Dean of students discusses community on campus

Jim Bies

jim.bies@augie.edu

 

You are by every measure a more mature and worldly body of Augustana students than students of previous generations. You bring a determined desire for independence. You also bring a style of communication that is best characterized as ‘in the moment’ regardless of time of day (or night).

My view of you from the chair I sit in as your dean of students is one of appreciation for the unique ways you find to leave your fingerprints all over this campus.

By the time each of you complete the requirements of your degree, you will leave those fingerprints as individuals and collective groups in ways that will further define our campus community.

In recent weeks, we have found ourselves discussing perceptions about our campus community thanks in part to a string of social media posts – Facebook and Twitter.

The opinions shared by a students contained many moving parts, but if one were to take time to carefully reflect upon each post, the common denominator suggests that our community is changing.

I happen to believe our campus community is in a constant process of change. After all, a college campus is a dynamic and fluid place.

With a population of well over two thousand, the students, faculty and staff who live, study, teach, play and work here, do so within a small ten-acre campus. We are, in fact, a small town with an infrastructure of services and programs that is not so different from many of your own hometowns.

We are also a unique little town that is tucked within the larger city of Sioux Falls. So, let me offer up two snapshots; externally – our off campus neighborhood, and internally – how we interact together as a campus community.

Externally, we are an important part of Sioux Falls. The city has and continues to grow in ways that affect our campus community. We see amazing opportunities with this growth, but we are also confronted by challenges that affect us in ways that are concerning.

What we call the Augie neighborhood is an extended 3-4 block zone that surrounds the campus. For many, we forget that hundreds of families and homeowners also live in this same neighborhood – we live with them and they with us.

We all share a desire for a community that is neighborly; respectful of our differences, helpful in times of need and most of all, safe and free of crime.

We have noticed more disruptions in our Augie neighborhood in recent times and the college is deeply concerned for the quality of life in and around the campus.

It is a fact that some of the undesirable activities are unrelated to Augustana. However, we are responsible for some of the late night and weekend activities that affect our neighbors’ quality of life.

We have invited the Sioux Falls Police Department to be visible and helpful in our efforts to provide you and our neighbors with a safe place to live – one that is free of crime.

As each of you navigates the few blocks surrounding campus, consider how you interact within our Augie neighborhood. I hope you take time to meet our non-college neighbors, but be aware of your surroundings and above all, make safe and lawful choices.

Internally, most of us see ourselves as a part of purposeful, open and caring community. Augie is a place that is guided by standards that define acceptable behaviors designed to give you freedoms and responsibilities.

At times, some forget these important elements of living in community as we glimpsed in the recent messages posted on social media sites.

For some students, faculty and staff, including me, our surprise with the Facebook messages was not necessarily about the content. It was more a concern that these important messages were not being discussed directly with others, within our community.

The opportunity to sit down together and discuss topics of disagreement, dissatisfaction, or calls for review and change is an important element of community and should be appreciated as a vital part of our living together.

So, here are a few things that you can do that will encourage all of us to continuously define our campus community:

A. Commit to introducing yourself to a new classmate every day. Don’t miss an opportunity to know everyone in each of your classes by name. Just think how much easier it is to discuss (and even disagree) with someone you know.

B. Take one of your faculty members to lunch before fall break. Whether you go alone or with a few classmates, give yourself a treat by having an out-of-class conversation with a professor. Best of all, I’ll even pay for your professor’s lunch – send me an email before mid-term break and I’ll make the arrangements.

C. Do you have a question, a concern or a suggestion for an administrator or faculty member? Make it a point to avoid sending an email or making a phone call at least once a week. Drop what you are doing and go to their office.

You may need to make an appointment, but we need to spend time together . . . we need to know each other in a quality way that can only happen with one-on-one conversations.

And when you are in our offices, be curious! Pay attention to the pictures on our walls, the books on our shelves and the items on our desks. You will be surprised what you will learn about us.

D. If you live in a residence hall, commit to having a conversation with at least one of your neighbors from your floor every day. Put yourself out there – you’ll be amazed at how your circle of friends will grow.

E. If you live off-campus in our Augie neighborhood, see to it that you introduce yourself to a neighbor at least once a week. Take time to meet the moms, dads, children, senior citizens and other folks that share our neighborhood.

And finally, our community is not defined by any one person or group of students, faculty or staff. Community is us! Community is living together, solving problems together, making this college better, looking out for each other and keeping all of us safe.

Jim Bies

Dean of Students