To: The Luther College Community
From: David L. Tiede, interim President
This is my fourth brief communication to keep all of us "In the Luther Loop" during this interim year. The Decorah hills are freshly draped in snow as Spring Term begins at Luther College. Close your eyes and also remember the green beauty of this campus.
Last week, hundreds of students returned safely from January travel seminars. Jon Lund and the team in Luther's Center for Global Learning work closely with faculty, always focused on student learning. Students sang with choirs in Namibia, learned from the Palestinian Christians, encountered the graft of local officials, and were welcomed into the poverty of Brazilian favelas in the shadow of the World Cup. A parent said, "My son had a life-transforming experience. Nobody does it better than Luther."
And the students on campus also were served the rich fare of J-term. Who wouldn't love to sit in on SCI 125, Great Ideas in Natural Science, to review "how our understanding of the natural world has grown over the past 500 years"? Prof. Harley Refsal allowed me to slip into the final exam of his course, "Scandinavian Fine Handcraft," where the spoons students had carved "from a box elder tree we felled down by the river" proved worthy for eating ice cream.
The delights of my job also continue as I have stood in Keith Christensen's tall shadow and followed our development team into gatherings of grads, parents, and Luther loyalists. At meetings of the presidents of the ACM (Associated Colleges of the Midwest), the CIC (Council of Independent Colleges), and LECNA (Lutheran Educational Conference of North America), I am grateful for how well Luther College is confidently engaging the forces that are disrupting higher education.
Our Board of Regents will meet on campus February 21-22. As we continue our efforts to "lean into Luther's future," we are identifying the disciplines the college must practice to sustain its mission in changing times. These include: 1) documenting the return students and their families receive from their investments in Luther; 2) demonstrating the superb learning results Luther attains in its innovative learning systems; 3) enacting the "third way" of Lutheran excellence in higher education (not sectarian or secular); 4) aligning Luther's human, financial, physical, and virtual assets to serve our mission; and 5) rallying our constituencies to share Luther's distinctive calling.
One of the responsibilities of Luther's president is the review of the portfolios of faculty nominated for promotion or for election to tenure by the Board. This task relies upon the excellent work which Dean Kraus and faculty leaders have already invested. Imagine the privilege I enjoy in interviewing twelve faculty to guide my report and recommendations to the board. These conversations with Luther's faculty are like seminars, leading all over the curriculum, but always moving back to 1) the quality of teaching and student learning, 2) the engagements of faculty in their own research, very often including students, and 3) the broader service faculty provide in the college and community. One candidate described himself as an "advocate" with the overarching goal that "the students have not only learned, but enjoyed learning more of (this subject) than they ever possibly imagined." My concluding question in each conversation is, "How will the educational mission of Luther College be served and advanced by your promotion or tenure?"
The search for Luther's 10th president continues in its confidential phase. I don't think the Board will send up "white smoke" from Decorah when an election occurs, and I am not inside the search committee's work. But the strength of the committee and the discipline of their efforts promise a superb result for Luther College. As I have often said, "Someone is going to get a great job!"
The best is yet to be!
In good faith,
David L. Tiede