Cobber grad to host National Book Awards at Concordia

A Concordia College alumnus and National Public Radio host will emcee the 2014 National Book Awards taking place on campus March 26 and 27.

John Ydstie, this year’s host, is a 1974 graduate and a Minnesota native. This is the first time he will partake in the National Book Awards although he has previously been involved in campus events as an alumnus.

Ydstie majored in English literature, minored in speech communications and graduated with honors, summa cum laude. In 1979 he joined NPR as an associate producer, however prior to that he was a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio. Ydstie has covered stories throughout Europe and the Middle East in addition to major events within the United States. Currently, his focus is reporting on the global financial crisis. He is also a regular guest host on several NPR news programs.

“People are familiar with him. They know his name,” said Eric Johnson, director of alumni relations. Johnson recognizes the value of having an alumnus involved with such a high visibility event open to Concordia students, faculty and the general public. He also recognizes the importance of alumni support and how events such as the National Book Awards provide an opportunity to honor Concordia’s alumni.

“We want alumni back on campus to stay connected with the institution, current students and the lives of Cobbers,” Johnson said. “It keeps in time with the heartbeat of the place. We can’t survive without alumni support.”

This year marks the 10th annual National Book Awards held on campus, an event initially unique to Concordia. Until last year, Concordia has been the only institution to partner with the National Book Foundation inviting finalists and winners to share their work through presentations, conversations, readings and master classes. Last year Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas joined the “NBA on Campus” program. W. Scott Olsen, English professor, writer, editor and event committee member, established the partnership through an email sent to the executive director of the National Book Foundation. The executive director agreed with the proposed idea and the event began to take shape.

“If you are alive and thinking, you should be in the audience,” Olsen said. Each year publishers nominate between 150-500 books published within the respective year. Books must be in one of the four award categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. A panel of 20 judges narrows the nominations to 10. This is known as the long-list, which is later compiled into a short-list of the top five nominations. The winner is decided the day of the ceremony.

Karen Babine, English professor and writer at Concordia, recognizes the educational opportunity this event presents and encourages all students to attend.

“There are great opportunities at Concordia, some of which might not be repeated,” Babine said. As a professor, Babine also points out how important it is for students to connect with the authors and relate to them.

“They were once students, too,” Babine added. She thinks it is imperative for students to understand that these books came from the minds of living and breathing authors.

This year Concordia will welcome Evan Osnos, author of “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China,” and Anand Gopal, author of “No Good Men Among the Living.” The executive director of the National Book Foundation, Harold Augenbraum, will also be in attendance.

This article was submitted by Kaitlin Preusser, contributing writer.

Contributing Writer

This article was contributed to The Concordian by an outside writer. Questions and comments on this article should be directed to concord@cord.edu.

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