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JUNE 5, 2017 - VOL. 52 No. 9

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Augustana University

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, J.D. will become President of Augustana University on August 1, 2017.


Tell us a little about the history and mission of Augustana University.

Augustana's history is 157 years strong and is rich in tradition and meaning-a true testament to the power of determination, the belief in education, and the importance of serving others. Augustana was founded in 1860 in the basement of a Norwegian church in Chicago. The school moved a few times over a period of years before settling in Dakota Territory, in the city of Canton, in 1884. Augustana moved to Sioux Falls in 1918.

Augustana's mission is to provide an education of enduring worth that challenges the intellect, fosters integrity and integrates faith with learning and service in a diverse world. Central to our mission are five core values: Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. Those values are infused in our academic and student life programs.

How does Augustana measure success?

Augustana measures success by the success of our students and graduates. Most families want to know that if they invest in higher education, their son or daughter will be able to get a good paying and rewarding job. We often say that Augustana graduates don't just get jobs, they launch careers. They leave here equipped with valuable 21st century skills, a broad range of hands-on experiences, and a desire to make the world a better place. It's why Augustana University is called 'The Place for Possibilities' and it's why we're proud to report that the job placement rate for the AU Class of 2016 is 98 percent.

We all know that today's world is a connected one. That's why Augustana works so hard to ensure our students make professional connections and acquire valuable insight and experience through internships, clinical work, undergraduate research, student teaching and study abroad during their undergraduate years. Among the AU Class of 2016, 99 percent of graduates participated in these kinds of engaged learning activities during their college careers.

We also measure our success by the satisfaction of our students. It feels good to know that among the Augustana Class of 2016, 97 percent said they had at least one professor who made them excited about learning; 95 percent said there was a faculty or staff member at Augustana who cared about them as a person; and 96 percent said they will learn or do something interesting at their job or in their program of study after graduation.

Another measure of success is the engagement and support of our alumni. Our graduates tell us that their Augustana education was a life-changing experience. Augie challenged them to explore and discover new ideas. Augie was the place where they developed life-long friendships. Augie is where the importance of building a life of meaning and purpose was strongly reinforced. Because of those experiences, Augustana holds a special place in the hearts of nearly 30,000 alumni around the world-so many of whom share their talents and treasures with us in support of the next generation of Vikings. Augustana's first-ever Giving Day, held earlier this year, is a great example-alumni from 1954 through 2016, living in 33 states throughout the country, came forward to set a single-day Augustana record for the most gifts received in a 24-hour period. That support is incredibly humbling, and I know every single person on campus is forever grateful and appreciative because of it.

You have not yet begun your new role. Which of your many responsibilities do you expect will be your highest priority in the first weeks and months? Why?

Augustana's most valuable asset is its people. The passionate faculty who teach and inspire; the administrators and staff who care for our students; and the alumni who, because of the impact Augustana had on their lives, continue to invest in the University-paying it forward for future generations. Together, we are all cheering for our students-talented, innovative and intellectually curious women and men from 34 states and 38 countries around the world.

So a top priority for me in my first weeks and months will be to meet and connect with the people of Augustana. I'm looking forward to learning their stories and hearing their ideas so that together, we can propel Augustana and our students to new heights.

The landscape of higher education in Sioux Falls has gone through a lot of change within the past 5 years. How have these changes affected Augustana? Are there any current or future disrupting forces that you will be keeping your eye on?

Higher education is changing here, and everywhere, in response to a variety of factors-economic conditions, technological advances, new and emerging fields, breakthroughs in science and discovery, just to name a few. Augustana has, and will continue to enhance and expand our academic offerings and our campus infrastructure in response to those factors and to meet the needs of today's students and families. In the last five years alone, we've introduced new and exceptional graduate programs - most notably our master's degree in genetic counseling developed in collaboration with Sanford Imagenetics, one of only 32 such programs in the U.S. We've launched a Student Success Center for the career and academic support of our students. We introduced the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, designed to build partnerships with industry leaders, business heads and curators of creativity for the benefit of our students. And last fall, we dedicated the new Froiland Science Complex, a 125,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for science and discovery.

From your perspective, what does the relationship between Augustana and the Sioux Falls community look like?

I see Augustana and Sioux Falls as partners-working together to make a great city an even better city. Our campus is located in the center of Sioux Falls, which means our students are only minutes away from the cultural, dining and entertainment options of downtown and the natural beauty of the city's bike trail and park systems. At the same time, Sioux Falls residents can readily access and enjoy the contributions of AU students to the performing and visual arts and athletic excellence within the community.

Because of our location in Sioux Falls and the many partnerships we've been fortunate to make with businesses and organizations throughout the city, our students have access to choice internships, clinical work, scientific and medical research, and student teaching opportunities. In addition to offering invaluable experience, those positions often lead to full-time employment after graduation.

