Augustana University
Former name
Augustana College and Seminary (1860–1918)
Augustana College and Normal School (1918–1926)
Augustana College (1926–2015)
MottoVerbum Dei manet in aeternum
Motto in English
The Word of God endures forever
TypePrivate university
Established1860; 164 years ago (1860)[1]
Religious affiliation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
EndowmentUS$90 million (2016)[2]
PresidentStephanie Herseth Sandlin[3]
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States

43°31′36.7″N 96°44′13.3″W / 43.526861°N 96.737028°W / 43.526861; -96.737028
100 acres (40 ha)
ColorsNavy blue   and gold  
Sporting affiliations
MascotOle the Viking

Augustana University is a private Lutheran university in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The university identifies 1860 as the year of its founding, the same as its Rock Island, Illinois, Swedish-heritage sister school, Augustana College. It derives its name from the Confessio Augustana, or Augsburg Confession, a foundational document of Lutheranism. Until September 2015, the university was known as Augustana College.

Augustana is South Dakota's largest private university[6] and offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in more than 50 major fields of study.


Augustana traces its origin to 1835 when Scandinavian immigrants established the Hillsboro Academy in Hillsboro, Illinois. In 1846, the academy became the Literary and Theological Institute of the Lutheran Church of the Far West before moving to Springfield, Illinois, under the name Illinois State University. In 1860, after church leaders formed the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod, Professor Lars Paul Esbjörn and a group of followers moved to Chicago to create their institution. There they established the Augustana College and Seminary, marking the date that the university identifies as the year of its founding.[1]

As the United States expanded westward during and after the American Civil War, pioneers moved the school to Paxton, Illinois, in 1863. There, a split occurred: the Norwegian leadership, desiring to create their school, relocated to Marshall, Wisconsin, in 1869,[7] while the Swedes later moved to Rock Island, Illinois, establishing Augustana College (Illinois). The school at Marshall moved to Beloit, Iowa, in 1881, and then to Canton, South Dakota, in 1888.[1]

The Lutheran Normal School opened in 1889 in Sioux Falls, housed in what is now known as Old Main, to educate teachers. City and business leaders lobbied for Augustana to relocate to Sioux Falls, and church leaders in 1918 merged the Lutheran Normal School and Augustana College in Canton under the name Augustana College and Normal School.[1] In 1926, "and Normal School" was dropped from the name and the Canton site eventually became Augustana Academy.[1] Despite the similarities in name, the academy was no longer affiliated with the college, and closed in 1971.[1] The 2010–11 academic year marked Augustana University's sesquicentennial.[8]

Augustana draws its name from the origin of the Lutheran Church in the Augsburg Confession, written in 1530 during the Protestant Reformation. "Augustana" stems from the document's Latin name, Confessio Augustana.[1] On August 21, 2015, the school announced that it would change its name from Augustana College to Augustana University as of September 1, 2015.[9]


Augustana University offers 53 majors, 34 minors, and 15 pre-professional programs.[10] The five most popular majors are nursing, biology, business administration, elementary education and psychology.[11]

The university's curriculum is based on a calendar divided into two 15-week semesters, separated by an interim period of four weeks during January, as well as an optional summer term of eight weeks. Classes are offered during January. The school has a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio,[12] and notable professors include L. Adrien Hannus and V.R. Nelson.[13]

Graduation requires 124 credit hours, 45 of which must be general education courses, with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0. "S.O.P.H.I.A.", the name of the 45-credit core curriculum, derived from the Greek word "σοφία" meaning "wisdom," which "aims to create nationally-recognized critical thinkers with the ability to develop complex solutions for complex challenges and communicate effectively."[14] The acronym stands for "Science, Orientation, Perspectives, Humanities, Intersections, and the Arts." First-year students begin the SOPHIA requirements with a "First-Year Seminar," known colloquially as "FYS." The course split between two semesters, the first semester focuses on a topic selected by the professor with required writing and grammar components, and accounts for 3 credits. The second semester focuses on career building exercises, such as creating a résumé, writing a cover letter, and more; this second semester meets only once a week and accounts for 1 credit. Other SOPHIA requirements are split into three sections. The first is divided into six parts, all of which are required by all students to complete. The second is divided into eight parts, which students are required to complete only six of the eight. The final and third part, is divided into three parts with writing, ethics, and communication. Students are required to complete all requirements in the third section. Extensive internship, study abroad, undergraduate research and Civitas, the university's honors program, supplement the curriculum. Between 2007 and 2008, 285 students participated in an international educational experience, and 44% of students studied abroad before graduation.[11]

