As we enter a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for our return to campus for our 152nd academic year at Augsburg, I am often asked what we have learned during the past 16 months that will be part of a “new normal” for our community.
Certainly there is much that we have learned about the use of technology for teaching and learning, and for doing our administrative work—technology that will be an abiding and effective tool for the ways we work into the future. We also have learned important lessons about public health and not taking for granted our individual and common well-being. And then there are lessons about the fragility of our economic lives and the need to be laser-focused on our mission as we make decisions about revenue and expenses.
But perhaps the most important and striking lesson we learned during the pandemic is that all of the work we have done the past few years to chart a strategic path for Augsburg—work that culminated in the creation in Fall 2019 of Augsburg150: The Sesquicentennial Plan—provided us with a framework for both navigating through these unprecedented times and for pursuing a sustainable future for our university. In other words, our planning deliberations, grounded in Augsburg’s mission to educate students to be “informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders,” got it right as we named our highest aspirations and our strategic priorities.
In particular, I am proud of the vision we cast for our future, which says that “As a new kind of urban, student-centered university, we are educating Auggies as stewards of an inclusive democracy, engaged in their communities and uniquely equipped to navigate the complex issues of our time.”
Consider the claims we make in this vision statement: to embrace our urban setting, to keep students at the center of our lives, to pursue democratic engagement, and to equip our students to take on the most complex problems we all face. And we honored those claims as we lived through the pandemic: responding to the many needs of our students and neighbors as we kept each other safe and healthy; focusing on the flexibility our students required as they pursued their education primarily online; working together as a community of faculty, staff, and students to navigate an uncharted path; and leaning into the incredibly complex issues raised by the pandemic so that we might all learn from them.
As I begin my 16th year as Augsburg’s 10th president, I am so proud of our community and excited about the future we will create together. It may not be normal, but it will be grounded as always in our mission and vision. Enjoy this issue of Augsburg Now with its engaging stories that make my case for Augsburg’s future.
Paul C. Pribbenow, President