Mission and History

Academic Catalog 2010–2011

Gustavus Adolphus College is a church-related, residential liberal arts college firmly rooted in its Swedish and Lutheran heritage.

The College offers students of high aspiration and promise a liberal arts education of recognized excellence provided by faculty who embody the highest standards of teaching and scholarship. The Gustavus curriculum is designed to bring students to mastery of a particular area of study within a general framework that is both interdisciplinary and international in perspective.

The College strives to balance educational tradition with innovation and to foster the development of values as an integral part of intellectual growth. It seeks to promote the open exchange of ideas and the independent pursuit of learning.

The College aspires to be a community of persons from diverse backgrounds who respect and affirm the dignity of all people. It is a community where a mature understanding of the Christian faith and lives of service are nurtured and students are encouraged to work toward a just and peaceful world.

The purpose of a Gustavus education is to help students attain their full potential as persons, to develop in them a capacity and passion for lifelong learning, and to prepare them for fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society.


Eric Norelius, an immigrant Swedish Lutheran pastor, founded the College in
Red Wing, Minnesota, in 1862. It was moved to East Union the following year, where it was called the Minnesota Preparatory School. In 1865, when Swedish Lutherans were celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the death of St. Ansgar, it was renamed St. Ansgar’s Academy. The school was moved to St. Peter in 1876 and named Gustavus Adolphus College to honor the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf (1594–1632), who defended Protestantism during the Thirty Years War.

Originally a college of the Swedish Lutheran Church in Minnesota, Gustavus was founded in order to provide pastors and teachers for the Swedish immigrants settling in Minnesota. Until 1962, Gustavus was supported by the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Lutheran Church, and then from 1962 through 1987 by the Minnesota and Red River Valley Synods of the Lutheran Church in America.

Today, Gustavus Adolphus College operates under the auspices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations.

The Campus and the Community

The Gustavus campus overlooks St. Peter and the beautiful Minnesota River valley from its position on the west bank. Christ Chapel with its soaring spire is the focal point of the 330-acre campus. Arranged in an oval around the chapel are 29 other major buildings, including 13 residence halls, classroom and service buildings, recreational and athletic facilities, and field laboratories. At least one specimen of every tree native to Minnesota can be found on the landscaped campus.

St. Peter is a community of approximately 9,000 located an hour south of the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area and ten minutes north of Mankato (population 35,000). Surrounded by rich farmland and wooded areas and bordered by the Minnesota River, St. Peter is a historic city that has produced five state governors—nine, if former Gustavus and St. Ansgar’s students are included. Rich in Native

American and settler lore, St. Peter was the site of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse
des Sioux.

Programs such as the St. Peter Learning Community, the Big Partners/Little Partners program, a tutoring program at the high school, and a volunteer network at the state hospital help bring the communities of the College and town together.


Thirty major buildings situated throughout 330 acres provide the instructional setting for Gustavus students. Notable among them are:

Christ Chapel: A striking place of worship in the center of the campus, Christ Chapel seats 1,200 people and houses a four-manual, 64-rank Hilgreen-Lane organ—the largest of the seven organs available at Gustavus.

Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library: provides both print and electronic resources through a carefully-chosen local collection and access to collections at other libraries. The library has more than 300,000 volumes, nearly 900 print periodical subscriptions, more than 20,000 electronic titles, a Web-accessible library catalog, campuswide access to many full-text periodicals and databases, and research assistance available seven days a week..

Classroom Buildings: include A.H. Anderson Social Science Center, Ogden P. Confer and Edwin J. Vickner Language Halls, P.A. Mattson Hall (for education and nursing), the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science, Old Main, F.W. Olin Hall (for mathematics, computer science, and physics), and the Harold and Ruth Schaefer Fine Arts Center.

Lund Center for Physical Education and Health: features a 25-meter by 25-yard swimming pool with diving well, racquetball courts, gymnastics practice and performance areas, aerobic facilities, a sports forum highlighted by a 200-meter indoor track and six playing courts for basketball and volleyball, and an arena for ice hockey, ice skating, and indoor tennis. Rounding out Lund Center are facilities for athletic training, a human performance laboratory, a weight training room, coaches’ offices, and the intramural athletic headquarters.

C. Charles Jackson Campus Center: A tangible commitment to community, hospitality, interaction, and involvement, the Jackson Campus Center centralizes a number of student service programs and offices, including the offices of the Dean of Students, Residential Life, Drug and Alcohol Education, Student Activities, and the Health Service, as well as the Diversity Center. The Campus Center also houses the “Gustavus Market Place” and the Evelyn Young Dining Room, a state-of-the-art dining service facility that comfortably and efficiently meets the needs of the entire campus community, and a more informal “Courtyard Café,” serving sandwiches, desserts, beverages, and other “grab and go” items. Also housed in the center are the Book Mark, the campus post office, Printing Services, student organization offices, the Office of Admission, and a variety of public and semi-public spaces that allow and encourage students, faculty, staff, and others to gather informally.

