Augie in their own words

February 25, 2022

Oh the places they’ll go! Four Augustana graduates share a piece of their Augie experience and advice for future Vikings. 

Ivan Starenko ’20

I was a transfer student, and I was able to double major in engineering physics and German and double minor in math and jazz studies.

Having been a transfer student, with prior experiences at another liberal arts school, I truly believe there is a quality to the faculty and staff at Augustana that goes beyond any statistic.

The mentorship of my professors, advisors and instructors stands out as one of the most profound and impactful elements of my experience, and it helped ensure my success at Augie and beyond. 

Augie advice: “There’s nothing wrong with being an unorthodox student! Everyone’s figuring themselves out in college, so live your life with no holds barred and know there’s nothing wrong with your pace or your experience being different.”

Ivan is a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He used his Augie Choice to study music and physics in Germany — then stayed the summer for an engineering internship

Austin Elledge ’20

My time at Augustana started with basketball, but it ended being more than I ever could’ve imagined. There’s a sense of closeness you feel right away — a feeling I felt on my first visit and still feel to this day.

I undoubtedly was a better version of myself walking off campus, than I was walking on. The athletics staff, my design professor Vickie Phipps, the staff in CORE — there are so many people I could list from Augie who helped build me into who I’ve become today.

That doesn't end at graduation and, for that, I will always be grateful I chose Augustana. 

Augie advice: “The small class sizes played a pivotal role in allowing me to get authentic feedback, criticism and support I’ve been able to carry into my professional career. Augustana 100% prepared me for life after school. I have my Augie 'A' sitting on my desk as a reminder.” 

Austin is a graphic designer and animator for the NFL based in Los Angeles. He creates graphics for the NFL social media channels.

Genesis Yinuo Li ‘21

I majored in political science and minored in communications, philosophy and ethics. And had a, maybe, unusual mentor along the way. The president of Augustana! 

I would talk with President Bahls about my interests in law and politics, and my passion in advancing disadvantaged people's lives for my future career. Inspired by him, and his past experiences as a lawyer, I applied for a spring internship program with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos' local office in Rock Island.

The wonderful experience there led me to intern and work part-time at World Relief, a nonprofit focused on helping immigrants and refugees, for three years.

These two critical internship experiences and my various leadership roles at Augie made me realize, given my privileged position, that I feel obliged to fight against educational injustice and improve the lives of people in my community through the means of public and nonprofit management. 

Augie advice: Find those hands-on experiences and internships. “That’s one of the things I’ll carry for the rest of my life…. How can we help people who are in need?”

Genesis is a graduate student in public administration at Cornell University and an urban-planning graduate research assistant at Cornell’s college of architecture, art, and planning, where she assists on a first-ever global project on surveying world executive leaders of local governments in approximately 1,000 urban cities.

Eric Tabaka ‘20

The study abroad opportunities available for students are incredible! I majored in music education with a history minor, and I was able to travel internationally twice during my four years — going to Spain with the Symphonic Band and Jamaica with the education department.

In Jamaica, I had the opportunity to teach students at the Alpha Academy, and we ran into Usain Bolt on the beach! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Being involved in Greek life helped shape my development outside of the classroom. I was in Delta Omega Nu, a social fraternity, and Phi Mu Alpha, a music service fraternity. Participating in service events got me involved in the broader Augustana community and the Quad Cities as a whole. 

Augie advice: Get involved! “I became involved in more organizations than I anticipated, and held a leadership role in nearly all of them. All these experiences have shaped me into a more well-rounded person and stronger leader.”

Eric, Mr. Tabaka to his students, is a K-8 general music and vocal music teacher in Vinton, Iowa. 

Read more Augustana stories in our More Than I Imagined series or apply and visit to start your own Augie experience today!