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In This Issue


Articles

IRETIMN

Engineering M.S.
at 7700 France, Edina

Teaching "Green"
at 7700 France, Edina


Interviews

Dan Dorman
Brad_Finstad


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Lean Training Partnerships

Co-op

Interviews with:

Christopher Frederick

Stewart Ross

Jonathan Zierdt

 

"Connecting knowledge
and the real world."

IRETIMN Update

IRETI - MN Groundbreaking photo
IRETIMN Groundbreaking Ceremony

The International Renewable Energy Technology Institute - Minnesota (IRETIMN) is several steps closer to becoming a functioning reality.

Funding totaling $1.5 million arrived from the Minnesota legislature and was put to immediate use. Development includes:

  • space construction was formalized with a groundbreaking ceremony on November 13, 2009 (see photo above);
  • test equipment for use with Solid Combustible Biomass has been ordered for use in the Test Center upon the completion of construction;
  • hiring a technician (progress is well underway); and
  • hiring an IRETIMN director with an enthusiastic vision.

Interim Director, Dr. John Frey, has visited with officials in Washington, D.C. in pursuit of federal funding. The federal money will make it possible to establish the Institute's three other renewable energy test centers in Biogas, Cellulosic Fuels and Bioproducts, and Small Wind and Solar.

Additionally, Dr. Frey has developed close business relationships with noted leaders in Sweden. The Swedish contingency is looking forward to working with IRETIMN and Minnesota State University, Mankato in creating a successful Minnesota Institute.

IRETIMN is also in the early stage of working on a point project with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) that will provide much needed emissions data on several different types of agricultural biomass. Sergio Gamarra, a graduate student in Automotive Engineering Technology, has begun work on this project as his thesis project.

In building the IRETIMN infrastructure, progress is being made to assemble an Advisory Board with national and international leaders in the combustible biomass business. With this infrastructure in place, IRETIMN will be another example of how Minnesota State Mankato, can engage with business and educational partnerships throughout Southern Minnesota and across the remainder of the state and have a major global impact!

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Engineering an Advanced Degree in Today's Marketplace

The engineering marketplace in the Twin Cities area has been talking...and Minnesota State University, Mankato has been listening. The need for a skilled workforce is as strong as ever, and now, the marketplace is calling for even better-educated engineers. Enter the emerging Master of Science in Engineering program at Minnesota State Mankato's 7700 France in Edina.

Slated for kick-off in the Fall 2010 semester, the program is being developed to answer a call that has been heard loud and clear from companies in the Twin Cities and outlying areas: that practicing engineers feel the need to upgrade skills.

"It has to be in a format that is friendly to support the working professional," explains Dr. Bill Hudson, Chair of Minnesota State Mankato's Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Technology. If someone is not working, and pursuing a Master's full-time, there are many viable options, certainly including the graduate program here at Minnesota State Mankato. Regarding the program at 7700 France, Hudson goes on to state, "We're trying to fill an area need that is not being met." As a result, courses will be offered during late afternoon and evening hours, typically one day per week.

The recent merging of Extended Learning with Strategic Partnerships has provided the catalyst through which this program can be made possible. Education needs to move at the speed of business, and these days, a Bachelor's degree is often not sufficient. Rapid changes in technology can leave former engineering graduates without exposure to concepts that are commonplace now.

The program is establishing two foundational courses that can be used as a springboard for graduate students: Design Methods and Parallel Processing. The courses will be taught by Dr. Thomas Hendrickson and Dr. Gale Allen, respectively. These gentlemen come to the program with impressive credentials that include decades of real-world experience in the ever-changing engineering marketplace.

Students will have a measure of flexibility within their program of study to address personal goals as well as those of the company. This is where the partnerships are key: the curriculum established between each student and his or her committee will be constructed with an ear toward the needs of companies at that particular time, to create an educational experience that addresses marketplace issues in the moment.

The Engineering department is hearing from its Industrial Advisory Board that when recruiting students, it is necessary to engage both the Director of Engineering and Human Resources personnel as key points of contact. They are the ones most likely to get information about the program distributed to working engineers.

Minnesota State Mankato alumni and companies alike are putting out the call, and 7700 France is the place where that call will be answered.

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Teaching "Green" at 7700: Marketplace Driven Curriculum

Green-Collar Workforce is a term that has stemmed from the federal stimulus package. It describes industry work that deals with areas such as sustainability, energy conservation, renewable energy, and green construction and design.

The College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Minnesota State University, Mankato has created a certificate program that is geared toward under-employed, unemployed, and displaced workers throughout the built-environment professions to help build a stronger green-collar workforce.

Mechanical Engineering professor, Dr. Patrick Tebbe is the Faculty Director of the certificate program that has attracted learners including tradespeople, draftspeople, architects, engineers, project managers, sub-contractors, and even people in manufacturing who are responsible for facilities. It is relevant to current students as well as industry professionals who are experiencing a career shift as a result of the economy.

The Sustainable and Energy Efficient Buildings (SEEB) Certificate is a 70-hour modular learning program, taught across seven weekends. This series was first made available on campus in Mankato this past summer with a group of 6-10 students. Now it's in full-swing at Minnesota State Mankato's 7700 France location in Edina, running at capacity with 40 students.

The curriculum has been created to meet the immediate needs of the global marketplace, with a local concentration in 39 counties in southern and western Minnesota. Current market needs are driving the program, and it is accessible to learners ranging from those with a high school education or GED to professionals in the field.

