New Andrews President Andrea Luxton Considers the Big Picture

In this wide-ranging interview, experienced educator and administrator Andrea Luxton tells Spectrum what it's like to sit in the president's chair at Andrews University.

Question: You are partway through your first year as the president of Andrews University. What do you like most about the job so far?

Answer: Definitely the people. I love being on campus with students from such diverse backgrounds. Each person brings a richness to the campus and we are the better for it.

Then I work with a wonderfully professional and committed team of administrators, faculty and staff who are here at Andrews because they believe in what we can do together.

And I also am privileged to have a strong and yet supportive Board of Trustees.

Each of these elements mean that I come to work each day energized by the possibilities. Of course, that doesn’t mean we always agree on everything; but the different perspectives are vital to the strength of the university.

You are no stranger to Adventist higher education, having served as president of Newbold College and Canadian Union College (now Burman University), as well as working in church administration in the area of education. You have served as Andrews' provost since 2010. So how is being the president of Andrews different from your previous roles?

In some ways being president of one institution is the same as another but every institution is also unique and that outlines the difference in the positions.

At Andrews, the worldwide constituency of the university means I must spend considerable time connecting with the world church and global engagement is critical to the mission of the university. Compared with being provost, the president’s job is less demanding on an everyday basis. A provost makes hundreds of decisions daily (literally). As president, while my work is more strategic and I must engage with more external as well as internal groups, I have more time for reflection and thoughtful consideration of directions.

What are the most important things you have learned in your previous jobs? Would you say that your leadership style has changed over time?

I will just pick two things. I have learned that the people you work with, as well as students, have amazing creativity and talents and they want to use them. Taking a team approach to leadership, and encouraging the talents of others, is by far the best way of developing an engaged and successful campus community. I have also learned that the “presence” of leadership is as important or more important than efficiency and strategy.

I am not sure my style has changed significantly over time. I think I do better now at dealing with issues that need to be dealt with, rather than “bridging” challenges and moving on without dealing with the cause of the challenge. I think I also do better at looking after myself nowadays, as perhaps I understand better what I need to do to remain positive and focused.

What do you find the most difficult about serving as Andrews' president?

Nothing specific. I have a wonderful group of people to work with. Higher education as a whole, however, is in a challenging environment, so finding the best way to respond to the current situation is probably the most difficult.

Your undergrad and masters degrees are in English, with a PhD focusing on early modern literature. How has your English major training helped you in your job?

I learned early in my career that it is critical to know your own “voice” and to be authentic to that voice. That understanding came, I believe, from my English background.

I also believe strongly in the power of story, whether of an organization or of people within an organization. Story is dynamic, with a range of possible endings and is not scared by complexity. I think I am helped in finding solutions and in understanding the team I work with when I approach my work through the eyes of “story.”

And then early modern literature. My period was the Renaissance and in that period there is a lot of writing that is fundamentally religious. Literature explores faith in a very natural way. That has become a good model for me as I look at ways of integrating faith and biblical (Adventist) beliefs and values into the life of a university. Oh and by the way, I also completed an undergraduate degree in theology. That has additionally given me a strong foundation of biblical understanding and interpretation.

What are your major plans and goals for Andrews? What would you like to accomplish that, if successful, would “change the game” in some significant way? What could the university do better?

The answer to this could take up several pages. Conceptually I would say that my goals and plans would require us to become even more flexible, innovative and responsive. It is not always easy to say what particular idea is going to be the game-changer but I do think it has to do with looking at education K-doctoral level in a more fluid way.

It also has to do with finding the sweet spots between market, our strengths and our mission. Right now that likely means continuing to expand our health professions and increasingly support programs that are in high demand. It will also mean creating demand such as we are seeing in our new department of Visual Art, Communications and Design, or in our unique programs for students undecided on their academic path.

Finally, collaboration — that is what we could do better and I suspect will be vital to changing the game for us, and maybe others also.

Andrews University has faced financial challenges in recent years. I believe that enrollment has declined and budgets have been cut, leading to faculty and staff lay-offs. What plans do you have to increase financial stability? What is your current enrolment (FTEs)? How can Andrews increase this number?

We have had some struggles in recent years, along with many other institutions. We certainly face challenges, with less students in Adventist academies, a move to cheaper community colleges, a desire by students for more flexible options for education, and many other things.

We now have around 3,400 students, about evenly split between graduate and undergraduate. On the whole our graduate numbers have remained strong, our online courses and programs have seen growth, and regular undergraduate numbers have declined. This last year however, our freshman numbers increased nicely and we saw a retention rate of 87%. So there are some good signals there for growth.

Creating seamless transitions between K-12 and undergraduate, and between undergraduate and graduate is one good way of building numbers. Putting resources into areas of growth, such as health professions, engineering and computer science (to name a few) also is likely to bring growth. And of course really ensuring we just do an outstanding job and that Andrews is irresistible!

Where are your main recruiting efforts focused? Do you focus on recruiting undergraduates? Are non-Adventist potential students a part of the equation?

