Why is Gustavus doing this?

The Center for Servant Leadership

Gustavus created the Center for Servant Leadership because it is central to who we are and what we do as a church-related, liberal arts college. At the heart of the College’s mission is a view of education that is oriented toward developing the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – for lives of leadership and service. This mission is deeply rooted in the College’s Lutheran heritage, which is also intentionally welcoming of each person’s rootedness in their own traditions. A core gift of this heritage, which is also to be found in many spiritual and wisdom traditions around the world, is the claim that every person has a calling, a vocation that can be discovered and lived through attending to the needs of others. Every person is empowered to act. In the eyes of this tradition, one’s occupation, family life, citizenship, and leisure activities all are vehicles of vocation and potential opportunities to offer acts of leadership.

The Center will help to enhance the distinctive qualities and benefits of a Gustavus education in the face of pressures merely to credential our graduates for employment, or pressures to serve institutions or material ambitions to the exclusion of serving the world, or pressures to become an elite but unaffiliated college. The Center is needed because familiarity on the part of some people with other denominational patterns and with the non-sectarian model of higher education generates false expectations, among individuals both on and off campus, about the identity of this church-related college. The contemporary societal tendency (shared by many in the church) is to question the importance of a specific denominational identity. The case needs to be made—and the new Center will help to make it—that loyalty to this tradition strengthens the academic program and equips it to serve the larger community more effectively. The Office of Church Relations should not “go it alone.” The Center is needed because individualism, civic disengagement, a sense of entitlement, and a privatized understanding of success have made the task of encouraging a sense of vocation more demanding. The CVR should not “go it alone.” The Center is needed because the demand for and complexity of community-based learning are increasing, as is the need for civically engaged liberal arts education in the face of the unprecedented perils and promises of our time. The Community Service Center should not “go it alone.”