Sioux Falls, SD Augustana University introduced former South Dakota congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin as its 24th president.
“Having a female president here at Augustana really shows what we stand for as a liberal arts college, it’s a very progressive move,” Augustana Sophomore Derek Somnis said.
Thursday morning students and staff celebrated the first woman to be named president in Augustana's 157 year history.
“I know that those moments when a woman advances to assume a leadership role that no woman has held previously is the opportunity to keep the door open and make it wider for other women to walk through,” Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said.
Herseth Sandlin says it’s an important lesson for her son and all of Augustana's next generation to learn to appreciate all students.
“Never do we leave any of our students behind, never do we take the focus off of each and every one of them,” Herseth Sandlin said.
“I'm really happy because she's the first female president and I wish she could just be the President of the United States also,” her son Zachary Sandlin said.
While her son may have his own thoughts about her future in politics, Herseth Sandlin says her focus is firmly on Augustana.
“I feel tremendous gratitude to the voters of South Dakota for giving me the opportunity in my thirties to serve the state, but this is a new direction, a different way to serve, and I serve at the pleasure of the board of trustees and I hope to serve as long as they'll have me,” Herseth Sandlin said.
Members of the Augustana presidential search committee say they were surprised to see Herseth-Sandlin's name on their list of potential candidates.
“Honestly she wasn't a name I had imagined, but I was so thrilled because I am familiar with her certainly from being in South Dakota all of my life and have always been impressed by her leadership and her communication skills,” Becky Blue, the head of Augustana’s Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search committee said.
“I know there those who have encouraged me to seek public office who might be disappointed, but I've also heard from a number of them since this was announced and they have been thrilled and very encouraging and felt like this was the best thing for my family and for me to become part of this outstanding Augustana community,” Herseth Sandlin said.
Blue says Herseth Sandlin’s time in congress will serve her well as president and could inspire many Augustana students.
“I think if they look at her as a role model and can be inspired to serve in public service…that would be great and a wonderful gift to the college to have significant leaders in our state and our nation come from Augustana,” Blue said.
Herseth Sandlin says she looks forward to building strong relationships with the students, faculty and staff at Augustana.
She will be working with the current president, Doctor Rob Oliver, over the coming months before officially taking on the role in august.