Believers, wonderers, seekers and pilgrims

This has been an incredible fall semester so far at Trinity. We are having a blast—at least I am. The Puget Sound weather has been fantastic, and in fact only just today are we getting our first real rain since July. As I move around the five floors of the campus center I see smiles, hear conversations, feel the energy and watch teams working together.  Guests who visit me constantly remark about the energy and beautiful sense of community at Trinity. We are grateful.

We are very lucky to work and serve at this incredible place. It is a joy to know that while we have our challenges, we labor with God to serve students. It is a joy when we realize students are truly being served, mentored and challenged by their experiences with us, and they are growing and changing before our eyes.

The challenge that most excites me was described in our first chapel of the year. And as an aside, Pastor Erik and his chapel planning team are doing a fantastic job “curating” our chapel services—we had over 120 folks in the first chapel service of the term. A moment in this first service moved me to tears, as I felt incredible gratitude at being part of this place and called to this challenge. A student read this: “Our community consists of dedicated believers, of wandering pilgrims, of curious seekers and of questioning wonderers. We bring different experiences, different traditions, different gifts. We notice one another and we welcome each other into this community.”

When I heard those words, I thought what a blessing it is to be part of this place, where all are included and welcomed. I was also challenged by the idea that if we can truly serve, motivate, educate, mentor and minister to our diverse and interesting mix of students, we will be serving the church and bringing glory to God.

At Trinity, we are truly a community filled with dedicated believers, wandering pilgrims, curious seekers and questioning wonderers. Here are some examples:

Dedicated Believers: There is a young man at the college who serves us as our Spiritual Life Commissioner. Hailing from Anacortes, he is one of our amazing, dedicated believers. His heart is full of God and God’s love, and the Holy Spirit directs him. This young man is bright and a solid academic, he’s a member of our Dean’s Circle, he leads our community in prayer at the conclusion of nearly every chapel service, he leads an Everett Young Life group, and he brings his enthusiasm for learning and faith to each class and interaction. He is making the most of his time here by digging into learning and being open to God’s call toward his vocation.

Wandering Pilgrims: A wandering pilgrim who has inspired us this year is the Reverend Dr. Dave Ellingson, professor of Children, Youth & Family Studies. During his sabbatical last spring, Dave paddled his kayak down the Mississippi River. He used the months, which he called a spiritual pilgrimage, to learn from the people he met and to listen to God’s voice. He entitled his journey “Creation Care: Environmental Ethics.” During his journey, Dave kept a blog in which he recorded on an almost daily basis the things he was learning on his pilgrimage. He writes, “God used the river to teach me both how powerful and regenerative the natural environment is and also how fragile and in need of wise care and stewardship. My kinship with all creation now resonates more deeply with St. Francis’ ‘brother Sun and sister Moon.’ Each morning just before dawn a symphony of birds began their musical wake-up call and invited me to launch my boat in the dark and paddle toward the light. They called me to a new day, to a new beginning, a new life and to pray.” Returning to Trinity as professor again this fall, after an amazing spring sabbatical, Dave brings to our community all that he learned on his journey, enriching our faith and inspiring our daily living because of his pilgrimage.

Curious Seekers: We count it a blessing at Trinity these days that we have many in our student body that are seekers. They bring their curiosity and their interest to our life of faith together, seeking to know more about God and God’s Word, and wanting to understand more about living lives of faith and belief. We are grateful to be a place where students can explore the Christian story and the person of Jesus—and where they can be on the path “seeking” to know more about faith.

Questioning Wonderers: One thing I know for sure is that while it is impossible to please God without faith, God also invites us to question and wonder about Him and His story. We would not be honest seekers of faith if we did not wonder from time to time, and we are grateful that Trinity is a place where questions and doubts can be voiced, and students can explore their wonderings alongside wise and faithful faculty and staff. Each person’s experience of coming to faith is different, but we are grateful to provide a place where students who “wonder about God” can ask their questions and grow in their understanding.

I am thankful that at Trinity we continue to be a place for believers, wonderers, seekers and pilgrims. We continue to teach and trust in the central truths of God’s Word, and each student here will encounter scripture and Christ’s redemptive story. Combine this with a unique and wonderful spirit that defines this place, and special things happen. I am just grateful to be part of it. I hope you will join us for a visit soon. Our full chapel service is every Wednesday at 11:00 am, followed by lunch and community gathering time. You are welcomed!

