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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

2011 Convocation Address

Page address:
August 15, 2011
10:30 a.m.
Bresnan Arena in the Taylor Center
Minnesota State University, Mankato


Richard Davenport, President

Welcome everyone to the 2011-2012 academic year and to all the events planned for this exciting first week.

This is the beginning of a new academic year, and I emphasize “new” as we welcome new members to campus and approach new and existing challenges together. I hope everyone has had a chance to admire our beautiful and inviting campus gateway on Ellis and Stadium Road, the first of 2-3 new entrances planned for the future. The new entrance is symbolic as we begin to build the campus of the future-- another step in reaching the institutional priority of transforming our university with many changes yet to come in the years ahead. You will also notice the construction in progress around the campus as we prepare for the future with new residence halls, a dramatic renovation of the CSU ballroom and many other facility updates.

A few minutes ago, Provost Olson introduced members of the President’s Cabinet and the Council of Deans. I would like to especially welcome to our campus the new administrators coming to us with outstanding backgrounds and experience.

I’m particularly proud to see that we are “growing our own” and that four new administrators are coming to us from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

I also want to extend a very special welcome back to someone we have missed for awhile. I welcome Provost Scott Olson, who is returning to us after a year serving as Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the Office of the Chancellor where he gained some valuable experience and insight that I am sure we will all benefit from this year. You may recall I gave him a roadmap back to Mankato upon his departure a year ago and thank goodness he didn’t lose it. Scott tells me that he is now ready to roll up his sleeves and have some fun as we all tackle an ambitious agenda. Welcome home, Scott. Let me also mention that Interim Provost Anne Blackhurst did a tremendous job during Scott’s absence, and we wish her success as the new Provost at MSU, Moorhead.

It is my great pleasure to welcome President Emerita Margaret Preska, who along with her husband, Dan, has joined us this morning.

Likewise, it is my pleasure to welcome the nation’s longest standing dean of an Arts and Humanities College, Dean Emerita Jane Earley. Thank you for joining us today.

I want to take a moment to reflect on passages from the first message shared by our new Chancellor, Steven Rosenstone:

Chancellor Rosenstone emphasized in his letter the enormous challenges ahead that will require even greater innovation to enhance the quality of education for our workforce and professional body of experts needed to accomplish much more with less State support. He talked about the importance of expanding our partnerships with businesses and communities. And, he is sincerely interested in hearing from you and others the bold and creative ideas that will enhance every facet of what we do, and help us seize the opportunities that lie ahead. Dr. Rosenstone is very committed to student learning and success and is already promoting the crucial and unique role our system plays in our state. Like so many others, I am looking forward to working with him as he takes the system to new heights.

Last Tuesday, I led our annual retreat centered on the theme of “Creating Big Ideas.” Close to 100 administrative staff, bargaining unit and student leaders participated in a very energizing discussion of relevant topics and issues to help us set the course for the coming academic year. Vice President Straka provided us with the current status of the University budget based on actions taken this summer by the legislature and Governor. Jeff Iseminger, representing the Strategic Priorities Steering Committee, shared 3 Big Ideas coming from that group….recruit, invest and redesign. Doug Mayo inspired all of us to want to get out our checkbooks and donate to the comprehensive campaign which will go public later this fall. We heard from our student leaders, Matthew Lexcon and Moriah Miles, about their goals for the coming year and were introduced to two potentially Big Ideas…. Homework helpers presented by Vice President Ed Clark and also my thoughts about a new graduation requirement. Vice President Bob Hoffman’s team shared the excitement being generated by our 7700 France site and Associate Vice President David Jones and Interim Dean of Diversity Henry Morris talked with us about enrollment management directions to recruit, retain and serve.

We were also pleased to welcome two guests from the Office of the Chancellor who talked with us about long-term facilities planning and the campus service cooperative. And, there was time for in-depth conversation about a variety of topics facing the University as we begin the 2011-2012 academic year – curricular innovation, recruitment of honors and gifted students, promoting our colleges, innovative uses of mobile devices, student engagement, diversity, capital planning, addressing bullying, and scholarly research to name just a few. Participant comments were extremely positive. We could feel the energy and excitement in the room, and I’m sensing that same energy and excitement today as we begin our new year.