In 2017, U.S. News & World Report reported Augustana's financial endowment at $67.2 million.[2] Donations have allowed the school to expand its academic facilities, such as the $7 million renovation of the Mikkelsen Library[15] and the $45 million reconstruction of the Gilbert Science Complex, completed in 2015.[16]

Admissions and rankings

As of 2016, Augustana's student body consists of 1,825 undergraduates,[17] 99% full-time students and 1% part-time, and 59% female.[17] The acceptance rate is 61%.[18][19] U.S. News & World Report classifies Augustana as a "more selective" school,[2] with 62% of the students enrolled having graduated from high school in the top quartile of their class,[11] the average GPA being 3.7.[18] ACT test score submissions had a 23–28 middle 50% range,[18] with an average ACT composite score of 26.[20] Eight percent of incoming students in 2014 submitted SAT scores, with the middle 50% range for the mathematical and critical reading components being 500–650 and 510–580, respectively.[21] The school's retention rate of freshmen returning as sophomores was 80% between 2013 and 2014.[21]

Those enrolled are primarily from South Dakota (42%) and Minnesota (34%), followed by Iowa (12%) and Nebraska (4%).[22][23] In the fall of the 2010–11 academic year, Augustana reported its largest ever incoming class of international students. Fifty-four new students, representing 20 countries and five continents, joined 25 continuing international students for a total of 79 international students from 23 countries, making up about 4.5% of the student body.[24] Although only 46% of students claim a preference for the school's Lutheran religious affiliation, the school is nevertheless composed primarily of students following a Christian denomination, with Catholicism the second largest at 21%; 22% of students are categorized as "other".[11]

Campus statue of Ole, Augustana's mascot

In the 2015 U.S. News & World Report ranking of Midwestern colleges, Augustana placed third.[2] The publication also named it a "Best Buy" school, a designation based on academic quality in relation to cost. The Princeton Review named Augustana one of 159 "Best in the Midwest" schools in 2015.[18] Forbes's list of "America's Top Colleges" placed Augustana 97th among schools in the Midwest and 423rd overall.[17] Peterson's 440 Colleges for Top Students featured Augustana, and Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That is Best for You listed the school as one of its "top 100 outstanding (but underappreciated) colleges."[25] The Templeton Guide selected Augustana as one of 100 select colleges and universities nationwide as part of its "Templeton Honor Roll".[citation needed] In 2021, Zippia named Augustana the top college in South Dakota, and No. 2 in the nation, for getting a job.[26]


Replica of Michelangelo's Moses at Augustana University

Augustana created the Center for Western Studies in 1970,[7] founded by professor Herbert Krause,[27] which serves as a library, repository for special collections of art and artifacts, and academic publisher.[28] The center holds an annual Dakota Conference on the Northern Plains for history, literature, art, and archaeology. It is "the largest annual humanities conference specifically about the Northern Plains".[29] In addition to shows and galleries of Western, Scandinavian, and Native American art,[30] the Center also hosts the Boe Forum on Public Affairs,[29] which has featured speakers such as Pervez Musharraf, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Mikhail Gorbachev.[31]

The Augustana Choir and Concert Band tour widely nationally and internationally, including to the China,[32] Italy,[33] and Tanzania.[34] While on tour in Egypt during the Revolution of 2011, the band was briefly stranded in Cairo due to anti-government protests.[35]

The Augustana University Theatre Company presents 4 main-stage shows each year, one of which is a musical, as well as 2 student-produced shows by the Augustana Collaborative Theatrical Society.[36] Augustana Theatre sponsors an improv group, Brand Name Improv. The department also hosts the Claire Donaldson New Play Festival (formerly the 8-in-48 Claire Donaldson Short Play Festival), which occurs every other year.[37] It was the first theatre department in the state to host a 24 hour play festival. In 2023, the department collaborated with Lifescapes of Sioux Falls and the Black Hills Playhouse to perform the first all-abilities show, which included a half Augustana cast and a half Lifescapes cast, which Augustana students designing as well.