Computer Facilities: Gustavus students have free access to campus computing labs equipped with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux machines. In addition, Ethernet and access to the Internet are available in all student rooms.


Gustavus is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to award the Bachelor of Arts degree. It is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Its programs are accredited by the American Chemical Society, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the National Association of Schools of Music, the American Association of Health Education, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, the Commission on the Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The College is a member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching and Learning, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and is on the approved list of the American Association of University Women.

Measuring the Quality

There are a number of yardsticks by which to measure the quality of an institution: a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, low student-faculty ratio, high retention and graduation rates, strong graduate school and job placement rates, and more. By these measures, Gustavus demonstrates excellence. Additionally, the College continually assesses the effectiveness of its programs through departmental assessment of student learning outcomes, regular review of its general education programs, and involvement in research initiatives such as the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, funded by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, and a value-added assessment project to measure writing, critical thinking, and civic engagement funded by the Teagle Foundation.

The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education has ranked Gustavus among the top colleges in the country in the percentage of alumni who contribute to the school. This is strong evidence of the degree of satisfaction that Gustavus graduates have with their educational experience.

The Gustavus Experience

The Student Body, Retention, and Graduation Rates

Gustavus Adolphus College enrolls approximately 2,400 students from 46 states and some 20 foreign countries. These students represent a wide spectrum of economic and sociological backgrounds, as well as a variety of church affiliations—the majority being Lutheran. Gustavus is proud of its extraordinary rate of retention from year to year, which averages 93 percent. Also noteworthy is the four-year graduation rate, which in the last four years has ranged from 75 to 80 percent. After graduation, approximately one-third of Gustavus students enroll directly in graduate or professional schools.

Student Development Philosophy

The student development philosophy at Gustavus is perhaps best described this way: A student’s education is more than the sum of classroom experiences. Gustavus is concerned with the development of the whole student, including intellectual, social, spiritual, cultural, and physical dimensions.

This concern is supported in the Student Affairs Division, which is headed by the Dean of Students and comprises the following areas: Residential Life; Counseling, Health, and Wellness; the Career Center; Student Activities; Multicultural Programs; Campus Safety; and Community Service.

Residential Life

Gustavus is a residential college, committed to residence hall living as a vital complement to its academic program. Living within a community of peers, interacting with a wide array of individuals, learning from one another, assuming individual and corporate living responsibilities, and developing interpersonal skills and lifelong friendships are all aspects of residence hall living that support personal education, growth, and development.

This being the case, all full-time students—first-year through senior—are required to live in College-operated residences throughout their enrollment. In recent years, the number of students has exceeded the number of on-campus beds. Thus, a small number of senior and junior students are granted permission by the Director of Residential Life to reside off-campus. First-year students are housed in three of the thirteen coed residence halls.

Each residence hall is equipped with lounges, study areas, and laundry facilities. Most residence halls have kitchenettes and recreation equipment. All students housed in residence halls eat their meals in the College’s Market Place Dining Service. The standard meal plan option provides a declining balance and the cost is included in the tuition, room, and meal plan fee. Students housed in on-campus apartments and houses may choose whether or not to participate in a meal plan. Other meal plan options for on- and off-campus students are available. Please contact the student accounts staff in the Finance Office for information.

Each floor or section of a residence hall is assigned a Collegiate Fellow (CF). CFs are upperclass students selected on the basis of scholarship, leadership, experience, and their desire to help other students. They are responsible for informal counseling, assisting their residents in planning activities and programs, monitoring compliance with campus policies, and serving as resource persons in academic advising. Their responsibilities extend to all students in their living unit, as well as the building and campus in general. Collegiate Fellows report to Head Residents, faculty or staff members trained in community building and programming, who also live within the residence halls, and to professional residential life staff members.

Students who do not comply with the College’s residency requirement will be liable for the full room and meal plan fee as if they were living in College housing. The additional costs will not be considered for financial assistance purposes.

Health Service, Counseling, and Wellness

Physical and emotional well-being is fundamental to intellectual development and social maturity, and Gustavus students are encouraged to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves. However, the College recognizes that some health problems are to be expected.

To meet these needs, Gustavus provides an on-campus health service. The Student Health Service provides care and/or referral for acute medical needs, including illness and injury, physical exams, sexual health, mental health, minor procedures, prescription medications, immunizations, etc. Board certified mid-level providers, nurses and office staff are available Monday through Friday at the Student Health Service. A registered dietitian is also available for consultation.

