P A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S I T Y
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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
"How you doing today, Ole?" "Looking ahead. I'm still
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
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
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
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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