The St. Olaf Strategic Plan identifies several major priorities for the college in the coming years and the actions to be taken to advance those priorities. As the college works to strengthen its academic offerings, maintain and enhance access and affordability, promote outstanding teaching, and place greater focus on vocational discernment and career preparation, philanthropy is a key underpinning for success.
St. Olaf has made a significant commitment to access and affordability by meeting the demonstrated financial need of every admitted student with a combination of grants, loans, and student work awards. Today, nearly 90 percent of Oles receive some form of financial aid. Increased funding for scholarships can help reduce the loan amount in financial aid packages — or in some cases eliminate it altogether — ensuring the quality and diversity of the student body by creating opportunity for all deserving students.
Endowed Faculty Chairs
Exceptional teaching has been a hallmark of the college for generations, which is why attracting and retaining faculty who are both great teachers and top-notch scholars is critical to St. Olaf’s future. Today, 14 percent of the college’s full professors hold an endowed position, and more funding is needed in all departments. Recognizing outstanding professors by funding endowed chairs helps St. Olaf remain competitive in the search for talented faculty and maintain its reputation as a college where students benefit from the best teaching available.
High-Impact Educational Experiences
St. Olaf has a growing reputation for the variety and strength of its high-impact educational experiences, known for high levels of student engagement. The college must increase capacity for these and other educational opportunities, so that every student can benefit from them during their time on the Hill.
Collaborative Student-Faculty Research
St. Olaf encourages students to pursue original research and creative work. In doing so, they learn what it means to be a practicing scholar in their field of interest and gain valuable skills for success in graduate school and future employment. The college’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program supports students and faculty members as they investigate academic topics in all disciplines, most visibly during a robust 10-week summer research program. There is great potential for growth in the area of mentored student research, especially in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. A gift in support of collaborate research creates more student research positions and provides faculty compensation for summer mentoring work.
For nearly half a century, St. Olaf has been a leader in study abroad. And in an era of rapid global change, experiencing new cultures and perspectives has never been a more necessary component of a liberal arts education. More than two-thirds of St. Olaf students study abroad in one or more countries before graduating. However, the extra cost of off-campus study can be prohibitively expensive for some students. St. Olaf aims to increase funding for study abroad, so that global education can become a reality for all students, regardless of financial resources.
Academic and Professional Internships
Through internships, students apply classroom knowledge to practical work situations, gain insight into career options, build a résumé, and experience a professional work environment. But for many students, an internship, especially during the summer, is only financially feasible if it’s a paid position. St. Olaf believes that financial constraints alone shouldn’t prevent any student from taking advantage of such an important educational opportunity, so the college provides a stipend to students for a number of unpaid or underpaid internships. Gifts in support of internships not only make St. Olaf graduates more competitive when applying for jobs and graduate or medical school admission, but they help students discern their vocation and set a path for life.
Interdisciplinary Learning Communities
St. Olaf’s signature Conversation programs unite students from diverse backgrounds, interests, and academic majors in common intellectual inquiry. Beginning with the Great Conversation in 1980, the college has added American Conversations, Asian Conversations, the Science Conversation, and most recently, Environmental Conversations. While each program has its own distinct focus and design, they are all grounded in innovative, discussion-based learning. Each develops a student’s ability to write clearly, think critically, and speak and debate well; all are strong foundations for any major and for any graduate program or career. Student demand for participation in these learning communities has increased substantially in recent years. Gifts in support of the Conversation programs means that St. Olaf can offer more of these experiences in additional areas of interest to a larger number of students.
Vocational Discernment and Career Preparation
St. Olaf has made a public commitment to becoming the best liberal arts college in the country at helping students discern their vocation — what they are called to do — and then translating that calling into a rewarding career. Through programs housed in the college’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career, St. Olaf helps students develop and pursue a sustainable plan for life after graduation.
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