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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

2007 Convocation Address

Page address:

Expanding Our Horizons of the University

President Davenport adressing the audience with large overhead projector image visibleThank you everyone for coming this morning to participate in the recognition of our faculty and staff and to be an active part of the vision to expand the horizons of our university. I want to acknowledge and extend a special welcome to President Emeritus Jim Nickerson. We are delighted that you could join us today as we begin the 2007-2008 academic year.

Today's remarks will focus our thinking on the more immediate future of the institution. However, before I share my thoughts, I just want to say that I hope all of you are looking forward to the beginning of another stimulating academic year at Minnesota State University, Mankato as we eagerly launch our first two applied doctoral programs and complete two new major capital projects in the making, a 600-bed residence hall and a new science and engineering building. We welcome an increased enrollment of approximately 500 additional students which represents our largest overall student body in more than a decade. This promises to be one of the most invigorating, exciting and progressive periods in our institutional history.

"Our horizons are expanding before our very eyes as the world in which we live changes more rapidly than ever. As we look to the future I know you agree that the students come first and will always be our highest priority."

Our progress will be predicated on taking bold and courageous steps in the face of certain trends, such as striving to increase enrollment when high school populations are shrinking. Enrollment management will need more discussion and planning on campus as we strive to refine our recruitment and retention goals. We all know our central focus continues to be on the learning experience, continuous improvement and not just building a larger campus. However, the two can be very compatible goals. In fact, I applaud the faculty and staff for emphasizing our quest for continued improvement in the classroom and in student services.

Likewise, it is bold and courageous to set our sights on higher levels of state and national prominence, but it is also very doable. It is bold to want and seek the most attractive and functional physical campus with the latest indoor and outdoor facilities. It is bold for us to attempt all of these important goals at a time when the financial support of higher education is competing with equally important social needs, such as healthcare and transportation.

The work we each do here at Minnesota State Mankato is important business; important to our students and important to the state and world in which we live. We should always bear in mind the generations that came before us, and we must always remember that our future lies in the hands of our students who will step forward to become our leaders. I take seriously and I know you feel the same about the responsibility we have to prepare our students with the best tools and knowledge possible to meet the enormous challenges of living in a global society. Our horizons are expanding before our very eyes as the world in which we live changes more rapidly than ever. As we look to the future I know you agree that the students come first and will always be our highest priority.

For several years I have called greater attention to the importance of preparing our students for the many global revolutions and challenges that will surely impact all of our lives in the next twenty years. We have discussed the importance of internationalizing our campus and coordinating our efforts in this area. We have discussed the need for professional development to benefit all employees. We have talked about a campus master plan, an academic master plan and an intramural and recreation master plan. We have talked about a broad vision for the University that encompasses many important components. And, we have worked to focus on a public relations campaign to enhance our name recognition in the state and throughout the Midwest. We blanketed the state with billboards, radio, magazine and now TV advertisements. Today, we have more than 80 million eye exposures to our institutional name each year in Minnesota. We have moved forward with a campaign to raise money for new academic space, endowments, doctoral programs and scholarships. We have opened a new center for excellence in scholarship, a new planning office, a center for excellence in teaching and learning and a new international center. We continue to provide the best overall student life program in the state. The list goes on and on.

And, now it is an appropriate time to assess our progress of the past year and to consider where we are going as a university. This is the time to ask, "Are we staying the course in meeting our strategic objectives and vision?"

You will recall that in the recent past we focused our efforts on reaccreditation of the university, finalizing new doctoral programs, developing enrollment management and diversity plans, as well as moving forward with a number of other objectives. I am happy to report that we have been wildly successful in meeting our goals. In regards to doctoral programs, we are enrolling our first class of nursing and counselor education students this semester. And, we have been successful in recruiting a record number of underrepresented students, as well as increasing our student enrollment by almost 500 students in a single year. We had one of our strongest enrollments for summer session in more than a decade.

"This is just the beginning as we continue our bold and courageous quest for continued excellence as we expand our horizons."

We increased fundraising pledges and gifts to the University by an astonishing 500 percent from the prior year. Grants and contracts continue to soar and our Center of Excellence for Manufacturing and Engineering is the pride of Minnesota State. Our athletic teams finished fourth nationally for the prestigious and highly coveted Division II U.S. Sport's Academy Director's Cup standing.

In today's Free Press we have run a full page ad featuring many of your individual successes. In addition, we have prepared a report for each of you to pick up at the door detailing the many, many accomplishments of our faculty and staff. I only wish there was enough time this morning to talk about each of your achievements. All of this and much more serves as a tribute to our faculty and staff for their commitment, dedication and hard work. Your accomplishments reflect the high standards of our university. This is just the beginning as we continue our bold and courageous quest for continued excellence as we expand our horizons.

