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Minnesota State Mankato will continue to be vital Mankato area economic factor

President Davenport responds to Free Press questions

Minnesota State Mankato will continue to be a major contributor to the economic well-being of the greater Mankato area, President Richard Davenport tells The Free Press.

Published in The Free Press Progress Edition, Mankato, Mn, 3/12/2008

Photo by Gregg Andersen
Richard Davenport
Dr. Richard Davenport

When it comes to higher education in southern Minnesota, there isn’t a big­ger or more influential play­er than Minnesota State University.

It is one of the flagship institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, boasts more than than 14,000 students and has developed signature pro­grams that have brought notoriety to the state, region and city.

At the head of that behe­moth is Richard Davenport, the president under whose watch the university has added to — and will soon remodel parts of — the largest academic building in the MnSCU system; nearly completed a new residence hall; made diversity the No. 1 strategic planning initia­tive; and other accomplish­ments.

Davenport, who is recov­ering from knee surgery, took a few minutes out of his day to address MSU’s current status, and where it’s heading.

Q: How has MSU changed to fit the needs of the region?

A: We’re partnering with more businesses and indus­tries, helping area manufac­turers and service providers attract the work force and implement the quality con­trol systems that they need to compete globally.

We lead the MnSCU sys­tem in business/industry col­laboration. MnSCU trustees have visited local industries to learn more about Mankato’s work to collabo­rate with higher education.

Last year we hired Bob Hoffman as vice president for strategic business, educa­tion and regional partner­ships — a position that we created to build better com­munication with business and industry.

Our Cities, Colleges and University Advisory Council also has been instrumental in improving collaborative relationships between higher education and the cities of Mankato and North Mankato, as well as the busi­ness community.

Last year we added applied doctorate degrees to help fill the pressing need in south- central Minnesota for more nurse educators and more school counseling lead­ers.

Our grant activity has increased from $1 million to $5 million annually over the last five years.

The Nadine B. Andreas Endowment in Arts and Humanities — last year’s generous, $7.5 million grant to Minnesota State Mankato from the Andreas family — supports cultural events that enrich the Mankato commu­nity and enhance the city’s reputation as one of the Midwest’s premiere arts communities.

Our civil engineering pro­gram was accredited in 2004 — the first time in 68 years that a new civil engineering program has been accredited in Minnesota.

We’ve created a number of centers to provide research and practical assis­tance to south-central Minnesota business and industry, and we’ll continue to create more. Our new Center for Excellence in Scholarship and Research supports facul­ty research, scholarship and creative work that improve business and industry.

The Minnesota Center for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence builds partnerships with business and industry to stimulate economic develop­ment.

Our Minnesota Center for Sustainable Energy helps find viable, clean sources of fuel and helps train the region’s work force for sus­tainable energy careers.

Our Water Resource Center preserves and improves the quality of south- central Minnesota’s natural resources for the health and well-being of our residents.

Our Center for School­University Partnerships helps area schools improve their teaching and learning programs.

Our world-renowned Force Science Research Center helps police better protect and serve the public.

Q: You’ve recently announced that your goal is to grow your enrollment to close to 20,000, which would make MSU the largest MnSCU school. Why would that kind of growth be a good thing for the region?

A: A study last year showed that Minnesota State Mankato adds an estimated $377.13 million per year to the Mankato area economy.

Enrollment growth would increase our economic impact beyond even that.

A larger enrollment also would improve our opportu­nities to obtain more feder­al, state and private grants for research that would ben­efit the economy of greater Mankato, the state and the nation.

A larger enrollment would move us along the path to becoming the flag­ship state university, which would bring more economic activity to Mankato.

Q: Are there any programs MSU has added recently? If so what are they and why were they added?

A: One of the ways by which we’ve positively impacted the area economy is by being responsive to changes in the work force.

Last fall we added applied doctorate programs to help fill a pressing need for more educators of nurses, and for more school counseling lead­ers and student affairs pro­fessionals. We recently added the master of social work to prepare students for advanced practice in rural and small communities.

Q: What other major build­ing projects are planned or in the works for MSU?

A: Phase 2 of the Trafton Science Center project — renovation of 52,800 square feet of Trafton South and Center — depends on leg­islative approval of the sys­tem bonding request. We are optimistic that the request will be approved. We are planning a new College of Business building, and are seeking funding sources for that project, including pri­vate gifts. We also are plan­ning for a new health sci­ences building, and this, too, will depend on private gifts.

The construction of Sears Residence Hall and the planned new buildings means that we are transi­tioning to a campus that is more pedestrian-oriented, because there’s less room for cars, so you’ll see more side­walks and fewer streets on campus in the future.

Q: What does the future hold for MSU?

A: Change will occur at an even faster pace in the future, which means that teaching and learning will be more important than ever. Leaders and profes­sionals in business, industry, government and the non­profit sector need to respond quickly to global challenges, and we, too, will provide new programs, new research, new curricula.

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