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June 18, 2017 10:23 PM

New Leadership Coming To Augustana University

A big change is in store for Augustana University this summer. 

A new president will take over for the school's current leader, Rob Oliver, who is retiring. 

"I've always had a desire to be in higher education," Incoming President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said. 

Now, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is making it happen. The former South Dakota congresswoman will officially begin her duties as president of Augustana University on August 1st. 

Already, she's spent a fair share of time on campus as she prepares to take office as the school's first female leader. 

"It's been a whirlwind of activity; a lot of learning, a steep learning curve as I anticipated, but already very fulfilling and rewarding as I deepen relationships with folks throughout the campus community," Herseth Sandlin said. 

Herseth Sandlin says one of her top priorities here on campus is meeting the goals of the current strategic plan.
"One of the very forward thinking priorities of Rob Oliver and his team and the board of trustees was to ensure that as the transition as they were anticipating there might be a transition, to have a solid five-year strategic plan in place, of which we're half-way through at this stage," Herseth Sandlin said. 

One of the objectives is to boost enrollment, an effort that she says has already seen steady progress. 

"We are on pace, given the numbers this year, both for retention and new students, to continue progress toward the goal of 2,500 students by the end of the decade," Herseth Sandlin said. 

Entering into this new chapter certainly comes with its challenges.

"For any leader, I think it's managing one's time most effectively. There are a lot of opportunities, a lot of competing priorities at times, but I think what is important is communicating effectively, why we're doing certain things in the sequence in which we're doing them," Herseth Sandlin said. 

Still, it's a test she says she's ready to take on. 

"One can view that as overwhelming in and of itself, but I welcome the challenge that it presents," Herseth Sandlin said. 

"I think she'll be able to take us to new heights," Search Committee Chair Becky Blue said. 

Becky Blue served as the chair of the presidential search committee. She's also the Board of Trustees chair. Blue says she's optimistic about the future of the university with Herseth Sandlin at the helm. 

"She'll just be a great person to use, not only her own connections, but just her innovative and creative way of thinking to make those things happen for us," Blue said. 

While she still has some time before she officially takes on the role of president, Herseth Sandlin already feels at home on this campus. 

"I strongly believe that God puts people in opportunities in front of us at different times in our life for a reason. This is an opportunity to serve in a different way and to serve a community that is dedicated to preparing young people for the world," Herseth Sandlin said. 

Herseth Sandlin most recently served as general counsel and vice president of corporate development for Raven Industries. 

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