Luther prairies and pollinators flourish thanks to years of sustained effort by students, faculty and staff

A young woman in a green hat and blue shirts kneeling among prairie plants.

Josie Meyer planting native prairie species in Jewell Prairie.

DECORAH, IOWA—One hot sunny May morning, senior Josie Meyer and a few friends were out on Luther College’s Jewell Prairie with a truck full of seedlings and a water tank. It was the last stage of Meyer’s yearlong honors research project, part of her environmental studies major at Luther College. 

“We’re planting New England aster, swamp milkweed, common milkweed, blazing star, and joe pye weed,” Meyer said. Her research, which looked into 12 years of prairie restoration efforts on this reclaimed farmland in Northeast Iowa, had led to this particular selection of plants. 

Not only are restored prairies ecologically important for Iowa’s soil and water; they also spark a sense of pride. 

“Being in Iowa, a state that’s so dominated by agriculture, it’s important to recognize that there are these beautiful, valuable ecosystems that are worth protecting and restoring,” Meyer said. “It’s the sense of place, having pride in the natural resources around you.” 

Luther students have helped to uncover a rich crop of knowledge about Iowa’s original environment, the tallgrass prairie – its plants, its pollinator populations, and its effect on water and soil erosion.

Why Plant a Prairie?

Tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America because of conversion into farmland; 99% of tallgrass prairie has been lost, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Luther College has been working on restoring several former farm sites along the Upper Iowa River. The college purchased much of this land nearly a century ago from the Jewell family. The name Jewell Prairie acknowledges this family history. Robby Jewell, who graduated from Luther in 2014, still raises organic turkeys and uses sustainable agriculture practices on the family farm near Luther’s lands. 

The college farmed on the land until 2011. In 2008, however, a major flood inundated the area, which made the crop fields eligible for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, a federal program that helps communities recover after natural disasters. Jewell Prairie was seeded in the fall of 2011 and had its first growing season in 2012. 

Molly McNicoll, professor of biology and Luther’s Natural Areas Land Manager, has been overseeing the Jewell Prairie restoration. 

“Planting prairies and woodlands allows us to meet several goals at once, including improving habitat,” McNicoll said, referring to the Dr. Donald H. Nelson Woodlands as well as Luther’s prairies. “Prairies are particularly great for soil erosion prevention, because they build soil and hold it.” 

The prairies’ grasses, sedges and wildflowers have deep root systems, which mitigate flooding by absorbing river sediment into the soil, McNicoll explained. Prairies hold the soil instead of eroding when flooding happens, she added.  

In addition, prairies support beneficial native insects and other wildlife. Luther students have made significant discoveries about pollinator species on the campus and its prairies. Luther 2024 graduates Gwen Coleman and Emmelyn Cullen worked with Professor of Biology Kirk Larsen in 2022 to research native bee biodiversity on campus. Their research identified 97 native bee species, including seven species of bees never before recorded in the state of Iowa. Their research also validated that Luther’s efforts to increase pollinator-friendly plants in landscaped areas and prairies were working. 

“As soon as you start adding native species of plants, especially flowers, and increase the diversity of plants, they provide a ton of resources to pollinators and other native species for a healthy and functioning ecosystem,” Larsen said. “These species would not be found in Luther’s Jewell Prairie, Anderson Prairie or Gateway Prairie if they were corn or soybean fields.” 

Studying Burn Regimes

Luther College conducts a controlled burn of an Anderson Prairie section as part of a burn regime.

Meyer, on the other hand, studied the relationship between prairie burn regimes and plant species in the prairie. Researchers are still learning about the most effective burn regimes for prairie restorations. 

“We burn in a rotation – only a third of the prairie at a time,” McNicoll said. “We can manipulate how we use fire to promote or suppress certain species.”

Burning reduces woody vegetation and creates bare spots for plants to germinate. Prairie plants have evolved around the nutrient cycles sparked by prescribed burns. 

Burning in sections protects species living in the prairie. 

“We don’t burn the entire prairie to preserve species that are overwintering in the prairie, like insects or birds,” McNicoll said. “For example, bobolinks use different parts of a burn cycle for different purposes like feeding and nesting.”

Newly planted prairies may respond differently to fire than older restorations. The Jewell Prairie planting was allowed to grow for four years before any burning began. A group of Luther students collected the initial data about Jewell Prairie’s plant communities in 2015, before any prescribed fire was used. Starting in 2016, one third of the prairie was burned in consecutive years. 

A section of prairie with smoke rising from the earth after a controlled burn. A section of prairie with smoke rising from the earth after a controlled burn.

A section of Anderson Prairie after a controlled burn this past spring.

This burn regime allowed Meyer to study plant populations in each section separately. She looked at plant community change between 2015 and 2023 for each section of the prairie, and how these changes might be correlated with the amount of time between seeding and the first prescribed burn. She completed this work during a land stewardship internship and continued it during her honors thesis work.  

“The diversity of species was surprising,” Meyer said. “I can now go out to a prairie and identify more than 20 species walking through a little stretch of prairie.”

In all sections of the prairie, she discovered increases in species diversity; increased establishment of the most valued, or “conservative,” species; and an increase of warm season grasses. She discovered no significant differences based on the year of initial burn. 

“This finding adds to our understanding of prairie restoration, indicating that the initial seeding was well established at four years old,” said McNicoll. “Burning at four, five or six years old did not alter the early years of development.” 

What Happens Next? 

While Jewell Prairie has not yet reached “remnant-like diversity,” a model used for prairie restoration, the land is returning to its native ecosystem that can prevent soil erosion.

“You can’t just restore a prairie in one seeding event,” McNicoll said. “It’s a continual process. Part of that is the research the students have been doing.”