Funding for the program came from a Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant. The extended learning focus of the program has brought together faculty from multiple departments at Minnesota State Mankato to develop the curriculum, creating internal partnerships with interdisciplinary content writing and teaching.

Phase I of this project was to create the seven 10-hour modules that make up the certificate program. Phase II will be to assemble all of the content for green collar workforce and sustainable environment and make it available on a state website. This work is nearly complete. The final goal, Phase III, will be to evolve this curriculum into a minor program of study under the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

This is proof that industry-driven, marketplace sensitive material can be used to meet immediate needs. Relationships created through Strategic Partnerships will be the links that move education forward both in the moment and for a lifetime.

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Meet the Advisory Team

Dan Dorman photo - If we do a good job as a board, we'll position the division to be very successful.
Dan Dorman - Executive Director, Albert Lea Economic Development Agency

How do you describe your role within Strategic Partnerships?

I fill different niches: as a non-Mankato person—from Freeborn County, from Albert Lea, I bring the perspective of what's happening outside the Mankato area; I have legislative experience which gives me perspective on how things flow down from St. Paul and MnSCU (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities); through economic development in the City of Albert Lea; and I'm a small business owner. So, it depends on which hat that you have on. I can approach things from different perspectives that way.

I think about how Minnesota State University, Mankato can serve industry, how industry can serve the University, and what is the common goal? The common goal is training to create better jobs, and that's going to be the key to success in the future. One key for our area isn't just, 'how are we getting more people to move here?' but 'how are we going to position people who are already here for better employment opportunities?' I think that's an equally important task. If you can take someone's income from X to X+10% or X+20%, because they have a new skill set, that's just as valuable as, if not more valuable than creating a new job. That's helping people who are already here with better economic opportunities.

What do you see as the importance of Strategic Partnerships—to the University and to Southern Minnesota?

The importance of Strategic Partnerships is going to relate back to providing better quality job opportunities. And the connection to specific companies: the more connections we can make, the better opportunities there will be for graduates with those companies. As you develop those relationships, you look to the opportunities for both the parties to bring something to the table, and at the end of the day, both parties gain.

When the University seeks additional funding from the legislature to build a new building, or do something, they're going to have many more advocates that are there saying, "Hey, this school's important, not only to Mankato, but it's important to Albert Lea, Austin, Owatonna, and this region." That, more than any other part of what I see happening, is good for the school in the long run.

What do you see as the future for this division, how do you see it taking shape?

As board members, if we do the right thing, and we promote it as we should, we help others understand the opportunity that's there. I think it can be a very powerful economic development engine. To partner with Minnesota State Mankato may be the lowest-cost way for companies to tap into better-trained employees, with good access to them, and good access to technology. Those relationships will become more important in the future. And if we do a good job as a board, we'll position the division to be very successful.

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Brad Finstad photo - I think that possibly some of the largeest challenges lie ahead, and that's when you build a successful program.
Brad Finstad - Executive Director, Center for Rural Policy and Development

How do you describe your role within Strategic Partnerships?

I see it as an opportunity for me that's two-fold: listening and reflecting back to Minnesota State University, Mankato what I see in my day-to-day job. To come in and listen with an outside set of ears, and hear things that are good, bad, ugly, indifferent; and then offer some advice or outside expertise to make it a better program, a better division.

Quite often I'm out in the public sector, talking with policy-makers and decision-makers of all walks of life. I think it's a good perspective to bring to the table: 'here's what people are saying, here's what the need is, how can we respond?' It's the value of networking, and the ability to bring the network into the University setting.

What do you see as the importance of Strategic Partnerships—to the University and to Southern Minnesota?

It's the ability for the University to respond at the speed of business - with a division that acknowledges the fact that the traditional model of university work has been long, deliberate, research-based, and more of a time-consuming process. Whereas sometimes decision-makers in the business world want information now on something they will be deciding on in the next week, two weeks, or three months. There's a unique opportunity from the University's standpoint to really show their customers that 'we're here to help respond at a faster pace than what we've done in the past.'

If you want to foster a relationship where a business comes to a university in a very trusting, respectful, meaningful manner, they're not going to say, "Well, we'll wait to hear next fall if you're going to add a course that will provide training," for a need they have right now. The door won't be knocked on too many times if that's the approach. But I think what we're seeing here is, business leaders are saying, "Wow, we've been able to take some concerns, some interests, and some future trends to this division and we're seeing results."

I think that in some of the work that we're doing at the Center, especially with regional competitiveness, there have been times, and there will be times, where we need to knock on the door of our educational systems, and that's where I see the partnership. I think it's the best conduit into Minnesota State Mankato.

How do you evaluate the division's impact on the economy or on budgets?

I personally evaluate the impact this way: are the customers—the private sector job providers—coming to the division asking for help? To me, if that's happening, that's a measurement of success. If we've been able to knock down that wall and open up that door, I think there's endless opportunity. We've seen many companies coming to Minnesota State Mankato and talking about training needs, trending needs, recruitment needs, internship opportunities, you name it. I think that adds value, not only to the private sector job providers, but ultimately to the end product: the student; and they build on each other.

What do you see as the future for this division—where do you see it going from here?

Well, I think that possibly some of the largest challenges lie ahead, and that's when you build a successful program. I would say, now that the division is becoming well-established and well-known, and the need and the interest is being developed, that now it's the delivery stage. That's where the proof is in the pudding: how do you deliver on what you've been working toward?

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Strategic Business, Education and Regional Partnerships
Minnesota State University, Mankato
329 Wigley Administration Center
Mankato, MN 56001