At Trinity Lutheran College, we believe that “outcomes matter.” This phrase emerged as an important slogan from our strategic-planning process last year. Of course every college believes that assisting students in achieving their goals is important, but at Trinity I have found a rare commitment to this kind of student achievement, perhaps because this phrase is deeply rooted in our ability to fulfill our college’s mission statement in the lives of our students. That statement charges us with “developing Christian leaders whose lives and ministry serve Jesus Christ in church and society,” and when we do this well, we see tangible results, outcomes. We obviously care greatly for our students and want them to achieve success.
Measuring outcomes is another matter entirely, however. Sometimes numbers or statistics meant to measure our outcomes make it appear that we are underachieving. Perhaps compared to other west coast Biblically centered liberal arts colleges, our retention or graduation rates appear lower. We continue to work toward goals we have set for ourselves to retain more students and ensure that more students graduate after four years. When 85% of our first year students return for a second year, and when 85% of our students graduate in four years, we will really have something to crow about.
However, I’m also struck by this dilemma: While there is plenty of data available to report on our retention and graduation outcomes, it’s harder to measure the more personal outcomes we work towards at Trinity: our students’ maturity, their potential future ministry, and their vision to serve Christ in the church and in society. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if data could quantifiably measure this kind of achievement so we could report these successes along with retention or graduation rates?
With all this in mind, over the past year we have created several important initiatives aimed at ensuring that we truly are improving outcomes for our students. These are some of them:
- For years, our “Bible-centered education” has been at the helm of what makes LBI/Trinity distinct. This year, to ensure that our students are truly developed to serve in the global community, Jeff Mallinson, Academic Dean, and Beth Elness-Hanson, Chair of the Biblical Studies department, have spearheaded a redrafting of the Trinity Core curriculum. Next fall, we will introduce this new curriculum, called the CRUX, to our students.
- We know that both student retention and graduation rates are critical measurements that reflect institutional quality. We have set goals to improve both freshman year retention and four-year graduation rates.
- This past fall, we instituted a new advising program meant to support our students and improve student retention rates. Already both students and faculty report improved satisfaction in their advising relationships, and we look forward to the ways this new advising system strengthens the retention of our current students.
- Last spring, we hired a campus pastor to provide leadership in the personal and spiritual development of our students. While we know that our outstanding faculty mentor and train our students on a daily basis, we believe it’s important to provide infrastructure and staffing to support the formal development of Christian leaders at the college.
- As a community, we felt it a priority to improve the place where we worship and gather as a community. So, with a generous gift from donors, we moved forward on the development of the new Brammer Chapel. We are excited about how this new space will assist in developing the spiritual lives of our students.
I also want you to know that while we are committed to moving forward in better outcomes for the college, we also hold each individual student to a standard of outcomes as well. We believe students can provide strong leadership for their churches and communities, be placed in top graduate schools, find fulfilling jobs, serve the underserved, and be vessels of God’s love in a broken world.
Paul writes in Colossians that we are to live in a way that is pleasing and honoring to God and that our lives produce every kind of good fruit. That is a good outcome! Please join us as we pray this for our students.