Luther College announces significant academic center expansion in Rochester, Minnesota

February 4, 2020

The Rochester Semester allows students to engage in high-impact, career-centered learning

From real-world internships to meaningful active learning opportunities, Luther College is enhancing its student experience by significantly expanding programming in Rochester, Minnesota. The Rochester Semester will launch as Luther's spring 2020 semester opens on Wednesday, Feb. 5. This new program is open to all majors and will take advantage of the exciting opportunities available just 65 miles from Decorah.

            The Rochester area is home to more than 1,000 Luther alumni and friends employed in diverse and important fields. Drawing on those connections, Luther students participating in the spring 2020 semester will have immersive learning opportunities at the Gift of Life Transplant House, the Rochester Diversity Council, Destination Medical Center and City of Rochester Sustainability, as well as in a number of areas within the Mayo Clinic, including biomedical research, biomedical informatics, finance and information technology.

"These experiences will enable students to build practical skills, gain diverse perspectives and form valuable networks, preparing them to be competitive for the next step in their lives," said Jodi Enos-Berlage, Rochester Semester director and associate dean for integrated academic and career development. "However, the most powerful outcome of these experiences is that students will be able to discover the types of work, contributions and interactions that energize them, and just as importantly, those that do not, while they are still in college. They can use what they learn to help shape their next step, putting them in a better position to navigate towards a life and career that will not only be professionally rewarding but also purposeful."

For the first time, Luther students studying in Rochester will live under one roof in housing arranged by the college. Further, students enrolled in the Rochester Semester program will take two place-based, community-engaged courses taught by Luther faculty members in classroom space at Zumbro Lutheran Church.

In one course, The Mutable City, students will ask big questions and use an ethical lens to examine the challenges associated with rapid urban change. The focus will be on Rochester, which is expected to experience major population and economic growth over the next 20 years due to the $5 billion Destination Medical Center project. In a second course, Writing in Community, small groups of students will partner with a Rochester non-profit to produce a desired writing product for the organization.   

            Shana Liu is a junior neuroscience major with a chemistry and music minor. This January she was Luther's "soft start" Rochester Semester student. Liu began her internship by working full time in a Mayo Clinic neuroscience research lab studying deep brain stimulation treatments.

            "The lab I was placed into has been incredibly nurturing, and I've already learned so much in a few short weeks. I've gotten to observe behavioral experiments, cutting edge analysis technologies and so much more," said Liu. "This is such a great chance for people to gain professional experience while still in school. I feel very lucky to be able to work beside experts in the neuromodulation field."

            While these immersive experiences are shaping students and their futures, Enos-Berlage points out, the participating organizations have a lot to gain as well.

"These organizations benefit by having a student immersed in a project for the duration of a semester, and possibly longer, increasing their potential to make meaningful contributions," said Enos-Berlage. "A young person with a fresh perspective can also offer valuable insights to collaborative projects."

As Enos-Berlage continues her work in paving the road ahead for students studying in Rochester, she welcomes conversations with organizations seeking to learn more about the program. She can be contacted at

            At 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 9, Zumbro Lutheran Church will host a special worship service to recognize and celebrate Luther College's and Zumbro Lutheran Church's partnership in mission, service and learning in Rochester. Luther College Campus Pastor, Anne Edison-Albright will preach and music will be provided by Luther's Norskkor choir under the direction of Mark Potvin.

            "I'm excited about this event because not only does it serve to formally recognize the launch of a major new initiative for Luther, it provides a wonderful way for members of the Rochester community, and in particular our welcoming partners at Zumbro Lutheran Church, to meet and engage with our Rochester-based students and vice versa," said Enos-Berlage. "We are deeply grateful for the classroom space, student support and warm hospitality provided to us by Zumbro Lutheran."

            The Rochester Semester program builds on a foundation established nearly 40 years ago by Luther's highly-regarded nursing program. For decades, nursing majors have spent their entire third year in Rochester, gaining valuable clinical experience at Mayo Medical Center and its affiliated hospitals.

            To learn more about Luther's academic center in Rochester and the exciting opportunities available through the Rochester Semester visit

Luther College is home to more than 1,900 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at