Alumni Council Meeting - October 2021 Minutes

Alumni Council Meeting Minutes

9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, 2021

Location:  Zoom - Loyalty Hall

Meeting Called to Order – Welcome and Introductions

The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Lisa (Small) Steinbauer ’88, Alumni Council President. Lisa welcomed everyone and thanked them for joining the Alumni Council Zoom meeting. She had everyone present take roll call by introducing themselves and stating a brief fun fact about something they have taken up or “binged” during the pandemic.


Alumni Council Members Present: Lisa (Small) Steinbauer ’88, James “Jim” Kowitz ’03, Serina (Norvold) Bentley ’94, Stephen “Steve” J. Bailey ’08, Christina (Gaard) Baumgart ’07, Erin (Brooks) Croll ’99, Brendan Dolan ’02, Hilary (Young) Dolan ’08, Kylie Hanschman ’17, Marlon Henriquez ’15, Liesl Koehnen ’09, Brian Larson ’00, Joseph “Joe” Lindsay ’75, Elisabeth (Marvin) Sandersfeld ’00, Nina (Catterall) Schultz ’08, Austen J. Smith ’13, Stacy Sundet ’01 (First Half), Julie Van Arsdale-Jervis ’82, Shelby (Heim) Wellmann ’19, Heather (Buckner) Wilensky ’06, Melissa Willenborg ’02, Loretta Dooley Wetzel ’80, Perran G. Wetzel IV ’79

Alumni Council Member Regrets: Denise Davismckennie ’82, Mary Bunge Docken ’79, Timothy “Tim” Fleming, Sr. ’67, Ryan Fordice ’08, Corey Hoodjer ’99, Cyril Jervis ’82, Eric Johnson ’79, Jay Kautt ’98, Michael “Coz” Lindsay ’07, Nicholas “Nick” Mozena ’13, Sarah (Quick) Olejniczak ’07, Stacy Sundet ’01 (Second Half), Hans S. Thurmer ’04, John Vaaler ’94, Brianna (Helland) Weyers ’08, Samuel “Sam” Weyers ’08, Samuel Yamoah ’04, Sophiya Khan ’21, Juan Antonio Nelson ’21

Luther College Staff Present: Sherry (Braun) Alcock ’82, Executive Director of Alumni Relations; Kirk Johnson ’82, Associate Director of Alumni Relations; Alyssa Ritter ’11, Associate Director of Alumni Relations; Nathan “Nate” Ersig ’98, Director of Development – Major and Planned Giving; Laura Barlament, Executive Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications; Jeremy Reed, Director of Enrollment; Cydney (Roelandt) Weitzel ’14, Alumni Office and Records Coordinator

Review and Approval of Alumni Council Minutes

Lisa called Serina (Norvold) Bentley ’94, Alumni Council Recording Secretary, to present the October 10, 2020 meeting minutes. Lisa called for a motion to approve these minutes. Melissa Willenborg ’02 approved, Heather (Buckner) Wilensky ’06 seconded the motion. Motion was approved.


Campus News

Lisa transitioned to Sherry (Braun) Alcock ’82, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, for overview of campus news.


Campus Updates:

Spring Semester is dated as February 4th to May 13th

Commencement has been moved up to May 16th, currently discussing how to stream or possibly execute in-person

First-year students will arrive early in the Fall again by a week or two

Covid-19 Cases, as of today, are 1 student and 1 employee

·       Quarantine – 5 students

·       Expanded Asymptomatic Surveillance Testing (EAST) 

o   Start date February 10th

o   100 tests daily

Board of Regents Meetings were held February 8th – 12th

·      Approved discontinuance of the Biblical Languages and Classics majors, the Chinese Studies and Linguistics minors, and the Library and Information Studies department

·      Expressed sympathy for the passing of Regent Emeritus Arne Sorenson ’80 on Monday - fellow alumnus, gifted leader, and CEO of Marriott International

Provost Search is in progress, currently reviewing candidate pool for initial interviews with an anticipated selection in March

Career Services will now report to VP for Development and move to Loyalty Hall

Alumni Office Updates:

Various virtual meetings, speakers, and events are presented for January - March, including:

·      Feb 25th - Zoom webinar, A Conversation with President Jenifer K. Ward for Alumni, where she will answer pre-submitted questions from alumni and we will get a chance to hear her perspective on the college during a pandemic

·      March 27th – Zoom gathering for the Latinx alumni, led by Marlon Henriquez ’15, to begin to establish this alumni group as firmly as the BAA


Other Alumni Office Projects:

·       Norse Notes – monthly e-newsletter, May 2020 first issue

·       Vocation Inspired Alumni Mentoring Program

·       Alumni Ambassador Program

·       Class of 2021 – Grad Finale Days, April 13th - 16th

·       Norse Short Courses - in person or virtual this summer

·       Homecoming 2021, October 1st - 3rd

Giving Day - Thursday, March 11, 2021

·      Goal is $1,000,000

·      Last year raised $940,000

Lisa expressed that she is looking forward to Marlon’s work with Latinx alumni, and made a shout-out to Loretta Dooley Wetzel ‘80 and Perran G. Wetzel IV ’79 for leading and upholding the Luther Mission.

