On beginning the year
Jeff Abernathy, Dean of the College
Welcome back! With this issue of the Faculty Newsletter, we have made a few changes, as you will see. The Office of Communication has given us a new look in keeping with recent changes to the college's web site, and I am grateful to our web manager, Beth Nordby, for her guidance of the transition. While continuing to celebrate the numerous achievements of the Augustana faculty, we will also have regular news on grant opportunities, updates from the Registrar, some suggested readings, and, of course, the week's calendar of important events. If there are ways in which we can improve the Newsletter, or if there are items you would like to include, please let me know.
The summer has brought good news, much of which you will see on the Faculty News page: please join me in congratulating the colleagues whose accomplishments are listed here. We will list more summer accomplishments next week, and as always, I ask that you please send me any additional items throughout the year. We welcome eleven new full-time faculty to campus this fall: I hope you will join us at the faculty meeting at 5:30 in Wallenberg Hall, where they and our new administrators will be formally introduced. We have had a rich conversation on Senior Inquiry, begun by a group of faculty--Jon Clauss, Laura Greene, Bob Haak, Pam Trotter, and Craig VanSandt--at the Greater Expectations Institute in Vermont last June and continued at our Faculty Retreat (you can see the PowerPoint from the opening session here; if you save the document and open it from your own computer, you will also have my notes for the talk). And the summer has brought as well a record class of 680 students: thank you for all you are already doing to enrich their experience as they join this community. We know that they are here in such numbers because of the dedication to student learning of the Augustana faculty and staff .
Thanks to so many who made Orientation Weekend a success for our new students. Steve Backmeyer, Liesl Fowler, and Bill Coker worked tirelessly to ensure that the everything came off. The entire Student Affairs staff did a superb job. And thanks to the First Year advisors and the LS 111 instructors, all of whom helped to ensure that students were oriented to the academic program as well as student life.
General Education Notes
On behalf of the General Education Committee, I ask that you remind our first-year students at every opportunity that the general education courses they are taking are the first steps toward any major they might choose, that we as a faculty have agreed on the particular skills, dispositions and knowledge that these courses will help them to gain. Our colleague Tom Banks has written a thoughtful and provocative statement on the connection of the liberal arts and the AGES program that serves as the introduction to this year's reader; I invite you to read it here. As you speak with first-year students, I hope you will help them to think about the meaning of the liberal arts at Augustana.
Coming to College
While preparing a welcome statement for our new students, I remembered a passage from Booker T. Washington's autobiography, Up From Slavery, which I shared with them at our Opening Convocation last Saturday. Washington writes of his journey to the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia in 1871. He tells us he traveled the 400-mile journey through the Allegheny mountains and the heartland of Virginia on foot, begging rides and food when they came. In the capital city of Richmond, he could not find an inn that would accept a black man as a lodger and was slept under a wooden sidewalk. He recalls what it was like to finally arrive at college and see the campus's sole structure:
It seemed to me to be the largest and most beautiful building I had ever seen. The sight of it seemed to give me new life. I felt that a new kind of existence had now begun, that life would now have a new meaning. I felt that I had reached the promised land, and I resolved to let no obstacle prevent me from putting forth the highest effort to fit myself to accomplish the most good in the world.
Times have changed: I suspect that very few Augustana students come to us on foot these days, and I know that they bring with them far more than a small sack full of clothes, which was all that Washington carried. Thank goodness, no Augustana student will have to sleep in a tent on the main plaza of campus, as Washington did through one cold winter (though, given the large first year class, we briefly contemplated the possibility).
But because of the work you do every day--guiding students in their studies and research, counseling them on questions of vocation, helping them to comprehend and articulate the broader purpose of a liberal arts education--these college years do bring our students to 'a new kind of existence' and to ' new meaning' as they discover the ways they can contribute to the common good in serving and leading their communities. Steve Bahls and I are grateful for all that you do to create transformational learning experiences for Augustana students.
The Year Ahead
In addition to our record setting class, this year will bring further conversation on Senior Inquiry and continuing conversation on each of the the dialogs that President Bahls and I introduced last May. We will present Dr. Tom Tredway with an honorary degree in a Founder's Day convocation on November 3. We have scheduled events for every Friday throughout the year in a new series--Friday Conversations--which will feature Augustana faculty talking about their current scholarly work and/or their sabbatical project, along with conversations in the Week Seven Seminar program sponsored by the library, and an occasional visitor; the schedule for the year is here. And we look forward to the visit of our accreditation team from the Higher Learning Commission March 12-15; in preparation for that visit, I will share our self study with you very soon. I am grateful to Mike Finnemann, David Snowball, Mike Wolf, Craig VanSandt, Mark Vincent, and Sharon Varallo for their work on this project.
I look forward to our work together in the coming year: thank you for all that you do for our community.
Tuesday, September 6
11:30 a.m. Ascension Chapel
Pam Trotter will speak in our first Reflections service of the year. The title of her talk is "....and Friday's coming!"
Tuesday, September 6
5:30 p.m., Wallenberg Hall
Opening Faculty Meeting. A reception in the Wilson Center will follow immediately after the meeting.
Thursday, September 8
10:30 a.m., Centennial Hall
Convocation: Derrick Ashong, Killing Cool: Igniting the Soul of Society Should students follow the crowd or celebrate their own individuality? Ashong will address how students can and should
chart their own course in life. Derrick Ashong was born in Ghana, and raised in both the United States and the Middle East.
He has already had a successful career as an actor and musician, playing a feature role in the movie Amistad, touring with jazz
great Bobby McFerrin, and starting his own successful independent music label. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in Afro-American Studies
and Ethnomusicology at Harvard, studying the influences of music on the development of political identities.
Friday, September 9
4 p.m., Wilson Center
New Faculty Reception. Come welcome new faculty joining our community.