Message from Corey Landstrom, Vice President and Dean for Student Life

I found myself shaking my head this week when I realized we were already into the fourth week of the semester. It’s hard to believe these first few weeks went by so quickly! In the last few days or so we’ve had hot weather, significant rain, and now fall-like temperatures. A change of seasons is noticeable in one fell swoop.

I occasionally include student perspectives in my newsletter piece, but it’s been a while since I have done so. This month you have an opportunity to receive them from three first-year students who were recently elected to serve as representatives on Student Senate for their respective first-year residence halls (Brandt, Olson, and Ylvisaker). I shared a series of questions last week for them to consider and respond to. While these are only three students out of more than 575 new students, their responses are in many ways representative of what their peers might offer.

I asked them first what was most helpful for their transition to college and, specifically, to Luther.

For Spencer, it was visiting with family that helped him move in and become comfortable at Luther. Since arrival day, he’s been able to visit home and receive a visit from his brother. It’s clear that being away from family is an experience that elicits a range of emotions for many students. I recall RA training and seeing 70 students all raising their hands when asked if they experienced homesickness when they first arrived at college. While Spencer may or may not have experienced homesickness, it was important for him to have that continued connection with family.

Charmaine stated the accessibility of her professors and course materials has been most helpful. She noted how their office hours offer an opportunity for students to connect and seek help on various academic challenges in a one-on-one setting. She also described how she has discovered the invaluable resources the Student Academic Support Center (SASC) provides and how she believes every student should make use of it for support with time-management or study skills.

Finally, Jerry shared how the early relationships he has developed have helped him to thrive at Luther. Whether in his hall or elsewhere on campus, he has experienced some of the most approachable people he has met in his life. The displays of community provided to him have yielded a “family” that he said expects progress and at the same time will support one another. Jerry’s response reminds me of conversations during ROAD this past summer regarding the student culture. Luther is not a place with an overly competitive social environment, but rather a genuinely caring environment and Jerry's response illuminates this.

I then asked the students about their Senate role as representatives for their peers and what were they most looking forward to.

Spencer advised it’s the opportunity to gain experience in a decision-making body that works to improve the community around him. Jerry offered that he's eager to listen to specific input from his hall and bring it to the larger venue that is Student Senate. He sees the opportunity to make an impact at the Student Senate level as vital to improving community.

Charmaine discussed how the fresh perspective a first-year student can bring may directly affect the student body. She shared from her experience of being in a new place that someone new may be better positioned to point out improvements and issues that might have been overlooked. Finally, she looks forward to engaging with fellow students who have all kinds of diverse experiences and learning from them how to best represent their ideas and concerns to Student Senate.

I have always enjoyed asking people who have had a new experience if anything about it surprised them.

Jerry expressed that his experience in a short time has shown how Luther's emphasis on liberal learning can increase the capacity for students’ critical thinking. He explained how this emphasis and small class sizes present an opportunity to impact the individual student in ways larger college environments may not. He has experienced more profound discussions in the classroom and elsewhere as a result.

Spencer wasn’t surprised by much other than the degree to which he missed his family. This aspect of the transition can be difficult, especially for those who are farther away from home. Finding the right balance for engagement from afar is not a unique experience for new students and, I know, parents. Setting a schedule for communication, the ways you will communicate, and what you will share is a conversation worth having. If visits to campus are not easy, the surprise call, text, snap, or care package can be something that elevates the day for a student.

Experiencing an environment where everyone she connects with is invested in her wellbeing was a surprise for Charmaine. As an international student, she found this especially profound because she did not expect the transition to be as smooth as it has been. She shared how the pre-orientation Endeavor Together program facilitated awareness of how she and her peers could confidently respond to challenges and interact effectively with one another. It was in many ways, she stated, a training for both the residential living and academic experiences she has had. She also noted it helped to see familiar, friendly faces across campus once classes got under way.

I also asked the students, knowing what they have learned from their short experience, what they might have changed in their lead-up to college or since they’ve arrived.

Charmaine shared she would have definitely been in contact with faculty and staff much sooner. She expected a level of independence and personal responsibility when she arrived at Luther, but she wished she knew to seek assistance sooner so that she did not have to do some things on her own. The amount of support she has received has been so unbelievably helpful in relieving some stress and worries as an incoming student. During ROAD this summer, we encouraged students to ask for help and told them that seeking and asking for help is an adult behavior. Independence is an important goal, but as Charmaine has experienced, being interdependent can help the transition process.

Spencer seems to have taken a big bite of the apple that college offers. That is, he stated he would not have signed up for such a large course load and number of programs and commitments. Spencer is a student-athlete who has engaged on campus quickly and in many ways, such as in the classroom, Student Senate, his work-study role, and a multitude of other opportunities he easily discovered. He seems to have learned how important balance is in managing commitments and working in a more focused way on what he is most committed to. It can be easy for students to be busy yet not necessarily productive, and it seems Spencer may have figured out this key lesson.

For Jerry, changing his meal plan is what he would have adjusted. He has found his schedule created demands on his time that greater flexibility with Dining Dollars and fewer meal swipes would have provided a better match. He finds he does not make use of the default lunch swipe and using the C-Store (where his Dining Dollars can be employed) has been beneficial. Figuring out the optimal meal plan is something students need to assess while at the same time discovering their semester rhythm. Students can change the plan each semester (by the deadline) so that the balance of meal swipes and Dining Dollars may better serve their needs and schedules.

Finally, I asked about the Norse Creed (included at the end of this message) that Student Senate adopted last spring and what element of the creed spoke most directly to them.

Charmaine wrote it’s the first stanza of the creed:

"I am a citizen of the world.
I am inclusive and compassionate to all.
We value and recognize all faiths.

We are a diverse
Community."

She emphasized it’s imperative to recognize the role students play in making Luther inclusive as the community becomes more diverse. She states it’s important to acknowledge students outnumber the faculty and staff and thus the power to make Luther an inclusive community is in their hands as a student body. She decided to run for Senate because representation is important and diverse opinions and perspectives are necessary since “we are not only citizens of our countries but of the world, and inclusivity and compassion is vital to us all.”

Spencer shared that the first line in the second stanza spoke to him:

“I engage in learning beyond my interests.
I display integrity through my actions.
We hold ourselves and each other accountable.

We project Leadership.”

He specifically stated that learning beyond his interests is something he wasn’t as excited about when coming to college and that he wanted to focus more on what he already enjoyed. He added, however, that he has enjoyed learning through new things and new classes. That is, being open to experiences and ideas has dividends.

Finally, Jerry shared that the leading line in the last stanza is what speaks to him:

“We are learning to be well-rounded people.
We are becoming more.
We Are Luther.”

He stated that the Luther curriculum with Paideia increases critical thinking among students, and this opens endless opportunities to become better individuals and to contribute to society in a forward-looking way. He closed by writing, “It allows Luther students to escape potential limitations in thinking and see the world in many perspectives. To be a well-rounded person is to contribute to society.”

Each of these three first-year students found a different stanza that spoke intensely to their interests and experiences. I would be interested to know, whether your student is a new student or has begun their final year at Luther, what speaks most to them in the Norse Creed.

Norse Creed

I am a Luther Norse.
I am a citizen of the world.

I am inclusive and compassionate to all.
We value and recognize all faiths.

We are a diverse
Community.
I engage in learning beyond my interests.

I display integrity through my actions.
We hold ourselves and each other accountable.

We project
Leadership.
I am determined to make the world sustainable.

I possess an open mind.
We show reverence for individuals.

We demonstrate
Respect.
We are learning to be well-rounded people.

We are becoming more.
We Are
Luther.