Part I. Welcome and Introduction
Pastor McHan and Dean Eliason, thank you for your invocation and the introduction to this State of the College day. And thanks to our Archivist Lisa Sjoberg and our Marketing colleagues for the beautiful images of Concordia past.
Greetings to everyone as we begin the new year at Concordia College! 125 years ago, on the 15th of October, classes began in Bishop Whipple Hall, at the new school founded through the United Norwegian Lutheran Church, itself a union of three synods whose coming together gave the new academy its name: Concordia, hearts together. On opening day, there were 12 students and three professors; the academy was co-educational from the start in its students and its faculty and staff, with Caroline Finseth teaching music and Rebecca Busby as dean of women.
Three things about that founding strike me today, things known to all familiar with Carroll Engelhardt’s history of the college:
- First, the founders were driven by a love of faith and learning that united deep seriousness about intellectual development for men and women with a conviction that college must also cultivate character as well, what our current college plan calls the whole self.
- Second, from the start the school offered both traditional liberal arts and pre-professional courses: in the old language, classical, practical (=teacher prep), and commercial (=business). Faculty debated the relative merits of each.
- Third, in a multicultural Fargo-Moorhead mix of Yankee Congregationalists, the Swedes who had founded Hope Academy nearby, and the Norwegians who bought Bishop Whipple Hall, Concordia committed itself to instilling among the new Americans who became its students what Professor Engelhardt calls “those civic values necessary for participation in a democratic culture.” Instruction in English, celebrations of George Washington’s birthday by the college literary society, and a “parliamentary practice class” that staged “a mock convention to which the public was invited” all testify to that civic commitment.
I should add that this high seriousness doesn’t tell the full story: those Swedes at Hope Academy crashed into one of our literary society gatherings chanting
Hva’ ska’ De ha? [What do they want?]
Lutefisk and Lefse—
Yah! Yah! Yah!
The invasion ended when we “Corncobs” planted the Swedes in the mud and water near the present location of Prexy’s Pond—inaugurating a tradition of bathing there still upheld by spirit-filled traditionalists among our graduating classes!
What is clear from the start is that Concordia was the work of many hands, those with gifts in education, in ministry, in finance and fundraising, in the arts of buildings and grounds and dining services, in residential life. And it still is today. When we gathered here this past April I lifted up the striking accomplishments of our faculty and staff in the year then ending. Now I’m proud to set out, if only briefly, achievements of the summer just past. No Rip van Winkle sleep, but three months of creative building and renewal. Here we go:
Part II. Highlights from a Concordia Summer of Achievement
Enrollment, Retention, and Marketing
- Numbers: In Enrollment, a turn-around year—work still to do to reach our goals, but a tremendous new start:
- New First-Year Students: 551 First-Years toward goal of 575.
- New Transfers: 50 toward goal of 55.
- New International: 25 First-Year (within the 557 total); 8 Transfer (within the 50 total)—33 International for Fall 2016 vs. 10 last year.
- New Athletes Recruited: 245 (vs. 174 and 182 for the two years prior)
- Overall: up 6% over last year; 25 short of total goal
- Current Returning Students: 1447 vs. 1435 budgeted (originally 1411)
- 87% First-to-Second Year Retention: the highest level in at least 30 years and perhaps the highest ever. Thanks to the Academic Enhancement and Writing Center, the First-Year Transition lab leaders, the Student Success Collaborative, and every college mentor!
- Launched CobberNet, built the marketing plan and microsite for the Concordia Commitment, and developed the Quasquicentennial branding.
Facilities and Information Technology
First IT, the infrastructure of our working lives:
- The addition of more than 100 wireless access points to our residence halls, apartments, and townhouses.
- The successful update to our central data storage, resulting in greater capacity and substantially faster access.
- New balconies and siding for Bogstad East
- Integrated Science Center: essential collaboration of Faculty, Facilities, and Finance
- Major demolition completed on the Integrated Science Center; rebuild begun; on time and on budget for teaching and learning in Fall 2017.
- 98% of science demolition recycled; project on target to achieve LEED Silver for sustainable design
- Raguse Ridge, between Ylvisaker and Lorentzsen: No more grass burnt by steam tunnels!