This project has been successful, as Meyer found that the conservative species — such as golden alexander and pale purple coneflower have increased in population. These species are more likely to be found in higher quality sites, as a result of special conditions and the restoration’s seeding mixture. 

Meyer’s research will guide the prairie’s development into the future, as she has set recommendations for the management of specific plant species. Some of them need to be monitored for overabundance, some controlled or reduced, and others need to be added, such as milkweed, blazing star, and legumes. 

“Jewell is a ‘hidden gem.’ It’s away from the highway and near the river, and you’re more surrounded by natural spaces. The diversity of the habitat as a young prairie is really coming together,” McNicoll said. “It’s a perfect place to hike, walk, run or bike.”

“It’s really special that we have this prairie restoration that’s really high quality. Looking at it 12 years later, you can see that all the things that were done over the past 12 years were worth it,” Meyer said. “The fact that we have this amazing quality site, but also there’s still things to be done. It’s something that needs active management. Doing research like this is not one and done. It’s going to look different in a couple years.” 

As for Meyer’s future, she is doing a summer research internship at Cedar Creek Long Term Ecological Research Site of the University of Minnesota. Similar to her work at Luther, she will be collecting data on long-term projects; she’s interested in restoration and conservation work broadly. 

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Luther College’s Dorian Summer Music Camps see strong attendance with participants from across the U.S.

Dorian campers walking on Luther’s campus.

This year, Luther College’s Dorian Summer Music Camps hosted more than 600 middle and high school students throughout June. These campers took part in a variety of music and other programs during their time on Luther’s campus. 

Campers came from the Midwest, Southwest, Southeast and more. Campers represented a total of 18 states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

“Dorian Summer Music Camps continue to exist 60 years since its inception because of the high standards for musical excellence and community building that the teaching faculty and counseling staff work to create,” said Mark Potvin, Dorian camp director, professor of music and conductor of the Cathedral Choir and Norskkor at Luther. “I think these camps are special because the sense of belonging campers experience is almost immediate; that increases their engagement which catapults their growth as musicians, artists, scholars and human beings.”

Dorian programming—with a rich history and robust series of festivals and camps—is unique to Luther. Summer camps are open to all families, and scholarship opportunities are available. Festivals for high school music students include the Dorian Band Festival, Dorian Choral Invitational Festival, Dorian Keyboard Festival, Dorian Orchestra Festival and Dorian Vocal Festival, where participants are nominated by their school music teacher or private teacher.

Students have the opportunity to practice and perform in band, orchestra and vocal ensembles during their week at Dorian, as well as try other activities like painting or building a rocket to launch on campus. 

“I would describe Dorian as a well rounded camp experience. There’s something for everybody,” said counselor Lily Smith, who graduated from Luther in May. “We have art class, dance class, and obviously music classes as well, but yet, we play volleyball, we take them on hikes and walks downtown; it’s just for everyone.”

“I think the one word to describe Dorian Music Camp is exciting,” said Zachary Agustin, who attended the high school camp for the second year and will begin his first semester at Luther in the fall. “I keep coming back because of the friendships that I make and the music that happens in one week is just absolutely stunning. I have not found it anywhere else. Everybody around you wants to be here.”

It’s also not too early to mark your calendars for the next camps. Next year, the Dorian middle school camp will be held from June 15–21 and the high school camp will be held from June 22–28. 

“It’s such a privilege to work alongside current Luther students, colleagues and alumni to help provide this type of experience for middle school and high school students from around the country,” Potvin said. “Dorian camps are a hallmark of Luther College, a critical recruiting arm for the institution, and representative of what Luther does best.”

Photos from Dorian Summer Music Camps and the Dorian Choral Retreat

This year, Luther hosted the Dorian Choral Retreat, open to all adults, June 28–30, which featured more than 100 attendees. Choral music lovers, including Luther alumni, came to the retreat. Andrew Last, associate professor music, director of choral activities, and director of Nordic Choir, led the choral retreat. 

Karin Brunk, who attended the retreat for the first time in June, said the retreat looked interesting and decided to give it a try. She hopes to attend in the future. 

“The Dorian Choral Retreat experience was exceptional beyond my expectations. Dr. Last was phenomenal. He had the ability to adapt to multiple learning styles to get the best out of everyone,” Brunk said. “I have nothing but the best to say about all of the staff, musicians and Dr. Last. The staff’s adaptability, friendliness, kindness and professionalism was way above par.”

Dorian began in 1949 when Luther Professor Weston Noble invited regional school music directors to bring selected band students to campus for a two-day honor band festival. A vocal festival was added in 1950, and the family of Dorian festivals and camps has grown in scope and participation ever since. More than 90,000 students have shared in a Dorian musical experience since the first festival was held.

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Luther College class on energy sustainability brings improvements to campus thanks to donors’ generosity

Blue house on a sunny day surrounded by trees.

The Jefferson House on Luther’s campus. Thanks to students’ recommendations and the Gregg’s gift, the house now has an electric heat pump water heater and a new roof to enhance energy efficiency.

DECORAH, IOWA—An environmental studies class about household energy has turned into a practical energy-saving project for the Luther College campus, thanks to the generosity of two parents of Luther alumni.

The class, “Bringing Sustainable Energy Home,” was designed and taught by Professor Laura Peterson. It brought students from a mix of majors and class years into the January Term course. 

Since J-Term courses only last three and half weeks, the students received a basic overview in home energy systems to understand concepts such as home heating and how solar panels work. Peterson had students talk to their parents about their utility bills and home heating appliances, so students could get a family perspective on the factors that contribute to energy costs. 

“Most students have never paid an energy bill before, so this was a chance to introduce them to real-world concepts,” Peterson said.