Updates from Marketing – Admissions – Development

Lisa transitioned to department updates and asked the council to refer to the information they were about to hear when considering action steps.  She welcomed Laura Barlament, Executive Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications.

Updates from Laura in Marketing:

Major design update campaign has been worked on over the past year with marketing agency, Carnegie Dartlet, utilizing new fonts and colors in order to refine how to express the college’s pillars visually.

“Shaped by You”

·      Luther education not an accident; found and styled around individuals working together

·      Community of mentors and peers who are challenging yet supportive

·      Built, crafted, designed for YOU

·      Uplifting and vibrant imagery

Brand Strategy Elements:

·      Positioning: “Luther College is where you learn actively, live purposefully, and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact.”

·      Pillars:

o   A destination where you can be active and actively involved

o   A community that is inviting and encouraging

o   An education that opens limitless possibilities

o   A promise to elevate people, communities, and society

·      Personality:

o   Vibrant

o   Personal

o   Open

o   Uplifting

Luther ‘Archetypes’:

·      Provider (Purple) – Supportive and Selfless

·      Leader (Blue) – Powerful and Assertive

·      Discoverer (Green) – Adventurous and Inquisitive

Brand Visual Standards:

·      Luther blue, black, and white

·      Big, decorative font

Recent materials utilizing this new look include:

·      New acceptance packet featuring personalized message

·      New sticker with new look focused on ‘destination’

·      New financial aid packet (connecting financial numbers to Luther value)

·      Latest Luther magazine

Lisa opened for questions for Laura. Loretta requested consideration in identifying ‘diversity’ specifically as a part of Luther’s personality. She did not expect answers now but wanted it considered. Laura agreed. Lisa welcomed Jeremy Reed, Director of Enrollment.

Updates from Jeremy in Admissions:

Overview of Norse Referral Program:

·      572 of 550 goal at Jan 11th deadline

·      Extended deadline for new applicants

·      Now at 644 total referrals for juniors and seniors

·      $1000/year for four years

Domestic First Year Admissions Update:

·      Applications down 38%

·      Applications completion rate up 15%

·      Acceptances down 22%

·      Deposits up 16%

·      Individual visits up 3%

New Marketing Vendor – Capture

·      Attracts students based on browsing behavior

·      Develop more 1:1 recruitment relationship

·      Fewer applications come in but more interested applications; easier to get through

Projected Admissions Yield

·              300 additional applications usually come in after February 1st

·      If the 300 happens, looking at new class numbers between 467-536, including International Students and Transfers

·      Goal is 500 additional applications. Methods to attempt this:

o   Extend application generation strategies and tactics

o   Initiate COVID-adjusted yield strategies and tactics

o   Hold summer melt below 4%

o   Staffing audit with potential new counselor hire

Application Generation Strategies and Tactics

·      Establish and extend application deadlines, with continued communication pushing application activity

o   Promote FAFSA Grant, with new deadlines in March

o   Push students to apply Early Action Fall Deadline

o   Extend talent-based scholarship audition deadlines

o   Extend deadline for Future Norse Award

Yield Strategies and Tactics

·      Connect admitted students with multiple Luther College contacts to create recognizable and impactful relationships

o   Faculty “Pick-Six” program

o   Facilitate engagement with athletics and music

o   Reminders to Alumni Ambassadors

o   Relationships with EVERY admitted student through admissions

Recruiting the Class of 2022

·      Build better awareness for Distinction, Future Norse, Legacy, etc.

·      Transfer Pathways Committee work

·      Full implementation of new creative design

·      New interview/counselor talk model for student meetings

Jeremy concluded with saying that young people are unpredictable, so basing projections on them is not easy. There are no predictive models on COVID and college students. We are seeing fewer high-need FAFSA, which is concerning.

Lisa asked Jeremy what is one thing we can do with this 1:1 strategy? Jeremy said overt and arm-twisting encouragement. Get the word out and intentionally refer. Lisa transitioned to Nathan “Nate” Ersig ’98, Director of Development – Major and Planned Giving.


Updates from Nate in Development:

Overview of Comprehensive Fundraising numbers:

·      10-Year average is better than year-by-year

·      Just crested $10,000,000 last week but still down from this time in recent years

·      Pandemic and office transfers (President, VP of Development, Major Gift Officer) have impacted numbers and created a pause in potential gifts

·      Still very strong considering; 2016-2017 was similar situation and we have already surpassed those numbers

Overview of Luther Fund Gift (Cash) Income:

·      Down on average but trending up from last year

·      Christmas at Luther ticket funds from last year donated

Overview of Donor Comparison (Gift/Cash):

Due to success of OneTeam Day, which brought in donations for athletics:

·      Up 23% from last year, up 7% from 5 years ago

·      Up 208% in new donors (grandparents, neighbors, etc.)