In the coming year, 2007-2008 we will be looking to further expand our horizons with the addition of selected new and ongoing initiatives. Some of these are the outgrowth of previous strategic priorities, some are based on emerging problems and needs, some on workplace issues, and other objectives are focused on increasing our prestige within the state. However, because of the institution we are today, none of these challenges is insurmountable. I'll tell you how we're planning to meet each one:

  1. Enrollment Management — We will continue to plan for increased enrollment and retention while we implement the strategic plan we developed this past year. It is important to have forums to discuss the implications of significant increases in enrollment both on and off campus. None of this can be successful if we fail to include a plan to enhance the quality of educational experiences at Minnesota State Mankato. Provost Olson and Vice President Swatfager-Haney will spearhead efforts in this area.
  2. Workplace Environment — I would like to see Minnesota State Mankato become the overall best place to work in Minnesota. This will not be easy, but it is an admirable goal that needs further defining and support from everyone. A small planning committee has been formed to assist me in developing a specific charge. I will then convene a larger task force early this fall. In addition, the leadership on the Commission on the Status of Women has recommended we complete an institutional survey regarding bullying on campus. This recommendation will be included as part of the goal to improve the workplace environment. I look forward to leadership from Provost Olson and Human Resources Director Lamb, who will begin the process working with a small group to be followed by a broader task force study.
  3. Access and Opportunity — This is one of our most important goals that will continue to be an area of focus for some time to come. The Diversity Commission presented the campus with an excellent report this past year that included recommendations for diversity and affirmative action. Dr. Linda Duckett will serve once again as the Interim Affirmative Action Director as we continue a national search for this position. Provost Olson, Vice President Swatfager-Haney and Dean of Institutional Diversity Fagin will provide the leadership for these strategic goals.
  4. New College of University Extended Education — Chancellor McCormick has asked Minnesota State Mankato to take the lead in serving the student needs on what is referred to as the Highway 169 Corridor extending from Mankato to Bloomington and also the I-35 South Corridor extending from Burnsville to Albert Lea. It is important to have a college infrastructure similar to our Graduate College to serve all departments and off-campus extended learning needs. In addition, the time is right to more fully develop an online learning plan for the university to meet the needs of the off-campus populations. Both of these challenges will raise the visibility of Minnesota State Mankato. The faculty and staff are instrumental in moving this goal forward. I will be asking Provost Olson, Vice Presidents Delmont and Hoffman working with Dean Lipetzky to take the lead on exploring with the faculty the possibilities for a new College of University Extended Education, as well as an online learning plan.
  5. Campus Master Plan — This may be one of the boldest visions and most challenging to accomplish, as we expand our horizons looking to develop the campus of the future. The Board of Trustees and Chancellor require that we provide a five-year updated campus master plan. That plan is due in the fall. As we work to formulate a new campus plan it will be important to determine future housing and academic space needs, as well as pedestrian walkways, transit hubs that integrate with the City and County, sites for new buildings and so forth. We plan to demolish the Gage Towers. In planning all of this we also need to look beyond the next five years when we expect enrollment to increase resulting in the need for more classroom space, more parking, more student residence hall space, more faculty and staff office space to meet the needs of our students. Even without our planned increase in enrollment it would be necessary to address most of these challenges. As part of our campus master planning process, it is clearly important to have input from the campus before we move forward to the Board of Trustees. Vice President Straka will lead the efforts to move this initiative forward.
  6. Smoke Free Campus — In the interest of everyone's health and welfare, I'm making the completion of this goal a priority this year which is consistent with our health and wellness priority. I will be asking a representative group of faculty, staff and students to develop a proposal for a smoke free campus that will include recommendations to me. Vice Presidents Straka and Swatfager-Haney will work with others on campus to accomplish this goal.
  7. Upgrades to Outdoor Recreation, Intramural and Athletic Fields — I announced last year that I would be bringing back to the campus a proposal to upgrade the recreation, intramural and athletic fields. It will be important to seek student input and consultation as we propose a new master plan with timelines and associated costs. Vice Presidents Swatfager-Haney and Straka, as well as other key staff will work with a planning group involving students and other constituents to submit a plan for my consideration.
  8. Budget, Planning and Assessment — One of the most important and challenging goals for the coming years will be to develop a budget, planning and assessment model. This model will address the concern noted by the Higher Learning Commission and also provide a structure for assessing and measuring our effectiveness. The near future of higher education will include increased responsibility for accountability.
    It is clear that we need to control tuition increases and develop operating budgets that will allow us to continue to maintain the high quality services and programs that we offer our students. The environment for State appropriations will continue to compete with other priorities, such as healthcare and transportation. The challenge will be to manage our university with limited state appropriations and tuition dollars. Vice President Straka and Assistant Vice President Johnson will work closely with the Budget and Planning Sub Meets to develop an institutional plan.
  9. Capital Campaign — I am urging the Development Office to increase our efforts to go beyond the silent phase of the capital campaign in the year ahead. This will need to be done in conjunction with the campus master planning process. I am very pleased to report that our fundraising goals are far ahead of where we thought we would be at this time thanks to the wonderful work of many of you. Vice President Williams will work closely with Vice President Straka, Dean Johnson and others to finalize the new College of Business schematic design and building site in order to raise money for the construction of the capital project.
  10. Strategic Business and Educational Partnerships — It will be an exciting year as we look to expand our horizons within the region and State through a variety of relationships and partnerships that will help meet constituent needs of public and private sectors outside the University. Efforts in these areas will represent the economic development outreach of the university. Also, strategic partnerships will be developed with involvement of campus constituents for the purpose of enhancing campus-based programs. This effort will be led by Vice President Hoffman and other campus leaders.

Our challenges and goals are formidable, expansive and bold. I ask you to work with me to expand the horizons of our university — together, we are capable of achieving all of the goals I have outlined today. Thank you everyone for all of the passion and work that you put into your jobs everyday. You are and will continue to be the driving force behind the success of Minnesota State University, Mankato.