This past Tuesday I was invited to speak at the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce’s Intern QC Networking Express. It was a “speed dating” event between college students participating in internships this summer in the Quad Cities and local employers.
It’s another one of the awesome events the Chamber organizes to highlight the tremendous benefits of living and working in this region. Augustana College was a sponsor for the event, which is why I had a little face time with all of the interns (and employers) who participated.
I only had three minutes, so I tried my best to rock the participants’ minds with some information about employment opportunities in higher education and debunk a few misperceptions about Augustana.
First, I was pretty certain that very few of these really talented interns from across the country were looking for employment opportunities in higher education. So I took the opportunity to share some employment data with them that I found very interesting.
I remembered seeing some data this past year about the top employers in each state and I recollected how surprised I was about the impact of higher education and its role as a major employer.
I shared this tidbit: In 11 of the 50 states, a university or university system is the largest employer! If you doubt me, take a look at this map.
I saw lots of surprised looks, which is exactly what I had hoped for.
I continued by listing off the fields in which these interns were interning (ITS, finance, human resources, marketing, constituent relations, communications, logistics, facilities, construction management, accounting, auditing, etc.), and reminded them that higher education has great professionals doing all of those things.
What I was revealing to the group was the idea that working in higher ed can involve professional roles beyond teaching. I hope I made an impression because the interns with whom I met were awesome.
Once I had this group’s attention, I went on to dispel some myths about Augustana College that persist in our community.
Myth 1: All of Augustana’s students are from the Chicagoland suburbs.
Reality: While a little more than 50% of our students do come from the Chicago suburbs, which, incidentally, is 2.5 to 3 hours away, 10% of our students are international. There are 23 different states represented in this year’s entering class. We attract students from all over the US and the world.
Myth 2: All of Augustana’s students are affluent.
Reality: One-third of Augustana students are first-generation students and 1 in 4 is a recipient of the PELL grant. 99% of our students receive financial aid—most from Augustana scholarships and grants—and one of the platforms of our strategic plan, Augustana 2020, is to improve access and affordability for students.
Innovative financial aid programs like Close the Gap and an emphasis on building the college’s endowment will help make this a reality. In addition, pilot programs using exclusively free online resources as class material help keep other costs, like books, down for our students.
Myth 3: All of Augustana’s students come from a Swedish-Lutheran background.
Reality: Augustana College has a rich diversity—religiously and ethnically. Four out of 10 students who entered Augustana in the fall of 2018 were students of color or international students. Yup, 40%!
Our Campus Ministries outreach emphasizes interfaith dialog and understanding, and at Augustana, students from all faith backgrounds (and those with none) feel welcome and have avenue to express their religious identity.
Myth 4: Colleges like Augustana are struggling in a competitive marketplace.
Reality: Although some private, independent liberal arts colleges are struggling, Augustana College is stronger than ever. New and recently added academic programs include data analytics, musical theatre, cyber security and kinesiology, and we are expanding enrollments in many other areas.
In addition, we are investing in our campus facilities to improve the learning environment for our students. In June the Anderson Pavilion outdoor theatre ($450,000) was completed; in April we broke ground on an expansion of the Brodahl Building, which will house our new master’s degree in speech-language pathology ($3.1 million); and in August we will open an $8.5 million addition to Hanson Hall of Science.
In each of these cases, these projects were made possible because of the generosity of donors who believe in Augustana’s mission.
Finally, President of the College Steve Bahls is well on the path to raising a quarter of a billion dollars in support of Augustana by the end of the current campaign, AUGUSTANA NOW.