New Schools, Programs announced for Augustana University

A faculty member guides a nursing student through a procedure on a dummy

By Greta Stewart and Jill Wilson

As Augustana University begins to implement phases of its Viking Bold: The Journey to 2030 strategic plan, nearly every element of university life could experience energizing change – especially those opportunities related to academics.
Dr. Colin Irvine, Augustana’s provost and executive vice president, is busy navigating everything from a new academic structure to emerging professional programs.

“It’s exciting,” said Irvine. “We’re engaged in an intentional approach to creating our future, integrating and elevating the liberal arts throughout the institution in ways that are original and sustainable.” 

Executing the academic elements of the Viking Bold plan begins with restructuring academic programs into colleges and schools, supported by a strategic plan built upon the university’s core values of Christian, liberal arts, excellence, community and service.

A College of Arts and Sciences is being organized, and all students will take courses housed in this college, including those tied to the core curriculum as well as programs in all three current academic divisions, meaning the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. From there, they will be able to take courses and pursue degrees in other schools – such as Augustana’s new School of Education and School of Music – depending on their degree programs and academic interests.

In April, the university announced Dr. Laurie Daily would serve as the inaugural dean of the Sharon Lust School of Education.

Daily joined Augustana in 2015 as chair of the Education Department. In addition to her position as chair, she has also served as interim associate vice president for Graduate and Continuing Education from 2016-2018. She is continuing her role in supporting Graduate and Continuing Education as the director.

The Sharon Lust School of Education is diverse within itself, with six unique undergraduate majors and two graduate programs. Students can double major within the department for a specialized career or pair up with a major outside of the department to teach secondary education. In addition, the Augie Access program is housed within the School of Education.

“I am honored to be selected as the dean and help launch Phase I of the university’s strategic plan,” says Daily. “Creating a school that will inspire, teach and connect future educators as well as professionals in sign language interpreting and communication disorders, who are deeply committed to the core values of Augustana is such an honor and privilege.”

Some academic departments have become complex enough – such as education – that it makes sense to organize a school around it.

“We looked at a number of models for doing this, with the goal of developing one specific to Augustana that does not create any barriers for students who wish to explore or change paths,” Irvine said. “So, all will come into the College of Arts and Sciences and from there can take one or many courses in the other colleges and schools.”


A School of Music was established in May and is also now fully operational, with Dr. Peter Folliard serving as the inaugural dean.

Folliard, a New Jersey native, joined Augustana in 2017 as the conductor of the Augustana Orchestra. Folliard is also the visionary behind Augustana’s world-class recording studio, Studio 47, which produces a number of podcasts and recordings.
Augustana University has a long tradition of music making, with 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of the Augustana Choir. Augustana’s music ensembles are comprised of students from every major, with approximately 250 students across campus participating in one or more ensembles. With offerings in band, choir, orchestra, jazz, percussion, opera theatre and chamber music ensembles, Augustana provides its students the opportunity to study with world-class faculty in newly renovated facilities including Hamre Recital Hall, the Lillehaug Instrumental Room and the Winden Choral Room.

“We anticipate these schools will elevate the profile of academic programs in the eyes of the region and particularly the way they are appreciated and accessed by members of the Sioux Falls community,” Irvine explained.


Irvine is especially energized by Augustana’s new Center for Interdisciplinary Programs, which is being established to coordinate existing and enhance new interdisciplinary offerings.

The center will offer programs such as medical humanities and society, which he said pairs well with programs in healthcare professions such as nursing, biology, business administration, athletic training, philosophy and theology to “complement students’ understanding of health, health care in our culture, and provide the full range of experiences — from learning about ethics to issues and problems and opportunities associated with health care,” he said.

Another program that’s part of the interdisciplinary offerings is the environmental studies major that offers graduates the training and skills necessary to help them lead the world towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Dr. David O’Hara, professor of philosophy and environmental studies and Augustana’s director of sustainability, said, “We view environmental studies as a way to help every student use their talents to make a positive difference in our community. This is about loving our neighbors as ourselves, using every tool at our disposal.”
Environmental studies at Augustana will be interdisciplinary as the major will bring together the tools and perspectives of multiple disciplines, ranging from environmental chemistry, photography, computer science and anthropology to environmental philosophy, theology, business and nature writing. Students who choose to study environmental studies at the university will choose a disciplinary focus. The major culminates in a senior thesis and in the completion of a community-oriented practical project that aims to make a positive contribution to the relationships between humans and the environment in our community.

“We’re looking at programs that are distinctive, innovative, financially sound and place-based. We want these programs and the faculty and students who drive them to draw on where we are located and to provide meaningful, transformative experiences in and out of the classroom,” says Irvine. 


Viking Bold’s academic goals also include establishing new academic programs that will grow enrollment, diversify revenue and address area workforce priorities.

A professional school is planned to prepare students for a specialized field. Augustana is conducting feasibility studies for optometry and dentistry programs.

“Right now, we’re thinking we will end up settling on one, but both are possible. We’re really just beginning,” Irvine said. “We have undertaken initial research studies to identify these two programs as being warranted for further exploration, and in phase one of the strategic plan we’re continuing that investigative process.”

Augustana will be looking at how to partner with area institutions to offer something “decidedly different,” he added. “We’re not planning to add another professional program. We’re instead trying to add a different and unique program that represents the best fit for the community and the university.”

There also are undergraduate programs in biomechanical engineering and forensics being developed.

“We’re working on those this coming year,” Irvine said. “And we’re looking to partner with area hospitals, medical schools and criminology departments in the case of forensics. We believe these programs build on strengths that already exist at Augustana, and we anticipate rolling them out within the three-year time horizon tied to Phase I of our 2030 strategic plan.”

One new professional program – the MBA – has already launched with solid interest from existing undergraduates and professionals in the area seeking to further their education. The first undergraduates in a four-plus-one program began this fall, and the first cohort of two-year MBA students will start a year later in the summer of 2021.

“Because we have such a strong business program and we’re so well situated to offer it in Sioux Falls, it’s always been a priority to add this opportunity,” Irvine said. “Given Augustana’s outstanding reputation for rigor and academic excellence, the response has been very encouraging, but not surprising.”


A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program also is moving forward, with a director in place and a clinical coordinator being hired in the coming months.    

DPT Program Director Dr. Matt Volansky has spent his career leading and navigating change as a lifelong learner. Not only does he have an MBA in healthcare, he just completed his Ph.D. in biomedical informatics involving the application of machine learning within the physical therapy profession.

“The DPT degree is innovative, collaborative and flexible. It will give students an interdisciplinary approach to developing valuable clinical data analysis skills through coursework delivered using a revolutionary hybrid blend of technology and hands-on learning,” says Volansky.

The experiential components of the DPT degree will expand opportunities for social innovation and entrepreneurship, encourage connections with alumni in related fields, and facilitate partnerships across the campus, in the community, and beyond.

Volansky said, “It will ensure that Augustana will be the first choice for many talented, ambitious and diverse prospective students, and it will produce alumni who are prepared to address the health care challenges of tomorrow and embrace lifelong learning.”

As the program continues to come together, clinical options will be offered to students in Sioux Falls, throughout the Upper Great Plains Region, and beyond.

Augustana also will be adding graduate and doctoral-level nursing programs, with emphasis on education, management, acute care and genomics.

“We’re developing those nursing programs in the next year,” Irvine said. “And the genomics piece, in particular, will build on the strengths of our genetic counseling program. 