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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Perspective

Still looking ahead, focused on the future


Loren Anderson's tractor collection began with models of those he drove growing up on a farm in North Dakota. Today, he has 50 models and he supervises the operation of the real family farm with his sister and nephew. "I've ended up owning the family farm and playing with the toys that remind me of it," he said.

By Loren J. Anderson

My boyhood years take me back to the family wheat and cattle ranch in the middle of North Dakota. It was rural America at its best. It was filled with characters, one of them a longtime neighbor. When asked how things were going, Ole always responded, "I'm still looking ahead." The exchange would be "How you doing today, Ole?" "I'm looking ahead." And off he would walk.

As a child I never understood what that meant until my father explained that it had to do with Ole's many years of running a farm with horses. Part of the secret in keeping good workhorses working is a set of blinders. It keeps them focused so they don't get distracted by peripherals. Looking only ahead, they don't lose their concentration, their focus, or their direction.

"How you doing today, Ole?" "Looking ahead. I'm still looking ahead."

I've thought a lot about that childhood memory over my seven-and-a-half years at PLU. This place is always looking ahead.

In that tradition--in the early years of the '90s--we sat down and began looking ahead. We prepared a report called PLU 2000: Embracing the 21st Century. In that report the faculty and staff proclaimed that during the decade of the '90s we would work to strengthen the PLU teaching and learning community. We needed to come up with new ways that students could draw upon, both in the liberal arts and our professional programs, to prepare for multiple careers that they would have during their lifetime. We committed ourselves to creating a more collaborative learning environment where students are more responsible for designing their own learning experiences so that they can become better lifelong learners in the 21st century.

We declared that during the 1990s we needed to become a more international place. And we are proud that, of our 1999 graduates, 43 percent have had a chance to study internationally during their PLU days-an important part of preparing for life in the "global village."

In the early 1990s we also declared that we wanted to place more emphasis on our Lutheran heritage. We wanted to emphasize the idea that education here is about the whole person-body, mind and spirit. We wanted to focus on the idea that the best kind of learning occurs when faith and reason are engaged in an active conversation with one another, and that's what we have been doing.

And then we knew that we had to continue to improve the schoolhouse. So we have been investing literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in infusing information technologies across the curriculum. We have built a new music hall and are now building both a new observatory for Earth sciences and South Hall, a new first-class residence for upper-class students.

Yes, we've made progress in the '90s, but now it is time to refocus.

So we began a new conversation about the future. It is an effort called "PLU 2010." Currently, we are hosting some 30 events around the country. We are asking our alumni and other friends of the university to tell us about their hopes and dreams for this university, 10 and 20 and 30 years from now. We keep on looking ahead.

Looking ahead comes naturally at PLU because it reflects how we understand our mission. We believe that the mission of this university ultimately is not lived here on campus. It is lived out in and through the lives of our 38,000 graduates.

That's why we say that the mission of this place is to empower students for lives that are characterized by leadership and service and thoughtful inquiry and care. The mission happens after the students leave here and go out and engage in what we hope is a productive life of success and service. We believe they have the capacity to make this world of ours a different and a better place than it is today. And that is why we are so deadly serious and that is why we work so very hard to provide the best, richest, most robust and affirming kind of educational experience possible.

Just like my friend Ole, PLU is focused on the future. We're not distracted by the peripheral. We're looking ahead. And the view ahead, my friends, is very, very good.

Loren J. Anderson is president of Pacific Lutheran University

Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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