Elisa Berndt — Seminary Student, Bioethics Intern

Elisa Berndt and her husband, Sam.

Elisa Berndt and her husband, Sam.

Elisa Berndt, Covenant Award for Christian Faith Recipient, 2014-15 Academic Year


Elisa Berndt ’15 majored in religion at Augustana. She recceived the Covenant Award for Christian Faith for the 2014-15 academic year.

Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana — your career path (what are you doing now), family, education (graduate school), travel, etc.

A. After I graduated from Augustana in 2015, I relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota, to begin graduate school at Luther Seminary. After two years in the Master of Divinity Program, I relocated again to Sioux Falls to serve as the graduate bioethics intern for the DeGroot Center at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. Working in bioethics has been an amazing experience! I have been challenged to wrestle with difficult medical cases, and have learned so much about how to approach ethical issues in a way that is inclusive, interdisciplinary, and patient-centered. I have also had the opportunity to write curriculum and provide education to nurses and other staff at Sanford about ethics, and that has been very rewarding.

My expected graduation from Luther Seminary is May 2019, and I can't wait! In September 2017, I married my husband, Sam, and we are enjoying life together here in Sioux Falls, close to our friends and family.

Q. Favorite class or favorite professor at Augustana, and why?

A. My favorite course at Augustana was “Christian Sexual Ethics” with Dr. Laurie Jungling of the religion department. Not only was the content relevant to current political and social happenings in the world, but the course also taught me how to think, write, and converse with others about immensely difficult real-life topics. I learned how to lean into the discomfort of talking about vulnerability and sexuality, which ultimately led to my involvement in raising awareness for and the prevention of sexual assault on college campuses.

Q. Best Augie memory

A. I think fondly of the opportunities I was given to engage myself academically across the United States! Two favorite trips, among others: in 2014, I travelled with Kari (Haugen) Vosburg '15 and Katie (Connor) Mans '16 to Phoenix where we were able to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University based on the work we were doing at Augustana around the topic of human sexuality and gender equality.

In 2015, Emily Wehde '15 and I had the opportunity to present our religion honors thesis, "Fully Human and Fully Divine: The Birth of Christ and the Role of Mary," at The Zygon Center for Religion and Science in Chicago.

Q. Greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augustana?

A. I recently received the 2018 Brindle Award for Medical Ethics for research and writing I did around the theology and ethics of surrogacy. This is a great honor!

Q. If you could offer an Augustana student some advice, what would you say?

A Some of the opportunities I had while at Augustana — to travel, present research, meet new people and collaborate with classmates and professors — seemed so scary and beyond my own capabilities when they were presented to me. But, I swallowed my fear and chose to say "yes" to them anyway. Now, looking back, I see those opportunities as marks of personal growth, achievement, and catalysts for new opportunities I've had since then.

My advice? Say "yes” even (especially!) to the experiences that scare you, at Augustana and beyond.