As lifelong learners increase, Augustana University expands offerings

This piece is presented by Augustana University.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners.

Lifelong learning has long been an area of focus at Augustana University. And, according to university officials, it’s an area that continues to grow in response to increased demand from adults in Sioux Falls and throughout the region. From public lectures to conferences, institutes and events, the university offers a number of opportunities for adult learners to learn and engage.

Three upcoming lifelong-learning events on campus include the Autism Conference, designed for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors and others who deal with the day-to-day challenges of autism; the Aging Faithfully Conference, designed for people of all ages interested in exploring and reflecting how faith and aging intersect; and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.

“As a university in the state’s largest city, and as an institution dedicated to helping society create a brighter tomorrow, we’re absolutely committed to developing and shaping continuing education programs for adult learners,” president Rob Oliver said.

Here are a few upcoming learning opportunities.

Autism Conference — June 8 & 9

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder — up from one in 150 in 2002.

To help parents, caregivers, educators, counselors and others who deal with the day-to-day challenges of autism, Augustana will host the annual Lighting the Way Autism Conference and Walk June 8 and 9 on campus.

The theme for the conference is Solutions for Success: Diagnosis Through Adulthood.

Keynote speakers are:

  • Eustacia Cutler, award-winning author and mother of animal behavioral scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin. Cutler’s book, “A Thorn in My Pocket,” describes the challenges of raising an autistic child in the 1950s. Cutler will speak via videoconference.
  • Kari Dunn Buron, an author and founding member of the Minnesota Autism Project. After teaching K-12 students on the autism spectrum for more than 30 years, Dunn Buron developed an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate program for educators at Hamline University. She is also on the advisory boards for the Autism Society of Trinidad and Tobago, Life College and the Autism Society of Minnesota.
  • Michael John Carley, founder and first executive director of GRASP, the largest organization composed of adults on the autism spectrum. Carley was one of two people on the spectrum to address Congress in its first-ever hearings on autism. He also has addressed the United Nations, and his articles have been published in magazines such as Autism Spectrum News, Autism Spectrum Quarterly and Autism/Asperger Digest.

In conjunction with the conference, Augustana will host a free public showing of the film “Temple Grandin,” a 2010 biopic starring Claire Danes as Grandin, an autistic woman who revolutionized the cattle industry through her innate sensitivity and understanding of animal behavior. The showing, sponsored by Augustana’s FRIENDSLink, will begin at 6:30 p.m.  June 8 in the Froiland Science Complex. Seating is limited to the first 150 people.

The conference also will feature a Runway of Dreams Fashion Show at 1:15 p.m. June 9 in the Edith Mortenson Center Theatre. The show will feature adaptive clothing items from the Runway of Dreams line by New York designer Mindy Scheier.

The conference will be followed by the Lighting the Way Autism Walk, beginning at 9 a.m. June 10 in the Augustana Commons Circle.

The $100 registration fee includes meals, refreshments at breaks and handouts.

Learn more and register at

Aging Faithfully Conference — July 27

Author, physician and minister Dr. G. Scott Morris will speak at the 2017 Aging Faithfully Conference on July 27 at Augustana University’s Elmen Center.

The conference, now in its fourth year, is a partnership between Augustana, the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.

Organizers say the conference is designed for people of every age.

“The reality is our lives and our faith begin to look different as we age,” said university president Rob Oliver. “As we grow older, we may find ourselves asking ‘What is God’s purpose for me’ or ‘How can my faith remain vibrant and strong.’ The Aging Faithfully Conference is designed as an opportunity to reflect on these questions.”

Morris, the event’s keynote speaker, serves as chief executive of Church Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health and well-being so individuals can experience the full richness of life. The Church Health Family Medicine Clinic, of which he is founder and CEO, will be part of the 1.1 million-square-foot Crosstown Concourse, that’s promised to be a supersized community magnet when it fully opens late this summer in Memphis. Morris has an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University, and M.D. from Emory University. He is a board-certified family-practice physician and a United Methodist minister. He is also the author of “If Your Heart is Like My Heart,” a book exploring a pilgrimage of faith and hope.

The $25 ticket includes the conference, lunch and closing remarks from the Rev. David Zellmer, bishop of the South Dakota Synod.

Learn more and register at

Sanford Institute of Philanthropy — Oct. 26 and 27

The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at Augustana is designed to prepare nonprofit leaders for the 21st century and dramatically increase the impact of charitable organizations in the U.S.

A combination of theory and practical application, this day-and-a-half training opportunity provides fundraising professionals a proven framework and skill set for increasing their ability to solicit charitable gifts and develop their nonprofit leadership skills. While primarily geared for those with less than 10 years of experience, fundraising and sales professionals with all levels of expertise have found value in participating.

The next Institute is set for Oct. 26 and 27 and will feature:

  • Paul Krueger, president and CEO, Make-A-Wish South Dakota.
  • Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO, South Dakota State University Foundation.
  • Bob Preloger, vice president for advancement, Augustana University.
  • Andy Patterson, president, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.
  • Micah Aberson, president, Sanford Health Foundation.
  • Deb Koski, chief operating officer, Sanford Health Foundation.
  • Jaciel Keltgen, assistant professor of business administration, Augustana University.
  • Jackie Payne, director of development, Augustana University.

The institute will focus on topics such as:

  • Professional selling.
  • Relationship selling.
  • Ethics and legalities of fundraising.
  • Effective communication.
  • Cause sales fundamentals and development.
  • Fundamentals of “The Art of Asking.”

The $350 registration fee includes the institute, lunch and snacks. An optional book is $80. Participants will receive a signed certificate of completion from Augustana University.

Learn more and register at

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As lifelong learners increase, Augustana University expands offerings

According to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners. Augustana is responding with several new learning opportunities.

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