Vision 2030: Affirming Academic Excellence

Vision 2030, Augustana University

Imagine the world in 2030. Advances in technology, health care, transportation and education will have occurred a few times over. New economies, new jobs and new career fields will emerge and the next generation of college graduates will be leading the way.

This will include the graduating class of 2030, who today are 10 and 11 years-old. They’re fourth-and fifth-graders. They are infinitely curious and becoming more and more independent. They are better at using smartphones and navigating their way around the internet than most adults. They still play tag and many love video games; they spend time with friends, have sleepovers and are becoming more mature every day.

It’s hard to predict what their world will be like in 2030, but we do know that as their world changes, they’ll adapt accordingly. And that’s what Vision 2030 is all about: embracing change and adapting to it, with courage and creativity.

The bold and imaginative strategic vision, which was unanimously approved by the Augustana Board of Trustees in December 2018, consists of aspirational goals and inspires the Augustana and Sioux Falls communities to continue growing together. Over the next 11 years, these goals will expand educational opportunities to meet the needs of a growing and diverse population.

“Augustana has been in the Sioux Falls community for 100 years,” Augustana President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin says. “It’s an ideal time to consider our legacy and plan effectively for the first decade of our next century in this growing and dynamic city. Sioux Falls has always supported our graduates with employment, research, service and leadership opportunities.”

Board Chair and 1983 graduate of Augustana Tom Davis agrees. “The university must dream big, be dynamic and adapt to change,” says Davis. “When we changed the name from Augustana College to Augustana University, we set forward a series of events. Part of this vision comes from that process.” Davis continues, “we enthusiastically endorsed the vision the president and her team put forward.

For decades, Augustana has prepared students to be leaders who explore, create and discover what’s possible. The excitement for the board is grounded in the fact that we have been given an opportunity to serve this community in ways we’re not even aware of today.” The university’s 2030 vision includes aspirational goals that continue to foster a climate of innovation, for which university leadership believes the campus community and its global network of alumni will support along with many businesses and organizations in Sioux Falls. The goals include:

  • Adapt the academic structure of the university to most effectively support the liberal arts core, new graduate degree programs, the performing and visual arts and a professional school.
  • Grow total enrollment to at least 3,000 students.
  • Establish strategic academic scholarships that enhance affordability and diversity.
  • Transition to a Division I intercollegiate athletics conference.
  • Make dramatic improvements to the physical campus and IT infrastructure.
  • Increase substantially the university’s endowment and other financial resources to reach these goals.

“I’m excited to move to the next stage of planning with the campus community,” President Herseth Sandlin states. “The transition from Horizons 2019 to a new strategic plan presents another wonderful opportunity to collaborate and enhance partnerships across the university as we work to achieve our aspirational goals. By pursuing these goals, as set forth in Vision 2030, I am convinced that possibilities will present themselves in ways we cannot even imagine today — possibilities that will impact more students and result in greater impact to Augustana, our city, the region and the world.”

As Augustana transitions from Horizons 2019 to Vision 2030, work is progressing steadily. Four steering committees have been established to provide broad direction, collect information and data, analyze recommendations, and draft the strategic objectives and tactics that will support the goals.

The timetable, while aggressive, is an 11-month process to identify measurable objectives, conduct additional research and draft the strategic planning document.

The steering committees began meeting in February and have a goal of identifying priorities and milestones by the end of May. The steering committees have convened several task forces, which consist of faculty, staff, students and alumni to research, identify or recommend specific objectives. Over the summer, from June through August, the steering committees will gather and analyze more information related to priority objectives. In September and October, a strategic plan will be drafted based on the work completed by the steering committees and task forces. The draft will be reviewed by the president’s council and shared with the campus community to solicit feedback and inform possible revisions. In November, the president’s council, in collaboration with the steering committees, will finalize the strategic plan, which will be presented to the board of trustees no later than the December 2019 meeting.

The university’s mission statement was at the core in developing a vision for the future. The president and the board agree that the Lutheran scholarly tradition and the liberal arts should continue to inspire the education Augustana provides, now and into the future — an education of enduring worth that challenges the intellect, fosters integrity and integrates faith with learning and service in a diverse world.

The five core values of Christian, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community, and Service will continue to infuse the academic curriculum as well as student life. “The whole educational environment is changing,” says Tom Walsh, ’71. “With the expansion and reliance on the Internet, we do everything online — from banking to healthcare. We need to be proactive in addressing the needs of the next generation. It’s an aggressive but significant investment,” says the former Sioux Falls Burger King franchise owner and now GreatLife owner. “Augustana invested in me as a student. It helped shape me, my attitude and my values so I am now able to reach out and make a difference in peoples’ lives. I’m an aggressive guy and I appreciate what my alma mater is doing. This is a monumental decision for Augustana.”

