Message from the President

president bahls
“I’ve been impressed with the large numbers of millennial grads that come to these gatherings and share their stories with me.”

Millennial engagement shapes Augustana

With all that has changed at Augustana over the past 15 years — greater diversity, new buildings and vastly greater use of technology throughout campus — one important change has been largely overlooked. It is the rise of millennials at Augustana. Approximately 35% of our graduates and about 34% of our employees are party of what’s been called the Millennial Generation (those ages 23 to 38). And millennials hold a special place with me, as almost all of the graduates I’ve handed diplomas to are millennials.

I like what I see in our millennial graduates and their level of engagement with Augustana. As I travel the country on our 36-city tour to promote the $125-million AUGUSTANA NOW campaign, I’ve been impressed with the large numbers of millennial grads that come to these gatherings and share their stories with me. I believe they stay connected from the day they graduate because Augustana has helped them gain the skills to explore the passions that are so important to this generation.

Millennials are committed to making their communities better; and Augustana has provided them with real-life experience in how to do so through our outreach to the Quad Cities and beyond. If millennials continue honing their skills to improve their communities, then theirs could be the next “greatest generation.” Eighty-five percent of millennials give to causes they’re passionate about, and we are certainly seeing an increase in millennial giving. Our recent A Day of Giving gave proof of this trend, fueled by this generation’s heavy reliance on social media.

Likewise, millennials are known for their ability to collaborate with diverse groups, recognizing that a marketplace of ideas yields the best and most creative results. Ever since the faculty revisions to the general education curriculum were implemented 16 years ago, students have been asked to engage in integrative thinking by applying different ideas from different disciplines to problems. Integrative thinking is the gateway to creativity and effective problem solving.

Augustana is also blessed with an emerging generation of leadership here on campus. The increasing numbers of millennials among my faculty and staff colleagues bring an entrepreneurial spark to develop and improve programs at the college. This generation is marked by curiosity and collaboration, and — to my immense relief — they are more prone to eschew endless committee meetings, preferring to get things done to the benefit of our students.

Even as I write this, however, I am reminded that the students entering Augustana now are no longer millennial, but Generation-Z students. What mark will Gen-Z make on Augustana? I strongly suspect it will be as meaningful and important as that left by their millennial predecessors.

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Steven C. Bahls

President of the College