President Ankerberg’s installation has revived many of the hopes and concerns which surrounded Concordia University Wisconsin’s Presidential Search process early last year.
Few students are particularly intense about their ideas, but those who are demonstrate a full spectrum of conviction both in support of and opposition to the new president.
All sources were interviewed before the Student Listening Sessions (scheduled for March 1, 2023), and therefore represent a snapshot of initial thoughts shortly after President Ankerberg’s installation. Students that were willing to share their thoughts most often requested to remain anonymous, and their wishes have been respected.
The Office of the President declined an interview due to time constraints, but recommended that students attend the Listening Sessions for Ankerberg’s responses to their concern.
Although students were universally aware that Concordia has a new president, their thoughts on the change had much more variance.
Most students declined to comment on their anticipations for the new administration, with the most common response being, “I don’t know, man.” Email requests received only 18 responses out of 71 sent, and face-to-face interview requests were rejected in all but one case.
Some students were willing to respond and held a neutral position.
One student, when asked about significant concerns they had, responded that there were none which they believed President Ankerberg should address.
“Because Concordia is an institution run by humans (just as the church is) it is bound to have its flaws and shortcomings, as we’ve seen in the past and will continue to see in the future. President Ankerberg cannot fix those failures, and we should not expect him to,” the student wrote.
Referencing the commonly expressed concern about the Lutheran identity of the university, the student affirmed their confidence in the university’s current direction.
“I am not one of [the students concerned about Concordia’s theological foundation] because I’ve seen firsthand the impact that Campus Ministry, our campus pastors, individual professors, and individual students have had on the people around them,” they wrote.
Ezekiel Potts (‘24) said that the only problem he could think of was the lack of a president.
“Concordia has been a great university and my concerns have generally been limited. I was slightly concerned last year when we didn’t have a President, and when the Presidential process was delayed, but Ankerberg has fixed that with accepting the job,” Potts said.
In the minority of student opinion were those who shared concerns about university mission and treatment of individuals or programs.
Trinity Kelly (‘24) was primarily concerned with the lack of racial awareness at Concordia and hopes that President Ankerberg will commit to protecting diversity and solving racial issues.
“As a Black student here at CUW, I have first-hand experience with racial ignorance presented by my professors and peers alike… With the lack of accountability for these individuals, CUW is sending a message of disregard and indifference toward all its POC students,” Kelly said.
Hallie Barteau (‘23) shared a uniquely blended hope for the new administration, supporting welcome for all regardless of identity but also concerned about the negative effects of some diversity-driven movements.
“I hope that President Ankerberg will help to reduce the prevalence of critical race theory within our university and minimize the negative aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion on our campus… At the same time, I hope that President Ankerberg takes steps to make all students feel welcome and loved at our university no matter their race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Most students with a willingness to express their opinion shared common themes: concern for Lutheran identity and values, lack of administrative transparency, food safety, and an increase in anti-Christian culture among students and student-athletes.
Individual students asked for transparency about administrative changes such as class cancellations in Spring of 2023, resident sexual assault convictions, and financial support for theatre and church work programs.
Their shared wish for transparency centered primarily around areas for which Dr. Ankerberg is directly responsible: the mission and vision of the university.
Ambrose Shaltanis (‘24) said he has been left with many questions due to the confusion surrounding Concordia’s end goal.
“Is the goal of CUW merely expansion? What demographic is it catering to and why?… The purpose of betterment of mind, body and spirit is for service to Christ. How is this being carried out both at school and after?”, asked Shaltanis.
Isaiah Mudge (‘23) has been left with concerning answers to those questions. Looking to the original purpose of Concordia, he expressed his belief that expansion has so far been harming church worker education.
“Our Pre-Seminary students are dwindling right now and little is being done about it. Classes that churchwork students need are being cancelled because there aren’t enough churchwork students. Defending this mission has fallen from CUW’s focus when it should be number one,” he said.
Although students expressed significant concerns, a vast majority are hopeful for the future of the university under Ankerberg.
One student wrote, “I trust fully that God is in control of all situations and will use President Ankerberg as He sees fit.”
When asked if they had more hope or concern for the university under President Ankerberg, the majority of students answered, “Hope.”
—Samuel Boehlke is a writer and web editor for The Beacon, the official student newspaper of Concordia University Wisconsin. He is a Junior pursuing a degree in Mass Communications.