News From the President

Augustana is monitoring and responding to the outbreak of the respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. This is the President's latest message.

As of Friday, March 13

Dear Augustana Students, Parents, Faculty and Staff,

It is with a humble heart that I share this update based on significant developments over the past two days and our desire to act in the best interests of all of you and our local community. I am especially grateful for the wisdom and generous spirit of so many Augustana faculty, staff and administrators as we work together during this challenging and anxious time.

While thankfully there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the Augustana community, local reports indicate that there are confirmed cases in the county and state. National and global reports make clear that the virus can spread quickly, and the Governor just declared a state of emergency for South Dakota. The City of Sioux Falls also has declared a state of emergency, thereby restricting movement and limiting gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the illness.


Beginning Monday, March 23, through Friday, April 10, all classes will temporarily move online. We will resume in-person classes on Tuesday, April 14, following the Easter holiday. Augustana professors, in coordination with the Provost’s Office, will communicate next week with students and provide guidance for transitioning to online learning and accessing academic and student support services. Circumstances, of course, will continue to evolve, and our risk-assessment team will continue to monitor conditions daily and evaluate options for modified curriculum delivery and other campus programming throughout the balance of the semester.


We advise students who traveled home or elsewhere during spring break to stay home or return home for the next four weeks to engage in classes online through April 10 while limiting potential exposure to illness. More details regarding when and how to retrieve books and laptops from campus housing will be provided as soon as practicable. We encourage students who remained on campus during the break to consider the option of returning home, if feasible, in order to limit exposure and engage in classes online. For any student with extenuating circumstances for whom returning home would impose an undue hardship, we will make available both housing and dining services on campus to ensure the health and well-being of every student. All students wishing to remain on campus or return to university-owned housing must apply.


It is important for everyone to understand that campus operations will be ongoing, with responsible adjustments related to a temporary online learning environment. Therefore, faculty and staff are expected to be on campus and to undertake work in the ordinary course until notice of any schedule adjustments are announced by chairs of divisions, departments and other supervisors. While on campus, we will continue to implement heightened sanitary functions such as frequent cleaning and to encourage best practices for social distancing and preventive hygiene. Employees who have special circumstances or underlying health conditions should contact their supervisors to discuss alternate arrangements.


Effective immediately through April 14, we are suspending all travel outside of Sioux Falls for any university business or activities. The finance and administration office can provide assistance to anyone who has already booked travel or registered for professional development opportunities outside of the Sioux Falls area. Any travel beyond this date involving international or domestic air travel will require approval by an executive vice president on a case-by-case basis.


As previously communicated, the university has canceled or postponed all large gatherings and issued guidance for events and meetings that involve more than 25 people. Augustana’s athletic conference, the NSIC, also has suspended all athletic activities at this time. If you have questions regarding university-sponsored events, please contact


So what does the next month look and feel like? To be sure, as a community of learners who value face-to-face interaction and relationships, being away from one another may cause strain ... if we let it. But this decision and what we are undertaking reflects our core values and puts into practice — for all of us — precisely what we seek to learn and teach: critical thinking, collaborative problem-solving, innovation and effective communication combined with mutual respect, compassion and grace that are essential for strong, trusting relationships that build community.

By staying connected, using the gift of technology in the most positive way, I have every confidence that our faculty will provide the high-quality curriculum our students expect, and our students will achieve the learning outcomes our faculty expect. Our online learning will be relational because that is what drives the teaching excellence of our faculty. Our online learning will be relational because our students will help make it so. We are up to this challenge because of the strength of our campus community and the power of God’s grace to help guide us through difficult times.

I know that moving to a temporary online learning environment will raise a number of good and important questions in the days ahead. Based on the insight and good planning of many talented people working long hours, we are anticipating and working through many of the questions you may have in order to provide timely and specific responses. We ask for your patience and understanding as we prepare additional communications to students and parents, to faculty and staff, and to academic and community partners as well.

Finally, we pray for those who are ill and for those most at risk. We pray for strength and courage in the days ahead. And we give thanks for the blessings in our midst and the love we so willingly extend to others in times of greatest need.

With gratitude for the Augustana community,

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin