Andrea Talentino never expected to find herself living in the Midwest. An educator with deep ties to, and a long history of serving at, East Coast institutions, she nevertheless felt called to Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.
Talentino, who was announced in December as Augustana’s next president, isn’t Lutheran herself but immediately recognized the ELCA institution’s values as her own. “When I read about Augustana, when I spent time there and when I saw its meaning to the larger community, I knew it was the right place, and that’s all because of those values,” she said.
“What’s really important to me about Augustana as a Lutheran institution is how that shapes its mission and purpose and the value they provide, not only to students but to society writ large.”
The college’s five faith commitments—interfaith engagement, social justice, spiritual exploration, reasoned examination and vocational discernment—resonated particularly for her. “Those are things to which I’ve devoted my life and my career and that I think are absolutely essential for our students to understand, advance and model while they’re on campus and then when they go on to their professional lives,” she said.
“I knew it was the right place, and that’s all because of those values.”
Talentino, currently provost of Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., will be the ninth president in Augustana’s 161-year history, effective July 1. Before arriving at Nazareth, she served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norwich University, Northfield, Vt. Prior to that she was an associate dean at Drew University in Madison, N.J. She succeeds Steven C. Bahls, who announced his retirement last year.
“We’ve got lots of challenges we need to solve,” Talentino said of the world into which Augustana students and alums are stepping. She believes they will be uniquely prepared to address these challenges: “Those solutions are going to be driven by young people who have care for others, are energized by problem-solving, want to work with people and ideas who are different, and know that the most important answers are never easy.”
Talentino identified four main areas of immediate focus for her leadership of Augustana: ensuring that academic programs are strong and compelling for current and prospective students; continuing to build Augustana’s commitment to diversity and inclusion; enhancing and integrating the student experience; and increasing collaboration with other institutions and with the community. “I really value connection and collaboration,” she said, “and although higher ed is often focused on competition and independence, I think there’s a lot we can accomplish together.”