After serving as dean of students for more than four years, Dr. Chris Confer left AU last semester to serve as the vice president of student life at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina. Over the summer, AU hired Chris Luekenga to take his place.
Luekenga moved to Anderson from Colorado, where he was the associate vice president for student affairs at Western Colorado University for six years. Luekenga is an ordained Church of God minister with a master’s in pastoral ministry from Trinity Seminary.
“I’ve always had a desire to come back to AU,” said Luekenga, who graduated from AU in 1985 with a bachelor’s in psychology.
Luekenga recently reconnected with Professor of Music Education Dr. Joani Brandon, who graduated from AU in 1987. Eighteen months ago, they were married. Living more than 1,000 miles apart, Luekenga and Brandon prayed for God to work in their lives.
“We were just praying, ‘We’ll do this as long as we have to. You know what our needs are as far as jobs and careers,’” he said. “We just prayed over that, and this position opened up. I applied, went through the interview process and
all those sorts of things. That’s what brings me here today.”
According to Luekenga, the responsibilities of his new position at AU are similar to those he held at WCU.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” said Leukenga of the transition into his role as dean of students. “What I was doing at Western Colorado University, where I was, the job responsibilities were very similar. That part of the transition has been fairly easy.”
What excites Luekenga most about his new role is having an opportunity to mentor students.
“Not to sound cliché or trite, but what I’m most excited about is interacting with students,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to mentor and be an example for students on campus. One of my greatest passions is in mentoring college students and young professionals in staff and leadership development. Those areas are the core of my passions.”
Luekenga is also enjoying the atmosphere of a private, Christian university.
“Being able to talk more openly about faith and how God moves in our lives with both students and staff has been different, encouraging and exciting,” he said. “I’m able to more overtly live out my faith in a work environment than I was.”
Luekenga is optimistic about what the future holds for student life.
“I have an overall peace, because I know that I’m here for this moment in time. I’m excited about the future. There are possible changes in how we do things. It seems like an open slate for us right now. We can evaluate what we do as student life. We can do what we do even better.”
Provost Marrie Morris, who led the search for a new dean of students, said that Luekenga’s understanding of the Church of God made him stand out as a candidate.
“All of the finalists that we interviewed were qualified and would have done a good job,” said Morris. “What stood out about Luekenga was that he was someone who could come in and understand the institution and our affiliation with the Church of God.
“We wanted someone who understands diversity and knows how to navigate difficult issues while still upholding institutional behavioral expectations in understanding, kind, gentle and firm ways.”
Out of 23 viable candidates for the position, only three were invited to campus for interviews with student life, academic deans and office directors.
“We chose him because he was already doing the same job at WCU,” Morris said. “He’s experienced as a senior-level administrator.”
Morris believes Luekenga’s faith background will be an asset to him as he adjusts to working at a Christian institution.
“Because his experience is at a public institution, things are going to be different at a faith-based institution,” she said. “If he didn’t have a background as an ordained minister and a pastor, then it might be more difficult to transition from a public institution to a faith-based institution.
“Because he has that faith background, I think that will help in the transition. That will be something that will be an adjustment for him.”
Morris is excited to see Luekenga’s unique style of leadership.
“I’m really excited to get to know him,” she said. “Every new leader brings their own set of experiences and gifts. I’m excited about his relational skills, his psychology background and his pastoral background. I think he’ll be really good working with students.”