OLIVIA FOSTER, TRUMPET GUEST WRITER
Starting when she was young, ethics wormed its way into Dr. Abbylynn Helgevold’s life and it became one of her biggest passions.
The professor has been awarded for her studies in the field of ethics and religion, largely because of her personal struggles with morals in the past.
One of Helgevold’s first ethical dilemmas occurred when she was 18 and a freshman in college. A close family member of hers was outed as a member of the LGBTQ community. Witnessing this ignited Helgevold’s search for justice and ethics in her own life.
“Seeing people that I love handle it in so many different ways and trying to figure out how best to be a supporter threw me,” Helgevold said. “That was one of the first moments where I thought: What do you want to cling to, Abby?”
Since that time, Helgevold’s passion for ethics in everyday scenarios has continued to grow. She currently teaches ethics and religion at Wartburg College. Prior to starting at Wartburg this fall, Helgevold taught at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) for eight years.
Helgevold was drawn to Wartburg because of the strong community that the small college fosters, she said. Building relationships is an important component of teaching for her, so being at a place to watch students grow and learn is key.
“At UNI, I saw a lot of students, but I didn’t get very many opportunities for repeat students,” said Helgevold. “I think Wartburg will offer me an opportunity to really see people over the course of several years.”
Aaron Rothfusz, a third-year student in Helgevold’s sexual ethics class, appreciates that she cares about getting to know her students on a personal level as well as an academic one.
“Having a professor who wants to know that I’m doing well and genuinely cares about my life is nice,” said Rothfusz. “She makes time to ask how I’m doing and she encourages her students to bring what we learn in class into our personal lives and vice versa.”
Helgevold is teaching three classes at Wartburg. Helgevold’s goal is to bring a mix of religion, ethics, and social justice into the classroom. Because those three topics are often intertwined, Helgevold said she feels that it makes sense to also combine them in the classroom.
“I think we are witnessing a world right now where people are reacting without much reflection,” said Helgevold. “Especially in the current political climate, people are extremely divided. I think honest, ethical conversations between people with opposing views can help improve the way this country views social justice.”
Rothfusz appreciates the open discussions that come from combining topics like religion and ethics.
“She obviously likes showing how different topics can apply to each other,” said Rothfusz. “It’s also nice to be able to apply my personal experiences and code of ethics to scenarios to understand them more thoroughly and she does a good job of encouraging us to do that.”
Outside of work, Helgevold enjoys spending time with her family. She has two children in middle school as well as two ferrets, two cats, and a bearded dragon. Because of this, she said her house is always bursting with activity.
One of Helgevold’s favorite family activities is playing Minecraft. Her kids have been playing the online game for several years, but Helgevold and her partner just started getting into it during the early days of stay-at-home orders.
“This is where I’m like, ‘Mom’s totally behind the curve,’” Helgevold said of Minecraft. “The kids will be doing such and such with the casting table and I’m over here, not knowing where to find anything.”