At this time of year, I always look forward to receiving lists of accomplishments from the various divisions of the University so that I might mention them in my university address and include them in the full-page ad that ran this morning in the Mankato Free Press. As a consequence, I have received so many notable accomplishments that it has left me reeling with admiration and respect for our university community. I realize it is not possible to elaborate on many of these accomplishments in my address today. However, I will single out just one for mention:

The Odyssey was one of four productions selected from 1,300 to be presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C. as part of the 44th annual American College Theater Festival in April. In addition, it won eight national awards (the most in the country) including one for the entire cast for Ensemble Acting. Additionally, individual awards were presented to students and faculty for performance, set design, lighting design, sound design, costume design, stage management and direction. Wow and Wow!!


We will continue our strategic planning efforts in all five areas….. building the campus of the future, growing extended learning, promoting global solutions, moving forward with doctoral education and striving for quality and excellence in all that we do. I look forward to further progress in the year ahead. Implementing our Strategic Plan last year occurred in numerous ways. I will highlight just a few.

  • We developed a new Strategic Planning website that contains the vision, priorities, goals, and how we cross walked them. We formed a Strategic Planning Steering Committee comprised of select members of the original Strategic Planning Task Forces.
  • The Global Solutions Center was identified as a focal point for the University’s comprehensive campaign, and we initiated a Global Solutions Lecture Series that brought nationally renowned speakers to campus.
  • An Intensive English Language Institute was established and formally launched in April 2011
  • We created 10 University Doctoral Assistantships for annual allocation to doctoral programs by the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research.
  • The number of undergraduates enrolled only in online courses increased by 104% and the number of enrolled graduates increased by 24% in fall 2010. Likewise, our off campus courses saw increases in the number of undergraduates enrolled only in off-campus courses.
  • The University began work on a campus Sustainability Policy through the Environmental Committee.
  • Funding was allocated through the one-time reinvestment process to create classrooms of the future across campus.
  • The “technology lounge” concept was expanded.
  • IT introduced and began implementing the collaborative study areas and collaborative classroom technology called MediaScape.
  • The University applied and received admission to the Higher Learning Commission’s Academy for Assessment of Student Learning in June 2011.

We are making good progress with our strategic priorities.


I would like to shift my focus now to challenges and ideas-- both of which present opportunities for moving our university ahead. I want to prepare you for what I am about to share with you. So brace yourself! First, this is a very intense part of my address today and you will hear me thinking out loud and recommending numerous targeted challenges that have been on my mind for some time. In some cases, I am proposing the consideration of drastic changes in how we operate and in other areas you will find the challenges ambitious, very difficult, controversial and maybe even enlightening. One thing I know for sure though is that everyone on our campus will be involved in one of more of these challenges that if achieved would skyrocket us forward in a way that will transform our institution for years to come as we continue our journey together in building the new university, the campus of the future. So, here are some of the challenges I see for Minnesota State Mankato.


While we look forward to entertaining a number of exciting new ideas for our future it is also very important to address some very serious challenges facing us at Minnesota State Mankato. The first challenge, which will come as no surprise to anyone, is that we still have a big budget problem because both Congress and our own Minnesota legislature and Governor failed to resolve our national and state deficits. In fact, Vice President Straka gave an eye-opening budget presentation at our recent administrative retreat and shared graphs and charts showing that the permanent solution to the state’s deficit solution accounted for only $3.0 billion with $2.1 billion representing a one-time solution. Our elected officials could not reach an agreement and pushed the deficit down the road to FY 2014. Therefore, we have not yet attained stability in the structural budget. While we seem to be in good shape for FY2012-2013, we should anticipate FY 2014 appropriation reductions. At this point, we cannot predict the magnitude of those additional higher education budget reductions.

