Leaders of Gustavus Adolphus College, including members of the Board of Trustees, the College’s senior administrators, and a group of faculty members representing multiple academic disciplines, came together for a weekend workshop on January 26-27 to discuss a broad range of issues, including future opportunities and challenges that Gustavus and all liberal arts colleges will face.
President Jack Ohle and Provost Mark Braun opened the conversation by discussing national trends and changes to the liberal arts landscape, as well as an overview and history of the liberal arts at Gustavus.
Roundtable discussions followed on a number of topics, including economic factors in regard to cost and access for future Gustavus students; strengths and challenges within the current curriculum at the College; outside perceptions regarding the value of a liberal arts education; how changing technologies will affect teaching and learning at liberal arts institutions; and how Gustavus can make systemic changes going forward that will shape the next ten years at the College.
“We felt that this was the right time to bring leaders of the College together to have an important and, what will be, an ongoing discussion,” President Ohle said. “Several factors including the nation’s economy, changing demographics, and declining student populations in Minnesota high schools are creating challenges for many colleges and universities. By having these discussions, we are proactively positioning Gustavus Adolphus College for future long-term success.”
Associate Professor of Chemistry Scott Bur was one of the faculty members in attendance at the workshop. He was encouraged by the shared passion and vision of the College’s mission that was apparent among the constituents in the room and left the workshop feeling like the discussions were a positive experience for all in attendance.
“Talking informally with individual Board members left me with a sense of confidence that the Board is working hard to solve some problems that may appear simple, but are really rather complex,” Bur said. “If the Board continues to engage the faculty in this way and the faculty continues to engage back, we will be able to work together and face the challenges before us with confidence.”
Provost Braun echoed Bur’s statements and stressed the need for similar conversations to occur in the future.
“The workshop provided a wonderful opportunity for faculty members from across the disciplines at varying career stages to interact meaningfully with the Trustees about the importance of the liberal arts in the Gustavus curriculum,” Braun said. “The faculty involved, as well as members of the Board of Trustees, expressed appreciation for the open and constructive dialogue, and look forward to continued interaction about excellence in teaching and learning at Gustavus.”
Assistant Professor of Religion Sarah Ruble also attended the workshop and thought the discussions were constructive.
“I was pleased to hear that both faculty and board members agreed that Gustavus must focus institutional resources on the academic program so that we can support the practices we know deepen student learning,” Ruble said. “I was also pleased to see, in our board, the many and varied places that a liberal arts education can lead. Board members are key advocates for the continued importance of the liberal arts as we work toward the common good.”
The President indicated that the Board felt that open discussions about the College’s future like the ones that took place at the workshop, combined with recent admission and institutional advancement data, point to the fact that the College is in a healthy position to continue to educate young minds for lives of leadership and service.
“There will undoubtedly be challenges in the coming years, but the fact that the leaders of the College are sitting down together and having these discussions now is absolutely vital,” President Ohle said. “These are people who share a deep love for and commitment to Gustavus and together we will make decisions that will ensure this institution’s longevity and prosperity.”
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