Once students understood the basics of home energy, they dove straight into analyzing campus housing. Students looked at three student campus houses – The Jefferson House, the Prairie Rock House and the Spring House – fully analyzing two and analyzing one for potential solar panels on the roof. 

After assessing different factors such as cost-effectiveness and student comfort, the class came up with several basic recommendations, including a proposal to switch from a natural gas water heater to an electric heat pump water heater and install roof-top solar arrays. 

Three people standing in front of a football field on a rainy day.

From left to right: Linda Gregg, Laura Peterson and Leon Gregg on Luther’s campus

Leon and Linda Gregg of Rochester, Minnesota, donated the class’s budget for the project, so that student recommendations could be implemented where feasible and will help Luther reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Both of the couple’s sons graduated from Luther and they want to keep giving back to students. 

“We like to help students,” Leon Gregg said. “We want kids to get practical experience and support energy efficiency, so this class seemed like a good use of our gift.”

The Jefferson House received a new electric heat pump water heater and a new roof this summer to enhance energy efficiency. 

“I’m so grateful for the donation because it lended that air of reality to students,” Peterson said. “Luther can actually implement the recommendations thanks to the generosity of the Greggs.” 

During the class, students were divided into teams to examine the campus houses. One team looked at basic energy efficiency, analyzing campus houses for improvements in insulation and weatherization. Another team looked at the potential for solar panels on the roofs of the houses. The third team looked at switching from natural gas appliances to electric heat pump appliances as a way to reach carbon neutrality. 

“We are grateful to the Greggs who are willing not only to invest in the future of Luther students, but the future of Luther itself,” said Mary Duvall, vice president for development. “Leon and Linda have supported sustainability efforts at Luther in the past, so this class seemed like the perfect opportunity for them to see the direct impact of their generosity.”

Peterson plans to teach the class next J-Term with the same principles but looking at different campus houses.

Riley Marble, who graduated in May with a degree in environmental studies, said he enjoyed the work of learning about home energy, a topic he was unfamiliar with until taking the class. 

“This class started off as a requirement, but I really ended up enjoying it,” Marble said. “I learned a lot about practical home energy.” 

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Luther College announces spring 2024 graduates

A group of students sitting in caps and gowns for graduation outdoors.

Luther College announced that 259 students graduated in May.

DECORAH, IOWA—Luther College announces that 259 students have graduated in the spring of 2024. They were honored at the 2024 Commencement Ceremony on May 19. 

At the ceremony, Matilda Koeller was awarded the Luther College Elizabeth A. and Paul G. Jenson Medal. That award is presented each year to an outstanding senior, selected by the graduating class, who best demonstrates the ideals of the college through service to students and the college community.

Mallory Heinzeroth, class of 2012, received the Luther College Young Alumni Award. The award recognizes the outstanding achievement of Luther alumni who have graduated in the last 15 years. 

Of the graduating class, 143 received Latin honors across a variety of majors. Watch a video featuring highlights from Commencement. 

Congratulations to the following graduates: 

Jane Skreien Addams, Rockford, Illinois
Nordic Studies, summa cum laude

Emma Amundson, Hastings, Minnesota

Eva Anderson, Ames, Iowa
Nursing, magna cum laude

Blake Anderson, Oregon, Wisconsin
Biology, magna cum laude

Charlie Anderson, Woodbury, Minnesota
Accounting, Management, magna cum laude

Anghy Aragón Alegría, Jinotepe, Nicaragua
International Studies, Anthropology, Political Science, cum laude

Aliyah Arkley, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Anya Marit Bacon, Hayward, Wisconsin
Social Work, summa cum laude

Nora Josephine Baer, Lake City, Minnesota
Nursing, cum laude

Wolfgang Baldus, Charles City, Iowa
Computer Science

Cole Thomas Barrett, Waukee, Iowa
Environmental Studies, Nordic Studies, magna cum laude

Anna Margaret Beaverson, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Nordic Studies, Psychology, magna cum laude

Kaitlyn Bebensee, West Des Moines, Iowa
Biology, cum laude

Madison Becthold, Des Moines, Iowa
Music Education, cum laude

Nathan Behrens, Falcon Heights, Minnesota
Psychology, summa cum laude

Matthew Bell, Rosemount, Minnesota
Political Science

Shayla Betts, Decorah, Iowa
Global Health

Sophie Bierlein, Eagan, Minnesota
Spanish, Political Science, International Studies, magna cum laude

Jaden Lee Bilal, Gastonia, North Carolina
Exercise Science

Jens Bjorge, Amery, Wisconsin
Biology, Nordic Studies, magna cum laude

Kaitlyn Blackburn, Stacy, Minnesota
Music Education, magna cum laude

Patrick Michael Bockman, Decorah, Iowa
Psychology, cum laude

Janet Faith Borchardt, Clarksville, Iowa
Biology, Environmental Studies, magna cum laude

Danika Brasic, Bangor, Wisconsin
English, Neuroscience

Benjamin Bridges, Portland, Oregon
Nursing, cum laude

Victoria Annalise Brown, Denver, Colorado
Nursing, cum laude

Owen Bruening, Decorah, Iowa

Channing Cade, Northfield, Minnesota
Elementary Education

Tallulah Campbell, Seattle, Washington
International Studies, Political Science, Nordic Studies, cum laude

Matthew Isaiah Canada, Tempe, Arizona

Emmy Carlson, Byron, Minnesota
Nordic Studies, Exercise Science – Allied Health, magna cum laude

