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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

2009 Convocation Address

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Welcome again to all of our new university community members and to our returning faculty, staff and students. We always look forward to members of the Mankato community and emeriti faculty and staff joining us on this special day.

We are pleased to especially welcome members of our Emeriti Faculty to the annual convocation. I want to recognize again Dr. Claire Faust, long-time professor and administrator. We are so happy that you could join us on this special day and thank you and all emeriti faculty for your continued support of Minnesota State Mankato.

Also, Chancellor James McCormick has provided us with a welcome back message, sharing with us his thoughts for the coming year. The link to his greeting will be e-mailed this afternoon for you to view as you prepare for the coming year.

My address today will cover 4 topics:
  • I’ll review the budget challenges from this past year and provide a brief forecast of the future.
  • I will share a number of notable accomplishments in the 2008-2009 academic year.
  • I’ll share the outcomes of our completed 2002-2008 strategic plans which were shared at a recent University retreat.
  • And, I’ll announce an integrated set of new strategic priorities which will focus our planning for the next 3-5 years.

The key to all of these priorities is to integrate our strategic priorities around a global solutions-centered university which will be reflected in everything we do as we prepare our students to enter a world that is more complex than ever before. We will continue to distinguish ourselves and raise our visibility in the higher education community by encompassing in our curriculum and student development experiences big ideas and real-world thinking.

All of this calls for a new set of institutional priorities to carry us forward in advancing the institution over the next few years. These are the priorities that I firmly believe will help enhance our reputation, improve quality and excellence throughout the University and better prepare our graduates in all fields.

Today’s students are learning that having a single focused area of study is not enough. They need to understand many fields of study and be able to work with colleagues from multiple fields in connecting the dots to solve complex problems. The world needs well-rounded graduates who have a breadth of knowledge and ability to integrate disciplinary and cross-disciplinary studies, as well as arts and humanities that together will lead to a strong liberal education. This is not a new concept, but one that has taken on a different focus as we wrestle with global issues that threaten our planet.

Our graduates need to be analytical thinkers and much more….they need to engage in critical thinking. The global issues we face are multifaceted and that fact requires institutions of higher education to take seriously the urgency to prepare students with a strong multifaceted education.


Let’s take a moment to review last year’s budget challenges.

The global economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 presented our institution with several immediate and long term challenges. Immediate challenges included an unallotment of $1.5 million by the Governor for the Fiscal Year 2009 budget. We were able to cover this unallotment centrally and did not have to look to department or division budgets to cover the unalloted funds.

The state budget deficit solution for the following FY10-11 biennium included a significant reduction in State funding for higher education and Minnesota State resulting in a reduction of state appropriation to Minnesota State University of approximately $7.0 million. Accounting for expenditure inflation and tuition revenues, the combined impact was $8.9 million for FY10. The FY11 budget outlook combined with federal bridge funding will help provide a short-term reprieve from the ongoing economic crisis.

The outlook for the FY12-13 biennium is not as positive. The State of Minnesota is projecting a $7 billion deficit for the biennium which translates to roughly 20 per cent of the State’s General Fund budget.

During this past year, we have all been challenged as we have worked hard to keep our core mission and focus intact. We are fortunate to have been able to weather the storm by balancing our budgets and addressing difficult cuts that were not easy for any of us. Thanks to the one-time federal stimulus money we are in a much better financial situation today than we anticipated at the start of last year.

As I previously mentioned, we are not out of the woods yet. We are bracing for the “2012 cliff” referring to a projected revenue shortfall that I just mentioned. Students will be challenged with predicted 10-15 percent accumulated base tuition increases in 2012. Therefore, our planning today will hopefully help to lessen the negative financial impact on our students and our institution.

With that forecast in mind, I wish to sincerely thank all of you for working so closely with me and my staff this past year in helping us to make the difficult budgetary decisions. I truly appreciate and thank all of the bargaining groups for voluntarily taking a salary freeze. It has not been an easy time for any of us, and we hope for better days.


