March 1, 2013 – Visiting Gustavus Adolphus and Luther College

It’s been a busy couple of weekends wrapping up Emma’s college selection activities. Last weekend is was off to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and this week at Gustavus Adolphus college in St. Peter Minnesota. It is hard not to compare the events since they were so close together in time.

Emma will not make her decision (and it is her decision), until she gets the final aid offers from the schools still on her list – Iowa State, Luther, Gustavus, and St. Olaf. Since she has a strong interest in science and music, it seemed like Lutheran schools on hills fit the bill!

For full disclosure, I have many reasons for liking her decision whatever it may be.
Iowa State – Both Linda and I are alums, Linda with her Ph.D. and me with my M.A.

St. Olaf – Of all the schools we visited, I’m most impressed with the visit experience and facilities.

Luther – All of our kids (Martin this year) have spent numerous weeks at the summer music camp there and the trout streams are a bonus!

Gustavus – Important folks from my younger days, including Marianne K, whose house I lived in during college, and Annette Boman, outstanding friend, scientist, and mother who was taken from us much too early were Gusties, decades apart.

The visit to Luther exceeded my expectations.  Emma was invited there for “Scholar Days” to interview for the school’s “Imagine Fellowship.”  The day did a great job of “showing” us the school rather than “telling” us about it.  The day of the usual sessions was interspersed with heartwarming musical performances by the students.  Emma was able to visit the cadaver lab and attend a session on the physiology of running, while I went to a more traditional session on study abroad and a presentation in the planetarium by a physics instructor.  Students and faculty were front and center throughout the day, and perhaps the most brilliant stroke was our discovery that at the assigned seats for lunch, all the prospective students at our table were all high school XC runners AND thinking about pre-health professions.  Wow, everybody here is just like me!

At Gustavus, Emma was interviewing for the highest academic scholarship.  It was a more traditional visit day, with more “telling” than “showing” with perhaps the lowlight of the visit a talk by the college President, Jack Ohle.  Part of his remarks included telling us about the Gustavus “brand” along with the focus groups and process that went into creating the “brand.”  Suddenly, I felt like I had been reduced to a pawn in an advertising contest.  Like that of a carbonated beverage or political campaign, the message was finely crafted to be what I wanted to hear, at least until the current brand doesn’t work and it is “re-branded.”  Be that as it may, the school is also full of dedicated staff and faculty along with engaging students (in my eyes much more important to care and nurture those important elements, rather than “branding.”). One of the highlights for Emma was when I dragged her to a table with a couple of staff members from a session I had attended and we had an engaging conversation about current social justice issues.

Now Emma waits by the mailbox for the rest of her information to make her decision.  She’s eager to know what next year brings to her!