Javiera Caro Carrasco, Santiago, Chile
Music, magna cum laude

Gabriela Castelán, Mason City, Iowa
Economics, Management, Spanish, cum laude

Shayla Cauldwell, De Pere, Wisconsin
Communication Studies, cum laude

Cristian Chavez Paz, Liberty Township, Ohio
Social Work

Lilian Chen, Austin, Texas
Psychology, cum laude

Maxwell Chin, Waterloo, Iowa
Chemistry, magna cum laude

Brylee Christopher, Muscatine, Iowa
Elementary Education

Kimberly Rose Church, Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Francis Cichock, Rockford, Illinois
Music, magna cum laude

Sloan Clemens, Chatfield, Minnesota
Identity Studies, magna cum laude

Gwenyth Coleman, Waverly, Iowa

Beau Hillis Cornwell, Iowa City, Iowa
Exercise Science

Morgan Coy, Mantorville, Minnesota
Music Education

Ryan David Cripe, Lakeville, Minnesota

Ricardo Crisanto, St. Paul, Minnesota
Exercise Science

Luis Cruces Padilla, Lake Elsinore, California
Political Science

Emmelyn Cullen, Madison, Wisconsin
Biology, Theatre, summa cum laude

Jessica Dahl, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Accounting, magna cum laude

Newelle Dalton, Urbana, Iowa
Elementary Education, magna cum laude

Grace Elaine Davidson, Birmingham, Iowa
Accounting, Data Science, magna cum laude

Randall Scott Days, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Exercise Science – Strength and Conditioning

Sara De La Rosa, Mount Vernon, Iowa
Social Work, magna cum laude

Jocelyn Demiglio, Zion, Illinois
Global Health, Chemistry

Jessica Mary Droessler, Dubuque, Iowa
Biology, magna cum laude

Leo Duffy, Rockford, Minnesota

Nolan Dungey, New Hampton, Iowa
Political Science

Siobhán Dunn, Rock Island, Illinois
Music, magna cum laude

Gretchen Dwyer, Le Sueur, Minnesota
Law & Values

Sarah Edgington, Edina, Minnesota
Political Science, Philosophy

Austin Efflandt, Decorah, Iowa
Physics, Music

Jasmine Diane Elliott, Evansville, Wisconsin
Identity Studies, cum laude

Samuel Eng, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Elementary Education

Ethan Erickson, Rochester, Minnesota
Nursing, magna cum laude

Kaeden Fellingham, Olathe, Kansas
Environmental Studies

Connor Fletcher, Plymouth, Minnesota

Reece Flynn, Mantorville, Minnesota
Computer Science

Megan Frutiger, Mankato, Minnesota

Britt Ahlers Fulton, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Global Health, magna cum laude

Miguel Garcia, Glendale Heights, Illinois

Fiona Garrity, Batavia, Illinois
Nursing, magna cum laude

Betsy Gebhard, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Anthropology, cum laude

Benjamin Gill, Sydney, Australia
Economics, Law & Values, magna cum laude

Griffin Finster Glassel, Madison, Wisconsin
Chemistry, summa cum laude

Gabriel V. Goeddeke, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Music, Environmental Studies

Ana Goellner, Mankato, Minnesota
Biology, magna cum laude

Ian Patrick Gonzales, Olathe, Kansas
Anthropology, Nordic Studies, summa cum laude

Delilah Gray, Des Moines, Iowa
Elementary Education, summa cum laude

Ingrid Gustafson, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Environmental Studies, Nordic Studies

Makayla Haddorff, Eagan, Minnesota
Spanish, Exercise Science –Allied Health, summa cum laude

Thomas Hadley, Decorah, Iowa
Communication Studies, cum laude

Maggie Haller, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Biology, Classics, Global Health, summa cum laude

Kjerstin Halverson, Woodbury, Minnesota
Psychology, summa cum laude

Abigail Mckenzie Hamborg, Bettendorf, Iowa
Accounting, summa cum laude

Kai Haroldson, Excelsior, Minnesota

Kerrigan Leslie Hatch, Gladbrook, Iowa

Beau Hawley-Bourcier, Decorah, Iowa
Visual Communication

Willem Hawley-Bourcier, Decorah, Iowa
Communication Studies

Rikka Heimdal, Milford, Iowa

Rachel Heinrich, Menomonie, Wisconsin
Biology, Art, magna cum laude

Elizabeth Hemmingson, Rochester, Minnesota
Social Work

Blake William Henriquez, Decorah, Iowa

Peter Heryla, Fridley, Minnesota
Communication Studies, magna cum laude

Samantha Lelani Himegarner, Waunakee, Wisconsin
Music, magna cum laude

Leigh Hjelmseth, Bellingham, Washington
Elementary Education, summa cum laude

Nancy Le, Hue, Vietnam
Visual Communication, summa cum laude

Ethan Holbert, Andalusia, Illinois
Political Science

Ava Holland, Decorah, Iowa
Health Promotion, summa cum laude

Aydan Holub-Schultz, Mount Vernon, Iowa
Exercise Science

Dylan Holven, Faribault, Minnesota
Environmental Studies

Noah Howe, Minnetonka, Minnesota
Psychology, magna cum laude

Cassandra Hultgren, Chandler, Arizona
Communication Studies, French, summa cum laude

Anna Hunke, Crystal, Minnesota
Accounting, Management, summa cum laude

Aidan Hunter, Decorah, Iowa

Ayden Jay Kaniteli Hursky, Yuba City, California

Mia Irving, Coralville, Iowa
English, cum laude

Gabrielle Joy Janssen, Emmetsburg, Iowa
Religion, Sociology, summa cum laude

Linnea Johnson Nordqvist, Gothenburg, Sweden
Global Health, summa cum laude

Joshua Michael Kainz, Saint Michael, Minnesota
Music Education, magna cum laude

Thomas Kaktis, Emmons, Minnesota

Avihe Mwaithapotji Kalipondoka, Opuwo, Namibia
Biology, Data Science

Jackson Kates, Dubuque, Iowa
English, cum laude

Grant Keim, Littleton, Colorado

Malina Kirtley, Woodland Park, Colorado

Anna Louise Kjeldahl, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Nursing, magna cum laude

