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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Fall 2008 TODAY Column

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This past spring, Minnesota State University, Mankato swept the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities awards for academic and student affairs program excellence. We were honored for curriculum, student programming and partnership excellence, and one individual outstanding administrator.

It was our sixth consecutive year of a great showing and the first time any institution has won all four awards in one year.
Of course, we display these plaques proudly along with other symbols of honors the University receives year after year. There
are repeat awards, such as our MBA program repeatedly earning a Princeton Review designation as one of the nation’s best and brand-new recognitions, including our highest ranking ever (the number-two slot) in the U.S. Sports Academy Director’s Cup.

Such honors bring a certain brand of credibility to our work and give alumni, government officials, politicians, friends, donors and students a look at how we’re exceeding expectations in many ways.

But far more than any plaque or certificate, our success is evident day to day in the vision, energy and dedication of those achieving great things on behalf of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Behind the Curriculum Award for the “Intro to Chemistry Course Redesign” initiative in our College of Science, Engineering and Technology are Jeff Pribyl, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Geology and Mary Hadley, associate professor of chemistry. Through the initiative, students will use laptop computers and “guided inquiry” instruction, requiring higher levels of critical thinking skills than are needed for rote memorization–the conventional way of teaching introductory chemistry. The project
is supported by a National Science Foundation Grant, another mark of credibility and prestige.

Behind the Innovative Student Programming Award for the “Rights and Responsibilities Partnership” in our Division of Student Affairs is Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Mary Dowd. The program, a partnership with the City of Mankato, ensures that the campus and community are great neighbors by helping students understand leases and public nuisance ordinances, select responsible roommates, and more. The program also addresses issues surrounding alcohol use, including explaining legal consequences of hosting parties and serving alcohol to minors. It’s just one of the ways the University is working to keep students safe and informed, and help them become informed, involved citizens.

Behind the “Mankato Mentoring Program,” the recipient of the Partnership Award, is Lori Bird, director of the Center for Mentoring and Induction in the College of Education. The award-winning partnership Professor Bird runs with Mankato Area Public Schools helps to reduce teacher turnover through classroom observations, informal group dialogues, structured in-service experiences, and one-on-one interaction between veteran and novice educators. It’s just one example of how the College of Education is a model and a leader for education statewide, a topic that took the spotlight in last winter’s issue of TODAY. And Michael Miller, the dean of that college since 2003, was honored as Outstanding Academic Administrator, for demonstrating outstanding leadership and significant contributions to academic programming.

Earlier this year, we also received awards from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System for financial and facilities management. And of course, since last fall we’ve received many other honors from other organizations. The list is so long, in fact, that we’ve begun a tradition of kicking off the academic year with a full-page ad in The Free Press of Mankato, proudly listing as many honors
as we can.

Space in TODAY doesn’t allow me to share all of those, but I’m pleased to be able to name a few of the people driving us to achieve more than what’s expected of any single state university. Pride like ours is both cornerstone and inspiration for continued success. I hope you’ll share that pride, and that you’ll join us in celebrating the accomplishments that result in the year ahead.