In 2006, the Center for Visual Arts replaced the old art department buildings, previously used as barracks during World War II.[7] It has artist and professor studios, studio classrooms for design, drawing, printmaking, painting, sculpture, ceramics, an art education lab, and the Eide-Dalrymple Gallery, which hosts several art exhibitions every year.[38]


Augustana's honors program, Civitas, launched in 2007 and is directed by sociology professor William J. Swart.[39][40] "Civitas" is Latin for "citizenship", and the program built upon the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was a founding member of the Confessing Church and a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism. Bonhoeffer's essay "The Structure of Responsible Life" is the program's central focus.[41] Emphasizing Stellvertretung (roughly translated as "vicarious representative action"), Bonhoeffer participated in the Abwehr plot to assassinate Hitler and subsequently wrote the piece as a justification for his actions. Students examine his work in classes specifically designated for Civitas and in special honors sections of existing courses. 40 students are selected from each graduating class; they must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA,[39] with entrance priority going to incoming students with an ACT score of at least 27 and a 3.5 cumulative high school GPA.[41]

Natural sciences

An average of 90% of graduating seniors seeking admission into medical school have been accepted over the last three years, double the national acceptance rate, and the school claims a consistent 100% placement record of nursing graduates.[42]

Construction began on the Froiland Science Complex in August 2014, involving additions to and renovations of the existing Gilbert Science Center, and ended in December 2015.[43] The remodeled west wing of the building maintains the Gilbert name.[44]


Main article: Augustana (South Dakota) Vikings

Kirkeby–Over Stadium seats over 6,500 fans.

The Augustana Vikings participate in NCAA Division II athletics in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Vikings joined the NSIC from the North Central Conference, which folded in 2008. The men's basketball team won the NCAA Division II national championship in 2016.[45] The women's basketball team advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four in 2013.[46] The men's baseball team won the NCAA Division II national championship in 2018.[47] During both the 2004–05 and 2009–10 school years, Augustana wrestlers finished second in the NCAA Division II championship. The Sanford Pentagon is the home court for the men's and women's basketball teams. The Elmen Center, opened in 1989,[7] is the home court for the volleyball and wrestling teams. On December 13, 2018, President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin announced that Augustana would begin pursuing a transition to Division I as part of the university's "Vision 2030" plan. In the fall of 2023, Augustana University launched their Division I men's hockey team, a step towards Sandlin's goal.[48]


The college used to operate a radio station, 89.1 FM KAUR, that broadcasts 24 hours per day. Until 2009, KAUR broadcast a variety of genres of music and specialized in independent or college rock. KAUR was founded in 1972. Augustana also had a self-constructed AM station, founded in 1945.[citation needed] In 2009, Augustana administrators discontinued KAUR's student operations in favor of broadcasting Minnesota Public Radio News.[49]

Notable alumni

Main article: List of Augustana University alumni


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  2. ^ a b c d e "Augustana University". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on December 29, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  3. ^ "University Leadership". Retrieved October 8, 2022.
  4. ^ "Quick Facts". Augustana University. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  5. ^ "Quick Facts". Augustana University. Archived from the original on December 5, 2021. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  6. ^ "Doing Business in South Dakota (Public Universities)". Governor's Office of Economic Development. Archived from the original on September 8, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
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  40. ^ Wendt, Megan (March 11, 2010). "First Civitas students graduate early". Augustana Mirror. Sioux Falls.
  41. ^ a b "Civitas—Frequently Asked Questions". Augustana University. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
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