By Don Stoner
President Pribbenow finishes his term as chair of the MIAC Presidents Council as Professor Tracy Bibelnieks begins her term as chair of the faculty athletic representatives. Jeff Swenson (not pictured) is chair-elect of MIAC’s athletic directors.
When President Paul Pribbenow came to Augsburg in 2006, he discovered a gap between the two sides of the small campus.
“There was this natural divide… Melby and Kennedy [athletic facilities] on one side of campus, and, even though we’re a small campus, it seemed like the divide was both geographical and it was also symbolic in some ways—there wasn’t a connection between the two sides,” he says.
His goal was to bridge the philosophical gap and to fully incorporate Augsburg’s intercollegiate athletic program into the broader campus community. In the pursuit, Augsburg has become an emerging leader in both the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III.
Since 2007, Pribbenow has served as chair-elect and chair of the MIAC Presidents Council, leading a move to redefine the institutional leadership within the conference. He has also worked to increase its influence within NCAA Division III, the largest of NCAA’s three divisions.
“We … think that the presidents need to be involved in the strategy and priorities of the conference, making sure that our student-athletes are having the kinds of experiences we want them to have. That’s the best of the Division III ideal.”
Augsburg’s influence will not end with Pribbenow’s term. Augsburg’s faculty athletic representative (FAR) to MIAC, Tracy Bibelnieks, associate professor of mathematics, will begin a two-year term as chair of the FAR group this August. Athletic director Jeff Swenson also serves as chair-elect of MIAC’s athletic directors and will assume a two-year role as committee chair in 2013.
A faculty athletic representative is a liaison between the faculty and athletics and an advocate for student-athlete affairs, while also serving as part of the conference’s chain of legislation. Bibelnieks will also serve on the conference’s Executive Committee.
“The Division III philosophy of giving students an opportunity to excel in both the academic and athletic aspects of their experience here requires that we be able to have an understanding across the campus of what that balance looks like for students. Certainly, faculty play a significant role,” Bibelnieks says. “There has to be a check and balance in how you keep those wants and needs in balance with each other, both in the academic realm and the athletic realm.”