and the real world."
The “New Normal” for business and industry has created a new challenge as to how organizations want to engage with education and with what offerings. With Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Twin Cities extended location at 7700 France in Edina, and growth in Minnesota State Mankato’s online programs, the “how” and “what” are essential questions to answer.
Earlier this year, Minnesota State University at 7700 France hosted three Executive Listening Sessions in the Twin Cities with business leaders from the metro area and beyond. To attain a critical mass with more limited funding, it has become necessary to move into a more relational presence, making direct contact with decision-makers, and also seeking to tap into Minnesota State Mankato’s alumni base to create the workforce and leaders of the future.
With opening remarks by President Richard Davenport and Director of Twin Cities Partnerships, Ann Goebel, conversations with executives from small to large-sized companies yielded rich information about the educational needs and goals. Minnesota State’s own Organizational Effectiveness Research Group (OERG) was selected to lead various focus groups at each event. Participants fielded questions to learn the needs and delivery preferences for traditional and non-traditional academic programming to both public and private organizations.
The listening sessions identified a number of educational needs, from continuing education trainings to certificate programs, and brief, focused trainings in areas such as Lean Management and Six-Sigma. Additionally, an extensive need was identified for new full programs focused on regulation compliance and retail management, as the Twin Cities area is home to a number of medical device and retail headquarters. Further exploration is needed to determine whether the appropriate programs would be at the graduate level, or if entirely new undergraduate degree programs would be the answer.
“We need to balance our resources, and consider how Minnesota State Mankato can grow our reach to these new audiences without cannibalizing what the campus is delivering to undergraduate and graduate students at Mankato,” explains Goebel. “We have a challenge in trying to accomplish both those missions with changing landscapes of need and funding. Ultimately programs must have the information to make a strategic decision toward meeting identified needs.”
“An additional benefit to the leaders who attended the sessions in the Twin Cities was an offer to come to the companies’ locations and discuss with their other leaders how to best set up what we can offer them,” Goebel continues. “Then, we can take that information and work with individual programs to find out how can we stretch and leverage our educational opportunities to these companies and organizations.”
The next step will be to work with OERG to disseminate an e-survey to Greater Minnesota, to gain a broader spectrum of insights from business leaders and chambers of commerce statewide, building upon the ideas shared during the Twin Cities meetings. The plan is to gather these surveys by the end of January, 2011 and create a comprehensive report.
Ultimately, the goal is to move towards a surgical course of action to meet needs of our extended constituent learners. Then the University can continue to create the best value proposition for programmatic and customized solutions. To visit about your organization’s needs directly, or to participate in the upcoming e-survey, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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There is no question that the face and the needs of education are changing. In order to meet the needs of business, industry, and other learners needing more accessible and affordable options, Minnesota State University, Mankato is redefining goals for alternative instruction.
Becky Copper-Glenz, Director of Distributed Learning, works with online programs, greater Minnesota off-campus courses and administration with Extended Learning in Mankato. Ann Goebel, Director of Twin Cities Partnerships, oversees the 7700 France Edina site, and is involved with outreach to the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, working with grants and external business and industry partnerships. They share the continuing education piece, based on where those needs come from.
“We were tasked with looking at how to better define the role of Extended Learning in reaching new audiences,” remarks Copper-Glenz. “So, the three-pronged focus is: expanding and growing the programs at 7700 France, our continuing education or non-credit based program options, and building infrastructure to support new and current 100 percent online programs. These programs all target similar audiences—adult, non-traditional students—and we’ve been asked to define our positions in these three areas.”
Often, people are not looking for a degree, but a certificate program. So, it makes sense to package them through Extended Learning for that adult-based audience. “Online learning has become so prevalent across the University that it has become a mainstream part of the education experience. Most students take at least one online course at some point in their degree program. The challenge is defining the role of each department related to online education as online is now part of the general University offerings. Extended Learning has aligned its resources with the University’s mission of reaching new audiences,” states Copper-Glenz.
