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Embrace the 'Big Ideas' challenge


Minnesota State Mankato is mapping out a path to collaboration with its "Big Ideas" fundraising campaign, The Free Press editorializes.

An editorial in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 11/6/2011

After years of watching the state contribution to fund the cost of a student’s college education declining from 70 percent to under 40 percent, Minnesota State Mankato is moving to “big ideas” for the remedy.

Minnesota State Mankato President Richard Davenport recently announced the largest-ever fundraising campaign in the history of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system — $75 million.

The effort dubbed the “Big Ideas Campaign” is designed to raise funds for five project areas: student scholarships, classroom and campus technology, global partnership, student-faculty research and campus sustainability programs.

The truly ambitious part of this effort: Davenport wants to ensure Minnesota State Mankato evolves “from a 19th- century teachers college to a comprehensive, doctoral institution.”

One method of achieving that goal will be a College of Business Global Solution Center with “solution labs” and state- of-the-art auditoriums specifically for students in a wide variety of disciplines to address global problems such as water quality and health care.

Some other programs include:

Renovating the Family and Consumer Science Food Laboratory to accommodate growing demand for food scientists; expanding the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory; creating a child behavior lab and a nursing simulation center; begin a program to recruit 500 teacher candidates of diverse backgrounds in the next 10 years; build an indoor recreation and athletic practice facility; purchase data analysis equipment for research at MSU’s Water Resource Center and Biological Imaging Center; expand the 38 Scholars program, which offers scholarships and support for 38 American Indian students.

Underlying the transformation process, Davenport shared what we all know about the realities facing Minnesota universities — declining state support.

“We need to find ways to bring in other revenue,” he said. “We know we can’t rely totally on the state.”

But more importantly is the role Minnesota State Mankato plays in our area. It’s been well understood in Mankato that the fortunes of Minnesota State Mankato and Mankato are tied together — we progress or fall back together. Mankato-North Mankato has grown into a Metropolitan Statistical Area, South Central College has reached national prominence and Minnesota State Mankato is clearly mapping out a path to making a bigger difference.

This speaks volumes for what is working right in our communities — the support of residents and the collaborative vision of leadership. The success of the Big Ideas campaign will have significant impact on the future of the Mankato-North Mankato MSA, and we should embrace the challenge.

For the complete Free Press editorial, see the Nov. 6 print edition, or go to the e-edition at

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