'A Sense of Place' — A Note from President Herseth Sandlin

A note from Augustana University President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

August 26, 2017

Dear Fellow Vikings,

Whether you are a new student joining us for the first time or an upperclassman returning to campus to begin the next leg of your Augustana journey, I want to reach out and welcome you this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to meeting you, learning more about you and your aspirations, and working alongside our amazing faculty and staff to help you achieve your educational goals.

As you may know, I am new to Augustana. My first official day as president of AU was August 1st. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit about why I chose to join the Augustana community and why I think Augustana is an especially important and significant place in the world today.

As a South Dakotan, I’ve long admired Augustana for being a premier institution of higher education. When I represented the residents of South Dakota in the U.S. Congress, and later as an attorney and executive in the private sector, I saw how the university helped fuel our state’s economy and economic engines throughout the region. I knew Augustana was home to renowned professors. I knew it was a place where ideas were born and discoveries were made. I’d had the opportunity to work with and help hire talented Augustana alumni, so I also knew it was a place that produced exceptional graduates — thoughtful, passionate individuals who possessed broad knowledge and relevant experience, in addition to highly valuable skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, think analytically and act with a global perspective.

In short, I had a sense that Augustana was a place of excellence filled with exceptional people doing exceptional work for the greater good.

As you began your college search, perhaps you had a similar belief. Maybe you, too, chose to investigate Augustana as a place to help you achieve hopes and dreams based on your perception of the university.

What I’ve come to see after spending time with faculty and staff, as well as alumni and friends of the university, is that Augustana is, indeed, a place of excellence.

And it’s also so much more.

Here at AU, love, care and support are threads that sew and bind the tapestry of this community. From the moment we joined Augustana, my husband, Max, my son, Zachary, and I have been embraced and surrounded by the Augie family. In our short time here, we have experienced exceptional acts of kindness, and the joy that comes from forging new relationships. We've also had the assurance of knowing that our thoughts, opinions and beliefs are valued, and we're excited to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Whether one is a university president or a college freshman, it’s not always easy to make transitions in life, to be in a new place with new people. We all want to fit in, to feel accepted and to belong.

I want you to know that in our short time at Augustana, Max, Zachary and I already feel that sense of belonging.

To say it another way, we already feel a sense of place.

The world today is a complex place filled with complex issues that our society and the society of tomorrow — your society — must navigate. As we weigh global issues such as how to cure diseases, resolve violent conflicts, and care for the environment, we also consider issues and challenges that exist here at home. In the midst of all this, our hearts ache over the recent events in Charlottesville and Barcelona — tragic reminders of intolerance and dark forces still at work today.

Perhaps if more of the world had what we have here at Augustana — a community guided by a set of core values where members love, care for, seek to understand, and support one another — the challenges might not be as great.

So whether you are preparing to begin your Augustana journey, or you are resuming the voyage you launched earlier, our goal is that you, too, will feel a sense of place — a sense of belonging — as you settle into campus life and begin the fall semester.

At Augustana, we pledge to teach and mentor you. We will create opportunities for you to engage in dialogue. We will provide opportunities for you to ask questions, seek answers and explore new pathways. We will welcome you — all of you — and we will listen to you and help you carry your burdens when you have them. We will prepare you not just for one career, but a lifetime of career opportunities. We will help you discern God’s call for you in this world, and we will walk with you as you build a life of meaning and purpose.

Lastly, please know grateful I am to you, and your family, for investing in your education and for choosing Augustana. On behalf of the faculty and staff, please know that we are looking forward to working with you in the weeks and months ahead to ensure that you succeed academically and thrive socially on our vibrant campus and in our dynamic city.

Wishing you all the best for an exciting and successful start to a new year,


Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
President, Augustana University