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Viewpoints

On September 12, a production team from the CNN program “Viewpoints with Terry Bradshaw” will be on campus filming footage for their “innovative faith-based colleges” segment featuring Trinity Lutheran College.

As we have offered input about the program’s script and prepared for the filming, we’ve spent some time re-asking some of the questions that are common ones around here. Questions like, What role do we play in the future of higher education? What’s our vision for Trinity? These questions keep us moving forward, toward our mission statement and toward excellence as a college.

Last year as part of the strategic plan, you often heard me refer to the phrase “small is the new big.” But let me clarify a little bit what I mean with that statement and how it fits into Trinity’s role in higher education.

One of the blessings of being a small college is that we are able to do things that are innovative with relative ease. We can meet the demand for quality higher education that is forward thinking in ways that larger schools cannot because they have more students, more faculty, more committees, and more channels to navigate.

Our vision at Trinity is to utilize the opportunity we have to be nimble and make decisions quickly. We can “think outside the box” and do things that are needed now, instead of taking months or years to achieve them. Once we see that there is a specific need in higher education, we are uniquely situated to meet that need. And if we continue to do our work with integrity and quality, we are establishing ourselves as a solid institution that’s making amazing contributions to higher education.

When we talk about what we do in higher education, you can rest assured that we remain committed to core concepts that make Trinity unique and special—concepts like:

  1. Keeping classes small. This is an important part of the education we’re providing.
  2. Maintaining our biblical curriculum at the center of our required coursework for students, allowing them to engage with questions of Christian faith, mission, and service.
  3. Offering unique opportunities students won’t get at bigger schools, like travel classes during January Term or a three-year degree program that ends in a job.

These types of programs and opportunities at little Trinity are evidence of a small college working to address some of the big issues in higher education.

As we head into our 69th academic year at Trinity, we look forward to the ways God will use us to change the lives of students and help contribute in positive and forward-thinking ways to higher education in Washington. Please join in praying for Trinity as we welcome 75 new students and begin another fantastic academic year.

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Small is the new big

If you have been reading The Advance, viewing our website, or participating in any of our college events over the past two years, you have likely encountered the claim “Small is The New Big.” This phrase came out of our strategic planning sessions, and is a key concept in our outreach to new students. This phrase also says a great deal about the unique learning environment at Trinity.

We are small, but big things happen here all the time. Lives are transformed through the grace and love found in Christ, and students seek and find their vocational calling. Allow me to share with you some of the amazing benefits our students encounter on a daily basis due to our wonderfully small size.

Research has been conducted for years on the benefits of smaller class sizes in K-12 education. But only recently has more research examined the benefits in higher education. This research confirms my enthusiasm about the educational process here at Trinity and the ways we have done an amazing job providing our students with a superior academic experience.

First let me give you some facts:

  • This spring, 88% of our classes have fewer than 25 students.
  • Our faculty to student ratio at Trinity is 1:7.
  • 100% of the 2009 graduating class are placed in employment or graduate school.
  • For each of the past three years, students have presented their research at professional conferences, alongside graduate students and professors.
  • 92% of the 2010 graduating class are placed in employment or graduate school.
  • 100% of our classes at Trinity are taught by professors, not graduate assistants or teaching assistants.

So what benefits do our students receive by being in an intimate seminar style-learning environment? A study entitled  “Impact of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Higher Education*” identifies a number of statistically significant findings; let me highlight a few that have particular relevance to our learning environment at Trinity:

  1. The amount of critical and analytical thinking: Our students have to be quick on their feet, since they can’t hide in big auditoriums. Our faculty know when students have or haven’t prepared for class, and they help our students express themselves well in group settings.
  2. Instructor availability outside of class: Faculty take advising and mentoring seriously, whether before, during or after a Trinity degree. Faculty write heartfelt, personal letters of recommendation for students as they go on to graduate programs and careers.
  3. Timeliness of feedback to students: Faculty know when students aren’t in class, and they follow up with them after absences. And instead of just grading papers, they invest in students’ futures through robust and timely feedback.
  4. Evaluations and feedback of student work: The intimate knowledge faculty have of student work allows them to keep mentoring students toward greatness, and guide them to successful careers.
  5. Daily preparedness required for class: The small class sizes at Trinity don’t allow our students the opportunity to get lazy and come unprepared. Students regularly remark that they find they have grow from good to excellent scholars during their years at Trinity.