One Staff recommendations from Building Community Group developed and approved by Cabinet:
- Planned time off
- Extended illness benefit
- Bereavement leave
- Addition of four Christmas break holidays
- Unpaid leave
- YTD overall fundraising at $3.6 million toward a $14.5 million goal—more than $1 million ahead of last year at this time
- YTD Concordia Annual Fund totals $308k toward a $2.35 million goal
- With Sanford match, science at $30,500,000, as of August 10, 2016
- Announced on August 11, 2016, but not yet included in our totals: A new $1,000,000 gift from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation for the science center!
- Comprehensive Campaign now at $103 million
- Launched, August 15, a “500 for 500” fundraising campaign to support the student-athlete experience.
- Completed Student Engagement Catalog, where students will be able to access the descriptions of student leadership roles on campus, with the skills they develop in them.
- PEAK workshops for faculty on integrated learning.
- New Executive Director of Career Center hired.
- New Group Directors in place at Concordia Language Villages.
- Concordia College through its Language Villages designated one of eight national Language Training Centers by the U.S. Department of Defense.
- Finance lab in the Offutt School funded by past regent Jim Parke, with installation schedule established.
- Concordia’s first Minister for Faith and Spirituality in Action hired.
Part III. Recognizing Excellence in the Work of our Colleagues
From these summer achievements we turn now to honor colleagues for their longstanding excellence in service to the mission of Concordia College. I call now on Dean Eliason to lead us in recognizing the 10 recipients of this year’s Flaat and Wije Awards.
Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Service Award for Support Staff – Deb Peschong
Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Service Award – Steve Frank
Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Advisor Award – Dr. John Reber
Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Teaching Award – Dr. Julie Mach
Flaat 125th Anniversary Faculty Awards
– Dr. Douglas Anderson
– Peter Halverson
– Dr. Kristi Loberg
Reuel and Alma Wije Distinguished Professorship Award
– Dr. René Clausen
– Dr. Michael Wohlfeil
Part IV. Always Reforming: Honoring Our Past; Claiming Our Future
Always reforming: Coined by Karl Barth and drawn from St. Augustine, this phrase puts into words the conviction of Reformation Protestants that the Church is renewed and strengthened in a perpetual act of faithful, creative change. The same is true for our college. Mission thrives not in stasis but in motion. In your program today, you’ll see the major events planned for the celebration of our first 125 years: a close look will reveal that they call on us not only to honor our past but also to claim our future. Always reforming.
In the closing portion of the State of the College talk today—before we adjourn for good company and a toast—I ask you to think with me as we stake that claim. I am privileged to be speaking, but all of us together will write that future, inspired by the vision and hope and courage of our founders.
Four years ago, guided by our statement of mission, Concordia adopted its strategic plan.
The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life.
The plan committed us to offer an education of the whole self, for the whole of life, for the sake of the whole world. And it committed us to advance Concordia’s institutional strength by building up its people, resources, and recognition. How have we done so far? Let’s look.
Whole Self Whole Life Whole World People, Resources, Recognition
For WHOLE SELF:
Ministry In ministry we will unite faith formation through worship and study with faith and spirituality in action.
Interfaith Learning, Dialogue, and Service Through the Forum on Faith and Life, we have taken national collegiate leadership in interfaith learning, dialogue, and in service.
Concordia Career Initiative Energized both by Martin Luther’s concept of the value of every good vocation, and by the need to prepare our students for post-commencement success, we have established in the Concordia Career Initiative a four-year sequence of vocational reflection, discovery, and post-graduate placement.
For WHOLE LIFE:
PEAK In our faculty’s creative response to the value of integrated learning, we have established for future students the signature requirement that they apply the discoveries of liberal education to the unscripted challenges of the life they will lead as citizens, professionals, and people of faith.
New Majors, Minors, and Modes of Learning In the making of new majors in computer science, neuroscience, and finance; in opening new fields of learning in interfaith studies, social activism, and more; in new modes of learning like digital humanities; we have likewise re-formed the range of liberal education—and I am certain that we are just getting started.