Our last academic year was not all about budget challenges, and it is my pleasure to share the great pride we have in our institution, as I highlight a number of last year’s accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students. You will notice once again that we have taken out a full-page ad in the Mankato Free Press honoring the accomplishments of our faculty and staff.

To begin, I want to make special mention of the Division of Institutional Diversity, which was recognized by the Office of the Chancellor by receiving the top award for overall institutional excellence and also two awards for Innovative practices in Diversity, as well as Outstanding Student Diversity Organization. I believe this is especially significant since this was the first year that the Office of the Chancellor awarded excellence in diversity. To be recognized as the very first institution to receive an award for overall excellence speaks strongly to the diversity efforts on our campus.

Also, Minnesota State received three Minnesota State top awards for Excellence in Financial Management, Excellence in Facilities Management and Outstanding Service by an individual, Larry Kohanek, Director of Planning and Construction. This is the 7th consecutive year that our Facilities employees have been honored and our employees in the Financial Management have received recognition for 6 years. Our Finance and Facilities areas consistently perform at the highest levels.

A new paperless, electronic curriculum design web-based tool has won one of 11 worldwide “technology innovators” awards for Minnesota State University from Campus Technology magazine. Campus Technology selected our project from 349 nominations around the globe. The university’s new system won the magazine’s “curriculum design” award. Other top winners were Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon, the Rochester Institute of Technology and George Mason University. This is a real tribute to our faculty and staff, who developed the system.

In the last few days, Forbes magazine released their rankings of the top universities and I am pleased to report that Minnesota State Mankato ranked in the top quartile and the highest ranking Minnesota State institution. Several private colleges and the University of MN ranked above us.

I am proud to announce that we graduated 26 students in the first cohort of the new Master of Social Work program which started in 2007. And, the first doctoral degrees were awarded during the spring commencement to students enrolled in the doctor of nursing practice program. We also now offer applied doctorate degrees in counselor education and supervision, doctor of psychology in school psychology and in educational leadership. Our 4th doctoral program will enroll 15 students this fall.

While our grant and contract totals for FY 09 were on par with FY 07 and FY 08—between $5 million and $6 million, Dean Blackhurst shared with me that during the first 6 weeks of FY 10, we have already received $4.2 million in grants and contracts, suggesting that FY 10 may be our best year yet.

Our university was named one of three U.S. academic partners in a new, International Renewable Energy Technology Institute to facilitate the exchange of ideas and technology between Sweden and the United States and this past fall, we hosted the first bioenergy symposium. We were pleased to receive $1.5 million from the Minnesota Legislature for our IRETI project and we look for this amount to be matched by the federal government this year. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Economic Development awarded the University $743,000 for the renewable energy emissions lab and we are involved in a partnership with other Minnesota State institutions that received a $1 million training grant.

We have also received recognition for the new Ford Hall wing of Trafton Science Center when it was recognized for its innovative construction and named one of the top 25 Minnesota construction projects of 2008 by the Minneapolis business publication Finance and Commerce. The 67,000 square-foot building is the largest single building project in the history of Minnesota State. Also, we opened the Julia A. Sears Residence Hall this past fall. The space is beautiful and functional for today’s students. We opened a new educational site in Edina at 7700 France, our first site with full programs in multiple disciplines in the suburban Twin Cities. The Owatonna College and University Center was re-organized collaboratively with Riverland Community College and South Central College.

We enjoyed an unprecedented level of success in Athletics this past year. Highlighted by a national championship in women’s basketball, the Mavericks had a total of five national top-10 finishes for our teams on our way to a best ever second place finish in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup standings. This measure demonstrates the depth and strength of our entire athletic program and marks the fifth consecutive year our University has accomplished a Top 10 overall finish in the national standings. Along the way, teams representing the purple and gold captured seven conference championships, three individual national titles, and enjoyed a first place finish in the U.S Bank All-Sports competition as we successfully transitioned the program into competition in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The national championship women’s basketball trophy is currently on display in the Hall of Champions just outside the Bresnan Arena.

