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After graduating from Luther College High School (LCHS) in 2010, Austin Josephson (HS’10, U’15) attended Luther’s University campus (LCUR) and in 2015, he convocated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Film Production and minoring in Indigenous Studies. While he loves the camera work inherent in film production, his true passion is working with people and giving back to his community. Fortunately for the Luther community, there is one project that continues to bring this alumnus back to his alma mater: organizing and conducting the very popular Bromance & Masculinity: A Celebration workshop – the third iteration of which was held in November 2017.
Austin’s Bromance & Masculinity workshops were born out of a paper he wrote after the completion of his BA. He wanted to further explore concepts of masculinity: how it is defined, what platonic relationships between men look like, and the often restrictive social expectations under which many men find themselves operating in their daily social lives. He had an idea to partner with Man Up Against Violence, an initiative in full swing at the University of Regina, and discussed the concept with Dr. Brenda Anderson, LCUR Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies, and Religious Studies.
His first workshop, in October of 2016, “went great!” says Austin, who took the talking points of his paper and turned them into a workshop, complete with a sharing circle to close it out. “[It was a] huge success; a wonderful turn-out of students. Everyone was engaged and respectful.”
Austin co-hosts the workshops with fellow LCHS alumnus Thomas Fahlman (HS’14), his best friend since grade 10. “We can break down hegemonic masculinity one person and experience at a time and raise a new generation of men,” Austin explains. “I want to expose the idea that masculinity is learned, and talk about a new way of conceptualizing masculinity. I want men to think about how they see themselves and to come to a place where they realize that they don’t have to prove anything; they can and should be respected, simply for who they are. Ultimately, I want to take masculinity and spin it on its head.”
Austin’s LCUR community involvement goes back to his undergraduate student days. In addition to being a member of the Luther University Students Association, he was also very active with the Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE), a national organization that seeks to bring attention to colonial history and the effects it has had on Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in an effort to support the Truth and Reconciliation process. CRE Indigenous and non-indigenous youth form reconciliation teams and are trained to teach about this history and its effects.
At the advice of Dr. Anderson, Austin attended a conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, his first CRE event, where he met other students from Regina, Saskatchewan. Together, they decided to form the first Youth Reconciliation Initiative (YRI) Team in Regina. The team went to Toronto, Ontario, for training – an experience that Austin sums up in one word: love. “We engaged in emotional sharing circles during training and became very close. After training, we started doing blanket exercises, hosting events, utilizing social media to further this cause.” The Team’s efforts and successes were recognized when they were presented with the 2016 RCE Saskatchewan Education for Sustainable Development Recognition Award.
“Luther gave me the best years of my life,” says Austin. His unequivocal sentiment echoes that of many alumni of Luther College, and – luckily for us – like so many of his peers he just can’t seem to stay away.
Remembering Luther College
What exactly comprised those “best years”? An exceptional education, to be sure: “Both campuses offer an educational experience like no other that goes beyond traditional ways of learning and incorporates teamwork, leadership skills, communication, and personal growth.” But, as Austin says, Luther students are the recipients of more than simply quality academia. “It goes beyond English and Math and Science. You’re learning about community… about relationships. You’re learning life lessons.”
So what is it that Luther does to leave their alum in general consensus that their educational experience was superior to their non-Luther counterparts? It comes down to a difference in philosophy, Austin says: “Luther’s educational philosophy is one of community-based learning, [providing students] opportunities to share ideas and opinions through class discussions. The learning environment is interdisciplinary which allows students to gain a variety of perspectives and expanding how they see and understand the world around them.” According to Austin, this interdisciplinary approach is highly beneficial to more than just a student’s ability to learn, but also to his or her sense of self. “You feel, as a student, that you are part of something – part of a community. Luther treats you as a whole person.”
Luther is fortunate to have faculty that are dedicated to ensuring that the student experience is holistically meaningful and as a result, teachers often leave lasting impacts on their students. Of Luther’s many “inspirational teachers”, two in particular left a positive mark on Austin: Mr. Troy Casper, a physical education teacher at the High School campus, always offered Austin “words of encouragement. Being born premie, I had a lot of physical challenges. In elementary, Phys-ed was not my strength and I struggled a lot with physical activity. Mr. Casper believed in me and always knew that I was trying my best. He changed the way I saw physical education.” At the University campus, funnily enough, a professor that Austin never even took a class with was the one who left the greatest impression. Dr. Brenda Anderson, Professor of Women's and Gender Studies & Religious Studies, was always there to lend her support with regard to the Masculinity and Bromance workshops and the CRE. Austin says he’s enjoyed working with her on a professional level and, as a result, feels that she is a “great friend” whose professional support and guidance he is thankful for.
Other relationships, of course, were borne at Luther, including Austin’s best friend and Bromance co-host, Thomas – who he met in Grade Ten. It’s certainly clear why Austin deems those Luther years among some of the best of his life: the “many lifelong friendships”; the valued opportunities he had, including playing a prominent role in his Grade Eleven high school play; being an active participant in the Luther University Student Association (LUSA) and in the CRE; now running the Bromance workshops; and the life lessons that Austin thankfully carries into his future. And it goes a long way to explaining why he never really left.
*On one of his many visits to his alma mater, Austin's attended daily chapel at the High School as a guest speaker. He was kind enough to provide us with a copy of his talk, entitled "Reflections From a Luther Lion".