Last spring, a small group of Regents, faculty, staff, and alumni were charged by the Board of Regents with exploring long-term strategy for Augsburg, especially in light of shifting demographics, economic trends, and volatility in higher education.
It was an inspiring process as we reflected on how Augsburg would remain faithful to its historic distinctions, while at the same time being relevant to a changing world. Perhaps the most compelling conclusion of the Futures Group was that Augsburg would be its best self in the years ahead as it remains radically student-centered, meeting students where they are and equipping them for lives of meaning and purpose.
It is not a unique claim, this idea of being student-centered, but it is understood in diverse ways across higher education. For some, the claim means that students are customers or clients who deserve high-quality service. For others, it means that students are lumps of clay to be formed and shaped with particular values. For still others, the claim means that students are deeply engaged in the governance of the college or in its administrative decision-making.
At Augsburg, though, the claim of being radically student-centered means something very different. For our community, each student is a gift, a gift to be received with gratitude and humility, a gift that surprises and engages us, a gift that changes us. Each summer, I tell our incoming students that their gifts of intellect and leadership and passion will make Augsburg a more faithful and successful college, even as we accompany them on their educational journeys. And I mean it.
This issue of Augsburg Now illustrates well how the gifts who are our students have made all of us better. Read about alumna Maya Santamaria ’94, an entrepreneur whose Augsburg education has shaped her community work in Minneapolis. Witness the stories of our remarkable student-athletes, partnering with Special Olympics Minnesota to show how intellectual differences need not get in the way of teamwork and sportsmanship. Hear the stories of this year’s Distinguished Alumni and Spirit of Augsburg awardees, whose lives are testaments to how Augsburg’s mission is lived out across the world and generations.
And perhaps most powerfully, learn about how Gov. Mark Dayton declared August 29,2016, as Augsburg College Equity Day in Minnesota, recognizing Augsburg for its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and justice. As one staff member told me on that special occasion, this work is “a love letter to our students,” a recognition that our remarkably diverse students, who come to us with their many experiences and talents, are gifts that have changed us forever and for the better.
What gifts we have been given for almost 150 years! They ground our vision to be “a new kind of student-centered, urban university, small to our students and big for the world.”