What Is It About Augsburg? The President’s Perspective

Greetings from Augsburg College where we have just begun our 145th academic year. We are excited that our first-year class will be one of the largest in the Colleges history and our returning students represent some of the most successful we’ve had the pleasure to teach. We are humbled by the multitude of gifts, passions, personal stories, and ambitions that these students bring to our campus. We are honored that these remarkable students have chosen Augsburg to pursue their education.

What is it about Augsburg that is attracting students today?

Last month, I was asked to speak on behalf of my presidential colleagues from Lutheran colleges and universities at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. My remarks focused on the vitality of the 26 colleges and universities of the ELCA. As I explained at the Churchwide Assembly and have mentioned in past editions of the Presidents Perspective, I’m deeply concerned about and committed to the relevance of Lutheran higher education. Our core commitments as institutions of learning are unique and particularly relevant in the 21st century. ELCA colleges share five gifts of the Lutheran tradition that form a common identity and character, and these gifts highlight the synergy between what it means to be faithful to our core Lutheran values while at the same time relevant in the 21st century. These gifts include a focus on:

(1) vocation,

(2) critical and humble inquiry,

(3) engaging others in diverse communities,

(4) serving our neighbors, and

(5) semper reformanda—a belief in the value of reform, innovation, and new ways of approaching our work.

As you may know, in the past several years, students and parents have become highly focused on the role that higher education plays in the pursuit of secure, valuable careers. Families are seeking evidence that their college investment will yield a return in the form of successful post-graduate employment. In fact, career advancement now ranks as the No. 1 reason people choose to further their education.

Here at Augsburg, we are keenly aware that students and parents expect us to prepare graduates for successful lives and careers, and, I am pleased to say, we are uniquely positioned to deliver on that promise. We equip our students for vocational journeys that take them down many different pathways – and we do it by offering an educational experience unlike any other!

Augsburg has a long tradition of preparing students for careers. In the early years of the College, we focused on education for service in ministry, teaching, nursing, social work, and other professions. The strength of our reputation in these areas is well known. What’s as impressive — though perhaps less well known — is that we’ve launched thousands of scientists and engineers into their careers during that time. We have a strong pipeline to medical, law, and other professional and graduate schools. Our alumni include small business owners and corporate leaders, actors and musicians, IT professionals, writers, and leaders in the nonprofit world. Thanks in large part to our location in the heart of the Twin Cities, our students are able to build professional relationships in the field of their choice through internships, hands-on research, and other opportunities.

Perhaps most compellingly, Augsburg prepares students best for their various roles in the world by bringing together a diverse student community from across Minnesota, the United States, and the world. Students regularly point to the diversity of the Augsburg campus as one of our most attractive qualities. In our rapidly changing world, relationships that cross traditional boundaries are essential for effective leadership, problem solving, and civic engagement.

To help you imagine what today’s students are bringing to our campus, let me tell you about three who stand out in my mind.

Hannah attended high school in rural Wisconsin and is the recipient of a President’s Scholarship, our highest merit-based award. She is passionate for musical and theatrical performance and has a record of exceptional academic achievement. As the fifth of her family’s five children to attend Augsburg, Hannah knows this is the right college for her.

Samuel attended high school in northern Minnesota and is a Regents’ Scholarship recipient. He started two-a-day practice with the Augsburg football team a couple of weeks ago, which was a great way for him to establish friendships before classes began. As a pre-med student with the additional rigor of participating in the College’s Honors Program, he is going to have a busy first semester.

Stephanie is a Twin Cities native. Her high school teacher—an Augsburg alum—encouraged her to apply to the College. Stephanie is planning to major in Special Education and is the first member of her family to attend college. She will navigate the college experience with assistance from AVID, a program dedicated to increasing student learning, completions, and success in and beyond college. Augsburg was one of the first colleges in the U.S. to pilot AVID for Higher Education, and we are fortunate to connect with smart, driven students like Stephanie because we remain the only four-year private liberal arts college in the Upper Midwest with AVID.

When Augsburg opened its doors in Minneapolis in 1872 the total population of the city was about 20,000 people. Norwegian Lutherans and educational reformers like Sven Oftedal and Georg Sverdrup believed in offering students a practical and useful education that was relevant to their time.

Today, Minneapolis offers our students exposure to global corporations, thriving nonprofits, citizenship and government in action, an internationally known arts community, beautiful lakes and parks, ethnic and cultural diversity, and more. In the midst of this great city, we hold fast to the reform-minded values of our founders. We educate students for careers and for life. Augsburg is a college of choice because it is both faithful to its past and relevant to today’s students.

As always, thank you for your continued support and for positively influencing the lives of our students.

Faithfully yours,

Paul C. Pribbenow