Concordia University Texas moves forward with strategic plan focus

As Concordia University Texas celebrates its 90th birthday, the private Lutheran school looks to its new strategic plan and vision statement to guide the future of the institution.

As Concordia University Texas celebrates its 90th birthday, the private Lutheran school looks to its new strategic plan and vision statement to guide the future of the institution.

Armed with a new vision statement and a strategic plan, Concordia University Texas is implementing a number of initiatives as it celebrates its 90th anniversary.

Concordia, a Lutheran accredited university, turns 90 on Oct. 26 and has matured from a one-room high school in downtown Austin to an accredited university on 386 acres with graduate programs, a doctorate program, online programs and about 2,500 students.

CEO and President Don Christian said Concordia has a plan for the next five years as well as long-term goals. He said his strategic plan includes offering better resources for the university’s students, such as a new Doctor of Education program and a proposed Center for Meaningful Work, working with students’ future employers to ensure the university meets employers’ needs and creating significant work for faculty.

“Our vision is that we will be the premier university where the adventure of faith, learning and life-changing experiences leads to meaningful work,” he said.

Strategic plan

Christian outlines several of the university’s initiatives in his 2016 strategic plan, including the Center for Meaningful Work—similar to a student success center,—strategies to form partnerships with the community and a proposal to revise the campus master plan to align with the university’s new vision statement.

He said he is also planning the Center of Innovation, similar to an incubator, that would help students, faculty and community members generate and collaborate on business ideas.

Christian said other initiatives include creating an institutional research office to track student engagement and success as well as more academic and co-curricular programs that include athletics, health sciences, business, fine arts and theology.

Although no timeline is set for action items within the strategic plan, the document outlines steps that will be taken each year, including selecting a set of initiatives to focus on when going through the budgeting process, forming executive teams for each initiative, reporting on each team’s progress and delivering results.

Christian said when he began his role in fall 2014, he was tasked with creating a strategic plan that would guide the university through its 100th anniversary in 2026. Although the strategic plan outlines strategies for the next five years, Christian said those strategies will also apply far into the future.

Concordia’s local impact

One of the goals outlined in the strategic plan is to “embrace the greater Austin region and other areas as a partner and a place of calling.”

“It’s been great to have [Concordia] out there,” said Ray Freer, chairman of the West Austin Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a recognizable university, and it brings value to our community.”

Freer said the school’s location has created opportunities for students to obtain jobs with businesses located around Concordia as well as helped local businesses thrive economically.

“You look at the representation [of Concordia] and the quality of education that they bring and the type of leaders they produce—it’s a great asset for our community,” he said.

Freer said he has not seen traffic affected by Concordia commuters since the school’s relocation.

Kristi Kirk, executive vice president and chief mission officer, said the school has about 900 commuters.

“It’s not like a mad rush where everyone is in class at 8 [a.m.],” Freer said. “I think [university traffic is] more diversified.”

He said foot traffic has increased since the campus relocated, and he often sees students walking along
RR 620 to various businesses.

Cyndra Larsen, who owns Angel Donuts at the Trails at 620 shopping center across the street from the university, said her business has been successful because of the students.

“We kind of designed the place with the college student in mind,” she said. The eatery has small tables often used as student workplaces and a section of couches where students are frequently studying, Larsen said.

Other local businesses near the university, such as Redfin Seafood Kitchen and West Salon by Leah, offer discounts to Concordia students and staff.

Amir Hajimaleki, who owns Oasthouse Kitchen+Bar at Trails at 620, said he has held alumni happy hours and seen faculty at his restaurant several times. He said he hopes to be involved in a marketing class with the university in the future.

Apartment complexes close to Concordia—such as Abelia Flats Apartments, Sonterra Apartment Homes and the Verandah at Grandview Hills—have also benefited economically from the students.

“[Concordia students have] helped our occupancy for sure,” said Laurel Carroll, a leasing consultant with Verandah at Grandview Hills, is located on RR 620.

Since opening in May, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites at Trails at 620 has received business from the university in the form of families of prospective and accepted students, said Brodie Havel, the hotel’s front desk assistant.

“At [Concordia] orientation we almost had a full house,” he said about the July two-day session attended by incoming freshmen.

Becoming a destination school

Christian said he credits the recent success of the university to its 2008 relocation to its 386 acres in a forested area of Four Points—of which 250 acres is Balcones Canyonlands Preserve land that is set aside for endangered species.

“When you have space that looks out here, it doesn’t help but change the learning environment,” Christian said in his office, gesturing to the trees visible through the windows.

