Dear Wartburg Seminary Community,
Greetings to you all as we begin another calendar year, by the grace of God!
We know there are headwinds facing the church and our seminary in the coming year: COVID is not going away, political polarization still plagues our country, the financial market is shaky, and many people are walking away from Christianity. And yet, God remains faithful, as God always is, and Wartburg Seminary continues to have a vital role in God’s mission in the world. For that, and for your partnership, I am deeply grateful and energized.
As we look forward to our life and work together in 2023, I want to share with you some of our key areas of focus for this year.
The first main area is strategic planning. Our current strategic plan concludes in June. Therefore, since the fall, we have been actively engaged in a strategic planning process that involves students, faculty, staff and board members, which will culminate in a 2023-2026 strategic plan for Wartburg Seminary. This action plan will be shaped by a strategic direction and several high-level goals (set by the Board with input from the whole community), including specific foci and tasks that will support the implementation of those goals. This process continues in the spring, led by the president, the strategic vision and planning committee of the Board of Directors, and the strategic planning writing team.
The second area of focus for Wartburg Seminary is our ongoing growth in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), led by the president, the DEI Task Force, and our DEI Strategic Advisor, Pastor Lamont Wells. Specifically this year, we hope to increase and expand our efforts supporting our Latine programs, including Caminemos Juntos, Centro Teológico Luterano Multicultural (CTLM), and our Hispanic Ministry Concentration.
The third area of focus is in my sightline constantly (through my temporary office window), and that is the exciting renovation of Fritschel Hall. This project is providing a much-needed maintenance upgrade to our geothermal systems, along with the timely remodeling of key educational spaces—including the Koplitz Auditorium and Reu Memorial Library—to better support our hybrid learning community with more huddle spaces, updated seating and meeting areas, and an integrated student services suite. We continue to operate with a planned reopening of Fritschel in time for Prolog Week, fall 2023.
The fourth area of focus relates to our ongoing strategies for both student recruitment and attention to the needs of our whole student population. One aspect of this work is our residential life initiative; the residential life task force has been meeting this fall to better understand the particular needs of residential students, and the role formation in residence plays in the larger context of our life together—both during Prolog Week, for example, and also during the academic semesters. These efforts do not privilege one branch of our learning community over another, but rather seek to build on and enhance a core strength of Wartburg Seminary that continues to be a draw for DL, CL, and RL students alike.
Wartburg has been blessed with a dedicated and talented staff; this year, then, a fifth area of focus is continued staff development, including trainings that seek to provide professional support and growth—our upcoming Wellness Wheel session in January is the first of these opportunities. Additionally, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of Interim Vice President for Development, the Rev. Dr. Mike Foss, who will work collaboratively with our current development staff to strengthen our outreach for the sake of future growth.
Finally, in the academic department, this spring, we plan to fill two key roles: a new academic dean, and a three-year Hebrew Bible faculty member who will fill in for Professor Beth Elness-Hanson while she is on leave for her Marie Curie Fellowship in Tanzania. The plan is for both of these new colleagues to begin on July 1st.
In all these things, as in all things in general, we give thanks to God who continues to bless us so richly with so many gifts, and calls us outward, to use these blessings and gifts in service to the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of the neighbor and the stranger.
I look forward to partnering with you in all God has in store for Wartburg Theological Seminary in the coming year!