Knutson Campus Center is, as the name suggests, the center of student life at Concordia. Multicolored flags hang from the high ceiling, representing the nationalities present on campus, while tables line the large walkway. Most of the tables are for events or student organizations, but one stands out from the crowd. A plain brown table has a sign that simply reads, “The President is in,” and college president William Craft sits proudly behind it.
Craft has continually worked to build relationships with students, with opportunities for interaction scattered throughout the students’ time on campus. Recently, Craft has taken the initiative to be more available to students, by setting up office hours in the KCC every Thursday at noon.
Craft has held the position of president since July of 2011, before which he held the Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs positions at Luther College, in addition to being a professor of English, according to the Concordia College website.
“I’ve been a college teacher for longer than I’ve been a college administrator. When I first started as an academic dean, they asked me, “What’s hard about your job?” And I said, “Not teaching.” A lot of my conversation with students is very brief,” he said, “I miss the kind of sustained interaction of teaching.”
Even though he had held office hours on Thursdays in his office in Lorentszen for years, Craft wanted to know how to be more accessible to the student body. He met with Concordia’s Student Government Association to see the best way to interact with as many students as possible. Their answer? A table in the atrium at lunchtime.
“My perspective has been widened. What I have been struck by is the breadth and depth of student interest and engagement here. People get classified, you know, you’re an athlete. You’re a singer. You’re a chemistry major. These are all good things. But the thing that strikes me over and over again here is that no Concordia student is ever just one thing,” he said. “They are curious, about their own lives and about other’s lives.”
Junior Tanner Garrigan, a vocal music education major, understands the importance of communication between the student body and the administration. He regularly chats with Craft, usually at the atrium table. He recognizes the necessity of college leaders having a strong relationship with students.
“It helps to build morale, if you have that connection with not just the higher-ups, but the highest up of this college, the president of this college. Bridging that gap, it helps you feel like you’re not just a number at this school. I’m Tanner Garrigan. I’m the junior music ed major from up north, from Bemidji. And they know that,” he said.
And the connection begins from the first week that students arrive on campus. As part of orientation week, Craft hosts a dinner at his house and greets each student by name.
Amy Konkler, a freshman majoring in elementary education and minoring in theatre, agrees with Garrigan on the importance of connection from the beginning.
“We got to meet the president face to face and have a conversation with him. It’s important to communicate with the administration because they are here to help and they care about us,” she said.
Craft looks forward to student conversations, as it contributes to the strength of the connections between the students and the administration.
“Concordia students have a longing to be connected. They have a longing to do good in the world. I hope they know this, I hope they know how much I welcome those conversations. I hope they know how much I enjoy them. How privileged I feel to have them,” Craft said.
Concordia in Latin means “harmony,” or literally “with one heart.” That message comes across loud and clear, especially to the new Cobbers.
“I love it here. I’ve never felt so welcomed so fast,” Konkler said.
Annie is a senior double-majoring in Environmental Studies and Heritage and Museum Studies, as well as minoring in German. She loves adventures, coffee, and dogs. This is her third year with the Concordian.