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.


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!





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,


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):


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.


Faithfulness on the move

God’s people have never had the luxury of settling in and staying put.  We are people on the move, spurred on by the Spirit to address each day creatively, and—by God’s grace—faithfully.  Sometimes the pace of change is almost overwhelming.  But it isn’t new.  In Genesis 12 alone, Abraham was on the move, from Harran, to the land of Canaan, to the “hills east of Bethel” where he built an altar and called on the name of the Lord.  But he didn’t stop there; verse nine says starkly: “Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.” He doesn’t rest with his altar, though.  A famine drives him to Egypt.  This is only the beginning of God’s amazing story with the saints.  They gather around a tabernacle, build a temple, lose a temple and go into captivity, return to the land and build another temple, and disperse from Jerusalem to embark on missions to the east and west.

Even in my short time as president of Trinity, I can tell that this is a college on the move, in that long tradition of God’s people.  For the last decade, my predecessor and faithful counselors to the college led us through two moves.  One was from Issaquah to Everett, of course.  But the other move was from the model of a Bible institute to a unique four year, accredited college.  I occasionally hear from people worried that we are slipping from our identity as a Bible school.  This causes me to wonder whether we’ve communicated clearly enough over the last several years.  Trinity has the Bible at its center, but it is not a Bible school in either form or function.  Nonetheless, it is not just another church related college.  Our size and unique history allow us to be a rather unique kind of Christian college.

In our strategic planning process, we have developed a working identity statement to help us stay clear as we support our continuing mission.  It’s unofficial, but perhaps helpful as a way to understand how the staff and faculty see ourselves here at Trinity, day to day:

Trinity Lutheran College is a biblically-centered, four year, accredited college, where students engage rigorous academic study, seek ways to serve the world around them, and wrestle creatively with tough questions, in a way that is faithful, intellectual, and engaged.  At our foundation is a living-learning community model that integrates faith, academics, and service into every aspect of a student’s formation.

If you are a longtime friend of LBI/Trinity, do you recognize this?  It may represent startling new territory.  But I’m not asking if you recognize the exact landscape.  I’m asking whether you recognize the call to be biblical in a changing world that needs biblically-trained leaders.  I hope you do, because I am convinced that this is precisely what our world (and our churches) need right now.

Allow me to share just a few examples of ways in which some of the new things we are doing are making a difference in people’s lives along faithful, old lines.

· A Discovery Program student has encountered the role of prayer in his life, despite coming from a nominal Lutheran background in Norway.

· New soccer players discovered the joy of service this Thanksgiving, as they collected and distributed Thanksgiving essentials to 20 single mothers in Everett.

· A student attracted to our new Communication program who had previously fallen into a life of drug use, but at Trinity, encountered God’s call on his life and is now attending and ELCA seminary.

· Another student, after discovering academic abilities in the context of the Dean’s Circle, realized that an LCMS seminary was the place to which God was calling him.  He is now getting ready for a life changing move.

· A student who came interested in ministry but also wanted a broad degree found, in the midst of her studies in our new Business Leadership & Management, that there is important ministry to be done in the general world of commerce, especially if a leader goes out equipped with biblical understanding and a moral compass.

Students’ lives are changing as they encounter Christ in our various new curricular and extracurricular programs.  The key question for Jesus’ disciples isn’t “are you the same person you were back in the day?” But rather, “have you remained faithful to Jesus above all things as you’ve grown, travelled, and changed over the years?” As people on the move for God, we don’t boast in staying close to the altars we erect throughout our lives.  Rather, we beg God to keep the Spirit illuminating Jesus, who is reason enough for us to get up out of our comfortable places and move!

May God bless you and us as we journey together, ceaselessly praying for faithfulness!


Saying “YES!”

reedanddeborahA central dimension for those who call themselves Christians is that they have chosen to accept the concept of faith. They understand that in order to receive what God might have for them, they must trust, live, and act in the absence of certainty. The author of Hebrews writes in 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” An exciting aspect to following Christ is dwelling within the mystery of faith. We live not knowing what’s waiting around the bend.