Extended Learning will focus on helping to develop new online programs and providing support for both current and new programs by marketing and promoting them. In addition, Linda Jacoby, Coordinator of Online Learning, is working on a pilot study to learn about the costs and challenges related to developing and maintaining successful online programs.
In terms of continuing education, special requests come in from industry, or faculty will have an idea for a non-credit program. Faculty members are tied into their specific market; they will see a need within their industry and set up a meeting with Extended Learning.
Industry needs can be fulfilled through a number of avenues: workshops, single courses, or certificate programs. As an example, Jean Clarke, Continuing Education Coordinator, helps to foster workshops for nursing-related continuing education for CEUs provided by Minnesota State faculty, partnering and sharing resources with South Central College which is able to provide the technical training piece. Ann Goebel has developed job training grants with SAGE Electrochromics in Faribault and Winnebago Manufacturing Company in Blue Earth with more specific customized training delivery.
“We have to be very directed in how we identify the right audience we can serve,” Goebel explains. “Our goal is to provide more affordable access to people across the southern part of the state. Our new direction is to be a service provider to the campus, not to compete with anyone there, but to work in concert with our programs and identify opportunities, then market, extend, and provide information for programs that don’t have the resources to do that for themselves.”
The College of Education and the School of Nursing have added outreach offices in the Twin Cities already. Extended Learning helps identify critical mass audiences where programs may leverage their constrained resources with a strategy to reach the growing Twin Cities learner needs without cannibalizing Mankato programs. Recent graduate programs on this path are the Masters of Engineering and the Urban Studies Master of Science.
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The Center for Engineering & Manufacturing Excellence brings together Minnesota’s academic expertise to build an educated, highly-skilled workforce for the state’s engineering and manufacturing industries.
Led by Minnesota State University, Mankato, the Center for Engineering & Manufacturing Excellence partnership represents a diverse network of programs across the spectrum of engineering, engineering technology, and technical programs within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. It serves as a first-contact resource for industry, providing continuing education, emerging technology and future worker development.
“Serving Minnesota’s students and industry partners by creating pathways for success between two-year colleges and four-year universities is the critical work of the Center today,” says Dr. John Frey, Interim Director for the Center. “There is an immediate need to fill the pipeline of engineers, technologists and technicians to maintain Minnesota’s strength in engineering and manufacturing.“
Created in 2005, Center membership include Anoka Technical College, Anoka; Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria; Hennepin Technical College, Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie; Normandale Community College; Bloomington; South Central College, North Mankato and Faribault; and the five colleges of the Northeast Higher Education District.
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Tom Williams - President, MSSA
How do you describe your role within Strategic Partnerships?
I offer the student perspective, because people who are removed from that perspective tend to lose what we’re actually looking for—we’re rapidly changing students, much quicker than older generations. Even the needs of my class of seniors are different from the needs of the freshman class.
When Strategic Partnerships brings in outside sources, the question comes up: ‘Does that fit in with the students’ wants and needs?’ I’m glad they recognize that the student perspective is valuable.
What is the importance of Strategic Partnerships for the University, and for Southern Minnesota?
It’s one of the more underappreciated and most valuable things we have in the University. It not only helps to brand us, but it forms lifelong partnerships with the private and public sectors. Outside sources will bring internships and jobs on campus; then, when our students apply with someone who has been connected with this University, who has been treated well and had a good partnership, our students may have a leg up when the partner is hiring.
The direct influence is there, but when you look at the intangibles—what the partnerships create for the individual student—it certainly impacts the student greatly, especially down the road. Partners know what’s happening at this University: its curriculum, direction, and progress. We are the outreach service, the hub, providing higher education to Southern Minnesota.
How do you see this Division impacting students?
It creates a hands-on, direct connection, especially if partners can come into the classroom with practical curriculum. We can have private sector businesses explain what the market is demanding, and the types of work students would be doing in the field, which students can experience directly, for example, through internships.
It would be nice for students to have a wider, grassroots grasp of what the division is doing. I think we really crave hands-on experience. Students can learn all the theory and study all the book work, but when we come to graduation, this practical background can help us jump right into our professions.
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