Mar. 27, 2019: Since The Rev. Dr. John Arthur Nunes’s arrival at Concordia College in 2016, the college has added new offerings, received accolades, and experienced an increase in enrollment. The college’s ninth president credits his predecessors with having helped to establish Concordia’s solid positioning. But Nunes himself brings a great deal to the table, both in terms of his professional experience and his vision for the school’s future
Prior to assuming the Concordia helm, Nunes had worked in inner-city development and international relief, from which he gained both urban and global perspectives. While suburban Bronxville seems to be an entirely different setting, Nunes characterized his background as having prepared him well for his current position.
“Bronxville is not the stereotypical suburb, and this campus is hardly a stereotypical suburban campus,” he observed. Concordia’s student body is diverse with respect to culture, socioeconomics, and religious beliefs, similar to the population of the greater Bronxville area. Although the school is Lutheran, student faiths range from Lutheran to Orthodox Jewish and Muslim, among others.
While acknowledging that the college’s geographic location is an asset, Nunes also cited Concordia’s diversity as a significant strength. “Because we are small and so diverse, our students do not break into affinity groups.”
Nunes is committed to breaking boundaries and building bridges, with a stated goal of ensuring that the college is “ever more embracing of the world’s rich diversity.” Toward that end, the theme of the current academic year is “Borders and Boundaries,” the interdisciplinary interpretation of which is intended to draw from literature, events, and the arts while focusing on geography, history, culture, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, sociology, and politics.
The humanities are another area of emphasis for Nunes, who commented that the humanities serve as human ties that connect us to history and to our complexities as people. It’s been reported that 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 don’t exist currently, and Nunes wants Concordia’s students to be prepared. “Humanities humanize us,” he explained. “They prepare students for critical thinking, communication, and the skills they will need to be productive and nimble.” Translating this to college practice, Nunes added, “We want nurses who graduate from here to recognize that humans are people in the image of God. We want our graduating educators to see that education is more than about transmission of information.” Moreover, Concordia students have been increasingly empowered under Nunes’s leadership, having been integrated into committees and boards to allow for a more student-centric institution.
Nunes has stated that a faith-driven institution should emphasize ethics, language, and personal conduct. “A handful of schools are self-consciously Christian in their ethos and character, but too often Christian institutions are falsely regarded as exclusionary,” Nunes explained. “We work hard to define our faith as Christian and welcoming.”
The effort towards community-building remains a priority, and student conscientious of civic responsibility is emphasized. Nunes is proud that complaints from neighbors regarding parking, noise, and any other behavior have dramatically declined. Neighbors are also said to appreciate the school’s investment in its own landscaping, regarded as an enhancement to the neighborhood. Nunes expressed that the degree to which local community members are stakeholders in the campus has exceeded his expectations. He described not only philanthropy but also generous assistance with student job placement. This is especially appreciated, as “small institutions like Concordia are finding it increasingly difficult to compete,” he noted.
Concordia’s campus, Nunes noted, was designed by Edward Lippincott Tilton, the architect who helped design the building that received immigrants on Ellis Island. “Hospitality is baked into the bricks at Concordia College.”