Despite some of the changes envisioned for the future of the university, the emphasis will remain firmly on academicexcellence. “We are an academic enterprise and we lead with academics,” says President Herseth Sandlin. “As we seize opportunities in our future, we want to be thought of with Drake University in Des Moines, Creighton University in Omaha, Valaparaiso University outside of Chicago and Butler University in Indianapolis, as among the best regional universities in the Midwest region which attract students from all over the country. These are the private universities we’re also evaluating for athletics and how we might do things similarly or differently given our unique history, our current programs, and our prime location in Sioux Falls,” she says.

President Herseth Sandlin is tackling enrollment as critically inter-related to academics. In 2018, there were 2,118 students enrolled. The goal is to get to 3,000 by 2030.

That will be a combination of undergraduate and graduate students, both full-time and part-time, those who live on and off campus, and students who might be enrolled through online or hybrid programs.

“By paying close attention to the ways that technology can help aid and enhance higher education, and by making sure we create a welcoming environment open to innovative ideas and input from everyone on campus and in the community, we will become the regional leader in graduate education,” says Dr. Colin Irvine, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university. Dean Irvine adds, “In so doing, we will seek out opportunities to develop integrated degree programs and unbundled, targeted opportunities for both traditional and non-traditional learners. Trends in higher education suggest that we must, like other institutions, begin to move away from necessarily equating seat time with credit hours and fixed schedules with degrees. We will explore more online programs, more low-residency hybrid programs and more interdisciplinary programs.”

Part of those programs will include an update to technology itself. “We are so excited about Vision 2030 because it has so many elements that will be critically important to our students moving into the future,” says Nancy Davidson, vice president for enrollment.

“We're here to serve students and the opportunity to serve more in different ways…we've talked a lot about incorporating enhancements to our IT structure, which will allow us to serve students not only on campus, but serve students around the globe wherever they may be at any point in time. I think that's very exciting.”

A key component to Vision 2030 is maintaining and nurturing a welcoming environment for all students and enhancing the diversity of the community at Augustana.

This is important for reasons related to the university’s mission of preparing students to serve in a diverse world, to reflect the growing diversity in the city and the region, and to prepare for what demographic projections suggest will be more first-generation students and students of different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds attending college in the future. “We provide institution-wide leadership, consultation and programming that promotes diversity as a means of achieving educational excellence and enhancing the quality of life for all members of our campus community,” says Willette Capers, director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “A primary goal of our office is to provide academic and cultural programming with personal support that in essence helps all to develop intellectual, social and leadership abilities with all aspects of diversity.”

Capers says her goal is to welcome and embrace people from all walks of life. “Whether you are a student, a member of our faculty and staff, an alumnus or a visitor, we want you to experience Augustana University as a place where you can just be who you are.” Capers and her team have developed four key areas that summarize the ethos of Augustana’s diversity and inclusion plan, which is intended to shape, refine, and guide members of the campus community on how to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion. They are as follows:

  • Establish the underpinnings to develop a more diverse culture at Augustana.
  • Increase the recruitment of underserved populations within each campus community constituency — faculty, staff and students.
  • Ensure that students graduate with the habits in mind needed to be effective members of a diverse community.
  • Establish financial support and institutional accountability.

Dean Irvine says making these investments is just one thing that makes Augustana special. “These changes in Vision 2030 are grounded in a belief of the transformational power of liberal arts education. Every program we consider and every structural change we consider, we’re doing because we think what we’re pursuing helps us do the work we’re committed to for students and faculty in a better way.”

President Herseth Sandlin says it’s important to make those key investments. “We need to equip our faculty with the latest technological advancements and give them the right tools and support to ensure the rigor of our offerings, which is what we’re known for at Augustana. ” There’s also a commitment to enhancing the performing and visual arts — building on the rich history of the arts at Augie but also leveraging the city’s extraordinary support of the arts as essential to cultural vitality.

President Herseth Sandlin acknowledges for enrollment to increase, so must incentives to get students to enroll. Part of that will come in the form of scholarships. “We want to work with alumni and strategic partners to find creative ways to close the financial gap that exists even after a student exhausts other resources, including federal loans,” emphasizes President Herseth Sandlin. “At Augustana, we stand behind the quality of our education and the return on investment because of the academic rigor and how we’re preparing graduates for a lifetime of career opportunities, not just their first jobs. However, we’re committed to doing all we can to lessen the financial strain for students and their families,” she says.

Davidson says Vision 2030, in every element of the plan, is really very student focused. “Everything that we are doing is to continue to maintain and enhance the academic quality of Augustana University’s programs and to provide rich and robust opportunities for our students now and long into the future.”