In the past two years, there has been a significant increase in graduation and student retention rates, a fact Christian said he attributes in part to the campus’s new location. Last year’s freshman retention rate was
75 percent, the highest in Concordia’s history, he said.

Recruiting professors has not been a problem for the school, because many staffers are happy to avoid the downtown commute, Christian said. He said he does not have a difficult time recruiting students; however, he said his biggest challenge has been affordability, or the perception of affordability.

“People look at us, or private education, and go, ‘I don’t think I can afford that,’” Christian said. He compared Concordia’s $29,460 yearly tuition with South Austin’s St. Edward’s University, which charges $38,720 for yearly tuition.

Christian said one of the goals of the strategic plan is to balance the costs of running the school and being fiscally responsible with making college affordable and showing students the value of Concordia.

He said academic opportunities, such as its online degree program, Master of Business Administration program, Master of Education program, and the university’s multiple satellite campuses throughout Central Texas, have made the school more accessible in recent years.

“We are trying to make getting a degree a reality for people,” Christian said.

By Marie Albiges
Marie Albiges was the editor for the San Marcos, Buda and Kyle edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covered San Marcos City Council, San Marcos CISD and Hays County Commissioners Court. Marie previously reported for the Central Austin edition. Marie moved to Austin from Williamsburg, Va. in 2016 and was born in France. She has since moved on from Community Impact in May 2018.


Overall in Travis County there has been a total of 10,695 cases since mid-March.. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Travis County adds 571 COVID-19 cases; new restriction put in place ahead of holiday weekend

Overall in Travis County there has been a total of 10,695 cases since mid-March.

A photo of a person wearing a medical mask
Travis County Judge supports state masking order, says county will enforce

After Gov. Greg Abbot's statewise mandate to wear masks that cover mouth and nose, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe voiced his support.

A statue of Willie Nelson sits in front of ACL Live at the Moody Theater at the corner of Lavaca and Second streets.
Austin police will no longer arrest for low-level marijuana possession

Austin police will no longer arrest or issue citations for most marijuana possession offenses under 4 ounces.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott: Texans must wear masks in public starting July 3

"COVID-19 is not going away," Gov. Abbott said. "In fact, it is getting worse."

Episcopal Health Foundation
Survey: Texans support emphasis on improving economy, safety, pollution to address overall health

“COVID-19 is clearly showing what Texans already know: the state needs to address underlying, non-medical conditions that have a dramatic impact on their health,” Episcopal Health Foundation President and CEO Elena Marks said.

In the course of a month, the number of patients admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 has increased more than fivefold, according to Austin Public Health data. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Deluge of new COVID-19 cases forces Austin-area health officials to limit testing, shift tracing strategy

Fighting antiquated fax machines and a sharp rise in the demand for testing, officials said contact tracers are not able to get in touch with residents quickly enough to prevent the spread of the virus.

Baylor Scott & White has opened a new clinic in Bee Cave. (Phyllis Campos/Community Impact Newspaper)
Baylor Scott & White Clinic—Bee Cave is now open

The full-service primary care clinic was designed to serve the growing medical needs of the Bee Cave and West Austin communities, according to a press release from Baylor Scott & White.

CommunityCare Health Centers drive-up coronavirus testing site
CommUnityCare will no longer test asymptomatic people for COVID-19 as testing demand swells

CommUnityCare Health Centers is now only testing individuals who show symptoms, those who have a known exposure to the coronavirus or those with other existing health conditions.

The H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks will not take place this year due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. (Courtesy Ricardo Brazziel)
Read the latest on 4th of July celebrations in Central Texas

Area cities have canceled or modified their Independence Day events.

Lake Travis ISD will likely give parents the choice as to whether their children return to campus in August. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)
Lake Travis ISD students will likely be permitted to return to campus in August

Lake Travis ISD students can anticipate returning to campus in August for in-person classes five days a week if their families so choose, but what that learning environment may look like is still unknown.

City officials are working to contain a recent surge in the spread of the coronavirus. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin shuts down main greenbelts, all programs and amenities through July; parks, trails will remain open

City officials are working to contain a recent surge in the spread of the coronavirus.

Lake Travis ISD's Rough Hollow Elementary School is nearly complete. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)
Lake Travis ISD’s Rough Hollow Elementary School on track for an August opening

In light of challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is unclear how or if students will return to campus this fall, but barring any changes, Rough Hollow Elementary will be ready for their arrival.