January 15, 2018

Jan. 15, 2018

Dear Colleagues,  

I hope you had a good holiday season and that your J-term is off to a good start. We have 177 total courses being offered this January, with 39 on campus, 19 abroad and 119 that include internships, directed studies, directed readings and practicums. There are 292 students and 34 program leaders participating in the 19 courses around the globe. I’m looking forward to reading about their #NorseAdventures on the J-term blog.  

Faculty searches and sabbaticals
The Dean’s office is in the process of launching the following faculty searches:

  • Assistant professor of computer science, tenure-track
  • Assistant professor of Africana studies and history, tenure-track
  • Visiting assistant professor of biology, non-tenure-track, three-year term
  • Visiting assistant professor of classics, non-tenure-track, three-year term
  • Visiting assistant professor of economics, non-tenure-track, one-year term

More information about each of the positions will be available on the human resources website and I will continue to provide updates on other searches as they are launched. We appreciate your help in recruiting candidates for these positions.


This year, we received and approved 14 requests for sabbaticals from faculty: 10 semester and four year-long. I want to thank the members of the Faculty Interest Committee for reviewing the requests and presenting their recommendations.   


Development news
As of the end of 2017, we have received nearly $13.8 million in gifts to the college. That year-to-date endowment support is higher than any of the previous five years at this point-in-time, with nearly $2.7 million in new cash gifts. Many of these endowment gifts will support faculty, staff and students through scholarships and program funds. I’m deeply grateful to Luther alumni and friends for their generosity, support and dedication to the college.


“Horizontal learning”
Over the winter break, I attended the annual Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Presidents Institute. The meeting focuses on challenges and opportunities for private colleges in the current challenging and often disruptive environment for higher education. I was heartened that many of the initiatives proposed in our new strategic plan address challenges and opportunities discussed during the conference.  

Clearly, Luther’s key strengths for the future are our strong liberal arts curriculum and our excellent interdisciplinary programs. One keynote address in particular bore this out. Michael Rhodin, a recently retired senior vice president at IBM and founder and leader of IBM's Watson business units, urged colleges to prepare students to be ready for change and, most importantly, to learn how to learn. Rhodin said that graduates now need "horizontal learning" that extends across disciplines. He sees cross-disciplinary learning as essential for students as they prepare for their lives after college.

At Luther, our liberal arts education and our interdisciplinary strengths prepare students exceptionally well for this environment of rapid change and life-long learning. I look forward to building on these strengths in our work together as we move ahead with our new strategic plan.


Spring semester 2018
Our spring semester begins in February with:

  • Mid-Year Update from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, Valders 206
  • Spring Convocation at 9:40 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, CFL Main Hall
  • Board of Regents meetings Feb. 9-10

I look forward to seeing you at the Mid-Year Update and Convocation and will send a President’s Update following the February Board Meeting.  

Today on campus
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Rochon, provost at the University of Southern Indiana, will give Luther College's annual Martin Luther King Jr., Day lecture, at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, in Valders Hall of Science Room 206. Honoring King's legacy, Rochon asks teachers of the younger generation to inspire a revolution, one that seeks to ensure a dignified life defined by respect for others, no matter their differences.  

Nearly 1,100 students from 380 schools will be on-campus working with our music faculty for the annual Dorian Vocal Festival. Festivals, camps and other events that bring students to campus prior to making a decision about college are important to our recruiting efforts. Please join me in welcoming these students and their teachers and giving them a positive impression of Luther College!  

Updates from the Cabinet  

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
As you know, the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will bring significant changes to the tax code. Many of the bill's provisions that were most harmful to higher education were removed prior to final passage. Among the positive outcomes, tuition benefits will not be treated as taxable income and interest on student loans will remain be tax-deductible.  

However, the increase in the standard deduction will reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions from approximately one-third under current law to fewer than 10 percent. This is projected to reduce charitable giving in America by $5 to $13 billion. In addition, the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for debt refinancing has been eliminated. That, combined with a cut in the corporate tax rate, will increase costs of current and future debt financing.  

In terms of the bill's impact on individuals, the IRS will be revising tax withholding tables early in 2018 that will include the new standard deduction, the loss of the personal exemption and the new tax rates. As we learn more, we will communicate about the specifics of these revisions and the implications for our employees. If you'd like to learn more about the implications for you, the New York Times published a tool that may be helpful.  

Eric Runestad
Vice President for Finance and Administration