Monday Moments with President Bergman: April 18, 2022

Vice President for Mission, Strategy, and Innovation Dr. Kathi Tunheim shares her thoughts with College students, faculty, and staff.
Posted on April 18th, 2022 by

This spring, members of the Gustavus Cabinet will write guest posts for Monday Moments. This week, I’m pleased to share thoughts from Dr. Kathi Tunheim, our vice president for mission, strategy, and innovation. – Becky

“Is this the end of college as we know it?” 

The Wall Street Journal asked this question in an article published in November 2020, eight months after we sent our 2,200 students home due to COVID-19. There have been moments since then when many of us have asked ourselves this same question as we have seen colleges and universities across the country struggle with enrollment and financial challenges.

In my 15th year at Gustavus, formerly as a professor in the economics and management department and now as a member of Cabinet, I suggest our institution is poised to make a strategic decision. Will we shrink and become a smaller institution, or will we grow and aspire to new heights? This is an important inflection point in the history of the College. I propose we can only succeed if we listen closely to our many constituents – students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, board members, and friends of the College, and act through strategic leadership and highly effective decision making.

Over the past four years, we have had a group of campus leaders who have met monthly to review the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for the Gustavus Acts Strategic Plan. They are called SPUR leaders, which stands for “Strategic Planning and Update Reflection.” Last week I had the opportunity to gather 16 of these Gustavus Acts 2.0 leaders to answer the following question:

“In light of everything happening externally and internally in higher education right now, how should we at Gustavus respond to the ‘new normal’ moving forward?”

The overwhelming response from these dedicated faculty and staff leaders at Gustavus was that “We have a chance to create our own ‘new normal!’” Rather than letting the situation control us, let us control the situation. Let’s use our distinctive gifts and talents to strengthen our community and culture and make our institution even better than it was before COVID.

Some of the ideas and suggestions that were offered by this group include:

  • Enhance our curricular and co-curricular programs to enrich the overall student experience
  • Listen to the needs of our students even more carefully than we have in the past and respond with action
  • Respect all voices in our community so everyone feels as though they belong

The good news is that President Bergman, the Board of Trustees, Cabinet, Faculty Senate members and staff are all working diligently to “create our own ‘new normal’” so that Gustavus will sustain for another 160 years. It will take all of us working together to accomplish the important changes needed to propel our efforts in the right direction. Strategic planning is the process of prioritizing scarce resources among the many projects at the institution that will make the most positive difference. In my opinion, only through shared governance can we make these critical decisions together to lift our beloved college to the next level.

Sometime during the next week, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What is my new normal? What is important to me about the future of the College?” I have watched our students graduate and live out our mission to lead lives of leadership and service in society and it is inspiring to me. The world needs even more Gusties making a difference, going out into the world, and acting on the great challenges of our time.

With respect and gratitude,

Kathi Tunheim, PhD
Vice President for Mission, Strategy, and Innovation


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