The College Mission
Approved by the St. Olaf College Board of Regents, May 2016
St. Olaf College challenges students to excel in the liberal arts, examine faith and values, and explore meaningful vocation in an inclusive, globally engaged community nourished by Lutheran tradition.
The Mission in Practice
“To excel in the liberal arts.” We aim to offer the best possible liberal arts education. We cultivate breadth and depth in the skills, knowledge, and capacities that help students flourish in whatever future emerges. Across the sciences, the humanities, and the arts, we pursue inquiry, imagination, and evidence wherever they lead. We celebrate learning and creativity in classrooms and labs, in concert halls and studios, in community settings and internships, in residence halls and on athletic fields.
“To examine faith and values.” The liberal arts involve underlying claims about what is ultimately meaningful and worthwhile. So we undertake explicit examination of faith and values. Our community includes people of many religions and no religion, and we impose no doctrinal filters on our teaching or scholarship. We create opportunities for academic and personal reflection on religious belief, including reasoned consideration of Christian faith and other traditions that engage questions of truth and meaning.
“To explore meaningful vocation.” The liberal arts also call us to direct our skills and knowledge toward the good. So we encourage purpose and hope in the discernment of what is worth doing. We challenge each other to connect the work we do and the many roles we fill to larger frameworks of meaning and value. We help students envision their futures and develop their talents to address the needs of their many communities.
“To be an inclusive community.” Excellence in the liberal arts is possible only when people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas come together in a spirit of mutual respect and inclusion. So we strive to be a place of welcome to all. This commitment is strengthened by our particular history. The founders of the college were immigrants from Norway who established a co-educational college long before that was commonplace. Their experience impels us to advance the ideal of a community where people of all backgrounds and identities belong.
“To be a globally engaged community.” Learning in the liberal arts is intrinsically global and pluralistic. So we emphasize learning in global contexts, and in direct relationships with people around the world. We seek and welcome students and scholars from many countries. We offer rich opportunities for international and domestic off-campus study connected to a curricular emphasis on language, culture, and place.
“To be nourished by Lutheran tradition.” All these commitments are reinforced by a Lutheran understanding that God’s love calls us to meet the world in generosity and service. We hear in this a summons to use the gifts of reason, creativity, and empathy to their fullest; to live in community with all people; to steward carefully the resources on which we depend; and to respond in good will to the needs of neighbor and planet.