Even though more than two years ago we began the process of reducing our budget in preparation for the state revenue forecast, our budget challenges are not over yet. You will recall that we were one of the first state universities to successfully achieve our budget targets as we planned for the future. However, as everyone knows, this involved some very difficult decisions adversely affecting programs, students and people; and, we are still reeling from those budget cuts. Last spring, however, we were optimistic about the economic outlook and held many discussions with our bargaining unit leaders and administration about the prospects of returning resources to the colleges and divisions to strategically reinvest in our future. While we will still intend to return some dollars for this purpose over the next two years, I have asked our administration to be very cautious and conservative until we learn the impact of new budget reductions from the State. Restoring all of the identified reductions into the base budget is not prudent. This means that we will be withholding more base dollars in our current budget than we originally planned and will provide more one-time money to address our budgetary needs. While this is not good news for any of us, especially the academic side of the institution, it means we will need to hire more fixed term and adjunct faculty than originally desired. Restoration of funding to all divisions will adhere to the same principle of cautiousness. Hopefully, our base reductions will carry us through this next round of budget cuts to higher education. Of course, it is early yet to make any firm predictions, and so we will be watching the state scene very carefully for indicators on how the state budget will be resolved.


We have other related challenges to address this year and this second challenge will receive the most attention in my speech today. It is difficult to talk about budget planning without discussing enrollment management, a topic that has been at the top of our list of strategic priorities for some time, and naturally so, since tuition revenue has become such a major part of our total budget revenues. We have observed state support for higher education slip dramatically over the past 10 years where we have gone from more than 60-70 percent state support to less than 40 percent support for higher education today. We understand that we do not stand alone with rising tuition costs and mounting debt load for students; this is a national issue of concern. Therefore, enrollment management, which has always been important to us in planning, is today one of the most critical areas for every institution to study and monitor. As long as I can remember, presidents and enrollment management experts have conveyed to their university communities that admissions and retention is everyone’s business. This statement is even more strikingly true today. Tuition dollars have become our life-blood, so to speak, as we see state funding support dwindle leaving us with the realization that this trend is the “new normal” for higher education.

As you know, enrollment management involves recruitment, retention and persistence of students. We normally think of retention on a semester to semester and year to year basis, while we think of persistence rates as the time it takes to graduate with a degree. Over the years we have seen the degradation of persistence rates, or how long it takes to earn a baccalaureate degree. We have also observed the ups and downs of retention rates as we have watched students drop in and drop out, or transfer to other institutions with greater ease than in the past. These trends make it more difficult to predict enrollment and graduation outcomes.

I recently asked Dr. Lynn Akey, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, to prepare a report for me regarding a 5-year study of attrition rates among undergraduate and graduate students. We have enrolled, on the average, approximately 2,100-2,300 new entering students each year during this time period. We have engaged in many discussions at the university over the years regarding retention and generally concluded that we have done fairly well in comparison to other state and national public universities. And, this conclusion is warranted in regards to our 75-80% retention rates for new entering students. However, the stark reality is that we still lose a significant number of students each year. In summary, this is what Dr. Akey found for the period of 2005-2009:

  • The largest one-year loss of students occurs over the course of the first year (779 students for Minnesota State).
  • During the second year the lost drops off to 385 students for our campus.
  • The third year shows an additional loss of 169 students.
  • The largest one-term loss of students occurs between the first spring term and the second fall term (466 students for Minnesota State).
  • In total over four years, on average, 1,303 undergraduate students leave our university without completing a degree from our institution. Many of these students may have transferred to another institution.
  • We do know that in total over four years, on average, 490 undergraduate students leave our campus and do not enroll in another higher education institution.
  • Our graduation persistent rates, while comparing favorably with the national averages for similar schools, demonstrates that only slightly more than half of our new entering students graduate with a degree.

Dr. Akey also completed an analysis regarding the retention of underrepresented students in comparison to non-underrepresented students. Her findings come as no surprise. For instance she found that 72.24% of underrepresented undergraduate students are retained by the University from the beginning of their first fall term to the beginning of their second fall term, whereas 78.9% of non-underrepresented undergraduate students are retained at Minnesota State for the same period. She also found underrepresented students are less likely to transfer to another institution and have lower graduation rates.

Lynn’s examination of attrition rates for more than 1,400 graduate students uncovered different findings than with our undergraduate populations:

In total, on average, 82 graduate students leave Minnesota State between the beginning of their first fall term and the beginning of their second fall term. This appears to be a very positive and not too surprising outcome in comparison to our undergraduates.