While we applaud the recognition and notoriety that comes with opportunities such as winning a championship before a national television audience, perhaps more importantly are some of the accomplishments that come outside of competition. I am speaking of success off the practice field. Collectively our student-athletes provided more than 2,000 hours of community service this past year, while nearly 200 of them were recognized on the Dean’s List for their accomplishments in the classroom. In fact, over the last decade, the Mavericks rank in the Top 10 nationally for NCAA Division II in terms of the number of Academic All-Americans that have been recognized. Congratulations to our student athletes, coaches and all of those who support their efforts.

Theatre and Dance students earned more finalist and semifinalist awards than any of the other 87 participating colleges and universities at the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival competition. Minnesota State Mankato students won three finalist and six semifinalist awards during the week-long event in January.

One of our students placed second in the 2009 National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament.

Our Assistant Director of American Indian Affairs, Dave Larson, received the Minnesota American Indian Educator of the year award from the Minnesota American Indian Education Association.

Minnesota State Mankato’s independent public radio station KMSU received the 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Pathfinder Award for its long history of diversity programming. It also was honored with the coveted “Station of the Year” award by the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations.

We successfully kicked off the inaugural Midwest Women’s Leadership Institute this summer to encourage women’s leadership development. Women from Minnesota State Mankato and several surrounding states participated in this landmark Institute for the purpose of helping college and university women expand their abilities and develop leadership goals that are inspired by nationally recognized experts. The Leadership Institute was founded and developed by female leaders from our own university.

Also, Minnesota State Mankato’s first Graduate Research Conference was held in April and showcased new faculty research. In addition, ten faculty members were awarded 2009 Summer Research Grants funded by the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

I am also thrilled to acknowledge Stewart and Liz Ross’ gift for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. They have set an example for other faculty and staff to give back to the institution for their favorite cause. Thank you Stewart and Liz.
Thank you to each and everyone for the significant achievements of the past year. Even though we were struggling with unprecedented budget issues, you continued to provide opportunities for students to go beyond possibility in achieving their dreams.


On August 10, I convened our eighth annual retreat in St. Peter, Minnesota where approximately 90 bargaining unit leaders, vice presidents, deans, student leaders, directors and others gathered to discuss our next strategic plan. The group shared views about such things as our core values, campus master plan, quality and excellence indicators and several strategic goals I proposed in planning for our exciting future as a new doctoral university. Also, we reviewed our own accountability report card, and the work we have done during the past 6 years. In this context, we discussed our accomplishments to-date and where we need to go as we move our university to new heights.

A new “2002-2008 Strategic Plan Report Card,” was shared and discussed by Provost Olson. Some examples of the outcomes indicate that under Goal 1 student diversity grew by 153 percent and employee diversity grew by 50 percent over the 6-year period.

Our strategic goal 2 outcomes regarding enhancing graduate education indicated we have experienced roughly a 9 percent growth in graduate enrollments, 120 percent growth in externally funded research, a 66 percent increase in faculty publications and a 1,000 percent increase in the number of times other scholars cited the work of our faculty.

In the area of Goal 3 centering on enhancing academic excellence in undergraduate studies we still have a ways to go, however, faculty participation in programs to enhance teaching grew remarkably with more than half of the University faculty members participating. The Center for Excellence in Scholarship and Research and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning have served 115 and 350 faculty and staff respectively.

Under Goal 4 campus-wide plans have been achieved with major new facilities, Ford Hall and Sears Residence Hall and the remodeled and renovated Otto Recreation Center and the Centennial Student Union. The 5-year and 20-year campus facility master plans have been hailed as model plans by the Office of the Chancellor.

Goal 5 of our existing strategic plan focused on establishing a distance learning plan to meet the needs of extended learning populations. While we have a ways to go with online courses, we have opened a new center at 7700 France to serve our off-campus populations.

Goal 6 involved objectives centered on international programs. We have reorganized and developed a single Office of International Affairs where we have developed 23 prestigious partnerships with institutions in Europe, China, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and India. American students studying abroad have increased by 37 percent.

Finally, 88 percent of the Health and Wellness objectives for Goal 7 have been met.

