When the search committee began looking for Concordia’s next president, the priorities were for an accomplished, creative, and charismatic leader to set an ambitious course for the future, while demonstrating a deep understanding of and commitment to the values of the college and to Lutheran higher education.
Colin Irvine, Ph.D., fit the profile of an ideal candidate and will serve as the 12th president of Concordia College.
Irvine was chosen from a pool of candidates gathered from a national search. These candidates were reviewed by the Presidential Search Committee, which was made up of members of the Board of Regents, faculty, staff, alumni, and students. Irvine comes to Concordia from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he serves as the Provost and Executive Vice President.
When the opportunity arose to apply for the presidency, Concordia’s culture and mission resonated with Irvine and prompted him to pursue the position “deeply and sincerely.”
Everything I learned about Concordia College and everything I have since read regarding what it seeks in its next leader truly resonated with who I am, what I have done, what I am currently doing, and how I hope to help make a difference for students and the amazing people in higher education who commit their time and talent to helping them succeed.” — Dr. Colin Irvine
Greta Almlie ’24 served on the Presidential Search Committee and notes Irvine’s dedication to students and the overall success of higher education. “Throughout the interview process, Dr. Irvine has shown a true passion for students,” she said. “He will fit in with the connected campus community well, and he has a commitment to higher education in the midst of changing times.”
Irvine is an accomplished scholar. He has presented at conferences internationally and is the recipient of three Fulbright scholar awards. He received a Ph.D. in English from Marquette University, an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a B.A. in English from Carroll College in Helena, Mont. Prior to his time at Augustana University, Irvine worked at Carroll College as the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College and at Augsburg University as a professor and faculty administrator. This adds up to extensive experience working with colleges rooted in Christian tradition and a total of 16 years spent at Norwegian-founded ELCA institutions.
Irvine also has a strong passion for liberal arts education.
“As one whose life and career have been truly blessed by transformational and empowering educational experiences, I am an ardent and unwavering advocate of the liberal arts and the innumerable ways that learning of all kinds can inspire and empower individuals and organizations to change the world for better,” he said.
He is a student of higher education who is always seeking to learn more and find ways to do things better. Thus, he understands the trends, challenges, and opportunities in higher education and will sustain and enhance Concordia’s long-standing track record of delivering an excellent liberal arts education, with a focus on professional development.”
— Mary Ranum ’78, Chair of the Board of Regents
Under his leadership, Augustana broadened its programs of study, both undergraduate and graduate. Irvine sought to improve enrollment and retention rates by creating a Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, which has helped facilitate the design and launch of several new and fast-growing programs. These majors/minors are focused on vocational discernment and career preparation. Some recent additions include Medical Humanities, Environmental Studies, Multimedia Entrepreneurship, and Neuroscience. Two forthcoming programs are Science Writing and Criminal Justice studies.
As a result of these efforts, Augustana welcomed the largest freshman class in 50 years in Fall 2022. By increasing the size of the International Programs Office, Fall 2022 also brought a record-breaking number of international students to Augustana.
Augustana is also in the process of implementing a variety of new graduate programs, including a master’s degree in nursing, an MBA with a focus on leadership, and the soon-to-launch physical therapy doctorate program, the university’s first satellite program.
Irvine describes himself as a realist and notes the various difficulties currently facing higher education, like low enrollment numbers. However, for Irvine, these challenges are not a reason for resignation but, rather, an opportunity for growth.
“I believe it is imperative that leaders and entire institutions do all in their shared power to convert problems into opportunities through deliberate, data-informed adjustments and bold, innovative plans,” he said.
Kristin Bortnem ’97, who served on the search committee, notes Irvine’s innovative thinking. “In the face of disruption in higher education, Colin leads opportunity building. Where the community and world share a need, Colin collaborates to inspire a meaningful, data-driven solution.”
As an action-oriented leader, Irvine also championed several strategic partnerships and programs during his tenure at Augustana. In 2018, he guided an academic steering committee that established the formation of four academic schools, a redesigned governance model that prioritizes quick and research-based decisions, launched a Center for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship, and introduced a well-being model and committee that focuses on the educational, spiritual, financial, emotional, and physical needs of students.
Colin is a teacher at heart and is motivated by a deep commitment to serving students. We have seen him interact enthusiastically, authentically, and charismatically with students, staff, and faculty.”
— Gary Henderson ’79, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and Regent
Irvine’s passionate leadership has also extended into areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout his time at Augustana, Irvine sought to broaden the impact of diversity efforts and those working with them. He also worked to establish a research fund for international students who are not eligible for certain grants.
“I have always been a teacher who cares intensely about learners of all backgrounds and believes that, at its core, education represents the opportunity and obligation to passionately pursue one’s vocation in service to the self and others,” he said.
Irvine has finished 12 marathons, loves the outdoors, and enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and writing. However, his favorite pastime is spending time with his family. Colin and his wife, Kelly, have two children, Cal and Caroline. Kelly is a graduate of St. Olaf College and works as the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Carlson Capital Management, a Minnesota-based wealth management firm. Cal is a senior at Augustana University. Caroline is a high school junior.
Irvine will start as Concordia’s president on July 1, 2023.