Vice President Straka shared with me an interesting fact regarding retention; for every 150 students that leave our institution, we lose close to $1.0 million in tuition revenue per year. Therefore, a loss of 779 undergraduate first year students results in an estimated loss of more than $5.0 million. If one multiplies this figure times three additional years the revenue loss is startling. While attaining 100 percent retention would be a good problem to have, it is, of course, a bit unrealistic. What is realistic though is for our university to aggressively reduce this retention gap and establish a challenging goal of retaining 80-90% of our entering students, and to increase our graduation rates to 65-75%, a very steep hill to climb! As some of you gasp, I hasten to add that very few public state universities are achieving this standard. The bottom line is that we must find ways to reduce attrition and increase completion rates.


In addition, we need to address the issue of student debt load and time to completion, which continues to mount at a tremendous pace for many students. While we have been working hard to slow the rate of tuition increases, it is unlikely that state support is going to change in the years ahead, and we can anticipate tuition to continue rising. There are ways; however, we can help students reduce their debt. In addition to seeking gifts for student scholarships, we need to encourage and advise students to consider the possibilities of graduating in 4 years rather than the typical 5.5-6.0 years when possible. This will not be easy with most of today’s students tending to work part-time to cover the cost of their education. Last year, Interim Vice President Anne Blackhurst even developed models for a 3-year degree that may interest a smaller segment of the student body and serve as a College-High School option similar to “Colleges in the Schools” at the University of Minnesota focusing on bright high school juniors and seniors. Therefore, as one of the most urgent priorities this year, I am recommending Associate Vice President David Jones, revisit our enrollment management goals and develop an aggressive and realistic strategic plan to enhance our retention and persistence rates. The study should primarily focus on new entering students, undergraduate students and encompass underrepresented and international students.


While Dr. Jones is working on this study I am asking Provost Scott Olson to work with our academic division to determine how we might structure our curriculum, course offerings and advising in such a way as to encourage students to escalate their time to completion. I realize some academic programs will take longer to complete due to content and coursework required by accreditation groups. I have observed that the majority of our programs with 120 credits are structured to allow students to graduate in four years; however, too few students today, probably fewer than 25% take advantage of this option. At the same time we are studying how to increase completion rates, I am requesting that Scott develop a plan to revitalize our student advising system by assembling a think tank comprised of faculty, staff and students to help him develop a new plan for campus wide discussions. Before leaving this topic, I want to emphasize one of the most important measures of our institution lies in how successful we are in graduating well-prepared and educated students to meet the needs of our society.


This fall, the Office of the Chancellor will be releasing two new accountability dashboard measures as components of the System’s Accountability Dashboard: a student transfer measure and a student opinion of learning measure. While our performance on the student transfers measure is very high, our performance on the student opinion measure is very disappointing.

The student opinion learning measure focuses on students’ perception of gains in knowledge, skills and personal development. This new measure is not a direct measurement of how much students have learned, or how effectively we teach. Nonetheless, results from this new measure reflect very poorly upon our institution. As a campus we need to further examine, be responsive to, and demonstrate improvement in student engagement in learning. The Academic Affairs Division will need to revisit our plan to enhance our students’ success in this area. I am asking Provost Olson to work with the faculty and student affairs staff to develop and implement this year a plan leading to positive student scores and moving us up from the bottom of the Dashboard.


An idea that recently emerged in discussions with our new Vice President for Technology Ed Clark has been termed a Minnesota Homework Helpers program. The concept details the formation of a new program where Minnesota State students would provide direct assistance on various academic subjects to student populations across the state of Minnesota. While the idea is still under consideration, Vice President Clark notes that there are several main features and benefits that could make Minnesota State a pioneer in offering this type of service in Minnesota and possibly the nation. The main focus of the Homework Helpers concept is for college students to serve as subject matter experts in a variety of difficult areas, such as STEM related courses, as well as other subject areas. University students would be available to assist high school students and other college students not only at Minnesota State, but possibly throughout the state. A multi-platform contact model, using phone, chat, SMS, web and video for this kind of service would be useful for a broad population of students. The K-12 schools could reap benefits from the program helping to reduce the burden on teachers and support staff. Summer bridge programs would benefit from the program. Likewise, parents would find it useful in helping their children with homework. And, the program would help to promote our university. It will be interesting to see how this idea unfolds this year.


