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Madeline Kusar
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Madeline Kusar

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Lane Tech College Prep High School

Hometown: Chicago

Majors: German studies, Scandinavian studies

Minor: Instrumental music performance (Cello)

Activities: Augustana Symphony Orchestra, Sigma Alpha Iota-Delta Tau, string quartet

Internships: German American Heritage Center and Museum in Davenport, Iowa; Augustana's Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center

Post-grad plans: English Language Teaching Assistantship in Austria

Why Augustana?

My chemistry teacher in high school attended Augustana, and he recommended checking it out. It was my first college visit, and I found myself comparing every campus I visited after that to Augie. The students here were friendly. They were involved in so many activities outside of their studies, and the professors I met took active interest in their students' success. I wanted to be a part of that.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

Yes and no. I started out with one intended major and ended up with two, and a minor that didn't even exist my freshman year. I wanted to study abroad, but I wouldn't have expected Sweden to be where I ended up. 

In those ways, the whole experience has been a lot different than expected. On the other hand, I feel like I've been a part of the community in the way I'd hoped to be, and even more than I initially saw while considering Augie.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

I would not be where I am now without the support of my family. They're always in my corner, keeping me grounded through the good and the bad.

Dr. Ehrlich has been one of my most important mentors in all aspects of my education. Outside of helping me grow as a musician, she has guided me to become a better leader and a better person. I am beyond grateful for her tutelage.

In a similar vein, my peers in the music department have been a constant source of support. A very special thank you to my quartet, orchestra crew colleagues and cello section. No matter how difficult a day has been, I always leave rehearsals with a brighter outlook thanks to you all.

Dr. Seidlitz and Dr. Safstrom have been invaluable mentors during my time here. Their courses helped me become a deeper thinker, and I have grown significantly under their instruction.

Finally, thank you to Jill, Janette, Dag, Micaela and Harrison in the Swenson Center and Special Collections for the experience in archival work.

Peak experience?

I had the opportunity to travel to Jönköping, Sweden, in January as part of a Swedish language class taught by Dr. Safstrom. We studied at a folk high school with Swedish students, and the immersion forced me to grow my language skills. I learned more about myself in a month than I expected to, and my confidence in my abilities inside and outside a classroom grew substantially.

What surprised you?

The number of unique experiences on and around campus — cultural events on campus, concerts and theater, student presentations, and more. For a relatively small school, Augie has no shortage of opportunities to broaden your worldview.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used it for my J-term experience in Jönköping, Sweden.

What will you miss the most?

The friends I've been fortunate enough to make here. They've been there for me while I've grown, and I know I can rely on them to lend me a little extra strength to power through. Everything is 10 times better when you have people to enjoy it all with.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

If there's something you're wondering about yourself, your time at Augie is a good time to try and figure it out. Get as involved in things as possible, both things that already interest you and things you've never even considered. Most importantly, remember to be a person, not a machine.

"Madeline always knew she wanted to study German, and she discovered a new love of Scandinavian studies while here. She took advantage of all Augustana has to offer: the inaugural J-term program in Sweden, multiple internships, many music ensembles, an on-campus job, and a senior research project that connects German and Scandinavian studies. She will teach English in Austria next year through a Fulbright program. I’m excited to see what comes next for Madeline!"

– Dr. Lisa Seidlitz, professor, German