Cirdan Klindworth, Roseville, Minnesota
Physics, summa cum laude

Ethan Kober, Cedar Falls, Iowa
English, Religion, summa cum laude

Matilda Koeller, McGregor, Iowa
Identity Studies

Adam Koller, Worthington, Minnesota
Data Science, Mathematics, summa cum laude

Stian Mesna Krogstad, Fargo, North Dakota
Environmental Studies

Isaac Kubat, Paynesville, Minnesota

Marshall Laidlaw, Red Wing, Minnesota
Religion, German, Identity Studies, summa cum laude

Caroline Lambrecht, Rosemount, Minnesota
Social Work

Ruby Langholz, Decorah, Iowa
Visual Communication

Jacob Larson, Waconia, Minnesota
Physics, cum laude

Thane Larson, Franktown, Colorado

Grace Lawrence, Osseo, Wisconsin
Social Work

Andrew Lazinbat, San Antonio, Texas
Exercise Science – Strength and Conditioning

Mckinley Leinweber, Union Grove, Wisconsin
English, cum laude

Dickyi Lhamo, Amdo, Tibet

Brooke Lidberg, Hastings, Minnesota

Peyton Christian Lindmark, Bettendorf, Iowa
Exercise Science

Chilekwa Ling’omba, Lusaka, Zambia

Madelynn Liston, Knoxville, Iowa

Samuel Nathan Llamzon, Singapore, Singapore
Mathematics, Music

Max Loen, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Environmental Studies

Samuel Greggory Lubs, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Music Education

Jonathan Lundeby, Arvada, Colorado
Exercise Science

Olivia Ann Luster, Janesville, Wisconsin
Management, cum laude

Cassandra Magee, Fort Collins, Colorado
Music Education, magna cum laude

Andrew Mantini, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
German, Visual Communication, cum laude

Eva Mark, Springfield, Minnesota
English, summa cum laude

Emily Marthaler, West Union, Minnesota
Social Work

Kirby Masso, White Bear, Minnesota
Data Science, cum laude

Samuel Maston, Hudson, Massachusetts
Biology, magna cum laude

Joshua Matanich, Lake City, Minnesota
Exercise Science

Hannah McCarthy, Prairie City, Iowa

Liliana Louise McGohan, Decorah, Iowa
Music Education, magna cum laude

Layken McGuire, Lexington, Illinois
Biology, Anthropology

Timothy Tre’ William Mewborn, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Josie Meyer, Robbinsdale, Minnesota
Environmental Studies, summa cum laude

Bryson Miller, Parker, Colorado

Isabelle Mooney, Arcadia, Wisconsin

Kyle Steven Edward Morony, Spencer, Iowa

Kiara Morten, Janesville, Wisconsin
Visual Communication

Johanna Muenkel, Rochester, Minnesota
Nursing, cum laude

Margaret Abigail Mullin, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Environmental Studies, summa cum laude

Natalie Neff, Marion, Iowa
Spanish, Biology

Camryn Nelson, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Music, cum laude

Minh, Ha Tinh, Viet Nam
Mathematics, Physics, magna cum laude

Kiley Nolan, Libertyville, Illinois
Allied Health Sciences, cum laude

Cassandra Norton, Lakeville, Minnesota
International Studies, German, summa cum laude

Madelyn O’Brien, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Biology, summa cum laude

Christopher O’Brien, Eagan, Minnesota

William Ode, Des Moines, Iowa
Physics, magna cum laude

Sarah Elisabeth Olson, Waverly, Iowa
Global Health – Plan 3, cum laude

Samuel Orgon, Elk River, Minnesota

Mary Elizabeth Osborne, Esko, Minnesota
Communication Studies, magna cum laude

Abigail Ostrum, Rosemount, Minnesota
Nursing, magna cum laude

Grace Parrott, Iowa City, Iowa
Environmental Studies, magna cum laude

Lainey Patzloff, Edina, Minnesota
Music Education, cum laude

Lewis Peters, La Crescent, Minnesota
Law & Values

Rhylan Peterson, Dodge Center, Minnesota

Anders Peterson, Dassel, Minnesota
Music Education, summa cum laude

Samantha Peterson, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Social Work, cum laude

Daniel Pfeffer-Kleemann, Rochester, Minnesota
Chemistry, summa cum laude

Cody Pierce, Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Computer Science, summa cum laude

Claudia Podesta, Blaine, Minnesota
Nursing, summa cum laude

Luke Prendergast, Denver, Iowa

Emma Prostine, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Chemistry, summa cum laude

McKenna Jillane Prunty, Worthington, Minnesota

Erik Radke, Duluth, Minnesota
Mathematics, Data Science, summa cum laude

Charlotte Ravenscroft, Madison, Wisconsin
Nursing, magna cum laude

Samantha Reesman, Burlington, Wisconsin

Malachi Rettmann, Madison, Wisconsin
Music, Management, summa cum laude

Mason Reuter, Monticello, Iowa
Visual Communication

Nicholas Rogness, Roseville, Minnesota
Data Science, Nordic Studies, Mathematics, summa cum laude

Mason Ross, Queen Creek, Arizona
Management, Political Science

Jordan Marie Rubie, Winona, Minnesota
Allied Health Sciences

Scott Rust, Hudson, Wisconsin
English, cum laude

Samantha Sabin, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Communication Studies, summa cum laude

