"I have never been on a college campus with student culture as positive as it is at St. Olaf," Anderson said. "The environment of St. Olaf appropriately supports and nurtures student activity on campus. The student involvement in issues like sustainability and service is exemplary."
Anderson's opinion carries weight. Not only the new president of the college, Anderson has spent three decades on several college campuses as a professor of English and an administrator. He spent four years at St. Olaf as an undergraduate and has two college-aged children. Anderson is an expert on "student life."
"I believe that a student's four years at a residential college shouldn't be like what the rest of life is like," Anderson said. "College is a time apart, a time to focus on intellectual growth, a time for experimentation. It is a time chosen by students and their parents that should be unlike anything else in your life."
Anderson touts St. Olaf's residential campus to being a successful conduit to student life.
"A continually important part of St. Olaf's identity is as a residential campus," Anderson said.
Any conversation about student life at St. Olaf contains the alcohol debate. Anderson is not sure what will happen with the no-alcohol policy during his presidency.
"I don't know what the college will decide about alcohol when I am here. Of course, I do not believe that St. Olaf should promote illegal activity and allow minors to consume alcohol, but I do see the two reasonable arguments," Anderson said. "The first argument says that you have the rest of your life to drink, so why do it around minors and open up your campus to legal complications? But the other reasonable argument asks why can't a person 21 years of age drink beer legally in their dorm room?"
Anderson sees the student life at St. Olaf greatly enhanced by the Northfield community and Carleton College.
"I think it's wonderful that we're in the same town as Carleton. They're a great school; we're a great school," Anderson said. "Together, the two schools can get more stuff done and create greater opportunities for students."
Though Anderson thinks a healthy rivalry between the schools is fun, he does not care for some of the "unsportsman-like" behavior he has seen on campus.
"Walking around, I've seen some of those 'Carleton Sucksí T-shirts, and I think that they're inappropriate," he said.
Anderson said that he would be much more ready to comment on changes he would like to see on campus after one year as president.
"I don't think I should come in here with a whole list of things to change," he said. "I'm not pregnant with change."
For now, Anderson wishes to engage more intimately with student life. He goes to every football game when he is in town, and has already visited some residence halls and honor houses.