Augsburg faculty met last Wednesday in order to hold a conversation about the university’s mission statement. They discussed what sort of learning environment faculty can and should create in the 21st century. This included tying in themes of the Lutheran tradition, demands for diversity, recognition of privilege and intergroup dialogue. Faculty addressed various student needs, ranging from topics like the hours spent working off-campus jobs to those of a bigger scale such as the radical shifts in student demographics over roughly the last decade.
The number of students who identify with the Lutheran faith has dropped from 32 percent to 16 percent between 2004 and 2017. This secularization was a focal point of the discussion. Some faculty were worried about the university losing its identity. However, Augsburg’s goal is to teach students that faith is personal, a concept that, according to faculty, is no longer a commonly understood assumption for most people.
Others pointed out that the Lutheran tradition at Augsburg encourages epistemological humility, a welcoming to those outside the community. The discussion also touched on the possibility that the core religion requirement could shrink from two required religion courses down to one. This possible change is a part of Augsburg’s plan to alter the curriculum in a way that best matches the university’s mission statement and student body.
Other interesting statistics were pointed out during the discussion. Although the percentage of students of color at Augsburg has tripled since 2004, 67 percent of the student body is Caucasian, and one member of the discussion described this as “quite diverse.” The years between 2004 and 2017 have seen ups and downs in other areas as well. The number of graduate students enrolled at Augsburg has doubled from 14 percent to 30 percent.
Alongside the growing volume of graduate students is the decrease of first-generation day students whose numbers dropped from 37 percent to 29 percent. There was a 12 percent decrease in the number of students with an undecided major, and a major increase in students majoring in the fine arts, humanities and the natural and social sciences. There was a 4 percent decrease in the number of students majoring in professional studies. There has also been an increase in the number of students using the Center for Wellness and Counseling (CWC) located on campus. Since 2004, over 124 more students make appointments annually, raising the number of appointments per year from 181 to 305. As Augsburg continues to change, faculty will continue to work to address the issue of how to best educate the student body.
This article first appeared in the Friday, January 26, 2018, Edition of The Echo.