Sofía del Carmen Sackett, Des Moines, Iowa
Biology, Spanish, cum laude

Braydon Saltou, Decorah, Iowa
Neuroscience, summa cum laude

Marina Elisabeth Sawyer, Saint Peter, Minnesota
Environmental Studies, cum laude

Gabriella Ann Schei, Stewartville, Minnesota

Skyler Schneider, Wellman, Iowa
Elementary Education, magna cum laude

Preston Schuelke, Rockford, Illinois

Alena Schuemann, Loveland, Colorado
Music Education, cum laude

Samuel Scott, Banning, California

Sophie Selenke, Hudson, Iowa
Nursing, cum laude

Margaret Sessions, Decorah, Iowa
Global Health, Social Work, magna cum laude

Eric Shaffer, Coralville, Iowa
Chemistry, magna cum laude

Ren Shedinger, Decorah, Iowa
Visual Communication, cum laude

Ava Anthea Shively, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Art, German, magna cum laude

Ellie Shuros, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Biology, magna cum laude

Lauren Nicole Siems, North Liberty, Iowa
Theatre, magna cum laude

Abigail Slininger, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Allied Health Sciences, Exercise Science, cum laude

Lillian Smith, Decorah, Iowa
Classics, magna cum laude

Natalia Smith, Littleton, Colorado

Matthew Snavely, Grayslake, Illinois

Mattie Snyder, Bemidji, Minnesota
Music, Visual Communication, magna cum laude

Amelia Daisy Solum, Spring Grove, Minnesota
Nursing, magna cum laude

Kaj Spencerberg, Decorah, Iowa

Abby Johanna Spore, Robins, Iowa
Biology, cum laude

Cullen Stamp, Plymouth, Minnesota
Allied Health Sciences, Exercise Science, magna cum laude

Jacob Steenhoek, Ames, Iowa

Blake Storby, Lake Mills, Iowa
Exercise Science

Margaret Stucker, Roseville, Minnesota

Mia Suzuki, Rochester, Minnesota
International Studies, summa cum laude

Alexis Svestka, Decorah, Iowa

Katherine Syers, St. Paul, Minnesota

Tan Hung Kai, Singapore, Singapore

Carly Tautges, Rochester, Minnesota
Nursing, cum laude

Melissa Tholen, St. Paul, Minnesota

Malachi Thompson, Johnston, Iowa
Data Science

Sasha Tomasevich, Oakdale, Minnesota

Truong Dang Duong, Vung Tau, Vietnam
Nursing, magna cum laude

Lucy Tschida, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Environmental Studies, cum laude

Phat Tu, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Computer Science

Kaylee Turney, Zimmerman, Minnesota
Music Education, magna cum laude

William Oxendine Valentine, Los Angeles, California
Political Science

Eleanor Jean Van Fleet, Alexis, Illinois

Julia Veit, Iowa City, Iowa

Chayla Louise Velander, Lakeville, Minnesota
Nursing, summa cum laude

Samuel Vue, Lakeville, Minnesota
Computer Science, cum laude

Vuong Tran Luc, Nghe An, Vietnam
Computer Science, cum laude

Caleb Wake, Wellington, New Zealand

Madeleine Way, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Political Science, cum laude

Amy Webb, Waverly, Iowa
International Studies, German, summa cum laude

Michaela Weber, Lakeville, Minnesota
Accounting, Management, cum laude

Daniel Webster, Dallas, Texas

Ted Weigle, St. Michael, Minnesota
History, magna cum laude

Lara Elizabeth Welter, Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Keaton M. Wenz, Mount Vernon, Iowa
Philosophy, Political Science, German, summa cum laude

Austin Wesenberg, Cold Spring, Minnesota
Environmental Studies, summa cum laude

Nia Whitsitt, Decorah, Iowa
Identity Studies

Dylan Wiemers, Coal Valley, Illinois

Elise Wilson, Ankeny, Iowa
Environmental Studies, magna cum laude

Rory Wisgerhof, White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Nate Withers, Ames, Iowa

Dre’ Withers, Rochester, Minnesota
Social Work

Carly Witucki, Menomonie, Wisconsin
Music Education, summa cum laude

Linnea Birgitte Wolle, Arvada, Colorado
Mathematics/Statistics, cum laude

Maya Wosepka, St. Paul, Minnesota
Accounting, cum laude

Zella Wynsma, Davenport, Iowa
Mathematics, magna cum laude

Hermminat Yusuff, Walden, New York

Abigail Susan Zeeh, McGregor, Iowa

Samuel Zegler-Evans, Topock, Arizona
Nursing, cum laude

Quinn Zeleny, West Saint Paul, Minnesota
Elementary Education

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Luther College student Emily Hursh interned this past spring at the US Supreme Court

Emily Hursh in glasses and a pink sweater against a sunset on the water.

Emily Hursh, a rising senior, interned at the Supreme Court this past spring.

Emily Hursh, a rising senior at Luther College majoring in history and minoring in museum studies, applied what she learned at Luther during a spring 2024 internship for the highest court in the U.S. Hursh, a rising senior from St. Charles, Minnesota, was able to connect her history studies at Luther with her internship duties at the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C.

Hursh completed the collections management internship for the Office of the Curator at the court. She spent her days cataloging and organizing items in the court’s archives. This included making high quality images of ephemera in the court’s archives and maintaining the digital archives. She also assisted staff members with research and public programs.

“I’ve always been interested in the background of items or objects,” Hursh said. “I’ve always wanted to understand why an object is important and how it came to be that way.” 

During her internship, Hursh was also able to sit in on oral arguments for the Supreme Court, giving her a firsthand look at the judicial branch. 

“One of the best parts of the experience is understanding more how the judicial branch operates,” Hursh said. 

Hursh did her internship through the Lutheran College Washington Semester, a personalized program where students from Lutheran-affiliated colleges engage in academic and professional opportunities in the nation’s capital. 