That's why Augustana is often called a net importer of intellectual capital to both the state of South Dakota and the city of Sioux Falls, contributing to its workforce development and labor market. It's certainly true for the AU Class of 2016-58 percent of employed '16 grads chose to begin their careers in Sioux Falls.

Talk about the role of post-secondary institutions, and in particular your institution, when it comes to community and workforce development strategies. In a time of low unemployment and a competitive job market, what are some ways that Augustana can help in addressing workforce development issues in Sioux Falls and South Dakota?

We believe that muscle for the generation of new ideas and a belief in possibility are key to workforce development.

Outside the classroom, Augustana has done an exceptional job of developing and fostering strategic partnerships with businesses and organizations throughout Sioux Falls, the state and the region. The University's intellectual capital, energy, focus and commitment to quality are central to these partnerships. Every day, our faculty and students are sharing ideas and acting on them to make the community better and stronger for everyone.

In the classroom, Augustana exceeds at challenging our students to think with an entrepreneurial mindset. Empowered with 21st century skills, such as the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, adapt to change and act with global perspective, our students are equipped to perform to high standards, solve problems, contribute to strategic development and to lead.

So in reality, that means our students are preparing for jobs and opportunities that may not even exist today-jobs and opportunities that will enable them to find solutions to problems we haven't yet even identified. And that's pretty great.

What are some ways to foster further collaboration between educators and employers?

If you're an employer in Sioux Falls, odds are you could use an extra set of hands coupled with a sharp and curious mind. While we are blessed by low unemployment in this city, we also know the challenges a limited labor pool can create for growing businesses.

Outreach and communication through and across the Augustana alumni network is an essential component to further collaboration. Graduates who maintain relationships with faculty can share ideas and needs based on strategic growth considerations for the companies and organizations in which they work, often leading to further exploration of experiential learning opportunities for students and potential development of research projects or new graduate programs. More internships offered within an organization can increase productivity and create a pipeline for talented future employees. Faculty and administrators who deepen relationships with business and community leaders can help identify how the university's strengths and resources can be leveraged to keep pace with accelerated change, analyze data and trends, and best prepare and train the bright young minds Augustana attracts in ways that will help students anticipate what they may encounter in the workplace and how best to advance and add value as servant leaders in their chosen professions.

Do you see any weaknesses today in the structure of post-secondary education in the community of Sioux Falls or even in the state of South Dakota? What is missing? What can we do better?

All stakeholders will need to continue working on creative and sustainable ways to enhance students' and families' ability to access higher education. That means acknowledging the diversity of interests and motivations among high school graduates and the diversity of knowledge and skills prospective employers want and need. It is also important for stakeholders to recognize early how the community is changing and how the local, regional or national economy is evolving in order to embrace a broad set of options for adapting to and preparing for such change.

Augustana is committed to cultivating highly-motivated, talented future leaders by combining a foundation in the liberal arts with professional skill and advanced study. The university will continue to evaluate and develop new academic programs in response to emerging fields and new discoveries and offer professional development and continuing education opportunities for life-long learners. The cradle to career initiative sponsored by Forward Sioux Falls and other partners is an exciting development that can help bridge gaps and serve as a model for other communities in the state and region. AU is proud to support the mission of Sioux Falls Thrive through the Augustana Research Institute, directed by Suzanne Smith, and the service and leadership of Dr. Pam Homan on the Strategy Council.

Please describe your vision for Augustana in its service to students, the community and the state. What will Augustana look like in 10 years if you are successful in implementing your vision?

As a proud liberal arts and religiously affiliated university, Augustana will continue to empower our graduates to be servant leaders of tomorrow, who will navigate unprecedented change in our workplaces and invest their time and talents to community life. I look forward to working with faculty, administrators, staff and strategic partners to make the right investments at the right time for what is best for AU as we continue to embrace new and exciting technological transformations.

Augustana University will continue to grow, not for growth's sake but rather to seize unique opportunities afforded by our valued traditions, our renowned and dedicated faculty, and our ability to attract the best minds to serve and help realize the visions of business and community leaders who have taken risks across generations in order to improve the quality of life for families who choose to live, work and raise families in South Dakota, in Sioux Falls and throughout the region.

Please share a few specific goals you have for yourself and/or for Augustana in the next 6-12 months.

First and foremost, I'm looking forward to working with the Board of Trustees, the campus community, students and alumni to execute on Augustana's strategic plan that runs through 2019.

I'm also really looking forward to learning about ways we can advance technology at Augustana, from the IT infrastructure, to exploring the tech needs of our students-for their coursework and experiential learning, and the needs of our faculty-for their teaching and continued scholarly research.


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