As Verdier week approaches, Augustana prepares to celebrate more than the school.
Every year, Augustana acknowledges students who embody the five core values of the school: Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. This year’s Verdier week is March 31-April 4. There are 32 award nominees.
“[It’s] a way to bring attention to and honor the five values of the college and the students that so very well demonstrate the values,” said Sandi Vietor, coordinator of the Covenant Awards.
This will be the 12th year of the award, which was initially designed by ASA. Juniors and seniors by credit are eligible for nominations because it is about “a body of work for the student while they’re here,” Vietor said. These nominations can be submitted by anyone associated with the college, including students, faculty, administrators and staff.
“Students can be – and are often – nominated for more than one award,” Vietor said.
The college then spends a full week honoring these students. However, students are only allowed to receive one award throughout their college career.
One core value is celebrated each day of Verdier week beginning on Monday and following the official order, starting with Christian Faith, but it hasn’t always been this way.
For the first nine years the awards were spaced throughout the year. It wasn’t until the 10th anniversary that the awards were lumped into one week, called “Verdier,” the Norwegian word for “values.”
For each day of the week, a different value is celebrated with a related activity. Monday will feature a speaker in chapel to emphasize the Christian Faith value.
The Christian Faith pillar is about “exploring your faith tradition in a way that means to mature faith growth,” according to senior Christian Faith nominee Alexandra Hjerpe.
Tuesday’s Liberal Arts features the “fast five,” an event in which faculty members are given five minutes and a mandatory 20 slides to present on the benefits of a liberal arts education (and yes, they are timed).
“[Liberal Arts is] definitely something I feel like I was raised with as a value,” senior Covenant Award nominee Julia Blue said. “It means you’re well-rounded and diverse. I like that it’s the value all Augustana students have.”
Wednesday’s celebration of Excellence includes a quiz bowl rivalry between the faculty and the students.
“Excellence can take on so many different definitions,” senior Excellence Covenant Award nominee Kayla Seeger said. “[It’s] not just in the grade, but in all that you do.”
On Thursday, the celebration of Community will include Ole walking around campus and handing out prizes to students wearing their Augustana gear.
“Community means caring,” senior Covenant Award nominee Emily Weber said. “It’s about not seeing people as means, but about seeing them as people.”
Finally, Friday’s Service activity will be dipping dog bones in almond bark and a dog-friendly chocolate substitute in the academic buildings around campus, which will then be donated to the Humane Society.
“It’s just something that adds value to life,” senior Service Covenant Award nominee Taylor Allis said. “I didn’t ever know I could make as much of a difference as I did.”
All award nominees are considered for the award by a committee made up of the faculty, administrators and staff of the college. These committees, one for each pillar, evaluate the nominees and reach out to references or other students to obtain more information to substantiate the claims made by the nominator.
“Many students receive multiple nominations for an award [from multiple people],” Vietor said. “The stuff that comes in on the nominations is incredible.”
This year, four students are eligible for more than one award.
After they have been nominated, the students are notified by Vietor via email. Usually, students are notified right away, before the selection is made.
“If you’re nominated for the Covenant Award, your work is entirely done,” Hjerpe said.
It is the nominators and committees who do all the leg work.
The committee decisions have to be made in advance to allow enough time for each medallion to be engraved with the name of the recipient, the award and the date.
Each medallion in turn has a different color of ribbon for each value: purple for Christian, white for Liberal Arts, blue for Excellence, red for Community and Service, green. Every nominee receives a lapel pin.
“We encourage people to wear that with their graduation gown,” Vietor said.
Students are encouraged to invite their parents, and Vietor calls the parents of the recipient once a decision has been made to make sure they can attend. The parents, of course, are sworn to secrecy.
During the ceremony, someone from that day’s value committee will present the award. The ceremony begins with a background of the Covenant Awards and an explanation of the criteria of whichever value is being celebrated.
The presenter will then list all of the students and their parents, leading into an ever-narrowing speech about the traits displayed in this batch of nominees. The traits listed become more and more specific to the recipient until finally, as the final piece of the puzzle, the name is announced.
The Covenant Awards celebrate the college’s five core values, which each mean something a little different for everyone. But for Vietor?
“It’s one of the best things I do,” she said.