Services rendered by a provider will be billed to the student’s health insurance. Any remaining balance will be billed to the student account. Visits with a nurse or the dietitian are free of charge. No pharmacy services are available on campus; however, prescriptions written by providers may be filled locally. Evening, weekend, and emergency health care is provided at the community hospital, River’s Edge Hospital and Clinic, in St. Peter.

Gustavus also offers a Counseling Center on campus staffed by licensed mental health professionals who provide both individual and group counseling. Students can receive support and treatment for a variety of concerns including grief and loss, identity development, adjustment to transitions, depression, anxiety, sexuality, family of origin, alcohol or drug use, relationships, body image, and other developmental challenges.

The Counseling Center provides consultation services to students, parents, faculty, administrators, and staff. Counseling Center staff also join others on campus in periodically offering programs and workshops designed to prevent problems that students might otherwise develop.

Additional support, education, and counseling for students are also available for alcohol and drug use problems or concerns from the Alcohol/Drug Education Office. The Peer Assistants, peer health educators, also staff the Peer Assistance Center during evenings to provide information and make referrals to on- and off-campus resources.

The Advising Center

The Advising Center coordinates the faculty-based academic advising program, is a resource and support to faculty in their roles as advisers and teachers, and provides a number of academic support services to help students make the most of their academic experience at Gustavus. Staff members are available to discuss a wide range of academic questions, concerns, and issues and refer students to faculty and other resources on campus.

In collaboration with faculty advisers, Advising Center staff furnish information on academic opportunities, course selection, possible majors, and four-year plans. Students use the Center to investigate supplemental opportunities in and out of the classroom and on and off campus, determine what can fit into four years, reexamine major and career decisions, and plan for semester course registrations. Central to the effort is showing students how to be ultimately responsible for pursuing information and making wise decisions.

In addition, because the curriculum at Gustavus is designed to develop a student’s ability to think critically, write and speak clearly, and evaluate as well as analyze values and attitudes, the Advising Center offers academic support services that assist students in this intellectual and personal growth.

Services are provided through individual meetings that assess a student’s needs and concerns. An individualized plan is then developed to strengthen specific academic and study skills in such areas as effective note taking, meaningful textbook reading, exam preparation, time management, and a variety of other skills necessary for college success.

Outreach programs on topics such as academic organizational skills, test anxiety, time management, and study skills necessary for college success are presented to classes, residence hall groups, athletic teams, and other interested organizations.

Disability Services, in cooperation with other individuals and departments, provides access to ensure equality of opportunity and maximal participation in the College’s educational programs. Students may receive reasonable accommodations after they have registered with Disability Services, have interviewed with the Disability Services Coordinator, and have provided documentation no more than three years old.

English Language Learning (ELL) support is available in the Writing Center for individual meetings with students and for consultation with faculty members who have ELL students in their classes. The College’s ELL staff person can provide a letter for a student to bring to his or her professors that explains and supports test-taking accommodations, leaving it to the professors’ discretion whether or not to follow the recommendation. It is expected that competency will develop in students’ beginning semesters.

The Career Center

The Career Center promotes the College mission by helping students develop to their full potential. To that end, the Career Center focuses on individual assistance, self-discovery, experiential education, and the transition from college to work and graduate/professional programs. The Career Center provides information on majors, careers, health professions, employers, internships, and graduate schools; self-assessment activities, credit-bearing internships, and employer/professional school contact; and support through the career development, graduate/professional school, and job search processes.

Career Counseling is available for students seeking to identify their interests, skills, and values. This information is then used as a basis to discuss career options and possible majors. The Career Center provides opportunities for students to learn about career choices. For example, Career Center staff assist students to sort out the amazing array of health professions options and their varying methods for preparation. They are offered information on graduate and professional school choices and a means to assess their fit.

Internships are available for career exploration and skill development. Students may spend an Interim, semester, or summer applying theoretical knowledge to a work environment. Internships are available throughout the country and are appropriate for nearly every academic major at Gustavus.

As students near graduation, they work with Career Management to seek employment, admission to graduate and professional schools, and other opportunities, including volunteer service. In addition to bringing employers to campus, participating in regional job fairs, posting job opportunities, and making referrals, Career Management helps students develop their job search skills.

Center for Vocational Reflection

One of only a few dozen programs like it in the nation, and a leader in a growing movement in higher education, the Center for Vocational Reflection invites and equips everyone in the Gustavus community to consider their lives as a vocation—a calling to live out their gifts, passions, and senses of faith and meaning in ways that benefit the community and help to address the world’s deep needs. Vocation includes but is broader than work or profession. It is a full life of ongoing, active commitment to the welfare of the communities in which one lives.

