films focus on little known, but important, Midwestern history stories. The Rundles' films have been selected for domestic and international film festivals where they have received more than a dozen Best Documentary awards. The Rundles recently premiered "Remembering Forest Grove," and they are in production on the "Hero Street" documentary series.

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Concurrent session: From Poetry to Song

Denkmann Memorial Building, Wallenberg Hall (second floor)
2-3:30 p.m.

Presenters: John Flannery, with Abriana Tereza and Jacob Bancks, music

Description: In creating a new work for voice, a composer must either write original texts, consult with a poet to collaborate with, or search for pre-written texts to give new meaning to through music. In "my body turns towards thee again," presenter John Flannery turned to the poetry of e.e. cummings, taking five separate poems and transforming them into a musical narrative focused on someone living with dementia.

The presenter will give an in-depth analysis of the newly composed piece, analyzing the connection between the text and the music, alongside explaining the need for such a narrative and how pre-written text can take on new meaning. At the conclusion of the session, Flannery and Abriana Tereza, for whom the project was written for, will perform the entire piece, allowing the audience to experience the piece in its totality, which is the way it is meant to be performed.

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Concurrent session: 'Transforming Education' in Prisons: Paradoxes from Augustana Prison Education Program (APEP)

Hanson 304
2-3:30 p.m.

Presenters: Sharon Varallo, executive director of APEP, with APEP faculty member Jake Romaniello and students David Staples '24 and Tyrone Stone

Description: Higher education in prison programs often are marketed as methods to "transform" and "civilize" the unruly incarcerated person with an end goal to reduce recidivism. But who and what exactly needs to transform? This panel offers multiple perspectives from Augustana Prison Education Program staff and students on the possibility of transformation for all involved in prison education. 

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Concurrent session: Sami Culture, Colonial Histories, and Reconciliation: Film and Conversation

Hanson 102
2-4:15 p.m.

Presenters: Gunlög Fur, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden; Jane Simonsen, history; Mark Safstrom, Scandinavian studies; Jennifer Burham, geography, and the Augustana Center for Polar Studies

Description: This panel will feature a documentary film about the documentary film, "Twice Colonized," which tells the story of renowned Inuit lawyer, Aaju Peter, who has led a lifelong fight for the rights of her people.

When her son suddenly dies, Aaju Peter embarks on a journey to reclaim her language and culture after a lifetime of whitewashing and forced assimilation. But is it possible to change the world and mend your own wounds at the same time? (See:

Visiting scholar Gunlög Fur will then present: "Caught up by History? Colonialism, Sami people, and Truth & Reconciliation Processes in the Nordic States." Norway, Sweden, and Finland all currently have (or have recently ended) truth and reconciliation processes in relation to minorities, in particular the Indigenous Sami people, who live in all three states and also in Russia.

As a member of the Swedish Truth Commission to the Sami people, which is in the middle of its mandated period, Gunlög Fur will talk about similarities, and some major differences, in these processes and reflect on the consequences of historic relations and colonial amnesia in the Nordic region.

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