Integrated Science Center In the college-wide work that is building the Integrated Science Center just south of us, we are fashioning facilities that will match the arts of inquiry and discovery into which our faculty are already leading our students.
For WHOLE WORLD:
Concordia Language Villages At the Villages, with new organization and marketing, Summer 2015 enrollment rose to 4526—500 higher than in 2014; Village Weekends (school groups) for 2015-16 climbed to 3200 students—the highest level in 15 years. And earlier I cited the new designation of Concordia through the Villages as a national language training center.
Sustainability The Margaret A. Cargill grant of $500k for education in environmental citizenship has sponsored five workshops so far, and there are new plans emerging; the high tunnel garden offers a model for cold weather food cultivation; and 50,000 pounds of metal from science demolition have been diverted from landfill and recycled.
For PEOPLE, RESOURCES, AND RECOGNITION:
Building Community The One Staff Initiative now brings new benefits and new unity in benefits to those formerly known as support and administrative staff; it also offers a fine model of staff creativity and of clear communication about the work that we undertake together.
Alternative Work Arrangements We have made room for alternative work arrangements to help hire and retain people who can do their work at the highest level in different daily/weekly schedules.
Staff Compensation Market Study Human Resources has in its Compensation Market Study established minimums, medians, and steps for staff salaries.
Tested and Revised Enrollment Marketing Our Marketing colleagues have tested and revised our messaging to prospective students and their parents so that the story of a Concordia education can be still more compelling.
Retention What a great story for this fall. The Student Success Collaborative, FYT labs, AEWC, and everyone who reaches out to our students have led us to the best first to second-year retention in at least 30 years!
New Ventures With accelerated Nursing well established, and accelerated teaching licensure ready to go, with the longstanding master’s in World Language Instruction and the newly approved master’s in Nutrition, we turn now to further new learning ventures this year, one in test preparation and the other in executive education. More as those unfold.
Fundraising for Scholarships, Capital, and Endowment Another great story! Concordia has met and exceeded its goals every year; we are already ahead of last year; and the comprehensive campaign now at more than $103 million.
But there is major work from the plan not yet accomplished. Most important in my mind are two initiatives from the Whole World aspirations of the plan and one central one from the aspiration to build up our people:
75% International Study; 100% Study Off-Campus
12% U.S. Students of Color; 8% International
Achieving targets for faculty and staff salaries
We have not yet reached these goals.
There is excellent work now accomplished and ongoing:
FAITH & LEARNING INTEGRATIVE EDUCATION CONCORDIA COMMITMENT
We’ll hear more this Friday from Vice President Stumo about the union of academic innovation with skillful marketing and recruitment in the four-part Concordia Commitment. In Faith and Learning, and in Integrative Education, we now have the vision and the framework in place. These endeavors will be good in themselves, and they will put Concordia College on the national liberal arts map. Already, other institutions see us as a model for interfaith learning; already, external thought leaders, like the Director of Princeton’s Community-Based Learning Program, are expressing envy at the promise of PEAK.
As we build on these impressive foundations, we know that the present also sets before us both challenge and opportunity. The disruptions from demographic change, online credit collection, sharp competition from the public universities, confusion about the liberal arts, flat average family incomes, and the need to discount undergraduate tuition are not going away. At the same time, the racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity of the United States—the diversity that is not just coming but is here and now—presents Concordia College with an exhilarating opportunity to re-claim our heritage as a college founded for New Americans, a college dedicated to the arts of discovery and of citizenship.
So here are two strengths we must establish together:
In resources, net undergraduate tuition revenue alone will not be enough. We need to establish multiple streams of revenue across the whole Concordia enterprise—at our main campus here and at our CLV settings in the North Woods and elsewhere. Our new enterprises must not only support themselves but must also return funds to underwrite our core work of undergraduate liberal education. Always reforming: if we are to do good work with and for undergraduates, and if we are to compensate our people as we should, we must renew mission through change. That change must include
- New Educational Ventures—like those in place and to be launched, but at a markedly higher level of annual revenue
- New Residential Opportunities—to attract juniors and seniors to choose college housing
- Increased Endowment—to underwrite scholarships, programs, and positions
- Increased Grant Funding—to fuel student, faculty, and staff innovation.