Twelve years ago, in response to the former North Central Conference breaking apart, Augustana made a difficult and deliberate decision to remain a Division II athletics program and invest in more resources to enhance competition, excellence and success. As a result, the university has also made a name for itself on the fields and on the courts.

Today, a proactive assessment within the broader and longer-term vision for Augustana includes a transition to Division I, for athletics and for the university as a whole, made easier because of the investments and achievements of the last 12 years.

The city of Sioux Falls continues to grow, and just as with its support for strong academic programs and the arts, the president and the board of trustees share the optimism that the community and regional alumni are ready to invest in a DI athletics program because of the other benefits it can provide to the university and its regional profile.

Making the move from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) to a Division I conference is a goal that will likely take some time, but Josh Morton, director of athletics, is excited about what the future holds and says he hopes to have a new conference invitation by December of 2020. “Strategic plan development for achieving this goal has begun in earnest,” he says. “Once we get the invite, that’s the trigger to submit a reclassification application to the NCAA.” Schools going Division I must go through a four-year NCAA transition period. “This is an opportunity for us,” Morton says. “Athletics provides us the opportunity to enhance the student experience; for our student-athletes and the entire campus population.”

“A number of conferences across all divisions look for strong, new members at various times,” President Herseth Sandlin says. “We have set an aggressive timetable for securing an invitation, and we are committed to doing the hard work, securing financial commitments and demonstrating that Augustana will be a valued member of any league that may extend the invite.”

In light of the other aspirational goals, a number of changes have to be made to the facilities themselves. That will include everything from the Commons to the dorms. “We’re pretty unique in terms of our space,” Davis says. “There are going to be new and unique challenges, but we have already started to map out solutions,” he hints.

President Herseth Sandlin already has committed to a new apartment building now in construction on the east side of Summit Avenue and the development of a campus master plan that could include an innovative neighborhood on the north side of campus. A more immediate project includes a renovation of The Huddle and expansion of Morrison Commons to a modern-day student union, offering more dining options, more space for meetings and student organizations, as well as fitness and wellness areas.

“We will build on our first 100 years in Sioux Falls in a way that lays the groundwork for the next century – it’s bold and ambitious and achievable. It’s time to innovate and collaborate together even more. Augustana will adapt to change, be ready to partner, and dream big, just like we ask our students to do and just as the university has always done,” says President Herseth Sandlin.

“It’s an opportunity to stand tall and proud and to think about where Augie’s been, who we are today and what we can become in the future,” says alumna Pam Homan, ’81, vice president for advancement. “The sky’s the limit.” 

To develop the strategic plan, a great deal of thought, research and analysis from a cross-section of university stakeholders will be needed. President Herseth Sandlin says the planning process will involve several stages, for which the President’s Council and Board of Trustees will provide oversight:

1. Four steering committees have been established to provide broad direction, collect information and data, analyze recommendations and draft the strategic objectives and tactics that support the aspirational goals. These steering committees are led by the following individuals:

  • Dr. Colin Irvine, Academics
  • Nancy Davidson and Mark Blackburn, Enrollment and Strategic Scholarships
  • Shannan Nelson and Deanna Versteeg, Physical Campus and IT
  • Josh Morton, Athletics

2. The steering committees have convened several task forces, which consist of faculty, staff, students and alumni to research, identify or recommend specific objectives.

3. A strategic plan will be drafted based on the work completed by the steering committees and task forces. The draft will be reviewed by the President’s Council and shared with the campus community to solicit feedback and inform possible revisions.

4. The final draft of the strategic plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees no later than the December 2019 meeting.


  • Establish new academic structures and centers that sustain excellence, facilitate growth, and cultivate innovative and impactful teaching, learning, and research
  • Establish (a) professional school(s) that respond to the needs of students, grow enrollment, diversify revenue streams, and address workforce requirements of the regional community
  • Establish a premier program in the arts that enriches and deepens student learning and contributes to the cultural vitality of our community
  • Enhance and embolden the academic enterprise through the transformational power of technology and data


  • Transform the physical campus to include student housing, IT infrastructure, and new and enhanced facilities to meet the needs of Augustana University as identified in the vision for 2030


  • Diversify the student body through strategic initiatives in order to enhance the overall learning environment and best prepare graduates to work, lead and serve in an ever-changing global community
  • Enroll 3,000+ undergraduate and graduate students to better serve the cultural and professional needs of the region and beyond


  • Maintain academic and athletic excellence to recruit and retain exceptional student-athletes
  • Enhance the collegiate experience for student-athletes to position them for a lifetime of growth and success
  • Transition to NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletics to provide student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a higher level and elevate the profile of the university
  • Engage the Sioux Falls community to enthusiastically embrace Augustana University as the hometown team

Greta Stewart
Editorial Strategist