By Danny Reinan, staff writer
In Nov. of last year, President Paul Pribbenow announced through a university-wide email that Ann Garvey, Vice President of Student Affairs, would be retiring immediately and that her position would be eliminated. This came as a surprise to many students and faculty, as Garvey had been an integral figure in Augsburg’s community for 22 years. Her sudden leave was seen as abrupt and unexpected. To some in the community, it was unclear how the departments that Garvey led would function without her leadership.
Provost Karen Kaivola made a statement regarding Garvey’s departure in the Echo last semester. She explained that the organizational change was ultimately for the better of the community, as the elimination of Garvey’s position would integrate Academic Affairs and Student Affairs in a way that would better meet students’ needs. However, some in Augsburg’s community still remain confused about the impact of Garvey’s departure.
This concern may be compounded by the departure of several staff around the time that Garvey retired. Since Kaivola’s initial statement to The Echo, more information has been released that sheds light on how Augsburg will move forward given the organizational changes.
On Dec. 10, 2019, Kaivola elaborated on the potential benefits of these structural changes in her monthly update, which was sent to staff and faculty. “The reorganization responds to a recognition – not just at Augsburg but across higher education – that campus partnerships, alignments and new forms of integration across these two areas strengthen support for student learning, development and success,” she said about November’s announcement. “Research on the topic suggests that the needs of historically underrepresented and first-generation students are best met when curricular and co-curricular areas of the university are aligned.” Kaivola attached research findings from the Hanover Research Council and the Community College Enterprise that further expanded upon her statements, students – particularly those who came from marginalized groups – receive additional support when Academic and Student Affairs are united.
After explaining these reasons for the structural changes, Kaivola explained what actions she had taken to ensure a smooth integration of the departments. “In recent weeks, I have met with staff in the Student Affairs division as a group and with many (though not-yet all) of the division’s directors [as well as many other campus leaders],” she said. “…In each of these meetings, I have underscored core commitments for the transitional period of the reorganization process, which is anticipated to last through the remainder of the academic year: (a) prioritize a seamless student experience during the transition; (b) listen and learn; and (c) value and preserve unique perspectives shaped by our particular institutional locations and experiences.”
Kaivola went on to name five areas that would be strengthened by the union of Academic and Student Affairs, which include transitions to Augsburg for first-year and transfer students, support for mental health and operations and resource allocation.
Kaivola elaborated on the recent staff departures in a private correspondence, explaining that they were largely unrelated to Garvey’s departure and the structural changes that came with it. “People leave Augsburg (and other employers) for many different reasons,” she said. “In any given year, we see staff turnover – in some areas more than others. People retire or seek new opportunities, sometimes because they’ve found an exciting position elsewhere that helps them advance their career, sometimes because of internal restructuring, sometimes for personal reasons.”
Kaivola and the other members of the Augsburg staff have expressed their intent and desire to lead Augsburg in a positive direction with this structural change, although we have yet to see how this will impact Augsburg’s community and academics.
This is a developing story. Updates will be given after more details are confirmed.