We turn now to diversity. In truth, this whole talk has moved toward the imperative of addressing it. We must make this pledge: As an American liberal arts college founded by immigrants, as a college of the church, Concordia will seek out, include, and honor a greater diversity of peoples and ideas, knowing that such action will change campus culture, ways of learning, and responsible engagement in the world. We affirm that such transformative change is fundamental to
- Our Mission: Loving our neighbor in response to the liberating love of God
- Our Community: Thriving in an ethnically and religiously plural nation and world
- Our Learning: Educating with intellectual excellence for democratic citizenship, sustainable well-being, and a just society.
I am sharply aware that Concordia has spoken before on this topic. The college plans from 1991, 2005, and 2010 all declare that we must not only attend to, but embrace diversity. We applaud the ambition of those plans, but we know that we have not yet fulfilled their vision. I am grateful today for the recent work of the Student Success Advisory Committee and the ad hoc Group on Diversity and Inclusion on the opportunities that diversity presents. To fulfill our pledge—to diversify our college, to practice the inclusion that diversity requires, and to establish the equity that inclusion calls for—we will need to invest time, resources, and communal courage if our work is to be genuinely pervasive and transformational.
This work will require dedicated leadership, and so this year we will hire a new colleague who will provide direct services to students who are not yet sufficiently served on our campus. Such students will include but not be limited to: students of color; students from different cultures, countries, and faith traditions; first-generation students; students who because of sexual orientation may be marginalized here or elsewhere. For Fall 2017, we will hire a cabinet leader reporting to the president and charged with college-wide guidance for diversity, inclusion, and equity.
This work will require dialogue that is both open and respectful of difference, and so I have commissioned Dr. Susan Lee, Chair of the Department of Art, and Mr. Bruce Vieweg, CIO and AVP for Academic Affairs, to chair a fall diversity-action group charged to
- Guide us in achieving a shared understanding of diversity goals, means to achieve them, and long-term resources needed.
- Plan for and put into place both a survey and appropriate focus groups to learn from one another about the present experience and understanding of diversity at Concordia.
- Determine key metrics for monitoring progress in our diversity initiative.
- Develop and seek approval for a Concordia statement on diversity that can be used on campus and off, much as we now use our interfaith statement.
- Compose a charge for a standing institutional diversity committee and a recommendation on membership.
- Make good use of funds from the college planning budget for the expenses of this dialogue, including consultation with external thought leaders. Through separate, quasquicentennial funding, one such leader—Dr. Carol Geary Schneider, who just finished her long term as president of AAC&U—is already set to join us to speak of inclusive excellence this November.
Finally, this endeavor will require the strong backing of our governing Board of Regents. This September’s board meeting will feature a substantial plenary devoted to addressing the necessary strategies and support for our initiative. The plenary will be led by our board’s vice chair and the chair of its Student Learning Committee, ’78 graduate Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
This work will be energizing but not easy. We will mean well, we will make mistakes, we will debate and disagree—about concepts and about actions. In this we will join our founders in the courageous work they began so long ago. They did not always agree, but they moved ahead, even when they were moved more by faith than by funding. In the words of Rasmus Bogstad, after those founders had voted in 1891, with little to no money in hand, to purchase Bishop Whipple Hall for $10,000, it really dawned upon them what they had undertaken. . . . Would they all stand united, roll up their sleeves, and face the realities? Here was need of courage, optimism, and vision. Yes, vision, optimism, and courage. Turn it any way you please.
Always reforming, renewing mission in change. We honor the past; we act in the present to secure the future of our students and the world they will serve. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. The fall of 1891 was the time for the creation of Concordia College; the fall of 2016 is the time for re-forming Concordia as an American Lutheran college that affirms the dignity of every human soul, that affirms the promise of diversity in learning and love of neighbor, and that pledges itself—its resources, and the best in its mind and hearts in harmony—to the renewing labors before us now. Thank you all. Let’s go!
Soli deo gloria.
 See Carroll Engelhardt, On Firm Foundation Grounded [full reference], p.23.
 Engelhardt, pp. 37-38.
 Rasmus Bogstad, The Early History of Concordia College (s.l.: s.n., 1932), p.16.