Passionate project director dies

Elizabeth Giorgi

Robin Bragge, project director for the K-12 programs at the Minnesota International Center, died unexpectedly Wednesday. Funeral services were Saturday.

Bragge, 44, leaves a legacy at the Minnesota International Center as a crucial developer of the International Classroom Connection program. The program integrates international students at the University to K-12 schools in Minnesota to provide students with a broader perspective of the world.

Colleagues and students remembered Bragge as a passionate individual with a “positive aura” that helped make the International Classroom Connection one of the most successful programs at the Minnesota International Center.

Minnesota International Center President Carol Engebretson Byrne said Robin was known for “living her values.”

Bragge was a powerful presence of positive energy and joy, she said.

Bragge’s involvement with the International Classroom Connection resulted in the program tripling the number of students and schools participating, said Minnesota International Center Vice President Catherine Born. The program grew to more than 1,000 presenters and 40,000 students this year.

The International Classroom Connection program brings University international students to Minnesota K-12 schools to teach about their cultures and to allow students to ask questions about the world.

Bragge initiated the World Cultures Day program in which International Connection Classroom spends an entire day in a school and speakers give presentations and answer questions, Born said.

The program primarily visits schools in the metro area but also works with several schools around Minnesota, she said.

“It was an opportunity for the world to come to their school,” she said.

Presenters greeted students in their own languages and at the end of the day the students received a fake passport to show all the different presentations they saw.

Urban and regional planning graduate student Avigya Karki said that when he met Bragge he immediately felt comfortable in her presence.

Karki said he is grateful to Bragge for getting him involved in the program because he had fun with all the classes he visited, and it has given him a different view of America.

“I get an education as well,” he said. “Kids see so many things we don’t.”

At the beginning of a World Cultures Day program Bragge would prepare the students for their day, Karki said.

He said it was “always so amazing” how Bragge could excite an entire crowd of restless children without ever having to raise her voice.

Karki said the program was important to him because there are many programs on campus that intermingle international students at the University, but there weren’t many programs that got the students involved within the community.

American studies graduate student Zhihui Sophia Geng said Bragge went beyond her duties to help people.

Geng said many times Bragge picked up students at their homes and dropped them off so they could participate in the program.

She did extra things for students because she cared, even though it was not part of her job description, Geng said.

Byrne said the program continues to grow because of the urgent need for global understanding.

“We haven’t even begun to meet the demand,” she said. “Robin has left a great legacy, and it is time for people to carry it on.”