As you can see, we have either achieved, or come close to achieving most of our objectives under each strategic planning goal. This is a compliment and point of pride to our faculty and staff who contributed to the success of the 2002-2008 Strategic Plan. The report card is available online, and I will provide the link in my message to you later today so that you can review the outcomes at your convenience.

I want to assure everyone that even though we have accomplished most of our target goals from this recent strategic plan and measured our progress carefully, we still have work to do.

For instance, we cannot let up on promoting diversity, we must continue to focus our efforts on enrollment management, including international recruitment and providing access and opportunity for the underserved populations. We must look to diversify our enrollment growth seeking new populations to serve. Planning for enrollment growth in a strategic manner is essential for our survival as competition becomes more intense with the decline in traditionally aged student populations.

We will continue to grow and enhance graduate education, research and scholarship. Sponsored research funds and external grants will continue to be important in our quest to enhance graduate education and research. Our new Honors program must be implemented and tested to make certain it fulfills our objectives. Web-based teaching and learning will need to be evaluated for quality and moved forward to meet the needs of our students. And, certainly public relations and marketing will continue to play a key role in the success of our institution. Health and wellness is an ongoing concern that we will want to emphasize as we move forward. Needless to say, our commitment to fundraising will remain at the top of the list, and I will be asking for everyone’s help to maximize gifts to the University. Continuing our efforts in promoting the Great Place to Work will be a long-term objective requiring the attention and participation of everyone on campus in the years ahead. These will be ongoing objectives and are vital to our continued success.

During the retreat, we also heard a stimulating presentation by Brian Lassiter, President of the Minnesota Council for Quality regarding enhancing excellence in challenging times. Brian stated a philosophy for successful enterprises that I believe is very insightful, “Never think you have had your best day!” We should never be content with being good, or great….we are an institution that seems to always push the envelope of excellence.

As we move forward in this direction we will strengthen excellence in all areas and move toward reaching our objectives utilizing standards of excellence developed by the Malcolm Baldrige group. It will be our peers that judge us, our accrediting agencies and outside evaluators. By the way, the standards of excellence for the Malcolm Baldrige award are so high that only a couple of universities around the country have been successful in meeting their measures of excellence.

Finally, during the annual retreat we came together as a group of institutional leaders and spent most of the day focused on discussing new strategic priorities. Overall, the retreat was essential in laying the groundwork for our next strategic plan and receiving widespread input from the campus leaders.


I love this time of the year because our annual convocation is a wonderful time to celebrate our achievements. We recognized a number of employees earlier in today’s program for exceptional performance in a variety of areas. All these accomplishments and many more, including completion of our strategic plan, are your accomplishments. And, therefore, to all our faculty and staff, I say, “thank you” for your innovation, dedication and hard work in moving this university to even greater heights.

Convocation, however, is also a time to look forward.

How will we build on these tremendous achievements?

What new challenges and opportunities will we embrace?

To help answer these questions, I ask that you begin with one word………”Imagine.”


As this video conveys, we have a powerful, compelling aspiration that will define our future here at Minnesota State Mankato. And, we’ve captured its essence in bold fashion…”Global Solutions!” This is a dream that emerged from this community and is the result of much thinking and many productive conversations over the past few years. In many ways, this vision is true to who we are.

The key elements of this vision were communicated in the video, and let me remind you of the three main ideas that make up the Global Solutions concept:

  1. It requires all of us here at the University to work together…to cross boundaries of department, college and field of study to collaborate at new levels.
  2. It is solution-focused. In line with our heritage, this vision is about outcomes. It is not just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but using knowledge to make a real difference for real people and real problems.
  3. It is global in nature. In this case, “global” means more than international…it also means we generate solutions in an integrated way, maximizing the diverse perspective we have as a university. We must take the many ways of knowing and combine them into integrated solutions.

Imagine this powerful vision for our future. It is the new “Big Idea” as we move forward. We need to make it tangible and apply some “real-world thinking” to it.