She chose to come to Luther for its history program; she connected with the history major through all it had to offer. She’s taken a variety of history courses during her time at Luther, including upper level history classes on American empires in Asia and apartheid in Africa. She took the course “Historian’s Craft,” which helped her better understand historical interpretation. 

She was excited by Luther’s museum studies minor, which is generally only offered in graduate level programs. The program helped her learn the fundamentals of managing collections and archiving objects. 

“Choosing Luther felt right,” Hursh said. “It felt comfortable.” 

“Emily is an excellent student, setting the highest standards for herself. She is also a valuable asset to the history department, always willing to assist departmental events, meet prospective students, and moderate panels of student speakers,” Robert Christman, professor of history at Luther, said. “Students like her don’t just learn about the past, they make the department function as a community. It is difficult to overestimate just how important this work is. “

After Hursh graduates from Luther, she plans to attend graduate school for library sciences or archival conservation. 

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Decorah CSD Board of Education to Receive Update from Facility Committee July 8

The Decorah Community School District Board of Education will receive a recommendation from the district’s Facility Committee at its regular meeting on July 8. The Facility Committee consists of community leaders who have met multiple times over several months to consider the future of the district’s elementary facilities, which currently include John Cline Elementary School and West Side Early Childhood Center.

Reviewing Decorah CSD’s facility needs at the early childhood and elementary level is a process that dates back to 2008. Past and current members of the Board of Education and administration have examined John Cline and West Side and discussed potential replacement options for both schools.

This process, spanning more than 15 years, has included engagement with residents about the district’s needs, multiple building assessments by architects and engineers, and the formation of committees tasked with exploring possible solutions. The district is currently partnered with Emergent Architecture as part of its ongoing planning effort.

Last fall, the district purchased from the City of Decorah land adjacent to John Cline Elementary on what has been referred to as the “Heivly Island.” This purchase also included the acquisition of the varsity softball field and a portion of the varsity baseball diamond, land which the school district has long occupied but did not own. 

“Many years have been invested by many people in the pursuit of providing our youngest students with the type of environment needed for 21st century learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Tim Cronin. “We want to thank everyone for their dedication to this shared mission, and we will continue to provide updates for the community as this process moves forward.”

West Side was constructed in 1939, and John Cline opened in 1964. Today, students and staff face numerous deficiencies, including outdated structural, mechanical, and electrical systems; aged HVAC systems lacking air conditioning and proper ventilation; a sewer system in need of replacement; playground drainage problems; and roofs in poor condition that require replacement. Additionally, building configurations hinder effective security measures, and there is a shortage of both classrooms and adequate space within existing classrooms.

In April, Decorah CSD hosted a survey and asked residents for input about the potential construction of a new school to replace John Cline and West Side. More than 76 percent of the 1,151 respondents said they would support the construction of a new school, while 15.4 percent said they would not support such a project. Another 8.1 percent said they were unsure.

An election on , will ask voters to approve the renewal of the district’s Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) through 2051. The RPS specifies the uses for which income generated through the existing Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) fund can be utilized. Renewal requires 50 percent approval from voters.

If the school board accepts the recommendation of the Facility Committee, a second election would be held on November 5, asking voters to approve the issuance of general obligation bonds for the construction of a new elementary school. Bond issues need 60% approval by voters in order to pass.

Project updates and details will be released as available at

John Cline Elementary - Grades K-2

John Cline School

Recent Luther College graduate Jaden Bilal to compete for U.S. in world powerlifting competition

Jaden Bilal lifting in a gym.

Jaden Bilal

DECORAH, IOWA– Recent Luther College graduate Jaden Bilal will compete in Tartu, Estonia, with some of the best young powerlifters in the world from July 23–27 for the 2024 World University Powerlifting Championships as part of Team USA. 

He competes through Powerlifting America, an organization that organizes powerlifting events for students across the country. 

“For nationals in Powerlifting America, the goal was to gather any and all lifters who compete at the university level and from there gather the best of those lifters to represent the U.S. at the world championships,” Bilal said. 

At the competition, participants get three chances in the three lifting categories: squat, bench press and deadlift. The highest weight recorded in each category counts toward the final score. 

Bilal has an impressive personal record for powerlifting. The highest bench press he’s achieved is 295 pounds, while the most he has squatted is 535 pounds.  The most he’s ever lifted is 620 pounds in deadlift form. 

“In my freshman year I realized I was pretty strong for my body weight. During the summer of my freshman year I went home to my home gym and noticed a man powerlifting, and I thought that was pretty cool,” Bilal said. “I wanted to try that, so I began researching and training.” 

Bilal, an exercise science major from Charlotte, North Carolina, has learned about anatomy and nutrition and applied that to his training. He keeps a strict training schedule, lifting every day and working on his strength and form. He eventually wants to attend graduate school for nutrition, but is taking a year off to focus on powerlifting. 

For the past two years, he’s trained and coached athletes through an Athletic Performance Internship at Luther’s Legends Fitness Center under the direction of Kendra Cooper, assistant performance coach and director of Legends. He works with athletics teams, including the Norse volleyball team. Exercise science majors complete the internship to gain experience for future careers. 

“Jaden has played a major role in our Athletic Performance Internship for the past two years. It has been fun to watch him grow as a coach and share his expertise with everyone,” Cooper said. “He is always the first to volunteer to help lead a team through a lift, and his energy is contagious to be around. I know that the athletes love his help in the weight room.” 

“Observing Jaden’s ability to lead and confidence grow over the last four years has been neat to watch. He works well with a wide variety of groups and helps people reach their full potential,” said Kris Franzen, director of residence life, who’s gotten to know Jaden during his time at Luther. 

