Notes on the beginning of the 160th academic year

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Good Morning! This morning we gather as a community to mark the beginning of the 160thNS Academic year at Gustavus Adolphus College. It’s such a good feeling to be here in person at this opening meeting. As I told our freshmen on their move-in day last Friday, I hope that all of you will start our new academic year, collective future, with great optimism, with high expectations for yourself and for our community, and with great hopes. Today we celebrate a fresh start with enthusiasm and an unwavering determination to move forward in the safest and best way possible, knowing that we are still dealing with and responding to a global pandemic.

When was the last time you read our mission statement from start to finish? I think I have never heard Gustavus read it aloud in all these years. Thank you Probst Kelly.

President Rebecca M. Bergman

What is a mission statement? A mission statement clearly states why an organization exists and serves as a guide for strategic planning and decision-making. Gustavus’ mission statement answers three important questions:

  • Who are we?
  • Who do we serve and what do we offer them?
  • What is our goal?

First question – who are we?

  • We are a church-based humanities college firmly rooted in its Swedish and Lutheran heritage. This statement about who we are is the first sentence of our mission statement. Further in the mission statement there is another important sentence that describes who we are: We are a community of people of different origins who respect and affirm the dignity of all people.

Second question – who do we serve and what do we offer them?

  • We serve students with high standards and promises.
  • We say a lot about what we offer our students. We offer them an education of recognized excellence through a faculty that embodies the highest standards in teaching and science. We harmonize educational tradition with innovation and promote the development of values. We encourage an open exchange of ideas. We invite students to grow in their faith and religious education, nurture a life of service, and inspire them to work toward a just and peaceful world.

And finally the third question: what is our goal?

  • The last paragraph of our mission statement clearly proclaims the purpose and goals of a Gustavus education: We want our students to develop their full potential as a person, to develop in them the ability and passion for lifelong learning and, finally, what is perhaps most often Quoted sentence of our mission statement – we want to prepare students for a fulfilled life in leadership and service in society.

There is a lot in our mission statement. 205 words – yes, I counted them. 205 words that define us. 205 words to live with. While it is too long for most of us to memorize, a careful reading shows that its principles are specific, strong, and meaningful. I encourage you to keep this mission handy and read it often. It is our raison d’etre. It creates a sense of unity for our community. It is a shared calling that drives us forward.

Included in the mission statement are our core values ​​- excellence, community, justice, service and faith. All five of these words appear in our mission statement, and that is certainly no coincidence. Our core values ​​are part of our identity as an institution – they are deeply anchored in the way we live together and work together to pursue our common goals. We consciously and regularly raise our values ​​as guides for our daily interaction.

Gustavus is a mission-driven institution and we are a mission-driven people. Our goal is focused on our students. And students, I hope you will appreciate this truth – it is the focus of our conversations, our preparations for classroom learning and after-school activities, and our investment in maintaining our campus and facilities. We want you to flourish intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually while you are here. We want to awaken in you the urge for personal excellence, curiosity about ideas, people, society and the world around you. We want you to grapple with big questions, think carefully about who you are going to be and what you are going to do. Our goal is to practice radical hospitality, to promote a feeling of togetherness, to accept differences and to learn from one another in the pursuit of the common good. We want our community to care for one another and bring hearts and minds into every interaction and relationship. This is Gustavus … we are a mission oriented institution and we are mission oriented people.

Do this today with confidence and humility, courage and prudence, conscious of tradition and open to new ideas and always rooted in our mission. I wish each of you gathered here today an abundance of well-being and wholeness, an abundance of joy, and the blessings of grace and peace.

Amen.

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