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ISSUE 117 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/17/2003

Committee re-drafts strategic plan

By Maren Daniel
Staff Writer

Friday, October 17, 2003

In September, the College Council finished the fourth draft of the strategic plan for St. Olaf. This five-year plan, which will go into effect in June 2004, is designed to strengthen St. Olaf as an academic institution and to advance its mission.

The plan will serve as a guide for spending priorities and admissions procedures in order to help St. Olaf remain true to its mission by providing "an education committed to the liberal arts, rooted in the Christian Gospel, incorporating global perspective, which shapes students who perform unselfish service to others, and act as responsible and knowledgeable citizens of the world."

According to President Christopher Thomforde, the college council originally thought up 113 ways to improve the college while keeping its mission in mind. These suggestions were narrowed down to three main areas on which the strategic plan will focus.

The college seeks to improve itself academically by building a new science center where Flaten Hall stands now. Other goals include diversifying the student body, as well as rearranging its budget so that the resources it needs to support itself are in line with its revenue.

The strategic plan’s goal to "create an inclusive community that welcomes and embraces men and women of potential and ability, regardless of their background" speaks to the college’s admission standards.

"We want to represent the communities from which students are drawn and to which they go," said Thomforde in regards to the percentages of students from different ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds that the college wishes to admit.

The five main states from which St. Olaf students come and to which they return after graduation are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Colorado; St. Olaf would like to have the same ethnic and religious makeup as these states.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa together have a nine percent ethnic diversity. Illinois and Colorado have a combined ethnic diversity around 14 percent. The goal of the strategic plan, therefore, is to admit a student body with an ethnic diversity between nine and 14 percent.

The admissions office will also focus on recruiting applicants of different races. This year’s entering class has a racial diversity of 9.9 percent. This year’s graduating class, who entered in 2000, has a racial diversity of 6.38 percent. This year’s sophomore and junior classes have racial diversities of 7.39 and 8.8 percent, respectively.

Another goal of the strategic plan is to admit a student body that is between 40 and 55 percent Lutheran. With the school affiliated with the Lutheran church, Thomforde says that a higher percentage of Lutheran students would not allow for enough diversity.

This figure is based on the number of students who report a religious affiliation. St. Olaf’s application has an optional section that asks for students’ religious affiliations.

"Many people leave this blank for various reasons, which is fine," said Thomforde. Instead of a specific affiliation, many applicants often write something more general like "Protestant."

Because some applicants who do not report an affiliation may be Lutheran, there is no way to know what the exact percentage of Lutherans is.

The strategic plan has also set out goals to change the gender balance, the percentages of first generation and legacy students, and the percentage of low-income students. The college would like to raise the percentage of male students to somewhere between 42 and 45 percent. It wants 15 percent of the student body to be first generation and around one third to be legacy. No figure has been set for the number of low-income students.

The college would also like to lower the number of students from Minnesota and draw in more people from around the country.

While efforts are being made to diversify the student body, the focus of the school is not to be shifted away from strong academics.

"I believe that we will have better academics if faculty, staff, and students are diverse," said Thomforde. "I could have a good conversation with a group of middle-aged white men from New York who went to Ivy League schools, but we may be too limited by our experiences. Bringing someone from a different background would add new perspectives."

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