Trinity provides an incredible opportunity for students. I am so pleased that word is spreading about our programs, and prospective students and families are beginning to recognize the wonderful environment we have for learning. Please keep referring students and supporting us in this critical educational mission.

* Impact of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Higher Eduation, Monkes, Schmidt, University of Richmond, September 2010.

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Hear Ye Hear Ye, Read All About It: Brammer Chapel Opens At Trinity

It was big news around campus this past week with the opening of the new Brammer Chapel & Center for Art and Communication. This 12,500 square-foot space on the top floor of our new campus center in downtown Everett is a BIG DEAL.

When I came to Trinity two and half years ago, I was surprised by many things, but one stood out in particular: Although we were an institution dedicated to faith development with a mission to develop leaders whose lives serve Christ, the church and society, we had neither a campus pastor nor a chapel.

Over the years, many colleges and universities that were once faith-based have secularized, and one of the first areas of erosion is chapel and worship. Chapel is important—it shapes a college culture by creating a public habit of attending, participating in and building community through worship. When I arrived, it was hard to imagine a healthy faith community and spiritual habit forming in our new home in Everett without a spiritual leader or a sacred space for worship.

Last February we were blessed by the addition of the Reverend Erik Samuelson as our Campus Pastor and Director of Vocation & Spiritual Formation. Erik is a wise spiritual leader with a passion for our students’ vocation and faith development, and he has done a fantastic job in his first year with us.

But even after adding Erik, we still had no place to gather for worship, although we DID have a clear vision of what we wanted in a new worship and creative space on the fifth floor of our campus center. We had four goals:

  • Create a laboratory for young leaders to explore and practice what Christian worship might look like in the future
  • Create an environment in which our worship life would serve as a microcosm of the living-learning community that is at the core of who we are
  • Become a place where head, heart, and hands were integrated—aiding the entire community in encountering and expressing the Christian life in practical and habit-forming ways
  • Provide a venue for the hosting of events, worship, musical performance and rallies that cater to the current Christian youth and young-adult movements

This vision of a worship and creative space caught the attention of the Reverend Mark Samuelson, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett and Erik’s father. Mark’s very first call had been to a small church in the farming community of Lenore, Idaho. During his time in Lenore, Mark had been mentored by a family, the Brammers, whom he believed might have some interest in our vision.

I am always amazed at the work God can do from one conversation. Armed with our vision of a new chapel and art space, Erik Samuelson, Mark Samuelson and Academic Dean Jeff Mallinson traveled to Idaho last spring to share our story with George and Jackie Brammer. Not long after that, I also visited the Brammers, and while I was there, they confirmed that they wanted to make a major gift (the second largest in our 70 year history) to help us create our new chapel.

Following many months of construction, we finally have a place of worship for our campus community. And on March 6, at three in the afternoon, students, faculty, board and foundation members, and other friends of the college gathered together to celebrate the opening of the Brammer Chapel & Center for Art and Communication.

The sun was out that afternoon, and from our view on the fifth floor, we could see the Cascade and Olympic mountains, Port Gardner Bay extending out into Puget Sound, and our surrounding community of Everett. It’s fitting that our worship space looks out into the world, since we teach our students that the life of a Christian is strengthened in worship but flows out into the community and to the world. Our chapel space represents our mission: to develop Christian leaders with a global perspective. But inside our walls, we are grateful for a spiritual home where, as a community, we can worship, learn and help develop each student’s mission in this world.

The official grand opening for our new chapel is scheduled September 27, with a worship service and a dedication. I hope you’ll join us at that celebration. And in just a few weeks we’ll announce a Brammer Chapel capital campaign that will allow us the capital to finish the chapel project and meet some programmatic needs related to spiritual development on our campus.

In the midst of all this excitement, we pause and give thanks to those who helped make this new space possible for us. Thank you Mark Samuelson, Erik Samuelson, Jeff Mallinson, and Lance Georgeson. Thank you so much, George and Jackie Brammer. And most of all, thank you God, for this gift.

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Enough Already!

Enough Already!

It’s about time we started spring semester. Fall semester ended back in mid-December, and then in January our students spent the month studying all over the world, making it way too quiet around here for my liking. I am tired of talking to myself, and our CFO Tom Ramsey is sick of me talking to him too. All this quiet has put me in a bad mood. So I am glad that this week, things are finally back to normal.

