Luther College Chips

Faculty and staff evaluate Luther as a student-ready college

Claire+Palmquist+%28%2719%29+and+Karl+Badger+%28%2719%29+participate+in+a+J-Term+course+in+Tanzania+in+2017.+Study+abroad+programs+are+a+topic+in+these+book+discussions.
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Faculty and staff evaluate Luther as a student-ready college

Claire Palmquist ('19) and Karl Badger ('19) participate in a J-Term course in Tanzania in 2017. Study abroad programs are a topic in these book discussions.

Claire Palmquist ('19) and Karl Badger ('19) participate in a J-Term course in Tanzania in 2017. Study abroad programs are a topic in these book discussions.

Martel DenHartog (‘19) | Chips

Claire Palmquist ('19) and Karl Badger ('19) participate in a J-Term course in Tanzania in 2017. Study abroad programs are a topic in these book discussions.

Martel DenHartog (‘19) | Chips

Martel DenHartog (‘19) | Chips

Claire Palmquist ('19) and Karl Badger ('19) participate in a J-Term course in Tanzania in 2017. Study abroad programs are a topic in these book discussions.

Martel DenHartog, Staff Writer

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A book discussion on “Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success,” written by Estela Bensimon, Michelle Asha Cooper, Nicole McDonald, Susan L. Albertine, Thomas Major, Jr., and Tia Brown McNair, invites faculty and staff to discuss topics including equity, inclusion, and student success at Luther. The purpose of these discussions is to aid those working in higher education to best serve students in shifting learning environments. After attending a conference on liberal arts this past summer, Professor of Spanish David Thompson decided to lead the conversations, which have taken place every Friday since Oct. 26 and will continue through Nov. 16 in Olin 201 at 3 p.m.

The goal of the group is to facilitate dialogue between faculty and staff and evaluate how Luther is currently student-ready and how it can improve, based on ideas from this book.

“We’ve talked about the distinction between a college-ready student and a student-ready college and the way in which the book argues that colleges and universities need to take a closer look at who they are and the extent to which they are ready for the kinds of students that they are receiving,” Thompson said. “One of the great challenges is the way in which faculty and staff, in particular, often live in separate worlds at Luther. I really like the opportunity to do this book discussion [because] we intentionally made the invitation to faculty and staff.”

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Faculty and staff have been invited to discuss ideas from “Becoming a Student-Ready College” every Friday until Nov. 16.

On Friday, Nov. 9, seven faculty and staff members attended the discussion, including Thompson. Director of Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success Wintlett Taylor-Browne hopes for a larger turnout at conversations like these in the future.

“It’s very obvious from where I sit that we need to change how we’re doing business,” Taylor-Browne said. “It would [be] good if [when] conversations like this [are] being held — whenever they are held — there are more faculty and staff who spend the time talking about and thinking about how we can move Luther in a way to take advantage of opportunities and improve things for students and, ultimately, the institution.”

The discussion on Friday, Nov. 9 covered topics from chapter three of the text, which included attendees’ familiarity with goals for student learning, high-impact practices — such as study abroad, research, and senior seminars — as well as how to allocate resources to enhance learning over efficiency. An overarching message was that the portrayal of students at liberal arts colleges likely does not accurately reflect the actual student body. For example, Interim Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion Lisa Scott discussed how colleges often show off their top performing students through work study opportunities while averagely performing students are sheltered from the public eye.

According to Scott, when the highest academically achieving students continue to obtain opportunities, institutions are doing a disservice to students who need support and opportunity the most.

“We need to be nimble, flexible, and understanding of what students are talking about in their growth,” Scott said. “We need to know who our students are.”

Another outcome of the group discussions has been to learn about how different sects of Luther function, specifically among the school’s employees.

“It’s been a good opportunity for us to learn across the faculty-staff divide, if you will, [and] to take ideas and suggestions back to other groups,” Thompson said. “Every individual who has participated here forms parts of departments and committees and groups that are operating in other places, and I can imagine a lot of the ideas that we’ve been talking about here will be disseminated in those other groups, so they’ll be shared widely.”

Director of Media Relations Julie Shockey Trytten (‘01) added that student voices are also important in the process of becoming a student-ready college. 

“It’s important to have students there because all of this is ultimately for [them],” Shockey Trytten said. “None of us would have jobs without [students] here. We love [them] and we care about [them] and we want to make sure [they] succeed … I think not just getting faculty and staff around the table but getting students around the table for conversations like these is key.”

The last discussion on Nov. 16 will cover effective partnerships between colleges and other community institutions or organizations and wrap up by looking at the strengths that students bring to campuses and how faculty and staff can demonstrate confidence in students’ ability to succeed.

“Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success” is available online via the Preus Library website.

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