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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

2005 Convovation

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University Convocation Address by President Richard DavenportPhoto by John Cross. Published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 8/23/2005.

Beyond Possibilities

Thank you, Vice President Olson, for your warm introduction. Welcome everyone. It's always a pleasure for me to greet everyone at the beginning of a new academic year. I can see that the excitement, enthusiasm and energy in this room are contagious.

Before I begin my remarks, I want to reflect on a tragic event that occurred just as we were ending our last academic year. On May 17, 2005, lives on this campus and in our university family were forever changed when a van carrying 8 members of our university community was involved in an accident that took the lives of Wesley Loutsch, Jamie Schlachter, and Chad Wilson and seriously injured Scott Rector. These students had spent the last year, along with their teammates, in designing and building a Formula series racing car to participate in the Society of Automotive Engineers national competition. A special service to honor Wes, Jamie and Chad will be held on campus, September 27. But as we begin this year, our first gathering as a University family, I ask that we pause to remember these young men who died in pursuit of their dreams.

Thank you.

I hope that many of you took the opportunity to listen to Chancellor McCormick's words of welcome on the monitors that are in the concourse area. If you would like to listen to his message and did not yet have the opportunity, we will have the monitors on following the convocation and will also place the audio on the President's website.

"Let me emphasize that we are all involved in something big, something lasting, a legacy in the making."

In regards to our vision, let me emphasize that we are all involved in something big, something lasting, a legacy in the making. One of my pleasures is to read and learn about world history. It is fascinating to see how people over the ages have thought and perceived the world around them. There are few from our past that actually were able to see the future and visualize the impact of the role they were playing at the time as it relates to change. So, it is rare to get a glimpse into the future and to know beforehand that you, each of you, will be playing a major role in creating a university that is destined for distinction. When we reach this point, we will have accomplished the ultimate in recognition as an institution of higher learning. All in the name of our mission, to promote learning! Something that Minnesota State University, Mankato has always done well.

"My address this morning will focus on the vision for our university, a few highlights of our global challenges for the next 25-50 years and specific goals and priorities for this academic year."

My address this morning will focus on the vision for our university, a few highlights of our global challenges for the next 25-50 years and specific goals and priorities for this academic year.

Since arriving on campus more than three years ago, I have observed a growing sense of pride that runs throughout the student body, faculty, staff and the alumni. There is pride in our institution's history and what we stand for. Likewise, there is growing pride that we are one of the leading institutions within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. The people of Minnesota know us as a university for the people, for all those who wish to gain a high quality and affordable education. Yes, a university for the people of Minnesota, we are all of this and much more. Minnesota State is engaged in a grand endeavor. All of you are a part of this vision.

Today, we are taking huge steps to move this long-standing mission to a much higher level. While we take pride in our history and accomplishments, we know that we cannot stand still. Those educators and leaders before us knew this to be true too. An institution is akin to a living being, it is constantly growing and maturing.

I recently attended a national conference where I was engaged by a presenter, Eric R. Peterson, Project Founder and Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The mission of this think tank is to provide insight into current and future global issues. The work of this group is being taken very seriously by leaders around the world because of the impact their research will have on all of us as early as 2025, 2050 and beyond. The Center has studied what it refers to as the seven revolutions that involve some of the world trends, problems and questions that should cause us to pause and reflect on the future and wonder how all of these trends will impact our university and our personal lives during the next 25 to 50 years. We must take cognizance of these revolutions and build an educational framework around the attendant realities.

"Students will need to be educated differently, not just for entering the immediate world, but for the world of the future."

What is projected to take place in these regions will have profound consequences for the rest of the world and for our future graduates. Students will need to be educated differently, not just for entering the immediate world, but for the world of the future. They will need to be informed of the geographical regions of the world, changes that are forecast, the cultures that exist and the economic, public health and leadership issues of each area in order to understand the challenges facing them in order to be effective in their chosen careers and to prepare for a different world than today.