When I walk around campus, I see familiar signs of life at Trinity:

  • Groups of students gather in the Commons once again, laughing and talking. Their energy is contagious.
  • Our fifth floor chapel renovation is almost done, and we can’t wait to start enjoying our new space.
  • We have welcomed a group of new students to the college this semester, and already they are richly blessing our community.
  • We celebrate with some of our students who have been admitted to graduate programs or have received interviews. Senior Samantha Chapman was just offered admission at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Junior Samuel Ryden interviewed at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for a master’s program in theology and aesthetics.
  • Our early childhood education majors have their hands full running around after our Acorn Preschool students on the rooftop garden.
  • Student athletes are excited to meet and work with the new coaches heading our men’s and women’s soccer programs.
  • Dr. Bruce Grigsby, Professor of Biblical Studies, is hard at work preparing for his heavy load of courses.  This term, he’s teaching Greek, Latin, Reformation History, History of the Bible, and Integrative Biblical Seminar.
  • Students are once again engaged in service learning, using their heads, hearts and hands to serve others in our community.

We’rein full swing here at Trinity Lutheran College, and I’m glad things are back to normal!

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Outcomes Matter

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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August 2011

With summer rapidly drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting on the summer season. Summer is a great time of the year for all who work at colleges and universities.  Often the pace slows, time is less of a premium and many faculty and staff find a bit of time to recharge and renew their spirit for the academic year that lies ahead.  I am so inspired by the efforts and care our faculty and staff display daily at Trinity.  I hope this summer was a good time of renewal for many.

I write to tell you about the encouragement I have felt for Trinity over the past several months. I know many of you have kept us in your prayers and supported us financially for many years.  Many of these years have been a struggle and we have operated in obscurity.  Well, I want to share with you how this is changing.

I want to be sure you understand this is not to brag or pat ourselves on t he back in anyway, rather to share with you and allow you, too,to celebrate God’s faithfulness to this wonderful little place…Trinity.  We are seeing a change as people learn of our vision and priorities, rather than our need, and want to be part of the exciting adventure we are on.  I believe it is my job to be sure you are aware of what we are up to and how you too can get involved in direct ways in helping us fulfill our mission.

  • In late June I met with George and Jackie Brammer, a couple living in a small community in central Idaho, who have a successful farming business and who have chosen with their resources to support the church universal and its ministries. They learned about our strategic plan and our hope to continue to lead our students to biblical understanding and servant leadership through our vision for vocational discernment.  In response, they graciously committed $700,000 dollars to renovate and name a new Brammer Chapel at our Campus Center.
  • In May, as we celebrated our new rooftop garden with our neighbors, a key leader in the downtown Everett community wanted me to know that Trinity being in downtown Everett was the very best thing that had happened to the community in a long time.  I thought of our strategic plan theme, being a “light on a hill.”
  • Recently, I had a letter on my desk from a long-time leader in the Lutheran church, an academic leader and a person of influence.  He stated, “I like what I read about innovations being introduced and how you are making it clear that you are establishing a curriculum and approach to education that reflects what best prepares students for  making a meaningful impact in today’s world.  I look forward to making a significant gift to Trinity.”
  • A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail encouragement from a prospective student’s father who works in development at one of our nation’s leading private colleges.  He mentioned reading The Malibu Miracle, a book about Pepperdine University, and said  “The book’s description of the ambitious, innovative and courageous 1972 campus move and recreation of an institution reminds me of what a momentous transition you are leading in the Trinity Lutheran College story which is, from my perspective, similar to and equally exciting as the story of Pepperdine University.”
  • In late July, I had a great opportunity to deliver an address at the national conference on student recruitment, marketing and retention on the Changing Face of Academic Leadership and many of my examples where about Trinity and our Living-Learning Model. I had people talking!
  • I had an e-mail in early August from Professor Beth Elness-Hanson, who is leading the renovation and redevelopment of our CORE curriculum.  The proposed new name is the “CRUX,” Latin for “cross,” which she cites is fitting for a Lutheran college upholding the theology of the cross.  She states one of the definitions of CRUX is the main or central feature, which is so true of the Trinity Core. How exciting!

