The following is an abridged version of a longer interview with Augustana President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. The interview took place Sept. 11.
The current strategic plan, Horizons 2019, revolves around brick-mortar projects like the Froiland Science Complex and the Nelsen Apartment Complex. What can we expect in the next strategic plan?
As I mentioned to the campus community before the students came back to campus, we do need to look at resetting the planning process for [the student wellness center].
I now want to ask the committee that was evaluating a potential student activities center to give me a report and allow me to reset the process with them, so we’re looking at that objective but perhaps more centrally located with Morrison Commons, but not necessarily to the exclusion to 33rd and Grange.
I would like [the committee] to look at whether it’s an expansion on the commons, or whether it’s something in between dormitories that gives people access to the fitness and the wellness opportunities that were originally envisioned.
I would like to reset the committee process to evaluate something more centralized on campus, that may include the renovation of the Morrison Commons, since that’s also specified in the existing plan.
So there are some brick-and-mortar elements of the current plan that still need to be further developed.
But as I look on the horizon, I think we want to embrace emerging fields of study that have a compelling tie to our core.
Here I am thinking about the whole world of data and technological transformation, just as we’ve launched the genetic studies master’s degree. We must, with a core in the liberal arts, embrace these new and emerging fields as we’ve always done.
It’s exciting to think of fancy new buildings, renovated dormitories and new housing … but I really want the next strategic planning process to be focused on technological transformation, the role of data in the economy and society today and how we fashion academic offerings and also serve an increasingly diverse community, region and world.
How will sustainability factor into the next strategic plan?
Sustainability, that could be helping raise awareness on campus about opportunities to be more and more environmentally and more ecologically conscious.
Having come from Raven Industries … as well as my past public policy life … and being a proponent of sustainability and conservation, how we [support sustainability] can be propelled with data analytics.
With Raven Industries and with precision agricultural technology—I mean—it’s ripe for engineering, hardware and software, for data gathering and it informs public policy and program development.
This is where I think institutions of higher learning have a great opportunity to be of service.
How do you plan to promote Augustana internationally?
I’m going down two primary pathways.
First, so much revolves around relationships.
Second, here’s another area where strategic marketing through the use of data analytics could be helpful.
You can’t substitute the value of human relationships that people develop over the years.
However, I am convinced that a technology transformation for Augustana includes how we use data around prospective students and their families to communicate our messages in more targeted ways.
I don’t want that to be limited to South Dakota, the Great Plains or even the Midwest.
I think it needs to be international.
… We know international students tend to gravitate to the coasts and the larger metropolitan areas, but when I think about what would strike their intellectual curiosity, we can offer it in Sioux Falls.
We need to keep building our partnerships with those in the community that leverage that interest that allows us to tell [international students] more about what we have to offer.
How can Augustana grow while maintaining the virtues of a small, liberal arts institution?
It’s important that we always keep the mission, because I think that’s what drives it in terms of how people formulate their ties to Augustana.
There’s a way to be true to maintaining why [Augustana] is special for people, without resisting change, and I think that has been a part of this university’s history, and it needs to be going forward.