May 6, 2009
Last weekend I was in Iowa to attend a Waldorf College Alumni Board meeting. Waldorf is located in Forest City, Iowa, and is one of the ELCA's 28 colleges. However, in these past several months it has been faced with the very real possibility of closing because of finances. So the college's leaders and its Board of Regents did what any school with a 106-year history would do: turn over every rock to try find solutions. I must say I am really impressed with that group of folks for some real out-of-the-box thinking. The potential solution is certainly creative, and it's in the same pioneering spirit as that which started Waldorf so many decades ago. You can read about this possible partnership in The Lutheran's April story, "Waldorf may partner with for-profit school."
So last weekend our board met all morning, had lunch with the Board of Regents and later, many of us attended the 2009 commencement. And as a bonus, I was able to meet with a mentee with whom I'd worked via e-mail for many months. What a treat!
I wasn't sure what to expect at our board meeting—but after many of our questions were out on the table and received transparent and open answers, I was impressed again. I found in the board a group of people who really embraced the changes coming. As the article will tell you, this is completely new ground. It's a real pioneering effort. And I suspect that in the not-so-distant future other colleges and institutions will be looking at ways to continue ministry in the face of financial difficulties, too. We found, too, that ELCA Vocation & Education is very open to finding ways to keep a connection with Waldorf. Though the new arrangement, if finalized, will mean Waldorf won't be an ELCA school, there are other ways to keep an ELCA connection—so exploration and discussions on that continue. Again, I see some innovative and creative thinking.
Representatives from Columbia Southern University were at both board meetings to answer questions and explain more detail.What I heard is that this for-profit, online, Christian university really values the Lutheran philosophy of education. Yes! Well it should. But it was good for us all to hear that. And it was good to hear about the ways this partnership will enhance the offerings for Waldorf students and increase their networks once they graduate.
So we will stay tuned and watch this unusual partnership progress. We will embrace the change that is to come, knowing changes can carry burden and blessing. But whatever happens, we do know that God has guided Waldorf, its leaders, staff, professors and students through the years—and will continue to do so as it moves into a new phase of its life. I'm proud to be connected with an institution that is willing to think outside the box to continue its mission of transformation in the lives of the students who enter its doors.