Right now, more than 750 new PLU graduates are starting their next big journey. You helped them get here. The unprecedented nature of this last year was met by unprecedented generosity from you and Lutes all over the world. Thank you.
It is difficult to express how filled with gratitude my heart is — and the hearts of our staff, faculty and especially students — because of your support. The Lute community came together this year in amazing ways: over $16 million was committed in financial support, hundreds of Lutes donated their talent as mentors and volunteers, and thousands joined virtually to learn, provide encouragement and stay connected. In every challenging moment, and every celebration, Lutes cared for each other.
You showed up for PLU students, faculty and staff in really impactful ways last year, and I want to celebrate with you the accomplishments of your support:
- 1,807 Lutes created the biggest Bjug Day of Giving yet, raising more than $1 million in support of scholarships, programs, and additional student needs.
- Gifts to the PLU Fund provided scholarships for more than 700 students and helped cover emergency needs for nearly 200 students.
- Lutes established the new Good Trouble Fund to help more than 40 Black students cover the unexpected costs of college so they may truly thrive at PLU.
- 129 Lutes showed great care for student mental health and wellness on GivingTuesday. Gifts supported additional psychiatry hours, equity training, and improved technology and systems to deliver better care.
- More than 200 Lutes surpassed the goal of raising $110,000 to help at least 10 new standout student leaders attend PLU through the expansion of the Act Six scholarship program to Yakima and a formalization of the Palmer Scholars partnership.
- PLU Athletics faced a season like no other. More than 240 Lutes stepped up to help tackle additional costs so student-athletes could safely return to competition in the spring.
- More than 70 alumni mentors provided outstanding guidance to help students and student-athletes tackle the transition to college, connect to internship and employment opportunities, and ask big questions about vocation.
Our community took on really important work last year, both in response to the evolving challenges posed by the pandemic and forging ahead with our five-year strategic plan. Higher education is in the midst of significant change and challenge. One element of PLU’s strategic plan calls for the university to review, reimagine, and in some cases discontinue academic program offerings so that a PLU education remains relevant, accessible, and transformative.
As a key step in moving the strategic plan forward, a committee of 20 elected faculty members completed a review of academic programs this spring. The faculty evaluated each academic program to ensure PLU’s offerings respond to student interests in a way that efficiently stewards resources and aligns with our commitment to provide a quality liberal arts and professional education, infused with the core elements of Lutheran higher education. The faculty explored the demand for existing and new majors and minors, as well as graduate programs, and evaluated support needs. Through this collaborative and difficult process, and in coordination with other excellent work across the academic division, some programs will be reduced in size or eliminated, while others will be added or expanded. I invite you to learn more about the strategic plan and vision at plu.edu/strategic-planning.
The work of this last year has paved the way for faculty to ideate, innovate and reimagine our curriculum and how it is delivered. One way faculty are creating stronger programs is by bringing key insights and perspectives from multiple disciplines together in ways that will both attract and benefit students. To highlight one example, faculty with expertise in Nordic studies will move from a small, standalone department to join the vibrant and growing Global and Area Studies program. This will engage a greater number of students by providing new access to their courses. Aligning Scandinavian Cultural Center programming will strengthen the connection between academic study and PLU’s heritage, for the benefit of students and the community. Additional new programs and initiatives are being explored, and I look forward to sharing news as plans coalesce.
I continue to be grateful that so many members of this community take time to share your thoughts and engage in conversation about what you find distinctly meaningful about PLU. The sharing of your ideas and feelings is a huge testament to PLU’s history of creating transformative experiences and to the caring nature of Lutes. Together we have a proactive commitment to living and uplifting our PLU values.
Many donors have asked about plans for the fall. I’m excited to say we intend a full return to in-person experiences — classrooms, athletic competitions, performing arts (including Christmas concerts), full residence halls, and more — all with appropriate safety measures and a spirit of renewed community, fun and care. I’m especially proud of how our students have supported each other, like the seniors in the School of Business who reached out to rising sophomores and juniors who hadn’t yet registered for fall classes to check-in and encouraged them to continue.
Taking time to thank you and provide an inside look into PLU is always a highlight for me. I hope I have conveyed how Lutes are caring for each other and our community in a truly PLU way, and how you are an important part of this work. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting PLU students and the leaders, creators, change-makers and caring global citizens they will become. Because the world needs more Lutes.