We recruit quite widely, both on our own and working with other Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities. There is no shortage of places to recruit; what stops us doing more is only our limitations of time and money. We do recruit non-Adventist students, both through partnerships internationally and through local Christian college fairs. However, because we are rural and residence-based at undergraduate level, undergraduate non-Adventist students do sometimes feel intimidated by the Adventist campus lifestyle. It is often easier to recruit students to our graduate programs.

Adventist colleges were started as a way of training students for service in the church. Do we still need church-trained church workers? Or church-trained church members? What do you see as the primary function of an Adventist college?

We absolutely still need church employees who have received an education at an Adventist college. We also need educated laity who have also experienced Adventist higher education. Why? Adventist education is fundamentally about priorities and wholeness. Priorities in that it encourages a mindset of service to God and others. Wholeness in that it encourages students to see their spiritual commitment as an integral part of their discipline, their professional life and their relationships.

No education is delivered in a vacuum. The underlying philosophy and its impact on students is huge — so the choice of studying in a place where that underlying philosophy jives with personal values and perspectives is very important.

What plans do you have around changing methods of education delivery? Is distance education growing at Andrews? What other methods are you trying?

Yes, there has been considerable growth in distance education at Andrews — online, blended learning, some delivery by video, and some through cohorts that meet in different venues in the US and internationally. I would say we are becoming more and more flexible according to need. We are also piloting some programs that would have us delivering degrees collaboratively between institutions.

The seminary at Andrews is the Adventist church's flagship institution for training ministers. How involved are you in creating policy and deciding how theology is taught? Statements in recent years from the seminary have not necessarily harmonized with the statements from the General Conference. Is it the job of the seminary to advise the world church on policy and teachings?

We are fortunate at the seminary to have some of the greatest theological minds in the church, and individuals who are also very loyal to the church.

The major role of the seminary is of course to teach students. However, the seminary has also traditionally taken a leadership role in the church when it comes to theological issues, believing that this is a responsible way of sharing their gifts and opportunities with the wider church.

In recent years they have put out a number of statements on difficult issues and most have been well received. I hope that when their conclusions have not always mirrored the conclusions of all church leaders that their statements can be taken for what they are: an honest (and often passionate) sharing of perspectives and beliefs on issues not part of the fundamental beliefs of the church.

Do you find that there is a constant struggle at Andrews between conservative and progressive elements?

No, I haven’t sensed a struggle. Not everyone always agrees, and that you would not expect, or even want, in a university setting. But I have experienced a very strong ethic on campus of dialoguing respectfully and listening to the perspective of others.

I believe that on the whole the campus is pretty unified in its underlying goals, and that unified core means that there is a high degree of synergy across the campus. Faculty and staff are then highly committed to making a difference in the lives of students so they leave campus ready to face the professional world as committed Christians and Adventists.

That doesn’t mean other issues become irrelevant, but they certainly are seen in this broader context.

As the Adventist church becomes increasingly international, what challenges does this bring for Andrews, as it educates future church pastors and administrators for very different parts of the world?

I am not sure this is a challenge, as to some degree that has already happened. Andrews has always had a mission edge and has educated multiple pastors, educators, treasures and administrators throughout the world.

Of course, education does not do its job if it doesn’t teach individuals with sensitivity how to live out their profession in different environments. Some of Andrews’ most successful distance education experiences is teaching, say, a Doctor of Ministry degree in an international context where students work on projects in their own environments.

What changes do you see Adventist colleges and universities undergoing in the near term? Does Adventist higher education have a future?

I strongly believe Adventist higher education has a future. Without it I am convinced the church would be much the poorer, and we cannot afford to do that. However, we do need in my view to become increasingly collaborative and flexible. We need to think outside the box a lot more often. So “watch this space” on that one.

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Thank you for this interview with Dr. Luxton. This powerful statement she made is key to the future of Adventist education. I appreciate her leadership in modeling this and look forward to watching this play out with her leading in our international education circles.

This wasn’t necessarily addressed by Dr. Luxton to teaching religion as you have assumed.

Andrews University has many affiliations with campuses around the world. To survive, Adventist higher educators are going to need to find creative and new ways to deliver education, to “think out of the box,” for example.

One creative initiative already in place is a consortium between Union College, Southwestern Adventist University and Southern Adventist University. They have aligned their calendars (out of the box strategy), their math departments have met and aligned their curriculum, students can choose to take additional courses not offered on their campuses, and more to come as creativity and “thinking out of the box” will provide new and excellent opportunities ahead. (Spectrum, here is a story idea for you to pursue!) :slight_smile:

Maybe, @gideonjrn, even new classes in one of your favorite theological areas? :wink:

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I don’t esteem it as a powerful statement. It is too obscure.
Andrews is already thinking “outside the box”. This is one reason that Ted Wilson cautions about using authors other than from bible or EG White.
Luxton’s comment is a generalization and ambiguous. “Flexible”?
What is the problem with thinking in the box? What is the box?
There is a high profile scholar at Loma Linda who told me that Andrews uses too many extra-biblical sources in their study and that Loma Linda is basically not using the same approach.
What does it mean to think outside the box?
The clue is supposed to come later…" ‘watch this space’ on that one"

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She was there for that Selling of baked goods at the village market Fiasco.
Part of the group not allowing them to raise money for a housing shelter.
Became a huge event with write-ups in a number of news journals.

