Celebrating our heritage and preparing for the future

A message from Acting President W. Kent Barnds


Kent Barnds

This summer I've had the great privilege to serve Augustana as acting president while Steve Bahls takes a well-earned sabbatical. In this capacity, I had the chance to represent the college at the Annapolis Group, a gathering of presidents from selective private colleges, and at the Augustana Heritage Association.

As you can imagine, these two meetings were very different: one involved candid discussions of the future for liberal arts colleges like ours and the need to change, and the other celebrated our rich history and our impact on the world. We see this same juxtaposition on our campus today as we renovate and restore buildings that are a celebrated part of our heritage and prepare them so our students will have the very best spaces to learn during a time when colleges must compete more than ever before for the very best students.

One of the great examples of preserving our heritage and preparing for our future can be seen in the renovation and restoration of Old Main. Interior renovation of Old Main has commenced and will last through the next school year. We will restore this beloved building to its grand state and incorporate new learning places and the necessary technology for today's classroom.

Another example may be witnessed in our renovation of the Thomas Tredway Library and the addition of the Center for Student Life. This is a new type of building that incorporates traditional learning places, like the library, with new and essential spaces for the sorts of learning outside the classroom that have become a central part of what residential colleges seek to provide. 

The Center for Student Life will include the Thomas Tredway Library; a combined dining center; the offices of Student Activities, Multicultural Services, the Reading and Writing Center, and the Center for Teaching and Learning; and a number of new spaces for students to gather and build community. The Center for Student Life will restore the sense of community once recognized and celebrated in college unions of old.

Both of these important and transformative projects reveal how Augustana is working to respond to the need to change while preserving our heritage. 

In closing, I want to cite Psalm 16, which has guided me during this service to Augustana: "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; indeed I have a goodly heritage." 

I cannot fully describe what an honor it has been for me to serve as acting president of my mother's alma mater and a place that dutifully fulfills a contemporary mission. During this time I've gained an even greater appreciation for those who work here on a daily basis and their commitment to our students.

Augustana College is stronger than ever and our ability to successfully navigate the challenges of today is precisely because of our rich history and the gracious support of those who love the college.