Augustana is ranked No. 1 on U.S. News' 2021 Most Innovative Schools list among liberal arts colleges in Illinois and No. 42 nationally.
In spring/summer 2020, U.S. News asked top officials at national liberal arts colleges to identify which of their Best Colleges-ranked peers were making the most innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.
The rankings represent the schools that received the most nominations for making promising changes on their campuses.
"In many ways, college campuses can be and are natural places for innovation," said Kent Barnds, executive vice president for external relations. "At Augustana, we have found ways to create value by applying unique solutions to real challenges. We've found innovative solutions for institutional challenges, the challenges students face, and for the challenges that exist beyond our campus."
• The country’s 2008 economic meltdown hit higher education especially hard. In 2009-2010, while other schools were cutting programs and personnel, Augustana added nine majors and two varsity sports and celebrated the college’s 150th anniversary. Continuing that mindset, Augustana added three varsity sports, a major and a master’s program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about how Augustana tackles challenging times.
• To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus in the fall of 2020, Augustana students led a successful Vikings Take Care education/awareness campaign to promote mask-wearing, social distancing, small-group gatherings and more. The video/poster/social media effort featured students, faculty and staff encouraging everyone to take care of themselves and each other.
• The idea for an eSport Club at Augustana originated during a campus meeting of a task force called AFITT — Augustana Future Initiatives Think Tank — that welcomes new ideas from faculty and staff. Look at our eSports Club today!
• Augustana analyzed its cost structure in 2015. The resulting report, funded by the Knowlton Foundation and prepared by ALIX Partners, was not unexpected: Augustana needed to become leaner and more efficient in management practices to help ensure financial stability for the college and provide a transformative experience for students. Here’s what happened next.
• A program inspired by an Augustana student in 2010, Augie Choice allows every student to apply for a grant up to $2,000 for study abroad, research or an internship. Since then, an average of 550 students a year from all majors have received a total of $9 million in Augie Choice funding to explore the world, try out a career or investigate something they’re passionate about. Innovative when unveiled, the program has since been replicated by other schools.
• Augustana’s transition from trimesters to semesters in 2019-2020 created a new academic opportunity for students — a three-and-a-half week January term (J-term). Classes, ranging from geology to philosophy to communications and fine arts, are held on campus and in other U.S. locations, plus many new study-abroad options are available. J-term gives students a new avenue to experience international study or a class of interest outside their major.
• From the ground up, Augustana creates collaborative spaces designed to support a multi-faceted student. Since the early 2000s, campus improvements have been planned to combine the outlets students seek. Facilities are approached with a team mindset that involves multiple partners across campus. The Dining Hall being built adjacent to the library and the new natatorium next to the public health department show how spaces are brought to life with creativity.
• The college broke ground on the $20 million Peter J. Lindberg, M.D., Center for Health and Human Performance in early 2020. The state-of-the-art facility combines academics, athletics and wellness to create a space that brings physical and mental wellness together.
• A three-year $1 million Blue, Gold and Beautiful campaign was launched in 2018 to maintain Augustana's status as one of America's most beautiful campuses. The 115-acre wooded campus is a point of pride for current students, alumni and employees, and grabs the attention of visiting prospective students. From the $1 million investment, $10,000 was set aside for student and employee suggestions.
• With the help of student government president Kaitlyn Watkins ‘21, Augustana launched the Drive Around Tour podcast. When families could not walk around campus with a guide in the summer of 2020 because of COVID-19 precautions, they were invited to cruise around campus in their own car and listen to the podcast hosted by Watkins.
• In the fall of 2020, when high school students ordinarily would meet with admissions counselors at their schools or on campus, Augustana’s admissions team had to get creative. That’s when they started popping up — literally. The admissions team hosted meetings on the road, coordinating 20+ events across Illinois and Iowa to meet students in their hometowns with a mobile campus quad.
• While many colleges and universities recently turned to test-optional admissions policies in reaction to problems presented by the pandemic, Augustana has been test-optional for nearly 20 years. The admissions team noticed long ago the benefits to adopting a test-optional policy, one where ACT and SAT scores are not required for admission. Augustana students haven't been defined by test scores for more than two decades.
Read about more Augustana College rankings and recognition from U.S. News & World Report and other publications and organizations, as well as The Council of Independent Colleges report on innovation that highlights Augustana.