Since I am talking about ideas, the utilization of emeriti faculty and staff has long been an interest of mine as I have considered this group to be an untapped resource for the university. I am not advocating that we replace full-time or even part-time faculty and staff with emeriti members. However, it sure seems like we are ignoring a tremendous talent pool by not finding important ways to utilize their expertise and experience. Remember, some day all of us will be among the emeriti ranks and I would like to think we will all have something to offer our university. As an institution we have so many needs that we simply are unable to address due to limited resources. I am interested in hearing your creative ideas about this subject. How can we better utilize emeriti faculty and staff in helping to meet some of our goals? I plan to assemble a team of faculty, staff, administrators and emeriti members to develop a plan that includes objectives and steps we might consider in addressing the goal of better utilizing our emeriti members.


Another subject that requires more attention is the problem of bullying on our campus. A couple years ago we determined that we would address bullying head on and consequently we formed a strategic planning committee and an implementation group to move us forward. After many meetings and discussions it appears that we definitely need to step up our efforts and experiment with some new approaches. I am recommending that we develop a plan that will more directly involve each division, college and department. I will bring together the Great Place to Work Task Force, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, and the President’s Commission on Diversity to formulate a comprehensive working committee that will develop and execute a plan to eliminate bullying, and increase civility and respect on our campus. It is time we all owned this problem and worked together to create a safe and welcoming workplace. I will be asking Provost Olson, Becky Barkmeier, Human Resources Director, and Linda Hanson, Director of Affirmative Action to provide general oversight of this initiative.


We also will need good ideas and broad input this year in regards to our campus master plan. During our recent retreat, Associate Vice Chancellor Brian Yolitz provided an excellent report regarding long-range capital planning. The Board of Trustees has expressed an interest in preparing for our capital needs 10-20 years out. We typically renew our campus master plan every five years when we highlight the deferred maintenance and capital projects we wish to move forward for funding. The Trustees, however, have listened to detailed presentations from Mr. Yolitz and are very interested in developing a long-range capital plan for the System. Here are some of the statistics that Brian shared with us the other day. Minnesota State owns 26.8 million square feet of facility space with an average age on square footage basis of 40 years. Our owned space has grown 12% in the last 10 years and we currently have more than 300 space leases. The current replacement value is $6.9 billion and our maintenance backlog is $750 million. Our five-year renewal plan is $461 million. It is easy to see that we are falling behind each year with our renewal plan. A few of the important questions for our Board of Trustees and campuses are:

  1. How do we maintain what we have and what do we need?
  2. How can we be more efficient, more effective and more flexible to achieve better utilization of our space?
  3. How should we evaluate new projects versus renovations and retrofitting existing buildings?
  4. Are their private sector relationships we should be pursuing to help us with our capital challenges?

As you can see, we have some major challenges that will require an intense analysis of these questions and a long-term capital planning approach that will involve all the Minnesota State institutions. Clearly, it will become increasingly difficult to secure funding for new buildings without strong and persuasive arguments from the campuses.


For the past 4 years we have been busy raising money with the quiet phase of our comprehensive campaign. We are now moving closer to publicly announcing our comprehensive campaign and hope to do so in late October of this year. At the retreat last week, we heard a stimulating presentation from Vice President Doug Mayo. Doug enthusiastically shared the status of our current campaign and our accomplishments to date. At the same time, he made a persuasive appeal to everyone to support our university campaign. Doug and I will be meeting with each college dean and with the development officers to discuss how each department can play a big role in our campaign. This is everyone’s campaign and it will benefit the entire university, students, faculty and staff alike. All divisions of the university will also be consulted regarding how they can assist in meeting our goals. Minnesota State Mankato has an outstanding track record in fundraising and has often raised more money than all the Minnesota State colleges and universities combined. The competition is enormous today and so in order to achieve our campaign goals it will take the support of everyone to close this campaign in the months ahead. Our faculty and staff have been the most generous group compared to all the other Minnesota colleges with a rate of giving approximating 40 percent among employees. We will be looking for major gifts outside the university, but know our campaign goals cannot be reached without everyone’s support. To assist us in moving forward we have a media blitz planned for this fall.


