Luther College President David Tiede focused on challenges facing higher education and the college's strengths in meeting those challenges during his state of the college address Thursday.
Tiede, Luther's interim president during the search for the college's 10th president, began his term July 1. He told an audience of faculty, staff, regents and community members that his interim can be viewed as an inflection point, "marking and pointing Luther's trend line toward our 10th presidency."
His speech was part of the service of dedication that marked that start of Luther's 2013-14 academic year.
"Luther runs a tight ship," Tiede said, noting that this fall's enrollment has outperformed the college's budget model.
"But strong winds are now blowing in the seas into which Luther is sailing, " he said.
"The interpreters of the future of higher education propose that schools need to look out to the year 2020 and envision how they will be playing at strength. So this interim, this inflection point, is an exercise in strengths in change. Strategic prioritizations and actions lie ahead in the 10th presidency."
Questions the college needs to consider, Tiede said, are these: What are the turbulent winds ahead? How will Luther's strengths carry it? Where and how will the college need its next president to lead it?
As part of the college's strategy in answering those questions, he said, five faculty teams will meet with faculty, staff and students to investigate five disrupters of the higher education status quo: the student cost and debt spiral; increased digitization of learning; the regrouping of American communities, including faith communities; the changing profile of prospective Luther College students; and the measurement of educational excellence by learning results. Their meetings will point toward a workshop with the Luther College Board of Regents Oct. 26.
"Without a doubt, " Tiede said, "listening to faculty, staff and students will help us recognize remarkable steps Luther College is already taking. But the promise lies in how Luther's strengths will carry us into the future."
He discussed three areas that he considers to be the college's primary strengths, which he predicts will remain strong in 2020.
First, that the school is centered in care for students. "Students love Luther because Luther loves them," he said.
Second, that the college is an educational portal into a larger world. With enrollment drawing from 56 countries and 75 percent of Luther students studying abroad prior to graduation, Tiede said, "Locally, globally, physically and virtually, Luther is an international portal."
Third, that Luther is a community of learning and a community of faith.
"Your deep Lutheran 'take' on faith and learning is almost taken for granted, but shouldn't be," Tiede told his audience.
"I hope I am belaboring the obvious, " he said in summing up, "because these strengths are not common elsewhere."
For the full text of Tiede's remarks, visit luther.edu/president/speeches/state2013.