During his first two years at Luther, he was a part of the track and field team, but during his junior year, he decided to focus on powerlifting and joined the Luther powerlifting club where he and other students would compete at meets. 

“I would love to see powerlifting grow at Luther,” Bilal said. “For anyone who wants to get into powerlifting, I’d say, just go for it,” Bilal said.

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Kay Bronshteyn named Director of Luther College’s Preus Library

Kay Bronshteyn in a black shirt posing for a portrait

Kay Bronshteyn will serve as the Director of Preus Library

DECORAH, IOWA–Kay Bronshteyn has joined Luther College as the director of Preus Library. A long-time library administrator with experience across a wide range of institutions, Bronshteyn comes to Decorah most recently from serving as the associate director for research and engagement at the world-renowned Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Bronshteyn earned her master’s in library science from the University of Illinois, and later earned a credential to teach English composition in Minnesota state colleges and universities.

Familiar to the upper Midwest, Bronshteyn worked for eight years in Anoka, Minn., at Anoka Technical College, as well as part-time appointments at St. Cloud State and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She also founded library services and served for a decade as the library director for Rasmussen College.

Along with her substantial career experience leading and supporting academic library operations, Bronshteyn brings a diverse set of skills to Luther, including a strong background in research services, collection management and information literacy instruction. She also has strong Russian language skills including coursework towards a master’s in Russian studies at the University of Minnesota.

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Luther College to commemorate Juneteenth with trip to African American Museum of Iowa June 19

DECORAH, IOWA—To commemorate Juneteenth, the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Support (CIES) at Luther College is hosting a day trip on Wednesday, June 19, to the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids.

The trip will depart from the front of the Dahl Centennial Union at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 19, and cost is $10 per person which includes transportation to Cedar Rapids and admission to the museum. The deadline to reserve a spot on the trip is Friday, June 14. For anyone interested, please RSVP online. For any questions, email

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Africans and African Americans. On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to notify the more than 250,000 remaining enslaved Africans they were now free. Although Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday gaining recognition in 2021, African Americans have celebrated the day for decades. 

In addition, Luther College will observe Juneteenth as an administrative and federal holiday. For those on-campus, Luther’s Dining Services will provide food and educational resources on this important holiday in the Union cafeteria. Learn about additional Juneteenth celebrations in Iowa through this online listing.

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Luther’s Gerdin Fieldhouse renovation set for this summer, wrestling addition proposed

DECORAH, IOWA—The Gerdin Fieldhouse for Athletics and Wellness renovation project is set to begin this summer at Luther College, and a new potential phase was revealed this week.

With approvals in place from the Board of Regents to begin the construction renovation, President Jenifer K. Ward and Athletic Director Renae Hartl provided an update to the college, and revealed the potential for a wrestling training space addition along with starting dates for the project.

“As we approached the Board of Regents for approval of the final plans, we took the opportunity to think bigger,” Ward said. “Shifting the main entry has inspired a new design, we were able to imagine a four-mat training space in place of the old south entrance circle. The board agreed that with the level of changes set for the old Regents Center, now is the time for Luther to propose a wrestling addition.”

In the original master planning from 2015, a three-mat training space near the aquatic center and the north gym was suggested. The new concept locates the four-mat space beside the Robert and Ann Naslund Sports and Recreation Center and adjacent to Carlson Stadium.

“This is a game-changer for one of Luther’s top programs,” Hartl said. “Not only will it be huge for wrestling, it is going to transform the circle drive into a new outdoor plaza area for all of our outdoor venues and events and an additional gathering space for campus.”

Fund-raising for the proposed wrestling addition is now underway.

“The design-build team is working on potential plans, and we are excited to invite our alumni and friends to bring this project to reality, especially those in the wrestling community,” Ward said.

Ward and Hartl also revealed the new architect renderings of the future main entrance. The opening three phases of work are set for mid-summer, with the reconstruction of the current north lobby into the primary entrance for the facility as the opening phase along with renovating the visiting locker rooms.

An artists rendering of the entrance to Luther's proposed new Gerdin Fieldhouse.

An artist’s rendering of the entrance to the Gerdin Fieldhouse for Athletics and Wellness.

“The renovation construction is set to begin in late July or early August, and we will be starting with the new North Lobby entrance,” Ward said. 

Along with a new concession stand and new bathroom facilities, the expanded lobby will salute the spirit of all 21 Luther varsity teams and will provide a new home for the current Hall of Fame.

“We’ve got great excitement about this project among all our teams, but also for the entire campus, Decorah and all of northeast Iowa,” Hartl said. “The new entrance will make coming to all events easier. We cannot wait to start this renovation.”

The second phase of work will renovate numerous team locker rooms and other athletic department support areas. This phase is expected to begin during the late fall of 2024.

Due to supply chain difficulties related to the new air conditioning for the main competition area, the conversion of the current gym into an arena configuration, including Birkestrand Family Court, will begin immediately at the conclusion of the 2024-25 basketball seasons.

“Knowing the arena will begin next spring, we look forward to the last competition seasons in the gym for volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and wrestling,” Hartl said. “We will begin working this summer to plan special events and celebratory matches and games for this fall and winter.”

Leadership gifts made in 2023-24 have given the renovation campaign significant momentum heading into 2024-25, Vice President for Development Mary Duvall noted.

“As we surpass 60% of our newly-expanded fundraising goal and strive for full funding by the end of 2025, we invite additional investment from alumni and friends who wish to partner with Luther in this transformative facilities renovation,” Duvall said.

To learn more about how individuals can help Luther reach its goal, contact the Development Office at To see more details of the phases and to watch a video related to this announcement, the entrance rendering and the wrestling training facility concept drawings, go to the Gerdin Fieldhouse Renovation page at

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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