A letter to Jenifer K. Ward

Martel DenHartog, Sports Editor

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Dear Dr. Ward,

I would like to welcome you to Luther College. We are excited to have a fresh face on campus and hope your door is open to any questions we might have about the seemingly secretive going-ons of the campus administration!

I am graduating in May, but my hope is that you create a space of learning that I can feel good about donating to and visiting in the future. I have both grown to appreciate Luther and Decorah more over my four years here, as well as seen more experiences of challenges and hurt for the campus community. I hope with your presidency, Luther will see structural changes that make the campus more effective, reflective, collaborative, and relevant.

Last semester, I wrote a story for Chips about a faculty and staff book group that discussed the book “Becoming a Student Ready College: A new culture of leadership for student success.” One of the themes of that particular week’s discussion was about the need for more collaboration between faculty and staff. I hope that under your presidency, employees at Luther will have this opportunity to share how the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success, classrooms, the library, and other student services can work together to foster an enhanced learning environment.

Another theme of this book discussion was the inequities in exposure to work study, research, and internship opportunities students have, based on their previous experience or familiarity with the college and career development experiences. I hope students who aren’t typically afforded opportunities for growth and learning, especially in the form of internships, research, and job shadowing, are a focus. During the admissions process, every student interested in Luther — domestic and international — should be informed of work study opportunities from lab assisting in the science departments to curating in humanities departments. Additionally, preference for summer research gigs at Luther should be given to students who have not had these experiences in the past. This will make the time spent on campus increasingly effective for more students.

I wrote another story for Chips last semester about how and if faculty choose to discuss blatantly hateful events that occur on campus or globally. I hope when these incidents happen and greatly impact the student body, priority is given for students to heal and learn. We need to reflect. This means strongly encouraging faculty in all disciplines to open up their classrooms for pertinent discussions on the issues. Or at least condemning the incidents. It is important for students to know who their adult allies are on campus.

Recently, we have learned about the proposed Identity Studies major that will take an interdisciplinary approach to Africana, women and gender, and dance studies. While I am intrigued by this, I worry it eliminates the impact each of these programs creates independently. I hope instead, as curriculum across campus changes, emphasis is placed on creating integrative classrooms in every content area. Now more than ever there is need for challenging, multifaceted, and relevant coursework as communities and careers across the world change.

Maybe these are small things that do not necessarily require your immediate attention. But I do think they can speak to the bigger issue of our campus needing to improve its welcoming reputation. Ultimately, I hope under your direction more students enroll. I hope the institution better supports the ones that do enroll. And I hope you and your administration is honest with all of them.


Martel DenHartog (‘19)

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.

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