The media blitz in September is planned to coincide with the public announcement of our $75.0 million comprehensive campaign where we have been fortunate to raise more than two-thirds of the funds in the last four years. Earlier this morning, you saw our two new, powerful TV spots — stories that make me proud to be at a university that nurtures such people and their big ideas. We will be using these TV videos on several Twin Cities stations during the late evening newscasts of WCCO, KARE-11 and KSTP. Watch for eight new billboards in heavy traffic areas in the Cities, several spots on the morning 6:00-9:00 am news drive time of Minnesota Public Radio each weekday in September, a full-page inside front cover ad in the Minnesota Monthly magazine featuring alumnus and former President Donovan Schwichtenberg from the number one two-year college in the country, Saint Paul College. Also, our newest edition of the Today Magazine will be distributed to 92,000 alumni and friends. And, finally an ad will appear for several weeks on approximately 100,000 Facebook pages of 16-18 year-olds within a 50-mile radius of the Twin Cities.


I’ve been talking about both challenges and ideas throughout my remarks this morning. One idea in particular has been in my thoughts for some time. I have wondered how we might move forward with a serious discussion regarding a new non-credit graduation requirement I refer to as a “cultural requirement” for lack of a better description. It seems to me that our students have a multitude of opportunities to enrich their undergraduate experience before graduating. And, a number of our students take advantage of these opportunities whether it is through attendance and participation at theatre, dance and music performances, athletic events, intramural sports, diversity events, residential life activities, student clubs and organizations, forensics, departmental clubs, as well as a number of other events.

What seems to be lacking in the body of experiences is the chance for all students to expand their knowledge and appreciation for our many different cultures around the world. I realize that our curriculum and course content is changing to become more globally focused. We are branding ourselves as a global university and I am pleased with how departments have gravitated to this idea in their curriculum. However, I believe we can do more to prepare our students in the area of understanding world cultures and global issues. I believe we will make a difference in our student’s overall education if we required a broader exposure to international perspectives. Not all students can afford to complete a study abroad experience, or a foreign language which are excellent ways to learn about other cultures. I am not sure of the exact form the cultural requirement for graduation might take, however, I do not support assigning credit hours to meet this graduation requirement and I think we need to consider ways in which to minimize any additional cost to our students. I firmly believe all students should be required in some manner to be exposed to cultures from around the world. I will be asking Provost Olson, Dr. David Jones and the Deans to entertain widespread discussion throughout the University this year to examine the idea of incorporating a more intense cultural experience into our undergraduate graduation requirements.


I believe it is the right time in our history to critically examine our current graduate studies and research goals and develop a strategic plan for these areas consistent with our thoughts about building the campus of the future and becoming a more prominent institution known for applied research, scholarship and global solutions. Therefore, I will be asking our Interim Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Dr, Barry Ries, to lead a broad-based university group in discussing what should be included in a future strategic plan. The plan should address a number of challenges and questions, such as:

  1. What are innovative ways to reward productivity?
  2. How can we utilize Vertical Research Teams for supervision of student research?
  3. How do we foster a culture of collaboration in research and scholarly work?
  4. How do we enhance our grants and contracts? What is the value of utilizing grant writing specialists?
  5. Should we utilize post-doctoral fellowships on campus to work with recent doctoral graduates?
  6. What are ways in which we can better align with the Undergraduate Research Center?
  7. Is there value in examining the traditional thesis model compared to a manuscript model that can be submitted for publication?
  8. What should a funding model look like to support our graduate and research plan?
  9. Other ideas.

I am interested in an organizational and operational strategic plan to accomplish a visionary direction in these areas. I look for broad campus-wide discussions on these topics as we sort through the many options and creative ideas that will provide a roadmap for the future of graduate studies, scholarship and research at Minnesota State Mankato.


I need to mention at this point in my address how important the Institutional Research and Assessment Office is to our university. We need to staff this office well so we can measure our progress and performance on any number of indicators. It is critical that we tie planning close to institutional research and assessment. Therefore, I will be asking Provost Olson and Lynn Akey to bring together a group of faculty and staff to study the feasibility of creating a new model for linking planning and assessment through institutional research. We have made recent staff additions to the IR Office; however, it is important that we create an even stronger link to planning and institutional decision-making.


