Sophomore Letter

Dear Sophomore Parents and Guardians,

Greetings from Luther College and from the “Spring” meeting of its Parents Council!

Parents Council (a college-sponsored communication forum consisting of about 20 sets of parents of all four class years) met on campus the first weekend of March.  Despite the title, the campus was still firmly in the grip of deep winter, but hope “springs” eternal that the snow and cold will subside and return the campus to its usual vernal beauty.  You’ve probably heard from your student about the weather and the ups and downs of the first month of the new semester, so I wanted to update you on some of the important administrative activities we heard about which are progressing – frequently out of sight of most students. 

Perhaps most significant, President Paula Carlson’s last months until retirement are fast passing.  The search for Luther’s 11th president was reported to have been met with a great response of interest in applicants. The transition from Paula Carlson to Dr. Jenifer K. Ward will be July 1.

President-elect Ward will inherit a college with a solid plan for the immediate future.  Last year, Luther adopted a new strategic plan titled Inspired-Empowered-Engaged ( The plan builds on current strengths to grow in new ways, and better support and connect with students while positioning to meet some of the demographic headwind expected over the coming decade.  We heard about several concrete steps being taken under this plan which are in late stages of deployment.  Faculty committees are well into a review and reformulation of the core curricula to update and drive common student learning, development and experience.  These may include updates to Paideia (the core class all first-year students take together), distributional requirements, major requirements, or inter-disciplinary studies to better align with the needs of tomorrow’s students and the college’s mission.  Related to this, the coming academic year will see the introduction of a new “Learning Hub” in Rochester, Minn., where Luther will work with the Mayo Clinic and other Rochester businesses to introduce extended term, on-site Live/Learn/Work programs for students.  While details are still being worked out, students will spend a term living in Rochester, taking classes from their regular Luther faculty, and working in practical internships in various businesses.  Similar hubs are being developed in Washington, D.C. and Denver, providing domestic alternatives to the broad international experience learning opportunities which the college will continue to support.  Plans are also progressing to start Innovation/Incubator spaces on campus, which are intended to offer students and faculty the space and facilities to try out and develop individual or group entrepreneurial ideas.  And while not part of the strategic plan per se, this month, Luther is finishing up the huge tasks related to its decennial reaccreditation process!

We also heard updates on college efforts related to equity and inclusion (highlighting progress during the 50th anniversary of the Black Student Union, and more recent work to include LGBTQIA and other support programs).  Organizationally, student success initiatives have been organized, combining diversity programs as the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success.  New emphases on student life, health, and well-being are being explored for next year.  Also, on-campus, next year is expected to see the start of renovation of the building known only as “Main.” This renovation (which college urban legend says is unique in not involving a complete rebuild following devastating fires in the previous two Main buildings #askyourstudentwhythecollegebellisinBentdahlCommons) will not only increase space for various student support groups, but will also redesign faculty office areas in close proximity to student study spaces.  This close integration of student study spaces with accessibility to their faculty mentors really highlights one of the key educational values offered by Luther. If you haven’t seen this unique approach, check out the science faculty offices in Sampson Hoffland Laboratories when you’re on campus! 

This summary represents only a small fraction of the things that are going on at Luther to better help current students, and to position the college for being an even bigger success for future students.  As parents we sometimes hear about some professors (for better or worse?), but after hearing more about things that are going on, I would like to assure you that Luther College also represents a host of other good people working tirelessly to keep the college running day to day, improve student life and experiences, and to position the college for future success and service.  And as winter drags on in Decorah, I was reminded this also includes the grounds crews who keep clearing snow and ice, and all the support people who make it in to work daily through blizzards etc.!  I find that the more I learn about Luther, the more I appreciate that our students have found this place.

In closing, parents and their families support Luther students in many ways, and we know that higher education is a big investment.  When your student joined the Luther family, you became a Norse too!  Over the years, countless families have supported Luther students with a donation to the Luther Fund, and we encourage you to invest as you are able in the future of Luther College - for your student and for all future students.  Visit ( to make a gift online or return the enclosed response card with your donation.  Thank you and GO NORSE!

Yours, hoping and waiting for real spring!

Doug and Bonnie Hanggi

P.S. – Parents Council is a group of about 40 parents, representing each of the four class years, who meet twice a year to receive updates on college news, events, and planning to provide the college with feedback. 

P.P.S. Please know, lists for each class letter are generated by the number of credit hours a student has earned, not by senior, junior, etc. status. If you would like to receive a different class letter, please contact Annette Laitinen at 800-225-8664 or [email protected].

Sophomore Class Parents Council Members:

Doug and Bonnie Hanggi
Lake Elmo, MN
[email protected]

Steve Abernethy and Janeen Haller-Abernethy
Arvada, CO
jlhall [email protected]

Jen (Carlson) '86 and John Lembezeder
Peosta, IA
[email protected]

John and Rachel Vanderploeg
Aurora, IL
[email protected]


Spring 2019

April 19–22        Easter Vacation
May 20–23          Final Exams
May 26                Commencement

Fall 2020

Sept. 4                Fall Semester Begins
Sep. 20-22          Family Weekend
Oct. 4-6
Oct. 19-23
          Fall Break
Nov. 27-Dec. 1  Thanksgiving Break
Dec. 5–8             Christmas at Luther Performances
Dec. 16-19          Final Exams