Commentary

Serving where you are

Only one day after a tornado ripped through the homes of our neighbors in North Minneapolis, the Augsburg College community organized clean-up trips and issued a call to make 1,000 sandwiches to help feed displaced neighbors and volunteers who were digging out from the storm. It is who we are and what we do as a college.

It is this kind of community engagement that helped Augsburg College earn the Presidential Award for Community Service last month.

We are honored and proud to be one of only six higher education institutions in the nation — and the first in Minnesota — to earn this top federal recognition in a field of more than 850 schools, but we don’t think of what we do purely as “community service.”

Paul Pribbenow

Research shows that knowledge retention soars to 75 percent when learning is practiced by doing, compared to retention of 20 percent when we learn by listening.

It is about learning. Research shows that knowledge retention soars to 75 percent when learning is practiced by doing, compared to retention of 20 percent when we learn by listening. That’s why community engagement is among the most powerful learning experiences our students can encounter.

Each year, we offer dozens of courses that embed service learning at an average of 25 hours of hands-on engagement per student per course. This hands-on learning is one of the most significant values Augsburg delivers as an urban institution set in the vibrant and diverse Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Learning to serve

Experience-based learning is part of our mission, too. As a college community, we believe we are called to serve our neighbor. We educate students for service.

Our work is shaped by being rooted for more than 140 years in a neighborhood that long has been a point of entry for immigrants. By engaging with our diverse neighbors, we have the marvelous opportunity to see our shared community, and world, through the eyes of those who have made great and often perilous journeys to join their families, to work and to build better lives.

Through their stories, we experience the gift of not taking for granted the freedoms won for us in great battles at great cost. Our worldview is expanded through the gift of learning new languages, customs and traditions. We are blessed with neighbors whose hard work and enthusiasm for life and community challenges our complacency and cynicism; and whose pursuit of justice and fairness and engagement in a new world is nothing short of inspiring.

And so, from our experience in engaging with our community, we know in our hearts that the nearly 200,000 volunteer hours our students invested this past academic year will benefit us — our College, our future alumni and the communities they will serve — more than they benefit those we were called to serve.

The Presidential Award is a gratifying testament to the exceptional work done by our staff, students and faculty. But it is we who are richer for the experience of educating students not only for professions and careers, but also — and perhaps more so — for lives of meaning and purpose in a city and a world marked by a more urgent need for informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers and responsible leaders.

That is our mission as a college of the Lutheran church located in this remarkable city.

Paul Pribbenow is president of Augsburg College, Minneapolis.

Tags: , , , , , ,