Six More Years of Pribbenow: Ushering in Change at Augsburg

Danny Reinan, news editor
University President Paul Pribbenow speaking at Virtual Commencement 2021, obtained from Augsburg University’s Twitter page.

University President Paul Pribbenow’s contract was renewed last month by the Board of Regents, ensuring that he will remain in his role and continue to serve Augsburg’s community for six more years. Since Pribbenow came to Augsburg in 2006, this has been his third six-year contract, and his fourth contract overall. With his tenure as president continuing, he already has big plans for Augsburg’s future, including returning to in-person learning with a mix of course modalities, expanding on environmental sustainability initiatives around campus, and implementing the vision of the Augsburg 150 plan.

The most immediate item on the docket for Augsburg’s future is returning to offering in-person learning options after an entire year of remote learning. The team handling the transition to in-person learning is starting that transition now with staff, aiming to begin bringing staff back to in-person positions starting next week, and continuing to trickle in people until faculty have returned to campus in mid-August.

“Augsburg is a place that thrives on community, and students need safe ways to engage face-to-face,” Pribbenow told the Echo about the transition.

“Augsburg is a place that thrives on community, and students need safe ways to engage face-to-face.”

President Paul Pribbenow

In order to ensure that the transition isn’t premature, Pribbenow and the rest of the team does not plan on offering all in-person classes immediately. Rather, a percentage of classes will be offered in-person, to ensure that students have a mix of in-person and remote modalities. 

“The good news for us is that there is opportunity for students to get vaccines, even maybe before we’re done with classes [this year],” said Pribbenow. “There’s a movement ongoing right now, maybe even a chance for vaccines to come to campus.”

Pribbenow will continue centering sustainability as a value for Augsburg, with plans to install more solar panels on campus, reconsider the energy use of old buildings and even eventually reduce roads and pavement around campus to set up campus like a large park. He explained that Hagfors is a microcosm of what he is hoping to achieve with the campus as a whole, as it is home to an urban arboretum.

“That’s the thing about environmental sustainability – it’s both cutting energy use, but it’s also what you do in your place around place-making, around creating more of a park-like setting,” said Pribbenow. “One of the things that we learned around the way is that this park that’s out in the middle of campus, when it was designed in the 1860s, it was designed to be a commons for the houses all around the park. That was their front yard. We’ve taken that idea, and thought: How can we turn the entire campus into a front yard?”

Finally, Pribbenow wants to continue advancing on the Augsburg 150 strategic plan unveiled last year for the sesquicentennial. The three major target areas of the plan are strengthening Augsburg’s three-dimensional education, such as through new curricula like the Critical Race and Ethnicities Studies (CRES) program, advancing the public purposes of an Augsburg education, namely through mutual community work within Cedar-Riverside and ongoing interfaith efforts and growing as a sustainable university through enhancing enrollment and fundraising. 

“Contracts represent commitments and represent promises that we’ve made to each other, and I’m honored to have the privilege to lead this community of students who are becoming increasingly diverse, and are just inspired to work with one another, and it’s truly a gift,” said Pribbenow. “I think that Augsburg is emblematic of what higher education is going to look like in the 21st century, and I’m honored to be a part of that process.”

An outline of the major goals and change areas of the Augsburg 150 plan, provided by President Paul Pribbenow.