·      Up 557% friends of Luther

·      49 current students donated


·       The Alumni Council Scholarship, established by the Luther College Alumni Council, shall be awarded to qualified students in need of financial assistance with preference given to descendants of Luther alumni.

o   Endowment balance as of 05/31/2020 - $34,363.38

o   Established in 1997, it produces approximately $1,685/year in financial aid

o   Since the first award in 2000, it has supported 11 students with nearly $25,000 in financial aid

o   2020-2021 Recipient: Keshawn McCain, a junior dance major from Decorah, Iowa

·       The Black Alumni Association Scholarship, established in memory of the African-American past and present slain victims of racism in America, shall be awarded annually to qualified African-American students with demonstrated need for financial assistance. Preference shall be given to students active in community engagement.

o   New endowment, balance will be determined as of 05/31/2021, anticipated first award for 2021-2022 academic year

o   $141,734 committed as of 01/31/2021

Projects and Priorities

·      Athletics – Sports and Recreation Center Renewal

o   Initial planning for projected cost of $1.5 million

·      Nursing Simulation Program and Lab Renewal

o   $543,925 as of 01/31/2021 - $300,000 goal

·      Orchestra Vienna Residency Endowment

o   $142,656 as of 01/31/2021 - $100,000 goal

·      Piano Renewal

o   $216,600 as of 01/31/2021 - $500,000 goal

·      Scholarships and Applied Learning Support

Lisa asked Nate for action needed for Development, Nate asked council to remind people of participation. Every donor matters and small amounts coming together make a big difference.


Lisa called break at 10:35 a.m., will reconvene at 10:40 a.m. for breakout groups.

Action Steps – Committee Breakouts

Lisa called meeting back to order at 10:40 a.m. and thanked previous speakers. She transitioned to breakout groups to discuss Action Steps relevant to the context heard today. Breakout until 11:10 a.m.

Committee Reports

Groups reconvened at 11:10 a.m. Lisa welcomed everyone back and transitioned to the first breakout group; asked for #1 priority for each group.

Retention – Serina (Norvold) Bentley ’94, Alumni Council Recording Secretary

#1 Priority: Mentor Program, start with Alumni Council to jumpstart members

·      Build relationships

·      Expand quickly, training online

·      Featuring mentor/mentee with photos in magazine

·      Possibly promote mentoring program

·      Be transparent, express that we are down in numbers


Engagement and Financial Support – Jim Kowitz ’03, Alumni Council Vice President

#1 Priority: Giving Day, 100% participation from Alumni Council

·      Contact friends

·      Reach out on Giving Day, text about great times at Luther, today we celebrate and give back

·      Be smart about giving and matching

·      Building community, not just asking for money

·      Build relationships, no now, but yes in the future

Class of 2020 – Kylie Hanschmann ’17, Alumni Council Member

#1 Priority: Re-establish and maintain connection

·      Extend beyond Decorah with Luther connection

·      Social Media takeover for 2020 so they see themselves in content

·      Bring back in intentional groupings

·      Personalized postcards sent to them specifically to celebrate them

Recruitment – Lisa (Small) Steinbauer ’88, Alumni Council President

#1 Priority: Be intentional in marketing

·      Reach out to 2-3 alumni specifically and report back at next meeting

·      Link them to website about Ambassador Program, personal message, we need help

·      Direct outreach to educators, staff, and current parents for referral program

·      Utilize social media and target ads for younger generation, constant exposure

Next Steps

Lisa encouraged sharing of motivation and excitement, as well as the importance of staying connected. Sherry will report back to her after the committees meet. Lisa will throw in challenges and reminders and promised to give more time for connection during the next meeting.

New/Old Business

Lisa opened for new business for April agenda. Hearing none, no need for motion.

Lisa opened for old business. She addressed the Young Alumni Award. There will be no selection for the 2021 award in order to focus on recognition of last year’s recipient.

Lisa opened to Sherry, no old business. Lisa opened to questions, hearing none.



Lisa thanked the council for their time, talent, and testimony. It was rewarding to see everyone involved and the impact being made. She is hopeful to achieve the 100% participation goal of the council on Giving Day and encouraged everyone to lead by example and continue social chances to reach out.

Lisa opened to Alyssa Ritter ’11, Associate Director of Alumni Relations. Alyssa encouraged all to be Social Media Ambassadors for Giving Day 2021. Social Media Ambassadors will receive wording and templates for social media to help promote Giving Day.

Lisa encouraged everyone to sign up for the conversation with President Ward and the premiere of the Chris Norton ’14 movie. Also to lift up Gordon Christianson '49, 30-year member of the Alumni Council who is currently in hospice care in Rochester, Minnesota. Keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

Lisa opened to Sherry, who thanked everyone and expressed her appreciation.

Lisa called for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Motion to adjourn made by Liesl Koehnen ’09, and Melissa Willenborg ’02 seconded this motion.

Meeting adjourned at 11:31 a.m