Twin Cities Graduate Center
Monday, January 25, 2010
For the 150-plus students taking classes at the new St. Cloud State University Twin Cities Graduate Center, the convenience of a Maple Grove site just off I-494 is a major draw. But for these motivated professionals, the opportunities go deeper than a short commute.
Opened in August, St. Cloud State’s new graduate center is intended to fill the need for convenient, high quality, relevant and affordable graduate programs expressed by residents of the northern Twin Cities suburbs. The Herberger College of Business, College of Science and Engineering and College of Education are offering programs and classes at the center, and the University expects to expand its master degree offerings in coming years to accommodate growing demand among the critical mass of potential students in that region.
St. Cloud State’s alumni database has addresses for more than 32,000 graduates within 30 miles of the Twin Cities Graduate Center, and many of them are likely to be attracted to this facility as they seek graduate degrees.
When Diana Muske ’93, Coon Rapids, who is enrolled in a College of Education master’s degree program in counselor education and educational psychology counseling, found out one of her classes would be offered Tuesday nights at the Graduate Center, she signed up. “Hopefully I can take more of them here,” said Muske, who works in the Anoka Hennepin School District’s Early Childhood Family Education program. “The commute is shorter than to St. Cloud, and I love the energy here.”
Jim Freeland ’00, a St. Cloud State accounting information systems graduate currently on the management track in systems auditing and security at Medtronics, is typical of the focused students who have been drawn to the center’s master of business administration (MBA) program. Like many of his peers, he comes to class at the end of a busy workday or a Saturday and goes home to a Twin Cities suburban home and family.
Having evening classes at a location between his Fridley workplace and his St. Michael home is a boon to Freeland’s busy schedule. Married to College of Education graduate Stacey Byers Freeland ’00 and father of two children, being able to achieve his educational goals without a long commute is a big advantage.
“It makes it very convenient,” he said.
Until the new center opened in its 6,000-square-foot building near the Bass Lake Road exit, the MBA program had had a Maple Grove home for Twin Cities’ cohorts since 2003. Businessman Russ Hagen ’64 opened space in his Data Recognition Corporation building, also off I-494, for the first Twin Cities satellite classes in the Herberger College of Business program.
Stephanie Ballantyne ’01, St. Louis Park, whose undergraduate degree is in marketing, said the Twin Cities MBA program has met her needs on many levels.
“In addition to the great location, the structure of the program has provided so much support and ease.”
That structure is the cohort model, which takes a core group of students through a degree program from beginning to end. “Being part of a cohort adds another dimension to the learning experience,” said Dennis Nunes, dean of graduate studies for St. Cloud State, who cites a 90 percent graduation rate among students who are part of a cohort. “They bring each other through a demanding environment. They become a family.
“I love the cohort model,” said Ballantyne. “It builds relationships and offers a support system all the way through.”
Professor Brad Sleeper, who has taught business law classes to several MBA cohorts, recognizes the multiple benefits the Maple Grove site offers his busy students. They come to the program with common goals and become an integrated consumer group of individuals who form a working partnership, Sleeper said of his cohort students. “It’s amazing how much work they can squeeze in on top of their more than full-time professional lives. They bring a high level of talent and demand a high level of quality. For a teacher, there’s nothing like it.” Plans call for expanding the number of MBA cohorts from three to six with 25 students in each.
Besides the MBA program, a third cohort in the College of Science and Engineering’s two-year-old master of regulatory affairs and services program opened this fall at the Center. St. Cloud State’s College of Education also is offering individual classes at the Center that can lead to master’s degrees in higher education administration, college counseling and student development or educational administration and leadership.