Q&A With Past Chapel President Nicole (Lauck) Finnesand '11
Meet Nicole (Lauck) Finnesand '11
Past Chapel President
Q. Where are you now? Please share your location and job title, and provide a description of what your position entails (chief responsibilities, etc.).
A. I live in Sioux Falls with my husband and son. I teach seventh and eighth grade language arts at Tri-Valley Middle School just north of Sioux Falls. I have about 130 students and focus on teaching writing and reading informational text.
Q. At Augustana, faith is certainly nurtured in Chapel, but it is also nourished throughout campus — in our classrooms and labs, in rehearsals and at practice, in quiet consultation with professors and staff, in our residence halls and in countless other places. Please share a bit about how Campus Ministry at Augustana influenced your life.
A. Campus ministry gave me valuable leadership opportunities. I had the chance to be part of a team and to learn how to plan, collaborate and carry out our mission on campus. Through weekly chapel responsibilities, I gained experience to be a leader in my church. One of my passion projects at Augie was planning Faith Fest, an annual gathering for local youth. I learned how to lead and coordinate people while planning for and carrying out the event, and those planning skills have served me well in my career as a teacher. The opportunity to worship among my peers and professors was also influential. I grew to love that 10 a.m. chapel hour in between classes as a time to worship and connect with God and the community of faith. This is something that is so challenging to maintain in the "real world," especially as a new mom. Overall, the lasting commitment to faith in daily living and sharing God's promises amidst all life's activities is a habit instilled in me at Augustana and that remains part of my values today.
Q. Please also share how your faith was nurtured outside of Chapel — by professors in class, by peer advisors, by friends, through participation in clubs or intramurals, etc.
A. So many places and experiences at Augie worked to strengthen my faith by challenging me, nurturing me and even giving me the chance to encounter different traditions religious beliefs. Whether it was singing in choir, working at the Elmen, living in the dorms, or tutoring in the writing center, many activities gave me the chance to see people expressing their faith and to live among them and be emboldened by their examples. I have always had a quiet faith that I strive to live out through my actions and service to others, but it was so inspiring to see others choosing to live their faith out in the same and different ways. I could look to the students, staff and faculty around me as examples of different people all living faithfully, each in his or her own way. Their examples helped me form my own faith vision for how I wanted to live out my faith in the "real world" amidst a career, marriage, family, etc. I always had my parents and family as examples of Christian living, but seeing other influential adults like my professors and campus ministry staff living out their faith in their work had a positive impact on me. I valued their examples as role models for my own life.
Another influential experience for me was participation in Civitas, the honors program. Through reading and studying some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's works and through courses on topics like justice, freedom and responsibility, I had the opportunity to explore tough questions of faith and discipleship in a world that often scoffs at these Christian principles. In each Civitas course it seemed the meainginful discussion always made its way back to how to live out the principles of a Christian life amidst the real world's contradictory values. These discussions of faith and living were so influential on my faith.
Q. How does Faith continue to serve as your compass?
A. Faith is the foundation for my life. In everything I do, I strive to use that foundation as the basis for my decisions and actions. As a teacher, wife, mother and citizen, I use my faith to live a life of service, peace, hope and compassion.
Q. How as your faith helped you navigate through life's changes and challenges?
A. One of God's promises is to be faithful to His people, but the promise of faithfulness does not mean life will be without challenges. God is faithful through the big challenges like the need for a job change, depression, financial stress, miscarriages, infertility and through the daily challenges of being a wife, mother, teacher, homeowner and friend. God is faithful to His promises of comfort and presence amidst the stress. In my life I see God speaking life and comfort through people like my husband, son, friends, coworkers, and family. When I am navigating through the mess of life, I know that I can rely on my faith to give me hope when I feel hopeless, peace when I feel lost, and comfort when I feel anxious. In the middle of these challenges is where I often find God's strength and steadfast love.
Q. Who was your most inspiring professor at Augie, and why?
A. So many professors come to mind as inspirations to me. At the top of my list would be Dr. Sandra Looney. I enjoyed our conversations during and outside of class, and her teaching was excellent! Her classes were always full of nuggets of truth about life amidst the important lessons about writing and literature. One of my very favorite classes was her writing seminar my senior year. A close second was a J-term class about Japanese literature during which she showed such warm hospitality to invite our small class to her home for tea and Breadsmith and what I'm sure was enlightened conversation about Murakami and other literary texts and themes. I hope that I can be a teacher like her: She shows passion and knowledge of her content, a genuine interest in her students, a sense of humor, and wasn't afraid to learn and explore alongside us.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
A. It's been six years since graduating from Augie. At the risk of sounding unoriginal, my greatest personal satisfaction is my life right now. I have a supportive, loving husband who's adventuring beside me, a beautiful, happy son who was born last fall, a fulfilling career, a house that we recently built, an opportunity to engage in hobbies I enjoy and find meaningful, and a church family that's doing meaningful ministry in the community. Blessings abound! Not that life is without its challenges, but I am so content and happy with where my life is right now.