Cassia in the News

Spirit of Collaboration Award Honors Interns and Those They Serve

While countless organizations depend on interns to strengthen their work or missions, it’s rare to see interns recognized more broadly. Augustana Care recognized all the superb ways interns make our organization better this year through the Tim Tucker Spirit of Collaboration Award. The award is part of our Augustana Awesome Award ceremony, which celebrates unique collaborations and staff members who exemplify excellence. The Spirit of Collaboration Award was received by Augustana Open Circle’s Adult Day Center’s Academic Outreach Program for its sustained, collaborative initiatives with local schools.

Listen to a podcast of an interview by iHeartMedia’s Lee Valsvick with Augustana Open Circle Program Director Mark Rosen—and learn more about how the program works! 

To date, more than 320 interns from ten leading universities and colleges have provided members with more than 7,000 hours of quality therapeutic engagement. Schools include the following:

  • Adler Graduate School
  • Anoka Technical College
  • College of St. Scholastica
  • Concordia College
  • Inver Hills Community College
  • Metro State University
  • Normandale College
  • St. Catherine University
  • St. Thomas University
  • University of Minnesota

The program developed the skills of talented interns, some of whom were subsequently hired as staff.

“Augustana Open Circle is a stronger, more effective organization due to the wide range of support we receive from interns,” says Director Peggy Gaard. Augustana Open Circle also provides an immersive learning environment for student interns and educates future health care leaders about the importance of supporting older adults in our community.

In fact, Open Circle has been awarded the Minnesota Campus Compact Community Partner Award twice by different academic partners in 2014 and 2017. Organizations are rarely awarded this honor more than once.

The Academic Outreach program propels Augustana Care and its partners toward excellence in the following endeavors:

  • Clinical services—Through constant networking, Augustana Open Circle has developed partnerships with occupational therapy and certified occupational therapy assistant programs; social work; doctor of nursing practitioner, human services and psychology programs from several universities. These partnerships enhance our ability to meet the needs of members.
  • Fostering fullness of life—Individual intern experiences provide anywhere from fifteen to three hundred plus hours of quality volunteer time to older adults who attend Augustana Open Circle. The results are three to four quality programs each activity hour and unparalleled one-to-one social interactions for members.
  • Innovation and creativity—The Academic Outreach Program helps expand creativity for members on a daily basis. One example of creative programming is an art exhibit at Adler Graduate School, which happened due to an existing relationship between Open Circle and the school. Art work developed under the title “I Am Here” is being created by Open Circle members and will be exhibited at Adler.

“My students have learned a great deal from their experience at Open Circle,” says Anoka Technical College Instructor Julie Grivna. “Some examples include how to facilitate excellent programming, learning proper approaches when working with clients with Alzheimer’s disease, and treating each client as an individual.

“I have had students who have been hesitant to complete their fieldwork in adult day settings realize how much they enjoyed this population and setting and then continue to volunteer when their time was finished,” Grivna adds. “This is a true testament to how Open Circle provides exceptional care and demonstrates willingness to help students learn.”

Other recipients of the Augustana Awesome Award include Michelle Curry, who received the Excellence in Customer Service Award for outstanding actions and commitment to residents and those we serve. Willie Felder received the Excellence in Volunteerism Award for connecting with residents in one-to-one interactions and building strong relationships.

Augustana Regent Director of Health Services Evans Mochama received the Excellence in Leadership award for outstanding leadership skills; and Damaris Faulkner received the Resident Fullness of Life award for challenging traditional stereotypes of aging.

To learn more about the Augustana Awesome Awards and about the nomination process, please contact Briana Deschambault, Executive Assistant at  or 612-238-5201.

About Augustana Care

Augustana Care is a non-profit organization that provides housing, health care and community-based services to older generations and others in need—and helps residents live the lives that most inspire them. The principles that guide our work are as follows:

  • To value older generations’ talents and experience
  • To provide the care residents need, when and where they need it
  • To connect residents to the people and things that mean the most to them
  • To support residents and families with spiritual care that speaks to who they are

To learn more, visit