Another idea that has received some discussion during the past couple of years involves how to better connect our broad institutional goals at the department and college levels. I have asked Provost Olson to also join me in a general discussion session with each college dean and their respective department chairs to discuss college-level strategic planning and other university issues. My purpose in having these meetings is to open up the channels of communication to the President’s Office and to engage in some critical discussion about various topics of interest to each college and the University. Also, I am interested in assuring that our colleges are more closely aligned with the overall direction of the institution.


While I plan to start with some targeted topics, I look forward to an open-ended discussion about the future of each college and their special needs. At the same time, I will ask the deans to work with their departments to discuss what role they might play in contributing to a variety of institutional goals and some of the questions they think should be discussed. I intend to present the following sorts of questions at these meetings:

  1. How will each college plan to influence retention and graduation rates while also promoting their unique college goals?
  2. How do we plan to showcase our most outstanding programs?
  3. How do the deans plan to manage their budgets during a time of uncertainty and what is the anticipated impact of our current budget situation on programs and departments?
  4. What role does each college see for themselves in participating with our University Extended Education programs?
  5. I will be talking with the deans about their college’s role in our current comprehensive campaign, as well as future campaigns.
  6. I hope to discuss ideas about new organizational structures to enhance departments within colleges, special needs, teaching, scholarship and research ideas.
  7. It is likely that other topics may arise throughout these conversations.

The overall objective is to find ways to meet the special needs of each college, to further enhance, and especially promote the strengths of our colleges and their respective departments and programs while more closely linking them to the broad institutional priorities.

So, there you have it! A dozen challenges this year to help us move our strategic priorities forward. I encourage everyone to bring forth your most creative ideas as we focus on building the University of the Future with renewed energy.


In conclusion, I want to leave you with some very positive news. I am thrilled at this time to announce that early this Fall we will officially be naming the newest residence hall, “Margaret R. Preska Residence Community” in honor of the years of dedicated service to our university.

Dr. Margaret Robinson Preska served as President of Mankato State University (now Minnesota State University, Mankato) from July 1, 1979 until January 31, 1992. During her tenure, the campus saw unprecedented growth including an increase in enrollment to 16,500 students. The campus also saw considerable new construction, including the Ostrander-Student Bell Tower, Warren Street Center, Andreas Observatory, Wissink Center, Pennington Building and the Memorial Library addition. Additionally, her tenure included expansion into new programs and the establishment of a major development program among friends of the university.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Brockport; an MA from The Pennsylvania State University; and a PhD in Soviet Affairs from Claremont Graduate University.

Also, it gives me extreme pleasure to announce that this Fall I will officially name the Performing Arts Center, the “Earley Center for Performing Arts” in honor of Jane Earley’s years of dedicated service to our university and to the College of Arts and Humanities and the performing arts.

Jane F. Earley came to Mankato in 1969, after completing the PhD at Northwestern University in Chicago, to teach English at Mankato State University. She became an assistant dean of Arts and Sciences at Minnesota State in 1974, associate dean in 1975, acting dean in 1976, and dean of the new college of Arts and Humanities in 1977. She remained in that position until her retirement in 2009, except for one year when she served as Interim VP of Academic Affairs becoming the longest serving dean in the United States. She was instrumental in establishing the Andreas Endowment which directly benefits the college faculty, graduate assistants and both internal and external audiences, and has continued to help raise funds and friends for the University.

I know you will want to take time to congratulate both of these outstanding academic leaders.

My remarks this morning have centered on creating ideas and addressing very big challenges. The goal of being the university and campus of the future is a worthy and ambitious vision and has taken on a character that has opened the pathways for everyone at the University to be innovative in helping to define ways to skyrocket us to the top in meeting the needs of all our audiences. This goal involves everyone at the University and requires openness to new ways of thinking, experimenting, innovating, and partnering with the public and private sectors in Minnesota and around the world.

Finally, everyone on this campus has BIG ideas. I encourage you to leave this morning’s convocation thinking about what your Big Idea may be for building our campus and to share that idea with me and others. We are a campus with a history of creating Big Ideas and solutions to world problems. We will move forward with this legacy.

Thank you for coming. I wish you a successful academic year.