BY PAUL C. PRIBBENOW, PRESIDENT
As I recently watched our almost 1,000 graduates of the Augsburg Class of 2012 walk across the stage to receive diplomas, I couldn’t help but be proud of their many accomplishments and successes as Augsburg students. Our remarkably diverse graduates—from various backgrounds, of various talents, on their way to various professions—are the most tangible signs of our strategic commitment to the success of all our students.
And yet, the news media and popular opinion would have us believe that there are storm clouds rising in higher education. Some even call it a “tsunami.” Students unprepared for college, students who do not persist or graduate, students who will not get jobs (or, at least, not the jobs they want), students with too much debt. And conversely, colleges and universities that do not meet student needs, institutions that are too bureaucratic and expensive, colleges and universities stuck with an “old” model of teaching and learning.
At Augsburg, we are deeply aware of these concerns. In fact, this issue of Augsburg Now includes an overview of the complex economics of higher education because we understand that topics such as this are too important to leave unaddressed. At the same time, we recognize that the markers of student success—graduation rates, academic achievement, or getting into graduate school or the workforce—also must be pursued. The story about our new Gage Center for Student Success shows just one way we are focused on ensuring that our students have the support they need to complete their Augsburg education.
So, rather than allow various social and economic trends to define our reality, we are dedicated to planning for our future in ways that are both strategic, that is, focused on what is most essential and important to our mission as a college, and also student-centered, that is, always mindful that we must do our best for all of our students.
We articulate this commitment to student success in a concept we call the Augsburg Promise. It is the relationship we form with our students to ensure their success, and it has three key components.
It is, first of all, centered in our commitment to helping our students discern and live their vocations (or “callings”). The concept of vocation—inherited from our Lutheran Christian theological tradition and embedded in the Augsburg curriculum—is not merely about self-fulfillment. It is a deeply nuanced way of helping students explore their gifts and commitments, understand the arc of their lives, and embrace how their work in the world—whatever it may be—has significance. At the heart of the Augsburg Promise is the claim that our students will be better prepared for the world because of our work together in the classroom, in residence halls, on athletic fields, and in our neighborhood.
The second component of the Augsburg Promise is our focus on academic growth and achievement in terms of both access—how our students are welcomed as part of our diverse community—and excellence—the standards we set and the support we offer to ensure that their education is of the highest order. Our students come to Augsburg with a variety of gifts and talents. Our promise to them is that this educational experience like no other will challenge them to grow as students and as citizens. So, yes, they will attain traditional academic success, and be recognized with honors and awards, but they also will experience the growth and achievement that is recognized in lives of meaning and significance in the world.
Finally, the Augsburg Promise is about equipping our students for the lives they will lead in the world. Higher education—especially an education grounded in the liberal arts—must aim at ensuring that our students are educated across a wide range of disciplines and perspectives. At the same time, a college community like Augsburg must also consider how students are formed with certain skills and habits that will prepare them for citizenship and leadership. Whether in the classroom or community, in student organizations or residence halls, on playing fields or international travel, we must have an integrated sense of how our students are “educated to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders.”
That is our mission—and that is our promise so that all Augsburg students might be successful.