Augustana University Introduces First Woman President In 157-Year History

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will assume office this summer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – She was the first woman in South Dakota to serve as a U.S. House Representative.

Now she’ll be the first woman to lead one Sioux Falls University.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has been named as Augustana University’s 24th president.

College officials spread the word about the former congresswoman in an email Wednesday.

“I looked at it and I called my mom immediately, I was just super excited,” says AU sophomore Baylee Relf. “I think she’ll be a really good leader for us since she’s done great things.”

Many of these students were pretty young when Herseth Sandlin was serving as the state’s U.S. House Representative.

“I didn’t really follow what she did, but I heard good things about her and her reputation precedes her,” says AU junior Matthew Watt.

But they say they’re thrilled to have her as their new education leader.

“It’s all about the diversity that Augustana celebrates,” says Watt. “I think she’s going to be really good for this university.”

Herseth Sandlin says she’s been waiting to take on a role like this for years.

“My calling has been higher education,” says Herseth Sandlin. “I had planned on going into higher education before public service.”

Now living out that dream, Herseth Sandlin hopes to build the university’s enrollment in graduate programs and embrace changing technology.

She believes her previous career as an elected official will help her in doing this.

“Hearing the concerns and the ideas that people all across South Dakota shared with me over the years, I think will benefit me as I build contacts and relationships here at Augustana,” she says.

Herseth Sandlin does not plan to go the political route again.

Instead, she’ll look to encourage Augie students, the next generation, to take on public service.

“If they get the honor to serve, I have no doubt they will make the most of it as I did during the years that I had the honor,” says Herseth Sandlin.

The former congresswoman will take over as president this summer.

Current President Rob Oliver is retiring after more than 25 years at the helm of the university.

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