[Pacific Lutheran Scene]
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-- Campus --

Doing very well ... striving to do even better

B Y   L O R E N   J .   A N D E R S O N ,   P L U   P R E S I D E N T

In 1890 the founders of Pacific Lutheran University opened an academy but called it a university – 70 years later, in 1960, their vision became reality. They also set out to build a beautiful, five-story schoolhouse, now called Harstad Hall – 50 years later, in 1940, it was completed.
      The boldness of these founding visions has forever flavored the soul of PLU as a place of growth and striving, an academic community in search of ever greater excellence, a university committed both to understanding and having an impact on human experience as a matter of vocation and calling. Given our roots, PLU has, will and must be an energetic place, a university on a journey – doing very well, while always striving to do even better.

Doing very well

Each decade, every university's accreditation is reviewed. In April, the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges conducted a three-day intensive visit at PLU with an 11-member team of higher education professionals from other colleges and universities across the country. Our preparation for their visit spanned two years and entailed an in-depth self-study by every department and division of the university.
      The site visitors logged several hundred hours of interviews and reviewed numerous campus documents in their evaluation of PLU. The news is very good!
    PLU earned six commendations:
  • Clear sense of mission and purpose as expressed in PLU 2000 and related documents. "Educating for lives of service" is truly infused into daily campus and classroom operations.
  • Praise for PLU faculty. They "live the university's mission" and perform exceptionally innovative and integrative work with limited resources.
  • Exemplary sense of community and a "passionate dedication to students" across the campus.
  • Solid progress in recent years in eliminating short-term deficits and building the endowment.
  • Excellent service provided by library and information services staff.
  • Thorough approach by PLU to the evaluation process. Thoughtful self-study, document preparation and gracious hospitality toward site visitors.
      The accreditors' positive comments echo the assessment offered by PLU students in last fall's Student Satisfaction Survey, completed by a random sample of 866 undergraduates. PLU's results were compared to those of 117,438 students at 253 other four-year, private institutions.
      Our students are more satisfied with PLU compared to their peers at other institutions. And, if they had to do it over, they would again choose PLU as their college. Eighty–nine percent plan to graduate from this university. PLU students gave high ratings on important dimensions that reflect the core of our mission:
  • A quality academic experience for every student
  • A vibrant living and learning community
  • Devotion to students

Striving to do even better

The accreditation review and the Student Satisfaction Survey provide overwhelming affirmation for PLU's mission, program and people. But PLU is not perfect, and so these assessments also point to areas needing improvement.
      The accreditation report urges us to ensure that our methods of measuring institutional effectiveness more clearly reflect the university's distinctive mission and goals. The team also suggested development of faculty evaluation policies that are consistent campuswide. In addition, they recommended allocating sufficient funds for computer software transitions and other implementations of new technology.
      The Student Satisfaction Survey highlights several opportunities: continuing our efforts to increase campus safety and security; developing more effective faculty advising methods that address students' changing needs as they progress toward graduation; and expediting the financial aid awarding process to facilitate student planning. These suggestions reinforce our own observations and will help us build our agenda for the near future.
      The important point, of course, is that these regular assessments fuel and energize our larger efforts. They encourage us to retain the boldness of vision that marked PLU's founding as we strive...
  • To be recognized nationally as a first-rank New American College that integrates liberal arts and professional education, and prepares students to be lifelong learners.
  • To carry forward faithfully the Lutheran understanding of education, enriching mind, body and spirit, and preparing students for lives of vocation and service.
  • To pursue the highest standards of academic excellence within a diverse and supportive community.
  • To build a better schoolhouse, incorporate advances in technology to improve student learning and strengthen our financial foundations for the future.
      The question I am asked most frequently as president is, "How is PLU doing?" My answer: "Very well, thank you. And we are striving to do even better."

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