I hope each of these examples is an encouragement to you.  I hope you see your college on the move, attempting to make a difference in this crazy world of ours.  Even though this encouragement comes to us, I am reminded by our finance office, our development staff, and long-time alumni who tell me to keep reminding our friends how far we still have to go and how much we still need your sacrificial financial support to move Trinity forward.

Thanks for reading — and go catch the last of the rays!

Deeply,

 

 

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Transforming Lives – Then and Now

Tradition and heritage evolve from honorable actions that create memories within the life of an organization. These memories are recreated time and again, becoming part of the fabric of a family, a college or a company.  Tradition creates pride and a specific character that distinguishes one place from another.  On occasion, tradition or heritage can be an obstacle for healthy change, but tradition most often is a strong link that binds us to our purpose and to our past. 

I am particularly impressed by one of our traditions carried forward through our 68 years of existence: caring faculty.  If you read anything about our history, you see the remarkable strength of our dedicated teachers.  For decades, our faculty have honored God, served students, and carried out the mission of this institution.  These faculty are remembered fondly, often decades after students leave.  Among the names we continue to regularly hear are Jacque Schweiss, Daniel Bloomquist, Don Fladland, Jean Wahlstrom, Jane Prestbye, and Lowell Stime.  Too many to mention in this short space!  Today, the tradition continues with Professors Mallinson, Elness-Hanson, Grigsby, Jackson, and Houglum – just to name a few. 

The other day, I caught a glimpse of this tradition from a visitor to my office.  Professor Emerita Josee Jordan (1984-1998) came by with a massive three ring binder in her arms.  Inside, page after page told stories of former students with whom she had been staying in touch, praying for, and maintaining friendships.  She shared many her favorite stories with me, which was a special treat as I continue to learn about this wonderful college, its traditions and the amazing heritage found in  the faculty.

This dimension of Trinity continues. Students lives are transformed by the love, faith and mentoring they share with students.  Take Lance Green, Theology & Philosophy major as an example.  Lance came to the college eager to learn about God, but disconnected from his Lutheran roots and unsure of his calling.  Over his time at Trinity, he found a love for the theology of the cross.  He had the chance to have coffee and advising sessions with Dr. Mallinson, advice about connection to the church from Dr. Ellingson, and discussions with Campus Pastor Erik Samuelson about the concept of vocational discernment.  Today, Lance is student body president, concerned for the importance of theology within the context of good preaching, and applying to seminaries and graduate schools.  Just a couple weeks before he graduates, Lance will have the honor of presenting a professional paper to the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature regional meeting on the connection between the doctrine of justification, styles of preaching, relevance of a church’s mission, and the philosophy of language. 

Lance is one of many students who are connecting their rich education to the issues our world faces today.  I thank God for our faithful supporters, who allow us to carry forward life changing education for our students.  It is through your faithful financial and prayerful support that we continue this tradition of faculty excellence that shapes lives for decades to come. 

In His service,

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President Reed’s Midwest Tour

President John Reed is visiting alumni, donors, and friends in Chicago and Minneapolis for a week in mid-March.  He is accompanied by Dr. David Ellingson, Professor of Children, Youth & Family Studies, along with board member Barbara Andrews (while in Chicago) and alumna Kris Bjorke (while in Minneapolis).

Here are some photos of the president’s Midwest tour (mouse over photo for caption):

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A Light on a Hill: A Strategic Plan for Trinity Lutheran College

This is an exciting time to be Trinity. In February, the Board of Directors adopted “Light on a Hill,” a strategic plan to guide the college from 2011 to 2014.

Trinity’s history has emphasized Christ-centeredness, spiritual renewal, and preparation for service in the Church and the world. For nearly seven decades the college has necessarily adapted to its most present realities, often taking risks in the face of uncertainty, yet moving deliberately and with boldness in carrying out the compelling mission to empower faithful servant leaders.

Now in our 67th year, Trinity faces a defining moment. We must honestly acknowledge our realities, squarely face our challenges, and create effective strategies for propelling the college into the future. Our heritage equips us well and we commit ourselves both to our biblical center and to solid academic preparation of our students.

The 10 objectives in our new strategic plan are generally built around the following emphases:

  • Vocational & Spiritual Discernment
  • Innovation
  • Enrollment Growth
  • Strengthen the Fundamentals

Learn more about the strategic plan at www.tlc.edu/strategic.

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