Over the years, those who inspire me the most, and those who have the greatest impact on others, are the ones who say yes to bold risks! They understand that living a life of yes allows God to use their talents and gifts to fulfill the call that we are God’s workmanship.

deborahSince coming to Trinity, I have been inspired by a person who generously volunteers her time to lead, challenge and change Trinity. Eighteen months ago, I met Deborah Squires during a visit to campus to interview for the interim Executive Director position. I was immediately impressed by Deborah’s clarity, her leadership, her experience, and her wisdom. Moreover, I was impressed that the new board of directors vice chair, who is also vice president of Snohomish County United Way, had only been involved directly with the college since the move to downtown Everett.

Deborah Squires lives her life finding ways to say yes. In the last 12 months, she said yes to serve as board vice chair, she said yes to serve as a member of the Celebration of Service committee, she said yes to providing leadership as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, she said yes to participating on the Inauguration Committee, and, finally, she said yes to being a member of the new Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Wow! What would we do without her? How is God using her presence, insight and leadership in the future of Trinity? I know as the new president that I could not be more thankful for her involvement and her willingness to serve both Trinity and God by saying yes.

Likewise, I want to thank so many of you for saying yes to Trinity/LBI over the years. We are blessed to have so many faithful supporters. Yet, I have to be honest: In order for Trinity to thrive, we need more people to pray and seek ways to say yes to the learning and the ministry happening here on a daily basis.

Give me a call if you, too, want to say yes!


Mighty Trinity

Mighty Trinity…

This phrase came to me from our new Head Women’s Soccer Coach, Daniel Hicker. Several weeks ago, as he was describing his team and the challenges that lay ahead for the season, he noted what great people were on his team, and that he knew it was going to be an exciting year. He knew that “Mighty Trinity” was going to make history.

That same afternoon, our first-ever soccer team took the field against The Evergreen State College (enrollment 4,000) at Everett Memorial Stadium (seating for 3,500) and we assembled our enthusiastic crowd of 25! Earlier that day, I had to tell Daniel the nine players he hoped to have for the match was being cut to eight, due to an eligibility requirement. We all knew it would be a challenge to demonstrate our quality, but we did.

The Lady Eagles: Mighty TrinityIt was amazing to watch Mighty Trinity in action: 8 playing against 11 -no subs- in our first collegiate match ever! Final score: Trinity 2-Evergreen 0. What made Trinity mighty was not the score, but the attitude of our team working together, with the occasional extra burst of energy from one individual or another to carry the rest of the team. Each player set aside the odds and circumstances, focused on what we could do, and ultimately got the job done!

Mighty Trinity…

This scrappy women’s team is a microcosm of our little college: For 67 years, the little underdog college; others have given up even against better odds; of the original 16 Lutheran Bible Institutes, only Trinity remains in the game. Mighty Trinity, bowing to God’s faithful hand over us, remains and in many ways thrives!

We are so humble and grateful for this new academic year in which we renew our commitment as a community to learn, work, worship, and serve together. We start the year with over 70 new students, the most we have had in nearly 15 years. As a community, we still have many challenges facing us, but we will do like the Mighty Trinity soccer teams and focus on what we can do, rely on God, and get the job done.

For a long time, one of my favorite verses of scripture has been Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able … to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think (imagine) according to the power that works within us.” We are mighty in a unique way. Trinity is mighty because of the grace, mercy and power we receive from Christ as we find practical, authentic ways to live by faith. We stare down tough odds with peace and joy because we can trust that GOD IS ABLE.


Hidden Teachers

On occasions, the greatest teachers are often overlooked. They are out there ready to teach us, but for some poor learners, like me, they are somehow hidden from our sight. These dynamic “hidden teachers” are named adversity and affliction.

Why is it that so often our greatest learning moments come in pain, despair, trouble, disappointment and hardship? Why is it that I am I so sure of myself I don’t seem to learn until the teachers of adversity and affliction take over the class? Dang it, I wish we sat in the front row during prosperity and affluence, but that is NOT the way we are made. We love to be self-reliant and when things go well, we don’t seem to attend class at all. I guess we hope one of the smart ones attend class and takes good notes.

“How gracious He will be when you cry for help. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more, with your own eyes you will see them” Isaiah 30:19

In order to be sustained physically we need bread and water, so too, in order to learn, accept the good bread of adversity and the sustaining water of affliction.