EDIT-- Instead of CLOSING any of our Institutions of Higher Learning,
perhaps study might be given to make different ones to be
specialized in different areas of instruction.
NOT have ALL trying to be ALL THINGS to ALL Students.
At This Time I would not suggest they all be combined into ONE
University program on different campuses.
That would take away their autonomy in developing their programs
and the autonomy of the Professors as to what they want to teach,
and how they want to organize their classes. WE DO NOT WANT
Ivory Tower control of the Class Rooms. [However there ARE SOME
who would like this in the Denomination.]

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this is so true…however, it takes time, experience and a lot of courage to believe that your voice is really worth hanging onto, especially in the face of opposition…

this is definitely true…so many times, impasses result from too many people not being able to think critically, and really understand what they’re reading…impasses like WO, original sin, the nature of christ and forensic justification come to mind…

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I am somewhat curious that Ted felt the need to restrict our reading to the Bible and Ellen White. Clearly a criteria that Ellen White herself did not support or follow. Given the Great Controversy has over 400 historical references, I think that Ted’s argument is in fact a personal statement of control rather than common sense.

Even Paul in Acts 17 quotes from the Greek poets. It does seem to me that the issue is one of control rather than one of discernment in Ted’s mind. Whereas I read Paul in Philippians 4:8 opting for a principled approach of discernment.

I read Dr Luxton as option for the principled approach, which is how Jesus presented His advice in the Sermon on the Mount. That is far better than the rules approach that the Pharisees and Ted seem to delight in.


A well timed and well responded interview. Adventism can be rightly proud of its educational thrust. Andrews, Loma Linda, and Walla Walla are key Yet scholars are under a deep political cloud from one who has no experience in higher education. Yet he sees as his main task as making the “box” smaller and smaller, just big enough to fit his world view. Good luck in the trenches. tZ


Kudos to you Doctor Luxton!

You are exhibit A against the heinous heretical headship dogma which would have us believe that women are inherently inferior, incapable of being independent, effective, executive, charismatic leaders!

It is one mini morsel,of encouragement, that an institution under the umbrella,of the GC, so currently intensely misogynist, would allow a chief executive to be female. Or were you appointed without their ability to veto you?

My non Adventist grandson entered college this year so I did much research to find an appropriate niche for him. He is a business major at Arizona State in Tempe, ranked as the top INNOVATIVE university in USA. STANFORD is second in innovation and MIT is third.

How nice if Andrews could make it to the top fifty of this innovative list?

One sadness I encountered on poring over lists of college rankings:
Three of our NAD colleges ranked in the TOP FIFTY, not in ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT, but in those which graduated the most students with the highest STUDENT DEBT, I believe Andrews was one on that pathetic list!

Which brings me to my last point: most of our NAD Adventist colleges outrank even STANFORD and others in longevity.

They were inaugurated in the horse and buggy age, pre automobiles, pre freeways, pre air travel, pre Greyhound buses! Travel for,students was arduous, expensive and difficult in those far away days. I just crossed the continent twice ( Portland-Washington DC on Alaskan Airlines and Fort Lauderdale-Portland on Southwest), very cheaply. So our colleges could be fewer and further apart geographically, without incurring excessive travel expenses for students.

Surely it is time for us to mimic the Mormons, who have one highly ranked university, ( Brigham Young). They cut tuition costs by avoiding duplication of campuses, and can offer more majors and be more cost effective.

Arizona State, my grandson’s college has over seventy thousand students.
He pays twelve thousand dollars tuition as an OUT OF STATE student, after receiving a merit scholarship of thirteen thousand dollars. He hails from Maui, Hawaii so would not quality for Arizona in state tuition, funded by the Arizona taxpayers.

Let us close our ridiculously small colleges, UNION, AUC, SOUTHWESTERN,
CUC and concentrate our energies and efforts on larger schools where we can make our tuition more competitive,with public universities.


Although you have interesting points, I do disagree about your point to closing the “ridiculously small colleges.” As a proud alum of Southwestern Adventist University I felt that was the best and perfect college for myself and many others that attend there. None of the big schools (Southern, Andrews, LLU, etc) attracted me and I felt that they were “too big” (although compared to state and other Christian colleges they certainly aren’t) for preference. The beauty of Adventist universities is their diversity, whether it’s small or big, city or rural, conservative or liberal leaning. By combining all the schools into 1 or even 2 to 3 although tuition would be cheaper due to economies of scale, the feeling of choice and options I feel would go away.