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President's message to students, Nov. 1, 2020

Nov. 1, 2020


Augustana College has shown its character as a community this fall like no other time during my 18 years here.

COVID-19 has changed life throughout our country and at Augustana, but we have not been defeated. Our nation continues to grapple with how to stop racial and other injustice, and we have not shied away from difficult conversations.

This election season, our emotions run the gamut from hope to hurt, concern to confusion and anticipation to anger. But our resolve to support each other has not been diminished.

In times like this, it is important for all Americans to vote. The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement reported that the voting rate of Augustana students in 2018 was 56.6%, above the national average. Let’s challenge each other to get much closer to 100%.

Even if you have not registered or you are registered elsewhere (but did not vote), you can still vote locally.

Let’s not be deterred in celebrating the many accomplishments of our community this fall:

• Through the incredible efforts of our students, faculty and staff, we have been able to offer a robust semester, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, in ways that few colleges have. We’ve demonstrated through our commitment to each other that it is possible to live responsibly in the time of COVID-19.

There are still three-and-a-half weeks to go until Thanksgiving. Let’s not cut corners on wearing masks, social distancing and minimizing the number of small pods of people we connect with.

• That we can disagree passionately on the political, social and moral issues facing our country and world is a strength of this diverse community. Research shows that to avoid the exclusionary attitudes that often plague us we must find ways to listen to the personal experiences of others and share our own personal experiences in nonjudgmental ways.

By learning to listen, we also build our skills to understand and then effectively persuade. I’ve learned immeasurably from listening to the experiences of students, faculty and staff at Augustana.

• It is clear the world needs our graduates now more than ever for their critical thinking skills. Augustana graduates who are in public health careers have led us locally, statewide and nationally to take science-based approaches.

Augustana alumni are using their skills to improve their communities by addressing injustice and inequality. Graduates across the country are helping to lead organizations to become more responsive to their communities and those who they serve.

Finally, I wanted to share the three principles, from my religious tradition, that give direction to my life and guide me during difficult times: seek justice, love kindness and act with humility. May we work to root out injustice when we see it. May we summon the grace to be kind to all, particularly those who have faced adversity. And may we be humble enough to know that we have room to learn and grow.

I find that I become stronger as a person during difficult times. I wish the same for you. The world needs you to Reach Boldly and Shine Brightly. The world needs Augustana students and graduates.

Steve Bahls