I will take a moment here to highlight a few of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' futuristic predictions and facts that are still being researched. The next generation of global leaders is still a mystery; in large part due to the lack of consensus on the new world order. Views will vary between traditional countries and poorer nations. The United States will play a key role. Asian leaders of the future are growing up in an entirely different environment than previous generations. As Peterson says, "Four of the top five countries sending students to the United States are in Northeast Asia, thus their upcoming generation will experience unprecedented exposure to western values. The repercussions of September 11 and the war in Iraq will shape future generations in the Middle East. Western European populations will face an aging crisis in the next two decades. In Latin America income inequality will continue to be a major concern. Africa is characterized by failing leadership with one collapsed state, six failed states and several weak ones. Sub-Saharan Africa will have 70 percent of all HIV infected people worldwide; one in nine South Africans lives with HIV/AIDS." 1 

Issues related to infectious diseases, the scarcity of freshwater, pollution, terrorism and managing the threat of terrorism, inconceivable technology advances, growth in energy consumption, aging populations – all will combine to shape our world into a world far different than what it is today.

Certainly, we have more immediate goals and challenges that tend to focus our energies and are understandably directed toward Minnesota and our immediate constituent group needs. However, I believe that it is important more than ever before at this point in our evolution as a university to educate ourselves about the world around us, and it is even more crucial that we provide our students, future leaders, with a realistic picture of the world as it exists today and in the future. We cannot wait; we are obligated by our ethical ideals and principles to educate students for tomorrow, for a global workplace.

"I'm inspired by that progress and by the work of our faculty, staff and students in making significant gains in moving all of our strategic priorities forward."

And that brings me to our work closer to home. You may recall that last year, we moved forward with a new strategic priority in the area of internationalizing our campus. I'm inspired by that progress and by the work of our faculty, staff and students in making significant gains in moving all of our strategic priorities forward. The campus community has come together and embraced the strategic directions we defined during my first year at Minnesota State Mankato. I'm grateful for what seems like heightened momentum each year I'm here. There is an excitement in the air as we work together. And, there is a spirit of positiveness about our community and a feeling that we can and will be successful in accomplishing our monumental priorities. I see an increase in pride in the institution. Our campus community seems to know and sense that we are going places; we are on the cusp and launching forward into new frontiers. The energy level seems to be at an all-time high.

Where do we go from here? As most of you know, next year we have a critical and important university review scheduled to take place. The Higher Learning Commission (NCA) is scheduled for a 10-year reaccreditation site visit. I cannot emphasize enough how important this review is to the future of our university and I urge your assistance and cooperation in working with the co-chairs of the accreditation review, Dr. Donald Larson and Dr. Joan Roca. Remember, our mission is to promote learning.

In addition to continuing our efforts with existing strategic priorities, I would like to present to you today some new challenges for 2005-2006:

  1. I challenge our campus community to seriously consider laying the groundwork for a Baldridge National Quality Award in education. Many of you are familiar with this program that strives to help organizations improve. Being recognized as a Baldridge award winner is one of the most prestigious honors attainable. It requires that we examine our strengths and opportunities for improvement in every facet of our institution. This will take more than a year to accomplish, but we must start now if we are to distinguish ourselves as an institution worthy of such recognition. Only a few colleges and universities have received this significant award but the outcome, should we be successful, would be to raise our institution to a level of national prominence. I believe that this is an achievable goal, but we will all need to pull together and strive for the highest standards in all that we do.
  2. Secondly, I ask that the Commission on the Status of Women, Women's Studies Center, and the Professional Development Committee to work together with other interested women on campus in developing a meaningful leadership program for women. In addition to in-house programming, I would like to see women from our campus attending national leadership development institutes such as the Bryn Mawr Institute for Women Leaders.
  3. In building upon the excellent work of the Diversity Commission, I will provide a specific charge to the group to focus on 2-4 achievable goals in the coming year. The long-terms goals for diversity are significant and I believe the best way to accomplish them is to segment them into manageable annual goals that will change from year to year.
  4. A new capital campaign will be launched this year with identifiable goals and timelines.
  5. We must push forward in implementing an aggressive public relations and marketing plan that will elevate our name recognition throughout Minnesota and the Midwest.
  6. We need to invest in institutional planning and research if we hope to achieve and measure our goals and accomplishments. The Cabinet and I have had initial discussions about how best to organize the functions needed to support this initiative. Because of the importance in accountability, measurement and assessment as we move forward with our strategic priorities, it is important that these functions be consolidated and supported at an existing vice presidential level.
  7. Enhancing the College of Graduate Studies and Research for the purpose of placing greater emphasis on scholarship and sponsored research is an important element in our future success and prestige. I urge, under the leadership of Dr. Fernando Delgado, as well as members of the Academic Affairs Division, the development of a plan to move us forward in this area. The goal should be complementary to the existing strategic priority to enhance graduate education.
  8. Our budget model needs to be examined and reviewed to be certain that we are utilizing the best practices for our university in managing our financial resources. Last week, the Expanded Cabinet and bargaining unit representatives met with a national consultant to learn about several models used at other campuses. We will take what we have learned and determine what will work best on our campus.
  9. I challenge the enrollment management planning group and the Admissions leadership to continue to raise the academic profile of our entering freshmen. We should strive to attract student National Merit scholars, as well as enhancing our existing Presidential Scholar program. It is also important to encourage our students to seek Fulbright awards and continue this tradition. These are important to raising the prestige of MSU.
  10. Now that state legislation is allowing us to consider offering applied doctoral programs, I challenge the Academic Affairs Division to move forward with faculty support and involvement in developing appropriate new doctoral degrees. This process will need to be coordinated with the Chancellor's Office and the Higher Learning Commission.
  11. In the area of wellness, I would like to challenge our university to develop an institutional-wide plan that will result in an all-encompassing wellness program for all members of our campus community.
  12. Campus beautification is a topic that we have focused on since I have been here, but now I would like to see a formal plan developed that would build upon our campus master plan and result in one of the most beautiful campuses in the Midwest.
  13. Athletics is also on the move at Minnesota State Mankato and I challenge our teams to bring home some conference and even national championships while continuing to recognize the importance of academic performance and community involvement. Our students are involved in and recognized nationally in many and varied activities including, theatre, dance, music, and forensics. We want to continue this tradition.
  14. Students today are concerned with physical fitness and recreational sports opportunities. The newly renovated Otto Arena, pool and addition to Pennington Hall will allow us to provide the best programming in state-of-the-art facilities. I charge all of us to get involved in exercise, using these new facilities to live a healthy life.
  15. Finally, I challenge everyone to consider how to proceed with the transformation of our university so that we might realize national prominence as an institution of higher education committed to promote learning at the highest level of excellence.
"I want to consider once again our vision. It is all about the students and the future. Our goal is to help students learn and believe that anything is possible and that they can achieve great things because of the strong education received at Minnesota State Mankato."

In closing, I want to consider once again our vision. It is all about the students and the future. Our goal is to help students learn and believe that anything is possible and that they can achieve great things because of the strong education received at Minnesota State Mankato. When we nurture and instill this passion within students and others, we are lighting a fire that will carry our graduates throughout life. In turn, as our students continue their lifelong learning they will use the passion they have gained at Minnesota State Mankato to make a difference in the world. And, since that energy tends to be contagious, we can anticipate that the fire of passion from even one graduate will multiply to countless others in their daily sphere of influence. The impact of the education we deliver to a single student goes beyond possibility. We must instill a confidence in our students that they can accomplish anything, anything is possible!

This is our vision, your vision, my vision and the vision of all those at Minnesota State Mankato who came before us. It has been there all along from the very beginning as a distinctive character; we are not recreating the university. We know we offer students a unique experience and education. We know our strengths, but the rest of the world does not. One of our major tasks in the future will be, in part, to tell our story more widely about what happens to students who come to Mankato with one set of goals and leave surpassing their greatest dreams.

Realizing our vision is so important for the future of our students, our future and for the future of the world. We are all involved in educating a new generation of students that will encounter challenges we have never dreamed about. Our graduates will need the confidence, abilities and the passion to go beyond what they imagined to be possible. No doubt every generation has faced significant changes; however, I cannot imagine anything in our history that will come close to the magnitude of the changes before us today as we rapidly rush forward into a global environment that is forcing huge challenges upon us for world-wide survival. Please join me in making this a reality for every student at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

1. Erik R. Peterson, “Seven Revolutions: Scanning the World of the Year 2025,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), 2005. For more information visit Seven Revolutions.