Christa Kelly, Staff Writer
Early February marked a new beginning for Gwen Walz, activist, teacher, and wife to Governor Tim Walz; Gwen Walz has officially joined Augsburg University as an advisor to President Paul Pribbenow.
This is one more step in a long, prolific career, but it is also a significant change. Since the results of the midterms were announced, Walz has moved from her 22-year home in Mankato, left her job as an English teacher and relocated her two children. She has also decided to step out into the spotlight.
“When Tim was in Congress, I was able to be in the background,” Walz said. “As the first lady, that’s not really an option anymore.”
Though she describes herself as a “massive introvert,” Walz is taking the transition in stride. She wants to be involved. “I needed a space to continue doing some of the meaningful work I’ve been doing,” she says.
Augsburg was the place to do this. When Walz took the job at Augsburg, she was excited to help further the school’s mission. “It feels very right to me … I really care about the work you’re doing here.”
Her connection with Augsburg goes back to before she was born; her mother was the first person in her family to complete high school. “Augsburg found her,” Walz says. “They said, ‘We will find a way for you to come be a part of our college.’”
In taking her mother in, Walz says that the school “changed the trajectory of her life.”
Now she’s hoping to give back. While there’s no definite plan on what she will be doing at Augsburg, Walz says that “already there’s lots to do.” The overview of her job will include community building, advising, taking on specific projects such as the East Side teaching program and using connections to further projects.
“I want to bring my talents, my faith … all of who I am … I hope that I can be a resource in some way.”
However, she was quick to acknowledge that not everyone would see her that way. “I work to be pretty self-aware.” She says that she understands that there may be people who would interpret her job as Augsburg taking a political stance. She doesn’t want to be “a lightning rod” that could interrupt Augsburg’s work. “I try to be up front with that right away.”
But even with this concern, Walz is happy to be in this place. “My role is to serve, as first lady, and at Augsburg … Service is such an honor,” she says. “Some people see elections as power. To me, I see elections as responsibility. That’s a much more profound word to me than power.”
Working for Augsburg is one way that she believes that she can serve. She recalls how much the school impacted her mother. “I think that Augsburg is still doing what it did for my mom,” she said. “Liberal arts are transformative … I was drawn into that.”
Minnesota First Lady Gwen Walz. Photo from mn.gov website.
This article was originally published in the March 1, 2019 issue.