I believe we must do five things as a University community to make Global Solutions a reality:

  1. Integrate the Global Solutions idea across our institution.
  2. Excel in our endeavors as a university.
  3. Think and act like the doctoral institution we are.
  4. Build the campus of the future.
  5. Connect with new student populations through extended learning.

Therefore, I am recommending to our faculty, staff and students that we adopt a few selected new strategic priorities for our university community to review, to refine and to formulate action plans that we can begin implementing this year. As we begin a new and dynamic era at Minnesota State University, Mankato, these will be the strategic priorities that will carry us forward in advancing the institution during the next several years. These are the priorities that will help set us apart from other universities, enhance our reputation and result in improved quality and excellence.

Strategic goals include:

1. The University will integrate the Global Solutions idea across our institution. And, I need to emphasize that when I use the term “Global” I use it in multiple layers -- as in “integrated” – seeing a big picture, synthesizing information into a meaningful whole, understanding how people and entities are part of a greater whole or cause. And, I also mean “global” as in “international” – connectedness across borders and barriers, diversity, pluralism, inclusiveness.

“Solutions” also has layers – it’s an attitude that’s part of our character here, the idea that we as individuals and as a community can make a difference and meet any challenge – it’s a proud focus on research that solves problems relevant to people’s lives and needs.

The Global Solution (Big Ideas Real-World Thinking) will be implemented by providing students, faculty, and staff international opportunities for travel, communication and sharing, study abroad experiences and also by providing experiential learning opportunities and relevant applied-based experiences.

2. The university will capitalize on its new status as a doctoral institution in ways that enrich the campus and surrounding communities.  As the next step in its evolution from Normal School to world-class university, Minnesota State Mankato will provide state-of-the-art applied graduate programs with national reputations and international reach.  These programs will be characterized by high quality educational experiences, innovative research that engages both faculty and students in finding solutions to real-world problems, and the resources necessary to support and sustain excellence.

3. Minnesota State Mankato will embody quality and excellence in all that we do. The University will accomplish this by setting a clear set of goals and objectives; by measuring student learning outcomes and student satisfaction; and by ensuring that all departments are meeting academic and/or industry standards. The Malcolm Baldrige measures of excellence will serve as our benchmark.

4. The University will grow its University Extended Education outreach by providing access and opportunity to thousands of additional students. The university will provide high quality online and distance education by developing degrees, programs, and certificates that will support students’ needs; by developing agreements with partners and others to make transferring seamless; by being flexible and timely with its programming.

5. The University will transition its facilities to model the “Campus of the Future.” The University will create a sustainable environment by developing a pedestrian-friendly and ecological sensitive environment; by providing welcoming and safe surroundings; by utilizing innovative and technological learning spaces; by ensuring community friendly learning, gathering, and collaborative places and by developing green and energy conscious facilities and outdoor areas.


This annual convocation is a wonderful time to celebrate our achievements. All our accomplishments and more…your accomplishments folks!

And, so to all of our faculty and staff, I cannot say “thank you” enough for your innovation, dedication and hard work in moving us to even greater heights.

Finally, allow me to end with this thought…this great university, Minnesota State Mankato has had for more than 140 years the unique tradition of combining big ideas with real-world thinking thereby helping people to go further than they ever thought possible. Today, that heritage is alive and well all around us. You see, the people of this university not only have had the courage to dream…to imagine, we have also had the discipline and responsibility to convert those dreams into solutions for real problems and real benefits for real people --To solve problems, not just study or analyze them…to continue giving students a sound education that incorporates this way of thinking – this is how we’ll continue to make a difference as we strive to find global solutions to real-world problems. We should all be proud of this tradition. And, with that pride in mind, we are going to communicate our unique heritage more boldly than ever in the coming years.

As Leonard Bernstein said, “In order to achieve great things, two things are needed, a plan and not quite enough time!” I believe we have a plan and not quite enough time, however, we can move forward with an integrated approach built on the over-riding goal of integrating into our everyday work global solutions that will lead to resounding success.

Imagine a thriving academic community dedicated to solutions where global means more than international.

A place where we continuously imagine Big Ideas and Real-World Thinking!