Through a range of programs, services, and collaborations that weave exploration of vocation into the fabric of the College, including the Servant-Leadership Program, retreats, workshops, academic faculty/staff developments, reading groups, scholars- and artists-in-residence, a resource center, special-project funding, and opportunities for individual and small-group conversation and discernment, the Center helps to educate the whole person for a lifelong exploration of calling, leadership, and service in a global community. The Center works with many other programs and offices across campus to support and coordinate existing programs and to develop new initiatives in three main areas: 1) One set of programs encourages students to think of their lives in terms of vocation and challenges them to lead full lives of commitment, service, and “leadership from within, for the common good”; 2) a second set of programs equips faculty and staff to explore their own sense of calling and nourishes their ability to challenge, guide, and support the life-journeys of students; and 3) a third set of programs builds on Gustavus’ commitments to lifelong learning and community engagement by offering opportunities for alumni, congregations, and other friends of the College to more intentionally live out their vocations in and for the world.

Student Activities and Campus Life

Rounding out the development of the whole student at Gustavus is the opportunity for involvement, service, and leadership through campus activities. With the help of the Student Activities Office, students develop planning, organization, teamwork, and leadership skills as well as make valuable contributions to the campus community through programs and activities.

There are more than 100 different clubs and organizations representing academic, cultural, and religious awareness, as well as service, recreational, social, and special interests. A complete list of recognized student organizations is available from the Student Activities Office or at www.gustavus.edu/organize. A partial list includes:

  • Asian Cultures Club
  • Big Partners/Little Partners
  • Pan Afrikan Student Organization (PASO)
  • Campus Activities Board
  • Gustavus Greens
  • Gustavian Weekly, campus newspaper
  • College Democrats and Republicans
  • Gustavus Youth Outreach
  • International Cultures Club
  • Proclaim
  • Ultimate Frisbee Club
  • Gustavus Outdoor Enthusiasts
  • Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority
  • Womyn’s Awareness Center

Not every organization on campus is coordinated through the Student Activities Office. The more than two dozen musical ensembles, for example, are organized by the Department of Music and are considered academic experiences (a listing of musical ensembles may be found under “Ensemble Performance Studies’’ in the course descriptions of the Department of Music). The Department of Theatre and Dance plans and directs theatrical productions. The fine arts programs director brings numerous professional ensembles, such as the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, to campus. Varsity athletics, intramurals, and club sports receive direction from the Department of Athletics. Many honorary organizations, such as Sigma Xi (scientific research) and Pi Kappa Delta (forensics), are under the direction of academic departments.

Community Service Center

The Community Service Center serves as an active link between Gustavus students and service opportunities in St. Peter and surrounding communities. A recipient of multiple Governor’s Student Service Awards, the Center focuses on fostering student leadership in its programs; reflecting with students on the connections between service, values, and civic responsibility; and linking classroom knowledge with service experience when applicable.

Service opportunities are available in a variety of time commitments, activities, and age groups. In addition to its ongoing programs, the Community Service Center coordinates one-time events each semester, works with professors on service-learning classes, and maintains social justice and service resources for student research.

Religious Life at Gustavus

Part of the College’s mission is to encourage a mature understanding of the Christian faith among its students. This encouragement takes several forms, including daily chapel (where attendance is voluntary), a required religion class substantially within the Christian tradition, and a number of Christian organizations, that exercise faith through worship, service, and outreach. Central to encouraging this understanding is a tolerance for religious diversity and cultural pluralism. Thus, students see the religious life at Gustavus differently according to the emphases they have established for themselves.

Gustavus is a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This affiliation is historic and traditional, as well as a source of financial support. Approximately 50 percent of the College’s students come from Lutheran backgrounds. However, all denominations are represented and all faiths are welcome.

Campus Safety

Campus Safety officers are on duty twenty-four hours a day patrolling the campus, enforcing College rules and regulations and rendering appropriate emergency assistance to all members of the campus community. They have direct communication with the St. Peter Police Department and may also contact responding St. Peter Ambulance personnel. The Office of Campus Safety may be reached by dialing 8888 on campus or by calling the St. Peter Police Department at 931-1550.

Policies and Regulations

Student life policies of the College, including the “Student Conduct Code” and “Campus Judicial Procedures,” are contained in the Gustavus Guide. A reference guide noting the location of the policies and overview of the conduct code is printed and distributed to students at the beginning of the academic year. By accepting admission to Gustavus Adolphus College, each student agrees to live by the standards of this community. Gustavus depends on its students to act with integrity, self-discipline, and mature judgment and to respect the rights and property of all members of the College community. The College also expects that students will know and observe federal, state, and local laws.