With only a few weeks left in 2013, our campus is busy with preparations for final exams, final papers, and the holidays. Our 34th annual Advent Vespers services were a beautiful and profound way to usher in the Christmas season; it was terrific to see so many of you there again this year and to share the good news of Advent. Despite the bustle of activity that the holidays typically bring, I have always found the closing weeks of the year to be one of the best times for reflection. This year, my reflections focus on the unique role that Augsburg plays in the world.
This topic was at the core of the strategy discussions launched by the Board of Regents last January. And, as you may have read in the fall issue of Augsburg Now, one outcome of that strategic planning work is a vision statement that looks out to 2019, our sesquicentennial year: In 2019, Augsburg will be a new kind of student-centered, urban university that is small to our students and big for the world.
How will Augsburg achieve this 2019 vision?
1) First, we will focus on educating for lives of purpose. This is our academic distinction, the core of our work.
The statement in our 2019 vision that we are “small to our students” captures the student experience that so many of our alumni tell us made a difference in their lives. Augsburg is fundamentally student-centered. Our students work with faculty, coaches, and advisors who get to know them individually. In doing so, our faculty and staff are able to recognize each individual’s strengths and help them develop their gifts and talents in ways that provide each student with a pathway for success to graduation and beyond.
Of course, our most significant initiative in this area is the plan for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR), which, as far as we know, is the only academic building of its kind to co-locate these three disciplines. The Center will allow us to expand our science and research programs, welcoming more students into programs that have opened doors to prestigious off-campus research and graduate school opportunities. The Center will also create a signature learning environment for our business program, which comprises the largest number of undergraduates on campus. By its nature, business is an interdisciplinary field—focused on planning, execution, and management in a vast number of industries. Co-locating business with science and religion enriches the learning experience for students in all three of those areas of study. Finally, by housing our religion department, the CSBR will welcome students from every single major on campus, as each of them participates in two required religion courses as part of the core curriculum, and will equip them to understand how faith and values are central to all aspects of human experience.
2) Second, Augsburg will achieve its 2019 vision by being “at the table” in shaping education to address the world’s needs.
Augsburg is widely known as an engaged community partner in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as in Rochester and around the world. Our commitment to preparing students for lives beyond college calls us to build on that foundation and be “big for the world.” This dimension of the plan recognizes that our academic program will be distinctive because it is relevant to the needs of our community, our region, and the world.
One recent example of our work in this area is the fast-track (three-year) bachelor’s in nursing program launched this fall in partnership with Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). The program allows students to complete a single application and be admitted to both schools—finishing their first two years at MCTC, then transferring seamlessly to complete their bachelor’s degree at Augsburg. This partnership helps us to meet the growing marketplace demand in the field of nursing and, at the same time, provides nursing students an outstanding, high-value educational experience. It is a terrific example of the kind of collaborative, innovative thinking that helps us meet the needs of our region.
3) Finally, achieving our 2019 vision means that Augsburg will be “built for the future.”
Ensuring that Augsburg will thrive now and in the future requires that we maintain a welcoming and sustainable campus; organizational structures that foster collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness; and a sound and sustainable financial footing.
An important differentiation Augsburg has in this area is our urban location. Few colleges—including those located in other parts of the Twin Cities metro area—are positioned to influence and to benefit from their location as Augsburg is. When the Central Corridor Green Line begins operation in 2014, Augsburg will be in the only neighborhood in the metropolitan area with access to both Light Rail lines, providing easy access to both downtowns and to the businesses, arts organizations, religious institutions, and civic life found there.
Our location in the city has a profound effect on student opportunities. Following are examples of just a few of our recent alumni who were actively engaged in internships during their time at Augsburg—opportunities that have served them well in their early careers:
- Dan Brandt ’11, a marketing major, landed a public affairs and community relations internship with the Minnesota Twins during his senior year. He went on to serve in community and public relations positions with both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Wild before transitioning to a leading public relations firm in Minneapolis. Today, he is an assistant account manager at Karwoski & Courage, one of the top 10 public relations firms in the Twin Cities.
- Kristi Vinkemeier ’11 majored in chemistry and minored in biology. Her internship, a joint project between Aveda and SarTec Corporation, involved synthesizing new surfactants (which are used in shampoos and soaps). Kristi discovered her love of research from this experience and joined SarTec as an R&D scientist following her internship. Today, she works as an environmental health and safety coordinator at Integrated Recycling Technology, a privately held, global company specializing in the recycling of catalytic converters and high-grade circuit boards.
- After graduating with a sociology major, Tom Thao ’11 served as an AmericCorps fellow for Minnesota Alliance with Youth, working with a north-metro public charter school to support academic achievement in its elementary school programs. Following that, he has worked as a community organizing and public relations assistant at Cycles for Change, coordinating programs to make biking accessible to under-served communities. Tom’s interest in urban planning and sustainable transportation was ignited during his internship with the Local Initiative Support Corporation, where he conducted housing and zoning research along the Central Corridor Light Rail line.
A distinctive academic program. A commitment to being at the table. And a focus on ensuring we are built for the future. That is the framework provided by our 2019 vision. I couldn’t be more excited about this strategic plan or more optimistic about the future of Augsburg College. The support you have shown in the past year—moving the CSBR campaign past the $25 million fundraising mark and making Augsburg the top fundraising college or university on Minnesota’s online Give to the Max Day last month—has provided important momentum in making sure Augsburg can continue to offer the unique education experiences we all value so deeply.
Best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Paul C. Pribbenow