P.S. I hope you will watch for opportunities to join us both in-person and virtually in the fall. Mark your calendars now for Homecoming & Family Week, Sept. 28 – Oct. 3, and for the Bjug Day of Giving, Oct. 19 – 20. More to come!
Your support opens opportunities to students that will impact their lives far beyond any one moment. I cannot say it enough: Thank you.
With the start of a new calendar year, comes the second semester of our 2020-21 academic year. While the pandemic has tested us in more ways than we could have imagined, it also helped us focus on what matters most — for our students and the future of the university. As we move forward with planful hope for what this year might bring, I continue to be deeply grateful knowing that you and I stand together in caring for students from all walks of life who come to PLU to learn, grow and discover their unique place in this world.
To start this new year, let me share the story of one such student who has found her vocation at PLU thanks to your support.
Georjina Soliai ’23 is from Lakewood, Washington and is a first-generation college student. She is a member of Act Six, a program that connects faith- and social justice-based colleges like PLU with emerging leaders like Georjina. Act Six scholars are characterized by their desire to use their college education to make a positive difference on campus and in their communities.
Like many students, Georjina was connected to PLU before even stepping foot on campus. A special mentor and PLU alumna knew of Georjina’s interest in being an advocate for kids in her hometown and encouraged her to explore PLU’s social work program. Here, her values have been tested, her perspectives expanded, and her voice strengthened. She now wants to use that strength to speak up for others.
For Georjina and many students, the dream of a college education is sometimes daunted by real-world constraints. Her dream is also about more than just her own future; it’s about honoring her parents’ sacrifices and being a role model for her younger siblings. Georjina’s parents moved their family from Samoa to Washington, “wanting a better future for our family,” she shared. “I want my parents to know that their effort in coming here and working day in and day out was not in vain.”
Your support helps curious and motivated students like Georjina focus on the experiences that will send them into the world as thoughtful and caring leaders. It also makes a significant difference for families who want to see their students achieve their goals. Thank you.
In addition to the social work program, Georjina has found a welcoming community as a student-athlete on the softball team. “The softball program has had a big impact on me. Athletics and Act Six, have been key support systems.”
As Georjina’s experience shows — and as I’m amazed to witness every day — the classroom experience, faculty mentorship, student clubs, athletics and all facets of our community blend together to create unique, transformational opportunities for our students. Your gifts and encouragement are making this distinctly PLU experience possible.
Though 2020 brought significant challenges, it also strengthened our plans for PLU’s future thanks to your support.
In May, the Board of Regents approved a new five-year strategic plan for the university. This plan affirms the unique qualities of a PLU education and establishes a clear framework for delivering our mission amidst an increasingly complex and challenging landscape. It also inspires our community to think differently, promote innovation, holistically support student achievement and wisely steward our resources.
It remains to be seen how the pandemic will continue to affect our lives and our communities in this new year. Yet I am confident the priorities established in the strategic plan will guide us well as we live out our commitment to being an inclusive, rigorous and innovative university grounded in the Lutheran tradition. Your support will continue to be critical in providing access for students like Georjina to a transformative, lifelong and distinctively purposeful education.
Thank you again for your partnership through this challenging time. I wish you peace and health in this new year and look forward to updating you again on the impact you are making for so many students.
May 2021: Your giving creates opportunities
Scholarship Impact, Act Six Scholarship Expansion, Palmer Scholars Partnership, Commencement, and Spring Traditions
April 2021: Hands-on learning impacts community
PLU COVID Vaccination Clinics, MESA Day, and Rachid Benkhalti Memorial Scholarship
March 2021: 5 student stories to brighten your day
PLU Years – five students, four years
February 2021: Thanks to you, Lutes show love for our community
First PLU COVID Vaccine Clinic, Good Trouble Fund, and the Black History Month Experience
January 2021: Cheers to a new year, new possibilities!
Mark Carrato ’94 Story, New Year Possibilities, AmazonSmile, and Matching Gifts
December 2020: Students want you to know...
‘Tis the Season to Give Thanks, PLU Christmas Traditions, and Giving Tuesday Success
November 2020: Giving thanks to YOU!
Thanks and Giving, PLU’s 12 Days of Christmas, Best Bjug Day Ever, and Homecoming Playlist
September 2020: Celebrating a new academic year
Virtual Homecoming and Family Week and School of Nursing Clinical Learning & Simulation Center
August 2020: Fall plans and new virtual opportunities
Returning to Campus and PLUS Year